Milwaukee, WI — Wisconsin governor Scott Walker may be the darling of mainstream Republicans for next year’s presidential election, but “less taxation, less government” is an illusion under his current tenure. Milwaukee residents will soon be forced to pay an extra 15% tax surcharge that will go toward public financing of a new sports arena, under a plan put together by this champion of limited government.
The 15% surcharge will apply to Milwaukee County residents who are behind on their property taxes or court fines. Walker’s sports arena plan calls for the state to take over the collection of Milwaukee County’s old debt and use it to help pay for half the cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.
This blatant example of extortion and public-private cronyism is troubling to Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan Jr.:
“To think we would put the squeeze on someone because they didn’t pay a parking ticket and their only crime is being poor and unable to pay it, and then taking that money and giving it to people who are extremely wealthy, doesn’t sit well with me.”
Wisconsin state, unlike county government, has the power to garnish wages and intercept other income such as tax refunds. Citizens will be powerless to stop the state from taking their money so their government can go into partnership with sports moguls on a fancy new spectacle. The cost to Wisconsin taxpayers—whether or not they care about the arena—will be $400 million after accounting for interest.
Government’s interest in using major televised sports as a public distraction is no secret, hearkening to the Roman days of bread and circus. In May, we reported how NFL teams are paid millions of dollars by the U.S. Department of Defense for nationalistic propaganda. The appeals to emotion in furtherance of patriotism serve two purposes—entrenching corporatism and stifling dissent of military hegemony.
Back in Wisconsin, Walker and his team are salivating at the prospect of taking over debt collection in Milwaukee. Nearly $77 million is owed to the county courts, most of it older than five years. The surcharge would mean an extra burden of $11.5 million on citizens, and would cover 4.6% of the public’s obligation toward Walker’s sports arena.
While Governor Walker and his team withhold details of the plan under the guise of “finalizing legislative language,” they are drumming up support among lawmakers and telling Republican senators to avoid making critical comments.
They’re working hard to suppress public dialog while PR experts couch the plan in Orwellian terms.
“There is a cost to collecting debt. The cost is now borne by the county. The benefit of this program is that the burden falls on the people who can afford to pay this debt,” said bureaucrat Teig Whaley-Smith.
Another spokesperson, Laurel Patrick, said the 15% surcharge is standard procedure, so why should anyone care? “Unpaid debts impact others who do pay their bills, fines, etc. on time, and are now paying more than they otherwise would need to for those government services and programs.”
The likelihood that this tax increase will be mentioned as Walker and other presidential hopefuls parade about next year, wrapped in the flag and false concern for the people, is little to none. We can expect the usual bread and the usual circus.