Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Category: Dennis York

Bucks’ “All White Stiff” Team

In honor of the draft tonight and the impending selection of Andrew Bogut, I would like to recap the history of Milwaukee Bucks white stiffs. Take a gander of the murderer’s row of immobile caucasians that has graced the Bucks’ roster over the past quarter decade:

Paul Mokeski
Randy Breuer
Jack Sikma
Larry Krystkowiak
Fred Roberts
Brad Lohaus
Frank Brickowski
Danny Schayes
Mark Pope
Joel Pryzbilla

Special awards to Mike Gminski and Mike Peplowski, who played fewer than 10 games as Bucks, but only because they were corpses at the time.

Mr. Irrelevant: Mike Ellis Battles Oblivion

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Mike Ellis is about to step into the most important role of his political career. If the Neenah Republican blows it, he will be another forgotten name in the back of legislative reference books. If he rises to the occasion, however, Ellis could emerge as one of the most significant figures in this state’s political history — a statesman poised for bigger things, perhaps even the governorship. -Wisconsin State Journal Editorial, June 25, 1995

Perhaps you recall the proud day that your family finally got rid of that outdated betamax video tape player, and finally moved up to an expensive, state of the art VHS player. If you do, then you probably also recall the last valuable contribution State Senator Mike Ellis made to state government. Once standing at the precipice of Wisconsin immortality, Ellis now wanders the halls of the Capitol a shell of his former self, struggling to maintain his media presence and legislative relevance.

Ellis, the GOP leader who lost Republican control of the state senate twice in the span of three years in the late 1990s, keeps himself in the public eye by catering to the media on the two issues it responds to the most – campaign finance reform and criticizing other Republicans. Ellis hasn’t written a piece of legislation not dealing with campaign finance reform since 1997, when he authored three bills that never received a vote.

Since most polls show that campaign finance reform in between “better restroom signs” and”tastier ketchup” in terms of public priorities, Ellis’ constituents continue to elect him solely for the privilege of occasionally reading about him in the Appleton Post-Crescent. In the last few years, Ellis has sworn off substantive legislating in favor of an agenda that serves his true constituency – himself and the handful of his old buddies in the Madison media market. A Lexis-Nexis search of the past decade shows that Ellis has appeared in the nutty liberal Madison Capital Times more frequently than either the Wisconsin State Journal or the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, mostly in articles written by the petrified Matt Pommer, who may often be seen hiding under Ellis’ toupee to get a scoop. Gag-inducing headlines such as “Ellis is the Real Leader (May 9, 2002), “Too Bad Ellis Isn’t Running for Governor,” (September 5, 2002) and “Why Not Governor Ellis?” in the Isthmus can be seen regularly.

So why would a pro-life fiscal conservative from the Fox Valley be so revered by Wisconsin’s “progressive” newspapers? Much of it has to do with Ellis’ reading right out of the John McCain “Playbook For Appearing Relevant.” Chapter one urges devotees to push for campaign finance reform – an issue whose only constituency is editorial boards, who gain a monopoly on political speech if “reform” were to pass. Ellis admits his love of this issue is a recent event.

In 1997, Senator Lynn Adelman authored a bill that achieved much of what Ellis is pushing for now – higher income tax checkoff, more public funding of campaigns, regulation of issue advertising, and a ban on fundraising during the state budget. In November of 1997, Minority Leader Ellis cut a deal with Democratic State Senator Gary George to kill Adelman’s bill when Majority Leader Chuck Chvala brought the bill to the floor for a vote. Clearly, Ellis’ devotion to clean elections occurred about the time he lost the majority, was dumped from leadership, and lost his access to reporters’ microphones.

Chapter Two of the McCain Wannabe book tells legislators to criticize Republicans for not being fiscally conservative. Ellis recently has made a career of criticizing the GOP for the “structural deficits” their budgets have produced, complaining about increased spending in those budgets, opposing property tax freezes on state and local government, and opposing new taxes. Ellis voted against the 2003-05 biennial budget for these reasons, and stands poised to vote against the 05-07 budget this week.

Ellis’ rhetoric sounds good to a fiscal conservative, if anyone actually thought he believed what he was saying, given many of these concerns seem to be new to him. As majority leader in 1995, Ellis crafted and voted for a budget that increased general purpose spending by 17% over the biennium, and left the state with a $1.5 billion structural deficit for the 1997-99 biennium. As minority leader, Ellis voted for the 1997-99 budget, and then crafted the budget adjustment bill later that session as majority leader that increased spending by 7.4% over the biennium and again left the state with a $1.5 billion structural deficit (all numbers according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau).

In a recent Appleton Post-Crescent story, Ellis cited the structural deficit as a primary reason he was voting against the 2005-07. Total structural deficit in the new GOP budget: $863million.

In separate interviews in 2003, Ellis complained that he wouldn’t vote for any budget that increased the structural deficit, froze property taxes, or increased spending. Yet when Doyle introduced his 2005-07, which does all three, Ellis enthusiastically endorsed the plan.

On the issue of freezing property taxes, Ellis has been consistent. He only favors a freeze on local governments when enough state spending is provided to make the freeze virtually meaningless. Ellis’ answer to higher property taxes has always been more state spending to offset property tax reductions, which runs contrary to his hard line position on reducing state spending. Instead, he urges cuts in programs that could be politically suicidal for vulnerable members of the senate GOP caucus (eliminating 5-year old kindergarten, for instance). In fact, much of the 17% state spending increase in 1995-07 that Ellis supported was to fund two-thirds of school districts, and assuredly contributed substantially to the structural deficit problem the state is in today. After that budget vote, Ellis criticized Tommy Thompson for vetoing a roughly 4% freeze on local governments, calling it “a bad veto, intellectually.”

Ellis has also been critical of tax increases, while he as leader supported a 3.5 cent gas tax increase to fund transportation projects. In May of 1995, when Senator Carol Buettner and Representative John Gard proposed a 50 cent per pack cigarette tax hike, Ellis called it a “courageous, constructive and pragmatic” plan. Ellis has also authored a school financing plan that would impose a state property tax to pay for education, at a rate that would be a significant property tax increase for many citizens throughout the state.

Today, Ellis continues to suck up to the sycophantic media by serving as their lobbyist and pulling down the party he once led. Once a brilliant and constructive legislator with a bright political future, he is now resigned to a life as a curmudgeonly back bencher who stays alive only by sucking the life out of the same group he once led. His obstructionist vote against the budget this week is his means to remain relevant. By voting no, he ensures that the press calls will still come, even though his usefulness has long passed. Ellis’ recalcitrance is an affront to Republicans across the state hoping to see long-lasting GOP majorities – after all, losing those majorities is what he knows best.

One day, Ellis will walk out of the Capitol as an elected official for the last time, remembered for what could have been and forgotten for what was.

An Ode to College Republicans

In college, politics was the furthest thing from my mind. I probably knew generally that I was a conservative, but the only way I was ever going to obtain a copy of any Milton Friedman book was if it came with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you asked me who Hayek was, I probably would have guessed he was the guitar player from Soundgarden with the long beard.

There are, however, a crop of dedicated, attentive young Republicans on campus, who fight adversity on a daily basis. These young minds are crucial to the future success of the party, and do the dirty work that few others are willing to do. During campaigns they distribute literature, make phone calls, enter names into lists, and stand on University Avenue with “Bush/Cheney” signs. At Madison, they might as well be holding signs that say “I never EVER want to get laid.” And yet they forge on, Ayn Rand novels in hand.

I have attended College Republican events. Walk into one, and you may think you have mistakenly wandered into a “Napoleon Dynamite” convention. The only “diversity” among this group is found in disagreements about whether Reagan or Bush should be the next face on Mount Rushmore. Given the cross-tabulations of politics versus age and race, you might have better luck finding a date at a Dungeons and Dragons convention than a minority CR.

Today’s CRs were born during the Reagan years, started t-ball during the Bush years, and grew into young adults during the Clinton years. Many were just starting high school when the Clinton impeachment proceedings were taking place, and may, even at a young age, have been turned off by the moral relativism displayed by Clinton apologists during that time. As they grew into adults, they chose not to blame others for their typical teenage angst, instead channeling it into rigorous self-dependence, a philosophy they now apply to society as a whole.

Many CRs eschew social interaction with liberals, comfortable to split hairs about Bush’s Social Security plan than to defend capitalism. There are many, however, that revel in confrontation, and the university student body and administration provide a virtual gold mine of opportunity. If Ann Coulter ever appeared in Maxim, many of them would spontaneously combust.

College Republicans are unfazed by the paucity of their life experience, and move forward with inflexible moral certitude. They have not yet faced the gut wrenching quagmire of thinking their girlfriend is pregnant and wondering what to do (trust me, this has never happened to a College Republican). They have yet to be flat broke and have to care for a sick child or elderly parent. I personally have found that there aren’t any opinions I hold any stronger than those I have personally had to confront, and many of these students have a strong moral base that will serve as a guide when these situations occur.

Campaigns have become more and more dependent of financial resources. More and more attention is paid now to raising and spending money than ever before. What gets lost in the system is the tireless work of those who volunteer to do what nobody else wants to – walking the streets dropping off literature, driving around putting signs up, making phone calls, and other tasks. It is the College Republicans who often make these things happen, and in return all they ask is the occasional free pizza from time to time. College Republicans set lofty goals – they want more self reliance, lower taxes, expanded freedom, and to finally see a woman without her clothes on. As we move to the future of the Republican Party, these are the true believers that deserve our support and our thanks.

When Religions Lobby

Are you disappointed that when you’re sitting in church praying for the poor, the handicapped, the needy, and for Paris Hilton to have a horrible wood chipper accident, and the issues of photo identification for voting and product liability reform don’t come up? Are you concerned the church isn’t doing enough to promote the percentage of recycled materials in newspapers, or to support a mandate on public schools to require teaching the history of organized labor?

If you answered yes to all of the above, your prayers are answered in the form of the Reverend Sue Moline Larson, director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin. Ask any Lutheran who she is and what she stands for, and you will likely get a blank stare.

Larson got the director’s job with the LOPPW in 1993, after serving as co-pastor of the Bristol Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie. Since she assumed the position, she has been a strong advocate for hunger relief and debt forgiveness around the world. What might disturb the majority of her flock, however, are her actions relating to policy here in Wisconsin.

Speaking as a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Larson is a registered lobbyist with the State. In addition to the issues referenced above, her lobbying effort includes, but is not limited to:

Supporting creating a state holiday to honor Cesar Chavez
Supporting allowing illegal aliens to pay in state tuition at the UW
Supporting full public financing of Wisconsin elections
Supporting encouraging the use of hybrid-electric vehicles by state employees
Opposing expanding the school choice program in Milwaukee
Opposing freezing property taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
Opposing classifying possession of ecstasy as a felony
Opposing changing reporting requirements for rent-to-own contracts
Opposing allowing school districts to refuse to hire felons
Opposing conscience clause legislation, which would allow medical professionals the option to refuse to participate in abortion-related activities
Opposing creating a tax credit for medical insurance premiums
Opposing increasing penalties for patronizing prostitutes
Opposing the carrying of concealed weapons
Opposing changing the requirements for the siting of nuclear power plants
Opposing lowering the drinking age for active military soldiers to 19 years old

I’m no Bible scholar, but I missed the part where the Lord lectured about the siting of nuclear power plants. Just which sermon was it that Jesus voiced his opposition to product liability? Was the burning bush not adequately flame-retardant? Did Jesus encourage the use of hybrid-electric vehicles right after he expressed his preference for Bo Bice to win American Idol?

The Lutheran Office for Public Policy isn’t the only religious group that purports to speak for a denomination while lobbying state government. The Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations was formed in 1938 as an organization to promote Israeli statehood, lobby against anti-semitism, and work with other religions to find commonalities. The Jewish council is subsidized by the Greater Jewish committee, yet has exploited a clause in their charter that allows them to advocate for “social justice,” meaning liberal social policy. Some Jews believe that the Milwaukee Jewish Council is now merely a front for the Democratic Party, while the political views of most Jews are much more mixed.

The Jewish Council has actively lobbied against freezing property taxes, against the carrying of concealed weapons, and for expanding mandated health coverage for insurance plans. The Jewish Council consistently takes a pro-abortion stance (against conscience clause legislation for health professionals, against prohibiting public funding of abortions, for providing sexual assault victims with abortions), despite various Jewish sects’ opposition to abortion and contraception.

For the most part, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference stays true to Catholic teaching, but does veer off into liberal politics where church teaching allows. The Catholic Conference lobbies heavily in favor of issues that benefit them directly, such as school choice and student transportation, and vigorously supports anti-abortion legislation and anti-same sex legislation. They have, however, lobbied against concealed carry and for expanding mandated health insurance coverage, and they have opposed legislation that would allow employers to take into account an employee’s criminal record into account when making a decision to hire or fire that employee.

Conservatives are lectured frequently about keeping church and state separate. Liberals love to spin conspiracy theories that conservatives meet in clandestine locations and plot evangelical takeovers, with Pat Robertson leading the charge. Religions that lobby for liberal causes, however seem to be relatively ignored.

It is clear that religions have an interest in caring foor the poor and the needy. What is new, however, is religion\’s reliance on government to serve those ends. It appears that some religious leadership is done lecturing their own members on the need for kindness and charity, instead opting to force citizens via governmental mandate to fund programs they see as promoting \”social justice.\” One of the reasons we are in the moral state we are is that citizens are moving away from traditional religion, and becoming more reliant on government. If we truly want to see a society that is more caring and compassionate, the answer is more religion, not less.

This new approach is also dangerous in that it ascribes the moral high ground to certain political issues. Religions now argue that funding elementary education at less than their preferred amount runs contrary to Christian teaching. Somehow, we got to the point that expanding mandated mental health coverage (which would increase insurance costs, making it less affordable to those who need it) becomes the moral position, rather than a public policy decision. Marquette University recently felt this backlash when they boldly stated that reinstating the \”Warrior\” nickname was somehow not in the Jesuit Catholic tradition, an assertion that Catholics across Wisconsin seemingly reject.

Wisconsin Lutherans are a relatively conservative group. Some questions: who authorized Reverend Larson to take a hard line liberal position on behalf of the state\’s one million Lutherans? Is she funded with collection plate dollars? Does she answer to anyone? Does she realize the bills and topics she has taken it upon herself to support and oppose on behalf of all Lutherans match up perfectly with the likes of the radical pro-abortion crowd, fringe environmentalists, vote fraud perpetrators and the Democratic Party?

Reverend Larson is either totally ignorant of the fact that her ultra liberal crusade misrepresents tens of thousands of Lutherans in Wisconsin, or she is so arrogant that she doesn\’t care. Perhaps she doesn\’t realize that most Lutherans believe the church has more important issues to focus on than hybrid electric vehicles, product liability lawsuit reform or setting the public school curriculum. Yet she continues to advocate for her own personal left wing social engineering agenda while clothing herself in the banner of the Lutheran Church. Seems like the same level of arrogance and hypocrisy that caused Martin Luther to protest nearly 500 years ago. How ironic. I guess the good news is that her policy influence under the dome is roughly equivalent to that of the custodian whose only job is to change the Capitol’s lightbulbs.

I actually intercepted an e-mail from Our Lord Jesus Christ to Reverend Sue Moline Larson, which might explain some of her actions:

From: Christ, Our Lord Jesus [mailto:Jesus.Christ@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2005 10:03 AM
To: Reverend Sue Moline Larson
Subject: Important Business in Wisconsin

Dear Reverend Sue:

It’s been a while – how are things going down there in Wisconsin? Things up here in Heaven are great. Liberace and Kurt Cobain started a food fight in the cafeteria the other day that is still the talk of our dorm. We have an intramural basketball game against Hell next week that everyone is gearing up for – I hear Mohammed Atta has a mean jump shot, although he has trouble going to his left.

In more serious news, I was reading through the paper, and noticed there’s some pretty bad stuff going on down there on Earth, that might need a little intervention from yours truly. I see thousands of people dying from the Tsunami in Asia (you guys don’t say “The Orient” anymore, right?), I see AIDS devastating Africa, and I see ethnic genocide taking place around the globe. Most importantly, there is one issue that takes precedence over all of these, and I am personally enlisting you to take care of it.

Could you make sure that Wisconsin elections are publicly financed? There is clearly no better use of taxpayer money than to use it to run campaign TV ads. Those politicians are working too hard on the campaign trail, raising money, so we need to use general tax revenue to do that work for them.

I appreciate your help on this, and on your past efforts to get Cesar Chavez his own holiday in Wisconsin. Your work will not go unnoticed. I’m off to a house party – Tupac and Biggie are having a big throwdown down the block. Einstein got wasted last time and joked about how he stole that whole “theory of relativity” from the back of a Bazooka Joe comic strip.

Also, good luck to you on figuring out that whole stem cell deal – we are having a ball up here watching you guys sort it out. Get it – the whole “take a life to save a life” trick? What will my Father come up with next?

Christ out.

-JC

P.S. – Bob La Follette is sick of Ed Garvey trying to pimp his name to benefit his own image. He said he’s added him to his “spam” list.

“That’s Why America Hates Democrats”

Who said this? Was it Pat Buchanan? Was it Ralph Reed? Ann Coulter, maybe?

None of the above – try potential Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner from Virginia, (registration required for the link), expressing the condescending attitude he has encountered from the blue states. Warner has made his mark in Virginia as a moderate, willing to take on traditional big government programs. An excerpt:

Warner — who is thought to have presidential potential because of his bipartisan accomplishments as a governor in the South — said that his party’s positioning on social issues had left rural and small-town voters with a “sense of some Democrats’ belittling their lives, their culture and their values.” He said he experienced that sentiment during a trip to California, where he felt that some people were condescending because he came from Virginia.” ‘You little Virginia Democrat, how can you understand the great opportunities we have?’ ” Warner said in characterizing the attitude he encountered. “I came out saying, ‘That’s why America hates Democrats.’ ”

I’m not in the business of giving advice to Dems, but this could be your guy if you want to win in ’08. But for the same reason I like him, he has absolutely no chance in a Democratic primary. Kind of like Guiliani in the GOP primary – not a chance in hell.

Random Weekly Observations I

Here’s some stuff that didn’t necessarily fit in a column:

Remember getting candy bars at halloween that are packaged as “fun size” but are actually half the size of regular candy bars? Exactly what is so fun about getting half a Three Musketeers? This is absolutely the way the Legislature should pitch its smaller increases in school aids in this budget, though. Now! School aids in a new, fun-sized package! Everyone will love it!

Feast your eyes on this beauty of a press release from Planned Parenthood. It contains this unspeakably obnoxious statement:

Without access to birth control, the average woman would have between 12 and 15 children in her lifetime.

Of course, that number has to refer to the number of children women would have if they maintained their current behavior with birth control available. Do they honestly think that after the 8th kid, a woman wouldn’t say, “You know, maybe this whole consequence-free sex thing isn’t working out for me”?

Fashion tip: If you are an ugly woman and bleach your hair blonde, you will be an ugly woman with blonde hair. If you are a pretty woman and bleach your hair blonde, you will be a pretty woman with blonde hair.

Accordingly, if you are an ugly man and grow a beard, you will be an ugly man with a beard. If you are a good looking man with a beard, you are most likely Lorenzo Lamas, and don’t need my fashion tips.

If they ever make stem cells in jellybean form, I will likely live to be 500 years old. Like Yoda or Papa Smurf.

I was stopped at a stoplight the other day, and saw four cars in a row with Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers still on (remember them?) Enough, people – you don’t like Bush, we get it. Having one of these stickers still on your car virtually guarantees that I will drive within 3 inches of your bumper.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s comical attempt to personally prosecute North Woods Shooter Chai Vang has sparked more ideas for character rehabilitation for the AG. It has been announced that Lautenschlager will re-open the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial later this month. Lautenschlager also has plans to exhume the skeleton of Jeffery Dahmer to collect on some old parking tickets.

A few weeks ago at a public hearing on school choice, a State Senator tried to resurrect the term “Afro American.” Does this make me a “Mullet American?”

Dane County Supervisor Rob Fyrst announced yesterday that he will run for the one office all children aspire to, State Treasurer. People declaring their candidacy for treasurer a year and a half before the election is a sure sign that the end is nigh. My suggestion: Rob adopts the motto “Fyrst Blood” and shows up all of his events wearing a Rambo-type headband and a big buck knife with a compass in the handle. He could stand on the podium and mow down the press corps with an uzi to show that he means business. “Nobody is going to screw with the unclaimed property program on my watch!”

On the Coalition for American Families website, the group claims that it “will not waiver in its support of policies that help every family thrive.” Maybe they need to not “waver” in support of buying a spell checker for their computer. I would argue bad spelling is a significant threat to America’s families.

The whole “no blood for oil” line seems to be holding up well, considering oil is now at record high prices. If we really did go to war for oil, I would expect not to have to put my gas on layaway. Next up – Bush invades Iowa for their ethanol.

The Federalist Papers, seminal documents in American history, were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. You think John Jay ever felt inferior being lumped in with those heavyweights? Isn’t he kind of like the member of Destiny’s Child that nobody can ever name? (Next to Beyonce’ and Kelly Rowland, of course) Jay did end up as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he clearly didn’t look as good as Beyonce in a skirt.

Any CD store that doesn’t make you feel like a complete moron for buying a Pearl Jam CD probably isn’t worth a damn.

Co-worker: “I think Michael Jackson is going to get off.”

Me: “Isn’t that why he’s in trouble?”

(Please, hold your applause)

911 is a Joke (For White People Now, Too)

Good Morning America broadcast a story the other day about how poor emergency services are getting around the U.S. They highlighted a dying student who waited almost an hour for an ambulance to arrive (although they concede he probably would have died anyway, due to a heart condition). Suburban areas are blaming high population growth for poorer emergency services.

While this may be news to white people, didn’t Flavor Flav have this covered about 15 years ago?

Wisconsin Festivals: The “Self-Inflicted” Olympics

A trip to Madison’s “Brat Fest” this weekend called to mind Wisconsin’s great tradition of festivals. The great people are the best reason to live in Wisconsin, but festivals seem to bring out some real beauties. All summer, underdressed people will gather across this state, soak in nuclear levels of sun rays, and declare war on their arteries by consuming enough fat calories to power a Monte Carlo. Many attendees have blood alcohol levels that rival their ACT scores.

Every summer, I look out at these crowds and wonder if the mass of people in attendance is representative of actual people living in Wisconsin, or merely representative of people who attend festivals.

It’s not as though there is any great surprise awaiting individuals at these events – every alcohol-soaked event morphs into another over a short period of time. If you can\’t make it to Summerfest this year, close your eyes and think about what it was like last year – because it will be exactly the same.

For many people (i.e. people with jobs), the alcohol soaked crowds at Wisconsin festivals come as somewhat of a shock. As one surveys the throngs of leathery skinned Rubenesque beauties who adhere to a strict regimen of skin care by Marlboro, one has to wonder how far people are willing to go to make their lives more difficult. Generally, wouldn’t a person’s inclinations lean toward making their life easier? Why do people behave in such destructive ways?

It’s almost as if these people are in some sort of competition to voluntarily make their lives as challenging and difficult as possible. Call it “The Self-Inflicted Olympics.” In this competition, scoring is as follows:

Have children with someone you’re not married to – 4 points for the first child, 6 for each subsequent child.

Don’t graduate from high school – 4 points.

Have so many children you qualify as your own school district – 20 points.

Obtain a tattoo, piercing, or hairstyle that makes you virtually unemployable, except at a tattoo or piercing parlor – 3 points

Wear clothing that shows off your dragon tattoo, no matter what part of your body it inhabits or how old you get – 3 points

Wear any combination of jean shorts, sandals with socks, or any Dale Jr. paraphernalia to a job interview – 2 points

Smoke – 3 points

Get so fat that you think you deserve credit for dieting 4 hours per day: 4 points

Ignore every piece of publicly funded anti-drug propaganda you have been bombarded with your entire life and decide that cocaine or heroin looks like a good lifestyle choice: 6 points

Routinely drink so much that you think you have a shot with the Hooter’s waitress: 3 points

Cheat on your spouse: 4 points

Cheat on your spouse with someone ugly: 6 points

I propose literature to be distributed in schools that lay out these options for those young minds that are intent on ruining their lives forever. If you gather more than 6 points, there is a 95% chance that your future home will have a license plate, and you will live in constant fear of burning your baby daddy’s next pork chop. It has been scientifically tested – trust me.

The most appalling aspect of all these categories is that it costs absolutely nothing to adhere to them, yet people around the nation are intent on ignoring them.

These are our Wisconsin friends, for better or for worse. Build a funnel cake stand and have a flat keg of Old Style on hand, and they will come. May God bless them all.

“Devastating” Cuts Hit UW System; Thousands Dead

UW System chancellors have made very good livings shilling for more funding for the system. Their daily routine is essentially this: fundraise, cry to the Legislature, get their Lexuses washed, repeat.

In making their pitch to the Legislature, they often paint a picture of UW campuses as bustling communities of learning, where fresh faced students try to quench their insatiable thirst for knowledge by spending hours studying biochemistry and philosophy. In their spare time, this diverse group of students is likely volunteering at hospitals for puppies and searching for the meaning of universal justice.

Such a picture of life at the UW raises one question: Have the administrators actually ever met a UW student?

Generally, “diversity” at the UW means one thing – it is a place where people who like to smoke pot, drink heavily, gamble excessively, and hook up with co-eds below their standards can all live together in harmony. For most co-eds, the only “searching” that takes place is searching for their pants when they wake up and don’t know where they are. The UW is a place where sleeping until noon is actually a dating strategy – so you have an excuse to ask the hot girl in class to borrow her notes. It is a place where you can string along your college experience for years and years, to allow for more time for sitting in coffehouses, stroking your goatee and reading Kurt Vonnegut. It is a place where you can make a political statement based on what body part you do or don’t decide to shave.

I believe noted intellectual “Jonah” said it best when Playboy named UW-Madison as the 7th best party school in the U.S. He said:

“There’s a bar in this town to suit every taste. There are building parties every weekend. Wander around until you find something, then walk in and grab a cup. Everyone is open, friendly and drunk. It’s not a small group that parties a lot, it’s an entire town that parties all the time.” –Jonah

The UW System has done one thing brilliantly – tell everyone how great it is. Without question, it is a top-tier public education system. But is it really the best in the nation? Should taxpayers pay the bill so the UW can attain some subjective, amorphous concept of what “the best” is? Does anyone believe that one gets a better education at the UW Madison merely by stepping on campus? Doesn’t the student’s effort and desire to learn play a more significant role in the quality of their education? Most importantly, why does the evil robot in Star Wars III cough – does he have robot chest congestion?

In the most recent U.S. News and World Report, UW-Madison ranked as the 32nd best undergraduate university in the nation. When one looks at the methodology of the rankings, they have little to do with student performance. 75% of a school’s score are tied up in peer grading (essentially asking professors who is most prestigious), student retention (how many return for their second year), faculty salaries (the average full professor at Madison makes $96,200 per year), and financial resources (amount spent per student).

Cuts to the UW System have little to do with student performance. In fact, only 26% of the nearly $4 billion biennial UW budget goes to actual instruction of students. 20% goes to research. The rest goes to administration, building costs, hospitals, food service, etc. Last budget, the Legislature cut the UW by $250 million, and students likely can’t even tell the difference. Despite increases of 18% in tuition per year the last two years, UW-Madison is currently second to last in the Big Ten in resident undergraduate tuition, so students continue to get good value for their dollar.

When all funds are added up, the UW System has averaged a 5.5% increase per year since 1994-95, well above the rate of inflation. During that time, the number of students has increased .68%. So the UW is getting more money to educate virtually the same number of students. In fact, the state still invests almost $1 billion per year of general purpose tax revenue in the UW System, making it the third largest single program the state funds, behind K-12 education and Medical Assistance. 52% of all state full time employees funded with general tax revenue are UW employees (there are 18,327 total of these FTE UW employees funded with general revenue).

UW adminstrators are in a tough position. They have to fight against “devastating” budget cuts, but when those cuts come, they can’t ever admit that those cuts had a deleterious effect on education at the UW. That isn’t consistent with the “We can beat up any other public university system” message they have been touting for years.

Many of the facts that they use to show the lack of respect that they have been getting from the state are misleading. They often cite the fact that the UW System has been dropping as a percentage of state general purpose expenditures. While proportionally this is true, the UW has continued to receive adequate increases year after year. They are only dropping proportionally because the state has upped spending to other programs, most notably K-12 education, by a much higher percentage. Thus, you can increase aid to the UW by a healthy percentage, but if you increase aid to a larger program by a greater amount, the UW will appear to be losing ground, when that isn’t the case.

They also make the case that state aid is declining as a percentage of the UW budget. This is misleading for the same reason as above – other revenues to the UW System have been increasing at a much higher rate. Tuition has increased by an average of 8% per year for the last 20 years, federal gifts and grants are up, and sales of UW merchandise are all up. Thus, state aid makes up a smaller piece of the pie.

In the end, the UW’s pleas for more state funding are about as convincing as the Tom Cruise – Katie Holmes romance. In the wild, this would be known as the biennial “Dance of the Chancellors,” where UW administrators flood the State Capitol, crying poverty (and no doubt collecting a healthy per diem to make the trip).

Hurricanes are devastating. Tsunamis are devastating. Professors at UW Madison actually teaching 35% of the hours taught on campus, rather than the 31% they currently teach? Not devastating.

The People’s Legislature: Rolling (papers) Through Wisconsin

Mix together a room full of underemployed malcontents and a willing media, and you come up with this year’s most underwhelming political movement – “The People’s Legislature.”

Attorney Ed Garvey, who apparently believes his embarrassment in the 1998 governor’s race wasn’t enough, went back to the well again in early January by stirring up a group of the politically confused (i.e. progressives) in a sham meeting to bash state government. Note to Garvey – if your 1998 running mate, moonbeam Barb Lawton, has achieved more in public service than you have, you may soon be seeing your political career as a victim on “CSI: Miami.”

Complicit in the organization of this charade was Mike McCabe, head of the “nonpartisan” Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which advocates for public financing of elections. McCabe, as you may remember, lost to Mark Pocan in a 1998 Democratic primary for State Assembly by a nearly four to one margin – McCabe actually made Mark Pocan look like Tom DeLay.

One wonders if McCabe or Garvey would continue to label state government as “corrupt” if they had actually been elected, or if this is all sour grapes. The strategy seems to be, if you can’t be elected legitimately, form your own band of the misguided to lead.

Billed as a “nonpartisan” event, the organizers held out Carol Mcky as the sole “Republican” scheduled to be present. In fact, the Wisconsin State Journal, swallowing Garvey’s press release whole, reported the “longtime Republican” Mcky would be present at the “nonpartisan” event. Incidentally, a simple Google seach shows that Mcky is an outspoken opponent of the War in Iraq, was featured at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, and campaigned aggressively for John Kerry.

Joining Mcky was former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson, who provided some much needed balance to the festivities by calling the U.S. government “tyrannical,” and “authoritarian.” Thompson finished up by saying, “This is how totalitarian governments come into being. And I believe government in America today, at all levels, is dangerously close to taking this serious misstep.” Thompson, as you remember, was the Libertarian candidate who ironically complained about not getting enough government money for his campaign.

The “People’s Legislature” was billed as an event where a platform would be developed as if special interests had no say. It was to reflect what the common people of Wisconsin would want without big money contributions and corrupt politicians involved. So what did this group of “common folk” come up with?

They produced a four point plan for campaign finance reform straight out of a Democracy Campaign press release, including public financing of campaigns, merging the state elections and ethics boards, and redistricting reform. Stuff that the real people of Wisconsin care about.

I can imagine a typical dinner at a blue collar home:

MOM: How was your day at work?

DAD: Well, the boss is on my back, my paycheck is shrinking, my co-workers aren’t pulling their weight, and my back is killing me from working that drill press.

MOM: You seem more down than usual. Is there something else?

DAD: Well, there is. The Legislature hasn’t consolidated the elections and ethics board, and I believe our democracy is at stake as a result.

MOM: More yams?

Since the initial meeting in January, the “People’s Legislature” has continued to impose their odor on the rest of the state, having several meetings attended by nearly tens of people. These individuals were brave enough to venture out of the smoke-filled vans they had been living in long enough to hear why we need to waste taxpayer money on TV ads that everyone hates anyway.

Here’s a note to the chemically challenged People’s Legislature attendees: There’s a big white building in the middle of Madison where real laws are made, and there’s a reason Garvey and McCabe have failed to gain entry into a system so “corrupt:” they are as crazy as you are.

Ebert: Conservatives Racist?

Roger Ebert is really hit or miss as a movie reviewer, but his TV show is reasonably entertaining. He has never made a secret of his liberal views, but I believe his review of the movie “Crash” has gone a little too far.

The movie (which, incidentally is very good), is about racial tensions in Los Angeles. Of course, you can’t have a movie about race in L.A. without a couple of good racist white cop beatdowns, and they are provided in the film. Matt Dillon plays the aforementioned racist officer, who pulls over a black couple and assaults the wife during the pat downs. Ryan Phillippe, who plays Dillon’s partner, of course finds this reprehensible and asks to be reassigned from partnering with Dillon.

Fair enough. But in Ebert’s review, he describes Phillippe’s character as a “liberal young cop,” which drew me to a couple of conclusions. First, there are no speeches about Social Security reform or drilling for oil in Alaska in the movie, so I can only assume Ebert thought the young cop was “liberal” because he objected to his racist partner’s activities. If this is the case, Ebert thinks the more accepting of racist behavior you are, the less “liberal” and more “conservative” you are.

I’m certain that during the movie, Ebert felt the same anger towards Dillon’s character that the young cop did. Since Ebert considers himself a liberal, he probably drew that connection without really thinking about what the flip side of that equation would mean.

The Conservative Case Against TABOR

“Sellout.” “Traitor.” And worst of all, “moderate.” These aren’t words being used to describe enemy combatants in the war on terror – they are used by some conservatives to describe legislative Republicans that have reservations about the proposed Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR).

The debate over TABOR has been co-opted by normally common sense conservative talk show hosts. If someone is “conservative,” then they favor a broad constitutional amendment to control state and local taxes and spending. If someone is “moderate,” then they resist such a plan, and likely have set fire to a hospital for puppies at some point.

On the legislative side, TABOR is being pushed by Frank Lasee, a potential congressional candidate who has been preening all around the state in favor of his plan, which he pilfered from Colorado. Colorado’s last two imports to Wisconsin, as you may remember, are Chronic Wasting Disease and disastrous ex-Colorado Rockie Jeffrey Hammonds. Lasee has grown his hair out, bought a bottle of tanning oil, and lost weight to prepare himself for the fight. In fact, he could stand to lose another 50 pounds – named Jeff Wood. Wood, as you may know, is the educationally challenged second term representative from Chippewa Falls, whose knowledge of Wisconsin has grown to the point that he can now point the state out on a map.

Support for TABOR in the state is strong – some polls suggest that 80% of citizens favor a constitutional spending limit, while support is even at 60% among Democrats. This support was barely beaten out by “Would you like a million dollars?” (81%), “Do you like pizza?” (83%), and “Would you like two million dollars?” (83.5%). This support has caused shrinkage among conservatives who normally would cringe at the idea of a heavy-handed constitutional imposition of fiscal policy on local governments.

In fact, TABOR may not be the electoral silver bullet conservatives think it is. In several races around the state in November 2004, voters had a choice between pro-TABOR and anti-TABOR candidates. Despite apparent public support for the plan, voters in Kenosha (Priebus vs. Wirch), the North Woods (Tiffany vs. Breske), and Green Bay (Drzwiecki vs. Hansen) rejected the pro-TABOR candidate. The one Republican that did pick up a seat, Dan Kapanke, was a local government official opposed to TABOR. While TABOR supporters look to Mary Panzer’s embarrassing defeat for comfort, Panzer had problems in her heavily conservative district (she is pro-choice), and her handling of the TABOR issue caused her more problems than it would have helped.

There are two camps of conservatives on TABOR – those that believe local governments work best when they can respond to the needs of their constituents on a personal level, and the “ends justify the means” conservatives, who recognize that property taxes are out of control and see an opportunity to do something at the state level. Both sides have excellent points, but the local control conservatives have absolutely nothing to apologize for in resisting TABOR.

One of the central tenets of conservatism is the idea that government works best the more locally it is administered. Conservatives resist top-down government, believing that governance works best when citizens are involved and informed. Conservatives have also traditionally recognized the sanctity of the Constitution – a limited document that can fit in your pocket, but which sets out the rules of the game. Such specific fiscal policy in the Constitution should horrify traditional conservatives, and sets the precedent that anything goes in the Constitution, as long as we can sneak it by a Democratic Governor. If fact, one Assembly member already has proposed photo identification for voting as a constitutional amendment. Can concealed carry really be far behind?

The debate over TABOR has turned into an ugly split between the Republican controlled Assembly and Senate in Wisconsin. The Assembly, laying down like a lap dog to Frank Lasee’s political ambition, is widely believed to be more pro-TABOR, although the likelihood of the votes being there is still very much in question. The Senate isn’t even close. One explanation for this phenomenon can be found in the demographics of Assembly versus Senate districts. Assembly districts are one third the size of Senate districts, therefore their constituents are more likely to be ideologically narrow. Senate districts, taking in so much more area, tend to have more diversity of thought, and therefore tend to be more moderate demographically. Plus, there’s a lot more land for the black helicopters to fly over.

As an aid to those conservative legislators who oppose TABOR but are afraid to stand up to the “conservative” talk show hosts who favor constitutional spending caps, here are some talking points:

TABOR Will Guarantee Perpetual Democratic Majorities
This year, Democrats in the previously solid Republican Colorado Legislature gained majorities in both houses for the first time in years. This would be like the Republican National Committee picking Al Sharpton to run their operations for the 2008 presidential campaign. The problem that has occurred in Colorado is identical to the one that would occur in Wisconsin – writing conservative philosophy into the Constitution removes any reason to elect conservatives to the Legislature. In effect, the Constitution becomes the only Republican anyone needs, because it is tax issues that elect Republicans.

In fact, TABOR would be in direct conflict with social conservatives. With the types of Democratic majorities it would produce in Wisconsin, you can look forward to getting an abortion at a Kwik-Trip, gay marriage will be mandatory for single people over 25, and the only weapon allowed in your home will be a salad shooter. Taxes are an important piece to the puzzle, but not the only one – and questions of taxation have to be settled in elections for Republicans to retain control, not in the Constitution.

TABOR Saves Programs That Are Bad for Property Taxpayers
If government in Wisconsin was reformulated from scratch, there’s no way the current system of local aid would make the cut. Local governments blame the state for high property taxes, for not providing enough aid. The state government blames local governments for not making the tough choices in setting their local budgets. In the meantime, property taxpayers don’t know whom to blame for escalating taxes with the inter-governmental finger pointing.

The only way to fix this quandary is to consolidate taxing and spending decisions at the local level, which means elimination of shared revenue and allowing more local taxing options (such as a local sales tax). The government that raises the tax should spend the tax, to provide more accountability and clarity to taxpayers.

TABOR would make changing to such a system impossible, even though it represents a shift in taxation, rather than an increase. Similarly, taking technical colleges off the property tax would save 7.5% on property taxes – but would require increased funding at the state level prohibited by TABOR. Two thirds funding for schools would have been impossible. Streamlined sales tax? Over.

Past Democratic legislatures have found non-constitutional ways to control local revenues in areas where they were needed. When school property taxes were increasing 10% per year, the Democratically controlled Legislature worked with Tommy Thompson in implementing school revenue caps, which have saves billions in property tax dollars, have yet to be repealed, and have done nothing to deteriorate the quality of our school districts.

“Save Me From Myself”
During the Thompson era, state spending routinely increased 7%, 8%, or even 10% per year (much of this due to two-thirds funding of school
districts). In fact, the 1999-2000 budget saw a nearly 13% increase in the general-purpose budget (47 Assembly Republicans voted for this budget, including John Gard, while all but one Senate Republican voted against it). So Republicans who routinely voted for Thompson budgets to now insist that TABOR is necessary are merely engaging in a hypocritical tantrum.

In fact, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, who has been lobbying for TABOR, issued a press release calling for more Medicaid spending, to keep insurance costs for employers down. Never mind that TABOR would make this increased investment in Medicaid NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE at the state level.

It would be interesting to see a Republican run for Governor on a pro-TABOR platform. The pitch would go something like this:

“We need TABOR because we can’t trust the Legislature or the Governor to limit property taxes. In fact, you can’t trust me as your future Governor to limit your property taxes, so we need to pass a bill that I support, and is necessary because I can’t be trusted to sign a property tax freeze into law. While I support property tax relief, it is likely that I will become a tool for the teacher’s union and other big spending special interest groups.”

Wisconsin Republicans have lost sight of the true adversary in the property tax debate – Governor Jim Doyle. While the Assembly and Senate fight about TABOR, Jim Doyle, The Indian Tribes, and Stan Johnson’s mustache will waltz into office for a second term. While Frank Lasee tours the state to convince people how incompetent state legislators are, he is himself setting a shining example for his theory.

Whatever the final outcome of the TABOR discussion, Republicans still should get more credit for holding down property taxes than their flaccid Democrat counterparts. In the face of a mounting public outcry over property taxes, the Democrats either oppose property tax relief or propose more state funding for local services, which only serves to further exacerbate the problem.

Property taxes in Wisconsin are too high and are growing too fast. With this, there is no disagreement. The solution, however, lies not in a permanent constitutional amendment, but in citizen activism and responsible legislators. Conservatives who support local control should not cower to talk show hosts, but stand up for true representative government.

In March of 2004, in paying tribute to the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, columnist George Will recognized Moynihan as the “premier intellectual in the U.S. Senate.” Will then followed up that this is akin to being “the tallest building in Topeka.”

It is time for legislators with big picture perspective and philosophical courage to stand up to TABOR. Politics is an argument – TABOR is a muzzle.

© 2021 Christian Schneider

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑