Wisconsin Recall: We Are What Democracy Looks Like

With less than a week to go in Wisconsin’s effort to collect signatures for the Walker recall, many of us are understandably turning our thoughts to who will run against him in the upcoming election.

Honestly, the first thought that has come to mind every time I’ve considered the question is Russ Feingold. But Feingold has said repeatedly that he will not run for public office in 2012. And although I know that many politicians say one thing and mean another, I think Russ’s resolve is quite firm in this respect. In a mid-December interview with Charles Benson of TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Feingold said he feels more a part of real change now than he did as a senator.

Here’s exactly what he said: “I feel more a part of real change now than I did even as a senator.” Think about that for a minute. What Feingold is saying is that real change comes not so much from elected officials as from the people. You know–€”us.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter who runs against Walker. It does. And we do need to talk about that. But before we get going full tilt on that, we need to remind ourselves of something even more important: where real transformation comes from.

Think about who you were, who we were, before Walker unleashed his draconian agenda on the people of Wisconsin last February.

I didn’t know the names of any state legislators but my own. I hardly ever spared a thought for state politics. Whenever there was an election, I did my best to catch up with the candidates and the issues. But it’s not really possible to do that in just a few days. I was woefully out of touch.

When I first learned about Walker’s devastating “budget repair” bill, I firmly expected that people would be angry and would complain for a while and then continue going about their business as though nothing had happened.

But then a miracle happened.

From seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of us—hundreds of thousands of us–€”gathered on the Capitol Square. Day. After. Day. We brought with us our signs, our outrage, our indignation, our sense of fairness, our determination, our sense of humor, our hats and mittens, and our friends, neighbors, kids, and grandparents. The people of Wisconsin woke up and rose up, and anyone who was there will never be the same again.

We have sloughed off our complacency and have our sights firmly set on transforming our state into the beacon of progressive values it has long been and will be again. No politician, no candidate for governor, can do for Wisconsin what we can. It won’t be enough to elect a progressive governor. It won’t be enough to flip the state senate and the assembly. No matter how hard we have worked collecting signatures, no matter how hard we work on the recall election, it won’t be enough if we don’t continue doing the work of democracy.

better in person

I have confidence in the transformation that has taken place in Wisconsin. Our sleeves are rolled up, and they will stay rolled up. We will remain vigilant on behalf of our neighbors and our children, our parents and grandparents. We will not stop insisting that the progressive values we prize most are not compromised. All this because we have learned a lesson we will never forget:

We are what democracy looks like.

Grab bag of blogging: If the bumper sticker bleeds, it leads | Wisconsin union-busting theories | Team Scooter | Elizabeth Warren

Republican State Representative Robin Vos thinks this bumper sticker image of Scott Walker with a train flying through his head is “indecent”(the first sticker design was more gross. Check it out.). WPR’s Joy Cardin will chat about the Democratic-sponsored sticker and more on her radio program’s 8-9am tomorrow,  Friday 12/31.

In good taste or not, this sticker is “sticky”: I’ve seen it crop up on facebook, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and I’ve heard about it on the radio. If you click on the image, you can get your own and make it sticky on your car’s bumper. The Wisconsin Democrat website link to this sticker is no longer functioning as of 12/31/10. But here’s a similarly themed sticker from an independent artist!

Union Boogey Man. Quick fact for ya!: Wisconsin ranks 43rd in the number of  state employees per resident.

So I was wondering why our state employees pose such a vast threat for Scott Walker and Wisconsin.  A few theories:

A. Scott Walker wants to bankrupt Wisconsin to kill unions and privatize that workforce. From a Nov. 11 Newt Gingrich speech:I also hope the House Republicans are going to move a bill in the first month or so of their tenure to create a venue for state bankruptcy..you need to sit down with all your government employee unions and look at their health plans and their pension plans and frankly if they don’t want to change, our recommendation is you go into bankruptcy court.”

B. Unions are a strong political and funding force of “The Left”

C. Union wages bring up wages for all workers, and Walker’s business friends don’t like that. According to the Sunshine Review, the average national hourly wage of public employees last year—$39.66—was 45 percent more than the average hourly wage of $27.42 paid in the private sector [Note-I think that’s skewed high since it includes Federal employees]

D. Wisconsin may have a disaster brewing in its Employee Trust Fund.  Experts like Mike Shedlock say the fund is dangerously over-leveraged. He says fund managers did it to come up with 8% returns:a profit out of sync with the market reality. ETFs are also predicted to have their turn at a bubble. The state will either outright fail baby-boomer retirees or fulfill obligations through unpopular tax hikes or some portion of both.

Cathy Stepp at a Racine tax protest. She threw in a shot at President Obama for regulating carbon dioxide emissions. "My own breath will be regulated?" she asked.

There is no “I” in TEAM. Here comes Scott walker’s staff and heads of departments. How about this comment on the new DNR chief:  “Putting Cathy Stepp in charge of the DNR is like putting Lindsay Lohan in charge of a rehab center,” said Brett Hulsey, an incoming Democratic state representative from Madison. …Stepp said Thursday that her past criticisms of the agency should not affect morale at the agency.

Well, it’s nice she cares about morale.

I see that welfare-to-work reformer Eloise Anderson is back again to work as Department of Children and Families. Under Governor Tommy Thompson she was Administrator of the division of Community Services 1988 – 1992. She said in 1996 about the welfare reforms of that year: “By emphasizing work, welfare reform will lead to cooperation between a father and a mother, and create an interdependence for the well-being of the children, which will lead to cultural mainstreaming and stronger families”

I wonder how Eloise’s worky mainstreamy stuff worked out for families [distorting a Palinism there]. My first reaction is “Dear Eloise: The economy is not as good as when you peeled people off the welfare rolls in times past. Proceed with caution.”

Elizabeth Warren: A woman to watch. I do love a good industry watchdog. Don’t you? She’s the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to in Warren’s words, “be a new cop on the beat that will end big loopholes in the regulatory system [on financiers and bankers]” I know she’s not out of the woods yet. Last we knew her boss Timothy Geithner hated her. Maybe it’s because when she had the chance, she grilled him quite mercilessly on the sloppy bank bailouts:

Are you a fan of Elizabeth Warren yet? If you’re up for it, 1 more 4 minute video of Elizabeth on how we need to regulate loans to favor the consumer HERE.