Opinion Archives for 2016-10

Paul Ryan: A Profile In Cowardice

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By Eric Genrich

When Paul Ryan took the stage in Madison to offer stale critiques of progressivism, he missed an opportunity to condemn instead the authoritarian in Republican clothing, Donald Trump. Trump is a much greater threat to the Speaker's party - and to the future of this country - than is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but Ryan has been cowed by Trump's rapid supporters on the fringes of our politics and he has been made mute by his own ambitions. Donald Trump is neither a conservative nor has he demonstrated basic human decency, yet he is the man Paul Ryan wants to put in the Oval Office. This kind of shameful political calculation masquerading as a principled stand against liberalism should disqualify Ryan himself from ever seeking the highest office in the land.

Modern day progressivism is not without its flaws - it is, after all, a human creation - but the shortcomings of the Democratic Party and its elected officials pale in comparison to the fatal flaws of Trumpism and the virulent xenophobia and misogyny it has mainstreamed. In failing to renounce the imminent threat that Donald Trump's candidacy poses to liberal democracy and the values that both major parties embrace, Paul Ryan has committed a sin of omission that rivals Trump's own worst moments on the stump.

Our greatest leaders have taken on members of their own parties when the progress of the American republic was at stake: think Reagan on arms reductions or LBJ on Civil Rights.

Instead of rising to meet the challenges of the moment and condemning the words and actions of his party's nominee, Ryan saw fit to attack the legacy of one of Wisconsin's most beloved heroes and one of our proudest principles: Fighting Bob and the Wisconsin Idea.

Robert LaFollette, Sr.'s movement was one that targeted corrupt and corrupting political and economic power, embodied by the party bosses and robber barons of his day. He inspired countless small business owners, farmers, and working people to reject the status quo in favor of a government that truly served its people by providing education, opportunity, and a democratic voice in the governing of the state's affairs.

Fighting Bob, in fact, celebrated just the kind of politics we need now. We need a big-hearted populism that raises up the needs of working people without demeaning immigrants. We need a progressive movement for change that is humble enough to align itself with the modest ambitions of our friends and neighbors. Americans deserve a governing philosophy that contains multitudes, one that understands the dangers posed by both market nihilism on one extreme and an amoral government behemoth on the other.

There is a better way forward, as Speaker Ryan said, but it won't be pursued by ducking from the real battles of the day. A better way cannot be articulated with a stage-managed town hall or a carefully curated question and answer session. A better way is within our grasp if we, citizens and elected leaders, look within ourselves and to each other with an openness and humility grand enough to meet the challenges of our times.

A better way is possible, and a better world is imperative, but it will not be made by those who enable bullies and demagogues that stand outside the American tradition. A better way might lead in many directions, but none of them toward Donald Trump.

Letter To The Editor: Do Not Vote For Mr. Kitchens

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By Wayne Kudick

Joel Kitchens, should not receive our votes for re-election to the Assembly, reasons why:


Governor Walker's proposals to cut public school funding have been supported by Mr. Kitchens. Yes, as typical, the Governor proposes conservative BIG cuts and as an appeasement image the Republicans "restore" a pittance to curry voter favor.  But, what matters is the actual amount of dollars going to kids through time.


Mr. Kitchens supported the statewide private school voucher program increases each of the next ten years, after which enrollment caps are removed altogether.  He said at the League of Women Voter Debate: "Voucher schools are not a problem here; we have no voucher schools."   The truth:  $800 Million will be taken away from the education of children attending Wisconsin public schools to fund voucher schools, affecting their lives and their education.  Mr. Kitchens is complicit in these thefts from Wisconsin's Constitution guarantee of access to public education.


Mr. Kitchens rejected the latest of three Department of Public Instruction "Fair Funding" proposals by Secretary Evers, plans that can hold property taxes and provide needed funds to Public Schools.  Nor has he told us of a DPI report in September of 2015 that reported 53 Voucher Schools received $139, 617, 701 of State Taxes and spontaneously closed / causing mid-year chaos to the rescuing public schools and these children and parents.


The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (August 12, 2016) reports that net general aid payments to school districts declined nearly $200 million between the 2010 and 2015-16 school years. The vast majority of school districts received less state aid in 2015 than in 2010.  As state aid decreases, districts are forced to rely more and more on local funding.  Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that time consuming and expensive local public school referenda, in effect, pull more hidden tax $$ from local taxpayers.  Nor does he reveal that referenda hurt economically challenged areas the most. Nor has Mr. Kitchens told us he supports sustaining yearly tax deductions of $4,000 / elementary pupil and $10,000 / high school student tuitions.   A $60,000 tax escape for private school tuition payments.


Mr. Kitchens does not tell us that per pupil revenue also declined the last 5 years.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports Wisconsin with a 14.2% reduction in per pupil revenue, the 8th largest cut in the nation between 2008 and 2014.  These cuts have caused incalculable damage to the teaching profession; teachers leaving because take home wages declined, UW Oshkosh revealed a 26% decline in Education majors.


Higher Education: The legislature cut $250 Million from the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation's leading research institutes and a major driver for Wisconsin's economy. The cuts forced layoffs and dampened salaries across-the-board. Top faculty are being lured away. In February 2016, the University Extension—nationally recognized for bringing business and agricultural research to rural communities around the state—announced a new round of layoffs,


Mr. Kitchens' policies have undermined support for public schools.  The voucher system will further drain resources away from public schools in the years ahead.   Mr. Kitchens has not fulfilled his promise to protect public education.  This is the overriding issue confronting our state and does, today, and in the future will cause continuing weakening of our local public schools.  Mr. Kitchens' claims about support for specific projects to help public education are ill-funded and deceptive diversions that hide this larger truth.


How to fix this?  Vote for a true advocate for Public Education who will support public schools, Lynn Utesch, for Assembly.


Wayne Kudick, Fish Creek.

Letter To the Editor

To My Fellow Constituents of State Assembly District #1

I have been honored and humbled to serve on the Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors for over the past seventeen years.  In that time, I have also been privileged to work on a number of state boards and committees which have given me the opportunity to meet face to face with a great many legislators, not just the ones from my home district but others from around the state.

Over the past two years, I have gotten to know our 1st Assembly district representative Joel Kitchens very well.  We have met on a number of occasions to discuss various projects which have a great impact on the citizens of our districts.  Some of these meetings take place in a coffee shop or more formally at various events around our area.  Joel has always been extremely professional.  He understands what it takes to get things done in Madison.  And that is not an easy task for any first term representative!  He has always gotten back to me with answers that have been very carefully thought through.  He digs out the facts and keeps a calm professional demeanor which is saying a lot with some of the very contentious issues we have going on here in northeastern Wisconsin.

Joel has been working very hard for all of the citizens of our district and I hope you will join me in giving him your vote in the upcoming election.

Thank you

Chuck Wagner, Kewaunee County Board Supervisor, District #3, Wards 1 & 2, Town of Red River

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