Governing against the People

While it is not yet known whether "the rise of the oceans began to slow" since the nomination/election of Barack Obama, it is clear that Lake Michigan hasn't, thanks to the recent infusion of more than two billion gallons of raw sewage, courtesy of the City of Milwaukee. This is a not-uncommon occurrence due to the fact that the city's storm and sanitary sewers are one and the same and, despite a massively expensive "Deep Tunnel" reservoir, a heavy deluge not only impacts the lake, but causes a backflow into thousands of local homes. Another storm in June of 2008 resulted in a 2.9-billion-gallon spill.

Nor is the problem confined to Milwaukee. As the sewage migrates southward toward Chicago, it impacts the shores of three Wisconsin counties and two in northern Illinois. The threat of E. coli results in the closure of beaches and other recreational activities, and the sights and smells do little for the tourist trade. 

So, given the scope of this environmental and health hazard, occurring on a fairly regular basis, how do the Obama administration and the city and state Democratic machine choose to utilize Wisconsin's allotment of borrowed federal funds? 

On a "high-speed" rail link between Milwaukee and Madison, of course.

Madison is located roughly 80 miles due west of Milwaukee and is easily accessed via Interstate 94. Outside the city, the speed limit is 65 mph, and barring construction or an accident, the drive is easy. Bus service is also available between the two cities and the major communities in between. A rail link was abandoned decades ago for want of ridership.

Despite the fact that a majority of the public is against the project, Governor Jim Doyle (D) and the Obama administration insist on proceeding. Stating that the project would create "more than 5,500 construction and engineering jobs," Doyle immediately went abroad and arranged for the purchase of the locomotives and cars in Spain. The Spanish company has committed to renovating an old plant in Milwaukee for some of the work, but the bulk of the work, and the profits, will go to Spain. Obviously, the jobs created would evaporate once the work is done, and the taxpayers would be left with ongoing operating and maintenance costs for a railroad that few will use. Like Amtrak, which runs regular service between Milwaukee and Chicago as well as to Minneapolis/St. Paul, every ride would have to be heavily subsidized.

The taxpayers of Wisconsin, among the most taxed in the country, have been vocal in their opposition. The response to this from Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is to say, "High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin -- there's no stopping it." Governor Doyle, whose administration and policies have been responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of Wisconsin jobs and the departure of many of the largest companies (as this is written, Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson is considering moving its manufacturing facilities out-of-state), has decided not to run for reelection -- for obvious reasons. Whether this project goes through or not, his legacy will be an expensive one.

What is happening in Wisconsin is demonstrative of a mentality that has infected government at both the national and state levels: a failure to set correct priorities and an inability to readjust those priorities in view of more serious and immediate needs. Refusing to secure the southern border, even in the face of increased drug trafficking and violence in Mexico; the inability of the administration to associate the Islamofascist movement with the threat of foreign and domestic terror, even as more incidents occur; and the insistence on passing health care and other legislation that is clearly opposed to the wishes of the majority are disastrous choices from the start. Refusal to modify or abandon them, even as their effects become obvious, is irrational at best and malevolent at worst. 

In the private sector, there is a keen awareness of correct priorities and the need for the flexibility to alter them as circumstances change. It cannot be otherwise. Businesses exist to provide goods and services, and the final arbiter of their success or failure is the marketplace. No matter the product, they must be alert to changes in tastes, style, technology, society, or competition that would render their present offering vulnerable, and they must be prepared to modify, augment, or supplant it as needed. To refuse to do so begets failure, and in this day and age, the increased "speed of life" can bring that about quickly and with finality. 

Within the past half-century, a number of factors have contributed to the growing isolation of government at every level from the pragmatic realities of business and the life of the average citizen. As campaign costs have risen, political office has increasingly become the province of individuals of great wealth, and money, whether inherited or acquired, tends to insulate its possessors from many of life's realities -- especially the economic ones. Once elected, an incumbent can forge links with lobbyists, PACs, wealthy ideologues, unions, and other sources of funds to greatly boost reelection chances. This has resulted in a larger population of multi-term politicians more beholden to their bankrollers than their constituents. Government has also become attractive to academics, who are frequently more used to the world of ideas and theories than practical realities. David Halberstam's 1972 book, The Best and the Brightest, is an instructive discourse on how some of the leading academic minds of a generation helped enmesh the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the mire of Vietnam and, once in, evolved a strategy of failure. Its lessons have not been learned by the current administration, and it is significant that fewer than 10% of the present advisory and administrative staff derive from the business community.

Many of the candidates who will be running in the fall in opposition to current policies at both the state and federal level have come from the private sector. In both substance and style, they resonate with an electorate disillusioned by and disgusted with ideologies, social engineering, impractical solutions, and, in one case at least, expensive and unnecessary railroad trains. 

As for Milwaukee, there has been no plan to fix or change the sewer system, and the homeowners whose basements were inundated or have collapsed have been told by FEMA that, as of now, aid is possible only when the flood reaches the first floor. One thing is for sure: The next time the city experiences heavy rains, it will happen again, and billions of gallons of sewage will spew into Lake Michigan. There is an ironic footnote: This may be the first time that the eco-fixated Democrats should have put money down the sewer and failed to do so.