Merry Christmas, governor-elect Walker, and not just from the lucky people of California.
It's not always better to give
“It will be a merry Christmas for thousands of construction workers in California,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett commented the other day.
Yes indeed, and not too merry a Christmas for already depressed construction workers in Wisconsin.
California got the bulk of the $810 million in federal funds to improve our passenger rail system that Governor-elect Scott Walker decided we didn’t need. And those 125 or so manufacturing workers that Talgo Inc. had started to hire to build train sets on Milwaukee’s north side aren’t going to have a happy new year either since the Spanish firm plans to move to a state that actually embraces a diversified transportation future. Nor will that new year be any brighter for the Wisconsin suppliers who would have sold parts and equipment to Talgo. Florida or Illinois suppliers will get that business instead.
But what the heck, we saved about a million dollars a year (Walker keeps saying -- erroneously -- that it would have been $10 million a year) in subsidy costs that would have come from the state’s $4.5 billion transportation budget. That budget, of course, subsidizes everything from highways to airports.
Plus, as Barrett pointed out to Milwaukee’s Daily Reporter last week, Wisconsin taxpayers’ share of the passenger rail stimulus funds that will now be spent in other states will be about $140 million. And that’s not counting the $5 million that Milwaukee spent upgrading the building that Talgo would have used to build trains here.
Scott Walker’s opposition to adding rail transportation to Wisconsin’s capital city, linking it to the economic corridor that shows such great promise from Chicago to Minneapolis, may forever be a mystery. As editor Paul Fanlund hinted in his column in last week’s Cap Times’ Wednesday print edition, getting “even” with Madison, which seldom votes for reactionaries like Walker, could be at the heart of it all.
Passenger rail, after all, had historically been a bipartisan issue until Walker decided to make it a partisan one during this year’s elections.
But I digress. This is supposed to be a column for Christmas week, when we pause to pay tribute to the Prince of Peace and his message of good will to all.
It’s a time of hearing from friends you haven’t heard from since this time last year, all made possible by the wonderful tradition of exchanging Christmas cards or, as some people do nowadays, exchanging Christmas e-mails. It may have all started as a scheme by greeting card companies to make money, but what else will get you to pause long enough to wish an old friend, a high school buddy or an old Army pal best wishes, and then find out in return that they’re doing just fine?
There are the carolers in the mall, the Christmas lights and decorations in the neighborhood, the holiday songs on the CD that has sat on the shelf for the past 11 months, and the grandkids’ special music program at school.
It’s also a time when we need to remember the less fortunate among us, especially again this year when tens of thousands are without jobs and struggling to pay their bills. If you can, give a little extra to your favorite charity so it can provide the help that so many need.
So Merry Christmas to all who read this column and the many more who are part of The Capital Times’ and Fighting Bob families. And that goes for Governor-elect Walker, too, despite his Grinch-like ways.
(This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
December 23, 2010
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Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of the Capital Times and a FightingBob.com contributing editor.