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“Scott Walker Gets Schooled By His Neighbor”: Minnesota Governor Walloping Walker’s Wisconsin In Terms Of Economic Growth

Wisconsin and Minnesota share a common cultural heritage that until recently included a healthy Midwestern strain of progressive politics. Elected in 2010, Governor Scott Walker upended a hundred years of liberal populism, charting a conservative path for Wisconsin that made him a darling of the Republican Right, but left his state with a serious budget shortfall and disappointing job growth.

Meanwhile, across the border in neighboring Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has relentlessly pursued liberal policies, embodying the tax-and-spend Democrat that Republicans love to caricature. The result, surprising to many, is that the Minnesota economy is going gangbusters while Wisconsin’s job growth has fallen to 44th among the 50 states.

Dayton’s success steering his state’s progressive course has been a surprise. He was a middling senator at best, serving a single term from 2001 to 2007 before returning to Minnesota disillusioned with the way Washington operated. Time named him one of America’s “Five Worst Senators” in 2006, and he was known mainly for his inherited fortune as the great-grandson of the founder of Dayton’s department store, which became Target. As senator, he donated his salary to underwrite bus trips to Canada for senior citizens buying low-cost prescription drugs.

“Minnesota’s gains are not because Mark Dayton has overpowered the state with his political acumen,” says Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. He describes the low-key Dayton as the “anti-politician,” someone the voters trust because he’s not smooth enough to fool them. “His skill is he has a clear agenda, and he’s unyielding. This is not pie-in-the-sky Great Society adventurism.”

Dayton has a majority Democratic legislature just as Walker has a Republican controlled legislature, bolstering the ongoing policy experiment in their states. The two governors have pursued agendas that mirror their respective party’s core beliefs, and the results so far suggest that the starve-the-government, tax-cutting credo of conservative orthodoxy has run its course.

Dayton has raised the minimum wage, and he’s significantly increased taxes on the top 2 percent of wage earners to close a budget shortfall and to raise money for investments in infrastructure and education. In the legislative session that just ended, some Democrats joined with Republicans to block his goal of expanding universal preschool. But he did get more scholarship money to educate 4-year-olds.

“This is the largest tax increase we’ve seen in Minnesota, over $2 billion,” says Jacobs. More than three-quarters of the new spending is on education, compared to Wisconsin, where education is on the chopping block, and Walker is at odds with professors and administrators alike at his state’s flagship university system.

Minnesota has also passed the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act (MNsure), and while its implementation has been rocky, it is in place and serving tens of thousands of people.

Dayton ran for governor in 2010 on an unapologetically liberal agenda, and won narrowly after a recount. He was reelected comfortably in 2014, and his approval rating in the latest Minneapolis Star Tribune poll is 54 percent. Contrast that with Walker’s 41 percent, and you’ve got a clear picture of how each is faring in the eyes of voters.

Dayton’s idiosyncratic style is in tune with the times, and at 68, he has no ambition for national office. Walker is running for president and touting hard-right policies that play well with Iowa caucusgoers. He opposed raising the minimum wage, has significantly weakened unions, reduced spending for education, cut taxes on the wealthy, and increased taxes on the middle class in part to pay for the tax cut. According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project, Walker gave tax breaks that disproportionally favored upper-income earners while cutting $56 million in tax credits for working families.

Faced with a budget shortfall and no way to plug it without additional revenue, Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are rebelling against additional spending cuts. But Walker shows no sign of softening his stance against raising taxes or fees. Other Republican governors, notably Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, are in the same quandary.

“It seems like they’ve been backed into a corner and are just going forward with pure ideology and discounting any contradictory evidence,” says David Madland, author of Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn’t Work without a Strong Middle Class.

As the director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Madland in his book takes on the premise that inequality is good in the sense that helping the rich get richer is going to help everybody else, that a rising tide lifts all boats. Trickle-down economics has gotten a bad rap and is rarely invoked as a phrase anymore, but the belief that tax cuts are the engine of economic growth remains the core of GOP ideology.

That Minnesota’s economy rallied under progressive policies while Wisconsin’s has struggled is “one more data point proving that trickle down is wrong,” says Madland. While it’s tricky to attribute the well-being of a state’s economy solely to its political leadership, Minnesota is experiencing much stronger growth than its neighbor. Dayton has also proved responsive to the business community, easing early fears that his liberalism might go unchecked.

Walker, on the other hand, has doubled down to the detriment of his state on policies that are backfiring. And if voters in his home state aren’t buying what he’s selling anymore, that doesn’t bode well for his presidential campaign.

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, July 19, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Economic Growth, Mark Dayton, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Only Officers Who Would Have A Problem Are Bad Officers”: Do Police Have A Right To Withhold Video When They Kill Someone?

In Gardena, California, south of Los Angeles, three police officers killed an unarmed man, shooting him eight times, and shooting a second, seriously wounding him. They said the men were suspected of stealing a bicycle, but in fact they were friends of the man whose bike had been stolen, the Los Angeles Times reported, and “were searching for the missing bicycle.” The City agreed to pay a $4.7 million settlement to the survivor. The whole incident was recorded on a video camera mounted inside a police car. The officers involved were allowed to view the video, but the Gardena police refused to release it to the public, claiming that making the video public would violate the privacy rights of the officers involved.

Do the police have a privacy right to withhold video shot by in-car cameras or body cams? Do public officials, acting in their public capacity, have a right to prevent the public from reviewing video evidence of their conduct? You’d think the answer was obviously “no.” When the police kill somebody, it’s not “private.”

But 15 states are considering legislation to exempt video recordings of police encounters from release under state public records laws, according to the Associated Press, or to limit what can be made public. In Kansas the state Senate voted 40-0 in April to exempt police body-cam videos from the state’s open-records act. Police would have to release them only to people who are the subject of the recordings. Kansas police, on the other hand, would be able to release videos “at their own discretion.” In Minnesota, a state Senate committee has approved a bill making most police body-cam videos off-limits to the general public, “except when an officer uses a dangerous weapon or causes bodily harm.”

The ACLU recently estimated that a thousand people a year may have been killed by the police in the United States. The whole idea of videotaping the police is to deter excessive force and other forms of misconduct, and to provide a way of resolving disputes between victims of police violence and officers claiming they had just cause. “People behave better on film, whether it’s the police or the suspect,” said Michelle Richardson, public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “because they realize others are going to see them.” That’s the main reason President Obama has proposed spending $75 million to help police departments buy body cams.

There’s good evidence body-cams can stop bad cops. In Rialto, California, east of LA, police officers wore cameras for a year in 2012, and as The Guardian reported, “public complaints against officers plunged 88 per cent compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60 per cent.”

But if the police get to decide what the public will see, the entire rationale for the cameras is undermined. The police will release videos when they support the police version of violent encounters, and withhold the videos documenting misconduct.

The case for a police right to privacy is weak. Advocates say releasing videos could lead to retaliation against the officers involved and endanger their families. It’s the same rationale for refusing to release the names of police officers who injure or kill innocent people. But in those cases, the video (and the names) should be released, and protection provided if necessary for the officers and their families.

Of course most video from police body cams should not be made public. The ACLU has proposed guidelines that protect the privacy rights of the people encountering the police. For example, body-cam video shot inside people’s homes, when police respond to a domestic violence call, needs special restrictions on release, the ACLU argues. The ACLU also notes the need for restrictions on the release and posting on the internet of dash cam video of embarrassing incidents such as DUI stops of celebrities or “ordinary individuals whose troubled and/or intoxicated behavior has been widely circulated and now immortalized online.”

Police officers could withhold body cam video under the proposed ACLU guidelines if it does not document encounters with the public—for example conversations between officers in squad cars or the locker room. One other key issue in the proposed ACLU guidelines: police officers should not be allowed to turn off their body cams and should be disciplined if they do.

Progressive police officials know the body cams will help them get rid of bad cops. Denver police chief Robert White is one of those officials. Good cops should welcome body cams, he said recently, because they will “protect police from false allegations of excessive force.” And “citizens should know officers are being held accountable. The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.” The same goes for releasing police video.

 

By: Joe Wiener, The Nation, May 21, 2015

May 24, 2015 Posted by | Police Brutality, Police Shootings, Police Video Cameras, Police Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Drug-Test Policies End In Failure”: An Offensive Republican Argument, Discredited By Reality

Remember Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) idea of mandating drug tests for welfare applicants? As we’ve discussed before, the Republican governor had a theory: the state could save money by forcing drug users to withdraw from the public-assistance system.

At least, that was the idea. In practice, the policy failed spectacularly – only about 2 percent of applicants tested positive, and Florida lost money when it was forced to reimburse everyone else for the cost of the drug test, plus pay for staff and administrative costs for the program.

Adding insult to injury, Scott’s policy fared even worse in the courts.

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing, setting the stage for a legal battle that could affect similar efforts nationwide.

Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando held that the testing requirement, the signature legislation of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who campaigned on the issue, violated the protection against unreasonable searches.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote.

If this sounds familiar, the same federal court blocked further implementation of the Florida law last February, but this week’s ruling makes permanent what had been a temporary injunction.

Also note, the failures of the policy extend beyond the Sunshine State. In Minnesota, state officials reported last week that the drug-testing policy is a flop: participants in Minnesota’s welfare program for low-income families “are actually far less likely to have felony drug convictions than the adult population as a whole.”

What’s more, as Jamelle Bouie added, “One of the biggest failures is in Missouri, where the state spent $493,000 on drug testing for this fiscal year. It received 32,511 welfare applications and referred 636 for drug testing. Only twenty came back positive, although nearly two hundred people refused to comply. But even if all 200 were drug users, that still comes to more than $2,200 per positive result, which is more expensive than the median benefit in the state.”

The underlying motivation for these policies seems to be an unwarranted assumption: if you’re struggling during difficult economic times, and relying on the safety net to keep your head above water, you’re probably abusing illegal drugs. If not, the theory goes, you’d find a job.

It’s an offensive argument, discredited by reality.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 2, 2013

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Rick Scott, Welfare Recipients | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What She Didn’t Say”: Reading Between The Lines Of Michele Bachmann’s Retirement Speech

She was the first woman to win the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa during her Republican presidential primary bid, but Michele Bachmann’s victory there in August 2011 only wound up calling the legitimacy of the political tradition into question. With her presidential campaign itself now under investigation and facing the prospect of a tough reelection fight, the four-term congresswoman on Wednesday released an eight minute and 40 second video announcing her decision not to seek a fifth term representing Minnesota’s 6th District.

A between-the-lines read:

BACHMANN: “Our Constitution allows for the decision of length of service in Congress to be determined by the congresspeople themselves or by the voter in the district. However, the law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years and in my opinion, well, eight years in also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative of a specific congressional district.”

Bachmann routinely describes herself as a Constitutional Conservative, so it’s not surprising she invokes her constitutional right to not serve as a member of Congress or run for office, even though everyone knows there is no mandate that all elected representatives must keep running for reelection forever. Fittingly, Bachmann also compares herself to a president, which is what she sought unsuccessfully to be and the aim of her only national political bid.

That campaign both elevated her profile and undermined her standing as an elected official. She came in sixth in the Iowa caucuses, transforming her from a high-profile national Tea Party leader into a person who was proven unable to garner more than token support among an ideologically sympathetic population of voters outside her carefully drawn district.

BACHMANN: “Be assured my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress.”

Despite the advantages of incumbency and outspending him 12-to-1, Bachmann defeated Democrat Jim Graves by only 1 percentage point in the 2012 election in a heavily Republican district that Mitt Romney won by 15 percent. Graves was at a considerable disadvantage at the time. “We had a very abbreviated campaign. When we announced, we had nobody on the team, so we had to create a team and had to create a field operation and we had to do all those things in a very abbreviated time frame up against a very well-funded candidate,” he has said, explaining his loss. Recent internal polling from the Graves campaign put him slightly ahead of her a year and a half before their rematch.

Bachmann not only faced a tough reelection battle but a long one, and in mid-May she started reelection campaign advertising on Minnesota television. That, at the very least, suggests she had not been planning a resignation announcement for long, or was uncertain about how she wanted to proceed.

BACHMANN: “Rest assured this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.”

Inquiries is a mild way of putting it: Bachmann’s former national field coordinator, Peter Waldron, turned on her and in March filed complaints against her presidential campaign organization and political action committee with the Federal Election Commission. The Office of Congressional Ethics is also conducting a probe of her campaign payment arrangements. Also investigating the conduct of the Bachmann presidential campaign are: the FBI’s public integrity section, an Iowa special investigator requested by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, and the Urbandale, Iowa, Police Department. That’s a lot of potential headaches for a weak incumbent.

BACHMANN: “Last year, after I ran for president, I gave consideration to not running again for the House seat that I hold. However, given that we were only nine months away from the election, I felt it might be difficult for another Republican candidate to get organized for what might have been a very challenging campaign — and I refused to allow this decision to put this Republican seat in jeopardy. And so I ran. And I won.”

It is not unusual for failed presidential candidates to reconsider their political careers, and Bachmann is right that if she had pulled out late in the game Graves might have surged while the GOP scrambled to find a replacement. This time, the Republicans will have time to find someone who can compete against him more effectively in a district that should favor their party, and Bachmann can step down knowing she’s done her all to keep the seat in Republican hands.

BACHMANN: “Feel confident: Over the next 18 months I will continue to work 100-hour weeks.”

Being a member of Congress is exhausting.

BACHMANN: “Looking forward, after the completion of my term, my future is full, it is limitless and my passions for America will remain. And I want you to be assured that there is no future option or opportunity — be it directly in the political arena or otherwise — that I won’t be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations.”

Translation: I haven’t yet figured out what to do next — please hire me.

 

By: Grance-Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Big Problem Is Brewing”: This Could Be A Career Ender For Michele Bachmann

With a special investigator soon to be appointed by the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, the ethics cloud hovering over Rep. Michele Bachmann could quickly become a major problem for the Tea Party hero, experts tell Salon.

“This is very serious,” said Craig Holman, a government ethics lobbyist at liberal-leaning watchdog group Public Citizen. “It’s not Watergate, or at least not yet, but these are a series of allegations that are each serious on their own, and when you put them all together, this could be a career ender for Michele Bachmann.”

Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative-leaning National Legal and Policy Center, told Salon that we should wait to see what investigators find — indeed, no wrongdoing has been reported so far — though he acknowledged the escalating scrutiny could be a major headache for the congresswoman down the line.

The Iowa investigation, looking into whether the campaign improperly paid a state senator, is just one of at least three different probes examining a range of allegations related to Bachmann’s failed presidential campaign, including charges that she improperly used campaign funds to promote her book, that her campaign “launder[ed]” money, and that one of her staffers stole an email list from a home-school organization.

Two former staffers, including her former chief of staff, have agreed to testify against Bachmann, which Holman said is “very unusual” and something that will push investigators at the Federal Elections Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics, each of which reportedly has its own investigations into the campaign, to take the matter seriously.

OCE can’t issue penalties itself, but instead refers matters to the House Ethics Committee, where the range of potential punishments is huge, from a letter of censure to expulsion from the House, though the committee has a reputation for partisan gridlock and could easily sidestep the matter. FEC violations, meanwhile, come with civil fines, but the commission is even more notoriously ineffectual than the Ethics Committee.

The real punishment, even if no wrongdoing is found, would likely instead come in November of next year, when Bachmann will face off against Democrat Jim Graves, whom she beat by less than 4,500 votes in 2012. The race presents real challenges for Graves, as turnout will be lower without a presidential race, and the district remains the most conservative in Minnesota.

But Professor Larry Jacobs, who runs the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at University of Minnesota, says the ethics questions are a “big problem” for Bachmann. “There are a lot of things a conviction politician like Michele Bachmann can withstand, and being attacked by Democrats is definitely one of them. But the kind of krypton that will disable her is having her convictions challenged,” he told Salon.

Some supporters will no doubt stick by her, and refuse to believe the veracity of any charges (see: Glenn Beck), but others may not. “These charges are particularly damaging because they cut to the core of her greatest strength among her followers, which is her authenticity. This cloud of questions has now enveloped her in the ‘usual politics’ label and what I’ve heard from her supporters — and this is obviously not a scientific sample — is, ‘she’s just like the rest of them,’” Jacobs added.

For his part, Graves isn’t ready to make an issue of the ethics questions — yet. “We aren’t going to make any assumptions,” he told Salon. “We’re confident in the bipartisan process responsible for investigating this matter. The truth will set you free — or otherwise. I’m just disappointed at how long this issue has had to go on, creating another distraction from the real needs and concerns of Minnesotans.”

Bachmann’s core supporters will probably never vote for a Democrat, but they might stay home, which could be trouble in a low-turnout race like midterms generally are. Still, Jacobs guesses that Bachmann hangs on for another cycle, but barely. And if the ethics questions get worse, that prediction might change.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, May 2, 2013

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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