Wednesday, February 25, 2015

the least i can do

Four years ago around this time we were thick into protests. Our then newly-elected governor, Scott Walker, had introduced a bill known as Act 10 that effectively made unions for public sector employees powerless. The protests (in which I was a frequent participant with my children, then age 5 and 3) made national news and continued for weeks, even in snow storms and bitter cold. There were lawsuits, there was a failed recall election, and daily singalongs in the Capitol rotunda...

...and now here we are four years later with Gov. Walker still in office and the Wisconsin state legislature more conservative and Republican than ever. Boy is he ever taking advantage of it, too. Scott Walker has refused federal expansion of Medicaid, slashed K-12 education more than SAM BROWNBACK (governor of Kansas; this should tell you something), pushed vouchers for private schools, cut $300 million from the public universities while suggesting that all professors should teach extra classes every semester to pick up the slack, cut funding to the office of Secretary of State by more than half, cut funding for people with disabilities, suggested that the DNR receive no tax money, and put off paying the state debt, all in the name of fiscal responsibility and at the expense of nearly every citizen of the state of Wisconsin, in particular the most vulnerable.

(Rather than link up everything individually I'm just going to send you to the Scott Walker watch page from the CapTimes...you can find just about everything you need to know there about his budget.)

Then last night, the state senate voted in a "right-to-work" law after abruptly closing comments, claiming that the long line of citizens awaiting their turn for public comment were posing a threat (for SHAME). It was a nasty little move, but not a surprising one, given recent history. (I've always hated that phrase "right to work"; it implies that passing such a law somehow increases workers' rights rather than restricting them and giving permission to corporate management to treat workers however they want with few or no legal consequences.)

In short, our current governor and the majority Republican legislature have managed to eviscerate just about every public program that makes (made?) our state a good place to live. Everything from public schools to higher education to our state parks and natural resources to workers' rights are on the chopping block and thus ripe for privatization and exploitation. In a relatively short amount of time - four years, just one election cycle - we have gone from a relatively progressive state to a giant boner for the Tea Party. Even if Walker leaves here next year to run for president (heaven help us), the damage has largely been done.

My dear friend Laura often says she is "having some feelings" when she gets emotional about things. Readers, I am having a LOT of feelings about the political climate in my state right now. I am angry, discouraged, disgusted, disappointed, and not particularly hopeful, I have to admit. But I'm not going to lob insults or go on a rant of righteous indignation. I am past that now. I am truly fearful for the future because my children are only about a decade or so away from becoming young adults who have to live in the world the current leadership is forming for them.

So those are my feelings about the state of my state at the moment. As discouraged as I am, though, I'm going to keep on keepin' on. I will still bake bread, knit hats, make music, grow a garden, donate my time to the school's outdoor program, and encourage my children to think and create for themselves. And I will VOTE. It's the least I can do.


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