Monday, February 28, 2011

Each Line More Sinister Than The Last

Thom Hartmann has more on all the nefarious twists and turn of the Walker "budget" bill:

"ThinkProgress has pointed out some lesser-known provisions that Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues are trying to slip through the state legislature that should worry many Wisconsinites. Even if protestors successfully defend their rights to collectively bargain – they still have to deal with a GOP-led assault on the several health, environmental, and economic programs including a bill that will allow the state’s uber-conservative Health and Human Services Secretary to override state Medicaid laws to make deep cuts into the critical health care program.

There’s also legislation that will exempt local governments from having to disinfect their waters – and a similar bill that exempts large tracts of wetlands from environmental oversight. It just so happens that many of those wetlands are owned by a rich Republican donor…talk about cronyism.

The GOP wants Wisconsin voters to have to show an ID when they vote from now on – a move that could disenfranchise many elderly, urban, and low-income voters.

And finally – there are two bills that drastically increase Governor Walker’s powers, including giving him authority to write rules for the state’s ethics watchdog agency – and allowing Walker to turn 37 state civil servants into political appointees thus politicizing critical social services.

What we’re seeing in Wisconsin is not the agenda of a Republican governor – it’s the agenda of a radical autocrat. And if Walker is successful – Wisconsin is screwed."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Reading

Rupert Murdoch and David Koch collude against Wisconsin workers

Olbermann On Wisconsin

It's good to have Keith back - Wisconsin & The Union.

Wisconsin Viewing

Getting Conservatives Off The Hook



Wisconsin Budget Protests



A Less Perfect Union



Trickery, Inciting Violence, and Coddling Cronies



Since government workers won't live up to the greedy goon stereotype, the Tea Party must do it for them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Deferred Wages

Paul Krugman highlights a portion of an excellent article by David Cay Johnston:

"Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers. How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.

The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: “The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee.” This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc."

At A Crossroads

Thank you to the Wisconsin 14. They've given us all one last chance at shared prosperity.

It's time to organize and (peacefully) protest.

This is our last chance to maintain/rebuild a middle class and to begin to take our government back from business interests.

Due to the Citizens United decision, elections are only going to become more a game of money and power (even more so than they are now) rather than policy and governance. The Koch brothers didn't open a new lobbying office in Madison because the like State Street brats.

Call your elected representatives. March at the Capitol.

If collective bargaining and unions are extinguished, a whole litany of workers' rights and social legislation will also fall. Employers are already decreasing their provision of health care to their workers. Pensions will no longer be offered. Employers will not contribute to 401Ks. They also will push even harder for Social Security privatization; thus putting retirement security into the volatile casino that is Wall Street. Minimum wage laws will be overturned. I wouldn't even put child labor laws off the table with these guys.

If you're a Wisconsinite (heck, even if you're not), go to Madison!

The United States is now the most unequal westernized country, according to the Gini index. Our productivity has grown. Our economy has grown. Yet, workers wages have stagnated. This isn't a problem of spending. It is a problem of revenues. Nowadays, too many of our government policies support corporate profits. We've allowed our government spending to be used for private gains, instead of supporting good jobs and maintaining our infrastructure.

As our country has, collectively, gotten richer, the gains have accumulated to the top 1% while workers' living standards have stagnated. (To add insult to injury, we've kept up with the Joneses by going into personal debt.)

The rich are taking all the gains, while at the same time they paying less in taxes. Our state coffers would be solvent, our infrastructure would be maintained, and the programs the least amongst us depend on would be fully funded, if the rich were paying their fair share.

As unions have been weakened, the living standard of all (except for those 1%) Americans workers has worsened. The decline of unionization is inversely related to our increase in inequality. As America's number one organization for workers, workers' rights, and progressive economic policy - unions - has receded, the rich have gotten richer, corporate taxes have decreased while corporate profits have boomed, and the gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is the largest its been.

The idea that deregulation, tax cuts, and kissing the ass of big business - the Republican platform - is good for workers or has been good for the U.S., hasn't been supported by our history. Reality has ruled against the ideology of Republicans. But, for some odd reason, enough people still seem to believe their story, or are fooled by their tricks, and side against their own economic interests.

We need to save collective bargaining and unions, then we need to push for public financing of campaigns.

But, first things first, organize! Make those phone calls. Talk to your representatives. Call friends and family. Get out, speak up, and protect your rights. This is the battle that could define a generation...and save our country. If we fail, it's the end of the American dream. Say goodbye U.S., hello America Inc..

Mr. President, Where Are You?

Where is Barack Obama?

He's made a few passing comments on the budget/collective-bargaining issue, but nothing close to what is needed at this crucial moment.

It's time to do what's right. It's time to keep your promise. It's time to do what working Americans need.

See you in Wisconsin, real soon, Mr. President.



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bargaining Isn't To Blame

How does eliminating collective bargaining reduce deficits?

"States with no collective bargaining rights for any public employees saw an average budget shortfall of 24.8 percentin 2010 while states (including the District of Columbia) with collective bargaining for all public employees had an average budget shortfall of 24.1 percent."

For Further Reading:

Yes To Corporations, No To The Middle Class

Walker's Fiscal Agenda

GOP Governors' Radical Agenda

Squeezing the poor, and the working and middle class, while coddling corporate interests.

<

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Unethical

Let the ethics violations investigations begin.

Cutting Is Completely Wrong



"I would argue that we don't have a budget crisis. We have a refusal to levy adequate taxation on those that can afford it "crisis" created by our politicians who refuse to raise taxes on the rich at at time in our history that resembles the Gilded Age with income disparity. As Sachs noted, we're going after discretionary spending which hits in is words, science, education, technology, and energy and he's exactly right on how our approach to what we should be cutting is completely wrong." [h/t Crooks and Liars]

Misdirection & Ulterior Motives

A false equivalence, being repeated throughout the media, is that it's unfair to make some people, who make less than public workers, especially during these tough times, pay taxes for unionized compensation that is higher than certain taxpayers' own earnings. It's just not fair.

But what about private sector workers making more than public workers? An enormous amount of state and federal spending is corporate, private-sector welfare. Why shouldn't they have to sacrifice? As AIG, Citigroup, Lehman, et al, have shown us, they are on the public dole just as much as any public worker. Although, I'm not aware of any public worker seeing a million dollar bonus or compensation anywhere near that of the priviged, private-sector titans.

If we compare working class people with the highest-paid public sector workers, and then compared those same working class citizens with the highest-paid private workers, which would have the bigger discrepancy? It's not even close. The "well-paid" in the private sector have earnings that dwarf anything a public worker could dream of.

Not all public workers make more than private sector workers. In fact, most make LESS. Some public workers make more than other public workers. The same happens in the private sector, where certain private sector workers make more than other private sector workers. There are private sector workers that make more than public sector workers, and vice versa. 60% of Wisconsin's public workers have a 4-year college degree - and these workers earn less than their private sector counterparts.

There are private CEOs in Wisconsin making more in a year than a unionized employee could make in a lifetime. But...somehow...that isn't unfair? Why aren't we asking to see some sacrifice from them? We seem to be fooling ourselves with the belief that the working- and middle-class have been living the high-life these past few decades. Everyday workers have not been the ones garnering the gains of the last quarter century. The "winners" have been the richest of the rich. The top percent of richest Americans has more wealth as the bottom 50 percent! We should also note that over 50% of the population earns less than $48,000 per year. Nearly 85% of Americans earn under $100,000 per year.

There are taxpayers without children, yet their taxes still fund schools. Some people don't own a car, but their taxes allow roads and plowing. Certain citizens never enjoy our park system, but they still pay for it. There are many things some of us may never, or rarely, use. Yet, we still pay taxes for them, because they are still very important to many businesses and citizens in our state, and therefore an important part of our economy, infrastructure, and future.
Another element that is being pushed aside (in this well-choreographed misdirection and attack on collective bargaining) in this discussion is the fact that public workers are providing us with a service. Public workers are actually doing work. They are providing services we all count on. Services we decided long ago were better provided through the public sector rather than a private, corporate, for-profit entity. Sewer, water, education, public works, police, fire, health services, transportation, public spaces, to name a few.

State and local government spending is one of the most stimulative expenditures/investments government can make. For every $1 invested in states and localities, $1.41 is returned. That's a very good bang for the buck. The idea that we are losing money through our investment in the public sector is totally false. We experience a net gain from such funding. A 41% return on your investment is excellent, in case you were wondering.

This is typical Republican politics. They protect the wealth of their campaign benefactors. And, they're rewarded handsomely for doing so. It's not about governing for these paid-for corporate shills. It's about entrenching wealth and power.

The Koch brothers (surely you've read something about them by now) have been big funders of Scott Walker's campaign and policy efforts. The Koch brothers have a serious business presence in Wisconsin, and therefore, a lucrative interest in our politics and policy. The brothers are, "Huge polluters, emitting thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants. As soon as he got into office Walker started cutting environmental regulations and appointed a Republican known for her disregard for environmental regulations to lead the Department of Natural Resources. In addition Walker has stated his opposition to clean energy job policies that might draw workers away from Koch-owned interests."

The nefarious activities of the private sector have multiplied over the last 40 years. As Chuck Collins said, "Everytime a politician complains that 'there is no money' or 'we must make these cuts,' we should be pointing to the corporate tax dodging that could immediately close our budget gap...They pretend their profits are earned in tax havens like the Grand Cayman Islands and their losses are earned in the U.S., lowering their tax bill."

As Robert Freeman reports, "Corporate profits are at an all-time high. But corporate taxes are among the lowest in the industrial world. Income inequality is at its highest level since 1917. Between 2000 and 2006, the two-thirds of all growth in the entire economy we to the top 1%."

"During the second world war, income tax receipts from corporations were 50% greater than from individuals. By the 1980s, individual income taxes regularly yielded four times more than taxes on corporations," explained Yves Smith. It should also be noted that during the period(1947 to 1973), the U.S. also experienced its greatest period of economic growth in the history of our country.

Following the advice of Rahm Emanuel ("Never waste a crisis"), the Republicans are manufacturing a "crisis" to rush through their crony policies. As Brian Beutler reminds us, "Democrats faced a shortfall twice as large ahead of the previous budget cycle and managed to close the gap." Why do we have another gap? It's the economy, stupid! It's not suddenly, after operating for decades, the fault of unions.

For Further Reading:

Manufacturing Consent

The Sunday morning talk-show circuit has shut out the unions. Union officials have tried to contact the networks to be able to present their side of the story. The media, thus far, has only been interested in talking to the anti-union crowd.

Busting Unions

Even Shepard Smith gets it, "The battle over union rights in Wisconsin was all about busting unions and securing Republican political power, not about the state's budget deficit."

Depressing Republicans

GM Report Profit, First Since 2004.

Another teachable moment here...

If we'd followed the 'screw the UAW and American auto manufacturers' Republican game plan, we'd have millions more unemployed and an even more depressed economy.

Weekend Reading

Serious Ethics Violations By Scott Walker

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Idiot's Guide To Governing

The Scott Walker 'death to collective bargaining' bill is supposedly about cost savings.

But...

Bill targeting unions may cost state $46 million in Federal funds.

It seems, more accurately, everything the Walker administration has done so far has cost additional jobs and/or investment. And, every new proposal or plan they develop has implications for hurting Wisconsin more.

Non-Union States Have Deficits Too

Ed Kilgore informs, " According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the eleven states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20% (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina). Another, South Carolina, comes in at a sizable 17.4%. Nevada, where state employees have no collective bargaining rights (but local employees do) has the largest percentage shortfall in the country, at 45.2%. All in all, eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than either Wisconsin or Ohio."

Teachable Moment

Mike Konczal has a good post clarifying the wildly inaccurate Wisconsin teacher compensation myths that are being recklessly thrown about by anti-union cranks.



"The average teacher in Wisconsin has a smaller salary than the median Wisconsin household...The 2009 average salary across all [Wisconsin] districts is $48,267. The Census Bureau has the median [Wisconsin] household income at $51,237."

Set To Fail

An ode to Scott Walker...


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Laborious Budget Excuses

Bruce Murphy introduces some sanity and reason into Scott Walker's manufactured budget battle:

"In the last 10 or 15 years, the state has also passed spending caps for municipalities and counties, which have created a downward pressure on public worker compensation. A Wisconsin Taxpayer's Alliance study showed that local government employees earned 2.9 percent less in total compensation than local public employees nationally.

In truth, the givebacks he is getting from employees, while a heavy sacrifice for individuals, who will lose an average of some $4,500 per year, are only saving the state $150 million a year on a $15 billion budget. To put this in perspective, the state could raise its beer tax to the national average of 19 cents per gallon - up from the current 6 cents - and generate $217 million more per year. In short, it doesn't require a revolution in labor/management to accomplish the savings Walker desires.

It is no coincidence that the wage gap between average workers and CEO pay has exploded while private sector unions have declined. The average pay of America's top CEO was $479,000 in 1979, according to Business Week, but had jumped to $9.5 million by 2009. CEOs who once earned 40 times the pay of the average worker now make at least 400 times more.

The wealth gap in America is the greatest it has been since the Roaring Twenties. In 1928, the top one-hundredth of 1 percent of American families earned 892 times more income than the bottom 90 percent of Americans. That gap declined for decades before it began climbing in the late 1970s. Today the top one-hundredth of one percent of American families earns 976 times more than the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

As public worker unions and public employee wages decline, we're likely to see this gap increase."

We're Closed!

With Republicans in charge, is this even America anymore? [h/t Crooks & Liars]




It is obvious they don't care for everyday citizens and workers. They won't even let them in the door.

It's The Economy, Stupid

Dean Baker lays to rest any last gasp that might be heard from the Walker "we have no money" crowd; whom are using a budgetary "crisis" pretext in a desperate and cruel attempt to crush unionization and collective bargaining rights of workers.

"States always face financial stress in economic downturns." Remember, people, we're in a downturn. It's called that because (economic) indicators have declined. We're out of work because of Wall Street. Because we're working less, we're buying less. When we buy less, businesses sell less. They, therefore, need less workers. The economy slows. This is when government steps in to fund state and local functions, to invest in infrastructure and other public works, and to inject money into the economy for innovation and research. More people start getting back to work. They start spending. The economy picks up. Businesses start hiring.

Too bad Scott Walker has refused/returned over $1 billion in possible investment (rail, high-speed internet, wind turbines) in Wisconsin during his short time in office!

To pretend we don't know why things are tough right now, or to fantasize it's the fault of unions, is cognitive dissonance of the highest proportion. Wall Street gambled with our retirement accounts, our pensions, our mortgages, and our bond ratings. And we lost. Sorry, but I don't want to put my faith - and money - back into the Wall Street casino. Investing in each other, as we did to get out of the Great Depression, is a much better option.

Unionization has been a proud tradition of Wisconsin for over a century. Yet, the budget/collective-bargaining "story" appears to be: Unions are a budgetary firecracker. Wisconsin passed one of the first collective bargaining laws in 1959. And now, 52 years later, that firecracker has exploded.

I'm curious how other state budgets - between then and now - were passed with those damn unions and their collective bargaining?!

"The number of jobs now stands at 7.7 million below its pre-recession levels." The is the second worst economic crisis - cause again by greedy speculation - in the history of our country. Does any one think this (and maybe not unions) may have something to do with the recession we're in? You know, the slow economy, and thus, lower revenues?

"The economy is operating at more than 6.4 percentage points below it potential level of output. If Wisconsin's state economy was 6.4% larger, and its revenues increased accordingly, it would have more than $4 billion in additional revenues in its coffers over the next two years...This increase would easily covered the projected deficit. This is even before we add in the savings from lower payouts for unemployment insurance and other benefits that would follow from a return to a normal level of unemployment."


There has been, "A falloff of more than $1.2 trillion in spending from the private sector." And, this wasn't because they didn't have the money. They've just been hoarding the cash.

It is cruel disrespect when one of the institutions - unions - that lifted America from the Great Depression and helped create our middle class is now being wrongfully blamed as the cause of the current crisis.

It's Not The Money

Great analysis from Rachel Maddow. An unrelenting rebuttal of every conservative talking-point in this Republican-manufactured budget/collective-bargaining fiasco.



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Feeding The Rich

Collective bargaining must be ended. It is budget armageddon if unions are allowed to exist. We just don't have the money.

So where did Wisconsin get the money for the $117 million corporate tax giveaway a few weeks ago?

The hypocrisy, misdirection, and blatant, corrupt cronyism behind all this is disgusting.

We don't have money for people. But we can always scrape up a few bucks for our corporate overlords.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Good To Be The King

Good stuff from the Motley Cow:

"What has been widely ignored about Walker's bill (in part because of the speed with which he's fisting it down Wisconsin's gullet) is a sneaky provision that paves the way for him to cut, or eliminate, Medicaid and BadgerCare healthcare benefits for low-income people.

Administrative rules changes sound about as interesting as the words "administrative rules." And Walker's "administrative rule" change is the kind of complex, procedural legislative legalese that few reporters are sickly masochistic enough to slog though through. (And it's especially true that nobody reports on America's rising war on the poor. This was evidenced by the fact that major network stars have yet to appear in Madison, and, until this weekend, the tens of thousands sleeping in the capitol warranted segment bites equal in length and depth to the latest update on reporter Serene Branson's migraine.)

So in short: Walker's administrative rules change would allow the Department of Health Services, via the overwhelmingly GOP-controlled budget committee, to change state laws unilaterally, skipping the legislative process altogether. In terms Vicki McKenna can understand, this means Walker's bill will allow the governor to subvert the legislative process and make his own laws without going through the tiresome and long American tradition of lawmaking. But wait, there's more!"

The Big Lie: Excessive Spending

Robert Reich comments on our current debacle:

"There's no doubt that government budgets are in trouble. The big lie is that the reason is excessive spending.

Public budgets are in trouble because revenues plummeted over the last two years of the Great Recession.

They're also in trouble because of tax giveaways to the rich.

Before Wisconsin's budget went bust, Governor Walker signed $117 million in corporate tax breaks.

Nationally, you remember, Republicans demanded and received an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. They've made it clear they're intent on extending them for the next ten years, at a cost of $900 billion. They've also led the way on cutting the estate tax, and on protecting Wall Street private equity and hedge-fund managers whose earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. And the last thing they'd tolerate is an increase in the top marginal tax rate on the super-rich.

Meanwhile, of course, more and more of the nation's income and wealth has been concentrating at the top. In the late 1970s, the top 1 percent got 9 percent of total income. Now it gets more than 20 percent.

So the problem isn't that "we've" been spending too much. It's that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation's total income.

At the same time, the super-rich have been contributing a steadily-declining share of their own incomes in taxes to support what the nation needs -- both at the federal and at the state levels."

Is Our Children Learning?*

The Maciver Institute's "average" salary of over $100,000 for MPS teachers is making the rounds. Those damn educated bastards, with 16 years of experience, earning a decent wage. (It's actually around $50,000 per year on average.)

Luckily WEAC can correct the record an add some perspective:

"The average salary, which includes annual step increases for longevity and lane changes for educational attainment, was $51,264. Fifty-two percent of Wisconsin teachers hold master’s degrees and the average teacher has 16 years experience.

Once ranked 15th, teacher pay was capped in 1993 and has fallen ever since. Where teachers once received 103 percent of the national average in pay, they now receive only 93 percent.

In the last decade, real earnings for Wisconsin teachers declined by 2.3 percent. Teachers earn less today than they did a decade ago. Wisconsin ranked 46th nationally in salary change, with 45 states experiencing larger increases in income. "

How about some freakin' respect for teachers?! They not only have the responsibility of molding these young minds to compete, innovate, and grow, they have to babysit these brats daily and defend against never-ending public attacks from half-wits.

*

Republican Death Panels

Republican Betrayal Of The Elderly.

Cutting Not The Only Choice

There is another choice.

Higher taxes.

Stop the hissing and just listen.

Not higher taxes on workers. Higher taxes on the rich, on capital gains, on estates, on stock trading, and numerous other bloated, overblown entities which have been siphoning our hard earned dollars away from us over the past few decades.

The majority of us are not wealthy. But, through government, we can tax the rich. There is no reason why cutting, cutting, cutting is our only choice. We all enjoy these programs and benefit from collective action in our interest. This anti-tax aversion is ruining our country. The ridiculously wealthy have benefited disproportionately from our courts, infrastructure, and other institutions. It's not outrageous to ask them to pay their fair share.

It's time to redistribute their ill-gotten gains. Their country needs it.

The Robber Barons of yesteryear would be blushing at the corruption, greed, and selfishness of today's uber wealthy.

Now More Than Ever

Unions are passe. They're antiquated. No one needs a union anymore.

We've all heard this sentiment in some form or another. More so recently among some folks due to what's happening in Wisconsin.

Unions fought and struggled for years for many of the labor rights and protections we now take for granted. And, as union numbers have declined, so have labor rights and the proper enforcement of such.
  • Inequality is higher now than during the Gilded Age.
  • Workers wages have stagnated for decades.
  • This is the first generation that will do worse, economically speaking, than their parents.
  • Workers are working longer hours now than they have in decades.
  • Many workers are not properly being paid for the hours they are working. A phenomenon known as wage theft.
  • Workers are working to a later age. And it's not out of choice.
  • Health care costs are bankrupting families across the country.
As the list above shows, workers still need someone fighting for them. There is strength in numbers.

How did we get all these rights which some want to take for granted and/or dismiss? Some want to forget. Some can't remember. Some just don't know. It was unions! The private sector and the all-knowing market didn't have our best interests in mind and develop these rights for us. Workers stood up and demanded respect.

Citizens that feel unions are overcompensated not only have their facts wrong, they are fighting against their own economic interests. Why would someone think that by ending collective bargaining and workers' representation it would benefit all workers? When you take away labor rights and bargaining leverage, that is a loss. No worker gains from such.

Labor's battles have accomplished gains for all workers.
  • Minimum wage
  • Workers compensation
  • Overtime
  • Employer-provided health care
  • 40-hour work week
  • 8-hour day
  • Unemployment insurance
When workers fight with other workers, guess who loses? That's right - workers. Stop belittling and fighting with workers, just like yourself, who only want to earn a dignified living. [If you're bellowing how well-paid public workers are -- please -- read the recently released studies which completely dispel this myth. The average Wisconsin public worker earns $45,000 and has 17 years of experience. The average retiree has a pension of only $19,000.] Let's start supporting the bottom and middle, rather than beating each other up to the benefit of the uber wealthy.

Tell the rich to pay their fair share. The richest in America have seen explosive growth in income over the past few decades. They didn't do this through magic. They did it by dividing us against each other. They did it by usurping our rightful gains - earned through our productivity - into their own compensation. This is a direct result of campaign finance and our pay-to-play democracy. As corporations have bought more courts, state houses, oversight committees, and such, they have seen humongous legal and fiscal gains. As they've controlled more of the institutions of our society, they have concentrated all the economic gains into a select few hands.

Workers need to be fighting to hold onto what they've earned. We must stop fighting each other. We all (the bottom 99%) need to start demanding that we get more compensation for our productivity. The richest have made out like bandits, while we've all been battling each other over the crumbs. Let's stop beating each other up and join in solidarity to develop policies that help share prosperity. No longer can we allow policies that solidify winners (the top1%) whilst merely hoping something trickles down to the rest of us.

Unions: The Only Counterweight To The Oligarchy

Paul Krugman is right on the money again:
What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side. 
But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain. 
Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. 
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions. 
There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.
So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thank Wisconsin

Do you like 8-hour days? Glad you have the "weekend"? Happy with unemployment insurance? Pleased that we have worker compensation laws? You can thank Wisconsin and the union.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



These state senators are doing what their constituents want. Hence, they are doing their job.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



This isn't just about union workers. It's about all workers. It's about the right to negotiate. It's about the right to have a say in the workplace. It's about not being a country governed by the whims of monied private sector interests.

Where's The "Fair Share" From Corporations?

Most Businesses Owed Nothing

Haplessly Venturing

Yet more crony- immersed proposals from Scott Walker. He wants the state to push forward with a venture capital fund. The government must do all it can to coddle business. As has been evident over the last week, Walker believes it is the government's only duty - to coddle business.

Another privatization-esque initiative that is purely payback to political allies and does next to nothing to create jobs nor improve Wisconsin's economy. Just another good way of using public dollars to fund private escapades.

As I have previously posted:

"Josh Lerner, of Harvard, has found the number of exceptional venture capitalists is very small. Harold Bradley, of the Kaufmann Foundation, believes venture capitalists have plenty of money, but allocate it very inefficiently, and therefore should not be receiving additional public dollars with the hope of boosting a local economy. Bradley and Carl Schramm, in an article for Business Week, write that the current focus on fees has promoted start-up flipping rather than nurturing.

In the end, venture capital amounts to one very small component of the overall capital market. An effort to attract more dollars to boost our local economy is desirable, but to what extent we should see venture capital as the goose that lays the golden egg is debatable."

Buck Up

It's time corporations started paying their fair share.

As Lila Shapiro reports, "The share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981 and, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes."

Keep Up The Fight

Stay strong, brothers and sisters, Governor Walker Is Cornered.



Save A Worker, Tax An Executive

Here are the top 45 Wisconsin corporate earners from 2009. They collectively made over $150 million. We need to crush unions to solve the manufactured budget crisis. But we can't ask these CEOs - whom average $3.3 million annually each (the equivalent of over 73 average public workers' yearly earnings combined) - to pay more?

Richard Wolff adds, "If you want to know why we have budget deficits all over, look no further than the roaring success of corporate tax avoidance."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Budget Reality

As usual, Paul Krugman cuts through the drivel:

"The whole budget debate, then, is a sham. House Republicans, in particular, are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes — nutritional aid to pregnant women and very young children is one of the items on their cutting block — so they can pose, falsely, as deficit hawks. What would a serious approach to our fiscal problems involve? I can summarize it in seven words: health care, health care, health care, revenue."

"What would real action on health look like? Well, it might include things like giving an independent commission the power to ensure that Medicare only pays for procedures with real medical value; rewarding health care providers for delivering quality care rather than simply paying a fixed sum for every procedure; limiting the tax deductibility of private insurance plans; and so on."

"And what do these things have in common? They’re all in last year’s health reform bill."

"That’s why I say that Mr. Obama gets too little credit. He has done more to rein in long-run deficits than any previous president. And if his opponents were serious about those deficits, they’d be backing his actions and calling for more; instead, they’ve been screaming about death panels."

"This brings me to the seventh word of my summary of the real fiscal issues: if you’re serious about the deficit, you should be willing to consider closing at least part of this gap with higher taxes. True, higher taxes aren’t popular, but neither are cuts in government programs. So we should add to the roster of fundamentally unserious people anyone who talks about the deficit — as most of our prominent deficit scolds do — as if it were purely a spending issue."

Removing Democratic Support

Good insight from Joel Rogers (via Doug Henwood):

"Rogers also sees Walker’s attack on the public employee unions as part of a nationally coordinated Republican strategy to remove the unions as major financial and organizational supports for Democratic candidates. Some of the wavering Republican legislators in Madison got calls from Karl Rove and people speaking on his behalf. Such is politics in the USA (and this is me speaking, not Rogers) that the unions have a choice only between supporting a party that does little for them when in office and one that would destroy them."

Manufactured Crisis

Walker Manufactured Budget Crisis

For Sale: Wisconsin

The Capital Times editorializes, Walker gins up 'crisis' to reward cronies.

State & Local Shrinkage

More good reporting from Jon Perr:
  • The USA net fiscal stimulus was modest relative to peers, despite being the epicenter of the crisis.
  • Once you take state and local cutbacks into account, there was no surge in government spending.
  • Local governments are cutting jobs at the fastest rate in almost 30 years.
  • State and local governments has shed 407,000 jobs since August 2008.

Tax Cut Crisis

Wisconsin supposedly has a budget crisis. $137 million, or so the Walker Wrecking Crew claims.

$117 million of that crisis is due to corporate tax cuts rushed through just weeks ago by the Walker administration. Walker has created a phantom crisis to use as club to smash unions. Public workers are being scapegoated. This has nothing to do with budgets or economics. This is purely political.

The dictatorial attitude and slanderous rhetoric of the Walker administration, and Wisconsin Republicans in general, are our only REAL crises. A crisis of inept governance.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

When Is It Enough?



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Wrong Cause, The Wrong Remedy

Haven't we heard the 'entitlements and unions are the problem' song-and-dance long enough? As our country has deregulated, cut taxes, and privatized, inequality has increased, infrastructure has crumbled, workers wages have stagnated, retirement has grown increasingly volatile, and health care costs have skyrocketed.

Our country's problems were caused by greed, trickle-down economics, and the ascendance of Wall Street.

The Journal Sentinel analyzed Wisconsin's ventures into privatizing formerly public work. It found that the majority of the work would have been less expensive had it remained public. The supposed cost-savings of the privatization panacea are completely mythological.

Scott Walker's own record regarding county projects he privatized (what does he care, now that he's moved onto the governor's office) are coming back to cost the county more money that if he'd just left well enough alone. The willful ignorance of people and pundits continually pushing the idea that workers earning a living wage, with affordable health care, and a retirement account, are the cause of budget deficits, is blatantly false and morally reprehensible.

There is no free lunch. Private companies don't prosper by losing money. It's not about service provision, it's about profit motive. What is the least they can do to make the most. Hardly an inspirational mantra for public service we all count on. And, rather than having a more egalitarian pay structure, like the public sector, the private sector is very top-heavy. The CEOs and executives are lavishly rewarded, while the workers receive a pittance.

Republicans have been selling this snake oil for decades. We have steadily cut taxes (they're at their lowest level since 1950) and deregulated business again and again. Has this caused an increase in the wages of working Americans? Has this made your health care cheaper (remember HMOs were supposed to make health care uber competitive and affordable)? Have these changes made retirement more stable? Has this done anything to help the majority of Americans? The answer to all these questions is a big, resounding NO! This Republican, supply-side experiment is a complete failure.

So why do people continue to believe that more of the same is going to produce different results? The rich have gotten richer. But the other 99% of us have been treading water. If you're in the top 1% these policies have worked great for you. If you're not amongst the top 1%, you should realize these policies have evicerated your chances at an economically stable life.

The privileged class has played worker versus worker deftly. They don't really have to worry about paying their fair share, or about any uprising or revolt, when the majority of the population is focused on fighting with, and belittling, workers like themselves. The bottom 99% has more in common with each other than with the copiously wealthy 1%. Yet, many still side with the extravagantly wealthy against their own economic interest.

How can people read about Wall Street paper-pushers making hundreds of millions a year, executives buying $35,000 toilets, other receiving millions in bonuses, and CEOs purchasing their eighth home, and still think our problems are the result of $40,000 per-year workers? How can anyone look at the data showing that workers wages have stagnated for 30 years, while executive earnings have grown exponentially, and still blame workers?

For Further Reading:

Discerning Comments

Milwnative comments, in the Journal Sentinel:

"This financial mess was not created by public workers and their union contracts. it was caused by mismanagement and fraudulent practices by the banking and financial sectors (see financial meltdown ---2008). To scapegoat public workers is refusing to deal with what the real problem is...the financial meltdown caused by the greed at the top of society, not at the bottom or in the middle. Until the media and politicians start speaking out about this, the debate will continue to target the innocent victims of this financial meltdown."

EmbarrassedforWI also adds:

"Here is the list of Republican State Senators who are currently eligible to be recalled:

Robert Cowles (Senate District 2)
Alberta Darling (Senate District 8)
Sheila Harsdorf (Senate District 10)
Luther Olsen (Senate District 14)
Randy Hopper (Senate District 18)
Glenn Grothman (Senate District 20)
Mary Lazich (Senate District 28)
Dan Kapanke (Senate District 32)

Do your part to take back the Wisconsin State Senate. Start the recall of any senator from the list above who votes for Walker's Bill. It would only take the recall of three of these people to put the Senate back in Democratic control, and thwart any more of Walker's extreme far right agenda. Tell your friends and family that live in any of these districts to get started on a recall effort today...there is literally no time to waste. This can be done today. A recall of Walker can't start until January 2012."