The governor of Wisconsin has made a great deal of noise in his tenure, including his state calling for a recall election in 2012. Walker won the recall by an even wider margin and by no coincidence, either, because Republicans across the state love the work of the fiscal conservative, who has an approval rating near 80 percent among the GOP, according to polls at Marquette University. A closer look at Walker’s conservative playbook will give a near-identical glimpse into that of a Ted Cruz presidency.
Those outside the Midwest may not realize how influential Gov. Walker’s endorsement was to the presidential candidate. A peek at what Walker has done with Wisconsin could be a crystal ball look into what a Cruz presidency would look like; which for Republicans would appear to be great news given the way the party has been pulling for a conservative movement. With the term “conservative,” Republicans are focusing mainly on two things: less government and more morality.
With that being said, Walker and Cruz believe that harsher sentences reduce crime; something that the Wisconsin governor has already implemented in his state. Since being elected in 2010, Walker’s focus on morality has succeeded by lowering the incarceration rate each year. However, national media has made the numbers clear as to at which demographic these punishments are aimed. This has become a serious issue during this campaign, as demonstrated by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has created a flock of protesters at Republican rallies and a monument of expectations being put on the Democratic party to do more.
BBC even went as far as to produce a short documentary on the state’s prison issue, called “Why does Wisconsin send so many black people to jail?” Wisconsin’s population is only 8 percent African-American, according to Black Demographics yearly statistics, which, percentage-wise, puts them near the bottom.
During Walker’s tenure, he has launched a crackdown on traffic violations. Since that crackdown, the percentage of cars stopped has gone up 281 percent, according to the BBC documentary. The statistics released to the public by the BBC News investigation team show that the arguably outrageous percentage increase has led to mass incarcerations, again targeting one demographic.
As of right now, 13 percent of prisoners throughout the state of Wisconsin are black males. This is the highest percentage of African-American incarcerations in the country, and three percentage points higher than the runner-up state, Oklahoma.
The national rate of African-American incarcerations, at 6.7 percent, is half what it is in the conservative state of Wisconsin. This has brought a national issue to light, due to the fact that black males are six times more likely to be sent to prison than white males.
A closer look at the state’s most populated area, Milwaukee County, gives an even harsher look at Wisconsin’s incarceration epidemic. In this county, one in eight black males (of all ages) have spent time in state prison. Over 50 percent of the county’s black male demographic over the age 30 has been to state prison, not counting those that currently reside in the penitentiary.
If numbers like that are haunting, then the statistical repercussions should be on the brink of causing hysterical terror for both parties. Of the 233,000 African-American men currently living in Milwaukee County, over 40 percent are living under the poverty line, which, according to Wisconsin’s government page, is somewhere between $20,000-$25,000 for a family and $11,000 for an individual.
To put this into perspective, a family of three, including children, making the maximum annual household income without going over the state-defined poverty level for a family of three is $20,160. The average rent of the county and in the outskirts of Milwaukee is $686 for a one-bedroom apartment. Basic math proves the impossibility of staying above water without federal aid when working full-time for minimum wage in Wisconsin: (Granted, many other states suffer the same problem as well.)
- $7.25 is the state’s minimum wage.
- $20,160 is considered the official poverty line for a family of three
- 40 hours is considered a full workweek.
- 52 weeks per year
- 5 days in an average workweek
- $686 for rent
A wage of $7.25 per hour multiplied by 40 hours per week equals $290 per week, before tax. $290 per week multiplied by 52 weeks in a year equals $15,080, or $5,080 shy of meeting the poverty line. With that being said, what would have to happen for this family to just get to the poverty line?
The poverty line of $20,160 annually divided by a wage of $7.25 per hour equals 2,780 hours necessary to make the poverty line amount. Divided by 52 weeks each year, one would have to work 53.5 hours per week. The average workweek consists of five days, which means a person must work 10.7 hours per day at the current minimum wage to get to the poverty line. Meeting the line does not mean breathing room for families like this, either. With rent over $8,000 a year, the family is left with roughly $12,000 to handle car insurance, health care, groceries, living necessities, emergencies, etc. According to the same calculation, one must make at least $9.50 an hour to hit the poverty line with an average workweek of 50 hours.
The numbers are ugly for both political parties. Unfortunately, they do not stop there. One in three black males currently locked up in the state penitentiary are serving due to non-violent crimes. In Wisconsin, non-violent criminals serve an average sentence just below two and a half years, or 879 days, to be exact.
From there, they are sent back to the real world to fend for themselves, but jobs are scarce in Milwaukee County, especially for a convicted criminal. It is not too hard to believe that 24.6 percent of black males are unemployed, 47 percent do not have a driver’s license and over 75 percent of jobs available to those with a criminal record are outside the county bus line.
A data comparison pulled by InsideGov shows that Cruz and Walker are nearly identical in their beliefs when it comes to security and crime-related punishment. The Democratic candidates were both vocal during their Wisconsin events about how embarrassing the demographic make-up of the jails is, despite the steady decrease of crime per capita, when this statistic is more important to the GOP and Walker.
The main difference between the governor and Cruz is that Cruz has been vocal on cracking down even harder on ISIL threats still looming. If Walker and Wisconsin serve as a glimpse into what is to come with the conservative movement, is this what is in store for the rest of the country if Cruz takes the presidential oath? Will African-Americans continue to be at the striking end of the law? As the war on terror continues to be a major factor in the country today, perhaps a Cruz presidency will mean another demographic will pay the price, instead.
By T. Aaron DeGeorge
News Max: Rates of Incarceration in Wisconsin
BBC World News: Why does Wisconsin so many black people to jail?
National Institute of Corrections: NIC State Statistics – Wisconsin
Inside Gov: Presidential Candidates > Compare > Scott Walker vs Ted Cruz
Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Federal Poverty Level Guidelines
Numbeo: Property Prices in Milwaukee
Image Courtesy of David Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License