Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Only Responsible Choice: Tom Barrett

Scott Walker's primary tactic for the recall election is to smear Tom Barrett on unemployment and taxes in Milwaukee. The unemployment rate has increased and taxes have gone up under Barrett. Let's ignore the fact that unemployment is up everywhere. That's why it's called a recession. Let's also disregard the fact that unemployment increased 34 percent for Milwaukee County during Scott Walker's reign.

And, we might as well lose all context and not mention that Milwaukee is also home to the majority of poor and minority citizens in the state. That might have something to do with the unemployment and taxes in Milwaukee, but let's not talk about that.

Let's also not forget Scott Walker took over $60 million dollars (considering the City and MPS) away from Milwaukee in his recent, contentious budget. Should Barrett simply fire teachers, police and firefighters to cover the loss? Or should he end all spending for the poor, the elderly and children? Which services should he stop? Scott Walker refused nearly a billion dollars in aid. How much would that have alleviated unemployment and taxes across the state?

When private companies wreck the economy, why aren't Republicans calling for them to be more efficient and trim more workers? Shouldn't the participants in the sectors responsible for the economic collapse be the ones sacrificing? Conservatives love talking on and on about overpaid public workers and union executives. Where is the outcry regarding CEO compensation? When will Republicans reprimand private executives unsubstantiated and overblown pay? It was alright for the government to step in and fire the General Motor's CEO (in the highly unionized auto industry) but no such actions have taken place on Wall Street, where the majority of criminals responsible for our latest economic debacle still remain.

The public sector not only pays for public services, but we also subsidize and provide tax breaks to the private sector. And, the government is actually supposed to regulate the private sector with regard to the public interest. So where is the demand for sacrifice and accountability from these Robber Barons? We refer to them as "private," but their decisions have public ramifications (and they receive public money), thus, the government needs to regulate their actions...and punish or fine them when necessary. I'd go as far as to say we should just usurp all their ill-gotten gains for the public good. But Republicans prefer firing nurses and teachers.

Republicans are great at making speeches about public workers needing to sacrifice, work for less, pay more for health care, etc., but where are the same calls for responsibility when private sector actors' actions destroy a bank, close a company, or tank an economy?

In a recession, Republicans want to cut public services while giving public dollars to private firms. Yet, they make no qualifications for such largess. Just fork over the money, these private entrepreneurs know what to do with it. Oh, and remember, we're also broke. Austerity only applies to the 99%.

Scott Walker's history has shown that his answer to a tight budget is to have someone else take over a program, to end a program, or to privatize it. As County Executive, his budgets attempted to slash county services, especially for the most vulnerable. The County Board would overrule Walker's Draconian cuts and then Walker would claim leadership, fiscal responsibility and vision. I don't hear Walker touting his record of running up the debt of Milwaukee County. Has he mentioned unemployment went up under his watch at the County? Does he mention the costs of the lawsuits due to his "leadership"?

I'd prefer cities and states stop giving tax cuts, tax breaks and subsidies to the already well-to-do. Sadly, in today's "government is here to serve business" mindset, these types of giveaways (Harley Davidson, Mercury Marine, Miller Park, the Bradley Center, etc.) are increasing. Business is our savior. They've got it all figured out. Strangely, though, they can't seem to get anything done without the government assuming most of the risk and coughing up the initial funding for projects. Sorry, but you're not a great business guru or economic genius because you've bought enough politicians to write legislation to subsidize and insure your private venture's success.

Wisconsin's own Department of Commerce has been transformed, under Walker, into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Rather than managing the interests of the state alongside those of business, this entity is now all about promotion, marketing, and funneling money to private business interests. Again, we're supposed to believe business knows how to get things done, thus it is justifiable to use public dollars to help them out. Therefore, we need a public agency performing businesses' PR and fundraising?

The point of all this is to illustrate the bizarro world in which the Republicans operate. In their view, government is inefficient, too big, and burdensome. The "free" market and private enterprise are a well-oiled machine. Government should not pay employees living wages. Government work isn't even real work. Government services are silly and trivial. The sanctity of the "free" market is what makes peoples' lives worth living. Roads, water, clean air, schools, police and fire protection - these are just a few examples of those worthless public works. BUT (and here is where the Republican craziness really gets interesting) we should all be in favor of public dollars funding private speculation...because it might lead to job creation.

Public governance has been transformed from performing services we all enjoy and appreciate into a casino. And, the Republicans own the casino. Now the government exists to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private business escapades. Before our taxes maintained/fixed roads, provided clean parks, and ensured good schools. Tangible things we could all experience and benefit from. Today, those are secondary. Government dollars are now "invested" in the private sector with the hope of job creation.

Regarding Scott Walker's own job creation accomplishments as Wisconsin governor, the record is somewhere between losing roughly 20,000 jobs or gaining 30,000 job. Thus, if we assume the best possible outcome based on this 1-year performance, Walker is on pace to create approximately 120,000 jobs over his first 4-year term. Which will be 130,000 below his campaign promise of creating 250,000 jobs in his first term.

If someone simply promising the sky and then failing miserably is your idea of governance, Scott Walker is your guy. If reasoned, deliberate, methodical decision-making, with everyone's best interests in mind, sounds more like quality governance, Tom Barrett is the only choice.

Vote Tom Barrett, Mahlon Mitchell June 5th!

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