We're under attack! (why doesn't the Press care?)
The ongoing attack on public service unions in Wisconsin is a major story that appears largely unreported in Canada.
There's a bill before the Wisconsin senate that would strip many collective-bargaining rights from most of Wisconsin's 170,000 public employees.
It would prohibit unions representing the state's 400,000 public workers from bargaining over health benefits, pensions and working conditions.
The Governor of the state says this bill is necessary to fight a potential budget deficit.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of unions. There are benefits in some public service contracts in both Canada and the US that are ludicrous when compared to the private sector. But, unions also have done a lot of good; many of the benefits they fought for on behalf of their members are now part of labour law.
But, understand the pattern that is being followed in Wisconsin, because sooner or later we will see the same thing everywhere.
Here's the routine:
1 - governments slash taxes on corporations, and give lavish subsidies to enterprises in their jurisdiction.
2 - the economy takes a downturn, government deficits balloon, and the poohbahs start making noises about 'cutting costs' to balance the budget.
3 - the target of cost cutting is NOT the wealthy corporations, or the rich individual, or (heaven forbid) the military. Nope, we've got to cut unessential things like education, health care, and environmental programs.
That's what's playing out right now in Wisconsin. The Governor wants to slash spending on education and Medicaid, while eliminating capital gains tax on corporations. He also just recently gave a billion-dollar bonus to a couple of wealthy local business owners who just happen to be campaign contributors.
Here's the reality: the politicians and the wealthy don't care about slashing education funding - their kids go to private school. They don't care about public health care, they can afford the best medical care money can buy.
But they do want to keep military spending high, because the multi-billion-dollar multi-national defence contractors can swing a LOT of money their way.
And rich peoples' kids don't get sent overseas to fight in pointless wars (or to secure that oil supply needed to keep the machinery going.)
US spending on the military is vastly greater than combined spending for health, education, and social programs combined.
Why do Canadians care what's happening in Wisconsin? Because its a harbinger of things to come here. Take a look at the budget planned by the Conservative government of Canada.
Military spending - UP
Correctional Services (prisons) - UP
Environmental and Cultural programs - DOWN
Natural Resources - DOWN
Crime prevention - DOWN
Crime enforcement - UP
Health Care - unchanged (GOC transfers to the provinces increase automatically by 6% annually, under a 10-year deal that will expire in 2014.)
We've got a government that would rather fund billion-dollar fighter jets than clean up the environment, and would rather build prisons than hospitals or schools.
Oh, and they want to slash corporate taxes AGAIN.