The Front Lines of America’s Class War
Part One: Buffalo to Wisconsin
Last Saturday about 250 Cheeseheads-in-solidarity huddled on the freezing steps of City Hall in Buffalo. It was cute and toothless, like a kitten with leukemia. I’d say it accomplished nothing, but it did have the effect of making us all very cold.
We stood with you, Wisconsin, as did many other cities across the nation. We stood. We had signs. We chanted. America’s inequitable and unjust economic system should be crumbling, any minute now, from our standing and chanting and signs.
It was mostly union members, labor organizers, college kids and the odd “liberal blogger,” as David Gregory calls us. This one hipster chic had a vuvuzela. She was trying to annoy the plutarchy into submission.
Three Tea Partiers protested our protest from across the street. They stood. They had signs. They blarghed.
I blarghed with them.
“Blargh! I hate black people!” I blarghed. “Blargh!”
“Oh, but he’s with us,” blarghed a 45 year-old anti-union papergirl, pointing to me.
“No,” one guy blarghed. “He’s blargh.”
“Blargh?!” she blarghed.
“Blargh!” he blarghed.
As a member of the media, I am contractually obligated to report on those freaks. They’re like the Charlie Sheens of American political discourse. Back on the sane side of the street, I was both inspired and consumed with mounting cynicism. Here we were standing around on a weekend–in reality, doing nothing. Real solidarity would be to occupy City Hall during the week. Shut things down for a while. Just saying.
I got the Governor of Wisconsin on tape openly discussing illegal and abhorrent things with someone he thought was the financial backer of the Tea Party and worse. It basically accomplished nothing; this protest accomplished less.
I need to get to Madtown–Madison, WI. That’s one of the front lines. It’s a class war, haven’t you heard? The people who own this country keep taking more, keep stealing more. Income inequality has not been this stark since the Great Depression. We’re all getting screwed and lied to. Again.
Scott Walker’s “budget crisis” is one that’s been designed to ram through privatization. You make the state go broke by giving away all the tax payers’ money to the wealthy, and then you pin the austerity on the little guy. It’s precisely what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism.” It’s the biggest lie in town. It’s the WMD of the war on the middle class.
Walker’s done this before when he was Milwaukee County Executive. He cried, budget crisis, and rammed through privatization to disastrous ends. He fired public, unionized guards at county buildings, and replaced them with guards from the foreign-based prison company Wackenhut. It saved the county almost no money, and an arbitrator ruled that Walker crossed the line. There was never a budget crisis, according to the local press.
I’m broke. Buffalo’s like the Third World already. As so many benighted Americans do, I could easily be jealous and resentful of unions, and delight in their wane. Not everything the unions do is cool. Health care coverage for elective plastic surgery? Maybe it improves class attendance, but it seems a little extreme. But collective bargaining–to be able to speak with one voice and demand a living wage–seems like a really good idea, for all Americans. That’s just democracy.
We shouldn’t pull the rest of the middle class down into our non-union, private, under-paid pit of toil. We should back their fight, win, and then take it to the private sector. Incidentally, the last time private union membership was so low was the Great Depression.
The other front lines of this battle are Wall Street and unchecked military expenditures, as best as I can tell. I don’t have a suit, and there’s no way of penetrating the Pentagon’s defenses, so I have to go to Madtown. And some guy is flying me out there on his enormous teaching salary. Must be nice. For now, let’s call him Mr. Kotter.
Mr. Kotter says I’ll receive all of Wisconsin’s finest “gear,” so I expect Milwaukee’s Best–but not the beer. That shit is rancid. I’m sorry. Around here they call it “The Beast,” so I am a little conflicted. Guinness, please. I’m Irish. And you Cheeseheads better have some decent drugs. Seriously. My back is going to be killing me. A hot cheese massage would also work. And drugs.
I just got off the phone with Mr. Kotter. He says the Capitol Building in Madison has been reopened to the public. Today the Assembly Democrats put their desks outside to make the democracy happen. Creative. And the 14 State Senate Dems are still in exile. Mr. Kotter thinks he can get me an audience, so we may shoot over the border.
The solidarity protest in Buffalo was cheerleading fun. Now I want to be in the game. My flight leaves tomorrow morning. I’ll be in Madtown on Saturday, for the 19th straight day of protests, to help make the democracy. Unless things change, I’ll be back in Buffalo by Sunday night.
“We’re going to have to shove ten pounds of shit into a two pound sack,” says Mr. Kotter.
Should be a good time.