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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bravo Channel

By Keith Schmitz

Local labor activist Ellen Bravo popped up in the New York Times letters column yesterday.

Alas, “welfare as we know it” was ended by those who’d never known welfare or poverty.

For low-wage workers ineligible for unemployment insurance, welfare was how you made do when you got laid off or fired, including for being pregnant. It often supplemented inadequate wages.

For many, it gave a path out of violence. It represented a way to care for a newborn or a dying parent, get health insurance or avoid having to leave young children home alone.

Welfare recipients would tell you in a heartbeat that the system needed reform. But their wish list grew out of one goal: getting out of poverty. That was never the purpose of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, and it certainly wasn’t the result.

We’ll resolve the problem only if we name it correctly: the need to reform work and value caregiving.

This is a nice lead in to the perfect cynicism of Congressman Mark Green. Since I heard it in front of a group of businesspeople, I imagine he has picked up the theme of how our state programs has led to some of the worst poverty in the nation within the city of Milwaukee.

The problem is this is like an arsonist describing why your house is on fire.

Programs passed by the GOP have led to manifold problems for Wisconsin's poor, but in the world of these hammerheads all the world consists of nails and of course the remedy is...hold your breath...TAX CUTS!

Ellen Bravo of course describes one problem, which is the so-called "welfare reform" program. It is jay dropping burt last Friday Wall Street Journal editor Steve More equated this brain-child with the great Badger ideas of workmens' compensation and social security.

To end "dat welfare" was of course the cherished dream of barflies everywhere, brought to life by the lord of the barflies, Tommy Thompson. The trouble is this poorly thought through solution has thrust thousands of families deeper into poverty as Ellen describes. What's more this program gives scant chance for these mothers to work their way out of the pit.

On the male side we have the explosion of incarcerations, which never looks good on anyone's resume. Building prisons we didn't need was the one and only idea of Scott Walker that propelled this beautiful mind back to the legislature, thanks to his grateful constituency.

Of course we have the constant drumbeat every night on our local news of the string of homicides that take place in Milwaukee, far from the cul de sacs of New Berlin but yet it makes the easily afraid in these and other distant suburbs to send off crime fighters like Walker to Madison.

The only problem is it costs us -- and the convicts of course -- royally. Our cost of incarceration far exceeds that of our neighbors, but there is one thing our two GOP AG candidates will never tell you. Our violent crime rate is the fourth or fifth lowest in the nation.

On top of that we have businesses locating their jobs far beyond the Milwaukee bus lines.

The way we treat our poor and minorities is a shame in light of our PROGRESSIVE tradition, putting us right down there with the redneck realms in the South. There is no way we are going to hack our way out of this forest with tax cuts.

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