Monday, May 14, 2012

Tom Barrett Has the Vapors

On this first day of Purple Wisconsin, our text is the faux outrage over Scott Walker’s use of the phrase “divide and conquer” in describing the reforms that became Act 10. Tom Barrett pronounces himself “flabbergasted” and is apparently made weak in the knees by the supposed fact that the Governor talks one way to a “billionaire supporter in private” and another way to the public.
Can we please grow up?
Let’s deal first with the claim that “divide and conquer” sounds “nasty.” As the saying goes, politics ain’t bean bag. Outrage at politicians for acting like politicians is like getting upset at dogs for chasing cats. Walker and the Republicans tried to win. They adopted strategies to do so. All politicians do this and all of them speak more candidly about it with their friends. If we were to film Tom Barrett talking with, say, George Soros, we might hear something similar.
Sometimes these strategies involve incremental reform. You take what you can get now and plan to seek more later. To put it in a different context, if you want same sex marriage, you start with civil unions. Later, when the political climate is more favorable, you take the next step. (Cf. President Obama.) If you want to raise taxes generally, you begin with the very wealthy. Divide and conquer? Live with it.
How about the claim that the comments signaled some unstated future plan to adopt “right to work” laws applicable to private unions? “Right to work” laws provide that one does not have to belong to a union simply because a majority of one’s co-workers have decided to join. How you feel about that depends on how you value individual freedom as opposed to concern about someone obtaining the “benefits” of unionization without paying for them. Given that those individuals who choose not to join the union don’t believe that there are benefits – or at least that those benefits don’t justify the cost, I come down in favor of such laws. The Republicans say that they are not on the agenda and there is no reason not to believe him. But I wouldn’t be upset if they were to be proposed.
More fundamentally, however, the comments at issue don’t really seem to be about “right to work” laws in the private sector. Even though the Governor was asked about such laws, his answer was about addressing the fiscal catastrophe that he had inherited. He explained that limiting the power of public employee unions was necessary to get the state’s budget in order. This is, you will recall, precisely what he said in promoting Act 10. In other words, the Governor told his “billionaire supporter in private” exactly what he told the rest of us in public. Perhaps that is why he and Ms. Hendricks were willing to have their conversation on film.
This phony controversy is also ironic.
The comments that make Tom Barrett woozy – the idea that limiting collective bargaining would enable local governments to adjust to unavoidable reductions in state aid – describe precisely what Tom Barrett was able to do after Act 10 was adopted. He was not so “flabbergasted” that he was unable to balance the city’s budget by using the new law’s provisions. What shocks him now is what helped him last summer. What he criticizes today, he embraced then.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Barrett wins, he'll be the Accidental Governor. There's simply nothing there.

George Mitchell said...

Way back in days of the Capitol caucus controversy, the Journal Sentinel ran a page one story about with the supposedly shocking revelation that a legislator had used an email to advocate a "hardball" strategy. The paper's over-the-top reaction to the current "news" is not a surprise.

John Foust said...

And look at the MJS today, George. Is there anyone writing for WPRI who isn't also writing for the MJS opinion page? What's their criteria for turning a Media Trackers press release into a news story?

Anonymous said...

Apparently the professor went intellectual with his "has the vapors" references.

In the days before the Civil War, Southern women were known to have "the vapors" frequently, and they would become dizzy and faint as a result. Back then, men blamed it on the delicate nature of a woman's constitution and women were almost EXPECTED to faint anytime something unpleasant happened. Chivalrous men were supposed to catch her before she hit the ground, tote her to a carriage and send her home, where a Mammy could bathe her fevered brow with a cold, wet rag until she overcame her malady.

Thanks for elevating the level of discussion.

Now, to the task at hand...

Your new boss states that "The idea here [at Purple Wisconsin bloggers" is to try to elevate the level of discussion about the most important issues of the day - especially at a time when the political debate too often has been hijacked by extremists on both sides."**

"Divide and conquer" screams partisanship, not partnership or compromise, regardless if this phrase is uttered by a Democrat or Republican, and it runs counter to this plea.** Again, elevating the discussion, or directing the narrative?

But, you're right, professor. Politicians will feign outrage, it's a Pavlovian Dog response in modern politics. Acknowledge it privately and move on.

Yet that wasn't your intention, nor your overall point. Indeed, the "phony controversy is ironic" because you contribute to it by, ultimately, with a diatribe that amounts to "having the vapors".

"Is there anyone writing for WPRI who isn't also writing for the MJS opinion page? What's their criteria for turning a Media Trackers press release into a news story?"

Exactly, John Foust. So much for the "liberal bias" in mainstream news! Now, that's fine for the MJS to go that route, but David Haynes should not insult our collective intelligence with his insistence that his goal is to be "objective". Just come out and say he has an agenda...like Walker has in the past!

Unknown said...

Ooohhh "Divide and Conquer" -- he's such an incivil beast!!!!

Just a quick detour into Democrat's greatest hits...

Cut His Head Off! Violent Union Rhetoric Continues Against Scott Walker in IL

http://youtu.be/NHlhkrLQJe8

Trumka - We'll take out Scott Walker

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/post/wisconsin-recall-afl-cios-trumka-declares-moral-victory-over-gov-scott-walker/2012/05/04/gIQAdYl71T_blog.html

Since we are discussing orgins of words and phrases....

The maxims divide et impera and divide ut regnes were utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon


In politics and sociology, divide and rule (derived from Latin: divide et impera) (also known as divide and conquer) is a combination of political, military and economic strategy of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divide_and_rule


So, Walker responds to the decades old "UNION" (emphasis) strategy of unification of force via another age old strategy.

Certainly a cause for Barrett to have the vapors!!

States and cities across the country are all having to wrestle with the unsustainable promises made to unions.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Rhode Island, it is Democrats, not nasty union-hating Republicans, who are doing the dirty work. Democratic mayors are telling their unions that there isn’t any money — not because they are vicious corporate stooges who hate working people and want to see them suffer, but because There. Isn’t. Any. Money.


http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/10/23/rhode-island-athens-of-america/

Anonymous said...

"States and cities across the country are all having to wrestle with the unsustainable promises made to unions."

I really think you need a primer on this matter.

www.swib.state.wi.us/WRSsustainability.pdf

legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/lazich/PressReleases/Pages/The-Wisconsin-Retirement-System-Study.aspx

When pensions are properly maintained, they can meet their contractual obligations.

Anonymous said...

Unknown--Classic case of projection on your part. Certainly the (D)'s have had their moments, much like the (R)'s. Only pointing out one group makes you small minded. The moderates of this country are fighting back for common ground and sanity. We are the adults in the room!

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