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Let's Not Screw over our Schools.

Kirk Bangstad

Do you notice that you often read statements from politicians that seem shockingly opposite of what you’d think they’d say? 

This is done on purpose, and it’s meant to desensitize you to autocratic rule and terrible public policy.  If you hear something shocking over and over again, it becomes less shocking and you accept it as normal.

Paying prostitutes hush money to win an election?  Shocking, but we’ve come to expect it.  Asking Russia/China to interfere in our elections?  Shocking but we’ve come to expect it.  There is psychological warfare being played on the American people, and it’s moving the Overton window, which is a term that means changing the level of acceptable discourse, to the extreme right.  We will talk about this tomorrow, but the issue at hand today is the shocking stance that your Assemblyman Rob Swearingen has taken towards accepting federal funds to help our education system deal with Covid-19 this fall.

Read that again, Rob Swearingen and 43 of his colleagues have called for rejecting funds passed by our U.S. Congress in the HEROES Act and stalled in the U.S. Senate to help public schools deal with all the problems that Covid-19 will present to schools this fall.

This is shocking.  Just like it was shocking when Scott Walker refused to take federal funds to expand Medicaid when Obamacare was passed.  It’s meant to be shocking, and it’s meant to move your entire conception of politics to the right.

Initially, regardless of your politics, you probably are like “Of course public schools need more money right now, there’s probably a ton of extra training and technology that will be needed to figure out how to teach kids from home if a second wave comes, etc. etc.” 

Then, depending on your political leanings, the next steps you take will be different.  Democrats will be shocked and dismayed, and will start shrieking to their echo chambers that right wing nuts jobs are further sending our once-excellent public education system to hell, or Alabama (same thing).

Republicans, however, having faith that their party wouldn’t sell Wisconsin students down the river, will look for a viable reason for what seems initially shocking.  The reason they’ll find is this:  All of the democratic (blue) states like Illinois, New York, and California will get WAY more federal funds than Wisconsin because they mismanaged their education tax dollars and have to get bailed out, and thus Wisconsinites will have to eventually pay more in federal taxes to cover their asses.

Of course this argument is ludicrous, but it was used by Rob “rubber stamper” Swearingen and 43 other republican state legislators in a recent Milwaukee Journal piece. You don’t reject federal funds to help your state’s kids because you’re pissed at how other states have managed their funds.  You accept funds because your kids need them.  Just like you should have accepted funds to expand Medicaid for Wisconsin’s poor because healthcare costs have skyrocketed and Wisconsinites need relief. 

This is called moving the Overton window to the right.  If you’re a Republican and really trying to trust that your party is doing the right thing, you cling to any remote logic you can to accept initially shocking news to make it less shocking for you.  And if you’re a Democrat, your frame of reference moves from trying to reclaim Wisconsin’s great public education system to just trying to get SOME money back to stop slipping into the abyss and becoming Alabama. 

Neighbors, we have to see this psychological warfare for what it is and reject it.  We’re Wisconsinites, and we’re supposed to care about each other and play nice.  Sure, we tend to drink too much but we CARE about our schools and our kids.  We have to reject this demented assault to our senses and the politicians who “rubber stamp” it into our psyches.  Rob Swearingen didn’t come up with the argument to screw over our public schools, he’s not that devious.  But he did sign his name to it, and that’s just as bad. It’s time for him to go.

If you agree, please share widely to your conservative friends who care about their schools, and if you really agree, please throw a few shekels my way to help get the word out.  

Written by Kirk Bangstad on 06/24/20

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