Not ready for prime time

It is time for another episode of our recurring feature, in which we highlight letters to the editor rejected by our local paper.

A group of Republican legislators from both houses circulated a bill to create an “Official State Rifle”. Their argument was that they wanted to highlight a Wisconsin manufacturer, not that they wanted you to choose this weapon for your next mass shooting. We thought that there were other local manufacturers who deserved at least equal recognition.

I am so glad the state GOP has found a new way to keep itself occupied. Four legislators are circulating a bill to designate a state rifle. While you might want to criticize this on several levels, think of what worse things they could be doing with their time. This opens a whole new realm of legislation to honor products manufactured in Wisconsin. We could have a state refrigerator, a state pressure cooker, a state semi-trailer – and that’s just scratching the surface. Just think of all the ways they could own the libs.

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

They highlighted (on the front page of the opinion section) an op-ed extolling the virtues of Daylight Saving Time, saying we needed more daylight late in the day because no one is up early in the morning anyway. He noted opposition to changing twice a year and thought the solution was to warn people a few days ahead of the change, as though it is always sprung on us as a surprise on Sunday morning.

I found David Prerau’s op-ed Monday, extolling the virtues of Daylight Saving Time, tremendously compelling. He states that DST “relocates an hour of otherwise wasted sunshine to a much more usable hour”. I couldn’t agree more. I hate to get up in the morning and have daylight. So much more pleasant to go to work in the dark every day! And I loved that hour on the deck this afternoon, basking in the 28 degree sunshine! Gosh, and his solution to the problems of DST is so innovative! Let’s talk about it for a few days before the change so we’re ready! Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of that?! But why do anything halfway? If we moved our clocks 3 more hours ahead of the sun, we could draw tourists by proclaiming ourselves “The Land of the Midnight Sun”! As an added benefit, even late sleepers could wake up in the dark!

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

The GOP periodically pushes new tax plans to lighten the burden on their base (the wealthy). The current plan is for a flat tax. The flat rate would actually be slightly lower than anyone currently pays, so they are able to claim they are providing relief to the poor as well. This is also a plan to get rid of the one-time windfall the state received from federal COVID relief funds. It would reduce taxes to eliminate that $6 billion surplus and cause an equal-sized shortfall long into the future.

Let me get this straight. According to Sunday’s WSJ, the Republican legislature wants to implement a flat income tax to be on par with other states instead of a “mediocre” progressive tax. Does Sen. LaMahieu understand the definition of “mediocre”? It means “in the middle”, in other words, like everyone else – exactly what he’s asking us to become. He says this is to attract business owners to the state. In other front page news, legislative Republicans oppose a new UW engineering building to relieve overcrowded, inadequate facilities. So we want to drive promising engineering students, those who might start companies and drive job creation, to other states. Which seems more likely? That an already wealthy person will move an existing business to WI because our taxes are just like what they’re paying elsewhere, or that a newly-minted engineer will stay where they have been welcomed and start a new business? I think LaMahieu and friends have it backward.

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

Everyone complains about the roads here. Even this blog has complained more than once about deteriorating conditions related to the demise of the family farm. A major area of debate a month before the letter above was what to do with the surplus this year. The state has a “shared revenue” program, in which it returns money to local governments for infrastructure projects. Local governments are limited in their taxation powers – most income is from property taxes, which the state limits. They have also steadily cut the shared revenue formula, so local governments get less back from the state. As a result, there are referenda in almost every election cycle to keep school buildings from crumbling. Everyone likes to talk about infrastructure but it’s not sexy to fix stuff. Much of Northern Wisconsin has poor internet access. Fixing that is popular to talk about at election time but it costs money. It seems like there are some one-time expenses here that could use some of that $6 billion.

What to do? The state has a short-term budget surplus, thanks in large part to federal pandemic relief. We could fix the roads and bridges, provide broadband access to the northwoods, fix the shared-revenue formula so towns, cities, and counties can fix their roads and school districts don’t have to ask for money via referendum every election cycle. Or we can cut the tax rate for the wealthiest by more than half so that everyone pays at a lower rate than even the poorest do now. If you make $1000 next year, your tax rate would be the same as if you made $1,000,000. Gee, which do you think the GOP wants to do? Will the GOP legislature force your town to defund the police because there is nowhere else to cut services?

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

The paper ran an election-cycle feature claiming to be an analysis of each candidate’s stand on the issues. It was to be a refreshing change from the usual”horse race” election coverage. The Republican candidate for governor learned that the majority of the populace is pro-choice. He has been vocally anti-choice. Since the end of federal rights when the US Supreme Court overthrew the Roe v Wade decision, Wisconsin has a re-activated 1849 law that bans all abortion. How do you pander for votes in this environment?

Sunday’s front page story “A last look at their stands” was a nice try but fell short. Purporting to look at candidate positions, not just horse race politics, it came close. Tim Michels was noted to be willing to sign a bill allowing abortions in limited circumstances despite his strong anti-choice stance. What you failed to point out is the slim chance of such a bill passing the gerrymandered legislature. Likewise you noted his statement that he would never arrest a doctor for performing an abortion. You didn’t clarify that the statement has no meaning, as the governor has no arrest powers. Both statements are just a way to make him sound reasonable and pander for votes. They are campaign statements, not “a look at (his) stands”.

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

Not to be outdone, our embarrassment of a Senator, Ron Johnson had to throw in his two cents. (It should be noted that his 2 cents are more like a penny or less in their value.) Johnson became a “self-made millionaire” by marrying the boss’s daughter. He campaigned as a “businessman, not a politician” and promised to run for no more than two terms. He is currently in his third term. He was an active supporter of the insurrection to overthrow the US government and hosted hearings to which he invited only the most crazed of election deniers. He hosted COVID hearings to which he invited testimony from only the worst crackpots. He decided that a complete ban on abortion in the state was no big deal, as a woman could always drive to another state for the procedure.

Senator Ron Johnson told the Wall Street Journal (the other WSJ), that overturning Roe v. Wade will not be “that big a change” because we can always go to Illinois for an abortion. When I was a kid we drove to Illinois to buy margarine. That was a big enough deal that state law was changed to legalize margarine in Wisconsin. Is Johnson telling us that margarine is more important than reproductive rights?

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

Every Sunday the paper re-runs an old editorial, partly to remind us of how long they’ve been around, and partly to show us how quaint we were back in the “goodle days”.

On Sunday, June 6, the WSJ reprinted an editorial from 1871. It was written about a “defeated, defiant rebel…a fanatic, a selfish, jealous, narrow-minded man.” The particulars of his treachery are different, but it could as well have been written about Donald Trump as Jefferson Davis.

Not published by the Wisconsin State Journal

That’s it for this edition. I was once known (at work, anyway) for my letters to the editor. Now that I am a retired curmudgeon with more time to write letters, the paper chooses to ignore them. I’m sure we’ll have more to post in this space in the future.