The United States was founded as a representative democracy — citizens entrusting governance to their fairly elected representatives. As Abraham Lincoln put it, our nation is a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
But over the past few decades, our nation has come to resemble a plutocracy — that is, a government controlled by moneyed elites acting in their own interests. Wisconsin is both a prime example of and a prime player in the nation’s transformation.
Since 2011, Republicans have held firm control over Wisconsin, empowered by the seemingly limitless campaign dollars the GOP receives from wealthy corporations and individuals. In exchange for all the dough, Republicans have rewarded their benefactors with laws and policies that have stacked the state’s economy in favor of the wealthy. As a result, the growth rate of Wisconsin’s middle class is among the nation’s lowest.
During these seven years — when the state has been at the mercy of Scott Walker, the state’s Republican legislative leaders, and a state Supreme Court that’s beholden to the same special interests as the politicians — the state’s resources have trickled steadily upward.
There have been massive tax breaks for the wealthy, the elimination of environmental policies that stand in the way of profits, and reckless gun policies that endanger the public while pleasing the National Rifle Association and the weapons and ammo producers they represent.
We’ve also seen astounding corporate welfare. Walker and his acolytes have given millions of taxpayer dollars away to their cronies in the form of unsecured state loans that will never be recouped. While Walker is trying to fire up his base with welfare “reforms” that will hurt poor people, he’s silent on the corporate welfare that he’s doled out to the rich.
The majority of the money donated to Wisconsin’s top Republicans doesn’t even come from in-state sources. Sixty percent of the $14 million pocketed by Walker between January 2015 and the end of 2017 came from out-of-state donors.
Those donors don’t have any interest in making the state a better place to live. They simply want to exploit our resources for their own gain and keep Wisconsin within the orbit of their ideology.
All of the dollars and favors showered upon Wisconsin Republicans have come with strings, of course. The state’s Republican Party is virtually controlled by uber-rich benefactors — and the slide from democracy to plutocracy advances.
What’s happened in Wisconsin is a microcosm of what’s happening in many other states with Republican one-party rule, as well as at the federal level.
This year, the state will have a chance to help turn things around, both here and in Washington. In November, we’ll vote for a governor, state representatives, a U.S. senator, and U.S. representatives.
Get involved now in the process of electing candidates who do not and will not put the interests of their wealthy donors over their constituents. The Wisconsin Gazette is here to help keep the public aware of who’s working for the citizenry and who isn’t. Together, we can stand astride advancing plutocracy, and through our votes, insist, “This ends now.”