Wisconsin: An Investor-Owned State

(Cartoon by Udo J. Keppler (a.k.a. Joseph Keppler, Jr.; 1872-1956), cartoonist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. “Wall Street bubbles – Always the same.” American financier J. P. Morgan is depicted as a bull, blowing soap bubbles for eager investors. (See Bull market.) Several of the bubbles are labeled, “Inflated values.” Seen behind Morgan is a stock ticker, a machine which provided current information on stock prices. Cartoon brightened and cropped from LOC scanned image.”)

By John Kaufman

The selling of Wisconsin to private enterprise continues apace with this week’s news that Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee (which had just done something right by dropping Gov. Walker’s requests to vaporize the influence of the Natural Resources and Agriculture Boards and not allowing the UW System to avoid open records law pertaining to research) voted to cease funding the Citizens Utility Board and other groups currently opposing utility malfeasance.

CUB’s Executive Director, Kira Loehr, told the Journal Sentinel that the cutting of the state grant could well mean shutting down the utility consumer watchdog. Do you suppose that doing away with CUB and funding for other opponents of utility greed is the intent of the Republicans? Perish the thought! Our legislators are merely trying to save utility ratepayers a little cash and boost the fortunes of investor-owned utilities and the investors who like to own the profits sent their way. It’s a win-win, at least for the utilities, for whom Wisconsin and the mainstream media now seem to exist to serve.

Why might our intrepid state legislators/corporate toadies be feeling antagonistic towards CUB? Perhaps because–this is a wild guess– CUB is not pleased with WE Energies’ monopoly plan to become an even bigger monopoly. What follows is from Journal Sentinel reporting: 

In its final filing in the[Integrys merger] case, CUB said the utility’s “outsized influence, hubris, and preference for protecting shareholders at the expense of customers is evident on every page (of the company’s filing), particularly when it expresses gall at customers’ attempts to secure actual, quantifiable benefits and meaningful protections from the transaction.”

Imagine the hubris and gall of CUB to accuse WE Energies of hubris and gall! What’s even more egregious is the scandalous behavior of critics of the mighty monopoly who have, says the mighty monopoly,  “professed desire to gain something more by taking from investors and giving to consumers.”   Words cannot express the depth of the depravity involved in taking from investors to give to consumers. It’s nearly some kind of socialistic redistribution.

Surely punishing CUB for trying to protect consumers is another brilliant conservative idea that needs some second thought. For under the old progressive dispensation (the last hundred years or so) Wisconsin government understood that corporate monopolies have a tendency to take advantage of their power and wealth and it was one of the jobs of state government to, you know, help prevent that sort of thing– checks and balances, etc. Now we’ve got a bunch of big and bold political reformers for whom checking and balancing is more about increasing corporate/investor bank accounts than holding corporations accountable.

Adding insult to injustice, Joint Finance Republicans also ruled that the PSC,  already controlled by anti-science, pro-monopoly Walker appointees, is now able to consider any study on the effects of wind turbine siting on human health, rather than just the credible, peer-reviewed studies. If you are a hater of wind turbines and your blog says any turbine in Wisconsin is bound to bother or harm someone, the PSC can now point to your blog/study and say, “Look, wind power is bad for people. We need more coal.” And the utilities can say, “Look, wind is bad for health and too expensive. We need more coal.” And investors can say, “Look, wind and solar is bad for health and profit. We need more coal.”

Maybe  the poor utility investors need their own advocacy group. Wait. They already have one! And its former Executive Director is now working for the PSC. 

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