Two days ago, I wrote uncomplimentary things about my home town in this blog.
Yesterday, my home town replied — specifically WTDY radio and their morning host, Sly in the Morning. (Who, he claims, I once called “the most obnoxious person in Wisconsin,” to which he said, “I resemble those remarks!”)
The first thought that comes to mind is that perhaps I should demand equal time, or send them a bill for providing them with 37 minutes of programming. (Which I’m guessing was close to the entire 9 to 10 a.m. hour, minus commercials, news and weather updates, etc.) On the other hand, he did point out an error I had in the column; the half-fast Madison-to-Milwaukee train was going to cost $800 million, not $800 billion (before the inevitable cost overruns, that is).
(Before I go on: Another blogger made similar points. That blog — written by “an unemployed former liberal radio talk host that can’t find a job in one of the most liberal cities in the country” — is a bizarre mix of bitterness and paranoia, which is why I’m not wasting my time commenting on it.)
Sly loved dramatically reading my point (at about 6:00) “the institutionalized sense of superiority and arrogance found within Dane County (and the closer you get to Madison the worse it is),” a point neither he nor his callers refuted. He seems to have deliberately misread what I believe to be a pretty solid point …
A state Senate with one senator per county would make considerably different law than what we have now. So would a state Legislature without Madison-legislator participation.
… by saying (at 8:10), “Oh, that makes a lot of sense! Let’s exclude 230,000 people from having representation in Wisconsin! Wouldn’t that make Wisconsin a fairer and better place?” (You really want me to answer that, Sly?) But that umbrage doesn’t compare to his umbrage (at 9:21) at my assertion that …
Come to think of it, a Madison-to-Milwaukee train might be appropriate after all to connect the two parts of the state that, in different ways, are dragging down the rest of us Wisconsinites.
“Written by a man who grew up going to a Madison public school, who grew up and got a good foundation in this terrible place called Madison. That’s the mindset of a conservative pundit in Wisconsin,” he said, “that Madison and Milwaukee are a detriment to the rest of the state, that they’re dragging the rest of the state down.” He then later reiterated it (at 11:05), “He grew up here, got a great foundation for life, and then somehow decided that we’re not an important part of Wisconsin? Really?” (My “great foundation for life” came from my family, not Madison, Sly.)
Most of us (certainly me) probably need to thank our parents for their contributions to the Madison in which they raised us. Many, including my parents, came to Madison from various other places, sometimes for better occupational opportunity, or perhaps because they thought Madison would be a better place to raise their kids than where they grew up. They were the people went to work every weekday (or more), paid the high taxes, took up their free time with various civic involvements, endured the institutional strangeness, and made the other sacrifices parents make for their kids.
I believe, based on Facebook comments, that Sly at least went to high school in Madison (I went to La Follette High School, as you know, while he reportedly went to Memorial, the poor misguided soul), so it would be interesting to hear his counterargument to my assertions that the Madison I grew up in “had fewer of the problems that Madison has today,” and that while “Mad City was a good place to grow up, I don’t think it is a good place to grow up today, assuming you could even afford to live there.”
The fun part of the hour should have been what came next — “what would Wisconsin be without the 600,000 people who live in Milwaukee or the 230,000 people — that’s almost one-fifth of the state gone.” (During the Miller Park debate in the mid-1990s, someone claimed that without the Brewers Milwaukee would be another Omaha.) Unfortunately, Sly’s callers don’t get very high marks for creative answers. The most creative answer was a “‘fluorescent orange version of Montana.” (Unfortunately, the caller then inferred that the University of Wisconsin System is just the Madison campus, which will come as a surprise to the other 12 four-year campuses.) Another suggested “East Dakota” and “North Illinois,” the latter due to the caller’s relatives’ loathing of Flatlanders. Two others used the usual liberal trope of “Missouribama” and “Wississippi,” which will be demonstrably false when we get our usual three-foot-deep snow cover, below-zero temperatures and three-digit-below-zero wind chills.
Most of the calls commenting on my blog were what you’d expect out of the People’s Republic of Madison. Both Sly and a caller accused me of being racist (26:30). The last caller compared business people to “robber barons,” apparently based on his experience with his first private-sector employer. The same “Missouribama” deep-thinker shared his insight that “The same people that like to come down on Milwaukee and Madison love to show up here on the weekend for their sporting events, theater, restaurants [and] history,” which is a statement I can’t personally confirm given the state’s lousy business climate and the cumulative effects of Barack Obama’s effort to destroy the U.S. economy and the work of Gov. James Doyle and the 2009–10 Legislature. (That’s my answer to Sly’s claim that enacting Gov. Scott Walker’s entire agenda would not improve the state’s economy. Had Sly read yesterday’s blog, he would have read that Walker has not gone nearly far enough legislatively.)
It’s always amusing to see someone put words in your mouth and thoughts in your own mind. Sly the psychiatrist accused me of “pandering to a group of collar-county conservatives that deride their power from stoking fear about Milwaukee and resentment towards Madison.” I haven’t checked into the location of this blog’s readers, so I don’t know if any “collar-county conservatives” (that would be counties around Milwaukee) even read it. (The last time I was in Mequon was for a high school basketball playoff game, and I can’t remember the last time I was in Brookfield, although I think I’ll be there for a swim meet in early January.) Apparently my directions from the “collar-county conservatives” are in the same place as my checks from the Koch brothers.
“Resentment about Madison” comes from the same source as resentment about Washington, as Sly proved by (correctly) condemning the National Transportation Safety Board’s call to ban vehicular cellphone use. And references to “stoking fear about Milwaukee” doesn’t disprove my point that Milwaukee “sucks up an inordinate amount of resources to deal with its various big-city social pathologies,” which, by the way, are most suffered by Milwaukee’s residents, such as some of the worst schools in the entire country.
Sly actually made a valid point that then got drowned in his self-congratulations: “The people that have done the best financially in this state are the ones that complain about their taxes the most. The ones most able to pay their taxes are the ones that complain the most.”
For Sly and his listeners, here’s a little secret from, among other sources, The Millionaire Next Door: The “rich” pay the largest share of taxes in this country and this state — income (because the more money you make, the more you pay in taxes, both in dollar terms and in percentage of their income), payroll (in dollar terms), sales (because “rich” people buy more stuff than the non-“rich”), and property taxes (because the “rich” own bigger houses than the non-“rich”). The “rich” don’t get “rich” by wasting their money. Perhaps Sly should ask his show’s and blog’s advertisers how much of their revenues they send back to Washington and Madison, where they are then wasted on laws to ban incandescent light bulbs and proposals to ban Sly from using his cellphone in his Chevrolet Suburban.
I was accused by two callers of being divisive. That’s been a familiar theme this year. You may notice that complaints of division usually come from the losing side of a political debate, although I don’t recall Republicans complaining about Democrats’ being “divisive” during the 2009–10 Legislature. (If they did, then Republicans should not have accused Democrats of being divisive, only of being wrong.) The fact remains that politics is a zero-sum game; one side wins, which means the other side loses. If that seems divisive to you, well, elections have consequences.
Sly did have two callers who were not singing from Sly’s hymnal. The first said the state without Milwaukee without Madison would be “a lot better,” citing my discussion about the “disease of liberalism” (I don’t think I’ve actually used those words on this blog, but whatever), which, he infers, has infected the state’s two largest metropolitan areas. The second noted the disconnect between Madison’s namesake, James Madison, and my hometown’s “government control-freak authoritarians” in such subjects as seat-belt use and smoking in taverns that “interfere with free enterprise … you say conservatives get in people’s bedrooms, but liberals get into every other room of the house!”
Sly did acknowledge “some concern that there’s a little too much domination in the political world, especially among Democrats, that not every candidate has to come out of Madison, which is valid.” He added, “We’re a state that is diverse. There’s a reason that Wisconsin is one of a handful of states left that’s actually up for grabs. … I love being in one of the handful of states that are up for grabs. I don’t like one-party states — not particularly good, as we’re seeing right now.”
It would be nice if Milwaukee or Madison recognized that political diversity. And my point was that Madison does not. People with political viewpoints similar to mine are not welcome in Madison, or at least the expression of conservative viewpoints is neither welcome nor respected in Madison. Isthmus’ spiking of David Blaska’s column is evidence, as is the leftward slide of the Wisconsin State Journal’s opinion page. (What about Vicki McKenna of WIBA? That demonstrates commercial realities more than tolerance of non-liberal viewpoints.) The only conservative Dane County supervisors do not represent Madison districts, and don’t even bother asking about the Madison Common Council.
The next words may seem strange to those readers unfamiliar with the bizarro world of journalism and the commentariat: Sly is free to have and express his own viewpoints about my work. The worst thing you can say to a journalist is not “I disagree with what you wrote” (expressed however politely or not), it’s “I never read what you write.” I assume everyone who called in to comment read the blog, and priority number one of a blogger is to have people read the blog.