By Gretchen Schuldt for   Published Feb 21, 2006 at 5:21 AM

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Is anyone paying attention out there?

Congress just sucker-punched Milwaukee in the form of the Deficit Reduction Act, and President George Bush wants to take another whack with his 2007 budget.

The cuts enacted by Congress will hurt a lot; the cuts proposed by Bush would be devastating. Meanwhile, here at home, our local and state leaders act like either none of this is happening.

Or, perhaps they have some sort of cognitive disorder that makes them respond in weird ways.

Or, maybe our priorities are just nuts.

News: “The Deficit Reduction Act cuts medical assistance for low-income children and families, putting more people at risk of serious illness, increasing the number of non-paying patients at hospitals and eventually driving up the price of private insurance to cover the cost of treating those non-paying patients.”

State legislators: “How horrible that a prison inmate got sex hormone treatments!”

News: “The Deficit Reduction Act makes it harder to retain multi-family properties as affordable housing.”

City officials: “Let’s give free parking to a corporation!”

Bush’s 2007 budget proposal is so stunningly bad that even Republicans are holding their noses and trying to figure out how they can get by without touching it. The budget would slash programs that assist low-income and middle class families while greatly increasing the national deficit by extending tax breaks for the already wealthy. It would leave Milwaukee and Milwaukee County reeling.

Maybe too many people are being too quiet about what is confronting the city and the state because it’s an election year and pabulum, platitudes and just plain BS are the orders of the day.

News: The proposed Bush budget eliminates a justice grant that is bringing about $3 million to Wisconsin this year; Community Development Block Grant funding will be cut 28 percent nationwide; and low-income energy assistance in the state will be slashed $5 million as utility costs increase sharply.

Gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker: "The state should just give us more money!"

News: Bush’s health care proposals will cost up to $12 billion dollars annually and increase the number of uninsured by 600,000, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Gubernatorial candidate Mark Green: "Putting a tax on milk is flat out a terrible idea."

A lot of the Bush budget will be rejected, but some of it will stick. Residents of Milwaukee, already struggling to deal with the burdens of stark poverty, will be among Wisconsinites most hurt by the funding cuts and least helped by the tax cuts.

Ducking reality eventually leads to decision by default, which is a lousy way to run government. It is, unfortunately what we are getting lately from craven candidates and poltroon-ish politicians.

It brings an image to mind: a stoned teenager staring at the sunny sky and saying, "Wow, man -- all the neat shapes the fluffy clouds make."

Look out. The clouds are nice, but you’re standing on the railroad tracks.

And a train is coming.

Gretchen Schuldt, a former Milwaukee newspaper reporter, runs the Milwaukee Web site

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