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Blue Jean Nation "Trotting out the whipping boy" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 11:06

walkerWalker’s golden shower economics haven’t been the answer, which leaves him in need of a whipping boy, a scapegoat, someone to bear the blame for his administration’s failings. This time it's food stamp recipients.


ALTOONA, WI - For as long as there have been politicians, there have been whipping boys. Politicians need someone to punish for their own shortcomings.

No one is better with the whip than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He is highly skilled in the use of divide-and-conquer tactics, a master at pitting one group of struggling and vulnerable people against another.  It’s his favorite play, the governor’s political equivalent of Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep or USC’s famed “Student Body Right.”

Walker turns to this page in his playbook repeatedly, whenever he’s feeling the least bit threatened politically. He just did it again, proposing stricter work requirements for those receiving food stamps in Wisconsin.

He is counting on Democrats to rush to the defense of food stamp recipients. He wants them to accuse him of beating up on the poor. He needs them to. They surely will oblige, which is critical to the successful execution of the governor’s play.

Once they do what they always do, Walker can paint the Democrats as the party of handouts, the party devoted to taking from those who work and giving to those who don’t. And he can pit those who are having a hard time making ends meet but don’t qualify for food stamps against those who rely on them to eat.

Most importantly, he can divert attention from the dismal failure of his feed-the-rich economic policies. With Walker at the helm, Wisconsin is leading the nation in shrinkage of the middle class. The state is dead last in new business start-ups and entrepreneurial activity.

When Walker does what he always does and the Democrats respond how they always respond, the questions that most need asking don’t get asked. The debate that is most needed is never had.

Wisconsin should be debating how to create an economy where if you work you won’t be poor and won’t go hungry. It is undeniable that we don’t have such an economy today. We should be aspiring to an economy where food stamps and other forms of welfare become unnecessary.

We should be talking about the fact that government spends more on corporate welfare than it does on social welfare that makes up the proverbial safety net. We should be discussing how to create an economy anchored in a free and fair market for everyone, not crony capitalism for a favored few. We should be demanding that Walker’s corporate welfare office be shut down.

We should be acknowledging that demand and not supply is the primary driver of economic growth and that feeding the rich in hopes of stoking supply has been a miserable failure, never producing more than a trickle for the masses and causing the grotesque economic inequality and the slow but steady extermination of the middle class we are experiencing today.

Wisconsin is a shadow of its former self economically. Walker’s golden shower economics haven’t been the answer, which leaves him in need of a whipping boy, a scapegoat, someone to bear the blame for his administration’s failings. That’s where food stamp recipients come in handy to him, so long as the Democrats play into his hands and do their part to help him isolate and stigmatize them.

— Mike McCabe

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2017 11:19
 
Audits Raise Cautions about Pension Fund Management PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Monday, 23 January 2017 14:10

union-members-at-capitolThe Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee scheduled a public hearing on the Wisconsin Retirement System pension fund after recent audits revealed it's performance fell to 9th among ten comparable state pension plans.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2017 17:58
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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Un-rig the Budget!" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Saturday, 21 January 2017 10:09

health_care_dayWisconsin’s budget has been rigged in favor of the well-heeled who manipulate the system, so we need to work in coalition with other pro-democracy groups to make a difference.


MADISON - One thing we take seriously around here is the need to work in coalition with other pro-democracy groups in Wisconsin.

So I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple months working with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and with Citizen Action and lots of other good groups to show how Wisconsin’s budget has been rigged in favor of the well-heeled who manipulate the system—and to show what we could do for the people of Wisconsin if we un-rigged it just a little bit by simply closing two big loopholes.

Here’s what we came up with:

A Wisconsin Budget for All: How We Can Invest to Help Wisconsin Communities Thrive

On Wednesday, we held press conferences in Madison and Milwaukee to unveil this exciting proposal. In the Assembly Parlor of the State Capitol, there were several good speeches. One of the best was from Bishop Froiland, whose inspiring remarks you can read here:

We can fund what we need to fund

In the upcoming elections here in Wisconsin, the only statewide race that is being contested is the one for Superintendent of Public Instruction. There’s no one running against Annette Ziegler for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in part because Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce backs Ziegler, and WMC has made it clear over the last few years that it’s willing to spend whatever it takes to keep business-friendly justices on the bench. (Those justices should have the initials “WMC” embroidered onto their black robes!)

Anyway, here are the biggest donors in the superintendent race:

Top contributors to candidates for state school superintendent

If you know me at all, you know I believe in marching for our rights. So just in case you’re marching this weekend, I wanted to leave with you with a stanza of poetry from Andrea Hernandez Holm:

We make sense of the universe
When we march.
The pounding of our feet reverberates,
Returns to the life force
In all that surrounds us.

All the best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 January 2017 15:59
 
Blue Jean Nation "Why not repeal and replace?" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Tuesday, 17 January 2017 16:10

handsoff-medicareRepublicans simply say “repeal and replace”, but simple solutions don’t work. One well established and widely supported federal health care system is available as a model for all, Medicare.


ALTOONA, WI - Republicans have simple answers to every question, simple solutions to every problem. Simple solutions that don’t work.

Health care is no exception. Republicans simply say “repeal and replace.” They’re talking about the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare.

They’ve got the repeal part down. Since the law was approved in 2010, Congressional Republicans have voted more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s the replace part that has them stumped. They offered no alternative in the past, and haven’t yet figured out what to put in its place.

It should be noted that all those votes were taken to repeal the law when GOP lawmakers weren’t actually in a position to make it happen. They were merely posturing. Now they are in control of both houses of Congress and will be working with a Republican president who says he’s committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare. There’s nothing standing in their way anymore. Except for the politically uncomfortable fact that only about a quarter of Americans want to see the law repealed. And that pesky business of coming up with something to replace it with.

If the new Congress and the new inhabitants of the White House are bound and determined to repeal and replace Obamacare, then do it right. Do it in a way that makes health care more accessible and affordable. Do it in a way that makes the health care system less bureaucratic and brings down administrative overhead costs. Here’s how. Repeal the law, then roll the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs into one and call it Americare. Make every American eligible for it. No one would be forced to enroll. If you want to continue to buy private insurance, you should be free to do so. But Americare would be there for everyone who wants it.

Two federal programs and their accompanying bureaucracies as well as the federal infrastructure devoted to administering the Affordable Care Act and its insurance exchanges would be brought under a single roof, making the federal health care system more streamlined and efficient. Medicare provides a sturdy foundation upon which to build Americare. Medicare is well established and widely supported by the seniors it serves, so popular that one of the signs most commonly seen at Tea Party rallies carried the message “Keep Government Out of My Medicare” or some variation on that theme.

Any program that has earned that kind of loyalty from Tea Partyers and is so highly valued by the nation’s elderly should be made available to Americans of all ages. All Americans should be allowed to benefit from the fact that Medicare does a far better job of controlling costs and is much more administratively efficient than the rest of the U.S. health care system.

Our country is ranked at or near the bottom in the developed world in the efficiency and effectiveness of health care. We spend more and get less. We can do better. Way better.

Out with Obamacare. In with Americare.

— Mike McCabe

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 20:43
 
Wisc Democracy Campaign "Judges for Sale" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 13 January 2017 14:06

judgementJudges weigh in on Supreme Court recural rules, judicial raises, ALEC bill to protect special interests, and GOP efforts to repeal state’s mining moratorium.


MADISON - The corruption in the Wisconsin court system has gotten so bad that 54 former judges this week wrote the Wisconsin Supreme Court, urging the justices to change their permissive rule on recusal. Here’s what they said:

matt-rothschildDozens of retired judges ask Wisconsin Supreme Court for new campaign donor recusal rules

Ironically, the major political players in Wisconsin’s business community, having spent millions of dollars to elect conservative judges, now want you, the Wisconsin taxpayer, to give them a big raise. Talk about chutzpah! And remember, these bigwigs oppose raising the minimum wage for working people.

Here’s what we wrote on this:

Big money groups back pay raise for judges

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers, in hoc to these same bigwigs, have just proposed a new bill that would make it even more difficult to regulate businesses in Wisconsin. This bill is – surprise, surprise! – modeled after one by the American Legislative Exchange Council:

GOP lawmakers offer ALEC bill to protect special interests from regulations

And Senator Tom Tiffany, one of big business’s best friends in the legislature, is proposing a bill to lift the mining moratorium in Wisconsin:

GOP lawmaker wants to repeal state’s mining moratorium

Those in power in Wisconsin are moving fast to reward their campaign contributors and impose their ideology, which says, “Everything private is good, and everything public is bad.” And in Washington, Trump may do to the country what Walker has done to Wisconsin. (Walker has actually urged him to do exactly that!)

So for believers in democracy and clean government, like you and I, this is a trying time.

But I remain hopeful because I know history is not static, and I see so many good people, right here in Wisconsin, doing so much good work behind the scenes and in the streets.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

*****

P.S. Tomorrow I’ll be going to the Rally for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Milwaukee, starting at 11:00 a.m. at 1027 S. 5th St. If you’re near there, I hope you can make it.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 January 2017 14:30
 
Blue Jean Nation "A canary in the castle" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 16:37

canary in coal mineWe have a new president who modeled his gold-plated New York City penthouse after Versailles. Wisconsin is a shadow of its former self. We’ve got so much more in us than we are showing today.


ALTOONA, WI - Heard it said the other day that America is about to have its 45th president and first king. What’s undeniable is a new Gilded Age has dawned. Literally. We have a new president who modeled his gold-plated New York City penthouse after the Palace of Versailles in France, making a mansion as grand as the White House a big step down in terms of luxury.

melania_trump_gold_trump_towerMeanwhile, large segments of the nation’s population are feeling left behind, struggling to make ends meet and watching their standard of living erode. Places like Wisconsin have more than their share of people in this predicament. Wisconsin is to the nation what canaries are to coal miners. What’s been happening to Wisconsin is a signal that there’s something toxic about current conditions in our country.

Wisconsin is a shadow of its former self. Once known as a beacon of clean and open government, that reputation is no longer deserved. Once an industrial powerhouse, the state now leads the nation in shrinkage of the middle class and is dead last in new business start-ups. Long known as “America’s Dairyland,” the state continues to lose farms at an alarming rate. Wisconsin ranks 49th in the nation in Internet speed and has crumbling roads, yet foolishly turned away well over a billion dollars in federal money that could have been used to modernize transportation in the state and expand access to everything from health care to 21st Century information and communications technologies.

Wisconsin proved crucial to Trump’s election, providing him with a narrow victory in a state that hasn’t gone for a Republican for president since 1984. Wisconsin voters didn’t choose Trump because they liked him. He is deeply unpopular in the state. People in these parts have a reputation for “Wisconsin nice.” Nobody is too big for their britches. Nobody acts the way Trump acts and nobody treats people the way Trump treats them.

People here know there is something the matter with the man, something seriously wrong with him. They voted for him anyway because they are desperate. They chose him because they intensely disliked their choices in the election and voted for the candidate they believed was most likely to violently shake up a system they feel is rigged against them. They are hoping against hope for change.

Wisconsin has lost a lot, and its people are starving for a vision of what it can become. The kind of vision that invokes rural traditions like barn raisings to make the point that we are all in this together and need to be there for each other. A vision that speaks to the need to create an economy that is of the people, by the people and for the people . . . an economy where if you work you won’t be poor. A vision that rejects failed feed-the-rich policies that make up what has been described as “trickle-down economics” but should rightly be called “golden shower economics.”

The times cry out for an unwavering commitment to creating living wages, making education as affordable and accessible for our kids and grandkids as past generations made it for us, and bringing high-speed Internet and mobile phone service to every doorstep in Wisconsin. A bright future for Wisconsin is one where no community should have to close a local school, where no small town should have to consider turning paved roads back into gravel because it can’t afford to maintain the pavement, where no one anywhere should turn on a water faucet and be afraid to drink what comes out.

Wisconsin needs to dream. Dream about how to become America’s renewable energy capital. Dream about being a laboratory of democracy again. Dream about how to be first in the nation, like we’ve been so many times before.

Wisconsin is a shadow of its former self. Becoming great again will require the pioneering spirit we used to be known for. That spirit has been missing for some time now. We’ve got so much more in us than we are showing today.

— Mike McCabe

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 16:54
 
Have Veterans Damaged Their Future Health by Voting for Trump? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist   
Saturday, 07 January 2017 14:00

veteranAcross the country, 61% of veterans who voted chose Trump over Clinton. But how will a Trump - Republican administration affect the VA healthcare system which 7 million vets depend on for all or part of their medical care?

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 January 2017 15:00
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WI Democracy Campaign "Betsy DeVos in Wis!" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 06 January 2017 16:29

matthew_rothschildMADISON - Happy New Year! I hope you had an enjoyable holiday.

We got right back into the swing of things here, posting some interesting articles for you, which I hope you’ll like.

betsy-devosOur “Influence Peddler of the Month” is none other than Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to head up the Department of Education. You can see how she’s been trying to destroy public education in Wisconsin here:

Influence peddler of the month - Betsy DeVos

We also uncovered some news about a timber company, based in Atlanta, that’s gobbling up land in Wisconsin and throwing its weight around:

Meteor Timber's power game in Wisconsin

And I wrote a column denouncing Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow for a recent tirade they wrote about “so-called environmentalists”:

Tiffany and Jarchow’s bad defense of their pro-polluter records

As far as good news, Sen. Dave Hansen has floated a legislative proposal that would end the practice of partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin:

Dems to offer proposal for new redistricting process

I’m sure we’ll have more for you next week.

Till then, all the best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2017 17:37
 
Blue Jean Nation "The data trap" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Thursday, 05 January 2017 11:47

voter-dataTo hear professional political operatives tell it, winning elections is all about data. They're wrong. There is a human dimension computers can't account for.


ALTOONA, WI - To hear professional political operatives tell it, winning elections is about nothing more or nothing less than mathematical calculations. It’s all about data and it’s algorithmic. You gather all kinds of data about voters, use that data to target those most likely to vote for your candidate, write a formula for reaching your “win target,” plug all the data into your formula, and out pops a victory.

Sounds great, all scientific and everything, until what pops out is a loss. The latest and most glaring example of data gone wrong is the 2016 presidential election. Clinton headquarters had the math all figured out. They shunned “persuasion” campaigning, meaning they didn’t want to waste time trying to win over voters their computers told them were not likely to support the Democratic nominee. They saw it purely and simply as a “base turnout” election. In other words, their data told them that if those identified as core Democratic supporters went to the polls and voted as expected, Hillary Clinton is elected president. In the places that mattered most, places like Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that didn’t happen.

What they didn’t factor into their equation was Clinton’s unpopularity and her inability to persuasively communicate reasons to support her. That left her base unenthusiastic and her opponents energized.

This is not the first time voters have confounded the political mathematicians armed with all their data and their computers, nor will it be the last. In 2014, I repeatedly heard from Democratic operatives in Wisconsin that if turnout was high in the election for governor, Mary Burke would win, and if turnout was low, Scott Walker would be reelected. Voter turnout ended up being a record high for a regular election for governor in Wisconsin, and yet Walker won.

Like Team Clinton in 2016, Wisconsin Democrats concentrated on turning out their base for Burke in 2014. If their computers said you were a likely Burke voter for one reason or another, you were hounded. You got phone calls, you got emails, you got texts, you got junk mail, people knocked on your door. You got so many reminders to vote that you were ready to scream. If the Democratic algorithm didn’t have you down as a target, you were left alone. You were given no reason to think about voting for Burke. Turns out their algorithm was wrong.

There’s good reason why political algorithms are unreliable. Elections aren’t algorithmic. Politics is more art than science. How voters make decisions can’t be reduced to mathematical equations or scientific formulas. There is a human dimension computers can’t account for.

Elections are about representation. Voters are looking for someone who gets them, someone who is saying what they are feeling, someone who reflects their own thinking and will be at least somewhat likely to act accordingly. They look at candidates differently than computers do. They look at who a candidate is, where they’re from, what they stand for. They look for someone they can relate to, someone they feel a connection with.

No algorithm can be written to produce that.

— Mike McCabe

 
What it is Like to be a New State Legislator PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Tuesday, 03 January 2017 15:47

wisconsinVeteran Senator Kathleen Vinehout writes about what it is like to be a newly elected legislator. Newly elected individuals sworn in as members of the Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly face a daunting task preparing to make all the critical decisions that are required.

Read more...
 
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