Category: Wisconsin politics

The April election hangover blog

Today’s blog continues a tradition that began decades ago with a Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show the Friday after an election.

Dan O’Donnell analyzes the Supreme Court election (assuming the recount doesn’t change the result, about which more later):

Brian Hagedorn was a dead man walking. Michael Screnock’s 12-point drubbing a year ago seemed like a best-case scenario. His liberal opponent had an overwhelming fundraising advantage, hundreds of thousands of dollars more in support from Eric Holder’s PAC and Planned Parenthood, and the residual wave of Governor Evers’ stunning upset just five months earlier.

Hagedorn couldn’t possibly win, not with the endless news reports about his old blog posts, Christian school policies, and Alliance Defending Freedom speeches.

His campaign was less a victory march than it was a march to the electoral gallows.

Just as importantly, the institutional conservative movement behind him was in shambles.

Finger-pointing over Governor Walker’s loss led to an overhaul of the Wisconsin Republican Party in the middle of Hagedorn’s campaign, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s very public rebuke of him left him politically toxic.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce refused to spend on his behalf, thinking that his was a lost cause. One could hardly blame them, either. Nobody, it seemed, gave Hagedorn even a puncher’s chance.

Yet Hagedorn punched anyway, and punched back so hard that it got Wisconsin’s vaunted conservative grassroots off the mat and in his corner. His campaign, to borrow Rocky’s tagline, was a million-to-one shot, but the grassroots were willing to take it with him even if no one else was.

New Republican Party leader Mark Jefferson returned power and autonomy to local party branches to coordinate get-out-the-vote efforts, Americans for Prosperity led the way in voter contacts, and even the voters themselves made phone calls, sent texts, and posted Facebook messages stressing to everyone they knew the importance of this race.

It is, of course, still too close to call and as of this writing well within the margin for a recount, but Hagedorn has also built enough of a lead that it will almost certainly hold. In the 27 statewide recounts over the past 20 years, the average swing was just 282 votes. The largest swing ever was 1,247 votes in the infamous Florida recount of 2000.

Once Hagedorn is sworn in, conservatives will take a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court and, more importantly, indemnify themselves against the possibility of losing control next year. Had Hagedorn lost, the resulting 4-3 conservative majority would have likely been turned into a 4-3 liberal majority in the Spring of 2020 when incumbent conservative justice Dan Kelly has to run on the same ballot as the Democratic presidential primary.

The inherent liberal advantage there would have meant a near-insurmountable hill to climb, but if Hagedorn’s win should remind Wisconsin of anything, it’s that grassroots conservative activism is capable of pulling off major upsets.

A significant reason is acute awareness of the significance of the stakes. Once it was understood that this year’s race was essentially for control of the Court, conservatives steeled their resolve. Once they recognized that Hagedorn was essentially being attacked for his Christian beliefs, their resolve turned titanium.

Repeated attacks on mainstream Christian beliefs as being disqualifying for public office backfired spectacularly, as untold thousands of Christian conservatives (and, anecdotally, even a handful of Christian liberals) viewed them as a personal affront.

That was the ultimate motivator, as it provided a flashpoint for the pervading sense that liberalism was encroaching on Wisconsin’s values. First it was Holder’s hundreds of thousands trying to buy the Court, and then it was his allied groups intimating that a hateful Christian like Hagedorn, like you, wasn’t morally fit to sit on it.

This led voters to personally identify with Hagedorn in a way that they never did with Screnock or even winning candidates like Rebecca Bradley, David Prosser, Michael Gableman, and Annette Ziegler. All of them won hard-fought races and were predictably demonized on their way to the Court, but none experienced the intensely personal persecution that Hagedorn did.

That bonded conservatives to him and turned casual participants in this race into active supporters willing to go the extra mile for him. It wasn’t just that liberals were going to take over the Court, they were going to make sure someone like Hagedorn, like you, could never possibly hope to sit on it ever again.

This, apparently, was all it took to re-engage conservatives and re-awaken Wisconsin’s sleeping giant. Looming large now is the recount, but what lingers from this race is the sense that conservatism in this state can never be counted out.

J.R. Ross Tweeted the following, which is why it reads as it does:

Some notes on things I picked up last week and wrote about at :

Conservatives sensed an uptick in enthusiasm among their base, whether it was due to budget, Dane County rulings against lame-duck session laws, the Mueller report, etc. …

? was if there was $ and ground game to capture it. came in late with $; latest report shows more than $1.2 million in spending over final week. Groups such as AFP, WFA, Susan B. Anthony, WRTL, AMA, FreedomWorks reported IE work on behalf of

Another question was whether had done enough to excite the liberal base or if the knocks on over his views, blog posts, being legal counsel were enough.

ran a very traditional SCt race, insiders said. Focused on experience, endorsements and often avoided specifying positions. was more explicit in his views, more like ’18 race.

also had superior air cover. I saw today had her and Greater Wisconsin outspending and RSLC by more than $2M on broadcast, cable, radio.

If holds lead, changes dynamic of ’20 race, which looks to be uphill fight for conservative Justice Kelly. Would put conservative majority back to 5-2, meaning they’d hold court even if liberals win next year. Dem prez primary expected 2 be big influence on turnout

Oh, and for those looking to make a definitive statement on ’20 prez race off tonight, remember: won by 11.5 points April ’18 won by 1.1 points Nov. ’18

In ’08, conservative SCt candidate Gableman knocked off liberal incumbent Justice Butler with 51.2 % that April. That November, won Wisconsin with 56.2 %. But you do you, social media. Hyperventilate away.

Charlie Sykes Tweeted that, as well as …

GOP pol texts me: “The base is awake”…. reacting to what they see as Dem overreach in WI…

How is Neubauer taking this? This reportedly is a new fundraising email from Neubauer’s campaign:

“Judge Lisa Neubauer is a fair, independent, and impartial, and she was running against an avowed homophobe, who founded a private school that embedded discrimination into their mission and who gave multiple paid speeches to a hate group.

We’re disappointed that this race is too close to call, but we’re not defeated. This campaign isn’t over, and we need your support to ensure that every vote gets counted — please chip in $20.19 today.

Dark-money right-wing forces want to win this race so they can keep rigging legislative district maps in Wisconsin.

So they can continue to strip powers from the Democratic Governor and give them to Republican leaders in the Legislature.

Brian Schimming explains what may happen next:

Having co-directed Justice David Prosser’s recount effort with Judge Jim Troupis in 2011, I’ve been getting a ton of messages and inquiries. Let me offer a few top-of-the-mind thoughts …

– Judge Hagedorn’s lead is approximately 5,800 out of 1.2 million cast statewide. Prosser’s was 7,316 out of almost 1.5 million
– The counties will very likely conduct their official “county canvas” next week, send results to state Elections Commission who will then, presumably, certify it. Judge Neubauer will then have a prescribed number of days to request a recount.
– Judge Hagedorn’s current unofficial margin is less than one per cent so Judge Neubauer would be, by statute, eligible to ask for a recount. But since the margin is more than .25 per cent, she would be required to “pay” a determined fee for the costs. She also could only partially recount as well.
– Post-county canvas, the likelihood of the result being changed or dramatically altered is infinitesimally low. After the 2011 recount Justice Prosser’s margin only dropped a little over 300 votes statewide.

Having said all this – we may need to get to the barricades, people. Not speaking for the campaign here, but it is completely plausible, if Judge Neubauer”s campaign even appears to be moving into a recount posture, hundreds of volunteers will be needed on short notice statewide to monitor the county canvas and/or a full or partial recount. Many of you stepped up for us in a big way in the 2011 effort and I know I speak for Justice Prosser when I say he is eternally and most sincerely grateful.

Could be “Deja by all over again.” Stand by, we’ll see.

As I’m given to declare at moments like this: “This is The Truth until Further Notice.”

There will be those who decry the nastiness (yet again) and all the money spent on this race. Most of those people will fail to grasp why this is the case. Since the court system has now become the third branch of the Legislature, the rules of partisan politics now apply to the court system. To quote UCLA football coach Red Sanders, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
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$2 billion Tony, or D means Deficit

Benjamin Yount:

Republican lawmakers in Madison knew Gov. Tony Evers would want to spend more and raise taxes. He campaigned on it.

But Republicans at the statehouse now say they’re shocked at just how much Evers’ proposed budget would spend.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau this week said Evers’ two-year state budget would spend $2 billion more than Wisconsin has to spend.

Whom to vote for today

The only election of 2019 (thank God) is today.

I start with an unusual confession of sorts. I almost never vote in races where there is only one candidate on the ballot. I also rarely vote for liberals.

I am violating — more accurately I violated, since I voted Friday to foil anyone who would seek to take away my vote by killing, injuring or kidnapping me — both of these rules by voting for Jennifer Nashold for the state Court of Appeals District 1 seat on the ballot.

In the People’s Republic of Madison, there is a mayoral race that is too bizarre to believe anywhere but in Madison. Mayor-for-Life Paul Soglin is the preferred candidate by the few non-liberals that exist in Madison because his opponent, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is an even less desirable candidate than Soglin. Faced with that decision, I’d move. (I did, of course, in 1988.)

The Madison School Board includes only two candidates worthy of anyone’s vote — Kaleem Caire, who believes minority school children should not be stuck with bad schools (he started one), and David Blaska, who the thought police have failed to eject from Madison despite their best efforts (including, in Blaska’s case, threats). Each represents a challenge to the status quo that has resulted in Madison schools’ slipping from arguably the best in the state when I was in school to now …

… schools that are actually worse than the state average, but as an added bonus school board meetings disrupted by people who oppose police in schools because they apparently are OK with allowing unruly students to ruin the educational experience for everyone. If I lived in Madison I would vote for Caire and Blaska and then move.

The race that really counts, of course, is the state Supreme Court, which features a choice between a professional Democrat who interprets the laws as she wants, and someone who doesn’t.

First, James Wigderson:

When Dane County Judge Richard Niess swept away the laws passed during the December Extraordinary Session of the legislature not only did he knock out the laws that were passed, he voided the 82 appointments made by former Governor Scott Walker that were approved by the state Senate.

An Appeals Court issued a stay on Wednesday, reinstating the laws that were passed. However, some damage was done, and we’re waiting to see if Wisconsin will be allowed to withdraw from the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, as Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul announced before the stay was issued.

But also hanging in limbo are the appointments made by Walker. While they (and most reasonable people) may have assumed that the Appeals Court order meant that they could go back to work, the Evers Administration actually had security prevent Public Service Commission (PSC) member Ellen Nowak from returning to work. Nowak, who has a long and distinguished career of public service, was prevented from entering the building because Evers is claiming that he rescinded the appointments before the stay and therefore his decision stands to not have Nowak serve.

It was an really outrageous act by Evers, and we hope that the matter will eventually be resolved with Nowak returning to work without being barred by armed guards.

Wisconsin deserves better than this constitutional crisis cooked up by Evers and a Dane County judge. The cases surrounding the Extraordinary Session will end up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court who will have to decide if, as the Constitution says, the legislature sets its own rules on when it can meet.

A Democratic majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court would mean that Dane County judges, not the state legislature, will write the laws of Wisconsin. However, if we keep a conservative majority on the Supreme Court by voting to elect Judge Brian Hagedorn on Tuesday, then we assure that whatever chaos Evers and his Dane County judicial allies stir up will eventually be overturned and the rule of law will prevail.

If you haven’t voted yet, we cannot stress enough the importance of voting on Tuesday.

Next, C.J. Szafir:

For 10 years, at least a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has generally remained committed to the rule of law and faithful to the text of the Constitution. But when one considers what a more activist judiciary would look like, it’s easier to fully appreciate the stakes for Tuesday’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court between Judge Brian Hagedorn and Judge Lisa Neubauer.

In 2006, Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals gave a seminal lecture to Marquette Law School reviewing a recent term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Court’s majority had recently authored a major decision expanding tort liability for businesses, specifically permitting lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers even if the plaintiff could not identify the business that manufactured the paint causing injury. Their other opinions changed state law to remove the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and reinterpreted the Constitution to penalize law enforcement by mandating suppression of evidence if police failed to give Miranda warnings.

Sykes concluded that the Court’s judicial philosophy was “pure unvarnished result-oriented” and their decisions were akin to “impos[ing] its own solutions to what it perceives to be important public policy problems—civil and criminal—rather than deferring to the political process.”  

Similar critiques were echoed nationally. As a result of the Court’s decisions, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board blasted Wisconsin as a “favorite trial lawyer destination” and one that would “soon have every trial lawyer in America descending on the state.”

In 2008, Judge Michael Gableman beat incumbent Justice Louis Butler, flipping the ideological balance of the Court and ushering in a more judicially “restrained” (some may say “conservative”) majority, which focused less on policy outcomes and more on the text of the statute and Constitution. This majority was strengthened in 2016 with the election of Justice Rebecca Bradley and appointment of Justice Dan Kelly on the Court by Governor Scott Walker. Originalism and textualism became more mainstream.

Yet, had the 2008 or 2016 (and other elections) gone differently, the last decade of Wisconsin Supreme Court jurisprudence would likely have rolled back a number of conservative priorities. To appreciate the importance of judicial philosophy, one only needs to only look at the dissents of Justice Shirley Abrahamson – who’s legacy Neubauer supports. Consider:

Act 10: Walker’s historic collective bargaining reform law had to survive a number of legal challenges. Once in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it was finally upheld on a strong 5-2 vote. But Abrahamson dissented, essentially arguing that unions had some sort of constitutional right to organize, something that is completely unfounded in the Wisconsin Constitution.

Concealed Carry: In a case about interpreting the concealed carry law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2017 held that the City of Madison had no authority, under state law, to ban firearms on buses. From a judges’ standpoint, it was a clear case; state law prohibited cities from passing ordinances restricting someone’s ability to carry a firearm than what was enacted in state law. The City of Madison had clearly done so. Yet Abrahamson disagreed and if the dissent held the day, municipalities would have had an easier time to carve out exceptions to the Concealed Carry laws.

Voter ID: Walker and the Republicans in the legislature signed a voter ID law that requires voters to show photo identification when they go to the polls. After a legal challenge, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law. Once again, Abrahamson led with a vigorous dissent, comparing the majority’s decision to “Jim Crow”, even though Wisconsin’s voter ID law is commonplace and burdens with obtaining a photo ID not onerous.

School Choice: While not in the last decade, I would be remiss not to point out Abrahamson’s dissent in a 1998 Wisconsin Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of the Milwaukee school voucher program. Had her ideology carried the day, the school voucher program would unlikely exist, at least in its current form. Neubauer on the campaign trail would not comment on her thoughts about the Establishment Clause and constitutionality of school choice. More on this here.

Fast forward to today. There’s no question that a Wisconsin Supreme Court full of judicial activists would send Wisconsin back generations, chipping away – or flat out reversing – a number of conservative priorities and Walker reforms. When judges insert their own policy preferences – instead of the text of the constitution and statute – we get “pure unvarnished result-oriented” decisions. The importance of the Constitution is diminished. The separation between the legislature and judiciary blurs.

This is why when Wisconsinites go to the polls on Tuesday April 2, they should first read about the candidates’ judicial philosophy (or watch the recent Marquette University Law School debate) to determine for themselves which candidate will be faithful to the text of the constitution and the law, regardless of their political beliefs.

Since today’s winner will replace Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the mix on the court won’t change if Hagedorn loses. A Hagedorn loss, however, would not only be a voter mistake like all of the statewide elections were last November, it would prove that a majority of state voters are religious bigots who hate conservative Christians and fail the U.S. Constitution’s Article V, clause 3, that states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Cast the right votes today, if you haven’t already.

 

Off target on trade

Jonah Goldberg:

Trump said Friday: “I’ll just close the border, and with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation.” …

This is hardly the first time the president has said this type of thing. He’s often claimed that tariffs are essentially profitable because other countries pay them (they don’t).  In September he said “China’s now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out.” And there was this:

….I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN

If you don’t understand why the president’s statements are wrong, this post isn’t for you. But closing the border would, among other things, throw the supply chains of various American businesses into a tailspin. Also, trade deficits aren’t like budget deficits which reflect spending in excess of revenue. I have a trade deficit with my cigar shop, barber shop, supermarket and liquor store. They get my money and I get goods and services in return. Here are some explainers.

Anyway, what I’m sincerely curious about is what Trump supporters think of stuff like this. Do they think he understands how trade works and just deceives the public in order to sell protectionist policies or tactics? Or do Trump supporters think that he honestly believes that closing the border with Mexico would be profitable and that China and other trading partners pay tariffs instead of American consumers? Does he really think trade deficits are akin to budget deficits?

On the latter theory, one could, I suppose, make the case that this is brilliant statecraft; by sending the signal that he actually believes these untrue things, he makes his protectionist threats more believable. One hears this sort of thing often. He’s a free trader, but he’s using protectionism to get to a desirable goal. (But as Charlie Cooke often notes, the same people often also defend tariffs as good things in and of themselves. If tariffs are so “profitable,” why pursue free trade at all?).

This is of a piece with the “chessmaster” school of Trumpology. It seems to me this is a very hard theory to support. You’d have to believe that Trump’s tendency to say whatever comes into his mind is a ruse or a façade and that he in fact has incredible message discipline, refraining from ever once speaking accurately about his true feelings or betraying his real knowledge of how trade actually works.

It’s a sincere question. Whenever I hear versions of it asked of Trump administration officials, the answers are usually evasive. Such as: “Look, the president hears arguments on all sides of the issue” (I’ve heard one Trump official say this in four different off-the-record settings).  Another reply one often hears on TV is “I may not see eye-to-eye with the president on every aspect of trade, but at least I know he’s fighting for American workers and putting America first.”

That’s all fine as political handwaving or statements of emotional support. But my question remains: Does the president know the facts and is therefore deceiving the public about his beliefs or is he truly ignorant of some of the most basic concepts of one of his signature issues?

Or, is there some way to square this circle I am missing? I am eager to hear it if so (Oh, and a pro-tip for folks on Twitter and even in the comment section, “Shut up you RINO asshat” is not a dispositive answer to the question).

I specifically want to hear from Wisconsinites who defend this:
Trump’s trade war(s) are hurting Wisconsinites and Wisconsin farmers. You cannot support this state’s farmers and support this.

Two constitutional violations in one

State Sen. Duey Strobel (R–Cedarburg):

On Tuesday, April 2 Wisconsin voters have a choice between two very different candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court. Brian Hagedorn has focused his campaign on one simple message – judges should say what the law is, not what they wish it to be. His opponent, Lisa Neubauer, has refused to articulate any coherent judicial philosophy. Instead of debating on substance, she has either directly leveled personal attacks or has sat back and watched as the media has done her dirty work.

Last week’s decision out of Dane County finding the legislature’s special session bills unconstitutional should serve as a wakeup call throughout the state. The stakes could not be higher.

The philosophy advanced by Brian’s opponent is nothing more than a poorly veiled political doctrine. Instead of tracking closely the unambiguous and plain meaning of statutory language, like the Dane County judge, Neubauer believes a judge has the power to “correct” the legislature when it has advanced a policy that it believes to be “unjust.” While judges must certainly serve as guardians of constitutional rights, they should only exercise authority when legislative acts are clearly inconsistent with core constitutional principles.

Correcting what it views as “bad” policy is nothing more than tyranny of the judiciary. And this is exactly the philosophy advanced by Neubauer and her special interest allies like Planned Parenthood.

But there is even more at stake on April 2. The attack on Brian and his family has been nothing more than a character assassination, carefully orchestrated by Neubauer and executed by her media compatriots. The attack began with the unearthing of various blog posts authored by Brian. Anything written is fair game during a campaign. However, what has transpired since then should shake to the core any voter.

Not satisfied to simply hold Brian accountable for past writings, Neubauer and the media turned their collective attention to Brian’s speaking engagements before Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a respected national organization that prides itself on “defending Christians to protect religious freedom for all.” The discredited Southern Poverty Law Center has wrongly characterized ADF as a “hate group.” So naturally Neubauer’s media henchmen immediately advanced the theory that Brian had previously been paid a meager stipend to speak to a “hate” group.

And in truly Orwellian move, Neubauer and the media attacked Brian and wife for starting a private school. Their offense? Expecting students, parents, and teachers to adhere to widely-held traditional values, views presumably still held by the Catholic Church, the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods of the Lutheran faith, Baptists, and numerous other Protestants denominations. Nevertheless, that has not stopped the media from targeting Brian and even the parents of children who have decided to send children to the religious based school.

The attacks have had the intended result. In addition to painting Brian, a committed husband and father who has honorably served as a Supreme Court Law Clerk, an Assistant Attorney General, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Scott Walker, and now a respected Court of Appeals Judge, as an unqualified bigot, it has resulted in otherwise conservative allies wilting under the scrutiny. The Wisconsin Realtors Association withdrew their support and requested a return of a relatively sizable donation. Then the national Chamber of Commerce indicated it would not work with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in financially supporting Brian’s efforts. Both moves were interpreted as extremely harmful to Brian’s prospects.

Make no mistake. In addition to attempting to eliminate a conservative judicial philosophy from the Wisconsin political landscape, Neubauer and her allies are attempting to eliminate those of faith from the public square. Who they wish to take their place are those who adhere to the philosophy advanced by Neubauer, one premised on the supreme nature of the judicial branch with its members sitting as overlords over the meager people’s representatives. And along with this super-technocratic view comes disdain for people of faith. Sadly, these sorts of attacks have resulted in otherwise strong allies of judicial conservatives creeping into the shadows, afraid of also being labeled a hate group by the media and other members of the PC Police.

Don’t back down.

Every reader should be familiar with the beginning of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” but should be familiar with Article VI section 3, which ends, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

 

$1.3 billion in lies

Remember when Gov. Tony Evers said there would be no tax increases? (He told me so. Really.)

Then Evers proclaimed that $1.3 billion in tax increases aren’t really tax increases.

The Badger Institute evaluates Evers’ 1.3 billion lies:

With the release of his first biennial budget, introduced as Senate Bill 59, Wisconsin’s new Governor Tony Evers (D) has proposed dozens of miscellaneous tax changes. While the budget  offers targeted income tax cuts for certain low- and middle-income taxpayers, these cuts are far outweighed by tax increases elsewhere, such as business taxes and excise taxes. Taken as a whole, these changes would make Wisconsin’s tax code more complex and less neutral, missing an opportunity to provide tax relief within the context of pro-growth structural reform.

Individual Income Tax Changes

The most notable of the proposed individual income tax changes is the creation of a credit to reduce tax liability for individuals making less than $100,000 and families making less than $150,000. This proposal comes as no surprise, as Gov. Evers campaigned on a 10 percent tax cut for taxpayers with income below those thresholds, but the budget provides new details about the credit’s structure.

Under the proposal, a “Family and Individual Reinvestment” or “FAIR” credit would be available only to taxpayers with Wisconsin adjusted gross income (WAGI) below $100,000 (single filers) or $150,000 (married filing jointly). This nonrefundable credit would be claimed after most other credits are applied, reducing tax liability by 10 percent or $100 ($50 for married taxpayers filing separately), whichever is greater. This credit would begin to phase out once income reaches $80,000 (single filers) or $125,000 (married filers), phasing out completely at $100,000 and $150,000, respectively. Expected to cost $833.5 million over two years, this credit would become Wisconsin’s second-largest individual income tax credit after the School Property Tax Credit.

The budget also proposes increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Currently, Wisconsin taxpayers who are eligible to claim the federal EITC may claim a percentage of the federal credit against their state tax liability. The refundable state credit is offered at 4 percent for families with one child, 11 percent for families with two children, and 34 percent for families with three or more children. The governor’s proposal would increase the credit to 11 percent for families with one child and 14 percent for families with two children, while keeping it at 34 percent for families with three or more children.

Further, the budget would create a new child and dependent care credit in lieu of Wisconsin’s existing “subtraction for child and dependent care expenses.” Taxpayers eligible for the federal child and dependent care tax credit would be eligible to claim 50 percent of the same amount on their Wisconsin tax return.

Beyond that, the governor’s budget would replace a scheduled across-the-board income tax rate reduction with a rate reduction to the lowest bracket only. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., Wisconsin began requiring online retailers to collect and remit Wisconsin’s sales tax. In December 2018, Act 368 was signed into law, allocating any increased revenue from “out-of-state retailers” collected between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 to across-the-board individual income tax rate reductions. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has projected an estimated $60 million increase in online sales tax collections during that period, which would allow for a 0.04 percentage point rate reduction to each of Wisconsin’s four marginal income tax rates in tax year 2019. However, the governor’s budget proposes changing that law so only the 4 percent income tax rate, which applies to only the first $11,760 in marginal taxable income, would be reduced.

Finally, the budget proposes changes to the tax treatment of capital gains. Wisconsin’s tax code allows a 30 percent deduction on net capital gains for assets held for more than one year (for farm assets, it’s 60 percent of net capital gains). This income is excluded from a taxpayer’s capital gains tax basis to help ensure investors are taxed on their real gains, not their nominal gains. This exclusion is currently available to all investors, but the governor’s proposal would limit the exclusion so it can only be claimed on capital gains income when a taxpayer’s combined noncapital gains income and capital gains income is below $100,000 (single filers) or $150,000 (married filers).

The aforementioned changes would provide income tax relief to low- and middle-income taxpayers, but would do so by narrowing the tax base, making the tax code less neutral, and adding unnecessary complexity to the income tax system. It’s important to keep in mind that Wisconsin already offers numerous income tax credits and deductions to provide targeted tax relief to low- and middle-income residents. Provisions like the refundable EITC and refundable homestead credit allow many lower-income Wisconsin residents to receive a net income tax refund. The sliding-scale standard deduction, available only to those with incomes less than $103,500 (single) or $121,009 (married), reduced tax collections by $857 million in FY 2018. With provisions like these already exclusively benefiting low- and middle-income residents, the introduction of a new credit into the mix would be duplicative and further complicate tax filing. A simpler, more neutral approach to individual income tax relief would be to reduce tax rates within the existing framework, or better yet, reduce tax rates while creating a more growth-friendly tax structure.

Business Tax Changes

The governor’s budget includes tax changes that would impact businesses in certain industries. Specifically, the proposal would make the nonrefundable Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit (MAC) less generous while making the refundable Research Credit more generous.

Wisconsin’s MAC is a nonrefundable credit available to pass-through businesses and traditional corporations and can be claimed in an amount equal to 7.5 percent of income derived from manufacturing or agricultural activities, not to exceed a business’s total tax liability. In the governor’s proposal, the credit for manufacturers could be claimed against only the first $300,000 in income derived from manufacturing activities in a year. However, the proposal would not impose a cap on the amount of the credit that can be claimed by agricultural producers. Capping the manufacturing portion of the MAC would increase taxes on manufacturers by an estimated $516.6 million over two years.

Meanwhile, the proposal would make Wisconsin’s refundable Research Credit more generous. Currently, this credit can be claimed on amounts equal to 11.5 percent of a taxpayer’s expenses related to research and development activities in Wisconsin. If the credit amount exceeds tax liability, a tax refund can be claimed in amounts up to 10 percent of the total credit value. Under the governor’s proposal, the refundable portion of the credit would be increased so claimants could receive a refund up to 20 percent, rather than 10 percent, of the credit value.

These tax changes would further accentuate the unequal tax treatment of different industries under Wisconsin’s income tax laws. Instead, policymakers ought to consider how Wisconsin’s high corporate and individual income tax rates detract from the state’s attractiveness as a location for business investment. Ultimately, broad-based, low-rate taxes create the most favorable environment for business investment and growth across all industries.

Sales Tax Changes

Also included in the budget is a proposal to subject two new business inputs to the sales tax. An ideal sales tax system excludes business inputs, not to give businesses a special tax break, but to prevent tax pyramiding. When business inputs are subject to the sales tax, the costs of production rise, and much of the intrinsic sales tax burden gets passed along to consumers in the form of higher retail prices. Wisconsin already properly excludes most business inputs from the sales tax, so handpicking certain inputs for taxation would be a step in the wrong direction.

Further, this proposal would require online marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales taxes on behalf of third-party sellers who use these platforms to connect with customers. Current Wisconsin law requires remote sellers who make $100,000 worth of sales or 200 transactions in-state to collect sales taxes from buyers and remit those taxes to the state. The purposes of this de minimis threshold is to allow a safe harbor for remote sellers making only occasional sales in a state.. In instances in which sales tax is not collected at the point of sale, the consumer is responsible for calculating the sales tax owed and remitting that amount to the state. Unsurprisingly, compliance is notoriously low, as many consumers assume a sales tax is only owed when collected at the point of sale. Several states have enacted laws requiring marketplace facilitators to collect sales taxes as a way to boost compliance with state sales and use tax laws. The governor’s budget estimates this would increase collection of taxes already owed by $93.9 million over two years.

Marijuana, Tobacco, and Vapor Tax Changes

Governor Evers’ proposal also includes changes to various excise taxes, including taxes on tobacco, vapor, and medical marijuana products.

Currently, Wisconsin’s cigarette tax is 12.6 cents per cigarette, or $2.52 for a pack of 20., the 12th highest cigarette tax in the country. Other tobacco products, like chewing tobacco, are generally taxed at 71 percent of the manufacturer’s list price. The governor’s budget proposes imposing taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products at 71 percent of the manufacturer’s list price, regardless of whether said vapor products contain nicotine. Under this proposal, Wisconsin would follow Minnesota and the District of Columbia in having one of the highest vapor taxes in the country.

The governor’s proposal would also raise additional revenue by taxing “little cigars” like cigarettes, and by creating a medical marijuana program, with sales taxes and a 10 percent excise tax levied on medical marijuana.

Transportation Tax Changes

The governor’s transportation tax proposals would put a greater emphasis on user taxes and fees while reducing reliance on general tax revenue to fund transportation. Most notably, the plan would increase the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon and begin indexing it for inflation. Currently, the state-levied gas tax totals 32.9 cents per gallon (cpg), including a 30.9 cpg excise tax and a 2 cpg tax on underground storage of fuels. Wisconsin’s 32.9 cpg gas tax has remained constant since 2006, but the value of the tax has declined in real terms every year since 2003. Additionally, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, fewer gallons of gas are needed to travel the same distance, further eroding the value of the gas tax.

To offset some of the gas tax increase, the governor’s proposal would eliminate the minimum markup on motor fuels. Currently, Wisconsin’s minimum markup law requires gasoline retailers to raise the price of gasoline 9.18 percent above the wholesale price. This Depression-era law was originally designed to prevent retailers from using predatory pricing to defeat their competitors and gain a monopoly, but there is little evidence price gouging would occur absent a minimum markup law.

Would-be Justice Neubauer (D–Madison)

Dan O’Donnell:

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat. About that there can be no question. It’s not a stretch to say that Democratic politics is her life and has been for, well, pretty much her entire life.

One of her very first jobs was as a legislative aide to Democratic State Senator Fred Risser. She married Democratic State Assembly member Jeffrey Neubauer, who later served as chairman of both the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Democratic President Bill Clinton’s campaign in Wisconsin.

Democratic politics is such a part of the Neubauers’ lives that their daughter Greta followed them into the family business and now holds her father’s seat in the Assembly’s 62nd district.

The Neubauers, like many active Democratic families, have given generously to Democratic politicians, groups, and, of course the Democratic Party itself. “Generously” might actually be a gross understatement: Since 1992, they have given more than $92,000 to Democratic politicians, $7,300 to various Democratic Party committees, and $6,900 to former Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressives United political action committee for a staggering total of $105,660 in Democratic donations.

According to Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) records, $27,490 of that was in the name of Lisa Neubauer–including eight separate donations totaling $8,100 to former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

A little over a year after the last of those donations, Doyle appointed her to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals even though she had no prior judicial experience. Four months after the appointment, her husband Jeffrey donated an additional $250 to Doyle and then gave him a further $500 in 2009.

As an appellate court judge, Lisa Neubauer is expected to adhere to Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which explicitly provides that “no judge or candidate for judicial office or judge-elect may…make or solicit financial or other contributions in support of a political party’s causes or candidates.”

Naturally, she claims that her massive Democratic donations stopped the second she was appointed to the bench, but that isn’t entirely true. She and her husband kept right on donating to Democrats. She just made sure her husband signed the checks.

Jeffrey Neubauer is of course unbound by any obligation to be politically neutral and may donate to any candidate he wishes, but the $29,245 he has given to state candidates and $31,775 he has given to federal candidates since Lisa became a judge rather obviously came from her, too.

Think about it logically: The Neubauers are both lifelong Democrats who have given to the same candidates and committees right up until the moment that Lisa became a judge. At that point, all of the donations from the Neubauers were in Jeffrey’s name only.

Did lifelong Democrat Lisa suddenly stop supporting Democrats? Of course not.  She just couldn’t donate to them anymore without violating the Code of Judicial Conduct so she made sure her husband signed all of the checks.
Through this loophole, Judge Neubauer has continued to be one of the larger Democratic donors in Wisconsin without ever raising questions about judicial misconduct.

Is it possible that Jeffrey Neubauer made dozens of donations totaling more than $50,000 without his wife’s knowledge or prior consent? Sure, but as anyone who has ever been married will attest, it isn’t particularly likely.

These are her donations just as much as they are his, and they present a significant conflict of interest in both her current role as Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the position on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court that she is currently seeking.

On September 19th, Jeffrey Neubauer made a $5,000 donation to then-gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers. On November 5th, he donated another $5,000.

How likely is it that he donated $10,000 in two months without telling his wife or without his wife agreeing to an expenditure that large in such a short period of time? It’s about as likely as either a Governor Tony Evers policy or Governor Tony Evers himself never ending up in a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

It is a virtual certainty that if elected to the Court, Lisa Neubauer will be tasked with deciding the constitutionality of an Evers policy and will hear cases to which Evers in his official capacity will be a party. How likely will it be that she will able to decide those cases impartially given her and her husband’s substantial financial support of a party before her?

The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that “a judge shall recuse himself or herself in a proceeding when the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know establish [that]…the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer.”

If the party is the State of Wisconsin, its lawyer very well may be Attorney General Josh Kaul. On June 4th, Jeffrey Neubauer donated $500 to his campaign. On October 21st, he donated another $1,000.

These donations plainly demonstrate the extent of Judge Neubauer’s biases and indicate in the clearest possible terms how she will rule in any case involving Evers, Kaul, her daughter Greta (to whom her husband understandably donated $1,100) or the laws and policies they enact and support.

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat. About that there can be no question. There can be and should be, however, significant questions about her impartiality in any cases involving her fellow Democrats, especially those to whom she and her husband have donated more than $100,000.

And there can and should be significant questions about the manner in which the Neubauers have been for a decade skirting Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct regarding political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

This is especially pertinent given Judge Neubauer’s decade-long refusal to list on her mandatory ethics reporting form customers of her husband’s former business, Kranz, Inc. As a result, it is nearly impossible to determine whether she would have had a conflict of interest in literally hundreds of cases that have come before her; cases in which her and her husband’s financial interest could have been directly impacted.

Her excuse? Listing her husband’s clients might help his competitors to poach them. In other words, her personal and financial interests trumped the interests of open, transparent government and ethical judicial behavior.

Even though she is bound by the Code of Judicial conduct to list potential conflicts and recuse herself from cases involving those conflicts, Judge Neubauer refused because of its potential impact on her family’s income–income that she and her husband used to donate to Democrats in direct contravention of yet another ethical guideline.

Lisa Neubauer is a Democrat, after all, and a rather brazen one at that.

The Democratic convention: An opposing view

Christian Schneider:

Those spending any time at all on political social media have no doubt seen conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, in part, because she failed to visit the swing state of Wisconsin in the last few months of the campaign. It’s a point that has spawned a million “where’s Hillary” jokes, but it isn’t necessarily true.

For one, Clinton did visit Wisconsin several times during the campaign, just not in the closing weeks. She campaigned frequently in the state in both 2008 and 2016, losing big in primaries each time. It’s not as though Wisconsin voters didn’t know her.

Nevertheless, the Democratic National Convention decided to troll Clinton this week, picking Milwaukee as the site for the party’s quadrennial soiree in 2020. Not only are Democrats going to make sure their nominee sets foot in Wisconsin; they’re also bringing the whole cast of characters.

But as was the case with Clinton, mere physical presence likely won’t be enough to win Wisconsin voters over. Taking precedence will be what their candidate stands for.

In making the Milwaukee announcement, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez suggested convention-goers may eat some vegan bratwurst and drink some “damn fine union-made Milwaukee beer at the end of the night.” But vegan bratwurst — more accurately described as “tofu crammed in a sock” — is about as authentically Wisconsin as the actual proposals the slew of Democratic candidates have thrown around so far.

Take, for instance, the Green New Deal, which would hammer Wisconsin’s agriculture- and manufacturing-based economy. Any proposal ridiculous enough to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi roll her eyes will have about as much support in America’s Dairyland as skim milk. (Which, in the immortal words of Ron Swanson, is “water which is lying about being milk.”)

Voters might also look askance at a $33 trillion Medicare-for-all plan, when 95 percent of the state’s residents are already insured. Among the accomplishments of Gov. Scott Walker (R) during his tenure was expanding coverage to record levels; throwing out that progress in favor of an untested, budget-annihilating genuflection to European socialism might not be what state voters have in mind.

In 2009, when Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, they proposed a single-payer health plan in the state. The result? A Walker victory and full Republican control of the Assembly and Senate.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that Milwaukee became a necessary convention venue specifically because of the work Republicans have done in the state over the past eight years. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 14 percentage points. By 2016, on the strength of reforms passed by state conservatives, Wisconsin went to a GOP presidential candidate for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1984. And now, Democrats want it back.

In fact, much of the reason Milwaukee became such an attractive place to hold a convention was due to the work of Walker and other state Republicans. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Fiserv Forum, a new arena that Walker approved just four years ago.

Interestingly, many of the same state Democrats who will feature prominently at the convention next year are the same who marched against Walker’s Act 10 public union reforms eight years ago, predicting doom for the state. Instead, the state has become so attractive, it will be a national showcase of success for the same party that opposed Walker at every turn. In essence, Democrats are beginning this marathon at the 24th mile — crediting them with making Wisconsin a prime spot for a national convention is like crediting the historic success of the “Star Wars” franchise to Adam Driver.

And those government union reforms that Democrats ripped the state apart in an attempt to rescind in 2011 and 2012? New Gov. Tony Evers (D) has introduced his budget plan and hasn’t laid a finger on them. It seems Perez’s suds-based pandering to unions during his announcement might be six years too late.

Of course, like most big cities, Milwaukee is beset with problems, such as crime, joblessness and poverty. And like most big cities, it has been governed by progressives for decades. The city’s current feckless mayor, Tom Barrett, has never seriously been challenged since he took office in 2004.

In the 1980s, faced with high taxes and greater regulation, employers began fleeing the city, leaving large swaths of the city devoid of economic opportunity. To combat that phenomenon, state lawmakers implemented the nation’s first private school choice program — a successful move that Democrats would surely reverse if now given the change. The Democratic convention might be a very inhospitable guest, indeed.

Those issues aside, there is no doubt that in the middle of next year, Milwaukee will be a caloric Armageddon, gleefully stuffing delighted Democrats with beer, cheese and encased meats. The city will be thrilled to have them there. It is their ideas that Wisconsin voters might want to keep away.

Actually, I’d prefer the Democratic (or Republican) convention stay away. The national political conventions are nothing more than a four-day-long taxpayer-funded pep rally for people who want to control your lives and your money. It is another example of the fetish wrong-headed people have for politicians and politics. (Washington was described as Hollywood for ugly people; well, politics is sports for the unathletic and lazy.) These are people I wouldn’t choose to spend two seconds with, and they’re going to be invading Milwaukee … well, actually, adding to the population I already choose to not spend time with that infests Milwaukee.

What exactly takes place of significance? The selection of candidates? Not anymore since primary elections. The platform? That’s written by the presidential candidate and “voted” upon by the sheep on the convention floor.

Then there is Milwaukee. Any community where there are entire sections where if you venture in you may not come out alive is not worthy of your presence or your money.

The perfect Democrat and socialist (but I repeat myself) vacation spot

Dan O’Donnell wrote this before Monday’s news that Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention:

The only city in America to elect three socialist mayors, Milwaukee would represent a chance for Democrats to embrace what Chairman Tom Perez called “the future of the party” by highlighting its past.

And what a past it’s been! Milwaukee hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1908 and its Common Council has been dominated by liberals for nearly as long, meaning that Democrats can showcase a city that they have totally controlled for more than a century. Their policies and their policies alone are responsible for making Milwaukee the city that it is today…the tenth worst city in America in which to live.

Each year, the news and commentary website 24/7 Wall Street measures cities on a wide-ranging index of socioeconomic conditions, including crime rates, economics, education levels, environmental conditions, public health, housing, infrastructure, and recreation and leisure. This year, Milwaukee ranked tenth-worst.

“More than one in every four Milwaukee residents live in poverty, more than double the 11.8% state poverty rate,” researchers Samuel Stebbins and Evan Comen wrote. “Poor cities often have higher crime rates than more affluent cities, and Milwaukee is no exception. There were 1,546 violent crimes for every 100,000 Milwaukee residents, more than five times the statewide violent crime rate of 306 per 100,000.”

Yes, by holding their convention in Milwaukee, Democrats can show the nation how their crime prevention policies have led Milwaukee…to the 15th-highest homicide rate in the nation in 2016 (the most recent year for which complete data is available).

“Milwaukee remains one of the most dangerous places in the country,” Comen noted. “Overall there were 1,533 violent crimes — which also includes rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — per 100,000 residents in 2016, nearly four times the national rate of 386 incidents per 100,000 residents and the eighth most of any city.”

Holding the 2020 convention in Milwaukee would also allow the Democratic Party to make further inroads into its all-important African-American voter base. As University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers concluded in 2012, “no metro area has witnessed more precipitous erosion in the labor market for black males over the past 40 years than has Milwaukee.” Even more illuminating, after 108 years of Democratic rule Milwaukee is the single most segregated city in the country for renters and third most segregated overall.

Wait, how can this be? How can a place governed by Democratic policies not be the utopia that Democratic promises indicate that it should be? This disconnect is the very heart of why Milwaukee is so perfect a city to host the Democratic National Convention, as the city would stand as perhaps the most concrete example of liberal policy failures at a time when the 2020 presidential nominee would be making even more utopian promises.

As the Democratic nominee would invariably promise to incarcerate fewer criminals, overhaul America’s education system, and end the nation’s “school-to-prison pipeline,” voters would see a century of Democratic leadership resulting in Milwaukee’s sky-high violent crime rate and a public school system so dysfunctional that it boasts just a 59.7% graduation rate and includes “one of the lowest performing comprehensive public high schools in America.”

As the Democratic nominee would invariably promise to better America’s economy by “spreading the wealth around” and “making things fairer,” voters would see a century of Democratic leadership resulting in Milwaukee’s 28.4% poverty rate more than doubling the national rate of 12.7% and Milwaukee’s median household income of $36,801 totaling at just a little more than half of the national median household income $59,039.

As the Democratic nominee would invariably promise to improve race relations and make America a better, more tolerant place, voters would see a century of Democratic leadership resulting in a place that is, “by many measures,” the “toughest U.S. city for blacks.”

Why is Milwaukee so perfect for the Democratic National Convention? Because Milwaukee is the inevitable result of Democratic leadership; Milwaukee is what happens when Democrats govern with unchecked and unbroken control for more than a century.

And it’s about time the rest of the country saw it.

James Wigderson adds:

Because Hillary Clinton didn’t campaign in Wisconsin in 2016 and lost, Democrats have decided not to take the state for granted in 2020. They’re sending the Democratic National Convention road show to Milwaukee.

Conveniently the Democrats will be in Milwaukee for Bastille Days. We’ll hope they won’t be inspired to bring back the guillotine.

Ironically, if you like to drive for Uber or Lyft, or rent your house out with AirBnB, it will be a great time for individual capitalists when the new Democratic socialists come to town.

We’re looking forward to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) staying in a modest Oak Creek home and then complaining about the cost of capitalist rent exploitation before leading a march down Wisconsin Avenue with a rock star entourage to protest climate change and cow farts in the dairy state before flying home on a private airplane.

But how good of a deal is it for everyone else?

The budget for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was $84 million, not including additional security costs that were subsidized by the federal government. The local host city will be expected to find most of that money through private fundraising. The host committee in Philadelphia raised more than $85 million after having a more modest goal of $60 million, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

Some of that money came from taxpayers. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development gave $10 million, according to Philadelphia Magazine. Conventions typically try to get the host city to guarantee covering the cost of the convention, although Charlotte, NC, refused in 2012. San Antonio took itself out of the runningfor the Republican National Convention in part because of that request by the Republican Party. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has already announced the city has acquired a line of credit for the convention.

The expected economic impact of the Philadelphia convention was $300 million, but the real economic impact was closer to $180 million. Even that number, however, does not take into account the lost productivity to private industry as a side effect of hosting the convention. Also, high end restaurants may not benefit nearly as much as they hope.

But there could be donkeys. “The host committee also paid $200,000 for 57 local artist-decorated fiberglass donkeys that have been installed across the city, complete with a Pokémon Go-style scavenger hunt,” Yahoo News reported in 2016. If the donkeys come back, truth-in-advertising requires that they wear Che Guevara t-shirts.

Donkeys were not the only expenditure, according to Yahoo News: “The City of Philadelphia plans to spend $695,700 on preparations for and work during the convention, including cleaning, employee overtime, patriotic decorations and ‘homeless outreach.’”

So good news, DNC organizers. If there is one thing Milwaukee has, it does have homeless people downtown.

Then there will be the miscellaneous costs which will add up. Milwaukee’s streetcar does not currently reach the Fiserv Forum where the convention will be held. Don’t be surprised if the mayor and Governor Tony Evers try to insert into the budget later a request to fund that leg of the streetcar using state funds or increased local tax revenue, perhaps as part of some deal to allow local governments to raise taxes for transportation costs. Then look for delays in the state budget to be used to attack Republicans because those delays could hurt Milwaukee’s preparedness for the Democratic National Convention.

Meanwhile, while the federal government does cover security costs for the convention, there will be costs to the city in police overtime as officers are required to do more traffic diversions and handle other police calls related to the convention. As more police resources are diverted downtown, how much will local neighborhoods suffer?

Not everything will go smoothly when the convention finally arrives. We can expect the city’s freeways to be jammed with convention goers driving further and further out desperate to look for a place to sleep as the city simply will not have the hotel space to accommodate everyone. There are only so many A-list celebrities that you can jam into the Pfister Hotel downtown before Katy Perry comes knocking on your door in the suburbs hoping you have a fold-out couch. But we wouldn’t expect them to ride Amtrak to Chicago looking for a hotel. That would be barbaric.

Then there will be the protesters. Between the hard left’s desire to protest everything, and the sheer number of Democratic candidates running for president, Milwaukee could be ground zero for the biggest riots in years. But even if the federal government’s $50 million to fun security helps keep a lid on most of the problem children of the left, there will still be some protesters that aren’t going to behave.

Normally a Starbucks close to the convention site would be the ideal franchise but the Starbucks on Red Arrow Park, given its history and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz running for president, should probably up their fire insurance coverage now.

The Democrats may regret choosing Milwaukee for the site of their National Convention. As the longtime home of the most successful Socialist Party in America, Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Mark Jefferson says it will be a homecoming for many of the new socialists in the Democratic Party.

“No city in America has stronger ties to socialism than Milwaukee,” Jefferson said. “And with the rise of Bernie Sanders and the embrace of socialism by its newest leaders, the American left has come full circle. It’s only fitting the Democrats would come to Milwaukee.”

However, a quick drive just a few minutes north of the convention site and Democrats will get to see what Democratic and Socialist control of Milwaukee in 1910 has meant for the residents of Milwaukee’s North Side: crime, poverty, unemployment, failing schools, high property taxes.

As for the Democratic hope that the convention will be enough to bring Wisconsin voters back, they should remember the old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt.”

Perhaps the Democrats should listen to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

“I’m glad Milwaukee will enjoy the economic boost from hosting the 2020 Democrat National Convention. As voters in a key battleground state, Wisconsinites will also get a first-hand look at Democrats’ extreme policies that would reverse the economic progress made under the Trump administration,” Johnson said Monday. “Understanding the risk of Democrat socialistic tendencies should provide motivation to re-elect Republicans up and down the ballot in November 2020.”

The Democrats are coming. Let ’em in. The most harm they will do is to themselves.

 

Contemptuous culture

Arthur Brooks:

I live and work in Washington. But I’m not a politics junkie. To me, politics is like the weather — it changes a lot, people drone on about it constantly, and “good” is mostly subjective. I like winter, you like summer; you’re a liberal, I’m a conservative. In the 2012 presidential election season, my wife and I had a bumper sticker custom-made for our Volvo that read “Vegans for Romney” just to see the reaction of other Washington drivers.

My passion is ideas, especially policy ideas. While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate. Climate has an impact on weather, but they’re different things. Similarly, ideas affect politics, but they aren’t the same. When done right, policy analysis, like climate science, favors nerds with Ph.D.s. And that’s me. For 20 years, I’ve been a professor of public policy and president of a think tank in Washington. (For a decade before that I made my living as a musician, but not the cool kind — I played in a symphony orchestra.)

But even a climatologist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore. And that’s what’s happening today. Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.

While we are addicted to contempt, we at the same time hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In an important study of political attitudes, the nonprofit More in Common found in 2018 that 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large majorities say privately that they believe in the importance of compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

So what can each of us do to make things better? You might be tempted to say we need to find ways to disagree less, but that is incorrect. Disagreement is good because competition is good. Competition lies behind democracy in politics and markets in the economy, which — bounded by the rule of law and morality — bring about excellence. Just as in politics and economics, we need a robust “competition of ideas” — a.k.a. disagreement. Disagreement helps us innovate, improve and find the truth.