For the last quarter century or so, non-conservatives like me have noted the contradictions inherent in living under a government owned and operated by neoconservatives who purport only to hate it.
Neocon guru Grover Norquist is infamous for saying his mission, and that of GOP activists like him, is to steadily starve and reduce government "to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
The results of these contradictions have been easier to see in recent years, what with levees breeching, bridges collapsing, unregulated industries failing, and the U.S. military funneling billions of dollars to private companies like Haliburton and Blackwater. And now, with the $787 billion federal stimulus package, it's gotten to the point where many Republican elected officials must choose between looking like hypocrites and looking like morons.
You are a hypocrite if you take federal stimulus money when you say you believe, in the face of all evidence, that the market will heal itself without the government's intervention. And you are a moron if you turn down money from the federal government that could help your constituents, many of whom are hurting.
Most have chosen hypocrisy. After only three GOP senators and not a single member of the House of Representatives voted in favor of a stimulus, governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina have loudly pledged to refuse federal stimulus money -- but only a small portion of it.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has chosen to mix hypocrisy with stupidity in more or less equal proportion, quite possibly a sign that he intends to run for governor.
Walker says the state should put all of its stimulus money -- $3.7 billion or so -- into sales tax cuts, even though he knows full well these funds can't be used this way. It would take an act of Congress to make it so, and no one other than him seems to think this is a good idea.
On Friday, Walker said he would not accept federal stimulus aid for Milwaukee County if doing so might require county matching funds or mandate any future county spending. He has also refused to submit a list of potential county projects for stimulus funding. This is leadership?
In the state Legislature, Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he does not plan to cooperate with the budget process or do anything to help the Democratic majorities or Governor Jim Doyle find the money to balance the budget. Fitzgerald's brother Jeff, the minority leader in the Assembly, is sounding the same note.
Their reasoning is that it is not the job of the minority party to help the majority solve its problems. What the minority party's job is they do not say.
Meanwhile, the people who run the editorial page at the Wisconsin State Journal seem similarly conflicted. Sunday's lead editorial criticized Doyle's new budget proposal for lacking boldness and increasing taxes.
Anyone who has watched any politics in the last 25 years knows that calling for a tax increase is just about the boldest thing a politician can do.
Lately, the State Journal has been spending much of its time and scarce op-ed space celebrating legislators who have turned down their scheduled 5.3% pay increase and pillorying those who haven't. In the past few days the paper has published large photos of Sen. Fitzgerald and Assembly Rep. Brett Davis for grandstanding on the issue and loudly refusing their raises.
On Monday the paper divided the Legislature into two camps: those who are "leading by example" and refusing their raises, and those who are "failing to lead" by refusing to follow the State Journal's demagogic lead.
Walker is likely running for governor and the Fitzgerald brothers are looking for attention as members of a legislative minority. What's the State Journal's excuse?
Dustin Beilke is a union organizer and freelance writer who lives in Madison.