RAGE RISES IN WISCONSIN: MIRROR TO THE WORLD?

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Amid Protests Over Cuts, Wisconsin Lawmakers Prepare to Vote

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the last year, a growing number of ordinary citizens of many states and countries have been taking to the street, furious over the mishandling of their government finance.

So far Wall Street and Washington have managed to divert our attention from the connection between the mortgage securitization scam and the effect on local, community, state and Federal governments. But more and more people are starting to realize that what happens to their neighbor is also happening to them. Services cut while we go nation building abroad, taxes going up inevitably, bailouts in the trillions to banks who stole trillions, and no prospect for more jobs or higher wages, good training and sponsorship of good old American innovation. We have literally eaten our young, saddling them with debt for actions that were taken before they were even born.

At the moment I don’t care who goes to jail, if anyone. That is for the law enforcement to figure out. What I care about is getting the money back into the coffers of the state, county and city budgets that has been illegally evaded and removed.

THE MONEY IS THERE. THE WEALTH SHIFTED FROM GOVERNMENT TO WALL STREET IS THERE. THE WEALTH SHIFTED FROM TAXPAYER TO WALL STREET IS THERE. THE WEALTH SHIFTED FROM HOMEOWNERS TO WALL STREET IS THERE.

A large part of our problems would be solved quickly by pursuing the money. It is time to step up the efforts, increase the speed, feel the “urgency of now” and start collecting from Wall Street. There are plenty of ways to get the money and plenty of ways to apply existing law to give the citizens of the state relief as taxpayers, homeowners, renters and small business owners.

In the end it all boils down to this: who do you want running your state, county and country?

By MONICA DAVEY and STEVEN GREENHOUSE

NY Times

MADISON, Wis. — As furious protesters once again began gathering near the state Capitol building, state senators were expected to vote on Thursday on a bill that would sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for most public sector workers in the state.

Madison public schools were closed for a second day on Thursday, as teachers called in sick to lobby at the Capitol against the sweeping proposal. More than a dozen other public school districts announced they were closed for the day as well.

Late into Wednesday evening, a legislative committee approved the measure on a 12-to-4 vote that split along partisan lines, Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. After an emotional debate, the committee made only minor changes to the proposal put forth last week by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, clearing the way for what Mr. Walker hopes will be swift approval by both chambers by Friday.

The battle in Wisconsin, which some view as a precursor to similar fights in other states, was drawing attention around the country, including from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said he planned to talk to Mr. Walker by telephone on Thursday. “Where we’re fighting each other, where we’re divisive, where we’re demonizing or vilifying any group, including unions, I don’t think that helps us get where we need to go as a country,” Mr. Duncan told CNN on Thursday morning.

President Obama also weighed in during an interview Wednesday with a Wisconsin TV station, “I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”

But Mr. Walker has insisted that he is not singling out any group, merely searching for solutions to close a deficit of $137 million in the current state budget and the prospect of a $3.6 billion hole in the coming two-year budget. “It’s not about the unions,” Mr. Walker said in an interview. “It’s about balancing the budget.”

But why would permanently limiting collective bargaining be necessary to solve an immediate budget problem? Mr. Walker said it would bring “certainty” to the process of contract negotiations, which now often last 15 months or more.

“I don’t have 15 months to balance a budget, and I certainly am not going to pass a budget on a hope and a prayer that that might happen,” he said.

For months, state and local officials around the country have tackled their budget problems by finding trims here and there, apologetically resorting to layoffs, and searching for accounting moves to limp through one more year.

Events in Wisconsin this week, though, are a sign of something new: No more apologies, no half-measures. Given the dire straits of budgets around the country, other state leaders may take similarly drastic steps with state workers, pensions and unions.

“I’m sure we’re going to hear more from other states where Republican governors are trying to heap the entire burden of the financial crisis on public employees and public employees’ unions,” said William B. Gould IV, a labor law professor at Stanford University and a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

“I think it’s quite possible that if they’re successful in doing this, a lot of other Republican governors will emulate this,” Mr. Gould added.

Here, in a state with a long history of powerful unions, Mr. Walker’s plan was upending life in the capital city.

Madison schools were closed on Wednesday after many employees called in sick to help lobby. Thousands of teachers, state workers and students filled a square around the Capitol, chanting “kill the bill” and waving signs (some likening Mr. Walker to a dictator and demanding his recall).

And a hearing on the issue that had started at 10 a.m. Tuesday ran through the night and into Wednesday afternoon, as protesters with sleeping bags camped out near the Capitol’s rotunda and bleary-eyed lawmakers gulped coffee from paper cups. More protesters slept over (using pillows on marble floors) into Thursday morning.

Protesters shared stories of their families’ deep history in unions, people struggling to pay their mortgages, workers considering moving away, switching careers, retiring.

Kim Hoffman, a middle-school music teacher, said she and her husband, also a teacher, would lose $1,200 a month under the plan — too deep a cut to manage.

“I love teaching, but I’d have to start looking for another job, period,” she said.

Mr. Walker would require state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pensions, where most now pay far less, and require state employees to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now). The average salary for a Wisconsin state worker is $48,348, according to a recent report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

His bill would limit collective bargaining for state employees and many local employees, including teachers, to base wages, barring them from negotiating over health coverage or working hours. His bill would also limit negotiated raises to the Consumer Price Index, although a higher raise could be approved by public referendum.

Police officers, firefighters and state troopers would be exempted from those provisions. (Critics noted that Mr. Walker had received endorsements from some unions tied to firefighters and law enforcement in November’s election.)

Mr. Walker’s proposals convinced many union officials that he was trying to weaken them both at the bargaining table and in politics. Under his bill, the state would stop helping the union by collecting union dues from employee paychecks. He would also give members of public sector unions the right not to pay dues. And he would require annual decertification elections at each public-employees union to determine whether a majority of workers no longer wanted to be unionized.

While union leaders here set up makeshift offices in the Capitol, distributing fliers and planning vigils and “teach-outs,” national officials from more than a dozen unions pledged millions of dollars, as well as phone banks and volunteers, to block such efforts in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

“We view the events in Wisconsin as one of the worst attacks on workers’ rights and their voices in the workplace that we’ve ever seen,” said Kim Anderson, director of government relations for the National Education Association in Washington, where 150 people were calling teachers and union supporters in Wisconsin, urging them to demonstrate or call lawmakers.

Kevin Gibbons, a leader of a union here representing teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin, said, “I think Governor Walker is using this financial crisis as an excuse to attack unions, and if Wisconsin goes, what will be next?”

Already, tensions were rising in other states, particularly in places where Republican victories in November have altered the political landscape.

Earlier this week, in Ohio, workers protested outside the Statehouse in Columbus to protest a bill that would limit collective bargaining for state employees there. In Indianapolis, teachers rallied against a bill that would limit contract bargaining for teachers’ unions. In Tennessee, a legislative committee was considering a similar bill.

For his part, Mr. Walker said he did not believe that most Wisconsin residents had a problem with his proposals. In a tour on Tuesday around the state — to private companies — Mr. Walker said he spoke with plenty of private employees who told of paying far more for their retirement plans and health care than state workers.

Some national polls, too, have suggested that many people would back cuts to pensions and benefits of government workers.

“To the average citizen — to middle-class, working-class families — they’re paying a whole lot more right now,” Mr. Walker said. As recently as Wednesday morning, Mr. Walker spoke with Gov. John Kasich of Ohio — to “commiserate” a bit, he said.

“Obviously there is a lot of protest out there, but in the end, it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Walker said, adding, “We didn’t get elected to worry about the politics.”

Lawmakers here were expected to vote on the issue by week’s end, and many predicted that the outlines of Mr. Walker’s proposal might survive votes in the Assembly and Senate, both of which are controlled by Republicans.

Still, some lawmakers here appeared rattled by the crowds cramming the building.

Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican leader in the State Senate, slipped out of the Capitol Wednesday morning with his sunglasses on, head down. Protesters had gone to his home earlier in the week, forcing his family (including his wife, a school guidance counselor) to go elsewhere for a bit.

Monica Davey reported from Madison, Wis., and Steven Greenhouse from New York.

23 Responses

  1. Think this is being blown out of proportion.

    Simple – Wall Street fraud spilled over to investor fraud — and state/local “investors” participated.

    All for state/local worker getting their “Reasonable” pensions — just not on the backs of homeowners being evicted from their homes.

  2. Not about salary or pension cut — just a question of contribution to pensions by the people who fund those pensions —–and are put in foreclosure IF they cannot pay every dime.

    Contribution.

  3. Unions are idiots… GO AHEAD give them everything they want………and when the state goes broke- THEY GET NOTHING!

  4. A Man, BTW, I see where the Bell CA city council folks are about to face their crimes….next month. Perhaps there is justice afterall?

  5. E. Tolle it was an honest misspell. Other than that I agree with what you wrote.

    To add a footnote with the public employees of this great nation taking a salary or pension cut means they wont be able to pay their mortgage and other debts.

  6. A Man, I believe your Freudian slip/typo says it all….you wrote:

    “GO UNION. WHAT IS WRONG FOR PEOPLE TO HAVE A DESCENT LIFE?”

    Yes….what IS wrong is for people to have a descent life…..a life that is a constant descent into deeper and deeper debt, on any number of levels. Pick any, or more likely pick all of the following, personal debt, township/city, county debt, state, national, global…..it’s all the same issue….DEBT!

    Only when folks awaken to the fact that our money supply has been sold to us at high compound interest by central banksters who are very experienced at what they do…..conive and pollute whomever is in power at the time to do their bidding….

    This story is very old….older than our republic. The moneychangers get everyone obliged then adjust all the rules to grant them and theirs the moon and stars. They ALWAYS get their way….that is….until people awaken, as is going on in the Arab world.

    Only when we awaken and tell the banks and their bond holders where to stick their debt and hit the reset button will we be able to climb out of this cavern and see the light.

    Death to the Street!

  7. Anon,
    this whole thing on property taxes is something else. You finally pay off the mortgage, in the old days like 15 years ago, and yet you still have to pay property taxes. So one retires and still has to pay property taxes or loose the house. Jeepers. Only the rich must have thought of this plan. So one never really gets to own his home. Warren Buffet said sometime ago that prop taxes in Calif were too cheap and he was advising Arnold to raise them to like 10k. I don’t like Warren anymore, especially since he helped Goldman Sachs.

  8. THE A MAN

    Assume you are young. Over fifty is not considered “old” today. You have everyone dead and buried by age 60.

    Have nothing against Unions — in fact, I think they serve an important purpose. What I object to is the high pensions. Corporations did away with complete funding of pensions many years ago. People now take responsibility and try to save for themselves. But, not state and local workers — we also save for them via our taxes. Cannot afford $200,000.00 pensions — even though Police Chief may be a great guy/woman.

    Heard foreclosures on Reverse Mortgages is escalating. These mortgages are largely sold to people over 62 — you know – those people that you have dead and buried. There are no mortgage payments on Reverse Mortgages — so how is foreclosure happening??? Because – the dead and buried cannot pay their high taxes — which are funding the pensions of the state and local workers — including that great gal/guy Police Chief.

    We have a problem.

  9. Bottom line we do not want any hand outs.
    The Banksters broke the chain of title they alltegedly broke the law and allegedly this opens up the door (broken chain of title) to numerous exotic acts of fraud and unfair enrichment.

    Bottom line.

  10. The problem is the capitalist. The definition given in the dictionary is wrong. The actual simple definition is somebody who makes money off of money. It is not those who engage in a business that makes a product and makes a profit, there is nothing wrong with that. As the product is exchanged with those that want it and pay money for the product.
    Capitalism is those who will not work but make money on money, these are the ones who do not exchange back into society. They just accumulate the money and it does not flow back into society thereby creating an imbalance. That is why they constantly want you to borrow, to keep creating money as credits. People put up with it for awhile, but eventually they say enough of this, that is the real story in Egypt. Banking is useful if it increases production, but over the last 20 years since credit cards came out and ABS was created is when money became big time making money on money. Oh the good life, OPM, compound interest, have your money work for you, etc etc. It all leads to an imbalance and the actual producer gets took entering the game, but of course some make it and they are tokens for the good life.

    If you have a tribe of 20 and 15 go out and hunt and get the food. Five are idle but they consume the food and contribute nothing to the survival of the group and the five drive the nicest cars and have the plush beds. Why eventually the 15 go now wait a minute here you five. And thus you have strikes or riots or whatever. That group of 20 had an imbalance, the exchange was out.

  11. UsedKarGuy the more money the workers make the more money they have to buy Kars

  12. Long Live the Unions.

  13. Anonymous
    ARBEIT MACHT FREI

    so what? After 55 years old how much time do you have to enjoy life. Most diseases come at around 55 years old to 60 years old.

    If the banksters had their way we would all work 7 days a week 24 hours a day. I am not a Slave.

    Is it better to give the CEO’s $50 to $150 million a year? Or give the dirty politician a few million on the side? Or Maddoff?

    I used to be against Unions but after what I have been thru with the banksters.

    GO UNION. WHAT IS WRONG FOR PEOPLE TO HAVE A DESCENT LIFE?

    The Chief of Police deserves his/her pension.

    Regarding giving people their homes we already paid for our homes thru our tax money that was given to the parasite banksters.

    NEVER AGAIN

  14. Wow, nice Union bashing. Is it ok to have wages driven so low people can’t afford the rent or to buy food? And if they get sick – to die? No one seems to be upset about Wall Street’s “cut” out of the entire economy,. Don’t believe the years of propoagnda, Unions can protect you from corporate/financial violence. We are talking about educators here – some people who undoubtedly lost their homes too, and now some idioikt wants to punch them in the face.

  15. Have to disagree with this article. Do not know about Wisconsin but, in many states, state workers are retiring at age 55 with 80% of salary in benefits. Police chiefs and other “officials” retire with a pension of close to $200,000. The homeowner taxpayers have been drained for decades. All this — while employees in the private sector have had their pensions whittled away by corporations. That is, if employee could even keep his/her job.

    The state and municipal budget problem – across the US — is severe. And, the cause of this is 1) extremely generous pensions funded by homeowners. 2) investments by state and municipalities in subprime investments for which they naively expected a high rate of return.

    States have to solve their pension problems and acknowledge that “easy” fraudulent investments are not the answer. Homeowners cannot fund other peoples pensions while they are losing their homes and jobs — and should not give their home away under the present conditions of fraud.

    Perhaps, one of the best ways to help states “ease” their way into more astute investments and control runaway pensions — is to to keep people in their homes. Give back the homes to the people and make it affordable so that they can stay in their homes – which should include principal reduction and adjusted taxes after pensions are reassessed. Thus, funding some tax benefit stability to state and local government.

    There are no new home buyers (en masse) who can possibly continue to fund the state/local government demands. Forcing victims out of their homes to new homeowners who will experience the same job instability, and by fraud, will never help the local and national economy.

    A country can never be productive on services alone. This is no offense to the many state/local workers who do difficult jobs to protect and aid others. We appreciate the work. We just can no longer support high pensions while we are losing our own jobs and homes.

    This a direct result of a government that shifted production to other nations — and a government that allowed banks to benefit by fraudulent behavior that siphoned every dime from the general American public.

    The government has a bigger problem on their hands than they will ever admit. The biggest lobbyists have gotten their way with Congress. Time for the CEOs to return what was fraudulently -I will say — embezzled.

  16. John,
    We did have a Union, it was called the United States American Government and it Completely sold us out and failed us.

  17. neidermeier- the 403b investments should be limited to mortgage backed securities, as the entire cabinet and all the regulatory agencies think they are the best.

  18. They’re blowing it in Wisconsin ,, the givebacks are too small and any amount would have generated this fake outrage.. Obama is busing in his union thugs from neighboring states through his “organizing for America” group… I say cut their salaries down to market price (about HALF) and convert their pensions to 403b’s with the only investment options being state/muni bonds or cash to make them at least think about helping out the state.

  19. Karen, you are correct. A superior being can lose to inferior beings who are organized. Homeowners have no organization to help them, it is all individual battles. It is person or person/lawyer vs a big company. While organizing groups and sites like this to collect data and knowledge is good, what is ALSO really needed is a organization or group to tag along. An idea is if a person goes to court to fight the foreclosure, why bring along along everybody you know or don’t know. Have them sit in the court, and if not allowed, have them mingle outside. Get local paper reporters there. Make it all peaceful but get people there to watch. These one on one battles are for the birds.

    Logic: Any knowledge which can be sensed, measured or experienced by any entity is capable of influencing that entity.
    Logic: Knowledge is a whole group or subdivisions of a group of data or speculations or conclusions on data or methods of gaining data.
    Axiom: All problems are posed and resolved through estimations of effort.
    Definition: Effort is directed force.
    Axiom: The mind is concerned wholly with the estimation of effort.
    Axiom: Rightness is proper calculation of effort.
    Axiom: Wrongness is always miscalculation of effort.
    Axiom: Survival of an organism is accomplished by the overcoming of efforts opposing its survival.

    If one realizes and expects it will take a lot of effort, why then one can win. If you use more effort than the opposing side, you overcome.

    Luke – use the force.

  20. People, if we are going to “take it to the streets,” WE MUST GET ORGANIZED!!!

    The Huffington Post is calling for Nationwide Meetups on Tues, March 8th.

    http://www.meetup.com/HuffingtonPost/

    Organize this meetup in your city. This is your country, what do you want it to look like??? It is in your hands. ORGANIZE NOW!

  21. Think of it this way…if the borrower had a union that bargained with the lender before the loan do you think we would be in this predicament? Each borrower is on it’s own and that is why we are so weak.

  22. Yes, Wisconsinites, rejoice in the fact that someone is telling the unions where to “get off”, Scott Walker.

    If you want to know what all the stink is about, Walker wants the union members to contribute around 12% of the cost of their health care plans, and increase the payments required on behalf of the union members to fund their own pensions. Yes, they are asking the union members to contribute about $200 per month out of their bloated salaries to pay their own way.

    The nerve of this Governor (now called a dictator). How dare he tell the unions that their taxpayer-funded party is being “taken down a notch”.

    The teachers union and educational system nationwide is bloated with do-nothing administrators who have automatically-increasing budgets to sit and dream up ways to make everyone more “multi-cultural” instead of teaching a curriculum that benefits the students.

    I’d like to see Walker tell the whole bunch to take a hike (like Reagan did with PATCO). The revolt on the courthouse steps in Madison is GOVERNMENT WORKERS FIGHTING FOR MORE BENEFITS PAID FOR BY THE TAXPAYERS.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

  23. this is too hilarious, does nobody see that the union is Mubarak in this case??? and they have been in power way too long and are despartely trying to keep their little fiefdom alive, why not ask the union to take a cut in dues from it’s members and maybe not spend billions lobbying goverment. no screw that raise taxes on the rest of us…hey and while you are at it give them an exemption from Obamacare…that they lobbied for!!!!

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