Sunday, January 22, 2012

Issue #43b January 22, 2012- Competing Views of America

What This Is…
Issue #43b- January 22, 2012
In this issue: Walker's Budget, Education News, Claiming MLK, Scott Walker, Two Views of America.
I know that I've tended to cover a lot of ground in each week's edition so I broke them up into two installments.  This part deals with the social and economic issues of the week.
 Walker's Budget…
One of the interesting things about the prospect of a delay in holding the recalls is the potential changes in our state's economy.  Of course we all hope that things improve, too many people are currently suffering the effects of an economy that is stagnant at best in most areas.

On the other hand, an improving economy will allow the Walker administration to trumpet the success of their "reforms".  While it will be an ongoing debate as to what role the administration's actions actually will have had in improving our state's economy, the end result will be a change in the mood of the electorate.  We know that people typically vote based on their current economic status and if they see improvement some of the impetus to recall the GOP candidates will be removed. 

No matter what the state of our state's economy is when the recall elections are held, there are a few things that we can't let the electorate forget.  One is the fact that in a time of economic crisis the GOP leadership failed to act in a leadership role to correct the problem.  The special session on jobs of 2011 was a complete farce in terms of dealing with the issue at hand.  The current legislative session looks to be of just as little value.

The results of the first year of Walker's administration were not favorable, no matter how you spin the data.

In addition to the loss of jobs and the lack of leadership, we also saw a concerted effort to undermine the public services that citizens rely on to help improve their lives.  Areas like public education took well documented hits.  The environmental protections we currently enjoy also have been degraded under his "leadership."

The Walker administration also showed a willingness to "doctor" facts and manipulate data to promote their overall agenda over the needs of Wisconsin's citizens.

Peter Barca
A new wrinkle, or should we say a new disclosure, as we often find is the case with the Walker Administration. Yesterday I posted an article, widely reported, that Gov. Walker was turning back $37 million to set up health exchanges, that the Milwaukee Journal Editorial criticized today pointing out it is the law to establish the exchanges. But what the Governor did not disclose was that there is $11 million also being turned back to set up new computer networks to more quickly and accurately identify Medicare eligibility, which would have saved the taxpayers significant money. Here is a quote from the article, "Supporters of the federal health law say the Walker administration let ideology and distaste for the federal law trump common sense by turning down millions of dollars that could have saved the state money in areas beyond the health care law." Now my question of the day - which is more troubling that once again we did not get the full story - ie. Family Care - or that the taxpayers once again lose out because of Walker's ideological agenda taking precedence over common sense and good economic judgement?

Facts like these need to be shared and repeated so that voters remember the "leadership" that was provided to us when times were hard.  The message can be fine tuned and simplified to compete with the GOP propaganda machine, but we can't lose sight of the reasons we were successful in getting such a large number of signatures.

Education News…
Public education doesn't seem to be much different than private employment in terms of salary structure.  Management in America continues to be paid at a higher rate than the general working population.  Why do we insist on paying bonuses to keep management in place while we are willing to let good educators leave the profession.  Even worse, we let our support staff employees work for subsistence wages while the top of the ladder gets bonuses. 

The next step in the attack on public education is now in place.  With a Republican majority in power, educator unions weakened or destroyed, and a population that is conditioned to see educators as incompetent it is easy to see the evaluation of educators being used as another "tool" to dismantle public education.  Remember, Ms. Frizzle wouldn't have passed the evaluations used by the Washington D.C. school system.  

We must remember that we don't have a strong supporter of public education in the White House.  Arne Duncan and the "Race to the Top" are two examples of this and here's another.
It's not just public sector unions that are being attacked.  Private sector unions have been decimated by the policies applied at all levels of government for all of recent history.  The union movement was strongest in the private sector for many years, but was gradually undermined as companies gained power and corporations went multi-national.  As a result we saw the balance shift and now most union members are public workers.

The argument given by management is consistent.  They argue that having unions represent workers drives up costs and makes them unable to compete with companies who produce goods outside the U.S.  Management claims that unions represent workers who aren't as productive and protect less competent employees.  Yet, data doesn't consistently support their claims (see the ads run by the Lunchpail Republicans in Indiana earlier in this issue).  Still, the general public tends to buy the conservative argument and only sees the costs of unions as promoted by anti-union forces. 

The results are destructive to American industry, American workers and the American economy. 

We've seen this pattern play out in Wisconsin in the public sector over the past year and now the focus is also being put back on the private sector.

Claiming MLK…
We celebrated Dr. King's birthday last Monday with ceremonies and other events.  Here in Madison tensions were high as Scott Walker participated in the activities honoring Dr. King.

Of course it would be political suicide to criticize Dr. King and our GOP leaders in Wisconsin are way too savvy to do anything of that magnitude.  Instead, Vicki McKenna floated the idea that Dr. King was a Republican.  Co-opting a movement, phrase or historical figure is a common Republican strategy and it makes sense that they would try and claim Dr. King as one of their own.  After all the conservatives have tried to make it appear that their efforts to reform our nation are done with the interests of the majority of Americans at their base.  Education reform is a great example of this effort as conservatives claim that offering choice in education gives everyone equal opportunity (despite much evidence to the contrary).

Thus we get this posting that was shared on Facebook.

If this thinking wasn't taken seriously by some it would be laughable.  There are many holes in this argument.  First, the Democratic party in the southern part of the United States was the home to the most conservative politicians and a breeding ground for racist policies at the time King was alive.  While the Republican party was no model of tolerance it would have been a more palatable choice.  However, we have a great deal of evidence that points to the fact that King was willing to work with any politician who would help further his goals of advancing the Civil Rights Movement.  He carefully weighed his options and went back and forth between support for politicians as varied as Richard Nixon and JFK.  Political party mattered less to King than political action.

In addition to this fact is the rather obvious fact that much of the GOP agenda under Walker has directly undermined things that King held of high value.

So, conservatives can put any title they want behind Dr. King's name, it doesn't change the fact that he would be vehemently opposed to the policies currently being advanced by the GOP in Wisconsin.  To argue otherwise shows incredible ignorance and disrespect to King's legacy. 

Walker, Leader or???…
A fact that can't be disputed is that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.  That one of the greatest presidents of all time was from the Republican party does not do anything to support current Republican actions any more than claiming Dr. King's allegiance does.  Thinking about Lincoln and his role in American history  highlights the differences in leadership that we see between a true statesman and Scott Walker.

It is the leadership style that Walker brings that really divides our state.  We have had many periods of crises over the course of history.  Scott Walker would have us believe that he is attempting to lead us through a period where the future of Wisconsin is threatened.  As a result of this impending doom he justifies his actions as ones that are necessary to save our state for future generations.

However, facts don't necessarily support Walker's claims of destruction looming on the horizon.  In fact, it can be argued that the crisis which lead to the radical attacks on worker's rights and organized labor was largely manufactured by actions supported by GOP leaders.  The response that was generated by Republicans was one that went far beyond what was required to address the problem.

There is no doubt that our state faced many challenges as Governor Walker took office.  However, in times of trouble we need leadership that unites people, not leadership designed to divide groups.  Once again looking at Lincoln, he took office at a time when our nation truly faced a crisis.  Slavery and other hotly contested issues threatened to (and quickly did) tear our nation apart.  Lincoln faced this challenge with strength and dignity.  Even going so far as to assemble a "Team of Rivals" (for a great read check out the book of the same name by Doris Kearns Goodwin) made up of some of his staunchest opponents. 

Walker clearly beats to the rhythm of a different drummer.  He has taken every opportunity to create dissention and discord here.  He appears to be carrying out the agenda of a national movement with great enjoyment and bears personal grudges against public unions.  I admit that I don't know much about Governor Walker as a person.  He may firmly believe in everything that he is doing.  However, as a person who has decided to take on the role of a public official in high office he is not behaving in a responsible manner.

Those who have worked with him before paint the picture of a single minded and uncompromising individual who will not veer from a path once he has selected it.  This makes him a powerful leader to some, but it would appear someone who isn't well suited to lead a democratic system.        

The GOP seems intent on reshaping history and creating a new style of American leader.  They are lifting politicians like Walker up as an example of a strong leader.  Walker has compared himself to past leaders like Reagan.  I would argue that he seems to be more of a Nixon type.  If the Republicans want to claim King's legacy maybe this is the quote they should use (simply change Walker for Nixon)
"Nixon has a genius for convincing one he is sincere…he almost disarms you with his apparent sincerity."  King also added, "If Richard Nixon is not sincere, he is the most dangerous man in America."

A Different Vision For America…
Many would argue that the difference between Republican and Democrat isn't that large at the national level.  They argue that both parties are bought and paid for by large money interests.  There is some truth to this argument and it is difficult to make the case that the Democratic Party has been a strong supporter of labor in recent years.  However, as the more radical members of the Republican Party gain more control over their platform the message becomes more extreme. 

This is as true here in Wisconsin as it is elsewhere.

"Compassionate Conservatism" at its finest. 

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