Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

The all-nighter pulled by the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday night into Wednesday morning must have made the Republican members delusional.  How else can you explain the last-second inclusion of a measure requiring UW Madison to give the Center for Investigative Journalism the boot off campus?  The CIJ operates at no cost to taxpayers, pays its own rent and utilities for use of campus offices, and gives students studying journalism a great chance to get some "real world" experience--without getting "real world" pay.  Wednesday's vote is simply a few powerful lawmakers having an axe to grind--and using the state budget to swing that axe.

I have to say, I find the decision to go after investigative journalism a bit puzzling.  It has been the work of those reporters that have given the GOP some of its best talking points--both in Wisconsin and nationally--over the last few election cycles.  Who uncovered the scam employed by the Milwaukee County family that stole millions of dollars from the Wisconsin Cares program by setting up phony daycare centers and claiming to watch phony kids?  It certainly wasn't the Department of Family Services.  They continued to pay those people--EVEN AFTER THE STORIES ABOUT THEIR SCAMS WERE PUBLISHED!!  And without investigative journalists how could we have known about the flourishing black market for FoodShare cards on Facebook? 

I don't think Verizon Wireless or the National Security Administration sent out press releases yesterday touting the fact that the Federal Government has been reviewing ALL PHONE RECORDS--not just those of suspected terrorists or Associated Press reporters--for some time now.  And Solynra and Tesla weren't calling press conferences to announce that every tax dollar in "grants and loans" that they got for their renewable energy projects had been flushed down a very large toilet.

Even on a smaller scale, the GOP benefits from investigative journalism.  What undermines the "we are underpaid" claims of public sector unions better than publication of all public employee salaries and benefits--allowing comparison with those of us in the private sector?  And what makes a "progressive" school board look worse than reports on their violations of open meetings laws?

With the continued expansion of government at nearly all levels, the need for investigative reporters--and the importance of their work will only increase.  Who else is going to plow through the reams of expense reports associated with the Affordable Care Act to provide the "real" costs--not the sanitized versions the Obama Administration and Democratic governors are going to put out there.

So hopefully, a well-rested and wide-awake State Assembly and State Senate will remove the vindictive and petty measure targeting the Center for Investigative Journalism from the state budget.  Don't we already have enough low-information voters as it is?

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