Wisconsin Democrats Help Lead the Great American Renewal by Ron Malzer

Wisconsin Democrats Help Lead the Great American Renewal by Ron Malzer

If there were any question about the importance of Democratic Party efforts in 2020, it was answered at the Wisconsin Democratic party annual convention, conducted virtually on June 5th and 6th. Held just over six months following Joe Biden’s landslide victory, it was a chance for Democrats in our state to hear praise and recognition of their work by our elected leaders.

Democratic President Joseph Biden expressed his gratitude this way: “Special thanks to the 2000 activists, elected officials, and volunteers across the state. Because of your tireless efforts we won in 2020.”

Our Third Congressional District Representative, Ron k\Kind told us: “Because of your hard work, were able to hold on to a majority in the House of Representatives.”

And Democratic Governor Tony Evers summarized Wisconsin’s progress under his leadership, ending the convention on a high note by letting us be the first to know: “We’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years, but we’re just getting started. Wisconsin, I’m in. I’m running for reelection.”

America has its eyes on our state’s 2022 elections. We will have a chance to replace Sen. Ron Johnson, second to none in the damage he has caused in the US Senate. In the Third Congressional District, the race will be extremely competitive: We live in a district, one of the few, that went blue for Congress to re-elect Ron Kind, despite a victory in this district by the former president. And Josh Kaul will undoubtedly be challenged by a well-funded Republican.

Looking ahead to Wisconsin’s 2022 US Senate election, Democrats have a deep bench to replace Johnson with a competent candidate who shares Wisconsin’s values. Five announced candidates spoke to the convention, as did a sixth person (Steven Olikara) considering the race.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski declared: “Ron Johnson cares more about conspiracy theories and Trumpism than Wisconsinites and working families.” … Wisconsinites deserve so much better than McCarthyism 2.0.”

Outgamie County Executive Tom Nelson: “Ron Johnson may be tougher to beat than Donald Trump, and to beat this guy we’re going to have to win up here in the Fox Valley. “This race ought not to be a competition of bank accounts or pedigrees.”

Milwaukee State senator Chris Larson pledged to “unrig” the system “so that it works for everybody, not just the wealthy few.” “And frankly, it’s about stopping the festering fascism that has started to overtake America,”

Wausau radiologist Gillian Battino declared: “America is the land of the free, but if you have to choose between your health and financial ruin, you are not free.”

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry (currently on leave): “Progressive values are not only good for business, or not just good for the economy, but also are good for the country.”

Potential candidate Steven Olikara: “The current system of hate and dehumanization, it’s unsustainable and it’s immoral.”

Time to start planning the hard work needed for a Wisconsin blue wave in 2022.

Quotes for this piece cited from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Unions Lead the Way by Ed Burgess

Unions Lead the Way by Ed Burgess

I am a carpenter, a proud union carpenter. This blog is a mea culpa of sorts for the follies of my youth. Earlier in my life I didn’t always have a good opinion of unions. In reality I didn’t know much about them.

I moved to Wisconsin with my family from Washington D.C. in 1995. Prior to that I had my own remodeling business for a period of ten years. To put it bluntly I was not a good businessman and constantly struggled to make ends meet. I tried to keep my overhead down by treating my employees as subcontractors even though I knew that was wrong. I cheated my employees by neglecting to do any withholding or pay a share of their FICA. I had no benefits and paid low wages. This sometimes put them in a bad situation when it came time to pay their taxes. It troubles my conscience to this day. Anyone who aspires to own their own business should pay heed to ethical and legal standards, which I did not do.

I moved to La Crosse to escape that whole scene and determined to find work here as a carpenter. I got hired by TCI, a design build firm. All their carpenters had to be in the union so they facilitated the process of having me join. I passed a written test in lieu of having to do an apprenticeship.

Looking back, I now appreciate how incredibly fortunate I was. I made a good wage and had excellent medical and dental plans through the union, for me and my whole family. To top that off I had a retirement fund. Up to that point I had never been able to save any money for the future.

I am now retired after working for over twenty years as a union carpenter for TCI. I have an excellent pension through the union that allows me to live in dignity. I have stayed involved by attending their monthly meetings and continue to support the union by paying dues. I am oh so grateful for everything that the union has done for me. I should also mention that TCI was a great company to work for.

I am troubled by the Republican Party’s war on unions. I remember going to a carpenters’ legislative conference in Madison. This was after act 10 and the union was tiptoeing around trying to be careful not to piss off the Republicans. Robin Vos spoke that day and, of course, he lied to us. He said that after reining in public unions, our private unions were safe from legislative interference. He subsequently joined forces with Scott Walker to enact laws that made Wisconsin a right to work state and eliminated prevailing wage requirements for state projects. Other anti-union legislation followed.

At its heyday in 1983, 24.6 percent of workers in Wisconsin were unionized, at a time when the national average had dropped to 18 percent. At present it is difficult for unions to organize or to even compete with non-union companies. The decline of unions is a key reason the United States now has the biggest wealth gap in at least a century between the super-rich and everyone else. Labor unions have functioned historically to even help prop up wages for nonunion jobs. This helped to promote a strong middle class. The repeated assault on unions and worker rights may help explain the reduction in average wages paid by manufacturers in recent years and the fact that Wisconsin now has the greatest level of income inequality since 1929.

In recent years workers’ rights and wages have suffered. If we want to build back the middle class, we need to look to unions to lead the way. In order for that to happen we need the return of strong union legislation in Madison and Washington D.C.

Warning: Ron Johnson May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Ron Malzer

Warning: Ron Johnson May Be Hazardous to Your Health

“Acting on the wrong information can kill. In the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people around the globe were hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation… [and] at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19.” World Health Organization, April 17, 2021.

Senator Ron Johnson, on Vicki McKenna’s April 22 podcast, defiantly and belligerently posed two questions to push back against the calls for universal COVID vaccination: “[W]hat do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”, and, “So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?”

Dr. Anthony Fauci wasted no time in denouncing Johnson’s death-risk-promoting campaign, reminding him: “[W]e are dealing with an emergency. … How can anyone say that 567,000 dead Americans is not an emergency?”

Johnson has been spreading dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus for more than a year. On April 1, 2020, he wrote a Real Clear Politics opinion piece, arguing, falsely, that “COVID-19 is transmitted primarily from the hands to the face. … Feel free to use a face mask, primarily to train yourself NOT TO TOUCH YOUR FACE.” [Capital letters per original]

Johnson’s zero-evidence claim about hand-to-face coronavirus transmission was the height of recklessness. He was dead wrong.

Fifty-one days after Johnson’s behavior-directing editorial, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) summarized actual data, and concluded exactly the opposite of Johnson’s faux medical opinion: it is respiratory transmission, not hand-to-face contact, that is the primary transmission route of the killer virus.

Last year, Johnson took to USA Today on March 29 to downplay the impact of COVID-19 illness and death: “Every premature death is a tragedy, but death is an unavoidable part of life”, and concluded by arguing that business shut-downs should therefore be kept to a minimum.

Johnson has promoted for COVID-related issues the use of two prescription drugs, despite having no background in biology or medical science.

Johnson’s preference for unscientific notions, ones damaging to public health, is by no means confined to the current pandemic.

The Human-caused climate crisis? No problem, says Johnson : “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change. […] “It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time.

Johnson has voted to repeal the data-driven Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding that heat-trapping gasses are endangering human health, and to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Health Organization has estimated that climate change is responsible for more than 150,000 deaths annually. Johnson has not apologized for his votes.

Heading into his 2016 reelection campaign, Johnson made an unconditional promise to the voters: if re-elected to the Senate, he would step down at the end of the 2017-2022 term. He is now looking for wiggle room to betray his commitment. It’s now up to the voters of Wisconsin, and anguished citizens around the country, to hold him to his word.

The Merciless Practice of Gerrymandering in Wisconsin by Andrea Hansen

We in western Wisconsin live in the most-heavily gerrymandered region of our state; Wisconsin, in turn, is one of the most-heavily gerrymandered states in our country. Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing a set of boundaries to deny one party its fair share of representation, has been practiced mercilessly by the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Gerrymandering gives Republicans an outsized influence over the legislative agenda—what gets considered, and what doesn’t. Those elected from districts created to minimize opposing voters are expected to “dance with them that brung you,” (Molly Ivins, 1999).

The latest example of this “danse macabre” is the Republicans’ stubborn refusal to expand healthcare coverage to 91,000 Wisconsin residents and reject the accompanying $1.6 billion in federal aid. Republicans are saying “no” to a funded healthcare program for individuals earning less than $20,040/yr and to families with family income below $30,000.

This denial of healthcare access to those with limited income is not just absurd, but also completely coldhearted, given the pandemic and the losses, suffering, and stresses it created. Wisconsin remains one of the few states continuing to deny this needed health care coverage to their residents.

If commonsense and compassion weren’t enough to persuade, one might wish that evidence of health-promotion and fiscal benefits might. A study has been published looking at the impact of states accepting, rather than turning away, Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government. Among states that expanded the Medicaid safety net, individuals and communities benefited, as did hospitals, healthcare providers, and the states as whole.

I am afraid, however, that the furious dancing required by GOP may preclude careful consideration of the evidence.

Declaring “Enough politics”, Democratic Governor Tony Evers signed an executive disorder calling the legislature into special session to accept the federal funding, to spur development, and to ease the tax burden on challenged working families.

Sadly, the GOP-controlled legislature to date has thrown away nearly 3 billion dollars, and is poised to throw away more. Demonizing Obamacare is part of their platform. They are unmoved by the numbers of Wisconsin families left, thanks to cold-heartedness, without access to healthcare.

Republican legislators are lining up for this particular dance, accusing Gov. Evers of “playing politics” and “political agenda” with his proposal to combine the expansion of BadgerCare with state-wide economic development initiatives. They promise “no action” on this important proposal, tone-deaf to the opportunities and needs of Wisconsin residents.

Gerrymandering has pushed the will of the majority to the sidelines, leaving most Wisconsinites as spectators to a dance that makes little sense. We need to be telling our friends and neighbors this: a legislature bound not to the voters but to a harsh and foolhardy ideology is undemocratic by its nature, and hurts us all.