Tom Barrett is the better candidate for Wisconsin governor.
While we can never know for sure what the result of a candidate's election will be, Barrett's promises are clearer and better than Scott Walker's.
Facing a budget deficit that will likely exceed $3 billion, Wisconsin needs a governor who will find realistic solutions to cut spending and raise revenue while preserving essential services for the people.
Despite his nauseating "Put Madison on a Diet" slogan, Barrett has at least been somewhat forthright with voters about the state's fiscal situation, and has not promised irresponsible tax cuts, as many-a-candidate down in the polls are prone to do.
Moreover, he has put out a plan for the voters and the media to examine. Much of it is likely wishful thinking and fuzzy math. For instance, the campaign's foray into anti-prisoner demagoguery, including its promise to "cut Cadillac health care for convicted felons," was an ugly remnant of the 1990's "get tough on crime" hysteria which actually increased prison costs for most taxpayers, and at little benefit to public safety. But some of the plan is plausible, and it at least is a blueprint to which critics, including the media, can point and expect results if Barrett is elected.
Barrett also understands the value of good government. He will likely protect funding for vital services, including Badgercare, transportation, public safety, public schools and higher education. When the opportunity for funding from other entities, such as the federal government, arise, he will take advantage of them.
Walker is running largely on his record of "holding the line on taxes" as Milwaukee County Executive. The first problem with accepting that reasoning is that it is very easy for a county executive to never propose tax hikes, especially when he knows the board will never approve the drastic budget slashing necessary. Secondly, the record shows Walker's fiscal influence has had negative effects on services long-considered an asset in Milwaukee County, such as public transportation and parks. The decreased ridership in the former and the deferred maintenance costs in the latter suggest negligence that anti-tax zealots like Walker are responsible for.
Walker's campaign has made the prospect of his administration even worse. In addition to promising $1.8 billion in tax cuts, almost all of which would go to the wealthiest individuals in the state, Walker has refused to discuss what programs or services he will cut to close the budget gap. The "plan" he released can hardly be referred to as such. It is an insult to the Wisconsin electorate.
If the know-nothing narrative guiding Walker's tax rhetoric weren't bad enough, the empty pledge to end the high-speed rail project from Milwaukee to Madison was as poignant a political voodoo as one can expect in a campaign. It wouldn't be surprising to find out that the amount of money the Walker campaign spent running ads against the train nearly equals the annual cost of the project to Wisconsin taxpayers.
Walker also grandstanded against the stimulus project when he knew very well the havoc the absence of stimulus dollars in Wisconsin would have wrought on public services. Will Gov. Walker similarly go against the interests of his constituents so he can be a part of the latest fad on the national talk radio circuit?
Walker's social politics are awful. He opposes LGBT rights, including domestic partnerships, and believes abortion should be illegal in all instances, including rape. He says he is proud to be endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin, an organization which opposes all forms of birth control. He believes that unused embryos at fertility clinics should be destroyed rather than used for promising research.
Wisconsin has a strong tradition of public services and a strong public sector. We have long had good schools and one of the best state university systems in the country. This should not be jeopardized for the sake of a Club for Growth-sponsored experiment in public policy and economics.