Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Water v. Roads

Milwaukee is supposed to be conciliatory with regards to giving water to every deprived suburb, yet those same suburbs still basically have the "screw Milwaukee" attitude concerning every social, political, and/or regional issue that arises. [Hat tip to James Rowen at The Political Environment.]

I hope Milwaukee's water gets really, really expensive for the suburbs. Sorry, but I've said it before, this is our only trump card. If the City has to provide for the majority of the State's poor, pay for mass transit options for the region, and shoulder the majority of costs for similar issues, why not charge the real cost of water, and use the revenue to fund such programs?

Waukesha (as stated in a Waukesha Freeman editorial) doesn't feel the need to cooperate regionally. They have no interest in light rail. And no general interest in a regional transportation network. Although they say they are for regional cooperation...but somehow they are against regional transportation cooperation. They feel such a transportation system would only benefit Milwaukee. [Maybe the editorial board needs to realize Waukesha wouldn't exist in the first place without Milwaukee.]

All Waukesha needs are cars and buses, or so they think. They see a future of hybrid double-decker buses (no, I'm not making this up). They find light rail impractical. The Milwaukee metro area is one of only two or three in the country that does not have, or are not planning, some form of light rail. Continuing to argue against light rail is illogical...but it seems that may be what the Waukesha Freeman editorial board was aiming for in their article.

Then the editorial has the nerve to state, "Transportation experts said Wisconsin needs to implement toll roads because the state doesn’t have enough money for road repair and construction in the region. Just think, all those taxes you pay and there still isn’t enough to fix our roads." Funny, they don't mention that their sprawling development patterns, full of new road building, is why we can't afford the maintenance. We keep building more and more roads, and as more and more money goes into new construction, less is available to maintain the roads we have already.

Another uprorious editorial statement, "The reason there is negativity toward a regional transit authority is because it is a bad idea that would cost taxpayers a lot of money." As opposed to the cheap cost of gas, car insurance, road and highway building and maintenance? And, lets not forget the environmental costs involved with road building and an automobile-dependent lifestyle.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wolves at the Door

There's somewhere between 626 and 662 gray wolves in Wisconsin, and because some calves and pets have been killed by these wolves, we need a controlled yearly wolf hunt?

We build up to and over the living area of wildlife and then we are surprised and angered when they eat our livestock or rummage on our property in search of food?

How about we control our sprawling development patterns, attempt to maintain more green space, and maybe we can cohabitate peacefully.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Torinus' Taxed Reality

John Torinus, Journal-Sentinel writer and CEO of Serigraph Inc., is at it again. He's complaining because his company can't completely avoid all forms of taxation in the State of Wisconsin. This is a well-worn theme of his.

It's really strange how business has morphed into entities that feel they have no social responsibility other than fattening their own pockets and rewarding their shareholders. One would think they might realize their long-term solvency and viability is tied to the health and performance of the country, and therefore, they might want to do all they can - pay taxes, plan long-term rather than short, minimize risky behavior - to support and strengthen such nationwide goals.

Torinus' undies are all in a bunch over an exemption from the state capital gains tax. Torinus claims this is, "one of the few tax advantages of doing business in Wisconsin." Governor Doyle took the exemption down to 40% in his budget. The Senate wanted to eliminate it altogether.

He always forgets to mention that his company, Serigraph Inc., paid no corporate income taxes in 2003 and 2004. And, I'm only speculating, has probably paid next to nothing since then. This is an onerous business tax burden? This would be laughable if the Journal-Sentinel didn't give this guy a platform to spew such nonsense.

The Tax Foundation found:
Wisconsin's 2009 Business Tax Climate Ranks 38th in the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate Index. The Index compares the states in five areas of taxation that impact business: corporate taxes; individual income taxes; sales taxes; unemployment insurance taxes; and taxes on property, including residential and commercial property.

The Institute for Wisconsin's Future released a report Exposing The Tax Hell Hoax, which attempted to put an end to this misinformation the business community continually puts forth in an attempt to pay nothing in taxes.

Torinus also smears state legislator Russ Decker, declaring him anti-business, because he doesn't feel the corporate community should be absolved of paying any taxes. Implying that, somehow, making businesses pay their fair share as proposed in the latest budget, is responsible for the 133,000 job losses over the last year. That's quite a jump in logic and honesty.

A larger counter-point can be extracted from his closing corporate talking points - we need nationalized standards of regulation and combined reporting. We need to put an end to the blackmailing site selection and the inefficiency of our zero-sum, beggar-thy-neighbor business and development policies.

Torinus complains about combined reporting, without offering the reader the details of what it actually is. Presenting it simply as an additional cost to business, rather than what it really does -remove a tax loophole inserted into state tax law by business lobbyists which shifted the tax burden onto homeowners and workers.

Torinus states, "The Democrats obviously have decided to play to union leaders and to the average voter and have turned a deaf ear to business." The reality is, the Democrats are trying to enact fairness and uniformity into our tax system, helping out average workers, and trying to make businesses pay their fair share.

He then [and you can almost feel the tears in his eyes] says,"Overall, the Democratic posture toward private employers is pretty punitive." Corporate taxation has declined 47 percent over the last thirty years. Homeowners have made up this shortfall. How much more disingenuous could a corporatist be in claiming this is punitive treatment? I'm sure Torinus is shedding just as many tears for the workers in the State whom have made up for all the taxes he is allowed to avoid.

For Further Reading:
Ralph Nader wrote an interesting article regarding the legally privileged status our corporations are allowed to operate under and the trajectory of such - Avoiding Corporate Liability.

The Love Affair

Some, on the right, are trying to solidify the idea that the media has a "love affair" with President Obama. Because this President actually talks to the press, gives speeches, addresses the public...and the media cover it...this is what qualifies as a "love affair." Although, I agree with Bill Maher, Obama is permitting himself to be overexposed, and thus, allowing these silly distractions - the media having a love affair with him - to take hold.

But what about all the misinformation the media allows out there, such as - he's a muslim, he wasn't born in America, he's a socialist, he's a communist, and on and on - how does this fit into the "love affair" meme?

Even Sam Donaldson said "there are a lot of things he should be commended for," on This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

I guess as far as the right is concerned, creating false stories to fill the 24-hour news cycle is better than actually having to develop public policy, like formulating environmental policy, health care reform, constructing new financial regulations, or helping people get back to work.

It's so much easier to just criticize President Obama, and blame the media for reporting on him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alternative Reality

"Alternative" schools are a joke. They do not achieve better results. The best way to save taxpayers' money is to scrap this failed educational experiment. Why, years after we have empirical data disproving any effectiveness, do we continue to pretend there is something admirable/efficacious about this endeavor? This reminds me of right-wingers continual trumpeting of tax-cuts and supply-side economics as if either were competent or legitimate policy options.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Concrete Jungle

James Rowen does yet more wonderful reporting and analysis regarding the highway lobby - and their effect on state and local budgetary issues, and sprawl.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Private Sector Shenanigans

Uncovering any type of fraud is a good thing, especially if it leads to a more efficient society using resources in a most optimum mannner. But why are there never any front page "breaking" news stories about the tax havens, exemptions, loopholes, fraud, and accounting gimmickry corporations use on a daily basis?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Executive Pay Caps

When the auto industry hemorrhages money and finds itself asking the government for a loan, much of the blame is placed on the union. Therefore, the union workers must suffer, make concessions, and take pay cuts.

When the financial industry executives hemorrhage money and destroy the world economy and find themselves asking the government for a loan there are no consequences, no new regulations, and no concessions. And, executives specifically do not have to worry about pay caps.

What a ridiculous and shameful double-standard.

Treasury to set executives' pay at 7 ailing firms.

Right-Wing Terrorists

The terrorists won this round. Eric Boehlert has more on the right-wing's terrorism-instigating noise machine. Paul Krugman adds his thoughts here. Yet Republicans have the nerve to deny that right-wing extremists exist.

An excellent, informed piece from Sara Robinson, 9 Conservative Myths Abouth Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Energy Opportunity

Thomas Content, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, discusses a new report, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, regarding Milwaukee transforming "the challenge of energy and climate change into a competitive advantage."

I made the same point in earlier posts (here and here).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Universal Health

The New York Times presents a false choice in their Sunday editorial, Paying For Universal Health. They imply the only choice for such a universal health program is spending more money. Astonishingly, the Times completely disregards all the waste and fraud in the private system.

First, correctly envisioned and enacted universal coverage would control costs. Administrative fees - which account for roughly thirty percent of present costs - would be lowered to levels like those of Medicare - around two to four percent. Second, pharmaceuticals, which are heavily funded and researched by the public sector already, would also be much more affordable by allowing volume discounts. And, by allowing the public entity control of patents on publicly-produced medications, the private sector would no longer be allowed to charge (gouge) outrageous sums for necessary medications. Health care again would be what it should be - a public good. Finally, if the IRS, the SEC, and other oversight/taxing organizations actually collected all taxes due (auditing corporations, removing tax havens, ending exemptions, etc.) a large amount of revenue would be gained.

For Further Reading:
Progressive Revenue Options For Health Care

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tax Abatement Beguilement

Indiana University professors John L. Mikesell and C. Kurt Zorn and Esteban G. Dalehite, of Florida International University, found, "The majority of tax abatement programs offered by local and state governments to stimulate economic growth are overly generous...This inclination towards generosity often leads to costs outweighing benefits to communities."

Yanking Away Taxpayers' Dollars

David Sirota has a good article explaining the schemes used by New York and the New York Yankees in subsidizing their new stadium.

Unemployment and Jobs

Heidi Shierholz finds that there are five unemployed workers for every available job. More evidence supporting the idea that (un)employment problems are not the fault of a lack of skills or a need for job-training, but rather due to a lack of jobs.

Foreign Car Manufacturer Subsidies

Foreign car manufacturer subsidies from various U.S. states:

Honda $470 million
Nissan $728 million
Toyota $625 million
Subaru $94 million
BMW $150 million
Mercedes-Benz $258 million
Hyundai $252
Kia $400 million
Volkswagen $577 million

Total $3.554 billion

The Real Cost Of Walmart

Good Jobs First (as reported at Walmart Subsidy Watch - WSW) has found five subsidy deals for Walmart worth $21,750,000 in Wisconsin. WSW also states that Walmart workers and their dependents, participating in Wisconsin's Badger Care, cost Wisconsin $3.7 million per year.