Fighting ‘Divide and Conquer’ in Wisconsin

shared sacrificesThe shell game of the corporate-sponsored Tea Party/GOP is being exposed in Wisconsin. That state’s new millionaire governor, Scott Walker, swept into office with very big campaign contributions from the billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, who own an oil company known as one of the country’s worst polluters.

The Koch brothers also own several Wisconsin-based natural-resources companies that are known as major polluters and defiers of resource-protecting laws. They are also bankroll some Tea Party groups.

Governor Walker’s first priority was slashing corporate taxes. It’s no coincidence that the $130 million deficit Walker says he’s addressing with his attack on public workers equals the corporate tax cut he pushed through in January. This continues a trend illuminated by the organization Wisconsin’s Future.

Madison is ground zero for resistance to the dismantling of workers’ rights and cutting anything in government budgets that serves human needs while corporate “persons” get subsidies and tax cuts and are in effect made exempt from law supposedly governing such offenses as pollution and worker safety.

This war began when Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers who demanded better working conditions and has continued right up to the bipartisan extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the richest 1 percent in December.

Now, “budget deficits” are the mantra to justify anything from House Republicans’ plan to slash half of WIC (nutrition for pregnant women and children up to age five) to Wisconsin’s Governor Walker’s assault on public workers. The real agenda is to break unions.

This is an escalation of the 30-year war on workers, conducted whether Republicans or Democrats are in office. Whether it’s race, gender and age discrimination or illegal firing for trying to organize a union, workers’ rights have not been enforced. If Gov. Walker wins, all workers will lose as union rights are erased across the country.

Middle class and working people have paid higher taxes — especially local property taxes — to make up for corporate tax cuts. Corporate rates are now at 14 per cent or less and about a third of U.S.-based corporations, although moderately to extremely profitable, pay no income taxes. Corporate media keep that largely a secret from the American people.

You have to go to the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper to find out about a recent study by three academic accountants at Duke University, MIT and the University of North Carolina reporting on corporate tax-dodgers. One example: General Electric paid a 14 per cent tax rate over the last five years; workers making $30,000 paid 19 per cent. Wisconsin’s Future notes that what corporations pay in state taxes often is hidden from the public.

Add up “incentives” big businesses get supposedly to create jobs: infrastructure paid for by the public, free or cheap land with no property taxes for some years, payments for each job created or, inversely, tax breaks when companies move their factories — even when they move them out of the country.

Published by the LA Progressive on February 22, 2011
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