Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Evers’ DWD failed Wisconsin

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

Beginning the week of March 15, the number of initial claims skyrocketed. It peaked the week of March 22 with 116,129 initial claims filed and was half that by the week of April 5. The DWD call centers received 1.4 million calls the week of March 22 and almost 6 million calls the week of April 12. All told, there were 41.1 million calls made to the DWD call centers between March 15 and June 30. Of those, 93.3% were blocked or received a busy signal; 6.2% of callers got through but hung up before being answered; and only 0.5% of calls were answered.

The DWD woefully underreported the extent of the problem to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The DWD reported the number of calls blocked, abandoned, and answered. The calls it reported as “blocked” were calls that reached the system and the caller was told to call later and disconnected. They did not report the number of callers who just received a busy signal. In doing so, the DWD failed to report 75% of the calls that were unable to reach the call centers.

When challenges arise, leaders rise. Unfortunately, there were not any to be found at the DWD or in the governor’s mansion.

It is important to follow the dates…

[…]

If Wisconsin had a competent governor with a competent administration, they would have anticipated the rush of Wisconsinites seeking to file unemployment claims when they effectively shut down the state’s economy. They would have aggressively worked to expand the capacity of the DWD UI staff, expanded hours, worked overtime, accelerated outsourcing, and done everything possible to serve Wisconsinites who were forced out of work due to government action. Instead, the governor, DWD secretary, and agency bureaucrats plodded along at government speed while unemployed Wisconsinites waited and worried.

Governor Evers forced his DWD secretary to resign as the administration’s scapegoat, but he should take a hard look in the mirror and ask why his administration failed precisely when so many Wisconsinites needed it most.

 

Appeals Court Stays Partisan Judge’s Order

Good.

A federal appeals court on Sunday temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election.

[…]

Sunday’s action puts Conley’s order on hold until the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court issues any further action.

No further details were immediately posted by the appeals court.

We Must Ignore the “Constitution” because PEOPLE ARE DYING

I was amused and disgusted by this letter to the editor in the Washington County Daily News criticizing my most recent column about the illegal mask mandate:

2. You right-wing constitutional proponents think that you are so righteous defending the Constitution against Evers’ “illegal” orders, but PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!

You, Trump, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Rep. Robin Vos, although you might have the “Constitution” on your side legally, are criminally negligent because you have no effective program to stop the pandemic.

So… people are dying so we should just ignore the Constitution and the law? That’s a very disturbing argument that quickly leads to totalitarianism. People like this really live in America.

Evers Extends Illegal Mask Mandate

And here it is

MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers issued a new public health emergency on Tuesday to extend the statewide mask mandate by 60 days as cases of coronavirus accelerate around the state.

The move comes after infections among college-aged adults have skyrocketed now that campuses are open for the fall semester.

Overall, the state is seeing some of the highest rates of infection in the country. Nearly 7,000 positive tests were reported Thursday, Friday and Saturday — the most reported over any three-day period in Wisconsin. On Friday, a single-day record of 2,533 new cases was reported.

[…]

Evers issued the first health emergency in March and the second in July. That order expires on Monday and Republican legislative leaders haven’t said whether they will extend it and have made no moves to do so. Once it expires, so does the statewide mask mandate. The new mandate extends to Nov. 21.

Whither the GOP?

Activist Judge Extends Wisconsin Election

This has no basis in law. It’s just what the judge thought was “fair.” Do we really want judges just setting whatever rules they want and changing it on the fly? Our election laws have been in place for many years and have served Wisconsin well. Why change less than 6 weeks before the election?

U.S. District Judge William Conley granted a large portion of their requests, issuing a preliminary injunction that was expected to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He put the ruling on hold for seven days to give the other side a chance to seek an emergency appeal.

Evers wants to extend illegal mask mandate

My column for the Washington County Daily News in online and in print. When it comes to the mask mandate, Governor Evers is wrong on the law and wrong on the science.

Governor Tony Evers’ illegal order that all Wisconsinites wear face masks is set to expire on September 28 and he covets an extension of his despotic rule. Any extension of the order would not only be the third intentionally illegal power grab by the governor through emergency declarations, but it would be an admission that his actions are not rooted in science or data. Evers’ emergency orders are about power — not people.

[…]

If you think that a governor creating a permanent state of emergency where he issues arbitrary orders at his sole discretion is an acceptable way to govern, then the governor should at least be able to explain why the order is necessary and will work. The evidence is clear that the current mask mandate has not had any impact on the spread of coronavirus.

DNR Asks to Borrow More Money to Buy More Land

No. We do not need the taxpayers incurring even more debt just to shrink the property tax base and pay even higher tax rates. The state owns enough land. If they want to buy more, they can sell land they already own.

MADISON, WIS. (AP) — Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are asking Gov. Tony Evers to renew the agency’s contentious land stewardship program for another decade and substantially increase its borrowing authority.

The DNR uses stewardship funding to purchase land for the state and help conservation organizations purchase land. Republicans have criticized the program for running up too much debt and taking too much property off tax rolls. Debt payments stood at nearly $83 million last year. Still, GOP legislators agreed to extend the program through mid-2022 and authorized it to borrow up to $33 million annually.

Evers Fires DWD Secretary

I know everyone is focused on Washington right now, but let’s not let this get lost in the shuffle.

MADISON — Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman has resigned over persistent issues processing unemployment claims amid the pandemic.

Gov. Tony Evers said Friday that he asked for, and received, the resignation from 35-year-old Frostman, effective immediately.

Evers cites significant delays in processing unemployment claims amid the pandemic. DWD is in charge of that process.

[…]

Between March 15 and Sept. 12, DWD reports 6,546,554 claims have been filed. Just under 11 percent – or 713,508 – of those claims are still being processed.

[…]

Evers argues he has worked to provide DWD the resources to deal with the surge, including additional staffing. In additional 130 DWD employees have been reassigned to the Unemployment Insurance Division. The DWD now has more than 1,500 employees working on UI cases, a 250 percent spike from 600 workers before, according to the governor’s office.

It appears, though, that assistance failed to materialize into an improvement in processing claims under Frostman’s DWD.

Even though Evers took his customary cheap shots at Republicans in the announcement, he is acknowledging his responsibility for the failure. Good for him for acting. But shuffling the bureaucrats won’t be enough. Evers needs to hire a task master and empower him or her to act aggressively.

The commoditization of a college education

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week. Yes, I do use “college” and “university” interchangeably because the content applies to both but it gets wordy to keep saying “colleges and universities.” Enjoy!

Wisconsin’s colleges and universities have begun their fall semesters with a variety of plans for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Students throughout the state and nation are living through an unpredictable whipsaw of experiences as colleges change the rules depending on the latest COVID-19 test numbers. These changing experiences are perhaps forever changing the fundamentals of the college experience and the value proposition of a college degree.

As a parent of three kids who are currently in college and one college graduate, the value of a college education is something that I have always considered undeniable. Both of my parents had college degrees and I was reared to believe that a college education is the golden ticket to the middle class. The mere possession of a sheepskin opens doors and careers that are otherwise unavailable.

While the actual education is the most important part of college, the campus experience is also a key part of shaping a person for the larger world. Being physically on a college campus is the first time away from home for many people and is where they learn to interact, socialize, work, collaborate, and play with people from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. It is also where one forms bonds and relationships that can help one get started and progress in their careers.

In more recent years, the value proposition of a college education has been eroding. Greased by easy money from the federal government, the cost to attend college has increased far faster than the ability of most people to pay for it. At the same time, the rise of lucrative careers in technology and the global commercial reach of the internet have made a college degree less important as a ticket to wealth. There will always be careers that will require a rigorous advanced education, but a bright kid can do very well for him or herself with a couple of key technical certifications or a catchy online business.

As the perceived worth of a college degree has been slowly declining for many people and the cost of that degree has been increasing, traditional colleges have been investing more and more into the campus experience. To visit some college campuses is to visit monuments to extravagance. Dormitories look like modern upscale apartments. The workout facilities are expansive and beautiful. Lecture halls and classrooms are equipped with the most sophisticated technology. The shared spaces are littered with study nooks, coffee shops, entertainment distractions, movie theaters, restaurants, and more.

All of those campus amenities cost money — a lot of money — and they are part of the reason for the ballooning cost of college. What happens when students are paying for all of those amenities but do not get to use them? That is what is happening for college students all over the state and nation as college administrators decide to lock down campuses, quarantine entire dorms, and move classes online.

Families and their college students might have been a bit more forgiving in the spring when colleges precipitously closed in the face of an unknown virus with scary predictions of millions of dead. Now we are entering a new phase. Colleges are demonstrating how they will react to any future health concern and creating uncertainty that students will ever be able to rely on having a true campus experience.

When a traditional college decides to close the campus and provide all of their education online, they are changing the value proposition of the education they are offering. The students are still paying for all of the amenities that sit empty and unused. The only thing that the students are getting for their money is the education provided through a computer screen as they sit alone in a dorm, apartment, or at home. If that is the case, then why are they paying so much? How is the education provided by UW-La Crosse or Marquette University any better than the education provided by tenured online universities like Capella University or the University of Phoenix? If universities are to be judged solely by the quality of the education they are providing through their online portals, then many traditional universities will struggle to differentiate themselves without being able to use their beautiful campuses to lure students.

The longer that universities forgo access to their campuses and deliver learning only online, the more students will shop around for their college experience. While a student may not be able to put a proper price on sitting on UW-Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace tapping out a research paper with an eclectic guitar player strumming nearby, that student can certainly put a price on sitting in their bedroom listening to a lecture on their computer.

The great commoditization of education happens when the intangibles of campus life are squeezed out and students are left to simply decide if taking Math 240 from Online University A is better or worse than that offered by Online University B. As traditional colleges underwrite the move to online education and close off their campuses, they are hastening their own decline.

 

Another Iconic Wisconsin Business Closes Due to Evers’ Shutdown

What a shame.

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — After nearly seven decades, the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells announced Wednesday it will close permanently due to business losses during the pandemic.

In April, the owners of the water-ski, sky and stage show made the decision to close its attraction this summer due to restrictions on large gatherings.

[…]

“Uncertainty is the biggest detriment to business,” said Diehl. “You can’t make a decision because you’ve been here 54 years and the show’s been here 69 years. You can’t make a decision (on that), it has to be based on probability of success. And to me there was zero probability going forward.”

The company made the announcement in a press release Wednesday morning.

“From May through September 6, we experienced a complete loss of revenue when we had to cancel our 2020 summer season on Lake Delton due to the pandemic. Each fall, we begin to plan for the next season, and with so much uncertainty surrounding the future of the pandemic and travel, we cannot undergo additional financial risk and investment to begin planning for summer 2021.

Dane County Doesn’t Want Football Parties

I didn’t know this:

Public Health Madison & Dane County does not have authority over the UW-Madison campus, including Camp Randall football stadium, but does have authority over gatherings outside of the stadium to limit gatherings per Emergency Order #9. We will be continuing to enforce public health orders in partnership with the City of Madison Police Department.

So the little tyrants at Public Health Madison and Dane County can close businesses, break up parties in private homes, force people to wear masks in their cars, limit church activities, close schools, etc. but have no authority over the gigantic campus and stadium in the middle of town? that seems like a huge effing loophole.

State Might… MIGHT… Catch Up on Unemployment Backlog By End of Year

Utter. Incompetence.

Secretary Caleb Frostman told WISN 12 News since March, they’ve “paid about 510,000 people about $3.6 billion. There are 96,000 claimants in Wisconsin still waiting on at least one payment in our adjudication area, so we’re making progress week over week, continuing to grind through those oldest claims first, but obviously we’ve got continued work ahead of us, as we continue to grind down the mountain of claims that have piled up since COVID hit Wisconsin.”

[…]

Frostman also said they hope to catch up on the backlog by the end of the year.

 

Evers Administration Still Failing with Processing Unemployment Benefits

It has been so long that either they want the backlog or they are just too incompetent to deal with it. Meanwhile, real people are hurting.

According to the DWD, the department received more than 6 million weekly claims from March 15 through September 5. Nearly 700,000 of them are still being processed.

“They have had significant backlogs due to the workload of the historic layoff through this pandemic,” Workforce Connections executive director Teresa Pierce said.

Pierce says the DWD moved most of their staff to the unemployment insurance sector.

“There’s been a substantial increase in the number of calls we’ve received at the job center,” Pierce said. “And then we refer them to Madison.”

Charlie Sykes Returns to Being a Democrat

This has been coming for a while.

In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) longtime conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes said he’ll be voting for Joe Biden in November.

“I just think we have to end this particular segment of American history,” said Sykes.

It’s not often that you see someone move from liberal to conservative and back again. But it is 2020, after all.

Evers Staffs Useless Commission

Heh

On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced the members of the People’s Maps Commission. The nine-member commission, which includes representation from Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts, will hold at least eight public hearings across the state to discuss the redistricting process and collect input. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those hearings — which will run from October through April 2021 — will be held online.

Ultimately, the nine-member commission will present nonpartisan district maps to the state Legislature, which has the final say on how those maps are drawn. Republicans, who have controlled the Legislature since redrawing district maps in 2011 despite losing all statewide offices in 2018, are expected to draft and pass their own maps.

Bear in mind that this is just a political stunt with no basis in law. But just curious… if their task is to draw completely unbiased, non-partisan lines, then why do they need hearings? People generally hold hearings to hear opinions and information to, presumably, inform their own opinions. If this is going to be a data-driven process that eliminates bias in political boundaries, then what are they intending to get out of public hearings? Shouldn’t they just get out a map and draw the lines around identical numerical populations?

Oh yeah… I forgot… this is just a political stunt. The purpose of the public hearings is to give a platform to state lefties to rant about gerrymandering or partisanship or whatever to feed the lefty media and help bludgeon Evers’ political opponents. I wonder if the commissioners know that they are just being used as political tools?

Evers Threatens to Extend Illegal Order

Typical.

Evers issued the statewide mask mandate on July 30, using a power in state law that lets governors declare public health emergencies for up to 60 days. Evers used the same law to issue another 60-day emergency in March during the early days of the pandemic.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit over the mandate in late August, arguing that it was unlawful for Evers to declare multiple emergencies for the same event. That lawsuit is ongoing.

“We will fight we will fight every step of the way to make sure that this one small thing that everybody can do remains in place until we’re told that the numbers are down,” Evers said in a discussion that was broadcast by the Wisconsin Eye public affairs network.

Evers’ current order is set to expire on Sept. 28 unless it’s rescinded before then by the governor, the Legislature or a court order. But Evers gave no indication that he would rescind the masking order himself, and he didn’t rule out extending it.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there whether we extend it or not,” Evers said.

Once again, the issue is not whether mandating masks is the correct course of action or not. The issue is whether we are going to allow a single man to utterly ignore our system of representative government and issue arbitrary orders from his mansion in Madison. If he can order a mask, he could also order that we all wear hats, or be clean shaven so that the masks fit, or carry guns because there are riots, or whatever. The issue is whether or not we should live under the arbitrary rule of a single man or return to a republican form of government.

As for the effectiveness of a mask mandate, help me reconcile this.

Since the order, cases have gone up:

But deaths and hospitalizations are steady:

 

So since Evers ordered that everyone wear masks, cases are spiking, but deaths and hospitalizations remain flat. If the purpose of masks are to stop the spread of the Rona, shouldn’t we see the positive impact in the number of cases? We are not. We are seeing the opposite.

The reason is that the rise in cases is being driven completely by people aged 18-24.

This is because of all of the college kids who went back to school. Not only are they spreading it around a bit, but they are being tested like crazy. The more you test, the more you will find. But clearly, many of the kids have few, if any symptoms, and they are recovering fine without hospital intervention. Also bear in mind that almost all state colleges are rigorously enforcing the mask mandate.

If there is absolutely no evidence that the mask mandate is actually mitigating the spread of disease, why would the governor consider extending it? Aren’t we supposed to follow the science? Is is this not really about the science or fighting the pandemic?

Wisconsin Supreme Court Halts Issuance of Absentee Ballots

This election is going to be a complete mess.

MADISON – The state Supreme Court told election officials Thursday that absentee ballots should not be mailed for now so the justices can determine whether they should include the Green Party’s presidential ticket.

The 4-3 order left open the possibility of reprinting 2.3 million ballots and delaying the printing of others — moves that election officials said would cause them to miss deadlines set by state law.

The order fell along ideological lines, with the conservatives in the majority and the liberals in dissent.

In response to the order, the state Elections Commission submitted a report late Thursday that suggested as many as 378,000 ballots have already been sent to voters. But the head of the commission said there was no way to know for certain how many ballots have been sent because that duty falls to municipal clerks, not the commission.

Adding candidates to the ballots after some have been sent would be complicated. Voters who have already been sent a ballot would need to get a second one and clerks would have to make sure no one voted twice.

[…]

The Green Party case centers on whether presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and vice presidential nominee Angela Walker should be on the ballot.

The Elections Commission didn’t include the Green Party on the ballot after it deadlocked last month on the issue. Walker, a Milwaukee native, provided two different addresses on her campaign filings, and the three Democrats on the commission said that should keep the Green Party off the ballot. The commission’s three Republicans wanted the Green Party on the ballot.

Unspoken at last month’s commission meeting was how the Green Party could affect the presidential election. Democrats fear the liberal party could take votes away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republicans hope such a situation will help GOP President Donald Trump.

Biden Leads Trump in Wisconsin Poll

Heh.

Democrat Joe Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump 47% to 43% in a new Wisconsin poll by the Marquette Law School.

Biden had led by 5 points among likely voters when Marquette last polled in early August, so the new poll shows little change in the race even though this was Marquette’s first survey since the two party conventions and since the turmoil and protests in Kenosha,

The same poll right before the election in 2016:

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds 46 percent of Wisconsin likely voters supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and 40 percent supporting Republican Donald Trump in the race for president.

I’d feel pretty good about that poll if I were the Trump campaign (one might remember that Trump won Wisconsin by 0.7% with 3.6% going to the Libertarian candidate).

Evers Welcomes Kids Back to School By Demonstrating How to Not Wear a Mask

I’m no doctor, but I am certain that this is not the correct way to wear a mask effectively:

-> Ear straps going around back of neck, pulling mask into deformed shape that doesn’t seal

-> Top of mask on top of glasses to vent

 

 

Recall Evers at election time

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

Governor Tony Evers is proving to be one of the most partisan, nasty, incompetent governors in modern history. Our state is worse off for him having been elected. But we elected him, and he is our governor for at least the next 28 long, long months. The burgeoning attempt to recall the governor, while well-intentioned, is an affront to our system of government and social contract. We elected him. Barring something criminal, we are stuck with him, and that is as it should be.

This is certainly not the first time that Wisconsinites have attempted to recall a governor. In fact, there have been attempts to recall the last two governors. In 2009, after almost two terms of lies and sleaze from Governor Jim Doyle, an intrepid band of earnest citizens attempted to recall the governor. The ill-fated attempt ended as it should have, in failure, and Governor Doyle announced his decision to decline to seek re-election three months later.

Of course, with the taste of recall blood in the water, the liberals in Wisconsin tried the same tactic to remove Governor Scott Walker two years later. They were upset that Governor Walker had the temerity to champion public policies with which they disagreed. They were successful in collecting enough signatures to trigger a recall election and proceeded to rend the political and social fabric of Wisconsin for the better part of a decade.

The process to recall an elected official exists for the citizens to remove a politician who has so abused the public trust that he or she must not be permitted to finish the term. There is no legal or official standard for what action, or lack thereof, defines the threshold for the recall of an elected official, but prudence and respect for representative government demands an extraordinary standard. In the case of Governor Evers, that standard has not been met. It is true that he advocates for policies that are destructive to Wisconsin. It is true that Evers is foul-mouthed, unprofessional, and duplicitous in his dealings with people who do not agree with him. It is true that he is feckless and makes poor decisions when responding to emergencies that afflict our state. It is true that Evers lacks the interpersonal skills to compromise or find common ground. He is a case study for the Peter Principle. All of that is true, but Governor Evers has not done anything for which he deserves to be recalled. He is just a bad governor.

The problem with a recall is that it destabilizes our political system by challenging the will of the people. It is like the people saying, “Yeah, we elected him, but we changed our minds.” The uncertainty that the attempted recall of a governor creates ripples through the state. It roils the electorate and unsettles the economy. The stability of our political system relies on the orderly transition of power and the relative certainty of regularly scheduled elections. The whipsaw of reactive recall elections subverts that stability and risks roiling our state in perpetual turmoil.

The thing with Governor Evers is that his incompetence, dishonesty, poor social skills, and laziness were on full display before the voters elected him. It was obvious to anyone looking. But in a fit of cantankerousness, the good people of Wisconsin elected him anyway. As the old saw goes, elections have consequences.

The frustration that some people are feeling over our governor is a healthy reminder that elections have consequences. The governor is not a boorish house guest that can be shown the door when his behavior becomes too much. We invited him to stay the night and we are stuck with him until morning.

We choose our elected leaders during orderly, regularly scheduled elections. That is where we must spend our time, money, and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good choices during an election prevent the damage bad choices inflict. Recalling a governor should be reserved for only the most egregious and criminal of transgressions.

Focus on the elections. They matter.