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


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


No More Excuses

A moment of truth has arrived for Democrats. With two narrow victories in runoff elections in Georgia for U.S. Senate seats, the Democrats now will have control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House. The last time Democrats were in that position was at the beginning of the Obama Administration, and they squandered the opportunity to make sweeping changes.

A lot can and probably will happen between now and January 20. President Trump is on his way out, but will undoubtedly try to burn down as much as he can before he’s made to leave. So will congressional Republicans who are falling out of power. What so many of them have done to indulge the president’s fantasies about widespread voter fraud and cast aspersions on the legitimacy of the election—without a smitch of evidence—won’t be the end of it. Our democracy is proving durable enough to survive the onslaught, but these irresponsible antics are still doing immense harm to public confidence in our democratic institutions. Our country will be paying for that for a long time.

What’s been playing out in the aftermath of the election makes one thing crystal clear. Most Republican politicians are deathly afraid of their increasingly unhinged base. There’s been no limit to what they will say and do to remain in good stead with the extremists in their ranks.

While Republican politicians are afraid of their base, the Democratic base seems afraid to expect or demand more from the party’s leaders. Those leaders have refused to embrace Medicare for All even though it is widely supported by the public. Even when Democrats have had control of Congress and the White House, the federal minimum wage has been kept at $7.25 an hour, a poverty wage. It hasn’t been increased in well over 20 years. Antitrust laws haven’t been meaningfully enforced for decades, and corporate power and control over our lives has grown steadily over those decades, decimating family farms and small businesses alike not to mention endangering our democracy. As I wrote in my book Unscrewing America: “Over the past several decades, the list of new ideas or policy innovations for the 21st Century coming from the left is a short one. Even the signature Democratic policy reform in recent memory—the Affordable Care Act—was borrowed from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and was known as Romneycare in Massachusetts before it became Obamacare nationally.”

Yet those who’ve been at the forefront of the party’s leadership have not been cast aside. They’ve been kept in power by the party’s base. These politicians have done nothing to deserve it, but they’ve been given another chance to deliver results for the American people. It’s time to put up or get out of the way.

Mike McCabe

January 6, 2021


Front-page story in Wisconsin State Journal – December 31, 2020


Politics Unworthy of the People

This terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year is almost behind us.

And the year 1 A.T. is nearly here. After Trump, that is.

Still, an awful lot of people remain utterly flummoxed by so many of their fellow Americans falling so hard for a billionaire reality TV star whose message began with fear-mongering, race-baiting, and anti-immigrant nativism and ended with the conceit that he alone could keep us safe, maintain order, and make us prosper economically.

It’s not easy to wrap one’s head around the forces behind his rise to power unless you are personally feeling the anger fueling raging populism that has swept across our country like wildfires. There is a significant segment of American society that can tell politicians aren’t listening to them and are not working on their behalf, and they are steamed.

Many Americans are convinced that the country’s best days are in the rearview mirror. The nation’s politics reflects this angst and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Is it so hard to understand how tens of millions of Americans who fear they’re being left behind could be drawn to someone who tells them they are right to feel the way they do and promises to bring back the good old days?

America is in transition economically at the same time our country is experiencing dramatic social change. Economic dislocations are always painful and traumatic, and the fear and uncertainty and sense of loss that accompany them always find a political outlet. When large numbers of people left the land and went to factories and offices more than a century ago, there was political turbulence. With a global economy emerging, with factory jobs exported overseas or automated out of existence, with great recessions and jobless recoveries and widening economic inequality, once again there is political turmoil.

America is being socially transformed. Mighty blows were struck for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. Now we’re in the midst of a national reckoning with systemic racism. For many, this all feels right. It was about time. Some find the social upheaval discomforting, but they’re adjusting. For others, such change is intolerable, and they are pushing back. Hard. The ferocity of the political backlash is itself a sure indication of how transformative social change movements have been and continue to be.

America is being remade, both socially and economically. There are abundant signs of reinvention and renewal all across the country, but not on Capitol Hill or in Wisconsin’s state capital. Most Americans are adapting to the shifting ground beneath our feet, but our national politics is lagging behind and dragging us down. That makes it harder than necessary for Americans to adjust to the challenges of our time.

One of countless examples is that workers now have to change jobs much more frequently than in the past. Guaranteeing access to medical care by making health insurance truly portable so it follows workers regardless of where they are employed makes all kinds of sense in today’s economy. The political system has so far proven incapable of meeting the need. No wonder there is so much anti-establishment fervor.

America is being remade, both socially and economically. It needs to be transformed politically too.

Mike McCabe

December 21, 2020


End-Running Gridlock

There is so much Wisconsin needs to do to deal with rising economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and the climate crisis.

Turn the minimum wage into a living wage. Further reward work by cutting taxes on earned wages while raising them on unearned income like capital gains that currently are taxed at a lower rate. Get more people health care by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds that the state has turned down. Invest in renewable energy and extend broadband to rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods that can’t get high-speed Internet. Legalize marijuana and tax sales to raise new revenues to help pay for these needed investments while at the same time striking a blow for racial justice in a state where Black people are over four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession despite similar usage rates.

None of these actions will be taken through separate state legislation. Republicans who control the legislature have made it abundantly clear they won’t pass any bills the governor wants. The Democratic governor can veto any Republican legislation, and his vetoes stick because Republicans lack the supermajorities needed to override them. It all leads to stalemate.

The only way to get around partisan gridlock and get any of what voters want and our state sorely needs is to put it in the state budget. The budget bill is the one piece of legislation that has to pass every two years. The next one is due in 2021.

Formulating the budget starts with the governor’s recommendations in late February. Then it’s the legislature’s turn. Legislators can ignore what the governor proposes and rewrite the budget as they see fit…unless the governor has some bargaining chips. Gaining needed negotiating leverage is why Governor Tony Evers needs to propose zeroing out funding for private school subsidies.

The voucher system that doles out these taxpayer-funded subsidies for private schools is one of the GOP’s most beloved pet programs. When ruling Republicans in the state senate and assembly include funding for the program in the budget, as they surely will, the governor can eliminate the funding again using his extensive veto authority. As mentioned, Republicans do not have the two-thirds majorities in both houses required to override his vetoes.

That means Evers has it in his power to dismantle the voucher program. In order to save taxpayer-subsidized private schooling, Republicans will have no choice but to support some of the governor’s budget initiatives. This is the one and only practical way to overcome partisan gridlock in Wisconsin’s divided government.

Say legislative Republicans won’t budge and refuse to support any of what the governor seeks. He can make one of their signature programs go away. Eliminating the voucher scheme would be no great loss to our state. It was started nearly 30 years ago with promises that it would boost student achievement and improve the performance of both public and private schools throughout the state. It has failed to deliver the promised results. Voucher students do no better than their peers in public schools. By some measures they do worse. What these private school subsidies have done is siphon resources away from community schools, weakening them badly, especially in rural areas of the state.

Up to now, Wisconsin Republicans have shown little to no interest in working with Evers and have blocked his actions at every turn. To get the budget voters want and our state needs, he needs to play hardball with them.

Mike McCabe

December 10, 2020


No Time for Timid

Early next year Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers will propose a new state budget for the coming two years in the midst of all the uncertainty that a pandemic produces. It’s an unenviable task and playing it safe is an understandable impulse, but this is no time for an abundance of caution. We face emergencies even bigger than COVID-19—economic inequality, health insecurity, social injustice and environmental insanity—that will lay our state and country to waste if left unaddressed.

Wisconsin needs a state budget that matches the moment. The moment demands bold action to start reversing the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, cure what ails our sick health care system, arrest climate catastrophe, and come to terms with chronic and systemic injustices in our society.

There’s a virtually endless list of possible curative measures. But six ideas are especially popular with the public. Voters of every stripe in battleground states and Republican strongholds across America support these progressive policies. Wisconsin’s citizenry does too.

First, boost wages so when you work you aren’t poor. Lift low-wage workers out of poverty by raising the state minimum wage in Wisconsin from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

Second, reward work by restoring taxation based on ability to pay so earned wages are taxed at a lower rate instead of a higher rate than unearned income such as capital gains and inheritances.

Third, promote wellness by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funds and obtain federal waivers to make as much of the state’s population eligible for BadgerCare as federal Medicaid rules allow.

Fourth, wire Wisconsin to close the digital divide and bring high-speed Internet connections to every doorstep in the state, allowing anyone anywhere in the state to work or run a business from home and for all our kids to be on an even footing for doing schoolwork.

Fifth, wean Wisconsin from reliance on fossil fuels by committing the state to an aggressive climate action plan to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050 that targets economic development funding to the renewable energy sector, which has been creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

Sixth, legalize weed. Doing so would end racially discriminatory criminal prosecution of nonviolent conduct related to the possession and sale of marijuana, halting one cause of mass incarceration. It also would prompt new business start-ups with the opening of dispensaries throughout the state, stimulate the economy and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to fund health care access, broadband expansion and renewable energy investments.

There’s understandable yearning these days for national unity and a return to something resembling normalcy. But this is not a normal moment that lends itself easily to unity. The unemployed want jobs, the hungry want to eat, the evicted want apartments, the foreclosed want to keep their homes and the sick want cures far more than they want political harmony or a return to “normal.”

The moment we’re living in is fraught with peril. Wisconsin needs a budget that rises to the occasion.

Mike McCabe

December 2, 2020