Two Wisconsin Republicans Have Correct Answer About What Should Happen To State Surplus

What is to be done with the projected $900 million surplus that seems to be burning a hole in the pockets of the Wisconsin State Legislature?

No matter who the press talks with under the statehouse dome there seems to be a number of ways to spend the money.  Since 2014 is an election year there also seems to be more than a fair share of making any use of the money match with potential votes come next November.

While some argue tax cuts of one variety or another best serve the state, others advocate for more education spending, still others  urge for job creation programs.  As a liberal Democrat I would very much like to see schools benefit from the surplus, or for more funds to be placed into health care programs.  At the end of the day there is always a variety of ways that money can be spent.   That is, after all, one of the easiest parts about governing.

But among the respondents concerning the surplus I was struck by two sober-minded Republican thinkers who are taking a more long-range and realistic approach to how the surplus might be dealt with.

I was pleased last week when reading the Wisconsin State Journal about how State Senator Luther Olsen did not jump on the easy GOP talking-point train over tax cuts, but instead offered a more logical response to the surplus question.

“I would like the longer view, but I think there’s an election coming up and the longest view we can look at is the first Tuesday in November,” Olsen said. “If you look at what happened in 1999 we cut taxes a lot and then in 2000 there was a recession. We have to be careful because there will be another recession.”

Not wishing to make policy decisions based on upcoming elections always meets with my approval.  I come from the school of thinking that good policy will create favorable conditions all by themselves come election time.

But Olsen was not the only one to look down the road and ponder bigger questions when it comes to state finances and what impact the surplus might provide.

State Sen. Dale Schultz said in his conversations with about 200 constituents over the past week since the surplus was announced, he hasn’t heard anyone clamoring for more tax cuts.

“‘Don’t you see through these election year tricks? We just want you to balance the budget,’” Schultz said in summarizing what he’s heard from voters. “I’m looking for a serious plan to get rid of the structural deficit.”

If we are smart we will look beyond the easy politically driven tax-cut approach to the surplus and use the funds in a way that will allow for our next budget cycle to be free of what everyone recognizes to contain a structural deficit.    In addition like all of us who look ahead to make sure monies are available should the roof or computer need replacing the state too should sock away surplus dollars in the rainy day fund.

This is not the first surplus when a governor and legislature got all giddy, or when the monies were all given out in one fashion or another.  No one can see the future, and while we all want tomorrow to be bright we have to be grounded in reality when making such big policy choices.  It would be the wisest move of all if this legislature were to heed the advice of Olsen and Schultz as it would allow for the most rational use of the surplus.

“The Wahlburgers” Are Another Reason I Worry About My Country

Is it not enough that A&E has embarrassed themselves by airing the racist and homophobic Duck Dynasty?  Do they need to go a step further and air The Wahlburgers, a show that must seem like a truly bad joke to most Americans?

In case you need some background on who hopes to make money on your viewership of this human trash consider the following.

“Wahlberg had been in trouble 20–25 times with the Boston Police Department in his youth. By age 13, Wahlberg had developed an addiction to cocaine and other substances.At fifteen, civil action was filed against Wahlberg for his involvement in two separate incidents of harassing African-American children (the first some siblings and the second a group of black school children on a field trip), by throwing rocks and shouting racial epithets. At 16, Wahlberg approached a middle-aged Vietnamese man on the street and, using a large wooden stick, knocked him unconscious while yelling a racial epithet. That same day, he also attacked another Vietnamese man, leaving the victim permanently blind in one eye.

For these crimes, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder, pleaded guilty to assault, and was sentenced to two years in state prison at Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction. He served 45 days of his sentence. In another incident, the 21-year-old Wahlberg fractured the jaw of a neighbor in an unprovoked attack. Commenting in 2006 on his past crimes, Wahlberg has stated: “I did a lot of things that I regret, and I have certainly paid for my mistakes.” He said the right thing to do would be to try to find the blinded man and make amends, and admitted he has not done so, but added that he was no longer burdened by guilt”

What has become of this nation when it strikes some business executive at a television network that someone like this deserves a show?  What does it say about our society when people will carve time out of their otherwise busy schedules to sit down and let this crap consume their time and space in their head?

When did the bar get lowered to the point that when an idea for a show of this type was proposed the person making the suggestion was not booted out on his backside to find another job?

I understand that at any point in our history one can always make the case that ‘good taste’ was in short supply.  But I also understand all that can be argued by degree of distastefulness.  However, it seems to me over the past years the pace of allowing just about anything or anyone to be subjected on our country has quickened.  The door that once would have been shut and locked has now seemingly been left totally open for the lowest common denominator to walk through.

I can not be the only one who finds this type of programming totally unacceptable as it promotes those who have no reason to find fame.  It only promotes all the things that we really need less of in our society.

Hiroo Onoda, Refused To Believe WWII Over For 29 Years, Dies At Age 91

What an amazing story.

Hiroo Onoda, an Imperial Japanese Army officer who remained at his jungle post on an island in the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that World War II was over, and returned to a hero’s welcome in the all but unrecognizable Japan of 1974, died on Thursday in Tokyo. He was 91.

His death, at a hospital there, was announced by the Japanese government.

Caught in a time warp, Mr. Onoda, a second lieutenant, was one of the war’s last holdouts: a soldier who believed that the emperor was a deity and the war a sacred mission; who survived on bananas and coconuts and sometimes killed villagers he assumed were enemies; who finally went home to the lotus land of paper and wood which turned out to be a futuristic world of skyscrapers, television, jet planes and pollution and atomic destruction.

In an editorial, The Mainichi Shimbun, a leading Tokyo newspaper, said: “To this soldier, duty took precedence over personal sentiments. Onoda has shown us that there is much more in life than just material affluence and selfish pursuits. There is the spiritual aspect, something we may have forgotten.”

Horse Carriage Fight Heating Up In New York City, But Horses Are Cared For By Owners

I admit to having nostalgic and even romantic ideas about the horse carriage trade.  Perhaps it is due to the fact I live in a historic district where carriage stoops can still be found on my block.   Perhaps it is because I often read of a time when horses and carriages were the means of transit.  Perhaps it is because it harkens back to a time when things appeared to be simpler and more serene.

Whatever the reason may be I am drawn to the controversy brewing at near full steam over the idea that New York City Mayor de Blasio will fulfill his campaign promise to banish the Central Park carriage horses.  I have weighed in on this matter before on this blog.

There is no doubt some serious money is behind the effort to chip away at the carriage industry.  But the teamsters are also cash-heavy and the carriage drivers should not be discounted for the clout they carry.  If I were de Blasio I would want labor behind me as the city transitions from the past to the future leadership that can be his for many years if he dodges these no-win and truly asinine ideas.

My words were not mere fluff as it was reported that those who want to end the carriage-horse trade contributed more than $1.3 million to help elect Mr. de Blasio and council members who supported a horse carriage ban.  They have a wiz-bang idea for a replacement to this industry, and that is to replace all the horses with a fleet of antique-style electric cars.

Oh be still my heart!

For all the rhetoric about the ‘abuse’ the horses are taking comes the need to add some facts to the story about how the horses are treated and respected.

Mr. Malone counters that the horses get their exercise by pulling in the park. And while they do not get to graze daily, horses take a mandated vacation to a farm for no less than five weeks each year. In 2010, the Council enacted legislation to improve the horses’ working conditions and increase drivers’ pay. 

Horses are not allowed to work in temperatures below 18 degrees and above 90, but that does not factor in wind chill, humidity or pavement temperature. Their stalls must be at least 64 square feet. At all four carriage horse stables in Manhattan, each stall has a rubber mat and an inspection certificate, citing recent veterinary checkups. There are sprinklers in all the stables, fans and water hoses for drinking.

Dr. Harry Werner, a veterinarian in North Granby, Conn., and a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said he was asked by the carriage horse association to make an assessment of the horses’ working conditions in February 2010. Dr. Werner said that he and three other veterinarians paid their own expenses to observe four of the five stables then in operation.

“Based on that inspection, I found no evidence whatsoever of inhumane conditions, neglect or cruelty in any aspect,” Dr. Werner said last week, adding that he does not take a position on carriage horses. “The demeanor of the horses was, to a one, that of a contented horse.”

“What happens is that people anthropomorphize,” he said. “They see a circumstance where they wouldn’t want to work in it, and think a horse wouldn’t work in it.”

Mr. Hernandez said he takes his cues from Teddy. If he does not want to work that day, his head will be down. In that case, Mr. Hernandez would take out Shaggy, 18, another horse owned by Mr. Collura. The owner’s third horse, Rocky, also 18, has been on extended vacation for the last six months in Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin Family Of Slain Purdue Student Not Alone When It Comes To Gun Violence

Who can not feel for the family of the slain Purdue student when his name and connection to Wisconsin was made known via new reports.  Once again a senseless and perhaps even preventable act of violence was carried out with the use of a gun.

As a result 21-year-old Andrew Boldt was killed by a fellow engineering student in a basement classroom at Purdue’s Electrical Engineering Building.

One can surely sense the outrage and sadness the mother of the victim feels as she states no one expects to wake up in the morning and hear the news that your child has been shot to death.

But sadly in this nation one has to be conscious of the fact that any one of us can be the next statistic of gun violence.

As I write this post news is crossing my email account that the University of Oklahoma in Norman reported a shooting on campus today.  There perhaps is another mom somewhere thinking the same thoughts that went through Mrs. Boldt’s head this week.

But let us not be confused as to why these news reports keep coming our way.

With the power the NRA has over elected officials, the lack of meaningful gun control legislation being allowed to pass, and the fact these stories are now so routine in a media saturated environment that there is a certain tolerance level the public now has when it comes to shootings means we can only come to a dreadful conclusion.

This is sadly the new normal.

Who in their right mind would think the mass school shootings of small children would ever have been allowed to be nothing more than a tragic news story when it came to shaping public policy?  If that did not move the electorate than one has to ask exactly what will move the moral meter of the voters.

As we hear the news and know in our heart the next gun violence story is most likely only a news cycle way leaves us with one thought.

This is all so very sad and needlessly so.