Political Animal


May 11, 2012 10:59 AM Walker’s Low Road To Mississippi

By Ed Kilgore

It’s been pretty obvious that the vast network of conservative advocates and billionaires backing Scott Walker in his struggle to break public-sector unions and now to survive the inevitable reaction see Wisconsin as a key battleground in their ancient war against collective bargaining and workers’ rights generally. But Walker himself has constantly protested he’s just a conscientious chief executive trying to make state government live within its means.

That pretense just got a lot harder for Walker to maintain, thanks to the release of video footage from 2011 in which Walker told one billionaire supporter that busting public-sector unions was just the first stage in a broader effort that would eventually join Wisconsin to the ranks of overtly anti-union jurisdictions, mostly in the South, that consider unbridled corporate power the key to long-term economic growth.

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explain:

A filmmaker released a video Thursday that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use “divide and conquer” as a strategy against unions.
Walker made the comments to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since given $510,000 to the governor’s campaign - making her Walker’s single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history….
In the video shot on Jan. 18, 2011 - shortly before Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill was introduced and spawned mass protests - Hendricks asked the governor whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work” state. The Republican donor was referring to right-to-work laws, which prohibit private-sector unions from compelling workers to pay union dues if the workers choose not to belong to the union.
Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” through his budget-adjustment bill, which curtailed most collective bargaining for most public employee unions.
Walker co-sponsored right-to-work legislation in 1993 as a freshman in the state Assembly, but as governor has consistently downplayed seeking any restrictions on private unions in public statements.
“From our standpoint, it’s never going to get to me,” Walker said of right-to-work legislation in an interview with the Journal Sentinel on April 27. “Private sector unions are my partner in economic development.”
Walker, however, has repeatedly declined to say whether he would sign or veto a right-to-work bill if passed by the Legislature. Supporters say right-to-work bills give more freedom to workers and make it more attractive for companies to invest and hire employees in a state. Opponents say they undermine unions and workers’ wages and don’t help the economy.

The bigger picture here is a sea-change in Republican ideology, evident throughout the 2012 GOP presidential nomination contest, in which total hostility to unions, private-sector as well as public-sector, has evolved from a regional quirk of deep-south conservatives into a national party agenda item. This was made plain by the pounding poor, out-of-step Rick Santorum took in a debate in South Carolina in which he was forced to publicly repudiate a Senate vote against a national right-to-work law.

This in turn reflects the growing national Republican celebration of southern race-to-the-bottom approaches to economic development. Atavistic Republican administrations in states like Mississippi and South Carolina, which make lowering business costs (at the expense of wages and benefits for workers and public services for everyone) a sort of Holy Grail, are being touted as national models for every state and for federal policy as well.

You don’t have to be that old to remember the days when this sort of “low-road” economic strategy had become largely discredited in the South itself, as was the case when I was involved in community and economic development work in Georgia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and even Republicans were talking about better public education and robust public investments being necessary for growth. It’s depressing to see the Old Way being not only revived in Dixie, but lauded as some sort of new wisdom.

But at least now Scott Walker may be forced out of the closet in his desire to hijack his state and put it on the low road to Mississippi.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • sick-n-effn-tired. on May 11, 2012 11:23 AM:

    This is his Billionaire girlfriend
    When 2.8 billion is not enough
    You need to make more on the backs of those uppity workers


    Certified POS

  • stormskies on May 11, 2012 11:25 AM:

    What is truly stunning in the Walker story, it's totality, is that after all of this he still have the support/ approval of about 45% or so of the population in Wisconsin. Think about that. After all that he had done.

    A real testimony to the nature of a large amount of our population in the USA. And that nature is one of utter and complete, willful, stupidity.

  • Jack Lindahl on May 11, 2012 11:31 AM:

    ... states like Mississippi and South Carolina, which make lowering business costs (at the expense of wages and benefits for workers and public services for everyone) a sort of Holy Grail, are being touted as national models for every state and for federal policy ...

    This has been a mystery to me for a long time now. The US economy is based on consumer spending - around 70% of it last I heard. In such an economy, doesn't it make sense to get MORE money into people's pockets, rather than less?

    Henry Ford had it right when he aimed at making the original Ford autos affordable for the working stiff. The more people buy, the richer we all get. Why is that simple equation such a puzzlement?

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on May 11, 2012 11:32 AM:

    @ stormskies
    That has been my mantra

    America : Too stupid for democracy

    Michelle Bachman
    Inhofe, Grassly King..... too many to list
    I rest my case

  • c u n d gulag on May 11, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Hot mic - meet stupid d*ck!

    This Walker boy ain't none too bright, now is he?

    A brighter bulb might have either kept his mouth closed on general principle, figuring, with all of the new technology gizmo's out there that there might be someone recording him; or, having actually noticed a feckin' filmmaker, figured he might want to watch what he says, lest it end up somewhere like, oh, I don't know... A FECKIN' FILM!!!

    Like a genie and a bottle, a cat's mighty tough to stuff back in the bag.
    Thanks, Scottie!!!

    Btw - Do the Koch Brothers hire nothing but feckin' yes-man nitwits?
    And how do they stay in business, let alone make huge profits?

    You'd think the position of CEO of Koch Brothers Wisconsin Division might require someone at least slightly smarter than a rutabaga?

    But, then, they DID inherit their money, AND increased it wildly during the "Baby Doc" Bush years - which a rutabaga and his brother might have done if they'd had enough money to start out with.

  • Peter C on May 11, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Scott Walker, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are class warriors fighting on behalf of themselves, Diane Hendricks and the 1%. They are fighting through manipulation of government; reducing their own tax burden (through the Bush Tax give-aways) and attacking unions (through 'right to work' legistlation and reneging on public union contracts).

    The Republicans fight for the 1% and against you.

  • T2 on May 11, 2012 11:39 AM:

    the sad thing is, too many Wisconsinites will consider Walker's comments as a good thing and vote to keep him in office. You see, things that would have gotten a politician drummed out of politics 20 years ago are now what get them elected. That is how rotten the TEAGOP has become, and how rotten our neighbors, co-workers, Wal Mart greeters and other citizens in general have become that vote them into office.

  • stormskies on May 11, 2012 11:44 AM:

    sick-n-effn-tired........America : Too stupid for democracy


    and the most astounding aspect of this fact is that the stupidity is 'willful' .. it's not ignorance ..it's willful stupidity ... exposure to actual facts called actual reality that is simply either consciously ignored or dismissed as an act of a necessary self defense of their stupidity that goes something like, when fact with actual facts, "well, i just don't believe it' .........

    willful stupidity that equals your sentiment: 'to stupid for democracy' .....

  • jeri on May 11, 2012 12:04 PM:

    This level of stupidity seems surprising, but really isn't. Fully half the public is below average in intelligence. By definition.

  • jjm on May 11, 2012 12:12 PM:

    The very peculiar form of a new mental illness -- Let's call it "Monopoly Billionaire Syndrome," is that the more you have, the more you want to deny others even so much as a crumb.

    Do you have to be crazy to become a billionaire? Or does becoming a billionaire drive you crazy?

    Look at the pure insanity of the Koch Brothers, and now this lady, lusting after the overthrow of the working classes

  • bubba on May 11, 2012 1:16 PM:

    If Barrett and even Obama can't use this to win huge swaths of voters by showing the unfairness and unlevel playing field that exists today and one that will continually slide towards further unfairness under goopers, then we are all in deep doodoo.

  • Robert on May 11, 2012 2:12 PM:

    "You don’t have to be that old to remember the days when this sort of “low-road” economic strategy had become largely discredited in the South itself."

    Do you mean when slavery was outlawed? Or when 'slavery by another name' -http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/the-book/ - was prosecuted as 'involuntary servitude'and eventually ended by WW II. Or perhaps the 'New South' of Lester Maddox? Just exactly which period of enlightenment in the 'old confederacy' are you referring to?

  • MuddyLee on May 11, 2012 2:15 PM:

    Lots of taxes are fairly low in South Carolina - like the gasoline tax. It's so low the state can't keep up with highway repairs - lots of potholes out in the rural areas, so many that you sometimes have to swerve over to the wrong side of the road to avoid them...it does not encourage safe driving. There's also a huge litter problem - this is a self inflicted wound of course, but maybe law enforcement is too underfunded to go after litter bugs? Or maybe law enforcement is too busy chasing pot smokers and "illegals".
    We need to cut back on teaching civil war history and ramp up vocational and technical education.

  • Rich on May 11, 2012 4:15 PM:

    It's hardly discredited in the South. I lived in Georgia 98-06 and it was 9and still is) alive and well.

  • G.Kerby on May 11, 2012 4:23 PM:

    Snyder is doing the same in Michigan ... he's smart enough to keep his mouth shut, though.