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Ethan Rome Headshot

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Throws Gasoline on the Fire

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SCOTT WALKER

Gov. Scott Walker's attack on Wisconsin's middle class and his plan to take away the rights of public service workers is wrong. It's certainly wrong for the governor to work for corporate special interests like the infamous Koch brothers instead of the people of Wisconsin. And his threat Tuesday of "dire consequences" was disingenuous and irresponsible, especially since his draconian attack on the freedom of employees to have a voice at work has nothing to do with balancing the state's budget.

It's time for the governor to stop fighting with public employees, put aside his partisan agenda and help Wisconsin move forward. The governor should work with the unions and both political parties and remember that this is not about winning a fight - it's about getting things done.

In Indiana, for example, that's what Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has decided to do. Ideologically, Daniels and Walker are kindred spirits, and the Indiana governor is no friend of workers. But Daniels decided this is not the right time to declare war on workers. According to the Indianapolis Star, Daniels signaled Tuesday that "Republicans should drop the right-to-work bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures."

Wisconsin's governor has created an unnecessary impasse. Gov. Walker has driven 14 Democratic state senators into hiding because it's the only way they can force a pause in the legislative process. He is staring out his office window at unprecedented protests by thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life. Recent polls show the public is not on his side. Everyone understands that Gov. Walker's claims about the state budget are a pretext to take away peoples' rights and shrink Wisconsin's middle class. This is no way to lead a state. The governor should work across party lines to solve this problem so Wisconsin lawmakers can move on to other issues - including the budget for the coming fiscal year.

The governor could end this crisis if he's willing to work with the unions and both political parties. As we all know, this crisis is not about the money and never was. To the extent that Wisconsin has a budget deficit, it is a problem of the governor's own making, thanks to tax breaks he just gave to corporations. The workers have already agreed to Gov. Walker's requests for concessions on pension and health care. But the governor won't budge - he continues to put his ideological agenda ahead of the people of Wisconsin. That's just plain wrong and makes little sense as a practical matter.

The governor is needlessly alienating Wisconsin's workers. I understand why the governor attacked his own work force of public-service employees in his first six weeks in office. Taking away collective-bargaining rights from all workers is an important agenda item for the big corporations and the extremists in his own political party. But this plan has backfired. The middle-class families of his state are turning against the governor. Of course people are angry. Giving tax breaks to corporations and the super rich while taking away the rights, income and benefits of middle-class families isn't fair. No state can afford this kind of strife when budget crises make "shared sacrifice" the phrase of the day. Shared means shared.

Gov. Walker should move Wisconsin forward instead of pursuing his partisan political agenda. There's no room for political games in a fragile economy. There are tough problems to solve, and that can't happen when politicians are playing politics with people's lives. Politicians like Gov. Walker shouldn't be declaring war on the middle class to appease their corporate backers. They should not talk about making "tough" decisions to reduce the standard of living for working families at the same time they increase the wealth of billionaires like the Koch brothers.

A right-wing corporate cabal funded by the Kochs is applying growing pressure on Walker and all Republicans to attack unions. Tomorrow, the Koch-led front group Americans for Prosperity will begin a Wisconsin TV and radio ad campaign to promote this assault on workers.

Now we're seeing exactly the same attacks in states like Ohio. Until these governors and politicians ask the corporations and the very rich to pay their fair share, they have no business asking the rest of us for anything.

You can join the fight -- www.wearewisconsin.org.

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