Walker’s Attack on Wisconsin Values Anything But Progressive

February 10, 2012

Wisconsin blue fist

Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane this week wrote a column claiming Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is a “progressive.” This response from Wisconsin State Employees Union/AFSCME Council 24 Pres. Paulette Feld tells the truth about Walker’s record.

It’s clear that Charles Lane doesn’t know much about Wisconsin. Sadly, that didn’t stop him from offering up a through-the-looking-glass take on Scott Walker’s assault on Wisconsin values.

Lane argues that Walker’s sneak attack on public employees is somehow progressive.

As someone born and raised in the birthplace of the Progressive movement, and also the birthplace of my union, I see nothing progressive about Walker’s thuggish assault on the citizens of Wisconsin.

In his own words, Walker “dropped the bomb” on Wisconsin laws that had maintained labor peace for five decades and assured uninterrupted, high-quality, public services.

Lane argues it doesn’t matter that Walker deliberately hid his radical plans from voters before the election. But it is clear that Walker and his out-of-state billionaire backers knew very well that there was no way he would have been elected if he had even hinted at his plan to obliterate workers’ rights.

If Lane knew more about Wisconsin, he would understand that most of us here think that giving people the right to bargain collectively over conditions in the workplace is a good thing. Giving workers a voice means operations will run more safely and smoothly. And it’s also a good check on the kind of cronyism that it is Walker’s standard operating procedure.

Daily headlines now illuminate Walker’s penchant for appointing political hacks to high public office, a preference he made clear with one of his first acts in office, which was to strip civil service protection from dozens of state jobs. He has opened the door to more political patronage than Wisconsin has seen since the true Progressives pioneered civil service early in the last century.

Now, without union protection, there is nothing to prevent the creeping cancer of Walker’s cronyism from forcing workers to do the bidding of their newly politicized bosses.

Walker’s secret scheming has set the tone for the Legislature. It has just been revealed that Walker’s legislative allies actually signed confidentiality agreements binding them from speaking honestly to the citizens who elected them about the GOP’s extreme redistricting schemes here.

It is clear that something is rotten in Wisconsin, with Walker leading us down a path of extreme partisanship and bare-knuckled power politics. Walker and his allies are rewriting the rules to consolidate their own power and they are ruthlessly using this power to gut Wisconsin’s traditional values.

They’ve jammed through some of the biggest cuts to education in the country. They are dumping tens of thousands of poor children off health care.  They’re undermining cancer screening and prevention programs for women. They’ve increased taxes on our poorest citizens while lavishing tax breaks on out-of-state corporations.  

Walker’s extreme agenda is the complete opposite of the Wisconsin I know and love, and it’s why more than a million of my fellow citizens have laid it on the line and put their names on recall petitions.

It didn’t have to be this way. Walker’s extreme power grab has been met by vocal opposition every step of the way, including the biggest public uprising in Wisconsin history.

Instead of the Wisconsin we know and love – one that’s fair, respects the rule of law and treats workers with dignity and respect – Walker has governed dishonestly and anti-democratically.

Maybe this kind of radical debacle looks “progressive” to a journalist based in Washington, D.C., but here in Wisconsin we see it as the exact opposite of the values we have grown up with. We see it as a declaration of war on all we hold dear. As more than a million of my fellow citizens are making clear, it is not a declaration that can or will go unanswered.

Paulette Feld is an information network support tech for Polk Library at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She is president of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24.

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