Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Scott Walker should fix his mistakes, or just resign already

We need to fix what Walker's done to Wisconsin, with or without him.

What has happened to our beloved Wisconsin? The state that I’ve called home for my entire life is slowly crumbling. At almost every problem you can observe, you can see Gov. Scott Walker’s fingerprints are there.

Jobs are recovering from the recession at a slower rate than the rest of the Midwest region, and we’re not doing well nationally either. What jobs DO get created pale in comparison to what we had pre-recession, as income growth has been dismal since Walker took office as well.

The jobs creation agency that the governor put in place of the Department of Commerce has been mired in controversy. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has handed out millions of taxpayer dollars as loans, funds that have rarely been accounted for, and that may have been improperly granted to donors of Scott Walker’s campaigns over more deserving businesses.

Our schools are getting their budgets cut, teachers are left with little to no job security, and the governor is now proposing removing standards for obtaining a teaching license.

Women are earning less than what they earned since the governor took office, likely due to the fact that the governor and his Republican-led legislature repealed a law that was meant to be a stronger enforcer of the equal pay law.

These are just a small tidbit of things that we’ve seen under Walker’s leadership -- the list really could go on, and on.

Now, the man who worships Ronald Reagan (and makes bodacious claims of voting for him despite being under age at the time) is planning a run for the presidency, claiming that the president who allowed his administration to illegally sell weapons to Iran to fund a war in Central America is a better foreign policy leader than the president who killed Osama bin Laden.

We can do better than this disaster of a governor. The good news is the people of Wisconsin are finally opening their eyes to this governor’s track record -- only two of every five respondents in a recent poll approved of Walker’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved of the way he was running the state (PDF).

So where do we go from here? We need to undo the damage that Walker has wrought to Wisconsin.

We need to raise the minimum wage so that the people of this state earning the least can afford to provide for their families. We also need to restore the cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit that Walker imposed on working families.

We need to fully fund our schools, from kindergarten to college, and lessen the burden of fees for students attending universities in our state, beyond the “tuition freeze” sound bites that the governor is so accustomed to making.

We need to treat every person in this state -- women, gay and lesbian, transgender, white, black, Latino, Asian, and more -- fairly. Especially among minorities, Wisconsin is failing, becoming one of the worst states when it comes to racial disparities in the nation. That needs to change.

That's just a start. In short, we need a governor that gets Wisconsin’s traditions. Yes, we’ve been a high-tax state in the past -- but what we’ve gained from those taxes has been an enormous blessing. We have some of the best educated students in the country; a parks system that is envied across the country; citizens who, in times of need, are tended to, taken care of, and brought out of trying times that they themselves could never have imagined escaping on their own.

Our current governor doesn’t get that. He’s too busy running for higher office, and when he’s in our state he’s only for appeasing corporate interests.

That’s not the legacy of Wisconsin. We thwarted such thinking in the beginning of the 20th century. And in time we’ll do it again.

I’m making a special request: Gov. Scott Walker, make the call now. Either govern our state, and do it in a way that makes Wisconsin a better place, or just resign already, and run for president so we can move on at home. We’re tired of the controversy you have brought to our state, and we’re sick of you ignoring the problems at home while you’re campaigning.

If you are going to leave, leave already. Don't drag it out any longer.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Scott Walker fails history, and cuts to education could mean your kid might, too

Two American history gaffes in one week, plus per-pupil spending dipping below national average, are ominous signs of what’s to come

Scott Walker isn’t a friend to U.S. history.

In two separate tweets this week, Team Walker got significant events of our nation’s early beginnings very wrong.

In the first, Walker’s Twitter account tried to celebrate the founding of Jamestown.

There’s just one problem: Jamestown was founded 408 years ago, not 505.

That’s a minor slip to be sure, although how it can be blamed on a typing error is questionable.

It pales in comparison to another slip-up this week by Walker. Tweeting an image of a quote from Thomas Jefferson, Team Walker pushed for “smaller, more conservative government.”

The problem here? The quote can’t be attributed to Thomas Jefferson. He never said it.

Walker joins a long line of politicians who have slipped up on quoting the author of the Declaration of Independence. The problem is so frequent that the official site for all-things Thomas Jefferson ( has set up a page listing all of the spurious quotes that people mistakenly assign to him.

Fact-checking and being knowledgeable on history isn’t Walker’s strong-suit. It’s pretty clear to see, whether you look at his own comments or those of the staff he hires, that he doesn’t place a priority on historical accuracy.

Which is why he might be so comfortable with huge cuts to education. No clearer is his distaste for growing the minds of our children than in his proposed budget bill, which puts per-pupil spending in the state below the national average for the first time in Wisconsin history.

It’d be one thing if Walker was simply embarrassing himself with these American history gaffes. It’s disgraceful that he’s pushing budget cuts that would make the entire state an embarrassment.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Welcome back, Russ

Feingold declares himself a candidate in rematch against Ron Johnson

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold indicated this week that he will run to reclaim the seat he lost in 2010.

“People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken, and that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots,” Feingold says in an online video introducing himself as a candidate.

Elected to serve three consecutive terms prior to his loss, Feingold was best known for putting forward a bipartisan bill (along with Republican Sen. John McCain) to curb campaign contributions from corporate interests.

Much of that law, known as McCain-Feingold, was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in what many (including current justices) have called one of the biggest judicial mistakes made by the Court in recent years: the Citizens United ruling. The 5-4 decision paved the way for unlimited funding from corporations into U.S. elections.

Shortly after the ruling in 2010, there was one senator more than any other that the corporations supportive of that ruling wanted out of office: Russ Feingold. Several other factors (the rise of the Tea Party, for example) led political newcomer Ron Johnson to victory over Feingold.

The election represented “the most expensive campaign for federal office in state history” up to that time.

Feingold, who is notable for imposing limits on his own spending during previous election cycles, refused money from third party groups (such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) to run ads against Johnson, a move that, while noble, may have cost him his seat.

That may not be an issue this time around. A March article from the Hill states that Johnson is the second-most vulnerable senator facing re-election this year, and with good reason: recent polling indicates that Johnson is vulnerable (PDF).

Only 32 percent of Wisconsinites polled recently had a favorable view of Johnson, while more than three-in-five had negative feelings about him. And in a matchup between the two, more voters preferred Feingold (54 percent) to Johnson (38 percent)...a full month before Feingold had even announced he was running.

The election will likely tighten in the months to come -- we’re still more than a year out from Election Day 2016 -- but Feingold may be one piece of the puzzle to Democrats winning back the Senate. Forty-four seats are held by Dems, and two seats are held by independents who caucus with Democrats. They only need five more seats to get the majority back (and only four if a Democrat is elected president).

Republicans will be defending 24 seats in 2016, with Democrats only defending 10 seats -- all of which are in states that President Barack Obama won in 2012 (seven of the Republican seats are also in Obama states, including Wisconsin).

That puts the Dems in a very good position, one that they can easily capitalize on in the next year or so. Having Feingold run against Johnson again may be a huge help -- with him already leading the incumbent, resources that would have been spent on Wisconsin can be dedicated to races elsewhere.

We’re nowhere near knowing if that will indeed be the case. But Feingold’s entrance into the Senate race against Ron Johnson certainly opens up that possibility, and brings added excitement to the state’s Democratic Party, which is in desperate need of a big win like this could be.

As for me, all I have to say is this:

Welcome back, Russ. You’ve been missed.