The real problem in Racine

We can’t tell from Saturday’s Racine Journal Times story whether Mayor John Dickert thinks Governor Walker did a bad thing by narrowing the scope of public union collective bargaining, or whether he wishes the Governor had gone even further.

One thing that seems pretty clear is that the Journal-Times reporter, or at least whoever wrote the headline, is itching to convey the idea that Walkers reforms are very bad things indeed.

One thing not found in the story is that Mayor Dickert understands state budgets better than most people, including most legislators. He was a top aide to a former Democratic co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which writes the state budget.

Dickert complains that the budget repair bill didn’t give him everything he needed to balance his city budget without cutting services. The Mayor also said he tried, and failed, to win concessions from police and fire unions. Maybe what we’re seeing is not so much the implied criticism of the Walker reforms, as a cry for more of them coming from an elected official with a Democratic Party pedigree.

The truth that simply refuses to be obscured is that Mayor Dickert’s real problem is with unions that were exempted from the collective bargaining restrictions, and who expressed their gratitude by forcing cuts on other people.

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Chaos is the objective

Last Wednesday’s recommendation from the Government Accountability Board (GAB) staff guarantees confusion and voter anger when and if people are summoned to the polls for another round of recall elections next year. The GAB staff says the old district boundaries—those used in the 2010 elections—will apply for any recalls, even though new district lines created to reflect the results of the 2010 census, will become effective in August for purposes of incumbent lawmakers seeking re-election.

Recently we warned about the virtual certainty of 2012 recalls triggering a blizzard of litigation. Here’s one way that will happen: Some of the Legislators planning to seek re-election on the normal election schedule and in the new districts, may first have to run again in the old district.  It will be expensive for local taxpayers forced to pay for never-ending elections. It will be miserably confusing for local officials forced to administer serial elections with shifting boundaries. And the confusion will ensure at least some of these frivolous contests—and quite possibly ballot access for candidates in the regular elections next fall—end up being decided by lawyers, not the voting public.

The Saul Alinsky school of political vandalism holds that if normal people are subjected to continuous chaos, they’ll throw up their hands in disgust and let the radicals take what they want.  Restoring sanity to our public affairs is not going to be easily or quickly done.

At least they’re professional…

It’s one thing to suspect deep down inside that some of the people who squatted in the State Capitol, filled the streets, messed with Wisconsin’s spring elections, ginned up the recalls, and now make up an activist core for the noxious “occupy” movement do this sort of thing for a living. It’s quite another thing to actually see the evidence build.

That’s why it’s especially satisfying to have a group like Media Trackers on the job.

Media Trackers, a conservative watchdog group, have zeroed in on Occupy Milwaukee protester Austin Thompson and are finding lots of interesting things.

For instance, Thompson has more than one home address—one at a Milwaukee-area hotel for purposes of voting in Wisconsin elections, and another in Georgia for purposes of identifying himself when, for instance, he’s stopped by police for traffic violations.

And before he was an Occupy Milwaukee “activist” he was working with the same outfit that was running the still-unresolved ribs for votes operation to help State Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) in her failed attempt to take down State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

What’s sobering is how this illuminates the difference between a civilized political controversy and the present situation. This is no dispute between one set of Wisconsinites and another—friends and neighbors in many cases—who have differing priorities for their government and will settle things in an orderly way at the next scheduled election. This is an attempt to seize control of government by people who refuse to recognize any election they don’t win and regard radical mayhem as a full-time career.

Austin Thompson is just one guy. But where there’s smoke…

Recall Fever, I

Wisconsin Democrats are seeing their Party shanghaied by its most irrational members, bent on attempting to recall Governor Walker early next year. It’s these people we mean when we refer to individuals who define themselves by who they hate.

The good news for reformers is they’ll make their Party burn through a trainload of money that smart strategists would rather spend a few months later, in what history may record as the pivotal national election of the century. The bad news is the half-million petition signatures required to force a recall is an achievable number.

But Democrats have a candidate problem.

One major union leader, AFSCME President Mary Beil, has already deep-sixed one prospect: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Milwaukee taxpayers are saving millions because he’s applying Walker’s collective bargaining reforms by requiring city employees to pay more toward their health care. Barrett is also challenging a rule his city attorney says prevents Milwaukee from using the reforms to make employees contribute to their own pensions.

Beil says that’s no good, telling Madison radio host John “Sly” Sylvester the unions won’t settle for anyone who doesn’t throw himself on the fire for the union.

So are Democrats looking for a fresher face?

Nope.One potential candidate being bandied about is former Congressman David Obey. Obey was first elected to Congress in 1969 and got out last year saying “these bones are tired.” He’s evidently considered a serious prospect by some Democrats.

But for anyone who had the dubious privilege of watching Obey chew out visiting constituents for being insufficiently anti-Republican, this 2010 commentary just scratches the surface of Obey’s angry persona.

Any Democrat running against Governor Walker will need camouflage paint. If it’s Dave Obey, he’d better apply two coats.

Recall Fever, II

We talked about elements of the Democratic Party flailing away at anyone—even on their own side—who won’t promise to grant their every vengeful wish.  It’s bad politics, and it’s also bad policy when such infantile rage is allowed to pervert the political system.

We refer here to the nominal Democrats—in this case more accurately called political vandals—who intend to recall State Senators next year but can’t say which ones. To these people nothing much matters except destroying anyone with an “R” after their name.

This is where the structural integrity of constitutional government is seriously threatened.

“We just want him out” shouldn’t be sufficient grounds to recall. But under current law it is, with the result of empowering every overgrown baby who didn’t get his way last November to nullify the will of the majority.

That’s why the proposed constitutional amendment authored by State Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington) is a necessity. Recalls, as Vos would have it, would be used to address actual malfeasance in office, not to overturn the lawful result of the most recent statewide or legislative election.

Before the first petition signature is gathered in the threatened new round of recalls, it’s plain to see the deliberate abuse of the system.  This is clear because the perpetrators of the recalls can’t even say who they plan to target and nobody is quite sure whether the applicable district lines will be those in effect for the 2010 elections or the new ones drawn following the 2010 census.

Stand by for litigation.

A choice = a chance

Like never before, the past several months have focused the harsh light of truth on the politicization of our public school systems and the under-performance that flows directly from it. Naturally, then, school choice is increasingly under attack by those who benefit from the status quo.

So it’s heartening to read this spirited defense of parental choice, and all the more so to find it somehow making its way into print in a boutique Liberal publication. We can almost hear the howls of indignation.

Economic consultant Larry Kaufman discusses these key concepts:

  • Spending lots more money won’t bring success if you’re just doubling down on failure;
  • To obtain success, reward success and penalize failure. Failure without consequences is failure guaranteed, just because it’s easier;
  • A school is no different from a car repair shop or insurance agency in the sense that customers will receive inferior service if they aren’t free to take their business elsewhere.

Most important of all, skepticism about school choice is mainly expressed by privileged classes who can send their kids to any school they like. Those who see school choice as a ray of hope can seldom afford the luxury of disparaging it. As for those who claim that choice poses a threat to good public schools, Kaufman says:

Others vested in the public school monopoly have called school choice “a serious attack on public education in Wisconsin and a watering down of one of the best public school systems in the nation.” But if a school really is “one of the best in the nation,” it has nothing to lose, and a great deal to gain, when parents are allowed to choose where to send their children. More fundamentally, school choice is not an attack on public education; it is public education, because it too is financed with public funds.

Nobody expects every choice program to work miracles any more than they expect every conventional public school to fail. But we wring our hands over the economic plight of urban minorities even as we know that appalling numbers of their children leave school unable to read. When somebody objects to the idea of letting a little sunlight disinfect that system, it’s not out of line to ask what’s in it for them.

Happy Columbus Day!

There is special satisfaction in commenting on the recent judicial smack-down of the politically-correct Department of Public Instruction, as yesterday was the anniversary of the designated arch-villain Christopher Columbus setting foot upon the New World.

Whether or not the Mukwonago School District’s successful defense of its “Indians” team name leads to further victories for common sense, it has already demonstrated one transcendentally important point, namely, that people who define themselves by their grievances are unlikely to ever satisfied by the steps taken to appease them.

What do we mean by that? Read Circuit Judge Donald Hassin’s rationale for ruling the DPI’s persecution of the school district unconstitutional:

If [the DPI hearing examiner] could not articulate what evidence was required for the District to meet its burden of proof, then it is reasonable to assume that no evidence that the District could have provided would have, in [the examiner’s] mind, met the burden.”

Precisely. In the minds of the perpetually aggrieved, nothing can be sufficient to prove the absence of hostile intent. What tripped up the DPI was its open refusal to see any viewpoint other than that of the complainant. Its employee’s admission that he couldn’t fathom how the school district might show itself to be innocent of bigotry demonstrates how outcomes are predetermined. “Execution first, trial afterward,” as they used to say in Wonderland.

The DPI can keep trying and undoubtedly will. But the important thing is that from here on out its edicts concerning imaginary race-baiting warrant no respect. Even the bureaucracy’s tireless effort couldn’t keep the grownups from taking this step toward a genuine post-racial society.