Monday, February 9, 2009

Walker's U-Turn On Stimulus Money Continues Political Comedy

I was headed out of town a few days ago and was unable to take note of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's world-class waffle when it comes to bringing federal stimulus aid to Milwaukee County.

You will remember that when the bill was in its infancy, Walker channeled his inner Rush Limbaugh and parroted a reflexive, far-right, talk radio line:

Stimulus funding: bad.

Federal aid. Spending. Publicly-funded job creation and investments.

All bad.

Bad. Bad. Bad.

Walker even put name on an op-ed in which he opened with some kind of fumbled analogy to using a gift of $1,000 to buy an "expensive sports car."

I'm still trying to figure just what brand of car that is.

Then there was the backlash, as people realized Walker was suggesting that current levels of unemployment and failed infrastructure were tolerable - - rather inappropriate positions for the elected leader of a county with massive jobs and infrastructure needs.

And, frankly, ridiculous for a probable 2010 gubernatorial candidacy: hard enough to run statewide from Milwaukee County, but suicidal if your opponent, the sitting Governor, could ask voters if they'd choose such fiscal thoughtlessness and political cruelty as state policy?

I predicted a flip-flop. And this was not really much of a limb on which to climb out.

So Walker began to backtrack, finally ending up saying, well, he'd be OK if some fresh millions came to the transit system.

Because somehow that funding is routine.

I had said in an earlier posting that I thought Walker had really stumbled when mishandling the stimulus issue, substituting ideology for leadership, and had boxed himself into a ludicrous position.

His recent attempt to escape the perils of his first political, as opposed to substantive response, is embarrassingly transparent.

And in this case, transparency is not a friend.


Zeus said...

Ridiculous analysis, Walker never suggested that he would be fundamentally against funding an existing program.

You are trying to combine two different issues on the same subject.

James Rowen said...

To Zeus: Nice hair-splitting prose.

Anonymous said...

Zeus is not hair splitting. Walker never said he was against a stimulus package. You liberals create a straw man argument and beat it down like it's Walker's real position.

Walker stated that he opposed a stimulus package that had strings attached or continual operational costs for the tax payer. Only liberals can take a county executive who is watching out for the tax payer and demonize him like he's some buffoon.

The real buffoon is our governor who has not curbed his spending habit, thus producing a record state deficit. Lo and behold, I don't hear you liberals nailing Doyle to the stake. Hmmm . . . I wonder why?

James Rowen said...

Well, we'll let readers decide who's spinning/hair-splitting and whos's not.

Here is the full text of the initial Journal Sentinel story on the matter:

Walker says no thanks to federal stimulus dollars
By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Jan. 6, 2009

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker says thanks but no thanks to any federal economic stimulus money for county projects.

Unlike Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who sent the federal government a $599 million wish list, or Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who asked for $3.7 billion from what could be an $800 billion to $1 trillion federal shot in the arm, Walker said Tuesday the county and the country are better off without the spending.

The only federal economic stimuli Walker endorses are tax cuts, and he credited President-elect Barack Obama for recommending $300 billion in such cuts as part of a much larger stimulus plan.

Walker said federal aid for ongoing state or local operations would only put off the day of reckoning for unbalanced budgets.

Though he doesn't categorically reject the idea of federal money going for local infrastructure projects, Walker said he won't ask the federal government for anything.

"All we are asking for is 'do no harm,' " the county executive said. "I'm not asking for any new projects or things to be done here."

Milwaukee County has some huge funding dilemmas, including $300 million in backlogged repairs for parks, annual shortfalls of up to $43 million in transit and some $300 million needed to rebuild its mental health complex.

"The last thing you want to do is put money in hands of government," if the goal is to pull the economy from recession, Walker said.

Walker's stance fits with his conservative ideology and the turf he's begun to stake out for himself as a potential Republican candidate for governor in 2010, said County Board Chairman Lee Holloway. Rejecting a federal helping hand makes no sense given the severity of the recession, Holloway said.

"I support any stimulus package that puts Milwaukee County residents back to work and improves our infrastructure," he said.

At Doyle's request, the Wisconsin Counties Association has asked all counties to quickly submit lists of potential projects that might be funded by a federal stimulus plan. Walker said he won't submit one and was critical of that approach to determining what projects get funded.

Some county supervisors may forward their own lists, said County Board spokesman Harold Mester.

Walker said he'll announce his plans on the 2010 governor's race in the next month or two.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the article. I want you to read this part very closely:

"Though he doesn't categorically reject the idea of federal money going for local infrastructure projects, Walker said he won't ask the federal government for anything."

Walker didn't reject the stimulus package. End of story.

James Rowen said...

What Walker said was that he would not apply for any funding.

It was thanks, but no thanks to revenue, but yes to tax cuts.

So if some revenue falls into his lap, or supports an ongoing program, he's OK with that.

That's the hair-splitting.