Tammy Baldwin unleashed her attack plan on Leah Vukmir the moment it was announced she won the Republican primary. Her first critical television ad frames what she wants Wisconsin to think of Vukmir all the way to November: “She’s not for us.” Wisconsinites should ask themselves whether Baldwin has been for them in her six years as senator.
One of the most significant bills that approached Baldwin was the tax cut recently signed into law by President Donald Trump. Baldwin opposed the tax bill, using typical liberal rhetoric that it would only benefit the wealthiest. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed despite her decision to vote no. Has it only made the rich richer, as Baldwin feared?
In fact, the great majority of Americans (including Wisconsinites) have been benefitting since the signing in December. Gross domestic product grew by an outstanding 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2018. That’s the strongest quarter in almost four years. A great amount of job growth, wage increases, and business investment has occurred since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect.
In Wisconsin, workers at many companies have felt the impact of the tax cuts. American Family Insurance and Blue Harbor Resort announced bonuses of $1,000 for their employees. BMO Harris Bank, Wells Fargo, and Associated Bank are all rolling out new base wages of $15 an hour. Quad/Graphics is transferring $22 million in stock to employee retirement accounts. We Energies customers are enjoying a decrease in electric rates. CUNA Mutual Group donated $20 million to its philanthropic foundation.
Vukmir enthusiastically supports the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There’s no doubt she would have voted the bill. She already voted for many tax cuts in the state legislature. If Baldwin were really for us, then she should have also backed the tax cuts.
Baldwin also had an opportunity to work with Republicans on changes to Obamacare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been very unaffordable for many Wisconsinites. Skyrocketing premiums have been extremely damaging for the middle class but Baldwin had little interest in scrapping the law.
A lack of reform on the federal level forced Governor Scott Walker to intervene and bring down consumer costs in the state. Baldwin had her the chance to lead the way on crafting a better healthcare plan. She failed us. Being a nurse, Vukmir can easily fill that vacuum.
Then there’s the Tomah VA hospital. It has been a thorn in Baldwin’s side for years and it won’t be going away as November approaches. After receiving a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report in 2014 on the over-prescribing of opioid drugs, Baldwin was slow to act in taking care of the issue. Baldwin tried to keep one top staff member quiet about the Tomah VA with a severance deal after firing her, but was turned down.
Even legislation Baldwin has put forward doesn’t seem to help her. She praises an apprenticeship bill she put forward, but it has not received a single co-sponsor and hasn’t budged in Congress. Some achievement.
The new Marquette Law School poll has revealed that Baldwin and Vukmir are in a tight race. It’s very different from the July poll, which showed the incumbent with a lead of nine percentage points. There’s no doubt Baldwin is alarmed by the new data and she may decide to double down on portraying Vukmir as being only for special interests, “not for us.” However, Wisconsin voters may not be so fooled. How can Baldwin be for us when she courts special interests outside of Wisconsin, like in the Hamptons?
This race won’t be a cakewalk for Baldwin. Three months out from November, she’s quickly going to learn that her own decisions as Wisconsin’s junior senator might be what costs her the election. She’s never proven she’s been for us.
John Graber is a former columnist for the Badger Herald and is a writer living in Milwaukee.