Raise your hands, class, if you think that it was the merest co-inky-dink that Scott McDonell announced his candidacy for Dane County executive on a day when most state government employees were on furlough.
All those government employees with a weekday off work helped swell the crowd at his announcement on the steps of the City-County building in downtown Madison on Monday. McDonell opened his prepared remarks with this:
"Today, much of state government is quiet. It's a furlough day in many state agencies."
The tragedy! State government, quiet. Not exactly Ronald Reagan's "morning in America" is it? And yet, here it is Tuesday and the state of Wisconsin is still standing. In fact, it's beautiful out there. Hmm.
I don't think I've ever heard a more straight-forward, full-throated defense of Big Government since Walter Mondale promised to raise our taxes. It is clear that Scott McDonell is the candidate of the public employees unions. His announcement statement is an unabashed paean to the public sector. A bid for teachers union money, a plea for AFSCME phone banks, an invitation for SEIU muscle, a call for ACORN trickery.
Give a listen to Scottie McD's ringing defense of the poor, downtrodden, union-protected, Democrat(ic) party-cosseted government employee:
The Forces of Evil ...
"... want public servants and our neighbors who rely on strong public services to take it on the chin again.
"... (they) want to dismantle our quality of life.
"... our way of life is under siege from those who want to turn back the clock."
("Our way of life" is "under siege?" Or, maybe some taxpayers are just a little tapped out. Maybe?)
Sayeth candidate $cott:
"... public servants are the backbone of this community."
Certainly, unionized government employees are the backbone of the McDonell candidacy. Even after briefly acknowledging that people in the private sector have been laid off from work or their hours cut back "dramatically," and after admitting that housing construction is down and that retail merchants are suffering, Downtown Scottie McD is undeterred from his mission to grow government.
"Now is not the time for more furloughs, more cuts and less investment in public infrastructure."
Apparently, for McDonell and his fellow progressives, it IS time to raise taxes. Those who may not agree are heathens who "don't believe public service is a higher calling."
Count the Squire of the Stately Manor among them. Having spent half my working career in the public sector and the other half in the private sector, I can say that I do NOT believe public service is a higher calling, save for police and firefighters. The ministry might be a higher calling. Aid work to Afghanistan might be. Soldiers who put their lives on the line for our freedoms, yes, a higher calling. But how is the average tax auditor or DNR warden or unemployment benefit claims specialist a higher calling than the average physician, farmer, or construction worker?
Blaska's Bottom Line: 46 of 61 communities in Dane County are holding referenda on commuter rail. Chairman McDonell engineered the County Board's enactment of an unelected Regional Transit Authority; he opposes even allowing the voters that say. After we vote down commuter rail on November 2 we sure as hell can vote down Scott McDonell on April 5.
Don't worry, we'll have a great candidate to oppose him and terrific winds in his/her sails.
The liberal kickback
This is Scott McDonell's calculus. He pledges undying fealty to public employees, their benefits, wages, and continued hiring. In Dane County and in Wisconsin, those public employees are all unionized. I'm not cutting back on government, Scottie McD promises. The unions hear that loud and clear. They extract a healthy percentage of their wages in the form of union dues and political action contributions and that money finds its way into McDonell's campaign coffers.
His $250 million regional transit authority commuter train project would -- you'll never guess -- grow government even more. We'll pay -- to the tune of $42 million in extra sales taxes per year, and government will grow.
It's a self-perpetuating cycle: government extracts taxes from its citizens to pay robust salaries and benefits to an ever-growing public sector; that public sector rewards its government enablers with generous campaign contributions.
David Brooks of the New York Times neatly deconstructs the dilemma. Here is the state of New Jersey, newly governed by my hero Chris Christie, faced with $5 Billion in cost over-runs on a tunnel to New York City, questioning how much more its over-taxed citizens can afford.
Brooks calls it "The paralysis of the state." Why, he asks, could smaller governments 50 years ago afford the Interstate Highway System and other great projects but not today without incredible deficit spending or higher taxes. (See McDonell, Scott, above.) In New Jersey, Brooks relates:
... benefits packages for the state's employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.
California can't afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime.
Brooks cites a national survey that shows government workers make $14 more in wages and benefits than private sector workers. A Wisconsin Policy Research Institute study found that government employees in Wisconsin contribute less than one percent of the cost of their retirement "in stark contrast to private sector pensions." The MacIver Institute reports that Tom Barrett's Milwaukee has the nation's 10th most unfunded employee pension liability.
Who is the biggest spender in American politics? Why, that would be the public employee unions. Brooks says their "largest impact is on low-turnout local elections." As the teachers union well knows.
Brooks also tells that no less a liberal than Franklin Roosevelt did not believe in government employee bargaining rights.
RoJo has the MoMo
Politico has "The race that says it all," by Jim VandeHei. "In Wisconsin, the 2010 campaign story is distilled." Yes, it's Ron Johnson, who came out of nowhere to derail Russ Feingold's re-election campaign. Blaska's Blog was one of the very first news outlets to suggest that Ron Johnson would make the race -- on March 12, well before the mainstream news media -- a good two months before Ron announced on the eve of the Republican state convention.
I note that the Feingold campaign is trying to make hay of Ron Johnson's "creative destruction" comment. One of the greater pilers-on is John Nichols of The Capital Times, itself an example of creative destruction. Now, of course, Comrade John wants the nation's taxpayers to subsidize journalism -- his kind of journalism, not Fox News, of course. Or Politico, for that matter. (See "Hooray for creative destruction.")
Here's why RoJo is a GoGo
Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Wisconsin voters now identify like this, according to the Marist poll:
The 2008 electorate in Wisconsin looked like this, according to exit polls of voters:
Not even 1994, year of the Republican Revolution, looked quite like this, ... Conservatives made up 42% of the Wisconsin electorate that year.
This was a president for the ages