Welcome (Back) to Wisconsin, Mr. President (Again)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear President Obama,

Welcome back to Madison, Wisconsin—the site of one of the largest 2008 campaign rallies in support of Hope and Change.

Madison is home the Wisconsin State Capitol, the University of Wisconsin and is the heart and soul of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Madison is the bluest of blue cities and is the seat of Dane County, the most liberal of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. The tens of thousands who greet you today will warmly embrace you and vocally support your policies. You are always welcome in Wisconsin and, although you were here just three weeks ago, we are happy you have chosen to come to America’s Dairyland, yet again. We realize there are dozens of other places where you could appear before an adoring crowd, many in this country, even.  We are honored that you keep coming back to our state, and to our capital city, in particular.

As we are sure you are aware, Madison is also home of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, the Free Market Voice for Wisconsin. In fact, our office is a mere mile or so away from the site of your event today. So, we would be remiss if we didn’t proffer a few questions we hope you will answer during your exciting political rally.

Where are the jobs you promised?

Not only does the liberal hotbed of Madison guarantee you a favorable crowd, there is another benefit of coming to Dane County. Thanks to steady, taxpayer-funded employment provided by the largest public university in the state, and the jobs directly and indirectly tied to state government, unemployment in Dane County is a mere 5.4 percent. Had you chosen to visit Rock (10.2), Kenosha (10.1), Milwaukee (9.6), Marinette (10.3), Rusk (10.0) or Marathon (8.2) counties there would have been plenty of people with free time to come fill the seats, but the crowd may not have been as friendly. Since your Inauguration, Wisconsin’s economy has actually lost 111,500 jobs.

Should we be concerned that your economic team is bailing from the White House?

White House budget director Peter Orszag resigned in June. Christina Romer, chairman of your Council of Economic Advisers, has left her post. Economic Adviser Larry Summers has announced he is leaving soon. Rumors abound that Rahm Emanuel, your Chief of Staff, will soon take his Chicago-style politics straight to the Windy City itself in a bid to replace the departing Mayor Daley.

Some would see this as evidence your Administration is in disarray. We prefer to take the glass half full approach. Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to turn away from the failed Keynesian policies that are choking all growth potential in our economy.

If you are serious about spending, can we just bank the unspent stimulus funds, including the billions slated for a unneeded hodgepodge of high speed rail projects?

Your budget director, before he resigned, boasted about the Administrations efforts to control spending. In an entry dated May 24th, Orzag wrote: The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010 alone is not enough to cut waste, streamline government operations, and create a government that is more responsive to the American people. Rather, it is part of a larger effort the President has undertaken to rein in wasteful spending.

According to the official Recovery.gov website, more than $250 billion  of the $787 billion stimulus funds have yet to be spent.

Much of this spending is for the construction of dubious projects like the little-used Milwaukee to Madison train line.

Can we agree to stop the ‘stimulus’ spending, today, and focus on ‘needs’ instead of funding a wish list of ‘wants?’

One last thing… about that push for education reform?

Just last November, you launched the Department of Education’s Race to the Top right here in Madison. While Wisconsin failed in that race (not once, but twice) we were still proud you chose us to host the announcement. The stated goal of the RTTT program is to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform. Yet, at MacIver, we’re concerned that your treatment of Washington, DC’s school choice program could be construed as evidence that RTTT is merely about spending more on an existing system rather than fundamentally improving the educational outcomes for children.

Proposed regulations on for-profit education will stand to shut down another avenue of innovation and reform for Americans as well. This will essentially choke out hundreds of institutions in order to create a less crowded playing field for public run institutions. However, if competition breeds the best environment for change, progression, and the evolution of a product, how can the removal of a key player be seen as a step forward for American education?

In any event, we do, sincerely, welcome you to Wisconsin. Today marks your sixth visit to this state since your Inauguration and your third this year.

Having long established itself as a progressive stronghold, many observers are surprised that you have felt compelled to come back so often. Yes, this state is bleeding jobs. Yes, the Tea Party movement is strong here. Yes, there is a growing discontent over out-of-control spending in general and the Milwaukee-Madison train boondoggle in particular. Yes, there is evidence that public employee unions, especially the teachers’ unions are losing their grip on power here. Still, we’re surprised to see you again, having just hosted you on Labor Day. (This year’s Labor Day, less than a month ago).

Don’t get us wrong, we are happy to receive the attention. However, if you keep showing up here every three weeks, we have to wonder whether you will make it to all 57 states before the end of your term.

In any event, Welcome. We will be on hand to hear your answers to these questions today. And if you can’t make it up to the Capitol Square this afternoon to stop in for a tour of our modest offices, maybe you can squeeze it in some other time. Perhaps when you come back here next month???


Brian Fraley
Communications Director
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy