Thursday, November 22, 2012

Republican Shrinkage

Republicans often repeat the line, "Most Americans want a smaller government."

A classic example of Republicans getting an inch and taking a mile.

Most people simply want efficient provision of services. The number of public workers is not important to most taxpayers. The quality of service per tax dollar is what concerns taxpayers most.

The idea that simply shrinking government for the sake of shrinking government is wanted and/or somehow optimal is false. Taxes, as a share of income, are at their lowest point in 60 years. It's difficult to argue government is wasteful when they have been continually doing more with less decade after decade.

And, whether the service is administered at the federal or state/local level doesn't really matter to most taxpayers. This distinction matters most to the politicos trying to maintain their fiefdoms. Taxpayers just want the service/program - regardless of which agency (state or federal) provides it.

Social Security, Medicare, police and fire protection, sewers, water, garbage collection, snow removal, roads and highways, trains, unemployment insurance, the court and judicial system - people want these services provided fairly and efficiently, they don't care which level of government performs the service. (Today - Thanksgiving - would be a good day to reflect on these programs which we collectively provide for each other.)

Republicans merely cling to this talking-point (we must shrink government) because it positions well alongside their never-ending "bad government" war chant. When it comes to the public sector, according to Republicans, less is always better.

Yet, for most citizens, less government means more inequality. Remember this the next time you hear some conservative blathering on about big bad government. The more government declines, the less services and programs (listed above) they can provide, and thus the quality of life of most citizens also declines.

We Need A Stronger Labor Movement

Monday, November 19, 2012

Comedy Classics

Truly Unfortunate

Scott Walker was recently in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum giving a speech about his plans for Wisconsin. The Reagan Library, where the biggest Republican whores go to grovel before their sugar daddies and kingmakers. Yes, what better place to start talking about future Wisconsin legislative plans than in California? But, as they say, you've got to go where the money is.

"We think if we want to continue the economic success we've had over the last year and a half, again one of the best ways to do this is to put money back in the hands of entrepreneurs, more money back in the hands of small business owners, more money back in the hands of our consumers...we're going to continue to lower our property taxes, and we're going to put in place an aggressive income tax reduction and reform in the state of Wisconsin because we believe we can continue to be one of the leaders in the country, not just in reform but ultimately in results." said Walker.

Economic success? Since Walker took over, Wisconsin is near the bottom in job growth among the states.

The Walker plan includes: tax cuts (of course), making Wisconsin's voucher program for private schools available to more students (even though research has shown the program doesn't produce any better results), and to eliminate "unnecessary" state regulations (vague, as usual). Basically, tax cuts and deregulation, alongside funneling more public dollars to unaccountable semi-private entities. Sound familiar? We've heard these recommendations from Republicans for decades now. What has it got us? Stagnant wages, volatile retirements, expensive health care, and increasing inequality.

"It's unfortunate he's going to try to continue to go down this war path of ideology instead of actually trying to address the real problems that we've got. It looks like he's putting his donors above his voters," said Chris Larson.

Truly unfortunate.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bill Maher Dance Studio

More Bradley Center Bull

The Journal Sentinel has run yet another editorial pushing for a new basketball stadium. Yes, in the wake of a recession second only to the Great Depression, the thing we need most, right now, is a new sport stadium.

Even the Journal Sentinel's own Don Walker previously wondered how Bradley Center officials and boosters can have it both ways - the arena is uncompetitive and doesn't generate sufficient revenues, yet it is also is a huge economic driver for the region.

The editorial uses Miller Park as an example (to highlight the often repeated stadium subsidy threat), "Without a new Miller Park, the Brewers would not be in Milwaukee today. Now, with new ownership and a new stadium, the team brings in more than 3 million fans a year." The impressive sounding 3 million attendees (closer to 2.8 million, ranking 11th in MLB for 2012, down from 7th place in 2011) doesn't seem as impressive when you express it as 81 games with roughly 35,000 attendees per game (in a stadium that holds just under 42,000; a 17% vacancy rate).

And, so what? If the Brewers weren't in Milwaukee, we wouldn't have a baseball team. That's it. No baseball team - boo hoo! There isn't a single economic indicator the boosters can point to which shows Miller Park has had a positive economic effect on anything but the owners' and players' wallets.

Yet, without any evidence, without anything to back up the claim, the editorial gushes, "A new arena could spark economic development downtown, especially in the Park East corridor."

The editorial even eludes to the substitution effect (consumers spending at one place rather than another), "The Bucks need to have a plan in place to construct a new state-of-the-art facility by 2015 - a new arena that would be a year-round draw for downtown Milwaukee." The new stadium will end up being a draw from non-subsidized establishments, venues, and other entertainment options. Sure, more people may attend games for the first few years of the new stadium, but this will be due to the decreased patronage at other local establishments. It would be nice if the Journal would explain why we should be picking stadiums as winners over other restaurants, bars, and entertainment options.

The editorial went on to state, "[Herb] Kohl will not bear the entire cost of a new facility, and he shouldn't." A most perplexing line. The whole consideration of a new stadium is for the primary purpose of housing the Bucks basketball team - Herb Kohl's team! I would love for the Journal Sentinel to elaborate as to why the public needs to fund private enterprise. Just because the public is allowed to purchase tickets to an event at an establishment, that doesn't really make it a "public" facility (actually a state-owned building operated by a quasi-private board). [The discussion of whether or not to have a public arena - for concerts and collegiate sporting events is an entirely different discussion.]

Obviously unable to see the contradiction in their own thought, the Journal continues on, "Newer NBA facilities are self-sustaining and can make money even when the teams are not playing." If these are such sure-fire, game-changing, no-brainers, why does the public have to be involved at all? Yet another point where the logic of stadium subsidization falls apart.

They close with, "And so the clock is winding down on the Bucks. It's time for the city and business leaders to pull up and try a game-winning shot." Yes, when the evidence and data contradict your premise, simply use a hackneyed sports cliche to sell that sow's ear as if it were a silk purse.

Weekend Reading

Challenges In Housing & Mortgage Markets
Climate Change Made Sandy Worse. Period.
Downtown's Are Booming
401Ks Creating Generation Of Workers Unable To Retire
Marijuana Helps Prevent Lung Cancer
Menard's Anti-Obama Content
Programs Outside Health Care To Decline As Share Of Economy
Scott Walker Rejects Health Care Reform
10 Things 401K Plans Won't Tell You

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Walker's Wake Of Destruction

It seems whichever public office Scott Walker worms his way into, he leaves a stench of corruption, an ever-burgeoning suspicion, and a general wake of destruction.

Train-maker Talgo Sues Governor Walker, Wisconsin

From the increased costs and lawsuits from his attempted privatizations, his lying and duplicitous tactics, to the unconstitutionality of his bills, Scott Walker is (and has been) a disaster.

Wack Job

More proof most CEOs are know-nothing, overpaid, blowhards.

Jack Welch doubles down on jobs numbers conspiracy theory.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekend Reading

Bogle On Active Management
Crazy Idea That Government Doesn't Create Jobs 
Fat Cat Comments Or Dodd-Frank
Food Stamps Cause Global Depression
Historical Trends In Income Inequality
The Real Barrier To Tax Reform
Social Security Keeps 21 Million Out Of Poverty
Why Democrats Are Right To Politicize Sandy
World's 200 Richest People

Bradley Center Boosters Keep Pounding That Drum

Sheehy Plans Task Force To Study New Arena

Don Walker begins the article stating, "By mid-2014, the community needs to have a good idea of what role the private and public sectors will play in the construction of a new, multipurpose arena in Milwaukee."

We hear tales about the omnipotent private sector and free efficient, so perfect.

Simultaneously, we're also told how the government is wasteful, full of slackers, and just can't do anything right.

Yet (for some reason) the inefficient, know-nothing government needs to play a major role in the planning and funding of private sector activities.

Enter sport stadiums. These privately controlled initiatives are (supposedly) such game changers, job creators, catalysts, no-brainers. [They're not.] But, again, for some unexplainable reason, the inept public sector needs to invest heavily and absorb most of the risk.

Living wages, universal health care, pensions, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Social Security - that's just a bunch of welfare for moochers. But corporate welfare - such as the public sector picking up most of the tab to build teams new stadiums - is just good policy?

The question should be - why is the public sector involved, at all, in the financing of these private sector playgrounds? If Herb Kohl and the Bucks want a new stadium, go ahead and build one. But the public shouldn't have to shoulder most of the cost.

Where does such a corporate welfare policy end? This misguided corporate welfare is why we now must pay blackmail money to Harley-Davidson and Mercury Marine when they threaten to take jobs away.

If the public is now responsible for the cost of building private businesses, shouldn't the public have a greater say in the operation - the pay scales, the retirement plans, the health care options, the environmental footprint, etc.? If the public sector is a necessary partner in construction, financing, and maintaining the viability of a business, shouldn't they have a representative voice in the organization making sure the public is getting back a fair return on their investment?

For Further Reading:
Basket Case 
Buck The System
Buck You 
Economic Engine Or Albatross?
Is There Anything A Stadium Can't Solve?
Overblown Bradley Center Impacts
Stadium Swindle
Will Herb Kohl Blackmail Milwaukee?

Tax Cuts Do Not Boost The Economy

A recent Congressional Research Service report documented what many already knew: giving tax breaks to the rich helps concentrate wealth at the top, but it does not boost the economy (as reported here).

Taxes & The Economy: An Economic Analysis Of The Top Tax Rates Since 1945.