Scott Walker: Our Own Homegrown Gadhafi
An embattled head of state facing a population in revolt, a government abandoning him, and a world looking on in disgust. Wisconsin or Libya? Yes.
Colonel Gadhafi will stop at nothing to cling onto the power he has enjoyed for four decades. Governor Scott Walker will stop at nothing to cling onto the power he has enjoyed for four months.
Neither man gives two shits for the people of what each regards as his own fiefdom. Gadhafi will kill them; Walker will put them out on the street. The one’s more extreme than the other, to be sure, but both sets of actions are born from the same mindset: a ruthless, scorched-earth, stop-at-nothing nihilism. Gadhafi will kill his own people to maintain control over them even in the face of their courageous efforts to be rid of him; Walker will lay off hundreds if not thousands of state employees to ram through his anti-worker legislation in the face of overwhelming opposition. The tactics are the same; the strategies may differ. But, make no mistake, the greed, the hunger for power, the ruthlessness — they’re no different. These two men are no different from each other.
Let’s talk about Walker. Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin, seeks to roll back decades of progressive legislation in a State that has been at the forefront of workers’ rights. Wisconsin was the first State to recognize State employees’ rights to unionize and to collectively bargain. Walker argues, unconvincingly, that this right must be stripped away from them to save the State money. Never mind that the State workers have agreed to every single one of his fiscal proposals – those that actually affect their economic situations (for the worse). And let’s not forget, these are State workers we’re talking about — people who are typically paid considerably less than their private-sector counterparts. But the one demand on which the State workers are understandably adamant about not giving up is their right to organize, their right to appoint a spokesperson to represent them as a group, their right to collectively bargain – a right considered a basic human right by governments and countries around the world, a right recognized as such in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a right that you would think was protected by our country’s First Amendment.
And why does Walker and those of his political stripe feel it necessary to attack state workers? Because they’re the vulnerable ones, the politically weak. This is what they do. Attack the weak. Walker and his ilk are nothing more than politics’ version of the schoolyard bully. Of course the bully will do anything to keep his victims from banding together and standing up to him en masse. That’s how you beat a bully. The united front. Stand together like the hoplite phalanx armies of the ancient world. The bully, the Walkers of the world, can’t allow this; they’ll do anything to prevent it.
Walker is compelled to attack his State’s state workers, the weak, the poor, the middle class; his political career is bankrolled by the rich. This is what they pay him to do. And the poor and middle-class are compelled to be his opponents because he makes them so. He is compelled to plunder the incomes of those least able to bear the burden of economic hardship because those most able to bear that hardship are paying him to protect them from doing so. He has to attack the incomes of the weak to right the wrongs of years of protecting the incomes of the rich.
If it were sound economic policy to cut taxes for those most able to bear the tax burden while making those less able to bear the burden pay a higher percentage of their income in tax, we’d all be on easy street. This has been the Republican-led model since the Reagan years. Tax the middle class to death. Give all the breaks to the rich. And look where we are. The truth is the higher we tax the middle class, the less the middle class can spend. And the less the middle class can spend, the less we grow. Meanwhile, the rich pay a stunningly low percentage of their income on tax (but they can never spend what a big and vibrant middle class can spend). So we create an ever-shrinking middle class that can’t contribute to the economy and a wealthy class that depends on that shrinking middle class to consume but can’t afford to because it’s paying the tax the rich should be paying. So in the long term everyone loses.
But the greedy don’t care about the long term. But we should. Those of us lucky enough not to be State workers, lucky enough not to need a union to represent us, need to recognize that we’re all connected and dependent on each other. We need to stand together, support each other. My fellow worker, the plumber, the fireman, the doctor, the garbage collector, the small businessman, the factory-worker, the state employee, everyone, is my brother or sister. And each and every one of us has the right to a fair wage, job security, a safe work-environment. And each and every one of us has the right to be represented in our negotiations with the rich and powerful who run the show. They, management, engage in collective bargaining; they pay to have a spokesman present their position; they get to do the very thing they don’t want the workers to do. What do you think would happen to a junior executive who said, he wanted to deal directly with the work-force separate and apart from the corporate policy? He’d be fired. Management’s conduct is no different from the closed shop, the union. But the likes of Scott Walker would have it be a one-way street: management gets to collectively bargain with the workers but the workers don’t get to collectively bargaining with management. Workers are disallowed from engaging in the very activity that management, or in Wisconsin’s case the government, is engaging in. This is hypocrisy.
Scott Walker is a despot, just like Muommar Gadhafi. It’s frightening that people like this can get elected. But you gotta love Democracy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes, I would: I wish the parties would take some control, establish platforms, recruit rather than endorse, take an ideological stand, weed out the nutjobs like Walker. Walker’s motives might be financial, they might be for power; they’re certainly not for the public good. Walker is just one of the masses of wild-eyed, earnest-seeming disciples of trickle-down economics and all those other dishonest “economic theories” that the right wing trots out to protect the rich and greedy and stick it to the poor and middle class. “Tax cuts for the rich equals economic growth” is a nice, simple slogan, but it’s a lie. It’s a “theory” that those who claim to espouse it know is a lie. If it were true, there would be no such thing as the academic study of economics. If it were true, we wouldn’t have needed the Clinton years to clean up the Reagan/Bush I mess, and we wouldn’t be in the post Bush II mess we’re in now.
I applaud the people of Libya and Wisconsin for their courage in standing up to the ruthless and powerful, the nihilists. May the madmen in both places meet a similar end on the trash heap of history, relegated to a legacy (if any) of shame and irrelevance.