by John Michlig
It began with a post that showed up on my Facebook wall. The sensibilities of a Pro-Walker friend were offended by a puerile sign posted in front of a Baraboo motel which played on a misunderstanding of how the Koch brothers pronounce their last name (FYI: it’s “Coke”; doesn’t rhyme with “clock”).
A commenter I’ll call “Mary” chimed in dismissively:
People. Big business’s [sic] have been lobbying and donating to elected officials, both Republican AND Democrat since the BEGINNING OF TIME. The only “point” this sign conveys is one of ignorance. Next.
I was compelled by “Mary’s” misreading of the current cynical and mercenary state of political funding to respond. So, while waiting for my son’s bus to arrive, I typed the following in hopes of provoking further thought:
“Mary,” if I may clarify a bit (I apologize ahead of time for the length of this note):
With all due respect –
While I would be truly hard-pressed to find a hero on “my side” who is managing to finance campaigns without some kind of funding from the corporate and/or commercial sector, it’s a mistake to believe that there is equivocation between the way Democrats and Republicans approach their financial relationships with “patrons.”
The fact of the matter is that the Kochs and their ilk not only aggressively fund the likes of Walker and Fitzgerald, as well as partisan “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, etc.; they actually write legislation and determine policy. Since the Citizen’s United ruling, they are free to pull all the strings that can afford to.
And that’s a lot of strings.
Look out – here comes a chart:
And, yes, men who make their living emitting carbon will gladly pay thinkers and writers to argue against government regulation of carbon via bogus studies and paid-for scientists.
They also write mining bills that serve their interests above that of the public at large. (Legislators worked with Gogebic Taconite on mining bill – JSOnline)
And, yes, people who make gigantic amounts of money can afford to — and, indeed, DO — lobby aggressively and successfully for tax laws that effectively drop their tax rate to the lowest it’s been in four generations while our country’s infrastructure and schools crumble.
That’s why the tax code (and the present behavior of national Republicans in the House; check recent headlines) hews so closely to the “needs” of millionaires and billionaires.
So, the issue that so many people — including a growing number of disillusioned Republicans — have with Walker and Co. is that their various fly-by-night moves to fix a “budget crisis,” which they invented for their purposes, are designed not to help the people of the state of Wisconsin, but rather to consolidate long-term power by defunding their main opposition (labor unions, etc.) and creating barriers to voting for constituencies that tend to vote Democrat.
That power-consolidation effort an inarguable matter of policy for the right wing in Wisconsin; they’ve been waiting a long time to “throw the switch.”
And one of the reasons people are so disgusted with Walker is that, in addition to allowing stealth legislation, he encouraged denigration of public workers and teachers because it served the agenda of his contributors.
He never came out to a podium and said, solemnly, “I’ve been hearing disparaging comments about teachers and public workers, and I want that to STOP IMMEDIATELY. That is not what this is about, and they deserve our respect.” Or; “I’ve heard my supporters spout bad information about the true nature of how public workers and teachers are compensated, and I want to correct those misperceptions now. Yes, we seek to lower their compensation. NO, they did not get ‘free’ pensions or ‘free’ insurance previously.”
Instead, he nurtured and encouraged a poison atmosphere that persists to this day, and one which will continue long into the future. Everything has changed.
Beyond ideology, there is this sad fact: The same corporations that fund Walker and other “tax freeze” Republicans are also the ones that have and will pull up stakes and move out of a state — even after tax breaks — if the educational system (exodus of experienced teachers and defunded programs) and infrastructure (lack of rail, for instance) prove insufficient to their long-term needs. And that’s just one example of the long-term damage Walker and his ilk inflict in exchange for your $97 property tax savings this year or next.
Thanks for reading to the end.
“Mary” responded as follows:
John…ya lost me at “Mary”. Sorry man. Short attention span.
And then, a bit later:
Recall him. He’s just going to get re-elected anyway. Go Scottie!!
My post was 582 words, or just under two typeset pages. “Mary,” a Walker supporter, could not gather the wherewithall required to get through it, much less rebut any of my assertions.
All she had time for was “Go Scottie!!”
There are two things upon which Walker and his associates can safely depend, and upon which they can continue to build power:
1. The continued unrestricted flow of money from out of state corporate donors and other monied interests — donors who have and will continue to extract painful payback from the citizens of Wisconsin,
2. The continued proud apathy and ignorance of rank-and-file Walker supporters, who are happily disengaged from dull pursuits such as math, fact-checking, and historic precedent.
Which brings us back to that sign in Baraboo.
Yes, Walker and his immunity-granted aides blithely cash check after check from the Kochs and their camouflaged affiliates, and the administration dutifully follows the corresponding marching orders that come attached.
Off-color or not, there is a lot of truth to that sign.
However, given the fact that a huge percentage of people who consider themselves Walker supporters have no concept of the real issues and numbers at work, will soon find their lives and communities adversely impacted by Wisconsin’s race to the bottom, and profess no desire to do any examination of the facts beyond expounding irrational anti-teacher and anti-public worker epitaphs (that are encouraged by the state Republican leadership), the question is:
Who are the REAL suckers?
John Michlig is a writer and Wausau native who lives in Franklin, Wisconsin. His blog, which examines modern city and community planning issues, is at http://fullyarticulated.typepad.com/sprawledout/