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  • The hyperbole of budget cuts

       March 04, 2011

    With Wisconsin budget cuts looming, it's entirely predictable that every state entity will have their own special doom & gloom story. When faced with budget cuts, the knee jerk reaction is to propose cutting what people most want (in hopes that the budget won't be cut after all) rather than think about what actually can get cut without causing too much pain.

    The Wisconsin State Journal falls for this tactic with the provocatively titled "Budget provision could jeopardize decades-old libraries sharing system". While the particular budget item simply says:

    To help municipalities control costs, Walker wants to eliminate a requirement that library funding levels be maintained minimally at the average of the prior three years.

    The message is clear: Scott Walker hates books.

    From this fairly simple provision (and note that "Dane County library services director Julie Chase said she's not certain Walker's proposal will have a major impact on the local system because many municipalities have historically funded their libraries well above the minimum level."), librarians, journalists and Democrats create a slippery slope in which:

    Pamela Westby, director of the Middleton Public Library, is concerned that repealing the minimum funding levels could create a domino effect in which smaller libraries would cut hours and resources, pushing patrons to larger cities' libraries, further straining their ability to provide services.

    And then the larger cities would respond by getting rid of their shared library resources system. And then everyone in Wisconsin would forget how to read and we'd all become slaves to the military industrial complex.

    Note that Walker is not proposing that libraries have to get rid of the shared library system. He's not cutting the budget of libraries. All he's doing is allowing cities increased flexibility with their own budgets. If cities want to keep funding their libraries at a minimum or more, they can.

    Is this really any different than the religious right's reaction to gay marriage: "People will start to marry their cats!"?

    Cutting budgets sucks, but what I like about a lot of this budget is that the responsibility for the cuts will fall to local authorities. They better know what their communities value, right?

    I know it's super fun to demonize and make fun of Scott Walker (he's clearly the heir to Bush Derangement Syndrome), but in this case it's really uncalled for.

    Posted by kris at March 4, 2011 09:15 AM

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