The crucial disconnect
I feel like a doctor pointing out the metal spike through a patient's head in an x-ray image: "Well now there's your problem right there."
In a recent article in the Portage Daily Register that starts with Gov. Scott Walker pleading that teachers and government employees "please stay" regardless of his drastic budget measures (abusive relationship, much?), Walker goes on to make the following, breathtakingly disconnected claim:
"I'm not worried about what somebody from Chicago or Illinois thinks," he said. "I'm worried about what the taxpayers of Wisconsin think."
Walker is surprised, you see, at "how many of the thousands of demonstrators opposing his policies are not from Wisconsin."
This would be laughable if it weren't so insane.
Time and again, though, Walker has done nothing but display his complete disregard for the needs and opinions of Wisconsin residents -- other than, of course, the minority of rich campaign donors, corporations, and handful of working class folks who've had the wool thoroughly pulled over their eyes.
Walker has also shown a remarkable disconnect from reality in his continued insistence that so many of the protesters are from "out of state." Those of us who've been down at the Capitol day in and day out know better, of course. We also know how hypocritical Walker's criticisms are, considering how readily he accepts financial and tactical support from out of state.
If Walker was truly worried about what the "taxpayers of Wisconsin think," he would have been willing to negotiate and compromise when it came to his union-busting, environment-trashing, power-grabbing budget plan. He would have acknowledged that major public employee unions did, in fact, agree to major concessions in terms of worker contributions to health and pension plans.
But Walker doesn't give a flying Koch brother about the taxpayers of Wisconsin, not really. We've seen the proof of this in the pudding of the last few months, and you'll forgive me (and the hundreds of thousands of my fellow Wisconsin taxpayers) if I continue to be cynical about Walker's thought processes and motives.
Want further proof? A new study out by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that Walker's budget would reduce tax credits for the poor, while lowering taxes overall. Sure, a lower tax burden for lower income workers would be nice, but it shouldn't come attached to a sweetheart tax deal for the very rich.
And it certainly shouldn't come attached to $49.4 million in lost tax credits for lower and middle income residents, which is what Walker's budget does.
But this is just the type of thing we've been conditioned to expect in American for years now: Taxes bad, tax cuts good. No exceptions.
What ever happened to social responsibility, though, and the willingness to do your part to make sure we all get to enjoy a more level playing field? Isn't that what we're supposed to be all about in this country?
Laura Flanders, writing at The Nation, makes an excellent point about how taxes have been demonized in this country -- even while most Americans want a more equitable society:
...in fact, they think they have one. When asked to identify their homeland from a list of nations described only by their level of equality -- a majority of those polled picked Sweden, thinking it was the US. When asked to create their ideal society, Democrats, Republicans, men and women, the rich and the poor all created a distribution of wealth that is much more equal than the one we've got.
All that "social mobility, low inequality" stuff -- Americans love it. They just don't have it. In fact, social mobility here's been shriveling, as the wealth gap's been opening up.
I'd argue that a mix of all three would do the most good, and that Walker's plan, much like the one now being championed on Capitol Hill by our very own Rep. Paul Ryan, does the exact opposite.
Instead of tweaking government programs to make sure they run efficiently but fairly, they want to gut the spending that helps keep the most vulnerable among us from falling through the cracks. Instead of making sure that companies pay fair wages to employees and fair taxes to the country that supports them, they want to deregulate and allow corporations to run roughshod over our rights. And instead of finding a progressive system of taxation so that everyone pays what they can afford so that we can maintain quality services for everyone, they want to place the lion's share of the burden on those who can least afford it so that their wealthy friends and benefactors can go on living the grossly high life.
Simply put, Scott Walker doesn't care about Wisconsin taxpayers. He does, however, care a great deal about the corporations that duck their tax responsibilities and dump money into his campaign for yet higher office.
The once and future and once again mayor
I am... cautiously optimistic about Paul Soglin's new turn as Mayor of Madison. Frankly, I wished for some new blood in the race that ended up being between him and Mayor Cieslewicz. Madison could use fresh ideas and approaches to the problems facing it in the 21st century -- especially with an overtly hostile governor in our midst.
Alas, we got a guy who has, admittedly, done quite a lot of good for the city in the past but who, I fear, may not be quite right for us now. Honestly, I hope I'm wrong.
I hope his open disdain for certain types of bicyclists turns out to be nothing, and he champions the positive economic and environmental importance of biking in Wisconsin as much, if not more so, than Mayor Dave has done.
I hope his reputation for being less-than cooperative with the press turns out to be more a necessary degree of wanting to challenge reporters and less a desire to cut them out of everything completely. Criticize the press all you want (and should), they play a vital role in maintaining a real democracy -- especially on the local level.
I hope he really does make poverty in Madison a priority, and is able and willing to tackle the very sticky but very important topic of racial inequalities that play a big part in that problem.
I hope Soglin sees the importance of adapting new technologies early -- things like the manure digesters now producing electricity for the county, state-of-the-art medical research facilities, and high-speed internet access even in rural areas, etc.
Cieslewicz shot himself in the foot with the Edgewater Hotel debacle (something he even admits) and with his allegedly prickly managerial style. Perhaps, in the end, he's better off as a strong advocate and activist for environmental improvements in and around the city, and not as the mayor. Some folks are just better off as specialists.
The question now is: Will Soglin make for an effective generalist?
Due to the overwhelming and distracting nature of events at the Capitol during the course of the campaign, it's difficult to predict what we can expect from our new/old mayor. We weren't given a ton of specifics from the Soglin camp in terms of what exactly he plans to do to tackle big issues like poverty, education, the environment, etc.
He was sworn in, for the seventh time, today.
Let's hope seven is Soglin's lucky number, too.