Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Honorable Crew Going Down With the Ship

So elected Representatives in the Wisconsin State Assembly each received (in 2008) $50,000 in salary, plus $88 a day in expenses, plus $12,000 a year for general office expenses. Plus a few other little odds and ends. This adds up to a figure similar to the salary ($61,000+/-) which conservatives consider excessive when paid to Wisconsin teachers (this figure is a political invention; real figures are considerably lower than those used by the Tea-Baggers for their argument).

However, there is ONE difference: this salary is being paid to legislators for two months' work.

Yes, I understand there is some in-state travel involved, and that life on the road is expensive. What I resent is this idea that OF COURSE legislators would be decently compensated for their work while our educational system--on which rests the future competitiveness of our state--is among the first things the Republican Governor wants to cut.

The world is becoming an increasingly global and competitive place, and frontiers are moving rapidly outward on waves of science and engineering and technology. Meanwhile, in the US there is a coordinated attack against science and rationality in all walks of life by the same people now undermining the state's educational system. I can't imagine how these people think the state will fare when they get their way (as they are determined to do). Our only hope lies in our schools reaching everyone and turning out the best educated graduates on the planet; and conservatives are doing everything they can to undermine this.

But let's not kid ourselves. This financial argument conservatives are making is pure political theater. I can't count the times I've heard Walker say "We're broke," to which predicament his solution is to... cut revenues. At least twice the absent Democratic Senators have offered to accept the concessions the governor is demanding minus the sacrifice of their collective bargaining rights (which in themselves cost nothing). And twice the governor and Republican leaders have said that even negotiating the point is out of the question. How much clearer could this be? This is not an action to save money: this is an action to break one of the key remaining strongholds of organized power not on the far right of the political spectrum.

We are right to oppose this, and I loudly applaud the absentee senators for their resolve. As I heard said elsewhere yesterday, ours is a deliberative government, not a dictatorial one. And to the Tea-Baggers who showed up late for the protests with a "Sorry I wasn't here sooner; I work for a living" signs: do you really think these anti-Walker protests are society elites? Teachers and firefighters and police? Do you think that the union workers who are losing their rights don't work for a living?

Or do you just not think at all?

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