- Associated Press - Monday, September 25, 2017

The Capital Times, Sept. 20

Wisconsin won’t be Foxconned for long

Gov. Scott Walker has a track record of making big promises that he fails to keep.

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As a candidate for governor in 2010, he promised to implement policies that would create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. After he was elected - with a massive boost from the out-of-state billionaires to whom he had pledged his truest loyalty - Walker immediately forgot about job creation and instead went to work attacking public schools, public services and public employees. He divided the state and stalled out the sort of meaningful growth that neighboring states such as Minnesota were experiencing.

As a candidate for governor in 2014, Walker promised to do better, to try to heal the divisions, and to finally get focused on a more-jobs and higher-wages agenda. After he was re-elected - with an even bigger boost from the out-of-state billionaires who imagined he might be their candidate for president - Walker immediately forgot about more jobs and higher wages and started attacking protections for workers (by backing a noxious “right to work” law that is really a “right to work for less” scheme) and higher education (with an attempt to assault the “Wisconsin Idea,” which links the work of the state’s great universities with the development and growth of our communities).

Now, after losing his bid to abandon Wisconsin and “go national” as a Republican presidential contender who ran to the right of Donald Trump, Walker is again a candidate for governor. And he is again making big promises. This time, his campaign scam is the Foxconn deal, which has the state promising almost $3 billion to a Taiwanese company if it invests in the state and creates jobs in southeast Wisconsin. In effect, Walker is trying to buy the jobs that he once promised to create with smart investments and policies.

The governor was so desperate to make some kind of deal with a big corporation that he entered into a crony-capitalist agreement with a firm that has a lousy record of keeping its job creation promises and that is in the forefront of replacing actual workers with robots. It is hard to imagine a worse company to bet on than Foxconn. But Walker has placed his bet - with taxpayer dollars.

The Foxconn deal is an admission of failure by Walker. Unfortunately, his failure will - because of shameful dereliction of duty by the majority of legislators in the state Assembly and state Senate - now cost every family in the state. The governor’s plan is to run for re-election on the promise that Foxconn will create thousands of jobs, and that related development will create tens of thousands of jobs. But that promise will prove to be as empty as the promises he made in 2010 and 2014.

At The Cap Times Idea Fest last weekend, Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, told the crowd that he believes the Foxconn scam will be the governor’s undoing. And we tend to agree. Yes, Walker will do his best to spin the fantasy that having taxpayers buy jobs is some kind of economic-development strategy. Yes, the billionaires will be back to try to buy the governorship for Walker once more. But this is such a bogus deal that, as Pocan suggests, people from across the political spectrum are going to see through it.

Already, Madison liberals and rural conservatives, as well as northern and western Wisconsinites who wonder why their regions of the state are being neglected, have objected. And those objections will grow as Wisconsinites learn more about how Walker promises to use their tax dollars. They will ask the question that state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, asked at the Idea Fest: If Wisconsin has an extra $3 billion, couldn’t it be put to better use? By investing in education? By investing in infrastructure? By creating programs to help fund small businesses and farms that will stay in the state and make a long-term contribution to its economy?

When Walker looks at the voters of Wisconsin, he says to himself: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

But we think Pocan and Shankland are right.

The phrase that comes to mind when we look at Wisconsin voters going into the 2018 election is: “Won’t get fooled again.”


The Journal Times of Racine, Sept. 20

Get your deer tested for chronic wasting disease

Fall started last Friday. In Wisconsin, that means the return of the fall hunting season.

In fact, it had already begun for some game animals, including the archery season for white-tailed deer which started Sept. 16.

The gun deer season, which annually sends more than a half-million hunters into Wisconsin’s woods and fields, is set to start Nov. 18.

Which means now is as good a time as any to raise a caution flag - not over gun safety, as we have often done in years past - but over chronic wasting disease and its potential impact here in the state.

Yes, we know that reporting on CWD often seems to be alarmist, much like the television weather forecasts before a Wisconsin winter storm.

But this year, there is reason for some fresh caution, based on the preliminary results of a study at the University of Calgary that showed the first known transmission of the CWD prion disease to a primate from eating diseased venison. That study, which is still being peer-reviewed, has raised concerns over human susceptibility to CWD.

When the study was released this summer, Stephanie Czub, a prion researcher with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said: “The assumption was for the longest time that chronic wasting disease was not a threat to human health, But with the new data, it seems we need to revisit this to some degree.”

The Canadian study exposed 18 macaque monkeys to CWD. Some had CWD prions injected into their brains and were infected; some had infected material rubbed on their skin and did not contract the disease.

But three of the five macaques that were fed infected venison over a three-year period - the equivalent of a 7-ounce steak per month - tested positive for the disease.

That study, preliminary though it is, has raised eyebrows and caused Wisconsin health officials to say there should be an increased urgency for state hunters to have their deer tested this year.

“There still have been no known instances of humans contracting CWD, but hunters should know the new study demonstrates the risk isn’t nonexistent,” Keith Poulsen, of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, told the Wisconsin State Journal last week. CWD is related to incurable illnesses, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease found in humans, which can cause dementia and death.

“We’re sure the risk is pretty low, but it’s not zero,” he said. “It would be a mistake to ignore it.”

But for the most part, that is what hunters have done for the past 15 years since CWD first turned up in Wisconsin’s deer herd.

That’s partially understandable because the prevalence of CWD-infected deer has been almost exclusively to hot zones southwest of Madison and, to a lesser degree in the Rock County area in southern Wisconsin.

According to news reports, last year 442 of 3,758 deer submitted for testing in the state Department of Natural Resources southern farmland zone tested positive for CWD. That’s an infection rate of about 12 percent. But the deer kill in that area was 10 times that number, meaning a high percentage of the deer kill was not submitted for testing.

The testing is offered at no charge by the DNR at in-person registration sites across the state. But typically, hunters have submitted deer heads for sampling at a rate of only 6,000 to 7,000 deer per year. Statewide, more than 200,000 deer are taken by hunters each year.

Testing dipped sharply in 2015 after the DNR, as a cost-saving measure, allowed hunters to register their deer online and not require them to go to a registration station at all. That rebounded last year to 6,127 deer sampled. Registration sites are easily found on the DNR website at go.madison.com/deerreg.

For years, state health and wildlife officials have urged hunters not to consume venison that tests positive for CWD.

This fall, that caution is warranted more than ever. Get your deer tested.


Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 24

Don’t run up the deficit for a tax cut

House Speaker Paul Ryan told officials at a Harley-Davidson motorcycle factory in Menomonee Falls last week that Congress is moving “full throttle on tax reform.”

Good. America needs a simpler tax code with lower rates and fewer loopholes to stay competitive in the global economy.

But Ryan, R-Janesville, also is hedging on his pledge not to run up the federal deficit in the process.

That’s disturbing.

The federal tax code has become a convoluted mess that’s inefficient and expensive to comply with. It includes a high corporate tax rate of 35 percent, and far too many ways for clever tax attorneys to help their wealthy clients avoid paying any taxes at all.

Even former Democratic President Barack Obama said the corporate tax rate has to come down. And like Ryan, he and other Democrats have favored a simpler system.

So Congress should be able to rewrite and streamline the tax code with bipartisan input and cooperation.

That’s how sweeping tax reform was last accomplished more than three decades ago. Republican President Ronald Reagan worked with Democrats in Congress to reach a deal in 1986.

Key to that historic agreement was keeping tax reform revenue neutral, meaning lower rates were offset by the repeal of subsidies and loopholes, among other changes.

Speaker Ryan had touted a similar goal - until hedging this month during an interview with The Associated Press. Ryan repeatedly refused to confirm that the tax reform plan he’s helping draft will not add to the nation’s annual deficit, which is approaching $700 billion.

“We want pro-growth tax reform that will get the economy going, that will get people back to work, that will give middle-income taxpayers a tax cut and that will put American businesses in a better competitive playing field so that we can keep American businesses in America,” Ryan said.

All that sounds good. But the speaker quickly added: “That is more important than anything else.”

No, it’s not - if by “anything else” Ryan means further running up America’s debt, which topped $20 trillion this month and is projected to increase $10 trillion over the next decade.

Ryan’s comments, according to the AP, signaled “possible retreat on a core GOP commitment” not to add to the ballooning federal deficit. We hope that’s not the case. Yet top Republicans on a key Senate panel last week tentatively agreed to a tax cut that would add $1.5 trillion to the debt over the next decade, according to the AP.

Ryan and other top leaders are expected to unveil details of their tax plan this week. They’re sure to contend that rate cuts will stimulate the economy and bring in more revenue. But banking on a big tax cut to magically pay for itself would be a huge risk. Lawmakers should rely on the analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office instead.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., calls federal debt a greater threat to our nation than North Korea, Russia or the Islamic State.

He’s right.

Ryan and the rest of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should insist that meaningful tax reform move forward in a fiscally responsible way.

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