Higher education (if that’s what you want to call it)

In case you wonder how well your tax dollars are spent on higher education, begin with UW–Madison’s Daily Cardinal:

In classrooms across the country, students might be scolded for using “ain’t” instead of “isn’t.” But a UW-Madison student is working to erase the stigma against Ebonics, also known as African-American Vernacular English.

UW-Madison junior Erika Gallagher conducted research about code switching, also known as code meshing, in which people change their regular speech tendencies to fit into the mold of what is commonly accepted as appropriate.

Ebonics is a variety of English that is commonly found in the center of large cities that have been historically populated primarily by black people. It is commonly found in slam poetry, as well as hip-hop and rap music.

Gallagher, a Posse scholar, began her research during her time as an undergraduate Writing Fellow this semester. She said she realized, as she sat in her seminar class of predominantly white students, that she wanted to focus on standard written English and how it excludes marginalized groups.

“I want to center the voices of the people who need to be centered,” Gallagher said. “As a Writing Fellow, as a white-passing person, I have a lot of power and privilege that should be shared.”

Gallagher conducted much of her research through three interviews. She talked to UW-Madison student leaders from marginalized groups and asked how they felt about code switching. She said all three “overwhelmingly” said it felt oppressive—one said “it is the biggest form of cognitive dissonance that exists.”

She presented her research at the Collegiate Conference on Composition and Communication in Portland, Ore., earlier this semester. She was selected as one of roughly two dozen undergraduates from across the U.S. to participate in the conference, which is typically attended by graduate students and professors.

Gallagher said she hopes to develop her research into a nonprofit organization that “teaches teachers to teach,” with the goal that educators will eventually express disclaimers at the start of each semester that state they will accept any form of English that students are comfortable with.

She also hopes increased acceptance of different rhetoric will encourage the formation of a campus-wide diversity statement.

“Just because you speak a different way doesn’t mean you’re not smart, but there’s a huge stigma around it,” Gallagher said. “I want to teach [educators] a different rhetoric, teach them to be more accepting.”

A “white-passing person.” Really nothing more needs to be said after that.

Fortunately, not all of the Daily Cardinal’s readers are idiots, as demonstrated by these comments:

Using correct English doesn’t ‘exclude’ anyone. People choose to exclude themselves by refusing to use it. But hey, go ahead and stick it to the man by refusing the benefits of literacy: financial independence, career success, and the ability to think and reason.

Let’s just call it what it is, racist. I would have expected this in the 1960’s, not the 21st century. How does she explain the fact that immigrants can come to this country and speak perfect proper English in less than 10 years. Using Ebonics in places where it is never spoken would be detrimental to those speaking it.

BASED ON three interviews? Three? Really, just three? Has this young lady taken ANY courses in Statistics? Obviously not. This is complete and total nonsense. Three. Think about that.

‘A white-passing person’? Are you f-ing serious? If this is what tax payer-subsidized higher education has become in this country, it’s time for a national enema of this schools.

IMHO this isn’t logical; if children are to be afforded equal opportunity, then they must feel comfortable moving in all walks of life; It is difficult enough for a young adult to move out into the wider world without being saddled with ignorance of common social conventions; A child who is not taught basics in the home, such as table manners, forms of address, standard English, etc, will, in new social settings, be overloaded by the demands of unfamiliar social conventions, when they should be free to let their talents shine; “manners”, including a common tongue, are the lubricant that allows a diverse society to function smoothly. And, these things, and most particularly language, are most readily learned by the young.

But wait! There’s more, from the College Fix:

If you want to schedule a meeting at Clemson University that starts on time … well, that’s not going to happen.

The university warns faculty not to enforce start times for gatherings in an online training featuring “fictional characters,” made public by Campus Reform:

On another slide, a character named Alejandro schedules a 9:00 a.m. meeting between two groups of foreign professors and students. The first group arrived fifteen minutes early, while the second arrived ten minutes late [and wanted to “socialize” first]. According to the answers, it is wrong for Alejandro to “politely ask the second group to apologize,” or explain that “in our country, 9:00 a.m. means 9:00 a.m.”

It disrespects other people’s cultures to ask them to follow American conventions of appointments starting when they are literally scheduled to start, the slide continues:

Alejandro should recognize and acknowledge cultural differences with ease and respect. Cultures view many things, including death, prosperity and even colors, quite differently. Time may be considered precise or fluid depending on the culture. For Alejandro to bring three cultures together he must start from a place of respect, understanding that his cultural perspective regarding time is neither more nor less valid than any other.

Another slide explains hierarchies of privilege. A female hiring manager with a common white name is accused by a woman with an African American name of not giving her a job interview because her competition is a “white male.”

Hiring manager Stephanie should “reflect on her behavior to see if Tanisha is correct” and contact Clemson’s departments of human resources and “Access and Equity” about the African American woman’s accusation.

There is much more revealed in the training, created by compliance training provider Workplace Answers, which cost Clemson nearly $27,000. The invoice went to the department led by Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill, who earns $185,850 per year.

Employees who do not complete the “inclusion awareness course” will get “two automated reminders,” according to emails to faculty from HR and the Office of Inclusion and Equity.

That prompted these comments:

Does the offensive line of Clemson’s football team have to show up at kickoff, or can they wander in during the first quarter?

Well football is important. This businessy stuff is just a bunch of nonsense anyway.

When they get fired for habitual tardiness they can thank the University for such poor guidance

Tax hypocrites

Robert Samuelson reports:

As Tax Day — April 18 this year — approaches, we are confronted once again with the apparently enduring reality that Americans hate to pay taxes. Few political generalizations seem so indestructible. Gallup has long asked Americans whether their federal income taxes are too high. About 50 to 60 percent regularly say “yes.” The federal income tax is deeply unpopular. So goes the conventional wisdom.

Except that it’s not true or, at any rate, is too simple and incomplete. The tax system is not just a divider; it’s a uniter, too.

“Americans almost universally agree that taxpaying is a civic duty,” writes political scientist Vanessa Williamson in her new book, Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes. To be a taxpayer is “a source of pride because it is evidence that one is an upstanding, contributing member of the community.”

Williamson studied existing surveys, conducted one of her own and interviewed 49 taxpayers in depth. What she concluded suggests a sizable revision of popular thinking, which emphasizes a profound dislike of taxes.

“Around four in five Americans . . . see taxpaying as a moral responsibility and tax evasion as morally wrong,” she writes of the various surveys. “This is a belief that is particularly strong in the United States” compared with many European countries, she finds. Americans have one of the world’s highest rates of tax compliance — an achievement aided by tax withholding.

In one of the interviews, Roy — a 61-year-old retired Republican postal worker from Ohio — puts it this way: “I feel like I am doing my part in supplying the needs and to help pay for things in this country that are needed. So, in a small way, I do feel like it’s my civic duty and that I’m responsible for paying taxes.”

Taxes are a bond as well as a burden. They’re a modern embrace of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s famous dictum: “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” Interestingly, Republicans more than Democrats feel that tax evasion is morally wrong. “Republicans believe strongly in paying taxes,” Williamson writes.

One reason popular opinion misses the unifying aspects of taxes is that public surveys are skewed, she argues. “Public opinion polls commonly assume that the only attitude Americans hold about taxes is one of enraged opposition,” Williamson writes. “Negative questions carry a value judgment and predispose certain answers.”

Still, it’s possible to take tax revisionism too far, as Williamson herself notes. Taxes — and the government programs they support — remain highly contentious issues at both the state and national levels. Somebody has got to pay; conflict is unavoidable.

In her interviews, Williamson found widespread resentment that both the very rich and the very poor (particularly immigrants) don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes. The animus against the poor affects both Republicans and Democrats, though Republicans more so.

(It’s also a bum rap, Williamson argues. Thanks to the payroll and sales taxes, almost everyone is a taxpayer in some form. She estimates that the poorest fifth of earners make 3 percent of the income and account for 2 percent of all taxes. It’s also true that high taxable thresholds mean that 44 percent of tax filers in 2016 didn’t owe federal income taxes, reports the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.)

Even if all Americans were satisfied with their present tax situation — clearly not the case — it does not follow that everyone would be happy if their taxes were raised. President Trump has promised tax reform but has yet to present a concrete proposal. When he does, it is almost certain to trigger a congressional donnybrook, because some taxpayers will be hit with increases to finance tax cuts for other taxpayers.

Bigger problems loom in the future. Sooner or later, we will have to raise taxes, because there is a huge and growing gap between the government’s spending commitments and its tax revenues. Although we are now near full employment, meaning the economy is near its physical capacity, the deficit is roughly $500 billion. Under present policies and assuming unrealistically no future recession, it will continue to rise.

How long this can continue is anyone’s guess, although the answer is probably not forever. By all means, let’s acknowledge the benefits of taxes. But let’s not assume that higher taxes will make government more popular. This seems dubious.

There is a bigger reason the book’s hypothesis is dubious. (In addition to conclusions based on 49 cherry-picked interviewees.) The San Diego Union Tribune reports:

“Most people have the same philosophy about taxes,” said Russell B. Long, the Louisiana senator who spent 15 years wrestling with tax policy as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.”

His little rhyme has entered the popular lexicon because of its basic truth: Most people seem to be OK with higher taxes — provided someone else pays for most of them.

That’s one lens with which to view the latest Public Policy Institute of California public-opinion poll, which found strong optimism over the state’s budget situation following the 2012 approval of Proposition 30, which raised income taxes on the wealthy and slightly boosted sales taxes on everybody. Fifty-two percent of likely voters are inclined to extend those “temporary” tax hikes — and 54 percent like raising commercial property taxes.

During 1978’s tax revolt, Californians approved Proposition 13, which puts a cap on property taxes for residential and commercial buildings. A large percentage of Californians own homes, so it’s no surprise they want to keep the residential cap, but fewer own commercial properties and tend to favor a split roll that ties commercial rates to market values.

When asked about the Proposition 30 extension and split-roll issue at a Sacramento Press Club talk on Thursday, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon said they deserve discussion. That’s not a “no.” Legislators are floating tax-hike (and new spending) trial balloons — and some public-sector unions are eyeing tax-raising measures for the 2016 ballot.

The left-leaning Calbuzz blog was heartened by the PPIC findings and argued “it will be fascinating to see if Californians baffle the Beltway crowd yet again by voting to tax themselves.” …

“The key is they want other people to pay taxes,” said Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters. “That’s why they love Proposition 30. … Soak the oil companies more? Yes. Soak businesses? Yes. Tax me more? Wait a minute.” Rider said he’d love to see PPIC include this question on its next poll: “Do you think you should pay 10 percent more in taxes?”

Exactly. It is grossly hypocritical to support tax increases that (you think) have no effect on you. I would like to see Democrats taxed at a level of 100 percent of income and wealth. I am not a Democrat.

One of the flaws of Wisconsin’s Constitution is the fact it does not include a requirement that voters, not politicians, approve tax increases. The change in the law that requires voter approval to allow school districts to exceed state revenue caps (added to the long-standing requirement of voter approval for borrowing for school building projects) resulted in reportedly two-thirds of the April 4 school district referenda being approved, which proves that the system works. Any tax increase, state or local, in income, property or sales taxes should require voter approval by referendum.


Milwaukee and Madison writ large

Ross Douthat writes about big American cities, not including Milwaukee and Madison, though they are to this state what New York City is to New York:

The age of Trump has inspired soul-searching within our overclass — long nights reading “Hillbilly Elegy,” mostly — but also a wave of cosmopolitan pride. During the presidential campaign, when Trump talked about making America great again, Hillary Clinton countered that “America is already great” — meaning, of course, dynamic and diverse and tolerant and future-oriented, all the things that Trump seems to dismiss and his voters seem to fear.

This great-already sentiment has been reproduced in many elite quarters, and last week the Niskanen Center’s Will Wilkinson, writing in The Washington Post, brought it to a particularly sharp point: What’s really great about America is its big, booming, liberal cities.

Trump loves to talk down America’s great metropolises, Wilkinson points out, portraying them as nightmares out of “Death Wish” or “Dog Day Afternoon.” Wilkinson says that’s because our president needs “to spread the notion that the polyglot metropolis is a dangerous failure” to advance his nativist agenda. But in reality our cities are, yes, already great — safer-than-ever, culturally-rich, rife with policy innovation, and driving our economic future. They’re places where immigrants flock and college graduates increasingly cluster, compounding their talents through cooperation and exchange, generating new ideas and innovations while the Trumpish hinterland languishes in resentment and nostalgia.

I respectfully dissent. Yes, for many of their inhabitants, particularly the young and the wealthy, our liberal cities are pleasant places in which to work and play. But if they are diverse in certain ways they are segregated in others, from “whiteopias” like Portland to balkanized cities like D.C. or Chicago. If they are dynamic, they are also so rich — and so rigidly zoned — that the middle class can’t afford to live there and fewer and fewer kids are born inside their gates. If they are fast-growing it’s often a growth intertwined with subsidies and “too big to fail” protection; if they are innovation capitals it’s a form of innovation that generates fewer jobs than past technological advance. If they produce some intellectual ferment they have also cloistered our liberal intelligentsia and actually weakened liberalism politically by concentrating its votes.

So has the heyday of these meritocratic agglomerations actually made America greater? I think not. In the age of the liberal city — dating, one might argue, to the urban recovery of the 1990s — economic growth has been slack, political dysfunction worse, and technological progress slow outside the online sector. Liberalism has become more smug and out-of-touch; conservatism more anti-intellectual and buffoonish. The hive-mind genius supposedly generated by concentrating all the best and the brightest has given us great apps and some fun TV shows to binge-watch, but the 2000s and 2010s haven’t exactly been the Florentine Renaissance.

11 + 15 = still too high

With Tax Day looming later this month (though three days after April 15 due to (1) the weekend and (2) Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia) April 17, WalletHub has two things to say about Wisconsin’s tax burden in comparison with the other 49 states.


One simple ratio known as the “tax burden” … measures the exact proportion of total personal income that residents pay toward state and local taxes. And it isn’t uniform across the U.S., either.

To determine which states’ residents bear the biggest tax burdens, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states across the three tax types that make up state tax burden — property taxes, individual income taxes, and sales and excise taxes — as a percentage of total personal income in the state.


Wisconsin ranks 11th, lower than Minnesota (fifth) and Illinois (ninth), but higher than Ohio (13th), Iowa (19th), Indiana (23rd) and Michigan (26th) within the tax hell that is the Midwest. Wisconsin ranks 11th nationally in property tax and income tax burden, and 37th highest in sales tax burden. (Not to worry, some idiot in the Legislature will propose raising sales taxes in 5 … 4 … 3 …)

This is an interesting factoid …

… that proves that Wisconsin is not really a red state, regardless of recent election results. To get Wisconsin down to 30th (which is where Nevada now is) would require an overall tax burden cut of almost 13 percent. For that matter, to get to 18th, the average for Democrat-dominated states (like Taxachusetts — I mean Massachusetts, which is 18th), would require a 4.6-percent decrease in tax burden, which is not going to happen in this state.


Tax Day can be a painful reminder of our large investment in the operation of federal, state and local governments, though many of us are unaware of their precise roles in everyday life. As a result, this creates a disconnect in the minds of taxpayers between the amount of money we should fork over every April and how much we ultimately deserve in return from our government.

Perhaps that’s why nearly three out of five U.S. adults feel they pay too much in taxes and why Americans estimate that Uncle Sam wastes slightly more than half of every tax dollar — higher than what they approximate state and local governments squander. We do know, however, that taxpayer return on investment, or ROI, varies significantly based on simple geography. Federal income-tax rates are uniform across the nation, yet some states receive far more federal funding than others. But federal taxes and support are only part of the story.

Ideological differences regarding the role of local taxation have resulted in dramatically different tax burdens. This begs the question of whether people in high-tax states benefit from expectedly superior government services or if low-tax states are more efficient or receive correspondingly low-quality services. In short, where do taxpayers get the most and least bang for their buck?

WalletHub sought to answer that question by contrasting state and local tax collections with the quality of the services residents receive in each of the 50 states within five categories: Education, Health, Safety, Economy, and Infrastructure & Pollution. Our data set includes a total of 23 key metrics.


This ranks Wisconsin 15th best in taxpayer ROI, where our 35th lowest (or 15th highest) per-capita tax burden (adults 18 and older, as opposed to tax burden as a percentage of income, as in the first comparison) is offset by our supposed sixth best government services.

By this comparison Wisconsin has the best schools in the nation (including K–12 schools and postsecondary schools, plus high school graduation rates, and despite the incessant whining that the state refuses to give school districts every last cent of tax revenue), 25th best health (including hospitals, health insurance and the health of the population), 11th best safety (violent and property crime rates and fatal crash rates), 10th best economy (including household income, job growth, unemployment and underemployment, poverty rates and “economic mobility”) and 28th best infrastructure and pollution (road and bridge quality, commute time, park and recreation spending, water quality and air pollution).

Obviously different metrics, or different importance paid to certain metrics, will change a state’s ranking. There is no question Wisconsin has high taxes, and taxes that have not been cut nearly enough by our Republican governor and Legislature. And, as Boise State University Prof. Nicholas Luke Fowler points out:

There tends to be a non-linear relationship between spending and performance outcomes. A study from the later 1990’s found that environmental outcomes were connected more to socio-economics and politics than to spending levels. Similar studies have found the highest spending levels tend to be in the worst schools, but that’s because the task of educating students in those schools is the most intensive. On the other hand, providing adequate resources to a program is always a predictor of success.
Nevertheless, it’s not the level of tax burden that matters but where that money is going and how much “capacity” the state has that determines the quality of services. A state with a lot of money can foolishly spend it, while another state with lower resources can be much more economically and get better outcomes.

Northern Illinois University Prof. Peter Burchard adds:

More dollars for better services: Better has become a matter for the marketing department — an art of selling and not measuring. Every city thinks it’s the best with best services. Political governments are ego-driven governments. …

Government is skilled at maintinaing the status quo while calling their work innovative. … Local and state governments need to rethink their service levels. We often innovate to maintain the status quo. If disruptive innovation is measured by deep cost savings and managing toward lower service levels (which I think it should), governments can become more efficient. …

The setting for waste and inefficiency is in the obsession for best services — government services staffed and budgeted at a level that few citizens ever need. Many local governments are obsessed with “best practice,” when good enough will work. … The clamor for being the best without reducing costs or service levels is costly and unnecessary. I also think that many local government employees don’t have the business acumen to run modern/complex organizations. …

In reality, residents don’t need best practices. They need logic, reasoning and a fair price.

I’m not convinced our state and local taxes are being spent efficiently. Look at the state Department of Transportation audit as evidence of how road projects double in price from the DOT estimates for one example. This state has far too many non-teachers in school districts with big titles (and big salaries to match) that do not include the words “principal” or “superintendent.” We are second only to Illinois in the number of units of government in this state (3,120). And as we know state and local government is literally twice the size it should be given the past 40 years of inflation and population growth, something Republicans aren’t doing anything about, and Democrats will do nothing about.


Republicans, conservatives and RINOs — oh my!

McKay Coppins:

These are confusing times to be a Republican.

For the past several decades, members of the GOP have mapped the ideological range found within their party onto a fairly straightforward spectrum—one that runs from “moderate” to “conservative.” The formulation was simplistic, of course, but it provided a useful shorthand in assessing politicians, and in explaining one’s own political orientation.

A small-government culture warrior in Arizona would be situated on the far-right end of the spectrum; a pro-choice Chamber of Commerce type in Massachusetts might place himself on the other end. And across the country, there were millions of people—from officeholders to ordinary Republican voters—who identified somewhere between those two poles.

But with the rise of Donald Trump—and his spectrum-bending brand of populist nationalism—many longtime Republicans are now struggling to figure out where they fit in this fast-shifting philosophical landscape. In recent weeks, two prominent Republicans have told me they are sincerely struggling to explain where they fall on the ideological spectrum these days. It’s not that they’ve changed their beliefs; it’s that the old taxonomy has become incoherent.

For example, does being an outspoken Trump critic make you a “moderate” RINO? Does it matter whether you’re criticizing him for an overly austere healthcare bill, or for a reckless infrastructure spending plan? And who owns the “far right” now—is it “constitutional conservatives” like Ted Cruz, or “alt-right” white supremacists like Richard Spencer?

When I raised these questions on Twitter earlier this week, I was swamped with hundreds of responses and dozens of emails from longtime Republicans who described feeling like they are lost inside their own homes.

Some, like Jordan Team from Washington, D.C., related how their attempts at explaining their personal politics have devolved into a kind of absurdist comedy:

I’ve always identified as a more moderate R—even”establishment Republican”, if you will. I usually always use “moderate” or “Establishment” when saying I’m a Republican to separate myself from more hard-line Tea Party Freedom Caucus conservatives.
These days, however, I feel like it requires even further explanation to separate myself from the nationalism/populism that Trump & team espouse, since they’re all now technically Republicans. Usually it’s something super catchy & brief along the lines of: “I’m a moderate Republican—or at least, have been one, not really sure that that means anymore—but I don’t support Trump or populism—I’m traditionally conservative.”  And even that doesn’t always get the point across. I think the easiest when trying to have a conversation with someone is a two step process. Step 1: “I’m a Republican but don’t like Trump,” and then if the convo keeps going/they know politics/they’re interested, there’s step 2: “I’m more moderate/establishment than Tea Party/Freedom Caucus.”

Other people, meanwhile, shared more tragic testimonials. “I feel honestly like a part of my identity was stolen,” wrote Alycia Kuehne, a conservative Christian from Dallas, Texas.
But virtually everyone who wrote to me shared a common complaint: The traditional “Left ↔ Right” spectrum used to describe and categorize Republicans has become obsolete in the age of Trump. The question now is what to replace it with.

To provoke interesting answers, I asked people who wrote to me to imagine the Republican voter who is furthest from themselves—be it ideologically, philosophically, or attitudinally—and then to answer the question: What is the most meaningful difference between you and that person?The proposed spectrums that emerged from their responses—some of which I’ve included below—are not meant to be peer-reviewed by political scientists. But they offer new, and potentially more useful, ways to map the emerging fault lines that now divide the American right.

LIBERTARIAN ↔ AUTHORITARIAN: One of the most common responses I received from Republicans argued that the party could be divided between authoritarians (who tend to gravitate toward Trump) and libertarians (who are generally repelled by his strong-man instincts). In an email that was typical of several I received, Aaron L. M. Goodwin, from California, wrote:

I grew up in a pretty conservative household. We were home-schooled Mormons. We listened to conservative talk radio. I was the only 10-year-old I knew of who loved to watch C-Span. These days I feel completely alienated from the GOP. But, I don’t feel like I’m the one who sold out. So where does that leave me?

I believe the conservative/liberal spectrum has been overtaken by one for democratic/authoritarian … Most of the Republicans I still feel some kinship with are from a multitude of ideologies, but they share an ideology based on classical liberal democracy. We all share a deep-seeded suspicion of rule by power, and I believe, are closer to the original intent of our founding documents.

GRIEVANCE-MOTIVATED ↔ PHILOSOPHICALLY MOTIVATED:  Liz Mair, a libertarian-leaning GOP strategist, wrote that she’s been convinced after “300 gazillion conversations with all sorts of conservatives”—including a range of lawmakers, writers, pundits, candidates, and grassroots-level activists—that the biggest division within the party is one that separates Fox News-a-holics driven by tribal grievance from people who have some kind of philosophically rooted belief system:

I honestly think the split in conservatism comes more down to philosophy versus identity politics than anything. Are you opposed to things on philosophical or tribal grounds? Are you a believer or a member of our clan? (Said in the Scottish sense) …

I bet if you polled Trump primary voters and asked them what was the bigger problem—insufficiently limited government or transgender Muslim feminists being celebrated at the Oscars, a big majority would say the latter.

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT ↔ ESTABLISHMENT: The outsider/insider trope is well-worn in contemporary conservative politics—so much so that you could argue the terms have lost their meaning. But based on the emails I received, many Republicans (on both ends of the spectrum) still view the party through that lens. On one end are people who respect existing political institutions, and believe in conforming to their norms and using the system to advance their agenda. On other end of this spectrum are people who believe the establishment is hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual, and that it should be circumvented whenever possible.

The flaw in this formulation, it seems to me, is that virtually every Republican who has entered Congress over the past eight years started out on the anti-establishment end of the spectrum, and then slid—involuntarily, perhaps, but inevitably—toward the establishment end. That’s because, as Stephen Spiker from Virginia emailed, once you run for office and win, you necessarily become a part of the system, an insider:

I see many colleagues in the party taken in by the “establishment vs anti-establishment” spectrum. Essentially populism, as the anti-establishment folks are “burn it down” because they don’t feel represented and want a fighter. That lead to Dave Brat winning in 2014, and Trump winning in 2016.

Now that it’s Trump vs Brat, you’re going to see the inherent decay in this school of thought: the anti-establishment crowd turning on their former heroes like Dave Brat (as they turned on Cantor previously). He’s in Congress, he’s an insider, he’s standing in the way, etc.

It will eventually turn on Trump as well, as he falls short on goal after goal. When it happens (as in, before or after Trump is out of office) is always dependent on having the right person run at the right time on the right message, but it will happen.

Most notable about the anti-establishment position is that there’s no consistent end game or policy goal. It exists for the sake of itself. That’s what frustrates folks who actually have firm ideological stances.

ABSOLUTISTS  ↔ DEALMAKERS:  Many of the most high-profile intra-party battles in recent years have been fought not over ideas, but tactics and a willingness to compromise. While Republicans in Washington were essentially unanimous in their opposition to President Obama’s agenda, they differed—at least at first—over whether they should cut deals at the legislative bargaining table, or, say, shut the government down until they got exactly what they wanted. The absolutists largely won out during the Obama presidency—but what about now? On one end of this spectrum are people like the Freedom Caucus purists from whom it is all but impossible to extract concessions; on the other are the dealmakers who will compromise virtually anything to get some kind of legislation passed.

Several Republicans who wrote to me were, I think, circling this idea, which my colleague Conor Friedersdorf recently articulated:

Do populist Republicans want a federal government where politicians stand on principle and refuse to compromise? Or do they want a pragmatist to make fabulous deals?

… Is a GOP House member more likely to be punished in a primary for thwarting a Donald Trump deal … or compromising to make a deal happen? Were I the political consultant for an ambitious primary candidate in a safe Republican district, I can imagine a successful challenge regardless of what course the incumbent chose, voters having been primed to respond to either critique.

OPEN/TOLERANT ↔ NATIVIST/RACIST: This is the probably the most provocative construct that was proposed, but it was also a popular one. For many Trump-averse Republicans, one of the biggest perceived differences between themselves and hardcore Trump fans is attitudes toward racial minorities and foreign immigrants. The alt-right dominates one end of the spectrum—and they place themselves on the polar opposite end.

Granted, this spectrum was not proposed to me by any Trump supporters, and no doubt many of them would strongly disagree with this categorization. But there’s no question it’s one of the defining debates inside the party right now. Evan McMullin, a conservative who ran for president last year under the #NeverTrump banner, was quoted in October saying that racism was the single biggest problem with the party.

* * *

This is, of course, by no means a comprehensive list of the divisions within the GOP. For example, one of the most talked-about conflicts to emerge in the past year has been between “nationalism” and “globalism.” But despite efforts by Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers to frame the ideological debate that way, very few GOP voters—at least none who wrote to me—identify as “globalists.” Instead, these new spectrums represent a few of the ways in which Republicans—eager to escape the disorder and confusion of the Trump era—are categorizing themselves and each other.

The term not in Coppins’ piece that I use to label myself more than anything is “conservatarian.” I believe in smaller government than The Donald does. Really small government. (As in state government half the size it is in Wisconsin today.) But libertarians can be naïve about this country’s proper role in the rest of the world. Nature abhors a vacuum, but political power is attracted to a vacuum. Unless you think Vladimir Putin should be more prominent than an American president, this country needs to participate in the rest of the world.

I am turned off by Trump supporters’ nativism, and I believe a lot of Trump supporters are as much sycophants as Barack Obama’s most die-hard toadies. That is not to say that Trump supporters are racist, because the left has defined the term “racism” so far downward as to make it meaningless when there are actual instances of racism in our world. (Here’s a tip: If your opinion about someone is defined by their skin color or their ethnic background, you’re a bigot; if your opinion about someone is defined by how they act or what they say, you’re not.)

The whole Establishment vs. Not thing can be summed up best by saying that while you have to work within the system to get political things accomplished, you should not be of the system, and you don’t have to support the existence of the system even if you acknowledge its reality. There will always be an Establishment, but it should be based on merit, not political power. (Business is usually superior to government because business owners have to earn what they get.)


Big red

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will have the first of its public hearings on the 2017–19 state budget at UW–Platteville this morning.

The reality of the budget process is that the budget will be decided by legislative Republicans’ votes and Gov. Scott Walker’s vetoes. Legislative Democrats will say a lot, but will have no influence on what becomes law around July 1.

That’s because, the Wall Street Journal reports, Democratic influence in state politics has faded like lawn furniture left out all year:

Six years ago, as a bitter winter gripped the Upper Midwest, Wisconsin Democrats mobilized for a major political protest. Demonstrators packed the streets of Madison tighter than a playoff game at Lambeau Field. They descended upon the Capitol in the tens of thousands to oppose Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10, which would curtail the influence of the state’s powerful public-employee unions.
Some thought those snowy protests would launch a Democratic surge in Wisconsin. Instead they appear to have marked the beginning of the party’s decline. Since 2011 Wisconsin Republicans have been on a winning streak.
In the state Assembly, Republicans enjoy their largest majority since 1957. Twenty of the 33 seats in the state Senate belong to the GOP, the most since 1970. Mr. Walker, who easily survived a recall election in 2012, won a new term in 2014. Last November voters rejected Democrat Russ Feingold’s bid to reclaim the Senate seat he lost in 2010 to Republican Ron Johnson. Remarkably, Donald Trump won Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes—the first GOP presidential candidate to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
The latest evidence of Democrats’ sorry slide is the election next Tuesday for a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Only six years after their historic demonstrations against Act 10, Democrats couldn’t find a single candidate willing to run against conservative Justice Annette Ziegler in her bid for another 10-year term.
A spokesman for the state’s Democratic Party told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January that “a number of people” considered opposing Justice Ziegler before ultimately deciding not to take the plunge. Considering Wisconsin’s political history as an incubator of 20th-century progressivism, this development is rather stunning. “The Democratic Party has done a terrible job,” Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy told the Journal Sentinel. “We haven’t built the kind of infrastructure that says to a Supreme Court candidate, ‘We can help you.’ ”
The trend, though, goes back to the turn of the millennium. In Supreme Court races that pit a conservative against a liberal, voters seem to prefer the conservative virtually every time. In 2000 Diane Sykes —now a federal judge, whom President Trump has floated as a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court—beat progressive Louis Butler for a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Four years later, when Justice Sykes left for the federal bench, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Mr. Butler to the vacancy anyway. But when voters had their say in 2008, they again rejected him in favor of conservative Michael Gableman.
Ms. Sykes’s win in 2000 began an incredible run of conservative victories in competitive Supreme Court races. Today only two reliable liberal justices remain on the court of seven.
Wisconsin progressives have scrambled to explain away the conservative ascendancy. “Big business,” they claim, has swayed court races with large contributions to third-party campaign organizations that promote conservatives.

But Democratic-aligned groups have spent millions on behalf of their favored court candidates. In 2011, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee put $1.6 million into ads in the last two weeks of the race between conservative Justice David Prosser and liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg, more than any single pro-Prosser group spent. Mr. Prosser eked out a victory anyway, even amid the political storm raging over Gov. Walker’s labor reforms.
Ms. Kloppenburg was later elected to a lower-court seat, but a year ago this April she lost another race for the Supreme Court. Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley weathered a storm of her own, fending off brutal attacks that dredged up newspaper columns she had written 24 years earlier as a student at Marquette University. Justice Bradley prevailed 52% to 47%, solidifying conservatives’ 5-2 majority.
On election night, Justice Bradley concluded her victory speech with a paraphrase from Winston Churchill: “There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result.” If that’s the case, Wisconsin conservatives have a lot to be exhilarated about. Even more so now that the state’s Democrats are so deeply demoralized that they appear to have given up on shooting altogether.

The article doesn’t mention the typical Democratic complaint about redistricting, which is a complaint about the same system Democrats used to redistrict the Legislature after the 1982 gubernatorial election. Whether you call it redistricting or gerrymandering, that fails to explain the aforementioned Supreme Court wins, nor Walker’s three wins, nor U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s two wins over ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D–California — oops, Wisconsin). It’s safe to say that 2016 was about as complete a disaster as possible for state Democrats, beginning with the primary election one year ago.

Wisconsin Democrats’ news got worse late last week, when three potential candidates for governor — former Sen. Tim Cullen, businessman Mark Bakken and former Green Bay Packer Mark Tauscher — all announced they’re not interested in running for governor as Democrats. That adds to such previously reported Democrats declining to run as U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–La Crosse), state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D–La Crosse), state Rep. Peter Barca (D–Kenosha) and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. On the other hand, Republicans are having no trouble finding potential opponents for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisconsin).

Running against Act 10 isn’t working. Running against Walker — 2014 candidate Mary Burke’s sole strategy was running as not-Walker — isn’t working either. Running against a presidential opponent of unprecedented unpopularity didn’t even work.

A non-candidate before the race

On Sunday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:

After three losses to Scott Walker, Wisconsin Democrats think they finally have a chance at the Republican governor in 2018.

There’s just one catch: They don’t have a candidate. Democrats still have time to find a leader who can raise money, hire staff, craft policies and a message to voters, but they don’t deny the clock is ticking.

“If we get to late summer and early fall and lack one or more than one credible candidate, it’ll be time to be worried,” said Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist who worked on businesswoman Mary Burke’s failed bid against Walker in 2014.

At the moment, the Democrats have no one on the field.

Former state Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville registered a campaign committee for governor this month, but even he isn’t in for sure. The former Senate majority leader looked at a run in the 2012 recall election but decided against it then, noting that unions had greeted his overtures with “respectful indifference.”

“There is a big issue in the room and the issue is money,” he said in an interview.

At this point in 2009, then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker had been basically running against then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle for more than two years. When Doyle signed the state budget that year and then decided not to run for re-election, Walker had an advantage against the other candidates that he never relinquished.

Walker will have to make his own decision on whether to run for a third term after he and GOP lawmakers pass their own budget bill this summer.

Here are some of the factors that the GOP governor will consider:

On the plus side for an incumbent, the state’s unemployment rate in February stood at 3.7% — a level that is at or very near full employment. Walker has also proposed a budget that increases funding for schools and cuts taxes — two top priorities for most voters.

At the same time, Friday’s failure of President Donald Trump and House Republicans to pass an Obamacare repeal underlines the difficulties that GOP politicians up and down the ballot could face next year if the party doesn’t deliver on its campaign promises.The governor may be insulated from problems in Washington, D.C. He’s also proved to be a strong campaigner and fundraiser with a statewide machine that could well outperform Republicans nationally.

But there are some issues at home for Democrats to exploit. Walker, for instance, hasn’t convinced even some Republican lawmakers that he’s right to reject new money for the state’s road fund and instead delay projects.

The latest Marquette University Law School poll put Walker at a 45% approval rating, an uptick that puts the governor on higher ground but not necessarily out of danger if a Democratic wave were to crest in 2018.

Scratch one off the list. The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Former state Sen. Tim Cullen announced Wednesday he won’t seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, citing the hefty amount of necessary fundraising as a deterrent.

Cullen, 73, announced his decision in the Capitol Press Room alongside his daughter and a handful of supporters. He said the decision came in response to being told by others who have run for statewide office that he would need to spend three to four hours a day calling potential donors.

“This is a very sad commentary on the state of democracy and elections in Wisconsin,” Cullen said.

Cullen said he expected Gov. Scott Walker would be able to raise $45 million for the campaign after raising $35 million in his 2014 re-election and building up a larger donor base during his unsuccessful presidential campaign. Walker’s 2014 opponent Mary Burke raised $12 and contributed $5 million of her own wealth.

Cullen said the primary reason he considered a run was because “Governor Walker needs to be replaced. His divide-and-conquer approach is unlike any Wisconsin governor in at least the last 65 years.”

A spokesman for Walker replied: “With the lowest unemployment rate since 2000, more people working than ever before, and a bright economic outlook for Wisconsin families, it’s not surprising that serious Democrats continue to think twice and not run against Governor Walker’s strong record of results and reform.”

Cullen, a Senate majority leader in the 1980s who returned for a single term in 2010, was known as a centrist Democrat willing to make deals with Republicans. He has toured the state recently with retired Republican Sen. Dale Schultz to promote nonpartisan redistricting.

Cullen also wrote a book about his experience during the 2011 Act 10 protests, during which he was one of 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois, temporarily blocking passage of the law that curtailed public sector union influence in the state. Cullen considered running for the Democratic nomination during the 2012 recall.Cullen said he has been in contact with a number of other Democrats considering a run, but hasn’t endorsed any of them yet. Possible candidates he noted include Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, Rep. Dana Wachs, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn and businessmen Andy Gronik and Mark Bakken.

Off that list, Parisi has no chance of getting votes outside of Madison. Happ has already lost a statewide race. People have heard of Vinehout, but she elected not to run four years ago, and her interest in the job doesn’t seem to be there. Few know who Wachs, a Democrat from Eau Claire, is. Being a party official doesn’t mean you know anything about governing, which is the point of elections.

Who is Gronik? The Associated Press has the answer:

Milwaukee businessman and entrepreneur Andy Gronik said Tuesday that he hopes to decide “fairly soon” whether to seek the Democratic nomination to run for governor next year.

The political newcomer told The Associated Press that he won’t decide within the next two weeks, but that it won’t be months, either. Gronik is among several Democrats, including those in the business community with no political experience, who are weighing whether to run against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker is raising money and sending strong signals that he will seek a third term, but he won’t officially announce his decision until this summer.Although Gronik hasn’t decided whether to run, he’s already taking swipes at Walker, saying he’s underperformed as governor. Gronik hit Walker for failing to deliver on his promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs during his first term, saying he sees no cohesive strategy to grow the economy.
“This isn’t really about blame, this is about performance,” Gronik said. After six years in office, Walker is still about 65,000 jobs short of the promised 250,000. In the private sector, if someone missed their stated goal by that much “he’d get fired,” Gronik said. …

Gronik, 59, is founder and president of Stage W, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that advocates for “bridging the political divide” to “advance ideas that create good jobs and provide great education throughout Wisconsin.”

Gronik has been talking privately for months about the possibility of getting into the wide-open Democratic race for governor. He’s never run for office before and he’s made minimal campaign donations. He gave $750 to three Democratic candidates for state offices last year, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s online database.

He said his 35 years of experience working for a variety of other companies around the world give him the skills necessary to help the state. The 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, Mary Burke, also came from the business world and had limited political experience.

Voters have had the chance to fire Walker twice for failing to hit his job goal. Notice that he’s still in office, and by the way unemployment in the state (as measured by how the federal government and every state measures it) is the lowest in Wisconsin since 2000. Whining about redistricting doesn’t seem to be connecting with voters either.

Bakken, meanwhile, helped found Nordic Ventures, a health care consultancy, and HealthXVentures. About the former, Bakken will have to answer questions about this unpleasantness if he decides to run.

Oh, wait a minute: Walker does have an opponent:

There is one declared Democratic candidate, Bob Harlow. Harlow, 25, grew up in Barneveld and graduated with a degree in physics last year from Stanford University. He ran for Congress in California last year, but was eliminated in the primary with just 7 percent of the vote against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo.

Harlow’s platform for governor includes installing a 200 mph high-speed train line throughout the state, a project said he would help create 35,000 jobs, restoring union collective bargaining rights eliminated by Walker, vetoing all new pipeline or mining proposals, guaranteeing health care costs never exceed 9 percent of total income and ensuring that all Wisconsin schools are funded at or above the national per-student average.

Harlow, who has prior experience writing computer software, said he is working at his family’s woodworking business in Barneveld while he raises money and tours the state in his bid for governor.

“Being a third generation Wisconsinite and having a really strong connection with this state, I see a different direction I’d like to see our state move in,” Harlow said.

Being a first-time candidate, Harlow does have one thing in common with another politician from this state, twice-defeated Russ Feingold — bugging out for California instead of staying in Wisconsin. (An early question I would ask Harlow is why he went to Stanford instead of our own world-class UW–Madison.)

It is amusing to read this given the trainwreck that is the state Democratic Party. I suppose anything would be better than their results in 2016, in which they (1) lost the state’s presidential vote to Donald Trump of all people; (2) failed to get Feingold reelected, (3) failed to gain a single congressional seat and (4) saw their numbers in the Legislature shrink even more. Next year in addition to Walker’s impending reelection, they will have to try to keep U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisconsin) in office in an election that, contrary to what Democrats seem to think, is not going to be a wave election for Democrats, whether you like Walker or his fellow Republicans or not.


Undoing Obama, Environmental Overregulation Division

M.D. Kittle:

While climate change alarmists see the sky falling in President Donald Trump’s executive order rolling back his predecessor’s “Clean Power Plan,” Badger State free-market advocates are celebrating a “Great Day for Wisconsin.”

On Tuesday, Trump announced the Environmental Protection Agency will begin unraveling the Obama administration’s controversial carbon-emissions reduction plan that critics have blasted as a job-killing government overreach.

Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute, a Madison-based free-market think tank, said Trump’s decision to review and eventually scrap the “Costly Power Plan” has dramatically improved the lives of Wisconsinites.

“Since Wisconsin is more reliant on coal than most states, this bureaucratic boondoggle would have cost our state dearly in job losses, rate hikes, and lost economic potential,” Healy said in a statement.

A 2015 MacIver Institute and Beacon Hill study found the Clean Power Plan could cost Wisconsin 21,000 jobs and $1.82 billion in disposable income by 2030. The study also estimates the EPA’s array of rules and regulations would cause the average household electric bill to jump $225 and would cost the average Wisconsin industrial ratepayer an extra $105,094 per year if implemented.

In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the CPP, which demands a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 – higher in manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin.

At the time, pro-business groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce celebrated the pause in the Obama administration plan while anti-Clean Power Plan litigation supported by 28 states moved forward.

The Clean Power Plan would significantly harm Wisconsin’s economy, increasing electricity rates by more than 20% and eliminating tens of thousands of jobs,” Scott Manley, WMC’s senior vice president of Government Relations, said in a statement at the time.

In December, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joined a 24-state coalition of attorneys general urging Trump and congressional leaders to step away from the Clean Power Plan, the critical piece to the Obama-led Paris climate agreement.

Last year’s stay won by the coalition of states before the U.S. Supreme Court was the first step in putting an end to this misguided policy,” Schimel said Tuesday in a press release. “Today’s Executive Order was the next critical step. We look forward to working with President Trump and EPA Administrator (Scott) Pruitt to complete the legal process necessary to eliminate this unconstitutional overreach once and for all.”

Trump was surrounded by coal miners Tuesday as he signed the executive order. The president has said boosting U.S. fossil fuel production in pursuit of energy independence is a priority for his administration.

“My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American wealth. We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country,” he said before signing the order at an EPA that clearly is moving in a different direction from the aggressive enforcement agency of the past eight years.

Not surprisingly, the climate change faithful – described by some so-called “climate change deniers” as a “cult” – are furious. Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy sees all of her regulatory work going up in smoke.

This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and US leadership,” she said in a statement.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass, according to liberal publication Mother Jones, called Trump’s actions “a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change and our clean energy future.”

Free-market advocates say the war on business, on jobs, the economy, the constitution, liberty, is drawing to an end with the review and dismantling of Obama’s overreaching Clean Power Plan.

“The CPP was imposed on Americans by unelected, faceless bureaucrats in Washington. President Trump’s executive order rolls back one of the most draconian overreaches in the history of big government,” MacIver’s Healy said. “By signing this order, the President will preserve thousands of jobs in Wisconsin, prevent a spike in electricity rates for hard working Wisconsin families, and keep more income in peoples’ pockets.”

Before unreasonable exuberance takes place, Ronald Bailey says:

President Donald Trump issued a new executive order today that aims to roll back Obama administration energy policies that sought to address the problem of man-made climate change. The Obama administration’s climate strategy stood on three pillars: Tightening corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) for vehicles; the Clean Power Plan designed to cut by 2030 carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation plants by 30 percent below their 2005 levels; and a moratorium on federal coal leasing. These measures were adopted to meet President Obama’s commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The CAFE standards are now being reassesed. In February, the chief executives of 18 auto companies sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that it review the Obama administration’s stringent CAFE standards. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt subsequently announced that his agency will conduct such a review decide by April 2018 if the standards should be loosened. The transportation sector is responsible for 26 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to about 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2014. That’s down from the 1.85 gigatons pre-global financial crisis peak of vehicle emissions in 2005.

Electric power generation is responsible for about 30 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. In 2014, burning coal for electric power generation emitted 1.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide. That is down significantly from peak emissions of nearly 2 gigatons in 2007. In 2014 emissions from natural gas burnt for electric power generation amounted to 0.44 gigatons. Basically, burning natural gas to generate electricity produces about half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does. Since the carbon dioxide emissions from coal are so much greater than those from alternative fuels, the Clean Power Plan’s carbon dioxide reduction goals would essentially force electricity generators to close down many of their coal-fired plants.

President Trump hopes that unraveling the Clean Power Plan will bring back lost coal-mining jobs. “A lot of people are going to be put back to work, a lot of coal miners are going back to work,” President Trump told a rally in Louisville, Kentucky last week. “The miners are coming back.” That is unlikely for two reasons: automation and cheap fracked natural gas.

U.S. coal production has dropped from 1.1 billion tons in 2011 to 0.9 billion tons in 2015. If 2016 fourth quarter coal production remained steady at the 2015 level, that would still mean that overall production will have fallen by nearly a third to 0.74 billion tons in 2016. Coal production in the Appalachian region in 2015 was 44 percent lower than it was in 2000. Power companies have been steadily switching from coal to natural gas as the fracking boom boosted production from 19 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 28 trillion cubic feet in 2016. Last year, burning natural gas generated 33 percent of America’s electricity compared to 32 percent from coal.

The upshot is that lower demand for coal means fewer jobs. In 2011, 89,500 people worked as coal miners. That has dropped 50,000 now. In addition, higher productivity means lower demand for workers. Due to automation miner productivity soared rising from 1.93 tons per miner hour in 1980 to 6.28 tons per miner hour in 2015.

Rolling back the Clean Power Plan means going through a long regulatory review process that will be opposed at every turn by environmental activist groups. Assuming that it is eventually revoked, what would that mean for future U.S. carbon dioxide emissions? Without the Clean Power Plan, the Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would remain essentially flat up to 2040.

President Trump also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing imposed in 2015 by the Obama administration. The moratorium was part of the same “keep fossil fuels in the ground” strategy that motivated the Obama administration’s refusal to approve the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines to transport oil. Given the low demand for coal it is not at all clear that mining companies will be eager to open new mines on federal lands any time soon.

Trump also ordered federal agencies to drop climate change as a consideration when promulgating new regulations. The Obama administration devised the social cost of carbon (SCC) as a metric accounting for the effects on climate of any project that would result in the emissions of carbon dioxide. Currently, the social cost of carbon is $36 per ton emitted. However, the Obama administration violated various regulatory standards in order to get to this figure including using lower than usual discount rates and making calculations based on global rather than domestic harms.

As I reported earlier, using the $36 per ton SCC, the EPA calculated that implementing the Clean Power Plan would yield climate benefits amounting to $30 billion in 2030. “However, estimated domestic climate benefits only amount to $2–$7 billion, which is less than EPA’s estimated compliance costs for the rule of $7.3 billion,” noted Brookings Institution analyst Ted Gayer in recent congressional testimony. “The use of a global social cost of carbon to estimate benefits means that agencies will adopt regulations that could cost Americans more than they receive in climate-related benefits.”

One side effect of setting aside the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon calculation is that it will likely hasten the shut down of a goodly percentage of America’s nuclear power industry. Why? Nuclear power plants are being out-competed by electricity generated from cheap natural gas and subsidized wind and solar power. Without subsidies tied to social cost of carbon calculations, “more than half the U.S. nuclear fleet may currently be at risk of closure,” according to a new report from the centrist Third Way think tank.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to “cancel” the nonbinding Paris Agreement on climate change. On Sunday, new EPA head Scott Pruitt declared that the universal climate agreement was a “bad deal.” However, President Trump will not make a decision about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement in his executive order. The Obama administration submitted a nationally determined contribution that committed to reducing overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent of their 2005 levels. Instead of withdrawing from the agreement, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is urging the president to submit “a new pledge that does no harm to our economy.”

There is some evidence that U.S. unemployment rate fluctuates with the fall and rise in gasoline prices. So one way to think about the effects of Obama administration climate policies is to consider how higher energy prices in European countries are affecting their economies. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study estimated the adopting European energy policies would force the average American household to pay $4,800 more per year for their energy than they to today. Overall, European-style energy policies would eliminate 7.7 million jobs and cut labor incomes $364 billion. Of course, these estimates need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it is undeniable that scaling back the Obama administration’s climate regulations should result in lower energy prices for American consumers. Lower prices mean more money in the pockets of Americans to spend in alternative ways that will tend to boost overall employment.

But what about the climate? By one calculation implementing the Obama administration’s Paris climate pledge fully would reduce the future increase in average global temperature by 0.031 degree Celsius by 2100. Fulfilling all of the Paris pledges together would reduce future temperatures in 2100 by 0.17 degree Celsius. On the other hand, more robust economic growth will produce the wealth and new technologies that will help future generations to cope better with whatever future climate change occurs.

The federal Off switch

I was asked by a reader if I planned on opining on the proposed federal budget cuts to public broadcasting, where I can occasionally be found on Friday mornings, as you know. (For which I receive nothing more than attention, and some of it negative, which is why I stopped reading Wisconsin Public Radio Facebook posts while I’m on the air.)

Now that someone brought it up, at the risk of biting the publicity hand that feeds my need for self-promotion, I bring up Ryan Girudsky:

President Donald Trump unveiled his budget on Thursday, and is planning on making massive budget cuts to domestic programs. Programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) which fund NPR and PBS will be on the chopping block. Rest assured, Big Bird and Elmo will survive without the government.

While liberals are comparing Trump’s budget to a dystopia and giving children nightmares that their favorite puppets will soon be no more, Sesame Street and most PBS shows will be fine.

Mitt Romney threatened to cut off funds to PBS if he were to win the presidential election in 2012. Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Sesame Workshop, told CNN that the cut in funding would not “kill Big Bird.”

“Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS. So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship,” Westin said. “So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to tout out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird – that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here.”
Only 31 percent of Sesame Street funding comes from a mixture of corporate, government, and foundational support. Nearly 70 percent comes from licensing, distribution fees, and royalties.

Sesame Street has so much potential to be even more profitable now that HBO bought the right to air the show for five years in 2015. PBS gets to air the new episode after a nine-month exclusivity period for HBO.

Furthermore, PBS and NPR will also be fine because they aren’t that reliant on the CPB either. According to Pro Publica, only 15 percent of PBS’s funding are CPB-issued grants, while only two percent of NPR’s funding comes from the government agency.

Perhaps all the celebrities who love to bask in the glow of their own greatness at award shows can open up their pockets and give additionally to the very small amount cut from PBS’ budget.

Kind of like the feast of donations Meals on Wheels programs have received after the proposed budget cut that isn’t a Meals on Wheels budget cut at all. (Community Development Block Grants fund Meals on Wheels programs in some areas, none of which receive more than a single digit percentage of their funding from CDBGs.)

A similar budget cut happened in Wisconsin during the 2015–17 budget, though the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time:

Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee on Tuesday cut funding for public broadcasting and programs to mitigate farm runoff, but not as deeply as GOP Gov. Scott Walker wanted. …

Walker, who is in Israel this week as he prepares for a likely run for president, recommended cutting nearly $5 million over two years from the state Educational Communications Board, which runs Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. The board also operates the system that is used for Amber Alerts and other emergency alerts.

Republicans on the committee voted to restore $2.6 million of the funding, leaving the board with a $2.3 million reduction.

Democrats invoked “Sesame Street” to argue for fully funding the board, with Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) saying the cuts were proposed by “Gov. Walker the Grouch.”

Public broadcasting is “the one consistent thing we get from one end of the state to the other,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “It’s public. It’s ours. We as Wisconsinites own it and we should be supporting it.”

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chairman of the committee, argued the cuts would not affect public broadcasting’s programming but some staff would be trimmed.

Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) said restoring some of the funding was important because public radio provides a service by letting its audience “listen to people from across the state.” But he said some cuts were warranted because public broadcasting in Wisconsin receives more taxpayer support than similar systems in other states.

Beyond the dollar figures involved, Logan Albright adds:

Budget hawks will be quick to point out that $445 million is but a fraction of a drop in the proverbial bucket of government spending, and it’s true. But no one is claiming that cutting public broadcasting will balance the budget. The question we should be asking is, “Why are we funding it in the first place?”

State-funded media suffer from one glaring, common problem: Someone — a central authority — gets to decide what kind of content is appropriate for the public, and what isn’t. As taxpayers, we cannot withhold our money if we object (or, are indifferent) to what we see — we have to pay for it regardless.

In most countries, this is called propaganda; the populace is fed what the government wants them to see. While public broadcasting in America is generally more benign than the term “propaganda” implies — focusing mainly on classical music and educational programming rather than fictional glorifications of Dear Leader — national media are nevertheless contrary to the American principles of a free press.

But what will happen to all that beloved programming on PBS and NPR if the federal government doesn’t pay for it? What about “Sesame Street”? What about “A Prairie Home Companion”? Should we just let these things wither on the vine? There are two responses to these concerns.

The first is that, if something really is popular, it will survive just fine without government having to force people to fund it.

“Sesame Street” is widely watched. It is certain that advertisers would be willing to sponsor it. Or, if you are among those who feel some moral objection to advertising in children’s shows, is there any reason to believe that donations couldn’t sustain the program? PBS and NPR already receive a majority of their funding from voluntary donations anyway — they are not suddenly going to disappear without the federal government as a backstop.

The second answer to the above question is simply “Yes,” things that no one is willing to pay for should be allowed to end.

There is no such thing as objective value in a television show or a radio program. The only value they have is in the subjective opinions of the viewers and listeners. If you have to use the force of taxation to keep a show running, it means that you are subsidizing the preferences of a few at the expense of everyone else.

For those who make the argument that we need public broadcasting to provide culture for the nation’s poor (who otherwise could not afford it), I would argue that this smacks of arrogance and elitism. The programmers at NPR may like classical music and cool jazz, but what evidence do they have that single mothers working three jobs appreciate these highly specific forms of “culture”?

Claiming that “the poor” need to listen to a particular type of music in order to better themselves is not based on anything but a false sense of superiority and a desire to impose one person’s tastes on others.

The government’s funding of broadcasting is as much an affront to the First Amendment as it would be if Donald Trump announced today that the federal government is going to dump $445 million into Fox News. (Someone before me came up with that observation, though I cannot find the source.) There is no guarantee of editorial independence from the government funders by the management of public TV or radio as long as there is government funding.

The identities of those in charge don’t matter. The heads of PBS and NPR can swear up and down that their news coverage is and will be unbiased, and they can be presumed to be sincere. That doesn’t prevent a future head of PBS from mandating news coverage to adhere to his or her own political views. That also doesn’t prevent a president from putting pressure on NPR to cover things as the president wants covered.

Jim Epstein adds:

If the Trump Administration gets its way in ending federal funding for public broadcasting (see the budget proposal …), it wouldn’t spell the end of NPR, PBS, or the radio and television programs that many Americans cherish. The biggest impact would be on rural stations that rely on government dollars for a large share of their operating budgets. Several reporters have noted that these rural stations “serve” communities that skew heavily Republican, claiming irony. “[D]efunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” the Washington Post’s Callum Borchers writes, “would mean hurting the local TV and radio stations that a whole lot of Republican voters watch and listen to.”

We don’t actually know how many Republican voters (or anyone for that matter) watch and listen to NPR or PBS in these rural communities because the networks keep that information private. If saving the rural stations is the main reason to maintain federal funding, don’t taxpayers have a right to see multi-year ratings data? In a press release responding to the budget cuts, PBS merely cites its old talking point that public broadcasting costs each citizen just $1.35 per year. Just because something’s comparatively cheap doesn’t make it worth buying.

The notion of a television station “serving” a community is outdated. You don’t hear Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu boasting that they “serve” one area of the country or another. As I argued in a recent video, the mean reason to end federal funding to these stations is that the media landscape looks nothing like it did in 1967, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act.

The blight of Wisconsin

Dan Benson:

In his recent “state of the city” address, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett reiterated one of his favorite recent talking points — the state of Wisconsin is benefiting from the “Milwaukee dividend.” What he means is that Milwaukee gives more to the state than it gets back, contrary to the popular view that Milwaukee is a money pit for state taxpayers.

Barrett and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton first made the claim in early January, first in a pitch to the Greater Milwaukee Committee and then in a  Jan. 28 op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

According to a Journal Sentinel news article, it represented the launch “of a fact-based ‘offensive to change the narrative’ about Milwaukee sucking up an excessive amount of state funds” in hopes of getting additional aid from the state. Barrett repeated the claim on March 5, in a speech at the Harley-Davidson University and Conference Center and the next day in his “state of the city” address.

“If anyone tells you that Milwaukee is a drain on the state, correct them immediately,” Barrett was quoted as saying. “The city of Milwaukee is a donor. The state benefits by having Milwaukee here. And I want to change that narrative.”

Problem is, the claim isn’t quite as fact-based as he’d like. First, Milwaukee gets back more than most cities. Second, Barrett is not counting everything Milwaukee gets from the state.

State report cited

Barrett’s and Hamilton’s figures come from a state Department of Revenue report titled “State Taxes and Aids By Municipality and County For Calendar Year 2015,” published last November. The report lists revenues collected and sent to Madison by counties, cities, villages and towns. It then compares the dollars that return to those communities via shared revenue.

Milwaukee city residents and businesses, the report estimates, sent more than $1.37 billion in revenue to Madison in 2015 from all income, sales, utility and other taxes, while the state returned $912 million in the form of state aid payments, a difference of about $458 million. In effect, the city gets back only 66 cents for every dollar it sends to Madison. Milwaukee County as a whole got back even less on a percentage basis, sending $2.5 billion to Madison and getting back $1.45 billion, or 57.49%.

The revenue figures include pretty much all sources of revenue paid by the city and county except that from “various administrative fees and charges … small dollar amounts on their own,” said DOR spokesman Casey Langan.

State aids, the money sent from Madison to local municipalities and counties, listed in the report include shared revenues, school aid, aid to counties, first dollar and lottery credit, natural resources aids, transportation aids and miscellaneous aids, the DOR report said.

“Wisconsin’s taxpayers residing outside of our county,” Barrett and Hamilton wrote in the Journal Sentinel, “are benefiting by more than a billion dollars in tax revenue from Milwaukee. With only 66% of what the city generates and 57% of what the county generates returning to our communities, we are providing a robust and growing ‘Milwaukee dividend’ to our state’s coffers.”

Bruce Murphy, writing in a Feb. 14 UrbanMilwaukee article, touted the mayor’s claim and accused Gov. Scott Walker of “libeling” Milwaukee by allegedly promoting the idea that Milwaukee is subsidized by the rest of the state.

“(I)t was Walker’s state that was the relative loser, that was leeching off the city,” Murphy wrote. “That includes every category of state dollars flowing to Milwaukee.”

But it’s not every category of state dollars.

The state report on which Barrett bases his argument leaves out large sums of state dollars that make their way to Milwaukee city and county residents.

“Any direct aid to a person is not included in the (DOR) report,” Langan said.

Consequently, Barrett’s and Hamilton’s figures failed to consider:

► More than $631 million in state Medicaid payments, not counting federal dollars, to county residents in 2013, the most recent figures available, the state Department of Health Services estimates.

► $108 million in 2015 state funding to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which primarily serves Milwaukee County and nearby residents, according to the university website.

► Nearly $90 million in state unemployment benefits paid by the state and Milwaukee employers, and not counting federal dollars. That’s almost $62 million to city residents and more than $28 million to other county residents, state Department of Workforce Development spokesman John Dipko said.

► $7.8 million in salaries in 2015 for 120 staffers in the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office, also state employees, according to state Department of Administration figures.

► More than $6 million to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s 47 judges, all state employees, each of whom is paid $131,187 a year.

► $4.3 million in state court support payments to Milwaukee County, including the clerk of circuit courts office, for fiscal 2017.

► $600,000 in salaries for the 12 people who staff the Milwaukee County public defender’s office, according to DOA.

That’s an additional $ 847.7 million that comes back to Milwaukee. Added to the DOR report, that’s nearly $2.3 billion, almost 92% of the $2.5 billion paid to the state by Milwaukee County. And that’s not counting the cost to state taxpayers of FoodShare Wisconsin and other social service programs, the state Department of Corrections, the state subsidy for Supplemental Security Income, historic tax credits and other assistance.

“How do you not count Medicaid?” asked state Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). “That’s a big part of the state budget. It’s bogus accounting (by Barrett). He’s counting what he wants, and he’s not counting other things.

“On a more personal note,” Kooyenga added, “I don’t know why the mayor is going around trying to create bad blood between the city and the state.”

Barrett’s chief of staff, Patrick Curley, denied that the mayor is creating bad blood with legislators.

“We’re not picking a fight, not looking to pick a fight and really are hoping to engage Rep. Kooyenga and others in a thoughtful discussion. I don’t read the (mayor’s) speech as ‘fightin’ words.’ ”

Todd Berry with the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance agreed with Kooyenga that Barrett isn’t counting everything Milwaukee receives from the state.

“While it is true that over the last few years, as state aid has flattened and (Milwaukee’s) economy has recovered, they have become a donor community compared to what they were a few years back,” Berry said. “The big hitch is (Barrett and Hamilton) are only talking about shared revenue. They really suck in the money when it comes to Medicaid. A quarter of all Medicaid dollars are spent in Milwaukee County.”

Asked why Medicaid and other aids to Milwaukee residents were not counted by the mayor, Curley replied in an email:

“Seventy-two percent of the region’s poor are within the city — second only to San Antonio metro for metro concentration of poverty,” Curley wrote. “That’s a staggering statistic that can’t and should not be minimized. The fact that people are talking about state aids and locally generated revenues is good and a conversation that Mayor Barrett looks forward to having.”

Berry also noted that many of the income and corporate taxes in the DOR report attributed to Milwaukee County are not coming from the county.

“Many of those people paying those taxes live in Ozaukee and Waukesha counties and other places,” he said.

And while Barrett made a major point of saying that Milwaukee gets back just 66% in shared revenue of every dollar it sends to Madison, he failed to mention that Milwaukee gets back more on a percentage basis from Madison than most other communities.

In Milwaukee County, only Cudahy (70.83%) and South Milwaukee (77.48%) get back a higher percentage of state aid than Milwaukee, according to the same DOR report that Barrett cited. River Hills, for instance, only gets back 19%; Glendale just 28.21% percent. Mequon gets the worst return among cities in the five-county area with a 13.5% return; Brookfield, Oconomowoc and New Berlin each gets back less than 20%.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Revenue

Among the surrounding counties, only Racine County does better than Milwaukee County at 62.11%, while Waukesha County (36.8%), Washington County (35.98%) and Ozaukee County (25%) do worse.

Milwaukee’s 66-plus percentage return also exceeds most other cities in the state, which average even less, 51.03%. The statewide average for all municipalities, including towns and villages, is just 55.69%.

The DOR report lists only a handful of the state’s 190 or so cities as getting back more than 90% of what they pay out to the state. Milwaukee ranks in the top third among the state’s cities in the DOR report.

The real point Barrett was trying to make is that Milwaukee is an economic engine experiencing an economic turnaround that’s benefiting southeastern Wisconsin, the state and the region and that it deserves the support it receives and is necessary to a healthy Wisconsin economy and culture.

But many of the city’s problems continue to siphon millions of dollars from the rest of the state while for decades failing to produce desired results. An op-ed from Barrett and Hamilton laying out a plan to solve those problems would be worth reading.

Barrett fails to mention Milwaukee’s leadership, if you want to call it that, in homicides and gun crimes, the accessory to which is the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office’s refusal to prosecute gun crimes. Barrett also didn’t mention the craptacular state of Milwaukee Public Schools and his refusal to do anything about it (like ask the Legislature to give the mayor’s office control of MPS, which the Legislature would do yesterday). Nor does he mention the contribution of non-Milwaukee taxpayers to Miller Park, the Bucks’ under-construction playground, or other Milwaukee things for which Milwaukee gets primary benefit.

And then there’s this memory from last year

… the way Milwaukee residents noted the police’s removal from this planet of Sylville Smith, of the lengthy criminal record, last August.

Milwaukee deserves all this, because a majority of its voters keep electing the people (namely, Barrett) who refuse to do anything about Milwaukee’s problems. Wisconsin does not deserve this.


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