My new commentary is up over at the mothership; it attempts to draw a parallel between Congressman Paul Ryan’s attempts to repeal the new health care law with former Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine’s successful attempts to repeal prohibition in 1932. (Although, as the last paragraph points out, prohibition prevented individuals from doing something they wanted to do - drink – while the current health care bill forces many people to do something they don’t want to do – purchase health insurance.)
In my research for the piece, I ran across an awesome old Milwaukee Sentinel column from 1932 by a man named Gunnar Mickelsen, who vigorously defended the benefits of drinking. And it may not even fit in well with my column, but it was too awesome to leave out. I couldn’t help myself. Here’s his logic for why drinking is necessary to society:
“Now, it is our theory that Milwaukee was happy because it talked. The urge to hold conversation, to communicate ideas and experiences is one of man’s major motivations. It is behind most of his endeavors and his works. Deprive him of the privilege to talk and you rob him in no small measure of his ambition to do.
What use are actions if he can’t talk about them later? The man’s ego who is satisfied at the mere doing, without telling others or hearing their praise or criticism, is a rare fellow. The happiest persons are those who have something to say, know how to say it, and are given the opportunity to do so.
Beer and wine make for conversation. There is in liquors of mild alcoholic persuasion that which quickens the flow of the thoughts in a man’s cranium, loosens a notch the belt about his reticence, and releases upon his tongue the fruits of his meditations. It is for precisely this reason that men have resorted to alcoholic drinks as a means to make their companionship more vivid and happy.”
There you have it – people only do important things so they can brag to friends about them. And liquor makes people talk more. Ergo, without alcohol, nobody would really do anything, since they wouldn’t be able to boast about what they did. Simple as that.
I, personally, think it’s air-tight. In fact, I had a couple beers just now, so I could brag to you about my column. Only reason I wrote it, really.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 9:38 am
Again, let me begin with the usual disclaimer – I’m not supporting anyone for governor. But that won’t keep me from musing about the issues of the day in the gubernatorial campaign. And the wildly entertaining turn in the GOP primary is screaming out for comment.
Last week, it was unveiled that Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mark Neumann was shopping a rumor that his challenger, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, was considering dropping out of the race to accept a slot as Neumann’s Lieutenant Governor. Even the most casual observer of Wisconsin politics knows that this is absurd. Walker’s spokeswoman, Jill Bader even went so far as to call for mandatory drug testing of gubernatorial candidates.
This attempt by Neumann’s campaign to start a whispering campaign against Walker doesn’t make any sense. Anyone in politics knows that in order for a sneaky talking point like that to gain traction, it has to be at least 1% true. And in this case, it’s demonstrably false.
So, in that vein, I decided to put together the Top 10 Rumors About Scott Walker being spread by Neumann’s campaign:
If Scott Walker is elected governor, he will outlaw use of the letter “N.”
Scott Walker is quitting the governor’s race to teach motor scooter safety to legless senior citizens.
Scott Walker has 23 children by 32 women.
Scott Walker claims to prefer a brown bag lunch, while childhood classmates have testified that he preferred a Banana Splits lunchbox.
Scott Walker once spent a week in rehab after becoming addicted to Carmex.
Scott Walker refuses to release the transcripts of his sexts with Tiger Woods.
Scott Walker cut funds to county parks in order to fund a program to teach giraffes how to play the harmonica.
Both Scott Walker and Osama bin Laden picked Duke to go to the Final Four. Coincidence?
Scott Walker plans on changing the statue on the top of the Wisconsin Capitol from Miss Forward to “Snookie” from Jersey Shore.
Scott Walker only broke Hank Aaron’s home record because of steroid use.
You get the idea. Neumann may be a wonderful governor – but on this, he’s completely unhinged. Oh, and by the way, if we had public financing for campaigns, maybe Neumann wouldn’t be making ridiculous claims about Walker. You think?
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 7:38 am
It was at 10:37 on Sunday night that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the big health care bill had passed. (Boy, is she going to be surprised when she finds out what’s in it.) As the Speaker banged the gavel to close the proceedings, a cheer went up, and Democrats could be seen on C-Span awkwardly hi-fiving each other.
Yet the Democrats within the walls of the House chambers on March 21st may be the only ones celebrating. In living rooms all over America, state and local Democratic lawmakers likely swallowed hard when the final vote finished. That sound you heard at 10:37 wasn’t Pelosi banging the gavel – it was the sound of Tom Barrett, Jim Sullivan, Pat Kreitlow, and Kathleen Vinehout dropping a couple of Filet-o-Fish in their shorts.
Americans are busy people. They’re busy raising their families. They’re busy working. They hunt, they fish, and they read books. (Apparently the only thing none of them do is watch The Marriage Ref.) In the time they allot for paying attention to politics, they really can only pay attention to the large national debates of the time. Few of them can name their governor. Fewer still can name their state representatives and senators. As a result, state Democrats may pay dearly at the polls for what their federal masters hath wrought.
We’ve seen it before, and only a couple years ago. In 2006, Wisconsinites were fed up with the war in Iraq – and Republicans at the state level paid a heavy price (despite 80% of Wisconsin lawmakers being unable to find “the Iraq” on a map.) The lengthy and unpopular war sent people flooding to the polls to vote against Republicans, costing the GOP four state senate seats and dropping them into an 18-15 minority. The Assembly, which once had an almost insurmountable GOP majority, lost in the neighborhood of 10 seats in 2006 – holding on to a slim majority that they eventually relinquished two years later.
Our polling at WPRI shows that there’s still plenty of time for the GOP to screw their Wisconsin legislative races up – but it appears that despite not taking a single vote on ObamaCare, Democrats in swing districts may get swept up in the anti-health care tidal wave. In this respect, ObamaCare will be like the Democrats’ Iraq – a historic overreach that angers the electorate to the point where they defenestrate the majority party.
Some of these Democrats in swing districts have already smartly tried to distance themselves from the federal health care bill. Democratic senator Pat Kreitlow took a break from his windbaggery to co-sponsor a bill allowing for a tax credit for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), a concept previously anathema to legislative Democrats. (I can’t wait to hear his fellow Democrats lambaste him for “only wanting to help the rich,” as they’ve done to Republicans for a decade for supporting HSAs.) Kreitlow’s approach marks a stark contrast to the remainder of the Democratic Senate, which a couple of years ago actually tried to sneak in a state health plan that managed to be much worse than ObamaCare.
(Oh yeah, remember the “Healthy Wisconsin” single payer health plan? The one that was SO important Senate Democrats had to sneak it in to the state budget with one day’s notice? The one that we’re all supposed to pretend never happened? In some odd way, state Democrats may have been saved by their own incompetence – had “Healthy Wisconsin” passed, we’d probably be looking at a State Senate in which Republicans outnumbered Democrats 32 to 1. (Madison will continue to elect Fred Risser’s democratic brain in a jar for 100 years after his death.)
So while Democrats at the federal level may have delivered themselves a “victory,” they may have also delivered their colleagues at the state level a death blow. Their “courageous” vote (note: in most cases, taking bribes in order to vote for a bill is criminal – President Obama has now deemed it “courageous”) may now deliver the states the same thing Ted Kennedy delivered to Massachusetts – more Republicans.
Oh, and a final note – I wrote a whole post without making the inevitable “health care is bad medicine for the Democrats” joke. Although I guess I just did.
Filed under: Polling — Christian Schneider @ 2:27 pm
Today, NBC and the Wall Street Journal released a poll that details public opinion regarding the health care bill before Congress, the public’s views of the direction of the country, and other national issues. The NBC/WSJ poll tracks very closely with the WPRI poll we released late last week. To wit:
In the WSJ/NBC poll, 48% of the public opposed the health care bill currently before Congress, while 36% labeled it “a good idea.” In the WPRI poll, 37% favored the plan and 55% opposed it.
In the WSJ/NBC poll, President Obama’s approval rating was 48%. In WPRI’s poll, Obama’s approval is 49%.
In the WSJ/NBC poll, 33% of Americans believed the country was headed in the right direction, while 59% believed the country was on the wrong track. In the WPRI poll, those numbers are 34% and 59%, respectively.
While Americans across the country tightened their belts, companies, organizations and other entities spent an average of 5% more on Washington lobbyists last year. The total amount spent on federal lobbying reached a record $3.5 billion in 2009, according to the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.
What’s implicit, although not expressly stated in the article, is that much of the lobbying is due to the vast expansion of government during the recession. The “stimulus” plan was a gold mine for lobbyists – directing government money toward their pet projects. While Wisconsin was in the process of losing 170,000 private sector jobs last year, the number of government jobs actually grew.
This follows a slow motion phenomenon that has been growing for decades. As government passes more and more laws and regulations and takes over more control of our lives, it makes perfect sense for special interests to lobby up – either to get their slice of the government goods that are being handed out or to protect their members from the growing tentacles of the law.
Want to get rid of the lobbyists? It’s simple – we don’t need campaign finance “reform.” We need to get the government out of our lives.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 2:14 pm
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for a long campaign season.
It’s only March, and we’re already getting ridiculous articles like this one, which attempts to criticize gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker for buying meals using privately-raised campaign funds for himself, staffers, and supporters. I’m not supporting any specific candidate, so let me add that this article would be preposterous if it were about Mark Neumann, if it were about Tom Barrett, if it were about Russ Feingold, or whomever. (They’re still talking about the epic roast beef sandwich Feingold ate on the campaign trail in 1992. Turned his whole campaign around.)
Let’s just take the most obvious points first:
Walker has been running his campaign for governor for about 18 months – his competitors, Mark Neumann and Tom Barrett, have been running theirs for about six months apiece. So it should shock no one that Walker has spent more money on food and beverages.
Secondly, Walker’s message of frugality deals with the use of public funds – the article states so right there in the first paragraph:
“Republican Scott Walker wants supporters of his campaign for governor to join his “brown bag movement” to show how serious he is about cutting government waste and spending.”
Clearly, campaign funds are privately raised from donors – so it’s a completely different type of expenditure. How Walker spends his campaign money is really between him and the people who have donated money to his campaign.
And it appears almost all of that food and drink spending is either for his campaign workers or to hold fundraisers in order to raise even more money. I would bet somewhere in the vicinity of 100% of Walker’s donors would be okay with his campaign using their money to hold events to raise money from even more people. It may shock the press to know that it takes money to raise money – primarily for overhead for campaign events.
What’s perhaps even most ridiculous is the quote from “good government expert” Jay Heck, who suddenly has become an expert on how Walker should spend his privately raised funds. It’s laughable that Heck is somehow looking out for Walker’s donors. Keep in mind – Heck advocates for taxpayer financing of campaigns, meaning he’d be much happier if Walker was buying his staff sandwiches with your tax money, and not from private sources.
I would have loved to be in the meeting where they cooked up this idea to “expose” Walker’s “hypocrisy.” I know newspapers are having staffing troubles, but there had to at least be someone around to do even the most cursory fact checking.
And, course, what does any of this have to do with how a candidate is going to create jobs or balance the budget? Nothing.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 1:26 pm
Ahhh, yes – we all remember the summer of 2009 as if it were yesterday. Politics was still full of Hope and Change. People argued about issues, and not back-waxing or naked intimidation. When we said Tiger Woods was “on the prowl,” we were talking about golf. (SIDE NOTE: How “Naked Intimidation” hasn’t already been used as the title for a late-night Cinemax movie is beyond me.)
In the Wisconsin Legislature, 2009 brought a new state legislature – and with it, a slew of new tax hikes. In order to fill a $6 billion budget hole, the Senate and Assembly approved a new $300 million tax on hospitals, which was supposed to draw down more federal matching money. Republicans roundly condemned this much-publicized “sick tax,” as they called it – pointing out that the tax will just be passed on to consumers, at the same time the legislature was complaining about the high cost of health care. (Under the plan, the new federal matching money would be directed to hospitals with high levels of Medicaid caseloads.) The GOP was actually successful in having a similar plan removed from the 2007-09 budget bill, but it was finally enacted in 2009 Act 2.
One would think that would end the debate about the “sick tax” – but as observers of the legislature know, if elected officials find a tax that the public can stomach, they will bleed it dry. (For example, a single pack of cigarettes will soon cost more than an iron lung.)
That is why a new “sick tax” is quietly working its way through the legislature. Under the original plan, “critical access,” or mostly rural, hospitals were exempt from the tax. Under Assembly Bill 770, that exemption would be gone – and these hospitals would have to begin paying the tax. According to a hospital lobbyist handout sent to legislators, the tax would collect $10.5 million in taxes, $4.6 million of which would go to the MA trust fund. The remaining roughly $6 million would be used to draw down $11 million in federal matching aid. So, in exchange for accepting a $10.5 million tax hike (which they just pass on to patients anyway), the hospitals reap $17 million in payments. To hospitals, it looks like free money.
On March 5th, the bill passed an Assembly committee by a 7-2 vote, with one Republican supporting it. It now makes its way to the Joint Finance Committee.
The problem with this bill is, of course, that it does nothing to address the real problem in health care – the growing cost of care. Instead, it merely raises taxes to fund those increasing costs. Furthermore, it builds in additional state costs with the promise of more federal aid. If that aid dries up, the state is on the hook for the rest. (Someone should ask Jim Doyle how his recent attempts at getting federal funds is going.)
What’s perhaps most troublesome is that this bill, while being rushed through while no one is looking, doesn’t appear to have significant Republican opposition. In fact, three Republican senators (Olsen, Lasee, and Schultz) and a handful of GOP representatives (Ballweg, Bies, Murtha, Spanbauer, Townsend) are actually co-authors of the bill. These Republicans are all rural, and likely believe this new tax will be a boon for their hospitals.
But if Republicans are counting on 2010 to be a big year for the party, they should be extremely careful about lining up to support tax increases to prop up unsustainable spending levels.
At this point, nearly everyone expects 2010 to be a big Republican year at the ballot box. The real challenge for the GOP is to temper their enthusiasm and not go completely overboard in predicting landslide wins across the board.
But it seems a lot of Democrats are bracing for a big Republican year as well – and legislating as such. As the Wisconsin legislative session nears an end, a few curious Democrat-authored bills have been cropping up that appear to be laying the groundwork for a Republican gubernatorial administration.
Take, for instance, a new bill that would give the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance a four-year term. Currently, the Insurance Commissioner (Sean Dilweg, a really nice guy, incidentally) serves at the pleasure of the Governor. This new bill would take that appointment power out of the governor’s hands for at least four years.
There’s really no reason to do this other than to lock in Governor Doyle’s cabinet appointees while a Scott Walker or Mark Neumann administration takes over. If bills like this were to become law, a Governor Walker wouldn’t be able to appoint his own people to cabinet positions – he’d have to wait until their 4-year term was over. Basically, the ghost of Jim Doyle would live to haunt Walker during his first term.
Then there’s this proposed constitutional change, which would weaken the governor’s vetoing authority. Just two years ago, Wisconsin outlawed the so-called “Frankenstein Veto,” which allowed governors to stitch together sentences to create completely new laws. (Full disclosure: I actually drafted the original resolution when I worked in the State Senate.) At the time, there was no desire to go any further than the change we proposed – Democrats certainly would have blocked any move to further limit Jim Doyle’s veto authority.
But now, with a Republican administration seeming more likely, Democrats are willing to propose more stringent restrictions on the governor’s veto pen – something they refused to do in 2005, when Doyle was still popular.
These attempts to hamstring Scott Walker couldn’t be more obvious if they put a picture of him on the bills. They should just go all the way and make them applicable “to any governor who used to be Milwaukee County Executive and whose name rhymes with stalker.”
It’s interesting, though, why Democrats would even propose these measures so close to an election. If a dope like me can figure out that they’re nakedly partisan, then anyone can. And it just makes them seem that they don’t have any faith in their candidate (rhymes with “carrot”) – so much so, that they’re pushing all their chips in to cripple an inevitable Walker administration. Not exactly the shot of confidence the Mayor of Milwaukee needs.