Scott Walker is riding the Clown Car Express. He’s the evil clown, the one you always hear about who scares children. He is scary. He didn’t scare Wisconsin voters enough. They failed to recall him, although they should get credit for trying. When Walker took office, with all his talk about economic growth and job creation, Wisconsin was already doing well, with its publicly traded companies up 40% in value, bringing an increase of more than 50% in tax revenues.
Then Walker became governor. Over the next four years, Wisconsin’s economic performance dropped to 35th in the country, according to Bloomberg. The state has consistently fallen below Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Iowa is a farm state but Michigan isn’t nor is Illinois or Minnesota.
Walker should scare parents. He’s been on an agenda of hurting children since he took office. He cut their teachers’ incomes by increasing their contribution to health care, a benefit that was taken away and made a part of the average $6,000 deductions taken from their $46,000 average salaries. Wisconsin has always been one of the biggest supporters of education for children and teens and college students. In 2015, Governor Walker introduced a plan to further cut $127 million from the education budget, has eliminated teacher unions (as well as virtually all other unions by making Wisconsin a right-to-work state) and eliminated all standards for teaching at the elementary and secondary level (even the requirement to have a bachelor’s degree.) In other words, Walker is for big corporations but against their workers.
Let’s see how well Walker’s rush to cut government costs so that he could give big business some tax cuts worked out. We mentioned that he cut about eight to ten percent off of teachers’ incomes when he increased the amount of money they paid for health insurance and some other costs. So, for example, a teacher in Green Bay who has been teaching 30 years and she’s very good at it and she’s way over the minimum retirement age, and by working more years she also makes a little more over time, so now after about 40 years teaching, she is making $60,000, a lot for a teacher. (Unless you compare it to stockbroker or politicians’ pay, for far less work and far less important work.) But now she has to decide, with these lower levels of pay and an $8,000 hit to her income, will she continue to teach. She decides no, she won’t teach any longer; she’ll retire.
Now this is why the number of people, mostly teachers, and professors at the University of Wisconsin retired in 2011. About 10,000 of them retired, up from half that many in the previous year, 2010, the first year of Walker’s administration. The cuts that Walker was making would take effect at the beginning of 2011. Now, places like Beloit would have 60 fewer teachers in 2011, some of them the most experienced teachers, and class sizes would be larger. Any teacher will tell you that there is an inverse relationship between class size and student performance. As class size goes up, student performance goes down.
So how is it, now, five years after Walker took office? Act scores, thankfully, in Wisconsin, have not gone down but stayed steady. Steady in Wisconsin, however is an average score of 22, higher than the national average. But education problems in Wisconsin have not abated. The teacher drain is dramatic to say the least since Walker took over. In 2015, four years after the first retirements from Walker’s drastic policies teachers are still retiring in drove, particularly senior teachers, most worried that the Fascists in state politics working for Walker will try to take away their retirement. Some local school districts have gone to court to do just that but were defeated…so far.
Consider this. Oshkosh has 37 people retiring from its schools, the largest number they have ever recorded. Appleton had 70 retirements this year up from 29 last year. Mequon-Theinsville had 28 this year versus a mere 10 last year. And Green Bay did not double its losses this year; it tripled them…140 teachers and 15 administrators. Let’s face it. Wisconsin is losing the very people who are working hard to create these wonderful ACT scores. And they should lose them. The ACT 10 legislation from Walker is a direct attack upon the progressive leaders in the state. Teachers are not Conservatives. They are Liberals and Progressives in the very spirit and tradition of Wisconsin
Walker cut $2 billion in corporate taxes. He cut an estimated $250 million from the University of Wisconsin system and has tried to remove tenure from the faculty. An overwhelming number of Wisconsin citizens (78%) say that they are against what Walker is doing. He is reducing the power of a tenured university faculty merely to put his own people in place, to break down the resistance to his domineering methods, to cut more costs to give fewer services to the public and return more money to corporations who will then, like Menard’s give him very large amounts of money with which he can spread enormous lies to the lowest level of Wisconsin’s citizens using huge television campaigns that drown out other messages.
Before his election, Walker promised 250,000 jobs a year. Thus far, he has created fewer than 40,000 jobs in any year but one, 2014, and then just barely, on an up-swinging economy. In the meantime, he gave tax breaks of over $2 billion, with a “b” to businesses. It isn’t to create jobs. It is to make the investment of the billionaires his candidacy worthwhile. He is what many people would call a crook, a scoundrel or a political hack. Wisconsin is virtually “dead last” in job creation, sometimes last and sometimes 9th out of the 10 Midwest states, even those with much less population. So much for the Populist hero, who works for the Koch Brothers’, ALEC organization, with complete openness. He doesn’t care who knows that he has been bought by billionaires. After all, with his record, it is pretty clear that he is not working for the people.
He’s not only working for the Koch Brothers. super-polluters, but also for the richest man in Wisconsin, John Menard, Jr. ($9.1 billion) who owns a chain of lumber yards/hardware stores. Menard is also a polluter, the biggest one in Wisconsin, having paid fines of $1.7 million, the highest ever meted out to a corporation in that state with so many beautiful lakes and rivers. So what do you do if you are John Menard, Jr. and there are all kinds of regulations and rules to protect the water and air for the citizens of Wisconsin that you don’t like to follow?
Well, what Menard did was to buy a governor. He give $1.5 million to the Walker side in the election to recall Walker in 2012. So, instead of paying for the pollution cleanup which must have been less than $1.7 million, Menard spitefully spent $1.5 million (in secret) to buy a governor who then gave Menard $1.8 million in tax breaks. And–the kind of consumer regulation against toxic waste that cost Menard heavily before Walker took office was virtually eliminated. Why did Menard give the money “in secret” to Scott Walker? He did it in secret because there was already a lingering criminal investigation of Walker’s campaign activities. And he didn’t want the name “Menard” brought out in public for what it is—a major polluter of lakes in Wisconsin.
The year he won, he raised $770,000 in funds from outside Wisconsin. But after the people began to see who he was and initiated a recall, the big money boys in New York and California, seeing his attitude towards unions and workers and how he was able to persuade a Republican dominated legislature to go along with him, he received $19 million from outside Wisconsin. The lesson was clear. The big Right Wing organizations saw a man able to fool the majority people in his own state, not once, but with the aid of huge donations—twice.
And where did those donations come from? All over the country, from people like this: Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino magnate ($250,000); Richard DeVos, an Amway co-founder and owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team ($250,000); and Bob Perry, the Texas home builder ($490,000), Foster Friess, a Wyoming investor ($114,600.) Why would all these people support Walker? Because he showed them what he will do. He has no reservations about transferring more of the cost of government to the public workers and teachers. He cuts taxes on many things that save billionaires money. Just like Menard, they go on doing whatever they like while the people suffer from air pollution, or the toxic fluids from fracking or cuts to the education system.
Walker is rapidly privatizing schools. He is drawing money from the education fund and creating vouchers for people who already pay for their children’s education in parochial schools, but now get individual stipends to move their children from the public school system. This is fine for those families, but with the addition of other private schools, now eligible under Walker’s program, funds are drained from an already foundering school system, lacking funds merely to hire enough teachers. Tax cuts, amounting to approximately $2 billion have meant corresponding cuts in elementary, high school and university funding.
Walker did not stop his attacks on citizens there. His new budget repeals the laws concerning the “prevailing wage” which, in one form or another has existed since 1894. In 1931 the Davis-Bacon Act said that workers on public projects in an certain area must be paid the “prevailing” wage, a wage determined to be the general wage paid to contractors or other individuals of certain skills in that area. That principle has been expanded and documented in every state. Walker has said, no, we will pay our workers in Wisconsin, who work on government projects the lowest possible wages we can concoct. He removed the term “living wage” from state statutes, using only the term “minimum wage” which, in Wisconsin, is $7.25 an hour. He also eliminated a state mandate that factory and retail workers should get at least one day off per week. He opened up thousands of prime acres in state forests to commercial timber cutting. He restricted local zoning along lake shorelines…so that he can make zoning determinations…which could then go to industrial firms. And while cutting budgets he raised fees for individual citizens at state parks. And finally, he raised costs for recycling.
Here is the bottom line on Walker. He has cut the Wisconsin budget by $3 billion, partially by essentially by requiring teachers and government employees to pay 12.6% of their health care costs, which amounted to about $750 million. That reduction in the state budget was accomplished by putting the burden on the teachers, professors and state employees. The costs were merely shifted to a set of the population rather than the entire population. The rest of the cuts were general cuts, income cuts, and eventually, in 2014, property taxes.
The problem is that the cuts to state budget—and the state still has a deficit—have led the Governor to make cuts in government as well. He cut $250 million from Wisconsin University funds and eliminated tenure. Many elementary and high schools do not have enough teachers because of budget cuts and experienced teachers leaving in huge numbers, double the number of previous years.
Walker is a predator and a surrogate for the rich, doing their bidding by assaulting the principle and indeed the actual organizations, the unions, that hold the political power of the Right Wing Reactionaries in check. The Super-Rich these days want a return on their campaign contributions. Diane Hendricks, the owner of a large aluminum door and window corporation, and a donor to Walker’s initial campaign ($500,000) asked reasonably (to her) and on video tape, “Is there any chance we can be a completely red state, work on unions and become a right-to-work state?” to which Walker replied, “We’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employees. Use “divide and conquer.” That is the principle, all right. That is the Nazi principle, right out of the 1930s. In Walker’s world it means: turn the teachers against the construction workers. Then turn the state workers, all the public workers against the workers for private corporations. Turn society upside down. And in the confusion, tell everyone how well things are going. That’s how Scott Walker manages Wisconsin.
Let’s talk about Ben Carson, Doctor Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, graduate of Yale, graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine, and a member of the staff of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the third best hospital in the United States. At Johns Hopkins he was not only a professor of neurosurgery and head of the pediatric neurosurgical department but also head of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. He is a very bright to brilliant man, with extraordinary accomplishments. He has led teams of surgeons a number of times in attempts, many successful, in separating conjoined twins.
And he is a candidate for President of the United States on the Republican Party ticket. Here are his positions. (Remembering that he has never held office and so it may be somewhat difficult to be firm on positions that could be quite different after he has to live with the consequences of his decisions as President. )
He’s not a total nut on abortion. He is against performing one after 20 weeks. Many people think that is reasonable.
He’s basically for random sequester. He wants to cut every department of government by 10%, right across the board. He, for some obscure reason, thinks gays choose to be gay. (He obviously has not known too many gay men.) Therefore he believes that while we must obey the law and allow same-sex marriage, he is against it. He believes that the highest corporate tax rate causes the highest national debt. He must have that one scrawled on a men’s room wall. He used very little of his brain power to say that Blacks are abused and we need to stop problems resulting from driving while black. He’s moderately for better civil rights legislation. Moderately. As a man who has founded over a thousand safe, secure reading rooms for children, Ben Carson is a good choice if your issue is Education alone.
Climate change is distracting and irrelevant. Drill baby, drill. On the other hand, protecting the environment is good for capitalists and for “Socialists.” (Who knows?) We should back Israel and follow Netanyahu’s lead. As a general rule, on foreign policy: “Don’t just sit around waiting to see what other people do.” (OK, then….moving along….) Our immoral lifestyle, like Rome’s will cause a decline in our fortunes. He says that freedom is why people come to American from Cuba, not vice versa. (He doesn’t mention poverty.) American poverty is not as bad as poverty in India and Africa. (So, I don’t know what he wants to do on that score.)
People should be able to own guns. Period. People in the countryside, who apparently would like to put a couple of dozen holes in a deer in ten seconds should be able to own automatic weapons, but not people in densely populated areas. Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery, robs you of your ability to control your own life, and is all about restrictions and control of individual lives. (uh, huh.) Regulate insurance companies as non-profit services. (Not quite clear enough on that.) Euthanasia is ok in some circumstances. Likes Health Savings Accounts and catastrophic insurance.
He believes that our armed forces are at the lowest level in decades. (He needs to learn more about our military. Larger than the rest of the world combined. ) Don’t tie military’s hands. Allow torture. Stop ISIL and others with brute force. Against drastic methods of solving immigration problem. But supports something on Southwest border. Says, and he may be right, that the vast majority want borders closed until problems solved. On jobs…nada, zip, nothing.
Hillary Clinton is an example of the kind of secular progressive that causes all our problems. We have so much secularization that we are afraid to say Merry Christmas. (Babada bing, babada boom.) Bible is a big deal to him. Obviously, he is not against Creationism but he would have it share science classes. Apparently, (a little hard to read) do away with IRS and simply have an unmonitored flat tax. (Apparently an honor system, or perhaps he believes Jesus will oversee it.) The morality of the war against Iraq was highly debatable. (Ya think?)
So this is Ben Carson. His naivete shows up pretty clearly in his comments. Not a bad guy particularly. But in politics he comes across as not very bright. Since that isn’t possible, the alternative is that he just doesn’t know much about politics. He won’t win anyway.