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Wisconsin Recap

The votes are mostly in and Walker will continue to be the governor of Wisconsin.  What have we learned from this?  Well, I doubt that the Democrats who are in charge have learned anything at all.  They’re still acting like this has nothing to do with them.  But secretly, they’re scared shitless.

What Wisconsin is saying is that with enough money, you can misdirect a whole population of people who are under economic stress.  At this point, I think that Abraham Maslow must have been the smartest person who ever lived because he very clearly spelled out what motivates people.  Here’s the Pyramid of Needs:

As Paul Krugman has come to realize, the idea behind the austerity measures and the deficit craziness is to use this moment of economic crisis to push through permanent changes in government and labor.  You may have seen this theory before in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.  Right now, the overlords are sitting on a pile of cash and they’re not going to let it go until we cry uncle and give up our safety net.  This results in a lot of uncertainty and pressure on all of us economically in the short term.  Of course, this has been building up for a couple of decades.  When people are under economic stress, they will look after their own needs first.  Forget all of that altruistic shit.  They don’t have time for it.  When their slice of the pie shrank to a size that finally got their attention, they started to hoard what they had.  Yes, it makes no sense to blame public sector employees and unions.  Putting pressure on them is not going to get you back what you have lost.  You have to focus your attention on the ruling class.  Ahhhh, that’s where the beauty of money comes into its full glory.  The wealthy can afford to flood the airwaves with misleading messages, continually focusing the attention of the voters down and not up.

I don’t know what to say about the vulnerability of voters to these messages.  There is no counterweight from the left.  That’s because the Democratic party has neutralized its left and taken all potential leaders out of contention.  When they had the chance to control the message right after the 2008 election, the Democrats passed.  They didn’t attempt to institute a fairness doctrine or make the Corporation for Public Broadcasting beholden to them.  I don’t know, maybe the Democrats are just stupid or they don’t want power as much as Republicans because they’re doing a piss poor job at keeping hold of it.

But whatever.  Here is where we are.  The economy has suffered extensive damage and people are feeling vulnerable.  They want to cut expenses wherever they can.  They are susceptible to Republican messages that assure them that all they have to do is break labor up and stop them from taking their hard earned taxdollars to pay for pensions and healthcare.  Nevermind that the bankers have taken so much more and don’t deserve it.  Nevermind that these right wing solutions will only make the recession worse.

Barack Obama is either in on the deal to divert money to the financial overlords or he is painfully inept.  He seems to be incapable of explaining what is going on to the average voter and even if he could, they wouldn’t believe him because they think he is a Kenyan Socialist.  I doubt that the real Kenyan Socialists would invite him into their club but there you go.  Logic has nothing to do with this.  This is on an emotional level.  It’s the kind of thing that provokes a flight or fight response.  Obama doesn’t seem to have an emotional bone in his body so his chances of getting through to voters is about nil.  And he can’t get around the paid for media filter.

All current data and trends point to him losing in November.  It has always been the economy, stupid and as long as the bad guys are holding it hostage, Obama will be vulnerable.

This is not the time for Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky to go off on self-actualizing tangents. This is not a good time for the Obama fanboy base to get all warm and gooey with aspirational delusions of grandeur. This is the time to locate that will to survive in the Democratic party.  Don’t think that it is impossible for Romney to win in this environment.  It could be easier than you think.  All the money has to do is shrink the pie and then have us fight over it.  The Republicans can ride to victory on that.

37 Responses

  1. First things first, RD. Tomorrow Walker has arranged a little “friendly get-together with lawmakers of both parties over brats, burgers, and ‘maybe a little bit of good Wisconsin beer'”. If Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin do take part in this “friendly get-together”, I think you will have your answer concerning whether or not the Democratic Party has the will to survive.

  2. So RD, do you think that Walkers’ election victory would have a bad impact on Wisconsin or not?

    • Yes, Walker’s victory will have a bad impact on Wisconsin and the rest of the country too. It says that too many Americans are not understanding what is fueling the recession and it says that too many people are eating right wing talking points because it has a strangle hold on the airwaves. I think Walkerism is only going to make the recession worse because too many Americans do not understand what is happening and they are applying all the wrong solutions.
      Yes, I think this is pointing to a catastrophe. I’m seriously considering liquidating my 401ks and bunkering down for our slide into chaos and further depression. We are the stupidest country on the planet.

  3. I think the discussion should focus on what percentage of a state’s budget can safely be apportioned to pension fund obligations without having to reduce basic and essential services that the populace feels are appropriate.

    So far, the media has avoided the percentage question. It appears that 20 to 30% is too high and will strangle state and local governments, at least it has on the west coast.

    So at this point, I would guess its probably about 10% of the state budget can safely go towards pension obligations and once that threshold is exceeded basic services become cannibalized to feed the growing pension beast.

    • Where did the PUMA thing go off the rails?? It’s embarrassing that so many of you are being suckered in by the right wing propaganda. No, just no. You don’t want to be having that discussion. There is no reason to cut anything. In fact, that is only going to make the recession worse. Why are so many people failing to understand how this works?
      What needs to happen is for government to stimulate the economy with more money that it can borrow at a ridiculously low interest rate right now. Once people are working again, the deficit will start to go down again because they will be able to pay their taxes and with the money they have, they will be able to purchase goods and services from other people. Tell me you understand this because otherwise, the bad guys have won.
      And don’t repeat that Republican talking point nonsense here at this blog.

      • The sad part of this is Obama will be out of a job next January, and rightfully so, but Nancy Pelosi will have hers if she wants it.

        That blue dot map you posted predicted the outcome of the Wisconsin recall elections and will predict the general.

        The thing about the Right Wing Noise machine is not that there are so many outlets like Fox and AM Hate Radio but that no Democrat really pushed back. They didn’t want to bite the hand what brung them to the dance.

      • I wonder the same thing as RD. Why do so many people who were smart enough to refuse the Blue Obummer Kool-Aid eagerly chug-a-lug the Red Wingnut Kool-Aid?

        • I’m convinced that it’s anger about how they were treated in 2008. No matter what they said, how much they protested, how loyally they voted, they were completely ignored by the party. And I think some of it has to be with a lot of them being women who are just sick of being treated like they don’t count. That anger boiled over and they’ve latched on to the Republican message because they thought the Tea Party was an alternative to both parties. It was really a Republican decoy.
          I share their anger but I’m not letting it compromise my values. It’s kinda hard swinging out here in the wind by yourself, a target for everyone who thinks they know what PUMA stands for and the other lefties who read you but will not link to you. But there ya go. It’s not easy being unpopular. I suspect that a lot of former PUMAs wanted an organization that would be responsive to them and where they would feel a sense of belonging. The Tea Party came along before they had a chance to sort through their anger and they went with it.
          I think they have made a HUGE mistake. Gigantic. But they will see.
          Maybe the question we should be asking though is why the Democrats felt it was Ok to leave so many voters on the table. That’s the question that makes me wonder.
          In any case, the Democrats are only nominally a party I identify with these days. I’m more firmly in Bernie Sanders camp. I’d prefer FDR New Deal style programs but maybe that just isn’t going far enough these days. Maybe we have to shift the overton window waaaaaay over to the left and rebuild a party.

      • Part of the issue is that all these states passed balanced budget amendments into their state constitutions back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. None of them can deficit spend to stimulate their state economies in a recession anymore. Recession or depression, every year the state budget has to be balanced. Budget cutting and austerity is now built into the psychology of state governance. So the budget is cut, and the budget balanced, but the state economy then contracts further as a result. Combine that with other factors acting in favor of economic contraction (e.g., outsourching and off-shoring), and each one of these states becomes trapped in a vicious, downward spiral.

        As for PUMA going off the rails, well, I can’t really say, other than to note that, based purely on my observation, a mild libertarian streak seemed to run through a lot of them, at least based on their comments. Combine that with everything else that went on in the 2008 election, and it became fairly easy for the Tea Party to scoop up a lot of them into their movement.

        • Nakajima, the problem was not the balanced budget ammendents, It was that surpluses could not be kept. And sadly, even if surpluses could have been kept, the unions would have demanded that surplus go towards their payroll and pensions.

          I have total empathy for state workers because their jobs either put them at risk, or they have to deal with the public every day. I think if pension payouts have to be cut, the states MUST give perks to those whose pensions are being cut.

          One of the biggest perks I would give is rolling back the property tax evaluation to the time in which the pension contract was promised that was now being broken strictly for state employees for their primary residence.

          • I’m sorry but you’re still using right wing talking points and if you’ve been around here since 2008, you know that this blog does not exist for the propagation of right wing talking points. I realize that you may not be aware of the fact that you are spewing them and that it all makes perfect sense to you but you are not allowed to do it here and ignorance is no excuse. I have to moderate you.

      • What you may not be factoring in is the loss of 7 trillion dollars in home equity since 2006 and another 2.6 trillion dollars in consumer debt (1/2 a trillion of that court secured debt).

        Your solution would work if there was not so much consumer debt and loss of home equity already in place. The that 2.6 trillion in consumer debt is actually the equivalent to twice that because the ratio of that consumer debt to what people actually had in home equity has shrunk dramatically since 2006.

        I think the better way to get the economy going is to incentivize a consumer debt pay down program. Zero interest on existing consumer debt to anyone who can lower their overall consumer debt level every month. Excessive Interest rate charges, penalties and fees on consumer debt are acting as a form of taxation that really doesn’t benefit anybody but wall street and their overseas investments.

        Zero Interest on existing consumer debt for those who can pay down their debt would then do what you want, give people more of THEIR OWN spending money to spend locally as they drive their own debt load downwards.

        As it stands now, San Jose and Oakland are about to go bankrupt because of the pension fund load that is now well over 20% of the total city budget.

        Taxation is one thing, but increased taxation in which the money simply goes to pensions only, won’t work because the loss of state services erodes the quality of life, drops property values, and ironically enough, continues the budget death spiral as property tax revenue continues to drop both through less home ownership and at lower values.

        This then results in the pension percentage costs in relation to the overall state budget escalating even more, which continues the economic death spiral.

        You see a neo con vs progressive battle, I see a neo con vs progressive battle that has shunted the true majority in the U.S. into silence, the liberal moderates and the moderate liberals, who overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton.

        • Here’s the thing, the stimulus package needed to be twice as big as it was. It is necessary to keep the public sector employed so that they can dump money back into the economy. Same with people on pensions. California is one messed up state and did this to themselves with their crazy propositions. But those employees who everyone doesn’t want to pay for signed contracts for compensation and honoring those contracts would do the economy more good than honoring the bonus contracts for the bankers.
          Damn, it’s getting cloudy again. I am never going to be able to finish staining the deck.

          • Also, the stimulus needed to be working class stimulus, not upper class tax cuts.

      • “they will be able to purchase goods and services from other people…”

        So if we follow your premise, RD, people will have less savings because your model is predicated to spend (thus purchase) will less savings as a consequence.

        • Ahhh, this is the paradox of thrift thinking I mentioned earlier. If people do not spend money, a lack of demand develops. That means there is no need to hire people. And the people who do not get hired have to conserve and not spend so demand goes down even further. In this scenario, no one is making excess money than can be saved. Eventually, unemployment will eat up your nestegg.
          The only way to save money is to have enough of it and the only way to have enough is to have a job. The paradox of thrift makes that very difficult and was one of the contributing factors of The Great Depression. When a country starts experiencing deflation, then it’s in real trouble. That’s what these deficit reduction measures are designed to do. They will keep the economy in recession until cash starts flirting through the system again.
          But you don’t have to listen to me. Go read a book on the great depression. This is the way all depressions work.

      • problem with that is that the ‘stimulus’ cash, just like foreign and disaster aid, doesn’t make it past the corrupt politicians socking it into their swiss accounts… what’s yer DISTRIBUTION plan?

  4. But between the right wing smear campaign that Occupy consisted of a bunch of dirty, lice infested, public sex addicts and the actions of the DHS to squash the movement with militarized riot police, the push back of the 99% is having a hard time getting out.

    The rapid convergence of thinking on Occupy, and how to respond to it, between Republicans and Democrats on this is quite interesting, no?

    • “Interesting”, yes, but hardly surprising by now. Gore Vidal was correct; there is only one major party in the USA, the Property Party, which masquerades as two major parties.

      The amoral portion of my mind can admire the US elite; they’ve evolved an improved version of fascism. Original fascism is a partnership between business and government, in which government is the senior partner. This leads to problems, if the government people are stupid enough to blunder your country into a war it has no reasonable hope of winning (witness the grim fates of those original fascist states, the Axis Powers). That’s bad for business.

      However, in US quasi-fascism, business is the senior partner, and the rich want to keep it that way. In the event of massive public unrest, the rich would be compelled to turn to the government to put it down. That would give the government people the opportunity to seize seniority in the partnership. Also, the government might fail to put down the unrest–in which case the karmic debts of both partners could come due instantly. 😈

      Hence, the rich want to prevent that unrest from arising in sufficient strength to cause problems for them.

      One way to do that is distraction–and entertainment is one of the few industries in which the USA still leads the world.

      Another way is to create a careful illusion of democracy, knowing they can always manipulate the process through their ability to buy propaganda, their ability to control the narrative through their ownership of the concentrated corporate media, and if the first two fail, they can control of the vote-counting process through the unaccountable voting computers.

      Of course, it helps them that many of my fellow citizens apparently do not have enough sense to pour sand out of their boots, and are overjoyed to reach up and pull their fellow working stiffs back down into the crab bucket. 😡

  5. To me the message of Wisconsin is pretty simple – if the other side is going to have all the money and pummel you with it politically, it’s even more important to have a coherent message that makes sense to people and that they can respond to. If the ruling class is bent on impoverishing the rest of us, then not talking about that and instead relying on vague euphemisms like “extremism” is a recipe for defeat. The one side tells a coherent if false story about what they’re doing: We’re sticking it to those union guys who think they’re better than you are and deserve more money! As you note, Occupy was onto something useful as a compelling counter-story, which was: Let’s ALL get together and stick it to the rich people who think they’re better than we are and want us all to be poor! When you don’t have the dollars, the story becomes everything because there’s no other weapon. Until Dems realize that, they’re in trouble.

    • Scott, I couldn’t have said it better. Democrats do not have an operating worldview that they can relate to the public. Go read Matt Stoller’s piece at naked capitalism today. He’s almost 100% correct except that he won’t take that extra step to admit that the only viable alternative to Obama at this point is Hillary Clinton. If people like Matt could just get over their irrational thinking on this point, Democrats could get their asses in gear again. We are not looking for the perfect Democrat. We are looking for a Democrat who isn’t afraid to wear that label and who has a worldview that makes sense to the voters. She’s got one.

      • The Stoller piece poses this:

        If we can figure out how to interrupt the stream of profit and commerce, or persuade a slice of the elites that they do not want to live in the nice gilded parts of what is increasingly becoming a global prison, then the revival can come much quicker than anyone imagines.

        The strategy for doing this is in fact imbedded at the beginning of the article, which I’ve bolded:

        By calling for a recall instead of a general strike after Walker stripped collective bargaining rights and cut benefits for workers…

        That’s how you interrupt cash flow (“the stream of profit and commerce”). There’s no other way.

        • The global elites are deLIGHTed to live in a Global Prison as long as they get to be the Global Prison Wardens. They are motivated by sadism more than by anything else. “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven” . . . even if it has to be a Hell of their own careful engineering and design.

    • “Until Dems realize that, they’re in trouble.”

      I suspect the Dems don’t care, because they get paid by the same people who are paying the GOPhers. 👿

      • I think that’s one big source of the problem right there.

      • Achieving that result was a key mission of DLC people like Alan From and so forth.

  6. Last night on our NPR-rebroadcast of BBC news I heard a very sad analysis-story which I have tried to find a link to and just can’t. Perhaps there is a way for people who know how to do it to find a last-night’s podcast and listen to the whole multi-hour broadcast to find that one little 2-minute nugget of clarifying information.

    It went like this: A professor Suarez or somebody at University of Wisconsin was interviewed about what it means. He pointed out that
    Barrett and Barrett’s people took talk of collective-bargaining-rights for public workers “off the table” because it “wouldn’t move people”. (Wait . . WHAT!? Wouldn’t MOVE people? Wasn’t collective bargaining rights-in-principle the whole point behind the protests and the runaway state senators and so forth to beGIN with? RIGHT from the START!?) So anyway, Professor Suarez(?) went on to say further that when Barrett was Mayor of Milwaukee, he pursued the same anti-union and benefits and pay cutting agenda against the public workers of Milwaukee that Walker has pursued against the public workers of Wisconsin. As the professor put it … “Barrett applied the same exact austerity measures that Walker is applying.”
    So it turns out that Barrett was a stealth undercover secret-agent-Republican Walkerite from the very beginning. Why did the primary DemVoters of Wisconsin ever select Barrett in their primary to be the
    recall runner against Walker to begin with? Furthermore, did the nonMadision DemVoters of Wisconsin ever even know that Barrett was an Austerian Walkerite? How COULD they know if no one ever told them? Knowledge is just as micro-local as politics and if the nonMadison DemVoters didn’t KNOW that Barrett was an Austerian Walkerite, it is because the media, including the so-called public radio media, made very sure to withhold that information from them.

    So, who was running against Barrett in the Dem primary? Did she make collective bargaining rights the point of her primary campaign?
    If she did, then she and the people who voted for her should for their own survival decide whether to commit to a war of total extermination within the Wisconsin Democratic Party . . . or otherwise abandon the Democratic Party en masse to create a Wisconsin Real Democrat Party of their own . . . and use that to exterminate the Democratic Party from existence and wipe it off the face of the earth in Wisconsin.
    As long as the Democratic Party is allowed to exist, Real Democrats will make no progress. Real Democrats may not even survive as people very much longer. Engineered runaway poverty may run all the way to mass starvation and mass-death epidemics among masses of malnourished and home-heating-deprived future. And that is a future which the Democratic Party is co-conspiring with the Republican Party to bring about.

    The public workers of Wisconsin should focus on their own survivalism. If they own homes they should turn their personal houses and yards into personal Survivalist Doomsteads. The public workers of Wisconsin really need to start reading people like Dmitri Orlov, Kurt Saxon, Ran Prieur, Sharon Astyk, John Robb etc. and applying those lessons soonest and with determined intensity.

    • The money that has gone to elect politicians might have been spent to throw out anti-worker legislation, like the “right to work” laws.

      Yes. Interesting, no?

      …or otherwise abandon the Democratic Party en masse to create a Wisconsin Real Democrat Party of their own…

      “Real Democrat Party” would be way too confusing…They’d need to use a completely new name…like Farmer-Labor Party, for example.

      The public workers of Wisconsin really need to start reading people like Dmitri Orlov, Kurt Saxon, Ran Prieur, Sharon Astyk, John Robb etc. and applying those lessons soonest and with determined intensity.

      It mostly John Michael Greer for me…but Orlov isn’t bad.

      • Kurt Saxon, John Robb, Sharon Astyk and hundreds of others cover elements of “how to”. So do excellent websites like Journey To Forever.

        Ran Prieur offers an interesting mix of “how to” and “why to”.
        John Robb and John Michael Greer offer the cheery vision of a slow descent down a long flight of stairs. Orlov ( and James Kunstler and so forth) hope for a swift fall off a high balcony. They disguise their hope as expectation. Still, Orlov has interesting survival advice.

        What to name a legitimate party? Hopefully different people can offer different names. I like “Real Democrat” because it is in part a deliberate insult to the “Democratic Party”. The more people who understand it that way, the more people might feel positively or negatively polarized by the name.

        • Orlov does, his chief advice being have a lot of friends, be socially active, even be part of a religious group (if you live in America). Being part of a real-live, not virtual, community, will get you safely to the other side of a fast crash scenario.

          • There have been quite a few interesting Russian thinkers on this question just lately. It seems the Russians are just Western enough to understand our problems but not so Western as to join our thought-leaders in wishing them away.

            Two other interesting Russian article-writers are Dmitri Podboritz (hard to find on web) and that guy whose name I forget who founded a new academic quasi-discipline he calls “peasantology”. Perhaps adding the words James Kunstler might locate a couple of Dmitri Podboritz’s guest posts on Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation blog.

  7. Sorry, the first of your comments should have been:

    So it turns out that Barrett was a stealth undercover secret-agent-Republican Walkerite from the very beginning.

    To which I replied: “Yes. Interesting, no?”

    My apologies for the confusion.

  8. Increased state taxes tends to favor an import economy. States LOVE their import docks because that is product that is easily taxed via sales tax.

    It is more difficult to deal with the local small business owner who is more labor dependent than importers are.

    As state taxes go up, importers gain an edge over the local small business owner, no? The importer has less overall workers and they are selling, not making, and the end result is some nice sales tax revenue for the state.

    I don’t shop at walmart but those who do are probably grateful for the savings which might be helping them lower their household expenses, and yet, that means less opportunity for local businesses to be involved in local commerce.

    California is in an economic death spiral being caused by additional budget cuts that don’t cut into pensions that much (especially in Los Angeles), but rather cut all kinds of other services instead.

    If additional taxation does not go directly to a productive outcome, but instead simply goes to pension promises made anywhere from one to three decades ago, then I fail to see how preserving an unrealistic pension program is helping the local economy since that additional tax money is not going towards job creation but rather pension preservation.

    In home support services is being virtually eliminated from the California budget. In home support services allowed family members to take care of an elderly parent and be paid a monthly pittance to do so simply because this was far cheaper than having them put into a state run health care facility. Now that is being lost, and for what?

    I’d like to see numbers. I don’t mind that state pensions pay more than social security, however, just how much more should they pay, especially if democrat politicians traded votes for unrealistic pension promises in decades past.

    It may be time to outlaw ALL private lobbying and only allow lobbyists to lobby when a camera and microphone are on and the video is being streamed and recorded online.

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