LETTER: Walker’s policies hurt WisconsinAlthough I grew up in Minnesota, I loved Wisconsin and working on my cousins' dairy farm in Clear Lake. I learned so much and loved the work.
To the Editor:
Although I grew up in Minnesota, I loved Wisconsin and working on my cousins' dairy farm in Clear Lake. I learned so much and loved the work. So I took dairy farm management courses at the University of Minnesota.In the end, I married and moved to Madison, where I've lived 20 years and raised five kids, but my heart is always in Polk County and its neighbors. Farmers are the hardest-working, most honest, and smartest people I know, and I am proud of my family's rural heritage and to call America's Dairyland my home.
In Dairy Farm Management, Prof. Hansen talked a lot about the importance of off-farm income to a dairy farm. Our budgets showed how much difference it made if one family member had a steady paycheck that could help smooth out the times when milk prices fell or feed prices rose, as well as provide those all-important health and retirement benefits that are so expensive for farmers. A lot of the farm families I know had a wife who not only milked cows and raised calves, she was a nurse or a teacher, working at a county health facility or a public school. Her pay and benefits meant not having to postpone visits to the doctor, or being able to retire and pass the farm to the next generation, rather than having to sell it to developers.
So when Gov. Walker cut the pay and benefits to public employees across our state, I knew that was going to hurt a lot of rural families, who counted on those jobs and benefits to keep doing the hard work they do. Those losses affect the whole community, because people have to cut back their spending in other places. So they don't buy the new set of tires; they wait on that remodeling project; they don't replace the washing machine. All the businesses that would have made money selling them tires, tools and supplies, or appliances make less money, and the families that own them have to cut back, too. They have to let employees go. You get a vicious cycle of less and less spending, less employment, and harder times for everyone.
That's why Wisconsin has the worst jobs record in the US since Gov. Walker's budget went in. The rest of the country is coming out of recession, but we are still deep in it, losing jobs every month, and will stay there as long as Walker is in office. Walker said it was to balance the budget, but you can't balance a budget this way: as people make less money, the government takes in less in sales taxes, less in income taxes. So the deficits get bigger as the cuts get deeper, and even though you are getting less from the government because of all the spending cuts, you also have less money in your family budget, and your community has less.
Rural communities are hurt especially badly by the cuts. Schools have lost more than a billion dollars, and that has meant cuts in staff at 3/4 of Wisconsin school districts. Cuts like that hit rural districts hard because they didn't have as many extras to start with. In Holmen, the school board told their state senator, who voted for Walker's budget before the voters threw him out of office for it, that instead of giving them "tools" like Gov. Walker said, they were losing nearly $600 per pupil from their budget and given only one tool, cuts to their teaching staff, whereas they had always been able to negotiate amicably with the teachers' union in the past to resolve budget needs. One of the board members said, "This has been the saddest month of my 48 years in my state. It is heartbreaking. I don't think anyone in the state feels they are listened to." Is that the kind of Wisconsin we want? If you want to be listened to, you have to vote for Tom Barrett, not Scott Walker, on June 5.
Walker is listening to just one group--big out-of-state donors who have given him millions. They're not doing it because they care about Wisconsin so much. They're doing it because he is paying them back big time with our tax money. The money that's taken out of the paychecks of teachers and snowplow drivers is being given to these corporate interests in the form of tax breaks, sweetheart deals, and "privatizing" Wisconsin's resources and assets. Did you know that the latest Walker budget contains a "production tax credit" which means that somebody who works for a company or corporate farm for maybe $35,000 a year will see his taxes go up, while the company owner will pay no state income tax, no capital gains tax, and be able to shelter his wife's income from taxes as well? Did you know a "deer czar" from Texas has been brought in to privatize Wisconsin's public lands so our deer hunting tradition will now mean paying an out-of-state company a fee so you can hunt on the former public forest we will pay them to manage as a game farm? Did you know that while our public schools starve for funding, your tax money will be given to out-of-state companies that run schools for profit? Did you know that now your tax dollars will pay corporations from Texas or New Jersey to run the power plants for our public universities and to manage and staff our prison system? Did you know that now when you go to the DMV for a driver's license, instead of printing it on the spot, they send your information out of state and have it printed in California? These kinds of contracts to do the people's business are sold in sweetheart deals to Walker campaign donors, and that is why they are willing to spend millions to keep him in office. It's worth billions to them.
I like fiscal conservatives, and I've voted for quite a few whether they were Republican or Democrat, if I thought they would be careful with my tax money. But Walker isn't conservative the way old-style Republicans like Tommy Thompson were. He's a big spender: he has budgeted $335 million for special interests next year. He just doesn't want to spend the money on you. Thompson was trying to make a better Wisconsin for everyone. Walker is part of a national movement to take the resources that belong to all of us and sell them cheap to very rich people, who will sell them back to us a slice at a time and make us pay through the nose.
Walker and his cronies are betting you won't get it. They think we'll be too busy to educate ourselves and to vote on June 5th. They think $25 million, most of it from outside Wisconsin (and far more than labor unions have contributed to Barrett) will be enough to overwhelm our democracy and to make us fail to notice that they are not acting in our interests. I think they are wrong. I think people in the western Wisconsin counties I love are too smart to fall for it. I hope you will join me by making sure to get yourself to your polling place on Tuesday, June 5 and cast your vote for Tom Barrett for Governor. Then Wisconsin can get back to civility and back to the way we have always done business--with honest hard work.