Tag Archives: Washington County Daily News

Liberty, but …

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

For over 150 years, Americans have taken a day at the end of May to pause and reflect upon the great sacrifices that have been made for the cause of liberty. Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, is a nerve that runs through our national body that aches to remind us of the tremendous price of freedom.

Over 1.1 million Americans have given their lives for the liberties protected by our Constitution and the national aspiration enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. It is a heavy price and a heavy burden that those of us who live under those principles have a responsibility to respect, honor, and defend.

While not without blemish, for no human endeavor is without marring from the weaknesses of the human condition, our nation has spent over 240 years spilling our blood for an idea — not for land, not for treasure, not for dominion – but for the idea that all people have an natural right to be free. Free in their person. Free in their thoughts. Free in their faith. Free in their property. Free.

That right to freedom is part of the spark put in us by God and is the natural right of every human. It is not subject to abridgment or restriction except by consent through a freely elected government. We institute government for the purpose of preserving our liberty. Our government protects our liberty through a well-defined system of laws that were consented to after an adversarial lawmaking process that is intentionally designed with checks and balances to ensure that broad consensus is achieved. Our rule of law is what protects our liberties from the arbitrary use of the police power of government. It is what protects us from tyranny.

Such a rudimentary summary of the concepts of liberty and self-governance should be known by any American with a high school education. They are the tenets of a free society, which over a million Americans have given their lives to preserve.

This is why it is so astonishing that we have so easily surrendered our liberties, suspended the rule of law, and abandoned self-governance over a virus.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” he did not end the statement with “except if there’s a nasty virus.”

In the Wisconsin Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, it reads, “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” That sentence does not end, “but those rights are void if the governor says so.”

Within days, our government stripped us of our most basic rights to freely assemble, practice our religion, use our property, operate a business, move freely, and even visit our own families. In Wisconsin, this was done on the sole authority and discretion of a single man. In other states, the same thing was done by the pen stroke of a single man or woman. And if a person dared to violate the order by simply having guests to their home or playing outside, the full police power of the state was brought to bear to force compliance. Such an arbitrary and cavalier use of police power is the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It does not belong in America.

When we have finally wrested our rights back from the tyrants, we must reform our statutes to ensure that such power may never be levied again under the color of law. Our nation has faced pandemics before and will face them again, but we must never let a health crisis be used an excuse for the wholesale abandonment of the very principles of liberty upon which our nation was founded.

Liberty, but …

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

In the Wisconsin Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, it reads, “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” That sentence does not end, “but those rights are void if the governor says so.”

Within days, our government stripped us of our most basic rights to freely assemble, practice our religion, use our property, operate a business, move freely, and even visit our own families. In Wisconsin, this was done on the sole authority and discretion of a single man. In other states, the same thing was done by the pen stroke of a single man or woman. And if a person dared to violate the order by simply having guests to their home or playing outside, the full police power of the state was brought to bear to force compliance. Such an arbitrary and cavalier use of police power is the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It does not belong in America.

When we have finally wrested our rights back from the tyrants, we must reform our statutes to ensure that such power may never be levied again under the color of law. Our nation has faced pandemics before and will face them again, but we must never let a health crisis be used an excuse for the wholesale abandonment of the very principles of liberty upon which our nation was founded.

Lawless bureaucrats must be held to account

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty disgusted how high-level bureaucrats in Washington and Madison are never held accountable when they break the law. Shouldn’t losing their job be the least thing that should happen when they abuse their power and break the law? I think so and argue the case in my latest column for the Washington County Daily News today. Here’s a taste. Go pick up a copy!

What happens now? When a normal Wisconsinite is caught breaking the law, they are fined or jailed. When Palm’s illegal order was being enforced, Wisconsinites were being ticketed and arrested for doing things as simple as eating in a restaurant or playing basketball in a park. Will Secretary-designee Palm be held accountable for breaking the law?

Will her boss, Governor Evers, take responsibility for his employee’s blatant flaunting of the Constitution and the law?

So far, neither Evers nor Palm have indicated that they will accept any responsibility for violating the law. They will continue to cash their full paychecks and direct their opulent staffs courtesy of the very citizens they sought to oppress. They have committed to continue on without a modicum of contrition for their unlawful actions.

As an elected official, the voters will have to decide if Governor Evers should be held to account at the next election or sooner. But as an unconfirmed appointed secretary, the Wisconsin state Senate should immediately move to reject Palm’s confirmation so that the people of Wisconsin will no longer be subject to her lawless proclivities. She is clearly unfit for public service.

Public sector must share burden of economic ruin

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

While rolling out another slew of arbitrary benchmarks for reopening Wisconsin and offering platitudes of sympathy, Gov. Tony Evers said, “As much as people believe we’re going to return to the good old days — that’s just not going to happen.” That is true for many of us, but it is especially true for government. The collapse of government revenue due to the government-imposed economic collapse has already begun and it will not subside any time soon. Governments at all levels will need to make huge structural changes to adapt to the new reality.

Our federal government is spending money at an unprecedented level. Congress and President Trump have already committed to $2.4 trillion in COVID relief packages and are discussing spending trillions more. This spending is ballooning the national debt to over 122% of the nation’s gross domestic product, a level higher than the nation had after World War II.

The federal government has a tool that no other government in our nation has. It can print as much money as it wants to pay off the debt. Doing so potentially leads to hyperinflation and the collapse of the American economy for generations, but it can do it. State and local governments do not have that option. If a state or local government can’t cover its bills, it might go bankrupt and default on its loans.

Last week the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released information on the state’s tax collections for April. Since Evers locked down the state’s economy in the middle of March, April was the first full month of lockdown economics. As expected with businesses shuttered, over 400,000 newly unemployed citizens, and people being forced to stay home, state sales and income tax collections plummeted.

According to the preliminary data, total tax collections were down $870 million compared to April of 2019. That is a 43% decline in revenue over last year and an even steeper decline over what the state expected to collect when they wrote the budget. As we approach the middle of May with no end of the economic misery in sight, the tax collections will be far less than what the budget called for. Meanwhile, some expenditures are increasing to respond to COVID.

To put this in perspective, in January, the LFB forecast that the state would end the budget with a $620 million surplus. Governor Evers actually called a special session of the Legislature because he wanted to spend the projected surplus on schools. At the time I argued in this column that it would be immoral to spend money we did not have. A projection is, after all, not actual money.

Thankfully, the Legislature has more sense than Governor Evers and declined to spend any of the surplus. The decline in tax revenues for April alone have completely wiped out any projected budget surplus and pushed the state budget into a deficit. As tax collections in May and for the foreseeable future will also be well below what the budget called for, the state government is facing a massive shortfall thanks to Governor Evers’ decision to crush the state’s booming economy in response to a virus.

The decline in tax revenue is also cascading to all other levels of government. County, municipal, and school governments are also facing a future with a lot less money to spend. The gravy train has skidded off the rails. So far, the governor and local government leaders have done very little to restrain spending. Perhaps accustomed to having someone bail out their bad decisions, they have been very slow to act.

All this means that state and local governments will have to make some big, difficult, and necessary decisions in the coming months to bring spending in line with what the people can afford. Everything must be on the table including employee benefits, pensions, entire departments, buildings, staff for elected officials, the governor’s mansion, schools, universities, and, yes, entitlements.

When this must happen, government employees and beneficiaries are sure to forcefully object, but it must happen. There just isn’t enough money. Just like private businesses and citizens must adapt to the new normal of smaller economy, so must our government.

The reality is that tax collections are down because people simply have less money. Income tax collections are down because people are unemployed or have had their income cut. Sales tax collections are down because people can’t afford to spend money like they used to. Business tax collections are down because businesses are making less and going under. We can’t tax our way out of budget deficits because the money just isn’t there.

The private sector has already shouldered the burden of government-mandated economic ruin. The public sector will have to carry its load too.

 

 

Public sector must share burden of economic ruin

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here’s a sample:

The decline in tax revenue is also cascading to all other levels of government. County, municipal, and school governments are also facing a future with a lot less money to spend. The gravy train has skidded off the rails. So far, the governor and local government leaders have done very little to restrain spending. Perhaps accustomed to having someone bail out their bad decisions, they have been very slow to act.

All this means that state and local governments will have to make some big, difficult, and necessary decisions in the coming months to bring spending in line with what the people can afford. Everything must be on the table including employee benefits, pensions, entire departments, buildings, staff for elected officials, the governor’s mansion, schools, universities, and, yes, entitlements.

When this must happen, government employees and beneficiaries are sure to forcefully object, but it must happen. There just isn’t enough money. Just like private businesses and citizens must adapt to the new normal of smaller economy, so must our government.

Open Wisconsin now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fifty years of Earth Day

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

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

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

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

Suffering for thee, but not for me

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

As Governor Tony Evers extended his despotic rule for another month, abrogated our civil rights, and pushed Wisconsin further into an economic depression, he had the audacity to tweet, “we have to remember that we’re all in this together.” Nothing could be further from the truth and the heavy hand of government oppression puts the difference between public and private America into stark relief.

Throughout Wisconsin, private-sector employees are feeling the full brunt of Governor Evers’ haphazard and tyrannical rule. Every day, we wake up to see what new decree might have been announced from Madison to control or crush some other aspect of our lives. Many businesses have already been devastated and been forced to terminate people’s employment and cut back pay and benefits for the employees who remain.

Harley-Davidson laid off the majority of its production employees. For those who are still working, they had to cut salaries, cancel merit increases, and reduce other expenses. Kohl’s Department Stores has closed all of its stores and furloughed most of its store and corporate employees. Thousands of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses across the state have closed or drastically cut back operations. All of their employees are either out of work or seeing reduced wages.

The results of this are hitting families hard. An estimate from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has reached 27%. For some perspective, at the peak of the Great Depression, the nation’s unemployment rate was 24.9%.

In response to the economic and societal devastation being wrought from the governor’s mansion (provided by the taxpayers), private- sector leaders are standing in solidarity with their employees. The CEOs of Harley-Davidson and Kohl’s are both forgoing their salaries. Boards of directors and executives across the state are forgoing or heavily cutting their salaries and benefits to help preserve money for more employees. For small-business owners, many of them do not have a choice. They are being bankrupted and seeing their life’s work obliterated underneath them.

All of these people are “in this together.” Is Governor Evers? Is his staff? What about other government workers?

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

Thomas Paine, in his incomparable “Common Sense,” wrote that government is “in its worst state an intolerable one … our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” Wisconsinites’ suffering is made all the more worse by the fact that while our livelihoods are being destroyed, we are being forced to pay the full cost of the government causing it.

Suffering for thee, but not for me

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Go pick up a copy and keep our local media in business. Here’s a sample of the column:

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

Our failed governor

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. I would add to the below the cruel order from yesterday that we can’t visit out loved ones in a nursing home even if we are just standing outside looking through a window. Every day, we wake up to learn what edict has been issued from the pen of the tyrant in Madison. Go get a copy!

It is impossible to understate how incompetent our governor has been in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Evers is lurching from idiotic policy to unconstitutional power grab. Meanwhile, the people of Wisconsin are losing their liberties and their livelihoods.

As the coronavirus spread across the nation, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12 and seized dictatorial powers. This is something that the Legislature has empowered the governor to do in the event of an emergency so that the state government can be nimble and responsive to help the people. Evers has used the power to crush the state’s economy, strip people of their rights, and clumsily swing the heavy hammer of government.

For a few days after the declaration, Evers used his powers to organize a response and marshal resources. When asked on March 20 whether Wisconsin would order people to stay home like other states, Evers said that he did not think it would be necessary. Three days later, Evers announced on Twitter that an order was coming, after all, to lock down the state. To this day, Evers has not been able to coherently articulate what changed in those three days to justify the lockdown order.

The rollout of the order was absurd. Evers said a lockdown order was coming, but did not disclose any details. After a day of confusion and speculation, he released the draconian lockdown order on March 24 with a short grace period for implementation. The order itself is vague is many areas, leaving Evers to issue clarification after clarification ever since.

Many provisions in the order do not even make sense and are utterly unreasonable. For example, golf courses were closed, but parks were open. Both involve small groups walking around outside. Then Evers closed the state parks “indefinitely” too because he thought that too many people were actually using them.

Last week we actually had to have the governor tell us how we are allowed to worship for Easter. For the record, we could worship inside the church as long as there were less than 10 people in the room. Or we could worship in our cars, but not outside if we were out of our cars. Sit back and reflect for a moment on how un-American it is that we must follow worship instructions from the governor or risk fines and arrest.

Then the governor tried to usurp an election. We knew for weeks that holding an election during a pandemic posed unusual risks. Up until the Thursday before the election, Evers and the Republican leadership agreed that the election should continue as planned, but with sensible precautions. On Friday before the election, Evers called a special session of the Legislature to delay the election for two months. Evers said that he did not have the power to do it himself and that the Legislature must act.

Being so close to the election and not wanting to sow confusion, the Legislature declined to move the election on Saturday. On Monday, the day before the election, Evers issued an order to move the election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled him within hours. It turned out that Evers was right after all. He did not have the power. Consider how un-American it would be to allow a single man to arbitrarily decide when, or if, the people are allowed to elect their leaders.

Through it all, Evers’ ham handed incompetence of the issue created confusion, disrupted the election, and undermined the process by which we govern ourselves. As we learn the results of that election this week, there will always be doubt about whether or not the result is actually the will of the people. Self-governance does not work when people lose faith in the process by which we select our government.

Now the state is facing the highest unemployment rate in history, businesses are shuttering for good, and people are being hassled by law enforcement for daring to leave their homes, Governor Evers cannot even tell us if it is working, or when it might end. Governor Evers has not given any indication of when, or how, Wisconsin will get back to work. There is no plan. We find ourselves waiting like subjects for our king to tell us when we can work, play, or enjoy our freedoms.

Governor Evers has shown why we should never allow one man to have such power. Whether through incompetence or malice, he has engaged in unprecedented oppression and laid waste to the state’s economy. The Legislature must step in, rein in the governor’s mad romp, and provide the people of Wisconsin a reasonable plan to combat coronavirus. That plan should be rooted in preserving our liberties and way of life as our government provides guidance and resources to combat the disease.

It is clear that Governor Evers does not have a coherent plan. He staggers from reaction to revulsion seemingly without clarity of purpose. As the people’s body, the Legislature must step up and act where our governor has failed.

Finally, the Legislature must provide a plan for how the state will restart our economy very soon. Coronavirus is here to stay, but we must go on. Life will be a little different as we mitigate the spread, but we must go on. People will continue to get ill and some will die, but we must go on. We have dealt with dangerous diseases before. We must go on.

Spring is sprung

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I needed to smell the roses a little. I hope you will too.

Spring is such a wonderful time in Wisconsin. While this spring has opened under abnormal conditions for the people of Wisconsin, nature pays no attention to the travails of humans. The days are lengthening. The days are getting warmer. Critters are emerging. Plants are greening. The long, dark days of winter are coming to an end.

As a child of warmer climes, it took me a while to fully appreciate spring for all of its glory. The boundary between winter and summer in warm-weather climates is often crossed with little notice and even less regard. Spring is more of a notion than a season. It is like something you heard as a child and vaguely remember.

In Wisconsin, spring is the welcoming of a new beginning. It is filled with hope and promise. After months of cold, big coats, ice, dead car batteries, chapped lips, sore joints, dirty snow piles, tired backs, and all of the things that make winter unbearable once the novelty of that first snowfall wears off, spring in Wisconsin is that first ray of warm sun lighting your face after a long, dark night.

March and April are interesting, and sometimes exasperating, months in Wisconsin. Each beautiful sunny day seems to be balanced by a cold night. Every week brings with it the threat of an early-spring thunderstorm or a late-winter blizzard. But gradually, slowly, like a flower opening, spring finds its way and crowds out the winter gloom.

One of the things I love about spring is how all of us embrace it. The sidewalks and trails become filled with people. Smiles are abundant as people just enjoy the warming breezes and fragrant foliage. This weekend I heard the hum of a distant lawn mower as one of my neighbors gave his lawn its first trim of the year. It was probably an effort more of anticipation than utility, but I think all of us can appreciate that. Spring also ushers in the hustle and bustle of all of those chores that were waiting on better weather. Even without the current circumstances, the local hardware stores are busy with people buying supplies to complete their lists. Decks are getting stained. Trees and bushes are being trimmed. Houses are being painted inside and out. As people clean out their basements and garages, it looks like most people will forgo their annual spring rummage sale this year, but the summer rummage sales are going to be epic.

As we watch winter relent to the advances of spring every year, it is a reminder that the world is so much bigger than whatever is oppressing our minds at the moment. Before human foot trod the Kettle Moraine, the snow would melt to fill the streams and the green would fill the fields and bellies of animals. Long after we are gone, the same cycle will repeat. We are truly witnessing a speck of time in an eternity that is not ours. A little bit of humility and awe are not inappropriate at such a time.

Spring in Wisconsin reminds us of that economic principle of scarcity. The value of something in demand increases drastically when it is rare. This is why Wisconsinites enjoy spring so much more than people in warmer parts of the world. But while spring is short-lived, it is infinitely abundant for the few short weeks that it is here. Let us rejoice in it.

The April election is on and more important than ever

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. Note that I had an error in the deadline for getting an absentee ballot. I corrected it below.

Coronavirus might still be raging across the state, but our right to self-governance continues on. For now, the April election will be held on schedule. The deadline has passed to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail. The deadline is April 2nd. If you already have one, be sure to fill it out and exercise your franchise. Most municipalities are still allowing in-person absentee voting until April 3, although there may be some additional precautionary measures. Be sure to call your local clerk. I voted a couple of weeks ago at City Hall in West Bend and it was a perfectly quick and delightful (and sanitary) experience.

Finally, the polls will be open on April 7. Some of the normal polling places have been moved and the process will work a bit differently, but they will be open. We must not abrogate our right to vote in the face of adversity.

There are several important races on the ballot. Here is a quick rundown of who I voted for and why:

Wisconsin Supreme Court: This is, by far, the most important election on the ballot. The Supreme Court is always important, but as we have seen our governor exercise extraordinary arbitrary power to micromanage all of our lives, the importance of the other branches of government stands out. Incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly is being challenged by a liberal activist judge Jill Karofsky, who has repeatedly told audiences how she would use the court to advance the liberal agenda. Daniel Kelly has proven himself to be a conservative jurist who will uphold the Constitution and the law – even if he personally disagrees with it. Kelly is an ethical judge with a humble temperament that is too rare nowadays in the judicial branch. To protect our rule of law and our rights, I voted for Daniel Kelly.

Court of Appeals District 2: This is the second most important election on the ballot. Very few cases are actually decided by the Supreme Court. Most important legal issues are settle in one of Wisconsin’s Courts of Appeals. Incumbent Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer lost an election for the Supreme Court last year. In that election, she showed her true colors with a scorched-earth campaign in which she passionately advocated for liberal activism on the court. This election is a chance to remove her from the Court of Appeals and replace her with someone who respects the role of a humble jurist.

Fortunately, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Paul Bugenhagen Jr. is a great conservative judge with just the right temperament for the court. Bugenhagen got my vote.

Washington County executive: For the first time, Washington County citizens will elect a county executive after the County Board voted to change the county’s government structure. Josh Schoemann is the current county administrator. Adam Gitter is the Economic Development manager for the city of West Bend. Both men are conservative. Both men are veterans. Both men are career bureaucrats seeking their first elected office. Both are promising to hold the line on taxes and spending.

On the issues, Schoemann and Gitter differ on two primary issues. First, Schoemann supports park fees and Gitter does not. Second, Gitter considers the county sales tax to be a “slush fund” and wants to reform or repeal it. Schoemann thinks the sales tax is necessary to fund the county. I’m somewhat indifferent on park fees, but want to see the sales tax repealed. Mainly for that reason, I cast my vote for Adam Gitter.

Mayor of West Bend: Much like for county executive, the citizens of West Bend have two great choices for their next mayor. Chris Jenkins and Rich Kasten are both currently aldermen for West Bend. They are both conservative, fiscally and socially conservative, hard workers, and love the city. They both want to fix the roads, control spending and taxes, and attract businesses.

The difference really comes down to experience and background. I voted for Kasten because he is a bit older and more experienced. Also, Kasten works in the private sector while Jenkins works for another municipality. In light of the fact that the next mayor’s term will be spent trying to heal the city after a government-forced recession, I prefer a mayor whose experience is rooted in the private sector.

West Bend School Board. My column from a few weeks ago went into detail on the need for a new voice on the West Bend School Board. There is only one person on the ballot worth voting for. The citizens of the West Bend School District need Jody Geenen on the board.

In an era of unprecedented government intervention, it is more important than ever to choose our elected leaders. Vote by mail. Vote absentee in person. Go to the polls on April 7 to vote. Just vote.

The April election is on and more important than ever

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s a rundown of who I voted for and why. Most readers of this blog won’t be too surprised, but go pick up a copy!

Finally, the polls will be open on April 7. Some of the normal polling places have been moved and the process will work a bit differently, but they will be open. We must not abrogate our right to vote in the face of adversity.

[…]

In an era of unprecedented government intervention, it is more important than ever to choose our elected leaders. Vote by mail. Vote absentee in person. Go to the polls on April 7 to vote. Just vote.

A devastating cure: Weighing liberties, security in the age of coronavirus

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

In the future, when we remember the liberties we once had and explain to our grandchildren why we surrendered them, some old man will slowly look down at his shoes and mutter, “We did it out of an abundance of caution.”

The global Coronavirus pandemic is a severe health concern that requires a response from our government. We need our government to aggressively work toward a vaccine and treatments, inform the public with the latest prevention methods, act to provide resources where needed, and provide the legal and regulatory safety net for the private sector to join in the fight. We do not need or want our government to arbitrarily suppress our civil rights, undermine the rule of law, and intentionally destroy our economy and our livelihoods.

It is breathtaking the speed at which our government leaders resorted to totalitarian extremes to combat the spread of a disease. The government ordered thousands and thousands of businesses to close indefinitely. This has forced millions of people out of work. Many of them do not have the financial cushion to get by without an income for weeks on end. Many small-business owners are losing their life’s work and their families’ entire net worth by order of the government.

With millions of people are struggling to get by, the inevitable wave of foreclosures and bankruptcies will follow. The government may try to halt this by decree or throw stimulus money at the problem, but the financial realities make the long-term impact of these decisions unavoidable.

Meanwhile, some governments are ordering people to remain home, forbidding people from assembling, and even closing churches. In California, people who are caught outside of their homes for nonessential reasons are subject to arrest, fines, and imprisonment for violating the order. At the same time, jury trials (a constitutionally protected right) are being postponed, elections are being delayed, prisoners are being released, and the government is ignoring private contracts — for example, the government ordering that landlords can’t evict people — in lieu of the judgment of politicians.

The impact is more than just financial or an inconvenience. The government restrictions have caused a massive shortage in donated blood for hospitals, crime is sure to rise, people are postponing necessary medical care for fear of leaving their homes, and an increase in depression, addiction, and suicide will result from mass unemployment and economic destruction.

Americans should be following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to maintain a physical distance from others, cover sneezes, avoid touching faces, wash hands, sanitize surfaces, and reduce unnecessary travel. But there is an abyss between free Americans taking steps to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus of their own free will and our government using police power to enforce those steps. In most cases, it is a single man — a governor — making these incredible decisions to upend our lives.

If the response to Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that our government officials will strip us of our liberties at a moment’s notice on the justification that it is for our own good. Instead of relying on the collective wisdom of a billion individual decisions made by free people, our government officials instantly supplanted their own judgment for that of the people they were elected to represent. They immediately assumed that they know better and are not only empowered, but obligated, to micromanage our lives “out of an abundance of caution.” And then, when the inevitable negative effects are being felt, these same people will mortgage our grandchildren’s future too with another boondoggle trillion dollar stimulus.

This is a very old debate about the balance of government power between liberty and safety. The way in which so many Americans surrendered their liberty for the dubious promise of safety with little more than a shrug and a muffled bleat is testament to how far we have strayed from our roots. For all of the “don’t tread on me” stickers and “live free or die” machismo, too many Americans have become fat and docile.

Coronavirus will ravage the world and leave devastation in its wake, but we will find workable treatments and a vaccine. It will pass. The devastation to our economy and liberties will be far longer lasting.

Cast your vote based on the record

Speaking of voting, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Three incumbent West Bend School Board members are up for re-election on the April 7 ballot. Joel Ongert, Nancy Justman, and Tonnie Schmidt ran as a bloc in 2017 and are running for re-election as a bloc again. In 2017, they ran on conservatism and transparency. Having failed on both counts, this year they are running on their record. It is certainly a record that deserves scrutiny.

Despite promising transparency, the West Bend School District became instantly more opaque when they took office. Individually, these three board members repeatedly refused to respond to questions from media and constituents who did not support them; documents disappeared from the district’s website; and there was a noticeable increase in the number of closed sessions.

This secrecy enveloped the decision in 2017 to split the high school administrations. West Bend has two high schools in one building, but previous boards had combined the administration to be more efficient and economical. Without any public input or discussion, and in the middle of a hiring process for a single principal, the School Board split the position into two expensive principals instead of one. Secrecy and patronage were the new guiding principles with these three.

Under the leadership of the Triad, the district abandoned using Act 10 and reversed course on the implementation of merit pay for school staff. After a year in limbo, the district is implementing a new compensation system that rewards teachers for experience and more education — irrespective of the teacher’s performance.

Who could forget the superintendent shuffle? The district will be hiring its fourth superintendent since the Triad took office three years ago. They forced one out (allegedly), had an interim for a while, and then hired Superintendent Kirkegaard. While Kirkegaard has been a capable superintendent, it did not take much foresight to understand that an administrator nearing the end of his career who spent his entire life in another state would not last long. Along with the superintendent shuffle came the huge turnover of the rest of the administrative staff. The district has cycled through six business managers, five HR directors, and countless other staff positions.

The Triad also ran last time as conservatives. They may be fiscally conservative in their private lives, but they are big-spending liberals with other people’s money. Despite steeply declining enrollment (not the district’s fault), the School Board increased spending by over $5 million, or over 6%, since 2016. That spending brought with it property tax increases. The School Board increased the property tax levy by over 9% over the same period. The spending and taxing decisions of the West Bend School Board are indistinguishable from those of legendarily liberal school boards like Madison or Milwaukee.

The increased spending and taxes were not enough for this crew. Throughout the Triad’s entire tenure, the district has been roiled with referendum debate. After a few months, the Triad pushed through a $74 million (with interest) referendum for a new Jackson Elementary School and work at the high schools. They followed the liberal school referendum playbook to the letter. They manipulated a fake community study committee, conducted a sham survey, rolled out the scare tactics, and were hazy about the details of how the money would be spent.

After the voters rejected the referendum, they are right back at planning the next referendum. Despite the fact that a private task force of local business and facilities leaders (of which I was a member) dug into the data for months and showed a way to restructure facilities with enormous improvements without increasing taxes, the Triad appears determined to ignore those findings and proceed with a rehashed version of the previous referendum – a new Jackson Elementary School and maybe some other fluff thrown in to lure voters from outside of Jackson.

Sadly for the kids of the West Bend School District, the spending, taxing, administrative turmoil, lack of performance incentives for teachers, secrecy, and poor management have only perpetuated a steadily declining performance. None of this has improved educational outcomes or better prepared our kids to enter the world.

If you want higher taxes, more spending, declining performance, and an endless succession of referendums, vote for the Triad. As for me, I will only be voting for one person for the West Bend School Board, Jody Geenen.

Geenen is a solidly conservative mother who had three children go through the West Bend School District. She is committed to doing the hard work of improving transparency, communicating with the public, evaluating the curriculum, being a frugal steward of taxpayer money, and providing a “high-quality, content-rich, truth-and-factbased education for all students.”

There are four candidates for three School Board seats, so two of the three members of the Triad will be re-elected. It does not matter which ones. But it does matter that the voters elect Jody Geenen to be the only conservative on a school board that lurched to the left with the election of the Triad.

Cast your vote based on the record

Isn’t it nice to read about something that isn’t related to Coronovirus? My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a little taste:

Sadly for the kids of the West Bend School District, the spending, taxing, administrative turmoil, lack of performance incentives for teachers, secrecy, and poor management have only perpetuated a steadily declining performance. None of this has improved educational outcomes or better prepared our kids to enter the world.

If you want higher taxes, more spending, declining performance, and an endless succession of referendums, vote for the Triad. As for me, I will only be voting for one person for the West Bend School Board, Jody Geenen.

Geenen is a solidly conservative mother who had three children go through the West Bend School District. She is committed to doing the hard work of improving transparency, communicating with the public, evaluating the curriculum, being a frugal steward of taxpayer money, and providing a “high-quality, content-rich, truth-and-fact based education for all students.”

There are four candidates for three School Board seats, so two of the three members of the Triad will be re-elected. It does not matter which ones. But it does matter that the voters elect Jody Geenen to be the only conservative on a school board that lurched to the left with the election of the Triad.

Preserving small ‘l’ liberal education

Here is my full column for the Washington County Daily News.

When one enters higher education to pursue a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree, there are two main objectives. The first objective is to learn a lot about a particular subject like math, history, business, or any of hundreds of other major areas of study. The second objective, and the one that differentiates a liberal (classical liberal – not political liberal) education from a vocational education, is to gain a broader knowledge of the world.

The heart of a liberal education is that second objective. It is why students are required to take classes that do not have anything to do with their major. It is also why students spend more money and spend longer in school to earn a bachelor’s degree. For many people, going to university is their first time outside of the bubble in which they grew up. It is their first time away from their family, church, neighborhood, childhood friends, and cultural roots. A good university education offers a wide range of information and multiple viewpoints to give students a broader perspective of the world around them. A good university education also equips students with the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate a big, diverse, exciting world.

Unfortunately, most universities have abandoned a small “l” liberal education in favor of a big “L” Liberal education. Instead of offering a broad perspective from diverse perspectives, they offer a narrow perspective from a hyper-orthodox view. Whether the subject is related to global warming, abortion, unions, gun rights, health care policy, or any other important issue, there is only one perspective tolerated on most university campuses – the Liberal viewpoint.

The reason is simple. The vast majority of university faculty members are extremely liberal. For example, consider the political donations of faculty members. The best way to tell what is important to someone is to see where they spend their money. According to Opensecrets.org, 97% of all political donations given by employees of the University of Wisconsin system in the 2020 election cycle so far have gone to Democrats. Only 3% have gone to Republicans.

Lest you think that such lopsided political affiliation is an artifact of the Trump era, the percentage was 98% for Democrats in 2014 and 95% in 2012. To put that in perspective, a student takes about 40 college courses with 40 professors to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is a very good chance that a student attending a University of Wisconsin school might complete their degree without ever having anything but a politically liberal professor. In some majors, it is a virtual certainty that a student will never hear anything but a liberal perspective.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important for universities to invite non-liberal speakers to their campuses. For some students, it will be the only way they will hear a conservative, libertarian, or even a centrist speak without leaving campus.

Sadly, too many universities have tolerated, or even encouraged, the rise of the cry bully on campus. These sniveling tyrants wrap themselves in their own righteousness to bully other people into silence. If challenged for their intolerance, they cry “victim” and demand a safe space. These are the petty bullies who have been protesting and shouting down conservative speakers on university campuses to the point that some universities have stopped inviting conservatives to speak at all for fear of violence.

The University of Wisconsin Regents deserve credit for pushing ahead with a policy to punish cry bullies who would intimidate others into silence and preserve universities as a place for diverse thoughts to be heard and debated. In October, the Regents voted for a policy that would require that a student be suspended if they twice “materially and substantially disrupted the free expression of others.” Upon the third violation, the student would be expelled.

The policy is needed to ensure that universities can be a place of free expression and diversity of thought. The policy does not prohibit any student from offering a different perspective or even protesting a speaker they dislike. It simply discourages students from disrupting other people from speaking and sharing their views. That is what free expression is all about. Universities used to know that and the UW Regents are reinstilling that principle of small “l” liberal education.

Preserving small ‘l’ liberal education

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy, but here’s a part:

Unfortunately, most universities have abandoned a small “l” liberal education in favor of a big “L” Liberal education. Instead of offering a broad perspective from diverse perspectives, they offer a narrow perspective from a hyper-orthodox view. Whether the subject is related to global warming, abortion, unions, gun rights, health care policy, or any other important issue, there is only one perspective tolerated on most university campuses – the Liberal viewpoint.

The reason is simple. The vast majority of university faculty members are extremely liberal. For example, consider the political donations of faculty members. The best way to tell what is important to someone is to see where they spend their money. According to Opensecrets.org, 97% of all political donations given by employees of the University of Wisconsin system in the 2020 election cycle so far have gone to Democrats. Only 3% have gone to Republicans.

Lest you think that such lopsided political affiliation is an artifact of the Trump era, the percentage was 98% for Democrats in 2014 and 95% in 2012. To put that in perspective, a student takes about 40 college courses with 40 professors to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is a very good chance that a student attending a University of Wisconsin school might complete their degree without ever having anything but a politically liberal professor. In some majors, it is a virtual certainty that a student will never hear anything but a liberal perspective.

 

Evers’ vetoes tell us his values

I forgot to post this earlier in the week… here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News on Tuesday.

Governor Tony Evers spent last week telling the people of Wisconsin what his values really are by vetoing several bills that would have made Wisconsinites wealthier, healthier, and safer. Our governor’s actions tell us that he would rather Wisconsinites be poorer, sicker, and less safe if it means that he can appease his liberal benefactors and the social justice warriors.

In light of the state of Wisconsin’s projected budget surplus, the Republican Legislature passed a tax cut. The idea was simple. The people of Wisconsin are paying more in taxes than the government has budgeted to spend. The Republicans voted to reduce marginal tax rates so that those excess taxes would never be collected. Instead, that money would have been left in the pockets of Wisconsinites to spend on their families, businesses, and priorities. The Republican tax cut would have had the greatest impact for lower- and middle-income earners whose lives are most impacted by high taxes.

Governor Evers vetoed the tax cut in its entirety. In doing so, he said that he wants to use any tax surplus to spend more money on the state’s government schools. Despite the fact that statewide enrollment is declining and Wisconsinites spend more on education — by any measurement — than at any time in the history of humankind, the governor just wants to spend more. It is no coincidence that Wisconsin’s government education establishment supports Evers.

The Republicans passed another bill that would have made direct primary care agreements exempt from insurance law. The idea here is also simple. The cost of health care in Wisconsin is too high and the high cost prevents some people from getting

the care they need. One of the reasons that the cost is so high is because of the regulatory structure and insurance middle man. DPC agreements are a way to cut out the insurance middle man and lower costs with a direct fee structure.

In a DPC agreement, a person or their employer pays a subscription to a health care provider that gives patients access to primary care, urgent care, lab work, and other relatively routine health care services. In doing this, the patient does not access their health insurance except for the truly critical issues. By making primary care available through a low-cost subscription, patients and their families can get the routine care they need without jumping through the insurance hoops or paying huge deductibles. The bill passed by Republicans would have clarified the law to ensure that DPC agreements do not fall subject to onerous insurance laws that would render DPC agreements unviable.

Governor Evers vetoed the bill in its entirety because it did not specifically prohibit health care providers from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation. Because Governor Evers wants to curry favor with the LGBTQ lobby, Wisconsinites will continue to have to pay more for health care and have fewer health care options available to them.

Perhaps worst of all, Governor Evers vetoed several bills that would have made Wisconsinites safer. One bill would have required that the Department of Corrections recommend revoking a person’s supervision or probation if they are charged with a crime. One would have thought that if a person was on probation and committed a crime, that they would be automatically put back in jail. Unfortunately, under current law, people often commit crimes while on supervision or probation and no action is taken.

This bill would have left judges with the discretion to actually revoke a crook’s supervision or probation, but it would have required the DOC to recommend revocation.

In another bill, the Republicans would have extended the restrictions for who is eligible to get released early from prison for certain crimes. Most of the crimes that the bill extended the restrictions for were child sex crimes. For example, the bill would have made people who commit the crimes of incest, child enticement, or sexual assault of a child, ineligible to be released from prison early.

Governor Evers vetoed both of those crime bills and several more anti-crime bills. One can only conclude that Evers wants more criminals on our streets — even those who are convicted of child sex crimes. Evers’ goal of reducing the state’s prison population takes priority over the victims of crimes.

Thanks to the actions of Governor Evers last week, Wisconsinites will be poorer, sicker, and less safe than they could have been if he had signed these bills into law. But at least the government teachers, LGBTQ lobbyists, and criminals will be better off.

Evers’ vetoes tell us his values

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s how it starts:

Governor Tony Evers spent last week telling the people of Wisconsin what his values really are by vetoing several bills that would have made Wisconsinites wealthier, healthier, and safer. Our governor’s actions tell us that he would rather Wisconsinites be poorer, sicker, and less safe if it means that he can appease his liberal benefactors and the social justice warriors.