Streams

 

 

Wisconsin

The Takeaway

As Wisconsin Debates Right-to-Work, Gov. Walker Looks Ahead to 2016

Thursday, February 26, 2015

As the Wisconsin state legislature debates right-to-work legislation to the sound of union protests at the state capitol, Gov. Scott Walker looks ahead to the 2016 presidential race. 

Comment

It's A Free Country ®

Why the NFL Ref Lockout Had the Public on Labor's Side

Thursday, September 27, 2012

NFL referees have managed to do what public sector employees in Wisconsin and teachers in Chicago couldn’t: Inspire near-unanimous public sympathy for the demands of organized labor.

Comments [1]

It's A Free Country ®

Explainer: Could Ryan Stay in Congress if Romney Loses?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Even if Mitt Romney remains “unemployed” after November, there’s a good chance Paul Ryan will still have a job in Washington come January.

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

Analysis: Picking Ryan Means Picking Fight on Transportation

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

 

Congressman Paul Ryan speaks at a Romney Rally in Manassas, Virginia, Sunday. (Photo by Flickr user monkeyz_uncle)

“Sharp” is a word you may have heard a lot these past few days. It’s a favorite descriptor for Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who became Mitt Romney’s running mate as of Saturday morning. Sharp, say friends and foes alike, are Ryan’s appearance, his mind, his criticisms of President Barack Obama, the spending reductions he favors—and now, somewhat suddenly, the contrast between the policies embodied by the presumptive Republican challengers and those of the incumbent Democrats. It is a perceived sharpness that itself stands in contrast, of course, to Mitt Romney’s pre-Ryan candidacy, which many commentators found too muddled and many conservatives found too moderate.

Take transportation, for instance. Romney, as this blog observed, spoke and behaved as a metro-friendly moderate when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s transportation budgets were modally balanced, with an emphasis on fixing what already existed, and he worked hard to create a new state agency to encourage smart growth development and sustainability. A candidate who still believed in those principles might not have many sharp things to say about transportation in a debate with President Barack Obama.

The Obama Administration subscribes to the belief, by no means exclusive to liberals, that infrastructure spending is crucial to creating jobs and keeping America competitive. Judging from Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint, the newly tapped V.P. candidate takes issue not with just the dollar figures required to test Obama's idea, but the philosophy itself.

As high-speed rail advocates and transit-friendly bloggers are already aware, Ryan will bring plenty of sharp contrast to the presidential campaign. Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic put it neatly:

“Mr. Ryan voted against every piece of transportation legislation proposed by Democrats when they controlled the lower chamber between 2007 and early 2010, with the exception of a bill subsidizing the automobile industry to the tune of $14 billion in loans in December 2008. This record included a vote against moving $8 billion into the highway trust fund in July 2008 (the overall vote was 387 to 37), a bill that was necessary to keep transportation funding at existing levels of investment. Meanwhile, he voted for a failed amendment that would have significantly cut back funding for Amtrak and voted against a widely popular bill that would expand grants for public transportation projects. He did vote in favor of the most recent transportation bill extension.”

These votes of Ryan's weren’t a matter of toeing the party line, either. Republican House Transportation Chairman John Mica, for instance, took the other side on every one of these votes except the failed amendment cutting funding for Amtrak.

But no budget hawk is perfect. Ryan did show a certain weakness for transportation dollars back when George W. Bush was President. In July of 2005, he joined the 412-8 majority in voting for the infamously pork-laden, “bridge-to-nowhere”-building reauthorization bill SAFETEA-LU. And then he sent out a press release listing all of the earmarks he had won for his district, including $7.2 million for the widening of I-94 between the Illinois state line and Milwaukee, $3.2 million for a bypass around Burlington, and $2.4 million for work on I-43 in Rock County. Small authorizations were also secured for preliminary engineering work on the Kenosha streetcar expansion project and Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. Ryan’s press release boasted that the state of Wisconsin was still a donee state, getting back $1.06 for every federal tax dollar, up from $1.02 the previous authorization. But “there’s no gas tax increase, and it draws on the Highway Trust Fund – not general revenues – for transportation spending, and it’s fair for Wisconsin gas tax payers.”

Five years later, as we know, it became unfashionable, gauche even, to be seen indulging in earmarks and other federal largess. In November 2010, that Tea Party autumn, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship of Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin after a campaign that made a major issue of the Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail “boondoggle.” In a television commercial, Walker said he’d rather use the $810 million to fix Wisconsin’s roads and bridges. But the money wasn’t fungible. As Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott soon had to admit, turning down the money only meant re-gifting it to high speed rail projects in other, bluer, more grateful states.

Paul Ryan tried to change that. Just a few days after Walker’s election, he and two fellow Wisconsin Republicans co-sponsored legislation in the House to order returned high-speed rail money deposited into the general fund for the purposes of deficit reduction. The bill would have changed the political dynamic of federal high-speed rail funding had it passed, placing new pressure on any governor who accepted those grants. For whatever reason, the bill never left committee.

When Ryan became Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2011, he put forth a 2012 budget that, reflecting Ryan’s commitment not to raise the gas tax or draw from the general fund, reduced transportation spending from its 2011 level of $95 billion gradually down to $66 billion in 2015. That was at a time when the Obama Administration was proposing a six-year infrastructure outlay of $476 billion “to modernize the country’s transportation infrastructure, and pave the way for long-term economic growth.”

But there’s the rub. Chairman Ryan refutes that premise. In his budget, transportation spending is not economic investment. To quote the 2013 budget:

In the first two years of the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Transportation grew by 24 percent–and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

The document goes on to say that the country’s fiscal challenges make “long-term subsidization infeasible,” and that “high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services.” (It’s unclear whether Ryan believes that new highways should also be built as self-supporting commercial services. But he should give Rick Perry a call before saying so publicly.)

With Ryan now on the Republican ticket, one can see more clearly the (sharper) contours of the general election debate, and infrastructure spending might just have a starring role. It’s there in the debate over the federal budget, and the federal funding role. It’s at the crux of the hullabaloo over “You didn’t build that” (a government theory Elizabeth Warren articulated better). And it will be there when Paul Ryan debates Amtrak Joe.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

Read More

Comments [2]

The Takeaway

Wisconsinites React to the Romney-Ryan Ticket

Monday, August 13, 2012

To most of America, Mitt Romney’s new running mate is still a relatively fresh face, but some voters have known Rep. Paul Ryan for over a decade. What do they have to say about him? 

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

Sikh Temple Shooter Had Ties to Hate Groups

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Now that the confusion and conflicting reports of this weekend's shooting in Wisconsin have settled, we're beginning to learn more about the alleged gunman who carried out the attack. His name was Wade Michael Page, and according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he was a "frustrated neo-Nazi" and a member of two racist skinhead bands.

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

From Aurora to Oak Creek: Surviving Together

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

If you’ve ever survived a shocking, irrational tragedy, like September 11 or the Aurora movie theatre shooting, or this weekend’s attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, there’s no official guidebook for how to cope. But maybe there’s hope to be found by uniting with others who’ve faced what you’re facing.

Comments [2]

The Takeaway

Gunman Kills 6 at Sikh Temple Shooting

Monday, August 06, 2012

A gunman opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sunday in an act of domestic terrorism. Details are still emerging from yesterday’s events, but it has been confirmed that a gunman killed six members of the church and wounded three.

Comments [3]

It's A Free Country ®

In Wisconsin's Democratic Stronghold, Activists Weary but Resolved

Thursday, July 26, 2012

If there's one place you'd expect to find an enthusiasm gap for Obama supporters, it'd be in Madison. But after running into weary and cynical voters in Colorado and Iowa, Wisconsin voters sounded remarkably resolved for another contest.

Comment

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: How Should Progressives Handle Wisconsin Loss? Take Cues from GOP

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Even when they lose a race, conservatives get right back to promoting the ideas their losing candidate ran on. Progressives should do the same post-Wisconsin.

Read More

Comments [1]

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Was the Wisconsin Recall Election a Bellwether for the Nation?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In Wisconsin, it was a race for the left and right corners of the political spectrum. Will the rest of the country follow suit?

Read More

Comment

The Takeaway

Recall Decided: Walker Retains His Seat

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Voters in Wisconsin voted yesterday to decide whether their governor Scott Walker stays or goes. After months of political wrangling, state-wide campaigning, and millions of dollars in contributions, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will keep his seat. Walker beat Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett by seven points, becoming the first governor to win a recall election.

Comments [5]

The Takeaway

What Does Walker's Fate Mean for America?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Last night’s recall election in Wisconsin was more than just a race between Republican Governor Scott Walker and his democratic challenger Tom Barrett. The real fight may have been between the national Tea Party movement and national labor unions.

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

Wisconsin Voters Decide Walker's Fate

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Voters in Wisconsin are heading to the polls to decide whether or not their governor Scott Walker stays or goes. Regardless of whether or not Wisconsin will actually matter come November, politicians in Washington are watching the state closely for hint of the national mood.

Comment

It's A Free Country ®

Scott Walker Recalled or Not, Wisconsin's Days of Unity are Gone

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The state's long history of treading on shared political common ground through cooperation in government has given way to two sharply divided parties whose supporters have lost the civility and respect that once characterized state politics.

Comment

The Takeaway

Audio Essay: A History of Recall Elections

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

If Tuesday's vote doesn't lean in his favor, Scott Walker will join the ranks of only a handful of politicians who've been ousted in recall elections. The Wisconsin vote has grabbed headlines for months, but it turns out that booting a governor from office is a fairly rare event. Ken Davis takes a historical perspective in this audio essay, examining recalls of the past.

Comment

The Takeaway

Wisconsin Voters Talk Gov. Scott Walker's Recall Election

Monday, June 04, 2012

This Tuesday, Wisconsin will decide whether to recall Republican governor Scott Walker from office. Walker is being taken to task on labor union reforms he implemented suddenly last year, shrinking their bargaining power and angering droves of Wisconsinites. The recall has polarized Wisconsin's population. Martin Smith is retired, and as a Democrat from Madison, Wisconsin, he wants to see Scott Walker lose on Tuesday. Clarence Kuehmichel, a retired firefighter from Elm Grove, Wisconsin, thinks the recall election is a waste of money and has been happy with Walker's performance in office. 

Comments [1]

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: How Much Backlash to the Backlash in Walker Recall?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Elections are about outcomes, and if Walker holds onto his post, it will be a sign that there's still work to do.

Read More

Comments [5]

The Takeaway

Listeners Respond: Are You Voting Today?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Republican primaries take place today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. We're checking in with voters today, including Mitt Romney supporter Deborah Edattel in D.C., conservative blogger David Blaska in Wisconsin, Peg Edquist from Wisconsin, and Santorum supporter Julaine Appling from Wisconsin. 

Comment

The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and DC; JOBS Act and Jobs Numbers; GOP Finally Coalescing Around Romney?

Monday, April 02, 2012

While the GOP Presidential contenders prepare for primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., candidate Mitt Romney garners key endorsements from Senator Rob Johnson and Congressman Paul Ryan. Is the Republican Party finally coalescing around their presumptive nominee? Back in Washington, President Obama is set to sign the STOCK Act and the JOBS Act on Monday, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics prepares to release job numbers for March on Friday. What does this mean for the future of the economy? Charlie Herman, business and economics editor for The Takeaway and WNYC and Molly Ball, staff writer covering national politics for The Atlantic, explore the stories for the week ahead.

Comment