December 11, 2010

Wisconsin's Scott Walker: On the right track [sic]

Says the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in a bizarre editorial today, praising Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker, who the paper endorsed officially and to whose political campaign the paper's corporate affiliate for broadcasting donated 15 thousand dollars.

The opinion piece is either the daftest apologetic the paper has ever run, or else its most elegant expression of droll facetiousness.

The gist of the editorial is to congratulate Walker on a proposed bureaucratic reshuffling, semi-privatizing the State commerce department by recruiting a few outside marketing go-getters to kibbutz with similarly constituted entities throughout the Midwest.

(Political conservatives assume private sector actors are by definition vastly more efficient than their public sector counterparts, even in identical roles. This is axiomatic for conservatives, a veritable Article of Faith, so just concede their point because otherwise after a while the pig starts to enjoy it, as the saying goes.)

Be bolder than bold

The paper claims the strategy is pleasingly in accord with a report — "Be Bold" — issued last month by the Wisconsin Higher Education Business Roundtable, a project of the University of Wisconsin:
"We want to be bold," Walker said of the "Be Bold" report. "I want to be even bolder so we may take this plan and build off it, be more aggressive than what they're presenting."
Is the Journal-Sentinel being sarcastic? Because the report also engages prominently two substantial questions of policy that Walker just stuck his foot in last week, thus gaining national notoriety.

The first is Wisconsin's status as a donor State; that is, one that gets returned a smaller slice of the federal pie than the one it contributes.

Says the report:
If Wisconsin won $1 of federal spending for each $1 of taxes it sends to Washington, D.C., instead of the 86 cents we get back, much of the State’s budget deficit would disappear.

The argument for Wisconsin donating to less well-off States might have had some merit earlier in our history, but not at this juncture with our own economy in crisis. Wisconsin’s economy needs the federal dollars as much as any other State.
Look at him, funny 

The report then recommends a number of strategies for securing more federal dollars, not any of which — oddly enough! — involves rejecting $810 million in federal dollars which the State of Wisconsin had previously labored mightily to duly secure and which today decorate the accounting ledgers of several of those "other States."

I don't know about you, but if somebody who just rejected $810 million came asking for more, I'd at least look at him a little funny, especially while there are 49 other States clamoring not to be donors.

If you're a Wisconsinite who just came in from the bush and didn't know what that $810 million was for, read ahead to the report's bullet point number 10, "Invest Strategically in State's Infrastructure."

While acknowledging that "additions to the State’s infrastructure are often controversial" — possibly a veiled reference to wing-nut radio personalities on the aforesaid broadcasting arm hooting 'Choo Choo!' at an impressionable Tea mob all morning — the business roundtable implores against a public myopia: "A long-term perspective must be maintained to understand and benefit from these investments."

Detecting a whiff of familiarity? No doubt.

Please be being sarcastic

Among the report's related recommendations, this:
Align developing rail strategies with State's economic development strategy, so players in leading clusters are connected to each other, such as universities and market-leading companies. Use rail strategies to connect Wisconsin to Chicago and Twin Cities economies.
Or precisely what governor-elect* Walker just shot down, by refusing the federally funded construction of a rail link between Wisconsin's two largest cities, part of an, er, "long-term perspective" hooking Chicago up with Minneapolis-St. Paul, via Milwaukee and Madison.

The fact is, Walker betrayed this report, and replacing half the commerce department with traveling salesmen has got nothing on turning down nearly a billion dollars in transfer payments while turning away thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, and all essentially because it was passenger rail, not road construction.

How the Journal-Sentinel gets to lionizing Scott Walker for his conformance with this report is quite the feat of ... something.

One can only hope it's sarcasm. Lord help us if it ain't.

* Yes, governor-elect. He hasn't even taken office yet.


Anonymous said...

Here is why business leaders love Walker, the proposal calls a billion dollar slush fund with Walker cronies distributing it how they see fit with little government oversight, regulation and ethics laws. No corruption or political playback with a billion dollars to burn and burn and burn.

Anonymous said...

"recruiting a few.... to kibbutz..." what- he's going to settle with some fat cats on an israeli collective farm? bizarre strategy indeed.

gnarlytrombone said...

Excellent, lucid post. I can only muster pit and sputter.

illusory tenant said...

Cheers my friend.