100 Days of Change…in the Wrong Direction

In the 100 days since Obama became “king of America,” and in the 114 days since Wisconsin’s new legislature took over,

  • Chrysler is on the verge of declaring “restructuring bankruptcy.” 
  • Record numbers of people have lost their jobs.
  • The national debt is increasing at an alarming rate.
  • Suicide rates are up.
  • A radical abortion proponent now heads the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The House just passed the Hate Crimes bill.

And that’s just at the national level and the ones that come readily, very readily, to mind.

And here in Wisconsin

  • Governor Doyle has proposed a budget with a 10.7% spending increase over the next two years.
  • The legislature passed a “budget fix” in record time with no public input and very little debate–but managed to increase fees and taxes.
  • The UW-affiliated Madison Surgery Center (MSC) is proceeding with plans to do late second-trimester abortions–in spite of incredible pro-life efforts. 
  •  The State Senate just reappointed to the UW Hospital and Clinics Authority Board two of the people who are responsible for the MSC decision.
  • The Senate passed a so-called “employment discrimination” bill (SB 20) that will likely keep businesses out of WI and could financially damage Christian ministries that have over 15 employees.
  • The governor wants a marriage-like statewide same-sex domestic partnership registry implemented, and he wants to give those who register some 40-50 benefits that have up to now been reserved for married couples.

Good grief!  Just writing about  this is depressing.  All of this in less than 120 days–and this is  just the tip of the iceberg.  How much more of this “change” can America and Wisconsin take?

Here’s a great 7-minute video put out by our good friends at Family Research Council on both social and fiscal “change” we’ve seen since January 20, 2009.   May these “changes” be the impetus we need to reverse the change!   WFC is committed to that end. (I love the video subtitle:  “Change you can bereave in”!!)

Employment Discrimination Bill Passes Legislature

Early this morning the State Assembly passed Senate Bill 20, authorizing courts to punish businesses engaged in employment discrimination with punitive and compensatory damages of up to $300,000, depending on the size of the employer.

As far as we can tell, the bill does not change existing discrimination laws and protected classes but significantly expands the amount of money businesses could be entitled to pay in an employment discrimination lawsuit.

Interestingly, the author originally exempted the state from the provisions of the bill but eventually compromised a little–exempting local government and businesses employing fewer than 15 people but not the state.  (A pretty tacit recognition of the fiscal burden this bill puts on businesses.  They’re ready to hurt businesses but not government.  Otherwise, wouldn’t local government and small business-employees be entitled to punitive damages, like their state and big business-employee counterparts?)

Christian businesses, camps, churches and schools are subject to the punitive damages provision as well–for any employee that does not meet the “ministerial exception” of Jocz v. LIRC.

In a time when we expect our state legislature to focus on building employment by creating a favorable business climate in the state, instead they impose yet another handicap on business.  Ultimately, however, SB20 hurts the people who will lose potential jobs because of a bad business climate or because their employer is sued out of business.

Marriage by another name?

Let’s take a look at the statewide same-sex domestic partner registry proposed in the governor’s budget for the next two years and a few of our concerns with it.

1.    The governor’s proposed statewide domestic partner registry in the state budget is very possibly unconstitutional because of its intent—to create a “legal status” that is very marriage-like (see page 483 of the bill–AB75)—and in its sweep—giving same-sex domestic partnerships (page 67) nearly 50% of the benefits (between 45 to 60 benefits) Wisconsin currently gives to married couples.
Throughout the bill, the term “domestic partner” is used in the same context as ‘spouse.’ It appears the intent is to approximate marriage, to test what ‘identical or substantially similar to marriage’ means in Wisconsin’s marriage protection amendment.
2.    The statewide domestic partner registry is an “unfunded” mandate for counties, requiring them to register domestic partnerships and report them to the state.
3.    The benefits the state awards to married couples are not rights or protections; they are benefits only. The state uses the benefits to reward and encourage married couples for the benefits marriages give to the state: providing a legal, social and economic framework for the rearing of children by a mother and father—the situation social science data as well as common sense inform us is the best possible situation for positive childhood development. The data also confirms that traditional marriage is the best possible situation for the health, satisfaction and affluence of a man or a woman.  Stable, satisfied, self-sufficient families are the bedrock of society and the greatest contributors to society—thus the benefits.
4.    This provision is unnecessary.  The benefits proposed in the budget for same-sex domestic partners are all available through legal means to anyone and typically even legally married couples retain lawyers or seek legal counsel when they obtain them.(i.e. Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, etc.).

Let’s talk about hate crimes

UPDATE – 4/30/09 – The House passed H.R. 1913 yesterday, Wednesday, 4/29/09, on a 249-175 vote.   Wisconsin delegation voted along party lines, with Republicans Petri, Ryan and Sensenbrenner voting “no” and Democrats Baldwin, Kagen, Kind, Moore and Obey voting “yes.”

Original post follows:

Sometime this week or in the next few weeks, the U.S. House will vote on H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

H.R. 1913 establishes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as federally protected classes, meaning the government would single out certain Americans for extra protection and special preference based on their sexual behavior.

The first and most obvious issue we have with this legislation is that all violent crimes are really hate crimes and every victim should be protected, not just those singled out for politically expedient purposes.

Wisconsin’s very own Tammy Baldwin, Democratic Congresswoman from Madison, the only open lesbian in Congress, vehemently opposed a Republican amendment that would have excluded pedophilia sexual orientation from the Hate Crimes Bill, claiming it was “unnecessary and inflammatory.” The committee voted down the amendment based on Baldwin’s inaccurate information about the meaning of sexual orientation—which the bill conspicuously does not define.

Possibly 30 different “sexual orientations” defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) could be protected under this bill—practically every type of sexual deviance known to man, including pedophilia and incest!

So how does this affect us since none of us are planning on committing any violent crimes?

During last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said, “We also need to protect those potential victims who may be recipients of hateful words or hateful acts, or even violent acts.” If that’s true, then Jackson-Lee and this committee should be drafting a resolution condemning the hateful, violent behavior of Proposition 8 opponents who are mercilessly and illegally persecuting those who supported California’s marriage amendment last November.

Today it’s violent crimes and tomorrow it’s so-called “hateful words.” In other countries where these types of laws are on the books, including Canada, pastors and Christians are typically the targets, facing imprisonment, fines and federal censure of sermons. Take a look at Family Research Council’s five reasons for opposing this legislation.

The next step for this legislation is the House floor for a vote, which could happen anytime from next week to within the next few weeks.   Constituent input is important.   Click here to find who your congressman/woman is. Fill in your address.  When the page loads, go to the bottom of the page and click on the U.S. Representative’s name.


State’s Legislative Hotline Not Hot Anymore

The state legislature has a toll-free general number–compliments, of course, of Wisconsin taxpayers.  In this case, up to this point anyway, it’s been a really good use of our money.  It used to be rightly called a “hotline.”  Not a good term anymore.

Up until this session, for at least the last 12 years, when a citizen called the number, 800-362-9472, the operator would take the person’s name, address and message and then send it directly to that person’s legislators.  If the message was intended, say, for the chair of a committee who wasn’t that person’s legislator, the citizen’s position on the issue would be noted.   Then, once a week, reports were generated and distributed showing all calls that came in, what issues people called about, and whether they were in support of or opposed to a particular bill, initiaitve, etc. Handling this legislative hotline this way worked beautifully and gave the legislators an idea on where the people they represent were on a given issue.

But not anymore.  When the Democrats took over the Assembly this past January, the final step for them for full legislative control, apparently their leadership decided to change how the toll-free hotline works.  In doing so, they took the “hot” out of the hotline. Now when you call, the operator says when you tell him/her you want to get a message to your legislator(s) on a particular issue, “I can tell you who your legislators are and give you their contact information.”  Now this toll-free line is simply an information number–not a hotline.

This is a subtle attempt by those who currently make the rules to avoid getting input from the people who elect them, to make it harder on citizens.   They know if it takes more work to contact their legislators, people are less likely to do it.  It also takes away from groups such as Wisconsin Family Action (our legislative action arm) the ability to give out one number and streamline the process for people.  

While this may be a small move, make no mistake–it’s a strategic one–and a costly one in terms of encouraging and helping people connect with and convey opinions to their elected officials.   And it’s yet another reminder that those in power get to make the rules on how our money is spent and how we play the game.

President not the only one making bad appointments

While the Obama Administration racks up the number of questionable, at best, federal nominees our very own State Senate is following suit.

This morning, the State Senate voted to reappoint Roger Axtell and Mike Weiden to the University of Wisconsin Hospitals & Clinics Authority (UWHC) Board.  It was a close vote on both counts, 17-15, and surprisingly not entirely on party lines.

If you followed the UW Late-Term Abortions situation earlier this year, you know the UWHC Board, UW Medical Foundation Board and Meriter Hospital Board, and the Madison Surgery Center Board (MSC), each voted to allow their joint venture, the MSC, to perform the horrific dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure on fully-formed, preborn babies up to 22 weeks old.  Axtell and Weiden both voted in favor of these late second-trimester abortions.

Breaking clearly on principle and not party lines, the State Senate also confirmed former Rep. Sheldon Wasserman’s appointment to the Medical Examining Board today on a 21-11 vote.  Wasserman’s ten-year history in the State Assembly of voting against life and conscience protections for health care workers is enough to disqualify him for a position in which he’ll be making decisions about licensing, certifying and regulating physicians and physician assistants.

Be that as it may, the Senate confirmed all three appointments, although the vote was very close on the UWHC Board appointments, and would probably have been 17-16 had all 33 Senators been present for the vote.  At the very least, the confirmations were not unanimous or as easily approved as the 13 other appointments on the agenda this morning.

Spend it–or give it back!

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!  News broke yesterday that most of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation awarded “bonuses” or as Tom Petri’s (R-6) staffer calls them, “deferred payments,” to their staffers.  According to the news stories, it’s  a “use-it-or-lose-it” situation.   Only Feingold and Obey have long-standing policies of not giving bonuses.

“U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Gwen Moore, D-Wis., Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Tom Petri, R-Wis., increased payrolls by more than 20 percent. Petri spent over $100,000 on bonuses and raised salaries by as much as $14,000 per staffer….”

Several of our Wisconsin delegation had railed on the AIG bonuses, and now they are giving their own staff members “bonuses.”  Of course, the amount of the bonuses differs tremendously!  No 6 and 7-figure bonuses for the staffers, to be sure–but some did get 5-figure add-ons.

Obviously, these bonuses look bad, likely anytime, but especially now.  However, if the lawmakers have to give back any money they have left at the end of the year,  do we really want that–given how this administration spends taxpayer money?   At least by giving bonuses, they are investing directly in their people.  But then, should government employees get a bonus when the people paying those bonuses are struggling to pay their bills and keep their homes?  Reports show that most Wisconsin citizens didn’t know that bonuses are pretty routinely given in many of the congressional offices.   Wonder what else we don’t know?

Government officials shouldn’t be put in these situations–to spend or give back (but not to the taxpayers!) taxpayer money.   The system does little to reward offices that are well run; and it certainly, as always, abuses the taxpayer.   I’ve never been a fan of “spend it or lose it” at any level of government.  This congressional revelation confirms my opinion.   Another great example of what you don’t know is–costing you.

It’s All Our Money!

I served for 5 years on the Watertown Unified School District’s Board of Education.  On numerous occasions as I sat listening to the discussion, I would hear someone say something such as, “Oh, we pay for that with a federal grant.  It’s not our money.”  Over and over, I said, “It’s all our money–federal, state or local–every penny is ‘our’ money!”  The response?  Blank stares or comments such as, “Well, what we mean is it’s not out of our budget.”  On one level, I really don’t care what pot it comes from.  It’s all our–the taxpayers—money!

Yesterday on Channel 12 out of Milwaukee, one of the early morning news anchors talked about “the stimulus money and taxpayer money” as if they are two separate things!  No. No. No. It’s all our money!  

This morning, the other anchor on Channel 12 reported that some unit of government in Milwaukee (I believe it was the county) was sponsoring “free printing of résumés.”  Really?  Free?  While it might be truly free to some who will take advantage of this, someone is paying for this printing.  In this case because it’s sponsored by a unit of government, you and I are paying for this “free” printing.  I repeat, “It’s all our money!”

This is not the proverbial brain surgery or rocket science.  It’s a simple truth:  No level of government, not one, has any money except what “we the people” give it!  Even when the government borrows money, the taxpayers are the ones who ultimately foot the bill—with interest.  When the government earns interest on money (ha ha ha),  that interest is technically our money!

Stimulus packages, borrowed money, government grants, “free” health care, “free” printing, “free” breakfasts, new roads or whatever any unit of government buys, produces or builds—they should all be marked “compliments of American/Wisconsin taxpayers.”  It’s all our money!  We forget that to our own peril–and to the peril of our children and grandchildren who will be paying for what has been borrowed and spent against their futures! 

Repeat after me, “It’s all our money!”

Tax Freedom Day–A Review

Tax Freedom Day came on April 13th this year—both for the state and the nation. Tax Freedom Day is the day of the year in which Americans pay off their taxes. For example, this year federal taxes will amount to 28.2% of our income which translates to the first 103 days of the year. Thus, the day we’ve technically earned enough to pay off our federal taxes this year is April 13th.

From the state point of view, it took us 103 days to earn enough money to pay off our state taxes here in Wisconsin.   Usually we’re in the top ten states with the highest taxes but somehow we’ve slipped back to 12—not a bad thing although I suspect it’s not because our tax situation is better but because other states’ taxes are worse this year.

If the Governor’s budget passes as is—which is not only likely but probable—then I fear we’ll be sitting pretty inside the top ten states with the highest taxes again next year. The thousands upon thousands of Wisconsin citizens who attended the TEA Parities are pretty solid evidence, however, that we’re tired of irresponsible government and historical deficits.

The economic crisis is no excuse for a costly and highly-partisan state budget. We need to shore up our best natural resource–the family–not burden the family with indirect consumer taxes, higher property taxes and the 81 non-fiscal policy items in the budget.

So what next? How do we harness the energy, determination and enthusiasm of the TEA Party movement? That’s where we come in. Contact us and we’ll get you the information you need to find the appropriate avenue for you to get involved and transform your frustration into constructive action!

“This was a good rally today!” – Madison Police

I am not a politically oriented person, and rallies are not usually my choice of activity, but there are some issues and events worth  being a part of.  Along with thousands of others, I shared my Taxed Enough Already sentiments during an orderly, peaceful, exciting Grand Tea Party on the Capitol lawn! 

Madison gave a beautiful day to 6,000+ partygoers Wednesday as we gathered to voice our Taxed Enough Already sentiments. Mainstream media has consistently underestimated the Tea Party crowds across the nation, and we were no exception.  But, photos found here clearly show the thousands, rather than the reported hundreds, who rallied for the event. Our Madison Police unofficially estimated the crowd to be about 6,000 people.

Our Tea Party was exciting, yet peaceful and law-abiding.  Afterward, I personally thanked each police officer and sheriff I could find around the perimeter and in the center of the lawn.  I also asked them if they had had any difficulty with the crowd or if it had been a difficult job to patrol that day.  They reported that there had been no incidents, and one commented, “This was a good rally today.  There was no trouble, everybody got along, and that’s what we like to see – everybody getting along.”  

It really was a “Grand Tea Party” on the Capitol lawn!

~D. Westphall (WFC staff)