Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin's new union-busting governor, Scott Walker - demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday - Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison."It wasn't the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn't mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did - after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.
In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what's happening in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker's pretense that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin - and eventually, America - less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side.
You don't have to love unions, you don't have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they're among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years - which it has - that's to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.
Besides objecting to Krugman "accusing one party of wanting to destroy the Republic," John Sexton at Hot Air  found several factual flaws among Krugman's premises. He challenged Krugman on this line from his column:
On paper, we're a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we're more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. Given this reality, it's important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money.
How exactly are public sector unions a balance to the power of big money? Granted, if Krugman were writing about private sector unions this would at least be arguable. As it is, he's writing about public sector unions. And guess what, public sector union aren't in a struggle against the titans of industry. They get their money from the government.