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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Taxpayer's Civil War

The protests in Wisconsin represent a split in American politics. Not a split between Republicans and Democrats, but between those who believe that the government should continue expanding, and those who see the continued expansion of governments as the greatest threat to their political and economic freedoms. This is not just a debate over budgets, it is a battle over political power, and it is the country's most fundamental split since the Civil War.

The combination of abuses of power by an out of touch liberal party, an economic recession and growing insecurity about America's future have touched off something that is more than a taxpayer's revolt. Instead it's turning into a showdown over the nature of government itself.

Money is the engine of government. Tax revenues are meant to to fund the operations of government only through the decisions of elected officials. Which is why public officials who want to expand the size and scope of government need an electoral base of support. That electorate is created using wealth redistribution. Taxpayer money is siphoned off to a redistributive electorate, which delivers mass votes and campaign contributions. There's no way to halt the expansion of government, without taking on the redistributive electorate.

That is what's happening in Wisconsin. Public sector unions are one half of a political trust. They elect candidates and then "negotiate" contracts with them. The generous contracts turn into union dues which turn into contributions to the candidates. It's a big circle of corruption that goes round and round again. And it has brought states like California to their knees.

Bigger contracts mean bigger budgets which mean bigger taxes and less jobs. In order to keep paying off the unions, states strip themselves of everything but minimum wage and union jobs. Small businesses collapse. Big businesses outsource. Less jobs mean more workers on the dole, and a smaller tax base. Everyone gets poorer, except the skeletal workforces on the state payroll, and their contractors. The taxpayers will complain that the country isn't what it used to be, but they will go on hoping for a better tomorrow.

Call it 'Planned Poverty'. 'Planned Poverty' works as long as the economy keeps growing, politicians can keep manufacturing budgets that keep their state just ahead of imploding. It's done through a thousand tax hikes and fees, and financial gimmicks that hide the red ink. Like a beat up old car clunking down the highway, there's still forward momentum. But when the economy implodes, so does the whole mess. Suddenly there's no more money. But the redistributive electorate still has to be paid. The only way out is either massive tax hikes or a showdown with unions.

Wisconsin union leaders would rather see thousands of union members lose their jobs, than risk losing their power and privileges. Some union members understand this and covertly support Governor Walker's budget. But many others have gotten too used to the system. They don't understand that their union bosses and the democratic party have been exploiting them as ruthlessly as any employer would. It's been a velvet gloved exploitation, setting them up as a privileged class so that the party and the union leadership could keep robbing the public. Now the leadership and the party expect them to go out, scream and threaten the reformists who want to take away the power and privileges of the bosses.

Public sector unions don't just create higher end niche jobs for their membership, they shrink the available pool of non-union jobs. As successful predators they are at the top of the food chain, but their predation has also wiped out everything below them. Like wolves who have overhunted a territory, they have no more competitors and nothing for them to eat. In an economic crisis, that leaves their membership with few options. You either work for the government in some capacity, or you don't work at all.

This is the situation that most of the various redistributive electorates are in right now. They have been living in gilded cages. The wealth redistribution they have been benefiting from has impoverished their cities, counties, states and the country as a whole. The longer it has gone on, the fewer options they have outside the gilded cage. Some have never worked in the private sectors. Others have never worked at all. And thanks to them, there are fewer available jobs anyway.

Living in the gilded cage means benefiting from a corrupt system that's bankrupting the country. But their patrons have been hammering into their heads that they are not living in the gilded cage, the taxpayers are. The message they are getting from bosses, community leaders and politicians is that they are the victims. The poor unfortunate victims of the rich or of racism, and that it's up to them to fight for what's theirs. When actually they are the political mercenaries of a corrupt system, and their benefits and privileges pale besides those of the higher ups on the ladder above them.

Those who believe that government must continue expanding, for selfish or ideological reasons, have the redistributive electorate as their final line of defense in any conflict with taxpayers. Every regime has a ring of supporters who enjoys the benefits of being close to those in power. During the riots in the Middle East, their governments bring out those supporters into the streets. That is what's happening in Wisconsin. The unions have gone from being a revolutionary force, to being a counter-revolutionary force, an army of angry goons used to silence dissent by an angry public.

While the promoters of expanding government would like to frame this as a clash of class and race, it's neither. It's a struggle over the nature of government. The economic crisis took place not because Wall Street wasn't being regulated enough, but because redistributive policies had glutted Wall Street with bad loans. The market was reselling bad commodities, but it didn't originate those commodities. Like trees covered in rotten fruit, every state is full of its own bad commodities, bad deals and bad policies. And unprecedented numbers of Americans have recognized where the problem lies and what needs to be done about it.

This is not a war between the rich and the poor. For the most part it is a civil war within the middle class. The American middle class is shrinking and endangered. Too many Americans can foresee a day when, as in George Orwell's 1984, the remaining middle class consists only of government employees. And if government continues expanding, that is exactly how it will be. The choice is between a small subsidized middle class and a larger unsubsidized middle class. That is also what the taxpayer's revolt is really about.

Both the left and the right agree that the middle class is endangered, but they differ on the solution. The left wants more government intervention, the right wants less. But it is not just a question of jobs, but of what jobs. Small business against lifetime employment. The free market against the nanny state. Manufacturing against the humanities. The rural against the urban. Underlying the political argument is the cultural argument. Will America follow Europe or stick with its roots.

Obama's victory lit the fuse of the taxpayer's civil war. The Republicans had failed to present a meaningful alternative, and when the party crumbled, a grass roots movement gained force. Its adherents understand that their economic survival depends on cutting back government. On taking away its power to constantly raise and spend money, and its drive to regulate everything. Once they had pushed past the elites of the media and the political kingmakers to be heard, the pro-government forces pushed out their armies of the redistributive electorates, the people who had been cashing their checks for years and could be counted on to challenge one revolution with a counter-revolution of their own.

At stake is the simple question of freedom. Political freedom originates inextricably from economic freedom. There is no political independence without economic independence. A government that begins to tightly restrict economic freedoms will eventually also restrict political freedoms. The redistribute electorates are the greencoats of big government. They are the beneficiaries of the destructive economic policies and their final line of defense. If they go on as they are, then they will bankrupt the system. Like Rome's Praetorian Guard, they will appoint new emperors who will do what they say regardless of the consequences.
No fundamental change is possible without confronting and defeating them. The taxpayer has lost battle after battle to them. We lost California. We can't afford to lose Wisconsin.

12 comments:

Dedicated_Dad said...

Wisconsin's been lost for a long time, but it *MAY* have a chance to get found again -- thanks to the Demmunists and their pet thug-nuts.

Example: Demmunists boycotting their Legislative duties are stopping the budgetary reforms they KNOW the new Retardlican majority will implement. Without a quorum - which can't happen without the AWOL Demmunists, no budget reform.

I love how when they're the majority they talk about "will of the people" and such -- but I digress...

This is an UNPRECEDENTED opportunity for Wisconsin Retardlicans to put through some REAL reform! They don't NEED the Demmunists - or a quorum - to pass non-budget items!

If I were a Wisconsinite - which I am by marriage but not in fact - I'd be **SCREAMING** for the Retardlicans to push through a "shall-issue" law -- better yet, how about Constitutional Carry?

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! I'm *SURE* their Constituents could come up with many other suitable matters for the R's to accomplish since The Enemy has surrendered the field!

What they do will prove to me -- and others who are paying attention -- how serious they are about rolling back the tyranny jammed through by the Demmunists.

So far it's not looking too good....

DD

Lori said...

This article is right on!

What is clear is that the two types of government available to us are a return to a republic with a capitalist economy or straight ahead to a tyranny with a communist economy.

John K said...

I first heard this concept explained by Allen West as a struggle between the entitlement class and the productive class.

I appreciate your more detailed explanation of the mechanisms behind this process.

Anonymous said...

I heard last night that the Unions have conceded the monetary concessions, but not the "collective bargaining" issue.

Am I the only one to notice that the Unions therefore believe collective bargaining is "worth" more than the money conceded?

This supports your argument Mr. Greenfield, that it is about political power. Control.

Frankenstein Government said...

What an excellent read, I read it twice. Your writing here prompted my writing here: http://thecivillibertarian.blogspot.com/2011/02/we-have-seen-enemy-they-are-who-we.html

Welcome to the grand national distraction. Treating the symptoms instead of cutting out the cancer.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

dedicated, they won't do anything without a fire under their asses

thanks lori and john

anonymous, I mentioned it in the article. They care more about retaining power than their members. Union leaders used to be open about calling strikes as a power ploy, even when there wasn't anything to bargain about, just to remind everyone who held the cards.

frankenstein, thanks for the mention

Dedicated_Dad said...

Agreed! They're but the other wing of the same bird of prey.

And who is the prey? We - who are supposed to be their masters!

Which brings me back full-circle. Those who think we can fix this by working in the system are deluding themselves.

Just TRY to get elected - even as local dog-catcher - without the "blessing" of one of the parties. Heck - you can't even get your name on the ballot in most places.

The only "bright side" - if it can be considered such - is the impending collapse of the whole house of cards.

If we work really hard at it, perhaps we can return to the principles of our Founders (PBUT) if we ever manage to put Humpty together again...

God help us -- and God Save Our Republic!

ken said...

The unions relize that retaining their collective bargining, will pertetuate the idea that they are doing something benificial to their member, when in truth they are surviving to remain the recipient of the union dues and the cusy positions of power. The members have to realize that when the government goes down the tube so do their jobs. There are a lot of people without jobs that would love to be in your position.

Always On Watch said...

The unions in Wisconsin are making a play to set themselves up as an oligarchy.

I stressed the above this week in the American Government class that I teach to homeschoolers. I'm not sure that the students understood what I was saying, but the parents attending class did.

Robert said...

My name is Robert and I don't shout or do distructive things, I am a conservative and conservatives don't have to do those things to engage someones attention.

No Bueno said...

This essay not only described Wisconsin, but also California and the strangle hold unions now have on this state. There are no jobs in this state other then minimum wage and state positions, which have supposedly been put on a hiring freeze. I understand the feds are hiring at an alarming rate.

The corrupted leaders the unions helped elect in this state are not about to attack the hand that feeds them any time soon. So here in CA, we will continue to slide down the path to oblivion( if we're not already there), while the union members, politicians and illegal aliens prosper.

On a slightly related note, our mayor, Antonio Villaregoisa, now wants to build a six foot fence around the governor’s mansion, apparently to keep out the intruders he feels are a threat to his well being. Walls are apparently great for personal residences, but not so good at protecting countries from foreign invasion; or so it would seem if you listed to the mayor and his cohorts for any length of time.

Maybe it's time to move to Wisconsin!

Larry said...

Hi Larry here.

The only solution is to take away the power of the Federal goverment by drying up its unlimited credit and authority to directly tax individuals, just as the Constitution specifies.

There will be no more Union campaign contributions leading to better Union deals when there is no money to be had from the Politicians in Washington.

All power would be restored to the States and local communities where it belongs.

I have put together solutions to many of our worst problems with steps to achieve those solutions at www.TheSocietyProject.org

I would hope you read it,comment on it and spread the word so it gets implemented.

Thanks.

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