Wisconsin governor Scott Walker says that he, out of all the GOP candidates, will be “a
What would President Scott Walker’s America look like? What would Walker do for America? Take a look at what he did for Wisconsin.
War on Public Workers
Walker made a name for himself by attacking public sector workers. One of his first acts as governor was to deal with a budget shortfall of $137 million by proposing a “budget repair bill” that slashed away at salaries for social workers, prison guards, nurses, teachers, and snow-plow operators (an important job in Wisconsin). In addition, workers lost collective bargaining rights, and were stuck with extra health insurance and retirement costs. Walker even tried to divide public workers against each other by exempting local police, fire departments, and the state patrol from his public sector bloodbath.
It didn’t happen without a fight. Democratic lawmakers fled the capitol to deny a quorum, while protestors filled the capitol. (Walker would later compare these protestors to terrorists.) The “budget repair bill” became law, after months of protest. Workers’ take home-pay dropped by 8 to 10 percent. Median household income in Wisconsin dropped nearly $800 below the national average, and continues to drop. As for the budget, not much was repaired. Walker is leaving Wisconsin with a $480 million structural deficit, and a stagnating economy.
This year, Walker signed a “right to work” law, which means that workers are no longer required to pay dues to unions that represent them. The bill not only weakens unions, which are forced to represent more workers with fewer resources, it harms workers by undermining their right to contract, and weakening their ability to bargain.
Making Job Creating a Joke
In January 2011, shortly after taking office, Walker privatized the state’s Department of Commerce, turning into a public-private hybrid called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Chaired by Walker himself, WEDC was supposed to make Wisconsin more “business-friendly,” by handing out grants and tax incentives, to help make good on Walker’s promise to create 250,000 jobs.
WEDC turned out to be a boondoggle from the start. A 2012 open records request revealed that the agency had somehow lost track of most of its initial $56 million loan portfolio, lowballed the amount loaned to companies that had fallen behind on payments, paid $1 million to companies for job trainings that had already happened, and inflated the number of jobs it created. The agency had no policies for how to handle delinquencies. Two such loans totaling about $5 million went to timber companies run by a Walker campaign donor. The agency offered Cash loans each month and handed out about $124 million to businesses — some owned by donors — without any staff oversight.
Walker fell about 150,000 short of his job creation promise, and was ultimately removed from his position as chair of the WEDC — an agency he created. Wisconsin’s job creation rate is far below he national average, and labor statistics showed that WEDC created less than 8,000 jobs, at a cost of about $200 million.
Attacks the Living Wage After attacking public workers, weakening unions, and turning job creation into a festival of cronyism, Walker and his party turned to wages.
- In 2012, Walker signed a repeal of Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which gave wage discrimination victims more avenues to make their cases in court.
- Wisconsin Republicans refused to increase the minimum wage for workers, which remains stuck at $7.25 an hour, even though it hadn’t been increased in 29 years.
- Walker’s new state budget weakens prevailing wages for construction workers on public projects, and eliminates a requirement that the governor consider what constitutes a “living wage” in working to establish an appropriate minimum wage for Wisconsin.
- Walker told the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he doesn’t believe the minimum wage “serves a purpose.”
Taxes Cuts For The Wealthy
Attacking public workers’ wages and pensions wasn’t enough to satisfy Walker or repair Wisconsin’s budget. His first act as governor, even before attacking public workers, was toconvene a special legislative session to produce $140 million in tax breaks. In a later budget, Walker expanded that to $2.3 billion over a decade. Another tax break in 2014 turned the state’s $1 billion budget surplus into another $283 million shortfall — and another excuse for major cuts to education and other parts of the state budget.
Who were the biggest beneficiaries? About $366 million went to multinational corporations. Other measures made the wealthy even wealthier, to the tune of about $436 million. Meanwhile, tax credits were actually eliminated for about 140,000 low income people. In Walker’s Wisconsin, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, as a matter of state policy.
Cuts To Education Spending
The next target for Walker’s budget bloodlust was education — the state’s third largest area of spending. His current budget cuts $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system, an ends faculty tenure, driving away top professors. Walker even tried to replace a century-old university mission of the search for truth and public service to the more corporate-friendly “providing state workforce needs.” Adding insult to injury, Walker wants to spend $250 million in taxpayer funds to build a new basketball stadium, to benefit billionaire Milwaukee Bucks owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry.
Walker has consistently slashed funding for K–12 schools, while funneling money into, and loosening standard and requirements for privatized voucher schools. Wisconsin now spends $1,104 less per public school student than it did in 2008, and Walker’s budget will siphon off more public school funding, with an unprecedented expansion of vouchers, designed to redirect money from public schools to for-profit and religious schools.
These are just a few highlights from Walker’s record that serve as a preview of what Americans can expect from a Walker presidency. As Mary Bottari points outs, Walker “governs by bombshell and sneak attack.” President Walker’s bombshells and sneak attacks would no doubt continue the GOP’s war on women, attacks on voting rights, and denial of climate science — all designed to line the pockets of Republicans’ wealthy, and corporate donors, while leaving the rest of us to pay the price.