Is The Revolt Spreading to America? → Washingtons Blog
Is The Revolt Spreading to America? - Washingtons Blog

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is The Revolt Spreading to America?

Yesterday, thousands of Wisconsin public workers protested the state's plan to cut benefits:

As USA Today notes:

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan compared the protests in his home state of Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan to the pro-democracy movement in Egypt.

Ryan, a Republican from Janesville, made his comments on MSNBC's Morning Joe program. In the Wisconsin state capital, teachers and labor union supporters swarmed the Senate chambers today to protest a bill that would strip most public employees of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.

"It's like Cairo's moved to Madison these days," Ryan said on MSNBC. "All of this demonstration ... it's fine. People should be able to express their way."

Mother Jones points out:
For the second straight day, demonstrators have been pouring into the streets of Madison, Wisconsin to protest Republican Governor Scott Walker's anti-union plan to address the state's $137 million budget shortfall, prompting comparisons (and denounciations of these comparisons) to the uprising in Egypt. Walker's proposal would limit the collective bargaining power of many state and local employees, and roughly doubles their health care premiums. It would also give public union members the right not to pay their dues, deflating the groups' coffers. Experts expect that Walker's provisions will be voted into law by the end of the week by the state assembly and senate—both of which are controlled by Republicans.

In response, Madison public school teachers have called in sick for a second straight day. And teachers in over a dozen other school districts have followed suit. Meanwhile, union leaders are picketing the capitol, planning vigils and setting up phone banks to try to block Walker's effort.


Protestors say that sounds a little…Mubaraky. They're carrying signs saying things like "Mubarak-check. Walker—?" and "Hosni Walker, Elected Dictator." And local liberal pundits are feeding the flames of anti-MubWalkerism. Liberal columnist Pat Schneider wrote that "[t]he success of a grass-roots uprising in Egypt in toppling strongman Hosni Mubarak was a source of inspiration for many of those who brainstormed Tuesday in Madison about resistance to attacks on US workers in several states." Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told CNN "it's like Cairo's moved to Madison these days…[h]e's basically saying I want you public workers to pay half of what our private sector counterparts are, and he's getting riots."

AOL News reports:
Walker has upped the ante by threatening to bring in the National Guard if public workers decide to walk off the job or if their protests disrupt services around the state.

Labor activists responded by saying that Walker could ignite a "class war."

And now many are comparing Walker to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who tried to cling to power while protests roiled his country.

Dylan Ratigan notes that a large proportion of Wisconsin public employees' pension funds go to Wall Street:

The average Wisconsin state employee gets $24,500 a year. That’s not a very big pension. The state pension plan, 15% of the money going into it each year is being paid out to Wall Street to manage the money. That’s a really huge high percentage to pay out to Wall Street to manage the money.
And the Governor has ordered the Wisconsin state police to arrest all of the Democratic State Senators and return them to the Capital, but the Senate Democrats have fled the state.

Conservative writers like Mish and Karl Denninger slam the protesters (they're anti-union).

Indeed, the Democratic National Committee is apparently helping to organize the protests.

But Max Keiser writes:
It’s foolish to say these protests are about ‘labor’ or ‘unions.’ They’re about people getting their wealth stolen by banks. And whether it’s Cairo or Ohio, it’s the same banks. We are witnessing a Global Insurrection Against Banker Occupation.
Another poster writes:
The one good thing that has come out of this is simply the fact that, for right or for wrong, people are getting off their [back sides] and doing something about something.
And in related "Mubaraky" news, Ray McGovern - a 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials - was bloodied, bruised and beaten for peacefully protesting a speech by Hillary Clinton (Clinton's speech was about the importance of protecting free speech):

McGovern Bloodied and Arrested at Clinton Speech mcgovernassaulted

As Raw Story points out:
Former CIA agent Ray McGovern, an outspoken critic of US foreign policy, stood silently in the auditorium's center aisle, and turned his back on Clinton.

For his symbolic and otherwise non-disruptive protest, he was quickly accosted by security agents. As they struggled to pull him out of the room, a CNN news camera caught the tail end of the ordeal.

"SO THIS IS AMERICA?!? This is America? Who are you?" the 71-year-old McGovern shouted as he was hauled away.


McGovern was being represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).

"It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government's supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech," a spokeswoman for the group said in a published statement. [The group also noted that McGovern was "left bleeding in jail".]

US officials came under similar rhetorical fire in December, when they announced plans to host "World Press Freedom Day." The announcement was made on the same day that Sen. Joesph Lieberman (I-CT) declared that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be prosecuted for espionage over his role in the release of US diplomatic cables.

"When people die because we have hypocrites at the top of our government, that compels me to make a statement in whatever way I can," McGovern later told Rob Kall, who posted the remarks to Op Ed News. "It was not the theme of her speech that I was protesting. It was her war policies and support of Mubarak."

And see this and this.


  1. Egyptians protest for freedom from oppressive government.

    Americans protest for more oppressive government.

  2. I appeciate this post. The move to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers will have implications for all workers, including those employed in the private sector.

    What I really don't get is why your readers at zerohedge are so strongly anti-union?

    Public employees on average make less than private sector employes:

    I do not deny that there are examples of abuses that can be found. These instances are typically regarded as disgusting by public sector employs as well.

    However, the real plundering of America is NOT by unions.

    James Galbraith's book on the Predator State documents how private companies prey upon public purpose and pillage in the process.

    Nomi Prins It Takes a Pillage documents how financial institutions operate parasitically

    I could go on and cite all of the similar analyses in the military-industrial complex but I won't bore readers.

    Unions may not be perfect and they may make mistakes but collective bargaining is the only real mechanism workers have for expressing their voice. Union negotiation achieved the 5 day workweek, 8 hour day, and put into practice the idea of a "living wage."

    Do people really want to return to a system where workers are completely disenfranchized and become literal peons?

    My next book is titled, Neofeudalism.

    It seems to me that too many on the Internet are ready to welcome this system out of a mistaken (and propagandistically instilled)sense of resentment....

  3. Where do you draw the line and say “Enough is enough and this is where I stand and fight for my rights” (Bill of Rights)?

    What is your threshold for pain? Is it when they take away your Social Security, your company pension, your Employment Insurance? Your mothers Medicare or when they try to collect the National debt from you and your children in taxes? No one is exempt, divided we fall and united we stand! I am not overtly fond of government workers but that is a different issue, I stand united with them and our cause as Americans.

    We have all seen the criminal bankster’s planned Austerity program enacted in Europe and the resulting ongoing riots that will not stop. Now, it is America’s turn under the screw. The bastards sure like to torture people don’t they? Ha. Ha.

    Funny, the bankster have made a mockery out of our legal system and got away with the greatest world robbery in history. America owes the banksters and their criminal brotherhood of politicians nothing. The banksters owe America’s Justice System and the American people their necks and we should insist on collecting their criminal necks and returning all the money (nullifying debt) that was criminally swindled from the people of the world and thereby ending their financial tyranny throughout the world-permanently.

    The good people of Wisconsin should hold their own court (grand jury) and bring to Justice the criminal banksters and their corrupt politicians including the governor who stands with the banksters and not with the people. They all hang together and they should all hang together.

    Hats off to Ray McGovern for exposing the canned propaganda press release of General Clinton.

  4. I agree with the previous comment about collective bargaining. Pretty much why I rarely read Mish anymore was because of all his anti-union chamber of commerce talking points.

    These are people who serve to distract from the real culprits like Max Keiser points out - the banks and their subsidiaries.

    The corporate domination over the lack of collective bargaining in most workplaces in America has sure helped along this process of keeping real wages flat for 40 years while devaluing the dollar and driving up food and fuel prices.

    The unions I know are pretty much as rotten in the same places as our government. Clear out the bad apples.

  5. “For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument — that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S”
    (As if Things Weren’t Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S. – Wall Street Journal – 12/29/08)

    Western states like California, Oregon and Washington, should secede from this already failed union before it’s too late. By acting as independent entities, they could easily recover from the ongoing crisis by establishing a new monetary system that would make their economies to become more competitive with the rest of the world.

    National sovereignty and patriotism are things of the past. The 21st century belongs to the global community.

  6. I'm a Wisconsinite. Unionized public employees here make far above the average wage of the non union working class - add in the perks and you have the reasons why the biggest voter turnout in decades completely flipped the legislative branch and governorship to those promising budget reform starting with the union stranglehold.

    I find collective bargaining rather disgusting when it involves pilfering the honest gotten wages of those that have no voice and nothing to gain from the demands. Hell, even FDR hated collective bargaining...

    After years of raiding segregated funds, the tobacco settlement funds, passing unconstitutional (state) unbalanced budgets now to the tune of $3+ Billion in the hole - someone is doing something about it. Some official facts that are just nuts:

    -Taxpayer funding of state employee healthcare benefits has increased over 100% in ten years. Taxpayers paid out more than $1 billion dollars in 2011. State employees paid $64 million - 5.6% of the total cost. In my fair city the teachers enjoy not one but 2 healthcare plans.

    -Since 2000 we, the people, have paid in over $13 Billion to the pensions of our poor state workers. They have contributed 0.8% - $8 million. They are immediately vested upon initial employment.

    -25 cents of every dollar being dumped into our epic failure of a grade school system goes toward employee fringe benefits.

    What does Walker want to do? - make them pay 6% of their retirement and 13% of their healthcare - which still comes out to less than half what the average non state employee pays in. So much for equality.

    ''re mad about the collective bargaining...' (Last month the contribution increases were akin to 'slavery') The bill would mandate yearly re certification of unions - which should be a given knowing the types of rotten tricks and patently false facts that they have been sourcing. more indefinite bargaining, they had a hayday of holding their breath the longest (over a year usually) and then cashing in on retroactive increases...

    Meanwhile thousands of teachers skip out on their job - put thousands of parents on the hook and away from their work to supervise their children, but its all about children.

    Some reads & vids: (Over the top and unfathomable when you start digging)

    Not very exciting, but neither is the foreclosure I'm dealing with. Just maddening. $5k/yr tax levy on the 1,400sq ft low middle class hood home shoves me out of the picture with my wages now half what they were 5 yrs ago.

    The real plundering of America might not be the unions but it certainly is for WI...I'd watch for a taxpayer solidarity march soon.

  7. Where were all those government workers when we asked for a fence on the Mexican border to protect our jobs? Where were the government worker unions when the Congress and the President gave away a million Green Cards last year?

    Our unemployment rate is 22% according to Paul Craig Roberts. Government worker unions do not care about us. They have what they thought were secure well paying jobs. Why should I care about them if they do not care about us?

    The problem I have with government worker unions id that they are exploiting those of us who still have jobs. Who can afford to pay the taxes needed to support their pensions, their health insurance and wages that are way beyond what the average man or woman makes?

    In the small town where I live most people are very poor except for the government workers. Where do these people think we are getting the money to pay these taxes? Why should poor people subsidize the relatively well off?

    O am tired of the argument that 'I am a public servant.' We all serve the public even if we drive a truck or work in a warehouse.

    We could get unions for all workers if the Congress and the President had not decided to ship all of our jobs overseas in 1994 when they passed NAFTA and the WTO.

    Now the unions will have to learn to adjust to a world in which their average taxpayer does not make 17 to 20 dollars an hour. There has been no increase in breadwinner jobs paying over $590000 a year. All the jobs created go to people making around $12 an hour before taxes.

    Wall Street decided to turn America into a low wage country. Get used to it. People in Asia could go on strike at the clothing factories for ten years but they will never make what an American government worker makes.

  8. Majia's Blog:
    Zerohedge commenters are mainly Libertarian. That's why they are anti-union. I don't know how many of them are rich, though(unlike someone like Megan McArdle). I do love the Bernanke bashing, because he deserves every last bit, but they do have a Libertarian leaning so buyer beware so to speak.

  9. The anti-union stuff is why this mess exists in the first place.

    Private sector wages have gone down or at best remained stagnant precisely because employees have lost their bargaining power. And that's because they've been brainwashed into acting against their own interest!

    No amount of saying 'this is the new normal' will change the fact that this wage suppression means that there is not enough money swilling around in the middle and lower classes to keep the economy afloat.

    Hence why the peasants are revolting ...

  10. First off, I agree with the need for change in the United States, the cited articles do a great job of mirroring the opinions of the people. However, the comparison to the recent Egyptian revolution is absurd. The Egyptian revolution and the suggested upcoming revolution in the United States are for separate reasons.

    The Egyptian revolution encompassed a vast majority of the population and was the product of widespread poverty and government corruption.
    While the revolts in Wisconsin can be considered the product of government corruption, the revolts are not large scale. In order for a revolution in the United States to occur, the entirety, or at least majority, of the United States must be on board. Until the United States can unite against one issue, the revolts in Wisconsin will be no more than protests or boycotts that occur daily.

  11. First off, I agree with the need for change in the United States, the cited articles do a great job of mirroring the opinions of the people. However, the comparison to the recent Egyptian revolution is absurd. The Egyptian revolution and the suggested upcoming revolution in the United States are for separate reasons.

    The Egyptian revolution encompassed a vast majority of the population and was the product of widespread poverty and government corruption.
    While the revolts in Wisconsin can be considered the product of government corruption, the revolts are not large scale. In order for a revolution in the United States to occur, the entirety, or at least majority, of the United States must be on board. Until the United States can unite against one issue, the revolts in Wisconsin will be no more than protests or boycotts that occur daily.


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