This arrived in my inbox last Friday:

Dear fellow Wisconsin Democrats,

Two days ago, the opioid crisis touched the Wisconsin political world in a very personal way. People from both political parties were reeling from tragedies that left lives and families shattered. My heart breaks for the three children of the young woman whose life was cut short by an overdose. It was also agonizing to hear about a Republican colleague whose family is dealing with a similar tragedy due to the scourge of drugs. While attempting to process those feelings, I also feel ripped apart knowing a talented former employee and friend is connected to one of these tragedies.

The opioid crisis is growing in our state and country and it is heartbreaking to see the lives of so many being ruined. These tragedies brought home the fact that this epidemic truly knows no bounds.

I am writing to you because I have a responsibility to the DPW, our members, our candidates, and our legislators to be as open and transparent as possible. I also have a legally binding obligation to employees to keep certain information confidential. However, I can clear up some concerns that have been raised. This news came as a surprise to all of us here at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. We immediately launched an internal investigation to do everything necessary to protect our party and members. This is an ongoing process I will keep you updated as it progresses.

As the family of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin processes our shock and grief, and handles our obligations as an employer, it is important that we stand together. That we learn and grow and become better able to lead as a result of the pain we are experiencing. If we can stop addiction, opioids and overdoses from claiming even one more victim and devastating one more family, we must do so.

Our Party believes in helping people who are struggling, places hope and belief in second chances and will always work to protect the citizens of our state — particularly those who are hurting or feeling left behind. We will work with one another, and with our Republican colleagues, to take actions to stop parents from losing their children and families from being torn apart by this epidemic.

As we move forward through this challenging time together, I welcome your thoughts, advice and feedback and remain deeply grateful for your support.


Martha Laning

It’s starting to feel like Alderman Tony Zielinski is running for mayor (disclosure: I live in Alderman Zielinski’s aldermanic district). Today’s press release:

Alderman Tony Zielinski is taking action to save police and firefighter positions after
Mayor Tom Barrett’s announced 2018 proposed City Budget would lead to steep cuts to
emergency response positions and closures of Milwaukee fire houses.

Alderman Zielinski drafted a resolution that would allow residents and corporations to
donate to Milwaukee’s Police and Fire Departments. His hope is to keep officers and
firefighters from losing their positions, saying that public safety and quick response times
have to be a priority.

Alderman Zielinski says, “Recently a resident testified in a budget meeting about how the
paramedics saved her life. In her case and so many others, every second counted. In my
view this is exactly why we need to keep every cop and every firefighter in place.”

The resolution was drafted and referred at the Common Council meeting. It will then
appear before the next Finance & Personnel committee. If the resolution passes the
Council, residents and corporations could donate to the fund to support Milwaukee
firefighters and police.

This on top of complaining about the mayor and city hall when he couldn’t get some open acreage in Bay View rezoned for a park (when we do need housing in BV), when everything that is wrong in the city is related to the street car, and his support of a bill to request the state give the common council authority to fire the police chief, etc.

Becoming a Steelworker Liberated Her. Then Her Job Moved to Mexico. : he man from Mexico followed a manager through the factory floor, past whirring exhaust fans, beeping forklifts, and drilling machines that whined against steel. Workers in safety glasses looked up and stared. Others looked away. Shannon Mulcahy felt her stomach lurch.

It was December 2016. The Rexnord Corporation’s factory still churned out bearings as it always had. Trucks still dropped off steel pipes at the loading dock. Bill Stinnett, a die-hard Indiana Pacers fan, still cut them into pieces. The pieces still went to the “turning” department, where they were honed into rings as small as a bracelet or as big as a basketball. Then to “heat treat,” where Shannon — who loves heavy metal music and abandoned dogs — hardened them with fire. Then to “grinding,” where Shannon’s cousin Lorry Mannix smoothed out any imperfections. And then to “assembly,” where Mark Elliott, a former Marine, joined two rings together, one inside the other, with a wheel of spinning rollers in between. The whole contraption was encased in a cast-iron housing machined by John Feltner, a father of three who’d just recovered from bankruptcy.

The bearings they made — modern-day equivalents of a gadget designed by Leonardo da Vinci — were packed into crates like enormous Christmas ornaments and shipped around the world. To digging machines that claw the earth. To wheat combines that spin in the fields. To elevators and escalators in the cities.

Sometimes a bearing was rumored to have ended up in something notable — the retracting roof of the Dallas Cowboys football stadium or a nuclear submarine — giving the workers a feeling of greatness. But mostly, the bearings were unglamorous. Anonymous. Hidden from view. Like the workers themselves, they were rarely thought of beyond the factory walls.

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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been wanting to pull a Tax Reform initiative out of his hat for years. And now the talk around tax reform is front and center as the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the White House. But the current resident of the White House, President Donald Trump, when he talks about tax reform only touts the biggest tax cuts in history. And right now, tax cuts on their own, are the last thing we need.

I would be the last one to say we couldn’t stand a good round of talks and passage of a reasonable tax reform bill. I don’t think many in elected positions around the country would disagree with that. A fair and simple tax code is a good goal to work towards. But a tax reform bill that is simply a huge massive tax cut doesn’t solve any of our problems.

And if we look at Kansas (and we’ve talked about the near bankruptcy of Kansas due to unprincipled and illogical tax cuts before), some of the provisions of the current tax bill, culled from the Kansas ‘experiment’, will put the economy and government at risk.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R -WI) extols the virtues of tax reform in an op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He dredges up the early history of President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts and ignores the reversals later in his administration when revenue shortages at the federal level starting to hurt…and the resulting economic issues cost his VP, President George ‘watch my lips’ Bush, a second term as president. They didn’t work as advertised then and won’t work now.

Despite the talk around helping the middle class with tax cuts…the largest cuts still will go to businesses and the wealthy. One goal of tax reform should be flattening out the income inequality across the country. And despite that talk around who the tax reform bill will help, the bill itself is still just talking points and no real policy. What are we (regal we, since the Democrats haven’t been included yet) even talking about without the actual details needed to exclaim a new tax policy.

And I am not the only one concerned that the Republicans may be limiting the tax reform initiative to tax cuts. The Milwaukee Journal editorial board has the same suspicions:

And we agree: True tax reform, along the lines of the 1986 reform, in which tax rates are adjusted and loopholes are closed, would be a good and significant accomplishment.

Settling for only a tax cut would not.

With so many demands on the federal Treasury including a reboot of the war in Afghanistan and big bills for hurricane damage in the Gulf Coast, that’s a recipe for exploding the deficit.

But given the direction the GOP appears to be heading — toward satisfying a highly compensated Republican donor class — their efforts may end up being a tax cut marketed as “reform.” Don’t buy this line.

That previous link includes some video of the MJS editors talking with Speaker Ryan about tax reform. And if you want to see what Politifact Wisconsin has to say about the current tax reform plan: Is GOP tax reform framework aimed at giving breaks to the middle class, not high-income earners? Spoiler alert: For a statement that contains only an element of truth, our rating is Mostly False.

Nothing wrong with tax reform…if it protects the middle class…protects the needs of the federal budget…and helps even out the disparities in society.

We’ve written about universal health care a number of times. How it would encourage more entrepreneurs to start businesses knowing that they had health insurance, how small business owners wouldn’t have to compete for talent with bigger businesses because they couldn’t provide health insurance, and how employees would be more mobile because they didn’t have to worry about who would provide health insurance. Universal coverage would free up capital and allow free movement of labor.

Well then there’s the burgeoning ‘gig economy’. Where people drop out of the workaday world and contract themselves out for the individual gig and short term projects. Well apparently its growth has been augmented by the existence of the Affordable Care Act. Without employer health insurance, skilled people can take on the role of contractor on their own and secure health insurance through the ACA marketplace. Here’s some support of this trend from Steve Jagler’s weekly C-Level column from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The rollout and survival (so far) of the Affordable Care Act has allowed more workers to be less reliant on employer-provided health insurance and not be as concerned about being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, thereby encouraging more mobility and independence in the workforce.

Go figure. Despite all of the dire warnings about its effects on the economy and the workforce it actually looks like the ACA is helping to grow the economy. It’s allowing Americans to branch out and try new ways of earning a living. Who’da thunk?

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What’s got you dazed and confused this week?

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And that would be Breitbart. Now that he’s left the White House and returned to the rat’s nest that is Breitbart, Steve Bannon has turned up the heat on his fake news creator…and is actively out and about in country recruiting candidates to run against Republicans who aren’t pure enough for his little cabal.

Could you imagine the uproar if the Washington Post or New York Times were actually making up stories out of whole cloth and then going out and recruiting candidates?

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One of the slams on the Affordable Care Act by the GOP are the mandates requiring Americans to buy health insurance. Anyone who’s followed the conversation knows that the mandate is in the law so that young healthier Americans are forced to participate to help offset the cost for older or less healthy participants. But it just flat out isn’t fair for the federal government to force people to buy insurance. And they just don’t do it…right?

Except there is the National Flood Insurance Program. Here the key is National and it is administered by FEMA. And if you live in a flood plain and get a mortgage that is federally guaranteed…you are REQUIRED by the federal government to BUY flood insurance from the federal government. And there is a reason why you have to buy it from the federal government…it’s because no private insurance company will cover these properties unless the premiums were so expensive that no one could afford it. So the government charges rates that are ‘affordable’…essentially subsidizing insurance and private citizens. But the rates are controlled by Congress and not by insurance experts. And no matter how risky your exposure is…NFIP can’t turn you down. Never, never, never…even if your house has been flooded and repaired 5 times in the past 20 years. Want more background: click here. But catch this:

Selling flood insurance is a risky business. So risky that many private companies won’t even touch it. And so the federal government has stepped in. Now, the government has to insure homes that are at a high risk for floods. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma showed us the flaws in this program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $30 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury. If it were a private company, it would be bankrupt.

So some of this sounds a little familiar. The Affordable Care Act includes the a mandate…everyone must buy insurance (but you can get it anywhere you want). And ACA has included subsidies to the insurance companies to cover those who can’t afford insurance and to offset potential losses for holding down deductibles. And again, this is all through commercial insurance companies…ain’t no public option…the Obama administration knew that was a no go…although in retrospect they probably should have pushed that through too.

So America! The federal government at the direct control of Congress will happily insure and rebuild and rebuild and rebuild your personal property at subsidized rates…but damned if we’ll cover your health!

NPR Podcast here:

Myth No. 5
Mass shootings are random.

High-profile tragedies like those in Las Vegas, where a motive has yet to emerge, and in Aurora, Colo., tend to support the popular notion that mass shootings are random — that there’s no connection between the killers and the targets. “Another day, another massacre, and once again it’s a gunman targeting strangers in a public place for no obvious reason,” read one Washington Post article on a mass shooting at a Louisiana movie theater in 2015.

But most mass shootings are directed at a specific person, group or institution against which the perpetrator has a grievance. A Huffington Post analysis of mass shootings — which the FBI defines as four or more people killed with a firearm, not including the perpetrator — between 2009 and July 2015 found that 57 percent of the incidents involved a perpetrator’s current or former intimate partner or a family member, and 70 percent occurred in private dwellings.

While mass shootings in public spaces that kill and wound dozens or even hundreds of people receive plenty of media attention, smaller-scale gun violence occurs with far too much regularity in the United States, claiming nearly 100 lives every day. Most killers, including those who perpetrate mass shootings, aren’t trying to murder strangers but are targeting people they know well.

Today, President Donald Trump said he couldn’t leave troops and federal workers in Puerto Rico for hurricane relief forever…dude…it’s only been three weeks!

And by the way…it’s an American territory! It should always have troops and federal workers…just sayin’