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March 9, 2011 – the point of no return

By J. DeVoy

Well, America, it’s been a fun ride, but I think we should be parting ways sooner rather than later.  We had a lot of good times together and I like a lot about you – your size and resources, the rule of law and well-defined rights for others – but I just don’t think it’s going to work for much longer.

America’s debt problem doesn’t require much discussion: there’s a ton of it, Congress and the president aren’t cutting back, and we have little to show for it; all of that borrowing went to consumption, rather than infrastructure.  In short, the country levered up on booze, pizza and a shitty cruise to Jamaica, rather than acquiring more understandable debt like a mortgage or student loans.

Last night, when the Wisconsin state Senate severed the portions of the next biennium’s budget that would end collective bargaining for most public unions and passed them as their own bill, any semblance of America as a functioning republic fell apart.  Protestors stormed the capitol and occupied it, staying there through the night and into today.

Bear in mind that this is a relatively minor fight.  Procedurally, I am not comfortable with how this developed.  But, elections have consequences, and both parties have abused their majority status to shove unpalatable legislation down the public’s gullet.  What is the issue is that such public rancor could be stirred by rolling back the completely voluntary protections afforded to a small group of people who, despite painting themselves as servants, receive a better deal than most in the private sector.  This bill wasn’t an attack on any fundamental right of public employees, forcing them into some form of segregation or other unsupportable position, but an overdue correction of their job protections to bring them back into alignment with reality.

Collective bargaining is a relative abstraction, as well, and the benefits it confers onto public employees are not readily understood by all.  And, yet, from the public’s reaction, one would think that Scott Walker was passing a bill that would enable him to kill the parents of every public employee in Wisconsin.  Imagine what will happen when real, demonstrable reductions will be needed for other services: Social security, medicaid, medicare, and other forms of public assistance.  Quite simply, the needed cuts will never be made.  The Wisconsin model of governing will sweep the land: If you don’t like a law, just scream and yell really loud!  With enough petulance, success is guaranteed.  Meanwhile, the rest of the country – which just wants a roof over its head and the ability to feed its children – is forced to trade small sacrifices for bigger ones, as nothing is done to rectify the problems facing it.

Let me underscore an important point: we can no longer pay for our consumption.  Eliminating collective bargaining, while a crappy thing to do, especially in the way it was done in Wisconsin, is one of many cost-cutting measures we’ll have to endure going forward.  The path we are on is one leading to certain disaster, evinced by PIMCO’s decision to completely dump U.S. Treasury Bonds yesterday.  When – as the question of “if” fades each day – the dollar loses its reserve currency status, these squabbles over union rights will seem like a fond memory as we enter a grinding depression worse than any we have ever seen, and the concern of the day becomes obtaining food, rather than seeking comfort.  If you missed the gold and silver price runs, I suggest investing in lead.

I will not address this nation’s leadership, which is completely disengaged from this crisis and all others, focusing on the pressing issue of childhood bullying while near-pacifist France takes the lead in stopping the emerging Middle East genocide.

As for the protestors, they absolutely have the right to be at the Wisconsin capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. I merely question whether it is effective, or a good strategy to employ over something like collective bargaining when much bigger fights are in the offing.  While protests are a valuable expression of speech, one has to wonder where these people were in November, when their words could have been more readily translated into action.  Instead, the GOP swept the nation.  Now, we all bear witness to the effects of these protestors’ failure to speak at the most opportune time to do so.

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