Tell me what the hell Wisconsin is

Glenn Beck needs a geography lesson. Casting his chalk aside and charging furiously across the set Feb 15, Beck made of viewers one very simple, very vexed demand: “Tell me what the hell Madison is!” Aiming one angry finger at a muted video clip of the recent labor union protests, Beck repeated himself even more vehemently. “Tell me, what is this? What the hell is it?” With a deep breath and a seriously sudden change of pace, Beck reconstituted himself and answered that burning question which he had put into the minds of his steadily diminishing audience. “It’s the unions,” he answered. He never even mentioned anything about poor Wisconsin. In several recently proposed pieces of legislature, Republicans have sparked a serious fire in the hearts of unionized workers across the country – a spark which has led to major pro-union protests in the capitol buildings in Columbus, Indianapolis, and yes—Madison. The bills, championed by GOP governor Scott Walker, would require public workers to pay nearly double what they currently do for health care – from 6 percent up to about 12.5 percent – as well as significantly increase the cost of pension payments, cutting the overall take-home pay of workers by as much as 7 percent. This is no good. But what’s far more frightening is the impact such legislation would have on the rights of workers. The Ohio bill, if passed, would effectively end collective bargaining rights for state workers and restrict the rights of local government employees to only the most elementary discussions of basic wages. What’s more, the bill would also do away with previously established legal protection for workers entered in negotiation, so things like prohibitions on hiring new workers during a strike would all become fair game for employers. Wait a second – did I say spark a fire? I meant lit the end of the torch with which the Republicans are going to burn the heart of the American worker alive. I understand that the economy is hurting, but I am not alone in saying that for Republicans to try and mask this stab at the labor unions behind a cheap veil of economic interest is a sham at best. They are, as former Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio voiced it in an interview with The New York Times, “using a fiscal challenge as an excuse to consolidate political power.” Terrible, frightening and very real – this is capitalism at its worst; this is politics at their worst, lurching toward us like some terrifying mechanical monster waiting to chew up a few more poor bastards and spit them out as human hamburger to be distributed among the masses in bite-size microwavable bits. At least, so long as there’s a buck to be saved. This issue is an issue of workers’ rights, of humanrights; it is a matter of allowing workers to negotiate the conditions of their labor like human beings or keeping them silent and productive like machines. But you know, Glenn Beck, you weren’t so far off – Madison is, after all, just a city in Connecticut.