It’s Not About the Money

It’s easy to call the current Foxconn agreement a ‘bad deal’ because, most certainly, it is. The bill that passed the Wisconsin Assembly sets up over $2.85 billion in state tax credits over the next 15 years, exemptions from sales taxes, and environmental waivers.

The deal’s proponents have pointed out that if it were to fall through, it would make whichever state that does manage to make an agreement with Foxconn very happy. This is undeniable but it’s indicative of the real problem. When elected officials treat our state government as just another player in the market rather than the voice of the people, we end up with an economy without safeguards. Such an economy quickly becomes a race to the bottom, with states fighting over how much of their tax revenue and how many of their environmental protections they can give away just for the privilege of housing an employer. The problem with races to the bottom? You might win.

The temptation is to continue calling this a “bad deal,” but I don’t think that tells the whole story. For me, the issue is bigger than the money saved, or not saved, by taxpayers. It’s not about a good or bad deal, but the role of government in general. More than a government that is simply efficient or that saves me money, I want a government that protects the people and environment of Wisconsin. To call it a deal suggests that the Wisconsin state government is just another business out to make a profit or cut costs. But that is not what our government is (or, at least, that’s not what our government should be).

The Wisconsin State Assembly (who passed the agreement) and the office of the governor (who constructed the agreement) were built to enact the will of the people of our state. And, in that regard, it is not they who make deals, but we who make rules – rules to protect the safety and interests of Wisconsin citizens. In terms of a deal between two financial entities, sure, the deal is ‘bad’. But in terms of an agreement designed to protect Wisconsin, this bill is a colossal failure and a complete perversion of the role of government.

Further, to call it a ‘bad deal’ assumes that the agreement’s proponents didn’t get what they wanted. It’s tempting to criticize Governor Walker, and his allies in the Assembly, on their own terms: to say that if they ‘were really a conservative’ they wouldn’t have resorted to ‘corporate welfare’ or ‘tried to pick winners and losers in the market.’ But, again, I’m not so sure that’s the whole story. Maybe the ‘bad deal’ they’ve made serves their ends perfectly well: By waiving environmental regulations and providing Foxconn with a massive tax cut, the agreement increases the burden on the state’s infrastructure while removing the tax revenue necessary to maintain it. This guarantees further budget shortfalls and other financial dysfunction and makes it easier for ideologues to justify a weaker government, one incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve called it a deal in the past and you’ll probably catch me calling it a deal in the future; it’s an intuitive way to understand and talk about what’s happening. But it’s important to remember that, as progressives, we do have a broader vision for our society, one that includes building a robust and responsive government accountable to its constituents, capable of protecting the people and their interests, and that ensures prosperity for all.

The TrumpCare Timeline


March 6th: Republicans in the House introduce the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

March 13th: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its score for the bill; estimating that the bill would result in loss of insurance for 24 million Americans.

March 16th: Without any public hearings, House committees approve the bill. It is scheduled for a House vote on March 23rd.

March 20th: House drafts are reconciled into a single bill and scheduled for a vote on March 23rd.

March 23rd: House vote is delayed when Speaker realizes there are not enough GOP votes to pass the bill.

March 24th: After consulting with President, Speaker Paul Ryan pulls the bill rather than have it fail in a vote. Ryan’s statements afterward indicate that the House will be moving on from healthcare in general.



April 25th: The MacArthur amendment is introduced, reviving consideration of bill.



May 4th: Before the CBO score is available for the revised bill, the House narrowly passes the AHCA 217-213. However, upon the passage in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discards the House version and appoints a council of 13 men to write its own version of the healthcare bill.

May 6th: Only two days after the House passage, Indivisible Madison holds a Die-In protest at the Capitol to dramatize how the AHCA jeopardizes the lives of people who will lose health insurance under the bill.

May 16th: Resist Trump Tuesday makes a visit to Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office to ask that she vote no on the bill, to use unanimous consent to block the bill, and if all else fails, do what she can to introduce countless amendments to drag out debate and force the GOP to table the bill..

May 24th: The CBO releases its new score for the modified AHCA that passed the House. They predict the amount of Americans that will lose insurance would be roughly the same at 23 million.



June 6th: Resist Trump Tuesday makes another visit to Senator Baldwin’s office. Staffers assure those attending that engaging with your members of Congress works and that stories from constituents about healthcare killed the first draft of the AHCA.

June 7th: Tammy Baldwin, along with 5 other Democratic Senators, introduces S 1307, the Affordable Health Insurance for the Middle Class Act, to make more people eligible for healthcare tax credits.

June 13th: Contrary to his previous comments on the subject, Trump describes the House bill as “mean”

June 22nd: Senate introduces the council’s replacement amendment to the House AHCA, entitled Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA).

June 26th: The CBO finds the Senate bill as damaging as the House bill, estimating the number of Americans expected to lose insurance at 22 million.

June 26th: The New York Times publishes an op-ed from Senator Ron Johnson that’s highly critical of the BHRA. He also claims that he would vote no on the motion to proceed, along with 3 other Republican senators: Rand Paul (Ky.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Dean Heller (Nev.).

June 27th: McConnell postpones the vote to after the July 4th recess.

June 28th: Adapt, a disability rights group, staged a sit in at Senator Ron Johnson’s Milwaukee office.



July 6th: Indivisible Madison holds the “Get Your Hands Off Our Healthcare Rally” at the State Capitol. Wisconsin Progressive Alliance, Indivisible Stoughton, and Oshkosh Tuesday Rally Group stage a sit in at Senator Ron Johnson’s Oshkosh office in protest of the Senate bill.

July 13th: Senate Republicans amend the BCRA so it will meet Senate reconciliation standards. That makes eligible for passage by a simple majority rather than the usual 60. Republican Senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins issue statements that they will vote no on the revised bill.

July 15th: Senator John McCain announces he must undergo surgery to remove a blood clot his left eye (later discovered to be the result of a malignant brain tumor), further delaying the vote.

July 15th: Madison Socialist Alternative (along with the Four Lakes Green Party, Democratic Socialists of America, AFSCME local 125, Progressive Dane, Immigrant Workers Union, Wisconsin Bailout the People Movement, Student Coalition for Progress, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) holds a rally at the State Capitol in opposition to TrumpCare.

July 17th: Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran add their names to those who would vote no on the revised plan. The bill appears to be dead.

July 18th: Indivisible Madison, Indivisible Tosa, Indivisible Milwaukee, and Bucking Badgers gather outside Johnson’s Milwaukee office in protest of the latest version of BCRA.

July 25th: Senator McCain returns to the senate after surgery and votes yes on a motion to proceed. Senator Johnson also votes yes, contrary to many of his indications. The vote passes 51-50 with Mike Pence breaking the tie and debate on the bill begins.

July 25th: Republicans develop a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act that includes amendments which provide more funds to address the opioid crisis; lets people pay for premiums using pre-tax health savings accounts; restores $100 million for Medicaid funding; and adds the Cruz amendment which allows insurers to offer alternative cheaper bare-bones policies. Before the vote could begin, Senate Democrats use a procedural move requiring the Senate clerk to read the entire text of the amendment aloud in the Senate chamber. This is all part of the delaying tactics Democrats employ throughout debate of the BCRA to express their overall unhappiness with the bill. Then Democrats object to using reconciliation rules for the bill because it had not been officially scored by the CBO. Therefore, Republicans need 60 votes for passage. It fails miserably, 43-57.

July 26th: The Senate takes up the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act which would repeal Obamacare but would not be effective for two years. This is supposed to give them two years to craft a replacement before the repeal is implemented. This bill is almost identical to one passed by the Senate in 2015 but vetoed by President Obama. The 2017 bill failed passage, 45-55.

July 26th: The Senate then goes on to consider a bill which calls for complete repeal of Obamacare with no replacement. Seven Republicans join the Democrats to reject the bill.

July 27th: The Senate considers what they call the “skinny plan.” It would repeal the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax, and possibly include defunding Planned Parenthood and eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund. None of the Republicans actually want this to become public policy. Rather, they see it as a step to reach a conference committee with the House and come up with yet another proposal to repeal and replace. In addition to the Democrats, GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski announce they will vote against the bill. In a surprising move on the Senate floor, they are joined by Senator John McCain to defeat the bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addresses the press: It’s time to move on to tax reform.



August 2nd: Both the House and the Senate take a bipartisan approach to fixing Obamacare!!! Sen. Lamar Alexander announces that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions will hold bipartisan hearings on how to repair the ACA individual market. In the House, a group of 40 lawmakers from both parties endorses an outline of ideas aimed at making urgent fixes to the ACA. Bipartisanship – what a welcome surprise!

Emails from Another Dimension

While doing some research on an article, one of my searches tapped into some alternate dimension. At first, I was elated to discover such an amazing phenomenon, but the interdimensional wormhole only lasted a few minutes. Before the breach closed, I was able to cut and paste an email exchange that made its way to that universe’s headlines. This alternate version of the universe was much like our own and had elected their own President Trump. As such, the email exchange starts off the same. But as the email chain continues, the differences become clear . . .

On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.


Rob Goldstone

On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:53, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment and can’t speak on the phone, but I don’t think we’ll be able to meet at all. We’re running for federal office here so we have to do things differently. I’m not just acting on behalf of the Trump brand anymore. If it’s what you say I’m pretty sure we have to drop it.



On Jun 3, 2016, at 10:55, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Going to touch base with Jared about this and maybe a few of our folks from inside the beltway. Please don’t present this to Sr. (or Rhona) at all until I get back to you.

Thanks for understanding,


From: Rob Goldstone
Sent: Monday, June 06, 2016 12:40 PM
To: Donald Trump, Jr.
Subject: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Hi Don,

Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this Hillary info – wanted to try to schedule a time and day

Best to you and family Rob Goldstone

From: Donald Trump, Jr.
Sent: Monday, June 06, 2016 12:42 PM
To: Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort
Subject: Fwd: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Hey guys, bringing you in the loop here. Please see the exchange below. It’s Goldstone again, this time he’s not just dropping hints. I don’t want to jeopardize any of our relationships, but at this point in the campaign we really can’t ignore something so explicit.  Is he seriously offering us Russian intelligence?

Leaving out the D for now, let’s keep the candidate uncontaminated.

From: Jared Kushner
Sent: Monday, June 06, 2016 12:51 PM
To: Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Sr.
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

Wow. When Flynn warned us about this kind of thing I didn’t believe him, but there it is.  Not sure what the hell Goldstone was thinking. He knows the door is closed on everything til either the campaign is over with or D’s term ends. He sat there nodding along with everybody else when we met about the divestment plan.

Yeah, give Goldstone a hard NO. It cannot even look like we’re colluding. And we’re gonna have to tell somebody. This would go to DOJ right? I’ll ask Flynn.

As long as we’re transparent we should be fine. cc’ing the D.

– J Man

From: Donald Trump, Sr.
Sent: Monday, June 06, 2016 1:22 PM
To: Donald Trump, Jr, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner
Subject: Re: Re: Fwd: Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

HOLY SMOKES! Thought Emin and company could follow the rules. Guess not. Sad.

Not fun, but gotta go to authorities. My campaign = OPEN BOOK. We don’t want foreign powers colluding with anybody’s campaign. Believe me, I know.

No worries. Could be good for us long term. We’re doing the right thing here! Saying NO to the Russians? This will play great in the press. I’ll have Kellyanne whip something up.

GOOD CATCH Don Junior! Really proud of you.


– The D

Why Go After Medicaid?

The House’s American Healthcare Act (AHCA), the Senate’s Better Healthcare Reconciliation Act (BHRA), and the first budget proposed by the White House include deep cuts to Medicaid. Trump’s budget called for spending reductions in the form of block grants or a per-capita spending limit. By underfunding the program in this way, the proposed budget forces states to reduce eligibility, reduce benefits, or cut payments to healthcare providers (or some combination of all three).

The AHCA and the BHRA take this same approach, also limiting federal responsibility for Medicaid via block grants or per-capita caps. In addition, both bills would roll back the Medicaid expansion provided by the ACA (Obamacare). According to the CBO, Medicaid will end up with about 800 billion less in federal funds spent over 10 years if the senate portion passes.

That’s three attacks on Medicaid in the space of a few months. Republicans in the House, the Senate, and now the White House have been talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare for a long time, but I see no reason why that effort must include major cuts to Medicaid. Why not focus on a bill centered around undoing the regulations of the ACA but leaving the Medicaid expansion alone? Why not take that, or any, path that doesn’t include crippling a program that provides tangible help for our most vulnerable? There are countless ways for the authors of these bills to declare some sort of victory, so why is Medicaid such a target?

The reason is that Medicaid shows a path towards a reasonable healthcare system for the United States. On June 20th, the Nevada state Legislature passed a measure that would have created a way for anyone in the state to buy into Nevada’s Medicaid system, even if they were otherwise ineligible. Here, in Wisconsin, State Representative Eric Genrich, (D-Green Bay), and State Senator LaTonya Johnson, (D-Milwaukee) introduced similar legislation that would allow anyone to buy in to BadgerCare, Wisconsin’s version of the Medicaid program. The Nevada bill was vetoed and the future of the Wisconsin bill remains to be seen. But both proposals demonstrate a very competitive alternative to private insurers. Medicaid enjoys a high degree of satisfaction among its recipients. On average, Americans report satisfaction with their care at rates comparable to or better than private insurance. And, even though Medicaid serves a portion of the population with typically high health care costs, the program keeps costs significantly lower than its private counterparts.

Giving the general public access to health care of that quality is likely to be disruptive to the current market. Even Americans that might be wary of more comprehensive changes to our healthcare system (like single-payer efforts spearheaded by California and New York) would be amenable to participating in an existing, but expanded, program. As more people join and have positive experiences, the people’s fears about publicly administered health care would start to fade. Private insurers would be forced to compete with the public option in both quality and cost. This is bad news for anyone seeking to uphold a status quo where private insurers rake in profits while Americans struggle to manage rising premiums.

What’s a politician in the pocket of the insurance lobby to do? Well, if the reality of Medicaid won’t conform to myths about socialized medicine, you could force it to do so with legislation. First, you’d want to constrain the program so it reached as few people as possible. In other words, you’d want to end the Medicaid expansion from the ACA, as the AHCA and BHRA do. Second, you’d want to reduce the amount a state could spend (either per person or in total) to force states to reduce the amount of citizens it serves, or reduce the amount of care those citizens get. In other words, you’d want to reduce overall spending on Medicaid compared to projections by introducing block grants or per capita limits, just as the AHCA, BHRA and the White House’s budget call for.

Medicaid is a target because it works too well. As the Nevada Legislature and Democratic leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature have already figured out, the next step to a better healthcare system is right in front of us. The architects of the Trump Budget, the AHCA, and the BHRA are putting up roadblocks to halt this progress. The Senate left the issue unresolved when they left for the July 4th recess. They’ll be back on the 10th. Call your senators. Let them know Americans want to expand a working program, not dismantle it.

Consider the Flag

When Donald Trump won the election, Polish activist Martin Mycielski freaked out a little. Mycielski is a member of the Committee for Defense of Democracy, an organization that’s currently committed to opposing (or at least slowing down) the Neo-Authoritarian Law and Justice Party that has recently taken power in Poland. After the US election Mycielski believed he saw the same situation happening here in the United States. In an effort to save his American counterparts the confusion he and his friends went through as they watched Poland regress, Mycielski wrote a guide called Year 1 Under Authoritarianism, What to Expect? The guide started as a PDF, but eventually grew into the website

The entire site is a great read, but what stood out to me was expectation number 12:

#12: They will take over your national symbols, associate them with their regime, remake them into attributes of their power. They want you to forget that your flag, your anthem and your symbols belong to you, the People, to everyone equally. Don’t let them be hijacked. Use and expose them in your fight as much as they do. Show your national symbols with pride, let them give you strength, not associate you with the tyranny they brought onto your country.

When it comes to our own national symbols, what do we think of when we see the American Flag? What do we think when we see it flying over someone’s house, or see it on a bumper sticker or in the rear windshield of a pickup truck. Without words, the symbol tells a story. And there’s a set of assumptions and politics embedded in that story. Maybe the individual flying the flag wants to tell that story, or maybe we’ve just heard it so often that we tell it to ourselves each time we see the flag. Either way, the story it tells is undeniable. And that story isn’t always a good one. When Trump speaks at his rallies he is lined with American flags. His self-association with this symbol is not an accident. He’s trying to tie himself into and reinforce a specific story about America. A story about xenophobia, hate, and greed. It’s a story that’s not our story. It’s a story we don’t identify with.

As concerned citizens we have a different vision of America. A vision that most of us have realized is going to take an enormous amount of hard work. Given the effort we’ve all undertaken it might seem strange that I’m talking to you about stories. How can the flag and the story it tells help us? Well, part of the work we must do involves changing that story the flag tells, to ourselves, and to the rest of the world.  How can we rewrite that story? The road is far shorter than you think. Let’s start with what makes us ‘concerned citizens’ in the first place. We are concerned because we hold a vision of America in our heads that we don’t see happening. We have ideas about what America should be, and, by proxy, what the American flag should stand for. In our America, the flag would stand for equality instead of class immobility. Inclusion and religious freedom instead of homophobia and xenophobia. Prosperity for all instead of prosperity limited to only a few. Democracy instead of voter suppression and gerrymandering. That’s not a complete list but I think it covers quite a bit of our shared vision.

Next, we have to ask ourselves what our relationship is to this positive vision of America. Specifically, are we going to quit before we make that vision a reality? My answer is no. I’m willing to bet that your answer is no as well. And with our commitment to our potential America comes a subtle but monumental shift. We become the authors of the new American Story. We become the stewards of the future of this nation. We’ve just assumed imminent ownership of this country, and all the symbols and tokens of power that come with it. We’ve just assumed ownership of the American flag.


With that ownership comes responsibility. It’s now our job to show everyone what that symbol means. It’s now our job to show everyone our vision of America, and, in so doing, show them that our vision is America.How do we do we make the story of the American flag clear?It’s simple, we fly it, unadorned and unsubverted, in our homes and in the streets. We fly it alongside all our other symbols of protest and resistance against corruption and hate. Make this symbol of America part of your identity and your story as a concerned citizen. Take pictures with you and your friends with the flag. Share them on social media. And when anyone asks you about it, tell them your story and tell them about the future of America. Tell them about what the flag can and should stand for. Tell them how they can help tell this new story.

The sight of you and the flag together, the practice of displaying and flying it, is what will spread the message and write the story. Together, we’ll tell this story over and over again, until everyone knows it so well that they hear that story every time they see an American flag. Doing the work to build the government and culture we envision will take time, but we can claim our spot as the authors of America’s future right now. Let’s fly the flag together, as a symbol for all the things we know it can stand for.

Exceptional After All

Up until the election of Donald Trump, it was easy for America to tell itself that it was special, that it would never really suffer the crises of liberal government that threaten the rest of the world.  But now it seems that we’re just as susceptible to authoritarianism as anyone else.  Or are we?


Over the past few weeks we’ve seen some extraordinary demonstrations of solidarity against the actions of this new administration.  The Women’s March on Washington, with its sister marches in almost every major city, was one of the largest collective demonstrations in history.  The executive order banning travel from Muslim countries (save those that Trump has business interests in) caused a huge backlash.  Demonstrations in New York, Boston, Dallas, and elsewhere.  Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates flat out refused to tell the justice department to enforce the order.  Around 900 State Department employees openly dissented the order. John McCain, a member of the administration’s party, continues to vocally criticize the President’s actions and even attempted to mitigate some of the international damage directly after a botched call to Australia.  California Governor Jerry Brown practically dares the White House to attempt enforcement of its immigration policies on his watch:

And that’s not a comprehensive list.

Micah White, one of the founders of the Occupy Movement, has been talking about ‘The End of Protest‘ in an attempt to find the solution to Occupy’s lack of direction.  Sure, the Occupy movement seemed to putter out with a whimper, but it’s starting to look like it was just a dress rehearsal.  At the JFK protest, at least, the drums and people’s mic of the Occupy movement were in full force.  The tradition of open criticism of the government and mobilization against it is alive and well.

Most of the major early critics of Authoritarianism, whether they be Adorno, Horkheimer, or Solzhenitsyn, don’t diagnose the problem as political.  They all point to an inner sickness of some kind.  Horkheimer diagnoses the problem as a slow distortion of the use of reason over time; from a reason that seeks to discover why we should do things to a reason that seeks only articulates how best to reach any end, without questioning that end’s value.  Adorno focuses on and finds psychological predispositions towards fascism and authoritarianism independent of political climate.  Solzhenitsyn gives it a spiritual dimension: in forgetting God, people turn to brutal absolutism.  As such, they warn that the answer is not political, that only by addressing these inward problems can a nation save itself from the clutches of authoritarianism.

I think they are right, to a degree.  But this recent outpouring of American resistance suggests that, maybe, they’ve accepted one of the symptoms as the diagnosis itself.  For those cultures that fell into authoritarianism completely, of course, it must have coincided with the failure of an alternative political movement.  Which means that, on some level, the majority of those opposed to the regime must have felt as though there was some inner sickness, some sin that required purging, or some other justification for what was about to happen even though they knew it was awful.  I don’t want to discount the work of these great minds, but I’m beginning to believe that this inner facing diagnosis is, perhaps, actually the trick of the authoritarian.

There’s always a portion of the population receptive to a strong leader and the opportunity to lash out.  But in order to gain complete control, the authoritarian needs some mechanism to get everyone not predisposed to this behavior to keep their heads down while the brownshirts tear everything apart.  The ‘inner failure’ could be just such a mechanism. By planting the seed of such an inner failure (“Drain the Swamp,” “American Carnage”), the authoritarian psychologically undermines the opposition from mounting a political defense.  Part of winning, then, is rejecting the authoritarian’s message.

If that’s the case, I am very hopeful.  Opponents of the Trump regime seem perfectly confident of America’s inner strength and fearless in their criticism.  This flood of open resistance, while it will not always undo harm, will keep it from becoming the status quo.  This is where we can show the world where America is truly exceptional.

I don’t mean to declare victory as we’ve got a long way to go.  But it is important to acknowledge that we’re doing the right thing.  Let’s take the work of the great critics of authoritarianism as a warning: The real power of the authoritarian comes, in part, when those who would oppose him begin to believe that their country deserves such a leader.  So let’s insist on American Exceptionalism, let’s be the people who shout down every threat to our integrity and our progress as a nation.  May the inner strength of America never falter.