Editorial Roundup: Wisconsin

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: Child care needs affect far more than parents

When experts described child care shortages as a crisis last week, they knew what they were saying. And, looking at the numbers, it’s hard to think they’re overstating the situation.

Few things show how much society has changed over the past few generations than how thoroughly dependent the American economy now is on having two working adults in each household. It wasn’t that long ago that the social expectation was that homes would have one working parent, usually a father, and one stay-at-home parent, most often the mother.

Such arrangements simplified child care greatly. There was usually an adult at home, able to care for the children in the household. On the occasions when there wasn’t one available, family or neighbors could usually fill in.

While such situations were never universal, they were more commonplace than they are now. Today, most households need two working parents. That has increasingly come to mean they need child care, at least during the years the children in a household are young.

The shift to having two working parents had more subtle effects on the economy at large. As that became increasingly common, businesses began to expect it to remain the norm. As the economy expanded it began to depend on having more working adults than it had previously. The system, broadly speaking, worked so long as business literally continued as normal.

There were warning signs before the pandemic, but it’s impossible to overstate the effects of the multilayered shocks COVID dealt. They hit at every level and, now, we see how that is exacerbating problems people started to point out before the virus arrived.

Gayle Flaig’s operations show the challenges in one way. Flaig administers two child development centers for Regis Catholic Schools. She’s used to seeing turnover; it’s part of the reality for people in her kind of work. But there are usually people who will apply to fill those positions when others leave.

“Now we’re just not getting the applicants,” she said after the Eggs & Issues breakfast last Friday. The result is an enrollment freeze while her centers have a 40-family waiting list.

That’s the business side of the equation. If child care facilities don’t have people to fill the positions, they can’t safely allow additional children into their programs. The resulting freezes, like what Flaig referenced, are both unfortunate and a responsible step to guarantee quality and safety.

The other side involves the people who want to work, but need child care to be able to take a job. Alaleh Wilhelm spoke to that struggle. She had planned to return to work after maternity leave. Then the pandemic hit. She and her husband started looking for child care again in April 2021. It took six months to find any openings, and the center they found closed about 10 weeks after their daughter started. The cause for the closure? The ongoing pandemic and inability to hire staff.

The effect in just two counties is stunning. Eau Claire and Chippewa counties had about 175 open positions for teachers and employees at child care facilities, according to a recent survey. There were 17 classrooms closed due to the shortage. More than 1,500 children are on waiting lists.

There are efforts to help increase the number of options for child care, but experiences like the ones above show why they’re important, even for those who may not have children of their own in need of the services.

When child care centers close because they don’t have enough employees, it’s the loss of a business in the community. Employees are out of work, at least for a while. There’s a change in how everyone previously affiliated with the center engages with the broader economy.

When parents can’t find child care, their employment options are limited. It’s not as if they can leave a toddler home alone. That alters how they interact with the economy. It also alters how the businesses those parents would otherwise work at approach things.

As we said early in this editorial, the American economy now presumes parents will work and hold jobs outside the home. It has become a fundamental requirement in many ways. So we’re left with a challenge: solve the child care challenges, or reinvent segments of the economy.

Both could well be needed. Neither will be easy.

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Kenosha News. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: The tangled politics of Rochester’s parade march

Not even the Rochester Memorial Day parade, it seems, is immune to the rancor that lingers over the 2020 presidential election.

Parade organizers were caught up in the fray when they denied permission to prospective Republican assembly candidate Adam Steen to walk the parade route.

Steen says they’re showing favoritism toward Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and that the incumbent in the 63rd Assembly District is getting VIP treatment because he not only gets to walk in the parade, but he will – as he has done in years past—also emcee the remembrance ceremony at Pioneer Park after the parade.

Parade organizers said they were just trying to avoid politicizing the parade – not to show favoritism. Vos, who lives in Rochester, said it is common for parade organizers in Rochester and elsewhere to invite current elected leaders while excluding political challengers and that having government officials in attendance is part of the parade tradition.

Steen, a Trump Republican, is planning to run against Vos for his assembly seat in the Aug. 9 Republican primary and has been critical of the Speaker for not taking the 2020 election more seriously – even though Vos authorized a $677,000 taxpayer-funded probe of that election by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.

At first it was a little murky whether Steen would be allowed to walk the parade or not, because the parade committee turned down his request, but a member of the organizing committee later said the group does not exclude anyone and that Steen would be allowed to join if he shows up.

Organizers cleared that up a few days later by adopting a policy of allowing only current elected officials to march – which was exactly what Vos wanted. Steen was out.

This is not the first time the Rochester parade has faced a political dust-up. In 2016, Paul Nehlen, who was running against then U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, showed up at the parade with a dump truck sporting the message “Dump Paul Ryan”. The dump truck was disallowed from the parade, while Ryan walked the route. The dump truck was later vandalized with a flattened tire, trash thrown inside and the message blocked with duct tape.

Regardless of Steen’s political stances, he raises a point of basic fairness.

We don’t kid ourselves that politicians – both incumbents and challengers – are attracted to parades and other events because, in part, it gives them public exposure.

In the case of Memorial Day parades, it also gives them a chance to do so while showing patriotic support for the men and women who died fighting for our country. There is a halo effect to that that allows them to bask in the reflected glory of our fighting forces and the sacrifices they have made.

Far from taking politics out of the parade, the Rochester organizers have put their thumb on the political scale and decided that only politicians in office can stand in that halo on parade day – and not other candidates who would like to serve in public office and show their respect publicly for our war dead.

At the same time as it adopted the incumbents-only policy, the parade organizers also said that politicking would not be allowed in the parade – marchers will not be allowed to wave banners, distribute political material or wear political clothing. Elected officials will be asked to march together in one group. That’s a great idea and will help ensure the parade is a solemn event.

But if Rochester parade organizers really want to keep politics out of the parade, they might want to reconsider and open the parade walk to both incumbents and challengers to make participation equitable. Or it could disallow participation by politicians during an election year.

What’s dismaying about this political fracas is that it steals from the purpose of the event itself – to honor our country’s fallen warriors who have died on countless battlefields across the globe protecting our country, giving their lives to defend loved ones and our democracy.

That’s where the focus of Memorial Day should be – on the sacrifices of the men and women who died in service to country.

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Wisconsin State Journal. May 22, 2022.

Editorial: Ron Johnson, other immigration foes must renounce ‘replacement theory’

Debating immigration policy is fine. The United States has adjusted its flow of newcomers for 2½ centuries, creating a “melting pot” of people and cultures that defines the American experience.

But granting any credence to the racist and absurd “great replacement theory” should disqualify politicians from public office.

That goes for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and the rest of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, who should make it perfectly clear that they don’t subscribe in the slightest of ways to this hate-filled conspiracy theory. Democrats have done that. More Republicans need to speak up.

An 18-year-old gunman obsessed with racial identity and blaming others for his problems is accused of killing 10 Black people and injuring others last weekend at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. He and other white supremacists on social media and the internet imagine evil elites, Democrats and Jews plotting to replace white citizens with people of color for political dominance.

In not so many words, Johnson last week denied support for replacement theory. Yet in past statements, he’s sounded eerily similar to the theory’s proponents. Johnson falsely claims President Joe Biden “wants complete open borders” and raises the specter of “the Democrat grand plan.” He told a conservative radio host in Minneapolis last month: “I’ve got to believe they want to change the makeup of the electorate.”

The reality is that Wisconsin needs more immigrants — not for any political purposes, but because our population is graying fast and doesn’t have enough young people to take over the jobs of retirees, much less fill the new positions that growing businesses create. Wisconsin is suffering a workforce shortage, something a manufacturer such as Johnson should understand. The birth rate is declining, and the working-age population fell in every Wisconsin county except Dane and Eau Claire from 2007 to 2017. That’s an enormous challenge to Wisconsin’s economy.

Johnson has a point that immigrants who find freedom and opportunity in America may tend to favor the political party that helps make that happen. Democrats — as well as the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board and many business groups — have favored greater legal immigration and a path to citizenship for undocumented people who earn it over time through contributions to society.

Yet many immigrants tend to be socially conservative. Former President Donald Trump improved with Hispanic voters in the 2020 election. Many Cuban and Vietnamese Americans favor Republicans.

It’s difficult to predict how the immigrants of today might vote tomorrow. That’s why Johnson was touting school vouchers and crime prevention at a GOP-financed community center in a heavily immigrant and Latino Milwaukee neighborhood in February.

But “replacement theory” isn’t about public policy differences. It’s pure racism, driven by white supremacists who spread their misplaced grievances online, contributing to violence.

That’s what Johnson and other elected officials must forcefully reject. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is leading the way. Following last weekend’s horrific killings in Buffalo, Cheney faulted her party’s leaders for enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy and antisemitism.”

“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse,” Cheney tweeted. “GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”

She’s right. And more of her peers — especially Republican foes of immigration — must emphatically say so.

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