'Outstate' Wisconsin vs the unions

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's support has been found, but to do so it looks like a reporter needs to leave Milwaukee and Madison. Bloomberg observes that Katherine Cramer Walsh of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports that she found "bitterness while doing research in 27 communities, where many residents work multiple jobs without benefits while local government employees have health coverage and pensions."
"I heard a lot of comments and conversations about the rural-urban divide in our state," said Walsh, an associate professor of political science. "I was very struck by how resentful people in so-called outstate Wisconsin are of Madison and Milwaukee."

The Bloomberg story links to her blog site which leaves one reduced to shouting "duh!"

What I have learned is that there's a map that can explain a lot of the current tensions in Wisconsin. It is the map of the state itself. In Wisconsin, there are two main metro regions, one surrounding the largest city and industrial center, Milwaukee, and the other surrounding our state capitol and home of the flagship public university, Madison. The rest of the state is referred to as "outstate."

For many of the people I've talked with in outstate Wisconsin, their understanding of power, values, and resources goes like this (I'm paraphrasing here):

All of our taxpayer dollars get sucked in by Madison, diverted to Milwaukee, and we never see them again. The people in Madison are out of touch with the lives of people in rural and small town Wisconsin, and they are liberals and elitists who for the most part work for the state and have cushy health care and pensions. In addition, they are lazy. They can't possibly be working as hard as the rest of us who are working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet out here in these communities from which we can see businesses, industry, and farms leaving on a daily basis.

In this framework, public employees, especially public union members, are an easy target. Enterprising politicians, in the midst of a downturned economy can portray public employees as people out of step with hard working Americans. They can tap into the following types of sentiments (again paraphrasing):

They don't know what it is like to spend upwards of $1200 a month for health care for one's family. They don't know what it is like to live in a community that most politicians never visit or listen to. And they certainly don't know what it is like to have dedicated one's life to hard work and traditional values.

Obviously, the folks in Wisconsin's fly-over counties are on to something. The Madison liberals should rejoice. They've convinced everyone of socialism, class envy and tax the rich. Of course the public sector workers never figured they'd end being the rich.


Bill Weckesser

E. Lansing, MI


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's support has been found, but to do so it looks like a reporter needs to leave Milwaukee and Madison. Bloomberg observes that Katherine Cramer Walsh of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports that she found "bitterness while doing research in 27 communities, where many residents work multiple jobs without benefits while local government employees have health coverage and pensions."

"I heard a lot of comments and conversations about the rural-urban divide in our state," said Walsh, an associate professor of political science. "I was very struck by how resentful people in so-called outstate Wisconsin are of Madison and Milwaukee."

The Bloomberg story links to her blog site which leaves one reduced to shouting "duh!"

What I have learned is that there's a map that can explain a lot of the current tensions in Wisconsin. It is the map of the state itself. In Wisconsin, there are two main metro regions, one surrounding the largest city and industrial center, Milwaukee, and the other surrounding our state capitol and home of the flagship public university, Madison. The rest of the state is referred to as "outstate."

For many of the people I've talked with in outstate Wisconsin, their understanding of power, values, and resources goes like this (I'm paraphrasing here):

All of our taxpayer dollars get sucked in by Madison, diverted to Milwaukee, and we never see them again. The people in Madison are out of touch with the lives of people in rural and small town Wisconsin, and they are liberals and elitists who for the most part work for the state and have cushy health care and pensions. In addition, they are lazy. They can't possibly be working as hard as the rest of us who are working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet out here in these communities from which we can see businesses, industry, and farms leaving on a daily basis.

In this framework, public employees, especially public union members, are an easy target. Enterprising politicians, in the midst of a downturned economy can portray public employees as people out of step with hard working Americans. They can tap into the following types of sentiments (again paraphrasing):

They don't know what it is like to spend upwards of $1200 a month for health care for one's family. They don't know what it is like to live in a community that most politicians never visit or listen to. And they certainly don't know what it is like to have dedicated one's life to hard work and traditional values.

Obviously, the folks in Wisconsin's fly-over counties are on to something. The Madison liberals should rejoice. They've convinced everyone of socialism, class envy and tax the rich. Of course the public sector workers never figured they'd end being the rich.


Bill Weckesser

E. Lansing, MI


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