Separating Wisconsin Democrats From Obama
By George Lightbourn
The state budget being assembled in Madison is revealing some serious flaws in Wisconsin Democrats - flaws that, in the minds of most people, will separate them from President Obama. It won’t take long for people to figure out that the only thing these Madison politicians share with the President is the D behind their name.
It is interesting that the President has chosen today to come to Wisconsin for a town meeting. President Obama has a unique ability to articulate a vision, a plan. Much to the chagrin of conservatives, this master politician has shown the ability to transcend politics. Like Reagan, Obama gives the public, especially the coveted coven of independents, a sense that he is working from a core set of principles. Most would say that he is a man of character.
Contrast that with the slow motion train wreck we have been watching in the State Capitol. With the Republicans opting early on to be bystanders, the state budget is all in the hands of Democrats.
What they have been concocting for the last four months is nothing more than a loosely linked chain of questionable fiscal maneuvers and half-baked policy efforts. While President Obama speaks to struggling middle class families, single parent households and the young, the Democrats in Madison have opted to appeal only to their most favored special interests. Reagan told us that, “all great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Wisconsin Democrats believe all great change begins behind a heavy oak door in the Capitol.
Behind that oak door the Democrats have concocted a hollow, political document. It is an unprincipled compendium of deal stacked upon deal; deals with special interests and deals with each other. Mark Pocan, a key Democrat architect, was correct in maintaining that budgets are always policy documents. I have to believe that his forebearers, Democrats of character like Tony Earl, Jerry Kleczka, Barb Ulichny, John Norquist, Dennis Conta, etc. have to blush when they see what this generation of Democrats has done with the power given them by the people.
Let’s look at what this budget tells us about the character of the people who are responsible for it.
- While Democrats plead their case for fiscal prudence, as if moving a freezer, they have put their collective backs to work pushing as many financial obligations as possible off to a future Legislature. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the next Governor and Legislature will be $2.3 billion in the hole before they take their coats off.
- The budget is straining under the burden of pork barrel spending. Each of the dozens of special projects stuffed into the budget has a thread that leads back to a specific Democrat. How does this square with President Obama’s pledge to end earmarks?
- The Democrats chose this point in time to weaken W2, the program that reduced welfare caseloads by over 90%. They reduced the work requirement and softened the sanctions. Maybe they resented the enduring success of this program that will forever be linked to Tommy Thompson, but their changes are neither grounded in research nor based on facts.
- The Democrats' budget is a travesty of transparency. While the Joint Finance Committee made a big show of parading around Wisconsin to gather the input of the public, the budget deals that counted were all worked out in secret. Public hearings contrasted with private deal making; nothing defines character quite as sharply as duplicity.
Clearly this generation of Democrats did not come to do the people’s business. They came to do their own bidding. In the end they will gather enough votes, the Governor will sign the budget. But the hollowness of the document will be evident to all.
Conservatives have been flagellating themselves, looking for a path that will lead them from the wilderness. Well they can put away their scourges. Wisconsin Democrats, while they won election, have proven themselves entirely unprepared to govern. In these transformational times, this generation of Wisconsin Democrats, with their pliable principles, has shown the world that it is they that are the ones who are lost and wandering.
-June 11, 2009