Filed under: Courts — Christian Schneider @ 10:00 am
It appears I have kept my decades-long streak of displeasing the ladies alive.
Today, the League of Women Voters issued a release critical of my column of last week, where I argue that trying to make legislative districts “electorally competitive” actually gives Assembly Democrats an eight-seat head start come election time. Otherwise, African-American votes are diluted and civil rights litigation hilarity ensues. In effect, this gives Democrats an eight seat “handicap,” a golf metaphor that appears to be lost on Andrea Kaminski, the author of the LWV release.
In their release, the LWV argues… well… actually, I’m not exactly sure what they’re arguing. Their main talking point seems to be that I don’t have anything to write about. They’re probably right in that respect. Maybe we can set up a public debate where we argue the merits of my workload. Other than that, they don’t seem to make any point that refutes anything I said in the column. For the sake of clarity, let me boil it down:
When you make electoral competitiveness a standard for legislative redistricting, it is impossible to make inner-city districts competitive. Doing so would require diluting the African-American vote, a strategy of segregationists.
As a result, there are at least eight Assembly districts (and at least two Senate districts) that will be exempt from the competitiveness standard. This gives Democrats an eight-seat head start in legislative elections.
Ms. Kaminski reiterates her support for having an “independent” board drawing district lines, since the Legislature can’t be trusted to do so. In fact, the courts actually set the boundaries every decade. The Legislature generally writes their plan, then it goes to court, where judges eventually draw the lines. It has been this way in every redistricting since at least 1974.
In any event, I am honored to now be Public Enemy #1 over at the League of Women Voters. They are welcome to get in line – it forms on the left.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 12:09 pm
Last week, George Lightbourn and I released a report that demonstrated that the proposed “Healthy Wisconsin” government health plan would run a large deficit. As expected, proponents of the plan pushed back – yet without addressing any of the concerns raised in the report.
I chuckled when I saw the following quote from State Senator Jon Erpenbach in Friday’s Wispolitics REPORT, referencing the study:
I don’t know where they’re getting their numbers, and second of all I’d like to know who backs them financially on this stuff. - Healthy Wisconsin sponsor Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, on the WPRI report.
First of all, it’s pretty easy to figure out where we got our numbers, since we lay that all out in the report, which Erpenbach clearly didn’t read. In fact, most of our data comes from the Lewin Reports on both the Wisconsin Health Plan and Healthy Wisconsin – reports which Erpenbach himself commissioned and uses to bolster his plan. Maybe he should get around to reading those, too, since he paid for them.
In fact, the math is pretty easy – the state Department of Revenue expects incomes to rise at 4.6% per year over the next 10 years. The Lewin Group expects health care costs to rise 6.5% per year over that same time. That creates a gap that has to be funded – and the Lewin Group itself says the plan will have to raise taxes in the future to make up the deficit. If Erpenbach disagrees with that premise, perhaps he should get his money back from the Lewin folks.
The second irrelevant criticism leveled at our report is to question our funding. This is even more entertaining, since people who spend all day polluting comment threads on blogs somehow aren’t able to perform a Google search to research WPRI’s funding. But, of course, this is all just a sideshow to distract people from the actual criticisms of the plan that we level – since proponents of the plan don’t really have an answer. Regardless of our funding (and honestly, I don’t even really know much about it), the facts are the facts – just ask the group commissioned by Jon Erpenbach to research the issue.
And as long as we’re on the funding issue, it might be instructive to look at who’s funding Jon Erpenbach’s effort to get Healthy Wisconsin passed. You may remember last year, when Erpenbach may have violated state law by co-mingling lobbyist money with his campaign funds to produce a poll showing support for Healthy Wisconsin.
Lawmakers who joined with interest groups to conduct a poll on a proposed universal health care plan might have violated campaign finance laws by taking money from groups not authorized to make political contributions.
State Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy hadn’t seen all the details of the arrangement Tuesday but said Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) might have benefited from special-interest funds that aren’t allowed into the electoral process.
The two senators contributed campaign funds toward a poll also bankrolled by groups that cannot give to candidates.
If the interest groups had paid for the poll themselves and simply given it to the senators, there would be no trouble, Kennedy said. Potential problems have arisen because the poll combined political and non-political money.
“Our concern would be to make sure non-political money wasn’t providing a political benefit” to the senators, Kennedy said.
Oops. Maybe Erpenbach, who thinks we should use taxpayer money to run political campaigns in order to lessen the influence of lobbyists, should start the effort by actually adhering to the law himself.
Filed under: Economics — Christian Schneider @ 9:40 am
It’s panic time, folks. The Green Bay Packers apparently turned a 10.5% profit last year. Not because the team was any good or provided the fans with a product that they were willing to pay for, but because the franchise is simply greedy. We’re being gouged by Big Packalope.
Perhaps if we levy an excessive profits tax on the team, they’ll get better. We need to make sure they don’t have any money to improve the team – that way, I might end up as third string quarterback.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 3:32 pm
Today, WPRI released a report which discusses the Healthy Wisconsin health plan proposed by Senate Democrats. The report, written by George Lightbourn and yours truly, makes two main points:
Healthy Wisconsin is government-run health care; and
Healthy Wisconsin will run large deficits, since personal income won’t keep up with health care costs.
Most informed observers would have the following reaction to the report:
This is actually a fairly reasonable response. But I should mention a couple things that justify the need for this report. First of all, the authors of the Healthy Wisconsin plan maintain that it isn’t government health care. Take the following quote from Senator Jon Erpenbach:”We didn’t want it where it was a government-run type of system. We wanted to keep it in the private sector.”
With statements like that framing the debate, we thought it necessary to show that the plan is, indeed, government-run health care, and that it would have a massive effect on other government-run programs.
Furthermore, the fact that it is government health care is relevant beyond just making the plan’s authors look wrong. The fact that the program will likely run large deficits will have a largely negative effect on other public sector health programs, and would likely force higher taxes to plug the deficit. The Lewin Group actuarial report, which Senate Democrats use to support their plan, actually concedes that taxes will have to be raised in the future beyond the levels authorized in the plan.
Yet perhaps the most interesting part of the report is the reaction it has received since its release this morning. Plan proponents, such as the group One Wisconsin Now, have proven themselves completely incapable of discussing the merits of the plan. They laughably fall back on the old tried and true talking points, such as how “Big Oil” is responsible for all this. Like 3rd graders, they go after co-author George Lightbourn, calling him “bankrupt.” I’m surprised they somehow couldn’t work Alberto Gonzalez into their talking points.
My only reaction to this is to express a little disappointment they didn’t go after me, too. I feel a little left out, seeing as I am clearly morally bankrupt. Maybe I should e-mail them some examples so I can work my way into their next release.
Plan author Jon Erpenbach also issued a press release denouncing the report. In their defense, you have to give both Erpenbach and One Wisconsin Now credit for their consistency – neither of them actually read a word of our report. Both issue sweeping bromides about health care for all and such, yet never approach the actual subject matter of the report.
So for those of you brave enough to actually read the report, criticisms are certainly welcome. But the main theses of the study are fairly solid, and even backed by data that supporters of Healthy Wisconsin are themselves circulating as support for their program.
Filed under: Legislation — Christian Schneider @ 10:33 am
In an effort to pretend like they’re doing something to alleviate the city’s homeless problem, the Madison City Council last night voted to ban the sale of certain quantities of liquor in some downtown stores. Basically, they won’t be able to sell less than a six pack of beer or malt liquor (except imports or microbrews), fortified wine and less than a pint of liquor. This is an attempt to make it more difficult for the transients downtown to get cheap liquor.
In effect, all it will do is make sure that when the bums get enough money, they’ll just have to buy more liquor at one time. It will do nothing to stop the harassing behavior they inflict on the residents downtown. It will also make it more of a hassle for non-alcoholics to purchase liquor, as downtown residents will have to buy in larger quantities. They will also have to pay more to procure their fine fortified wines, such as Wild Irish Rose and Thunderbird. (For a full listing of the finest fortified wines, visit Bumwine.com.)
Of course, the council doesn’t have the guts to do anything serious about the homeless in Madison, even after high profile murders have been linked to the transient population. The State Journal article about last night’s ban spells it out:
On Tuesday, Scott Thornton appealed to the council to extend the ban into his 6th District, where he said intoxicated people disturb and scare residents, leave cans strewn on the sidewalks, urinate in public and even threw up on his Christmas wreath last winter.
Hey, here’s an idea – how about you start arresting people? Does anyone actually believe making bums buy extra liquor at one time is going to solve any of these problems?
So thank you, government, for making my life better by increasing the cost of things I buy. You’ve done such a good job with gas prices, it only makes sense to keep going from there.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 9:32 am
To show that the Presidential election is almost in full swing in mid-June, here are a couple of notable TV ads currently running.
First, here’s a John McCain ad that emphasizes the environment and global warming:
I’m skeptical as to how effective the environment actually is as a campaign issue. Everyone considers themselves an environmentalist, but few are actually willing to vote on that basis. Furthermore, people are increasingly getting the idea that “environmentalism” equals “higher gas prices.”
But this ad is important for McCain not because he’s any kind of beaver hugger, but because the environment serves as a platform for differentiating himself from other Republicans. He’s obviously seen the polls that show the GOP doing poorly across the board, and he wants to get away from them like they’re a garage sale nose hair trimmer. (The hint here is his use of a newspaper clip image that expressly says “McCain Climate Views Clash With GOP.” You need a graduate degree in political science for this kind of insightful commentary, folks – don’t try this at home.)
Next up is a MoveOn.org anti-McCain ad:
The central talking point of this ad is almost too stupid to address, and since you’re obviously smart enough to be reading a public policy blog, you know why it’s bogus. When McCain said we were going to be in Iraq for 100 years, all he meant was that we would have a presence there. Hopefully a peaceful one. We’ve been in Germany since the end of World War II, but nobody suggests we’re at war with them. (I actually had a sister born there as a result of my father’s military duty in Germany. My mom wasn’t exactly dodging grenades during childbirth.)
Filed under: College — Christian Schneider @ 8:49 am
George W. Bush honors former UW Chancellor and Clinton cabinet secretary Donna Shalala with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Some are not pleased:
Of all the educators in the country to choose from, including those who have suffered under the type of politically correct regimes that Shalala has built up and overseen, the choice of Donna Shalala to receive our nation’s highest civilian award is beyond puzzling; it is obscene.
Shalala was architect of the infamous speech code at Wisconsin which, before it was declared unconstitutional in 1991, was among the most draconian in the nation. She also crafted the “Madison Plan” at UW, through which she mandated quotas for hiring minority professors, doubling the number of minority undergraduates, passed an ethnic studies requirement, and opened a multicultural center.
So radical was her tenure at UW, so opposed to liberty were her mandates, that in January, 1993 Evans & Novak used her appointment as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to question where Clinton, ostensibly a “New Democrat,” planned on taking the country.
The new Wisconsin Interest magazine is out today. It includes my article called “Wisconsin’s Third Party Animals,” which looks at some of the stranger third party candidates who have run in Wisconsin – and one who almost won, Ed Thompson. Although Thompson didn’t win his race for governor in 2002, his candidacy certainly affected the race dramatically. It is a wildly entertaining story, though.
A friend told me about this, and I honestly didn’t believe him.
Last week in Janesville, Jim Doyle stood at the podium before hundreds of General Motors workers who had just found out that the plant will be closing in 2010. The pain in the room was evident, as the workers flanking Doyle onstage openly wore their disgust on their faces.
Doyle began his speech expressing outrage at General Motors, and threatening “revenge” against the company. He continually praised the workers, who had done nothing to deserve their fate. (We’ll set aside, for a moment, the fact that Doyle’s plan to raise gas taxes by 7 cents per gallon could have hastened the demise of the plant.) Then, to fully ameliorate the pain being felt in the room, he pulled out a quote from one of our great philosophers: Rapper Jay-Z.
In an attempt to say the workers had been “flicked aside,” Doyle tried to use The Jigga Man’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” as an excuse to make the now-famous gesture. He immediately tried to catch himself, understanding what an absurd statement he just made. But this is why I fear public speaking so much – I’m afraid I’m going to say something this stupid in front of an open mike. And in doing so, Doyle may have inadvertently set race relations in Wisconsin back 30 years. Father Michael Pfleger’s references to black culture were actually more comfortable than this.
To see the video, click here and fast forward to the 25 minute mark. I’d pull the clip off and put it on YouTube to make it instantly viewable, but WisconsinEye’s warnings have sufficiently spooked me into thinking they’re going to sue me for a hundred million dollars if I do so. (Then they’ll team up with INTERPOL to come get the backup copies of my DVDs.)
If one asks how in the hell Doyle knows that Jay-Z song, remember that Barack Obama used the same gesture to respond to attacks by Hillary Clinton. Except there were two stark differences: Obama actually used it in the correct context, and Obama looked like a smooth mother doing it. (Shut yo mouth!)
Since the readership of this blog likely doesn’t even know who Jay-Z is, here’s the video for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” Warning – there’s explicit language, but it’s necessary, as it exposes how ridiculous it was for Doyle to use it in such a somber context.
And here’s a video of Obama’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder” reference that’s good for a chuckle:
Over at the main WPRI site, I have posted my treatise on what Wisconsin Republicans can do to turn the party around. The blueprint for political success was written by someone that may surprise the GOP.