It’s dumb to kiss away $810 million in train money

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

I enjoyed Bill Lueders’ recent column in Isthmus in which he pointed out just how stupid politicians become at election time.

Both political camps blow trivial and mostly meaningless issues out of proportion to demonize their opponents with ads and campaign statements that are just plain silly, like accusing an opponent of wanting to drill for oil in the Great Lakes or pointedly painting another as an out-and-out liar. The pity of it all, he pointed out, is that all the silliness seems to work with a growing portion of the electorate -- “people so pathetically uninformed and undiscerning as to be influenced by them.”

“In fact, shallow, barely aware voters have become the most important players in our democracy,” Lueders lamented. “It is for their sake that candidates debase themselves with shameless appeals to ignorance.”

This purposeful appeal to “ignorance” is all I can ascribe to Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker’s and Mark Neumann’s repeated pronouncements about high-speed rail for Wisconsin. Either that, or they’re completely ignorant themselves.

Somewhere along the line, both these men have decided that to oppose upgrading Wisconsin’s railroad infrastructure to expand passenger rail to Madison and eventually to Minneapolis will appeal to some voters, especially those who don’t bother to understand what’s at stake.

The two candidates went completely over the top, though, during their last debate of the primary campaign late last month, with Neumann insisting that he would take the $810 million the feds have earmarked for Wisconsin to build the rail and give it back to the state’s citizens in tax breaks. Walker at least acknowledged that he didn’t think that was possible, but he’d get the feds to agree to release the money to build highways instead.