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RoJo Spanked By Panetta for Saying Obama 'Choosing Soc. Security over National Security'

Uppity Wisconsin - Wed, 2012-02-29 17:39

In a heated exchange during yesterday's budget committee hearing, an exasperated Defense Sec. Leon Panetta said Ron Johnson's comments were "untrue" and that he was being "unfair" when Johnson said that the proposed cuts in Defense spending, "changes focus from, really, defending the nation to, really, protecting entitlements."

Of course, what Johnson leaves out of his charge is that defense cuts were agreed to by a majority of Republicans in the house and Senate approved the debt-reduction deal last year.

Johnson also leaves out that lowering the debt was a central part of his campaign when he ran against Russ Feingold.

In a heated exchange during yesterday's budget committee hearing, an exasperated Defense Sec. Leon Panetta said Ron Johnson's comments were "untrue" and that he was being "unfair" when Johnson said that the proposed cuts in Defense spending, "changes focus from, really, defending the nation to, really, protecting entitlements."

Of course, what Johnson leaves out of his charge is that defense cuts were agreed to by a majority of Republicans in the house and Senate approved the debt-reduction deal last year.

Johnson also leaves out that lowering the debt was a central part of his campaign when he ran against Russ Feingold.

And Johnson also leaves out that national security is the last subject he should be lecturing Obama on, considering that Johnson practically walked right by Osama Bin Ladin's mansion in his "fact finding mission" to Pakistan and was duped by Bin Ladin-protecting Pakistan officials, which Johnson defended at the time as "trying to do the right thing." 

Talk about ambivalence!

Fighting Bob - Wed, 2012-02-29 00:00
Apparently many Dems and the UAW in Michigan urged members to vote for Santorum in the belief that he is more beatable than Romney. If these were normal times, I would probably agree with that tactic but these are not normal times! So what is abnormal? The amount of money the bad guys can "invest" in people like Santorum and Walker thanks to Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo renders this year anything but normal.

Our response to unlimited money is the Tin Cup pledge. We are asking all who run in November to refuse Super PAC, union and corporate money. Only in-state individual contributions should be accepted. There is no question that this is a gamble, but the idea of the Democratic nominee raising millions of dollars in three months is not a gamble it leads to almost certain defeat.

The Koch boys can put a billion dollars into the Walker kitty and that scares all of us. After a tough primary several years ago, one of the defeated contestants moaned that if they put in another million dollars they could have elected a brick!

If both candidates are raising money the traditional way--GOP knocking on Wall Street doors, Dems knocking on Wall Street doors--Walker wins. Why? The million people who signed petitions want a clean break from money-dominated elections. The Tin Cup plan has a good chance of motivating the million to give $25 and get out the vote. This gives them a clear choice.

Our next meeting of the People's Legislature will be March 25 (not March 24 as reported here yesterday). And 11:00 to 4:00 is the time. Same site, Alliant Center. We need you to make this work.

If we don't get money out of the system, there is no chance of closing the gap between rich and the rest of us; no chance to stop fracking; no chance to make our schools better; no chance to stop the taconite mine.

WALKER'S RECALL TAKE: Oh, the humanity!

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-28 19:42

Gov. Scott Walker says the estimated cost to the state of running a special election to recall him -- which isn't quite as much money as Walker had at last report raised in campaign funds to fight the effort -- is way too much. "I mean," he told MSNBC, "it’s $9 million of taxpayers’ money just to run this. Think about the number of kids we could help, think of the number of seniors we could help in our state with $9 million that we didn’t have to waste on this — this frivolous recall election."

So there you have it: Give up the recall election, or seniors and kids will suffer across Wisconsin. Straight from the mouth of the man who's been busy making seniors and kids and others suffer across Wisconsin. Straight from the man who gave his corporate sponsors about 15 times more than the recall election might cost, in recurring business tax breaks that the rest of us are paying for.

No, nine million dollars to get rid of this guy would be a bargain.


New Poll: Walker Loses to Dems in Recall Election / Barrett Beats Falk in Primary

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-28 14:04

A new poll was just released by Public Policy Polling (PPP), which is a pretty good pollster. They are considered a Democratic pollster, but they usually err slightly in favor of Republicans in their results.

Here are the most important findings: 

  • Scott Walker is below 50% in face-offs with all Democratic challengers.  In fact, the most Walker could must was 48% against Peter Barca.  This is a very bad sign for any incumbent, but especially Walker, who has saturated the air waves for the last three months without any advertising from the Dems.
  • Kathleen Falk, Ron Kind, Russ Feingold and Tom Barrett lead Walker in head-to-head match-ups. 
  • In a primary, Barrett beats Falk 45% to 18%, with Doug LaFollette picking up 14% and Vinehout 6%
  • 52% of Wisconsinites disapprove of Scott Walker's job performance.  Among women, this number is 54%, while with men his disapproval is 49%.  Among independents, this number is 55%.  Among voters over age 65, however, Walker's disapproval is only 45% and his approval is 54%
  • Among moderates, Barrett beats Walker 64 to 29%, Falk beats Walker 60 to 30%. 
  • Falk is viewed favorably by 31% and unfavorably by 43% while Barrett is viewed favorably 41% and unfavorably by 33%.   Interestingly, among women, Falk is viewed unfavorably by 38% / favorably by 32%, while Barrett is viewed unfavorably by 27% / favorbly by 41%.
  • The poll finds that there is not a majority in favor of the recall: 49% favor and 49% oppose a recall. This is a very important statistic.  There is 5-10 percent of voters that oppose Walker, but disagree strongly with a recall election because they think its an unfair tactic, that recalls should be like impeachment and only used for misconduct in office.   For these voters Democrats must drive home that it is a remedy for Walker's unfair actions:  He did not campaign on ending collective bargaining for public sector unions and then "dropped the bomb" a month after he got sworn in.  This is also why Dems are running the "Walkergate" ad to give those voters a "misconduct in office" angle to boot Walker.


Scott Loves Lamp

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-28 10:22

Wisconsin's version of "Mitt Loves Lamp," which of course was inspired by the movie Anchorman, where the charactor "Brick" looks around the room to find inspiration for things he loves.  This is a 2009 video of Walker talking to the Wisconsin State Journal about things he loves about Wisconsin.

"Unemployment Rate at Three Year Low" is Meaningless: Three Years Ago 59K More People Were Employed

Uppity Wisconsin - Tue, 2012-02-28 09:30

If you've heard Scott Walker in the last couple of months, you've heard him say something along the lines of 'our reforms are working-- you need look no further than the unemployment rate being at a three year low.'

Well, actually we do need to look further.  Walker is deceptively conflating job creation with the unemployment rate, because most people assume that if the unemployment rate has gone down, that job creation has gone up. That is true in the vast majority of cases, but not here. 

This is because the unemployment rate is simply a ratio of unemployed workers to the total workforce.  So, for the sake of argument, let's say that three years ago Wisconsin had a workforce of twenty, eighteen workers were employed, and two workers were unemployed giving us an unemployment rate of 10%.  Now, let's say that Wisconsin's workforce is currently ten workers, nine are employed, and one is unemployed-- our unemployment rate would still be 10% even though our economy had obviously gotten much worse in that three year time period. 

So, comparing and unemployment rate of one time to another time is only of value if your pot of workers is the same or has grown from the earlier bench mark-- which is usually the case, but again, not the case here. As the chart below shows, three years ago Wisconsin had 58,600 more people employed in December of 2008 than in December of 2011-- the latest employment Bureau of Labor Statistics that Walker is basing his "best in three years" claim upon.

In other words, Wisconsin's unemployment rate being at a three year low is mostly due to the fact that the labor force in Wisconsin has shrunk (left the state) significantly over the same three year period and has little to do with Scott Walker's supposed job creation.

And while we're talking about Scott Walker's job creation numbers, let's review:

  • Despite a nationally recovery, Wisconsin's job growth has been so anemic under Scott Walker that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there has been no "statistically significant" change in the number of jobs in Wisconsin -- in other we have either lost or gained a very, very tiny number of jobs under Walker's tenure, but its so microscopic that the BLS can't say with any statistical certaintly one way or the other.
  • During Scott Walker's time as governor, Wisconsin has dropped to 45th in the country in job growth. (Source: BLS, Dec 2010 to Dec 2011 percent change in nonfarm employment, All States, Not Seasonally Adjusted.) 
  • Since Walker's budget passed, no other state in the country has lost jobs for six consecutive months.
  • Even though most job growth in Wisconsin comes from small businesses, Walker has taken up policies that hurt small businesses and put almost all his efforts behind bribing big corporations into the state with huge taxpayer-funded give-aways. 

But, we do have the lowest unemployment rate in three years!

No challenge?

Fighting Bob - Tue, 2012-02-28 00:00
How boring, how anti-climactic, how pedestrian. The governor won't challenge a single signature out of a million calling for his recall. He will be only the third governor in U.S. history to be recalled.

His excuse for not challenging the signatures? Not enough time! He has raised about 12 million dollars since the recall got underway and the Koch brothers have made it clear that they will support their brave governor financially, so are we to believe that Walker could not afford to hire temps to check ballots? C'mon! This work hardly qualifies as difficult so why no challenge? You know why. The signatures are valid and a challenge would demonstrate just how hollow the GOP verbal assaults have been. Walker figured it out. If only a handful of signatures turned out to be worthy of a challenge he would look silly. So, instead, he comes up with a public relations spin: "not enough time." And he still looks silly.

So now what? Well, the four Republican senators are subject to recall, or so the Dems say. Should a couple of them lose, politics in Wisconsin would possibly return to normalcy. The Democrats would have a majority in the Senate, the Republicans would control the Assembly, and it is better than 50-50 that a Democrat will be elected governor.

Think about it. We could focus on the corruption of the Supreme Court, push public financing of elections, demand an independent DNR, monitor the elections in Waukesha, stop the madness of a proposed 21-mile-long and 4-mile-wide scar on the state to permit aconite mining. (Creation of a lake" with the volume of water equal to Lake Winnebago.) Oh boy! Can you see the sun rising? I can.

NOTE: Joe Gruber gets out of hospital today in Mississippi. Joe will be back in Wisconsin in mid-March. Hooray!

Despite the actions of some lawyers recently, there was a reminder of how some lawyers make us proud to be in the Bar. Jack DeWitt was one of those lawyers. He was a lawyer's lawyer and a good man to boot. Jack passed last week and he will be missed. He called me about once a month to comment on something I had written in the Cap Times. Even if he disagreed with my position, he encouraged me to keep on writing.

I think of Wade Boardman, Henry Field, Bob Curry, Nat Heffernan, John Skilton, Dick Cates, Mark Frankel and many more. Add Jack Dewitt to the lawyer's hall of fame. Attorneys who were committed to the law. Lawyers who made us better citizens. Thanks, Jack, well done.

People's Legislature March 24. Same place, but promise to move it to a more central site next session. Candidates will be asked to refuse PAC, union and corporate money.

In other words, put down the Tin Cup! In fact, the Tin Cup Brigade will be vigilant in keeping the candidates to their promise to run on principle and individual, small in-state donations. We can break the back of big money. You did it with the impossible task of recalling a sitting governor. Next up, the miracle of getting those million + recallers to get-out-the-vote. Are you ready?

Money for nothing

Fighting Bob - Tue, 2012-02-28 00:00
A new report emphasizes that farm subsidies should be a two-way street.

On Walker pension scheme: Politifact yourself, Journal Sentinel

Uppity Wisconsin - Mon, 2012-02-27 09:51

RedactedThe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning follows up our own weekend blog post on Gov. Scott Walker's effort to paint his "study" of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) as merely thoughtful and prudent, rather than rapacious. With a decidedly different take, of course.

More important, the item in the newspaper's Politifact column (link below) makes us revisit a question we've asked before:

When the Journal Sentinel writes about the pension plans of other public or even private workers, shouldn't in the interest of good journalism it fully disclose the fact that its parent company, Journal Communications, Inc., itself has a pension plan? 

And when the newspaper editoriailzes about or makes pronouncements about the efficiacy of the state pension system, and when it backs Walker's efforts to "reform" that pension program for 400,000 local and state public employees across Wisconsin, shouldn't it disclose that it's been tinkering mightily with the pension program serving its own employees? Do you think that might otherwise represent an undisclosed conflict of interest? After all, as the Associated Press reported in Ocober 2010:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel publisher Journal Communications Inc. says that on Jan. 1 [2011] it will permanently freeze benefit accruals in its current pension plan and supplemental benefit plan. Instead it will offer enhanced 401(k) matching contributions to its employees.

Similarly, Walker has spoken of bifurcating the Wisconsin Retirement System, creating a "defined contribution" plan for new hires that would amount to a risky 401(k). The Journal Sentinel editorially has been rather tolerant of this concept and even defensive about it, as in today's Politifact, which rates as "false" a chain email warning pubilc employees across the state that Walker's ongoing and unprecedented study of the WRS is just a precusor to making changes that will wreck the pension system.

As county executive, Walker proposed a move toward a 401(k) plan for the Milwaukee County pension system, which echoed Republican efforts nationally to bifurcate Social Security and Medicare. As actuaries and fiscal analysts note, shifting new hires to a 401(k) type system eventually means the entire pension system would disappear in favor of that system, as older workers and retirees died. That would no longer be a pension system at all. Yet Politifact says it's "false" that Walker has plans to do precisely that. Well, true, maybe he doesn't have plans. Just designs.

But whatever the degree of Walker's own rhetorical bifurcation (he fixed the deficit, but he has a deficit; he doesn't want to touch the WRS, but he's touching the WRS already), the Journal Sentinel needs to let its reporters and editors disclose its own financial interest in this type of activity -- an interest that affects not only its workers and stockholders, but also its readers.

Related Links

College could be dangerous

Fighting Bob - Mon, 2012-02-27 00:00
Rick Santorum has given us a peek into his soul. Who is he? Read on. He has concluded that colleges and universities are destroying religious commitment among students. He pulled some stats out of the air, or a body part, that say 62 percent of college students lose their faith commitment while in college. Therefore, if we want to fool the devil we had better keep our kids out of universities. It worked for Scott Walker. Why not the rest of us?

Good Lord, where are the boundary lines? Imagine a presidential candidate warning us to keep our kids and grandkids out of higher education! He is looney-toons.

Catch these good words from our would-be leader. He was sickened by JFK's speech to Protestant bishops in 1960 because Kennedy said the Vatican would not control his policies. Kennedy believed, as did our founding fathers and mothers, that there must be a clear separation of church and state. I suspect Rick is making this up as he appeals to religious nuts in Michigan, but it should hit the alarm bell.

Hey, folks, listen up. This nut could be elected. While I doubt it, you never know what a billion from the Koch boys might do. This is scary.

Military response to Afghanistan riots. One of our military and civilian leaders, Ryan Crocker, said, "We can't leave now." Why not? Well, apparently because the people hate us so much we must remain and fight them. Ah, yes, war. Easy to get in, almost impossible to get out.

Republican Attack on Milwaukee Area Technical College Board

Uppity Wisconsin - Sun, 2012-02-26 02:33

Another Republican Sneak Attack on Milwaukee, Citizens and Minorities: Pay attention folks!


While few were watching the Senate committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Higher Education advanced SB 275 after a series of 4-3 party line votes created a bill that would disband the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board. The four who voted in favor were:

Dale Schultz, Chair (R-Richland Center)

Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)

Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn)

Terry Moultin (R-Chippewa Falls)

It is pretty hard to be farther from Milwaukee than these four water carriers for the Republican donors.


This bill will dismantle the board and rebuild it by eliminating the existing two employer, two employee, one at large seat. (this has been in place for at least 100 years) These five board seats would be replaced by five board members who must be from private “for-profit” businesses or from health care entities, credit unions or cooperatives.


If this isn't bad enough they also changed the Board Appointment Process. I worked at MATC from 1966 to 1997 and was knowledgeable and involved with the formation on the District in the late 1960's as it evolved from Milwaukee Institute of Technology into the current MATC and I was also responsible for the Board Appointment process in the 1990's. The MATC District was deliberately formed to correspond with the boundaries of the school districts and not municipalities. This was done to assure that the educational mission of the College would be carefully coordinated with the k-12 schools in the district and that the College would not be subject to partisan politics of municipalities. Currently the MATC board appointment committee is made up of the chairs of the Schools Boards in the district and additional members from the Milwaukee board to reflect its size. This process has been in effect since the formation of the district.


SB 275 would eliminate this Board Appointment committee and replace it with a four member appointment committee made up of the Milwaukee County Executive, The Milwaukee County Board Chair (Milwaukee county has 90% of the population of the MATC District), the Washington County Board Chair,(Just a small portion of Washington County is in the MATC District and that represents 2% of the District population) and the Ozaukee County Board Chair (most, but not all of Ozaukee County is in the MATC District and it represents 7% of the District Population). The Republicans in the suburban counties are not satisfied with financially starving Milwaukee, now they want to call the shots on what is left.


Without going into more detail, SB 275 will remove small business, public service, and citizen representation and essentially define all of the current minority board members out of their board positions. This bill is remarkable in the amount of damage it will do. It is essentially a Private for-profit take over of a publicly funded college.


Each day more and more people send me warnings of creeping fascism. Just saying,



'A World Undone'

Fighting Bob - Sun, 2012-02-26 00:00
This title of a wonderful book on WWI has come home to roost.

I listened to a UW political scientist tell a Milwaukee audience in the early fall of 2010 that there would be a Republican tsunami in November of 2010 that would turn out even unbeatable Democrats in Washington and Wisconsin.

The reasons he gave were widespread fear, uneasiness, disappointment with the way the world was going, and an unusually strong urge for major changes, new ideas, straight talk.

After his predicted results came true and the radicalization that followed the tsunami was carried out by the winners, another UW political scientist told this same audience that the independents and uncommitted voters who gave the Republicans their stunning victories a few short months before were now appalled at what they had wrought. The next election, he predicted, would swing the pendulum fully back the other way.

Both of these predictions are based on the assumption that the voters who really decide elections reside in what used to be regarded as the moderate middle. They are people who are looking for a government that works, for candidates who sound like problem solvers.

The natural, rational conclusion that I drew was that the 2012 election (and the recalls that preceded that election in Wisconsin) would be characterized by strong appeals to those swing voters who are persuadable and numerous enough to determine the outcome of the 2012 elections.

It hasn’t happened.

The Republicans are particularly focused on their base constituents and are going beyond being indifferent to the moderate middle to going out of their way to alienate them. They are stuck in old ideologies and prejudices.

The President, since he is in office has to work a wider agenda and is the potential beneficiary of the Republicans’ parochial appeals appeals and tactics, is not going out of his way to address issues and ideas that interest or worry that moderate middle either.

It is true that primary campaigns are usually more partisan than the general election, because the fewer voters who turn out for them are more partisan. But at this stage of the game it is considered prudent to keep one foot on the moderate dock instead of jumping into the true believers’ boats.

All of my experience and history would suggest that the advisers and the candidates would be acknowledging that governing is more about close questions and original responses to new situations than about old, tired subjects that are more crowd pleasers than problem solvers. I would think that there is more to leadership than finding words and images to accompany the petty, personal digs that seem to be a standard part of the current crop of campaign geniuses’ repertoire.

The fact that the delivery system and the people who make the media decisions are tilted toward one liners and 30-second commercials which work best with simple didactic appeals has been a factor in undoing the world I knew.

Even so, I am surprised that all these supposedly smart professionals with all that money are not listening to the predictions and advice of the political scientists. Instead, they are telling their clients to play the same old songs, at a higher decibel level.

Someone is wrong. I don’t think it’s the political scientists.

Way way out there

Fighting Bob - Sun, 2012-02-26 00:00
Maureen Dowd writes that Republicans are finally figuring it out. It is not good to watch them eat themselves alive. The Big 4 candidates for president are in a crouch waiting to pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates--be it humanity toward women, to compassion toward immigrants....All four are nuts.

From Ayn Rand's lead fan, Paul Ryan, to the latest crazy talk from Newt at Oral Roberts University (sit down before reading Newt's warning that defeating Obama--the most dangerous president in American history, was a duty of national security because he is incapable of defending the United States.)

I believe that Gingrich is, in essence, calling for either a coup or the assassination of Barack Obama. If Obama is the most dangerous president in history and he is incapable of defending our country, he must be removed. Whoa Nelly! Talk about scary!

Remember "truth in sentencing?" and "life means life"? Many Americans thought that truth in sentencing would provide an end to parole but also reduce costs by informing the public every time a prisoner is sentenced. The court would explain the cost to the state. An informed electorate could make some rational decisions. Take, for example, a person convicted of possession of drugs. Do we want him in prison at $41,000 per year? I don't think so. But the result is that we are going broke trying to fund our bloated prison population. If we don't permit inmates to get out of prison before the entire term is completed our prisons will be so overcrowded that courts will have to intervene to eliminate the awful conditions that result from truth in sentencing. Think California for proof.

Today's NY Times raises another problem: prisoners with cognitive disabilities. Think about a high number of Alzheimer "patients" in prison. In New York, the state is paying $91,000 per year per inmate with cognitive disabilities. Other prisoners cost $42,000. We have 1.6 million in our prisons. Do the math and ask if we have lost our marbles.

The Wisconsin State Journal keeps touting its role as "Wisconsin's Independent Voice." Yah, sure Ole. Read the editorial today calling on the Legislature to rush the mining bill through. C'mon, this is an awful bill, or, more appropriately, two awful bills. The fact that WMC and the mining companiy drafted the bills should end all discussion until we get a "do over."

There has been precious little investigative journalism on the impact of proposed mines. Ah, but the State Journal can think only of JOBS.

PACing with the devil

Fighting Bob - Sun, 2012-02-26 00:00
Feingold tries to set Obama right on super PACs.

Why Tom Barrett?

Uppity Wisconsin - Sat, 2012-02-25 18:07

Bill Kaplan weighs in on why he thinks Tom Barrett is the best potential candidate for governor.  More at Wisopinion --

Now that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has said that he is "seriously considering" running for governor in the impending recall election, I say: run Tom run. Why? As a former guest columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal I had an opportunity to get to know then U.S. Representative Barrett. Here's what I learned.

I still remember the first time I met Barrett. He was completely unassuming. Not a whiff of pretentiousness. Barrett had an easy manner with a sense of humor. After reviewing his voting record it was clear that Barrett is a progressive but not an ideologue. I also learned he is a practicing Catholic whose religious beliefs are anchored in economic justice and tolerance. There's more.

URL:  Wisopinion Article

New Uppity Fund candidates

Uppity Wisconsin - Sat, 2012-02-25 15:43

We've added a few new candidates to the Uppity Fund, because the Wisconsin political scene is ever-changing, and we are trying to keep up.  Notably we've added Kathleen Vinehout and Lori Compas to the fund -- you can contribute to whichever candidates you want, or just do one lump donation to be equally spread among great Wisconsin progressive candidates. Just click on the ActBlue widget to the right.

Money isn't everything in politics, but it's a cinch that all of these candidates are going to need financial help to stay in the race against people who are backed by big corporate donors. So do what you can.

WALKER: Don't worry, I'm not planning to change state pensions, because that would be against current law

Uppity Wisconsin - Sat, 2012-02-25 13:57

Wisconsin state government is sending out emails to public employees reassuring them that Gov. Scott Walker isn't planning to scale back, transform or gut the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), widely regarded as the best funded and best run pension program in the nation.

Why was it necessary for the Walker administration to do this? Because public employees for good reason do not trust Walker. And because Walker sees this latest uprising as another threat to his governorship.

Walker sent an email to his cabinet secretaries, some of whom in turn this week wrote to their staffs in an attempt to damp down growing concerns and rumors regarding the state's plans for the WRS. In his original email, which some of the cabinet secretaries simply repeated verbatim, Walker said he's just taking a close look at the pension system to "support" it with new research.

Never mind that this kind of research already exists, outside the political realm of partisan policymakers. The move by Walker is very troubling, because state lawmakers have never before presumed to interfere in the way the retirement system's professional actuaries run the show.

Walker also wrote that employees should not be worried, because state law does not allow elected officials to modify already-earned benefits. Which, of course, falls on deaf ears among public employees local and state who remember with crystal clarity how Walker overturned decades-old state law to gut their labor unions. [It's not so much state law as court rulings, by the way, but in any event that's irrelevant; read on to see way.]

Walker must think public employees have short memories. Buried in his original "budget-repair" legislation last year was a provision to study the possibility of establishing a defined contribution system as an alternative to the long-standing and very successful public pension system. Walker made a similar proposal for Milwaukee County employees when he was county executive.

Even if Walker could be believed when he says he won't touch existing retirement benefits (hell, he's already touched the benefits of existing workers by cutting the state's contribution), he has said nothing about the possibility he might split the system, offering fewer benefits for new employees or a defined contribution plan instead of a pension plan, or both. That's a divide and conquer strategy.

Some Republican legislators meanwhile have suggested it might be a good thing to separate the University of Wisconsin's employees from the WRS. See, they don't want to destroy the fund in one grand move; rather, they just want to shrink it to the size where they can drown it in a bathtub.

Why did Walker find it necessary to send out his problematic reassurance? Because Republicans last year eventually did pass a budget measure requiring a detailed study of the WRS, due June 30. That measure was widely seen as a precursor to a Republican attempt -- replicated in other states -- to move away from the current defined benefit system toward a defined contribution system.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, that kind of move would begin an eventually total change of WRS from a pension program to the equivalent of a 401(k). Instead of promising employees a certain level of retirement benefit based on years of service, the benefit would be totally defined by how much of your own money you'd put into the program and how well the program performed.

Of course, anyone who has a 401(k) knows that it's a huge crap shoot. Indeed, many people have seen their 401(k) retirement investments devastated by the last several years of economic meltdown. So much for retirement income security.

And public employees have every reason to be suspicious of Walker's motives and intent. For one thing, he tends to lie a lot, as even Politifact has recognized. For another, Republicans are openly fond of private investments as an alternative to public retirement systems, ignoring those occasional Wall Street financial meltdowns that benefit the insiders at the expense of most citizens.

Indeed, George W. Bush and other Republicans made concerted efforts to move Social Security investments into risky Wall Street instruments in order to "save" the program. Not only would that have been a profitable boon to private fund managers, it would remove most of the existing certainty in the government programs, certainty that helped keep our economy stable for many decades. And Rep. Paul Ryan would like to rip a big hole in the hull of Medicare by doing the very same thing to it -- redefining it for future users in a way that will harm the entire program until it withers.

WRS, by the way, covers most public employees at all levels in Wisconsin, except for Milwaukee city and county, which have their own pension systems. That's hundreds of thousands of local government employees in Wisconsin, including public school teachers, whose pensions Walker and company would like to further devolve.

Some people including many Republican politicians point to problems with public pensions outside Wisconsin (most of them the result of other states' politicians failing to fully fund their pension programs despite promising to do so). These observers also regard pensions as unfairly generous. But the fact is that a pension contribution amounts to a delayed, deferred salary. Before Walker, the State of Wisconsin often negotiated lower salaries with represented employees in exchange for larger state contributions to pensions, a win-win result for both government and its employees. 

Walker, of course, is the politician who ignored that truth and who made state employees -- already making less in total compensation than their private-sector counterparts -- pay even more of their earned income into their pensions, reducing the state's promised contribution. That was just another pay cut on top of earlier ones, politically disguised as a "fairness" issue.

Walker is also the governor who tried appointing businessman John Peterson to the board overseeing WRS. John Peterson withdrew from consideration after criticism over his earlier stint on the board. In 2000, Petersen voted to have the board invest $80 million in a business that had ties to a company in which he owned stock.

Walker is only the latest Republican governor to go after the pension fund. When Tommy Thompson was governor, he mounted a direct raid on the pension system's funds in order to help pay for a state government subsidy to Chrysler Corp., which was threatening to pull its Kenosha automaking operations. Courts ruled that the pension raid was illegal and the state had to replenish the fund. Chrysler left Kenosha anyway, even though it got to keep the pension monies that taxpayers had to cover to make public retirees whole again.

And there was a car salesman

Fighting Bob - Sat, 2012-02-25 00:00
Ryan Braun, MVP Braun, that is, won his arbitration. But good old "Mr. Baseball," commissioner, car dealer, wealthy man Selig is furious. Nothing wrong with baseball, hollered Selig and his office. Just a technicality, they said, as if technicalities in baseball don't count!

Good lord, Bud Selig, who conned Tommy Thompson into building a new stadium for his team at taxpayer expense; Bud Selig, who got his college degree in political science and history, would have you believe he knows the law! Just a technicality, says Bud. But some have suggested that the guy hired to collect urine for Bud and rush it to Fed Ex might me the problem. The guy's name is Dino. Dino Laurenzi. Dino's dad says he is a "good boy." His dad called him a "straight shooter." Perhaps this time he didn't shoot straight, if you get my drift.

Dino has never been in trouble. Any accusations against him "would be unfounded." Yah, sure.

His web site his bio says Dino is trained in sports medicine and specializes in athletic performance training and rehab. Our guy Dino did not follow the rules, but Selig's assistant said: Dino, "the extremely experienced [urine] collector acted (get this) in a professional and appropriate manner." No he didn't, Bud. No he didn't.

Wonder why we did not allow drug tests in the NFL?

Three judges have it now!

Fighting Bob - Sat, 2012-02-25 00:00
A federal three-judge panel now has the scandalous Wisconsin redistricting case. MJS reports that testimony and arguments went until 9:00 last night. Twain once said a lie gets half-way around the world before Truth gets her boots on. In the redistricting case, nicely reported by MJS, Truth probably never took her boots off!

Secret meetings, emails, memos and meetings; the Walker folks made us the laughing stock of the nation and exposed our judicial process for the farce it has become. Imagine having all or nearly all GOP legislators sign secrecy agreements. Agreements signed at a law firm, paid nearly half a million dollars to draw the lines for the partisans, in order to claim attorney-client privilege? Are they kidding? This is spy novel material. Attorney Peter Earle, an attorney for Voces de la frontera, summed it up with these comments:

They chose to initiate a process in secrecy, hide it from the public, draft intentionally vague agreements with consultants, hired three expensive law firms to be paid over a million dollars, mostly by taxpayers. One of the outside lawyers stated that he drafted consultant agreements to be vague so that the public would not understand the agreements! And swore that politics was not a factor. Whoa Nelly! They deprived the public of the ability to scrutinize what was done, said Earle.

As I look at it, the lawyers for the state and the GOP operated with a determined effort to control the legislative maps and they believed that the only thing that could stop them would be sunlight. Thus they decided to keep the public in the dark. Just the opposite of Open Records. This is a disgrace!

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