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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Take $50 out of your wallet. Burn it.

by folkbum

[Late update: Despite widespread reports that it was Walker's plan, and a very public debate about whether he even had the authority to do so, Walker in the end did not propose to turn down federal Title I funds.]

There are a lot of things that Scott Walker is doing that I disagree with. Some of those have a rational basis in fact and can be defended through honest intellectual argument. But many of them are so heavy with dumb they do not let any light of logic escape the dumbitational field they create.

One of them is Walker's plan to refuse nearly $200 million in federal Title I aid to school districts.

Now, I disagreed with him when he killed--or, more technically, caused to be killed--the rail link between Milwaukee and Madison that would have extended the highly popular Hiawatha line and pave the way lay down tracks for a future midwest high-speed rail network. But he had a few valid points, notably that Wisconsin would have to make some investment of its own and the disruption that improving the infrastructure might cause. Small potatoes, those are, compared to the long-term benefit of having a modern transportation system in place.

But refusing Title I funds--the feds' way of supplementing the education of poor public- and private-school students--has no rational basis the way the train debacle does. Title I funds don't require much if any local investment. Title I funds don't make us stop traffic or move people out of their houses. Title I funds provide relief to struggling school districts that must deal with the added challenges of educating poor children.

Worse, when it comes to federal taxes and spending, Wisconsin is what you call a donor state. Imagine that all of the taxes we send to Washington were a large pizza. In return for giving Washington that pizza, the feds send us back a large pizza, too. But that pizza that comes back is missing a slice, which the feds have given instead to someplace like Alaska or Mississippi. This is in part because Wisconsin does a better job at taking care of its own people--we have lower per-capita spending on things like Medicare and Medicaid and SSI disability. But it's also because the feds don't reward us with things like giant defense manufacturing plants. (With Dave Obey gone from Congress, this is likely to get worse; his position on Appropriations kept some of our money in the state.)

Refusing the feds' train money was a way of saying, Hey! We'd like to donate more! And so is the refusal of Title I funds--it is the equivalent, basically, of every adult in the state sending an extra fifty dollar bill to the IRS with their 1040s. Or flushing fifty bucks down the toilet. Or buying an iPod Shuffle and stomping it into little pieces.

And this is not optional: If Walker refuses the Title I money, the feds aren't going to send you a Shuffle to replace the one you stomped to death, or stuff an extra fifty in with your tax returns. That money, like the nearly a billion that was the train money, will go someplace else. Somebody in Alabama or South Carolina is going to get that iPod.

Why? Because Scott Walker is a child, a tantrum-throwing fool who thinks standing firm in an infantile ideology is good for the state he governs.

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