Thursday, October 18, 2012

Red State Welfare Queens


From The Department Of I-Told-You-So

Back in February 2011, I warned about the nefarious implications of Scott Walker's plan to turn the public Department of Commerce into the semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

I have been critiquing it ever since. My most recent screed, as of July 2012, Walker's Untraceable Slush Fund, pretty much called it.

As the Journal Sentinel notes, Walker promises dramatic moves to correct loan oversight problems at WEDC.

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that since its creation in July 2011, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. failed to track whether 99 businesses were repaying a total of $8 million in past-due loans - or 16% of the agency's $51 million loan portfolio."

These types of redevelopment initiatives (privatization, tax credits, subsidies, etc.) are actually studied by academics. As cities and states try these different supposed catalysts, social scientists are measuring the results. This is where the "best practices" guides come from. And, where the "things to avoid" recommendations come from. That is, if one is willing to actually read the reports.

Whether public or private investment, certain questions must be addressed and answered with any initiative. Especially when public dollars are at stake, most would ask: What's the return on investment? How many jobs have been created? What's the cost per job created? Were there noticeable income gains in the area due to the initiative? Etc.

Good Jobs First actually published The Risks of Privatizing State Economic Development Agencies in January 2011. But Wisconsin did it nonetheless.

The same was found for film industry tax credits, yet we still do those.

Similarly unimpressive results were discovered for venture capital, nevertheless we are still pursing this mirage.

It's well past time to stop buying this snakeoil.


Here comes the Journal Sentinel to Scott Walker's rescue; putting the proverbial lipstick on this Walker pig.

WEDC: A good idea, but so far, poorly executed.

This [the WEDC] is another one of these supposed game-changers where the evidence indicates it is not a good idea. But the Journal wants it to be, so it must be. We just need to accept it.

Maybe if the Journal actually did the heavy lifting before getting behind all these harebrained ideas they wouldn't have to spend so much space qualifying, contorting, and making excuses. And, heaven forbid, maybe they'd actually provide some insightful policy analysis, rather than just practicing sycophantic boosterism for Scott Walker.

Biden Fact Checks Ryan

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Specifics? Nope. Republicans Prefer To Lie

Six Studies Falsehood Over Tax Plan
6 Studies Paul Ryan Cited Prove Romney Tax Plan Is Impossible
Romney/Ryan Have Resorted To Lying As A Form Of Debating 

Where's The Penalty For Being Wrong?

Weekend Reading

The Arithmetic Of Unemployment & Labor Force Participation 
Austerity Is Much Worse For The Economy
The Evolution Of Airfares In One Chart
A History Of Movies In Four Parts
Housing Recovery In Perspective
Is BofA's Foreclosure Review Really Independent?
Lavish CEO Pay Doesn't Work As Intended
Private Sector Not GSEs Triggered Crisis
The Problem Of Conservative 'Intellectuals'
Ryan Supported Social Security Privatization
Will Paul Ryan's Past Threaten His Future?

Paul Ryan: No Style, No Substance

I wasn't going to comment on the Biden-Ryan debate, but then I happened across the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's The VP Debate: On Style, Ryan; On Substance, A Draw. As usual with the Journal Sentinel, WTF?!

We'll start with this myth of style. Paul Ryan is a B-movie actor, a JC Penney catalog model. Most people I've talked to about Mr. Ryan's delivery find it to be completely patronizing - exaggerated facial expressions, predictable intonations, and hammy overacting, in general.

When Romney (even though he lied his ass off) was aggressive with the President, he was declared the winner of the first debate. When Biden aggressively challenged Ryan's lies, he was a meanie. For the Journal, Ryan's stumbling to explain his debunked ideas and/or being completely vague, yet doing so with a smile, makes one a winner in style.

How can it be a draw on substance when the majority of Paul Ryan points were false? When Ryan's responses or statements are peppered with half-truths, outright falsehoods, and complete bullshit, how is that substantive? Even the Journal states, "Biden may have done a bit better in becoming a fact-checker on some of Ryan's statements." An underlying theme behind "substance" is that it not be complete bullshit. If, as even the Journal admits, Biden told more truths, by definition, he won on substance. 

The Journal also pushes the myth that Ryan is a man of ideas. If all the things one suggests are false or mathematically impossible, they're not ideas, they're bullshit. This Journal opinion piece wasn't an unbiased appraisal of the debate, it was merely another opportunity for the Journal to further their right-wing talking-points and to defend another one of Wisconsin's conservative gasbags.

Paul Ryan is as big a phony as we've ever seen on the national political stage. And, as I've said before, the journal in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is definitely not for journalism.

For Further Reading:
Paul Ryan's 5 Biggest Lies 
Paul Ryan's Mularkey On Full Display
Ryan's Biggest Debate Lie
Ryan Misleads About Social Security
Ryan Told 24 Myths In 40 Minutes
3 Lies From Paul Ryan

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Revisiting The First Debate

Paul Ryan: Liar

Spending, GDP & Other Republican Fairy Tales

Republicans are trying to use fear to convince voters that government spending as a percent of GDP is growing and must be cut. "Spending is out of control! If we don't stop it, we're doomed!"

As the first graph below shows, over the last century, at various points, spending as a percent of GDP was at, near or above it's current level. It was much higher after the Great Depression and during World War II. 

Like then, we were now in the midst of an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression. And, we've been involved in war for the last decade. Overall, an extremely similar situation. 

Spending then was almost twice what it is now. And that spending, after the Great Depression, created the middle class. 

Today, the middle class is shrinking. Plus, we're spending a lot less to rebuild our economy. We should be afraid of austerity, not spending.


It's great to hear all this talk of decreasing federal government spending...but, the fact of the matter is, most government spending is done at the state and local level. At the federal level, money goes to defense, Social Security and Medicare. At the state and local level, spending is on police, education, and libraries, amongst other necessities. Regardless, this spending is done because citizens like these programs and services. If we cut federal spending, that just means states have to pay more - which means, they have to tax more to pay for the services citizens want.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romney Debates Himself

Remembering The Bush Years (In Charts)

Closing The Book On The Bush Legacy:
  • Consider first the median income. When Bill Clinton left office after 2000, the median income-the income line around which half of households come in above, and half fall below-stood at $52,500 (measured in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars). When Bush left office after 2008, the median income had fallen to $50,303. That's a decline of 4.2 per cent. That leaves Bush with the dubious distinction of becoming the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms. "What is phenomenal about the years under Bush is that through the entire business cycle from 2000 through 2007, even before this recession...working families were worse off at the end of the recovery, in the best of times during that period, than they were in 2000 before he took office," says Lawrence Mishel, president Economic Policy Institute.
  • When Clinton left office in 2000, the Census counted almost 31.6 million Americans living in poverty. When Bush left office in 2008, the number of poor Americans had jumped to 39.8 million (the largest number in absolute terms since 1960.) Under Bush, the number of people in poverty increased by over 8.2 million, or 26.1 per cent. Over two-thirds of that increase occurred before the economic collapse of 2008. When Clinton left the number of Americans in poverty stood at 11.3 per cent; when Bush left that had increased to 13.2 per cent. The poverty rate for children jumped from 16.2 per cent when Clinton left office to 19 per cent when Bush stepped down.
  • The story is similar again for access to health care. When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent. 


Romney's China Rhetoric

Romney's China Bashing Blasted
Romney's China Rhetoric Questioned By Conservatives
Romney's China Stance: Hypocrisy On Steroids
Romney's Hypocrisy On China

Republicans Destroyed Economy

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Romney's 10 Most Baseless Claims

"And these businesses -- many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they’ve gone out of business." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

Businesses that got government clean energy loans failed at a rate of about 1.4 percent at the end of 2011, according to The Washington Post.

"My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

Romney's tax plan would cost the country $4.8 trillion over the next 10 years, according to Tax Policy Center data, cited by NBC News.

"You never balance the budget by raising taxes." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

President Bill Clinton managed to balance the budget during his time in office with a tax boost for those in the top 2 percent of earners, according to Duke professor William Chafe.

"The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more -- if you will, trickle-down government would work." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

President Obama's proposed budget is estimated to cut about $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years and, so far, Obama has signed $2 trilion worth of spending cuts into law, according to Democratic Party Pollster Bernard Whitman.

"Up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

Some workers may switch from their employer-provided health plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but that number is more likely to be closer to between 3 and 5 million per year between 2019 and 2022.

Obamacare "puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have." – Mitt Romney, Oct 3 Presidential Debate

Though Obamacare does create an independent board, the law prohibits the board from making recommendations to "ration health care," or "otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility,” according to Bloomberg.

"The idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

The indirect effects of Obamacare have yet to be determined, since the law has yet to be implemented. But as the law is written now, Obamacare doesn't cut seniors' benefits as part of its plan to curb health care costs, according to USA Today.
Obama's healthcare law would curb benefits to health care providers and insurers, but doesn't directly cut seniors' benefits. Critics allege however, that the cuts in payments would have the unintended consequence of hurting seniors because doctors would stop accepting Medicare patients, according to USA Today.

"It's hurt the housing market because Dodd-Frank didn't anticipate putting in place the kinds of regulations you have to have. It's not that Dodd-Frank always was wrong with too much regulation. Sometimes they didn't come out with a clear regulation." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

The Dodd-Frank regulations aim to prevent another housing crash like the one that helped to cause the 2008 financial meltdown by banning high-risk lending practices, according to CBS News. In addition, the housing market has been on a slow rebound since Obama took office.
If anything, it may be banks that are holding back the housing recovery. Many are slow to lend because they're concerned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make them take back any bad loans, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the -- at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killed jobs." – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that healthcare reform will reduce the health care industry's workforce by only about 0.5 percent, largely because workers will decide to retire early or work fewer hours. And if Romney's Massachusetts health care reform law is any indication, job loss won't be a big problem; employment trends in the state have mirrored national trends since Romneycare took effect.

"The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it.” – Mitt Romney, Oct. 3 Presidential Debate

When Obama took office in 2009, the deficit was projected to be $1.2 trillion during that year, and it ultimately turned out to be $1.4 trillion, according to Congressional Budget Office data cited by The New York Times. The deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion for fiscal year 2012.

Republicans Angry Economy Improving

As the USA Today reported, regarding Republicans accusations and conspiracies over the latest jobs report:

"Bollocks,"' Wharton School economist Justin Wolfers said. "Once you understand how the numbers are collected and processed, you understand that it's literally impossible to fool with the numbers.''

Manipulating the unemployment rate would require the cooperation of thousands of people -- not to mention violating federal laws.

The unemployment rate is based on a survey of 60,000 households, conducted at the middle of each month because holidays, which can result in short-term hiring or layoffs, are usually at the beginning or end of a month, said Karen Kosanovich, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics who works on the survey.

About 1,500 Census workers gather the data, and the survey dates back to 1940, Kosanovich said.

The Romney Files

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney
The Hiring Of The President
History Shows Business Experience Doesn't Make A Good President
Impacts Of The Romney Budget Proposals
Inside Romney's Tax-Dodging Schemes
The Meaning Of Mitt
Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney & The Fantasy Budget
Romney's Budget Proposals Necessitate Large Cuts
The Romney Plan
Romney's Private Equity Magic Trick
Transaction Man
The True Story Of Mitt Romney & Bain Capital

Top 10 Beer City: Milwaukee

10 Best Beer Cities In The World

What to See: With a baseball team called the Brewers, is it any surprise Milwaukee is so crazy for beer? Milwaukee was once home to the "Big Four:" Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz. Now the city houses a sophisticated craft-beer scene that builds on its rich brewing heritage. You can still visit the MillerCoors brewery, which features a free walking tour, but don't miss the Sprecher and Lakefront microbreweries. (While most tours promise a frosty draft only at the end, Lakefront offers you a beer—and a souvenir pint glass—the minute you walk in the door.)

Where to Drink: Insiders say that Sugar Maple, in Milwaukee's hip Bay View neighborhood, caters to the serious beer geek—and with more than 60 beers to sample, a soup menu, and a retro environment in which to enjoy both, we agree. Draft Magazine names nearby Palm Tavern one of America's best bars for its 250-some artisan beers, including a few rare brews.

Since The Great Recession

The Economy Has Been Growing, Since Mid-2009 [CBPP]

Private Payroll Employment Has Grown For 31 Months

 The Unemployment Rate Is Near The Same Level It Was After Ronald Reagan's First Term

Weekend Reading

Foreclosure Inventory Levels Still Declining
GE's Jack Welch Knows About Cooking The Books
Paul Ryan Wants U.S. To Be A Tax Shelter
The Outrageous Attack On The BLS
The Romance Of Start-Up Businesses
Romney Told 27 Myths During The Debate
Wall Street Pay Too High

Unemployment Would Even Be Lower If...

...Republican governors hadn't slashed public employment over the past few years and Republicans in Congress didn't obstruct all the jobs bills put before them.

Suzy Khimm reports, "Overall, about 600,000 government jobs have been lost since the beginning of the recession."

And, as Mark Gongloff states, "Had Congress passed the American Jobs Act last year instead of letting it die, there might have been an extra 1.3 million to 1.9 million new jobs created this year, according to estimates by Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody's Analytics, respectively. If you simply divide those estimates up by quarters -- an unscientific approach, admittedly -- you could guesstimate that the AJA would have produced an extra 975,000 to 1.4 million jobs through the first three quarters of the year (i.e., through September). Let's call it a million, just for funsies. Assuming no change in the labor force, and just subtracting that million people from the 12 million unemployed in September, you get the unemployment rate down to 7.2 percent from 7.8 percent. On top of that, you could add the 575,000 government jobs that have been cut since Obama took office in January 2009. Had the federal government not shed workers and cut off aid to the states, it's theoretically possible -- arguably, would have been preferable -- that the government could have added jobs, or at least not cut any. That extra 575,000 workers -- again, assuming no change in the labor force -- gets unemployment down to 6.8 percent. We haven't seen 6.8 percent unemployment since November 2008."

Republicans got us into this mess. Rather than seeking justice against the perpetrators, Republicans turned the blame for all of America's problems onto the backs of teachers, firefighters, and all public workers. Nevermind the bankers and Wall Street, nothing to see there, move along.

Republicans have obstructed any attempt to get us out of this financier-induced mess. They've decided, instead, to use the public as pawns in their power struggle; allowing millions to remain unemployed in a lagging economy in the hopes of winning the election by blaming the President. It's a sick and cynical politics the Republicans are practicing.

Shut The F*** Up!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Master Debater

So...if President Obama chooses to fill the next debate with lies, will the media consider him the winner?

Saying what the people wanted to hear, being spectacularly vague and, mostly, just lying seems to have many in the media declaring Mitt Romney the winner of the first debate.

For Further Reading:
Mitt Romney's 5 Biggest Lies
Romney's Poor Command Of Facts
Romney's Successful Debate Plan: Lying
Romney's 10 Most Baseless Claims
10 Most Shameless Romney Debate Lies
Top 6 Romney Lies

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Unemployment Rate

Republicans are pointing out that unemployment was 7.8 percent when Barack Obama took office.

It's now 8.1 percent.

See, that proves Obama is performing poorly. Obama has presided over an 4% increase in the unemployment rate.

As the graph shows, unemployment was steadily increasing since the spring of 2008, under the direction of George W. Bush.

As you can see from this graph, when George W. Bush took office, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent. Bush and the Republicans presided over an 86 percent increase in the unemployment rate. [If we only look at Bush's first term, which ended with a 5.7% rate, the unemployment rate increased 36 percent.]


Obama hasn't been able to make a dent in the unemployment rate, but he has held it at bay. We're no longer losing 750,000 jobs per month, as we were when George W. Bush handed over the reins. And, all this has been done despite the fact that the Republicans have opposed and obstructed every piece of legislation the Obama administration has proposed.

Bill Clinton entered office with a 7.3% unemployment rate. Leaving office with a 4.2% rate, he presided over a decline of 43 percent in the unemployment rate.