Educators have reason to fear a Walker presidency
Despite what it may often resemble, the long race to elect the next president of the United States is, of course, more than a bad vaudeville show. It will result in our turning over the White House to the next leader of the Free World, and some of the wannabes already are causing nightmares.
So far, the candidate whose prospect of becoming president I most dread is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and not simply because he is a union-buster. What he is trying to do goes way beyond destroying unions. He is intent on destroying jobs, individual livelihoods, and depressing wages, union and non-union alike, beginning with education and the public sector service so critical to millions of Americans and the country’s economic future.
At this point, Walker’s chances of becoming the Republican nominee probably are better than several other candidates. His chances will be boosted if the Koch brothers decide to put their enormous wealth behind him and Jeb Bush continues to stumble. Walker is the Kochs’ kind of politician, an officeholder trying to manipulate government for the benefit of anti-government one-percenters. And, he has accomplished in Wisconsin what the Kochs would like to see happen all over the country.
As Wisconsin governor, Walker led a successful drive to abolish collective-bargaining rights for most public employees, including educators, further weakened unions with a “right to work” law and now is trying to dumb down higher education by abolishing tenure for faculty members. There also is an effort afoot in Wisconsin to let people teach school with only a high school diploma. And, Walker has been trying to mislead the rest of the country by claiming improvements in Wisconsin’s economy.
In truth, according to a cover story by Dan Kaufman in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Wisconsin has fallen to 40th among the states in job growth and 42nd in wage growth since the collective bargaining ban was enacted in 2011. The Wisconsin Legislature this year cut $250 million from the state’s university system to help cover a deficit in the state budget, and Wisconsin now is among the first 10 states from which people are moving.
From a more general perspective, the same New York Times article noted how the decline in union bargaining power has been blamed for suppressing wage growth for all middle-class workers, both union and non-union members, while incomes of the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans have been increasing.
Millions of individual, middle-class wage-earners, including educators, have been suffering under Walker’s policies, the policies about which he has been bragging on his unofficial presidential campaign trail. He is expected to officially enter the race at some point – the umpteenth Republican to do so.
We can hope, for the sake of the country, that he will encounter his own “oops” moment, forcing his withdrawal before he gets much farther down the road.