Tag: bipartisan

Wisconsin State Assembly votes to gives taxpayer money to millionaire NBA team owners

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly voted to give millions of dollars taxpayer money from ordinary Wisconsinites the owners of professional basketball’s Milwaukee Bucks in order for them to build a new arena by a 52-34 vote, with 5 members not voting at all, 4 members casting paired votes in favor, and 4 members casting paired votes in opposition.

Here’s the Wisconsin State Assembly members who voted for the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare giveaway:

  • Scott Allen (R)
  • Joan Ballweg (R)
  • Peter Barca (D Minority Leader)
  • Mandela Barnes (D)
  • Janel Brandtjen (R)
  • Robert Brooks (R)
  • Bob Gannon (R)
  • Evan Goyke (D)
  • Gordon Hintz (D)
  • Rob Hutton (R)
  • John Jagler (R)
  • Adam Jarchow (R)
  • La Tonya Johnson (D)
  • Andy Jorgensen (D)
  • Robb Kahl (D)
  • Terry Katsma (R)
  • Samantha Kerkman (R)
  • Frederick Kessler (D)
  • Joel Kleefisch (R)
  • Dan Knodl (R)
  • Dale Kooyenga (R)
  • Jesse Kremer (R)
  • Mike Kuglitsch (R)
  • Tom Larson (R)
  • Amy Loudenbeck (R)
  • Cory Mason (D)
  • Jeffrey Mursau (R)
  • John Murtha (R)
  • John Nygren (R)
  • Alvin Ott (R)
  • Jim Ott (R)
  • Kevin David Petersen (R)
  • Warren Petryk (R)
  • Jessie Rodriguez (R)
  • Dana Rohrkaste (R)
  • Joe Sanfelippo (R)
  • Michael Schraa (R)
  • Christine Sinicki (D)
  • Ed Skowronski (R)
  • John Spiros (R)
  • Mark Spreitzer (D)
  • Jim Steineke (R)
  • Lisa Subeck (D)
  • Rob Swearingen (R)
  • Paul Tittl (R)
  • Tyler Vorpagel (R)
  • Robin Vos (R Speaker)
  • Dana Wachs (D)
  • Leon Young (D)
  • JoCasta Zamarippa (D)
  • Josh Zepnick (D)

In addition to those, Mark Born (R), Dianne Hesselbein (D), Bob Kulp (R), and Tom Weatherston (R) cast paired votes in favor of the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare deal. However, under Wisconsin Assembly rules, paired votes, which can only be recorded if members casting the paired votes have an excused absence, do not officially count as votes in favor or in opposition to legislation, but are officially recorded as paired votes in the official vote tally. Personally, I think the paired votes rule should be repealed in any jurisdiction that allows paired votes, since it seems  like a relic of the pre-automobile era, when it was very difficult for a state legislator who lived a long distance from the capital city of a particular state to get to the state capitol building.

This deal is a terrible deal for Wisconsin taxpayers from every corner of Wisconsin, and it would have been cheaper for the State of Wisconsin to let the Milwaukee Bucks leave for another state than to keep the team by way of corporate welfare for a new arena.

While proponents of the deal have claimed that the deal will pay for itself over time, the fact of the matter is that the deal would certainly not pay for itself. Over a 20-year period, the State of Wisconsin will pay $3.5 million annually to the Bucks, which will play 41 games per year (not counting any preseason or postseason games) in the new arena, starting with the 2017-2018 NBA season. It would require the Bucks to have an average home game attendance of 170,732 or greater to make up for the money that the state gave the Bucks owners to build the arena through the 50¢ cut of a $2/ticket surtax that the state receives. Since the maximum spectator capacity of the arena is going to be roughly somewhere between one-tenth and one-eighth of the break-even attendance figure of 170,732, it’s absolutely unrealistic to expect the state portion of deal to pay for itself over time.

By the way, here’s how I calculated the 170,732 figure for determining break-even attendance for the state portion of the deal:

  • State portion of expenditures to the Bucks is $3,500,000/year
  • There are 41 home regular season games for each of the 30 NBA teams, including the Bucks
  • The portion of the Bucks ticket surtax that the state receives is 50¢/ticket
  • 3,500,000/41/0.5=170,732, rounded up to nearest whole number

In fact, if one were to factor in every revenue and expenditure factor of the deal, such as any tax revenue created or saved by the Bucks deal and the costs that taxpayers in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are on the hook for, the break-even attendance figure for the entire Bucks deal would probably still be more than any reasonable estimate of the maximum spectator capacity of the new arena. This is for two reasons. First, the portion of the money going to the Bucks owners that Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee taxpayers are going to be on the hook for is in the low nine-figures. Second, there isn’t a ton of tax revenue that will be created or saved by the deal due to a large number of tax exemptions associated with the deal. To put all of that another way, the deal isn’t going to pay for itself. Even if the state portion of the deal repays itself and them some, it would still short Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee a large amount of taxpayer money that could have been better used for local government services that serve a public purpose and that Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are legally responsible for.

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Russ Feingold is back with a more boring attitude

Russ Feingold, who represented Wisconsin for three six-year terms in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011, is officially running for his old job. Surprisingly, for someone who is a longtime political figure in Wisconsin and claimed in his first statewide campaign that he knew Wisconsin like the back of his hand, he stated in his campaign announcement that he wanted to listen to Wisconsinites (presumably, this means holding listening sessions, but I don’t know if Feingold’s campaign intends to schedule any in Wisconsin):

If that campaign video is indicative of the “new Russ Feingold”, while he’s still very progressive, he’s a lot more boring, stale, and generic than the “old Russ Feingold”, who was known for running some very populist, creative, and funny TV ads, especially the first time he ran for U.S. Senate in 1992. Keep in mind that I do regard Feingold as a political hero, as he was the only U.S. Senator to vote against the anti-Fourth Amendment PATRIOT Act, which established the Bush-Obama surveillance state, and he led the fight to enact stricter federal campaign finance laws in the early 2000’s. In fact, Feingold’s call for bipartisanship was incredibly tone-deaf, given how much of a progressive patriot Feingold was during his first three terms in the Senate and how polarized America is nowadays.

However, I’m not a fan of how the Mike Tate-led (for only a few more weeks) Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) is handling Feingold’s campaign. To me, it seems like they’re trying anoint Feingold as the Democratic candidate in a backroom, which is very un-Feingold-like. There will be a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, if I’m not mistaken, sometime in late summer of next year, although it remains to be seen whether or not any other candidates decide to run against Feingold in the primary. I’d love to see someone like State Representative Melissa Sargent of Madison run against Feingold in the primary, although I highly doubt that she’s interested in higher office, and I don’t think that anyone worth my endorsement would run in a primary against Feingold. In fact, the DPW tried to paint Feingold as two different people, one of them being the “bipartisan” Feingold and the other being the “progressive” Feingold:

“After four years of Ron Johnson’s failure to serve our middle class, Wisconsin voters are ready for a leader who isn’t beholden to wealthy special interests and won’t waste time on petty, partisan, political battles that stand in the way of ensuring economic opportunity for all.

“That’s why there is an incredible sense of optimism and enthusiasm for Russ Feingold entering this race. Russ Feingold is a tried and true champion for all Wisconsinites who will put their interests first and work every day for seniors, veterans, students, and working families – not the millionaires and billionaires who have already gotten everything they wanted and more from bought-and-paid-for Ron Johnson.

The first paragraph sounds more like someone of the mold of Democratic State Representative Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton (i.e., someone who is personally progressive, but can be very annoying with the “bipartisan” shtick) than Feingold, and the second paragraph sounds like the old Feingold that Wisconsin progressives remember and admire. It’s worth noting that Hesselbein is the only current Democratic elected official in Wisconsin that I have knowledge of Feingold meeting with between the time he left the U.S. State Department and the time that he announced his intention to run for his old U.S. Senate seat.

However, let’s be 100% clear who the eventual opponent for Feingold or, in the unlikely scenario in which Feingold loses the Democratic nomination, whoever else Democrats nominate, will be: Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, considered by some to be the #1 Democratic target in the next year’s U.S. Senate elections. Johnson is about the closest thing to a pro-sex abuse politician there is anywhere in the entire country. Johnson has, in the last several years, either protected or fought to protect perverts like disgraced former Republican State Assemblyman Bill Kramer and Catholic priests, both of which have sexually abused women (in the case of Kramer) and/or children (in the case of Catholic priests). Johnson is also on record as claiming that the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is unconstitutional, which is a false statement. If the Democratic opponent to Ron Johnson is completely unwilling to attack Johnson over that, than he or she shouldn’t be running against him, since, in my opinion, not attacking Johnson over his pro-sex abuse record amounts to not really wanting to defeat him.

If Russ Feingold doesn’t start sounding like the brave progressive patriot that Wisconsin progressives know, admire, and remember, they might start looking for another Democrat who will stand up to the failed, corporate Democratic leadership, fight to restore the American middle class, stand up for the rights of the American people, fight to end corporate welfare as we know it, and refuse to compromise their core progressive values.

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to trade, it’s President Obama

After over six years of, outside of a few issues like Social Security and domestic spying where he’s sided with the far-right Republicans, largely relying on progressives as a base of support, President Barack Obama has launched a full-on War on Progressives by openly antagonizing opponents of proposed free-trade agreements, including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would destroy most of what little sovereignty America still has.

This is what President Obama said at an Organizing for Action (OFA) summit in our nation’s capital:

When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about…I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to international trade, it’s President Obama and his corporate allies in both major parties in this country. In fact, the fact that the TPP and other free trade deals and policies

For many decades, tariffs and other trade protections made America great by building a strong economy and manufacturing sector that provided middle-class jobs and American-made goods that Americans could actually purchase. Now, because of NAFTA, CAFTA, Most Favored Nation status for China, and other agreements and laws that have loosened American trade policies, most goods sold in the United States are made in foreign countries

Over the last three and a half decades, we’ve seen the effects of current free-trade agreements and other free trade policies between the U.S. and foreign countries, and they’re almost entirely negative. For several very brief periods in the early 1980’s, the U.S. actually had a very small trade surplus. Since then, because of free-trade policies that have been pushed by every president from Ronald Reagan onward and a bipartisan corporate coalition in Congress, wages in this country have been driven downward, the manufacturing sector of our economy has been annihilated, our trade deficit with foreign nations has exploded, the vast majority of goods sold in this country are foreign-made, and the American economy has become an economy full of low-wage jobs. Here’s a graph showing how our nation’s trade deficit has exploded since 1980:

U.S. Balance of Trade 1980-2015 (Graph Courtesy of Trade Economics)

For someone who professes to be a constitutional scholar, President Obama clearly doesn’t understand that the TPP itself and the fast-track authority for it are both blatantly unconstitutional.

The TPP itself is in blatant violation of Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the structure of our nation’s court system. Article III, Section 1 reads as follows:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

(emphasis mine)

While I’m not an attorney, I interpret Article III, Section 1 as allowing for the creation of a single Supreme Court of the United States and any number of federal courts that are below the single Supreme Court. Since the TPP would create the Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS), a de facto court system that is effectively above the U.S. Supreme Court, this means that the TPP is blatantly unconstitutional.

The fast-track authority for free trade agreements blatantly violates a different part of the Constitution, specifically, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, which reads as follows:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine)

Again, I’m not an attorney, but I interpret Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 as requiring approval by two-thirds of U.S. Senators who are present for such a vote, for ratification of any treaty negotiated and signed by the President on behalf of the United States. However, since fast-track authority, among other things, allows for free trade agreements, which I consider to be a type of treaty, to be ratified by a simple majority of members of both houses of Congress who are present for votes on such agreements, fast-track is blatantly unconstitutional.

I know I’m going to say something controversial, but I’m willing to say it: President Obama and his corporate allies in both parties in Congress have a deep-seeded hatred of the concept of American economic sovereignty, and they are pushing to enact a corporate globalization agenda in order to drive down wages, pollute our environment, and destroy the American economy without any regard for the U.S. Constitution or the American people. While some international trade is necessary due to consumer demand, globalization and weak trade protections are destroying America and our economy, and we certainly don’t need more of the same.

For President Obama to effectively claim that the overwhelming majority of those who twice elected him President of the United States are stupid is absolutely disgusting and traitorous.

Many conservatives don’t like the Republican takeover of public education in Wisconsin one bit

I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)
I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)

You might be surprised to find that opposition to 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), or what I like to call the “Wisconsin school shaming and partisan takeover bill” because, if enacted, it would result in, among other things, poorly-performing Wisconsin K-12 schools being taken over by a board controlled by political appointees and possibly handed over to millionaire charter school operators, is not solely from teachers’ unions, Democratic and progressive elected officials, and various progressive groups, although all of these are strongly opposed to the legislation for a large number of reasons.

As Heather DuBois Bourenane, the author of the Wisconsin progressive blog Monologues of Dissent, wrote, the opposition to Wisconsin AB1 is broad, bipartisan, and across the ideological spectrum.

Former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, a center-right Republican, publicly called the bill “a disaster” and warned that the bill could very well result in “eliminating completely the authority of local school boards and making them subject to a political board”.

Even many conservatives are opposed to the proposed Republican takeover of Wisconsin public schools.

Stop Common Core Wisconsin, a right-leaning political organization that is opposed to the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin, publicly called the school grading system that would be implemented if the bill were to be enacted “a sham” and criticized the legislation for taking away local control from K-12 school districts in Wisconsin. Additionally, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a far-right legal organization, criticized the legislation for putting political appointees in charge of private schools. While I usually disagree with conservatives and their political organizations, these two groups are making valid points in this particular case: This bill would take away local control from public school districts in Wisconsin, and, although WILL will disagree with my firm belief that private schools shouldn’t be able to receive taxpayer money at all (whether it be in the form of school vouchers or otherwise), I strongly believe that private schools shouldn’t be under the control of a governmental body of any kind.

As DuBois Bourenane pointed out in her blog post, the only groups not lobbying against the single worst anti-public education legislation in American history “are those with direct links to the organizations lobbying for “reform” (read: privatization) of public schools”. Sadly, school privatization interests wield a ton of influence in the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and they have large majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

I strongly encourage Wisconsin state legislators to vote NO on AB1, as the bill is not a school accountability bill, but a school shaming, takeover, and privatization bill that would destroy public education in Wisconsin. Additionally, I strongly fear that Bruce Rauner, who will be sworn into office as Governor of Illinois tomorrow, will propose legislation similar to Wisconsin AB1 here in Illinois.