Taxing Stupidity

Congress acted, approving the president’s mammoth Covid relief package, floating a gigantic lifeboat for millions of pandemic-weary Americans. Room was made for folks from Wisconsin in the lifeboat if state lawmakers don’t give away our reserved seats.

A prime example is the money being made available to states to get health insurance coverage for more of their residents. If Wisconsin has the good sense to just say yes, we can get more than $1.6 billion in federal funds to expand our BadgerCare program and get health insurance for nearly 91,000 more people in our state. The money is there for the taking.

Problem is, up to now legislative leaders in Wisconsin have been insistent on refusing to accept federal money for BadgerCare expansion. Wisconsin is one of only 12 states that haven’t taken federal funds to expand eligibility for Medicaid—known here as BadgerCare—as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. The governor included the federal funds for health insurance in his proposed state budget. The Republican state assembly speaker called that proposal a “non-starter.” GOP leaders are calling the idea a “liberal’s dream” and a “liberal wish list.” It’s not just liberals who dream of more people getting insurance coverage with the federal government picking up the tab. More than two-thirds of state residents favor expansion of BadgerCare. This is something that’s on Wisconsin’s wish list.

Because Wisconsin has been refusing to take available federal money that would fund expansion of our BadgerCare program, Wisconsin taxpayers end up paying more in state taxes to insure fewer people. That’s just plain nuts.

If we take the money, more people get health care, taxpayers here in our state pay less of the cost of BadgerCare, and the overall state budget outlook improves. This is a no-brainer. Only thing standing in the way is brainless politics. Petty partisan politics.

If petty partisanship prevails, people here in Wisconsin will end up paying what amounts to a $1.6 billion tax on stupidity. We’ll all pay for the foolishness of the party that’s currently calling the shots in both houses of our state legislature. Available federal funds that could greatly benefit our state will instead be routed to other states to help their people. Wisconsin taxpayers will pay more in state taxes to get fewer people health insurance coverage. And it’s not like any of us here in Wisconsin are going to get a break on our federal taxes because our state turns down its share of federal funding. All that’s going to happen is that other states are going to get richer and Wisconsin is going to get poorer.

State budget hearings are being held next month. State lawmakers need to hear a simple message loud and clear: Take the money! Expand BadgerCare!

Mike McCabe

March 16, 2021


Election Integrity in Green Bay

What do you call it when a hearing is held to investigate possible wrongdoing, but only the people who allege wrongdoing are called as witnesses, and the only “evidence” they provide is opinion and innuendo?

That’s called a sham hearing. And that’s exactly what the Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly held to look into allegations of election fraud in Green Bay.

Republicans are accusing Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich of turning over the election to a private corporation because the city, along with 100 others in Wisconsin, received a grant to help cover the costs of administering a record-breaking presidential election during a pandemic.

This grant went to pay for things like protective equipment, sanitizer, and hazard pay for poll workers. Federal judges have ruled such grants are appropriate — especially when elections officials are not receiving that support from their own state.

Yet the Republicans have insinuated the Green Bay election was somehow fixed — even though federal and state courts have dismissed lawsuits by the former Trump administration that sought to invalidate thousands of Wisconsin votes.

None of those facts mattered to the Assembly Republicans who held this sham hearing — and heard only from other Republicans who wanted to perpetuate these sham allegations. Neither Mayor Genrich, nor any of his aides, nor any elections officials in Brown County were invited to testify or even informed of the hearing.

We think such politics needs to be called out for what they are: a sham. If you agree, you can do one or both of the following:

  1. Sign this open letter of support for Green Bay’s election process spearheaded by faculty at UW-Green Bay
  2. If you are a Green Bay voter, urge city council to stand up for free and fair elections

If you want to see more, the city of Green Bay has posted all documents pertaining to the 2020 election on its website.

If this sham hearing had produced a specific allegation regarding election integrity, we might see the need for an investigation. It didn’t. Its main purpose was to act as a smear campaign because some people didn’t like the outcome. That’s not how any of this is supposed to work.

— Cathy Cowan Becker, Northeast Regional Organizer

March 15, 2021


Thrown Overboard

So Congress has acted, approving the president’s massive Covid relief package. Help is on the way—in a dizzying array of different forms—for millions of Americans. But not for some who need help the most.

A long overdue pay raise for low-wage workers became a casualty of congressional deal making. It’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving of help than frontline workers paid at or near the minimum wage. The work they do can’t be done from the safety of their homes. They may be invisible to those in power, but they are not hard to spot. They are serving customers, stocking shelves, cleaning public restrooms, caring for the elderly and the disabled, putting their health at risk to keep businesses and public services going during the pandemic…they are the very definition of essential workers.

It’s been a dozen years since the federal minimum wage was last increased. The U.S. has never gone longer without raising the federal wage floor in the eight-decade-old law’s history. Those working for the minimum wage today are living below the poverty line.

When the Covid relief bill was passed by the House, it included a series of gradual increases in the minimum wage over five years to eventually bring it to $15 an hour by 2025. Congress was using a process called budget reconciliation to act on the bill, and when the House-passed bill went to the Senate, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that increasing the minimum wage was not budget related and not relevant to pandemic relief.

It is absurdly anti-democratic that the parliamentarian, a Senate staffer elected by no one, can singlehandedly prevent a wage increase for 32 million workers. And it’s pathetic that so many elected representatives of the people were willing to surrender their authority, abdicate responsibility and allow the staffer to do that.

Increasing the minimum wage would unquestionably increase payroll tax collections. And by boosting millions of workers out of poverty, they would no longer need public assistance, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s preposterous to rule that raising the wage floor does not have budgetary implications and shouldn’t be included in a budget reconciliation measure dealing with Covid relief when low-wage workers have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. But that’s what the parliamentarian ruled, despite the fact that opening the arctic to oil drilling was previously allowed under budget reconciliation. So was eliminating penalties under the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate.

When moments of truth arrive, priorities are revealed. When there’s only so much room in the lifeboat, it’s been low-wage workers who get thrown overboard. The federal minimum wage law is more than 80 years old. In the entire history of the law, only two presidents have failed to sign into law an increase in the wage floor during their time in office. Obama and Trump. And Obama was in office twice as long as Trump. What happened with the Covid relief bill is a continuation of what’s been going on for quite some time. Only so much room in the lifeboat. Something has to go. Increasing the minimum wage got sacrificed. Again.

Mike McCabe

March 11, 2021


La Crosse Endorsed Candidates – Spring 2021

The Our Wisconsin Revolution – La Crosse Chapter is pleased to announce our endorsements for the spring election on April 6, 2021.

The following candidates have earned our endorsement based on their alignment with our values and local platform and their willingness to engage with our members in an ongoing dialog about the issues impacting La Crosse. These candidates prioritize equity and inclusion and are committed to uplifting our most marginalized neighbors with progressive policy solutions.

La Crosse Mayor
Mitch Reynolds


La Crosse City Council – District 7
Mac Kiel


La Crosse City Council – District 8
Mackenzie Mindel


La Crosse City Council – District 9


La Crosse City Council – District 10
Rebecca Schwarz


La Crosse City Council – District 11
Jennifer Trost


La Crosse City Council – District 12
Keonte Turner


La Crosse School Board
Annie Baumann


Be sure to visit for election information, voting dates and locations, and important dates and deadlines for voter registration and absentee ballot requests.


If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Imagine if shoes came in only two sizes. Most people would have unhealthy relationships with their footwear. Many would go barefoot. There almost certainly would be a national shortage of podiatrists.

Thankfully, our shoes aren’t like that. But our politics are. America has at least four distinct and incompatible factions shoehorned into two political parties. Leaving a whole lot of people feeling unrepresented and trapped in an unhealthy relationship with their own society, and leaving the parties increasingly fractured and on the verge of disintegration.

Our country has its Old Money faction. These Americans are economically privileged, socially conservative and politically elitist. They’ve had it good and want to keep it that way. They are open to some social change, but not too much and not too fast. They see democracy as mob rule and want political power kept in the hands of ruling elites.

America also has a New Money faction that is economically comfortable, socially liberal and politically bureaucratic. Members of this faction value fairness and are troubled by inequality, but their affluence makes them prone to prioritizing social causes over economic justice. As for governing, they favor cautious incrementalism. They believe in democratic institutions and are sticklers for process.

Then there is an Old World faction that is economically vulnerable, socially nostalgic and politically authoritarian. Its members used to be comfortably middle class but aren’t anymore. They want to turn back the clock and return to what they consider the good old days. They are profoundly distrustful of governing elites but also drawn to powerful authority figures.

Finally, there is a New World faction made up of the economically exploited, socially countercultural and politically rebellious. They feel left out and held down, and want dramatic economic and social change. They challenge authority and want political power broadly shared.

All four factions are sizeable. The Old and New World factions are populist, the Old and New Money factions are establishment. While the two populist factions share many of the same economic grievances, one is authoritarian and the other anti-authoritarian, and they have irreconcilable differences on social issues. The two establishment factions are both economically advantaged but likewise have clashing socio-political values.

More or less aligned social views have the Old Money and Old World factions struggling to overcome vast economic differences and uncomfortably co-existing within the Republican Party while the New Money and New World factions are awkwardly sharing the Democratic Party. Looking at it through this lens, you can see why Donald Trump has such a grip on the Republican Party. Trump straddles two factions. He embodies Old Money while his nativist and autocratic populism appeals greatly to Old Worlders. But his embrace of white nationalism and the ongoing threat he poses to the GOP’s hierarchy alarms the Old Money faction and is splitting the party apart. You also can see why tensions are so high on the Democratic side and why establishment Democrats have gone to great lengths to marginalize insurgents like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Each of America’s four factions is different enough and large enough to be a party in its own right. Given current conditions, our country probably should have four major parties, not two. But we have a political set-up that rigorously enforces a two-party arrangement, which forces unnatural alliances that have an awful lot of people walking around in some mighty ill-fitting shoes.

Mike McCabe

February 25, 2021


Wackos vs. Wimps

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson says what happened on January 6 “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection.” Fact-checkers called that claim “ridiculous revisionist history” and gave it a “pants on fire” rating. A few of Johnson’s fellow congressional Republicans accepted the truth about what happened that day and acted accordingly in the former president’s impeachment trial, only to be censured by their own party.

In the state legislature, ruling Republicans haven’t passed a single bill that’s become law since last April to ease suffering caused by the pandemic—or do anything else worthwhile for Wisconsin, for that matter—but they continue to use every trick in the book to subvert public health directives on mask wearing and physical distancing.

At both the state and national level, GOP officials continue to pander to their increasingly unhinged base, peddling bizarre and thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, ranting incessantly about advancing Marxism in America while blessing their former president’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin, and making their party a safe harbor for white supremacists.

One thing has become crystal clear: America has one political party that’s downright scary. And growing scarier by the day, posing a major threat to the country’s health and welfare. Problem is, the U.S. has another party that’s scared. That makes a big mess far harder to clean up.

America desperately needs prompt and dramatic action dealing with multiple national emergencies—a public health crisis of immense proportions, widespread economic hardship, glaring and growing inequality, seething social and racial unrest, and impending environmental calamity—but key Democrats are afraid to act without the cover of bipartisanship. They fear political repercussions if they suspend the filibuster rule in the Senate to free them to act swiftly and boldly on the intersecting crises plaguing the nation. They wring their hands and fret over the possibility that any action taken without Republican support might not be greeted with universal acclaim.

Funny how Mitch McConnell never seems to have such worries. Whenever he really wanted something—and he really wants control over our nation’s courts—he didn’t hesitate to cast aside the filibuster to steamroll the opposition.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers just put forward his state budget request. When Republicans who call the shots in the state legislature discard the governor’s proposals—which is as inevitable as the U.S. Senate acquitting the former president was—the question is whether he will take it lying down or do something to overcome the stonewalling.

Our Wisconsin Revolution pleaded with Evers to play hardball with Republicans and propose eliminating funding for private school vouchers—one of their favorite programs—also making it clear he’s prepared to use his extensive veto authority to thwart any effort to restore the funding unless they make concessions. Most Democrats I talked to winced at the suggested use of such a tactic to gain leverage in budget negotiations with legislative Republicans. They worry voucher backers are powerful and would surely seek revenge. They were unpersuaded when I reminded them that organized labor was seen as similarly powerful 10 years ago but not even 100,000 people protesting at the Capitol and a million people signing recall petitions could dissuade Scott Walker and his GOP allies from ramming through legislation kneecapping unions.

Governor Evers did not eliminate private school subsidies in his budget plan. Democrats always seem reluctant to exercise what power they have, even when public opinion is squarely on their side. Republicans have no such qualms, regardless of what the public thinks.

We have one party in this country that’s scary and another that’s scared. The scary one is the aggressor. When it has the ball it’s always looking to score. When it doesn’t have the ball, it’s scratching and clawing to get it back. The scared one appears to be playing defense whether its side has the ball or not.

All of which leaves our state and country caught between political paralysis and psychosis.

Mike McCabe

February 18, 2021


Tell the PSC to help working families go solar

One of the biggest barriers to people going solar is the cost. Many residents, small businesses, and nonprofits can’t afford to pay up front for installing solar panels on their roofs.

In other states, there’s a solution. It’s called third-party financing, sometimes referred to as power purchase agreements or solar leasing.

Instead of paying for an entire solar system up front, you can pay a small fee to “rent” the panels that someone else owns and use the electricity the panels produce. Many of these deals are rent-to-own, with the customer making monthly payments to buy the solar system.

Third-party financing is an important tool for working families, small business, and nonprofits such as churches to make the transition to reliable clean energy. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that the top 10 states for customer-sited solar all allow third-party financing.

Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, We Energies is standing in the way. A company called Eagle Point Solar had an agreement to put solar panels on seven city buildings in Milwaukee under the third-party financing arrangement — but We Energies refuses to connect the solar arrays, claiming this arrangement would turn Eagle Point into an electric utility.

Now the case is coming before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which will take public testimony at a hearing Wednesday, February 17, at 2 p.m. The PSC is also taking written comments through Tuesday, February 23.

Please consider testifying at the Public Service Commission hearing.  If you can’t make that, please consider submitting a written comment.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Talking Points

RENEW Wisconsin has a fact sheet on third-party solar financing here (pdf)

Environmental Law and Policy Center has talking points here:

  • The PSC has an opportunity to clarify the law and promote public interest over monopoly profits.
  • Third-party ownership gives citizens and organizations an option to install solar energy with no upfront payment and to take full advantage of federal tax credits for solar projects.
  • Nonprofits, houses of worship and local governments cannot directly use federal tax credits, so this approach helps them to realize their solar and sustainability goals.
  • A solar developer is not acting as a public utility when it utilizes third-party ownership to finance solar projects sited on a customer’s property.
  • The utilities’ claim that it needs to know the identity of anyone who finances, funds, or invests in distributed generation projects to protect the “integrity” of the grid is disingenuous.
  • The utilities’ refusal to interconnect over a financial consideration is an abuse of their power. to control access to the grid and should not be tolerated.

Rent-to-own arrangements exist in Wisconsin for all sorts of goods such as appliances and cars, without making the companies that offer these arrangements a manufacturer or distributor. Third-party financing for solar energy is specifically allowed by law in 28 other states.

It needs to be allowed in Wisconsin, too. As Wisconsin pursues a just, equitable, sustainable future, it is more important than ever to open every avenue to clean energy possible for all residents.

Thank you for considering action on this important issue for Wisconsin’s clean energy future.


WKOW-TV Newscast – February 11, 2021


Serves Them Wrong

Republicans are under a spell they cast on themselves.

So bewitched are they that they feel they have no choice but to trade in baseless conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. They know better. They know vote counting in America is highly decentralized and locally controlled, with nonpartisan or bipartisan election administrators, assisted by legions of volunteer citizen poll workers. They know how impossibly difficult it would be to get them all to join a conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes or doctor vote counts.

They know there were poll watchers from both major parties observing at polling sites throughout the country, not to mention independent journalists monitoring the whole operation. They know there were numerous recounts done to verify results, and they know dozens of judges in states across the country—including many appointed by their own party—reviewed the process and considered allegations of voting irregularities. They know that in every single case in every single place those allegations were found to be without merit.

Yet in spite of all these checks and balances and all the evidence, they still indulge the fantasy that an election with a clear and decisive outcome was somehow stolen. The spell has made them allergic to plain truth.

The spell has them feeling they have no choice but to excuse treason and sedition and to defend violent insurrection aimed at overthrowing our republic. The spell has them feeling they have no choice but to embrace bigots and to allow their party to become a safe harbor for white supremacy. The spell has them spewing nonsense about how everything from the pandemic to climate change is a hoax.

They brought this on themselves.

At some point in the last 10 or 15 years, Republicans came to believe they could not win enough elections to hold power by sticking to their blueprint of cutting taxes for the rich, dismantling the social safety net and deregulating business. They lost confidence that voters would continue to buy what they were selling. They lost faith in their own governing philosophy.

So they cooked up a scheme to hold the most offices even when they don’t have the support of most voters. In 2011 they gerrymandered the hell out of congressional and state legislative districts across the country. They did it right here in Wisconsin, and their contorted district maps worked like a charm. In the last decade Democrats have been winning the most overall votes in elections for congress and the state legislature, but Republicans have won the most seats and have maintained majorities in both the state assembly and senate as well as Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.

They thought they were drinking an elixir of life from a fountain of youth. Turns out they drank poison. Their gerrymandered districts made them invulnerable to election challenges by the other party, but put them at the mercy of the most extreme elements in their own ranks. They made it so the only elections they can lose are their own party primaries, which has made them deathly afraid of their own increasingly unhinged base.

Today’s Republicans put themselves under a spell that has them denouncing democracy, denying science, cozying up to racists and domestic terrorists…and sentencing their own party to a slow and painful death.

Mike McCabe

January 27, 2021

News Press Releases

The State of Our State

A response to the dueling “State of the State” speeches given by Governor Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Our nation’s politics is on a bullet train to crazy town. The armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that sought to violently overthrow our republic leaves all of us nervously wondering what additional horrors await us in the days to come.

The toxic partisanship, divisiveness, polarization and political dysfunction on display nationally have infected our state politics. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, no legislative action whatsoever has been taken since April dealing with this public health emergency and providing some relief to those who’ve lost employment, lost health insurance and face losing their homes. The state of our state government is paralyzed. This political paralysis leaves Wisconsin stuck in a rut and more directionless than it has been in a very, very long time.

Wisconsin is not dealing with health insecurity magnified by the pandemic and is not acting decisively to cure what ails our sick health care system. Wisconsin is not addressing glaring and growing economic inequality. Wisconsin is not responding constructively to widespread civil unrest all across the country and right here in our state, and is not coming to terms with the underlying social and racial injustices fueling these disturbances. Wisconsin is not acting boldly in response to the climate crisis.

The governor calling the legislature into special session is not the answer. Obstructionist legislative leaders have shown repeatedly they will gavel in and gavel out without acting. Ruling Republicans will not pass legislation of any importance that the Democratic governor wants. The governor will veto any legislation of importance passed by the legislature. The result is inaction on the biggest problems facing our state. Paralysis.

The one possible path to progress is the state budget process. The budget is the one and only bill that really needs to pass every two years, and a new one is due to be enacted this year. The governor will make his budget request next month and what he proposes will be pronounced dead on arrival in the do-nothing legislature…unless the governor employs a strikingly different strategy than he did two years ago, one that compels legislators to negotiate with him in good faith.

When he campaigned for the office, the governor promised to phase out taxpayer-funded subsidies for private schools. When the voucher system that delivers these subsidies was created some 30 years ago, proponents claimed it would boost student achievement and improve the quality of both public and private schools. The program has failed to deliver these results. When programs work, they should be continued and funded. When they fail, they should be ended. The governor should keep his campaign promise and eliminate funding for this failed program in his budget proposal.

Despite the private school voucher scheme’s failures, Republicans who control the legislature love the program. If the governor proposes eliminating funding for it, they will surely work to restore that funding. The governor, however, could use his veto authority to overturn that legislative action, and Republicans do not have the supermajorities in both houses needed to override that veto. If they want the governor’s approval of some funding for their pet program, they will have to grant him some of his wishes. Maybe this is how Wisconsin can get long overdue Medicaid expansion to insure more people during this pandemic.

While he’s at it, the governor could keep his word to close down the state’s corporate welfare office. The governor also could work at keeping another of his campaign promises to cut the state’s prison population in half and propose more funding for the UW System than for prisons. He could stand with Mr. Republican himself, former Governor Tommy Thompson, and propose turning one of our prisons into a college. Legislative Republicans are heavily invested in corporate welfare and surely will balk at its elimination, but maybe the threat of it is the way they can be prompted to cooperate in acting to remedy the shameful fact that more of Wisconsin’s state budget is spent on prisons than on the entire state university system.

Keep your promises, governor, and provide the kind of leadership and pioneering spirit that Wisconsin once had and that made our state a progressive beacon for the rest of the nation to follow.

Mike McCabe

January 13, 2021