With the unemployment rate a half a percentage point higher than when he entered office, while at the same time staring at a massive statewide recall effort, Governor Scott Walker called a special session of the legislature to focus on jobs.
This special session was announced with great fanfare by the governor in hopes that a distracted public would see that he was doing something about the ongoing economic malaise and loose interest in the recall. News quickly followed that Walker was going to fall far short of the 250,000 jobs he had promised to make during his term as governor, with the state on track to add about 160,000 jobs by 2015.
Walked called upon the legislature, saying they needed to focus on jobs like a "laser beam" and that they need to "get away from all the other stuff, all the other subjects debated around the Capitol that distracted us from this."
So of course when the special session started, the legislature began working in earnest on bills that would spur economic activity and position Wisconsin to have the educated workforce to compete in the 21st century economy.
Instead we saw bills urging the teaching of abstinence in public schools, when to cross a railroad track, on resisting arrest, when you can shoot someone when they enter your house, eliminating local ordinances on tenants’ rights, an attempt to amend the recall process, and giving immunity to doctors and other health care providers from lawsuits if they apologize.
Representative Cory Mason has been instrumental in raising public awareness by live tweeting the proceedings. "So far we have debated guns, ammunition, lawsuits, and eliminating tenants’ rights; still no jobs bills," and "Seriously? Instead of debating jobs we are debating when you can kill someone in your home."
One of the more controversial bills was one that eliminates the use of race in the administration of the Talent Incentive Program, which provided grants to 4,300 needy students in 2009-2010. In an economy where the unemployment rate is 16 percent for African Americans, double that of whites, it is a program that provides hope to students who may not have any way to help themselves.
Each month the unemployment numbers are released and each month the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree remains steady at just over four percent.
"We are about opportunity and denying or making it harder, or ignoring the need for that opportunity for some select members of our society does not make that need go away," Representative Gordon Hintz said during debate of the bill. "If you look at what has happened to social mobility over the past 50 years. If you were born poor 40 years ago you had a better chance of climbing that social ladder than anywhere in the western world. Today if you are born poor you are more likely to stay poor and we wonder why."
And that is what makes the Occupy Wall Street movement that important. In today’s society the top one percent is hoarding a disproportionate amount of wealth and with that immense wealth being hoarded it leaves the rest of the nation fighting for the scraps that are left behind.
Over the past 30 years the income for the top one percent has nearly tripled while the bottom 80 percent has lagged behind quite considerably. So when public education gets gutted or important programs that increase the quality of life for the most vulnerable of society, it does not affect them in the slightest and they are able to continue with life as normal.
Which brings us back to the special session of the legislature. Instead of focusing on bills and policies that were poised to brighten the economic future in Wisconsin, the Republican-led legislature instead wanted to expand hunting seasons and define what a bicycle is.
I have been finding myself using the words "shame" and "shameful" a lot this past year but there is no other way to explain what has happened in this state, and the country, since the elections of 2010.
These people truly have no shame.