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.


  1. George A. Crackuh says

    Ms. Howell makes some good points – but the American people don’t want our only choice to be either a corporate master or a government master. That’s a false choice, and it’s anti-liberty.

    First – the corporate tax rate should be set at ZERO. Corporate profits get taxed when they are paid out as dividends. So make strict laws limiting deductions and retained earnings. Because corporations will simply raise their prices to cover the taxes, and we the consumers end up paying them. That is Econ 101 material.

    2nd – Madison is not ground zero for dismantling workers rights – it’s ground zero for dismantling our corrupt government unions as a wholly owned subsidiary of the corrupt Democrat party. It’s an unholy alliance that FDR certainly knew was wrong, and it’s a massive fraud on the American taxpayer. If you don’t see that, then you just aren’t paying attention to the balance-sheet numbers.

    Of course the Republican legislators can be as corrupt as the Democrats, too. Both parties are playing us for suckers as they each pander to their own special interests, and a pox on both their houses.

    Certainly, our government should not be handing out any free land or making special laws designed to favor big business. That is cronyism, and it is anti-free-market, and it stifles all the small businesses who have always created all the job growth in this country.

    But privatization is not a mania, it’s the just and efficient thing to do, and it saves money and improves services, almost without exception. Don’t blame the free market because corrupt governments are in bed with corrupt big biz – clean it up!

    Yes, have all corporations pay full costs for cleaning up after themselves, absolutely! No hidden externalities! And then let each consumer decide if the true cost of a product is worth its price. In the free market. If our legislators would simply clear out the wall of regulations designed to favor the big money guys, our insurance prices would fall, our medical care costs would fall, legal services costs would fall, other financial services costs would fall, real estate transaction costs would fall, and millions of consumers would be better served at less cost.

    Big companies are always going to shed workers, that’s part of their economies of scale. But it’s our legislators job to clear the roadblocks for the small competitors who can get closer to the customer, provide a better service, be more nimble than the big guys. That’s the free market, without cronyism.

    We need to divide and conquer, yes – we need to divide government power up so that every bill isn’t a Christmas tree for special interests. We need to divide political power so that turnover in the halls of Congress is more than 50% instead of less than 5% every term. We need to hold lawmakers accountable for putting big business out of its favored place in the laws, and opening up the playing field to millions of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    We need to push political power back out of Washington DC and down through the states houses ond into the communities, as close to the people as possible, where we can keep a close eye on our local officials, and hold them accountable to the community.

    Our vast federal bureaucracy is sucking the life out of our civil society as it cronies with Big Business and Big Finance. It’s a losing game pulling for either leviathan to win. It’s time to get back to grass roots.

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