“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.



A missing step

State Rep. Adam Neylon (R–Pewaukee):

Since 2013, I have had the honor of voting for legislation to cut taxes by millions for hardworking Wisconsin residents and businesses. These tax cuts are a major reason why Wisconsin has a 2.9 percent unemployment rate and our labor force is at an all-time of more than 3.1 million.

As Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy, I take great pride in the strides we have made the last few years to completely eliminate some taxes and lower others. Another important bit of information to keep in mind as you read this editorial is that in spite of these tax cuts, every year Wisconsin’s tax collections have increased. I repeat, the more taxes are cut, the more Wisconsin collects in tax revenue.

At the national level, Democrats are doubling down on their promise to repeal the most recent tax cuts signed into law late last year by Republicans. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has even promised to “replace and repeal” them.

Republicans, meanwhile, are doing their best to ensure those tax cuts are made permanent. Let’s check the numbers to see what’s at stake.

First, let’s note that tax cuts have ushered in a historic wave of stable economic growth and expanding prosperity. I’m a small business owner. I know that in states like ours across the country, small firms account for about two-thirds of new jobs. This year’s tax cuts delivered a huge 20 percent deduction for job-creating small firms.

Early evidence suggests the tax cuts are a runaway success. About two-thirds of small business owners report they’re in good financial health and anticipate increased revenues next year too. A third of businesses intend to grow operations, while a quarter are going to increase hiring and increase wages. Not since 1989 have we seen figures so high.

These tax cuts are turbocharging small businesses. The impact of booming small business is felt on Main Streets across America in the form of healthier markets, more take-home pay and better opportunities to get ahead.

In the first few months of this year alone, over 4 million employees gained better pay or benefits thanks to the tax cuts. Nonpartisan experts forecast above-average growth this year and next— as high as 4 percent annually.

Then we have to factor in personal taxes, which take the effect of small business relief and multiply it. Lower personal income taxes are coming to 90 percent of middle-class Americans— to the tune of more than $2,000 on average.

If repealed, small businesses would have to kiss that 20 percent deduction goodbye. Democrats would have us revert back to the old tax code where the top marginal rate was 40 percent— even before state and local taxes were tallied, not to mention the high costs of compliance and outside tax prep help.

To put it plainly, doing what the Democrats propose which is increasing taxes is a slap in the face of all the entrepreneurial small firms— many of them family firms with multiple employees — bolstering our economy. Eliminating these tax cuts would reduce job creation, shrink wages, diminish benefits and narrow opportunity. It’s also a recipe for economic stagnation.

Obviously, stalling our economy is not in our best interest, and I think most voters know better. You would think members of the minority party could support common sense economics. Instead, Democrats continue to dump misleading and cynical messaging on taxes over the political airwaves.

Democrats believe fundamentally that the money you earn belongs to the government, which simply lets you keep some of it.

At least now, the choice between which party believes you know how to spend your own money better than the government is clearer than ever.

There is, however, one area in which there is no difference between the parties in spending. Despite seven years of Republican control of two branches of state government, Republicans have failed to institute permanent constitutional controls on government spending and taxes. That is because, most likely, Republicans, because they are politicians, want to make voters vote for them to get taxes cut.

Politicians regardless of party (including no party) need to be prevented from being able to spend or tax more than is justifiable by inflation and population growth. Government should have to get voter approval for tax increases either by supermajority or by referendum.

Establishment beats establishment, or something


State Rep. André Jacque (R-De Pere), despite being underfunded and being opposed by leaders of his own party, defeated businessman Alex Renard in the Republican Primary in the special election in state Senate District 1. Jacque won with nearly 52 percent of the vote according to unofficial numbers reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette. The unofficial margin of victory was 330 votes.

Jacque was not the favorite of some in his own caucus after pushing at a public hearing for the complete elimination of the state’s prevailing wage law for both state and local government construction projects. The public hearing did not have the blessing of Assembly Republican leadership and it also upset unionized roadbuilder companies. Lobbyist and former Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Sun Prairie) recruited Renard to compete with Jacque in the special primary election.

In addition to Renard outspending Jacque, third-party spending from a group called Midwest Growth Fund also became a factor in the race.

However, Jacque was able to overcome those difficulties with grassroots support, especially from pro-life organizations who endorsed only Jacque in the race because of his track record of supporting their causes. Jacque also received support from Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, a trade organization of mostly non-union companies that agreed with Jacque on repealing the prevailing wage law and supporting the Right to Work law.

Despite the divisions in the Republican Party, there was at least a show of unity after Jacque’s victory.

“I am humbled by the outpouring of support I received over the last two months by my friends and neighbors across Wisconsin’s 1st State Senate District,” Renard said in a statement after the election. “I am proud of the campaign we ran and would like to congratulate Rep. Jacque on his victory and wish him luck in the June 12th election.”

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke also posted on Twitter his support for Jacque:

Congrats to Rep Jacque on his win tonight! Time to circle the wagons for what will be a tough general election fight. Republicans will (and must) unite.

Jacque now faces Democrat Caleb Frostman in the June 12 general election. The winner will have to run for re-election in the August 14 primary and the November election.

Democrats are hoping to build on the momentum of the victory in the special election in state Senate District 10 and in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election in April.

The special election became necessary when Governor Scott Walker appointed state Sen. Frank Lasee (R) to a position in the Administration. Walker attempted to spare local communities the expense of holding a special election for a seat that wouldn’t be occupied until after the legislature finished its business for the year, but Democrats and for Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder successfully sued to force the election.

Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno told Fox 11 Newsthe county will spend a total of $18,060 for the two special elections. That’s in addition to the cost to local communities which did not plan for the special elections in their budgets.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Democrat

Yesterday, I commented about how Democrats believe that they should spend more of your money than they already do and how they are smarter with your money than you are (or so they think).

Scott Bauer of the Associated Press brings this up:

Here is the Assembly roll call vote on the child tax rebate bill that passed 61-35 in February. Some Democrats who voted against it are now advertising how to sign up to claim the $100 rebate.

Why would they do that? One Democrat, Rep. Jason Fields (D–Milwaukee), voted for the tax rebate. Fields’ party is opposed to tax cuts. They would take all of your money if they could.

RightWisconsin reports on something else:

It turns out Cathy Myers, a Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, is one of them Illinois imports that Democrats warned us about during the Foxconn debate.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Mary Spicuzza and political gossip columnist Dan Bice are reporting Myers claimed a $6000 annual homestead tax credit for a primary residence in Illinois until 2012. The problem is Myers moved to Wisconsin in 2009 and began voting here at that time.

“My taxes were filed based on the advice of a licensed tax attorney,” Myers wrote to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to explain. “I am seeking a second opinion to review those filings. If there are any  adjustments that need to be made, I will, of course, make them.”

Myers, of course, has been critical of Randy Bryce, her Democratic Primary opponent, over his finances including unpaid child support.

Bice and Spicuzza point out that property taxes are a key funding source for school systems. Apparently, it’s okay if other people pay (even more) taxes to fund Myers’ salary, but not so much for Myers to cough up her full share of property taxes to fund schools.

Myers is supposed to be the reasonable Democratic candidate, as opposed to Bryce, who is a pig.

As for the federal Democrats, Ryan Ellis lists how Democrats pledge to increase federal taxes should they get control of Congress after the Nov. 6 elections:

Increase the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. This nearly 3 percentage point increase in the top personal rate is not only a hike in the top bracket levy, but it’s also a direct tax increase on small and mid-sized businesses. The 30 million companies which are organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, Subchapter-S corporations, and LLCs pay their business taxes on their owners’ 1040 personal tax returns. Hiking the top tax rate is a small business tax increase.

Increasing personal income taxes would be particularly unfortunate since workers are now seeing the results of lower rates in their paychecks. Thanks to the new IRS withholding tables, in February of this year over 90 percent of workers saw higher take home pay in the form of fatter direct deposits (for a humorous spectacle of the New York Times desperately trying to get people to down-talk their bigger paychecks, click here). They will continue to see those bigger paydays for as long as the tax rates in law remain in effect. This higher tax home pay is a down payment on a lower tax liability. Typical families of four should see their federal income tax decline from $2000 to $4000, depending on their income level and number of children.

Increase the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 25 percent. Up until this year, the United States labored under the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world. As a result, jobs and capital were fleeing America for more normal tax rates that could be found in tax havens like France and China (saracasm font very much activated). Finally, after many years of bipartisan consensus that the U.S. corporate rate had become an impediment to attracting new jobs and investment, Congress cut the rate all the way from 35 to 21 percent. Even doing that only puts us in the middle of the pack of developed nations, but that’s a heck of a lot better than dead last.

As a result of this change, companies like Fiat ChryslerAmgen, and Amicus Therapeutics (among many others) have announced new factories and jobs would be built in America, not in other countries. Americans for Tax Reform keeps a running list of tax cut bonuses, raises, 401(k) match increases, and other benefits companies are passing along to workers as a result of this tax cut. The current number as of this writing is 431 companies and over 4 million workers. Just yesterday, Cox Enterprises announced bonuses of up to $2000 for 55,000 of their workers. Walmart and Wells Fargo have announced permanent wage hikes for all employees, notably those on the lowest rung of the ladder. Electric and other utility bills are going down in states all across the country.

Not content to endanger all that good news, the Democratic tax increase goes on to call for the following:

Bring back the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for 4 million families. Up until this year, 4 million upper middle class families had to calculate their income taxes two different ways, and then pay the higher result. This was due to a provision of the law known as the “alternative minimum tax” or AMT. Millions more had to at least pay a tax preparer to run the calculation, even if they didn’t end up paying the AMT. The new tax law all but repealed the AMT for 99 percent of these families thanks to a higher AMT “standard deduction.” Congressional Democrats would bring back the dreaded AMT, which especially hit hard two-income white collar families with kids in New York, New Jersey, and California.

Cut the “death tax” standard deduction in half. Over the past few decades, no tax has proven more unpopular in every single poll than the death tax, the federal tax on estates. 60 to 70 percent of poll respondents consistently call for its full repeal. The new tax law didn’t repeal the death tax, but it did the next best thing–it doubled the death tax’s “standard deduction” from $5.5 million to $11 million (and twice that for surviving spouses). As a result, far fewer family businesses and farms will be subject to the death tax, and many smaller firms can shed the costly insurance, legal, and actuarial costs of avoiding the death tax. Like the top personal rate, the death tax is not something that really affects the rich, who have plenty of resources to avoid the levy. Rather, it hits hardest those companies profitable enough to worry about it but not profitable enough to not worry about, if you catch my meaning. Democrats have never understood this, which is why it’s not surprising they want to reduce the death tax’s standard deduction back down to what it was before.

All of this is very confusing given that the new tax law is supported by a plurality of the American people (the New York Times reports it’s actually a majority) and is growing in popularity. A good chunk of people haven’t even yet realized they’ve received a tax cut, so the favorable numbers should continue to grow. Maybe that’s why a Democratic pollster and strategist recently wrote:

Since the passage of the Republicans’ tax bill, and even before it, Democrats have been losing the messaging war. Now that many Americans are seeing the results in their paystubs, it’s even harder for Democrats to make this a winning issue. Voters are seeing the bill’s positive impact and are not likely to oppose it because we tell them they’re not benefiting, and many voters who aren’t seeing the impact still support the bill. If Democrats want to continue using this bill as a major issue for November, we need a new messaging strategy.

Benjamin Franklin and Friedman

Lost in the observance (note I didn’t write “celebration”) of the 30th anniversary of my graduation from UW–Madison yesterday was the first day of what Wisconsin Public Radio reports:

Tuesday Wisconsin residents with children under the age of 18 can apply for a one-time, $100 tax credit. The credit comes at a cost of about $130 million, and at a time when Gov. Scott Walker is gearing up for his re-election bid.

Parents and guardians will have from May 15 to July 2 to apply for the rebate. Caregivers are eligible for the $100 tax credit for every child they have living in their home under the age of 18 as of December 31, 2017. They can apply online or over the phone through the state Department of Revenue.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler said he thinks there’s going to be a lot of interest. It should take less than three weeks for applicants to get their credit once they’ve applied, and the DOR will have staff available to help process the requests.

Chandler said this is part of the Walker administration’s continued efforts to provide tax relief for those who need it.

“It will really help middle class families, especially working families with children,” he said. “And that’s where we think there’s a tremendous need for tax relief, and this takes care of that.”

Along with the child tax credit, Walker used his veto power to expand the late-summer sales tax holiday from two days to five days.

The website is here.

The Presteblog’s official position on tax cuts mirrors Milton Friedman:

While permanent (or as permanent as possible in the world of politics) tax reform is preferable, such tax breaks as this rebate is better than the alternative, which WPR also reports:

Democrats have criticized Walker’s move, saying it was politically motivated.

Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said there are better ways to spend this money.

“And of course with $130 million we could have fixed lead pipes,” he said. “We could have tested all the rape kits that are sitting around. We could have expanded rural broadband, or we could have kept our budget intact given that we face a pretty significant structural deficit heading into the next year.”

Hintz said this shows Walker is trying to gain favor with voters heading into the election in November.

Attempts to gain favor with voters before an election? That never happens! (/sarcasm) Using Hintz’s “logic” maybe to get our tax money back we should have elections every year.

Democrats, the party of unlimited spending, taxation and regulation, would claim that we stupid taxpayers don’t deserve any of our own money back, of course. Those of us who pay Hintz’s salary should want our own money to do with as we please, because we know better how to spend our own money than Hintz and other Democrats do. And thanks to Walker and Republicans, we’re getting at least some of our own money back, one Franklin (you know, the $100 bill) per child.



Shorter version: Grow up

Sarah Hoyt writes to worshipers of both The Donald and his predecessor:

The President is not your daddy. Do I really have to say this? To supposed adults? To people qualified to vote in a democratic republic? There are two items I came across this week that seem to indicate that indeed I do. No one ever taught these people to reason their way out of a paper bag, or even told them why they should.

Instead, they were given a set of beliefs that define “good people” and if they stop believing in those things, they are “bad people.”

I’d say these are not adults in any sense of the word, but that’s not exactly true.  Throughout most of the history of our species, adults had a set of beliefs it was best not to question, whether it be “our tribe is better than the next tribe” or “we have to eliminate all the suede-eaters” or even “this is how we tie our glurk and display our brek” because humans are tribal, and displaying your tribal loyalty has been way more important than actually being, you know, rational and asking if things really work that way for… most of history.

The problem is that we’re not in a society (or societies if you extend this to all of Western civilization) that can survive this kind of quasi-religious denial of logical thought.  We’re not in a society (or societies) that can hold on tight to the idea that all cultures are the same, when, say, the Oktoberfest is being cancelled throughout many cities in Germany because migrants can’t get it across their heads that a woman not covered like a sofa is NOT, in fact, asking to be raped. We’re not in a society that can survive voters being misinformed by the high priests of the leftist religion on the nature of good and evil either, or the nature of the presidency. But that is the society we live in and misinformation is rife.

See, when you remove rationality and true research and information as a way of forming your opinion, and instead you know in your heart of hearts you have to believe a set of precepts to be a “good person,” you are not fit to live in a representative republic, or to have your vote counted.

But in our society, your vote does count. And chances are you’re not shy about displaying your infantilization on Twitter either.  Note this, with name not removed because this person tweeted it for all the world to see.

Note this person has 495 retweets and 1858 likes for something that’s not just absolutely nonsensical but ridiculous and should be shameful for any free and thinking adult to proclaim.

This person thinks Obama was her father? Why? First of all, she could not have lit on a worse person than the child-president, himself forever ready to act like a peevish adolescent to be her “daddy.” Second, seriously  You want the president to be your father? Why? He’s the executive of the republic at the federal level, a level that should be remote enough from your everyday life that you really have very little contact with him. (Yeah, sure, the feds have been getting their noses in everything. But they’re not supposed to.)  Third, sure thing, some of the functions of the president, like the power to direct the military, are supposed to be protective and therefore “father like” but then again, Obama was remarkably reluctant to protect anyone, so why this attachment to him as “daddy?”

The last time I was on Wisconsin Public Radio, my opponent kept referring to her favored politicians by their first name. The only time I would ever refer to a politician by his or her first name is because I was speaking to them directly.

The alleged “blue wave”

CNN has bad news for Democrats:

The generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with the Democrats’ edge over Republicans within the poll’s margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.

About six months out from Election Day, 47% of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44% back the Republican. Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31%) or with the GOP in charge (30%). A sizable 34% — including nearly half of independent voters (48%) — say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress.

The Democrats’ advantage in the generic ballot dipped from 16 points in February to six points in March to just three points now. The party’s advantage has waned among enthusiastic voters as Republican enthusiasm has grown (in March, 36% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters said they were very enthusiastic about voting; that’s up to 44% in the new poll), but the Democrats still have a double-digit lead among those most excited to vote this fall (53% of those who are very enthusiastic about voting say they’d back the Democrat in their district vs. 41% who say they favor the GOP candidate). Those enthusiastic voters also say by a 10-point margin that the nation would be better off with Democrats in control of Congress than Republicans.

By 48% to 43%, registered voters say they would rather back a candidate who opposes Donald Trump than one who supports the President. That margin has narrowed from the 52% who opposed Trump to the 41% who supported him in January. …

The results come from the same poll this week that found nearly six in 10 saying that things in the country are going well amid improving approval ratings for the President’s handling of major issues, including the economy, immigration and foreign trade. Trump’s overall approval rating, however, held steady at 41%. …

On more traditional issue priorities, voters are now more apt to say the nation’s economy will be an important factor in their vote than they were in February (84% call it extremely or very important now, up from 79% in February), with immigration (from 72% important to 76% now) and taxes (from 67% important to 73% now) are also on the rise. At the same time, health care has dipped somewhat as a priority (from 83% important to 80%, with the most meaningful shift coming in the share who call it “extremely important,” which dipped from 53% in February to 46% now), along with sexual harassment (from 64% to 58%) and the Russia investigation (from 45% important in February to 40% now).

The latter is the one prediction I will make — voters’ evaluation of the economy as of November will determine which party’s candidates they vote for Nov. 6.

M. Joseph Sheppard adds:

The latest YouGov/Economist poll (May 6-8), one of a few that comprehensively breaks down support by ethnicity, has some frightening news for the Democratic Party.

While President Trump’s approval holds steady among registered voters at 41 percent, his support among blacks in this poll is striking. If it holds for 2020, it could be devastating for Democrats. Among African-Americans, 16 percent approve of Trump, 10 percent are not sure, and 75 percent disapprove.

While that sounds highly negative, these are high positives for a Republican politician among black Americans. Approval of 16 percent is 8 points higher than the 8 percent of black voter support Trump received on election day 2016, and 9 points higher than the black vote Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received in 2012. The “Not Sure” at 10 percent is staggering, and the 75 percent “disapprove” rating is consistent with the low 70 percent aggregate found in any YouGov poll among this demographic.

The same poll, with their rounding, reported in January that Trump approval was at 10 percent among black Americans, 15 percent were not sure, and 74 percent disapproved, so the numbers are not only steady but improving in Trump’s favor.

This result may actually be underreporting Trump’s black support, as this records “all voters,” which consistently has lower figures for Trump in all categories, as opposed to registered voters. YouGov/Economist gives Trump a 40 percent “All voters” approval rating four points lower than their registered voters findings (RealClearPolitics favors the registered voters results across the polling companies it reports).

Of course, one polling company’s report could be a fluke. Some firms use different methodology, and some don’t break down approval ratings by ethnicity, but the bigger picture is clear.

Marist’s March 19-21 approval for Trump among black Americans was 6 percent; 17 percent were unsure, and 77 percent disapproved. The Quinnipiac poll, which is consistently negative to Trump, on March 21 found black approval at 11 percent, “Don’t Know” at 4 percent, and disapproval at 84 percent. Taken in the aggregate, the three polls have Trump’s approval at 11 percent, at 12 percent for not sure or don’t know, and disapproval at 77 percent. Again, while the negatives are high, the positives are higher than is typical for Republicans, and if black Americans vote in accord with these approval ratings it would be easily enough to tip a tight election.

The threat to the Democratic Party is obvious based on these results and their upward trend for Trump. If Trump could win Pennsylvania despite a turnout for Hillary in Philadelphia that was only three points less than President Obama received in 2012 and “The best turnout without Obama on the ballot I’ve ever seen,” then any further bleeding of black support in that state could ensure Trump’s re-election, even if he lost Florida but kept his rust belt wins. If the current support level holds and turns into actual support (or anywhere near it), then Democrats are in profound trouble—possibly even for the midterms.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, Hillary underperformed Obama with blacks. Trump’s margin in Ohio was so high that any further slippage among blacks would lead to landslide territory. …

Given the 2016 results, that might be enough to ensure good numbers for Trump among African-Americans in his next bout at the polls, but there may be much worse news for Democrats. There are three key dates from the official black unemployment figures: in February 2010, the height of the financial crisis, black unemployment was 16.8 percent; in February 2016, it was 8.7 percent; and in February 2018 it was 6.9 percent. The last figure is the lowest since records were kept.

Certainly the lower trend began under the Obama administration, but the economy is far enough along in the Trump administration to ascribe the remarkable level of employment to Trump’s policies. This indisputable fact has led to this spin: “Yes, black unemployment is low, but blacks value more than just work opportunities.”

Due to economic considerations in 2016, and in the absence of overt racism from Trump’s administration, a chunk of black voters seems to have hesitatingly moved to Trump and his promise of jobs. Their “try it and see” or, as Trump put it, “What have you got to lose,” has been well rewarded so far.

If black support for Trump gets into double figures, the Democratic Party will have to look for different themes than Russia or Stormy Daniels and other such nonsense. Their failure to present an economic focus in 2016 contributed greatly to Hillary’s loss. To do so again, especially with black voters, could end in utter disaster.

Small business and business taxes

Small business owner Wm. Michael Simmons:

This week is National Small Business Week. It’s an opportunity to emphasize the big role small businesses play in the economy and labor market. Small businesses account for half of GDP and half of all jobs. And they create the majority of new jobs and new inventions. I have been fortunate enough to lead several small businesses over my career and witness their outsized importance first-hand.

While we recognize the small business backbone of the economy this week, we should also take a moment to examine the public policies that allow small businesses to thrive in the first place. I am continually amazed that so many people — including politicians and community leaders — believe that small businesses are simply a part of nature — like Lake Michigan — that they aren’t affected by broader economic trends or public policies.

In reality, public policy has a major impact on small business success. Take it from me: Entrepreneurs consider the costs of taxes and regulations before making any decision to hire or expand. For decades, over-taxation had an especially damaging effect on small business creation and expansion, ranking among the biggest hurdles small businesses faced.

Recently passed federal tax cuts have changed that. They created a new 20 percent small business tax deduction — the biggest small business tax cut in the country’s history. Though this aspect of the tax cuts has been overlooked by the media, it arguably has the biggest impact on the economy and the small business dreams of entrepreneurs in Wisconsin and throughout the country. These necessary tax cuts provided me the opportunity to start two Wisconsin businesses: Flags For Schools and eTOP Sports Innovations.

Prior to the tax cut, small businesses faced a top marginal tax rate of 40 percent — not including state and local taxes. At this level of taxation surviving is difficult for many small businesses — let alone thriving. This is reflected in the declining small business creation of recent years — one of the few economic indicators not to recover from the Great Recession.

The new 20 percent tax deduction effectively lowers the top small business tax rate from 40 percent to 30 percent — a 25 percent tax cut. It allows small business owners to protect one-fifth of their earned income from taxes. This capital can instead be used to expand into new product lines, open new locations, hire new employees, and give existing ones raises. No wonder small businesses support the new tax cuts by a margin of ten-to-one, according to a recent national survey.

Given small businesses’ major role in the economy, their benefits are shared by everyone. Less money extorted from Wisconsin small businesses by the IRS means more money stays at home in communities where it is needed. Less taxes means more investment, consumption, and jobs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has recognized this tax cut stimulus. It recently raised its growth forecast for the year to 3.3 percent, a level that mainstream economists said couldn’t be achieved. At this level of growth — more than twice the rate of the last year of the Obama Administration — living standards rise noticeably.

This economic growth will create a feedback loop for small businesses, giving them new customers, with more disposable income — something every small business wants. In this sense, the tax cuts are a gift that keeps on giving.

So while we celebrate small businesses this week, we should also reflect on the public policies that go hand-in-hand with their success. These should also be celebrated during National Small Business Week this week.


Respect for all of the Bill of Rights

CBS News reports a story from my former area:

A Wisconsin high schooler is fighting to wear shirts with images of guns to school. Matthew Schoenecker says his T-shirts reflect his personal beliefs, but after the Parkland school shooting, administrators at his high school said his shirts were inappropriate and that he could no longer wear them. He is suing his principal over the ban.

Shooting is an activity the Shoeneckers enjoy as a family, but it’s one Matthew now says is being used against him.

“They just said something like, ‘You could be the next school shooter maybe,'” he told CBS News’ Nikki Battiste.

The remarks are part of the backlash the 15-year-old now faces for wearing T-shirts with images of guns and a grenade in school.

Matthew says he’s been wearing the same shirts since the fall. But his parents say it was only after the Parkland school shooting in February, that the school’s principal sent home a letter telling Matt to “change the shirt” because “it was inappropriate.” When Matt refused, he was moved to a cubicle for two days.

“He says, ‘Well, your son’s T-shirt’s promoting violence,'” Matt’s mother, Pam Schoenecker said. “I said, ‘His T-shirts celebrate diversity. And then his other T-shirt says, ‘love.’ How is that promoting violence? None of the times was he able to answer that question.”

In April, Matthew filed a lawsuit alleging that “there are no school rules explicitly banning wearing clothing that depicts firearms” and that doing so “violated his freedom of expression.”

“He is perfectly within his First Amendment rights to wear those shirts,” John Monroe, Matthew’s lawyer, said.

Monroe is being paid by Wisconsin Carry, a pro-gun group.

“The issue here isn’t really a gun issue, it’s a speech issue. And, you know, if Parkland had never happened,” Monroe said.

Cases like Matthew’s are popping up across the country. In Nevada, a middle school student is suing his school district after it also barred him from wearing T-shirts containing images of guns. In a statement to “CBS This Morning,” a school spokesperson said, “the child was not harmed in anyway except for being asked to wear a sweatshirt over his shirt.” Lawyers in both the Wisconsin and Nevada case say the schools allowed students to participate in school walkout activities supporting gun control.

“I just, I just think they’re hypocrites….You can promote an anti-gun agenda but then you have a student that comes in there, knows history, knows the Constitution and you’re going to tell him he can’t,” Pam said.

“This is a complex issue. I think that schools should have the ability to regulate a student’s clothing for a whole host of reasons,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said. “We don’t want violence in schools. We don’t want gang signs, we don’t want people with Nazi swastikas….These things are all obvious that we would not condone. But the mere picture of a gun? Is that sufficient?”

While the lawsuit is pending, Matthew can still wear his favorite shirt to school, expressing a belief the Schoeneckers say is a just a normal part of their lives. But why not just stop wearing the shirts for a while?

“Because that’s just who Matthew is….He’s always gone hunting, he’s gone target shooting,” Pam said. “The Second Amendment thing, the Constitution, all of that is part of our family.”

“I get where they’re coming from. But at the same time, they’re expecting my son to change who he is because of what is going on in another part of the country,” she said.

The Schoeneckers said they are not asking for financial damages in their lawsuit. They just want Matthew to be allowed to wear his shirts in school. CBS News reached out to Markesan High School and its attorneys, but they declined to comment.

WISN-TV in Milwaukee also reports:

Nine Marquette University High School students on Wednesday morning walked out of class to show support for the Second Amendment.

“We’re here for the Second Amendment,” said junior Jack Dubois, who was wearing an NRA sweatshirt to make his point. “There’s not many of us because our school doesn’t support it. They said, basically, ‘You’re going to get [detention] if you walk out.'”

The students were taking part in walkouts happening nationwide called Stand for the Second. They are protesting to guarantee their constitutional rights to bear arms.

WISN 12 News spotted school officials scattered around the building, even hearing one worker yelling at the students to come back in.

“It’s not just about the Second Amendment. It’s about the First Amendment,” said junior Jack Kujawa.

Shortly after making this statement, Kujawa was interrupted by a school official, who said, “I warned you. Don’t be late.”

A Marquette University High School spokesman told WISN 12 News that “no student was told they would face detention for walking out. Students were allowed to leave the building to express themselves via the walkout, and it was the position of the school that they would be allowed to express their First Amendment rights.”

The students’ version of what Marquette administration told them, if correct, is ironic since Marquette and all other parochial schools are able to exist because of the First Amendment. The cynic might believe Marquette administration changed its mind on detention after seeing the cameras, whose existence is also protected by the First Amendment.

And the candidates go rolling along

James Wigderson begins with something that came up at last week’s U.S. Senate Republican debate:

… we have to address [Kevin] Nicholson saying that his service in Iraq and Afghanistan is all the conservative credentials anyone should ever need from him. He’s not the first to make that statement on his behalf.

I have said before and I still believe that Nicholson has an interesting story when he says his military experience contributed to his becoming a conservative. But while that may be his personal story, it’s certainly not the story of every person who has served in the military. For example, my father-in-law served in the Marines and is very proud of his service, and our whole family is proud of him. But his service in the Marines doesn’t change the fact that my father-in-law has never voted for a Republican, and he won’t be voting for Nicholson, either.

We can run down the list. Does former Secretary of State John Kerry’s service in Vietnam exempt him from conservative criticism going forward? Because it never has in the past. Former Vice President Al Gore was in Vietnam, too. George McGovern, the liberal icon, fought in World War II. President Jimmy Carter served in the Navy on submarines. Walter Mondale was in the Army. And so on.

So when Nicholson tells the story of his military service, we can draw all sorts of conclusions about his character but it’s not proof of a political philosophy.

… followed by Christian Schneider:

“I’m going to be blunt,” Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson said near the end of a debate with GOP opponent Leah Vukmir last week. “For those who have said that leading Marines in combat in two wars does not qualify as conservative credentials need to look inside them and decide what they think conservative credentials are.”

Pursuant to Nicholson’s instructions, I have looked deep inside myself to determine what a “conservative credential” is. And leading Marines in combat isn’t one.

In fact, serving in the military isn’t “conservative” or “liberal” at all. Both Democrats and Republicans serve bravely and honorably, and neither ideology has a monopoly on claiming patriotism and bravery on the battlefield.

Take, for example, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who in 2004 lost both legs and suffered a badly damaged arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was flying in Iraq. Or late Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye, who was a medical volunteer during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and lost his right arm to a grenade in World War II. Clearly, one can serve with distinction in the military and still be a reliable progressive vote in public office.

Nicholson is trying to use his laudable military service as a stand-in for conservative credentials because he has so few Republican achievements. He has made no secret of the fact that he is a former Democrat, having served as head of the College Democrats of America and even addressing the 2000 Democratic National Convention in support of Vice President Al Gore’s presidential candidacy.

There’s nothing wrong with switching parties — Republican icon Ronald Reagan spent most of his life as a Democrat, as did Donald Trump. In fact, if Republicans want to return to a majority party in America, they’re going to need a lot more party-flippers.

But if Nicholson wants to convince Republican primary voters he believes in lower taxes, less regulation and the sanctity of life, he’s going to have to do more than cite his service in the Marines. As Vukmir said during the debate, while she respected his military service, the public knows more about his time as a Democrat than “his track record as a Republican.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that military service tells us nothing about a candidate. It can demonstrate discipline, leadership, and tenacity. It can be a sign that you can hold a position where your fellow soldiers’ lives are on the line, and it can signal toughness, dedication, and morality. (In contrast, President Trump eluded service in Vietnam by producing a doctor’s letter saying he had bone spurs in his heels and later would claim that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating “is my personal Vietnam” and that he felt like a “great and very brave soldier.”)

If one discounts military service as an indication of “conservatism,” we are left to ascertain Nicholson’s dedication to the cause by what he actually says. And for the most part, he’s got an easy, appealing style that shows he understands the issues Republicans care about the most.

But as a representative of the Trump wing of the party, Nicholson sometimes strains to offer differences between himself and the established conservative, Vukmir. At one point during last week’s debate, Nicholson blamed Vukmir’s type of conservatism for a big liberal Supreme Court win a few weeks ago. Keep in mind, it was Vukmir’s brand of conservatism (aligned primarily with Republican Gov. Scott Walker) that led to Walker having won three elections and Republicans holding historical majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. The big losses in Wisconsin only started happening when Donald Trump was picked to head the Republican Party at the national level.

Yet the lure of Trumpism has led both GOP Senate candidates to take decidedly un-conservative positions. At the debate, both Vukmir and Nicholson lauded Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on China, which could trigger a trade war and significantly increase the cost of goods produced by Wisconsin’s farmers and manufacturers. While “sticking it to” other countries through protectionist trade policy might be a rhetorical winner in Trump country, it’s hard to believe it’s being taken seriously in a Republican Senate primary.

Through his military service, Nicholson has shown he’s brave enough to take on America’s enemies in a war overseas. If he wanted to burnish his conservative credentials for primary voters, he should now show he’s brave enough to stand up to a public opinion poll on trade.

It would be safe to say that military service is more important to Republican-leaning voters than Democrat-leaning voters. There has not been a Democratic nominee for president with military service since Michael Dukakis, and I bet most voters didn’t even know that Dukakis had served in the Army.

To Wigderson’s and Schneider’s points about Democrats who go from the military to politics, CNN reports:

Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he questions the “cognitive thought process” of veterans who vote Democratic, arguing that their military service contradicts their political views.

Asked by host Steve Scaffidi on the local station WTMJ about Republican primary opponent Leah Vukmir’s suggestion that her record as a Republican state senator should mean more to conservative voters than his military experience, Nicholson argued that to serve in the military is fundamentally conservative.

“And just because some people that don’t call themselves conservatives and don’t always act conservative do something conservative — like, let’s talk about John Kerry — and signed up to serve this country, that doesn’t mean that that’s not a conservative thing to fundamentally protect and defend the Constitution,” Nicholson said. “Because I’ll tell you, the Democrat party has wholesale rejected the Constitution and the values that it was founded upon. So I’ll tell you what: Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat party, I question their cognitive thought process because the bottom line is, they’re signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud.”

Nicholson’s military service has been a focal point of his campaign to be the GOP nominee to unseat Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin in November, as has his journey from being a member of the Democratic Party as a younger man to becoming a Republican. Nicholson was president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. He later joined the Marines and told Politico in September 2017 that his deployment to Iraq in 2007 was key to changing his political views, saying he was “livid” with Democrats for calling the war a failure.

Nicholson campaign spokesman Brandon Moody elaborated on the candidate’s remarks in an email to CNN’s KFile.

“Kevin made clear that all members of the military – regardless of their political party – sign up to defend and protect the Constitution and its principles,” he said. “But Kevin also believes that the Democrat Party has become unmoored from the Constitution and has lost its way. Kevin left the Democrat Party years ago and became a conservative, in part, because liberal Democrats and the policies they promote have shown overt disrespect to our veterans.”

CNN’s KFile reported in February that both Nicholson’s mother and father donated the legal maximum to Baldwin’s primary campaign in December.

Nicholson must have some interesting family reunions.

I didn’t vote for McGovern, because (1) I was 7 at the time and (2) as I’ve said before McGovern was rumored to be sending us children to school on Saturdays had he been elected president in 1972. I did not vote for Gore or Kerry, nor would I.

Kerry particularly earned Hypocrite First Class when 25 years after doing this …

… he dared to do this:

Reporting for duty? What an affront to every veteran.

As someone who didn’t serve (do you want someone with 20/400 vision defending your country?), I can’t say if being in the military gives you “conservative values,” but I have to wonder myself why veterans would become Democrats. Barack Obama’s Iran surrender — I mean treaty — made this country safer in absolutely no sense. Swearing to uphold the Constitution is inconsistent with working to gut the Second Amendment. The Democratic Party’s values include identification by every unimportant measurement — the _____–American — which clearly is not reflected in the military ethos.

There is an Assembly candidate in Northwest Wisconsin who touts his military experience. On the other hand, he’s also a social worker, and I would argue the latter cancels out the former in an ideological sense in his case.

A military background might be a plus, but I am not voting for any voting candidate based on his or her military service, or lack thereof. My votes are based on the candidates’ positions and that candidate’s electability. Recall that William F. Buckley Jr. counseled voting for the most conservative candidate who could win.



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