Just a few weeks ago, solidarity between Egyptian youth and Wisconsin police officers, or between Libyan workers and Ohio public employees, might have elicited a raised eyebrow.
The uprising in Tunisia was sparked by the suicide of a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate who could not find professional work. Selling fruits and vegetables in the market, he was repeatedly harassed by Tunisian authorities who eventually confiscated his scale. Unbearably frustrated, he set himself on fire, a spark that ignited the protests that became the wave of revolution in the Middle East and North Africa. For decades in the region, people have lived under dictatorships—many that receive U.S. military aid—suffering human-rights abuses along with low income, high unemployment and almost no freedom of speech. All this, while the elites amassed fortunes.
In other words, Wall Street hucksters, selling the complex mortgage-backed securities that provoked the collapse, are the ones who caused any pension shortfall. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston said recently: “The average Wisconsin state employee gets $24,500 a year. That’s not a very big pension ... 15 percent of the money going into it each year is being paid out to Wall Street to manage the money. That’s a really huge high percentage to pay out to Wall Street to manage the money.”
So, while investment bankers skim a huge percentage off pension funds, it’s the workers who are being demonized and asked to make the sacrifices. Those who caused the problem, who then got lavish bailouts and now are treated to huge salaries and bonuses, are not being held accountable. Following the money, it turns out Walker’s campaign was funded by the notorious Koch brothers, major backers of the tea party organizations. They also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which gave substantial support to Walker’s campaign. Is it surprising that Walker supports corporations with tax breaks, and has launched a massive attack on unionized, public-sector employees?