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If what follows doesn't make you mad, then what hope do we have for a return to sensible, transparent, caring, equitable government that truly serves all?

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed through his Act 10 law gutting collective bargaining for most public employees in the state, some of the most aggrieved workers were unionized state prison guards, who have seen few raises in recent years along with two years of compensation cuts under Walker. The guards must deal with an increasingly large and unruly prison population despite declining resources. That's produced one huge morale problem for corrections officers in the state's overly incarceration-minded justice system.

So how to fix that? Well, these passages in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story today pretty much sum up the Walker administration approach to "better" government:

Six prison wardens locked in pay raises of 8% to 13% this week — bringing their pay to just under $100,000 a year — at a time when most correctional officers and other state employees are getting 1% pay raises... .

"This is naked cronyism," Paul Mertz, a correctional officer at Redgranite Correctional Institution, wrote in an email to the Journal Sentinel. "We have one standard for all the unwashed masses and another standard for the beautiful people."

If the above wasn't bad enough, two other aspects make this injustice even worse. For one thing, the Walker administration engineered the fat pay increases to the wardens by, as it has done previously, using an administrative loophole that let the increases be much higher than normally allowed. The State Corrections Department simply transferred the wardens from duty at one prison to another. Under Walker, musical chairs is the game that produces unwarranted, double-digit pay increases.

Just as awful, one of the highly rewarded wardens has a history of physically mistreating his staff and uttering racial epithets. This became known ten years ago when a staffer filed a whistleblower report. The warden was never disciplined, but the whistleblower was reprimanded and suspended for his actions. You can read the nasty details at the link to the Journal Sentinel story, above.

So, apparently, if you're a right-thinking Wisconsin state government manager, serious misconduct in public office may get you a big, fat raise and no punishment. It's more proof that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Join me below the little orange cloud of backroom cigar smoke for further thoughts.

Walker made a big deal a couple years ago out of his new (actually, just revived) "merit" compensation plan, which he claimed would reward those employees who excelled. Sift, however, through the merit awards filings (they are open public records) and you'll notice that an unusually large number of agency heads and managers seem to get a disproportionate amount of the merit increases, whereas the vast majority of rank-and-file workers get nothing and are stuck with a current one-percent pay increase that Walker and the state's other political overseers grudgingly granted to most newly un-unionized employees. Of course, the closer you are to the top of the state government food chain, the more likely it is you're a political animal who bows in the direction of the governor's office.

This certainly isn't always true; some worthy managers and ground-pounders have earned state merit increases; but we're talking about the overall norm.

Preoccupation with state government's embedded loyalists may be why rank-and-file state employees now increasingly discover that their annual performance reviews appear to be reverse-engineered to find fault, despite years of loyal, highly rated service. In a top-down culture, rewards go to the overseers, while blame falls upon the people actually doing most of the achieving. Embedded loyalists can gain favor by rooting out anyone who is perceived as trouble or who disagrees, however professionally they express themselves.

The State Department of Transportation went so far as to hand out "employee appreciation" awards to staff that consisted entirely of a piece of candy, specifically: suckers. Ham-handed or intentional, the negative metaphor couldn't have been overlooked. If they actually care about any of this, the state's brilliant overseers must be wondering why there are morale problems in the lower ranks. If so, the solution is obvious: The figurative beatings (and in some cases, as with that particular warden, real physical abuse) will continue until morale improves!

Seemingly, despite occasional soothsaying to the contrary, the implicit and sometimes explicit message from Walker and other overseers is that most workers are just no damn good; it's a few of the bosses at or near the top that do all the really important stuff. That's perhaps how Walker himself could collect $340,000 in advance royalties for his poorly selling political autobiography, even though he didn't actually write it. Hey, here's the next step: Dock the ghostwriter!

Thus once again, this time in the case of the prison wardens, the Walker brand of Republican policy-making bends toward giving bosses most of the benefits and rewards, even when they're of dubious achievement, character and integrity, while the people who do all the real work get crumbs at best, along with way too much criticism from some of those same bosses.

No wonder most citizens think government is screwed up. The public sector increasingly is run by government haters who are busy pillaging the treasury -- and the very tenets of democracy -- for fun and profit. And the government haters get into office thanks to huge donations from corporatists whose main agenda is to neuter government.

It's true Walker just handed out a $500 million state income tax rebate thanks to a budget surplus, but 1.) most of that surplus is despite his policies and reflects the nation's gradually reviving economy, one in which Wisconsin still badly lags most states; 2.) the rebate is skewed towards wealthier taxpayers; 3.) the surplus is just a projection, and doesn't take into account the record billions that Walker has borrowed mostly to pump up spending on highway construction, a sop to a very friendly and powerful interest group; and 4.) Walker's budget depended on grabbing back hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to state employees, including those prison guards, as well as massive cuts in state aid to public school districts and municipalities. Will any of the "Walker surplus" now touted in re-election campaign ads be redirected back to those aggrieved programs? Nah, not really.

Cronyism and authoritarianism are the norms in Walkerism's approach to both the private and public sectors. In this twisted way of thinking, corporations and business executives should get more of the rewards, because, hey, they're in control. Hence, tax breaks that are skewed toward wealthy individuals and the business community. But even when this approach fails, as it continues to fail under Walker in Wisconsin, the overseers don't back off. Rather, they and their fellow overseers deserve even more, simply because of who they are and what they believe; a non-meritocracy, in other words.

Whereas, the millions of public and private employees who actually get done the vast proportion of work are constantly faced with wage and benefit cuts, wage theft, lay-offs and dismissals. "We made this" has been embraced as a slogan by the people at the top who only imagine they did all the work. Give rich America a raise!

Last week, Citizens For Tax Justice and the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy reported that Fortune 500 companies avoided a collective $73.1 billion in state government taxes nationwide, thanks to loopholes and clever accounting. In Wisconsin, like other states, profitable corporations on average reduced their state corporate tax payments by half. One big Wisconsin company, Rockwell Automation, actually paid a negative income tax and collected $16 million from state taxpayers. The firms in Wisconsin took advantage of weak regulation to move assets to Nevada, a state where corporations pay nothing. And so the race to the bottom continues.

Then it's on to privatizing more profits while socializing more costs. And narrowing the rewards to a select few, because they'll trickle it back down to the rest of the nation. Piss-poor reasoning, but there you are.

Originally posted to Ron Legro on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 09:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Race to the bottom (14+ / 0-)

    That's about the only thing that my lovely state is winning.  It's so sad to see how quickly and effectively Walker has destroyed WI.  I am finding it impossible to stay here. What truly perplexes me is how so many Wisconsinites believe Walkers lies and allow the heavily right wing media to feed them these lies, without asking question one.  

    Wisconsin: It's war, you know. We didn't start it, but we'll keep fighting in it until we win

    by isewquilts2 on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 12:12:29 PM PDT

    •  And, he's up on the polls (5+ / 0-)

      ...and is amassing a record campaign war chest.

      But this, too, shall pass. Like a kidney stone, in Walker's case, but still.

    •  I don't believe it. I don't. I don't believe the (8+ / 0-)

      current corporate media version of reality. The Ron Suskind article comes to mind with this idea.

      They just say it on the TV or in the paper and it becomes reality. It's insane.

      I think too many people accept the corporate media as truth or reality, when it is really just plastic crap. It's just the stuff between the advertisements - the content is not even the corporate media's product. It's the bait for the product.

      In the corporate media, the product is you; you are the product.

      What obligation does the company have to take care of it's product?

      Only to ensure that it makes it into the customers hands in good condition and that it performs as ordered. Maintenance and service are negotiable.

      Anyone who believes that the corporate media gives us anything approaching reality is not thinking clearly and needs to come to their senses.

      In 2005, right after Kerry's miserable 2004 Presidential campaign, the mask fell off the corporate media when it came to the DLC and centrist Democratic leadership.

      It was amazing how much different reality was than the media's caricature. It's like the scales fell from our eyes or something, or someone dropped the leash - it was a different planet politically speaking.

      That lasted about 2 or 3 months and then they got the lid back on the can.

      I will never forget that.

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:49:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it is called Divide and Conquer (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        k9disc

        and that is all Republicans are interested in doing-Winning-and the devil take the hindmost. I watched that recall vote turn in Walker's favor, with disgust and disbelief, as people said that it was the big money on his side that did it. That little lying whelp slid back into office as the Wisconsin voters just could not figure out that he was bad medicine. After the prank Koch phone call, after watching their own teachers shafted (the ones who teach their kids). Because, after all, most of them are not teachers. Simple. You got that right. God help us is all I can say.

      •  Yes, and.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        k9disc

        Would you like an extended warranty on that citizen product?

    •  My condolences.... (0+ / 0-)

      If you live in WI, you have my condolences for becoming the Mississippi of the Midwest.

  •  Support Independent Candidates in Wisconsin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ohiodem1, Sark Svemes

    Join in the conversation supporting independent candidates for office in Wisconsin - The Foundation for a Sustainable Wisconsin http://www.sustainwis.org/...

  •  Walker is a looter, pure and simple (13+ / 0-)

    Just a hired hand for ALEX and the Koch brothers. These people want a nation of serfs and overlords.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 07:10:28 PM PDT

    •  The Great Lakes are surrounded by Looters. (9+ / 0-)

      All of the Goovners around the Great Lakes are proto-fascist free traders.

      From Snyder's fascist EMF law to Walker's corporate brownshirt governing mentality. You got Kasich in Ohio, Rahm in Chicago, Walker in WI, and Corbett in PA.

      Some are worse than others, but there does seem to be a serious movement to double down on stupid in the Midwest by implementing more failed conservative policies via fiat, fraud, or framing.

      I think they are trying to sabotage these states so we give up our natural resources, primarily our water.

      Michigan is arguably the most valuable real estate on the planet. My people make things, and do it very, very well.

      Most valuable real estate and most talented makers of things and look at what is happening there...

      Democrats should focus on that. We should get the Great Lakes to protect themselves and protect their natural resources from waste, fraud, and abuse. Because it's coming, and it's never going to stop.

      Instead we have Democrats aping Republicans about courting businesses and giving awesome tax abatements and privileges for big infrastructure that doesn't last.

      This lack of adherence to Democratic Values and ideology breeds cynicism - it's obviously going through the motions or a sales pitch.

      Protect yourselves and protect your resources.

      I'd actually like to see some factories reclaimed and reconditioned. Just east of my hometown there are millions of sq ft of manufacturing facilities that are wasting away - the crown jewels of 60s manufacturing - rotting out because no benevolent corporation will take a chance on them.

      So we'll wait til they fall over and put up a corporate box store. yay!

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 12:06:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tinkle down is far more descriptive than trickle (5+ / 0-)

    down.  When you complain about how badly you are faring under tinkle down, the radical republicans figuratively say, "what's wrong, I just quit pissing on you?"

    The Republican tax theory (and it's no longer a theory, it's a fact) is that cutting taxes for the rich is a transfer payment from the poor and middle wage earners to the rich.

    All tax policy is redistributive, and it is high time we quit redistributing our taxes to the wealthy and to wealthy corporations.

    Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

    by Ohiodem1 on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 10:18:12 PM PDT

  •  Can I recommend this more than once? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patango, jorogo

    Epic rant and, as a Badger, I can assure that you are spot-on with respect to Walker and the larger republican machine here in WI. Plutocrats and thugs, the whole lot of them.

    "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important." Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Arabiflora on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:22:22 PM PDT

  •  Sounds like corporate to me. (0+ / 0-)
    the Walker brand of Republican policy-making bends toward giving bosses most of the benefits and rewards, even when they're of dubious achievement, character and integrity, while the people who do all the real work get crumbs at best, along with way too much criticism from some of those same bosses.
    Sounds like a cynical big corporate set up to me. Keep the rabble down. Pay those willing to say and do anything, and pay them well. Make sure that people know that head down and mouth closed are the way to make it up the ladder.

    The idea that the bad dudes are getting raises seems to be a bug, but it's a feature.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:41:34 PM PDT

  •  It is hard to keep doing the right thing (7+ / 0-)

    when all around you there things are going to hell in a tearing hurry and half the population believes it is on a Sunday stroll through the park. I cannot, no will not surrender my states future to a small group of people who act like a new class of aristocracy. Nothing worth having is easy. It requires and demands hard work, sacrifice, critical thinking, and a willingness to fight back.
    Bring the fight to the republicans. It can no longer be about responding to what they do. We must do unto them. Club them with all of their errors. Find real leadership from with in the ranks of the electorate. We need people, men and women who are full of piss and vinegar to carry this battle forward. No more tired same old candidates. New faces willing to scream back across the aisle at those who would wreck what is left of what we have here. People who yell FORWARD! and really mean it.

    Give blood. Play hockey.

    by flycaster on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:53:18 PM PDT

    •  right wing traitors (0+ / 0-)

      Please please, save your state from the looting class. My wife has toyed with the idea of looking for a job up there. Illinois may be screwed up be at least we have politicians we can indict for their crimes instead of fascists like Walker & Snyder  who turn the law on its head.

      •  Then again.... (0+ / 0-)

        It's possible that the current John Doe inquiry into Walker's questionable campaign activities may result in an indictment or two here. An early Doe probe produced criminal charges against six Walker campaign and public staffers and a campaign donor.

  •  I totally agree, flycaster (0+ / 0-)
    Bring the fight to the republicans. It can no longer be about responding to what they do. We must do unto them. Club them with all of their errors.
    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we must fight them on TV, on the radio, in print and online.

    AND LOUDLY!

    America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

    by dagnome on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 11:47:19 AM PDT

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