Wisconsin Politics: A Story Filled with Love and Rage

Our Governor, whom I like to think of as Little Scotty Walker, defends the financing of the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena with the very clever slogan “Cheaper to Keep’em.” There are both theoretical and practical problems with the plan. But I believe Little Scotty is well aware of these problems. I mean the man’s not stupid, right? He’s the one after all who realized that the UW-System was an albatross around the neck of taxpayers. After all, being one of the best state university systems in the country and with the most severely underpaid faculty and staff in the Mid-West, the UW-System was costing rich people too much. So he’s cutting $250M from the system to make it even better. Now that’s an interesting number.

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$250M is exactly the amount Little Scotty wants to give to the two billionaires who own the Milwaukee Bucks. Wesley Edens, co-founder of a $62B asset management company (and a former Lehman Brothers partner and managing director), and Marc Lasry, whose estimated net worth is $1.7B are the impecunious billionaires in need of a handout. In fairness to these two billionaires, let it not go unnoticed that they are proffering $100M of their own in the new arena project. The theory behind the taxpaper’s contribution is (as it always is) that loss of the Bucks will decrease revenue in the larger Milwaukee area, increase loss of jobs, and add to the costs of keeping the Bradley Center up and working for lesser entities than the top-tier Bucks, who have to give away tickets to get fans in. Even then, the upper stands are mostly empty.

(BTW: A free ticket doesn’t cover the overpriced, diluted beer and the exorbitant brats, which are all served by volunteer groups who are paid no wages.)

The trouble with that theory is that it has been proven wrong. Studies have shown that profits  for local economies that build or refurbish stadiums are almost always less than 20% of profits forecast by urban planners who back the stadium plan. Usually, the new or refurbished stadiums benefit the team’s owners and the players, most of whom take their million dollar salaries and go home for the off-season.

Aside: What do you call 12 millionaires watching the NBA playoffs?

The Milwaukee Bucks.

Practically, the plan is dunderheaded. How could Little Scotty not see that? he said no to the casino in Kenosha. But those casino owners wanted to throw in $250M to help finance the new Bucks’ arena. There’s that pesky little number again. In addition, the casino would have added 10,000 jobs and paid to subside certain local roads and other infrastructure as well as taxes to both Kenosha and the state.

So in the Great Tradition That Is Wisconsin–a tradition honored for as many years as Little Scotty has been in office–the Wisconsin State Government is taking benefits and services from the poor and middle-class  and using the cost of those benefits and services to stuff the pockets of the already wealthy.

But things do get worse. After the years of successful union busting, the State of Wisconsin Legislature and Little Scotty have conspired to repeal the alternative minimum tax. The AMT law is the legislature’s way to make sure that those persons who file with a lot of exemptions still have to pay at least something to contribute to the operations of the state. So if someone has an income of, say, $200,000 and has also amassed exemptions and deductions of $200,000, the state still expects that person to contribute. What the rates are for the AMT I do not know. But the estimated loss to the Wisconsin state revenue is $26M. It’s simply another gimmick to have rich people receive all sorts of benefits from the state while paying nothing.

I think that if you state the ideals of America we were taught as children–fairness, equality, opportunity, family values–and place them beside the actions of Republicans and Tea-Partiers, it is fair to say that Little Scotty and his ilk hate the America that I love.