19 February 2011

On the Cheesehead revolution

As a rule I try not to repost anything on this blog, as much as possible I prefer all content to be original. But occasionally, just occasionally, I see something that demands a quick repost.

The picture above comes from @zackfarley via Twitpic, and is of a protestor in Egypt showing his solidarity with union workers and citizens in Wisconsin. That's right, Wisconsin.

While all the media attention, rightly so, is focused today on Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, in a different far flung corner of the world another popular uprising of students, workers, unions and activists is standing firm and defiant against the machinations of a plutocratic government.

Wisconsin's newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker recently went on a tax-slashing spree mainly for the benefit of his billionaire backers the Koch Brothers. Now, in the immediate aftermath of the tax cuts, the State is broke and Walker is trying to lay the blame on Public Sector spending, instituting draconian cuts and attempting to destroy the Unions in the process by removing their right to collective bargaining. In response thousands of protesters took to the streets of Wisconsin's State Capital, Madison, and have occupied the State Capital Building

Mr Tim (of Wisconsin and Inessentials) steered me in the direction of a great summary of what's going on from Mother Jones, and some excellent first-hand accounts from protestors on the ground.

Governor Walker is proposing that state public workers would pay half their pension costs, just under 6% of their pay, and at least 12% of their health care costs. Compare this to our own Universal Service Charge (which replaced, amongst other things, the Health Levy) of 7% on incomes above €16,000, and an average Pension Levy of a further 7% for Public Sector workers. In Wisconsin the Unions have occupied the streets for the last five days. In Ireland they had a nice cup of tea in Croke Park.

One of the saddest realisations for me during this election campaign, with Fine Gael now in shouting distance of an overall majority in the latest polls, is just how right-wing we as a nation are. With all of our current woes being caused by rampant neo-liberal policies over the last decade or so, the populace seems dead set to sign up to a 5-Point Plan that Scott Walker wouldn't have been too unhappy with. Labour's dream of a Left-wing government seems to be fading fast, and I can't help but think that the lack of visible and effective actions by the unions over the last 24 months have left the general populace with the impression that the Left is weak, disorganised, and has no meaningful alternative.

A view I share myself on darker days.

Still, six days to go until polling day and anything can happen. And while I wait, and lamenting our own lack of popular uprising, I shall continue to watch events in Madison with great interest.

And can you imagine what would have happened if the Packers lost the Superbowl?

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