Thursday Music: your humble folkbum

I ain’t been round these parts in a while, but I hope you don’t mind my swinging by to invite y’all out to my last free concert of the year. If you’re near Milwaukee on Saturday, find your way to 6th and Howard, in the shadow of the water tower and solar sunflower, for the Garden District Farmers Market, where I’ll be providing the live, local, handcrafted, artisanal acoustic music from 2pm-4pm. Here’s a public facebook event with the details.

No videos exist of me playing (no one wants to see that), but here’s a track that mostly doesn’t suck off my last record.

An open letter to Alberta Darling

Note: I sent this to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but they seem to have declined to run it. I’m not one of those THEY ARE TOO SCARED TO PRINT MY GENIUS WORK people–this was probably just too long and the recent OSPP news no doubt changed the calculus about what was worth printing for them. So I emailed it to Darling and am publishing it here for posterity. If you didn’t read her original thing, it’s here.

Dear Senator Darling,

As a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher and Milwaukee resident, I read with great interest your op-ed “We won’t give up on Milwaukee kids.” While I cannot speak for MPS or even my school, I can speak for myself.

I don’t believe you.

I don’t believe you because your plan, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Plan outlined in the 2015-2016 state budget, neglects to provide the one thing critical to success in education: money.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Budget Project, using data from the Stanford Education Data Archive, compared Wisconsin school districts’ achievement against average family income. No surprise—the wealthiest districts had the best achievement scores.

There were no outliers. That is, there is no district in Wisconsin where poor children are achieving a grade level or more above average or where wealthy children are achieving a grade level or more below average. Money is, without question, the best predictor of success, and it is what you refuse to offer Milwaukee in your plan to help us.

You provide no money to hire an OSPP commissioner. There is no money to pay staff, recruit teachers, attract students, purchase new curricular materials, fund partnerships with universities or other groups, pay for wrap-around and community services for students and families, or do anything else. It’s difficult to believe you have a commitment to Milwaukee’s children when your own plan must be implemented without a penny of assistance from you.

I don’t believe you because you and your colleagues in the legislature have decimated existing school budgets across Wisconsin. In communities that can afford it, referenda to exceed revenue limits have exploded.

Milwaukee is resource starved and cannot afford such a referendum. Yet according to inflation-adjusted figures from DPI, MPS today receives $900 less per student in equalization aid, aid designed to make up for Milwaukee’s lack of resources, than in 2005. That’s over $70 million MPS can’t spend on teachers, books, computers, or its own wrap-around support for students and families every year.

I chose 2005 for comparison because your op-ed made a point of discussing public schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and how, after a decade of reorganization, achievement there is somewhat improved. But you neglected to include in your discussion of New Orleans a major reason why things changed: money.

According to the Cowen Institute at Tulane University, schools there spent on average over $2,000 more per student (inflation-adjusted) in 2015 than before Katrina; traditional public schools spent over $5,000 more per student. After the literal flooding, New Orleans was metaphorically flooded with money—from the federal and state governments, from private philanthropists and foundations—to rebuild its schools and support their continued efforts in a challenging environment.

There’s not even a trickle of investment for Milwaukee in your plan.

I don’t believe you because I know you know money matters in education. You live in River Hills, where schools spend almost $1,000 more per student every year than MPS does, according to DPI’s “Total Educational Cost Per Member” report for 2015. You make a big deal in your op-ed about MPS’s billion-dollar budget, but you don’t acknowledge that scores of other districts, like yours and the one where your plan’s co-author Rep. Dale Kooyenga lives, spend more per student than MPS does.

This is especially galling because those districts are places where resources are more abundant than in Milwaukee. In your home ZIP code, 53217, average household income is $98,000 per year, four times that of households in the much-beleaguered Milwaukee ZIP code 53206.

In the 18 years between birth and graduation, the difference in available family resources for children in those two communities is $1.3 million. How can you claim to want to help Milwaukee’s children and not recognize this massive resource gap? How can you hope to bridge that gap with reduced state funding or, as in the OSPP, no funding at all?

I don’t believe you because you target only MPS, though dozens of schools in the city’s voucher program have results as bad or worse than the worst public schools. Despite this, you and the legislature have boosted voucher funding while slashing oversight, the opposite of what you do to MPS.

Finally, I don’t believe you because you don’t trust or believe us in Milwaukee when we tell you what our students need. You and Rep. Kooyenga claimed to have “spent hundreds of hours in Milwaukee’s inner city” in 2014 before releasing your plan. I’m sorry, but visiting a place is not the same as living here and dedicating your life to the work of making it better.

The school where I teach is a failing school, eligible for takeover under OSPP. Our class of 2016, a class of about 100 students, just graduated with $2.2 million in scholarship offers. Our students, many with Advanced Placement credits, were accepted to selective colleges and universities in Wisconsin and beyond. Yet we “failed to meet expectations.”

Did you ask my students if they felt “trapped” in this failing school? Did you ask them, their teachers, their counselors, their parents, their churches, their state senators and representatives what you could do to help? I suggest you did not, or if you did, you did not listen. My students would not ask for their teachers to be fired and their school handed over to an unknown entity with no budget.

Indeed, Milwaukee’s legislators unanimously opposed your plan.

If you really want to help Milwaukee’s children, turn to what works in districts like your own and in New Orleans—expanded community resources and higher per-student spending. In other words, give us the one thing you don’t offer in your plan to help: money.

This is why I don’t believe you.

Jay Bullock is an English teacher and writer for the Bay View Compass and Email: Twitter: @folkbum.

Thursday Music: Jon Svetkey and Heather Quay

This is my old friend, singer-songwriter Jon Svetkey, singing with his wife Heather Quay. In the latter part of the last millennium, Jon used to tour pretty often, but now he mostly just hangs around the Boston area playing duo shows with Heather or shows with his band The Loomers (that’s the second video below).

Well, he’s back in the midwest for this weekend only, and I have the distinct pleasure of sharing the stage with the two of them tonight at the venerable Cafe Carpe in Ft. Atkinson. If you are within driving distance, come on down to the show tonight! I would love to meet and hang out with some of the Blogging Blue regulars.



For Sanders Supporters: I Have Been There

This is a good night. It may not feel that great for you now. I know. I was there once. In 2004, I penned what has to be, in retrospect, one of my worst rambles ever, and epically embarrassing 3000 or so words on what it felt like to be punched in the balls by a primary after Howard Dean lost Wisconsin.

Long story (seriously long!) short: It hurt.

But I mostly got over it. I rode the Kerry train pretty hard.

November was a different story. This post from the morning after W’s re-election is even more awful. I should have deleted it years ago.

That me, the me of November 2004, the me who got crushed by the primary and devastated by the general, that me would not have believed tonight possible. The 2004 me would not have believed that the 2016 me would be tearing up a bit as he watched the Democratic Party nominate a woman who will win, following on the heels of two terms of the first African American president ever, also a Democrat. That we’d have made massive strides forward on so many progressive issues and that we’d come close to nominating an honest-to-jebus self-described socialist. That we would nominate a real liberal who can continue the progress.

Hillary Clinton is a million miles to the left of 2004’s John Kerry and Howard Dean and even John Edwards, in no small part because Obama pushed the envelope and Sanders pushed Clinton.

This will be a clear-cut election. Not necessarily an easy one–Donald Trump may be a fucking clown but he has tapped into a dangerous vein, the last gasp of the straight white man who thought he would always come out on top. We have to beat that man (and those men). Even if you feel like penning a 3000-word apologia for Bernie Sanders right now, fine; but when you’re done, Hillary Clinton needs your help to take that bastard down.

Tonight is a good night.

I’m not afraid of black kids with guns. I’m afraid of white Rambo wannabes with guns.

Or, an open letter to Rep. Bob Gannon

Dear Jerkface,

IScreen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.49.03 PMn an eerie bit of coincidence, I was at a mall here in the Milwaukee area last Saturday at the same time when, at East Towne Mall in Madison, there was a shooting. In the same way, I was teaching high school in 1999 when Klebold and Harris shot up Columbine High School in Colorado, in the same way I was sitting in an airport in 2006 at the same moment British officials broke up the trans-Atlantic terror plot and forever consigned us to carrying shampoo in 3-oz. bottles. (Note to self: stop going places.)

What I mean is, I don’t walk into my opinion on this randomly; I have given some thought and have some experience to back up what I am about to say, which is this:

Shut up. Just shut your stupid, idiotic, racist pie hole. Staple it closed if you have to, but just. Shut. Up.

Because this is you:

“Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags,” Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, said in a statement on Monday. “Criminals no longer have any fear of our courts or our prisons, so it’s time that the citizens of this fine state stand up and fight back.”

Gannon said a “gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass, as this is how you’re trained to eliminate the threat these creeps pose to you, your family, and all law abiding citizens unwillingly dragged into their public crime spree.”

Look, Rep. Gannon, I don’t know who you’re trying to impress here, but I certainly expect that sitting in your exurban Slinger house-farm home there on Big Cedar Lake, among your WASPy neighbors, you feel like a big man. In your mind, you’ve tied on the headband and you’re ready to be the big defender of freedom, liberty, and white folks everywhere.

And along those lines, why don’t you just go ahead and break out the n-word? “Gang-bangers, thugs, and scum” is so cumbersome, and we all know what you’re thinking. Just go ahead and say it.

But here’s where I’m going with this. If there are any white people out there likely to face a situation where some “gang-banger” pulls a gun on them, it’s not you. It’s not randos at a mall. It’s people like this blog’s proprietor Zach whose job puts his safety on the line every day, and he thinks you’re insane.

Or it’s me, since I go to work every day not in quite the same dangerous situations that Zach does, but to teach a bunch of black and brown teenagers, most of which I’m guessing if you saw them being loud and having fun at the mall, you would probably say are “gang-bangers, thugs, and scum” and you’d wish you had your gun there with you in case something went down.

simpson-gifAs I wrote in that Columbine post linked above, these kids don’t scare me. Even the ones who walk into my class after having been absent for three months straight and tell me they were in jail for battery or assault or whatever, they don’t scare me. When I see them at the mall, as I sometimes do, even the ones who are already felons, they don’t scare me. Despite what you may think and despite what Donald Trump may tweet, you and I and the white folks you pander to are not likely to be shot at by black or brown people we don’t know.

Because here’s the thing, Rep. Gannon: If some kid at my school, or in the mall, has a beef with some other kid–as is apparently true in the shooting that happened last Saturday–any violence will be constrained to that beef.

Does it mean that there are never innocent bystanders hurt? Of course not–that happens too often and it’s one of the reasons why I fight not to have more guns on the street but fewer: how many more Sierra Guitons would there have been if bystanders started shooting, too? How many more funerals would my fellow MPS teachers and I have to go to if the vigilante society you want comes true? Because we go to too many already (and never see you there, by the way).

Your vision of the world is different, though, informed not by reality but by your membership in the gun-makers lobbying group the National Rifle Association and its influence-peddling PAC spending on your fellow GOPers. You buy the line that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, that an armed society is a polite society, that–as you put it to the WSJ–the gang-banger is going to “think twice” if he’s worried someone else with a gun is standing behind him lining up his center mass for a kill shot.

That line, to put it politely, is bullshit.

For one, there are almost never instances when someone without law-enforcement or military training has stopped a mass shooting. Indeed, concealed carry permit holders are much more likely to commit such shootings. The fact is, the profile of your average, median mass shooter in this country is someone who looks like you, Rep. Gannon, not someone who looks like my students. Suburban white kids with rage issues shoot up schools and murder their teachers, not my students.

And in the kind of incident that happened Saturday at East Towne Mall, when apparently two groups of teenagers were beefing, the gun came out even though the perpetrator may well have thought his victim himself was armed. (I have often said that homicide stats from places like Chicago or Milwaukee, where armed men and teenagers shoot and kill other armed men and teenagers, disproves the idea that more guns would reduce the amount of crime and violence.)

The last thing that needed to happen in a situation like Saturday’s is for some pasty-faced Rambo wannabe to start shooting. No one else was targeted by Saturday’s shooter than the one who got shot. But imagine the chaos when that shooter whips around and starts shooting back at Rambo: how many innocents get hit when the number of bullets flying escalates exponentially?

Worst of all, there’s people like you, the ones who think it’s their job to make sure that gun manufacturers keep profiting with no regulation, even though their products kill more people, now, than cars do, even though thousands of children are killed by guns every year, even though gun violence collectively costs American and Wisconsin tax payers hundreds of billions a year. And, when violence does happen, when we should be mourning the dead and plotting how to stop the spread of such violence, your first thoughts are bizarre revenge fantasies and deadly vigilante scenarios–let’s kill all those n-words, you say, maybe not out loud, but that’s sure what it sounds like when you translate the code words from your statements.

So shut up, Rep. Gannon. You don’t have the moral high ground, you don’t have the facts, and you sure as hell don’t have an ounce of real compassion for the people whose lives are actually touched by gun violence. What you do have is the profile of someone much more likely to be a killer than to be killed, and a track record of trying to multiply the number of guns around us any and everywhere. You scare me. You, sir, are the problem, not the answer.

Note: Until the end of the year, I am giving away this song I wrote last summer after the on-camera deaths of a reporter and her cameraman. Pay nothing, or pay something–all proceeds will be donated to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

It’s Time for Gunmorial Day: A Modest Proposal

Hello, America. Your humble folkbum here with a modest proposal.kid-with-gun

Every year, we honor those who gave their lives in service to the United States and her Constitution with Memorial Day, a day to pause and reflect what it means to be able to live your life in freedom today because someone gave his or her life in uniform yesterday. Also, to buy furniture at low, low prices, but mostly the first thing.

This is a big deal. There’s no question that this country and its fundamental liberties–things like free speech, free religion, free refills during the same visit to the restaurant–is unique in the world, and like the city set on a hill those freedoms act as a beacon to all around the world: you could be as awesome as us, but you’re not.

So we recognize the sacrifice of those who have died in the line of duty protecting those freedoms.

Which brings me to my proposal. An oft-overlooked freedom, especially by the pinko-bastard communist readers of this leftist-socialist website, is the Second Amendment freedom to keep and bear arms. This is a freedom that must be protected every day, because the gun-grabbing Obamabots will use any minor justification to try to pry these arms from our hands, whether warm and live or cold and dead.

And who are the brave warriors who die to protect this freedom? Whom should we honor with this new holiday I am proposing, a holiday to be called Gunmorial Day? (I considered other options, but “United States of America Second Amendment Gun Freedom Protection And Promotion Day” wouldn’t really fit on a calendar page. I have to be realistic here.)

On Gunmorial Day, we will honor the most innocent, yet most important, to die in defense of the Second Amendment: children.

It is a proud testament to the strength of America’s Second Amendment commitment to free and abundant and unregulated weaponry in civilian hands that so very, very many children die every year to protect that freedom and it remains unchallenged. Those who say, libtards, mostly, “How many children have to die before we take the guns away?” should ask themselves a different question. Would they ever say, “How many soldiers have to die before we take our free speech away?” No, they wouldn’t, unless they are a godless, stinky, peacenik hippie scum who should be thrown in jail for sedition if you ask me.

So let us honor and recognize the brave child warriors of our Second Amendment. Let us establish and celebrate Gunmorial Day.

I propose the date of December 14 annually. Mostly I suggest this date because it is late enough in the year that we would be able to list and name the children whose lives have been given in service to the gun in that calendar year. That will be somewhere between 1500 and 3500 names, depending on who you believe. I tend to believe the latter number, since even our toddlers know that there is no greater glory than to kill and die in service to America’s Second Amendment freedom.

But also it’s early enough in December it won’t get lost in the Christmas (I won’t say “holiday”) mess. I mean, the last thing American families need to be thinking of is their dead children when they should be thinking about the Patriot Jesus Christ on His birthday.

I am not sure, though, how to get Gunmorial Day started. What do you think, America? Should we start petitioning state by state, or should we just wait and assume President Carson will get it done once he’s elected?

Kooyenga and Darling’s plan to kill the Milwaukee Public Schools

It’s out there now, the Republican plan (pdf) to start peeling off Milwaukee Public Schools and handing them over to private operators. And it’s awful.

Sponsored by suburban Republicans Rep. Dale Kooyega and Sen. Alberta Darling, it is full of bad ideas and presents a possible future for MPS that is bleaker than you can possibly imagine. It’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning.

In January, Kooyenga and Darling released a shiny booklet (pdf) about their plan, called “New Opportunities for Milwaukee.” The book opened with an outright lie, claiming in its opening paragraph that the “War on Poverty” launched by President Johnson in 1964 resulted in “little, if any, progress,” in their words.

A careful study by Columbia University released last year showed that government progams, even though they are constantly under attack by Kooyenga and Darling’s Republican colleagues, “are cutting poverty nearly in half (from 29% to 16%).” They’re just wrong, and it’s hard to take seriously any plan that is premised on a falsehood that bold.

The “new opportunities” that followed in their book represented not opportunities for Milwaukeeans, but rather opportunities for private charter school organizations, anti-union out-of-state corporations, and interior designers. (You think I am joking; I am not.)

So now the suburban pair is circulating a set of “talking points” before releasing the full bill that would implement their schools plan, and it, too, begins with a lie. They write, “The consequences of these failing schools are a significant factor in contributing to Milwaukee’s declining economic and social health.”

It may be difficult to quantitatively measure whatever it is they call the city’s “social health,” and it’s probably equally difficult to prove or disprove the causal relationship between our public schools—several of which are consistently rated among the best in the state—and any specific economic measures. In fact, the research usually suggests that it’s neighborhood quality that has a long-term effect on school achievement, not school achievement affecting neighborhood quality.

But there are pretty clear data out there on Milwaukee’s economy, and it is not, in fact, “declining.” While this city is far from perfect—no one is making that argument, and this city has repeatedly been singled out as among the nation’s worst for African Americans, something city legislators have been talking about for years—the city of Milwaukee is in a period of growth and revitalization.

Milwaukee is growing in population—indeed, downtown, the Third Ward, and Bay View are booming—and in employment, with a recent City Observatory report noting that Milwaukee’s jobs grew faster than those of its suburbs. The city is reclaiming its dead housing stock and revitalizing many neighborhoods in all parts of the city. Private and public investments in infrastructure and construction are literally remaking vast swaths of the city, from Century City to the Menominee Valley to the lakefront.

So, twice the Kooyenga-Darling duo have introduced their plans with questionable, if not completely bogus, premises. It should come as no surprise, then, that the bill itself is full of questionable, if not completely bogus, solutions to the problems facing Milwaukee’s failing schools.

For one, the plan places authority over these schools, dubbed “opportunity schools,” in a single commissioner, appointed by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. Theoretically, Abele could provide some oversight of that person, and to a certain extent that commissioner will have to follow state and federal laws.

But unlike in MPS, there is no democratically-elected governance board; the proposal does not allow the elected Milwaukee County Board any oversight, despite putting the commissioner directly under the county executive (who is elected only once every four years; there are school board—and county board—elections every two years). All power to evaluate and close failing MPS schools lies with this one individual, as does the power to authorize, fund, and monitor the success or failure of these new opportunity schools.

Let me repeat part of that again: A single, unelected, unknown “commissioner” will absolutely have the authority to close public schools operated by the democratically-elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors, confiscate the buildings, material, and students (maybe? see below) within those schools, and turn them over to private, possibly religious, possibly for-profit operators.

The proposal suggests in at least two ways that the problem with failing schools is teachers, though thinking only about teachers is stupidly reductive. Any staff in the schools selected to be closed and handed off can reapply for their jobs, but they have to sign a contract that they will not seek representation by a union. Teachers unions, of course, had their authority gutted by 2011’s Act 10, so I am unsure why Kooyenga and Darling fear unions in their “opportunity schools.”

They also seem to fear fully licensed teachers. The plan allows the commissioner to grant licenses to whoever wants one to teach in these schools. Let’s be clear: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction makes no provision for such a thing to happen. The federal law governing schools makes no provision for such a thing to happen.

There are well-established emergency licenses and even alternative certification programs available, sure. But this power, residing in a single individual with, potentially, no expertise or qualification in education, to unilaterally grant licenses to any random person is unprecedented. A quick googling turns up no other program anywhere in the country—even in the “recovery zones” in New Orleans or Detroit on which this program is modeled—that allows a commissioner like this one to license teachers on his own.

And, really, does anyone believe that the problem in these schools is that the teachers there are licensed and represented by the union? If that is the problem, then why are the top schools in the state full of licensed, qualified teachers? Would Kooyenga and Darling have the nerve to walk into MPS’s Reagan or Fernwood Montessori, or for that matter, Brookfield East or Maple Dale in their home districts, and demand they discharge all the licensed teachers in their employ? Of course not.

The plan also makes no mention of students. At this moment, there are five different education sectors in Milwaukee. Students can and do move freely within and among those sectors. The failing students—for, after all, when we talk about failing schools we’re talking about students with poor outcomes in those schools—from the schools targeted for closure by this commissioner are not, as far as I can tell, required to remain in those schools. If I were a cynical man, I’d worry that without safeguards, the operators of these schools, once they’re converted to “opportunity schools,” will summarily remove students who misbehave or create other challenges, filling empty seats with highly motivated students instead of actually dealing with the problems among Milwaukee’s hardest-to-teach students.

Brother Bob Smith, former longtime leader of the Messmer schools in the city’s voucher program, used to say, famously, “Make the right decisions, or make them somewhere else.” Students who cannot be served by choice schools, because of disabilities, for example, must be taken in by MPS. And we know from years of research that voucher schools churn tremendously. The last study found that fully 75% of students who started ninth grade in a voucher school dropped out of the program before graduation. Many city charters, too, suffer from high student turnover or expulsions.

While I’m sure most educators in all sectors—and I’ve met a lot of them!—are in this business for the kids, the data are undeniable: Milwaukee’s children switch schools far too often, and leave the non-MPS sector schools at an alarming rate.

And now Kooyenga and Darling want to hand public school buildings over to these voucher sector and the charter sector, operators who will have no attachment to the students, parents, or communities in and around those schools, and who will seek the easiest path to high scores—enrolling only the best students.

The Milwaukee Public Schools has no ability to pick choose, to tell students to make their decisions somewhere else. Students who leave voucher schools, charter schools, and, soon, these “opportunity schools,” by choice or by force, will be taken in by MPS.

The logical end of this plan, then, which carves out five schools a year from the public district, is that MPS will have only those students whom other sectors will not teach, cannot teach, refuse to teach. As more and more public schools are handed over to a one-man “opportunity schools” commissioner, and as the budget for the public schools shrinks to nothing and the cost of educating special needs students rises, bankruptcy is inevitable. The district is already supporting retirees from when it enrolled 100,000 students or more; when it enrolls half that, or less, it will simply be unsustainable.

And then what will be the “opportunity” for those students only MPS will teach?

Answer that, Kooyenga and Darling.

By comparing protests to terrorism, Walker affirms his perpetual victim status

2tyu3Zach posted the video earlier of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker answering a question about how to deal with ISIS–without question, the single most dangerous regime on the face of the planet right now–by saying he managed to face down 100,000 protestors in Madison when he and the WisGOP pushed through Act 10 in 2011.

Walker said it this time at CPAC, the far right-wing’s annual love-in and by far Walker’s largest audience since he officially unofficially launched his 2016 presidential campaign, but he’s been using the line for a while now, including notably in Iowa in January.

People all over the internet, left, right, center, whathaveyou, have already explained how every aspect of what Walker said was a bad answer to the question. For one, he never, ever actually faced down the protesters in any way, opting instead for the tunnels under the capitol and chili with Tonette on Idol night.

And for another, Walker’s own spokesdroid walked back the sentiment moments after it was uttered, to reassure the kindergarten teachers of America that no, Scott Walker was not really saying that he believed they were as bad as an apocalyptic death cult.

I don’t know why people haven’t learned this already, though: Walker was not talking to the kindergarten teachers of America, or the foreign policy wonks who take the threat of ISIS seriously, or even to the person who asked the question on stage at CPAC.

He was talking to the the right-wing’s most abundant class: perpetual victims. And he was saying to them: I’m one of you, so it’s okay to make me your leader.

I’ve written about this before. Walker understands as well as, or better than, anyone about the power of narrative bias. And he tells the same story over and over and over and people eat it up and vote for him.

There’s a reason why the signs all said “I Stand With Walker” and his effing book was called Unintimdated: He plays to conservative voters’ deepest id, the personal narrative they all weave about how it is they who are truly the victims.

“‘Those people‘ are mooching off my tax dollars.” “‘Those people‘ are taking my place at the law school.” “‘Those people‘ are taking the Bible out of schools and forcing me to say ‘Happy Holidays.'” “‘Those people‘ are making me join a union.” “I was on food stamps and nobody helped me.” 

At CPAC, Walker wasn’t even trying to say, as his spokesperson offered, that he knew how to stand strong in the face of adversity. He was trying to say, Look at me. I am a victim, too! Now make me your king.

There’s not another candidate out there right now who can play that card the way Walker can, so believe me, every opportunity he has he will drop that sucker every chance he gets. For a man born to such privilege and so long living on a government paycheck, he is the biggest, whiniest victim there is–and the GOP primary voters are going to eat that schtick up.

UPDATED TO ADD: All the criticism Walker’s taking on this is going to 1) let the statement get replayed over and over to reach more primary voters’ ears and 2) let Walker keep playing the victim, now adding “lamestream media” to the list of people victimizing him today.

A Question for Christian Schneider on “Right to Work”

by Jay Bullock

Hi, Christian. Thanks for stopping by to address my question. I appreciate it. You and I obviously disagree on the “Right to Work” bill–I call it the “Right to Freeload” bill–and I’m really hoping you can help me understand where you’re coming from.

I give you credit. A lot of people promoting the “Right to Freeload Work” bill are willing to straight-up lie about it. This includes the people running that Wisconsin Right to Work group, the long-time shady WISGOP operatives who go all the way back to the days of David Wilcox and Mark Block and postcards that broke the law, who are claiming that states with these laws have higher average wages. They don’t. PolitiFact Ohio smacked down a Buckeye State GOPer for trying to claim last year that they did. Ohio passed its bill anyway, and we’ll have to watch to see what happens to their wages–I predict, like Wile E. Coyote, they will plummet.

But you don’t claim that. That’s where I give you credit. Here’s what you say instead:

Any honest assessment of right-to-work recognizes that it’s not a panacea. States with such laws often have lower average wages as unions fade away. But higher employment rates in exchange for wages that aren’t inflated is a deal the state should accept. A slight decline in wages is an acceptable cost if it results in more people getting family-supporting paychecks.

So your point, if I can paraphrase, is that lower wages are basically worth it if we can have lower unemployment. (Although “slight decline” is pushing it: the BLS (pdf) tells us that non-union wages are $10,000 lower than union wages, and non-union jobs have a much higher gender wage gap, for your war on women notes.)

Anyway, that’s where my question comes in: So why does Wisconsin need right to work, then?

I mean, didn’t we just have an election (or three) about Wisconsin’s employment situation, and haven’t you as much as anyone else been telling us all along that Wisconsin’s employment situation is awesome?

Wasn’t that you who wrote that “Walker was … right” about having great jobs numbers on his side? And that Wisconsin’s jobs “jobs have been growing at a reasonable clip”? To give you more credit, and Walker some credit, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is actually lower that the national average and, in fact, lower than that of any of our right-to-work neighbors except Iowa. We’re beating Indiana just fine and spanking Michigan in that regard. If you insist on counting Ohio, we’re basically tied with them.

If Wisconsin is doing fine in the jobs department, especially since we’re doing better than most of the right-to-work states near us and like us, why do we need to change anything? Is there much room for growth in jobs here, or are we really just talking about cutting wages for those already working?

Or, given that the neighbor state that is doing the best in this regard, Minnesota (3.9% unemployment versus our 5.4%), is both not a right to freeload work state but a liberal haven that raised taxes and the minimum wage and embraced the agenda of the teachers union, wouldn’t it be smarter to model our state on their success rather than Indiana’s failure?

Also, wasn’t it you who insisted, seriously and sarcastically, that there’s actually not much the government could actually do to create jobs? Didn’t you say that “before trying to legislate its way to higher employment, the state needs to rectify some cultural and demographic trends” that make quick jumps in employment unlikely to happen regardless of what legislation gets passed? How do you square your support of right to work with that sensible assessment of Wisconsin’s reality?

Okay, Christian, that was, I suppose, more than one question. But if you could help us out and try to explain yourself, I would appreciate it, and I bet the rest of the BloggingBlue readership would as well. Thanks!