Wisconsin's protests: 'Class war'?

The unrest in Wisconsin is about more than the state's budget, argues Paul Krugman in The New York Times. It's a major power grab by Big Money politicians

Protesters react to Gov. Scott Walker's appearance Monday; the Republican governor has said he's willing to prolong the government shutdown until his bill passes.
(Image credit: Getty)

Only one player in the Wisconsin showdown over public-employee union bargaining rights is refusing to budge: Gov. Scott Walker (R), who wants to gut those rights. That's because this "isn't about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker's pretense that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible," argues Paul Krugman in The New York Times. It's about destroying unions, and making America "less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy." Anyone who thinks we need to counter-balance the "political power of big money" should support the protesters. Is Krugman's "class war" argument persuasive?

Gut unions and the middle class pays: Unions aren't perfect, says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. But they really are "the only large-scale movement left that persistently acts in the economic interests of the middle class." Walker and other conservatives "argue that labor unions simply shouldn't exist" — but look at the loss of middle class earning power as private-sector unions have all but disappeared over the past 30 years. That's no coincidence.

"Why we need unions"

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This is unions vs. taxpayers, not rich vs. poor: "Even if you acknowledge the importance of unions in representing middle-class interests, there are strong arguments on Walker's side," says David Brooks in The New York Times. Public-sector unions are "very different creatures" from private-sector ones, since public unions "push against the interests of taxpayers," not shareholders, and help elect their own bosses. Wisconsin can't afford such an expensive "luxury" anymore.

"Make everybody hurt"

This affects all workers: "You can't separate public and private unions," says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. They are both about self-interested workers negotiating with self-interested management, period. Taxpayers pay when public-sector employees get raises, and consumers pay when private workers get salary bumps. But we all "reap many of the benefits" from unionization: Weekends, safe workplaces, health care... Good or bad, that's what is at stake here.

"You can't separate public and private unions"

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