Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey

The memories of my family outings are still a source of strength to me. I remember we'd all pile into the car - I forget what kind it was - and drive and drive. I'm not sure where we'd go, but I think there were some trees there. The smell of something was strong in the air as we played whatever sport we played. I remember a bigger, older guy we called "Dad." We'd eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you.

It's sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs.

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

I bet the main reason the police keep people away from a plane crash is they don't want anybody walking in and lying down in the crash stuff, then, when somebody comes up, act like they just woke up and go, "What was THAT?!"

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."

As we were driving, we saw a sign that said "Watch for Rocks." Marta said it should read "Watch for Pretty Rocks." I told her she should write in her suggestion to the highway department, but she started saying it was a joke - just to get out of writing a simple letter! And I thought I was lazy!

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disney Land, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disney Land burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disney Land, but it was getting pretty late.

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.

Laurie got offended that I used the word "puke." But to me, that's what her dinner tasted like.

We used to laugh at Grandpa when he'd head off and go fishing. But we wouldn't be laughing that evening when he'd come back with some whore he picked up in town.

As the evening sky faded from a salmon color to a sort of flint gray, I thought back to the salmon I caught that morning, and how gray he was, and how I named him Flint.

Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.

If you go parachuting, and your parachute doesn't open, and you friends are all watching you fall, I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming.

Once when I was in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, I met a mysterious old stranger. He said he was about to die and wanted to tell someone about the treasure. I said, "Okay, as long as it's not a long story. Some of us have a plane to catch, you know." He stared telling his story, about the treasure and his life and all, and I thought: "This story isn't too long." But then, he kept going, and I started thinking, "Uh-oh, this story is getting long." But then the story was over, and I said to myself: "You know, that story wasn't too long after all." I forget what the story was about, but there was a good movie on the plane. It was a little long, though.

Blow ye winds, like the trumpet blows; but without that noise.

Too bad you can't just grab a tree by the very tiptop and bend it clear over the ground and then let her fly, because I bet you'd be amazed at all the stuff that comes flying out.

I bet a fun thing would be to go way back in time to where there was going to be an eclipse and tell the cave men, "If I have come to destroy you, may the sun be blotted out from the sky." Just then the eclipse would start, and they'd probably try to kill you or something, but then you could explain about the rotation of the moon and all, and everyone would get a good laugh.

I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick 'Americans' as their mascot.

Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, "Aw, who cares?" And then I think, "Hey, what's for supper?"

If you ever go temporarily insane, don't shoot somebody, like a lot of people do. Instead, try to get some weeding done, because you'd really be surprised.

If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

It's funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.

"The crows seem to be calling my name," thought Caw.

Representation, Dues & Taxes

Two Journal Sentinel readers responses to the right-to-work travesty make great points and are well worth the read.


Sunday March 1, 2015

Make taxes optional
What does it really mean when our state's Republican legislators think an individual should not be required to pay union administrative dues for representation by their union? 
The representatives of union members receive a wage to help achieve improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions for employees of contractors and companies. When members vote on their representatives' compensation within each union, it is often with the knowledge that union rep positions are demanding and often stressful jobs. 
I ask people to consider if there is a difference between a union representative and a legislative representative. Both are there to represent our individual interests in a collective manner. 
I believe if Republican legislators believe so firmly that paying for union representation should be an option, then it is time for taxpayers such as myself to have the same opportunity to decline payment for my representation as a citizen. 
I no longer want to pay taxes that support the wages, per diems, benefits, perks, travel expenses and office costs of state legislators and their staff. I no longer want to pay toward the governor's salary while he is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, traveling to Europe or conducting other "representation" responsibilities on my behalf. I want to be given the same option as a state citizen to withhold my financial support for the costs of my representation. 
I look forward to fast-track legislation from one of our Republican legislators that gives me the same right-not-to-pay as those granted to other individuals in our state under the right-to-work legislation. Let's call it Representation-Without-Taxation. 
Brent D. Emons
Jefferson

Sunday March 8, 2015

Dues and taxes
In John Breest's letter of March 3, he says he doesn't want his union dues going to liberal causes ("Unions and politics," Letters). 
As an atheist and taxpayer, I don't want my taxes going to private religious schools. Will I be afforded the same "right" to opt out of taxes that go to superstitious organizations such as churches? 
For some reason, I can't see that happening. 
Steve Burek
Trevor

More Bad News In The Continuing Sad Saga Of Scott Walker

The Pay-To-Play Allegation Walker's Watchdog Isn't Defending
Secret $1.5 Million Donation Uncovered In Walker Dark-Money Probe
State Of The Union Buster
Walker Ends Freedom Of Contract In Wisconsin
Right-To-Work Laws: Designed To Hurt Unions & Lower Wages
Lawmakers' Priorities For Property Tax Cuts Favor Wealthy
Wisconsin Economy Is Nowhere Near The 'Head Of The Class'
Wisconsin's Middle Class Shrinking Faster Than Any Other State
Wisconsin's Shrinking Middle Class
Walker's Wisconsin Still Lags Nation For Job Growth

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Scott Walker & Wisconsin's Slow Job Growth

Following along the lines of a couple recent Brewtown Gumshoe entries (see further reading below), Marc V. Levine offers another take down of Scott Walker and his sycophants' drivel, Wisconsin's economy is nowhere near the 'head of the class'.
Wisconsin has consistently ranked in the 30s and 40s among states in the rate of annual employment growth since Scott Walker became governor in 2010, a major fall-off from the last year of the much-maligned Doyle administration, when Wisconsin ranked 14th. As I documented last year in a study, not only has Wisconsin's rate of employment growth consistently ranked toward the bottom of states since 2010, but all of the net job growth in Wisconsin since the end of the Great Recession has been in low-wage occupations, in jobs paying less than $12.50 an hour. 
Over the past four years, the state's economy has consistently lagged behind the national economy on key economic indicators. Since 2010, both Wisconsin's GDP growth and personal income growth have trailed the national rate. And employment growth in Wisconsin has underperformed the national rate by a staggering 50%. 
It has not always been this way. Between 1990 and 2010, employment growth in Wisconsin (19%) closely tracked the national rate (19.6%). In 2010, the year before Scott Walker took office, the rate of employment growth in Wisconsin was 40% higher than the national rate, thanks to an infusion of federal funds and the effects of the national macroeconomic stimulus. 
And now, while the Wisconsin economy continues to stagnate, the national economy is accelerating, with job growth during the final months of 2014 and early 2015 approaching the impressive rates of the 1990s. Wisconsin's pace of job growth continues to lag far behind the national rate; in 2014, according to the latest BLS numbers, employment grew in Wisconsin at less than three-quarters of the national rate.
For Further Reading:
Walker's Minions & Their Cherry-Picked Statistics
38th, For Republicans, Is Head Of The Class

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Warren Fires Back At Wall Street

Elizabeth Warren Fires Back After Wall Street Threats 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a blunt message for the big Wall Street banks that may withhold campaign donations to Senate Democrats in hopes of quieting her calls to break up the banks. 
"It will not work," Warren said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post... 
"They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right," Warren wrote. "... I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus ... And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called 'too big to fail' banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008."

Percentage of U.S. Adults Without Health Insurance

Hidden Healthcare Horrors

One of the odder subplots of the health reform saga has been the almost pathetic efforts of Republicans to come up with Obamacare horror stories. You might think that given the complexity of the law and the almost unlimited resources of the propaganda machine, they’d be able to come up with someone to serve as the poster child of the law’s terrible effects on innocent Americans. As far as I know, however, we have yet to see a single credible example — all the characters featured in Koch brothers ads or GOP speeches have turned out to be potential beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act, if only they were willing to look at their actual options. 
So Cathy McMorris Rodgers went on Facebook to ask for Obamacare horror stories — and instead got an avalanche of testimonials from people who got essential insurance and care thanks to the ACA. 
Why can’t the GOP find the horror stories it knows, just knows, must be out there? Matthew Yglesias gets at most of it by noting that Obamacare does, in fact, redistribute from the few to the many: 
[O]ne of the main things it does is raise taxes rather dramatically on a pretty small number of high-income people in order to give subsidized health insurance policies to a substantially larger number of low-income people. Indeed, this is one of the main things Republicans don’t like about it! 
But there’s a bit more to the story. Millionaires paying higher taxes aren’t the only people hurt, at least slightly, by the law. If you are a young. healthy person (especially if you’re male), living in a state that didn’t have community rating pre-ACA, you may have had a cheap policy that went up in price once the law went into effect; and if you’re affluent as well, you don’t receive subsidies. So there are victims out there. 
The problem for the GOP is that they’re the wrong kind of victims. What Republicans want are struggling, salt of the earth regular Americans, preferably older and with expensive medical conditions — not healthy, well-paid guys in their 20s. But the profile of the ideal Obamacare victim matches, pretty much exactly, the profile of the kind of person Obamacare was designed to help. 
And the inability of the GOP to come up with true horror stories is, in its own way, a demonstration that the law is working as intended.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Republican States Are More Dependent On Government

Republican States Are More Dependent On Government
That's according to a recent analysis from the personal finance site WalletHub, which ranked states based on how much they rely on Uncle Sam to support their state finances. 
To calculate states' dependence, WalletHub analyzed three metrics: how much a state gets in federal funding per every dollar it pays in federal income taxes, the percentage of state funding that comes from the federal government and the number of federal employees per capita, both military and civilian...
New Mexico is the most-dependent state in the U.S., according to WalletHub's data. The state gets $2.19 in federal funding for every dollar paid in federal income taxes. In contrast, New Jersey, which is the least-dependent state, gets only about 50 cents in federal funding for every dollar paid in taxes, WalletHub calculated. 
The analysis found that red states, or those that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election, were much more likely to depend on the government than blue states. 
That's somewhat ironic, considering the Republican Party's general reluctance to support federally funded initiatives like Medicaid expansion, and its long-term dedication to across-the-board budget cuts to slash the federal deficit.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Walker's Assault On Workers Continues

Could Wisconsin's Scott Walker now abolish the weekend?
Legislators have introduced a bill to abolish employees' legal right to at least one day off per week.

State law currently allows factory or retail employees to work seven days or more in a row for a limited period, but they and their employer have to jointly petition the Department of Workforce Development for a waiver. These petitions apparently number a couple of hundred a year. The new proposal would allow workers to "voluntarily choose" to work without a day of rest. The state agency wouldn't have a say. 
It can't be a secret what "voluntarily" really means in this context. As Marquette University law professor Paul Secunda told the Nation, the measure "completely ignores the power dynamic in the workplace, where workers often have a proverbial gun to the head." Workers will know that if the boss demands it, they'll be volunteering or else.
Also from the article:
Walker would have a case to make to GOP voters if these policies yielded higher job growth. They haven't. Bloomberg economic analyst Christopher Flavelle wrote recently that as measured by improvement in "the living standards of the people he represents... Walker's tenure falls somewhere between lackluster and a failure." 
Since Walker took office, Wisconsin's economic performance has ranked a dismal 35th in Bloomberg's economic index of states. Private sector job growth lags behind such neighboring states as Minnesota and Michigan -- not to mention California, where labor and fiscal policies are at the opposite pole from Walker's. Bloomberg's index of share values for Wisconsin-based public companies shows they lag well behind Iowa, Minnesota and the median state. (See accompanying graphics package for details.) 
This week brought another dose of bad news for Walker: his state fell to 38th in the nation in job growth for the year ended Sept. 30, 2014, at 1.16%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (For comparison, California ranked seventh, at 3.1%.) 
Wisconsin's budget situation is dire, with state tax revenue increasing at a fraction of the rate of the median state--4% vs. 20%--in 2011-14. In February, the state announced it would delay a scheduled $108-million principal payment on its debt. Under Walker, Wisconsinites seem to be facing a double-whammy--lousy performance at the state level, and a continuing assault on their household income.

38th, For Republicans, Is The Head Of The Class

It was only a week ago Tom Hefty, writing in the Journal Sentinel, declared Wisconsin's economy was moving to the head of the class.

Yet, not even a week later, John Schmid and Kevin Crowe, also of the Journal Sentinel, found Wisconsin's job creation rank falls to 38th.


Maybe this is why the Wisconsin economy is trailing the rest of the nation - Republicans think ranking 38th is being at the head of the class.

For Further Reading:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Walker's Minions & Their Cherry-Picked Statistics

Tom Hefty (conservative shill, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute affiliate and Journal Sentinel contributor), in an attempt to make Scott Walker's policies appear effective, cherry-picks statistics to make his point. Actually he just rattles off numerous surveys that say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, Wisconsin is poised for job growth and Wisconsin has a bright job outlook. More or less, opinions masquerading as statistics.

Hefty, in the article, states, "Economic statistics are frequently complex, confusing and sometimes contradictory. Partisans cherry-pick statistics to make their points." Which is exactly what Hefty's article does.

David Dayen found:
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, median household income in Wisconsin is $51,467 a year, nearly $800 below the national average. And it has fallen consistently since the passage of the anti-union law in 2011, despite a small bounce-back nationally in 2013. The Bureau of Economic Analysis puts Wisconsin in the middle of the pack on earnings growth, despite a fairly tight labor market with a headline unemployment rate of 5.2 percent.

Moreover, the meager earnings growth that has come to Wisconsin has mostly gone to the top 1 percent of earners. Another Wisconsin Budget Project report shows that the state hit a record share of income going to the very top in 2012, a year after passage of the anti-union law. That doesn’t include the $2 billion in tax cuts Walker initiated in his first term, which went disproportionately to the highest wage earners. (This is precisely the agendaWalker is likely to run on in his presidential campaign.)
Walker proponents can talk of job growth and moving things forward, but that's all really just meaningless bluster if the jobs aren't decent paying. And, as the actual statistics show, Scott Walker's policies have led to declining household income for most Wisconsinites.

Republican Beliefs And Other Superstitions

Republicans subscribe to the disproven Trickle Down hypothesis:
An economic idea which states that decreasing marginal and capital gains tax rates - especially for corporations, investors and entrepreneurs - can stimulate production in the overall economy. According to trickle-down theory proponents, this stimulus leads to economic growth and wealth creation that benefits everyone, not just those who pay the lower tax rates. 
President Reagan's economic policies, commonly referred to as "Reaganomics" or supply-side economics, were based on trickle-down theory. The idea is that with a lower tax burden and increased investment, business can produce (or supply) more, increasing employment and worker pay. Reagan initially slashed the top income-tax rate from 70% to 50%. Trickle-down policy’s detractors see the policy as tax cuts for the rich and don’t think the tax cuts benefit lower-income earners. 
A contrasting theory, Keynesianism, is based on stimulating demand through government spending and other government interventions. An increase in government spending necessitates an increase in income-tax rates – the opposite of what trickle-down theory advocates. Trickle-down theory does not support government intervention in the economy. 
According to the trickle-down theory, if tax rates are lower, people have an incentive to work more because they get to keep more of the income they earn. They then spend or invest that income, and either of these activities will improve everyone’s prosperity, not just the prosperity of those in the highest income brackets. What’s more, in the end, the government may actually collect more income tax despite the lower tax rates because of the additional work performed. The Laffer Curve shows how this relationship works. If the government taxes 0% of income or 100% of income, it takes in no money. In between these two extremes, tax revenues vary because different tax rates encourage people to work more or to take more leisure time.
Conservatives want society, as a whole, to allow the rich to "keep more of their money." Riches are then supposed to trickle down to the rest of society. When it doesn't trickle down 1) the citizens are uneducated, 2) the citizens aren't properly trained, 3) technology is replacing workers, and/or 4) the citizens are just lazy.

Larry Summers recently addressed these falsities:
The core problem is that there aren't enough jobs. If you help some people, you could help them get the jobs, but then someone else won't get the jobs. Unless you're doing things that have things that are effecting the demand for jobs, you're helping people win a race to get a finite number of jobs. […] 
Folks, wage inflation in the united states is 2%. It has not gone up in five years. There are not 3% of the economy where there's any evidence of hyper wage inflation of a kind that would go with worker shortages. The idea that you can just have better training and then there are all these jobs, all these places where there are shortages and we just need the train people is fundamentally an evasion. [...] 
I am concerned that if we allow the idea to take hold, that all we need to do is there are all these jobs with skills and if we can just train people a bit, then they'll be able to get into them and the whole problem will go away. I think that is fundamentally an evasion of a profound social challenge.
Timothy Taylor elaborates on the decline in on-the-job training:
Here's some evidence from the recently released 2015 Economic Report of the President, by the Council of Economic Advisers, showing a decline in employer-provided and on-the-job training in recent decades...
Looking at the overall pattern, a decline in employer-sponsored and on-the-job training suggest that workers who wish to keep building their skills are getting less support from their employers.

Here again we have more Republican beliefs shown to be nothing more than self-serving blather and bullshit.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Scott Walker: The Opposite of Anything Good

Scott Walker continued his political legacy of claiming his policies are accomplishing the exact opposite of what reality is telling us they are actually doing. He's got Wisconsin open for business, he's cutting taxes, he's growing jobs, etc.

President Barack Obama commented on Scott Walker's passage of right-to-work in Wisconsin:
"Wisconsin is a state built by labor, with a proud pro-worker past," Obama said. "So even as its governor claims victory over working Americans, I’d encourage him to try and score a victory for working Americans -- by taking meaningful action to raise their wages and offer them the security of paid leave. That’s how you give hardworking middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy -- not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead."
Walker replied:
"On the heels of vetoing Keystone pipeline legislation, which would have paved the way to create thousands of quality, middle-class jobs, the president should be looking to states, like Wisconsin, as an example for how to grow our economy...Despite a stagnant national economy and a lack of leadership in Washington, since we took office, Wisconsin's unemployment rate is down to 5%, and more than 100,000 jobs and 30,000 businesses have been created," Walker told National Review Online. 
As usual, all of Walker's boasts are completely bogus! As Politifact reported, regarding Keystone XL, "The State Department expects that the project would only result in only a few permanent jobs that last past construction." Keystone is not only bad for the environment, it is also not the job-creator its proponents claim.

The Journal Sentinel noted, "Wisconsin's job creation remained sluggish in the latest 12-month report."

Speaking of jobs, Jelly Belly Candy is closing their Kenosha operation. Haven't they heard Wisconsin is open for business? And, we're also right-to-work! Businesses should be stumbling over each other trying to get in here, at least according to the (misguided) logic Republicans keep selling.

As a glaring example of Walker's misplaced priorities, even though Walker likes to use the City of Milwaukee as a convenient whipping-boy, City Center - Including Milwaukee - Noted For Growth In New Jobs:
In Milwaukee, the city-center employment gain averaged 1.4% per year — nearly three times the figure for the 41 cities as a whole. The rest of the four-county metropolitan area, meanwhile, lost 1.3% of its jobs annually, according to the report.
Right-to-work - yet another Orwellian-termed boondoggle being sold across the country by Republicans. Common sense tells us we're not going to get better work conditions or better pay by limiting our leverage (strength in numbers).

Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron wrote, "The decline in unionization in recent decades has fed the rise in incomes at the top."



Also (probably not hard to believe), Unions that backed Scott Walker are faring better than others. Pay-to-play and cronyism are top priorities of the Republican Party platform.

Right-to-work is a pet policy of the Monied Republican Influence Peddlers right now, thus Walker wanted to get on board so he could get the campaign money that goes along with boosterism for right-to-work.

Even John Torinus, conservative and former Journal Sentinel columnist, was taken aback by Walker and the Republicans push for right-to-work:
Another example: a low-key issue during the campaign was right-to-work legislation. Gov. Walker said it would be “a distraction” in his second term. A few legislators teed up the issue in their campaigns. But it was a minor issue at best, even though many voters guessed it would become a major GOP issue if the party controlled both houses and the governor’s chair. 
Even though low priority, it has become a page-one issue. Call it a head fake. It’s now high priority for the GOP, even though only 8% of the state’s private work force is unionized. Non-union high growth startup companies, which will define the state’s future economy, also don’t care.
Jon Peacock discovered "Right to Work" Bill Would Suppress Wisconsin's Already Anemic Wages. He cites recent research by Marquette's Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, economics professor:
The potential net loss in direct income to Wisconsin workers and their families due to a RTW legislation is between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually. Using a conservative estimate of an impact multiplier of 1.5, the total direct and induced loss of a RTW legislation is estimated between $5.84 and $7.23 billion annually. Based upon the two estimates of lost incomes and an overall effective tax rate of 4.0%, the economic loss in state income taxes is estimated between $234 and $289 million per year...
Right-to-work legislation would provide no discernible overall economic advantage to Wisconsin, but it does impose significant social and economic costs. The benefits of right to work enjoyed by some prospective employers are overshadowed by the costs borne by other employers and the state as a whole. Low wages would weaken consumption. Higher rates of labor turnover and adversarial labor-management relations would decrease productivity. And low-wage employment would burden the state with “mop up” costs (including social services, housing assistance, subsidized day care, school lunch programs, etc).
Even the NFL Players Association issued a press release against Walker's passage of right-to-work legislation:
Devoted food and commercial workers who spend their Sundays servicing our players and fans at Lambeau Field will have their wellbeing and livelihood jeopardized by Right to Work. Governor Scott Walker may not value these vital employees, but as union members, we do. We understand how devastating it would be if they lost the ability to have their workplace conditions and wages guaranteed through collective bargaining. We do not have to look any further than our own CBA to see that a band of workers, joined together as a union, can overcome decades of poor workplace conditions and drastically improve pensions and benefits...
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that average wages across all industries in right-to-work states were $4 per hour lower than those in non-right-to-work states. One study determined that Wisconsin would see a net loss of between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually in workers’ incomes. In fact, Governor Walker’s anti-union efforts have resulted in Wisconsin leading the nation in job losses for two months in a row. 
This proposed legislation unfairly risks the health and safety of employees by depriving them of on-the-job protections that unions have historically defended.
Minnesota's Republican billionaire (heir to the Target fortune) governor taxed the rich and increased the minimum wage. He took office with a $6.7 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate. By late 2013, Minnesota was the 5th fastest growing state in the United States. Forbes ranked Minnesota the 9th best state for business (Wisconsin was 32nd). Minnesota's current unemployment rate in 3.6 percent.

Derek Thompson, at The Atlantic, details one of Minnesota's star cities in The Miracle of Minneapolis:
In the 1960s, local districts and towns in the Twin Cities region offered competing tax breaks to lure in new businesses, diminishing their revenues and depleting their social services in an effort to steal jobs from elsewhere within the area. In 1971, the region came up with an ingenious plan that would help halt this race to the bottom, and also address widening inequality. The Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all of the region’s local governments—in Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout their ring of suburbs—to contribute almost half of the growth in their commercial tax revenues to a regional pool, from which the money would be distributed to tax-poor areas. Today, business taxes are used to enrich some of the region’s poorest communities.
Republicans prefer the opposite strategy - Increasing Taxes on the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent. And based on this strategy, the New York Times found, "The bottom fifth of earners pay more than 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the top 1 percent pays closer to 5 percent."

Showing his care for women's issues and income inequality, in general, Scott Walker repealed Wisconsin's Equal Pay Law. The gender wage-gap in Wisconsin is predicted to be closed around 2068. Just 53 more year ladies!


If Scott Walker wants to help the economy and increase revenues for Wisconsin he could address our inequitable tax code. The Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First report Tax Fairness: An Answer to State Budget Problems found, "If the top one percent were taxed at the same rate as the middle 20 percent, states and localities would raise $68 billion per year. Similarly, if the top 20 percent paid the same as the middle 20 percent, states and localities would generate $128 billion each year."

The Wisconsin Budget Project noticed the highest earners in Wisconsin already pay the smallest share of income paid in state and local taxes.


Walker's education cuts and tax cuts for the highest earners have not created anywhere near the number of jobs they claimed they would. In the end, these policies have lost revenue for the State.






Experience and the latest research point a pretty clear path for public policy and job growth in Wisconsin; if we care to actually follow such. Sadly, Scott Walker is only concerned with personal opportunity and the wishes of his paymasters. When it comes to policies that would be best for Wisconsin, Mr. Walker prefers to do the opposite.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wisconsin Could Be Right-To-Work In A Matter Of Days

Wisconsin Could Be Right-To-Work In A Matter Of Days
Paul Secunda, a labor law professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, said the situation in Wisconsin is so dire for organized labor that unions have only one choice: a general strike by the state's unionized workers. Though they garnered national attention, the 2011 protests didn't manage to stop Act 10 or Walker, he noted. 
"I think they should shut it down," Secunda said. "Public-sector workers in solidarity with private-sector workers should walk out next week. I think if the union movement has any strength left it's in the power of withholding labor. If it's not willing to do that, there's very little power they have."

Scott Walker’s Cowardice Should Disqualify Him

Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him
As the world now knows, Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said at a dinner featuring Walker, the Wisconsin governor, that “I do not believe that the president loves America.” According to Politico, Giuliani said President Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.” 
And Walker, just a few seats away, said . . . nothing...
At home in Wisconsin, Walker’s leadership has been conspicuously missing. His tax cuts have left the state with a $283 million deficit that needs to be covered by midyear and a deficit projected at $2 billion for the two years beginning in July. Bloomberg News reported this week that the state will delay $108 million in debt payments due in May — a move that will ultimately increase the amount Wisconsin has to pay.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

American Education

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

U.S. Education At A Glance 2013

Education At A Glance 2014

 
HIGHER EDUCATION State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability


  

 
Students now pay more of their public university tuition than state governments


Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession


Scott Walker: Even Worse Than You Thought

Walker Ends State Funding For Bike Program
Bicycling And The Economy
Walker's Budget Reduces Historic Tax Credits
Measuring Economic Impacts Of Historic Preservation
Scott Walker Says He'll Sign Fast-Tracked Right-To-Work Bill
Right-To-Work 101
Scott Walker Embraced By Voodoo Economists
The GOP: Still The Party Of Stupid
The Walker Economic Record
Scott Walker Will Have A Hard Time Explaining His Economic Record If He Runs For President 
What Fox Won't Tell You About Scott Walker's Economic Record
Walker Budget Again Declines Federal Money For Medicaid Expansion And Defers Debt Principal Payment To Balance Books
How Not To Interview Scott Walker About His Weak Economic Record
Walker's Budget Expands School Vouchers, Holds Line On Taxes
Vouchers Don't Work: Evidence From Milwaukee
How Could Walker Refuse Incredible Deal?
Walker's Budget Borrows Big
Walker Takes Milwaukee County To Brink Of Bankruptcy
Walker Proposes $300 Million Cut To UW System
Reckless Proposal To Gut UW From Gov. Scott Walker
State Shortfall Could Be $928 Million Over Next 2 1/2 Years
Wisconsin Officials Call Scott Walker's Budget 'Nonsensical'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

15 Bucket-List Pizzerias

ZAFFIRO’S PIZZERIA
zaffiros 15 Bucket List Pizzerias to Visit Before You Die
Where: Milwaukee, WI
Website: zaffirospizza.com

Nemetz says: Most people have no reference point when it comes to defining Milwaukee-style pizza. Our signature pizzas evolved from the Sicilian and Italian immigrants of the late-1800s that came to the area in search of a better life. History began in 1954 for Zaffiro’s when two nice Italian boys, John and Liberio “Bobby” Zaffiro, created a pizza unlike anyone had ever seen or tasted before in Milwaukee’s “Little Italy.” Zaffiro’s Pizzeria takes classic Midwest-style pizza to the extreme. Their pizza has a curiously thin crust—perhaps a mere two credit cards thick. To yield this perfection, they begin by parbaking their dough, removing it from the oven, flipping it over to dress the pizza, and then returning it to the oven just long enough to finish off the toppings. It is topped with sliced cheese and then ladled with secret recipe sauce to create a signature Milwaukee-style pizza that has consistently been named a favorite among locals and food writers alike. (Photo courtesy Theresa Nemetz) [source]

Friday, January 2, 2015

Let Milwaukee Bucks Owners Pay Their Own Way

Under the current plan, private investors would own the team franchise (an appreciating asset with high upside potential) while taxpayers would support an arena (a depreciating asset with a considerable downside). A better deal for taxpayers would be to treat them like investors with an ownership share in proportion to their contribution, entitling them to gains and not just losses. In particular, they would share in the gains in franchise value if the team left town after they built an arena.  ...
It is time to pivot away from attempts to gain tax support for the depreciating asset of this business. The economic recovery has been very kind to the high-income owners; they should fund the entire business, both the franchise and the arena. [source]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Middle Class Is Overdue For Pay Raise


Despite the robust economic recovery, the steep decline in unemployment, a surging stock market, rising investment and plummeting gas prices, wages have hardly budged. After briefly dipping during the great recession which began in late 2007, income inequality has reached levels not seen since the 1920's, while the gap between middle and upper income families is, according to the Pew Research Center, now "the widest on record." [source]

Wisconsin's Private-Sector Growth Rate Lags Nation

Wisconsin's private-sector growth rate lags nation
A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Wisconsin gained 35,021 private-sector jobs in the 12 months from June 2013 to June 2014, a 1.5% growth rate that ranked the state 32nd among the 50 states. 
The state lagged the national growth rate of 2.3% for private-sector jobs in the period, continuing a trend that had been in place for the three previous years: Wisconsin has trailed the national rate of private-sector job creation since the second quarter of 2011, the data show.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Right-To-Work Is Not Right Nor Does It Work

Does 'Right-To-Work' Create Jobs?
Misleadingly named right-to-work (RTW) laws do not, as some unfamiliar with the term may assume, entail any guarantee of employment for those ready and willing to work. Rather, they make it illegal for a group of unionized workers to negotiate a contract that requires each employee who enjoys the benefit of the contract to pay his or her share of the costs of negotiating and policing it. By making it harder for workers’ organizations to sustain themselves financially, RTW laws aim to restrict the share of state employees who are able to represent themselves through collective bargaining, and to limit the effectiveness of unions in negotiating higher wages and benefits for their members. Because it lowers wages and benefits, weakens workplace protections, and decreases the likelihood that employers will be required to negotiate with their employees, RTW is advanced as a strategy for attracting new businesses to locate in a state.

Right-to-work laws have been implemented in 22 states, predominantly in the South and Southwest, starting as far back as 1947. But what is their actual track record in spurring employment growth? And what is the likelihood that, in today’s economy, a state deciding to adopt the 23rd right-to-work statute would see its job market improve? ...
As states look to attract and retain employers, and particularly to expand the opportunities for state residents to land middle-class jobs, the hard statistical evidence suggests that so-called “right-to-work” laws have no role to play in this revival. Where states with such laws have done well, all signs – including the data, in-depth analyses of state economies, and the statements of economic devel- opment officials themselves – point to other causes for this success. It is understandable that, in times of trouble, state legislators would look to any possible avenue in hope of finding a way out of the current crisis. But having reviewed the track record of the state with the most recent and best-documented experience, it seems clear that legislators would do better to focus their energy in other, more productive, policy directions.
"Right-to-Work" For Less
Right to work laws lower wages for everyone. The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167).[1] Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549).[2] Working families in states without right to work laws have higher wages and benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life. 
Federal law already protects workers who don’t want to join a union to get or keep their jobs. Supporters claim right to work laws protect employees from being forced to join unions. Don’t be fooled—federal law already does this, as well as protecting nonmembers from paying for union activities that violate their religious or political beliefs. This individual freedom argument is a sham. 
Right to work endangers safety and health standards that protect workers on the job by weakening unions that help to ensure worker safety by fighting for tougher safety rules. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 51 percent higher in states with right to work, where unions can’t speak up on behalf of workers.[3] 
Right to work laws just aren’t fair to dues-paying members. If a nonunion worker is fired illegally, the union must use its time and money to defend him or her, even if that requires going through a costly legal process. Everyone benefits, so all should share in the process. Nonmembers can even sue the union if they think it has not represented them well enough.
Myths And Facts About "Right-To-Work" Laws
[O]ur findings -- that "right-to-work" laws are associated with significantly lower wages and reduced chances of receiving employer-sponsored health insurance and pensions -- are based on the most rigorous statistical analysis currently possible. These findings should discourage right-to-work policy initiatives. The fact is, while RTW legislation misleadingly sounds like a positive change in this weak economy, in reality the opportunity it gives workers is only that to work for lower wages and fewer benefits. For legislators dedicated to making policy on the basis of economic fact rather than ideological passion, our findings indicate that, contrary to the rhetoric of RTW proponents, the data show that workers in "right-to-work" states have lower compensation -- both union and nonunion workers alike.
Right-to-Work 101:Why These Laws Hurt Our Economy, Our Society, and Our Democracy
Right-to-work laws infringe on the democratic rights of the electorate by weakening unions. Unions help boost political participation among ordinary citizens and convert this participation into an effective voice for pro-middle-class policies. By weakening unions, they are less able to advocate for pro-worker policies within our government and help get workers out to vote. 
Research shows that for every percentage-point increase in union density, voter turnout increased by 0.2 to 0.25 percentage points. This means that if unionization rates were 10 percentage points higher during the 2008 presidential election, 2.6 million to 3.2 million more citizens would have voted. 
Unions also help translate workers’ interests to elected officials and ensure that government serves the economic needs of the middle class. They do this by encouraging the public to support certain policies as well as by directly advocating for specific reforms. Unions were critical in securing government policies that support the middle class such as Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, family leave, and minimum-wage laws. 
Indeed, this may be a large part of why many conservatives support right-to-work laws. Research demonstrates that supporters’ claims that these laws will create jobs and strengthen local economies are not credible. Instead, supporters may back these laws as a pretext for attacking an already weakened union movement in hopes of crippling it as a political force and as an advocate for all workers. 
The bottom line: Right-to-work laws work against the critical needs of our economy, our society, and our democracy.

Sunday Reading

The Forty-Year Slump
The Disruption Machine
The Voluntarism Fantasy
The Plot Against Public Education
Here's How Climate Change Has Altered Life On Earth In The Past 20 Years
Selling Fast: Public Goods, Profits, And State Legitimacy
Shrinking The Financial Sector Will Make Us All Richer
U.S. Adds 321,000 Jobs, The Most In Nearly 3 Years
Which City Has The Most Unpredictable Weather?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Unhealthiest States

The top 10 unhealthiest states are all Republican. Big surprise.

Who needs health care!

Unhealthiest States
Indiana
South Carolina
Alabama
West Virginia
Tennessee
Oklahoma
Kentucky
Louisiana
Arkansas
Mississippi

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wisconsin's $2.2 Billion Deficit

State faces $2.2 billion deficit heading into 2015-17 budget cycle

So surprising this article surfaces just after the election. All we've heard over the past few months is how Wisconsin has been moving forward and Scott Walker had saved the Wisconsin economy.

Somehow, in the past few weeks, the media has discovered billions in deficits. How convenient for Scott Walker.

It was actually estimated at $1.8 billion back in September. Nary a peep was heard from the media (or the Democrats, for that matter) questioning Walker about this during the campaign.

Can anyone (other than the MacIver Institute or the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute) name something positive Scott Walker has done for Wisconsin during his time in office?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Most Dangerous Cities In America

9. Milwaukee, Wis.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,364
> Population: 600,805
> 2013 murders: 104 (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 29.0% (29th highest)
> Pct. of adults with high school degree: 81.8% (tied-73rd lowest)
Violent crime in Milwaukee has been on the rise in recent years, with the number of reported incidents rising from 1,045 per 100,000 residents in 2010 to 1,364 per 100,000 residents in 2013. However, an increase in the number of reported crimes may not mean that Milwaukee has gotten more dangerous. A 2012 report by the Journal Sentinel, a local Wisconsin newspaper, found that police in Milwaukee had misreported thousands of crimes in prior years, which led to lower crime rates. Further, while Milwaukee reported a large number of violent crimes, its property crime rate was comparatively low, ranking just 83rd among cities with at least 100,000 residents.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Skills Gap Crap

The Milwaukee Business Journal entered the "skills gap" discussion with 5 things employers and job seekers need to do to bridge skills gap.

Why the media continues to push this manufactured drivel is beyond me. There is no skills gap.

The money-quote that captures the ridiculousness of this:
The reason companies are taking longer to hire is that they are getting more specific about the talent that they are looking for and a "great employee is game changing," and potential hires need to focus on "bringing greatness into the workplace," said Jamie Fall, vice president for workforce and talent sustainability for a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called the HR Policy Foundation.
So, Milwaukee can't find welders (the oft repeated example) because not enough "game-changing" and "great" employees are out there? Whatever that ever means.

Sure, most employers want smart, responsible and talented employees. But the main reason they aren't filling these jobs is because of the pay. You can't employ a great, game-changing employee for a minimum wage.

All jobs require some on-the-job training. The idea that an employee walks into the door knowing everything is pure fantasy.

This isn't a worker or a training problem, it's a pay problem.




[source]

This anemic-pay epidemic also explains our current record-level income inequality. When people only have enough to get by, they don't consume enough to consistently grow the economy. Our media has been a compliant messenger in the skills gap mythology and, thus, enablers of increasing income inequality. 

The story goes: 
The Haves want nothing more than to employ the Have Nots. Its just the Have Nots aren't pulling their weight. They just can't quite get it done. 
Maybe if the public sector paid more for training, maybe if the public sector did more to educate potential workers, maybe if the public sector gave subsidies to private companies...
Got that? You're stupid and unskilled...and its the government's job to fix things, or at least shovel money at it.

All hail the free market!

It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times

From the Milwaukee Business Journal:

Another Walker term generates 'euphoric' response from business community (Nov 4)

Fewer Milwaukee-area employers believe economy will improve in next six months: Marquette-ISM Report (Oct 31)

How can both of these simultaneously be possible?

If employers don't see economic improvement on the horizon, why is the business community so "euphoric" over Scott Walker's reelection?

Another term of crony capitalism is on the way.

Americans Voters Defy Reason

Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections. 
Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country's adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6%, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. 
The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there's no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money. America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the Bush years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden. 
So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason. 
When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way? 
Richard Brunt
Victoria, British Columbia

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Journal Sentinel's Fake Reality

Leave it to the Journal Sentinel to add in their usual big bowl of wrong following Tuesday's election.

Since Walker and the Republicans were victorious, it's up to the Democrats to "reach out and find common ground."

Yes, because the Democrats have been so unwilling to cooperate up until now? This false equivalency bullshit is so tired.

The idea that Democrats haven't been trying, forever, to negotiate on policy with the Republicans is ridiculous.

The Journal rants:
Pouting and stomping their feet doesn't work and will only drive them farther from state voters. That's a lesson they should have learned during the Act 10 days of protest when state senators fled for Illinois to delay a vote on the measure that effectively killed public sector unions in Wisconsin. Fist-shaking and name-calling wasn't effective then and isn't going to be very effective in the months ahead.
Has the Journal been paying attention to Republican politics for the last 40 years? The Republicans have been the party of pouting, stomping their feet, fist-shaking and name-calling.

The Democrats' claims against the Republicans for fraud, lying, deception, favoritism, cronyism, etc. have all been true.

The Republicans have manufactured a false reality for their constituents and the media has been a willing accessory.

The Journal continues:
Walker won, and not just because he ran a better campaign than Burke. At least 52% of voters like the governor and like his message better than they liked Burke's. They like balanced budgets. They like a healthier economy. And they think Walker and his fellow Republicans can deliver on those issues better than the Democrats can.
A balanced budget? A healthier economy? Republicans deliver [on these issues] better than the Democrats?

WTF?!

These claims are all demonstrably false! How can the Journal write such easily disproven drivel?

The Journal then attempts more revisionism:
Some of Walker's opponents argue that he has demonized public sector employees and teachers. He did not, although some of his supporters have.
So, it wasn't Scott Walker claiming unions [not Wall Street] destroyed the economy and teachers [not CEOs] are overpaid?

They continue with a 'Democrats are meanies' meme, "Many of Walker's opponents have demonized the governor and his supporters, comparing him to past dictators, for example, or charging that he is a puppet of the evil Koch brothers and big mining companies."

I guess the Journal would just like to ignore the fact that both of these claims are true. It seems their form of journalism has a real problem with calling it like it is.

Until Republicans and the Journal Sentinel can come to grips with reality, it looks like we will be faced with a continual string of false equivalencies and manufactured narratives.