Monday, March 3, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

There are times when the attempt to make political hay out of fairy wings becomes amusing. Can we pause and acknowledge that it is Republican Bill Kramer who is facing ouster from his own Wisconsin colleagues, taking refuge in a treatment center for now, after accusations of sexual misconduct with two women in D.C. 

The GOP defense, such as it is, is that he has always been the Rob Ford of state politics, called out by many in his own party for years  as just a step away from political and criminal disaster when drink loosens into groping.

But the Republicans voted him in as majority leader in the Assembly!  They forced women in the legislature to deal with his lean-in manners and remarks.  Others  in the GOP may have ranted in private and tsk-tsked in public but  still put Kramer in a ramrod position of authority. Female colleagues are now openly discussing how uncomfortable his remarks made them feel when forced to work with him in the chamber.

So the Republicans concede he should be driven out and  a Democratic Assembly leader dared to link his behavior to the majority policies and criticize the belated lame excuse that he was one of their weak ones.

Rep. Pasch
"Allegation of a Republican leader sexually harassing multiple women while raising money for his caucus is yet another reprehensible example of Wisconsin Republicans’ callous treatment of women in our state,”  Rep. Sandy Pasch said in a statement.

“Equally shocking is that this abhorrent and possibly criminal behavior is being spun by Republican pundits as  a ‘teachable moment’ and has ‘an element of tragedy’ for Republican politicians. The ‘tragedy’ and ‘teachable moment’ here is that this disgraceful behavior has been a part of Wisconsin Republicans’ culture and actions for far too long.” 

The “teachable moment” and “tragedy” reference was to comments by radio gabber Charlie Sykes, who  started his written piece as the neglected Cassandra of the GOP, remembering how he had warned fellow Republicans about the ugly side of Kramer.  Yes, he opines, he could see this gathering cloud of disaster as Kramer roamed the floor, pumping arms and other things, rubbing shoulders for votes.  Sykes  immediately used that as a disclaimer to attack Pasch as unknowing, even as Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice attacked her as playing politics.

Once again, Pasch must be pondering if this was a serious attack by either pundit or just a way to sell papers or fill air time. Or was it  just typical kneejerk political  reaction to a pretty simple and accurate observation about how women feel in the face of the GOP legislative blitz against them?  Remember,  Kramer was often chosen by his party to engineer the bills on the floor.  What a choice!

If Pasch can be characterized as some sort of feminista  overreacher,  because of her observations in writing, even as  the GOP tries to distance itself from its choice of leaders, who can blame her sympathizers for seeing this as yet another typical  chauvinistic bullying of any woman who sticks her head out of the kitchen. 


It’s hard to get much sillier than the March 3 testimony of Supervisor Deanna Alexander in defending two bills in Madison  preempting any living wage ordinances that involve government money.  Assembly 750 and Senate 626 would prohibit local governments from dealing with any business that doesn’t pay a living wage.

Deanna Alexander
She was joining a deliberate slap at an ordinance  passed 12-6 by the Milwaukee County Board – a veto proof majority with Alexander along with County Executive Chris Abele in opposition. But the bills she supports wouldn’t just prevent higher wages for some Milwaukee workers. It would decimate cities like  Madison that have proudly applied a  living wage standard and have workers who would immediately be  forced lower if paid in any part by government money.

Now look at her argument. She doesn’t like that the living wage ordinance for Milwaukee exempts employers who agree to a mandatory union contract. But how obvious!  They should be exempt because the union contract would automatically be high above the minimums.  Would it be so bad if that condition created more unionizing activity?

Her other reason is money. Desperate to see the new standards are Family Care workers paid with some government money – and far below living standards – to aid the elderly and disabled in their homes. The county board ordinance would help about 2,500 such workers – and that does require the state to pay more money in about five years, more money than Family Care now has in its reserves.

In other words, this is a valuable service but Alexander doesn’t think  taxpayers should pay the fair freight, though it is so easy with advance planning. The citizens, she says, rather than put pressure on the government to pay fairly, are so penurious and selfish that they would rather take living wages away from hard workers than spend a penny more way down the road.

Is that what our society has become? It is apparently what Alexander wants it to become.

For 10 years the author, Dominique Paul Noth, served as editor of the Milwaukee Labor Press until its demise in 2013 and continues to freelance to many publications as well as write for his own websites. A professional journalist since the 1960s he has won multiple cultural and political journalism awards and for nearly two decades was film and drama critic before serving as  senior editor at the Milwaukee Journal.

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