Saturday, October 11, 2014

Was there a debate Friday night?

Friday night’s debate between Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke pretty much ended with a Walker strike out and  Burke in the batter’s box with a full count.  Neither candidate sizzled but neither did they fizzle.

Walker scored the only strikeout when he gave an equivocal answer as to whether he’d commit to serving a full four-year term.  He said it was “his plan” to do so but, as we all know, plans can change.

Burke, if she wants to be governor, needs to connect with the people on the next bar stool.  She floated several key notions about how Walker’s tenure as governor failed Wisconsin but she failed to connect the dots and thus pretty much gave Walker a pass on much of his claims that Act 10 was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Perhaps Burke didn’t want to seem too assertive.  She could – and should – have said that Act 10 wasn’t rocket science but rather a pay cut superimposed on a strategy that made it virtually impossible for the losses to ever be recouped. 

Burke mentioned how Walker’s policies took money out of local economies while enriching his political cronies but she didn’t drive it home.  The average Wisconsin taxpayer scored a token reduction in taxes but the substantial pay cuts endured by thousands of workers coupled with the lack of promised job growth is a recipe for long-term economic disaster because it took money out of local economies that would have been spent on new cars, home improvements and the like – spending that on a good day sustains jobs.

Burke also gave Walker a light hit on education.  Even though she said the right things again she didn’t connect the dots.  Wisconsin workers aren’t going to make as many cars and boats as they did 50 years ago.  An educated workforce is one of our few bargaining chips but one that’s been undervalued in competition with other states. 

Burke correctly said we need hundreds of thousands of trained workers and affordable education must be available to make that happen.  Again she failed to point out that Walker’s shirt term “fixes” may be eroding one of the few major assets this state has and needs to develop.  Minnesota and Iowa got that memo long ago.  Wisconsin needs to train workers to compete in a high tech economy and that can’t be an afterthought.

Blasting Walker on failing to deliver on his promise of 250,000 new jobs in his term is getting worn.  It begs the question of what Burke would promise.  A valid point but there’s a bigger picture. 

Perhaps the biggest piece of ammunition left unused is the “pay to play” politics that’s become almost accepted in Madison in the last few years.  Pitting Wisconsinites against each other and selling our government to the highest bidders clearly run contrary to Wisconsin’s cherished heritage.  Burke has yet to connect with independent and disaffected Republican voters troubled by corruption.  In short, Walker may be the devil but he’s the one we know and if Burke want him booted out she needs to explain to the couple on the next bar stools what’s wrong and how she’ll fix it.

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