It takes a lot for Wisconsin to make the news. We get two feet of snow, and the media doesn’t care. Meanwhile, New York gets a couple inches and it’s national news. But now, how could the politics of my little state not be a big story with what’s been going on? Last week, Governor Walker tried to get a “budget repair” bill passed, and the Democrats in the Senate fled the state so a vote couldn’t be taken. While state troopers began to look for them to bring them back to Madison for a vote, the Republicans in the Assembly approved the measure so quickly that many who opposed the bill didn’t get a chance to vote, because they couldn’t hit their button fast enough before the tally was closed. Oh, and did I mention that this happened at 1 in the morning?
It gets even more bizarre. In a taped conversation, an investigative reporter posing as the nation’s largest rightwing donor talked on the phone with Governor Walker for 20 minutes. Walker freely talked about trying to undermine unions, ways he could trick the Democrats, and even mentioned that he thought about planting some trouble makers among the protesters of his bill – to make them look bad. (Nevermind if someone gets hurt.)
The fact of the matter is, Governor Walker isn’t very bright, and he’s a poor leader. That’s why I voted against him for governor. Twice. He’s from my area, and he’s served in various capacities in southeastern Wisconsin for many years before running, and after I saw what he did here, there was no way I wanted this guy who never even graduated from college to be the leader of Wisconsin. So I voted against him in the primary. I then voted against him in the general election. But unfortunately, the polls count heads and not brains; and Walker’s promise to cut taxes – despite the fact that our state was already in a financial crisis – resonated with people who don’t understand state and local budgets and the need for the figures to balance. Unfortunately, instead of knowing where their tax money is actually going, most people divide tax money into two categories: stuff that impacts them personally and waste. And when Walker promised to balance the budget by cutting their taxes and cutting waste, they took the bait.
So now he wants to get rid of collective bargaining for public employees, except for their wages – which will be capped. That sounds good when the public employee is painted as a corrupt official who does nothing and sucks away tax dollars. But before Walker could get the bill passed, people realized public employees include teachers, nurses, and police officers. (Actually, the bill exempts police officers, as well as firefighters; Walker says this has nothing to do with the fact that their unions donated money to his campaign. Meanwhile, he doesn’t exempt other law enforcement officers, such as the people who do homicide investigations, so go figure that one out.)
The truth is, as an undistinguished state representative from a safe, wealthy Republican Milwaukee suburb, Walker did little but run relentlessly for higher office. He’s never had any interest in tackling real problems other than cutting taxes and spending.
Unfortunately (for Wisconsin,) in 2002 the Milwaukee County Executive – who was a Democrat – was caught in a big scandal. along with other county employees. Through clandestine manipulation of obscure pension fund formula, they voted to enrich themselves by millions each. Outraged voters recalled almost all of them – and elected Walker, who ran on the single promise to freeze taxes.
Parks deteriorated, bus routes disappeared, and county mental health programs became notorious for repeated abuse of patients. (Ironically, taxes meanwhile increased 35% during his eight years as Milwaukee county executive.)
Well, that sort of mismanagement is easy to get away with in a local community. But he’s finding out that it’s more difficult to do as Governor. You see, Walker is like a magician. He tries to get your attention with one hand while deceiving you with the other. Sure, you can fool the kiddies at the local county fair, but it’s not so easy doing it on a big stage under the bright lights.
The funny thing is, his supporters don’t seem to have realized how much damage he has done to his respectability, and they’re now claiming he’s a strong candidate for the Republican Presidential ticket in 2012. Apparently, these people think that it’s not only possible to be a Presidential contender without a college degree, but that you don’t need any union support to be nominated either – and no, backdoor deals with the police and firefighter unions don’t count.
Unless things change dramatically, I think Scott’s a one (term) and done governor. Thank God.