Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an exceptionally ambitious career politician who loves the sound of cheering crowds in the presidential primary states where he hopes to be a 2016 contender.
But he does not care for the sound of dissent.
In fact, dissident voices bother the conservative Republican governor so much that he has ordered state police forces to begin arresting Wisconsinites—from 85-year-olds to young moms with kids—who dare to join a long-established noontime “Solidarity Sing Along” at the state capitol in Madison. In this summer of protest, crowds have gathered at state capitols nationwide—from women’s rights activists in Austin to “Stand Your Ground” foes in Tallahassee to voting rights champions in Raleigh. There have been mass arrests, especially during the “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina.
But Walker has distinguished himself by targeting tunes.
The singing, which traces its roots to the mass protests against Walker’s anti-labor initiatives of February and March 2011, has been a steady presence in the capitol for two years. But, this summer, the governor’s cracking down. So far, seventy-nine Wisconsinites have been arrested and ticketed, and dozens more are likely to face charges for singing songs like “Which Side Are You On?” and “On Wisconsin” without following a new set of permitting rules developed by the governor to limit the right to assemble.
It is hard to understand why the governor is so perturbed.
He’s not often in a position to hear what’s going on in the capitol.
Unless, of course, the voices of the singers are loud enough to carry to states like Alabama.
The governor, who makes little secret of his 2016 presidential enthusiasm, is spending this summer traveling to states that are likely to play a role in naming the Republican nominee who will pick up where Mitt Romney left off. He’s already been to Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Tennessee and Texas. And he’ll be back in many of those state this fall to hawk his upcoming book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge (Sentinel/Penguin), which he’s written with Marc Thiessen, who previously served as chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. The conservative Washington Examiner says that “according to those familiar with it, might as well come with a ‘Walker for America’ bumper sticker.”
But before he distributes the bumper stickers, Walker is spending his off-year summer vacation on the partisan dinner circuit.
When seventeen singers were arrested Friday at the state capitol, Walker was in Denver keynoting the fourth annual Western Conservative Summit.
Soon he’ll be off to Alabama for the annual Republican Party summer dinner.
He’s already been to the first primary state of New Hampshire and the first caucus state of Iowa.
Walker’s certainly seems to be running.
But he’s not getting much traction.
Against prospective Republican contenders, according to a new TheRun2016 poll, Walker finished eighth with 2.1 percent support among possible Iowa Republican Caucus participants.
There are a lot of explanations for why Governor Walker, despite a very high national profile, attracts so little support. But some of the burden the governor carries undoubtedly has to do with his image as a “divide and conquer” politician who is determined to crack down on teachers, public employees, conservationists, local officials and anyone else who isn’t using his songbook—even going so far as to have grandmothers, veterans, teachers and mothers with children arrested for carrying a tune in the capitol—but who is not very good when it comes to managing his state, maintaining great schools, building a strong infrastructure or creating a climate that encourages job creation.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 29, 2013
“A Matter Of Life And Death”: Leave It To Scott Walker To Turn Medicaid Expansion Into Medicaid Contraction
Several red states are turning down Medicaid expansion — only Scott Walker (R-WI) is actually using Obamacare as an excuse to cut Medicaid.
Wisconsin’s Badgercare health care plan is one of the best in the country. Families qualify for comprehensive coverage if they earn up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
So when the Affordable Care Act offered all 50 states a chance to expand their Medicaid programs to cover all the working poor who earn too much for Medicaid but make up to 133 percent of the poverty level, what did Governor Scott Walker decide to do?
He put forward a plan to drastically cut Badgercare.
If Walker gets his way, his state’s plan will only cover residents who earn 100 percent of the poverty level or below – $11,490 a year for a single adult.
Tens of thousands of Wisconsites will be forced from completely subsidized health care to the federal insurance exchanges, where they can purchase private plans with a subsidy. To do this, Walker has to give up federal funding that would cover 84,7000 residents, which would lead to a $119 million cut to his state budget.
“But a detailed analysis of the plan by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that many of the people now receiving state Medicaid coverage would likely not buy the more costly insurance through the federal program,” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
“As a general rule, they’re going to be really strapped to do it,” Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, told the Journal Sentinel. “They won’t scrape together the money unless they really need it.”
The Bureau estimates that 7 percent will not buy the coverage. Peacock thinks that’s overly optimistic.
A new UW Madison study shows that Badgercare – which was expanded in 2009 — reduces hospitalization and improves management of chronic disease.
Even Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) admits that Walker’s plan could send thousands to emergency rooms for care, driving up the cost of care for all residents. The legislature is considering additional payments to hospitals to make up for the costs of the uninsured.
Medicaid expansion is a great deal for the states. The federal government will fund 100 percent of the initial expense; that decreases to 90 percent over the next decade.
Rand Corporation just released a study that underlines the cruelty of rejecting expansion. “States rejecting the expansion will spend much more, get much, much less, and leave millions of their residents uninsured. That’s a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point,” according to The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas.
“This is not a small issue,” writes The Guardian‘s Michael Cohen. “In fact, it is a matter of life and death.”
Cohen points to a New England Journal of Medicine study that shows increased access to Medicaid results in fewer deaths. A recent study in Oregon found that Medicaid eliminated economic hardships brought on by health problems and dramatically improved mental health.
What Walker is doing is even worse than his more than two dozen Republican colleagues who are rejecting expansion. He’s taking health care away from the working poor, knowing that doing so will cost his state money, well-being and even lives.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, June 4, 2013
Public officials are very selective about when violence and death matter.
Massacres and terrorist incidents cannot be ignored, but the day-to-day toll from gun violence is often swept aside. Politicians who tout themselves as advocates of law and order don’t want to be unmasked as caring even more about their ratings from gun lobbyists.
And opponents of the most moderate gun reforms engage in a shameless game of bait-and-switch. Because measures such as background checks would not stop every murder, they’re declared useless even though they’d still save lives. Then the gun lobby turns around and opposes other measures, such as a ban on high-capacity magazines, which could prevent some of the killings that background checks might not.
The lack of coherence doesn’t bother those who are willing to tolerate all manner of violence to keep the gun business free of inconvenient restraints. Their goal is to exhaust supporters of sane gun laws and get them to give up until the next big tragedy strikes.
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee has never given up and never given in. One of the earliest members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group spearheaded by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Tom Menino, he has made curbing urban bloodshed a personal cause.
Every year between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, he organizes a “Cease-Fire Sabbath” that enlists clergy around the city to preach against violence. “The ministers and other clergy can reach people that I can’t,” Barrett said in an interview in his office last week. Here’s a faith-based initiative that everyone can believe in.
Barrett has paid a price for his steadfastness on guns. In his rematch last year against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s recall election (he lost to Walker in 2010), gun groups spent more than $800,000 to defeat him. Such sums are designed to have a chilling effect on other politicians who might take on the gun lobby. “It hasn’t chilled me,” Barrett says with a smile, “but obviously I’m not the governor.”
Since late last year, Barrett has made the case for extending background checks to online and private purchases as well as gun show sales by pulling out a large cardboard blow-up of a request sent through an online gun market on Oct. 20, 2011.
It reads in part: “Looking for a handgun that is $300 obo [or best offer]. … Looking to buy asap. … Prefer full size. Prefer .45, .40. … I constantly check my emails. … Also I’m hoping it has a high mag capacity. … I’m a serious buyer so please email me asap. Have cash now and looking to buy now. I am mobile.”
As The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, the ad was posted by Radcliffe Haughton days after his wife Zina Haughton “was granted a four-year restraining order against her husband because she said she feared for her life.”
“The couple had a volatile relationship,” the paper explained. “Police had been to their Brown Deer [WI.] home on 20 different occasions. These red flags should not have been ignored, but they were.”
The day after the ad went up, Radcliffe Haughton gunned down Zina and two other women at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, WI.
The Journal-Sentinel noted (and Barrett also makes this point) that Radcliffe Haughton “may well have found another way to get a gun. But that doesn’t mean that such legislation would not keep guns out of the hands of others who buy them every year without undergoing a background check.”
The slaughter in Newtown decisively shifted the nation’s discussion on guns, and Barrett says he’s still hopeful that a background check bill will eventually pass. The law is needed, he said, not just because of gruesomely spectacular killings but also to stop “what my police chief calls slow-motion mass murders in the cities around our country.”
But can the politics be overcome? At a recent talk at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton spoke of how politicians draw warnings from past political fights even when those lessons have become obsolete. He used the analogy of the cat that gets burned on a hot stove, and will never jump on the stove again, even after the stove has cooled.
As of May 8, according to Slate magazine, there had been at least 3,947 gun deaths since Newtown. The political heat is now coming from those who have lost patience with slow-motion mass murders. Will Congress notice the temperature change?
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 12, 2013
Voters in Madison and Milwaukee have reaffirmed the state’s Election Day registration law, with an overwhelming majority supporting the practice in two advisory referendums on Tuesday’s ballot. Allowing voters to register on Election Day has helped Wisconsin achieve one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country — but some state Republicans have proposed rolling back the state’s highly successful law.
Advocates say the vote on the advisory referendum sends a message to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and legislative leaders that election day registration works well and should be retained. Around 82 percent of voters in Dane County (where Madison is located) supported Election Day registration, and 73 percent of Milwaukee voters backed it.
The Milwaukee Common Council and Dane County Board added the advisory referendums to the April 2 ballot after Governor Walker indicated support for ending election day registration in November 2011, followed by other top Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Students, people of color, and the poor are most likely to register on election day — largely because they are more likely to have moved since the last time they voted — and proposals to end Election Day registration were considered part of the larger GOP push to rig the voting process for partisan gain.
Pew Charitable Trusts recently ranked Wisconsin as one of the highest-performing states in the nation during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, and praised the Dairy State for allowing voters to register at the polls on election day, which has helped Wisconsin achieve the second-highest voter turnout rate in the nation. The other seven states that allow Election Day registration also rank among those with the highest turnout in the country.
In 1975, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to allow voters to register on election day, and in recent years others have been catching on: last year, California and Connecticut passed Election Day registration (but the laws have not yet taken effect), and fourteen other states are considering similar proposals this year.
In February, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board estimated that ending Election Day registration could cost $14.5 million. Walker backed off his support for any measure that cost that much, but Speaker Vos questioned the cost estimate.
Tuesday’s referendum votes are non-binding, but voting rights advocates hope the measure will put the nail in the coffin for proposals to end Wisconsin’s Election Day registration.
By: Brendan Fischer, The Center for Media and Democracy, April 3, 2013
Paul Ryan, who famously suggested that the General Motors plant in his hometown closed because of Obama administration policies when it actually closed under President Bush, is now going for an even bigger rewrite of history.
He is claiming that his austerity agenda—at least the part that makes tax cuts for the rich the supreme imperative—remains popular. Indeed, to hear Ryan tell it, those ideas almost prevailed.
In an ABC News interview a week after the election, Ryan was asked whether President Obama has a mandate to call for raising taxes on the rich. “I don’t think so,” said Ryan, who argued that, “This is a very close election.”
Ryan rejects the notion that his ideas lost. Indeed, he still claims he’s promoting “popular ideas.” And he says of the Republican ticket: “It was a well-run campaign. We made this campaign about big ideas and big issues, which is the kind of campaign we wanted to run, so we ran the kind of campaign we wanted to run.”
But Barack Obama also ran on big ideas. On the morning before the election, Obama appeared just a few miles up the road from Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.
“If we’re serious about the deficit, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We’ve also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office,” the Democratic president told a crowd that had just heard Bruce Springsteen sing and speak about the need to create a more equitable America. “And by the way, we can afford it. I haven’t talked to Bruce, but I know he can afford it. I can afford it. Mr. Romney can afford it.”
But Obama went further, in that speech in Madison, and in speeches in Columbus and Des Moines and communities across the country. He called, again and again, for raising taxes on the rich. “Because our budget reflects our values, it’s a reflection of our priorities, you know. And as long as I’m president, I’m not going to kick some poor kids off of Head Start to give me a tax cut,” said the president.
Ryan is claiming in his post-election interviews that: “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare — we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues.”
Yes they did.
In his closing argument, Obama focused—as did other winning Democrats—on “those budget issues.” One of the president’s biggest applause lines was: “I’m not gonna turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.”
Obama and Vice President Biden ran on big ideas, just as Romney and Ryan did.
Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin and every swing state except North Carolina.
Ryan and Romney lost the Electoral College by an overwhelming 232-206 margin.
Ryan and Romney lost the popular vote by more than 3.4 million votes.
Obama and Biden won a mandate in a battle of ideas where the lines were clearly drawn.
Despite what Paul Ryan says, Obama won a mandate—a bigger mandate, in fact, than Presidents Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976 or Bush in 2000 and 2004.
To say otherwise is to deny what just happened.
Paul Ryan can try if he wants.
But he should remember what happened when he tried to peddle a fantasy about the closing of that Janesville General Motors plant.
Well, Ryan lost his home precinct in Janesville—not just as a vice presidential candidate but as a candidate for reelection to his House seat.
Ryan lost Janesville, as a vice presidential candidate and a congressional candidate.
Ryan lost surrounding Rock County, as a vice presidential and a congressional candidate.
Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin—by such a resounding margin that Saturday Night Live was mocking the result on the weekend after the election.
When the rejection is so glaring that it becomes a punchline, it’s a stretch to talk about a “close election.”
And it’s absurd to suggest that your ideas are popular.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, November 14, 2012