Going Bananas

Last week Ismael Ozanne, the Democrat district attorney in Dane County announced he would not file charges against a woman who suggested on an anti-Walker web site, that instead of observing the formalities of an election, recall enthusiasts should simply “kill” the Governor.

The D.A.reasoned there was no death threat because there was no evidence the message reached Governor Walker.

But for sheer, jaw-dropping self-righteousness, it would be hard to top the remarks in this story about doctors who manufactured sick-leave notes for Capitol protesters last winter. They’ve finally met their fate and it’s evidently a cozy one, though much of the “punishment” remains secret.

State officials who regulate the medical profession concluded the real problem wasn’t that University of Wisconsin physicians used their positions to create false documents and help protesters—chiefly public school teachers—steal from taxpayers. No, the real problem was sloppy record-keeping.

The wayward doctors must now endure the horror of four hours of “continuing education” to ensure that they keep adequate records of patient consultations. Future protesters must anticipate more annoying paperwork before they can obtain fake sick leave notes from medical professionals you employ.

Just another week in the banana republic of Dane County.


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Trust-but-verify economics

Ronald Reagan described his stance toward the Soviet Union on the dubious undertaking of arms control: “Trust, but verify.”

It’s not much of a stretch to see that same attitude coming through in a survey of business leaders released Friday by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC).

Local chambers of commerce are generally upbeat about the direction of attitudes toward the business community in Wisconsin and they see good things ahead. Not only do overwhelming majorities of chamber executives say the state is on the right track, the numbers released last week represent a striking, 180-degree turnaround compared with responses to a similar survey in 2009.

According to the survey:

A large number of chambers (74%) think the state is on the right track. This is a mirror image of survey responses 12 months ago when 74% thought we were heading in the wrong direction and a vast improvement over 2009 when only 18% thought we were on the right track. Seventy-nine percent of the local chambers feel strongly that Wisconsin is very or somewhat pro-business, compared to only 18% two years ago.

Somehow we doubt the dramatic shift is mere coincidence, given that in between, Wisconsin government took a similar one-eighty as a result of the 2010 elections.

So how does this sunny optimism square with the disappointing employment numbers reported for the past few months?

We strongly suspect this is an example of “trust-but-verify” economic decision-making. Employers are happy about the state’s current policy direction but they also realize how fragile that happiness may be. Optimism is tempered by the realization that thousands of Wisconsin residents are fully dedicated to tearing down the reasons for their optimism with more recall elections.

Only their complete and utter defeat will convince business that pro-growth policies are durable.  Once that is established, just watch Wisconsin’s economy grow.

Job Jive

Democrats are claiming the shrinkage of Wisconsin’s work force over the past few months is the result of Governor Walker’s policy changes.

In other words, balancing the state budget for the first time in 12 years without raises taxes or laying off thousands of state employees are very, very bad things.

Pardon us for belaboring the obvious but Democrats, with nothing to offer except a mindless trudge into socialist insolvency, will blame Walker for every flat tire, hailstorm, deceased goldfish, un-mowed lawn and leaky roof that occurs from now until eight years after he leaves office.

A more plausible interpretation of the state’s economy is the inescapable fact that it’s part of the nation’s economy. An economy that has been pounded into the ground by policies Democrats are working to re-impose here, if only they can get rid of Walker.

Wisconsin isn’t Ohio. So what?

The best thing unions had going for them in engineering the landslide rejection of Ohio collective bargaining reforms, was the fact that the reforms had not taken effect.

That, and at least $30 million in union dues for advertising, phone banks and foot soldiers claiming catastrophe would result from things nobody’s actually done yet.

Had Ohioans gotten the same opportunity as Wisconsin residents to see hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for school districts, teacher layoffs avoided and budgets balanced without increasing taxes, the catastrophe story would have been a tougher sell.

And that, friends, is all the good news there is.

Having bamboozled the electorate of a critical swing state into discarding reform before it was even tried, the unions will be emboldened to mount an all-out effort to take down Governor Walker in a recall a few months from now.

It was said that Team Obama tried to talk Wisconsin Democrats out of pursuing a Walker recall, preferring to conserve resources for next November’s life-or-death elections. Don’t kid yourself that they’re still reluctant after Tuesday’s Ohio massacre.  Eliminating the Governor who is arguably the preeminent national reform leader would make the wretched Obama presidency look a lot more politically viable.

The takers in this society will spare no effort to make it so.

Ask Why

You may soon be approached by someone asking you to sign a recall petition against Governor Walker. Don’t avoid them. Don’t be unpleasant. Embrace the opportunity.

We eagerly await the knock on our door. We’ll ask the petition circulator to help us understand why Scott Walker should be removed from office.

We hope they take a long time explaining, because every minute they spend failing to get our signature is a minute they don’t spend getting someone else’s. It’s fun to be a subversive.

We’ll also ask how they’d go about solving Wisconsin’s budget problems. After all, the yawning chasm of a $3.6 billion deficit would still have been there last January regardless of whether it had been Tom Barrett instead of Scott Walker taking office. Suppose it had been Mayor Barrett: Would we now be counting the public employee layoffs and the giant tax increases and saying how sad it is but it had to be done?  Governor Walker eliminated the deficit without raising taxes and without laying off thousands of state employees,and the left is waging a recall.

If “making the top one percent pay their fair share” comes up, we’ll ask what their fair share might be and insist on some sort of answer.  Then we’ll point out that you could tax away absolutely everything currently owned by the top one percent in Wisconsin and with lots of luck it would finance state government for a few months.

The circulator won’t believe that, because he or she probably won’t be very good at arithmetic. Ironically, the people who bear direct responsibility for that problem will make up a large percentage of those circulating the petitions.

But be nice. Engage in discussion. You won’t even be wasting their time, because there’s a chance they might learn something.

News you can use

The campaign to throw Governor Walker out of office officially got underway yesterday. One of the best ways to fight back is by spreading the word that both taxpayers and local governments are better off because of what the Governor has done.

Solid evidence is found in data compiled by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) and released last Thursday through the Department of Public Instruction. Here’s what they found:

For the current school year, new teacher hires outnumber layoffs and non-renewals by 1,213 positions. In overwhelming majorities of districts, class sizes are staying the same or decreasing.

For this school year compared with pre-reform years:

    •    97% of districts offer the same number or more math courses;
    •    99% of districts offer the same number or more science courses;
    •    98% of districts offer the same number or more English courses;
    •    97% of districts offer the same number or more foreign language courses.

What about the art, music and athletic programs invariably threatened with elimination when taxpayers ask to control school spending?

      •    94% of districts offer the same number or more art courses;
      •    95% of districts offer the same number or more music courses;
      •    92% of districts are keeping sports programs the same or expanding them.

And here’s the ugly truth: Most teacher layoffs occurred in three districts: Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville. Those three took a pass on the Walker reforms, and they account for 68% of all teacher layoffs statewide.  Fortunately, they’re home to fewer than 13% of Wisconsin students.

Not every district responded, but 353—that’s 83 percent of the statewide total—did. Somehow we suspect if the other 17 percent were in trouble because of the Walker reforms, they’d have taken the time to let WASDA know.

Recall Abele?

Wisconsin isn’t Greece, but in terms of fiscal integrity, it eventually would have been.  Thankfully we have a Governor who is unwilling to go there, but there are others who are eager to make the trip.

Some of these factions with Greek envy actually make Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele look fiscally responsible by comparison.  Apparently unionized county employees haven’t noticed the growing number of their neighbors who don’t have jobs let alone benefits.  One man complained that the county executive was trying to balance the budget on their backs.  He’d prefer his unemployed neighbors pay higher property taxes instead.

The picture of entitled classes raging against the possibility of having to pay their own way, or even to help pay their own way, is the story of our times, from Athens to Washington, D.C., to Madison and now, to Milwaukee County.

Almost everybody now sees that. What no one sees is an effort on the part of the entitled classes to recall elected executives like Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, even though they are following Scott Walker’s lead on  controlling the cost of government employee benefits.

Maybe the entitled classes expect Liberals like Abele and Barrett to finally prove unserious about getting government finances in order; maybe they believe in the end the Liberals will revert to type and raise taxes to keep the gravy train rolling; maybe they can only handle one obsession at a time.

But it must not go unnoticed that since Governor Walker showed himself willing to start containing unsustainable entitlement costs, Liberals with their own budgeting responsibilities have followed along. They trash Walker’s ideas, but their actions show they understand those ideas are necessary.

Now who, if anybody, should be recalled?