Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Republicans Prefer Regional Approach

Again… too complicated and there’s no way that the politicians in Madison can micromanage every business and every scenario in Wisconsin. Just open the state. If you truly trust the people and businesses, then trust them.

During the event, the Speaker reiterated his party’s support for a more regional approach to restrictions on businesses and people.

“Let’s start to turn the dial, as opposed to treating every part of the state like it is Milwaukee,” he said. “Because if we wait for Milwaukee and Brown County to be the indicator, it’s going to be a long time potentially before Wisconsin can open up.”

Vos also said he supports including more specific phases for restaurants reopening, including possible guidelines for when they could offer outdoor seating and benchmarks for reaching different percentages of indoor capacity.

He also urged a move away from a list of so-called “essential businesses” that are allowed to be open, while others are not.

“I don’t understand how you can go and get a key made at Walmart or buy flowers for Mother’s Day, but somehow if you would go to the flower shop or the key shop, that would be a major threat to public health,” Vos said.

He said he trusts people and businesses to take the appropriate health precautions.

The Surplus Is Gone. It’s a Good Thing We Didn’t Spend It.

Sometimes an “I told you so” is necessary. Back in January, the LRB projected a surplus and Governor Evers immediately jumped on it and wanted to increase government spending. I wrote a column reminding everyone that you can’t spend a projection. If and when a surplus materialized, we could decide what to do with it. I said:

In January, the LFB estimated that the state will collect $620.2 million more in taxes than the budget estimated. If the LFB is right, that would mean that the state would generate a $620.2 million surplus at the end of the budget – in July of 2021. In other words, the state does not have $620.2 million in extra cash stashed in Governor Evers’ desk. The state might have $620.2 million in additional money sometime next summer – if the LFB’s forecast is correct.

The LFB does a really good job, but it is not a Delphic Oracle with divine sight. It makes estimates based on the economic data available. This changes, however, in unpredictable ways. For example, if the United States elects a communist to be president this year, it is likely that our economy will enter a deep recession, thus undermining tax collections in Wisconsin and any chance of a surplus.

From this basis, we must evaluate Governor Evers’ plan on both a financial and moral basis. Governor Evers wants the Legislature to pass bills to spend $250 million of the projected surplus on government schools. From a financial perspective, it is outright mismanagement to spend money that state government does not have. Evers wants to spend money based on a single financial projection made three weeks ago about where the state’s finances might end up in 17 months.

Tax collections were down $870 million in a single month. The projected surplus is completely gone and the budget is now in a projected deficit. It’s a good thing that the Republicans didn’t follow Evers’ lead, eh?

State Sees 43% Drop in Tax Collections Vs. 2019

It’s about to get real for government. Evers’ pretend 5% reduction ain’t gonna cut it.

Tax collections in the month of April, 2020, were $1,145 million. This is $870 million below collections of April, 2019. And, for the 10 months of the current fiscal year, collections are $313 million below those over the same 10 months of 2018-19.

Hovde Asks Some Questions of Evers

Wisconsin’s Constitutional Problem

This is the heart of the problem with Governor Evers’ power grab.

“There is a constitutional problem with the Legislature giving away this much power to an unelected cabinet secretary,” Bradley said. “The people never consented to a single individual having that much power.”

Whether or not you think the order is a good idea or not, Americans have purposefully divided power in their government to prevent the concentration of power.

Think about how this power could be abused (if you don’t think it’s being abused already). Imagine that they declare smoking a health crisis and the Health Secretary orders anyone caught smoking (tobacco or Mary Jane) or vaping to be imprisoned. Or perhaps too much screen time is declared a health emergency so the government regulates your screen time from the ISP. Or having large groups of kids together spreads disease so a bureaucrat closes all public schools. I’m struggling to come up with a farcical example because I could see any of these things being done if we concentrate that much power in the hands of a few… or one.

We are a self-governing people and our Constitution was constructed precisely to prevent something like this. Separate, coequal powers; checks and balances; elected officials making laws; Rule of Law; etc… these are the roots to which we must return.

Fascists Target Wausau Doctor

As I said before, this frenzy is really drawing out the fascists and totalitarians in our midst.

Police have stepped up patrols outside a cardiologist’s home after he was suspended from his job and targeted by vigilantes who exposed him on social media for not social distancing at an anti-lockdown rally in Wisconsin.

Dr. David Murdock, a cardiologist at Aspirus medical group, has been banned from seeing patients for the ‘foreseeable future’ after photos of him flouting social distancing rules and not wearing a mask at a protest last month went viral on Facebook.

The doctor of 33 years was exposed when Kevin Rusch spotted a photo of him in the crowds at the rally and shamed him for breaking the state’s stay-at-home order and putting his patients at risk of exposure to the virus.

Murdock, 68, admitted he attended the event but insisted he was social distancing.

Authorities have now had to step up protection for the Wausau-based medic after someone left a bag of feces on the front steps of his home – part of a growing spate of social distancing vigilantism emerging across the US as the pandemic continues to divide the American people.

Open Wisconsin now

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy!

This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether or not to end Governor Tony Evers’ dictatorial rule and re-establish the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government. Hopefully the court will side with self-governance and strike down Evers’ unconstitutional power grab. When they do, the governor and Legislature will be left to wrangle over the best plan to reopen the state’s economy. What should the plan be? Get out of the way and let Wisconsinites get to work.

As other states go about opening their economies, they are doing so with a variety of plans. Some are very detailed plans with a strict metrics. Some are looser plans with a schedule of gradual opening. Some, like Governor Evers’ plan, are utterly unworkable and rely on arbitrary decisions made in the governor’s mansion. All of them are based on the incorrect presumption that some politician sitting in a leather chair in a faraway capital is better informed on how to safely open factories, retail stores, processing plants, and offices than the people who own and work in them.

Wisconsin’s experience is the perfect example. Evers closed the state without much of a plan. From the first day, confusion reigned as people tried to comply with the rules, but since the rules were vague and incomplete, Evers resorted to issuing various clarifications every few days. There was never any way that Evers, or his staff of lifer government bureaucrats, were equipped to fully understand the full consequences of the orders they were issuing. They were never going to be able to anticipate and respond to the way their orders rolled through society.

While Evers and his staff may be uniquely and especially bad, no small group of politicians and advisers would be experienced and smart enough to micromanage something on the scale of stopping or restarting an entire state’s economy. The reason Evers failed so badly is the same reason that socialism fails: central planning does not work.

That is why Wisconsin should not go down the failed path of central planning when reopening the economy. Instead, our state and local governments should assume the role of a humble government that uses its granted powers to support the people — not oppress them.

When the coronavirus crisis began, we were facing a very scary unknown danger. The early projections showed that the virus may kill millions, incapacitate many more, and overwhelm our health care system. Based on those projections, our governments responded with draconian measures. With the benefit of hindsight, we can argue about whether that response was warranted, but we have more information as we move forward.

While we are a long way from completely controlling or stopping the spread of coronavirus, we know a lot more about it and its spread. It is not as deadly as we thought. We have plenty of capacity in our health care system. The spread can be greatly mitigated by social distancing, washing hands, covering coughs, sanitizing surfaces, and staying home if you are sick. And the people who are at most risk of serious complications or death are the elderly and those with serious underlying conditions.

We have spent weeks learning about this virus and how to protect against it. We have shifted from dealing with a scary unknown risk to a scary known risk. That is why our government should step back and let the citizens manage the risk for themselves. The people all know how dangerous this virus is now and are perfectly capable of managing the risk just like we do for every other risk that confronts each of us every day.

No business owner wants their customers, employees, or themselves to get sick. No customer wants to put himself or herself at undue risk while shopping. No employee wants to work in unsafe conditions. But it is up to each of these groups of people – employers, employees, and customers – to work out how to interact with each other where everybody is comfortable. Those billions of interactions take nuance and understanding to do correctly. Nuance and understanding are not government’s forte.

While government should step back and let a free, self-governing citizenry open their own economy, we do need our government to do what government does well. We need our government to pool resources to be available to swamp any potential outbreaks. We need our government to provide the latest guidance and recommendations. We need our government to provide legal reform to limit liability for people who might be sued because of the virus.

Other than that, we need our government to get out of the way.

Healthcare System is Not Overwhelmed by COVID

We did our job. We flattened the curve. Can we go back to work?

But the bleakest projections have not yet been realized. Despite the mounting number of new confirmed cases each day, public health officials say social distancing, so far, has flattened what might have otherwise been a sharp peak.

Hospitals across the region have not exceeded their ICU bed or ventilator capacity to date. As of press time, health systems in southeastern Wisconsin had a total of 194 available ICU beds, and 1,134 available non-ICU beds, according to Wisconsin Hospital Association data. The region has 511 ventilators available across health systems, with 207 currently in use. 

“People are feeling better … about new cases and the ability to have beds and ventilators than we were feeling two or three weeks ago,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “That’s really the good news. (But) we’re certainly not out of the woods.”

Evers Agrees To Follow Law

It’s not just on shutdown orders where the Evers Administration is breaking the law. He truly doesn’t think that the law should apply to him.

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration will hand over 10,000 pages of records to Republican Rep. John Nygren to settle an open records lawsuit he filed in November.

Under the terms of the settlement reached by the Department of Justice, the state will pay $40,000 in fees to Nygren’s private attorneys.

Nygren, R-Marinette, sued Evers in November to compel his office to turn over records related to farmer mental health programs run by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection his office had denied in full. Nygren had requested the records in August. Senate Republicans ended up firing Evers’ agriculture secretary for criticizing them about the funding for those programs.

Nygren’s lawsuit was one of several instances where Evers has come under fire for his open records practices. In filing his lawsuit, Nygren — who has himself come under fire over transparency — chided the governor’s records denial as shameful.

This was a pretty routine open records request and the law is clear. Despite that, Evers concealed, fought, and eventually cost the taxpayers tens of thousand of dollars to defend Evers’ vanity.

Supreme Court Takes Case. Will Hold Hearings on Tuesday.

Ugh.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday said it would take up a controversial case that could result in the suspension of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The 6-1 decision is a setback for the Evers administration, which wanted the court to throw it out. Now, attorneys for the administration and Republican Legislature, which brought the lawsuit, will present their arguments via videoconferencing on Tuesday, after which the court could rule.

It frustrates the hell out of me that the court moves so slow. For most of the court’s business, time is not of the essence. They are deciding on some legal issue about an incident that is long over and the immediate impact of that decision impacts very few. But when there is something going on RIGHT NOW that requires a decision, the people deserve for them to act faster.

In this case, we have a rogue executive branch that is seizing dictatorial powers to usurp the power of the legislature and rule by decree. The governor is violating every Wisconsinite’s civil rights and causing incredible irreparable harm to the economy and lives of millions of citizens. If there was ever a time that required swift action by the court to restore the division of powers and uphold the people’s rights, this is it.

The court showed that they can at swiftly when required. Just a few weeks ago, they acted within hours of Evers’ unconstitutional attempt to move the election. Why can’t they do that here? That’s the wrong question. They can do it here. Why are they choosing to plod along?

Some Hartford Businesses Open Despite Insurance Fears

Good for them! For those small businesses who are being threatened by their insurance company if they open, I’d suggest that you take your business elsewhere. These insurance companies are willing to cover the big box stores. If they don’t want your business, then don’t give it to them. Bear in mind that the insurance companies are flush right now because claims are way down. They are still taking your premium checks. They should cover you opening your business.

“It is really hurting business and it will take months to recover. I’ve fielded over 40 calls from customers asking if we’d reopen,” Mallow said. “We’ve been able to pay our bills.

Hattori said she thinks “the whole insurance thing is really poor information.”

“I talked to another business owner and asked them if they had actually talked to their insurance agent. She said no. I feel fear is just perpetuating insurance fears. So there’s no insurance issues whatsoever. As long as you pay your premiums you are insured,” Hattori said.

“If you got to Walmart they are insured. In my shop if you want to buy yarn why would my insurance have anything to do with it? The safety factor is like tenfold more serious in a store like that. In my shop there is no fear. I am a small business owner; why would I want to put my customers at risk, put myself at risk? Without customers I don’t have a business. If I don’t have fear my customers don’t need to have fear. If people are sick I think most people stay home when they are sick anyway.”

Supreme Court Rejects Teachers Union’s Attempt to Intervene

I was deeply amused by the court’s order:

A motion to intervene, both as of right and with the permission of the court; an alternative motion for leave to file a non-party brief, amicus curiae; a proposed brief in response to the petition for leave to commence an original action and the accompanying motion for temporary injunctive relief; and an affidavit of counsel in support of the proposed brief having been filed by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, et al.;

IT IS ORDERED that the motion to intervene is denied; and

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for leave to file a non-party brief, amicus curiae, is denied. The court’s April 21, 2020 order expressly stated that a non-party brief, which must be attached to a motion for leave to file it, “shall not exceed 20 pages if a monospaced font is used or 4,400 words if a proportional serif font is used.” The proposed non-party brief submitted with this motion fails to comply with this order as it is 74 pages in length.

Notice that the brief was not rejected because of any of the content or some arcane legal rule. It was rejected because they didn’t follow instructions on the format! The TEACHERS. They didn’t follow the formatting instructions. Bwhahahahaha.

And it’s not like it was some minor technicality like screwing up citing in APA format or anything. It was supposed to be no more than 20 pages and they turned in SEVENTY FOUR PAGES!

That’s hilarious…

Washington County Considers Mandatory Furlough Program

Nobody wishes ill on our neighbors who work for government, but these kinds of things will become more necessary as the people’s ability to pay is severely retarded by Governor Evers.

April 28, 2020 – Washington Co., WI – Details are coming in slowly however it appears Washington County is looking to implement a Mandatory Furlough Program for some of its employees. The five days of furlough are tied to an upcoming fiscal impact from COVID-19 pandemic. Details regarding a projected $3 million to $5 million drop in revenue are below.

Other details according to the Public Affairs Coordinator Ethan Hollenberger:

Employees must pick five furlough days between May 7 and Dec 31. They can take one per calendar week. Paid holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc) are eligible as days to pick to be on furlough.  Employees will work with their supervisor to pick the days that best work for them.

Long term, I don’t think this will be enough, unfortunately, but it’s a step in a necessary direction.

On another note, this stuck out to me from another story about a local government dealing with lesser revenue:

The city’s golf courses, even after reopening this week, are expected to lose $165,200 in revenue. Gagin said he does not see a viable option for the golf courses remaining open without help from the city’s general fund.

I have complained for years that the county should not be in the business of operating a golf course. The push back I got – even from fellow conservatives – was that the golf course actually made money. True, I said, but the taxpayers are on the hook if it doesn’t. Well, here we go… and now it’s too late to sell the golf course. The buyers are drying up with the economy. There’s a good chance that the taxpayer of Washington County will be asked to cover costs at the Washington County Golf Course, abandon it, or sell it for pennies on the dollar. Let’s check back in on the budget in a few months.

 

Fifty years of Earth Day

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy! Here’s a taste:

The second consequence of the radicalization of the environmentalist movement that the COVID pandemic has revealed is just what zealots they are. For example, as oil prices crashed and American oil workers were losing their jobs, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated their demise as an advance for green infrastructure. She wasn’t the only one. As global economic paralysis has decreased pollution, radical environmentalists all over the world celebrated it and advocated for keeping the economy shut down for the sake of the environment.

Nothing highlights the extremism of these radical environmentalists as the fact that they welcome economic calamity for tens of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world for the sake of the environment. At the root of the philosophy is a loathing of humankind. In their world view, they would perpetuate a permanent lockdown of modern life. Mass unemployment, economic decline, and universal poverty are not only the price of a pristine environment, but the penance for humanity’s existence.

Reasonable environmental stewardship is an American virtue, but we must reject the extremism that would usher in the permanent retraction of our modern civilization.

Evers Issues Another Arbitrary Edict

Oh, THANK YOU, King Evers, your most Excellent Highness, for this amazing concession. Grovel, grovel, grovel

MADISON (WLUK) — The state will now allow nonessential businesses to do curbside drop-off of goods and animals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Tony Evers’ office says the change will allow businesses such as dog groomers, small engine repair shops and upholstery businesses to reopen. It also provides for outdoor recreational rentals such as boats, golf carts, kayaks and ATVs. Automatic and self-serve car washes will also be able to operate.

Businesses must be able to operate free of contact with customers by taking payments online or over the phone, properly disinfect surfaces and operate with only one staff member.

Yet another arbitrary and capricious edict emanating from Madison. This is not what self-governance looks like.

Evers Responds to Wanggaard

Wow. Here’s Van Wanggaard’s response to Evers’ response. Bold is mine.

MADISON – On Friday afternoon, Governor Tony Evers responded to a letter to Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and other State Senate Republicans seeking information into the
decision-making process behind the Stay-at-Home extension. In his response to Republicans, Evers twice hints at extending Safer-At-Home through the summer. Evers answer also states that 35% of all Wisconsin employers may close forcing over 725,000 people to permanently lose their jobs.

After reviewing the response over the weekend, Wanggaard issued the following statement:

“I appreciate the Governor sharing his insights into his decision-making process. It is clear that he has put at least some thought into his decision-making. But Evers response, as far as it goes, shows the frightening results of his decisions.

“It appears that Evers’ is actively thinking about extending Safer at Home into and possibly through the summer at the cost of almost three-quarters of a million people losing their jobs.
Given his admission that the length of “Safer-at-Home” has no impact on lessening a substantial peak overwhelming hospitals, substantially extending the “Safer-at-Home” order makes little sense.

I thought he was exaggerating, but here’s Evers’ full response. Let it sink in… Evers considers 35% of Wisconsin going out of business, 725,000 permanent job losses, and a sustained economic depression to be an acceptable consequence of his orders. He also has no problem with extending this indefinitely. He. Doesn’t. Care.

Sound Off

I was bemused by this Sound Off in the Washington County Daily News this morning.

Who is this Owen Robinson and why does he continue to have a voice in the Daily News? His views are usually without merit or basis in fact. In his most recent column (Tuesday) why does he think that the “economic and societal devastation” is coming from the governor’s mansion? It must be because the governor is not in tune with Robinson’s political ideology. Instead, why does he not direct his ire toward President Trump, whose guidelines for dealing with the pandemic Evers is following? Oh, that’s right. He shares the same political views as the infallible Trump, a being so supreme that he cannot be blamed for anything.

— Raymond Pinter, West Bend

Ummmm… the lock down order was issued by Governor Evers. That’s why. On the bright side, the person seems to agree with me that the order is causing “economic and societal devastation.” He just wants me to blame Trump instead, or something. Or is it that he agrees with the lock down so I should praise Trump for implementing it? I’m not tracking on his line of thought… 

Madison Protests End Peacefully

A tip o’ the hat to the Capitol Police for not enforcing the governor’s unconstitutional orders on what was clearly an exercise of the people’s First Amendment rights.

According to Capitol Police, about 1,500 people gathered at the event and there were no arrests or citations issued.

West Bend Continues to Bow to Madison as Hartford Propels Forward

This is a disappointingly sheepish position.

While remaining open, West Bend has complied with the Safer at Home Executive Orders throughout all departments and is actively preparing for the Badger Bounce Back plan. “West Bend takes great pride in being a business-friendly community and we’re committed to supporting businesses throughout this process,” said Mayor Christophe E. Jenkins. “We’re actively working with businesses to propel them forward.”

The Police Department has worked with citizens and businesses to educate them on the Safer at Home Order and to seek their voluntary compliance. West Bend businesses have been directed to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for clarification and questions on compliance regarding the State’s Emergency Health Orders. In a number of cases, WEDC was able to guide businesses to remain open in compliance with the orders. The City is grateful for the understanding and support that citizens and businesses have shown.

Business owners who have specific questions or concerns regarding the Safer at Home Order may contact WEDC. Residents may contact their state legislators.

I would have hoped that the City of West Bend would have taken a more muscular approach to protecting our rights and supporting the local economy.

COVID Having a Negligible Impact on Wisconsin’s Death Rate

I love data. It can tell you so much. Here are Wisconsin’s death statistics for the previous decade or so (2017 is the most recent year available)

Over that decade, Wisconsin averages about 49 thousand deaths from all causes per year. That is an average of about 4,095 deaths per month. I wish I could find monthly stats to adjust for seasonal variances, but I can’t. Anyway, looking over the time period, we averaged anywhere from an average of 3,800 deaths per month in 2009 to 4,390 deaths per month in 2017. That’s a monthly death rate of anywhere between 65.27 and 75.40 (rates are per 100,000 residents based on current estimate of a population of Wisconsin at 5,822,000).

What we don’t know is what the real-time death rate is right now in Wisconsin. Obviously, it varies due to all kinds of factors. If you look at the deaths from COVID in the state, we have had 257 as of yesterday. Those all came between the dates of March 20th and April 23rd – about a month. That equates to a monthly death rate of 4.41. In other words, the death rate from COVID is well within the normal rate variances that have always happened.

And this assumes that all of the deaths being counted as COVID deaths are incremental to the already existing death rate. As we know, many people are dying of heart attacks and whatnot and being counted as COVID deaths because the disease was present. In other words, we are not counting people who were killed BY COVID. We are counting people who died WITH COVID.

When all of this is over and we can crunch the data, I’m willing to bet a ham sammich that Wisconsin’s death rate for 2020 will not stick out as abnormal from the years surrounding it. The statistics that will stick out are job losses, business closures, bankruptcies, and foreclosures. Hey, I got the prediction that the Packers would draft a quarterback right. I am even more confident about this one.