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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

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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

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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

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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

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Email: mitchreynolds4mayor@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 7
Mac Kiel

Facebook
Email: mackielacrosse@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 8
Mackenzie Mindel

Facebook
Email: mmindel.lax@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 9
WRITE IN K.C.Cayo

Facebook
Website
Email: kccayo231@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 10
Rebecca Schwarz

Facebook
Email: rebeccaforlaxcitycouncil@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 11
Jennifer Trost

Facebook
Email: jennifertrostforthe11th@gmail.com


La Crosse City Council – District 12
Keonte Turner

Facebook
Email: keonteturner@yahoo.com


La Crosse School Board
Annie Baumann

Facebook
Email: anniebaumann4boe@gmail.com


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

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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

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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

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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.

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WKOW-TV Newscast – February 11, 2021

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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

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Shocked Yet Unsurprised

January 6, 2021 is indeed a day that will live in infamy. It will forever be a bloody stain on the American story. What happened this day also represents a bullet dodged. It will not be the last one fired at our country’s beating heart.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to be shocked and unsurprised at the same time, but that’s the feeling I had as I watched events unfold. It was heartbreaking and sickening, but there also was an air of familiarity and inevitability about it all. It wasn’t that hard to see this kind of thing coming.

The morning after, I was asked by a radio show host what action Our Wisconsin Revolution might take in response to the armed insurrection on January 6. It’s not just one action that’s needed. A great many actions over an extended period of time are required. The presence of the word revolution in our group’s name makes some people squirm. But if what happened on the day Congress was to accept and confirm the results of the presidential election didn’t make it sufficiently clear how sick politics has become in our country and didn’t make it clear enough how badly we need to revolutionize our politics, nothing will.

The domestic terrorists who attacked the U.S. Capitol and our democracy are not revolutionaries. They are counter-revolutionaries. Their attempted coup sought to end the American experiment with self-government and usher in fascism. The failed coup attempt will not be the final assault. It will take nothing less than a rekindled revolutionary spirit to defend against ongoing insurrections aimed at snuffing out democracy in our country.

The threat will not subside because the president who incited the rioting will soon be made to leave. There are hundreds of co-conspirators in high places who remain in their positions of authority. Many thousands of unhinged extremists remain in our midst. Also among us are tens of millions of Americans who voted for that president and those members of Congress. They presumably did so because they feel unheard and angry and wanted to throw a Molotov cocktail at the political establishment, figuratively speaking.

Our country’s 45th president is nothing if not a very large Molotov cocktail, figuratively speaking. The figurative became literal on January 6. Along with two pipe bombs, among the instruments of destruction recovered by police were actual Molotov cocktails.

Elected officials and public figures and media pundits alike sought to assure themselves and the rest of us that this is not who we are, it’s not what America is. I beg to differ. This is where we’re at as a country right now. Nothing is gained by denying it. Our nation is in trouble. We face multiple national emergencies all at once. If we don’t revolutionize our thinking and these emergencies go unsolved, the anger and desperation that produced the nightmare of January 6, 2021 will only grow.

Mike McCabe


January 7, 2021