Over the last year our politicians, major news outlets, union leaders and powerful lobbyists have been waging war in Wisconsin. The failed recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been hailed by the Republican Party as a major victory heading into the fall election season. The Democratic Party, backed by major labor, now seeks to double their efforts to reengage the electorate, learning from this perceived failed effort.
Why do we continually allow issues of importance to be taken over and owned by those who seek to protect their own self interests while framing these issues in a manner designed to create division among us? We must recognize we have only one country and that country must have a sense of direction that is fair and compassionate to all. No one appreciates a gloating victor, but that is exactly what the political parties have undertaken to pit us against each other—and keep us there.
Americans have always been at their best when they stand united, arm in arm. When we allow the powerful, or the politically connected, to divide us and shift our loyalty to party or self interest instead of country is when we work against our own best interests. Wisconsinites registered their votes last week and they alone should be the victors or losers in that contest. Feeding the political divide instead of using our democratic common sense has allowed our nation to become paralyzed in recent years, and it won’t get any better until we demand that enough is enough.
Public-sector workers reportedly continue to enjoy better benefits than their private sector counterparts. About 64 percent of private-sector workers have access to pensions, compared with 90 percent of state and local government workers. Private-sector workers earn an average of $8.53 in benefits per hour, while government workers earn $14.31 in benefits per hour. Our economy can’t continue to support growing government payroll costs. Some form of balance must be maintained.
Over the course of time, public sector employees needed the power of collective bargaining, especially when the pay scales and benefits didn’t fairly match with those in the private sector. But the pendulum has swung too far the other way and the current economic climate has shown that the nation can’t support generous benefits, salaries and overt job protection for public employees when the private sector is going in the other direction..
On the other side of the divide, according to the Independent Center for Public Integrity, Governor Walker raised seven times more than Mayor Barrett, his challenger, to defend his recall, and, despite the difference in spending, the dollars didn’t directly translate into percentage points in polls or the vote. Wisconsin voters were not swayed by the big corporate connections, but instead recognized that the best choice was to keep Walker in place and continue to tackle the state budget woes by tempering the growth of public sector costs.
Now, the spin masters from both sides will continue to put the best face on the result from their perspective, but at the end of the day voters must put self interest aside and see through the spin to make good choices and insure realistic choices that continue to make government accountable while bringing spending under control. We all need to tune out the posturing and not allow others to frame these issues, nor take ownership of them for anything other than the advancement of our nation.
It seems clear to me that far too many of our leaders place their own self interests and political aspirations ahead of the Democracy. We get sucked into blindly following the powerful and until we demand accountability and see through the veil of divisive politics our nation will continue to be held hostage. We need to respect the differences that will naturally occur between people of good intentions but look to elect leaders who seek to resolve those differences instead of using them to create and feed anger and hatred among us. Until we find our own clear voice, I fear America will be driven to the outer edges of the political divide, where nothing but stonewalling is accomplished, while the nation suffers from its lack of resolve and identity, zigzagging between the political extremes.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org