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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

May 20, 2019

The Capital Times, May 20

False ‘facts’ and false premises threaten women’s health

President Donald Trump often criticizes what he calls “fake news.” His mischaracterization of reporting that reveals his wrongdoing and incompetence is deception designed to fool some of the people some of the time.

Unfortunately, some of the same people who are fooled by Trump with regard to media issues are also fooled by Republican politicians who peddle deception in the form of legislation. Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly just passed an anti-abortion measure that addresses a supposed “threat” that Trump identified at a recent campaign rally in Green Bay: doctors and mothers who conspire to “execute” babies.

But, as an Associated Press fact check noted, “It’s already a crime to kill babies.” And, as Dipesh Navsaria, a Madison pediatrician and Cap Times columnist who serves as the vice president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has noted, “No one is executing babies, period. That’s not happening.”

State Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, summed things up during last week’s Assembly debate, when she said Republican legislators were employing “false ‘facts’ and false premises” as part of a political assault on women’s health.

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The Journal Times of Racine, May 20

Wisconsin needs a state-funded pro-vaccination campaign

Amid reports of outbreaks across the United States of measles — a disease declared eradicated here by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000 — comes news of a disturbing prospect in Wisconsin’s largest city.

More than 11,000 students in Milwaukee Public Schools alone did not receive all required vaccinations this school year including those to prevent measles, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis B, according to state health records, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported May 9.

That’s nearly 15% of MPS students, which means there could be too few vaccinated students within district boundaries to sustain herd immunity, which prevents newborn babies, unvaccinated children or adults in poor health from contracting diseases that could disable or kill them.

“It’s like you have a can of gasoline and you’re just waiting for someone to drop a match,” said James Conway, a doctor who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases and associate director for health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, has written a bill that would make it difficult for unvaccinated children to attend school: “We’re going to increase vaccination rates one of two ways: We’re going to pass this bill ... or we’re going to have a measles outbreak,” he said.

Given the Milwaukee statistics, Hintz’s statement doesn’t sound like hyperbole.

Hintz’s bill is not receiving support from Republicans. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he is opposed to mandatory vaccination.

“I don’t think that anybody should have — that the government should have the ability to mandate that something has to happen to your child,” Vos said. “Now, would I support an education campaign because I think vaccination is right? I would.”

Then let’s have it.

Let’s have the bill, with bipartisan support, to fund a pro-vaccination campaign throughout Wisconsin.

The United States achieved measles eradication in 2000 because two generations of Americans - the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 - were raised by parents who had seen the painful effects of the highly contagious rash. In the decade before 1963, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age, the CDC reports on its website. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year; an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis — swelling of the brain — from measles.

So by 2000, measles had been eradicated; less than 20 years later, we have measles outbreaks.

Some cases of unvaccinated children in Milwaukee, and elsewhere in the nation, are a matter of insufficient access to vaccinations.

However, we note that in the year 2000 American adult internet use reached 52 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. More than half of the adult population.

The internet spreads misinformation, and outright lies, just as fast as it spreads accurate information. Not everyone can discern the difference between an informed opinion and an uninformed opinion. Although we would have thought everyone accepts that a physician knows more about diseases than, say, someone with no evident medical degree posting something in opposition to vaccinations on social media.

This is what a Wisconsin pro-vaccination campaign would be up against.

We’re going to need a widespread, well-funded campaign — print, TV, radio and billboards —to push back against the nonsense being spread on the internet.

We look forward to watching Wisconsin Republicans and Democrats come together to put their shared knowledge of the effectiveness of vaccinations into action.

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Beloit Daily News, May 20

Who is to blame? Look in a mirror

Consumers will pay a tariff tax that reflects their shopping choices

In the field of economics it doesn’t get much more basic. Still, everyday folks can be forgiven a lack of understanding. After all, the inner workings of international tariff policies is not exactly dinner-table talk.

Which is why it made news when Fox News host Chris Wallace pinned down the top White House economic adviser on the topic, cornering Larry Kudlow into acknowledging that China is not paying the United States for higher tariffs — those extra costs fall to American import businesses and, eventually, U.S. consumers.

When, say, another 25% tariff is popped on Chinese goods coming into America, the U.S. business bringing in the Chinese export fronts the cost and usually jacks up prices to the end user who consumes the product. The political idea is that consumers will rebel at higher prices and move on either to other suppliers for American-made goods or products from non-tariff countries. The producing country — in this case China — will feel that pressure and mend its ways.

Some of that could work, some won’t. For example, many tech products — think iPads — are singularly delivered from China. Issues can hit in reverse, too, when China imposes its own retaliatory tariffs. For example, already Chinese purchases of Brazilian soybeans are up 22 percent on the year, striking American farmers hard. Is that switch permanent? Good question.

All that makes President Trump’s continuing claim that China is paying the tariffs to the U.S. government at least a misstatement of fact. It doesn’t, however, make the underlying issue — China profiting at U.S. expense, sometimes through outright theft of technology -_any less concerning. Such issues should be addressed. The question is whether trade tariffs constitute smart strategy.

Not to mention, what does a win look like? The goal-setting has not exactly been precise.

What has made China such a successful purveyor of goods to America is not just that country’s export chops or regime-based plans. Truth be told, Americans do not have to leave U.S. shores to identify culprits. This is not entirely a foreign trade policy problem. Consider:

— U.S. consumers want cheaper products and they don’t think much about where they come from or how they got here. Shoppers flock to big-box retailers to pick over shelves stocked with foreign-made products, and then brag about how cheap they bought something. Few give a thought to the fact that most of those shelves used to be filled with American-made goods produced by companies employing U.S. citizens.

— Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturers in a long list of fields found themselves increasingly needing to compete with cheap foreign-made goods. Quickly, they discovered their products could be produced cheaper with overseas labor, giving them not only an opportunity to compete at price-point but also to achieve higher returns. The result: Shuttered U.S. plants and unemployed Americans.

Obviously, American workers are quite capable of making great shirts, comfortable shoes, high-quality phones and tablets and televisions and any number of other consumer goods. But Americans won’t work for these kind of wages: Cambodia, $153 a month; Vietnam, $145 a month; or even rising scales in China, about $1,400 a month.

The problem is real but the arguments are presented too simplistically. And fighting the battle on the tariff front is a blunt instrument that may do more harm than good.

So long as American consumers’ primary interest is low prices and U.S. companies’ main goal is maximized profits, solutions to foreign trade issues will be hard to come by.

At least, though, the current tariff battle should be conducted on honest terms. The escalating war is a tax on American companies and consumers, who are paying the cost until China falls to its knees and capitulates to President Trump’s demands. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that.

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