Federal Transportation Cash Windfall An Iffy Prospect

The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

[Madison, Wis…] House Speaker Paul Ryan threw some cold water on the idea that the federal government would swoop in with more federal dollars to fund some of the state’s largest projects at a MacIver Institute event on Friday.

“Our goal is not to maximize federal spending,” Ryan said when asked about the possibility of a major spending package aimed at infrastructure. Instead, the Janesville Republican said he hopes to use fewer federal dollars with more private money to match it.

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“We need to take the federal fiscal footprint and make it smaller to leverage more of the private sector dollars,” Ryan said.

That’s bad news for Wisconsin infrastructure hawks who may have seen a ray of hope in Gov. Walker’s compromise proposal to cut transportation bonding by $200 million and link more spending on the state’s Southeast Freeway Mega Projects to a windfall of federal money.

The Department of Transportation reportedly plans to request $341 million in federal transportation money, significantly more than the state’s typical request of the feds.

Walker offered the revised plan in an attempt to break an ongoing budget impasse centering on the transportation budget. In addition to reducing bonding by $200 million, the compromise plan asked the Legislature to approve contingency bonding for the Southeast Freeway Mega Project program, projects receiving federal financial assistance and carrying a price tag of $500 million or more.

“Interstate 94 North/South, the Zoo Interchange and Interstate 94 East/West are high profile projects in southeastern Wisconsin. We propose contingency bonding that would be linked to additional federal funding for mega projects,” Walker wrote. “Wisconsin is well positioned to qualify for additional federal funding to help support mega projects.”

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is also hopeful more money from D.C. is in the offing. “The federal government budget comes out in August. We’re hoping there is opportunity for us to get a big investment out of the federal government,” said Darling, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.

Ryan’s comments hint that a substantial boost in federal funding is unlikely to materialize.

Walker’s offer – which does not increase the gas tax or vehicle registration fee, one of the governor’s core promises in the budget – doesn’t seem to have persuaded Assembly leadership, which is insisting on additional revenue for the troubled DOT.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke called Walker’s proposal a “good step in the right direction” in an interview with the MacIver News Service on News/Talk 1130 WISN, but reiterated that he still believes new revenue is needed. “We need to keep some of these projects on track…and without new revenue, that’s going to be impossible to do.”

The Left Revives Ad Depicting Paul Ryan Murdering an Elderly Woman

The following by James Wigderson first appeared at Right Wisconsin. The headline is mine because “throwing grandma over a cliff” is simply another way of putting what’s really being depicted. The ad’s cute background music and voiceover shouldn’t distract from the fact that a lookalike of the Speaker of the House is depicted as committing murder in this ad, something we should all remember as Democrats across the country talk out of both sides of their mouths about the need for civility.

So much for a more civil tone in Washington D.C. after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA. A liberal organization, the Agenda Project Action Fund, is bringing back a controversial ad accusing House Speaker Paul Ryan of wanting to throw grandma off a cliff.

This time the ad has been re-edited to include comments from President Donald Trump when, during last year’s presidential campaign, he was promising not to cut entitlements:

Video of Trump: “Remember the wheel chair being pushed over the cliff when you had Ryan chosen as your Vice President. That was the end of that campaign, by the way when they chose Ryan. I said, you got to be kidding. Because he represented cutting entitlements, etc. etc. The only one who is not going to cut is me.”

Video of Grandma in the wheel chair, voice over: “But now President Trump is doing everything that young man says.”

Video of Trump: “Paul Ryan, come up and say a few words. Congratulations on a job well done.”

The ad has been widely attacked since it first appeared in 2011 for carrying political rhetoric too far, but liberals have returned to the ad again and again to attack Ryan. In 2012, after Ryan was picked as the Republican candidate for Vice President by former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Madison television stationrefused to run the ad because of the content.

In an interview with Fox News, Ryan was asked if he can laugh at the ad. “Oh yeah, I’m so used to this by now,” Ryan said. “I think the left is out of gas. I think they just basically decide, resist, resist, resist.”

“They want government-run health care,” Ryan said. “Government-run health care is collapsing while we speak. It’s not working. So what’re we doing? We’re replacing it with a law that will actually work.”


Democrats Challenging Ryan Roll Out Slick Videos

Two Democrats have rolled out what appear to be strong, well-funded campaigns to take on Speaker Paul Ryan for Wisconsin’s first congressional district next fall.

Cathy Myers is a teacher and Janesville School Board member. Her message will be that Paul Ryan is an “out-of-touch millionaire,” but in the primary she will attempt to unite Democrats behind her with the message of “let’s take on Paul Ryan together.”

Randy Bryce bills himself as a union iron worker. His message centers on bashing Ryan’s healthcare proposals and, in a video that accompanied his rollout, he challenges Ryan to “switch jobs” with him. While he claims to be a humble iron worker, Bryce is a familiar face in political activist circles, having testified before the state legislature against conservative union reforms and taking the bullhorn at a rally protesting President Trump’s visit to Milwaukee.

Is Bryce actually an iron worker, or is he actually one of those people who climbs the union ranks far enough to spend all this time on the job doing union activist work while everyone else toils away?

Both Bryce and Myers rolled out their campaigns with slick, highly produced videos that attempt to tug at heartstrings over healthcare reform. As is the case across the country, the Democrats try to claim Obamacare’s repeal and replacement will cause people to die. Ryan, who was the target of the now-iconic “throwing granny over the cliff” TV ad, is used to being painted as an evil person by the left.

Painting their political opponents as evil death mongers and mustache twirlers seems to be the only hope for a political party with no actual ideas for running a cribbage club, let alone the entire country.

A third Democrat, David Yankovich, has also announced his candidacy. “Weird Dave” Yankovich is an Ohio resident who moved to the district this spring.

Paul Ryan won his last election by a 35 point margin.

(Oh, and Paul Nehlen is back for another quixotic primary scampaign against Ryan. Evidently he spent all the money he fleeced from his contributors in his last bid and needs to pay the bills for the next two years.)

Don’t Point Fingers, Do the Job.

The first Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to gain enough votes in the House to pass. Ok, that’s a big setback for the party that’s promised to get rid of the disastrous healthcare law since it became law in 2010.

Some commentators and politicians have already started pointing the finger of blame. Some are pointing at the Freedom Caucus, who were intransigent in their insistence Obamacare be repealed in full.

Others are pointing at more moderate Republicans, who feared the dubious CBO score that claimed 24 million people would lose their insurance and premiums would continue to increase under the AHCA.

Many on both sides are trying to pin the blame on Speaker Ryan. Some say he didn’t let the Freedom Caucus in on the process of creating  the bill, kept it hidden from members for too long, and/or didn’t adequately communicate the big picture (the three-phase plan of which the AHCA was just the first part).

Still others blame Trump, who trusted his advisers that the AHCA was the best way forward and that healthcare should’ve been the first priority of the administration as opposed to tax reform.

While the failure of the AHCA is at least nominally a failure, going down the course of blame placing and finger pointing will turn that surface wound into a swollen pustule.

The American people are sick of Washington. They are sick of politicians making promises they can’t or don’t keep. They are sick of political spin and politicians blaming everyone but themselves when their failures become manifest.

They’re also sick of Washington meddling in their business, confiscating their money, lying to them, playing them for fools, and treating them like they’re moronic trolls who can’t run their own lives – or see through D.C. political tricks. And their impatience is increasing.

If squabbling must be done, Republicans should do it behind the scenes. Let the Democrats publicly gloat that their ruinous law is still in place.

I applaud President Trump for throwing up his hands and demanding a vote. He was elected to get things done, and another protracted few weeks of intra-GOP squabbling wouldn’t have produced a substantially different bill that could’ve both gained enough House support to pass that body and clear the Senate’s ridiculous cloture hurdle. I also applaud Speaker Ryan for avoiding placing blame and gently chiding his caucus for failing to grow into a governing party, rather than a grandstanding, statement making opposition party.

Speaker Ryan and the House GOP have compounded their challenge. They must still deal with Obamacare, or face a major revolt in 2018 from the voters. The seething mass of Americans in the populist ring who have grown increasingly agitated with Washington won’t put up with more inaction. Simultaneously, Ryan and company must now deal with tax reform.

If they don’t accomplish tax reform, they will lose all credibility as a governing party and all trust that the American people have placed in them to actually get something done – to shrink a government that takes trillions of tax dollars annually but renders little to middle class taxpayers except pothole-riddled highways and nonstop cable news bickering.

If they don’t accomplish health care reform – and there’s still time – they will break one of the longest-running political promises ever made to the American people.

It’s time for the GOP to figure out the way forward and to act and produce results, or else the nationwide uprising among flyover country voters will continue and GOP incumbents will be told en masse by voters, “You’re Fired.”

Paul Ryan’s speech to the 2016 RNC

Wisconsin is in a bit of a twilight zone. While our April 5 primary was essentially the “Never Trump” movement’s Alamo, dignitaries from Wisconsin are playing some of the most prominent roles at the convention that nominated Trump as the GOP’s 2016 standard bearer last night.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the party’s ostensible thought leader and uniter-in-chief, is also the convention’s chairman. Wisconsin native Reince Priebus is chairman of the RNC. And Gov. Scott Walker has accepted a speaking slot as one of the most prominent Trump foes to address the convention.

Last night was Ryan’s turn to address the raucous hall. He took the opportunity to urge unity and present the conservative ideas that stand in stark contrast to the failed liberal agenda of the past decades.

The only thing progressives don’t deliver, he said, is progress.

Here’s Speaker Ryan’s speech in full:


The Kook Imbalace

There is more tolerance for fringe liberals parading strange notions of collectivism and women’s liberation than for Republicans who stray from their party’s box. This imbalance of opinion comes from both the left and the right, but the bigotry remains reserved exclusively for the right-wingers who are painted as having run off the rails.

It makes the theory of Republicans going into the crevasse of emotional politics to beat Democrats at their game of high-minded demagoguery almost impossible. The fuss about Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s lawsuit against elements of the ACA demonstrates this. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board: “Johnson’s suit challenges a federal rule that allows members of Congress and their staffs to continue to receive health benefits similar to other federal employees.”

The suit, MJS argues, “is just another attack in the guerrilla warfare that members of the far right have been using to confuse the public about the act and hamper its implementation.” The rest of the editorial reads desperate, pleading with Mr. Johnson to — gee wiz — knock off the attitude, already Mister, since the whole health care reform initiative “doesn’t need much help to look bad given its abysmal rollout.”

Mr. Johnson’s suit is a parlor trick that bears little chance of imploding the ACA. Nevermind that the suit could have merit. The Senator used his platform to bring to light yet another unpredictably audacious and unconstitutional element of the Affordable Care Act to continue the march, however unlikely, to repeal or defunding or whatever act it takes to make this monstrosity dissolve into history.

Let’s not parse their case about confusing the public; that’s not the point here. The linchpin of their editorial is another Wisconsin legislator, James Sensenbrenner, who publicly decried his colleague’s lawsuit as political stunt. Remember that Mr. Sensenbrenner represents one of the most reliably and regularly Republican counties in the nation and gains little political clout for decrying a popular and effective Senator. If he is jockeying to challenge Mr. Johnson for a Senate seat, he’s being a boob and directly causing trouble for the party. His statement neatly wrapped the MJS editorial.

When Republicans speak ill of other Republicans, Democrats are the first to point it out and organize a parade across town to commemorate the blessed event. If Democrats ever spoke ill of other Democrats, Republicans wouldn’t know what to do. They’re terrible at playing politics.

It was national news yesterday when CNN reported that a former White House staffer said President Obama isn’t so great at governing but makes a heckuva campaigner.

Ron Johnson is hardly a nut, but a well-known and senior Republican legislator, from the same state no less, took the time to poo-poo him. The left, with control of the media and, in turn, a significant portion of public opinion, can exploit these moves.

The same happened when John Boehner said Tea Partiers “lost all credibility” and were acting “ridiculous” and were “using the American people” for their opposition to the bipartisan budget bill rolled out last month. While the budget his party helped craft may have been the best possible solution, his tactics of scapegoating and lambasting the Tea Party were not. The news stories would have little to do with the merits of the legislation and everything to do with creating a narrative about the Establishment vs. The Kooks. Ironically, suddenly Mr. Boehner became the most authoritative and heralded voice on conservative politics in the country. When the media machine and quiet apathy of the general voter work together to diminish all right-wing politics, creating this unintended talking point does nothing for the cause.

The odium is reciprocal. Following the Ryan-Murray deal, anecdotally, talk radio was aflame with conservatives throwing darling Paul Ryan under the bus for negotiating a bill. Anyone who would expect an immediate, across-the-board cut in spending and a balanced budget with a Democrat president and Senate is oblivious to the political realities that govern the political process. The Ryan-Murray accord was a victory, if for no other reason than Democrats weren’t popping champagne in celebration, a first since the 2006 congressional takeover.

Meanwhile, the freaks of the left run unchecked: Code Pink, Occupy Wall Street, the braless dreadlocked shim with a joint in one hand and a pair of scissors around its neck to advocate the castration of men in celebration of feminism — but enough about Keith Olbermann’s dominatrix. It doesn’t matter how extreme the fringe, which usually exists for a single cause and purpose, mainstream Democrats either jump to their defense or choose not to engage with them, and offer a meaningless, “maybe they have a point” aside.

Worse, Democrats are superiorly equipped with a capacity to unite in the interest of electing their candidates. Remember the camera shot up Hillary Clinton’s nose when the New York delegation announced the votes to nominate Barack Obama in 2008? I was drunk enough to not remember, but I’m told it was deliciously gratuitous. Mrs. Clinton’s stint as Secretary of State served to microwave her resume, keeping her in politics and in the public eye for a significant part of her opponent’s first term as a prelude to the inevitable 2016 bid. It takes little imagination to envision Hillary Clinton storming into then-Chair Howard Dean’s office at the beginning of 2008, picking him up by the collar, slamming him against the wall, and, from behind gritted teeth, growling, “This was supposed to be mine.” Barack Obama dethroned the imminent front-runner, thanks to the novelty of race trumping gender. For Democrats, politics, not principal, govern all practical matters in order to get elected.

Even today, the dumbfounding claims came from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton opposed the troop surge in Iraq to position themselves politically. Republicans like Mr. Boehner are guilty of having done the same, but at least with an end goal and always in the short term. For Democrats, the end goal is election for power’s sake in order to leverage abortion rights and gay marriage laws.

In order to maintain a status as legitimate contenders in national politics, Republicans must hold hands and jump, together, into the crevasse of nasty party politics, and learn to beat Democrats at their own game.