Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wisconsin's Recent Turmoil Is More Like France Than Egypt

As union members swarmed the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin mid-February, the undiscerning cable news viewer might have been tempted to draw a facile comparison to the uprisings happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Beyond the video footage of rowdy demonstrators in the street, however, the similarities end.

It is truly a spectacle of bad taste, willful ignorance, and wishful thinking to see respected commentators like Paul Krugman and his groupies seriously suggest that the budget battle in Wisconsin is reminiscent of the revolutions happening in the Arab world. Comedian Jon Stewart had it right when he said:


"Ah, they're not the same in any way, shape, or form. This [situation in Wisconsin] is the same as people in the Middle East overthrowing years of dictatorship? Or is that just the last story you saw on the news?"

It's just the last story you saw on the news. To begin with, the revolutionaries in the Middle East are fighting for free elections and representative government. The union demonstrators in Wisconsin descended on the capitol building there to block and prevent their duly-elected representatives from holding a democratic vote.

Last November, Wisconsin's voters engaged in an orderly and civil process to elect representatives to their state legislature. That's the kind of process that Arabs are fighting to have. This February, a Wisconsin mob held an entire state hostage, demanding for their ransom continued taxpayer funding for salaries and benefits better than the average private worker has, and legal permission to continue extorting union dues from unwilling workers.

If you want to draw comparisons, the disgraceful behavior of Wisconsin's unions is a lot more like what happened in France this last Fall, when massive protests and riots engulfed the country for weeks after President Sarkozy proposed a modest pension reform: raising the retirement age by a mere two years. All this despite the fact that OECD data show that French workers will spend more of their life in retirement than the workers of any other country.

In Egypt and Libya, protesters are telling the government to back down and let them have their freedoms. In Wisconsin and France, protesters are telling the government to step up and continue giving them lucrative retirement packages and posh salaries, funded with money confiscated from the incomes of other workers and productive businesses.

With the people of Central Asia and North Africa standing up to oppose corrupt and out-of-touch governments, if any protest movement in the United States resembles what's happening over there, it's definitely the Tea Party.


Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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