Wisconsin: Still the Divided State

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary During the recall vote, I decided not to bother commenting on what might happen or on what a victory or defeat for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker might mean. Now long after the vote, I can say something. Walker won barely—46 percent of all Wisconsin residents cast their ballot against him. More than that, his policies caused so much anger and opposition that his opponents forced what has been rarely done in American history—get enough signatures for a recall vote. That Walker’s opponents were able to get a recall vote through speaks volumes about how wrong Walker’s policies were and how he has seriously even now divided the people of his state. He barely won, but I have to wonder if he really learned that extreme ideology almost never governs well. No one, even Walker’s opponents, deny that Wisconsin has a serious state debt. But it has been his style of governing that has upset people the most. We must remember that rather than work with the Democrats and the unions in the state, Walker and his Republican majority in the state legislature forced through laws that took away union collective bargaining rights from public employees and seriously cut funding from programs to help the poor as well as ethnic and racial minorities.

Despite claims that he will “work for all Wisconsin residents,” the Wisconsin State Supreme Court refused to hear a law Walker had passed that will make “voluntary” worker contributions to unions. Before this law was passed, all unionized workers had to make contributions to the unions whether the workers belonged to the unions or not. Of course, it made sense to join the unions to receive not only benefits but also protection from the corporations. Also, bear in mind that those workers who did not join unions still benefited from union actions that helped them receive higher wages and better benefits. The law passed by Walker would in fact negate the benefits those workers who did not join the unions got, and worse would negate—by federal law—a union contract which protects all workers who join a union. If Walker truly believes in “reconciliation,” then he should change or at least modify this law. But he is not going to do so, and although the state challenge to this law is over, it is still in the federal courts.

If Walker is truly seeking reconciliation, then he should restore some programs affected by his budget cuts like BadgerCare. BadgerCare was created in 1999 to help those families and their children who could not qualify for Medicaid. The program has been successful for 750,000 people in Wisconsin. Although Walker claimed that his budget cutting plan will “balance Wisconsin’s budget,” the federal government contends that it will in fact create a further budget deficit and in fact cause the governor to hike BadgerCare’s premiums by 10 percent—thus forcing off thousands of low income families from the program. Most of those who will be affected include Latinos and African Americans as well as low-income families. Coming from a person who in fact caused huge public demonstrations in Wisconsin’s capital Madison two years ago, I seriously doubt that Scott Walker is the man who will unite the state.

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