Friday, June 8, 2012



Like all proponents of small government, I was thrilled by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s crushing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the Badger State’s run-off election. The magnitude of my delight was perhaps only exceeded by the degree of my appallment at this circus’s ever having to be conducted. In this country, we don’t recall public officials when we disagree with their politics; to do so only puts us further down the perilous path to mob rule.

At least to this observer, though, what we were seeing was only in a broad sense a backlash against big government. In a more concentrated manner, this was a backlash against taxpayers’ being compelled to pay outrageous taxes to finance benefits, especially pensions, of state and local workers of which those taxpayers could only dream. I addressed this issue in the early days of the Pontificator, in my 11/16/07 post entitled “ELIHU, WOULD YOU LOOFAH MY STRETCH MARKS?” In that seminal post, I wrote, with a degree of prescience my readers have come to expect

But now that local government workers salaries’ are getting higher, pensions are getting ever richer, and the defined benefit pension plan is going the way of the pterodactyl in the private sector, property taxpayers are getting more and more resistant to paying their growing real estate bills when an ever growing portion of those bills is going to fund pension benefits of which they can only dream.

Simply put, people are tired of paying for benefits they don’t get. They were tired of it back in 2007 when times were better and they are now even more tired of it now that times are worse. One could spin this as a revolt against big government in general, and I hope it was, but I fear it was not. This was a much more concentrated anger.

The big discussion on this topic on both Tuesday night and Wednesday (a day on which I had to once again rely on Sirius/XM because we were on the road, this time to Lincoln, Nebraska on another college trip for my second daughter. What we found was a very nice campus filled with friendly and helpful people who really love their school. And I highly recommend the ice cream at the Dairy Store on campus. I may hate to travel, but I love these college trips, but I digress.) was what ramifications the Wisconsin results hold for November. Unlike the wise and learned commentators on the major media outlets to which I had access, I have no idea what Wisconsin means for the Presidential election. However, I would advise against immediately embracing what seemed like the conventional wisdom spewing from the major media, to wit, that the Wisconsin results hold little predictive value for November because the exit polls showed that the majority of the residents of America’s Dairyland still like Mr. Obama and that even a sizable chunk of those who supported Governor Walker in the recall intend to vote for the President in November.

Why do I hold these poll results suspect? On Tuesday night at 8:00 CDT, in the immediate aftermath of the polls’ closing, CNN reported that the recall election was far too close to call and, therefore, a terrible disappointment to the Walker camp because just about every poll showed him going into the vote with a small but not inconsiderable lead, about 3%. (That the CNN crew was positively glowing at these preliminary results should come as no surprise, but again I digress. At least I do so parenthetically in this instance.) But as the actual numbers came in, the closeness somehow vanished as Governor Walker sailed to a near landslide victory. Yet the experts depended on those same exit polls to predict few, if any, consequences for President Obama’s re-election chances from Wisconsin’s hearty re-endorsement of its conservative governor.

I am an honest person, perhaps not because I am good but rather because I am insufficiently clever to keep lies lined up with the perfection lining them up demands. Honesty is its own reward, as I tell my students. That reward is often not immediate, but it will come. I have that on very Good Authority. So I never lie and I tell my students, children, and anyone who asks for advice never to lie…except in one case and one case alone. ALWAYS lie to an exit pollster. If I ever get the opportunity, I certainly will do so. Why this exception to a seemingly impervious moral rule? Because exit polls really ruin election night, which is my New Year’s Eve. I, and others who so fervently enjoy the horse race aspects of the political game, cannot stand being told one minute after the polls close who won. We would rather wait for the a modern day reincarnation of, say, Len O’Connor, to report that, in, say, “In the 18th Ward, with four precincts reporting, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 15 votes,” than to hear the likes of Wolf Blitzer mouth, at 8:01, that “Our exit polls show that President Obama has won the election. Now to our expert panel to tell us how we should think.”

But I digress.

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