Monday, May 08, 2006

Dems on Milwaukee County: Bold or shameless?

There is something to be said for audacity. For Dems to attack Scott Walker for Milwaukee County's fiscal mess reflects either a stunning lack of rectitude or a cynical determination that the best defense is a good offense.

As the Journal Sentinel's recent series makes clear Milwaukee County was ruined by what is, in many respects, the raison d' etre of the Democratic Party. In my first MJS column (lo those many months ago), I wrote about the time when I was a Democrat:

Years ago, I was an active member of the Democratic Party. I learned that there are two types of political activists: ambitious lawyers (that was me) and people who work for or want something from the government.

It's true. Having been a naive young man, I remember being stunned at the extent to which the Democratic Party was all about public employee unions. What happened in Milwaukee County, whose officeholders are technically nonpartisan but who were, prior to Walker, virtually always and everyone Democrats, was that the scam was taken a step too far. In part because County government operated under the radar, the unions quietly built a bacchanalia of entitlements. Free health care for life; retirement for many in their early 50s (or, theoretically, earlier); backdrops and lookbacks. I know people who have not worked for the County for years, but have still "earned" their free retirement.

The state is not as bad, but it's bad enough. The real payoff is almost always in fringes because they are less visible and, in the case of gold plated retirements, put off into the future and, until recently, not accounted for. No management that was not, in a very real sense, beholden to its employees for its own tenure would behave that way.

When the County pension scandal broke, the usual suspects tried, for a while, to paint groups like the Citizens for Responsible Government as greedy, mean dupes of talk radio. Now the meanie is the poor guy (Walker) who has to clean up their mess.

Some commentators refer to the Democrats as the "Mommy Party. In this case, its more like the Snarky Adolescent Party.

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