Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Super Scott

Democrats continue to underestimate Walker, even as he radically transforms the state.

By - Feb 28th, 2013 12:53 pm
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Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

I still encounter Democrats who take it as an article of faith that Scott Walker is not that bright. Perhaps they think this because he didn’t finish college, or because, after all, he’s not a liberal. But Walker has always been on top of the issues when I’ve interviewed him, and look at how effective he was in the debates against Republican Mark Neumann or Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker is smart, far more articulate than Tommy Thompson was, and has a steely, stay-on-message discipline that makes him all the more formidable.

Then there’s the argument that Walker’s an empty suit, just a tool of evil conservatives like the Koch Brothers. But go back and listen to that recording of Walker talking to the blogger impersonating David Koch: Walker came off as an almost starry-eyed fan of Ronald Reagan who saw his chance to slay the unions as Reagan defeated the air traffic controllers. Walker may have been influenced by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, but he truly believes in his right-wing agenda, and has been consistent in his philosophy since he was first elected to the legislature in 1993.

Indeed, Walker has been true to his core beliefs in most policies he’s pursued. He’s always been anti-union and all but destroyed most public unions in the state. He is pro-voucher and has greatly expanded school choice. He promised to cut spending and reduce the state’s structural deficit, and in his first two years reduced it from $3 billion to an estimated $2 million. Yet he has greatly increased state spending for highways and expressways. In both his first and his second (proposed) biennial budget, he has grabbed money from the general fund and cut funding for bus and bike transit to gain more money for highways.

Has any governor in Wisconsin had a more far-reaching agenda? Walker killed a plan to use federal money for high speed rail and more recently rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid funding for needy Wisconsinites. He has made the state Department of Natural Resources more sympathetic to business and less concerned about the environment, and has pushed relentlessly for a law to ease environmental restrictions on iron mining. He has reduced the state’s commitment to alternative energy, wind and solar, and increased its reliance on fossil fuels.

Is he softening his approach with his new biennnial budget? That’s what Politico claimed, in a recent story lumping Walker in with activist GOP governors like Rick Scott of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio, suggesting they are all moving more to the center in preparation for reelection campaigns. Sorry, Politico, I think you missed the boat on Walker.

Kasich and Scott both agreed to work with the federal government and Obamacare in expanding Medicaid, but not Walker. Politico mentions Walker’s offer to have beer and brats with Democratic legislators, but that gesture hasn’t led to any bipartisan compromises. Many Democrats will probably hold their nose and vote for Walker’s new tax cut plan, even though 20 percent of the cuts go to the wealthiest taxpayers, those earning more than $162,000 while just 6 percent of the tax reduction will go to those earning $38,000 or less. But don’t expect to see any bipartisan adjustment of the tax breaks.

After his last biennial budget, that slashed funding for school districts and municipalities, both groups were hoping Walker’s second budget would make up some of the difference. Nope. Meanwhile he wants to expand school vouchers to nine more cities and end the residency requirement for cities. The main impact of the latter will be on Milwaukee, which could see an exodus of thousands of middle-class residents that drives down home values.

Yes, Walker has proposed more funding for state universities, but as part of a plan that pushes them to deemphasize liberal education in favor of more practical-oriented courses that connect students to jobs in the current market place.

No, there is not much sign of Walker moderating his views. And why should he? He’s won election twice in two years, and unlikely to face a strong Democratic opponent in 2014. Will it be Peter Barca? Chris Larson? Sorry, that looks like an easy victory for Walker, even if he doesn’t create the 250,000 jobs he promised voters in 2010. And his reelection will set up Walker’s run for president in 2016.

Political analyst Nate Silver has analyzed the potential candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016 and ranks Scott Walker as far more conservative than Chris Christie or Jeb Bush and slightly more more right-wing than Marco Rubio or even Paul Ryan. Walker could enter the primary to the right of every mainstream party candidate and yet his signature issue, cutting wages and benefits for public workers, has great appeal for many moderates, as he’s proven in Wisconsin and Christie has demonstrated in New Jersey.

Earth to the Democratic Party: Scott Walker is for real.

Short Takes

-State Sen Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) has repeatedly told the press that other cities have eliminated residency requirements without experiencing a mass exodus of city workers. She has never offered any names of these cities, so I emailed asking her for her back-up data. I’ve received no response. As I’ve reported previously, Minneapolis repealed the requirement in 1999 and 70 percent of its  employees now live outside the city. Detroit did so in 1999 and 45 percent now live outside the city. Baltimore repealed in 1995 and 65 percent now live outside the city. Huge numbers of government employees also left St. Louis and Washington D.C. after residency rules were relaxed.

-Writer Marie Rohde, who served for many years as religion reporter for the Milwaukee Journal, did a story for the National Catholic Reporter that raises troubling questions about the 574 sexual assault claims against the Milwaukee Archdiocese and how it is handling them.

26 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Super Scott”

  1. Bill says:

    Is there a more feckless political party in America than the WI Dems? How embarrassing. As someone who regularily votes Dem over GOP I won’t give a cent to the party until they clear the leadership house. Mike Tate? I don’t think so-

  2. Garrick Jannene says:

    The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is also awful at what they do. They did manage to take hundreds of thousands of people coming from around the state to hold the largest protests in state history and turn it into a lame, pyrrhic victory of retaking the state senate for a couple of months, after all.

    They have been consistently been beaten on message. They allowed the RGA to define who Barrett was in the very early stages of the 2010 election and they allowed every right wing group in the country to tell the people of this state when recalls should and shouldn’t be used in 2011. You would think they would learn, but nope, it’s the same people making the same mistakes over and over again.

    I would half disagree with your assessment of Walker’s intelligence. He’s extremely dumb when it comes to public policy and administration. Look at the people from his county administration that are getting ready to go to prison, or the WEDC that has misplaced millions of dollars, or countless other thing (like not realizing that Act 10 as it was initially presented would lead to the closure of many small bus systems across the state. Seriously? Do your homework.) He is, however, an excellent campaigner, and that’s why he can continue to mismanage entire governments into the ground and yet somehow still be electable.

    Basically the Democrat’s only chance for 2014 is to hope and pray that Feingold runs. Nobody else even comes close in Walker’s ability to campaign.

  3. Nadyne Buck says:

    Why is Scott Walker’s intelligence the question? I think a better question would be, how has any democratic candidate in the last 30 years contributed to a balanced budget, reduced defict, added to sustaining job growth and reduced dependancy on the government for ANYTHING! He does not want the funding for Medicaid because the federal government has not proven it’s ability to pay! Makes sense unless of course you believe in deficet spending! I live in Milwaukee and have roots in the city with firefighters and police in my family dating back to 1913. My father would have given his right arm to live out of this crime ridden, overtaxed and badly educated environment! And so would I! We cannot keep paying taxes for a social culture problem! We cannot regulate underage pregnancy and poor work ethic. When will the democaratic party understand that!

  4. bruf says:

    I agree, alas, with Bill and Garrick. The Dems have been ineffective in their efforts to counter Walker and his legislative wrecking crew. If Feingold doesn’t run, the citizens of Badgerland are reduced to hoping for one of two miracles: an indictment under the John Doe or a court decision throwing out the 2011 redistricting. Still, maybe we don’t
    deserve any better. Walker actively killed tens of thousands of jobs in high speed rail construction and has emulated the Texas strategy of turning down Medicaid supplements available under the Affordable Care Act. Where are our courageous mainstream print and electronic media? Winter storms and loose-lipped sheriffs.

  5. Gee says:

    Thanks for this insightful column. I get it, now: Walker is not dumb or a dupe.

    Then, the conclusion can only be that he is evil in his carefully considered decision to wreak destruction upon the Wisconsin that I knew: the state, its people, its precious natural resources.

    And then, he is using others, instead of them using him.

    In return, then, I have to not give up. I get it. I have to get him — out.

  6. Chris Byhre says:

    bruf, “tens of thousands of jobs” were killed when Walker wisely shelved the half fast train?! Really? It almost sounds like the set up to a joke….How many Union workers does it take to build 90 miles of track? The punchline and the joke would have been on the taxpayers of this state. In another few years it will be hundreds of thousands by your logic. One thing you fail to realize is that the train, and the Medicaid supplements were not fully funded. What that means is that State of WI taxpayers would be on the hook for the operating costs of the train, which would run major deficits, and for the Medicaid supplements when that funding ran out. The MSM is too busy regurgitating Obama’s doom and gloom scenarios regarding the Sequester.

  7. bruf says:

    Chris, I would hate to see Republicans branded as indifferent to unemployment and to inadequate medical care for the needy. Does the phrase “mean spirited” have no meaning to you?

  8. T says:

    Per Gee above, if Walker’s not dumb or a dupe, he’s evil. This is the political discourse of the left, the vanguard of tolerance. Maybe he just sees a different way to run the government? Maybe that different way actually works, where the alternative (cf. Illinois) is a proven train wreck? No, if he’s not liberal (i.e., free with other people’s money), he’s a dummy, a dupe, or a devil. Please think, don’t just opine!

  9. Milw Dave says:

    Maybe the article should retitled Liberal Dems are not too bright?

  10. tim haering says:

    “radically transforms the state”? That’s what they said about Tommy Thompson at the time. Now they barely even call him conservative. Walker’s WEDC tells you what kind of conservative he is, and it’s not a “radical” one.

  11. Chris Byhre says:

    bruf, the day you care about how Republicans are perceived is the day you understand that we do not have enough money to pay for every last program you desire. Your hyperbole in your original post shows you either have no grasp of the facts or no interest in them. Who is mean spirited? Anyone who does not give you everything you wish for? Tell me you understand the difficult fiscal situation we are in right now and maybe we can have a discussion about how to fix it. I think creating a society of people dependent upon the government is mean spirited and immoral.

  12. Big Al says:

    Agreed – Scott Walker isn’t dumb. He’s the exact same as most politicians these days – never compromise on anything. And why should he when he has Legislature and Supreme Court majorities that agree with him? He’s definitely no Ronald Reagan though – Reagan was able to get legislation through Democratic majorities in Congress where Walker did little to nothing when he was County Executive. How many of his vetos were overridden?

    It was unfortunate that Barrett was the Democratic candidate for both elections because then Walker could just blame all of Milwaukee’s problems on city government. I wish the Democratic Party would have nominated someone from outside of Milwaukee – then maybe Walker could have been forced to defend his County Executive record without being able to blame the Democratic challenger.

  13. Steve says:

    Chris Byhre, our roads are not fully funded by gas/registration fees either, yet Walker has no problem expanding funding for roadwork at the expense of us tax payers. Why is it ok to run the road system in a deficit but not mass transit? The road system is running “major deficits” as well, yet we continue to divert more funding to it. Seems very hypocritical to call out mass transit but then not call out increased spending on the highways for the same reason.

  14. Chris Byhre says:

    Scott, I did not call out mass transit in my response. I simply stated that we do not have the money to pay for every single program people like bruf desire. Tell me where the hypocrisy is in my comment. Focus less on labeling people incorrectly and more on content. We already have roads and those roads need to be kept up and improved. The train was not going to put tens of thousands of people to work and it was not going to transport a lot of people. When you factor in that we can not afford it and that it was not faster or more convenient then taking your car and you can see why it was not a good idea. One thing that a lot of the train and light rail people fail to realize is that our roads are not only used by people in cars. Roads are used to deliver all of the essential goods that we use in our society. Spend a week not using any roads or anything delivered by road and see how that works for you.

  15. Kari Dixon says:

    You are correct about Politico’s misrepresentation of the warmer, kinder Scott Walker-they totally missed the mark. However, your fawning analysis of his extreme right-wing agenda with no consideration of the human cost of his grand ambitions relegates the article to a Walker campaign ad. I would like to say Scott Walker wrote it himself and you signed your name, but I know he’s neither that smart or that eloquent. The Ronald Reagan you describe Walker being “almost starry-eyed” about is now, alas, too liberal for the Walker wing of the Republican Party. Earth to You Dude- Adolf Hitler was also ambitious, expansive, steely disciplined, true to his core beliefs with a far reaching agenda and (seemingly) the will of the people behind him. His (main) problem, however was one that is eternal-for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tyrants generally get what they deserve, after some carnage, and I suspect this will be the eventual fate to befall your”Real Walker.”

  16. John Doe says:

    It appears UM has become a upscale version of the Shepard express, such a shame to be so partisan. I wish UM and Bruce could be more down the middle and still report city news, events and developments. As a conservative who lives downtown and loves this city, I cannot pick up a paper or read a single website telling me how awful my views and republicans are and how evil rich people are or different. Liberals are not the only ones who live in the city and enjoy city life. I like Milwaukee Magazine Bruce before all the condensing and snarky comments, we all knew Bruce’s true blue color but as the days go on Bruce is sounding more and more like Mike Tate or GZ. Just once could we get a normal report or article on something without the liberal spin all the time. It’s get old.

  17. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Well , the ten poorest cities in US is in again and Milwaukee stands at 8. Notice no one seems to know how to change that, least of All Tom Barrett. Walker is making some changes. All of the ten poorest cities have been run by the Left for the last 60 years.

  18. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Forbes just named Milwaukee as the 14th most miserable city to live in cause of high taxes and brutal winters. We can’t do much about the winters despite the fact that the Left claims that we will be like Florida in a few years. We have to ask our selves why this has happened as when I moved here in 1964 Milwaukee was held in very high regard. Who has been running the city, the schools, the police, MMSD and so on since 1964?
    List me the accomplishments of the Left and Tom Barrett specifically the last ten years????
    Now the y are spending all their time blaming semiauto guns, weapons that over a million of our citizens have uses, including a million veterans with out problems. They can’t solve problems so they blame someone else.

  19. Ryan says:

    I agree and disagree with the article, I would say that Mr. Walker is certainly clever and he certainly applies himself. However, he’s remarkably dishonest for even a politician and his judgment is generally awful. For instance his administration trumpets their balanced budget at every turn. Yet he only balanced the budget through mathematic manipulation. The 3.2 billion dollar deficit was identified using GAAP, yet did he use GAAP to analyze his own budget? Nope, he used the highly favorable cash accounting, one that simply ignores future obligations.His truth in sentancing mess has given us one of the most expensive penal systems in the Country, one dollar in fifteen now goes to the state prison system. Then of course we have the highspeed rail debacle, and his botched handling of that. Walker’s political success has more to do with the incompetence of the WI Democratic party than his own ability.

  20. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Thank God for Walker and Tommy who took thousands of criminals off the streets, unlike Chicago, who lets them all go. Only 6% of the perps that used guns ever go to jail. If Milwaukee did not have such weak judges, Thank God for Sheriff Clarke, we would not have so many problems there.
    As for accounting, the mess left by Doyle and the Leftists controlled the state for 8 years, saw education go into the outhouse and the debt skyrocket. Walker is working out of it. Can you imagine the whining of Ryan ,and others, if he had made bigger cuts last time?
    Finally thank God we did not get into that multibillion dollar mess of a halfast train. Look at California and their mess. Costs have ballooned tenfold, there isn’t any money for it. Their pension system is so badly underfunded they have no way out. Look at Illinois and the leftist gang down there, heroes of guys like Ryan, they are worst in the country. Move down there leftists, we will not miss you.

  21. Ryan says:

    “Thank God for Walker and Tommy who took thousands of criminals off the streets, unlike Chicago, who lets them all go. Only 6% of the perps that used guns ever go to jail. If Milwaukee did not have such weak judges, Thank God for Sheriff Clarke, we would not have so many problems there.”

    Took thousands of criminals off the streets? You realize that the primary result of Truth and Sentencing has been to greatly increase the number of non-violent offenders in our penal system? The real result inmates who would otherwise be released wind up serving an extra several at a tremendous cost to the taxt payers. 6%, of perps that used guns… lol.

    As for Sheriff Clarke the singing cowboy, his department doesn’t actually deal with crime. Thank God we finally have a County exec smart enough to shift resources from the bloated MCS to the real crime fighters.

    Weak Judges? How many cases have you actually seen at the Milwaukee County Courthouse? Granted your familiarity/knowledge of the system probably couldn’t fill a thimble beyond the opinions of Sykes and Behling… but i feel compelled to help you out. Most of these cases, given the overworked MPD and the overworked MCDAs office have a laughable amount of evidence. The result a bunch of weak plea deals and believe it or its tough to sentence someone who probably shouldn’t even be convicted in the first place when beyond reasonable result is the standard.

    “As for accounting, the mess left by Doyle and the Leftists controlled the state for 8 years, saw education go into the outhouse and the debt skyrocket. Walker is working out of it. Can you imagine the whining of Ryan ,and others, if he had made bigger cuts last time?”

    What mess? Doyle ran his budgets the same way Walker is doing it. Use GAAP to make the preceding budget deficit look as big as possible and then use cash accounting to make it look like you’ve balanced budgets. Using Walker’s standard Doyle ran balanced budgets for most of the years of his administration. I guess sleeze is ok when it’s one of your guys, eh?

    “Finally thank God we did not get into that multibillion dollar mess of a halfast train. ”

    Yes thank God we’ve decided to double down on car culture, it’s not like the costs of maintaining a heavily subsidized driving culture puts us at a massive disadvantage when competing with States in warmer climates. Turning down the high speed rail money was a generational mistake, the educated are with me on this one.

    “Move down there leftists, we will not miss you.”

    Maybe Minnesota, the leftists there are running a far more prosperous State.

    “Look at California and their mess. Costs have ballooned tenfold, there isn’t any money for it. Their pension system is so badly underfunded they have no way out. ”

    California’s mess is hardly unique in this Country, South Carolina for instance found itself in a very similar budget situation.

    “Can you imagine the whining of Ryan ,and others, if he had made bigger cuts last time?”

    I agreed with the cuts, I did not agree with his decision to use a puffed up budget crisis to destroy the fundraising base of his political opposition. Besides he even managed to screw that up. He could have modified the State’s Collective Bargaining laws outside of the budget. Instead he gins up a political showdown, forces the hand of the opposition. The result, Scooter pisses away $163 million of the tax payers funds and winds up doing what he should have done in the first place… change the CBA laws in a separate legislative action. Perhaps next time you should try to argue with what I have said instead of your vapid fantasies.

  22. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Thanks you from the LEFT, you have just proved all of my points.

  23. T says:

    Backing up all the way to the author’s point, a good leftist resents Walker’s skill with spin and calls it “sleeze” (meaning “sleaze,” I’m sure), while boasting on his lefty heroes’ spin as political intelligence, as in the case of Obama’s flummoxing of Romney in that debate where Candy Crowley affirmed the President’s misrepresentation as flat-out truth. Scott is “super” – per the left-leaning author himself – because he is beating lefties at their own game, and clearly disproving all the liberal lies about his intelligence, ability, independence, an character. If he’s proved to be a worthy opponent, it would only increase a leftist’s stature to admit it, and lay off the playground bully practices – like calling him “Scooter” for instance. And quit pretending that all intelligent people agree with you – that bully behaviour also backfires in a huge way.

  24. STACY MOSS says:

    I don’t think Bruce Murphy is saying Governor Walker is smart about the future. Who is? If you are like most people who are not committed to either the right or left wing agenda (who don’t think they have the answer) then Murphy’s point is that Walker is not a dumb politician without moral principles, and once exposed will be deposed are just plain wrong.

    Remember, the inner circle of the communist party thought Stalin was dumb, that is, until he killed them. I don’t agree with Walker, but that is what democracy is all about. What more proof do we need? A person who sincerely believes in what he does and is a very smart politician will have an edge over a guy like Tom Barrett, a generic liberal politician who gets elected and re-elected in a liberal city.

  25. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Worse for Milwaukee is that Barrett has not accomplished anything and MPS, unemployment, the whole mess is making Milwaukee one of the worst cities in the country to live.

  26. Ryan says:

    “Backing up all the way to the author’s point, a good leftist resents Walker’s skill with spin and calls it “sleeze” (meaning “sleaze,” I’m sure), while boasting on his lefty heroes’ spin as political intelligence, as in the case of Obama’s flummoxing of Romney in that debate where Candy Crowley affirmed the President’s misrepresentation as flat-out truth. Scott is “super” – per the left-leaning author himself”

    Yes a typo, well struck! Did you no notice that I criticized Doyle’s budget practices as well as Walker’s?

    You are correct as to the name calling, there’s no need for that. I won’t refer to Mr. Walker as Scooter again.

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