- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

The Capital Times, Jan. 3

New Year’s resolution: Consign Scott Walker to the dustbin of history

There is no way that Wisconsin’s 2018 could be worse than 2017. A year that saw the most politically corrupt governor in the state’s history set up a scheme to transfer as much as $3 billion in state resources to a Taiwanese corporation in order to improve his re-election prospects will not be outdone.

But “no worse than last year” is woefully insufficient.

Wisconsin needs a better year. This state needs to turn the corner in 2018 and start building the brighter future than has been delayed by eight years of cruelty, incompetence and corruption.

The way to turn that corner is by removing Scott Walker as governor and booting from office as many of his toadies as possible. It won’t be easy: Walker remains the poster boy for the decades-long project of billionaires Charles and David Koch to transform American politics by transforming the states. The Kochs and their allies invested millions to get Walker elected and ponied up millions more to keep him there.

For the Kochs, it was a smart investment. Walker’s shock-and-awe governing style - with its brutal attacks on public employees, public education, public services and open government - set the tone for the larger national project of the billionaire class. No one did more than Walker to set the stage for Donald Trump and the crude politics of Trumpism that has transformed the Republican Party into something crueler than it has ever been.

Trump beat Walker in the race for the Republican presidential nomination - after exposing the budgetary lies that underpinned the Wisconsinite’s claims of success - but the president learned a lot from his rival. Trump borrowed directly from Walker’s playbook with his determination to divide Americans against one another, to stir resentment into a toxic political brew, to reject the rule of law in order to advance his agenda, to disregard fiscal honesty and responsibility, and to abandon collaboration and cooperation in favor of win-at-any-cost governing.

No wonder Trump now praises Walker - whose policies the president once described as “a disaster” - and raises money for the governor’s re-election campaign. No wonder Walker now provides cover for Trump’s most outrageous words and deeds. The two men are working together closely on projects like the Foxconn debacle.

Trump and Walker worked together to facilitate the agreement with the Taiwanese corporation because it served the political ends of both men. Trump is obsessed with the idea that he can get multinational corporations that for decades have sited manufacturing facilities in low-wage countries to site a few of them in the U.S. Walker is obsessed with his failure to keep the chief promise of his 2010 gubernatorial campaign - to create the conditions that would see Wisconsin add 250,000 private-sector jobs in four years.

So both men jumped at the chance to cut a deal with Foxconn, a company that wanted to curry Trump’s favor in case the president launched a trade war with China. Foxconn’s scheme was a sly one: to locate a major manufacturing facility in the United States so that if things got dicey they would be able to stay on the good side of a notoriously vindictive (yet easily snookered) president. That’s how Foxconn plays: The corporation is constantly gaming the system to its own advantage. It has a terrible reputation when it comes to treatment of workers, respect for the environment, and keeping promises to state and local governments.

While other governors were interested in landing a Foxconn facility for their states, none made promises as elaborate as did Walker.

Walker wasn’t a better negotiator; he was a sucker who gave away the store.

Unfortunately, he’s not even making elaborate promises on behalf of all Wisconsinites. To the extent that Foxconn does finally invest in Wisconsin, that investment will be largely in the southeast corner of the state, near the Illinois border (and the Illinoisans who will compete for whatever jobs are created).

Wisconsinites have every right to ask what could have been done if $3 billion had been committed to the advancement of the whole state. And they have every right to presume that far more jobs would be created by investing in Wisconsin-based small businesses and farms, in education, and in services and infrastructure.

The reality is that Walker failed Wisconsin’s future. And he did so in order to create fodder for the television ads that the Koch brothers and their allies will pour into the state in order to save Walker.

That makes Walker vulnerable.

Good.

Walker has done tremendous damage to Wisconsin since 2011 - damage that will only be made worse if he is re-elected.

So we will work to ensure that he does not get another term.

Our resolution for 2018 is to support every effort by responsible Republicans, Democrats of all stripes, and independents to get Wisconsin back from the Koch brothers and the political hacks, to refocus state government on serving the interests of every community and every region, to put an end to the politics of division and scheming, and to consign Scott Walker to the dustbin of history.

____

The Journal Times of Racine, Jan. 3

NAFTA has been good for state, region

For Wisconsin, and southeastern Wisconsin in particular, the new year brings hopes for strong, if not spectacular gains on the economy and jobs front based in large part on the plans moving ahead for the Foxconn campus here in Racine County.

That could fuel economic growth not only for the county, but throughout the region. It could also affect the construction industry, jobs and a host of supply-chain businesses.

Foxconn hopes are high. But Wisconsin, along with fellow Midwest states Michigan and Minnesota, also faces nagging worries over the lack of progress of renegotiations of the North American Free Trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

After five sessions of talks last year, and no significant movement, the talks resume at the end of this month in Montreal.

For the Badger State, much is at stake. Almost half of Wisconsin’s exports go to Canada and Mexico, accounting for $9.6 billion in trade and supporting 249,000 jobs.

If NAFTA issues are not resolved and the U.S. decides to pull out of the trade pact - as President Donald Trump has suggested on several occasions - Wisconsin’s agricultural exports would be sorely affected, particularly the dairy industry which could see a 45 percent tariff on cheese exports to its top market, Mexico.

Minnesota faces similar worries, with farm exports to Mexico and Canada topping more than $1.5 billion for exports like pork products, soybeans and corn.

And Michigan tops the regional list of NAFTA exporters with 65 percent of its exports, worth $35 billion, headed to Canada and Mexico.

There is no question that some industries, and some countries, benefit more than others under trade agreement rules and the trade imbalance between the U.S. and Mexico of $55.6 billion in 2016 has been a point of contention.

But the fact is, too, that regional trade among the three countries has more than tripled to $1.1 trillion per year.

The U.S. has already dropped away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, ceding trade rulemaking leadership to China in that 12-country deal. In Europe, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union continues to go ahead with separation slated for 2019.

Clearly the winds of isolationism are afoot, and that could hurt trade and in turn hurt whole industries and consumers as well.

That’s worrisome, as it should be - particularly for Wisconsin, which depends on exports for one of every five of its jobs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, gets that. According to a Wisconsin State Journal report, Vos told a trade association meeting in Madison last month: “NAFTA has worked for Wisconsin. It’s not the time to put new obstacles in place that would hurt the very markets that our business owners and farmers depend on.”

We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that Vos’ words get to the president and to NAFTA negotiators before Wisconsin’s trade gets caught in the cross hairs.

___

Wisconsin State Journal, Jan. 7

Worker shortage must be key issue in 2018 elections

Candidates for Wisconsin governor last week were debating the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Congressional hopefuls weighed in on a provocative book about President Donald Trump. And over at the statehouse, top lawmakers were calling for the resignations of election and ethics administrators who haven’t done anything wrong.

Election years can be easily sidetracked by partisan squabbles and dramatic accusations, and it appears 2018 will be no different. But voters should strive to focus on what really impacts their lives and the future of their communities.

Few issues are as daunting and important as our state’s looming workforce shortage. How will Wisconsin fill the jobs of the future when our population is graying fast and failing to train and attract enough young workers?

More people are leaving Wisconsin than moving here. Job openings are outpacing new hires. Within five years, 65-year-olds are projected to outnumber 18-year-olds in our state for the first time. Wisconsin is expected to need 45,000 additional workers in just seven years for jobs in health care, information technology, the sciences, sales, customer service and other high-demand fields.

These and other challenging trends - highlighted last fall in the State Journal’s two-week, four-part series “Workers Wanted: Wisconsin’s Looming Crisis” - demand a strong and sustained response from anyone who hopes to hold public office.

What will the leaders of tomorrow do today to ensure Wisconsin’s prosperity?

We want to know. And we’ll be asking local, state and federal candidates that question throughout the 2018 election cycle.

Improving and investing in education is key, with more focus on career opportunities. Keeping and welcoming more immigrants shouldn’t be so difficult. Connecting more college graduates to Wisconsin companies while offering incentives for them to stay will help.

Wisconsin must do a better job of promoting itself as a place for innovation, while investing in broadband technology that connects rural communities to the global economy. More workers need the skills employers require.

Wisconsin has a lot going for it: a lower cost of living, shorter commutes, good schools for young families, outdoor beauty and recreation, amazing research and a growing technology sector.

What will the candidates this spring and next fall do to help ensure Wisconsin is a vibrant place that young, talented, hardworking people want to call home?

Listen carefully to each candidate’s answer.


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