As reported by the Oshkosh Northwestern, the political news this week in Wisconsin has been bad. First, instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, the Republican-controlled legislature has been concentrating on such critical issues as the rules of deer-hunting. Secondly, despite Governor Walker’s promise that cutting public employees’ salaries, taking away their collective bargaining rights, slashing public education, and providing tax giveaways to corporations would be good for jobs, the Wisconsin unemployment rate has increased from 7.4 to 7.9% since Walker was inaugurated. Thirdly, it seems that the latest round of budget cuts to the UW system were insufficient given upcoming budget shortfalls; the associated press reports that UW campuses will have to cut $46.1 million more this year and $19.6 million next year.
UPDATE: The four-year campuses are clearly being targeted; 2-year technical colleges are being excluded from the cuts. This, of course, is quite consistent with the anti-intellectual bent of conservative Republicans these days. According to a story in the Northwestern today (10/20)-
…UWO Chancellor Richard Wells said he was “bewildered” by the amount asked of universities. State agencies were asked to plan for a combined $174.3 million in cuts. The UW System was asked to plan on absorbing 38 percent of that number, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Administration. The UW System’s budget takes up 7 percent of the state’s general purpose revenue.
“It’s confusing. It’s disappointing. It causes dismay. We didn’t expect anything like this,” Wells said Wednesday. “It’s clear we’re the lowest priority in the state, which doesn’t make sense given we’re fundamental to economic development and recovery.”
Of course, the four year universities are fundamental to economic development and recovery only if you are hoping to attract professional, high-paying jobs to the area. But Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is admitting that their plan (which is basically to lower taxes for corporations and pray they will come to a state with an ever-diminishing public sector and a deteriorating infrastructure) is not so specific-
“What we’re trying to do is create a more positive business environment,” said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon. “No single piece of legislation is going to go out and create thousands of jobs.”
Fitzgerald, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said Wisconsin’s economic recovery has been slowed by the nation’s economic woes.
“We as elected officials, we can’t create the jobs,” he said. “The government can’t. That falls to the private sector.”
To borrow a Sarah Palin-ism, “How’s that attempt to create a more positive business environment workin’ out for ya?” [wink, smirk]
Of course, Republicans will likely blame President Obama for the failure of their own policies. But the Republican-controlled Congress has blocked nearly every policy initiative Obama has suggested, so that excuse won’t cut it.
Politics at both the state and federal levels have become absolute nightmares. Let’s hope we all wake up soon.