Category Archives: Economy

Giving Away the Store to Get the Store

Back when I covered local government this was beyond routine: Jewel wants to build a store to make money off of (and employ a few of) our residents! Let’s give them tax breaks to come here because if we don’t, they’ll build 10 feet down the road in a town that will!

Thus ensuring that any economic development doesn’t benefit the schools or the residents, which is … the entire rationale behind encouraging economic development in the first place.

I’m seeing more pushback against this in the Amazon discussion than I ever did previously:

Critics of Amazon’s “race to the bottom” as it searches for a home for its second headquarters said on Thursday that the company’s newly released shortlist of 20 cities highlights a crisis in the U.S. economy—one exemplified by the huge incentives offered to Amazon in the bidding war among potential hosts.

When politicians talk about incentives for businesses people assume they mean giving Jane and Joe a break on their water bill while they’re opening an ice cream shop, not giving Jeff Bezos a free pass to rebuild their whole city for rich white people.

A.

The Rule of Law Without Lawyers

You tell me how this works out well for anybody: 

John Anderson’s weeks blur together as the lone judge in Bayfield County. The largely rural county sits at the top of Wisconsin and is home to hundreds of miles of trails, some of the Apostle Islands, and 15,000 residents. But there are just 14 active attorneys.

In Anderson’s courtroom, one scenario unfolds over and over: Nonviolent drug offenders file into court without a lawyer, Anderson tells them to contact an attorney and then they are released on a signature bond. They’re due back in court in two weeks for another hearing, and possibly an offer for treatment if they’re able to find a lawyer.

But they often don’t last that long. The offender often ends up back in Anderson’s courtroom in a week on bail-jumping and more serious felony charges, with no representation. Now the opportunity for treatment is gone.

“That happens every week,” Anderson says. “Somebody is put back into the community with a serious drug or alcohol problem, waiting to get their lawyer, and then they reoffend.”

Like much of the state, Bayfield has faced serious, and worsening, problems with meth and opioid addiction, leading to many overdoses a year.

But unlike Wisconsin’s more affluent counties, Bayfield is also facing a shortage of lawyers to take up public defender cases, resulting in a backlog that lengthens delays for treatment and leaves people in jail awaiting trial.

Instead of people getting assigned a public defender within days of being arrested and charged, it can take four, six or even eight weeks. This gap in defense leaves people addicted to opioids or meth in a high-stress situation, without treatment options. If they do get assigned representation, it can be from an inexperienced attorney.

Other than the for-profit prisons, I mean.

A.

We Want To Be Good

Look how they’ve exceeded their goal: 

I am Samierra Jones, a Senior at Coppin State University and a graduate of Baltimore City Public School system. Baltimore City Public Schools are currently operating with an inadequate heating system. Students are still required to attend classes that are freezing and expected wear their coats to assist in keeping them warm. How can you teach a child in these conditions? This fund raiser will  help  in purchasing space heaters and outerwear to assist in keeping these students warm. To raise $20,000 would be enough to cover the fees of Go fund Me and purchase roughly 600 space heaters, outerwear, and it will cover the processing fee for Go Fund Me.

A lot of the comments on this are rightly castigating American society for creating a situation in which strangers have to pitch in to heat a classroom for students to learn. That is disgusting. It’s ridiculous that we can fund a plane that doesn’t take off or land, and a war that won’t ever be won, and a tax cut for a billionaire, instead of funding heat in our schools. It’s absurd.

And maybe the most absurd thing about it is the way in which it points out the lengths to which decent people of good will will go in this society to continue upholding the social contract no matter how often their leaders tell them they don’t have to.

Look at what happened here. Strangers pitched in. Strangers exceeded the $20,000 ask by more than $50K. Strangers covered the costs for people they have never met and will never meet. Strangers kicked in small amounts and it added up to enough to solve a problem no one person could have solved on his or her own.

That’s government. That’s all it is. Pooling a small amount of our resources to provide resources for everyone.

And in the absence of government, in the face of the deliberate abdication of government, after 40 years of tax cuts and posturing about graft and fairytaling about our supposed desire to not have any government ever because welfare queens or something, people all over the place are trying to say through the Internet that fuck your selfishness, we will do this anyway.

This isn’t me justifying private charity being a substitute for government action. It’s me saying that our natural impulse is to take care of each other. Given the chance, given enough high-traffic retweets and attention, we respond to these things. We push and change and fight for each other. It’s what we’re made for. It’s how we live and that instinct is knit into our muscles and bones.

It’s why it took them so fucking long.

It took Republicans YEARS, years on every level from municipalities to the White House, to destroy the human voice that wakes us, that says our fate is your fate. It took them DECADES of daily propaganda, of beating their drums as if the sun never set, saying no, no, no, no. Saying we can’t afford to be brave and generous and decent and true. Saying we can’t afford to help one another, to open our hands and offer our shoulders. Saying we shouldn’t do this anymore. It took them AGES to get us to where we are, to make us this small and this mean.

And still, people say, I can help. Let me help. Still.

We pass the word. We give what we can. Some give more. Some give less. But we give, and instead of just being infuriated by the idea that you should have to beg for your very life, we should be looking at examples like this and saying they signify the will to care for one another still remains.

No matter what they tell us. No matter how loud they shout. No matter how many lies they thread into the tax code and how many cautionary tales they spin about fraud and waste and inefficiency and paralyzing fear.

We are big enough for things like this. And we will keep doing them, whether you want us to or not. Candidates for office should take note, and call this what it is, this extension of what we have to care for all of us. They should call it government, and run on it as much as they run for it.

A.

What If We Gave People Housing?

If people don’t have a room, what if you … give them one? 

Half of the top 100 heaviest users of the University of Illinois Hospital emergency room are homeless, according to Stephen Brown, director of Preventative Emergency Medicine at the hospital. “They come through all the time.”

Brown said these initial results show the project is good for patients and cost-effective for the hospital. The hospital pays $1,000 a month for patient housing. One day in the hospital can run about $3,000, a cost generally shared by the hospital, the patient, public assistance programs, and insurance companies.

According to the hospital, one patient’s medical costs dropped from an average of $132,000 per month to $55,000 a month after they were placed in housing.

“If every hospital in the area agreed to house 10 chronically homeless patients, which would be a relatively modest investment, we could collectively make a huge impact on reducing homelessness, and it would be near cost-neutral to every hospital,” Brown said.

And yeah, I’m sure there are lots of people out there who’ll be all, “But won’t this encourage more people to leech off the state hurf derf argle blarge dependency.” Which … if I told you tomorrow that there was a free room in a hospital that you could go live in, would you, um, do it? I know of exactly nobody who’s comfortably off who’d be like, “I would like to live in this sitch instead of my house so I will go out, develop a drug problem and/or illness which is difficult to treat, fall into joblessness, lose my house, live in a viaduct for 6 months and then wind up here at which point BOOYAH BABY I MADE A MIRACLE HAPPEN.”

No. You would not. Because that is insane.

A.

 

Welcome to the New Gilded Age: The Great Tax Heist of 2017

Image by Michael F.

I woke up this morning to see that Michael F had “stolen” my tax heist theme. I decided to retaliate by “stealing” his image. Actually, it was the whole “great minds” thing, and I asked for permission to re-use his image. Unlike the Great Tax Heist of 2017, it was NOT highway robbery in broad daylight. And I am not a robber baron, not even a lesser earl or a discounted viscount. I guess you can tell we’re watching The Crown

Trump promised a throwback administration and this bill offers a throwback to the pre-New Deal tax code. It’s such a throwback that it makes me want to throw up. Ayn Rand believed that the New Deal enslaved people and her disciples are on the verge of perfecting her vision. Thanks, Speaker Ryan. We all know what happens next: proposed cuts to foreign aid, social programs, medicaid, and medicare. Why? Because they’ll suddenly care about the deficit that they themselves blew up. Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

The most horrifying thing about the Great Tax Heist of 2017 is that it emulates failed policies  in Kansas and the Gret Stet of Louisiana. Bloody Kansas has been bleeding red ink since that bloody fool Sam Brownback decided to roll the dice with the lives of Kansans. Bobby Jindal followed the same pattern in the Gret Stet: cut taxes, lose revenue, cut government spending thereby ripping huge holes in the safety net. Thanks, PBJ.

Like their late 19th Century predecessors, the 21st Century GOP only cares about those who are already rich. They don’t care about their ungrateful employees (the middle-class) or the undeserving poor. Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

There is so much else wrong with this bill that it’s hard to know where to begin. My new motto is: when in doubt, bullet point the hell out of it.

  • The president* has no clue what’s in the bill, all he knows is that he needs a WIN. The lyingest administration in history has claimed that Trump will NOT benefit from the bill. Gimme a break.
  • It’s a pay-off to the donor class so they will keep funding Republican campaigns. Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, and the Koch brothers are happy plutocrats right now.
  • The Corker Kickback benefits not only the Senator from Tennessee but 12 of his colleagues *and* Donald Trump. In contrast, the three wealthiest Senators, all Democrats, voted against their own self-interest.
  • There is no plan to implement the bill. Congressional Republicans hope it will take effect in a few weeks, which is crazy to say the least. Do we really want the IRS acting as hastily as Congress?

Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

It’s an era where corruption is out in the open and celebrated as freedom. It’s really the freedom to be selfish and indifferent to the plight of people in need. I’d like to remind everyone that this bill reflects Congress’ vision *and* that of so-called establishment Republicans, not Trump. The only vision Trump has is of himself in the mirror. A different Republican president would be prepared to sign such a bill. They might, however, know what’s in it unlike the Insult Comedian.

Congressional Democrats and outside groups lost the fight over the bill, but won the messaging battle. I may prefer the term heist to scam but whatever works. This is a politically damaging bill and I cannot wait to see the attack ads with footage of Congressional GOPers celebrating their victory alongside their wildly unpopular president*. They’re all in with Trump and it’s going to cost them dearly in November, 2018. BUT only if we stay vigilant and organize the living shit out of the mid-term election.

The good news is that the Great Tax Heist of 2017 is reversible. The bad news is that it’s going to take years and it will inflict grave damage on the most vulnerable members of society. Congressional Republicans are so drunk on victory right now that they’re ignoring their promise to keep the CHIP program going. If I thought shaming them would work, I’d try it but we all know how shameless they are.

The abuses of the first Gilded Age led to the reforms of the Progressive Era. Of course, at that time there were many Republicans who supported those reforms. In the 21st Century, they’re all in with the plutocrats and those who want to deregulate everything. The sense of noblesse oblige that inspired Teddy Roosevelt and other progressive Republicans is alien to the current GOP. They’ve got theirs and they don’t care about the rest of us. They call it freedom, I call it willful cruelty.

Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

Fake News Happens Because of YOU, Kids!

Learn to diagram sentences properly because SLJKFL’SKJDFDL;KFSJARGLEBLARGE: 

The ancestral lineage of fake news is easy to trace. It winds back through the birther movement and Benghazi, as a tool for weakening political opponents. It filtered through Sarah Palin, who never said she could see Russia from her house, and Al Gore, who never said he invented the internet — myths that hardened into seeming truths due to repeated retelling. It has silly origins, as networks begged us to believe that reality TV was real. It had sinister origins, as W. begged us to believe that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

Okay, so at least we’re admitting this predates Trump and Russia, and that someone profits from political division. Don’t love the “both sides” business, but Sarah did get a raw deal on that one considering how much stupid shit she ACTUALLY said.

We are at this point in the column the optimist who jumped off a building. So far, so good.

Yet the origin of fake news, as it applies to modern times, is not important. What’s important is the acceptance of fake news. How did we go from a nation of skeptics to a nation of carp, blindly slurping up every bit of rot that wafted to the bottom of the lagoon?

There might be no better place to start searching for answers than in the English classrooms of our public schools, which in the latter half of the 20th century bought into the idea of descriptive linguistics, or the notion that rules were overrated.

There’s the crash.

Let’s not talk about Rupert Murdoch’s money or the benefits to the wealthy that result. Let’s talk about what public school kids learn in English class!

Language evolves, the thinking went, so instead of fighting it, why not roll with it?

This gave teachers permission, of sorts, to avoid the hard work of beating proper English into the skulls of balky kids.

Diagramming sentences became passé, and the finer points of the language were lost as students were basically allowed to make it up as they went along.

I’m … not sure you can go from the passing of the diagrammed sentence in public school to W’s weapons of mass destruction bullshit, given that W and almost every TV personality who reported on him in any significant way was a private school kid.

In some ways I understand where this dude is going but knowledge of dangling modifiers and incorrectly placed prepositions can’t replace a finely tuned bullshit detector.

Yet in English classes, the resulting lack of intellectual discipline and critical thinking has startling similarities to the sloppy thought that has elevated fake news from a strategic political endeavor to a big-box store of wholesale lunacy. “Efforting” might not be a real word, but it doesn’t matter because everyone will know what it means; Hillary might not have actually had a disloyal campaign aide killed, but it doesn’t matter because everyone knows that’s the way the Clintons operate.

Oh for God’s sake. These aren’t abstractions. People don’t believe “fake news” because language is evolving. They believe “fake news” because regressive segregationist propaganda tools harnessed the recognizable language and conventions of objective journalism in order to turn the electorate against Democrats and moderate Republicans, whip up fears about black crime and immigration, and aim reasonable concerns about violence — that would otherwise be directed at the NRA — at the owner of your neighborhood falafel stand.

The real mystery isn’t why people believe fake news. It’s why we reserve our greatest contempt for the buyers of bullshit and not the sellers. Your dumb second cousin Pete thinks Hillary invented AIDS and that’s not okay for Pete, but when we’re done critiquing Pete’s grammar can we maybe talk about who got paid to make Pete believe what he believes?

Those English teachers who come under so much criticism here? They’re teaching to GOP-mandated tests and filling out assessment forms while their budgets are being slashed and they’re buying their own paper and fundraising for chairs and the next town over just shot down a tax increase of half a percent to pay for heating the building because a charter-funded ad campaign told them teaching kids to read shouldn’t cost more than a large Diet Coke at McDonald’s.

Why don’t you diagram that.

Via Forward Falcon.

A.

Has Your Mom’s Book Club Read JD Vance’s Fishwrap?

If so, make them hork this down: 

I’m not sure about you, but I’m fairly certain that I’ve already witnessed the social transformation wrought by titans like the Waltons, Jeff Bezos, and the Koch Brothers. I already live in the world of their making. It’s inhabited by 70-year-old grandmothers stocking shelves for $8.00 an hour, spending what could be their last holiday ringing up Wal-Mart doorbusters while investors suck up resources from struggling communities. My world is filled with back braces and wrist wraps and time is measured out in double shifts and mandatory unpaid overtime. It’s a world where workers nurse life-long injuries after their supervisors force them to lift heavy boxes while pregnant. It’s a world where elderly adjunct instructors sleep in their cars in the shadow of Google’s corporate headquarters. It’s a world where people who have already burned down the barn think they should be trusted to poke around in the hay.

I know it’s not as bitchin’ as DISRUPTING all the DINOSAUR INDUSTRIES THAT NEED DISRUPTION but maybe just maybe people should just do their jobs and pay their taxes and provide their workers pensions and it will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?

I mean, if you buy the nonsense that there really WAS some kind of utopia in the 1950s (for white people, but still) in which the system worked, then you have to grant that it was happening at a time when corporate profits weren’t completely king, when people could retire at 60 and keep their homes for the next 20 years, when they could spend their money at the grocery store down the street and mow their lawns and live their lives because government DID do things like pave the roads and inspect the buildings.

I’d never knock charity, but I would knock the idea that a few bucks at this level makes any difference when the problems are at this level. The only thing big enough to fix this is what we all pay into, and somewhere along the line we gave ourselves the idea that we didn’t have to do that anymore. It’s well past time for that idea to die.

A.

You Voted For This

Congrats, everybody who’ll be bitching in diners to NYT reporters in six months or eight months or a year about how everything sucks for you.

Congrats, because you voted for it.

You voted to gut your public school’s budget, because teachers have too many benefits and only work nine months out of the year anyway. Okay.

You voted to increase taxes on student loans, because if people can’t afford college they shouldn’t go, or should get jobs, or should study something useful like engineering and not dumb philosophy and basketweaving. Okay.

You voted to help kill Obamacare, because it was too expensive or bad or dumb, and you think being on your own, uninsurable and uninsured, is better. Okay.

You voted to repeal state and local property tax deductions. You voted to grant personhood rights beginning at conception. You voted to let churches openly politick. Okay.

Congratulations.

In six months or eight months or a year, here’s what your world will look like.

Your public school will still be a shithole, your teachers will be on strike, your town’s test scores will be cratering.

Your property taxes — the taxes you bitch about like it’s your job — will skyrocket, and you can’t deduct them unless you’re living in a half-million-dollar crib in a prime community.

You won’t be able to sell your house, though, because the schools will suck, and school scores and property tax rates are all that matter in real estate.

Your pastor or priest will be telling you who he or she likes in the next election. If you want to remain a member in good standing, here’s who you’ll like, too.

The last insurance company serving your community will pull out because there aren’t enough customers. That’s okay, you can go on Medicare! Except you can’t, because that program had to be gutted to make up for the shortfalls caused by the tax cuts. 

Congratulations.

That’s what you voted for.

You voted against the very benefits that made your life possible, that kept your family in their homes and jobs and lives, that sent you to school each day and put food on your table. You voted against the social contract that says we all need help sometime, and we all deserve second chances, and we all should take care of one another.

You did it out of ignorance or spite, out of selfishness or fear, out of racism or stupidity or greed or just plain meanness, but you did it to yourselves.

You know why we don’t rebuild our cities with our steel and our fuel and our workers? You know why our schools aren’t the best in the nation, shining beacons of education? You know why we don’t go to the moon anymore, why we don’t take care of each other, why we don’t succeed? You know why America isn’t fucking great anymore?

Because the Republican congressmen and senators you voted for, over and over, out of ignorance and spite and selfishness and fear and racism and stupidity and greed and just plain meanness don’t want to make it great. They want to profit. And they know you either don’t know that, or don’t care.

So when you look around the wreckage, as you try to figure out what happened to the society you once lived in, make sure one of your lingering glances is toward a mirror.

A.

On #GivingTuesday, Consider The Media

I mean us, of course.

Remember this? Yeah, it’s real.

Today I’m gonna write about our fundraiser because we’ve been doing this Internet thing for 17 years now and sometimes it feels like no time but sometimes I feel like Internet Grandma talking about the good old days when if you knew what HTML was you were like some kind of magic genius and people threw money at you.

Well, not really, but it did seem back in 2004 when we merrily threw ourselves into fighting the Bush administration’s bullshit that there was gonna be some kind of knocking down of barriers. I should have been smart enough to know the world always gets rebuilt as closely as it can be to the way it was before, but it was my first time through the meat grinder and I thought better of us all back then.

A lot of the smaller blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of the bigger blogs that started out when we started out have folded. A lot of writers wound up at other publications, bigger publications. A lot of writers wound up with day jobs that became day careers. A lot of people gave up, moved to Twitter, moved offline entirely.

A lot of writers flounced out of the Internet entirely because it’s mean. But a lot of us stayed, even though it’s mean.

It’s understandable. This was never any kind of new media world, and going it alone means the work’s never done. (If anyone wants to buy us, please, give me a call!) I’m the daughter of a small business owner who always said it’s great to own your own business because you can pick your day off. You get one day. Per year. Off.

Ads were plentiful for a while. Then they weren’t, or they got intrusive, or they depended on some kind of #sponcon non-disclosed dodge that felt like lying to you, or they demanded traffic numbers we couldn’t sustain. Our backbone has always been our annual reader contributions and I’ve never wanted to change that.

We don’t do this every quarter. Everybody’s a volunteer. This fundraiser covers basic costs like paying our hosting fees and, you know, the electricity. And if it feels more critical this year it’s only because it’s been 17 years and we’re all exhausted from staying alive and it gets harder every day and we lean into it and tell you to do the same.

Everybody’s a volunteer. Everybody’s got a day job or two. My side hustles have side hustles. That’s my choice, I get that, but this is important. I hope it’s important to you if you’ve been reading all this time. We’re about a third of the way to our goal. Our goal, by the way, is $1,500. That’s it.

Can you help us get there?

Click here to donate.

A.

Poison in the Water

When I was in college I became friends with a much older man who was in a position of authority where he could snap his fingers and give me a job. I’d gone to him with a project in which he saw value and promised to see through. We had meetings in his office. He took me to lunch a bunch of times. Talked to me like I was people, told me jokes, laughed at mine.

Because I’m an arrogant asshole it never occurred to me that I wasn’t on his level. I thought I had every right to be his peer. And a lifetime of not being considered pretty led me to think that men couldn’t be interested in my body anyway.

He never tried anything. Never moved too close or talked too soft, never touched me but to shake my hand. Never so much as opened a door for me.

But as he promised over and over to find me a job in his department, his assistant, who he kept asking me to talk to, kept steering me away. That job’s been filled. I don’t think that will work out. Let me talk to him about what’s really suitable for you. We don’t have anything there. I’m not sure this is going to pan out. 

I thought she was just being a jerk. I needed a job, after all, and I believed people kept their promises. He wants me hired, so get over yourself and do what your boss wants.

Now I wonder. I wonder if she was protecting me.

Like I said, he never treated me as anything less than an equal. I thought he liked me. Like as a person.

I wonder how he would have treated me if I worked for him.

If I owed him something.

Thinking like this might be deeply unfair to a good person trying to help out a broke college student in whom he saw something promising. Thinking like this might be maligning, in retrospect, a friend.

Thinking like this might save the next young woman who sincerely believes a septuagenarian authority figure respects her mind.

I hate that this is the calculus. I hate that this is the math we all do in our heads. It’s not fair to us, in our working weeks, and it’s not fair to the relationships we try to nurture and the networking we try to do and the things we’re taught from day one are essential to our professional lives. It’s not fair to women. It’s not fair to men. It makes me angry and it makes me sad.

Grow the fuck up, everyone.

A.

They’re The Economy, Stupid

It’s fashionable to describe public universities as money-sucks that educate the elite and prop up liberalism, but they also, you know, CREATE JOBS: 

Trump’s cuts would affect all research universities, but not equally. The problem is more pronounced at public universities than private ones, and especially at public institutions in the Midwest, which have historically conducted some of the nation’s most important research. These schools are desperately needed to diversify economies that rely disproportionately on manufacturing and agriculture and lack the wealthy private institutions that fuel the knowledge industries found in Silicon Valley or along Boston’s 128/I-95 corridor. Yet many flagship Midwestern research universities are being weakened by deep state budget cuts. Threats to pensions (in Illinois) and tenure (in Wisconsin) portend an exodus of faculty and their all-important research funding, and have already resulted in a frenzy of poaching by better-funded and higher-paying private institutions, industry, and international competitors.

This story focuses on the economic benefits of research at public universities, but I’d like us to think about the custodians at Your State U. The receptionists. The food service workers. The hundreds of thousands of people who have to work in order for hundreds of thousands to learn. Those are JOBS. Steady jobs, in some cases even still union jobs, that pay if not well then at least consistently, and let people earn money to spend in grocery stores and gas stations and bars.

You can’t tell me they’re not important to the life of a place. All we focus on anymore is the cost of public things, and we never talk about the benefits. Oooh, that pension is expensive! Yes, but it’s keeping a person in his home so he can take care of that home and mow the lawn and buy soap and cereal and go to church and subscribe to the local paper and do all the stuff we say we want people to do, that people did back in the Good Old Days When America Was Great.

So maybe some of the cities currently competing to suck Jeff Bezos off could consider putting those billions into public education. Maybe instead of building a stadium for a billionaire or throwing money at a big-box retail store that doesn’t need it, these communities could show a little financial appreciation for the places that actually do give back to someone other than the Walton family. After all, these places create jobs, no? And isn’t that what we’re all about at the moment?

A.

An open letter to the Wisconsin JFC in support of counting professors’ hours and trimming waste

Dear Sen. Darling, Rep. Nygren and other members of the Joint Finance Committee,

News reports have indicated that your group has included in its most recent version of the state budget some “controversial language” that would “require the University of Wisconsin System to monitor the teaching workload of every professor and adjunct instructor on campuses.”

As a faculty member of one of these institutions, I can assure you that this is definitely an important measure and a valuable first step in eliminating governmental waste and employee sloth. As many of you know, having received degrees from some of these state institutions, the clear measure of faculty value is solely the amount of time spent in front of students in a classroom. This is the purpose of our educators and we need to hold them accountable.

Given that this laser-focused approach on educational employees is likely to yield impressive results, I would actively encourage you to take a serious look at other areas of governmental employee waste and bring to bear all of your influence on other public “servants” who are failing to pass muster.

For example, it is clear that firefighters throughout the state need to get their priorities straightened out. In analyzing some recent annual reports for municipalities that contain branches of UW System schools, what I found is likely to shock you. Consider this breakdown of the Oshkosh Fire Department’s activities in 2016:

OshkoshFire

 

The entire department, which consists of 108 members of its workforce, only extinguished 109 fires for the WHOLE YEAR! That’s only one per person for all of 2016! Given the job of firefighters is to fight fires (which is clearly spelled out right in the name of the job), this is clearly an unacceptable waste of resources.

A similar examination of Green Bay’s annual report is even more troubling:

GreenBayFire

The department only extinguished 237 fires last year. That’s down from 277 the year before and from 312 in 2012! This decrease in fires fought of nearly 24 percent over the past four years should have clearly been accompanied with a reduction of workforce, pay and hours, one would expect.  This was not the case, as an additional six fire fighters were hired in February of that year.

The police departments in some of these areas are even more problematic. As we all know, the purpose of police officers is to arrest criminals, so it may upset you as much as it upset me to find out how little they are doing in this regard. For example, the Stevens Point Police Department’s annual report states the department made only 862 adult arrests and 202 juvenile arrests during 2016. This is with a total sworn staff of 44 individuals. That gives us a total of 24 PER OFFICER that year, or an average of one arrest every 15 days. I ask you, is this a good use of taxpayer money?

My most upsetting discovery came in examining the Whitewater Police Department’s statistics. As you well know, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is from this area and has spoken out against the lethargy and waste in our state’s education system. How outraged do you think he would be to find that his home town’s police department arrested only 27 people out of 162 incidents of criminal property damage?

One officer’s record in particular was troubling:

BoomerArrests

Officer “Boomer” provided no more than three arrests in any given month during 2015. Even worse, in two months he enacted NO ARRESTS AT ALL! If all this officer wishes to do all day is lick his crotch and bark at nothing, he can CLEARLY follow Steve Bannon’s example: Quit government life and do it on his own time.

Now, I guess you’re asking the same question I did, which is, “If the fire fighters aren’t fighting fires and police aren’t arresting people, what are they DOING with their time?” The answer is in front of you in black and white. Firefighters have consistently wasted time on false alarms, noxious fumes complaints and other equally pointless tasks. In addition, you’ll note heavy use of these firefighting resources on EMS calls, which is a massive waste of taxpayer money. Unless the patient is literally on fire, what purpose does it serve to send a firefighter out to see them? In addition, if the people are truly ill, that’s what hospitals are for. Call a cab and get your own ass out there.

Police have been equally thoughtless in their allocation of precious resources, wasting time on taking reports or “investigating” crimes. All of this preparation of documents and processing of crime scenes is taking them away from their primary task, namely the incarceration of criminals. Look at this data from Stevens Point!

CallsStevensPoint

As much as they talk a good game about going on “calls,” you will notice that they don’t talk a lot about arrests, which is why we’re paying them the big bucks. Even worse, you will notice that the department received a DECREASE in calls between 2015 and 2016 and yet not a single one of these officers has been fired as a result.

As you page through these reports, you will also see ridiculous claims about receiving additional “training” or “service to the community” like visits to schools and K-9 demonstrations. If kids really want to see how police procedures work, they should bring a stash of weed to school and attempt to sell it to an undercover officer. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be getting in the way of the officers’ sworn duty: to arrest criminals. The same is true for school visits from firefighters: Either shoot off a flare gun in your locker or get used to the idea you won’t be petting a Dalmatian.

I understand you are likely outraged, but you probably are getting ready to tell me, “Doc, we know how upsetting this is, but we don’t control the budgets of local municipalities. What can we do?” That thought has occurred to me too, but that hasn’t stopped you before when it came to education.

You provide somewhere around 16 percent of the annual funding to the UW System, but you somehow manage to write all the rules and do an awful lot of threatening. Something tells me you guys and gals can find a way to apply similar approach to dropping the hammer on these shiftless firefighters and police officers.

Hey, when has logic ever stood in the way of you becoming excised little rage monkeys and screaming up a blue streak about the U? Maybe if you’re lucky, a police department has offered a seminar on the “Problem of Whiteness.” That always seems to get you all in the right frame of mind.

In the meantime, I’ll be back here at the U, counting up my hours of teaching, totally ignoring the hours of class preparation, student-group advising, student registration advising, faculty meetings, staff meetings, writing letters of recommendation for students, helping students get internships, helping students get jobs, helping students get into grad school, answering after-hours emails from students/colleagues, grading papers, reworking tests, calculating grades, keeping up on changes in my field, applying for grants, completing work for grants I received, reviewing scholarship for journals, reviewing textbooks for publishers, rewriting my own textbooks, doing peer evaluations for adjunct instructors, conducting faculty position searches, fundraising for the student media I advise, taking students to conferences and 100 other things I do in a week without giving them a second thought when I complete my tally.

After all, if I’m not standing in front of a group of kids all day, what the hell good am I?

Respectfully yours,

Doc

This Isn’t Generosity

We should stop talking about helping other people and start talking about helping everybody: 

The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) exhaustive literature summary on the economic effects of immigration concluded that: “When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small.  To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.”  Although the effect is small, RAISE seeks to take advantage of the finding in the academic literature by inferring that if an increase in the supply of workers slightly lowers some wages then a decrease in that same supply will do the opposite.

The entirety of society — rich, poor, middle-class — is served well when we have a strong economy, sensible immigration policies, reasonable worker protections and appropriate taxes. This isn’t just about being humanitarian. It’s about recognizing that the common good helps even the wealthy, as much as they bitch about every single cent they spend on the poor.

A.

Say It With Me … RACISM!

I just can’t wrap my mind around why the GOP won’t defend the fundamental conservatism of Obamacare: 

Republicans are engaged in a brutal civil war between hard-liners and moderates as they struggle to craft legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The episode invites an almost existential question for the GOP: Why, after seven years of nearly endless war against Obamacare, is the party unable to deliver a more conservative policy that provides access to health care to a similar number of Americans?

Give me a minute. It’ll come to me.

As a life-long Republican who has spent months contemplating this question, I’ve come to an answer that will be hard for many conservatives to swallow: Passing an Obamacare replacement is difficult because the existing system is fundamentally a collection of moderately conservative policies.

But it was championed by a black president! HOW can it be conservative? HOW can it be familiar to, say, a Mitt Romney or a John McCain? How, when it has the fingerprints of a man named Barack all over it?

To be sure, the suggestion that Obamacare is based on conservative principles is anathema to the modern incarnation of the GOP. Opposition to the legislation has become so central to the party’s agenda that simply writing these words will surely brand me as a Republican apostate.

I can’t imagine why that would be true.

If you force insurance companies to cover people who are already sick, you need market interventions such as the individual mandate and sufficiently generous tax subsidies to prevent a death spiral. And for people with few resources, these subsidies follow the wisdom of Reagan and provide Medicaid coverage.

Unfortunately, these marketplace realities run afoul of the Republican Party’s newly developed preternatural love for completely unfettered markets — a love that is simply incompatible with reality and our party’s history.

No, your party’s history is much more compatible with virulent racism and horror stories about black people mooching off the system. You suck Ronald Reagan’s legacy long and hard throughout this piece but fail to mention that his anti-government rhetoric relied entirely on a worldview driven by fear of nonwhites.

Where you said “love for completely unfettered markets?” You meant “love for gerrymandered votes that can only be won by promising to punish poor minorities and women.”

I have many problems with Obamacare, but they don’t stem from a belief that any government intervention in markets is a nonstarter. Such a belief cannot be, and frankly has never been, the litmus test for policy in the Republican Party.

You sweet summer child. Right now the litmus test for policy is “will it piss off my liberal sister-in-law?” A litmus test based on actual government intervention would be a step UP. I swear, we’re gonna spend the next 4 years (if we’re unlucky, the next 40) twisting ourselves into knots to pretend none of what’s happening is driven by racist spite when that’s all our politics are anymore.

A.

Get Out of the Nursing Home, Grandma!

I thought we revered the Greatest Generation: 

ORANGE, Va. — Alice Jacobs, 90, once owned a factory and horses. She has raised four children and buried two husbands.

But years in an assisted living center drained her savings, and now she relies on Medicaid to pay for her care at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit, county-owned nursing home here.

“You think you’ve got enough money to last all your life, and here I am,” Ms. Jacobs said.

Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes, like Ms. Jacobs. It covers 20 percent of all Americans and 40 percent of poor adults.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.

Add “caring for the generation that punched Nazis IN PERSON” to the things we can’t afford anymore.

A.

Someone Told People to Resent Others

This thread is worth reading, referencing as it does the ongoing “resentment politics” that have devastated Scott Walker’s Wisconsin:

As I keep saying, people do not independently come to the conclusion that all minorities are T-bone buying welfare cheats dragging on the system and burning down the ‘hood. Someone TELLS them that. We can’t just accept that outlook as the reality and address it with policy without squarely facing who is pushing the message and how they are doing it.

Because until we counter the voices yelling at them through their speakers, it won’t matter if Democrats DO come out strongly in favor of Medicare for All, if they remind people they were the only ones who gave even half a fuck about reining in rapacious health care companies, if they run ads every other second touting free community college and support for organized labor. It won’t matter if they all turn into St. Bernie Sanders, or for that matter St. Hillary Clinton as she was instead of as she was portrayed. It won’t matter if we run Obama 12 more times.

So long as there is a chorus of wingnut dickbags on Fox and talk radio (and talk radio, in Wisconsin especially, is a mental cancer) telling them Democrats want to give all your hard-earned money to lazy black women who are having too many babies, that will always drown anything else out. So long as cable news continues to poison the well of public discourse and define the narrative as “politics is broken, everybody is bad, just give up,” so long as local papers run four pages on a good day and three of those are syndicated columns talking about “Washington” being the problem, the only thing people are going to hear is what Republicans want them to hear.

It’s understandable, sure, to my fellow palefaces. Give me a choice between studying and shooting heroin, I’m gonna show you my veins. I know these people, I meet them on the regular, and you do not have to dig very far under the surface to find the jokes about people getting fat on soda and public assistance while they, the virtuous, just marvel at the destruction of their neighborhoods by “those” elements.

They side-eye every low-hanging-pantsed dude they see on a trip to the mall because THAT is who they picture taking everything away from them. It’s all one thing. They don’t separate their contempt into rural vs. urban vs. black vs. white boxes. I’m not making a joke. You can’t counter vagaries like that with specifics of policy.

You have to counter it with entertainment and right now we have no show.

A.

Why Don’t They Just Move?

Because this, you dipshits: 

Activists took to the streets in the summer of 1967 for 200 consecutive days of fair housing protests, and were sometimes greeted with racial slurs, eggs and rocks as they crossed the Menomonee River, via the 16th Street Viaduct, into the white South Side.

The Common Council eventually ratified a fair housing law in 1968, weeks after the federal government passed its landmark measure.

The racial dividing lines were already drawn, however, and barriers to black upward mobility remained. Even the neighborhood where the baseball slugger Hank Aaron moved in the late 1950s could not avoid a downward spiral. While the black population in the Rufus King area grew from 0.4 percent in 1960 to 89 percent in 1980, its median home value dropped from 9 percent above the city’s median to 23 percent below it, according to “Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods,” a book by John Gurda.

Those historic dynamics of race and housing have not disappeared, either. As recently as 2006, a city government report found that affluent, nonwhite Milwaukeeans were 2.7 times likelier to be denied home loans than white people with similar incomes.

So the bank wouldn’t give your grandparents a home loan, so they had no money to use to lift other family members up, so those family members couldn’t lift up others, and by the way even if they DID bootstrap and such, they’d have had rocks thrown through their windows. For shit’s sake, this is in living memory, this isn’t an ice age ago, so let’s stop with the “why does everything have to be about race anyway” nonsense. It has to be about race because it is about race.

A.

Can’t Imagine Why Everything’s Going to Shit

Wonder if this has something to do with it: 

States have been racing to the bottom to try to attract corporations to their state, and as a result businesses are paying fewer taxes in states during a time of record corporate profits. On average, the state corporate tax rate is 6.25%, but these profitable companies paid just 2.9% of their profits. From 1986 to 2013, state and local corporate tax rates declined 30%, the report says. And yet states continue to compete with one another to offer tax giveaways to corporations.

The report looks into 17 companies headquartered in Illinois and finds that some of the biggest companies are paying very little. Take Boeing, which has earned over $40 billion in profits during the period studied—and only paid 0.1% of that to Illinois. This comes at a time that some of the most vulnerable in the state—people with disabilities, the homelessness, opioid addicts, rape victims, low-income seniors—are watching their safety net being slashed. (And in the meantime, Illinois homeowners are paying higher property rates than anyone except New Jersey homeowners.)

Mr. A and I are currently looking for a house, which leads to lots of people assuming we want to hear them bitching about their taxes and how awful it is to pay so much. My considered opinion is that I don’t mind paying taxes because in my ‘hood it’s very obvious what I get out of it: roads that get fixed, a park district-run preschool where Kick is thriving, cops who respond to complaints promptly, and services all over the place.

If I lived somewhere else, and was paying the same amounts in taxes, and the neighborhood looked like The Hurt Locker and the public schools were crap and the bus ran once a month between two places I never wanted to go, I might be more inclined to complain, but still, what I could contribute is a drop in the bucket compared to the corporate profits that SHOULD be fueling the state’s economy.

The bribery and up-sucking to companies to get them to come here and stay here drives me wild, too. Shower them with tax incentives, as Illinois once did to Sears and others, but if they don’t pay those taxes, is it really a benefit having them here at all? Creating jobs is very good, but adequately funding schools and municipalities creates a shitload of jobs and also a pretty nice life for any employees you might have.

A.

Rummage sales are life. The rest is just details.

The reason this post is late is because I spent the last hour and a half looking up everything I could find on Carry-Lite Duck Decoys manufactured in Milwaukee.

Am I a hunter? No.

Do I care about becoming a hunter? No.

What the hell is wrong with me? A lot, it turns out.

I picked up six of these decoys at a rummage sale today, so duck decoys have become my obsession of the moment. A friend in California is a hunter and mentioned how to locate interesting and valuable decoys at one point. A friend here noted that a neighbor of his sold some for a pretty high price once.

A woman about my grandmother’s age had dumped a dusty box full of these things at the end of her driveway just as I drove up. She said she had no idea what they were, but her husband used them a long time ago. A price of six for $20, made of paper mache with a “Patent 1941” stamp on the bottom seemed like too good a bargain to pass up.

I scoured the Internet looking for various types of duck decoys and places to find them. I have yet to find one stamped like mine, so I either have a rare find or a box of shit. Eventually, I found myself going crazy so I stopped to write this post (Side note: I’ve stopped writing this a few times to go back to Google with the hope that maybe THIS set of search terms would yield an answer about who made these and when.).

It was at this point that a realization hit me: Rummage sale season is officially upon us.

This is a sacred time of year in Wisconsin, due in large part (I suspect) to the fact we spend nine months of the year housebound by snow and ice, so anything that gets us outside in sunny weather is worth doing. Neighborhoods get together to host 30, 40 and 50-family sales, in hopes of drawing massive amounts of traffic to their neck of the woods. Subdivisions are packed with trucks, vans and SUVs creeping along the winding roads in search of the next sale on the map someone at the last sale handed out.

Certain cities and towns are “known” for having certain citywide sales during certain weekends. Winneconne was two weeks ago, Omro was last weekend… I still have yet to attend the infamous “Irish Road Rummage” which is a cross between an insane asylum and an endurance test.

Rummaging was pretty much tattooed onto my DNA as a child, long before the “American Pickers” crowd made it trendy. Each summer, Mom would have off from teaching and I’d have off from school, so off we’d go every day we could find a sale. Estate sales, rummage sales, moving sales… It didn’t matter. If we were looking for bargains, at least she wasn’t making me scrape and paint the storms and screens around the house.

I still remember one find she made in the basement of a house that smelled like mold and cat pee: A 1950s-style grocery cart with two detachable wire baskets. The asking price was something like $12, so she had me haul that thing out of the cobwebs and somehow stuff it into the backseat of our 1979 Ford Thunderbird.

When we got it home, my father saw it and bitched up a storm: “The hell do you need that for? What the hell did you pay for that? Where the hell do you think you’re going to put that?”

Mom had an answer: She was going to have me spray paint it a couple bright colors and she was going to use it to shuttle stuff around her classroom. I think I was 16 at the time we bought the cart and I was more than 40 when she finally retired. The grocery cart was an integral part of her classroom for the quarter century in between.

To be fair, Dad wasn’t anti-garage sale. He just had his own way of valuing things that came from the sales. If you want to watch a 73-year-old man outrun Usain Bolt, just put some sports shit at a rummage sale and mark it “FREE!” I can’t tell you how many times we bought something on a Saturday and sold it for a profit on a Sunday at the card show.

My first and favorite big score was when I was 11. I rode my bike to a sale a couple miles from our house. I found a really cool flag I wanted and when I picked it up, I noticed a bunch of paper placemats under it with the box scores from Milwaukee Braves games. I asked the lady how much for each placemat.

“Take them all for $2.” So I did.

I had no idea what they were worth, but it was something I could show my Dad, so I tucked them carefully into a sack and rode home. He’d never seen one, so he went to one of “his guys” who happened to run a sports card place on Lincoln Avenue.

“They’re not worth much,” Leroy told my dad. “Maybe $5-6 bucks each…”

The next show, we put four of them in the auction. I watched as two guys went after these things until they finally sold for $26. The next month, we did it again. Same result.

I was thrilled to be getting $26 a month, but Dad had a better angle. He found the guy who lost the auction and asked if he wanted to buy some. We took him out to the car where we had the rest of them and Dad negotiated a price. I walked away with another $185 and a hyper-inflated lust for rummaging.

Over the years, we’d found a few things like that: Dad would see something of value, he’d ask what it would cost for all of the stuff there and then we’d resell the stuff at a profit. Still, nothing will ever top the Saga of the Beer Cans.

It was the weekend of my wife’s baby shower and we had come up from Indiana to Milwaukee so all of our family could attend. My mother took my wife for a spa day, leaving Dad and I to our own devices.

We decided to “take a walk” which usually led to us walking past rummage sales. At one in particular, we started poking around when a woman asked, “Hey, do you guys wanna buy a beer can collection?”

To this day, neither Dad nor I can figure what it was about us that said, “Hey, ask us about your beer can collection,” but there we were, looking at hundreds of cans stacked up in a row.

As if we knew the difference, the woman tossed in this pot sweetener, “I’ve even got some cone tops in there.”

Neither Dad nor I would have known a cone top from a Conehead, but for some reason, Dad asked, “How much?”

“Fifty bucks.”

“Nah.”

We started walking back home when I noticed we were both really quiet.

“Dad, I know you’re thinking about those cans,” I told him. “I can hear that gerbil on the treadmill in your head.”

“That’s only because I know you’re thinking about them too,” he told me.

We went home, looked up what the hell a “cone top” was and then decided to drive back. Just as we pulled up, a collector was there talking to the lady.

“No, no,” she said to the guy, as she pointed at us. “I promised these guys first.”

So, we essentially bought a beer can collection at that point, having no idea what we were going to do or how to sell it. Still, it seemed like we could make the money back even if we just scrapped the damned things, so we had that going for us. We had the entire SUV filled with several cases resting near Dad’s feet, when the lady said, “Don’t forget the ones on the side of the house.”

When we looked down the side of the house, we saw cardboard beer cases stacked four high as deep as the entire length of the house. It took us three trips to get all that stuff back to my parents’ house and it filled the whole garage stall.

Cutting to the end of the story, it took two trips with two SUVs to get all the stuff down to Indiana and we made more than $1,500 together from it.

Also, it was a miracle my wife didn’t murder me, even after I said, “I hope you get a lot of gift cards so we can take some of these cans home with us right away.”

Sorry, honey, but there are no “sacred cows” when it comes to rummaging.

I was once running late for church when I spotted a guy closing up a rummage sale. He had a lawn mower and a beer sign for sale, so I pulled a bootlegger turn in front of his house. He asked $3 for the beer sign and said the mower didn’t work. “Take the damned thing,” he pleaded. “Just get it out of here before my wife comes home.”

This led to me wrestling a push mower into the back of my SUV and spending an hour-long mass smelling like gasoline.

Mom and I will often be late for something but spot a sale and have to pull over. On Thursday, we were taking some furniture to a friend of hers when we noticed a sale. We almost tossed the stuff out of the truck on the lady’s lawn so we could get back there and look at the sale. I ended up with a liquor cabinet, a bench and a cuckoo clock. I also grabbed this gorgeous antique table that was about the size of dinner plate. It had an oval top with pressed flowers under a broken glass top. The top also flipped up so you could just display the art. I bought it for $12 and was thinking about how I could redo it and display it at our antique booth. As I was loading it into the car, Mom noted, “I want that. Can you refinish it for me?”

Again, no sacred cows. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up pulling out of a funeral procession at some point because Dad spotted some bobble heads for sale.

Still, it’s not all about making money when it comes to garage sales. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up with a piece of furniture or something else because Dad found it at a yard sale and proclaimed, “I couldn’t buy the WOOD to make it for that cost!” My Mom loves to pick up cross-stitched pillowcases because nobody does that stuff anymore and she loves the details. Dad finds golf stuff and other stuff he already has three of but just “couldn’t pass it up at that price.” Eventually, when he stockpiles enough of the “had to have it” bargains, we do our own sales.

Each year, we have two sales: One up at my house and one down by my folks. I usually have tons of refinished furniture, sports memorabilia and rebuilt lawnmowers for sale, most of which came to me in damaged format from other rummage sales. It’s a good gig if you get a nice weekend, as people tend to flock to us in droves when it’s sunny out. Rainy weekends kill you and make you wish you’d never thought about doing one of these things.

This weekend is what we call a “half and half” sale: Friday is gorgeous without a cloud in the sky, but Saturday is supposed to bring torrential downpours. This leads to a great amount of self-deceiving justification on the part of people like me. I was headed to work at around 8:30 when I saw a sign for a “60-house rummage” in a subdivision. I was planning to do some writing for a book I’m finishing, submit my annual report information to my department chairperson and write this post.

Yeah, but… See… Rummage!

Obviously, the best stuff is available earliest on the first day and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so it’s clear I can’t go out tomorrow and it’s a beautiful day… Besides, I can do that shit later…

Thus, I spent the next four hours wandering through a subdivision, buying tons of stuff I might or might not need. A Blackhawks hoodie for my wife, a dresser to refinish for $10, a set of chairs for my buddy who has a buyer for a table we own if we could find chairs, a 1973 Bucky Badger Boxing decanter (sans booze), a couple tools and, of course, the ducks.

I had to have the furniture people hold the furniture for me after I paid them because I was driving Betsy and there was no way I’d get any of that stuff into her trunk. I was having an existential argument about buying a second dresser when someone else bought it first, so that ended up going that way.

Still, I eventually got the truck, got the furniture, got to work and got everything done, including this post, so no harm, no foul.

Speaking of fowl, time to figure out these ducks…

 

P.S. — Just for darrelplant

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney…

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney, this man of billions who has the audacity to call people like my mother-in-law thieves.

She sat in a hospital recliner this week with a giant blackening scar running down her leg as a stream of people she barely knew entered and exited at a rapid pace, spewing information into her stroke-impaired mind. She looked like a child who had lost her mother at the grocery store as doctors changed orders and nurses took readings, her eyes darting from one to the other as they spoke over her in multi-syllabic jargon.

She had put off a knee replacement until she cleared 65 so that her Medicare would help cover the bills. Each day, she rose on two dysfunctional joints that had worn ligaments, cartilage and bone. Her entire left side remained frozen in a tense and contracted state, the result of a massive stroke several years back.

The doctor decided to do her “good” leg first, so it could heal and provide the most support. When my wife protested, the doctor noted it was the only way to move forward with this. He also promised she’d be “good as new” after her two-night stay in the hospital and ready to go home.

My wife knew better.

Her mother couldn’t go but short distances without pain or exhaustion and that was when the “good” leg was working. Her bladder failed her often, as she tried desperately to make it to the bathroom before suffering the indignity of asking for a fresh nightgown. She rarely left the house and her movement was mostly confined to a wheelchair.

She needed a lot of rehab and she would need a nursing home to do it, my wife argued. The doctor didn’t think so at the time, but he eventually came around to it. However, the rule of Medicare is a three-midnight stay, or no nursing home.

My mother-in-law spent most of her two days in a drug-induced haze of opiates and numbing agents as we kept trying to figure out with these people how all this would work. By the time they had us convinced if we were there 24/7, we could keep her at home, they changed their mind and set up a nursing home bed.

The cost was more than $350 per day, not counting therapy and meds. Mom subsists on about $800 of social security and a $200 pension, the result of decades in the Catholic school system.

She cashed in her state pension, earned through years of working at northwoods schools near the UP of Michigan, a total of $8,000, but the nursing home needed two weeks up front.

As these numbers and costs and such flew around her head, I saw her bright blue eyes and I almost broke.

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her eyes showed terror; they had the look of a child witnessing an unspeakable act. They told of loss, panic and fear rolled into one.

This is why I want to meet Mick Mulvaney.

I want him to see those eyes and tell her how this budget he proposed can be anything but a decimating blow to people like her who have no hope but the mercy of the government.

I want him to drive out to this rural town of 3,300, many of whom voted for his boss, and call my mother-in-law a thief. This woman, who once was horrified that her father taught her child to grab a grape from the grocery store and try it before buying it, is a thief?

I want him to stand there and explain how she’s not a taxpayer who put up with so much in her life to support a family of five and worked until she was physically unable to any more.

I want him, with that “Leprechaun-meets-Jack-Torrance” look on his face, to say to her, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but that’s not my problem. This nation has bills to pay.”

If this country is worth anything, it’s because of people like my mother-in-law. She spent her life teaching Sunday school to poor children and working with the autistic kids whom society discarded. She kept food on the table and her family in line for nighttime meals and homework sessions. She pushed herself out of pure American grit: The idea that you don’t take from others, but you work so you can give back.

When people like her break down, it’s not out of greed or laziness or a sense that they are owed something. It’s because something happened beyond their control and they need the rest of us to say, “Relax. We got this.”

Tax cuts don’t do that. Medicine does.

GDP growth charts don’t do that. Safety nets do.

This is something the Mick Mulvaneys of the world will never get: Money isn’t everything. It’s what we do with the money that defines our humanity.