As I See It
As I See It

As I See It

Wisconsin's longest running daily commentary, a daily tradition since 1971.

Friday - November 17, 2017 9:30 am

Lawmakers shouldn't need sexual assault training

Written by

The list of people facing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault seems to grow every day. The latest, Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken, who is accused of groping a woman 11 years ago. There is even photographic evidence. We have heard similar stories charging people in powerful positions with illicit behavior. It started with the allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and now the floodgates have opened. It is sad that such stories are suddenly so prevalant, but good that women who have been victimized feel the power to come forward and confront the accused. Now the Wisconsin Legislature wants to take steps to ensure this bad behavior does not happen among members of their ranks. Bot the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate have policies against such behavior, but in light of what is happening on a national scale, wants to add new training for lawmakers. Is that really necessary? Shouldn't these people whose salaries we pay know what constitutes bad behavior? Do we have to spell it out for them? We're talking about adults, not incoming college freshmen. Under the legislature's current policy, sexual harassment can include leering, touching, pinching or brushing against another person's body, commentary about a person's body, sexual prowess and unwelcome sexual advances. The only thing lawmakers should need to know is don't do it. Any of it. Keep your hands to yourself. Don't be a perv. If our lawmakers don't know that already, then perhaps they don't belong in elected office.

Comment

Thursday - November 16, 2017 7:25 am

Rent to own industry doesn't deserve special treatment

Written by

Here they go again. Wisconsin republicans are again trying to make it easier for rent to own stores to rip people off. These stores offer furniture and appliances for those who can't afford to buy, but charge them huge interest rates. Wisconsin's consumer protection laws currently protect consumers by requiring rent-to-own companies to disclose the interest rates they charge. But some lawmakers think that is not necessary, and want to exempt rent-to-owns from those laws. They've been trying to do it for years, even trying to hide the provision in a state budget. Now they are trying again, seeking to introduce legislation to make it easier for rent-to-own companies to charge exorbitant rates. That is shameful. These companies typically charge up to four times the cost of buying their products elsewhere. You can get a 50 inch tv at Sam's Club for less than $600. At a rent to own, it can cost more than $1200. This is a predatory industry, preying on the poor. The question has to be raised, why are these lawmakers so insistent on exempting rent-to-owns from the Consumer Protection Act? Money. They have been stuffing their pockets with campaign cash from an industry eager to expand its profits. There can be no other explanation. Doing so would not protect Wisconsin families, it would only protect the company's profits. Of all the businesses to be covered by consumer protection laws, shouldn't the rent-to-own industry be at the top of that list?

Comment

Wednesday - November 15, 2017 9:00 am

Governor says changing license plates udderly ridiculous

Written by

Perhaps change is inevitable. But sometimes doing the same thing for a long time is a good thing. Such is the case with the Wisconsin license plate. The state's plates have changed some over the years. They have been many different colors and have used varying designs. But one thing that has been constant on Wisconsin license plates since 1940 is the use of the slogan “America's Dairyland.” But some think it is time to change that. One state representative is circulating a proposal calling for updating the plates to, in his words, reflect who we are, not what we were. His efforts are a nod to Foxconn, suggesting the state should be known for its efforts to better technology. Now Governor Scott Walker has weighed in on the plate debate, insisting that the America's Dairyland slogan is not going anywhere. He tells Farm Director Pam Jahnke of our Madison radio stations that the state's bread and butter, literally and figuratively is agriculture and manufacturing. Walker is absolutely right on this one. Wisconsin is known across the country for our agriculture, which remains the backbone of our economy. It is good that our economy is becoming more diverse with that new Foxconn plant to be built. But we don't even know if that deal will work out. If it doesn't, do we want to brag about it on our license plates for all to see? Wisconsin remains America's Dairyland, and our license plates should continue to reflect that.

Comment

Friday - November 10, 2017 9:23 am

Wisconsin should consider lower drinking age

Written by

If you're old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to drink a beer. That argument has been around for decades, but is getting new traction now that some Wisconsin lawmakers are pushing a bill that would lower the state's drinking age to 19. And while the saying may be cliché, it is is true. States were strong-armed into raising the drinking age to 21 back in the 80's with threats from the federal government to withhold highway funding to any state which didn't go along with the mandate. But there are many valid reasons for lowering the drinking age. Let's face it, young adults are already drinking before they turn 21, they simply are doing illegally. Preventing police from having to enforce that law frees them up for more serious matters. And those 19 year olds drinking now often do so at house parties, or in secluded spots where they are away from the watchful eye of others. By making drinking taboo, it becomes more appealing for rebellious teens. And it simply isn't fair when a 20 year old service member returns from serving in a combat zone to marry his sweetheart cannot legally offer a toast at his own wedding. Getting the federal government to agree to continue to provide highway funding to Wisconsin if it lowered the drinking age would no doubt be a tough sell. But consider that among Western nations, besides the U.S. only Indonesia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka set the legal age that high. We should adopt the European model, where teens are taught to drink responsibly iat an earlier age, in the safety of their own homes.

Comment

Thursday - November 9, 2017 8:28 am

Constitutional convention a dangerous possibility

Written by

It hasn't happened since 1787. And for good reason. But now Wisconsin has joined a chorus of states calling for the convening of a convention to amend the United States Constitution. Supporters say such a move is needed to address the growing federal debt, and that the convention would only be designed to amend the constitution to require that the federal budget be balanced. But this is one big Pandora's box. If just 6 other states vote to hold this convention, the entire U.S. Constitution could be gutted, shredded and burned. The ideals on which this country was founded could be gone. This is scary stuff. The fact is it is entirely possible to amend the Constitution without holding a convention where all our current laws are on the table. It only takes a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress. That process has been utilized to end slavery, to allow women to vote and to provide equal rights. The last thing we need in this bitterly divided country today is the opportunity to tear up the Constitution and start over. If our lawmakers think that requiring a federal balanced budget is a good idea, they should just do it. Republicans control the legislative and executive branches in Washington. They could introduce legislation calling for a balanced budget and hold a vote. They have the power to balance the federal budget without resorting to such extreme measures. The fact that they haven't done it leaves only them to blame.

Comment

Wednesday - November 8, 2017 9:21 am

Carrots healthier than sticks

Written by

Carrots are a healthy snack. And can be an effective tool for changing behavior, at least when compared to the stick. The Wisconsin legislature is finally choosing the carrot when it comes to encouraging those on public assistance to eat healthy. For years, lawmakers have tried to use the stick to ensure food stamp recipients eat healthy by trying to limit what they could purchase. They were offended that those enrolled in Wisconsin's FoodShare program sometimes used the benefits to buy soda and chips. Others were upset that people used public assistance to buy shrimp or salmon, even though those food items are high in nutritional value. Those efforts to require FoodShare recipients purchase only foods that have “sufficient nutritional value” and prohibit them from buying junk food have failed to pass the legislature in recent years. So now, wisely, they are trying the carrot. A pilot program would be created in Wisconsin to encourage healthy eating by those on food stamps by offering them discounts on their purchases of healthy foods. The program would offer 50% discounts on fresh produce and other healthy foods. It would also require a study to see if it actually led to people eating healthier. And unlike past efforts to use the stick approach, the bill has bipartisan support. It is good to see lawmakers finally willing to dangle the carrot. It sure tastes a lot better than the stick.

Comment

Tuesday - November 7, 2017 9:32 am

Many reasons not to like PRAT tax

Written by

Efforts to allow La Crosse county to adopt a special tax are moving along in Madison. Unfortunately, those efforts are misguided. La Crosse County is seeking special permission from the state legislature to institute what is called a PRAT tax. This extra half cent sales tax could generate millions of much needed dollars to pay for road improvements throughout the county. But there are many problems with is idea. The PRAT tax is designed to be issued only to tourism related businesses, but the tax would apply to much more than hotels and restaurants. It would also apply to fabric shops, florists, jewelry stores and department stores. There are 44 business categories on which the tax would be levied. It seems the list of who is charged the tax is longer than the list of who is not. And it would likely tax more locals than those from out of town. The money raised would ostensibly pay for road work throughout the county. But little of that money would pay for road work within the city of La Crosse. Technically, the money doesn't have to be used for road or bridge repair, according to state law. But there is a lot of wiggle room here, and if adopted, La Crosse County could use the extra PRAT money for a variety of purposes. The county has promised it would only use the money to pay for road work. But the current half cent county sales tax adopted 20 years ago was supposed to expire, before being adopted permanently. No doubt, even if this tax passes and raises enough money to fix all our roads, the tax would continue to be levied.

Comment

Monday - November 6, 2017 9:20 am

Gov Walker's re-election bid is about jobs. His.

Written by

It’s happening again. To the surprise of no one, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is running for a third term. After all, Walker has been running for political office nearly his entire adult life. And as he has throughout his recent campaigns, Walker wants to make it about jobs. He told us when he was elected to his first term that he would create 250,000 new jobs in the state within four years. Seven years and nearly two full terms later, Walker has yet to make good on that pledge. But he continues to boast of all the jobs, saying the fact that 3 million people are now working in Wisconsin is evidence of all the good he has done. Baloney. Walker hasn’t created a single job. The only jobs governments create are when they hire more government workers. Walker is trying to buy jobs, spending $3 billion of our money in hopes the Foxconn deal actually works out. It is true that people are working in Wisconsin. The state’s unemployment rate is 3.5%. But there is more to the story. Walker has benefited from serving during one of the longest sustained growth of our economy in U.S. history. Meanwhile, the number of jobs gained in Wisconsin under Walker is well below that of other Midwest states. Walker may well try to again make this election about jobs, but the truth is the only job this is really about is that of a career politician wanting to keep his.

Comment

Friday - November 3, 2017 9:22 am

Read Foxconn deal before considering signing

Written by

We've said it before, but we'll say it again. Those who are working to approve that huge deal to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin need to read the contract before signing it. That should go without saying. But amazingly, the current plan calls for members of the Wisconsin Economic Development Board to vote without actually having a copy of the contract in their hands, with time to read it. Instead, they would simply be provided with an outline of the contract, not the entire document. This is not high school, where you may be able to get away with reading only the Cliffs Notes before writing that book report. This is $3 billion of our tax money the state is preparing to give away to land the Taiwanese company and the thousands of jobs they promise. One member of the board is calling for them to receive the entire document and time to digest it before actually casting a vote. But his is a lone voice so far. Governor Walker, when asked if he thinks board members should be able to read the entire document, declined comment. But the clock is ticking. The board could vote on this huge deal, the biggest ever done by a state with a foreign company as soon as next week. We should insist that they be given the contract and that they read every word before deciding whether to give away all our money.

Comment

Thursday - November 2, 2017 9:21 am

Does free speech cover Twitter?

Written by

Our founding fathers were pretty smart when the wrote the U.S. Constitution. But they could never envision that people would communicate in 140 characters or less. Twitter, it seems, is how many people communicate today. It seems to be the favorite form of communication for our President. But is the use of Twitter covered by our First Amendment rights to free speech? A new lawsuit argues it is. A lawsuit has been filed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now against three state legislators. These legislators have official Twitter accounts for their office, and use those accounts to share news about state government and public policy issues. But representatives Robin Vos, John Nygren and Jesse Kremer don't allow just anyone to follow them on Twitter. The lawmakers have all blocked One Wisconsin Now from commenting on their tweets. The lawsuit argues that is a violation of their free speech rights. They make a good point. These lawmakers and others increasingly use Twitter as a form of communicating with the public. That should include anyone who wants to follow them, even those with whom they disagree politically. It would be no different than blocking opposing views from a public town hall meeting. It should not be acceptable for those who hold public office, whose salaries we pay, to block the public from challenging or responding to them. Free speech does not extend only to those with whom they agree. Our founding fathers would certainly agree with that.

Comment

Page 1 of 32