Call it good or call it bad, but the one thing that comes clear when your home state governor is in a national political race is that politicians — would you believe? — don't always tell the truth when they're trying to make themselves look good.
Unless you're from Wisconsin, for instance, you probably don't know how two-faced Scott Walker is when he proclaims that if he's president, he'll make sure to pull in the reins of the federal government and give more power to the states on things like Medicaid, transportation, the environment and education.
He told one of his biggest newspaper supporters, the right-wing Washington Examiner, that all these things could be done more effectively and efficiently, and are "definitely more accountable at the state and the local level."
To conservatives, that kind of talk is music to the ears. Except that those of us who live in Wisconsin know that Walker doesn't follow that mantra here at home. He's taken more power away from local governments and school districts than any other governor in recent Wisconsin history.
Local municipalities can no longer object to the opening of frac sand mines in their jurisdictions. Cities are forbidden from passing their own "living wages." Counties can't require pipeline contractors to provide extra insurance to cover damages in the event of an environmental disaster, such as those caused by pipeline spills in recent years. The state has taken several policy decisions away from local school boards and set other rules that directly impinge on local prerogatives. The list goes on and on.
Walker, backed by his legislative colleagues, has declared that the state knows much better than those local yokels who are close to the voters in their communities.
It also sounds impressive when Walker brags that he was handed a $3.3 billion budget deficit when he took office and now has a balanced budget. Folks who know anything about Wisconsin government know just how disingenuous that claim is. By Wisconsin law, all state budgets are balanced when they pass. Former Gov. Jim Doyle's budget was balanced when it was signed into law. It would have been unconstitutional for it not to be.
Yes, and like most of those balanced state budgets through the years, it contained some fancy accounting, such as pushing off some payments to future budgets.
And guess what? At the beginning of this year, Scott Walker's "balanced" 2013-15 budget had a $2.2 billion structural deficit all its own, brought about partly because his tax cuts didn't lead to the growth he promised, which meant that state revenues failed to meet expectations. On paper, that deficit was eliminated before the latest budget was passed (a $250 million cut for the University of Wisconsin System was part of that effort), but no one will be surprised if there's another structural deficit when it comes time to consider the next budget.
There have been several other examples and there will be many more as the presidential campaign moves along. Walker isn't alone in telling tall tales about his "successes" — that's apparently the only way to get some voters to actually buy in to what you claim to be.
But he does provide for Wisconsin folks, at least, an example of just how sleazy too much of our politics have become.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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