Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chris Taylor wants education on voter ID, while Scott Walker just wants to blame everyone but himself

Walker's bitter response to funding voter ID education campaign uses apples to oranges comparison

About 16 percent of voters don’t know or don’t think you need an ID to vote in our state. That’s equivalent to 13,000 people in a capacity crowd at Lambeau Field not knowing the new voting rules, or about 542,991 registered voters in Wisconsin that don’t understand the ID law.

Chris Taylor, a Democratic state legislator from Madison, is hoping to change that. She’s asking the state to fund an information campaign to educate the public on Wisconsin’s newly instituted voter ID rules. Though passed early in Scott Walker’s tenure, the law didn’t go fully into effect until this year’s spring primary and general elections.

In addition to requiring an ID to vote, the law that was passed also stated that Wisconsin would fund an education campaign to help residents better understand the process and necessary documents needed to vote. Yet that campaign hasn’t materialized.

The Government Accountability Board agrees with Taylor, and will formally request $250,000 to be appropriated to funding an education campaign across statewide television and radio stations, as well as newspapers and billboards. Even Republican Rep. John Nygren thinks it’s a sound investment “to assure every vote is counted.”

But Gov. Scott Walker implies that’s too much. And he blames the legal battle to implement his voter ID law for the inability of the state to create an education campaign.

“The fact is, the State had to spend a whole lot of time and money defending the law, and we continue to do so today,” Walker said. “If people were really serious about that, they wouldn’t have allowed the State to use all that money to fight courts and to use that in promoting the system.”

But that’s an apples to oranges comparison. What legal fees are spent shouldn’t affect the money that was mandated to have been allocated towards educating the public on the voter ID law.

Court fees shouldn’t be looked at as wasteful spending. The people of Wisconsin have a right to question their government’s laws on constitutional grounds, and certainly they were well-within their rights to do so on the question of voter ID. Indeed, a recent ruling has suggested that the state might have to provide exemptions to those who face special burdens to getting a state-issued ID.

Without the courts intervening or the citizens challenging the law, those who face overwhelming challenges to get an ID might not otherwise have the right to vote in the state. Certainly that fact alone makes the litigation worth it.

The “brown bag” governor hasn’t exactly been frugal himself. In the first seven months of 2013, for example, he spent more than $180,000 in taxpayer funds on flight costs, mostly in flying back-and-forth between Milwaukee and Madison. Other flights included in his expenses were photo ops that happened to coincide with visits to many of his campaign donors.

If Walker wants to talk about fiscal responsibilities he should first look at what his own taxpayer-funded spending has been like. In the meantime he should quit his belly-aching about the right of every Wisconsinite to challenge the constitutionality of state laws, and put a renewed focus on funding the education campaign of the voter ID rules, as the law he signed himself mandates he should do.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rep. Jesse Kremer should back off of his discriminatory crusade

Wisconsin must reject bigoted bills proposed by conservative lawmakers

I wrote late last week about Rep. Jesse Kremer’s outrageous attacks against working Wisconsinites. In an op-ed he wrote earlier in the week, Kremer decried the state’s “jobs crisis” as being manifested by unskilled workers, demanding college students and individuals who were on public assistance.

Those accusations were baseless, and Kremer refused to acknowledge his own party’s role in creating a slower-paced jobs recovery. But as outlandish as his statements on jobs were, they pale in comparison to what else he wrote last weekend.

On his Facebook campaign page, Kremer decided to sound off on a hot topic in conservative circles as of late: transgender individuals who want to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

Kremer's original Facebook post
Responding to a request made by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi asking Gov. Scott Walker to promise to veto any discriminatory transgender bill that may reach his desk, Kremer posted his thoughts on the whole matter.

“I am proud of North Carolina,” Kremer wrote, which passed a law recently banning local municipalities from recognizing the rights of trans people including the use of restrooms that line up with their identities, “and disgusted that our own Republican legislature couldn’t take the high road and pass [similar legislation] in Wisconsin.”

The issue is an important one to Kremer, who submitted a bill last year that would have banned school districts from allowing students to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender identities. He had even suggested that trans students had invited bullying unto themselves in asking that their gender identities be recognized.

“If you're making a big deal about it,” he said, “[transgender students] obviously are inviting harassment and bullying already.”

In his most recent commentary, Kremer went further, stating that “there must be social boundaries and individuals who will stand up for the privacy and protection of women and girls in a ‘sexless’ society.”

To round it out, Kremer goes “all caps lock” on liberals -- “This is what the far left is advocating - NO MORE PROTECTION AND PRIVACY FOR WOMEN! Period.”

That’s a rich assessment -- the legislator who has authored bills seeking to set stricter limits on abortion and limit women’s access to contraceptives now thinks himself a protector of a woman’s right to privacy.

Kremer couldn’t be more wrong about what he’s ranting about. We don't live in a sexless society. Instead, we live in a society that is recognizing that gender isn't necessarily indicated by what organs you are born with. Gender isn’t even a binary option -- science tells us it is more of a spectrum.

These changing attitudes about gender don’t “remove boundaries” when it comes to privacy, either. Rather, it allows everyone to seek privacy in restrooms and changing rooms -- allowing trans men and trans women those same rights as well.

This isn’t opinion, but regarded as fact by psychologists. Individuals can identify as a gender that’s different from what they were assigned with at birth, and often this identity is discovered at a very young age (not on a whim as some conservatives contend).

Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that opening up restrooms to trans individuals is going to increase harassment. Looking back to Kremer’s Facebook post, he asks, “what will [a man pretending to be a transgender woman who harms others] be charged with? Sexual harassment, disorderly conduct?”

The answer is, yes, he should be charged on those counts! And anyone who acts inappropriately in the restrooms -- including transgender individuals -- should face consequences fitting their criminal activities. But that’s the whole point, really: fair treatment for everyone.

Yet the evidence behind Kremer’s suppositions just isn’t there. As it turns out, men are more likely to enter a woman’s restroom in cities where such laws don’t protect a transgender person’s right to enter the restrooms they identify with. From Politifact North Carolina (emphases in bold added):
After spending hours combing through conservative blogs and family values websites dedicated to news about transgender bathroom ordinances, we were able to confirm three cases in the United States in the last 17 years in which a biological male was convicted of a crime that involved him in a women’s bathroom or locker room and dressed as a woman.

It’s unclear if any of the three identified as transgender women, but none of those cases happened in cities where it would have been legal for a transgender woman to use the women’s room anyway. And none involved sexual assault or rape.
The “transgender scare” that Kremer is attempting to roil up is even more profound when you consider that you’re more likely to get harassed in restrooms by men in the Republican Party than by a member of the transgender community. In fact, transgender individuals face MUCH MORE harassment today thank cisgender individuals, harassment which often results in depression and even suicidal tendencies (those who have faced discrimination in such a way have reported attempting suicide at a significantly higher rate than the general population).

Rep. Jesse Kremer says he is proud of North Carolina for passing such legislation. In striking contrast, the citizens of North Carolina are not proud of their own government’s efforts to discriminate -- 53 percent of citizens feel that the law will have a negative impact on the state, and only 36 percent support the law according to recent polling.

It is likely that, if a bill similar to what Kremer proposed before is passed in our state, Wisconsin’s economy would suffer more than it already has under Republican leadership, likely seeing the same types of boycotts that are impacting North Carolina currently.

Many fear that Kremer or another member of the state legislature will bring a similar bill up for a vote in the future. “We know that this bill may likely be seen again in Wisconsin at some point,” Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote earlier this month. “Businesses, politicians, and progressive groups must raise their voices against this legislation in Wisconsin, much like they are doing in North Carolina now, so that it is never successful in our state.”

Indeed, the people of Wisconsin must speak out against these types of bills, which deprive people of their basic freedoms. Rep. Jesse Kremer needs to back off of his crusade to codify bigotry, educate himself on the issues, and perhaps even advocate for more acceptance for transgender citizens of our state.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The essential and necessary takedown of Rep. Jesse Kremer’s ridiculous “jobs crisis” op-ed

GOP lawmaker blames workers, students and public assistance for state “jobs crisis”

Republican Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum recently penned an op-ed wherein he described a jobs crisis in the state of Wisconsin.

But Kremer wasn’t talking about the failure of the Scott Walker administration to reach its promise of 250,000 jobs in his first term. He didn’t lay any blame on the governor for failing to reach that pledge at all.

Instead, Kremer blamed Wisconsin citizens themselves: “A lack of workers to fill skilled trades, lofty expectations from recent college graduates and public benefits are stifling a will to work here in our great state,” Kremer wrote.

You read that right: Kremer blames unskilled workers, college kids, and struggling Wisconsin families for the jobs crisis.

The ”Skills Gap” Myth

Let’s take a look at each issue, starting with Kremer’s claims about the untrained workers. Kremer cites a Manpower report from 2012 that states, “Wisconsin will have fewer than half the metal manufacturing professionals that it needs by 2021.”

But the problem isn’t all on the workers. Employers across the state simply aren’t that interested in investing in training or otherwise providing capital for training would-be employees.

“There are still plenty of employers who think they can find the workers they need by sitting back and waiting for the ideal candidate to show up,” wrote Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still in 2014. “That doesn’t always happen in a state where average wages are still well below national and regional averages.”

He added: “Proactive companies usually engage schools and invest in programs that can keep their pipelines filled with skilled workers.”

Furthermore, there’s evidence to suggest that the so-called “skills gap” isn’t as big a problem as some like Rep. Kremer make it out to be. A study by UW-Milwaukee professor Marc Levine in 2014 demonstrated that there wasn’t a skills gap at all, evidenced by several factors including no increases in overtime for current “skilled” workers and forecasts that show more unskilled workers will be desired in the future job market.

Levine wrote:
There's a strong ideological component behind the skills gap trope: it diverts attention (and policies) from the deep inequalities and market fundamentalism that created the unemployment crisis, and focuses on a fake skills gap that had nothing to do with the surge in unemployment since 2007.
Those dang college kids!

In addition to the nonexistent skills gap, Kremer also places blame on college kids expecting too much upon graduation.
It has also become apparent that many recent college graduates feel their degree entitles them to cushy, white collar jobs with $50,000+ salaries. This is not the real world! In fact, many graduates will often have to begin at the ground floor until they learn the ropes and garner experience.
Blaming the “entitled kids” is easy enough. Backing the claim up that these kids contribute to the jobs crisis Kremer describes is much harder. There’s no evidence that suggests college graduates seeking higher paid jobs are to blame for sluggish job growth in the state, and Kremer provides nothing concrete (besides his baseless rantings) to support his claim.

In fact, these students oftentimes take lower paying jobs in the service industries. They’re not “above” going below their education levels to get paid -- evidenced by the fact that more than 20 percent of bartenders in the city of Milwaukee alone are college-educated.

It’s not as if college graduation rates would affect the job market all that terribly anyway. The UW System produces about 27,000 graduates with four-year degrees annually -- or roughly 0.85 percent of the current labor force (PDF) (assuming every single graduate decides to pursue employment immediately after leaving school).

And graduation numbers haven’t changed much since the start of the recession either. In 2008 there were 24,077 graduates who left the UW System with a four-year degree. That number has only gone up by less than 3,400 over the past seven years, when 27,427 students graduated with four-year degrees in 2015, less than two percent growth annually per year on average.

Kremer doesn’t explain why “lofty” ambitions by college students hurt the job market. It’s odd that he should include it in his rant and give no specific reason as to why. But it’s clearly not affecting the market as much as he concludes it does.

Public benefits don’t create lazy workers

Finally, Rep. Kremer goes on to lament about those lazy government moochers, the Wisconsinites who are currently the recipients of public benefits:
Some local employers have told me of potential prospects who turned down an offer because additional, non-cash earnings would cut into their benefits. As a state, we must continue to have serious discussions and encourage ideas to reform these social engineering experiments.
Kremer doesn’t go into detail about the anecdotal evidence he provides. It’s also worth noting that this is secondary conjectural evidence -- it’s an anecdote that Kremer has received, and passes along to you, the reader, without scrutiny given to it at any step in the process. Like the childhood game of Telephone, there’s scant evidence that what Kremer is telling us is actually legitimate.

Nevertheless, it’s worth looking into. Are individuals who are on public assistance -- “social engineering experiments,” as Kremer calls them -- purposely avoiding employment opportunities to remain on the public dole?

The idea that welfare can somehow “corrupt the poor” has been looked at before. Yet while it’s a belief that many people have, it’s a claim that isn’t backed by much hard evidence. It does happen, but not to the extent that some have suggested.

Indeed, skepticism of this problem in Wisconsin is definitely warranted, especially in light of new evidence that efforts to trim down public assistance have failed in the state. Jake, of Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse, provides the best response to Kremer’s assertions that I’ve read so far:
As for the dog-whistle complaint of state benefits “stifling the will to work,”? Funny how Kremer releases this on the same day that the Wisconsin State Journal noted that a state report said nearly 2/3 of certain Food Share recipients could not find work through a state job training program in the last year, and over 41,000 ended up losing their food assistance. Even a rare “success story”, as quoted in this Wisconsin Public Radio news article, had to earn his position by working for free. That is not a luxury most adults can afford.
Jake’s skepticism is deserved -- welfare simply doesn’t make lazy workers, as Rep. Kremer presumes it does. Several studies from around the world discredit this notion:
As safety nets have increased, so has the debate about whether they simply discourage work, enabling a “lazy poor.” Aggregating evidence from randomized evaluations of seven cash transfer programs, we find no effects of transfers on work behavior, either for men or women.
Emphasis in bold added.

“Properly designed and implemented welfare programs do not reduce the desire for people to work,” points out David Pakman in the video below.

Here’s the bottom line: Rep. Jesse Kremer is trying to cast blame on the people of Wisconsin, not his party’s policies, when it comes to the state’s jobs problems. To be fair, it’s important to point out that the Republican Kremer is at least acknowledging that Wisconsin has a jobs crisis.

But by blaming a fraudulent “skills gap,” supposedly whiny and demanding college graduates, and public benefits that purportedly create lazy moochers, Kremer is placing blame where it doesn’t belong -- on the people looking for work themselves. His descriptions are merely works of Republican fiction. It isn’t the fault of Wisconsinites that the state is lagging behind the rest of the nation when it comes to jobs. Rather, it’s Gov. Scott Walker’s insistence that “trickle-down” economics, a failure of an idea that has never worked, could somehow put Wisconsin ahead. It can’t, and it never will; and it’s a policy that should be abandoned.

Rep. Jesse Kremer needs to look toward his own party for answers on why Wisconsin is failing on jobs. The Republicans have presided over a slower economic recovery in this state, and if blame belongs anywhere it is with them.

On the important issues, Democrats provide a better vision for Wisconsin’s future

Recent poll indicates state electorate is ready for a new direction

More than half of Wisconsinites say that the state is heading in the wrong direction, according to the most recent Wisconsin Survey poll (PDF).

Only 37 percent say that the state is heading in the right direction, while 56 percent say the path we’re on is the wrong way to go.

Scott Walker’s approval ratings almost mirror that sentiment. Just 43 percent of citizens approve of his performance, while 55 percent disapprove.

It’s with those numbers in mind that cause many on the left in the state to be more optimistic about the Democratic Party’s chances in 2018. Indeed, looking at more polling numbers within the survey shows a potential shift to the left.

Dissatisfaction among the electorate is evident. So which issues are most important to the people?

The economy and jobs ranks highest on a list of priorities, with nearly four in ten Wisconsinites citing it as their top issue. The broader topic of politics takes second place (21 percent), and education rounds out the top three (12 percent).

Democrats can capitalize on all three of those issues. On the economy, they can point out that Gov. Walker has failed dismally to make good on his promise of 250,000 jobs to the state. But much more than that, Democrats need to demonstrate that they can produce a stronger and more vibrant economy through demand-side strategies and investments in communities throughout the state.

On the issue of “politics,” it’s clear that Wisconsinites are sick of the division that Walker and Republicans have brought to the statehouse in the past half-decade. Providing the electorate with examples on how they can be better trusted on the issue, Democrats can seize on this dissatisfaction with solutions that will benefit the state overall. These include getting monied interests out of politics, creating a less partisan system of redistricting and eliminating gerrymandering, and possibly other reforms to the system that show a nonpartisan commitment to electoral integrity.

It’s also clear that more funding for education is desired by the people. After Walker cut hundreds of millions of dollars from local schools, communities across the state took matters into their own hands, proposing and passing referenda in favor of raising their own property taxes in order to fill in the gaps. Now Republicans are proposing a limit on those referenda also, essentially placing public schools across the state in a stranglehold to raise funds. Democrats can provide a different path forward -- restoring funding from the state coffers, thereby alleviating the pressures that local school districts can’t always deal with on their own.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has to provide a clear vision for Wisconsin’s future. It can’t be a vision that’s anti-Walker first, party principles second; instead, Democrats have to generate enthusiasm for their ideals, and convince the state’s voters to support them.

Fortunately, on the important issues of the state’s economy, politics, and public education, Democrats in the state have a prime opportunity to show that they can move Wisconsin toward a positive direction in the years ahead.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A winning strategy for Wisconsin Democrats can't be based on geography alone

We should reject a "geography strategy" in supporting progressive candidates, focusing more on candidates with winning policy ideas

Many Wisconsinites are focused on the election coming up in November, and rightly so. The presidential race is of dire consequence, and selecting the right leader is of great importance.

But for those worried about Wisconsin’s future in general, focus needs to be given to the 2018 elections as well.

In that year, Tammy Baldwin will be up for re-election to her U.S. Senate Seat. The governor’s seat will also be up for election, and it will be a prime time to challenge sitting Gov. Scott Walker, whose approval ratings have slipped in recent months.

The governorship is especially important because whoever wins in 2018 will have veto power over the redrawing of electoral maps following the 2020 U.S. Census. Democrats, should they win the governor’s seat and the legislature, have hinted they endorse a redistricting plan that is nonpartisan in nature, as opposed to the partisan and secretive way Republicans handled the 2010 Census redrawing.

But the Democrats’ bench is currently weak -- indeed, who they determine will go against Walker in 2018 is yet to be known. Some have speculated, but among Wisconsin citizens the name recognition just isn’t out there for any of the supposed candidates that could run.

When Scott Walker ran in 2010 he had already been putting his name out there years before. An unsuccessful bid in 2006 for his party’s nomination allowed him to garner “rising star” status, and publicity tours across the state (using Milwaukee County taxpayer dollars) allowed him to continue getting noticed by his base across the state.

Democrats don’t have a similar candidate with name recognition like that at this moment. But modern politics is funny: it doesn’t take years to cultivate a following anymore, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin could take advantage of that.

Still, one thing troubles me about the upcoming gubernatorial election, and that’s the fact that many are saying we can’t run a candidate from Madison or Milwaukee.

I understand the strategy -- many outside of those two areas are wary of the “big city” candidates that come out of them. And I’ve experienced it: I’ve walked door-to-door in communities outside of Madison and Milwaukee, and have witnessed firsthand the resentment that some people have for those two cities.

But as a current Madison-area resident, as well as a former Milwaukeean, I’m irked by two conclusions that are drawn from this strategy.
  • The first is that geography, not policy and ideas presented by candidates, matters most to non-Madison and non-Milwaukee citizens. This plays right into the hands of Walker’s basic strategy to divide and conquer. It also says a lot more about what we think about voters outside of the two big cities -- that they care more about geography than policy. Picking a candidate JUST BECAUSE they’re outside of Madison and Milwaukee is going to be transparent to these individuals. The people outside of those two cities aren’t dumb -- and they deserve more respect than that.
  • The second conclusion that can be drawn from picking a candidate for governor outside of Madison/Milwaukee is that it discounts the people who reside within those two cities. The citizens of those two areas matter. We shouldn’t imply that they don’t by purposely looking to field candidates from beyond their borders.
We lose twice by saying we should only pick from outside Madison and Milwaukee. We transparently patronize the rural voters, and we demoralize the city voters.

I’m not saying we should ONLY put up candidates from cities either. If a candidate from beyond Madison or Milwaukee has good ideas that can win the hearts and minds of the electorate, we should be more than welcoming of them.

But that’s precisely what we should do for any candidate, regardless of their geographical background. The right candidate for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin isn’t from Alma or Wautoma, nor are they from Milwaukee or from Madison. The right candidate is the one who espouses the party’s general principles of lifting up the middle class, of protecting the rights of the people of this state, and fostering a positive vision for Wisconsin in the years ahead.

That person, whether they’re from a metropolitan or rural area, has to sell their ideas to everyone in the state. The strategy can’t be appeal to Madison and Milwaukee, but not the rural areas; nor can it be appeal to the rural communities, but not the big cities.

It’s not impossible to create a winning coalition of voters by appealing to both. Progressives in our state have done it in the past, and we can certainly do it again in the future. Tammy Baldwin did it in 2012, and we’re going to hope she "repeats" in 2018.

But we can’t win it by falling into the same old traps -- we can’t let the other side define who our candidates should be. If we have a great candidate from outside of Madison and Milwaukee, great. Let’s back that candidate up. And if we have a great candidate from inside either of those two cities, let’s back them up as well. But let’s not substitute a great candidate for a strategy based on geography alone.

Policies still matter to voters, inside and outside of our metropolitan areas. And the Democrats offer the best vision forward for both sets of voters.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Walker administration touts unrevised jobs numbers, completely forgets "gold standard"

Past revisions show initial numbers could drop by as much as 30 percent lower than what's reported this week

The most recent monthly jobs report came out earlier this week, and while the numbers look encouraging -- more than 13,000 more Wisconsinites gained employment from February to March -- the Walker administration is once again touting the report as something more than what it is.

The Department of Workforce Development produced a news released titled (PDF), “State Has Best 12-Month Private Sector Job Growth since 2004.” At first glance that provides reason to believe that things are turning around in Wisconsin.

But there’s a problem -- though the year-to-year private sector job numbers do show more than 47,500 jobs being created from March 2014 to March 2015, they are unrevised, and thus unconfirmed. Indeed, look at the same jobs report put out by DWD from a year ago -- the March 2014 to March 2015 data -- and you’ll see that the Walker administration says pretty much the same thing:
Wisconsin added 48,200 private sector jobs from March 2014 to March 2015, ranking third in the Midwest for rate of job growth.
Now if you’re like me, you just made the “huh” sound along with a very quizzical look. How could the current jobs report (47,500 jobs created) be the best since 2004 when last year’s report (48,200) showed a better performance?

The answer is simple: the numbers had been revised since that time. In fact, last year’s jobs report was revised down by more than 16 percent of its original projection.

The latest DWD report is even more disingenuous when it comes to employment. The Walker administration claims more than 51,200 Wisconsinites found work from March 2015 to March 2016. But again, this number is unrevised -- the governor claimed a very similar number (53,200 more employed) in the same report last year, which looked at employment from March 2014 to March 2015. That number was revised down by more than 30 percent, or 16,135 less employed Wisconsinites than initially claimed by Walker.

The latest jobs report shows some encouraging signs. But it’s also not the final say on jobs for that time period -- revisions have yet to be made, and if history is any indicator we should expect to see numbers slide down by significant margins.

The real story here is how Scott Walker is so willing to jump from one type of jobs report to the other without care for what he’s considered legitimate in the past. “I have been saying [all along],” he once wrote, that the quarterly jobs data “should be used to measure jobs.”

Walker has apparently abandoned that idea, without any explanation as to why his standards have changed. We should ask him for a reason why, and his administration should stop creating such glowing press releases based on monthly reports until he does.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WisDems shouldn't make fake websites

Fake RoJo sites are below what Democrats should stand for

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is engaging in some seriously questionable strategy in its efforts to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

I say this as a Democrat, and as someone who really, really wants to see Johnson removed from his post, and replaced with former Sen. Russ Feingold. I also say it as someone who wants the Democratic Party to succeed, especially in Wisconsin.

In 2010 I painted Johnson as an unprincipled candidate for office. In 2012 I showed that Johnson felt that voters were stupid for voting for President Obama. And on several other occasions I have demonstrated that Johnson is just plain wrong on a plethora of issues.

No one wants Johnson gone and Feingold back in more than I do. But how we win this election matters as well, and doing so in underhanded ways isn’t the way to go.

The WisDems have created a website that imitates the campaign site for Ron Johnson, the difference being that the Democratic site has fake quotes that purport to exemplify the Republican candidate’s true feelings.

“I am far too busy to get out and listen to the working families of Wisconsin,” reads one line on the site “And why would I when billionaires, big corporations and the Tea Party give my marching orders.”

The Democrats have also created a fake Johnson Twitter handle that, again, puts fake quotes that the party imagines he might say in private.

I support the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, but this tactic is deeply unsettling to me. When the Republican Party of Wisconsin did the same thing to Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke, it upset many on the left. Democrats shouldn’t be copying that strategy, going tit for tat and creating another fake website in an effort to unseat Johnson.

We have a brilliant candidate running against him in Russ Feingold. We also have a majority of citizens already backing Feingold and rejecting Johnson, who has failed to represent Wisconsin properly in his role as Senator.

We don’t need to stoop to Republican levels of indecency and crassness in order to win office. We should take the higher road, and promote our candidate rather than create questionable satirical content that does little more than to paint our party in a bad light.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin should delete the Twitter account and the website, and should rededicate itself to electing Feingold and defeating Johnson -- the right way.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Conservative “news” director advocates for Dane Co. boycott over judge’s right to work decision

Calls for boycott ignore the devastating impact that would be felt statewide if actually implemented

Ken Herrera, News Director for Milwaukee’s News/Talk 1130 AM, wrote a scathing critique of Dane County this past weekend after a judge here determined the Right to Work (for less) law passed last year was unconstitutional.

H/T to the Devil’s Advocates Facebook page:
Ken Herrera, Director of News and Information @newstalk1130 in Milwaukee WI, calls for conservative boycott of Dane County in response to a judge striking down @GovWalker's right-to-work law.

"No surprise's a Dane county judge…I am happy to say that in the 12 years I have lived in Wisconsin...I have never...and will never, set foot in Dane county. I don't want to spend even one penny in that liberal bastion. It's sort of a personal thing..but my wife and I agree we will never enter Dane county as long as we live. We have actually taken routes WAY around the county to avoid giving money to the libs who have businesses there...this has been my personal boycott for as long as I've lived in WIsconsin...and I'm quite sure I will never, ever spend a penny in Dane county...because I will never, ever visit... I wish every conservative in the state would adopt the same pledge... avoid this county… when you spend money there you are only helping the liberal cause..."
(Emphases in bold are added)

Later in the Facebook post, Herrera defends his words by saying that his news judgment isn’t affected by his personal beliefs. “Mine has been, until now, a quiet, personal [boycott] that has nothing to do with my selection of news stories to run,” he said.

But I take issue with Herrera here -- it’s not so “quiet” of a boycott when you’re broadcasting it out for everyone on Facebook to see. And Herrera, whether it was quiet to start or not, was urging other conservatives to adopt the same personal pledge when he made his initial Facebook post.

Herrera is taking issue with a single Dane County judge and applying it to the rest of the citizenry here. There are plenty of businesses in the county that do quite well but have nothing to do with the judge’s ruling in the Right to Work (for less) case. His boycott unfairly affects those area businesses, and would do more harm if others follow his lead.

Furthermore, the damage done with a boycott to Dane County would undoubtedly trickle upwards to the state as a whole: Dane County accounts for almost $10 out of every $100 spent on tourism in the state; only Milwaukee County generates more tourism dollars. That translates into more than $142 million every year in state and local tax revenue, again 10 percent of the statewide tax dollars collected from tourism spending.

Dane County also accounts for 10.8 percent of the statewide tourism employment statewide. By lessening demand for tourism through a boycott like Herrera suggests other conservatives engage in, the unemployment rate will likely go up.

I don’t question whether someone can deliver the news in an impartial way while still having opinions on political issues. But journalistic ethics dictate that news reporters should seldom, if ever, broadcast their beliefs out loud, much less promote them to a mass audience through social media like Herrera did. (Save that for the opinion writers, please!)

And I also remember how conservatives throughout Wisconsin were furious when it came out that several Gannett reporters had signed the Gov. Scott Walker recall petition a few years back. Though these journalists weren’t advocating directly for Walker’s recall (on social media or in their professional writings), it was enough that they had an opinion at all for many on the right to cry foul over the whole ordeal. I wonder if any of those same conservatives will do the same for Ken Herrera...

The boycott Herrera is advocating would actually do more damage to statewide tax collections rather than hurt the “liberal agenda” in Madison. He doesn’t stop to even consider that his actions, were they to be implemented on a grander scale, would hurt Wisconsinites elsewhere. All in all, it’s a petty political payback, and an unusual one to engage in for someone who attests to being nonpartisan in their reporting.