On Wisconsin

ON WISCONSIN…. Nearly eight years ago, Republicans in the Texas legislature, at the behest of Tom DeLay, tried to force through a re-redistricting scheme. Texas Democrats didn’t have the votes to stop, but they had a procedural card to play — they could not show up, deny the GOP a quorum, and prevent the bill from passing. So Dems packed up and left the state for a while.*

We’re seeing something similar play out in the Badger State today.

A Wisconsin state senator says the 14 Democratic lawmakers who are boycotting a vote on a controversial anti-union bill have left the state.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach says the group wants to force negotiations over the Republican-backed bill, which would strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

The legislature needs a quorum to conduct business, and unless one of the Dems is in the chamber, there’s no quorum.

The state’s right-wing governor, Scott Walker (R), could in theory send the police to retrieve the Democrats and bring them to the state capitol, but apparently, the Dem lawmakers have left Wisconsin altogether — knowing the state police wouldn’t have any jurisdiction outside state lines.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of protestors demonstrated in Madison again today, with the backing of state and national Democrats. Fox News, true to form, labeled the protests a “hate rally.”

And while we’re on the subject, let’s also note that the rationales behind the Wisconsin GOP’s union-busting efforts aren’t even close to being accurate:

Wisconsin’s new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker’s collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

* Postscript: In case you’re curious, Texas Dems, who mainly fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico, held out for a long while, but eventually had to go home. The re-redistricting scheme passed; five additional U.S. House Republican districts were created; and the financing for the whole scheme led to felony convictions for Tom DeLay.