I know, it's getting to be a broken record, but when it comes to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his GOP enablers who control the state legislature, the record of breaking things is so vast we need to run as fast we can just to document it all.
Here are two more sadly entertaining but totally outrageous examples of how the right-wing, Republican presidential hopeful and his party minions do one thing and say another. In these examples, the Walkerites are violating their own rhetorical view that people need to get off the government dole so they can be self-sufficient and motivated. With the exception, of course, of well-heeled Republican campaign donors.
If you haven't read elsewhere of these two latest moves, jump past the little orange gift ribbon below and prepare to gasp at the audacity and hypocrisy of it all, in what used to be one of America's most progressive and well-run states:
EXAMPLE 1: Rich people need Medicaid, most everyone else should go fish
In his two-year budget signed earlier this summer, Walker greatly expanded public financial support for private schools, moving the state's dubious and expensive experiment beyond the Milwaukee public schools and making the program virtually statewide (there are low caps on new enrollees, but lifting those probably just awaits a second Walker term in office). The Walker scheme added fat tax credits for wealthy Wisconsin parents who choose to pay tuition to send their kids to private schools under so-called "school choice" programs. Who pays for these tax credits? Other, mostly less well-heeled state taxpayers, as well as public school districts where the children formerly were pupils.
Now, in a parallel case of welfare for the wealthy, the Walker administration is allowing other such skewed, misbegotten boons that arguably are even worse. According to WKOW-TV News in Madison:
The three children of a Columbus [Wisconsin] businessman receive their health insurance through the state's plan for low-income families, BadgerCare, despite their father's estimated worth of $20 million.http://www.wkow.com/...
A 2011 divorce required Michael Eisenga to provide health insurance for his three young boys. The children's mother, Claire Hawthorne told 27 News Eisenga enrolled the children in BadgerCare... .
Campaign finance records show Eisenga has contributed a total of more than $28,000 to Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and the Republican Party since April 2010.
While 27 News is unaware of millionaires other than Eisenga with children enrolled in BadgerCare, [Research director Jon] Peacock [of the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families] estimated 2,000 of 450,000 children in the BadgerCare program are from families with incomes at 300 percent of the federal poverty level or higher. Three-hundred percent of FPL is $69,000 for a family of four.
Wow. So how do most other Wisconsin residents fare under BadgerCare? Not very well under Walker reforms enacted earlier this year. Wisconsin is one of only four states that overall is reducing Medicaid rolls, and reducing numbers by the greatest amount:
Kaiser Health News reports that about 92,000 people in Wisconsin — 87,000 parents and 5,000 more childless adults with incomes above the federal poverty level — would lose Medicaid coverage under the Walker plan... .http://host.madison.com/...
... Wisconsin is also planning to add 100,000 childless adults with incomes below the poverty level to Medicaid, which Walker officials say makes it a fair trade-off.
Not to mention those three kids whose estranged dad is a conservative campaign donor and multimillionaire. By the way, Walker has helpfully suggested that the low-income families he's throwing off BadgerCare should go to the Affordable Care Act's new private insurance exchanges beginning this fall to see if they can afford the for-profit coverage offered there. Yes, that is the health care reform act Walker vigorously opposes and that is the insurance exchange his state government refused to set up. Nor did Walker accept billions in federal grants under the act to expand Medicaid coverage, meaning state taxpayers will pick up a huge new cost for covering fewer people. The private sector can provide! Unless it can't, in which case: Oh, well!
EXAMPLE 2: Conservative lobbying group may get fat "natural resources" grant, forever
In destroying collective bargaining for most public employees in Wisconsin, Walker said the existence of unions and bargaining made government too expensive. He simultaneously cut compensation across the board for tens of thousands of state employees because state government allegedly was "broke." This was while he was cutting taxes for the wealthy, and raising them for some of the lowest income people in the state.
But the real reason for his anti-collective bargaining stance was to deny Democratic candidates financial campaign support from labor unions. Embarrassingly, Walker exempted from his anti-union law all unions representing public safety workers that had endorsed him and sent him campaign funds, saying he was afraid they might otherwise go on strike. And then he criticized members of the other unions and their supporters who took personal time to protest at the state Capitol. I mean, it wasn't like they were going out on an illegal strike or anything.
Meanwhile, Walker turned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources -- the state's environmental protection agency -- into a business-friendly commerce office. The DNR increasingly now bends over backward for profiteers who'd like to build on protected wetlands or dig multi-mile-long, open-pit iron ore mines near native American wild rice fields and pristine Lake Superior.
Latest outrage: The agency may be forced by GOP legislative fiat to give uncontested and large, recurring grants of tax dollars to a "sportsman" group that is clearly a conservative lobbying organization with ties to its GOP legislative sponsors. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel bannered news of the deal, which was quietly inserted into the massive state budget in the eleventh hour and voted on after just a few minutes of debate by legislators:
A $500,000 sportsmen's grant slipped into the state budget earlier this summer is set to go to a group with ties to Republican insiders that has praised GOP politicians and lobbied for legislation such as lowering regulations on iron mining and development in wetlands.http://www.jsonline.com/...
The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation Inc., a group formed in January with no record of its own in outdoors training, is the only applicant for the scantly noticed two-year grant to promote hunting, fishing and trapping in Wisconsin that is being reviewed Thursday by a special panel.
If the grant is approved, the state could end up paying it every two years to United Sportsmen, which has said in its application that it would use most of the money to pay its staff and consultants.
The group has been linked to Americans For Prosperity-Wisconsin, a conservative lobbying and interest group that helped finance Walker's recall campaign and has financially buttressed the campaigns of state GOP lawmakers.
The newspaper noted that the grant requirements were carefully tailored to include United Sportsmen while excluding other possible applicants, and that lawmakers acted on a motion co-authored by outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford). The newspaper reported the group has ties to several Suder allies, including donors, lobbyists, and his former chief of staff. Suder later pretended he was unfamiliar with those ties.
“If this grant is approved, it will actually take money away from hunters, fishers and other outdoor enthusiasts and funnel it to a shady lobbying group that advocates for Republicans in elections,” said State Rep. Nick Milroy, (D-South Range), a member of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. Democrats didn't and don't have the votes to stop the grant, unless some Republicans see the light of day and join them in rejecting this political pay-off. [UPDATE: On Aug. 29, a state committee packed with Republicans voted 4-1 to award the grant to United Sportsmen. A full report on the meeting, which makes this sound even more ridiculous, can be found at http://www.jsonline.com/... ]
So, to sum up: If you are from Wisconsin and you are, say, lower income and too poor to afford private health insurance, or you're native American, or you're an environmentalist, or, heck, if you're just plain a Democrat or one of those freedom-minded citizens who occasionally like to stage a peaceful sing-along at the State Capitol, Walker and his GOP cronies are busy screwing you over any which way they can.
But if you're a fat cat one-per-center, a Republican campaign donor or a business that hates "Obamacare," you're in solid with the Walkerites. So you are, too, if you would like to ravage the state's natural resources for fun and profit, sending taxpayers the bill.
It's all so very equitable and just, don't you think? You don't?! Well, let's see how Walker and his pals will attempt to discipline you for thinking differently. You say you're not from Wisconsin? Then be forewarned, because Walker's presidential ambitions could be sending him in your direction, and all too soon.