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Forward with Education & Reason

Is what’s good for your 401K good for democracy? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 01 February 2016 16:50


Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government? Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex? Is it possible for the ordinary citizen to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in the political system?

ALTOONA, WI - Mutual funds exist for good reasons. When people are saving up for retirement, if they are lucky and if they are smart they have something more than what they’ve paid in to Social Security. Maybe they have a 401(k). Or maybe a 403(b). Or an IRA of some kind. Or a SEP. Whatever they have, they typically don’t have enough time on their hands to research where best to invest the funds or to execute the transactions. Nor do most of us feel qualified to manage these accounts.

mike-mccabeSo we put our money in a mutual fund, in the hands of professional money managers. This way, you can invest your money without the time or the experience needed to invest wisely. Theoretically at least, you should get a better return by giving your money to a professional than you would if you chose investments yourself. There is still risk. There’s always risk. But it beats stuffing your life’s savings in a mattress.

For roughly the same reasons, politics has largely been handed over to professionals. As populations continue to grow and life gets more complicated and communications technologies become more advanced and demanding, it is more and more challenging for someone with a life outside of politics to be an active and involved citizen. Increasingly, people who don’t practice politics for a living feel they have neither the time nor the qualifications to be actively engaged. Consequently, democracy has been outsourced to professional managers. A vast political consulting industry has  enveloped our political system, and it has become a multi-billion dollar racket.

There are survey research professionals to measure public opinion. There are messaging professionals to write scripts and put words in the mouths of candidates for office and elected officials. There are marketing professionals who sell policies and politicians the way beer and potato chips are sold. There are electioneering professionals who turn voter identification, persuasion and turnout into an intricate, algorithmic science. There are policy professionals who sit in offices on one coast and write laws for states and local communities on the other side of the country and all points in between. And, of course, there are the professional money managers who make sure all the consulting fees get paid and the obscene profits get turned.

All of this begs a number of questions:

Are the strategies we’ve employed for building retirement nest eggs transferable to self-government?

Is a democratic republic compatible with the political industrial complex?

Is it possible for the ordinary citizen – the amateur – to reclaim a meaningful and influential role in a political system presently overrun by professionals?

My answers:


Absolutely not.

It has to be. The alternative is too dismal a fate.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 February 2016 17:06
Attacking Planned Parenthood Is Attacking Women PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Taylor, State Rep. 76th Assembly   
Monday, 01 February 2016 10:42

women's healthThe Wisconsin Senate passed SB 238/AB 311 last week, a bill that could effectively shut down one of Wisconsin’s oldest and most trusted women’s health care centers, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. Republicans fueled their arguments with misleading and untrue videos released last summer, but this is really about women having the ability to control their own destiny, free from intrusive politicians who think they know better.

MADISON - Last week, the Wisconsin Senate passed yet another bill, SB 238/AB 311, aimed at shutting down one of Wisconsin’s oldest, largest and most trusted women’s health care centers, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI). This most recent attack on women’s health care will make it more difficult and expensive for health centers to provide birth control and other critical health care services to Wisconsin’s women. This disastrous legislation creates a double standard among health care providers and treats the women they serve as second-class citizens.

SB 238/AB 311 requires certain reproductive health centers to bill Medicaid for the actual acquisition costs and dispensing fees for prescription drugs. In Wisconsin, there are over 700 hospitals, clinics, hemophilia centers, and HIV/AIDS organizations that are 340B covered entities. Of those 700 hospitals and clinics, PPWI is the only health care provider who will experience a slash in reimbursement prices.

Though Republicans attempted to fuel their obsession with shutting down Planned Parenthood with heavily edited and misleading videos released this summer, reality struck this week when a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted the creators of the videos for paying money for fetal parts. In fact, officials in 10 other states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and another 8 have declined to investigate due to a complete lack of evidence.

Make no mistake, when this legislature attacks PPWI, they are really attacking women’s ability to access life-saving health care, to plan and space pregnancies, and to decide for themselves if and when they become parents. At the end of the day this struggle over reproductive health care is really about women having the ability to control their own destiny, free from intrusive politicians who think they know better.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 February 2016 11:17
On the 7th Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Act PDF Print E-mail
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Brandon Weathersby   
Friday, 29 January 2016 15:19

martha-laningMADISON - The Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Chair Martha Laning made the following statement on the 7th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act:

obama_ledbettersigning"Seven years ago today, President Barack Obama signed his first piece of legislation into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, empowering women to recover wages lost to pay discrimination.

"The President's actions were a critical step forward in closing the wage gap, but the fight is far from finished.

"Women make just 78 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, a figure that has barely budged in more than a decade. When race and gender are considered, African American women make 64 cents, and Latinas only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

"Women typically lose over $400,000 during a 40-year career due to the wage gap. Here in Wisconsin, we've lost out on a critical economic stimulus due to the failure of Republican leaders to address pay equity.

"Democrats in Wisconsin understand that a fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay, and believe that women should always be paid the same as men for doing the same work. We will continue to fight to ensure women in our state receive fair pay for the work they do."

Privatizing Water! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 29 January 2016 14:58

clean-drinking-waterMADISON - This week we revealed that there is one company behind the Republican bills to make it easier to sell off municipal water utilities. Find out who that company is, and how much it spent on lobbying last year, by reading this article:

Bills would make it easier to privatize public water utilities

And guess whose fingerprints are all over these bills? None other than ALEC, as we show here:

ALEC’s fingerprints on bills to privatize public water supplies

The NRA is also throwing its weight around in the legislature. It’s behind two bills, including concealed carry for switchblades and other blades:

NRA-backed weapons bills head to Walker

As you can see, there have been a lot of retrograde bills coming down the pike lately. I had fun testifying at the Capitol on Tuesday against a bill that would restrict local governments from issuing their own ID cards to residents. Here’s my testimony:

WDC opposes Senate Bill 533 regulating photo ID cards issued by local units of government

And here’s a bill we support, as it would safeguard public records in Wisconsin:

Democratic bill would create fine for destroying certain public records

As the legislature hurries to finish up its work in the next month or so, we’ll keep an eye out on the bills – and the money behind the bills.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 January 2016 15:16
Where’s Bluto Blutarsky when he’s needed most? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Saturday, 23 January 2016 11:00

john-belushi-as-blutoALTOONA, WI - I hear it or see it every day. Somebody says it at a meeting. Or posts it as a comment on an Internet message board or social media site. It’s imbedded in a question asked at some public forum. It is on a sign at a demonstration.

Democracy in America has been killed. It’s dead. It’s over.

I disagree for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that democracy is more verb than noun and verbs can’t be killed. Democracy lives as long as there are at least some among us who are doing it.

There’s no overlooking the fact that democracy is gravely ill in many respects, however. Democracy is dependent on many things, but none more important than the consent of the governed. What passes for consent of the governed nowadays is frightening when you consider what most Americans think of those doing the governing and further consider how elected officials demonstrate that they don’t care what the general public thinks.

The two major parties have very different ways of dealing with these troubling conditions. The Democrats run scared. There is a long list of things they believe but won’t say and things they would like to do but don’t. The Republicans run roughshod. Their answer for pretty much everything is more tax cuts primarily benefiting the rich and more government deregulation. Regardless of what the public wants, that’s what Republicans do. They are one-trick ponies, even though the trick has only made the rich vastly richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class disappear. For decades now it hasn’t produced the widespread prosperity they promise, yet they don’t try anything different. They double down on their one trick.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 January 2016 11:10
On the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade PDF Print E-mail
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Martha Laning   
Friday, 22 January 2016 15:17

martha-laningMADISON - 43 years ago today, the Supreme Court made it clear that a woman has the right to make her own health care decisions.

On this day, we celebrate a historic ruling that respects a woman's right to make private decisions with her doctor. We are also reminded today that we must stand firm against efforts to undermine or chip away at those rights.

Wisconsin families look to their leaders to focus first on economic policy. Instead, we've seen a Republican-controlled legislature focused on curtailing access to a legal and safe abortions, and passing draconian legislation that puts women's health at risk.

It's a shame that 43 years later after the Supreme Court has settled the issue of reproductive rights that some still want to roll back the clock. Today, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin recommits itself to fighting to protect reproductive freedom.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016 15:23
Koch Brothers, WMC Back Bill Gutting Civil Service PDF Print E-mail
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 22 January 2016 14:51

conference-roomMADISON - The state Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill on Wednesday that changes the longtime hiring process for 30,000 public sector jobs. The measure was backed by powerful business and conservative ideological groups that have spent millions of dollars since 2011 to help Republican lawmakers, who control the legislature, and GOP Gov. Scott Walker keep their jobs.

The measure, Assembly Bill 373, overhauls the state’s 110-year-old civil service hiring process by eliminating the requirement that job applicants take exams; shortening the process used by employees to appeal their discipline or dismissal by more than half; and prohibiting senior employees from avoiding termination by bumping less-senior workers from their jobs.

AB373, which was approved on a party line 19 to 14 vote in the Senate, was passed in October by the Assembly, and now goes to Walker, who supports it, for his signature.

Backers of the bill say the civil service process needed to be changed because it takes too long to hire and fire people. Opponents of the measure say the changes will hurt the quality of the state’s workforce by bringing political patronage and corruption back into the hiring of public employees.

The special interests behind the bill are generous backers of Republican legislators and Walker.

AB373 is backed by the state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative ideological group created and funded bybillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016 16:26
Wisconsin Budget Lags as Republicans Neglect People's Priorities PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Barca, Assembly Democratic Leader, District 64   
Thursday, 21 January 2016 15:57

peter_barcaMADISON – Today, I must response to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau revenue report that showed Wisconsin is expected to take in $158 million less in revenue.

Ordinary Wisconsinites and their communities continue to suffer from the Republicans' neglect – including the Republicans' extremely damaging budget and their inaction on our major challenges.

While Gov. Walker and Republicans tried to paint a rosy picture of Wisconsin’s economy and finances, the truth is that families and communities throughout the state face major hardships.

As Republicans continue to stack the deck against ordinary Wisconsinites and obscure their harmful agenda with election-year distractions, Democrats are focused on leveling the playing field and rebuilding the middle class the Republican agenda has hurt so deeply.

The first step toward improving our state’s finances is accepting federal BadgerCare funds to provide health care to roughly 80,000 Wisconsinites at a savings of more than $300 million to taxpayers over the next two years.

State of the State - 'we need solutions, not sound bites' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District   
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 10:59

2015-budgetMADISON – Over the last five years, we’ve seen deep cuts that have limited economic growth, stifled innovation and denied thousands of families the opportunity to get ahead. Democrats continue to believe that the best way to move our state forward is by restoring investments in our schools, infrastructure and worker training programs. 

When it comes to the challenges facing our state, we need solutions, not sound bites. Placing more students in unpaid internships isn’t going to help the nearly one million Wisconsinites burdened by $19 billion in student loan debt. It’s time to follow the lead of other states like Minnesota and allow families to refinance their student debt at a lower interest rate just like you can with home and auto loans.

Democrats remain committed to creating a childcare tax credit for working families, supporting new jobs through infrastructure investments and expanding retirement security options for hardworking residents. With Gov. Walker’s presidential bid behind us, it’s time to look forward at ways we can improve our state and rebuild our middle class.

MEDIA NOTE: State of the State video responses from Sen. Shilling and other Democratic caucus members can be viewed and downloaded at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/democrats/videoreleases.

State of the State - 'on jobs ... more of the lack of accountability' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dana Wachs, State Rep. 91st Assembly   
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 10:57

joblessMADISON - After the recent stories of jobs leaving Wisconsin, I had really hoped that Governor Walker would present a bold plan to keep jobs here and attract new businesses to Wisconsin. Sadly, however, we heard more of the lack of accountability and irresponsible priorities that have become the cornerstone of his administration.

Last week, General Electric announced that they will be moving from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston. They are making this move because Boston is a hub of higher education and, consequently, research. We too need to invest in our universities and technical colleges if we want to see innovative business development and job creation in Wisconsin.

If the state of our state is truly going to be strong, we need to work together and invest in priorities that will create long-term economic success. My Democratic colleagues and I will continue to put forward common sense proposals that will reinvest in education and demonstrate a clear vision for Wisconsin’s future. We must shift the balance of power from the wealthy corporate campaign donors back to the people of Wisconsin.

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