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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Budget Plot

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In government, budgets are a reflection of the values of our political leaders.

From the recording of a telephone conversation with someone Republican Gov. Scott Walker thought was a right-wing billionaire supporter, we already knew Walker, a minister's son yet, had some pretty sleazy values.

Now Walker has let the other boot drop.

In his address to cheering Republicans in the state Legislature, Walker actually bragged that his budget was lower than any Wisconsin budget submitted in the last 16 years by any governor, Republican or Democrat.

That is nothing to be proud of.

At a time when our nation is coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and people are in greater need than they ever have been in their lifetimes, this governor is boasting that he is doing less to help them.

It's actually even worse than that. Walker isn't just ignoring the state's problems. He's making those problems far worse with a radical, right-wing budget that ravages public education and slashes state aid to every city, town and village.

Walker's cover story for devastating education and local governments throughout the state is that all those terrible past governors, Republican and Democrat, failed to deal with Wisconsin's financial problems and left poor Scott Walker with the worst financial disaster in history.

That is demonstrably false. If that were true, Walker would be facing a much greater budget deficit to manage than past governors. Just the opposite is true.

In his last budget, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle had twice the budget deficit Walker is inheriting. And Doyle filled it without slashing billions of dollars from public education and local government, eliminating collective bargaining rights or raising general sales or income taxes.

Oh, but Walker says, that was just a one-time fix. Well, then let's hear it for one-time fixes.Every two years, governors and legislatures have budget holes to fill. And each time they cared enough and were smart enough to fill that deficit without eviscerating public education, dismantling state aid to local governments or destroying rights.

The problem stays fixed for two years until the next group of political leaders steps up to the challenge.

Walker is the first governor who failed. His supporters need to explain whether he didn't care enough or just wasn't smart enough.

But some of the worst provisions of Walker's budget obviously are intentional.

Perhaps the only honest portion of the budget has to do with taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools. Before giving the governor credit for honesty, however, you also need to understand how vicious the proposal is.

Over the years, many people may have wondered why Republicans were such stalwart supporters of tax vouchers to allow poor black and Latino children to attend private schools.

Republicans and their right-wing supporters don't want to pay taxes for anything. And they certainly don't care about poor children, especially not children of color.

Walker's budget finally exposes the entire Republican plot. While Walker guts the funding of public schools that educate the overwhelming majority of poor children—white, black and brown—he removes income limits on families receiving tax vouchers for private schools.

What that means is all those rich parents who send their children to expensive private schools now will receive generous taxpayer subsidies at the same time poor children in public schools are having their educations decimated.

Even More Diabolical

The attack on employment in Wisconsin may be even more diabolical.

Walker, who fraudulently campaigned on creating "jobs, jobs and more jobs," already has begun sending out pink slips to thousands of state employees.

Now Walker's budget not only slashes nearly a billion dollars from aid to local government, but it also would make it illegal for local officials to raise property taxes to replace all those state funds Walker is wiping out.

That leaves local governments with no choice but to lay off thousands more workers all over the state and—after collective bargaining rights are abolished—further reduce the pay and benefits of anyone still employed.

Why in the world would any political leader want to cut jobs at a time when the nation is still struggling toward economic recovery from one of the worst financial disasters in history?

A clear pattern is emerging of Republicans intentionally trying to snuff out any budding signs of economic recovery they fear could benefit President Barack Obama and Democrats in 2012.

Never mind recovery also benefits every American.

House Republicans now are voting for enormous cuts in federal spending that economists warn could kill the recovery. And Walker and other Republican governors are proposing extreme budgets that ravage public employment instead of creating jobs.

It's nothing short of evil for a governor to intentionally prolong misery in the lives of millions to try to gain some underhanded political advantage. Recalls can't happen fast enough.

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