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U.S. Senator Ron Johnson Should Oppose DeVos Nomination PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7   
Thursday, 02 February 2017 17:14

kidsMADISON, WI – I urge U.S. Senator Ron Johnson to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.

ron_johnson_sen_commEach of our children deserves a quality education. Unfortunately, here in Wisconsin we know the devastating consequences of DeVos-style slash and burn policies that leave schools and children behind.

Our traditional neighborhood schools have been severely and intentionally underfunded for the last six years. At the same time, unaccountable voucher profiteers have been handed more and more of our scarce public resources with little oversight and no accountability. In this hasty stampede to the bank, they have trampled our children’s future.

chris-larson-speaksAs the state with the longest-running voucher program in the country, Wisconsin has seen its blatant failure. The facts don’t lie; despite the extra costs, students in voucher schools perform no better, and in many cases worse, than their traditional public school counterparts. In Michigan, where DeVos doled out millions in campaign contributions to pro-voucher politicians, a similar negative effect has been seen.

Betsy DeVos has proven that she supports the same kind of irresponsible policies that have and will continue to hurt the children of our great state. We cannot subject more of our nation’s schoolchildren to the same destructive patterns. Senator Johnson has a sworn duty and obligation to our community and to each of our children to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos.

If Senator Johnson chooses to cynically reject the will of the people by voting to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, he will be to blame for hurting our children’s futures.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2017 17:24
 
LWV "Three Questions for the Supreme Court Nominee" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by League Women Voters WI, Andrea Kaminski   
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 15:57

scotus-questions2The League of Women Voters believes that any Supreme Court nominee should share his or her views on these three fundamental issues.


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The next Supreme Court nominee, whom President Trump will nominate this week, will play a major role in the course for American democracy over the coming decades. That may seem like an exaggeration, but the Supreme Court is currently divided four to four on most major issues. The incoming justice will ultimately be the deciding vote on crucial issues that shape the direction of our country.

The League of Women Voters believes that any Supreme Court nominee should share his or her views on fundamental issues. We have three questions for the nominee:

1. Must the Executive Branch obey court orders from the federal judicial system?

Our system of checks and balances is the basic tenet of a free democracy. To prevent authoritarianism, the Founders made sure that that no one branch of the government could dominate the others. But in recent days, it appears that the Executive Branch is challenging that system by refusing to obey the federal court orders. The Supreme Court nominee must take a stand, one way or the other, on the role of federal courts in our system of government.

2. What is the appropriate role for voting rights in our democracy?

Our nation was founded on a belief that voters should be in charge of our government rather than government being in charge of the voters. However imperfect at the beginning, citizen voting rights have grown through constitutional amendments to include women, racial and ethnic minorities and young people. But we are seeing efforts to roll back voting rights, with laws designed to make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote. The Supreme Court nominee should let the American people know his or her position, whether voting rights enforcement is a vital component of our representative democracy or if the nominee thinks limitations can be justified under our Constitution.

3. Is big money in politics a fundamental part of our electoral system, or can limits sometimes be justified?

Some believe that corporations, organizations and individuals should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, and to do so secretly. Others see this as an existential threat to our democracy. The Supreme Court nominee should state his or her beliefs related to the influence of money in our elections.

Judicial nominees should not be required to tell us how they will decide future cases, but they should share with the public the basic principles they support or oppose. For the Senate to carry out its constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominees, truthful answers about basic principles are required. A presidential nomination is not a blank check. The Constitution requires the Senate to do its duty.

The League of Women Voters urges the Senate to explore these three fundamental questions with any nominee before voting to confirm or reject the next Supreme Court justice.

By Lloyd Leonard
Senior Director for Advocacy
January 31, 2017

****

Learn more about the League of Women Voters at http://lwv.org/

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2017 16:16
 
Blue Jean Nation "Right turn at the fork" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Sunday, 29 January 2017 11:29

occupy-democrats-posterThe Occupy movement on the left and the Tea Party movement on the right took different paths to effect political change. The new strategic blueprint called “Indivisible” is currently all the rage on the left, but may not be new at all.


ALTOONA, WI - During the Great Recession — the worst economic downturn in America since the Great Depression — more than 8 million jobs were lostfamily incomes dropped and poverty spiked. Nearly 4 million homes were foreclosed each year.

These traumas brought millions of Americans to a fork in the road politically. Some went right at the fork, others went left, giving rise to two landscape-altering social movements.

The Occupy movement on the left, with its “We are the 99%” catchphrase, changed the national conversation by bringing income and wealth inequality to the forefront of public consciousness. Democrats weren’t focusing on it to speak of, nor were most liberal advocacy groups. Before Occupy, the term “one-percenter” wasn’t part of our political vocabulary and little attention was being paid to how the nation’s rich were getting vastly wealthier while the poor were growing poorer and the middle class was disappearing. Occupy changed that. Occupy made talk of economic inequality commonplace. That’s no small achievement.

The Tea Party movement on the right, with its “Don’t Tread on Me” mindset, changed the Republican Party. In so doing, Tea Partiers changed Congress and state legislatures across the country. They put the fear of God into mainstream GOP politicians. Those politicians were given a choice. Either grant Tea Partiers their wishes, or face their wrath on the campaign trail. A few, like House Republican leader Eric Cantor, took their chances at the ballot box. Most others fell in line, spooked by how the Tea Party made examples of the likes of Cantor.

Other than obvious ideological differences, the big distinction between the Occupy and Tea Party movements is that one deliberately steered clear of involvement with elections while the other jumped into elections with both feet. That says a lot about the right and left today. One side is dogged in its pursuit of political power and will go to any lengths to get it. The other prefers to protest and march and picket.

Any honest assessment of the overall impact of these two movements has to conclude that the Tea Party has had the bigger influence on our country’s direction. Which suggests the ballot is mightier than the placard. Which calls into question the strategic impulses of the forces gathering in America to resist the turn the nation has taken.

A new strategic blueprint called “Indivisible” is currently all the rage on the left. The brainchild of some former Democratic congressional staffers, it suggests people on the left can block the Trump agenda by copying tactics the Tea Party used to stymie President Obama’s. They claim to offer “best practices for making Congress listen” to the people. Question: If former Capitol Hill staffers know the best practices for making Congress listen to us and now have a fail-safe blueprint for resisting Trump, how did they manage to become so utterly powerless in Washington and why couldn’t they prevent the Tea Party takeover of Congress?

A part of the Tea Party’s approach — the most important and effective part — is conspicuously missing from the strategy cooked up by these Capitol Hill operatives. Tea Partiers not only condemned Obama’s every move, they contested Republican elections. They ended up being unable to deny Obama a second term. But they did end Eric Cantor’s career and the careers of a slew of his establishment Republican colleagues. They seized power in Congress to the point where they could dictate terms to House Speaker John Boehner as well as his successor Paul Ryan.

Considering who concocted the left’s new recipe and what key ingredient they chose to omit, it looks less like an effort to cook up a Tea Party-style insurrection on the Democratic side and more like an attempt to head one off at the pass.

— Mike McCabe

 
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Trump’s fascist overtones" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:12

wdc-trump-naziMADISON - I’m deeply, deeply concerned about our democracy today.

I watched Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address with a mixture of disbelief and horror, and I’d like to share my reactions with you.

First, there were several key words and phrases and beliefs that he failed to express in his speech:

Words missing from Trump's inaugural address

And second, there were some very dark echoes in it: [cartoon credit: Dr. Seuss circa 1940-41]

The fascist overtones in Trump’s inaugural address

We’ll be keeping an eye on these thunderclouds in the days and weeks ahead, even though our primary focus remains on Wisconsin.

And speaking of Wisconsin, we just posted a piece on Gov. Walker’s latest push to make it more difficult for people to get food stamps. His backers loved it, as you can see here:

Walker wins praise from WMC, Koch group for food stamp rules

Some of these same backers threw so much money behind Justice Annette Ziegler in her race to stay on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that she has no challengers. It’s the first time in more than a decade that one of these races has gone uncontested. Big money has cleared the field:

See who funds Justice Ziegler

These are dicey times, but I remain hopeful. The glorious women’s marches last Saturday (I was at the gigantic one in Madison) fill me with confidence that millions of active citizens will win the day and that we’ll keep our democracy—and make it stronger. [photo credit: Kerry Schumann]

I’m glad you’re in the fight with me.

Best,

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

P.S. I’m on Wisconsin Public Radio tomorrow (Wed.) at 4:30 to talk about Trump and fascism. And I’ll be speaking in New Glarus on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at Toffler’s Pub (200 5th Ave). Next Wednesday, at 6:30 p.m., I’ll be speaking in Cross Plains at the Crossroads Coffeehouse (2020 Main St.). I hope you can catch me one of these times! See details on our calendar here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 12:25
 
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
Read more...
 
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
 
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