Spite

If there be any, as I hope there be none,
That would lese [lose] both his eyes to lese his foe one,
Then fear I there be many, as the world go’th,
That would lese one eye to lese their foes both.

John Heywood’s A Dialogue Conteynyng Prouerbes and Epigrammes, “Of Spite

I have to say that I find the survival of Wisconsin’s Governor Walker  bizarre. It’s not just a low-ish voter turnout. Essentially, a big chunk of the population chose to use their/our money to pay for the financial sectors’ destruction of the economy. Even more than that, they chose both to dismantle their main tool for protecting their economic interests– the union’s collective bargaining power– and accepted a higher degree of misery for the culture at large. It’s a classic case of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”  It’s impossible to say how bad– or, rather, how much worse– things will get but these defeats are not metaphors.

State employee unions are standard bearers everywhere, helping to keep wages high and benefits more generous for everyone. In an economy flooded with people needing work, the loss of collective bargaining will drive wages down and further shrink benefits. Less money, fewer people with healthcare, more poverty, everyone looses.That’s just the start of Walker’s agenda, which also includes radical cuts in Medicaid and education and generous grants and tax incentives for businesses. There’s little evidence that this sort of corporate welfare and worker “discipline” will stimulate any sort of economic growth.

As president Clinton has said, it’s sure to expand unemployment , slow economic growth, and “explode the debt when the economy recovers so the interest rates would be so high, nobody would be able to do anything.” Why do people make this choice? My guess is that the right-wing has succeeded in making cultural politics seem more real and important than material interests. It’s not the usual “abortion” and “guns” strategy, although that’s a part of it. Instead, they seem to have tapped into a kind of class resentment that pits rural voters (mostly white) against a more cosmopolitan (in other words, not only white)  urban and suburban population.  This is what Walker really meant by “divide and conquer.”

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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