Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Here's a plan for raising all necessary revenue to correct: state and local budget shortcomings, infrastructure projects, health care, housing, and credit markets:

Increase taxes on the wealthy, scale back tax exemptions, close tax loopholes, increase the capital gains tax, and implement a Tobin Tax on financial transactions.

It really is that simple. 95 percent of the population earning under $150,000 annually would be largely unaffected by the tax increases.

By sharing a little more now, The Haves could accelerate the economic recovery's pace, thereby improving their own business prospects. For the owners, this is basically an investment in their own future. Even though a lost decade hurts low-income families the most, such a long period of stagnation can take quite a bite out of a corporation's balance sheet and stock value.

This back-and-forth, dog-and-pony show we're receiving from the Mainstream Media and Congress (basically a PR firm for big business) is exactly that, a show. A rather elaborate production with the drama of a soap opera, corruptly masking dubiousness and misappropriations.

It's really not that hard to get things done. FDR sure did get quite a bit done in 1933.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All Things Urban

How cities turn it around.
Parks and carbon-free living.
Public transportation more effective than highway building at creating jobs.
Some sweet subways.
Strasbourg, France abandons the automobile.
Turning point for American communities?

Eschweiler & Milwaukee Architecture

Kudos to Chris Liebenthal, of Cognitive Dissidence and Milwaukee County First, for illuminating the sorry shape of the County's Eschweiler buildings.

Milwaukee has a treasure trove of historically significant architecture. For us to willfully sit by as they disintegrate is sad and shameful.

For Further Reading:
Eschweiler Buildings
Historic Milwaukee Architecture 1, 2, 3
Milwaukee Architecture

Here's a few more examples of Eschweiler architecture:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Historic Milwaukee Architecture

The residence above is a Tudor Revival. The name is in reference to the Tudor dynasty, which reigned from 1485 to 1603. In America, this was a popular style between 1890 and 1940. The style is based on English Renaissance architecture from folk houses and Late Medieval mansions; sometimes containing Craftsman trademarks.

Within the Tudor style, there are sub-styles - Jacobean (1603-1625), Elizabethan (1558-1603), etc. This particular dwelling, built in 1912, was designed by Ferry & Clas. It's Tudor elements include: half-timbering, facade with cross gables, exposed rafters, and arched entryway.

Stadium Rip-off(s)

Sports stadiums are upwardly-redistributive, corporate welfare schemes.

A Dude Was Born...

most of us think was magic, but others don't.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Reading

America Without A Middle Class
Federalism and Its Discontents
Jobless Need Government to Create Jobs
Sarah Palin's War on Taxes - and History
State of Pay
That '70s Crisis

The Blind Leading The Naked

Why don't we build anything anymore? Why have imports skyrocketed while our exports have tanked? Why has the percent of value added by manufacturing as a percentage of GDP shrunk from 25 percent in 1947 to 11 percent today?

Upper Mismanagement

Equity Illusion

From The Equity Culture Loses It's Bloom:

  • In the 1970s investors...held conservative portfolios that were heavy on bonds...The advent of individual retirement accounts and other defined contribution plans would change that in the coming decade. In 1985 individuals held $750 billion in IRA and DC plans; by the market peak in 2007, that number had rocketed to $9.2 trillion.
  • The Standard and Poor's 500 index soared from 131.05 to 1,565.153, or 1,194 percent.
  • As of September 30, long-term Treasury bonds had beaten U.S. stocks over the past 28 years.
  • "Equities depend on capital gains, but income-producing assets, such as infrastructure, are pretty reliable through different economic cycles," notes David Richardson.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Historic Milwaukee Architecture

The residence above is a Georgian Colonial Revival. The name is in reference to the Georgian Period (George I through IV; 1714-1830). In America, this was a popular style from the 1890s to the 1930s. This style tips it's hat to sixteenth century Italian architecture. Many other fine examples abound in Milwaukee's Upper East Side and North Point.

This particular dwelling was built in 1901; designed by notable Milwaukee architects George Bowman Ferry and Alfred Clas. Common colonial elements, and some particular embellishments, present in this example are: symmetrical facade, keystones above the windows, quoins accentuating the exterior corners, modillioned cornice, red brick and white trim, front door sidelights, roof balustrade encompassing a roof-top deck, and a marble-tread front stair.

Limp Logic

Suddenly the Journal Sentinel is a purveyor of "evidence-based" decision-making.

Too bad they don't use the same methodical thinking regarding university expansion, sports stadium subsidies, developer subsidies, and a whole host of other unproven development gambits.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Firms Are No Job Engine

John Torinus, of the Journal Sentinel, assures us that new firms are the key to our recovery. Encouraging new firms using the typical incentives (job credits, small business loans, investment credits, grants, using pension fund money for speculative investment, etc.), he believes, will create jobs.

He also uses the education-as-magic-bullet talking-point to paint the image of a miraculous market machine, infused with newly educated college graduates, encouraged by credits and grants, creating new firms, thereby growing employment.

Yet, Torinus even points out that one-third of young companies fail to make it through a second year; what he calls a "messy churn." But lets ignore that fact, it would expose the false premise concocted in the article.

As Doug Henwood notes, "Small firms pay less than large ones, are less likely to offer health, pension, or child care benefits, and are often more dangerous to workers. With few exceptions, they're not all that innovative technologically...37% of the labor force changes its employment status every jobs do not sprout in the greatest numbers at either fresh start-ups or small firms...Smaller employers do generate plenty of jobs, but they also destroy them in great quantities. If you add together creation and destruction, no clear picture emerges."

The recovery hinges on the destruction of neoliberal policies and a reclamation of the public good.

Oblique Journalism

The Journal Sentinel has an inanely meandering editorial - Not a tax hell, but state still needs better revenue mix - pushing for decreased taxes, service maintenance, alongside "innovation and entrepreneurial spirit," hinging on increased educational outcomes. Many good talking-points and topics-of-the-moment, but the editorial is quite sparse on actual numbers, comparisons, evidence, or needed actions.

The editorial incorrectly opines, " the state's taxpayer base ages, the ability of these citizens to pay for the increased services they will need will be limited even as the number of workers supporting them will be fewer." This is the same reasoning used by those selling the Social Security crisis. As I've noted previously, tax issues are primarily problems of incidence not burden.

Should we remove our manufacturing machinery and equipment tax exemption? Should we discontinue funding projects like the Moderne and Miller Park? Should we raise taxes on the wealthiest? Should we increase capital gains and corporate taxation? Or should we continue to cut programs and services, to lower our quality of life?

People expect services, coinciding with an increasing standard-of-living (paid for with taxes). To simply state property and income taxes are too high (a nebulous statement unless some type of comparison or operationalization is provided), may sell papers, but it does not explain or contribute anything to the discussion.

And, to throw in the (paraphrasing) Education Will Save Everything slogan is pointless. "A smarter, better-prepared workforce, after all, would be better able to compete and command higher wages." The problem is not a lack of skills, it's a lack of jobs.

To keep pushing the "Wisconsin taxes are a major deterrent to businesses locating here" mantra also conflicts with reality. And, as I've stated before, "If, as a nation, we are so concerned with taxation, then we need federally standardized tax rules, equally written and applied to all states. Not our current hodge-podge of individually state-controlled breaks, bribery, and favoritism." If these are crucial matters to the progress and growth of our local and national economy shouldn't we be cooperating on a more federal level, rather than continuing to operate under beggar-thy-neighbor policies?

The Journal also implies years of arduous taxation, in general, has been holding Wisconsin back. Nowhere is there mention of Wisconsin's lack of a modern transportation infrastructure as a hindrance to business location decisions. Newsflash: Infrastructure matters to business.

But then the editors offer a stunning conclusion, "Political leadership should work to keep taxes in check and to put the property tax on a diet. More important, they should ensure that schools and other essential state services are able to meet their obligations." There you have it; circular logic at is best. No real point, no real insight. The Fourth Estate has no clothes.

For Further Reading:
America's Granny Bashers
Hands Off Social Security
Obama Suggests Defaulting on National Debt
State Comparisons

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Giveaway

Michael Rosen, MATC economics professor, supports my opinion that Milwaukee should not be considering giving water away to attract business.

The Liability Con

Some enlightenment concerning recent deficit hysterics:

Baselines, Counterfactuals and the Stimulus
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deficits
No Exit
Notes on the Dollar Panic
The Budget Deficit Crisis

The meme that deficit spending, always, crowds out private investment and is, in general, morally wrong, is both short-sighted and misleading. We are a country - private citizens, business, and government - that has used debt to live a better standard of life, grow companies, and finance operations, especially since WWII. During recessionary episodes, the government accumulates debt to restore employment, fix crumbling bridges, improve water and air quality, provide health care, etc. All quite worthy and important causes for investment.

This false debate about rates, deficits, and "big," "bad" government is deceptive drivel. Just more smoke and mirrors of class warfare. The rich in this country have slowly lowered their tax burden, frozen wages for laborers, and methodically steered more of the country's wealth toward their own pockets. As public money (which would have been used for public goods) finds it's way into private pockets, less of the public commons is maintained. We all end up worse off. As is evidenced by the continually decreasing standard of living for most Americans.

America Without a Middle Class
Household Debt Service
Poverty Facts and Stats
U.S. Business: The American Way of Debt

Heal Thy Self

A very interesting article from Wired magazine, Placebos are getting more effective. Drugmakers are desperate to know why.

It raises some very good issues regarding the commercialization of pharmaceuticals, the real effectiveness of the medicine, and the power of the body to heal itself.

Historic Milwaukee Architecture

This is the first in a periodic series of Milwaukee residential architectural gems. Milwaukee has an assortment of historically significant home styles. I will showcase some of the more elaborate and stylistically-accurate examples Milwaukee has to offer.

The residence above is of the Victorian persuasion. The name is in reference to Britain's Queen Victoria, whom reigned from 1837 to 1901. In America, this was a popular style between 1860 and 1900. This was also an era of growing industrialization, which allowed the mass production of doors, windows, roofing, siding, and decorative detailing.

Within the Victorian style, there are many sub-styles. This particular dwelling, built in 1886, has many Queen Anne elements. Such as: the asymmetrical facade, the (nearly) full-width porch, cross-gabled roof, the square tower extending above the entryway (although typically at a corner of the front facade), decorative spindlework balustrades, the bay window, and the spindlework frieze of the front porch.