Suffering for thee, but not for me

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

As Governor Tony Evers extended his despotic rule for another month, abrogated our civil rights, and pushed Wisconsin further into an economic depression, he had the audacity to tweet, “we have to remember that we’re all in this together.” Nothing could be further from the truth and the heavy hand of government oppression puts the difference between public and private America into stark relief.

Throughout Wisconsin, private-sector employees are feeling the full brunt of Governor Evers’ haphazard and tyrannical rule. Every day, we wake up to see what new decree might have been announced from Madison to control or crush some other aspect of our lives. Many businesses have already been devastated and been forced to terminate people’s employment and cut back pay and benefits for the employees who remain.

Harley-Davidson laid off the majority of its production employees. For those who are still working, they had to cut salaries, cancel merit increases, and reduce other expenses. Kohl’s Department Stores has closed all of its stores and furloughed most of its store and corporate employees. Thousands of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses across the state have closed or drastically cut back operations. All of their employees are either out of work or seeing reduced wages.

The results of this are hitting families hard. An estimate from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has reached 27%. For some perspective, at the peak of the Great Depression, the nation’s unemployment rate was 24.9%.

In response to the economic and societal devastation being wrought from the governor’s mansion (provided by the taxpayers), private- sector leaders are standing in solidarity with their employees. The CEOs of Harley-Davidson and Kohl’s are both forgoing their salaries. Boards of directors and executives across the state are forgoing or heavily cutting their salaries and benefits to help preserve money for more employees. For small-business owners, many of them do not have a choice. They are being bankrupted and seeing their life’s work obliterated underneath them.

All of these people are “in this together.” Is Governor Evers? Is his staff? What about other government workers?

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

Thomas Paine, in his incomparable “Common Sense,” wrote that government is “in its worst state an intolerable one … our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” Wisconsinites’ suffering is made all the more worse by the fact that while our livelihoods are being destroyed, we are being forced to pay the full cost of the government causing it.