Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Some questions for the New Year

By Bill Kraus

Is anyone thinking about realigning the property tax so every property owner pays for the costs that attach to property, and other taxes pay for social services and education which do not?

What everyone knows is that an essential ingredient of a democratic form of government is an informed electorate. Most communications about what the government does and how it spends its money are deliberately hidden or so overwhelming they are indecipherable. Open Book Wisconsin is due to be posted in 2014. The so-far-unanswered question is whether communication experts have been involved so that it tells the voters what they need to know and presents that information in ways that make it easy to understand. Pictures would be nice. Will Open Book do this? Will anyone open the Open Book?

And speaking of an informed electorate. Has anyone noticed that journalists (a profession trained to ask questions) are an endangered species?

Why is every glitch and misstep on the way to a radically different medical delivery system treated as a big surprise? The botched website is simply the biggest and most prominent example of what can, does, and will go wrong in this process whether launched by the government or by enterprises in the private sector. This is very complicated stuff. Anybody who has been down this road knows that the miracle would have been if it had worked. We keep acting surprised by other revelations. It turns out that the uninsured population which has been using emergency rooms continues to use emergency rooms now that they are insured. These people don't have doctors. They have to be weaned from emergency room care. A lot of other things are going to go wrong as we move from the present chaotic health care system to the new, almost as chaotic health care system. Why don't we tell the patients what doctors have historically told them: This is going to hurt?

Why does Brazil need 35 of the latest model fighter planes? Who are they going to fight?

Why doesn't the governor tell the legislative leaders that their response to the move to change the way we redistrict in Wisconsin is somewhere between totalitarian and foolish and an embarrassment which might show up with deleterious results in his campaigns for governor and president to say nothing of the campaigns of their favorites for the state Legislature this year?

Why can't the insular wizards at the U.S. Mint find a way to get rid of dollar bills? Haven't they looked abroad to see how to design a popular, easily identified dollar coin (like the English pound for instance) and simply stop printing dollar bills?

Why is no one in power looking at the ravages--to say nothing of the social and monetary cost--of truth in sentencing and the war on drugs?

Is anybody asking how we will use all those glorious stadii that have been built for our football gladiators and their billionaire owners (largely with public money) when football goes the way of boxing?

I asked my wife, who knows about these things, why the internet giants like Facebook and Google were offering a billion dollars or more for embryonic, no-profit companies like Instagram and Snapchap. They are protecting their franchise, she told me. Isn't that what John D. Rockefeller was doing with and for Standard Oil a century ago? Has the Justice Department noticed these similarities?

Have we had enough of ideological posturing and self-righteousness yet? Are we ready to turn to governments and elected officials who deal with the very complicated problems everyday citizens face? Enough with the inflammatory rhetoric already. Is this the year we will vote for problem solvers?

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