Monday, June 8, 2015

WisGOP trying to remove all checks, balances...and facts

After a couple of reports from the Legislative Audit Bureau revealed widespread negligence and the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), leading to some some serious hits to Scott Walker's administration, a couple of GOP legislators have come up a solution to this problem. Get rid of those troublesome auditors and replace them with a group of people who could be bullied by state legislators.
State Reps. David Craig, R-Big Bend, and Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, are looking for co-sponsors for their proposal to abolish the audit bureau and replace it with independent inspectors general who would be placed in state agencies.

"Most if not all legislators believe the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) does a tremendous job of executing audits of state agency books," reads an email the two representatives sent to fellow lawmakers. "Unfortunately, the statutory process under which the LAB operates focuses more on retrospective examination rather than proactive fiscal action and bad practice deterrence. In many instances, by the time an audit has occurred the political will (or new legislative composition) necessary to change a state program has diminished."...

The email from Craig and Jarchow says that the inspectors general would report waste, fraud and abuse to the Department of Justice and to legislative committee leaders. An analysis of the bill by the Legislative Reference Bureau says the bill would allow the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader to direct the inspectors to "audit the records of any state agency or program or any county, city, village, town, or school district."
Of course, what if the Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader doesn't want to have certain issues come to light? You know, like what happens to money that's handed out by WEDC to GOP campaign contributors? On a related subject, how much do you want to bet that "waste, fraud and abuse" part would heavily concentrate on poor welfare recipients of color over rich white recipients of corporate welfare? Because in right-wing bubble-world, someone scamming $20 out of their FoodShare allowance is definitely a higher priority needing action over losing $7.6 million in taxpayer-funded loans.

2. But the "ban the LAB" bill isn't the only way the Wisconsin GOP is trying to chill the opinions of people who might tell them "No." The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are slated to have more than half of their Science Services staff reduced, after the state's Joint Finance Committee recently approved of Gov Scott Walker's plans to make the cuts. Note the topics that those DNR scientists have been looking into.
Republicans say the cuts are designed to refocus the DNR on more practical research projects that help hunters and anglers. But Democrats say the GOP wants to slap the researchers down as political payback.

"It has to be political," Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, a member of the Legislature's budget committee, said of the cuts. "The public hasn't called for this. Most people in the state want decisions about the environment to be based on science, not politics."...

The Bureau of Science Services' biennial research plan released in 2013 called for extensive study on how climate change has affected the Great Lakes, Wisconsin's river ecosystems, and the state's forests, wildlife and fish. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, of the 96,200 hours the bureau worked in fiscal year 2013-14, 2,800 hours were spent on climate change-related research.

The plan also called for research into what it termed "emerging" pollutants such as prescription drugs, hormones and industrial additives and agents. It also called for developing ways to predict and mitigate how sand, iron and sulfide mining affects air and water, plants and animals, and creating new monitoring strategies for newly permitted mines.
Not surprisingly, climate change, sand mining and pollution are issues that are key for a sizable contingent of WisGOP contributors, and so GOP legislators don't want the DNR to reach any inconvenient conclusions. So why not get rid of many of the people who might know the truth and be able to tell others about the effects of these operations, then overload who remains with other DNR priorities? As Northwoods State Sen. Tom Tiffany said last month "I don't think [the DNR] has used good science," and why shouldn't his opinion be given equal balance? After all, Taconite Tommy managed a petroleum distributorship in Minocqua, so shouldn't that make him every bit the legitimate source as a professional with an actual degree in the subject who uses numbers and charts and history to draw conclusions?

3. On that topic, getting rid of independent analysts allow for partisan hacks to perform all research and control the information that comes out of it. They also get to perform (or not perform) all "oversight" of business activities, and decide whether to take action against lawbreakers. They become accountable to their bosses, and not the people, and it's a reason why I've mentioned in the past that you should be suspicious of the jobs releases from Walker Department of Workforce Development. These jobs numbers have had sizable and consistently downward revisions over the last 18 months, along with a lower amount of unemployment claims in a time where there has been numerous announcements of many mass layoffs throughout the state.

This mentality of "shoot the messenger" and "spin the numbers by any means necessary" calls to mind Charlie Pierce's comments in his book Idiot America. Pierce mentions how stink tanks and Fox News-like propaganda can combine to block the truth, and create an alternate reality for some.
The sheer initial force created by the effort people are willing to put behind the promulgation of what they believe to be true inevitably leads to the Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
So if no one is an honest expert, then everyone can be, and lying propagandists from Koch and Bradley-funded stink tanks can be confused for legitimate sources on issues such as good governance and the environment. If they tell enough lies with a straight face, perhaps enough people will buy into things that are provably false and absurd, because they're living their everyday lives, and don't have the time or energy to find out the facts.

The bottom line is this. A lack of independent and potentially dissenting voices in state government can make it easier for the Wisconsin GOP (and especially their puppetmasters) to reach their ultimate goal - to remove all forms of checks and balances. This would clear the way for WisGOP to grab power and control over every facet of government, and to rig the playing field to a point where it will be impossible to level it back, no matter how badly they get beat in elections (assuming the elections are recorded fairly).

If that sounds scary and very 1930's-like, you're probably thinking about this correctly. There is no limit to what these will try to do or pull over on the public, unless they are forcibly stopped.


  1. Looks like this is also an issue in MN, with their GOP legislature poised to shut down the state government if they don't get their state auditor abolished:

    Wonder where else this is popping up. Is this a priority issue for ALEC?

    1. Getting rid of checks and balances and making politicians be accountable only to corporations is THE priority for ALEC. So yes, banning auditors would be right in the ALEC wheelhouse

    2. Yeah, that was kind of a dumb question. My thinking was that actually abolishing auditors was a little over-the-top brazen, even for ALEC. (Time to reevaluate my remaining shred of faith in humanity, I suppose.)

      And your allusion to fascism is right on the money. That's what this is, but if we describe it as such we lose credibility because most people don't know what it means and assume we're being hyperbolic. Ugh.

  2. Jake, good post here and on Daily Kos. We the people of Fitzwalkerstan are struggling to survive the current economic plan. "Open for Business" is an ironic slogan at best, as Repugnantcrats close down everything good and replace it with fake LAB, fake DNR, fake UW and fake Commerce (it's now all quid-pro-quo tax credits in exchange for contributions to slush funds which does not a thriving economy make). By exposing corruption so well in your analyses, you've helped us see the truly unprecedented, statewide environmental and economic give-away orchestrated by executive, legislative and judicial lackeys and henchmen under the influence of Koch that have brought us, in return for their "efforts", nothing but the threatened loss of everything we love: the freedom to pursue happiness in an environmentally, economically thriving place formerly called Wisconsin.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, La Mer. "Orchestrated" is indeed the right word, as none of this happens in isolation