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March 1, 2011

'Mad as Hell' in Madison

By Ralph Nader


The large demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin are
driven by a middle class awakening to the spectre of its destruction by the
corporate reactionaries and their toady Governor Scott Walker.
For years the middle class has watched the plutocrats stomp on the poor
while listening to the two parties regale the great middle class, but never
mentioning the tens of millions of poor Americans. And for years, the middle
class was shrinking due significantly to corporate globalization shipping
good-paying jobs overseas to repressive dictatorships like China. It took
Governor Walker’s legislative proposal to do away with most collective
bargaining rights for most public employee unions to jolt people to hit the

Republicans take rigged elections awash in corporatist campaign cash
seriously. When they win, they aggressively move their corporate agenda,
unlike the wishy-washy Democrats who flutter weakly after a victory.
Republicans mean business. A ram rod wins against a straw all the time.

Governor Walker won his election, along with other Republicans in
Wisconsin, on mass-media driven Tea Party rhetoric. His platform was
deceitful enough to get the endorsement of the police, and firefighters
unions, which the latter have now indignantly withdrawn.

These unions should have known better. The Walker Republicans were
following the Reagan playbook. The air traffic controllers union endorsed
Reagan in 1980. The next year he fired 12,000 of them during a labor dispute.
(This made flying unnecessarily dangerous.)

Then Reagan pushed for tax cuts—primarily for the wealthy—which led to
larger deficits to turn the screws on programs benefiting the people.
Reagan, though years earlier opposed to corporate welfare, not only
maintained these taxpayer subsidies but created a government deficit, over
eight years, that was double that of all the accumulated deficits from George
Washington to Jimmy Carter.

Maybe the unions that endorsed Walker will soon realize that not even being
a “Reagan Democrat” will save them from being losers under the boot of the
corporate supremacists.

The rumble of the people in Madison illustrates the following:

1. There is an ideological plan driving these corporatists. They create “useful
crisis” and then hammer the unorganized people to benefit the wealthy
classes. Governor Walker last year gave $140 million in tax breaks to
corporations. This fiscal year's deficit is $137 million. Note this oft-repeated
dynamic. President Obama caved to the Minority party Republicans in
Congress last December by going along with the deficit-deepening
extension of the huge dollar volume tax cuts for the rich. Now the
Republicans want drastic cuts in programs that help the poor.

2. Whatever non-union or private union workers, who are giving ground or
losing jobs, think of the sometimes better pay and benefits of unionized
public employees, they need to close ranks without giving up their
opposition to government waste. For corporate lobbyists and their corporate
governments are going after all collective bargaining rights for all workers
and they want to further weaken The National Labor Relations Board.

3. Whenever corporations and government want to cut workers’ incomes,
the corporate tax abatements, bloated contracts, handouts and bailouts
should be pulled into the public debate. What should go first?

4. For the public university students in these rallies, they might ponder their
own tuition bills and high interest loans, compared to students in Western
Europe, and question why they have to bear the burden of massive
corporate welfare payouts—foodstamps for the rich. What should go first?

5. The bigger picture should be part of the more localized dispute. Governor
Walker also wants weaker safety and environmental regulations, bargain-
basement sell-outs of state public power plants and other taxpayer assets.

6. The mega-billionaire Koch brothers are in the news. They are bankrolling
politicians and rump advocacy groups and funding media campaigns in
Wisconsin and all over the country. Koch Industries designs and builds
facilities for the natural gas industry. Neither the company nor the brothers
like the publicity they deserve to get every time their role is exposed. Always
put the spotlight on the backroom boys.

7. Focusing on the larger struggle between the people and the plutocracy
should be part and parcel of every march, demonstration or any other kind of
mass mobilization. The signs at the Madison rallies make the point, to wit—
“2/3 of Wisconsin Corporations Pay No Taxes,” “Why Should Public Workers
Pay For Wall Street’s Mess?”, “Corporate Greed Did the Deed.”

8. Look how little energy it took for these tens of thousands of people to
sound the national alarm for hard-pressed Americans. Just showing up is
democracy’s barn raiser. This should persuade people that a big start for a
better America can begin with a little effort and a well-attended rally. Imagine
what even more civic energy could produce!

Showing up lets people feel their potential power to subordinate
corporatism to the sovereignty of the people. After all, the Constitution’s
preamble begins with “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.” In fact,
the founders never put the word “corporation” or “company” in our
constitution which was designed for real people.

As for Governor Walker’s projected two-year $3.6 billion deficit, read what
Jon Peacock of the respected nonprofit Wisconsin Budget Project writes at: about how to handle the state
budget without adopting the draconian measures now before the legislature.