Dems Raise Money off, Mock Opioid and Homelessness Bills

Wisconsin Democrats are showing how desperate they are to raise money and find some way – any way – to bend over backwards to oppose commonsense GOP-championed legislation fighting scourges recognized on both sides of the aisle.

In a debate over bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic championed by Rep. John Nygren, Democrats used the opportunity to launch fundraising efforts advocating Medicaid expansion under Obamacare as the silver bullet to the problem, ostensibly portraying the GOP measures as somehow half-asked.

As if Democrats think signing up for BadgerCare will cause heroin addicts to see the light, quit the habit, and go frolic through the nearest dew covered meadow newly freed from the hell of addition. Really? Either Dems’ worship of bloated government programs is delusionally messianic, or they are using the issue to pander.

Forget that Medicaid actually produces worse outcomes for patients, saddles taxpayers with an increasing burden, and traps people in the quiet desperation of government dependency with a low, hard, government imposed ceiling on their economic potential. Also, just ignore the tangible benefits of and desperate need for Nygren’s legislation that no serious person would deny.

The very fact that there’s a debate over Nygren’s admirable and necessary HOPE legislation serves as a measurement of the depth of the morass of absurdity that Wisconsin’s Democrats have descended into. When Rep. Ron Kind and other liberal activist groups joined them in using the opportunity to demand Medicaid expansion, the sad stratagem became clear.

At the height of its severity, the crack cocaine epidemic killed 1.5 people per 100,000. By contrast, the opioid and heroin epidemic – the worst drug scourge in American history – kills between 10 and 30 people per 100,000. And the Democrats are using the issue to push a divisive, partisan political agenda that would do zilch to alleviate addiction.

They know there is a precisely zero percent probability that the Obamacare Medicaid expansion will happen under Walker and the Republicans – who have torched Democrats mercilessly at the polls for six straight years, all the while opposing Obamacare and refusing the Medicaid expansion. Knowing this, the Democrats’ ploy is clearly intended strictly to raise money.

It’s sickening, and it demonstrates the bottomless capacity of Democrats to exploit an opportunity, morality be damned. It also reveals the depth of desperation that their party is mired in. Their bench is thinner than Japanese Mulberry paper and, evidently, they need to lay in the ditch to collect whatever dollar bills might float by on the way to the sewer.

It doesn’t stop there. Amid debate over a similarly heralded effort to combat homelessness, Democrats denounced the measures as “appalling” and a merely “cosmetic solution.” I didn’t see in the LRB analysis that the GOP wanted to deliver makeup and lipstick to the needy. Again, the Democrats are trying to transmogrify a bipartisan plan into political hay.

This, by the way, was from the Democrat lawmaker who once proposed state government provide free tampons at all state buildings and parks. If that’s what passes for serious policy ideas for Wisconsin, the Democrats might as well give up on politics.

Without the money funnel that depended on forcing people into unions and stealing dues money of their pockets, apparently this is all Democrats have left. So devoid of values and intellectual consistency, it’s no wonder their party has struggled to survive (let alone compete!) on a level playing field.

State Rep. and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke took his frustration to Facebook:

To my liberal friends: Democrats in Madison are not serving you well. Two sad instances in the last week.

Last Tuesday we were in session debating broad bipartisan bills that addressed the opioid epidemic. During the debate, the Democrats hijacked the conversation to make political points while simultaneously sending out a fundraising email using that floor debate as a tool to raise the cash.

Now this week I, along with a few colleagues, introduced a package of bills aimed at combatting homelessness in WI. This package was developed in coordination with homeless advocates who called the initiatives “a huge step forward”. The response from state democrats? They called the dollars allocated and the reforms themselves “a cosmetic solution”

This is what your dollars, your volunteer hours, and your votes are getting you my friends.

Democrats are desperate, and will use any hook to galvanize their base. That, I suppose, is what politics can devolve into. Steineke’s message to liberals will fall on the deaf ears of a hyper partisan left-wing base, but that’s the very definition of a party in the bunker. To save its heart, the Democrat Party appears willing to amputate what’s left of its atrophied limbs.

These bills are thoroughly bipartisan, a fact hardcore liberals may not be aware of in the din of partisan hyperbole. They are serious efforts by a serious governing majority to address serious problems in the state of Wisconsin. Indeed, the opioid problem is as serious a problem as Wisconsin has faced. And to those in the grips of homelessness, there could be no more serious an issue than living under cellophane on a park bench.

To prove how un-serious they are, and how unfit they are to return to governing Wisconsin, Democrats have chosen these issues as a rallying cry to their most rabid supporters in the far-left bastions of the state in downtown Madison and Milwaukee.

As if to scream out to Wisconsin voters just how profoundly not serious their party is, Assembly Democrats actually played bingo as Gov. Walker gave his State of the State speech in January. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling added the exclamation point when she said the Republicans “own this legislature” and the transportation funding debate was the GOP’s problem. We are paying these people a salary? 

It’s really quite sad.

At this rate, the Assembly Democrat caucus will have all the appeal to mainstream voters as a screeching vulture. Like the Senate Democrat caucus, perhaps in the near future the Assembly Dems will also be able to fit into a pair of minivans and flee for Illinois…for good.

But hey, they can always blame gerrymandering.

Peter Barca, Windbag Blowhard

Republicans have dominated the Wisconsin legislature with abandon this year. It’s fun to watch in the same way watching Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers on an 80-yard, twelve minute scoring drive is satisfying and enjoyable.

In the same way, it’s amusing to watch Pete Carroll throw his headset on the ground and berate a referee because his team can’t stop the Packers offense — an image conjured last night on the Assembly floor by Democrat Rep. Peter Barca.

Indulging in an ostensible technicality quickly proven to be nonsense, Democrats across the board recused themselves from the vote on campaign finance law reform, reasoning that because their campaign committees would be affected, they could not in good conscience cast a vote. Some were more quiet than others. As Brian Sikma reports at Media Trackers,

The most eloquent critique of the campaign finance legislation came from state Rep. LaTonya Johnson, a Milwaukee Democrat, who was quoted by WisPolitics saying, “This bill sucks.”

(Sikma also very effectively and pointedly lays out four reasons “the collective Assembly Democratic temper tantrum was stupid. Read it here.)

The Democrat machine was buttoned up; each legislator used a similarly and carefully-worded statement of recusal, invoking Statute 19.46, along the lines of “I must recuse myself because of the self interest this bill provides for me and members of this body,” or some variation thereof.

Recusal means not casting a vote and not participating in the debate.

This caused a problem when Barca interrupted Speaker Robin Vos’ floor speech. (Vos, by the way, gave a magnificent and sassy performance as the party’s leader in the Assembly last night.) When you recuse yourself, that’s it, you’re done. Finito. Vos casually made this point to Barca, who didn’t stop there.

Minutes later, Barca barked his anger at Speaker Pro Tem Tyler August for not yielding to his lunatic ravings.

“You ask somebody to yield to a question, you recognize them,” he declared (I think … the part before “yield to a question” was mumbled). “So don’t pull that on me again! I have every right to stand up when a member is speaking and ask him to yield to a question.” It was childish and embarrassing, characteristic only of a leader in liberal circles, where vein-popping faux-outrage rules the day.

Barca is the master of overwrought hyperbole, the portrait of bleeding-heartism, and the perfect leader for Democrat legislators in Wisconsin right now. In his book, any conservative reform or advancement is, to borrow a phrase, a traveshamockery.

It’s one thing for a fringe, rogue member of the party to maybe take a principled stand, the kind of thing Russ Feingold would do here and there in the US Senate. When the party leader spearheads the initiative, something has gone terribly wrong in the process of representative government. Yet it’s always Democrats accusing Republicans of tyranny.

Barca makes for a good attack dog in liberal circles, but he’s useless as an elected representative. His leadership speaks to the state of politics in this state and the Democrat Party of Wisconsin’s manifest inability to accomplish anything meaningful when they can’t ram it through without opposition. No wonder they hate Scott Walker so much: he’s smarter than they are at just about everything. Perhaps their Republican counterparts would take them more seriously if they didn’t pull impish stunts like refusing to vote or fleeing the state to avoid doing their jobs.

It’s a good thing the Packers have a bye this week. The entertainment value otherwise might’ve been overwhelming.

The Party of Yesterday

The leaders of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin have nothing new or valuable to offer voters in our state. They adhere to demonstrably unworkable dogmas, microwaved for a new and very different century.

Peter Barca, still hanging on as the leader of the Democrats’ cute little Assembly minority, and Jennifer Shilling, who elbowed out Chris Larson to take over the dwindling Democratic caucus in the Senate, have spent their careers peddling the same stale ideas copy-and-pasted out of the generations-old playbook of LBJ liberalism, a policy agenda which has failed so many times during the lives of anyone who is younger than 60 it’s being considered as the replacement for the photo of Charles Manson beside Merriam-Webster’s definition of insanity.

More funding is the answer to our myriad problems in education. Gun control will reduce crime. More taxes and spending will create jobs. The long tentacles of government can create long-term, meaningful social justice. There is no social quandary that’s not solvable by a new government initiative (and of course just a teeny weeny new tax). In the past decade Americans have once again remembered these top-down, technocratic “solutions” don’t really work for anyone except the power hungry statists in the halls of power in Madison and DC, both now islands of prosperity in a nation crippled by debt.

Likewise, thanks to a historically brief period in which Americans gave liberalism one more try under Obama and, in Wisconsin, under Jim Doyle, we have a renewed skepticism over the sparkly rhetoric sprinkled over reheated government-centric policies, a vernacular in which taxes become revenues, spending becomes investments, cronyism becomes targeted incentives, terrorism becomes man-made disasters, Twinkies are calorie-intensive sustenance items, common sense is “the stupidity of the electorate,” and in the specific case of President Obama, ours is mine, except when it comes to his administration, its policies, or its actions.

Shilling and Barca subscribe to this same paint-the-pig approach to policy in which talking point pablum obscures the rottenness of their ideas. But to those who are unaware of the Shilling/Barca dynamic duo’s policy prescriptions, their incomplete websites won’t be much help. Along with the DPW’s disappointingly lacking web presence they illustrate the vapidity of the state’s minority leaders.

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Shilling’s site

Shilling’s site hasn’t been updated since she won re-election in ’12. The last news item is her endorsement by the La Crosse Tribune. Likewise the “Sample Issue” and subsequent fill text on her “issues” page has never been replaced with actual ideas. Back then it was funny; now that she’s in leadership it’s just remarkable.

(Shilling in 2009 told a political science class at UW-La Crosse, when asked what her legislative priorities are, that “it’s hard to get anything done when you’re in the minority.” She’s the perfect leader for the Senate Dems.)

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Barca’s website

Barca’s site is even worse. Other than the sporadic actual sentence, the entire site is fill-text (we geeks call it “Lorem Ipsum”).

The one-term congressman from the ’90s is still trying to figure out Web 2.0, or he’s pulling a Garth Brooks and re-branding himself as Carl Smith, a stand-in candidate that also makes some guest appearances on the Barca site.

It’s not outrageous to think a representative should keep their websites up-to-date. It’s almost 2015 – in an age in which most voters get their information via searching the Interwebs with The Google, this is as basic an expectation as showing up to committee meetings. Hell, a senator could even update their website with a few selfies and thumbs-up from any Illinois motel.

To the Dynamic Duo’s credit, I guess, their rank-and-file don’t really care what their candidates stand for. They’ll support them as long as they’re not Scott Walker, not a Republican, or a trusty warrior in the Republican War on Women (is that still a thing?). Mary Burke’s CTL+C, CTL+V jobs plan is another example of how the Democrats like to use stencils to put on their makeup.

The Dems’ problem is their aversion to intellectual tension. In the GOP, moderates, old fashioned progressives, and the far-right all do battle, the Log Cabin plays tug of war with Family Action, and anti-eminent-domainers and conservationists push back against groups like The Chamber. Meanwhile the Democrats have exerted great energy to shut down the internal intellectual strafing that makes a party better able to argue its point to the electorate, and it has shut down the primary process that produces candidates that better represent their districts. The Democratic coalition might walk in lockstep, but so did the British Army circa 1776. And now the French are coming.

(I’m not sure who the French are in this analogy, but it sounded like a decent way to end the paragraph…I digress.)

The fact is that folks like Shilling and Barca don’t have any substance to offer other than bites of pablum. Both are perfectly content repeating empty talking points devised by someone else and feeding their base vitriol they can pump their fists to, reliving the glory days when they trashed the capitol.

Democrats seem intrinsically incapable of offering any sincere ideas to voters, and shuffling the deck hasn’t yet accelerated their party into intellectual overdrive. A contrast is the style of Scott Walker, who connects with voters and who drives the GOP to do the same. On the other hand Democrats are driven by their party, which telegraphs talking points to comm shops from the Madison bunker.

So while Barca’s career hopefully will crescendo in the Assembly, Shilling is riding a conveyor belt in the same candidate factory that produced Mary Burke. Whether she’s going to run for governor or Congress, as Nik guesses, her opponent will be well advised to just be sincere. Walker’s three gubernatorial victories show that Wisconsin voters appreciate it.

And Walker’s website has an issues page.