Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Why don’t we all get along?

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Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Mar 10, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Why don’t we all get along?

Nobody likes being told no

The question was asked of Gov. Scott Walker, “Why won’t he negotiate?” Walker responded that there was nothing left to give, and the mantra was born.

Walker is being a dictator. Walker won’t negotiate. Why won’t he compromise?

The general public loves compromises. “Why can’t we all just get along?” isn’t just a holdover from a riot in Los Angeles when a large segment of the population was not in the mood to get along. It’s the public’s political ethos.

Why not just get along? Why is it so hard for the two parties to compromise?

When the government is so large and provides so much to so many, the stakes are just that high. Even if tax revenue were matching the current obligations, the demand for more would require us to fight hard over the priorities.

But the revenue is not keeping up with the demand for government expenditures. Wisconsin has a $3.6 billion structural deficit. That is the difference between our future appetites and our future means.

We face an immediate shortfall of $137 million in the current operating budget. Making matters worse, the state owes the malpractice patients’ compensation fund over $200 million, $58.7 million to the state of Minnesota, and $1.5 billion to the federal government for the unemployment compensation fund loan.

Former Gov. Jim Doyle relied upon the standard formula. He raised $3 billion in taxes. He used $2 billion in one-time federal stimulus money. He raided segregated funds, including the transportation fund. And ultimately, he left the state’s fiscal problems for someone else to solve.

It was understandable. After all, his predecessor, Scott McCallum, attempted to deal with the problem by cutting state aid to local governments, failed, and failed to be elected governor.

Former New Berlin School Board member Matt Weiss should be forever remembered for Weiss’ Law, “Nobody ever thanks you for not spending money.” It’s far too easy to spend and make everyone happy. Every day is Christmas, and we all get along when the presents never end.

Come January and February, the bills are due and the fighting begins. Who is going to pay for all of this? Well, we’ve reached the end of the line of payees and there is still not enough. In fact, there is less than when we started.

Why doesn’t the governor just give in? Why is Walker so stubborn? Doesn’t he hear the yelling and the drumming just outside his door?

Yet we learned on Tuesday that rather than make some grand gesture, Walker has been quietly negotiating what he can. What he can offer is little, and still the Senate Democrats refuse to return.

So much for Walker the dictator. Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald even mailed the paychecks to the missing Democratic senators. For just trying to get along, national Democratic political operatives are descending upon Wisconsin to recall some of Fitzgerald’s Republican colleagues.

What of the compromise offered by the state’s largest unions? They claimed that they would accept the financial terms of Walker’s proposed budget-repair bill if only he would just leave the local bargaining rights alone. But as we have seen, no local government employee union has offered to make the same concessions. Easy for the Madison players to say when they aren’t the ones who will have to fulfill the promise.

As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett recently learned, the nice guy often finishes last. He called upon the police and firefighter unions in his city to accept the same sacrifices the other government employee unions will be forced to accept. They responded they were not too interested in just getting along, either.

So many of us just wish the bedlam would quiet for a moment so we can sift through the competing claims and find some answer that will make everyone happy. When we can’t find that moment of peace, we adopt Bill Cosby’s statement, “The truth is that parents are not really interested in justice. They just want quiet.”

The polls may momentarily reflect this, but there will be a political end soon, complete with some very unhappy people who have enjoyed the public treasury too much for our good.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

 

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