Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Tag: Column

Government mandates another vaccine

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

The Wisconsin Department of Human Resources has released new vaccine requirements for children who attend child care centers and schools next year. In a previous era, perhaps a more innocent era, such an announcement would pass unnoticed and unscrutinized as a sensible precaution being enacted by government officials motivated by goodwill and informed by science. However, we live in a post-pandemic world where such trust in our government is no longer warranted — if it ever was.

 

[…]

 

Part of what is driving the new mandate is that state health bureaucrats are concerned about the drop in overall vaccinations. According to state date, the number of students who were compliant with required immunizations dropped by 3.2% last year as compared to the prior year. 88.7% of students complied with immunization mandates, but state officials are concerned about the increasing resistance to compliance.

 

A more reflective government health bureaucracy might recognize the underlying cause of the drop.

 

They have nobody to blame but themselves. We remember their behavior during the COVID pandemic. We remember the lockdowns that devastated lives.

 

We remember the public shaming. We remember the idiotic mask mandates. We remember forcing children to get unproven vaccines despite the infinitesimal risks of COVID for healthy kids. We remember being forced to stand in the snow to see loved ones in nursing homes through a window. We remember being forbidden to attend funerals to comfort the bereaved.

 

We remember it all. And we remember that it was all for naught. All of the physical, emotional, mental health, economic, and educational pain and suffering inflicted by these same government health bureaucrats far outweighed the negligible, if any, impact on mitigating the spread and effects of COVID. Yet their failures have not dampened their hubris.

 

The COVID pandemic unmasked the government health bureaucracies as often incompetent, sometimes corrupt, occasionally untruthful, unjustifiably arrogant, and heavily influenced by monied special interests like the pharmaceutical companies. In other words, they are subject to all of the same human failings as any other human institution.

 

The realization that our government health officials are human and may not be acting in our best interests has engendered a healthy skepticism of their recommendations and mandates. If you have a child entering the seventh grade, should you comply with the government mandate to get the meningococcal vaccine? Don’t trust your government. They have not earned your trust. Do your own homework and take responsibility for your child’s health care.

The Education Reformation sweeps America

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

Frustrated by chronically poorly performing government schools and a well-heeled government education aristocracy that has an agenda far removed from the priorities of parents, education advocates have ignited an education reformation that is sweeping across America. Once a pioneer in education, Wisconsin looks like it will be watching from the sidelines due to unrequited loyalty to a failing bureaucracy.

 

The education reformation is manifesting in several forms that are being lumped into the moniker of “universal school choice.” While the mechanisms differ, the concept is the same. Reformers are decoupling education funding from the government education industrial complex and crafting programs that fund education for children irrespective of their race, creed, religion, socioeconomic background, or school of choice. They are programs that fund students and not systems.

 

Last year, Arizona became the first state to pass universal school choice. West Virginia got close, passing a broad plan that provides educational choice to about 93% of their children. Already this year, Iowa has passed universal school choice. The states of Florida, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Indiana are all advancing universal school choice and likely to pass some form by the end of 2023. Several other states are in earlier stages of considering universal school choice. It is conceivable that half of the United States will have universal school choice by 2025. Disastrously for Wisconsin’s children, our state is unlikely to be one of them. Gov. Tony Evers is a lifelong creature of the government education establishment and is vehemently loyal to defending the bureaucracy irrespective of its performance. He has demonstrated his willingness to veto any educational reform that threatens the entrenched power structure and is unlikely to shift his loyalty to children any time soon.

 

While the Republican majorities in the Legislature are strong, they lack the votes to overcome Evers’ vetoes without some legislative Democrats shifting their support to children. When Governor Tommy Thompson pioneered the original school choice program in Wisconsin, there was bipartisan support, and bipartisan opposition, for it. In today’s political landscape, it is unlikely that enough Democrats are willing to cross the yawning political divide to support kids.

 

The benefits of school choice have never been clearer. Dr. Will Flanders from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has released his fifth annual “Apples to Apples” research study which evaluates student outcomes across government, charter, and choice schools while controlling for student demographics. This statistical methodology controls for the fact that government, charter, and choice schools have dissimilar student demographics to provide a clear comparison of performance. Notably, this year’s study uses public data from the 2021-2022 school year report cards from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and is the first post-pandemic look at school performance.

 

The results are clear. According to the study, students in the Milwaukee Choice program are significantly more proficient in English Language Arts and math than their peers in government schools. Students in Milwaukee charter schools (still government schools that have been somewhat liberated from the crushing educational bureaucracy) also perform better than their government school peers, but only about half as much as their peers in choice schools.

 

In the statewide choice program, students in choice school also have better outcomes, but the benefit is not quite as pronounced as it is for kids in Milwaukee.

 

Tellingly, the data also bears out the well-known, if patently ignored, fact that spending has very little to do with performance in government or choice schools. This tells us two things. First, it tells us that once spending has reached a level that provides an adequate level of support for good teachers and a safe physical space, all of the additional spending is just waste. Wisconsin already funds education at a level where each additional dollar spent does not have any positive impact on student outcomes. That being the case, policymakers must ask themselves why they would force taxpayers to pay more when there is no measurable benefit to kids.

 

The second thing this data tells us is that it is the government school system that is retarding student performance. Choice schools operate with less money and produce better outcomes even after accounting for demographic differences in the student body. If the system is the problem, then why should taxpayers and parents be forced to continue to lavishly fund a failed system when demonstrably better systems exist?

 

I am well aware that such arguments rooted in data and genuine passion for educating children do not hold sway in the intellectually sclerotic mind of Governor Evers, but his term will eventually end and we cannot afford to lose another generation of kids to a failed government system.

The Education Reformation sweeps America

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

 

While the Republican majorities in the Legislature are strong, they lack the votes to overcome Evers’ vetoes without some legislative Democrats shifting their support to children. When Governor Tommy Thompson pioneered the original school choice program in Wisconsin, there was bipartisan support, and bipartisan opposition, for it. In today’s political landscape, it is unlikely that enough Democrats are willing to cross the yawning political divide to support kids.

 

The benefits of school choice have never been clearer. Dr. Will Flanders from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has released his fifth annual “Apples to Apples” research study which evaluates student outcomes across government, charter, and choice schools while controlling for student demographics. This statistical methodology controls for the fact that government, charter, and choice schools have dissimilar student demographics to provide a clear comparison of performance. Notably, this year’s study uses public data from the 2021-2022 school year report cards from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and is the first post-pandemic look at school performance.

 

The results are clear. According to the study, students in the Milwaukee Choice program are significantly more proficient in English Language Arts and math than their peers in government schools. Students in Milwaukee charter schools (still government schools that have been somewhat liberated from the crushing educational bureaucracy) also perform better than their government school peers, but only about half as much as their peers in choice schools.

 

In the statewide choice program, students in choice school also have better outcomes, but the benefit is not quite as pronounced as it is for kids in Milwaukee.

 

Tellingly, the data also bears out the well-known, if patently ignored, fact that spending has very little to do with performance in government or choice schools. This tells us two things. First, it tells us that once spending has reached a level that provides an adequate level of support for good teachers and a safe physical space, all of the additional spending is just waste. Wisconsin already funds education at a level where each additional dollar spent does not have any positive impact on student outcomes. That being the case, policymakers must ask themselves why they would force taxpayers to pay more when there is no measurable benefit to kids.

 

The second thing this data tells us is that it is the government school system that is retarding student performance. Choice schools operate with less money and produce better outcomes even after accounting for demographic differences in the student body. If the system is the problem, then why should taxpayers and parents be forced to continue to lavishly fund a failed system when demonstrably better systems exist?

 

I am well aware that such arguments rooted in data and genuine passion for educating children do not hold sway in the intellectually sclerotic mind of Governor Evers, but his term will eventually end and we cannot afford to lose another generation of kids to a failed government system.

 

 

 

 

 

April ballot gets even more important

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

Wisconsin’s April election is shaping up to be one of the most important spring elections in decades. Not only is there an election for the state Supreme Court that will decide whether the court retains its majority of constitutional conservatives or flip to an activist tool of leftists ideologues, but the Legislature has placed two important referendums on the ballot for the voters’ consideration.

 

The first referendum is an advisory referendum regarding work requirements for welfare recipients.

 

The question put to voters is simply, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?”

 

The referendum is only advisory, so it is more akin to a broad opinion poll of Wisconsin’s voters. The impetus for the referendum is to bolster support for planned Republican efforts to enforce welfare work requirements. Since Gov. Tommy Thompson implemented Wisconsin Works in 1996 which required welfare recipients to work or seek work and broke the cycle of dependency for thousands of Wisconsinites, the enforcement of the work requirement has eroded.

 

Gov. Tony Evers has used the pandemic to waive work requirements for some welfare programs despite continued low unemployment and Wisconsin businesses being unable to fill open jobs. There are ample opportunities to work for those who are willing, but Evers is using the pandemic as an excuse to stop enforcing a law that he opposes. As Republicans prepare legislation to reinstate work requirements for welfare recipients, they are hoping, probably in vain, that a strong show of public support will encourage Evers to agree.

 

The second statewide referendum on the April ballot is far more important. Article 1, Section 8(2) of Wisconsin’s Constitution currently prohibits judges from considering anything other than what it will take to ensure that a defendant will appear in court when setting a bail amount. The result of this prohibition has been that judges are hamstrung into granting low bail to defendants even when there is a glaring risk that the defendant will commit more carnage before their court date.

 

Way too many Wisconsinites have been victimized by criminals who were out of jail because of grossly low bail.

 

The referendum on the ballot asks the voters to amend the Constitution to allow judges to consider, “the totality of the circumstances, including the accused’s previous convictions for a violent crime, the probability that the accused will fail to appear, the need to protect the community from serious harm and prevent witness intimidation, and potential affirmative defenses” when setting bail for someone accused of a violent crime.

 

This is the final step in the process to amend the state Constitution. The identical question has been passed by two successive sessions of the Legislature and now the question goes to the voters for final approval. The governor does not have any role in the constitutional amendment process. Noteworthy is the fact that the question passed with bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature in both legislative sessions.

 

If the amendment passes, it does not mean that Wisconsin judges will use their newly granted latitude to impose appropriately high bail for defendants who have a history of habitual thuggery. There are far too many leftist judges on the bench who will continue to coddle crooks with low bail. If Wisconsinites want to keep more violent offenders off the streets for longer, they will have to get to the polls and elect better judges. But the good judges will use their new power to protect Wisconsinites with higher bail for violent criminals and Wisconsin will be better for their diligence.

 

Wisconsinites who want a safer Wisconsin that takes crime seriously should vote “yes” to amend the state Constitution. Then they should vote for the conservative Supreme Court candidate to affirm their anticrime convictions.

April ballot gets even more important

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

Wisconsin’s April election is shaping up to be one of the most important spring elections in decades. Not only is there an election for the state Supreme Court that will decide whether the court retains its majority of constitutional conservatives or flip to an activist tool of leftists ideologues, but the Legislature has placed two important referendums on the ballot for the voters’ consideration.

 

[…]

 

The second statewide referendum on the April ballot is far more important. Article 1, Section 8(2) of Wisconsin’s Constitution currently prohibits judges from considering anything other than what it will take to ensure that a defendant will appear in court when setting a bail amount. The result of this prohibition has been that judges are hamstrung into granting low bail to defendants even when there is a glaring risk that the defendant will commit more carnage before their court date.

 

Way too many Wisconsinites have been victimized by criminals who were out of jail because of grossly low bail.

 

The referendum on the ballot asks the voters to amend the Constitution to allow judges to consider, “the totality of the circumstances, including the accused’s previous convictions for a violent crime, the probability that the accused will fail to appear, the need to protect the community from serious harm and prevent witness intimidation, and potential affirmative defenses” when setting bail for someone accused of a violent crime.

 

If the amendment passes, it does not mean that Wisconsin judges will use their newly granted latitude to impose appropriately high bail for defendants who have a history of habitual thuggery. There are far too many leftist judges on the bench who will continue to coddle crooks with low bail. If Wisconsinites want to keep more violent offenders off the streets for longer, they will have to get to the polls and elect better judges. But the good judges will use their new power to protect Wisconsinites with higher bail for violent criminals and Wisconsin will be better for their diligence.

What to do with Samaritan

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

Washington County’s Samaritan campus is at a crossroads. The time for tough decisions is upon us.

 

What should county taxpayers do for the people currently housed in the crumbling edifice of neglected obligations?

 

The Samaritan Campus is a senior care facility owned and operated by Washington County that provides skilled nursing, assisted living, and a residential care apartment complex for elderly citizens who cannot afford private care. It is funded through Medicare and Medicaid with shortfalls being covered by county taxpayers.

 

The problem the county is facing is severe, but not unique. The cost of operating Samaritan is far exceeding the funding provided by federal programs. Further, the facility needs a major renovation or rebuilding that will cost tens of millions of dollars.

 

Last year, Washington County taxpayers were paying nearly $50,000 per resident (about $2 million) to cover expenses and that is without the expense of a new or renovated facility. The ongoing expense for county taxpayers is projected to continue to increase exponentially.

 

Some have floated the notion that the county could use available money from one-time funds like federal COVID relief funds or opioid settlement funds to rehabilitate or reconstruct the facility. This may be feasible in the short term, but it does not fix the long-term funding problem. Using one-time funds to patch a systemic problem simply obligates future lawmakers to fix something because current lawmakers lack the courage to act.

 

What is to be done?

 

First, we must ask ourselves some hard questions. Should county taxpayers provide elder care to citizens who cannot afford it? There is no constitutional prohibition or mandate for county government to provide such a service. If the citizens of Washington County want to subsidize care for seniors, it is a policy decision. To date, county citizens have provided this service, so there is an absolute obligation to the seniors currently being cared for at Samaritan. Whether or not the citizens should carry this obligation moving forward is a separate question.

 

The second question to ask ourselves is, assuming county taxpayers are committed to providing for the county’s impoverished seniors, should the county own and operate the facility to do so? Experience should guide our answer to this question. Our collective experience is that, with exceedingly rare exception, government is terrible at running things. Government is a convenient, often abused, mechanism for the forced pooling of resources to expend on collective needs, but is pervasively inefficient, ineffective, and unresponsive when in charge of operations. We can see this in action at Samaritan itself, where decades of poor management and neglect have forced the county to this crisis point.

 

In Wisconsin, only 36 Wisconsin counties currently operate senior care facilities according to the Department of Health Services. The other counties either partner with private facilities to subsidize senior care where needed or forgo the financial obligation altogether. Washington County should transition the current residents to private facilities and support that transition with adequate funding. Using the COVID relief or opioid settlement monies to fund this transition might be necessary.

 

Whether or not county taxpayers should, or can, subsidize senior care moving forward will take some further thought. In the current arrangement, the taxpayer obligation to seniors is capped by the number of available beds at Samaritan. It is a physical cap. If the taxpayers subsidize senior care in private facilities with flexible capacity, would such a program attract seniors from outside of Washington County and become an unsustainable drain on taxpayer resources? Such potential unintended consequences will need to be mitigated should the county decide to subsidize senior care indefinitely.

 

One thing is certain. The situation at Samaritan has become intolerable and inexcusable. The caregivers are doing tremendous work but they are understaffed and under-resourced. Washington County is falling short of providing the dignity of care promised to Samaritan’s residents. This year must be a year of decisions and action — not another year of kicking the can down the road.

What to do with Samaritan

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

Washington County’s Samaritan campus is at a crossroads. The time for tough decisions is upon us.

What should county taxpayers do for the people currently housed in the crumbling edifice of neglected obligations?

[…]

The second question to ask ourselves is, assuming county taxpayers are committed to providing for the county’s impoverished seniors, should the county own and operate the facility to do so? Experience should guide our answer to this question. Our collective experience is that, with exceedingly rare exception, government is terrible at running things. Government is a convenient, often abused, mechanism for the forced pooling of resources to expend on collective needs, but is pervasively inefficient, ineffective, and unresponsive when in charge of operations. We can see this in action at Samaritan itself, where decades of poor management and neglect have forced the county to this crisis point.

In Wisconsin, only 36 Wisconsin counties currently operate senior care facilities according to the Department of Health Services. The other counties either partner with private facilities to subsidize senior care where needed or forgo the financial obligation altogether. Washington County should transition the current residents to private facilities and support that transition with adequate funding. Using the COVID relief or opioid settlement monies to fund this transition might be necessary.

Whether or not county taxpayers should, or can, subsidize senior care moving forward will take some further thought. In the current arrangement, the taxpayer obligation to seniors is capped by the number of available beds at Samaritan. It is a physical cap. If the taxpayers subsidize senior care in private facilities with flexible capacity, would such a program attract seniors from outside of Washington County and become an unsustainable drain on taxpayer resources? Such potential unintended consequences will need to be mitigated should the county decide to subsidize senior care indefinitely.

One thing is certain. The situation at Samaritan has become intolerable and inexcusable.

Wisconsin’s shifting tax burden

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

The state of Wisconsin and local governments extracted the most taxes ever from Wisconsinites in fiscal year 2022. Wisconsinites had the lowest combined state and local tax burden in at least fifty years in fiscal year 2022 (FY22). Both of those statements are true according to a report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. What does this mean for the upcoming budget debate?

 

Let us begin with the data. According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum (formerly the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance), total state and local tax collections for FY22 was $35.36 billion. That was an overall increase of 4.1% over the previous year and is the most taxes ever collected in a single year in Wisconsin. Of that, state taxes were $23.78 billion and local taxes were $11.58 billion. State tax collections rose by 5.1% over the previous year while local taxes increased by 2% over the previous year.

 

At the same time, personal income in Wisconsin has grown. In calendar year 2021, personal incomes rose 6.7% driven by federal COVID relief funds and some real wage increases. Since personal income rose faster than state and local tax collections, the tax burden, as a percentage of personal income, slumped to a record low of 10.1% since the Wisconsin Policy Forum began compiling records in 1970. It is not that our tax burden is decreasing. It is simply that the burden has the illusion of being lighter since our incomes are rising at a faster rate.

 

That is the data. What does it tell us? First, it tells us that the state and local government coffers are brimming with cash right now. Ignore the pleas of poverty from your favorite government entity. Many units of government have surpluses and will be using that as an excuse to increase spending in their next budgets. In state government, not even the Republican-led Legislature is talking about returning all surpluses to taxpayers.

 

Instead, they are talking about modest tax reductions combined with more spending.

 

Second, while tax burden as a percentage of personal income is decreasing slightly, personal income is still not keeping up with inflation. According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, as of November of 2022, the annual cost of inflation for the average Wisconsin household since January of 2021, the last month we had a normal inflation rate, is $8,299. That is an 14.1% in household costs in less than two years. While personal incomes are increasing, the cruel cost of inflation is leaving Wisconsinites with less actual buying power every month.

 

Third, it could have been worse. The reason that state and local tax collections only rose 4.1% in FY22 is thanks to over a decade of relatively consistent tax policy discipline by the Republicans. Think back to the successive state budgets by the Republicans in the Governor Walker era and even in the previous budget when they kept the caps in local property tax increases, cut income tax rates, eliminated the state property tax, and dozens of other choices. These choices have resulted in slowing the rise of tax collections.

 

Thanks to Republican policies, state individual income taxes actually decreased by 0.7% in FY22 and net property taxes only grew by 0.8%. The aggregate tax collection increases were almost completely driven by an increase of 9.5% in state sales tax collections as a result of inflationary consumer prices. Corporate income tax collections were up a stunning 15.6%. Corporate income tax collections are thrice as much as they were in 2018. Interestingly, this increase is mostly due to more robust auditing of out-of-state businesses that was launched in the 2015-2017 state budget by, you guessed it, legislative Republicans and Governor Scott Walker. Corporate tax rates are not increasing, but the state is better at collecting what corporations are obligated to pay.

 

The decade-long effort by Republicans has resulted in a systemic shift of the tax burden from individual income and property taxes to consumption and corporate taxes. This has also resulted in record tax collections and annual state budget surpluses. Those surpluses are not the dividends of spending discipline, but of intelligent tax policies.

 

As state lawmakers consider the next budget, they should not take too much of the fact that the tax burden as a percentage of personal incomes is at a historic low. That metric must be understood in the context of the inflationary pressures on Wisconsin’s taxpayers from all angles and the overall cost of living in the state. Flush state coffers should be viewed as an opportunity to put more money back into the pockets of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to help them contend with the rising cost of living.

Wisconsin’s shifting tax burden

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

The state of Wisconsin and local governments extracted the most taxes ever from Wisconsinites in fiscal year 2022. Wisconsinites had the lowest combined state and local tax burden in at least fifty years in fiscal year 2022 (FY22). Both of those statements are true according to a report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. What does this mean for the upcoming budget debate?

 

[…]

 

That is the data. What does it tell us? First, it tells us that the state and local government coffers are brimming with cash right now. Ignore the pleas of poverty from your favorite government entity. Many units of government have surpluses and will be using that as an excuse to increase spending in their next budgets. In state government, not even the Republican-led Legislature is talking about returning all surpluses to taxpayers.

 

Instead, they are talking about modest tax reductions combined with more spending.

 

Second, while tax burden as a percentage of personal income is decreasing slightly, personal income is still not keeping up with inflation. According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, as of November of 2022, the annual cost of inflation for the average Wisconsin household since January of 2021, the last month we had a normal inflation rate, is $8,299. That is an 14.1% in household costs in less than two years. While personal incomes are increasing, the cruel cost of inflation is leaving Wisconsinites with less actual buying power every month.

 

Third, it could have been worse. The reason that state and local tax collections only rose 4.1% in FY22 is thanks to over a decade of relatively consistent tax policy discipline by the Republicans. Think back to the successive state budgets by the Republicans in the Governor Walker era and even in the previous budget when they kept the caps in local property tax increases, cut income tax rates, eliminated the state property tax, and dozens of other choices. These choices have resulted in slowing the rise of tax collections.

 

Thanks to Republican policies, state individual income taxes actually decreased by 0.7% in FY22 and net property taxes only grew by 0.8%. The aggregate tax collection increases were almost completely driven by an increase of 9.5% in state sales tax collections as a result of inflationary consumer prices. Corporate income tax collections were up a stunning 15.6%. Corporate income tax collections are thrice as much as they were in 2018. Interestingly, this increase is mostly due to more robust auditing of out-of-state businesses that was launched in the 2015-2017 state budget by, you guessed it, legislative Republicans and Governor Scott Walker. Corporate tax rates are not increasing, but the state is better at collecting what corporations are obligated to pay.

 

The decade-long effort by Republicans has resulted in a systemic shift of the tax burden from individual income and property taxes to consumption and corporate taxes. This has also resulted in record tax collections and annual state budget surpluses. Those surpluses are not the dividends of spending discipline, but of intelligent tax policies.

 

As state lawmakers consider the next budget, they should not take too much of the fact that the tax burden as a percentage of personal incomes is at a historic low. That metric must be understood in the context of the inflationary pressures on Wisconsin’s taxpayers from all angles and the overall cost of living in the state. Flush state coffers should be viewed as an opportunity to put more money back into the pockets of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to help them contend with the rising cost of living.

Wisconsin’s Republicans should advance bold budget

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

With the new year comes the beginning of Wisconsin’s biennial budget season. By far, the budget is the most important thing that the Legislature does. This budget is the third that will be negotiated between a Republican-led Legislature and Democrat Governor Tony Evers. The public positioning has already begun.

 

After the election in which the voters decided to continue with divided government by strengthening Republican legislative majorities and reelecting Governor Evers, the Republican legislative leaders floated a few ideas for compromise on education, taxes, and abortion policy. Governor Evers promptly rejected every idea.

 

As Evers begins his second term as governor, we have learned a few things about his character that should inform the budget process. First, Evers is a leftist ideologue. His worldview does not allow for compromise as evidenced by his immediate rejection of any olive branches. Second, he is untrustworthy. Remember that this is the same bloke who secretly recorded conversations with Republicans and released the recordings to the media for political gain. Third, Evers is not above taking credit for the work of others when it gives him political advantage. Evers ran on the fact that he signed a tax cut even though he opposed it every step of the way. Knowing Evers’ character and style of governing, legislative Republicans should take a bold, positive approach that seizes the initiative. Republicans must begin by forcing meaningful accountability for education.

 

As previously documented in in this column, the performance of the state’s government schools is abysmal and getting worse. Parents know it. Kids know it. Teachers know it. Evers’ unwavering support for a system that is systemically racist and broken is a travesty. Republicans must shift the discussion from funding (schools are already overfunded) to accountability. Wisconsinites have a strong tradition of investing in education and our schools should be held accountable to deliver a quality education for kids with that investment. Many of them do not. Accountability is sorely lacking in our government schools. The Legislature should use their power of the purse to force it.

 

It is clear from the election that Wisconsin’s abortion law is out of sync with the majority of the electorate. On principle, I cannot support any effort to soften a good law that protects babies. If Republicans were to pass a compromise bill that allows abortions up to 15 weeks, for example, it would be more in line with the Wisconsin electorate. Evers has promised to veto any such compromise because Evers is a passionate supporter of unrestricted abortion up to the point of birth. Republicans would do well to point out just how radically abhorrent Evers’ position on abortion is — especially in context of the important election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court that will be taking place at the same time as the budget debate.

 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has suggested that Wisconsin pass a fair flat income tax to replace its discriminatory progressive income tax. Evers rejected the idea out of hand in support of making the income tax even more discriminatory with a tax cut targeted at a subset of taxpayers. Republicans should go one step further and eliminate the state income tax completely using the project surplus combined with a minimal increase in the sales tax to rebalance the budget.

 

Eliminating the income tax would reshape the debate and force Evers to defend why Wisconsin should continue to tax retirees, small-business owners, remote employees who can work from anywhere, and everyone else while seven other states manage to operate their state governments without a state income tax. When Republicans are offering every Wisconsin taxpayer a substantial tax cut, Evers will be in a position of defending the status quo. Who knows? Maybe Evers will see the light and become the governor who eliminated the state income tax. One can hope.

 

One of the reasons that there was a Republican power outage in the November election is that Republicans in many states (Florida and Texas excluded) did not give their supporters a meaningful policy agenda about which to get excited. Wisconsin’s Republicans should use their legislative majorities to reframe the debate and lead from the front.

Wisconsin’s Republicans should advance bold budget

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

As Evers begins his second term as governor, we have learned a few things about his character that should inform the budget process. First, Evers is a leftist ideologue. His worldview does not allow for compromise as evidenced by his immediate rejection of any olive branches. Second, he is untrustworthy. Remember that this is the same bloke who secretly recorded conversations with Republicans and released the recordings to the media for political gain. Third, Evers is not above taking credit for the work of others when it gives him political advantage. Evers ran on the fact that he signed a tax cut even though he opposed it every step of the way. Knowing Evers’ character and style of governing, legislative Republicans should take a bold, positive approach that seizes the initiative.

 

Republicans must begin by forcing meaningful accountability for education. As previously documented in in this column, the performance of the state’s government schools is abysmal and getting worse. Parents know it. Kids know it. Teachers know it. Evers’ unwavering support for a system that is systemically racist and broken is a travesty. Republicans must shift the discussion from funding (schools are already overfunded) to accountability. Wisconsinites have a strong tradition of investing in education and our schools should be held accountable to deliver a quality education for kids with that investment. Many of them do not. Accountability is sorely lacking in our government schools. The Legislature should use their power of the purse to force it.

Congress is broken

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

As Christians and Jews throughout the world paused to celebrate and Americans tried to keep warm through a blast of arctic air, Congress gathered, sort of, in Washington to demonstrate how terrible they are. Congress is broken and the prospects are slim that it will get any better in the next session.

 

The $1.7 trillion – TRILLION – omnibus spending spree that Congress passed before running home for the holidays is a perfect example of how dysfunctional Congress has become. For the moment, let us set aside the grotesque sums being spent. Let us ignore the thousands of wasteful earmarks contained in the over 4,000 pages. Let us block out the fact that we have added over $2 trillion to a national debt this year that is already much larger than the annual gross domestic product of our nation. Let us try to forget that this deficit spending will perpetuate the rampant inflation that is destroying American’s earning power. For just a moment, let us set all of that aside and look at the process that led to the omnibus monstrosity.

 

The first thing to realize is that Congress has given up on budgeting. It was never perfect, but many years ago, Congress would actually craft a budget. They would consider the tax revenue and costs and try to prioritize. There were some who wanted to mandate that the budget be balanced. Occasionally, they would even check the Constitution and consider if a budget item was permissible for the federal government to do.

 

Congress does not budget anymore. Instead, they occasionally pass these massive omnibus spending bills or continuing resolutions that are not constructed as part of a balanced budgeting process. The Congress has come to favor omnibus spending bills because they are convenient vehicles for pork, waste, possible graft, and terrible policies that also provide political cover for terrible people. Just look at the rhetoric behind this latest boondoggle.

 

First, the politicians created a fake crisis through their own appalling performance. Instead of planning ahead and thoughtfully considering how to spend the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars for critical government programs, the politicians dithered until the week before the last spending bill was going to expire. With cries about preventing a government shutdown (as if that would be a bad thing), a handful of lobbyists and their politicians crafted a massive spending bill in a backroom somewhere.

 

Knowing that the omnibus bill would be rammed through to avert their fake crisis, virtually every politician in Congress insisted on their own wasteful project or terrible policy to guarantee their vote. With such a large spending bill with so many provisions, each politician has the political fig leaf to tell their constituents that they voted for the good parts and disagree with the bad parts. Of course, they voted for the bad parts too, but they can feign opposition.

 

Given that the omnibus is so large and was unveiled less than 48 hours before congressional politicians voted on it, it is likely none of them read it. None of them studied the bill, considered the consequences, debated the merits and demerits, or gave any real thought to it whatsoever. They might have read a summary, but the only people who actually know the full extend of what is in the omnibus bill are the lobbyists, special interests, unelected staffers, and government bureaucrats who wrote it. The American people’s interests were not seriously considered.

 

The House of Representatives took dereliction of duty to new levels this time. Using the excuse of COVID, the House “representatives” adopted the unconstitutional practice of proxy voting. This is a process whereby the elected “representatives” do not even show up to vote. Instead, they allow another member to cast their vote for them. To pass this $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, 226 House members did not even respect their constituents enough to show up for work. They let someone else cast their votes. So many of them were absent that the vote actually violated Article 1, Section 5 of the United States Constitution that requires a majority of members be present to constitute a quorum, but nobody will suffer any repercussions for the transgression. The Constitution is no longer consulted by our Congress.

 

Our Congress is broken and we, the American people, have allowed it to happen. Our Constitution relies on people of good character to uphold its tenets and for the voters to hold them accountable at the ballot box. We have not done our job at the ballot box, so they are not doing theirs in Washington.

Congress is broken

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

The $1.7 trillion – TRILLION – omnibus spending spree that Congress passed before running home for the holidays is a perfect example of how dysfunctional Congress has become. For the moment, let us set aside the grotesque sums being spent. Let us ignore the thousands of wasteful earmarks contained in the over 4,000 pages. Let us block out the fact that we have added over $2 trillion to a national debt this year that is already much larger than the annual gross domestic product of our nation. Let us try to forget that this deficit spending will perpetuate the rampant inflation that is destroying American’s earning power. For just a moment, let us set all of that aside and look at the process that led to the omnibus monstrosity.

 

The first thing to realize is that Congress has given up on budgeting. It was never perfect, but many years ago, Congress would actually craft a budget. They would consider the tax revenue and costs and try to prioritize. There were some who wanted to mandate that the budget be balanced. Occasionally, they would even check the Constitution and consider if a budget item was permissible for the federal government to do.

 

Congress does not budget anymore.

 

[…]

 

Our Congress is broken and we, the American people, have allowed it to happen. Our Constitution relies on people of good character to uphold its tenets and for the voters to hold them accountable at the ballot box. We have not done our job at the ballot box, so they are not doing theirs in Washington.

48 years, 47 days

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s a bit personal this time, but ’tis the season.

48 years and 47 days. That is how long my father had lived when he died: 48 years and 47 days. I surpassed that age last week.

 

My dad died when I was 16. He missed me graduating from his alma mater. He missed me marrying the woman who would complete my soul. He missed the birth of our children and their children. He missed it all, but he was always there on my mind. He was always watching and guiding. At least, I have always sought counsel from his memory in good times and bad.

 

Like many sons, I suppose, he was my hero — even if I understand now that every hero has weaknesses. Through my hormone-confused teenage boy brain, my dad was everything a man should be. Honest. Strong. Smart. Loving. Generous. Brave. Adventurous. Fun. Funny. He was not afraid to love without compromise even as his belt occasionally had to keep his two headstrong sons in line.

 

I was just beginning to learn what it meant to be a man when my education was truncated. I’ve clung to those memories, or fragments of memories, muddled by time, for guidance as I have tried to be the man, husband, father, and grandfather, that I want to be … that I should be.

 

There are lessons, small and large, that I picked up from Dad that I try to follow. I always use my middle initial in professional communications because it, “looks more professional.” Perhaps that’s an anachronism now, but it is my lifelong homage to a man who went by his middle name.

 

On more than one occasion, I remember my father reminding my brother and I that, “I chose your mom. I didn’t choose you.” We never had any doubt about where we stood in the family hierarchy. I didn’t really come to appreciate that thought until many years later, but now I understand. Their marriage and love for each other was the foundation upon which our family was built. Without it, everything else is weaker and suffers. Being a good husband makes me a better father.

 

My dad was respectful to everyone. Growing up, his family had little. My grandparents worked hard and rose from relative poverty, through the middle class, to something on the upper rungs of the middle class by retirement. After eight years in the Army after college, my dad moved us to Saudi Arabia in 1976 where my dad was a junior civil engineer. He worked hard to rise to someone of modest importance, and he had a degree of wealth. After returning to the States in 1986, my dad tried, and failed, at entrepreneurship and we sunk into the upper rungs of the lower class.

 

Through all of that, I watched my dad work and play with everyone from Saudi princes to rough-knuckle workers at construction sites. He treated them with the same respect and generosity. He was as comfortable in a room of blue-bloods as he was playing gin with the semi-literate old man who changed oil at his little used car lot. I have a vivid memory of driving somewhere in an old Chevy pickup that he had for a while, and I made some smart-aleck comment about a worker picking up garbage on the road. He pulled the car over and said, with a blistering fury in his voice that melted my teenage hubris, “Son, that man is earning an honest living.”

 

It is from my dad that I inherited my incurable wanderlust. He traveled the world and grew irritable in routine. I remember him jokingly remarking once that, “If they don’t take American Express, you don’t need to go there.” Surely that was a tongue-in-cheek remark from a man who saw more of the world than most and loved to venture off the beaten path. He also once remarked that, “You can’t see a place from the hotel.”

 

Perhaps the most pervasive memory I have of my dad is just that he was there. Sons need dads. I sure needed mine. As I pushed my boundaries and tried to figure out the world, I could always rely on the man downstairs to help me understand. He was the rock to which I clung when the storm was too strong. He was always there. Until he wasn’t.

 

Everything my dad ever did, thought, experienced, felt, and learned happened within 48 years and 47 days. That’s it. That’s all the time he had. I’m walking down a path that my dad never trod. My imagined guide is no longer visible. I’ve passed him by.

 

God willing, I will grow old with my wife. I will try to say and do the things that I want my kids and grandkids to remember. Perhaps (almost certainly) I will say and do a few things that I’d rather they forget. I will be fearless about living. I will feel my body and mind wither and know that old age is a privilege.

 

Time is our most valuable resource, and it is ferociously finite. Especially this Christmas season, spend your precious time on the people you love, and the ones who love you. One of the greatest gifts we can give is a few of the irreplaceable moments we have on this earth. Those moments will shape someone else’s future. Give wisely. Give generously.

Senator Backbencher

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

Wisconsin has a long, annoying history of electing and re-electing relatively benign, but equally useless Democrat politicians. Herb Kohl, Russ Feingold, Tony Evers, virtually every mayor of Milwaukee in the modern era, and so many more were quite happy to keep their heads down, eschew controversial issues, and enjoy a light schedule. Perhaps this has never been as true as it is with Wisconsin’s current junior United States Senator, Tammy Baldwin.

 

After spending eight years in the Wisconsin Assembly without an accomplishment to her name, Democrat voters sent her to the U.S. House of Representatives where she spent fourteen years doing just as little. In 2012, Wisconsin’s voters sent her to the U.S. Senate. After six years without any accomplishments, the voters reelected her in 2018 to serve a second term. Rarely has someone risen so high having accomplished so little.

 

The last two weeks have been a good example of Baldwin’s style. She championed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the Senate in the lame duck session. It is a useless feel-good law since the Supreme Court has already required states to recognize same-sex marriages.

 

Fresh off that emotional high, Baldwin has authored a bill that would use taxpayer dollars to fund a $350 million annual grant program to pay for travel expenses for women who have to travel to get an abortion. It is a bill that is as offensive as it is unserious.

 

The bill comes in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court case that consigned the regulation of abortion to the states. Baldwin wants federal taxpayers to pay for travel costs for women who live in states that have chosen strict restrictions on killing babies to travel to states that are more willing to kill babies. Let us take the bill at face value.

 

First, consider how morally offensive it is to force taxpayers who oppose abortion to pay for women to travel to get one. For many of us, abortion is the act of killing a child. It is an atrocity. Baldwin’s bill would force a substantial plurality, if not a majority, of taxpayers to pay for something that fundamentally violates their conscience. It is one thing to allow something that others find morally abhorrent. It is quite another to make them pay for it.

 

Second, liberals like Baldwin have long asserted that on the issue of abortion, they want the government to not be involved. Yet Baldwin would have abortionists and abortion facilitators apply to the federal government to pay for expenses. Surely, if there is to be any serious attempt to prevent fraud, the women traveling to get an abortion would have to be identified and verified before federal funds are distributed, right? Does Baldwin consider it good public policy for the federal government to collect the names of women getting abortions? Would not the IRS need to know that they received material income so that it could be appropriately taxed?

 

Third, Baldwin completely ignores the rights of state voters to regulate abortion as they see fit. While Baldwin may disagree with how some states restrict abortion, it is not the role of the federal government or taxpayers to pay people to travel to states where the laws are to her personal liking. By that same logic, there should be a federal program to bus people to the marijuana dispensaries of Michigan or the heroin dens of California.

 

Finally, consider how unserious this bill is in the face of all of the problems currently facing our nation. Wisconsinites are suffering under the weight of inflation. Heating bills are way up as the winter is just getting started. Housing, food, clothing, fuel, medical care, and almost everything else that people need are far more expensive than they were even a year ago as their paychecks are not keeping up.

 

The southern border is awash with a soft invasion of people from all over the world. China is choking supply chains. Russia is rattling their nuclear saber. There is a rabid assault on free speech by government and business elites. Economic inequity continues to surge as billionaires consolidate wealth. Left unchecked, the national debt will destabilize our nation and the entitlements upon which many Americans rely are on the brink of insolvency.

 

With all of that going on, Baldwin is spending her time trying to get taxpayers to pay the travel expenses of women to get abortions. Wisconsin deserves better.

Senator Backbencher

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

Wisconsin has a long, annoying history of electing and re-electing relatively benign, but equally useless Democrat politicians. Herb Kohl, Russ Feingold, Tony Evers, virtually every mayor of Milwaukee in the modern era, and so many more were quite happy to keep their heads down, eschew controversial issues, and enjoy a light schedule. Perhaps this has never been as true as it is with Wisconsin’s current junior United States Senator, Tammy Baldwin.

 

After spending eight years in the Wisconsin Assembly without an accomplishment to her name, Democrat voters sent her to the U.S. House of Representatives where she spent fourteen years doing just as little. In 2012, Wisconsin’s voters sent her to the U.S. Senate. After six years without any accomplishments, the voters reelected her in 2018 to serve a second term. Rarely has someone risen so high having accomplished so little.

 

[…]

 

Fresh off that emotional high, Baldwin has authored a bill that would use taxpayer dollars to fund a $350 million annual grant program to pay for travel expenses for women who have to travel to get an abortion. It is a bill that is as offensive as it is unserious.

 

The bill comes in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court case that consigned the regulation of abortion to the states. Baldwin wants federal taxpayers to pay for travel costs for women who live in states that have chosen strict restrictions on killing babies to travel to states that are more willing to kill babies. Let us take the bill at face value.

Return surplus to the taxpayers

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

Thanks to over a decade of solid budgeting from Republican Legislatures, the state of Wisconsin is in a strong financial position and forecasting a massive budget surplus when the current fiscal year ends next June. The Wisconsin Department of Administration issued a required report in November forecasting that the state will finish the current biennial budget with a general fund surplus of $6.6 billion. This is the largest forecasted surplus in Wisconsin history.

 

With the state’s coffers overflowing, every hog is at the trough jostling for position and every politician is eyeing their favorite one to fatten. There will be no shortage of requests, demands, justifications, and admonitions from advocates to spend every dollar of the surplus and more. Instead, the Legislature should give it, and more, back to the beleaguered taxpayers.

 

First, let us dig into the anatomy of the forecasted surplus. According to the 62-page DOA report, the state entered the budget with a $2.52 billion balance, added $1.78 billion to the balance in first fiscal year of the budget, and projects to add an additional $2.276 billion to it by the end of this fiscal year for a total biennial budget surplus of $6.576 billion. This is based on the current economic outlook and current tax policies. The reason for the surplus is relatively straightforward. The state spent every dollar it appropriated (actually, a little more), but it collected far more in taxes than it needed. For example, in FY22 which ended on June 30th of this year, the state collected $534 million more in income taxes than lawmakers said they needed in the budget. It collected $338 million more in sales taxes and $1.05 billion more in corporate taxes than it needed.

 

Why? The primary reason is inflation. While the underlying economy is struggling, the price of everything is going up. Incomes are up, corporate taxable profits are up, the price of consumer goods are up, and taxes are based on percentages of those things. The budget did not make any inflationary assumptions when it was created. Inflation has averaged 7.4% since the beginning of this budget in July of 2021. If the projected surplus is realized, it will be due to the state collecting about 10.6% more in taxes than it budgeted.

 

The assumptions used to forecast the surplus are telling, and troubling. The DOA uses economic projections from a single source — IHS Markit. It is concerning that in such tumultuous economic times that the DOA would rely on a single source. They forecast that the nation will have a mild recession in 2023 with a 0.2% decline in GDP before returning sluggish growth in 2024. It also forecasts that inflation will decline to 3% versus prior year by the end of 2023.

 

I hope they are right because those are relatively optimistic projections compared to many other sources. But it reminds us that a forecast is just an educated guess, and we should not spend money that we do not have.

 

The data also shows that while inflation is also pushing up wages, the buying power of those wages are not keeping up. According to the data in the DOA report, personal income rose by 7.4% in 2021 (inflated by COVID bailouts) and 2.3% in 2022. That compares to annualized inflation of 7.1% in 2021 and 7.75% year-todate in 2022 according to the Federal Reserve. Every dollar of wage increases is being consumed by inflation and then some. Wisconsinites’ expenses are increasing at a far faster rate than their wages.

 

Under normal circumstances, it is immoral for the government to overtax the people and then use that as an excuse to increase spending. With a suspect economic forecast and the buying power of Wisconsinites being eaten away by inflation, it would be unconscionable for our elected leaders to do anything other than to return the surplus to the people who paid it with a sheepish, “ope.”

Return surplus to the taxpayers

Sometimes I feel like I’m spitting into the wind, but I’ll keep trying. My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

With the state’s coffers overflowing, every hog is at the trough jostling for position and every politician is eyeing their favorite one to fatten. There will be no shortage of requests, demands, justifications, and admonitions from advocates to spend every dollar of the surplus and more. Instead, the Legislature should give it, and more, back to the beleaguered taxpayers.

 

First, let us dig into the anatomy of the forecasted surplus. According to the 62-page DOA report, the state entered the budget with a $2.52 billion balance, added $1.78 billion to the balance in first fiscal year of the budget, and projects to add an additional $2.276 billion to it by the end of this fiscal year for a total biennial budget surplus of $6.576 billion. This is based on the current economic outlook and current tax policies. The reason for the surplus is relatively straightforward. The state spent every dollar it appropriated (actually, a little more), but it collected far more in taxes than it needed. For example, in FY22 which ended on June 30th of this year, the state collected $534 million more in income taxes than lawmakers said they needed in the budget. It collected $338 million more in sales taxes and $1.05 billion more in corporate taxes than it needed.

 

Why? The primary reason is inflation. While the underlying economy is struggling, the price of everything is going up. Incomes are up, corporate taxable profits are up, the price of consumer goods are up, and taxes are based on percentages of those things. The budget did not make any inflationary assumptions when it was created. Inflation has averaged 7.4% since the beginning of this budget in July of 2021. If the projected surplus is realized, it will be due to the state collecting about 10.6% more in taxes than it budgeted.

 

The assumptions used to forecast the surplus are telling, and troubling. The DOA uses economic projections from a single source — IHS Markit. It is concerning that in such tumultuous economic times that the DOA would rely on a single source. They forecast that the nation will have a mild recession in 2023 with a 0.2% decline in GDP before returning sluggish growth in 2024. It also forecasts that inflation will decline to 3% versus prior year by the end of 2023.

 

I hope they are right because those are relatively optimistic projections compared to many other sources. But it reminds us that a forecast is just an educated guess, and we should not spend money that we do not have.

 

The data also shows that while inflation is also pushing up wages, the buying power of those wages are not keeping up. According to the data in the DOA report, personal income rose by 7.4% in 2021 (inflated by COVID bailouts) and 2.3% in 2022. That compares to annualized inflation of 7.1% in 2021 and 7.75% year-to-date in 2022 according to the Federal Reserve. Every dollar of wage increases is being consumed by inflation and then some. Wisconsinites’ expenses are increasing at a far faster rate than their wages.

 

Under normal circumstances, it is immoral for the government to overtax the people and then use that as an excuse to increase spending. With a suspect economic forecast and the buying power of Wisconsinites being eaten away by inflation, it would be unconscionable for our elected leaders to do anything other than to return the surplus to the people who paid it with a sheepish, “ope.”

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did. As I settle in to watch the Packers and write my column for this week, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

A few weeks ago, in a regrettable spurt of optimistic exuberance at the prospect of Tim Michels defeating Governor Tony Evers and ushering in an opportunity to make great strides in advancing progressive conservative policies, this column advocated that education reform should be at the top of the priority list. With Evers’ electoral victory and Wisconsin deciding on divided government for at least another two years, reforming Wisconsin’s education remains the absolute top priority, but the tactics and realistic goals must, necessarily, change.

 

By every meaningful measure, Wisconsin’s government education system is failing kids. There are, of course, individual success stories, but the overall performance is systemic failure at all levels. According to ACT Aspire, Forward, and ACT testing data from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s kids are failing to learn basic reading, writing, and math in our schools. Roughly two-thirds of Wisconsin’s kids at every grade level are not proficient in language or math. It is utterly intolerable.

 

Bear in mind that those testing results are statewide averages. A large number of individual districts and schools are even worse. Again, according to DPI data, there are some Wisconsin schools where not a single child is proficient in language or math. President George Bush once lamented the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is nothing soft about the bigotry that abandons kids to ignorance.

 

Tony Evers and the Democrats like to sell themselves as the party of education. If that is the case, then they are terrible at it. The Democrats have had a stranglehold on the state DPI and most government education districts for decades. The result has been a steady decline in performance punctuated by catastrophic failures. They have abandoned at least two generations of kids as they continue to fund failing systems.

 

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

 

If Republicans play the same old Democrat game of pretending that the system is great and only needs more money, they will fail to capture the powerful electoral support of parents. Worse, they will doom yet another generation of kids to ignorance and exploitation. Our nation will be worse for their complacency.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

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

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

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