As a 1978 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, I am watching the protest over Collective Bargaining rights for Public sector workers with special interest. However, my personal opinion is that both sides have missed the mark by about 3 decades, hence so 1980's.
When all of my elite Madison friends ( ironically children of the 60's) were busy checking into the American Dream, starting work in the Public sector and beginning families and getting mortgages, us liberals lost the most critical debate of the century, that somehow global trade was good for America. We traded jobs for cheap China goods. Been to Wal-Mart lately? There isn't anything made in America anymore. When President Obama declares in his State of the Union address that to revitalize the American economy we must out-compete and out-innovate the rest of the globe, it sounds good and we want to believe him, but he is also living in decades past. The most innovative American company today is probably Apple (annual sales of over $20 billion), and there isn't a single device Apple makes that is made in America.
Although collective bargaining rights of public workers might seem important, it is a mute point. It is too LATE! We should be focusing on how to construct community in a new economic reality. I spent the afternoon digging a garden with a shovel. I don't expect my savings to guarantee my retirement, like prior American generations. When every person in China gets their share of global resources, (this is the natural extension of American liberal thought), we'll be growing our own food not arguing over collective bargaining rights. (See past post on Economic, Math and Growing your own food.) I'm told there isn't enough copper to construct a refrigerator for every person in China currently living on our planet. Think you'll be enjoying the retirements you were promised????. Think again.