Wisconsin Politics: A Story Filled with Love and Rage

Our Governor, whom I like to think of as Little Scotty Walker, defends the financing of the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena with the very clever slogan “Cheaper to Keep’em.” There are both theoretical and practical problems with the plan. But I believe Little Scotty is well aware of these problems. I mean the man’s not stupid, right? He’s the one after all who realized that the UW-System was an albatross around the neck of taxpayers. After all, being one of the best state university systems in the country and with the most severely underpaid faculty and staff in the Mid-West, the UW-System was costing rich people too much. So he’s cutting $250M from the system to make it even better. Now that’s an interesting number.

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$250M is exactly the amount Little Scotty wants to give to the two billionaires who own the Milwaukee Bucks. Wesley Edens, co-founder of a $62B asset management company (and a former Lehman Brothers partner and managing director), and Marc Lasry, whose estimated net worth is $1.7B are the impecunious billionaires in need of a handout. In fairness to these two billionaires, let it not go unnoticed that they are proffering $100M of their own in the new arena project. The theory behind the taxpaper’s contribution is (as it always is) that loss of the Bucks will decrease revenue in the larger Milwaukee area, increase loss of jobs, and add to the costs of keeping the Bradley Center up and working for lesser entities than the top-tier Bucks, who have to give away tickets to get fans in. Even then, the upper stands are mostly empty.

(BTW: A free ticket doesn’t cover the overpriced, diluted beer and the exorbitant brats, which are all served by volunteer groups who are paid no wages.)

The trouble with that theory is that it has been proven wrong. Studies have shown that profits  for local economies that build or refurbish stadiums are almost always less than 20% of profits forecast by urban planners who back the stadium plan. Usually, the new or refurbished stadiums benefit the team’s owners and the players, most of whom take their million dollar salaries and go home for the off-season.

Aside: What do you call 12 millionaires watching the NBA playoffs?

The Milwaukee Bucks.

Practically, the plan is dunderheaded. How could Little Scotty not see that? he said no to the casino in Kenosha. But those casino owners wanted to throw in $250M to help finance the new Bucks’ arena. There’s that pesky little number again. In addition, the casino would have added 10,000 jobs and paid to subside certain local roads and other infrastructure as well as taxes to both Kenosha and the state.

So in the Great Tradition That Is Wisconsin–a tradition honored for as many years as Little Scotty has been in office–the Wisconsin State Government is taking benefits and services from the poor and middle-class  and using the cost of those benefits and services to stuff the pockets of the already wealthy.

But things do get worse. After the years of successful union busting, the State of Wisconsin Legislature and Little Scotty have conspired to repeal the alternative minimum tax. The AMT law is the legislature’s way to make sure that those persons who file with a lot of exemptions still have to pay at least something to contribute to the operations of the state. So if someone has an income of, say, $200,000 and has also amassed exemptions and deductions of $200,000, the state still expects that person to contribute. What the rates are for the AMT I do not know. But the estimated loss to the Wisconsin state revenue is $26M. It’s simply another gimmick to have rich people receive all sorts of benefits from the state while paying nothing.

I think that if you state the ideals of America we were taught as children–fairness, equality, opportunity, family values–and place them beside the actions of Republicans and Tea-Partiers, it is fair to say that Little Scotty and his ilk hate the America that I love.

Wisconsin Politics: A Story Filled with Love and Rage

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

–Ambrose Bierce

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I have been a loyal supporter of President Obama. He has disappointed me on any number of issues and the promises unkept: the continued use of drones, the continuation of Guantanamo Bay  detention center, the early agreement with the major pharmaceuticals, and so forth. The President’s recent statements about Wisconsin’s ‘right to work’ law have thoroughly annoyed me.

The Wisconsin Daily Independent reports:

In response to Governor Walker’s signing the Right to Work bill that was passed overwhelmingly by both the Assembly and Senate in Wisconsin in recent weeks, President Obama today stated he was “deeply disappointed” and went on to declare the law “anti-worker”. Obama continued to say that the law in Wisconsin will weaken workers and that Governor Walker should take meaningful action as it pertains to his state.

The WDI article goes on to quote pro-Walker defenders, who seem to merely muddy the issue all around.  My beef, however, is not with them (right now), but with the President.

The 2008 Obama/Biden campaign made the following promise:

Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Although an estimated 60 million Americans would join a union if given the opportunity, companies too often deny workers the opportunity to organize and improve their lives. Obama and Biden cosponsored and are strong advocates for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize and secure initial agreements with their employers. The act requires employers to recognize a union if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finds that a majority of employees have signed cards designating the union as its bargaining representative (a “card check”), mandates arbitration if negotiations over a first contract stall, and imposes penalties on employers that illegally coerce workers not to join unions. As president, Obama will continue to work for EFCA’s passage and sign it into law.

This is a promise in writing. I heard Obama myself say in public that if states begin to attack workers and workers’ right, he would lock arms with workers and march in protest with them. Well, in 2010, I and another 100,000 workers (comprised of firefighters, teachers, circuit court judges, sheriffs and other public employees) marched and protested in Madison for weeks. Obama’s voice was never heard.

When these outraged workers managed an unheard of recall against Governor Walker, Obama did next to nothing to aid the candidacy of Walker’s opponent.

We Wisconsinites had a chance to oust the most venal and puppet-like of governors, but we needed help to fight of the large-money operations of the Koch brothers and other conservative billionaires. The White House offered virtually nothing, but it did ask for the protesters’ mailing addresses for the next presidential campaign.

For President Obama to criticise Walker’s policies now is too little, too late.

Mr. President, I gave you my votes. I handed out leaflets for you and did letter drops.

Wisconsin Politics: A Love Story Filled With Rage

POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

–Ambrose Bierce

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In today’s Columbus Dispatch, the following appears:

In 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led a delegation — including then-Rep. David Hobson, R-Springfield — to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad at a time when the Bush administration was trying to isolate Assad.

That prompted Republican John Boehner of West Chester, then the Republican majority leader and now House speaker, to charge in an editorial meeting with  Dispatch editors that Pelosi is “going for one reason, and that is to embarrass the president.”

“She is the speaker of the House,” Boehner said. “She’s giving (the Syrian) government more credit than they deserve. They sponsor terrorism. They have not been at all helpful. I wish she wasn’t there.”

It’s obvious that political parties are ever changing their ideals to what suits them for the moment, but at least Democrats know that their errors in 2007 and in earlier years were not as egregious as the recent two attempts to embarrass President Obama. The side-stepping and ignoring of the President for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to get to speak to the U.S. Senate was a terrible act. But the letter to Iran, I believe, is an act of political treachery matched only by Ronald Reagan’s craven negotiations with Iran behind the back of then-sitting President Jimmy Carter. One of the functions of the executive branch is to negotiate treaties. The Legislature gets to approve them later.

Image result for clarence thomas Image result for Sen Ron Johnson

Our own Senator Ron Johnson is one of the signers of the infamous letter. That action on Johnson’s part should come as no surprise. Ron Johnson is the Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Senate. Whatever Justice Scalia says and does is dittoed by Clarence Thomas. Whatever conservative leadership does and says in the Senate dittohead Ron Johnson says and does. Johnson does not believe in global warming, evolution or the right of the President to negotiate with other countries.

Johnson as a follower of wrong headed political strategies is guilty of betraying the land he loves and the people he represents.

I am ashamed to call him my senator.

Go here for more on the dittohead thinking of Senator Ron Johnson.

UPDATE 3/15/2015:

Johnson, at his most craven, backs away from traitorous letter. Does he regret the letter because it was an act of treachery, or does he regret it because the letter caused so much blow-back?