Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sheriff Clarke uses tragedies in Chicago to try and score political points

But Clarke disregards murder rates in his home county, which mirrors Chicago's numbers

There should be no doubting about whether Chicago experienced a surge in violence this year. More than 750 murders took place in the Windy City this year, attributable to a rise in gang violence.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, not one to miss an opportunity to peddle his right-wing views on guns, blames Chicago’s rise on their restrictive laws.

“It’s time Democrat (sic) ghetto hellholes like Chicago pay attention to what’s happening in their pro-gun controlled cities instead of learning the hard way that criminals don’t care what laws are on the books,” Clarke wrote.


There is, of course, some glaring problems with Clarke’s assertions – namely, that it isn’t Chicago’s gun laws that are at fault. In truth, Chicago’s notorious gun restrictions have been watered down substantially over the past five years. And similar assertions by Donald Trump – who said Chicago has the toughest gun laws “by far” – were deemed false by Politifact earlier this year.

What’s more, Chicago’s rate of murder is almost exactly what the city of Milwaukee’s rates are. For every 100,000 citizens in Chicago during 2016, there were approximately 27 murders. That’s a gruesome number, to be sure – but the rate in Milwaukee during 2016 was approximately 25 murders for every 100,000 citizens. *

Clarke doesn’t have an answer for why the murder rate is so high in his home county – he doesn’t even acknowledge it in his op-ed. Nor does he acknowledge other gun control successes, like New York City’s low murder rate of 3.8 murders per 100,000 this year, a city that has more restrictive gun laws than Chicago.

Clarke’s main assertion, that Chicago’s problems stem from its gun laws, is flawed. Milwaukee has much less restrictive gun laws, but you are nearly as likely to be murdered there as you are in Chicago.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff needs to step off of his high horse, recognize the problems happening in his own home county, and stop trying to score political points off of the tragedies that are occurring elsewhere. His solutions have proven to be failures – and if he wants to be part of the conversation on what can be done to help, he needs to offer something much more constructive.

* Numbers on murder rates are based off of projected population growth, and approximate statistics on murders obtained for Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Melissa Sargent provides the voice Democrats in Wisconsin need right now (and perhaps in 2018, too)

Democratic legislator recognizes that, on the issues, Wisconsin citizens support progressive values

Melissa Sargent, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly representing parts of Madison, recently wrote a poignant op-ed that was published in the Capital Times. It provided great insight into what progressives need to stand for in the aftermath of the 2016 election season.

Her essay included reasoned arguments in favor of pushing for progressive policies, and (dare I say?) sounded very...


“People support strong progressive values and legislation,” Sargent wrote, giving examples to back her case:
  • ”Progressives support public education and Republicans cut from it," Sargent wrote, singling out how the GOP gutted over a billion dollars from schools. Public education is clearly a priority for most Wisconsinites, and progressives are leading the charge on providing it the funding it needs statewide, Sargent points out.
  • On gun policy, Sargent echoes the sentiments of a majority of Wisconsinites. “Only 12 percent of Wisconsinites are against universal background checks for all gun purchases,” she writes. “Progressives don’t want to take anybody’s gun. They want guns to be safe, secure and in the hands of law-abiding citizens.”
  • Sargent also observed that while many in the state want economic growth, most do not want it at the expense of environmental protections. “Our heritage and culture are built on the protection of our natural resources and the promise of clean air and water.”
  • On marijuana legalization – yes, even on that contentious issue – Sargent brings reasonable arguments, and an agreeable position that most Wisconsinites back. She knows that, “prohibition has led to an increase in racial disparities and missed opportunities for state revenue.” And she rightly cites that 3-out-of-5 Wisconsinites agree with her that it's time to decriminalize recreational marijuana use.
This is precisely the message that Democrats need to convey to everyone they encounter across the state. Progressive values are Wisconsin values; and Wisconsin values are progressive values.

Image via Melissa Sargent's Assembly website
A few names in the Democratic Party have been suggested as possible choices to run for the governor’s office, whether Scott Walker runs again or not. But it surprises me that Melissa Sargent’s name hasn’t been among them.

Sargent’s story is inspiring enough – she has been in the legislature since 2013, but before that she was a small business owner. What caused her to take the leap into politics? Her children.

Several people in her neighborhood had urged her to run for a vacant Dane County board position. Sargent was hesitant, but when her children came home and complained about doing a community project for school, she told them to tough it out, according to Then she chose to heed her own advice and run for office, campaigning for that board position while still pregnant with her youngest son.

Her story would resonate with all of Wisconsin’s citizens. We're a hard-working state; Melissa Sargent is a hard-working legislator. And her progressive streak would embolden the Democratic Party’s base, something previous candidates for governor regrettably couldn’t do.

Those who fear that she’d be a Madison-based politician need to listen to what she says about that, too:
I am not a progressive because I am from Madison. I am a progressive because I know that government works best when it works for all of us. I know that Wisconsin is a progressive state in the sense that we believe in helping those around us. I know that when we all do better, we all do better.
Sargent is providing a strong voice for progressives following some pretty devastating defeats. Her leadership, optimism and dedication to fighting for what’s right in the state should be recognized. And she ought to be considered as a possible contender in 2018’s race for the governorship for the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Discounting NY, CA, Madison and other “blue” areas: is it “rural elitism?"

Nobody's opinion is better than anyone else's on the basis of geographical location

If you don’t count Texas, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 3.6 million votes in the popular vote totals for president last month.

That statistic is misleading, though, because of course Texas voters count. Every single voter who cast a ballot in the state of Texas is a citizen of the United States, and discounting their preferences is a stupid way to make sense of, or otherwise qualifying, the results of an election.

So, too, is discounting the worth of “blue” states votes that went for Clinton. But conservative sites like the Daily Mail and Drudge Report are peddling the idea that, if you don’t count New York and California, Trump won the popular vote by more than three million votes.
All of the voters in those two states matter because they’re all American citizens. To suggest that, “Oh, it’s just New York or California that gave Clinton a popular vote win” is a snide, shorthanded way of saying those states, and their residents, don’t really matter.

Others were quick to notice the problems with such logic:

Many across the country have suggested that urban areas are worth ignoring, and others have said we have the Electoral College precisely because we want to prioritize smaller states and rural areas, to ensure the candidates travel to places outside of New York and California (click here for why that’s illogical thinking).

This idea, of discounting geographical areas on the basis of whether their urban or not, isn’t limited to the national level either. Responding recently to Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who recently described Madison as a “communist community,” former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz pointed out that derision of this nature is about much more.

From the Isthmus, Cieslewicz writes, “I’m going to guess that [Duffy’s remarks were] a calculated attempt to feed red meat” to a conservative audience, adding that, “Duffy got a rise out of just the folks he wanted to irritate.”

Cieslewicz is quick to say that we should “get our fellow Badgers to think of us as maybe the eccentric uncle in the family but not as the obnoxious cousin with the trust fund and the attitude,” and maybe he’s right to a certain extent – my conversations with people in rural areas usually indicate that Madison is considered too “hoity toity” for their tastes.

But dismissing certain geographical areas for helping boost the popular vote totals of Clinton is also something we cannot overlook. People who scoff at urban centers as being “different” than themselves are in dangerous territory. If they fail to step back their rhetoric, they risk becoming “rural elitists,” of considering themselves somehow better than a substantial part of the country.

No one is better than someone else because of where they live. Everyone’s opinions should be judged based on their merit, not their zip code, and we shouldn’t try to subtract votes from either candidate just because a substantial portion of them came from an area that votes a certain way. Yes, people do live in “bubbles.” But it’s important to acknowledge when you yourself live in one, and to try and see the world from a different perspective whenever possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trump says he's focused on “jobs, jobs, jobs” -- but so did Scott Walker in 2011 (how’d that work out, by the way?)

Walker’s so-called “focus” on jobs, and “trickle down” economics slowed the state’s performance

President-elect Donald Trump came to Wisconsin earlier this week as part of his “thank you tour” across the country. Trump was greeted by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Gov. Scott Walker, and presented by these three with Green Bay Packers jerseys, probably dooming any remaining chances that the green-and-gold had of making the playoffs this year.

What can I say, I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to football.

Trump did his part in thanking his Wisconsin hosts, through the only medium he seems comfortable using: Twitter.
“Thank you Wisconsin!” Trump wrote. “My Administration will be focused on three very important words: jobs, jobs, jobs!”

If that sounds familiar, that’s because Gov. Scott Walker said the same thing almost six years ago, during his first inaugural address in 2011.

“We will work tirelessly to restore economic growth and vibrancy to our state” he said back then. “My top three priorities are jobs, jobs, and jobs.”

"Hipster" Scott Walker was focused on jobs years
before Donald Trump was (but not really)
How did that work out? Not so good. The rest of the nation created jobs during the recovery at a rate that was 34 percent faster than our state under Walker’s watch.

And when people called Walker out on it? Well, it wasn’t HIS fault. He’s blamed his failures on the recall elections (even after it was shown they didn’t hinder job creation at all). He’s blamed his political opponents. He’s blamed the war in Libya, Obamacare and the fiscal cliff. Heck, he’s even blamed workers themselves.

One thing he’s never blamed? Himself. And he really should, because his policies have left us 55,000 100,000+ jobs behind where we should be, had we kept pace with the rest of the nation.

Now, we have a Republican president-elect who is echoing our Republican governor’s words. I’m hoping he will he be more successful in creating jobs than our governor was -- his success is, after all, America’s success -- but I’m not optimistic. As Joe Conason points out:
While Trump’s proposed corporate tax cut may well bring home money for business investment, the overall history of tax cuts as a Republican economic panacea is worse than disappointing. So far every signal suggests that he will pursue the same plutocratic approach favored by all presidents of his party, only more extreme.
“Trickle down” economics didn’t work for the nation in the past. It didn’t work for Gov. Scott Walker either. And it probably won’t work when Donald Trump tries it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jesse Kremer thinks college campuses -- safer than his own hometown -- need concealed carry

Kremer wants guns in campuses, but evidence shows concealed carry doesn't make state safer

State Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) really wants guns to be allowed in college classrooms.

Current policy at university campuses across the state allows students to carry weapons to classes and about campus itself. But universities are granted discretion on whether concealed carry within buildings will be tolerated. Many have opted to place signs outside of their buildings stating that no concealed weapons would be allowed indoors.

This is the right of the universities to do. But Kremer wants to change that. Last year, he introduced a bill that would have done away with the right of campuses to discourage concealed carry inside their buildings, but the bill went nowhere. He intends to submit the bill again this year to an even more conservative state legislature.

He defended his position in a forum recently in Madison. From the Daily Cardinal:
Kremer argues students might face violence within classrooms that they would then be unable to protect themselves against.
Kremer may need to check out the FBI Crime statistics, because campuses are one of the safest places to be on a per capita basis. In fact, the rate of crime on UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee campuses are safer than the village Kremer hails from.

The violent crime rates listed below demonstrate as much:

The rates above indicate that not only are campuses extremely safe places to be at, but that they’re also safer than Kewaskum is by huge margins. Even the campus at UW-Milwaukee, nestled in a city with high crime rates, is 2.7 times safer than Kewaskum on a per capita basis.

Kremer’s obsession with guns has resulted in his submitting legislation in the past (and likely future) that is, in reality, a solution in search of a problem. The campuses are already safe, and concealed carry won’t suddenly make them safer.

That’s a fact that Kremer won’t likely acknowledge. He continues to peddle concealed carry as a way to reduce crime and make Wisconsinites safer. Does he know that Wisconsin actually saw an increase of crime after concealed carry passed, including a 72 percent increase in the murder rate, debunking the deterrence rationale completely? It’s hard to tell.

One thing we can be certain of, however, is that we don’t need Kremer’s proposal to become law. It’s not needed, it’s not wanted, and his obsession needs to be quelled.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Six years on, Walker’s failed jobs promise should be remembered

State would have created 55,000 100,000+ (see update) additional jobs if it had kept pace with US average

UPDATE: I'm not a statistician by nature, but I do like to look at numbers from time to time. Still, when I mix up the numbers, I'll admit to it -- and Jake made sure to correct me. See why the state is actually 100,000 or more jobs behind at Jake's Economic TA Funhouse (and thanks for the catch!)

Scott Walker made a very ambitious claim more than six years ago during his first campaign for governor. He claimed that, if elected, his policies would create 250,000 private sector jobs in his first term in office.

It’s important to remember a promise like that because Walker was elected, in large part, because of it. At the time his critics lambasted him for pulling the number out of thin air. Walker chose the number specifically because it had been done in the past, but his six-point plan didn’t explain specifically how he had arrived at the number for himself -- even when it was blown up to size 50-font to make it 68 pages long (yes, that actually happened).

We're six years out from that promise, so Wisconsin should be in pretty good shape by now...right?

The newest quarterly jobs report was released this week, detailing job gains in all fifty states, plus DC, from June 2015 to June 2016. Where does Wisconsin rank?

In officially creating 25,105 private sector jobs during that time, Wisconsin is ranked 31st among the states and DC. Heck, Wisconsin is even behind the U.S. Virgin Islands from June 2015 to June 2016. The territory created jobs at a rate of 1.04 percent from year-to-year; Wisconsin’s rate was 1.02 percent. Overall, the U.S. grew jobs at about 1.5 percent year-over-year.

The second quarter federal jobs report shows that the economy in Wisconsin is still struggling more than six years since Gov. Scott Walker’s promise to make the state a leader in jobs growth. The promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first four years is a failed one, even with two and a half more years to get the job done.

The second quarter jobs report provides an additional advantage for observation: it was in the second quarter of 2011 that Scott Walker’s first Republican rubber-stamped budget went into effect. We can easily see how Wisconsin under Walker’s watch has done, and compare it against the rest of the nation during that five year period.

Since 2011, Wisconsin has grown private sector jobs at a rate of 6.99 percent. That’s an average rate of growth of about 1.4 percent per year.

That sounds pretty decent, but don’t celebrate quite yet: the U.S. rate of private sector jobs growth during that same timeframe was about 9.39 percent, or about 1.88 percent per year. In other words, the rest of the nation has, on average, created jobs at a rate that’s 34 percent faster than Wisconsin.

If we had created jobs at the national average rate, Wisconsin would have created more than 55,000 additional jobs over the past five years. But we didn’t create jobs at the national rate -- and have instead seen 20 consecutive quarters of below-average jobs growth in the state since Walker’s first budget took effect.

Scott Walker said in 2011 that his top three priorities for the state would be “jobs, jobs, and jobs.” Yet Wisconsin has fallen behind the rest of the nation on every private sector jobs metric. It's important to remember his promises from six years ago, because apparently they don't matter to the governor anymore.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Scott Walker is wrong to suggest changes to recount law

The law is meant to give every candidate assurances of a sound and fair election

After attending the Christmas tree lighting at the state Capitol, Scott Walker spoke to reporters on the need to change the recount process in Wisconsin.

“It’s certainly something to look at,” Walker told reporters.

Here we go again.

Walker has, in the past, spoken on the need to change the John Doe law and the Government Accountability Board (though only after he received what he deemed as unfavorable treatment from those respective institutions). Not that’s it’s news to anyone who pays enough attention, but when Walker (or any of his surrogates) says “let’s change something,” it’s expected that his Republican-run legislature will go after it on command.

The bells are ringing, and it’s only a matter of time before GOP legislators react to Walker’s recent calls for changing the recount.

On that issue, Walker added to his comments above, “To me, it seems like a recount is most valuable if you think it was close and you want to challenge it to make sure that all the votes that were legitimate and legal were cast.”

A lot of people may agree with that sentiment, and it’s a reasonable way to look at how one should generally use the recount. But it’s also not a decision for Walker, nor anyone else, to make.

If a candidate believes there’s a need for a recount, they have the right to challenge the results of an election that they’re involved with. It doesn’t matter if that’s Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein, or anyone else -- any and every candidate has the right to receive assurances that the election was sound, conducted fairly for all parties (and voters) involved.

There are conditions to this. A candidate who isn’t within 0.25 percent of the winner doesn’t have the right to request a state-funded recount -- they must provide the funding themselves.

Green Party candidate for president Jill Stein did precisely that. The state bears no expense toward the recount, and she is using the law exactly as it was intended.

Walker is free to gripe about the recount, but he’s wrong to suggest that the law needs changing.