The LuLac Edition #1498, March 5th, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: OUR "INTERVIEW" LOGO.
I spoke with an old friend and also my old boss from sales who is now living in Madison, Wisconsin, the very heart of the public sector vs. high taxes debate started by newly minted Governor Scott Walker. I asked my friend a few questions about the environment of living in an area that has all of a sudden become the center of national attention.
A. I am honored to be called your friend.
Q: Back at ya pal. As a resident of Madison, what is it like being there with all this political tumult?
A: It was a bit unnerving and exciting, all at the same time. It certainly has had a polarizing effect on people – friends, family…state employees and private business employees.
Q: How about traffic and things like that?
A: The traffic issues were pretty much relegated to the downtown area, around the Capitol. The “square” was cordoned off as well as a block all four ways around the “square”.
Q: The Governor has been criticized because they say he wants to break the union, what are your thoughts on that?
A: My understanding is that the public employees’ union for the state of Wisconsin will not be “broken”. Governor Walker wants the public employees to contribute in part to their own health care plan and their own retirement plan. The crux, in my opinion, of the issue is that the Governor also wants to take away the ability of the union to collectively bargain for other benefits. Without that concession, the public employees’ union can collectively bargain some or all of these benefits back (city by city, county by county).
Q: He ran on the claim that he was going to attack spending, why do people seem so surprised at his actions?
A: Good question. There was just a commercial on the radio that stated “Governor Walker was voted into office to return fiscal sanity to the state of Wisconsin…”. People seem to be alarmed at the speed at which he went about it and how he did it. The people protesting argue that it should be debated by the legislature – however both are now controlled by the Republicans and, once the bill is on the floor with the required quorum, will pass. Fourteen Democrat Senators left town and are staying in a hotel just over the border in Illinois. Apparently they cannot be “forced” back to work. Strange behavior to be sure I think.
Q: Wisconsin has had its fair share of politicians that have ranked nationally on the radar screen. William Proxmire, Robert Lafollette, is Governor Walker destined for that recognition?
A: You can also add Joe McCarthy, Tommy Thompson and Russ Feingold to that list. People tend to think locally or at best regionally about things like this. It remains to be seen if Governor Walker’s action start a trend for other Governor’s to follow. If so, he may be tied to the swell of conservative-spending-directives in a positive light.
Q: How in the heck could I forget about McCarthy. I mean he was only in the history books when I was in school. Anyway, there is a rumor that former Senator Russ Feingold might run for President. What do you think?
Right now Senator Feingold is a guest professor at Marquette University (in Milwaukee). I really don’t have a feel about what people across the country think of the Senator. He lost his seat to a conservative business-owner with no political experience.
Q: Even though you work for a big company, essentially what you do is up to you. As a sales person you have to be an entrepreneur. Do you feel you pay too high in-state taxes?
A: Our taxes are high but I think our services are high, too. There is usually a direct correlation. Like any business, government has waste (spending on pet-projects, ineffective employees, etc.) that can be adjusted and cut/corrected. I think the Governor is right on this aspect – asking the 175,000 state employees to contribute to their own retirement and pay for a portion of their health care. The current agreement is fiscally unsustainable in the future without massive tax increases or layoffs.
Q: As you look at the political landscape, do you personally feel things are getting better or worse in the country?
A: The art of negotiation and, more importantly, compromise is getting worse. The way the population of the country is changing, each U.S. Senator or Representative has more of a polarized district. Therefore, I think, they have less of a reason to compromise and more of a reason to vote the party line.
Q: How about the tenor of the political debate, do you dial it down a bit or crank it up?
A: If dial it down means to compromise in good faith…YES. If crank it up means to vote the party line and be mean-spirited…NO.
Q: Okay, the two most important questions of this interview, will the Packers repeat?
A: YES!!! Still the youngest team in the NFL. Yes, that is, if there is not a lockout by the owners. That is another issue!!!
Q: And what’s the deal with this Ian’s Pizza. I understand people from all the United States are ordering it. Is it that good?
A: They have three or four outlets right up by the Capitol (near the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison). It was convenient for them to deliver pizza to the throngs up there. I don’t think I have ever had it. Most of their business is driven by the college students.
Q: Congrats on being a new grandpa. You and the missus look way too young for that.
A: Thanks buddy, that's very kind.
Q: Hey, very true.