Monday, April 11, 2011

Examining the debate -- what this fight is all about

A fresh perspective of what drives the "two Wisconsin's" in our state

The rant from last night continues...

The first four months of Gov. Scott Walker's gubernatorial career have been less than stellar. The governor's insistence on balancing the budget upon the backs of state workers and poor Wisconsinites while favoring the rich and corporate elite has driven a sharp debate in the Badgerland, one that has been both heated and passionate.

Conservatives, of course, have been dismissive of the backlash against these Republican policies. Following the initial results of the election for State Supreme Court justice (before the results were reversed by a questionable discovery of 14,000 ballots in Waukesha County), Gov. Walker suggested there were two ideas pushing very different political agendas in Wisconsin: one from Wisconsin overall and one derived from Madisonian interests.

Of course, the very notion of "two Wisconsins" in this sense neglects the fact that 32 counties voted against Walker's preferred candidate, with a handful more being decided by five percentage points or less. Furthermore, Walker's argument could be transposed upon conservative-stronghold Waukesha County, especially with how close this particular election really was -- are there two agendas now that the situation is reversed, one driven by Wisconsin and the other by Waukesha?

Yet Walker is right about one thing: the debate in our state is being driven by two different ideas of what Wisconsin truly is, or rather what it should become. These aren't ideas that are driven by geographical interests -- rather, they're ideas driven by corporate elitists who want to establish a stronger presence in the Dairyland, against the interests of working class families who are fighting to survive the lingering effects of the recession.

That may bring on invitations of "class warfare," of critics contending that liberals in the state are trying to pit poor and middle class Wisconsinites against innovators and business owners. To those that bring about such criticism, however, think about this: at a time when Wisconsin citizens are struggling, what does Scott Walker do? He introduces a series of bills aimed at making it even harder for Wisconsin citizens to make ends meet.

He ends a tax break for low-income wage earners, a move that will raise the taxes of a working mother by more than two percent of her paycheck. He ends collective bargaining rights for our state workers, including teachers, nurses, prison guards, and social workers. He destroys any chances of green jobs coming into the state, chasing out high speed rail as well as wind power that would have invested in us. His budget may raise the deficit and kill more than 20,000 jobs across Wisconsin. And before any of this was even done, Walker handed out $140 million in tax breaks to big business.

If there is class warfare in our state, it certainly isn't being driven by liberals -- Walker and his Republican allies launched the assault on Wisconsin workers all on their own, expecting complete compliance from the people. He didn't get it, however -- and that's when the protests began.

We all know about those weeks of demonstrations, of democracy in action, when hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites came to the steps of the Capitol building infuriated by Walker's bill. We recall the prank phone call that exposed the governor's true corporatist allegiance. Within that call we also learned that Walker had thought of endangering the lives of the protesters by putting "troublemakers" among them to discredit their cause. And who can forget the forcing of the Senate budget repair bill, without proper notice given to the people, and the subsequent restraining order placed upon the implementation of that law? The Republicans tried to implement it anyway, violating the long-established norm of the rule of law -- a norm that transcends our state's history and enters into a violation of our national values.

What's lost behind all of that nonsense, what's forgotten by far too many who are fast to dismiss the entire situation as "politics as usual," is that this ISN'T politics as usual at all -- it's politics gone bad. The fight is much deeper than that tired axiom, goes beyond the common complaints that are natural within politics, and turns into a fight over what's right vs. what's wrong for a healthy society and democracy. It's common decency vs. corporate greed, a struggle over what is "just" in government vs. accepting and encouraging a direct abuse of power.

There ARE two factions within Wisconsin today, presenting us with a dichotomy of what the future of our state will hold. The answer to all the questions relies on you. Will you get behind the side that supports workers, farmers, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the struggling? Or will you support Scott Walker in bringing about the end of the working class in favor of corporate greed and government accountability to none? We're on a fast track towards moving to the Wisconsin that Gov. Walker and his Republican Party desires -- one that leaves you and I, and countless others, behind. Their vision can be stopped...but only if you want it to be.

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