Spring 2014

The American Dream

The left’s response to Paul Ryan’s attempt to change the national dialogue about poverty was, perhaps, predictable.

“Shut up,” they explained.

Critics have tried to dismiss his commentary as an exercise in racist “dog whistles.” But few of them had bothered to listen to what Ryan was actually trying to say.

And that brings me to the spring edition of Wisconsin Interest. In a thoughtful interview with WPRI President Mike Nichols, Ryan explains how entrenched poverty is a symptom of the decline of the American Dream. Ryan is careful to distinguish between two frequently conflated terms: inequality and mobility.  While President Obama focuses on the need for spreading wealth around, Ryan asks a very different question: What are we going to do to remove barriers to allow more people to be where they want to be and do with their lives what they want to do?

In a related piece, Robert L. Woodson Sr., founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, reflects on a listening tour that he arranged for Ryan to learn from community and faith-based leaders about the problems of poverty. "My goal in arranging these visits," explains Woodson, "was to move beyond the traditional conservative and liberal understanding of how to address the needs of the poor." 

Finally, Nichols provides a look at a success story in Milwaukee, with his Closer column on the Running Rebels, which he describes as "the very model of a successful, community-based, anti-poverty program with a track record of turning around lives."

Also in this issue, Larry Kaufmann debunks the hype around wind energy, and John Torinus and Tom Hefty take hard-eyed look at the challenges that Wisconsin still faces in turning around its economy.

— Charles J. Sykes

Please wait while we gather your results.

Good intentions, bad results

Wind power doesn't live up to its hype
by Larry Kaufmann


Spring Dispatches

The Democrats' season of weirdness
by Charlie Sykes


Passing grade

Wisconsin's economy is still a work in progress
by Tom Hefty and John Torinus


The 'Fab Lab'

How the Ariens Co. blends technology, engineering and teaching by Christian Schneider


Rebels for Life

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


The lion in the winter

Tommy Thompson reflects on his successes, how hard Washington was and a distant political era when enemies sometimes cooperated
by Sunny Schubert


Reflections on Paul Ryans listening tour

What I wanted Paul Ryan to see
by Robert L. Woodson, Sr.


The successes and dangers of a thriving economy

Talent is rewarded. Immigrants escape poverty. Yes, inequality is an issue. But so is envy-driven politics.
by Richard Esenberg


Renewing Civil Society

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