Sunday, April 29, 2012

This is what power looks like

By Bill Kraus

Power is finite. To put it simply, if I have it, you don’t, or, as is more often the case, vice versa.

Every once in a while we get sharp reminders about who has it.

A recent story in the NY Times about a gathering of police chiefs in Washington is illustrative.

"[Milwaukee] Chief Flynn recounted pleading with a state senator to include a provision on Wisconsin's concealed weapons law that would ban habitual criminal offenders from obtaining permits. The senator, he said, told him, 'Here's the phone number of the National Rifle Association lobbyist in Washington DC. If it's OK with him, it will be OK with us.' The provision was not included."

This immediately calls to mind the indisputable fact that the paranoids who run the National Rifle Association have power.

They can coerce elected officials almost everywhere into protecting everyone’s right to own firearms of any description up to and including those whose only possible purpose is to kill people. They also have convinced the pushover elected officials that public safety will be enhanced only when everyone who owns a concealable weapon can “pack it” to revert to the vernacular if they wish, except in Illinois of all places.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The future--if there is one--of representative government

By Bill Kraus

The success of the concept of representative government depends heavily on the intelligence, integrity, and similar attributes, of the representatives themselves.

For many years the political parties recruited, slated, and helped elect most of these representatives.

After the well intended Watergate reforms foundered on the law of unintended consequences by diverting the money flow that is the mother's milk of politics, a short-lived era of entrepreneurial candidacies finished off the parties' roles of recruiting and slating those who wanted to represent us. The money went directly to these candidates instead of to the insulating parties which the legendary Ody Fish called a "kinder mistress."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The big disconnect

By Bill Kraus

The disconnect between what voters say they want in campaigns and what campaigners deliver, instead, is astonishing:

Voters want less spending on campaigns, less or no robo calls, a shorter campaign season, and candidates who are--to be crude--not for sale; not so beholden to the money that makes all of the other things that voters want less of possible.

Campaign managers say that money is, always was, the mother’s milk of politics, that the amount needed has inflated dramatically as the media has become more expensive, volunteers have been replaced by hired hands, and money is needed to counter third-party spending in campaigns.

Voters want fewer TV commercials.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Disclosure laws give legislators a break

By Bill Kraus

I know, I know. We should have term limits. We should cut their pay so we could guarantee that every legislator had to have a job in the real world. We should give them single-digit approval ratings.

What we should really do is give them a break.

The candidates for the Legislature are told how much money that any supporter can give them for their campaigns and that they must report the names, addresses, and occupations of all of the supporters who give them money.

When they get around to spending this money on advertising they to tell the audiences a.) why the voters should vote for them or, as is more likely in this lamentable era when attack ads are favored, b.) why the voters should not vote for whoever is running against them. These ads must be accompanied by disclaimers. The disclaimer on TV ads must say who they are and that they approve the message in the ad.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Questions in the aftermath of Walker's tsunami

By Bill Kraus

The Walker tsunami opened with a bang. He (and the two-house majority) had promised to get rid of something nobody understood--the structural deficit--and to balance the budget, which everyone understood.

They did that. They did it largely with proceeds from the only cookie jar in the kitchen: education. The other cookie jars, medicaid and corrections, were sealed shut by the feds and fear respectively.

The rest of the early agenda was mostly about getting even, settling scores.

The public employee unions were the bane of Republican candidates and organizations. They had been successfully outspending and outworking anyone who stood in their way for years. The Walker tsunami put an end to that by limiting their bargaining authority and shutting down dues check off, otherwise known as their money machine.

They put an end to public campaign funding--often referred to as “welfare for politicians”--in all its manifestations, including the judicial one.