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home : opinions : opinions May 24, 2016

5/25/2012 5:26:00 AM
The Lakeland Times endorses Scott Walker for governor
A Lakeland Times opinion

This probably won't come as any shock to our regular readers, but The Lakeland Times is strongly recommending that voters return Scott Walker to the office he legitimately won in November 2010.

Our newspaper does not usually make endorsements; we do so only when we consider an election to be of particular importance. This one is, obviously, not only for Wisconsin but for the nation.

We stress the word 'legitimacy' in making the case. The recall election simply cannot be called legitimate by any measure. It is an obvious - and expensive - misuse of the system to promote a narrow political agenda. Whether one likes Gov. Walker's policies or not, all should agree that no special interest should be allowed to take the machinery of democracy hostage for its own ends.

It is, in a way, the equivalent of an attempted coup d'etat.

We do not abhor recalls per se. When an elected official is proven guilty of criminal or ethical violations, or of gross malfeasance on the job, the voters should have a way to remove that official. But, by the same token, those officials should be immune to blatantly political attempts to overturn elections because of policy disagreements.

And that is exactly what we have here: Policy disagreements.

We should point out that reform is much needed to make sure such a miscarriage of political justice does not happen again. In these days of social media and online organizing, it is easy to gain enough signatures to recall anybody, even those at the height of their popularity. These days, Fighting Bob La Follette would be recalled in a heartbeat.

He would survive the election, of course, as we expect and hope Mr. Walker does. But the damage to the system is done. The damage to the taxpayers' wallets is done. The damage to democratic enthusiasm is done, for aren't we all weary now of election after election?

Weary, yes, but that's not to say the voters won't turn out to renounce the guerilla tactics of the unions in Wisconsin. They will, and they must, if only to preserve the integrity of democracy in our state.

That said, there are more than matters of integrity and legitimacy at stake. The truth is, Gov. Walker's reforms have turned the state around in dramatic fashion, leaving Democratic challenger Tom Barrett laboring heavily - pardon the pun - to find a credible rationale for his candidacy.

After all, the very reason for the recall in the first place was Mr. Walker's curbs on collective bargaining. But as the governor has pointed out, and as Politifact has grudgingly and obtusely conceded, those reforms have saved school districts and local governments a ton of money so far, more than $1 billion statewide by most estimates.

Those savings are precisely the reason most polls show the public solidly favoring the collective bargaining reforms championed by Mr. Walker.

And what does Milwaukee mayor Barrett have to say about that? Nothing. That's right, mum's the word on collective bargaining. Not only have the reforms worked but they have worked for Barrett himself, who used them to balance his city's budget rather than negotiate new and bloated union contracts.

So the very reason for the recall has long ago vaporized, and with it so should have the recall. But determined union bosses, angry that their power and privilege had been called out, carried on. It has been an ongoing, in-your-face confrontation with the people of Wisconsin.

The protesters had to have some issue, of course, and so they turned to jobs. That, too, has turned out to be a losing proposition because it is abundantly clear that state job creation is on the rebound after years of bleeding under the previous Democratic administration. Under Gov. Jim Doyle, the state lost more than 100,000 in his last three years; under Mr. Walker, Wisconsin has gained about 23,000 jobs in a still weak economy.

That's because, as Mr. Walker likes to say, Wisconsin is open for business again. Taxes are lower, and regulations are fewer, and there is a sense that the private sector can actually operate profitably again.

Mr. Barrett does not have an answer for this. He sputters about, throwing around monthly job numbers everyone knows to be wrong. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics warns against using those numbers in any way beyond the national aggregate because the sampling becomes too small to be reliable.

What's worse, as mayor, Mr. Barrett has presided over an unemployment rate increase of more than 27 percent, and he has guided Milwaukee into the top ten of America's most impoverished cities. He is hardly the candidate to be campaigning on the issue of jobs and the economy.

What next? How about corruption? In the last week or so the Democrats have been hammering away at the John Doe probe of Mr. Walker's former aides. But it is nothing more than innuendo and unsubstantiated allegations floating in a boat of desperation. There is not a scintilla of evidence implicating Mr. Walker in any way.

Indeed, when it comes to the most serious allegations and findings of embezzlement, it was Mr. Walker's team who alerted authorities. Rather than being a subject of investigation, the Walker camp initiated it.

Other, more minor charges of campaigning on public time have not touched the governor. We do not minimize the seriousness of such allegations, but nothing has suggested Mr. Walker's involvement.

All of which leaves us scratching our heads. Exactly what will Mr. Barrett do differently than Mr. Walker?

He pledges in a hazy way to restore collective bargaining and other spending cuts the governor made to wipe out a $3.6-billion structural deficit, but Mr. Barrett refuses to tell us exactly how he will pay for it. Until he tells us otherwise, we have to presume he would return us to the tax-and-borrow days of the Doyle administration. So say welcome, old friends, when higher taxes and steep deficits show up on the doorstep.

We assume Mr. Barrett would simply pull out the old Democratic playbook, in part because that is what Democrats do, and in part because we cannot remember the last time Mr. Barrett actually had an original idea. Seriously, if we set out to build the world's most uninspiring and nonoriginal candidate and went to the store and bought a kit to do it, we would find Mr. Barrett when we opened it up.

Mr. Barrett pins his hopes on not being Scott Walker. That is perhaps the one idea he has had, but it turns out not to be a very good one: Public opinion polls have Mr. Walker's approval ratings in the positive and Mr. Barrett's in the negative.

There are several other strands in the narrative of this election that should be addressed. One is that Mr. Walker effectively lied during his 2010 campaign by not telling people what he was going to do about collective bargaining. That is just silly and absurd.

Mr. Walker, of course, says he talked forcefully if not specifically about coming labor changes, and that is true enough. But even if he didn't, a newly derived policy decision does not justify recall.

What office holder has not unveiled new policy proposals once settled into office and having surveyed the political terrain from new vantage points? One new vantage point Mr Walker had was the unexpected election of GOP majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly. Suddenly a lot more was possible with Republicans running all three branches of government.

Elections have consequences. Suddenly a lot more could be done for the taxpayers and job creators of the state.

And if what's good for the goose is good for the gander, then a bill of impeachment for President Barack Obama should have accompanied Mr. Walker's recall petitions, for Mr. Obama actually lied about health care during his 2008 run for the presidency. Back then, before he was elected, he vociferously opposed an individual health insurance mandate but promptly endorsed it once elected. Why weren't the unions and Democrats screaming about "the lie" and organizing his impeachment?

We have not failed to criticize the governor when it has been warranted. For one thing, his administration has not been as aggressive on open records and open meetings laws as we had hoped. For another, he usurped too much administrative rule power when he should have focused on giving that power to the Legislature, where it belongs.

But that is all so much quibbling. The fact is, his administration is still far more transparent than Mr. Doyle's, and state bureaucracies have had their wings clipped, if they have not been grounded altogether. And so we believe it is better to climb the cliff a half-step at a time rather than to give up and just jump to the ravine below.

The truth is, the state has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars on this recall, money none of us can get back, and not one thing is going to change because of it. Even if Mr. Walker were to lose, his collective bargaining reforms - his legacy - will remain, probably forever. Barring mass serial killings by GOP legislators, the Republicans will keep the Assembly at least, and, thanks to redistricting, the party has a good shot at the Senate, too. It only takes one chamber to block the return of collective bargaining privileges for the union class.

The unions know this, of course. This election is not about restoring collective bargaining. It about revenge. It is about disruption. It is about short-circuiting economic progress until power can be regained.

Unfortunately for the Democrats and the unions, revenge is a dish best served cold. In this heated environment, they have succeeded only in energizing the conservative base. We simply remind that base they still need to vote to continue progress.

We encourage them to do so. Instead of returning to days of high taxes and burdensome regulations, instead of returning to the days when the state was run by powerful public-sector unions and their bureaucratic allies, we believe the state should continue to move forward in the current environment of promoting personal and economic liberty.

We believe we should stick with the man we elected in 2010, and the agenda of change and reform he ushered in.

We believe the people should vote for Gov. Scott Walker on June 5.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Article comment by: Uwe Kaeding

There are always good and bad points from both sides. A Newspaper should stay neutral and report just the facts. I do not apprechiate any such endorsement, and this has nothing to do which side I personally prefer.

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Article comment by: kevin hansen

The truth is walker would have lost original election if he had come out and said what he was planning to do. So now that his hidden agenda has come out the state is more divided than ever ! Great job walker

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Article comment by: jim hennes

Do you realize walkers vote to deny women the right to sue employers for equal parity on the job is a discrimination. I realize it gives businesses the ability to avoid suits by women seeking equal parity for equal work. Question-a woman making equal pay as a man, will be paying equal tax too. Isn't this fiscally responsible ? Wisconsin has lost not the parties.

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Article comment by: Patrick Murphy

Good for the Lakeland Times. This entire recall has become a complete joke for reasons you presented so well above. The democrats and unions have managed to take what was a blue state in obama's favor this fall to a swing state that is in play for Romney. Thank you democrats and union bosses for making this possible.

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Article comment by: Jennifer Ledferd

What happened to unbiased reporting? Presenting both sides of the issues and remaining unbiased is what news people are supposed to do, NOT endorse political candidates.

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Article comment by: RIck Smith

Great decision!

Trolley Tom has done nothing here in Milwaukee, brings nothing to the table but what the unions want.

Scott Walker will serve out his term and the results of his duty will be apparent!

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Article comment by: Dan Aicher

A well stated endorsement.

This recall started because of a disagreement about ACT 10. Now that it is clear that more than a majority supports ACT 10, because it's working, the recall proponents are scrambling to define it's motivation. In the end, they don't like Scott Walker personally or his policies.

That is not a reason to put the State of WI through this.

Mayor Barrett's only notable "achievement" is funding a $100M+ trolley system that travels 2 miles. Other than that Milwaukee's trend towards decay has continued unabated under his watch. Not something we want at the State level.

Scott Walker is the best choice for the State of WI and, even more so, for the Northwoods.

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Article comment by: Kay Samz

As of this morning Scott Walker has transferred another $100,000 to his criminal defense bringing his total to $321,000. He has hired four criminal defense attorneys including one from Chicago who specializes in organized crime, one who specializes in John Doe investigations and one who recently defended an ax murderer.
Scott Walker did not ask for this investigation...it started out with his best friend and Deputy Chief of Staff, Tim Russell,
being charged with embezzling more than $20,000 intended for veterans into his personal account and using the money to pay for Caribbean and Hawaiian vacations. Authorities seized Russell's computers and that led to what we now know as the John Doe investigation, including campaigning on county time, secret email systems, disappearing files and computers, and now according to the Milwaukee Journal, bid rigging.
So for you to say that nothing suggests Scott Walker's involvement would lead me to believe that you are very gullible, very poor investigators or willing to look the other way when it involves someone you support politically. In fact I would say it's all three.
It's too bad Scott Walker isn't a teacher (way too little education for that) because then you might go after him. You've made it your goal in the last year to bash them as much as possible. Maybe you should have listened to your teachers when they tried to teach you that two plus two equals four...not zero.

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Article comment by: Kay Samz

You're going to look very foolish when he's in prison. What a bunch of baloney and lies...no wonder you worship Walker. I agree with Robert, this hasn't been a "news" paper for many years. It's nothing but a hypocritical, lying, right wing rag which helps it's master Scott Walker divide and conquer.

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Article comment by: Mike Doud

If you stand for Walker you will fall for anything!!!!

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Article comment by: Al Bybee

Great Article, I could not add a thing to it.

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Article comment by: Robet Ecklund

i was a long time resident in arbor vitae before i moved
your dad run a good paper, but your ideas are all wrong
you need to run that paper with your heart

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