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Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014

Issue of the Week: Walker and Kleefisch's War on Workers

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Recently, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch led a closed-door roundtable discussion about taxes with some business leaders in Beloit.

After viewing footage of the meeting obtained by One Wisconsin Now, we can see why Kleefisch and the Walker administration didn’t want the public to hear what they discussed.

The video includes much talk of lower business taxes, flat taxes, a desire to keep corporations’ tax information secret and a request to give immediate tax credits to companies that aren’t turning a profit and therefore don’t have to pay taxes in the first place. Kleefisch dutifully took notes and nodded her head.

This kind of talk, in secret, should outrage every Wisconsinite.

Like Kleefisch, Gov. Scott Walker is engaged in a war on workers. He hit the national talk shows this past weekend to denounce raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits. Instead of opposing them, Walker should be working with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to pass them. Not only would raising the federal minimum wage increase consumer spending in Wisconsin and stimulate the local economy, but it would create a floor for wages across the entire country so states could not compete with each other by lowering their minimum wage. Extending unemployment benefits would boost local economies as well, and give a helping hand to long-term jobless people who are struggling during the worst economic downturn since the Depression. These are solid workers who have spent years in the labor force and want desperately to work again. Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs. If he were on track to create these jobs, then there would be opportunities for these longer-term unemployed persons to have a chance of finding one.

Nowhere in Walker’s remarks does he state that companies could do more to help ease unemployment and help the working poor—by paying low-wage workers a living wage, by investing in building the skill level of their employees so they are more productive or by paying their fair share of taxes.

Unfortunately, Walker won’t do the economically rational things to boost the economy, only the political things that his major campaign donors demand as he positions himself to run for the Republican nomination for president. Like Kleefisch, Walker will take his cues from corporations even if their demands for lower taxes hinder Wisconsin’s already anemic economic recovery.

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