Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Grayson fires back at Republicans
Republicans pretending to be champions of Medicare
Props to Jay Rock
Plus, Monique Morrissey's Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale
Where The Riled Things Are government is bad, how dare they build infrastructure and try to prevent ecosystems from collapsing
America: Target America brainwashing children by helping them believe in themselves
Out of The Closet politicians real constituents: lobbyists
Blackwashing criticizing Obama isn't racist, it's patriotic
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A few thoughts ran through my mind thinking about this article and some of its broader implications:
Developing a county Office of Business Development? Really? Come on, guys. We can actually do some bold, innovative things in economic development. This is duplicative and more parochialism in the supposed age of regionalism.
And why the County won't turn over the Park East land to the city is vexing, to say the least.
A quick solution is to turn over county functions to city management. Not only would this transfer and make better use of institutional knowledge, it would achieve a quasi-regionalism with the City of Milwaukee representing the whole county. [I know...good luck with that one.]
Any work that is contracted out should be contracted to local firms, paying a prevailing wage, with a community benefits agreements, and with specific clawbacks in the contract.
Infrastructure - water, roads, garbage, etc. - should be handled by public workers: unionized, well-paid workers. First, the public sector acts as a safety cushion. During economic recessions they still spend - using restaurants, movie theaters, concerts, buying appliances, doing remodeling, etc. - enabling businesses to stay open and workers to keep their jobs. Establishing, at least, a respectable floor during downturns. Second, they maintain the roads, water ways, sewers, airports, and on and on, that we all - businesses and individuals - count on for nearly everything we are able to do in our daily lives. This is kind of an important function for a civilized society. Not something to be privately controlled by the best-connected bidder.
We as citizens and taxpayers should, through our investment (taxes), be building/exporting a model that gives individuals a step up. People attack public employees because they have health care or because they have a pension. Are these not assets that any worker should want? How does criticizing and thereby disintegrating such achievement of labor help anyone? The more bargaining power one group of workers gains (and thereby increased wages), the more every worker is able to achieve better pay.
Why is it that taxpayers criticize public worker earnings, yet they defend CEO compensation? The same CEOs that are subsidized and bailed out with our tax dollars. Public workers actually perform a service for you. What did AIG do for you?
How is it that just 30 years ago our society had:
- one breadwinner supporting a household
- wages that allowed families to be (realistic) homeowners
- a secure retirement
- health insurance with a close relationship between doctor and patient
Sunday, September 27, 2009
In June 2007 the state Department of Health and Family Services posted an updated list of Wisconsin employers with the largest number of employees (or their dependents) participating in BadgerCare, the state's health insurance program for low-income working families. At the top of the list was Wal-Mart, which had 897 employees enrolled, plus an additional 776 dependents. The Department projected the annual cost to the state of those enrollees at $3.7 million. Other employers at the top of the list were McDonald's (248 employees; 149 dependents), the non-profit healthcare provider Aurora (193; 162), and home improvement chain Menard (163; 184). The 116 employers with 15 or more employees on BadgerCare were said to cost the state a total of $23.9 million a year.
In October 2005 Wisconsin Citizen Action published a report estimating that large corporations, led by Wal-Mart, were costing the state $46 million a year because of the participation of their employees in public medical assistance programs.Sources: The Department of Health and Family Services list is posted at http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/badgercare/pdfs/employers0307.pdf. See also Stacy Forster, "Who Has Staff using Health Care Safety Net?" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 21, 2007. For coverage of earlier reports, see Stacy Forster, "Big Companies Fill BadgerCare Rolls," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 24, 2005; Anita Weier, "Wal-Mart Workers Need State Health Aid," The Capital Times , November 4, 2004, p.1A; Stacy Forster, "Tab for Uninsured Workers Rises 13%," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 30, 2006.
Even though the Journal Sentinel actually researched the privatization issue and found that Wisconsin transportation contracts would have been cheaper in 125 out of 214 cases if the work would have been done by state employees rather than a private contractor.
But so much for reality. The market mystique cannot be questioned. Privatization of everything or bust!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This definition led me to think about how perfectly the financial sector fits this mold.
They produce nor create anything of value. Their job is to basically rearrange the chairs and call it work, while taking their cut. And what a mind-boggling cut it is.
Compare this to what we typically conjure when we spew "bureaucrat," the average public sector, government employee - one that fights fires, polices the streets, provides clean water, educates - making far less than their financial sector counterparts. They also seem to face much more scorn from the press and right-wing politicians as costly budgetary constraints.
So, sadly, the group (government public sector) that produces numerous "goods" for citizens at a relatively modest cost must be reigned in.
Yet, the largely unproductive and inefficient sector (finance) that costs an extravagant amount must continue to receive support; continue to be referred to as "the only way;" and continue to be given loopholes, tax breaks, exemptions, and giveaways.
The incentives, giveaways, and hand-outs of taxpayer dollars to the wealthiest are plenty. That is, we have a system whereby those whom need the least assistance have the most potential to avoid taxation, yet, at the same time, are offered the most opportunities to reap benefits from the system. This has led to an overall regressive tax system.
The tools are:
And these are only a few of the tools used to fleece unsuspecting taxpayers against their own best interests.
For Further Reading:
Michael Moore eviscerates capitalism in his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. He finds it to be unworkable, evil, and needing replacement with true democracy. Now although there may be persuasive kernels of truth in Moore’s vision, I’m not inclined to go quite as far. I tend to fall more into the Robert Kuttner camp, whose ideas are presented in his book The Squandering of America. In which he describes a mixed economy – basically a regulated capitalist economy with progressive taxation (think our post-WWII economy up until the late 1960s). Although either vision would likely get us closer to the standard-of-living we covet rather than the present dog-eat-dog, increasing inequality paradigm within which we operate.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Perhaps we should open our ears to the protesters. We’re in the Great Recession, unions are being busted daily, unemployment is rising, and more and more are going without health insurance. But nonetheless, a battalion of security must maintain order as the status quo concocts their global economic schemes.
Dan Bice, of the Journal Sentinel (always a tool of the status quo), favors sending the officers to Pittsburgh. No, there’s no real thought offered as to why this should be. No contextual reasoning established as to why Milwaukee needs to do this. It just should.
We’ve got money for this? We always find more money for The Haves.
The police have nothing better to do right here in Milwaukee?
Dave commented that Pittsburgh is paying for this excursion. But that still doesn't explain why Milwaukee must send 50 officers to Pittsburgh. Nor does it make sense that Pittsburgh is footing the bill for this summit. Pittsburgh like many cities across the country is furloughing and laying off workers, and seeking pay freezes from those that remain. Again, money is available to support the playgrounds and adventures of the well-connected, while everyone else must sacrifice.
I have now been informed the G 20 is "kind of a big event" and is also being partially picked up by the Federal government. Again, the tab, the cost, of this event is only part of the problem with summits such as this one of the G 20. And, it's considered a big event because those holding it tell us they are very important and doing very important work. The G 20 exists to basically crack open "emerging" markets. Allowing wage suppression (by finding new, cheaper labor) and the introduction of new bodies to the hyper-consumptive lifestyle.
The G 20 and groups like them are part of the reason the world economy has crashed. They've maintained policy control and voice by a select few. (With the orders being primarily given by the G 7.) Sadly, relatively few whom have caused this crisis have faced any consequences. So, as long as the same old financiers, bankers, business leaders, and privileged government officials continue to sell the same old snake-oil that blew up the world economy there will be plenty of us whom will continue to call them out on their lopsided policies and media-criticism immunity.
It's not merely that this organization exists, they are holding a summit, and there are costs involved. It's that the mission and outcomes of this organization don't represent those most in need, nor their, broader, "worker" constituency. Hence my original comments about the police having better things to do here at home, my critique that nothing about the G 20 was placed in any context in the original article - explaining who they are, what their mission is, what they've accomplished, or any criticisms of the group. For people in Milwaukee to have an opinion and to decide whether it's good for the police to be allowed to go there, they should have some background information presented to them about what's actually going on there. More of a discussion of what (the event) the police are being asked to secure, rather than just an exercise in the best use of police time.
OK. That's my last on the G 20. They exist, the summit will go on, and the world will go on. I'd just like to see more time and money be directed to actual initiatives and programs that directly benefit workers and the needy around the globe. Rather than those, like the G 20, that just use that idea as a beard, continuing to follow the flawed trickle-down model, where we continue to give breaks and bonuses to the rich, with the hope that it will reach everyone else.
For Further Reading:
Attac France on the Stiglitz Report
Casino Capitalism As Usual
Stimulate or Die
Sunday, September 20, 2009
For Further Reading:
Commercial Mortgage Defaults Seen Rising
Commercial Real Estate Bubble Looms
Commercial Real Estate Bubble Set To Burst
Commercial Real Estate May Be the Next Bubble To Burst
Double Bubble Trouble
The CRE Bust: Quick Overview
The Other Real Estate Bubble
Saturday, September 19, 2009
They claim, "it's a good deal for the city and the union." I assume they mean that by simply allowing the unionized workers to keep their jobs, that's a good deal. So much for the city being a standard, a model, for the private sector. Much like the private sector, all workers are expendable and should be happy with whatever crumbs are thrown their way. Yet we're also supposed to be the most innovative, educated and skilled nation on the planet. We just shouldn't be paid like we are or share in the rewards.
The Journal editorial also states that the union agreeing to concessions in this latest deal is, "a welcome recognition of reality by the union."
And that reality would be that the City would rather use taxpayer dollars on speculative deals, funding private developers who don't want to pay a living wage to workers on their projects. But, somehow, this subsidized race to the bottom, using public dollars, building projects with less-than prevailing wages, will lift all boats.
As public entities have become more involved in financing private ventures we've heard more and more over the years about the magic of the market, the wonders of privatization and private entities, and how a rising tide will result and bring prosperity to one and all.
Cities and states have plenty of taxpayer dollars for stadiums, parking structures, site remediation, and anything else private developers desire. But there is never money for transit, libraries, parks, road repair, or other infrastructural needs. Although, in the convoluted economic development logic of today; public dollars for private pursuits; privatization over public employment; and speculative, race to the bottom policies will result in a market-oriented wonderland...regardless of the fact that empirical data (reality) totally refutes this delusional view.
Our tax dollars can bail out banks and insurance companies, so they can pay millions in bonuses to the same individuals that brought down the world economy. Yet public or private unionized workers wanting their pay to merely keep up with inflation are budget-breakers.
As unionization has decreased, and as public dollars are used more and more to finance private speculation, we have seen workers wages decline, job security evaporate, health care costs skyrocket and coverage lost for many employees, retirement degraded into a defined contribution rather than defined benefit plan, and the ability of Americans to have lives unencumbered by debt becoming a false hope.
So as more unionized workers are given the "deal" of higher health care costs, lower/frozen wages, and less-secure retirements, non-unionized workers will feel these effects even more so. It seems that we, as a nation of workers, will only be able to fully grasp the decline in Labor's bargaining power and importance on our standard of living once we're all Walmart workers.
We should stop and reflect on the 40-hour work week, laws against child labor, unemployment insurance, the civil rights movement, Social Security, Medicare, OSHA, the EEOC, and a relaxing thing called the weekend. All of these are results of labor unions and their activism.
If we keep up this degradation of Labor, this lack of respect for actual work and doing/making something of value (as opposed to simply extracting money from the real economy through financialization), we will all need to get used to three words, "Welcome to Walmart."
For Further Reading:
Milwaukee Department of City Development Business Toolbox
Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation
Private Sector Accountability
Monday, September 14, 2009
Not that tort reform will actually save money, but it will protect the corporate titans from lawsuits based on their own sloppiness and neglect.
Litigation costs and malpractice insurance are 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs.
For Further Reading:
The Medical Malpractice Myth
The Medical Malpractice Myth
Tort Reform Unlikely To Cut Costs
Another example of taxpayer dollars supporting private interests at the expense of the public.
Chicago Cuts Checks to Corporations, Not Schools Lacking Teachers
TIFs were initially created with the intent of rescuing blighted areas.
The areas being considered in Oak Creek for the TIF districts are - 13th & College and Howell & Oakwood – hardly blighted areas.
As I wrote in a previous post, “Another much touted, yet becoming ever more so destructive, policy tool is tax incremental financing (TIF). These were initially established to bring investment to blighted, low-income areas. But nowadays, more states are loosening their eligibility requirements and allowing affluent areas to reap the benefits. TIFs allow a municipality to issue a bond to pay for part of the costs of the new development. The property tax revenue generated by the development is then used to pay off the bonds. Some municipalities also allow sales tax increments, where the sales tax generated by the new development can be diverted to redevelopment costs.”
In essence, using taxpayer money (cheap credit from a municipality) to finance speculative development where the rewards benefit the usual cast of characters at the expense of the community at large.
For Further Reading:
TIFs, Greenfields, and Sprawl
Subsidizing Sprawl, Subsidizing Walmart
Straying From Good Intentions
Shifting The Burden
Recession Shriveling TIF Revenue Returns
Property Tax Abatements and Your School
Legislation Introduced to Help Troubled TIFs
Sunday, September 13, 2009
For Further Reading:
Monetized Government Spending Instead of Elimination of Toxic Assets Can Solve Current Economic Problems
The Commission was established by French President Nicolas Sarkozy due to his dissatisfaction with our current indicators.
Their first report will be released September 14.
Also, check out Daniel Gross' Sorry, Pal, but You're Not Rich.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Governor Doyle, Mayor Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker have all threatened pay-cuts, lay-offs, furloughs, terminations, increased health care premiums, and reneging on pension obligations as solutions to the "budget crisis." They can't consider overturning exemptions on the one-third of properties in the state that pay no property taxes, raising taxes on the wealthiest, or cracking down on corporate tax evasion. No. As usual, the workers, not the wealthy, must suffer. The unfortunate victims caught between blackmailing, mobile corporations and spineless federal legislators.
It seems our tax dollars are plentiful for persistent private ventures and playgrounds, but not available for local service provision and sustaining a quality of life for all citizens.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
They will also get $3 million from the City of Fond du Lac.
And, they will have access to $50 million in a low-interest, performance based loan from Fond du Lac County. There is $500 credit for job retention, a $1,000 credit for job creation, and a $500 penalty for job loss. A proposed half-cent sales tax would help support this incentive.
The threat of firing 800 to 1,800 workers and, possibly, economically eviscerating a community seems quite lucrative.
One odd comment from the Journal Sentinel article reporting this latest development in the Mercury Marine saga: Steve Buechel, Fond du Lac County Executive, stated, “This is going to help them get a new product to market.”
Yet, in a previous article, the Mercury Marine president said, “Quite simply, Mercury is capable of producing many more engines than the market will require in the foreseeable future. Our facilities were designed and built during much different market conditions and are now underutilized.”
As Citizens for Tax Justice comment, “Many of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is too costly are the same lawmakers who supported Bush tax cuts.”
52.5 percent of the tax cuts went to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.
But…is there any doubt regarding why the health care choice was made? With financiers running government, there was little to no chance they were going to re-regulate their cronies. (Even in Obama’s change administration.)
Saturday, September 5, 2009
No one made suburbanites build in unsustainable areas. They did so because it was cheap (artificially so, by government subsidies), to get away from central city minorities and poor, and for the 5-acre yards they so adore. If suburbanites choose to continue to live environmentally irresponsibly, there is a price to be paid.
Talk about the culture of convenience and entitlement. Surely as the good little, conservative, uber-capitalists most suburbanites are, they know that water is more and more becoming our world's most precious resource. [Finally, we're all realizing this.] So they obviously can understand that as demand for something increases, while the supply remains stable or diminishes, price will go up.
And, if the Sprawlestinas don't like it, well...good luck.
Friday, September 4, 2009
For this, the right-wing is comparing President Obama to Mao, Hitler, and other loathsome figures.
Conservatives really have nothing left to offer. Do they?