The WIAA vs. the GOP

One of my favorite UW–Madison classes was the Olympic history class taught by Prof. Alfred Senn, who said at the beginning and throughout the course that to believe that sports and politics were ever separate or could ever be separated was futile.

Senn’s valuable cynicism comes to mind because of what the Wisconsin Sports Network reported:

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has started a petition against a recent Wisconsin legislative proposal that would allow students from private schools, virtual schools, and home-schooled students to participate on sports teams of public schools in their district. reports the language in the 2015–17 state budget thusly:

29.  Participation in Athletics and Extra-Curricular Activities.  Require a school board to permit a pupil who resides in the school district to participate in interscholastic athletics or extracurricular activities on the same basis and to the same extent as pupils enrolled in the district, if the pupil is enrolled in one of the following:  (a) a home-based private educational program; (b) a private school located in the district; (c) an independent “2r” charter school located in the district; or (d) a virtual school.  Provide that a pupil who is enrolled in a home-based private educational program and is determined by the public school or school board to be ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics because of inadequate academic performance would be considered ineligible to participate.  Specify that a pupil attending a private school or an independent “2r” charter school could only participate in a sport that the private school or charter school does not offer.

Provide that a school district could not be a member of an athletic association unless the association required member school districts to permit home-based, private, charter, and virtual charter pupils to participate in athletic activities in the district.

Provide that a school board may charge participation fees to a non-public pupil who participates in interscholastic athletics or extracurricular activities, including fees for uniforms, equipment, and musical instruments, on the same basis and to the same extent as these fees are charged to pupils enrolled in the district.

For the state education establishment, which certainly includes the WIAA, to expect any sympathy from the state GOP seems as likely to happen as the Brewers’ winning the World Series this year. On the other hand, if the majority party in the Legislature doesn’t like the WIAA, the Legislature has the ability to wipe the WIAA out of existence by legislating that the state Department of Public Instruction be responsible, to borrow from the WIAA Constitution, “To organize, develop, direct, and control an interscholastic athletic program” for state schools. (That would certainly make superintendent of public instruction elections much more interesting, and maybe it would compel Wisconsin conservatives to get behind candidates with a better view of what our schools should be than the current superintendent of public instruction and his predecessors going back as far as memory. If indeed school sports are an extension of the classroom, shouldn’t DPI regulate school sports?)

There are numerous reasons why parents might not want their children to attend the local public school. Some schools, frankly, aren’t very good. (Read the School Report Cards.) There are some good school districts with bad teachers (largely due to the evil teacher union), and there are some school districts with poor administrators. If it’s correct that everyone learns differently, then it stands to reason that some children don’t learn in the local public school environment as well as they are capable of learning. Public school choice is great, unless your family lacks the means to get a child from home to school. Some students are bullied, and some schools clearly do little about bullying.

There are obvious reasons as well why non-students like high school sports. Games at the local YMCA don’t attract thousands of fans. Nor do the events of any non-school-based athletic club. For hundreds of small Wisconsin towns, the local high school is the source of that community’s prominence, and a big part of that is high school sports.

Independent of whether the proposal should become law (and apparently the state of Washington allows this), or be included in the 2015–17 state budget, the WIAA’s statement is full of not-entirely-truths. Let’s peruse and parse:

Please, keep in mind that the “WIAA” is a voluntary membership of public and non-public schools that have joined together to create and provide programming opportunities for the students in their school. To have the state government limit or prohibit membership in the WIAA — unless legislative mandates are followed­ — is an alarming precedent and an unacceptable over-reach in an attempt to control a voluntary, private and non-profit organization. To be clear, as a private entity, the WIAA receives no funding from taxpayer dollars.

There are two enormously disingenuous statements in this paragraph. The first is that WIAA membership is voluntary. It is voluntary unless your school district wants to (1) host high school sports and (2) have any WIAA-member high school as an opponent. WIAA membership is as voluntary as the voluntary contributions to the UW Athletic Department to keep your football season tickets.

The even more disingenuous statement is that the WIAA “receives no funding from taxpayer dollars.” Where do you suppose WIAA-membership dues came from — trees? (I used the past tense because the WIAA Board of Control voted April 21 to suspend member dues for two years to “further disconnect the organization from the indirect use of public tax dollars.” Interesting timing, isn’t it?)

Most high school sports are played in high schools whose construction was paid for, and whose maintenance is paid for, by taxpayers. While sports and school booster clubs contribute some funding, high school (and where they exist, WIAA middle school) coaches’ salaries and sports equipment are paid for by the school district, which means those salaries are paid for by taxpayers too. So are officials’ payments for games. And, of course, public schools are supported by taxpayers whose children may not go to public schools. (That is something liberals could not care less about.)

An overlooked aspect of this bill that should not be discarded is the divisiveness that is derived from the displacement of students who are actually full-time students and their school. The proposal marginalizes the commitment and opportunities for students enrolled in their school to represent their school.

Small schools traditionally have been concerned that opening the door to non-students for participation in its sports programs would accelerate the loss of enrollment and consequently, state aid.

The dropping percentage of student involvement in high school sports belies that statement. (For a variety of reasons, including student laziness and preference to do something other than compete in sports, such as compete on the XBox.) That statement also parrots the education establishment’s perspective that parents have no right to send their children to a non-public school.

High schools across the state are dropping not necessarily sports, but teams (going from, say, a varsity, junior varsity and freshman team to just varsity and JV) not due to the evil Republicans, but due to dropping enrollment. (Unless decreasing family sizes are somehow the GOP’s fault.) That is the same reason for the increase in the number of cooperative programs, sports with two or more schools’ students on the same team. (Including co-ops that include public and private high schools, such as Wautoma and Faith Christian in football.) Somehow that’s not divisive, but the GOP proposal is divisive. The only roster size rules that exist are for varsity games.

The membership recently addressed competitive equity concerns among public and private schools, and it determined — as it has done consistently — to treat all segments of the membership uniformly.

Well, that’s one way to put it. This refers to the WIAA’s votes on proposals to address competitive equity complaints from small public schools that similar-size private schools that can draw from much larger population areas were competing in the same state-tournament division. That would include, for instance, Whitefish Bay Dominican, which won four consecutive state boys basketball championships competing against non-metro-area schools Colfax, Cuba City, Auburndale, Brillion, Blair–Taylor and Mineral Point. (Plus one similar Catholic school, Eau Claire Regis.) WIAA membership rejected (1) increasing private-school enrollment for postseason purposes, as Illinois does; (2) reducing public-school enrollment by 40 percent of the percentage of students getting free- and reduced-price lunches, as Minnesota does; or (3) pushing teams, public or private, that get to state a lot upward an enrollment class. That could be a sign of the difficulty in finding a good solution for the small schools’ complaints; it could also be a sign that WIAA members don’t care about small public schools.

It is certainly true that policy added to the state budget late in the budgeting process (the fiscal year and budget cycle ends June 30) is an invitation for demonstrations of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It is also true that the WIAA’s institutional arrogance and Democratic-leaning interest groups’ knee-jerk opposition to non-public schools (and refusal to admit that some of Wisconsin’s public schools are not serving their children well) has led Wisconsin to this point. The author of this proposal is reportedly state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R–Fond du Lac), who should get a call from WIAA leadership soon.


Who will prevail in the GOP?

For all those who believe Wisconsin Republicans march in lockstep with Gov. Scott Walker, at least 36 Assembly Republicans are about to prove them wrong, reports RightWisconsin:

Assembly Labor Committee Chair Rep. Andre Jacque announced Tuesday morning that the committee will hold a hearing and executive session Wednesday on AB 32, a bill to repeal the prevailing wage. The hearing and vote, long stifled by Republican leadership, provides new momentum for conservative legislators looking for taxpayer savings in a tight budget.

“We have a chance to get a real reform done for the taxpayers,” said Jacque in an interview with Charlie Sykes Tuesday morning.

Jerry Bader first reported the news of a public hearing Monday afternoon on his blog at WTAQ, and sources to RightWisconsin quickly confirmed the news.

The public hearing now sets up a standoff in the Republican controlled Assembly.
It is widely known at this point that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has been working overtime to prevent a public hearing in the Labor Committee and a showdown over the repeal of the prevailing wage. With a new hearing and vote called for Wednesday, a full repeal will more than likely pass given that of the six Republican members, five are co-sponsors of AB 32.
Jacque acknowledged to Sykes that he did not have the support of Assembly Speaker Vos.
“I don’t think the Speaker wanted me to have this hearing at this point,” said Jacque. “But this is something that I felt as Chair was important to do.”
Assuming AB 32 passes out of the Labor Committee Wednesday, the pressure will be on Speaker Robin Vos to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in the Republican dominated chamber.
Vos has said that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a full repeal. But Jacque disagreed, saying, “I believe if this bill were to make it to the Assembly floor it would pass.”

I have yet to read a good rationale for the existence of the prevailing wage law as it is, so obviously I support this. The role of government should not include telling businesses what they must pay their employees, first. (Nor should it include telling businesses what they must charge their customers for their products and services.) If government is paying $1 more than it needs to pay for public works projects, government is ripping off the taxpayer.

Independent of the state’s 2015-17 budget, when you consider how we need to upgrade our roads and bridges (according to those who maintain those roads and bridges), the idea that current law that inflates those costs by 20 percent or more doesn’t need to change is, frankly, nuts. The idea that we should pay 20 percent or more beyond what a school project costs because of, again, current law is abuse of the taxpayer.

It’s not clear to me why Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, or Walker (who has been silent so  far), is on the wrong side of this issue. (Too much John Gard influence? Fear that Democrats will say mean things about the GOP?) But Vos is on the wrong side of this issue, and if Walker agrees with Vos, Walker is also on the wrong side of this issue.


It’s about time

The National Motorists Association is happy, because …

Thanks to the efforts of many citizens and public officials, Wisconsin’s maximum speed limit will soon be raised to 70 mph. The new limit will apply to select stretches of interstate highways and freeways throughout the state.

The NMA has supported the increase ever since Manitowoc Assemblyman Paul Tittl took up the fight for higher speed limits two years ago. Rep. Tittl’s initial bill failed to clear the Senate Transportation Committee in 2013. But Rep. Tittl did not give up and proposed a simplified bill this year while redoubling his efforts to garner support. NMA representatives also testified in favor of higher speed limits at four public hearings over the last two legislative terms.

The speed limit increase in Wisconsin is long overdue. All of our neighboring states went to 70 mph years ago, and Wisconsin and Oregon are the only states west of New York with 65 mph maximum speed limits.

But that will change tomorrow when Gov. Walker signs the new speed limit into law.

This was emailed yesterday, which means “tomorrow” is today, although it’s more like as soon as the 70 mph signs go up along Interstates and elsewhere. I guarantee you that Gov. James Doyle or wannabee governors Tom Barrett or Mary Burke would have never signed a speed-limit increase into law.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to all four-lane highways. U.S. 151 from the Wisconsin-Iowa state line to Fond du Lac won’t go to 70 because of the at-grade intersections, the result of farm machinery traveling the same highways as those trying to get, or deliver, from one place to another.

I also think 70 mph is too slow, though 70 is better than 65, and 65 is better than the stupid 55-mph speed limit on non-four-lane highways. (The 55-mph national speed limit should have gotten Richard Nixon impeached before Watergate.)

I support higher speed limits because speed limits usually are set too low under traffic engineers’ 85th-percentile rule, the speed at which 85 percent of traffic on a highway travels. They are also set too low as the result of certain politicians’ desire for more money, whether by hook (taxes) or crook (fees, fines, etc.). Speed limits are analogous to ticketing a driver for blood alcohol concentration higher than legal levels instead of ticketing a driver for drunk driving based on his wandering all over the road and being a danger to other drivers.

There is, you see, only one truly, provably nonrenewable resource: time.


The phony maverick

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D–Wisconsin) is running for the Senate seat he feels he’s entitled to hold until death.

Feingold’s 2010 defeat resulted in primal screams across liberal Wisconsin. (That may be a redundant term.) Feingold’s loss to Republican political neophyte Ron Johnson may or may not have been an upset, but Feingold should not have lost under any circumstances based on his reputation on Wisconsin’s political left side. Unless, of course, it was because voters were smart enough to see the real Feingold, which is not the Feingold Feingold wants you to believe he is.

Indeed, one of the great frauds perpetuated upon the Wisconsin voter is the notion that Feingold is a maverick. In 18 years in the Senate Feingold took one of two positions on any issue: (1) the Democratic position, or (2) a position to the left of the Democratic position (for instance, favoring single-payer health care instead of Hillarycare and ObamaCare). Feingold has apparently never had a conservative thought in his entire life, because he never took a politically conservative vote in his entire U.S. Senate career. If Feingold is the maverick he claims to be, he would have had some non-liberal support because he had taken some non-liberal votes over 18 years. If you are a conservative Wisconsinite, you might as well be dead to Feingold, because he did not represent you and will not represent you should he be elected next year.

One example of this fraud is Feingold’s vaunted listening sessions, in which Feingold traipsed yearly to all 72 counties to hold listening sessions. At a previous employer before the 2010 election I chronicled, based on what online records I was able to find, statements made by either Feingold or attendees of his listening sessions. The number of non-liberal — forget conservative — statements I found? Zero.

Feingold’s crowning achievement, of course, was the McCain–Feingold campaign finance reform bill, found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether liberals like it or not, the Supreme Court is the law of the land until the Supremes change their mind. The lack of respect Feingold appears to have for the Constitution is revealing, though not surprising.

One supposed sign of Feingold’s maverickiness is that he was apparently disliked by his colleagues in Washington. That is not necessarily a bad thing (although the consequences of that are revealed in one more paragraph); his apparent disdain for staffers is a bad thing, because to treat those below you badly is a sign of poor character.

The media loves mavericks because they’re colorful and stories are improved by color. The dirty little secret about mavericks is that all they accomplish in elective bodies is generating media for themselves. Like it or not, politicians have to work with other politicians to get things accomplished in elective bodies.

Feingold’s supposedly courageous vote against the Patriot Act will come up repeatedly in the next year and a half. When you hear someone laud that vote, ask that person: What did that vote cost Feingold? (Nothing, since Wisconsin remains a Democratic-leaning state and Feingold already has the votes of the Blame America First crowd who thinks 9/11 was our own fault.) What did Feingold try to do to improve the Patriot Act? (Well, Russ?) Would Feingold vote for the Patriot Act since Democrats now run Washington instead of those icky Republicans from the 2000s? (Well, Russ?) How does Feingold feel about the Obama administration’s harassing conservatives? (Well, Mr. Civil Liberties?)

Wisconsin voters got rid of one arrogant yet ineffectual senator in 2010, then voted another into office two years later. As appropriate for a career politician from Madison, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisconsin) is utterly, totally dismissive of any political point of view that is not as left-wing as hers, and certainly fails to serve her constituents who don’t share her views. She must have learned that from Feingold.

If you want to go back to the days when Wisconsin had no representation in the U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold is your man.


Madison’s thin blue line

After this …

… Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday he would not charge Madison police officer Matt Kenny for fatally shooting Tony Robinson in the incident captured on police camera.

Ozanne made the correct decision because, among other things, a jury probably would not have convicted Kenny of anything had he been charged and gone to trial. The success rate of prosecutions of police officers shows that juries realize better than politicians and the politically offended that police are indeed the thin blue line between the citizen and the bad guy.

(The Wisconsin State Journal embarrassed itself Tuesday and Wednesday with an absurdly glowing story and editorial about Ozanne and his decision. Ozanne, remember, inserted himself in the Act 10 debate when the Dane County district attorney has no ability or right to intervene in legislative issues. Praising a politician for doing what he should have done is apparently the new State Journal opinion standard.)

To no surprise in Madison, the following happened yesterday, chronicled by WAOW-TV (and thus probably WKOW-TV in Madison, since they have the same owner):

People angry about a prosecutor’s decision not to charge a white Madison police officer for killing an unarmed biracial man have conducted a mock trial of the officer in protest.

About 150 to 200 protesters marched through the streets of Wisconsin’s capital city on Wednesday before gathering outside of the Dane County Courthouse to stage the fake trial.

The crowd cheered when actors said they would charge Officer Matt Kenny in the March killing of 19-year-old Tony Robinson. Members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, which has led protests since the killing, said the demonstration was intended to represent the processes they wished Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne had used.

Because mob justice is apparently superior to the actual criminal justice system in the minds of Young Gifted and Black, defender of a 19-year-old convicted felon who police believed was assaulting people while on hallucinogens. One concludes that had Kenny been killed by Robinson, the protesters would have been fine with that.

And for those who think the protesters were perfectly benign, Media Trackers shows photos the rest of the media didn’t:

The mental illness argument brought up in many police-involved shootings doesn’t hold water. Police will say that mental illness is not adequately dealt with in our society. (Perhaps because government wastes tax money generally; even fiscal non-conservatives should grasp that if government doesn’t spend tax dollars wisely, tax dollars can’t be spent where maybe more spending is needed.)

In the past year I covered the murder of a 79-year-old man killed by someone whose lengthy criminal record was blamed on mental health issues. His victim, however, is as dead as if the murderer was as sane as you or me. Before that there was the man who sexually assaulted his underage neighbor, tried to kill his own family by a bomb, then tried to have killed, then drugs planted in the car of, his soon-to-be ex-wife. His lawyer’s excuse: Depression.

It is possible to support police and question whether we are jailing too many people. To do that requires asking legislators why certain crimes are crimes. (The man shot by New York City police, for instance, apparently committed the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes.) Hillary Clinton is apparently campaigning for president on the issue of undoing her husband’s push to jail people in the 1990s. She needs to explain, however, how letting people out of jail will not increase the crime rate, since it logically appears that the U.S.’ high incarceration rate is linked to decreasing crime rates.

There are two ways to prevent what happened in Madison in March. The first is: Don’t commit crimes. (And regardless of how you feel about taxing cigarettes, theft, armed robbery and beating people are considered crimes by most people.) The dirty little fact about the recent officer-involved shootings in Madison, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere is that in every case I’m aware of, the man shot by police had a substantial previous criminal record. That made him a danger not just to the police officer, but to the public at large.

The second is: Get to know your local police. That’s easier to do in small towns than in big cities, but most police departments in large population or geographic areas have regular patrol areas. You’re better off if the police know you from previous contacts that didn’t involve citations or handcuffs.


The unenthusiastic reformer

Collin Roth notes:

Scott Walker doesn’t lose to unions. He’s the union-busting governor from Wisconsin who survived a recall and now wants to take Right to Work nationwide when he’s elected president in 2016.

That’s all true from 35,000 feet. But on the ground, here in Wisconsin, a band of conservative legislators are trying to take on the unions by themselves without any support from Scott Walker or Republican leadership. And unfortunately, they are struggling.

The prevailing wage, a law that benefits unions and big contractors by artificially setting higher wages for government projects, is in the crosshairs of conservative legislators who see an opportunity to score a win for taxpayers, local governments, school boards, and small contractors who wish to compete on an even plain for government projects.

A vote on repeal in the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform failed Thursday and the next steps for prevailing wage are uncertain. There is a working group that is looking to put a weak reform in the budget, while the 35 co-sponsors in the Assembly are restless and want a public hearing in their chamber.

So where is that notorious union-buster Scott Walker? Shouldn’t he be riding in like a white knight to push for this pro-taxpayer reform?

Nope. Scott Walker is nowhere on this issue. The candidate running for president on ‘big, bold’ reforms won’t stand with conservatives on an important issue like prevailing wage. He’s decided it’s a distraction, not unlike the Right to Work law that he is now cynically using in his stump speeches around the country.

For those who don’t remember, Scott Walker actually urged conservatives in the legislature to avoid Right to Work this session – the same Right to Work law he now champions. …

If he sits tight, unions will see their first victory in Wisconsin in the Scott Walker era. And that victory will come with a cost to the “hardworking taxpayers” Gov. Scott Walker loves to champion.

It is interesting to notice how often the prevailing-wage issue is now coming up. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance estimated that prevailing wage inflated costs of government-funded building projects by up to $300 million. (In fact, there is a municipality considering having its EMS service run by the local hospital. One reason is that the hospital would be able to build an ambulance garage for less than the municipality, because the hospital would not be subject to prevailing wage, but the municipality is. The prevailing-wage issue also has come up in the Bucks arena discussions.) Similar inflation must be the case with road projects, which are a bigger share of what government funds in this state.

The prevailing wage requirement flies in the face of state law, which requires municipalities to select the lowest qualified bidder for projects. The prevailing wage encourages privatizing government services, one of those unintended consequences. There is no reason government should inflate the costs of government services, but that’s what the prevailing wage requirement does. Maybe the prevailing wage makes contractors more profitable, but it does so at the cost of taking more money out of taxpayer pockets in this grossly overtaxed state of ours.

If prevailing-wage repeal gets through the Legislature, it would seem the roadmap is Right to Work, something Walker didn’t favor until it appeared it was going to pass. That also means not listening to former Assembly speaker-turned-lobbyist John Gard, who like all the Republican opponents of prevailing-wage repeal is wrong on this issue.

A Blue Jean that fails to recognize the obvious

I wear blue jeans most days. They seem appropriate for a small-town journalist, particularly since I’m no longer in the business journalism world.

That does not mean the new Blue Jean Nation is for me, though. Bill Lueders reports:

For 15 years, Mike McCabe headed Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the state’s foremost — and feistiest — sentinel of the role of money in politics. He brought equal amounts of anger and optimism to the group’s nonpartisan mission, skewering Democrats and Republicans alike and sounding a clarion call for reform.

“I loved that job,” McCabe says wistfully. “I could have very easily done it for another 15 years.”

But McCabe decided he needed to try a new approach. His 2014 book, Blue Jeans in High Places, calls for the creation of a new political movement for people like himself who feel “politically homeless,” alienated from both major parties.

“I wrote that book as a blueprint,” McCabe says. “Blueprints are worthless unless you use them to build something.”

What McCabe wants to build is not a third party, which he jokes is a lock to come in third. His concept, similar to progressive movements in the past and the tea party movement of recent years, is to create a “first party” — one that demands change from within the existing political structure.

“We are neither elephant nor ass,” McCabe has said, “but we recognize that America has a two-party system and we plan to work within that system to get the parties truly working for all of us and not just a favored few.”

I was trying to remember a time where McCabe criticized Democrats. I can’t, unless it was for criticizing Democrats for taking corporate campaign contributions. McCabe is not a moderate.

But: What is Blue Jean Nation about? Take a look at its “creed” (which strikes me as actually McCabe’s creed, but never mind that):

We are commoners. We realize government is not of the people, by the people and for the people at the present time and we are committed to getting citizens back in the driver’s seat of our government.

We believe both major political parties are failing America. We don’t need three parties. We need at least one that truly works for the people.

We believe the biggest problem facing Wisconsin and all of America today is a political system that caters to a few at the expense of the many. At the root of this problem is political corruption that plagues us with “leaders” who are not free to lead and leaves our country paralyzed when it comes to dealing with the most challenging issues of our time.

So far, so good, except for that part about “the most challenging issues of our time.” Given the number of roadblocks the Founding Fathers put in our political system, what McCabe calls leaving our country “paralyzed” could be said to be a feature, not a bug. The right decisions are supposed to be made by our leaders. The Department of Homeland Security, created in the wake of 9/11, demonstrates that haste often makes waste.

We believe the way politicians seek public office — with fundraising that amounts to legal bribery and with advertising that is routinely misleading and often downright untruthful — is immoral and destructive to civic life. Power sought dishonorably cannot possibly lead to just and honest policymaking or clean and open government.

Many people think Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy were among our best presidents. Truman was a product of the corrupt Boss Tweed political machine. Kennedy was elected president thanks to political chicanery in Illinois and Texas. What does that say when two of our supposed best presidents got their power “dishonorably”?

Independent of McCabe’s non-acknowledgement of the First Amendment, this fails to acknowledge why we have “advertising that is routinely misleading and often downright untruthful.” It’s because it obviously works. Joseph de Maistre said “Every country has the government it deserves,” and that extends probably to every level of government.

To which McCabe replies:

We believe government is necessary to a civil and just society and prosperous economy. But we insist on a limited government — one that is as small as possible and only as big as required to do what society needs done collectively. Government programs that work should be supported and ones that do not should be reformed or ended. Most importantly, what government does must serve the broad public interest and promote the common good, not just benefit those who lavishly fund election campaigns or have high-priced lobbyists advocating on their behalf.

Independent of the contradictory second sentence (about which more momentarily), the United States of America exists because of fundamental mistrust of government. McCabe doesn’t seem to support term limits (the only term limit that would work would be limit of one term), cutting legislator pay (the fact a state legislator makes almost twice as much money as the average Wisconsin family should outrage people), placing strict constitutional limits on spending at every level (which, had that been enacted in the late 1970s, would have given us government half the size we’re stuck with in Wisconsin today), and generally taking power away from politicians. Every political fault we have in this state stems from the fact that legislators make too much money and have too much power. Blue Jean Nation does absolutely nothing about that.

Economic issues are where things start to unravel further:

We believe in hard work and self sufficiency. We also believe in looking out for each other. We agree that it is wise to live within our means and pay for what we get today instead of mortgaging the future and saddling generations to come with our debts. We believe in a free market, not a market manipulated to favor the most politically privileged participants in our economy.

Free market? Not really:

We believe in one-for-all economics – policies ensuring that the fruits of a vibrant economy benefit the whole of society. We are equally committed to rural revitalization and urban renewal. Instead of subsidizing global conglomerates, efforts to stimulate the economy should emphasize community-based small enterprise development, empower local entrepreneurs and cooperatives, and enable us to once again grow together rather than growing apart. We believe supply-side or “trickle down” economic theory has it wrong. Demand, not supply, is the primary driver of economic growth. Feed-the-rich policies have been a miserable failure, never producing more than a trickle for the masses and causing grotesque economic inequality and the slow but steady extermination of the middle class.

That previous paragraph doesn’t match “limited government” at all. Nor does …

We believe we are all in the same boat and will sink or sail together. We believe in waging war on poverty, not poor people. We believe it is everyone’s right to pursue material gain and accumulate wealth, but vigorously object to its use to buy government favors or special treatment.

That last paragraph is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with Blue Jean Nation. There is an incorrect assumption that everything applies, and should apply, equally to everybody — not merely in rights (and we can’t even agree on, for instance, whether abortion rights or rights to same-sex marriage are really rights), but in equality of outcome. The U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights was created to restrict government; it was not created to inspire Karl Marx. There is also a built-in assumption that there is one correct answer for everything that ills us, and it’s only those evil Republicans keeping us away from that Utopia. That is flat out wrong.

You would think someone who has been around politics as long as McCabe has would grasp the simple fact that since the first Congress met politics has been, and remains, a zero-sum game. One side wins; the other loses. The reason things don’t get done today is because we cannot decide the best way to fix what’s wrong. If there were obvious answers, those obvious answers would have become law decades ago.

We believe in aspiring to intelligence, not belittling it. Becoming well educated and learning to think critically should be valued and expected, not feared or obstructed. Education is our best hope for building a better and more prosperous future, and our best weapon against economic and social decline. For our nation’s youth to have a reasonable chance of experiencing the American Dream in the 21st Century, higher education needs to be made as accessible and affordable in the future as primary and secondary education have been in the past.

Hmmm. Two of the most intelligent people I knew were my late father-in-law and my grandmother. Both were graduates of eighth grade. McCabe seems to confuse intelligence with wisdom, and either with education. It was presumably a Ph.D.-holding professor who suggested recently that parents who read to children at bedtime are being unfair to children whose parents don’t.

According to McCabe, “belittling” “intelligence” means daring to question whether the public schools and higher education as currently constructed are really the best way to prepare our children for the 21st century. Elsewhere McCabe touts free college, which also flies in the face of “limited government.” (And free college is a prescription for politicians to get as involved in higher education as politicians now are involved in “free” public education.) McCabe has similar insults directed at those who don’t think spending tens of millions of dollars every year to buy land for no use at all is a wise use of taxpayer money.

It took less than a decade after the founding of our nation for the national political landscape to organize itself into two parties. Other parties have come and gone, and other parties morphed into what we have today, like it or not, the Democrats and Republicans. Even the Wisconsin Progressives ended up mostly in the Democratic Party. That suggests that politics is a binary thing, and it probably is, since every vote that takes place is a yes or no vote. (Unless you’re U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), and you’re allowed to vote “present” with no political repercussions.)

A worthy goal of a non-two-party movement would be to get government out of our lives, and deescalate the political battles that take place in Madison and Washington. Government was never supposed to be, and should not be, as pervasive and invasive as it is today.


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