Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Category: Miscellaneous (page 1 of 2)

Skunks Beware

I know, I know – we’re a think tank.  But to deny our readers the glory of “The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn” would simply be blogging malpractice.  Savor every note.

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(Via Althouse.)

Today’s Subterfuge Update

The big news around the conservative blogosphere today is this dope who decided to announce that he wanted to infiltrate tea parties and yell racist things, in order to make “tea baggers” look bad.  (I would suggest he yell things like “black children deserve to stay in terrible schools!” since that is actually his party’s platform.)

Something smells here.  It’s just too stupid to announce publicly that you’re going undercover to make your opponents look bad.  Now, if any nutjob at any tea party in America says anything intemperate, tea partiers have an instant out.  “It was liberals trying to make us look bad!”  (And trust me – if any idiots show up with “Obama is Hitler” signs or whatever, they will be covered.  I wrote about last year’s tax day rally, and there were a couple of “those” people there – and naturally, they showed up on every local newscast.)

So in the end, this guy publicly urging the infiltration of tea parties is actually doing his opponents a big favor.  Which made me think that this might be an elaborate ruse.  Maybe this guy is actually a conservative operative, who urges people to become liberal operatives, then blows the whistle on his plan in order to help conservatives.  Basically, he’s a triple agent.  It’s brilliant.  In fact, it seems likely, given that it’s too smart to have been thought up by any of these lefty troglodytes.

This is also a big win for actual racists, who can now show up at the tax day rally and yell whatever they want with impunity.  For these people, just do us a favor – wear a Nancy Pelosi t-shirt.  Thanks much.

Crazy On Top of Crazy

This weekend’s New York Magazine featured a lengthy excerpt from “Game Change,” John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s upcoming book about the 2008 presidential election.  (It’s also the book that produced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “Negro” comment about President Obama.)

The excerpt that ran in the NY Mag was called “Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster,” and it goes into detail when describing the sordid goings-on of the John Edwards campaign – including Edwards’ involvement with Rielle Hunter.  As a liberal friend of mine remarked, it’s “crazy on top of crazy, with a heaping dollop of sadness.”

For instance, here’s a story about what happened when Elizabeth found out about her husband’s daliances:

The next morning, John and Elizabeth were scheduled to fly out of Raleigh to separate destinations—he to South Carolina, she to Iowa. But when the traveling staff arrived at their home, they found Elizabeth out of sorts, disconsolate, still in her bathrobe. She had drafted a blog post she wanted published, defending her husband from the accusations against him. This kind of tawdriness was something the Clintons would be involved in, she wrote, but not the Edwardses…

At the terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to avert their eyes, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. “Look at me!” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.

Sensational stuff, to be sure.  And while the chapter goes to great lengths to portray Elizabeth as an unhinged crazyperson, the main focus has to be with Edwards himself.  WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING?

It’s  not like marital infidelity is something new in politics.  But why are men in power so willing to throw it all away for some side action?  (And in Edwards’ case, how could he possibly get another woman pregnant – and try to pin it on one of his advisors, to boot?)

On the one hand, infidelity probably isn’t any more prevalent in politics than it is in other walks of life.  It’s just that it becomes newsworthy when it does – especially if the politician happens to espouse “family values.”  (Athletes have long had the reputation of having the proverbial “girl in every city,” but this seems to bother no one.  Unless the athlete is Tiger Woods, of course.)

But it does seem that an inordinate number of politicians do have a wandering eye.  And they often act on it knowing that public humiliation is headed their way if they get caught – which makes it a lot riskier than if the guy working down at the bike shop does it.

Perhaps it’s because their position of power gives these guys the chance to meet more ladies.  Before their political careers, they were just ordinary schlubs with thinning hair, sitting at home praying for the next Victoria’s Secret catalog to show up.  When they become celebrities, suddenly their options open up.  And a lot of them seem to have no qualms about making up for lost time.

But it almost seems like the same characteristics that make these guys want to be politicians also leads them to cheat.  Maybe they initially run for office to overcome a sense of self-inadequacy.  Getting the approval of voters helps them to verify their self-worth.  Then, having a nubile young cocktail waitress accomplishes the same thing – gives them a false sense that they’re still youthful and handsome.

Or maybe they just enjoy the booty.  Who knows.

Your Official “Public Enemies” Review

For months, people around Wisconsin have been anticipating the opening of the summer blockbuster “Public Enemies.” A large chunk of the movie was shot here in the Dairy State, and our tax dollars subsidized filming it to the tune of about $5 million.

Seeing as how we are a full service free market think tank here at WPRI, I used this specious connection to go see the movie to determine whether it was tax money well spent.  I feel I am doing a public service to the taxpayers to report on the fruits of their generosity (and, I admit, I was excited to see if I knew anyone in the movie, and I have an unnatural man-crush on Christian Bale.)

I was actually surprised that they made me pay for a ticket, seeing as how my tax money has made me a co-producer of this film.  In fact, I’m still waiting for my director’s chair and bullhorn, and anticipate they will show up at my house any day now.

So here’s the quick synopsis of the movie:

It’s bad.  Really, really bad.  Closing in on awful.

It is apparent that about 20 bucks of our $5 million was spent on a script.  The movie meanders along, without any interesting dialogue or insight.  At 2 hours, 15 minutes, it’s about 45 minutes too long.  Johnny Depp, who plays John Dillinger, seems almost to be embarrassed to be in the movie at all.  Characters talk to each other with canned speeches that don’t even approach plausibility.  By the time the inevitable end came, I had checked my watch about 10 times.

Perhaps the most grating aspect of the movie is Oscar winning French actress Marion Cotillard, who attempts to speak English without a heavy French accent.  It comes and goes, which is interesting, considering she’s playing a character who’s half Indian and who grew up in Wisconsin.

In fact, isn’t there a big movement up at the Capitol to prevent the state from contracting with foreigners for government business?  There were a hundred American actresses that could have played that part – we should crack down on the OUTSOURCING OF OUR ACTRESSES! (Holding hand over heart while the Star Spangled Banner plays in the background.)

For me, the only cool parts of the movie were the ones that took place in the Capitol, where I worked for 8 years.  I immediately picked out the North Hearing Room, where a lot of the partisan caucuses used to take place.  And I got the chills when the characters walk around the inside the Capitol.

I certainly don’t mean to dissuade anyone in Wisconsin from going to see the movie, especially if you recognize some of the sets in Columbus, Oshkosh and elsewhere.  But it really is a crushing disappointment.  I am amazed that big budget movies this bad can actually get made.  But who cares if Wisconsin taxpayers are out $5 million for a terrible movie?  SOME PEOPLE GOT TO WAVE TO JOHNNY DEPP!

In fact, conservatives have an opportunity here – if government-subsidized movies are this bad, imagine how bad government health care will be.  If people draw the connection, single-payer government health plans will be dead within a week.

In this most recent budget, Governor Doyle scaled back the film tax credit to $500,000.  It’s a good thing for supporters of the credit that he did so before seeing “Public Enemies.”  If had seen the movie in advance, he may have actually started charging movies to film here.

Perhaps most importantly, why didn’t anyone tell me that this guy from “Dazed and Confused” was in Wisconsin filming the movie?

They Really Like Us!

It appears Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post’s “The Fix” has listed our little blog as one of the “Best Wisconsin Blogs.”  Six blogs from Wisconsin were picked, with five of them being conservative (Badger Blogger, Boots and Sabers, Wigderson Library and Pub, Lakeshore Laments, and WPRI.)  Since it sounds better, I’ll say we’re one of the TOP FIVE conservative blogs in Wisconsin.  And since it sounds even better, I’ll say we’re the NUMBER ONE conservative blog in Wisconsin named “WPRI.”

Clearly, Chris Cillizza isn’t sitting in his D.C. office reading all these blogs – so someone had to e-mail him to tell him about us.  So whichever inmate nominated us, we sincerely appreciate it.

I Am Certainly Not Implying Anything

On January 12th, I wrote this column about how federal corn subsidies are making us all fat.

56 days later, George F. Will wrote this column about how federal corn subsidies are making us all fat.

Freaky.

WPRI Gets a New Look

You may have noticed that both our home website and this blog have gotten an extreme makeover.  In the interest of making the sites easier to navigate and prettier to look at, we’ve undergone a full scale renovation.  All the feed information should be the same, so no need to change your newsreaders.

So take the new format for a spin, and feel free to suggest changes that might make it easier to get around.

-The Management

Citizen Action of Wisconsin: Not Close, and No Cigar

Last week, when WPRI released our report detailing the massive amount of unfunded liabilities local governments are carrying for their retirees, I honestly didn\’t expect much of a counter-argument.  How could there be?  The facts are indisputable.  In fact, the best shot a local official took at an explanation was the Superintendent of Waukesha Schools, who unbelievably argued that their financial system is sound because it\’s like a mortgage.  It\’s difficult to think of a worse comparison, given the fact that mortgage lending is currently sending our economy down the tubes.  He actually would have been better off saying something like, \”our financial system is as safe as the Green Bay Packers with the indestructible Aaron Rodgers at the helm.\”

Yet lo and behold, on the very day the report was released, the liberal Citizen Action of Wisconsin attempted to respond to the facts in the report.  And needless to say, I remain unconvinced that there is a rational response to the argument we made in the study.

Citizen Action said the \”ultraconservative\” WPRI report missed the mark because it failed to discuss the fact that health care costs are rising so quickly.  (Personally, I would have preferred \”mega-conservative,\” as it sounds more like we can crush cars with our bare hands, like Optimus Prime.)  In fact, one of the reasons the report didn\’t go into detail about increasing health costs is because we just released a 20-page paper on that exact topic.

But the main problem with local government retiree health insurance isn\’t that the costs are going up too quickly – it\’s that the benefits exist at all, and that their existence are going to swamp local budgets in the very near future.  If local governments hadn\’t attempted to pad their employees\’ pockets with this previously publicly undisclosed benefit, they wouldn\’t be in the position of having the taxpayers bail them out – which almost certainly will happen. And the rising cost of health care has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these governments chose to spend billions of dollars on ex-employees that no longer work for the people, instead of spending the funds on existing services.

In fact, Citizen Action\’s complaints about the rising cost of health care actually strengthens the immediacy of the WPRI report.  We focused on the fact that local governments owe $6 billion in future unfunded liabilities – the fact is, that number is going to increase rapidly over the next few years, both because governments are underfunding their liabilities and because costs are going up.

The truly ironic fact is that Citizen Action is continuing to push their dead-in-the-water \”Healthy Wisconsin\” single-payer government run health plan.  That would be the plan passed by the Wisconsin Senate that all the new Democratic state senate candidates are avoiding as if it were a pair of garage sale underwear.  They actually believe that their plan, which would have government completely take over health care in Wisconsin and cost taxpayers $15.2 billion, would actually solve this problem of increasing health care costs.  In fact, it would do nothing to slow health costs – it would merely change who pays for them.

A perfect example of how health care costs explode when government takes them over was evident last week, when the state announced that the new BadgerCare Plus program would be $25 million over budget in its first year of existence.  The BadgerCare program itself was the same story – in Fiscal Year 2001, the first full year of BadgerCare\’s operation, the Legislature spent $129 million in all-funds revenue. By Fiscal Year 2004, merely three years later, that number had nearly doubled to $205.6 million.  Consider the retiree health costs that are now being reported, and it\’s absurd to argue that somehow costs drop when the government gets involved.

So, it appears Citizen Action\’s response to increasing health care costs is to exacerbate the problem by making taxpayers foot the bill.  While we\’re at it, maybe we can solve the economic crisis by guaranteeing more bad housing loans and asking the taxpayers to pay for it.  Wait… we\’re doing that?

Finally, Citizen Action criticizes WPRI for supposedly \”singling out\” government employers for their budget mismanagement.  In fact, our report discusses postemployment benefits for private businesses, and how they began to address their liabilities in 1990, to the point that they are now manageable.  Furthermore, a previous WPRI study demonstrated that public sector postemployment benefits far exceed those of the private sector.  Plus, businesses generally don\’t have the taxpayers there to bail them out when they mismanage their liabilities, as governments most certainly will.

It\’s hard to fault Citizen Action of Wisconsin for not reading the whole report, though – they\’re busy during election season trying to elect Democrats to the Wisconsin Legislature and using state funds to do it.

Wisconsin\’s Spiraling Retiree Health Costs

Imagine you\’re a young guy who has just started dating the girl of your dreams.  You get around to the discussion of how many people she has \”been with.\”  She says \”two.\”  (That\’s what girls always say, usually accompanied by an extensive story about how she dated some guy for years.)

Now imagine there was a Girlfriend Registration Service, where prospective girlfriends had to report their past exploits.  Everything is on there – the Spring Break trip to Cancun and everything.  When you go look up the new love of your life, you find out her number isn\’t two – it\’s 34.

Fortunately, for us, there\’s a Girlfriend Registration Service for local governments – called the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB).  A few years ago, GASB began requiring local governments start reporting the amount of health care costs they owe to retirees in the future.  Previously, governments just paid these costs on a year-to-year basis.  But now, they have begun reporting their future unfunded liabilities – and in many cases, they are stunning.

Today, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute released a report detailing local government postemployment liabilities. A review of financial documents reveals that the Wisconsin governments required to report their liabilities carry nearly $6 billion in future retiree health care costs. Of this amount, the largest three liabilities are carried by governments in the Milwaukee area: the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) district at $2.2 billion, Milwaukee County at $1.5 billion, and the City of Milwaukee at $806.3 million.  In many cases, these liabilities dwarf the annual budgets of these governments (for instance, the MPS budget is $1.2 billion, while their liability is $2.2 billion.)

Taxpayers are wondering why they pay more and more in taxes, yet see little direct benefit.  This may be a reason why – a growing chunk of the taxes they pay go to people who don\’t even workfor the government anymore.

Wisconsin’s Spiraling Retiree Health Costs

Imagine you’re a young guy who has just started dating the girl of your dreams.  You get around to the discussion of how many people she has “been with.”  She says “two.”  (That’s what girls always say, usually accompanied by an extensive story about how she dated some guy for years.)

Now imagine there was a Girlfriend Registration Service, where prospective girlfriends had to report their past exploits.  Everything is on there – the Spring Break trip to Cancun and everything.  When you go look up the new love of your life, you find out her number isn’t two – it’s 34.

Fortunately, for us, there’s a Girlfriend Registration Service for local governments – called the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB).  A few years ago, GASB began requiring local governments start reporting the amount of health care costs they owe to retirees in the future.  Previously, governments just paid these costs on a year-to-year basis.  But now, they have begun reporting their future unfunded liabilities – and in many cases, they are stunning.

Today, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute released a report detailing local government postemployment liabilities. A review of financial documents reveals that the Wisconsin governments required to report their liabilities carry nearly $6 billion in future retiree health care costs. Of this amount, the largest three liabilities are carried by governments in the Milwaukee area: the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) district at $2.2 billion, Milwaukee County at $1.5 billion, and the City of Milwaukee at $806.3 million.  In many cases, these liabilities dwarf the annual budgets of these governments (for instance, the MPS budget is $1.2 billion, while their liability is $2.2 billion.)

Taxpayers are wondering why they pay more and more in taxes, yet see little direct benefit.  This may be a reason why – a growing chunk of the taxes they pay go to people who don’t even workfor the government anymore.

In Case You Missed It…

In the extremely unlikely event you didn’t tune in to “UpFront with Mike Gousha” this weekend, I made an appearance to discuss the Republican National Convention.  I was joined by Chris Miklos, who attended the Democratic Convention in Denver and also blogged about it for Wispolitics.com.

You can watch the discussion that aired on the broadcast version of the show here.

You can watch a web-only bonus segment we taped here.

Just a bit of housekeeping:  Miklos made a couple of statements that deserve a response better than I was able to provide in five seconds:

First, I admit I was a little caught off guard when he played the race card right out of the chute, mentioning how much more “diverse” the DNC was than what he saw on tv at the RNC.  I kind of thought we were just there to talk about our experiences, not score partisan points.  But I saw plenty of minorities at the GOP convention – in fact, the Wisconsin contingent itself had several.

In the second segment, Miklos defends the blogosphere by pointing out how quickly bloggers uncover certain “facts.”  As an example, he used the bloggers “discovering” that Sarah Palin had fought to cut special education funding in schools by 62%.  Of course, this is flatly false – they are attributing a budget proposal to Palin that actually came from her predecessor, Frank Murkowski.  In fact, Palin increased funding by 175%.  I knew the number was bogus, and pointed it out, but didn’t have enough time to fully rebut it.  In using numbers like this, Miklos is essentially proving my point – as P.J. O’Rouke said, blogging is free – and worth every cent.

Finally, Miklos says that it was the McCain campaign, not bloggers, that exposed the story about Palin’s pregnant 17 year-old daughter.  But, in fact, the McCain campaign had to do so to respond to an internet smear started by bloggers that alleged Palin’s son was actually her daughter’s.  While I pointed this out on the show, it seems not to have made a dent in Miklos’ talking point.

I suppose after watching the two pieces, you’d get the idea that I am somehow anti-blogger.  As I mention, I think there is a valuable place for blogs – but I do think the decline of newspapers is a terrible thing.  While it’s certainly valid to complain about a lot of the content in the mainstream media, they do quite often do outstanding work, and have much more knowledge and resources to investigate certain issues than bloggers do.  The day newspapers disappear altogether, it wil almost leave us rudderless as a society.

I’d like to thank both Mike Gousha and Wispolitics.com for allowing me the chance to appear in the past week.  It was a great time, and hopefully they let me do it again.

Bloggers and Think Tanks = TLA

A few months ago, I wrote a piece for the State Policy Network Magazine that discussed the symbiotic relationship between bloggers and think tanks. Here it is:

Bloggers and Think Tanks: A Dream Team

By Christian Schneider
Published on Tuesday, April 01, 2008
ARTICLES

Imagine the nation\’s best college football coach, standing at his chalkboard, diagramming plays. He has spent hours staring, bleary-eyed, at videotapes of his next opponent. He has missed meals with his family in order to spend obscene amounts of time diagramming plays that will secure victory in this week\’s game.

Then, imagine that coach has no team.

With all the work he puts in researching his next opponent, a coach needs his players to carry out the game plan. Otherwise, regardless of how brilliant his research is, he\’s talking to an empty room.

Across America, free market think tanks are starting to figure out how to put together \”teams\” to implement their game plans. These teams are made up primarily of the \”citizen media,\” i.e., bloggers. When free-market think tanks begin to involve bloggers in their dissemination of ideas, it provides the institutes with a large, influential web of voices that can highlight issues that may not receive coverage in the mainstream media.

Read More…

Jim Doyle’s Got 99 Problems (but GM Ain’t One)

A friend told me about this, and I honestly didn’t believe him.

Last week in Janesville, Jim Doyle stood at the podium before hundreds of General Motors workers who had just found out that the plant will be closing in 2010. The pain in the room was evident, as the workers flanking Doyle onstage openly wore their disgust on their faces.

Doyle began his speech expressing outrage at General Motors, and threatening “revenge” against the company. He continually praised the workers, who had done nothing to deserve their fate. (We’ll set aside, for a moment, the fact that Doyle’s plan to raise gas taxes by 7 cents per gallon could have hastened the demise of the plant.) Then, to fully ameliorate the pain being felt in the room, he pulled out a quote from one of our great philosophers: Rapper Jay-Z.

In an attempt to say the workers had been “flicked aside,” Doyle tried to use The Jigga Man’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” as an excuse to make the now-famous gesture. He immediately tried to catch himself, understanding what an absurd statement he just made. But this is why I fear public speaking so much – I’m afraid I’m going to say something this stupid in front of an open mike. And in doing so, Doyle may have inadvertently set race relations in Wisconsin back 30 years.  Father Michael Pfleger’s references to black culture were actually more comfortable than this.

To see the video, click here and fast forward to the 25 minute mark. I’d pull the clip off and put it on YouTube to make it instantly viewable, but WisconsinEye’s warnings have sufficiently spooked me into thinking they’re going to sue me for a hundred million dollars if I do so. (Then they’ll team up with INTERPOL to come get the backup copies of my DVDs.)

If one asks how in the hell Doyle knows that Jay-Z song, remember that Barack Obama used the same gesture to respond to attacks by Hillary Clinton. Except there were two stark differences: Obama actually used it in the correct context, and Obama looked like a smooth mother doing it. (Shut yo mouth!)

Since the readership of this blog likely doesn’t even know who Jay-Z is, here’s the video for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” Warning – there’s explicit language, but it’s necessary, as it exposes how ridiculous it was for Doyle to use it in such a somber context.

And here’s a video of Obama’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder” reference that’s good for a chuckle:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Jim Doyle\’s Got 99 Problems (but GM Ain\’t One)

A friend told me about this, and I honestly didn\’t believe him.

Last week in Janesville, Jim Doyle stood at the podium before hundreds of General Motors workers who had just found out that the plant will be closing in 2010. The pain in the room was evident, as the workers flanking Doyle onstage openly wore their disgust on their faces.

Doyle began his speech expressing outrage at General Motors, and threatening \”revenge\” against the company. He continually praised the workers, who had done nothing to deserve their fate. (We\’ll set aside, for a moment, the fact that Doyle\’s plan to raise gas taxes by 7 cents per gallon could have hastened the demise of the plant.) Then, to fully ameliorate the pain being felt in the room, he pulled out a quote from one of our great philosophers: Rapper Jay-Z.

In an attempt to say the workers had been \”flicked aside,\” Doyle tried to use The Jigga Man\’s \”Dirt Off Your Shoulder\” as an excuse to make the now-famous gesture. He immediately tried to catch himself, understanding what an absurd statement he just made. But this is why I fear public speaking so much – I\’m afraid I\’m going to say something this stupid in front of an open mike. And in doing so, Doyle may have inadvertently set race relations in Wisconsin back 30 years.  Father Michael Pfleger\’s references to black culture were actually more comfortable than this.

To see the video, click here and fast forward to the 25 minute mark. I\’d pull the clip off and put it on YouTube to make it instantly viewable, but WisconsinEye\’s warnings have sufficiently spooked me into thinking they\’re going to sue me for a hundred million dollars if I do so. (Then they\’ll team up with INTERPOL to come get the backup copies of my DVDs.)

If one asks how in the hell Doyle knows that Jay-Z song, remember that Barack Obama used the same gesture to respond to attacks by Hillary Clinton. Except there were two stark differences: Obama actually used it in the correct context, and Obama looked like a smooth mother doing it. (Shut yo mouth!)

Since the readership of this blog likely doesn\’t even know who Jay-Z is, here\’s the video for \”Dirt Off Your Shoulder.\” Warning – there\’s explicit language, but it\’s necessary, as it exposes how ridiculous it was for Doyle to use it in such a somber context.

And here\’s a video of Obama\’s \”Dirt off Your Shoulder\” reference that\’s good for a chuckle:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Someone Get This Party Started

Over at the main WPRI site, I have posted my treatise on what Wisconsin Republicans can do to turn the party around.  The blueprint for political success was written by someone that may surprise the GOP.

Read it here.

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