Posts tagged ‘Gov. Walker’

06/11/2012

High-Speed Rail: Why Opposed by Right?

It’s always surprising when high-speed rail projects are rejected by people who call themselves conservatives, since they are, when compared to cars, a much more efficient mode of transportation.

In an effort to stimulate jobs, President Obama proposed high-speed rail for Florida, between Orlando and Tampa, and from Milwaukee to Madison in Wisconsin, but right-wing Gov. Rick Scott of Florida rejected his plan, and Wisconsin’s Tea Party Gov. Scott Walker likewise pushed away the Badger State blueprint.

To wealthy Republicans like Florida’s Rick Scott, transportation is no problem, for he has always had his own private jet, and can go wherever he wants without delay. Money is no object for him. The problem with Scott Walker of Wisconsin is he examined only one part of the equation, the start-up costs, while failing to consider the international risk of oil and gas embargoes, the plight of youthful or impoverished people who don’t own cars, and the many environmental costs created by gas-combustion engines.

Europe has always been a much easier and efficient continent, when compared to the U.S., in terms of transportation and travel. Trains generally run on time and connect all the major cities in the Old World. One can connect on buses at train stations, without all of the hassles or expenses related to cars. A little walk or bike ride now and then in Europe keeps them from becoming obese, like their overweight American counterparts.

So what happened? When did the conservatives in America stop caring about conservation? In the early years, it was the Republican Party in the industrial north that expanded the network of railroads. The Union Pacific, started in 1865, was connected to the West Coast in 1869. Businesses needed trains to remove lumber from the forests and resources from the mines. They hauled coal, livestock, and machinery, just to name a few items.

The advent of the electric subway and elevated trains around 1895 was a major source of efficiency for our major cities, as they provided a relatively cheap way for millions of ordinary people to travel in places like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago.

While the airplane has replaced the train for some purposes, and the mail for example can be delivered more efficiently by air, trains still have a purpose, and they should be used in the U.S. much more than they are at present. They are not obsolete.

America would be a much more efficient and better place if all of our major cities had subway systems, and if our national passenger trains were improved so they could enter the class of high-speed lines used in France, Japan, or China, for example. The first step in moving in the right direction, would be to elect people from the left, who have a vision of what the U.S. could be.

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06/07/2012

Wisconsin: How to Win Badger State

People scratch their heads upon learning Wisconsinites blew away Sen. John McCain by 14 points when supporting President Obama in 2008, but then gave right-winger Scott Walker 52% of the vote in the 2010 governor’s race, and an even slightly larger margin of 53% in the 2012 gubernatorial recall.

The distinction between the Presidential and Governor’s race is relatively easy to understand, because the issues were different. Since the state’s dominant German-American population was sent to Europe in World War I to fight an unclear battle against the Kaiser, the Badger State has had an antiwar tilt. When Sen. John McCain visited in 2008, he found no friendly military bases at which to push his endless idea of war, and as the articulate Sen. Obama delivered a message that Iraq was a mistake, it was well received. While it is no surprise McCain lost in a landslide, the Democrats must be mindful, the next contest will be much closer, as Romney has none of McCain’s military baggage.

The other factor in the governor’s election and recall survival was the focus on economics. Wisconsinites also have a very deep-seated German-American work ethic. Whether they are socialists, willing to spread the wealth, or hard-core capitalists, they all share the same belief that government must be run efficiently. They do not like seeing or hearing about waste, fraud, or abuse. Since the governor’s contest involved economics, instead of foreign affairs, the race was necessarily much closer than the 2008 contest.

The third factor has to do with political science and understanding it is generally difficult to win a statewide contest using a Madison or Milwaukee-based strategy. While Illinois, with a population of 13 million, can be won by turning out votes in greater Chicago, where 8 million reside, Wisconsin, with a total of 6 million, is not dominated by greater Milwaukee, as it only has 2 million. It was a fundamental mistake to hope Madison or Milwaukee could single-handedly carry the day. It was also a major error to have pep rallies at the end with Jessie Jackson, as he may have unintentionally triggered heavy white turnouts, in Republican dominated Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties.

Democrats have to remember winning Wisconsin means playing in all 72 counties, not just Madison or Milwaukee. In the past, with the notable exception of Jim Doyle of Madison, whose father was a federal judge, governors have come from small towns in the northern or western areas. The fact Walker was elected even though he was a Milwaukee County Executive, was because his opponent Tom Barrett, was Milwaukee Mayor, and the voters had no choice.

In the past, Republican Tommy Thompson (1987-01) came from little Elroy, in Western Wisconsin. Democrat Tony Earl (1983-87) was elected from Wausau, in the north. Republican Lee Dreyfus hailed from nearby Stevens Point, in the north. Democrat Patrick Lucey (1971-77) crawled out of tiny Gays Mills, a poor little Crawford County town, four hours from Milwaukee, near the Mississippi. Republican Warren Knowles claimed New Richmond, in the northwest. Democrat John Reynolds (1963-65) hailed from Green Bay, in the northeast. Democrat Gaylord Nelson (1959-63) came from little Clear Lake, in the northwest. Republican Vernon Thompson (1957-59) was from the farming town of Richland Center, in the southwest.

It is too easy to divide and conquer against a Milwaukee mayor. People in little white towns, who have never met anyone like Jessie Jackson, certainly were not even going to listen to his chants. They tend to think all big city people want to do is take their guns away. To neutralize the prejudice, next time, Democrats need a guy like Tom Barrett, only one without the Milwaukee or Madison label, or in other words, one from a small town. If the Republicans slander machine had not had all the problems of Milwaukee to unfairly dump on Barrett’s head, the election may have favored a Democrat.

05/30/2012

Jobs: Republicans Deserve No Credit

It always amusing when Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Walker take credit for job increases, as if they personally interviewed the unemployed, one by one, and told them they were hired. While Democrats have historically helped those out of work by creating public sector jobs, Republicans don’t even budget enough money to meet the current government payroll, and they certainly are not entitled to take credit for any new government employment.

As to the private sector, governments can only indirectly stimulate economic activity through Fiscal Policies, which increase government spending. Since Republicans again routinely vote against job stimulus bills, they cannot legitimately take credit for any employment the government may trigger in the private sector.

When politicians like Republican Gov. Perry claim they added 1 million new jobs in Texas, they try to take credit for something they did not do, since they added no public sector jobs, and stimulated no private employment, through state budgeting.

While Gov. Romney argued jobs are established in the private sector, and not in Washington, he repeatedly failed to explain his theory that only those who understand “how the economy works” can create employment. The truth is merely understanding “how the economy works” is not a formula for job creation. Slogans like: “to create jobs, you have to have had one,” sound great, but insult our intelligence, since they explain nothing.

What is funny is when politicians like Romney, Perry, Huntsman, Bachmann, Ron Paul, Gingrich, and all the others, repeat the standard Republican talking points that jobs can be created by eliminating regulation, lowering taxes, and repealing Health Care.

Just how would the elimination of regulations create jobs? Have you ever thought about it? The right wing repeatedly makes this argument, but nobody pauses to think about what they are saying? If we repealed food safety rules made by the Food and Drug Administration, our health would be endangered for sure, but how would that create jobs, except perhaps in emergency rooms? If we eliminated air safety rules promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration, we may have more plane crashes, but explain the job creation theory, because the connection is not at all obvious.

Lowering taxes to create jobs is another interesting theory. President George W. Bush tried it in a big way, as he dramatically cut taxes for the wealthy, and what happened? 4 million lost their jobs in 2008, in the six months before President Obama took office. Bush’s cuts sounded good to the wealthy, but if the policy had worked for all of us, the rich would have used their new wealth to invest in job creation, but they obviously did not do that.

How would the repeal of the new Health Care law increase jobs? If the nation will be adding health coverage for 40 million people, one need not be a rocket scientist to understand that a countless number of jobs will necessarily be created to take care of them. The right wing theory that repealing the law would somehow add jobs is totally baseless and illogical.

While Republicans pay lip service to unemployment, saying it is a tragedy that affects millions, they avoid direct solutions like public works hiring projects, and oppose government stimulus plans. Reducing taxes for the rich, eliminating unspecific regulations, and making other reforms not even remotely related to jobs, is no answer. The very least the right wingers and Republicans could do is avoid taking credit for jobs, since they certainly have no right to claim credit for them.

05/15/2012

Campaign Ads: Walker Hurts Wisconsin

I regret to inform you, as I report from Madison: The entire State of Wisconsin is now burning, and the flames are spreading, due to a non-stop carpet-bombing political campaign launched by Gov. Walker, which has fully consumed our air waves with a massive barrage of negative TV ads, designed to demonize Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by viciously targeting our largest city.

During these turbulent political times, while we cannot escape the disinformation generated by Walker’s henchmen, and the propaganda funded by his wealthy out-of-state allies, Middle Class Wisconsinites, favoring the June 5 Recall, can respond through a word-of-mouth ground game. Consider these words:

Walker’s trashing of Milwaukee in his TVs ads is hurting all Wisconsinites, because our biggest city is the window through which most visitors view our state. The economic ripple effects from Milwaukee are great, and extend well beyond Republican Waukesha County. We all sink or swim together.

While Walker claims Milwaukee is the third worst city in the nation, most would pick it any day over Detroit, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, or a whole host of others, too numerous to list.

A good governor would extol the virtues of our largest city, not slander it. If after this Recall, Milwaukee is completely destroyed, like Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and nothing but smoke rises from the ashes, then what Mr. Walker? How will you attract new industry, once the reputation of Wisconsin’s urban base is totally gone?

05/01/2012

Recall Vote: Right to Time Off Work

Regarding the Tues. May 8, 2012 Wisconsin Primary, employers should be reminded that their employees have a legal right to take time off to vote.

Wis. Statute 6.76 (1) provides: “Any person entitled to vote at an election is entitled to be absent from work while the polls are open for a period not to exceed 3 successive hours to vote. The elector shall notify the affected employer before Election Day of the intended absence. The employer may designate the time of day for the absence.

(2) No penalty, other than a deduction for time lost, may be imposed upon an elector by his or her employer by reason of the absence authorized by this section.

Employers should also be reminded, under Wisconsin law that it is illegal to attempt to influence how their employees cast their votes.

“No person shall, by threatening to discharge a person from his or her employment, or threatening to reduce wages of a person, or by promising to give employment at higher wages to a person, attempt to influence a qualified voter, to give, or withhold the voter’s vote at an election.” See Wisconsin Statute 103.18.

04/18/2012

Recall: Impeachment by Another Name

Wisconsin will soon be conducting a Recall Election against Scott Walker, and a band of Republican State Senators, who like Mary Surratt, provided aid and comfort to the Governor, as they plotted and conspired to deny state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

If voters wonder why an Impeachment indictment was not presented in the State Assembly, and specific charges were not prosecuted at a trial in the State Senate, the answer is while a Recall is like an Impeachment, by an another name, there are differences.

Before the Progressives amended the Wisconsin Constitution to give the people a direct voice in the removal of elected officials, Impeachment was the only way to take out rouge public figures. The proponents of the Wisconsin Constitutional Amendment that created the recall in 1926 intended to give voters a direct method for replacing office holders. They wanted to bypass the impeachment process, which requires a majority vote in the State Assembly, and a two-thirds margin in the State Senate.

U.S. Senator Robert La Follette had advanced similar measures at the federal level. Until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, U.S. Senators were not chosen through a vote by the people, but were hand-picked by state representatives. La Follette transferred power to ordinary people by removing the smoked-filled rooms, and by shifting the process into the hands of the voters, through the ballot. Impeachment, like the indirect method of picking Senators, was also outside the reach of ordinary voters, that is, until the advent of the Recall.

Unlike Impeachment, which requires a Senate trial where evidence of bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors is presented, only two things must be done to win a Recall. The first is the extremely onerous requirement of obtaining the signatures of 25% of those who voted in the prior election, which in Walker’s case was over 500,000, and second is the heavy burden to reverse the previous vote of the electorate, a majority of whom supported Walker. People generally do not like being told they were wrong in the first place, even if they were.

While impeachments have historically been used against Presidents by political opponents, for political reasons, and have often resulted in political outcomes, the Recall is not burdened with the personal agendas or egos of individual Senators.

After the death of Whig President William Harrison, John Tyler, a Southern Democrat, entered the White House, and when he started vetoing nearly every measure the Whig Party presented, an Impeachment resolution was introduced in the House, before it was defeated 127 to 83, thanks to Democratic resistance.

Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, who became Republican Lincoln’s Vice-President in 1864 under a National Union ticket, became President when Abe was assassinated in 1865, and after he vetoed several Republican measures, the House voted to impeach him, before a Senate trial resulted in an acquittal, by just one vote.

Bill Clinton, who had a consensual and perfectly legal affair with a younger woman, was targeted in an impeachment charade egged on by the sinister Newt Gingrich, which ultimately failed in the Senate by a handful of votes. If the Recall method had been used, instead of impeachment, the people would have acquitted Bill in a landslide.

The Recall is not easier than Impeachment, as two large obstacles must be overcome before there can be a removal, it is more democratic, and it gives more direct power to the people.

02/02/2012

Recall Walker Stalling Vote a New Reason

Gov. Scott Walker has a sworn constitutional duty to faithfully carry out the laws of Wisconsin, and now that over 1,000,000 signatures have been submitted triggering a recall regarding his term in office, far beyond the 540,208 required, he must push forward and conduct an election, and stop stalling by engaging in an absurd examination of each and every petition signature, as if they are somehow going to find 459,792 fictitious names.

If the number of signatures was only 1% greater than the number required, or in other words only 5,400 above the 540,208 required, then a canvassing of each and every signature could be justified, since 545,608 would be within a 1% margin of error, and there could be a chance of knocking out enough names to defeat a recall. Here, there is not even an extremely remote possibility of finding enough invalid signatures, and it is obvious to any election observer that the examination of all these names is a complete and total waste of time, effort, and expense.

Every intelligent politician knows when to throw in the towel as to vote-counting. In normal elections, the difference in votes between two candidates, needed to trigger a recount, various from state to state, but in most jurisdictions it is less than 1%. Legislators set recount thresholds this low, because they know a change in outcome is statistically improbable, if not impossible, where the winner’s vote exceeds the loser’s tally by 1% or more.

So let’s stop wasting time on going through the petition signatures with a fine tooth comb, as the Governor knows, or should know, he is not going to find more than perhaps 1,000 bad signatures, let alone 459,792. The governor’s failure to push forward with a recall now, when far more than enough Wisconsinites have lawfully spoken, only gives us one more reason to recall Walker.

09/14/2011

Voter Photo ID: Unconstitutional Poll Tax

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State House and Senate passed a voter photo ID requirement bill this year, signed into law by Gov. Walker, which should be challenged in court, because it creates a condition for voting, by requiring citizens to pay fees to the state for a Drivers License, or to a county clerk for a certified birth certificate, or to federal authorities for a valid passport, all in violation of the 24th Amendment, which outlawed poll taxes.

The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election…shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Since there was no measurable voter fraud problem in Wisconsin that would have had any effect whatsoever on the outcome of any race, the only purpose of the new statute was to suppress voter turnout, by solving a problem that did not exist.  The real purpose of the new law is to deter young people, who do not have Drivers Licenses, from voting. Since not all young citizens are in college, they may not have a substitute form of photo identification.

While a Drivers License is needed in a rural area where there is no other way to get around, in cities like Milwaukee, people can move about on buses, and a car is not essential. Some, who once had Drivers Licenses, may have lost them due to misdemeanor traffic offenses that led to suspension or revocation. Since they committed no felony, they still have a right to vote. Older citizens, who stopped driving for physical reasons, may not have a DL.

Forcing citizens to purchase Drivers Licenses from the state, as a condition for voting is a tax in violation of the 24th Amendment. Although an alternate photo ID for election purposes may be requested from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), payments to the government are also required to obtain necessary paperwork.

The Wis. DOT website requires five separate types of proof for an alternate ID. Its says: “when applying, it will be necessary to provide: 1) “Proof of name and date of birth;” 2) “Proof of Identity;” 3) “Proof of Wisconsin Residency;” 4) “Proof of U.S. Citizenship,” and 5) Proof of a Social Security number.

To prove step one, “name and date of birth,” one must present a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid passport, or certificate of naturalization. If they were born in the U.S., they would have no naturalization papers. If they have an outdated passport, they can’t use it. They would have to pay a tax to the federal government to obtain a valid passport. While most have a copy of their birth certificate, a certified copy is required from the county and state of birth, again requiring fees to local clerks.

Assuming an applicant jumped through all of the various hoops, they still do not receive an alternate ID on the spot, as is the case with Drivers Licenses, where people have their photos taken, and are given a license a few minutes later. The DOT unnecessarily puts non-DL applicants in a separate class, by making them wait to receive their cards. The DOT site says: “original ID cards are mailed to applicants.” Why not just give them their ID cards on the spot? Can you spell voter suppression?

The new Wisconsin voter photo ID law unnecessarily creates financial barriers to voting, which violate the 24th Amendment and for this reason the law should be declared unconstitutional.

08/18/2011

Wisconsin Recall: A Democratic Success

Now that the last of the Wisconsin State Senate recall elections has ended, the Democrats can claim an important success, as they won five of nine contests, gained a net of two Senate seats, and reduced the Republican majority from 19-14 to 17-16. No matter what spin Gov. Walker and his right-wing allies put on it, if you ask the Republicans whether they would be willing to go through the recall process again, they would certainly say no.

As soon as Walker completes his first year in office in 2012, and becomes eligible for a gubernatorial recall, petitions will again be circulated to put his name on the ballot, for yet another election. The Democrats will have to field a good candidate to oppose him, as an unbelievable sum of money will be spent to retain Walker.

The Republicans should have learned a few lessons from the recall elections. First, if the legislative agenda is going to include radical proposals, at the very least, they must be raised during the campaign season, and not for the first time once they take office.

Second, when the Republicans see large crowds of ordinary citizens gathering to oppose their legislative agenda, they should ignore them only at their peril. While it is true typical protesters in Madison are not representative of Wisconsinites at large in other parts of the state, they are still a barometer of general attitudes, and again cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Third, outside money alone does not determine the outcome of elections, where the electorate is informed on important issues, and they are motivated to vote accordingly. In fact, ads that contradict what people know to be true, only strengthen their resolve, and make them even more determined to prevail.

Walker is now finally talking about working with the Democrats, but he did not come into office with that posture, and he has only recently shifted his stand, because he knows his head is on the chopping block. Soon the ax will fall, but at this point, it is too early to predict if the blade will actually sever his head.

08/11/2011

Wisconsin Recall: What Results Mean

The results of the Wisconsin Recall Elections that targeted six incumbent Republican State Senators should not be misconstrued by spin artists, who may now suggest that Gov. Scott Walker is off the hook. Instead, the outcome means Walker is in trouble.

Since all six of the State Senate Districts up for grabs on Tues. Aug. 9 were held by incumbent Republicans, some of whom had been in office a long time, any flip was a success for Democrats.

In two districts, each with college towns, the Democrats were in fact able to throw the Republicans out. In Western Wisconsin, where every town along the Mississippi River from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien was named by French explorers, the 32nd District, home of the Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was lost by an incumbent Republican to an Assemblywoman from La Crosse.

In East-Central Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is located (18th), the Deputy Mayor of Oshkosh, also a female, beat another incumbent Republican Senator.

While Republicans kept four seats, two were maintained by slim margins. They easily won a rural area, west of Green Bay (2nd), and the easternmost part of suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul (10th). In suburban Milwaukee (8th), however, normally a safe seat for Republicans, Democrats couldn’t overcome the demographics, but got close with 46%. In a rural central part of the state (14th), where Democrats have not won since Grover Cleveland was President, the Republican barely held onto his job, with only 52%.

Republican victories in the 2nd, 8th, 10th and 14th were not surprising, since Democrats are a much smaller minority in those places, and help was needed from a large number of independents. The fact that the Republicans received only 54% in the 8th, and just 52% of the vote in the 14th, means they barely kept control.

One must remember Milwaukee, Madison, and other heavily Democratic areas, were not at all involved in these recall elections. If the results this week in Wisconsin mean anything, they spell trouble for Walker, if he is forced to go through a recall next year. He may likely end up serving only ¼ his 4-year term.