|The Voting Window is Quickly Closing by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
The Voting Window is Quickly Closing
“We’ve got to go to the clerk and get your ballot sent to college,” I said to my son.
“Aw Mom. Is this election really that important?” he asked. “YES!” I answered. Maybe I added a little too much emphasis.
Spring elections are April 5th.
|Are You Ready to Head to the Polls Tomorrow, April 5th?
Are you ready to head to the polls tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5? What’s your plan for voting? In the morning, in the afternoon? Remember, polls will be open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Click here for a list of union approved candidates.
View a sample ballot and look up your polling location at: https://myvote.wi.
|Keep Private Water Companies Out of Wisconsin by Senator Vinehout
"Keep Private Water Companies OUT of Wisconsin"
"Keep private water companies OUT of Wisconsin,” Glory Adams of Eau Claire wrote. She wants to stop a bill that would allow cities to sell water and sewer systems to out-of-state companies without even a community vote.
|Pick Up the Phone to Stop the TPP
Pick up the Phone to Stop the TPP
Working people are determined to end the era of corporate trade deals that lower our wages and kill our jobs. Millions of workers across the globe are united in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive, NAFTA-style trade deal.
Today and tomorrow, Monday, February 8 and Tuesday, February 9, are national call-in days of action.
|Could Wisconsin Be the Next Flint Michigan?
Could Wisconsin be the next Flint, Michigan?
Could Wisconsin be the next Flint, Michigan?
A terrible new bill that threatens the safety and affordability of our drinking water is making its way through the Wisconsin legislature.
|Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Changes to Wisconsin Government
Wisconsin Government, Sold to the Highest Bidder
This week marks another low point in Wisconsin history. Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican-controlled legislature are gearing up to crush Wisconsin’s proud history of open, honest and transparent democracy with a horde of bad government bills.
|Oppose Repeal of Prevailing Wage
Please contact your State Senator and Assembly Representative,
I spoke with Senator Sheila Harsdorf office this morning on this issue and they said that I was the first call on Opposing Repeal Prevailing Wage. Please Call Your State Senator and Assembly Representative.
|Stop Right to Work in Wisconsin
BREAKING: Right to Work to be Fast-Tracked week of February 23
URGENT, BREAKING NEWS: We’ve just learned that the Legislature intends to introduce and pass Right to Work legislation NEXT WEEK. In an attempt to thwart democracy, the GOP will call an extraordinary session to avoid debate and fast-track this anti-worker legislation into law.
|I Don't Have a Clue By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
"I Don't Have a Clue"
School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee
"Edgar: All right, everybody; back to the scene of the crime.
“Ella: New clues?
“Carol: What clues?
“Bob: What’s the next clue?
“Carol: I don’t have a clue.
“Norman: (At the window box, dramatically.
|Budget Numbers: Is It Really All Smoke and Mirrors by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Budget Numbers: Is It Really All Smoke and Mirrors
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“Are we in the red or in the black? What’s the truth? What’s the reality?” The rural Trempealeau County woman was clearly frustrated.
“What do the figures really mean?” she asked me. “Is there a big hole? Or not? Is it all smoke and mirrors.
|Voting ? No Photo ID Required, Yet By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
~~Voting? No Photo ID Required, Yet
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“I haven’t voted in three years,” a Galesville fairgoer told me this summer. He leaned up against the pole barn at the Trempealeau County Fair and shoved his fingers in his pockets. “I don’t want to show up and be told I can’t vote.”
Changes in voting rules are confusing.
|Proof of Residence for Voter Registration
PROOF OF RESIDENCE FOR VOTER REGISTRATION
Information provided by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROOF OF RESIDENCE FOR VOTER REGISTRATION?
o A Proof of Residence document is a document that proves where you live in Wisconsin
and is only used when registering.
|Voter Registration Information
Information provided by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
For detailed information about voting in Wisconsin, visit bringit.wi.gov.
For other information on the Government Accountability Board, visit http://gab.wi.gov
or call the G.A.B. Help Desk at1-866-VOTE-WIS or 608-261-2028.
WHEN CAN I REGISTER TO VOTE.
|Voter Registration Deadlines for November 4,2014 General Election
Registration Deadlines for November 4, 2014 General Election
Information provided by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board
Important Voter Registration Deadlines
For the November 4, 2014 General Election
When can I register to
Vote by Mail?
If you mail in your application for the November 4, 2014 General Election, it must
be postmarkedby Wednesday, October 15, 2014.
|Use New Federal Money for Badger Care by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Use New Federal Money for BadgerCare
Help those working hard and help lower others' premium costs
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“I’m so glad to see you,” Mary from Eau Claire told me at a recent neighborhood gathering. I asked how she was doing.
“It’s hard,” she admitted. “I work 32 hours a week. I make $8.00 an hour.
|Plan Unveiled to Gradually Privitize Public Schools By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
February 5, 2014
“If I was going to write a bill to privatize public schools,” the Senate staffer told our small group, “this is what it would look like.”
We were reviewing a new version of a bill to test students attending private schools using state tax dollars. By this sixth version, the bill morphed into something entirely different.
|Let the People Speak on Nonpartisan Redistricting by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
January 15, 2014
“Look at this map,” the man directed. “There are lots of squiggly lines in Wisconsin and Illinois but Iowa has real neat boxes.” The maps he showed me were the lines of Congressional Districts in the three states.
For many years Iowa has used a nonpartisan process to draw the district lines for state and US elected officials.
|Looking Foward to the Challenges of 2014 by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
January 1, 2014
The snow blows over the frozen fields. But in the farmer’s mind, the plants already appear in straight rows and the blossoms are in bud. It takes an optimist to be a farmer – one who sees the potential bounty of the land. But it also takes a realist to plan for the possibility of drought, hail and pests.
|Changes in Committee Workings Limit Public Input By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
~~December 4, 2013
Committees are the doers of the Legislature. The process is designed to be slow, deliberative and encourage public input.
However, speed and secrecy are increasingly being used to limit public involvement and careful legislative deliberation.
Public hearings are one place people can make an impact on a developing new law.
|Penalizing Asbestos Victims By Senator Chris Larson
Penalizing Asbestos Victims
This week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor took up legislation--Senate Bill 13 and its companion, Assembly Bill 19--intended to limit the rights of victims to pursue legal action against personal trusts, such as lawsuits related to asbestos exposure.
|Property Taxes: Are the Tools Working ? By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Perhaps the Governor’s tools aren’t working.
A recently announced infusion of $100 million into schools won’t mean any more money for children. But it will help stem an expected rise in property taxes.
State school spending and property taxes are tied at the hip.
An increase in state school spending often slows or even cuts property taxes.
|Affordable Care Act Comparison: WI vs. MN by State Senator Chris Larson
Obamacare Comparison: WI vs. MN
As neighboring states in the Midwest, Wisconsin and Minnesota have more in common than they do differences. Yet the two states took very different approaches to implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and have achieved very different results.
|Forum Explores Challenges Facing Public Schools by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Public education started down the statewide voucher path with the start of the school year across Wisconsin. While things might not look different on the outside, big changes are happening in the state’s public education system.
One of the biggest changes is the expenditure this state budget makes in taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools.
|Budget Myths Abound by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“The State is spending less.” “This budget took a deficit and turned it into a surplus.” “Wisconsin has paid off its debt.” Which of these are true statements regarding the new state budget?
The answer is NONE of the above.
Getting information about what’s happening in Madison is one of the most common complaints of my constituents.
|Rural Wisconsin: Don't Lose the Home Phone by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
July 24, 2013
“My cell phone doesn’t work at home, so here’s my home number,” I told the constituent. “My home phone is the best way to reach me.”
If you live in rural Buffalo, Eau Claire, Trempealeau, Pierce, or at least eight other northern or western Wisconsin counties you or your neighbors likely have poor cell coverage.
|Wisconsin Needs Smarter Budget Choices by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Wisconsin Needs Smarter Budget Choices
"Two years ago, Wisconsin made tough choices,” wrote Robert from Mondovi. “The deficit was eliminated, costs were controlled and Wisconsin was back on the track to prosperity.”
The Buffalo County man wanted “relief for the hardworking people of Wisconsin”.
|AFL-CIO NOW Orlando Sentinel: Union-Busting's the Secret Filling Inside Twinkie Demise
Home > AFL-CIO Now > Corporate Greed > Orlando Sentinel: Union-Bus...
Orlando Sentinel: Union-Busting's the Secret Filling Inside Twinkie Demise
An editorial in Wednesday's Orlando Sentinel challenges numerous myths about the end of Hostess and correctly blames the company's downfall on management's assault on working families.
The Twinkie and the labor union, going down together—the story fitted perfectly into a pat journalistic narrative in which unions have done their work (thanks for the eight-hour day, folks!) but now must exit the historical stage.
Unfortunately, reality is not quite so simple. Recently, we learned—from the Wall Street Journal, no less—that the company had diverted payments it was supposed to make to the employee pension fund into other operating accounts. This at a time when finances were tight and management nevertheless decided to give itself more bonuses and salary raises.
This is the new America: Bonuses and stock options for the top brass, pink slips and blame for the working class. Most Hostess employees had taken steep pay cuts over the last few years. One of the major reasons the bakers union went on strike was that the company was not honoring prior pension agreements.
The version we got from the headlines was a little different: Union refuses to negotiate, forces 80-plus-year-old company to shut down.
Don't be mistaken. What happened at Hostess is part of a long, protracted shift in the American workplace. Companies use any means at their disposal, including bankruptcy reorganization, to get rid of unions. Meanwhile, right-wing think tanks and pundits demonize union members as freeloaders and thugs. It has been a decades-long project, and it's been incredibly successful.
The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Hostess didn't play fair in the negotiations with the bakers union. This news was no doubt met with smirks by those who regard the board as just another government entity standing in the way of big business.
Yet for all the bluster about makers and takers, job creators and moochers off society, one group is habitually left voiceless. They are the people who actually perform manual work, the blue-collar employees. They operate forklifts, stand on assembly lines, drive trucks and, yes, put sugary cream into yellow cakes.
Read the entire editorial: Union-Busting's the Secret Filling Inside Twinkie Demise.
“There is much more to this story than ‘the union and Hostess failed to reach an agreement and 18,000 jobs were lost,’” notes Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International President David B. Durkee. “This union and its Hostess members have been saying for the past decade, that the company’s debt was too high; its machinery and equipment antiquated; its product mix out of date and it’s management too inexperienced in the banking industry to turn this iconic company around."
|Author Bill Fletcher Exposes the Truth of right-to-work laws
Author Bill Fletcher exposes the truth of right-to-work laws
A new book by Bill Fletcher Jr. takes a look at some major myths about unions. The author weighs in on right to work legislation. Jesse Russell reports.
Labor activist and author is currently on tour promoting his new book “They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 other myths about unions.” As the title suggests the book addresses the numerous falsehoods that have been perpetuated about organized labor over the years. On Wednesday Fletcher spoke with Workers Independent News about Michigan passing legislation that allows workers to benefit from unions without paying union dues. Fletcher said the push has nothing to do with creating a more Democratic workplace.
[Fletcher:] It’s not, it’s about greed and what the right-wing understands is they can play upon people’s greed, selfishness, and individual circumstances and say to them “You don’t have to pay the union, but they have to represent you.”
Fletcher said what the legislation does is make it difficult for unions to continue to function, thereby losing the ability to preserve wages, benefits, and safety.
[Fletcher2]: The problem this creates for unions is it means your resources are being eaten up in many cases by people who aren’t paying. The right wing knows this and that’s exactly why they’re doing this. This has nothing to do with economic development. The living standard in every right-to-work state is lower than the states that aren’t right-to-work.
|Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Hid Lost Loans from Audit Committee By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
October 24, 2012
Paul Jadin, the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), was surprisingly agreeable when he appeared before my colleagues and me at the recent hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit.
He was surprisingly agreeable; but less than forthcoming.
Mr. Jadin never mentioned that the state’s lead economic development agency had lost track of all $69 million in loans to businesses, including $9 million where were past due or in default. He never mentioned the problem even as he answered Legislators’ questions about the failures of WEDC’s own oversight processes.
Following the lengthy hearing, a reporter received a tip about the lost delinquent loans. The next day I learned the rest of the story.
State officials failed to track 48 loans that were delinquent by more than 30 days. Another 49 loans were referred to the Department of Justice for collection. These loans totaled $9 million. This failure to track loans extended over the past 16 months. The information was first reported by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Capitol reporter Jason Stein who attended portions of the hearing.
As I chaired the hearing, I quizzed Mr. Jadin on problems with late reports and the skipping of key process management steps like underwriting loans. Committee members engaged in a lengthy discussion about recouping payments and overseeing businesses that failed to deliver promised jobs or meet contract terms.
Mr. Jadin agreed to improve transparency, to tighten reporting, and to subject all management staff to state ethics laws. He agreed to nearly every change requested. We concluded the hearing with directions to draft legislation codifying changes agreed to by Mr. Jadin. But he failed to make any mention of the lost delinquent loans.
In conversations with those close to WEDC, I learned the lost loans were likely ‘discovered’ in preparation for forthcoming audits: first, an independent firm recently hired by WEDC and second, the Legislative Audit Bureau.
Later, Ryan Murray, WEDC chief operating officer, told reporters Mr. Jadin didn’t discuss the issue because he wanted to notify the board first. But the board met twice in just the past few weeks. Board members could also be called at home or come into emergency session; none appeared to have happened.
Mr. Jadin had an obligation to inform the Legislature when he was asked to explain work to remedy serious problems of oversight and accountability.
Dishonesty is not only about what you say. It is about what you don’t say.
Hiding bad news is becoming a pattern for WEDC. Just a few weeks ago the Secretary of Administration apologized to Board members when, for over a year and a half, he failed to disclose a federal inquiry into the awarding of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants. WEDC apparently gave out more than $9 million without legal authority to do so.
The dishonesty began in the very creation of WEDC.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, despite its name, it is not a corporation. It is an arm of state government, run with taxpayer funds and revenue from loans made with taxpayer money.
Organized as an “authority”, WEDC is one of the most independent parts of state government. Despite its independence, the agency dispenses public money and is subject to Legislative oversight.
As Chair of the Audit Committee, at the conclusion of Mr. Jadin’s testimony I made very clear his obligation and our expectations.
“Because public dollars are at risk we need information at the program level of your operation to determine the effectiveness and the outcome of every program you administer,” I told Mr. Jadin.
I anticipate the Audit Bureau’s work will provide us with key information about WEDC’s structure, operations and program results. Auditors will examine the failure of ‘internal controls’ – those systems that should be in place to catch errors of omission like lost delinquent loans.
But the error of omission that concerns me the most is the lack in honesty in official testimony before the Legislature.
I expect WEDC staff and board members to cooperate fully and ensure the Audit Bureau receives any information the State Auditor needs to complete its work.
|Request an Absentee Ballot by Mail, E-Mail, or Fax
Request an Absentee Ballot by Mail
If you are a registered Wisconsin voter, you can download the Application For Absentee Ballot (GAB-121). Just complete the form and mail it to your municipal clerk's office. You can find your clerk at My Vote WI: myvote.wi.gov by searching for your voter record or performing an address search. You can also find your clerk by searching through the list of all Wisconsin municipal clerks. Your application must be received by the clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the election in order for an absentee ballot to be SENT to you.
If you are not already registered, you will need to register to vote before an absentee ballot can be sent to you.
Military and Overseas voters have additional options for absentee ballot delivery. Click here for Military. Click here for Overseas.
Request an Absentee Ballot by E-Mail or Fax
Regular Wisconsin voters may also request that a ballot be sent to them by sending an e-mail or fax to their municipal clerk. This request must be made no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the election in order for an absentee ballot to be SENT to you.
Options and Deadlines for Returning Your Absentee Ballot
- U.S. Postal Service: Your completed absentee ballot must be postmarked no later than Election Day and received by the municipal clerk no later than 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election.
- Other delivery (FedEx, hand-delivery, etc.): Your completed absentee ballot must be delivered to the municipal clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day
|Early Voting - In Person At Your Municipal Clerk's Office
In-Person at your Municipal Clerk's Office (Early Voting)
You can also vote absentee at your local municipal clerk's office. In-person absentee voting (also known as early voting) runs for two weeks before an election, ending at 5 p.m. or the close of business (whichever is later) on the Friday before the election. In 2012, the dates are October 22 to November 2. Please check with your municipal clerk for office hours.
You can find your clerk at My Vote WI: myvote.wi.gov by searching for your voter record or performing an address search. You can also find your clerk by searching through the list of all Wisconsin municipal clerks.
If you apply for an absentee ballot in your municipal clerk's office, you must vote immediately, seal your ballot in the proper envelope, and return it to a member of the clerk's staff. No ballots may be taken from the clerk's office.
There are many things that unite us as a local. Our love of fair wages & benefits. A good education and equal opportunity to work. Governmental legislation to give us a fair shot at honest work. And time off to do the things we love with family & or friends. Whether it be enjoying play time or a the great outdoors, many of us have found such common ground with our brothers on the job. Many of us are proud IBEW members who volunteer our time to community without asking in return. Many of us are proud NRA members as well. We are a brotherhood of Sportsmen; Hunters & Fishermen alike. And we enthusiastically defend our right to bear arms, to hunt, to fish, & to make a decent wage. My greatest concern is to those of us who choose to believe the lies & rhetoric without educating themselves with the facts concerning “gun control”.
Below is information debunking the political ads spreading fear about our current President. Please educate yourself, and as brothers, help to stop the lies when talking with others. No good decision was ever made out of fear alone. See through the lies.
“And now, they are attacking our 2nd Amendment Rights…”, NRA Political Victory Fund ad, showing now in 4 battleground states; Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia—as well as being shown in targeted online ads.
Here are some facts you should know about…
The 2nd amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, would have to be repealed for any guns to be taken away. What would that entail?
FIRST, an amendment would have to be PROPOSED. SECOND, it needs to be ratified. What sort of numbers are required to do this? Check out this chart from http://www.thisnation.com/textbook/constitution-amend.html
According to http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/R41647.pdf
Currently in the House of Representatives there are 241 Republicans, 198 Democrats (including
5 Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), and 2 vacant seats. The Senate has 47 Republicans,51 Democrats, and 2 Independents, who caucus with the Democrats.
Republicans currently control 31 of 49 state houses and 29 state senates. They enjoy control of both state legislative chambers and the governor’s office in 22 states.
Do any of you REALLY THINK that the Democrats can get 2/3 BOTH the House and Senate to even PROPOSE a constitutional amendment? If they did, what chance is there to get ¾ of the State Legislatures to agree? The NRA position that President Obama will take away guns is purely a case of fear-mongering…PLEASE DO NOT FALL FOR THIS!
Look up the facts, stay informed!
Co written by: Jeff Hankey and Chris Van Alstine
|Creating a Culture of Civility by State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“Sure the economy is a concern,” said the woman at the door. “But what I want is for all of you to get along. Can’t you learn how to compromise?”
Over and again I hear people asking politicians to get along and get things done.
In the world of politics there is a culture of competition where winning at all cost is what’s most important.
While this might work for the NFL, it’s not an effective way to run state government.
There is a price to pay in a culture where winner takes all. Sometimes the vanquished becomes the victor and the tables are turned.
The result is a seesawing of proposals and laws that conflict with each other. The obvious example is the recent court decision overturning Act 10, but other examples abound.
People say they want leaders to compromise, but voters often reward elected leaders who do not. Especially lately, people elected some leaders who act in very uncompromising ways.
Some of this action can be traced to the will of interest groups.
My colleagues and I face groups from all sides. These groups are a part of the political process. They represent and gather money from people in our neighborhoods; doctors, farmers, business owners, all have interests to pursue in state politics. Other groups gather extensive resources from outside our state.
The leaders of the organizations know the way to keep their organization going is to ‘win’ the game by bringing back to their members legislation they want passed.
Woe to the lawmaker who reads the bill and says, “I’d like to make some changes,” or worse yet, writes his or her own bill on the topic.
Lawmakers who successfully change a bill to reflect concerns brought by others are accused of “watering down” the bill. Interest groups work hard to get their members to contact the lawmaker to remove the offending amendment.
This is part of our political process. The push and pull that takes place in the rowdy world of the statehouse will always happen.
But what’s changed is the number of lawmakers who seem unwilling to compromise. Too seldom will lawmakers bring all sides to the table to sort out the details of how to make permanent change through compromise.
There are leaders on both sides of the aisle who do act to find solutions that benefit all the public’s interest. Many demonize these leaders. Sometimes the attacks are not on the substance of policy but are personal.
For a thousand years leaders and public figures have been the target of jest and humiliation. What’s changed is how quickly we sit down at a computer and fire off an email with the intensity of language we would never use in person.
This happened recently to anchor Jennifer Livingston of WKBT-TV in La Crosse.
Jennifer used a biting personal attack as a teachable moment and took to the air to decry cyber-bullying and encourage youth of all stripes to gain confidence to stand up to bullies. She received international attention because of her courage.
Ms. Livingston’s response teaches all of us there is a better way to express ourselves. There is a level of respect all must maintain, even in the criticism of others.
Those of us in the political world would be wise to heed her advice. Every one of us has a responsibility to help create a culture of civility.
I receive a postcard regularly from a man in Milwaukee. I don’t know his name because he never signs it. But for a year and a half, he sent postcards, sometimes several per week, to my office and my home.
The message on the postcard is always demeaning and often personal. To him I say, “Your words are cruel and unnecessary. They contribute to the very culture you despise. Please stop.”
To the rest of our world I say, honor each other despite our differences. Every one of us can create a world in which we respect each other. Then maybe we can offer support even to the politician who works to bring compromise to the table.
|Audit Provides Insight to State's Management Problems by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Audit Provides Insight to State’s Management Problems
How well did state government manage the $15 billion in federal money received last fiscal year? This is the subject of the annual “single” audit.
The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released their analysis of the state’s activities related to federal money. The audit provides insight into the management challenges within state government.
Three major problems came to light as I read the nearly 300 page document. All are related. State agencies computer systems do not adequately provide needed oversight; systems to adequately monitor those who receive federal dollars are either not in place or not followed; turnover in state employment is exceptionally high which leaves gaps in critical jobs.
In many programs auditors found documents missing; needed oversight not performed; compliance with federal rules not assured and inaccurate figures in reports. The inability to reconcile numbers between different accounting systems is a reoccurring theme.
Some state agencies were disbanded and employees laid-off or transferred. Auditors did not find records associated with the transferred programs. For example, records formerly held by the Department of Commerce (an agency disbanded by Governor Walker) were not available. When auditors were not provided adequate documents, they could not assure compliance with federal rules.
Errors existed in many reports. In one case a $40,000 error resulted from counting state money as federal money. In another case missing vendor payments for the Energy Assistance Program left an $800,000 understatement of federal money spent.
In the Department of Children and Families auditors found errors in reports due to staff turnover and limited review of work. For example, staff errors in data entry and miscalculations resulted in a claim of more than $96,000 in foster care services that were never performed. As a result of inaccurate reporting in first quarter of last year DCF over-charged the feds $1.9 million in foster care - money that had to be repaid.
A lack of oversight of state contractors and grant award recipients also plagues state government. Auditors found the state was not compliant with the federal Davis-Bacon Act that requires wages paid to certain workers to be no less than the US Department of Labor ‘prevailing wage’.
At the Department of Health Services, auditors found 1 in 5 audits of federal grant recipients were not performed on time. The Department said the delay was due to staff turnover and workload increase.
Similarly, other parts of state government failed to adequately monitor those receiving federal funds. For example, the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded over $6 million in grants for transportation services to needy citizens. DOT failed to provide adequate oversight to these grant recipients, including any of the required site visits. Auditors found inaccurate financial reporting in all 13 financial reports submitted in April, 2011. Officials said staff turnover led to these inaccurate reports.
DOT also did not follow procedures or keep complete records on vehicles purchased under the federal transit programs. Officials blamed the lack of staff and promised to fill a position vacant since last February. Due to the lack of oversight, DOT could not be assured funds were being spent for the purposes of the transit program.
The errors in oversight can result in fines, sanctions or money returned to the federal government. In several cases, the state returned money to the federal government because mistakes were made and rules broken. For example, the Department of Health received a $2.7 million fine because a contract extension was not approved.
The state must provide careful management and oversight of money coming from the federal government through the state to local governments and contractors and vendors in the private sector. When the state fails to properly manage these funds, penalties and sanctions take precious money from state coffers to pay fines.
When state government functions are not adequately staffed, staff not adequately monitored and when proper systems are not in place, necessary oversight does not happen.
The single audit is complex because it reflects the complexity of federal programs. But the insight gained by studying the audit provides a blueprint we can use to ensure adequate oversight and management of state government.
|Senator Vinehout: We Need a New Economic Game Plan
Vinehout: We Need a New Economic Game Plan
“If we want to bring jobs back to Wisconsin we need a completely different game plan,” Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Democratic candidate for Governor, told the Wisconsin College Democrats at their convention Sunday in Pewaukee.
“Investment in our human potential is key to Wisconsin growth,” Vinehout said. “Education is the primary driver of economic prosperity. Incomes climb with educational achievement.”
“In the last year we have seen nearly the largest cuts in the nation to education, and we have lost more jobs than any other state. There is a connection.
“We saw millions cut from our technical colleges and companies can’t find workers with the needed skills to fill available jobs,” Vinehout said.
“The Governor’s thinking is that if the public sector is starved – taxes are reduced, regulations are eliminated, programs are slashed -- the private sector will be set free and thrive. That’s a great theory, but the facts don’t back it up,” Vinehout told the students.
“Jobs, education, and great places to live all go together,” Vinehout said. “Two years ago Des Moines, Iowa, topped the Forbes list of ‘best places for businesses and careers’ and also topped the Forbes list of ‘best places to raise a family’.”
Vinehout noted that the common ingredient for making Des Moines the ‘best place’ to raise a family and the ‘best place’ for business was the human factor -- good schools and a well educated labor force.
“What is good for families is also good for business and education is basic to both,” Vinehout said.
“Government puts the fertility into the soil out of which jobs grow. Our job in government is to make the soil rich, educate our children in quality schools we are proud of, make our communities safe, train our workers in the latest technologies, keep our environment clean and healthy, modernize our transportation and communication networks, and support a quality of life we enjoy,” Vinehout said.
“If the soil is rich, the economy will grow. The public sector provides the nutrients, and the private sector provides the plants. We are in this together, public and private. We need to understand this is a vital partnership.”
Vinehout laid out a six-point plan for making education a priority again for Wisconsin.
“We have to restore the money that has been cut from education – bringing back the teachers that have been laid off, restoring the courses that have been cut, returning to smaller classes.
“We need a fairer way of funding schools. As Governor, I will propose a five-year phase in of much of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers’ Fair Funding for Schools proposal beginning with an emergency funding bill before the end of the coming school year. Full implementation of school funding reforms will continue in the next two state budgets.
“At the same time Wisconsin moves towards a fair funding for schools, we must improve academic performance, increase the graduation rate, and close the achievement gap. A transparent system of accountability is essential for all schools – including voucher and charter schools.
“I also propose fully funding technical colleges and the UW system. I support the University of Wisconsin’s Growth Agenda and will aggressively encourage traditional and non-traditional students alike to complete their bachelor’s degree.
“We have to keep tuition affordable so everyone who wants to, can go to one of the technical colleges or to one of the UW campuses. We must recognize not all smart students are rich students. We have to increase our levels of student aid so that students from low income families are not denied an opportunity.
“We have to make teaching an honored profession again so the best and brightest of our college graduates choose the career of teaching the next generation.”
Vinehout told the students, “This recall election is about your future, what the community you will be living in 20 years from now will be like. How you vote this year will determine whether today’s vision will become tomorrow’s reality.”
|Study: Corruption Risk Huge for State Government by Kathleen Vinehout
Study: Corruption Risk Huge for State Government
Is state government open to citizens? Are needed anti-corruption measures in place and working? Is state government accountable to the people?
These are questions asked by authors of the State Integrity Investigation. This is a first-of-its-kind study of state government. The group recently released its assessment of all fifty states.
Each state was measured in 14 categories and given a final grade. No state earned a grade of“A” and only 5 states received a “B”.
Wisconsin received a grade of “C-” which ranks us four points below Illinois.
Our state ranked below other states in pension fund oversight, redistricting and internal auditing. The work of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) helped keep the state from a failing grade. The GAB discloses lobbying activities and oversees campaign financing, ethics and elections.
Wisconsin’s process of legislative redistricting – or the redrawing of the lines of legislative districts – received the study’s lowest grade of “F”.
The study highlighted Republican lawmakers’ action of signing pledges not to share information about the new lines with the public. Study authors also mentioned Republican leaders told their members to ignore public input regarding the maps.
I, and many of my colleagues, have long argued new maps should be drawn by nonpartisan entity. I favor using the Legislative Council; the nonpartisan attorneys staffing the Legislature. These professionals already work with local leaders to draw compact and competitive districts at the local level.Coordinating the work of local government with state legislative lines makes sense.
Legislative leaders called for a vote to pass the new maps last summer only five days after maps were first made public. Legislative leaders held a single public hearing on the redrawn legislative districts and failed to gain input from local officials – completely changing the process Wisconsin followed in the past.
Speed and secrecy are reoccurring themes in state government. When the public, and even their elected officials, have little input the majority party leaders hold nearly absolute power. This has been true under the reign of Republican and Democratic leaders alike.
Wisconsin also received low grades in the management of the state’s civil service system and public access to information. New laws make many state positions political appointments. This change shirks the long-standing tradition of employing and promoting qualified professionals rather than political friends.
The lack of transparency circumvents the very process of democracy. Legislation is like fish. We must open the package, set it on the table and let the sun shine on it. Only then can we see if it stinks.
Legislative decisions are, by design, slow and deliberative. People in all walks of life must be involved in the process. Only through truly open and transparent government can we arrive at solutions that work in the real world.
The same holds true for the administration of state government. For example, Wisconsin has been plagued with problems related to the management of contracts.
A recent audit of the state’s Medicaid system found $2 billion of the $7 billion program could not be assigned to the proper health program – be it Badger Care, Family Care or other programs. Part of the problem is the out-sourcing of 40% of the administration of our public health programs.
Contractors are doing more of the work of state government. But state oversight of contracts continues to deteriorate. The recent Medicaid audit found amendments were added to contracts that were not budgeted for, had never received legislative approval, were not competitively bid and the existence of which was never reported to the agency’s offices of procurement, budgeting and accounting.
State audits found problems in the oversight of state government. Information is often missing, incomplete or incomprehensible. As a result, legislative and executive decisions are often made ‘in the dark’ with little regard to the actual effectiveness of a program or even without adequate fiscal information on the cost of program expansions.
Transparency and accountability are essential to our democracy. We must all ensure public business is open to public scrutiny. Sen.Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said it well; “The best government is an open government in which the American people are able to see what policy makers are doing and have the opportunity to participate in their decision making.”
|State Budget Faces Big Shortfall
|STATE BUDGET FACES BIG SHORTFALL
|Friday February 10, 2012 by Shawn Johnson
|(STATE CAPITOL) Wisconsin's two-year budget faces a shortfall of at least 143-million dollars, a hole created largely by a drop in state income tax collections.
New numbers released yesterday by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau show that individual income tax collections would likely be roughly 140-million dollars less than previously projected. Sales, corporate and tobacco taxes were also down, a sign that the state economy was struggling by multiple measures.
At a press conference yesterday, Governor Scott Walker would not take questions on the shortfall. Democrats, like Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, were more talkative.
"You know, the Governor had promised people of the state that we would have a balanced budget. And clearly that didn't turn out to be the case," he says. "And obviously being the only state in the nation to have six straight months of unemployment is taking its toll."
If the numbers hold, Wisconsin would end the current fiscal year with a scant 11-million dollar balance. The only reason that's possible is that nearly 26-million dollars from a national mortgage settlement announced yesterday will be rolled directly into Wisconsin's general fund.
The Walker administration did not indicate it would need a budget repair bill to fix the two-year shortfall. The Governor's reaction is in stark contrast to a year ago, when the Fiscal Bureau released similar numbers. At the time Walker declared it a "fiscal crisis" and used the numbers to justify his controversial collective bargaining bill.
|Wisconsin's Finances : The Rest of The Story By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Wisconsin's Finances: the Rest of the Story
People I meet ask me “Do we have a deficit?” “Did the state really pay off all its debt?”
To understand the numbers, I recently spent time with the Legislature’s financial and auditing experts. I asked them to help explain the financial state of the state.
I learned ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’ are frequently confused.
Debt is money borrowed by the state and repaid over many years – like a home mortgage. A deficit occurs when expected current state revenues aren’t enough to cover expected current expenditures – will your paychecks cover everything you have to pay for this year.
Wisconsin’s debt is $13.5 billion and growing. The budget deficit – by accounting standards – is just under a negative $3 billion.
“I thought the governor balanced the budget,” I can hear you say. Here’s the rest of the story.
Budgets look forward. They compare expected revenue with expected expenditures. To start the process, Governors ask agency directors what money they need to keep their agencies running. New spending is added to current spending. Often requests are ‘pie in the sky’. What agency directors ask for is compared to estimated revenue. If the mismatch is negative there is a “deficit”. This is the origin of the $3.6 billion deficit often cited at the beginning of 2011.
The budget gurus told me governors usually start the budget process with a deficit and then, by law, are required to bring the budget into balance – expected spending during the budget years can’t be more than expected dollars coming in.
There is another type of deficit – an accounting deficit. Unlike the budgetary deficit that just looks at cash in and cash out during the year, the accounting deficit looks at orders made over the year, bills paid, and bills due but postponed. It measures how far into the hole you are, even if your check book still balances. At the end of 2011 auditors reported the accounting deficit was nearly $3 billion - somewhat larger than at the end of last year. The accounting deficit has been growing for many years.
The state debt is not the accumulation of deficits. The debt is the money borrowed to pay for long-term projects. During the 1990s Governor Thompson authorized a large prison building program. This cost a lot of money and increased state debt. In 2003 the state took on new debt to pay off unfunded pension obligations. In just seven years, from the mid-nineties to 2003, the state’s debt doubled.
During the Doyle administration, old university buildings were replaced and money was added to the Stewardship Fund. This added to the state’s debt.
A troubling aspect of state finances is “kicking the can down the road” or debt payments due but not paid. When the state fails to make a payment and adds this payment to future debt it costs taxpayers more.
Financial staff called this practice “scoop and toss” as debt payments that are due are scooped up and tossed into the future.
Many governors have followed this practice and Governor Walker is no exception. In May of 2011 the state did not pay a $190 million debt payment. In addition, under the current budget the state delays another $338 million debt payment. Together the over-half-a-billion in delayed debt payments will cost taxpayers nearly $150 million in additional interest.
Not making current debt payments that are due “kicks the can down the road,” increases interest obligations and leaves less money for schools, health care and roads.
Historically, Wisconsin’s annual debt payments as a percent of tax revenues are below four percent. Financial staff recommends that debt payments should not exceed three and a half percent.
Because of repeated delays in debt payments, including the over-half-a-billion delayed in 2011, the size of this important ratio grows to over five percent at the end of Governor Walker’s first budget; this places Wisconsin well in the danger-zone.
Wisconsin continues to face significant budget challenges. A public discussion about how to move Wisconsin forward must be based on the facts. Facts are stubborn things and demand respect.
|Wisconsin's Recall Law: To Assure the Consent of the Governed by State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Wisconsin's Recall Law: To Assure the Consent of the Governed
“Why do we have a recall law?” the man asked me. Many citizens have asked about the history of Wisconsin’s recall laws and the process of a recall.
In the early twentieth century, it was the beliefs of the Progressive movement that drove the recall law. The people believed voters should have “a direct voice in the affairs of government. As a 1954 state publication wrote, “The best cure for the ills of democracy, it was said, is more democracy.”
Citizens ask why officials can be recalled for the dissatisfaction of voters. This is part of the tradition around our recall laws. As explained in a 1980 publication of the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB):
“The principle underlying the recall of public officers has been defined as an effective speedy remedy to remove an official who is not giving satisfaction to the public and whom the electors do not want to remain in office, regardless of whether he is discharging his full duty to the best of his ability and as his conscience dictates.”
Often I am asked why someone should be recalled if they have not committed a crime. The LRB addresses this question, “The recall statutes do not contemplate a judicial inquiry into the truth of specific charges of misconduct, but are designed to afford relief from popular dissatisfaction with the official conduct of an officer.”
The recall of public officials began in Switzerland. Recalls were used during the Continental Congress when Pennsylvania delegates refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. A 1907 LRB document explains the principle of recall is not unlike that of the British system in which Parliament is dissolved, members go back to the people and a new Parliament is elected.
In Wisconsin, Governor Bob La Follette first suggested adoption of recall laws in his 1905 message to the Legislature. Every session after that, bills were introduced to recall city officials until a new law passed in 1911.
Also in 1911 a constitutional amendment to recall state officials was first introduced. It took until 1926 for people of Wisconsin to adopt the amendment to the state constitution. By this time ten other states took action to recall state officials. Today nineteen states have recall laws affecting state officials.
The first successful recall of a Governor happened in North Dakota in 1921. The second, and only other gubernatorial recall, resulted in the election of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. Governor Gray Davis was recalled partly because citizens felt he had mismanaged events leading up to an energy crisis.
In Wisconsin, during the 65-year period between 1911 and 1977, there were only 8 recall elections. Six of these recalls happened in Wisconsin Rapids during the 1930s. All six recalls involved school board members- three who dismissed a superintendent and three for their part in dismissing teachers for engaging in union activity. History tells us about a rash of recalls in 1977 when five school board members and a judge was recalled. But nothing in history compares to the present time.
Wisconsin’s recall law requires valid signatures equal to 25% of the vote for governor in the last election be collected in a 60-day window. The state law provides time periods for signature verification, challenges, rebuttals and court reviews.
If sufficient signatures are validated to generate an election, the coming gubernatorial general election will be between the current governor and the candidate who wins the Democratic Primary. The Government Accountability Board will set the date for a primary election.
The general election will be held on the Tuesday of the 4th week following the primary. It is likely the general election will not be held until early summer. As the election approaches it is important citizens stay involved, informed and get the proper voter ID.
In the end, it is the people of Wisconsin who decide the results of any election. At a recent gathering, Senator Mark Miller reminded me of the power Wisconsin’s constitution gives the people. He said, “We govern with the consent of the governed. And they have the right to withdraw their consent."
|Looking Back On 2011 - A Year OF Democracy By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
December 21, 2011
During the Holiday Season many visitors come to the Capitol. Families come to see the beautifully decorated tree that graces the Capitol rotunda. Some people gather to sing songs.
While the full Senate didn’t convene in December, committee hearings kept me in Madison most of the month. During this time I took an inventory of the concerns of those who contacted me this year.
During 2011 many people participated in the democratic process and expressed their opinions. Compared to last year, my dedicated staff and I had the honor to receive contact from nearly ten times as many citizens: 26,000 people.
Last year one-half of all contact came by email. But in 2011, ninety-four percent of contact came by email. Part of the reason may be the sense of urgency people had related to the fast-moving ‘budget repair’ bill.
Nearly three-quarters of those who called or wrote from our Senate District were opposed to the bill that became known as “Act 10”. Nearly 400 constituents came to my Capitol office to express their concern about the ‘budget repair’ bill.
People did express opinions about other legislation. The top bills people cared enough to call or write about included the state budget (476 people); changes in firearms laws (278 people); voter ID (139 people); redistricting – changes in legislative boundaries (100 people) and issues related to education – other than the budget or Act 10 (92 people).
Ninety-three percent of those who wrote were opposed to the state budget; eighty-six percent favored changes to gun laws; ninety-two percent opposed the new Voter ID law. Every person who wrote about changes to the legislative districts was opposed to the bill. Everyone who wrote about changes in education that would allow, among other things, new independent charter schools was opposed to these changes.
When citizens contact their legislators it is important legislators listen. Emails or calls are all logged and counted. As I prepare for every vote I read through all the contact I received on an issue. Sometimes early in the process a call or a note from a citizen makes a big difference in whether or not a bill becomes a law. Many times a citizen wrote and I asked permission to share their email during a committee hearing. The concern they raised or suggestion they offered can end up changing, delaying or even stopping passage of a bill.
It is very important citizens take the time to let elected officials know their opinions. This is fundamental to our democracy – the representation of the people’s interests.
But my job is not all bills and policy. At least half of my job is what I call ‘social work’ or helping people navigate the state bureaucracy. Nearly every day I receive a call that requires providing assistance to constituents not related to legislation. This assistance can be help with a public program like Food Share or energy assistance; help with child custody or child support and many issues related to health insurance.
The economic downturn brought an increase in the number and types of calls. This year I received calls from many people involved in foreclosures or other housing or financial problems; both businesses and citizens called with concerns about unemployment insurance. A number of constituents needed assistance working through the bureaucracy of the Departments of Natural Resources or Transportation.
I also routinely work with our federal officials to resolve problems with Social Security, Disability and Medicare questions. Local elected officials and I often join together to local communities obtain grants or other assistance. Local leaders can make a big impact on our communities. But they, like other citizens, need assistance with the state bureaucracy.
A big ‘thank-you’ goes to my senate staff: Ben Larson, Joel Nilsestuen and Linda Kleinschmidt who made sure the phones, emails and questions were answered. And a ‘thank-you’ to all who contacted us and gave us the opportunity to serve you.
|Wisconsin Firm's Move To Replace Striking Workers Sparks Statewide Solidarity
Friday Dec 9, 2011 12:52 pm
Wis. Firm’s Move to Replace Striking Workers Sparks Statewide Solidarity
Members of the International Association of Machinists picket in Manitowoc, Wis., in late November. This week, the Manitowoc Co. announced it would replace 200 of the union's striking workers. (Photo by Bryan Pfeifer/Wisconsin AFL-CIO)
A new battle in Wisconsin's labor wars, this time in private sector
On December 7, exactly 70 years later after "the day that will live in infamy,” the Manitowoc Company dropped a surprise of its own: the manufacturer announced it will replace 200 striking members of International Association of Machinists (IAM) Lodge 516 in Manitowoc, Wis., a quiet, pleasant town of about 34,000 located on Lake Michigan.
“This is a Scott Walker-style attack on workers,” declared state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale, referring to the Wisconsin governor's assault on public-employee union rights early this year. "It’s not about wages or benefits. It’s about management wanting total power.”
The use of “scab” replacement workers has been relatively rare over the last 40 years in Wisconsin, a state with a strong union history. But in almost every instance—during the nine-year Kohler strike in nearby Sheboygan in the 1950s and 1960s, the 1975 Meatcutters strike in Milwaukee, the 1987 strike at the Patrick Cudahy plant just south of Milwaukee, and the 1991 Rainfair strike in Racine—the introduction of replacement workers triggered long and bitterly divisive struggles that shook the communities for prolonged periods.
When workers' jobs are threatened by bringing in replacements for simply exercising their right to strike—an option workers would prefer to avoid—the intensity of the conflict inevitably mushrooms. If Manitowoc Co. remains steadfast in its plans, the plan to replace strikers will make the community a national symbol of the battle for fundamental labor rights.
Determined to bring the weight of the Wisconsin labor movement into the battle early on, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO is planning a mass rally in support of the Manitowoc Machinists on Saturday, December 10, said the AFL-CIO's Bloomingdale.
The rally will feature expressions of support from local clergy and other unions at the Manitowoc Co. including the Boilermakers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Office and Professional Employees International Union. There will also be a considerable presence of other unions and the Occupy protesters from across the state.
LAST-MINUTE DEMAND BY MANAGEMENT DISRUPTS BARGAINING
Negotiations over a new contract to replace the one that expired October 31 had been proceeding relatively well until Manitowoc Co. unveiled a last-minute proposal to take away the “union shop” provision in the contract. With the corporation unwilling to budge, the IAM voted 180-2 to strike. The walkout began November 15.
“The union serves as the workers’ democratic voice in the shop, and the Manitowoc Co. is trying to divide and weaken that voice, just as Gov. Walker and major corporations want to silence the voice of labor in Wisconsin and continue trying to crush the middle class,” Bloomingdale told In These Times.
“While there was agreement on many issues, the company proposed new language toward the end of the negotiations that was absolutely unacceptable,” IAM District 10 business representative Benito Elizondo said. “The company proposed eliminating long-standing contract language requiring any employee who benefits from negotiated wages and benefits to become a member of the union that negotiated those benefits.”
“This is the private-sector equivalent of what Republican Governor Scott Walker imposed on Wisconsin's public-sector employees, “ IAM Lodge 516 stated on its website.
The Manitowoc Co. has even echoed Walker’s call for annual elections for re-certification of the IAM, Elizondo told the Capital Times of Madison:
"It's nothing but union busting," says Elizondo. ... Elizondo says the company has also talked about requiring a union recertification vote every year. Walker included a similar requirement for public unions in his budget legislation.
"I think all of this is being driven by what has happened at the state level," says Elizondo. "They went after the public worker unions first and now the private sector is following their lead."
UNION SHOP PREVENTS MANAGEMENT FROM DIVIDING WORKERS
“The existence of the union shop is fundamental to labor unions democratically serving as the voice of all workers in a workplace,” Bloomingdale says. “All workers belong so that management cannot play non-members off against members, and the union can truly represent the entire workforce.“
In the low-wage, mostly Southern states where the “union shop” is banned, unions are nonetheless legally obligated to fully represent workers who do not pay dues. This creates an incentive for workers to reap the benefits of union efforts while appeasing management. Meanwhile, managers are able to gradually erode union strength by selectively hiring new workers who are anti-union.
“The aim of the Manitowoc Company, like Gov. Walker, is to weaken the voice of organized labor which has spoken up for all workers and built the middle class," Bloomingdale insists.
The company did not set the stage for a major war with labor because of economic pressures. Its earnings grew in the third quarter of 2011, as “The Manitowoc Company reported sales of $935 million in its Foodservice and Cranes operating groups for the third quarter, including a 20.7 percent increase in cranes' sales."
For his labors in 2010, Manitowoc Co. President and CEO Glen E. Tellock reinforced his status as a member of America's top 1%, receiving $4,905,385 in total compensation. The median US worker made $33,840 in 2010.
For Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet, the newly-formed law firm which Manitowoc has retained, the strike can serve to establish its name as a hard-nosed anti-union outfit in a time of resurgent worker militancy. As described in a Business Journal of Milwaukee headline outlining the law firm's recent formation, "Timing good for labor law firm."
But for the striking Machinists, a pre-Christmas strike they sought to avoid is hardly "good timing." Nor is the Manitowoc community likely to be delighted by an intense and bitter conflict sweeping the community during the holiday season.
However, for the striking workers and the broader labor movement, the battle is not one that they can afford to walk away from.
“This battle forced on workers by Manitowoc Company is another reminder that unions are essential to a truly democratic society, as a firewall against a society driven by unbridled greed,” Bloomingdale says. “We are standing up for the middle class and the 99%.”
|The Rebirth of Social Darwinism By Robert Reich
The Rebirth of Social Darwinism
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2011
What kind of society, exactly, do modern Republicans want? I’ve been listening to Republican candidates in an effort to discern an overall philosophy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal picture of America.
They say they want a smaller government but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more muscular homeland security. Almost all want to widen the government’s powers of search and surveillance inside the United States – eradicating possible terrorists, expunging undocumented immigrants, “securing” the nation’s borders. They want stiffer criminal sentences, including broader application of the death penalty. Many also want government to intrude on the most intimate aspects of private life.
They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal, and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, laws against child labor, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.
They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.
It was an era when the nation was mesmerized by the doctrine of free enterprise, but few Americans actually enjoyed much freedom. Robber barons like the financier Jay Gould, the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, controlled much of American industry; the gap between rich and poor had turned into a chasm; urban slums festered; children worked long hours in factories; women couldn’t vote and black Americans were subject to Jim Crow; and the lackeys of rich literally deposited sacks of money on desks of pliant legislators.
Most tellingly, it was a time when the ideas of William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, dominated American social thought. Sumner brought Charles Darwin to America and twisted him into a theory to fit the times.
Few Americans living today have read any of Sumner’s writings but they had an electrifying effect on America during the last three decades of the 19th century.
To Sumner and his followers, life was a competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive – and through this struggle societies became stronger over time. A correlate of this principle was that government should do little or nothing to help those in need because that would interfere with natural selection.
Listen to today’s Republican debates and you hear a continuous regurgitation of Sumner. “Civilization has a simple choice,” Sumner wrote in the 1880s. It’s either “liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest,” or “not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”
Newt Gingrich not only echoes Sumner’s thoughts but mimics Sumner’s reputed arrogance. Gingrich says we must reward “entrepreneurs” (by which he means anyone who has made a pile of money) and warns us not to “coddle” people in need. He calls laws against child labor “truly stupid,” and says poor kids should serve as janitors in their schools. He opposes extending unemployment insurance because, he says, ”I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.”
Sumner, likewise, warned against handouts to people he termed “negligent, shiftless, inefficient, silly, and imprudent.”
Mitt Romney doesn’t want the government to do much of anything about unemployment. And he’s dead set against raising taxes on millionaires, relying on the standard Republican rationale millionaires create jobs.
Here’s Sumner, more than a century ago: “Millionaires are the product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done… It is because they are thus selected that wealth aggregates under their hands – both their own and that intrusted to them … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society.” Although they live in luxury, “the bargain is a good one for society.”
Other Republican hopefuls also fit Sumner’s mold. Ron Paul, who favors repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan, was asked at a Republican debate in September what medical response he’d recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma. Paul’s response: “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” The Republican crowd cheered.
In other words, if the young man died for lack of health insurance, he was responsible. Survival of the fittest.
Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was “merely a survival of the fittest.” It was, he insisted “the working out of a law of nature and of God.”
Social Darwinism also undermined all efforts at the time to build a nation of broadly-based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn’t do much of anything.
Not until the twentieth century did America reject Social Darwinism. We created the large middle class that became the core of our economy and democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward through no fault of their own. We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods – public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health – that made us all better off.
In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on his or her own in a competitive contest for survival.
But make no mistake: If one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls becomes president, and if regressive Republicans take over the House or Senate, or both, Social Darwinism is back.
|Education Budget Cuts bring Challenges, Controversy by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Education Budget Cuts bring Challenges, Controversy
State officials recently announced this year’s final state aid sent to local school districts. All but 13 of Wisconsin’s 424 local school districts received cuts in state aid.
The historic school aid reduction in Wisconsin is the second largest per pupil cut in the nation.
Local education leaders, parents and teachers are concerned about the long-term effects of such deep funding cuts.
At the same time, Governor Walker’s recent radio address touted his commitment to education. “We kept education a priority” he said. “We also passed reforms that will help protect taxpayers and improve government.” These ‘reforms’ involve changes in employee contributions to pensions and health insurance and changes in work rules.
While the governor suggests his ‘reforms are working’; education officials report otherwise. Budget cuts impact every level of education. Local schools, technical colleges and UW campuses are all coping with changes required by deep budget cuts.
Western Technical College lost $2.3 million in state aid. About two thirds was made up by increased staff payments. The college was forced to cut dental hygienist and interior design programs plus other classes and staff.
UW La Crosse employees contributed about a fifth of the total $5.2 million cut in state aid. To adjust for the remaining cuts the university delayed maintenance among other changes.
UW River Falls faces a new round of cuts estimated at $1.8 million. This comes on top of the $2.8 million cuts required by the budget earlier this summer.
UW Eau Claire saw a 23% - or ten million - drop state aid. Not included is an estimated $3.5 million cut just ordered by the state.
Higher education cuts mean students pay more tuition and graduate with more debt. Tuition increases made up only one-fifth of the budget cut. Increased employee contributions added another 30%. Universities struggle to make up the rest.
Similar compromises are made by K-12 superintendents. Almost 9 in 10 students attend a school with a net staff reduction. One in five students attends a school where five or more programs experienced staff cuts. Nearly 60% of districts increased class sizes. The budget axe fell hardest on special education, school counseling and library services.
State Superintendent Tony Evers argues for a better way to hold down property taxes without cutting investments in public education. “My Fair Funding for Our Future plan to reform the way we pay for public school [will hold] the line on property taxes”. His funding proposal has not been taken up by the Legislature.
UW Madison Dean of Education, Julie Underwood is concerned with the long-term effects of the education cuts. “This will affect young people not only in certain parts of Wisconsin but statewide. We are not preparing students for the rigors and challenges of life as an adult…there are serious consequences.”
The deepest damage may be yet to come. Two thirds of superintendents surveyed expect the same or deeper cuts next year.
Former state superintendent ‘Bert’ Grover commented on the ‘savings’ given schools to cope with the budget cuts. “Let’s not forget that most of these are one-time savings that won’t be around next year. Wait two years from now and we’ll see what we’ve done.”
These cuts did not have to happen. Two years ago we faced twice the budget deficit of this year. Revenue was dropping like a rock. But we balanced the budget. We made cuts but preserved the integrity of public education.
The current state budget spends two billion more than last year. And legislative leaders bought over two hundred million in new tax credits which add up to over two billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years.
This state budget does not pay bills coming due. Instead hundreds of millions of dollars of debt is restructured, not to gain a lower interest rate, but to completely avoid the payments. Postponed debt will cost the state nearly $90 million in interest over the next 20 years.
This budget moves large amounts of money from one fund to another. The bulk of this money comes out of the state’s general checkbook leaving less for schools, colleges and universities.
Parents pay more for tuition. Students have larger classes and fewer choices. Teachers and superintendents face seemingly insurmountable challenges. None of this had to happen.
|Keep Citizens' Voice in Conservation Matters By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Keep Citizens' Voice in Conservation Matters
Do you hunt or fish? Want some say in the rules? You can go to the spring Conservation Congress meeting and vote on hunting and fishing rules.
But a law passed in May shuts down the voice of the Conservation Congress. This new law needs to be changed.
Every spring hunters and anglers gather in school auditoriums, listen to presentations and cast their ballots. Hunters and anglers vote on advisory questions, resolutions, and elect county delegates. Later in the year the elected leaders of the Conservation Congress work with the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to seek approval of the rules.
It’s as much a Wisconsin tradition as the nine-day gun hunt. And it’s about to change.
At a recent DNR Board meeting, members heard why these annual spring meetings cannot continue. The reason: a new law - Act 21 - that requires gubernatorial approval at the beginning and the end of the rule-making process.
Act 21 significantly changes the state’s rule-making process. The result is a much longer process that begins and ends with the governor.
“Act 21 places unprecedented power in the hands of the governor,” wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last July. “Is it necessary or desirable for a governor to approve even a change in hunting season dates or a fish bag limit?”
Rule-making is a rather obscure part of state government. Once a law is passed, the agency responsible for the new law sets down the details of how the law will be actually carried out. Those details are generally not contained in a new law but do follow the intent of the legislature. Sometimes old rules need to be revised.
Many hunting and fishing rules change as wildlife management practices change. Local citizens provide input to these changes in the annual spring meetings. For example, hunters can now shoot from a hay wagon not attached to a truck or tractor. This came about because citizens voted last spring to support the change.
Encouraging ice fishing with a free ice fishing weekend is another citizen idea that came through the Conservation Congress and is now part of Wisconsin law. This is a designated weekend where no fishing license is required.
Proponents of Act 21 argued the law would streamline the regulatory process; but the result was exactly the opposite.
"Act 21 substantially delays the adoption of hunting, fishing and trapping rules which are strongly supported by Wisconsin sportsmen and women through the Conservation Congress process,” said George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “The Conservation Congress assures that there is strong support for hunting, fishing and trapping regulation in the state and Act 21 is truly excessive government red tape and overkill."
DNR officials say Act 21 doubles the time needed to approve a rule. Even the Governor’s spokesman acknowledged the law extended the rule-making process. This new bureaucracy changes the spring conservation meetings; perhaps to meeting only every other year. This plan does not sit well with Congress officials who still plan to hold annual meetings even if their input is not wanted every year.
The Conservation Congress has been around since 1934. It was created to give citizens a voice in all matters related to conservation. According to its website, the Wisconsin Conservation Congress is the only ‘advisory body’ in the state where citizens elect delegates to represent their interests by working with the DNR.
Overlaying the very democratic process of the Conservation Congress with the new hierarchical rule-making process of Act 21 just doesn’t work.
I wrote a bill to make the Conservation Congress exempt from Act 21. The bill would return to the democratic process followed during the annual, local spring meetings.
Democracy is defined in words written on the ceiling of the Governor’s Conference Room - 'the will of the people is the law of the land'. There's no clearer example of this than the work of the Conservation Congress. Let's keep it this way!
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|Survey Shows Fewer Teachers, Fewer Student Opportunities By State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Survey Shows Fewer Teachers, Fewer Student Opportunities
Over the past two months I received numerous postcards with one main message: my public school has changed.
The stories shared came from all over the state: larger class sizes, fewer teachers and aides, fewer electives and core class sections, fewer reading and special ed teachers, fewer guidance counselors, fewer janitors and support staff, longer bus routes, book budgets slashed, maintenance delayed, sports dropped or consolidated.
Results of a new survey of Wisconsin superintendents provide numbers to support the message on the postcards: Schools are losing teachers and staff. Programs are cut back.
Public schools suffered historic budget cuts. The state budget cut $1.6 billion from schools. Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in cuts to school aid per student this year.
In September superintendents across Wisconsin reported on actions taken in response to the deep budget cuts. Over 80% of superintendents responded to the survey, including all but two districts in our Senate District.
Results show substantial cuts in teachers and support staff; changes in programs and class sizes. Ninety-seven percent of schools experienced budget cuts. Almost nine in ten students attend a school that suffered a net staff reduction. One in five students attends a school where five or more programs experienced staff cuts. The program most likely to experience staff cuts was special education; followed by library/media centers.
State-wide, 4000 teachers, support staff and administrators were laid-off or did not have contracts renewed. Another 4500 teachers and others retired. This retirement is two-and-one-half times the rate of the previous year. Only 60% of those who left were replaced.
Since staff make up 70% to 80% of a school’s budget, it makes sense deep cuts result in fewer opportunities for students.
I examined survey reports of cuts made to schools in our Senate District. I discovered western Wisconsin children faired worse than the state average. State-wide one quarter of schools suffered cuts or increased class sizes in core classes of English, Math, Science and Social Science; among western Wisconsin districts it was more than a third.
State-wide about fifteen percent of schools saw cuts or increased class sizes in Advanced Placement (AP); in our Senate District changes affected about a third of districts.
About a quarter of districts state-wide reported cuts or increased class sizes in vocational and technical classes; in western Wisconsin almost half.
Most striking were changes to art, music and physical education. Two-and-a-half times as many districts in western Wisconsin reported cuts or increased class sizes in art, music and physical education as the state-wide average.
The Governor’s spokesman criticized the survey saying lay-offs happened in areas that ‘didn’t adopt the reforms put in place by Governor Walker’.
But survey results show no significant difference in teacher job loss between those schools with and those without teacher union contracts.
Things are not expected to improve. State-wide two-thirds of districts expect next year’s staff cuts to be as bad or worse. In our Senate District, of those who reported their plans for the future, over 80% of superintendents expect cuts next year to be as deep or deeper. Part of the reason: 45% of superintendents reported using federal stimulus money they saved. This will not be available next year.
Schools are suffering and the future of our children is at stake.
Deep cuts to our schools did not need to happen. The state budget increased spending by 2% and more money went to private school voucher programs. There is a better way to balance the state budget with the same dollars. I wrote an alternative budget returning the majority of reduced aid to public schools while paying down debt and not raising taxes.
Fixing the state education budget is a solvable problem. We can gain efficiencies without jeopardizing our children’s future. State Superintendent Tony Evers introduced a plan to revamp the school funding formula and developed task forces on teacher evaluation and accountability. We must move on these plans.
Public education is the most important thing state government does. It takes up the largest portion of our tax dollars and affects every community in our state. We must get it right.
The full survey can be found here: http://dpi.wi.gov/eis/pdf/wasdasurveyresults.pdf
|Case Closed: Scott Walker's Budget Destroying Public Education
Case Closed: Scott Walker's Budget Destroying Public Education
MADISON-Following is the statement of Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate following the release of a definitive report by the Department of Public Instruction that shows massive cuts by Scott Walker are destroying public education.
"Scott Walker's rhetoric met reality today, with a report that is as sad as it is shocking for the future of our public schools. Contrary to months of propaganda supported by corporate front groups, Wisconsin's schools are suffering at the direct hands of Walker's immoral budget. When seven of 10 students attend a district with fewer teachers and nine out of 10 students saw a cut in staff, when 40 percent of our schools have larger class sizes and when more than 60 percent of our school districts say they see more drastic cuts coming, Scott Walker should be ashamed to claim that his assault on public education is working.
According to the data, even one of the anecdotes that Scott Walker trots out most regularly, the Kaukauna School District, is a sham, with that school at the top of the list in losing teachers and increasing student-to-teacher ratio.
The propaganda machine for Scott Walker is well-funded - as we see with his shameless fundraising trip to Arizona, Kansas and California in the next week that begins today. The corporate front groups that have infested our state have tried mightily to fool, confuse and lie to the Wisconsin public. Today's report is a damning rebuke to any of those who yet believed Walker's hollow empty rhetoric that cutting education in Wisconsin by $2.6 billion, to fund tax cuts for the very rich, would help our schools.
Scott Walker is NOT working for Wisconsin and our future. Today, there is ample more evidence why he must be recalled."
|Gov. Walker Files Waiver Request to Protect Insurance Company Profits
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premiums for individual policies on actual medical care. But on October 25th, Scott Walker’s Insurance Commissioner quietly filed an official request asking the feds for a three year waiver from this provision! This secretive attack undermines a key consumer protection of the Affordable Care Act while protecting excessive profits and wasteful overhead for the health insurance industry.
... Scott Walker’s attack on our Skyrocketing health insurance premiums have led to rampant health insecurity for too many working families in Wisconsin.
In fact, the provision requiring insurance companies to spend 80% of premium dollars on actual health care takes direct aim at out-of-control health care inflation.
Given this reality it is stunning (and highly revealing) that Scott Walker is seeking to put industry profits ahead of the interests of consumers.
... Included on the list of Wisconsin insurers that are not meeting the 80% federal standards on profits and overhead are large hyper-profitable national insurance conglomerates such as Humana and UnitedHealthCare. Both have posted double digit increases in profit, and together are on track to earn just under $7 billion this year alone.
If Scott Walker’s waiver request is approved, it will hit health insurance rate payers directly in the pocket book. According to the Walker Administration’s documents accompanying the federal waiver request, health insurers not meeting the standard are projected to pay back $14 MILLION in rebates to Wisconsin consumers over the next three years.
The Walker Administration is saying that highly profitable health insurance corporations need this money more than Wisconsin workers struggling to make it through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We strongly disagree. The people of Wisconsin deserve better.
from Citizen Action of Wisconsin
|Recall, ALEC, Charter Schools, Tommy Thompson, and more
What’s happening with the Walker Recall roll-out? A lot! The state-wide structure, coordinated by a steering team of representatives from many state organizations, is in place and staffers are being hired. The huge network will spring into action on Nov. 15.
- Get this: Republican legislators might introduce legislation to require notarizing of recall petitions. (And how, one might ask, is this related to job creation?) ... Word has it that the actual election to get rid of Walker will likely be held in August, even if we have all the signatures in January. No problem. We’ll use the time to get ready for November elections, as well as August. It also gives Walker & Co. more time to make big, foot-in-mouth mistakes.
-As of this moment there is no final decision about having the name of the Lieutenant Governor on the same petition as Recall Walker. Again, no prob. We know they both have to go. We’ll have petitions for both.
-Yes, there are several Republican senators being targeted for recall as part of the Walker Recall in other parts of Wisconsin, Grossman a mong them. (Typo? Maybe.)
-Need to figure out how you can connect? Call your local Democratic Party chair directly... or put your name into the data base at www.unitedwisconsin.com.
Note: Bob Salt, Dunn Co. Dems 715 309-9516 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Janis Ringhand reports, "Our Assembly session this week was another bust - an 8 page agenda with 20+ bills that did not address jobs!! We were more concerned with the definition of a bicycle, fines for injury to "soft tissue" of police officers, throwing bodily fluids at police officers, weight & length of tractor trailers, honoring Pregnancy Clinics that do not tell the patient about all the options in a pregnancy or about birth control, etc, etc, etc. It is extremely disappointing to see how they refuse to listen or cooperate. Rep. Mark Pocan brought forward a resolution that suggested we cooperate and work together; they voted against that too!" 10. As part of the Jobs special session the legislature is considering Assembly Bill (AB 303) that would undermine well-planned communities by repealing the requirement that local government develop and implement comprehensive plans. Many communities have put much time and effort into these plans so that wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and living spaces are developed in a sustainable and environmentally healthy way. (Just ask aloud, “Who benefits from this bill?” and see what happens, even if no one else is in the room with you!)
11. Another bill being considered, AB 24 & SB 24, would cut the public out of the decisions that affect their communities by changing the process for construction or dredging projects that happen in or near our waterways. The bill eliminates public hearings on permits and forces the public to comment on incomplete information during sho rtened timelines. The bill forces the DNR to passively issue permits for high capacity wells, oil and gas production, and mine prospecting even if there is not enough time or information to make an informed decision about a permit application. Finally, the bill makes it much harder to protect new waterways in the future and removes protections for a set of existing waterways. Many of the most egregious provisions of a draft mining bill from earlier in the session are contained in this bill. You can find Wisconsin League of Conservation Voter's analysis of AB/SB 24's "Polluters over People" Bill at http://www.conservationvoters.org/images/pdf/201110204sssb24rewardspollutersdisregardscitizens.pdf. Once again, just ask aloud, “Who benefits from thi s legislation?”
12. Charter schools being swept in. The legislature is likely to vote soon on additional charter schools legislation. The bill creates a separate authority to set up charter schools in communities without input from local school districts. The vote is likely to come up fast, with little warning. The Governor called the current session supposedly to work on job creation. How is this related to jobs creation? Republicans have always touted local control, decision making by local communities. How does this support control? It’s important that people contact their legislators... to ask them to honor the commitment to local control and stop this bill in its tracks. The creation of a separate charter schools governing body can press a school upon a community even if it’s not wanted or needed. And local public school districts lose the most.
13. Students carry the load of Walker’s budget cuts. “On Oct. 14, the Department of Administration released a memo announcing plans for the new lapse, requiring the UW System to return $65.3 million to the state over two years. That represents about 38% of all new cuts to state agencies, despite the fact that the UW System represents only 7% of state expenditures.” http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/uw-students-carry-load-of-walkers-budget-cuts-132749193.html
18. “… Washington lobbyist Tommy Thompson told reporters that not only would he not cut ties to the corporations for whom he has received millions, but he would not even let Wisconsin voters know their names.
Cashing in on his position as a former cabinet secretary for George W. Bush, Thompson has represented various corporations big and small-but continues to dodge questions about who he represents, and last year couldn't even enumerate the number of corporate boards he serves…”Thompson does not feel that the people of Wisconsin deserve to know who is writing his paychecks and yet he wants the people of Wisconsin to write HIM another paycheck. Until the public is given a clear picture of his vast corporate ties, the impression remains that Tommy Thompson merely wants a seat in the U.S. Senate to expand his lobbying operation,” said Mike Tate, Chair, Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
19. George Lakoff, framing Occupy Wall Street http://www.nationofchange.org/framing-memo-occupy-wall- street-1319120927
"All About ALEC." It was excellent, with a wide variety of presenters giving an in-depth look at the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council. See http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed or http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch. Also excellent...the August issue of The Nation - devoted to articles about ALEC: http://www.thenation.com/issue/august-1-8-2011ALEC is one strand in a very intricate web consisting of 4 strands being enacted by radical, right wing doctrinaires: (1) Message development and propaganda - (e.g. Fox News) to shape public opinion through what people hear, read, and see; (2) Electioneering - over 300 corporations (often multi-national) contribute money to elect politicians who will pass bills favorable to them; the politicians are trained at the state level and encouraged and financed to run for national office if successful (from ALEC's viewpoint); (3) Law making - to put into place ALEC-conceived laws to privatize everything in sight, to limit regulations on corporations, to suppress votes and workers' rights, to impose a conservative social agenda, etc.; (4) Judicial manipulation - to tip courts so they will be friendly to ALEC's legislation. Gov. Walker is a key part of ALEC's delivery system in Wisconsin. The ALEC Forum presentations will be available soon on DVD at: http://www.allaboutalec.org/dvd.html
21. Along Hwy 18/151 in southwest Wisconsin, “Trust in God. Beware of Scott Walker”.
|Confusing New Voting Law Coming To Your Neighborhood
Confusing New Voting Law Coming To Your Neighborhood
The new voting law is confusing. Need to know what type of IDs is acceptable or how to vote absentee? The answer is not so simple.
Beginning in 2012, voters will need a photo identification card to vote. Only certain types of photo IDs are acceptable. The acceptable IDs are:
· Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) issued driver’s license.
· Wisconsin DOT-issued identification card.
· Identification card issued by a U.S. uniformed service (military ID).
· U.S. Passport
· Certificate of Naturalization issued no earlier than two years before the date of the election.
· A receipt issued by DOT when the driver’s license or ID card is taken for a violation.
· Official Tribal ID Card
· An unexpired identification card issued by an accredited Wisconsin university or college that contains a date of issuance, student signature and expiration date no later than two years after the date of issuance.
When you go to vote in 2012 election inspectors will verify that your name on the poll list matches the name on your ID. They will also verify the photo reasonably resembles you. They will then ask you to sign a poll list. All of this will take more time.
If your photo ID does not match or if you forget or don’t have an ID, you can still vote but the ballot is treated as ‘provisional’ meaning it will not be counted unless you show up again at the clerk’s office by 4:00 pm the Friday after Election Day with a valid ID.
People who vote absentee will also face new rules. Most mail-in absentee voters will be required to send in a copy of a photo ID with their request for an absentee ballot. This requirement goes into effect with the non-partisan primary next February.
College students are very concerned about what type of ID will or will not be allowed. Currently no Wisconsin college or university offers a type of ID acceptable by the new law. Recent Government Accountability Board rules suggest four-year colleges and universities can issue IDs with stickers. But many schools say they would rather offer a new ID. This will come at a cost.
Technical college student IDs do not serve as an acceptable ID card for voting.
Wisconsin law requires the Department of Transportation to provide a free ID to anyone of voting age who specifically asks for a free ID for voting. The usual charge for a replacement ID is $28. Some people have encountered problems getting free IDs.
Also ‘free’ does not apply to any ‘secondary’ documents needed to get an ID. Usually people need to present a certified birth certificate. But this certificate comes with a cost.
Because of this fee and other problems associated with the Voter ID law, several groups are challenging the constitutionality of the law in court. The League of Woman Voters recently filed suit. Andrea Kaminski, the Executive Director of the League, in a recent interview talked about ID requirements people face getting a birth certificate.
“It’s a real Catch-22,” Andrea said. Older people born at home or in the South may not have been issued birth certificates. So they need an ID to get an ID.
During the Senate floor debate on Voter ID I argued rural people are among those at a disadvantage. We have few driver license centers. Those centers are often open just a few hours a month.
Previous courts have looked at legal issues like the burden of traveling to get an ID, advance planning necessary to make the trip, and whether or not the ID was free.
I am very concerned citizens will not vote if the hurdles are too high to get a valid ID. Unlike renting a video or cashing a check – which also require an ID – voting is a right enshrined in our constitution. Don’t let this law stop you from exercising your rights.
If you have questions about the new law or know someone who is having a problem getting an ID please give me a call. I can be reached toll-free at 877-763-6636 or by email at email@example.com.
|The Truth About Social Security: It is Solvent!
Republicans hate Social Security because it has been an extraordinary success and has done exactly what it was designed to do. It is the most successful government program in our nation's history and is enormously popular. When Social Security was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, that number is 10 percent -- still too high, but a testament to the success of Social Security.
Republicans have spent years demonizing Social Security and spreading lies about its sustainability. They want to scare Americans and build support for making drastic cuts to the program or privatizing it entirely. Their long-term goal is to end Social Security as we know it, and convert it into a private account system which will enable Wall Street to make hundreds of billions in profits.
The truth is that today, according to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible Ame rican for the next 25 years. Further, because it is funded by the payroll tax and not the U.S. Treasury, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit.
Now -- in a prolonged recession that has decimated the poor and middle class and pushed more Americans into poverty than at any point in modern history -- we need to strengthen Social Security. That's why I, along with 9 co-sponsors, have introduced the "Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act." This legislation would lift the Social Security Payroll tax cap on all income over $250,000 a year, would require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share into the Social Security Trust Fund, and would extend the program for the next 75 years.
For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American. The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 76 years is to scrap the payroll tax cap for those earning $250,00 0 a year or more.
Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. That is because today, all income above $106,800 is exempt from the Social Security tax. As a result, 94% of Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their income, but the wealthiest 6% do not.
That makes no sense.
The "Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act" will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits, raising the retirement age or raising taxes on the middle class.
Social Security is keeping tens of millions of seniors out of poverty today. I can think of no more important issue facing our country today than making sure that Social Security remains strong for generations to come.
Thank you, Senator Bernie Sanders
Final Thoughts, from Harper's Index, March 2011
Percentage of Americans who say government programs don't help their families: 54
Portion of American families that received federal benefits in the past two years: 7 of 10
|The Road To Prosperity By Senator Kathleen Vinehout
The Road to Prosperity
Labor Day ~ September 5, 2011
Last month I went to the Art Museum in Milwaukee and walked through an incredibly
beautiful Chinese garden.
It was built in the 18
century by the longest serving Chinese ruler,
Emperor Qianlong (pronounced chee’en lohng).
Under his rule the country prospered. In this garden he took refuge to rest from his labors,
management that begins with the line "An Alternative to Tyranny."
Drucker writes of businesses that succeed because they empower workers by moving
away from the traditional hierarchical structure.
Peter Drucker drew on the wisdom of many sources ~ including what the ancient Greek
philosopher Aristotle called
"The habit of making the right decision and taking the right actions in the context of
relentless pursuit of excellence for the common good."
Taking the right action in the context of relentless pursuit of the common good.
What a concept!
Imagine our world if we put relentless pursuit of the common good above all.
Imagine our workplace if our boss put relentless pursuit of the common good first.
Imagine our city, our state, our country.
Drucker, Peter. Management. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1973.
Nonaka, Ikujiro and Hirotka Takeuchi. "The Big Idea: The Wise Leader. Harvard Business Review. May
In the May issue of the Harvard Business Review
, there is an article that suggests many
of our economic problems would be solved if we focused on Aristotle’s principle of
The authors write that the prevailing principle in business is, "What’s in it for me?"
Missing is, "What’s good, right, and just for everyone?" Executives believe that "greed is
good so long as the SEC doesn’t find out."
The authors go on to say, "Creating the future … must extend beyond the company; it
must be about pursuing the common good."
Leaders "need to ask if decisions are good for society as well as for their companies;
management must serve a higher purpose. Companies will then start thinking of
themselves as social entities charged with a mission to create lasting benefits for society.
"Unless companies create social as well as economic value, they will not survive in the
Self restraint and harmony really do create economic prosperity.
We also need the self restraint that leads to harmony in our government and among our
Imagine if every elected official in every hamlet and village began every discussion with,
"What is best for our community…for our state … for our country?"
I can hear you thinking, "Nice Kathleen. But it would never happen. WMC –the state’s
business lobbying group would say ‘it’s bad for jobs.’"
But, I argue, jobs are created and businesses locate where we have good schools, safe
streets and nice parks and farmers markets; things best for our community; for the
common good –
Remember the Harvard Business Review article is about successful
are following Aristotle’s principle of phronesis.
John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco is one. Mr. Chambers believes in the power of
decentralization. He said, "We are growing ideas but we’re growing people as well.
Where I might have had two potential successors, now I have 500."
We’ve all heard: people are our most important asset. But too few in leadership really put
these words into practice.
The wise leader recognizes success is tied to the motivation and skill of workers.
Workers hold the wisdom and experience to solve today’s complex problems. When
workers participate in decision making, companies thrive.
and for business.business leaders who
IBID. quotes from next several paragraphs are from same source..
– including adequate pay – workers are satisfied, they are loyal and they are productive.
Customers are satisfied and they return. Loyal customers create successful business.
Hundreds of studies
We know how it works. When you equip workers with the skills and resources they need
show that satisfied workers are behind business success. Harmony
between management and workers builds success. As the emperor knew, practicing self
restraint and creating harmony leads to prosperity.
Google created harmony by sharing power. Its young founder Larry Page brought in the
recently retired, experienced CEO Eric Schmidt
, breaking the traditional business model
and sharing power -- not only with each other – but with their workers.
Schmidt and Page knew satisfied workers are more motivated and more creative. Google
workers are given twenty percent of their work time to develop any project they wanted.
Now half of all the new Google products come from innovations created during that
twenty percent ‘release time’
Valuing workers brings company success. The opposite result is also true.
Take Circuit City. Circuit City was the number one stock performer in the NY Stock
Exchange for a decade. But the sixty year old company died in 2009.
In the decade leading up to its demise, the company had replaced their knowledgeable
staff with untrained low paid workers. In doing so, they lost their happy customers who
no longer got the quality of services they expected.
Government too is a service industry and it will enjoy success only when its customers –
all of us – are satisfied with the quality of the services provided. That quality can be
achieved only if we change our ways, respect our workers, and follow Artistotle’s
principle of phronesis -- taking the right action in the context of relentless pursuit of the
What if we DID treat government like a business? A well run service business?
Where every interaction with every citizen is treated as a potential opportunity to create a
where workers’ ideas are incorporated into policies and practices.
only going to happen in an environment where workers are treated with respect;
Heskett, J.L., Sasser, W.E. and J. Wheeler "The service-profit chain today". Harvard Business Review.
strengthen the ties to workers, nurturing innovation and creativity.
What does this mean for us in practice this next year as we work through the economic
and budgetary problems created by the 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown?
First, as a community we have to understand specifically the causes for what went wrong
and the potential cures – without the political and ideological gamesmanship that poisons
our public discourse.
We are all suffering, we have to resist the temptation to advance ourselves by climbing
over everyone else and pushing them down.
Second, we all need to be at the table; we all need to be part of the discussion; we all
need to be included and respected.
The decisions that must be made are difficult.
Solutions have to be seen by everyone to be fair. Sacrifice must be shared, REALLY
As one fellow at the parade in Northfield told me yesterday – I know that it’s going to
hurt – I just want the hurt to be fair.
I sense that the yearning for harmony is much greater among people than it is with our
They are much more willing to respect those who differ with them and to restrain their
own personal desires to get things right.
We have a message and a vision that needs to be shouted from every roof top.
The good of the whole community is our goal.
Labor and capital are equal partners.
Without capital there are no jobs. Without labor there are no profits.
We have to call out those who expect and demand more than their share.
We have to call out those who would impose their own wills without respecting, without
consulting, without including, the rest of us.
We have to exercise our democracy.
The watchword of the labor movement through the years has been "solidarity" – sticking
together allowed everyone to move forward together..Today we have to extend the concept of solidarity to the whole community.
If we all stick together we will solve our problems and move forward.
We come full circle back to our emperor and his garden.
Instead of changing state laws to create disharmony, we should change state law to
If we do, we will overcome.
We will prosper.
The state slogan should not be "open for business"
In the Capitol, on the ceiling of the Governor’s Conference Room, these words are
(harmony) can be achieved only when everyone exercises self-restraint.dedicate ourselves today to solidarity – in our communities, in our state, in our"open for everyone".The will of the People is the Law of the Land.
Walking in parades, listening in coffee shops, talking to constituents, I have learned:
As the old Chinese emperor who ruled over prosperous times came to know, the three go
Self restraint, harmony, prosperity - three words - difficult to find in Wisconsin today.
Three words we must pursue and embrace in the days ahead if we want to move
not greed and selfishness, is the will of the people.y, not division, is the will of the people.not poverty, is the will of the people.
Wisdom we might heed today.
In the garden are clusters of small buildings and beautiful landscaping.
The names of three of the buildings give us insight into the Emperor’s mind and the
secret of his success. There is the Studio of Self Restraint; the Supreme Chamber of
Creating Harmony and the Pavilion of Prosperity.
Self restraint, harmony, prosperity – three words we don’t hear much these days.
Prosperity eludes us because haven’t figured out that prosperity is built on self restraint
If the Emperor does everything the Emperor wants there will be no harmony.
If there is no harmony there will be no prosperity.
How does a wise emperor create harmony? By mutual respect; by valuing the people of
the kingdom; by creating a vision of prosperity that provides for the common good.
This is true in both the public and the private sectors.
There is no harmony or prosperity in the state when the chief executive laughs over
"dropping a bomb" on his own people..There is no harmony and prosperity in the economy when CEO salaries are astronomical
and increasing by double digit percents every year; when corporate profits are at an all
time high but real wages of workers have stagnated for 30 years; when corporations
threaten to leave if their taxes aren’t forgiven, if they can’t pollute, if they can’t make the
workplace less safe.
Too often the bottom line trumps the common good and the company’s obligations to its
workers and the people of the community.
Too often labor is treated as just another input that can be easily replaced.
We’ve all seen the devastating effects of a company leaving the community.
Yet our policies reward this indifference to the common good. Even when a company
does not leave, workers are tyrannized by the constant threats to leave.
But the notion of a company not invested in the community and not invested in its
workers, runs counter, not only to the interests of the community and the workers, but to
the very success of the company itself. Self restraint and harmony have proved time and
again to lead to prosperity in the business world.
Forty years ago Peter Drucker revolutionized American business with his book
|Little in Governor's Jobs Package Deals with Jobs by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
October 5, 2011Volume 5 Issue 40
Little in Governor's "Jobs Package" Deals with Jobs
When I heard the Governor had convened a “Special Session on Jobs” I was anxious to take look at the proposals.
Business owners tell me they need access to capital, lower health insurance costs and a skilled workforce. Just last week the Eau Claire Leader Telegram headline read Employers: Jobs are there, Skills are not.
Being from the country, I like to kick the tires and lift up the hood before I buy anything. Was anything that small business owners needed on the list?
This weekend, I got down to the tire kicking level. Amazingly, I found something besides ‘jobs’ on the agenda.
There are a few bills that help make it easier for businesses to get loans. One bill would make credit for farmers easier to obtain by expanding state loan guarantees; another bill increases the cap on loan guarantees for small businesses. There are several bills that create tax credits for investments.
Nothing on the list deals with rising health costs. Very little addresses the lack of skilled workers.
And who would have guessed a bill to protect drug companies and medical device companies from lawsuits if their product had FDA approval would bring jobs to Wisconsin?
Who would have thought a bill that appears to make it harder to recover the cost of a lemon car would bring jobs? Or how about a bill that seems to make it easier for insurance companies to drag out court cases?
Or my current favorite – a bill that appears to make it impossible to find out what, if anything, companies paid in state taxes. It reminds me of a recent bill introduced to stop the public from finding out who a campaign donor works for. We need to increase public knowledge and provide more sunshine, not less.
Certainly I can’t see how this creates jobs.
Five of the “jobs” bills have to do with trucks: making them longer, heavier and bigger. Never mind the fact the budget just cut tens of millions of dollars out of road maintenance for local government. We will be spending more state tax dollars on roads.
There is very little in the “Special Session” that addresses the key concerns of small business owners, especially health costs and job training.
One bill would add four hundred thousand dollars to job training programs at our Technical Colleges. Certainly this is a necessary investment – especially given the seventy-one million dollar cut from the Tech College budget this summer.
In the budget action this summer Technical Colleges sustained, proportionally, the largest single budget cut. Adding back a mere half a percent of this total loss is not going to get us far.
How key is developing a skilled workforce to Wisconsin’s growth? Two recent studies provide insight.
Several groups teamed up to bring us a study on meeting the demands of the 21st century economy. Authors wrote “Prior to the national recession, Wisconsin was experiencing shortages of middle skill workers in crucial industries … Developing the skills of Wisconsin’s workforce … will help the economy recover more quickly.”
A report card by the Midwestern Office of the Council of State Governments pointed to what needed to be done: “On measures related to the key drivers of economic growth including workforce preparedness … Wisconsin placed in the middle or in the bottom half of the states.”
Instead of addressing the problems that our people really face the Governor has, and continues to, push a political agenda. The wrapping on the outside of his special session agenda says jobs, but there is little on the inside that has anything to do with jobs.
The Governor’s program doesn’t pass the “truth in packaging” standard.
|Investing in Higher Education Reaps Rewards for All by Senator Kathleen Vinehout
September 28, 2011Volume 5 Issue 39
Investing in Higher Education Reaps Rewards for All
“Tuition is SO expensive,” a local business owner told me. She shared the sacrifices her family makes to keep their oldest son in college.
“My husband has been away for three weeks,” she continued. The time-and-a-half her husband earned working out-of-state made the difference between sending and not sending their son to college.
At a time when most agree the road to prosperity leads through college, the state is paying less and struggling families are paying more for college. Deep budget cuts this year forced most colleges into a 5.5% tuition increase. Many families tell me it’s harder to pay college bills.
Parents know a child’s future is improved with a college education. Average earning for a college graduate more than doubles the average earning of a student without a high school diploma. Future jobs increasingly require post-high school education.
Helping our best and brightest obtain a college education helps raise the earnings of the entire state. According to UW officials raising the education level of Wisconsin residents to that of Minnesota means $29 million more in the pockets of folks in our state.
Thirty-two percent of Minnesotans are educated at the bachelor’s level. Using 2008 statistics, Wisconsin compares at 26% of the population educated at the bachelor’s level. Raising the number of college graduates to Minnesota levels means an average income jump of nearly $5,000 a year.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world. Our children and grandchildren compete with children on the other side of the globe. With the number of college educated workers in Japan (54%), Korea (53%) and even Canada (55%) double that of Wisconsin, we face future challenges.
As families struggle to send youth to college and Wisconsin lags neighboring states in the college educated, the gap between the rich and poor widens. Poverty numbers from the 2010 US census reinforce the concern about declining income. Last week’s Eau Claire Leader Telegram reported the typical Eau Claire County family saw their real income drop nearly $5,000 between 2008 and 2010. Less money in people’s pockets means less growth in demand which turns into a cycle of fewer jobs.
Education can lift a family’s earning potential. But a college education is increasingly out of reach for some as tuition increases. This year’s tuition increase comes on the heels of several before it; all in response to fewer dollars from the state.
As UW President Kevin Reilly recently told me, “Wisconsin used to pay twelve cents of every tax dollar to public universities. Now it’s less than nine cents.”
I asked President Reilly about the effect of recent deep budget cuts. Governor Walker’s budget cut a quarter-billion dollars from the UW system. Even before these cuts Wisconsin, compared to other states, ranked only 37th in per person higher education funding.
I learned how the system was coping.
Tuition increases made up one-fifth of the cut. Increased benefit contributions by employees added another 30 percent. President Reilly is navigating the loss of $125 million. Many tasks done by the UW System are being shifted to individual campuses. Some staff retired, others let go.
Keeping quality staff is incredibly challenging. Like all state workers, UW workers faced the equivalent of a 5% pay cut over the past three years. Changes this year mean an additional 8 to 10 percent salary drop. Studies show UW salaries as the lowest compared with peer institutions. Lack of resources means loss of staff and faculty which affect student experiences.
Investing in higher education brings dividends beyond higher salaries for graduates. More income means more tax dollars and a broader tax base; sharing the cost of public services more equitably among all. Spin off companies and others assisted by UW research benefit the state’s economy.
UW officials remind us: prosperous citizens use fewer public services, are generally healthier, are able to contribute to philanthropy and community non-profits and are more engaged in democracy and civic affairs.
Investing in higher education reaps big rewards for everyone. It is an outlay we must be committed to make. Our future depends upon our investment.
|Wiping Out Wisconsin Taxes
Wiping out Wisconsin taxes
By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The heirs of the SC Johnson fortune, the richest family in Wisconsin with four multi-billionaires according to Forbes, paid not a penny of Wisconsin corporate income tax on profits from their global household products business and two smaller companies from 2000 through 2008, public records show.
The smaller companies made more than $400 million in Wisconsin profit. Indications are the much larger household products firm, which is privately held and does not disclose its profits, netted more than a billion dollars, and possibly many billions.
“How did the Johnson companies pull in such profits without having a penny of Wisconsin taxable income?” asked Jack Norman, research director for the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future in the August issue of its “Who Does Not Pay Taxes?” newsletter.
Now thanks to a 15-page document prepared in April 2008 by PricewaterhouseCoopers we have an answer — at least for the family’s main holding, SC Johnson & Son, Inc, makers of world famous household products ranging from Raid bug spray to Ziploc bags.
Reuters received the document unsolicited. Besides making suggestions for the future, it describes how the company avoided taxes in the past.
The conclusion? That Wisconsin taxable profits could well have been converted into tax-deductible expenses by paying royalties and interest to family-owned subsidiaries in low-tax and no-tax jurisdictions.
The state tax court held in 2009 that such accounting alchemy was improper when done by Hormel Food Corporation because the transactions had no purpose except to make state taxes go away.
HORMEL FOOD STANDARD
The question the PwC document raises is whether the Johnsons will be held to the same standard by the Wisconsin tax authorities as Hormel Food. Why must ordinary Wisconsin businesses and individuals bear the burden of state government while the richest family in the state runs tax-free enterprises?
SC Johnson & Son, Inc paid no state corporate income tax from 2000 through 2008, Norman found by searching state tax records available to anyone for $4. The Charles Stewart Mott, Ford and other foundations finance the nonprofit institute where Norman works.
The company has told market researchers its revenues run close to $9 billion per year.
One of the two smaller companies, Diversey Inc, a cleaning solutions maker controlled by the Johnsons, made the family $360 million in profit from 2000 through 2009. No state income tax was paid, public records show.
The other smaller family enterprise, Johnson Outdoors Inc, reported profits of $42 million in 2000 through 2008 and paid no state income tax, public records show.
A fourth family business, Johnson Bank, did pay state income tax. On $219 million of profits from 2000 through 2009 the bank paid $3 million or 1.4 percent compared to the statutory tax rate of 7.9 percent.
The PwC document offers powerful evidence that tax avoidance, not economic substance, enabled the main family business to escape Wisconsin state taxes. Without economic substance, companies can just move symbols around on paper and manufacture unlimited tax deductions.
Entitled “State and Local Tax Observations and Considerations,” the document shows how the Johnson family escaped all Wisconsin corporate income tax on its SC Johnson & Son, Inc business and shows how to shield future profits from tax.
The document states on its cover, in boldface type, that to the extent it is tax advice “this document was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal, state or local penalties.”
The pages that follow are carefully drafted to make observations without recommending them, a subtle but potentially significant distinction should the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility or the state accounting ethics boards in Wisconsin or Illinois (where the document’s authors work) take an interest in what PwC wrote. The document also shows how competing consumer products companies arrange their affairs.
Christopher R. Beard, a Johnson company spokesman, declined comment on the PwC document except to acknowledge the document’s authenticity and to characterize the document as recommending tax strategies. In an email Beard wrote me that “SC Johnson did not implement the PwC recommendations.”
Beard said Johnson-owned businesses pay taxes in other jurisdictions.
As of June 30, 2006, the PwC analysis shows, SC Johnson was collecting $155 million in annual royalties from its foreign subsidiaries. On top of this the parent company had another $3 million of Wisconsin state income, the PwC analysis showed.
SC Johnson was able to wipe out this $158 million in taxable profit along the following lines:
- It made a huge inter-company loan to its Puerto Rico affiliate, which it transferred to a new Delaware entity called “SNW Company.” Interest on the loan was $60 million in 2006, the document said, an expense that would be tax-deductible in Wisconsin. The principle amount is not revealed. If the Johnsons paid 10 percent interest from their Wisconsin pocket to their Puerto Rico and Delaware pockets, such an above-market interest rate and the artificial creation of an expense in Wisconsin could indicate a tax-motivated transaction.
- The PwC report cites a $31 million royalty paid by the Wisconsin parent company to SC Johnson Home Storage, a Delaware subsidiary, and a $77 million “mark up adjustment” paid by the same Delaware subsidiary. These would be deductible as Wisconsin expenses.
That comes to $168 million funneled out of Wisconsin, wiping out the $158 million of income subject to tax. The company also had past operating losses it was still carrying and a $1.5 million annual research and development tax credit.
The document also discusses such tactics as controlling the profit margins of subsidiaries to influence where taxes are due. The theory of arm’s length transactions is that, for tax and transfer pricing purposes, a company can only charge itself internally what it would pay an independent vendor. It is hard to imagine any independent vendor agreeing to limit its own profit margin, another example of tax-motivated behavior.
PwC also discussed how re-registering various intellectual property in Europe, Mexico and Canada could help avoid taxes on 55 percent of the royalties paid to the Wisconsin parent. It also cites the use of a new Swiss entity to funnel royalties on intellectual property.
All of this is significant in the context of what the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission held in Hormel Foods:
“Reducing taxes is a perfectly legitimate business goal so long as it is not the primary purpose for a transaction. In this case, the evidence shows that Hormel’s other alleged purposes for engaging in the challenged transactions were a mere ‘fig leaf’ covering its real purpose, which was tax avoidance.”
So, will SC Johnson be held to the same standard as Hormel and, at a minimum, face a thorough audit by the state and the IRS? Or will the richest family in Wisconsin get favored treatment while everyone else bears the burden of state government?
|Senator Vinehout and Representative Richards on The Open Meetings Law
Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards propose requiring the Legislature to immediately comply with the open meetings law
Lawmakers also pursuing constitutional amendment to make proposed rules permanent
Madison--Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Rep. Jon Richards proposed changing the legislative rules to immediately close a legal loophole that allows the Legislature to do as it pleases when it comes to open meetings.
“Government works best when we all get involved,” Sen. Vinehout said announcing the introduction of the bill.
“Legislation is like fish,” she continued. “We’ve got to set it on the table, let the sunlight shine on it and see if it stinks. If the doors and windows are closed, the sunlight is not going to get in.”
In June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to decide whether legislative leaders violated the state’s open meetings law when they rushed to pass a bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers. As a result of the court’s decision, the Legislature is now free to make its own rules when it comes to open meetings-even if those rules violate the law or provide no public notice of a meeting.
Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards already introduced legislation to amend the state constitution to permanently close the Legislature’s loophole in the open meetings law. However, because amending the state constitution takes several years, they have proposed changing legislative rules to immediately apply the open meetings law to the Legislature without delay.
“Amending the constitution is a lengthy process,” Rep. Richards said. “There’s no reason why the Legislature cannot voluntarily apply the open meetings law to itself right now. Adopting these rule changes will hold the Legislature to the same standard of openness as school boards, city councils and other government bodies.”
Several Wisconsin citizen advocacy and open government organizations support the rule changes proposed by Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards, including the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
‘OPEN SHOP’ GROUPS LONG BEEN PUSHED BY BOSSES, HISTORY SAYS
Wisconsin workers haven’t faced a possibility of “right-to-work (for less)” legislation in many years. This legislative session, unions may face a serious threat to pass this into law. It is therefore important to understand the negative consequences of such laws for Wisconsin’s working families.
Right-to-work laws are deceptively named. They do not guarantee a single job, nor do they guarantee one’s right to work. These laws prohibit employers and unions from negotiating union security provisions in a collective bargaining agreement.
This is known as an “open shop,” and its goal is to weaken and eventually eliminate unions. It does this by forcing unions to represent employees even though they decide not to pay dues for representation. As union finances dwindle, employers become emboldened to violate contracts. Unions find it financially more difficult to defend members against contract violations, unfair disciplines, and improper layoffs, and to negotiate fair agreements.
These laws are not fair to due-paying members. They are akin to allowing citizens in civil society to collect government benefits while skipping out on their taxes used to pay for these services.
These laws erode the middle class. Workers in open shop states make $5,538 per year less than workers in states where union security is permitted. Right-to-work states spend $2,671 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education. Overall, union members earn 28% more ($198 per week) than non-union workers. Seventy-eight percent of private sector union workers have access to health insurance versus 51% for non-union. Seventy-seven percent of private sector union workers have a guaranteed defined benefit pension plan, whereas the number for non-union workers is 20%.
It should not be surprising to discover that workers in right-to-work states have a lower quality of life in the form of higher poverty, lower wages, less access to health care and poorer education for children (US Department of Labor and the US Census Bureau).
Historian Philip Taft traced the beginnings of the “open shop” movement to the late 1890s and early 1900s. Then, as now, employers understood the value of misleading the public about the real impact of their policies. Organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers led the formation of these anti-worker laws, titled them citizens organizations and erroneously said their goals were to extend freedoms to workers. In the early 1920s, manufacturers developed the “American Plan.” This widespread open shop campaign helped cause a drop in union membership from 2.4 million to 1.4 million from 1920 to 1923.
After New Deal legislation in the 1930s boosted union memberships, the open shoppers regained momentum after World War II, resulting in the passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which permitted states to ban union security clauses.
A front group known as the National Right-to-Work Committee was born in the 1950s and has descended upon state after state seeking to pass such laws. It is important that working people fight this effort to weaken their unions by taking away their union security provisions negotiated into their contracts.
Reprinted with permission from the Wisconsin Labor History Society.
For labor history, news and scholarship opportunities, visit http://www.wisconsinlaborhistory.org/
|Nurses: We Can Bring Health Costs Down By State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Nurses: We Can Bring Health Costs Down
Early last Friday morning I was joined by two of my Chippewa Valley legislative colleagues at a forum with area nurses. The forum gave us an opportunity to exchange ideas on how nurses can help bring health costs down.
My job was to listen and learn. The nurses educated us on how they can play an important role in reducing health costs.
Public health nurses shared the struggle to provide basic health screening to low income women. New budget rules stop money from flowing to nonprofit women’s health clinics. Instead the dollars must go to public health departments.
“Public Health Departments aren’t necessarily able to provide these services,” explained a public health nurse. “Unless you live in an impoverished area, you have no idea how needed these services are – all screenings, health education, prevention, mental health counseling – everything is done in these clinics.”
“We need to look upstream,” a nurse said. “We need to look at prevention. For every dollar spent on prevention we save five dollars. But public health is woefully under-funded. We can’t even keep nurses working in public health because they make so much more working in hospitals.”
“We have to look at the underlying determinants of health,” said another nurse. In other words, ‘what makes people healthy and stay healthy?’ She continued, “Education helps improve health. If we can educate and really change people’s health habits, we can lower costs – all of these things are related.”
One example of how nurses could lower costs relates to healthy babies: Pat (not her real name) was a public health nurse. She went to visit families who brought home a new baby. Other nurses worked at the public health clinic where families brought new infants for screenings. The nurses checked the babies and provided parents important information about well baby care. They made follow up visits to assure good health for mom and baby.
“But then I went to work at a doctor’s office,” said Pat. “I found out you need an MD [license] to do well child check-ups. I had been doing them for years but here [at the doctor’s office] I could not do well child check-ups.”
Sick babies and sick moms drive our state Medicaid budget. The most common reason a Wisconsin Family Medicaid patient is hospitalized relates to birthing. State data show almost one quarter of all hospital Medicaid costs are related to pregnancy, birth and neonate care. Contributing to high Medicaid costs are the pregnancy complications of Caesarian Sections, infant death and neonatal intensive care.
Troubled pregnancies are not only tragedies for individual families, but lead to additional costs for all of us down the road. Special education and special medical care are but a few of the costs incurred when a child is born too early or under circumstances due to poor prenatal care.
Nurses shared a recent Institute of Medicine report on the Future of Nursing. The report found nurses aren’t able to practice to the full extent of their education. If nurses were encouraged to expand their practice we would all save money.
For example, nurse midwives in Washington DC created a clinic for inner city pregnant women. Two separate evaluations found the clinic women had half the rate of Caesarian Sections, one third the rate of premature births and half the rate of low birth weight infants than traditional medical care. All these successes reduced costs. The clinic saved $1.2 million – more than enough to cover its operating costs for a year.
Every level of government is stretched thin. The single area where we spend the greatest amount of our state budget dollars is Medicaid. If we could tackle the rise in health costs, we could improve our bottom line. Think of the national debt, the state budget and the budget challenges facing local government and school districts. In every case health care is a driving force in rising costs.
Nurses have the right idea. Preventing disease and helping people choose healthy lifestyles could have a tremendous, positive effect on our state budget. Let’s put nurses to work keeping us all healthier and lowering costs for taxpayers.
|Stop Coddling The Supper-Rich By Warren E. Buffett
Stop Coddling the Super-Rich
By WARREN E. BUFFETT
Published: August 14, 2011
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OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.
Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.
The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)
I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.
Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.
Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.
But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.
|Social Security's Biggest Threat: The Debt Deal Super Committee by Russ Feingold
This week's deal to raise the debt ceiling should remove any doubt about the power corporate interests have over our government. The deal, hammered out by the president and Republican congressional leaders, places the burden of reducing our long-term budget problems squarely on average Americans, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations are given a free pass.
But the deal poses a larger threat. A provision in the agreement creates an appointed "Super Committee" in Congress that could circumvent normal rules and slash cherished programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
How could this happen? Prior to this week's debt agreement, it's been extremely difficult to cut Social Security benefits, because doing so required 60 votes to overcome an almost certain filibuster in the Senate. And rightly so - Social Security is the most successful and popular government program in the history of the United States.
Yet the so-called Super Committee, which will be appointed by congressional leaders in both parties to consider additional budget cuts, will enjoy authority that no other entity or special legislative process has ever had: it will have the power to propose Social Security reductions that are guaranteed an up-or-down vote in the Senate, and therefore can be adopted by a simple majority. And unlike most measures in the Senate, the Super Committee's recommendations related to Social Security will not be subject to unlimited debate - a standard protection against drastic action. Further, no amendments will be allowed. Make no mistake, those who crafted and agreed to the Super Committee were well aware of this and there can be no doubt Republicans plan to take full advantage.
So ultimately, if the Super Committee's recommendations propose cuts to Social Security, the only means to block them would be to strike down the entire Super Committee bill. But there's a dangerous trapdoor - failing to enact the overall Super Committee bill would trigger automatic across-the-board cuts that will be strongly opposed by powerful constituencies.
In short, unless congressional leaders appoint progressives willing to stand up to moneyed interests, the Super Committee will be nothing less than a chopping block for Social Security.
Here's how it would work: assuming all 6 Republican appointees support Social Security cuts, it would only take one Democratic appointee to include them in the committee's final recommendation. Once cuts to Social Security are included in that final Super Committee bill, the Senate's 47 Republicans would need just four Democrats to produce the majority needed to pass them, and unfortunately finding those four Democrats probably is not all that difficult.
And ironically, the inability to amend the Super Committee legislation will provide some senators with the perfect excuse: "I didn't like the Social Security cuts, but I had to accept them as part of the entire bill."
This means that the identity of the Democratic appointees to the Super Committee will be critical. Because sadly, there are already a handful of Democratic senators ready to take an axe to Social Security; and regrettably, some of them are well positioned to sit on the Super Committee. So it's essential that every Democrat appointed to this perverse Super Committee pledge to reject any cuts to Social Security.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi understands this, and has promised that each of the Democrats she appoints to the Super Committee will oppose entitlement benefit cuts. Democrats should urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make the same commitment. America's most cherished social program must be protected.
Follow Russ Feingold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/russfeingold
|Redistricting Comments by Rep. Chris Danou
from Rep. Chris Danou (excerpts)
In my view two major problems exist with Senate Bill 150 which was just signed into law. The first issue is that Wisconsin’s proud tradition of local control is being usurped as the state is modifying the order of redistricting among units of government. In any redistricting process, newly drawn state legislative districts must conform to the local ward boundaries. In the past, the procedure has been for the local units of government to release their lines first...
Senate Bill 150 gives the state and not the local units of government first priority in drawing the lines. No one is really sure why the Republican Majority decided to change the normal procedure. Perhaps the Republicans want to get their version of the new district boundaries passed before the Senate recall elections? Whatever the reason, the actions are a slap at local control.
The other issue arising from Senate Bill 150 is a concern reg arding the separation of powers. The bill directs the Wisconsin Supreme Court to appoint a panel to hear challenges... . Earlier this year, lawyers for Senate Republicans argued before the State Supreme Court that there should be a separation of power when is comes to the business of the Legislature. However, the recently passed legislation instructs the Wisconsin Supreme Court on where to send a case related to redistricting and how the Court should conduct its internal business. This is not an example of “separation of powers” that Wisconsin voters expect.
... there are other concerns which have been raised during redistricting. The Majority Republicans used public dollars to pay for attorneys to draft the redistricting maps and did not include input from members of both parties or from local units of government... . This while they continue to point out that the “state is broke.”
|Voter ID By Senator Vinehout
Voting? Remember the ID is FREE
“Can they charge for an ID to vote?” a woman asked. “No,” I said. “The ID must be free.”
As I visit with folks at community festivals and county fairs, they are asking a lot of questions about Wisconsin’s new voter ID law: Do I need some kind of special ID to vote? Where do I get the ID? When do I have to use the ID?
Wisconsin’s new Voter ID law is the strictest in the nation. Beginning in January 2012, voters will need a photo identification card with current address, name and a photo that reasonably resembles the voter.
Under the law only 7 types of ID would be acceptable to allow a citizen to vote. Two are state-issue driver’s license or ID card. The others include a passport, military or tribal ID, naturalization papers or a college ID updated every two years. Currently no Wisconsin college offers students a new ID every two years.
The most common acceptable form of identification is a state-issued ID or a driver’s license. Both are available at state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or driver’s license centers.
People were concerned about the lack of a local driver’s license center in some counties and the limited hours available in other counties. For example, Buffalo County has no center and the center in Pepin is only open 39 hours a year.
This lack of access creates a potential constitutional challenge for the new photo identification law.
People are also confused about whether they need to pay for the ID card. Officials at DMV centers were not informing applicants that a voter ID should by law be free. To clear up the confusion, I joined other legislators to introduce a bill requiring officials to inform citizens applying for a card that voter IDs are free.
Courts stuck down laws that charge voters for an ID to vote or charge them for any supplemental document needed to get that ID (like a birth certificate).
Courts also considered time, transportation and advance planning necessary to get the ID. This means an unconstitutional burden is placed on people if they have to pay for an ID or a birth certificate to get the ID; if it takes a long time to get to a DMV center, or if they must do advance planning to arrange to get an ID.
The state cannot impinge on your right to vote.
I argued during debate on the voter bill that lack of DMV centers in rural areas creates an unfair burden on rural folks.
In an effort to avoid a constitutional challenge, the state budget included a requirement that every county have a DMV office open at least 20 hours a week. Currently only 30 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties meet that requirement. To comply with the new law, state officials are shuffling around DMV centers.
The shuffling of centers will cause some to close and others to expand. Although the plan is not final, officials announced they will close as many as 16 offices including Stanley & Abbotsford. Nine new centers will open including Alma and a center in southern Eau Claire County.
All of this comes at a cost to taxpayers: roughly $15 million and 60 new state jobs.
The upcoming recall elections are the first time Wisconsin voters will be asked for an ID but they are NOT required to have one. The ID requirement goes into effect for elections after January 2012. But new rules are in effect that change residency and absentee voting.
There are no recall elections in the 31st State Senate District this month. Voters in six Senate Districts will go to the polls on August 9th. Voters living in the northeast and the Kenosha area will go to the polls on August 16th.
As you talk with friends and family to remind them to vote, be sure and tell them they DO NOT need a new ID to vote this summer.
Everyone WILL need an accurate, current ID for 2012. So you and others may end up taking a trip to the local DMV center. If you do – remember – the ID is FREE!
(If you know someone who would like to be added to Kathleen's Column Distribution List, please let us know)
|Wisconsin Early Vote/In-Person Absentee Voting
In-person absentee voting is a quick and easy way to ensure voters in WI can make participating in the electoral process convenient and efficient. To Early Vote here in Wisconsin, follow these three easy steps:
1.Locate your local municipal clerk's office by accessing the following website : http://www.wearewisconsin.org/?p=396 or call 1-800-868-3947
2.Stop in to your local municipal clerk's office during regular business hours between Monday July 25 and August 5 and request an in-person absentee ballot for the August 9 General Recall Election.
3.While in the clerk's office, fill out your ballot and hand it back to your municipal clerk.(Please note: In person absentee voters may also be asked to provide valid photo ID however you do not need to do so until the February Primary of 2012.
This process eliminates long lines and unexpected scheduling conflicts that often keep strong supporters from casting ballots in crucial elections. In making sure Democrats take back the Wisconsin State Senate this summer, we need to make sure every voter is able to get to the polls and encouraging voters to take advantage of the WI Early Vote opportunity will make this need a reality.
“Have you heard about the new maps?” I asked a voter in Pepin County.
“Yes,” he said. “Can you tell me why they are doing this?”The City of Eau Claire will become one Assembly District – the new 91st Assembly District. Right now the city’s south side has one set of representatives and the north another. A new Assembly District will be created from parts of rural Eau Claire County, Pepin and most of Pierce. Much of this area is now in the district of Representative Danou.
Most of Buffalo and Trempealeau Counties will join eastern Jackson, including Black River Falls, in a new 92nd Assembly District. This forces Democratic Representatives Danou and Radcliffe to run against each other.
...The big question I hear from most constituents is, ‘Why?”
Every ten years following the census, boundaries of political districts are redrawn...to assure equal representation...sometimes called ‘reapportionment’ or ‘redistricting’, always starts at the local level with the drawing of wards, aldermanic and supervisor districts. The locals finish their work by the end of the summer and the Legislature picks up the task in the fall.
Not so this year.
Republican leaders, anxious to set in stone their political gains in the last election, turned the process upside down – right in the middle of the work of local leaders.
Across the state, local officials are looking at changes in the populations and adjusting ward boundaries. As usual, their work began this spring and will be complete by early fall.
What’s unusual are Legislative leaders scheduling an Extraordinary Session this week to vote on the new Legislative and Congressional boundaries. This action is in advance of recall elections across the state. These elections may change the balance of power in the state Senate.
With control of the Legislature and the Governor in the hands of one party, the drawing of maps became a partisan exercise. Although Republican leaders and their lawyers worked on the maps for months, I and other Democrats only saw the new districts when they were made available to the press last Friday.
Wisconsin has not recently faced ‘redistricting’ under the control of only one party. The first full redrawing of Legislative lines since 1921 was done by a committee that included public members and was chaired by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Marvin Rosenberry. For the fifty years following the “Rosenberry Committee”, partisan control was split. In every decade the drawing of new maps was resolved with action by the Supreme Court.
This year we face a very unusual situation: complete control by one party and voting on new maps in the shadow of recall elections.
While all states are in the process of redrawing district lines, some states approach the process differently. Iowa, for example, uses the resources of a nonpartisan group similar to our Legislative Council to draw the lines.
I spoke with many folks who want to know who will be their new representatives. The new maps are available through a link on my Senate website and the Legislative website (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/). The new maps will be in effect for the 2012 General Election or any recall or special elections held after November of 2012.
ed. note: Call your legislators and record your objections! They probably won't listen, but it will be on the record.
|A letter from State Senator Vinehout
Thank you for contacting me to share your concerns about Assembly Bill 7, the Voter Photo ID bill. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of my Democratic colleagues and I, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6. Governor Walker signed it into law as 2011 Act 23.
I strongly oppose this unneeded legislation. The incidence of voter fraud in this state is very low. Assembly Bill 7 does little to address the rare instances of voter fraud that does exist.
According to Kevin Kennedy, director of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (GAB), fewer than two cases of fraud were found for every million votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2004 Election. Of the nearly 3 million people voted 2008, twenty people were charged with voter fraud. Most were convicted felons on probation. The Voter Photo ID bill does not prevent felons from voting because the state does not forbid felons from getting a driver’s license. The bill does nothing to prevent the fraud that does exist in our state.
We must protect the integrity of elections, but we must balance this with the costs of such protections. Assembly Bill 7 will cost taxpayers, at minimum, an additional $15.1 million at a time when schools, universities and local services are facing severe cuts. The cost to disenfranchised voters is incalculable.
This bill creates the strictest voter photo ID requirement in the nation. Fourteen states have some form of photo identification requirement. Of the seven states with strict photo identification requirements, Wisconsin’s is the most restrictive. Wisconsin’s law limits the identification for voting to only an accurate and current state-issued identification, a passport, a tribal ID or a current military ID. Even a veteran’s benefit ID card with a photo is not allowed.
We should be working to encourage voting, not creating roadblocks that make it harder for students, the elderly, minorities and rural residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
It is important people understand the new rules. Since the bill is phased in over six months, elections this summer will be different than elections next year when the law is fully implemented. I have attached my weekly columns on this issue and an update from GAB on how the new law applies to recall elections. Please share this information with friends so that no one is denied their constitutional right to vote. If you would like to receive my column or receive updates on voter identification legislation, please e-mail me at Sen.Vinehout@legis.wisconsin.gov or call me toll-free at 877-763-6636.
Thank you again for sharing you views on this issue. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance on this or any other issue of importance.
|Hold your elected officials accountable
Over the last six months we've seen an unprecedented number of attacks on working families. Newly elected governors and ideological state legislators came to power with one goal: To further erode protections of working Americans and reward corporate CEOs for massive campaign contributions.
Working America has been on the ground in many of these states, fighting back to protect good jobs, workplace rights and retirement security. We've been there because our members, like you, told us these issues matter.
What matters most to you? Choose your top two priorities:
- Health care
- Jobs and the economy
- Retirement security
- Corporate power and corruption
- Workplace rights—leave and work hours, fair employment, etc.
Working America, AFL-CIO
|M&I Bank and Walker
M&I bank and Walker
Consultant, Writer, Senior Fellow with The Campaign for America's Future
Posted: March 14, 2011 03:15 PM via Huffington Post
Wisconsin Governor's Allies Ran a Toxic Bailout Bank... and Got Rich
People in Wisconsin are pulling their money out of Marshall & Ilsley (M&I) Bank because they know it's been helping their Governor's crusade against public employees and the middle class.
They might also like to know that M&I's executives ran one of the most conspicuous dumping sites for toxic financial waste in the country. And that the same executives are about to get very rich, even though TARP rules supposedly don't allow big bonuses for underwater bankers like the leadership at M&I.
These executives didn't just contribute to Scott Walker's campaign. They also helped the governor avoid the press -- and his own constituents -- by letting him use their bank's underground tunnel, which leads directly from its parking lot into the Capitol Building in Madison. Using it for this purpose may have been a violation of the bank's own Code of Business Ethics.
That tunnel's not just a convenient way to help a political crony. It's also one heck of a metaphor.
The M&I Bank's behavior mirrored that of banks across the country who were rescued by the public, then used their money to lobby against the public interest. M&I executives have gone the extra mile for Scott Walker as he fights to strip employees of their benefits and cut vital services. Walker's goal is to keep taxes low for wealthy Wisconsin residents by cutting services for the middle class -- the same middle class that paid for M&I's bailout and keeps its money in M&I's vault.
And once again, these bankers will benefit personally from the public's sacrifice.
M&I Bank had a dangerously high percentage of toxic assets -- mostly crappy mortgages that aren't worth nearly what these bank executives claimed they were worth. There are only two ways bankers can accumulate so many bad loans: either by being, shall we say, morally elastic, or by being bad at the fundamentals of their profession. (Although, come to think of it, the two are not mutually exclusive.)
How toxic were M&I's loans? As Bloomberg News
reported in 2009, "The biggest banks with nonperforming loans of at least 5 percent include Wisconsin's Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Georgia's Synovus Financial Corp." Bloomberg quoted one former regulator as saying these figures were "off the charts," while another said: "If (a bank) is at 5 percent, chances are regulators have them classified as being in unsafe and unsound condition."
At its worst, M&I Bank's figure was 5.18%.
And yet investors might not have known the bank was in "unsafe and unsound" conditions by reading SEC filings for previous years. That document made it sound as if the bank was merely suffering from the difficult conditions everybody was facing. What's more, "management concluded that internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2008."
The bank's most recent 10-K filing states
that in 2009 "the Corporation continued to experience elevated levels of expenses due to the increase in operating costs associated with collection efforts and carrying nonperforming assets." That included, among other things, the cost of foreclosing on Wisconsin residents.
Some reports suggest that the bank's purchase was a "shotgun marriage
" arranged by regulators who forced the Bank of Montreal to make the acquisition. The fact that this deal will make some sub-par bankers very rich and let them skirt TARP rules in the process didn't seem to concern these anonymous regulators at all. In fact, if the plan helps regulators get their TARP dollars back, a whole host of substandard executives at other regional banks
may get rich too.
Money For Nothing
Every "toxic loan" represents a household whose life has become a shambles. The executives of Marshall & Ilsley Bank, on the other hand, are doing just fine. Thanks to a a legal workaround
discovered by the enterprising folks at M&I, they're using a 2008 contractual provision to write themselves fat checks before taxpayers get their money back.
How fat are those checks? The CEO, Mark Furlong, is getting $18 million. CFO Gregory Smith is getting $5.5 million. Senior Vice President Kenneth Krei will receive the same amount, while Senior Vice Presidents Thomas Ellis and Thomas O'Neill are getting $4.1 million and $5.1 million, respectively, with another $26.7 million being distributed to other M&I executives (many of whom undoubtedly oversaw the writing of toxic loans).
If these underperforming executives gave back all this bonus money they'd be less than 1/25th of the way toward paying back the $1.5 billion that the bank still owes on its TARP money.
($1,543,261,806, to be precise.) That's not much of a dent, but it would be a nice good-faith gesture.
Tunnel of Love
Instead, a number of these executives have been using their money to back Scott Walker, lavishing more campaign cash on him than they gave to all other candidates put together.
And they didn't just donate money. As Mary Bottari
reported, the bank has been letting the Governor ferry himself and a number of his lobbyist friends to the Capitol through that underground tunnel. (Are they sure it doesn't lead to the River Styx?)
About that tunnel: In a section of M&I's Business Code of Ethics
entitled "Protection and Proper Use of Company Assets," employees are told that "The resources of the Company should be used only for legitimate business purposes and for the benefit of the Company." The tunnel is clearly a "resource," and M&I has not reported its use as a lobbying activity. In fact, the bank's disclaiming any institutional involvement with Gov. Walker. So who violated the Code of Ethics?
The Code states that "Employees who violate the standards in this Code will be subject to disciplinary action, which depending on the severity of the situation, may include dismissal." We await the Bank's announcement of disciplinary action in the Scott Walker case.
You Got to Move
Now, as both Mary Bottari
and Mike Elk
have reported, the unions are striking back with a "Move Your Money" campaign. That could hurt since, as Mike Elk reports, a researcher estimates that unions may have more than $1 billion in pension funds invested at M&I Bank.
In response to the protest, M&I issued a statement
insisting that these donations from senior executives were the actions of individuals and not of the bank itself. But those individuals run
the M&I Bank. And they literally have an underground connection to Walker and the lobbyists who are running Wisconsin's state government.
Unless the Board of Directors is willing to replace these executives, their actions can reasonably be considered the Bank's actions as well. And if nobody's disciplined for for that tunnel, M&I can be considered an active collaborator in the Governor's actions.
Replacing these executives would be a good idea for M&I, too. They haven't been very good at their jobs. Fortunately for them, good performance isn't a prerequisite for getting rich in today's banking industry.
But really: A tunnel? What would Dr. Freud say? The people who are taking their money out of M&I Bank seem to think somebody's getting the shaft, and they want it to stop.
|I posted this article with american for prosperity web site
As of yet it hasn't been added to their comment section. The moderator has to look at it first.I am not holding my breath that it will be posted.
I am a private sector worker that works for the public. I see nothing different in how people earn their living. For example; I need a teacher they need and electrician. I may earn more than them, or they may earn more than me. So what; we need each other. Where does the argument come from that they are over paid because their pay checks come from the government? I know the answer to that question, the billionaires can't take their profits off the backs of these public workers.100% of the money these public workers EARN is reinvested in their families, even the taxes they pay goes to help fund their jobs. How can we continue to target these public workers as evil doers?
The top 2%, the wealthiest Americana’s see this as dollars they are being deprived of. Break collective barging and it will be 80% for public workers and their families and 20% for the multi millionaires. This is the TOOL Governor Walker is giving them. When will working families wake up and see how their being used by this tea party movement.
When a dictator speaks you better get on his fancy bus and spend a few days touring with him or else. I can bet you this much, the governor won’t care if the money spent for this event comes form out of state. After all that is how he made it in office.
The good thing about all this is the Koch brothers have been exposed, next Grover Norquist; come out, come out, where ever you are. And Carl Rove I give you credit for being the brains to get someone like G.W. Bush elected. I knew when you left his adm. Working People of America were in deep trouble. All I can say is Touché. See you all on the front lines. Well not the billionaires, just their little people.
The one thing we have lost in this great country is the ability to negotiate, hence the wars, problems in Washington, and now this.
What would this country look like if we could shed the greed?
Jesus helps us.
As the 2010 campaign heats up, a lot of blame has been directed towards the Democrats and, in particular, President Obama for the billions of tax dollars given away to corporations in the form of bailouts.
The facts tell a different story. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, all amounts in 2008 U.S dollars: President Richard Nixon bailed out Penn Central Railroad in 1970 for $3.2 billion, Lockheed in 1971 for $1.4 billion and Franklin National Bank in 1974 for $7.8 billion. President Gerald Ford bailed out New York City in 1975 for $9.4 billion. President Jimmy Carter bailed out Chrysler Motors in 1980 for $4 billion. President Ronald Reagan bailed out Continental Illinois National Bank in 1984 for $9.5 billion. President George H. Bush bailed out the savings and loans industry in 1989 for $293.3 billion.
In 2001, President George W. Bush bailed out: the airline industry for $18.6 billion; in 2008, Bear Stearns for $30 billion; Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac for $400 billion; AIG for $180 billion, including $40 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (T.A.R.P.); the automobile industry for $25 billion; Citigroup for $280 billion, with $45 billion from T.A.R.P.; and established T.A.R.P. for $700 billion, of which $85 billion was already counted above. President Barack Obama in 2009 bailed out Bank of America for $142.2 billion, with $45 billion from T.A.R.P..
Many of us forget that the bailouts attributed to Obama were initiated during the last four months of Bush's term. In October 2008, recognizing the need for avoiding total collapse of the financial system, both presidential candidates -- Sens. John McCain and Obama -- voted for the bailouts. But the economy had already tanked under Bush, and the deregulation orgy, which allowed Wall Street to gamble and lose trillions, went on for 10 years before Obama took office.
Portions or all of several of the above bailouts have been repaid, and some even generated a profit for the government; we do not have space to provide the details here.
As for the totals, Republican presidents are responsible for 13 of 15 bailouts and $1.87 trillion, while Democratic presidents for only two bailouts and $146.2 billion. It's yet another proof of the campaign of falsehoods and misinformation carried out by those that would like to see this administration, and the Democrats fail…at any cost.
For how long will they be insulting the intelligence of the American people? And the media would allow them to get away with it? Why should we give back the keys to those who drove us into the ditch?
|The Truth Is Out There
Our mission as leaders of working families is to see that all workers have a decent standard of living, a fair wage and good benefits. We believe that being a union member increases ones chance of achieving a decent standard of living. To reach our higher standard, union electricians work hard at being better trained, better educated and leaders in the industry.
Part of our goal is to bring the message about our decent standard of living to our non-union brothers and sisters who do work similar to ours, but for a lesser wage, and often no benefits. We reach out and ask them to join with us to become union electricians where they can work hard at being better trained, better educated, and join us as we lead in the industry.
As leaders in labor we need to inform all working families of dangers that can lead to the demise of both organized and not yet organized labor brothers and sisters.
Support legislators who support working families.
We must think of our rights as workers, and support legislators who support working families.
Use the following link to look up voting records of our legislators and see for yourself who is fighting for your standard of living: http://www.aflcio.org/Legislation-and-Politics/Election-2012
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will” - Frederick Douglas
Do we really think that someday our wealth will match that of the rich Wall Street and corporate executives? Many legislators support corporations at the expense of working families. We must ask ourselves, “Do I really think these Wall Street and corporate types will plan to willingly share their wealth with working families?” Talk to your legislators and know issues and how they impact you—those with power and wealth will not share it without your demands.
Politics and how Wall Street has an influence
How does Wall Street pay hurt us?
Consider what David R. Francis wrote in the Christian Science Monitoron 1/18/2010:
“Wall Street compensation this year says Peter Morici [an economist], threatens to exceed the entire growth of the economy in the fourth quarter of 2009 and reach a huge 1 percent of gross domestic product. Such largess is taken away from the rest of us, including retirees who get less income from low interest certificates of deposit. Top white house officials “are taxing grandma to subsidize” Wall Street with its big paydays, he charges.
One explanation for Washington lethargy on the pay issue could be the huge amounts of campaign contributions by the financial industry to both parties- nearly 500 million in 2008 alone. “
Campaign contributions by corporations are sure to increase now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. It will take even more contact with your legislators to help sway issues. Use the following link to make contact with your elected officials to let them know what you want and think about the issues: http://www.usa.gov/index.shtml
Don’t be fooled and tricked to decide your vote only on a single issue.
There are big differences in the parties that represent us and we must know what consequences our families have when our vision is blurred with the smoke of wedge issues. Single issues are sometimes called “wedge issues” when they are given a lot of attention so they cause people to vote with their emotions on one issue and ignore the broader issues at stake. They drive a wedge between otherwise united voters. In other words, wedge issues are thrown in to suck up votes from working families and others to tip the balance and win elections. Be sure you know the consequences of your actions before you vote.
When we hear political leaders saying the working class is “demanding too much”, what is our reaction? They should be saying that the working class family deserves a living wage.
Don’t forget that we can send letters to our legislators if we are opposed to certain moral, ethical and human-rights issues.
Again, use the following link to make contact with your elected officials to let them know what you want and think about the issues: http://www.usa.gov/index.shtml
What are we asking for and what do we need to do to convince management that they need to share the wealth?
It is bothersome that some people do not think the working class deserves just compensation. The working class carries out the dreams of managers, and without us those dreams would not be realized. All workers deserve respect. Our work is important. For our part, our mannerisms on the job, and being qualified and educated will help us to earn greater respect. Working with efficiency and quality is our charge—maintaining our standard of living depends on it.
When we hear, “This is mine, I’ve worked hard for it”, do we stop and think about who helped us to get where we are? We do work hard for what we have, but often someone else worked harder to help to boost our standard of living to where it is. Don’t forget about the hard work and sacrifices the people who went before us made to set up benefits, support systems and rules for treating workers fairly. Don’t forget about others who fought and continue to fight for our standard of living!
Join the fight!
|Lets try this it could save your job
AUGUST 1st to Sept. 1st
Well over 50 yrs ago I knew a lady who would not buy Christmas gifts if they were made in China . Her daughter will recognize her in the following.
Did y'all see Diane Sawyer's special report? They removed ALL items from a typical, middle class family's home that were not made in the USA .
There was hardly anything left besides the kitchen sink. Literally. During the special they showed truckloads of items - USA made - being brought in to replace everything and talked about how to find these items and the difference in price etc..
It was interesting that Diane said if every American spent just $64 more than normal on USA made items this year, it would create something like
200,000 new jobs!
I WAS BUYING FOOD THE OTHER DAY AT WALMART and ON THE LABEL OF SOME PRODUCTS IT SAID 'FROM CHINA '
FOR EXAMPLE THE "OUR FAMILY" BRAND OF THE MANDARIN ORANGES SAYS RIGHT ON THE CAN 'FROM CHINA '
I WAS SHOCKED SO FOR A FEW MORE CENTS I BOUGHT THE LIBERTY GOLD BRAND OR THE DOLE SINCE IT'S FROM CALIF.
Are we Americans as dumb as we appear --- or --- is it that we just do not think. The Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in American markets.
70% of Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.
Why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges? DO IT YOURSELF, AMERICA !!
Simply look on the bottom of every product you buy, and if it says 'Made in China ' or 'PRC' (and that now includes Hong Kong ), simply choose another product, or none at all. You will be amazed at how dependent you are on Chinese products, and you will be equally amazed at what you can do without.
Who needs plastic eggs to celebrate Easter? If you must have eggs, use real ones and benefit some American farmer. Easter is just an example. The point is do not wait for the government to act. Just go ahead and assume control on your own.
THINK ABOUT THIS: If 200 million Americans each refuse to buy just $20 of Chinese goods, that's a billion dollar trade imbalance resolved in our favor...fast!!
Most of the people who have been reading about this matter are planning on implementing this on Aug. 1st and continue it until Sept. 1st. That is only one month of trading losses, but it will hit the Chinese for 1/12th of the total, or 8%, of their American exports. Then they might have to ask themselves if the benefits of their arrogance and lawlessness were worth it.
Remember, August 1st to Sept. 1st !!!!!! START NOW.
Send this to everybody you know. Let's show them that we are Americans and NOBODY can take us for granted.
If we can't live without cheap Chinese goods for one month out of our lives, WE DESERVE WHAT WE GET!
Pass it on, America .... Well instead of doing it for just 1 month why not try to do it all the time.
“American labor isn’t getting its full share of the nation’s output.”
David R. Francis, the Christian Science Monitor 2/21/2010
Charles McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services, a Washington consulting firm says “Labor has no leverage.” So wages have been “depressed, stagnant or falling” for some 30 years. This doesn’t just mean union labor; all working families face the same problem.
We see in the news that the economy is growing, but the largest percentage of compensation goes to corporations.
The most shocking thing I heard form an economist lately is that we are on the path of accepting the Chinese model because of their success at making money. With Money Comes Power!
David R. Francis wrote:
Another reason is the perpetual war against trade unions by much of business and many antiunion politicians of both parties. For example, Republicans on the House Committee on Education and Labor routinely dispatch an e-mail to the press attacking the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) or some White House appointment, such as a nominee to the National Labor Relations Board.
EFCA was the top priority of organized labor, which had high hopes for labor-law reform when President Obama took office a year ago. But "it's not going to go anywhere soon" in Congress, notes John Schmitt, an economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. With solid Republican opposition and a few Democratic no votes, the bill could not reach the 60 votes needed to escape a Senate filibuster.
Opposition to EFCA, popularly known as "card check," centers on its provision that a union could get recognition in a factory or office if it got a majority of workers to sign a card saying they wanted union representation. The company then couldn't insist on a Department of Labor supervised secret ballot of the workers on the union question.
These are some of the issues working families are facing. We need to be better informed about these issues to let other workers know the challenges we face.
These are a few of the links I have used in the past to get information on the struggles we face. They are real and will not go away without working families standing up for ourselves.
Page Last Updated: Apr 05, 2016 (14:50:54)