Corporate Colonization of Wisconsin: Divide and Conquer

  • Colonization of Wisconsin

Portions of this article appeared originally on Uppity Wisconsin and can be found here.

This is the first in a series of articles by Dr. Keith Roberts discussing the corporate colonization of the state of Wisconsin. In this article Dr. Roberts defines the process of colonization and shows comparisons between the exploitation of third world countries and the current state of affairs in Wisconsin. “Divide and conquer” is a critical first step in controlling the colonized population.

Many of the problems in today’s world are the legacy of colonization. This can be seen in the tensions between India and Pakistan, in the Gulf States in the Mideast, and in the disarray in Africa. A recurring theme in colonization has been the use of the people and the natural resources of the colonized in order to financially benefit the colonizer. This is the backdrop in which to examine the current reality in the most recently colonized state, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is geographically the size of many sovereign nations. But unlike those nations, such as Denmark and Finland, Wisconsin is currently influenced by corporate money from a small percentage of people and corporations within the state, and several powerful corporate influences outside of the state. Because I have been working in developing nations that have seen the effects of colonization, I am proposing that the perspective of a colonized nation is a proper way to view Wisconsin since the election of Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Majority in 2010.

“A recurring theme in colonization has been the use of the people and the natural resources of the colonized in order to financially benefit the colonizer. This is the backdrop in which to examine the current reality in the most recently colonized state, Wisconsin.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the mechanism that is used to funnel corporately approved bills through Republican legislative shills and into Wisconsin laws that benefit the corporations. Many of the corporations supporting ALEC are international. The resulting legislation serves these corporations at the expense of Wisconsin citizens. This is similar to legislation within colonies which serves the needs of the colonizer rather than the needs of the colonized.

A dynamic sovereign nation invests in its own sustainability by investing in its infrastructure and its people. Great nations have great universities, great schools, outstanding airports, high speed rail, sophisticated communication and technological infrastructure. Great nations are sustainable because they plan for their total future while protecting the environment. Wisconsin once had many of these characteristics and had been in the process of acquiring even more. The concept of an “IQ Corridor” from Chicago to Madison and on to the Twin Cities is one example. The $810 million Federal award for improving rail linkages from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and eventually on to Minnesota, rejected by Governor Walker, is typical of the forward looking infrastructure investment of great nations.

Obey Walker

Source: Creative Commons by KY

A colonized nation, on the other hand, exists to be exploited by the colonizer. A colonized nation has a low cost and submissive work force; a colonized nation is not in need of great universities but rather the briefest and most efficient work skills training; a colonized nation exploits its environment rather than protecting it because the colonizer is more interested in profits than sustainability. This more closely defines the Wisconsin of Governor Scott Walker. The rejection of the $810 million rail grant by Walker symbolizes this downward trend.

Clearly the Wisconsin of 2011-2015 is a colonized state. But nations or empires are no longer the colonizers. The new colonizers are multinational corporations. Follow the money and it will continually lead to the same set of corporations who fund puppet leaders such as Governor Walker, Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Representative Robin Vos. These corporations mold public opinion through think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the MacIver Institute. They create astro-turf organizations such as Americans for Prosperity and its brainchild the Tea Party, and they write legislation through ALEC. These are the “free-market solution” folks who are intent on treating Wisconsin in a fashion similar to the “free-market” corporate exploitation of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the other emerging third world countries. Only, rather than emerging from the third world, Wisconsin is submerging into it.

“The new colonizers are multinational corporations. Follow the money and it will continually lead to the same set of corporations who fund puppet leaders such as Governor Walker, Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Representative Robin Vos.”

Governor Walker can be considered a Colonial Governor. Just as any Colonial Governor owes his allegiance to the colonizer who has placed him in power, so does Walker owe his allegiance to the corporate interests who put him in power. When Governor Walker isn’t out of state raising money and getting his marching orders from corporations, he is in Wisconsin attending unannounced meetings with hand-picked friendly audiences in various corporate locations. He is nervous around the natives of Wisconsin and avoids them whenever possible. As with any colonial power, certain Wisconsinites find it to their benefit to fraternize with the colonizer out of fear or need for personal gain. The colonized who support the colonizer generally feel as though they are better off than the colonized who resist. This is the current state of Wisconsin Politics. As with any colonized country, the citizens are encouraged to bicker among themselves in order to distract from their actual exploitation.

Colonial economies are most often extraction economies rather than sustainable economies. The most obvious example of an extraction economy is mining, and the best example of the Corporate Colonialism of Wisconsin is the Gogebic Mining Bill that was written by the Gogebic Taconite Company and handed to the agents of the Colonial Governor to implement. For a mere donation of $700,000 the Colonial Governor and legislature greased the rails for the eventual digging of the largest open pit mine in the world. Even though some of the colonized Wisconsinites were also interested in carefully mining in Wisconsin while protecting the environment, respecting existing treaties and allowing for citizen input, the corporate colonizers would not allow any alternate mining proposal to be considered.

A brief review of Governor Scott Walker’s biggest donors in defending his recall by the citizens of Wisconsin and in making a down payment on a Colonial Wisconsin is revealing:

  • Diane Hendricks (net worth $2.8 Billion) gave Walker a $500,000 retainer to deliver a “red state”.
  • Las Vegas Casio owner Sheldon Adelson (net worth $24.6 Billion) gave Walker $250,000 in 2012 and $650,000 in 2014 to break the unions in Wisconsin. Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Casino organization which includes the Venetian Casinos in Vegas and Macau has had a long history of problems with unions at his casinos. Breaking the unions in Wisconsin will help Adelson back in Vegas. Incidentally, in 2012 Adelson came under investigation by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating the Corrupt Practices Act by attempting to bribe a legislator in Macau with $700,000. In Macau it’s a bribe, in Wisconsin it’s a campaign contribution. The result is the same.
  • Interested in getting rich fast? Try Amway, the multi-level marketing scheme that asks you to make money by selling average products to your brother-in-law at a profit that you pass on to the person who invited you into this pyramid in the first place. It is entrepreneurship for the morally ungrounded. The grandfather of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic, Richard DeVos (net worth $4.2 Billion), gave Scott Walker $250,000 in 2012 to keep Ponzi schemes, excuse me, pyramid schemes alive in Wisconsin.
  • The 600,000 citizens of Wisconsin who now depend upon, or who will depend upon, the State Retirement System in the future must be diligent because the colonizers would like a piece of the action. Private equity firms have been big donors to assure that Scott Walker would survive the recall. John W. Childs (net worth $1.2 Billion), CEO of the Boston equity firm of J.W. Childs Associates has invested $100,000 in Wisconsin via Walker’s campaign. A master at leveraged buyouts, he is not investing in Wisconsin without expecting a return.
  • Warren A Stephens (net worth $2.7 Billion) of Little Rock, Arkansas, who is the CEO of Stephens Financial Management, Louis M. Bacon (Net worth $1.4 Billion), a hedge fund manager from New York and Patrick G. Ryan (net worth $1.1 Billion), who is the CEO of Ryan Specialty Group, a Chicago Brokerage, are each investing $100,000 for a piece of Scott Walker’s soul.

It is no surprise that a review of the first years of Colonial Governor Walker’s rule in Wisconsin reinforces the influence of the corporate control of the governor and the legislature. The Brazilian educator/philosopher, Paulo Freire, would understand the current situation in Wisconsin if he were here. His quote in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” clearly illustrates what Colonial Governor Walker continues to do to keep his Corporate Colonizers in power:

Koch Brothers and Scott Walker

Source: Creative Commons by Lena

“As the oppressor minority (the Corporate Colonizers/Koch/ALEC) subordinates and dominates the majority (Wisconsin citizens), it must divide it and keep it divided in order to stay in power. The minority cannot permit itself the luxury of tolerating the unification of the people, which would undoubtedly signify a serious threat to their own hegemony (free market solutions).”

Governor Walker made this clear when he explained to Diane Hendriks his plan for breaking the unions in Wisconsin – “divide and conquer.”

The Wisconsin colonizers game plan has been to divide the voters of the state by pitting the rural poor against the urban poor, whites against minorities, public sector employees against private sector employees, public schools against private schools, and various religious groups against each other.

Freire tells us that the first step to overcome the oppression of Colonialism is dialogue. That is the reason that the dominant party in Wisconsin, the Koch/ALEC Republicans, avoided dialogue throughout this past four years. That is also the reason we must return to two party governance in Wisconsin in order to return it to the Wisconsin that we love. The Colonial Governor must be removed and replaced with a local governor. The Koch/ALEC Republicans must be removed and replaced with Democrats, Non-ALEC Republicans, and Independents who are willing to serve the citizens of Wisconsin through meaningful dialogue rather than serve the Corporate Colonizers.

November 4th, 2014 was a critical date in the history of democracy in the world. Wisconsin was an indicator that outside money provided by plutocrats who comprise less than one tenth of one percent of the population can keep their Colonial Governor in office by controlling the media and the message, and by keeping the natives divided.

The Colony will continue to be exploited.

Keith J. Roberts, PhD lives in Greendale, Wisconsin and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for International Studies in Education, University of Pittsburgh, and a Senior Ambassador for the Globalization for the Common Good Initiative, Oxford, UK. In addition to his work in the USA, Dr. Roberts has been a planning and development consultant in diverse locations around the globe including China, Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, the Marshall Islands and elsewhere. Upon returning to Wisconsin from China in January of 2011 he was stunned by the actions of the Walker Administration and could see that while Third World countries were implementing policies that were moving their countries to First World Status, Walker was implementing policies that were moving Wisconsin to Third World Status. Since that time he has applied his research and analytical skills to document the “Cycles of Greed” in America with a special emphasis on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its role in undoing the Progressive Traditions of Wisconsin. Since February 2011 he has made numerous presentations to unions, educators, retirees, political organizations and grass-roots organizations.