Wisconsin says a lot about our political discourse, none of it good… Complex issues are reduced to sound bites. Talking points of the extreme left and right dominate. Americans obediently fall into line, either for “free enterprise” or the “working man,” even if they don’t know what the phrase collective bargaining means.
— Michael Smerconish, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 25
I doubt very much the protesters standing in the Wisconsin cold don’t know what collective bargaining means. Perhaps Smerconish, a right-winger with a law degree, was arguing that working people think they know their rights but really don’t, possibly because they’re too dumb to understand the nuances of the laws that were passed over the years to protect those rights.
Displaying chutzpah of the highest order, Smerconish, who hosts a radio talk show and holds a cozy second job opining for the Inquirer, wrote that “media coverage of the frenzied atmosphere in Wisconsin” is to blame for the failure to provide “insight into who should be held accountable for unsustainable financial promises.”
Guess what, Mike — you are the media, and you’re doing a piss-poor job of providing insights about what’s at stake for the protesters or their foes. Many of us think the latter have been duped by the Republican propaganda machine into believing unions are to blame for Wisconsin’s budget shortfall, which wouldn’t even exist if tax rates on the wealthiest citizens hadn’t been drastically cut since the Eisenhower era…
But Smerconish wouldn’t want to hear such talk, it might distract him from his stock argument — i.e., extremists who “dominate” our discussions are avoiding “middle of the road realities” we must face in order to end the Wisconsin standoff and, it seems, passively accept the disappearance of decent jobs in America.
In his column were statistics showing that union workers in Wisconsin earn more than non-union workers and have better benefits (that’s what unions are for!), as if this is reason enough for union workers to make wage and benefits concessions (something they’ve already done). Not surprisingly, he offered no statistics on the sums billionaire right-wingers have spent on fomenting the Wisconsin crisis, and no speculation on whether David Koch calls the shots for Gov. Scott Walker.
But God forbid we should conclude Smerconish was blaming the collective bargaining process for Wisconsin’s woes. “The lawyer in me,” he wrote magnanimously, “sees an analogy between collective bargaining and two sides involved in a legal dispute.”
It’s a favorite trick of right-wing commentators these days to pretend they’re arguing from the center, wherever that is. In this regard, Smerconish reminds me of the NYT’s David Brooks, the Earnest Weasel, who tries to sugarcoat his right-wing views with homilies about the importance of everyone converging — through astral projection, I guess — on that mythical center.
I take it back, there is a center in Philadelphia. It’s just east of Eden, around the bend from the Elysian Fields, in the big white building on Broad Street where Smerconish opines.