Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 12:29 pm
A few weeknights ago, I was sitting comfortably at home, enjoying some commercials for the A-Team movie, which were occasionally interrupted by some NBA playoff basketball. The phone rang, and I do what I normally do – swear for 30 seconds, then I got off the couch to answer it. (It is never for me.)
At the other end of the line was a pleasant young Indian woman telling me she was conducting a poll. For some reason, I’m on a giant master polling list, because I get calls like these at least once a week. I asked her who commissioned the poll, and she said if she told me, she’d have to cancel the call, as it would bias the results.
Seeing as how our group does polling for a living, I decided to go through with it, to see if I could guess who was conducting the poll. Plus, whenever I answer a telephone poll, I feel like I’m doing my civic duty. Like I should receive some sort of cash award. (Now that I mention it, public, you owe me $13.24 for my time. An invoice is on the way.)
But here’s the thing about polls – often times, complicated issues are boiled down to “yes” or “no” answers – and I feel an obligation to give an answer, so I might be a little more… shall we say… forthcoming in my answers. It’s for science, right?
For example, one of the questions in this poll was, “Do you support or oppose gay marriage?” This is an issue on which I’m genuinely conflicted. I don’t buy that gay and lesbian couples getting married affects my own marriage in any way. (In fact, the 6 month-long NBA playoffs has done far more damage to my marriage than “the gays” ever will. If Kobe Bryant married another man, I might have to get divorced on the spot.)
But this wasn’t the only question I was supposed to boil down into a one word answer. Imagine getting a question like, “do you support deporting all the illegal immigrants in America?” Obviously, it’s a complicated issue. And answering either “yes” or “no” can’t possibly reflect any complicated underlying issues.
About halfway in, I was asked some questions about my congressional representative, Tammy Baldwin. “Do you think Tammy Baldwin spends too much time on gay and lesbian issues?” was one of them. “Do you think Tammy Baldwin has done enough to keep and create jobs in America?” was another.
It was at this point that I realized it was Baldwin’s campaign that was conducting the poll. (And don’t think the irony was lost on me that a woman on a headset in India, hired by the Tammy Baldwin campaign, was asking me if Baldwin has done enough to keep jobs in America.)
Conservative candidates don’t waste valuable poll questions asking about gay and lesbian issues – generally, because they’re not really a vote mover. (In 2006, the constitutional amendment passed 60-40, but Republicans were trounced in elections all across Wisconsin.) It’s only a liberal fantasy that conservative voters sit around their house, wringing their hands about the gay conspiracy taking over the world. We’re actually too busy going to work and watching Glenn Beck.
But then it occurred to me – here I was, trying to be a stand-up citizen and give one-word answers to all these complicated questions, and now Tammy Baldwin has all my answers at the tip of her fingers. I was trying to be as honest as possible, but clearly some of my answers to the questions as they were asked would need further explanation to be publicly palatable.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I wanted to enter a life of crime – and run for Congress. (This will not happen, incidentally, as I plan to marry Kobe Bryant and move to the Bahamas.) Now Baldwin has all my simple answers to her questions – asked the way her campaign wanted to ask them – which she could use to make me look like an idiot. (More so than I normally do myself.)
This is an awesome strategy future campaigns should use. Once you get yourself elected, pick out who your most likely challengers will be in your next election. Then do some phony poll that only calls those people, and get them on the record with “yes” and “no” answers on some controversial issues. You’ll probably find that they’ll give you more honest answers, as they feel like they’re doing their civic duty. Then, when they run, you can hammer them with their own positions. As Gill the Fish says in Finding Nemo, IT’S FOOLPROOF.
(Incidentally, if your campaign does use this strategy, you are violating my intellectual property. I accept payment in Jamba Juice.)
Or “Shout-Out” to the Department of Natural Resources. Normally, I have a tendency to find a fault with the “Department of No Response” – either because I did not get a turkey permit in their spring lottery, or I haven’t heard enough about what is being done to address CWD, or I disagree with a conservation policy of theirs. Not today. Today, I give thanks that we have good people in charge of our natural resources who truly appreciate how precious they are.
Yesterday, a story was released concerning the Chief Forrester, Paul DeLong, who mistakenly shot a female turkey during the spring season when only male turkeys are legal to hunt. Upon realizing his error, he turned himself in and requested to be treated as any citizen in accordance with the law. In addition to paying a fine of more than $200, DeLong opened himself up to criticism given his position. And clearly, the irony of the situation is attracting attention.
Wild turkeys are not exactly scarce in the state (although by my track record you’d think they were endangered), and the loss of one bird is no conservation crisis. What is important, though, is the example he is willing to set as a public figure. Additionally, by providing an individual story, he provides a means of connecting the DNR to the hunters they regulate. In fact, this may have just been the cheapest PR job the DNR ever conducted. And what better way to do so than by offering forth the stories of past hunting successes and failures that characterize many a deer camp in the fall.
It delights me to offer some good news early in the week and to put a positive spin on things rather than just criticizing them. So feel free to take this opportunity to give thanks for the Wisconsin DNR, but with a legally harvested turkey please.
In January of this year, when Asian carp DNA was found in Lake Michigan, we began to ask ourselves if an invasion of the Great Lakes could be prevented. The governors of Michigan and Wisconsin went to the president and the Supreme Court to request authority to close the locks that connected the Mississippi, now a home to thousands of the fish, and Lake Michigan. Their response: the Supreme Court first ruled that the locks could remain open (this came before the discovery of the DNA), and later declined to hear any further suits. The president was also happy to keep the locks open and throw a few dollars and some fish poison at the matter. A mere six months later, we are beginning to see where all of these efforts have left us.
More specifically, we are beginning to see Asian carp. On June 23, 2010, the news broke that the fish were in fact discovered above both the locks and the electrical barriers which had been constructed to contain the fish. Although testing, and possibly additional fish-poisoning will be implemented, the reaction from authorities has been as follows:
“Meanwhile, federal officials say they will do their best to keep it business-as-usual for the barges, tour boats and recreational boat owners who use the navigation locks to move between the waterways and Lake Michigan.”
Ironically, this is the same phrase that they have been using for years, as an October 2008 article shows:
“A letter the Journal Sentinel obtained suggests that the Coast Guard has a history of being more interested in maintaining business-as-usual on the canal than protecting the future of a system of lakes that provide drinking water for 40 million people and sustain a commercial and recreational fishery valued at more than $7 billion a year.”
Fabulous. What about business-as-usual for all of the employees in the fishing industries in Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada, and other states adjacent to the Great Lakes that these fish might spread to? But of course, there is an economic explanation for this as. It is quite easy to measure an immediate and tangible economic threat. For example, closing the locks would indeed affect the barges and tour boats that pass through them (unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or a privately contracted company is finally brought in to begin construction on ecological separation). They all have bottom lines they can point to for damage estimates.
On the other side, there is no magic number. The fishing industry can try to put a value on itself, but ultimately, it does not know what kind of effect the fish will have on its bottom line. Additionally, the economic loss due to water quality degradation, which could include increased fish-stocking efforts, decreased tourism, water treatment operations, and of course, carp control projects for the Great Lakes and the tributaries the fish may spread to are all unaccounted for.
Last week was a sad and angry week for many Great Lakes dwellers and lake users, as well as those that are connected to their health via recreation or industry. These fish have been working their way up the Mississippi River since the 1970s, and have been at the foot of Lake Michigan for years. Our inability to value our natural resources, both in economic and moral terms, has let a preventable problem go unsolved. We may still have a chance to keep the fish from establishing a viable population in the Great Lakes, but it will take outrage and initiative comparable to that exerted in the oil spill crisis. The companies that profit off of the government-funded, man-made canal should be a part of the plan to implement ecological separation along the canal, since others will bear the negative externalities of its past, present, and future use. In the spirit of being pro-active, and because it’s hard to talk about carp without wanting to watch them, I will leave you with this news coverage of the annual Redneck Fishing Tournament.
Who wouldn’t want to spend a Monday morning at the movie theater? The answer to that question may change once you find out that instead of a film playing on the ultra-screen, the main feature is two Senate primary candidates. Nonetheless, it’s better than being at work, right?
In the suburban Milwaukee city of Brookfield, that is just what was playing at the Marcus Majestic Theatre Palladium at 8 a.m. Though the popcorn machine was not yet turned on for the day, the forum was still an entertaining opportunity to see just where the two GOP candidates stood on the issues. For those of you who wanted to wait until the show was out of the theaters, video coverage can be found at http://www.wiseye.org.
The questions were submitted online from Wisconsin residents in advance, though the candidates themselves did not see them until they were asked. For many of the questions, the second person to respond simply received a “ditto” jotted down in my note pad: pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-free markets, and anti-big government. However, the plot was able to build when the variance between the two became evident.
In some areas, this difference was only slight. When asked if the creation of the $20 billion fund from BP was justified, Westlake deemed it a shakedown while Johnson expressed his concern over the fact that the rule of law was broken to achieve it. And while both men stated their favor for increased domestic oil drilling to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, Johnson added a nuclear flair. (Excuse me, “newkyooler”.)
Both also said that a new government agency was not necessary for better banking reform, preferring instead to limit government. Johnson further said that consumer protection theoretically exists within the Federal Reserve, and just needs to be enforced better. However, after the next question was asked, Westlake used the beginning of his time to remark that the Federal Reserve was filled with consumer threats. He’s just sayin’.
Deeper differences in opinion were also revealed. On the issue of providing a path to citizenship for illegal aliens currently in the U.S., Westlake would prefer to deport them all while Johnson stated that the question of moving everyone out is moot; only criminals should be deported while the rest are offered some way of attaining U.S. citizenship.
Both were also asked what spending they would cut in order to help rebalance the budget. Johnson offered the idea of balanced budget amendments combined with creating prioritized spending for each government agency that would then be used to determine cuts. Westlake went the more direct route. He favored cutting government jobs, especially by reducing or eliminating the Department of Education (in his view, the domain of the states), Department of Energy, and the IRS.
Like any good show, though, the climax was at the end. In a surprise twist, the candidates were given the chance to ask each other a question. Westlake took the first shot by calling out his opponent’s recent perceived weakness, asking him how he would be able to handle the job as someone who did not consider himself a “constitutional scholar.” The non-scholar remarked that he had been working on his studies (has read the Constitution about five times now, in addition to books about it). He also mentioned that he is open to not knowing everything and to hearing the opinions of his constituents on constitutional matters.
Johnson’s turn. In a blow meant to stoke the conservative base, he questioned Westlake as to why he would discontinue the Patriot Act. In Westlake’s opinion, the Act has not worked the way it was meant to, given the number of nearly-successful terrorist attacks in recent years, while costing the citizens important freedoms and civil liberties. A good try, but hard to tell if it cost Westlake more conservative votes than it gained him moderate votes.
Ultimately, a sequel will be required. Westlake came across as the more impassioned of the two, while Johnson, for all of his stumbles last week, succeeded in conveying a well-thought-out and measured man. He was finally able to start using his years in the private sector on the offense, rather than an excuse for poor performance, but in this setting it was non-unique. I must say, though, that it is one of the first shows I’ve seen in a while to beat my expectations, so I’d give it about four stars.
Striking the proper balance between government regulation and the free market can be nearly impossible, as the finance and banking sectors are proving. In fact, there are few instances where we seem to have gotten the formula correct to promote growth while preventing loss. Yet they do exist.
Take for example patents. It is the government’s willingness and ability to enforce patents that not only allows, but gives incentives for companies to innovate, secure in the knowledge that the time and effort they put into researching will not leave them at a competitive disadvantage. They are free to advertise that patent to help prevent infringement until the day comes when the patent expires and competition is opened up to all.
In the U.S., a company that leaves a patent label on a product after the patent has expired – known as a false mark – may face legal liabilities for dissuading competition. However, the interpretation of what such liabilities exist radically changed this past year. On December 28, 2009, a decision was reached on the false mark case of Forrest Group v. Bon Tool Co. In this case, the phrase, “for each offense” listed under 35 U.S.C. §292 of the Patent Act was reinterpreted from its original understanding of a $500 fee per type of product to mean a fee of up to $500 per individual object with the expired patent label. Thus, instead of being fined $500 for retaining an expired patent mark on your line of, say close-shave shaving cream, you could be fined $500 for each can of shaving cream on all of the shelves on all of the stores you sell to.
This was meant to be a “qui tam” law, from the Latin for “who as much.” What this does is to give a reward to any individual who can prove a false mark case by giving them a share of the penalty. The theory behind qui tam laws is that they encourage private individuals to hold businesses accountable for their actions so that the government does not have to pay to uphold the law, but rather shares the benefits of the fines with the hard-working proponents of free markets and justice. Win-win.
That, anyway, is the theory. And in the theory, everything is nice and neat. The good guys are rewarded and the bad ones penalized. We shall detour from theory for a moment to check up on how reality is doing. Now that the courts have reinterpreted the penalties, they have also reinterpreted the stakes for the people who may bring the suits on behalf of the market. This dramatic increase in potential prize money is doing just what theory would suggest. It is encouraging attorneys to seek out the expired patent labels on the shelves of their local grocery, retail, and sporting goods stores, and file claims in the name of free market integrity. In the nearly six months since the reinterpretation:
“…more than 120 false marking cases have been filed nationwide, according to Justin Gray, an attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee. Gray Counted 20 false marking cases filed in all of 2009.”
In fact, some attorneys have even formed businesses around these lawsuits, filing as many as 10 suits in a single day. Many such businesses are located in Texas, in districts where the judge pool tends to favor the private property and free market values that the attorneys claim they are upholding on behalf of the U.S. government. S.C. Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, and A.O. Smith are among the Wisconsin-based companies who have seen notices of lawsuits delivered to their doors over false marking.
For them, there is hope. Last week, on June 10th, a decision was reached in the case of Pequignot v. Solo Cup Co. Ultimately, Solo Cup Co. was not held liable for false marking because Mr. Pequignot could not prove an important part of the statute: the intent to deceive the public. In fact, Solo Cup had previously sought legal counsel over the fact that their cup molds, which imprinted the patent number, were long-lasting and expensive to replace. Additionally, in a case of Stauffer v. Brooks Brothers, held earlier this year,
“Here, Judge Stein found that Stauffer’s ‘conclusory statements’ on harm to the economy and the market in his 41-page complaint were ‘insufficient to establish anything more than the sort of “conjectural or hypothetical” harm that the Supreme Court instructs is insufficient.’”
But this does not mean that the many companies who have been delivered lawsuits have not felt harm themselves. While the larger firms may not pay quite as much attention to all of the litigation going on around them, the small businesses whose products sit next to theirs on the shelves have had to spend a greater portion of their revenue on attorneys’ fees just to answer the legal rhetoric they are being dealt. Should any firm, large or small, be found liable for false mark damages, it would be a severe blow to its ability to remain competitive, or even stay in business.
There is no doubt that companies need to be responsible about their patent labeling, and keep their products up-to-date. However, when promoting free markets and open competition, the goal is to have more viable businesses, not less. Though the reinterpretation of false mark liabilities may have intended to aid the quest for these values, it has instead inspired a series of attacks on many businesses whose expired patent labels have yet to be proven harmful in any real way.
As an economics student, I often live in a world of theory. In this world, everything is in equilibrium, incentives drive people in the correct directions, and the freest, most unhampered markets are always the most efficient. However, there are occasions such as this when I am forced to leave this world, reminding myself as I go that in theory, regulation sometimes actually works.
As a father, I’ve figured out that nothing – nothing – is more adorable than when little kids use big words that they don’t understand.
In fact, when I was a little kid, my parents used to take me to their favorite seafood restaurant. Sometimes, my mother would get a buttered lobster. I would stare at the red lobster shell, enthralled by the claws and eyes. Finally, in the loudest voice I could muster, I blurted out:
“Mom, are you going to eat the testicles?”
Of course, I meant tentacles. The restaurant stopped and looked at our table. My mother covered her face in horror. I don’t remember us ever going back.
As it turns out, in the Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial primary, we’re seeing one of the candidates misuse a word – and it’s adorable. Seems that Mark Neumann is claiming to be a “conservative,” without really knowing what the word means. And you just want to pat him on the head and pinch his little cheeks.
While crashing the Democratic convention last week, Neumann, a former congressman who has repeatedly claimed to be the “only conservative” in the race for governor, was asked a question regarding what he thought about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. The decision, handed down several months ago, affirmed the right of third party organizations to run advertisements during campaigns. The ruling struck down a portion of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law that banned issue advertisements close to election day. In effect, the Court limited the government’s ability to regulate the timing and content of political speech.
But when asked about Citizens United, Mark Neumann bristled. Here’s a video of his response:
“I think they should shut down every outside source of information in this campaign except the candidates themselves…”
“Whether that’s not constitutional so we obviously can’t do that. But if Mark Neumann got to have what he wished, that’s what would happen, sir.”
Neumann would actually support governmental censorship of political speech – if only that pesky Constitution didn’t get in the way. He would trust the government to determine what is and isn’t a political ad, and allow it to ban whatever it believes to be objectionable.
There isn’t a “conservative” alive that would trust the federal government with that much power to abridge the First Amendment. At least none with a fundamental understanding of what conservatism means.
What would the effect of Neumann’s ban on political speech be? Studies have shown that in races where third parties buy advertising, voters know more about the candidates, and vote in greater numbers. Apparently Neumann would like less informed voters who don’t bother to vote as often.
Strict campaign finance regulations also heavily benefit incumbents. Elected officials already in office build themselves huge advantages using taxpayer resources. Often times, challengers need help from third party groups to bring issues to the forefront that aid them in overcoming this natural incumbent advantage. Shutting down political speech insulates incumbents from much of the criticism they’ve earned during their tenure.
Of course, if individual citizens are prohibited from engaging in political speech, it always favors candidates with boatloads of personal money who are willing to spend it. Candidates exactly like Mark Neumann, who appears to be spending millions of his own dollars without getting much bang for his buck.
By condemning free campaign speech, Neumann is casting his lot with liberal boobs like Ed Garvey, who actually claimed the Citizens United decision was worse than Pearl Harbor. (Do not adjust your computer – he actually said it.) Mike McCabe of the left wing Wisconsin Democracy Campaign claimed the decision was worse than Dred Scott. And if he had heard of any other Supreme Court cases, he’d totally think it was as bad as them, too. (Incidentally, the Citizens United decision clearly hasn’t meant the end of democracy, as liberals predicted. For dozens more posts about the folly of campaign finance reform, go here.)
I had a friend in college who was terrible with directions. He thought what ever way his car was pointed was north. It seems like Neumann is working off the same plan – “I’m a conservative, so whatever I say must be conservative, too.” Only it’s not.
So while it does make you want to mess up his hair and buy him an orange push-up, Neumann’s claim that he’s the “conservative” in the race for governor has now lost all meaning. Republicans now don’t have to worry about whether there’s any validity to his claim, as Neumann clearly himself doesn’t know what the term means.
[Note: WPRI does not endorse candidates - it's up to you to decide who you support. But we will discuss candidates when they pitch goofball ideas.]
Filed under: Politics — Christian Schneider @ 10:31 am
I should mention that over the weekend, I somehow found myself at the Wisconsin Democratic convention here in Madison. I was in the neighborhood, and a couple Dem friends of mine invited me over – so I joined them. And I have to say, the convention attendees couldn’t have been kinder or more hospitable.
A couple of quick notes: the best hospitality room by far was that of Lieutenant Governor candidate Henry Sanders, who had a great local soul/funk band that got the crowd moving. The next day, the relatively unknown Sanders hammered Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson in the Wispolitics.com Lt. Gov straw poll, beating Nelson 326 to 167 – and I fully credit his hospitality room band’s Snoop Dogg medley with his strong showing.
I also ran into State Senator Julie Lassa, who, of course, is running for Congressman Dave Obey’s old seat. She immediately remembered a post I wrote five years ago* where I declared her the frontrunner for Obey’s seat when he retired, which made me look pretty good. Unfortunately, there were other portions of that old post on Lassa that I would like to forget, as there are observations in there about her that one should only say when they’re an anonymous blogger (as I was at the time.) So when I go back to blogging anonymously, I’ll keep that in mind.
Anyway, in the spirit of bringing people together, I want to point out an instance over the weekend in which the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Mike Tate, actually made a good point. Tate appeared on the “Up Front With Mike Gousha” television program over the weekend and answered some questions about Democratic candidates in Wisconsin. Gousha asked Tate about congressional candidates Ron Kind and Steve Kagen, and Tate’s answer was enlightening (video here):
GOUSHA: So you think Congressman Ron Kind in the Western part of Wisconsin or Congressman Steve Kagen in Northeastern Wisconsin – you think they’re safe?
TATE (After answering about Kind): Steve Kagen, I think that what’s beneficial to him is that there’s seven or eight Republicans running against him in the primary. He’s been a strong voice for the people of that district, he voted against bailouts, he voted for job creation, and he’s going to run hard on his record.
So in case you’re scoring at home, according to Dem Chairman Mike Tate, being a “strong voice” for your constituents means voting against the TARP bank bailout. (Kagen did vote against TARP, after voting for it on a procedural vote. Kagen also voted for the “stimulus” bill and the health care bill, which may end up proving to be even more politically toxic.)
So, according to Mike Tate, examples of elected officials who failed to be a “strong voice” for their constituents:
Of course, all of these Democratic members of Congress voted for “bailouts.” (Along with some notable Republicans.) And Mike Tate is right – their votes to bail out the misguided CEOs of Wall Street, who brought down the U.S. economy by pushing subprime mortgages, is appalling. Good to see him come to his senses.
* SIDE NOTE: In the post I wrote five years ago, I tried to pick the “Five Best Democrats in Wisconsin.” Not necessarily the ones I agreed with the most, but the ones that, if I were a liberal, I would want speaking on my behalf. In retrospect, some of my picks are still pretty decent, but some are really lame.
Filed under: Legislation — Christian Schneider @ 2:52 pm
Last month, I became a regular contributor to the Isthmus, which is an independent newspaper here in Madison. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry on what a “newspaper” is.) It has opened up an entirely new audience to my writing; namely, people waiting for their food at Noodles & Company.
This month’s column takes a look at how the Wisconsin Legislature is likely to get a lot younger next year – and what the consequences of that demographic shift might be:
In November 2008, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), my employer, conducted a poll that gauged the legislative priorities of Wisconsin’s citizens by age.
One finding concerned the issue addressed by Rep. Fields. According to the WPRI poll, younger respondents were more likely to support the Milwaukee Choice Program. Among respondents 18 to 44 years old, 52% supported the program, while 43% opposed it. Among respondents 45 or older, the numbers virtually flipped — 41% in favor, 52% against. The strongest support — 62% — came from those 25 to 34.
Younger respondents prioritized education more than their older counterparts. Of those between 18 and 44 years old, 18.4% listed education as their most pressing issue, more than double the 8.7% of respondents 45 or older.
On the other hand, as expected, older respondents prioritized health care much higher than younger respondents. Among respondents over 45, 30.2% picked health care as their top legislative priority, compared to only 14.9% of those under 45.
Younger people (again, those under 45) were also less likely to emphasize tax reform as a priority (11.4% to 16.6%), but more likely to stress the economy and jobs (31.6% to 24.6%).
Last weekend, I took some time out from teaching my kids how to make daddy a martini long enough to let them watch the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.“ As I’m certain you recall, the movie features a young inventor, Flint Lockwood, who devises a machine that makes it rain cheeseburgers, pizza, and, yes, meatballs. (The movie also features the much-awaited voiceover return of Mr. T, who was robbed when the Oscar nominations were announced.)
Spoiler alert: As the movie goes on, Lockwood’s machine goes on the fritz from overuse. The city government of Swallow Falls, sensing a huge impending windfall from tourists wanting to see food fall from the sky, forces him to overextend the machine’s capabilities, leading to unanticipated consequences. Those consequences come when the food gets larger and larger, leading to giant pancakes falling from the sky and crushing buildings underneath. The island of Swallow Falls is buried under giant donuts, hamburgers, and steaks.
At the end of the movie, Flint flies a homemade spaceship into the middle of a giant meatball and manages to disarm his invention. When he gets back to the town, they treat him like a hero – even though it was his invention that caused all the problems to begin with.
Now shift ahead to today, where an even more implausible event took place: Governor Jim Doyle thinks he created some jobs.
Yesterday, Doyle announced a $1.5 million loan to the Marquis Yacht Company in Pulaski, in order to save 315 jobs. Marquis’ parent company filed for bankruptcy last year, and now Doyle’s Department of Commerce is ready to swoop in and aid the yacht maker.
But in the spirit of Flint Lockwood, we don’t need to guess how this all started:
1. Wisconsin’s high taxes and anti-business climate cost companies millions of dollars;
2. Additionally, high taxes prevent individuals from buying big-ticket items, like yachts;
3. Business owner says he or she can’t afford to pay their workers, as profits are tanking;
4. Jim Doyle swoops in to help only those businesses he deems worthy of block grant money, thereby “saving” jobs.
Sure, it’s not as dramatic as saving humanity from destruction by 50-foot bananas, but it’s the same concept. Doyle expects us to give him credit for saving jobs that he, in effect, forced from the state. And the only way for a business to be deemed worthy of a bailout is to drive down to Madison, pucker up, and smooch the posterior of of the outgoing executive.
So just like the movie, maybe we should send Mr. T to the Capitol to smack some people around. Clearly, he does not pity the fool who costs Wisconsin jobs.
Tea Partiers have a tough decision to make this weekend. When they gather in Marshfield, the Wisconsin Tea Partiers must decide not whom to endorse, but instead whether to endorse a candidate for upcoming elections. Though I think I have a pretty clear idea of what they should do, but within the movement itself there are mixed feelings over this issue.
“I think that there are a lot of people in the coalition who would like to take the next step in terms of the political process,” said Kirsten Lombard, head of the Wisconsin 9-12 Project, a Madison tea party. “But I think there are a number of people who feel like the minute you endorse someone, you lose power in certain ways.”
Endorsing a candidate would not only cost the Tea Party power, but it would also harm their credibility. And this is something the party needs to show that it has. Many of their events have had their ups and downs. Though great passion can certainly be attributed to their movements, other, less classy displays have often occurred simultaneously. Additionally, small but news-making groups of their members have delivered rhetoric that has been radical enough to be off-putting to moderates and has allowed those further left of the aisle to dismiss the entire movement without serious consideration.
Whether or not the Republican Party stands to benefit from a Tea Party endorsement is a separate issue. What the Tea Party needs most, though, is to retain their autonomy. They are a political group that formed because of agreement on a few core values, not a complete agenda for every issue in politics, and a disdain for government as usual. Siding with any part of that “as usual” complex has the potential to paint them as hypocritical, undedicated, or desperate.
I understand that many in the Tea Party may feel that by endorsing a political candidate, their movement may be seen as legitimate and official. But they need to take a moment to explore that sentiment. Endorsing someone would just be a cheap route to prominence. In truth, anyone can endorse. Individuals and organizations of varying degrees of noteworthiness can and have tied their names to their political favorites. Then, on pain of their own reputation, they are under a far greater obligation to support every move the person makes.
It is certainly not the case that the Tea Party would not benefit from attaching their name to someone popular enough to advertise their cause. But as a young movement, their greater gains would come from establishing themselves as an organization that is steady enough to become a lasting force in politics. Such legitimacy does not simply come from a prominent public face. It comes from having a set of core values that are not merely talked about, they are also continuously and visibly upheld through the actions of the party. In a word – integrity.