Well, as the polls predicted, Scott Walker was able to retain his seat in Wisconsin as Governor. With the help of a historic level of campaign spending, most of it from disgustingly rich, out-of-state donors, the Republican that took away the right of public unions to collectively bargain was vindicated, and with him the Republican Party.
If you’re rational, this should scare the hell out of you. Republicans are going to take this as a sign that you can do whatever you want as a politician, even if it hurts a huge number of regular, working citizens, and if you have enough money, you can still be re-elected. In fact, in Walker’s case, they learned that you’re better off working, essentially as a paid surrogate of huge corporate tycoons like the Koch Brothers, to accomplish purely political goals, instead of working for the benefit of your actual constituents.
Even more scary, however, about Walker’s win, is that it is yet another example of regular people voting against their own best interests. The principle issue in Wisconsin was Walker’s attack on public unions, and for some reason, a majority of people in that state don’t seem to understand a very basic fact: voting for almost any type of wage suppression is going to have a negative effect on all wages. So, in effect, when people cast a ballot against unions, they are casting a vote against their own salary.
And really, it’s not just wages…it’s benefits as well. Two of the biggest issues that unions bargain about with employers are health care and pensions. So when people cast a ballot against unions, they are casting a vote against their own benefits, as well as their salary.
Now look, sometimes unions have gone to far, and it’s never good for a state or corporation to be forced to pay its workers more than it can afford, but this wasn’t the case in Wisconsin, nor, by and large, has it been the case in this country (and certainly not in the last 30 years, but we’ll get to this later). In this particular situation, the public unions of Wisconsin endorsed a contract in which they paid more for health care benefits, and contributed more to their pensions.
But that wasn’t enough for Walker and his Republican sponsors: they had to take away rights along with salary and benefits. They wanted it all, and a majority of Wisconsin voters, in effect said, okee-doke, that’s just fine with us, we want to make less money, and receive fewer benefits.
The data shows that indeed, as unions have retracted, wages have stagnated, and this is despite an increase in productivity. Since 1980, real wages have risen only 10%, despite the fact that during this same period, worker productivity grew by 80%. From 1973 to 2007, the percentage of private-sector, male union workers fell from 34% to 8%. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the richest 1% of Americans, from 1989 and 2007, took in 56% of all income growth.
Coincidence? No. What we’ve seen in the last 30 years is a systematic effort to undermine unions and suppress the wages of middle and lower class workers. So, the next time you hear a co-worker complain about their salary or benefits, thank the Republicans and their union-busting plutocrats that buy elections for them.
The bottom line is that if we keep voting against our own best interests, we are going to wake up one day and find ourselves living in a third world nation.