July 30, 2004
Scuttling a shibboleth
By Bill Kraus
In her remarks at the press conference where she postponed TABOR (not buried it) Mary Panzer said that Wisconsin ranks 22nd in personal income per capital and 7th in state and local taxes paid per capital. Mary believes this. No one in the press corps questioned this. So it must be true. Kinda.
There are complications in any state-to-state comparisons, because there is no way to incorporate things like how much federal money we get (very little), how we mix and match tuitions and financial aids in higher education, who has and has not toll roads, and, most importantly, whether or not the states being compared pay public costs disproportionately from taxes instead of fees as Wisconsin does.
If the fiscal implications of low fees were factored in, the 22/7 ratio would become 22/15. This would not satisfy the taxophobes, but it would recognize the true reality. We are a high tax state, and the main reasons are that we have traditionally been a high service state whose citizens have always been willing to pay the bills for superior education at all levels. A 22/15 ratio is who we are.
TABOR will come back. But when it does it should not be under the false pretenses of 22/7. A more relevant debate and better discussion can then be about whether or not we in Wisconsin are still what we always were.
July 23, 2004
Mary Panzer has a problem
By Bill Kraus
But maybe it is an opportunity. If the single issue(s) right wing of the Republican Party succeeds in beating Panzer, who is hardly a liberal Republican, in a primary, the blame will lie not with that wing of the party, not with Mary Panzer, but with the alienated "stay at home" moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
If they, instead of staying at home, realize that at long last they have a chance to make both a statement and a difference in voting in a legislative primary (an arena dominated by invincible incumbents), this action could revitalize the homeless middlers and the party itself.
I confess that I am at a loss to explain why less than half of the eligible voters vote in general elections and an overwhelming majority take a pass on primary elections.
So this is more a hope than a prediction. The non-voters can win this election.
Are they mad yet? We will find out in September.
July 16, 2004
Where did everybody go?
By Bill Kraus
Bob Williams has a picture on his office wall of a group of more than 50 citizens in Stevens Point, gathered on a cool October day in the 1960s, in the high school parking lot.
It was a very representative group of locals. From the president of Sentry Insurance to a couple of high school students, with doctors, lawyers, business people, housewives, you name it.
Bob was the Portage County Republican Party chairman at the time, and he had recruited these people to go door to door on behalf of that year's slate of GOP candidates.
It is worth noting that for these volunteers this was a hostile mission. Portage County is, was, and always has been overwhelmingly Democratic. So the best result that most hoped for on this day was that Congressman Laird might break the Dems hammerlock on the county and that this effort would cut the losses across the rest of the ticket. (He would and it did.)
This summer the same Bob Williams helped Ken Shibilski send a letter to 111 business leaders asking for volunteers to repeat this 1960s exercise on behalf of the Bush/Cheney ticket. The letter ended with a suggestion that those who do not like Bush should call the Kerry campaign, and that whatever the case may be they all should get involved in this important election.
Only one person responded. He told Ken to get off his back, because "I don't get into partisan politics."
July 9, 2004
By Bill Kraus
Every once in a while the survivor of the two great Milwaukee papers recaptures its former glory from when its predecessors were widely regarded as "great" American newspapers.
The Sunday, July 4 paper was such an occasion. Amy Hetzner's front-page story on the "baffling school funding problems" is journalism at its best.
She described, with concise and precise documentation, what everyone agrees is a flawed system. She then concluded that it was likely to stay that way because there is no agreement or even common ground among the major players on anything approaching a solution.
What she does not say is that given a political climate that has gone beyond adversarial to something closer to bellicose, compromise (a word that implies accepting the legitimacy of your adversaries' ideas) is probably not possible.
This is bad.
What is worse is the question she asks and gets an answer to in the last paragraph of the story. This entire subject is not on Assembly speaker John Gard's short agenda.
Before we ask John what is on his short agenda, we also must ask if the governor or Senate majority leader Mary Panzer, who have not even been heard from either, have it on their short agendas, and if not, what their priority issues are.