Ruffalo: Lax oversight by taxpayers hits hard in pocketbook

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Forgive me, Gentle Readers, but today’s sermon may at first appear to be non-local. Normally we all want local news, but now and again something happens elsewhere that should warrant our undivided attention. And, as it is in many cases, that distant piece of news sooner or later has great importance locally. For example, now that the recently elected Wisconsin state legislature has voted to strip collective bargaining from state workers’ contracts, the amalgamated unions have wasted absolutely no time in mounting a recall effort against some of the Republicans. At first blush, the move seems cavalier. After all, we just had a brace of elections a few months ago and, in many places including the Cheesehead State, Republicans rolled to power, mostly on the basis of claiming they were the more fiscally responsible party. Yet, when some Republicans did precisely what they’d promised, the unionists quickly demanded a do-over, which is precisely what a recall election is. Not fair, and — especially in light of how many Democrat legislators fled outside the state boundaries whenever it appeared they couldn’t garner enough votes to carry an issue — it also appeared rather petulant. By now you may think that this screed is little more than a complaint against what obviously is another power grab from the unionists, but the opposite is true. Why? Because this effort could wind up being the defining moment for America. The union forces have targeted the eight most vulnerable Republican state senators, based upon the most recent margin of victory and the registration numbers in those affected districts. The unions figure by pouring seven-figures of union dues into each of those districts, they can seize the day and get enough new votes to change things in the legislature. Should they win — and the odds are certainly in their favor in these days of buying elections — then it’s game over and no re-set button in sight. However, if enough of the silent majority gets off their couches and votes this scheme into oblivion, then we finally have the line in the sand. Face it! This country has hit the tipping point in that there now are more people getting some sort of government handout than there are people paying for it. Of course one would vote in favor of a handout whenever there was no cost to the recipient. It probably began tipping over when we changed the word “handout” to “entitlement” because all of a sudden, recipients no longer appeared grateful but instead began demanding “their fair share” of a pie in which they contributed no ingredients and spent no time in baking. The brighter ones among us immediately recognized this as the natural evolution of vote-buying, It’s always wonderful when somebody buys a round for the house, but how great is it when the costs get put on your bar-tab? Perfect example is that slush fund, pardon me, that so-called revenue sharing practiced by our Board of Supervisors. You know, where supes shell out a few hundred bucks for some community event deemed worthwhile, then pretend that they got the money by reaching into their own wallets, our purse for that matter. Then there’s that almost cottage industry concept of forming a group, then seeking — and many times getting — taxpayers’ money to run it. Of course, those efforts usually are accompanied by some proposed executive director picking up beaucoup bucks composed entirely of money pried away from us taxpayers. The truth is, we taxpayers have been exceeding lax in keeping a close watch on governmental functions. Need an example? Consider the annual event of school-boards cobbling together a budget. Important work, but more often than not, those public sessions have more empty seats than the latest Rob Reiner movie. Yes, there’s truth to the claim that most taxpayers work for a living and have very little time to attend such functions. On the other hand, at what point can you not afford to keep an eye upon people publicly scheming to spend your money on things that you many times wouldn’t support even if you afford to do so? The recent union riots in Madison got plenty of attention. The reports from the event will make it easier for the unionists to win the recall election, but it is not a slam-dunk. Every eon or so, the taxpayers finally have had enough and actually do something about it. Proposition 13 was one prime example of that, although more and more of the Gentle Readers are too young to remember those battles. So the proposed Wisconsin recall elections will serve a purpose after all. Either we taxpayers collectively roll over and toss four paws into the air in a gesture of mass surrender, or we somehow get a spine implant and end this nonsense once and for all. Is that local enough for you? Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. To contact him, e-mail