Konopacki robber barons

It's nearly time to say goodbye to another year and to this one, I say good riddance.

The year 2017 was a good news year in one major respect. The Capital Times turned 100 and we were able to celebrate all that has meant. Meanwhile, though, it was a year of both a personal challenge and one that marked a dangerous degradation of our government, one that could imperil our future.

Personally, I've spent the bulk of the year using a walker. It all began in April — the start of the baseball season, no less — when I suddenly couldn't use my right leg. Spinal stenosis was the culprit, I was told. It's a condition I've had for some time, but it now had so compressed the nerves that run to my legs that I couldn't walk unassisted.

A 9-plus-hour back operation in July helped ease that lower back pain I've experienced for years, but did nothing to solve the leg problem. To make a long story short, it turns out my right hip was fractured, a hip that had been replaced back in 2005. So, off to the hospital for more surgery. Not only has the baseball season come and gone, so have Badger football home games, and basketball is off and running without me. And I still have to stay off the leg for 10 more weeks into 2018.

It's been a trying time.

But not nearly as trying as what's being visited upon the American people.

Rarely has a week gone by without some new outrage coming from the White House. And it's not just another juvenile tweet berating and belittling someone with the audacity to hold a different view from our thin-skinned president, but the havoc that he and the wealthy cronies with whom he refilled the Washington swamp are causing America.

Today we sit on the precipice of a nuclear war with a crazed dictator because Donald Trump hasn't a clue what to do except bellow like a bully in the schoolhouse yard.

Instead of keeping the promises he made in his campaign last fall, when he made phony promises to help the nation's struggling working people, he has loaded the country's agencies with the very villains of the middle class — the Wall Street money changers who are dismantling safeguards for consumers, the big mining companies that want to dig up the nation's protected areas and parklands for their own profit, the developers who couldn't care less about water and air standards that safeguard American's health, the big pharma fraudsters who are now in charge of regulating drug prices, and on and on. He's also demonized the free press to the point that its workers are physically attacked, not at all unlike in a Third World country.

Then there's the real con job of the so-called "tax reform" we witnessed this past week. Yet another scheme to move more of the nation's wealth to the already rich. Those working folks Trump promised to help will be left paying more taxes in a few years while corporations will permanently enjoy a 40 percent drop in their federal taxes.

As has always been the case with "trickle-down" plans like this, that windfall for the big guys will be going to stock buybacks and dividends for wealthy Wall Street investors and, of course, the CEOs themselves. Big money will be the winner, as if it hasn't already essentially captured control of the federal government. The working people will be left waiting.

Do you have to wonder any more why the big guys pump so much money into those GOP campaigns? It's a surefire investment.

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And when the tax cuts accelerate the national debt, you can bet that the plan won't be to raise corporate taxes, but to make cuts in programs like Medicare and Social Security, long a goal of Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan.

What's worse is that the Republican Party itself, exemplified by members of Congress Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and governors like Scott Walker and their compliant state legislators, don't have the guts to challenge Trump's insulting behavior. They sit idly by — even cheer him on — as he and his crew dismantle the few protections left for working Americans.

In less than a year, America has become an international ogre; its relationships with other countries and even our most loyal allies have been damaged, perhaps irreparably.

And this has only been 2017.

With any luck I'll be back watching baseball in 2018. But we'll need to keep a close eye on Trump and his lackeys before we discover we're living in a country we can't recognize.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.