I received an e-mail from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Wednesday Feb. 23. He summarized the situation in Wisconsin and appealed for solidarity with the Wisconsin 14.
Since he brought it up, I thought I would respond with my thoughts on solidarity and some related issues.
His e-mail and my response are below...
Senator Durbin's e-mail:
An assault on unions anywhere is an assault on working families everywhere.
Wisconsin's tea party-backed governor, Scott Walker, has launched an ideological crusade against his own citizens' collective bargaining rights. He's using the pretense of a state budget deficit to curb the rights of teachers and other public employees in his state to unionize -- rights we've recognized here in America for over 80 years to assure better working conditions and fairer compensation for all workers.
Fourteen brave Democratic state senators -- backed by tens of thousands of ordinary citizens protesting outside the state Capitol -- are boycotting a vote on the governor's plan. We're counting on these 14 state senators to prevent the most serious setback America's labor movement could ever face.
I want them to know working families in Illinois and across the country welcome the "Wisconsin 14's" boycott and stand with them, every step of the way.
Sign my petition to show the "Wisconsin 14" we support their boycott and encourage them to continue standing strong to protect the rights of American workers.
Governor Walker is not setting out to fix his state's budget. After all, he just enacted a sweeping tax cut that will make Wisconsin's deficit worse.
No, at the behest of his big corporate backers, he's setting out to break unions, clear and simple. Why else would he refuse to even sit down with teachers and state employees and work out a fair compromise -- when union leaders have signaled that they are open to temporary wage and benefit concessions?
It's because this whole debate is about who holds political power -- the corporations or the people -- and not budget deals.
In the wake of the Citizens United decision granting moneyed interests unprecedented power over ordinary citizens, the current showdown in Wisconsin marks a watershed moment in American history. If we lose this fight, Republican leaders throughout the country will move forward with their own plans to bust unions and further undermine the power of American workers to earn a decent living.
That's why we must all rally behind the thousands of Wisconsinites protesting in the streets of Madison -- and the 14 Democratic state senators who refuse to entertain a rollback of workers' collective right to speak for themselves. These legislators are workers' last line of defense, and it's crucial we show them our support.
Show your support for the "Wisconsin 14" as they stand strong against Governor Walker's assault on American workers' hard-earned collective bargaining rights!
Thank you for joining me in publicly supporting the "Wisconsin 14" and their courageous boycott on behalf of every American worker.
In response, I wrote the following:
I certainly support the Wisconsin 14!
I would appreciate it if Senator Durbin would maximize his solidarity with these brave workers by not allowing the working classes to be screwed over in the name of "bipartisan deficit reduction" by trying to implement the unofficial recommendations of the infamous Simpson-Bowles deficit commission.
In reality, the commission failed to deliver any actual recommendations based on the rules under which it was established. Nonetheless, people are still taking their unofficial reports seriously. Thus, while you are discussing unofficial recommendations, I encourage you to take a look at the Jan Schakowsky plan, which is a far more reasonable way to attack the problem:
Jan Schakowsky plan (.pdf)
Also, since Democrats so often get rolled when negotiating with Republicans, please be sure to begin negotiations by asking for approximately 1,000,000 percent more than you are actually willing to settle for as well as not make any concessions unless the other side also makes some. Their mission is to destroy President Obama. Allowing the tax cuts for the wealthy to be continued was bad enough. If you cut Social Security or help to implement any of the other anti-worker/anti-middle class proposals, you will be complicit.
I also want to point out that attempting to budget cut our way to economic prosperity is a fool's errand, given the current environment. In economics, I learned that
GDP is defined as:
Government spending (G)
+ Consumer spending (C)
+ Investment (I)
+ Net Exports (NX).
Given our massive trade deficits and dependence on foreign oil, increasing NX in any meaningful way is not going to happen in the short term. Also, pretty much everyone is trying to deleverage, so we are unlikely to see any increases in I anytime soon. That brings us to trying to increase C, which is also not very likely since so many people are unemployed, worried about losing their jobs or using any extra money to pay off debt or build savings.
So, let's see, we've covered each component of GDP and, unless I'm missing something, we simply cannot increase GDP without increasing government spending. Therefore, if any plan is proposed that will cut G, then you had better have a simultaneous plan to increase C, I and/or NX by more than the amount you are cutting. If you don't have such a plan, then you simply have no credibility with me. Furthermore, GDP will not increase and your brilliant plan to cut the deficit will most likely tip us back into recession. If you don't believe me, why don't you look into how the austerity craze is working out for the British and Irish.
Based on the polls showing overwhelming support for the protesters in Madison, it is certainly good politics to be advocating solidarity. However, it concerns me that any Democrat who claims to value labor and working and middle class America would be involved with the "gang of six," who are apparently working on implementing the non-official recommendations of the deficit commission.
In light of what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, this might be a good time to remind the gang of six and others about the importance and political value of fighting the good fight on workers' rights and at least attempting to implement sound policy with regard to protecting and rebuilding the middle class.
The four sitting senators who supported the commission "report" and links to contact each of them are shown below:
Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
The "gang of six" is comprised of the four above plus
Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and;
Basically, I just want Senator Durbin to show at least as much solidarity for working people as he was asking for from me in his e-mail. You can help deliver that message by contacting him and anyone else in a similar rhetorical position.