As a young person coming of age during a volatile time characterized by political partisanship, my views about politics have been shaped by the world in which I grew up. It seems that as a nation, we are nursing deep political divides in a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
The economic recession has undoubtedly played a role in the politics and policies governing the nation. It has dominated political discourse, and many have debated which types of policies are the best routes to recovery.
While the economic recession has been an ill for the nation, what is worse is the opportunist attitude taken by many to the right of the political continuum. Actions taken by some in the name of economic recovery have been nothing more than an advancement of divisive political agendas.
Sometimes referred to as the “shock doctrine,” this method of political manipulation involves playing on the urgency generated from a crisis to mask the motives of a particular policy. A shining example of this political pandering? Look no further than the actions of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
In the past weeks, Walker began forcing a budget bill which strips unions of their collective bargaining rights in an effort to reduce spending within the state budget. In response, union leaders offered cuts to their wages and benefit packages, which would alleviate the fiscal burden Walker claimed was brought upon the state—impeding his ability to balance the budget. Despite a workable solution on the table, Walker refused.
Spouting heroic rhetoric detailing his ability to balance the budget without raising the taxes of the people of Wisconsin, Walker used an economic crisis as the front for his underlying political agenda. Unions, which are traditionally a base for Democrats, are a political impediment to Republicans. Walker’s breaking of the unions is nothing more than a political ploy, cloaked by urgent rhetoric.
If Walker solely had the interest of the state budget in mind, he would have taken the deal offered by the unions, or at least entertained civil discussion on the matter before issuing so unceremonious a refusal.
Want another example of backroom dealing in the name of public good? Like Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich also believes in stripping unions of bargaining rights and claims he must make severe cuts to education in the name of decreasing state spending. Despite his austere reduction rhetoric, he had no qualms substantially raising the salary of his chief of staff.
Across the nation, Republicans who were recently elected on the promise of getting the nation’s budget in order are unwilling to eliminate corporate tax breaks, which would increase revenue in numerous states. It seems the elite interests of big business matter more to Republicans than the health of the economy.
History has proven that policies like these only serve to deepen the divide between the wealthy and the middle class. Looking ahead to the next election cycle, it seems that partisanship and political divides that fall along these lines will only become more divisive. Yet I remain optimistic that time will show the inadequacy of these policies, and my generation will not fall victim to the same fiscal failures of the shock doctrine.