Weekend Diversion: Stand Up, Wisconsin!

"If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." -Abraham Lincoln

Democracy is hard. There's a reason I became an astrophysicist and not a politician, and it's rare that I talk about politics here. But every once in a while, I see something happening that's so egregious that I have to stand up and speak out for what's right in this world. Bob Marley would likely approve; have a listen to his great song,

Get Up, Stand Up.
So, representative democracy is hard.

In principle, the people come together and elect a candidate that will best represent their interests in government. And these Representatives will then get together to make laws and policies that shape their cities, states, and the entire nation.

And people advocate for different things. Social justice, economic freedom, public welfare, small government, etc. But in all of this, we have designed our governments to make it difficult to pass these laws. In particular, we want all the people represented, we want all the voices heard, and we want everybody's legitimate interests to be addressed. And in the end, amendments are made to bills until everyone has had their say, and then a vote takes place. If half of the governing legislature and the head of state all vote for the new bill, that's what it takes to make a new law. That's how democracy is supposed to work.

And then we have a state that is particularly dear to me: Wisconsin. Full of kind, generous, hard-working people who were good to me -- an outsider -- Wisconsin is also where I met the wonderful person I'm now married to. But something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin, and I cannot remain silent about it.

And depending on where you're getting your news from, you might only be getting 5% of the story.

As many of you know, Wisconsin now holds a Republican majority (19-14) in the state senate, and has a new Republican governor, Scott Walker. As is being reported, Wisconsin faces a budget deficit, they are trying to pass a new budget full of spending cuts, but the democrats ran away from the state capital, stalling the vote, and 12,000 Wisconsinites stand to lose their jobs if the budget doesn't go through.

And, as we say in New York, if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Because the new state government just cut taxes for the wealthiest Wisconsinites weeks ago, creating a large part of the budget shortfall that Wisconsin now faces.

Because the State Representative from Oshkosh, WI -- a metropolitan area of over 150,000 people -- isn't being allowed to use his voice.

"Is that so," you incredulously ask? See for yourself.

How can you believe in the government when they're going to destroy public transportation in your city, without even debating or discussing it?! My hats off to that brave Representative for remaining as composed as he did, because this is what being railroaded looks like.

And it's why stalling the vote by running away is the only option the Democratic Senators have. It's why good people all over Wisconsin support them. And it's why, at last count, 80,000 people are protesting this unilateral regime.

You might not even be aware of this issue if you live in the United States, but support for Wisconsin's workers -- who are about to lose their voices too, in the form of the right for workers to bargain as a union (seriously, what is this, the 1890s?) -- is worldwide.

You have to be allowed to use your voice. You have to allow the people you disagree with to use theirs, too. It's the price we pay for freedom and democracy, and that part of it shouldn't be negotiable.

So what would I propose as a solution to this mess? Well, some people have suggested a recall, and while eight of the State Senators could be recalled right now, Wisconsin law prevents the Governor from being recalled for a full year. But 80,000 people are a large public force to reckon with, and if I could use them to do anything I wanted, here's what I would do.

Human barricades are one of the most effective form of civil disobedience that ordinary citizens have at their disposal. And 10,000 people is certainly a large enough force to barricade one State Senator into their place of residence. Barricade eight State Senators into their homes, have the minority party return, and vote on that bill. With 25 people there, you'll have quorum to vote, but with 8 members of the majority party not in attendance, the minority party should be able to defeat the bill, 14-11.

This still won't solve the larger problem: the interests of the people are not being represented by their elected government. Why not? I have a pretty good idea, and as long as large amounts of money from a few corporations and individuals is legally allowed to sway public opinion before an election, this will be a problem.

(If you're not going to follow the links above, they demonstrate that the principal financiers of Scott Walker run a monstrously unethical multi-billion-dollar company that -- under their watch -- broke the law more than 24,000 times. And paid, cumulatively, only a few million in fines for it.)

So keep fighting, Wisconsin, and I couldn't be more proud of how you're exercising your first amendment rights!

More like this

Forcing legislators to stay home smacks of intimidation and mob rule. I'd much prefer the protests to continue until some of the Republicans change their minds. I do wonder if that's a reasonable expectation though...

Forcing legislators to stay home smacks of intimidation and mob rule.

Well, when you have a mob at hand, you might as well put it to good use.

I guess you could make them stay at the senate until they change their minds, instead. I mean, do they really need to go home for Easter and whatnot?

The most important part of decency in politic or anything else is that after the day is over, everyone should be secure at their own home. Even the most despicable should be left alone when they are there private homes.

Anyone following your idea of keeping someone in or out of their home would be in clear violation of the law and should be arrested.

It is also very short sighted. If bothering someone at home become kosher, then it will become an availiable tool of tea parties and the religious right. They certainly have the man-power to barricade people they don't like and/or people necessary for operations they like.

Keep the protests at the capitol and other parts of the public square where they belong.

By Childermass (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

@still, the use of State Troopers to hunt down and forcibly return Democratic Legislators smacks of intimidation and tyranny. Blocking a Republican Legislator's ability to come and go as he pelases from his house is as viable as the anti-abortionists who blockade, harass, and intimidate women from obtaining a legal medical procedure or ANY procedure.

By MCFunnyBunny (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

It has been no secret that Wisconsin suffers from a stagnant business climate. The State has not been business friendly and so with no surprise have we seen jobs leave with comparatively little to replace them. Worse, many of those lost jobs were the most important income generators for the State. Much of what remains is net negative beyond simply circulating money within our own captive ecosystem. Walmart is net negative. Harley Davidson is a positive, but as Walmarts have sprung up left and right (along with payday loan stores), Harley Davidson looks to leave as a matter of continued and improved business viability offered elsewhere. The core of Harley Davidson remains for the time being due some promised measures of State relief (welfare) even though much of that company has already been relocated to other states. I use it as an example. General Motors is gone.

There is an adage that if government wishes to reduce something, they will tax it, and conversely subsidize that which shall be bolstered. Wisconsin for the past fifty years has been notably a tax heavy welfare State. With declining returns. So what to do? Reduce the burden to business making Wisconsin attractive in comparison to other States -- this is a competitive market after all -- and reduce taxation so we might regenerate an economy while reducing expenditures. Economics 101.

There is another adage that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results being a measure of insanity, Wisconsin has been doing that for a while now. Results have stayed largely the same as the State budget hemorrhages red ink in an economy that cannot sustain. If nothing is done then we face economic collapse in the starkest terms, but this entails change and people resist that. Fear of the unknown even in the face of knowns that are bleak at best and bear down with ever heightened immediacy otherwise describable as "Head in the Sand Syndrome".

The new Governor has taken steps to improve our business climate which is a notable first step. Now he starts to drive down the costs of government while reducing levels of economically numbing bureaucracy. The largest component of State budgets being employees, they are being asked to pay a small percentage of their salary into their retirement funds and likewise pay a relatively small portion of their health insurance premiums. This is not Union Busting beyond bringing outlays of Civil Servants more in line with requirements of our overall economy. Civil Service Unions resist this as they have categorically for decades. If the Unions are not willing to yield to reality then the alternatives for the membership is no union or no job at all. No money is exactly that. No money. Meanwhile the Civil Service Unions rally, "We Won't Budge!"

Whatever!... This isn't a negotiation!

By Bill James (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

I call bullshit, #6. To fix the budget deficit created by a tax cut for the rich, you do not need to destroy collective bargaining rights for state workers. You don't need to force union workers to accept a contract change without going through the process of renegotiation - and yes, this bill does that.

You don't need to railroad a bill through the state congress. You don't need to cut off debate when it's clear there is a lot of opposition to your plan.

The governor's done all of these things, and he's done it in a political nature, and he's done his best to keep his friends protected. Note how the bill does not at all affect police/firefighter's unions. Why is that? Easy - they supported Walker's campaign for governor.

There are other ways to fix the budget. There are also other ways to bring businesses to Wisconsin that don't involve budget-destroying tax cuts for the rich. Those are the facts, and it's good to see people in Wisconsin recognizing that.

Man, I was with you until you suggested using force to alter the outcome of a vote in the elected legislature. Brownshirts, anyone? Florida 2000?

"A riot...is an oogly think. Und.
I think it is vay beyond time dat vee had one!"
(Inspector Kemp)

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

I love it when you armchair revolutionaries get all lathered up at a safe distance of 2000 miles. Why don't you stick to astrophysics, lest a car backfire in your direction and you have to change your underwear?

#6, you clearly have not been paying any attention, or you would have realized that the unions are by and large perfectly willing to comply with the concessions they are asking to make in regards to benefits and pay increases. That is not the issue here.

The issue is the fact that Walker and the people backing him are using the budget deficit to strip the unions of their collective bargaining rights. These have nothing to do with the deficit, which is why *70,000* people have taken to the streets in protest. Walker is acting as if being elected Governor has made him the lord and ruler of the State of Wisconsin. He had no respect for the public when he was Milwaukee's County Executive, and he has no respect for them now. The only thing that has changed is that he's now playing this game on a scale large enough to make people sit up and take notice.

There is no point in trying to encourage 'new business' to come to the state if there is nothing left of the state to come to. Walker has been systematically dismantling public services for years now. He thinks we don't need things like city parks or public transportation. His refusal to consider the light-rail option between Milwaukee and Madison is indicative of this. And I shudder to think of what might befall our state parks. I live in Milwaukee. I have seen what this man can do, and it pains me that no one bothered to take note of his record or his painful inadequacies in the political arena before voting for him. Our problem here is now the whole state's problem. I can only be grateful that he's been so woefully transparent in his agenda that people have sat up and taken notice.

I'd fire all the teachers and impeach all those Dem senators. I guess this is one of those "don't let a good crisis go to waste" moments, huh Barry? Just remember what Reagan did to the air traffic controllers. The world didn't end.

GH @ 10:

I love it when you armchair revolutionaries get all lathered up at a safe distance of 2000 miles.

Says the guy in Nebraska, demonstrating that when he says libertarian he means "Worship at the feet of those born into money"

Sue @ 12:

Sorry you're so cranky. Perhaps you'll feel better after burning a cross or two.

GH @ 13 Sorry you're so cranky. Perhaps you'll feel better after burning a cross or two.

And what does that mean?

Thanks Ethan. Just another in a long list of reasons to love your blog. I live in Madison, where it's been a rough but exciting week. My son misses his teachers and classes (especially Physics!) but he understands how important this is. Attacking public workers and undermining BadgerCare is only the beginning. Next will be the attack on what's left of private sector unions, horrible cuts in funding for our educational institutions, reducing environmental protections, and political restrictions on legitimate scientific research. How any of this creates jobs and attracts business is beyond me. Keep up the great writing. I'm an avid non-scientist reader along with my son who will sometimes read over my shoulder when a post catches his eye.

#6, if unions are so terrible for business, then explain why Minnesota, Wisconsin's next-door neighbor, has some of the strongest unions in the country and one of the best business climates in the country.

But yes, I agree with everyone else that barricading someone in their house is intimidation and NOT a good idea. If Walker and his henchmen in the legislature start supporting bills to flat-out execute gay people and poor people, then it's absolutely fair game. But right now, no.

Andy @12:

I'm living at ground zero like you are. At any rate the unions have had ample opportunity to negotiate more reasonable positions. They have failed to do so. Indeed, our community has recently finished contract negotiations where unionized civil servants garnered yet another increase in pay beyond regular raises due time in service etc., in an economic climate featuring unemployment at 15%. The union settled for a modest pay increase when factoring increased costs of benefit packages their not paying for out of pocket, but that's still an increase and maintenance of the status quo as deficits continue expansion. The community has brought up contractual matters of unionized civil service employees paying modest sums towards insurance premiums and retirement accounts only to be summarily rejected time and again. If the Union membership had ever agreed to this, we wouldn't be here today now would we. Your argument is as hollow as your head.

Nor is it any surprise that Unionized Civil Servants being among the last to face sobering economic realities. Collectively they have been able to vote themselves largesse from the public treasury for so long they now consider themselves a privileged class. It is what we are seeing in Madison today, Civil Servants angrily demanding their privilege among threats of coming misery upon all those unwilling to provide them with it. Let not a pothole be filled.

I notice you conveniently ignore the Democratic candidate also being from Milwaukee. Yes, the Walker win was a surprise given entitlement voters along with the self interested privileged that typically swing the state leftwards liberal, but eight years of Democrat Doyle was a harsh enough toke that the State otherwise swung for change electing Conservatives in the majority. Such was the will of the people forgotten by fourteen Democrats hiding out in Illinois so they don't have to face a losers reality and the rejection of their "spending our way out of bankruptcy" concepts that always seem part and parcel the mainstay of liberal economics.

-- Light rail you say? And who does this Billion dollars serve? A comparative handful of distance commuters between Milwaukee and Madison? Seriously? We have a perfectly usable four lane expressway between these cities and you expect the whole state to pay for a light rail connector because a handful of ass cracks don't want to relocate or pay for gas? Take the friggin bus! Amtrak can't even make expenses in Los Angeles without subsidiary into forever. Christ!

By Bill James (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

What a Dirty Jew you are.

Someone should delouse you and your co-religionists before you ruin America.

You're just a Bolshevik Ethan. You start off with a quote from Abraham Lincoln and then you cheer for the use of force to pervert democracy.

Your Democrat senators need to get into the capitol and take the vote because that is the only legal and democratic solution to this problem.

I am so sick of you communists and your lies and your hate for the US and your contempt for the rule of law and the Constitution. We desperately need to be free of your addled thinking with brains irretrievably damaged by the predations of Marxist university professors. Why don't you all just piss off to Cuba and be done with it. Spare us your endless treason.

I notice that the big brave 'physicist' doesn't have the stones to actually be part of this imagined 'human barricade' himself...contenting himself with letting the union grunts do the dirty work he envisions....which is logical in its own way...if anyone winds up going to the joint for such an action,he doesn't intend that it should be him

By Robbins Mitchell (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

The government unions are not organized against "corporations", or "the rich", or any of your other favorite straw men.

The government unions exist for the purpose of extorting ever more taxes from working people who earn less money (if they still have a job in our hope and change economy), pay for their own health care and fund their own pensions, if they even have pensions.

What you are advocating has nothing whatever to do with democracy. Your version of "civil disobedience" is about as honorable as Orval Faubus blocking the schoolhouse door in Little Rock.

You start off well. "In principle, the people come together and elect a candidate that will best represent their interests in government. And these Representatives will then get together to make laws and policies that shape their cities, states, and the entire nation."

Then you call for mob rule, intimidation and violence. THAT most certainly is NOT democracy. And why are you so upset when this is EXACTLY what happened in Versailles on the Potomac for the past four years that the RATs have controlled Congress? And BTW, why aren't the unions screaming about all the jobs they've lost in the past two years? I'm in DE and we've got two shut down auto plants and a closed refinery plus no construction.

Next year's election, you are going to hear a lot of "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Anybody with half a brain has to answer "NO!"

By Neil Tagle (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

We Europeans have some experience about these things...

Trying to sideline workers' unions is like trying to sideline political parties. Blaming a minority (how many Wisconsians are unionized?) for a poor business climate is like blaming the German loss in WW2 to the Jews.

Nice going, Bill #18.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 21 Feb 2011 #permalink

Slightly off topic perspective for the class warfare keyboard commandos-

Dear Leader's federal budget for the next year is 3.4 trillion dollars. Bill Gates, richest American, is worth about 50 billion.

If you confiscated all his money, stocks and bonds, real estate, furniture, shirts, pants, shoes and socks and put him out in the street in his underwear, what would you have?

Enough money to run the federal government for a big fat friggin' 5 days. Do the same to number two, Warren Buffett and you get another four days. And the FedGuv will still be about 14 TRILLION dollars in debt.

Even if you stole everything they have, there aren't enough "rich" people with enough wealth to keep your good ship lolly pop fantasy afloat.

Yes, stand up Wisconsin.. Your public sector jobs should exist in a vacuum, completely insulated from what's happening in the real world!

I will respect public unions when the public can vote on the contract. Until then, it's nothing but a political scam.

Or maybe when you show up and surrond the St. Senators' houses and (presumably) threaten their families' lives, then they should call the cops and have all you "blockders" arrested for both tresspassing (and assault) when they tell you to move out of the way and you insist on physically touching them ;)!

Ethan Siegel calls for mobs to imprison State Officials in their homes. How would this be done without doing the same to their families?
When the police show up to free the State Officials what does the mob do?
SEIGAL!YOUR IDEA IS STUPID! I think you should be fired for proposing the kidnapping of State Officials.

Ah, a serious teabagger sockpuppet invasion! One might have thought you could have gotten a clue by being outnumbered 35-1 at the rallies in Madison, but then reality and you are complete strangers...

I have a better idea - drag back some of the cowards who ran away and make them do their jobs.

Hey NJ #29- Cheese heads elected a GOP governor, state legislature and U.S. Senator. That's called a clue for you.

Even New Joisey is sick of the government union mafia. Say hello to your governor for me woodja?

Ether, or Ethan, I mean. As an astrophysicist, have you considered the possibility that an errant worm hole might have passed thru your cranium and somehow linked your thought process to some parallel universe? ELK(USNA'68)

By edwardkosky (not verified) on 21 Feb 2011 #permalink

Great post!

Pity the teabagger trolls are here in force, though, not to mention the antisemites. Jeez, you'da thought you'd said affordable healthcare was a good idea, or something.

I am always surprised at the amount of idiots yahoos on science websites. do you tea bagger types come here to troll exclusively, or do you get something from the science as well. it's just so weird. keep your rants on youtube or fox. Unless you are all just sockpuppets, in which case I would say screw you Kochs!!

sockpuppet X @ 31:

Cheese heads Unrestricted and untraceable oligarch money elected a GOP governor, state legislature and U.S. Senator.


hmm... Interesting, so when republicans filibuster and insert nebulous bills into the system, they are doing it for the highest of reasons. When Democrats perform similar political tactocs, they are evil Nazis. Got that, thanks.

What about the facts that none of you people have commented on. Like the fact that Wisconsin is in dire financial straights and the government issues tax cuts for the wealthy. (Here's a hint, the middle class and the poor cannot afford the tax increases needed to cover the wealthy's absence from the tax pool. But I guess all you commenters are rich and don't care about anyone else.)

Fact: 15% unemployment? You're kidding right? That's disgusting. In modern America, 15% of the people who want jobs can't get them? (Here's another hint, to get jobs, you have to have educated employees, an employee friendly environment (not employer friendly, employee), and a decenet business climate. You don't get that by dismissing the unions. You don't get that by cutting teacher pay (seriously, do know how little teachers, even professors get paid? And yet, you commenters still have educations. Nifty huh?)

Fact: If the representatives of the people aren't listening to the people... well, that happened before in history of the US. Perhaps you remember the slogan "No taxation without representation"? Oh wait, that's from non-revisionist history, I don't guess you commenters know anything about that do you? Nevermind then.

I guess the saying that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it... even if the history occured two weeks ago (but that was Egypt, who cares what the rag heads think right?)

The Republican Party has lost its collective mind and those who support it are blind dupes. Of course, Democrats are that much better, but we only have two parties in the US and the trick to make sure they each do the least damage to the country.

"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives..."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
August 16, 1937

"The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives..."

Except when their representatives don't speak for the people who elected them and instead speak for the giant corporations who gave them money.

@Raoul (#37)

Nice try, but Roosevelt was wrong about this, as he was about a number of things (although he is still the second greatest president in our history). Courts have consistently supported the right of public workers to collective bargaining, an extension of that wonderful 1st amendment to our Consitution.


Not true, Doug. Courts have not held a public employee union right to collective bargaining in the Constitution/1st Amendment.

Collective bargaining by government worker unions is a power which may be granted (or not) by a state through legislation.

Some states allow it, some don't.


Take your clenched fist and your commie-fascist ideas and shove them up your ass. You want mob rule? You would be hanging from a tree with mob rule. You want CW2? Bring it on, moron.

Being a theoretical astrophysicist should give you a chance to deal with extremely large numbers. Trillion dollar Federal deficits, billion dollar State deficits, and looming county and city bankruptcies. Socialism adds up and one day you must pay the bond holders back for the money you borrowed. If you don't pay your bills nobody will borrow to you and then you have to take what you want by force.

Just think, the Federal debt stands at over 14 trillion American dollars, but that doesn't include unfunded liabilities like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Adding these to America's debt puts the national debt close to 100 trillion. Add in two futile wars of nation building and garrisoning the planet with American soldiers and you have a recipe for financial collapse.

Its time to start locally to vote in people that are not going to make corrupt unfordable bargains with government unions. Its time to pay the Piper and Wisconsin is one of the first States to say NO to these mobsters.

By Kevin Johnson (not verified) on 21 Feb 2011 #permalink

Apparently, some people's definition (including this blogs author) of democracy is getting your way. Having your voice heard = winning a vote? Losing elections and subsequent votes in a senate/assembly is not democracy? That's absurd. Elections have consequences. The people of Wisconsin voted and the Republicans won majorities and did not hide their plans. What Democratic senators are doing now is not democracy. The way it should work is the senators do their job, vote, and assuming they lose the vote, campaign and try to win the next election based on the issue. If they think whats being done is illegal they can take it to the courts. Running away is not the way to participate. Nor is it to impose mob rule like Ethan suggests. Funny how such suggestions a "civil" when the left makes them. I have no doubt that the author would be complaining if it was the other side making such suggestions.

Disappointing to say the least.

RL:"The way it should work is the senators do their job, vote, and assuming they lose the vote, campaign and try to win the next election based on the issue." ...So you agree that the Republican federal senators should stop filibustering and just vote on the bills?


In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the stateâs budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walkerâs new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the âcrisisâ would not exist."

But I am uncomfortable with encircling private homes.


No, I don't think they are the same thing. The rules of the US Senate are different than the Wisconsin Senate. If Wisconsin had a filibuster rule, then the Wisconsin Democrats would have that option. But they don't. If either party at a national level decided to boycott their duties to avoid a vote, I would be equally as critical. For one side to do so, prevent a vote per the rules and then claim what they are doing is democracy and what the other side is not, is wrong. Protest all you want, but please don't tell me that leaving the state to avoid votes, talk of blocking people and their families in their homes and publishing the addresses of senators so people can protest on their front lawns is democracy or acceptable behavior.

Kevin Johnson @42 - Do you really think the pension plan of a garbage collector in WI is responsible for that 14 trillion dollar debt? No, you don't. This is just the Tea Party's latest middle class target to help them enrich the super rich.

First time I've disagreed with you Ethan. First you speak of representative democracy, well, the biggest ideological group in the country is conservative. Wisconsin's senate represents that. Coincidentally conservatism says that the rich shouldn't have such a high tax burden, and that easing that burden incentives them to expand, hire, grow which in turn improves our economy and lowers unemployment. Maybe you disagree, maybe I do too, but that doesn't matter, because as you just said this is a representative democracy and the people elected politicians who thought this way. Along with that comes the conservative idea that unions destroy the ability for certain industries to be competitive. Look at GM and Chrysler for good examples. Therefore another conservative idea is to end such things where small groups gain more representation through threats of not being productive or striking. The people have spoken they chose their representatives and will now have to live with those choices.

Good grief. Just when I thought I'd found a good space blog. Elections have consequences. Don't like changes the majority makes? Win next time and change the changes, just as is being done with ObamaCare. This is called . . . wait for it . . . democracy. All the rest is just blubbering.

Wisconsin is the first state where this fight is playing out. Expect lots of out of state money to come pouring in. If you like your political fights hard and nasty you are gonna love this one. I am pulling for the governor.

Ethan - thanks for posting this blog.

Jeremy @ 47:

The people have spoken they chose their representatives and will now have to live with those choices.

Kinda like the Egyptians before Mubarak left, eh?

Oh, wait, in both cases real choice wasn't possible due to a de facto dictator in one and oligarchs in the other.

Along that theme, a second look at the bill uncovered an Easter egg present to the already wealthy: The opportunity to purchase - sans bidding - public utilities from the state


Let's see, giveaways to wealthy donors, gratuitous hobbling of state employees...

Can we stop with the charade that this is about a state deficit now?

Hey all,

Thanks for the heated discussions and comments!

First off, the Gordon Hintz video link has been updated to a working one; we'll see how long it lasts.

Second, the comments range from people who agree with everything I said to those who agree with all of it except the civilly disobedient part to those who disagree with everything I said, including my right to not be lynched.

I would like to point out that many of you have a different view of what it means to be part of a democracy than I do. I don't believe that democracy is something that happens once a year (or every 2, 4, or 6 years) on election day. It's something that happens each and every day, whether you participate or not. And I'm happy to see so many people participating, non-violently, in this one!

The single greatest thing any citizen can ever do to solve the budget problem is to never vote for a Republican ever.

By gocart mozart (not verified) on 21 Feb 2011 #permalink

I would like to point out that many of you have a different view of what it means to be part of a democracy than I do. I don't believe that democracy is something that happens once a year (or every 2, 4, or 6 years) on election day. It's something that happens each and every day, whether you participate or not. And I'm happy to see so many people participating, non-violently, in this one!

Even those voices of Democracy you have elected to silence and leave to die within your moderation queues? You are a Censor and have no business speaking of Democracy. Sad, but true Ethan.

By Bill James (not verified) on 21 Feb 2011 #permalink

These congressmen in wisconsin are unreal. They should all be fired for not showing up for work. And these teachers should be ashamed of themselves. They exploit their students and threaten them if they dont show up and protest. They are so greedy is unreal. They have the summers off, every holiday off and they have the nerve to complain about money and everything else. So UNAMERICAN

Wow. How do right wing trolls find a physics blog? Must be some kind of quantum disturbance in the interwebs. Not that anyone cares, but I support collective bargaining for all workers. Contrary to some opinions here, good union wages and benefits help everyone, even the Koch brothers.

Bill James @ 54:

Even those voices of Democracy you have elected to silence and leave to die within your moderation queues?

{citation needed}

You sure sound a lot like that fruitcake commissioner from Charlotte...

Thanks Ethan. By your posts I can tell you are an excellent teacher. I think it's important to remember that all of us can recall a story about a particularly compelling teacher who convinced us to keep moving and to keep learning. One of mine was Chet Raymo, who taught astronomy at Stonehill College in our town, Easton, Mass. and did telescope nights for local kids. Mrs. Raymo was my fifth and sixth grade teacher. Their kids were my classmates. Maureen Raymo is now a world class expert in discerning long-scale trends in climate change through sediment coring. Being around smart folk is contagious.

"How do right wing trolls find a physics blog?"

If you only read Ethanâs blog, youâre probably unaware of the vast quantity of left-wing politicking which appears on âScienceblogsâ. (Go ahead, hit the âLast 24 Hoursâ button in the upper-left corner and see -- especially that polemic Ed âCulture Warriorâ meathead, or whateverâ¦)

Ethan is like that one professor who *doesnât* go on hour-long tangents about how much he hates Bush. Thatâs why his blog is so consistently readable, and easily the best of âScienceblogs.â

The problem with trolls, they just won't stay under the bridge, always contributing inane blather to the conversation, positing diametrically opposed positions with eloquence and profound stupidity, elevating hypocrisy, and embracing the lesser angels of our human nature. Their simplistic grasp of economics would be the height of comedy if the repercussions were not so dire these befuddled ignorant sheep still embrace Reaganomics!! Thus, their collective IQ is on a par with a senile bat shit actor, a man they revere as a demigod. 40 years ago this country enjoyed Union membership in the 30 plus percent range now it is under single digits thank you Saint Ronnie for your thoughtful munificence.

Our teachers and other civil servants are not the demons in our state budget mess. They did not cause our financial problems. Those responsible have largely been given tax breaks. The unions have agreed to the financial concessions; Walker and the 19 Republican Senators have refused to take / return calls, or even DISCUSS any negotiations. Republicans called one of their own a RINO (Republican in Name Only) for suggesting a sunset of 2013 on the provisions limiting collective bargaining. 5 of the 7 worst performing states on ACT/SAT schools are the 5 non-collective bargaining states. (Wisconsin's tied for #2 with Minnesota; Ohio is #1.) Teachers not only bargain for themselves, but for their schools; removing incentives to perform removes performance.

Re: out of state influence on the protests...Walkers campaign was funded with significant help from out of state interests. http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/02/18/koch-brothers-behind-wisco…

And for all those "elections have consequences" voices -- yes, they do and I expect the people I've voted for NOT to roll over but to keep with the good fight.

By Treelouie (not verified) on 22 Feb 2011 #permalink

@#57 BigJay

Labeling people right wing trolls just because they don't agree with you is ridiculous. I thought democracy meant debate not believe in my ideology or else. That is exactly what Republicans do. I thought we are smarter than that. I myself am a democrat although I lean towards the middle and I agree with some people that Private sector unions and Public sector unions are different. A government isn't a business in the sense that Private industry is. There's no CEO at the top making millions. Instead there are hundreds of thousands of CEOs aka taxpayers who should get a voice in this as to the public union contracts. Since they pay shouldn't they have a voice in this too?

By Conshycrush (not verified) on 22 Feb 2011 #permalink

So Obama is comparable to Muhbarek? Well, when forcing a healthcare plan that 63% of the population were against through I guess I can see where your coming from. It's just like another already posted. Democracy is great until the majority of the people disagree with you. Now Democracy has failed you so revolution and mob rule is the answer. Brilliant

Doug @ 60:

youâre probably unaware of the vast quantity of left-wing politicking which appears on âScienceblogsâ.

Funny about that.

especially that polemic Ed âCulture Warriorâ meathead

Particularly since Ed is a libertarian who has several real problems with the Obama administration.

Jeremy @ 64:

Well, when forcing a healthcare plan that 63% of the population were against through I guess I can see where your coming from.

So, explain why people are strongly (60% +) for the individual provisions in the Affordable Care Act, but against the Act itself. Maybe "death panels" have something to do with that? Maybe the > $100 million spent by the health care lobby on that and other disinformation?

You worried about democracy failing? Stop letting rich people buy it away from you.

On the one hand we tout representative democracy as the high minded and fair way to go, but on the other hand when a clear majority of elected representatives strive to actually do what the majority of the people elected them to do, the other side then walks out and refuses to participate anymore while their minority followers stage revolts deciding it's got to be their way or nothing? That is not representative democracy, that is the instead the death of representative democracy and thus the death of our American way of life.

How many existing billionaires holding democrats in their pockets (including the Presidency) yielding special favors on our national level would we care to parade out to balance the piddling works of the relative pauper Koch brothers? Can we include foreign entities in this?

Big screw up Wisconsin, really big. While the whole world watches... but at least there's the Superbowl win. Atta go Packers! At least they played and won the game before they quit and took their ball home with them like a bunch of sore would-be losers.

By Lloyd Hargrove (not verified) on 22 Feb 2011 #permalink

As usual, nothing the right wing trolls who have descended in force in response to Ethan's enlightening post makes any sense. Unions are the only major organizations left in the country that advocate for working people. Historically, they have been responsible in part for work place safety, health care legislation, the minimum wage, and other worker protections that exist in essentially all developed countries. There is no doubt they played a major role in American economic success in the 20th century and in creating what we all still believe--probably erroneously--to be the American dream. The rabid denunciations of unions here and elsewhere in response to the peaceful grassroots protests in Wisconsin are a reflection of the vapid 24-hour wingnuttery that is intellectually and economically impoverishing our country. I write this from Seoul, ROK. If you want to see an impressive, future-oriented democracy where the government and business work together to compete in a globalized economy while improving the living standard of its people (creating a "fair society" as the current Korean president, from the conservative (!) party, puts it), spend a week over here. The teahadists are living in a fantasy dreamworld, while much of Asia sees the incoherent political turmoil in the US as just another symptom of the great power's decline.

Voters in Wisconsin no longer have a voice when a handful of dictators impede lawful governance and dismiss the rights of its citizens to representation in a democratically elected government.

Free people will not tolerate this abuse of power. Wisconsin Democrats are destroying representative democracy!

By Apple Pie (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

You mean those greedy rich bastards, the small business owners that account for over half of our economy? Not those pricks bringing us all down with their hopes of success. What bastards they are trying to add jobs and revenue to our economy. I guess you'd rather people's votes be revoked after they make over $250k a year, seeing as that's what Obama deems "wealthy" nowadays. Because the people who have reached such high levels of success using their own ingenuity and hard work shouldn't have any desire to preserve the nation that allowed them to do that.

Comparing Private unions with Public unions is where alot of people are getting it wrong. They are two different entities. Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.

Private sectors unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with. Through gigantic campaign contributions and overall clout, they have enormous influence over who gets elected to bargain with them, especially in state and local races.

The Other Doug @ 71:

Found here:

The admin of the ADF blog has a post where he diligently and gleefully beats the tar out of his straw man version of "leftist libertarians". Being one of those myself, I find the whole exercise quite amusing and absurd.

I agree that words have meanings. The problem is that reality doesn't quite fit into pigeonholes, and if we insist on words defining things rather than describing things, we end up with angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments.

NJ, in the article you cite, Ed just talks about his progressive left social values again. Perhaps you have a link where Ed rails against typical left-wing economic policies, thereby distinguishing himself from the non-libertarian left. That would be most informative. Thanks.

By The Other Doug (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Jeremy @ 69:

I guess you'd rather people's votes be revoked after they make over $250k a year, seeing as that's what Obama deems "wealthy" nowadays.

The average salary for 90% of US households is $31,244. Under any data-based assessment, $250,000 is rich.

Because the people who have reached such high levels of success using their own ingenuity and hard work

Or by accident of birth or manipulation of the system.

I honestly wish that what you believed were always true. In that case, I would have no problem doffing my cap to them. But as has been amply shown (ref utility giveaways up thread), a disproportionate number have worked to tilt the playing field in their favor.

I think the protests are great. I'm planning on heading to Lansing, MI on Saturday to join in the protest there with several of my friends.

It is a sad day when we reach a point that those who don't have much (many of the Tea Baggers live on Social Security), hit the streets to beat down those who have union protection, just to make a fair wage. Do these people really think the uber-rich don't have special protections provided by an abundant supply of green-backs? Well, they do.

Before Eisenhower, the wealthy paid 90% in taxes after the first million earned. That my friends was fair. The more you make, the more they take.

After Eisenhower, this amount was lowered, then with Reagan, it was lowered to 36%, then Bush pretty much sealed the deal. The rich DO NOT pay their fair share. You cannot give further tax cuts and shelter to those who have so much, and then turn around and declare that the budget cannot pass without huge cuts that would put out of work 10's of thousands of "average joes" who work for a living and are lucky to make $32,000/year.

Oh, and they want to get rid of the dependent tax allowance of $3500/year. Further killing the working man. Something must change.

The Other Doug @ 73:

I'm guessing that the question we're discussing turns on differences between social and economic libertarianism, consonant with my point about definitions.

Ed's social libertarian statements have been the things that have stuck in the back of my mind, so when I searched SB on "Dispatches libertarian", it was easy to find the post I linked to. More time reading the posts that come up under that search will provide a number of other examples.

A similar search on "Dispatches economic libertarian" gives this post containing this quote:

Libertarian-minded folks like me and real libertarians like Radley Balko

At this point, though, I should suggest we discuss Ed's work over there where he can explain his positions at length.

Again, NJ, nothing there distinguishes Ed's views from modern orthodox leftism. He simply says he likes regulations and calls himself a "liberaltarian". Um, okay. Ed is more mainstream than he gives himself credit for -- again, your "correction" is really hairsplitting.

By The Other Doug (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Great post Ethan!

To the crazy squad: You might want to check out a piece on Walker at The Buffalo Beast.

While you're at it, have a boo at the recent Gallup poll showing that, despite vigorous propaganda efforts by Koch-funded organizations and their ilk, only *one in three* adults favor eliminating collective bargaining for state unions. Only 54% of *Republicans* are in favor, for crying out loud. Of course, Gallup polls the American Public and everyone knows they are just a special interest group promoting the interests of the American Public.

"Democratically elected" != "Dictator for a term"

@74 your numbers are for individuals, what your missing is the fact that many small businesses fall into that 250k category yet only net 3o 40 k for their family. The rest going to payroll, expenses taxes. Yet, no one is protesting that that 50% of our economy isn't being represented, they can't go protest, they have to work.

So it's evil for the wealthy to wish to protect their wealth and investments or tilt the playing field in their favor but it is perfectly fine for union members to do the exact same thing?

Gov. Walker and his fellow repubs are bought and owned by the Koch Bros, the wealthiest private company owners in America. They have only one agenda, increasing their massive wealth at the peril of your health. Google them if you don't believe. Walker and pals are just simple stooges for their aims. What they believe in most is to create a state in America like Mexico, where 5 percent of the wealthiest control the 95 percent who live in utter poverty. There is no middle class in Mexico or most 3rd world countries. They view the middle class as subhumans, unworthy of thought or concern.

By BobatBeach (not verified) on 25 Feb 2011 #permalink

"What they believe in most is to create a state in America like Mexico, where 5 percent of the wealthiest control the 95 percent who live in utter poverty."

Citation? Thanks in advance.

Free people will not tolerate this abuse of power. Wisconsin Democrats are destroying representative democracy!

By Apple Pie (not verified) on 26 Feb 2011 #permalink

@Nathan Don't need a citation. I have been there and talked to citizens who live in poverty in Mexico, Panama, Thailand and other 3rd worlds. How would you like to live on $2 a day? Or work for Walmart wages? I noticed you did not refute my Koch comment. We got Gov Walker's own phone voice on that one.

By BobatBeach (not verified) on 26 Feb 2011 #permalink

The other doug @ 77:

your "correction" is really hairsplitting

Animal, vegetable, mineral...it's all just hairsplitting, eh? I suspect the issue lies with you choosing to lump any position you disagree with as "leftist". The middle does appear to be the other side when you are around the bend.

Jeremy @ 79:

your numbers are for individuals, what your missing is the fact that many small businesses fall into that 250k category yet only net 3o 40 k for their family.

Non-sequitur. You are (deliberately?) conflating individual income and business income. If the discussion is about individual tax rates, then describing business income/profit/etc. does not apply. This may be where your confusion lies.

So it's evil for the wealthy to wish to protect their wealth and investments or tilt the playing field in their favor but it is perfectly fine for union members to do the exact same thing?

Implicit in your statement is that the non-wealthy are trying to game the system in their favor; evidence required. My contention (and the extant data) is that they are fighting for a level playing field and that the oligarchs are working furiously to prevent this.

"Animal, vegetable, mineral...it's all just hairsplitting, eh?"

Um, no. The correct analogy would be 'Animal, Animal...' because, councilor, you still haven't entered into evidence a fact which distinguished Ed as a libertarian. Remember, civil libertarianism is a feature of both libertarians and left-wingers, which is all you've entered so far. However, libertarians are usually for small government and non-interference in the marketplace, so that would be a good starting point. I've already linked to a post where Ed talks about what he believes, and (right, wrong or indifferent) his grand vision certainly will not come about by smaller government. So if you'd still like to make your case, I'm still listening.

"I suspect the issue lies with you choosing to lump any position you disagree with as "leftist"."

A baseless ad hom. Make your case.

By The Other Doug (not verified) on 28 Feb 2011 #permalink

Well put Ethan; good post thanks.

By Eccentric and … (not verified) on 28 Feb 2011 #permalink

It is paradoxical to wish for honesty in government. The whole point of government â the only thing that distinguishes it from other social institutions â is that it gets away with behavior that would be obviously unethical in any other context.

Why can't I? The government does. The government is lumping all those small business owners who gross over 250k and net less than 50k into the wealthy category? Why can't I?

Evidence? Unionization, a group of people gathering together to gain more influence and power than they would have individually. Making their individual demands have more pull than the average citizen's. They are doing the exact same thing. Or were anyways until the governor took that power away from them. They tilted the playing field so far towards their benefit it took the people electing a new governor with the wherewithal to do something about it to shut them down. But now those people who campaigned properly and went and vote properly and had their voices heard the proper way should now make way for your mob to come in and undermine democracy? No sir. You don't like it I suggest you start campaigning for a new governor of your choice.

The idea that taxing rich people more relative to the rest of us takes money away for investing, is a fallacy. That doesn't mean there isn't some truth to it, but the core notion that shifting a tax dollar from a low earner to a high earner is "lost" is a fallacy. I could invest the given extra dollar I have instead of some richer person, the company gets the same start up capital if that's the method of investment. Furthermore, much of "investing" is just speculating in existing notes and doesn't inject new money into the economy.

Also, the whole point of marginal rate taxes above a certain high limit is that people who do invest or run a business can clear a certain good chunk first before paying a high rate, and also so many commenters here forgot that the taxes are supposed to be on left over profit and there are plenty of breaks for the sort of reinvestment that actually creates new jobs, like for new equipment etc. (ie, the actual expense to make more hires possible, not to be confused with how much the owner has left over for big house, recreation etc, at ever more and more proportion above the average person.)

Finally, to Jeremy et al complaining about protesting etc - do you think the tea party then, shouldn't be griping about Obama's plans? Were they a mob undermining democracy, with their beligerant disruptions of town hall meetings, bringing guns and threats to rallies, etc>? Didn't those elections have consequences too? Yeah, everyone has the right to make a voice heard, this is more about the better argument and the quality of reporting.

@BobatBeach: So you were just BSing? OK.

Thank you for your blog. It is fairly obvious that the truth, compiled into one place, has irritated the minority tea party. Your column has incited them to try to outnumber by response. Good for you for posting this! People should be told the whole story, because they are desperately telling lies about what is really happening. Damage to the capitol of $7 million from painters tape and damage to the stone floors by people sleeping on them? (seriously?)

However, I can't condone blockading the homes of the Reps. despite the fact that they have now voted a resolution to involve the police to forcefully take into custody (I call that arrest) the Dems, or have citizens drag them over the border (kidnap them). I am also very angry at the finding of live ammo on/near the capitol. This is obviously a threat being made to the protesters who have been PEACEFUL. The police have denounced this resolution. Remind me what country this is again?

"Remind me what country this is again?"

Given the tribal politics on display, I'd say Lybia.

By The Other Doug (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

It's a fallacy, then in the next breath you admit it happens?
So when that start up company starts up, those new jobs DON'T address the current unemployment crisis we have? Those jobs added to the market don't help those looking? Of course they do. It directly benefits the economy and has been proven by Woodrow Wilson, JFK, Ronald Reagan.

As for the tea partiers, nice attempt to link a conservative view point with a group of radicals. I believed in liberty and individual responsibility way before the tea party came along. Tell me, did the tea party try to talk essential personnel in hospitals into striking after Obamacare passed? No, they campaigned and got candidates voted in that pushed the same views they followed. EXACTLY what the people against Walker should be doing. Working within the system. The protestors from Minnesota could learn from the tea party.

Thanks, Boba, but there's nothing in there about the Koch brothers wanting to turn US into Mexico, but thanks for looking anyway.

"trickbagged by Limbaugh, Beck, etc."

I donât read or listen to partisan hacks on either side, but for future reference, you might want to refrain from linking to Huffington Post while suggesting others are getting their info strictly from partisans: you know, glass houses and stones. Cheers.

Funny about that.

Contratry to popular left-leaning belief, repeating a lie often enough does not make it true.

By Bob in WI (not verified) on 24 May 2011 #permalink