Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh, for a really smart, inventive, creative, non-ideological governor who is not also self-serving!

My headline is my op-ed, I guess. The more Gov Scott Walker is given a national platform the more he speaks and writes, the more we learn about his thinking and his approach, the more I worry for my state.

Of course, it has become clear that the guy has national ambitions, which is incredible for the small amount he has accomplished in terms of governance or financial smarts. He appears to me to be one of those creations of the right - like Michelle Bachman, or Sarah Palin, or Rep Paul Ryan, whose big draconian budget bill passed by the House the other week doesn't really balance the budget, but tries to play with the synapses of our brains to make us believe you can cut taxes on the rich even more and pay for them by cutting the tiny percent of the budget that pays for vital programs in our social safety net, things like unemployment insurance and food stamps. Meanwhile, the plan would eviscerate Medicare and Medicaid, threaten Social Security, and more.

The right is into magical thinking.

Top of the page in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Daniel Bice's column, 'No Quarter,' taking issue with Walker's claim to have created jobs that had already been announced by his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, last Dec. Really, the hubris of this guy is something. I suppose he will take credit for those Dunkin' Donut jobs, too, but not for the thousands of jobs the state lost when he turned down $810 million of federal money to build high-speed rail - along with the jobs that economic development along the route would have created.

Photo: Margaret Swedish
Walker promised that his administration would create 250,000 jobs. Great. Only 249,875 to go. But will he continue using funny numbers and false claims? We have to assume that means 250,000 jobs more than now exist in the state.  Will he count the jobs lost under his administration, especially the good-paying ones, you know, like in the public sector which he intends to cut drastically?

More magical thinking: the NY Times gave the guy a platform over the weekend. Why I don't know. This time the issue was Medicaid and how he would like to see it 'reformed' along the lines of how TV networks dealt with "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Get Smart" (wish I was making that up). But there is nothing original in his plan; it has been a right-wing approach on lots of federal programs - replace today's Medicaid with block grants and let the states decide how to run their own programs.

This does not make me feel good about the fate of the poor in so many states that don't like the poor very much. Or even working families who have lost health care benefits at their jobs or are seeing their wages and benefits fall, the value of their homes slide or become stagnant, who are having trouble making it and must turn to Medicaid and other public health assistance programs for their medical needs.

The CapTimes ran an Op-Ed responding to the NY Times piece.

...the Times did Walker no favors by publishing his Medicaid screed.  There is no question that Medicare and Medicaid can be improved. But abandoning the values that underpin them improves nothing.

I agree. I also found the most illuminating part of Walker's 'screed' to come towards the end of his NY Times  op-ed. It's the part where we see what the real agenda is, the ideological framework of these right-wing Repubs as they seek to remake the meaning of government in this country. If it seems to harken back to something like the Confederacy, nullification, states' rights, and all that, well...
States are not merely “laboratories of democracy,” but also sovereign governments under our system of federalism. Unfortunately, the encroachment of the federal government in Medicaid threatens to reduce states to mere agents. 
This is the kind of language that reveals the real agenda here - to remove states as much as possible from the federal government's authority. We are back to the Federalists v. Anti-Federalists argument that goes back to our founding days, fueled the Civil War (which is being fought once again), and emerges every time the federal government recognizes new rights and responsibilities that states rights folks deplore (abolition, women's suffrage, civil rights legislation of the 60s, rights to access to health care, public education, worker rights, environmental protections, as just a few examples).

Well, Mr. Walker, Wisconsin is indeed a laboratory of democracy, one in which we see the reemergence of a debate over the role of government in defending and fostering the rights, dignity, and well-being of its citizens. We think those rights are broad and inclusive; we think they include everyone. We even think it is our responsibility as taxpayers and citizens to contribute our fair share for the common good of all. And we are bold enough to believe that the feds have a crucial role in ensuring that states do not encroach upon these rights, and that when those rights are in jeopardy at the state or local level, it is the role of the feds to enforce its authority over those levels of government.

And we think our state needs some better leadership than this, something more forward-thinking, more in tune with the challenges of these times in which we live, less ideological, less exclusive, less dismissive of workers, more committed to the quality of life of our people and the natural communities in which we live.

We think we need a bigger heart at the helm, and a more compassionate state government.

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