Scott Walker and the (insert current number here) Dwarfs

As of this moment, the list from the state Elections Commission of Democrats running for their party’s nomination for governor:

  • Michelle Doolan of Cross Plains. (She reportedly dropped out, though she’s still officially listed as a candidate.)
  • Andrew Lust of Madison. (Don’t know who he is, but maybe he could use Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” as his theme song.)
  • Andy Gronik of Fox Point. (Who, despite running for office for the first time, has mastered the art of answering the question he wants to question instead of the question he’s been asked.)
  • Jefferson Carpenter of Madison.
  • State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D–Alma).
  • Dave Heasler of Fort Atkinson.
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
  • Former state Rep. Brett Hulsey of Middleton.
  • State Rep. Dana Wachs (D–Eau Claire).
  • Jared William Landry of La Farge.
  • Robert Harlow of Madison.
  • Ramona Rose Whiteaker of Stoughton.
  • Jeffrey Rumbaugh of Madison.
  • Mike “Blue Jean Nation” McCabe of Madison.
  • Former state Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn of Milwaukee.
  • Milwaukee firefighters’ union head Mahlon Mitchell, who lives in Fitchburg.
  • State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D–Madison).
  • Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

One would think 17 candidates for one party’s nomination for governor would be enough. But you’d be wrong.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

He has more than $600,000 in his campaign account. The competition is weak and frayed. And the job is one he has long coveted.

Yep, Mayor Tom Barrett is thinking about running for governor.

For a fourth time.

Sources confirmed this week that the fourth-term mayor has been sounding out his team of advisers about entering the Democratic primary for governor later this year. If he runs, he would need to submit his nomination papers by June 1.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Tom’s thinking about it,” said one longtime Barrett confidant. “And people are talking to Tom.”

But not everyone on the left is thrilled with the possibility of another matchup between Barrett and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Walker beat the Milwaukee Democrat in 2010 and 2012. Barrett also lost in the Democratic primary in 2002 to then-Attorney General Jim Doyle.

I’m not surprised “not everyone on the left is thrilled” with Barrett’s running. The Harold Stassen of Wisconsin gubernatorial politics is not only 0 for 3 running for governor, his biggest accomplishment as mayor (beyond getting reelected) is …

… his walking-speed downtown trolley, which has sucked up millions of dollars that could have been used instead to, say, fix lead pipes, or hire more police to deal with Milwaukee’s worst-in-the-state crime, violent crime and homicide rates.

Barrett is also the mayor of the city with one of the worst school systems in the nation. Mayors in Wisconsin don’t control schools, but Barrett could have sought mayoral control of Milwaukee Public Schools, and the Legislature would have given him that authority yesterday.

If he runs, Barrett will not be candidate number 18. That honor, if that’s what you want to call it, belongs to …

Dem Gubernatorial candidate Mike Crute, Crute for Wisconsin, has released his campaign launch video today, “We’re All Badgers”.  Crute describes his Wisconsin story, and explains why politics has become so personal for him.  Crute offers a bold new choice for Wisconsinites – good governance.  

Crute is a successful entrepreneur, voted Shepard Express-Milwaukee’s Best Local Entrepreneur 2017 for his launch of Resistance Radio, WRRD 1510 AM Waukesha/Milwaukee.  

Crute has also successfully owned/operated CCL Management in Middleton for a decade. 

Crute has personally invested and collateralized $1,000,000, inclusive of SBA financing, in providing a platform for independent political talk radio.

Crute also contracts the right to simulcast all programming on WTTN 1580 AM Columbus/Madison, with combined signals covering 2/3 of the Democratic voters in Wisconsin.

Crute is an honorably discharged veteran of the Army National Guard, having joined the military eight days after Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Crute served as a Medical Specialist/91 – a “combat medic”, earning his civilian EMT certification.  No overseas tours.

Crute has been co-host of The Devil’s Advocates, a Wisconsin-centric, dynamic political talk show known for its humor and bi-partisan guest list.  Friends of the show span the political spectrum from Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin to Republican Senator Ron Johnson. …

“As a businessman on Main Street, we don’t ask if our customers and clients are Democratic or Republican, we do business as neighbors.  It is time to end the dividing and conquering of Wisconsin. 

We’re All Badgers, let’s start acting like it,” Crute says.

That news release strikes one as more an advertisement for his radio station than for actually standing for something. I would be interested in knowing what his definition is of “good governance”  is (let’s see — sharply increasing taxes and regulation, collective bargaining and strike rights for government employees, and imprisonment of all conservatives — that sounds about right for him), but the question is whether or not he will get more votes than his radio station’s frequency number. (1510.)

Maybe Crute deserves 1 percent more respect than the 17 other candidates since he’s in business. On the other hand, he’s in the liberal media business (as someone on Facebook put it, because he must have enough money to waste it), so never mind that. That would also assume that Mary Burke should have gotten more respect four years ago. She got the respect she deserved — none.

 

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Happy (?) Tax Freedom Day

The Tax Foundation bullet-points:

  • This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 19, 109 days into 2018.
  • Tax Freedom Day will be three days earlier than it was in 2017, in large part due to the recent federal tax law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which significantly lowered federal individual and corporate income taxes.
  • In 2018, Americans will pay $3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.8 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of $5.2 trillion, or 30 percent of the nation’s income.
  • Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2018 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
  • If you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur 17 days later, on May 6th.

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2018, Americans will pay $3.39 trillion in federal taxes and $1.80 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $5.19 trillion, or 30 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 19th, 109 days into 2018.

What Taxes Do We Pay?

This year, Americans again will work the longest to pay federal, state, and local individual income taxes (44 days). Payroll taxes will take 26 days to pay, followed by sales and excise taxes (15 days), corporate income taxes (seven days), and property taxes (11 days). The remaining six days are spent paying estate and inheritance taxes, customs duties, and other taxes.

Speaking of state taxes, here is a remarkable statistic:

Wisconsin’s Tax Freedom Day and the nation’s are both today. That means that, wonder of wonders, Wisconsin’s tax burden, which is 34th lowest (or, more pertinently, 17th highest) in the U.S., is average compared with other states. I’m not sure that has ever been the case before now.

This blog follows Tax Freedom Day every year — April 12, 2010, April 16, 2011, April 21, 2012, April 20, 2013, April 22, 2014, April 25, 2015, April 27, 2016, and April 27, 2017. The first seven years were under Democratic presidents, and Democrats raise taxes as often as the sun rises in the east.

The Tax Foundation adds:

In the denominator, we count every dollar that is officially part of net national income according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the numerator, we count every payment to the government that is officially considered a tax. Taxes at all levels of government – federal, state, and local – are included in the calculation. In calculating Tax Freedom Day for each state, we look at taxes borne by residents of that state, whether paid to the federal government, their own state or local governments, or governments of other states. Where possible, we allocate tax burdens to each taxpayer’s state of residence. Leap days are excluded, to allow comparison across years, and any fraction of a day is rounded up to the next calendar day.

For 2018, the methodology for calculating each state’s Tax Freedom Day has been updated significantly. As a result, the date of Tax Freedom Day for each state in 2018 is not strictly comparable to the date of Tax Freedom Day for states in previous years. In addition, calculations of the date of Tax Freedom Day for states in 2018 may not take full account of the secondary effects of the recently passed federal tax bill on state and local tax collections.

It would be nice if the Tax Foundation would go back and compute past Tax Freedom Days under this new formula so we could in fact compare. However measured, this is too late, of course. It would be nice if Tax Freedom Day was Jan. 1, because government at every level either wastes or abuses your tax dollars 100 percent of the time. (And sometimes both.) I have lived in several different places in this state, with Democratic and Republican governors and legislatures, and I have never once felt as though my tax dollars are being spent wisely. (Paying high taxes so that people paid by my salary get better benefits than I do for less than I pay is both a waste and abuse of my tax money.)

A reasonable goal for Tax Freedom Day, however, in these flawed times would be March 31. (Not because of the anniversary of this blog.) There have been polls for decades that have asked people how much of their income they should pay in taxes. The consistent answer has been 25 percent. Notice that we haven’t been at 25 percent — a Tax Freedom Day of March 31 — since the mid-1950s.

Stay classy, Democrats

Christian Schneider:

In May of 2010, long-standing Wisconsin Congressman David Obey announced his retirement from the House of Representatives. Obey had first been elected in 1969, nearly a year before then up-and-coming Republican Congressman Paul Ryan was born. And even though Obey frequently criticized Ryan’s policies, Ryan issued a statement praising the stalwart Democrat for his service.

“David and I have had our policy disagreements over the years,” said Ryan, “but he has always had my respect.” Ryan noted that Obey had “served Wisconsin and served this country honorably,” and wished him the best.

It was not a courtesy always extended to Ryan when the now-Speaker of the House announced on Wednesday that he would not be seeking re-election. Shortly after the announcement, Democratic Madison-area Congressman Mark Pocan took to Twitter to post a single enthusiastic smiley face emoji, before posting an op-ed that accused Ryan of overseeing the Republican Party’s “moral demise.”

On Instagram, Democratic State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison posted a snarky video of herself gleefully waving goodbye to a cardboard cutout of Ryan. On Twitter, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — a former congressman himself — used Ryan’s retirement to take a swipe at  Republican Gov. Scott Walker. “If Paul Ryan is stepping down because he can’t defend his policy decisions to voters,” Barrett said, “perhaps Scott Walker should consider that too.” (Of course, Barrett tried to keep Walker from the governor’s office twice, and lost both times.)

And these were just the responsible people. In The New York Times, a Paul Krugman column accused Ryan of being complicit in supporting “fascism” by working with President Donald Trump. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin offered “Three ways that Paul Ryan could recover his soul.” Randy Bryce, a Democratic candidate for Ryan’s former seat who goes by the moniker “Iron Stache,” ludicrously suggested it was the robustness of his facial hair that drove Ryan from the race.

This is a surprising level of grave-dancing from a party that just a year ago lost a presidential race to one of the most absurd candidates to ever run for the nation’s highest office. (And yes, the same could be said of the GOP, but they are not setting off fireworks over Ryan’s retirement.)

What is clearly evident is that even the basic mores of political decency are melting away, leaving us engaged in ideological war all the time. There’s no doubt that Donald Trump has a great deal to do with this change: “Magnanimity” is not a word synonymous with a man who took to Twitter just this Friday to once again label the woman he beat 16 months ago “Crooked Hillary.”

And it is Trump who has tarnished Ryan’s legacy as a man of dignity and principle, who suffered unspeakable abuse while never responding in kind.

Yet people forget that Trump happened in spite of Ryan, not because of him. And yes, while many conservatives took issue with Ryan’s eventual endorsement of Trump during the campaign, what exactly was Ryan supposed to do once Trump assumed office? Refuse to work with the president in passing legislation because of whatever fleeting offense Trump may have given that week? Should Ryan just have shut Congress down until the president decided to behave, or should he have continued trying to do the work demanded of him by his constituents and the voters that elected his members to Congress?

If anything, the undignified reaction on the left to Ryan’s retirement should provide a silver lining for Republicans, who look to be in for a difficult slate of November elections. As the union protests of 2011 demonstrated in Wisconsin, there is no anodyne issue to which progressives won’t ludicrously overreact. Just as their overreach seven years ago drove more Republicans into elected office in the state, so too can their histrionics in 2018. “Overplaying your hand” appears to be both the first and last chapter in the Democratic playbook.

Just three weeks ago, Ryan held a ceremony on the House floor to commemorate U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) becoming the longest-serving woman in the history of the House of Representatives. Following his gracious speech, Ryan briefly hugged Kaptur and his long-time nemesis, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It was a moment of dignity between political rivals that is becoming all too rare.

Evidently, we live in an era where some elected officials can’t be respectful even for a moment. Unless we can all grow up a little, America needs a more representative symbol than the bald eagle. Given the current quality of our members of Congress, perhaps a sad-face emoji will do.

What’s the biggest thing in Republicans’ favor? Democrats.

 

The soon-to-be former speaker

Jonah Goldberg:

In a normal time, the announcement that the Republican speaker of the House is retiring to spend more time with his family — after just a few years on the job — at a moment when Republicans control the federal government and have more officeholders nationwide than at any time in almost a century and the economy is roaring would be almost unimaginable. But that news is already starting to feel like one of those mildly interesting things that happened last week, like when you find a lone curly fry in your bag of normal fries.

As a general proposition, I don’t like getting to know politicians. The list of reasons why is too long to lay out in its entirety here. But some of the top reasons include:

Most politicians are actually pretty boring. Maybe they’re not boring with constituents and their friends, or when they’re tying women to bed posts, but around pundit types, they often tend to be so cautious and untrusting (I wonder why!) that normal conversations outside of sports (which I am hardly fluent in) often become awkward and, sometimes, painful.

Many are conniving and needy. I’m always amazed by how many House members remind me of characters from Glengarry Glen Ross. They may not be constantly begging for the good leads, but they’re always looking to make a sale, work an angle, or get some advantage. Many older Republicans love to complain, like Jack Lemmon’s Shelley Levene over a cup of cold coffee, that they’re never given the respect they’re due from conservative journalists. The senators are often Stepford Politicians. You can almost hear the gears grinding inside their skulls as they try to figure out how the biped in front of their Ocular Sensors could be useful, or detrimental, to their future presidential run. Again, this may not be how they are with normal people. It might just be how they treat people in my line of work, particularly if they don’t know them. Lions don’t make friends with hyenas and all that.

Very few of them are intellectually interesting. I have no idea what the numbers are — but it seems to me that very few politicians are really interested in ideas, save when tactics, marketing ploys, and stratagems can be gussied up as ideas. This doesn’t mean they’re not smart — or, at least, cunning — but for both good and ill, politics doesn’t reward being able to talk about de Tocqueville nearly as much as it rewards being able to remember the first names of every car-dealership mogul and union honcho in your district.

There are exceptions to all of these things, of course. Mike Gallagher is a really interesting and fun congressman. Kevin McCarthy isn’t an intellectual as far as I can tell, but he comes across as the kind of guy you’d want to go to Vegas with. Ben Sasse — my occasional podcast victim — is the rare exception to all of these observations. I’m not sure he’d be a good Vegas wingman (he’d probably be constantly asking the pit boss about casino metrics of something or other), but he’s almost surely the most intellectually engaging senator since Pat Moynihan.

All that said, the most important reason I try to avoid getting to know politicians is that friendship is a burden.

Because I haven’t bought that pill whose main ingredient was originally found in jellyfish, I can’t remember if I’ve written this before, but I bring this up all the time in speeches. My policy towards politicians is similar to that of research scientists towards their lab animals: You don’t want to get too attached, because you might have to stick the needle in deep one day.

It’s much easier to jab Test Subject 37B than it is to stab Mr. Whiskers.

Similarly, it’s easier to give politicians a hard time if you don’t feel any personal loyalty to them. As I’ve long argued, friendship can be far more corrupting than money (if a friend asked me to write a column on their book, I’d sincerely consider it. If a stranger offered me cash to write about it, I’d show him the anterior side of the digit between my index and ring fingers).

And that brings me to Paul Ryan.

I’ll admit upfront: I like Paul Ryan, personally. I’ve known him a bit for years. No, we’re not buddies. I’ve never gone bow-hunting with him or eaten a single cheese curd in his presence (a bonding ritual in his native lands). But even before I met him, I felt I knew and understood him better than most politicians. I started in D.C. as a larval think tanker, and so did Ryan. We’re about the same age (I know, I know: I look so much younger — and healthier) and share a lot of the same intellectual and political lodestars. There was a time when Jack Kemp was my Dashboard Saint, too.

I’ll spare you all the punditry about Ryan’s retirement (I’ll simply say ditto about Dan McLaughlin, Jim Geraghty, and John Podhoretz’s takes). I think he’s telling the truth about wanting to be with his family. But I also think, if we were on Earth-2 and President Mitch Daniels were in office and Republicans were enjoying the luxury of a boring and mature presidency that was tackling head-on the Sweet Fiscal Crisis of Death coming our way, the pull of Ryan’s family might not have been nearly so acute.

Again, I’m biased. But as a general rule, whether you’re on the right or the left, if you personally hate Paul Ryan, that’s an indicator to me that you’re an unreasonable person. Sure, you can disagree with him. You can be disappointed in him. But if you buy the claptrap from the Krugmanite Left or the Bannonite Right about Ryan, if you think he’s evil or a fraud, I’m going to assume you’re part of the problem in our politics.

As Jonathan Last and Michael Warren pointed out on a Weekly Standard podcast, the hatred aimed at Ryan, and also people like Marco Rubio, from the Left stems from the fact that Ryan and Rubio defy the strawman the Left so desperately wants to have as an enemy. How dare they be thoughtful and compassionate! How dare they be young and attractive! By what right do they make serious arguments for conservative policies! To paraphrase Steve Martin in The Jerk, they listen to their serious responses to journalists’ questions, and scream at the Maître d’, “This isn’t what we ordered! Now bring me those toasted cheesy gaffes you talked us out of!”

Beyond the brass-tacks punditry on the significance of Ryan’s retirement — what this means for the midterms, etc. — there is a deeper historical and political significance. I’ve been saying for a couple years now that conservatism, stripped of prudential, traditional, and dogmatic adornment, boils down to simply two things: The idea that character matters and the idea that ideas matter. Stripped of the compromises Ryan made and the decisions he was forced into, Ryan’s career boils down to modeling these two things. He is a man of deeply decent character, and he’s a man that cares deeply about the importance of ideas. Did he fall short of the ideal? Of course. Who hasn’t?

There’s a reason Bill Rusher’s favorite psalm was, “Put not your faith in princes.”

Politicians are flawed not only because of the incentive structure that is inherent to their jobs but also because, to borrow a phrase from social science, they’re people.

(Pat Moynihan had his flaws. You could set up a bowling alley using his weekly allotment of wine bottles as the pins. He wrote like a liberal-leaning neocon intellectual, but he voted like a ward-heeling Irish politician.)

The fact that Paul Ryan was a man out of place in his own party says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the man. Consider this week alone:

A president who cheated on his first wife with his second and “allegedly” cheated on his third with a porn star is tweeting that Jim Comey is a “slimeball.”The president’s personal PR team over at Hannity HQ is calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family.The CBO just announced that we’re in store for trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.The president is tweeting taunts about how his missiles are shinier toys than Putin’s.The president’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a once passionate and thoughtful defender of Congress’s sole right to authorize war, is now invoking law-review articles as justification for a president’s right to wage war on a whim.The president’s lawyer’s office was raided by the FBI (not Bob Mueller’s team, by the way) after getting a warrant from a judge and following all of the onerous protocols of the Justice Department, and the former speaker of the House — and avowed historian — is insisting that the Cohen and Manafort raids are morally equivalent to the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the Gestapo didn’t have “clean teams” to protect attorney-client privilege (particularly of dudes named “Cohen”), and last I checked the KGB wasn’t big on warrants.On Monday evening, the president convened a televised war council and spent the first ten minutes sputtering about how outraged he was by an inquiry into a pay-off of his porn-star paramour.And people are shocked that Paul Ryan isn’t comfortable in Washington?

Steve Hayes is right that Ryan was “always more a creature of the conservative movement than of GOP politics. His departure punctuates the eclipse of that movement within the party.”

The GOP will never be the same. We’ve known this instinctively for a while. But Ryan’s departure removes all doubt. He was too good for the job — and the party.

The Second Amendment in Madison

WMTV in Madison reports:

Organizers of a pro-gun rights rally scheduled for Saturday say many supporters plan on legally and openly carrying guns. The rally is happening on the same day as the first Dane County Farmers’ market of the season.

The rally is being organized by the local chapter of The National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans.

“We want to celebrate our right to bear arms and we kind of like want to be an outreached hand to the community. We don’t want to be intimidating in any way,” said Thomas Leager, National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans Wisconsin organizer.

Leager said a few hundred people are expected to attend, many of them openly carrying a gun. It is legal to openly carry a gun on the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds.

“It’s just one of the things that we want to celebrate our rights and kind of help inform the public,” Leager said.

Some farmers’ market vendors are concerned about how the rally could impact safety and business.

Jennifer Patrello, a manager at Stella’s Bakery said they will not be at the market this weekend because of the weather, but she said she is worried the guns could turn shoppers away and negativity impact business for vendors.

“We believe that everyone in our group is intelligent and knows how to carry a gun responsibly,” Leager said.

Organizers of the event say they’re working with Capitol Police. The rally is set to start at 1 p.m. Capitol Police and the Madison Police will be monitoring the event.

The organizer of the farmers’ market said they do not have an opinion on the rally. She said shoppers who don’t want to be around the protest are encouraged to get to the market early. It opens at 6:15 a.m.

Those last two sentences prompted James Wigderson to comment:

There is a gun rights rally scheduled for Madison [today] for 1:00 PM. WMTV says families who want to attend the farmer’s market without being around people lawfully carrying guns should get there early. We’re looking forward to WMTV’s future warnings to families who want to avoid obscene signs at leftwing rallies at our state capitol.

After Ryan

From the category of surprising-but-not-surprising news, James Wigderson reports:

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced [Wednesday] that he is not running for re-election. Ryan began his remarks by saying that when you become Speaker of the House, you realize that it’s only for a short period in the nation’s history.

“You all know that I did not seek this job,” Ryan said. “I took it reluctantly, but I have given it everything that I have, and I have no regrets whatsoever about accepting this responsibility.”

Saying that the job of Speaker is all-time consuming, Ryan said that it interfered with his family obligations.

“That’s why today I am announcing that this year will be my last one as a member of the House,” Ryan said. “To be clear, I am not resigning. I will serve my full term as I was elected to do.”

In his remarks, Ryan talked about the effect of serving as the Republican leader for another term would have on his family.

“What I realize is, if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad,” Ryan said. “I just can’t let that happen.”

During the 2016 race for president, Ryan’s name was frequently mentioned as a possible candidate to unite the Republican Party. However, Ryan declined to run and often cited his young family as a reason.

In his remarks, Ryan said the two biggest achievements of his time as Speaker of the House were tax reform and re-building the nation’s military. “These I see as lasting victories that will make our country more prosperous and more secure for decades to come,” Ryan said.

Ryan also thanked the voters in Wisconsin for electing him to the House of Representatives.

“I also want to thank the people of southern Wisconsin for placing their trust in me as their representative for the last 20 years,” Ryan said. “I have tried to bring as much Wisconsin to Washington as I can in that time. It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a journey well worth taking to be able to do my part to strengthen the American Idea.”

Ryan was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, replacing former Congressman Mark Neumann. In October 2015, Ryan replaced Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. Ryan was a reluctant candidate for the position, but was chosen by his colleagues as a compromise between the moderate ahd hardline factions.

Ryan’s departure means Wisconsin Republicans find themselves defending an open congressional seat that already has one well-funded Democrat, Randy Bryce, running, as well as another candidate, teacher and school board member Cathy Myers.

Now speculation will begin on both sides about candidates jumping into the race, with Republicans needing to recruit a solid candidate to hold the seat. State Sen. Van Wanggard (R-Racine) has already announced he is not running, according to Jay Weber on WISN. Possible candidates include Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Burlington), state Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), Assembly Speaker Pro-Tem Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva), Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) and former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Another possible candidate is Bryan Steil, a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.

Vos issued a statement today on Ryan’s retirement that did not mention a potential run. “Paul has been perhaps the best congressman Wisconsin has ever sent to Washington and also one of the best speakers to have gaveled Congress into session,” Vos said. “His commitment to serving the people of Wisconsin and the United States is unparalleled.”

“I am happy for my friend and his family, but sad for the 1st Congressional District and our country because men like him don’t come around often,” Vos said.

More prominent Democrats may enter the race as well. Former Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) represented the district in the House of Representatives after winning a special election to succeed Congressman Les Aspin when he became the Defense Secretary for President Bill Clinton.

Nationally, Ryan’s departure signals Republicans are not likely to hold onto control of the House of Representatives after this November’s elections. Other congressional retirements could be expected as a result.

As a member of Congress and when he ran for Vice President on the Republican ticket with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012, Ryan was an advocate for bringing entitlement spending under control. With his departure, neither party has a prominent leader on that issue.

This is, first, not good news for Wisconsin at all. The only Wisconsinites with as much power over national politics that come to mind are former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird and, in non-positive ways, U.S. Sens. Joe McCarthy and “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Whether you like it or not, Congress is driven by (1) seniority and (2) the majority party in the House. Wisconsin’s next senior representative is U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–La Crosse), who looks moderate only compared with the other two Wisconsin Democrats, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D–Black Earth) and Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). Does anyone think Kind, Pocan or Moore represent the interests of Wisconsin Republicans? How about the last Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi?

The high-fives of those who view Ryan as a Republican In Name Only are, frankly, stupid. (For instance: Republicans support free trade; RINOs, including Trump, favor stupid trade wars.) It is not Ryan’s fault that legislation that passed the House of Representatives fails to get considered in the Senate due to its cloture rules or the lack of leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (And some legislation dies on its merits.) Republicans have been complaining about the House speaker since 1994, when they got control of the House. The speaker may be first in line to the presidency, but House speakers have to lead more than propose.

Facebook Friend Louis D’Alfabeto says to Ryan and then to his supposedly conservative detractors …

In an alternate and better universe, you’re halfway through your second term as VP and preparing to run for the White House – and our policy discourse is the better for it.

Those who purport to be conservatives spewing negativity right now can spare us your lack of critical thinking and reasoning skills. You’re clueless as to how the game is played, mere infants throwing tantrums because you can’t have the impossible, completely ignorant that “politics is the art of the possible…”

… which prompted this response from Facebook Friend Tim Nerenz:

I could probably stand on pure libertarian principle with the best of them, and I bet Ryan could too if that were his wont. I don’t know him well, but I have done a couple things with him and heard him in some thoughtful forums. He is a) one of the highest quality human beings in politics, and b) the smartest person in the room, you pick the room. He knows the both economics and the pragmatics down dead cold and should have stayed as committee chair where he could maneuver budget and economic policy legislation – what he knows and does best. People who expect Republicans to be Libertarians are pissing at windmills – Ron Paul was the RINO, Rand Paul is the RINO, Donald Trump is the RINO. Paul Ryan is center-cut, straight out of central casting Republican. I think the GOP missed a YUGE opportunity to write their script with Trump in the white house to sign whatever came out of the sausage grinder on the Hill – I wouldn’t have taken a lunch break, let alone all the recesses and retreats over the past year. But to the Ryan-haters, the simple question is who’s next. Ryan got the Speaker’s job because Boehner was a mess and there was nobody else to take it. He never wanted it. There is still nobody else. It’s not my party and so I don’t care all that much, but seriously, who is the GOP going to turn to as Speaker and face of the Party now? Lou – you probably know.

Readers know what I think of 2012 Barack Obama voters, and there is literally no possible comparison between Romney’s character and Donald Trump’s character, such as that is. The only thing people know about Mike Pence is that he’s not president, but he might be president if the fevered dreams of Democrats come true.

I recall being on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week in Review when Ryan chaired the House Ways and Means Committee and was saying he wasn’t interested in becoming speaker. When asked who should, I didn’t say Ryan, I said U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R–Michigan), who is about as libertarian as it gets in Congress for someone whose last name is not Paul. For Amash to become the next speaker (assuming he’s even interested, and given Ryan’s term as speaker maybe he shouldn’t be) requires the GOP’s winning the House, which isn’t looking good now, though in these turbulent political times much can happen between now and Nov. 6.

Pelosi has already vowed to undo the tax cut passed earlier this year. House Democrats have proposed, with the support of Pocan and Moore, banning all semi-automatic weapons. If you seriously think that’s better than Ryan as Speaker of the House, for all Ryan’s faults, you’re not a conservative.

 

Democrats’ hate speech, aka Walker Derangement Syndrome

The Associated Press reports the latest Democrat verbal diarrhea:

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is accusing Democrats of being driven by “anger and hatred,” a line of attack the two-term incumbent began emphasizing last week that his opponents say more accurately reflects the tactics of President Donald Trump.

Walker, who is up for a third term in November, made the charge against Democrats on Twitter the night a liberal-backed candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court trounced her conservative opponent. Walker has repeated it many times in the week since, as he also sounds an alarm about Wisconsin being hit by a “blue wave” in November.

“Their rhetoric is increasingly not just liberal, but filled with hatred and anger towards me, towards the president, towards Republicans in general,” Walker said on the “Fox and Friends” show broadcast nationwide Monday.

Democrats said the new line of attack is desperate.

“For all his boasting about being unintimidated, it is clear Scott Walker is panicked, and he should be,” said Mahlon Mitchell, one of more than a dozen Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Walker said Democrats running against him were once “mild-mannered, low-key people” but “to win that primary they’re going to have to show that they can match the rhetoric of hate and anger.”

When asked for specific examples of what Walker was referring to, the Wisconsin Republican Party pointed to a January story in the Hudson Star-Observer newspaper in River Falls, Wis., where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers called Walker an “idiot” for rejecting federal Medicaid matching funds.

The state GOP also mentioned a radio interview where challenger Matt Flynn called Walker “too stupid to be governor.” The party also produced a sampling of profane comments posted on Twitter in reaction to Walker that came from random people, not Democratic candidates for office.

Walker has long been the subject of vitriol from some political opponents after he effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers shortly after taking office in 2011. That anger fueled the ultimately failed attempt to recall him in 2012.

But Democrats running against Walker this year reject the claim they’re fueled by hate and anger, and say Walker’s accusation ignores Trump’s behavior.

“Hate and anger — he must be reading the president’s 3 a.m. tweets!” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Gronik.

Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate — state Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire — called Walker’s claims “ridiculous and disingenuous.” Wachs said Walker and Republicans “accuse Democrats of being hateful while practicing the politics of hate — it’s classic smoke and mirrors.” …

Walker is urging Republicans to spread an optimistic and positive message, something Democrats say their own candidates and party are already doing.

“We reject the politics of anger, hatred, and division that have turned neighbor against neighbor over the past eight years,” said candidate Kelda Roys.

Mike McCabe, a longtime political activist, said his campaign isn’t even focused on criticizing Walker.

“I challenge anyone to find anger and hate in what I say as I’m traveling the state or in any of our campaign videos,” McCabe said. “We have to focus on what we love, not what we hate. We have to focus on what we’re for, not what we’re against. I say that everywhere I go.”

McCabe’s comments notwithstanding, I suppose, none of the Democrats quoted here would dare say any of this to Walker’s own face, or the face of anyone who could provide physical repercussions for their verbal hatred. That, of course, is a major reason why social media has become such a cancer on our society — people feel perfectly free to write things they would never say to someone in person. (Or say things to reporters they’d never say to someone close enough to respond with a punch to the face.)

Well, two can play that game. The 1988 Democratic presidential field was known derisively as the Seven Dwarfs. This year’s Democratic gubernatorial field could well be called the 17 Dwarfs, or whatever number of Democrats have decided to run for reasons known only to themselves. Comrade Soglin persists under the delusion that the People’s Republic of Madison’s Mayor for Life has created Madison’s prosperity instead of having the state capital and a world-class university there, neither of which Soglin has anything to do with. Tony Evers keeps sending out news releases announcing himself as “State Superintendent,” as if he has more power than he actually as. I wonder why a successful business person (Gronik, according to himself) would run for office. I wonder why a former political party head (Flynn) who has never been elected to public office thinks he’s qualified to be governor. For that matter, on what planet is a firefighter union head qualified to run anything other than a public employee union? Who is Wachs? Who is Roys?

There is a difference between them and me. I would say exactly what I wrote one paragraph ago to their faces if they had the guts to show up. As you know, I hate politicians. I hate the politicians I vote for slightly less than the politicians I oppose.

Yesterday I posted the opinion that one reason why most school referenda passed April 3 was because the state had finally corraled, in the opinion of voters, sky-high school property taxes. The comment a regular reader made it appear that he believes that the responsibility of taxpayers is to (1) provide schools with as much money as they want and teachers unlimited autonomy and then (2) shut up. That, of course, is not how it works. Any government service gets the money and authority the Legislature authorizes, and not one cent more.

The thing voters who voted for Walker in 2010, 2012 and 2016 should remember is these and other Democratic dirtbags are not merely insulting Walker — they are personally insulting everyone who voted for Walker. (In the same way that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats continue to insult people who voted for Trump in 2016.) That seems like a strange way to attract voters to yourself, unless their interest, beyond demonstrating their low character, is to wind up Democratic-leaning voters. That says a lot about Democratic-leaning voters.

Libertarians will point out, correctly, that this is the logical result of government that has grown far too large and taxes and controls too much, which has led to increasing the stakes in elections, made the zero-sum-game aspect of politics far worse, and thus requires winning at all costs.

I continue to read these comments from Democrats, both nationally and in this state, and conclude that Democrats’ number one goal is to exact revenge on Republicans following the Nov. 6 elections. I also wonder how in the world we haven’t had assassinations of politicians and/or their supporters in this country and this state in this decade. Yet.

 

A fiscal responsibility feature, not a bug

The MacIver Institute follows up on the April 3 election:

Voters across the state agreed to raise taxes by $563 million during Tuesday’s spring election. Of a proposed $667 million overall tax hike, the vast majority – 84 percent – were approved.

A data release from the Wheeler Report compiled the results of the 66 referendum votes. Fifty school districts came to voters asking for more money for various projects, including the construction of brand new schools, building repairs, operations, staff raises, and other expenses. On Tuesday, voters approved tax hikes in 43 school districts.

The majority of tax increases approved Tuesday came in the form of new debt. Twenty-two districts will issue new debt or bonds totaling $438.7 million – 82 percent of the proposed new debt put before voters.

School districts have state-imposed revenue limits that protect Wisconsinites from constantly-increasing property taxes. However, districts can still ask voters for more by coming to them with referenda during regularly-scheduled primary and general elections.

In the past, districts could propose referenda during special elections and could repeatedly propose the same project in consecutive elections. Gov. Scott Walker and the state Legislature have shared a commitment to lowering property tax burdens, spurring referendum reforms to ensure more voters have a say in matters of large tax hikes.

The largest increase in any one district is in Chippewa Falls School District, which will issue $65 million in debt to build a new elementary school, update the middle school and add a new laboratory onto the high school. The district plans to pay off the debt over 20 years.

Residents of that district will see a $1.25 property tax increase for every $1,000 of total tax assessed value on their home. The owner of a property valued at $200,000 will see a $250 per-year tax increase.

After Chippewa Falls, the next largest new debt will be issued by DC Everest Area, where voters approved $59,875,000 in debt for a school building and improvement program.

River Falls voters approved two separate asks – one bond for $45,860,000, and another for $2,100,000 – totaling just under $48 million in debt. The larger bond will fund various upgrades and renovations in school buildings, while the $2 million bond will pay for new turf, outdoor lighting, and parking. Area taxpayers will pay off those bonds for the next 19 years, through 2037.

Sixteen school districts offered multiple referenda, splitting their “asks” into two questions. Of the 16, voters in just one district, Kiel Area, approved one while denying the other, showing that relatively few voters split their votes and tended to either approve or deny all proposed spending.

Voters in Alma, Benton, and ten other districts approved issuing debt for projects across two different referenda. In Delavan-Darien, Frederic, and Peshtigo, voters rejected both referenda proposed by each district.

A smaller proportion of the new tax hikes, $123.4 million overall, will come in the form of one-time spending, also known as non-recurring spending. Just two of 25 referenda failed in that category, with voters approving 97 percent of the total proposed $126.7 million in spending.

Howard-Suamico School District got voters’ approval to exceed the revenue limit for five years, beginning in the 2018-19 school year, to reduce class sizes, provide employee raises, and maintain facilities. That’ll cost area taxpayers $5.85 million every year for five years, adding up to more than $29 million. The district estimates that local property taxes will not increase because of old debt retiring at the same time.

Voters in La Crosse also approved a spending hike totaling more than $20 million over revenue limits. The debt is considered one-time spending, but the district is asking voters to extend a current levy limit override for another five years. Had they voted no, owners of a home worth $100,000 would have seen a $96 annual decrease in property taxes – but the referendum passed, keeping taxes at the same level. The district will use the money to maintain current operations and make various facilities upgrades.

Just six of the 66 referenda on the ballot Tuesday asked voters to approve recurring, ongoing spending increases over state-mandated limits. Four of them – in Alma, Almond-Bancroft, Benton, and Shullsburg – passed, totaling $1,250,000 in new spending overall. Those districts will begin exceeding their revenue cap, spending more than the limit beginning in the coming 2018-19 school year.

Last year, 40 of 65 school district referenda passed, totaling almost $700 million in tax increases. The MacIver Institute covered the votes here.

The current school funding environment dates back to the 1990s, when state law was changed to limit annual revenue increases and require referenda to exceed revenue caps.

Back when I started in this line of work I was told by someone whose job was working with school districts on financing building projects that people would not walk across the street to vote Yes, but they would walk miles in the snow to vote No. That was in the days when property tax mil rates were as high as $30 per $1,000 assessed valuation (I worked in a part of the state that had three of the 11 highest mil rates in the entire state) and no building project referendum ever passed on the first or first two votes. (And in some cases for entire decades.)

The fact that 61 percent of referenda passed last year and 84 percent passed this year seems to me to be a sign that the system created two decades ago has succeeded in holding down, relatively speaking, property taxes to the point where voters feel free to vote for building projects or exceeding revenue caps without feeling that increasing taxes will force them out of their homes. School district voters also have the power to vote on the use of their own property taxes not just for building projects, but for year-to-year spending. In other words, the system seems to be working.

 

When the voters are wrong

James Wigderson on last night’s election results:

The problem with democracy is that sometimes the voters are wrong. Man is flawed, and man in numbers can be wrong, too.

Tuesday night’s results were another reminder of the flaws of mankind. We’ll return to the state Supreme court race in a moment, but we have to believe that something has happened to the drinking water after seeing the results of the state treasurer referendum. The position is basically dormant except for a constitutional requirement that we elect someone to hold the office,

The current incumbent, Matt Adamczyk, not only campaigned to eliminate the position but even began his term in office by firing the staff without replacing them. He spends his time playing phone operator, redirecting wayward calls while researching different ways the state can save money – neither of which he is required to do. The legislature has taken away almost all other responsibilities save for one constitutionally mandated committee assignment where Adamczyk foils the travel junket plans of Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

The vote, 61 percent to 39 percent, in favor of keeping the state treasurer position is probably the dumbest mistake voters have made in a statewide election since Democrat Dawn Marie Sass defeated Republican Jack Voight for the vestigial position in the 2006 election. After Tuesday night’s result, it’s likely that every Sass clone of both parties will suddenly find the position too tempting. It’s the classic political featherbed of no work and full pay.We can also be sure that the next state treasurer will add back staff accordingly, political patronage at the taxpayer expense.

But while the results of the referendum were frustrating to see, the consequences are small compared to the election of Judge Rebecca Dallet to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

There will be plenty of finger-pointing and, certainly, some of it is deserved. Judge Michael Screnock’s campaign seemed to be a replay of past successful campaigns for the Supreme Court: hang on and hope for the calvary (like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce) to arrive. In this case, it was too little, too late.

Screnock’s side struggled to get any message out, and we suspect no candidate for public office in Wisconsin will ever play the tuba again. It’s doubtful Screnock even had the name recognition of a typical conservative candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The opportunities to attack Dallet were there, especially after her poorly-timed trip to San Francisco, but it seemed Screnock’s campaign lacked the resources. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce attacked Dallet on the Skenandore case, but the San Francisco values Dallet admired and the records of the fundraiser’s hosts were never exploited by conservatives.

There were external factors, too. Screnock’s endorsement by the NRA was cynically exploited by Dallet, made possible by the mass shooting in Florida, while her own ties to special interests such as Planned Parenthood were never questioned by the mainstream media. And, no, it didn’t help that the Walker Administration played games with the scheduling of two special elections for the legislature. When it threatened to become a case in the state Supreme Court, Governor Scott Walker probably regretted ever sitting on the scheduling of those elections, and we can guess Screnock’s campaign wasn’t too thrilled, either.

However, none of that accounts for the high percentage of the vote Dallet received in Dane County or the lower vote percentage Screnock received in the WOW counties: Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington. Republicans already had a taste of the renewed Democratic enthusiasm for voting in a special election in the 10th Senate district. The Marquette University Law School Poll further confirmed that Republicans are suffering from an enthusiasm gap. Privately, we’re being told that the polls are just bad out there for Republicans.

Republicans are learning the hard way that the midterm elections tend to be painful when the President of the United States is of the same party. President Donald Trump is the best recruiting tool and enthusiasm generator for Democrats since President George W. Bush’s administration Iraq policy faltered before “the Surge” was implemented. There is a reason Dallet put Trump in her first commercial: he motivates Democrats.

On Tuesday, Republicans had their third reminder of how bad the election cycle can be for Republicans. The voters made a decade-long mistake by electing Dallet. They can make even more mistakes in November.

The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has warned that a “blue wave” may be coming for the midterm elections in November after a Democratic-backed candidate won a seat Tuesday on Wisconsin’s supreme court. Liberal Rebecca Dallet soundly defeated conservative Michael Screnock with a double-digit lead, winning a 10-year-term on the state’s high court. Walker, who is up for re-election in November, said the results were an ominous sign for the GOP. “Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI. The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred—we must counter it with optimism & organization. Let’s share our positive story with voters & win in November,” he tweeted. The governor added that voters had been flooded with “distorted facts and misinformation” and told supporters that “next, they’ll target me and work to undo our bold reforms.”

The fact that voters can be wrong is obvious by the presidential elections of 1964, 1992, 1996, 2008, 2012 and 2016 (neither Donald Trump nor Hillary should have won), as well as Wisconsin’s gubernatorial elections of 1982, 2002 and 2006, at minimum. As Winston Churchill famously put it, democracy is the second worst form of government on the planet.

 

Us and them

UW–Madison graduate Jeff Greenfield on PBS:

It was just one line from Senator Bob Dole’s acceptance speech more than 20 years ago, but it speaks volumes about where our politics is today. He was talking about the contrast between himself and his rival, President Bill Clinton.

BOB DOLE, GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, 1996 GOP CONVENTION:

This is not the outlook of my opponent — and he is my opponent, not my enemy.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

Think about that for a minute. An “opponent” is someone you battle— in an election, on a ball field— but with a common understanding of the rules of the game, and a mutual willingness to abide by the outcome.

BOB DOLE:

He is my opponent, not my enemy.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

But an “enemy”?—that’s very different; an enemy is someone who poses a threat to your survival, someone to be fought “by any means necessary”. And that’s increasingly how Americans have come to view those on the other side of the political divide.

For instance, if your competitor is an “enemy”, it makes perfect sense for you to not just defeat her, but to imprison her.

DONALD TRUMP, OCTOBER 2016, WILKES-BARRE, PA:

Lock her up is right.

CROWD:

“Lock her up! Lock her up!

JEFF GREENFIELD:

It makes sense to regard your critics not just as an inevitable part of the tension between press and politicians, but as something worse: … “the enemy of the American people.”

DONALD TRUMP:

And this crooked media. You talk about crooked Hillary. They’re worse than she is.

JEFF GREENFIELD:

And it’s not just the President doing it. Back in October 2015, Hillary Clinton was asked who she regarded as her “enemy”, she answered:

HILLARY CLINTON, OCTOBER 2015, CNN DEBATE:

In addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, and the Iranians, probably the Republicans.”

JEFF GREENFIELD:

This increasingly dark view of the opposition has now become a dominant feature of the American political landscape. Survey after survey has shown that Republicans and Democrats now view each other not simply as “wrong” but as malevolent, literally a danger to the republic.

CROWD:

Lock him up! Lock him up!

JEFF GREENFIELD:

According to Pew research, 45% of Republicans now say that Democratic policies “threaten the nation’s well-being,” while 41% of Democrats view GOP policies in equally stark terms.

The most dramatic example of this mutual hostility is this:

back in 1960, only 5% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats said they’d be “displeased” if a child married someone from the other major party. Half a century later, half of Republicans and more than a third of Democrats said yes —they would be “somewhat or very unhappy”.

JEFF GREENFIELD, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:

What makes this “tribalism” particularly dangerous is that it has grown at a time when one of America’s core convictions—the worth of a free society—has eroded, especially among the young. They are simply less and less convinced that democracy is all that important.

Among Americans born in the 1930s, 72% said that living in a democracy was “essential.” Among those born in in the 1980s, the number is thirty percent. The less faith in an open society, the more reason there is to believe that politics is more like warfare than a contest for power where limits apply.

The guardrails that protect our constitutional republic have endured for more than two centuries, in the face of challenges far greater than today’s. But when you combine a growing sense that your political opponents are enemies with doubts about the very worth of a free society, you threaten some of our bedrock assumptions about how the oldest representative democracy in the world stays healthy.

This might count as the least surprising news of the day. And it didn’t start with The Donald or Hillary. Hot Air notes something Barack Obama said in 2010:

“If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s gonna be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.”

Predictably, PBS viewers seem to believe this is the fault of Republicans. One posted this from Newsweek in November 1994:

To Newt Gingrich, Democrats are not just the opposition. They are “traitors” and the party of “total bizarreness, total weirdness.” House Minority Whip Gingrich recently told a group of lobbyists that Democrats were the “enemy of normal Americans.”

Other comments perfectly reflected Greenfield’s point by pointing fingers at the other side.

The cause of this should be obvious, and I’ve pointed that out here before this. Government has gotten so large and so powerful that the stakes in elections have ballooned far beyond what the Founding Fathers, or indeed anyone in government or politics before the Great Depression, intended. Power corrupts, as the saying goes. Add to that each side wants more power and proposes to do that by taking away something of the other side — in the case of the Democrats, the money of Republicans through higher taxes, as well as gun rights.