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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 Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.
Mike wants to hear from you.
Blue Jean Nation, P.O. Box 70788, Madison, WI 53707
Email: one4all@bluejeannation.com
Phone: 608-443-6086

Blue Jean Nation 'Stuck in reverse'

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 Monday, 10 July 2017
in Wisconsin

REVERSEWisconsin needs to do an about-face and fundamentally change its approach to economic development, paying far less attention to WMC and its backward thinking.


ALTOONA, WI - Wisconsin continues to struggle economically. The state lags the rest of the country in job growth and wage growth, and has been slower to recoverfrom the last recession. Wisconsin is losing manufacturing jobs and is leading the nation in shrinkage of the middle class.

There are reasons for all of this. And one of the biggest reasons is that the lobbying group that passes itself off as the voice of Wisconsin business is backward. Wisconsin is home to some truly innovative, forward-thinking business leaders who are finding ways to successfully compete in the 21st Century economy. But they aren’t being heard in the State Capitol. The state chamber of commerce — known in these parts as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce or WMC for short — is supposed to be their voice, but it’s not. WMC’s thinking is stuck in the 20th Century. In some ways, it’s still in the 19th.

WMC’s philosophy is that the key to economic development is lowering the cost of doing business. Lower wages. Lower taxes. Lower environmental standards. This recipe hasn’t been working for years.

If low costs are the secret to stimulating the economy, then why were nearly half of all new private sector jobs created last year in a part of the state where wages, taxes and the cost of land to build on are highest? Why did the number of private sector jobs in that area grow at four times the rate of the state as a whole?

If Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce knows how to make the economy better, why is Wisconsin losing manufacturing jobs? The answers WMC gives are to questions that aren’t even being asked anymore. The state chamber of commerce is inhibiting commerce. WMC’s outdated philosophy is holding Wisconsin back.

One of Wisconsin’s greatest business success stories in many a year has to be the electronic health records pioneer Epic Systems. The company is growing by leaps and bounds. Verona recently passed one of the largest school referendums in the history of the state for construction of a new high school and other costly upgrades, almost entirely paid for by the community’s largest private employer, namely Epic.

Epic’s success isn’t owed to WMC’s agenda of lower taxes, lower wages and lower environmental standards. Epic’s leadership is not at all on the same wavelength as WMC’s leadership. In fact, Epic wants nothing to do with WMC. Yet at the Capitol, WMC continues to be recognized as the voice of Wisconsin business. But it represents old business, not new business. That holds Wisconsin back.

To thrive in the 21st Century, Wisconsin needs to do an about-face and fundamentally change its approach to economic development. We need to watch and listen more to the Epics, and take to heart the formulas for success in the 21st Century they are coming up with. And we should pay far less attention to WMC and its backward thinking.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation 'Our disposable society'

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 Saturday, 01 July 2017
in Wisconsin

skilledworkersIn an economy of disposable workers, the time is coming for something like a universal basic income. But none of that talk is happening in the halls of government.


ALTOONA, WI - An economy has grown around us where just about everything is made to be thrown away. There are disposable eating utensils, cups and plates. Disposable towels and disposable diapers. Disposable razors. Disposable gloves. Disposable cameras and disposable batteries. The list goes on and on.

When so much of what is made and sold in this country is designed to be discarded after a single use, it was probably only a matter of time before the workers who do the making are seen as disposable too, especially since those doing the selling are increasingly located half a state or half a country or half a world away.

With industry leaders less rooted in the communities where their companies do business, they don’t think twice about relocating countless factories to far flung places in search of cheaper labor. In the few factories that remain, workers surrender their jobs to robots. Driverless vehicles are on their way. When they arrive, the jobs of truck drivers and bus drivers and taxi drivers will be surrendered too.

Those in power in our government at the moment are proving remarkably insensitive to the uncertainty and anxiety and feelings of betrayal and abandonment that always accompany major economic transitions and dislocations. When the country was going through an industrial revolution more than a century ago and large numbers of people left the land and went to work in factories and offices, the political system responded by providing vocational training, workers compensation for those injured in the workplace, unemployment insurance, retirement security and much more. With a global, technology-driven, increasingly jobless economy now emerging that is leaving so many working people exposed and vulnerable, the government so far is doing next to nothing to cushion the blow.

Those presently in charge of government watch passively as economic markets grow increasingly monopolized and more and more workers get discarded, causing inequality to expand rapidly. They give the monopolists free rein, which is no surprise considering how they’ve joined forces with those economic monopolists to engineer monopolies on political power. They add injury to insecurity in places like Wisconsin, a state once known far and wide for its pristine environment, by looking the other way when industry actions lay waste to natural resources and even inviting industries to write their own pollution permits. Health and safety protections are being stripped away, and the state seizes power from local communities that want to do better by their residents. It’s as if the powers-that-be figure that since people are disposable, there’s no reason to worry too much about them being poisoned.

Working Americans are rightly wondering if there’s a place for us all in this emerging economy, or if a bunch of us are just going to be thrown away. As we all try to gain our footing with the ground shifting beneath us, adjusting to new economic realities that can be cruel and capricious would be so much easier if we had government on our side.

One of these realities is that workers now have to change jobs much more frequently than in the past. Guaranteeing access to medical care with health insurance coverage that follows workers wherever they are employed would create much-needed stability and security while also freeing people to leave dead-end jobs to start new businesses, but the political system has so far failed to meet this glaring need.

With the clear and present danger of a jobless economy and disposable workers, there’s a lot of talk about whether the time is coming for something like a universal basic income. But none of that talk is happening in the halls of government in America. That fact alone speaks volumes about the current disconnect between the government and the governed.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation 'Upending the new Jim Crow'

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 Thursday, 22 June 2017
in Wisconsin

black-hoodyMonopolized political speech, mass incarceration and voter suppression together pack an enormous discriminatory wallop. Overcoming the new Jim Crow starts with recognizing it and seeing through the false justifications.


ALTOONA, WI - There was a time when efforts to keep people in their place were easily recognizable. Bondage is hard to miss. Women were chattel and blacks were slaves. The nation’s royals eventually lost their moral and legal justification for employing such crude and brutal means to keep people down, but not their desire for race, class and gender superiority. So slavery was out, Jim Crow was in. Poll taxes and literacy tests and other such tactics were put to use. Give them rights, but make sure they are not equal rights.

The civil rights legislation of the 1960s and early 1970s ended the old Jim Crow but not the royals’ discriminatory impulses. The ink was barely dry on the series of laws addressing race and sex discrimination, and a new Jim Crow was promptly fashioned that makes discrimination more disguised than ever.

The new Jim Crow stands on three legs. First, longstanding restrictions on money in politics were legally challenged. The U.S. Supreme Court’s money-equals-speech ruling in 1976 gave the mightiest in America new ways to thwart the will of the masses even while allowing the exercise of largely equal rights. Campaign donations became the drone strikes of the race and class wars. The beauty of political donations as tools of social and economic control is that they don’t appear discriminatory because, in theory at least, anyone can make them. But the difference between theory and practice in campaign giving is as distinct as the divisions of race and class. Almost all of the money flowing to elected officials comes from an elite cadre of individuals who are wealthy and white. Control over the levers of power is preserved by making political expression and participation prohibitively expensive for all but a few.

Monopolizing political speech has been done in the name of protecting the First Amendment. The barely visible hand of organized money has robbed voters in most parts of the state of their ability to control their own political destiny. Long before voters ever cast a ballot, whoever is most successful in attracting money wins what amounts to a wealth primary that weeds out any meaningful competition, leaving the people with a vote but little if any choice. The wealth primary works hand in hand with the practice of gerrymandering political boundaries to strip elections of competitiveness and render them pale imitations of democratic contests.

Having secured the means to keep people down by allowing them to freely vote in elections whose results are preordained, America’s royalty nevertheless took no chances. Discriminatory drug policies and the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement authorities and the resulting mass incarceration of African American males became the second key feature of the new Jim Crow. This was largely done in the name of fighting the scourge of drug abuse in America. The War on Drugs has never put much of a dent in drug use, but it has been a remarkably efficient tool of discrimination.

The third leg the new Jim Crow stands on is voter suppression. Since the 2010 election, nearly half of the states made laws restricting the right to vote in one way or another. These laws have been sold as election integrity measures. The public has been repeatedly told such laws are needed to prevent rampant voter fraud. In reality, voter fraud in the U.S. is nearly non-existent. But in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country, new laws restricting voting in the name of preventing fraud have proven remarkably effective in preventing racial minorities, the poor and the young from casting ballots.

Monopolized political speech, mass incarceration and voter suppression together pack an enormous discriminatory wallop. Overcoming the new Jim Crow starts with recognizing it and calling it what it is, and seeing through the false justifications. Then its legs need to be taken out from under it.

— Mike McCabe

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Blue Jean Nation "The football game that never ends"

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 Friday, 16 June 2017
in Wisconsin

ProtestThe pro-life, pro-choice issue is a political football that both major party's use to whip up their base. What if we stopped taking the bait, and focused instead on solving this incredibly sensitive issue that the ruling elite clearly do not want to see resolved?


ALTOONA, WI - Here’s a truth about American politics that never seems to get acknowledged much less discussed: No major party in this country actually wants to outlaw abortion.

One says it does, but its actions tell a different story. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, so they could make a law banning abortion across the nation. The law surely would be challenged in court but the ideologically conservative Republican appointees who have made up the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1971 would have the final say. You’d expect them to uphold the law because Republican presidents have consistently considered an anti-abortion judicial record a key litmus test of the fitness of any judge to serve on the nation’s highest court.

For that matter, those Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices needn’t have waited for an act of Congress. At any time during the past four decades, the court could have taken up any number of abortion cases, overturned Roe v. Wade, and outlawed abortion. They have that power. Year after year, they have chosen not to use it.

In Wisconsin, Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature as well as the governor’s office. There’s nothing stopping them from making a law prohibiting abortion. A state Supreme Court controlled by Republican-backed justices would presumably bless such a law. Like their national counterparts, Wisconsin Republicans have had the power to outlaw abortion. They have repeatedly chosen not to do so.

It appears they realize that outlawing abortion won’t make the procedure disappear, it will only make it far more dangerous and even deadly. So they concentrate on obstructing and inconveniencing the women who seek abortions and the medical professionals who perform them. But most of all, they focus on using this deeply personal and intensely emotional issue as a political football, which they have kicked around for more than 40 years. They have used it to divide people and then harvest the votes these divisions produce. They have shown over an extended period of time that they have every intention of keeping this game going indefinitely.

There is glaring irony and hypocrisy here. The Republican Party has gone to the greatest lengths to market itself as the party of limited government and personal freedom. When it comes to the private lives of Americans, Republicans favor a very intrusive and meddlesome government. They don’t trust the choices Americans make in the bedroom and the bathroom and the doctor’s office. They want government to have a looming presence in those places.

More than anything, they want to keep people at each other’s throats. They want to keep us arguing about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. For 40-some years, we’ve kept kicking their football. We’ve screamed at each other, we’ve harassed and attacked each other. Sometimes it’s led to unspeakable acts of violence. All done to try to settle a matter that those in power have proven to be keenly interested in keeping unresolved.

Imagine where we would be on this issue if we had instead spent all this time looking for common ground on how to make abortion unnecessary. We would have talked so much more about how best to deal with sex education, how best to promote birth control and family planning, how best to combat poverty. We might have even hashed out some differences by now.

Think about what might be possible if we now chose to stop kicking the political football, and focused on starting a conversation on this incredibly sensitive topic that the ruling elite clearly do not want us to have.

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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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