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As I See It
As I See It

As I See It

Wisconsin's longest running daily commentary, a daily tradition since 1971.

Friday - July 20, 2018 5:59 am

Congress to debate watching Packer games

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Go Pack Go! It is a common refrain at Lambeau Field, and throughout Wisconsin. Now it is the subject of discussion in the United States Congress. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin plans to introduce what she calls the “Go Pack Go Act” in Congress. It seeks to require that everybody in Wisconsin be able to watch their beloved Packers on television. It turns out there are many people in the state, those living along the Minnesota and Michigan borders, don't get the Packer games on their televisions. Some 400,000 people in the state are serviced by media markets in either Minnesota or Michigan. So those living in northwestern Wisconsin are shown the Vikings games on Sundays, while those living along the Michigan border are shown Lions games. Baldwin's bill would force cable and satellite companies to provide in-state programming to their Wisconsin customers. Perhaps this doesn't seem an issue worthy of debate in the United States Congress. With all that is going on in the world, there are more weighty issues up for debate in the nation's capitol. But this is a real issue for those who can't watch the Pack play. In addition to football games, these cable customers also aren't getting local news, or information about their state or municipal government. But the main thrust is being able to see Packers games, once again proving the adage that all politics is local.

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Thursday - July 19, 2018 5:57 am

Got milk? Only if it came from a cow

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What is milk? It seems a simple question. With a simple answer. Milk is what we get from lactating cows, and it is big business in Wisconsin. You know, the Dairy State. But it seems, at least according to the Food and Drug Administration, the answer isn't so simple. To that federal agency, milk currently is more than just what comes from cows. Milk can also come from plants. Visit the milk aisle at any grocery store and you will find cow's milk, but also soy milk, almond milk and rice milk among others. The FDA has allowed makers of these products to label them as milk. But maybe not for much longer. The commissioner of the agency confirms he plans to begin cracking down on makers of those products labeled as milk which don't come from cows. The agency has long defined milk as being an animal-based product, but that has not been enforced. Now the FDA says only milk will be allowed to call itself milk. A federal hearing will be held on the issue later this month. That is good news for Wisconsin dairy farmers. Milk sales have been in decline for years, as more kids drink energy drinks and electrolytes. Wisconsin continues to lose dairy farms at an alarming rate. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms last year, and already nearly 350 more already this year. It is good that the FDA will insist that when you've “got milk” it will actually have come from a cow.

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Wednesday - July 18, 2018 5:57 am

Congress must do what President will not

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t is abundantly clear, no matter what President Trump may say, that Russian interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. The supposedly skilled negotiator simply accepted the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country did not interfere with our elections. The year long investigation, led by Special Investigator Mueller and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees says otherwise. Trump threw them all under the bus, suggesting he trusts the word of his new comrade rather than his own intelligence department. But they did meddle, and will likely do so again, particularly now that they have cover from our President. What will be done to stop them? The next election is only four months away, and clearly Trump isn't going to do anything to protect the integrity of our elections. So it must be up to Congress to act. Suddenly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to be on the same side of this debate, deploring the President's comments that Russia didn't do it. They now need to work together especially with the sudden departure of the senior FBI official who oversaw a task force investigating Russian interference in our elections. We must work hard to protect our democracy, and ensure that people have valid information before casting a ballot, and that all who are eligible to vote are able to do so. That won't come from Trump. He is happy to take his soccer ball and go home. Congress must act together on this, and must act quickly.

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Tuesday - July 17, 2018 5:58 am

EBT cards no longer valid at farmer's markets

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t is that time of the season when Wisconsin’s bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest. In fact, it is peak season. A visit to the farmer’s market today finds baskets of tomatoes, broccoli, beans and peppers. These are healthy foods, grown locally, the kinds of foods we are told we should eat. Those who receive government assistance to purchase food are encouraged to use those benefits to purchase foods sold at farmer’s markets. Marketing and social media campaigns have been encouraging SNAP recipients to shop at farmer’s markets using their EBT cards. The small stands use an app on a food stamp recipient’s phone to accept the cards as payment. That makes sense, as it encourages those on limited budgets to eat healthy. It comes at a bad time then that the software company which makes this app is discontinuing it at the end of July, in just a couple of weeks. That could force these small farmer’s market stands to buy their own device to process the payments, which given their pricetag, is unlikely. The USDA should address this issue, and figure out a solution to allow vegetable stands to continue to accept EBT cards. Too much has been invested in promoting the program with too much success to allow it to just discontinue. Otherwise, those on food stamps may skip the vegetable stand and buy hot dogs and chips instead.

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Monday - July 16, 2018 5:58 am

Trump needs to do more than ask

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Now is not the time to simply ask questions. President Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin today amid the backdrop of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Twelve Russian intelligence officers are accused in the indictment of hacking Democrats in an effort to help Trump. Still being investigated is whether Trump himself or any member of his team engaged in any collusion with Russia. Trump, who vows such an investigation is a “witch hunt” says he will ask Putin about the election meddling. But this is more than meddling. Yes, according to the indictment, these Russian intelligence officers set up fake social media accounts to try to influence the election outcome. But they also reportedly hacked campaign officials, and were able to break into state and local voter registration rolls. That is more than meddling. It is a cyber war-crime. Such allegations deserve more than a question from the President of the United States. Trump should tell the former KGB official that such behavior will not go unpunished. And that Russia must stop interfering in our democracy as we approach the next election. It is time for bold, decisive action, not just a question and a wink.

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Friday - July 13, 2018 8:59 am

WEDC writes off $1 million loan

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The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation doesn't exactly have a great track record of success. The state agency tasked with creating job has a long history of giving our tax dollars to companies which promise to create jobs, but don't. They have provided job creation grants to companies which don't deserve them, and they have not always followed up to ensure the companies are doing what they promise. So it is little surprise that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation isn't always getting our money's worth. Now comes word that the agency is writing off more than $1 million in loans it made to a now bankrupt company in northeastern Wisconsin. Green Box, a waste recycling company has been plagued by scandal for years.They lied on their application for the state grant and after not creating all the jobs it promised, simply stopped paying the state back. Its owner has been sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. So that is $1 million of our tax dollars we will never get back. Critics of the job creation agency wonder if WEDC can't enforce a $1 million loan, how can we trust them with to ensure the $4.5 billion the state is giving to Foxconn to build its new plant and create all those promised jobs is money well spent? State lawmakers should hold WEDC's feet to the fire and make sure that with the Foxconn grant, Wisconsin taxpayers don't get conned yet again.

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Thursday - July 12, 2018 6:01 am

Play fair in Supreme Court nomination process

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Some are understandably worried about the nomination of a conservative judge to the United States Supreme Court. And they may be willing to do just about anything to keep Brett Kavanaugh from gaining a seat on the nation's highest court. Increasingly we are seeing the politicization of the process of appointing Supreme Court judges. It likely began in 1987 when Robert Bork was nominated for the position by President Reagan. It was the first time the public really paid much attention to the process of vetting potential Supreme Court justices. It really became an issue however when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Republicans in control of Congress refused to hold nomination hearings, saying that would better be done after the next election. Because of that political power play, Garland never got a nomination hearing. Now with Kavanaugh's nomination, some democrats are suggesting that they should work to prevent Kavanaugh from getting his nomination hearing. But that is not the way this process should work. It wasn't right to block Garland's hearing, and it wouldn't be right to block Kavanaugh's hearing. The Constitution outlines that the President nominates Supreme Court justices, and the Senate then holds hearings and a vote. That should happen in this case, even though some see blocking the hearings as the only way to keep President Trump's appointment from being confirmed. It wasn't right when republicans turned the process into political gamesmanship, and it wouldn't be right for democrats to do it now.

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Wednesday - July 11, 2018 5:58 am

More choices needed in road referendum

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Should marijuana be legalized? And should our potholes be filled? Those two questions could appear before La Crosse County voters on the November ballot. The County Board of Supervisors is being asked to approve specific language for those questions in an advisory referendum. The results won't lead to any specific change, but could send a message to state lawmakers about our feelings on legalizing pot, and give county board members an inkling of how people feel about road funding. Under the current proposed language, the road referendum would present three options for raising an estimated $5 million in new revenue to fund needed road work throughout the county. But none of those options suggest the county do nothing, and let the state figure out how best to fund our road repairs. The options which could be presented to voters include pursuing a new premier rest area tax, an additional half cent sales tax on a number of “tourist related” goods and services. The second option would be to adopt a wheel tax, which could be more than $50 per car registered in the county. And the final option would be to hike the property tax levy by 15%. But if the option of do nothing isn't offered, some may skip the question, skewing the results. The board should include the do nothing option, so board members have a clearer view of how we really feel about fixing our roads.

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Wisconsin is spending millions of dollars to try to lure people to move to Wisconsin and get a job. The ad campaign is largely targeting Illinois, telling would-be Wisconsinites how great a place this is to live and work. Perhaps the ads could even offer specific jobs, in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. The Corrections department has been dealing with staff shortages for several years. And that shortage has gotten so bad, that some prison employees are breaking the bank by racking up overtime. Correction worker Bradley Thiede worked an average of 95 hours per week in the year before he retired. He made a salary of $175,000, much of it in overtime. That salary was more than the warden at the prison where he worked, even more than the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, and more than the Governor. He volunteered to work all those hours, because in addition to boosting his salary, it also boosted his pension for which he will receive for the rest of his life. But is it a good idea for someone to work that much? Particularly while working in a prison, where fatigue could make safety an issue. The Corrections department spent a record $42 million on overtime just last year because of all the vacancies. Wisconsin should work to fill those vacancies, to save taxpayers overtime costs, and to ensure our prisons aren't being staffed by sleepy guards.

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Candidates for Governor in Wisconsin are campaigning on many issues. Health care, the economy and social issues. But one issue that not one of the nearly one dozen candidates have even brought up is the notion of legalizing sports betting in Wisconsin. The United States Supreme Court has opened the doors for states to begin offering legalized sports betting. Some states are getting an early start. New Jersey and Delaware have passed laws to legalize betting on sporting events. There has been no movement on legalizing such betting in the Badger state, and there are a number of hurdles to doing so. Foremost, the state’s constitution would have to be changed. Currently the constitution prevents any legal games of chance other than bingo and the lottery. Compacts with the state’s native American tribes allow them to operate casinos. Changing the constitution would not be easy, or quick. But it is possible. Yet not one candidate for Governor is making legalizing sports betting a campaign issue. Despite the fact that if sports betting was legalized in Wisconsin, it could bring in billions of dollars in new revenue. People like to gamble. Just look at all the office pools during March madness, or all the people throwing a few bucks on the final score of the Super Bowl. If just one candidate got behind the idea, the notion of legalized sports betting would begin to get some traction, and at least begin the discussion. Which would be at least farther along than we are now.

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