When it's about politics, taxpayers' money doesn't count.
Take, for example, our bellicose commander in chief. In order to bolster his contention that the U.S. border with Mexico is being overrun by "animals" from Mexico and Central America, a grandstanding Donald Trump called up hundreds of National Guard members to help federal border agents protect the nation from this horde. Soldiers from four neighboring border states are still there.
The threat, of course, had nothing to do with it. The threat at the border isn't any more serious than it's been the past several decades. In fact, the number of people trying to illegally enter is down from recent years. But when you're trying to show your political base what a tough, no-nonsense guy you are, you invent a fake scenario and spend millions in taxpayer money to put on a show.
Even the head of the 15,000-member national Border Patrol Union, which unabashedly endorsed Trump in 2016, has called the National Guard deployment "a colossal waste of resources." While the National Guard helped in some stressful border predicaments in previous years, he said, that hasn't been the case lately.
In other words, the federal government is going to spend from $220 to $252 million through 2018, a significant amount when you consider that the same government is cutting food stamps and other benefits for the working poor. And that doesn't even consider the tens of thousands of hours Guard members are forfeiting in their civilian jobs, forcing employers to scramble to fill in for their absences.
And guess who thinks this is a great idea? None other than our frugal governor, Scott Walker, who before the ink was dry on Trump's call to duty volunteered Wisconsin Guard members. Unsettling the lives of others is never a consideration when there are political points to make.
This is the same guy who decided to give families with minor children a tax rebate a few weeks before election day. Instead of tweaking the tax returns due April 15, which would have cost nothing and provided the same rebate, Walker and the Legislature decided to spend a few hundred thousand making sure they get political credit before the next election.
Then there's state Sen. Leah Vukmir, the GOP establishment's candidate for the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. The strident anti-union billionaire Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply Corp. in Beloit is helping finance an ad calling Vukmir a "spending hawk," ostensibly guarding every nickle and dime of taxpayer money.
Milwaukee blogger James Rowen pointed out last week that Vukmir has carried the ball for Walker's political spending with taxpayer dollars while claiming to be a miser with the state's funds.
Plus, she's an unabashed supporter of Donald Trump's "beautiful wall" on the Mexican border, which promises to set taxpayers back billions in one of the nation's biggest follies ever.
But what the heck — though you've won elections promising to be frugal, once you are in control who cares?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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