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home : opinions : opinions
June 15, 2019

5/30/2019 7:30:00 AM
Our view
Wisconsin's Shadow Governor comes through

In Great Britain, there is such a thing known as the Shadow Cabinet, technically the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, wherein senior members of the out-of-power opposition party assume corresponding cabinet roles and scrutinize their peers who are actually in power.

All in all, it's jolly good fun and makes for great political theatre, but it can also serve a serious purpose - to formulate alternate policy positions that help the opposition party sharpen its message for the next election, and, most important, to shine a substantive light on what the government is doing in specific policy arenas.

It helps to invigorate policy debate in the UK and to keep the politicians focused on serious business rather than on sensational monkey business.

Here in the U.S., we don't have a shadow cabinet, but Lord knows the national Democrats could surely use one. Not that the 2,000 declared candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination aren't great political theatre, but in the end good theatre only gets a standing ovation if it moves you substantially in some important way, and so far none of these candidates have any alternative policy prescriptions to bring substance to their politics or passion to the American people.

Other than impeachment, that is. To be sure, the Democrats' true star right now, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, wants to ban airplanes and farting cows, but somehow we just don't believe the American people view those as a serious policy prescriptions, even in the environmental realm.

Otherwise, the Democrats counter President Donald Trump's foreign policy with .... calls for impeachment. They counter his immigration policies with .... calls for impeachment. They counter his trade policies with ... calls for impeachment. They counter his tax policies with ... more calls for impeachment.

Impeachment for what we haven't quite figured out - and neither, mind you, have the Democrats - but there you have it. We sorely lack a debate in this country over real issues that make a difference in people's lives, and a national shadow cabinet would be a very good idea if it forced Democrats to actually talk about something important, such as trade and immigration, taxes and economic growth and infrastructure.

Here in Wisconsin, we are doing much better. For one thing, because state Democrats have no role in impeachment, they feel like they have to talk about issues, even if they wrap them in the specter of former Gov. Scott Walker.

Actually, that's a morphed form of Trump Derangement Syndrome - even now state Democrats can't help but tie current Republican policies to "corrupt" Scott Walker and to condemn those policies as evil by association, rather than on any arguments based on merit.

Increasingly, though, with Mr. Walker gone, Wisconsin Democrats have been forced to wade into real-world issues with actual proposals, which they despise most of all precisely because Democrats are very seldom real-world people but rather a lot of elites and utopians or both.

So, on issues such as education, roads and other infrastructure, economic growth, criminal justice, and the like, they talk, parroting quite unrealistic and radical policy proposals by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in his state budget.

Naturally, much of the banter is as glib as a bumper sticker slogan. That's because much of the banter is a bumper sticker slogan.

In many ways, Evers' budget is the Wisconsin equivalent of the Green New Deal - proposals to bring "science" back to the DNR (otherwise known as a radical aestheticist left-wing partisan agenda), to punish rural residents and the working class with onerous tax hikes, to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants (and in-state tuition, too!), and killing school choice on behalf of the education establishment.

And while Wisconsin doesn't have a shadow cabinet to counter all this nonsense, we actually have something even better - we have a shadow governor, and one with real punch and power.

That shadow governor, who follows Tony Evers like his real shadow, is called the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. We often hear how powerful Wisconsin's governor is statutorily, but we seldom stop to think just how potent the JFC is, though the media often refers to it as "the powerful budget writing committee."And with good reason because it is powerful. And it thwarts not only the intentions of the opposition party when it holds the governor's office but sometimes the intentions of governors from the same party as the JFC majority.

This year, the JFC has already excised the most radical items from Evers's budget, including Medicaid expansion, and this week they struck at the heart of Evers's plan to elevate bureaucrats in the DNR over elected officials by shooting down his desire for that new "science bureau," which in the Doyle years was nothing more than a propaganda ministry whose mission was to label everything that DNR bureaucrats believed in as "settled science."

This week the JFC also continued to rein in the every-hungry UW system, slashing Evers's proposed increases and extending the tuition freeze for another two years.

Poor Tony Evers must feel like his shadow reached up and knocked him to the ground and is now walking in his place, dragging him behind.

It wasn't all Dr. No stuff, either.

The members of the JFC showed they were actually doing the people's business rather than following a partisan ideological line when they approved increased funding to the state's public defenders, from $40 to $70 per hour.

They did so out of a principled belief in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees that those accused shall have "the Assistance of Counsel for his defence." The underfunding of public defenders in this state was surely jeopardizing that right for the accused, and the JFC boldly moved to remedy it.

The JFC isn't perfect with its power.

Those midnight votes they traditionally take have produced verifiably detestable policy results - who can forget the open records disaster a few years back when the JFC tried to repeal the entire law?

Through the years, though, the JFC has come to its table and put upon it real issues with real meat on the bones, forcing politicians and sloganmeisters from both parties to slink way, while true leaders solved problems.

This week the JFC, Wisconsin's Shadow Governor, proved itself worthy once again, and the people of Wisconsin can sigh a real sigh of relief that the most dangerous Democratic proposals are dead and buried for now.

At least until Tony Evers can shadow box with his shadow and find a way to win.

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