... and I belong to one of those much resented public employee unions.
Yes, those benefits can be generous (though the health care plan I have from the college is anything but generous, and is padded out with union supplemental insurance for prescription coverage and very minimal dental coverage), but they weren't exactly stolen. They were bargained for in good faith with legislatures that voted on them.
Perhaps another aspect to the generosity of public employee contracts is that while union membership declined drastically in the private sector, and union expansion in the private sector has all but stopped, public employees kept their unions and their union memberships during the last 30 years when organized labor has been in a tailspin. Public employees always had the power to bargain collectively while most private employees lost that power over the last 3 decades. The decline of union representation played a big role in the stagnation of wages since the 1970s (and in the corresponding rise of the credit industry).
Governor Walker and his Republican legislators are making a power-grab at the expense of the unions in general. I agree with Rachel Maddow. The real purpose behind this is not just to shut down public employee unions, but to shut down the Democratic party as any kind of real political force. Indeed, Republicans (especially since a certain recent Supreme Court decision) have a huge spending advantage. All of the corporate money and plutocrat money is going to right wing causes; not most of it, all of it. Unions represent Democrats' only large-scale source of money (as well as organization). Liberals and lefties are great at organization and turning out crowds on shoestring budgets and with no corporate or foundation funding (and not much support from the Democratic Party), but the sad fact remains that in this world, money is power, and the Right now has all the big money on its side. Shutting the unions down would effectively marginalize the Democratic Party and the disparate constituencies it represents perhaps forever. Republicans would realize their cherished dream of making the USA into a permanent one party corporate state, a giant Singapore. After 80 years of trying, Social Security would finally be history, along with Medicare.
The people raising a ruckus in Wisconsin's handsome state capitol have the full support of this community college professor in New York. Hang tough folks!
The Middle East is all on fire for participatory democracy these days, and maybe, just maybe, democracy might be starting to come out of its long coma in this country.
Resources of Wisconsin, a mural in the Wisconsin State Capitol dome by one of my favorite forgotten 19th century public muralists, Edwin Blashfield; and Wisconsin's most important resource, its working people, are gathered beneath this painting now.
Here is Rachel Maddow on the Wisconsin revolt: