Monday, May 27, 2013

Keep the recall as is

Representatives deserve removal when they fail to act in the people's interests

With certain exceptions, the legislature and other lawmakers ought to work concurrently with the opinions and desires of the people who elected them to office.

Special interests and wealthy campaign donors shouldn’t be given preferential treatment; the citizens themselves, who elected them with plurality consent, should instead be given the special attention, and their needs given precedence above all others.

Granted, certain exceptions do exist: when a popularist idea interferes with individual rights, it should be soundly rejected. No citizen should see their privileges revoked on account of a mob mentality.

With that said, a popular mandate ought to be respected; and when it’s not, it should be incumbent upon the people to have the power to remove a person from office who is meant to represent them.

The recall election in Wisconsin serves that purpose. When the wishes of the people are ignored, and when a legislator or other duly-elected official proposes laws or regulations that run counter to the desires of the people, they should not have to wait several years in order to remove that person from the office they currently hold.

Those representatives have violated the trust of the people; and though it may cause some criticism from time to time, the right to remove an elected official from office should remain intact for the people of Wisconsin.

Not only that -- it should also expand beyond our states’ borders, into other states that don’t currently allow the practice, and into federal offices as well.

Think about it: how fast would Congress act to compromise knowing that their constituents would fast remove them from office for failing to do their jobs? While unknown for sure, the current deadlock in Washington could well be over within days.

Some legislators in Wisconsin are proposing severe alterations to the recall process. Those changes would remove critical mechanisms that belong to the people, to be used at their disposal when their representatives fail to act in their interest.

The recall was never designed to remove criminals or unethical lawmakers; it certainly can serve that purpose, but that was never the SOLE purpose. It was designed to give the people greater direction of their own legislature, of their own executive office, and of their own judiciary.

Popular politicians are those that make the right choices for the right reasons. They also serve their people well, promoting their interests while protecting their rights. When lawmakers fail in this respect, they no longer serve as a legitimate representative to their constituents, and deserve swift removal.

Support the recall as it stands today. Oppose the calls to change it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Repeal the 2006 restriction on marriage equality

State lawmakers should embrace rights of same-sex couples to marry

With Minnesota poised to become the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions as legitimate marriages, many questions come about on the national and local levels.

Across the country, millions of Americans are wondering: how long will it take until the rest of the nation fully recognizes the rights of our gay and lesbian citizens? And will it take more than state action, but federal intervention as well, to require states that are less-than-willing to grant these rights to same-sex couples to take notice?

In Wisconsin, many equality advocates are wondering what it will take to recognize the rights of partnerships in the Badger state.

The fight will undoubtedly face an uphill battle: a 2006 voter referendum altered the state’s constitution, restricting marriage to solely “one man, one woman.” Reversing that amendment would require two consecutive sessions of the legislature to take up the measure, and for another referendum, with different results, to pass.

Though things look bleak, there are signs of hope. The 2006 referendum passed with 59 percent of the vote. But recent polling suggests Wisconsinites are more divided on the issue (PDF) than they were seven years ago: in a poll conducted earlier this year, 44 percent in the state supported marriage equality, while 46 percent wanted to keep marriage as it stands today -- that is, without recognition for gay and lesbian couples.

That difference is within the margin of error for the poll. Broken down more, however, it’s clear that the people of Wisconsin support at least some protections for same-sex couples.

More than seven in ten Wisconsinites wanted recognition of rights for same-sex partners (marriages or civil unions), while less than three in ten said there shouldn’t be recognition of any kind.

It's plain to see that attitudes on same-sex partnerships in Wisconsin have shifted dramatically since 2006. Indeed, citizens of the Badger state have demonstrated this in a meaningful way, electing Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay senator last fall.

Unfortunately, though feelings on the subject have changed, the 2006 referendum’s results remain in effect, leaving gay and lesbian partners across Wisconsin without equal rights to marriage afforded to straight couples.

The time to change Wisconsin’s constitution has never been more evident. The people’s attitudes are clearly shifting in favor of equality, with only a minority of Wisconsinites favoring no recognition for gay and lesbian couples.

The constitutional amendment of 2006 should be repealed, and the push to strike it from our state’s constitution should start now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

WEDC a failure, but don't expect Walker to change course

Conservative approach to economics won't fix Wisconsin's job growth woes

How many jobs can you create with season tickets to UW Badgers football? That’s a good question for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the semi-private government institution created by Gov. Scott Walker to help spur job growth and business creation.

On the issue of job creation, the WEDC has been an utter failure. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have noted that Wisconsin has lagged in jobs, dropping to 44th in the nation after previously holding the number 11 spot before Walker took office.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also pointed out that, in terms of short-term job growth, Wisconsin is dead last in the nation.

While the state falls behind the rest of the country, the WEDC has been mismanaging its funds in ways most taxpayers wouldn’t be happy with, including buying alcohol for events, buying season tickets for Badgers football games, and even purchasing iTunes gift cards.

It's unclear really how these types of purchases might spur substantial job growth, but Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate took note of the hypocrisy that would certainly occur had other state programs failed in this respect:
Can you imagine what they’d do if a poor person in Wisconsin used taxpayer money (food stamps) to buy tickets, booze or iTunes cards?
Even Republican lawmakers are flabbergasted by the turn of events, such as State Sen. Robert Cowles:
I hope they can get their act together, but this is pretty darn bad. I'd say the jury is out whether this was a good idea to create this whole entity [the WEDC].
The failure of the WEDC to invigorate our state's economy highlights Gov. Walker’s inability to understand what factors actually create jobs. It isn’t tax breaks for the rich or for corporations -- indeed, $2.3 billion in giveaways to corporate interests failed to spur anything decent in terms of creating work in Wisconsin.

Instead, Walker needs to grow demand, increasing the need for more production and services in the state. When demand is up, the need for more employment to keep up with it goes up, too.

And what’s the best way to create demand? Getting money back into the hands of the consumer base -- that is, the working class. When consumers can make purchases, they create a greater need for the products and services they buy.

But it seems that Walker and his WEDC are too focused on methods that have already been proven to have failed. The governor's spokesman, Tom Evenson, has stated that, "Gov. Walker is confident in the direction of WEDC as an agency that aims to promote job creation and economic growth for Wisconsin."

So while WEDC has failed to deliver, and has caused more problems than anything else, Gov. Walker is "confident in the direction" it's heading in?

It's sad to think it, but it looks like Wisconsin won't be seeing brighter days -- so long as Scott Walker is still in charge.