Corporate Colonization of Wisconsin – Part VI: Free Markets don’t make Free People

  • Colonization of Wisconsin

This is the sixth in a series of articles by Dr. Keith Roberts discussing the corporate colonization of the state of Wisconsin. In this segment Dr. Roberts discusses the fallacy of “Free Markets” and how plutocrats have taken over national economies and political parties. Previous articles in this series can be found archived under the author’s name.

You can always tell if an organization or think tank is trying to pick your pocket if it has “free market” in its title or as one of its goals. Organizations like the Club for Growth, The Heritage Foundation, Wisconsin’s McIver Institute, The Free Market Voice of Wisconsin, and of course the ghost writer of all of Wisconsin’s Republican Legislation, The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are all examples of these organizations. Their policies are benefiting an ever shrinking minority of people who control an ever growing majority of America’s wealth. These are the people who are colonizing Wisconsin via Colonial Governor Scott Walker. The Bradley foundation funds these conservative organizations and the head of the Bradley Foundation, Michael Grebe, has been the chair of Scott Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns.

For example, in November of 2012, GE Medical Systems announced that it would reduce its employees in Wisconsin by 2 percent. The move is part of an effort to “streamline its structure and reduce costs through different ways, including removing duplication and layers in the organization,” according to a company statement GE provided to The Business Journal . The company said it “needs to make tough decisions in the current economic climate.” GE went on to say that restructuring will “reduce complexity, speed up decision making and help us become more accessible for our customers” and is part of a long-term strategy. The company pays no state taxes and is reducing its Wisconsin workforce during a time of moderate economic growth.

A few months later, in 2013, while I was living in Vietnam, I was surprised to be at an engineering conference where GE announced it was hiring 600 people to work in its state of the art Wind Turbine Facility. You see, unlike Wisconsin, the Vietnamese government believes in green energy. Of course there are complex economic decisions that corporations make. But these free markets have very little to do with free people. Otherwise, why would GE be reducing jobs in a free society such as Wisconsin and increasing jobs in a less free Communist society such as Vietnam?

At that time I was working as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at a Vietnamese university that has a center for studying climate change… good for them! The center was partially funded by a US grant awarded during the Bush administration. It looks as though even “W” had to go to a Communist country in order to find a university that didn’t have any Republicans on its board of Regents, a place that believes in science, a place that isn’t owned by the Fossil Fuel Industry…yet. Can Tho University contained the research center that was studying the impact of climate change on the Mekong Delta. Presumably this research could help other large river deltas in the world, including the Mississippi Delta.

So, the idea of “Free Markets” continues to fascinate me as I analyzed the latest Forbes “Richest people on the Planet” report. India, the world’s largest democracy, has 56 billionaires. China, the world’s largest Communist country has 152 billionaires. The US is still at the top with 492 billionaires, while Russia, new to capitalism, already has 111 billionaires. Hong Kong, the City State that is a Special Administrative Region of China, has 45 billionaires while at the same time citizens are protesting in the streets to be able to pick their own candidates for Hong Kong’s government leader.

These individuals are all Plutocrats and have more in common with each other than they have with their fellow Indians/Chinese/Americans/Russians. You see, these folks don’t need an American middle class. They just need customers from anywhere in the world. As Chrystia Freeland states in her book Plutocrats, “Henry Ford needed a domestic middle class with buying power. Increasingly, his successors can look to emerging markets to supply those mass consumers.” Henry Ford paid honest wages so that his workers could afford his automobiles. Walmart pays subsistence wages so that their employees can afford to only shop at Walmart. Additionally, the Plutocrats’ corporations pay slave wages in China and Bangladesh. Why would they pay $8.25 in Wisconsin? Or for that matter, why would they pay $2.25 in Wisconsin? Plutocrats don’t need a middle class and will prosper as a result of its demise. Scott Walker’s Promise to Plutocrat Dianne Hendricks to divide and conquer is evidence of this. The free market strategy of not taxing GE Medical Systems didn’t stop them from cutting back on jobs in Wisconsin and didn’t encourage them to build a state of the art Wind Turbine Facility in our state.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin (bought and paid for by Plutocrats) has become a microcosm of Plutocratic greed. Classic extraction colonialism has played itself out masterfully in the manner in which Republican legislators delivered Wisconsin’s natural resources in the Penokee mining bill to Florida plutocrat Chris Cline. Cline, in turn, will probably sell his interest in the mine to some Chinese Plutocrat who is in a better position to profit from Wisconsin iron ore. Walker is a zombie-like tool of these Plutocrats as he systematically dismantles public schools, public transportation and public trust (after all, the Russian Plutocrats became billionaires by buying government enterprises and utilities at bargain basement prices – sound familiar?). The Walker administration will become a textbook case of the power of the Plutocrats (Kochs, Adelson et al) and the corporate media in dismantling the middle class. In the meantime, if you’re too poor to own a car you will not be able to take a bus to that welding job ($10.00 and no benefits) in the suburbs no matter how qualified you are because, after all, folks who ride public transportation can’t afford to buy politicians. And if you can’t buy a politician you can’t get bus routes to the industrial parks in the suburbs.

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.