Out on the Les Paul Highway in Waukesha County, there are twin signs on a hillside in front of a business, announcing “Stand With Scott Walker – For Fiscal Responsibility.” That is an odd sentiment, because there is not, and never has been, anything fiscally responsible about Scott Walker. He may feed a hunger for fiscal responsibility, but he doesn’t practice it. During his eight years as Milwaukee County Executive, he deferred essential expenditures indefinitely into the future, but he never made any really hard choices. He wrapped himself in the mantle of keeping taxes down, by the simple expedient of shoving real costs forward, so that some hapless successor would have to raise taxes sharply. He gutted the county psychiatric hospital, inducing rampant security problems, including repeated instances of female patients being raped. If Walker maintained his home like he maintained Milwaukee County, his neighbors would have been calling building inspectors and reporting him as a public nuisance. At the state level, he cut support for education while spending more money on highways, under cover of a “budget repair bill” that cut neither taxes nor spending, just moved the burden around.
On South Howell Avenue in Oak Creek, is an even stranger sign: “Scott Walker for Sportsmen: Our Outdoor Heritage Matters.” Indeed it does. But when in his entire political career has Walker ever done anything to preserve our outdoor heritage? Walker let Milwaukee County’s award winning park system deteriorate for eight years, while trying to sell them off to private developers. Fortunately the County Board of Supervisors lived up to their name, by keeping him under tight supervision. As governor, Walker has rammed through legislation destroying the nonpartisan independence of the state Department of Natural Resources – putting it under the thumb of his august self.
If Walker is re-elected, it will be due to three factors: 1) The Democratic Party leadership was clueless enough to push Tom Barrett forward for another chance to lose to Walker, 2) Walker is able to project an aura and language that have nothing to do with his performance in office, tapping into what voters want, without the necessity to even pretend to deliver it, and 3) millions of dollars to perform the semantic miracle of projecting himself as a champion of fiscal responsibility and concern for our outdoor heritage. It could be 1984 all over again.