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NASH COLUMN: Republicans don’t care

NASH COLUMN: Republicans don’t care

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If, on March 16, there had been a federal or state law requiring a 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun in Georgia, several people might still be alive and their killer, Aaron Long, would not be facing the death penalty or life in prison.

The day before, Long’s parents kicked their son Aaron, 21, out of their home. The next day he bought a handgun and murdered eight innocent people. He was on his way to kill more when he was arrested.

Long, who was said to be very religious and who carried a Bible around, had recently spent six months in a rehab center for his sexual addiction and was apparently not self-supporting. His addiction obviously wasn’t new, but the fact that he was kicked out of his parents’ home was. That made him very angry, and it was his anger that caused him to buy a firearm. If he’d had time to calm down, he probably wouldn’t have gone on that killing spree.

But Republicans in Congress and in states where they have the majority in the legislatures, fight against the most reasonable gun laws like universal background checks and waiting periods. They don’t care about the numbers of people who die from gun violence. They only care about the number of gun lovers who vote for them.

Many of them don’t care about the half-million Americans who’ve died of COVID-19 and didn’t care about the dire warnings and precautions medical experts all over the world announced after it began spreading widely. Many of them scoffed at and fought mask mandates even though their use can help protect against disease by reducing the volume of infectious particles that you breathe in and out. Former President Donald Trump was one of them, holding huge rallies and hosting parties and meetings where masks weren’t required.

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin don’t care that those who do the hardest or dirtiest work earn the lowest wages. They’ve refused to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour and have done everything they can to kill off unions that protect workers.

In 2015, Gov. Scott Walker, along with the Republican legislative majority, eliminated the prevailing wage law on state building projects that had required the state to pay contracted workers a wage that most workers make for doing the same jobs. Their 2017-2019 Wisconsin State Budget totally repealed Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws for local governmental units such as villages, towns, cities, school districts and sewerage districts.

What was the impact of that on workers? An Oct. 2, 2020, a Wisconsin Public Radio article by Rachael Vasquez reported, “A new study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute … finds the repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws has resulted in lower wages for construction workers in Wisconsin, despite having no statistically significant impact on the cost of public construction projects.” The study determined that “the average annual income for workers was 6% less than income pre-repeal.” It also found that, during the same time, “construction industry CEOs in Wisconsin saw slightly more than a 54% increase in inflation-adjusted total income after the laws were repealed.”

All that happened under a Republican governor and GOP-dominated legislature. And now, they’re fighting everything Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is doing to help workers who’ve lost jobs or hours due to the pandemic. In his budget plan, he asked them for funds to update the obsolete Department of Workplace Development’s computer system that has delayed payments for many months to workers who’ve filed for unemployment. Republicans on the budget committee removed the funding from the bill.

Evers and the Democrats in the legislature also want to reinstate the waiver on the one-week waiting period before people can collect unemployment. Only if it’s reinstated can Wisconsin collect federal funding from the COVID-19 stimulus package that would give those on unemployment an additional $300 a week over the next few months. According to a Mar. 19 article in the Baraboo News Republic, the GOP majority in the state Assembly ruled against a Democratic amendment that would suspend the waiting period. Why? Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican of course, said he has concerns it would result in more people suspending their effort to find jobs.

The same article stated, “Last May, the state’s unemployment fund missed out on roughly $25 million in federal reimbursement due to the GOP-led legislature’s delayed passage of the waiver.”

It’s time voters wake up and realize that today’s Republican lawmakers don’t care about average workers, protecting us from gun violence, the unemployed or anyone other than their wealthy campaign donors. I’d suggest people contact their GOP lawmakers, but it wouldn’t do any good because they don’t care.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at patnash5149@gmail.com.

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