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Editorial cartoon 7/11/18

A lot of high-fives were being exchanged among Republican campaign donors a couple of weeks ago when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that public employees couldn't be required to pay their fair share of union costs to win them pay raises, fringe benefits and job safety.

Those workers who refuse to join, the court's right-wingers proclaimed, have a First Amendment right to freeload — with that decision driving yet another nail in the coffin of the nation's labor movement, which was beyond-a-doubt responsible for building the nation's vaunted middle class.

Of course, at the front of the gang of celebrants was Wisconsin's friend of the working person, Scott Walker, who proclaimed the ruling was vindication of his infamous Act 10, which essentially not only stopped checkoffs for union dues, but neutered Wisconsin's public unions as well.

"Supreme Court affirms what we did years ago — gives public servants the freedom to choose whether they want to be union or not. Pro-worker and pro-taxpayer! Great day!" Walker tweeted, emulating his hero, Donald Trump.

No, the court's ruling wasn't an affirmation of Scott Walker. It was most likely Walker's and the rest of the anti-union politicians' luck that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to thwart democracy in 2016 and withhold President Barack Obama's pick for the high court, Merrick Garland, opening the door to another anti-worker, pro-corporate conservative named Neil Gorsuch, who came through for his conservative cheerleaders, big time.

Walker's buddy, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, was taking credit for the ruling, too. It was he and a public employee named Mark Janus who initiated the suit, which eventually wound up being decided by the court in late June.

During his campaign Rauner proclaimed that "we can drive a wedge issue in the Democratic Party on that topic — that real folks will say, 'You know what? For our tax dollars, I'd rather help the disadvantaged, the handicapped, the elderly, the children in poverty. I'd rather have my tax dollars going to that than the SEIU of AF-Scammy who are out there for their own interests."

At least he didn't call the union officers "thugs" as Scott Walker did, but like Walker he insisted that the unions' only interest is using their members' dues to support Democrats.

And what might we say about the real thugs — the ones in the expensive business suits sipping Scotch in their fancy clubs and doling out tens of thousands of their corporations' dollars to help guys like Rauner and Walker win elections? That money to politicians who will do their bidding to increase their bottom lines doesn't count, unlike the dollars pooled by the average Joe and Jill Worker to help politicians who might actually vote for their causes?

You won't hear Rauner or Walker asking those corporate vote-buyers if that money shouldn't go to the handicapped, elderly or children in poverty. Only union money is bad for the political system, according to their tortured thinking; corporate dollars that should actually go to stockholders is nothing but good. Paradoxically, union money is spent democratically by vote of the membership. Stockholders have absolutely no say in how their corporations dole out political largess.

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And, of course, the irony of ironies. Chief Justice John Roberts' court ruled that it was unconstitutional to establish campaign contribution limits, saying that corporations, just like citizens, have a right to free speech under the First Amendment, the same amendment that has now been used to put a dent in union political spending.

Then we wonder why the gap between the rich and the poor in America keeps getting wider. One side doesn't stand a chance.

It's a rigged system all right, but Donald Trump and governors like Scott Walker aren't doing a thing to fix it. 

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.