A real education

Long-term, we hope the education reforms Governor Walker rolled out last Thursday accomplish their objectives on behalf of Wisconsin school children, especially through improved reading skills and evaluation of the performance of teachers and schools.

Short-term, we’re all getting an education from the reform plans—or more accurately from Democrats trying create clouds of suspicion over them.

Here’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “I have not been involved in the drafting of the education proposals that have been announced.”

Evidently the “nonpartisan” Superintendent forgot he put together one of the three task forces that generated recommendations for the reforms. And that the specifics of legislation in drafting are always held in confidence between legislative sponsors and the Legislative Reference Bureau. That’s one way the Bureau stays nonpartisan.

Another task force participant—who doesn’t even pretend to be nonpartisan—detected evil intent in bills she hasn’t even read. State Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton) just knows it’s all bad:  “I have not yet seen the legislation being drafted by the Governor and the Republican leaders and am very concerned that the bipartisan efforts that have come from this group’s work thus far are being hijacked for political gain.”

If anybody’s seeking political gain, it looks to us like the people who participated in putting together the reform proposals and are now denouncing them before they’re even introduced. Pope-Roberts went so far as to accuse the Governor of mandating programs without funding them, something he specifically said was important not to do. Even the Journal Sentinel managed to report that much.

So in one sense, the reforms are already adding to our store of knowledge: We now have a better understanding of Madison Liberals’ concept of integrity.

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The Numbers Racket

You’ve probably noticed Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature are lining up to play a numbers game with Wisconsin employment statistics.

Ah, statistics. You know what they say about them: statistics can be tortured to confirm anything you want to prove. Democrats are trying to prove that Governor Walker is failing at job creation. They can find some numbers that might seem to help their argument, but it’s a very dangerous game for them to play.

Start with the numbers that, according to Democrats, show Wisconsin has lost jobs in each of the last six months. They love numbers like that because everybody knows Wisconsin lost so many jobs when they were in charge, more people wound up working for government than in manufacturing.  States, indeed whole nations, go broke that way.  Never mind; the Democrats’ idea of a positive program is to argue that the guy who replaced them is just as bad as they were.

Except he’s not.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), which doesn’t get to make things up, reports that the number of people working in Wisconsin rose by almost 7,000 in December compared with November, and by more than 21,000 compared with December 2010.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is better than those of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

We mentioned that this is a very dangerous game for Democrats to play. That’s because when you trash someone else’s performance you invite comparison.  The DWD reported that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.1 percent, from 7.3 percent the previous month and 7.5 percent the month before that.  Why is that dangerous for Democrats? Because the nationwide unemployment rate is 8.5 percent and it’s their guy who owns that number.

Trying it their way, IV

Several weeks ago we took a look at Illinois. We decided to look again because things have gone from very bad to considerably worse. Little did we know The Wall Street Journal would do a big part of our work for us.

In a Friday editorial, theJournal noted that even after massive tax increases enacted to avoid the kind of reforms adopted in Wisconsin, Illinois state finances are still a mess, the state’s credit rating was downgraded to the lowest in the nation, and the most prized possession of reform opponents, government employee pensions, are underfunded by more than half.

Last Thursday, Chicago’s WBBM Radio reported that state government simply isn’t paying its bills and regardless of the tax hikes that were supposed to put Illinois back on a sound financial footing, there’s no sign of things getting anything but worse.

WBBM reported that some state lawmakers are suggesting the solution is to borrow more money. That will be even more difficult—or at least more expensive for taxpayers— thanks to the endless parade of previous legislative actions destroying the state’s credit.

Sunday’s Chicago Tribune weighed in with an editorial spelling out that the balanced-budget-through-higher-taxes ploy was a load of bunk and named the lawmakers who voted for it, urging citizens to retaliate at the polls.

Watch for “The Simpsons” one of these weeks to come up with a joke about Illinois state government being hard to reach because “they live in their car.”

And remember Democrats were driving Wisconsin down the same road a little more than a year ago.

Fighting back with the truth

Mark Twain was never more right than when he said “A lie can run around the world three times while the truth is still getting its shoes on.” So its cause for celebration when the truth about Governor Walker’s reforms manages to cut through the fog of falsehood served up every day by the anti-Walker Left. And it’s all the more satisfying when the truth manages to find its way into the pages of the mainstream media.

An example turned up earlier this month in USA Today, in the form of an opinion column by Nick Schulz of the American Enterprise institute. Schultz explains why a Walker recall election is more important than the 2012 Presidential election:

Wisconsin has emerged as a central battleground in the fight over the outsized political role played by, and the enormous privileges enjoyed by, public employee unions. The collective bargaining entitlement enables public sector workers to extract excessive compensation, benefits, and pension packages at the expense of taxpayers.

Public employee unions understand that the legitimacy of collective bargaining privileges is now in question, as cash-strapped states struggle under the burden of a costly public sector. If they can knock off Walker, they send a powerful signal to other reform-oriented governors not to target collective bargaining.

And he quotes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s positive editorial about the Governor’s reforms.

“The governor did balance the budget … he did reduce the structural deficit significantly; he did put a lid on property tax increases; he did give schools and municipalities more control over their budgets than they’ve had in years.”

If you think someone might be won over by reading 11 concise paragraphs on the necessity of the Walker reforms, show him this column.

Wisconsin is benefiting from Walker reforms

By Mike Grebe

If there is one thing the people of Wisconsin have learned in this last year, it is that politics and policymaking can be extremely emotional. People often approach challenges believing their solutions are the only way to address difficulties.

It is in discovering that there are a wide variety of solutions to some of government’s paramount challenges that can cause the greatest emotional reaction, especially when these other ideas actually work.

In what can only be described as an emotional diatribe against the very tough but necessary decisions Gov. Scott Walker has made during his first year in office, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate made some serious accusations in a previous Milwaukee Biz Blog regarding Gov. Walker’s reforms. While Tate and members of the Democratic Party had ideas on how the $3.6 billion budget deficit should be addressed – mostly by raising taxes on hard working Wisconsinites – Gov. Walker implemented reforms which fell in line with the promises he made on the campaign trail, and the Badger State is now benefiting from those reforms.

The reality is that Gov. Walker has laid the foundation for a more successful Wisconsin, put government back on the side of taxpayers, and got the state’s fiscal house in order. Not only has the governor closed a $3.6 billion budget deficit by not raising taxes or laying off public employees, he also added $1.2 billion to Medicaid, and his reforms led to the reduction of overall school property taxes by $47 million.
During the Doyle administration, Wisconsin lost more than 150,000 jobs, UW-Madison students saw a 9 percent tuition increase, and million-dollar cuts were made to public education which Doyle used one-time stimulus funds to backfill. Democrats have long used budgeting gimmicks to “balance” the budget, when all they really did was rob Peter to pay Paul and then used one-time federal funding to pay Peter back, but only temporarily.

Gov. Walker knew that the long practiced strategies of raising taxes, cutting crucial government programs, laying off workers and fudging numbers were not going to create long-term stability for our state. Gov. Walker is committed to creating an environment which allows Wisconsin to lead the way in private sector job growth. He knows that tomorrow’s leaders will come from our education system, which is why public education makes up the largest percentage of state support in his budget.

It is because the ideas and solutions that are turning our state’s economy around did not come from big-government, public employee union bosses that these same unions have launched this baseless recall effort. Gov. Walker’s reforms implemented a system whereby public employees have been asked to contribute the employee’s share of pension and health care costs, just like is done in the private sector.
Now, Madison liberals, at the direction of special interest unions, are fighting tooth and nail to force the millions of dollars Gov. Walker has saved taxpayers back into the hands of public employee unions. Wisconsinites will not stand for the $9 million power grab this recall is going to cost them and they will not allow the blatantly false accusations of what Gov. Walker’s reforms have accomplished to prematurely end his term.

Mike Grebe is the chairman of Friends of Scott Walker.

Trying it their way, III

As we close in on recall elections—by which a minority of voters may overturn the results of the last election —we’ve sought clues to how they might reshape life in Wisconsin.

It hasn’t been arduous work; nearby states provide abundant material to forecast the conditions of civic life in a Wisconsin governed by Recall Walker enthusiasts. A few weeks ago we examined tax increases and teacher layoffs in Ohio. Last week we glimpsed union skimming of home health care dollars in Michigan. Earlier we looked at the Tax Hell of Illinois.

This week: Indiana.

Indiana is an especially apt example because outgoing Governor Mitch Daniels started several years ago to rein in government employee union excesses. The battle never ends.

The Indiana House was scheduled this week to take up right-to-work legislation. Workers would be free to join or not join unions. Unions could conduct their business as usual; they just couldn’t force workers to pay dues if they don’t want to join.

Naturally, unions hate this, and their indentured servants, Indiana House Democrats, have boycotted most session days this year to deny a quorum and prevent the House from functioning.

Sound familiar? Like Wisconsin Senate Democrats, they fled to Illinois last year. But now the Wall Street Journal reports, any member who skips out can forfeit $1,000 a day after three days.

We disagree with the Journal on one point: Indiana isn’t “the labor reform story of the year,” the fight over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker completing his term is. If Indiana lawmakers fail to enact right-to-work this winter, they can try again. If Walker is defeated in a recall, chances are they won’t.

Calling Jimmy Carter…

Through three decades of involuntary retirement, the Former Worst President in U.S. History has spent much of his time monitoring elections in Third World countries, to make sure they’re on the level.  His services are badly needed at home.

Phony signatures on presidential nominating petitions from 2008 are under investigation in Indiana.

In New Hampshire, people can easily cast ballots under the names of the dead.  Voter ID is brushed aside and efforts to purge the deceased from voter lists are shown to be unserious.

But none of this can top the absurdity of voting-day registration in Milwaukee. An independent review of polling-place registrations from the 2011 Spring Election found multiple instances of out-of-state driver’s licenses being accepted as proof of Wisconsin residency. People used hotel receipts—the sort of thing we’d regard as evidence that you actually live someplace else—to prove local residency.   Errors were found on more than one in three registration forms.

But then look at this: The Milwaukee review by the Grandsons of Liberty found that 94 percent of same-day registrants had an official photo ID. The Left’s favorite excuse for shrieking about voter suppression is demonstrably a non-issue.  In fact, the only suppression worth discussing is the suppression of the fraudulent voting Democrats struggle desperately to continue.

These revelations should remind honest citizens that their vote is both precious, and threatened. Ballot integrity is one of the things that determine whether people are governed by their peers or ruled by thugs. It’s the kind of thing wars have been fought over. Better to preserve it than to have to win it back.