Category: Wisconsin politics

Palm vs. the Senate GOP

M.D. Kittle wrote this Saturday:

One state senator wants Gov. Evers to withdraw his embattled health secretary’s looming rule that could shut down Wisconsin again, while another is asking the secretary to step down.

Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) issued a statement Friday asserting Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm has failed to see the writing on the Wisconsin Supreme Court wall. Palm and her staff were busily working on a new agency rule that would replace the emergency order she signed last month extending Evers’ lockdown order. The Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this week struck down the emergency rule, ending Evers’ stay-at-home order.

“Now, most rational public servants would get the message that the rule of law and the constitutional limitations on government are not optional or mere suggestions,” Nass said. “The DHS Scope Statement leaves little doubt that Secretary-Designee Palm is no longer acting in a lawful capacity by circumventing the Supreme Court ruling and once again trying to improperly take control of the daily lives of every Wisconsin citizen.”

As Empower Wisconsin reported, Evers on Thursday sent notice to his agency heads that he approved an “emergency statement of scope” by the Department of Health. The statement gives DHS authority “to establish protections for Wisconsin citizens by maintaining appropriate social distancing or other measures to slow and contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect health and safety.” The statement also is supposed to, as the governor puts it, turn the dial to reopen Wisconsin’s economy.

Actually, what it does is layout the broad powers Team Evers and his DHS Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, believe they have under Wisconsin’s public health emergency statutes. And, while the agency just began the process of promulgating “new emergency rules to address” COVID-19, it seems clear they want control back.

Outgoing state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) said it’s time for the secretary-designee to step down.

“Secretary-designee Andrea Palm must immediately resign from her appointment as Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary,” he said in a statement. Tiffany easily won Tuesday’s election for the 7th Congressional District, filling a seat long left empty by Evers’ political maneuvering.

“The recent Supreme Court ruling confirmed that Ms. Palm’s power grab exceeded her authority. Her shotgun approach to lock down Wisconsin has produced disastrous consequences.”

Evers sounded indignant when asked by reporters what he thought of Tiffany’s comment.

“Senator Tiffany, please, you just won an election. Just relax. This is an insane statement. We talk about trying to tone down the rhetoric, and I’ve done everything I can to do that, and to make a statement about someone who’s dedicated her life to saving lives. Please sir, give us a break,” Evers said at a press conference Thursday.

The governor’s record, however, doesn’t reflect his words. Was Evers’ toning down the rhetoric when he tweeted that a legal challenge to his lockdown by Republicans in the Legislature was tantamount to homicide?

“Today legislative Republicans told the 4,600+ people in the state of Wisconsin who have contracted COVID-19 and the families of the 242 people who have died, we don’t care about you —we care about our political power,” he wrote late last month.

And the idea that Palm has “dedicated her life to saving lives” is more than a stretch. The former Obama administration official has committed much of her professional life to the political advancement of the left’s health care agenda.

Tiffany isn’t the only one calling for Palm’s resignation, but it seems unlikely the Republican majority in the senate — which just increased to 19-13 after Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling’s (D-La Crosse) resignation — will hold a confirmation vote on Palm in the foreseeable future.

Nass has been a vocal critic of the DHS secretary-designee. The co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules says the panel’s powers to suspend emergency rules like the one DHS is promulgating “are not in doubt.”

“DHS is needlessly creating a political fight that does nothing to move the state forward on the legal and proper path of fighting COVID-19,” the senator said.

“I call on Gov. Evers to withdraw the Scope Statement and end this needless confrontation before it escalates and leads to greater public discontent with the public health officials in the state,” Nass added.

That was Saturday. On Monday, DHS announced it was withdrawing the scope statement, apparently ending the attempt to recreate Safer at Home by rule. But on Tuesday, Empower Wisconsin reported:

Gov. Tony Evers’ health chief was prepared to take her power play local after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state lockdown.

In her “Safer at Home and Badger Bounce Back Template for Local Health Officials,” Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm laments that the court“diminished the Department’s ability to respond to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”

Not exactly. What the 4-3 ruling declared is Palm grabbed up power that was not unilaterally hers in defiance of state law. That law calls for legislative oversight. More so, her extended order locking down the state failed to follow the constitution.

But no worries, Palm says in her guidance. “Local health officials may still issue local orders to protect their communities from communicable diseases like COVID-19.” In short, If the Republican-led Legislature and the conservative-controlled Supreme Court won’t allow me to take away your civil liberties in the name of public health, maybe local government can do it.

Palm points to state statute which says local health officers “shall promptly take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress and control communicable diseases” within their county. Another statute, the DHS director said, allows local health officials to “do whatever is reasonable and necessary for the prevention and suppression of disease,” including forbidding public gatherings.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision does not affect this authority,” the DHS document asserts.

Liberal Attorney General Josh Kaul argued the same points in an opinion insisting the local orders are legal. His opinion was not shared by other prosecutors.

Green County District Attorney Craig Nolen on Monday wrote to local Health Officer RoAnn Warden and county officials that regardless of the attorney general’s opinion, he highly recommends rescinding Green County’s extended stay-at-home order. Green County, as of Monday morning, was one of about 20 counties and cities statewide that had continued some form of lockdown.

“The enforcement of the order is frankly impossible, as Section 4-4-4 applies to places only under County Zoning Restrictions, and likely to be struck down if challenged,” Nolen wrote in an email obtained by Empower Wisconsin. “My office will not be enforcing it in any criminal action, after further review and analysis of the issues presented. I foresee significant liability to the County at this point with no real ability to enforce the order.”

Warden finally heeded the DA’s advice and the order was rescinded Monday afternoon.

Green County’s neighbor to the north stayed the course on its lockdown while playing lip service to reopening. Public Health Madison and Dane County on Monday released its Forward Dane plan. It “allows” businesses to begin Tuesday to prepare to reopen, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“If key metrics are in a favorable position for at least one week, the county will step into the first of three reopening phases. Each phase will last for at least 14 days — the incubation time of the coronavirus — before Public Health assesses whether to move to the next phase,” the newspaper reported.

In other words, it may take more litigation for Dane County businesses and citizens to get their rights back.

The number two isn’t accurate anymore. Kittle and Joshua Waldoch report:

At least five Republican senators want to send Gov. Tony Evers’ Department of Health Services-designee Andrea Palm packing, as discontent continues to grow among conservatives about the former Obama administration official’s handling of the COVID-19 response.

Empower Wisconsin sought comment from all 18 Republican state senators. Sens. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), Andre Jacque (R-De Pere), Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), and Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) are calling for a Senate confirmation hearing on Palm’s nomination. They all say they would vote against her confirmation.

“She’s exceeded her authority, and broken the law,” Kapenga said. “We’ve removed people for less.”

Craig has been on record saying Palm has shown “incredibly poor judgment in dealing with COVID-19.”

“Her pervasive disregard for the law, the constitutional rights of citizens and the very data and ‘science’ she claims to follow is clear justification for her immediate removal,” the senator said in a statement last month. Craig announced on Tuesday that he would not seek another term.

“As he’s told our leadership and said publicly last year, Sen. Nass opposed her pre-COVID-19,” said Nass spokesman Mike Mikalsen. His position hasn’t changed. Palm, he said, has shown no remorse for her “illegal actions” in trying to “ram through” emergency rules that were the same as the stay-at-home orders. “Steve believes that any day the Senate comes back to floor this session her nomination should be on the agenda and voted down.”

The Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee approved Palm’s nomination last year on a 4-1 vote. Jacque cast the lone “no” vote, citing concerns about Palm’s deputy Nicole Safar, former vice president of public Affairs for Planned Parenthood. His position has not changed, particularly after watching Palm’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Sens. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Pat Testin (R-Stevens Point) did vote to confirm her in the Health Committee vote.

Stroebel, who has been a vocal critic of Palm and the DHS during the pandemic, told Empower Wisconsin he is open to a vote, and he would vote against the secretary-designee’s confirmation.

Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who resigned from the Senate this week to take the 7th Congressional District seat he won earlier this month, also has called for Palm’s ouster.

“Ms. Palm came here as Governor Evers’ hired gun, and she will leave with Wisconsin’s corpse if she continues,” Tiffany recently said in a statement.

Before being tapped as Evers health chief, Palm served as senior counselor to the secretary of Health and Human Services under former President Barack Obama. She has held leadership positions with Hillary Clinton, when Clinton was a U.S. senator from New York, and other liberal politicians and organizations.

Republicans hold an 18-13 majority. It had been 19-14 before Tiffany’s departure and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling’s (D-La Crosse) sudden resignation. 

Many senators did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comments.

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) doesn’t believe it’s an appropriate time to hold a confirmation hearing, said the senator’s chief of staff, Scott Kelly.

Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) said he does have serious concerns about Palm’s leadership, but many Republican caucus members have “agreed it would be best for there to be stability with the position.” He noted Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has made it clear that Palm would not be removed from her position during the crisis.

Post-pandemic, however, Roth said he thinks it would be best to re-refer her confirmation appointment back to the Senate Health Committee for another public hearing.

“We have seen how DHS operates, sometimes unlawfully, so it is prudent for Senators and the public to be allowed an opportunity to weigh in again after seeing how this pandemic was handled in Wisconsin,” he said.

Rooting for the death of your opponents

David Blaska:

Before their unpaid furlough, the white lab coats at Blaska Policy Werkes had been studying the disconnect between the rhetoric of progressives like Bernie Sanders, Mark Pocan, John Nichols, and A.O.C. and their actions.

Like Marxists everywhere, they purport to speak for the common man but represent the interests of tenured academics, the governing class, professional grievance peddlers, and other elites. They left “the Deplorables” to Donald Trump.

The farmers, tavern keepers, and hairdressers who protested WI Gov. Tony Evers’ rigid economic paralysis were motivated by “fear,” or “paranoia” or “just plain manipulated for political reasons,” Pocan sniffed. (Recounted here.)

The Progressive Dane mayor of Madison was more succinct: “Idiots!” she called them. Pocan, Mayor Rhodes-Conway, Nichols et al have yet to miss a single paycheck during a lockdown that has idled 33 million proud American workers and made them supplicants for Nancy Pelosi’s charity.

Peggy Noonan gets it. “Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge — scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game,”  Noonan writes in “Scenes from the class struggle.”

“The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor. …

It’s not that those in red states don’t think there’s a pandemic. … they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. …

The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. … No one sent them to Yale. … The overclass says, “Wait three months before we’re safe.” They reply, “There’s no such thing as safe.” …

⇒ “Wearing a mask is for smug liberals.”

⇒ “Liberals are more fearful of coronavirus.”

Peggy Noonan’s Bottom Line: “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations ‘racist and misogynistic.’ She might as well have called them ‘deplorables.’

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Please choose Whitmer as your veep, Uncle Joe!

From that came this observation:

The best part is that most of those Deplorables are Democrat voters. This is the very same magic that Ron Reagan used–except Ron was preoccupied with defeating Russia rather than the far more terrible Enemy Within.

Evers’ coronablunder

By now the state has had almost a day to digest the state Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the latest Safer at Home order.

Safer at Home’s apparent demise is entirely the fault of the Evers administration, though Republicans in the state Legislature deserve blame, as I’ve written here before, for relying on the courts instead of their own legislative power to negate or at least modify Safer at Home. But the strikedown of Safer at Home is the fault of its creators, and those were not Republicans. If you do something and the legal system smacks you down, that’s your fault for doing that didn’t pass legal or constitutional muster.

There are both legal and political dimensions to this. It is impossible for me to believe that no one in the Evers administration believed there might be legal problems with the vast array of Evers’ executive orders. Lawyers are supposed to find potential legal problems, even theoretical legal problems, and if no one in the Evers administration did, then Evers (or whoever did his administration’s hiring) did a bad job of hiring legal counsel. It’s as if the Evers administration is one big echo chamber where never is heard a discouraging word.

The political dimension is even worse. I’ve quoted one of my favorite political truths that crises are crises only when people in charge act as if they are crises. That has not been the case among the political class, beginning with Evers. A statesman would have asserted that this was a serious situation, and as evidence have showed how he worked with his political opposition on something that everyone, whether they voted for him or not, should be able to live with.

Evers claimed during a press conference in April that he believed “my people” talked to “their people” — that is, respectively, Evers’ staff and staff for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R–Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R–Juneau) — almost every day. For those who believe Evers’ decisions are actually the decisions of his staff, notably chief of staff Maggie Gau, that was an accidentally revealing statement.

It is also revealing that Evers did not himself talk to Assembly Republicans until the lawsuit against Safer at Home was already in the Supreme Court. That and the systematic lightening of Safer at Home makes one think that decisions have been made for some time on something other than “data and science” — specifically, a political conclusion that Safer at Home wasn’t as legally safe as Evers kept asserting.

A governor who realized that he was the governor of Wisconsinites who didn’t vote for him and/or voted for Republicans to represent them in the Legislature would have followed the maxim to keep your friends close and your enemies closer by giving the opposition at least an opportunity to participate in the creation of Safer at Home. If the GOP leadership refused, Evers could have said during his news conferences that he gave the GOP a chance and they wouldn’t cooperate. If for no other reason, the political aspirations of Vos (governor) and Fitzgerald (Congress) would have forced them to work with Evers.

(The latter point is not the same thing as Evers’ assertions that the Republicans had no plan. The Republicans had at least two plans, the plan from Rep. Cory Horlacher (R–Mukwonago) and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce plan. Maybe Evers didn’t like those plans, but the GOP had plans, even though the GOP did little to advance those plans in the Legislature.)

Evers himself said he didn’t think he and the GOP were that far apart. We may find out whether that’s true given that the six-day extension sought in the GOP lawsuit wasn’t approved because the opinion written by Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said Evers and the GOP should have been working together in the period after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case to come up with something that passed legal and constitutional muster.

I wish the Supreme Court had invalidated the statute upon which Safer at Home was (illegally) created. It is impossible for me to believe that those who wrote the state Constitution ever intended for unlimited governmental power to be wielded by someone for whom no one had the chance to vote on the grounds of an “emergency,” something that can be abused to, for instance, intern Japanese–Americans during World War II.

Had the Evers administration possessed some legal sense, it would have sent Safer at Home through the correct rule-making process. That would have resulted in some changes, but that would have co-opted the GOP since whichever committee(s) would have signed off on Safer at Home. That’s a real definition of “we’re all in this together,” not what those supporting lockdowns while suffering no financial hardship were asserting.

Evers has a news conference today at 1:30 p.m. I assume Evers will continue his verbal war that fired up last night against legislative Republicans. An honest governor would instead say something like this:

“The Safer at Home order was intended to protect Wisconsinites from this virus. But in doing so we made some decisions that according to the highest court in our state are not proper under state law, and we are a land of laws, not of men0. I call upon the leaders of the Legislature to work with us so that we keep Wisconsinites state in ways that are appropriate under state law and our state Constitution.”

I predict you won’t hear that today.

 

Safer at (the next) home

Democrat Dan Adams and Republican Brian Fraley:

Well, the Supreme Court has decided. Now what?

First of all – the court’s decision is no cause for unbridled celebration. Nor is this a time for public tantrums. It is time for the Governor and the leaders of the Legislature to develop, pass and implement bipartisan plans to: 

  1. Continue to mitigate the risk of the Coronavirus;
  2. Safely and briskly resume economic and social activities with new social distancing guidelines;
  3. Address the budgetary shortfalls at the State and Local levels that have resulted from the current Safer at Home orders and whatever soon-to-be-imposed regulations and laws.

We were encouraged that the Governor and Legislative leaders met last week after almost two months of talking past each other. It is in the best interest of everyone in Wisconsin that they now meet, every day, until the three areas listed above have been adequately addressed.

It is not time to lift all restrictions. On this point the vast majority of Wisconsinites agree. We remain in the middle of a pandemic. But it is time to move forward. 

Yet, even as restrictions are removed and revised, a heightened level of personal vigilance will be needed for years. Indeed, the key to fighting this pandemic is personal responsibility – our culture has adapted to this long term fight. And it is the voluntary actions of citizens that will defeat the virus. 

But as government officials ask us to be responsible and empathetic, we ask the same of our government officials.

It’s time to move forward, together, and create a steady recovery plan that is so widely-accepted and praised that the November elections will be about who gets the most credit for the achievement, not who gets the blame for failing to act.

When the Republicans and Democrats meet, we hope they bring medical professionals and researchers into the discussion (scientists, not merely advocates for the various components of our health care system). We have a deep and devoted cadre of them in the public and private sector here in Wisconsin. 

We would prefer to have these meetings be public, broadcast and live streamed. New public health policies will be more broadly embraced and adhered to if they are borne of a process that was transparent. Ultimately, our government’s actions will be more apt to be followed if they are draped in the legitimacy that open meetings would provide. 

In the event that these meetings are not public, we would hope to see bipartisan daily briefings that summarize the days accomplishments and forecast the work ahead.

One likely scenario is the Department of Health Services will promulgate an emergency rule, which would immediately be subjected to legislative review by the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules. So, JCRAR could be the forum where the bipartisan compromise is forged. In theory, the full legislature could convene to  pass their own plan in bill form but the subsequent veto battles would have politicians fighting and place the economic and physical health of Wisconsinites in the crossfire. 

It is time to put partisanship aside. Ignore the vitriol from the extreme ends of the political spectrum and instead focus on the possible, not the ideologically pure. It is time to meet and work together, to protect public health, preserve our healthcare system, and get Wisconsin’s economy and society working again. 

For what it’s worth, we drafted the bulk of this piece BEFORE we knew the outcome of the court case. Because the task before our leaders would be the same whether Governor Evers’ Administration had unlimited authority or not.  

It’s time to come together to open Wisconsin and fight the Coronavirus at the same time. For the sake of jump-starting the discussions, here’s an opening offer our leaders could consider.

  • [This] morning, all businesses, whether they provide goods or services, could (if they so choose) open at 20% of their fire code capacity.
  • In counties where the positive test result percentages and hospitalization rates are less than 50% of the Statewide average, that restriction could be 40% of the occupancy limit.
  • Social distancing, hygiene and mask use should continue to be promoted.
  • All employees who can reasonably perform their duties remotely should be allowed to do so.
  • Houses of worship could also open, subject to their respective county’s occupancy limits.
  • Continue to expand the occupancy limits by 20% of fire code capacity per week, as long as case and testing numbers remain steady or in decline.
  • In areas where the positive test percentage remains at or above 10%, cap the occupancy at 60% of the fire code limit.
  • Impose tighter restrictions where caseloads spike.

This is not a perfect plan. But it’s a starting point. They need to start somewhere. All or nothing gets us nothing.

Now is the time for heroes. We believe that together our leaders can become heroes. Let’s see if they believe the same. 

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3, 218-222. 

No longer Safer at Home (for now)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ order shutting down daily life to limit the spread of coronavirus — marking the first time a statewide order of its kind has been knocked down by a court of last resort.

The state’s highest court, which is controlled by conservatives, sided with Republican lawmakers Wednesday in a decision that curbed the Evers administration’s power to act unilaterally during public health emergencies.

The 4-3 decision was written by four of the court’s conservatives – Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Rebecca Bradley, Daniel Kelly and Annette Ziegler.

The court’s fifth conservative, Brian Hagedorn, wrote a dissent joined by the court’s two liberals, Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet. (The Bradleys are not related.)

The ruling, for now, throws out the administration’s tool to control the disease for which there is no vaccine and comes at a time when Evers has already begun lifting some restrictions as the spread of the virus slows down for now.

It will force the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature to work together on the state’s response to the ebbs and flows of the outbreak — a dynamic the two sides have rarely been able to achieve before.

GOP lawmakers who brought the lawsuit have said the legal challenge was necessary to get a seat at the table where Evers and state health officials make decisions about how to respond to the outbreak, which has killed 418 people in the state in two months.

The order expires Tuesday.

The ruling giving them the ability to block the Evers administration during the pandemic comes a day after a new statewide poll showed the public trusts Evers more than the Republican-led Legislature on when to begin reopening and relaxing restrictions related to the outbreak.

Evers has maintained his administration needs to be nimble and is relying on health experts to guide his decisions. He has said the procedure GOP lawmakers want will mean the state won’t be able to act quickly.

The court agreed with Republican lawmakers and required Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm and Evers to use a process known as rulemaking, which allows a committee with some of Evers’ biggest critics to have veto power over a plan the DHS puts forward.

Wisconsin was one of 43 states to be locked down by its governor and as of Wednesday, it was one of 11 with such restrictions still in place.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a state law governing communicable diseases that says, “The department (of Health Services) may close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics,” and gives the department the power to “authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases.”

The first laws providing powers to government officials were crafted in 1887, about 30 years before the 1918 flu pandemic that epidemiologists have said is similar to this year’s coronavirus outbreak.

In 1981, amid the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the state Legislature gave the power to DHS to issue orders — instead of using rulemaking.

Said Legislature was controlled by Democrats with a not particularly partisan governor, Lee Sherman Dreyfus.

Wednesday’s ruling came after a few thousand protested against the governor’s restrictions at rallies across the state, some comparing Evers to a murderous dictator and others complaining the order had nearly ruined their livelihoods.

More than 500,000 people filed for unemployment since Evers ordered the closure of businesses providing what the state has defined as non-essential services, like restaurants, hair salons, and tattoo parlors.

But the orders also had broad support from the public. A poll released Tuesday by the Marquette University Law School showed 69% of voters surveyed believed Evers’ actions were appropriate, though that support had decreased since March when more than 80% supported the restrictions.

Support and opposition has largely fallen along partisan lines.

In March, 83% of Republicans said closures were appropriate, compared with 49% in the new poll.

Among Democrats, support slipped from 95% in March to 90% in the current poll while among independents support slipped from 79% to 69%.

The public also trusted Evers more than the Republican-led Legislature on when to begin reopening and relaxing restrictions related to the outbreak, according to the poll.

Fifty-three percent said they trusted Evers more than the Legislature while 33% said they trusted the Legislature more to make those decisions.

The decision was not a surprise after Evers and his administration came under fire last week by conservative justices during oral arguments, including from one who compared his order to close businesses and schools amid the coronavirus outbreak to government oppression.

“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Justice Rebecca Bradley, who later questioned whether the administration could use the same power to order people into centers akin to the U.S. government’s treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The next Evers news conference should be interesting, don’t you think?

On SCIENCE!

Michael Smith is on a roll:

“Believe all scientists” makes about as much sense as “believe all women”. We never should believe all of any group simply because they are a particular identity.

Our local paper published an editorial asserting that if you don’t just blindly do what the “scientists” tell you, you are an anti-vaxxing, knuckle-dragging moron who just wants to kill everybody.

I sent this response last night to be published as a guest editorial:

In a recent editorial, the Park Record arrogantly posits that “Mistrust of Science during crisis is a contagion of its own.”

Let me say that blind trust during a crisis is a feature of religion, not science. Because I am conservative, I am accused of not believing in “science” but as an engineer, my life has always involved science and due to that, I know that science is a process of continual inquiry, not an endpoint.

If I may ask, as related to the COVID-19 pandemic, just which “science” are we supposed to believe?

Was it when the WHO told us that the virus could not be transmitted from human to human? Was it when we were told to wear masks, then not to wear masks, then to wear them again? Or was it when they said we should wear gloves until we were told that wearing gloves might not be the best idea? Was it “science” when we were told not to worry about the coronavirus because it the flu was going to be worse, that we shouldn’t be racists by banning travel from infected areas, that we just should go to festivals and have fun? Was it when riding public transit was OK or when they said that we should not do any of that and it was a failure because we did not do what the “experts” said not to do earlier? Were we supposed to believe the scientific models predicting millions dead or the models that said it could be as few as forty thousand – or when we were told that the ERs would be overwhelmed or when they weren’t’?

How about when we were told that “stay at home” orders were to flatten the curve but now that the curve is flattened, we must continue to cower as our economies, local and national, burn out in the flames of indifference and inaction? Or should we believe conflicting statements from the CDC, the NIH, Fauci, Birx and other “scientists”? That science?

How about citing the “science” behind closing hair salons (where access can be controlled, and PPE consistently employed) but letting Walmart and Home Depot run wild? Where is the “science” saying not quarantining nursing homes was a good idea but closing colleges was? Where is the “science” that says hiding in our homes defeats the virus even as we are told if we exit our sanctuaries before a vaccine is developed sometime in the next two years, the infections will rebound? Where is the science that says people can survive without economic activity and jobs?

As this editorial proves, the word “science” has been abused to the point it is virtually meaningless. It has achieved the same status as “racist” as it now means “people who disagree with my beliefs”.

For an editorial that claims we should rely on facts and science and facts, this editorial treated science as religion and the facts were few and far between. Citing studies about what people MIGHT do is not facts and citing the horribly erroneous IHME model as a valid predictor is ludicrous given its performance against reality and rather than increasing credibility of the Record’s position, bringing in the anti-vaccination movement only cements that the true purpose of this editorial was to dishonestly propose a guilt by association for anyone who questions the Record’s definition of “science”.

The real question is not whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus is more or less deadly than the flu – the real question is whether the response based on some mythical misinterpretation of science will prove more deadly than the virus.

Science isn’t the only appeal that asserts unquestionable authority. So does health care today. Gov. Tony Evers has on occasion been trotting out health care workers exhorting reporters to report that we must Stay The Course and praising Safer At Home. To no one’s surprise, he has not brought out anyone not singing from the Evers administration hymnal.

Questions not entirely answered

Mark Zart posted this on the Reopen Wisconsin Facebook page:

I got an email from State Senator Howard Marklein. I’m including an excerpt of it here and it includes a quote from Evers and what he thinks about the citizens of Wisconsin.

“In addition to the court case, I also sent a letter to Governor Evers on Thursday, May 7, 2020 to implore him to proceed with a regional, phased plan to re-open Wisconsin right away. I am becoming increasingly worried about the Main Street businesses in our communities that were deemed non-essential and closed in March. I am concerned about the people who have delayed medical care. I am anxious about the large employers who are holding it together – for now. I fear for the farmers who are dumping milk, euthanizing animals and contemplating their futures.

I told the Governor that the business-people and citizens I represent are smart. They understand the risks. They have devised detailed plans to re-open their businesses and go about their lives, while protecting vulnerable populations. I have attached my letter for your review.

I was prompted to write this letter after hearing the Governor’s comments during his press briefing on Monday, May 4, 2020. Steve Prestegard from the Platteville Journal asked the Governor a very good question. He asked the Governor how he is going to respond “if the population of the state is indicating with their feet that they’re really NOT in favor of Safer-At-Home.”

The Governor answered: “I don’t believe that.”

Governor Evers does not believe that the majority of people in Wisconsin want to re-open our state. He is not listening to you.”

 

Defang the governors

Regardless of how the Legislature’s lawsuit against the Evers administration, with arguments before the state Supreme Court scheduled for today, turns out (and never be optimistic about politics), no governor should the power to declare emergencies upon his or her whim without legislative approval.

Illinois state Sen. Dan McConchie:

As governors across the country destroy their states’ economies in the name of public health, there is shockingly little oversight of their actions.

In my state of Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has locked down the state, closing swaths of commerce and limiting the movement of citizens in response to Covid-19. These actions have been challenged in court by my colleague, state Rep. Darren Bailey, and a judge initially agreed to a temporary restraining order on the governor’s emergency measure, but only as they apply to Mr. Bailey. The rest of the state remains under lockdown by the governor’s orders, which continue without oversight.

Normally, the three coequal branches of government impose checks and balances to ensure accountability. Power is divided to allow recourse if one branch grows too intrusive or authoritarian. And while many people have sued governors in recent weeks to demand judicial redress, the judicial branch is reactive in nature, usually declining to disrupt legally plausible actions during a crisis. The legislative branch is a far better source of timely restraint.

Yet in 41 states there is little or no legislative input on gubernatorial state-of-emergency proclamations. Half those legislatures lack the ability to block any exercise of a governor’s power when done in the name of an emergency. That leaves elected representatives unable to defend their constituents against executive overreach.

While virtually all governors have issued a state of emergency limiting commerce or freedom of movement, only two states, Georgia and Oklahoma, require any affirmative action of the legislature to approve the governor’s initial declaration. Seven others require legislative approval of subsequent extensions after an initial emergency declaration expires. Twenty-two have neither of these powers, though the legislature may nullify an emergency declaration once made.

That leaves 19 states, including Illinois, where an emergency declaration that closes private business, restricts commerce and limits the free movement of residents has no limits at all.

Consider the questionable decisions of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who banned the sale of “nonessential” items such as furniture, carpeting and paint. That applied even in stores that were allowed to open. It remains unexplained how cherry picking what customers can and can’t buy at Home Depot limits the spread of coronavirus any better than, say, simply limiting the number of shoppers allowed in at any one time.

Here in Illinois, some of Gov. Pritzker’s limits on commerce can hardly be defended as “based in science.” Even under his latest Executive Order released Thursday, I can visit Target to buy furniture, Walmart to buy clothing or my grocery store to buy flowers. But I can’t go inside a furniture store, a clothing store or a florist, even though those stores could easily adopt the same safety measures required of the retail outlets permitted to stay open.

These arbitrary rules are inconvenient for the public, but more important, they crush the economic backbone of American communities—small business. Thousands, if not millions, of jobs may be lost nationwide because of some of the unchecked, myopic decision-making behind the total lockdowns.

The issue isn’t whether any particular governor is doing a good job during this unprecedented crisis. It’s that many governors have adopted a decision-making process that abandons one of America’s greatest strengths: diversity. The American system of government has led to the greatest creation of wealth and personal freedom in history because qualitatively better decision-making naturally results when disparate viewpoints are empowered at the governing table. The lack of legislative input in gubernatorial emergency declarations will surely result in more economic devastation and personal harm than is necessary to protect each other and defeat the virus.

Voters and legislatures alike are concerned about the exclusion of their voices from public affairs. Despite many legislatures not being in session due to the pandemic, states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Utah have introduced bills to curb gubernatorial authority regarding their emergency declarations. In the Illinois Senate, I have introduced a bill to require legislative authorization for renewal of emergency powers after the initial 30-day state-of-emergency declaration. This would leave the governor able to respond quickly to an emergency, but require him to justify the sustained exercise of that authority by submitting it to the periodic examination and approval of elected legislators.

This is exactly the kind of oversight enacted in Oklahoma when the legislature approved Gov. Kevin Stitt’s initial emergency declaration in early April. While the legislature agreed to give the governor broad power to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, it inserted language requiring advance notice before the governor suspends state statutes or regulations, and vowed broad transparency before the public on such matters. The legislature also must reapprove the governor’s declaration every 30 days and can vote to suspend it at any time.

Involvement by state legislatures in a crisis provides a potent, necessary check on centralized emergency authority. Legislative agreement requires the broad approval that facilitates the best decision-making. Making sure emergency directives are clearly defensible and widely supported helps limit the disruptions of life and violations of liberty citizens are forced to endure.

Our system of checks and balances between the branches of government is a source of strength and vitality during normal times. It is especially vital during a long crisis when the cost of emergency action is so high for so many.

While Gov. Nero fiddles …

Benjamin Yount:

Wisconsin’s largest business groups are using such words as “devastating” and “extinction-level” to describe the economic problems created by the state’s coronavirus lockdown.

Wisconsin’s Manufacturers and Commerce and the state’s Restaurant Association were just two of the groups pressing lawmakers to reopen the state on Thursday.

The groups said many businesses cannot wait another month to reopen.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association President Kristine Hillmer says half the state’s restaurants could close forever if the lockdown lasts longer.

“Prior to the crisis, there were 12,796 eating and drink establishments in our state. We employed over 284,000 people, representing about 9 percent of people in our state,” Hillmer said. “That represented $10.1 billion in estimated sales in Wisconsin.”

Hillmer said the numbers today are very different.

“A survey conducted between April 10 and April 16 this year illustrates the devastating impact on our industry,” Hillmer said. “One hundred thirty-six thousand-plus restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the outbreak.”

WMC’s Scott Manley said it is an economic imperative to reopen the state’s economy.

“As we sit here, right now, we have 19 percent unemployment. That is twice as high as it was during the worst days of the Great Recession, Manley said. “We’ve got 450,000 people who’ve filed for unemployment claims since social distancing regulations took effect.”

Manley added that most stores had seen their foot traffic cut in half, and restaurants and bars in the state have it worse than that.

Governor Evers says he’s willing to talk about reopening the state, but wants to see a plan from Republicans first.

Hillmer said that lawmakers and the governor should be working together, not squabbling.

“It is urgent that we use this time to figure out how these businesses can reopen, safely,” Hillmer told lawmakers.