TWTYTW 2016

As I have been doing for most of the past two decades in one medium or another, I bring you That Was the Year That Was …

… 2016, as strange and unpredictable a year as has existed during my lifetime at least.

Consider this: In three weeks, Donald Trump will be president. Almost no one predicted this, and I question the seriousness of anyone who did. Trump was a major Democratic donor whose positions (depending on the time of day) didn’t really match the GOP mainstream. He won a plurality of GOP primary votes, but trailed basically every day of the race, and made enough gaffes to make one question whether he was trying to sabotage his own campaign. And to a majority of voters in enough states to top 270 electoral votes, it didn’t matter.

That’s because Trump’s voters were, and are, angry with political correctness, being called racist for daring to criticize Barack Obama and sexist for daring to criticize Hillary Clinton, and angry with a political establishment more concerned with staying in office than fixing this country’s problems (if in fact they can be fixed). Black Lives Matter helped elect Trump, and so did for that matter one of the worst major-party presidential candidates of all time in an arrogant, too-smart-for-you campaign that blew off states that Clinton should have won.

Want to know why Trump won? Jon Caldara counts the reasons:

Watching this meltdown, it’s clear the anti-Trumpies aren’t just poor losers. They don’t get that Trump won because, in great part, they had been such poor winners. The hard-edged progressive left just can’t help but do a dance in the public policy end zone. The Trump victory was the ref’s flag for “excessive celebration.”

It’s not that the left won gay marriage (which I support), it’s that they destroyed bakers who, for their religious convictions, wouldn’t bake cakes for the victors.

It’s not that they passed a federal takeover of health care, it’s that they just had to force nuns to pay for birth control sinful to their core beliefs.

It’s not that they imposed massive environmental and energy restrictions, or even that they went around the Constitution to do it by presidential fiat. It’s that they insultingly label those who’ve come to a different conclusion on global warming as “deniers.”

I could go on and on.

Every time I witness another example of how Trump-phobes help Trump, that little thought surfaces and rings like a bell — “And that’s why Trump won.”

It happens so often, I’m launching it as its own hashtag: #ATWTW.

My daughter comes home from school and tells me how the teacher taught how we need raise taxes, and the bell rings, #ATWTW.

I hear reporters and activists talk about the need to “end gun violence” instead of saying what we all know they mean, “gun control,” #ATWTW.

Boulder passes a soda tax, #ATWTW. “Minorities can’t be racist,” #ATWTW. University speech codes, #ATWTW. “There is a consensus on climate change,” #ATWTW. (If there really was a consensus, he wouldn’t have won.)

The media still has no clue they were a driving force for Trump. I’m an avid public radio listener and this year they went into anti-Trump overdrive, completely oblivious to the possibility their sticky-sweet, politically correct story telling was driving people to, not away from, Trump.

How many #ATWTWs do you encounter every day?

Unfortunately, Trump will disappoint conservatives (including his weird bromance with Putin, who is not this country’s friend) even as he terrifies liberals. Trump’s inability to speak (including tweet) before thinking and his, well, mixed work since the election should not make conservatives optimistic at all.

There were accusations the Russians “hacked” the election, explained by Tim Nerenz:

So a Swede living under Ecuadorian asylum in Britain releases a trove of emails which proved a campaign funded by Saudis rigged the Democrat primaries and the Presidential debates with the help of American journalists, while a Hungarian emigrant paid Mexican thugs to assault rival supporters at rallies. This is called “Russian hacking”.

Sorry, I am not mad at the Russians. I am not buying it until I see some evidence – you know, like emails that discuss illegal and unethical violations of law and regulation, maybe a money trail through a bogus front organization, or perhaps a couple dozen classified documents on a pedophile’s laptop would be convincing.

Or how about a statistical analysis of California’s machine count anomalies that show the absurdity of the reported Trump victory….oh, wait, that was Clinton’s win over Sanders in the primary…never mind. We’ll just go with the President’s word on this one: “if you like your Russian hack you can keep your Russian hack…period.” That worked so well for health care.

Putin is the big threat to our Constitutional Republic? Really? Did he fabricate those thousands of duplicate ballots found in the Detroit recount? Did Vlad send all those death threats to electors across the country to scare them off from voting Trump? Why would the Russians want to steal the election away from the sickly globalist whose money laundering Foundation they had already greased for favors and hand it over to the combative America First guy with way too much swag and a fondness for Israel? This makes no sense, but then again, neither did that YouTube video explanation, the last bogus excuse to come from the Clinton camp when she biffed a slam dunk with Arab Spring.

News flash: governments and digital mercenaries have been attempting to hack into every computer and phone in the world every day for the past 15 years – millions of times per day. There is even an Army recruiting commercial on TV that shows our soldiers thwarting the attempts – no need to attend the daily briefing to know the score. Whoever it was that stole the e-mails exposing Democrat corruption and malfeasance were able to do so because of the ignorance, arrogance, gross incompetence, and criminality of five prominent Democrats – Clinton, Aberdin, Podesta, Wasserman-Shultz, and Weiner. I have not seen any of those names on the back of an NHL or Olympic hockey jersey, so I am quite certain they are not Russian. These are Democrats who mucked it up by what they did, not because we found out, and they blame everyone else when it didn’t work – par for the course.

But I have to say that I am quite pleased that those posers are not going to be managing our nation’s secrets and appointing our top national security team. President Obama’s own crack national security apparatus is still unable to determine who hacked the computers of Sony, Department of Defense, Healthcare.gov, and half a dozen central banks around the world and they are the same guys and gals who are unable to unlock an iPhone. But they are suddenly certain about this international election hacking caper, the one where Assange has already identified the leak source who surprise-surprise turned up dead two days later.

President Obama has retaliated by expelling Russian “diplomats” and closing two safe-houses he has allowed to operate for years with impunity. He did not care when espionage was being directed against American interests, and he did not act when the first accusations of electoral manipulation were raised in July and it was Trump who was the suspected victim. In fact, he scoffed at the stupidity of Trump’s people who suggested the election could be manipulated. This is the same President who sent teams of ACORN people and gobs of money to Israel and Canada to hack their elections – and bragged about it.

Obama only got his hackles up when his own personal engagement in the Presidential campaign failed to deliver the black vote to Hillary and his legacy was bruised when she lost. Even Putin sees through the ruse and is not taking the bait. Obama is shamelessly dropping a turd in Trump’s punch bowl and hoping to provoke a confrontation sufficient to wake the anti-war left out of their 8-year partisan coma. We were warned against electing a petty and vindictive narcissist with no experience, but we did it anyway…in 2008.

Less than 39% of the American people believe the President’s claim that Russians hacked the election – rejecting Obama/Clinton for the second month in a row. And that is because more than 61% of Americans are smarter than the liberal Ivy Leaguers in government and media who look down their noses at us with disgust and pity. Our election was not hacked, but our government has been – by partisans, ideologues, unionists, globalists, and a puppet press who have completely disgraced themselves over the past year of pimping for The Her.

Trump’s election means the end of Barack Obama, of whom Courtney Kirchoff writes:

Respectfully, you sir are both the discourteous denizen who deserts dog excrement to be stepped in, and the excrement itself. You may wonder how someone can embody both human and dung forms simultaneously, but then I wonder how a human being with such a deplorable (to borrow Hillary’s expression) character could ever be president. Mysteries both. …

Rather than maintain appearances for the sake of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East, rather than protect America’s friend from the gutter-dwelling gangsters of the UN, instead of allowing the next administration to smoothly transition into international affairs, you visited your favorite manicurist. Drew your twiddling fingers from satin gloves. Offered your digits for a fine polishing. Then flipped both middle fingers to the Jewish state.

Was I surprised? No. For unlike your most fawning admirers, I am not a spinning-wheel bound gerbil, taking news from a self-serving drip bottle. For years I’ve witnessed your reluctance to string both “terrorism” and “Islam” into the same sentence. Even after the Paris terrorist attacks. Then Belgium. San Bernardino. I could go on, but why? You know what moves your frigid heart better than anyone. What pulls at your heart strings is not a small, successful first world democracy amidst the barbaric third world Islamic nations. No, no. What causes you to drop your pompous head in sadness is how an unapologetically Jewish state is outperforming its Islamic neighbors. Both economically and morally. Despite its Muslim neighbors (your pals) actively calling for its destruction.

You cannot bear to see success in any form, much less when that success has been… Jewish. Not when you, an Islamic sympathizer (allegedly?), believes the future does not belong to those who mock Muhammad.

You, Barack Obama, are a sad, pathetic, scrawny little man. That’s more than a potshot against your affinity for denim worn better by matriarchs. I’m targeting your character. It is one thing to harbor a personal animosity toward Israel. It’s one thing to personally believe the Jews are in the wrong. It is an entirely different notion to leverage the Presidency of the United States as a vessel for your seething hatred. That’s crossing a line. A red line. …

Well good riddance, you festering pile of pulsating fecal zits. You are not America’s pride, you’re our embarrassment. Our downfall. Our one small step backward, one giant leap forward for narcissism. You didn’t bring us hope or change. You didn’t create a legacy worth protecting. You ushered in intolerance for people who don’t think as you do. You embodied hatred for those who believed in a God who was not Muhammad. You actively made America, and by extension the world, less safe. You did all of this while touring the globe on America’s generous dime, while enjoying the riches the office of the presidency allowed. An office you used to undermine America’s ally. You did all of this knowingly, purposefully, with a smug countenance better displayed on a barroom dartboard.

May you enter the history books for exactly what you are: the first American President to undermine America at every possible opportunity. Out of spite. Out of pettiness. Out of an angry, massive ego.

The worst trend of the year was the continuing deification of politicians, including Trump, Hillary, Obama, Scott Walker and too many more to list here. They all suck. The ones I vote for may suck less than others. Politicians suck, and government sucks at every level. (As the FUBARed-up street project behind my house that included not linking the house to the new sewer system demonstrated earlier this year.)

The second, and related, worst trend of the year is the inability of people to be civil about politics, which is a direct result of government and politics’ taking far too large a role in our lives. Stupidities such as calling Charlie Sykes a RINO because he didn’t bow down to Trump make you wish that the last prediction of the Apocalypse was accurate.

While Trump tended to gobble up all the attention, the MacIver Institute found 10 undercovered stories this year:

10. Referendum Voters Around the State Increase Their Own Taxes

Our #10 most under-reported story of 2016 is the increase in the number of referendums where voters are increasingly approving local spending increases and essentially raising their own property taxes.

For example, of the 71 referendums on the April 5 ballot, voters approved 55 of them, giving school districts a total of $630.6 million in new spending power. Voters rejected only 16 referendums, a 77 percent passage rate – keeping with recent trends.

A MacIver Institute analysis also found that referendums held during Gov. Walker’s administration have increased in number, decreased in price tag, and have been far more likely to pass.

Legislators were concerned some school districts were up to no good by holding referendums on low turnout elections or placing them on the ballot during consecutive elections until they finally pass. The author of one piece of legislation intended to limit such tactics, Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), considers these to be dirty tricks intended to bypass the will of a majority of voters, particularly if a referendum initially fails.

In the end, assuming these referendums are held in a fair and democratic way, it’s ultimately up to local voters to be informed about the merits of the ballot questions and make the decision they think is best.

9. Republicans Roll Out Ambitious Agenda

When Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans rolled out their Better Way agenda back in June, the smart money in the media was on Hillary Clinton easily defeating Donald Trump in the November election. President Clinton would use her veto pen to stop any Better Way legislation, so what would be the point of giving any ink or airtime to the ideas contained within that agenda?

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, President-elect Donald Trump will take office in January along with an all-GOP Congress. Right now, while everyone seems to be getting along, it’s likely that many of the ideas in the Better Way agenda – including tax reform, health care, the Constitution, the economy, national security, and poverty – will be signed into law by President-elect Donald Trump.

Brush up on the Better Way agenda and see what kind of legislation Congress is likely to put on President Trump’s desk next year.

8. The Left’s War on Free Speech

Receiving scant mainstream media coverage, the left’s ongoing crusade to stamp out free speech continued to grow more fervent in 2016. Democratic attorneys general banded together to intimidate climate change skeptics, including attempting to illegally seize private documents from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Then in July, 19 Senate Democrats took to the floor of the U.S. Senate in a fascist attempt to publicly intimidate and silence groups opposed to their policy positions. In response, the MacIver Institute joined the American Legislative Exchange Council and other groups from around the country in co-signing a letter fiercely defending the fundamental right to free speech of all Americans.

Joe McCarthy would’ve been proud of Senate Democrats for their Putin-like tactics.

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, the effects of the John Doe probe still linger. In that ordeal, conservative activists had their homes raided and possessions seized in an attempt by some in government to use the heavy hand of the law to intimidate their political opponents.

Hopefully 2017 brings a new era of toleration for ideas from all sides of the debate, even the ones liberal-progressive officials don’t agree with.

7. Overtime Rule Threatens to Crush Businesses and Taxpayers

The Obama Department of Labor tried to double the overtime threshold without a single vote of Congress. First you’ve heard of it? You wouldn’t be alone – aside from a handful of fawning headlines praising the change, this major policy change and the undemocratic way the administration tried to implement it went virtually unreported in the mainstream media.

The new rule would have doubled the salary threshold to $47,500. Anyone not earning more than that would have to be paid overtime. It doesn’t take an HR professional to see the real-world impact such a drastic change would have.

It’s a classic one-size-fits-all blanket regulation because it doesn’t consider differences in the cost of living from one region to another. A bag of groceries bought in downtown Mequon does not cost the same as one bought in midtown Manhattan. The rule change was widely opposed by private and public sector employers, and it could’ve cost Wisconsin taxpayers $200 million over two years, according to one estimate.

Fortunately a federal judge in Texas blocked the rule shortly before its December 1 implementation date. It’s also increasingly likely that President-elect Trump will stop the regulation in its tracks, making this yet another part of President Obama’s cherished legacy that will go nowhere.

Future presidents who want to use their phone and pen to bypass Congress and dictate rules and regulations to the entire country should take note.

6. Crime Waves Hit Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s antiquated Unfair Sales Act, also known as the minimum markup law, managed to escape serious scrutiny in 2016. The law makes deep discounts illegal in the Badger State and requires gasoline and other items to be marked up 9.18 percent above cost.

Last year, we warned Wisconsinites about an impending Black Friday crime wave and to be on the lookout for suspiciously low prices. In 2016, multiple crime waves hit Wisconsin once again thanks to the minimum markup law, no doubt keeping the Price Police busy tracking down illegal good deals.

We warned consumers about low prices on Amazon Prime Day (which would be better described as Amazon Crime Day in Wisconsin). We also renewed our unfortunate tradition of warning Black Friday Shoppers that they should be wary of really good deals when doing their Christmas shopping.

We’re hopeful the legislation repealing the minimum markup law will be dusted off and given a long-overdue public hearing in the next legislative session.

5. Obamacare Co-Ops Fall Like Dominoes

While it’s hard to argue that Obamacare itself – notably its sky-high premium and deductible increases – received too little scrutiny, the failures of the health insurance co-ops set up under the (Un)Affordable Care Act were hardly even an afterthought.

That might be because they’re going belly-up so fast it’s hard for the media to keep up. We started 2016 with just half of the original 23 co-ops dragging themselves into the new year. At the dawn of 2017, we’re down to just four after Maryland’s Evergreen Health co-op recently threw in the towel and stopped offering plans.

Among the four is Wisconsin’s Common Ground, which secured secret funding from an undisclosed source to stay alive for a while longer. However, earlier this year we reported on a study that showed Common Ground’s ugly fiscal situation.

When a co-op fails, the consequences are worthy of media attention. Often, tens of thousands of people are kicked off their plan and forced to find new coverage. So much for “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funded financing also went down the drain with the failed co-ops.

4. Milwaukee Public Schools: The Rest of the Story

It seems MPS has a remarkable ability to sweep unsavory stories under the rug.

While the media preferred to report on the public breakdown of the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP) and touted the flowery statements by MPS about their cherry-picked successes, the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering over OSPP went largely uncovered – as did the motives of MPS leadership in successfully stymying the turnaround plan.

From the very outset, the adults running MPS made a circus out of the turnaround plan, finally leading to the resignation of OSPP administrator Demond Means before any progress could be made. In the meantime, the children trapped in failing MPS schools continue to wait for the grown-ups to get their act together and finally tackle the shameful status quo at MPS.

Another under-reported story this year was the groundbreaking report on violence against teachers at MPS by WISN’s Dan O’Donnell. The report, entitled “Blood on the Blackboard,” revealed the shocking stories of teachers who endure violence in the classroom on an almost daily basis. O’Donnell told us the story behind the report here.

Needless to say, the public at large likely remains unaware of the true problems facing MPS thanks to the deafening silence of many in the media.

3. Welfare Reforms Help Wisconsinites Find Work

One of the great success stories of recent conservative reforms was virtually brushed aside this year, so it’s worthy of one more mention as 2016 becomes 2017.

Gov. Walker’s work and training requirements for the FoodShare program went into effect in 2015, and since then they’ve led to increased wages and hours worked for participants in the FoodShare Employment Training (FSET) program. More than 14,400 people found jobs between April 2015 and August 2016.

That positive trend continuedthrough the end of the year as nearly 18,000 people had found jobs, and wages and hours continued to increase over the previous three months.

The success of FSET is a win for taxpayers, but more importantly it’s also a win for the people who are moving off government dependence to independence, a well-paying job, and the dignity that comes with work.

2. Taxpayers Keep Winning, and the Budget Hasn’t Collapsed

For Wisconsin taxpayers, 2016 was a great year, but you might not know it if you rely on your morning newspaper or nightly news report. Not only did we see that the tax burden in Wisconsin has been moving in the right direction, but that the state’s revenues are increasing.

The MacIver Institute reported that over the course of six years and three biennial budgets, a wide variety of changes to Wisconsin tax laws generated total taxpayer savings of $4.756 billion, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

In February, we also released a report highlighting more than $5 billion in taxpayer savings from Act 10 during the five years since the landmark law was enacted in 2011.

Despite the all-too-predicable cries that the billions in tax relief would put government in the poorhouse and destroy any ability to pay for basic services, the sky is still up there and the lights are still on at the Capitol. In fact, the Department of Revenue estimates steady revenue growth over the next biennial budget period – an increase of $343 million in revenue for the 2016-17 fiscal year, a $448 million increase for ’17-’18, and a $482 million increase in ’18-’19.

As has been demonstrated time after time, fiscal responsibility and lowering the tax burden is a recipe for economic revival and financial success.

1. National Debt

Last year, the national debt was our top under-reported story. Just 12 short months ago, the debt was $18.8 trillion, a staggering number. …

The nation will soon cross an ominous threshold: $20 trillion in debt, by far the most debt any country has ever held in the history of the world.

Yet, it seems even many in the conservative media have brushed the debt problem under the rug. Part of President-elect Trump’s stump speech was to spend an additional trillion dollars on infrastructure. It’s not entirely clear how he plans to pay for it. Some of his supporters have said much of the money will be recovered by reforming the tax code, revitalizing the economy, and re-patriating the enormous sums of money American companies have parked overseas.

Without specifics, it should concern Americans if the plan ends up being to put the new spending on the national credit card. However, there is hope. Trump’s plans to lower tax rates, reform the tax code, and pull back on regulations could spark an economic renaissance. Many of his cabinet picks also have the potential to actually reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

It was disheartening to see an entire presidential campaign go by with hardly a mention of the massive weight of the national debt. But we’re cautiously optimistic that the new political landscape will be an opportunity to finally turn the tide on rampant deficit spending by the federal government with a long-term debt reduction plan.

At least 2017 won’t have the damnable election. (Except for the next deluge of elections, such as state Supreme Court and superintendent of public instruction.)

As always, may your 2017 be better than your 2016.

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