Thursday, February 24, 2011

I suppose I have to write something about this stuff

This stuff being Wisconsin and DOMA.

And the problem is that the bad guys are wearing me down.

Unions – bad. We can’t outlaw private unions (yet) so let’s blame teachers, cops and firefighters for all the woes of Wisconsin. Never mind that unions, if they are one of the reasons for the current economic meltdown the country, states and cities are facing, are a minor factor. Let’s focus on class envy. Us that don’t have the decent wage, the pension or the benefits the union workers have, having been beaten down are looking down the street, around the corner and are jealous. We’ve taken a beating, why haven’t they? We are a little too pleased with politicians that want to take the people that have what we don’t down a notch or two, maybe three.

We don’t focus on the fact that big corporations are on the rebound, in part as the result of cutting cost to the bone at their employees’ expense. We aren’t thrilled that the corporate rebound was aided by the bailout, and we didn’t get much bailout on our block, but “what ya gonna do?” We can’t control corporate or political America so let’s vent our anger at someone we can hurt. We aren’t rebounding and those teachers over there have got more than we do. They ought to suffer as much as we do.

And our politicians are all too willing to pander to our anger.

Our politicians are unwilling to do anything to bring us together, other on a rare occasion when a timid President recognizes what should be a no-brainer and is immediately attacked by the opposition and tepidly supported by his party.

Here’s what a wuss the Prez is.

Sorry, I’ve got to talk a little bit about law. Courts look at laws that are accused of being unconstitutional with three sets of standards – rational basis, heightened scrutiny and strict scrutiny. Religion and race get strict scrutiny treatment, the government can’t mess with them unless it has a “compelling” reason and there is no other way to promote the government interest. At the other end of the spectrum is, what I’ll call, the “laugh test,” usually applied to economic concerns of people. If the government can come up with a reason for the law that doesn’t make the lawyer or the judge laugh, the reason is reasonable and the government can impinge on peoples’ economic rights. In the middle is the heightened scrutiny test, which is muddle of, often conflicting, analysis.

The Obama Administration has decided to forge new ground (cue sarcasm) by announcing that it will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in Courts of Appeal that have not decided that it is subject to the laugh test. If they have decided on the laugh test standard, the Administration will support their ruling. I know that doesn’t make much sense to anyone but Curmudgeon.

Let me try it another way. Our courageous leader doesn’t like discriminating against gay people but he isn’t going to push it. If a set of judges is newly considering discriminating against gay people, the Justice Department is not going to weigh in on the side of the discrimination – they are going to leave that to Congress. But, if another set of judges has already decided that discrimination against gay people is rational - no one laughed when the argument was made - then they’ll defend the discrimination on an appeal to the Supreme Court.

That too makes no sense, unless, unless, Obama is just playing politics as he is wont to do. Gay people will finally be less pissed at him and may come around again to support him in ’12 - same with the straight liberals and a lot of the youngins. Faced with the alternative of whatever Neanderthal, in their minds, the GOP runs, at least Obama is living up to some of his promise – maybe some of them won’t sit out the election in disgust. Obama doesn’t have the hard right, the mostly hard right or the religious right no matter what he does, so the move won’t hurt him and may help him. Chicago politics at its best.

I just think we as a country, we as regions and we as communities have lost our way. We’re scared and we listen to whomever plays to our fear. I’ve got mine or I don’t have mine and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do anything for someone that is different, seems to have more than me or threatens to take some of mine. And Obama and Boehner, and friends, play to the respective fears and vulnerabilities of their sheep.

Unions and gay people aren’t hurting non-union or straight people. But they are nice targets when we can’t control what’s happening and want to lash out.


The Curmudgeon said...

Neither of these are easy for me. I am inclined to oppose DOMA on the grounds that the power to declare what a marriage is or is not has always been a state matter; yet (as you know) I believe firmly that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

On the other hand, I believe that the historic Western concept of marriage derives from a time when the church and state were virtually indistinguishable. Also, today, there are other means of begetting children than the traditional, biological method. Therefore, today, the state may have no concern whether a family is established by a man and a woman or by two men or two women so long as any children brought into that family are raised in such a way as to become credits to (and not burdens on) the state. That gets me to civil unions, leaving the concept of marriage to churches to argue about as churches are wont to do.

But not everyone arrives at the same conclusions I do -- Iowa, Massachusetts, etc. -- and that leaves me with a "Full Faith and Credit" problem.

Maybe I'm just a wuss, too, but I see this as a difficult constitutional issue that can't be resolved in a blog comment.

And I haven't addressed Wisconsin yet.

Dave said...

We went back and forth on marriage and civil unions a while back. I think I'm fine with civil unions, if that is what government calls all sexual relationships. I get riled up when it picks and chooses, thereby favoring a particular flavor.

As to Wisconsin, a preview of a post I'm thinking about writing: the Dems in Indiana and Wisconsin are just engaging in a new form of filibuster, a tried and true minority tactic, well known to a certain grand old party.

The Curmudgeon said...

Now, to Wisconsin:

You make a very good point we are being played, that the movers and shakers and opinion shapers would divert us from corporate and political misconduct by setting us against our public sector neighbors and their unions, etc. And, yes, I'll admit even to jealousy.

Still, I don't think it makes sense for only public sector employees to have defined benefits pensions when most (the vast majority) of the private sector has (at best) defined contributions retirement plans subject to market whims.

I'm not anti-union -- and when I feel some anti-union gorge rising I go back and watch movies from the 30's and 40's (put The Devil and Miss Jones on your Netflix list for an example). But public sector unions are different from those in the private sector. Our public sector unions have gotten to the point where, in many states (Illinois, for one), they decide who sits across the table from them at negotiation time. That's an imbalance.

I venture no opinion on whether the Wisconsin legislation would restore a balance or go too far backwards.

But I know this much: Public employees have unions, civil service and Shakman. Most private sector employees are at-will and (unless the action runs afoul of a particular prohibited discrimination statute) may be fired for any reason or no reason at all depending on the whim of the employer. Yet it is the private sector folks who pay for the public sector folks. (Yes, they pay taxes too -- but the bulk of the money has to come from the rest of us.) We have to restore a balance.

And, meanwhile, sure, let's put the predatory bankers in jail. Let's lash out there instead!

Lifehiker said...

With respect to DOMA, my libertarian leanings take precedence. If two people decide to call themselves a family and legalize the relationship with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, then they should be free to do it regardless of sex. My numerous contacts with homosexuals in many different settings has led me to understand that their relationships are just as solid and meaningful as my heterosexual marriage.

I support unions. When it comes to wages, benefits, and safety matters, employees should be allowed to band together for negotiations with management. However, they should not be such a political force that they can elect their own management,as they have in so many places. Nor should seniority play a central role in who gets what job, or endless bureaucracy inhibit the disciplinary process for union members.

I have previously written that the greed of many real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, large banks, and investment brokers caused the 2008 collapse, and many of them should be in jail or forfeit their profits to those harmed by their conduct. However, modern corporations are the productive engines of our economy and their stockholders are a large percentage of us. Demonizing them with a broad brush is pretty silly.

It's nice to be back on your blog, Dave.

Eric said...

Please...we just voted Gov. Walker in so to fix the huge embarrassing 'sinkhole' in our state economy. No worries - He's representing a majority of our opinions.

Scott's doing exactly what he said he would do and he's a true champion. The whiners (many of which must have forgot to vote?) overwhelming our Capitol and the AWOL Senators are damaging our state's reputation (and on the heels of a SuperBowl win?). Very sad indeed.

If Scott and the party can continue to withstand all the pressure and nonsense going on here, we'll come out of this with a fighting chance and start bringing more jobs back to Wisconsin.

If the teachers were doing a better job, I believe more people would take them serious but public education appears to have reached a point of no return and we're sure glad to be home-schooling our son.

By the way, my father was a career state employee and knows the truth behind all the beautiful union bull-roar. He knows Scott has a chance to fix a generation of damaging decisions here in our fine state.


Dave said...

I'll defer to your resident wishes I suppose; but...

It seems to me that your governor is trading public largesse. Giving to corporations which got a tax break and grabbing it from public unions.

As to teacher quality, change the rules, put in management that insists on quality. I'm not at all sure how the inability to bargain on pensions will increase the quality of teachers.

A bit of good natured sarcasm - I do hope the Gov. enjoys himself in Cali on the Koch brothers' dime after he finishes the job you elected him to.

J said...

The press - at least what I have seen - has not done a good enough job in pointing out the differences between public and private unions. If a union paper mill worker gets a boost in pension, benefits or pay. The cost of that is passed on only to the paper mill's customers or more likely adds to the probability of the production moving south or off shore.

Compare that to public workers. First - If they get a boost, that cost is borne by the entire state, county, city. Second - when the paper mill goes on strike - alternate sources of paper are available. When teachers go in strike - no readily available alternative exists. Third - don't legislatively created civil service rules provide enough protection?

Tax incentives to companies to come to a state are not a tax cut and do not cost the state anything. They didn't have the revenue to begin with so waiving potential revenue for a company to bring jobs to the state seems like a win/win. Even though there are those that wish it were so, not everybody can work for the government (at least not in this country). You need a few evil corporations around to hire folks.

As for BO's taking as side in the battle - isn't he president of ALL the people or is he just the president of the shrinking percentage of citizens who are union workers. Based on the fact that Trumka brags about daily calls or visits to the white house is seems that the latter may really be the case.