By Eric Brehm (cross-posted at Bang the Buckets)
Author’s Note: One year ago today, I sent a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that entered cyberspace and was circulated in ways I had not imagined possible. My own personal blog, Bang the Buckets, will fold at the end of the month, for reasons which will shortly be explained there. It’s been a heckuva ride, and I appreciate those who have come with me on it. Before I go, I had a few last questions for Wisconsin’s Governor, and will be sending the following on Tuesday the 21st.
To the duly-elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker:
It’s been a full calendar year since I wrote a letter to you describing how tired I was of your “Budget Repair Bill” and the discord that it had introduced into the state where I have lived for most of my life. That letter moved through the blogosphere in ways that I did not know existed at the time. I posted the words that I sent to you on my Facebook page, because I thought maybe other people were feeling the same way that I did. I still don’t exactly know how it started, but it seems that one of my students or former students re-posted it somewhere, and it took off from there. Before it was done, tens of thousands of people ending up reading words that I wrote, and that inspired me enough to start my own personal blog.
You were the inspiration for that blog, sir, and I would like to say thank you. I have always fancied myself a bit of a writer, but thanks to you I actually became one, and that has been good for me on a variety of levels. Writing posts for this blog helped me (I hope) sharpen my craft, and the writing here proved therapeutic as I contemplated just how much your politics were going to harm me personally, as well as potentially prove dangerous to the state of Wisconsin.
I don’t write those words in an effort to lament the take-home pay I lost as a result of your policies: In my first letter, I told you quite plainly that you could have that money. Pretty much every public sector employee agreed to the pay concessions long before your Budget Repair Bill ever became law, and I was no different in that. In the end, Governor, the letter I write today–like the one I wrote a year ago–is not really addressed for a mass audience. The first one ended up that way, and I will post these words on my own blog to provide a degree of symmetry, but I don’t expect to reach the masses. Rather, now as well as then, I had hoped for some answers to what I felt were honest questions. I did not get them then, and I don’t expect them now. But I hope you’ll understand that I have to ask. And so, without further ado, here are my points and/or questions, in no particular order:
* Do you have any comment, sir, to the notion that after all your politicking and your “Budget Repair,” the projected shortfall of your budget is actually $6 million larger than the shortfall you inherited? I say this only because the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a non-partisan body in Wisconsin, projects that you currently have a deficit of $143 million, when you inherited a deficit of $137 million. I welcome your response.
* Related to the above point, could you please express why the current ads that you run in Wisconsin explicitly state that you have “balanced the budget,” when the budget currently has a projected deficit of $143 million, as stated above? I don’t feel as though you have been as clear about that as you might be; I’m curious why you continued to run ads—or allow ads to be run on your behalf—that would seem at best to be misinformed, and at worst to be just plain dishonest.
* The goal of your Budget Repair Bill, in addition to balancing the state budget, was to create jobs in the state of Wisconsin. Can you or will you provide any explanation as to why private-sector jobs actually decreased for the first several months after the bill became law? Was the failure to create jobs due to a failure in the bill itself, or to other factors?
* While I recognize that you are the Executive and not the Legislative branch, can you offer insight as to why Republican legislators were sworn to secrecy about redistricting in our state, and were told to ignore the public when making their decision?
* There is a John Doe investigation being conducted in Wisconsin that would seem to implicate a number of your former employees and/or associates. Would you please explain, clearly and succinctly, your own involvement or lack of involvement in any wrongdoing? I agree that you are innocent until proven guilty, but could you clear the air, once and for all?
* Could you explain the hiring practices that are used in Wisconsin? A number of your financial supporters or their relatives/spouses/girlfriends seem to end up with high-paying jobs in your administration. Are they really that uniquely qualified, or is there something more at work there?
* Finally, though it seems small by comparison, would you be willing to tell me your reasoning for restricting access to the State Capitol, even though the Wisconsin State Constitution forbids restriction to the State Capitol? As someone who swore an oath of office to uphold that State Constitution in order to be sworn in as Governor, can you offer the reasoning why you seem to have so callously disregarded your oath?
I could go on, but I would be satisfied if you would choose to answer the points listed above. Again, I have no real expectation that you will reply—my last two missives resulted in form letters, and I have no great hopes for this letter—but I hope you can understand why I have to ask.
I was tired of your politics when I first wrote you a year ago. You can imagine how tired I am now. I used to teach Political Science for my school, sir, and I must admit I am grateful that I haven’t in the past few years. Back when I did, I tried to tell my students that government was and could be a good, and that the people that served in it—despite their many differences—were doing what they believed best for the common good. I know, that’s horribly naïve and idealistic. But it was for the students, who might still grow up with a desire to serve their country or state; while I was smart enough to realize that my words were not always true, I was hopeful enough that they were true more often than not. However, in light of the events in Wisconsin in the last year, it would now be very difficult for me to choke out those words with any degree of sincerity.
What I most find objectionable about your administration, sir, is that it has caused me to lose respect for the office. Not for you—I don’t know you personally, and as such have no reason to dislike you—but for the office of Governor of the State of Wisconsin. You’ve heard “Shame” chanted at you so many times that I’m sure it has lost its meaning. And yet, I’m going to imagine that you must feel some degree of shame; after all, only sociopaths don’t, and unlike several others, I am not willing to lump you into that category.
But really, sir: You’re the Governor of Wisconsin. Doesn’t it bother you, at least a little, that much of the public (including some Republicans) feel that you’re not even allowed to come up with your own legislation, but rather have to have it spoon-fed to you by ALEC? As someone who has spoken so often about how you have provided “tools” to school districts, do you not sometimes wonder if you are not a tool yourself—something used by those outside of you in order to foster an agenda that isn’t your own? I’m fairly certain that you’re pleased to be Governor, but don’t you wonder sometimes how history will look at you? Ronald Reagan had confidence, and he is still largely revered. But so did Joe McCarthy, and he is still largely reviled. Have you given thought to your own legacy, as you allowed the events of the past year to unfold?
As I close this letter, Governor, I find that I am still willing to close it as I did with my letter of a year ago; that is, with a note of thanks. I lament sometimes that our state, like our nation, has become so divided between those on the left and those on the right and those who are so disgusted by both that they choose not to vote. But for a year now, your actions have had young people paying attention. As it was a year ago, a number of them agree with you, and a number of them don’t. I worry that more of them seem to fall in the disgusted camp, but you and I can both work to rectify that.
I can still recall a conversation I had with my wife about a year or so ago. We were sitting on the sofa, talking about affairs in the state, and I said something to the effect that as time passed, it would be possible that the Budget Repair Bill might be the best thing that ever happened to us. She of course dismissed it out of hand and has no recollection of it, but when a girlfriend of hers told her that the Budget Repair Bill might be the best thing that ever happened to us, she accepted it as gospel. We’ll see, Governor. Unlike many, I don’t think you’re evil, and if I have given that impression over the last year, I apologize. I do think you’re occasionally misguided by those who seem do your thinking for you . . . Without going too religious on you, I know that you are the son of a minister, and I would welcome the compassion I would expect from a preacher’s son. That choice, of course, is ultimately up to you. But I would be remiss if I did not at least attempt to remind you that Jesus loved the poor, and did not seek to end their tax credits, so far as we know.
Either way, Governor, for a year or so you have given me many things to write about, and I’ve had a worthy experience and a fair amount of fun while doing so. It seems as though there might be a recall election coming up, and good luck with that. It seems as though a John Doe investigation is trying to get closer to activities you may have been a part of in Milwaukee County, and good luck with that, too. I can’t say I’m on your side, Governor, but I can say that you keep things interesting.
As always, Governor: Thank you for your time.