BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO
Some Democrats are reacting to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s victory Tuesday by playing down any connection to President Obama’s re-election chances.
Conservatives couldn’t be happier. They say Walker’s win proves that the majority of Wisconsin’s voters agree with conservatives’ message about smaller government.
But something else happened in Wisconsin that Americans should be discussing: the influence of big money on elections and the growing desire to silence everyday workers. It was Walker’s decision to strip public workers of their bargaining rights that sparked the recall.
Walker raised more than $30 million to fight off his recall, with much of it coming from outside Wisconsin, according to most news reports. Walker was able to outspend his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, by about seven to one.
Walker was not only successful at muffling the voice of public workers; he bought enough television advertising to muffle the voice of his opponent. And by crippling the unions and their chief advocate, he has drawn a road map for how to successfully silence the Democratic Party.
But there’s far more to this than depriving Democrats of a traditionally strong ally. Conservatives have done an excellent job of promoting the idea that organized labor is to blame for the country’s debt and unemployment problems. From an historical view, however, little good has come from efforts to silence workers.
Many historians argue that it was the combination of the GI bill and collective bargaining that built the largest middle class in human history following World War II.
In his most recent book, “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future,” Columbia University professor and Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses the fallacies surrounding innovation and job creation by the richest Americans. And he points to a steady assault on US workers wages since the 1960’s. That’s roughly the same time we began to see a decline in union membership, though Stiglitz attributes the growing inequality in the US, now the worst of industrialized nations, to multiple reasons.
Corporate America and its conservative supporters have learned that they can not only sell food and products — like cigarettes — that are harmful to the public, Stiglitz says. They’ve learned they can sell harmful ideology, too.