Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Year's retreat

Don't expect updates for the next week

Unless there's a huge story involving something of enormous magnitude, you shouldn't expect much from me for the next week. I will be traveling around the state for a post-Christmas-road-trip-extravaganza that will take me from Madison to Appleton (with various stops in the Fox Valley region) to Minneapolis, all the way back to Madison again. Crazy times! For small, 140 character-based updates about things going on in my political mind, you can follow Political Heat on Twitter @PoliticalHeatWI (or click the link below).

I'm hoping that I will arrive back in time to report on a Rose Bowl victory, with analysis of the Iowa Caucuses shortly after. Until then...

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why Walker's association with Grover Norquist matters

Trip to "Tax Pledge" activist consistent with governor's tax hikes on working class Wisconsinites

Recently, it was revealed that Scott Walker attended the Christmas party of one Grover Norquist, presumably in an attempt to raise funds for the impending recall campaign for the Wisconsin governor.

The trip to New York was unannounced, kept hidden from the people of Wisconsin, until a blogger tweeted he had seen Walker at the party. The administration said that there was no need to keep tabs on the governor's "personal" calendar, that his "official" calendar was the only one that had to be kept up-to-date with the people.

It is perhaps prudent that the "official" office of the governor shouldn't divulge such information -- it may in fact be illegal to do so. But the governor himself ought to inform the public of his "personal" calendar when such events lead to him being out of state -- or include campaign fundraising -- especially when it's unknown to the people he represents what he's doing. There should be openness when it comes to politicians' fundraising activities, and Walker's actions have been anything but open (at least in terms of whether he's the one releasing it or not).

It's troubling still what the governor was probably doing during this particular trip -- but not all that surprising. It's a well-known fact in the political world what Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, represents: no tax increases ever within any level of government (a promise that isn't always kept intact within the organization itself). Gov. Walker signed the pledge during the campaign for governor in 2010, meaning he would oppose any and all tax increases -- including removal or diminishing of tax credits.

The pledge reads:
I, _____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____district of the) state of ______ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.
Emphasis added.

Unfortunately for Walker, he violated this pledge within the budget he passed this last summer, raising taxes on workers by millions of dollars.

Walker greatly reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits that were effectively increases in the amount the working poor had to pay toward their taxes. The administration countered that net taxes overall went down, and that reductions to credits didn't amount to tax increases.

Those arguments don't hold up to the tax pledge that Norquist and ATR had Walker sign -- the credits that Walker reduced were not "matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates" (see emphasis above). So Walker violated the pledge, and is automatically slated to be attacked by Norquist and ATR, set to face the wrath of challenges at a primary election from his fellow conservatives, right?

Not so fast -- during the payroll tax debate, the American working class was slated to face an increase in taxes had Congress refused to take any action. For a time, it seemed like that was going to happen (until a two-month extension was passed and signed into law last week). So what did Norquist tell Republican lawmakers? He essentially said that the payroll tax hike wouldn't amount to violating the pledge he had them sign, indicating that his tax pledge only applied to the wealthy.

It stands to reason, then, that by raising taxes on the poor in the state, Walker doesn't violate Norquist's tax pledge. At least, that is until you consider the hypocrisy that such reasoning employs.

Walker raised taxes. Norquist said to his pledge signers "don't raise taxes, or else!" but he didn't really care when the taxes raised were on the working class. In the end, it is all a ruse designed to lower taxes for the rich, not the middle class.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gableman's ethics put into question collective bargaining ruling

Legal questions abound amid allegations of justice's wrongdoing

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman isn't known to be a particularly professional person, especially when it comes to the title he holds. So it isn't surprising when Gableman was slapped with an ethics complaint earlier this year, forced to defend his actions while serving the state of Wisconsin.

What was surprising was that, during the defense of his ethics investigation, Gableman's lawyers waived all legal fees for their client, itself an act of unethical behavior. Sitting justices of the court aren't allowed to receive gifts of this kind as they can be perceived as conflicts of interest later on down the road.

As it happens, Gableman's actions (in accepting the gift) have put into question one of the most important and contentious rulings rendered by the court this year.

When the law to strip state workers of their bargaining rights was passed this year through nefarious means -- being rushed through the legislature in violation of state open meetings laws -- it went to the courts to decide if such violations warranted blockage of the law itself. Judge Maryann Sumi, a Republican-appointed judge, found that rules were indeed broken, and as such the law deserved to be voided.

But the State Supreme Court reversed that decision, dangerously finding that when rules placed on the legislature are violated it's up to either house of the legislature (not the courts) to determine what course of action should be taken to remedy (or not) violations of conduct, essentially allowing them to police themselves on such matters.

The decision of the court was a slim majority, of which Gableman was one of the deciding votes, capable of tilting the verdict either way.

In light of his unethical behavior, Gableman's decision-making process is questionable by any rational-thinking citizen of this state. Yet, this matter is further complicated by the fact that the law firm representing the side that won the collective bargaining/open meetings decision was the very same law firm that provided free legal services to Justice Gableman during his ethics investigation.

The legal questions that abound by this situation provide stimulating discussion, to say the least. Do Gableman's actions indicate a violation of conduct? Does such a conflict of interest render any decision Gableman made as voidable, at least when it comes to decisions where this law firm was involved? And finally, if Gableman's actions do indeed leave specific decisions as questionable, would that be grounds to reverse any judgments made by the court where he may have held the deciding vote?

These are questions that are currently running through the mind of Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who is considering seeking legal action against the ruling rendered on the collective bargaining issue under such circumstances.

Whether this results in his taking action or not, we can be sure of one fact: the actions of some conservative members of the state's Supreme Court are unbecoming of the offices they occupy. And they're doing a disservice to the people of Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tax cuts, Walker's attacks on the middle class, expectedly hurts job growth

When it comes to jobs, Wisconsin is the worst since Walker budget passed in June

Over at Jake's Economic TA Funhouse (I'll never tire of that title), there's even more evidence that Gov. Scott Walker's jobs initiative is failing our state. Not only was Wisconsin the biggest loser of November, but ever since Walker's budget passed, no other state has lost as many jobs as Wisconsin -- in fact, our state is more than four times greater than second-place Georgia in terms of job loss:
...despite Barca's misspeak about [Wisconsin being the jobs loss leader] for the second straight individual month (we're back at 1 month of "leadership"), he's right on another point. WISCONSIN KEPT ITS POSITION AS NUMBER 1 FOR JOB LOSS SINCE WALKER'S BUDGET WAS SIGNED IN JUNE. And no other state is close to how bad we've been.

U.S. job change June 2011- November 2011
Wisconsin -34,900 (-1.26%)
Georgia -8,600 (-0.23%)
Missouri -8,200 (-0.31%)
Minnesota -7,200 (-0.27%)
Montana -2.400 (-0.55%)
With numbers like those, even if the Department of Workforce Development's criticisms of preliminary numbers are valid, we're still the worst state in the union.

So why is Walker's jobs plan failing so miserably? Shouldn't billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts be creating jobs for the state? To put it bluntly, no: tax breaks for corporations don't create any incentive for job creation, at least on their own. At best they provide a means for companies that have demand but no capital to take a chance. But tax cuts won't create jobs without that demand being added.

Companies create jobs when they need to provide "more" of something -- more products, more services, etc. The greater need for this "more" creates a burden of extra work required for the business, which can be alleviated through hiring more workers. This is usually the result of greater demand on the part of those making purchases -- e.g. the consumers. Fortunately, with more demand also comes more capital, so the hiring of workers is usually a profitable, cost effective endeavor.

But direct tax breaks to corporations won't create that demand. Instead, they reward companies for doing what they've already done. They do NOT incentivize what we want them to do, which is create more work for those looking for it, because there's absolutely no reason to do so.

So we have to ask ourselves this singular question: when corporations are essentially handed money for doing nothing, is there any reason that they should create jobs, which will cost more capital, just for the sake of doing so? Of course not. The increase in capital for companies that have that demand, yet lack the ability to create more of a product, would make sense. But a blank check to corporations in the hopes that they will engage in a rare moment of benevolence is laughable -- they're looking out to increase their profits, won't add jobs just for the heck of it.

Yet Walker is putting his chips "all in" with the hopes that the $2.3 billion he's given to corporations through tax cuts will pay off. For some small businesses, it might...but only if they have demand for jobs and no resources. The vast majority of corporations in our state won't have that problem.

It's not surprising, then, that jobs in Wisconsin have failed to materialize. And with more and more consumers having less and less capital in their pocketbooks, it's equally unsurprising that job totals in the state are actually decreasing. Without that consumer spending, after all, there's no growth in demand, and thus no growth in the need for more labor.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Burden should be on challengers, not signers, for petition discrepancies

Bills would increase incentive to vandalize petitions, deceive signers

With job numbers continuing their downward decline in the state, it's only natural that state Republican lawmakers do what they do best: ignore the issue entirely and focus on something else completely unrelated.

In this case, it's the recall. Not the recall elections against the governor and several state lawmakers themselves, but of multiple signatures on recall petitions, an issue that's upsetting Republicans because the burden of proof to verify recall signatures rests on them.

So to make their job a little easier, lawmakers like Republican State Sen. Glenn Grothman have determined to make multiple signatures an illegal act, punishable by up to six months of jail time. A similar bill submitted by Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, also a Republican, would make the act a felony.

Of course, it's forgotten by those on the right who abhor these multiple signers that those doing so are simply trying to ensure that their names are counted. With the fear of anti-recall pro-Walker activists vandalizing petitions (openly threatening to pose as volunteers only to destroy real petitions later), it became a necessity for some signers to put their names on two or three different petitions if they couldn't know for sure that the petitioner was legitimate.

The bills proposed by Republican lawmakers would grant such vandals even greater reason to intimidate and deceive those hoping to sign a petition. By lawfully restricting citizens the right to sign multiple petition forms, any petition destroyed would almost guarantee that names would be dropped where they rightly belonged.

The burden of proof on removing multiple signers is right to rest upon those wishing to dispute such signatures. The laws proposed by Grothman and Fitzgerald should be dismissed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Job losses from this year unacknowledged in DWD report

Report's spin misses the big picture: Wisconsin is losing jobs under Gov. Walker's watch

With November's job numbers released last week, and with another dismal outcome from that release, the Walker administration decided to focus on a very different aspect in their report -- namely that preliminary numbers aren't always right (PDF).
"October was the fifth straight month and the eighth month this year in which the federal government overestimated the preliminary job loss numbers or underestimated job gains for Wisconsin," [Department of Workforce Development] Secretary Newson said.
Yet, the determination to spin the report this way fails to vindicate Gov. Walker's job-growth performance -- it's been horrific thus far. When you consider the fact that former Gov. Jim Doyle's budget was still in effect for the first six months of this year, a troubling statistic comes forth: there have been zero months of net jobs growth since Walker's budget became law in late June.

The downward trajectory presents another sordid stat: if the preliminary job numbers from November do stay the same, the net job increases from this year will only be roughly 3,900 jobs, or about 355 jobs added in the state per month. If we're to continue on this path, at the current rate Walker's campaign goal of 250,000 jobs -- which he promised to create -- would take more than 64 years to realized, or 16 terms total (15 more terms than Walker pledged last year).

That's a revision from last month, when I calculated it would take 71 years and 17 or more terms to complete. But that revision isn't due to any improvement in Walker's job performance -- rather, it's due to the revision in total jobs lost from October. (And remember: the number of jobs added per month and per year are, again, due to jobs that were created during the last few months of the Doyle budget while Walker was in office.)

The real story here isn't that preliminary job analyses are off, but that Walker's policies are failing to create jobs in the state. We're still on a downward spiral, losing jobs rather than gaining them since Walker's budget was implemented. No matter how they intend to spin it, the Walker administration can't escape that fact.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pro-Walker "jobs" ad omits important details

"Small business" billionaire distorts effects of Gov. Walker's "reforms"

The pro-Walker ads keep on coming, and as usual they continue to lack context that leaves the viewer unaware of just how misleading they really are.

"Chris," a "business owner", describes the "positive" things Walker has done for Wisconsin:
Gov. Walker is a friend of small business. He recognizes that 70 percent of the jobs created in this country and this state are by small businesses. He wants all the people in this state to be successful. It's comforting. And it’s been rare. So, it’s a refreshing change.
A lot of what the man in this ad says, like previous ads supportive of Walker, neglect to include relevant information about the subject at hand.

"Chris" is actually Chris Rebholz, CEO of Christopher Morgan Fulfillment Services. You've likely seen his products -- if you've watched a few infomercials. While they do hire some Wisconsin citizens, Rebholz's company imports most of its products through the use of Chinese labor.

From Uppity Wisconsin:
Of course, there is nothing wrong with infomercials, but the reality is that Wisconsin is hemoraging manufacturing jobs almost exclusively to China. And when customers buy from a TV ad or online, it also requires fewer jobs to get that product to the customer because there is no store and the jobs that go with a store.

In other words, if you were going to set up a business model with the fewest American jobs possible, it would be Chris Rebholz's business model. That's the guy... that Scott Walker chose to promote his job creation efforts.
But it isn't just that Scott Walker chose a man who uses Chinese workers to make his products. He's also a billionaire who thrived in Wisconsin's economic climate...long before Walker was governor.

From One Wisconsin Now:
The "business owner" featured in the latest Scott Walker television ad saw his business grow 1,300 percent during the administration of Gov. Jim Doyle, according to a self-professed claim in the Business Times from 2008.
It was under a Democratic governor, then, that Rebholz's company really thrived -- not under the "reforms" that Gov. Walker put into place.

The underlying fact that puts to rest anything that this ad tries to claim is that there hasn't been a single month of job growth since Walker's budget passed earlier this year. Sure, Wisconsin saw six months of growth during the first half of the year -- but that was under the last months of Gov. Jim Doyle's previous budget. Ever since Walker's budget was put into play, there's been nothing but net losses.

Walker's ads continue to distort the truth, to hide the things he doesn't want the people of Wisconsin to know about. Unfortunately for our governor, the numbers don't lie.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

November job numbers out -- and a note on revisions

Revised numbers raise questions, but still paint gloomy picture of Wisconsin job outlook

The Department of Workforce Development released its preliminary numbers on jobs for the month of November, as well as a revision of October's numbers.

In November, it was initially reported that Wisconsin had lost 9,700 jobs based on preliminary numbers. Those numbers proved to be too preliminary -- the revised numbers show Wisconsin *only* lost 2,400 jobs...an improvement from the original tally, but a loss in jobs nonetheless.

DWD Secretary Reggie Newson wasn't thrilled with this and other revisions that have occurred this year.
"The most troubling thing to me is the effects these initial estimates have on the perception of Wisconsin’s workforce," Newson said. "The monthly revisions show a much steadier trajectory with gains being higher and losses being much lower than the BLS' initial reports.
Newson is partially right about his criticism -- it's troubling that the estimates are off, sometimes by large margins. Estimates aren't meant to be exact, and most expect changes to occur, revisions to be made. But a revision of that size is something to look out for, cause for those who make the preliminary counts to assess their methods a little better.

Yet Newson is wrong on a different front:
"While there certainly is more progress to be made, we are moving Wisconsin in the right direction and laying the groundwork for the private sector to create jobs."
Um, not so much. Negative numbers are still negative -- a move in the "right direction" would include positive job numbers, making up for the losses we've thus far incurred since Walker's budget passed in June. (It's interesting to note that all of the positive job numbers in 2011 came about during the tail end of the budget passed by Walker's predecessor, former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.)

Newson acts as though those preliminary numbers are purposely put out to make Wisconsin look bad. There's no proof of this, however, other than his own assumptions. Preliminary numbers should be treated as such -- preliminary, and thus possibly mistaken. Yet, even though October's job losses were diminished, they still went in the same direction (negative) as was initially projected.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the November job numbers (PDF). Again, these are preliminary -- take that caveat for what it is.

This graph shows quite a dramatic loss from October to November. Preliminary numbers project a loss of more than 14,000 jobs in the state. If you're quick to dismiss those projections, keep in mind that the change from October's preliminaries and its revised numbers was a drop of 75 percent -- but still a loss. If you apply that same rate change to November's numbers, it's still a loss of more than 3,650 jobs. There's nothing to suggest a revision is imminent at this time, however.

So let's assess that graph a little more. All signs point to another month of job losses -- the fifth in a row, in fact, and the fifth one since Walker signed his budget into law. This probably isn't coincidental -- tax breaks without proper incentives won't create jobs, but this is still Walker's main method for "job creation."

Wisconsin's total jobs aren't the only indication of things souring on the Walker administration. Looking at manufacturing jobs across the state, it's clear that things within that sector are also doing poorly.

Though there were some gains in August, since that time manufacturing has dropped at a steady rate with no indication of improvement on its way.

What can we assess from these numbers? Secretary Newson's rant on the DWD release of November's job numbers undercuts the problem at hand: jobs are still leaving the state, despite the revisions that are being made. And while a lower unemployment rate looks good on paper, it hardly portrays what's going on in the state -- with less jobs and a lower rate, it merely implies that less people are looking for work.

The bottom line is this: nothing has changed (as far as general statements go) except the numbers. While the job numbers from October weren't as severe as initially anticipated, they were still negative. Walker's reforms continue to fail our state, and jobs in Wisconsin aren't growing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Memo to Walker supporters: it's still not working

Repeated claim by pro-Walker supporters ignores truths about "successes" of governor's initiatives

On the eve of a major announcement set to be made by those organizing the efforts against Gov. Scott Walker, I want to visit a common theme presented within nearly every defense that Walker supporters are giving in order to dissuade voters from signing and/or supporting the recall movement.

This meme can be summed up in two simple words: "it's working."

The repeated slogan of the pro-Walker camp carries with it a strong suggestion that Walker's reforms have actually benefited the state, have created a more prosperous Wisconsin than what we previously had. Proponents of the governor suggest that, had it not been for these reforms, we'd be in a worse place than we currently find ourselves in. The recall, in their minds, would undermine that position, destroy the fortuitous stature of our state created this year while under Walker's reign.

Yet reality suggests that Wisconsin isn't benefiting from these reforms at all. There's no substantial claim to make that "it's working" at all for our state...in fact, there's several counter-claims that Walker has yet to explain.

Where exactly is it "working?" Since Walker's budget passed in late June, Wisconsin has seen four straight months of job losses, totaling more than 27,000 disappearing overall.

More than $2 billion in cuts to education and Medicaid have strained students' abilities to learn and aid to those in desperate need.

The stripping of collective bargaining rights have had no significant impact on lowering our deficit, even in "celebrated" communities like Kaukauna (where similar savings were offered but ignored through concessions from the teacher's union before Act 10 was implemented).

Taxes, on both property and income, have increased for working families, and the budget that the governor claims was balanced wouldn't have been acceptable by his own standards a year ago while he was campaigning for the job.

Is this what Walker considers "progress?" This is what's meant by "it's working" in Wisconsin? Most would argue that this isn't "working" -- it's garbage, a spit in the face of those that have prided themselves on being true-blooded Wisconsinites for several generations.

Gov. Walker and his supporters who believe "it's working" are wrong. Walker is undeserving of the office he holds for many reasons. One of them is the continued insistence that what he's done for the state will have a positive impact for the future of Wisconsin. In reality, they're hurting the weakest among us, benefiting the wealthy corporations at the expense of the working class.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Federal appeals court strikes down WI campaign finance limits

Campaign finance limits preserve rights of the disadvantaged to have equal access to the political process

The recent ruling by a federal court of appeals that lifts the $10,000 individual limit on campaign donations to third-party political action committees is nothing short of horrendous. It isn't a defense of speech rights, as the court that issued the ruling asserts. Rather, it's an expansion of the abuse of said rights that the wealthy and privileged classes hold over the vast majority of the American populace.

Speech rights are a wonderful thing, an ideal worth defending to the utmost degree. The freedom to speak your mind and to have your piece heard is something many of us take for granted in this country, a democratic tool we utilize daily without truly understanding that much of the world still lives without this basic right protected.

Yet, when abuses of that right (or of any right, really) restrains other significant rights of the people, restrictions upon that privilege, when administered in a way that preserves the basic functions of our most honored principles, are justly enforced. That's to say, when you start using your rights as a means to diminish someone else's livelihood, the government, as an arbitrator and nothing more, should step in to ensure that no abuse of any privilege should conflict with the properly used rights of others.

A legitimate argument can be made that campaign finance limits (on individuals and/or corporations) are such tools used to preserve the rights of those with modest incomes. While some courts may argue that such laws hamper the ability of the rich to disseminate their views, very little consideration is given to the working class individual who may only be able to spare $50 (or less) per year towards the political causes of their choosing. Despite their significantly lower incomes, these individuals deserve the same -- and equal -- political rights as those with 100 times their annual salaries.

And yet, we're somehow led to believe their rights are preserved when we require the poor to whisper their ideals and opinions, while those with the ability to contribute more capital towards political committees (like, for example, the Koch brothers) are granted the use of 10 megaphones lined up in a row to express their speech rights? The analogy is not that far off (in fact, it's likely short of what's now reality) -- the poor are at a indescribable disadvantage when it comes to how much "speech" they're allowed to utilize as compared to those, say, in the top one percent.

Reform is sorely needed in the form of a constitutional amendment at the federal level, to allow both national and state governments the ability to preserve speech rights for all Americans, not just those with deep pocketbooks. Democracy should never be for sale, an item to be placed on the auction block and available to the highest bidder. It belongs to everyone, equally, to take part in the political process, whether rich or poor.

The people of Wisconsin, and all across the nation, deserve much better treatment, a proper defense of their rights versus the abuse of power the wealthy may sometimes hold over them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Candidate Cullen a pragmatic choice for governor

Moderate Democrat considered a "cooperative spirit" who can work with both parties

Special note: The following is not an endorsement of any kind, merely some thoughts on the recent announcement made by Sen. Tim Cullen regarding his gubernatorial aspirations.

State Sen. Tim Cullen, a Democrat from Janesville, has made it official, announcing that he intends to run for governor when the petition drive against Scott Walker succeeds in attaining the signatures it needs to trigger a recall. He's the first Democrat to announce his candidacy.

Cullen is a moderate, a former State Senate Majority Leader, a successful businessman, and a former Secretary of the Department Health and Social Services in Wisconsin. He served in the State Senate from 1975 to 1987, returning in 2011 when he won election last year.

Often seen as someone who works "above politics," Cullen is well-known as a lawmaker who bridges the two bickering parties together. He has a good working relationship with Republican State Senator Dale Schultz, also a moderate, and was cited by Walker himself as cooperative in nature (during the infamous prank call earlier this year).

Cullen was also part of the group of 14 Democratic senators that left Wisconsin in order to delay passage of Act 10, the bill that dismantled collective bargaining for state workers. But while some of those senators could face scrutiny for "fleeing" the state, Cullen actually introduced a constitutional amendment proposing to prevent such a move again in the future.

Cullen's candidacy probably won't play well with the base -- his pragmatism and willingness to negotiate with Republicans isn't appreciated by much on the left. But in a state that's a murky "purple" rather than a distinct "red" or "blue," Cullen's supposed "weakness" could prove to be his greatest asset among the electorate overall, appealing to Wisconsinites who value that cooperative spirit that's been lost in recent years.

Tim Cullen isn't likely the ideal choice for the Democratic Party or its progressive base -- but he just might be the ideal choice for voters at-large across the state. We shall see.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chris Rickert: certain (in his own mind), and wrong

Wisconsin State Journal columnist wrong to believe Walker undeserving of recall

Chris Rickert, columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal, sparked a bit of controversy on Thursday through some very contentious claims.

His piece, entitled "Supporters of recall are certain, and wrong," makes a lengthy claim that numbers don't necessarily mean anything until the election occurs -- alluding to the 300,000 signatures that were gathered in the first two weeks of the recall campaign against Scott Walker.

Rickert also points out that, even if indicative of the majority, a sizable number of people don't necessarily make a movement "right" or justify a vote for/against someone.

Rickert's analogy examines the re-election of former President George W. Bush, who won handily against his Democratic opponent John Kerry (though to Wisconsin's credit, Kerry carried the Badger State):
Americans were getting killed in Iraq due to a poorly supported but greatly hyped allegation that turned out to be flat wrong. And here enough people were apparently OK with that to re-elect the falsehood's cheerleader-in-chief.
It's an assertion that most on the left would gladly agree with: Bush's war in Iraq, then a popular policy, was still wrong, despite his being re-elected president. I had written on the subject myself extensively while I was still at UW-Milwaukee -- our presence in Iraq was wrong, and we stayed there for too long a time as well. How Bush had been re-elected was a mystery to many ideological colleagues of mine.

That analogy aside, Rickert's column made another bold assumption, one that struck a nerve for many progressives throughout the state:
It's one of those weird ironies of life that majority rule is both a linchpin and a drawback of representative democracy. A man who dragged the country into an unnecessary war got a second term in the White House, and a man who's done nothing worse than employ conservative principles to balance the state budget is facing recall. (Emphasis added)
OK, Time Out -- did he really just say what I think he just said?

It isn't just that I disagree with Rickert's assumptions about the merits of the recall -- it's also that he's flat-out wrong. This isn't just about ideology...it's about much more than that.

The recall movement against Walker didn't take hold until after two big pieces of "conservative principles" (tort reform and tax breaks to the corporate elites) were passed in January. Even after these items were enacted (and a train plan derailed), the idea to recall Walker at that time was a joke more than anything else. Fighting against conservatism overreach, while a huge part of the recall movement now, wasn't the catalyst for what began this fight.

It took an attack on state workers to really get the movement going, not to mention a budget bill that blatantly attacked the middle and lower income classes, with several other pieces of legislation and failed policies, adding fodder to the fire.

Walker's "conservative principles" included: Stripping the rights of workers that have been in place for over half a century; a $1.6 billion budget shortfall for schools across the state; half a billion in cuts to health care; $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations, meant to spur economic growth and job creation, that has fallen flat on its face; a drastic departure from voter rights in favor of unnecessary restrictions; and a demeanor from this governor that indicates he cares not for the common man, woman, or child in this state (unless they happen to be wealthy million- or billionaires).

None of these things can simply be called "employing conservative principles." This is a radical change from what is Wisconsin...and the recall is much more than a response to conservatism.

Rickert is right in one thing: the numbers game, while impressive at this point, won't guarantee victory. But he's wrong to assume he's the sole decider of what is right or wrong -- and while democracy, too, can't necessarily determine that either, it's still the best thing that we've got.