Monday, January 3, 2011

Scott Walker - Wisconsin's Boris Yeltsin

When Boris Yeltsin became Russia's President two decades ago, Russians expected him to lead them into an era of prosperity and freedom. They wanted to live like the rest of Europe. They were tired of dour communism and standing in line for bread.

Russia's transition to capitalism, however, was extremely painful -- thanks in large part to Yeltsin's corrupt cronyism. He sold off state-owned companies for kopeks on the ruble to his friends and supporters. This led to the rise of a class of extremely rich industrialists called oligarchs (a word formerly used to describe the members of the old Soviet Politburo). They were very much like the robber barons of 19th-century America.

The cost of living skyrocketed and jobs disappeared. People couldn't afford basic necessities like food and fuel. Soldiers actually sold their guns because the government didn't have the money to pay their salaries.

Scott Walker has a similar liking for crony capitalism. He wants to privatize many government functions. He showed a similar penchant as Milwaukee County Executive, replacing County-employed janitors and security guards with contractors, with unpleasant results.

Now he proposes to dismantle the Department of Commerce and give some of its functions to a new private corporation that will be funded with taxpayer money.

I believe this is Walker's jobs plan. In GOP Bizarro World, government jobs are not real jobs. Therefore, eliminating one full-time, family supporting job and giving the money to a for-profit company who outsources the work to two part-time minimum wage workers counts as creating two jobs.

Of course, the company's CEO and shareholders will skim off much of the money. They may even live out of state, which will remove money from Wisconsin's economy and cause a further contraction of revenues and a larger budget hole. Certainly Dane County's economy will suffer with the loss of those jobs. More restaurants and stores will close, and more homes will go into foreclosure.

I expect that Scott Walker will be shameless in his quest to privatize Wisconsin's public assets. Look forward to more logging and mining on state land. That will create some decent-paying jobs for a few years, but residents will have to live with the blighted landscape for decades afterward. There is already a move afoot to begin mining and processing sand in Chippewa County for hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction. With our new Governor's laissez-faire attitude toward business regulations, expect little environmental oversight.

Expect to see private security firms (like the Walker-favored Wackenhut) taking over some law enforcement duties. I suspect the Capitol police will be the first on the chopping block. In time, I think some State Highway Patrol and Dept. of Corrections jobs may also be outsourced.

Expect a push to expand school vouchers (this is already being talked about). Republican legislators talk about helping children in failing schools, but this policy is really about busting teachers' unions and subsidizing white flight from urban schools, leaving underfunded public schools with a high percentage of at-risk students. Those kids will grow up to be an undereducated cheap labor force for Wisconsin's new oligarchs.

1 comment:

Tim Morrissey said...

You have seen the future, and it is grim.