Letters to the Editor

Wanted: fresh thinking

I was pleased with the new format for Wisconsin Interest (March 2009). It was a good read from cover to cover. The layout was bold, the content edgy and the writing top-notch. This magazine is just what Wisconsin conservatives have been looking for.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has earned a fine reputation built on credible, solid research. Adding WI magazine as a sister publication to Wisconsin Reports will allow WPRI to reach a much broader audience. Who knows, you might even expose some of our more curious liberal friends to some provocative conservative thinking. 

I would encourage you to include a wide array of conservative ideas in every issue. Quite frankly, a lot of us are growing tired of reading the same thinking about the same issues over and over. We like new thinking, and we like a fresh take on old ideas. We want to be challenged, and we want to be entertained. Your first issue hit the bull’s-eye on every one of these targets.

Ave Bie

A butchered legacy

Charles J. Sykes mangles his sources so badly it’s hard to take him seriously (“What’s the Matter With Wisconsin,” March 2009).     

His argument is something like: (1) Wisconsin has too few rich people; (2) Rich people are terribly greedy and won’t pay taxes; (3) So, the rest of us should suck it up and pay the taxman so the rich don’t have to.  

Maybe I have a higher opinion of rich people than Sykes does, but I’m not impressed. I’m also offended by his abuse of the dead and the data.

Sykes butchers the legacy of the Progressive journalist William Allen White. White’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas” made his national reputation, but his pride in the editorial was short-lived. As he wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Autobiography, the 1896 essay was penned while he was “a young cocksure reactionary.” White went on to become a “left-wing Progressive” who wrote the “radical” 1910 platform for the Kansas Republican Party, which “preceded the New Deal program by 20 years.” (All quoted words are White’s.)

Above all, White believed in “redistributive justice” using “government as an agency of human welfare.” I can’t picture Sykes mouthing those phrases.

Sykes cites a Brookings study showing Wisconsin losing population to other states. But the same data table shows Wisconsin’s numbers as better than Minnesota’s in six of the last eight years; better than Illinois’ and Michigan’s every year; better than Iowa’s in five of the years. Population stagnation is a regional issue, not a state issue, and Wisconsin is not at the bottom.

Sykes quotes a Princeton study saying Wisconsin “is more attractive to low-income individuals than high-income earners.” But he ignores the study’s conclusion about why: the “low cost of living (especially housing).” Period.    

As for taxes, the study concludes: “Taxation, either of property, sales, or income, does not seem to play a role” in migration. Indeed, states best at retaining the rich “have more progressive tax systems: the poor pay a lower tax rate, and the rich pay a higher tax rate.” Now that’s a conclusion we can draw a moral from.

Jack Norman, research director
Institute for Wisconsin’s Future

High expectations

Your article about St. Marcus and Henry Tyson (“Miracle at St. Marcus,” March 2009) is a tremendous reminder of the transformation that occurs in the lives of students when urban teachers take the time to love them properly through high expectations and belief.

St. Marcus is a living example of the following truth: Students will, regardless of socioeconomic background, achieve at the level of expectation that educators set for them.     

Sadly, most urban educators begin with the faulty premise that urban young people can’t or won’t succeed due to a litany of societal factors. They often approach their students with a condescending love and attribute student failure to poverty, crime, racism, teenage pregnancy, and other challenges within urban communities.

Such urban educators often unwittingly encourage their students to see themselves as victims and by doing so relegate their students to a life of low or no expectations. Henry Tyson and St. Marcus represent the opposite view. They believe that all students will achieve at a high level academically, despite the numerous barriers that urban students face.

In the debate about schooling in Milwaukee, we should be talking more about the focus of your article.

Dr. Ray Dusseau, director
Center for Urban Teaching
Wisconsin Lutheran College

Your letter here.

Wisconsin Interest welcomes letters commenting on its stories and columns. Letters must be signed, include the writer’s street address and phone number for ID purposes only, and are subject to routine editing. They should be no longer than 300 words and either emailed to letters@wpri.org or mailed to Wisconsin Interest Letters, c/o Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, PO Box 382, Hartland, WI 53029.