Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Backward, Wisconsin

For about a year, I had a blog called "Economic Crisis," but I dropped it. The subject matter was too depressing, and to me it was too obvious. Cassandra was right, but does anyone remember that?

The worst-case scenario has come true, and one result is that public employees are in serious jeopardy. I suppose I can claim credit for seeing that, but I didn't imagine the sort of frontal assault launched by Wisconsin's Republican governor. He intends to destroy public employee unions in the state where public employee unionization was born. Wow, that was fast, and bold. These are not your father's Republicans. They are your grandfather's Republicans, and they are one nasty breed.

By their nature, the media tend to overstate things, but this is one case where the apocalyptic rhetoric is justified. Gov. Scott Walker, and the Republicans of Wisconsin, have cut to the chase. They have displayed the sort of audacity that Democrats have lacked for many decades. Obama talked about audacity, but he lost his nerve almost immediately after taking office.

With all due respect to the demonstrators who took their case to the state capitol last week, I think the Republicans are several steps ahead. The parliamentary maneuver by the Democrats -- fleeing the state to prevent a vote on Walker's proposal -- is a last-ditch bit of desperation. It's no solution, and by itself is bound to fail.

Democrats accuse Walker of deviousness. He never told us he was going to do this, they complain. They're correct as far as it goes, but what does it matter? Cassandra was right, and look where it got her. It's one thing to foresee disaster, and another to avert disaster. And it's yet another thing to hold those responsible for creating the disaster accountable.

The mechanism by which our collective standard of living will be cut is almost impossible to predict. How could anyone really know, for example, that the Federal Reserve's emergency zero interest rate policy would funnel speculative money into the commodity markets and drive up the prices of food and clothing, while penalizing savers?

Something had to give, and we haven't seen the end of it. Quite the contrary, we're still in the front end of what's to come. If you're a multimillionaire, you'll probably be okay, unless you blunder into a bad neighborhood either on land or at sea. If you're part of the other 99.999%, you're going to feel the pain, if you haven't already.

I wish the Wisconsin public employees well. One of them is a close relative, and I'd rather see him happy and making a decent wage rather than being cut back and humiliated. But I can't be optimistic on much of anything related to the economy. Politics, too. Barack Obama, our beta-male president, and his clay-footed tribe in Congress, pretty much blew it quite a while back. Even if he should happen to be re-elected, it's not going to matter a great deal.

Now, comes the deluge.