Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Wisconsin VERY BAD Idea

wis idea reverseAbout 100 years ago, our ancestors, specifically UW President Charles Van Hise, proposed The Wisconsin Idea - namely, "education should influence and improve people’s lives beyond the university classroom."

In 1912, Charles McCarthy wrote a book about it, expanding the original idea into a new plan for the public good. The plan would help educate the mostly rural population to better their lives in the new industrial world and use the power of the government to help even the playing field.

The Wisconsin State Historical Society has a great website describing the battles, challenges, and victories won for the people of Wisconsin and the rest of the country during the first few decades of the last century.

Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether those ideas can long endure.

The new budget unveiled by Scott Walker tonight, marks the battle line between the old and successful Wisconsin Idea and the new Wisconsin BAD Idea (or maybe it should be called the Wisconsin Evil Scheme).

It's not about Wisconsin or ideas. It's about a few wealthy people who want to own the world. It's a plan schemed up by the Kochs, Club for Growth, Grover ("shrink government and drown it in the bathtub") Norquist and the others to dump every good thing we've grown and developed - that has grown and developed us - over the past 100 years.

Why else would the governor choose as his secretary of our Department of Health Services a Heritage Foundation advisor who has argued that "States could save $1 trillion by dropping Medicaid," or a Department of Natural Resources chair whose main goal is to "help businesses"? Idealogues on a mission, not public servants vowing to make our state better. Stepford department heads working to crank back history, not knowledgeable, experienced leaders solving real problems.

Personally, I believe Progressive era reforms - everything from child labor laws to work-time and workplace safety rules to public education (and watch out, voting women!) - have been the target all along. These reforms were part of a move not just to raise up the common people but to combat the power of corporations, monopolies and the super rich. Sound familiar?

I believe the plan is to disappear anything with the word public in it - from public schools to public utilities. Anything worth doing can be done by a private business (but using public funds to pay for it). They've done it in the military, for gosh sake, using private (crony) contractors, from Halliburton and KBR to Logistics Health, to do the work, often at higher cost, that used to be done by public employees (in this case, soldiers, sailors, airmen/women and Marines).

Privatizing everything will ensure more cash for crony campaign contributors who polish their reps by donating to worthy causes like football stadiums (when students can't afford to pay tuition).

This is crazy world, to be sure. (Firefighters are "slobs" and Walker supporters smuggled into the Capitol through steam tunnels! Yikes!!) If we can survive eleven more months, we may come out in one piece but we'll be much the worse for it.

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