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Politicians Holding on to Relief Money

If this was truly a crisis that required immediate action by our government, they failed at every turn. At this point, just send the money back to our grandchildren.

As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.

 

Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.

 

As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.

 

Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.

 

Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.

Delta Surge Despite Vaccinations

Vaccinations help, but this thing is just going to keep burning through areas of the world periodically like the flu and other viruses. It’s time to take reasonable precautions and get on with living.

Despite having the highest vaccination rates in the country, there are constant reminders for most New England states of just how vicious the delta variant of COVID-19 is.

 

Hospitals across the region are seeing full intensive care units and staff shortages are starting to affect care. Public officials are pleading with the unvaccinated to get the shots. Health care workers are coping with pent-up demand for other kinds of care that had been delayed by the pandemic.

Another Student Loan Service Provider Quits

You can’t make money and pay your employees if there are no payments to process. Expect chaos if you have student loans.

Major student loan servicer Navient (NAVI) is quitting the federal servicing business, the company announced Tuesday, handing off its 5.5 million borrowers holding about $280 billion in federal student loans to Maximus, another servicer.

 

Advocates and progressive lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) heralded the move, in light of Navient’s troubled relationship with the federal government’s consumer protection bodies.

 

But the departure adds another challenge when the Education Department (ED) looks to end the student loan payment pause in January — especially after four other servicers quit in the past year.

 

[…]

 

With Navient’s announcement, roughly 16.3 million student loan borrowers will be getting a new loan servicer in 2022.

 

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency — which services around 8.5 million student loan borrowers — and Granite State — which services around 1.3 million borrowers — both called it quits in July. Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, which pulled out in October 2020, serviced around 1 million student loan borrowers.

 

The departures come as the majority of the 43 million student loan borrowers across the U.S must start paying their loans again. The payments have been paused, without interest, since March 13, 2020, with the Biden administration recently extending the pause through January 31, 2022.

Warren cheers:

“Navient has spent decades misleading, cheating, and abusing student borrowers. The Federal student loan program will be far better off without them,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in a statement.

 

“Ultimately, the student loan system is broken,” she continued. “The only way to guarantee that borrowers do not face the same predatory behavior from Navient’s replacement is to cancel student debt, so that no borrower’s future is held hostage by corporations profiting off their financial distress.”

So…. the federal government took over the student loan program, effed it all up, and now the solution is for the taxpayers to just give the money to college kids? Joe Plumber who never went to college has to pay for the lawyer’s student debt because the government is incompetent?

Maybe some politicians who voted to federalize and screw up the student loan system should have to foot the bill.

West Bend School District Keeps Raising Taxes and Spending with Declining Enrollment

This letter to the editor by Carol Heger takes us back a bit to illustrate the yawning gap between the rhetoric of the current board members and their actions. The spending doesn’t have anything to do with education. It has to do with supporting a political constituency with your money.

On Monday night, Sept. 27th, the West Bend School District (WBSD) held its annual meeting. Once again, the so-called, self-identified “conservative” school board members are proposing to raise the tax levy. This will be the third year in a row, if this resolution is approved, that the school board has increased the tax levy. In the 2019-20 school year, it was raised 7.15%, in 2020-21 it was raised 6.21%, and now the board is proposing a 7.25% increase.

 

In addition, the annual meeting revealed that the district’s gross total expenditures proposed for the 2021-22 school year are to increase 7.12% from $98,504,627 to $103,376,400.  This increase in spending is happening when enrollment has declined about 200 students from 6,034 last year to an estimated 5,824 this school year.  (In the last 10 years, the district has lost about 1,000 students.)  This increase in spending and the property tax increase are happening when the schools all over Wisconsin are flush with federal stimulus funding.

Read the whole thing.

Classic Straw Man

I was amused by this letter to the editor about my column this week:

Being in my late 70s, I thought I had heard just about everything. Then I read Owen Robinson’s column on Tuesday where he blames President Biden for the 2020 murder rate. “Unbelievable.” If you follow that kind of logic then Biden was also responsible for the insurrection at our Capitol. No need for a second impeachment, and President Obama must have been responsible for the “Great Recession” instead of actually ending it. That takes Bush off the hook and now he wants to take Trump off the hook.

 

Readers of the Daily News needn’t worry about reading revisionist history. Robinson has that covered.

Ummm… OK, but here’s my column. I don’t even mention Biden. I wrote about Democrats, but there are Democrats who aren’t a member of the Biden family. It’s a good example of someone who read what he wanted to read instead of what was actually written.

People Will Comply If you Threaten to Bankrupt Them

Shocking. If you coerce people into something by threatening to take away their livelihood, a lot of people will comply. Bullying and coercion works. Entire criminal enterprises have been based on this fact. That doesn’t make it right.

California’s requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which took effect Thursday, appears to have compelled tens of thousands of unvaccinated employees to get shots in recent weeks, bolstering the case for employer mandates.

International Shipping Infrastructure in Crisis

Our overreaction to COVID is causing far more devastation than the virus itself.

A coalition of unions that represent shipping workers around the world has warned of an imminent ‘global transport systems collapse’ due to lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In an open letter on Wednesday, the workers groups warned that fragmented and inconsistent pandemic restrictions around the world have thrown global shipping into chaos.

 

The warning comes as supply-chain backlogs leave scores of cargo ships idling outside US ports, exacerbating shortages caused by a national truck driver shortage that threatens to derail the Christmas shopping season.

 

‘We are witnessing unprecedented disruptions and global delays and shortages on essential goods including electronics, food, fuel and medical supplies,’ the shipping workers warned.

America’s murder rate soars

Yes, I’m using the word “soars” a lot when it comes to bad things happening under our Democratic regime. It is accurate. Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week

According to FBI statistics, America experienced the highest annual increase in the murder rate last year since the FBI began tracking national crime statistics. In 2020, America’s murder rate increased by about 29% over 2019. That is over twice the increase of the previous record-setting year, 1968. The increase in murders is not accidental. It is the direct result of bad policies being implemented across America as the bloody tip of the Democratic Party’s agenda.

 

Statistics are always dry and do not convey the true horror that they tabulate. For every “1” entered into a database, there is a life brutally ended, a family in mourning, and a community in anguish. But statistics do help us understand the scale of the problem.

 

In 2020, there were about 21,500 murders across the nation. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Germantown being slaughtered in a single year. There were about 5,000 more people murdered in 2020 than were murdered in 2019.

 

Milwaukee was even worse. While the nation experienced an average murder rate increase of about 29%, Milwaukee’s murder rate increased by 93%. More people were murdered in Milwaukee in 2020 than in any other year on record.

 

The reasons are plain to see. There has been an organized effort to demonize and demoralize the police for several years. In reaction to the sometimes real, often contrived, abusive behavior of some police officers, anarchist and Marxist organizations have seized the opportunity to demand collective punishment for individual transgressions. Not content with America’s judicial system that protects individual rights and liberties, these groups have waged war rhetorically and violently in the streets of our communities.

 

With the police’s traditional defenders cowed into silence, many police took a noticeable step back from aggressively enforcing the law. As the blue line faltered, empowered criminals pushed the boundary.

 

The real changes started to happen when Democrats — particularly those who run America’s largest cities — converted anti-police rhetoric into pro-criminal policies. They took the “defund the police” slogan to heart and cut police budgets. They changed policies to make it more difficult for officers on the streets to do their jobs. They gave criminal advocates a seat at the table to oversee police actions. They replaced the bars in the jails with turnstiles with destructive ideas like no-bail policies.

 

We are now all suffering the results of those policies. Democrats will try to claim that overall crime is down even though the murder rate is up. That is a lie. Just because they are intentionally arresting and prosecuting fewer crimes does not mean that they did not happen. If an antifa rioter punches you in the throat and the police do not arrest her, does that mean that the assault did not happen? Of course, it did, even though the assault will not show up in any crime statistics. When the police are prevented from enforcing the laws by policy and lack of resources, that does not mean that crimes are not occurring. In fact, more crime is happening.

 

That is why the murder rate is a key indicator. There is no way to sugar-coat or hide a murder. There is a corpse and someone has to explain why it is there. It is one of the few crimes that is recorded that does not require any action on the part of the police or prosecutors.

 

What can we do about the exploding crime rate? First, we have to collectively decide that we want to do something about it. Politics trail culture and there is a significant cultural movement that not only accepts more crime, but views its destabilizing effect as necessary to drive social change. Until our culture rejects that movement for the cancer it is, there will always be political support for the policies that empower criminals.

 

Second, assuming we actually want to change it, we must drive change in local elections. Most of the decisions about funding law enforcement, use of force policies, prosecutions, etc. are made by local governments, elected district attorneys, elected sheriffs, and elected judges. People make policy and we must elect people who will make policies that protect our communities.

 

Most things that happen are not the result of some mysterious force. They are the result of decisions that we make. Until we decide that we want to have less crime, it will not happen.

Rents Soar in Biden’s America

Once again, Democratic policies hammer the middle and working classes.

Rent data for the past two months show no sign yet of the usual seasonal dip at this time of year, following peaks early in the summer, when many lease renewals come due.

Home Heating Costs Soar

Carter’s -er- Biden’s America.

New York (CNN Business)Americans should brace for sticker shock on home heating costs as temperatures drop this fall and winter.

Prices for natural gas, the most common way to heat homes and a leading fuel source for generating electricity, have surged more than 180% over the past 12 months to $5.90 per million British thermal units. Natural gas hasn’t been this expensive since February 2014.
The risk is that an early winter or extremely cold fall temperatures will force households to crank up the heat. That would further shrink the nation’s below-average stockpiles of natural gas and could lift prices even higher.

Artist Takes the Money and Runs

Brilliant.

The pieces were meant to be reproductions of two works by artist Jens Haaning, who previously used framed cash to represent the average annual salaries of an Austrian and a Dane — in euros and Danish krone respectively.

But when the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg took delivery of the recreated artworks ahead of the show, gallery staff made a surprising discovery: the frames were empty. Rather than being the handiwork of thieves, the loaned cash was missing thanks to Haaning himself, who says he is keeping the money — in the name of art.

 

“I have chosen to make a new work for the exhibition, instead of showing the two 14- and 11-year-old works respectively,” Haaning told the museum in an email, the text of which is now displayed next to the empty frames.

 

“The work is based on/responds to both your exhibition concept and the works that we had originally planned to show.”

 

The “new” conceptual piece, which Haaning has titled “Take the Money and Run,” is now at the center of a dispute between museum and artist over labor, contractual obligations and the value of work — all fitting themes for the exhibition.

Assembly Passes Bill Mandating Civics Education

While I support the need to teach civics, I’m not sure I trust 60%+ of the government school teachers to teach it fairly.

Under the bill, the required civics curriculum would have to include teaching the history and context of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and “a sense of civic pride and desire to participate regularly with government at all levels.”

The bill passed the Assembly on a 61-37 vote, with all Republicans and Democratic Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, of Milwaukee, voting yes. All other Democrats voted against it. The measure now heads to the Senate, which must also pass it before it would go to Gov. Tony Evers.

West Bend Electors Approve 7.3% Tax Increase and Double Stipend for Board Members

The people who show up make the decisions. The West Bend School District has an annual meeting in which the district’s electors can show up and vote on various items. Some of those things are binding. Some of them (like the levy) are advisory. Last night, West Bends’s liberals turned out to jack up taxes and double the pay for board members. This is despite declining enrollment and federal stimulus funding flooding the district.

The tax levy is proposed at $47,816,964, up 7.3% from $44,583,969.

 

[…]

 

A new change this year, brought forward by electors, was to double the compensation given to school board members, or $5,000 annually per member and $5,200 per officer. During the 2014-2015 budget year, compensation was approved at $2,500 per member per year and $2,600 per officer per year.

 

Mark Allen, District 2 alderman and school district resident, asked electors to disapprove of the resolution as proposed in favor of increasing compensation.

The presentation included this slide:

That’s a 14.7% decline in enrollment in just 5 years. That’s over a thousand fewer students to educate. They still haven’t closed any buildings. They are still overstaffed. But the electors in West Bend just gave them a massive tax increase and doubled the pay of the board making the decisions.

Conservatives in West Bend… if you want to know why this district is going to hell, look in the mirror. The liberals showed up. You didn’t.

America’s murder rate soars

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

What can we do about the exploding crime rate? First, we have to collectively decide that we want to do something about it. Politics trail culture and there is a significant cultural movement that not only accepts more crime, but views its destabilizing effect as necessary to drive social change. Until our culture rejects that movement for the cancer it is, there will always be political support for the policies that empower criminals.

 

Second, assuming we actually want to change it, we must drive change in local elections. Most of the decisions about funding law enforcement, use of force policies, prosecutions, etc. are made by local governments, elected district attorneys, elected sheriffs, and elected judges. People make policy and we must elect people who will make policies that protect our communities.

 

Most things that happen are not the result of some mysterious force. They are the result of decisions that we make. Until we decide that we want to have less crime, it will not happen.

 

GOP Blocks Attempt to Suspend Debt Ceiling

Excellent. Unfortunately, I expect them to raise the debt ceiling at some point, but at least they won’t do it lightly.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators blocked a bill Monday night to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown pledged to try again — at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe Biden’s big plans to reshape government.

 

The efforts are not necessarily linked, but the fiscal yearend deadline to fund the government past Thursday is bumping up against the Democrats’ desire to make progress on Biden’s expansive $3.5 trillion federal overhaul.

Don’t forget that the problem here is that the politicians in Washington spend too dang much money. If we had a balanced budget, then they wouldn’t need to keep raising the debt ceiling.

Wisconsin Government Schools Called Police About Students at Above Average Rate

I honestly don’t know if this is a problem or not. We don’t want teachers and administrators enforcing discipline if a student is truly committing a crime like assault or theft. It would be appropriate to call the police. So are Wisconsin’s school employees quicker on that trigger? Is there a higher degree of criminal behavior in Wisconsin’s schools? Is anyone actually doing anything wrong or is this just reflecting the reality?

Public schools in Wisconsin referred students to police twice as often as schools nationwide in 2017-18 — nine students were referred to police for every 1,000 students enrolled compared to the national rate of 4.5, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of U.S. Department of Education data found.

 

Just three states — New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia — reported higher rates of referral than Wisconsin.

 

The analysis of data from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico found that school policing disproportionately affects students with disabilities, Black children and, in some states, Native American and Latino children. Nationwide, Black students and students with disabilities were referred to law enforcement at nearly twice their share of the overall student population.

 

In Wisconsin, students with disabilities and students of color also bore the brunt of school policing. In 2017-18, Wisconsin was more likely than any other state to refer Native students to law enforcement, reporting a rate over three times higher than the rate of referral for their white peers.

Court Rules in Favor of 1st Amendment Despite Pandemic

From Wisconsin Spotlight. It is rather unsettling that a decision like this would ever be in doubt.

MADISON — The First Amendment cannot be constrained in the name of a pandemic.

 

That’s the ruling of a federal judge who finds Marquette County law enforcement officials violated the speech rights of a teen when they threatened to arrest her after she posted on Instagram that she had COVID-19 in the opening months of the pandemic.

 

“The First Amendment is not a game setting for the government to toggle off and on. It applies in times of tranquility and times of strife,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Brett Ludwig in his decision, “While Defendants in this case may have believed their actions served the greater good, that belief cannot insulate them. Demanding a 16-year-old remove protected speech from her Instagram account is a First Amendment violation.”

 

Ludwig granted Amyiah Cohoon, at the time a sophomore from Oxford, and her parents summary judgment. And the defendants, Sheriff Joseph Konrath and Sergeant Cameron Klump, cannot escape liability by invoking probable cause or qualified immunity, the judge wrote.

 

As Empower Wisconsin reported, on March 27, 2020, Klump threatened to cite or jail Amyiah or her parents if she did not remove the social network post indicating she was recovering from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit.

Permanent State of Emergency

In a press release about a law that allows people to drive an unregistered vehicle during a state of emergency, Senator Marklein shares this fact with us:

Since 2019, there have been 19 State of Emergency declarations by the Governor that have applied to at least some part of the state under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 323. These declarations have covered more than 710 of the last 982 days, or more than 72% of the time. In addition, there have been countless local emergency declarations.

These State of Emergency declarations have ranged from closing state office buildings due to cold weather, to preparing an emergency management response due to elevated wildfire conditions, to COVID-19 related measures. While some of these declarations are only necessary for a few days, under state law, emergency declarations last 60 days, unless revoked by the Governor via an executive order or by the legislature by joint resolution

It is remarkable how easy, and how often, our government officials suspend inconvenient rules by issuing a state of emergency. Why do we bother with a representative government and all of the apparatus of making and enforcing laws if they are suspended at the drop of a hat whenever the governor finds them onerous?

The legislature should take a hard look at revising the parameters of what is, and what is not, an emergency and who gets to decide.

“This is not a gun grab”

If you have to say it...

State Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) said 19 other states have extreme risk protection order laws, and passing similar legislation could save lives in Wisconsin.

 

“This is not a gun grab,” State Rep. Andraca said. “This is a bill that respects our Second Amendment rights with provisions, such as criminal penalties for those who bring false charges. Only a judge can issue an order based on clear and convincing evidence of a threat. The order is temporary, can be challenged or terminated with full due process.”

Mandela Barnes might be a perfect socialist

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

We learned last week that the Democrat front-runner for U.S. Senate and current lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, did not pay any income taxes and received health care coverage from the taxpayers via BadgerCare in the same year he purchased two condos and ran for public office. It is a pattern of behavior that has become all too familiar in Barnes’ short political career.

 

In 2018, Barnes ran for lieutenant governor. Despite the booming economy, he decided to forgo earning a living to devote his time to politicking, so he did not pay any income taxes that year. Lacking any declared source of income, he was also on BadgerCare that year. BadgerCare is Wisconsin’s Medicaid program that is meant to provide taxpayer-funded health care coverage for low-income Wisconsinites. I doubt that the taxpayers thought that the intent of BadgerCare was to pay for the healthcare of fulltime political campaigners, but that is what they did.

 

What is interesting about that year is that Barnes also purchased two condos within a single year. After all, the economy and the housing market were doing well, so surely Barnes thought that either he needed two homes, or it was a good investment. Barnes has claimed that he used inherited money for the real estate purchases (some enterprising investigating reporter should verify the source of the money). This indicates that while Barnes forewent earning an income that year, he was not without means. Yet, despite having means, he chose to consume taxpayer dollars for his health care. He could have applied for an individual health insurance policy through Obamacare, but that would have meant spending some of his own money on premiums. Why should he buy only one condo and pay for his own health insurance when there are plenty of chumps out there to pay for his health care? This has been Barnes’ pattern throughout his political life. As he proudly touts his “progressive” credentials, he burnishes his socialist credentials by using every opportunity to avoid paying his own way and to spend other people’s money. Such purloining is at the heart of socialism.

 

In 2019, the public learned that Barnes had not paid the property taxes on his condo. According to city of Milwaukee records, Barnes had two delinquent property tax bills in June. The property taxes were due by the end of January and Barnes still had not paid them by the middle of summer. When confronted with the delinquency, Barnes dismissed the news as “ridiculous” and claimed that the “check is in the mail” — the refrain of deadbeats since the advent of regular mail service.

 

Barnes’ reluctance to pay his fair share of the tax burden is understandable. Many property owners grit their teeth when the property tax bill comes due every year. But such frustration with the high cost of government is not a valid reason to withhold payment, and socialists like Barnes want government to cost even more. When caught, Barnes paid the bill. There is no telling how long that check would have taken in the mail had it not hit the news.

 

In the same vein, Barnes failed to pay a slew of parking tickets until he was forced to. It was only $108, but the fines went unpaid even as Barnes assumed the office of lieutenant governor. The unpaid parking tickets meant that Barnes could not register his car, so he did not drive.

 

Fortunately for him, as lieutenant governor, Barnes had access to a taxpayer-funded security detail that could chauffeur him around the state in the guise of “protecting” him. With all that full-time protection and being driven around in the taxpayers’ cars, Barnes did not feel much need to pay the fines and register his car.

 

Once again, the incredibly high cost of Barnes’ security detail — even on days when he did not have any public duties — and the unpaid fines came into public view. Once again, Barnes was dismissive of the allegations and claimed there was just some mix-up. And once again, he finally paid the bill.

 

Barnes’ thoughtless use of the taxpayers’ dollars, disregard for personal responsibilities, and entitled rudeness are not deviations from the norm. They are the norm. He has spent a career finding ways to spend other people’s money as he enriches himself. That is precisely what he will continue to do should Wisconsin’s voters be foolhardy enough to send him to the U.S. Senate on their behalf.

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