The GOP's Job-Killing Agenda and the Poll Tax

"I'd like to vote, but I can't afford to."

Any society in which that statement can be made has no business calling itself a democracy. Yet, if Republicans in Wisconsin have their way, it'll not only be possible to make that statement, but -- in some places -- common.

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:]

Republicans plan a two-pronged approach to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, with the quick passage of a bill followed by an attempt to amend the Wisconsin Constitution that would make it difficult to undo the ID requirement.

"Photo ID is really going to be the foundation of ensuring fair and accurate elections," said Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale).

Stone and Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) introduced their bill Wednesday. They said they will also take steps to amend the state constitution, a years-long process that would require the measure to be approved in this legislative session, again in the session that starts in January 2013, and then by voters in a statewide referendum.

If the amendment fails, the bill is still law. The amendment is only to make this law harder to undo.

Wisconsin Republicans took over the Governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature in the last elections. And they did so on a platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs."

But since taking office, Governor Scott Walker has managed only to kill job creation in the state, by chasing away federal money for a high speed train, making wind energy all but illegal, and halting construction of a biomass energy plant. Having promised Wisconsinites a quarter of a million new jobs, Walker is already in the hole by tens of thousands.

But Walker never promised good jobs -- and he didn't promise a net gain in employment -- and there's more than one way to lure business to a state. The pretense that businesses look at low taxes and nothing else when it comes to choosing locations has always been a Republican mainstay, but I doubt most of them actually believe it. Too many of them come directly from big business themselves to guy that load.

But one thing that definitely does attract business is cheap labor. If you doubt that, then ask yourself why companies outsource to the third world, where workers are paid a few dollars per day. How do you get cheap labor? Supply and demand. If the supply of laborers is greater than the demand for labor, then labor is cheap. And this formulation gets truer as the imbalance becomes greater. More unemployed, cheaper wages. If you want to keep wages low, low, low, you create a surplus of job seekers.

Am I saying that Walker and his GOP crew are deliberately trying to create unemployment to lure businesses? There's no solid evidence of that, but it sure looks that way. And by adding in what amounts to a poll tax, in the form of the nation's strictest voter ID scheme, they'll manage to keep a lot of the people most affected by their economic policies from voting.

The not-by-any-means-liberal LaCrosse Tribune calls the voter ID bill a solution to a "non-existent problem." Others point to those affected.

[O. Ricardo Pintenel, Journal Sentinel:]

...Milwaukee County residents of color are the target - intended or not. A 2005 study [pdf] by John Pawasarat at the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee bears this out.

Less than half (47%) of Milwaukee County African-American adults and 43% of Hispanic adults have a valid driver's license compared to 85% of white adults in the balance" of the state, Pawasarat wrote. "The situation for young adults, ages 18-24 is even worse - with only 26% of African-Americans and 34% of Hispanics . . . ."

The genders break out this way statewide: The percentage of African-American and Hispanic men with driver's licenses are 45% and 54%, respectively. For African-American and Hispanic women, it's 51% and 41%. And Pawasarat told me that these percentages likely have worsened since 2005.

Basically, what we're looking at is making it harder for the poor to vote, while "solving" a problem that doesn't actually exist. No one can find any instance of illegal voting affecting election results. As it is with most states, the number of illegal voters in any election year counts in the low tens -- fifteen, twenty maybe. Not the thousands and thousands it would take to throw an election and justify such a draconian law.

So the GOP screws the poor, making them desperate for work and driving wages down, while keeping those same poor from the polls, where they'd no doubt vote in their own best interests -- interests that are most definitely not shared by the Republican Party and their job-killing agenda.


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