Wisconsin Progressives Need To Make Up Their Mind

After Mary Burke announced her candidacy for governor in 2013, the pundits and progressives across the blogosphere and social media were heard weeping, whining and gnashing their teeth about the hand picked candidate of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Everyone wanted anyone but the anointed Ms. Burke.

Some of us suggested that those unhappy should recruit their own candidate. Dozens of names of other elected officials were bandied about in hopes they could be coaxed to run. Russ Feingold, Peter Barca, etc. Finally Brett Hulsey threw his hat and fake confederate uniform in the ring and a primary season circus was on.

And the progressives lamented that the party was preventing other candidates to enter the fray…and doing everything possible to clear the way for Ms. Burke. Maybe…maybe not. But my guess is most other elected officials didn’t want to get involved in the lost cause of unseating the incumbent, Governor Scott Walker. Probably a wise move…but I digress a bit.

Of course the loss to Governor Walker is wholly the fault of a forced candidate picked by the party.

And just over a week ago there was the meet and greet with a question and answer period for three of the four candidates for chair of the DPW. Zach posted a few comments about this event earlier.

During the event more than a few attendees complained that the party didn’t recruit enough qualified candidates across the state. That the 72 county strategy was a failure because the party didn’t recruit a democrat to oppose the GOP candidate every available race in 2014. Hmmmm.

So, first the candidate perceived to have been recruited by the party to run for governor was tainted because she was recruited by the party? But across the state the party didn’t recruit candidates? Recruit or not recruit?

Wisconsin progressives, you gotta make up your mind!

It’s Obama’s Fault!

Nasdaq Composite Rallies, Tops 5,000 for First Time in 15 Years

(Bloomberg) — The Nasdaq Composite Index closed above 5,000 for the first time in 15 years while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reached records as gains in consumer purchases signaled strength in the biggest part of the economy.

Just sayin’

Mike McCabe endorses Jeff Smith for DPW Chair

Mike McCabe, former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and author of the book ” Blue Jeans in High Places ” has endorsed Jeff Smith for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Here’s what McCabe had to say:

“Quite a few people who presumably are card-carrying members of DPW and are planning to attend the convention in June have asked me which of the announced candidates for state party chair best embodies the ideas in my book Blue Jeans in High Places. That would be Jeff Smith, by a longshot. Jeff knows how to relate to people in rural areas of the state that used to elect Democrats but now prefer the GOP. He not only knows how to talk to them, he’s shown he can win their trust and has been elected to represent voters in areas that have become so bright red. I can’t say I will vote for Jeff because I don’t have a vote in this election. I am not a party member and will not be a delegate at the convention. But I can say that Jeff Smith is without question the most “blue jean” of the candidates for state chair.”

At the heart of income inequality….is Goodwill

Did you know that Goodwill is one of Milwaukee’s fastest growing retailers? The metro Milwaukee area supports 15 stores and there are two more set to open soon. Goodwill of SE WI has increased revenues 90% since 2009 to $127 million in 2014. They have numbers that any retail establishment would kill to have.

Same-store sales at the nonprofit rose 5.1% last year. By way of comparison, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s same-store growth was just 0.5%.

This isn’t an isolated case. Across the U.S. and Canada, Goodwills are bustling with shoppers.

In 2013, retail sales at Goodwill organizations in the two countries totaled $3.79 billion. That was up 57% from 2009 — 10 times the percentage sales growth at both Kohl’s and Target.

Goodwill sells used household goods and clothes. You know, necessities. So, why the huge increase in sales? Because many people can’t afford to buy those things new anymore. They’re too poor.

From 2007 through 2013, data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate, the number of households in the four-county metropolitan area with inflation-adjusted income of less than $25,000 a year increased by about 28,000.


While it is great that the stores are nice and the bargains are good, it doesn’t hide the fact that people have to shop here because they don’t have any other options. There continues to be an ever widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in the United States. Policies decisions like union busting, de-funding of education, denying healthcare coverage, doing away with consumer and environmental protections, while cutting taxes has led to a huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor in this state and in this nation.

Goodwill’s success is really America’s failure.

Gov. Walker’s proposed budget gets poor reviews from his supporters

This article is a couple of weeks old, but it could be an encouraging sign for those of us who are hoping that some conservatives in our state will finally wake up and realize just how awful Gov. Scott Walker is for our state.

In an area that generally supported Scott Walker in his campaigns for governor, that enthusiasm was absent when two Walker supporters in the Wisconsin Legislature held a listening session in Mauston.

When Republican Rep. Ed Brooks of Reedsburg and Republican Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green met with citizens Friday at the Mauston Municipal Building, none of the dozen people at the session voiced agreement with the Republican governor’s budget proposals that had been announced a few days earlier.

The two legislators represent districts that cover two towns and on village in Monroe County and all of Juneau County.

There are pockets of Democratic support in Mauston, but Walker easily carried Juneau County, from which most of the participants at the listening session came. A few of the people who spoke came from Reedsburg and that city voted with a narrow majority for Walker. Still the opinions expressed at the Mauston listening session were opposed to what Walker proposed and were skeptical of the motives of the legislators who held the meeting.

I can only hope that as Gov. Walker lurches further and further to the right in an attempt to woo the ultra-conservative voters who make up the Republican presidential primary base, more and more common-sense conservatives here in Wisconsin will wake up and realize that what he’s doing here in Wisconsin isn’t good for anyone but Scott Walker.

Political Cartoon Courtesy of Dan Burr

Walker 2015 budget outrage

Copyright 2015 by Dan Burr

That’s Not Fair

My parents are republicans. I don’t argue with them about politics anymore because they’re in their 80’s and I love them, and, frankly, there’s just nothing good that will come of it.

But when I was home recently, ironically enough for a memorial for a union man known to the family, my Mom started to talk about Scott Walker, right to work, etc, and how she thought it was only fair that workers not be forced to join a union. Keep in mind that my folks, God love them, are not particularly sophisticated when it comes to such things. They’re working class people who really ought to be voting democratic but somehow think voting republican is, well, just more American.

So I let my Mom make her case while my Dad sort of nodded in agreement quietly, and when she was done with all of the reasons she’d heard on Fox News about why right to work was about worker freedom, job creation, and so on and so forth, I quietly made my case.

I said, ” look, Mom, all this bill will do is prohibit employers from automatically deducting dues from workers paychecks, which is what an employer agrees to in contract negotiations after an election in which the workers have voted to join the union. It means that workers who benefit from the better wages, benefits, and working conditions that come with union representation don’t have to pay their dues. ”

My Mom stared at me for a minute as if she didn’t believe me, and then started once again talking about forcing people to join a union, so I mildly interrupted her and said, ” Mom, no one is forced to join a union, whatever that means. There’s an election held and if 51% of the workers who vote want to join the union then the employer agrees to deduct dues automatically from their paychecks. This bill will just allow workers to opt out of paying their dues even though they get all the benefits the union provides. ”

She looked at me in amazement. ” Why would the government get involved in that? ” she asked. ” I don’t know ” I replied. ” Good question ”

She stared just a bit longer and finally said, ” Well, that’s not fair. ” ” No, it’s not ” said my Dad.

If this right to work bill passes the Assembly, and there’s almost no doubt it will, I hope Labor runs a long term public education campaign in Wisconsin about fairness. Not how Governor Walker wants to destroy unions, or the Democratic Party, or how ALEC wrote the bill, or how this bill will lower wages for everyone, all things a lot of average people simply don’t understand.

But average Americans, like my parents, still understand what’s fair and what isn’t.

Ronald Reagan: Collective Bargaining = Freedom (VIDEO)

I’m sure I’ve shared this here before, but it seems appropriate given efforts by Republicans here in Wisconsin to weaken labor unions.

Oh look! It’s an open thread!

Here’s your chance to share what’s on your mind.

Have at it!

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “You have got to be kidding!” Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

Here’s Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout’s latest newsletter discussing the changes to Family Care and IRIS proposed by Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial state budget.

“You have got to be kidding!”
Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

“You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company.

Family Care and its fee-for-service sister, IRIS, provide thousands of Medicaid-eligible frail elderly and disabled people the help they need to remain in their homes. Services could include help getting places; keeping a job; managing money; preparing meals; keeping healthy; bathing and dressing.

People who benefit from Family Care or IRIS might easily end up in an expensive institution. Personal care and other workers help them stay in their own home – and many times – stay gainfully employed.

If the current version of the governor’s budget becomes law, it will mean big changes to care for frail elderly and disabled people of modest means. For the rest of us, it could mean many more of our neighbors and family members end up in expensive institutions. Worse yet, folks could be stranded at home without the services they need to independently live and work.

Buried in the mammoth state budget is the elimination of IRIS as we know it. IRIS serves more than 11,000 people statewide. The philosophy of the program is in its name: Include, Respect, I Self-direct. People hire their own workers who perform many tasks including meal preparation, bathing, and getting people to work.

As Jason Endres of Eau Claire told me, “Without these services, the way IRIS provides, it would prevent us from being part of our community.”

Also eliminated are local centers to assist elderly and disabled people find services. Known as Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), these publically run centers would close and their citizen oversight boards disband. They could be reopened by a private company but with no requirement to be conveniently located or to tell people about all the services for which they may qualify. For example, the woman I wrote about in last week’s column who is served by SeniorCare, said without the help of local ADRC staff she would not have known about SeniorCare.

Family Care is a managed care program serving over 40,000 elderly, physically disabled, and developmentally disabled folks. A large number of developmentally disabled people use Family Care in the Chippewa Valley because of the closure of Northern Center. Services such as residential homes, mental health services and job coaches help folks stay in the community. Local providers work with non-profit Managed Care Organizations that oversee service delivery.

Services are tailored to the needs of the individual as determined by an independently completed functional assessment. This way services are based on the needs of the individual and not on what the provider has available.

Changes in the budget would eliminate most of the Managed Care Organizations. Their job could be taken over by a very large for-profit insurance company. Budget language gives the state Department of Health (DHS) authority to hire the insurance company in a no-bid contract and removes any legislative oversight of the contract between DHS and the insurance company.

This new insurance company could become the gatekeeper for all medical, rehabilitative, personal living and employment services for over 50,000 people (DHS enrollment numbers from 2014).

In essence, every service needed by the disabled or frail elderly person of modest means would need approval by potentially one for-profit insurance company.

“This takes the personal choice right out of it,” an Eau Claire woman told me.

It also makes it more likely people will not receive the care they need. Insurance companies are very good at denying care and shifting the cost of care to patients and families.

Jason said to me, “One for-profit, national insurance company in a no-bid contract? It makes me very sad. It’s no longer about local choices. It’s about big business making decisions about very personal things.”

Advocates are working hard to save these important programs. People can learn more at www.saveiris.org. Jason reminded me to thank Amber and Nancy for this awesome website. Check it out. You’ll see Amber, Jason and read many more amazing stories.

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