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Robert Reich writes: "Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It's been to bust the unions."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

Governor Walker's Coup D'Etat

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

10 March 11

RSN Special Coverage: GOP's War on American Labor

overnor Scott Walker and his Wisconsin senate Republicans have laid bare the motives for their coup d'etat. By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn't be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It's been to bust the unions.

That's no surprise to most people who have watched this conflict from the start, but like any coup its ultimate outcome will depend on the public. If most citizens of Wisconsin are now convinced that Walker and his cohorts are extremists willing to go to any lengths for their big-business patrons (including the billionaire Koch brothers), those citizens will recall enough Republican senators to right this wrong.

But it's critically important at this stage that Walker's opponents maintain the self-discipline they have shown until this critical point. Walker would like nothing better than disorder to break out in Madison. Like the leader of any coup d'etat, he wants to show the public his strong-arm methods are made necessary by adversaries whose behavior can be characterized on the media as even more extreme.

Be measured. Stay cool. Know that we are a nation of laws, and those laws will prevail. The People's Party is growing across America - and the actions of Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues are giving it even greater momentum. So are the actions of congressional Republicans who are using the threat of a government shutdown to strong-arm their way in Washington.

The American public may be divided over many things but we stand united behind our democratic process and the rule of law. And we reject coups in whatever form they occur.

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


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+47 # AndreM5 2011-03-10 11:40
Unfortunately we do not reject the coups perpetrated by the Supreme Court.
+21 # AML 2011-03-10 13:50
Oh, we will. I don't know about you, but I feel there are so many fires breaking out at once...lucky for us there are people up on these developments and we are informed for the time being (although this last internet neutrality item is a sticky wicket).
Just like the folks in Madison who showed up by the thousands last night at the Capitol building at the last minute, some with no money, no id, no sleeping bag, just dropped everything and came; that's what it's going to take nationwide to right this sinking ship.
We can do this! We are a nation of laws, and if the law is twisted (Citizens United decision) then we need to change it back.

We can do this!
+2 # AndreM5 2011-03-10 14:27
I also am an optimist. However, you point out that the CU case was a DECISION by the Supremes, not a law from Congress. Congress could try to repeal a law, but the Supremes have declared their unconstitutiona l right to decide if a law is "unconstitutiona l." The SC wins. We may like to think we are nation of laws, but it is not quite the case. Furthermore, enforcing laws is not the same thing as justice.
+33 # bjw 2011-03-10 12:03
True. Anything the Republicans pass can be repealed as soon as they are thrown out by voters. Bargaining rights took decades of struggle to win and to seem them wiped out this way should put every worker on alert and motivate them to get involved. It has been to easy to sit back and expect someone else to protect those rights.
-11 # DaveO Alaska 2011-03-10 12:13
I generally agree with Professor Reich but it has gone too far this time.
There will be blood.
I do not wish for it but "when in the course of human events"....
+18 # castaway5555 2011-03-10 12:17
Excellent note ... right now, the GOP tsunami is washing over everything; but in time, the high tide of their arrogance will reach it's limit, and then have to fall back. Leaving, of course, in it's retreat, a real mess that will take years to repair. But Americans are mostly sensible, and mostly fair, and I believe the GOP has shown its true self, and most Americans are repulsed by it.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2011-03-10 18:52
I believe they have not shown their true ways..or the American Sheep are not paying attention.

There will always be those needing to believe in anything. It is like in school, the popular ones would never want to be yur friend if you were geek or whatever. But come student body election or prom, and they are your best friends.

People still believe these people will care about them. that cutesy lil speech saying how they could not be there without them is true, but come the next day...they are gone, you are standing there telling your friends how they really care about you!

Guess those of us who didn't vote for any of them, were the ones that wondered when this day was coming.
+26 # James Wilson 2011-03-10 12:21
I'm liking the name "Peoples Party". The "new party" should not suggest allegiance to one or the other of the existing parties. After all, many many Republicans are working people also. Sooner or later a majority of these folks have to realize what is taking place here - the degradation of us all.
+10 # Libdem 2011-03-10 14:28
Oh I don't know....first off for some reason americans have incredibly short memories...furt her while many republicans are hard working people, it seems so many (at least where I am from), at the first mention of abortion or gay marriage will vote for the republican every time.......agai nst their own interests...
+22 # Jorge 2011-03-10 12:27
The Dems need to leave Washington and show up to support workers in Wisconsin. If the Dems need to be in Washington for crucial votes then come for the weekend. This is more important than sitting in Washington doing little or nothing for workers and the Middle Class. Where is Frankel et al?
Also, Dem Governors like Jerry Brown and others need to show their opposition to the Right-Wing Coup in Wisconsin. Do something.
+15 # BishopAndrew 2011-03-10 12:52
You are absolutely spot on! Where was the President, where was Biden, where was Harry Ried, where was the chair of the DNC? The message is clear if we are to have a republic where the Bill of Rights actually matter then we the People have to make certain that it does. The Democratic Party has abandoned us to the mercenaries of Wall Street ant the Tea Pary Republicans!
+3 # KittatinyHawk 2011-03-10 18:56
I do not believe in the interest of America it would have been Legal for the President to side on this one. State elected Official..Tea Farty would have made a circus and GOP.
But I do believe that others should start now to show support for American Working class, even the Republicans.

but if you see the GOP/Tea Farters are keeping troops divided with their phony budget. Believe others from Delegations of Greens, Independents, and Democrats should be there, however.
+25 # CL38 2011-03-10 13:16
For 40 years, the right has quietly & persistently crammed their pockets with the wealth of our country while pitting one group against another to distract the public.

Meanwhile, referring to the rights, pay, benefits and social security of the middle class and poor as undeserved "entitlements", they're no longer their real agenda: destroying the middle class and destroying the unions.

If WI voters and others across the country stand firm and fight without giving in, this will be the end of the far right for another 30-40 years.
+21 # sark 2011-03-10 13:31
This "nation of laws" gave us Bush in 2000. Now several states are pushing laws that suppress the vote rather than addressing the very real problem of vote count manipulation on electronic voting machines. Until we have honest verifiable elections, the corporate wealthy will continue to make sure their bought politicians are in power.
+26 # marxist3000 2011-03-10 13:31
Very true. republicans could care less about the budget. They know that when states go bankrupt, they have to cut the services that Repubs hate (welfare, unemployment, libraries, schools, pensions, etc.). Therefore, it's actually in the Repubs interest to NOT balance the budget.

This has never been about the budget, this is about the whole neoliberal move to privatize everything. Since Reagan, Repubs and other neoliberals & neocons have tried to privatize every sector of our economy. If they suceed, police officers could be paid on commissions based on how many arrests they make. What happens when a cop hasn't made quota? I think we know the answer: injustice, plantyed evidence, false incrimination. We've all heard about the "cash for kids scam". The plans for privatization must be stopped!
+14 # fredboy 2011-03-10 13:48
I stand with those in Wisconsin being stripped of their rights to collective bargaining.

I also wonder if anyone losing those rights voted for Walker and the other GOPers, and if that person still calls himself or herself a conservative.
+9 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-03-10 16:17
A dear Irish cousin of mine said it to me a few years ago, after 9/11. "You Yanks have had a coup d'etat, and you're too naive to figure it out." How right she was and is.

Let's begin to UNDO THE COUP by beginning to assume nothing - i.e. that our votes actually are and have been counted correctly, and the Koch-suckers (thank you, Keith Olbermann) like Walker and so many more were actually elected.

Let's face it - our villainaire rulers and their puppets will stop at absolutely nothing to protect their precious greed and power addictions. Google: Colorado Springs Independent, Jan. 21, 2010, "No Peace or Justice". Colorado Springs, the super fusion center of the not at all patriotic Patriot Act's over seventy fusion centers nationwide, has been a test site for stripping away of civil rights (i.e. one of two cities in the world to tear gas peaceful peace demonstrators, including little kids, in '03; public torture of a sixty-five year old, fully disabled former nun, etc.). What's gotten away with in one city or state is foreshadowing of things to come in other locals.

Time to recognize and UNDO THE COUP, and tell 'em .... VILLAINAIRES, GO TO HELL!!!
+6 # Charles Hall 2011-03-10 16:31
Fredrick Douglas said it best "ther can no progress without a struggle" "If you want the rain to nurish your crops then you have to tolorate the thunder and lighting that brings the rain."
+7 # DPM 2011-03-10 16:58
marxist3000. Spot on! Take a look at what Snyder and his cronies are trying to do in Michigan. It is all about privatization, so the big businesses can get hold of public money. Your taxes will simply go to whoever won the cheapest bid to run your public school for a profit.
Business calls the shots and government legitimatizes and enforces it. Fascism!
-8 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2011-03-10 17:05
Mr. Reich wrote:

"By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn't be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made it crystal clear that their goal has had nothing whatever to do with the state budget. It's been to bust the unions."

Mr. Reich's argument is false.

The Republicans separated the "union busting" terms from a budget bill that involved SPENDING provisions. The "union busting" terms do not provide for SPENDING. The senate could (and did) pass the "union busting" terms absent a quorum, because a state senate rule permits passing a NON-SPENDING provision despite absence of quorum.

The "union busting" terms affect the state's budget, but NOT BY government SPENDING. The "union busting" terms achieve government COST-SAVINGS by cutting public employee pay (directly and by requiring that public employees contribute more to paying the costs of their fringe benefits).

I agree that Walker and the legislature's Republicans are evil. But Mr. Reich dis-serves himself and the cause of socioeconomic justice by at best overstating his case or at worst misrepresenting the facts.
-3 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2011-03-10 20:40
I note that three readers disliked my post but none tried to challenge its propositions (and could not, because they are correct).

I note also that while the three disliked my post, they (like Mr. Reich) did not possess insight enough to notice a fascinating legal matter.

The state's rules say the state's senate can vote absent a quorum if the vote concerns a measure that does not involve spending.

An interesting question is whether the senate needs a quorum to vote to separate a bill's spending provisions from its non-spending provisions.

Is not such vote a vote concerning a matter of a spending provision?

If one votes to segregate a bill's spending measures from its non-spending measures, one seems to be voting on a matter concerning treatment of spending measures (vis-a-vis non-spending measures tied to the spending measures).

The Democrat legislators ought to challenge the separation-vote.

If the challenge prevails, then the separation fails retroactively. If so, then the non-spending measure vote must fail retroactively also, because that vote would have been a vote on measures on which no vote could occur validly.
+5 # abc 2011-03-11 07:49
I am so tired of hearing Republicans make false statements and then claim that they've won an argument because the smarter liberals have grown tired of clearing the record again and again and again... The facts are theses, and they are not really in dispute:

1. public worker unions have not caused public workers to be paid more than the market would cause them to be paid, since the false comparisons of private worker to public worker pay (which Fox news and the WSJ parade all the time) are misleading. Public workers have much higher educational attainment on average, so they should be paid more for this. Adjusting for this, you find that public workers are paid the same as private sector workers. The negotiations occurring under collective bargaining are efficient and pro-market. This is what the data shows.

2. The incidence of strikes and worker disruptions actually has gone down now that such workers have bargaining rights, so FDR's fear of granting such rights to public workers (which JFK ultimately offered) have been allayed. The GOP is actually making it more likely that we have disruptions in those services by removing collective bargaining, even as they fail to establish that such a move will save money.
+5 # abc 2011-03-11 07:52
3. The GOP in general and the WI leaders who pushed for this are taking unprecedented amounts of money from corporate interests that seek to undercut labor costs wherever possible since they will make higher margins (already at 50-year highs) by doing so. This is a huge conflict of interest, and it highlights that the govt is now acting on behalf of the owners of corporations (a minority of America) rather than the common good. Reich's passing reference to the Koch Brothers, who gave 5 times more campaign money to Walker than his second biggest donor, is but one example.
+5 # abc 2011-03-11 07:53
4. The equitable distribution of sacrifice in the midst of an economic recession--the real cause of the many budget crises at the state level in this country--is anything but. WI GOP leaders have asked middle class to take pay cuts, while giving tax breaks to much wealthier capitalists, even as the latter group has pushed employment abroad and used technology to cut costs and expand profits and enrich themselves. In Germany, they are also allowed to do this, but then they have to invest in worker retraining. But in America we simply throw the workers into the street and then demand that they not receive any govt support either. Amazingly, labor unions have allowed pay cuts to occur, but those wealthy corporate owners still want more. When the middle class is totally ravaged, I'm not sure who the companies will sell their goods and services to, but they will not be able to credibly blame the unions. Only themselves.
+4 # abc 2011-03-11 07:58
There is a public notice requirment, which the Republicans failed to honor. Their counterargument is that the Senate because of separation of powers can make its own rules and these ruels trump the state law requiring notice of 24 hours be given to the opposition party. A court will decide whether that is correct or not. Meanwhile, hte people will decide whether a recall is necessary to stop actions by a party that has overreached in the pro-corporate inferences it drew from the November election results. The GOP will cry foul about the misuse of recall laws, but this was the party that used impeachment against a highly popular President for personal fidelity and a non-material lie under oath, so they have little principle to stand upon.
-3 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2011-03-11 15:59
To abc, your 4 posts replying to mine:

I note that now 8 readers have registered dislike of my main post & 3 have registered dislike of my subordinate one. I expect you're among them.

Like Mr. Reich, either you do not perceive or you deny facts & logic that clash with your wish.

At the close of my original post, I wrote:


[Emphases added here.]

Alas, you did not treat my observation that likely the senate vote was invalid, because cast without quorum though concerning a spending measure. You gushed out many matters irrelevant to my points, matters that are dear to you but do not join issue with my posts. Even do you seem to assume (falsely) that I am a Republican.

Often, just like right-wing enthusiasts, left-wing enthusiasts lose credit because they utter their preferred pablum rather than frame, scrupulously, all pertinent facts & the full fact-set's LOGICAL implications.

I appreciate your suggestion that the Republicans violated a notice rule. I shall not be amazed if such is true, since many Republican politicians are evil. But because of the tenor of your posts, I cannot credit your suggestion.
+5 # wfalco 2011-03-10 20:31
It seems Naomi Klein explained so well how disaster capitalism works in her classic- " Shock Doctrine" -it is what Mr Reich is also writing about.
The right will utilize any so called "emergency" to further their agenda-be it 09/11 or state budget deficits.
+2 # Ann Adams 2011-03-11 04:35
The age old tactic of divide and conquer. As labor organizer Oscar Ameringer said, "Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other."

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