DO AUSTERITY MEASURES ULTIMATELY PROMOTE A HEALTHY ECONOMY?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 6, 2012) — Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who took office in 2011 with a $3.6 billion deficit, won the majority of votes in last night’s recall election.
Polls taken before the June 5 recall vote showed that Walker and his challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, were “essentially tied.” The election was described by some as a “referendum” what will happen in November for the presidential election. Walker won approximately 53% of the vote, while Barrett won 46%. Voter turnout was reported by local news media as “heavy.”
In order to balance his state’s budget, Walker had signed a bill in March of last year which restricted collective bargaining for teachers’ unions and other organized labor groups. Since then, Wisconsin’s economy had been reported as “a boom” as property taxes and unemployment rates fell. One report states that 35,000 new jobs have been created since Walker’s cutbacks have been implemented.
As a result of the legislation passed in 2011, public school teachers and other state employees were asked to contribute more to their pension funds and health care plans. The Speaker of the Wisconsin General Assembly, Jeff Fitzgerald, had described the move as “a tough vote, but…the right vote.” Protesters had staged sit-ins and “massive protests” during the debate, and 14 Democrat state senators had gone to neighboring Illinois rather than vote on the measure.
Four Republican state senators were recalled along with Walker, although three have decisively retained their seats. A fourth might have been won by the Democrat challenger but as of this writing has not been conceded by the Republican incumbent. If the Democrat wins the seat, that party will control the state senate until after the November elections.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney predicted that Walker’s “victory will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.” The Los Angeles Times stated that “the size of Walker’s victory” could portend problems for Obama’s reelection. A constitutional group from Arizona stated, “If Governor Walkers win will give other strong Conservatives the incentive to step up and run for office. Conservatives that are committed to the bone, that can not be bought, and like Governor Walker said last night, do what needs to be done, regardless of the next election. Our country has a fighting chance at survival.”