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What Governor Walker does not want you to know

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What Gov. Walker Won’t Tell You
by Stanley Kutler

There is a kernel of truth in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim of a “budget shortfall” of $137 million. But Walker, a Republican, failed to tell the state that less than two weeks into his term as governor, he, with his swollen Republican majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature, pushed through $117 million in tax breaks for business allies of the GOP. There is your crisis.

The state Legislature’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau—Wisconsin’s equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office and a refuge for professional expertise and nonpartisanship—warned Walker and the Legislature that the measure would create a budget gap. There is your shortfall—and not one resulting from established public employee benefits. Before the tax giveaways, the fiscal agency predicted a surplus for the state.

Now the governor has offered a proposal simple and clear in its intent, and patently dishonest. Walker wants state workers to contribute to their pension fund and is calling for an increase in their payments for medical insurance. Make no mistake: The governor’s “budget repair bill” has little to do with a budget shortfall and everything to do with breaking unions, starting with public employees and then perhaps moving on to others as well.

During his run for governor, Walker had substantial financial support from the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists who have funded various anti-Obama, anti-science, and anti-national government movements. In short, they are opposed to anyone and anything that might diminish their exorbitant profits. And for the Kochs, destroying labor unions is in the top tier of their to-get-rid-of list.

Walker’s own hostility to labor unions is a touchstone of his prior political experience. He is out to realize his every long-held political fantasy, with the help of such allies as the National Association of Manufacturers; Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; and the Chamber of Commerce. Ever since the 1930s, when national law recognized the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, that gain has been under assault from right-wing ideologues and much of the business community.

Public employees in Wisconsin, as elsewhere, do not have a recognized “right to strike.” But they have a right to a union, with the power to negotiate wages and the conditions of work. That is Walker’s real target, and after he deals with it perhaps he can move to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state, devoid of any protections for labor unions, just like Mississippi. Now we can understand Walker’s mantra: “Wisconsin is open for business.” What a “popular,” appealing position! Everyone likes to complain about bureaucrats and teachers—lazy, incompetent and, withal, overpaid. Never mind that studies portray a public work force earning 8 to 15 percent less than similarly situated private sector employees, with the spread even wider among more educated workers.

The governor and his allies like to frame their goal as one that would destroy the special privileges of public employees—as if a Cadillac class of public workers exists in the state. In truth, many public employees secured increased benefits in the 1970s, a time which saw the notion of a “budget crunch” come into play, and the state bargained its way out of salary increases (incidentally, during a time of rising inflation) in exchange for increased employee benefits.

The “February Thaw” brought out an estimated 50,000 or more public employees, teachers, ordinary citizens and students to demonstrate against Walker’s budget repair bill. Montesquieu, the 18th century French political philosopher, wrote about the impact of environment on human and societal behavior. Cold, icy climates, he said, generally dampened human passions, thus lessening chances of “public disorder.” Walker should have offered his legislation during the first three weeks of January, when temperatures hovered just above zero.

Confronting the protests, Walker has framed the issue in stark, simple terms. It is, he said, a battle between “protesters” and “taxpayers.” That followed the obligatory remarks about outside agitators—shades of Mississippi governors in the 1960s. Indeed, the media obliged him by making the increasingly marginalized Jesse Jackson the centerpiece of the protests, thus seeming to confirm Walker’s contention about outside agitators.

After three days of protests, the largest union offered to concede the pension and health insurance payments in exchange for continued recognition of the right to negotiate wage and working conditions. The governor bluntly replied that the time for negotiations had passed, but the truth is that at no time did he offer any negotiation on these matters. If your ideological baggage has no room for workers’ rights, then you will rule by dictate and fiat. Walker’s baggage overflows with hostility for workers.

Walker insists that the budget shortfall requires that state workers, like everyone else in society, must carry their fair share of the burden. But the governor is causing pain to no one else to remedy the situation. Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder offered a $45 billion cost-cutting budget, but he said he would take only $1 in salary as part of the “shared sacrifice.” Meanwhile, Snyder, unlike Walker, has begun negotiations with public employees unions to increase workers’ shares of pension and health care costs.

Wisconsin state revenues are down as statewide unemployment largely reflects the national picture. Furthermore, there is justifiable despair among the unemployed that their jobs may never return. And if they are over 50, there is only a small chance that they ever will have any job comparable to those they held prior to 2007. Little do they understand that companies continue to enjoy swollen revenues, income that inflates the profit side of their ledgers as they reap benefits from “restructuring”—today’s fashionable euphemism for dropping jobs and employees. The business community now sits on the sidelines, hoarding capital, and workers have little work.

The governor claims he has traveled around the state talking to factory workers and others who say they support him because they must spend 25 to 50 percent of their income on health insurance. Well, if that is the case, and such folks are his supporters, perhaps it is time for Walker to rise to their defense and rein in the gouging health insurers.

Budgets are a mysterious maze. Legislators—let alone a citizenry dependent on a largely incompetent, ill-informed media—rarely know the intricacies of a budget and how it may cause a seismic change in public policy. (For one legislator’s passionate complaint about being kept in ignorance, see this; for examples of the Republicans’ tactics illustrating their belief that democracy is fine for Egypt but another matter for this country, see this.)

Walker himself precipitated the “budget crisis,” necessitating a “repair bill” that gave him and his allies what they really wanted. The governor pursues an agenda backed by the tea party’s financial angels. Public employees and other workers down the line will pay the freight for such folly. The governor lies.

Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C.

RepubliCON lie: Health insurance reform kills jobs

We all are tired of hearing the RepubliCON lie about how "Obamacare" kills jobs.

Let's explain the origin of this lie.

The Congressional Budget Office studied, analyzed, re-studied, and re-analyzed the health care reform law. The CBO estimated that the health-care law will reduce the budget deficit.

CBO also estimated that the health care reform law will REDUCE THE LABOR SUPPLY -- and the RepubliCONS are calling this "destroying jobs." THEY LIE

In case you don't want to read the whole thing, the short version is this:

If you make health-care insurance cheaper and make it more difficult for insurance companies to deny people coverage, then a certain number of people who now would like to quit work, but who can't quit work because they can't afford health insurance not provided by their employer, will then stop working because they can now afford health insurance.

And the RepubliCONS call this "job killing." They lie -- as usual.

Here is commentary on this RepubliCON lie that provides an in-depth explanation:

Idiots at Fox try to be Biblical scholars, they fail

Conservatives have spent the last several years trying to cast doubt on President Obama's Christianity, often by suggesting he is a secret Muslim or claiming that he is a non-believer pretending to be Christian for political benefit. Sadly, their smear campaign has been effective - Pew reported last year that only 34 percent of Americans believe Obama is Christian (compared to nearly 18 percent who think he is Muslim.)

You might think it would be difficult for conservative smear merchants to continue to cast doubt on Obama's faith when he calls Jesus Christ "my lord and Savior," like he did at yesterday's annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. But, as "news" outlets like Fox Nation have shown time and again, they have absolutely no standards and are willing to manufacture scandals out of thin air when reality doesn't coincide with their chosen narrative.

If you follow the link, you are taken to a page on Fox Nation that claims Obama "misquoted a familiar Bible verse" during his address yesterday:

President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.

"Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint," the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.

But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible.

Obama was quoting from the New International Version, while Fox Nation was pointing to the King James Version to "debunk" him.

This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Most likely, they won't bother to correct their story, and their goal will be accomplished: the readers that trust them will remember the time Obama "misquoted" the Bible, some more people will question the authenticity of Obama's faith, and the smear machine will move on.

Rightwing lie machine now attacking Planned Parenthood with phony video

By now everyone knows the story -- two people posing as a "pimp and ho" visited Planned Parenthood offices in several states with a hidden video camera. They claimed they were running a prostitution ring with underage girls and they wanted advice on how to get abortions.

PP caught onto the scam and reported theses rightwingers to the FBI.

Of course, the "pimp and ho" heavily edited the video and now the rightwing lie machine has gone viral attacking PP as being complicit in underage prostitution.

The most important thing to recognize about the right-wing freakshow's latest pimp-n-ho videorama is that today's anti-choice activists don't think they can get their way if they say what they actually believe.

So instead of saying what they really want, they dream up elaborate sting operations unrelated to their true objectives. They dress up as sex traffickers instead of admitting that their one and only goal is to limit access to reproductive health services. And when reporters give airtime to these kinds of sting operations, they aren't engaging in journalism. Whether they know it or not, they are acting as tools of a hidden agenda.

Each of the above points should be obvious to any decent journalist who spends more than 10 seconds thinking about the issue. The sting itself isn't the real story. The real story is why won't the organizers of the sting say what they really want.

To answer that, let's focus on what their true objectives really are. Obviously, they want to crush Planned Parenthood. But why do they want that? Simple: they want to crush Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood provides the public with reproductive health services. And the last thing Planned Parenthood's enemies want is for Americans to have is control over their own reproductive health.

Check out this graphic to see exactly what Planned Parenthood does:

Here's a breakdown of the services PP provides:

Testing and treatment for STD: 34 percent
Contraception advice: 35 percent
Cancer screening and prevention: 17 percent
Other women's health servies: 10 percent
Abortions: 3 percent
Other services: 1 percent

Yet, if you listen to the rightwing lie machine, PP is an abortion mill.

You expected the rightwing to tell the truth??