Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

Sound familiar? Wisconsin might give more money back to feds

January 10, 2012

Similar to the GOP’s denial of funds to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, Walker seems to be putting federal money in jeopardy as a way to display contempt for White House policy.

Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to stop work on Wisconsin’s insurance exchanges, which are mandated by health care reform, is shortsighted and could give the federal government more influence over the state’s insurance market than it should have. Walker and state officials should reconsider their decision.

Walker said in December that the state would halt work on the online exchanges until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the health care law. The high court is considering a collection of lawsuits challenging the law; a decision is expected this summer.

 Interestingly, the health care exchanges are one of the least ideologically controversial aspects of Obama’s health reform law. Like much of “Obamacare,” the exchanges were originally thought up by conservatives. It’s entirely in line with Walker’s philosophy of using government to direct business to corporations. However, since Obama’s name is attached to the policy, the exchanges, like high-speed rail, will likely either die or be horribly mangled.

No Mitch Henck, Obama and Santorum don’t hate gays equally

January 8, 2012

Throughout American history, civil rights for various groups, from women to blacks to gays, have come slowly and painfully. Typically, the movement begins with a small group in favor of expanding rights, a small group that is hostile to that expansion, and a small group that is ambivalent. In time, the last group gradually shifts to support the newer vision of social justice. That is what we see in President Obama’s support of gay rights. Barney Frank explains:

“My own view is that I look at President Obama’s record, he was probably inclined to think that same-sex marriage was legitimate, but as a candidate for president in 2008 that would have been an unwise thing to say,” Mr. Frank said. “And I don’t mean that he’s being hypocritical. I mean that if you live in a democratic society, it is a mix of what you think the voters want and what you think is doable.”

Liberals and conservatives alike enjoy pointing out that the president’s position on gay marriage is no different than Rick Santorum’s. Conservative(ish) Madison radio host Mitch Henck made this point over and over again the other day, feigning puzzlement at the gay community’s hostility to Santorum’s candidacy. Even if we disregarded the major gay rights initiatives Obama has championed, including domestic partnerships for federal employees, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a proactive campaign for gay rights abroad, there’s a major difference between Santorum and Obama on gay marriage.

Essentially, Obama is to gays what JFK and LBJ were to blacks in the early 60’s. He is trying to find a why to support the progressive definition of gay rights without losing an election. Santorum, very simply, is to gays what Strom Thurmond was to blacks. Not only is he viciously opposed to any recognition of gay partnerships, but he believes the law should reflect the view that homosexuality is immoral, just as Thurmond believed integration to be immoral.

French offer solution to Nails’ Tales

December 29, 2011

Doug Moe thinks we ought to get rid of Nails’ Tales because it’s ugly. So does Citizen Dave. Truth be told, I never even noticed the damn thing. Mrs. Sconz apparently did. When I asked her what she thought of it, she responded, “I don’t know, it’s phallic. I don’t have a strong opinion on it either way.” Apparently she got the message the artist intended, according to Chris Rickert, who supports the monument.

“They didn’t say they wanted a phallus,” Lipski told me of the conversations he had with UW-Madison officials as he was coming up with ideas for the piece.

But they did want something with “power” and “dynamism,” he said. They wanted “if not something phallic, but something that was very male and dominant.”

I think we should keep it. Women are taking over college campuses and a giant penis in front of a football stadium is the best way to remind people that there is one domain in which men dominate.

Moe is not a philistine for opposing a seemingly ugly symbol of male virility, but he does lack a sense of history. As any student of architecture knows, many Parisians pushed for the demolition of the Eiffel Tower after it was showcased at the 1889 World Fair. Sure, they acknowledged that the tallest man-made structure at the time was impressive, but it obstructed the historic Paris skyline and served no practical purpose. The World Fair was over. What were they going to do? Keep the thing forever?

Landmarks don’t have to be pretty. All they have to do is have a story behind them. Lipski failed to do that. But that doesn’t mean somebody else, such as the UW Student Section, couldn’t come up with one for it. Perhaps with a profane chant.

Some real talk about Walker’s fiscal policy

March 8, 2010

Steve Walter, for Wispolitics, gives us a glimpse of the budgetary implications of Scott Walker’s most magnificent campaign promises. In case any of you haven’t kept up, Walker has recently come under fire for promising to “create 250,000 jobs” by 2015. Such a goal, if realized, would translate into virtual full employment in the state.

**Walker: “I want to lower the tax on employers…”

First clarifying question: By “employers,” Scott, do you mean all Wisconsin businesses?

If so, you’re referring to the “corporate income and franchise” tax, which totaled $629.5 million last year, and is projected to go up — by 11 percent — to $700 million this year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Democratic legislators, who said they were closing a “Las Vegas” tax-avoidance loophole, and Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle last year raised taxes paid by large, multi-state companies.

Or, were you referring to payroll taxes businesses pay to finance unemployment benefits? If so, remember that Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance fund is out of cash, after paying a record $3.2 billion in jobless benefits last year.

Right now, Wisconsin has borrowed $1.1 billion from the federal government; by the end of the year that debt is expected to be $1.9 billion, which doesn’t include interest (that must be added in 2011).

There are only two ways to repay the federal loan, experts say: Raise taxes on employers, or cut benefits to the jobless. Which of those two changes — and what exact changes — are you recommending, Scott?

He asks similar questions in response to Walker’s property tax and income tax promises. It’s a pretty simple question: What are you going to cut Scott? Unfortunately, it’s a question that is rarely asked of Republicans.

What happened at the ASM meeting?

March 4, 2010

I was going to comment on the lack of ASM news coming from the campus papers when I saw this buried at the bottom of the Herald news page: “Student Council fails to keep quorum.”

Neither of my go-to ASM blogs have updated on the matter.

An intern project for Academic Affairs was a major point of debate. The intern is working on a project to collaborate student organizations and students looking to volunteer called the Madison Community Academic Outreach project.

The intern project is a four-credit class, and the drop date for classes is March 15.

To vote ‘no’ on the intern project would effectively cancel the intern’s three weeks of work, Rep. Colin Ingram said.

What are the reasons the three guys walked out? Because other important people there, namely Jonah Zinn, the head of the Academic Affairs Committee, which is supposed to deal with intern projects.

To state the obvious: Why weren’t these projects approved before the start of the semester, or moreover, who is authorizing interns to do projects that may be cancelled half way through?

It seems like this is the week of legislative stalling tactics, at all levels of government. In D.C. we’ve got a senile hall of fame pitcher putting holds on unemployment benefits and COBRA health benefits. In the Sconz we’ve got Prosecutor Steve Nass not showing up to court because he’s worried Democrats will turn his trial of the most pathetic man in the state into a circus. Nothing at the city-level comes to mind immediately but go to Brenda Konkel’s site and I’m sure you’ll find something.

Poor Steve Nass

March 3, 2010

Proposing to expel a guy who’s been caught drunk driving five times is about as easy as introducing a resolution supporting Wisconsin cheese. Even if you’re representing a people who loves drunk driving as much as the Sconnies do. Even if Jeff Wood’s calculations are correct, and the people of the Chippewa Falls  area don’t chase him out of office for his antics, Steve Nass has got nothing to lose by suggesting an early exit. But God forbid Nass do something uncontroversial.

Nass didn’t show up for Wednesday morning’s public hearing because he was concerned about the circus-like atmosphere created by Wood and Democratic partisan politics, his spokesman Mike Mikalsen said.

Committee chairwoman Mary Hubler, D-Rice Lake, said she would not yet schedule an executive session to vote on Wood because Nass didn’t show up Wednesday to testify or be cross-examined by Wood and his attorney.

Right, the Democrats want to use one of their members’ public humiliation and alcoholism to publicly ridicule and exploit Steve Nass.

Russ Decker fights for Badger interests

March 2, 2010

Just in case you thought politics was nothing more than a futile game of buffoonery, punch lines and PG-rated cheap shots, the amendment offered by Sens. Russ Decker, Mark Miller, Julie Lassa and Pat Kreitlow to a bill allowing for a Marquette University license plate shows that UW students have a valuable voice at the Capitol:

Page 3, line 8: after “less” insert “Marquette University must establish that they finally have a football team.”

Page 4, line 11: insert “any vehicle with an MU license plate must have a horn that plays “On Wisconsin.”

Page 4, line 11: Any license plate supporting Marquette University are required to have the words “UW-Marquette.”

In other news, the legislature ignored calls from UW Chancellor Biddy Martin for additional funding, citing more important issues to address.

Tommy Thompson: It may happen

March 1, 2010

A weak Republican candidate and a weak Democratic year is looking more and more tempting to Tommy Thompson, according to Politico.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin governor, is securing financial pledges and ramping up his outreach to longtime political aides in preparation for a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Another longtime Thompson ally said the governor already has $200,000 in potential donations for a campaign that doesn’t yet exist.

“If you talked to me two weeks ago, I would have put it at a 50-50 shot. Now it’s at 70,” said the Thompson aide, who requested anonymity to avoid offending his friend. “He’s asking serious questions like, ‘Who would run the campaign? Who would do the fundraising? When would we announce? How much could we raise?’”

Avoid offending his friend? Give me a break –– this is a first class “leak” intended to get Republicans excited about a potential run. Politico is the first stage –– it gets the elites (contributors, consultants etc.) and politicos excited. The next stage will be the Wisconsin press, which will give the masses an opportunity to evaluate a Thompson bid.

Democrats cannot dismiss this story. People love Russ Feingold, but there is also a fair bit of nostalgia for Tommy Thompson. Popular governors are generally better-liked than popular senators, if for no better reason than more people come into contact with what they do and senators are derided as “Washington insiders.” The most recent poll shows Thompson slightly ahead of Feingold, while one done in November showed a solid lead for Feingold.

The standards for a senate race are not anywhere near as high as the ones Tommy clearly didn’t live up to during his short-lived presidential bid, but Feingold is a great candidate and a great debater, so Tommy will not be able to win on name recognition a lone. He’d have to bring it. No excuses about hearing aids or diarrhea.

Kagen proposes a change to Obamacare

February 26, 2010

Wow, I feel obnoxious using “Obamacare.” It’s been almost exclusively used for misinformation purposes, but you gotta give it to those crazy townhallers, it’s catchy.

Steve Kagen, a Democrat from Northeastern Wisconsin, is proposing an amendment to the health care bill that will require businesses selling health care products (pills etc.) to disclose all their prices on the internet.

Kagen said he first offered his proposal as an amendment to the health care bill the House passed in June. But House leadership barred amendments from being attached to the bill.

He introduced his measure Thursday as a stand-alone bill at the same time Obama was hosting a bipartisan summit on health care reform.

Kagen is a former doctor and a millionaire. He is also the most vulnerable member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation. He won his first election 51-49 in a huge Democratic year. In his second election, which was another great year for Dems, Kagen got up to 54 percent.

Kagen’s lack of seniority is only one part of what makes the 8th district (wikipedia map of it) the best target for the GOP in November. The main population hubs are the Fox Cities and Green Bay. Traditionally Republican territory, many state politicos (mainly from the Dem side) are commenting that the “Fox Valley is changing.” Both Brown and Outagamie counties voted solidly for Obama in 2008, his margin of victory (10+) much more substantial than any margin Clinton enjoyed during the 90’s (The Fox Valley gave less support to Ross Perot than the nation).

Nevertheless, Kagen has some work to do if he wants to keep his seat. I do believe that health care reform is an issue close to his heart, but I also bet that this bill would be a great way for him to get some positive name recognition in his district. What he’s proposing is simple and popular. It’s very hard for the GOP to portray this as a government takeover of private business –– people understand and appreciate basic consumer protections. The voters of the 8th district may be right-leaning and somewhat distrustful of government, but there is not a meaningful enclave of Ayn Rand objectivists who will oppose making big pharmaceuticals post their prices online. Just in case you thought the Badger Herald editorial page was indicative of typical Wisconsin voters…

BadgerCare Basic approved

February 25, 2010

The legislature approved Badger Care Basic today, which will allow adults without dependent children to buy into a health care program for a $130 a month premium. Kathleen Vinehount (who has not responded to my email on a separate matter) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, which passed by one vote.

Now, the program is not supposed to cost the state any money. It’s all supposed to come out of the premium. However, Republicans insist that the revenue generated from the premiums will not be enough to cover the costs of “a very sick population,” and that the state will inevitably be forced to chip in.

That may be true, but even if that is the case, it does not spell fiscal disaster. The program concerns less than 25,000 people. I will look into the numbers and try to get some stats on the average age etc. of the target population. I suspect there are quite a few young people in the program, many of whom are in good health.


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