Monthly Archives: May 2015

Let the taxpayers prevail

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burningbridgeWe’ve had our frustrations with voters of Conservative inclination asking “Why can’t they just do what’s right?” with no coherent idea of just what that might be.  But we’ll happily issue a free pass to anyone who asks that question now,

provided the issue is the reluctance of Wisconsin Republicans to do away with the prevailing wage law.

The real reason—it ought to be mortifying to express—is that contractors specializing in public works projects and raking off unjustifiable profit at taxpayer expense thanks to prevailing wage, will retaliate, quit making big campaign contributions to Republicans, and even recruit primary opponents to take down incumbents who vote for repeal.  The answer to that is, any incumbent who can’t turn that sort of challenge to his or her advantage is not bright enough to be making laws.

A few weeks ago we referenced a study finding that prevailing wage artificially inflates the cost of Wisconsin public works projects by as much as $300 million annually.  Since then, examples involving more comprehensible numbers have surfaced.

And believe it or not, there are contractors who support repeal and a fair deal for taxpayers.

Groping for ways to make the status quo look like reform, some GOP lawmakers have floated the idea of raising the project-cost threshold for prevailing wage requirements to kick in.  In other words, taxpayers get soaked only on the really big jobs, with the extra toll added onto the projects that already cost the most.

Brilliant.  That’ll put the Republicans in solid with Tea Party voters.

There’s still time to “do what’s right,” but first Republicans need to deliver some hard news to their former colleagues lobbying for the corrupt status quo. A GOP that frets over burning bridges should wake up and smell the smoke.

First and Foremost

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firstamendmentneedsAfter several decades watching government grow larger, more intrusive, and simultaneously less proficient in executing its responsibilities, we think we know a slippery slope when we see one. Signs abound that we are on such a slope where the First Amendment is concerned—a development deeply unsettling

if you happen to be among those who believe vigorous exercise of the First Amendment to be the best insurance against any need to drastically apply the Second.

Not long before they lost their majority in last fall’s elections, U.S. Senate Democrats voted to amend the First Amendment so as to enhance the control of political speech by the federal government.  That will go nowhere in the current Congress but it was thoughtful of the Democrats to show everyone what they will do, given a chance.

Last month, the flailing front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, in between lurching from one implausible lie to another, said truthfully that she would like to alter the First Amendment to restrict the political speech that is the primary purpose of its existence.

And of course there is the “Move to Amend” campaign, claiming bipartisan support but tub-thumping for a constitutional amendment authored by some of the looniest members of Congress’ loony left.

The proximate cause of all this is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision affirming that unions and corporations have the same protected right to political speech the Amendment extends to everyone else.  But the energizing force is Democrats eagerly exploiting the desperate insecurities of their constituencies. Pandering to interest groups that are traumatized by the mere thought of disagreement necessarily implies a commitment to stamp out alternative views.

Those “Celebrate diversity!” bumper stickers are evidently shorthand for “Be just like me or else!”

The question they didn’t ask…

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whyWisconsin media have tried this dishonest ploy before, and evidently Madison’s WISC-TV decided to try again and see if they could stir up outrage over the increased cost of ensuring Governor Walker’s physical safety.

We wouldn’t object to someone writing an honest report on the subject, “honest” defined here as something that goes beyond five chintzy paragraphs crafted to tell only that it costs taxpayers a lot more to protect Walker than his predecessor.

We’re betting a lot of people who have never been within a hundred yards of a journalism school will quickly recognize that a basic imperative of a competently-written story—the “why?”—is thunderously absent.

Call us cynical, but we’re also betting someone was counting on their audience to assume the “why” is that Walker is not-quite-officially running for president, and to resent the expense. Anything to knock down a Conservative who poses a serious threat to Democrats retaining the White House.

But if anyone connected with this half-baked hit piece was remotely interested in conveying something truthful, they might have mentioned one other difference between Jim Doyle and Scott Walker besides their security costs.

You didn’t hear about people threatening to kill the governor or stalking his family or doing physical damage to the Capitol building when Jim Doyle held the office. Would we be jumping at conclusions by suggesting that might have something to do with Doyle treating state and local government as an ATM for public employee unions, whereas Walker made the unions ask for their members’ money instead of just taking it?  Somehow the media managed to find out about this all the way out in New York.

Last Thursday’s crummy, five-paragraph TV story explains a lot more than was probably intended, for those who know what questions to ask.

The Wrath of Grapes

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Rotten GrapesSmall-government advocates are frequently disappointed when departments and agencies fail to vanish forthwith upon the electorate rejecting Liberal governance. Espousing a praiseworthy ideal, the advocates overlook an indispensable component of that ideal: resistance to precipitous change.

Given the prolonged Liberal dominance of American government, it must be assumed that this under-appreciated resistance has quietly spared us troubles unimagined these past 80-plus years. Conversely, how much counterbalancing change—how much governmental shrinkage—lies within reach, may be telegraphed by the decision pending in a case argued last Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1921 the price of raisins reached a then-astronomical $235 per ton, prompting (figuratively) half of America to become raisin producers and then (predictably) raisin prices to implode. This and other logical market developments inspired Congress to adopt the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, whereupon, responding with what passes for alacrity in government work, the Agriculture Department in 1949 created a “Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Raisins Produced from Grapes Grown in California.”

The Department’s Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC, and no, we aren’t making this up,) annually collects a percentage of the crop and, to maintain prices, withholds it from sale.  Marvin and Laura Horne of Fresno, California saw the RAC take nearly one-third of their 2004 crop without compensation.  Later, the RAC attempted to confiscate raisins from their property (“We’ve come to seize your berries, not to praise them?”) and when unsuccessful, demanded to be paid the full value of the raisins—a deal the Hornes couldn’t get from the government.  The Hornes’ lawsuit alleges unconstitutional taking of private property.

Their case has made two unsatisfactory trips through the wacky 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  If the Supreme Court can find its way to support them, small-government advocates may yet have cause for hope.

Termites at Work

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termitdamageYears overdue, photo identification will be required the next time Wisconsin voters go to the polls, for the spring elections in 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court finally settling that issue was good news, but the fight over ballot security will never be over.

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Pluto) greeted the Court’s action with a renewed call for his constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to vote ostensibly meaningless, the proposal’s sinister nature lies in its open-ended guarantee, setting the stage to argue that there is no such thing as a reasonable condition to be imposed on exercising the franchise. His co-author Rep. Keith Ellison is on record saying he can’t imagine why there should be any standard at all for voting.

Their amendment will go nowhere in the current Congress, but it’s troubling that it has managed to garner support in what used to be one of a tiny handful of Wisconsin newspapers that took a fairly conservative editorial stance.

Munching away at the foundations of ballot integrity on another front, the American Civil Liberties Union two weeks ago was busy trying to dissipate the value of photo ID by expanding—in ways the Public Radio report never specified—the list of things that qualify as valid identification.  Watch for union activists showing up at the polls with Publishers’ Clearinghouse sweepstakes mailings.

Where does this lead? Well, it’s hard to believe the Obama administration would deliberately facilitate millions of illegal border-crossings without expecting something in return. And with most U.S. media maintaining either an indifferent or a purposeful silence, we look—as we so often do—to a British newspaper, and a leftist one at that, to find out what’s happening here.

Coming soon to an election near you: non-citizen voters.