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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Walker's stance threatens workers, democracy itself by Ted Kinnaman

The scenes in Madison the past few weeks provided great theater, but the underlying drama has darkly serious implications.  It is obvious that Gov. Scott Walker's real objective is not to deal with the budget deficit.  After all, $117 million of this year's deficit is the result of yet another tax cut for corporation.  Walker's real goal is to smash the unions.

This strategy is part of a larger far-right agenda known as "neo-liberalism," which was first advanced by Ronald Reagan.  This ideology consists of tax breaks for the wealthy, deregulation, privatization, free trade and, last but not least, cheap labor.  This last goal is clearly more difficult to achieve if corporations have to contend with unions.

One of Reagan's first acts was to destroy the air-traffic controllers union  The rest of this agenda has proceeded since then, and one of its results is that we now have the greatest economic inequality since the 1920s.  This is demonstrated by the Congressional Budget Office report that the Reagan tax cuts in 1981 actually cost $250 for taxpayers earning less than $10,000, while those earning more than $80,000 gained $15,130.

Things have only gotten worse until today the top 400 families have more income than the bottom 50 percent of the population!  Corporate taxes show a similar distortion.  In 1952, corporations paid taxes of 28 percent.  By 1986, that figure dropped to 7 percent, and today it is below 4 percent.

The results of deregulation have had equally painful effects.  After the New Deal, the banking industry was tightly regulated.  This worked well until the 1980s.  Then, with Reagan, these regulations were swept aside or ignored.  The first result was the savings-and-loan scandal of the late 1980s.  Taxpayers ended up paying billions of dollars to clean up this mess.  But worse was to come.

Further deregulation occurred, most disastrously the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act in 1999.  The floodgates were opened and lending standards were lowered, leading to a huge real estate bubble.  Wall Street imploded, and although it and the banks recovered nicely, thanks to billions in taxpayer bailouts, the rest of the economy has not.  Home foreclosures and unemployment are still unacceptably high, and the recovery such as it is, is tragically slow.

So this brings us back to Walker and his budget repair bill.  It is clear who has benefited from the economic policies of the last 30 years: corporations, banks and Wall Street.  Walker and other far-right ideologues are blaming the wrong people.  It is not public employees and teachers who are to blame for our present predicament, it is the corporate and financial sectors.

Because he needs to balance the budget, why not tax and reregulate those who have profited from the policies that brought us to where we are?

It also must be pointed out that Walker's dictatorial behavior is not just a threat to working people, it poses an even graver threat to democracy itself.


  1. But for the fact that most of what you wrote is the liberal lies told for generations I might be bothered to respond. Most Americans now realize the tripe people like you put forward for what it is. You Ted are an idiot. Over educated (indoctrinated) into leftist theology.

  2. I generally dislike bickering among commentators & prefer to address the post itself. This first, lone comment, though, really troubles me for its needless insults (we are people who support an open forum, as Americans, right?) and its disregard for historical facts. Indeed, this line of argument is very similar to those coming from the radical left. What is just plain true is the trend toward extreme regulation over the past 30-40 years; the high-principled reason has been letting the free market system work unhampered. Also just plain true are the negative consequences of this approach. In the interest of full disclosure, I agree with Ted's claim that these policies are in force because they benefit the most powerful people in our country, and that the kinds of income discrepancies and distributions are despicable and must change. It frustrates me to see these ad hominem attacks that just fire with wild abandon at any left-leaning thought, rather than really being thoughtful about what's being said.

  3. *toward extreme DEregulation, my typo!

  4. Will the first anonymous respondant please elaborate on the leftist lies he is referring to? And when did education become a bad thing? Or free thought for that matter. I would additionally submit that the enormous out-pouring of responses against Governor Walker's actions show that this statement is incorrect: "Most Americans now realize the tripe people like you put forward for what it is."