Sunday September 15, 2019

Forward with Education & Reason


Commentary from us and our readers.

"The curse of can’t-do thinking" - Blue Jean Nation PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Saturday, 07 May 2016 16:43

statue-of-libertyIt’s almost as if the unofficial slogan of the U.S. has become No We Can’t. Forgotten is how past generations of Americans who had far less than we have today made great progress. But we seem to lack their optimism and boundless faith in America’s potential.

ALTOONA - From the time of the nation’s founding through the first 180 years of the American experiment, our country’s motto was E pluribus unum. In 1956 it was officially changed to In God We Trust. But as more and more Americans grow increasingly pessimistic about the future — even more pessimistic than people in economically underdeveloped countries — it’s almost as if the unofficial slogan of the U.S. has become No We Can’t.

When it is suggested that we should stop sentencing the nation’s youth to debt and make education as affordable for our children and grandchildren as past generations made it for us, this aspiration is widely dismissed as a pipe dream. Some bitterly grumble about “free stuff” while many others wonder aloud how we could possibly pay to extend the promise of free public education all the way through college.

Seemingly forgotten is that past generations of Americans created and paid for a system of free public education through high school, and they were far poorer than we are now when they did it. Many who did the paying had no high school diploma of their own at the time, but knew that industrialization meant that many of their kids and grandkids would be leaving the land and heading to factories and offices and would need more education and job training if they were to have a shot at experiencing the American Dream. So they dug deep and provided future generations that shot.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 May 2016 17:02
Federal Bill Gives WI Another Chance to Capitalize PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District   
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 11:35

aca-workingWisconsin taxpayers have missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal government as a part of the Affordable Care Act implementation, but now there's a chance to push the “reset” button.

MADISON - That fact that Wisconsin taxpayers have missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars from the Federal government as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA-ObamaCare) implementation is not new news. One of the few states that to say “no thanks we don’t want our own tax dollars back, please send it to Illinois or Texas” has been a painful decision to watch as students cannot graduate because classes are cut, potholes get bigger and another school referendum hits property taxpayer’s pocketbook. Well the good news is that this bad decision by Governor Walker and the Republican majority in the Legislature can be reversed at any time. We could come in session tomorrow and get this done.

Now that no one from Wisconsin is running for President and we have seen the unnecessary struggle that the choice to refuse $320 million just this biennium has had on our state economy, we can come back to the table and accept Federal dollars and give access to affordable health care. Not taking Federal funds does not mean that our tax dollars are squirreled away and saved for a rainy day by Congress. It just means they send our money to another state, to help them balance their budgets and help their citizens with health insurance.

Excellent new news from the Federal government is the introduction of the SAME Act by Senator Tammy Baldwin and others. This bill would push the “reset” button for Wisconsin. We could choose to accept our tax dollars back as a part of ACA and start at the same full reimbursement rate that we could have had in the first place; 100% reimbursement from the Federal government for expansion of our current BadgerCare Plus program. Under SAME, for four years we would be at 100% reimbursement, phasing down to 90% reimbursement after another three years. Still a lot better than where we are now, which is zero. This could be a huge windfall for our state budget.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2016 13:10
On John Doe, DAs Deserve Our Thanks! PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Sunday, 01 May 2016 10:01

john-chisolmMADISON - The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign thanks the courageous district attorneys John Chisholm, Ismael Ozanne, and Larry Nelson for appealing the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in the John Doe II case to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.

While the details of their appeal have not been made public yet, there are two solid grounds for the appeal.

The first is that at least a couple of the justices should have recused themselves from the John Doe case because of a conflict of interest.

The four justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who dismissed the John Doe investigation concerning alleged coordination between Scott Walker and so-called outside groups were aided enormously by some of the very groups that were party to the John Doe case.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Club for Growth, and Citizens for a Strong America—all of which were reportedly embroiled in the John Doe--together spent more than $8 million in support of Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Annette Ziegler, Justice Michael Gableman, and Justice David Prosser.

ismael-ozanne-daThe second, and even more crucial, basis for an appeal is the fact that the Wisconsin Supreme Court blatantly misread forty years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent on campaign finance.

In tossing out the John Doe II case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that the First Amendment prohibits the state of Wisconsin from imposing a ban on coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups. But dating back to Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 and right on through Citizens United of 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance decisions have been predicated on there being no coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups.

In Buckley, the court ruled that expenditures by outside groups that are coordinated with candidates amount to campaign contributions. “The ultimate effect is the same as if the person had contributed the dollar amount to the candidate and the candidate had then used the contribution,” the court ruled. Such expenditures, it said, should be “treated as contributions rather than expenditures.”

Only the lack of coordination reduces the risk of corruption, the Court stressed in Buckley. “The absence of prearrangement and coordination of an expenditure with the candidate or his agent . . . alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments from the candidates.”

larry-nelson-daEven in its infamous Citizens United decision, which allowed independent groups to spend unlimited amounts of money, the U.S Supreme Court stressed that such groups had to be independent; they couldn’t coordinate with their favored candidates: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that line. He will be the crucial vote in this case, assuming that the U.S. Supreme Court hears it. And if Justice Kennedy stands by his own reasoning in Citizens United, the district attorneys have an excellent chance of prevailing and getting the John Doe II decision overturned.

That would be a tremendous outcome because unless the John Doe II decision is overturned, we will have little hope in Wisconsin of limiting the corrupting influence of dark money over our politics.

Blue Jean Nation - "Private Academies On The Dole" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 15:28

school-closed26 years ago, Wisconsin lawmakers started the Parental Choice Program in Milwaukee, the first Taxpayer-subsidized private schooling. It started with just over 300 students, now there are more than 30,000. Today, private schools are getting 20% more state aid per student than the public schools educating everyone else’s children. Why?

ALTOONA, WI - Some 26 years ago, Wisconsin lawmakers blazed a new trail by creating the nation’s first scholastic welfare program. It started in Milwaukee, expanded to Racine, and then was taken statewide. It started small, with just over 300 students. Now there are more than 30,000 in the program.

It’s officially called the Parental Choice Program. If there were truth in labeling, it would be called what it is: Taxpayer-subsidized private schooling. The small number of families getting the subsidies already had a choice. In fact,most of them were exercising their option to have their children privately schooled before handouts were ever offered.

So here’s what this boils down to: People who showed they have the means to send their children to private schools are now able to continue to send them to private schools but have the rest of us taxpayers pay their tuition for them.

The real kick in the teeth for taxpayers is that the value of the public-funded vouchers for private schooling is considerably higher than the amount of state aid for each student attending a public school in Wisconsin. The state is spending $236 million this school year on the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide “Parental Choice Programs,” and is cutting state aid to public schools by $75 million to help pay for it. Next year, the cost of the vouchers that scholastic welfare recipients receive will rise to $258 million and $83 million will be taken from the public schools to help cover the cost. This year, each voucher is worth $7,210 for elementary and middle school students and $7,856 for high school students. Next year, taxpayers will be picking up the tab to the tune of $7,323 for each elementary and middle school student and $7,969 for each high schooler. Meanwhile, when you look at all the different forms of state aid to public schools, the amount being spent on each of the more than 870,000 students attending public schools is less than $6,000.

Let that sink in for a moment. The private schools serving scholastic welfare recipients are getting roughly 20% more state aid per student than the public schools educating everyone else’s children are getting.

The lobbyists who sold Wisconsin lawmakers on this scheme a quarter of a century ago insisted at the time that the program would create competition and ultimately boost student achievement. It hasn’t. Students getting taxpayer-subsidized private schooling are doing no better than their public school counterparts. If anything, they actually are doing somewhat worse. And that holds true in other states that followed Wisconsin’s lead.

So why does Wisconsin keep throwing good money after bad? Scholastic welfare is a raw deal for taxpayers and a decades-long failure as an educational policy, but it has been very good for the campaign coffers of state politicians.

And why is so much money thrown at politicians to keep expanding a program that has never delivered on its promises? This is all about propping up private and parochial schools whose enrollments have been plummeting nationwide. Sure enough, while private school enrollments in Wisconsin were falling statewide, they were increasing in the counties where the scholastic welfare program was started. Keeping failing private schools alive is the one thing this program has succeeded in doing. That’s why the program was expanded statewide in 2013.

PolitiFact Wisconsin Is Wrong, Carried Interest Is Corrupt PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Brandon Weathersby   
Sunday, 24 April 2016 12:00

tammy_baldwinMADISON – This past week, Politifact Wisconsin wrongly gave Senator Tammy Baldwin a "false" rating on statements she made pertaining to closing the carried interest tax loophole." Instead of looking at the big picture, Politifact Wisconsin chose only to see the numbers they wanted.

Fortunately, the group Patriotic Millionaires, a group of millionaires who want reform the tax code so the rich pay their fair share of taxes, did their own analysis and found that Senator Baldwin's statements were correct.

Read Excerpts from the piece below.

pantsonfireThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is certainly entitled to their own opinion that millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t be asked to pay their fair share of taxes; after all they have opposed the Buffet Rule, which would do just that. They also can offer their own editorial opinions about tax policy through “politfacts” but one thing that they are not entitled to is their own set of actual facts.

In a recent opinion from the paper’s “Politifact Wisconsin,” they claimed Senator Baldwin made a “false” statement about legislation she has introduced to close the carried interest tax loophole and require the managers of investment partnerships to pay the same tax rates on their income that most American workers pay.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 April 2016 12:20
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