Wisconsin recalls an exercise in wasting money

Another sordid and tragic chapter in our diseased political dysfunction has been playing out in Wisconsin.

While the economy constricts tightly around us, there is one area of economic expansion in America, indeed of spectacular wastes of large sums of precious and dwindling dollars.

It is in punitive special interest politics that amounts to self-indulgence of destructive anger, and, in the end, nothing else at all, other, that is, than galvanized maintenance of the polarized status quo.

Next time, the unions and liberals on one side and the right-wing groups on the other should just send me the $35 million.

Or, perhaps better, they might endow charity.

That children go to bed hungry in a world where political zealots throw this kind of money around simply because they disagree so emotionally on matters of intense personal financial interest that they can’t wait until November 2012 — why, it’s a sin. It has to be.

Special interest groups expended that estimated amount, that $35 million, on a rat hole, doing so orgiastically over a period of a few weeks in this single state of Wisconsin.

The purpose has been to defy and defile the normal, appropriate and fair political process by which one waits until the next election to try to reverse the valid voter choice of the last election and seek to cast out duly elected representatives who have taken actions with which one disagrees.

Here is the long, sad story made reasonably short:

Wisconsin joined most of the rest of the country last year in tipping Republican, installing a Republican governor and a majority Republican state Senate.

Presuming a mandate, these Republicans cut public employee benefits and restricted the powers of public employees in union negotiations, doing so while Democratic senators were in exile in Illinois to try to deny a quorum.

The Republican actions so infuriated unions that these unions went out and circulated petitions to recall in mid-service enough of these Republican senators to overturn the GOP majority. Conservatives then turned around and instituted recall efforts against a few Democratic senators.

So this estimated $35 million got spent by national special interest groups on these recall campaigns, these temper tantrums. This is a big chasm; generally speaking, Republicans think public employee unions are too fat while Democrats think they are noble champions of working people in a world the Republicans want to hand over to the untaxed super-rich.

As of Tuesday night, after a day of voting in several recall elections, everything had settled out this way: Democrats gained a little, but Republicans would hold state Senate control, at least until regular elections occur next year.

The liberal Democratic cable television counterpart to Republican Fox, MSNBC, sent a talking head to Wisconsin to cover live and in person, and in hopeful inflection, this looming dramatic recall of evil Republican senators. This would be a bellwether for the presidential election next year, declared MSNBC.

That part may have been right, actually. All the Republicans need to take out President Obama, so saddled is he with bad-economy weight not his fault, is the one thing they don’t yet have — a sane, competent and appealing candidate.

Apparently yet another born-again Republican governor of Texas, this one called Rick Perry, intends to enter the fray to try to convince us he’s one or more of those things.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of “High Wire,” a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His email address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

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