Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Walker, WisGOP are just fine with Milwaukee's despair, and want it to continue

Here are a few more thoughts and bits of context to chew on in light of this weekend’s rioting and tension in Milwaukee. And you bet your ass a lot of this goes right to the doorstep of the Governor’s mansion and our state Capitol.

First of all, go back to earlier this month, when the website "24/7 Wall Street" said Wisconsin was the worst state for black Americans IN THE COUNTRY, and the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Dan Shafer relayed these numbers that the website gave in making that assertion.

•The median annual income of black households in Wisconsin is just $26,053, much lower than the median for black families nationwide and equal to just 46.5 percent the median income of white Wisconsin households of $56,083.
•While 29.9 percent of white adults in Wisconsin have at least a bachelor's degree, 12.8 percent of black adults in the state have completed college. This is also much lower than the bachelor degree attainment rate among black adults nationwide of 19.7 percent.
•For black Wisconsin residents, the unemployment rate is 11.1 percent — higher than the national unemployment rate for all black Americans, and far higher than the white unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in Wisconsin.

Now add in these two Census figures from 2010, to realize how much of those racial disparities are part of everyday life in Milwaukee. Nearly 2/3 of Wisconsin’s 358,300 African-Americans lived in the City of Milwaukee, and over 90% of the African-American population in the 4-county Milwaukee metro area (Milwaukee County and the 3 overwhelmingly GOP WOW Counties) was confined to the city.

What this means is that African-Americans can be ignored by the WisGOP Legislature without suffering much blowback, because “those people” live outside of the legislators’ (and voters’) districts and any social problems that result from these apartheid conditions can be blamed on people and events outside of their home areas. Indeed, picking on minorities in the big city as “lazy moochers” isn’t just winning politics, it’s also way for suburbanites to maintain a feeling of superiority, despite the fact that the rest of the Milwaukee metro area also lags the country as well as many of our Midwestern neighbors in job and population growth.

That mentality from the burbs ingrains an acceptance of mediocrity that hurts the entire state, and not just because of the lack of economic growth. How do you attract talent into this state’s largest metro area when parts are wracked with 3rd World poverty combined with regressive social views and a business community that doesn’t seem interested in excelling and improving their game? This “I only care about myself” mentality not only is a key contributor to the provincialism in Milwaukee that keeps many outsiders away, but also has led to misused resources that has degraded the quality of life for individuals throughout the state, by choosing to throw tax money at campaign contributors like WEDC and voucher schools instead of investing in public goods like transit, public education, and roads.

In addition, Walker and WisGOP continue to increasingly add burdens onto local governments because the state has less funds available because of tax cuts for the rich and corporate, but then refuses to allow those local governments the chance to raise their own revenues to offset those state aid cuts. This is especially true for the City of Milwaukee, who has had massive cuts in shared revenues, but isn’t allowed to raise its own sales tax, despite housing most of the attractions in the county that attracts more tourism dollars than anywhere in Wisconsin. Let me go back to Bruce Murphy’s excellent story from June in Urban Milwaukee in response to State Rep. Janel Brantdjen’s suburban whining about Milwaukee crime, which shows that the City has found a way to increase spending on police despite being squeezed in recently years by cuts from legislators at the Capitol.

Brandtjen attended Marshall High School in Milwaukee and her district actually includes a portion of Milwaukee, but her press release had no concern or praise for that part of her district, while expressing worry about homeowners in the “flourishing suburbs” in the portions of Washington and Waukesha counties she represents.

Brandtjen’s blast came in the wake of a high-profile Milwaukee carjacking that ended with a chase into Washington County and the arrest of five juveniles. Barrett, she charged, has failed to “apprehend and arrest car thieves.” In fact, the crime statistics for Milwaukee show that arrests of juveniles for auto theft is up by 396 percent since 2010, while arrests for carjacking are up by 796 percent in the last two years….

Brandtjen also criticized Barrett for failing to hire enough police. In fact, the mayor and Common Council have devoted an ever-increasing portion of the city’s budget to the Police Department. The police budget has risen from just less than $190 million in 2005 to $280 million in 2016, while the property tax levy rose at about half that rate. The problem city officials have faced is a huge, long-term decline in state shared revenue, which dropped 36 percent in real dollars from 1995 to 2014. It’s a cinch that Barrett and the council would happily spend more on police officers, should Brandtjen convince her legislative colleagues to begin restoring shared revenue to cities.

Note that this chart is in actual dollars, before inflation is taken into account. But again, WisGOPs from the burbs see no reason to help solve the problem of heavily concentrated poverty combined with the handcuffing of the City of Milwaukee’s finances (problems they and their constituents have been significant contributors to).

Given the events of this last weekend, let’s review another article, this one in the New Republic from Summer 2014, that explains not only why the dire situation in inner-city Milwaukee has been allowed (if not outright encouraged) to continue, but also examines the career of our own Governor Dropout - Alec MacGillis’s “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker.”
Over the past few decades, Walker’s home turf of metropolitan Milwaukee has developed into the most bitterly divided political ground in the country—“the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation,” as a recent series by Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it. Thanks to a quirk of twentieth-century history, the region encompasses a heavily Democratic and African American urban center, and suburbs that are far more uniformly white and Republican than those in any other Northern city, with a moat of resentment running between the two zones. As a result, the area has given rise to some of the most worrisome trends in American political life in supercharged form: profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, a parallel-universe news media. These trends predate Walker, but they have enabled his ascent, and his tenure in government has only served to intensify them. Anyone who believes that he is the Republican to save his party—let alone win a presidential election—needs to understand the toxic and ruptured landscape he will leave behind….

Walker’s growing profile [in the 1990s and early 2000s on TV and radio talk shows] served him well as he advanced through the political ranks. In 2002, the Democratic executive of Milwaukee County, which encompasses the 600,000-person city and 355,000 in its inner suburbs, resigned amid a pension scandal. Walker won the special election and proceeded to spend the next eight years tussling with the Democratic-led county board over taxes and spending. He succeeded in making deep cuts to county parks and public transit; once, he sent layoff notices to county workers so they would pressure the council to buckle to his budget demands. So often did he call in to [AM radio host Mark] Belling’s show—to chat on air or to spin the host during a commercial break—that he had access to an emergency-only phone line to the studio that was off- limits to station employees, even for calls to family. “It was essentially the ‘zombies are rising’ line,” says Terry, the former WISN employee.

During this period, the WOW counties continued to expand. But unlike suburbs elsewhere, they had not grown more diverse. Today, less than 2 percent of the WOW counties’ population is African American and less than 5 percent is Hispanic. According to studies by the Brookings Institution and Brown University, the Milwaukee metro area is one of the top two most racially segregated regions in the country. The WOW counties were voting Republican at levels unseen in other Northern suburbs; one needed to look as far as the white suburbs around Atlanta and Birmingham for similar numbers. The partisan gulf between Milwaukee and its suburbs in presidential elections has now grown wider than in any of the nation’s 50 largest cities, except for New Orleans, according to the Journal Sentinel series.

In such an environment, “there’s no persuasion going on at all,” says GOP pollster Gene Ulm, who often works in Wisconsin. In fact, there is not a single competitive state Senate seat left in the entire Milwaukee media market.
Both parties focus entirely on turnout, and with impressive results. The WOW counties were in the top eleven nationwide for turnout in 2012, with Ozaukee first at 84 percent. Similarly, among urban counties, Milwaukee County ranks near the top, at 74 percent. (The national average was just over 60 percent.) In midterm elections, Republicans often win because the WOW counties vote no matter what, an achievement that Mark Graul, a Republican consultant, attributes in large part to the motivational power of Milwaukee talk-radio stations. However, in presidential-year elections, when turnout is up everywhere in the state, Democrats win—in fact, they have won every single major statewide race in presidential years since 1984. Even Walker admits that he isn’t working the middle much anymore: “It was always a divided state but it used to be (that) you’d explain it as ‘40/40/20,’ and 20 percent was the persuadable middle,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “That percent has shrunk now to 5, 6 percent maybe ... or five or six people.”

It is as if the Milwaukee area were in a kind of time warp. Like the suburbanites of the ’70s and ’80s elsewhere in the United States, the residents of the WOW counties are full of anxiety and contempt for the place they abandoned. “We’re still in the disco era here,” says Democratic political consultant Paul Maslin. This has affected the politics of the state in myriad ways. The nationwide trend of exploring alternatives to prison hasn’t reached Wisconsin—it has the highest rate of black male incarceration of any state in the country. [AM radio host/ Walker enabler Charlie] Sykes told me he could track the desertion of the city through the discussions of Milwaukee public schools on his show. “Through the 1990s we were very interested in education reform, and then it was like a button was switched, and those were someone else’s kids,” he said. “That’s when I realized we weren’t a Milwaukee station anymore.”
And this is why GOPs will do nothing except point fingers and mock the City of Milwaukee in light of these incidents, and won't lift those fingers to change the conditions that led to the tension and desperation that ended in looting and burning. Heck, Walker and Fox News Sheriff Tommy Clarke probably want to see more of it, becauser it gets them more support from the Trump “law and order” crowd as well as scared white suburbanites. Disgusting sickos…

Bottom line- the “Governor” of Wisconsin and the GOP majority in the Legislature don’t think the City of Milwaukee and its residents are equal to communities and citizens in the rest of the state, and there are no sufficient consequence to them not giving a fuck about those people. And the inner-city residents know it. Combine that with the breakdown in trust that has happened between Milwaukee Police and those neighborhoods (a lack of trust that has existed for decades, so much so that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the city’s practices), and you can’t be surprised when you see uprisings like what happened this weekend.


  1. As usual, you're the best. And this point, about the “I only care about myself mentality" is what really has me despairing overall--it's pervasive and destructive.

    1. Absolutely true. And they are not immune to the fallout. They need to be isolated as the selfish fools they are, and then outvote them into oblivion