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Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010

Issue of the Week: Walker Undermines High-Speed Rail

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In reference to Wisconsin’s proposed high-speed rail, gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker’s current campaign cry is: “Elect me and we will stop the train.” In Mussolini’s fascist Italy of the 1930s, at least he claimed some managerial skill and “made the trains run on time,” whereas Walker in 2010 just wants to “stop the train.” In an embarrassing effort to look macho, Walker writes to his pal Charlie Sykes, “Think we can’t stop this train? Just watch me.” That adolescent bravado has no place in building a strong economy. Virtually all of the serious, nonpartisan economists who have studied the issue state that high-speed rail can do a great deal to stimulate economic development, something Wisconsin desperately needs. The federal government has provided Wisconsin with an $810 million grant to build the Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail corridor, one part of a high-speed rail system that will connect Chicago to Minneapolis. Walker, appealing to the extremist right wing of the Republican Party, wants to forgo the jobs and long-term benefits of high-speed rail with the argument that he doesn’t want Wisconsin to get stuck paying the bill. Scott, the federal government has agreed to pay for it. If you refuse the money, it will just go to another high-speed rail project in another state.

Hero of the Week

Jim Braun

When their kids reach adulthood and leave the nest, many parents breathe a short sigh of relief and look forward to some downtime. Not so with Jim Braun, who chose instead to donate his spare time to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee.

For the past four years, Braun has spent a few hours each week serving as a friend and mentor to his “little brother,” Raymond. Braun says the most rewarding aspect of the program is “just to see the excitement on a kid’s face… the fact that they know you’re going to be there for them.”

Big Brothers/Big Sisters matches volunteers with youth who may be lacking a strong adult presence in their lives. In addition to one-on-one mentoring, there is a site-based program in area schools. The organization is especially in need of male volunteers who want to make a positive difference. Braun, an advertising executive, dismisses the objection of those who claim they don’t have the time. “That’s a cop-out,” he says. “You can always find the time.”

Readers who wish to get involved are urged to call Big Brothers/Big Sisters at 414-258-4778 or visit www.bbbsmilwaukee.org.

Jerk of the Week

Senate Candidate Ron Johnson

Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, a conservative Republican candidate for Senate, has a slim record in the public arena. His one apparent community connection is the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, where Johnson was deeply involved in its Partners in Education (PIE) Council. His one notable achievement? Spending more than a year lobbying for a personal appearance before PIE by Charles Murray, the Bradley Foundation-supported author of the The Bell Curve, which was discredited as a racist tome. Murray argues that IQ is substantially inherited and that there are racial differences in cognitive ability. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, which sifted through hundreds of e-mails and meeting minutes, Johnson “pushed to have Charles Murray speak despite objections from other members.” He even paid for Murray’s $5,750 fee so that Murray could promote his latest book, Real Education, which argues that too many students are going to college. That philosophy meshes with Johnson’s view on the free market, in which there are “winners and losers,” and not much can be done to help those who didn’t have the good sense to choose wealthy parents.

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