Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Questions in the aftermath of Walker's tsunami

By Bill Kraus

The Walker tsunami opened with a bang. He (and the two-house majority) had promised to get rid of something nobody understood--the structural deficit--and to balance the budget, which everyone understood.

They did that. They did it largely with proceeds from the only cookie jar in the kitchen: education. The other cookie jars, medicaid and corrections, were sealed shut by the feds and fear respectively.

The rest of the early agenda was mostly about getting even, settling scores.

The public employee unions were the bane of Republican candidates and organizations. They had been successfully outspending and outworking anyone who stood in their way for years. The Walker tsunami put an end to that by limiting their bargaining authority and shutting down dues check off, otherwise known as their money machine.

They put an end to public campaign funding--often referred to as “welfare for politicians”--in all its manifestations, including the judicial one.

They responded to the Republican paranoia about the threat to election participation by illegal, insufficiently identified voters.

They took care of the obsessive 2nd amendment partisans who think guns are good. Wyatt Earp would have been pleased.

They even ventured into the sexual freedom minefield and tried to deflect and defer the hormone machine. In homage to Queen Victoria perhaps.

Other than that they didn’t do much.

Early on, the governor derailed high speed trains for fiscal reasons and because they had promised to do that in the campaign, and it was easy. His suddenly rebellious minions took this another unwelcome (to the governor) step further later in the session by nixing an Amtrak upgrade.

Their attempts to exploit the most prominent economic opportunities presented by new, startup, high tech, high risk companies were also derailed when all those once loyal neophytes in the Assembly turned out to be fiscal fanatics who disapproved of all public spending including that intended to invest in job creation.

The several proposals to simplify and speed up the mining authorization process, which was billed as a fast track to jobs, foundered as well.

This was at least partially attributable to a backlash from the members of the minority who will not vote for anything that gives the majority bragging rights.

The unintended and unanticipated and unhealthy side effect of the tsunami has created an environment which does not encourage innovation at a time when what Wisconsin and the rest of the country need are more and better new ideas and leaders who spawn them.

And the questions linger about who or what will undo the damage done. And how?

Follow Bill Kraus on:
twitter / wmkraus

Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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