More Random Ruminations

by Phil Anderson

Continuing our random walk through the news, here are some more stories that leave you wondering about our political leaders. What are they thinking? Why can’t they solve problems and help build better, cleaner, safer, healthier more prosperous communities for everyone? 

Norwegian Immigration?? 

The president publicly wondered why we could not attract more immigrants from “good” countries like Norway. Aside from this being a blatantly racist remark, it demonstrates his complete cluelessness. It should be obvious that residents of Norway enjoy a good quality of life. Unlike our country Norwegians enjoy a successful, modern society with universal health care, access to education, affordable child care, decent jobs and secure retirements. We have none of these universal benefits common to the civilized world. Norway is no longer overpopulated with poor farmers and unemployed, destitute people. EARTH TO TRUMP....WE  ARE NOT LIVING IN THE 1800’s! 

 
In addition, perhaps someone should tell Mr.Trump that the Norwegians are (gasp) socialists! Is he really sure he wants these undesirables coming to America?  

Marketing Wisconsin 

Governor Walker is seeking $6.8 million to market Wisconsin to young workers from other states. The campaign will focus on young workers in the Midwest, alumni from the University of Wisconsin, and other Wisconsin colleges. The plan is to highlight Wisconsin’s lower cost of living and shorter commute times. A good idea? It probably is for the advertising company that gets the contract! 

In the real world attracting educated professionals requires more than just hype. Wisconsin has had a “brain drain” for many years because of lower wages than surrounding states. In the past our good universities attracted good students. But many left after graduation for better job opportunities elsewhere. Weakening the University of Wisconsin with budget cuts and attacks on tenure certainly isn’t going to change this picture. Nor will it attract the best professors and researchers. 

A better strategy might be to not drive away educated, talented people in the first place. Cutting education, opposing health care, ending equal pay for women, discouraging green energy, weakening professional licensing, and creating stumbling blocks to voting is making Wisconsin a less attractive place to live. Attacking teachers, pubic employees, unions, and environmental protection is counter productive to attracting white collar professionals. Gutting Wisconsin’s reputation for clean government, open democracy, and respectful civic discourse adds to the problems. The result is Wisconsin has a teacher shortage, people aren’t going into the trades and high tech graduates continue to leave to find jobs.

The job creation that Walker’s policies were suppose to create hasn’t happened. The Wisconsin Budget Project says Wisconsin ranks 31 for job creation lagging behind other Midwestern states. Making Wisconsin the Mississippi of the Midwest hasn’t worked well. 

Reality and Wisconsin Tax Cuts

Governor Walker has made reducing property taxes one of his big objectives. My personal experience indicates he was successful. My property taxes did go down for 2017. To be precise, 16 dollars and 83 cents!  Whoo hoo! Let the good times roll!

This property “tax cut” was a one-time accounting trick. News reports say the reduction came from diverting money from the state’s general fund to the lottery. This possibly illegal move allowed a larger lottery property tax credit. But it is an election year and the Gov needs to polishing his image.

Another gimmick is his proposed new $100-per-child tax credit to help parents with school costs. He is also calling for increased school funding after years of severe cuts. What can you do with $100?  Apparently he thinks it is enough to buy your vote!    

Walker is gloating over the $385.2 million budget surplus. In reality this is 0.44% of the $87 billion 2017-19 budget.  He claims this is proof of the success of his policies. This small an amount is more likely to be an accounting anomaly or a fudging of the numbers. But you can always fool some of the people! 

Half a Solution for Lead in Water

Lead in our water is a serious problem all over Wisconsin. Lead can cause serious learning and neurological problems in children. This has been a known for decades. But because solutions cost money replacing lead pipes has been slow. 

The Wisconsin legislature has passed a bill to help solve the problem. The bill allows local water utilities to create grant or loan programs to help homeowners replace lead service entrance pipes. Water utility rates could increase to pay for these programs. 

This is a good step toward eliminating a public health problem. But the Assembly conservatives had to water down the original bill. In the final draft they limited the assistance to half the replacement costs. Why? Who knows. But this limitation will slow down solving this important health problem.

The legislation originated with Republican Senator Robert Cowles of Green Bay. The bill provides no money to help local communities so taxes are not the issue. Madison had a similar program that successfully replaced ALL lead pipes in their community so we know what is possible. But some politicians can’t set aside the politics and ideology to actually solve problems. Wisconsin can afford billions to attract a foreign sweat shop but when protecting the health of children half measures are good enough.

Pouring Gasoline on the Fire

Bad decisions abound at the national level. For example, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and is planning to move the embassy there. This senseless, purely symbolic move can only hinder peaceful negotiations and exacerbate conflicts in the region. The move destroys any semblance of U.S credibility as a mediator.  

But foreign policy is often driven by domestic politics. Increasing your poll numbers or placating your base is more important than what happens to people in Palestine. Making decisions without regard to the results or consequences for others is common practice. Few remember the admonition to “first do no harm.”  

One wonders why we have such mediocre leadership. One would think with 325 million people we could do better