Wednesday October 28, 2020

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Trump has been a disaster for Veterans & America

Posted by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a long time progressive
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 28 October 2020
in Wisconsin

trump-protest-marinetteTrump's plan is to privatize and close all Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare centers in America. We must vote wisely Nov. 3rd urges retired veterans, former VA worker and activists.

TUCSON, AZ - America’s veterans and current military members are troubled by thoughts of another 4 years of Donald Trump as President.

His plan is to privatize and close all Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare centers in America. This action will send all vets to private healthcare systems which are unaccustomed to the unique health issues of veterans!

veterans-seniorToday America can be proud that over 7 million veterans are cared for by the VA. The VA is the largest integrated healthcare system in America which provides quality of care as high, or higher, than the best hospitals in the private sector. Its costs are approximately 30% lower than private sector costs and has patient appointment wait times shorter than most private hospitals/clinics.

The VA is on the cutting edge of COVID-19 care in research, providing care for vets with C-19, providing VA doctors and nurses to private hospitals in dire need, and serving as a backup for local hospitals when they run out of intensive care beds.

veteran-olderMost of the nearly 400,000 VA staff work at 170 hospitals and 1,074 clinics across the US. Over 5,700 VA staffers have contracted C-19 and 57 have died.

The wounds of war and training are physical, mental and emotional - some never heal. The emotional wounds are a major factor in veterans having a suicide rate that is 1.5 times higher than non-veterans. The VA is the best at helping vets who are plagued with suicidal thoughts. More than 7 million vets use the VA. Nearly half are combat vets, half disabled and half very low income. Half of us are 65 and over with 6 or 7 life threatening diseases needing more care as we age.

Private sector healthcare facilities are, essentially, NOT equipped to treat such a sick group.

veterans_army_medicHere in WI there are 8,900 VA workers in 29 hospitals, clinics, vet centers, and 7 military cemeteries across the state. Hundreds of thousands of WI vets are well cared for.

The question to ask is: Why does President Trump want to send vets to private care when the cost is 30% higher and vets get slower care?

One answer, perhaps, is insatiable greed! Greed for money, wealth and power! Those on Wall Street, CEOs of insurance companies and hospital systems will make billions more in profits off sick veterans.

If these people are successful in their privatization effort, the best single payer, single provider, most cost effective, high quality healthcare system in America will be gone!

The result will likely be -- YOU will never get Medicare for All because privatizers pushing this effort will have killed the best model for national healthcare in existence – the VA healthcare system.

In 2016 over 14.5 million veterans and military voted - 60% voting for Trump. After becoming aware of Trump's actions the last 4 years, hopefully our Nation is wiser! The power of our vote is crucial!

Preventing Trump’s election shows veterans are supported. We do not need a leader who refers to America’s women and men wearing the uniform and who’ve died in wars - as chumps, suckers and losers.

A Commander in Chief, with such disdain for those in our military, is a dangerous person to command military operations when lives are in danger.

President Trump should NOT be leading our Nation – make Nov. 3rd his day of reckoning!


Commentary written by Buzz Davis and Ian Smith

Ian Smith is a Vice Pres. of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1732, Madison, WI & is a retired 40 yr. VA worker, former U.S. Army medic 1957-59 & has been working to Stop VA Privatization for 6 yrs.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Buzz Davis, formerly of Stoughton, WI now of Tucson, is a retired state government planner, former VISTA Volunteer, Army officer Vietnam Era, city & county elected official & now helping to lead the Stop VA Privatization Work Group of Veterans for Peace. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Search for Truth During an Election

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 28 October 2020
in Wisconsin

vote-47-mbFrom the disinformation we read on social media to the “issue ads” we see on TV, it’s important that we do our research and stay vigilant before casting our ballot.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - As we approach another Election Day, we all feel the heat from both major political parties as they do all they can to get their voters to show up for their candidates. Many voters – if they haven’t already – will stop answering the phone to avoid robocalls. Mailboxes will be filled with full-sized glossy cards and TV ads will play one after another, either celebrating or desecrating a candidate. After November 3rd, we’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief that it’s all over, at least until another campaign cycle comes around.

While we may all tire of the incessant campaign calls and mail, we should be mindful of who’s responsible for creating and funding the messages we’re consuming every day. As American citizens, we have the awesome right to vote and participate in our democracy. But, with this right comes the responsibility to do our research and understand the motives of each candidate.

Most of the campaign advertisements you see don’t come from candidates directly. The fact is, many of these advertisements appearing on TV or in the mail are usually paid for by organizations you’ve never heard of before. These advertisements are paid for by donors hiding behind laws that protect them from disclosing who they are.

jeff-smithLike many Americans, I believe that any effort to sway your opinion should be disclosed and open to public scrutiny. After all, if someone is paying for ads disparaging someone – or praising someone for that matter – then they should have to make public who they are and why they believe what’s being said. And, of course, voters shouldn’t automatically believe every word they hear or read just because it’s dramatically presented in a colorful ad. But the laws, as they currently stand, give most special interest groups a pass from disclosing who’s really behind these campaign messages.

If the ad doesn’t say “vote for” or “vote against,” these are considered “issue ads” rather than campaign ads, which means a report doesn’t need to be filed disclosing the ads’ donors. This is different for candidates, who are obligated to file finance reports listing their donors, the donor’s address and even their occupation and employer.

When most people think of campaign finance laws, they think of all the money donated by individuals and how it’s spent. But, by far, the most money spent during an election is from outside groups who use loopholes, like “issue ads” to hide in the shadows. In fact, many of the behind-the-scenes groups are temporary organizations formed only for this one purpose and during one campaign cycle.

All voters should know the purpose of the message and who’s behind the curtain pulling the levers. Creating a non-partisan redistricting commission and public awareness behind “issue ads” are the most needed reforms to keep our democracy strong.

Now, of course, social media has elevated campaign claims to a whole new level of dishonesty with minimal effort to reveal who’s responsible for the spread of misinformation. For the most part, we are very trusting people, which makes it difficult to question claims, even if they’re exaggerated or simply untrue. This all leads to a greater burden on each of us to fact check what appears on our newsfeed or find proof to back up a statement.

Day after day, we’re fed disinformation that can sway our decisions or lead us to misbelieve. On top of the persuasive campaign rhetoric during this time of year, there are efforts to prevent Americans from voting. Some elected leaders even go to great lengths to place hurdles in voters’ way or find ways to throw a ballot out. Despite these efforts, I’m confident that each Wisconsin voter will have their ballot counted. If voting early, remember to have a witness signature, mail your ballot early or turn it into your polling location by November 3rd.

In the final week before Election Day, stay informed and vigilant. You have the power to silence the special interest groups by voting and having your voice heard. Vote early or on Election Day, but VOTE!

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Wisconsin Should Invest in Education, Not Foreign Corporations

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 October 2020
in Wisconsin

foxconn-walker-ryan-johnsonIn addition to tax breaks for millionaires, we have FoxConn causing a drain on our state’s resources during the pandemic, says Sen. Erpenbach. These past poor choices limit options now.

MADISON - Virtually, in person, or planning and executing hybrid models, students and educators across Wisconsin are showing up and doing the hard work. Families are making sacrifices and hard choices in the face of this pandemic. We should all take a lesson from this dedication and perseverance.

As of this writing, it has now been 190 days of inaction since the current leadership of the Assembly and Senate and their caucuses last answered the calls coming from every corner of the state, 6 ½ months without a single day of action on the most significant crisis we’ve faced in generations.

During that time away, educators from across the state preparing for the school year have raised the alarm about the lasting impact enrollment changes during a public health crisis might have on schools that are the bedrock of our shared history and future – especially in smaller and rural communities.

Schools, like all of Wisconsin’s economy and way of life, would have been better served by a unified effort in the spring to limit this virus and its impact. I salute the men and women who have dedicated their careers and lives to education and are continuing that work, in person and remotely, to this day. And I stand with the Wisconsin parents who are making sacrifices at home and difficult choices for their children’s future.

Last week we saw a snapshot of the impact the ongoing pandemic is having on our schools. In the districts I represent all or of parts of, we saw enrollment drop by over 2600 students, nearly 3%.

Thankfully, Gov. Evers set the bar high for public education in his initial budget and general aid increases will help many of our schools and property taxpayers. Unfortunately, we could and should have done more. GOP budget choices included taking $500 million from the Governor’s special education proposal to preserve a tax giveaway targeted primarily at millionaires. Those dollars would certainly help educators and families meet the needs of students often suffering the most curing the COVID crisis.

A pandemic that has seen the wealthy grow wealthier while the challenges for working parents have grown – much – more difficult has made our choices and priorities even more starkly clear.

jon-erpenbachAs parents, students and educators face up to the extraordinary challenges of this pandemic it will be our job to rise to the challenge of continuing to support them. I will continue to support public schools that have been the cornerstones of our communities for generations. The impact of this pandemic on classrooms and homes is tremendous, and it will be our responsibility to protect the future of public education for 800,000+ students and their families in the budgets and legislation ahead.

Because of choices our colleagues in the majority caucuses made, our next budget starts out maintaining that tax giveaway for the millionaires instead of the additional $500 million that could have relieved costs local districts and their taxpayers are already required to pay for special education.

In addition to tax breaks for millionaires, we also have FoxConn causing a drain on our state’s resources. Thankfully, in 2020, we find ourselves with responsible leaders at the head of the state holding them to the contract, or FoxConn alone would take over $500 million– that could be coming home to your district to reimburse 60% of special education costs you are bearing – in the next budget alone.

Our Republican colleagues made unfortunate choices when they decided to fall for the FoxConn plan in just over a month in 2017. They made another unfortunate choice when they scurried back to Madison to pass lame duck legislation designed in part to protect the FoxConn handout in just 2 days.

We recently learned how little the people have gotten for the $165 million this has already cost state taxpayers and the billions more the GOP set aside for FoxConn in budgets ahead. Buildings as empty as the promises scrawled on a single sheet of paper three years ago. Homes lost, local debt the state may have to step in for, and fewer jobs than the hundreds and thousands of small businesses across our state have fought to maintain without a fraction of the help FoxConn demanded – and even worse – got.

It is time for responsible decisions and responsible leadership. It is time to come back to Madison to answer the call from educators with an unparalleled dedication to our state instead of back rooms on the other side of the Pacific. The students, families, educators, and the businesses, Wisconsinites facing unemployment through no fault of their own and especially our health care heroes on the front lines deserve our every effort – not zero days of action in six months from legislative leaders who could not leap high or fast enough when FoxConn came calling.

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A Real Halloween Threat

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 21 October 2020
in Wisconsin

covid-19-protest-madisonLegislative Republicans continue supporting plans to dismantle Governor Evers’ efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, even while Wisconsin is experiencing a spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

MADISON - Halloween is typically a time we enjoy spooky things. We find ways to get scared, whether it’s a haunted corn maze or horror flick.  This year, however, it seems like we’re living in a scary movie with no clear happy ending in sight. What’s even scarier is we don’t have the leadership to help us through this horrific time.

In the beginning of the year, we watched COVID-19’s rampage through countries like China and Italy. In America, the President downplayed the seriousness of this crisis, predicting we wouldn’t be as affected here.

tony-evers-talksBy mid-March it became obvious, after seeing New York hit by the virus that we needed to take precautions here in Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers wisely announced measures to keep us “Safer at Home” to try and avoid a serious spread. Around the same time, our frontline health workers worried they weren’t properly prepared for what might be coming, especially with a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. We also saw businesses laying off thousands of workers, which quickly overwhelmed Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system.

In mid-April the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Relief Bill, which allowed Wisconsin to accept the CARES Act funding from Congress. This was the first and only time Republican lawmakers acted on COVID-19 prevention efforts.

On April 21st, Republican lawmakers ran to the State Supreme Court to rescind the “Safer at Home” order, claiming individual freedoms were being trampled by a public health order that was in place to protect us. An hour after the Supreme Court overturned the “Safer at Home” order, we saw taverns full of patrons celebrating their ‘freedom’ to spread this highly-contagious virus.

After the Supreme Court ruling, local health departments were forced to scramble and pull together their own plans, even though there was another court case to limit local governments’ ability to act. Fortunately, a federal judge struck that suit down on July 21st and allowed local jurisdictions to implement and enforce their health plans.

During the end of July, we experienced widespread COVID-19 cases in rural counties. COVID-19 positives were soaring among young adults. Governor Evers announced Emergency Order #1, requiring face coverings over our nose and mouth while in public, indoor places. Despite the dangerous spike in cases, the Majority Party refused to call the Legislature into session to focus on additional COVID-19 relief.

Throughout September, with students returning to campus and our state experiencing COVID-19 fatigue, Wisconsin saw yet another spike in cases. To protect one another, Governor Evers issued Emergency Order #3 to limit indoor gatherings to 25% of capacity. On September 23rd Republicans finally met in the Capitol, but it wasn’t in the interest of the Wisconsin People – they met to hear campaign rhetoric for President Trump from his Secretary of State.

Around this same time, Republican lawmakers vocally supported efforts by a conservative think-tank to sue the Governor to end the mask requirement in Wisconsin. Fortunately, the judge struck down their attempt, citing the Legislature’s ability to put an end to Governor Evers’ emergency order.

Republicans continue shelling out taxpayer money to fight against popular, commonsense public health policy, when all they have to do is convene the Legislature and vote them down. Republican lawmakers have cost taxpayers more than $400,000 on legal assaults against the Governor instead of putting together a plan to stop the spread of COVID-19.

jeff-smith-ofcLast week, lobbyists challenged Emergency Order #3 in court, ultimately winning their case. At the same time, Republican lawmakers on the Joint Committee for Review on Administrative Rules took the first step to strike this emergency order down, all the while having no plan to ensure the safety of Wisconsin residents.

Most recently, on Monday, October 19th a judge restored Emergency Order #3, which will go a long way to help Wisconsin slow the spread of COVID-19.

It’s been 6 months since the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Relief Bill. Wisconsin is the nation’s hotspot for COVID-19. As of October 16th, we’ve had 166,186 positive cases and 1,574 people die from COVID-19. Governor Evers is doing what he can to stop the spread – we are long overdue for legislative Republicans do the same.

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Who Will Care for You?

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 14 October 2020
in Wisconsin

disability-oldCountless constituents and healthcare professionals are urging the Legislature to expand Medicaid. We can allow 80,000 more people access to health care and improve our caregiver workforce.

MADISON - We live our lives with much uncertainty. We can never be sure our plans will work out perfectly, and we may have to adjust due to unforeseen events. It could be weather changes, mechanical problems, an illness or accident that may change our entire life. But, even with uncertainty hanging over us like a cloud, we plan and move ahead.

Most of the time, plans are kept and we live another day healthy and free of worry. If things go as we plan, we will live a long and healthy life. But even as we approach our later years we won’t be able to do the things we once did for ourselves and we’ll need help. Many of us see this with our own parents or elderly neighbors; they need caregivers. It could be us or the people we care about; it could be at our homes or at a care facility; no matter who or where, professional caregivers are critical for our communities.

Like a lot of other things, the COVID-19 pandemic has pulled back the curtain to reveal the weaknesses of our healthcare system, including a caregiver shortage. This profession is in crisis; like so many other essential workers, caregivers have been left behind. It’s important that we recognize the shortfalls that currently exist for Wisconsin’s caregiver workforce. Understanding these barriers will help us know what we need to do to support caregivers and strengthen this essential workforce.

Less funding and more complicated systems have forced many who would have otherwise considered a healthcare position, caring for the elderly or clients with disabilities, to reconsider purely for financial reasons. When such highly skilled people are able to find work in other professions that pay livable wages with benefits who can blame them for looking out for their own families’ needs?

Governor Tony Evers recognized the shortage of professional caregivers as a crisis, particularly as we enter an era of increased need brought on by the aging baby boomer generation. This awareness resulted in Governor Evers creating the Task Force on Caregiving in 2019, which was asked, “to analyze strategies to attract and retain a strong direct care workforce and to assist families providing caregiving supports and services.”

After months of meetings with stakeholders throughout Wisconsin, the Task Force presented their findings and recommendations in the “Wisconsin Caregivers in Crisis” report to Governor Evers in September.  During the course of their meetings, the Task Force found the caregiver workforce is “in a state of perpetual turnover” due to low-wages, despite the many open positions that are available.

jeff-smithWhen the turnover of professional direct care workers is so dramatic, it becomes a truly dangerous situation for many clients who need and deserve consistency in their care. When speaking with constituents with special needs, a top concern is that they are continuously training new caregivers.

The Task Force’s report provides a comprehensive list of proposals intended to address this crisis and better support caregivers. The list details approaches to broadly address Wisconsin’s caregiving needs by focusing on five key strategies: invest in tools to help family caregivers; reform direct care workforce rates; expand benefits for the caregiving workforce; improve outreach to Wisconsin’s untapped workers and better connect caregivers and people in need of care through a Home Care Provider Registry.

While reading the report, the proposal that really caught my eye – which could be easily implemented to help Wisconsinites – is Medicaid Expansion. Over the course of the legislative session, we’ve already heard a lot about the advantages of expanding Medicaid. Now we know, Medicaid expansion would help solve some of the big problems our state’s caregiver workforce is facing. Specifically, the report concluded caregivers could earn more money and “allow an additional 60% of caregivers to obtain health insurance,” all the while improving caregiver retention.

This session, I’ve heard from countless constituents and healthcare professionals urging the Legislature to expand Medicaid. We can bring tax dollars back to our state from the federal government, allow 80,000 more people access to health care and improve our caregiver workforce. Twenty-nine states have already expanded Medicaid – it’s time Wisconsin does too.

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