Sunday, August 28, 2016

Charter Schools

For Further Reading:
John Oliver Slams Charter Schools And His Critics Totally Miss The Point

Worlds Apart

Even living within 15 miles of the City of Milwaukee is too much for the Milwaukee Police Department.

Police sue over new residency rule
For decades, all city employees, with few exceptions, had to live within Milwaukee boundaries. In 2013, the state Legislature passed a law that undid all such strict residency requirements but did allow for cities to require certain employees, including police and firefighters, to live within 15 miles of city limits. Milwaukee did not adopt a new rule but instead continued to enforce its longtime rule of residency within city boundaries. 
The police union sued. One judge agreed the city requirement had been eliminated by the state law, but the Court of Appeals reversed and sided with the city's right to make employees live in the city. 
But ultimately, in June, the state Supreme Court sided with the Legislature and the police that the state law blocked the city's historic residency requirements. 
Only in July, in light of that court ruling, did the city adopt a new rule under the state law setting the 15-mile limit for police and firefighters.
We can trace some of the problems which recently came to a head in Milwaukee to this entitled, unaccountable attitude of the Milwaukee Police Department. Law enforcement used to be part of the community and know their neighbors. Now they just want a paycheck from the community but to live in some exurb.

How can the police really serve and protect a population and community that they want nothing to do with? 15 miles isn't enough of a buffer?

An "occupying force," as Mayor Barrett phrased it, does not produce trust and respect. What else can a group of armed enforcers be called? Paid mercenaries patrolling a neighborhood during their well-paid shift, only to return to their home many miles away and, often, worlds apart.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Conservatives' Government Dependency Fairy Tale

Acclaimed Mensa member and Wrangler jeans spokesperson, Sheriff David Clarke, following the calamity in Milwaukee, has fingered "progressive policies" as the cause of the protests.
The growth of the welfare state” encourages the destructive behavior seen on Saturday and Sunday nights...
“These progressive policies have hit the black community like a nuclear blast, and until we reverse this government dependency, that’s what creates all of this – and encourages it, by the way,” Clarke said.
Just like the good little conservative soldier he is, Clarke regurgitates right-wing tripe on cue.

In case you haven't heard, everything the Democrats, liberals, etc. have ever done is the cause of everything bad in the world. Nevermind reality or facts, everything the Democrats, liberals, etc. have ever done is the cause of everything bad in the world.

TANF Continues to Weaken as a Safety Net
In 2014, for every 100 families in poverty, only 23 received cash benefits from TANF. This is down from the 68 families for every 100 in poverty that received cash assistance when TANF was first enacted in 1996. This ratio, which we call the TANF-to-poverty ratio (TPR), has declined nearly every year since 1996 and reached its lowest point in 2014.
Improving the State of Our Welfare State
By the time Bill Clinton first ran for president, the concept of public assistance had diminished to such an extent that that he pledged to “end welfare as we know it.” He fulfilled this promise when he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. With the stroke of a pen, the government’s largest direct cash assistance program for families with low or no income AFDC was replaced by the more restrictive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. What was called “welfare reform” at the time was in fact an attempt to lessen the financial commitments of the federal government. It also included several features advanced by conservatives, including time limits on assistance, connecting benefits to work effort, and a block grant structure that gave states greater discretion in how to distribute resources.
The End of Welfare as We Know It
More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just 3 million do.

If nothing else, these policies were an effective way to reduce the number of people on welfare rolls. People on the left and right agree that they helped change a program that was in need of reform. But there were real human costs too: Those who didn’t find jobs, who weren’t working, who lived in states trying to reduce their cash-assistance programs, were left to struggle on their own...
Today, in large part because of welfare reform, the safety net—the set of government efforts to come to the aid of the country’s citizens when they are down on their luck, much of which has existed since the Great Depression—is thin and getting thinner. And this thinning goes beyond welfare, which gives needy families cash support: On April 1, between 500,000 and one million childless adults will lose access to food stamps (officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). This is the belated consequence of a rule that was part of Clinton’s welfare reform, which stipulated that childless adults can only receive three months of food stamps if they aren’t employed at least 20 hours a week or in a training program. For years states received waivers for the rule, but in many states, governors have chosen not to ask for extensions for this year.
How the rise of America’s massive military welfare state led to the decline of the civilian welfare state
Over the past four decades in the United States, as the country has slashed its welfare state and employers gutted traditional job benefits, growing numbers of people, especially from the working class, grasped for a new safety net – the military. Everyone recognizes that the US armed forces have become a global colossus. But few know that, along with bases and bombs, the US military constructed its own massive welfare state. In the waning decades of the 20th century, with US prosperity in decline, more than 10 million active‑duty personnel and their tens of millions of family members turned to the military for economic and social security.
Reality appears to be almost the exact opposite of what Clarke claims. It has been, in fact, the decline of the welfare state and the lack of investment in the poorest persons and neighborhoods that has caused the current situation.

Too much money for stadiums and the well-connected, not enough investment in the needy and underprivileged.

In can also be argued that our recently militarized police state has diverted dollars from more appropriate investments in the communities that need it most. We keep increasing our police force in communities nationwide, claiming a need for law and order. But, what if, rather than employing a force to "keep order," we were, instead, investing in community institutions and assets, schools, real estate renovations, public spaces and jobs for these economically blighted neighborhoods? Rather than employing a force to lock down a neighborhood, why not try a New Deal-like infrastructure investment and jobs program targeted at these distressed areas?


Another aspect of this issue in which Republicans, Conservative, Right-Wingers, etc. are hypocritical and wearing blinders - where are the their complaints about corporate welfare? We have millionaires and billionaires with their hands out asking for public dollars for stadiums, business parks, factories and on and on. These are The Haves asking for more...and getting it. Talk about a culture of dependency.

Wisconsin's Corporate Welfare
Corporate Welfare
Where Are The Conservative Calls For Accountability For Corporate Welfare Recipients?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Mismanaged Shit-Show of Bile, Race-Baiting and Feelings

So, the Republican National Convention happened...and what a shit-show it was. So much hypocrisy, anger and ignorance. The Republican party has become a reality television show with shoddier production value. Seeing what the party leaders and constituents have to say is truly horrifying. It's scary to think that this is the alternative party in the United States.

For Further Reading:
Why Americans Think Crime Is Worse Than It Is
“A symphony of bile and race-baiting”: John Oliver mourned the death of facts at the Republican National Convention

Monday, August 1, 2016

Isaac Asimov Quotes

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

I wish that I could say I was optimistic about the human race. I love us all, but we are so stupid and shortsighted that I wonder if we can lift our eyes to the world about us long enough not to commit suicide.

Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.

Isn't it sad that you can tell people that the ozone layer is being depleted, the forests are being cut down, the deserts are advancing steadily, that the greenhouse effect will raise the sea level 200 feet, that overpopulation is choking us, that pollution is killing us, that nuclear war may destroy us -- and they yawn and settle back for a comfortable nap. But tell them that the Martians are landing, and they scream and run.

If all human beings understood history, they might cease making the same stupid mistakes over and over.

What is really amazing, and frustrating, is mankind's habit of refusing to see the obvious and inevitable until it is there, and then muttering about unforeseen catastrophes.

The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists.

Science doesn't purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It's a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. And this works, not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right.

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

A poor idea well written is more likely to be accepted than a good idea poorly written

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Barack Obama's and The Democrats' Accomplishments


Republican Benghazis

13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51. 
October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of "Bali Bombings." No fatalities. 
February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed. 
May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb. 
July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people. 
December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed. 
March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name "David Foy." This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what's considered American soil.) 
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar" storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded. 
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities. 
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two. 
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed. 
September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months. 
Prior to Benghazi, were there 13 attacks on embassies and 60 deaths under President George W. Bush?
Garamendi said that "during the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died." There are actually different ways to count the number of attacks, especially when considering attacks on ambassadors and embassy personnel who were traveling to or from embassy property. Overall, we found Garamendi slightly understated the number of deadly attacks and total fatalities, even using a strict definition.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones

Van Wanggaard (if that is your real name?!), Wisconsin state senator from Racine, recently opined in the Journal Sentinel that, basically, before citizens in other cities and municipalities, within the state, have their tax dollars redistributed for anything concerning Milwaukee, Milwaukee needs to get their act together.

Wanggaard throws out a lot of big numbers, but gives little context to those numbers. He rambles on about the money going to Milwaukee Public Schools, but carelessly doesn't break that down into a cost per student or even compare that to what other communities are getting or spending. He writes about failing schools and proficiency tests, but fails to show how this compares to others in the state. Without this context, just throwing out big numbers is meaningless.

And, as conservatives continually do, in the face of data that shows otherwise, Wanggaard praises the school choice program. Yet, as I've written before,
If we actually look at the data, we find that there is little difference between voucher school students and Milwaukee Public School students. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found, "City property taxes go up for each student who uses a voucher, compared to what would be the case if that student went to MPS, while state income taxes go down, as do property taxes in most of the rest of the state.
But why let the data get in the way of kicking Milwaukee. That's just what Wisconsin conservatives do. If you're going to keep pounding that drum as some sort of alternative public education option, at least give us information showing improved test scores, cost-savings or some metric we can hang our hat on. To just knock MPS and hold up school choice as a ticket out of that "quagmire" is sloppy at best, but totally inappropriate and misleading for a state senator.

He also seems to not understand that Racine, too, receives money from taxpayers outside of Racine. He makes it sound as if all money collected at the state level goes to Milwaukee. And, beyond this misrepresentation, state aid has been declining. Since 1995, Milwaukee has seen a 36% decline (in real dollars) in state aid.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's 2015 Notice of State Aid and Credit Payments, Milwaukee (with a population of 599,164) received roughly $219,000,000 in state aid; approximately $365 per person. Racine (population 78,199) received roughly $25,000,000 in state aid; $321 per person.

This type of finger-pointing equates to blaming the victim. Milwaukee has been the destination for much of the state's poor and mentally ill. There are obviously large costs involved, social and financial. Wanggaard even writes about Milwaukee's high poverty rate. He seems to assume, though, that Milwaukee likes it that way, that Milwaukee is choosing to have a high proportion of the state's poor. More like monied interests have left the City and its problems behind. Ever heard of white flight, Mr. Wanggaard?

According to the Census Bureau, Milwaukee's poverty rate is 29%, Racine's is over 22% and for Wisconsin 13.2%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a high school diploma or higher - in Milwaukee 81.8%, in Racine 81.2% and Wisconsin 90.8%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a bachelor's degree or higher - in Milwaukee 22.8%, in Racine 17.2% and Wisconsin 27.4%. People under 65 without health insurance - Milwaukee 15.9%, Racine 16.7% and Wisconsin 8.6%.

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard shouldn't be throwing stones from his glass house.

I think some of our public servants have no idea what their mission is supposed to be. Yes, you're supposed to serve your constituents, but, as a STATE senator, you also need to reach across the isle, find compromise and solve issues that have implications beyond village and city boundaries.

If Wanggaard really wants to solve things and since he believes in choice so passionately, why not improve public transportation between the City, suburbs and the surrounding communities and allow students to attend any school they want? Let's not stop there - since we would now have efficient transportation connecting the region, Milwaukee's poor citizens could now have access to jobs in the surrounding communities.

Something tells me that's not what he or any other Wisconsin conservatives want - keep those "problems" in Milwaukee.

In the end, Wanggaard's article really just seems to be another kick at Milwaukee. In his article, he admits "the Milwaukee area still is the economic driving force of our state. Almost one-third of the state's economy takes place in metro Milwaukee...with world class attractions, restaurants and festivals. It attracts visitors, investments and spending. Cranes and construction are everywhere. Wisconsin needs a healthy Milwaukee so that the state can continue to thrive."

Yes, despite Scott Walker and the Republicans best efforts to handicap Milwaukee, the city is thriving. Billions of dollars are being invested in this "quagmire" of a city. Maybe Republican scorn is the key to economic growth? Republicans continually disparage and blame Milwaukee for almost everything, yet the city has been booming.

With a little over 10% of the state's population, Milwaukee is responsible for a third of the state's economic activity. But in Mr. Wanggaard's world, this indicates Milwaukee isn't pulling its weight? I guess night is day and up is down for Mr. Wanggaard. Hey Milwaukee, you're only producing three times what would be expected, pick it up!

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard should worry more about the houses in Racine that are soon to be part of Lake Michigan. Milwaukee will continue its efforts to improve conditions for all its residents whilst continuing to fuel the economy for the entire state.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

If Only Slogans and Buzzwords Were Needed For Economic Growth

David Haynes, editorial page editor of the Journal Sentinel, opines a lengthy list of platitudes as a prescription for economic growth in the area. He holds up the Research Triangle in North Carolina as a best practices example or guiding post.
The Research Triangle area of North Carolina — with Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill at its vertices — has long turned good ideas into business enterprises. World class universities attract an enviable supply of talent. and a range of companies — from startups to Cisco, BASF and GlaxoSmithKline — keep that talent anchored. The Triangle has one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the nation.
The Milwaukee region is not the Research Triangle and shouldn't try to be. Southeastern Wisconsin has to call on its own strengths, starting with an economy forged by industry leaders such as Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, GE Healthcare and Fiserv as well as a growing research presence at its academic institutions.
Marc Levine addressed this leap of faith in The False Promise of the Entrepreneurial University:
In short, university research parks are anything but sure-fire investments in urban or regional economic prosperity. Success is relatively uncommon, as Wallsten’s impact study makes clear. “Game-changing” success – the kind that remakes a regional economy—is even more rare, the product of unique historical factors, good luck, and timing. For example, the North Carolina Research Triangle Park’s oft-cited (and oft-emulated) success, “was built around its first-mover status in the field of science parks,” generous state and federal funding, and a uniquely patient multi-decade commitment by political leadership – and even with all those difficult-to-replicate factors in its favor, it took more than 30 years to see evidence of the cluster development attributed to the park (Weddle, 2007, 7). Universities that cavalierly pursue and oversell URPs as “transformational” economic development investments risk creating white elephants and misallocating millions of dollars that could be better invested bolstering the core missions of their institutions.
Now, Haynes does say we shouldn't try to be the Research Triangle, but that we do need to foster more entrepreneurial activity, and then he uses numerous Research Triangle examples to illustrate the path we should emulate.
The region's poor entrepreneurial performance matters: Research has shown that new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation, according to the Kauffman Foundation, and they juice local economies by boosting competition and innovation. If a region isn't creating enough new companies, it will likely have sluggish growth.
A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports people who want to take the leap from idea to business formation is one essential element of a strong ecosystem for business development. So is the support of business leadership in the community. These are deep strengths in the Research Triangle.
Research has also shown that new businesses account for most job loss.
The claim that most net new jobs came from new firms conceals the fact that existing firms added tens of millions of jobs in this 25-year period. Of course existing firms also lost tens of millions of jobs. We can say that the net job creation for existing firms was zero, but if we did not have an environment that was conducive for the job adders to grow (how many jobs did Microsoft, Apple, and Intel create after their first 5 years of existence?), then existing firms would have lost tens of millions more jobs.
And, of course, Haynes had to mention venture capital, another one of the economic-clubs pundits continually beat us with whenever they're trying to sell these unsupported ideas.

Josh Lerner, of Harvard, has found the number of exceptional venture capitalists is very small. Harold Bradley, of the Kaufmann Foundation, believes venture capitalists have plenty of money, but allocate it very inefficiently, and therefore should not be receiving additional public dollars with the hope of boosting a local economy. Bradley and Carl Schramm, in an article for Business Week, write that the current focus on fees has promoted start-up flipping rather than nurturing.

In 2013, The Legislature overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to provide $25 million in taxpayer money to start-up companies. And we all know the booming job creation the Scott Walker regime has presided over since then.

Haynes closes with, "That's thinking like an entrepreneur. And it's the kind of thinking we could use more of in Milwaukee."

Let's start with the fact that a lot of economic momentum for a city or region is impacted by state and federal policies. Scott Walker killing the train, which would have better connected businesses and citizens in the region, was definitely not thinking like an entrepreneur. That infrastructure investment would have improved efficiencies, bolstered existing businesses, encouraged start-ups and increased the attractiveness of the region as a place to work and live. It would have been an investment of more than a billion dollars into the economy. I think we would have seen quite a bit of venture capital, start-ups, entrepreneurial activity and the like with an injection of a billion dollars.

So, maybe when our leaders stop cutting off our nose to spite our face we can have a real discussion about what's best for job growth.

For Further Reading:
Another False Idol: Venture Capital
Starting Up More Trouble
Faulty Excuses
A Steaming Pile of Boldness
Venturing Aimlessly
Venturing Wisconsin's Money
Selling Entrepreneurialism
Starting-Up More Trouble 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Walker Enriching Dutiful Cronies

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation also known as WEDC is a public-private agency created in 2011 by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Governor Scott Walker created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. WEDC grants loans that would give assistance to a company's attempts to grow and employ more workers within the state of Wisconsin. [source]

Scott Walker’s WEDC in Full Meltdown
In May 2014, One Wisconsin Now ran the numbers on WEDC loans and found that nearly 60 percent of some $975 million in assistance distributed by WEDC since 2011 went to firms that had contributed to Walker or the Republican Governor’s Association. 
"This new audit confirms that WEDC is the embodiment of the cronyism, corruption and incompetence of the Walker administration,” One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross told CMD.
WEDC made 27 awards totaling $124.4 million without proper review
Gov. Scott Walker’s flagship job-creation agency has made at least 27 awards totaling $124.4 million to companies without conducting a formal staff review, the agency reported Friday afternoon. 
The new information comes on the heels of a State Journal report last month that found the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded an unsecured $500,000 loan to a struggling Milwaukee construction company at the urging of Walker’s top cabinet secretary.
And, from a Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau report:
WEDC did not consistently follow statutes or its policies when making financial awards. WEDC did not comply with all statutory requirements related to program oversight. Staff did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s governing board. Additional efforts are needed to help ensure that WEDC administers its state-funded programs effectively.
Industry clusters, workforce training and a new, competitive grant for organizations assisting start-ups are the biggest winners in what is essentially a flat 2017 budget proposal by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 
WEDC's budget, the first that top executive Mark Hogan has overseen since taking the helm in October, was approved by the agency board's finance committee earlier this month. It will be presented to the full board in July for approval. 
Under the proposal, about half of WEDC's expenditures for services delivered around the state — $18.2 million — would go to businesses and communities for redeveloping contaminated sites, job creation and job and workforce development. Another 20%, or $7.3 million, would go to entrepreneurship and innovation efforts. 
The rest of the spending is divided among advancing key industries (19%, or about $7 million), building export capacity (9%, or $3.5 million) and attracting businesses to the state (3%, or just under $1 million).

I think we can safely say that these clowns, apparatchiks of the Walker regime, have no clue on economic growth. To some degree, I don't really think they care. This is just another way of funneling public dollars to private accomplices. Yet, again, we have Republicans (in this instance, the Scott Walker administration) using the government as a slush fund for their private excursions, paybacks and cronyism.

More Good Money To Be Piled On The Boondoggle Bandwagon

Milwaukee convention center expansion to be included in strategic study
Expanding the Wisconsin Center convention hall will be included in a strategic plan the convention center’s owner will embark on later this year. 
The strategic plan will provide the Wisconsin Center District board with insights on all the district’s facilities, including the downtown Milwaukee convention hall, chairman Scott Neitzel said Thursday.
I've been writing about the misguided push for expansion of the convention center for years.

Beware Of The Economic Development Hucksters

Milwaukee's Boondoggle Twofer

The Convention Center Cabal
But, as experience has shown, the number of conventions and convention-goers has been falling the past few decades. With faltering demand already in place, increased supply drives the value down for everyone. A classic case of a race to the bottom. Maybe it's a good thing Milwaukee hasn't wasted hundreds of millions on pointless convention center expansion...
And, the numbers in the Business Journal article show that, even though we haven't expanded the convention center (which is deemed so necessary), hotel occupancy rates have improved. We've built more hotels and more of those rooms are being used even though Milwaukee hasn't upgraded the convention center. This increase in hotel room occupancy (from 58% in 2010 to 62% in 2015) has occurred alongside declining convention center events (from 78 events in 2014 to 53 in 2016). So, it may be more accurate to believe that investing dollars into the convention center would be a drain on other more effective economic activities in Milwaukee.
Hopefully we can pass on this round of corporate welfare. There are many other, more needed and more effective, investments our community can make.

[Aside: I will always find it amazing that unemployment, food stamps, aid to the poor and working-class, in general, are always frowned upon and those pulling the purse-strings are always looking to cut, cut, cut! Even investments in our infrastructure are put off into the future. But when billionaires come around with their hands out, looking for money, we're always scrambling and desperately looking for anyway possible to fork over millions of dollars, and more often than not, supported by dubious reasoning.]

Wisconsin Reading

The Property Tax Scam for Brewers, Bucks
Beloit Billionaire Posts String of Zeros On State Returns
State Continues to Lag Behind Nation in Job Creation
Ballpark Commons Could Get $26 Million in City Funds, Study Suggests
The Radical State Supreme Court?
Wisconsin No Longer Has Electoral Competition

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Laboratories of Democracy

Violating Logic

What exactly do 'Conservative Principles' entail these days? Is there really such a thing?

How can supposed 'conservatives' be for smaller government, yet support the most costly government programs and even push for growing those?

How can 'conservatives' continually blast bureaucrats and the government as inefficient, wasteful and incompetent, and then turn around and call for more and more money funneled to certain pet governmental units?

Enter our favorite wingnut sheriff.

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. Calls on City to Hire 400 New Police Officers
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is calling on the city to hire 400 new police officers. 
Clarke, while speaking Friday before the city's Public Safety Committee, also urged Milwaukee County to hire an additional 200 sheriff's deputies... 
He urged for "stop, question and frisk" policing, 100 searches per night of homes where those on parole are living and aggressive traffic stops targeting repeat offenders. 
"We need to rain holy hell on these individuals — lawfully," Clarke said. "We don't need to violate anybody's rights to do this." 
During Friday's meeting, Ald. Terry Witkowski asked Clarke how the city would pay for 400 new officers, estimating it would cost Milwaukee about $40 million annually. Witkowski also noted that state officials have limited the city's ability to increase taxes...
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn called Clarke "irrelevant to my work." 
"I'd love to have 400 more cops, if somebody could come up with a way to pay for them without breaking the backs of Milwaukee taxpayers," Flynn said. "There's no there there." 
He suggested Clarke talk to "his good friend" Gov. Scott Walker about restoring money that's been cut from Milwaukee's shared revenue payments. 
"Just restore state aid and we'll have a discussion," Flynn said. 
Christopher Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said Clarke's presentation promoted "largely discredited theories" and shows he is "out of step with the best ideas in current debates over improving public safety." 
"Predictably, his principal recommendation is 'more boots on the ground,'" Ahmuty said. "Hopefully, the majority of the Public Safety Committee will take his views for what they are worth, antiquated and unhelpful." 
Clarke makes regular appearances on Fox News and other television and radio news shows —often wearing one of his signature cowboy hats — where he sounds off on a variety of issues, including BeyoncĂ©, the Black Lives Matter movement, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
We can clearly see why Clarke has so many issues with his County budget. Apparently he's not much of a numbers guy.

(And, the "stop, question and frisk" policing - searching 100 homes per night where those on parole are living along with aggressive traffic stops targeting repeat offenders. "Raining holy hell — lawfully. We don't need to violate anybody's rights to do this." How do you "rain hell" and not violate people?)

Wouldn't it be great to have more teachers and better schools? How about better public transportation and roads? Maybe replacing all the lead water pipes in the City?

But where to get the money to pay for any of it? With the State cutting shared revenue and limiting the City's ability raise additional revenues, coming up with the money for anything is increasingly more and more of a problem.

And, I guess, according to Clarke, the answer is making blustery speeches without any consideration of the details. "This, that and the other should be done...someone else figure out how to pay for it!"

WOW! What a visionary! I can see why FOX News lets him spout his wisdom regularly.

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Scott Walker's Incompetence

Gov. Scott Walker Holds Down Gas Tax - And Growth
In violation of conservative "pro-market" economic principles, Gov. Scott Walker has once again decided that Wisconsin's gasoline tax will not be raised. Instead, to finance road maintenance and repair, he prefers to borrow $850 million, adding that amount to the state's debt. Since even this large amount of borrowing will not be sufficient to finance the projects being planned for the coming year, he says that some will have to be slowed down or not even begun.

Curve Balls

Bradley Foundation gives $250,000 to 'The Bell Curve' co-author
The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation helped propel the career of conservative scholar Charles Murray, who famously argued in a 1994 book that genetic differences between white and black people were a partial cause for differences in IQ.
Now Murray, 73, is getting another prize from the Bradley Foundation — a $250,000 check.
Bradley Foundation Gives $250,000 To Racist Charles Murray
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bradley Foundation gave a million dollars to Charles Murray to research and write "The Bell Curve." This book argued that African Americans are genetically inferior to whites and thus are not as smart. It further argued that for this reason, it didn't pay to spend a lot of money to try to educate black children
Who is Backing The Bell Curve?
The explosive conclusions of The Bell Curve are now common knowledge. What is less well known is that the country's leading conservative foundation paid co-author Charles Murray $1 million to write the book. Foundation funding of research is nothing new. But Murray's support from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is an example of the highly ideological research that conservative foundations favor as they seek to mold public policy. Even in the marketplace of ideas, it takes money to compete. 
The Bell Curve's key educational policy recommendation dovetails with the Bradley Foundation's top education priority: support for school choice, including public funds for private and religious schools. This bolsters the case of those who argue that despite the rhetoric of choice, many voucher advocates have abandoned the vision of a quality education for all children.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Politics (and Principles) of Convenience

In the recent residency requirement Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling,
... Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority in a 5-2 ruling upholding the Legislature's ban on municipal residency requirements.  "The Legislature has the power to legislate on matters of local affairs when its enactment uniformly affects every city or every village, notwithstanding the home rule amendment," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority. "Because (the 2013 law) uniformly affects every city or village, it trumps section 5-02 of the city's charter. Milwaukee may no longer enforce its residency requirement."
So when the Democrats at the Federal level use the same argument to impose environmental, economic and other regulations in opposition to state or local ordinances, I'm sure the Republicans will quietly accept this natural order. Oh wait, Republicans believe every city or state should be able to make their own educational, environmental, transportation and literally every other rule for themselves without any interference from the Federal Government. Except when they don't.

Lets substitute "state" for "city or village" in the Gableman writing:
The Legislature Federal Government has the power to legislate on matters of local state affairs when its enactment uniformly affects every city or every village state. Because the [Federal] law uniformly affects every city or village state, it trumps the city's any state's charter.
Again, yet another example of Republican (lack of) logic eating itself. For some bewildering reason, they're allowed to continually get away with such ridiculousness.

But, on the bright side, hopefully the Feds are reading these State decisions. In such rulings, the States are giving the Feds the legalese they need to impose their will upon the states - for stricter environmental regulations, for country-wide public transportation improvements and greater connectivity, for nation-wide educational standards, for a standardized minimum wage and for stricter regulation of predatory lending, amongst other issues where our country would be better off having a nationalized standard.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Local Yokels

Republicans have long pretended to be the protectors of local rule. No matter what the topic was, it was best left up to the most local body of government to decide their own rules. If a State had a certain view, the Feds should just butt out. If a locality had an idea, the State should just buzz off.

The more local the rule, the better is was, according to Republicans. Except when Republicans are being their usual full-of-shit, crony-laden selves. Yes, Republicans are all for local control, except when they're not.

After a long back-and-forth court process, the police and firefighters of Milwaukee workers and freedom have prevailed. Freedom won the day. Down with residency requirements. God bless America. This is a great day for all freedom-loving people. Because, now, public workers employed by the City of Milwaukee don't have to live there. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Yes, I know the police and firefighters have a tough job. (A lot of people have tough jobs.) But they also knew what they were getting when they accepted the job. Most of which is great pay, great benefits, and a great pension. Their average salaries: $65,649 for sworn police employees. $67,554 for sworn fire employees. Police can retire after 25 years of service, regardless of their age. Firefighters can retire at 49 with 22 years of service. Oh, the humanity! (Other city employees must wait until age 60, or 55 if they have 30 years of service.)

In 2013, 59% of the City of Milwaukee budget went to just the police and fire departments.

Nonetheless, it's probably not a big surprise that a conservative Wisconsin court ruled in favor of their conservative friends.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Milwaukee can't require workers to live in city
In the 5-2 ruling, the court found a 2013 law prevented the city from enforcing a long-standing rule requiring workers to live within its boundaries. The city had argued it could continue to enforce the 75-year-old residency requirement because the state constitution grants local governments broad powers...
The dissenters wrote that the decision would make it easier for lawmakers to meddle with the policies of a targeted city by writing laws that, at least cosmetically, appeared to apply to all local governments. 
"Instead of freeing municipalities from interference by the Legislature when dealing with local affairs, the majority limits the power and restrains the ability of municipalities to self-govern," Ann Walsh Bradley wrote. 
The majority stated lawmakers could set policies affecting local governments if they were for matters of statewide concern or if they affected all cities and villages uniformly, at least on their face. 
On this point, Rebecca Bradley wrote separately to say she believed the Legislature could get involved in local matters only if they were both of statewide concern and affected all cities and villages uniformly. That put her in line with the liberals on that point. 
Republicans who control the Legislature included a provision in the 2013 state budget prohibiting local governments from maintaining residency rules other than those requiring police and firefighters to live within 15 miles of their borders. That conflicted with Milwaukee's policy, enacted in 1938, requiring employees to live within the city.
Yes, for some odd reason, even though the residency requirement is known by anyone applying for a job at the City of Milwaukee, somehow the freedom of the job applicant was being trampled. How this influences anyone other than the City of Milwaukee is beyond me. How does this infringe on anyone's right to apply for a job or live anywhere they would like to? Only if you want a job at the City of Milwaukee are you impacted.

I get that people should be able to choose where they live. Live wherever the fuck you want. But you don't get to choose where you work. The employer hires the employee, not the other way around. So after 75 years of having residency requirement in place, and every single person applying for that job knowing the prerequisites of employment, to now claim freedom or whatever other bumper-sticker bullshit slogan they've come up with, this is total partisan, cronyism, garbage.

My boss says I have to be at work by 9, but that's intruding on my freedom to come and go as I please. So is the 9-5 typical work day an affront to freedom? My boss also isn't paying me enough which is infringing on my freedom to buy more shit. This can't stand! In fact, I shouldn't even have to work. Freedom!!!

But, as is or should be well-known by now, bullshit and hypocrisy are Republicans' bread and butter. The Republicans have no principles left. They will do anything and say anything. They will flip and flop. The means justify the ends. If you can help elect Republicans and keep them in power, they'll do anything for you.

Since taking over the state Legislature, Republicans have moved to restrict local control
"I remember back in the day when Democrats had control of the Legislature, the clarion call for the Republican Party was 'Local control, local control,'" Dane County executive and former Democratic state Rep. Joe Parisi said. "It used to be virtually part of their platform. But as soon as they got into power, they began moving very quickly on a number of fronts to take local control away."
GOP lawmakers passed 128 measures limiting local control since 2011
Republican lawmakers have passed more than 125 measures since 2011 restricting the authority of local government, according to the state’s nonpartisan budget agency. 
Over the past three legislative sessions, since the GOP gained control of the Legislature, lawmakers have enacted 128 provisions that represent unfunded mandates or restrict the decision-making power of local governments, according to a May 16 memo released by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau at the request of Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. 
Shankland said in a statement that of the 128 provisions, 80 were passed without Democratic lawmakers’ support. 
“From restricting county shoreland zoning ordinances passed by county boards, to banning municipal governments from passing container ordinances that make sense for the well-being of their community, legislative Republicans repeatedly used their majority in a blatant government overreach,” said Shankland.
On the GOP's own website they laud the power of local control regarding education:
Today’s education reform movement calls for accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.
Wis. Republicans hand over local control to corporate America
A memo issued earlier this year by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailed more than 100 ways in which the Republican Legislature and the governor have eliminated local control while also increasing the number of unfunded mandates — i.e., costs — passed on to local communities. The Republicans’ actions have made it impossible for many local elected officials to balance their budgets while providing services for their constituents. That’s one of the reasons your potholes don’t get filled.
At this point, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the blatantly partisan and hypocritical policies of Republicans. I'm just wondering, at some point, doesn't the public notice this barefaced cronyism? How much can we allow them to just shit all over the rule of law, common decency, accountability and democracy? This is yet another travesty of the Walker administration and another farce in the long line of Republican absurdities.

For Further Reading:
Unfunded mandates and items that would restrict local control 
State Supreme Court guts local control

Monday, June 13, 2016

Walker Mismanagement/Ineptitude Continues

Highway project delays rack up $700 million cost overruns
While some of these increases come from faulty cost estimates or unavoidable inflation, the new figures underline the obvious: Delays can be costly for Wisconsin taxpayers. When projects are paused because of financial challenges in the state's road fund, the price of materials, labor and real estate can rise... 
The four major highway projects were each delayed for one year because last summer Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers couldn't settle on an approach to paying for them... 
Refusing to back increases to the gasoline tax or vehicle registration fees last year, Walker settled on bonding as the solution to the state's transportation funding woes, asking $1.3 billion in borrowing to fund the state's transportation projects while freezing state borrowing for most other needs.

Republican legislators pushed back, ultimately lowering the borrowing to $850 million. 
"He'll say that he hasn't increased taxes, but he's certainly pushed the cost of these projects onto the state credit card, and it's going to cost people a lot more," said Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), a member of the Transportation Projects Commission. "Whoever comes in after him is going to have a complete mess on their hands."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shortage of Skills or Abundance of Excuses?

As most Wisconsinites know, Scott Walker has overseen anemic economic performance for Wisconsin. Job growth has continually lagged the national average.

Once again, Wisconsin job growth trails national pace

Of course, none of this, according to Scott Walker, is Scott Walker's fault. (Regardless that he was elected based on his claims that he could grow 250,000 jobs for the state.) It's the dreaded skilled worker shortage. The jobs are here just waiting for the right workers. 

The laughable link between the two - jobs and the right skills for those jobs - is job training. Another overblown talking-point of economic development hucksters. 

As Marc Levine informed,
As Gordon Lafer, one of the country's foremost researchers on job training, puts it: "Whatever the problem, it seems job training is the answer. The only trouble is, it doesn't work, and the government knows it. . . . Indeed, in studying more than 40 years of job training policy, I have not seen one program that, on average, enabled its participants to earn their way out of poverty."
This, directly debunking the recent drivel being peddled in a Journal Sentinel opinion piece.

Levine continued,
Work force development policy is based on the fallacious premise that Milwaukee's core employment problem is a shortage of skilled workers (a "jobs-skills mismatch"). ...

The jobs are already here? Hardly. Indeed, taking metro Milwaukee as a whole, there is a gap of 88,000 between the number of jobless (working-age residents unemployed or out of the labor force) and the number of job vacancies reported by employers. It is a job shortage, much more than a skills shortage, that plagues the region. ... 
No matter who controls job training programs in Milwaukee, they are doomed to failure unless this economy produces enough family-supporting jobs.
This isn't to say we shouldn't be offering some job training efforts. This also doesn't mean that at some time during the business cycle, the economy won't experience some structural unemployment. But these supposed panaceas of skills-improvement and job-training have proven largely uneventful over the last few decades.

The continued call for increased skills also ignores the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the majority of new jobs over the next few decades will require only a high school education or minimal on-the-job training. Secondly, its also implies that we, as a nation are becoming less educated; this, also, is false.

This skill-shortage talking-point merely allows most of the decision-makers to take the hands-off approach of blaming the victim. "We've got some tools out there. If individuals don't take advantage, that's their problem."

More effective policies include increasing the earned income tax credit, unionization, increasing the minimum wage and increasing job programs (directly employing individuals).

As long as we keep pretending the market has all the answers and our workforce is so woefully inadequate that we can't do or learn the majority of vacant positions, charlatans and other hucksters will continue to sell job training, skills shortage and other bumper sticker policies that do little to address the issues they claim to be so concerned about.

Wisconsin Reading

The Report That Walker Killed
Walker Administration Delays $101 Million Debt Payment
Impact of Walker Skipping Debt Payment
Fact-checking Gov. Scott Walker's Misleading Claims On The Economy
Remembering Milwaukee's Socialist Party History
The Billionaire's Son
Menard Inc. Violates Labor Laws, National Labor Relations Board Says
How Walker Is Killing Meritocracy
Wisconsin’s State Legislative Districts are a Big Republican Gerrymander

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bursting Bubbles

Real Estate Bubble Explained by Economist Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The term real estate bubble, it is widely known to articles describing the theory of real estate prices going up or rising. Mark Eppli, finance at Marquette University, says that the consumers shouldn't worry. 
He said "I have no problem saying that there is not a real estate bubble. By looking at the short-term, medium-tern and long-term, I think the market isn't going to have a fall out," he adds "I look at the numbers and that's where I get my evidence from," ...
Eppli says while the real estate bubble isn't about to burst, not all is perfect when it comes to the housing market, he said that new homes were overbuilt so the supply right now outstrips the demand, but quickly added "I think that will work itself out. I know there's a lot of concern about it, but it's not something that is going to break the market." 
Marquette's Eppli named president of national real estate organization Wednesday, June 1, 2016
A Marquette University professor of finance with a national profile in commercial real estate has been elected president of the Real Estate Research Institute, the university announced Wednesday. 
Mark Eppli, Ph.D., professor of finance and Robert B. Bell Chair in Real Estate at Marquette, will lead the national nonprofit organization that funds top-tier research on real estate investment performance and market fundamentals for the commercial real estate industry. 
Eppli directs Marquette's Top 10 nationally ranked Center for Real Estate and also was recently named a NAIOP Distinguished Fellow. NAIOP is the leading trade association for commercial real estate professionals. 
"Dr. Eppli represents what's best about Marquette business faculty," said Brian Till, Keyes Dean of Business Administration at the university. "He's a highly engaged scholar and teacher who lends his deep expertise to the broader academic and business communities." 
Let's hope, for the sake of the economy, the Real Estate Research Institute, NAIOP and "what's best about Marquette business faculty," Eppli's scholarly engagement and research has exponentially improved since 2006.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hoisted By Own Petard

State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser to retire

I'm assuming (following the same logic used in denying Merrick Garland a hearing) Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans will not search for a successor to fill Justice Prosser's seat. I'm sure they will leave it open for the next governor to decide.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Convention Center Cabal

The Milwaukee Business Journal had a recent cover story discussing Milwaukee's hotel growth. Other than talking about hotels, the main thrust of the article seemed to be that - to fill all these new hotel rooms Milwaukee needs to step up their convention center game. The "if you build it they will come" mantra is alive and well with the convention center interests.

But, as experience has shown, the number of conventions and convention-goers has been falling the past few decades. With faltering demand already in place, increased supply drives the value down for everyone. A classic case of a race to the bottom. Maybe it's a good thing Milwaukee hasn't wasted hundreds of millions on pointless convention center expansion.

From Governing magazine's The Great Convention Center Bailout:
“A lot of the over-building is a result of local business leaders who see the centers as a bulwark against declining property values in cities,” he [Heywood Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio] says. Throw in consultants who often play up the impact of a convention center, says Sanders, and the result is an overbuilt market.
I wrote about this topic in 2014:
As Steven Malanga reports, in The Convention Center Shell Game, "A vast expansion of Chicago’s McCormick Place, costing $1 billion in the mid-1990s, didn’t prevent a drop in that city’s share of major conventions... Another word of warning: city-commissioned studies almost always wind up recommending convention centers—meaning that the industry of consultants who churn out such studies has a pretty lousy track record, considering the long list of underperforming centers around the country."
Chicago is the biggest convention center city in America. If a billion-dollar investment can't prevent their slide, does anyone plausibly think a different outcome will occur in Milwaukee?
And, the numbers in the Business Journal article show that, even though we haven't expanded the convention center (which is deemed so necessary), hotel occupancy rates have improved. We've built more hotels and more of those rooms are being used even though Milwaukee hasn't upgraded the convention center. This increase in hotel room occupancy (from 58% in 2010 to 62% in 2015) has occurred alongside declining convention center events (from 78 events in 2014 to 53 in 2016). So, it may be more accurate to believe that investing dollars into the convention center would be a drain on other more effective economic activities in Milwaukee.

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Center For Economic Development study explained:
Whatever the original economic folly of Miller Park and the Midwest Airlines Center, what’s done is done: both facilities exist and will certainly operate for the foreseeable future. For the purposes of this study, there is no point in reopening a historical debate about whether public dollars should have been spent on these facilities. However, down the road, as part of a city strategy to build a chimerical tourist industry in Milwaukee, taxpayers once again may be called upon to provide public funding for an expanded convention center, or perhaps a new arena for a local professional sports team. Such expenditures should be scrupulously avoided: tourism has been a losing economic development strategy for Milwaukee as a whole, and for the inner city, tourism investments have represented a huge 'opportunity cost’ of funds that could have been invested in inner city economic renewal.
For Further Reading:
Beware Of The Economic Development Hucksters

Sunday Reading

What Is A "Good Job?"
The Quiet, Vicious Racism Of Scott Walker's Wisconsin
The Real Lesson From $15? America's Trickle-Down Experiment Has Failed
Remembering Milwaukee's Socialist Party History
Let's Dispel Once And For All This Fiction That Sanders Doesn't Know How To Break Up Banks
Outraged By Kansas Justices' Rulings, Republicans Seek To Reshape Court
Republicans And Voter Suppression
Don't Dismantle Government - Fix It
Republicans Lied In Wisconsin: Here's How You Know The State's Voter ID Law Is A Complete Sham