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Yes, Obamacare is Still a Disaster

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 07:00

The following commentary was originally posted at the MacIver Institute.

So, the House GOP’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare was unsuccessful. After months of political theater and seven years of opposition to the disastrous healthcare law, their American Health Care Act (AHCA) failed to garner enough votes from the far right and moderate wings of the Republican party to pass with the needed 216 votes.

Lost in all the drama and theatrics, however, is the big picture: Americans are suffering under Obamacare and will continue to suffer “for the foreseeable future,” as Speaker Paul Ryan lamented in a press conference after it became clear AHCA did not have enough votes to get through the House.

Congressional Republicans, President Trump, the House Freedom Caucus – all will come away with political wounds. But the tarnished image and lost political capital that the failure to pass AHCA will inflict on Washington politicians pales in comparison to the actual harm that Obamacare will continue to inflict on average Americans just trying to stay afloat.

One thing is certain: Obamacare is still an unmitigated disaster. Premiums are still spiraling out of control. Sky-high deductibles still make Obamacare insurance plans practically useless. And competition and choice are still on the decline.

In 2017, the average premium increase on the individual market in Wisconsin was 16 percent. In fact, one plan in western Wisconsin costs $51,000 per year in premiums for a couple unfortunate enough to be in their 50s with three children.

Sure, Obamacare subsidizes premiums for those at the lower end of the income scale. But if you happen to occupy the vast swath of America known as the middle class, you’re likely on the hook for the full bill – plus deductibles.

In a report last year that scoured the federal database of 2017 premiums in Wisconsin, the MacIver Institute found that an average family of four would fork over an average monthly premium of $1,609.11 for a platinum plan – $19,309.32 per year – while a mid-level silver plan would cost them $1,297.02 in average monthly premiums, or $15,564.24 per year.

While proponents of Obamacare like to point to premium subsidies for the poor, they leave out a key concern that Americans grapple with: sky-high deductibles. For a top-tier platinum plan in Wisconsin the average deductible is $900 for a family and $450 for an individual.

However, for a mid-level silver plan, the average deductible is $7,015.71 for a family and $3,491.92 for an individual. The average catastrophic plan deductible will be $14,300 for a family and $7,150 for an individual.

Obamacare’s downward death spiral is also forcing insurers out of the market. One-third of counties nationwide have just one insurance provider in the individual market. Last year, two major insurers left Wisconsin altogether.

Economics 101 teaches that robust competition drives down prices. Giving consumers a choice is also a matter of basic fairness.

However, proponents of Obamacare continue their efforts to prop up the law with scare tactics aimed at vulnerable populations.

One “report” put out by Citizen Action of Wisconsin claimed the GOP proposal would cost older premium payers thousands more per year, but it’s a two dimensional analysis in a three dimensional world. The liberal group’s so-called report hinges on cocktail napkin math, simply subtracting the AHCA’s refundable tax credits from Obamacare premium subsidies.

The group also claims out-of-pocket costs would increase, but fail to mention that the AHCA would’ve expanded health savings accounts (HSAs), tax-free accounts from which health expenses can be paid. Healthcare tax credits under the AHCA would’ve gone into HSAs – which an individual would then use to pay for out-of-pocket costs like deductibles. HSAs coupled with the AHCA’s tax credits would have made insurance portable from job to job and accessible to the self-employed and independent contractors.

Obamacare actually put a cap on how much pre-tax money individuals could contribute to an HSA, compounding the problem of the law’s astronomical deductibles. What good is having insurance – even if it’s provided for free at taxpayer expense – if you can’t afford to use it? Why have insurance when the deductible alone will bankrupt you? Perhaps that’s why some Wisconsin hospitals started waiving out-of-pocket fees for lower income patients last year to stem the tide of increasing ER visits by Obamacare recipients.

Let’s also not forget that Obamacare activists like CAW have constantly pushed Wisconsin to follow in the footsteps of Minnesota, which gave Obamacare a big hug, and is now paying the price. The Minnesota Mistake was brought into focus last year when the state was forced to shovel more than $300 million – in one year alone – into a rescue plan to help middle class Minnesotans absorb a 60 percent Obamacare premium increase. Minnesota practically begged insurers to stay in their market to stave off a complete collapse of the market.

The giant folly of the healthcare debate is that prognosticators like CAW and Obama himself constantly conflate health insurance coverage with actual health care. Conservative health reform, of which the AHCA was supposed to be just the first of several phases – introduces market forces into healthcare. When there’s price transparency, someone seeking care is actually able to shop around for better prices.

A healthcare system where providers actually compete over price conscious customers would have the same effect as any other competitive marketplace – rapid innovation, increased efficiency, and reduced costs. As Speaker Ryan points out, that very phenomenon is demonstrable in the cost of elective LASIK eye surgery, the price of which has actually dropped over the past 15 or so years – as has the price of flat screen TVs, smartphones, and anything else sold in an actual free market.

The GOP’s failure to pass AHCA is a setback. But, it is not a political setback like all the talking heads want you to believe. It is a setback because the death spiral that is Obamacare continues unabated and the American people continue to suffer because President Obama lied to them. If you like your health insurance, you will be able to keep it, and the ACA will bend the cost curve. Obama’s lies live on.

But it’s important for lawmakers to keep their eye on what’s important – Obamacare is a disastrous big government boondoggle that will cost taxpayers a trillion dollars in new taxes and threatens to collapse entire individual insurance markets.

As President Trump said on Friday after the AHCA was pulled, Obamacare will inevitably “explode.” But lawmakers can’t wait around for that to happen and then try to blame the Democrats. A solution that can pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president must be found.

Read the original post at the MacIver Institute.

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Don’t Point Fingers, Do the Job.

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 11:18

The first Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to gain enough votes in the House to pass. Ok, that’s a big setback for the party that’s promised to get rid of the disastrous healthcare law since it became law in 2010.

Some commentators and politicians have already started pointing the finger of blame. Some are pointing at the Freedom Caucus, who were intransigent in their insistence Obamacare be repealed in full.

Others are pointing at more moderate Republicans, who feared the dubious CBO score that claimed 24 million people would lose their insurance and premiums would continue to increase under the AHCA.

Many on both sides are trying to pin the blame on Speaker Ryan. Some say he didn’t let the Freedom Caucus in on the process of creating  the bill, kept it hidden from members for too long, and/or didn’t adequately communicate the big picture (the three-phase plan of which the AHCA was just the first part).

Still others blame Trump, who trusted his advisers that the AHCA was the best way forward and that healthcare should’ve been the first priority of the administration as opposed to tax reform.

While the failure of the AHCA is at least nominally a failure, going down the course of blame placing and finger pointing will turn that surface wound into a swollen pustule.

The American people are sick of Washington. They are sick of politicians making promises they can’t or don’t keep. They are sick of political spin and politicians blaming everyone but themselves when their failures become manifest.

They’re also sick of Washington meddling in their business, confiscating their money, lying to them, playing them for fools, and treating them like they’re moronic trolls who can’t run their own lives – or see through D.C. political tricks. And their impatience is increasing.

If squabbling must be done, Republicans should do it behind the scenes. Let the Democrats publicly gloat that their ruinous law is still in place.

I applaud President Trump for throwing up his hands and demanding a vote. He was elected to get things done, and another protracted few weeks of intra-GOP squabbling wouldn’t have produced a substantially different bill that could’ve both gained enough House support to pass that body and clear the Senate’s ridiculous cloture hurdle. I also applaud Speaker Ryan for avoiding placing blame and gently chiding his caucus for failing to grow into a governing party, rather than a grandstanding, statement making opposition party.

Speaker Ryan and the House GOP have compounded their challenge. They must still deal with Obamacare, or face a major revolt in 2018 from the voters. The seething mass of Americans in the populist ring who have grown increasingly agitated with Washington won’t put up with more inaction. Simultaneously, they must now deal with tax reform.

If they don’t accomplish tax reform, they will lose all credibility as a governing party and all trust that the American people have placed in them to actually get something done – to shrink a government that takes trillions of tax dollars annually but renders little to middle class taxpayers except pothole-riddled highways and nonstop cable news bickering.

If they don’t accomplish health care reform – and there’s still time – they will break one of the longest-running political promises ever made to the American people.

It’s time for the GOP to figure out the way forward and to act and produce results, or else the nationwide uprising among flyover country voters will continue and GOP incumbents will be told en masse by voters, “You’re Fired.”

The post Don’t Point Fingers, Do the Job. appeared first on Morning Martini.

An Idea For Trump’s Salary

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 22:08

We don’t usually opine about national issues unless they have at least a tangential Wisconsin connection, so this post is an unusual one and a rare violation of our prime directive. This is an idea for President Trump re: his promise to forego taking a salary or to donate it to charity.

By law, the president is required to take a salary. Should Trump take a nominal $1 salary? I suggest something different.

Hot Air reported on Sean Spicer’s handling of the question – what is the president doing to fulfill that pledge?

My idea? The president is paid monthly. The White House should give the public a say. They can put up a poll at the start of each month with a list of potential charitable causes (with an open-ended option) and promote voting throughout the month. (the cynical strategist in me sees a nonstop source of positive media).

At the end of the month, the White House sets up a GoFundMe page for the winning organization or cause. President Trump would be the first donor, pitching in what’s left after taxes of his $33,000 monthly salary (that’s $400,000 per year, plus other expense accounts, et cetera). The fundraising campaign would last a month.

Sure, the potential exists for such a system to be hijacked by lefties, but that would (cynical strategist again) likely backfire.

Trump would likely be accused of opportunism and cynicism, but the check presentation photo ops would erase any blowback. Plus, it would highlight the amazing powers of non-governmental entities to fulfill roles government has appropriated for itself in recent decades, a cornerstone of conservative thought about the proper role of government.

The Donald is a billionaire elected by hoards of Americans sick of politics as usual; such a campaign by this president would be uniquely Trump.

Update: After reading the whole Hot Air post, it seems Ed Morrissey and I essentially arrive at the same suggestion, though mine is a little more specific. Credit where credit’s due:

The Trump administration is opting for one news cycle in the Christmas holiday doldrums for its charitable award, when it could have twelve news cycles throughout the year when people are paying more attention and the White House can use the distraction. This is a media-management no-brainer, especially since the media has already shown itself so invested in the story.

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La Crosse Taxpayers Shouldn’t Be Fooled By New County Tax Scheme

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:50

Here’s my column from the Sunday, March 12 edition of the La Crosse Tribune.

The nightly news and the morning paper are great ways to keep informed. Unfortunately, they’re also great avenues for politicians to peddle their schemes for foisting new taxes on unsuspecting taxpayers.

When I heard La Crosse County wants to become a “premiere resort area,” and that this designation would generate millions to fix roads, at first I felt like I was in Oprah’s audience that day she gave everyone a new car.

In reality, the proposal for a new “Premiere Resort Area Tax,” or PRAT, is more like when you overbid on the showcase showdown on The Price Is Right and the infamous fail horn blares just before you’re escorted from the stage.

The PRAT tax, the latest tax scheme cooked up by La Crosse County officials, is really just another half-percent sales tax that could be imposed on nearly all retail businesses in the county. As with any other sales tax, this $6.6 million new tax will inevitably be paid for by consumers like you.

“But without more money we can’t fill the potholes!” the tax-and-spend crowd keeps shouting in your ear every time you turn on the TV. What they conveniently omit are their own failures to properly prioritize county spending.

La Crosse County budgeted for $136,764,518 in revenue for 2016. It planned nearly $33 million in property tax collections and $11.6 million from the county’s 0.5 percent sales tax. Yes, the county already has a sales tax onto which the proposed PRAT tax would be stacked.

According to the state Department of Revenue, 44 categories of business are subject to this tax in any jurisdiction that enacts it — bars, restaurants, gas stations, clothing retailers, hotels — even a category called “miscellaneous retail stores,” lest any devious boutique business falls through the cracks. In short, pretty much every business that a tourist could theoretically walk into would be subject to the PRAT tax.

The PRAT was conceived for the most innocent of reasons. When the summer residents of certain areas, like the Wisconsin Dells, fled for the winter, the Dells and similar tourist reliant areas needed a consistent revenue source.

Thus the Legislature invented the PRAT, but it required at least 40 percent of assessed property values in the taxed region to be composed of tourism-related businesses in order to be enacted. Thus, only six municipalities in Wisconsin currently have a PRAT tax, according to the Department of Revenue. At 5.3 percent, La Crosse County doesn’t come close to qualifying.

While our home is a beautiful region with plenty of tourist attractions, it’s hardly a “premiere resort area” according to state law. Nobody’s going to be winning a trip to La Crosse on the Wheel of Fortune.

Fortunately for the pro-PRAT crowd, there’s an exemption. After an advisory referendum, the Legislature can pass a special measure allowing the county to proceed with the final steps required to enact the tax.

Taxpayers should keep an eye on the big picture, and I don’t mean the size of their property tax bills.

The county should make better decisions with what it does with taxpayer money, and roads should clearly be a priority. However, when the county board voted to nearly double its debt in 2015 from $59 million to $110 million in one fell swoop, filling potholes or fixing cracks was hardly a priority. Instead, the county embarked on a series of expansions of its office complex downtown.

Thankfully, we have a vast network of paved, pristine bike trails around here–nary a pothole in sight. Or I suppose these days we’re supposed to call them multi-use trails.

The county is clearly taking in significant revenue, it’s just not choosing to spend it on roads. Now, county officials want to hit up hard-working taxpayers for even more. If your neighbor said they desperately needed to borrow money from you, all the while installing an in-ground pool and building a breakfast nook off their foyer, any rational person would raise an eyebrow.

A tax by any other name is still a tax. Taxpayers beware.

Read the original column here.

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Cops “Nail” La Crosse Political Mini-Terrorist

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 12:12

Going back to the recall of state Senator Dan Kapanke, La Crosse area Republicans have become quite familiar with reports of property damage and even attempted acts of violence against supporters in the community.

Of course, damage to and theft of yard signs is pervasive and doubtlessly both sides are guilty of their share of this. However, during the Kapanke recall, swastikas were spray painted on several Kapanke yard signs. Numerous people – many times, the same ones – dropped by the GOP field office for new signs after theirs were repeatedly stolen. Clearly, the work of certain anti-Republican individuals.

King among such anecdotes is when Dan Kapanke’s wife, returning home late at night from her nursing job, stepped out of her car to find roofing nails in the Town of Campbell driveway. Well, a recent court case and admission of guilt finally put the problem at large in the black and white of news print.

The La Crosse Tribune reports:

A La Crosse man admitted throwing roofing nails into driveways of residents who supported Republican candidates after someone stole his lawn sign supporting a Democratic candidate, according to La Crosse police reports.

Martin Sellers, 59, of 2126 Hoeschler Drive, told police he “has done some stupid things” during his arrest Sunday for criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct, reports stated.

Five homeowners on Lincoln Avenue, Ward Avenue, Elm Street and Springbrook Way for three years reported nails in driveways. One homeowner reported eight incidents.

Sellers said he periodically targeted driveways of homes that displayed signs supported Republicans “out of anger for the political system,” reports stated. One homeowner stated the vandalism resumed after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

A homeowner who installed a surveillance system caught Sellers’ vehicle on camera. One victim reported having to replace four tires on his car.

“Both sides do it…it’s just one person” someone ostensibly trying to defend the behavior might claim while simultaneously claiming to not be defending the behavior. No, both sides don’t spend their time throwing nails in their neighbors’ driveway, and no, it’s clearly not the behavior of just one guy. I can assure you that having worked in or spent considerable time in five different local GOP offices over the years.

This one just happened to have gotten caught.

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Poll: Grassroots Republicans Want Tax Overhaul…Bigly

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 09:59

The Republican grassroots expects Washington politicians to deliver on their campaign promises of a major tax code overhaul, a sentiment that’s backed up by a new poll by the American Action Network, a center-right advocacy group based in Washington – as well as Republican leaders in an area of Wisconsin where Trump emerged the surprising victor.

The poll, which surveyed Republicans, found that 77 percent of Republicans think tax reform is extremely or very important. It also found that Republican rank-and-file voters are most concerned that the current tax code is too complicated and tax rates are too high.

“As President Trump and conservatives in Congress work on tax reform, this constituency is strongly behind them and overwhelmingly supports center-right tax reform. It’s clear, now is the right time to deliver on a simple tax code with lower rates for all Americans,” said AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss in a statement.

Brian Westrate, chairman of the 3rd District Republican Party – a historically blue district Trump won handily – framed the imperative to reform the tax code as a moral one.

“Those in power in our nation’s capital have a moral duty to the people they represent to tackle the over 75,000 pages that comprise the current tax code, to deconstruct it line by line, and reform it as a simple, effective, efficient, and fair new law,” Westrate said.

Bill Feehan, chairman of the La Crosse County Republican Party, said rank-and-file Republicans are very much in tune with the conversation in Washington and expect bold tax reform, especially after Trump – who made tax reform a centerpiece of his campaign – won the presidency in November.

“Tax cuts are the fastest way to stimulate our economy. Income tax cuts put more money in people’s pockets and most of the money gets spent right away,” Feehan said.

“This gets the economy going from the bottom up. Allowing businesses to keep more of the money they earn results in pay raises for employees, new equipment purchases and investment in business expansion,” Feehan added.

AAN’s poll also went into specifics about Trump and Congressional Republicans’ job performance and asked respondents about their tax reform plan. Respondents overwhelmingly support the broad outlines of the GOP’s plan, with 85 percent approving. Respondents also said tax reform should make it easier to create jobs, raise wages, and expand opportunity. A new tax code should grow the economy and encourage job creation.

Respondents also viewed President Trump favorably – 89 percent registered their approval. As for Congressional leadership, 77 percent approve of the job GOP leaders are doing.

The high support for Trump and Congressional leaders should be a boost for fence-sitting Republicans who might be afraid of the electoral ramifications of major tax reform. “This will take courage, and fortitude, but now that the conservatives in Washington control all levers of power in Washington they must use this opportunity to serve the people,” Westrate said.

“They must kill the tax beast built by progressive socialists over the course of the last 100 years.”

Both Trump and Congressional leaders in the majority party can maintain those relatively high numbers, it seems, by advancing a bold, pro-growth tax reform plan and doing it sooner rather than later. “Republicans should move quickly on tax cuts,” Feehan said.

“With great power comes great responsibility, the American people have given conservatives the power, now it’s time to accept the responsibility,” said Westrate.

This column also appeared at the MacIver Institute.

Photo credit: The Motley Fool

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Politifact Nails Baldwin for Supreme Hypocrisy

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 18:00

It took Senator Tammy Baldwin precisely 0.64 seconds to completely reverse her position on the Senate’s duty to “advise and consent” on presidential Supreme Court appointments. That’s about how long it took for President Trump to utter the name “Judge Neil Gorsuch.”

In 2016, when a nominee of President Obama was forced to sit in the proverbial waiting room for most of the year, Baldwin joined the chorus of feigned outrage from the left. But now that a new president – one who she doesn’t like as much – has made a nomination of his own, she’s completely reversed her position by supporting a filibuster to clog up the pipeline to the high court.

A new Politifact column declares Baldwin’s new position to be a full flip-flop. When Politifact calls out a Democrat, you know the case must be airtight. They write:

When [Merrick] Garland was nominated in March 2016, Republicans moved to block his nomination, which prompted the ire of Democrats.

Baldwin declared: “It’s the constitutional duty of the president to select a Supreme Court nominee, and the Senate has a responsibility to give that nominee a fair consideration with a timely hearing and a timely vote.”

But now that Baldwin is in the minority and facing a Republican nominee, she is supporting a filibuster that creates a roadblock to reaching that final vote. Her claim to “support” a cloture vote makes no sense since that isn’t up to her party — cloture would be pushed by Republicans and is only needed if Baldwin and other Democrats pursue a filibuster.

On the day Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, Baldwin said she would give him a fair hearing, but apparently she immediately suffered a severe case of amnesia and declared two days later her intention to vote against Gorsuch – before ever meeting with him. The hypocrisy didn’t slip past Governor Walker:

Hypocrisy: telling others to meet with #SCOTUS nominee in 2016, but announcing your vote on nominee in 2017 before a meeting.

— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) February 3, 2017

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court last March following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In the spirit of Obama’s own “elections have consequences” declaration, the Republican-controlled Senate decided not to take action on the Garland nomination. They cited a longstanding precedent that a lifetime appointment to the high court shouldn’t be made in the waning months of a presidency.

As the election’s outcome made plain, the argument seems to have held true that a Supreme Court nominee in the last few months of a president’s term might not reflect the sentiment of the time, and many voters made their decision in large measure because of the grave importance of who would fill the Scalia seat.

And of course, after the election of now-President Trump and the glorious departure of Obama, Garland packed his bags. Trump selected Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee on January 31.

Suddenly, Democrats whose hair was ablaze at the GOP’s refusal to hold hearings and an “up or down” vote on Garland…well, their hair is still ablaze, except now they’re angry the American people elected a Republican president and dashed their hopes of regaining control of the Senate.

The halls of Congress reek with hypocrisy. Suddenly, Democrats like Baldwin who hugged the Constitution while demanding a “timely hearing and a timely vote” on Garland are now hell bent on doing everything possible to stop Gorsuch – by all measures one of most qualified candidates for the Supreme Court imaginable and as close a fit to the strict constructionist, originalist judicial philosophy for which Justice Scalia was legendary.

In fact, Gorsuch has famously said that a judge who likes all the outcomes of his or her decisions is not a good judge – judges should apply the rule of law objectively, not manipulate it to create outcomes they like. This speaks volumes about Gorsuch’s sterling character – and Democrats’ rabid opposition to him speaks volumes about theirs.

For their part, the Republicans argue that, unlike their opposition to Garland, blocking a SCOTUS nomination made literally within days of a new president’s inauguration is unprecedented. That’s not stopping Democrat Senators from flip-flopping en masse like a sinking boatload of wet waffles – even some from states Trump won, like Wisconsin.

Baldwin’s staff is trying hard to muddy the waters with as much double-speak as they can muster, but Politifact does an excellent job of cutting through the nonsense her office is putting out:

In an email, Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said the senator’s position is consistent because she supported a hearing, a committee vote and a floor vote for both nominees.

Politifact goes through the byzantine Senate rules behind the filibuster to explain why Baldwin is a hypocrite. Essentially, a filibuster is the use of Senate rules to create a debate of infinite duration, thereby blocking any final vote on the nominee (only in Washington, eh?). A filibuster can be stopped by the use of cloture, a vote that sets a limit on debate – that vote requires 60 votes, so Democrats theoretically have enough votes to stand in the way.

The Baldwin spokesman slyly told Politifact that the senator supports a vote for cloture, but since she’s in the minority, her party wouldn’t even be in a position to make such a motion. Her position on cloture is as meaningful as my position on the clothing lines at Kohl’s. Politifact explains further:

But cloture is a maneuver executed by the majority party (Republicans in this case), so Baldwin’s “support” for that is both unnecessary and irrelevant.

The filibuster/cloture tactic has only been used four times for nominees to the Supreme Court since 1968 – and this one would be in the first few months of a presidency. The obstructionism and the hypocritical double-speak to justify it is hard to fathom. Fortunately, the Republicans can and might (and should) simply change Senate rules (with a simple majority vote) to eliminate the 60-vote cloture requirement for Supreme Court nominees.

The Democrats used this “nuclear option” for lower court nominees, presumably to get judges approved and keep the courts moving effectively. Since the Supreme Court is, well, the supreme court, it stands to reason that using the nuclear option to get Gorsuch approved is of even more supreme importance and even more supremely logical.

Elections do have consequences, and unfortunately for obstructionist Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, Justice Neil Gorsuch will be one of them.

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Too Much Dough Got You Low?

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:53

This hilarious fake ad targets the proposed Border Adjustment Tax, or BAT tax. It’s a parody of the typical infomercial-type ads that feature goofy shots of people struggling to perform everyday activities. And then, of course, enter the charismatic spokesman with the solution!

Except in this ad, people are struggling to close their overstuffed wallets or haul handbags loaded with cash up the stairs. It’s really brilliant.

The tax is opposed by the National Retail Federation, which produced the ad and will run it during Saturday Night Live this weekend.

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Tomah VA Whistleblower Has Questions for Ron Kind

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:48

The following report by M.D. Kittle of Watchdog.org deserves to be re-printed in full.

Click here for the original article.

A whistleblower who helped shine light on abuses at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah has some pointed questions for U.S. Representative Ron Kind.

Ryan Honl, a former employee at the scandal-plagued hospital and clinics, on Wednesday hand-delivered a letter to a Kind aide holding a listening session in Tomah.

Honl wants to know what the La Crosse Democrat or his staff said to Jason Simcakoski during a phone call to Kind’s D.C. office in November 2013, about nine months before the Marine veteran died of a “toxic cocktail” of painkillers and other drugs at the medical center.

In May, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a stinging report titled, “The Systematic Failures and Preventable Tragedies at the Tomah VA Medical Center.” The report described a “culture of fear” at the government-run hospital known as “Candyland” because of reported staff practices of overprescribing opioids. Dr. David Houlihan, the former head of the medical center who was commonly referred to as the “Candy Man” by patients and whistleblowers, was fired in November 2015. Last month a state agency stripped him of his medical license in Wisconsin.

Source notes from a 359-page Senate committee report show a 7-minute, 39-second call from Simcakoski’s phone to Kind’s office on Nov. 8, 2013.

At a May 31 hearing on the committee’s findings, Kind refused to answer Wisconsin Watchdog’s questions about the call.

“Contact my office,” Kind curtly said.

“But congressman, you are right here,” a Wisconsin Watchdog reporter responded.

Kind hastily left the conference room of the Cranberry Country Lodge in Tomah following the committee hearing.

A day later, the congressman told another news organization that his office would “conduct a thorough review” of its files.

“I can’t imagine that if someone, anyone called my office, gave their name and asked for help, then a case file would have been started immediately,” Kind told the La Crosse Tribune.

He released a follow-up statement asserting that his office doesn’t have a record of Simcakoski’s call. The congressman’s statement said the office has “strict protocol to handle every call in an appropriate way” and that its process “ensures that when constituents provide their name and contact information, and have concerns, those concerns are addressed.”

“If Jason had called our office to ask for help, we would have immediately opened a casework file and asked him to sign a Privacy Release Form in order to work on his case, as we have with almost 2,000 veterans’ cases since 2011,” the statement said. “If he had provided information, we would have flagged it and sent to the authorities, like we did when we sent the VA Inspector General an anonymous letter we received in 2011. Lastly, if he in any way sounded distressed we would have asked for his contact information and taken immediate action to reach out to the proper authorities.”

But the call records in the report’s source notes clearly indicate Simcakoski called Kind’s office and the call lasted 7 minutes, 39 seconds. Just as the records show the veteran, on the same morning, called the VA police in Tomah, and made an 8-minute call to the FBI field office in La Crosse. The FBI has declined to comment.

“Jason himself, according to the family and the congressional report, was basically a whistleblower,” Honl said in an interview Wednesday with Wisconsin Watchdog on the Vicki McKenna Show.  “He was calling the FBI, he was calling the VA police, he was calling lots of other places to try to get some attention to the drug diversion at the facility. And in the mix of that was an 8-minute call to Ron Kind’s Washington D.C. office.”

Kind’s office did forward an anonymous complaint about the hospital to the VA Inspector General in 2011, but the congressman did not follow up.

Kind and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, have been accused of not acting on allegations of misconduct. An official for the union that represents many of the employees at Tomah originally said she had sent “hand-delivered” memos to Kind and Feingold in 2009, but later walked back those statements.

Kind and Feingold said their offices had no record of the memo.

The memo battle became a heated campaign issue last year in a Senate election campaign that saw U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, beat Feingold.

Honl said his personal campaign to call out Kind was rekindled recently after reading that the 10-term congressman hasn’t ruled out a run for governor in 2018. The whistleblower said that would be “an absolute travesty.”

“The governor is responsible for the National Guard in the state and I just can’t imagine that someone who turned the other way while veterans are being abused and died would be responsible to veterans and active duty,” Honl said.

Kind’s office did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

The original article can be found here at Wisconsin Watchdog.

The post Tomah VA Whistleblower Has Questions for Ron Kind appeared first on Morning Martini.

About That Billion-Dollar Transportation Shortfall…

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 13:57

We’ve all heard the narrative that Wisconsin is facing a transportation funding deficit of a billion dollars. As narratives go, it’s a case study in framing a public discussion. But over at the MacIver Institute, investigative reporter Bill Osmulski does what it seems nobody else has ever bothered to do – question that figure.

Below is an excerpt. Click through to see the full story and an avalanche of facts about transportation funding in Wisconsin.

A billion-dollar shortfall in the next transportation budget started the debate about raising Wisconsin’s gas tax, which was so explosive, no one seemingly had the time to confirm there is a billion-dollar shortfall. If they had, the current debate might not be centered on the gas tax, but instead on how we fund roads in the first place, because there’s only a shortfall if you change the way Wisconsin funds transportation.

The current 2015-2017 state budget spends $2.8 billion on highways, and $855 million of that comes from bonding. That means about 30 percent of everything Wisconsin spends on roads is borrowed, and there are those who believe the state should not be borrowing at all to pay for roads. That was the cover story for a peculiar request the Legislative Fiscal Bureau received last summer.

Even though the DOT was about to submit a new budget request in less than two months, Fiscal Bureau was asked to project what the DOT’s budget would look like under an unlikely set of circumstances. The request wanted the Fiscal Bureau to omit all bonding under a cost-to-continue scenario. The result was a $939 million difference between the current budget and the next.

The billion-dollar transportation deficit was born.

That number started the narrative that Wisconsin has a transportation funding crisis. It didn’t matter that two months later the DOT presented its actual budget request that included spending projections, revenue estimates, current federal funding commitments, and existing bonding. That request also indicated there would be a shortfall, but at $449 million, it was less than half of the previous projection. When Governor Walker presented his budget proposal, he included $500 million in new transportation bonding to fill that gap, which would be the lowest amount since the 2001-2003 budget. It would also mean no delays on major projects currently underway.

Still, the fabricated billion-dollar deficit dominates coverage of the transportation budget, and it continues to frame the debate over the gas tax. Framing the transportation debate this benefits those who want to raise the gas tax. However, they will still readily point to bonding as an underlying concern.

Whole thing here.

The post About That Billion-Dollar Transportation Shortfall… appeared first on Morning Martini.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Porno Poetry

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 14:57

The Eighth grade just ain’t what it used to be.

I remember taking ILA (integrated language arts), science, math, social studies – mostly a basket of stuff like geography and economics – and of course PhyEd (gym class).

The political and ideological indoctrination didn’t really begin until around our senior year. Mostly, at my public middle school, we were just a bunch of kids learning stuff and hanging out like 13 year old kids do. Ok, some snuck off and smoked or whatever – but the school didn’t offer lessons in cigology or evading the cops.

That quaint old paradigm seems to be eroding, at least in Abigail Swetz’s alternative-universe eighth grade class at O’Keeffe Middle School in Madison. Not only does she permit the exploration of some very adult topics that many parents would prefer to keep within the realm of their home and family, but she actively encourages these kids – the ultimate captive audience – to literally talk trash. The classroom and the extracurricular off-campus events she brings the kids to seem to be bubbles of a parallel universe in which all social norms have been completely eviscerated and anything goes.

While these kids are using adult works to talk about adult topics, I wonder how many are at grade level on Algebra, or can identify a photo of John Adams or a real social justice warrior like oh, I don’t know, Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass.

The post Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Porno Poetry appeared first on Morning Martini.

BREAKING: Kind To Hold Office Hours!

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 20:46

The La Crosse Tribune revealed a stunning new change in Rep. Ron Kind’s strategy today after multiple stories have been surfaced about the 20-year congressman’s potential 2018 plans.

The Tribune revealed today that Kind plans to hold office hours at various locations within the district in order to connect with constituents. Reports the Tribune:

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has announced plans to make his staff available to constituents in each of the 18 counties of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District over the next two weeks.

No doubt, throughout the land triumphant flourishes permeated village squares and Walmart parking lots at the news that Kind’s staff plans to hold office hours on Feb. 28, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 7 – all at various locations throughout the Third congressional district.

Reports of Kind now holding office hours in his district come after questions emerged about his potential run for governor. We speculated about the possibility that he might run for governor and took a look at whether the GOP is planning to seriously target his district in 2018. Is Kind trying to build support for a run for governor, or – more likely – shore up his image as a constituent-connector?

Is holding office hours – a top-flight story in his hometown newspaper – a sign that the congressman has changed strategy in order to emit an appearance of increased constituent relations? Or perhaps it’s a complete coincidence.

The people of Kind’s district, nonetheless, are no doubt honored that their congressman has bestowed upon them an opportunity for even the briefest of hearings, even if the precious opportunity precipitated upon them from on high only upon chatter that the screws might be tightening on his comfortable position in the next election cycle.

Funny how politics works.

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Is the GOP Serious About Targeting Ron Kind?

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:58

The Republican Party could be putting plans in place to give Democratic Congressman Ron Kind the sort of challenge he hasn’t faced in his 20 years in the House.

A fundraising solicitation email from Mark Morgan, executive director of the state Republican Party, pinpointed Kind’s district, the Third congressional district of Wisconsin, as being on the GOP radar. After Trump’s decisive win in rural Wisconsin, Morgan tells supporters:

“…Now we know which House seat is our best shot at a GOP pickup: Wisconsin’s Third District – one of only a handful of Democrat seats carried by Trump in the country.

Of course fundraising solicitations portraying a particular win or loss as hinging on the $20 contribution of some typist or trucker are standard business in politics, so for the state party to imply Ron Kind’s seat hangs in the balance might be tabloid trash that today passes for real reporting, but to those who have been in the game it’s not exactly a shocker.

The email does, however, cite a Journal Sentinel article probing the question of Kind’s conundrum as a flyover Democrat in a Trump congressional district. While the solicitation didn’t specify which article, it may have referred to this one where the Journal Sentinel took a look at each Wisconsin congressional district. It’s worth quoting their analysis of the Third in full:

This is one of just a dozen Democratic House seats in the country carried by Trump last fall. It had been regularly voting Democratic for president. But it saw a huge shift toward the GOP in 2016, part of the massive rural swing that delivered Wisconsin for Trump. Kind was unopposed for Congress by Wisconsin Republicans, who had no real way of knowing what a golden opportunity this blue seat would have been for them in 2016.

In a highly read analysis I posted this weekend, I threw a bit of cold water on the idea that Kind is or will ever be a golden opportunity to Wisconsin Republicans. The article notes, however, that Kind will be under pressure to oppose Trump.

Now it looks like Kind will be highly targeted by the GOP in 2018. The fact that his southwestern Wisconsin district voted for Trump may pressure Kind to look for some common ground across party lines with the president. But Trump’s edge in the district was narrow (just 4 points), and Kind will be pushed by his own party’s voters to oppose the president.

Kind’s dilemma is this: if he vociferously opposes Trump, he alienates an energetic portion of non-ideological populists among his electorate. If he demurs, he ticks off the far left that already thinks he’s squishier than a rotten banana.

If the state GOP follows through on making Kind a target, they’ll join at least one national group called the National Action Network so far that is also running ads against Kind for his support of Obamacare, but there’s no indication whether this is a token shot across the bow or the harbinger of a bigger campaign to come.

Politico also reported that Kind’s district is one of 36 on a list of target districts – districts that Trump won that are held by Democrats.

In his email, Morgan also said:

We need your help to recruit top-notch GOP challengers and give them every resource they will need to defeat DC insiders who have been in Washington too long and have lost touch with everyday Wisconsinites.

That candidate is likely Kind’s 2014 challenger Tony Kurtz. An influx of support from outside the district to match Kind’s Political Action Committee donations could level the playing field and give Kurtz a real shot.

The post Is the GOP Serious About Targeting Ron Kind? appeared first on Morning Martini.

Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again.

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:14

Rep. Ron Kind – whose gubernatorial ambitions, or lack thereof, Morning Martini has tracked for years – is once again stringing along his Democratic groupies when it comes to his interest in running for governor.

The congressman from La Crosse just told WPR he hasn’t ruled out running in 2018:

“I’ve been troubled, as many people have throughout the state, in regards to the direction of where we’ve gone as a state, the unnecessary division, pitting people against each other, dividing families,” Kind said. “We deserve better leadership, but no decision’s been made on my behalf.”

Like the star quarterback telling a half dozen ladies he might take them to the prom, Kind continues to tease Wisconsin Democrats desperate for a candidate strong enough to knock off Scott Walker.

Will he run? If he does, he has a lot of factors to weigh, including the increasing distance between himself and the mainstream of his own party, competing pressure to stay in his rightward-trending district, and the possibility of a damaging primary.

If he ran for governor, Kind could face a challenge from the left, a front on which he’s vulnerable for any number of reasons. For one, he’s been on the outs with labor interests in his district for some time, particularly because of his open-armed embrace of multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. The erosion of support by the union left was also evidenced by his Bernie Sanders-inspired primary opponent in the 2016 election. At least one union actually endorsed his opponent, Myron Buchholtz. Superdelegate Kind was also hounded by a pro-Bernie gaggle at the Democratic National Convention for being too moderate on trade issues.

Still, 2016 was a hopscotch for Kind, who eventually trounced Buchholtz and strode onto a general election in which his oddly named opponent, “scattering,” barely amounted to a blip (translation from geek humor: he ran unopposed). However, the strain between Kind and labor remains. The strain between Kind and the newly empowered and proliferated far-left, for whom Kind is far too nuanced and rational, is also growing more pronounced as Sandersism takes hold within the new Democratic Party.

Ironically, Kind has long marketed himself as a leader in the “New Democrat” caucus, a group of middle-of-the-road Congressmen who, with the upheaval that’s dragged his party to the precipice of socialism, now appears to be a relic of the days of Clinton. The New Democrats should re-brand as “The Tattered Wreckage of a Dead Dream.”

As one of few remaining rural, flyover state Democrats still in Congress, he admitted to voting against Nancy Pelosi in recent House leadership elections, telling the Wisconsin State Journal that a new minority leader would be “a breath of fresh air.” In the same article, Kind was critical of Hillary Clinton. “She didn’t set foot in Wisconsin once after the primary. I knew that was going to be a problem,” he said.

After the results of the November elections hit, Kind no doubt started seeing the ground moving beneath him as his electorate’s gradual transformation became manifest – or at least the electorate is realizing how far left the Democratic Party has drifted away from New Deal populism.

Voters are changing their voting patterns accordingly.

When Kind was first elected in 1996, President Bill Clinton was reforming welfare and trumpeting that “the era of big government is over,” an apparent last gasp of the Democratic ideals of the Kennedy era. Such thinking is thoroughly in the mainstream of Republican thinking today, but it’s utterly unthinkable rhetoric from a modern Democrat – except the likes of Jim Webb, whose moderate candidacy for president went over within the post-Obama Democratic ranks like ketchup on ice cream.

How much has the electorate changed in Wisconsin’s Third? In 2012, the first presidential election after redistricting made the district even more blue by removing parts of right-leaning St. Croix and adding parts of left-leaning Portage, Barack Obama won with 54.8 percent. In 2016, the same electorate voted for Donald J. Trump by 49.3 percent; Hillary Clinton won just 44.8 percent, about the same amount as Kind’s last challenger, Tony Kurtz.

Kind endorsed Hillary and pledged his superdelegate vote for her.

In addition, the two state legislative seats in which an incumbent was defeated in 2016 (both Democrats) were in Kind’s district. Rep. Chris Danou lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske 52-48 and longtime Sen. Julie Lassa lost to Patrick Testin, who hadn’t held elected office before challenging Lassa. Lassa lost by 52.4 to 47.6 percent, losing every county in her senate district save one, Portage, the most liberal.

In the era of Trump, Kind is buoyed by a Bermuda Triangle of liberal enclaves – the City of La Crosse (the rest of La Crosse County went for Trump), Portage County, and the City of Eau Claire.

The tectonic plates have shifted on the Democratic side of the ballot since 1996, too. Sanders obliterated Clinton in the Third District – the Democratic Socialist won the district with an astounding 61.3 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Kind’s district might be increasingly vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean Kind himself is too. Though the district’s voting patterns seem to be shifting Republican, especially in the rural areas within the Bermuda Triangle, Kind is hardly the poster child for the “new left” that pawns off responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s abysmal candidacy on conspiracy theories of Russian hacking, fake news, or a nexus of corruption in James Comey’s office. He’s not likely to be seen flipping over cars, smashing windows, or throwing rotten fruit at controversial alt-right agitators. Perhaps most scary to the coastal elite that runs his party, Ron Kind owns guns – AND USES THEM TO SHOOT ANIMALS!

No, Ron Kind is rather astutely in touch with his electorate, even though he’s become quite comfortable with accepting millions of dollars from special interests via his lofty perch as ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee that allows him to amass war chests of millions of dollars each election cycle.

He’s at no risk of losing in the near future; the 53-year-old has a job for life in Congress if he wants.

He also seems to be quite unambitious, at least when it comes to any aspirations for higher office. He passed up running for U.S. Senate in 2012 (presumably the Democrats preferred a cleared field while the flame thrower-wielding Republican candidates formed a circular firing squad and torched their own chances of taking the seat). He passed up a run for governor against Walker in 2014, leaving the Democrats with Mary Burke and her hairdo. He deferred to Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in 2016, who shocked the world in his failure to take down Ron Johnson.

Then, there’s the issue of the Democratic bench in Wisconsin, a topic we’ve clobbered for years on this website. It’s so thin that former state Sen. Tim Cullen, who was among those who famously took a vacation to Illinois in a failed attempt to stop Act 10, is actually considered a strong contender for 2018. Susan Happ – the failed attorney general candidate from 2014 – has been discussed. Jennifer Shilling, the Senate Minority Leader who came within 60 votes of losing her own seat in the state Senate in 2016, is still being mentioned. Add to that the usual cast of characters in the Mary Burke mold, people who can be mutated into featureless canvasses onto which any generic Democratic persona can be grafted, an approach that flopped like a wet waffle with Mary Burke.

Ron Kind For Governor would tickle the Democrats to no end. He is the Democratic bench in Wisconsin – and he’s perhaps the one Democrat with a very, very, very good shot at defeating Walker (that’s three verys more than anyone else). But there’s also the issue of time. Though he’s not old – at 53, he’s a puppy compared to 72-year-old Tim Cullen – the clock is nonetheless ticking. If he passes on 2018, he will be nearly 60 before his next shot at governor comes around, and that’s if Walker gets re-elected. (Kind will be 54 this year, 55 at the time of the 2018 election, and 59 at the 2022 election).

Any Democrat with the exception of Kind running against Walker would be an admission by that party that Walker is unstoppable – akin to their failure to put up even a token challenge to Annette Ziegler for Supreme Court.

Kind would have a unique appeal statewide to the vast sea of moderate, inconsistent, politically independent voters. Voters who lean left and those who lean right will both find something to like about his positions. He’s also extremely disciplined in his message, to the point of being the practical embodiment of the quintessential Ivy League politician. Think Cam Brady, Will Ferrell’s parody of the entrenched, self-interested politician in The Campaign.

But perhaps Kind’s greatest strength is the intangible reason why he’s so popular in the Third, anecdotally at least. (I’m qualified to peddle anecdotes about voters’ perceptions of Kind because I worked on Tony Kurtz’s 2014 campaign against him). People LIKE Ron Kind. They see him as a nice guy. Invariably, they think he’s got their interests in mind out in D.C. Were he to run for governor, he would need to translate that reputation, which he’s spent twenty years building in west-central Wisconsin, to the rest of the state.

How could the GOP attack Ron Kind as a gubernatorial candidate? Labeling him a “career politician” is a nonstarter – Walker is one, too. How about a “Washington insider?” That hasn’t hurt him in the past, despite his opponents’ best efforts. But perhaps a better strategy would be to use the populist upswell that manifested in the Sanders surge and Trump triumph against Kind. Introducing Ron Kind to both Trump and Sanders supporters as both an establishment supporter of Obamacare (right) and anti-labor trade deals (left, labor) could throw a wet blanket on enthusiasm for a Kind candidacy.

Dampening enthusiasm among Democrats, especially the new breed of rabid ones who want to see a Socialist winter descend on the country, could be the winning strategy. Wisconsin as a whole overwhelmingly voted for Sanders (see the map). Meanwhile, shoring up traditional Republican and Trump Republican support for Walker…think “Working and Winning for Wisconsin”…would keep the Walker fires stoked and drive turnout.

There’s also the matter of the Tomah VA “Candyland” scandal, which will be used against any politician with a Kevin Bacon degree of connection to the Tomah facility. Kind, in fact, has represented the area for decades. He would have to answer for that in any high-profile race he undertakes.

Kind will no doubt be facing competing pressures – pressure from within Wisconsin to run for governor, and pressure from Washington to stay in Congress. Kind’s district is already being targeted by Republicans for 2018, one of 36 Democratic-held seats that Trump carried. A group called American Action Network is already running ads hitting Kind for his support of Obamacare.

Even with a pittance of outside involvement and money, absent the influx of many, many millions of dollars, Kind is unlikely to be unseated in 2018. But, if he gives up the seat to run for governor, there’s a pretty good chance that a Republican would replace him.

Possibly the top contender would be Republican Tony Kurtz, the 50-year-old veteran, former Apache helicopter pilot, and farmer who pulled nearly 44 percent against Kind in 2014. Kurtz fits the district well, is extremely popular among the Republican base, and is a superb retail campaigner who could win over Kind’s coalition of moderates and independents in a race without Kind on the ballot. Other possibilities are former state Senator Dan Kapanke, who came within a hair of knocking Kind off in 2010, Sue Lynch of La Crosse, the former president of the National Federation of Republican Women, and any number of Republican officeholders in the Third – Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green comes to mind, as does freshman state Senator Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

To be sure, there are Democrats who could vie for the seat. State Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, and state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire are among them. Wisconsin Rapids’ 28-year-old mayor, Zach Vruwink, has also been mentioned anecdotally as a potential future candidate.

But it’s time to return to reality. In all likelihood, Kind won’t be giving up his well-paying job-for-life in Congress anytime prior to the time he chooses to retire to a life of fishing and hunting. It’s not likely that Kind will abandon the cushy enclaves of swanky soirees like Bullfeathers and the comfortable social circles of D.C. for a tumultuous – hellish – waltz into the Walker buzzsaw, only to take a five-figure pay cut for a job in which he’ll constantly be butting heads with an almost-certain long-term Republican majority in the state legislature.

He’d be crazy to do so. And if I’ve learned one thing about Ron Kind after being represented by him for 20 years and working on a campaign against him, he’s certainly not crazy.

The post Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again. appeared first on Morning Martini.

2018 Senate: Duffy’s Out

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 09:46

Rep. Sean Duffy has announced he will not challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

His statement, published in the Journal Sentinel:

“After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. Baldwin will be beat because her radically liberal Madison record and ideas are out of synch with Wisconsin. I look forward to helping our Republican nominee defeat her. I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th district, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”

We’ll update this later.

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Talking Transgender Meltdown With Vicki

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 10:19

I spoke with Vicki McKenna on Madison’s WIBA this afternoon about my Wednesday morning at the state’s Group Insurance Board meeting.

Boring, you say? Usually – but this time, a protester interrupted the meeting with a profanity-laced diatribe. She was angry that the board, in charge of taxpayer-subsidized insurance for state employees, no longer would cover gender reassignment surgery (once called a sex change operation) and attendant hormone therapy and other costs that transgender people incur.

Listen here.

Because the video was too explicit for radio, it’s included below. Profanity warning.

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Fitzgerald: Duffy “Well Positioned” to Take on Baldwin

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald agrees with Morning Martini that Sean Duffy is in a good position to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018. A talked-about possible candidate for the office himself, does this mean Fitzgerald is throwing cold water on those rumors?

.@SenFitzgerald says @RepSeanDuffy is "well positioned" to run against @tammybaldwin. "He's kind of driving the train right now."

— Jessie Opoien (@jessieopie) February 9, 2017

We’ve previously written about the Duffy versus Baldwin dynamic. Because Duffy is demonstrably stronger in northern Wisconsin than other Republicans, and theoretically stronger elsewhere because of his early support for Trump (who won Wisconsin, and won big in rural areas of the state), he is uniquely positioned to be the leading contender against Baldwin.

That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial.

Broadening the scope to the prospects of the Senate GOP in 2018, I write:

If Trump’s tenure as president is a success, it’s very possible – I daresay likely – the Republicans could gain a filibuster-proof majority in 2018. Most importantly for Wisconsin, the Badger State could oust one of the farthest-left Senators currently in the Senate and replace her with a commonsense, well-liked, and steadfast conservative.

Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, could be formidable because of the name ID he built in 2012 and because he’s (to paraphrase Trump) very, very rich. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would also be formidable since, in all likelihood, she would have the support of the southeastern establishment.

The biggest obstacle to the GOP toppling Baldwin in 2018? A brutal primary like the one in 2012 that left eventual nominee Tommy Thompson essentially broke, paving the way for a surprisingly astute Baldwin campaign messaging apparatus to paint the former governor as “not for you anymore.”

The post Fitzgerald: Duffy “Well Positioned” to Take on Baldwin appeared first on Morning Martini.

On WPR With Joy Cardin

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 12:21

I had the pleasure of joining Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning to discuss Gov. Walker’s transportation budget.

Listen here.

The post On WPR With Joy Cardin appeared first on Morning Martini.

MacIver Summarizes Key Parts of Walker’s Budget

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 12:09

Over at the MacIver Institute, we’ve published a series of resources for Wisconsinites who just can’t scrape up the time to read Governor Walker’s entire 691-page budget proposal.

Yesterday afternoon, Walker delivered his budget address before a joint session of the legislature. Here is a video summarizing the governor’s speech.

The actual budget proposes significant new spending on K-12 education and the UW System, as well as major tax cuts. Here’s a summary of the budget overall.

Possibly the most significant element of Walker’s budget is the $649 million increase in funding for the K-12 system. However, it’s not a simple across-the-board increase. Get the details here.

Finally, the governor is going up against legislative leaders by holding the line on a gas tax or registration fee increase. Instead of lavishing DOT with more money, Walker re-prioritizes how money is spent and delays several southeast Wisconsin mega-projects. Get the rundown here.

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Marquette Student Responds to Campus Free Speech Phoniness

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:08

Over at the MacIver Institute, a Marquette University student responds to the hypocrisy of his campus’s two-faced approach to free speech. After quoting a flowery email from administration that trumpets campus diversity, student Collin Cummings calls out the administration.

Don’t forget the key wrinkle: a member of the university staff was caught on Facebook trying to rig the ticket sales to an upcoming Ben Shapiro speech so that students genuinely interested in going wouldn’t be able to find a seat.

The question I pose to Marquette (and already have posed many times on various platforms, to which I have received no response) is this: where did you forget to put the “as long as you subscribe to a specific liberal ideology” disclaimer in that statement about the importance of diversity? How can the university stand behind that statement while continuing to employ someone who is actively working to marginalize conservative students on campus because she has decided that her way of thinking is right, and anyone who disagrees must be wrong?

Marquette must be forced to answer for their staff. Their response has been non-existent, and unless university administration would like to see the school continue to be highlighted as one of the most hostile to free speech institutions in America, swift action needs to be taken. It is time for Marquette University to stand behind its pledge to be a home to all backgrounds and all voices.

Whole thing here.

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