Sunday, January 31, 2010

Obama Getting His Groove Back?

Presidential remarks at the House Republican Conference.


The Journal Sentinel reports, Cabela's lures little retail growth.

Our economic development paradigm - of subsidizing retail, conventions, stadiums, etc. - is a stupendous waste of money. Yet even though the Journal reports on the failure of these schemes, just as they reported on the failure of privatization, nevertheless, I expect to see articles in the near future touting the need for public subsidization of private developments and supporting the privatization of public jobs.

* Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

False Corollary

Wise words from Jack Norman of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future.

Pushing On A String

John Torinus has penned another misguided and misinformed piece, Entrepreneurs, rather than government, will help create jobs, for the Journal Sentinel.

I've already taken Torinus to task for his fictitious claims regarding small businesses and job creation. His latest drivel is merely a variation of the same theme.

He also uses this most recent column, in a very roundabout way, to bring it all back to a classic right-wing panacea - the business climate. Which, to translate from Republican, means lower taxes. Another topic on which I've had the pleasure of throttling Torinus and his mistaken ideas.

The most glaring error in Torinus' latest mess is his obliviousness to our current recession. Spewing on about entrepreneurs opening new businesses and creating jobs is a cliched though plausible suggestion in a normally functioning economy. In the midst of a recession, with lending contracted, and extremely reduced demand, such a proposition is preposterous.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Suburbs Under Attack

In the latest issue of The American (The Journal of the American Enterprise Institute), Joel Kotkin - ever more so, a delusional apologist for suburbia - writes about a War Against Suburbia.

In what can only be described as ultra-paranoid, Kotkin talks of the Obama administration as an "urban-centric regime." "The suburbs are under a conscious and sustained attack from Washington," declares Kotkin. The President is trying to impose an urban agenda on America? Or, as Kotkin puts it, "A deep-seated desire to change the way Americans live."

He rewrites suburban history as simply people voting with their feet. He mentions nothing about this being an auto-centric and unsustainable lifestyle. He mentions nothing regarding government and business outright pushing/subsidizing people out of the city. He appears unaware of the water problems many of these developments face.

Never does Kotkin address the fundamental critiques of suburbia as relating to long-term, sustainability. His defense is that of anecdote. Everything wrapped in an - gosh-golly; Leave it to Beaver; the people like their SUVs, highways, and stripmalls, and so it must be - attitude. The growth of suburbia has been present for the past 50 years and therefore it must be a natural process. He doesn't seem to realize that, just as the suburbs were encouraged, they can be discouraged. There is nothing in our DNA that hard-wires us toward low-density living.

And, his magical solution to congestion - telecommuting. Yes, everyone can just work from home. This is part of Kotkin's reasoning whereby "technology will undermine much of the green case against suburbia." We can slowly move our working environment to the home office. This would not do wonders for a sense of community, relieving isolation, nor the retail businesses located in business districts, which depend on the agglomeration of workers each day for their livelihood.

Frozen Hope

President Obama's spending freeze idea is terrible. The economy is still in horrible shape. We should not be worried about inflation and we should be spending more.

For Further Reading:
A First Look At The Budget Freeze
Don't Let America's Red Ink Scare You
Spending Freeze Could Spell Disaster
Why Young People Should Want A Deficit Now

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Poor Population Increases Over 15 Percent

During the Bush era, the number of persons living in poverty increased 15.4 percent.

It's Good To Be The King

Wisconsin taxes the rich less than it taxes the middle-class and the poor.

All Things Economic

Poor Warren Buffet, he's upset that Obama wants to tax his ill-gotten gains.

Consumer debt - pushed by are easy-money, predatory lending, and our commercialized society - is out of control.

Dean Baker shows that the abilities of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and National Economic Council head Larry Summers to avoid a complete financial collapse really was not that extraordinary. No major country had a complete financial collapse.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and economics professor, thinks banks have failed at their basic societal mission.

Bush Era Errors

Lest we forget, this is not Barack Obama's economy, he did not start two wars (although, sadly, he does continue them), he did not push huge tax cuts in times of incredible spending, and he did not take a budget from surplus to deficit. President Obama simply had the unfortunate timing of following the worst president in the history of the U.S.

Remember the Bush administration lost $12 billion, being delivered on pallets, in Iraq. Plus, the Iraq war, overall, will cost us over $3 trillion.

Bush also increased spending faster than any other president in the last 30 years.

The Republican tax cut strategy, again, failed to deliver.

Bush's policies are also responsible for the majority of our deficits.

And, let's not forget the warnings the Bush administration ignored before the 9/11 attack.

For Further Reading:
Please Call Out Conservatism For The Disaster It Is

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Doing Nothing, Destroying Everything

Stephen Colbert explains the media coverage of President Obama. More precisely, the biased conservative coverage.

Jon Stewart gives perspective to the Massachusetts (not national!) election. (Colbert weighs in on the Massachusetts election.) Here Stewart explains Wall Street bonuses.

For Further Reading:
Brown's Victory is Hardly a Repudiation of Health Care Reform

Monday, January 18, 2010

Heard It Before

Scott Walker claims (again!) privatization is the answer. I will literally fall out of my chair the day a conservative actually utters an original idea (rather than merely regurgitating the same old, worn-out Republican talking-points).

This claim has been debunked (here and here) before. Even the Journal Sentinel has found, in the majority of cases, contracting work to private sources has no cost savings.

Scott Walker is also a bigger spender than those bleeding-heart liberals, Mayor Tom Barrett and Governor Jim Doyle - a fact probably unbeknownst to most local media readers. The tax levy on Milwaukee County has increased $45 million over the Walker tenure.

Don't Stop Believing

PBS recently broadcast Milwaukee Water 2015. Mike Gousha spoke with Mayor Tom Barrett and UWM chancellor Carlos Santiago regarding Milwaukee's water hub endeavor and economic development, in general.

Dr. Santiago expressed the opinion that anyone disagreeing with/questioning the "Milwaukee as a water hub" meme was not being helpful and is a pessimist who believes Milwaukee can't "turn it around."

It's not that such initiatives have not worked in the majority of other cases and therefore some are skeptical of Milwaukee/UWM putting all their eggs in this one basket. No, that's not it. These doubters just don't have hope. They don't believe in Milwaukee. They're unwilling to take a chance on Milwaukee.

Is this really the debate? Hope-ers versus Doubt-ers? Or is chancellor Santiago using childish smear tactics to avoid the well-supported critiques of the skeptics. He appears to be attacking the messengers and not their message.

It doesn't matter to Santiago that such initiatives don't work more often than they do work.

Maybe we should have a broader investment initiative, rather than just a few magic bullets prefaced on hope.

[I do agree with a Mayor Barrett regarding a framing issue: we should be labeling ourselves The Fresh Coast rather than allowing others to call us The Rust Belt.]

For Further Reading:
Colleges: Cash Cows?
Save Our City
Watering Down Corporate Accountability

Private Gain, Public Pain

Two recent articles [below] highlight the misguided efforts of entrepreneurializing government and public agencies. If we all act like a business, worship the market, and strive for bloated profits, all will be right with the world.

This snake-oil has caused us to believe public goods and infrastructure no longer matter. Everyone and everything must compete.

And, for some reason, we keep banging our collective head against this wall even though it has increased volatility and risk, while concentrating gains among a select few and leaving the increasing loses the responsibility of the taxpayers.

For Further Reading:
Public Benefits, Taxpayer Pain
The New Threat From Wall Street


The Journal Sentinel wants to know, How much is a mayor worth?

I hope they'll be following this up with an analysis of private-sector executive compensation and company performance. Many of which also receive public monies in the form of tax breaks, exemptions, and subsidies.

Lost Decade

Workers see another decade of diminished returns.

China Bubble?

Is China a bubble? One of Wall Street's most successful money managers (and also a native of Milwaukee) thinks so.

The Compensation Quackery

We're told bankers, executives, and financiers must receive huge sums of compensation to ensure the brightest and most talented are growing our economy. (Regardless of whether or not they are growing the economy or their company.)

Yet, as Neil Irwin reports in the Washington Post, "the Fed's earnings for the year will dwarf those of the large banks, easily topping the expected profits of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase combined."

And what staggering sum was Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, paid for earning such a stellar return for the public? To keep such talent working for the Federal Government we must be paying tens of millions of dollars. Right?

Dr. Bernanke makes $199,700.

Now what excuse will these overpaid hucksters claim to justify their ill-gotten gains?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Neighbors Be Gone

Pat, move to the suburbs already. I've never seen someone, who works for Milwaukee's newspaper and lives in Milwaukee, write so much about the wonderful suburbs.

His latest defense claims suburbs are transforming themselves into quasi-urban locations through "innovative" subdivision developers. McIlheran's hero in this suburban quest is Rick Harrison, of suburban Minneapolis.

Mr. Harrison revealed his development philosophy, "People don't want to walk five minutes to a park. They want to see it outside their window. And they don't want to see their neighbors and they don't want to sit on their porch all day." Yeah! The dream of suburbia is having a park for a back yard, never seeing another human near one's home, and porch-less facades as far as the eye can see. What a wonderful community. Can't you feel the love?

But there you have it: like big, overgrown babies, the Harrisons and McIlherans of the world feel they should be able to live as they please, screw everyone else! They've had it up to here with all these rules!

The point - of conservation, environmental awareness, density, etc. - is to end sprawl and growth in the suburbs, not to just green over such misplaced development.

These Pollyannas with their heads in the sand, when will they learn? Even though you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tax Injustice

David Cay Johnston wonders, Is Our Tax System Helping Us Create Wealth? [hat tip Economist's View]

Tax Justice

More stellar research and analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice:

Bush tax cuts cost two and a half times as much as House Democrats' health care proposal
Multinational Corporate Tax Abuses
Principles for Tax Reform
Spending Program Buried Within Tax Code
Why We Need A Strong Estate Tax

The Cost of Quality

There is a wolf at the door. But not the County budgetary wolf the Journal Sentinel invokes. The wolves are the scofflaws who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes.

We've cut ourselves into diminished services leading to pothole-filled roads, fewer libraries and parks, and fewer public transportation routes. Thus a lower quality of life for residents, and a less attractive environs for potential businesses and homeowners.

It would be nice if the largest newspaper in the state and the conservative politicians could come to grips with the fact that a decent life costs money. Services cost money. Maintenance of infrastructure costs money. And, well-paid public jobs with the promise of a stable retirement are not part of the problem nor a 'bad thing' for a community.

If only our media and the conservative pundits would investigate tax evaders and the inequity of taxation with the vigor they push for more and more tax cuts, we'd all be better off.

For Further Reading:
Obliged To Avoid Taxation
Paranoia Overdose
Selling Our Soul To The Company Store
Tax Burden Illumination
Torinus' Taxed Reality

The Planet Can Wait

Don't worry about saving the planet. Al Gore is a liar. "Climategate" supports such conclusions.

Or so Pat McIlheran, Journal Sentinel conservative hack, would have us believe.

The Associated Press and Media Matters debunked this weeks ago.

For Further Reading:
Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?