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5 reasons Scott Walker is the worst governor in America

Here's why Walker would be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad president.


Chris Osterndorf

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 13, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 9:10 am CDT

If you don’t know who Scott Walker is already, you will soon.

The Wisconsin governor is making waves this week, aside from an apparently unintentional tweet Friday afternoon that announced his 2016 presidential run. Under Walker’s leadership, state legislators have just pushed through a budget that will attempt to destroy Wisconsin’s living wage law, wreak havoc on the public school system, and effectively eliminate workers’ right to a weekend.

All of this is just par for the course when held alongside Walker’s record.

On the Internet, Walker is less famous than fellow Republican candidates like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump. But unlike them, Scott Walker is no joke. While not incapable of making the same viral-ready fumbles of any other presidential candidate, Walker has proven to be a cold, calculated force in the landscape of Wisconsin politics. Online, there is a small but loyal contingent of rabble rousers committed to taking him down. But even with efforts to expose his dirty policies, Scott Walker remains a mystery to many. If ever there was a time for the Internet to intensify their efforts to discredit him, that time is now, given that he’s already crushed every watchdog group that stood in his way.

For those who aren’t already well-versed with his history, here’s why Walker is the worst governor in America, as the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington argued in 2013, and why he would be an even worse president.

1) Walker has led an all-out attack on laborers and unions

Walker first showed just how much damage he could do in 2011, when he took an axe to state workers’ collective bargaining agreements. Cementing his reputation as the most outwardly anti-labor governor in the country, Walker’s new law, known as Act 10, ensured that workers were able to negotiate over little more than base wages, while simultaneously making it harder for unions to get recognized in general. They also made workers pay more for pension and healthcare costs, reducing their total take-home pay and jeopardizing their retirement security

The result of these actions were mass protests and an eventual recall election. Unfortunately, Walker ultimately emerged triumphant, outlasting the recall.

In the years since, Walker has threatened to expand his union-busting policies by going after police and firemen, too; he’s targeted female workers specifically, repealing a law designed to protect statewide fair pay. Not content to stop there, he signed a “right-to-work” bill into effect in 2015 that put harsh restrictions on collective bargaining in the state.

As Dan Kaufman argues at the New York Times Magazine, his tenure is even worse when considering Wisconsin’s labor history. “It is particularly bitter for Walker’s opponents that his rise has taken place in Wisconsin, a blue state with a long history of labor activism,” Kaufman writes. “It was the first state in the nation to grant collective-­bargaining rights to public employees in 1959.”

Indeed, bitter doesn’t even begin to describe it. Having previously aligned himself with the Koch brothers, who have anti-labor organizations like the National Right to Work Committee in their pockets, Walker will no doubt advance these union-busting policies if he’s elected to higher office.

2) Job creation slowed under Walker’s watch

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages recently found that Wisconsin is tied with Vermont and Iowa as the state with the 38th lowest job creation in America. At the end of the previous quarter, it was the 31st.

In addition, Walker has also failed to make good on his 2010 campaign promise of 250,000 new private sector jobs. Instead, his state landed in a tie with Iowa for the least number of new private sector jobs in the nation. Most of this is due to Walker’s decision to privatize job creation, through the implementation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which replaced the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

The WDEC was supposed to take over the distribution of federal subsidies, while trimming the fat from the commerce department, but the numbers never quite added up. They gave out as much as $124.4 million in awards without any formal staff reviews. Of these awards, 27 were to be put to the creation of 6,165 jobs—but only 2,106 jobs were created. 

In one particularly egregious incident, a company called Building Committee Inc. received $500,000 for stating they hadn’t been sued in five years, which turned out to be a lie. Eventually, the company defaulted on the loan and dissolved—but only after it was revealed that they had donated $10,000 to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign.

Walker does have other black marks on his job record (suspending apprenticeship programs, blocking construction on a high-speed rail), but hopefully, it is the WEDC that will haunt him come primary time.

3) Walker implemented mass voting restrictions

Wisconsin’s voter ID law has a strange history. Enacted in 2011, the legislation was intended to prevent voter fraud, despite the fact that, as MSNBC’s Steve Benin explained, “there are no documented incidents in modern Wisconsin history of a voter committing voter fraud, at least not in a way that could be prevented by a voter-ID law.”

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked it in 2014, only to ignore a challenge to the statute in 2015. So far, Wisconsin officials have not been very strict about enforcing it, although they’ve also said they will uphold it in the future. It’s this last part which is cause for concern.

A 2014 injunction against the law—from Judge Lynn Adelman—estimated that 300,000 voters will be prevented from casting a ballot under such legislation. These voters, as Adelman writes, “either do not require a photo ID to navigate their daily lives or who have encountered obstacles that have prevented or deterred them from obtaining a photo ID.“ This works out great for Walker, since it eliminates many black and Hispanic citizens who would likely vote against him. 

Wisconsin’s voter ID law is one of the worst in the country, but what makes Wisconsin an additionally disturbing case is the voter suppression groups which have sprung up to support it. It just goes to show that besides stirring up electoral tensions, voter suppression is unjust, racist, and bad for America. Scott Walker has done Wisconsinites—and everyone else—a great disservice by backing it.

4) Walker isn’t consistent on issues of healthcare

Scott Walker was among the initial 25 Republican governors who rejected the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. However, Wisconsin’s own version of Medicaid, known as “BadgerCare,” covers more than similar programs in other states. So it came as somewhat of a surprise when Walker moved to transfer as many people in his state out of BadgerCare as possible—in an effort to get them covered under the Affordable Care Act. 

But don’t go praising Walker’s compromise yet. His actions would have left thousands in his state without coverage had King v. Burrell gone the other way. And while he’s taken credit for getting more Wisconsinites covered, PolitiFact rules that “far more people are getting access to health care, whether from the government or private carriers, as a result of Obamacare.”

Meanwhile, Walker has alleged that Medicaid keeps people out of the workforce, when it reality, that’s just not true. Instead, people on Medicaid are usually part of the working poor, and need the program to survive. 

 At ThinkProgress, Tara Culp-Ressler writes:

Two-thirds of them are part of a family where someone is working, and more than half of them are working themselves—often in sectors like the agricultural and service industries, which have a history of failing to provide insurance benefits to their workers. Americans being denied Medicaid are cashiers, cooks, nurses’ aides, waiters and waitresses, and janitors. Most of them are people of color, and many are single mothers. They don’t fit the conservative trope of the lazy individual who is overly dependent on the government programs.

But even before Obamacare came into effect, Scott Walker demonstrated that he wasn’t that interested in Medicaid. In 2012, he made drastic cuts to the program, which resulted in 17,000 people leaving the program or being turned away. He didn’t care about healthcare then, and he continues to be apathetic about it now.

5) Walker’s record on education is abysmal

When Walker went after collective bargaining in 2011, it was public school teachers who were hit the hardest. In the years since, not much has changed, at least where Walker’s views on education are concerned. 

Walker’s most recent budget cuts $250 million in funding for the University of Wisconsin and gets rid of Chapter 220, a program designed to curb segregation and increase opportunities for students of color in Milwaukee Public Schools. MPS school boards will instead be overseen by a Milwaukee County Executive-appointed “commissioner,” who will have the power to privatize city schools if they so choose.

“The budget also offers virtually no significant increase in public school funding while increasing voucher support for private and religious schools at taxpayers’ expense,” observes the editorial board of the New York Times. “It includes another shibboleth of the hard-right agenda—a requirement for drug testing of those seeking a variety of public benefits.”

That hasn’t stopped Scott Walker from selling himself as a leader in U.S. education, touting his state’s ACT scores and ignoring grade-by-grade performance. The Washington Post labeled Walker’s rewriting of his education record as “problematic,” to say the least.

If all of this has taught you anything, it’s that we need to pay close attention to Scott Walker in the 2016 election. Think these are the worst tricks Walker has up his sleeve? Imagine what he could do with four years in the White House.

Chris Osterndorf is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared on websites such as Mic, Salon, xoJane, the Week, and more. When he’s not writing, Chris enjoys making movies with friends. He lives in Los Angeles.

Photo via DonkeyHotey/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Jul 13, 2015, 4:24 pm CDT