Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Politics – Wisconsin

High inflation lights fuse of government taxing and spending time bomb

Here is my full column that ran earlier in the week in the Washington County Daily News 

The U.S. Consumer Price Index, the key measurement for inflation, jumped to 7% in December marking the highest inflation rate we have seen since “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” was released in theaters. It is only going to get worse. There is no sign of inflation abating any time soon and it has lit a fuse that will ignite massive increase in taxes and spending.

 

The CPI measures a basket of goods that is designed to be representative of an average American’s expenses. While overall expenses have gone up 7%, the distribution is even more troubling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the big drivers are protein foods (12.5%), gasoline (49.6%), fuel oil (41%), natural gas (24.1%), used cars and trucks (37.3%), and new vehicles (11.8%). The extreme price increases in the energy sector are drastically increasing transportation costs and will further ripple through the economy as businesses try to get goods to consumers.

 

Even worse, the Producer Price Index, which measures the change in prices from the perspective of the sellers, rose faster than CPI at 9.7% in 2021. That is the largest calendar year increase since this metric was first calculated in 2010. With the PPI higher than the CPI, it indicates that businesses are absorbing some of the inflation and not passing all of it along to consumers… yet. As businesses realign their consumer prices with their costs, we can expect to see the CPI continue to rise.

 

All of this has a direct impact on every Wisconsinite as the costs of groceries, fuel, home-heating, and other essentials continue to increase. Buckle up, because it is going to get worse as those inflation numbers hit government budgets.

 

Wisconsin has always been a high tax state, but over the years, Republicans have put a few safeguards in place by capping increases to the rate of inflation. That was sensible when we had inflation of 2% or 3%. As inflation moves to 7% or possible above 10%, the ability of Wisconsinites to afford their government will be severely strained.

 

For example, in 2011, the Republicans implemented Act 10, which did a number of things including restricting public employee unions to being able to only negotiate wages up to the rate of inflation. In practice, that meant that most public employees have been receiving wage increases at the rate of inflation every year. With employee costs representing 70% or more of most government budgets, that means that 2022 will see significant spending increases for no additional value.

 

Also, Wisconsin caps government school district spending increases to changes in enrollment and inflation. Higher inflation means a much higher spending increase limit for school districts to pay for those increases in employee wages. This will drive a steep increase in property taxes at the same time that the housing prices upon which property taxes are based have gone up 9.5% according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

 

While spending and tax increases of 7% or more are looming, the ability for Wisconsinites to afford those increases is not keeping up. According to the BLS, Wisconsin’s wage growth ranks 37th in the nation for the third quarter of 2021, the most recent data available. Wisconsin’s average hourly wage in the private sector increased at a rate of 3.9% — a little more than half the rate of inflation. As inflation is squeezing Wisconsinites’ expenses, government is about to take a bigger slice. For those who are retired or on a fixed income, the bite of government will be even more severe.

 

To make it even worse — sorry, there is no good news here — recall that inflation measurements are a lagging indicator. Government budgets this year will be set based on inflation incurred last year. When inflation does eventually abate or a period of deflation possibly sets in, there is no mechanism to rein in the inflationary spending of government. Those spending increases will be baked into the pie forevermore unless elected leaders are willing to actually cut spending — something that neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to do in Wisconsin in my lifetime.

 

The only way to snuff out the fuse is to elect people who are willing to say “no” to increasing spending even in the face of inflation. Wisconsin’s private-sector workers are suffering from President Biden’s inflation. Government employees should not be immunized from inflation at the expense of their private- sector neighbors. It starts right now with the primaries for local government elections and the general election in April. It continues through the November elections. The people we elect in these next two general elections will be the ones making budget decisions at the end of the year.

 

Choose wisely.

Intel Chooses Ohio Instead of Wisconsin for Chip Plant

That’s a shame.

MOUNT PLEASANT — What is billed as the largest microchip factory in the world almost came to Racine County. As with a Foxconn electric-vehicle factory before it, it’s going to Ohio instead.

Intel confirmed Friday plans to spend $20 billion to build two factories northeast of Columbus, that state’s capital, that is to employ 3,000 and to create at least 10,000 auxiliary jobs.

“Ultimately, we hope to establish the largest semiconductor manufacturing site on the planet,” Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Senior Vice President Keyvan Esfarjani wrote in a December letter, reviewed by USA Today, to Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

Madison Stalls on Police Body Cameras

The public conversation on police body cameras has been fascinating and it is equally fascinating that leftist Madison is so far behind the times on this.

In an interview with News 3 Now last week, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said he was frustrated by the committee’s decision but hoped the pilot would move forward. He also said he hoped to hold a public hearing on the issue sometime this year.

 

Multiple attempts to install body-worn cameras on police officers in the city have failed in recent years.

 

July 2021 report from the Police Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee concluded they should only be implemented if a number of steps were undertaken before the program was launched. Those steps ranged from making sure an independent police monitor and the Police Civilian Oversight Board have full access to video to making sure the Dane County District Attorney’s Office undertakes measures to prevent overall charging rates for low-level offenses from climbing as a result of the program.

When cameras reached a size and portability to make body cameras available, it was really the anti-police forces pushing for them under the thought that police were committing all sorts of offenses. They thought that the cameras would help them catch bad cops.

Personally, I was on the fence. I thought that having a video that shows one perspective could be used to smear good work. I also thought that as the public watched police do their work, they would be shocked by the sometimes aggressive tactics that they have to use to maintain order.

In practice, body cameras have been great. More often they exonerate police when accused of bad behavior than confirm it. Also, the cameras have given the public a good window into what modern policing looks like and the crazy people that they often deal with. It’s like the TV show COPS where we can marvel at the patience and professionalism of the vast majority of police. At the same time, the cameras have been useful in catching police officers who do abuse their power. I’ve become a huge supporter of body cameras for police.

Which makes it telling that liberal Madison continues to drag their feet. Since body cameras have been a positive thing for police instead of a negative thing, Madison’s leaders are reluctant to deploy them. As if we didn’t already know that Madison’s political leaders were anti-police, this is yet another example.

High inflation lights fuse of government taxing and spending time bomb

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Thanks to a loyal reader for the topic idea. The inflation bomb dropped by Trump and Biden is going to cause shockwaves for years to come.

Wisconsin has always been a high-tax state, but over the years, Republicans have put a few safeguards in place by capping increases to the rate of inflation. That was sensible when we had inflation of 2% or 3%. As inflation moves to 7% or possible above 10%, the ability of Wisconsinites to afford their government will be severely strained.

 

For example, in 2011, the Republicans implemented Act 10, which did a number of things including restricting public employee unions to being able to only negotiate wages up to the rate of inflation. In practice, that meant that most public employees have been receiving wage increases at the rate of inflation every year. With employee costs representing 70% or more of most government budgets, that means that 2022 will see significant spending increases for no additional value.

 

Also, Wisconsin caps government school district spending increases to changes in enrollment and inflation. Higher inflation means a much higher spending increase limit for school districts to pay for those increases in employee wages. This will drive a steep increase in property taxes at the same time that the housing prices upon which property taxes are based have gone up 9.5% according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

 

While spending and tax increases of 7% or more are looming, the ability for Wisconsinites to afford those increases is not keeping up. According to the BLS, Wisconsin’s wage growth ranks 37th in the nation for the third quarter of 2021, the most recent data available. Wisconsin’s average hourly wage in the private sector increased at a rate of 3.9% — a little more than half the rate of inflation. As inflation is squeezing Wisconsinites’ expenses, government is about to take a bigger slice. For those who are retired or on a fixed income, the bite of government will be even more severe.

 

To make it even worse — sorry, there is no good news here — recall that inflation measurements are a lagging indicator. Government budgets this year will be set based on inflation incurred last year. When inflation does eventually abate or a period of deflation possibly sets in, there is no mechanism to rein in the inflationary spending of government. Those spending increases will be baked into the pie forevermore unless elected leaders are willing to actually cut spending — something that neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to do in Wisconsin in my lifetime.

 

 

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Weigh Nondelegation Doctrine

There is a line here between rules to implement policies enacted by an elected body and rules that create new policy. I do not think that unelected bureaucrats should be creating new policy.

In a case stemming from several children not being able to play indoor sports because of Dane County’s emergency health orders, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is weighing whether to modify an elected body’s ability to hand over authority to an executive agency.

A conservative law firm representing Dane County plaintiffs and defendant Dane County have until Feb. 1 to tell the Supreme Court whether they want it to reconsider and modify current precedents on the “nondelegation doctrine,” or the idea that elected legislative bodies cannot pass the buck on decision-making to non-elected agencies and bureaucrats in most cases.

The doctrine became a focus of conservative groups around the country after the pandemic began, as a means to center power in Republican legislatures. Republicans in Wisconsin, spurred by business interests leery of government regulations, have for years tried to rein in the state’s executive branch agencies by revising the state’s rule-making process.

 

[…]

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the plaintiffs, city and county elected officials would have to vote on public health policy changes rather than delegate that power to health officials. On a statewide level, more power would rest with the Republican Legislature if the Supreme Court decides executive agencies have too much rulemaking authority.

“It is our position that the legislature ought not delegate major or significant policy questions to the executive branch or administrative agencies,” WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said in a statement. “This violates the separation of powers which mandates that the legislature makes the law and the executive administers it.”

People are policy

Here is my full column that ran earlier in the week in the Washington County Daily News.

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

The history of the WEC is important to remember. The WEC came into existence in 2016 as a response to the corrupt Government Accountability Board. The GAB was an allegedly bipartisan board that was responsible for the oversight of elections and ethics. Particularly after Gov. Scott Walker won in 2010 and Republicans won majorities in the Legislature, the GAB was involved in multiple scandals as they used their power over elections and ethics to advance the cause of Democrats. It was one of the many cases of Democrats weaponizing a purportedly unbiased government agency for political gain.

 

But the GAB was created for the same reason as the WEC. The GAB was only in existence for less than a decade. It was formed in 2008 to assume the combined responsibilities of the State Ethics Board and the State Elections Board. The GAB was created because the State Ethics Board and State Elections Board had been involved in multiple scandals where they used their authority to influence outcomes instead of acting fairly and, ironically, ethically.

 

Do you see the pattern? While the response of politicians to the rogue actions of one of their creations is to reshape it with the vain notion that structure can be a substitute for leadership, they ignore the root of the problem. The problem is not the structure. The problem is the people.

 

The structure of the WEC is designed to balance competing interests. The commission is comprised of six appointed commissioners who serve staggered five-year terms. Two of the commissioners are appointed by the governor. Two commissioners are appointed by the Senate majority and minority Leaders. Two commissioners are appointed by the Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader. As structured, no single political party would ever have complete control of the commission, but one party could control a majority of the commissioners.

 

The commissioners are responsible for leading the WEC, but they hire a staff that does most of the work. The staff is also responsible for making recommendations to the commissioners on public policy matters. The WEC is not a lawmaking body. The extent of their mandate is to manage Wisconsin’s elections within the firm boundaries set forth in state statute. It is in the intentional violation of their legal boundaries where the WEC most often runs afoul of their charge.

 

In just the last few years, the WEC has bent or broken the law in a number of ways. They refused to purge the voter rolls in a timely fashion as directed by law. They reportedly allowed nursing home staffers to cast votes on behalf of residents in violation of the law. They allowed municipalities to use unattended ballot drop boxes, closed polling locations, prohibited special voting deputies from entering nursing homes, and repeatedly used the pandemic as an excuse to ignore state law. All of these actions made it easier to cheat and made our elections less likely to actually represent the will of the people.

 

Beyond the affirmative violations of the law, the WEC exploited its regulatory authority to favor Democrats. In almost every single dispute about an election process or action, the WEC ruled in favor of Democrats. It is remarkable that a purportedly nonpartisan and unbiased commission would make decisions in favor of one party so consistently.

 

The structure of the WEC is supposed to prevent such biased actions. The fact that the WEC is an appointed commission that is accountable to elected officials is supposed to hold them accountable to the law and mission of the commission. Here is where the actions, and inactions, of people is the root of the problem.

 

When the WEC was created, it was staffed almost entirely with the same Madison bureaucrats who worked in the GAB. Since the GAB was discredited and dissolved because it was corrupt, it was ludicrous to move the same staff to the new commission, but that is exactly what happened.

 

With the same biased and corrupt staff, the new commissioners of the WEC have the power and responsibility to act legally and fairly. Here again, the commissioners have failed in their duty to use their power to keep Wisconsin’s elections free and fair.

 

Even as the commissioners are failing in their duty, it is the duty and responsibility of the governor and legislative leaders to hold their appointees accountable when they violate the letter or spirit of the law. Here again, the elected leaders are failing in their duty.

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

Sensenbrenner Endorses Kleefisch

I agree. Kleefisch is conservative, aggressive, intelligent, and a problem solver. There’s no reason to muck around. She has my support.

WAUKESHA — On Thursday, former longtime Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner announced his endorsement of Rebecca Kleefisch.

 

“From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, I spent my career working alongside strong conservative icons to accomplish our shared goals, and we had a lot of success. I know what conservative leadership looks like, and Rebecca Kleefisch is the real deal,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement.

 

“Early on, my late wife, Cheryl, and I spotted Rebecca s unparalleled tenacity and came to know well her leadership abilities. She beat the odds as an outsider running for lieutenant governor in 2010, and she even beat cancer that same year. She has been crucial to the conservative reforms in Wisconsin state government. No one will out-work Rebecca Kleefisch. No one will fight harder for our conservative ideals than Rebecca Kleefisch.”

Tommy Leaves Open Run for Governor

I suspect this is just because Tommy likes for people to be talking about him, but no thanks. And given the results of his last run for Senate, I think that most of Wisconsin is with me.

MADISON, Wis. — Tommy Thompson, who was elected four times as Wisconsin governor and is wrapping up a sting as interim University of Wisconsin System president, said Tuesday that he’s not ruling out another run for governor.

 

The 80-year-old Republican told WISN-TV that “everything is on the table.”

 

“I’m not saying it’s in the cards,” Thompson told WISN. “But, I’m physically and mentally capable of doing anything.”

 

Thompson said he would discuss his future with his family in April. He is resigning as interim UW president on March 18.

People are policy

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

[…]

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

Ron Johnson to Run

Excellent! Johnson is the only Wisconsin Senator in a generation to actually work and try to keep government accountable. He gets in and does the grunt work on behalf of the state. Baldwin… Kohl… Feingold… lazy back benchers.

MADISON – Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has decided to seek re-election to a third term, two Republicans with knowledge of the plan told The Associated Press on Friday.

 

The Republicans with knowledge of his plans were not authorized by Johnson to speak publicly about his intentions, but said he could announce as soon as early next week. Johnson did not return a text message or phone call seeking comment.

 

A Johnson candidacy would avoid a wide-open GOP primary in the narrowly divided swing state.

Johnson said in 2016 he would not run for a third time, but he later said circumstances changed when Democrats took full control of Congress and the White House.

Keep our schools open

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week. Last year at this time, this column would have been controversial. This year, I’m on the bandwagon.

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

 

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,040 kids under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago. Bear in mind that the CDC’s accounting of COVID-19 deaths has been intentionally hyperinflated by including people who died with COVID-19 in their body even if something else might have killed them.

 

COVID-19 can be a serious or deadly illness for a few kids, but for the vast majority of them, it is no worse than a seasonal cold. To put it in perspective, in 2019, according to the CDC, more than twice as many kids committed suicide; more than twice as many kids accidentally strangled or suffocated; more than twice as many kids died of heart disease; more than ten times as many kids died from accidents; more than three times as many kids were murdered; and roughly the same number of kids died from influenza and pneumonia.

 

Parents should be as concerned about COVID-19 for their kids as they are about the flu. Parents should be much more concerned about their kids’ substance abuse, driving safety, and mental health than COVID-19. Sadly, by the time the CDC crunches the death statistics for 2020 and 2021, we can expect to see child deaths by suicide and drug overdoses to have skyrocketed.

 

While COVID-19 poses a nominal physical threat to kids, we have seen ample evidence that closing schools has a detrimental impact on their education and mental health. According to researchers at Stanford University, they “estimated that the average student average student had lost one-third of a year to a full year’s worth of learning in reading, and about three-quarters of a year to more than 1 year in math since schools closed in March 2020.”

 

According to the CDC, more than 85% of teachers reported seeing a significant learning loss in their students compared to previous years. Wisconsin’s test scores mirror the research and studies as math and reading scores plummeted after the widespread closure of schools.

 

It is too early to know if the school systems can ever fill the hole left in the kids’ educations. Some kids will likely be able to get back on track, but far too many will never fully recover those lost months and years. The kids who will be hardest hit are those who are already on the other side of the yawning socioeconomic gap in education and kids with learning difficulties.

 

In addition to the detrimental impact on kids’ education, the impact on their mental health is truly tragic. According to the CDC, nearly 25% of parents whose children were forced into virtual or hybrid education reported a decline in their children’s mental or emotional health. Kids also had worse diets, exercised less, and spent more time alone.

 

Closing schools is having a devastating impact on our kids and their futures, but there is no evidence that closing schools reduces the incidence of COVID-19 for kids. The rate of COVID-19 in communities that closed their schools and neighboring communities that kept them open are identical. Closing schools is politically motivated pandemic theater and our kids are paying the price of admission.

 

When it comes to closing schools, our kids’ futures and their very lives are on the line. Closing schools is far more destructive to our kids than COVID-19 ever will be. Keep our school open. Our kids are depending on us.

Keep our schools open

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

Evers Grants More Pardons than Any Other Modern Governor

Given the crime raging in Wisconsin, I’m not sure this is something to brag about.

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers announced today that he has granted another 30 pardons, bringing his total number of pardons granted to 337 during his first three years in office. Gov. Evers has now granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any governor in contemporary history.

Eliminate the state income tax

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.

In my last column before Christmas in 2013, I climbed back on my old hobby horse to once again advocate for eliminating Wisconsin’s income tax and replacing some of the tax revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Eight years later almost to the day, former Governor Scott Walker is leading the charge with a group of tax reform groups to do exactly that. Armed with a study by Noah Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Walker and fellow reformers say that it is time for Wisconsin to become the 10th state without a state income tax.

 

Our government extracts money from all of us in myriad ways. Most state governments get the majority of their revenue from the income tax and the sales tax. In Wisconsin, those two taxes account for 84% of general purpose revenue in the state budget with the income tax filling 52% of the state’s general purpose revenue bucket.

 

The model used in Williams’ study shows that state government could maintain the same intake of revenue after eliminating the state income tax if it increases the state sales tax from the current 5% to 9.43%. But the sweet spot for the overall benefit of the state is to increase the state sales tax to 8% after eliminating the income tax. While this would result in a 12.55% decrease in state revenue, thus requiring spending cuts, it would increase economic output by 7.93%, employment by 6.87%, consumption by 7.19%, and, perhaps most importantly, increase average after-tax income by 9.35%.

 

One of the primary reasons cited by the study for eliminating the income tax is to make Wisconsin more competitive with other states. Our society is more mobile than ever — particularly for the middle and upper classes. People weigh a lot of things when deciding where to live, where to work, or where to start a business. Whether or not there is an income tax is one of those important factors. People are voting with their feet as Wisconsin exports people to states like Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Wisconsin already has an uphill battle to attract workers, retirees, and entrepreneurs with brutal winters, high taxes, and a steep regulatory burden. Eliminating the state income tax would encourage people to take a harder look at Wisconsin when deciding where to live, work, and play.

 

Beyond attracting more people to move to and stay in Wisconsin, the sales tax is fairer than the income tax. By its very definition, the income tax is only paid by people who earn an income. It is a tax on earning a living that the idle rich, the idle poor, and the intentionally unemployed do not have to pay. It is a tax that only those people who jump out of bed every day to go to work have to pay to support state government.

 

The sales tax, on the other hand, is paid by anyone who spends money on goods and services. It is paid by the rich lady who buys her fourth home, the middle-class family buying a used car, and the unemployed twenty-something buying beer for the weekend. Everyone pays, which spreads the tax burden more equitably across all Wisconsinites.

 

Furthermore, it is much more difficult for politicians to manipulate the sales tax to favor or punish people. With the income tax, politicians have created a labyrinth of a tax code that gives breaks to the people they like and punishes those who they do not. Other than exempting particular goods or services, the sales tax is more resistant to political maneuvering.

 

While I strongly support eliminating the state income tax for a hundred reasons, such a move does not correct the biggest problem with state funding. The question of how we fund state government is less important than what we are funding. Wisconsin state government taxes so much because it spends so much. Every single state budget in my lifetime has increased spending from the prior budget.

 

Irrespective of the economic cycle, which political party is in power in Madison, population trends, or the ability of Wisconsinites to pay, state spending always goes up. It is more predictable than the tides. Until we control state spending, we will never take meaningful steps to lower the tax burden. All we are doing is finding better ways to pay.

 

*** For my fellow Christians who are celebrating the Birth of Christ this week, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Eliminate the state income tax

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste. Merry Christmas!

In my last column before Christmas in 2013, I climbed back on my old hobby horse to once again advocate for eliminating Wisconsin’s income tax and replacing some of the tax revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Eight years later almost to the day, former Governor Scott Walker is leading the charge with a group of tax reform groups to do exactly that. Armed with a study by Noah Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Walker and fellow reformers say that it is time for Wisconsin to become the 10th state without a state income tax.

 

[…]

 

While I strongly support eliminating the state income tax for a hundred reasons, such a move does not correct the biggest problem with state funding. The question of how we fund state government is less important than what we are funding. Wisconsin state government taxes so much because it spends so much. Every single state budget in my lifetime has increased spending from the prior budget.

 

Irrespective of the economic cycle, which political party is in power in Madison, population trends, or the ability of Wisconsinites to pay, state spending always goes up. It is more predictable than the tides. Until we control state spending, we will never take meaningful steps to lower the tax burden. All we are doing is finding better ways to pay.

Eliminate State Income Tax

Yes, yes, and more yes.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist added, “Doing away with the state income tax would make Wisconsin more economically competitive both nationally and globally. In addition to making Wisconsin a much more prosperous place to live and work, a repeal of the state income tax would also increase the job-creating capacity of small businesses, most of whom file under the personal income tax system.”

 

In an interview, Walker noted that raising the sales tax isn’t as effective in Wisconsin as in other states where the tax covers every item. Wisconsin does not tax food and drugs, for example. Also, local towns typically have a tiny piggyback sales tax, unlike in other states.

 

He said it could be a model for other states.

 

“There’s no doubt about it,” Walker said. “I would expect that there will be tremendous interest in this,” he added.

Don’t let politics ruin your holiday gathering

Here is my full column that ran earlier this week in the Washington County Daily News

I have read several opinion pieces over the last few weeks about how people are telling their family that they will not celebrate the holidays with them because of politics or COVID or both, since COVID has become inexplicably intertwined with one’s political views. In order to help keep the peace, allow me to suggest some conversation topics that will not ruin a good family Christmas gathering.

 

First, let it be said that if you are forgoing a traditional family gathering because you disapprove of some of your family’s political views, then you should really reevaluate your priorities. Politics are important, but there is a lot of life to be lived outside of them. If your politics are more important than your family to the point that you cannot even spend a few hours in their presence, then your priorities are wrong.

 

Second, if you feel the need to scold a family member about their politics or COVID protocols when you decline an invitation to attend their holiday party, you are a jerk. There are plenty of polite ways to decline a party without insulting the person who invited you. Consider who the intolerant one is in this situation.

 

If you are going to be a grown-up and attend a family gathering with people of different political and social stripes, here are a few handy topics to make the time enjoyable.

 

Sports are always a safe refuge of conversation. A lively conversation about the Packers, Brewers, or Bucks can fill hours. If you are not a fan of sports, just take a few minutes and learn a few things about your family member’s favorite team before going. Just bringing up the topic will bring out the discussion from the sports fans in the room.

 

Speaking of learning something, take a little time to read up on some of your family members’ favorite hobbies. If they like to bake, fish, hunt, ski, travel, etc., taking a few minutes to learn something about it and ask a few questions is a courtesy that shows respect while also making for a fun conversation. People love to share the things about which they are passionate.

 

One of the greatest parts of family holiday gatherings is the food. People bring a dish to pass or the kitchen is full of old family recipes. Talk about the food. Who wrote those old family recipes? Any cooking tips? Cooking shows and competitions are enormously popular because people love to talk and learn about food.

 

It is increasingly difficult to talk about television shows in the age of microbroadcasting. We do not have as many of those widely watched shows to discuss. There are, however, more television shows and movies available through dozens of streaming services. Talk about your favorite shows and jot down the shows that others are watching. Not only is it a good conversation, but it provides good tips for shows to watch later.

 

Family gatherings provide the opportunity to talk about family. Everyone is busy and family gatherings are a great way to catch up on the latest news. Talk about how the kids are doing in school, how work has been going, the latest vacation, the new roof on the house, and all of the other events small and large that we spend most of our time doing.

 

Since you are gathered for the holidays, talk about that. Why are you together? In my case, it is to celebrate the birth of my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. For others, they may be celebrating a different faith or just a secular holiday. Whatever the case, talk about the reason for the season.

 

Finally, if you are unable to or unwilling to carry on a conversation without launching into a political diatribe, just listen. Ask questions, and listen. Even if you disagree with something your family member said, just listen. Smile. Nod. Move on. There is nothing to be gained from venting your spleen onto a family member during a family gathering. Be mature enough to recognize that fact even if your family member is not.

 

The holiday season is a magical time to stop, reconnect, repair, and recharge. For just a few hours or days, set aside your rabid political passions and build relationships with your family on a more meaningful level. Faith. Family. Football. A great Packers coach would agree.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rejects Appeal About Media Access

This is the correct ruling. While aggravating, this is not something we want a court telling a Governor which reporters they should provide access to.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a conservative think tank over Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to exclude the group’s writers from press briefings.

The justices acted without comment Monday, leaving in place lower court rulings that said the decision is legal.

 

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy filed the lawsuit in 2019 alleging that Evers, a Democrat, violated its staffers’ constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of the press and equal access.

 

[…]

 

The appeals court ruled that Evers’ media-access criteria was reasonable and he was under no obligation to grant access for every news outlet to every news conference.

MacIver had argued that Evers was excluding its staffers and violating their free speech rights because they are conservatives. Evers said they were excluded because they are not principally a news gathering operation and they are not neutral.

Abortion extremism in Madison

Here is my full column that ran earlier in the week in the Washington County Daily News:

In the same week that the United States Supreme Court heard arguments about a challenge to the Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Gov. Tony Evers wielded his veto pen to demonstrate just how radical abortion supporters have become. We have come a long way from the time when abortion supporters advocated that they be safe, legal, and rare.

One cannot rationally support human rights and also support abortion. While there was a time when the period between conception and birth was filled with mystery and myth, modern medical science has opened the womb for all to see. We know that from the time of conception, the child is a unique human with unique DNA.

 

Eventually, the child will develop a heart, lungs, skin, eyes, bones, and become ready for birth, but it all starts with a blueprint in a single cell. To assign the origin of life to any point after conception is to do so based on arbitrary distinctions that are designed more to assuage the consciences of older humans than on science or logic. Once a human exists, they are, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That being the case, we who are able are responsible to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.

 

But the Supreme Court is not deciding if unborn humans have a right to life or whether abortion should be outlawed. They are potentially deciding which level of government gets to decide. The court could uphold Roe v. Wade, thus making it a federal court decision; the court could completely overturn Roe, thus making abortion a state issue; or the court could find a narrow middle road.

 

Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe and return the power to regulate abortion to the states, Wisconsin has an existing statute that makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. Time will tell if Wisconsin’s Legislature would rescind that law to replace it with a statutory infrastructure that permits and regulates abortions.

 

As we await the Supreme Court’s decision, the Republican Legislature passed several bills to enhance regulation of abortions and Governor Evers vetoed them all. In doing so, he demonstrated how extreme Democrats have become in their support for abortion and how difficult it will be to create a new abortion regulatory structure should Roe be overturned.

 

One of the bills would have made it a crime for a doctor to withhold medical care from a baby who survived an abortion and was born alive. While very rare, it happens. It is more common than an infant dying of COVID. As I wrote above, to assign the beginning of a life at any point after conception is arbitrary, but as a society, we at least once agreed that children who were born were considered human and worthy of protection. There is no logical distinction in the rights of a baby born during a failed abortion and a baby born in other circumstances. It is a living, breathing, feeling baby. And there is no logical distinction between a doctor letting a baby die for lack of care and a parent doing the same thing. In vetoing this bill, Evers has sanctioned infanticide.

 

Another bill would have banned women from aborting their baby based on the baby’s sex, race, or national origin. It would have given the same protections against discrimination that our laws extend to the born. It is a logical extension of the recognition that unborn people have human rights too. In a logical extension of his unscientific opinion that unborn humans are not humans at all, Evers vetoed this bill too. In Evers’ Wisconsin, a woman may abort her child if she doesn’t want a girl or a brown son at her discretion. In-utero discrimination is the law of the land.

 

While I strongly advocate for the end of all abortions, at the very least, we should not be using abortion as a way to curate the population for favored races and sexes. We should also all be able to agree that once a baby is born, it deserves protection from being killed through intentional neglect. Unfortunately, there is no such agreement anymore.

Government Schools Are Closing More to Appease Lazy Teachers

This happened in West Bend too. They made the Monday after Thanksgiving a day off with less than two weeks notice. This is what happens when organizations are run for the benefit of the people in them instead of for the people they serve.

After a few months of relative calm, some public schools are going remote — or canceling classes entirely — for a day a week, or even for a couple of weeks, because of teacher burnout or staff shortages.

 

At least six other school districts in Michigan extended Thanksgiving break, and three districts in Washington state, including Seattle Public Schools, unexpectedly closed on Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day. In one instance, Brevard Public Schools in Florida used leftover “hurricane days” to close schools for the entire week of Thanksgiving.

 

In Utah, the Canyons School District announced that all of its schools would go remote one Friday a month from November until March, equivalent to more than week of school.

 

A few of these districts have closed with very little notice, sending parents scrambling to find child care, as well as summon the wherewithal to supervise remote learning. Beyond the logistics, many parents are worried that with additional lost days of in-person school, their children will fall further behind.

 

Archives

Categories

Pin It on Pinterest