On the freak show that is my hometown

James Wigderson promises something that everyone should endorse:

I want to promise my readers something, and I swear it’s a promise that I’ll never break. It’s a promise that I make to my immediate family, my friends, and my mother. I will never ride a bicycle through Madison completely naked.

Apparently this is an annual protest against something, and a bunch of people rode their bicycles on Saturday past the farmers market in their birthday suits. I’m not sure if Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was with them and, despite my dedication to you readers, I am not going to look through the photos online to check.

Have you noticed that the people you would never want to see naked are often the ones at naked protests? And who will disinfect the rental bicycles that were used by the protesters? Yes, I’ll bet you’ll think twice now before hopping on one of those blue bicycles in Madison.

I’m sure the naked bicyclists were hoping for some sort of reaction other than, “eewww.” That upon seeing the unmentionables we would all suddenly go, “Oh, I get it. From now on, I’m going to believe like a Hollywood lefty that these naked people are right about everything.”

Instead, the reaction I saw from most people was, “Madison.” As in, I’m in Madison, and therefore the inmates of the asylum are running the place.

As they bicycled through Madison’s farmer’s market on Saturday (“Harold, do you think the melons are fresh?”) I’m guessing that never have been so many people been bored by nudity since Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman starred in Eyes Wide Shut.

Somebody forgot to tell the organizers that nudity as a protest model has not only been done, it’s now cliché. So the Madison Left will have to find some other way to shock us to seek attention for whatever it is they’re seeking attention other than themselves. And in doing so, they’ll just be a reminder of how puerile the Left has become.

It’s all about them, you know. “How do I attract attention to me so everyone can see how noble I am? What can I do so that everyone knows I care because I’m special?” And it’s usually followed by, “Can’t everyone see I’m much more enlightened than THEM?”

THEM being whatever rubes voted for Governor Scott Walker, President Donald Trump, or even Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders and whomever is the best friend of John Nichols at The Nation this week.

So we get Robert De Niro dropping the F-bomb at awards shows, John Legend dropping F-bombs on House Speaker Paul Ryan on Twitter while Legend’s wife pulls a Kelda Roys to get attention, and even Kathy Griffin has returned to drop F-bombs on First Lady Melania Trump.

Locally, One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross has the mouth of a sewer and yet he manages to get quoted in everyone’s publications. The protesters carry signs trying to shock people being “woke” and now we have bicyclists tempting skin cancer.

Too often people on the Right like to hyperventilate over some of these things, and some on the Right even try to emulate the Left’s tactics of using shock over substance. When that happens, we’re just giving these spoiled babies what they want: attention.

But just as we don’t take seriously a three-year-old running through the house naked after a bath, we should stop taking the Left’s antics seriously, too. When they actually have something intelligent to say and want to be taken seriously, perhaps they’ll follow the sage advice of Frau Blücher, “I suggest you put on a tie!”

This prompted a reader of Wigderson’s to post:

Note to self: Never buy a used bike seat from Madison.

Given that motorcycle riders are counseled to dress for the fall, not the ride, one wonders how many injuries Madison Fire Department paramedics had to handle from bike riders whose birthday suits met pavement.



Redirected redistricting

David French reports that yesterday …

… the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gill v. Whitford — better known as the “Wisconsin gerrymandering case” — and the plaintiffs lost, at least for now. Wisconsin will not have to redraw its legislative districts. But the court didn’t rule for Wisconsin on the merits. Instead, it held that the plaintiffs hadn’t established Article III standing in the case. They hadn’t established a concrete, particularized, individual harm. Instead, they were arguing that they had suffered harms because they were Democrats, and Democrats as a whole were underrepresented in the Wisconsin legislature. The plaintiffs didn’t just want to fix their individual districts (the conventional response to an individualized harm). They wanted rework the entire system.

Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous Court, explained the problem:

The plaintiffs argue that their legal injury is not limited to the injury that they have suffered as individual voters, but extends also to the statewide harm to their interest “in their collective representation in the legislature,” and in influencing the legislature’s overall “composition and policymaking” . . . But our cases to date have not found that this presents an individual and personal injury of the kind required for Article III standing. On the facts of this case, the plaintiffs may not rely on “the kind of undifferentiated, generalized grievance about the conduct of government that we have refused to countenance in the past.” Lance, 549 U. S., at 442. A citizen’s interest in the overall composition of the legislature is embodied in his right to vote for his representative. And the citizen’s abstract interest in policies adopted by the legislature on the facts here is a nonjusticiable “general interest common to all members of the public.”

The plaintiffs rested their case on a “theory of statewide injury to Wisconsin Democrats.” Thus, “It is a case about group political interests, not individual legal rights. But this Court is not responsible for vindicating generalized partisan preferences. The Court’s constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it.”

Ordinarily, when plaintiffs lack standing, the Court dismisses the case. But this time the Court remanded it back to the District Court “so that the plaintiffs may have an opportunity to prove concrete and particularized injuries using evidence — unlike the bulk of the evidence presented thus far — that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes.” Justices Gorsuch and Thomas objected to the remand, arguing that the plaintiffs had their opportunity to present their standing argument, and failed.

So, the plaintiffs live to fight again, but this time they’re going to have to prove exactly how their individual districts are “packed” (too many voters of one party unnaturally jammed in one district) or “cracked” (voters are split from their districts to dilute partisan representation) and then seek a remedy for their specific districts. In other words, it just got much more difficult to seek a statewide revision of an allegedly partisan gerrymander.

Also [Monday], the court issued a second unanimous opinion (this one per curiam) in a case brought by Maryland Republicans challenging a Democratic gerrymander. In Benisek v. Lamone, Supreme Court held that the district court didn’t abuse its discretion when it denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, but did so without opining on the merits of their case. SCOTUS held that the plaintiffs had failed to pursue their claims with “reasonable diligence” and that an injunction could have “chaotic” and “disruptive” effect on the electoral process.

Benisek is largely meaningless. Gill, however, is of some consequence. The case — while a “punt” on the merits — does have a clear purpose. It demonstrates once again that there’s no easy judicial path through what is (at its heart) a tangled political morass. When districting is delegated to the political branches of government, it will be — hold on to your hats — thoroughly political. States can choose different ways to district, but when a state chooses the political path, the Supreme Court’s default position should be to defer, absent clear and unequivocal constitutional violations. And, by the way, there is no constitutional right to a legislative composition that matches each party’s share of the vote.

Moreover, while there is no doubt packing and cracking in any political districting process, we can’t forget that the American people are in the midst of their own, voluntary gerrymander. The number of “landslide counties” (where one presidential candidate wins by 20 points or more) keeps increasing. People are packing themselves, and this “Big Sort” means that no judicial decision can deliver the sweeping solutions that many activists crave.

Well, Democrats?

Investor’s Business Daily:

Rather than rooting on the strong economy, Democrats have taken to ignoring it, belittling it or, like Bill Maher did over the weekend, rooting for a recession. The extent to which Trump critics will go is truly mind-boggling.

The unemployment rate is at 49-year lows overall, and lower than ever for African-Americans. Household incomes are at record highs. The U.S. reclaimed its No. 1 rank in competitiveness. Economists are revising their growth forecasts upward. Optimism is at levels not seen in more than a decade.

Clearly the economy is doing well. And what’s more, the public is increasingly crediting President Trump for it — as they should, since much of the turnaround is due to his dumping Obamanomics.

But what’s a Democrat hoping to reclaim the House majority in November to do?

One is to ignore the economy altogether. So, Democrats are trying to turn attention to things like ObamaCare premiums or alleged corruption in the Trump administration.

Ignoring the economy will be tough, however, particularly if GDP growth comes in strong in Q2 and unemployment continues to fall.

The second option is to belittle it.

Nancy Pelosi, having dismissed the tax-cut-fueled raises and bonuses that millions of workers received as “crumbs,” is now dismissing the good economic news as no big deal. Why? “Because of the wage stagnation.”

“Our economy,” she said, “will never fully reach its possibilities unless we increase the consumer confidence.”

The army of media fact-checkers must have been asleep when she said this, since her claims are so easy to debunk.

Average hourly wages climbed 2.7% in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And as we noted in this space recently, median household income is at historic highs.

Meanwhile, every survey shows confidence levels at or approaching new highs since Trump took office.

The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index, currently at 53.9, has averaged 53.5 under Trump, compared with 47 during President Obama’s entire second term. (Anything over 50 is optimistic).

The Consumer Confidence Index is currently at 128, which is 25 points higher than it ever reached under Obama, and higher than it’s been in 17 years.

Dismissing this good economic news as meaningless — after spending eight years proclaiming how great the stagnant economy was under Obama — isn’t going to dispel the notion that Democrats are out of touch with working families.

The third option is to admit openly what many Democrats no doubt feel privately: That a good recession is what the party needs to reclaim its former glory. After all, it did get Obama elected president.

Over the weekend, HBO talk show host Bill Maher spoke the words out load.

“I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point,” he said, talking about the booming economy. “And by the way, I’m hoping for it because one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy.

“Sorry if that hurts people, but it’s either root for a recession or you lose your democracy.”

Let’s leave aside the glaring logical fallacy Maher commits with his false dilemma, and ponder what he is saying.

Maher would, if he could, throw millions of people into unemployment and poverty, watch as hard-earned savings vanish, wages stagnate and hope gets crushed, if that might keep Trump from winning re-election.


Of course, it’s easy for Maher to wish that, since he’s already made his millions attacking Republicans. But just how many of his fellow Trump-loathing Democrats secretly feel the same way?

Reporters love to force Republican politicians to answer for anything outrageous that a conservative says. Shouldn’t these same reporters, to prove their lack of political bias, press every single Democrat running for office in November to condemn Maher’s economic death wish?

That question should be asked of Wisconsin Democrats running against Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans as well. (To normal people the definition of “fail” is not insufficient government spending or regulation in your favorite area of either.)

Wisconsin taxpayers’ bill of (currently nonexistent) rights

Dan Mitchell starts with:

A balanced budget requirement is neither necessary nor sufficient for good fiscal policy.

If you want proof for that assertion, check out states such as IllinoisCalifornia, and New Jersey. They all have provisions to limit red ink, yet there is more spending (and more debt) every year. There are also anti-deficit rules in nations such as GreeceFrance, and Italy, and those countries are not exactly paragons of fiscal discipline.

Wisconsin has a balanced-budget requirement. Unfortunately it’s balance based on cash instead of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which is required of every unit of government except state government.

The real gold standard for good fiscal policy is my Golden Rule. And the best way to make sure government doesn’t grow faster than the private sector is to have a constitutional rule limiting the growth of government.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the “debt brake” in Switzerland’s constitution and Article 107 in Hong Kong’s constitution.

And it’s also why the 49 other states, assuming they want an effective fiscal rule, should look at Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) as a role model.

Colorado’s Independence Institute has a very informative study on how TABOR works and the degree to which it has been effective. Here’s a good description of the system.

Colorado voters adopted The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. TABOR allows government spending to grow each year at the rate of inflation-plus-population. Government can increase faster whenever voters consent. Likewise, tax rates can be increased whenever voters consent. …The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires that excess government revenues be refunded to taxpayers, unless taxpayers vote to let the government keep the revenue.

And here are the headline results.

Cumulatively, TABOR refunds have been over $800 per Coloradan, or $3,200 for a family of four. …If Colorado government had continued growing at the same high rate (8.56% compound annual rate) as in 1983-92, the average Coloradan would have paid an additional $442 taxes in 2012. The cumulative two-decade savings per Coloradan are $6,173—or more than $24,000 for a family of four.

However, the study notes that TABOR was most effective during its first 10 years. It was less effective in its second decade because voters acquiesced to a “TABOR time-out” as part of referendum C in 2005.

The final decade included the largest tax increase in Colorado history, enacted as Referendum C in 2005. Decade-2 was also marked by increasing efforts to evade TABOR by defining nearly 60% of the state budget as “exempt” from TABOR. …Rapid government growth resumed in Decade-2, mainly because of Referendum C.

This chart from the study shows that outcomes were much better during the first decade of TABOR.

But a weakened TABOR is better than nothing. Here’s the conclusion of the report.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Amendment has worked well to achieve its stated intention to “slow government growth.” Although government has still continued to grow significantly faster than the rate of population-plus-inflation, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights did partially dampen excess government growth. …In terms of economic vitality, Colorado’s Decade-1 was best for Colorado. Unlike in the pre-TABOR decade, or in TABOR Decade-2 with its record increase in taxes and spending, because of Referendum C. Colorado’s first TABOR decade saw the state economy far outperform the national economy.

But keep in mind that the economic gains occurred in the first decade.

The bottom line is that spending caps are like speed limits in school zones. If they’re set too high, that defeats the purpose.

And in Colorado, the vote for Referendum C allowed a spending surge that made a mockery of TABOR.

But only temporarily, which is why that period was known as the “TABOR time-out.” The rules once again limit spending growth to population plus inflation.

For instance, TABOR made it difficult for state politicians to spend the additional tax revenues produced by marijuana legalization.

Needless to say, the political crowd hates having their hands tied. Which is why the pro-spending lobbies are agitating to once again gut TABOR. Here’s a clip from a local news report that does a good job of describing the current fight.

The battle actually started a couple of years ago. Here are some excerpts from a 2016 report by the Associated Press.

By 2030, Colorado’s population will grow from 5 million to 7 million people, thanks in part to a strong and diverse economy, the state’s famed Rocky Mountain quality of life, and its constitutionally-mandated low taxes. …The state’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, is trying to find ways to squeeze more revenue for roads from the budget, while Republicans don’t want to tamper with the fabled 1992 constitutional amendment known as TABOR that keeps a tight limit on those taxes. …Under TABOR, voters must approve any state and local tax hike. Democrats are still stung by a resounding defeat of a 2013 ballot initiative to raise $1 billion for schools.

I’m amused by the fact that the above passage starts by noting the state has a “strong” economy. Too bad the reporter didn’t put 2 and 2 together and recognize that TABOR deserves some of the credit.

Likewise, this next passage cites a leftist who acknowledges growth in the state, but pretends that it’s exogenous, like the weather.

Liberals think that’s a recipe for disaster, especially in a growing state. “What we have to stop doing is pitting necessary priorities like roads against other necessary priorities like schools and colleges,” said Tim Hoover, spokesman for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, which favors dismantling the amendment. “TABOR forces us to do that.” So far the low-tax crowd is winning. Even Hickenlooper acknowledges there isn’t a popular appetite to raise taxes, and his hopes of changing the classification of an arcane fee in the budget to free up revenue are opposed by Republicans… Republicans say the real problem is growing Medicaid spending. Colorado, which expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act, is spending about $2.5 billion on the health care plan.

Note that TABOR critics object to various interest groups having to compete for money.

But that’s exactly why a spending limit is so desirable. Politicians are forced to abide by the rules that apply to every household and business in the state. In other words, they have to (gasp!) prioritize.

Let’s conclude by reviewing some passages from a pro-TABOR column published last week in the Steamboat newspaper.

Colorado’s  has grown by nearly two-thirds since 1992, one of the fastest increases in the country. If you are part of the more than two million new residents who have arrived over this time, there are a few things you should know…the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is responsible for much of the state’s economic success, which likely drew you here in the first place. Between 1992 and 2016, median household income in Colorado grew by 30 percent, adjusted for inflation. …TABOR helped end years of economic stagnation and laid the groundwork for the state’s future success by keeping resources in the hands of Colorado residents who could put them to their highest valued use and checking overzealous government spending. …Its requirement that excess revenues must be refunded to taxpayers has also resulted in more than $2 billion being returned to the private economy… TABOR has empowered voters to reject roughly a dozen advocacy-backed tax hike proposals.

My favorite part is when they cite critics, who confirm that TABOR is successful.

Denver Post editorial last year complained, “TABOR’s powerful check on government spending in reality has been a padlock on the purse-strings of the General Assembly.” The check on spending is exactly the point, and it still allows spending to grow in-line with inflation and population growth. If government wants more money, all it has to do is ask. Requiring consent is hardly a “padlock.”

Amen. We could use some more padlocks in the rest of the country. TABOR should be nationally emulated, not locally emasculated.

“Needless to say, the political crowd hates having their hands tied” is what the IT people would call a feature, not a bug. The U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights restricts what government can do to the citizens. That is exactly why Wisconsin needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in its constitution. The failure of Republicans, who have controlled state government most of the past two decades, to put a TABOR proposal to voters shows that the GOP is more interested in staying in office than in protecting taxpayers from politicians of either or no party.


Because that worked so well with Act 10

Matt Kittle:

Left-wing activists committed to doing whatever it takes to stop Foxconn Technology Group’s massive manufacturing campus in southeast Wisconsin are planning to rain on the tech giant’s ground-breaking picnic.

Organizers held a conference call Sunday evening to talk about their plans for a rally and demonstration on June 28, the day Foxconn is scheduled to hold its ground-breaking ceremony on its proposed $10 billion plant in Mount Pleasant. MacIver News Service obtained the call-in information and covered the planning session.

The idea, organizers say, is to assemble a coalition of diverse progressive groups – from environmental organizations to civil rights leaders to Foxconn-hating politicians. While each group will bring its own social and environmental complaints to the table, they will all rally around their abhorrence of the Foxconn economic development plan, according to the coalition-building plan.

“We want to stop it in any way we can,” a coalition member told participants on the call. “If we can’t stop it, we want to give them bad publicity. We want to be able to, like, make them aware that the community is aware. We want to show that, ‘Hey, we’re not going to give you an easy fight here.”

“Take a stand against Foxconn. For our fellow Wisconsinites, join the effort and help us SHUT FOXCONN DOWN,” a progressive coalition Facebook alert states.

The short-term goal is to stop Foxconn. The long-term mission is to fire up the liberal base to take out Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature that championed the largest development deal of its kind in U.S. history.

“We want this to not only be against Foxconn … but also be against those things that are happening due to the corruption of Walker being in office. But it will mainly focus on Foxconn,” one of the leaders of the campaign said during the call.

The anti-Foxconn group plans to bring into the coalition representatives from indigenous rights organizations, social justice groups, lawmakers and someone who represents the “youth voice.”

“We’re contacting some of the high school students that are speaking out against the NRA right now because they have a huge crowd of those in Milwaukee,” the lead organizer said. …

Group members talked about making the focal point of their resistance movement the Mount Pleasant-area residents facing the loss of their properties to make room for the Foxconn factory, but it was clear by Sunday’s conference call that the left-wing activists have broader objectives in mind.

“Beyond the immediate need for citizens to show up in support of the victims of Scottconn (the group’s portmanteau combining Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn),we will also be discussing the planned Action for the 28th,” the group’s email urged. The email also seeks “volunteers to help with Voter Registration.”

“Additionally we will need volunteers and eager helpers willing to be trained by MKE Street Protectors to assist in facilitating and monitoring our action to ensure the safety of attendees as well as creative writers to submit LTE’s not only to the news outlets in the affected area but also our hometowns throughout the state,” the email stated. …

Foxconn’s manufacturing campus in Racine County is expected to ultimately employ 13,000 people at the plant itself, and many more thousands to construct the facility and to serve it. The production plant will make liquid crystal display panels. It comes with a hefty state incentives package based in large part on job-creation goals.

Extreme environmentalists in particular hate the development plan, predicting that the production facility will destroy southeast Wisconsin’s air and waterways. While they have blasted Walker’s administration for softening permitting standards, Foxconn has and will face rigorous state and federal requirements that demand substantial mitigation and other environmental safeguards.

The anti-Foxconn coalition campaign is brimming with liberal politics. One participant on the conference call said he attended the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s state convention in Oshkosh over the weekend, where there was plenty of anti-Foxconn talk by the crowded field of Democrat contenders for governor.

“There was universal disdain for Foxconn,” he said. “I’m sure they (the candidates) would welcome any kind of demonstration that would take place that would kind of help their credibility as well and maybe get some of them to actually show up.”

This probably sounds similar to the left’s by-any-means-necessary attempts to derail Act 10 that, you’ll notice, not only didn’t stop Act 10, but didn’t derail Republicans.
One wonders what liberals’ definition of a “good job” is, except that it probably doesn’t involve a private-sector employer.

When you’ve lost Democratic Party delegates …

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports surprising news from this weekend’s state Democratic convention:

A straw poll of Democrats at their party’s weekend convention is getting most of its attention for who came in last place in the race for governor.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin — one of the better known candidates in a field of 10 — got just one vote.

That means either Soglin or his campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken, didn’t bother to cast a ballot for the longtime mayor during the two-day convention in Oshkosh.

The winner for the Aug. 14 Democratic primary will take on GOP Gov. Scott Walker in November.

Every year, WisPolitics.com asks convention-goers about upcoming races and who they would like to see represent their party. The straw poll is not scientifically significant, but is a good measure of the strength and organization of candidates’ campaigns.

From that standpoint, Soglin’s performance suggests he doesn’t have much of an organization so far. Mulliken did not immediately respond to questions Monday, but she told the Wisconsin State Journal that straw polls are meaningless and that Soglin had fared well in surveys.

Former state Rep. Kelda Roys of Madison handily won the straw poll, getting nearly twice as many votes as her closest opponent.

The straw poll of 789 delegates, alternates and guests showed Roys with a clear lead, many of the candidates bunched together and Soglin trailing badly:

  • Roys: 184
  • Firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell: 93
  • Schools Superintendent Tony Evers: 91
  • Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik: 89
  • State Rep. Dana Wachs: 89
  • State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: 83
  • Campaign finance reform advocate Mike McCabe: 81
  • Former state Democratic Party Chairman Matt Flynn: 71
  • Kenosha attorney Josh Pade: 7
  • Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: 1

Pade, who is new to politics and virtually unknown, got seven times as many votes as Soglin.

“A candidate with the name recognition and longevity of Soglin should be able to get a decent showing in a straw poll among political activists just by being listed on ballot,” Democratic strategist Joel Gratz wrote on his blog. “In getting that single vote (Soglin’s, his manager’s, or a random delegate if neither of the other two happened to vote) he’s moved from the top tier position he once had to the bottom tier, just as former Rep. Kelda Roys was boosted clearly into the top tier by winning the poll and garnering.”

Roys’ 184 votes constitutes 23 percent of the total. Put another way, three-fourths of the straw poll participants oppose Roys.

At this point you might well ask: Who? The Journal Sentinel also tells this story:

Near the steps of the Wisconsin Capitol on Aug. 21 of last year, soon-to-be congressional candidate Kelda Helen Roys was clearly feeling the moment. Perched atop a flatbed truck following the 2011 Capitol Pride parade, Roys, currently a Madison-area state legislator, passionately argued in favor of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT couples. According to a numerous parade attendees, Roys punctuated her speech by telling a story about how she and her “partner” had fled Wisconsin to marry in Iowa, a state in which gay marriage was legalized by judicial fiat in 2009.

This puzzled many of the 500 in attendance, as Roys’ “partner” is, in fact, a man – a fact she never referenced during her speech. In 2010, she married small business owner Dan Reed, and could have done so perfectly legally in her Madison-area district. “She was clearly trying to represent herself as a member of the LGBT community,” said Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s most visible LGBT rights organization.

Two weeks later, Roys, a 33-year old Democrat, would announce she was running for Congress to fill the seat vacated by Tammy Baldwin, who is vying to replace Herb Kohl in the U.S. Senate. Roys’ Democratic primary opponent is fellow Assembly Rep. Mark Pocan, who is openly gay. Pocan followed Baldwin, who is also gay, into the same Madison-area Assembly seat, and is now attempting to follow her into the same congressional seat.

But Roys’ attempts to out-gay Pocan in order to receive the imprimatur of the Madison LGBT community have fallen flat. Belanger said she began hearing from outraged LGBT activists immediately after Roys’ Capitol Pride speech.

“Going public with your sexuality is one of the most personal and painful things a gay person can do,” one LGBT activist told me, upset that Roys was trying to co-opt the movement. Belanger called Pocan and Baldwin “coura geous” for being openly gay while in public office. “So when you have a candidate trying to mislead or play cute, it’s troubling,” said Belanger.

When asked about the details of her Capitol Pride speech, Roys’ campaign said she would not comment, as she would not respond to “gossip.”

Pro football TV broadcaster Dan Dierdorf once said of the Detroit Lions and their rotating quarterbacks of the day that if you have three quarterbacks, you really have no quarterbacks. If you have 10 candidates for governor, do you really have any?

Speaking of Evers, Madison.com reports:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker is calling Democratic challenger Tony Evers “pathetic” for using a curse word in his Democratic Party convention speech over the weekend.

Walker reacted on Twitter Monday to Evers’ comments. Evers told about 1,300 convention attendees in a speech Friday night that he was “(expletive) sick and tired of Scott Walker gutting our public schools, insulting our hard-working educators and destroying higher education in Wisconsin.”

Evers is state superintendent of schools and one of 10 Democrats running for the chance to take on Walker.

Walker says in his tweet that “It’s pathetic seeing what has become of Tony Evers. He used the Lord’s name in vain this weekend — apparently to look tough at the convention.”

Evers’ campaign manager Maggie Gau says in reaction, “Speaking of pathetic, look at how desperate Scott Walker has become.” She says he would “rather play wordsmith than do his job as Governor.”

Evers thus joins the ranks of potty-mouth Democrats, including former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D–Iowa), whose brief presidential run in 1988 included speeches in which he got his crowds to chant “Bullshit.” It didn’t get Harkin nominated, let alone elected, either.

A friend of mine points out that by responding to Evers and not other candidates, Walker is getting to choose who he’s going to run against. That is an interesting observation.

Gau, meanwhile, needs to come up with better comebacks. Apparently the Democratic Party feels no need to go after voters who go to church, even though not all religious people are conservatives.

The Act 10 future

Christian Schneider:

In 2013, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took to the floor to support shutting the federal government down. At the time, Cruz thought threatening a shutdown would force the authors of a new spending bill to delay implementation of Obamacare. But hitting the snooze button on Obamacare was a fever dream; the bill would have needed the signature of a president whose name was on the health care plan.

Cruz peddled this impossibility to voters, raising expectations to a level Congress could never satisfy. In response, GOP voters selected an erratic, bombastic presidential nominee who claimed he could achieve far-fetched accomplishments simply by virtue of his personality. Yet even with a Republican House and Senate, President Donald Trump couldn’t undo Obamacare.

Last weekend, Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley asked the leading Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidates whether they favored repeal of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature accomplishment — the virtual elimination of collective bargaining for government employees. Every one of them pledged to overturn Walker’s “Act 10” law, which passed in 2011 amid nationally publicized protests at the Capitol and around Wisconsin.

In making this pledge, the Democrats vying to face Walker are selling primary voters a product they can’t possibly produce.

For one, overturning Act 10 would mean defeating Walker, something no Democrat has been able to achieve in three tries — even during a 2012 recall election when the state was engulfed in tumult. And Democrats would have to win control of both houses of the Legislature — not an impossible feat, but an unlikely one.

Suppose Democrats were able to overcome Republican majorities in 2018 and found themselves in full control of state government. If they wanted to repeal Act 10, they would face a public that still supports Walker’s reforms. Over the span of four polls conducted by the Marquette University Law School between 2012 and 2014, Wisconsin residents favored keeping Act 10 reforms in place in every poll; in October of 2014, respondents favored retaining Walker’s union law by a margin of ten percentage points (52% to 42%.)

And even if they went ahead with repealing the law, Democrats would have to deal with the effects of reversing the myriad proposals under Act 10’s umbrella. One of Walker’s primary initiatives was to require state and local employees to start paying towards their pension and health care benefits, which saved both levels of government money. This allowed him to reduce aids to local governments and school districts, knowing they would be able to replenish those funds by having to pay less for employee benefits.

If Democrats reinstate Wisconsin as a union utopia and teachers and local government employees once again start to collectively bargain, it will certainly increase the cost of providing services, and thus push property taxes significantly upward. That is, of course, unless the Democratic candidates want to move back to a system in which the state provides aid to local governments and school districts to subsidize these benefits. If that is the case, Democrats should be willing to provide examples of which state taxes they would raise to provide the billions of dollars it would take to restore this aid model.

In practice, it’s not even certain teachers and other government employees would move back to a system of mass unionization. Under Act 10, employees were perfectly welcome to remain in unions, and many have. But thousands of others have gotten used to not having dues automatically deducted from their paychecks and have begun to recognize they can get along fine without having to belong to a union. Even if Act 10 is reversed, union organizers may not see potential brothers and sisters lining up to re-enlist.

The Democratic candidates for governor will forge ahead, each trying to prove they are more vigilant in opposition to a law that has saved taxpayers billions of dollars and gotten the state budget back into working order. And when they can’t make good on their promise, a new candidate from the fringes will emerge, vowing only he or she can make the changes the progressive base craves.

Accordingly, Democrats would be wise to heed the lesson Republicans have learned — with unrealistic promises come unpredictable results.

Proof that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers is out of touch with the schools he supposedly supervises is his parroting the Democrats’ Act 10 position. You will not find a school district administrator — and they are all Democrats — who opposes Act 10 because Act 10 gives more budget control to administrators in the single biggest spending item of any school district budget, employee salaries and benefits.

Repealing Act 10 would result in school districts’ spending money on their employees instead of their students.

And then there were around 10

James Wigderson:

I have sad news to report. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will not be running for governor this year. “I hope to serve as mayor for many years to come, to continue to advance Milwaukee forward,” Barrett told WisPolitics on Tuesday. “I’ve still got the fire in the belly, and I wake up every day ready to roll up my sleeves to get to work.”

As my friend Brian Fraley noted, “In related news, the odds of him becoming governor did not change with this announcement.”

This leaves the Democrats with ten possible candidates for governor speaking at their convention next weekend in Oshkosh. If you don’t think it’s a problem for Democrats, consider that it’s going to be really hard for one of the candidates to stand out from the pack. We’re more likely going to see headlines like, “Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Gov. Scott Walker.”

The whole Barrett-for-governor trial balloon was about the weakness of the Democratic field. If the Democrats had a strong challenger to Governor Scott Walker, Barrett would never have considered entering the race to risk losing to Walker a third time. When the Democratic field is so weak that someone like former state Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) enters the race because she had just as much money as the other Democratic candidates, that’s not a good sign for the party.

That doesn’t mean that Walker is unbeatable. This should be a Democratic year, and Walker is vulnerable, especially if Republicans take his re-election for granted.

In 1992, Democrats fielded a weak group of candidates for President of the United States against, President George H. W. Bush, who was presiding over a recovering economy after a small recession, had led the country in the first Iraq War and had led the country during an invasion of Panama. The Democrats nominated a draft-dodging, womanizing, pot-smoking governor from the corrupt politics of Arkansas out of a field of weak candidates while Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo of New York sat out the race.

President Bill Clinton served two terms and, despite being impeached in the House of Representatives, almost got his wife elected president, too. His daughter is being groomed as Democratic royalty.

The Democratic candidates for governor may look like an angry mob of political pygmies, but Republicans cannot underestimate the Democrats’ motivation to vote out Walker.

Wisconsin’s Dem0crats

Sam Morateck:

Democrats were quick to jump on a report Wednesday that Foxconn was backing away from its promised financial investment in Wisconsin. Too quick, it now appears.

Japan business publication Nikkei Asian Review published a report (that has since changed) claiming that Foxconn plans to cut back on its initial investment in the state. However the Journal Sentinel published an article containing a statement from Foxconn saying otherwise:

“Foxconn can categorically state that our commitment to create 13,000 jobs and to invest US$10 billion to build our state-of-the-art Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park in Wisconsin remains unchanged,” the company said in a statement. “Foxconn is fully committed to this significant investment and to meeting all contractual obligations with the relevant government agencies.”

Later, the Asian Review changed its headline from, “Foxconn to cut back on initial investment of $10bn Wisconsin plant,” to “Foxconn opts to make smaller displays at Wisconsin plant.” A sub-heading under the new title reads “Major Apple supplier says $10bn investment plan is unchanged.”

Democrats, who have pinned their 2018 election hopes, in part, on investing in failure in the Foxconn development couldn’t hide their glee, re-posting the original article and spreading the news on Facebook. That included the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Representative Gordon Hintz and Senator Jon Erpenbach, along with many others.

Democrats zeal to see the Foxconn development fail was exposed again, along with their red faces.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports other unsurprising news:

Democrats running for governor are pledging to end GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s union restrictions, while Walker is promising to veto any changes to Act 10 if he wins re-election and Democrats take control of the Legislature.
Act 10 — adopted amid massive protests shortly after Walker took office in 2011 — brought the governor national attention and helped fuel his brief presidential run.

The measure all but ended collective bargaining for most public workers and required them to pay at least 12% of their insurance premiums and half the contributions to their pensions. The changes saved state and local taxpayers — and cost public workers — billions of dollars.

Democrats view the law as a move by Walker to hobble organizations that have long backed Democrats in elections.

The nine Democrats seeking their party’s nomination in the Aug. 14 primary said they would seek to reverse Act 10, while Walker touted the savings it has brought to taxpayers.

“The far-left Democrats who want to undo it will open the door to massive property tax increases or reductions in school staffing — or both,” Walker spokesman Austin Altenburg said in a statement. “Scott Walker will not let that happen and will continue to support reforms that put more resources in the classroom to improve the education of our students.”

Walker would veto any attempt to change Act 10, Altenburg said.

Act 10 ended the ability of public-sector unions to negotiate over anything but wages, and they were barred from seeking increases that were higher than inflation. Police and firefighters were exempted from key parts of Act 10.

All the Democratic candidates said they were committed to overturning Act 10, but many of them acknowledged it would be difficult to change the measure if Republicans held onto their majorities in the Legislature.

Repealing Act 10 would give workers a chance to seek higher wages, which would raise costs for taxpayers. The Democrats said state and local officials would be able to work out deals that are good for both taxpayers and workers.

The issue prompted one Democratic candidate to take a swipe at another.

“Unlike Mahlon Mitchell, I never sucked up to Scott Walker, praising Walker’s record and offering to work with Walker to destroy workers’ rights,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a statement.

Mitchell is the head of the statewide firefighters union. When Walker first unveiled Act 10, Mitchell applauded Walker for exempting firefighters from much of the measure, but soon afterward he joined the Capitol protests to try to stop Act 10.

Soglin, a frequent figure during the 2011 protests as he campaigned for mayor, noted he was against Act 10 from the start and said he was “the only candidate that implemented workarounds to lessen the adverse impact on public employees.”

The workarounds he cited include establishing a committee to get input from rank-and-file employees and setting up alternative procedures to handle workplace complaints, worker discipline and getting feedback from employees about workplace safety and the equipment they use.

Responding to Soglin’s criticism, Mitchell campaign manager Jacob Dusseau said Mitchell fought against Act 10, saying Mitchell “stuck his neck out” by running for lieutenant governor in 2012 in one of the recall elections sparked by the union restrictions.

“While Mahlon led the charge against Walker’s attack on workers, it was then mayoral candidate Soglin who was trying to get in on the spotlight,” Dusseau said.

Mitchell, who has won endorsements from several unions, said he was committed to eliminating Act 10.

“Act 10 was about unchecked power, and crippling political opponents of the governor,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I would repeal Act 10 in whole.”

Mitchell said the state could pay for any increase in costs by eliminating a tax break that prevents manufacturers and farms from paying state income taxes.

Tony Evers. The state schools superintendent backs repealing Act 10, said his campaign manager, Maggie Gau. If Republicans continue to control the Legislature, Evers believes a compromise could be reached that would give workers more bargaining power but still require them to pay a portion of their health care and retirement costs.

“Tony is supportive of returning collective bargaining rights to public employees,” Gau said in a statement. “It’s important for employees to feel valued and to have a say in their workplace and their benefits.”

Matt Flynn. The former state Democratic Party chairman said he would eliminate Act 10 and was unwilling to compromise on the issue.

“Act 10 has been a disaster for workers in Wisconsin,” Flynn said in a statement. “I will only accept a total repeal.”

Andy Gronik. The Milwaukee businessman said he supports collective bargaining, including for health care and pensions, but also believes workers should pay a portion of the cost of those benefits.

“I’ve said throughout my entire candidacy that I don’t want to fight the battles of the past, but instead move forward and examine how we can best bring workers back to the bargaining table, so their voices are heard and considered,” he said in a statement.

He added: “I believe cost sharing for health care and pensions is fair, reflects the realities of the private sector and is consistent with my business practices.”

Mike McCabe. He said he would repeal Act 10 and pay for any increased costs by legalizing and taxing marijuana, phasing out the state’s school voucher programs, eliminating business subsidies and making sure “taxpayers at every income level pay their fair share.”

“Act 10 is not a workable or sustainable policy,” the liberal activist said in a statement. “Teachers are demoralized and feeling devalued and disrespected, and are fleeing the profession as a result.”

Kelda Roys. The former state representatives of Madison would eliminate Act 10, said her spokesman, Brian Evans.

“Ensuring that workers have a voice in their workplace leads to an experienced and fairly compensated workforce, as well as fully staffed state offices and departments that meet the needs of all Wisconsinites, including veterans, patients, and children,” Evans said in a statement.

Kathleen Vinehout. The state senator of Alma said she would repeal Act 10 because she believes it has decimated schools.

“Employee benefits (are) not the problem,” she said in a statement. “Reversing the downward spiral of the last seven years will take concerted, bipartisan effort, but the quality of our schools in all parts of the state and the future of our children depends on it.”

Dana Wachs. The Eau Claire state representative said he would get rid of Act 10.

“We need to fully fund our public schools, including paying teachers a family-supporting wage. And we pay for that by prioritizing our schools and the essential functions of government, not billion-dollar deals for foreign corporations and special interests,” he said in a statement, referring to the incentive package Walker gave to Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group for a massive Mount Pleasant plant.

Yes, if you want to go back to the days when public employee unions ran the state and taxpayers were screwed by every level of government, vote Democrat.

“A bleeding heart is no substitute for an engaged brain”

John Phelan takes on the arguments over whose economy, Wisconsin’s or Minnesota’s, is superior:

There’s an old saying where I’m from: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The recent report by the Economic Policy Institute comparing the economic records of Wisconsin and Minnesota since Governors Scott Walker and Mark Dayton took office in January 2011, is a case in point. It was seized upon by people, including a columnist for this news organization, who saw it as vindicating things they already believed.

But just as you should never buy a car without checking under the hood, you should never trumpet an economic report as proving your case until you have checked the numbers for yourself. If the folks who saw proof in the EPI’s report that Governor Dayton’s policies were so much better than Governor Walker’s had done this, they would have found that on some important measures Wisconsin’s economy has actually outperformed Minnesota’s.

The EPI report makes some strange choices on which data to use. For example, it uses annual data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2010 to 2016 when quarterly data is available going into 2017. Using quarterly data is better because it allows us to select a more precise base period for our comparison, Q4: 2010, the three months before the two men took office, rather than an average of all of 2010. It also allows us to add another year to our comparison.

Using the annual series, the EPI reported that “Minnesota’s GDP grew by 12.8% in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, while Wisconsin’s grew by 10.1%.” But when we look at GDP growth using quarterly data covering Q4:2010 to Q4:2017, we find that Wisconsin’s economy has grown by 11.9% and Minnesota’s by 10.9% in real terms.
Wisconsin’s economic growth under Gov. Walker has outpaced Minnesota’s under Gov. Dayton.

As well as strange data selections, there are odd interpretations. The EPI notes that, by December 2017, Wisconsin and Minnesota “have reached effectively the same unemployment rate, at 3% and 3.1%, respectively.” But the EPI goes on to argue that “Minnesota was back at its pre-recession (December 2007) unemployment rate of 4.7% by September 2013, fewer than three years after Governor Dayton took office. In contrast, it took until December of 2014 — 15 months later—for Wisconsin to reach its pre-recession unemployment rate of 4.8%.”

This is horribly misleading. The EPI fail to mention that in the race to these pre-recession levels of unemployment, Governor Walker was starting from a rate of 8.1% and Governor Dayton was starting from a rate of 7.1%. Their comparison takes no account of this handicap. In fact, from December 2010 to March 2018, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell by 5.2 percentage points to 2.9%, while Minnesota’s fell by 3.9 percentage points to 3.2%.

The unemployment rate has fallen faster and further in Wisconsin under Walker than it has in Minnesota under Dayton.

Just as Wisconsin beats Minnesota on some measures, Minnesota beats Wisconsin on others. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the Gopher State has added more jobs under Dayton than the Badger State added under Walker. Minnesota’s population also grew faster than Wisconsin’s, at 5.1% from Q1: 2010 to Q4: 2017 while Wisconsin’s has grown by just 1.9% over that period.

But, even here, given Minnesota’s lower rate of GDP growth, Wisconsin’s GDP per capita — what really matters for economic well-being — has risen by 9.8% in real terms compared to 5.5% in Minnesota.

It is interesting to compare Minnesota and Wisconsin, but only up to a point. For each similarity the states have, there are differences too. Neither state — yet — is beating the other hands down over the last seven years. To say otherwise is to go against the data, which is why the EPI had to cherry-pick data to make that argument.

Whether a report supports bigger or smaller government, this or that economic policy, whichever way you lean, pop the hood and check the data for yourself. A bleeding heart is no substitute for an engaged brain.

This subject provoked an argument about the relative virtues of Wisconsin, with Republicans in charge, and Minnesota, with traditionally the Democrat–Farmer–Labor Party in charge. (Though Republicans are currently in charge of both houses of their legislature.) The Minnesota Post made the claim while Walker was running for president that most Wisconsinites would have lower taxes if they moved to Minnesota, which proves that Wisconsin’s taxes are still too high.

You can guess which side Wisconsin Democrats take on this argument. None of them seem willing to move to Minnesota, where the winter is worse than here, the baseball team gets its games rained and snowed out, and the college football team hasn’t won an axe in the entire lifetimes of many college students. None of them are willing to cut anyone’s taxes, either.