David Michael Miller
If Scott Walker were in governor's school he'd be earning an "F."
Let's look at the record.
- He promised he'd create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first four years. Less than half that number were actually created, and Wisconsin underperformed most Midwest states as well as the national average.
- He promised he'd balance the budget. He produced a projected $2 billion deficit for the 2015-17 biennium.
- Failing at his employment goals, last year he touted an $800 million tax cut as the way to create jobs. Minnesota's Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton didn't follow Walker's standard ALEC policy playbook. The result? Unemployment in Minnesota is 3.7%, while the unemployment rate in Scott Walker's "open for business" Wisconsin is 5.2%.
- And while Wisconsin legislators struggle with that $2 billion deficit, liberal Gov. Dayton's Minnesota just can't agree on what to do with their almost $2 billion surplus.
- Walker's refusal of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act will cost our state $345 million over the next two years and result in 81,000 fewer Wisconsinites being covered. That's right, we're paying more to cover fewer people.
- He turned back $810 million, again of our own federal taxes, that would have gone to a high-speed rail system knitting together Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison. That system would have been up and running now for over a year if he hadn't narrowly won election in 2010.
- So just between Medicaid and rail alone, Walker has turned his back on over $1.1 billion in federal resources that will just be spent in some other state. Did I mention he's running a $2 billion deficit?
In any school he'd be failing. In any private company he would have been fired a long time ago. If he were a city manager he'd be sued for malfeasance in office.
So, how did this guy who the record shows is incompetent or reckless or both, get elected to begin with, become the only governor in American history to ever survive a recall, and then win reelection to a second term, all in the space of four years?
Answer: He knows how to play on people's resentments.
Let's start with high-speed rail. Walker was actually open to the idea early on in the 2010 Republican primary. But when one of his opponents went hard against it, Walker responded immediately with absolute statements saying that he would turn down the federal money. It became a significant wedge issue, playing on resentment of Milwaukee and Madison in the rest of the state.
Act 10 was all about playing on resentment toward local teachers and "Madison" bureaucrats (but really state and municipal workers all over Wisconsin) in the wake of the Great Recession. Rather than trying to put in place policies that would build up private-sector workers' pay and benefits to equal or exceed their public-sector colleagues, Walker sought to drum up hard feelings between private- and public-sector workers, who should have been on the same side.
The Medicaid refusal is all about capitalizing on resentment of working-class whites against working-class African Americans. Medicaid is often heard as code for black and urban.
Walker's attacks on the UW and the Wisconsin Idea are intended to highlight the differences between those with university degrees and most Wisconsinites, who don't have one, at the expense of all the economic development that comes with a strong higher education system and a better-educated workforce.
And last year's senseless tax cut was mostly about keeping government in a constant state of fiscal crisis so that cutting programs will always be on the table. Walker doesn't want fiscal stability. He wants to gut government. In this way he plays on the resentment of the very idea of government.
So, Walker seeks to divide rural against urban Wisconsin, better-educated Wisconsinites versus blue-collar workers, private-sector employees versus those in the public sector, white Wisconsinites against their black fellow citizens.
My point is that if you want to look for the secret to Scott Walker's success, don't look to the higher human values of the common good. Instead, examine the politics of "divide and conquer." Walker succeeds by employing a remarkable and laser-like focus on exploiting and inflaming human resentments.
This is not the kind of man to be leading Wisconsin, or Wauwatosa for that matter, or any private company or, God help us, the United States of America.