By Ruth Conniff on July 16, 2013

By Ruth Conniff

Wisconsinites cringed when we read the news this week about Governor Scott Walker, who took a break from leading our state steadily to the bottom of the nation in job-creation and wage growth to share his wisdom in a keynote speech to the annual GOP dinner in Indiana.

A conservative duo who blog as "Chicks on the Right" were smitten with Walker. "In short, he was awesomesauce," they gushed.

That line made it all over state media, of course.

Less reported was the chicks' take on what goes into Walker's secret sauce:

"He spoke about how the GOP truly IS the party of optimism - because it believes in the potential of people. We measure success, he said, NOT by how many people depend on government, but by how many people are successfully independent."

Don't look too closely, but that sauce you're drinking is not what you think. A new report, released today by One Wisconsin Now, details how Walker--who has been on the public payroll all his life--owes much of his political success to that fact that he has been giving taxpayer-financed handouts to donors in exchange for big checks to his campaign. The conduit for this public-money-for-private-donations racket is the state's quasi-private agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which Walker created to replace the state's commerce department, and which he now chairs. The WEDC came in for a scathing report by the state's audit bureau recently because of its abysmal record-keeping, because it lost millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and because its staff admitting to buying iTunes gift cards, Badger tickets, and booze on the public dime. Worse, the agency cannot demonstrate that, in exchange for the $500 million it gave away to businesses, it helped create any jobs. Wisconsin has consistently ranked well below the national average for job creation and wage growth on Walker's watch, despite the governor's promise, when he came into office, to create 250,000 new jobs. The state audit bureau gave up trying to figure out whether Walker's job-creation agency had actually created a single job with all its handouts. In its report, the bureau cited terrible record-keeping and awards "to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and for amounts that exceeded specified limits." The WEDC didn't monitor its expenditures, and didn't even attempt to count how many jobs it may have helped create. Almost $1 million of the tax credits the agency handed out "went for job creation and employee training that had occurred before the contracts were executed." As WEDC spokesman Thomas Thieding put it, "We don’t create the jobs. We help the job creators." "Helping the job creators" turns out to be a key element of Walker's campaign strategy--and the real recipe for success that he brings to other Republican governors. Between them, Scott Walker and the Republican Governors Association raked in nearly $650,000 in donations from the owners and employees of the businesses that benefited from the WEDC’s largesse. Walker received $429,060 in campaign contributions from the businessmen who got grants and tax credits from his new job-creation agency. The Virginia-based Republican Governors Association, which spent almost $15 million electing Walker and defending him in the recall, got $218,899 from the same group of people. Who paid for their WEDC-sponsored benefits? The taxpayers of Wisconsin, of course! And what did we get? A state economy that still ranks among the worst in the nation --with about half the job-creation rate of the national average. If you're a Republican governor who wants to pillage his state to build a political career, it's brilliant. If you're a resident of Wisconsin, or any citizen who cares about "the potential of people" and being "successful" and "independent"--that's not awesomesauce. That's poison.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Pro-choice Women Should Take On Republican Govs."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

 

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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