Thursday, March 24, 2011
Despite the accent you are about to hear, I have lived in Wisconsin for the last 40 years. For 25 years I have taught elementary, middle and high school. I am now on the Madison School Board but today I represent only myself and not my school board.
I come to you to ask you to reconsider the Charter School Bill you have before you. The key question before us is what will happen to pubic education if this bill passes as is.
Let’s look into the future – to the year 2025. On one side of the educational spectrum we will see a mass of private Charter Schools, filled with uncredentialed teachers and staff, unrestricted in curriculum and educational philosophy. Those not chosen by lottery will return to the dying embers of our public schools that have had essential funding drained from them for private Charter Schools. Add vouchers to the picture and you will actually have the poor paying for the rich to attend private school.
Those in crowded underfunded schools will not have their needs met – crime and poverty will increase and those needing the most from society will be getting the least.
In addition, Charter Schools have not, by any means, been universally successful. Charter schools were supposed to be the great panacea of education – they would produce great achievement and higher test scores. Recent studies do not find major gains for students in either voucher or Charter Schools. Some were more successful than others but by giving a school a Charter did not ensure success, by any means. In low income areas achievement results were the same as public schools.
Pennsylvania passed a charter law in l997 and in 2008 the RAND Corporation concluded that any gain for students were the same as the public school gains.. Those schools run for profit) did not perform any better than public schools. In 2009 Philadelphia concluded that privatization of schools had not worked.
But, I am not here to debunk Charter Schools. I am here to tell you what they will do to our Public Schools. I am here to ask you to save our public schools. 1) make them instrumentalities of their local school district, 2) finance them independently and not by preempting the funds for local schools, and, 3) Have them judged by the Department of Public Instruction – an agency whose very existence is about education while an independent politically appointed committee will not have the skills or knowledge to determine the validity of a charter’s application.
Our nation was the first to create and support public schools. Those leaders of Federal and State governments wanted to provide all children with universal access to free education. They wanted to guarantee equal opportunities for all children. They wanted our schools to unify (not separate) a diverse population, and they wanted public schools to improve social conditions. Our public schools have always been the great equalizer in our Society. Their doors have been open to any child no matter what their needs were. It is the mix of children that created a vibrancy and energy in education that was so crucial to first generation Americans like myself.
I am very grateful to the WSJ for printing my Letter to the Editor but they "kinda" mangled it. I have been asked to show the original and here it is:
We all became educators because we couldn’t help it. It was in our blood. There was nothing else we wanted to do with our lives. We unquestioningly assumed the responsibility of educating future generations of our community.
Our children have the best that education can offer right in front of them everyday. You love what you do and you will continue to do that in spite of the storms raging around you. All you have ever wanted were the funds and respect you deserve.
Thanks to our Governor the funds are not to be, but I can assure you that you have more respect than ever from the decent, humane people in our city. You must believe in the essential value of your work. You must cling tenaciously to what you know is right.
You don’t necessarily need a mantra to work in other jobs, but you do in education. You need to hold onto something beyond the daily teaching experience - something you can connect with when life is difficult and overwhelming. So, please believe that what you are doing is the single most important job there is. You are fundamental to the central core of a sane world. Of course, teachers and staff have little time for such self-reflection because you are too busy just getting through the infinitely frenzied world you live in.
Let me end by asking you who you think can return our state and country to its historical commitment to democratic principles. Who can assume the obligation and duty to do this? The answer, simply put is – YOU, THE WONDERFUL TEACHERS AND STAFF OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Tuesday 22 March 2011
Ramrod democracy was working so well until it hit Wisconsin. The news from that state just keeps on coming and growing in significance.
The latest chapter in a month-long struggle came Friday, when Dane County circuit judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order on Governor Scott Walker's hotly-debated anti-union bill – citing possible violation of the state's open meetings law. Now implementation of the bill which, among other things, limits collective bargaining to issues of wages (capped in any case to inflation-only increases), will be put on hold, indefinitely, pending a full investigation of state senate Republicans' heavyhanded tactics.
Walker's critics have good reason to relish in the Governor's Mubarak moment. Despite all those precious dollars lavished on securing Republican majorities in the last election, despite that flood of anti-union messages on state media, some righteous public workers, their unions, some thousands of determined protesters and, now, a Republican-appointed judge managed to stop the state steamroller. Where's the palace guard when you need them?
At the Left Forum, an annual gathering of independent lefties in New York last weekend, news of the judge's stay was greeted with glee. People power worked, they say, and here was people power in action.
Judge Sumi's decision puts paid to all those who say progress is achieved through any one set of tactics: voting or protest, law or disobedience. Wisconsinites stopped the Walker steamroller through a combination of them all: direct action, legislative action, protest, and finally a lawsuit filed by the Dane County district attorney.
Sleeping giant seems to be the phrase of the day – as in, "Governor Walker's bill has awakened a sleeping giant." That's what state senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee said, on her return to her home state after three weeks away, to prevent a senate vote on the measure. "The sleeping giant's awake," chuckled assemblyman Robert Turner from Racine, one of the Democratic legislators who'd held round-the-clock hearings in the state house to keep the assembly in session – and the state house open for protesters. Even one enormous tractor bore the words, on a handwritten sign in the window as it lumbered around the capitol, kicking off the biggest rally in Wisconsin state history, the Saturday after the governor signed the bill, 12 March. "They want us to go back to sleep, but we're not going," one Madison public school teacher told me as she watched the farmers' procession.
"Wisconsin will not tolerate backroom deals and political power plays when it comes to public schools and valued services," Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association, the state's largest public employees union, told the press after the judge's stay was announced Friday.
The fight isn't over: Republicans plan to appeal the decision, and the legislature has a chance to take up the bill again. Recall organising efforts go on, even as Walker's budget makes mincemeat of desperately-needed healthcare and education programs. It's going to take every tactic in the book to turn back the steamroller for good. At least, though, we can stop for just a minute and acknowledge what's happening in this country.
When was the last time you heard about a Tea Party rally?
By WILLIAM CRONON
Published: March 21, 2011
Chris Silas Neal
NOW that a Wisconsin judge has temporarily blocked a state law that would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights, it’s worth stepping back to place these events in larger historical context.
Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.
Wisconsin was at the forefront of the progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, when the policies of Gov. Robert M. La Follette prompted a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to call the state a “laboratory of democracy.” The state pioneered many social reforms: It was the first to introduce workers’ compensation, in 1911; unemployment insurance, in 1932; and public employee bargaining, in 1959.
University of Wisconsin professors helped design Social Security and were responsible for founding the union that eventually became the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wisconsin reformers were equally active in promoting workplace safety, and often led the nation in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.
But while Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don’t know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.
Although Wisconsin has a Democratic reputation these days — it backed the party’s presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008 — the state was dominated by Republicans for a full century after the Civil War. The Democratic Party was so ineffective that Wisconsin politics were largely conducted as debates between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party.
When the Wisconsin Democratic Party finally revived itself in the 1950s, it did so in a context where members of both parties were unusually open to bipartisan policy approaches. Many of the new Democrats had in fact been progressive Republicans just a few years earlier, having left the party in revulsion against the reactionary politics of their own senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, and in sympathy with postwar liberalizing forces like the growing civil rights movement.
The demonizing of government at all levels that has become such a reflexive impulse for conservatives in the early 21st century would have mystified most elected officials in Wisconsin just a few decades ago.
When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature.
The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party.
But Mr. Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights breaks with Wisconsin history in two much deeper ways as well. Among the state’s proudest traditions is a passion for transparent government that often strikes outsiders as extreme. Its open meetings law, open records law and public comment procedures are among the strongest in the nation. Indeed, the basis for the restraining order blocking the collective bargaining law is that Republicans may have violated open meetings rules in passing it. The legislation they have enacted turns out to be radical not just in its content, but in its blunt ends-justify-the-means disregard for openness and transparency.
This in turn points to what is perhaps Mr. Walker’s greatest break from the political traditions of his state. Wisconsinites have long believed that common problems deserve common solutions, and that when something needs fixing, we should roll up our sleeves and work together — no matter what our politics — to achieve the common good.
Mr. Walker’s conduct has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state’s tradition of open government.
Perhaps that is why — as a centrist and a lifelong independent — I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.
The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not.
William Cronon is a professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 22, 2011, on page A27 of the New York edition.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Here is an op-ed piece that I wrote that the paper would not run (because of length).... Share or repost at will, but I ask that my name remains as author.
After nearly two decades of being a Republican, I must face the reality that my party has abandoned me.
In the early 1990s, I became a registered Republican. I was a public school English teacher in Georgia who felt betrayed by the leftward shift of the Democratic Party; it seemed that there was no longer room for moderate or conservative Democrats. I took call for the Republican Party to be a "big tent" at face value and jumped ship.
I was strongly opposed to the idea of teachers being unionized. Unions were for blue-collar workers, I thought. Unions create an antagonistic relationship between employees and management, I thought. In fact, I was the campus representative for two non-union teachers associations-- the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Professional Educators' Network (in Florida). These organization existed to provide an alternative to the teachers' unions; even so, I never heard anyone within those organizations say that the unions did not have a fundamental right to exist.
Even when I returned to graduate school, I stuck by my conservative principles. This was rather lonely at times, I will confess, but I believe that education should not be a partisan issue. I have never voted straight party line, because I agree with the Clinton-era Republican mantra that "character counts." Nevertheless, I have voted for far more Republicans than Democrats over the last two decades.
I finally earned my PhD in 2004 (after ten years of college), and I moved to Wisconsin to take a position on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County. The pay here was quite a bit lower than in other Midwestern states, but the benefits package helped make up for that. We were paid less because the benefits were more generous. I fell in love with Wisconsin and the Baraboo community. I have become a die-hard Packers fan. I root for the Badgers (unless they are playing my alma mater). I have endured the coldest weather in decades (2006) and the snowiest winter on record (2007) with my smile intact. In short, I have made this my home.
Every year that I have lived here, we have not received even a cost of living increase; we accepted this because we were told that it was the only way that we could keep our benefits package. When the economy sunk into recession, we had a legislatively approved raise taken away and replaced by furloughs that amounted to a 3% cut in pay. We have endured this pay cut for each of the last two years. When people ask what I make as a professor, I ask them what they think I make-- they usually guess a sum that is at least twice my salary. In addition, we accepted larger class sizes (and thus a larger grading burden) to help the state balance the budget.
Now the governor says that it is time that state employees pay their share. After years of flat salaries and even pay cuts, to hear that we have not sacrificed is insulting and disingenuous. I teach 100 students a semester in classes in American literature, film, and composition. I am the faculty sponsor of the Navigators Christian Fellowship, the faculty sponsor of the UW-BSC Disc Golf Club, and the Director of the Honors Program. I work about sixty hours a week (because that is how long it takes to do my job well). In short, I work hard and (I think) do a good job (as may be evidenced by the fact that three times in four years, the students have selected me as "faculty member of the year").
The so-called Budget Repair Bill will represent a reduction in my take-home pay of somewhere between 8 and 13 percent, depending upon whose figures you believe. A cut like this will be devastating to my family. I fear that we will need to sell our home. We may even need to seek employment elsewhere. This prospect would break my heart, because I really do love it here. Governor Walker has said that we are the "haves." A comment to a recent Baraboo News Republic letter to the editor suggested that all the professors drove Jaguars and Mercedes. No one on our campus drives anything like that. (I, for the record, drive a 2003 Honda with a check-engine light that has been on for six years, a broken door lock, and a malfunctioning interior light.)
Even so, I find it most distressing that the bill takes away the right of workers to have collective bargaining. Wisconsin was the pioneer of workers' rights 75 years ago; it is disheartening to watch this reversed. The United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (to which the United States is a signatory) asserts “that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”; this declaration lists as one of its articles “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his [or her] interests.” The faculty at UW-BSC are not unionized. In fact, very few of the 26 institutions within the University of Wisconsin system have voted to unionize. This may very well be because we wanted to avoid an antagonistic stance toward administration and the legislature. That antagonism is, sadly, now a foregone conclusion.
I will not revisit in any detail the arguments that show the absurdity of Governor Walker’s arguments. It has been well documented that Governor Walker is misrepresenting the fiscal crisis for political gain; regardless, he has clearly overplayed his hand. A poll released this week shows that the majority of Wisconsinites agree. Governor Walker does not seem concerned, insisting that he is backed by a “quiet majority.” If he valued education enough to listen, I could teach him about the Greek concept of hubris—excessive pride or self-confidence to the point of dismissive arrogance. Hubris was the downfall of many Greek heroes, and it will likely prove to be Governor Walker’s downfall as well.
The recording of the prank phone call released Wednesday demonstrates that the governor is willing to engage in dirty political tricks, duping Democratic senators into returning to Madison. Even more damaging was the confession that he considered planting troublemakers in amongst the peaceful demonstrators. Finally, he agreed to accept an illegal trip to California. If this administration is what the Republican Party has become, then I must wonder where that leaves me. I know where it leaves Walker-- poised to hand the state back to the Democrats in the next election cycle and become a footnote in state history.
Personally, I pray that Governor Walker listens to the voters and sits down with the opposition to negotiate. Regardless, I want him to know one thing—I want my party back.
House Republicans announced a plan yesterday to cut $43 billion in domestic spending and international aid, while increasing spending for military and defense by another $8 billion. This proposal comes just months after billions of dollars were added to the deficit with an extension of tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. House Republicans focused in on only 12 percent of federal spending, and targeted things like education, the environment, food safety, law enforcement, infrastructure, and transportation -- programs that benefit or protect most Americans. They also proposed cutting funding for programs that benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, such as nutrition programs for our poorest women and children. We don't yet know all the cuts Republicans are targeting in their proposals, but it's good to finally know what their priorities are.
Under the proposed budget cuts, deficit reduction will not come from the super-rich; it will come from the rest of us. And the poorer you are, the more vulnerable you become, and the more you will pay for the burdens of deficit reduction. For example, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that helps provide food to hungry mothers and their children faces a $758 million cut. Also, the proposed budget cuts $544 million in international food aid grants for organizations such as World Vision. AmeriCorps, a program that provides public service opportunities for our young adults, would be eliminated entirely. But our military and defense budget, which sends our young adults off to kill and be killed, would receive an $8 billion increase.
It used to be very popular for Christians to ask, "What Would Jesus Do?" They even wore bracelets with the initials "WWJD." The bracelets acted as reminders that as Christians, our actions should always reflect the values and example we see in the life of Jesus. Already, in a first wave of response to the proposed cuts, thousands of Christians told their members of Congress that they need to ask themselves, "What Would Jesus Cut?" They believe, and so do I, that the moral test of any society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And that is exactly what the Bible says, over and over again.
I believe that vaccines that save children's lives; bed nets that protect them from malaria; and food that keeps their families from starving are more important to Jesus than tax cuts for the rich; bigger subsidies for corporations; and more weapons in a world already filled with conflict. I also believe that tested and effective domestic programs that clearly help to lift people out of poverty are more reflective of the compassion of Christ than tax and spending policies that make the super-rich even richer. And I don't believe, as the Republicans keep saying, that the best way to help everybody is to keep helping the super-rich. That's not smart economics and, as we say in the evangelical community, it's not biblical. So many of us in the faith community are ready to make a moral argument against the proposed budget cuts to our members of Congress, especially to those who claim to be people of faith.
Organizations like Bread for the World and Catholic Charities advocate for critical nutrition programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of American families. Groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, and the Christian Community Development Association deliver crucial health and human services around the country that hold neighborhoods and cities together. Government aid to programs like these is money very well spent, and many would have to shut their doors without it. Government funding is critical to the work that faith-based organizations like World Vision and Catholic Relief Services do around the world to bring millions of children and families out of poverty, and public-private partnerships pioneered by foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that are saving millions of lives.
In Great Britain, Prime Minister Cameron made the choice to delay a costly nuclear submarine program while also increasing funding for international aid. We can do the same. Look to leaders in the faith community to say that the choice to protect the rich instead of the poor in deficit reduction is an immoral one. Taking the cutting knife to programs that benefit low-income people, while refusing to scrutinize the much larger blank checks we keep giving to defense contractors and corporate executives, is hypocritical and cruel. I'll go even further and say that such a twisted moral calculus for the nation's fiscal policy is simply not fair, and not right. It is not only bad economics, but also bad religion. The priorities we are now seeing are not consistent with Christian, Jewish, or Muslim values. And if the super-rich and their representatives in Congress persist in this fight against the poor, they will be picking a fight with all of us.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
To the People of Wisconsin:
There are times when life happens so powerfully and unexpectedly that all you can do is embrace it fully and play the role you are given to the best of your ability. Sometimes that role is to lead, sometimes to support or protect, and sometimes that role is as a witness.
Way past bedtime on a Thursday night, February 17, 2011, we found ourselves unexpectedly sitting at a table in a fast-food restaurant with a group of people who had sacrificed their own comfort so that the people of Wisconsin would have a chance to learn the contents of the Governor’s “Budget Repair” bill. They had no extra clothes, no food, only the small amount of cash they typically carried with them, and no place to go. Some did not even have essential medication with them. Despite this, their conversation focused on remaining in contact with their constituents and being able to negotiate with their Republican colleagues.
The comment “Why don’t you come to my house?” was spontaneous, genuine, and one we would repeat. That night and the next day, we escorted Wisconsin Democratic Senators to our home where they slept, ate, and constantly worked for the next week, before moving on to another “undisclosed location.”
It was a pleasure to host this group of dedicated and loyal people. We were repeatedly amazed at how hard they worked. They were awake by 4:30 or 5:00 AM and kept working until well past midnight. Each of them made many personal sacrifices and agonized that they were missing events at home, such as birthdays of their children and spouses, children’s school events, funerals, family reunions planned long ago, wedding anniversaries, and many other days that we cherish as families. Their spouses scrambled to take out loans to pay bills at home when their paychecks were withheld. They risked debt and sacrificed time with their own families so that they could represent those they were elected to serve. They spent endless hours returning telephone calls to the people in their districts. Contrary to the contents of some of the newspaper articles we have since read, they attempted daily to negotiate with their Republican colleagues and their Governor, and spent endless hours attempting to contact these legislators. We watched them write these letters at our kitchen table. We watched their disappointment as their pleas for negotiation were steadfastly refused. We, common citizens who previously knew very little about politics, were then amazed to read news releases stating it was the Democratic Senators who were refusing to negotiate.
Although we are very private people, we decided to write this letter because, just as you had a right to learn the contents of your Governor’s proposed bill, you have a right to know the truth of what happened during the three weeks your Senators worked in Illinois. We witnessed first-hand how these Senators never stopped working from the moment they made the heart-breaking decision to leave the state they love. They made many personal sacrifices because every week they received tens of thousands of messages from their constituents pleading with them to not return.
We thank the great state of Wisconsin for the honor of participating in your effort to ensure a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We are proud to be your neighbors as you move forward in the long days ahead, using the democratic process to ensure justice for all.
-- Kelly Vinehout and Douglas Smith
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has taught the nation some very important civics lessons. The price is high, but we should pay careful attention to what he teaches by example.
The first lesson: Citizens should not be hoodwinked by rhetoric. Governor Walker said that the state was broke. He said that public sector workers had to make larger contributions to the cost of their pensions and health care, even as he handed out generous corporate tax breaks for the same amount. Doing a reverse Robin Hood, he took from the middle class to enrich the powerful. The unions promptly agreed to pay what the governor proposed, effectively cutting their compensation, but the governor would not take yes for an answer. He insisted on breaking the unions, even though no financial issues were involved.
Lesson two: It is really important to vote. Only 51.7% of eligible voters in Wisconsin cast a ballot last November, and they ended up with a governor and a legislature who are wreaking havoc on state government and decimating vital public services.
Lesson three: Voters should listen carefully to the candidates and ask for details about what they will do if they win. Scott Walker promised to balance the budget but he didn't reveal his intention to strip away collective bargaining rights from public sector workers. Journalists and citizens should have asked how he planned to balance the budget.
Lesson four: Politics in a democracy is different from politics in an authoritarian state. When there is strong opposition to their decisions, they negotiate and compromise. Negotiation and compromise are not signs of weakness, but of the disposition needed to build consensus.
Lesson five: Leaders in a democracy do not crush their opposition. Politics is not war. Leaders may not agree with the people on the other side of the aisle, but at the end of the day, they recognize them as "my loyal opposition," not my enemy. That spirit of comity is at the heart of our democracy. Elected officials do not destroy those with whom they disagree.
Lesson six: Citizens should not believe politicians who talk "school reform" yet plan to cut $1 billion from the state's education budget, while privatizing public schools. Schools will be devastated by the cuts. Class sizes will soar. Programs that children need will be eliminated. And for-profit operators will find a way to make money from a dire situation. This is not school reform.
Lesson seven: Governor Walker's attack on teachers has galvanized millions of demoralized teachers across the nation. The fact that Wisconsin's teachers organized and protested in the face of insuperable odds has inspired their colleagues across the nation. Teachers realize that it is not only their collective bargaining rights that are at risk, but their profession. Wisconsin will lose many senior teachers -- the master teachers needed in every school -- who will retire to save their pensions, their old-age security.
Lesson eight: In his effort to destroy public sector unions, Governor Walker joins in common cause with other Republican governors, including those in New Jersey, Ohio, Idaho, Tennessee, and Indiana and elsewhere. It's time to remind them that the International Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, contains Article 23, section 4, which says: "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests." When the Declaration was passed, only eight nations abstained, not only the Soviet bloc, but also South Africa -- which opposed the pledge of racial equality -- and Saudi Arabia -- which objected to the pledge of religious toleration.
So Governor Walker and his fellow anti-union governors have decided to demolish one of the pillars of a democratic society: the right to join a trade union for the protection of one's interests. Totalitarian societies ban unions outright or create faux unions without any collective bargaining rights. Not a club that good Americans should want to join!
By his negative example, Governor Scott Walker has reminded us about the rights and obligations of citizenship, about the importance of standing up for the right of children to attend a good public school, and about the dangers to our democracy of the path that he has charted for his state.
Now it's up to us to learn from those civics lessons and get our democracy back on track.
Why am I demonized for wanting a healthy and successful America? Why am I demonized for wanting equality for LGBT individuals and every minority group? Why am I demonized for caring about the education of the children in America? Why am I demonized for wanting others to respect those who teach and take care of us? Why am I demonized for wanting energy independence and to ideally get off oil altogether? Why am I demonized for wanting to make sure that elderly Americans and Veterans are taken care of? Why am I demonized for wanting to solve problems diplomatically and not through violent means? Something about all these demonizations just doesn’t make sense. I think some people in this country need a very loud wake up call, and by some people I mean the people who are shouting “demon!” at those that seem to care about others.
Politics aren’t perfect, you can’t please all people at all time. However, when it comes down to the basic necessities of life such as; food, clean water, clothing, education, and health… suddenly the people that want those things for everyone are demonized and called names. There is a terrible dilemma in all of this. What happens when we only take care of those that can take care of themselves? You’re left with a third world nation.
When we give tax breaks to the wealthy and then cut social programs to pay for those breaks, that is a major moral dilemma. When the poor and unemployed are called “freeloaders” because they need some assistance, that is a major moral dilemma. When minority groups striving for equality are told that they want “special rights”, that is a major moral dilemma. “Special rights” are the ones the majority of Americans already have… “special rights” are equal rights. When we give breaks to billionaires and seek to privatize industry and education so that only the wealthy can prosper, that is a major moral dilemma. When those breaks are paid for with money that should be educating our children and treating our sick, that is a major moral dilemma. When the poor and unemployed are being swept under the rug because they are too unsightly to help and/or deal with? That is a major moral dilemma.
The Middle Class is vanishing because they are being indirectly demonized as being not quite good enough to compete with those on Wall Street, and with the wealthiest Corporatists. The Middle Class is being told that they should no longer be able to send their children to public schools. The Middle Class is being told that their jobs are no longer valuable. They are no longer valuable within the public sector which some think should now be private, or in the private sector which some think should now be done overseas with less regulation and for less money. The Middle Class is becoming the poor and unemployed due to either wealthy monopoly Corporatists that downsize or outsource, or due to Public Sector jobs being defunded our ousted altogether.
Who is shouting “Demon!” at all the everyday average Americans and those that stand up for them? The Koch(Tea) Party, a lot of the GOP, and many other conservatives that claim they stand for values. What values? The value of the Monopolistic Corporatist that just outsourced your job? The same party that shouts “Demon!” is the party that says they are for a higher moral integrity in America. Morals for who? Is it moral to deny health care and education to those that can’t afford it? Is it moral to diminish Veteran and elderly benefits? Is it moral to deny basic rights to minority groups? Is is moral to lay off thousands, not because you have to, but because it would be cheaper to hire overseas? Is it moral to give billions in subsidies to oil companies bringing in record profits, then defund crucial social programs to pay for it? Is is moral to give breaks to the wealthy and then deny the poor? If those are your morals… I’d hate to see you on a bad day.
Don’t hate me because I care for others. We need to shift the priorities in this nation from “survival of the fittest” to survival for all. They can call me a demon all they want, but I will never stop fighting for those less fortunate that are demonized themselves. The “American Dream” shall live on. Success should not be turned into what we can only dream about, we need to wake up America and make it happen.
I believe we live in one of the wealthiest nations on earth.
You believe public employees don’t deserve good health and retirement benefits.
I believe everyone deserves good health and retirement benefits.
You believe it’s okay to silence your opponents.
I believe everyone’s voice should be heard.
You believe might makes right.
I believe a bully is a bully, whether he’s an angry kid on a playground or an angry man in a
You believe government should be vilified, belittled and shackled.
I believe government is the only institution in the world in which we can all share and
You believe in every man for himself.
I believe we are better and stronger when we work together.
You believe “we can’t…”
I believe “We can. We must. We will!”
And so, in this time and place, I plant my flag and make my statement. With all the fervor and strength I can muster I tell you now, YOU CANNOT HAVE MY STATE!
There is room in this world for honest disagreements. There is room for differing policy views and different world views. But there is no place in this state, in this world, for the behavior you
have chosen. There is no place for those who would trample the rights of anyone, be they in the minority or the majority. There is no place for those who would hide from the voice of the people
behind armed authority. There is no place for those who would serve the interests of wealthy corporations ahead of the poor or disadvantaged. There is no place for those who would say “We
have nothing to discuss.”
I did not ask for this fight. But you have brought it to my home, so fight I will. I will not allow you to create the ugly, selfish, hateful world of your vision. We are better human beings than that. While your world view insists that self-interest is the way forward, my world view rests on the power of community.
The new day starts now. We are going to clean house. Your power derives solely from the consent of the governed, and we no longer consent to be treated as your subjects. Your experiment is over…
YOU CANNOT HAVE MYSTATE!
March 11, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I am a Wisconsinite.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin. At the time I did not think that made me very lucky. After I graduated from UW-Madison I moved to NYC and immediately considered myself a New Yorker. Even after moving back to raise a family I would, for a time, tell people I lived in Madison but just moved back from NYC because I felt it sounded cooler. I was wrong. There is nothing cooler than being a Wisconsinite.
My family has always been politically active in Wisconsin politics and labor movements. I feel like my sisters and I spent a good portion of our childhoods at the Labor Temple on Park St. or handing out flyers at Farmer's Market. It didn't dawn on me at the time what it was I was involved in. My parents always worked for the community. They always fought for workers and those that stood to protect them. For me... it was just another rally or picnic. I didn't understand the fight that it took just to maintain what had been taken for granted by many.
My mother spent over 10 years working at the WEAC headquarters in Madison where she also served as a union representative. It was something she was proud of. A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with brain cancer, the treatment of which has left her unable to work or even care for herself. That responsibility has landed mostly on my dad who is retired. Without the benefits that she worked and fought for we would not have been able to afford to treat or care for her now. She was a public worker. She was a union member. I grew up in the same house and can promise you, she did not bring home lavish pay.
This is not about money and numbers. It is about people. This is about the teachers that spend as much time with your kids as you do. It is about the nurses that care for you and yours when ill. It is about law enforcement and fire fighters. It is about the people of Wisconsin that make the state what it is.
The events of the last few weeks have been inspiring to the world. It has given me new respect for the people I have chosen to live with. It has given me faith in the power of the people. It has given me an opportunity to march with my father on one side and my son on the other. I know it means nothing to him now but some day he may look back at it as his first memory of democracy. We must fight on for him.
I am from Wisconsin. I always have been. Pretty cool huh?