Thursday, October 29, 2009
Our local "watchdog," the Journal Sentinel always supports (if not outright, at minimum with a subdued advocacy): real estate development, stadiums, convention centers, pretty much any spending proposed by our private sector growth machine.
I'm all for the unionized jobs created by projects. Especially if they're publicly-supported projects, they need to be employed with union workers. I just think there are projects that are more important and make more sense for our economy, now and in the long-run.
Do we need more apartments and condos? If so, how about we repair blighted buildings, rather than building anew. Why not steer the investment toward the most depressed and needful areas of our city? Aren't there more important issues to address, which will also provide a better return on investment?
Conversely, why is the Journal Sentinel always against: sick leave, prevailing wage clauses, community benefits agreements, union workers, pretty much any public-sector-related (or moral) issue, program, or project?
For Further Reading:
Sick Over Sick Days
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
That's private sector efficiency for you. It's efficient at steering money into the capitalists' and their cronies pockets. But it doesn't do much for the rest of us.
Cutting out the wasteful, private-sector middle-man, by itself, would pay for universal medical coverage.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The usual story-line is being presented. Many of the same characters and boosters of the Miller Park swindle are involved in securing public money to build a new private basketball stadium. Many of the same mantras and "benefits" are blathered about and claimed whether the project is a stadium, a convention center, an industrial park, a research park, and a host of other supposed economic "game changers" and "engines."
We need to do this. If we don't, the Bucks may leave. The team can't compete with such an outdated stadium. We have to keep the team to remain a "major league" city. [Whatever would we do with our leisure time and money if we didn't have a professional basketball team?] If you build it, many jobs will be created, it will attract tourists, and it will drive other business creation nearby the stadium and throughout the region.
In a few cases, this is true. In the majority of cities, these claims are demonstrably false. The modern-day, largely publicly-financed stadium is a white elephant representing regressive urban tax and economic policy. The primary beneficiaries of new stadium construction are the team owners and players.
The Bradley Center is Non-Union
Facilities built with public money should employ unionized workers earning a living wage, with health care benefits, a stable retirement plan, and the ability to collectively bargain. Public dollars should not be used to subsidize low-wage, seasonal employment.
Job Creation and Spillover
Economists whom have gathered the employment numbers of census tracts, cities, metro areas, and zip codes near newly built stadiums have found no meaningful improvement due to the construction of a new stadium. My own research uncovered declines in employment in the sectors most linked to stadium commerce (retail, restaurant, etc.) in the years up to construction and following completion.
These jobs are primarily seasonal, lacking benefits, and do not pay a living wage. Actively subsidizing such employment attracts less-skilled workers and does nothing to improve the future prospects for a highly-skilled, high value workforce.
New Business Creation
Likewise, the sectors most linked to stadium commerce also show no significant increase in new businesses. Again, many cities actually have experienced a decline. Most new stadium developments are self-contained islands with shopping, food, parking, and numerous other retail activities. People come to the games, park on expansive (and environmentally insensitive) parking lots, spend money within the stadium, and then drive home. Many newer stadiums are located off exit ramps; there is no pedestrian-friendly element that ties the stadium to the adjacent neighborhood. More often, the stadium becomes a competitive drain on other local taverns, restaurants, and retail stores nearby.
Intangible "Major League" Status
It sounds cool to say, "We're in the big leagues!" But what does it really mean? And how is it measured so that we may understand, quantitatively, how it is benefiting us. Policy and investment decisions should be based on rigorous analysis and visible rewards, not wishful thinking and snappy sloganeering.
Tourism Delusions, Realignment and Substitution
The majority of those attending games come from within the metropolitan area. For a city, or a region, to actually experience growth, to achieve some sort of gain from hosting games, people need to come from outside the region. Otherwise attendees are merely realigning their spending within the area; no growth is taking place. And, even if someone from Chicago does attend a game in Milwaukee, if the money they spend is money they would have otherwise spent in Chicago, there is no net gain for the region as a whole. Unless attending the game is money they otherwise would not have spent, growth is not occurring. A zero sum game.
"Fantasy City" Investment Strategy
Every city can not be a sports mecca, a convention behemoth, nor a tourism magnet. The more every city keeps trying to emulate each other with the same, largely unsubstantiated, development strategies, more will be losers. Development needs to build on comparative advantages, sectoral strengths, and labor force skills. Trying to mold a city's future to meet the successes of another with a completely different set of historical circumstances and skill-sets is lunacy. Largely, throwing money down the drain.
Millions spent on stadiums can not be spent on other, more pressing, needs. Money given to the Bradley Center and Miller Park is money we can't use on replacing the Hoan Bridge, redeveloping the Pabst Brewery, cleaning up the Kinnickinnic River, building a high-speed rail network, cleaning up the Great Lakes, along with a litany of more important investment choices.
It's time private entities, especially those as extracurricular as sports, paid their own expenses. This is yet another sector of the economy where we've allowed a 'too big to fail' model hamstring our development options and leave us open to bribery and threats of leaving. Federal legislation is needed to end this war among the cities and to break up the cartel that is major league sports.
For Further Reading:
A Public Plan
Drowning in Delusions
Loot, Loot, Loot For The Home Team
Nudging Away Nonsense
Professional Sports Subsidies
Should Cities Pay For Sports Facilities
Welcome to Walmart
"Back in the spring, the Obama administration had no problem insisting that union autoworkers give up some of the health care benefits that they were entitled to in their contract. In some cases, workers had already put in more than 30 years earning these benefits. Note that this was before any of the manufacturers went into bankruptcy.
While these workers were forced to make large concessions on contractually promised benefits, we are told yet again that AIG, an effectively bankrupt company, has a contractual obligation to pay big bonuses to its top executives and traders. It would be interesting to hear why this would be the case and if it is legally committed, why shouldn't the company just go into bankruptcy now that the immediate post-Lehman panic is over."
Saturday, October 24, 2009
No stereotypical or racist overtones there.
Stay classy, right-wing.
Chris Wallace and the rest of FOX appear to be getting in on the act.
"Last year, a coalition led by 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, put together a petition drive that ended up imposing a sick leave ordinance on businesses in the city of Milwaukee. The well-intentioned ordinance was in fact bad for business and economic development efforts, but it was approved anyway, although it later was overturned by the courts."
Development that benefits local workers, ordinances that allow people to take time off to care for a child or parent or personal illness, and businesses that encourage such activities are "bad" according to the Journal Sentinel.
The fact that this ordinance did not pass is yet another example of the spineless failures of the leadership of this City, including the local media. From throwing money at convention centers, stadiums, suburban research parks, or bribe-money to move a company two miles from Glendale to Milwaukee. Being one of only two major cities without or not planning a rail system. To continue beating our head against this same paradigm wishing for more equitable and stable results is insanity.
Also, the Journal Sentinel, good little soldier of the Growth Machine, could not forget to boost for Waukesha's water diversion. The suburbs are a big part (the majority actually) of the Journal's readership. Growth at the fringes, possibly selling more newspapers, is good for the Journal. Social justice and environmental sustainability be damned!
I'm sold glad these "watchdogs" are looking out for me.
For Further Reading:
Nudging Away Nonsense
Race To The Bottom
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Poverty Measurement Studies and Alternative Measures from the U.S Census Bureau.
public transportation (planes, trains, buses)
sanding, salting, plowing
The list continues.
Is every cent spent wisely? No. I'd prefer we didn't hand out subsidies to the companies holding our cities hostage by threatening job loss. Instead, we should subsidize the companies that make sectoral, historical, and labor-force sense.
But it seems there is very little waste, comparatively speaking. We sure do get quite the bang for our buck through taxation for public service provision.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This project would improve overall values by razing the floodplain homes, allowing this land to revert to its natural state, whilst simultaneously increasing the value of the property adjacent to this land, but that is unaffected by the possibility of flood water.
Infrastructure matters. It is the city.
These are the long-term investments that reap rewards for generations.
States Invest More In Energy Efficiency
Cost Benefit Analysis of Wisconsin's Film Tax Credit Program
Rosen reminds us, "Lest we forget, Milwaukee County had an Economic and Community Development Division that Walker dismantled to cut costs." As Rosen shows, though, this one would be different because the employees would be appointed by Walker without input from the County Board.
The other stunning factoid in this ridiculous proposal from Walker is the support and boosterism it has received from the Journal Sentinel. The same paper that amps up drama around public-workers' contracts and pay (to sell papers), now is pushing for government expansion in what would be one of the most unneeded, duplicative bureaucracies yet.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Affordable Housing Innovations
Economics of Models
Ending LEEDs Monopoly
High-Speed Rail: A No-Brainer
Midwest Has Highest Per Capita Rate of Iraq War Fatalities and Casualties
On Endless Growth
Owners No More
Perils of Waterfront Development
Private Equity Vultures
Problems With Securitization
Too Politically Connected To Fail In Any Crisis
Transport of Tomorrow
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Conservatives criticize government for all its failures. But the economic failures are primarily concentrated under Republican administrations.
Maybe government isn't bad after all. Maybe the way Republicans govern is the real problem.
He is not stipulating that universities do not have any affect on economic development outcomes for their surrounding areas. As some have wrongfully, stunningly, and incoherently ranted. He merely shows the data which - when measured by a variety of socioeconomic indicators - exposes few of those whom have attempted such a strategy have reaped benefits to justify the cost.
John Torinus - Serigraph Inc. chairman and tax-avoider, and Journal Sentinel business-class mouth-piece - belittles the research. He sites Madison's University Research Park as one such 'entrepreneurial university' project that has worked, and therefore, forget the numerous examples and statistics that Levine has gathered, we should continue blindly moving forward, pumping money into ill-conceived, poorly planned, and empirically unsubstantiated ventures. Facts and well-reasoned discussion be damned!
John Wiley, chancellor emeritus University of Wisconsin-Madison, takes swipes at the research. Using much of the same anecdotal, status quo-clinging, vested-interest, economic development talking-points that have been mistakenly used over and over again in city after city.
I also see many commenters, whom I have to assume only bothered to read Levine's Journal Sentinel piece and not his full report, complaining that Professor Levine doesn't acknowledge UW-Madison's successes. Although, he mentions Madison numerous times in his report.
Simply wishing and hoping to be like another university (in this case, Madison) that has achieved entrepreneurial success, or throwing money at a "good bet," does not automatically make it happen. Taking risks can pay off. There are always risks in investing. But most want to minimize their risk and not just do something for the sake of doing something.
Also, I'm always a bit perplexed by those knocking the research of academics - the "cheap seats" as John Torinus put it. Or as one commenter said about Levine, "...directs a few campus centers and does not appear to have any major leadership experiences." Directing an academic center is not leadership? Who teaches those whom will become managers, executives and CEOs? Isn't it academics and professors? If professors don't know what they're talking about and they're not "leaders," why are we investing in the engineering and Water Institute professors? After all, they come from the "cheap seats," too.
Attack the message, not the messenger. If one can find holes in the methodology and analysis, fine, pick it apart. But to try and demean Professor Levine because he has raised questions regarding UWM's development proposal is childish and does nothing to substantively address the concerns he has documented.
UWM is on the right track in many regards. The University has made great strides in academics and in the community over the last few decades. But that doesn't absolve them from criticism and open discussion of their policies and community investment decisions.
Many detractors have made this into a Levine versus Santiago melodrama. That's too bad. The real point should be a discussion about what is the proper amount to invest, where, and toward what activities. Levine's research indicates we may want to look at other options for our limited investment dollars. We do not have to simply jump at any idea Mr. Santiago, his associated commercial interests, and the cabal of local power brokers pushes forward.
[Disclosure: I was formerly employed by the Center for Economic Development under the directorship of Marc Levine.]
Yes, even though taxes on business, and in general, have been falling, supposedly unionized public workers are driving up costs. The trillions of dollars that taxpayers are now insuring through the Fed, the Treasury, and the FDIC, somehow that money doesn't enter Foy's radar.
We've actually seen decreases in the number of public workers. These workers are paying more for insurance, taking furloughs, taking wage freezes, and making sacrifices. Alongside this, service provision is also being cut. Which is why pools and libraries are closing, potholes are not being repaired, parks are overgrown and unkempt, and a host of other cutbacks are taking place.
Look in the mirror, Bill. You and your cronies are to blame for the current economy and the volatility in the markets.
For Further Reading:
Deficit Financed Delirium
Financial Services Organizations Lobbyists Influence
Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier?
This is embarrassingly biased reporting. The Journal is out front on anything Scott Walker spews, reporting to us about his "great" ideas. Now they are also coming to his defense.
A subtle, inquisitively nudging question illuminating the power disparity between finance and the real economy, between New York and Cleveland, and between the Haves and the Have-nots.
All this and more was discussed on the last Bill Moyer's Journal. Simon Johnson, of MIT and Baseline Scenario, also offers his perspective.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
FYI: Taxes as a share of income have been falling in . And, Wisconsin business taxes are below average.
So, if taxes are your supposed beef...then you've got none. Move along.
For Further Reading:
Tax Cuts: Myths and Realities
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
The Wisconsin poverty rate ranks 39th, the 12th best (including D.C.) in the nation. The County's poverty rate was 11.8 percent, with an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in 2008.
This tells us that we've basically segregated the majority of our poor people in Milwaukee. Which puts a disproportionate budget burden on the City to provide services for the poor. And, this is the real problem. Milwaukee is the de facto dumping ground for those needing public services (health, shelter, police, food, etc.), and the City is left to find the resources to pay this bill.
This situation, in turn, obviously inflates the unemployment rate (among other negative indicators) for the City. But, poverty and unemployment are not just city concerns, they are state and national issues.
The article could have been a spring board to discussion about regionalism, affordable housing, jobs programs, and a whole host of ideas of how to better cope with poverty and unemployment, with some type of shared response.
For Further Reading:
Getting The Facts Right About Segregation
Quantifying Milwaukee's Segregation
Friday, October 2, 2009
And, why were the Republicans rooting against and cheering after America did not get the Olympics?
Midwest Transportation Revolution
Milwaukee-Madison Rail Route Still On Track Despite Olympic Vote
Olympics, Scandal, Bribery and Glenn Beck's Church
Wisconsin Submits Application For High-Speed Rail
Or are those arguing against better pay for workers merely unwilling to see management take home less? Is it that under no circumstances must executives receive less compensation, only workers must sacrifice? Executives can have golden parachutes, secure retirements, paid country club memberships, use of the company jet, and perks as far as the eye can see into perpetuity. But the workers are at fault for budgetary issues? The workers must sacrifice and go without? The $12 an-hour they are making is too much?
Second, I've see some defending corporations regarding the money they are making. Paraphrasing, "Not all received bailout money. So leave them alone." But as I've described in many previous posts, all, especially large corporations, do receive many forms of public largess. And, it has also been shown that public workers often would have cost less to complete a project rather than the contracted private company.
Third, unions don't "price themselves out of a market." Federal and state policies (influenced with corporate cash) eviscerate unions by making them compete with third world slave labor. We’ve allowed a regression to take place. We're watching all the struggles the labor movement fought for over the last two centuries go down the drain. As we use jargon like "globalization," "competition," and "efficiencies" to gloss over the fact that our government, complicit with multinational corporations, has allowed workers the world over to be exploited in pursuit of profit for a select few. They are not pricing themselves out of anything. The money that workers were previously earning is now being siphoned off by executives and CEOs. As productivity of the American worker has increased, they have not seen a correlated increase in their pay. Yet, executive compensation has skyrocketed.
Efficient markets, the private sector, supply-side economics are all dead. The emperors have no clothes.