As usual, Mis-governor Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in the legislature are listening to businesses and other special interests, while excluding average working men and women, children, seniors, the disabled and other Wisconsin residents who have shouldered most of the burden of the national economic crisis. A crisis which, as an increasing proportion of the electorate seems to realize, was caused by many of the very people and groups who are whispering sweet nothings in Walker's ear.
You see, in the right-wing-o-verse, lower and middle income people aren't the victims, they're the perpetrators. They're what Mitt Romney secretly regarded as the "47 percent" who (in conservative fantasies) only take and don't make. But, curiously, they're also mostly political powerless and economically unable to cross political palms with the required silver before their needs and concerns are addressed. They are not to be trusted, and they are safely ignored. That's why Republicans are happy to a.) stick them with most of the bill for cleaning up the mess mostly created by those self-same Republicans and their patrons, and, b.) punish them for daring to ask for government help when their assets and incomes have been dashed by rapacious banks, hedge funds, natural disasters and more.
So, among Walker's latest proposals: Reduce unemployment compensation again, and make it even harder to obtain. The last GOP-led legislature already did some of that, adding a waiting period before you could claim benefits after losing your job. But that wasn't mean enough. Nope, the authoritarians currently in charge of Wisconsin government have declared that it's time to get even tougher on all these jobless people, who clearly, in GOP minds, enjoy their joblessness and aren't really serious about working again anytime soon. Oh, and never mind that there aren't many jobs for them to find in Walker's Wisconsin.
The plan, the attitude, and their origins are summed up in this rather eye-opening passage in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news account today:
At the bottom of the unemployment insurance complaints from business owners - and the Walker administration's focus - lies the financial state of the state's jobless fund. Weakened by the recession and a lack of past action to raise taxes or cut spending from the fund, the jobless reserve had to borrow from the federal government to keep paying benefits and stood $1.2 billion in the red at the beginning of 2012.
So to pay off the debt, the state already has had to restrict benefits for the jobless and raise payroll taxes on state employers.
Making it harder to get benefits would help with that process by keeping more money in the fund.
The state "has had" to restrict benefits? Why? Huge numbers of Wisconsin workers were laid off and continue to have trouble finding jobs, but Wisconsin (in Republican and in business minds) should scale back unemployment benefits because, hey, that insurance is just so gosh-darn expensive. To businesses, mostly. So, not only make it harder to apply, but limit the term of coverage, and task recipients with more paperwork, since they're probably just shirking, anyway. See, the jobless clearly are no damn good, so we've got to keep a close eye on them, and mess around with them until they give up and go away.
This new curb on unemployment comp is just one tiny move in a long list of punitive actions Wisconsin and national Republicans are taking against the biggest victims of the economic meltdown. CEOs of financial institutions whose greed led to the meltdown continue to enjoy their nine-figure salaries and continue to evade jail time for their crimes -- and also continue to depress the economy and retard efforts to reform the system so it can't happen again.
But their victims? Why, we must punish them! So, in Wisconsin, the cry is: Cut health care benefits for lower income residents! Cut funding for the vocational schools that train for new jobs by 25 percent! Raise university tuitition! Raise taxes on the poor (but cut them for everyone else). Reduce social safety net spending! Loosen environmental regulations and regulation in general. Approve rate changes for Wisconsin power utilities so that big businesses pay less and everyone else pays more.
Yes, we must ask again, and every day of the Wisconsin voters who are feeling all this pain: When you elected Scott Walker and his GOP horde, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? More important: Are you going to let them do it to you again?