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Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012

Scott Walker: Stealing from the Poor Box

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Beyond just wanting me to be a decent person, my mother taught me the most practical reason for always telling the truth: It's a lot easier to keep your stories straight.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, once an Eagle Scout, apparently has forgotten that simple lesson, along with that part of the Boy Scout oath about being morally straight.

If there's anybody in the Republican Party who still values decency and honesty, they should really be embarrassed by Walker's plan to grab millions of dollars that were supposed to go to poor people losing their homes.

Fully as sleazy as Walker's scheme to snatch those funds was the reason Walker gave for stealing from the poor box: He wants the money to close his state budget deficit, which is newly projected at nearly $150 million.

This is at a time when Walker has been using millions from out-of-state donors to literally flood the television airwaves of Wisconsin with commercials looking voters straight in the eye and brazenly lying that he eliminated the state's budget deficit.

And what's the source of the millions of dollars that "Real Walker" is taking from the poor to help close an enormous state budget deficit that "TV Walker" tells voters he doesn't have anymore?

It's $26 billion from five major banks in a negotiated settlement with state attorneys general from around the country.

That settlement was to end lawsuits by the states over fraudulent practices mortgage lenders used to sign up home buyers for mortgages they couldn't afford, leading to record foreclosures and helping to plunge the nation into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Financial analysts already have warned that, though it sounds like an enormous settlement, it will help only a small portion of the millions of "underwater" borrowers, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and those who already have lost their homes.

That shortfall for victims of fraud and abuse is made worse when unethical politicians such as Walker help themselves to funds that were intended to help individuals who were devastated financially.

Walker is trying to head off a recall sought by more than a million voters by taking most of the settlement funds allotted directly to the state away from the victims and using it to help fill an enormous state budget deficit Walker's been claiming doesn't exist.

Van Hollen Playing Politics

Walker wouldn't be able to get away with this without the collusion of another unethical Republican politician, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Van Hollen was one of the state attorneys general signing the settlement. As a result, Van Hollen gets to decide how $31.6 million of the $140 million going directly to the state should be used.

Before any public announcement, Walker and Van Hollen already had conspired to use most of that money—$25.6 million—to reduce Walker's growing budget deficit instead of using those millions to prevent further foreclosures or compensate victims who have lost their homes.

This is not the first time Van Hollen, the state's chief law enforcement officer, has misused his office for politics instead of carrying out his legal responsibilities.

When Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm began looking into allegations of criminal activities in the office of County Executive Scott Walker before Walker became governor, Chisholm asked Van Hollen to assist in the investigation. Van Hollen refused, and Chisholm had to go to the FBI.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, sounding increasingly like a candidate against Walker in the recall, expressed outrage at Walker for picking the pockets of victimized home buyers in Milwaukee, where thousands of foreclosures took place.

No one should be surprised Walker now admits his budget has an enormous deficit at the same time he's telling voters just the opposite.

Walker's always demonstrated a very low opinion of the intelligence of many of the people who vote for him, which in some cases may be justified. Walker counts on the inability of voters to understand complicated budget issues.

Every single governor passes a balanced budget. The state constitution requires it. The trick is keeping the budget balanced. And six straight months of job losses under Walker already have wrecked his budget.

Months before Walker started running those dishonest commercials, he told the federal government the state had a large budget deficit, seeking a federal waiver that would allow him to throw thousands of poor families off Medicaid.

Walker's budget deficit appears whenever he wants to steal from the poor—ending health care or looting funds for thousands losing their homes—and disappears when he's claiming success among voters.

Or maybe it's like Mom said: When you don't tell the truth, it's hard to keep your stories straight. 

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