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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

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The Journal Times of Racine, March 30

Walker right to skip liability of Medicaid funds

When Gov. Scott Walker announced his plans in February 2013 to not accept federal funding to pay for Medicaid for people making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, he was met with harsh criticism from throughout the state.

But during the past year he remained steadfast and has explained that his main goal was to not expose Wisconsin taxpayers to the uncertain future cost of expanding Medicaid.

He was concerned the federal government will eventually start sending Wisconsin less Medicaid money and the state will be left with another unfunded mandate.

Now, with the federal Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline imminent, it would be easy to brush concern aside. To say we should accept the federal money and if the federal government starts to cut back, then we can stop the coverage and quickly send people to the marketplace.

That could help the people who are now figuring out the ACA is not really affordable for all, such as people living just above the poverty level shivering at the thought of high deductibles and co-pays. Expand Medicaid and the problem would be solved, some claim.

But our ultimate goal should be to motivate more people to get ahead, rather than giving them a reason to stay where they are because of fear of losing government assistance.

Also, 10 years or five years from now — or even one year from now — we cannot say with certainty who will be in power in either the Oval Office or the governor's office.

Politically, depending on who is in control, it likely will not be an option to just sign a bill and stop coverage when Medicaid money stops coming in.

On top of that, there's the periodic uncertainty of whether government dysfunction will lead to another federal shutdown.

If there were a guarantee that federal funds wouldn't be cut, maybe the governor would make a different decision about the federal funds. But it's nearly impossible in our current political environment to have any guarantees.

After all, we were also promised anyone who wants to keep their plan will be able to. That didn't happen.

That broken promise has been repeated once or twice before, but as President Barack Obama said when he was campaigning on the promise, "it bears repeating."


Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, March 30

Racism tag easy way to avoid key issue

Janesville Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is fending off allegations that he is a racist after his recent remarks about pervasive urban poverty even as we near the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" programs aimed at solving the problem.

Ryan recently spoke of a "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."

Ryan called the condition a "culture problem," setting off allegations that Ryan is indifferent to the challenges facing minorities at best and a racist at worst.

Conservatives have rallied behind Ryan, arguing that it does our country no good to label anyone who dares draw attention to the correlation between single parenthood and poverty a racist.

Conservative columnist George Will recently wrote that in 1965, when the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan (a liberal) penned "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," 24 percent of black children were born to single women, compared with just 3 percent of white children. Will noted that Moynihan was likewise accused of racism and blaming the victims.

"Forty-nine years later, 41 percent of all American children are born out of wedlock; almost half of all first births are to unmarried women, as are 54 percent and 72 percent of all Hispanic and black births, respectively."

Ryan argues that if spending more on anti-poverty programs, which Johnson's Great Society programs did, and which continues, then why has overall poverty barely budged and the rate of those in "deep poverty" is at an all-time high?

Will noted that Moynihan's report said that in the mid-1960s, the black unemployment rate was falling even as the rate of new welfare cases was increasing, leading him to ponder that culture rather than income may be a factor. Of course, no one wanted to talk about it then, and as Ryan found out, nobody wants to talk about it now.

Christian Schneider, another conservative columnist, printed this quote in his recent column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"In troubled neighborhoods all across this country - many of them heavily African American - too few of our citizens have role models to guide them." ... We know young black men are twice as likely as young white men to be 'disconnected' - not in school, not working."

Those words belong to President Barack Obama. Few would accuse him of being insensitive to African Americans.

It's easy to dismiss Ryan as a racist and simply debate how much more money is needed to "solve" poverty. It's much more difficult to discuss the impact of culture and morality on poverty, regardless of race. However, those who dismiss as racists those who dare speak up about this touchy but important subject have their heads in the sand.


Wisconsin State Journal, March 30

Tear down trade walls for Wisconsin

Twenty years after the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, the United States is negotiating two new major trade pacts.

Wisconsin ought to cheer these trade deals all the way to the finish line, which both treaties could cross by the end of this year. The Trans Pacific Partnership with Asian and Pacific countries, not including China, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union will bring benefits for the state's consumers and for the state's economic development.

Although free trade agreements remain controversial, there is no doubt that free trade itself is beneficial. Being able to trade goods and services across borders without high tariffs and other restrictions ensures that consumers can shop for the best products and services at the best price. It also ensures that in the long term economies can prosper on the strength of what each does most effectively.

The controversy comes from the details of the trade agreements and the short-term disruptions, which are often hard on businesses and workers who find that free trade exposes them as less cost-effective than competitors in other nations.

Consider NAFTA, covering the United States, Canada and Mexico. Since the agreement to lower trade barriers went into effect in 1994, Wisconsin's exports to Mexico have increased nearly 750 percent. Exports to Canada are up nearly 300 percent.

Thanks in large measure to those NAFTA-inspired increases, the export of Wisconsin goods grew three times faster than the overall gross domestic product from 2002 to 2012. Furthermore, trade-related employment in the state was up 22 percent while total employment was virtually unchanged, according to a study of the 2004-2011 period.

More than 40 percent of Wisconsin's exports are from the industrial and electrical machinery industries — in the manufacturing sector the state is trying to preserve.

Despite the benefits, critics blame NAFTA for destroying U.S. jobs and increasing income inequality. The 2008 closing of the Delphi Automotive Systems plant in Oak Creek, which employed 200, became a lightning rod for the argument NAFTA focuses on freer trade at the expense of fair trade. NAFTA protesters claim Mexico — lacking the environmental, health, safety and liability rules of the United States — can unfairly undercut the United States on costs.

Most of the negatives attributed to NAFTA are actually the results of globalization and mechanization, which were well underway before NAFTA and would have continued with or without NAFTA.

Past trade agreements, including NAFTA, have shortcomings. But the shortcomings are far outweighed by the benefits of freer trade. The goal of the Trans Pacific and Transatlantic trade agreements is to build on the successes of NAFTA and to strengthen weaknesses by improving protections for intellectual property rights and harmonizing environmental, safety and other regulations.

Negotiations on the two new trade deals deserve Wisconsin's support.

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