Wisconsin Power Play

February 24, 2011

Who would have thought that the latest battle in the ancient war between the nobles and the people would be fought in Wisconsin?

In the time of my illustrious ancestor Niccolò Machiavelli, the nobles were aristocratic land owners, bankers, and cloth merchants.  Today the part of the nobles is played by the moneyed elite, people who have inherited wealth, and people who control large corporations and run them for their own benefit rather than the benefit of the stock holders.

The nobles put Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in office, but Niccolò would have advised him to switch his allegiance to side with the people.

“One cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed. It is to be added also that a prince can never secure himself against a hostile people, because of their being too many, whilst from the nobles he can secure himself, as they are few in number.”

CHAPTER IX—CONCERNING A CIVIL PRINCIPALITY

Gov. Walker has not heeded Niccolò’s advice.

On 1 Feb 2011, WTMJ, the Milwaukee radio station carried a story, copyrighted by The Associated Press, about new tax cut legislation signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  That bill exempts companies that relocate to Wisconsin from paying state income taxes for two years.  The article also talks about other business tax cuts.

“The measure joins three others Walker has signed in his first month in office that he said will send a message that Wisconsin is more business friendly. Walker, a Republican, has seen his legislative agenda speed through the Republican-controlled Legislature even though he has yet to explain how he’ll pay for everything in light of the state’s projected $3 billion budget shortfall.”

Now we know. Walker will try to meet the budget short fall by squeezing workers salaries. 

Walker might have closed the budget gap by raising taxes on the rich, who have enjoyed a disproportionate increase in their income in recent years, but he took that option off the table by passing a bill that would require a two-thirds vote to raise state taxes.

The Governor has already succeeded at wringing wage concessions from state workers.  The unions have agreed to his wage benefit cut proposals.  But then what is the protest about?  Walker is insisting, in his “Budget Repair Bill,” that workers give up their collective bargaining rights.   In other words, this confrontation is not about money, it is a power play. 

American politics is on the verge of becoming an oligarchy run for the benefit of business.  Corporate leaders, of course, believe this is a consummation devoutly to be wished.  Their main tools are their lobbying resources and the formidable propaganda capability that they derive from their control of the media. 

Government stands in the oligarch’s way, but if they can control and eviscerate government at all levels, they will have free reign. Public employee unions are one of the few vestiges of the once powerful labor movement that can muster the money and organization to oppose corporate interests. 

Wisconsin is just the latest battle ground in the long war between the nobles and the people. The only interesting feature of this incident is the degree to which the nobles have managed to propagandize the lower middle class into working against their own interests. The Tea Party activists will soon be heavy consumers of medical and social services for infirm overweight, undereducated, lower-middleclass white people.  If they succeed in crippling government services, they will be left to the tender and unregulated care of the insurance monopoly.

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