Friday, May 13, 2011

Damage piling up

It is hard not to be discouraged. The damage already done and about to be perpetrated by our state government is considerable and will have permanent ripples across our dear Wisconsin. Last November, by not telling the truth about what they were intending, by not having to disclose their billionaire and corporate backers (thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision), and with only half of voters exercising this precious right, we put in place a state government with no balancing opposition.

And until the Wisconsin 14 made their daring move across the Illinois state line, the Democratic Party could barely muster a credible opposing argument to NO NEW TAXES!! MORE JOBS!!  WISCONSIN IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!! - that shrill cry of the right used to mask their true intentions.

This is what 'open for business' means. In January when Walker took office and Koch Industries opened their lobbying office in Madison, it meant Walker's people sitting right down with the Koch people to negotiate an easing of restrictions on phosphorous pollution from the Koch's Georgia-Pacific plants into our Wisconsin waterways. Controversial State Supreme Court Judge Prosser was in on this, another indication of the trifecta of rightist power we have in our executive, legislative and judicial branches. Today we also see that it means speeding up the environmental review process for construction of mines, a policy aimed directly at Gogebic Taconie of Hurley, a company bent on opening an iron ore mine Up North.

And just as Koch Industry lobbyists helped craft the easing of the phosphorous pollution restrictions, so, reportedly, did the owner of the mining company, Bill Williams, with the environmental review process. Is this who we want writing our laws? Did you vote for these guys?

This is what it means in Scott Walker's world to be 'open for business:' to allow corporate leaders themselves to write the rules and regulations under which they will operate. Good for their business, really bad for you and me and the quality of life in this state. In this case, in the professed cause of creating jobs - as if environmentally destructive industries are the only ways to create jobs in this state - ecological wreckage will come to yet another corner of our once beautiful state (still beautiful in parts, but that beauty is eroding thanks to these kinds of businesses, developers, golf course operators, industrial farmers, etc. - open for business indeed).

The Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) is becoming a tool of industry under the Walker regime, certainly not a protection of our precious ecosystems under threat all over the place from road builders and developers, toxic industrial farmers, corporations seeking more nature to exploit for their profit.

Really, I hope this weekend's rally in Madison is about more than collective bargaining rights, more than the threats of the regime to well-compensated middle-class public sector jobs, important as that it. I hope it is about voting rights (about to be severely suppressed), about the gutting of public transportation vital to poor people to get to work, about the racism that underlies so much of this regime's policies, about what it will mean to destroy public education systems under threat by the broadening of the voucher program, about ecology and what it will mean if we continue to toxify and rip apart the ecosystems of our state, its waters, soils, forests, and more.

The ability to push back legislatively does not exist now, and much of the initial damage will be done before recall elections. So where is our leverage? Little in the immediate term. But even in the medium and longer term, in order to turn this course around, it means coming to terms with the rightist assault on our democracy, with the real powers and intentions of the people that put Walker and other rightist state governments in power in nearly half our states. And there is not yet anything approaching the breadth of a movement that is required to resist and overcome this kind of power.

It took 20-30 years for the civil rights movement to accomplish the end of legal segregation and recognition of voting rights for African-Americans in this country. What we lose will have to be won back. And that won't happen in one election cycle.

The great coming-together of all populations under threat right now from this regime hasn't happened yet - but it is the only real power the people have, or have ever had, to defend their rights and their dignity in the face of threats to those rights and to the common good and the goods of the commons, what safeguards the minimum of dignity and well-being for all.

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