Scott Walker could be likened to a sharpened pencil. He does what he is told to do, but appears wooden. This is clear even from the words he uses in his own memoir of his time in the governor’s office, when he faced a recall vote a year and a half after taking office. This man, after fighting the most bitter and divisive fight in his state’s history against collective bargaining rights for public unions, wants to take his show national. The mind reels.
Having previously been a Milwaukee County Executive before running for Governor in 2010, Walker was undoubtedly aware of problems Milwaukee faced. His plan to cut benefits (retirement & health care contributions) to public employees would initially cause a financial transfer to wealthier counties who saved more in cuts to employee compensation than they lost in state aid. “… the city of Waukesha, Milwaukee Public Schools, and Milwaukee County—Walker’s old charge—lost more than they saved, at least in the short term.”
“In the long term, there was a clear advantage for the budgets of Milwaukee Country and the Milwaukee Public Schools, which faced problems funding retiree health care and pensions far in excess of the typical local government in Wisconsin…An actuary found that the district lowered its projected obligation to retirees by a whopping $1 billion, or 42 percent, between 2009 and 2011.”However, Walker did not keep another of his campaign pledges to the working poor. Walker cut the earned income tax credit by $40 million over two years and froze the homestead tax credit, which helps low-income homeowners and renters. Additionally, he cut aid to local governments by $1.25 billion because he refused to raise taxes while trying to balance the budget. But “…we are providing almost $1.5 billion in savings through our budget repair bill,” Walker explained. It's difficult to decide but Walker sounds like he is too thick to get it. Saving money that people need to live may not be productive.
Anyway, this book is nuanced in its examination of just how the protests played out, how less than two hours’ notice was given after 4 p.m. to convene state Republican legislators to force a vote upon quorum requirements, which allowed them to bypass Democrat approval, and to finally pass a bill limiting collective bargaining for public employees. Because the legislature refused entry to some citizens wishing to view proceedings when the bills were presented, the new law faced legal challenges and the bitter enmity of Democrats. It was a very ugly business.
I don’t think this is what our founding fathers had in mind, though maybe it is. We’ve read of vicious battles fought in the name of governing that have come before. Procedures were challenged, declared null, challenged again…just like happened when voting districts were drawn in the middle of the night by WI Republicans alone to favor their own party & limit debate, using maps made up by the national GOP. This gerrymandering was declared unfair by the state supreme court, challenged again by Republican lawmakers and sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to be pushed aside in this summer’s session, undecided.
What is amply clear is that events in Wisconsin presage the division we now see splitting states around the union. Clearly there are differences of opinion about who “deserves” more, which is something we really do need to reach agreement on. Considering Republicans have only money and not even smart spokespeople or good ideas (if their ideas are so good, why is it so hard to convince people of their efficacy?), we who do not agree with the way they cut the cake are going to have to show that money is not the most valuable thing we can own.
The truth is, I would go along with some 'conservative' ideas if wages were higher and more equitably distributed. We can’t force companies to change their wage scales, but we can make it impracticable to give enormous bonuses to a few while forcing others to be paid too little considering their contribution (and state assistance) upon the rest. Tax them. If we take taxes off the table, ‘Republican’ budget packages go bust because after all, they are protecting corporations, not people. Now, our economy is based on corporations, so everyone wants them to succeed. We just have to be honest about who we’re looking to serve. All of us, or just a few? Are we a nation or a rug for billionaires?
The hateful disregard among dissenting points of view that we experience now is very difficult for me to take. This book shows us how bad things can get, and what we have to face if we can’t control people’s anger. We should all be trying to lower the level of acrimony, learning as much as we can so as to find some answers that work for all of us. This book allows us to make decisions on what can happen without having to go through it ourselves and is very useful.