Walker likes to say that his changes provided the “tools” that school boards and administrators said they needed to control costs, but every administrator I spoke to said this went far beyond anything they ever asked for.
“None of us were asking the governor to charge our employees more,” retiring Sevastopol School Superintendent Steve Cromell told me last fall, referring to the measures to increase teacher contributions for health insurance and pensions. “We wanted to open bidding for health insurance. Nobody ever said we needed to break teacher’s unions.”
Walker’s infamous “divide and conquer” strategy wasn’t necessary to accomplish that. Sturgeon Bay School Superintendent Joe Stutting said the governor was playing a game of semantics that doesn’t ring true and creates a relationship that will only deteriorate with time.
“He calls them tools, but what they are is simply a way to make employees take less,” Stutting said. “How many times can you ask employees to balance your budget?”
At a time ripe for moving the state forward in common purpose, Walker instead drove a political wedge between working-class people - good people - on false pretenses.
On the heels of a national economic collapse that was due in great measure to the actions of our financial elite and the costs of two decade-long wars, Walker aimed his sights on middle-class workers.
Rather than work toward solutions to improve wages and benefits for all workers, he sought to curtail them for a segment he could paint as overpaid and over-benefitted - teachers, municipal employees, social workers.
It should be no surprise that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites fought back, but we sure have a love-hate relationship with our democracy.
We endlessly bemoan the lack of citizen engagement in politics. But when a group rallies together, be it the Tea Party or the Occupy movement, we tell them to shut up. What we really seem to want is for people to vote every couple of years, then sit on the sidelines and let a club of old white men take care of us. They were elected after all, and they know what’s best for us.
The paper I used to write for in Wisconsin asked me to write a piece on the Recall Election. Though I lived there for most of 33 years, I hesitated to write it because just moved out of the state. Then I thought, if millions of dollars can flow into the state to alter the course of its future and this election, then surely a longtime resident and taxpayer can chime in with his opinion. This is a snippet of it. For the full article, click here»