Wineke: Trying To Get Past Politics Harder Than It Seems

By Bill Wineke Special to Channel 3000

It was just a week ago that I had breakfast with Tom Bier, the WISC-TV station manager who oversees this online outlet and, over eggs and coffee, I told him I planned to change the direction of this column.

“I’m tired of writing about politics,” I said. “I never planned to make this a political column; I wanted it to focus of faith and values. I generally think politics is boring.”

But crazy things have happened in Wisconsin and nationally during the past six months. Decisions are being made that are directly affected by faith and values, and I really don’t like the values being exemplified by many Republican governors and congressional leaders.

However, enough is enough. It’s time to move on. That’s what I determined.

Then I turned on the news and heard that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a guy many Republicans are begging to run for president, is proposing some novel cuts to Medicaid in his state.

Currently, a New Jersey family of three can earn as much as $24,645 annually — about $454 a week — and still qualify for Medicaid services. Christie wants to cut that to $103 a week. The proposed cuts won’t affect people now getting Medicaid or people on welfare. Wisconsin’s limits for a family of three are about $18,000 a year, if I understand correctly.

So, what, really, is the New Jersey governor trying to accomplish? The reason we give Medicaid to people who work is because we want them to work. We don’t want them to go on welfare just so they can have medical benefits for their kids. I can pretty much assure you that a job that pays $103 a week won’t offer great medical benefits.

Then, in Wisconsin, I read the Joint Finance Committee is recommending cutting the earned income benefit that offsets income taxes for people who work at very low-paying jobs. It’s another of these programs designed to encourage people to get jobs and support their families. Cutting it is, in effect, a tax increase for the poor.

The finance committee may not think much of the poor but it does have the interest of road builders at heart. It voted to recommend a law that will prohibit government bodies from doing road improvement projects that cost more than $100,000.

The fact that taxpayers have already paid for the equipment to do these projects, pay the salaries of workers who complete them, and can do the job less expensively — often — than private contractors seems to be irrelevant.

That was too much even for Senate President Michael Ellis, who called the move “stupid” and said he will fight to keep it out of the budget.

And, in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation requiring people applying for welfare to be tested for drugs. That’s in addition to random drug testing for all Florida state employees. Scott’s wife is, apparently, a major stock holder in a company that provides drug testing, a company Scott founded.

Oh, well.

If the law actually prods people to get off drugs, it might even be a good thing. If I lived in Florida, my fear would be that it would prod drug addicts to mug me to get money to eat. However, since I will probably never step foot in Florida, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Well, next week I’m going to reform and stop writing about this stuff. We have been taken over by barbarians and I don’t think I should spend much more time flailing about in outrage. I’m going to write about things people really care about.

For example, did you hear about New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter fiasco?