Thoughts on Budget Repair from a Wisconsin resident
By Judith Liebaert on March 13, 2011
From the beginning of the budget repair fiasco in Wisconsin, my stand has been that both sides would do better to put aside their win-lose mentality and come together for a solution that serves the greatest good to the most people.
I am not jumping for joy over the precedent that the Democratic Senators set in fleeing the state, but I support them in their continued commitment to representing their constituency to the best of their ability. After all, why should they do any less than Governor Walker is doing for those who elected him? It was a desperate move on the part of the Wisconsin 14, but these are desperate times. I appreciate the fact that as a resident of Wisconsin, I had the chance to discover more of what was in that bill, than just the hot button issue of collective bargaining for select public employees.
As to Governor Walker’s actions against working families, thinly veiled as a budget repair, I wonder about several things.
If he is so convinced that this is the right move for Wisconsin (and I will concede to the possibility he could be right) then why is he completely resistant to any kind of discussion? When the union reps first suggested that they would go along with forfeiting their bargaining rights until 2013, why didn’t he come to the table, agree to the compromise and get Wisconsin “Open for business” again? If his plan is the right solution and it benefits the majority of Wisconsin residents, then wouldn’t he be a hero and shoe in for re-election by the time the issue is revisited?
If we are all in this together and we all have to tighten our belts, how does he justify the expense to Wisconsin taxpayers of flying from the capital to Superior for a news only press conference – not meeting with or speaking to any residents, union members, non union members, protestors, or supporters for that matter? Is that effective use of taxpayers’ money in a belt tightening economy? Couldn’t he have done that from the capital?
Why, when polls were showing that 60% of eligible voters in Wisconsin are not in favor of his actions these past few weeks, does he suddenly execute an end run to push the bill through without the presence of the democratic senators?
With more than 100,000 protesters in Madison Wisconsin on Saturday, March 13, where are the large number of supporters he claims. There were some there, but all news sources report that they made up only a small percentage of the crowd. For that matter, why has he failed to produce the 1,000s of emails he says he received in support of his actions when they were requested under the freedom of information act?
If there are so many public worker who want out from under the oppressive rule of the unions, where are their voices. I haven't heard them. I have only heard conservative republicans telling me that they exist.
Finally, Is striking this blow to the unionized public workers really the first and best place to start cutting the budget? When I was raising children as head of a household, when money was tight I first looked to areas of luxury for budget cuts. I didn’t say to my children, “Either cable T.V. and Internet has to go or we have to cut back on our food and heat expenditures. I’ve decided it will be food and heat, because going a little hungry and shivering through a cold Wisconsin winter will cut into those fat stores you have – you could stand to trim some of the largess and tighten your belt.”
It’s Governor Walker’s hypocrisies and his “do as I say, not as I do”, leadership that leaves me lacking in any respect for his platform. I do not identify myself as a democratic party voter. I have voted for candidates on both sides, in all levels of government. I voted for Ronald Regan and still believe he is one of the best leaders of my time. I voted for Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, supported and applauded his welfare reform efforts and success in Wisconsin because they were fair, un-biased and aimed at stopping the cycle of generational welfare recipients. I have voted both republican and democratic in local elections as well. I vote my choice for the best candidate – not the best party.
As for the majority of self identified conservative republicans I personally know, everyone of them down to the last number has said to me at one time, with a wink and smile, “Uncle Sam can’t prove cash.” Not only do the work cash jobs whenever they can and falsely report income to avoid taxes, they falsely report income to qualify for government funded social programs and housing while they decry the lazy liberals who are “feeding at the trough.”
If the Republican backed tax cuts are such a good thing for the self employed and small businesses, why do they need to falsely report their income just to make a decent income for themselves? is it because the tax cuts really truly only benefit the corporate conglomerates showing million and billion dollar profits? These uber-wealthy giants have marshalled an army of small business owners to lobby for them while giving little thought to any real benefits they are receving, and the giants laught all the way to the bank.
My father worked in both union and non-union jobs in both the public and private sector in Wisconsin. I too have experienced both sides of that fence in my own work history. I have also been owner and operator of a sole corporation which I founded and worked successfully for five years before I transferred the holdings in an accquisition merger to a larger enterprise. I have experienced both sides of this issue personally, and I can see the beneficial and detrimental aspects of each. I am in favor of compromise that will help us all find a more equal balance in Wisconsin, but not totalitarian rule.
I take responsibility to read the news from numerous sources, not just one-sided reports, and I engage in civil discourse, listening to what others have to say. Many times I find myself telling a conservative and/or Republican friend or collleague that they make a good point, one which I will consider or even concede to. A singele ONE of my republican friends has done likewise and she and I enjoy some stimulating, thought provoking exchanges. However, from the majority I hear, more times than I can count, “We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.” So who, exactly is not listening?
My husband and I have labored all of our lives (and I say labor for a reason – we didn't work desk jobs) to have what we own – a modest house, two good used vehicles and an old beater for our kids to use in emergencies, and a 28-foot travel trailer. Since my husband became 100% disabled we live on social security. I thank his 20 years of military service for the additional benefits we get from the VA because for all of you who don't know it, the social security disability - even at 100%, amounts to little more than the poverty leve. So if you've been thinking that's your security if you become permanently sick or injured, think again, and just to dispell any sterotypes of freeloading and abusing the system, my husband's condition is life-threatening. We would give ANYTHING for a cure and the chance for him to be healthy and work again.
I’m not complaining. We live modestly and have been able to stay within our means, but at At 53 years of age I am going to school full time to earn my degree so that I can try to find a job with some benefits in the event that coservative Republican platforms and sentiment cut or eliminate social security benefits and/or repeal the health care bill (that I hope will someday provide me with some kind of affordable insurance options). Wish me luck in competing in the job market against computer whiz kids half my age.
I am not eligible for Medicare and by the time I am, who knows if it will be there. Our entire financial stability and ability to live out a comfortable retirement rests on my efforts and good fortune in remaining healthy. One serious illness or injury for me will put us on the street. Yet the middle class, working families in Wisconsin are accused of feeding at the trough at the expense of taxpayers. Are we not paying our taxes as well?
In the meantime, the grossly wealthy just keep looking for more ways to cut themselves tax breaks and try to blame the deficit it on the working Americans, while they outsource the jobs they are “creating” to foreign countries in which they can pay people living in abject poverty pennies on the dollar they would spend here. I say let them live there amongst the poor and downtrodden that they exploit.
For that matter, perhaps ALL elected politicians should have to spend six months before taking office, living among the least advantaged of those citizens they represent. Living in average housing conditions and at the average wage of those constituents. Perhaps then our leaders – across the board – would have a true understanding and empathy for those they represent.
When it comes to the haves and the have nots, I wonder who spends a larger percentage of their personal wealth (not business expenditures) locally, regionally and within the U.S borders to help rebuild the economy? They jet around the world spendig their leisure dollars outside the country far more than do the working class families of the U.S. And if the travel can legitimately be claimed as business – they deduct that portion of the expense from their taxed revenues. Oh my, but it must be tough to call up a business contact and arrange to meet at some tropical resort to collaborate on a business project in a pool side room. I’m not saying they aren’t really conducting business, or working 8 or more hours every day they are there, but they have the ability to do so in a tropical paradise, or a European resort or some other luxury location and the taxpayers’ dollar is subsidizing it. Sitting here in my frigid office (trying to reduce my heating bill) during a cold Wisconsin winter, I’m thinking I’d like some of that action. But then, I doubt that any amount of dipping in the ocean or pool after the hard day’s work could wash off the dirty feeling I’d have for using taxpayer money for my luxury.
Who do you think is using the lions share of our oil resources to fuel their private jet engines, their yachts that are three times the size of the house I live in, their quarter of million dollar tour busses that get a whopping 4 miles to the gallon? Who is affected and takes hits to their household budget and has to cut back on unnecessary travel when the price of gas goes up? It sure isn’t the millionaires and billionaires among us. And the middle class working families are the ones getting more than their fair share?
I knowthe wolf at the door, I see him there every day, waiting for his chance to pounce when I become weak or sick. And that’s the American nightmare I get to live after working hard all of my life – because I don’t have a millionaire waiting in the wings to pay my bills after they’ve taken away all the benefits to working families
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