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THE DARK SIDE: Reflections on the protests at the Capitol

David Ziemer

David Ziemer

The Takings Clause provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

But the Supreme Court has all but abdicated its responsibility to enforce this clause. Today, it protects nothing except the salaries, pensions and benefits of public employees.

As I once heard a young woman say, the first time she saw a football player kneel and make the sign of the cross in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, “That’s sick and wrong.”

In any event, given current law regarding the Takings Clause, the zeal of the opposition to the collective bargaining bill is perplexing to those of us in the private sector.

We have few, if any, expectations of anything. None of us has ever expected social security or Medicare to still exist when we’re old enough to receive benefits. We have regarded it as intergenerational theft ever since we had our first paychecks docked to keep these Ponzi schemes afloat.

The only pension plans we’ve ever had are self-funded 401(k) plans, and the like.

Basically, we get hit with a double-whammy. Our taxes are too high to properly plan for retirement. And what we do save earns a poor return, because governmental regulation and confiscatory taxation of corporations keep our portfolios from growing.

I admit, we’re suckers. We failed to realize as teenagers that, in a post-capitalist society, the only growth industry is government.

Our more perceptive friends got government jobs, and can retire in their 50’s, still healthy and able-bodied, with substantial pensions and health care guaranteed for the rest of their lives, no matter how long they live.

I had a conversation with one of my more perceptive friends, who will soon be retiring. He asked what my retirement plans were.

I told him I have never had one; I have always planned on working until I die. He suggested seriously that I might be mentally ill and should seek professional help.

So, I asked a carpenter if he ever planned to retire, or if he would work until he died. He laughed at me; of course he’ll work until he dies. I asked a quality control man, a bartender, a landscaper, an IT guy and another lawyer. Same answer; it’s just not an option for us.

The bartender remarked, “I can’t retire. I have to work until I die so the government employees can retire in their 50’s.”

We all laughed, except for the government worker. He thought we were all mentally ill, and the insane are a source of amusement only to the young.

I can’t help but think that he actually believed retirement was an option we had, just like him.

It was against that backdrop that I went to Madison earlier this month, and witnessed the protests against the bill.

The protesters were angry, even though the legislature could never deny them one penny of their vested rights — the only vested rights the U.S. Supreme Court still recognizes as protected by the Takings Clause.

I still can’t get the contrast out of my mind. On one side are all these guys who have it made in the shade, but are mad as hell, seizing control of the Capitol because they don’t like the actions of a duly elected legislature and governor.

On the other side are all these guys in the private sector working until they die, laughing and making jokes about how we got played for suckers.

In the end, I guess it’s just not natural to demonize an adversary simply because he made a sweet choice when he was young and you did not.

But I suppose it is rather easy to demonize your adversaries when you genuinely believe they are all madmen.


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