In the past month, I have not posted, in part because, as I mentioned in the previous post, it’s been the winter doldrums; but also, there has been this disruption in life routines in Madison now for three weeks that poses an extreme threat to the wonderful state of Wisconsin and, ultimately, to standards of living all across the country.
Our governor, on 11 February, announced a “budget repair bill” that, among other things, proposed eliminating collective bargaining rights for public sector workers for all issues except wages and limiting that to a cost-of-living increase. He expected this bill to be rubber-stamped by the legislature within a day or two with virtually no public discussion. Luckily, the Senate Democrats realized that if they left the state there was no quorum and no vote could be taken.
This action by the Democrats has allowed time for the truth of right-wing politics and its financing to come to the fore, not only in Wisconsin but across the country, in a way that has brought to bear on it a level of scrutiny as never before. It has become crystal clear that this has been a festering cancer within civil society for too long and now that Walker has completely revealed their hand, the people responded.
Then, earlier this week, the governor submitted his budget for the 2011-13 biennium and the full, unvarnished truth of where he was headed was plain for all to see. Not only does he want to cut state aid to municipalities by over $1 billion, but the budget also directs that local governments cannot raise their own taxes to attempt to make up the difference. And that’s only the beginning of the assaults to civil society found in that document. Not surprisingly, the largest loss to be found in this budget is to education, including the state university system. It is a budget that would turn Wisconsin from one of the states at the top of education and standards of living into one of the worst.
Now the cat is entirely out of the bag and no thinking person can deny the truth of the corporate takeover of this country. I clearly remember having a premonition of what we are now witnessing being a distinct possibility for the future the night I sat in complete disbelief and disgust listening to the radio and hearing the returns of Reagan’s victory in 1980. What the corporate interests wanted then, and are perhaps now on the verge of achieving, is to turn this great country into a developing country that they can pillage unhindered.
At the beginning of the protests, there was shock, but the mood of the crowd was exuberant, in a way, because we wanted to believe that the voice of the people is important. But we have come to realize now that Walker is perhaps a sadist and abuser, because he has continued to talk as if there is nothing but reason behind his plan; and he says all this in a monotone voice and without blinking his eyes. Today when I was at the capitol square, the mood was entirely different. Many had the look of the woman in the picture above; lost, despondent, at wit’s end. And the crowd was not only the university and high school students, teachers, and others who work close enough to the capitol to take time on lunch break that it was during the first week. No, today it was the true working people of Wisconsin, truck drivers, electricians, engineers, nurses, young families, retired people, from all over the state and even beyond, all brought together by the prospect that middle class life and civil society might soon be just something we remember.
And what makes it even more galling is that the Wisconsin capitol building is a breathtaking monument to the idea that government serves the people, the Wisconsin Idea. We learn in grade school how Bob LaFollette and the Progressives fought the corporate interests of their day and achieved hard-won victories. That that beautiful building is now run by a pack of wolves bought and paid for by the Koch brothers and their cronies is a travesty.