What is Wrong in Wisconsin?

What fired me up this morning? I retrieved a post sitting in the trash. A News clipping posted by Fred Dobbs considered to be dangerous by the Angry Bear system. I retrieved it and it sits at the end of my commentary on Wisconsin. The clipping is a nice history lesson on Wisconsin. Mine is editorial.

I (we) lived in Wisconsin for almost a decade in the city built on an Isthmus. When I would fly home from some consulting manufacturing/supply chain consulting assignment, we would fly over the 3rd largest dome construction called the Wisconsin capitol.

The green of the surrounding woods and the lakes (Mendota, Monona, Wingra, surrounding it and Lake Waubesa below Monona). This was coming home to sanctuary as my neighbor described it. We were home as we descended into Madison’s small airport.

That is not to say, it was low cost. For our home sitting on a quarter acre, we were paying ~$5,000 a year. Kind of high back then. Much of it went to pay for schools, services, and yes aid to those who were less fortunate or the scofflaws as some would call them. It was safe, a place one could raise a family, and a mixture of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and races. As a family, we thrived and learned . . .

Things have changed in Wisconsin since the eighties when we were there. Maybe the state was already changing while we were there and we just did not notice? Then too, we were living in Madison, which former Governor Lee Dreyfus described as “Madison is 30 square miles surrounded by reality.” Then Madison’s liberal Mayor Paul Soglin answered back about Madison growing since then. Paul Soglin suggested the city motto should be “77 miles surrounded by reality.” In 2009, Madison chose the plastic pink flamingo as its official bird.

Today’s Republican controlled state legislature will not expand Medicaid even though 90% of it would be paid for by the Feds. The reasoning being, the Feds could take back the funding. Yup, that is true. It could happen. The nation could elect a Republican President and the Republicans could take over the House and the Senate. We could end up with the former president trump again or DeSantis who will attempt to out-do trump in craziness. Republicans are afraid of their own.

They could pass it and hope for the best. A few years of expanded healthcare would have an impact. Ninety to 120,000 people covered and Wisconsin saves $1 billion a year. Just by expanding coverage to 138% FPL.

Maybe we can describe the Wisconsin legislature by it actions. As Forest Gump’s Mama said,

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

Wisconsin’s proud progressive history is just that — history, The Cap Times, Dave Zweifel, January 11

The once proud state of Wisconsin begins yet another year looking up at most of the rest of the country.

The state was once hailed as a laboratory of democracy because of its willingness to try new ideas and forge policies aimed at leveling the playing field between the haves and have nots. It passed laws that sought to benefit all.

Now the state is a mediocre player on the national scene.

As recently as 2020, the Harvard Political Review observed that in the early 20th century, no state better embodied this “laboratory of democracy” label than Wisconsin, which experimented with new and progressive state policies. No person was more responsible for those policies and their legacy than Robert La Follette. The Review noted:

“A member of the Republican Party and icon of the Progressive movement, La Follette led the charge to pass policies in Wisconsin that protected workers’ rights, instituted direct primaries, protected the state’s forests, and broke up large corporations,”

Wisconsin passed the nation’s first workers’ compensation law in 1911. That same year, it was the first to enact banking and railroad regulations to protect consumers. In 1919 it became the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. In 1932 it was the first state to enact unemployment compensation benefits. And in 1959 the Wisconsin Legislature was the first to recognize collective bargaining rights for public employees. In later years it became a leader in conservation and environmental policies, some of which served as national models.

Much of that energy was mimicked by other states and the federal government itself. Social Security, for example, was a Wisconsin idea Franklin D. Roosevelt adopted to protect the well-being of the nation’s senior citizens.

Other states picked up the mantle and, unfortunately, have left Wisconsin in the dust.

In the overall scheme of things, it may seem like small potatoes, but there is no better example of how we’ve become a laggard than the state’s failure to increase its minimum wage for 15 years.

Twenty-three states increased their minimum wage on Jan. 1, with another three on track to do so during the year. It’s estimated that 8 million Americans will realize pay increases as a result.

The state poised to provide the highest minimum pay rate is Washington, at $15.74 per hour. California’s is $15.50. The District of Columbia, whose minimum is linked to the cost of living index, will rise to $16.10.

All told, 30 of the 50 states, plus D.C., now have minimum wages above the federal wage of $7.25, which hasn’t been changed since 2008.

Wisconsin is in company with the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming in refusing to admit that $7.25 an hour is pauper’s pay.

Of our neighboring states, only Iowa is at $7.25. Illinois requires a $13 minimum, Michigan $10.10 and Minnesota $10.59.

There have been several attempts to increase Wisconsin’s wage floor, but the Republican-controlled state Legislature has refused to even consider it. Former Gov. Scott Walker infamously declared that he didn’t believe in a minimum wage, and that the “free market” would take care of it.

Tell that to the millions the free market leaves out and then add to that Wisconsin’s refusal to expand Medicaid to cover health insurance for tens of thousands of low-income state citizens — paid for, no less, with federal money.

Plus, there’s the old canard that if you make businesses pay more to their lowest paid workers they will simply lay off some of them to compensate. Besides, opponents of raising the minimum wage claim, most of those getting the base wage are teenagers working part-time jobs.

Yes, some are high school kids working at a fast-food restaurant. But studies have shown that the average age of people earning the minimum wage is 35, and 88% of them are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30. They’re split fairly evenly between full-timers and part-timers, and many of those minimum wage earners have kids. Many of them are custodians, cleaning crews, supply clerks in hospitals and clinics, among the vast number of jobs that have historically been underpaid.

The worker shortage that has been a phenomenon in the post-pandemic era has indeed resulted in higher pay for some jobs, and that alone has shown that paying workers equitably isn’t the disaster GOP legislators and their allies like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce constantly predict.

The minimum wage issue is a microcosm of why Wisconsin has been backsliding in recent years.

A Legislature that spends its time devising ways to thwart gubernatorial appointees, inventing ways to prevent debate on issues like gun safety, Medicaid expansion or giving Wisconsin citizens the right to propose referendums doesn’t have time to actually practice the art of governing.

That it’s more concerned about tax cuts for high wage earners, lukewarm to renewable energy initiatives and spends an inordinate amount of time attempting to make it more difficult to vote explains it all.

SCOTUS Decides Texas Lawsuit regarding Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Angry Bear