Commentary: Walker’s Bleak Vision For Wisconsin

By Bill Wineke Special to Channel 3000

The Book of Proverbs contains a simple warning: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

The biblical writer was talking about revelations of God but the message has strong secular implications, too.

At its center, the battle now going on in Wisconsin is not about budget cuts or union representation or the whereabouts of Senate Democrats. The battle is about an operating vision for the future of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker has one vision. His vision is that “Wisconsin is open for business.” Everything else comes second.

In order to make Wisconsin more business friendly, he wants to destroy labor unions, cut the wages of nurses and teachers and the people who plow snow during blizzards, curb the ability of people injured by defective products to sue for damages and, it seems likely, wage war not only on teachers but on public schools in general.

The first clue that this is a vision thing more than a budget thing came in the governor’s State of the State address.

The one corporation Walker singled out for public admiration is Mercury Marine, a company that threatened to move 2,000 Wisconsin jobs to Oklahoma unless its employees accepted major wage and benefit cuts.

Now, I know nothing about the outboard motor business. It may be that Mercury Marine had to cut costs in order to stay in business. A company that goes out of business doesn’t employ anyone.

But to hold Mercury Marine up as an exemplar of how we ought to do business in Wisconsin takes on symbolic — or vision — force.

It is no surprise that only a few days later the governor told state workers that they would either have to accept major benefit cuts or face massive layoffs.

And how did we get in a situation where corporations can be praised for bullying their workers into pay cuts? Well, that’s a matter of vision, too.

Or, lack thereof.

Jim Doyle was governor of the state for eight years. Can you honestly tell me what his vision was for Wisconsin? Other than muddling through, I mean.

Tom Barrett gave me the distinct impression that he would much rather be mayor of Milwaukee than governor of Wisconsin. He got his wish.

There was no vision and the Democratic Party came pretty close to perishing.

Now, we’ll see what happens.

A week ago, I would have thought that once Walker gets his union-busting program through — and he will — the government employee unions would be crippled into virtual oblivion.

After last week’s demonstrations, however, I am beginning to think they have a possibility of rebirth. Once they lose the right to actually protect their members, they will have to make their case by rallying public support for public schools, for the $8 an hour aides who care for our grandparents, for all the little people of the state.

It’s not that they don’t do that now; it’s that they haven’t done a very good job of projecting their vision for the state.

If they can’t do so after last week’s rallies, well, then we’d better consign ourselves to the pathetically bleak vision the governor proclaims.