As we saw the sides drawn up in this unprecedented recall, the major issues became quite clear.
Is collective bargaining a fundamental right or not? Are recalls a legitimate way to address grievances with what our elected leaders do? Is balancing the budget without regard to compromise or who may be harmed by the budget cuts good for Wisconsin? How do we best create jobs?
Each of these questions has legitimate points of view that should be discussed. Then we vote and move forward as a state. Two problems have been emerging for years but will make the “moving forward” part harder.
First is the role of money. When billionaires can write $500,000 checks to one campaign and the other has to rely on $25 and $50, donations the playing field is skewed so much that the foundational concept of one person, one vote is damaged. All the rhetoric about the power of “big government union bosses” has been laid to waste by the simple accounting facts of who received how much money in this election. When one side has a pool of over $25 million and an amount roughly equal to that poured in by special interest PACS and the other side has only a tiny fraction of that, then a dangerous door is opened regarding the second problem.
Sound democracy depends on honesty from our leaders. When a candidate has a huge money advantage then that candidate can stray as far as they wish into the land of dishonesty and use repetition to negate what the other person says and even any questions by the press. How do you know lessons like “clean your plate” and “if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all?” Your mom said them to you and her mom said them to her … over, and over and over again. Research says that if you can repeat the same thing more than nine times then you have a strong chance of having it believed. This means we’re not talking much about collective bargaining as a right, or the tools of democracy like the purpose of recalls, or even the nature of the harms caused by balancing a budget by targeting only selected groups to carry the burden. Instead, we have a battle over jobs numbers where fiction is being accepted as truth.
America has a way to compare jobs numbers between states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects the initial numbers so we have a sound basis of comparison. There is a correction process that improves the accuracy over the long run, but, the point is, the BLS numbers give us the most accurate state by state comparison. When one candidate doesn’t like the numbers, then has his hired person at the Department of Workforce Development create a new system with numbers that look better, we have a problem. With a level playing field we could have more attention brought to the issue, but money precludes it. All you have to do is put on a tie, sit in front of a camera and repeat numbers that can’t be verified until after the election. Then you have it repeated and repeated and repeated, and it works. People somehow believe you are a good job creator.
I want to end with a trivia question you would get wrong. In the last 50 years have Republicans or Democrats in the White House had more private sector job creation during their administrations? Check out the May 25, 2012, Week news magazine that gives you the evidence trail you need. In the 23 years that Democrats occupied the White House 42 million private sector jobs were added to our economy. In the 28 years that Republicans held the office, only 24 million private sector jobs were added. Isn’t it just a little weird that the perception is so different than the reality?
Maybe instead of listening to what politicians say and repeat we should listen a little more to what Mom says: “If you can’t say anything nice (and honestly), don’t say anything at all.”