Friday, May 6, 2011

Walker stays focused, whittling away at rights, quality of life, the common good

The heartlessness of some of this stuff Walker is doing I just find, well, heartbreaking. This photo spoke to me this morning. It's of the Gov looking proud of himself having just signed away the rights of workers to sick pay leave in Milwaukee, a right won at the voting booth in 2008.  We Milwaukeeans voted for this law, and now the Gov taketh it away.

What does that feel like? Most troubling for me about the Gov is this steely quality which I guess he must think of as some great virtue, some high character trait. But there is nothing at all to be admired in a kind of cold and unbending certainty that does not yield to the reality of the human world, to the reality of injustice, or to the ordinary struggles of workers and their families.

We voted for this - he has taken it away with the stroke of his many pens that he likes to use, as if all these laws have such gravitas, such great historical significance.  Much of what he is doing will fade away in the annals of history, written off as a nasty time in Wisconsin politics. I agree with our favorite local historian, John Gurda, on this point.

Anyway, this Walker/Fitzgerald regime is throwing so much at us all at once, it's hard to keep up. Walker is doing a budget assault on the Milwaukee County DA's office and DA John Chisholm has just had to order his prosecutors to work full time despite Walker's plan to slash their salaries by 20%. Said Chisholm: "I believe the Assistant District Attorneys are being treated dishonorably..." but what are you going to do with a heavy workload and a mission to serve the public?

Thus do we demoralize those who work for us. Is that fun? satisfying? I'm struggling with my dark sarcasm here, but, my oh my, does this regime call it out from me. But I'm not sure Walker is bringing out the best in any of us, just the most selfish among the white elite, and the defensive among those under attack or who see their futures threatened.

Plans to broaden the school voucher program also advanced yesterday, the Assembly budget committee signing off on a plan to lift the cap on the number allowed to participate and to expand it from the City of Milwaukee to the county, though students would still have to live in the city. Lots of controversy here, including the issue of using tax dollars to fund religious schools. And then there's the reality that this is one step towards a broader threat to the public school system - to also lift the cap on income, making this no longer a program targeting at risk populations. Imagine your tax dollars also subsidizing the affluent to send their kids to private schools!

Of course the real goal here is to destroy the Milwaukee Public School system. It would help if that system was providing a solid, empowering education for kids. It would help if the folks in the system, from the superintendent and board on down to the unions, had the welfare of the kids at the heart of this conversation, but it sure is hard to find that anywhere in this woeful moment for public education.

Really, if you want to defend your school system from the threat of these rightists, come up with a campaign to address the reality of poverty, racism, unemployment, and a host of issues of this poor city, because at the core of this problem is the neglect of these deep-seated cultural and social realities of Milwaukee and surrounding counties.

State Repubs want to to add photos to BadgerCare and FoodShare cards. Kind of like voter ID cards, we just can't trust poor people and African-Americans to be honest, right?  Really, friends, the racist attitudes behind so much of this is the real beam in the eye that keeps us from ever, ever dealing with the splinters, like how to balance a budget - that's just not the core issue here. It's not the reason for our blindness.

I loved Jim Stingl's column today in which he describes the reaction of public workers who are losing their collective bargaining rights to Walker's new plan to recognize their fine work. I laughed out loud - you know, and then you want to cry. The cynicism here is beyond the beyond.

A little reminder...
Okay, this is getting long, so last thoughts for the weekend. Let's remember, please, what is at the heart of the Walker regime - by their works you shall know them. Could not be clearer than this headline in the Wisconsin State Journal: Walker's proposed tax change: More money for corporations, less for state.

If I say this, some think I'm making a political statement. But it just is what it is. Walker is gutting government, destroying the capacity of public agencies to serve us, in order to free up our tax dollars so that more can be given to his corporate backers, the guys who paid for his campaign.

It is what it is, and it is tragic for this state. Meanwhile, as barely half of us voted in the November 2010 election, and therefore Walker got into office with barely a third of Wisconsinites' support, we have to remember what our lack of participation in democracy brings us - it can bring us rule by the few for the benefit of the few to the detriment of everyone else. And it can bring you a regime that is also prepared to whittle away at voting rights, to pass voter suppression laws, to make sure that when we wake up and decide to go back to the polls, many of us (students, the poor, the elderly) will be unable to do so.

I don't know what it feels like to be Scott Walker, but there is something very disturbing in this whole deal. I look for heart. I look for something other than stubbornness. I look for an ability to accept being flawed, making mistakes, being touched by the suffering of others, being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and recalling that government is needed not to protect the wealthy and powerful, but the least among us, the rights and well-being of the poor, of those who do real work, of families hit hard by a struggling economy - that government is intended not as a service to billionaires, not to enhance the power of corporations over government itself, but as a service to the people, to enhance the common good, and to defend the rights of the less powerful and the most vulnerable.

Come to Madison on May 14, 3:00 RALLY AT THE CAPITOL!!

No comments:

Post a Comment