Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols, President


Mike Nichols is president of the Badger Institute. From 2009 to 2013, he was a senior fellow at the institute, syndicated newspaper columnist and communications consultant.

A graduate of Boston College and the University of Chicago, Nichols is the author of numerous papers and articles focusing on public policy, including an analysis of data-driven policing, failures in special education funding and accountability, problems and misspending in the Milwaukee Public Schools’ parental outreach program, the high cost of technical college labor contracts, public campaign financing, fraud in the FoodShare program, problems with discord and lack of productivity on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, rampant expansion of the School Lunch Program, the limitation of public subsidies of business, union influence on school boards, positive environmental impacts of the frac sand industry and conservatism in central Wisconsin.

Nichols is also the author of "The Waking," a mystery published by HarperCollins, and "Just a Few Sleeps Away," a work of non-fiction focusing on the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He spent almost 20 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter and columnist for newspapers in Illinois and for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he often wrote about Wisconsin policy, politics and people. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife. They have three children.

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Editor's Note

Growing our reach and influence
by Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

The infantilization of America
By Mike Nichols

A pandemic tipping point

A refusal by MPS and the teachers union to resume in-person classes is a boon to other schools
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

What, exactly, have our governments just done for us?
By Mike Nichols

Q&A with Kevin McMahill

A cop's toughest call: if and when to use force to apprehend a suspect
By Mike Nichols

Police use of force rare here

What happened in Kenosha is an anomaly, defying the critics' charge that police violence is systemic
By Patrick Hughes and Mike Nichols

With police in retreat, view from Fond du Lac Ave. is bleak

Cutting cops unnecessarily to placate protesters will do nothing to help George Floyd or Jacob Blake
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

In a truly horrible year, perhaps there have been planted the seeds of miracles
By Mike Nichols

Frontlines: Building something that lasts

How people — and finely crafted furniture — leave an indelible imprint on our lives.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

Balancing risks with freedom
By Mike Nichols

Legislators in lockstep

Election reforms that are designed to wrest control from the major parties and to fix political dysfunction are gaining support.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

Think politicians and bureaucrats are looking out for you? Think again.
By Mike Nichols

The resurrection of socialism

Democrats on the far left embrace redistribution of income and other modern-day socialist ideals.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

In a free society, it’s better when we the people — not the government — make the decisions.
By Mike Nichols

In Wisconsin, we have a front-row seat to the pitfalls of liberal media bias

It's clear that Gannett newspapers, at least the one in Milwaukee, have a progressive mindset.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's journalism center and Gender and Women’s Studies major raise some questions — and eyebrows.
By Mike Nichols

Clinging to an old picture

Suggesting that changes are necessary to centuries-old fire department practices — given the drastic decrease in the number of fires today — isn’t an affront to firefighting heroes.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

Digging into the decline of marriage, fire department staffing, overused TIFs and driverless transit.
By Mike Nichols

Tolling is the only realistic solution to transportation funding dilemma

Wisconsin ranks 38th in the latest state highway systems report.
By Robert W. Poole Jr. and Mike Nichols
February 13, 2018

Resolutions for Wisconsin policy-makers

Priorities should include tax reform, corrections, professional licensure and tolling.
By Mike Nichols and Michael Jahr
January 9, 2018

Madison's goofy, divisive flag flap

Erecting cultural barriers ices out America's melting pot.
By Mike Nichols

Editor's Note

WPRI has transformed itself into the Badger Institute — a name that reaches back to the industrious miners of long ago but also moves us forward in new directions.
By Mike Nichols

Foxconn deal: Unprecedented decision, disparate opinions

Deal raises questions about everything from job creation to how free markets and economies work best.
By Mike Nichols
August 16, 2017

Look down the road in transportation funding debate

Right now, three major sources of revenue — the state gas tax, the federal government and bonding — are problematic and unsustainable.
By Mike Nichols
July 19, 2017

State legislators should focus on these tax numbers

Badger State residents still pay a mother lode of taxes — way more, given how little the average Wisconsinite makes, than almost anyone else in America.
By Mike Nichols
July 5, 2017

Help students succeed before they get to college

Admitting students with little chance to graduate helps no one; tying UW System funding to graduation rates would force change.
By Ike Brannon and Mike Nichols
March 1, 2017

Minimum markup law: Why is this relic still on the books?

It’s almost impossible to find a legislator willing to defend the markup law on policy grounds; it’s also impossible to find a legislator willing to even hold a public hearing and risk rankling special interests.
By Mike Nichols
February 10, 2016

Walker still has chance to embrace federalism

The proliferation of grants-in-aid has driven up federal and state spending and taxes, hampered the prosperity and independence of Wisconsin’s citizens and ultimately moved America dangerously closer to centrally controlled governance.
By Mike Nichols
October 1, 2015

Senate remembers - finally - that Madison is not Washington

Some folks in Wisconsin believe that we are simply another part of the federal government and should march in lockstep.
By Mike Nichols
July 8, 2015

Children with special needs discriminated against - until now

The special education voucher program will help a small but deserving group of kids who repeatedly have been denied the opportunities available to their non-disabled peers.
By Mike Nichols
May 20, 2015

Prevailing wage law rife with problems

There’s ample evidence that Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law is harming taxpayers and contractors, frustrating good government servants and diverting resources away from those in need.
By Mike Nichols
May 2015

What's a conservatarian?

Come hear author Charles C.W. Cooke explain.
By Mike Nichols
March 24, 2015

Take this federal money or else ...

Federal grants-in-aid, in truth, are anything but free. Many serve a valid purpose. But they also can drive up federal and state spending, taxes and debt.
By Mike Nichols
March 11, 2015

Labor battling public sentiment and new economic era

Even Democrats favor a right-to-work law that would end compulsory union dues from unwilling workers.
By Mike Nichols
February 20, 2015

The tiff over training

“The idea that if they lose union dues that will impact training is nonsense,” says Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
By Mike Nichols
February 20, 2015

There's no polarization on special needs vouchers

According to a WPRI poll, 62% of Wisconsinites somewhat or completely support a special needs voucher proposal, while 27% are somewhat or completely opposed.
By Mike Nichols
January 22, 2015

It’s Time to Toll

Wisconsinites need to get used to the idea of electronic tolls on our freeways. It’s a free-market solution to an overwhelming problem: lack of cash to pay for modestly modern highways.
Mike Nichols - November 24, 2014

Good Riddance. What's Next for MPS?

Everybody who cares about their kids has to also start caring enough to educate the Milwaukee School Board as it looks for a new superintendent.
Mike Nichols - February 20, 2014

Despite naysayers, skills gap exists

Lori A. Weyers, president of Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, says the IT worker shortage is reaching a “crisis” stage.
By Mike Nichols
August 13, 2015

After Two Long Years, DOJ Finds No Discrimination

The complaint against Milwaukee's school choice program was a thinly veiled political ploy.
Mike Nichols - May 2013

Funny What We Get Worked Up About

There’s the recent bellowing about the so-called $1.8 billion “structural deficit” Wisconsin could theoretically face some three years down the road, and the absolute indifference to the real federal deficits that could well be this country’s ruin.
Mike Nichols - September 11, 2014

Right-to-Work: Freeloading or Just Freedom?

The burgeoning debate over right-to-work is really over two different things: the rights that workers, either as individuals or collectively, should have in the workplace; and whether right-to-work states are more conducive or less conducive to long-term prosperity.
Mike Nichols - December 15, 2014

Stop Using the Word "Outsourcing"

“Expanding” or “growing” or “selling in foreign markets where there are billions of customers hungry for American stuff” would be a lot more accurate descriptions than “outsourcing.”
Mike Nichols - August 2014

Walker Shouldn't Roll Dice on Kenosha Casino

Better to say no to all new casinos and let the free market determine Wisconsin's economic future.
Mike Nichols - October 15, 2013

Rescue Call

Deficit hawk will bring a sober message to WPRI's annual dinner
By Mike Nichols

Mining Success

Wisconsin's booming frac sand industry is lighting up the economy and may even help reduce global warming.
By Mike Nichols

"It's Put Up or Shut Up"

Rep. Mike Huebsch talks about the GOP's legislative agenda for change. By Mike Nichols

A deadly grip

► Wisconsin's opioid scourge: Its origins and possible solutions. By Ike Brannon and Devorah Goldman
► Slow descent into darkness. By Jan Uebelherr
► A toll on rural Wisconsin. By Mike Nichols and Jan Uebelherr

Anatomy of a Failed School District

Picturesque Bayfield has it all: dreadful student performance, community infighting, a powerful teachers' union, outlandish spending. What can be done? By Mike Nichols

Dave Obey's Big Payoff

Retirement has its perks when you leave office after 41 years in Congress. By Mike Nichols

Fraud... Who Cares?

The State's FoodShare program feeds 700,000 - and appears utterly unconcerned about cheaters. By Mike Nichols

Free Market Paths for Better Lives

WPRI celebrates success stories like Aaron and Ildeliza
by Mike Nichols

Inside MPS

Superintendent Thornton fails to inspire innovation and openness, three former administrators say in candid interviews
by Mike Nichols

Justice Decried

Discord has split the state Supreme Court, damaging its productivity and its reputation for fairness. By Mike Nichols

MATC's Reality Moment

Last fall, the tech board happily endorsed super-sized staff salaries and benefits. Will the recession end the party? By Mike Nichols

Milwaukee's Story

Stephanie Findley learned the hard way that while the public favors school reform, the political system is rigged to kill it. By Mike Nichols

More than shoestrings

Former inmates need hope, and jobs.
By Mike Nichols

MPS' Parental Enticement Program Spent Freely, Widely

But, oh, the questionable expenditures. Now some are banned. By Mike Nichols

Occupational licensure

► A system run amok: Our government is killing jobs and thwarting business creation. By Mike Nichols
► Licensing complaints often have nothing to do with health or safety concerns. By Jan Uebelherr

Open Shop

Even Democrats favor a right-to-work law that would end compulsory union dues
By Mike Nichols

Rebels for Life

Victor Barnett has built the model of a successful anti-poverty program
by Mike Nichols

Renewing Civil Society

Paul Ryan talks about poverty's challenge to the American Dream
by Mike Nichols

Serving Whose Interests?

When teachers are elected to school boards, they have two conflicting masters. By Mike Nichols

Take this money or else

Uncle Sam's "economic dragooning" of the states has to stop
By Mike Nichols

The Subsidy Game

Great hype and uncertain success mark the repeated public investments in a Manitowoc energy firm.
by Mike Nichols

The value of a job

Has America lost its will to work?
By Mike Nichols

Thornton's Losing Battle

MPS' failure to shut down a struggling charter school reveals the board's stubborn refusal to embrace reform. By Mike Nichols

True Portrait

Forget the caricatures. Conservatives are the new face of central Wisconsin.
by Mike Nichols

What Happens If Burke Wins

It's Jan. 5, 2014. Mary Burke is sworn in as governor. Will she make liberal dreams come true?
By Mike Nichols

What professors don’t want to hear

Conservative students forfeit freedoms to survive in a liberal environment.
By Mike Nichols

Yes, There is a Free Lunch

Consider the middle-class students feasting on a food subsidy intended for poor families. By Mike Nichols