Back in Brooklyn now, but I did want to tie up a few loose ends and post some pix from yesterday’s scene at the Wisconsin State Capitol.
First, a couple of comments, then some pix.
- It looks like much of the Wisconsin budget shortfall came from some spending initiatives and tax breaks pushed through by Walker and the Republican-dominated legislature: an economic development fund, health savings accounts, and tax breaks for employers. In any case, what Walker sees as a $137 million deficit, and the state’s independent fiscal auditor sees as a $56 million surplus (here), is pretty small change in a budget of over $13 billion—hardly the justification of action this drastic.
- I had a couple of conversations with Joel Rogers, a professor of law, political science, public affairs, and sociology at the University of Wisconsin. To outsiders, it’s mysterious that the same state could have spawned Joe McCarthy and Robert LaFolette, or Scott Walker and Russ Feingold. Rogers explained that politics in Wisconsin has historically been driven by an alliance of industrial workers and capital-intensive dairy farmers on the left, opposed on the right by a mainly Catholic rural population. They’re pretty evenly divided, thus the contrasting figures and tight elections.
- Rogers also sees Walker’s attack on the public employee unions as part of a nationally coordinated Republican strategy to remove the unions as major financial and organizational supports for Democratic candidates. Some of the wavering Republican legislators in Madison got calls from Karl Rove and people speaking on his behalf. Such is politics in the USA (and this is me speaking, not Rogers) that the unions have a choice only between supporting a party that does little for them when in office and one that would destroy them.
Ok, now some pix.
There was lots of commentary on how Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of college—Marquette, to be precise—where he’d had a C average.
Also some comments on his name. People were lining up to photograph this mobile art installation:
Walker’s bill to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights exempts police and firefighters—a “thank you,” you might guess, to the endorsements of his campaign that came from the unions representing state troopers as well as Milwaukee’s cops and firefighters. So there was much cheering when a number of firefighters came out in support of the demonstrators.
Support came from a number of private sector unions, too.
In stark contrast with your modern style of demonstration, in which cops keep demonstrators far from their intended targets, once again, protesters were all over the Capitol.
This was the only visible evidence of support for Walker—two signs on a house next to our hotel. That was it—no gaggle of counter-demonstrators holding placards in defense of “taxpayer rights” or any such nonsense.
The night before, someone in the house was practicing some rock ’n’ roll drumming inside. Must have been some sort of Ted Nugent-style libertarian.