Trotting out the whipping boy

For as long as there have been politicians, there have been whipping boys. Politicians need someone to punish for their own shortcomings.

No one is better with the whip than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He is highly skilled in the use of divide-and-conquer tactics, a master at pitting one group of struggling and vulnerable people against another.  It’s his favorite play, the governor’s political equivalent of Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep or USC’s famed “Student Body Right.”

Walker turns to this page in his playbook repeatedly, whenever he’s feeling the least bit threatened politically. He just did it again, proposing stricter work requirements for those receiving food stamps in Wisconsin.

He is counting on Democrats to rush to the defense of food stamp recipients. He wants them to accuse him of beating up on the poor. He needs them to. They surely will oblige, which is critical to the successful execution of the governor’s play.

Once they do what they always do, Walker can paint the Democrats as the party of handouts, the party devoted to taking from those who work and giving to those who don’t. And he can pit those who are having a hard time making ends meet but don’t qualify for food stamps against those who rely on them to eat.

Most importantly, he can divert attention from the dismal failure of his feed-the-rich economic policies. With Walker at the helm, Wisconsin is leading the nation in shrinkage of the middle class. The state is dead last in new business start-ups and entrepreneurial activity.

When Walker does what he always does and the Democrats respond how they always respond, the questions that most need asking don’t get asked. The debate that is most needed is never had.

Wisconsin should be debating how to create an economy where if you work you won’t be poor and won’t go hungry. It is undeniable that we don’t have such an economy today. We should be aspiring to an economy where food stamps and other forms of welfare become unnecessary.

We should be talking about the fact that government spends more on corporate welfare than it does on social welfare that makes up the proverbial safety net. We should be discussing how to create an economy anchored in a free and fair market for everyone, not crony capitalism for a favored few. We should be demanding that Walker’s corporate welfare office be shut down.

We should be acknowledging that demand and not supply is the primary driver of economic growth and that feeding the rich in hopes of stoking supply has been a miserable failure, never producing more than a trickle for the masses and causing the grotesque economic inequality and the slow but steady extermination of the middle class we are experiencing today.

Wisconsin is a shadow of its former self economically. Walker’s golden shower economics haven’t been the answer, which leaves him in need of a whipping boy, a scapegoat, someone to bear the blame for his administration’s failings. That’s where food stamp recipients come in handy to him, so long as the Democrats play into his hands and do their part to help him isolate and stigmatize them.

Mike McCabe