How did we arrive at this point of protest?

Public employees in Wisconsin are protesting because their democratically elected representatives are doing what they promised: balance the budget in part by altering pubic-sector employee compensation and retirement.

These folks seem to fancy themselves the equivalent of the brave protesters in Cairo, even comparing Gov. Scott Walker to Hosni Mubarak. But there is a big difference. The Egyptians were protesting for democracy. In Madison, they are protesting against it.


• • •

I can't think of any corporate executive who has had his head cracked while defending his right to offer an unsafe workplace or an exploitive wage structure for his employees.

I can think of many instances over the years, however, where union members have put their bodies on the line to improve the lives of all working people, union or nonunion, through things like establishing a reasonable work week, protecting underage workers, promoting health coverage and defending a secure retirement.

If some observers cannot understand why Wisconsin workers would go to the extremes they have gone to in recent weeks to defend their right to collective bargaining, perhaps they should think a little harder.

People have been injured and have died for the place workers have now at the bargaining table. An inflexible governor, eager to lay down a nationwide blueprint for an even greater shift of wealth and power to the rich, will not change that.


• • •

Gov. Mark Dayton recently said that the right of public unions to collectively bargain should not be "unilaterally" taken away. Collective bargaining by public unions was unheard of until President John Kennedy unilaterally introduced it by executive order in 1962.


• • •

Two of the main public-service professions being targeted for budgetary cuts and loss of bargaining power in Wisconsin are teaching and nursing.

These are typically female-dominated professions. According to Internet job listings for the city of Madison, the average starting salary for a public school teacher is $25,600.

Strangely enough, two public-service professions dominated by males, police officer and firefighter, are being protected from budget cuts and loss of collective bargaining power. The starting salaries for these male-dominated professions are $42,551 and $44,493, respectively.

My question is: Why?



• • •

It would be nice if snowplow drivers could hang signs from their trucks saying: "This road cleared by another lazy, bloodsucking public employee."


Clean air

Regulations can act as helpful incentives

Adam Smith, in "The Wealth of Nations," argues that a role of government is "the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it."

The Environmental Protection Agency fulfills this role by regulating greenhouse gas emissions as guided by the Clean Air Act (although it is currently under attack by legislators).

Let's take climate change off the table and discuss the merits of regulating greenhouse gases as a means of incentivizing smart energy use and production.

Currently, the majority of our energy is artificially cheap and certainly not clean. There are many external costs of extracting, processing, burning and disposing waste from natural gas, coal and oil.

We must look to truly renewable energies -- solar, wind, and biomass. I'm not saying this can feed our current voracious appetite, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start trying.

(We can't currently cure cancer, but that doesn't stop investment in cancer research.) We are resilient and inventive, and we are at our best when we are given real incentives.

Higher energy costs from regulation will spur efficiency and will finally drive us to compete with China, which is outpacing us in "green" industries.

Finally, please contact your representatives urging them to permit the EPA to fulfill its governmental role of protecting citizens.



Why do politicians really support hunting?

Could we please have an honest conversation about why we want to massacre wildlife?

State Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, wants a bounty on coyotes, while Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to allow a hunting season on wolves, all supposedly for economic reasons.


This is all about allowing their constituents to shoot these critters for fun -- and in the case of the bounty, to get paid for having fun.

It's not nice or politically correct to accuse our elected representatives of lying, but they are, and until they start telling the truth about why they have taken these stands, we cannot engage in honest debate.