“That which is not just is not law.”
William Lloyd Garrison, American Abolitionist
“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from A Birmingham Jail
“In the just reward of labor, God’s will is done. In the help we give our neighbor God’s will is done. In our world-wide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvest we are sharing God’s will is done.”
Fred Pratt Green 1903-2000, Hymn to the tune of an old Welsh air, For the Fruit of All Creation
As the June 5th recall election for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker approaches we do grant him the accomplishments of balancing the state budget, lowering property taxes for the first time in decades, and reaching out to Milwaukee with a one hundred million dollar development project. Struggles for Justice also refuses to hate. God’s love is perfected in all of us when we reach out to one another and have a caring and loving concern for one another. But the love we display for one another in this world can also be “tough love” and what men do can be placed up against the bar of justice to measure the degree to which laws either uplift or degrade human personality as spoken of by Dr. King.
All over Wisconsin, the yard signs proclaim “I Stand With Walker.” But we must also ask what it is these people are endorsing?
If you stand with Walker you endorse:
Turning down a Federal rail project that would have employed almost five thousand human beings for the better part of a decade. Now the high speed rail line and the company that builds the equipment runs from Chicago to Dubuque.
A campaign for Governor that while Scott Walker was yet under the obligation of working for the people of Milwaukee County as its County Executive has produced a Federal John Doe probe and upwards of 14 criminal indictments of people who worked for Walker and were his chief aides. The Governor has become the first Wisconsin chief executive to have a Legal Defense Fund and employ lawyers to fend off an indictment of the Governor himself.
The loss of over 23,000 jobs and the very worst job creation in the first year of his reign when the promise of 250,000 more jobs was the very core of what citizens were promised. Wisconsin has the worst record of job creation in the United States since Walker took hold of the Governorship.
The sudden end to collective bargaining rights for public employees at all levels in Wisconsin, rights that are still enshrined in Federal law for private sector workers. The Governor had said absolutely nothing about making such a great change in the ability of public servants to bargain fairly with their employers. However popular it is for private sector workers who are non-unionized, the law passed in the dead of night while the doors to the State capitol building were locked in violation of the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin was a betrayal of trust that runs deep.
Its effects will be continually felt by the hundreds of thousands of public servants who labor for all of us. The police and firefighters that did support Walker were spared this betrayal and rewarded for their support. Here the equal application of the law comes into question. Thousands of state employees and teachers and municipal and county workers would not have cast their votes for Scott Walker had they known of his plans.
Walker had run on the promise that these people would pay more for their pension and health benefits. The Unions involved stepped right up to meet the budget emergency and promised to agree. Now $660 million helps balance the State budget for all citizens every two years. That represents at a least a ten percent pay cut for public sector workers who have State pensions and health benefits. This last provision was known and the voters selected Scott Walker to do this. It is just. But the end to collective bargaining is rife with injustice. It disrespects and betrays and yes, degrades the personality of every single public servant affected by the law. Walker supporters often fail to make a clear distinction between the measure to have public employees pay more for health and pension benefits, and the end of collective bargaining. The first was fully on the table during the election campaign. News of the second, was purposefully withheld during that same campaign as the implementation of the plan to end collective bargaining was announced and put into motion in the first Walker Budget Bill on the very day he took the oath of office.
The open favoritism for the most wealthy among us in this State, and the great corporations. The very first five laws enacted by Scott Walker all gave more money to these people and organizations. Through a prankster’s phone call we learned just how beholden Walker is to people like the Koch brothers who run Koch Industries. Walker took a solemn oath to serve the people of the State of Wisconsin. Implied in that oath is equal treatment under the law. This amounted to $140 million and it immediately became crucial in ripping open a budget deficit. Your money was given to the Koch brothers and their allies and the only justification for it is the Governor’s promise that Wisconsin is “Open for Business” and that 250,000 new jobs will be produced. That has not only not occurred, but the reverse seems true. When the other 49 states are gaining jobs, Wisconsin is losing them: only one State out of the fifty that make up our great Union of States, the United States of America. It begins to appear that the money benefits the people who received it and not the mass of the people Scott Walker is pledged to serve.
A State Supreme Court where a 4-3 majority does the Governor’s bidding before looking to the supreme law of the State. Merely saying that the State Senate can make any rules they wish (that is the majority there) even when these rules so openly conflict with the requirements of the Wisconsin Constitution that the doors to the legislature, the “people’s house” be open whenever the legislature is doing business was violated. Even the highest State officials are not above the law. One would think that the Watergate years and the nation’s experiences with the Nixon Administration might be heeded. These lessons have instead been ignored by people old enough to fully remember them.
We also have a supreme court justice who has stated publicly that he views his job as doing whatever he can to help the Governor and his party rather than dispassionately doing justice and interpreting the State’s supreme law. He also has attacked physically, and verbally abused other members of the court, females he considers somehow beneath him and whose opposing views he fails to respect. This behavior degrades not only the female members of the court but women who labor in the professions all over the State of Wisconsin.
Budget cuts that fall most heavily on those who are least able to bear the burden; the poor, the elderly, little children, and the unemployed and the sick. 17,000 Wisconsin citizens are being cut from Badger Care. More may meet the same fate. Plans to make huge cuts in Medicaid and Medicare funding in the State were largely thwarted by a Federal government still animated by justice. Is this what Wisconsin stands for?
The burning up of the State’s seed corn: the next generation of Wisconsin citizens, the youth of the State who will find a $1.6 billion cut in education from the State of Wisconsin will damage their ability to get a quality public education, unless they have parents of means who can and will send them increasingly to private schools. Teachers can tell you that they are losing precious time to prepare quality lessons, they are taking on willingly a greater workload for no additional pay, and they will have to manage more students in each class rather than bestow the gems of knowledge they are so skillful at bringing to our young people. The University of Wisconsin system is absorbing its greatest budget cuts ever. The State’s technical colleges are under great financial stress in trying to serve a larger than ever group of Wisconsin citizens who need more vocational skills to get the very few new jobs that may come open in the State.
Women who are without financial means but who are in need of reproductive health care learned of the cut to Planned Parenthood. Though the money has never gone for abortions at all but cancer screenings and related health care and family planning services that help prevent the need for abortions.
Wisconsin adolescents will learn quite rightly that abstinence is the only sure means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But prudishly, they will not learn of the consequences of not following this advice. When more active hormones and sexual drives challenge our young people they will not know as much about contraceptive methods that both prevent pregnancy and these very same diseases as well should they fail to take the sound advice of sex education courses.
While the nation was living under the Lilly Ledbetter Act that makes it easier for women to sue for equal pay, Governor Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers in the legislature moved with lightning speed to repeal 2009 legislation by a previous legislature that permitted women to sue for equal pay for the very same work in State circuit courts that are more accessible and less expensive to bring a suit into. Governor Walker justified the repeal as removing unnecessary lawsuits that would clog the courts with women seeking legal redress for unequal pay in violation of the law. Are there that many women in Wisconsin who are paid less for the very same work in the very same positions as male employees? Yes. Repeal serves Scott Walker’s coprorate allies and not women who need pay equity and justice in court.
The United States Bureau of the Census states that more broadly, women still make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, despite what arrogant conservative pundits say on Face the Nation on Sundays.
This Governor has lied to the people of this State. He has both by commission and omission enacted laws which degrade human personality repeatedly. He has been both arrogant and close-minded about serving the very people who elected him to serve them even if many do not comprehend the injury. He has demonstrated most recently by his constant trips out of state to raise money from the wealthy and corporations to frustrate the will of the people in the recall June 5th that he is unfit for the office bestowed upon him. Walker might consider listening to his wife’s advice and resign his position and take a corporate job for more money somewhere where the burdens of justice and humanity are not central to the task at hand.
On June 5th each and every voter who claims to “Stand With Walker” must take ownership of the injuries and injustices that continue in this State.