Saturday October 21, 2017

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After 16 Year Afghanistan War, Let's Admit Defeat & Switch to United Nations

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
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on Tuesday, 06 June 2017
in Wisconsin

afghanistan-war-deadWe have bled our soldiers and other peoples of their blood, spent trillions of dollars that should have gone to building a better life for all Americans. A Vietnam War era and Korea veteran says it's time to stop.

TUCSON, AZ - Generals want another surge in Afghanistan. Only 5,000 will do the trick to help the peace process they say. Kill and bomb more people to encourage people to negotiate for peace. Do you believe it? The generals don’t say they need more troops in Iraq or Syria or Libya or Africa ---- YET.

We Americans are persistent. But when it comes to wars, we exhibit perseveration defined as “…the inappropriate persistence or repetition of a thought or action…”

“Repetition of thoughts” – example: war is the answer to all diplomatic problems. “Repetition of actions” – example: we accept lie after lie from our presidents pushing us into wars.

obama-trumpIn Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, tens of thousands of Americans have died along with millions of Asian and Middle Eastern peoples. One lying president after another tells us the sky is falling. It’s the commies, the horrible dictators, the treacherous religious terrorists. By late 1967 when the surge of American troops was really building in Vietnam, Pres. Johnson knew the war was a loser, as did Sec. of Defense McNamara, but both continued to lie and lie. And people continued to die and die. For what? Pride? Corporate empire? Presidents prey on our fears. We citizens accept the lies and off our youth go to war after war.

These politicians aren’t really interested in communists or terrorists. Politicians want the oil, gas, copper, tin, titanium, or markets for their 1%er corporate friends. They know war is good for their political career. And they will be rewarded by a grateful military industrial complex. WalMart, GM and so many others do hundreds of billions of business with the “commies” in China and Vietnam without a blink of the eye.

The oil soaked Middle East dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Qatar fund the schooling, training and operations of religious terrorists yet these dictators are our buddies -- buying billions in American weapon systems. Simultaneously, we send our youth to fight the religious terrorists our CIA and these dictatorships created. And our military/industrial complex makes money providing weapons to both sides.

We have bled our soldiers and other peoples of their blood. We have bled our Nation of trillions of dollars that should have been spent building a better life for all Americans. War profiteers, CEO’s and share owners make hundreds of billions while the under funded Veterans Affairs hospitals try to take care of all our physically, mentally and morally crushed soldiers. And military families pay the highest price of all - dead and damaged loved ones.

The CIA with its mercenaries, billions and bags of tricks is forever starting wars saying it is trying to “save” a democracy or promote democracy or freedom. Then, American soldiers step into the quicksand of war. Wars don’t create peace. They create the silence of death. Bullets, torture or assassinations kill people but cannot kill ideas.

These are illegal wars of aggression - illegal under our Constitution and the United Nations Charter. The reason starting an illegal war is the greatest crime is because all other crimes will then be committed: murder, torture, rape, starvation, theft, religious, political or sexual persecution, genocide, repression… Everything imaginable takes place during war. Military leaders know wars are easy to start. They also know -- no one knows how to stop them.

And now Pres. Trump is supposed to decide if we need another surge of 5,000 American troops in Afghanistan. AFTER 16 YEARS OF DESTROYING AFGHANISTAN, WE NEED TO GET OUT!

We must admit that in the present wars, we are on the side of the gangsters, drug kings, murderous militias, dictators, torturers and power hungry religious fanatics.

What we’ve done in these countries has NOT worked. Our wars and weapons have pushed these countries from bad to worse. Millions are homeless and refugees. Their hatred will last decades or centuries.

We need to admit to the United Nations our failures and ask the UN to conduct peace negotiations in each nation. We must support those negotiations, pay the costs, withdraw all our troops and military equipment, stop the bombings and drone attacks and stop the surveillance and training assistance.

There has been too much killing to feed the unsatiable greed of our military/industrial/politician complex.

Citizens, we must prove we support the rule of law rather than the rule of empire or whim. We must prove we will NOT accept more lying and corruption.

We must impeach those presidents and generals who have led these illegal wars! We must make them examples of what America will do when elected leaders and generals forsake their oaths to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and when they betray the American people.

Between 45 million and 85 million died in WWII. In a nuclear war with nations using just 1% of their nuclear weapons, it’s estimated tens of millions would die in the first hour. Millions would die afterwards from radiation effects and firestorms. Those firestorms, sweeping large areas creating dark dust clouds, would cause a worldwide, extended winter of possibly 10 years with drastically shortened food growing cycles. Two billion would be threatened with famine. Life on earth, as we know it, would be gone.

We must stop the wars. Stop creating wars. And stop supplying weapons to all sides.

We must request the UN take leadership in trying to peacefully resolve the quagmire we have helped create. Or, our posterity will eventually suffer the same cruel fate millions of families are presently suffering in the Middle East.

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What Choices Would You Make?

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 06 June 2017
in Wisconsin

walkerEvery dollar spent in a budget is a reflection of choices. Sen. Kathleen Vinehout shares some of the ideas in an alternative budget she created to the one proposed by the Governor and encourages people to let their choices be known.

MADISON - In the next few weeks, state lawmakers are voting on how Wisconsin spends money over the next two years. The choices legislators make will affect our communities and our lives.

Lawmakers are working off a spending plan submitted by the Governor earlier this year. Changes have already been made to his proposal.

For example, the budget writing committee removed much of the new money for the University of Wisconsin System. Big spending cuts in the last budget forced, among other things, a reorganization of UW-Extension, which may leave local communities without their own Ag or 4-H agents.

This year, the Governor’s budget returned about one-sixth of that cut and ties the increase to new “performance” standards. However, majority party lawmakers cut that increase roughly in half and disapproved a small decrease in tuition.

Every dollar spent in the budget is a choice. Not funding the UW System may be a choice to finance another tax change for some businesses. Lawmakers are pushing to get rid of the business personal property tax that provides revenue to local governments.

What would your choices be for state spending? How might we spend the same amount of money but make different choices.

I tackled this question in writing an alternative to the Governor’s budget. I focused recently on the General Fund budget – where most of our tax dollars go.

To break down the choices, it’s helpful to remember the vast majority of state tax dollars go to fund health, K-12 education, technical colleges & the UW, local government and corrections. These five programs are most directly affected by general fund tax changes. For example, tax breaks result in less money for schools.

Those who deliver services in all five of these areas would tell us spending has not kept pace with inflation. Past budget cuts had serious consequences, such as teacher shortages, nursing home closures, loss of UW professors, and prison lawsuits. In addition, an aging population, more mental health and drug addiction problems, and increasing childhood poverty are straining our capacity to respond.

Over the past six years, Wisconsin spent hundreds of millions in new business tax credits. Yet legislative audits show little evidence of anticipated results. State and national economic statistics demonstrate Wisconsin’s new private sector job growth trailing a majority of states. Local businesses report workforce shortages.

Every dollar spent in a budget is a choice. What choices could we make to address problems facing the state?

We could make technical and two-year UW colleges more accessible for students who might not otherwise get post high school training. In my alternative budget, I create a program to provide free tuition for Tech College and two-year UW Campuses. Use federal financial aid first. Then eliminate the remaining financial barriers. In addition, let us fix the UW System. Return the dollars lost, keep our county Extension agents, and retain professors at our world class UW campuses.

Reducing just one tax credit would allow for elimination of tuition for Wisconsin students at our technical and two-year UW colleges. Is this a trade-off you’d make to solve our workforce needs?

To fix public schools, let’s eliminate the statewide expansion of private school subsidies. In addition, take the new school money the Governor put outside the school aid formula and put it through a new formula. Childhood poverty, struggling rural schools, special education needs, and many other school problems are addressed in the new aid formula proposed by State Superintendent Tony Evers. Positive changes the Governor chose to ignore.

Addiction recovery, increasing mental health provider payments, caring for our elders, and disabled (and those who care for them) and prenatal outreach are all changes I choose to make in the health budget. Moving administrative functions in-house rather than out-sourcing those functions to private consulting firms would cut costs by thirty percent. Taking federal Medicaid expansion opportunities would save state dollars AND cover 79,000 additional people with BadgerCare.

Other choices I would make to general spending include investing $100 million in broadband expansion and putting a half a billion dollars in the state’s savings account. All these choices are possible without spending more dollars.

Every dollar spent in our state budget is a choice, which makes the budget a reflection of our values. What choices would you make? Take opportunities to let your voice be heard!

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Blue Jean Nation 'Show the way on health care, Wisconsin'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Sunday, 04 June 2017
in Wisconsin

badgercareThe U.S. has the least efficient health care system among 11 developed nations, and solutions to this problem are not being developed in Washington. Wisconsin used to blaze new trails as a model for the nation to copy. Time to return to our pioneering roots.

ALTOONA, WI - What passes for a debate on Capitol Hill over the future of health care in America shows how very far we have to travel to reach the destination of civilized medicine in this country.

Those currently in charge of Congress have a vision of the future that involves making health insurance far more expensive for those who need it most and leaving tens of millions more people uninsured. Their vision also would let states take away protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, meaning that more than 50 million Americans could be put in the dismal position of only being able to buy insurance that doesn’t cover the care they actually need.

President Trump and congressional Republicans desperately want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. That law erred on the side of getting more people insured and requiring insurance to cover the health conditions people have, but in doing so the goal of keeping insurance premiums affordable is made next to impossible to achieve over the long haul. What Trump pushed and House Republicans passed errs on the side of lowering premiums for most people in the long run, but does so by jacking up costs for the sickest among us and taking insurance coverage away from large numbers of people.

Neither approach does anything about the biggest single failing of the U.S. health care system. Health care administrative costs in America are twice as high as the global average. Compared to the rest of the world, more of our health care dollars pay for paperwork and less of the spending goes for patient care. That’s because we have a multi-payer system that forces health care providers to submit claims for payment to dozens and dozens of different insurance companies. That means dozens and dozens of different forms to fill out. And dozens and dozens of different systems to navigate and different procedures to follow to get medical treatment paid for.

This is why the U.S. has the least efficient health care system among 11 developed nations. Solutions to this problem are not being developed in Washington. The problem is not even being discussed on Capitol Hill. Neither party’s favored approach addresses it.

That being the case, answers need to come from outside of Washington. It’s been a while since Wisconsin blazed new trails and made itself a model for the nation to copy, but there’s no more urgent need than health care system innovation to inspire Wisconsin to return to its pioneering roots. We have a program in Wisconsin called BadgerCare that provides coverage to low-income people. It should be Wisconsin’s goal to make everyone in the state eligible to enroll in BadgerCare. No one would be required to enroll, but everyone should be eligible. BadgerCare should be there for all Badgers.

For starters, Wisconsin should put the single-payer BadgerCare plan on the state’s insurance exchange. Offer people looking for medical coverage a public option in this marketplace that now only offers private insurance plans. Let anyone and everyone buy into BadgerCare. Show the nation an alternative to the multi-payer monstrosity that produces administrative costs that are double what the rest of the world pays and leaves America with the stigma of having the least efficient and most costly health care system among developed countries.

Lead the way, Wisconsin.

— Mike McCabe

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Gallagher Misses Out on Green Bay Town Hall

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is a Founding Partner and Publisher of the N.E. Wisconsin - Green Ba
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 31 May 2017
in Wisconsin

mike-gallagherConstituents show up to talk about health care and other issues with the person elected to represent them. He didn't show up to listen.

GREEN BAY - About a hundred constituents showed up last night at the Brown County Central Library last night to share their concerns with their new Congressman Mike Gallagher. He didn't show up to listen.

Granted, the "Town Hall" listening session had been organized by local liberal and Democratic advocacy groups, but did that make them any less his constituents? Gallagher had been elected last fall to represent the 8th Congressional District and all the people who live in it.

I had the "good fortune" to be on a stage in 2009 with then Congressman Steve Kagen as he fielded questions from Tea Party advocates about the bill that would become ObamaCare. It was not very pleasant. But he hung in there, and answered every question as best he could. He was elected to represent them too.

Many Republican elected officials today seem to prefer hiding out from their constituents, "speaking" only to them on FaceBook, on telephone conference calls, or at pre-arranged campaign stops at friendly venues. They screen all questions, and answer only those they select. They certainly don't dare to meet all the people they represent face to face.

According to news reports, health care coverage and the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, was the topic most wanted to discuss. Gallagher had supported the bill during a House vote earlier this month. A line of area residents presented their personal concerns, told stories about children with pre-existing conditions, told their fears about losing their health care, and fears about rising costs. An empty chair sat on the stage where their "representative" was supposed to listen.

Some critics called it political theatre. But that's the easy political cop out. So was Gallagher's "out of town on business" excuse. If people cannot talk to their representatives, who do they represent?

It appears many in Washington today, and not just Republicans, represent only the industries and businesses who pay their bills. Gallagher is just joining the long line.

That's not what our "representative form of government" was supposed to be about.

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Is There a “Good” Tax?

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Monday, 29 May 2017
in Wisconsin

roads-i-39-90-94Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about a public hearing before a committee, of which she is a member, on a bill to eliminate the personal property tax. What will be the financial impact of the proposed change, who pays more, and what goods and services do we do without?

ALMA, WI - “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society,” Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said ninety years ago.

Taxes pay for much of the goods and services we take for granted, such as roads, fire and police protection, consumer protections, schools, parks, and our social safety net. Taxes make up the largest part of the revenue in our state budget.

Taxes are a part of our daily lives, through the money we pay in sales tax or a deduction in our paycheck for income tax. Once a year, property owners send in a check to their local government for property taxes on their homes and farms.

Property tax is probably the most unpopular tax. A subset of this tax, the personal property tax, came under fire at the recent Senate committee hearing.

“When the tax bill came, I always viewed this tax as a penalty.” Quentin Schultz of River Falls told our committee. He joined dozens of business owners who traveled to Madison with hopes of getting rid of the personal property tax.

About three percent of the property tax paid is for things that are not land or buildings. Our committee heard from a diverse group of businesses who asked for things such as the equipment to bake bread or their ski lifts at a ski resort to not be taxed.

Over the years, business groups advocated for loopholes or “exemptions” to the personal property tax. In a January 2017 paper, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) listed 18 pages of “exemptions” to the personal property tax. The list includes many common items from A to Y: from animals to youth hockey.

Business owners at the committee hearing gave many examples of how difficult it was for them to know what was and was not taxed, and how expensive the tax was for them to keep records. Many complained the tax on them was unfair, calling it a “bad” tax.

But is there ever a “good” tax?

To answer this question, I turned to the teachings of many economists I learned from over the years. Recognizing that all taxes have negative effects, a “good” tax is broad-based - it affects everybody. It has a low rate and does not have loopholes. When a tax is broad-based and has a low rate, everyone pays something but no one pays too much.

A “good” tax is easy for taxpayers to comply with and easy to collect. Finally, a “good” tax causes little change in normal economic activity. The personal property tax fails this standard on many levels.

Lawmakers following the wisdom of “good” tax policy would choose a reform that gets us closer to these standards. To be revenue neutral, any lowering of the state’s revenue should be made up somewhere else.

The “somewhere else” or how the lost revenue would be made up was never discussed in the committee hearing. The cost of this personal property tax change would be about $520 million. For comparison, that is about that same amount the Governor put in his budget as a “per student” increase for all public schools.

Lawmakers who support eliminating the personal property tax said they planned to add state money to offset the loss to local community. They also said, without that additional state money, homeowners would pay higher property taxes. Some communities would see a much higher increase in property taxes. For example, the City of Blair in Trempealeau County receives 22% of its property tax revenue from personal property taxes.

The proponents of the bill suggested the money lost to communities like Blair would be made up in more state aid. However, no one could answer my question of where this money would come from.

I applaud my colleagues who want to get rid of a “bad” tax. However, we must have an honest discussion about how we are going to pay for local services upon which people depend.

History shows us that local government bears a heavy burden to make up for cuts in state funding. Eliminating the personal property tax increases that burden. If promises to make up for the loss of revenue are not met, it will affect local programs and local taxes.

If we are going to eliminate “bad” taxes, we must consider the consequences and discuss either who pays more or what goods and services we want to do without.

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