It should be the sound of the other shoe dropping, but you’ll have to listen hard to Governor Scott Walker’s budget address because most media will miss most of it. It’s a funny thing about covering budgets. Cutting spending garners a whole lot more attention than cutting taxes.
How many Americans know, for example, that Governor Walker gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations—right before he announced this fiscal year’s deficit of $137 million? The good people I met last week at the Wisconsin Budget Project call that a structural deficit. I’d go further. It’s not only structural; it’s structured—to bring about exactly this phony budget crisis.
As Scott Walker refuses to budge on his so-called budget repair bill, Wisconsin is bracing now for his actual budget. It’s anticipated to cut almost a billion from education, literally scuttling public schools in heavily African-American cities like Milwaukee. And we already know Walker’s plans include shrinking Medicaid while privatizing public utilities, shrinking yet more routes for revenue.
Tea Partyers convening in Phoenix this week, sprang to their feet at the mention of Walker. But they’re only one side of this argument. According to a New York Times poll this week, Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions—as Walker would—by a margin of nearly two to one. Given a list of options to reduce the deficit, 40 percent said they would increase taxes; only 3 percent opt for cutting education.
What’s really playing out here isn’t a battle over numbers. It’s that debate: What is government for? Stripping profit of all responsibility to people, or protecting the public welfare? Walker’s making his answer clear. And the conflict, as “Fighting Bob” LaFollette said, has been joined by the people. It’s wealth vs. the common weal. Capital or community.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on Facebook.