Thursday, May 31, 2012

Open For Business?

Bruce Murphy wonders, Did The State Screw Talgo?

[Talgo CEO Antonio] Perez cannot believe the State of Wisconsin has chosen to terminate two contracts it signed with Talgo nearly three years ago. “What message does this send to other businesses?” Perez asks. “They should be careful of doing business here because Gov Walker does not keep his word. It’s like we’re talking about a Third World country, where people don’t have respect for their contracts.”

Ways Unions Have Improved Your Life

36 Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union
  1. Weekends
  2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
  3. Paid Vacation
  4. FMLA
  5. Sick Leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum Wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  9. 8-Hour Work Day
  10. Overtime Pay
  11. Child Labor Laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40 Hour Work Week
  14. Worker's Compensation (Worker's Comp)
  15. Unemployment Insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
  18. Employer Health Care Insurance
  19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
  20. Wrongful Termination Laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  22. Whistleblower Protection Laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
  24. Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
  26. Sexual Harassment Laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday Pay
  29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
  30. Privacy Rights
  31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave
  32. Military Leave
  33. The Right to Strike
  34. Public Education for Children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

Midweek Reading

Americans For Tax Fairness
4 Years After Wall Street Crash, Regulation Of Financial Markets Still Spotty
House Oversight Committee Asks Walker If He Wants To Recant Testimony
Judge Orders Supermarket To Reinstate Full-Timers Per Union Contract
Milwaukee Drops In Park Ranking
The People In Charge Of Wisconsin Voting Machines
Rebuild The Pillars Of 1930s Wall Street
Selective Memory Fuels Rehashed RGA Attacks
Tax Foundation Up To Its Usual Nonsense
Walker Tax Cuts For Wealthy Will Cost Other Taxpayers

Behind The Recall: The Rise & Fall Of Scott Walker


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Only Responsible Choice: Tom Barrett

Scott Walker's primary tactic for the recall election is to smear Tom Barrett on unemployment and taxes in Milwaukee. The unemployment rate has increased and taxes have gone up under Barrett. Let's ignore the fact that unemployment is up everywhere. That's why it's called a recession. Let's also disregard the fact that unemployment increased 34 percent for Milwaukee County during Scott Walker's reign.

And, we might as well lose all context and not mention that Milwaukee is also home to the majority of poor and minority citizens in the state. That might have something to do with the unemployment and taxes in Milwaukee, but let's not talk about that.

Let's also not forget Scott Walker took over $60 million dollars (considering the City and MPS) away from Milwaukee in his recent, contentious budget. Should Barrett simply fire teachers, police and firefighters to cover the loss? Or should he end all spending for the poor, the elderly and children? Which services should he stop? Scott Walker refused nearly a billion dollars in aid. How much would that have alleviated unemployment and taxes across the state?

When private companies wreck the economy, why aren't Republicans calling for them to be more efficient and trim more workers? Shouldn't the participants in the sectors responsible for the economic collapse be the ones sacrificing? Conservatives love talking on and on about overpaid public workers and union executives. Where is the outcry regarding CEO compensation? When will Republicans reprimand private executives unsubstantiated and overblown pay? It was alright for the government to step in and fire the General Motor's CEO (in the highly unionized auto industry) but no such actions have taken place on Wall Street, where the majority of criminals responsible for our latest economic debacle still remain.

The public sector not only pays for public services, but we also subsidize and provide tax breaks to the private sector. And, the government is actually supposed to regulate the private sector with regard to the public interest. So where is the demand for sacrifice and accountability from these Robber Barons? We refer to them as "private," but their decisions have public ramifications (and they receive public money), thus, the government needs to regulate their actions...and punish or fine them when necessary. I'd go as far as to say we should just usurp all their ill-gotten gains for the public good. But Republicans prefer firing nurses and teachers.

Republicans are great at making speeches about public workers needing to sacrifice, work for less, pay more for health care, etc., but where are the same calls for responsibility when private sector actors' actions destroy a bank, close a company, or tank an economy?

In a recession, Republicans want to cut public services while giving public dollars to private firms. Yet, they make no qualifications for such largess. Just fork over the money, these private entrepreneurs know what to do with it. Oh, and remember, we're also broke. Austerity only applies to the 99%.

Scott Walker's history has shown that his answer to a tight budget is to have someone else take over a program, to end a program, or to privatize it. As County Executive, his budgets attempted to slash county services, especially for the most vulnerable. The County Board would overrule Walker's Draconian cuts and then Walker would claim leadership, fiscal responsibility and vision. I don't hear Walker touting his record of running up the debt of Milwaukee County. Has he mentioned unemployment went up under his watch at the County? Does he mention the costs of the lawsuits due to his "leadership"?

I'd prefer cities and states stop giving tax cuts, tax breaks and subsidies to the already well-to-do. Sadly, in today's "government is here to serve business" mindset, these types of giveaways (Harley Davidson, Mercury Marine, Miller Park, the Bradley Center, etc.) are increasing. Business is our savior. They've got it all figured out. Strangely, though, they can't seem to get anything done without the government assuming most of the risk and coughing up the initial funding for projects. Sorry, but you're not a great business guru or economic genius because you've bought enough politicians to write legislation to subsidize and insure your private venture's success.

Wisconsin's own Department of Commerce has been transformed, under Walker, into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Rather than managing the interests of the state alongside those of business, this entity is now all about promotion, marketing, and funneling money to private business interests. Again, we're supposed to believe business knows how to get things done, thus it is justifiable to use public dollars to help them out. Therefore, we need a public agency performing businesses' PR and fundraising?

The point of all this is to illustrate the bizarro world in which the Republicans operate. In their view, government is inefficient, too big, and burdensome. The "free" market and private enterprise are a well-oiled machine. Government should not pay employees living wages. Government work isn't even real work. Government services are silly and trivial. The sanctity of the "free" market is what makes peoples' lives worth living. Roads, water, clean air, schools, police and fire protection - these are just a few examples of those worthless public works. BUT (and here is where the Republican craziness really gets interesting) we should all be in favor of public dollars funding private speculation...because it might lead to job creation.

Public governance has been transformed from performing services we all enjoy and appreciate into a casino. And, the Republicans own the casino. Now the government exists to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private business escapades. Before our taxes maintained/fixed roads, provided clean parks, and ensured good schools. Tangible things we could all experience and benefit from. Today, those are secondary. Government dollars are now "invested" in the private sector with the hope of job creation.

Regarding Scott Walker's own job creation accomplishments as Wisconsin governor, the record is somewhere between losing roughly 20,000 jobs or gaining 30,000 job. Thus, if we assume the best possible outcome based on this 1-year performance, Walker is on pace to create approximately 120,000 jobs over his first 4-year term. Which will be 130,000 below his campaign promise of creating 250,000 jobs in his first term.

If someone simply promising the sky and then failing miserably is your idea of governance, Scott Walker is your guy. If reasoned, deliberate, methodical decision-making, with everyone's best interests in mind, sounds more like quality governance, Tom Barrett is the only choice.

Vote Tom Barrett, Mahlon Mitchell June 5th!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Right-To-Work Reality

Does Right-To-Work Create Job?
Right-To-Work Lowers Wages - And That's A Fact!
What Wrong With Right To Work
Working Hard To Make Indiana Look Bad

It's Good To Be The King

Ezra Klein's post of two graphs quite succinctly sums up the reason for our current income inequaity - top-down class warfare.

It's Good To Be Rich In America, In Two Graphs

Paul Ryan's Inverse Robin Hood Scheme

The Right-Wing Radicalism Of Paul Ryan

CEO-to-Worker Pay Gap

CEO-to-Worker Pay Gap

U.S Health Care Spending

Venturing Wisconsin's Money

One of Scott Walker's big ideas for igniting the Wisconsin economy is getting us more heavily involved in venture capital.

Yet the latest research seems to indicate that ship has already sailed. And, when the industry was supposedly booming, it was only a select few venture capitalists whom were making most of the gains.

How Venture Capital Is Broken

The U.S.'s Shrinking Government & The Unemployment Rate

U.S. Government Workers Edition

Government Getting Smaller In The U.S.

Unemployment Rate Without Government Cuts: 7.1%

Social Security Is Fine

Social Security Is Not Going Broke

Playing Inflation Games With Grandma

Weekend Reading

American Corporations Made Record $824 Billion Last Year
Assessing Yet Another Round Of Structural Unemployment Arguments
How To End This Depression
It Was The Housing Bubble, Stupid
Is Your Stuff Falling Apart? Thank Walmart
The Legendary Paul Ryan
Lehman E-mails Show Wall Street Arrogance Led To Fall
Private Jobs Increase More With Democrats In White House

Moving Backwards With Scott Walker

Before Scott Walker and Republicans attack Tom Barrett and Democrats over their supposed economic failures, Walker and his ilk should look at their own abysmal record

Let's face it, the whole economy has been bad for workers for the past 5 years (actually since the 1980s). We're in a recession. And, the austerity measures and budet slashing are making things worse. Unemployment is high all over. Blaming this all on Tom Barrett makes as much sense as blaming it all on Scott Walker. (Although, Republican austerity policies are definitely prolonging the recession and adding unneeded suffering to the equation.)

But I get it, it's politics. So, with that in mind, here are various graphs of indicators of Wisconsin's economic performance and how Scott Walker is failing Wisconsin:

"The leading index for each state predicts the six-month growth rate of the state's coincident index. In addition to the coincident index, the models include other variables that lead the economy: state-level housing permits (1 to 4 units), state initial unemployment insurance claims, delivery times from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing survey, and the interest rate spread between the 10-year Treasury bond and the 3-month Treasury bill."

"The Coincident Economic Activity Index includes four indicators: nonfarm payroll employment, the unemployment rate, average hours worked in manufacturing and wages and salaries. The trend for each state's index is set to match the trend for gross state product."

"Estimated using sales prices and appraisal data."

"A statistic researched, recorded and reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics intended to represent the total number of paid U.S. workers of any business, excluding the following employees: general government employees, private household employees, employees of nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to individuals, and farm employees."

"A term used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to describe the subset of Americans who have jobs or are seeking a job, are at least 16 years old, are not serving in the military and are not institutionalized. In other words, all Americans who are eligible to work in the everyday U.S. economy." 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Republicans - Wrong About Everything

Republican policy prescriptions over the last four decades have been massive failures. Yet, the party continues to sell the same disproven silliness. And sadly, voters keep buying into this garbage.

The Democrats are partially to blame with their conciliatory and passive demeanor towards politicking. Sitting on the sidelines, saying and doing little until the last minute, when the issue is already heavily polluted and lost.

Citizens are also to blame for idly lapping up the Republican drivel, despite the abundant evidence of negative outcomes due to Republican policies.

But, at the end of the day, we can lay the majority of the blame on the cynical, selfish, power-hungry Republicans. No longer interested in governance, but merely "in it to win it." So they can continue their stranglehold on power, enabling their "vision," whatever that may be on that particular day.

Let's count the numerous failures pushed by Republicans:

Tax Cuts - Income and Capital Gains
GOP Blocks End Of Tax Breaks For Big Oil
GOP's Capital Gains Tax Cut Is Biggest Driver Of Income Inequality
GOP's Multiple-Decade Capital Gains Tax Cut Scheme
The GOP's Tax Cut Trick
Republicans Block Debate On Buffet Rule
Tax Breaks Can Reduce Economic Growth
Ten Things Republicans Don't Want You To Know About Taxes

401(K) - Defined Contribution rather than Defined Benefit
A Brief History Of The 401(K)
Model Retirement Savings
Pensions: The Next Casualty Of Wall Street
Retirement Wreck
Traditional Pension System More Cost Effective
Why Its Time To Retire The 401(K)

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) & Medical Groups
Go Ahead & Die, The Truth About HMOs
Health Services/HMOs
How To Kill HMO Reform
The Republican 10-Point Plan For Health Care

Public Transportation - Roads
The GOP Road To Nowhere
Highways Win, Transit Loses
House Transportation Bill Paves Way For Big Oil
A Lobbying Free-For-All
Mass Transit Takes A Hit In Walker's Budget
Peak Oil, GOP, And Transportation
Progressive Fast Lane Versus Conservative Dirt Road
Republicans Vote To Defund Mass Transit In America
Road To Nowhere
A Terrible transportation Bill
Why Do Conservative Hate Public Transit

Education - Charter, Choice, Voucher Schools
Charter School Riddles
The Myth Of Charter Schools
Quality Doesn't Follow Rise In Voucher School
Voucher School Experiment Is A Failure
Vouchers & Private Sector Accountability
Vouchers & Public School Performance
Vouching For Delusion
Voucher Villainy

Elections - Campaign Financing
Campaign Spending Topped $1 Billion Last Year
Citizens United
The GOP's Campaign Finance Sneak Attack
PACs Rise In Importance
Republicans, Billionaires, Corporations and Campaigns
SuperPACs & Republicans
Wall Street's Huge Bet On Romney
Why Republicans Love Citizens United

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Republicans Like Big Government

... at least according to their administrations' policies and outcomes.

Maddow Hits Romney For Using 'Overpaid' Firefighters For Photo Op

The Surprisingly Shrinking Government Footprint

Barack's Increasing Stock

The stock market, during Barack Obama's administration, has achieved the third best increase of any presidency. 

So much for the often-repeated Republican talking-point of Barack Obama being bad for business.

Public Sector Employment

Doug Henwood comments on the decline in public sector employment:

"Paul Krugman notes that public sector employment has declined under Obama—a sharp contrast with his two predecessors, under whom it grew (with Republican Bush ahead of Democrat Clinton). How does recent experience stack up on a longer view?

Very unusually. Graphed [above] is the behavior of employment—total, private, and public—around business cycle troughs and recoveries. The darker lines are the averages of all the cycles since the end of World War II; the lighter lines, the most recent period, around the June 2009 trough.

As of March, the most recent data we have, we were 33 months into the recovery/expansion. In a “normal,” or at least average, expansion, total employment would be up 6.6% (which is why the index number on the graph is 106.6). But now it’s only up 1.8%. But there’s an enormous divergence in public and private sector employment. In an average recovery, private employment would be up 6.7% and the public sector up 6.4%. This time, though, the private sector is up just 2.7% (4 points short of the average)—but the public sector is down 2.5% (almost 9 points below average).

Putting some numbers on that, total employment is 6.3 million below where it would be in an average recovery. (As the graph shows, the decline in employment was far deeper than average, and the recovery slower to kick in.) Of that shortfall, 4.3 million comes from the private sector, and 2.0 million from the public. So the public sector is responsible for about a third of the deficiency. But that’s twice its share of total employment.

No doubt yahoos will cheer the fall in public employment as a reduction in waste—though there’s no visible payoff in private sector job growth. (Of course, the yahoos don’t care about the continued deterioration in public services.) Public sector austerity is a major drag on the job market. If public employment had merely matched the anemic growth in the private sector, the unemployment rate would be more like 7.4% than 8.2%. And if it had matched its post-World War II average, the unemployment rate would be under 7%.

Propagandists love to go on about how the socialist in the White House is scaring the private sector, leading to a hiring strike. But public sector austerity—mainly at the state and local level—is a major drag on the job market. That doesn’t get anywhere the attention that it should."

Weekend Reading

Don't Let Business Lobbyists Kill The Post Office
Drivers Pay Secret Road Tax In $15 Billion For Car Repair
Four Fiscal Charts
Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are The Problem
Retirement, Slipping Farther And Farther Away
Taxed By The Boss
Taxes And Employment
Tax Me, For F@%&'s Sake!
Worker Skills And Job Quality

Life Is Just A Fantasy

Mitt Romney is upset. President Obama hasn't lowered the unemployment rate below 4 percent.

The unemployment rate has only been below four percent 6 times since 1948. 1951, 1952, and 1966-1969. Times during which the U.S. had Democrat presidents - Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.

The Republican's straw-man campaigning continues.


Paul Krugman offers perspective on this Romney situation:

"OK, not exactly. But he did say that we should be creating 500,000 jobs a month — which almost never happens — and that we should have 4 percent unemployment, which is way below almost anyone’s estimate of the lowest rate we can have without accelerating inflation.

But he understands the economy, right?

Incidentally, since Romney is proposing a complete return to Bush economic policies, it might be interesting to note the average rate of job creation during Bush’s first 7 years in the White House — that is, his record even if you ignore the catastrophe at the end. And that average monthly rate, from the BLS, was … drum roll … 66,000."