What We Can Afford

This one burns a little hotter than all the other rage-inducing hippie-punching poor-hating nonsense coming out of Wisconsin’s legislature on a daily basis:

In the Wisconsin Legislative session of 2009-2010, a bill passed both the Senate and Assembly providing health insurance to the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty. For reasons unknown to me, police officers were not included in this legislation. However, in May of 2011, a bipartisan effort led by Republican Senator Van Wanggaard and Democratic Senator Bob Jauch sought to remedy this. Senate Bill 18 added the health insurance protection to the surviving spouses and children of Wisconsin’s fallen law enforcement officers, retroactively. The bill passed the Senate on May 17, 2011 by unanimous vote.


At the last minute, the Republican legislators in control of the Assembly blocked the bill from being brought to a vote. BLOCKED the bill that unanimously passed the Senate. From what I have discovered, the Birkholz family was given the choice of coming to the Capitol for the resolution only, but understandably opted not to attend. In a horrendous display of partisan politics in what should have been a unifying issue, John Jagler, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, called SB 18 an “unfunded mandate” on local governments that “isn’t ready to become law.”

An unfunded mandate? Okay, I’ll play. An unfunded mandate is a bad thing, let’s stipulate.

THEN FIND A WAY TO FUND THE THING. You know, like we do for wars, tax incentives for corporate headquarters construction, festivals and parties for rich people, and the goddamn fireworks. Find the money. You don’t want your taxes going to the freeloading families of dead cops? Fine. Find a sponsor. Maybe one of those corporations we’re handing out free money to can kick in the necessary amount. But don’t just sit there and say oh, it’s too hard, let’s just kick back and bitch about how we can’t do anything for people who sign up to GET KILLED IN OUR DEFENSE anymore. Take it away, Journal-Sentinel commenters!

This is another perfect example of a feel-good idea that we simply cannot afford. Giving this kind of benefit to surviving spouses, which happens nowhere except in the public sector, is the kind of spending that has gotten us to the point we’re at now – nearly bankrupt.

A feel-good idea. That’s what health insurance for other people is. A feel-good idea. Yep. It does in fact feel good to take care of people who’ve suffered an unimaginable tragedy in defense of the public. You know why it feels good? BECAUSE IT IS GOOD. That’s a sign that we should DO it. That impulse that tells you what the right thing to do is? You LISTEN to that. You don’t take it out behind the barn and kick it to death.

I feel like we could all use a refresher course in this right here: In the past 10 years we have managed to find the money for massive tax breaks for wealthy people, two unwinnable wars, a bunch of drone attacks to blow up stuff in a couple of other countries, secret service protection for various morons running for office or actually in it, and yes, the president’s vacations. In Wisconsin alonemillions of dollars are going to go to companies that do what they’re already supposed to do, which is hire people to do stuff.

But we can’t afford to give health insurance to the families of people who die serving the public. That, we can’t pay for. That’s fiscally irresponsible. That’s an unfunded mandate. That’s a bridge too far. And lest we get all crazy about “well, my family doesn’t have that guarantee,” hey, guess what. The point of us as people is not to make sure everybody’s life sucks just as much as yours sucks. The point of us as people is to make things better.

So light ’em up:

The following politicians are responsible for the failure to bring this bill to a vote. Please send them emails on behalf of Ashley Birkholz and the families of Wisconsin’s other fallen heroes, and ask everyone you know to do the same. Please spend 5 minutes of your time serving those who sacrificed their lives serving us. Demand of these legislators that they bring this important piece of legislation to an immediate vote.

Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald: Rep.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov

Representative Bill Kramer: Rep.Kramer@legis.wisconsin.gov