FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 28, 2011
Worker protests against Wisconsin governor bring comparisons that stretch to Mideast
Look for coverage from Wisconsin or elsewhere of this ongoing issue.
Find a quote from either side that makes a reasonable point and another that seems extreme. (Can come from a protest sign.)
Now turn to news from Washington, D.C., to learn how Congress is working to avoid a federal government shutdown by passing a temporary budget bill this week.
Wisconsin's Capitol is the scene of large, loud demonstrations each day against the Republican governor's budget bill. Tens of thousands rallied Saturday outside the legislative building in Madison, Wis. To address a financial squeeze, Gov Scott Walker says the state must end the collective-bargaining status of public-sector workers. Not surprisingly, teachers, fire fighters, road workers and thousands of other state employees call this union-busting and say it's an unfair way to exploit a financial crisis. Unions offered financial concessions, which the governor rejected.
Because of its timing, the fight is framed by some participants and journalists as something much grander than a state legislative showdown. A few union protest signs compared Walker to deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a theme echoed in media coverage.
Republican lawmakers pushed the governor's "Budget Repair Bill" through the state Assembly late last week. It still has to get through the Senate, where a vote awaits the return of 14 Democratic senators who're in Illinois as a stalling tactic. The standoff has led even some natural allies to question the governor's approach. "He's right about the budget issues and the need to restrain pensions, but he's done it in such a way as to force everybody into polarized camps," says conservative columnist David Brooks of The New York Times. "That's the road to gridlock."
Network anchor says: "From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizens' uprisings are changing the world." -- Brian Williams of NBC, on Nightly News, Feb. 18
Columnist says: "Maybe Madison, Wisconsin, isn't Cairo after all. Maybe it's Baghdad -- specifically, Baghdad in 2003." -- Paul Krugman, New York Times, Feb. 24
TV satirist says: "Is this really the same as people in the Middle East throwing off years of dictatorship, or was that just the last story you saw on the news?" -- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, Feb. 22
Front Page Talking Points Archive