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).