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Scott Walker: Uncle Scrooge’s Lackey In Wisconsin

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Scott Walker: Uncle Scrooge’s Lackey In Wisconsin


Economically speaking, all 237 GOP presidential candidates are selling the same magic beans.

Everybody knows the script by now: Tax cuts for wealthy “job creators” bring widespread prosperity; top off Scrooge McDuck’s bullion pool, and the benefits flow outward to everybody else, the economy surges, budget deficits melt away, and the song of the turtle dove will be heard in the land.

Almost needless to say, these “supply side” miracles have never actually happened in the visible world. State budget debacles in Kansas and Louisiana only signify the latest failures of right-wing dogma. Hardly anybody peddling these magic beans actually believes in them anymore. Nevertheless, feigning belief signifies tribal loyalty to the partisan Republicans who will choose the party’s nominee.

However, with everybody in the field playing “let’s pretend,” a candidate needs another way to distinguish himself. I suspect that Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, may have found it.

See, Walker won’t just put money back in “hardworking taxpayers’” pockets. Like a latter-day Richard Nixon, Walker will also stick it to people he doesn’t like: lollygagging schoolteachers, feather-bedding union members, and smug, tenured college professors who think they’re smarter than everybody else. If Walker lacks charisma, there’s an edge of ruthlessness in his otherwise bland demeanor that hits GOP primary voters right where they live.

No less an authority than Uncle Scrooge himself — i.e. David Koch of Koch Industries, who with his brother Charles has pledged to spend $900 million to elect a Republican in 2016 — told the New York Observer after a closed-door gathering at Manhattan’s Empire Club that Walker will win the nomination and crush Hillary Clinton in a general election “by a major margin.” 

Viewed from a distance, the determination of prosperous, well-educated Wisconsin to convert itself into an anti-union right-to-work state like Alabama or Arkansas appears mystifying. To risk the standing of the University of Wisconsin system by abolishing academic tenure, as Walker intends, is damn near incomprehensible.

Attack one of America’s great public research universities for the sake of humiliating (Democratic-leaning) professors over nickel-and-dime budgetary issues? Do Wisconsinites have the first clue how modern economies work?

Maybe not. But Walker’s supporters definitely appear to know who their enemies are, culturally speaking. Incredulity aside, it would be a mistake not to notice the craftiness with which he’s brought off the transformation. Not to mention that Walker’s won three elections since 2010 in a “blue” state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan.

Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes don’t mean much by themselves, but throw in Michigan and Ohio, Midwestern states also trending similarly, and you’ve definitely got something.

Act 10, the 2011 law that took away collective bargaining rights for many public employees in Wisconsin (except, at first, for police and firefighters), brought crowds of angry teachers (also mostly Democrats) to the state capitol in Madison for weeks of demonstrations. As much as MSNBC was thrilled, many Wisconsinites appear to have been irked.

In the end, the state ended up saving roughly $3 billion by shifting the funding of fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions from employer to employee, costing the average teacher roughly 16 percent of his or her compensation. Mindful of budget shortfalls, the unions had proposed negotiations, but that wasn’t enough for Gov. Walker.

For the record, Act 10 was an almost verbatim copy of a bill promoted by the Arlington, Virginia-based American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a think-tank largely funded by, you guessed it, the Brothers Koch.

Four years ago, a documentary filmmaker caught Walker on camera telling wealthy supporters that the new law was just the beginning. “The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public-­employee unions,” he said, “because you use divide-­and-­conquer.”

“If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere — even in our nation’s capital,” Walker wrote in his book, Unintimidated, notes Dan Kaufman in the New York Times Magazine. Elsewhere, Walker has boasted that as president, he could take on foreign policy challenges because, he’s said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Ridiculous, of course, but it plays.

Meanwhile, rueful trade unionists who endorsed Walker in 2010 are crying the blues, because they never imagined that having vanquished the women’s union he’d come after the ironworkers and the electricians in their pickup trucks. Divided, they’ve been conquered.

So right-to-work it is: diminished salaries, job security, pensions, health and safety regulations will inevitably follow.

More bullion for Scrooge McDuck’s pool.

So now it’s the professors’ turn. Walker, a Marquette dropout, has described his new law as “Act 10 for the university.” Tenure’s a dead letter in cases of “financial emergency… requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.” 

So who gets redirected first? Left-wing culture warriors or climate scientists? Hint: Scrooge is a fierce climate-change denier.

Meanwhile, Democrats underestimate Scott Walker at considerable peril.

Photo: Wikicommons

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.

Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Independent1 June 17, 2015

    I guess it would be no surprise to anyone, that the one thing Wisconsin leads America in is the demise of the middle class.

    According th Business Cheat Sheet, here’s the 5 states where the middle class has been destroyed the most. Using statistics comparing the middle class percent in 2000 to 2013, here’s the states where the percent of middle class has fallen the most:

    State/Percent Drop in Middle Class

    WI – 5.7

    OH – 5.2

    ND – 5.1

    VT – 5

    NV – 5


    And hopefully, it Walker is in fact the GOP nominee, Democrats would use their heads and during the campaign point out the stark contrast between how Wisconsin has fared over the past 4-5 years as compared to its next door neighbor Minnesota; where Mark Dayton used a completely different tact in repairing the Minnesota economy than Walker did in Wisconsin.

    Where Walker has worked to cut taxes and budgets and destroy unions and cut education and has cut anything and everything he things he can get away with. Billionaire Mark Dayton has raised taxes on the top 2% of Minnesotans (which includes himself), got a law passed raising the min wage to $9.50 in Minn.; has edicted that women have to paid equal pay with men for the same job, and is now wanting to spend a 1/5 of the state’s 1.2 billion surplus on universal Pre-K.

    The contrast between Minnesota and Wisconsin over the past 4 plus years couldn’t be more stark: Where Walker has taken a budget surplus and is now projecting at least a billion dollar deficit; Mark Dayton inherited a 6 billion dollar debt from the 8 disastrous years under Pawlenty, and turned that into a 1.2 billion surplus. In addition, where where Wisconsin is languishing today in the bottom half of states with respect to job creation; Minnesota over the past 4 years has created 172,000 new jobs when only around 6,500 jobs were created there in the disastrous 8 years under a Republican named Pawlenty. And not only that, where Wisconsin is still rated as mediocre with respect to being ‘business friendly’, Minnesota with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 3.4% is rated in the top 10 states for being business friendly. And why is that, because companies love states where people earn good wages they can spend (and Minnesotan’s average incomes are today 8,000/yr higher than the national average).

    So as I said in the beginning. If Walker does get the nod for the GOP – I can only hope the Democrats are smart enough to point out just how much Walker has destroyed Wisconsin for the average middle class person; and how much better a Democrat right next door has done for Minnesota!!!!!

    1. mike June 17, 2015

      Don’t forget the debt was reduced by higher taxes and with the help of increased employment
      What you seem to ignore is the $227 Billion in long term debt, costs and liabilities. The 87 billion in outstanding bonds. Unfunded pensions and healthcare add hundreds of billions. Actual debt is closer to $443 billion and unsustainable. Combine state and local you have a whopping 848 billion.
      As to Arnold, who controlled the legislature and budget?? Democrats by a large margin!!! So save me the outrage!
      As a percentage, Texas out performs CA on added jobs 18% to 16.2%. CA numbers are higher by a few hundred thousands but not by %.
      The states growing debt burden provides fewer dollars for public service and infrastructure, all falling at the feet of democrats.

      1. Independent1 June 17, 2015

        More of your lies!! I’m not forgetting about anything!! Arnold controlled lthe budget while he was governor!! And CA is not ‘running up any debt’!! The state has at least an 8 billion surplus, and a great many of those debts you quoted started way back when a guy named Reagan did exactly what he did to America, tripled CA’s debt and started it on it’s way to the debts it had before Brown took office 4 plus years ago.

        From Mercurynews.com:

        California’s budget surplus soars to new heights; schools to benefit

        POSTED: 05/05/2015

        In the clearest sign yet that the Great California Recovery is proceeding on pace, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced Tuesday that the state’s revenue has climbed as much as $8 billion in the last four months.

        The state’s public schools will receive the bulk of that windfall under Proposition 98, and Assembly Democrats hope it’s used to increase average per-pupil spending and expand access to quality child care and preschool programs, the San Diego Democrat said.

        Another chunk of change must be saved for a rainy day under a proposition approved by California voters in November. But the Legislature will likely also have about a billion dollars to play around with — a happy accident that’s expected to set off fights among health, poverty and other interest groups about how to spend the extra cash.

        “We know we’re not going to get everything we want,” Atkins said. “No one ever does.”

        Atkins’ comments come a week before Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to release a revised draft of his $113 bill/ion general fund spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in July.

        Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer wouldn’t comment on Atkins’ projection of increased state revenue of between $6 billion to $8 billion, but he said it’s safe to assume the governor’s May revision will reflect strong personal income tax receipts, driven in part by surging capital gains revenue as California’s economy quickly recovers. The surplus was originally projected to be about $2 billion.

        One thing is clear: California’s financial outlook couldn’t be more different now than it was just a few years ago in the depths of the state’s fiscal crisis — at one point the budget deficit hit $26.6 billion.


        26.6 Billion budget defict UNDER ARNOLD!!!! AND IT WAS ALL HIS DOING!!!!!!

        1. mike June 17, 2015

          “Arnold controlled the budget”, what a laugh and the democratic controlled legislature just “rubber stamped” his wishes. You really are delusional, much like your comment that “Bush left the WH because he knew them 9/11 attack was coming and wanted to be in a safe place.”
          California uses cash-basis budgeting, using accrual-basis budgeting the real picture would be seen. Even the state task board said, “The practice of cash-based budgeting facilitates gimmicks and short-term measures that obscure actual financial conditions.”
          As to budget. The current budget year, California is able to report a budget surplus because it is ignoring billions of dollars in retirement costs earned, but not paid, during the fiscal year. These payments will instead be deferred to future budgets at higher costs. If the state adopted accrual-basis budgeting, it would acknowledge all of the costs accrued in the fiscal year. Doing so now would prevent the state from reporting a surplus, but it would help it better represent the costs facing citizens.

          You totally ignored the fact that the state debt is unsustainable, 443 billion in debt by the state. Over 218 billion in unfunded pensions and healthcare for state employees.

          1. Independent1 June 17, 2015

            You make up more BS stories than DR. Seuss . Everything you posted is a bunch out outright CRAP!!!

            The Dems did not have veto proof control of the CA legislatures when Arnold was governor. And I suppose that Democrat legislatures that somehow created all that deficit spending during Arnold’s disastrous governorship just magically somehow changed and started creating surplus budgets because Brown became governor!!! What utter BS!!

            And I couldn’t give a rats behind for the rest of your fantasy tales!! Go pound sand you nincompoop!! You’re clearly the idiot of the NM!!!!!!

          2. mike June 18, 2015

            You said, “Arnold controlled budget” he didn’t!! Democrats controlled the legislature by large margins. They were in control all those years under Arnold. I never said anything about “veto proof”, democrats were just as responsible for the deficits.
            As to statement “outright crap”, the crap can be found between ears.

          3. dpaano August 21, 2015

            Independent1: Give up trying to talk sense to Mike….he won’t believe facts even if given proof that they are valid. He’s got too much of the FAUX News BS that has brainwashed him completely. It’s useless to try to argue with him….you can’t change stupid, as they say.

      2. Independent1 June 17, 2015

        and I’m not interested in percentages!! That’s like via percentage, North Dakota has led the nation the past couple years in job creation – what a crock!! California creates more jobs in 2 months that ND has created in the entire time it’s been leading the nation. Being that ND created virtually no new jobs for years, even adding 200 jobs was like a 50% increase! Bid Deal!!

        And you’re totally ignoring the fact that more than 50% of those supposedly great jobs Texas has been creating are poverty level min wage type jobs. Despite not having as many people as CA, Texas still leads the nation in the actual total number of its residents living below the poverty line, and is even 6th in the nation percentage wise with people living in poverty – while CA is more like 17th.

        And look at Minnesota, where over 8 years, under a Republican named Pawlenty Minnesota created less than 800 jobs/year; while under a Democrat, Dayton, in his 1st 4 years MN created more than 40,000 jobs/yr.

        1. mike June 17, 2015

          California a state with about 38 million people only increased jobs by 1.8 million while Texas with about 26 million people increased jobs by over 1.5 million. Texas had an 18% to CA 16.2%. CA increase not much to brag about.

          As to Dayton, more of your baloney. All that Dayton supposedly did was after jobs were already increasing. the minimum wage increase only went into effect in the summer of 2014, almost four years after Minnesota’s job market began to recover.

          The three Governor Dayton’s policies: raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on the wealthy, and guaranteeing equal pay for women. But these changes were all quite small, and none corresponded with the turnaround in Minnesota’s employment, suggesting that they could not have been the cause.

          And Dayton’s tax hike, which increased the top marginal tax rate by 2 percent? That didn’t occur until 2013, and it only increased state revenues by $1.1 billion (or 0.35% of Minnesota GDP).

          Similarly, the Women’s Economic Security Act, which guarantees equal pay for women working for state contractors (not businesses in general) by certifying that they are in compliance with non-discrimination laws that already exist, wasn’t put into effect until May 2014. Heck, you couldn’t even get that correct.

          No,just more of your lies and half truths.

      3. Independent1 June 17, 2015

        And I want to point out one more thing about the Texas job creation crapola: a large percentage of jobs that Perry took credit for supposedly ‘creating’ were not newly created jobs at all to America. They had nothing to do with helping lower the unemployment percentage, because they were ‘transplanted jobs’.

        Jobs brought into Texas from other states from which Perry had suckered companies (at the expense of working Texans) to move their companies from, along with large portions of their workforce, to the cesspool of America. The state that ranks within the 10th worst in the nation on 23 socio/economic measures including being the most polluted state in the nation.

        1. mike June 17, 2015

          Keep trying!!
          Washington Post 2-10-15, A more comprehensive measure that accounts for this population growth shows that about a quarter of new employment in America was created in Texas.There are plenty of other ways to portray Texas’s job growth without using the one-third figure. One-quarter of American jobs is nothing to sneeze at. Dallas saw the largest job growth among large metropolitan areas in 2014. Texas ranks in the top five among states with the biggest percentage increases in jobs. So, take your “transplanted jobs” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

          1. Justin Napolitano June 21, 2015

            Texas is also number one in the number of people without health insurance. Its schools are crap and its infrastructure is falling apart. You can only milk the population so long and then your ability to screw people is diminished by those finally figured out how their living standard has shrunk while the top one percent get even more filthy rich. The right to work is the right to work for less.

          2. mike June 22, 2015

            Keep trying, but no cigar!!!!

          3. Independent1 August 21, 2015

            And Texas is the cesspool of America – it ranks in the bottom on 100% of 10 of 23 socio/economic measures in comparison to other states. And it has the most polluted environment in America.

          4. mike August 21, 2015

            That’s your worthless opinion!!!

          5. Independent1 August 21, 2015

            Sorry, I’m not buying that they were counting ‘NEW JOBS TO AMERICA”! SORRY NO SALE!!! THE VAST MAJORITY OF TEXAS JOBS ARE TRANSPLANTS!!!!!


          6. mike August 21, 2015

            2 months ago? Really!!! Always knew you were day late(2 months) and dollar short.

            Not surprised at all at your response, you have your head up Hillary’s a$$ and the rest of your body up Obama’s butt!!

          7. Independent1 August 21, 2015

            Name me a company that’s now in Texas that wasn’t previously in another state. Or a product that’s now made in Texas that’s a new invention, or something that would have been a new production. I’m familiar with a lot of people whose companies were suckered by Perry’s money and promises of dramatic tax avoidance that have moved over the passed few years to Texas; but I can’t think of any ‘new company’ that has been a Texas startup. Name me one!!!

          8. mike August 21, 2015

            I would want to go back to ancient history looking for anything to talk about when your darling keeps putting her foot in her mouth and her bid for president becomes more tenuous each day.
            I will let Texas make their own decisions and let them live with it. I suspect the influx of people is far greater than your silly little story about the exodus from Texas as you try to portrait.
            This is old hat, old news, an old post that I have no interest in pursuing.
            You want to talk about this crap when the market took a big hit, Greenspan is talking about how REALLY SLUGGISH THIS ECONOMY REALLY IS. How horrendous the deal with Iran is and the pathetic deal Obama made letting the U.N.make a deal with Iran that Iran can do their own inspections and give the U.N. their results.
            Ta! Ta!

        2. dpaano August 21, 2015

          I just had a friend of mine that works for Toyota who just moved to Texas a month ago for his company…….he’s already talking about coming back to California!! I told him so, but he didn’t believe me (and he’s a Republican). He says the schools stink compared to what his sons had here…..oh well!!!

          1. Independent1 August 21, 2015

            Sometimes we have to learn by experience.

  2. Bosda June 17, 2015

    How unfair to Scrooge McDuck!
    Scrooge was a tightwad, but earned his money hunting for treasure & mining goldfields, often at risk of his life.
    He was smarter than the smarties, and tougher than the toughies.
    The Koch Brother never even got their nails dirty….

  3. David_Patin June 17, 2015

    And every time I read an article like this I find myself saying that I wish I could be more confident that demographics will virtually guarantee a Democratic victory in 2016.
    We are going to need all the help we can get, because as Gene Lyons says, this stuff sells.

    1. @HawaiianTater June 17, 2015

      Christianity is on the decline; every Republican candidate is pushing a theocracy. The majority of Americans are against Republicans on pretty much every social issue that’s out there; LGBTQ rights, women’s reproductive rights, etc. The majority of people are sick of tax breaks for the rich and trickle down economics; also policies every GOP candidate is pushing.

      These are things that make me hopeful for next year. But then again… we did re-elect Dubya… so who knows.

  4. browninghipower June 17, 2015

    It’s a nightmare to think of America under a Walker Administration. Really. Truly The End. Could we be that utterly stupid? As a Nation would we so willingly sign our own death warrant? Part of me thinks we could. Sheeeeesh….

  5. geraldhoey June 17, 2015

    Scott Walker is Richard Nixon without the integrity.

    1. dpaano August 21, 2015

      Nixon had integrity?

      1. Independent1 August 21, 2015

        Yeah! Remember: “I am not a crook!”

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 26, 2015

          Yeah—that infamous statement of his is indelibly etched on his spiritual tombstone.

  6. booker25 June 18, 2015

    Walker stands about as much chance of winning the WH as does Trump, none. The Koch’s can spent that money, but they can’t buy that ballot box as much as they want to.

  7. dpaano August 21, 2015

    This guy is evil personified! Heaven help us if he gets elected president!!!

  8. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 26, 2015

    What an appropriate title!! This pathetic parasite who feeds off the country, courtesy of the electorate who twice failed to do the right thing in Wisconsin, is living the “Life of Riley” while bemoaning safe-guards that have been put in place to insure the success of his parents’ parents’ parents.
    What an ungrateful bag of protoplasm.


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