Not quite Wisconsin policy, but still related to Wisconsin (from the Wisconsin State Journal):
The House of Representatives last week voted 223-197 to block a $150 million annual payment to Brazil’s cotton industry…
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., with help from fiscal conservatives in the Republican-run House, finally succeeded in voting down the payment Thursday. Kind correctly argued that the United States should cut its domestic cotton subsidies to comply with international trading rules, rather than paying off Brazil to look the other way.
“Let’s end this nonsense of stacking subsidy program on top of subsidy program to blackmail other governments,” Kind said.
Unfortunately, some House leaders have suggested Kind’s smart change could be nixed during negotiations with the Senate over a final agriculture spending bill.
That’s where Wisconsin’s delegation comes in. Every House member from Wisconsin – with the glaring exception of Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis. – voted with Kind to block the Brazil payment. Wisconsin should be unified against this sham in both the House and the Senate.
The $150 million in savings isn’t much, given the federal government’s debt crisis that climbs into the trillions. Congress still has a long way to go in scaling back fat farm subsidies – especially the direct payments farmers get for not growing crops.
Major kudos to the Wisconsin delegation for standing up against subsidies, which are wasteful and distort the global market. Hopefully domestic subsidies are next on the list.
WiscNet is a private nonprofit cooperative that provides high-speed Internet to the research and education networks in Wisconsin. It’s used by every UW campus, the technical colleges, and a majority of the K-12 schools.
From the Journal Sentinel:
“The Joint Finance Committee earlier this month voted to put restrictions on the network and to force the state to return a nearly $40 million federal grant to expand broadband to rural Wisconsin. The moves sparked discontent from the University of Wisconsin System and rural legislators.
Under a budget amendment the Assembly will adopt later Wednesday the state could keep the federal money and WiscNet will continue to run for at least two years the same way it has in the past, said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee. Any expansions to the network, which serves most schools and public libraries, would have to be approved by the committee.”
Telecommunication companies object to WiscNet because they feel that they are competing against a government-subsidized entity. WiscNet contends that it is a “member organization” that collects money from its affiliates, and that it is not subsidized through tax dollars (though it does receive some federal grants.)
Like most telecommunication regulations, this is a complicated issue. On the face of it, telecommunications companies’ complaints seem legitimate – they are not competing in a free market. However, telecommunications have never really operated in a free market. Infrastructure costs are a significant barrier to entry, and the market has always been prone to natural monopolies. (This Internet connection brought to you by Ma Bell!)
High-speed Internet is increasingly expected for business, education, and research opportunities, yet the broadband and fiber-optics infrastructure in the United States (particularly in rural areas) lags behind most industrialized countries. Communities without high-speed Internet have no recourse if the major telecom in their area decides their community is not worth investing in.
The proposed restrictions on WiscNet were unexpected and left little time for important research and debate. Delaying the decision for two years was a good move, as it will allow time for WiscNet and the other telecoms to work out how to provide affordable broadband Internet to those that need it. Ultimately, access to high-speed Internet is a necessity, not a luxury. The two year delay should give legislators and telecoms enough time to phase out any unnecessary government involvement while still meeting the needs of Wisconsin’s educational institutions and rural communities.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Republicans are considering running fake Democratic candidates in the coming recall elections:
“Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald fully endorsed the idea Tuesday of fielding fake Democrats in recall elections against Republicans in an effort to delay the general elections.
“It gives us another month to campaign,” said the Republican from Juneau.
Recall elections for six Republican senators are scheduled for July 12. If there are multiple candidates from the same party in any of those elections, the July 12 election becomes a primary election and a general recall election will be scheduled for Aug. 9.
Fitzgerald said Republicans would be recruited to run as Democrats — likely in all six races — so that the elections would be pushed back a month. He said he was persuaded by campaign staff that it was a good idea and consulted with state election officials to make sure it was allowed.”
Obviously gaming the system is not a a new political strategy, but I am struck by how unapologetic Fitzgerald is in describing these attempts at buying time. The parallel bit of gamesmanship that comes first to mind is the Democrats fleeing to Illinois to delay action on the collective bargaining measure. Both are examples of politicians deciding that their cause is exceptional (“Democrats did it last year!” and “Our constituents don’t like this measure!”), and that they are therefore justified in undermining our established democratic system. It goes without saying that the courtesy of fudging the rules for a good cause is rarely extended to the other side.
While all sides may feel that their cause is just and that the ends justify the means, these antics only serve to waste time and money and increase cynicism among voters.