In the Bluff

a blog from Wisconsin’s west coast

(the opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only, and do not represent the opinions of the company or its employees)
April 11, 2011

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.

John Dickinson, “The Liberty Song” (1768)

Well, we managed to pull back from the brink of our national budget crisis the other day. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels we have once more simply delayed the inevitable, and that the reckoning will come soon enough, likely with the battle over the debt ceiling. The notion that we cannot find compromise in a budget as large as ours and that neither side is willing to give something for the greater good is disappointing.

Meanwhile, here in Wisconsin, the politics have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime, with upcoming recall elections and an overly politicized judicial election marked notably by the 13th hour discovery by a local official of missing votes. The Walker administration continues to forge ahead with its agenda to end collective bargaining and make severe budget cuts (but not seek to increase revenues) at a time when we should be investing in our schools and municipal infrastructure and addressing the dire situation faced by many of the have-nots in our society (for example, cuts in Badger Care, the state-run health program, will negatively impact many farmers in the state, who are already living hand-to-mouth).

I respect Governor Walker’s desire to face into our budget issue in the state; what I have a hard time swallowing is that this is being done in an uneven manner (why no taxes?), without inviting any collaboration with those who may not agree with his proposals. Not only are the state Democrats being shut out of the process, but those of us in western Wisconsin don’t even get the benefit of a public hearing on the budget in our region (there was one planned, but it was moved to another part of the state). Moreover, while municipalities across the state are facing reduced state contributions for their budgets, these cuts are very uneven. My community, for example, is facing close to a 50 percent cut, while other communities of similar demographics are seeing aid cut by 5–15 percent, without any justification for the difference. Given the state of dialogue on the budget, it appears that calls for clarification or collaborative efforts to work toward common goals will not be heard.

So what is a good old idealist like me to do? Well, for one, continue to read my history. Our nation has faced much bigger problems than those we face today, though you might not believe it if you tune in solely to the 24-hour news channels. During the forging of our great nation, differences of opinion as to the very nature of our government consumed our “best and brightest,” and yet compromise was struck. And 150 years ago this week, the first shots in the Civil War were fired and the very future of our country was at stake (reading hat-tip of the week—1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart is an excellent overview of the first year of the war). Though it took a bloody war, we as a nation persevered.

We have suffered through world wars and the Great Depression, through a cold war and battles over civil rights, and yet survived, all along continuing “to forge a more perfect union” (every time I reread the Constitution, I am struck not only by the genius of the Founders, but the literary merit of their work). We have done so because citizens of this country have ultimately put aside their individual differences to work toward our shared goals, that we have listened to others as much as spoken our opinions. It hasn’t been easy, and will not be in the future. But unless we are willing to try and find civil solutions to our problems, unless we stop the name-calling and try to truly engage the other side, and unless we recognize that, in a country that is pretty much divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, neither side has a mandate and thus the solutions must be forged together, progress will be even harder to come by.

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