Skip to main content

So, how about that call from "David Koch" to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), eh? Pretty funny!

Of course, more than a few commentators have noted that the call, while a prank, reveals some important truths about the relationships between powerful, wealthy donors and high elected officials. More than that, it also clarified that the real aim of the collective bargaining provisions of the Wisconsin budget bill isn't cutting costs, but breaking the backs of unions. Walker even spilled the beans on a possible plan to trick Democratic lawmakers into returning to the capital in order to reestablish a quorum and move the bill.

But I found something, thanks to a tip from David Swanson, in the fake Koch call to Walker that's of still greater interest, though it's not as neat and funny a storyline as just being a basic jackass.

At one point in the call—about eight and a half minutes into the conversation—Walker rationalizes his fight against the public sector unions by saying that what they were doing was particularly egregious because "essentially, you're having taxpayers' money being used to pay to lobby for spending more of [the] taxpayers' money."

That's a straight-up Istook amendment fungibility argument, and it's come back into vogue with Republicans thanks to H.R. 3. Yes, the bill most people still think of as an abortion measure also hides the key to this attack on collective bargaining rights.

Public sector unions, Walker's theory goes, must be smashed because they "lobby" the government to pay their members more, and then their members use their pay to kick in dues, which are used to "lobby" for even more money. That's precisely the argument Republicans used against liberal-leaning interest groups in the 1990s. Almost verbatim. But what makes the theory so dangerous is that following its logic, every dollar a public sector employee is paid is and always remains "taxpayer money." Just as in H.R. 3, where tax deductions granted to offsetting the cost of buying insurance coverage become "fungible" and therefore turn every dollar in your wallet forever into "taxpayer money," so that Republicans can forbid you from using even money every normal American thought of as your own to pay for insurance plans that cover abortion.

Of course, no one ever suggests that Blackwater's money is "taxpayer money," do they? Halliburton's? Lockheed's? No, of course not.

But I warned even before Wisconsin's uprising that public sector unions were a likely next target for the reach of the fungibility argument, and here it is.

For more on the danger of the "fungibility" argument embedded in H.R. 3 and other Republican attacks cloaked in anti-abortion bills, see this 90 Second Summary of the bill and a related interview I taped with Main Street Insider (where, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm the Public Affairs Director).

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site