As I sit here petting Bill the bird dog I pine for those long lost days when we joyously celebrated the Packer Super Bowl victory together. Contemplating the state we’re in (pun intended) I attempt to sort a solution to the emotional, fragile political tangle that pits family against family, turns friend into foe and the average workplace into a divisive powder keg. A passionate man of peace, I long to find a reasonable end to this impasse before the spiral quickens with violence emerging from the void. Perhaps we can pull this apart, reassemble and move forward.
Bargaining rights need to be reinstated effective immediately. In this there can be no compromise as Collective Bargaining Rights are an internationally recognized right of labor. Private or public this right exists, same as women have a right to vote, same sex folks have the right to a union and all have a right to ride at the front of the bus. To give this up is not even an option. We all need to sit down across from each other and hold the other side accountable to actions that will be mutually beneficial. That is how Collective Bargaining works.
Wisconsin Public utilities, if up for sale, would be so to the highest bidder contingent upon well established and binding regulations. I do not doubt that a for-profit organization could implement a more efficient means of running these plants, but to simply hand them over is not sound practice. We would need severe restrictions on profiteering, monopolizing and reinvesting in the infrastructure. If a corporation is going to take this over it will be because their intent is more than sucking the profit out and abandoning it, leaving the residents to pick up the tab of rebuilding. We do not expect altruism, but we do expect accountability.
Next, we need to consider where Wisconsin has as an advantage for goods and services. We can make no mistake that Wisconsin is in a competitive race with other states as well as countries around the world. Where Wisconsin currently holds an advantage we need to recognize the need to continue to reinvest resources so as not to lose that advantage. Wisconsin has a population with strong work ethics (labor), family farms (agriculture), progressive thinkers (education) and outdoor activities (environmental stewardship). We all recognize the need to restructure our Balance Sheet, but if we cut into these products and services we lose our identity and ultimately our ability to compete for precious jobs. New employers and the laborers that make them successful are drawn and kept here because of the lure and reward of good workers, good food, good learning opportunities for children and adults and good land to live and play on. We have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Without these living conditions we slip backwards on our progressive timeline. The current protestations are testament to a regression being unacceptable.
The Wisconsin State Budget needs adjustments. This is undeniable. The methods are many and varied and no side of the political center can claim the high road in the blame game. This mess is decades in the making with both Right and Left heaping on their own brand of irresponsible mismanagement. In Wisconsin we pride ourselves on Forward thinking and Progressive ideas. Now is the time to move forward politically with an evolution in thought: No Right, No Left, Just Us Working on a Solution. We need a coalition of concerned citizenry tempering the rhetoric and posturing in our State House. The Capitol, after all, is ours, not theirs. We have the ability to propose many solutions and guide their actions.
Items for consideration NEED to be an increase in sales tax on non-essential items and convenience goods (exempt would be fresh produce, dairy, meats and grains as well as toiletries and basic living goods that should not carry the burden of our folly). We are in a recession and revenue is down. Collections need to come in from new sources. Internet sales need to be accounted for in the 21st Century. We also need to consider the benefits from decriminalizing victimless “moral” crimes such as drug possession and prostitution. The laws are unenforceable, leading to higher expense and we could benefit from extreme taxes and regulations. Our near 100 year experiment on Prohibition of these “crimes” is an obvious failure and it is time to recognize this, confront our reality and move forward. The benefits are obvious and fruitful.
Expenses need to be reeled in as well. Changing our victimless crime laws would drastically free up law enforcement expenditures, incarceration expense and keep gainfully employed people that are struck down by these archaic laws on the payroll instead of in prison on the taxpayer dime. We need to curtail road building in recognition that we have enough blacktop for a few years. We built up the infrastructure, now we will struggle to maintain it. Mass rail transportation has more to offer as a return for moving people and we need to take some time to study and plan our next round of growth in this segment.
Our health care system in this state has been academically applauded and we need to continue to refine it, not gut it and leave it in the hands of politicians. Finding ways for greater user payment methods is far more palpable than leaving over a million of our fellow citizens without coverage. Social outreach should be an important part of our future, but so to should the responsibility of health be on the individual. If you choose to degrade your health through poor lifestyle choices you cannot look to others to help you. These costs are simply too staggering at present. Collectively we need to assist, individually we need to be responsible.
So now Bill the Bird Dog yawns and pads off to lie down, bored with me and my problems. My concern is that we become bored and look away from this moment. Now is too important to let pass. Take heart, draw courage and speak your mind. Write your representative. Send in an editorial. Call in to a radio show. Talk to a friend. Persuade a family member. Engage. Debate. Respect. Unite. Our State waits for us to lead it Forward.
April 19, 2011