You are probably wondering what last-minute gift to get the Squire of the Stately Manor for Christmas* -- if you'll pardon the expression. (*Nina Totenberg, NPR.)
May I suggest the gift of whiskey -- pure, wholesome, satisfying whiskey. Guaranteed no chromium-6 content.
Not so-called American whiskey, please. That stuff is half or more neutral grain spirits. I am talking good American bourbon or Tennessee mash. Maker's Mark is always welcome in the Blaska liquor grotto, site of many near-miracles and wondrous apparitions. Don't neglect the rye whiskeys. I sure don't. The Irish are welcome to apply -- just enough peat without all the phenol. I will drink a scotch whisky -- Glenmorangie is a good single malt; Teachers is a fine blend. The better Canadians are acceptable.
Hey, work with me here.
Blaska BlogHeads who are designated drivers are welcome to give rare and operable firearms, expensive watches, gold or silver coins, and negotiable securities.
Each gift will be acknowledged with a shout-out right here on Blaska's Blog and a two-week free subscription to the Platinum-level Blaska'a Blog, decoded for your reading pleasure. ("8heoe e-dl 9e7? sislYYY" for all you non-Platinum cheapskates.)
What do you suppose Craver, will get me? What brightly wrapped gift will Ms. Emily drop under the aluminum BlaskaTree? What endowment will Jason Joyce make to the Blaska Policy Center and Work Farm? Perhaps Bill will make more favorable reference to me in the second edition of his book, "All Along the Watchdog Tower." Ooh, Ooh as Toody used to say.* I'm all a-twitter! (*All of my cultural references are at least 30 years old.)
BlaskaHeads, when you call on the Stately Manor with your gift -- do not leave any liquor, guns, coins, watches or securities with my aide-de-camp, Ruben Mamoulian. Once burned, and all that. Demand to see me, personally.
Crunching the numbers
The U.S. Census numbers are out for 2010. The good news from the Census is that Wisconsin did not lose any congressional seats; we remain at 8. In golf, that's a snowman.
Otherwise, the Census is rather depressing for our state. If you believe, as I do, that people vote with their feet, then it is no surprise that the economic and fiscal policy disaster that is Michigan would lose 0.6% of its population -- the only state to do so.
Wisconsin's 6% rate of growth in the last decade is its second lowest in the last century -- well below the 2010 national gain of 9.7%. During the Tommy Thompson 1990s, Wisconsin's population grew 9.6%. Coincidence? I think not -- and 32 states grew more, by percentage.
I downloaded the stats from the Census Bureau site as a .csv file then ran them through the the Remington Rand Univac computer (aka "Old Sparky) here at the policy center and work farm. Once the 18th most populous state, Wisconsin is now 20th; Arizona and Maryland (all those D.C. suburbs) jumped ahead.
Our rate of growth was just behind Kansas, New Hampshire, and Indiana. Minnesota may be our most comparable state, the Vikings (another discriminatory nickname) grew 7.8%. Debt-racked and corrupt Illinois grew only 3.3%; Iowa 4.1%.
During the first three decades of the last Century, the Badger State held 11 House seats. So, amazingly, did California. Now we're at 8 and Cally-forn-ya has 53 and holds there. Our neighboring states will all lose seats except for Minnesota, which also holds at 8.
Each congressional district nationally averages 709,000 people. Wisconsin is very close to that, with 710,000 per district. While the population of congressional districts must be within a hair's breadth of each other within a state, among the states there is a wide variance. After all, a congressional seat cannot overlap state boundaries.
Montana gets the worst deal. One of seven states with a single House rep, it must accommodate all of its 994,416 people in just one House seat. Slow-growth Rhode Island barely held its two House seats and it gets the best deal; each of its two districts will average close to 527,000 folks. By this measure, Wisconsin ranks very near the middle at 24th -- again, very close to the national average-sized congressional district.
Free the University of Wisconsin!
Should the University of Wisconsin continue to be the cat's paw of state government? Now that the Mongol Hordes are in control of the statehouse, maybe our Prog-Lib acquaintances (for they ARE our acquaintances) will consider granting the institution its own head.
I recommend Blaska BlogHeads acquaint themselves with a new study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Making the UW more accountable through greater autonomy may seem contradictory -- but author Christian Schneider, always readable, makes a compelling case, especially when the state is deep in a $3.3 billion state budget hole. The concept is not bleeding edge: the highly regarded University of Virginia system does it now. The current predicament:
Legislators want to fund the UW System at lower levels, while maintaining a stronger oversight. ... Making the UW System less reliant on taxpayer funding and more reliant on other sources of revenue could make it more responsive to the Wisconsin economy. If students and their parents are more invested in paying for their own education, the UW would need to be much more ... responsive to their needs and the demands of employers around the state. Freeing up the university from state regulations could provide the UW with the flexibility it needs in meeting the needs of the Wisconsin economy ... free of political considerations and funding competition with other state programs.
You will note that tuition will increase under this scenario. The fellow travelers at the Havens Center will howl. So, perhaps, will rank and file parents. After all, doesn't society as a whole benefit from every French lit and sociology major? But as the economist Milton Friedman famously said, many would quibble whether society benefited from HIS college education but he could testify that he himself certainly profited by it.
So, we might see college students making more market-based decisions: more accountants, engineers, and computer types? The New Yorker took a look at the value of a college education.
It might also lead to a more cold-blooded look at closing redundant campuses, stripped of all the political turf considerations.
Oh, folks, the power of ideas! The next four years in Wisconsin truly are going to be revolutionary.