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Middle Wisconsin News April 2013


Boldly Progressive
By Greg Wright – Stevens Point Often politicians seem like they live in a world all their own. While it’s rare for someone to feel perfectly represented by an elected representative, a recent study featured in Salon magazine illustrates why politicians’ alternate reality should be of special concern to progressive voters. The study, by political scientists David E. Broockman at Berkeley and Christopher Skovron at Michigan, interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates and the constituents they sought to represent, finding that the candidates — both Republican and Democrat alike — significantly overestimated the conservatism of their constituents (conservatives, by a percentage equivalent to the electoral divide between California and Alabama!). Concerning the issues of universal health care and gay marriage, elected representatives underestimated support for such programs by 10 percentage points on average. The study states: This misperception is so large that nearly half of sitting conservative officeholders appear to believe that they represent a district that is more conservative on these issues than the most conservative legislative district in the entire country despite the fact that over half of these officeholders actually support positions more conservative than their own districts’ median voter. The American electorate is significantly more progressive than the representatives we send to our state houses, yet come election season, we still struggle to get progressive issues to define the ballot. To some degree, we progressives must take ownership of this disconnect. To many of us, progressivism is simply common sense. We have read our studies and set our minds so determinedly that it can seem beneath us to have to explain or to have to fight for our positions. Instead, we invest much of our political energy scoffing at conservative viewpoints that seem (and apparently are) out of touch with the mainstream. Why aren’t we as impassioned in our desire to communicate to our politicians or to the voting populace at large the values and objectives that drive us to be progressive? In poll after poll, we see widespread support for the progressive agenda, but we consistently elect representatives that shy away from that agenda, out of a fear of their assumed-to-beconservative constituents. We progressives often feel unnerved to boldly declare our viewpoints, and choose instead to attack the other side. However, recent changes in public sentiment toward gun rights and gay marriage illustrate the quick shift that can result from a campaign that embraces and declares the benefits of progressive ideals. So, join me in being BOLDLY PROGRESSIVE! For more thoughts, visit my blog at

Boldly Progressive .................... 1 Public Services ......................... 2 Voucher School Costs.............. 3 Public Schools .......................... 4 School Referendums................ 5 Peaceful Protesters .................. 6 Knowing .................................... 7 Waiting for the Messiah ............ 8 Working Wisconsin................... 9 Free Natural Resources ......... 10 Who Owns Wisconsin ............ 11 Challenging the Myth.............. 12

Middle Wisconsin News welcomes letters, articles, and essays on relevant topics. We ask that you limit submissions to 600 words and provide sources when appropriate. Submissions may be edited for length, clarity, and taste. Emailed submissions should be sent in plain text or Microsoft Word attachments to:


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Middle Wisconsin News
Public Services Are Essential for Democracy
By John Spiegelhoff – Merrill

April 2013 Page 2

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Government (as well as the services that it provides) has an important function in our democracy. Government has two major responsibilities:

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Protection of its citizens Empowerment of its citizens

Protection of its citizens is not only in the form of its military, but also in its defense against natural disasters and environmental degradation and its role as a check-and-balance against corporate greed and exploitation. Empowerment of its citizens comes via providing public education, building and maintaining a solid infrastructure (for the public and private good), among other examples. Government officials are constitutionally mandated to serve the citizenry and the moral mission of government. So what is lurking behind Door #1 that harms the moral mission of government? Corporate greed, fueled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Extreme conservatism is based on the premise that nearly all public services should be performed by private corporations, who are more concerned about making a profit than about serving the greater good. The extreme right wing pontificates, “We need smaller government.” But what this actually means is the privatization of government and the transfer of public property and functions into private hands. At the core of this extreme belief is that the public has no function but to protect the wealthy and the elite. Just about all public functions should be sold off to the highest bidder (or no bid at all) to privateers. But privatization of public services accomplishes a number of disturbing results:

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Employees will have their wages and benefits significantly reduced or eliminated at the altar of profits. The public cannot vote out CEOs of private companies. Public lands are exploited for profit with no input from the public. Public education is sacrificed through voucher school schemes. Social safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare are diminished when profits are valued over people. Military functions such as security details and food service are given to firms such as Haliburton or its subsidiaries, which charge exorbitant fees with little oversight from the public.

The public serves an important function in our society: We, the public, level the playing field for all citizens — be they wealthy or poor. The public provides basic protections for its citizens and serves a moral mission. We are a check-and-balance against corporate malfeasance.
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We must demand from our public officials the preservation of public services. It’s vital to our fragile democracy.

Middle Wisconsin News
What Do Voucher Schools REALLY Cost?
By Joyce Luedke – Hayward Voucher schools are private schools, supported by public education funds. Voucher schools began in 1990 with seven schools and 300 at-risk, low- income students in Milwaukee. Under Governor Walker, the private voucher school system in Milwaukee has expanded to 113 schools with 25,000 students. Twenty-one thousand are attending religious schools. Eighty-one percent of the students attending private schools in Milwaukee are using publicly funded vouchers. The voucher system was expanded through the 2011 budget to include all of Milwaukee County, as well as Racine with 500 students. According to John Forester of the School Administrators Alliance, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that, statewide, the average public school receives roughly $4,900 of state aid per student. Private voucher schools are guaranteed $6,442 per student. Voucher schools operate by different rules. They do not have to hire certified teachers. They do not have to follow Wisconsin’s open meetings and records requirements. They can expel students and deny students. They require public schools to cover any special education interventions. Voucher schools are not held to the same financial, educational, and legal standards as public schools with limited transparency to how taxpayer dollars are used in private schools. The state has no means to hold voucher schools accountable. Voucher schools are not governed by publicly elected school boards.

April 2013 Page 3

In 2011, only 0.8% of its students (1 out of 123) tested proficient in math and 5.7% tested proficient in reading on state exams (Patrick Elliott, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 31, 2013). The Post Crescent, in its February 9, 2013, editorial, stated: “The real issue, though, is that voucher expansion shouldn’t be allowed at all. Taking money from struggling schools isn’t going to make them better. And as studies in Milwaukee have shown, voucherschool students don’t perform academically any better than public school students.”

The Post Crescent cited Gene Glass, a researcher with Colorado’s National Education Policy Research Center: “What we are learning and relearning time and again is that poverty trumps many things: good teaching and intelligent administration to name just Voucher schools can avoid some or all standardized tests. two. … There’s a strong correlation between the Voucher schools will no longer be required to take the state schools considered to be ‘failing’ in the states new tests under Governor Walker’s expansion of the voucher report card system and the income level of the program. In the future, there will be no comparing voucher schools’ communities. schools and public schools in Milwaukee (Diane Ravitch’s blog, November 5, 2012). Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Wisconsin cannot afford two parallel school structures — The Clara Mohammed School is an example of a voucher a public school system, which is constitutionally school not providing a comprehensive education. Accordmandated for those who profess to care about ing to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the school’s the state constitution, and a private school system purpose is to engage in a “Qur’an-guided journey toward [funded with tax dollars; my addition] operating active global citizenship.” without the same mandates as the public schools.”

Middle Wisconsin News
Public Schools
Wisconsin’s Promise to Our Children, Our Communities, & Ourselves:

April 2013 Page 4

“The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of district [public] schools, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; and such schools shall be free and without charge for tuition to all children.”
(Wisconsin Constitution, Article X, Section 3)


We have a constitutional obligation to protect, promote, and fund public schools. All parents must have the right to choose a quality public education for their children. The State has $1.4 billion in new revenue and can easily afford to reinvest in public education. The current budget provides no increase in funding for public school students, while giving up to $1,400 per pupil more to private school students. (DPI, press release). That’s not fair to kids in public schools. We need to increase State Aid and raise Revenue Limits to provide more educational opportunities for our 872,000 public school students. Without an increase in Revenue Limits — the total amount public school districts are allowed to spend — increases in State Aid cannot be spent on our students, classrooms, or programs. Any new State Aid goes to property tax reduction. The Governor’s budget provides for the takeover of more than 200 public charter schools created by local school boards by turning them into private charter schools (LFB, Budget Analysis, p. 385). Wisconsin public schools outperform voucher and charter schools serving the same low-income populations: voucher school performance / summary data / WI charter school performance / Forward Institute charter school study. Voucher and private charter schools take money away from public schools and drive up property taxes. Funds for public schools come from State Aid and local property taxes. Any of these funds transferred to voucher and private charter schools is made up by increases in local property taxes (LFB, Informational Paper 26, p. 16). Vouchers schools are not required to provide special education services for their students. We should not be using our tax dollars to fund programs that result in parents of students with disabilities surrendering their rights and legal protections under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (DPI, press release).

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Ask Our Legislators to...
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Honor Wisconsin’s Constitutional commitment to protect, promote, and adequately fund public education Reinvest in our public schools, by increasing Revenue Limits and State Aid Remove voucher and charter expansion, along with special education vouchers, from the budget Find your legislators’ contact information here.

All children — from small-town rural Wisconsin to our state’s biggest cities — need us to honor Wisconsin’s Constitutional promise to provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed. As more and more money is diverted from our public schools, this guarantee is in jeopardy.

Middle Wisconsin News
School Referendums

April 2013 Page 5

Short-term Victories – Long-term Problems
By Greg Wright – Stevens Point Blog: WrightAndLeft At first glance, the November 2012 election seemed to be a big victory for public education in Wisconsin. Historically, Wisconsin school districts have seen around a 50% passing rate for referendums, but the November election saw a surprising 71% of referendums pass, and in a year that saw a high percentage of referendums on the ballot. While this is certainly a positive indicator concerning attitudes toward public education in Wisconsin, this trend isn’t entirely worthy of celebration. At its heart, this phenomenon illustrates a growing divide between the goals of our state representatives and our local communities. Cuts to education in the state budget have been heralded as a long-fought victory for the people of Wisconsin, who are supposedly tired of doling out tax dollars to support our fiscally irresponsible schools, but those weary tax payers are the very same people voting to make up for lost revenues through these ballot measures. If the public favored these cuts to education funding, it would make no sense to vote in favor of undermining those cuts at the local level. Rather, it seems more likely that this increase in referendums — and passing referendums especially — is indicative of a public that recognizes the drastic cuts to public education as flawed policy. This isn’t simply an issue of failed representation, however. This shift to greater localized funding through decreased state-based revenue streams is a major defeat for progressive education goals. Funding policies have a profound impact on the type of education we are able to offer Wisconsin students. Educational research regarding funding and its impact on student achievement cautions states against relying too heavily on bond measures and property taxes to fund public schools. History has shown the inequity inherent in such funding systems. Rich communities and districts stand to benefit as they have greater access to the discretionary funds necessary to enhance their educational programs. More impoverished communities, however, lack the resources necessary to provide even the basic necessities. The past decade has seen stronger state education systems shift away from localized funding in order to create more equitable schools. Funding schools through more centralized distribution systems allows the state government to account for the socioeconomic segregation that defines many of our zip codes, and it reduces the likelihood that a student’s address will determine the quality of education he or she receives. While it is certainly encouraging to see the public supporting these referendums, we would be remiss to ignore the warning signs in their prevalence.
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The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of district [Public] schools, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; and such schools shall be free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years.” — Article X Wisconsin Constitution

It we are serious about creating equitable and strong public schools for all Wisconsin students, we must elect state representatives dedicated to funding our schools properly.

Middle Wisconsin News
Peaceful Protestors Prosecuted
By Phillip Anderson – Maple

April 2013 Page 6

There is a folk song that asks “Have you been to jail for justice?” The song’s message is that speaking out for justice has costs, but citizens must do it anyway if we are to have democracy and real freedom.
You law abiding citizens come listen to this song Laws are made by people and people can be wrong Once unions were against the law but slavery was fine Women were denied the vote while children worked the mine The more you study history the less you can deny it A rotten law stays on the books 'til folks with guts defy it! Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand Cause sitting in and lyin' down are ways to take a stand Have you sung a song for freedom? Or marched that picket line? Have you been to jail for justice? Then you're a friend of mine. (By Anne Feeney; see

The three face felony charges of sabotage and destruction of property with the potential of years in prison. These are outrageously excessive penalties for a peaceful protest with minor vandalism. But this is how our government reacts to opposition. Stand up for peace and you get jailed.

The bankers who melted down the economy and cost Americans billions in lost wealth have not been prosecuted. The high government officials who authorized and carried out torture in Iraq have not been brought to justice. Leaders who took us to war in violation of signed treaties and military personnel who carried out war crimes in Iraq Last July three peace advocates — Greg Boertje-Obed, Miand Afghanistan have not been called to account. But peacechael Walli, and Megan Rice (an 82-year-old Catholic nun) — ful, anti-war, anti-nuclear protestors are being prosecuted entered the nuclear weapons factory in Oak Ridge, Tennesto the full extent of the law. Is this fair? Is this justice? Is this see. They cut several fences, painted some slogans on walls, what should happen in a democratic nation? put up banners, and waited for security to arrest them. They called themselves Plowshares Now. Their real crime was embarrassing the government. Their break-in demonstrated that this facility was not secure, Being deeply religious, they believe we should, as the despite the 50 million dollars a year the government spent Bible instructs, “beat our swords into plowshares.” on a for-profit security firm at Oak Ridge. What would They believe that the production of nuclear weapons have happened if real terrorists had targeted this plant? by the United States is immoral and a violation of federal We should thank these three patriots, not jail them. The and international law. trial is scheduled for May 7. Learn more about Plowshares Now at: If used, nuclear weapons will kill innocent civilians. They can not be used for purely military targets. Killing civilians is a war crime. The production of weapons is a violation of the You can take action to support these three brave patriots. Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and UN Charter. Therefore Sign a petition of support at: citizens have and obligation to speak out. Duluth has a patriot with the courage to speak truth to power at the risk being jailed. Greg Boertje-Obed has put his freedom on the line for peace and opposition to nuclear weapons.

Middle Wisconsin News
By Susan Sommer – Rhinelander We come into being knowing, innately, that we are one with the land. Knowing there is a fundamental connection that exists between humanity and God's Earth, who bore us. Knowing, as Aldo Leopold wrote, that the land is not a commodity but rather a community to which we all belong.

April 2013 Page 7

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” — Albert Einstein /

This principle is simple. Yet it is eroded endlessly by the way we live, couched in terms of economics, personal desires, and the misguided belief that the land is ours to use as we please. Jobs, Prosperity, Entitlement. Manmade diversions, rather than reality. If we permit this principle to remain an abstraction, rather than our living reality, then the truth becomes clouded and our connection to the land is compromised. We begin to justify retreating from our principles. We choose to do nothing. Or worse, we destroy the land with impunity. We ignore this principle at our peril. And by doing so put at risk the future of our children and their children, too.


EDITOR’S NOTE We are one with the land. Let us make this our living reality.

Please observe Earth Day, April 22.
  

Read A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Share a biography of John Muir with your children Remember WI Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.

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Middle Wisconsin News
Waiting for the Messiah
By Dave Svetlik – Mosinee

April 2013 Page 8

The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative has been designed to cause an economic breakthrough in Cleveland. Rather than a trickle down strategy, it focuses on economic inclusion and building a local economy from the ground up; rather than offering public subsidy to induce corporations to bring what are often lowwage jobs into the city, the Evergreen strategy is catalyzing new businesses that are owned by their employees; rather than concentrate on workforce training for employment opportunities that are largely unavailable to low-skill and lowincome workers, the Evergreen Initiative first creates the jobs, and then recruits and trains local residents to take them.
http:evergreencooperatives .com/about/evergreen-

Once upon a time long, long ago, the was a man named Henry Ford who moved to a town named Detroit and realized that the people living there needed jobs. Henry built hotels and convention centers. He built nightclubs to attract young professionals. He convinced the town council to build an Industrial Park — convinced them to “brand” Detroit so it would be recognized far and wide. Henry worked tirelessly, and when all was said and done, he stepped back and said, “Well, we’re ready, I hope someone decides to manufacture cars here so we can provide people with good jobs.” This is how it is in 2013 — We wait for the Messiah, the Wall Street “Job Creator,” the billionaire CEO, the hedge fund manager to tell us how to feed ourselves. We have given our minds, our dignity, our self-determination, and our freedom to the Lords of Finance — and we bow to them in homage. I do not wish in any way to diminish the sincere efforts of community leaders and caring businesspeople to solve local employment problems. They deserve our applause. But the Wall Street Messiah is never going to come. Indeed, it is the Wall Street Predator that has arrived. We watch like frightened children as our Wisconsin paper mills, built on the backs of our fathers and grandfathers, are gambled and toyed with by hedge fund wizards from New York. We stand by helplessly as decades old, Wisconsin dairies are decimated by financial dealmakers from Los Angeles. We are paralyzed as our beautiful public schools, the pride of generations of dedicated Wisconsinites, are undermined, voucherized, and privatized — sold to the bidding of the Walton family, the DeVoss family, the Broad family — corporatized by the “Foundations” of the rich and famous. We can no longer abdicate our responsibility to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We are our own Messiah. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can begin reclaiming Wisconsin for Wisconsinites. It is imperative that we begin thinking in terms of local and regional economies. What products and services are needed by our neighbors, by our fellow citizens? How can we work together to provide these? It is a must that we begin developing community ventures, cooperatives, and employee-owned companies. It is critical that we institute county- and stateowned banks like the socialized, state-owned Bank of North Dakota, so loved by the state’s right-wing conservative population because it returns all profits to the people and avoids the predations of a Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan. It is long overdue that we begin seeing ourselves as the “People of Wisconsin,” public and private workers alike, and develop our state into a home that is beneficial for all. The following are excellent resources for learning how to reclaim our great state:

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Middle Wisconsin News

April 2013 Page 9

Working Wisconsin – Labor News & Views

Raising the Minimum Wage
By John Spiegelhoff – Merrill The history of the federal minimum wage began in the late 1920s. The concept of a federal minimum wage was raised during the Great Depression as there was no national minimum wage, or indeed any legislation to protect workers from exploitation. Because of this lack of regulation, tens of thousands of workers were routinely exploited in sweatshops and factories, forced to work in horrible conditions for pennies a week. Throughout the Great Depression, wages dropped even further due to a glut of workers for available jobs. Poverty became rampant until President Franklin Roosevelt promised to constitutionally protect American workers as a key part of his campaign. In 1938, President Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which introduced sweeping regulations to protect American workers and established a federal minimum wage to the tune of 25¢ an hour. The matter was virulently opposed by big business and the wealthy. The minimum wage issue is again on the front burner, when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) recently made a case for raising the minimum wage during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearings. During this hearing, she suggested that the federal minimum wage would be nearly $22/hour today if it had kept up with increased rates in worker productivity. Although it did not appear that Senator Warren suggested the minimum wage should be $22/hour, she illustrated the vast inequalities in our society through the suppression of workers’ wages. Facts not myths support raising the minimum wage:  Raising the minimum wage boosts the economy, as low-wage earners spend more of their money.  Raising the minimum wage does not decrease the availability of jobs.  Prices of goods and services do not always rise when the minimum wage is increased.  The erosion of the minimum wage contributes to the vast inequality in our society.  Raising the minimum wage does not lead to reduced worker benefits.  Most minimum wage earners are adults.  73% of Americans support raising the minimum wage (Source: Lake Research Partners, 2011) How many of your neighbors, families, and friends work in jobs that only pay the minimum wage? How many of the people whom we know have to hold two or possibly three minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet? Workers cannot sit idly and believe that we cannot possibly return to the misery visited upon society at the turn of the century.
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“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.” “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Educate, agitate, and organize. Rise up!

Middle Wisconsin News
Wisconsin Natural Resources Are FREE?
By Joyce Luedke – Hayward “Why would Wisconsin give its natural resources away for free?” That’s the question Senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) asked about Senate Bill 1, the mining bill.

April 2013 Page 10

“Can we change the ways we live and work so as to establish a preserving harmony between the made and given worlds?”
— Wendell Berry Kentucky farmer & poet

“It is incomprehensible to me that an elected official, who took an oath to serve the best interests of the people of Wisconsin, could endorse and vote for a bill which allows an out-of-state company to mine our natural resources and never pay a tax,” said Cullen.

stick it to Wisconsin taxpayers just to make some political hay. It’s really sick.”

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Schultz went on to say we need a bill that maintains our model environmental protecCullen’s comments came in response to a tions and is fair to the taxpayer. With SB1, February 13, 2013, letter by anti-tax crusad- Wisconsin got neither. Our environmental er Grover Norquist, urging Wisconsin legis- protections are weakened, and now the lators to reject efforts to reform Wisconsin’s Wisconsin taxpayers will foot the bill. metallic mining taxation system. Norquist says he opposes “any new taxes…including Senator Tiffany admitted the day after SB1 a proposed tonnage tax,” and reminds legis- passed that “the Legislature’s intent was to lators that supporting such a tax would be a allow adverse (environmental) impacts.” violation of his organization’s “No Tax Pledge.” Wisconsin has a history of protecting its natural resources. Why this sudden shift of priCullen released a report from the nonorities? Who really owns Wisconsin natural partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing resources? What is really going on here? under Senate Bill 1, a mining company would pay little or no property, corporate Sources: income, net proceeds, or other taxes to the Memo dated February 14, 2013 by Senator state. The passed version of SB1 allows the Cullen, Senator Jauch, Senator Schultz: mining company to extract iron and market “Stand Up for Taxpayers on Mining” it without paying a gross tonnage tax on the outbound minerals. “Mining Bill Author Admits It Will Cause Environmental Harm,” The Cap Times: http:// Schultz, whose district includes the rich Baraboo Range, said: “I’m the guy who jessica_vanegeren/mining-bill-authoractually represents an area that knows admits-it-will-cause-environmental-harm/ about cleaning up the mess when mining article_c9679d4a-8299-11e2-b886was done the wrong way. … Now we have 0019bb2963f4.html an out-of-state fringe group coming in to

Middle Wisconsin News
Who Owns Wisconsin’s Natural Resources?

April 2013 Page 11

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Quotations from Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) Regarding the Recent Mining Legislation in Wisconsin
Since 1887, Wisconsin land has been protected from large foreign corporations or governments trying to control it. Now the state budge would repeal that law. Why is the change being made? Who stands to benefit? Why is the repeal buried deep inside the state budget? The following quotations from a press release by Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay raise these and Senator Dave Hansen many other questions regarding the recent mining legislations passed in Wisconsin by the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives and approved of by Republican Governor Scott Walker.

People deserve to know the details behind this mysterious effort to repeal a longstanding law that is in place to preserve the state’s economic sovereignty, especially during a time when foreign countries like China are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to gain economic advantage over the United States. ... Throughout the mining debate, we heard over and over again that Gogebic Mining, which does coal mining and owns the rights to the mineral deposit in northern Wisconsin, has no interest in actually doing the mining themselves, that they would prefer to sell the rights to someone else. ... Perhaps it’s a coincidence that we now find out about this obscure provision that could allow the mine to be sold to a Chinese-owned corporation. Whatever the answers, people have a right to know who is behind this, who stands to benefit and why this provision is buried in the budget rather than being debated on its own merits. ... People have a right to know the answers to yet another mystery wrapped inside the riddle that is the Republican state budget.
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Middle Wisconsin News
CHALLENGING THE MYTH... The Myth of the “Safe” Society
By Dave Svetlik – Mosinee

April 2013 Page 12

“And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed— if all records told the same tale— then the lie passed into history and became the truth.”
— George Orwell 1984 (published in 1949)


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For years, Wisconsin politicians have run on the campaign slogan “Get tough on crime.” Knowing that fear is one of the single greatest causes of emotional (though often irrational) decision making, candidates use scare tactics about runaway crime and claim that, if elected, they will take action to make people safe. We are now reaping the benefits, or more accurately, we are suffering the losses of such political fear mongering. Despite having similar demographics, in 2010, Wisconsin imprisoned 22,000 people, while neighboring Minnesota incarcerated 9,500. We spent $1.3 billion on corrections compared to Minnesota’s $521 million. In 2011, for the first time in state history, Wisconsin spent more on the Department of Corrections than on the University of Wisconsin System. For 2011–2013, lawmakers allotted just under $2.1 billion to the state’s public universities and $2.25 billion to the Department of Corrections. Taking this to a more local level, Marathon County is currently considering investing between $70 and $80 million to expand the jail and courthouse in downtown Wausau. With the jail consistently housing an inmate population above its rated capacity, there is an argument to be made for expansion. However, the comparison of inmate populations in Minnesota should be raising red flags throughout Wisconsin. What is the real cost of “getting tough on crime,” and how much safer have the resulting policies actually made us? Given the fact that jail populations have grown substantially in the past decades, along with illegal drugs and alcoholism, these are legitimate questions. A jail is a dead loss to a community and to a county. Indeed, given continuous operating expenses, a jail impoverishes us and keeps us in debt. It provides no

products or services that directly help the community, and it drains funds that might be more productively invested elsewhere. None would argue that violent criminals shouldn’t be kept off the streets. But because of decades of knee-jerk policies — based on gaining political advantage rather on than developing sound corrections policies — Wisconsin’s jails now hold a large percentage of non-violent offenders who might be less expensively — and more effectively — treated in other ways. But here is the real food for thought: What could $70 million do for Marathon county if it were invested in new enterprises? New businesses? Might it not actually result in profits for the community, rather than a continuous loss? What could it do for our employment rates? And, perhaps most importantly, might the resulting employment opportunities actually do more to reduce crime and to increase our safety than our current system of incarceration? There will be the immediate reaction: “The government shouldn’t be in the business of creating enterprises” and another fear mongering technique will be employed — “SOCIALISM!” But we have suffered enough as a result of such fear mongering. If we can afford to invest in a socialist dead loss called a jail, we can afford to invest in ourselves, in our children, and in our communities. It is time that we return to a mindset of “We the People.”