Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Shock Doctrine

In a recent New York Time's article, Paul Krugman connects the dots between what is going on in Wisconsin and Baghdad rather than Cairo. In his article he reminds readers that the situation is a power grab, 
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
But if Krugman's word is not good enough, consider this: Wisconsin's budgetary difficulties would not have arisen at all had the current governor not decided to push through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January (according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau which I found via and article titled "Walker gins up 'crisis' to reward cronies' in The Cap Times). This has been widely ignored by the mainstream media as has been the Wisconsin battle in general. As a result of these new spending measures, Wisconsin comes up short, providing the Governor with the perfect opportunity to take on the unions (and in the process of waging war on unions they will also be defunding the democrats- check out George Lakoff's VERY informative blog on this topic!!! ), and make cuts in public education. This is, ultimately, the strategy of the Shock Doctrine- create a budgetary crisis that makes it appear there is a need to make fiscal cuts into worker's wages and education. At this point Disaster Capitalists sweep in and privatize government agencies who then automate as many jobs as possible, get rid of as many older workers as possible and put a freeze on hiring so that there are fewer workers, then slash worker's wages (anyone hear the echos of overworked and underpaid?), operating with less full time positions and more part time positions, and get rid of or cut drastically pensions and retirements, and finally increase the pay at the top for keeping the whole thing in place.

But that is not the end of the madness. According to Madtown Max at The Daily Kos who is having a whirlwind of a time reading the Wisconsin budget proposal, the governor has already set the stage for a full corporate takeover of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. In this model, he will essentially be the CEO of the new "corporation" and be exempted from several state regulations that are currently in place. The whole article is summed up this way, "He is quite literally replacing a standard government agency with a corporation...A picture emerges of the governor and a few friends, with the “flexibility” to dispose of a large budget to achieve very broadly defined, “pro-business” goals, without any pesky concerns about the environment or clean energy, or providing retirement benefits to their employees." But read the article for yourself to see the radical changes that are being proposed for Wisconsin  because it's not just a Wisconsin matter...
It's coming to your local cinema soon!!! 


Conchscooter said...

The US is like an addict it seems. We have to sink to the very bottom before we can start finding our way back up. I guess this means we have to wreck every decent job, libraries naturally and all schools...before we can improve things once again.

Danette said...

It's a pretty ugly picture. It deserves a real reporter- someone like Matt Taibbi to write a big piece- putting all the pieces together, but it does seem that we are just going to rip it all to shreds. You and Maurice had more hope than I do that we are going to have the ability to build it back up though-- I am afraid that once they have looted and pillaged, they'll take the money and run leaving the rest of us with the mess they've made. And we won't have any $$ to build anything back.