Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Government by cruelty

"It is a hostile corporate takeover of the state of Wisconsin." Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)

I try to use reasonable language, right? not to use extremes or hyperbole, even when emotions run high. But I stand by my headline. If Gov Scott Walker's budget became real in my dear state of Wisconsin, it would amount to government by cruelty - cruelty towards the most vulnerable of our populations, a taking of money from the poor and struggling and using it to subsidize the affluent and the millionaire and billionaire business people so favored by this poor example of a 'governor,' as in, one who governs for the welfare, rights, and interests of all.

Photo: Margaret Swedish
My dear Wisconsin voters, what have we done? So many of us, fueled by anger and resentment by our deteriorating quality of life, took out our frustrations in the polling booth not knowing what was really being prepared for this state. So many who have seen wages fall, home values plummet, jobs and benefits lost, who are falling between the widening cracks of a dysfunctional economy more and more at the service of the richest 1% of the population, who are angry and resentful, voted for this guy because they thought he cared about them.

He has just handed back to you a disastrous budget that will gut the quality of life in this state and do exactly what Sen. Erpenbach said yesterday - hand over the state to the Koch brothers and Heritage Foundation folks who helped write this budget (trust me, Walker was not capable of that) in a hostile bid to put this state into the hands of polluters, of people who want to increase their profits by vastly reducing their production costs - like labor and environmental costs.  They want your labor and our forests, waterways, air and other resources for free - or as close to free as they can get.

Here's a budget that would help them do that - if it passes.

For example, capital gains taxes will be cut or eliminated for the Koch brothers whose personal fortune approaches $100 billion. Meanwhile, this proposal would eliminate caps on the school voucher program, meaning that people who can afford to pay tuition for private schools could use them - meaning our tax dollars would subsidize the affluent to send their kids to private schools - another transfer of funds from the poor to the wealthy.

Another example: the elimination of recycling requirements all across the state. Oh, you can just see how folks like the Koch brothers and our new Senator, plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson, wanted that provision thrown in!! If you contribute to Walker's campaign, amazingly, tax breaks and lax regulations for your businesses do seem to follow. Public workers, inner city families with kids in public schools, poor folks in the BadgerCare system? Not so much.

What in the world is going on here? This is NOT about balancing budgets because there are other ways to do this - to balance a budget and keep vital services - for one thing, by increasing revenue from those who can well afford it.

But I can tell you what this budget proposal will do - it will divide this state further, it will throw fuel onto the seething fires of our growing resentments as more and more people suffer the effects of this most dangerous state and nationwide trend - the concentration of wealth in the top 1% of our population, the old champagne glass model of the economy where wealth bubbles up from below to the top, stealing from people's labor, our resources, our schools, our quality of life all the way up.

Friends, sadly, this budget was more than a shout-out from the extreme right; it is, indeed, a bold attempt at a hostile corporate takeover of our state.  And it must be stopped.

What are the possibilities that all that good will and energy that has occupied and surrounded our state capitol for the past 2 1/2 weeks can become a broad movement to reclaim our progressive values in this state? Because the answer to that question will decide whether this cruel budget, god forbid, ever becomes the program of our state government.

To learn more about what is in Walker's budget proposal:{mad}

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