• WisBusiness

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday perks list includes naughty and nice in politics, business


By Tom Still
A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa's perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here's what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas week. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.

Gov. Jim Doyle: A fat sack of money to help trim the state's budget deficit would be nice, but with checked bags costing $15 each these days, Santa must travel light. So let's give Doyle a T-shirt that reads: "One more year and I'm outta' here!"

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett: A helping hand (literally). Barrett took a vicious beating last summer at State Fair Park when he intervened in a domestic dispute, and still has only partial use of his right hand. Now a candidate for governor, Barrett is also learning how to cut meat, write and button his shirt all over again. He recently joked he has "very good third-grade penmanship." That's OK, Mr. Mayor. If you're elected governor, vetoing bad budget bills only requires a few strokes of the pen.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker: A link to www.onehitwondercentral.com. Walker's campaign for governor thus far has dwelled on cutting spending and taxes, but now that the latest Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance report shows Wisconsin slipping out of the ranks of the nation's biggest spending and taxing states, Walker needs a second tune. "How I'll Love the Economy Better Than Those Other Guys" has a nice ring to it.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann: A copy of Ross Perot's book, "United We Stand." Because Republicans are notorious for deciding early which candidates to back in their own primaries, Neumann finds himself swimming upstream in the GOP's race for governor. But what if this successful businessman borrowed a page from Perot and ran a third-party race? As 1992 presidential candidate Perot might say, "Why not, dad-gummit?"

The state Veterans Affairs Board: A copy of Dr. Seuss' "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos was serving a National Guard stint in Iraq at the time of some questionable spending at a state veterans' facility. When Scocos returned to his civilian job running the Department of Veterans Affairs, he was eventually fired over things that appear to have happened while he was overseas. That's not the best public-relations message for an agency that tells private employers to protect the jobs of workers who must fulfill military obligations.

The state Department of Natural Resources: How about 200,000 or so deer GPS units for the 2010 hunting season? A company just across the border in Duluth, Minn., sells global positioning systems to help hunters find lost dogs. However, the bigger problem (and market opportunity) is that Wisconsin hunters can't seem to find the deer the DNR game wardens swear are out there. Perhaps White Bear Technologies can adapt its GPS units to fit around the necks of those phantom deer.

The Madison City Council: A copy of "A New Yorkers View of the World." This famous New Yorker magazine cover depicts a map of the world as seen by self-absorbed New Yorkers. About half of the map is devoted to details of Manhattan and the world west of the Hudson River is shown as largely a wasteland. That's how some anti-business politicos in Madison view Wisconsin's capital city -- as an imperious economic island. In the real world, however, money and opportunities can (and do) move elsewhere.

Wisconsin's congressional delegation: A link to "The Coastie Song," an Internet hit. The state's two senators and eight House of Representatives members often find themselves outnumbered by the "coasties," those members of Congress who hail from the populous East and West coasts. It's time for all good "sconnies" on Capitol Hill to band together, especially when it comes to getting Wisconsin's fair share of federal aid. In 2007, for example, Wisconsin ranked 49th among the 50 states in federal aid per capita to K-12 students. Are "sconnie" kids somehow less deserving -- or are we leaving money on the table?

Google: What to get the company that has everything and still craves more? Santa's answer: A history book that describes what happens to those who aspire to global domination. A Paris court has ruled that Google's expansion into digital books breaks France's copyright laws, and a judge slapped the Internet search leader with a $14,300-a-day fine until it stops showing literary snippets. Google will appeal, of course, but the ruling has at least slowed Google in its crusade to scan all the world's books into a digital library accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. If you Google the phrase "intellectual property" right now, the definition might come back "Vive la France!"

For Wisconsin's rising political stars: In an era when scandal and partisanship drives more good people away from politics than it attracts, it's reassuring to know that quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That's a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

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