It's spreading nationally under Republican and Democrat administrations, but Wisconsin and Ohio are key battleground states. Wisconsin especially - ground zero to save organized labor, on the chopping block to be weakened ahead of eliminating it altogether, returning America to 19th century harshness.
Already a shadow of its peak strength, it's been gravely harmed under corrupted union bosses, betraying rank and file members for power and self-enrichment. Short of real change, working Americans face stiff headwinds for their rights fast eroding.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin public employees show heroic stamina, 17 days after protests began, rallying in cold and snow, sleeping on Capitol floors, staying the course for rights too important to lose, facing off against extremist governance wanting them stripped of everything.
Fascism is rooted in Washington under Democrat and Republican rule, America's one-party system with two wings, each as corrupted as the other supporting money and power, not beneficial social change. It's also virulent in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. Merriam-Webster calls it:
"a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation(s) and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition."
Mussolini endorsed "the Corporative System (that's) destined to become the civilization of the twentieth century."
Hitler in Mein Kampf wrote enthusiastically about the "National Socialist corporative idea."
Others say it incorporates authoritarian rule, revolutionary change, messianic faith, autarky and corporatism. Combined, it represents right-wing extremism, concentrated power, masculinity, force, racial superiority, imperialism, war as a means to spread it, and intolerance of opposition or dissent.
In Wisconsin and Ohio, these elements are deepening under two reactionary Republicans, Scott Walker and John Kasich, neither giving ground in their crusade to destroy unionism and public worker rights in their states.
On March 2, New York Times writer Sabrina Tavernise headlined, "Ohio Senate Approves (Anti-)Union Bill," saying:
By a 17 - 16 vote, six Republicans voting no, Ohio's Senate passed extremist "legislation that (will practically eliminate) collective bargaining rights for public sector workers by banning strikes" and weakening union power overall in labor-government negotiations. Easy House passage is expected.
Kasich not only endorsed it, he played hardball for Senate passage with Republican Tom Niehaus, the chamber's President. Together they perhaps staged an unprecedented political coup by removing two GOP committee dissenters for supportive ones to get a full floor vote for passage.
The bill redefines collective bargaining terms. Wage negotiations are permitted, but not entirely. Disallowed are others for healthcare coverage, pensions and other benefits. Strikes are also prohibited under threat of fines and incarceration. New pay rules will be based on merit, not seniority.
Overall, a new labor dispute resolution system will be established, empowering government at the expense of workers, heading for losing all rights.
Arguing for passage, Republicans outrageously claimed worker are too powerful. Opponents call the measure unjust and unconscionable, stripping them of hard-won rights. Independent observers expect an anti-Republican backlash.
Democrats vow to re-fight the measure by ballot referendum this fall. Unions call the law the biggest blow to public worker rights since 1983 legislation protected them.
On March 2, Washington Post writer Greg Sargent headlined, "Four national polls show solid support for public employees" by a nearly two-to-one margin for collective bargaining rights.
Senate Democrat Nina Turner said, "This bill seeks to vilify our public employees and turn what used to be the virtue of public service into a crime."
Hardball in Wisconsin
Addressing the state legislature on March 1, Walker announced $1.7 billion in budget cuts over the next two years, hammering school districts, teachers and social services, the same scheme playing out across America - rewarding corporate favorites and the wealthy at the expense of ordinary workers.
Class warfare is alive, spreading and deepening, inflicting enormous harm on working Americans losing out, mostly affecting low-income employees, many already earning poverty-level wages.
In Wisconsin, proposed cuts will heavily impact education, deny healthcare to those uninsured, and increase tuition cost at state universities. State worker jobs, wages and benefits are also affected, Walker claiming overall pay and benefit compensation is "out of line with the private sector" when, in fact, it's nearly 5% less on average.
Nonetheless, he proposed cutting $900 million from local school districts, $250 million from state universities, $500 million from programs providing low-income families healthcare, and prescription drugs for seniors, as well as $96 million from counties and municipalities.
At least 1,200 jobs will be eliminated, another 20,000 outsourced, perhaps becoming low-pay, no benefits part-time ones.
School districts and local governments plan school closures, teacher and other system layoffs, and cuts in other services. State school superintendent Tony Evers said:
"When you make unprecedented and historic cuts like these to schools, it means teachers are laid off, class sizes are larger, course offerings are reduced, extracurricular activities are cut, and (most) of what we value in our schools (will be) gone."
At the same time, in a rage to privatize, Walker plans increased funding for quasi-public/private charter schools and private school vouchers, including for religious ones, violating a core church-state separation principle.
The state university system will be hammered by 11 - 13% cuts on 14 campuses in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Platteville, and others. The state's technical college system will also face $71.6 million in cuts, about 30% of its funding. Moreover, UW-Madison, the main campus serving 40,000 students, will be free to set its own tuition rates, perhaps making it more costly than others. Its Board of Trustees, mostly state-appointed corporatists, will also control wages, benefits, staffing and other policies, running the university like a business, not an institution of higher learning. Expect the same system elsewhere.
As a result, students will face stiff tuition hikes, for many putting college out of reach. For others, imposing greater than ever long-term debt bondage to attend.
According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, cumulative principle and interest owed is nearly $900 billion, rising by $2,854 per second, a shocking indictment of a Washington-sanctioned scam, affecting students and families alike. For many, lifetime debt bondage results, including in default, requiring payments and late penalties continue, or have them garnished from wages or other compensation. Once hooked, there's no escape under a system as ruthless as loan-sharking. Pay up or get knee-capped.
National Public Worker Cuts
According to a February Center on Budget and Policy Priority (CBPP) study, state governors face daunting fiscal challenges, saying:
"State tax collections, adjusted for inflation, are now 12 percent below pre-recession levels, while the need for state-funded services has not declined. As a result, even after making very deep spending cuts over the last several years, states continue to face large budget gaps."
Currently, 45 states and the District of Columbia expect FY 2012 deficits. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs and public services are affected. FY "2012 (beginning July 1 in most states) is shaping up as (their) most difficult budget year on record." Yet options for addressing them are dwindling. Past federal aid is largely gone. Deep cuts are coming, affecting public workers and other residents alike, hitting poor and low-income ones hardest.
Total state spending on average will be 10% less than in 2008. Only North Dakota and Alaska aren't affected. North Dakota's state owned bank (the nation's only one) helped create the largest ever budget surplus during the height of the economic crisis. The governor and legislature are looking for ways to spend it, including by increasing public services, not cutting them. Alaska benefits from its oil revenue.
CBPP said that "(d)espite modest signs of improvement, states continue to face a long road to recovery." As a result, "significant state shortfalls are expected to persist into the future." Moreover, the more staff and compensations packages are cut, the less revenue is produced that, in turn, means further reductions ahead as part of a continuing race to the bottom cycle, hammering ordinary people most. For them, greater deprivation and despair are coming, not relief when they most need it.
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|Allen L. Jasson|