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Professor Who Claimed U.S. Worse Than ISIS On Madison Radical Fest Guest List

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 09:00

June 2, 2017

By M.D. Kittle | Investigative Reporter

[Madison, Wis...] -Not long ago they called it RadFest - as in a gathering of capitalism-hating radicals in the bastion of modern liberalism that is Madison.

The latest iteration is billed Forward 2017.

Ahh, but what's in a name, really? RadFest or Forward, this two-day conference of the usual Social Justice Warrior suspects will be crawling with left-wingers who want to do everything from "unite and love on each other" to overthrow President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress.

The gathering gets underway this evening at Edgewood College in Madison. It is organized by the University of Wisconsin's A.E. Havens Center for Social Justice. Calling this socialism echo chamber a liberal think tank is kind of like calling LeBron James a basketball player. The Havens Center is so far left many a liberal from a generation ago may not recognize its brand of progressivism.

Forward 2017 asks a vital question among the socialist movement that was driven out of the seat of power in November by voters who had grown weary of eight years of socialism experimentation. "Where do we go from here? Understanding the Current Crisis & Building Social Justice in the Midwest" is the overarching theme of an action-packed get-together of left-wing activists. Sessions include, "Prison Abolition & Community Control of the Police," "Direct Action for Expanding Sanctuary" (cities, that is), "How to Organize Your Workplace from Scratch," and the topic on every America-loathing, free-market-despising, some-lives-matter,-others-not-so-much socialist's mind, "Building Cultures of Resistance."

Among the featured speakers and panelists is Crystal Ketterhagen, described as a core organizer for Indivisible Madison. It's part of the phony "grassroots" national Indivisible movement created by well-connected Democrats and reportedly funded by some of the most affluent liberal sugar daddies in politics. Indivisible lives under the hashtag #TheResistance and its main objective is to make life really hard for President Trump and anyone else daring to even think about limiting the size of our morbidly obese government.

Social Justice activist Kali Akuno, a panelist for a discussion on "Understanding the Current Crisis," has further articulated what resistance means to his movement. Akuno told alt-left publication Alternet in December how to "prepare to be ungovernable in 2017."

"A core component of resistance is to get the class of civil servants, particularly on the federal but also the state level, to not comply with arbitrary laws and policies that are going to be created," he said in an interview. "There is no need for anyone to comply. Let's not give it legitimacy just because it's the law. We need to be prepared to disobey and engage in civil disobedience."

Mission accomplished.

"We cannot and should not legitimize the transfer of authority to a right-wing populist who has neofascist orientations. We shouldn't legitimize that rule in any form or fashion. We need to build a program of being ungovernable," Akuno added.

The conference also will feature Deepa Kumar, an associate professor of media studies and Middle Eastern studies at Rutgers University. Kumar became the source of national controversy when she took to Twitter and compared ISIS to the United States.

"Yes ISIS is brutal, but US is more so, 1.3 million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan," Kumar tweeted.

The professor took cover under the First Amendment umbrella. In 2014, Kumar joined other liberals in decrying former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's invitation to give the commencement address at Rutgers. Rice ultimately declined the offer, under intense pressure. Kumar tweeted, "We won." Apparently Ms. Rice's ideas weren't covered under the same First Amendment.

Some old liberal favorites will be at this conference of radicals, too. Like Joel Rogers. The University of Wisconsin professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs and Sociology also directs the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the remarkable COWS. The center is a left-leaning think tank located on the UW-Madison campus. (It is interesting to note liberals of late have been going crazy over a proposed public-policy innovation center on campus named after former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. They fear it would be a conservative think tank).

Rogers has gotten a lot of love over the years from progressives and their friends in the mainstream media. But in April 2002, seven months after the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, Rogers was attacking President George W. Bush and his administration as "criminals" and "ruthless" and "evil motherf***ers."

As reported by Charlie Sykes in a perspective piece for Wisconsin Public Policy Research Institute, Rogers told the Reclaiming America Conference in Washington, D.C.:

"They (Bush and his supporters) stole the presidency. Now they're in the process of stealing the rest of the country. They wish to enthrall us and embark on another 40-year war ...They're cruel. They are vicious. They have no shame. They are criminals, basically, who are in the land, running it and choking the breath of conscience and good cheer. Or in social science expression, they are ruthless motherf***ers. Whatever their cheerful demeanor, I think we should keep that in mind. These people are bad. I don't use the word 'evil' loosely. "Let's use it now. Let's call them 'evil motherf***ers.' They are really bad people. They are taking apart the country."

The more things change, well...Fifteen years later you are likely to hear more of the same kind of rhetoric about the current president, his administration, and the people who voted for Trump, at Madison's latest radical festival.

Organizers of Forward 2017 have long insisted that no taxpayer money goes into the annual conference. The event, they say, is held off campus for starters.

"We've always done it the same way. It's financed out of the proceeds," said Patrick Barrett, administrative director of the Havens Center.

But there's a lot of emailing from university addresses and event preparation on the clock, according to documents obtained by MacIver News Service through a state open records request.

Barrett acknowledged as much, calling it part of the center's "organizational mission."

Asked if any capitalists will be attending the radical gathering, Barrett said it was hard to say.

"I really don't know how everyone participating in this would characterize their perspective," he said. "Some might find themselves comfortable fitting into that category, and there are others that are not."

Nelson Tries Cashing in on Failed Medicaid Confrontation With Walker

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 06:00

June 2, 2017

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times reported Tuesday Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, is using his May run-in with Governor Scott Walker for fundraising purposes. Nelson was attempting to ambush Walker at a tourism event over the Republican American Health Care Act.

The political stunt didn't go well for Nelson.

"Just to be clear," Walker said to the press. "The county executive wants to take away from tourism right now and play a political stunt about a topic that has nothing to do with what we're talking about today. It's on an issue that was voted on in the House of Representatives but is not even, not even going forward in the Senate right now."

"We'll take a look at it when it goes to the United States Senate," Walker said. "We're going to lobby in a way that allows us to do the things we've done here in the state of Wisconsin."

Walker reminded the press and Nelson that when he was the state Assembly majority leader under Governor Jim Doyle, the state's Medicaid program, BadgerCare, had a waiting list of 43,000 people wanting health care coverage.

"For the first time in the history of our state, we cover everyone living (in poverty) with Medicaid," Walker said. "Something we didn't do, Tom, when you served in the Legislature. There was a waiting list..."

"Do you support the legislation?" Nelson interrupted to ask, referring to the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

"There was a waiting list for care for people living in poverty when you served in the state Legislature," Walker replied to Nelson. "I removed that waiting list so that no one living in poverty..."

"You can make up the facts," Walker said to Nelson as he shook his head back.

Nelson then tried to bring up taking the Obamacare federal money to expand Medicaid. "You have sent to other states hundreds of millions of dollars for Medicaid expansion that could take care of everything from the opiate crisis that we are dealing with to health insurance for those individuals who are...," Nelson said before he was interrupted by Walker, who reminded Nelson that he lost in November a race for Congress, 63 percent to 37 percent, in what was once one of the most competitive seats in the country.

Even Jason Joyce of the Capital Times commented on Twitter about Nelson's stunt. "Outagamie County exec Tom Nelson attempted to hijack @ScottWalker press conference," Joyce wrote. "It didn't go well for him."

But aside from how awful it looked for Nelson, he was simply wrong about Medicaid expansion. Walker is not sending money to other states, President Barack Obama did. And the money Obama sent was borrowed from future generations. The national debt is close to $20 trillion and getting bigger every day.

Turning down the extra Obamacare funding is not sending money to other states. It's causing the federal government to borrow less money. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said in an April memo that Wisconsin could "save" $380 million over the next biennium. However, the federal government would actually spend over $1 billion to achieve that "savings," or an actual net loss to the taxpayers of $694.5 million.

Meanwhile, the cost of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in other states is exceeding Congressional Budget Office expectations. In 2015, the cost of Medicaid expansion was $68 billion, about 62 percent higher than expected.

Nor can the Obamacare money just be spent however Nelson wants. The money to which Nelson refers is for Medicaid coverage of childless adults up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Until 2017, the federal matching for that coverage was 100 percent. Now it drops to 95 percent with Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook for the rest, and it gets worse until it drops to 90 percent in 2020.

That's under the current law. As Walker and other Republicans have been warning, that federal matching will be a target of a cost-saving Congress. Traditional Medicaid reimbursement is actually closer to 60 percent, and the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid with the Obamacare money may have a serious budget hole to fill. Signing onto Medicaid expansion now is like buying an expensive ticket to ride the Titanic - after it hit the iceberg.

Walker successfully avoided that fiscal trap despite substantial political pressure, the clamor of editorial boards across the state, and continued efforts of Democrats like Nelson. So it's interesting that Nelson thinks he can fundraise off the confrontation with Walker. The policies he supports are already costing taxpayers a lot of money, and would only cost more.

Anonymous Proposal Would Strangle Budding Boutique Brewing Industry

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 16:09

MacIver News Service | June 1, 2017

By Chris Rochester

[Madison, Wis...] Americans for Prosperity is warning lawmakers about a possible plot by anonymous special interests to push small breweries, wineries and artisan distilleries out of business.

AFP has a draft proposal they say came from lobbyists who want to prevent microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries from operating taverns and selling their products to wholesalers, which is currently common practice.

This would mean beefing up an onerous "three-tier restricting" law where producers, wholesalers, and retailers are all separate entities. AFP says this would involve creating a new bureaucracy, an Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement in the Department of Revenue to enforce the new law.

Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, says the three-tier system is archaic and overreaching.

"I see no need for erecting these barriers," Garthwaite told the MacIver News Service, adding that other states use less burdensome regulatory systems that serve the public just fine. Craft brewers support reasonable regulations that protect the public, but not protectionist ones meant to benefit particular special interests, he said.

Eric Bott, AFP-Wisconsin State Director, sent a letter on Thursday to Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, co-chairs of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, detailing what he's learned about the effort. AFP got its information from small businesses that would be affected and from sources in the Capitol.

Larger, well-established alcohol producers would have a much easier time complying with the strict three-tier system than smaller producers like microbreweries, small wineries, and boutique distilleries that have become increasingly popular. That increasing popularity also poses a competitive threat to larger alcohol producers.

According to Garthwaite, Wisconsin has 131 active craft brewers that produced 500,000 barrels of beer in Wisconsin in 2016, 10 percent of the overall beer market. In 2011, Wisconsin had 73 craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association.

Garthwaite also said craft breweries have a significant economic impact, both statewide and locally. "Customers like to go to the places where their beer is made." The proposed regulations "fail the consumer" in favor of entrenched interests, he said.

The economic impact of craft breweries in Wisconsin exceeded $1.7 billion in 2014, according to the Brewers Association.

The regulations would certainly have a negative impact on the craft brewing industry, and would essentially halt the formation of new microbreweries or brewpubs - an increasingly popular phenomenon - by forbidding businesses that produce alcoholic beverages from also operating bars and restaurants. "It would kill off a lot of startups," Garthwaite said.

AFP believes the draft proposal could be slipped into the budget's "999" motion. That's historically the final action JFC takes on the budget, and it's where many policy items can be attached to the budget anonymously and at the last minute, often before even lawmakers have time to review them.

"When government takes the next step of attacking individual small business owners in secret to help the politically connected it rises to a new level of repugnancy. It's no wonder the proponents of this motion conduct their work in the shadows," Bott wrote to Darling and Nygren in the letter.

The MacIver News Service reached out to the offices of Sen. Darling and Rep. Nygren. This story will be updated if they respond to our requests for comment.

Five Reasons President Trump Should Ditch the Paris Agreement

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 11:40

June 1, 2017

By Chris Rochester
MacIver Institute Communications Director

President Trump is widely expected to announce whether or not the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords at a press event at 2 p.m. today at the White House. Here are five reasons why the President should say no to Paris and remove the U.S. from the ill-advised agreement.

5. The Paris Conference Was All Hype

Climate alarmists gathered at the Paris COP-21 conference for another round of doom-and-gloom claims about the cataclysmic threat of climate change. Even noted environmental scientist Pope Francis joined the chorus, ominously warning mankind that "we are on the brink of a suicide."

According to the COP-21 website, more than 10,000 different entities, including almost 2,300 cities and 2,000 companies have supposedly agreed to take measures to lower their emissions. It appears, however, these numbers were pulled out of thin air. The city of Janesville is listed on the website as having agreed to a 75 percent CO2 reduction by 2050. When asked who agreed to this goal, Janesville said it never approved a carbon reduction agreement.

Who cares about a little thing called truth when you are saving the planet from extinction, right?

4. The Agreement Tried Transferring $100 Billion in Climate Extortion Money

Many at the conference wanted contractual language that would have forced the U.S. and other developed nations to pay $100 billion or so a year in extortion money - some called it climate reparations - to the least developed nations of the world. The money was intended to essentially bribe developing countries to stop building new coal power plants and return to the stone age.

In reality, a $100 billion transfer of wealth would do nothing to stop the rapid development of the world's formerly poorest nations, but it would've soaked hardworking taxpayers throughout the country with no tangible benefit.

3. Obama Bypassed Congress Altogether

Obama had a very real problem in Paris. Any language that would have been considered legally binding on the United States would mean that the agreement was a formal treaty. In that case, it would require a two-thirds vote of approval from the U.S. Senate. Given the fact that the president could not muster enough support for a similar carbon dioxide restriction proposal back in 2010 when his own party controlled both chambers of Congress by wide margins, Senate approval was impossible.

Instead, Obama opted for a voluntary agreement. That means the world's biggest polluters - China and India, in particular - are on an honors system to impose their own draconian rules that would kill their nations' growing economies. We aren't holding our breath.

2. Economic Ruin by Bureaucratic Dictate

Without the consent of the U.S. Senate, President Obama was left with just one option to advance his radical, job-killing climate change agenda - bypass Congress altogether and foist his "Costly Power Plan" agenda via bureaucratic dictate.

Obama turned to the faceless and unelected bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency to impose rules that would cost our economy dearly. In Wisconsin alone, the plan would cost nearly 21,000 jobs and result in a $1.82 billion drop in our disposable income over the next 15 years, according to a 2015 study by the MacIver Institute and Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University.

1. All For What?

Obama's Costly Power Plan would have a negligible effect on global temperatures, especially because America is responsible for just 5 percent of global carbon emissions. Even if the United States completely stopped emitting carbon dioxide immediately, global temperatures would only drop 0.15 degrees Celsius, according to the Cato Institute.

Using the EPA's own estimates, the Clean Power Plan rules would lower temperatures by less than two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century.

What a difference a year can make. We now have a president who is poised to remove the United States from the Paris agreement and who promises to revive the engine of American economic growth.

Withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accords would be a good start to fulfilling that promise.

Tommy Thompson Reformed Welfare Through The Power Of Work

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:49

MacIver News Service | May 31, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] - Kelli Thompson learned the art of politics and the necessity of hard work from one of the great American political masters - her father.

Thompson, daughter of the legendary Tommy G. Thompson, Wisconsin's longest serving governor who redefined political and public policy expectations, said her father has always loved people, the state of Wisconsin, and the thrill of a good fight.

Those qualities are what made Tommy, well, Tommy - the conservative who once won the liberal bastions of Dane County and the city of Milwaukee in his gubernatorial reelection bids.

"It was never a job to him," Kelli Thompson told MacIver News Service in an interview last week. "I think it was how he was brought up. He never was told anything but you have to work really, really hard. If you want it and you love it, you still have to work really hard. Nothing is going to be handed to you, nothing is going to be given to you easily."

That is how the former governor approached governing sans Republican majorities in the Legislature. It's how he approached bringing diametrically opposed groups to the table to tackle education funding reform and in pioneering school vouchers and parental choice. And the idea that nothing is handed to you definitely is how Thompson approached ground-breaking welfare reform. More than 20 years ago Thompson signed into law a sweeping package of initiatives that set the pace for the federal welfare reform that followed.

Last week, policymakers present and past turned out to a Capitol symposium addressing the Republican's governing legacy. It was part of Tommy@30, a series of events this year marking the 30th anniversary of Thompson's first inauguration as governor. More so, the celebration is designed to take a closer look at what Tommy@30 chairman James Klauser describes as the "secret sauce" that made Thompson "one of the most innovative governors in the nation's recent history."

Klauser, Thompson's Department of Administration secretary and one of his closest advisors, was among several Thompson administration alumni at the symposium.

"You couldn't really complain about how hard you were working because he was working harder than you," said symposium panelist Bob Trunzo, commerce secretary under Thompson.

Trunzo, who these days serves as president and CEO of CUNA Mutual Group, recalled the long days in 1989 when the Thompson administration hammered out an incentives package that kept General Motors in Janesville. The Milwaukee Sentinel billed the much-maligned deal as corporate welfare but Trunzo said the job-training money for the plant retooling project meant thousands of good-paying jobs for southern Wisconsin for nearly two decades. GM eventually did pull out and the plant closed in 2009.

Over the course of Thompson's 14 years in the governor's office, Wisconsin's economy added 800,000 net jobs. More remarkable, according to entrepreneur and academician David J. Ward, the Badger State's critical manufacturing sector created 100,000 jobs over the period. While Wisconsin's industrial hiring increased 16 percent, U.S. factory jobs dropped off precipitously amid China's manufacturing revolution.

When Thompson was first elected governor in 1986, Wisconsin was still shaking off the economic malaise of an early 1980s recession that saw significantly higher unemployment and soaring interest rates than did the so-called Great Recession nearly a decade ago. For most of the period from the 1970s until just before Thompson took the reins as governor, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was higher than the nation - often considerably higher, Ward said.

The Republican reformer did inherit an economy on the upswing, an economy that mostly stayed up over Thompson's tenure. Ward and others who worked with Thompson acknowledged the governor was the benefactor of good luck, but this hard-working governor practiced what Roman philosopher Seneca preached: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Opportunity arrived in the form of ever rising caseloads of the dysfunctional welfare system known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Thompson campaigned for governor in 1986 on a promise of cutting into those caseload numbers, at around 100,000 recipients during his first year in office. Wisconsin had the fourth-highest AFDC rate in the country, recalled Mike Flaherty, who covered Thompson and welfare reform for the Wisconsin State Journal in the 1990s.

Thompson followed through on his campaign promise with one of the more impactful and far-reaching public policy changes in U.S. history.

"Upon taking office, Thompson initiated a series of reforms that cut welfare dependency during the late 1980s and blocked any resurgence during the 1990-93 recession," wrote Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation in a March 1997 perspective piece titled, "Wisconsin's Welfare Miracle."

"Starting in 1994, a second round of more sophisticated work-related reforms has caused the caseload to nosedive further," Rector continued.

By the time he left the governor's office in 2001 to become Health and Human Services secretary for President George W. Bush, the state had reduced its welfare roles by 93 percent "while putting an emphasis on putting people to work," according to a May 2007 AP story.

The Thompson economy, former staffers and lawmakers said, served as a launching pad for what would become W-2, or Wisconsin Works. Wisconsin in 1997 became the first state in the nation to implement comprehensive welfare reform, replacing AFDC with "work not welfare." State revenue boomed in the 1990s, when, as the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute once described it, "state government seemed to be able to do anything."

"That was the era of elevated spending, new programs, and tax cuts - something for everyone," a 2003 WPRI report stated in summing up the roaring '90s.

Thompson was able to get welfare reform buy in from the welfare party, the Democrat-controlled Legislature, in large part because W-2 didn't simply eliminate Aid to Families with Dependent Children, it replaced it with the expectation of work - and a suite of taxpayer-funded benefits to smooth the transition of welfare recipients into the job market. W-2 provided funding for job training, childcare, transportation, and other assistance, on the condition that recipients become gainfully employed within a set time period.

The state spent $155 million in 1997-98 and $177.4 million in the subsequent biennium for childcare assistance. That compared to $89.6 million in 1996-97.

Thompson's 1993 welfare reform package included the Learnfare program, which requires the children of temporary cash assistance recipients to be in school or their parent or guardian would lose the public benefit.

Thompson took his case to the AFDC recipients who had long lived as dependents of the state. He met with welfare moms in Milwaukee and asked what it would take to move them off of government assistance and into the job market.

"We reached a compact. I said I would provide health care, day care and transportation if you guys would go to work," Thompson recalled in a Tommy@30 interview, part of an upcoming documentary.

Jennifer Noyes, Distinguished Researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Research on Poverty, served as a senior administrator in the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development where she helped lead implementation of W-2.

Noyes, a panelist at the Tommy@30 symposium, stressed that welfare reform wasn't reform; it was a replacement program.

"We tested concepts like: How do we get kids to school? How do we promote two-parent families? It was based on a set of philosophical principles." The vision was simple: Only work should pay.

"This wasn't just about requiring work for AFDC. It was about a work-based concept," Noyes added.

At its core, Thompson's welfare vision was not only about teaching people how to go to work, but that work was worth it.

W-2's critics have said many of the AFDC recipients forced into the program transitioned into lower-paying service jobs. Then-state Sen. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat who became Congresswoman Gwen Moore, told the New York Times that Thompson had done a "very good job of creating a class war here between working poor and AFDC recipients."

Wisconsin Works, however, is replete with stories of people who were able to rise out of generational poverty. People who broke the chain of poverty for the next generation. Thompson's W-2, as symposium panelists noted, gave poor people, particularly in African American communities, a sense of "expectation," that somebody expected something from them, out of them. And the expectation finally was not that they fail, but that they succeed. That, experts say, is perhaps the most powerful component of Tommy Thompson's "Only Work Should Pay" vision.

Eloise Anderson was on the frontline of the welfare reform or replacement battle of the late 1980s. Anderson, who has served as Secretary of the state Department of Children and Families since 2011, worked in Milwaukee at the Department of Social Services when Thompson rose to power. She remembers the moment she was ultimately sold on the need for change.

"I remember a guy came in in a wheelchair. He was unable to use his hands. He used a thing to write with his mouth. He said, 'I want a job. I want to work.' That turned it around for me," said Anderson, also a panelist at the symposium. "In another program down the hall we had able-bodied people saying they couldn't work. The disconnect was huge."

It was difficult to understand unless you lived it, Anderson said. Poor, single mothers getting up every morning, getting their kids ready for school and going to work. And the person next door not doing that and getting government assistance. What was the message? What was the incentive to work?

"Our programs should mirror work. They shouldn't treat people any differently than if they had to go to work," Anderson said.

Thompson never stopped working on his Wisconsin Works vision. In January 1995, after his 24-month limit on AFDC cash benefits went into effect, the governor lamented to the New York Times about the continuous inflow of people looking to cash in on Wisconsin's kindness.

"Twenty-eight percent of the newest people on welfare in Milwaukee County, their last known address is Chicago," Thompson said. "We're still 45 percent higher than Illinois. For an $8 bus ticket, you get $200 more coming to Wisconsin." Wisconsinites "are just fed up to their eyeteeth with people comin' from other states, not working. People in Wisconsin expect people to work - maybe it's the old Germanic heritage, the old European heritage."

Thompson's vision resonates 30 years later.

As Noyes notes in her overview, "The Legacy of Welfare Reform," Wisconsin's average monthly AFDC caseload declined from 98,307 in 1986, to 10,185 in September 1998 - one year after W-2 was implemented statewide. As of March, the total caseload was 9,117, 5,908 of those were paid placements.

In 1999, Wisconsin was recognized "as one of the pioneer states in the area of welfare reform." The Innovations in American Government Awards Program summed up the state's success, asserting that "...Wisconsin has seen a wholesale shift in the system, from one that critics argued did little more than determine eligibility and hand out checks to a new system that aggressively and proactively keeps or moves people off welfare by emphasizing work."

Several states adopted portions of Wisconsin's W-2 welfare replacement plan, and Thompson's approach to reform was a huge inspiration behind the federal AFDC replacement model of 1996.

While the W-2 philosophy of rewarding work experienced some reversals during the dependency state days of Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle's two terms in the 2000s, Republican Gov. Scott Walker again has made welfare reform a priority.

Walker's latest budget proposal includes "Wisconsin Works for Everyone," a welfare program aimed at expanding on Thompson's Wisconsin Works.

"Wisconsin Works for Everyone, like Governor Thompson's original W-2 initiative, is based on the fundamental principle that work is dignifying and connects individuals to society and to its values," Walker said in January. "We believe our public assistance programs should ask able-bodied adults to take steps toward self-sufficiency through work, while also providing comprehensive tools to help them get and keep a job."

The package , some of which has passed the Joint Finance Committee, includes greater investment in job and skills training, with expanded obligations for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving public housing and other assistance.

Hard work was at the heart of everything Tommy Thompson did in public service, those who know him best say. From his early days in small town Elroy to his failed U.S. Senate run against ultraliberal Tammy Baldwin in 2012 to his "quieter days" as elder statesman, 75-year-old Tommy Thompson has always been a believer in the dignity of work. So it is no surprise that he invested so much of his heart and time in fixing a broken system that had so long punished people for daring to work.

"He believed people, if given an opportunity, could succeed, independently of the government," daughter Kelli Thompson said.

Article V Convention Measures Move Forward

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:04

MacIver News Service | May 31, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wisc...] - Legislation that would lead Wisconsin into the "Article V Convention" movement passed on party-line votes at an Assembly committee meeting Wednesday en route to a possible floor vote soon.

The Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations voted 5-2 in approving two resolutions and a bill aimed at setting the requirements for Wisconsin's involvement in a national convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution.

State Sen. Chris Kapenga's original measure specifies that Wisconsin's participation in an Article V Convention would be to support a federal balanced budget amendment - and nothing more. The Delafield Republican has said Wisconsin and other states should use the mechanism provided in the Constitution by the nation's founding fathers to force Congress to be fiscally responsible.

A substitute amendment authored by Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, directs the Legislature and the governor to appoint nine delegates to attend the convention as representatives, should the Legislature pass a joint resolution applying to Congress for an Article V convention. The speaker of the Assembly and the president of the Senate would each appoint three delegates; the governor would appoint one; and the remaining two delegates would be chosen by the minority leaders in the Assembly and Senate.

The substitute measure provides protections from what critics fear could turn into a "runaway convention," opening the door to undesirable amendments to the Constitution. Bernier's amendment allows the immediate dismissal of any delegate who "votes or takes any other action at the convention to consider or approve an unauthorized amendment." An unauthorized amendment is any proposal outside the scope of the application or the call of the convention.

And the Legislature would also be charged with creating a "committee of correspondence" that would effectively be the delegates' keeper.

"The delegates are to presume that the committee approves any proposed adoption or modification of rules governing the convention if the committee" does not act within six hours of being notified by the delegates. If the committee decides within the allotted period that a "proposed final amendment is an unauthorized amendment, the delegates may not vote on the amendment and may not participate further in the convention."

The Federalism committee also approved a resolution requiring the state to recognize the rules and procedures adopted by the Assembly of State Legislatures in June 2016 "as the official rules and procedures to convene such a convention."

States may call a convention to craft constitutional amendments under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, but it requires at least 34 states to do so. It takes three-fourths of the states, 38, to ratify any proposed amendment that would come out of such a convention.

Amendments, to this point, have been the domain of Congress. "Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution," Article V states. But the founders in the same article gave the states the power to do the same.

As things stood Wednesday, 27 states have approved Article V resolutions calling for a federal balanced budget amendment, according to the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force. The number has fluctuated in recent months, with the addition and subtraction of states.

Rep. Michael Schraa, a member of the Federalism committee, said the nation's founding fathers were brilliant enough to recognize the future size of the federal government could become problematic. At nearly $20 trillion - representing approximately $165,000 for every taxpayer in the country, the national debt is a big problem, the Oshkosh Republican said.

"This (Article V Convention) may never come to fruition, but I think it sends a message to our federal government that the states are fed up and the states have rights," Schraa said.

Committee member Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, said the call for a states-led balanced budget amendment is a Trojan horse with a nice coat of paint.

"I think this is a way for people who have misguided views on our economy and how it should work" to "dismantle" federal programs like Social Security, Anderson said. "I can only hope the states become wise to the fact that what they are doing is putting our country at great peril."

Anderson's admonition earned the applause of more than a dozen Article V Convention opponents in attendance.

Ann Griffin of Brown Deer attended Wednesday's committee meeting. As a Democrat, Griffin says she worries about a runaway convention in an era of Republican control.

"They are taking more power at a time when we should be working together during these divided times."

Committee member Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, said the legislative process has been thoughtful, taking into consideration the comments of opponents and supporters.

"Today we are setting up a pathway to go forward," Kerkman said.

UPDATED: Paris Climate Conference Nothing But Hot Air

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 14:00

Update: May 31, 2017 - A lot can change in a year and a half! As President Trump considers withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, we go back to January of last year when we pointed out the climate hype and hysteria that surrounded the Paris Climate Conference where the agreement was born.

Read our column that was published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a quick reminder of why the Paris agreement is a bad idea.

President Obama failed to in his attempt to commit our country to a legally-binding treaty on climate change because even his fellow Democrats, who at the time controlled the U.S. Senate, recognized how devastating it would be to our economy and the American way of life. Instead, President Obama decided to enter into a voluntary international agreement and bypass Congress altogether by having unelected bureaucrats push his "Costly Power Plan" agenda back here at home.

So while we wait for President Trump's decision on the Paris Climate Agreement, take a quick look back at Obama's dubious claims on the global warming agreement.

January 1, 2016

by Brett Healy
MacIver Institute President

The following was originally published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the opinion section. The MacIver Institute thanks the Journal Sentinel for publishing this column.

The hype and hyperbole leading up to the COP 21 Climate Conference last month in Paris was nothing short of amazing. World leaders and other self-described experts attempted to convince people around the world that the conference was critical to the future of the planet, critical to the future of life itself. Noted environmental scientist Pope Francis ominously warned mankind that "we are on the brink of a suicide."

Global warming enthusiasts and President Barack Obama were hoping that the 200 or so nations attending the summit would agree to a compact that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that global temperature increases would be limited to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. In reality, they were hoping to create a legally binding agreement that would impose draconian carbon dioxide restrictions on advanced countries such as the United States and, in the process, unplug our modern society and push us back into the stone age. They also wanted contractual language that would have forced the U.S. and other developed nations to pay $100 billion or so a year in extortion money, some called it climate reparations, to the least developed nations of the world.

World leaders weren't the only ones full of hot air. The United Nations and the organizers of the conference were quick to point out the groundswell of support building around the world for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. According to their website, more than 10,000 different entities, including almost 2,300 cities and 2,000 companies have supposedly agreed to take measures to lower their emissions. It appears, however, these numbers were pulled out of thin air. The city of Janesville is listed on the website as having agreed to a 75% CO2 reduction by 2050. When asked who agreed to this goal, Janesville said it never approved a carbon reduction agreement.

Who cares about a little thing called truth when you are saving the planet from extinction, right?

Obama has staked much of his reputation and his legacy on this conference and fighting climate change in general. Heading into Paris, however, Obama had a very real problem. Any language that would have been considered legally binding on the United States would mean that the agreement was a formal treaty. If the climate agreement was a formal treaty, it would require a two-thirds vote of approval from the U.S. Senate. Given the fact that the president could not muster enough support for a similar carbon dioxide restriction proposal back in 2010 when his own party controlled both chambers of Congress by wide margins, Senate approval today is virtually impossible.

The president came up with another plan to impose his disastrous carbon-reduction new economic policy on America. Democracy be damned. This is where it gets really scary.

The president is turning to the faceless and unelected bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency to impose his will.

Given how devastating his plan will be to the American economy, the president's only choice is to force this down our throats using the administrative rules process.

Here in Wisconsin, the president's plan will result in a big spike in your electric bill. By 2030, the average residential customer will pay an additional $225 a year for electricity and the average commercial business, an additional $1,530 a year. The biggest impact will be on the state's industrial businesses and manufacturers. Their heavy dependence on reliable electricity to power large machinery means they will pay a shocking $105,094 more a year if the president gets his way.

Overall, the president's plan will cost Wisconsin nearly 21,000 jobs and a $1.82 billion drop in our disposable income over the next 15 years. And for what? Estimates range that temperatures will rise less than 1 degree Celsius to an insignificant 0.018 degree Celsius by 2100.

All this financial pain and economic hardship for less than a degree difference in the temperature?

No politician up for re-election would ever vote to force this type of hurt on the American people and our economy. That would be economic suicide. No worry. An unelected bureaucrat never loses his or her job so the bureaucrat has no fear of the American people.

Let's hope the president comes to his senses and puts an end to all of this hot air before it is too late for our way of life. Our children and our grandchildren are depending on him.

Read the original column here.

School Board Members Survive Recall Election over Consolidation

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 09:40

MacIver News Service | May 31, 2017

By Bill Osmulski

[Spring Green, Wisc...] An effort to recall two River Valley School Board members who voted to close two elementary schools with declining enrollment failed Tuesday night.

According to unofficial results, Mark Strozinsky received 1,071 votes to his opponent's 475, and Frederic Iausly won with 1,073 votes to his challenger's 474.

"We've been told there are a lot of districts around the state watching how this plays out, because they're facing very similar situations," Stronzinsky told MacIver News.

The River Valley School District is facing a $1.5 million deficit. Last fall, it asked voters for $9.35 million over the next four years. They said no.

Oftentimes a school district will simply go right back to referendum in that situation. However, River Valley did something different. It looked for other ways to plug its budget gap and honor the voters' wishes.

In December, the school board voted to close the elementary schools in Lone Rock and Arena. Both have experienced steep declining enrollment over the past several years. In just one year, Lone Rock's attendance dropped 26 percent and Arena fell 10 percent, according to the state Department of Public Instruction's most recent data. This year there were about 170 students between the two schools. The school board had warned voters that closing the schools would be the most likely option if the referendum failed.

Even if the referendum had succeeded, it might only have delayed the inevitable. The River Valley School District is facing a population crisis. This year, 121 students graduated from the district's high school, while only 61 entered kindergarten. School board member Strozinsky pointed out that state aid is directly tied to enrollment.

"That's a 50 percent reduction in the next 12 years," he told MacIver News.

A group of residents in Lone Rock and Arena organized a recall against Stronzinsky and Iausly, believing a successful campaign could keep the schools open.

They argued the referendum failed because the school board didn't try hard enough to attract voter support, and that the budget problem could be solved through open enrollment. Additionally the Lone Rock Village Trustees stated it would cost millions of dollars to tear down the two schools. Opponents also insisted closing the schools would mean lower home values, higher taxes, and businesses moving out.

Turnout was much higher for the referendum, which took place during the fall general election. Voters rejected the measure by a count of 2,378 for and 2,585 against. That's a margin of 207. While only about 1,546 ballots were cast in the recall, the margin was almost 600.

"All through this thing, even though we're really divided, the majority of folks can see there really aren't a whole lot of options," Stronzinsky said. "I think people saw we're trying to do the fiscally responsible thing."

Lone Rock Elementary will be closing next week, while Arena will close at the end of next school year. The displaced students will be bussed to the elementary school in Spring Green, about 12 minutes away from either school.

Study of Studies: Research Shows Positive Results for Voucher Students

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 11:00

May 30, 2017

By Ola Lisowski
MacIver Institute Research Associate

A new review of 22 major voucher studies has found that the majority of studies nationwide found positive effects on students in private school choice programs. The report, titled "The Wisconsin Role in the School Choice Movement," was released in conjunction with the Tommy@30 event on May 23, celebrating former Governor Tommy Thompson.

Of the 22 studies surveyed by researchers John F. Witte and Patrick J. Wolf, 13 showed positive educational effects for voucher students compared to control public school students. Five studies found no statistical effects, and four found negative effects.

The report highlights two major studies that compare outcomes for students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Study I was conducted from 1990 to 1995, and Study II began in 2006 and is partially still ongoing. The researchers write that the latter is considered to be superior, as it had a larger study sample, stronger statistical methods and more available resources.

Neither study found statistically significant differences in test scores between traditional public and voucher students, but a look into other important outcomes such as graduation rates and attainment shows positive results for choice students. Compared to their public school counterparts, choice students graduated high school and attended four-year colleges at higher rates. The colleges that MPCP graduates attended also "appeared to be of higher status," the according to the report.

Just 21 percent of MPS students surveyed attended a four-year college, compared to 27 percent of MPCP students. That amounts to a near-30 percent increase in the likelihood of college attendance for choice students.

Voucher students were also more likely to continue into their sophomore year of college, boding well for degree attainment.

Behavior outcomes, often considered "soft measures" compared to hard numbers such as test results and graduation rates, show positive results in both Milwaukee-focused studies. Parent surveys revealed much stronger satisfaction with their child's education among voucher families than those in the public school control group.

Parents that sought vouchers consistently named education quality, teacher quality, and superior discipline and safety in private schools as the most important factors in their decisions. They also reported higher satisfaction on "almost all dimensions of schooling - the largest difference being in the areas of highest priority they list for why they sought vouchers - educational and teacher quality and discipline in the school" compared to public school parents surveyed.

MPCP families tended to have lower incomes than MPS families, but had higher education levels and were more religious.

The report delves into a brief history of MPCP's beginnings and highlights the subsequent spread of voucher programs to other states. The overall survey of 22 different studies includes research on programs all over the country.

One study, focused on D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarship Program, found remarkable results for voucher students. While 70 percent of public school students surveyed graduated high school in four years, 91 percent of students who used a voucher achieved the same.

Other reports released in conjunction with the Tommy@30 project include research on the Wisconsin Works program as well as other economic reforms championed by former Governor Tommy Thompson.

Conservatives Need To Remember Who They Are Fighting For - And Against

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 06:00

A MacIver Perspective By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis...] - Capitol Democrats have become so irrelevant - like the Whig Party of 1855 - that Republicans these days seem to have no one to fight with but themselves.

And it's gotten bigger than the occasional political bickering.

Gov. Scott Walker took to Twitter last week threatening to veto any budget his fellow Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee craft that includes a gas tax or a property tax increase.

"Let me be clear, I will veto the entire budget if it includes an increase in property taxes for homeowners," the governor tweeted Monday morning.

Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) went at it earlier this year on Twitter. Vos has pushed all options in funding a troubled transportation budget, including a gas tax hike and vehicle registration fee increase; Walker has rejected any notion of tax increases in an era of budget surpluses. Vos has threatened to delay the biennial budget, due in a little over a month, over road funding.

Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing committee, last week complained that a few Senate Republicans were trying to "railroad the process" in coming to terms on another tuition freeze in the University of Wisconsin System.

On Wednesday, Walker joined the GOP Assembly in a closed caucus to chat about growing differences. Capitol insiders tell MacIver News Service there was some displeasure expressed about Walker's recent pointed tweets, and the governor wants it understood he means to hold the line on property tax increases.

But signs of detente broke through by Thursday, before the Joint Finance Committee executive session. Nygren told the Capitol press corps that there aren't any hurt feelings and that the private sit-down with the governor was quite productive. Face-to-face conversation is preferable to hashing out hashtag differences on social networks, Nygren said.

Walker seemed to be offering an olive branch Friday morning. He told conservative talk show host Jay Weber on NewsTalk 1130 in Milwaukee that the caucus talk involved everything from the gas tax and the transportation budget debate to differences over ending the state forestry mill tax.

He said he has great respect for his Republican colleagues in the Legislature and what they have been able to accomplish this budget-dominated session so far. He compared Republicans to a family. Like every family, there are bound to be some disagreements, Walker said. And this family still has some disagreements.

"I fundamentally believe that property taxes should continue to go down," he said, pointing to his pledge that property taxes would be lower each year he's in office. "I want to make sure we have a good, decent, safe transportation system, but I believe we can do that without a gas tax or vehicle registration fee."

Weber on Thursday touched on the internecine battles within a Republican Party that has been so successfully united for six-plus years in Wisconsin. Weber reminded his listeners that, for the most part, Republicans are arguing about how much to cut taxes and regulations - a good thing for taxpayers; a remarkable thing after years of Democratic Party control and arguments about how much to raise taxes and regulations.

But this session has given rise to some tax hike-minded Republicans. Talk of gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases is anathema to fiscal conservatives who say they can't go there. And Walker told Weber there are some Republicans who don't want to give up the forestry, state property tax, as the governor has proposed in his budget. Doing so would ease the burden on taxpayers by $180 million over two years.

"Some (Republicans) ... in the Capitol are saying, 'You get rid of this (tax) you never have the revenue, it never comes back. My argument in caucus and elsewhere have been, 'Yeah,'" the governor said. "As Republicans, we aren't about short-term tax relief. We are trying to fundamentally reform the way we provide government services, do something that is more effective, more efficient, more accountable. And part of that is making sure that after we're gone people can't jack up taxes and this is one way to make that happen."

It's that taxpayer-first philosophy that has carried the day for fiscal conservatives in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It's that philosophy that governing Republicans need to remember as they work through the abundantly more challenging phases of budget-writing ahead.

Their friends in the 21st century Whig Party seem to be helping drive that message home.

After hours of "free college" and massively expanded welfare benefits talk by Joint Finance Committee Democrats last week, conservatives seemed to remember what they are ultimately fighting against.

Walker on Weber's show reiterated that there are many more commonalities than differences among Republicans.

"We are together pushing back on the absurdity of Democrats. The same party that was in charge when tuition went up 118 percent at UW campuses the decade before our (tuition) freeze is now claiming they want to provide for free tuition."

The governor suggested the "core issues" -limiting governments, job creation, freer markets and people - will always unite conservatives.