Category: Wisconsin politics

The state deficit caused by excessive spending

Legislative Republicans are debating between themselves whether or not to raise the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees, opposed by Gov. Scott Walker, to fund new road construction.

Before they decide to do that, they may want to read Jerry Bader:

While Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature argue over whether a gas tax increase is needed to pay for road repair, one GOP lawmaker is making the case that millions of dollars can be saved at the State Department of Transportation. DOT secretary Mark Gottlieb was grilled by lawmakers on the Assembly Transportation committee on December 6 over Governor Scott Walker’s plan not to raise gas taxes or vehicle fees. Walker has instead proposed closing a two-year, one-billion-dollar budget gap through borrowing and project delays, a plan Gottlieb defended. But West Allis Republican State Representative Joe Sanfelippo said in an interview this week that tens of millions can be saved from DOT spending and that lawmakers should look there first before raising any taxes or fees.

Sanfelippo’s questions to Gottlieb on agency spending received sparse coverage in the media. But Sanfelippo has been examining DOT practices for years and he says cutting wasteful spending could save tens of millions of dollars. Sanfelippo says lawmakers don’t even know how much money they would need to raise in taxes and fees because no one is looking at the money the department has now and what they’re spending. He gives several examples:

  • Sanfelippo says in two major projects in the Milwaukee area, the Zoo Interchange reconstruction and the Hoan Bridge, the DOT chose to use stainless steel rebar in the concrete, as opposed to the epoxy coated iron rebar that is commonly used. Sanfelippo says the stainless-steel rebar costs 250% more than the iron rebar. Sanfelippo says Gottlieb told him the intent was to have the bridge deck last as long as the bridge structure. But Sanfelippo says the stainless steel will long outlive the concrete structures. He says between those two projects the difference was $28 million for an item Sanfelippo argues was unnecessary. Sanfelippo says he’s continuing to investigate to determine how many times the stainless-steel rebar has been used in projects around the state.
  • New traffic signals that the DOT claims are safer but Sanfelippo is dubious. He says the DOT is replacing the long-used “trombone arm” style traffic lights with large, costlier “monotubes.” Sanfelippo says the DOT spent $57.5 million more in the past five years on 1,100 of the monotube units than would have been needed for the traditional traffic lights. Sanfelippo says the DOT’s claims that the new design is safer go no further than claiming “studies show…” Sanfelippo says he’s asked to see those studies but has never been provided specifics.
  • Purchasing cards: Sanfelippo says hundreds of DOT employees have access to “purchasing cards,” which he describes as essentially being credit cards. Sanfelippo says employees can use the cards to make purchases that don’t go through the normal procurement process. Sanfelippo says tens of millions of dollars are being spent by employees using these cards with “no checks and balances. “There are individuals on this list spending three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand, five hundred thousand dollars annually on these purchasing cards.” Sanfelippo says when the cards were developed in the 1990’s they were intended for “small purchases.” He asks: “how can you have $500,000 a year, in small purchases, for just one year. Sanfelippo stresses that he is not alleging wrongdoing. But he wonders what auditing procedures are in place to “watch all this money going out the door” and to make sure it’s being used properly.

Sanfelippo says that the DOT, in effect, is spending money on top of the line items and then “at the same time they’re telling us they’re broke and they can’t afford to continue their road construction projects that we need done, it just doesn’t make sense.” Further, he believes the DOT needs to account for the money spent on the purchasing cards before any revue increases are approved by lawmakers. And Sanfelippo says these items are the tip of the iceberg, while already totaling well into the tens of millions of dollars.

And Sanfelippo says these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. “We’re not talking nickels and dimes here. Every one of these items are millions and millions of dollars.” Sanfelippo says he has binders full of other examples. And Sanfelippo says the legislature needs to examine those costs before starting any discussion on revenue increases.

You would think $86 million (the total in Sanfelippo’s three examples) would have been better used on road projects.

And speaking of WisDOT employees, Owen Robinson adds:

I wrote about this fact last May when this issue flared up again and it has not changed. A look at the Reason Foundation’s most recent 21st annual highway report shows Wisconsin is spending way more than comparable states.

For example, Wisconsin and Minnesota have almost the same number of highway miles at 11,766 and 11,833, respectively. They also have almost the same number of lane miles. They are both cold-weather states with a major metropolitan area. In terms of total spending on roads, Minnesota spends just over $132,000 per state-controlled mile. Wisconsin spends 72 percent more for a total of almost $227,000 per mile.

Breaking down the numbers is even more interesting. Wisconsin spends 25 percent more on administrative costs, but actually spends 38 percent less on maintenance. The big difference comes with construction. Wisconsin is spending 75 percent more than Minnesota for every new mile of road. In summary, Wisconsin spends a lot more money on administration and construction, but less on maintenance than Minnesota. That is a difference in priorities.

To think of it another way, if Wisconsin just lowered its spending to the same amount per mile as Minnesota and prioritized maintenance over construction, it would save Wisconsin $1.1 billion per year and solve the transportation budget problem overnight while leaving a surplus to return to the taxpayers.

Sanfelippo is not new to this subject. M.D. Kittle reports:

Before Republicans join Democrats in selling motorists tax and fee hikes for the privilege of driving on Wisconsin roads, one conservative lawmaker wants to detour the taxing conversation.

State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said not every Republican is jumping on board the revenue-hike train to “fix” a transportation budget shortfall nearing $1 billion. He and other conservatives are calling for a thorough review of how the Badger State builds and pays for its transportation projects.

“There are so many things we can enact in transportation, from how we fund projects to how we finance them to how we build them,” the lawmaker said, insisting there are significant cost savings to be had. “This isn’t pie in the sky stuff. All we have to do is look at other states.”

Sanfelippo’s office has put together a white paper on alternative building and financing ideas, including telling the federal government what it can do with its strings-attached shared transportation funds. …

In his white paper, Sanfelippo proposes the state research the savings of a design-build-finance method in which the design-builder assumes responsibility for the brunt of the design work, all construction tasks, short-term financing and the risk of providing the suite of services for a fixed fee.

“The model takes advantage of the efficiencies of design-build and also allows the project sponsor to completely or partially defer financing during the construction phase,” the white paper states.

As of January, more than 40 states – including California and Texas – had “authorized broad use of design-build as a cost-savings technique,” according to the Albany, N.Y., Times Union.

The savings in New York through design-build have been remarkable, despite limited use to date.

“The Tappan Zee Bridge project has saved taxpayers $1.1 billion compared to the cost under the traditional design-bid-build model, according to the newspaper. ”The bridge will also be completed 18 months early, relieving taxpayers of the annual $100 million maintenance cost of the old bridge sooner.”

Sanfelippo’s white paper also recommends the Legislature explore keeping the federal fuel tax revenue marked for the federal highway account of the Highway Trust Fund. Wisconsin gets back just over a dollar on every dollar it sends to Washington, D.C., but the myriad strings attached to the “free money” drive up the cost of road projects, Sanfelippo said.

“Screw you, federal government. We’re not sending you that federal gas tax money. We’ll keep it here, fund our own projects and therefore we don’t have to jump through all of these stupid hoops,” the lawmaker said.

Waukesha County recently rebuilt County Highway L (Janesville Road) in the city of Muskego. Local funds paid for the first 1.2 miles of the project; the second 1.2 miles with 80 percent federal dollars.

Phase 1 cost $352,000 for construction management, and $5,928,000 for construction. Phase 2, completed with federal funding, cost $719,600 for construction management services, and the construction bill was $7,196,139. That’s a cost difference of more than $1.9 million.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and Rep. Rob Brooks, also a Saukville Republican, are sponsoring legislation that would “swap” federal money currently in appropriation accounts for specified highway programs with state money. Not surprisingly, Waukesha County heartily supports the concept of the legislation.

“The states sold our souls to the devil a long time ago when we started taking this federal money,” Sanfelippo said. “Now we are addicted to it.”

“We’re not getting a gift from the federal government. It’s our own money.”

One of the federal strings attached is the requirement under the federal Davis–Bacon Act to use prevailing (that is, union) wages on projects funded with federal money. The state prevailing-wage law was repealed, but the federal law, as you can imagine, has much more impact. Perhaps Congress can be led by Wisconsin’s representatives in a repeal of Davis–Bacon.

 

In half the U.S., including here

Kyle Peterson notes the Nov. 8 election results:

In the war of ideas, a think tank is like a munitions factory, churning out the matériel to push the trench line a few miles forward. As luck would have it, Republican state lawmakers will be well equipped next year when they begin one of the largest conservative offensives in recent memory. Come January the GOP will hold “trifectas”—total control of both legislative chambers and the governorship—in 25 states, up from 10 in 2009.

If lawmakers have any questions about where to begin, one place with answers is the State Policy Network, a federation of 65 free-market think tanks ranging from Anchorage, Alaska, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. “At the end of the day, people want jobs. They want security. That’s our bread and butter,” says Tracie Sharp, the group’s president. “We feel like for such a time as this, we’ve built up this network. We need to really run. This is a state moment.”

She seems to mean that in two ways. The first is the obvious: What can conservatives get done in capitals nationwide, and how can her think tanks help? Ms. Sharp says that lawmakers, especially in small states, are hungry for economic analysis: “If I raise taxes, what, really, does it do? Does it create jobs or does it drive jobs out?”

That doesn’t necessarily mean producing dusty policy reports. “In the early days, there was a lot of ivory tower, highfalutin, white paper stuff,” Ms. Sharp says. “That is one way I think the network has really evolved in the last 10 years is to be able to communicate and message the ideas to the average American.”

Take Tennessee, where earlier this year the network’s Beacon Center led what its president called an “all-out siege” on the state’s Hall Tax, a 6% levy on investment income. Beacon made a football-themed video ad arguing that the tax hurt seniors and drove jobs to Florida. The think tank then used what’s called “geo-fencing” to serve the ad to cellphones only within a certain set of coordinates—the capitol building.

It did the trick. In May the governor signed legislation that will phase out the Hall Tax by 2022. When the network’s think tanks gathered in October to compare notes—what’s working in one place that could be adapted to another?—the Beacon Center presented an hour-long case study. “This Hall Tax,” Ms. Sharp says, “has got people inspired now.”

The second opportunity is that states could help untangle some of the legislative knots in Washington, D.C. As the new Congress contemplates repealing ObamaCare, perhaps the biggest challenge is how to avoid pulling the rug out from under Americans relying on it. “Whoever’s going to drive this has to give a very clear answer for that,” Ms. Sharp says. “You’re dealing with needy, chronically ill people that no one wants to see tossed out without insurance. They have to be taken care of.”

Here’s the kicker: “I think it can be best done locally, or state and locally.” The gist is that if Congress wants to send Medicaid back to the states through block grants, an idea floated in Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda, Republican governors and legislatures will be ready. Ms. Sharp expresses similar sentiments about Donald Trump’s promised $1 trillion spending on roads, bridges and airports: “There are better ways to build infrastructure: Devolve.”

State think tanks are still relatively new, founded in earnest beginning in the late 1980s. But the network has sprawled since then, from 26 groups in 1991, to 54 in 2008, to 65 today with four more in the works. Combined revenues hit $80 million two years ago, and total staff has nearly doubled in the past six years to 525. “We have groups that are 20, 25, 30 years old, because we’ve built a durable infrastructure,” Ms. Sharp says.

“I think that is perhaps confounding to the left,” she adds. “They have been trying to launch state-based efforts over time. They usually are centrally controlled from a D.C. hub—this is my experience. They tend to have one or two donors. And then the tide changes, the donor changes their mind, and then it just doesn’t take root.”

Anyone wondering whether an advantage in the states truly matters should look at this year’s Electoral College map. In Wisconsin, union membership is down 133,000 since 2010, the year before Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 overhaul passed. Donald Trump’s margin of victory there? Less than 30,000. In Michigan, public-union membership is down 34,000 since 2012, the year before Gov. Rick Snyder’s right-to-work law kicked in. Mr. Trump’s margin? Only 11,000.

Ms. Sharp says she had always felt these two states were only “thinly blue,” and that the GOP has been put on better footing by the unions’ slide. “When you chip away at one of the power sources that also does a lot of get-out-the-vote,” she says, “I think that helps—for sure.”

So what can Republicans realistically accomplish in the next few years? A quick survey of think tankers in states where the GOP gained on Nov. 8 suggests that the mood averages somewhere between bullish and giddy. Visions of tax cuts and tort reforms are dancing in their heads.

Kentucky: “Republicans now control the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time since 1921,” says Jim Waters, the president of the Bluegrass Institute. The GOP flipped 17 of the chamber’s 100 seats and defeated the sitting Democratic speaker. With all the levers of power in Republican hands, right-to-work legislation looks like a shoo-in.

Also likely, he thinks, is a law establishing charter schools. Kentucky is one of only a handful of states without charters. “The Republicans need to grab this opportunity,” Mr. Waters says. “Our biggest concern is that the Republican leadership will be too timid.” Somehow that seems unlikely: Gov. Matt Bevin has already suggested calling a special session in 2017 to revamp the tax code—and maybe even eliminate the income tax.

Missouri: A new Republican governor, Eric Greitens, will replace term-limited Democrat Jay Nixon. “I think that we’re going to see bills that have been vetoed in the past, like right to work, go through quickly,” says Brenda Talent, the CEO of the Show-Me Institute. Last year the Republican House tried to override Gov. Nixon’s right-to-work veto but fell short by 13 votes.

Expanding charter schools, Ms. Talent predicts, will be an “easy lift,” and tackling corporate welfare is a possibility. “To give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem,” she says, “you could eliminate the corporate income tax in the state simply by eliminating economic development tax credits.”

New Hampshire: With the election of the first GOP governor in 12 years, add this to the pile of potential right-to-work states. “The odds certainly are better than they’ve ever been,” says J. Scott Moody, the CEO of the Granite Institute. In 2011 the Democratic governor vetoed a right-to-work bill, and the House could not muster the votes to override.

Iowa: Republicans retook the Senate, defeated the incumbent Democratic majority leader, and regained full control for the first time since 1998. Don Racheter of the Public Interest Institute says flatter tax rates are likely, as is a goal long-sought by social conservatives: defunding Planned Parenthood. In April the Republican House passed a bill to block Medicaid dollars from flowing to groups that provide abortions, but the language was stripped out by the Democratic Senate two days later. “Now,” says Mr. Racheter, “I think that’ll happen.”

Pennsylvania: In October the GOP House fell three votes short on a bill to move newly hired public workers away from traditional pensions. As it happens, on Nov. 8 Republicans picked up three additional seats. “Every indication we have,” says Charles Mitchell,president of the Commonwealth Foundation, “is pension reform is coming back and it’s coming back soon.” The legislature may also put on the Democratic governor’s desk a “paycheck protection” bill, which would bar the government from collecting union political funds. “The dynamic has shifted considerably,” Mr. Mitchell says. “A lot of these issues were laughed out of the room, even under the last Republican governor.”

Minnesota: A gain of six seats in the Senate put the legislature under total GOP control. “We’ve got about a $1.4 billion budget surplus,” says John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment. “I think our Republican legislators understand that if they don’t provide some tax relief people are going to say ‘Well, why the hell do we bother voting for Republicans?’ ”

The best targets for repeal, he suggests, are the state’s taxes on commercial property and on Social Security benefits. There’s also MNsure, the ObamaCare exchange. When open enrollment began Nov. 1, Minnesotans saw rate increases up to 67%. “Something is going to be done. Something’s got to be done,” Mr. Hinderaker says. “This is why the Republicans won the election, in large part.”

Illinois: Democrats kept the House but lost their supermajority, which will give Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes a bit more bite. It may also strengthen his hand in negotiations to end the 18-month budget stalemate. “You’re starting to get the liberal chattering class in Illinois saying ‘Come on Democrats, why don’t you just agree to one thing that he wants to do,’ ” says Diana Rickert, vice president of communications at the Illinois Policy Institute.

She adds that there is more grumbling than ever—even from fellow Democrats—about Michael Madigan, the powerful House speaker who has held that office, excluding a two-year hiatus, since 1983. “We’re trying to dismantle a political machine that’s been in place for 40 years,” Ms. Rickert says. “It takes time. But we are making a lot of progress.”

None of these victories is assured. “I want to be clear: Sure, a lot of Republicans got elected,” Ms. Sharp says. “That’s no guarantee that they’ll do the right thing. That’s where our work is so important.”

What imperils those efforts is Democratic zeal to force nonprofits like the network’s think tanks to turn over the names of their donors. “We expect no fewer than 20 states in this next cycle to put forth some sort of disclosure bill,” she says. This is pitched as transparency, but Ms. Sharp says few people realize how much harassment conservative groups receive.

In 2011, during a dispute over a subsidy for an NHL hockey team, the president of the Goldwater Institute in Arizona had her home vandalized. “Someone gutted a rabbit and smeared the entrails across her front steps,” Ms. Sharp says. A year later the network’s headquarters in Arlington, Va., were broken into and ransacked.

The political left—or at least the segment of it that wields power—hasn’t been very sympathetic. But if anything can convince liberals of the unwisdom of forced donor disclosure, perhaps it’s President Donald Trump. Consider this recent phone call: “An ACLU chapter in a state,” Ms. Sharp says, “called the state think tank and said, ‘Hey, things have changed—we really want to talk about donor privacy.’ ”

Notice that Wisconsin is not one of the states listed in potential policy innovations. That is a mistake, because this state needs to (1) figure out a way to fix the state’s roads without raising overall taxes, and (2) eliminate the minimum-markup law, which hurts consumers. Also, government is still too large, and government continues to spend too much and tax too much.

 

News from the People’s Republic of Madison

The UW–Madison Daily Communist — I mean, Daily Cardinal — reports:

Republican congressman Sean Duffy is facing criticism for describing Madison as a “communist community” when he attacked the ongoing presidential recount in Wisconsin Wednesday.

In a Fox News interview, Duffy, who represents northwestern Wisconsin, criticized Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a recount of the state’s general election race.

“It’s a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don’t believe in democracy and freedom and free elections,” Duffy said.

Duffy alleged that election officials in Dane County were stalling in order to miss the Dec. 13 deadline for certifying the vote, even though the county is on track to complete the recount on time.

Duffy’s comments drew a rebuke from numerous Wisconsin politicians.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., called for an apology from Duffy. Pocan represents Wisconsin’s second congressional district, including Dane County.

“His insinuation that my constituents are somehow un-American for exercising their political views is extremely alarming,” Pocan said in a release.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin also voiced his disapproval over Duffy’s comments, initially calling him a “moron.”

“I apologize to Congressman Duffy for referring to him as a moron. I should have said he is a liar and a charlatan,” Soglin said Thursday.

Duffy defended himself on Twitter, tweeting “The PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my ‘communist’ comment, I’ll send a therapy dog to your ‘safe place’ of choice in Madison,” and questioned whether Pocan would “accept the results of the election and denounce the frivolous recount.”

In response, Pocan tweeted “Humorless is better than being senseless about Dane County providing 73% of new jobs in WI. Perhaps a $175K salary distorts your views.”

Interesting comment from Pocan, given that his salary is the same as Duffy’s.

I also fail to understand why Comrade Pocan believes economic growth is a good thing, given that Pocan and his ilk believe the only purpose of making money is to give it to Pocan and his ilk.

I’m not sure why a UW–Stevens Point professor felt the need to chime in, but, Wisconsin Public Radio reports …

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s comments that involved calling the Madison “communist” during a Fox News interview earlier this week are “simply irresponsible,” a UW-Stevens Point political science professor said.

“I mean, Duffy, besides being a member of Congress, is also part of the transition team and so, you just don’t say that,” professor Ed Miller said.

Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, made the comment during an interview about the state’s presidential recount on Tucker Carlson Tonight. …

Duffy went on to say that people working for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are taking as much time as possible to contest ballots and “slow-walking” so that votes can’t get certified.

“If that doesn’t happen, to think of the state of Wisconsin who voted for Trump, the first time for a Republican since 1984, that our 10 electors would be disenfranchised for our state, is a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don’t believe in Democracy and freedom and free elections,” Duffy also said. “They want to use politics to undermine the will of the voter.”

Miller said Duffy is essentially separating people by calling the Madison-area Communist. Miller added that Duffy’s comment is factually inaccurate, Dane County is not the only county hand counting the ballots.

“There’s a number of counties that are hand counting their ballots in Wisconsin,” Miller said. …

“His insinuation that my constituents are somehow un-American for exercising their political views is extremely alarming,” Pocan said in a statement. “At a time when our country stands divided, Congressman Duffy’s ‘Trumpizing’ of Wisconsin is the wrong direction for our state.”

Pocan also said he hopes the Wisconsin delegation will condemn Duffy’s comments.

Other responses to Duffy’s characterization of Wisconsin’s capitol included its mayor, Paul Soglin, who said, “For years I’ve been listening to morons like Representative Duffy, who are resentful of the fact that Madison is Wisconsin’s economic engine,” according to WSAU-TV.

The mayor released a statement Thursday addressing his earlier comments on Duffy.

“I apologize to Congressman Duffy for referring to him as a moron. I should have said he is a liar and a charlatan,” Soglin said.

And that’s a rich comment from Soglin given his being a buddy of the now-room-temperature Fidel Castro.

The Wisconsin State Journal unsurprisingly felt the need to chime in:

Have you no sense of decency, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy?

Madison is not a “progressive, liberal, communist community,” as you claimed on Fox Newsthe other night.

We’re a progressive, liberal, capitalist community. And our strong free-market economy is creating more private-sector jobs than any other part of the state.

That’s why Madison Mayor Paul Soglin took such offense this week to your commie dig, though most people understood it to be hyperbole (as was the first sentence in this editorial). …

Wisconsin has long struggled with an urban-rural divide. And that unfortunate rift has grown worse in the wake of last month’s election. Rural voters in Wisconsin and elsewhere played a big role in handing the presidency to a bombastic Donald Trump, which shocked many city dwellers.

But the election is now over, and even the big-talking Republican president-elect has toned down his rhetoric.

Sort of.

We all should be on the same side in Wisconsin when it comes to helping each other succeed across regions of the state. When southern Wisconsin does well, that’s good for northern Wisconsin, and vice versa. The insults don’t help.

I don’t know that the State Journal’s last claim is really the case. Certain parts of this state are emptying out as people move east, to, among other places, Madison. What does Southwest Wisconsin, for instance, get when someone from there moves to Madison?

There’s also this bit of historical revisionism:

Soglin gave Cuban dictator Fidel Castro a symbolic key to Madison four decades ago. But the mayor also has worked in the financial industry and at Epic Systems, one of the state’s fastest growing private companies.

Epic Systems is in Verona, not Madison. Soglin and Madison’s intransigence is why Epic is in Verona, not Madison. And Soglin’s private sector experience comes as an attorney who was hired by people to try to navigate the regulatory morass he created in his previous term as mayor.

Is Madison Communist like Cuba or China? Not economically, though perhaps in its lockstep ideology where non-liberal thoughts are not allowed to be expressed, let alone become law. Clearly Duffy was using a pejorative to describe my hometown and the left-wing jerks who live in it, two of which took Duffy’s bait. (Apparently Soglin doesn’t have enough things to do.) And the over-the-top reaction is certainly revealing, isn’t it? It’s like communism is a bad thing or something.

 

Maybe it’s Friday somewhere

Wisconsin Public Radio decided to have a Joy Cardin Week in Review in the middle of the week instead of (or maybe in addition to) its usual Friday Week in Review (which I guess makes it the Mid-Week in Review, or the Week in Mid-Review), and at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.

Whatever day of the week it is, Joy and I can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WSSW (89.1 FM) in Platteville, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at www.wpr.org.

My opponent will be Dane County Sup. Jenni Dye of Fitchburg. We’ll probably agree on nothing.

 

Follow Wisconsin forward

The Wall Street Journal:

The GOP will control the state houses and legislatures in 30 states in 2017, and if Republicans want to use this new power they could do worse than look at the Wisconsin example. Governor Scott Walker’s reform of public union laws has transformed the state’s politics.

Mr. Walker’s 2011 reforms, known as Act 10, removed the ability of public unions to collectively bargain for benefits and required that unions be recertified every year by a majority of all members. The law ended the government’s role as the union’s automatic dues collector, and in 2015 Wisconsin also became a right-to-work state.

Given a choice for the first time, workers have left the union in droves. A recent analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that since 2011 the state has seen the largest decline in the country in the concentration of union members in the workforce. By 2015 union members made up some 8.3% of workers in Wisconsin, down from 14.2% before Mr. Walker’s reforms. The Badger State has some 187,000 fewer union members than in 2005, and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association has lost some 30% of its members.

Unions still have clout but they must now operate on the same footing as other groups that represent member interests—such as trade associations—by providing services in exchange for financial support.

Union reforms and right-to-work laws aren’t the only drivers of economic growth, but they do attract many businesses that won’t consider operating in states without them. The reduction in union power has stabilized public finances that were spiraling upward. This in turn gives businesses confidence that they won’t be hit with tax increases year after year, a la Illinois, Connecticut and other states where politics is still dominated by the nexus of public-union donations and government officials.

In 2016 Forbes ranked Wisconsin the 27th state in the country for business, up from 40th in 2011. A survey of CEOs by the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce found that 84% say the state is heading in the right direction.

In 2011 Mr. Walker’s union reforms and the public Battle of Madison looked like a huge political risk. This year the GOP added two seats to its state Senate majority, which is now 20-13, and one in the Assembly (64 to 35). Break up the duopoly of politicians and government unions, and good things can happen.

It’s Recountarama!

Starting Thursday, every county will have to recount the presidential election votes, thanks to two third-party candidates who insisted for reasons known only to themselves on a recount.

The $3.5 million recount is at the behest of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who got 31,000 Wisconsinites to vote for her.

What is this about? Kevin Binversie has one theory:

If Federal Elections Commissions records are to be believed, Jill Stein and her campaign raised more money to finance recounts for Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania than they did during her entire presidential campaign . It’s hard not to look at that kind of quick cash grab and believe that what’s about to take place over the next two week is one part con, one part scam, and three parts psychological exercise in overcoming denial.

They’ve actually done this before In 2004, they fed on the panic of Democrats supporting John Kerry and staged a one-state recount of Ohio. The result, according to the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel was a minimal change to the end result.

In 2004, when many Democrats asked whether Ohio had been lost to voter suppression, the Green Party teamed up with the Libertarian Party to pay for a recount. David Cobb, the then-presidential candidate for the Green Party, had not even appeared on Ohio’s ballot, but he helped raise $150,000 to start the recount process. “Due to widespread reports of irregularities in the Ohio voting process,” said Cobb and Michael Badnarik, the then-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, “we are compelled to demand a recount of the Ohio presidential vote. Voting is the heart of the democratic process in which we as a nation put our faith.”

The result: Democrat John F. Kerry gained a bit less than 300 votes on George W. Bush, making virtually no difference in the margin.

Expect a similar result in the recount planned for Wisconsin; with the likelihood of  500 or so votes moving around by the time it’s all said and done.

Simply put, if there was going to be any sort of vast change to the margin between Trump and Clinton in Wisconsin, it would have already happened during the statewide canvass. In fact, it did. In addition to announcing the recount challenge by Stein, the state Election Board announced the “certified, official results.” They put Trump’s margin of victory at 22,177 votes.

The “unofficial tally” from the Associated Press on Election Day was 27,257 .

Now before conspiracy mongers on both sides of the aisle start thinking something is going on, realize that since elections are run by people they’re prone to error. The likelihood of these errors increase as county and municipal clerks rush to get results out to a feverishly waiting media and public.

This doesn’t mean anything scandalous or foul is underway as some believe happened in Outagamie County . It just means that mistakes happen from time to time. Numbers and tallies get written down wrong and reported as such. Votes which were counted and reported by one media outlet, may not get reported by the rest. (Brookfield 2011, anyone? )

As for any reports about the system being hacked either statewide or in certain counties of Wisconsin, that continues to be rumors and theories without much proof. The folks at 538.com  have been doing all they can to debunk it.

We found no apparent correlation between voting method and outcome in six of the eight states, and a thin possible link between voting method and results in Wisconsin and Texas. However, the two states showed opposite results: The use of any machine voting in a county was associated with a 5.6-percentage-point reduction in Democratic two-party vote share in Wisconsin but a 2.7-point increase in Texas, both of which were statistically significant. Even if we focus only on Wisconsin, the effect disappears when we weight our results by population. More than 75 percent of Wisconsin’s population lives in the 23 most populous counties, which don’t appear to show any evidence for an effect driven by voting systems. To have effectively manipulated the statewide vote total, hackers probably would have needed to target some of these larger counties. When we included all counties but weighted the regression by the number of people living in each county, the statistical significance of the opposite effects in Wisconsin and Texas both evaporated.Even if the borderline significant result for Wisconsin didn’t vanish when weighting by population, it would be doubtful, for a few reasons. You’re more likely to find a significant result when you make multiple tests, as we did by looking at eight states with and without weighting by population. Also, different places in Wisconsin and Texas use different kinds of voting machines; presumably if someone really did figure out how to hack certain machines, we’d see different results depending on which type of machines were used in a county, but we don’t. And Nate Cohn of The New York Times found that when he added another control variable to race and education — density of the population — the effect of paper ballots vanished.

Sadly, in our new “Post-Truth America,” facts, figures, and data don’t matter as much as feelings, instincts, and rumor. Otherwise, how else would Jill Stein and the Green Party been able to scam enough people willing to give her $5 million for recounts which might not even happen or change the outcome?

Meanwhile, back in America’s Dairyland …

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Gov. Scott Walker faces a $693 million hole as he draws up his 2017-19 biennial budget plans, the Department of Administration reported Monday.

That amount is significantly less than the $2.2 billion hole projected at this point in the budget process two years ago — which precipitated Walker proposing a $300 million cut to the UW System. It is nearly six times more than the $117.4 million projected shortfall from the 2013-15 budget — which featured broad income tax cuts.

The hole represents all projected state revenue minus agency spending requests, which always include proposals that ultimately won’t be included in the governor’s budget proposal.

Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel noted the two largest drivers of the increase in tax-supported spending were the Department of Public Instruction’s request for $508 million more for K-12 funding and the Department of Health Services’ request for $450 million to continue current Medicaid service levels.

Year-over-year agency spending requests would be up 0.9 percent in 2017-18 and 3.2 percent in 2018-19, for total projected state spending of $76 billion over two years.

The state is on track to spend $71.3 billion in the current biennium.

Yes, for normal people $693 million is a lot of money. But read the last paragraph, then read this from the MacIver Institute:

Do the math (which the State Journal did not do), and the theoretical deficit is all of 0.97 percent of the 2015–17 budget. It’s not even a theoretical deficit because the 2017–19 budget hasn’t even been introduced, let alone become law yet.

Now, as readers know, state and local government in this state are literally twice the size that population growth and inflation justify since the late 1970s. So if Walker or legislative Republicans want to chop the budget, be my guest. But to claim there is a budget “crisis” as the obligatory Democratic bleaters claimed in the State Journal story is simply false.

After #NeverTrump

Readers know that I voted for neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton for president.

It does appear that everyone who did vote for Trump had their reasons to vote for him (even the sole reason that Trump is not Hillary) justified by the nationwide post-election hissy fit thrown by Hillary’s supporters. (Because nothing convinces like riots.) It also appears that being a Trump backer or non-backer didn’t negatively affect that Republican’s chance of winning Nov. 8, given how well the GOP did nationwide.

But what is a right-thinking #NeverTrump to do now that Trump will be president in two months? First, there’s Jennifer Rubin:

Let’s address a few issues, keeping in mind that people in different capacities — journalist, lawmaker, activist, candidate — have different obligations.

First, tell the truth. Bret Stephens, a #NeverTrump journalist, explains:

What a columnist owes his readers isn’t a bid for their constant agreement. It’s independent judgment. Opinion journalism is still journalism, not agitprop. The elision of that distinction and the rise of malevolent propaganda outfits such as Breitbart News is one of the most baleful trends of modern life. Serious columnists must resist it. …

Many things explain Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory, but not the least of them was the ability of his core supporters to shut out the inconvenient Trump facts: the precarious foundations of his wealth, the plasticity of his convictions, the astonishing frequency of his lying. Mr. Trump attracted millions of voters thirsty to believe. That thirst may hold its own truth, but it doesn’t lessen a columnist’s responsibility to note that it won’t be slaked by another hollow slogan of redemption.

This is the distinction between cheerleaders (e.g., Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity) and actual journalists. The former’s loyalty is to a person, the latter’s to intellectual integrity and accuracy. It will be more important than ever, as Stephens says, for the latter to remain stalwart, calling it as they see it. The instinct to “give him a chance” and “pick your fights” may apply to activists, lawmakers and interest groups as part of strategic calculations; there is no similar obligation for journalists to suspend judgment or be lenient on liars.

Second, hundreds if not thousands of Republicans and center-right independents will have to wrestle with the dilemma of joining an administration that espouses — at least now — dangerous ideas and exhibits abhorrent views.

David Luban argues:

There is a difference between bad compromises and rotten compromises. Bad compromises: yes, if they are the only way to do good or mitigate harm. Rotten compromises — never.

And what is a rotten compromise? It is a compromise where you participate in assaults on fundamental human dignity. That’s a vague and porous standard, but if you are a lawyer with a conscience you know it when you see it — provided you don’t loophole-lawyer your own conscience. Mass dragnets and deportations, torture and degrading treatment, targeting policies that accept excessive civilian casualties or ignore war crimes, deliberate failure to repress anti-Muslim hate crimes: all of these are assaults on human dignity, and compromising your principles on them is a rotten compromise. When it comes to rotten compromises of your principles, exit takes precedence over voice and loyalty. Exit doesn’t necessarily mean resigning, although it may. It certainly means refusing to participate.

We suggest this formulation: If you choose to serve, know the lines you will not cross and be prepared to leave if continued service demands you cross them. Write that letter of resignation now, put one copy in your desk and give one to the person (a spouse, a child, a colleague) you could not look in the eye and justify staying under such circumstances. We all need moral watchdogs to compel us to live up to our standards.

Third, ditch partisanship and become ruthlessly pragmatic. If a Republican senator needs to collaborate with a Democrat to stop an absurd policy initiative or truly dangerous nomination, he or she should do it. The former can oppose the latter the very next day on taxes or spending or something else. Avoid the urge to game it out. (Maybe the Democrats will look more reasonable. Maybe my supporters will turn on me if things work out better than I thought.) Some strange bedfellows — the ACLU and the Federalist Society, Democratic governors and Republican congressmen, ex-presidents and Cabinet officials of both parties — will be needed to prevent the worst from happening. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” should be written on the backs of #NeverTrumpers’ hands.

Finally, while some are dismissive of the role institutions can play in combating autocratic tendencies, that is precisely where resistance to destructive tendencies must be waged. An independent judiciary, a free press, a system of federalism and other attributes of our democratic society need all the help they can get. For too long, the question on issues such as judicial restraint and federalism (not to mention the filibuster) has amounted to “Whose ox is being gored?” Now, both sides need to defend every institution that erects barriers to abuse of power.

Consider what would happen if the administration refused to allow certain mainstream media outlets into the press pool. We should expect that: (1) Conservative outlets would protest, to the point of refusing to operate without the banned entities’ participation; (2) Conservative and liberal legal groups would explore First Amendment challenges; (3) Republican and Democratic lawmakers would hold hearings and denounce the move; and (3) former White House officials of both parties would loudly condemn the move. Devotion to democratic institutions must be cultivated and sustained.

These are strange times, and men and women of good conscience will need to be resourceful. The consequences of moral and intellectual sloth will be serious.

Journalists have the obligation to report the news without fear or favor. Journalists and columnists have the obligation to not be in the tank for a party or candidate. A lot of each group failed miserably this year and for that matter the past eight years. Of course, given journalists’ usual left-leaning, they will dump on Trump for sometimes valid reasons but sometimes for invalid reasons. (As has been written elsewhere, dissent is now patriotic again.) Journalists who utterly failed to see Trump’s appeal among voters need to get out of their social circles and, for instance, go to church.

Ross Brown added last week:

My online news feeds are fulled to their brims today with opinions ranging from “Hallelujah! America is saved!” to “This is the end of American civilization!” Your experience has probably been the same.

It all got me thinking about why we’re so wrapped up in the results of this election. Why are some people jumping for joy? Why are other bawling their eyes out? Why are some overcome with gratitude while others are overcome with terror? What is the root cause of people’s elation or sorrow today?

People’s dramatic emotional reactions to this election are caused by exactly one thing: big federal government.

As government expands in size and scope, elections matter more to us as individuals – because we (rightfully) perceive that the outcome of any given election will directly impact our individual lives to greater degrees.

Conversely, elections matter less when government is small because their ripple effects in our personal lives is likewise small.

Elections should matter less than they do today. Elections will matter less when We the People exercise political liberty to limit the size and scope of the one-size-fits-all Federal Government.

Republicans claim to be the party of small government. They will have the opportunity – and the political power – to put their legislation where their mouths are in 2017 and beyond. Will they do so with President Donald Trump leading the charge? I’m not sure. I’m not impressed with Republicans’ federal track records on this subject in the modern era, and Donald Trump doesn’t exactly seem to be the kind of guy who likes relinquishing power. Ultimately, only time will tell.

But here’s what I do know: if you’re terrified about Donald Trump being President, you should support the idea of small government so that you can limit President Trump’s impact on your individual life, and limit his impact on the lives of others you care about.

I also know that if you voted for Donald Trump yesterday, you presumably already support the idea of small government. I implore you to follow through with your support of that concept. Don’t get lazy just because there’s an “R” sitting in the White House. Republican big government is no better than Democrat big government.

Election season is over. Now is the time to unite as Americans. I suggest that no matter where you stand politically, you can support the idea of limiting the size and scope of the Federal Government. It’s the only way to simultaneously minimize AND maximize the potential impact of President Donald Trump.

It’d be a YUGE step in the right direction as we work to make America great again.

My concern is that Republicans have given up on smaller government and are perfectly fine with Govzilla as long as they hold the reins. (That certainly seems to be the case in Wisconsin, where state and local government remains far, far too large.) That is putting politics before philosophy, and is by the way wrong.

As with all politicians, I will support Trump to the extent that he does what I want him to do. (Whether he does that depends on his position on a specific issue, which as you know tends to change.) Since I do not worship politicians (and am disgusted with those weak people who do), I am not going to refer to Trump as “my president,” because no one in elective office is the boss of me.

 

How the working class lost an election for Democrats

For those (like Democrats) who believe the “working class” or “blue-collar” workers resent the rich, Joan C. Williams claims that’s not correct, starting with …

My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment.

He dropped out of school in eighth grade to help support the family. Eventually he got a good, steady job he truly hated, as an inspector in a factory that made those machines that measure humidity levels in museums. He tried to open several businesses on the side but none worked, so he kept that job for 38 years. He rose from poverty to a middle-class life: the car, the house, two kids in Catholic school, the wife who worked only part-time. He worked incessantly. He had two jobs in addition to his full-time position, one doing yard work for a local magnate and another hauling trash to the dump.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.

Trump’s blunt talk taps into another blue-collar value: straight talk. “Directness is a working-class norm,” notes Lubrano. As one blue-collar guy told him, “If you have a problem with me, come talk to me. If you have a way you want something done, come talk to me. I don’t like people who play these two-faced games.” Straight talk is seen as requiring manly courage, not being “a total wuss and a wimp,” an electronics technician told Lamont. Of course Trump appeals. Clinton’s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private? Further proof she’s a two-faced phony.

Manly dignity is a big deal for working-class men, and they’re not feeling that they have it. Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place. It’s comfort food for high-school-educated guys who could have been my father-in-law if they’d been born 30 years earlier. Today they feel like losers — or did until they met Trump.

Manly dignity is a big deal for most men. So is breadwinner status: Many still measure masculinity by the size of a paycheck. White working-class men’s wages hit the skids in the 1970s and took another body blow during the Great Recession. Look, I wish manliness worked differently. But most men, like most women, seek to fulfill the ideals they’ve grown up with. For many blue-collar men, all they’re asking for is basic human dignity (male varietal). Trump promises to deliver it.

The Democrats’ solution? Last week the New York Times published an article advising men with high-school educations to take pink-collar jobs. Talk about insensitivity. Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work. To recommend that for WWC men just fuels class anger. …

The terminology here can be confusing. When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor. But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. That is the true “middle class,” and they call themselves either “middle class” or “working class.”

“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

Remember when President Obama sold Obamacare by pointing out that it delivered health care to 20 million people? Just another program that taxed the middle class to help the poor, said the WWC, and in some cases that’s proved true: The poor got health insurance while some Americans just a notch richer saw their premiums rise.

Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. Means-tested programs that help the poor but exclude the middle may keep costs and tax rates lower, but they are a recipe for class conflict. Example: 28.3% of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class. So my sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own. She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work. One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s. My sister-in-law was livid.

J.D. Vance’s much-heralded Hillbilly Elegy captures this resentment. Hard-living families like that of Vance’s mother live alongside settled families like that of his biological father. While the hard-living succumb to despair, drugs, or alcohol, settled families keep to the straight and narrow, like my parents-in-law, who owned their home and sent both sons to college. To accomplish that, they lived a life of rigorous thrift and self-discipline. Vance’s book passes harsh judgment on his hard-living relatives, which is not uncommon among settled families who kept their nose clean through sheer force of will. This is a second source of resentment against the poor.

Other books that get at this are Hard Living on Clay Street (1972) and Working-Class Heroes (2003).

The best advice I’ve seen so far for Democrats is the recommendation that hipsters move to Iowa. Class conflict now closely tracks the urban-rural divide. In the huge red plains between the thin blue coasts, shockingly high numbers of working-class men are unemployed or on disability, fueling a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic.

Vast rural areas are withering away, leaving trails of pain. When did you hear any American politician talk about that? Never.

Jennifer Sherman’s Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t (2009) covers this well.

“The white working class is just so stupid. Don’t they realize Republicans just use them every four years, and then screw them?” I have heard some version of this over and over again, and it’s actually a sentiment the WWC agrees with, which is why they rejected the Republican establishment this year. But to them, the Democrats are no better.

Both parties have supported free-trade deals because of the net positive GDP gains, overlooking the blue-collar workers who lost work as jobs left for Mexico or Vietnam. These are precisely the voters in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Democrats have so long ignored. Excuse me. Who’s stupid?

One key message is that trade deals are far more expensive than we’ve treated them, because sustained job development and training programs need to be counted as part of their costs.

At a deeper level, both parties need an economic program that can deliver middle-class jobs. Republicans have one: Unleash American business. Democrats? They remain obsessed with cultural issues. I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important, but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic.

Back when blue-collar voters used to be solidly Democratic (1930–1970), good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda. A modern industrial policy would follow Germany’s path. (Want really good scissors? Buy German.) Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs. Clinton mentioned this approach, along with 600,000 other policy suggestions. She did not stress it.

Economic resentment has fueled racial anxiety that, in some Trump supporters (and Trump himself), bleeds into open racism. But to write off WWC anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.

National debates about policing are fueling class tensions today in precisely the same way they did in the 1970s, when college kids derided policemen as “pigs.” This is a recipe for class conflict. Being in the police is one of the few good jobs open to Americans without a college education. Police get solid wages, great benefits, and a respected place in their communities. For elites to write them off as racists is a telling example of how, although race- and sex-based insults are no longer acceptable in polite society, class-based insults still are.

I do not defend police who kill citizens for selling cigarettes. But the current demonization of the police underestimates the difficulty of ending police violence against communities of color. Police need to make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations. I don’t. If I had to, I might make some poor decisions too.

Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

In 2010, while on a book tour for Reshaping the Work-Family Debate, I gave a talk about all of this at the Harvard Kennedy School. The woman who ran the speaker series, a major Democratic operative, liked my talk. “You are saying exactly what the Democrats need to hear,” she mused, “and they’ll never listen.” I hope now they will.

Who gets this? Scott Walker and some Wisconsin Republicans.

Who does not get this? The Capital Times reports:

John Nichols, associate editor of the Capital Times and correspondent for The Nation, was less surprised. Last week on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” he said that while he expected Clinton to win Wisconsin by a reasonable amount, it wasn’t unthinkable for Trump to win, citing the British Brexit vote as proof of the potential difference between pre-election polls and actual results.
Nichols suggested that several Clinton campaign missteps, including her failure to visit Wisconsin during the campaign, may have cost her the state. He suggested that visits to western Wisconsin and Milwaukee, along with a reallocation of victory party money to television advertising aimed at rural Wisconsin, would have been hugely helpful.

Wisconsin state Democratic Sen. Kathleen Vinehout argued on “UpFront” that some of the reasons Republicans prevailed included a surge of working class first-time voters and ineffective Democratic campaigns.

After the election results, Vinehout called clerks and election judges in western Wisconsin to try and determine what happened. She found estimated increases in first-time voters making up as much as 10 percent of the vote, with the majority of these first time voters being what she considered “typical Trump voters,” describing them as “white men with work boots and fuzzy beards in their early 30s to mid 40s.”

“And I’m kind of frustrated with some of the Madison insiders who constantly run cookie cutter campaigns, and they don’t realize a campaign in a rural area is very different,” Vinehout said. “If you’ve got a candidate who’s really in that area, who does the parades and the chicken dinners … It’s much better than talking with wealthy people and putting a lot of money into TV ads or direct mailers.”

Looking toward the future, Vinehout said Democrats had a lot of learning and listening to do in order to fully understand where they went wrong.

The real political divides

Fordham University Prof. Charles Camosy:

The most important divide in this election was not between whites and non-whites. It was between those who are often referred to as “educated” voters and those who are described as “working class” voters.

The reality is that six in 10 Americans do not have a college degree, and they elected Donald Trump. College-educated people didn’t just fail to see this coming — they have struggled to display even a rudimentary understanding of the worldviews of those who voted for Trump. This is an indictment of the monolithic, insulated political culture in the vast majority our colleges and universities.
As a college professor, I know that there are many ways in which college graduates simply know more about the world than those who do not have such degrees. This is especially true — with some exceptions, of course — when it comes to “hard facts” learned in science, history and sociology courses.

But I also know that that those with college degrees — again, with some significant exceptions — don’t necessarily know philosophy or theology. And they have especially paltry knowledge about the foundational role that different philosophical or theological claims play in public thought compared with what is common to college campuses. In my experience, many professors and college students don’t even realize that their views on political issues rely on a particular philosophical or theological stance.

Higher education in the United States, after all, is woefully monolithic in its range of worldviews. In 2014, some 60 percent of college professors identified as either “liberal” or “far-left,” an increase from 42 percent identifying as such in 1990. And while liberal college professors outnumber conservatives 5-to-1, conservatives are considerably more common within the general public. The world of academia is, therefore, different in terms of political temperature than the rest of society, and what is common knowledge and conventional wisdom among America’s campus dwellers can’t be taken for granted outside the campus gates.
While some of the political differences between educated and working-class voters is based on a dispute over hard facts, the much broader and more foundational disagreements are about norms and values. They turn on first principles grounded in the very different intuitions and stories which animate very different political cultures. Such disagreements cannot be explained by the fact that college-educated voters know some facts which non-college educated voters do not. They are about something far more fundamental.

Think about the sets of issues that are often at the core of the identity of the working-class folks who elected Trump: religion, personal liberty’s relationship with government, gender, marriage, sexuality, prenatal life and gun rights. Intuition and stories guide most working-class communities on these issues. With some exceptions, those professorial sorts who form the cultures of our colleges and universities have very different intuition and stories. And the result of this divide has been to produce an educated class with an isolated, insular political culture.
Religion in most secular institutions, for instance, is at best thought of as an important sociological phenomenon to understand — but is very often criticized as an inherently violent, backward force in our culture, akin to belief in fairies and dragons. Professors are less religious than the population as a whole. Most campus cultures have strictly (if not formally) enforced dogmatic views about the nature of gender, sexual orientation, a woman’s right to choose abortion, guns and the role of the state as primary agent of social change. If anyone disagrees with these dogmatic positions they risk being marginalized as ignorant, bigoted, fanatical or some other dismissive label.

Sometimes the college-educated find themselves so unable to understand a particular working-class point of view that they will respond to those perspectives with shocking condescension. Recall that President Obama, in the midst of the 2012 election cycle, suggested that job losses were the reason working-class voters were bitterly clinging “to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” The religious themselves, meanwhile, likely do not chalk their faith up to unhappy economic prospects, and they probably find it hard to connect with politicians who seem to assume such.

Thus today’s college graduates are formed by a campus culture that leaves them unable to understand people with unfamiliar or heterodox views on guns, abortion, religion, marriage, gender and privilege. And that same culture leads such educated people to either label those with whom they disagree as bad people or reduce their stated views on these issues as actually being about something else, as in Obama’s case. Most college grads in this culture are simply never forced to engage with or seriously consider professors or texts which could provide a genuine, compelling alternative view.
For decades now, U.S. colleges and universities have quite rightly been trying to become more diverse when it comes to race and gender. But this election highlights the fact that our institutions of higher education should use similar methods to cultivate philosophical, theological and political diversity.

These institutions should consider using quotas in hiring that help faculties and administrations more accurately reflect the wide range of norms and values present in the American people. There should be systemwide attempts to have texts assigned in classes written by people from intellectually underrepresented groups. There should be concerted efforts to protect political minorities from discrimination and marginalization, even if their views are unpopular or uncomfortable to consider.

The goal of such changes would not be to convince students that their political approaches are either correct or incorrect. The goal would instead be educational: to identify and understand the norms, values, first principles, intuitions and stories which have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. This would better equip college graduates to engage with the world as it is, including with their fellow citizens.

The alternative, a reduction of all disagreement to racism, bigotry and ignorance — in addition to being wrong about its primary source — will simply make the disagreement far more personal, entrenched and vitriolic. And it won’t make liberal values more persuasive to the less educated, as Trump victory demonstrates.

It is time to do the hard work of forging the kind of understanding that moves beyond mere dismissal to actual argument. Today’s election results indicate that our colleges and universities are places where this hard work is particularly necessary.

Camosy explains not merely last week’s post-election protests, but why there has been less voter complaint than you might think about UW System cuts this decade. I can tell you from experience that UW System people really do not grasp that voters might not like their values getting not only short shrift, but derided in the UW System classrooms those voters’ tax dollars built by UW System faculty paid for by those tax dollars.

Meanwhile, Mathew Ingram looks at a different group:

If you’re looking for a word to describe the feeling in the nation’s newsrooms after a Donald Trump win, “shell-shocked” would probably be a good one. How is this possible when every poll and prediction site said that Hillary Clinton would win? How could everyone have gotten it so wrong?

The inescapable fact is that most of the mainstream media got it wrong because they simply couldn’t believe that Americans would elect someone like Donald Trump. Denial can be a powerful drug.

In part, that’s because much of the East Coast-based media establishment is arguably out of touch with the largely rural population that voted for Trump, the disenfranchised voters who looked past his cheesy exterior and his penchant for half-truths and heard a message of hope, however twisted.

As the editor of Cracked put it in a very perceptive essay: “If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called ‘Cost of Living.’”

But there’s more to it than just that. As I tried to explain in a previous post about Trump’s rise, he took advantage of a media landscape that has never been more broken, more fragmented and more open to misinformation, disinformation, and even outright hoaxes and lies.

In the end, all of the fact-checking, all the digging done by people like David Farenthold of the Washington Post, and all of the editorials and endorsements were like spitting into the wind.

One of the downsides of the fractured media landscape is that it’s easier than ever to sit in an echo chamber or filter bubble and preach to the converted. Newspaper readers believe what they want to believe, and so do those on Facebook—and never the twain shall meet.

Much of what mainstream media did to try and puncture Trump’s ascendance, including reporting on his offensive remarks about women and his “dog whistle” comments on immigration, probably had the opposite effect. They reinforced his image as an outsider, as someone in tune with “real” American values—as a “force for change.”

That’s not the only blame that the media deserves either. Much of the early coverage of Trump, and even well into his campaign, treated him as a joke, as entertainment, as a sideshow.

The assumption was that Trump was such a buffoon, such a huckster , that the American people would surely see through his tricks and lies. All that was required was to point at him and laugh, to reveal the ignorance of his campaign or the poverty of his ideas. And that was a fatal mistake.

Meanwhile, Trump fans and Clinton-haters were not even listening—they were reading InfoWars and Breitbart News and listening to Glenn Beck or Morning Joe, or reading websites that few in the traditional media had ever even heard of. Sites that told the “truth” Trump supporters wanted to hear.

All of this was exacerbated by the current media landscape, one in which mainstream media outlets are desperate for revenue and reliant on a click-based or eyeball-based business model—one that gave Trump billions of dollars in free coverage.

How many articles were written about Trump simply because editors knew that they would get clicks, even if they legitimized the crackpot theories of people like Alex Jones of InfoWars? How much of what the media engaged in was really an exercise in “false equivalence,” in which a dubious story about Hillary Clinton’s use of email was treated the same as Trump’s sexual assault allegations or ties to Putin?

Cable news fell into this trap as well, putting Trump surrogates on for hours and treating them like experts or pundits. CBS president Les Moonves said it best when he said that Trump “may not be good for America, but [he’s] damn good for CBS.” He went on to say:

The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald.

Moonves said later that he was joking, and perhaps he was—but he still summed up the cable TV phenomenon better than anyone else has. Everyone loves a horror show, and everyone loves a horse race, and that’s what the TV news gave them every day of the election campaign.

Facebook also played a role, given the fact that huge numbers of people rely on it for news, and much of that news was either distorted or outright fake. Those filter bubbles became even stronger. And the electorate believed what it wanted to believe, not what traditional media told them to believe.

Here’s the bottom line: The most powerful thing about the digital disruption of media is that it has allowed so many new channels of information to spring up that anyone can become a news publisher and distributor, and anyone to choose who they trust and who they believe.

But that strength is also a double-edged sword. It allows us to find sources that cater to our beliefs instead of challenging them, and it allows us to see what we want to see, not what is actually there. Trump voters were arguably guilty of doing that, yes, but most of the media did the exact same thing.

The related theory, posited by James Taranto last week, is that after seeing defenses of Bill Clinton’s “bimbo eruptions” for decades, voters didn’t particularly care about Trump’s leering, or Trump University, or anything else. They voted for Trump to stick it to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the media, etc.