Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Voters without choices

By Bill Kraus

There are 16 state senate elections scheduled this year. Five of them have only one candidate and are already settled. In another 6 races there is an unopposed Democrat and an unopposed Republican. That leaves 5 where it may be worth voting for one of the candidates in the party of your choice in hopes of having that candidate on the ballot in November with a qualifier. Due to artful gerrymandering over the decades only one of these 5 districts is considered competitive enough so either a Republican or Democrat has a chance of winning in November.

There's more action in the Assembly, but not much. All 99 representatives will be elected. Except for the 15 who are elected because they have no opposition in either the August primary or the November general election. Another 45 seats are not really contested in August because there is only one candidate from each party in the field. All 90 of them will be on the November ballot. There are, finally, 39 districts where there are multiple candidates for a place on either the Democratic or Republican fall ballot, maybe both. This number is illusory as well. After the primary if candidates from both parties contend or survive, only one of them will have a realistic chance of winning in 17 of these districts thanks again to decade of gerrymandering deals by both parties.

All of you who thought the redistricting battle was just fun and games among the politicians might want to reassess that conclusion.

There are going to be, at the most, 18 meaningful races for state legislative seats in November out of a possible 115.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Flim flams then and now

By Bill Kraus

It’s flim flam time again on the campaign trail. This year the subject of the flim flam is jobs.

In 1968 the flim flam was Vietnam. Everybody talked about it. Nobody knew what to do to end it, or if they did, they weren’t willing to toss that ball into the campaign rhetoric ring.

In 1960 the flim flam was the missile gap. A subject that was never mentioned again once the election was over. Flim flams have a way of doing that if they are all rhetoric. The missile gap was.

Jimmy Carter’s flim flam was something called zero base budgeting. Nobody else knew what he was talking about, and it turned out he may not have either, because no budget of his had the characteristics of this money saving flim flam. If you erase the slate clean and make everyone budget ab initio as if there had been no budgets before this one, the savings we were told would be enormous. If, of course, the budget creators ever finished putting this monstrosity together which was unlikely.

This year’s flim flam is jobs.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recalling lessons from history

By Bill Kraus

The current edition of the State of Wisconsin Blue Book features an excellent essay by John Buenker describing the accomplishments of the 1911 state Legislature and then-Governor Francis McGovern. What they did was enact almost the entire Robert La Follette agenda. They did this despite the fact that the Legislature, which was composed of Socialists, Social Democrats, Democrats, Progressive Republicans, and stalwart Republicans appeared to be almost as dysfunctional as today’s.

The populist La Follette not surprisingly had recommended initiative, referendum, and no-fault recall additions to the state Constitution. All passed. All were subsequently rejected when submitted to popular votes in 1914.

Ten years later no-fault recall was resubmitted, passed, and approved. The motivation at the time was purely political. The progressive Republicans feared that the stalwart Republicans would reverse what had been done in 1911 once Fighting Bob was gone.

The recall deterrent either worked or was unnecessary.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The political games must stop

By Cal Potter

Now that the recall elections are over, there is a collective sense of relief as we are no longer faced with a barrage of phone calls, media political ads, and the spending of tens of millions of dollars from special interests on political propaganda, mostly insulting our intelligence.

Our post-election hope is that we move forward, and seriously and cooperatively attend to the many problems facing our state and nation.

Democrats need to accept that Gov. Walker won the election, and Republicans accept that, with the loss in the Racine area State Senate race, Democrats now control that House by a one-vote margin.

Thus far it is not evident that the Senate change is being recognized by political partisans on the losing side. First we had a recount after an over 800-vote margin of victory. Now we hear from those same partisan operatives they may use the courts alleging voter fraud, aimed solely at further delaying the change in majority.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hard to heal

By Bill Kraus

A week ago I urged candidates to tell us to quit making vague promises and start talking turkey about what they will do about the big problems of debt and dependency if they are elected.

A friend reminded me about the distance between diagnosis and cure by asking “and your solutions?”

Like Republicans historically, I am simply baffled by people who pass up opportunities and choose to behave in ways that doom them to lives of squalor and dependence or worse. This, incidentally, leads to the main difference between me and the historical Democrats. The Democrats think that it is their (our) fault that people pass up opportunities and choose destructive lifestyles. So they propose a lot of programs and spend a lot of money to assuage their guilt by using the blunt implements available to government to do something about this.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Merchandising discontent

By Bill Kraus

There is widespread unhappiness about jobs, or the lack thereof. This will be exploited to the extent possible mostly by those in the minority and those challenging incumbents. Perhaps someday someone will ask those doing the exploiting what jobs they would create for who doing what? When they do, they will learn that beyond the skilled trades, taking in each other’s laundry, amusing ourselves to death, and shuffling money, nobody really knows what the IT revolution economy will offer in the way of jobs.

On that day, underlying concerns will rise to the top of the short campaign agendas: debt and resentment.

Debt is probably there already. The widespread recognition that we have never had a pay-as-you-go war, police action, or military intrusion, and that perhaps war is not good for the economy, is taking hold of the public consciousness.