Cities behaving badly

As if we hadn’t already known it, some of the reaction to the choice of Paul Ryan as Republican vice-presidential nominee confirms that much of the political class simply dreads anyone getting serious about actions to avert national bankruptcy.

The fear of corrective action tells us, among other things, that the danger is greater than we know. Almost every day brings new evidence that the monumental irresponsibility is not limited to a remote and disconnected federal government.

States have assumed public employee pension obligations they can’t sustain, expanded Medicaid benefits beyond their lawful obligations (one-fourth the population of New York is on Medicaid,) cooked the books to hide the extent of their indebtedness and now—The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month—California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York have even securitized future tax revenues; that is, they’ve sold anticipated future tax collections to investors in exchange for cash today.

With fewer available methods for dodging the consequences of their actions, cities are filing bankruptcy.

Close to home, the Village of Menomonee Falls has put taxpayers on the hook in a disastrous hotel venture, and continues pouring good money after bad.

Unfazed by the Menomonee Falls experience, Oak Creek couldn’t resist getting into the same dangerous game.

These things happen when government seeks to enhance government, as opposed to understanding and meeting its real responsibilities. Sometimes we say government should operate like a business, but that’s a mistake. A sound business doing something that doesn’t work will stop doing it. Government thinks whatever it does must go on forever.

We’ve spent half a century demolishing the founders’ narrow limits on what government is permitted to do. The reasons for those forgotten limits are now painfully obvious.


Green but not clean

Did we just say something about government assuming everything it does must go on forever? Last week Fox News served up an example of how that works in the critically important field of energy development.

Specifically, Fox highlighted the experiences of a highly-trained engineer who landed one of the legendary “green jobs” that are supposed to remake the entire U.S. economy and give us the best quality of life and most worry-free existence ever experienced on this Earth.

We’re accustomed to government-funded professionals who go to any length to defend their industry and justify their existence, so it’s surprising to hear such honesty from someone who lived the green dream:

Mitt Romney has recently taken fire not only from the Obama campaign but even from some left-leaning Republicans, for his rightful criticism of Obama’s destructive “green jobs” programs. Not only is Mr. Romney right to criticize these programs — and his position supported by many economic studies — but in fact the situation is even worse than anything suggested by these criticisms. Green jobs are destroying the abilities and spirits of a whole generation of engineers. I should know. I was one of those engineers.

We tend to harp on this subject because—at least until very recently—Americans have pretty much taken readily available, affordable energy for granted.

Until the past couple of years, it didn’t occur to most Americans that they might be governed by people who would actively seek to force us to use the least dependable, most expensive sources of energy and rule out the ones that actually work. But that’s precisely what’s happening now nationwide, just as it happened in Wisconsin under the Doyle administration.

It starts to make sense when you realize that in 21st century America, controlling peoples’ energy use is about the same thing as controlling everything they do. Throw in control of health care and you’ve pretty much got it all locked up. The Doyle administration was enthusiastic about that, too.

So-called green energy is environmentally destructive because of its obscene land-use requirements and economically destructive because it forces energy providers and consumers to spend more while obtaining less.

It can make you rich if you’re politically connected. It will make you poorer if you’re connected to the grid.

Headline hunters at work

Wisconsin voters have more immediate concerns, but it’s prudent to keep watch on a proposal that might gain traction with promoters of “reforms” that invariably make things worse.

We have in mind the recurring dream floated by State Senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen, in which peace and harmony are achieved by creating an independent commission to draw legislative district lines.

Schultz (R) and Cullen (D) have formed a two-man Mr. Rogers Caucus conducting occasional road shows advocating the kind of ideas newspaper editorial boards find irresistible. Most irresistible are ideas that remove choices from the hands of voters and the people voters elect to represent them.

Last week, Schultz and Cullen rolled out a squishily-reasoned op-ed bewailing a redistricting system in which elections are insufficiently competitive and “neighbors living across the street from one another will be represented by different senators and representatives.”

News flash, senators! If there are going to be district lines, there are going to be neighbors living on either side of them.

As for competitive versus “safe” districts, Schultz and Cullen themselves note a 70 percent turnover of Wisconsin legislative seats during the past decade.

Since 1980, a nonpartisan legislative service agency has conducted Iowa redistricting under rules that don’t allow division of towns or counties and prohibit consideration of a municipality’s partisan voting tendencies.

How’s that worked out in terms of competitive elections?

Iowa has five members of the House of Representatives. One has been in office for ten years, one for 15, one for 17. The two least-senior, having replaced members who served for 30 and 16 years, respectively, are likely to win their own fourth terms this fall.

That’s far from an obvious improvement over leaving the job to the voters’ elected representatives.

The Purge

Take a break from wondering what the media will concoct next to make Paul Ryan look dangerous, and reflect on what we learned last Tuesday. After all, the Republicans weren’t the only ones who had a primary.

What we learned is that those Democrats who were sufficiently interested to vote have learned nothing from their humiliation in the endless stream of elections during the past 22 months.   Given choices between more or less conventional Liberals and candidates of the scorched-earth Left, Democratic primary voters went hard left every time.

They unhesitatingly cast their lot with the sort of people who have reduced their prospects of winning.

That probably won’t matter in some of the affected state legislative districts that have been reliably in the “D” column for generations. But everything has its breaking point and Democrats continue testing it, in a curiously self-destructive way.

Because what Democrats are really testing is the extent to which they can enforce absolute conformity of personal belief and expect their supporters to stick around.

State Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) is the perfect case study. Fields was a faithful soldier for the Democratic side, voting over and over to block the Walker reforms.  Just one problem: Fields supports school choice. The Leftists eliminated him. Fields is just one of several 99 percent ideologically pure legislative Democrats who felt the wrath of the Left last Tuesday.

The Party of Hate

Democrats long ago appropriated the virtue of “tolerance” as their exclusive possession.  Like a lot of mistakes, it seemed to work for quite a while. Trouble is, the rancid hypocrisy of Democratic self-congratulation grows more painfully obvious with every breach of tolerance they commit.  And there are plenty.

As evidenced by last week’s primary, Democrats are increasingly unlikely to be found practicing tolerance even among themselves. So it’s intolerable but in no way surprising when the Left’s hatred for any person or idea boils over into physical assault.

Last week, it took the form of Left-wing protesters throwing punches and evidently shoving octogenarian military veterans, all for their unspeakable offense of wanting to listen to a speech by Paul Ryan.

Two days later near Appleton, another leftist protester, this one an octogenarian herself, spat in the face of a woman who admonished her against interrupting the speakers at a private rally of Romney supporters.

There is something deeper, uglier, and far more frightful than mere ideology at work when the supporters of any political party are so enraged by competing ideas that they turn to violence against others, especially against elderly people.

At best, it reveals a monumental self-centeredness. At worst, it betrays a readiness to descend into barbarism for the imaginary reward of suppressing other people’s beliefs.

We have seen enough to have low expectations that a party so driven by hate will clean up its act during or after the November elections, in which there is more at stake than even the entire U.S. economy: Add simple human decency to the list.

Who doesn’t want Voter ID?

We wish Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen well in his Tuesday petition of the state Supreme Court to take up Wisconsin’s stalled Voter ID law.  The Justices have been reluctant to pronounce on the law’s validity, but the people have no such hesitation.

This month a Washington Post poll found overwhelming support for strong voter ID laws. Of all adults responding to the Post survey, 74 percent said voters should be required to present a government-issued photo ID.  Just 23 percent said they should not.

In other words, never mind the phony assertions of Dane County judges or the Government Accountability Board or the Orwellian U.S. Department of Justice. Voter ID is not just a Republican obsession.

True, the Post found 80 percent support among Republican respondents, and the number drops among Independents: all the way to 76 percent. Democrats? Sixty percent.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner went inside the Post’s numbers. He reported that they show massive support for photo ID across all races, ethnicities, ages, and income groups.

Only one identified group expressed majority opposition, and that was by a small margin. Forty-eight percent of self-identified Liberal Democrats want photo ID.

Some time ago, we wrote about Liberal politics having so corrupted the institutions of civil society that they could no longer be trusted as custodians of citizens’ rights. Prominent among those rights is the right to have one’s vote in a lawful election secured against cancellation by fraud. Liberal judges and the worse-than-worthless Government Accountability Board (GAB) invite contempt by their careless indifference to that right.

Now the state Supreme Court has one more chance to shut down the brazen political manipulation by two Dane County judges who have blocked photo ID.

Let’s hope Van Hollen wins this time.

The fist, again

What to do when people of modest means and training find employment with a growing, private company providing more than 450 jobs in a town with some of Wisconsin’s worst unemployment numbers?

If you’re the AFL-CIO, you do your best to destroy the company. What else is new?

Last Thursday, the big union bosses endorsed a nationwide boycott of Palermo’s Pizza products. A minority of workers—between one-fourth and one-sixth of the company’s Milwaukee work force—have been striking since June, and in a Thursday press release, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said “The twelve million union families of the AFL-CIO are proud to stand with these Wisconsin workers who have bravely joined together for a voice on the job.”

Well, not exactly.  If Trumka’s 12 million union families really were standing with Palermo’s workers, they’d be buying more of their product instead of playing along with the efforts of a minority to wreck the company and destroy hundreds of badly-needed jobs.

The dispute appears rooted in questions about immigration status and Department of Homeland Security inquiries, and Palermo’s trying to meet its legal obligations, much to the dismay of pro-illegal immigration group Voces de la Frontera.

Palermo’s seems to have infuriated Voces and union organizers by insisting that its employees have a chance to vote on union representation rather than cave in to demands that the union be recognized without an election.  Voting had been scheduled for July 6, but that’s postponed because the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has muscled in, trying to commandeer the local organizing effort.

For rank-and-file Palermo’s employees, we suppose it’s nice to be wanted. Right up to the moment the unions fighting over them end up eliminating their jobs.