Madness in Madison – Is the Budget Repair Bill Cronyism?

By YeOldeScribe ~ February 28th, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

Cro·ny·ism

[kroh-nee-iz-uhm]

–noun

the practice of favoring one’s close friends, especially in politics and political appointments.

(Random House Dictionary)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has received a lot of criticism for his Budget Repair Bill – and that’s putting it lightly. Protesters have camped out and flooded the state capitol for weeks, and many stayed over the weekend even when threatened with arrest. Some Democrats and Labor movements have even made a comparison between the Republican Governor and former leader of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. PoliticalProgressives.com will take a look at both of these issues in future posts, but suffice it to say, the situation is far from resolved.

Critics of Walker’s bill have also contended that the legislation essentially amounts to old-school cronyism. Today, PoloticalProgressives.com takes a look at this singular aspect of the budget repair bill – what (if any) aspects of the bill show elements of cronyism, and is the bill (as a whole) cronyism?

As always, we urge you to take a first-hand look at the legislation and find out exactly what it means on your own. We’ll be covering the basic elements of the bill, but it’s important to have an informed populous – and remember, previous progressives fought hard just so documents such as these could be viewed in the public forum!

The first issue PolticialProgressives.com has with this legislation is that it’s targeted on two levels: it punishes dissidents (those who voted against Walker for governor) and it rewards those who did support him. The budget repair bill affects all public union employees – except police, firefighters, and state troopers. Suspiciously, those three groups all gave support in some way, shape or form to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. Equally as suspicious, those left affected by the measure – most notably teachers (WEAC) and state, county and local government workers (AFSCME) – opposed Walker’s run for the governor’s seat, and instead supported Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker’s response to the obvious question of why some unions were targeted for punishment and not others was that the government needs to be able to function in an emergency. However, that’s a cop-out, and not even a good one. Corrections Officers (prison guards) also lose their benefits and collective bargaining rights under Walker’s bill. It’s audacious enough for Walker to claim that teachers and state workers aren’t important to Wisconsin in times of emergencies, but it’s downright ludicrous for him to argue that prison guards wouldn’t be important in the event of an emergency. PoliticalProgressives.com also doesn’t understand how increased benefits and collective bargaining have anything to do with how our police officers and firefighters would function in cases of emergencies. Are police going to say “We’ll stop this riot if we get a raise,” or will firefighters refuse to extinguish burning buildings if their benefits are cut? Walker’s argument simply doesn’t make sense. Looking at this aspect of the Budget Repair Bill, Walker is spanking those who opposed him and rewarding those who didn’t – cronyism at its best.

But the best argument for why Walker’s bill is a cronyism tactic actually comes when you read the fine print. It’s well and good that the bill has received national attention for its “union-busting” measures, but that’s not all it does. Three other aspects of the bill should be setting off alarm bells across Wisconsin so loud citizens of Texas should still be awake at night. First, the bill gives significantly more power to the Department of Health & Human Services to make sweeping changes to BadgerCare and other social services for the poor. And by significantly more power, we mean it gives the heavily-conservative DHHS head the power to “Override state Medicaid laws as [he] sees fit and institute sweeping changes including reducing benefits and limiting eligibility,” according to our friends at ThinkProgress.com. Second, the bill allows for the public sale of state heating plants. Again, this sounds innocent enough, but Walker’s motivations clearly aren’t. You may have heard of the Koch brothers (or someone pretending to be a Koch brother) recently. The Koch’s donated over $40,000 to Walker’s campaign – the 2nd highest donation. And wouldn’t you know it, the Koch’s have significant coal interests in Wisconsin, and would be in prime position to buy the newly-for-sale plants. But as EcoPolitology.org points out, the bigger issue actually lies in the environmental deregulation of the plants when they would hit the private sector, not the sale of the plants themselves. But the most egregious  example of cronyism in Walker’s Budget Repair Bill is that it would turn civil service positions such as the chief legal counsel, public information officer and legislative liaison into appointed positions – appointed by Walker, of course. The kicker? This piece of the bill allows Walker to remove civil servants left over from former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure, replacing them with Walker’s hand-picked men. This section of the bill is the very definition of cronyism and is something no true Wisconsinite should ever support or abide.

So is the bill an example of cronyism? The only possible conclusion to come to is that it is, through and through. At this point, we believe the “Budget Repair Bill” is so much a misnomer that it should really just be re-named the “My Way or the Highway” bill. The more you look at it, the less the bill has to do about balancing a budget and the more it’s about settling scores. Governor Walker is bringing Wisconsin back to the days of political bosses and governmental corruption that ran rampant in the early 1900’s, and it’s a shame more people aren’t calling him out on it.

 

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