I give up. I'm moving to Canada.
Ha! Just joking, but just barely. I'm feeling pretty demoralized by our government this week, and that's saying a lot given how consistently, mind-numbingly messed up government affairs seem these days. But it took the psy-ops special forces in the state assembly passing their budget this week to nearly break me.
Wisconsin State Assembly Leader Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) trumpeted the Republican budget as one that puts "Families First," but as usual the big elephant's capacity for irony exceeds mine by at least a trunk-length. Families first?
In addition to defunding public education at the K-12 and university levels, giving unregulated handouts to fly-by-night private schools through an expanded voucher program in Milwaukee and Racine counties, gouging the state's commitment to health insurance for children, and dishing out more tax breaks to special corporate buddies, the Republican budget eliminates the homestead tax credit for single people under the age of 65.
The state's homestead tax credit gives some money back to taxpayers who make less than $24,000 a year, whether they own or rent their home. The Assembly budget cuts out $89.6 million in tax relief for 81,000 of these lower-income residents simply on the basis of their marital status and their age.
These state reps probably think they're axing the stereo fund of overindulged college students, but it's clearly just another random act of cluelessness about the real nature of Wisconsin's families. Putting Wisconsin families first would mean acknowledging the many families headed by single parents who could use that tax credit and accepting that many of those parents are single because of circumstances outside of their control.
Putting Wisconsin families first would also mean allowing single, lower-income LGBT taxpayers to continue to claim the homestead tax credit. Since the state last year made it unconstitutional for gay couples to get married, I guess the state reps felt empowered to create yet another new Republican tax on being gay.
And the Associated Press reported this week that many immigrants - yes, even ones here in the U.S. legally - are having a harder time getting a marriage license because of new enforcement of federal child support rules requiring a Social Security number to get hitched. So these immigrants who are barred from getting married should also be discriminated against when paying taxes in Wisconsin?
The homestead credit massacre isn't the only really special family-firsting Leader Huebsch has done. On his website you can read about the issues he's worked on. One that caught my attention was that he was one of the many authors of the W-2 welfare deform initiative. It's really hard to find a state Republican who doesn't claim authorship of W-2. The signing of the W-2 legislation is like the state Republican equivalent of Woodstock. Dude, if you can actually remember that you were there, you weren't.
Given the horrendous waste of public money by the private contractors who administer the program and the lousy outcomes for parents and children, why would Huebsch even want to mention his association with W-2? Oh, yeah, families first ... into the pit of despair.
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.