June 5th, 2012; the new
The biggest on-going news story (up here in Chicago-land, anyway) following the NATO Summit, has been the recall election of Governor Scott Walker in that other state just a few miles north of here (it is home to some nauseating NFL team whose name I forget). Walker won the governorship, in that state's 2010 election, taking office January 3, 2011. At the time, the state was $23.5 billion in debt and had an unemployment rate of of 7.1 or 7.6 percent, depending upon whose numbers you want to believe.
In his 2010 campaign, Walker claimed that Wisconsin's (there...I remembered the name) major problems were high taxes (business taxes in particular) that discouraged companies from establishing, staying or growing there. Further, he cited the growth in the number and costs of state workers (even as unemployment grew among workers in the private sector) as a major factor requiring the high taxes. He blamed the costs and growth of the state's payroll on the power of public worker's unions and implied that they were in the position to hold the state hostage while seeking their myopic goals. In his first election bid, Walker promised to balance the state budget by eliminating waste, reducing taxes and making the state more friendly to business, thereby reducing unemployment. In order to do these, he needed to reduce the costs of state employees. In order to do that, he needed to remove the stranglehold that the public workers' unions had around the state's neck.
To make a long story short Walker succeeded to some degree, turning the budget deficit into a surplus, reducing unemployment and championing legislation which removed collective bargaining rights for state employers. It was the last of these that created the uproar. Recognizing the threat to one of the few remaining "industries" (public service?) in which their numbers were increasing, organized labor and union money poured their collective strength into Wisconsin. When they lost in their effort to block the legislation, they pushed to have the Governor recalled. They were, in the alliterative words of my grandfather, "hotter than a half-****** fox in a forest fire."
Their recall effort met the same fate as the previous attempt to block his first election: the Governor won.
This hotly-contested election does not (as some pundits claim) presage an Obama-loss in the upcoming Presidential election. However, it is a shift in the electoral mood; If this shift in mood reflects in the national vote, it could predestine an Obama loss. The mood in question, is a return to the spirit of independence upon which our nation was founded.
The independence we celebrate every July and (then seem to forget) wasn't simply independence from England, it was independence as a way of life. Each of us, individually, in order to be independent also needed to be self-sufficient--to forge our own destinies. To the best of our personal abilities and ambitions, we claimed the God-given right to choose our own courses of action in order to find whatever is was that made us happy and fulfilled. The only limits to this independence were of a moral nature (stealing from another, for instance) thereby opening innumerable doors to our pursuits. But independence is also a two-edged sword: the same independence which opens these doors to fortune also allows misfortune to enter into our lives.
Somewhere along the line of our nation's history, our national mood decided that we should be largely shielded from the entry of misfortune; No one can morally argue against protecting ourselves from misfortune. But in closing the doors to misfortune we also obstruct or eliminate our access to self-direction and the fortune it can produce.
Independence requires self-sufficiency in order to be desirable. For every bit misfortune you protect yourself from, you lose a bit of independence. If the mood of the Wisconsin electorate is reflective of the mood of the country, most of us are beginning to yearn again for the independence from government that we won in our Revolution and then wrote into our Constitution. And if that is the case, I would suggest that President Obama's days in office are numbered. I would further suggest that this should be a warning to politicians at all levels and in all parties.
Happy June 5th.