Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wisconsin jobs report, part II: a “manufacturers recession” under Walker's watch

Even by Walker’s standards, Wisconsin has failed under his “leadership”

In my earlier post this week about the latest Wisconsin jobs report, I mentioned how Walker has failed to create conditions to help the economy reach the 250,000 jobs promise he made for his first term in office. We’d have come closer to that promise if we had just kept pace with the jobs created during the first year of recovery in Wisconsin, under former (Democratic) Gov. Jim Doyle.

This failure on Walker’s part hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. In fact, just a couple of months ago, Walker changed the metric of success, saying that manufacturing wages was the real measure to look out for.

This post will focus primarily on that issue, so here’s the background of what Walker said in March from WPR:
"It's not just how many jobs — it's are those jobs paying at a significant level," Walker said. "If we see wages go up in manufacturing, to me, that's my ultimate goal."
So let’s take a closer look at that: from 2015 to 2016, manufacturing jobs decreased by 3,776 total jobs. But again, Walker says it’s income that matters. On that, he has also failed: manufacturing wages WENT DOWN by 5.3 percent during the same time period.

Again, when Doyle was governor, there was a better outcome, in the form of an increase in wages. Income for manufacturing workers went up by 6.7 percent year-to-year in Wisconsin’s first year of recovery, during a Democratic governor’s tenure.

Walker’s failures in 2016 have effectively created a recession for the manufacturing industry in the state, as far as wages and work created goes. Tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, in addition to enacting “right to work” (for less) legislation, did NOT benefit the workers, as Walker promised the law would.

Right to work “gives Wisconsin one more tool to encourage job creators ... to continue investing and expanding in our state,” Walker said when he signed the bill. “Freedom to Work, along with our investments in worker training, and our work to lower the tax burden, will lead to more freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin.”

But it’s apparent that wasn’t the case. Manufacturing jobs AND wages have both fallen in the wake of the law’s passage.

Walker’s reforms have failed — and Wisconsin’s workers are suffering for it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wisconsin jobs report, part I: Walker’s pace WAY slower than Jim Doyle’s final year

To reach failed goal of 250,000 jobs would take more than two years from today

I’m late to the game here — Wisconsin’s latest jobs numbers came out on Friday — but I have a good excuse: I was heading to the northwoods, making an early getaway on this Memorial Day weekend to spend time with family.

Which I suspect is what Gov. Scott Walker and his administration was hoping for, but on a grander scale. Dropping bad news on the eve of a three-day weekend makes it less likely that people will pay attention to what’s happened.

And what has happened? Wisconsin’s latest jobs numbers show a dismal 0.48 percent growth in jobs from December 2015 to December 2016, amounting to less than 1,000 jobs created per month, or around 11,590 jobs created total.

We can’t yet compare that outcome to what happened around the rest of the country — Wisconsin releases its jobs numbers a full month ahead of the federal report on jobs. So we’ll have to wait and see what this means when compared to our neighbors and the rest of the nation.

We can take a look at how Wisconsin has fared last year compared to how it has done in the past. And it’s no surprise here: 2016 was spectacularly low.

It’s worth pointing out that there are seven years of jobs recovery for Wisconsin, the first one starting in 2010. That first year of recovery happened under a different governor’s watch: Jim Doyle, a Democrat, oversaw an economy that recovered 33,658 in that time.

Since Walker was elected and began his tenure as governor in 2011, he’s only outperformed Doyle on two occasions in the fourth quarter jobs reports. In contrast, Doyle’s last year of employment gains was better than Walker’s performances on four occasions.

In fact, if we had kept Doyle’s pace of jobs growth — a pace that, at 1.5 percent, wasn’t exactly as fast as we’d have liked it to be either — Wisconsin would have gained an additional 39,439 jobs during the past seven years of recovery.

Scott Walker’s promise of creating 250,000 jobs in four years is an epic failure. Walker has created just short of 180,000 jobs in six years. It would take two more years and four more months, at this rate of jobs growth, to reach Walker’s original goal — in other words, what Walker promised he could do in one term of office will take longer than two terms to complete.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Scott Walker’s tweet on unemployment ignores 18 months of his predecessor’s faster rate decline

Sharper decline of unemployment occurred under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle

Scott Walker made a powerful tweet this morning, alleging that his administration was responsible for a substantial drop in unemployment.

Except, there’s one glaring problem. Take a closer look at the tweet:
Walker states that unemployment “peaked” at 9.2 percent “before we took office.” It then ignores the fact that A WHOLE YEAR PASSED BY before he assumed the governorship. That's a slight of hand that Walker is hoping you don't notice.

But even that ignores another important fact: Walker’s first budget didn’t take effect until July of 2011. So there were six additional months of Walker’s predecessor’s policies in play before Walker’s budget took hold.

In those 18 months, the unemployment rate sank to 7.8 percent. That’s an unemployment rate drop of 1.4 percent over 18 months, or about a 0.078 rate drop per month.

So what? That sure doesn't sound like a lot, right? Well, let’s take a look at Walker's performance, from July 2011 until the most recent unemployment rate report, which as Walker states is 3.2 percent. That rate was achieved after 70 months of Walker's first budget.

That amounts to a 0.046 percent rate drop per month — effectively an average monthly drop in unemployment that is 41 percent slower than his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s results.

We should be happy that unemployment is down, and I’m not trying to suggest a low unemployment rate is bad. But Walker is using hand-waving to make his outcome look better than it actually is.

In reality, we had a sharper drop in unemployment under his Democratic predecessor. That's something you won't read in any news release this week about jobs in Wisconsin.

Data for unemployment rates obtained at

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GOP State Sen. Roger Roth encourages “rural elitism” (with AUDIO)

Lawmakers should look at citizens from cities AND rural areas as equals

I wrote last winter about the idea of a “rural elitism” taking shape across the nation and Wisconsin — that some individuals from rural areas believe their political beliefs and needs are more important than the beliefs and needs of people in cities and suburban locales.

My concerns with rural elitism aren’t so much that I believe city people are better or more deserving of attention. The needs of those who live out in the country should be addressed. And the Democratic Party, in Wisconsin particularly, ought to consider ways to reach out to voters who haven’t identified with them in recent elections.

But I do take issue with the idea that the cities should be ignored, or that the opinions of those in urban areas aren’t even worth discussing.

Recently while browsing through Twitter during the state Republican Party’s convention, I saw that GOP state Sen. Roger Roth made a very curious statement. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley, Roth warned that political history in the state would soon be written by “intellectual types who can’t even change a flat tire on their own car.”
That struck a nerve with me — I consider myself an “intellectual.” Though I would never claim to be the smartest person in the state, I do hold a college degree from a UW System school, and am very proud of that fact. I also know how to change a tire — this past winter forced me to change two, in fact — and to insinuate that intellectual types are somehow weak is something Roth should reconsider doing.

Belittling intellectuals is part of “rural elitism,” since intellectuals are more likely to live near city centers (that’s where Wisconsin’s four- and two-year universities generally are located). That isn’t to say there aren’t intellectuals in rural areas. There are plenty of college-educated individuals living outside of the cities.

The farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin.
Image via Wikipedia.
Roth, however, is trying to stoke anger by capitalizing on a divide between rural people and city dwellers. And it’s an inappropriate move to make, in my mind, because these two groups of people should be equals. One should not be empowered at the expense of the other.

Rural elitism prevents us from protecting the democratic wishes of the populace as a whole. President Trump, in fact, promotes the idea of the Electoral College specifically because it protects a rural elitism (coincidentally, his core voting base). The Electoral College, however, should be dismantled precisely because it pits the interests of one group of people above others, solely off of geographic location. A voter in Los Angeles, California, holds less sway than a voter in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It shouldn’t be that way: every voter in this country should have an equal voice when it comes to selecting the president.

I make frequent visits to rural areas in the state. On more than a handful of occasions, when I respond to people asking where I’m from, I’m told (through either visual cues or explicit rants) that Madison is a terrible place, and that people here aren’t “real.” Often, I’m told that we think we’re better than everyone else.

Some people in Madison probably do think that. And they’re wrong. But the people I’ve encountered in rural areas who scoff at Madisonians are wrong too. They are being elitists without even knowing it. And comments like Sen. Roth’s empower that kind of thinking to continue.

I have a better idea in mind: rather than encouraging a “conversational civil war,” why don’t we push for promoting both rural and city areas? City folk should understand the concerns of rural people, and tell lawmakers to support clean water, fund and increase internet access across the state, and find ways to help family farms stay in business. And rural folk should similarly stand behind increasing economic opportunities and reducing the effects of poverty for people in the cities.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. And politicians like Roth should stop pretending it has to be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

David Clarke’s tweet supporting Trump is full of so many problems that I can’t even

The Milwaukee Co. Sheriff conjures an imaginary bogeyman, and argues that criticism nullifies the will of the people

Give Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County his due: he was an early supporter of Donald Trump during his campaign for president. And now, the sheriff (himself embattled) is doubling-down on his support for the the controversial commander-in-chief, even as Trump faces mounting criticism and possible impeachment for a plethora of issues.

Clarke sent this tweet out on Tuesday evening, defending the president against the so-called “establishment” that’s trying to ruin his presidency.
“The continued attacks on our President is the establishment trying to nullify the will of We the People who elected him to lead this country” — that’s quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down.

First, the “attacks on our president” are wholly appropriate (to borrow a phrase from Team Trump). The president faces scrutiny for a variety of mishaps and problems during his first few months in office, but as I see it these few are the biggest concerns as of late:
  • Trump fired former FBI director James Comey. While spokespeople for his administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails as rationale for his ouster, Trump himself said in an interview with Lester Holt that his firing had everything to do with the direction Comey was taking the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign. His firing screams obstruction of justice.
  • Russian pictures in the Oval Office, and sharing classified info. One day after firing Comey — again, for continuing an investigation into Russian connections to his campaign — Trump actually met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The meeting was behind closed doors, without any U.S. media present. But Russian photographers from their state media service took plenty of photographs, posting the images to social media just moments later. Trump also shared classified information with the Russians, obtained from Israeli intelligence, a move that while technically legal is dangerously stupid.
  • The Comey Memo. And it was revealed Tuesday that Trump had pressured Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, who had met with Kislyak before Trump assumed office, allegedly to talk about lifting American sanctions on Russia once Flynn was in as National Security Advisor. His improper contacts with Russians, his failure to disclose money earned while in Russia and Turkey, and his lying about it to Trump officials, led to Trump asking for his resignation. Comey wrote in a memo that Trump had urged him to drop the investigation of Flynn after Flynn left the White House, and before Comey was fired.
Any objective observer would see the facts outlined above and think, “yes, those actions by the president warrant further inspection.” And that’s being generous — many would read the above and think much worse. But Clarke? Criticizing Trump for those actions are attacks.

Sheriff David Clarke
Next, let’s look at Clarke charging that the “establishment” is behind the attacks of Trump. Who does he mean here?

Democrats? They’re out of power. They are the minority in both houses of Congress. They control barely a handful of governorships and statehouses. And they are being joined by more Republicans daily in their calls for investigating Trump, including Republican Mike Gallagher, who represents the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin. The “political” attacks are becoming bipartisan as more is revealed about Trump.

The media? They merely report on what Trump himself and his surrogates have said. And you cannot fault them for reporting on sources in the White House who are bringing forth a trove of embarrassing information about the president that, more often than not, proves to be true.

So who is the establishment? It’s an imaginary bogeyman. Just as Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” Clarke wants to focus on a character of his imagination that’s seemingly going after the president. Truth is, the president is responsible for his own downfall.

Finally, Clarke says that this imaginary establishment is trying to disrupt the will of “We the People.” This is perhaps the most laughable part of Clarke’s short Twitter rant — a plurality of Americans didn’t select Trump to be president in the first place. He did win the Electoral College, but by a count of more than three million votes Hillary Clinton was the preferred choice of “We the People.”

But much more than that, Clarke implies that anyone upset with how elected leaders govern is trying to disrupt the will of the people. So what was Clarke, Trump, et. al. doing before 2017? Looking back at their statements and tweets from that time, it’s clear to see that they hardly accepted who “We the People” elected (former President Barack Obama), frequently expressing themselves in vehement outbursts how they felt the country was going down the gutter.

And that’s fine — it was Clarke’s right to do so at the time. But turning that around and suggesting criticism of Trump is “trying to nullify the will of We the People” is hypocritical.

Donald Trump is in serious trouble. Liberals and progressives have seen the problems with Trump for quite some time, and now some conservatives are starting to open up their eyes to the problems this president has presented as well.

Clarke is choosing to remain blind to what the president has done. He has the right to choose willful blindness, but he’s wrong to believe he and other Trump supporters are the victims of a made-up establishment’s attacks on the president.

But if Clarke wants to continue backing Trump during his downward spiral, who am I to say he shouldn’t?

On Trump and Russia, Republicans need to show less "concern" and actually DO something

GOP’s concerns need to turn into definitive actions against this reckless president

Far too many Republicans are accepting of President Donald Trump’s behavior. This goes beyond his term in office — as a candidate, the GOP begrudgingly accepted him as the leader of their party, even as evidence surfaced that he assaulted women sexually.

That alone disqualifies the president from being a leader we can trust. But now, reporting from the Washington Post indicates the president gave top-secret classified information to Russian officials, information that compromises an Ally of ours and greatly delegitimizes the standing of the United States in the world as a leader.

Trump’s communications team categorically denied the report, but Trump himself this morning on Twitter seemed to confirm that he did indeed share this information with the Kremlin.

One Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin, Mike Gallagher from District 8, has actually said that the president ought to be held to account. “While POTUS possesses the authority to disclose classified, even top secret, information, there’s a separate question of whether he should,” Gallagher said on Twitter this morning.

Which is a great start. I commend Rep. Gallagher for recognizing that this isn’t normal. Under any other circumstance, the actions that the president engaged in last week would have been seen as reckless at best, treasonous at worst. Gallagher is someone whom I disagree with on most issues politically, but it's good to see that he seems genuinely concerned about Trump, and willing to dig into his actions deeper to get to the bottom of things.
But other Republicans are too restrained, in my mind, and are hesitant to call out the commander-in-chief for his braggadocious need to outdo others, from his campaign antics that questioned the size of his hands, to this latest escapade in which the president allegedly had to boast about the intelligence he received from a trusted ally. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” a source familiar with his conversations tells the Post he told the Russian ambassador.

Republicans cannot accept this from their leader, much less the leader of the nation. Their concerns have to go beyond just “deeply disturbing” especially since they chastised the Democratic candidate who opposed Trump, Hillary Clinton, for much less.

The Republicans don’t have much wiggle-room, in my opinion. There is no middle ground here. Either Republicans are upset enough with Trump's serious breach of security and other questionable actions (including firing former FBI Director James Comey) that they're willing to join Democrats in calls to investigate and possibly even indict him, or they're a party full of hypocrites that value their political victories over the needs of the country. As of today, it doesn’t look like Republicans care much about the latter.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wait — what?? Ron Johnson believes Trump tweet means Comey made recordings

Logically speaking, Johnson’s assertions make no sense (and this isn’t the first time)

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson doesn’t have a good sense of logic.

The Republican who represents one-half of our senate delegation has already put forth some illogical (to put it nicely) ideas, including believing climate change was no big deal because, hey, people like it a little warmer. He also suggested that low-income mothers who can’t afford child care services should become daycare teachers themselves, because that’s just the kind of bright thinker Johnson is.

Happy Mother’s Day, by the way.

Johnson is at it yet again, this time telling news outlets at the state Republican Party’s convention in Wisconsin Dells that he believes it would be very troubling if President Donald Trump indeed records his conversations in the Oval Office.

OK, so far so good, right? Just wait for it.

Johnson was responding to questions about Trump’s recent tweet threatening former FBI Director James Comey about the possibility of “tapes” that recorded their conversations in the White House. And it’s admirable that Johnson says that would be a bad thing for the president to do.

But here’s where the “bright thinking” of Johnson comes into play: the senator believes that the president was implying that Comey himself has made recordings of the president, and not the other way around.

Say what?

From WKOW in Madison:
27 News followed up by asking if he thought there should be an investigation into whether such tapes were made, Sen. Johnson seemed puzzled why such a question would be asked.

Sen. Johnson then explained he disagreed that President Trump was trying to suggest he may have recorded those conversations.

"No, he said that Comey had better not have recorded it," said Sen. Johnson.
This is where logic starts to break down.

Suppose that Comey DID have tapes that he himself recorded of the president. Why would the president threaten Comey with those tapes if releasing them would cause harm for Comey? Wouldn’t Comey, who, in this scenario again controls the release of the tapes, withhold doing so if it caused him harm?

The obvious interpretation of Trump's words is that the president was clearly making a threat to Comey to make it seem like he (Trump} may have recorded their conversations. He was warning the former FBI director that if he started talking to the press about their conversations that it could mean trouble for Comey.

It’s a strong possibility that Trump has recording devices in the Oval Office, too. He has reportedly recorded telephone conversations at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and there’s also this interesting anecdote (click to enlarge):

The nation was shocked by the implication that Trump tweeted out a threat to Comey last week. There were many levels of that tweet that were talked about, including the idea that the president may have recording devices surrounding him (and whomever he’s speaking with) at all times.

No one in their right mind would look at the tweet that Trump made and believe that he meant Comey had made the recordings. No one, that is, except for Ron Johnson.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump is wrong on Democrats and Comey — the president's actions deserve serious scrutiny

Democrats can simultaneously condemn actions of Comey while still finding Trump's actions deplorable

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday night to explain, in nuanced detail, why he fired FBI director James Comey earlier this week.

Just kidding. He took to Twitter to bash his political opponents.

Trump didn’t understand why Democrats, including many who had called for Comey to resign months ago, were suddenly now outraged at Trump for canning the FBI director.

Trump included a video in which Democrats complained about Comey and demanded he resign.

But Trump is proving that he has a one-track mind on this issue — or, he’s hoping that you do.

Democrats can be both critical of Comey and see his ouster as disturbing. It’s fairly transparent, after all, that his firing had EVERYTHING to do with Trump and Russia — Trump has been visibly uncomfortable with the direction the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference with last year’s presidential election was heading. In particular, Trump had grown frustrated with Comey over the latter’s refusal to acknowledge the former’s insistence that Barack Obama had “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower in 2016.

This isn’t my own assumption: aides within the White House itself have made these observations. From the New York Times (emphases in bold added):
For public consumption, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said on Wednesday that Mr. Trump acted because of the “atrocities” committed by Mr. Comey during last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. But in private, aides said, Mr. Trump has been nursing a collection of festering grievances, including Mr. Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation and the perceived disloyalty over the wiretapping claim.

Mr. Comey’s fate was sealed by his latest testimony about the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election and the Clinton email inquiry. Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding. He was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was “mildly nauseous” to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history.
This is some really disturbing stuff. Trump’s motivation for firing Comey wasn’t about Hillary Clinton at all — it was clearly because Trump felt affronted by Comey’s Russia investigation, and perhaps because said investigation was getting too close to the president himself.

And Democrats recognize this. They may not have liked Comey before — some may have even asked for him to resign in the past — but anytime the president performs an action this egregious, it has to be called out. Trump simply wanted someone he viewed as a threat out of the way.

Certainly, Trump shouldn’t be allowed to pick a successor to Comey that will take over the Russia investigation. For that, an independent special prosecutor must be appointed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

AG Schimel minted gold-plated “Kick Ass” coins while the murder rate in Wisconsin climbed

As DOJ spent $50,000 on SWAG, murder rate across the state went up 41 percent

The priorities for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, under the leadership of Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, seem to be more about freebies to hand out rather than diminishing crime.

One Wisconsin Now recently revealed that in the past four years the DOJ “spent $50,000 that we know on swag for shameless self-promotion,” the group states. Two of those years have been under the tutelage of Schimel, while the other two included the last years of former Attorney General (and Republican) J.B. Van Hollen.

These commemorative items include coins that are handed out to law enforcement or other employees at DOJ, and include the initials KAED — for “Kick Ass Every Day.” The language is hardly the problematic issue here, however: Schimel spent $10,000 of taxpayer funds to mint the gold-plated coins, according to the Cap Times. Other items the DOJ has spent state money on include backpacks and travel tumblers.

The promotional items date back to fiscal year 2014, says One Wisconsin Now, but remember: fiscal years actually start in the year before their title suggests. So fiscal year 2014 actually started in July of 2013.

Since I had recently looked at crime stats, that year stood out to me. Sure enough, in 2013 Wisconsin’s murder rate was at 2.82 murders for every 100,000 citizens. In 2016, the state’s murder rate went up to 3.99 murders for every 100,000.

That amounts to a 41 percent increase in the murder rate between 2013 to 2016.

There’s something to be said about promoting morale among your workers. And certainly Schimel and the DOJ will try to justify these expenses as such.

But while these items were being purchased, using taxpayer dollars, the murder rate in the state went up in a drastic way. The priorities of Attorney General Brad Schimel shouldn’t focus on tote bags and fancy coins — they should focus on making the state a safer place to live.

Wisconsin deserves much better. In 2018, the voters should choose to remove Schimel from his post.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mike McCabe should run for governor (with one small "if")

McCabe offers something rare in a challenge to Walker — an actual vision for improving Wisconsin

Mike McCabe for governor? The former head of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and current president of Blue Jean Nation, has been mentioned as a potential contender to Gov. Scott Walker.

Hundreds of supporters of McCabe’s who are hoping to draft him to run for governor sent an open letter pleading with him to consider it, telling McCabe that he is an “upright man, not interested in self-enrichment or power for power’s sake, with a feeling for the needs of others and your country.”

McCabe, for his own part, said that the letter prompted him to give it some real thought. “I am willing to do this,” he said, adding that he’ll make a decision sometime after Labor Day.

Do I think he should run? Yes, absolutely, 110 percent — but with a very big “if.”

I’ll get to that “if” in a moment.

First, why McCabe should run, and it all comes down to this: he’s the right person to bridge the divide between rural and urban Wisconsinites, and to make progressive ideals appealing again in areas of the state where they’ve been dormant. That, to me, is the number one problem Democrats in Wisconsin are facing.

McCabe has a proud progressive background that would help improve the lives of many citizens living in the poorest parts of the state’s largest cities. But he also readily acknowledges the problems that face farmers and other rural people’s lives, problems that sometimes get forgotten by Democrats in larger cities. He knows firsthand about many of those issues because McCabe himself grew up on a farm in rural Clark County, Wisconsin.

What’s more, McCabe isn’t afraid to call out the Democratic Party on its failures to reach rural voters. In his book, “Blue Jeans in High Places,” McCabe states:
Democrats have broken the political law of universality. They may say we’re all in this together and need to look out for each other, but people in places like rural Clark County don’t see Democrats practicing what they preach.
The Democratic Party needs to craft policies that “tangibly [benefits] everyone or at least directly [touches]” families in these areas of the state. Democrats have done so in the past, McCabe says, explaining that Social Security, rural electrification and the GI Bill all have been felt positively by people in rural places.

McCabe's biography from his
book, Blue Jeans in High Places
McCabe understands both rural and city issues. And he’s exactly what Alan Talaga described in his Isthmus column, when he wrote in January that, “Rural voters aren’t looking for folksy pandering; they are looking for an affable, inspiring leader who talks about issues they care about. That’s more important than the candidate’s zip code.”

McCabe won’t pander — and he’ll defend his progressive ideals to everyone in the state, in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, as well as in Seymour, Ladysmith and Bagley.

Mike McCabe is a progressive, but he’s also an independent. He doesn’t really identify with the Democratic Party 100 percent of the time — and that’s OK. Wisconsin’s progressives have historically bucked the party line of their respective parties, and people have loved them for it. Fighting Bob La Follette, a Republican, was an anti-war hellraiser in his day, and Bill Proxmire, a Democrat, chastised members of his own party for spending excessive amounts of taxpayer-funded government dollars.

With that this being said, McCabe should absolutely run for governor — if he runs as a Democrat, or if the Democrats agree to sit this one out and let him run as a true independent. The latter seems much less likely to happen, so McCabe ought to think seriously about running as a Democrat in the party’s primary for governor.

We cannot afford to split the vote, and allow Scott Walker another term in office. The effects would be devastating. So either the Democrats back McCabe as an independent, or McCabe wins the primary for the party. Again, the second option seems more realistic.

But if he chooses that option, he shouldn’t stray from his independent roots. He should remain a proponent of limiting corporate influence in our elections — a position he takes that more than 100 communities across Wisconsin share. He should, as a candidate, continue to promote reforms to the elections process that enables citizens to take control of their democracy, even if those reforms aren’t going to necessarily benefit the Democratic Party.

Most importantly, McCabe should run as a candidate that has broad appeal, to voters across the state in areas that progressives haven’t won in a long while.

That’s one more factor that McCabe brings to the table. He isn’t just another anti-Walker option — he’d be a true pro-Wisconsin candidate, with a vision for improving the state that isn’t just a reaction to what the current governor has in mind. McCabe has his own ideas, and they’re ideas that the rest of Wisconsin can readily get behind.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Five years of stats, one glaring conclusion: concealed carry didn’t make Wisconsin safer

Crime has increased by 24 percent statewide since concealed carry was passed

The Wisconsin Department of Justice released crime numbers for 2016 this month, and with those numbers we now have five full years of crime stats since concealed carry became law. The results aren’t good.

Concealed carry was described as a way for citizens to defend themselves, but it was also sold to voters and lawmakers on the basis that it would deter crime across the state. The idea was simple enough: if criminals didn’t know who was packing, they’d be hesitant to commit a crime against a victim who might have a gun.

Of course, just the opposite could have been true: criminals could have become even more aggressive if they didn’t know who was carrying a weapon. That side of the debate was conveniently ignored by conservatives, however. The bill passed, and Wisconsin became the 49th state to enact concealed carry, requiring a (lax) training process and a permit to do so in allowable places.

Since then a slew of legislation has been proposed by extremists that would extend where those allowable places would be — including school hallways, college campuses and more. There’s even been talk about ending the permit process altogether, simply allowing anyone able to purchase a gun to carry one wherever they want without concealed carry training.

The five years of data, however, seems to contradict the idea that concealed carry should be expanded. The statistics released this month (and in past years) demonstrate that violent crime has gone up since 2011 by more than 24 percent — and the murder rate has similarly gone up by 67 percent.

And it’s not just in Milwaukee, as some conservatives will likely point out. While murder did climb in the state’s largest city from 2011 to 2016, it climbed at a faster rate throughout the state: the non-Milwaukee murder rate increased by 74 percent throughout the rest of Wisconsin.

After signing the bill into law, Gov. Scott Walker promised that concealed carry would make the state safer. In 2015, Attorney General Brad Schimel also wrongly claimed that concealed carry made Wisconsin a safer place for families across the state.

The numbers don’t lie — since passage of concealed carry, crime has gone up, not down.

The idea of deterrence is provably wrong. Yet lawmakers plan to pass future bills that cite deterrence through concealed carry as a means to prevent crime. That would be like trying to use water to stop a flood — it just won’t work. And we shouldn’t expect otherwise.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

On Constructing Political Arguments

Emotion, especially anger, is driving too much of the debate

Has our society lost the ability to engage in sensible debate?

I have often asked whether people would listen to my arguments on this site based off the evidence alone. Providing data to back up an opinion isn’t a very compelling way to win an argument.

I’ve long been a proponent that every good argument, in fact, contains three elements: pathos, ethos, and logos.

To explain these concepts further, here’s what says on each of them:

  • Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader.
  • Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response.
  • Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason.
I learned to use these concepts in arguments not from some liberal propaganda book, but from a conservative instructor at UW-Milwaukee, Jessica McBride, who was teaching an opinion writing class at the time. Her invaluable insights have helped me become a better writer, even if I do disagree with her on nine issues out of every ten.

I fear, however, that America is beginning to lose the value of constructing a good argument. Rather than using pathos, ethos, or logos, we are beginning to place value on ignorance and talking points that disregard these important concepts.

With logos, we are seeing debate dwindle down to made-up facts. Whether on climate change, or even the simple concept of why there was an American Civil War, facts don’t seem to matter any longer. Donald Trump has even taken to using the term “fake news” to discredit detractors who oftentimes rightly correct the president on topics he fails to coherently grasp. The use of logos, or rather the lack of proper use of it, is reaching dangerous levels.

We’re also seeing a diminishing use of ethos in the national debate. Rather than empowering the legitimacy of the arguer, the debate has too often devolved into attacking the character of the opponent. We see this daily on cable news networks — arguments quickly shift into what an opponent’s stance was or statements were three weeks ago, rather than staying on point with the current argument at hand. Cordiality and an emphasis on why an individual is a credible source of information, is losing out to simply bringing the other side down.

Pathos seems to be a favorite arguing point among both sides these days, but it faces the opposite problem: rather than being underused, it’s being overused, so much that emotions like anger flood the debate.

Case in point: this recent op-ed from the Washington Times by Charles Hurt, which is simply an angry diatribe titled “Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep.” Hurt uses his anger to make an argument against Kimmel’s recent calls for providing insurance to families that can’t afford it — and anger seems to be the only argument Hurt utilizes (emphases in bold added).
He just had a kid and the kid nearly died and he wants you to know that if you are not for bloated federal bureaucracy, socialized medicine, higher taxes and tons of more debt piled onto your grandchildren, then you are not a “decent person.”

Actually Jim, if you were a “decent person,” you would shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.


My overall point is this: a good argument is well-balanced. It contains emotion, but it also contains logic and ethical arguments.

Emotional responses to issues are important — the push for health care reform, for example, is in part based on an emotional response. But too much of anything can be problematic, and an argument based solely on emotion (and utilizing only anger) can drive the conversation away from a proper debate, turning it into a yelling match instead.

Logos, pathos, and ethos should be part of every debate — and it’s what I strive for on this blog site.