TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Hello, good morning, et al., to this morning's edition of the Sunday Morning Liveblog, which you should imagine is pedeconferenced to you, Sorkin style, on the morning of the day he is likely to win an Academy Award (though I am rooting for Banksy, in every category except sound effects editing). My name is Jason and I am here to watch the affluent punditocracy urge the need for "shared sacrifice" as usual, though there is rumor today that Richard Trumka might briefly appear, possibly during the segment where David Gregory discusses Charlie Sheen's presidential hopes. (HE IS ADDICTED TO WINNING, IS HALEY BARBOUR?)

Anyway, to answer the question Alex Pareene poses here: the truth is, I don't know, but the cocktails that Arlen Gargagliano taught me to make with these books that have made her this liveblog's favorite Arlen (beating out "Harold" and drubbing "Specter") help a lot.

Anyway, everyone knows the drill, email or comment or follow me on Twitter, where tonight I'll probably be in high dudgeon over the fact that Christopher Nolan is underappreciated.


Today on Fox News Sunday, we have Mitch Daniels and Mike Huckabee plus paneling.

Mitch Daniels! He is "the it boy" of American politics, the way he showed up in an egg and started cold balancing budgets and takin' on the public sector unions. is he bland enough to be the American president? Who knows! In the meantime, he's upset about the Democrats who have fled his state to Illinois, and he won't make a deal with them until they come back. (If they come back, by the way, there won't be a deal either.)

Daniels angered up the conservative blogosphere through some controversial statements, like, "even the smallest minority has every right to express the strength of its views." OBVIOUSLY, THIS MITCH DANIELS NEEDS TO BE PUT TO THE CAT-O-NINE TAILS. So, he made another statement, in which he totally supermanned that wimp, Mitch Daniels, from the day before. Why the changey? Daniels says that all he was doing was reiterating what he said the other day. Can't you see that? See that through all the pandering?

"I was a little careless about my pronouns," Daniels says. Here's the important clarification: Daniels says that anyone in the private sector can express their views however and whenever they like. But if you are in the public sector, you are apparently only allowed to do so if you have recently won an election, otherwise you are "trashing the process." And by "process," he means balancing the state budget working to dismantle institutions that help other people to win elections, from time to time/pit various factions of middle-to-lower class Indianans against one another.

Wallace wonders how Daniels can consider teachers and public safety workers "the privileged elite." Daniels says that they get paid and have benefits and this is better than the people "who pay their taxes." (SEE, THIS IS HOW YOU PROMOTE DIVISION BETWEEN THE PEOPLE ON THE LOWER RUNGS OF SOCIETY.) I can tell you that when you compare the negotiating power of, say, the American Federation of Teachers to that of say, Jamie Dimon, the picture gets very clear as to who "the privileged elite" are.

Randi Weingarten is the head of AFT, by the way. I'd imagine that if you wanted to do what the Buffalo Beast did here, you could not get a single American governor on the phone pretending to be her. (Every single one of them will take a call from David Koch, though.)

On Social Security, Daniels would "bifurcate" the reforms so that they do not affect current benefit recipients. I'll reiterate what Matt Yglesias said about this:

And on the politics, it's a mess. Right now we have conservatives simultaneously calling for huge spending cuts and also getting the line's share of old people's votes even while the vast majority of non-security spending is on old people. In essence, by first separating the domestic budget into "discretionary" and "entitlement" portions and then dividing the entitlement programs up into "what today's old people get" versus "what tomorrow's old people will get" the political class has created a large and vociferously right-wing class of people who are completely immune from the impact of their own calls for fiscal austerity. In my view, that reality is the biggest driver of our current political dysfunction. There's some need for spending to be lower over the long term than it's currently projected to go and I think it's politically and morally vital that the adjustments be made in a balanced way. You frequently hear of the need to exempt everyone over the age of 55 from any possible cuts. That's nice for them and encourages them to go right on complaining about out of control spending. But the average 55 year-old will still be alive and collecting benefits in 2035 so the long-term budgetary implications of this "let the geezers keep their full benefits while they whine about how Democrats are bankrupting the country" are actually pretty significant.

If I were the president, my line would be closer to the reverse: I don't want to cut Social Security benefits for anyone, but if the Republicans want to tempt me into a compromise they're going to need to make sure that their own core constituency--people born before 1955 or so--pay a fair share of the price. Progressives don't need to indulge the premises of this "welfare state for me but not for thee" brand of conservatism that's taken over the country.


On health care, Daniels would pit current Medicare recipients against the younger lower class Americans by keeping the current recipients in full benefits, and giving everyone else "vouchers" that would likely not be tied to inflation and thus lose value over time. Daniels can honestly call this a "government health care plan," and why not? Like Paul Ryan's "government health care plan," the "plan" is to trick people into believing there's a "plan," only to slowly reveal that the "plan" is "not paying for health care."

Was it wise to be super-spendy during the Bush administration? Daniels says that no matter who was president, the surplus would have been gone:

It's a creative take, to say the least.

Daniels is also taking flak for declaring a "social truce." Daniels stands by it, saying that America is at "mortal risk" from "TEH DEFICITZ" and so we should wait to kill each other over contraceptives and what not until we are no longer at "mortal risk."

He's not set a timeline for making a decision to run for president, and considers the fact that no one's jumped into the race to be nice because it's a "great break for voters."

What about this whole lack of charisma thing? Daniels says that if it "comes down to height and hair I won't do very well."

Mike Huckabee! He's one of the top contenders for President by "any measure," Wallace says. Except for maybe the whole, "does he have enough money" to run part, right?

Huckabee says that he "loves campaigning" but doesn't enjoy the "periphrial aspects of the campaign." Is that a word? Periphrial? Well, Huckabee does not enjoy that word he just made up.

But doesn't America deserve a candidate who believes he is a special pony? Huckabee says yes, and one of the reasons he hasn't jumped into the race is because he doesn't quite feel like a unicorn, and also he doesn't know if people will give him lots of money to be a unicorn.

On Obama, Huck says, "his accumulation of debt is horrifying...he accumulated more debt in two years than George Bush did in eight."

Maybe he's referring to another "George Bush," in which case he should know that that guy was a one-termer.

Also: JIHADISM IS TERRIBLE. But so is unemployment! We can't put people back to work unless we stop spending. But what about all this money we're spending fighting JIHADISM?

Huckabee says that with the DOMA decision, Obama has "alienated the African American community." My guess is that Huckabee plans to cut into Obama's massive support with African-American voters by promising to keep the gay away from their communities.

Huckabee is asked if his dislike of Romney's policies violate the Reagan admonition of not speaking ill of a fellow Republican, but he says that he's allowed to critique policies. For example: Huckabee hates Romneycare and sees Romneycare and Obamacare as the same thing. But he doesn't see that as something that disqualifies him for the President. In Huckabee's opinion, Romney should see Romneycare as a "bold risk" that he should be proud of for trying but should now admit is a failure.

Huckabee does not think Michelle Obama is history's greatest monster for wanting to fight obesity.

Huckabee raised some taxes in the past when he was governor of Arkansas! He is an impure monster, for occasionally recognizing that you have to raise revenue to pay for things!

He hopes that people buy his book, because it will be proof of whether he can "sell his own message." So if you want Huck to run, buy his book! Also buy his book so that he has money to run! I guess that is the whole point of this book?

Okay, it's panel time with Bill Kristol and Mara Liasson and Dana Perino and Juan Williams.

Where is Libya headed? Kristol says that there's probably "more that we can do" to end the conflict, like enforce a "no fly zone" and a "no tank zone," I guess with the imaginary troops that aren't currently fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Liasson says that sanctions had to wait until Americans were spirited out of the country. Perino thinks that Obama should have told reporters, on background, that sanctions and actions were planned but first they had to take steps to keep Americans from being held hostage.

That would have been an awesome idea! "THIS JUST IN: Sanctions are coming to Libya, according to a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "First we have to get Americans out of harm's way, so that they do not become hostages." Then we all sit back and hope that those sympathetic to Gadhafi can't read newspapers.

Kristol, naturally, wanted to White House response to be as heavy-handed as possible, and thinks that we've been "wildly overcautious."

Meanwhile, will there be a government shutdown this week? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on whether cooler heads will prevail and a compromise reached to extend the continuing resolution. Liasson says that the shutdown will definitely be avoided and the compromise that's currently cohering will forestall a disaster and allow all sides to say that they stood up for their principals. The question is whether or not all sides can agree down the line to a level of spending.

Perino says John Boehner is the "tortoise" but she's wrong, that's Mitch McConnell, obviously.

There's a beautiful moment where Juan Williams is fighting on the side of Goldman Sachs and Chris Wallace is saying, "OH, GOLDMAN SACHS IS DISCREDITED." It's like watching the water in your toilet bowl swirl backwards.

Liasson: "People want to deficit resolved." By which she means, "Pundits want the deficit resolved." This is a very useful observation that Eric Boehlert made, that I frankly wish I'd thought of: on Sunday morning shows, whenever a pundit describes what "the people" want, you should recognize that by "people" they mean "other pundits." As a general rule, Beltway pundits and analysts do not actually know or talk to "people," especially not "poor people" or "unemployed people."

(Actual human beings want to have jobs again, and they want their family and friends to have jobs, because not having jobs is currently driving up household deficits, which are of more immediate importance to actual humans than structural federal deficits, which were run up willy nilly by the same people who suddenly want to "get serious" about them.


Amanpour is in Libya and planning to go INSIDE GADHAFI'S MIND! Hopefully she will perform inception on him while she's there.

"Who could possibly invent the rants and ravings of a madman like Col. Gadhafi?" Amanpour asks, straying awfully close to the inevitable Charlie "I AM ADDICTED TO WINNING AND WILL BEAT YOU WITH MY VATICAN WARLOCK NINJAS" Sheen comparison.

In Tripoli, Amanpour arrives to a scene of an empty airport with masses of migrant workers encamped outside, unsure of what the future will bring or if they can get out of its way. Across the country, huge portions of Libya are in the control of rebels. Amanpour spoke to Gadhafi's two sons, who, let's face it, aren't exactly the portrait of virtue.

Saif Al Islam Gadhafi is "the new face of Libyan defiance," who, per the Guardian, has undergone a "chilling transformation" in the past two weeks into a reliable regime bagman.

Saif says that it's none of President Obama's business what his father does, and that stepping down is not a solution. He says that his father has not used force, at all! And that the people are with him. Amanpour points out that actually, there have been lots of military defections because the military does not want to fire on their own people. Saif says, "Show me one attack." It's all pretty delusional.

Saif suggests that discontent is based on the perception that the regime is weakening and people just want to "jump off the sinking ship." "When you are strong, they love you, when you are weak, goodbye...and it's good, we can get rid of them."

As for his father, "Nobody is leaving the country. We will die here." So there you go.

Saif says that the same people who are rebelling against the regime now are the ones that prevented him from installing "government reforms" in the first place.

Of the international community's reactions, Saif says, "It's a joke."

Next, Amanpour talked to Al-Saadi Gadhafi, a former Serie A footballer. He is a good deal less "the face of evil" than his brother. He talks about his future in terms of having hobbies and going on safaris. He thinks that all Libyans have had a normal life. He says that the region is experiencing an "earthquake" and a "fever" and that "no one will stop it" and that "chaos will be everywhere."

Saadi, I'm afraid, comes off as a rather dim and worried fellow who probably just wants to get back to his worry-free existence.

Is it "hard being Gadhafi's son?" Saadi says: "I have to deal with it. I have to be myself." It's oddly compelling to watch Saadi, because there's a tension there: you're alienated from him because he's so casually wealthy and it's clear that he's built a carefree existence, but the reason it's so carefree is because he's the son of a madman dictator. You didn't think they could hate you, now, did you?

BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports that the demonstrations have spread to the western seaside town of Zawiyah, which has fallen to the rebels. He reports however, that this is not a force that's going to be marching on Tripoli: "These are all local people," he says.

Panel time, with Reza Aslan, Robert Kagan, and Jake Tapper.

Tapper says that when it comes to making sense of what's going on, there's a tension between our love of democracy and our strategic interests -- these include oil and energy interests and "a lot of cooperative relationships with a lot of dictators" in our counter-terror strategy. Ultimately, Tapper suggests that the American people should take comfort in watching democracy take hold in that part of the world.

Is this all good for the United States, to have new democracies? Kagan says that it's an "illusion" to suggest we can continue to go on supporting the dictatorial regimes -- our support for same is a bill coming due. He says that we should have "more faith than we've shown" in the budding democracies and the values which are shared by the people in the region. But yes, there will be strategic hiccups along the way.

Aslan says that social media has fundamentally shifted the monopoly on communication that dictators used to enjoy. Malcolm Gladwell dies a little bit inside.

Is Iran going to come out the winner? Kagan says, "If you mean the Iranian regime, the answer is no." That regime is "living on borrowed time." He goes on to say that Obama's decision to not get behind the Green Revolution was a mistake. I think that a) the reason there are still Iranian dissidents drawing breath is because we didn't come ham-handedly behind them and b) didn't our government at a strategically significant time tell the people at Twitter not to go offline? I doubt anyone seriously thinks that America, as a matter of course, does not support the Iranian dissidents.

Aslan points out that this is all about the movement that began in Iran coming home to Iran. The economic situation in Iran is far worse than it is in Egypt.

Kagan says that all of these revolutions are a blow to al Qaeda, which make a lot of sense. Egyptians didn't force change by strapping explosives to each other and killing innocent people. That's a powerful damn thing that now lives in the world with you and me! And yeah, it pretty much screams SUCK IT, AL QAEDA. Nevertheless, nature abhors a vacuum, and Kagan's probably right that in Libya, the wrong kind of vacuum could be filled by something that's naturally abhorrent.

Jake returns to panel with four governors: Deval Patrick, Nikki Haley, John Hickenlooper, and Jan Brewer. What do they think about Wisconsin? Should governors be stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights? Haley says yes, and that the Democrats who have fled the state should be "thrown out of office." (Sad to say, Nikki, but their job security is pretty much iron, now.)

Hickenlooper says that as a businessman who would from time to time take over failed restaurants, one of the keys to success was to reach out to the workforce to find ways to improve, rather than sow divisions. Patrick says that he's been able to get his budget cut with "labor at the table." Brewer and Patrick both agree that it's important to have a relationship with state employees.

But is it cowardly for the Democrats to have left the state? Hickenlooper says that he governs in a way to give his opposition a seat at the table, so it's not likely that there will be any fleeing from Colorado. Haley, on the other hand, thinks it's terrible that lawmakers fled the state, unless of course they were fleeing the state to make the beast with two backs with their mistress in Argentina.

Haley seems to think that the unions have opposed the health care and pension cuts. In Wisconsin, this isn't actually the case.

Jan Brewer isn't happy about the budget for border security being cut, but she won't criticize the Republicans who have done so. (Haven't I typed this before?)

Hickenlooper, naturally, want's to "win the future." But what about education cuts in Colorado? He says that "for one year, we will have to retrench," and that during that period of retrenchment, they will have amazing innovations. Patrick says, yes, fiscal crises help us "think in new ways." It would be awesome if we thought in "new and innovative ways" when times are good, though, you know?

Did Romney do a good job in Massachusetts? Patrick says that Romney deserves credit for Romneycare, heh.

Will Haley endorse Palin for president? She says she will not endorse anyone at the moment. So, she's probably hoping that it won't come to that.

Government shutdown? Tea party types seem to want the government to shut down, according to a report that gets mired in people mouthing platitudes about the virtues of cutting spending versus the virtues of not cutting spending, that basically proves that a government shutdown has support, unless it doesn't. I guess the idea of this report is that dudes like Representative Joe Walsh might blow up any compromise that House Speaker John Boehner makes. (That said, Walsh is leaning toward supporting the two-week CR extension.)

Brewer says that a shutdown should be avoided. Haley also says that it should be avoided, but that it's up to the President to negotiate with the GOP and not the reverse, which is a construction that seems anti-logical. Deval Patrick basically says where were these sentiments when they really mattered and by the way, this:


John McCain is on today, because this show is so astoundingly relevant! I suppose that there was going to be an interest in McCain for having been deemed to be the most conservative member of the Senate, along with seven other people, but still, McCain on a Sunday Morning political show in 2011 is as clear a sign of the overall decline of the American political media as any I could point to. And so begins my weekly endurance test.

Wisconsin! Still so shiny! And here's Scott Walker. David Gregory wants to know why Walker can't just accept the deal that's been made -- where public sector unions have agreed to make greater contributions to their pensions and benefits, to the tune that Walker has asked -- in essence, "take yes for an answer." Somehow, however, David Gregory captures what Walker wants to do to collective bargaining as "limiting collective bargaining." It's not just "limiting" it, nimrod. It's getting rid of it altogether!

Walker basically dodges the precise question with platitudes, and complains that other unions have been pushing through non-contributing contracts. Gregory manages to point out that the bill doesn't apply in those cases, to which Walker goes off on a tangent about his experience on the local level of government.

Gregory asks, what's wrong with collective bargaining. Walker doesn't answer the question. Gregory asks it again. As near as I can tell, Walker is basically against collective bargaining because he feels like he's been outbargained.

Gregory points out that Walker's been "picking winners and losers" by allowing cops and firefighters to retain their collective bargaining. Essentially, Walker is leaving it in place because he feels held hostage to organizations that fight fires and stop crime. "I can't afford to have a gap in public safety." I guess he can afford to have a gap in education. (I'll remind you that those teachers in Madison are some of the nations' finest.)

Now they get into the matter of the prank call from Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast. Gregory asks, "If you're serious about austerity, doesn't it have to affect everyone?" Walker responds with platitudes that don't answer the question. Gregory suggests that he's not serious, and is preventing a sensible budget from happening because he's not giving in on the collective bargaining stance. Walker says that what he's doing is the same as governors across the country.

How does this all end, asks Gregory. Walker says, "I'm an eternal optimist."

On the question of "did Walker consider turning loose troublemakers in the crowd of protesters," I...think...Walker is saying...that he did?

WALKER: We thought, as the call continues and I've said repeatedly, we rejected that. But we had people all the time who contact us for and against this bill and you can imagine, people with all sorts of ideas and suggestions. And we look at everything that's out there. But the bottom line is we rejected that. Because we have had a civil discourse. We've had, a week ago, 70,000 people. We had more than that yesterday. and yet, we haven't had problems here, we haven't had disturbances. We just had very passionate protesters for and against this bill. That's okay, that's a very Midwestern thing. But we're not going to allow anybody to come in from outside of this state and try to disrupt this debate. They can inform it, but we're not going to allow them to disrupt the debate and take the focus off the real issue here.

Okay, so! Scott Walker gets all sorts of "ideas" about what to do, which he carefully weighs and "looks at" because he "looks at everything out there." They looked at, I guess, the idea that they'd turn some troublemakers loose, and after carefully considering it, decided not to. Okay! But an important admission: the demonstrators have not caused "any problems" or "any disturbances." So write that down folks, just in case someone tells you there are "thugs" out in force in Madison:

"We've had, a week ago, 70,000 people. We had more than that yesterday. and yet, we haven't had problems here, we haven't had disturbances. We just had very passionate protesters for and against this bill. That's okay, that's a very Midwestern thing."

--Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R)

Now John McCain is in Cairo, to probably tell Obama that we need to bomb Libya.

McCain says that someone, I guess us, should have imposed a no-fly zone, and made it clear that we would provide assistance to a new provisional government, I guess with some magical troops and money that only McCain knows about that aren't currently committed to any number of other costly foreign misdaventures. Also, he thinks the United States could threaten Libya with war crimes tribunals -- naturally, the rest of the civilized world sort of groans and rolls their eyes at the sight of American politicians suddenly pulling the "accountability for thee but not for me" routine.

Gregory notes that McCain is raising "the specter of U.S. military involvement." McCain says that "I'm not ready to use ground forces," which is great because THERE ARE NO GROUND FORCES ANYWHERE SITTING AROUND.

On Egypt, McCain says, "I think they're headed in the right direction," so I guess that means we don't need to send in the ground troops there, either.

McCain says that it's clear that the revolution is spreading around the world, including China, and then he says, "I'm not sure where the revolution goes," and avers that he's worried about Iran. That's the sort of thought-consistency I've come to expect from the President of Meet The Press.

McCain, reacting to SECDEF Gates' remark that anyone recommending a giant land force invade the Middle East or Asia needs to have "their head examined," McCain says that he has "the highest regard for Gates" but that there are times when the military needs to go nuts in Asia. For example, Afghanistan, where things are going awesome and will probably go awesome for the next twenty years.

On Michael Hastings' "psy-ops" article in Rolling Stone, McCain says: "I don't know what's happened."

MCCAIN: I don't know what happened. I do know that Gen. Caldwell is a great leader and has done a great job in leading the Afghan army. I also know that these briefers are briefed -- you know, Sen. X is interested in the following, A, B, C, D and E -- and I think that's perfectly legitimate. Now if it went any further than that, I don't know. Gen. Petraeus will make a full investigation. Gen. Caldwell has steadfastly denied it, but I don't see how it could have affected my positions in any way. So we'll see what happens. But put me down as skeptical.

Meet The Press will now panel on Wisconsin and how it "will impact the 2012 race," because obviously the only thing we're ever equipped to discuss is how this terrible economy imposes itself on the re-election hopes of elite, wealthy politicians, where the worst possible thing that happens is you lose your seat and go to a corporate board to do nothing for the rest of your life or go to work for a lobbying concern and do nothing but host cocktail parties and monetize your "connections." One day, maybe there will be a panel on how the issues central to the dispute in Wisconsin impacts actual American human beings in America.

Anyway, here's Richard Trumka, Haley Barbour, Kim Strassel, Emanuel Cleaver, and Lawrence O'Donnell.

Trumka points out that Walker's arguments on unions have "migrated" significantly. First, the argument was that public sector employees were paid more than similar workers in the private sector, and that wasn't true.

TRUMKA: Then he said it was about the pension. Now we find out that his pension plan, unlike a lot in the country, is almost fully funded, the assets match the liabilities. And then the employees said or the members out there said, his workers said, we'll accept your cuts. And he said, no, we won't accept your accepting our cuts. And the most outrageous thing that he did, and he talked about this, was he now saying to them, you either have to accept a loss of your rights or I'm going to lay you off. Now no person should have to face the right of their loss of their job or the loss of their rights. I know governor barbour would never say to his employees, you have to give up your rights or give up your job.

Gregory asks if this isn't just "this the cycle that we've gotten into, that public unions have to take some responsibility for?" Trumka notes that "the governors that are willing to sit down and work with their employees can actually work out problems." Walker, he says, will talk to his campaign contributors. (Of course, all that means is this is par for the course, because surely unions are "campaign contributors." The big difference is that there are some contributors who you can fire and some that own you.)

Barbour says that no one has the Constitutional right to collectively bargain. O'Donnell points out what I pointed out several paragraphs ago, about how surprising it was to hear that Walker "considered" and "rejected" the idea of turning troublemakers loose in the state capitol. Cleaver says that no one should be comparing anyone to Hitler, and that lions and lambs should not lie down, because lions eat lambs, because lambs are delicious.

Okay, so Obama promised to put on some comfortable shoes and walk the picket line. I sort of think that this was a) a dumb promise to have made, okay? Just a dumb promise. If you want to hold Obama accountable for not doing that, hanging out in Madison, going on strike, carrying a sign, go ahead, you've got him dead to rights, etc. But frankly, if Obama jumped on the picket line, it'd have the same effect if he announced that he was going to heavy-handedly back the Iranian Green Revolution. The immediate effect would be to de-legitimize the movement as a populist phenomenon, and it would get so enmeshed in the partisan political nonsense that the issues the demonstrators are bringing attention to would be lost.

Ed Schultz would likely have several twenty-minute long cascading orgasms over the sight of Obama walking the picket line. And then, days later, he'd wonder why all the momentum of the demonstrations was tapped. (Then, he'd blame Obama for not doing more.)

So, nail the President on a broken promise, if you want, but unless you're rooting for the Wisconsin demonstrators to fail, I think we can all agree that Obama LITERALLY doing that would be a bad idea.

O'Donnell wonders why Trumka is worried about Walker's policies being maintained if they're so unpopular. If they are unpopular, won't they be overturned in an election? (O'Donnell, I guess doesn't understand that you set the stage for democratic shifts by doing precisely what the demonstrators in Wisconsin are doing -- they actually CANNOT stop the law from passing, only the wayward lawmakers are preventing it -- but by doing what they're doing, they are building public trust, mounting a successful argument, getting other Wisconsinites behind them. The first impact is that those wayward Democrats can expect to win re-election.)

Here are some more exciting things you might want to know about Wisconsin:

--Paul Waldman on "The Class War Pincer Movement"

Today, The New York Times gives us another article about how working-class people, in this case in Columbus, have little sympathy for union workers struggling to retain their ability to bargain collectively. One man trying to make ends meet on $10 an hour is described this way: "I think they should stop crying,' he said of the protesting union members. Everyone was working hard and tightening their belts,' he said, 'so why should unions be different?"

Nothing warms the heart of a plutocrat more than hearing that sentiment. The trick is to get working-class people to look at the union members whose collective bargaining has gotten them exactly what it's supposed to -- fair wages and reasonable benefits -- and ask not "How can I get what they've got?", but rather, "Why should they get something I don't?"

In a similar vein, here's Kevin Drum, on "The Politics of Envy."

Start with the private sector. Why did companies shed so many workers? Answer: not because their workers were slothful layabouts, but because business was bad. If your widget sales decline by 10%, you don't need as many sales people, you don't need to run as many shifts in the factory, and you don't need as many accounts receivable clerks. So you lay them off. You don't really have any choice if you want to stay in business, but it's still unfortunate since people without jobs don't buy widgets, which just makes your situation even worse. If you could manage it, it would be pretty helpful if no one got laid off at all.

Now how about the public sector? It's exactly the opposite because the public sector isn't in the business of selling things. If the economy tanks, that doesn't mean there are fewer fires, less crime, or a smaller number of kids in school. That's why cops, firefighters, and teachers don't get laid off. Not because they're a bunch of cosseted union goons, but because the demand for their services is just as high as it was before the recession. In some cases, in fact, it might be higher. There's actually more demand during recessions for clerks to handle unemployment applications or Medicaid reimbursements than there is during boom times.


But the fact that this makes sense doesn't mean most people see it this way. We're biologically wired to be envious of anyone who has things better than us, and there's never any shortage of demagogues to stoke that envy. So we demand that if we're going to suffer, then everyone has to suffer. And guess what? That's exactly what happens.

--"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining."

It that true? No. No it's not.

--My least favorite pundit moments include Charles Lane, whose columns are like Ikea furniture in that they are all put together by the same simple tool, and of course, David Brooks, who has made being out-of-touch with everyday life a point of pride.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal has gotten a lot of attention for what it would do to the state's public employee unions. And rightly so. If Walker gets his way, state workers will lose virtually all power to negotiate over compensation and the unions themselves will become far weaker. As Greg Sargent noted on Monday, a Walker victory would likely embolden Republican governors in other states, many of whom are planning their own assaults on public employees.

But that's not all Walker's budget proposal would do. It appears that Walker also wants to weaken the state's Medicaid program, known as Badgercare. And his proposed method for accomplishing this is eerily similar to his proposed method for emasculating the public employee unions. Rather than simply trying to reduce what the state government spends on Badgercare, Walker proposes to change the way the state government operates it, in a way that would allow him to change the program with virtually no legislative oversight.

--And the police, who would get to maintain their collective bargaining rights under Walker, apparently nevertheless support the rights of everyone else:

The Meet The Press panel talked about some things during this time, but I just found myself having a lot more fun, pulling things of actual substance for you. See you guys next week!

[Liveblogging returns next Sunday. While you are waiting, check out Jeff Cohen's piece, "Will ABC News' 'Made in America' Series Avoid Their Boss, Disney?"]