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Ammon explains how to tell liberals from the conservatives

December 26, 2013

I read an article once that referred to our president as a “radical liberal.”
The juxtaposition of those two labels is antithetical, at least according to any political spectrum I am familiar with. This usage would be tantamount to describing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as “conservative revolutionaries.”
In the interest of helping the electorate reach a clearer understanding of what “liberal” and “conservative” mean, perhaps it would be useful to provide a historical context for the development of these terms.
Henry Ford was America’s first billionaire and also one of its most virulent anti-Semites. Henry’s vast material wealth was equaled only by his incredible intellectual poverty. The Anti-Defamation League never accused Mr. Ford of being a liberal. In addition, it was not until his grandson, Henry II, took control of the Ford Motor Company after World War I, that the gang of armed thugs the senior Ford had kept on the payroll to carry out his personal vendetta against organized labor was dismissed.
In the 40 or more years that these hooligans bashed and killed workers who dared organize, not one of their viscous attacks was ever attributed to either the populists, the reform movement or those who espoused liberal ideas.
The managers of the Shirtwaist Triangle Factory in New York City bolted the doors of the company’s workplaces from the outside, so that the seamstresses employed there would not cost the company lost time by using the lavatory.
When the factory was consumed by flames in March of 1911, 146 young women were either incinerated or leapt to their deaths from the ninth-story windows of their sweatshop. The supervisors, however, escaped without suffering even the slightest injury. When the daily papers reported this story to the public, none of those who owned the Shirtwaist garment business were ever referred to as liberals.
In 1954, when the Warren Court set aside Plessy vs. Ferguson and ordered an equal education for all children, regardless of race, those who favored white supremacy, Jim Crow laws and lynchings not only called the chief justice an “activist” but a “communist” as well. However, none of those wearing the pointy hats or setting crosses ablaze was ever accused of having liberal tendencies.
During the 1950s, when Joe McCarthy destroyed the reputations of countless Americans by employing tactics that included innuendo, hearsay, guilt-by-association, outright fabrication and bald-faced lies, those who championed his cause never once described Joe’s activities as liberal.

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Kedzie: State better off

December 26, 2013

The 2013-14 legislative session has been one of the most beneficial for Wisconsin taxpayers.
Three years ago, Wisconsin faced a multi-billion dollar deficit left behind by the previous Administration and Legislature. The state was drowning in debt, unemployment was near double-digit numbers, and crippling tax increases had become the status quo.
Since then, the new Governor and Legislature have worked hard to get Wisconsin back on track and heading in the right direction. Numerous initiatives have been enacted to help the private sector create jobs and turn a struggling economy around. Because of those efforts, the state budget is now balanced, deficits are under control, taxes have leveled off – with some even decreasing – and the unemployment rate continues to drop.
While the 2013-14 legislative session is still in progress, much has already been accomplished this year, beginning with significant reductions in income and property taxes.
Earlier this year, an impressive $1 billion tax relief package was approved in the state budget, including an income tax cut of more than $650 million, one of the largest tax cuts in state history. As a result, every state income taxpayer will realize an average tax reduction of $152 in each of the next two years.
In addition, a bill providing $100 million more in public school funding was enacted, creating additional property tax relief for Wisconsin families and businesses. While the amount of property tax relief will vary, the owner of a median-valued home should see an average reduction of $18 in this year’s property tax with only a slight increase next year.
This will mark the third straight year in which property taxes across the state have gone up less than 1% on average. This is significant, as the last time property taxes rose by less than 1% in consecutive years was 1946.
In an effort to spur job growth in the private sector, a number of worker training bills were recently passed by the Legislature that include nearly $9 million for training and apprenticeship programs that give Wisconsin residents the opportunity to access worker training programs and gain employment. Those state funds will also help pull in an additional $15.5 million in new federal funds for vocational rehabilitation programs designed to help people with disabilities enter the workforce.
Another measure recently signed into law provides start-up companies with greater access to investment capital. Wisconsin job creators and investors are now finally able to harness the power of the internet to connect with Wisconsin based crowd-funding platforms.
Crowd-funding allows investors to obtain an investment stake in a business and benefit from the success of the business, thus helping startup companies raise the capital they need to grow and create jobs.
While those acts are a priority for the Legislature, other issues are equally important.
Statistics show that one in five Wisconsin residents will have been affected by a mental illness this year, and nearly two-thirds of those with a diagnosable mental disorder do not get the treatment and support they need. The state budget provides more than $28 million for mental health funding to assist families and children receive the help they need in order to live healthier, stable, and productive lives.
Finally, in order to help parents and students with the rising costs of college, a two year tuition freeze for all resident undergraduate students at all of the 26 University of Wisconsin system universities and colleges was enacted. This is the first tuition freeze in the history of the UW System.
While much has been accomplished, there are still a number of issues that may be addressed before the 2013-14 legislative session ends early next year. Some of those issues relate to health care, mental health, alcohol and drug abuse use, and certainly a continued focus on job creation and economic development.
As 2013 comes to a close, Wisconsin finds itself in a much better place than just a few years ago.
Our tax ranking has improved, businesses are both moving to and expanding within the state, and the prospects for a brighter economic outlook have greatly improved. All of this is welcome news for Wisconsin, especially at this time of year.
I wish you and all your loved ones a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Senator Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com

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Literacy culled from real life

December 26, 2013

Who is Andy Gump? If you have ever been to Flatiron Park in Lake Geneva, you have seen the statue of Andy Gump. He was a celebrated comic strip character. What is a comic strip? Is this a ridiculous question?
How would you explain a comic strip to someone who had never seen one? We gain impressions of the world through the things that we see, touch, hear and experience. If you have never seen a comic strip, how can you possibly understand what it is?
Recently my school district has undertaken to improve literacy among our student body. Literacy is more than just reading words from a page. It is understanding the context in which the words are set, the purpose for which the words were written, the audience for whom the words were written and the impact the author expects the words to have. Literacy is a large concept. It cannot be taught in one class but must be approached again and again in all classes and in different ways.
Surprisingly one of the best literacy supports does not come from a text. It comes from real life experience. Children need to have knowledge that is based on learning they have had outside of the classroom. For example, a favorite children’s book is the “Polar Bear Express,” a book about a magical train. Imagine how much more “real” the book is to a child who has been on a train.
Introducing children, especially at an early age, to nature, to children’s museums, to special events helps those children create a database of knowledge that can be used later to understand written materials. The more references they have, the more they understand. The more they understand, the more successful they feel as readers. The more successful they are as readers, the stronger they are as students. Should I just say that taking your child to the circus guarantees a Harvard scholarship? Perhaps I should not.
There is a lot, though, that can be done to support literacy. What experiences do you offer for your own children? If children are not present in your home, what experiences could your employer or social group offer for children to “experience” something new? If nothing else, I now know that when I take my 2-year-old to the park, it is not all fun and games. I’m really teaching him to read.

Call is a teacher at Big Foot High School.

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