It didn't come as any great shock when the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday officially threw in with gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker. The paper's editorial board has a history of supporting the more conservative politicians in a given race -- and, frankly, that's their prerogative.
Nevertheless, this particular endorsement is pretty lame. The Journal claims that Walker would be the "best choice" to tackle the two biggest problems they see Wisconsin needing to tackle: job creation and fixing the budget.
I'll admit; I did a double take when I read that. Explain to me, ed board, why you think Walker would be better able to handle those issues than Tom Barrett?
"Walker has consistently proposed county budgets that hold down property taxes while seeking efficiencies in county services," writes the board. "He's made tough decisions during tight times, such as trying to close swimming pools with high costs and low attendance. He's pared back county board spending with vetoes."
Actually, Walker's budgets, as proposed, would have increased spending by 35 percent. He gets around that by a fun little trick I'll let Lisa Kaiser at Express Milwaukee explain:
Walker will introduce an unrealistically stringent budget each autumn. The county board then has no choice but to add spending and tax increases to keep up with inflation and other increased costs of doing business. Walker will veto the changes, and the board will override the veto. Then Walker will use that budget as the base line for his next year's budget.
And, voila! Walker can say that he hasn't increased taxes and spending because the board has made the tough decisions.
I'll give him points for being clever, but that's about it. For the 2011 budget he's trying similar tricks, relying on "phantom savings" and other questionable revenue sources, leading to what County Board fiscal and budget analysts say will be a $30 million hole.
Back when he was a member of the state legislature Walker also voted for five budgets in a row that increased spending by 84 percent. Under his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive, the property tax levy there increased by 20 percent. And if Walker got his way and became governor of the state, he'd like to implement $3 billion in tax cuts and loopholes (like the one that would reward Wisconsin companies that set up phony offices in states without a corporate income tax to avoid paying Wisconsin state taxes) that would, by and large, only benefit the wealthiest citizens--and his biggest donors.
He has not yet bothered to explain how he'll pay for any of this, but you can bet he's got his eye on slashed spending for things like education, health care and emergency services. Walker has a history of sending public sector employees to the bread lines (through unemployment or the 10 percent pay cut that resulted from dozens of forced furlough days).
And as for job creation? Walker cut county funding for economic development from $19 million a year to just $1 million in his proposed budget for 2010. How is he good for job growth again?
But wait! Cry the Journal ed board members, "Since his election in 2002, Walker has made a huge personal sacrifice by giving back $370,000 of his salary to county taxpayers."
That's actually true, but it's also true that Walker still collections pension and benefits based on his full salary. He also initially pledged to give back 60 percent of his salary when first elected, but has since changed that to just 10 percent.
The list goes on and on, and the editorial board's arguments grow flimsier and flimsier.
Walker and Kleefisch, sitting in a tree, H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y
Speaking of ridiculous things Scott Walker would like to do if elected on November 2, he and Rebecca Kleefisch, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, would both love to undo both the national health care reform bill and BadgerCare for Wisconsinites.
In a new ad called "Takeover," Kleefisch stares deep into the camera's eye and tells us how worried she is about a government siege of health care that will lead to all manner of horrors -- like, say, more people being able to afford and qualify for private insurance plans similar to the state-subsidized one she and her family are on right now (because her husband is a state employee).
These dreaded reforms, too, would prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions -- like that tumor Kleefisch recently had removed.
And as for BadgerCare, a program that currently provides some 400,000 mostly working class people who either can't afford their employer-provided health care or aren't offered any? I was incredibly grateful for that very program when, for several years out of college, I couldn't afford anything else and was able to sign on. It was, simply put, a life saver -- and I can only imagine it's even more so for people with families to support as well. But Walker has stated again and again that, at the very least, he would seek to place time limits on coverage under the program -- something never even envisioned by the Republican-led government that put it into place under Gov. Thompson.
But Kleefisch and Walker, much like all too many of their GOP counterparts, seem to be of the "pull the ladder up behind you" mentality. Good, affordable health care is great for them, but woe betide anyone else who might need to use it!
Hypocrisy at its most bald, folks.
A vote on the ordinance that would push back the earliest date at which landlords could show apartments to January has been postponed until the next City Council meeting on Nov. 9. Alder Maniaci says the reason is that, with a lot of other things going on, they simply ran out of time to do a proper (and apparently needed) redraft of the ordinance and didn't want "to come to the table with a halfway thought-out idea." Sounds reasonable to me. Just as long as it does get passed in the end.
I was initially excited when a Wisconsin branch of the PolitiFact website started up this year, but more and more their work has proved to be troublingly partisan and/or shoddy. The right honorable Illusory Tenant has more on PolitiFactWisc's less-than stellar work here. Both Mike Plaisted and Jay Bullock have weighed in on the nonsense, too.
As a nice counterpoint / palate cleanser to the WSJ editorial endorsing Walker, check out this excellent New York Times editorial regarding the race between Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson and why Feingold far outclasses and outguns his opponent.
A fellow English major dissects Ron Johnson's literary preferences.