Sacrificing common-sense for ideology

Jamakaya, Columnist

Gov. Scott Walker’s brazen attempt to delete “truth” and “public service” from the Wisconsin Idea tells us everything we need to know about Walker, his administration, the GOP Legislature, their fat cat donors and their own perverted ideas for Wisconsin.

Since his first state budget in 2011, Walker has targeted public education. Hundreds of millions have been cut from K-12 schools, technical colleges and the university system. This attack is part of a decades-long campaign to defund public education through budget cuts, tuition freezes and transfers of tax dollars to vouchers for private schools, many of them religious.

The $300-million cut to the UW system will damage lives and communities. Jobs will be lost. Classes will be canceled. Education will be disrupted and delayed. Good professors will leave the system. Research will be curtailed and business ideas and startups will be hampered. 

It used to be a no-brainer that investment in education pays off, especially in our competitive, globalized economy. But common sense is being sacrificed to an all-encompassing ideology of “starving the beast” — shrinking government “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” in the infamous words of right-wing strategist Grover Norquist.

Despite the dreams of free market purists, the public sector has been the most stable part of our economy. Dismantling it is accelerating the destruction of the middle class. Where will we be when government is rendered impotent and we are all forced to rely solely on the instabilities and chicanery of private industry?

Other Walker proposals show clearly where we’re headed. His budget cuts 18.4 scientific positions from the Department of Natural Resources. These are the scientists who conduct the vital field research used to shape Wisconsin’s environmental, land and wildlife management policies. 

Science in the public interest be damned! The age of de-regulation has arrived. Let the land grabs and abuse of our environment commence!

Meanwhile, Ashley Furniture, which faces millions in federal fines for workplace safety violations, is poised to get $6.7 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. WEDC, a public-private hybrid that replaced the state Commerce Department, is supposed to create new jobs in Wisconsin. But audits reveal that WEDC does not account for the millions it disburses to private companies and fails to record the number of jobs created.

Ashley, responsible for more than 1,000 work-related injuries — over 1,000! — at its plant in Trempealeau County, is getting a real sweetheart deal. For the $6.7 million in corporate welfare, it doesn’t even have to create any new jobs.

All of this gives credence to the idea that corporate tycoons, aided by their political and media hit men, are destroying public oversight and education to consolidate wealth and property and to create a more compliant population that will shut up and take orders. 

It is encouraging that some business owners joined with academics and students to protest Walker’s cuts to the UW system. Yet, I wonder where all these people were during the 2014 election. It was pretty obvious then what radical moves the governor was committed to taking.

I guess the threat doesn’t seem real until it’s you and your livelihood or education being attacked. We need to start feeling greater solidarity with others and asserting ourselves through political action if we are to stop what amounts to a corporate coup in our formerly progressive state.