Gov. Scott walker has received an obscene amount of money from donors in the fossil fuel, manufacturing and home-building industries. In return, he has represented their interests with unflinching determination, guiding their agenda – as articulated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – verbatim through the Legislature without debate.
On June 5, voters in Wisconsin will have an unusual opportunity to decide whether this agenda has benefitted the state.
Compared with the rest of the country, Wisconsin has fared poorly during the nearly year and a half since Walker took office. Regardless of whose statistics you’re looking at, the state has lost a disproportionate number of jobs. Our quality of life has diminished and the state is more divided than ever due to Walker’s self-professed divide-and-conquer style of leadership.
His so-called “business-friendly” policies have benefited big business at the expense of small businesses and workers. By his standards, states such as Mississippi are the nation’s most business friendly – states that spend the least and have the fewest regulations while providing the lowest standard of living.
Walker claimed that cutting taxes for the very rich, limiting worker’s rights and dismantling regulations to protect consumers and the environment would create job growth. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Walker is simply regurgitating the trickle-down promises we’ve heard for the last 30 years, which have never come to fruition anywhere. But unfortunately, there’s been a lot of negative trickle-down from Walker’s agenda.
Environmental inspections of air and water quality have dropped alarmingly, giving Walker’s benefactors license to pollute our environment without fear of reprisal. Seventy-three percent of school districts in the state cut teachers during the 2011-12 school year. Walker’s cuts have also hurt the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges in the state.
Walker eliminated state remedies for unequal pay for women. He’s curtailed women’s reproductive freedom and reduced uninsured women’s access to health services. He’s gotten rid of science-based sex education.
Possible criminal proceedings against Walker are also a major issue. There’s a potentially devastating federal investigation surrounding his Milwaukee County Executive office staff that’s resulted in numerous indictments. He’s created a criminal defense fund that he’s poured more than $160,000 into during the past six weeks. State law only allows elected officials to start such a fund if they’re under investigation for violating state campaign finance or election laws.
All politicians spin their achievements, but Walker is uniquely shameless. His campaign ads claim that he eliminated Wisconsin’s budget deficit. But in requesting federal waivers to cut BadgerCare, a program that provides affordable health coverage to the working poor, Walker filed a claim with the federal government stating that the state has a structural budget deficit.
There are many reasons to get rid of Walker and not one to retain him. He has imperiled our future to reward his backers and boost his national profile. If he’s re-elected, the state may have to suffer through his criminal indictment.
It’s an unfortunate corollary of our political system that all elected officials owe fealty to special interests of some stripe. Walker’s allegiance is to interests that are not in the interest of Wisconsin. They are not idealistic interests that want to create a cleaner planet and more just society. They are interests that only want to grab as much money as they can right now, without concern for the future or who gets hurt in the process.