Tom Barrett's "Tough Choices"

A little late on this, but I caught the replay of last Friday night's gubernatorial debate on C-SPAN. A lot of the questions asked for specifics about how to balance the budget and create jobs.

From what I can gather, Tom Barrett just doesn't want to answer those questions. He likes to talk about "leadership" and "tough choices," and then tells the audience and the voters that he's going to be a "straight shooter." But he doesn't answer the questions. In fact Mayor Barrett's, main argument is that everything is a priority and nothing is sacred - oh, and that Scott Walker would gut education, public health and public safety.

Despite the fact that Mayor Barrett won't say how he'll balance the budget, at least not beyond saying he wants to put "government on a diet," the biggest problem is that he is presenting a false choice. Governing is about priorities. Education and public health and safety are key functions of government and I'd be willing to bet that most of the $2.7 billion deficit can be closed without touching those three areas. Even so, the amount of dollars spent in an area or department does not necessarily translate into quality of service.

Our state's budget is riddled with waste and redundant services. To say that we cannot cut some of that and still maintain a high quality of service is idiocy. We spend money on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with core functions of government.

Mayor Barrett has committed to trying to play the "adult." But he falls desperately short. Leadership is setting priorities and following through, not just offering platitudes and generalities. Mayor Barrett is saying all the right words, but there's nothing behind them.