Conversing within the safety of the Madison bubble

Intellectual incest deep within the Madison bubble

One of these days, the editor of The Capital Times is going to interview a conservative. Maybe. Unintentionally. By accident, in a case of mistaken political identity.

Paul Fanlund once did interview a UW-Madison social scientist who took a field trip to Trump country in the Wisconsin outback. Today the editor of Your Progressive Voice sits down with State Rep. Terese Berceau for coffee and chatter. They chose safe ground “smack in the heart of her west Madison district dominated by like-minded progressives.”

bluefistwisconsinAs do people who speak only to others of like minds, Terese reinforces Fanlund’s pre-conceived notion of conservatives as “callous … and lacking compassion.”

Where have you heard that before? Actually, Rep. Berceau said the same thing about Yours Truly when he introduced legislation in 1994-95 to end county relief to able-bodied  childless adults, a New Deal vestige out of the Great Depression. Odd — if its termination be so callous and without compassion —  that none of the liberal-dominated county boards since has bothered to restore that program, once thought to be a matter of life and death.

Terese, a friendly acquaintance and welcome guest at the Stately Manor, repeated the same thing when the Squire voiced approval of Act 10’s requirement that government employees contribute to their pension and health insurance benefits. It is a policy that the rest of Wisconsin thought prudent and remains in force these seven years later, through three elections since — not counting attempted recall elections. Maybe a little compassion for taxpayers, Terese?

In today’s published interview, Fanlund clucks with approval when Rep. Berceau name drops a New York University social psychologist who holds that conservatives value authority so highly that “it gives them no qualms about sticking together on every vote.” Um, we are talking about Republicans, right? Speaker Robin Vos never disagrees with Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald? Governor Walker is on the same page as Vos? Did you miss the highway funding debate?

Unaware that Republicans John McCain, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and Susan Collins (to name a few) walk lockstep with Donald Trump.

Paul, you have stumbled on some real news!

Backward reels the mind

ReporterleftWhich reminds your ancient scribbler of his previous career as an increasingly disenchanted young Democrat writing for The Capital Times. Thought it would be great fun to attend the county Republicans’ election night party. The party got swamped across the board, as your raconteur predicted. But these Republicans were fun! They danced, they joked, and they drank their toasts. They did not curse The System, blame macro-economic forces, or bullyrag the reporter from the liberal newspaper.

The resulting story played brightly on Page One like a scoop of sherbet ice cream amidst the usual orphanage gruel.

Having fallen off the same donkey as Saul of Tarsus, Your Squire still reads The Capital Times, subscribes on-line to The Nation, picks the Sunday New York Times off the Manor driveway, and peeks in occasionally at Rachel Maddow until I Can Stands It No More! as Popeye the Sailorman used to exclaim.

Venturing outside the Bubble

In the same vein, a former Hillary staffer ventured to CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) and lived to tell about it: “As I look back on all the people who greeted me warmly, made sure I didn’t get lost in the crowd, and went out of their way to introduce me to their friends.”

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed at how nervous I was when I arrived. I found myself singing along to “God Bless the USA” with a hilariously rowdy group of college Republicans, having nuanced discussions about gun control and education policy with people from all walks of life, nodding my head in agreement with parts of Ben Shapiro’s speech, and coming away with a greater determination to burst ideological media bubbles.

Among liberals, conservatives have a reputation for being closed-minded, even deplorable. But in the Washington Republicans I encountered at CPAC, I found a group of people who acknowledged their party’s shortcomings, genuinely wondered why I left my corporate job to join Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and listened to my arguments before defending their own positions.

The essayist, one Annafi Wahed, commented, “I can’t help but wonder how a Trump supporter would have fared at a Democratic rally. Would someone wearing a MAGA hat be greeted with smiles or suspicion, be listened to or shouted down?”

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Too many of my own compatriots have fallen into the same intellectual cul de sac as our self-referential liberal-progressive-socialist acquaintances — most especially Hannity’s Always Trump storm troopers.



About David Blaska

Madison WI
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13 Responses to Conversing within the safety of the Madison bubble

  1. old baldy says:

    “Squire voiced approval of Act 10’s requirement that government employees contribute to their pension and health insurance benefits”.

    No different than the 31 years I worked for the state prior to Act 10. And I have the check stubs to prove it. You really are having a factually challenged week.


    • David Blaska says:

      You’re thinking of Deferred Compensation, which is the employee’s voluntary contribution above and beyond his state pension. In an act of generosity, State of Wisconsin began picking up the employee share of pensions in the 1990s, I believe. In addition, Act 10 requires public employees to pay at least 12% of their premiums. In the 2014 election, Dem challenger Mary Burke Burke said “she would keep or modify other parts of the law, including a requirement that state employees pay at least 12% of their health insurance premiums and a ban on public employers picking up the employee share of pension contributions.” WI State Journal 6-15-14.

      You are really having a factually challenged week.


  2. old baldy says:

    No, I’m not. I know the difference between deferred comp and what I contributed to retirement and health insurance, as should you as a former state employee. “Act of generosity” my foot, that change (not eliminating the employee contribution) was made in lieu of a raise in pay of any sort. While the % contributed for health and retirement by employees moved around during my years of employment they never went away. Believe whatever you want.


    • David Blaska says:

      Then all those protests were for nothing! Amazing!


      • old baldy says:

        Like I said, believe whatever you want. But that doesn’t make it so.

        PS: There were a lot of reasons for the Act 10 protests. Or didn’t you know that?


        • David Blaska says:

          I’ll believe Politifact, I’ll believe Employee Trust Funds. I’ll believe contemporary news accounts before I believe Old Baldy. I’ll believe my own eyes. I was there. I will also believe the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, informational paper #83, January 2015: “Under prior law, the statutes authorized an employer to pay on behalf of the employee all or a part of any employee-required contributions.” Better luck next week, Baldy.


  3. old baldy says:

    I was long retired in 2015. Poor try.

    “or a part of any employee-required contributions.” Thanks for proving my point.


    • David Blaska says:

      I give you this: you are a persistent bugger. The Leg Fiscal Bureau’s report published in 2015 recounts the history of the Wisconsin Retirement System. It is not, as you suggest, a snapshot of that year alone! Quoting from that report: “The 2011 legislative session resulted in significant changes to the WRS. Under 2011 Act 10, the authority of WRS employers (both the state and local employers [ie. school districts, municipalities — Blaska] ),

        to pay all or part of the contributions

      required of participating employees was repealed.

      “Over time, state employee groups [had] negotiated or were provided an employer “pickup” of almost all employee-required WRS contributions. Most local employee groups had also negoti- ated similar “pickup” provisions with their employers. … Under Act 10, the authority of WRS employers (both the state and local employers), to pay all or part of the contributions required of participating employees was repealed.”

      Until August 2011, a WRS employer was permitted to pay, on behalf of its employees nearly all of the employee-required contributions. For many years, WRS employers had actually assumed the payment of virtually all employee- required contributions in addition to their employer-required contribution amounts.

      Table 27
      Actual share
 of pension contribution paid by state employees
      2004 0.3%
      2005 0.3%
      2006 0.3%
      2007 0.4%
      2008 0.4%
      2009 0.3%
      2010 0.8%
      2011 17.5%
      2012 44.7%
      2013 45.0%


    • old baldy says:

      Here is what you said, and what I said. And your chart above proves my point. Maybe include the differences between bargaining units, location in the state, etc. Those factors all played a role in the % paid for health insurance (that you didn’t include) and retirement.

      ““Squire voiced approval of Act 10’s requirement that government employees contribute to their pension and health insurance benefits”. – Blaska

      “No different than the 31 years I worked for the state prior to Act 10. ” – Baldy

      “It is not, as you suggest, a snapshot of that year alone!” Those are your words, not mine. All I said was I was out of state service by then.

      I’ll admit to being persistent, especially when truthfulness is in play.


      • David Blaska says:

        You argued that state employees had always paid their share of their pensions. They did not. Three-tenths of one percent paid something. Perhaps you were one of THOSE but you were the outlier, the exception not the rule. The overwhelming majority paid NOTHING. The chart proves it.

        Who ya gonna believe, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau or Ol’ Baldy?


      • old baldy says:

        No, I said I always paid into my retirement and health care. No where did either of us use the word “share”. Wow, just wow. And you condemn others for lack of truth.

        And is your interpretation of the chart say that only 3 tenths of all employees paid into retirement, or that everybody paid 3 tenths of a % ??


  4. David Blaska says:

    You call .03 percent “paying in?” Seriously?


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