A Sidebar to Wisconsin

A Sidebar to Wisconsin

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


David Brooks in this morning’s New York Times engaged the Wisconsin recall vote today from a perspective that was unusual and unfair. Not that his arguments about how and why America is in such serious economic trouble were unreasonable; on the contrary, he quickly sketched out his interpretation as to how and why the current debt crisis has reached such a critical moment. The problem was in his conclusion as to how to solve crisis which was surprisingly problematic and unreasonable, given his thesis that all need to hurt to get the nation back on track.

Brooks suggested that the country needs to start somewhere with addressing the huge debt crisis and everyone must contribute to change the situation. As all Americans will need to suffer–which is acceptable–Brooks suggested that it is “reasonable” to begin suffering by hitting the public unions and the government workers—as was being done under Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin—as these it was these public employees who have received too much in rights and benefits from the public trough.

Assuming that his thesis is correct, how is it fair to begin with workers who have less and will suffer individually more, while waiting until some later moment to demand of those with more—some with much more–to participate in the “suffering” as well. Certainly, in the name of fairness, those with more should be sacrificing if not first than at least at the same time as those with less.

Two Wisconsin Footnotes

1. The effort to save Scott Walker from being recalled spent a preposterous amount of money in this effort compared even to what Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett spent. Reportedly Walker spent $31 million of his own money with roughly the same amount coming into the campaign from outside groups. Barrett spent $2.9 million of his own funds with another $1.1 million coming from outside groups. In addition, $7.5 million was spent in Wisconsin for “issue” ads.

2. As an observation about union non-support, it is interesting to notice a growing anti-union attitude that has been developing within the more affluent segments of the Jewish community. Considering the enormous opportunities that unions created for so many immigrant Jews, the ability of many of their financially successfully children and grandchildren, quickly appear to have forgotten how they arrived at their good fortunes. It also raises the fascinating question of what is truly behind changing political attitudes among some American Jews.

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