Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I've invalidated the idea of transforming the DOC into an economic development agency in an earlier post. I won't repeat it here again. Please read the link for further information on this debunking.
They cite a study that concludes there is, "No difference in job creation between small companies and large ones. Size plays virtually no role. It's all age - start-ups are where the job-creation action really occurs." What they fail to mention is that start-ups are also where the job-destruction action also occurs. The reality is that start-ups rarely employee many people and 40 percent fail within five years. Steve Lohr explains why big companies matter in job creation.
The idea of focusing on a certain size of business is also ludicrous. Government should be laying the foundation - contracts, financing, infrastructure, and other necessary institutional elements - for day-to-day business to take place. Trying to pick specific winners is comparable to gambling at a casino and not good policy.
And, do we really need to get into detail why it's not a good idea to use bonding authority to make grants, low-interest loans, and giveaways for speculative, private investments? If an entrepreneur has a good idea - a sound investment idea - why wouldn't private dollars want to invest? The notion that taxpayers - through bonding - should be the supporters for such risky investments is ridiculous. Do private markets work at all? What happened to the magic of the market which the Journal Sentinel, business writers, and entrepreneurs always claims as efficient?
I've also punctured the incentive boondoggle in an earlier post. For more on that, follow the link.
Again, the Journal Sentinel has added nothing to the debate nor raised the level of discussion or understanding. They've simply repeated business-friendly talking-points of dubious credibility.
For Further Reading:
Bad Public Policy
The Little Engine That Can't
Myths About Entrepreneurship
New Firms Are No Job Engine
The Start-Ups We Don't Need
Young Companies Biggest Job Destroyers
Friday, November 26, 2010
First, the population of Milwaukee County is 959,921. Having 30 pools to service this population means having 1 pool for every 31,997 people in the County. Hardly an overabundance of water parks.
Second, the golf courses (roughly $6 million annual revenue) bring in a comparatively large portion of the Park system revenue. The golf courses essentially, partially subsidize the rest of the system.
Thirdly, the Park system has many jobs. The Park system is vast and contains golf courses, picnic areas, parking garages, tennis courts, historic buildings, pavilions, gardens, sports facilities, trails, community centers, beaches, and animal care. To claim Park employment is one job and is the easiest job is really just erroneous slander.
Finally, proponents of privatization, please tell me one example of the various sectors of our economy, over the past 40 years, which has been privatized and is better off. Airlines, health care, 401Ks...none have shown any improvement to the cost and quality of our lives. In fact, for the majority, privatization has made things worse. It has caused an upward redistribution of the gains from productivity.
Yet, I still support the right of the unhinged, uninformed, and those generally too enraged to pause and think about about what they are saying before making blanket statements and viciously attacking others, to speak their mind.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
When the number of full-time equivalent positions was measured relative to each state's 2009 population, Wisconsin was 4.4 percent below the national average and ranked 38th, meaning only 12 states had a leaner public sector.
Wisconsin's spending and taxes have been falling relative to other states for a number of years, showing a significant drop between 2000 and 2008. Wisconsin went from 15th highest in 2000 to 27th in 2008 in total state and local government revenue per capita, and from 13th to 23rd in total spending per capita. [Wisconsin is the 20th largest state by population.] Wisconsin continues to rank very low in federal revenue. On a per capita basis, Wisconsin ranks 46th in federal revenue, 17 percent below average. State and local spending for public employee payrolls was 9 percent below the national average and ranked 33rd.
Analysis of the 2009 employment data found that Wisconsin had the highest percentage of its workforce in manufacturing among all states. Government employment across the U.S. gas grown slightly since 2000, but has declined in Wisconsin. In 2008, Wisconsin was 8.2% below the national average in the number of state and local employees for every 1, 000 state residents, ranking 41st nationally.
Overall, taxes in Wisconsin are regressive...Familes in Wisconsin making less than $20,000 a year pay 9.2 percent of their income in sales and excise, income, property taxes, while families making $388,000 or more pay only 6.7 percent of those taxes.
Contrary to the commonly held belief that Wisconsin is high in taxes and spending, we are close to the middle among the states. Wisconsin's state and local revenue as a percentage of income in 16.7 percent, slightly above the national average of 16.4 percent.
Bruce Murphy, himself, states, "Levine responded via email to say he does not use the word unemployment but “joblessness” in his study. True. But that routinely gets turned into the word unemployment by the media, film producers, etc. I think in his zeal to dramatize black unemployment, Levine ends up misleading people." So, the media incorrectly substitute unemployed for jobless, and this is Levine's fault? How is this his zeal to dramatize something? This is a case of sloppy reporters blaming someone else for their hasty comprehension.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Myth Of Charter Schools
Reconciling Economic Growth And Fiscal Responsibility
Rich Declare War On The Middle Class
Schakowsky Alternative To Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan
Study Says Most Corporations Pay No U.S. Income Taxes
The University And The Start-Up
What Causes Deficits?
He's been ever-so-slightly backtracking, adding caveats and qualifiers. If he stops the train he knows he will not only lose the money already spent on contracts, Talgo and those jobs, and the spin-offs from such. We will lose out on $810 million dollars. The kind of money we spent on build Miller Park, but we can't use (nearly the same amount) for infrastructure projects to benefit the region, it's workers, and our economy.
This is a great example of Republican politics. Appeal to voters emotions, conflate cronies wishes with those of general voters, promise the sky, then when reality hits, backtrack and make excuses as to why the initial declaration must be altered, or simply blame someone else or some "liberal" law.
I'm still having trouble understanding the derision of rail by the right. Maybe it has something to do with their isolationist attitudes and general lack of curiosity. Do they not know that nearly every other advanced region, city, country, etc. has a developed rail network?
Does Scott Walker really want to be the guy that makes Wisconsin's largest urban area the only major city in America without a more advanced rail network? Which is a huge competitive disadvantage. This doesn't really square with "open for business" mantra. This stupidity and shortsightedness would be laughable if it didn't hold such powerful implications for the future of the state.
For Further Reading:
Governor-elect Should Do Math On The Rail Line
Road Builders Get Return On Their Walker Investment
Trains And The City
Walker Open To Redirecting High-Speed Train Money To Other Rail Projects
Walker Urges Obama To Let Rail Funds Go To Roads
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I have collected the data from the Census Bureau. The data ranges from 1999 to 2009. Comparisons will be made between the state and the nation, and between the state of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County. In the sectoral analysis section I have devised my own metrics from available data (sales receipts; employees; establishments; payroll) to create indicators of labor cost, size and productivity. Calculations and any errors are my own.
The population of the state of Wisconsin grew 4.9% between 2000 and 2008. Milwaukee County population only grew 1.4%. The U.S. saw a population increase of 9.1 percent.
Median family income, between 1999 and 2008, declined 4.6% in the state; the county saw a 26% decline. Combine this with inflation (which grew 26% over the period) and workers took a heavy hit in their earnings and real purchasing power. (Hence the huge increase in household debt to maintain our quality of life.) The U.S. saw the median family income decline 2.3% over the period.
The poverty rate in the U.S. increased from 11.3% to 13.2% (a 16.8% increase). In Wisconsin poverty rose from 8.1% to 10.5% (a 29.6% increase). For Milwaukee County poverty increased from 14% to 17% (a 21.4% increase). Yet more evidence that tax cuts and deregulation were not lifting all boats.
The civilian labor force in the state of Wisconsin increased 2.9%. The county saw a 1.9% decrease in their civilian labor force. Economists have estimated that we need to add 300,000 jobs per month, nationally, just to get back to full employment within the next 5 years.
Non-farm establishments improved 4.2% in the state, while decreasing 1.9% for the county. Which is typical of sprawling development - building in low-density areas. This type of development is costing us. We are continually maintaining (or not) an expanding electrical, sewer, and road network to serve an expanding development footprint.
Employment amongst all industries in the state saw a yearly increase of .8 percent between 2001 and 2006. The county saw a .2 percent yearly decline in employment amongst all industries. Again, reflecting the sprawling development at the urban fringe.
Work travel time, between 2000 and 2008, decreased .8 percent in the U.S. But it actually increased 2.4% in Wisconsin. The country's travel time to work was declining, while, here in Wisconsin, it was increasing. Does anyone doubt this has something to do with our poor public transportation system and our lack of a rail service?
The white population of the U.S. increased by 1.1%, while decreasing by 1.5% in Wisconsin. The black population increased 3.5% in Wisconsin, while remaining steady nationally. Hispanics increased 20.8% in the U.S., and 36.1% in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin government employment, between 2000 and 2009, declined 10.6%. Full-time pay amongst government employees increased 20.5% over this period, a 2.1 percent yearly change. Inflation over this period had a yearly growth of 2.6%. After the decade there was a smaller number of government workers and they were earning less (inflation adjusted).
The five largest sectors of Wisconsin (based on sales and receipts) were: manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, health care and social assistance, and construction.
Payroll as a percent of sales (labor cost) was greatest for health care, at 41.6%. The other four sectors were lower than 21 percent. The next highest was construction with 20.8%. The lowest was wholesale trade at 6.1%.
The largest number of employees per establishment (size) was among manufacturing, at 50.5 workers per establishment. The next highest was health care at 25.6. The lowest was construction at 8.6.
The sales amount per employee (productivity) was largest in the wholesale trade sector, at $798.69. Manufacturing was second with $335.46. The lowest was health care at $91.64.
This gives of us an idea of the important sectors of Wisconsin's economy. It also allows some benchmarking to gauge where we're at, to see what type of change takes place during the Walker administration and Republican leadership. Although it should also be noted we're in a deep recession, so the only place to go is up. If conservative claims are to be proven credible we should expect to see a turn-around higher than during a typical recovery. And, if tax cuts were the answer, Bush did that repeatedly over the last decade and all we've experienced are terrible job growth and stagnating wages. We'll see what happens.
For Further Reading:
Fiscal Health of Wisconsin Counties
Macro Performance Under Different Presidents
Productivity Growth Since 1982
Recovery, Risk, and Rebalancing
State of Working Wisconsin
Trade Analysis of Wisconsin Counties
Wisconsin Tax Hell Hoax
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The uber rich have been taking a disproportionate amount of the earnings over the past four decades at the expense everyone else. The battle is not between union and non-union. It is between an uber wealthy and the rest of us. The objective of our wage policies should be to lift everyone up, not race to the bottom for the lowest wages and least amount of benefits. Instead of arguing about the pensions, wages, and benefits of those whom have organized and bargained for such, we should be fighting to make these gains the rights of all workers, so they too can share in the gains of their labor. Rather than allowing such gains to be usurped by the well-connected and well-off, continuing a downward spiral for all workers.
We need a class action suit against the American media system as a whole. The majority of the noise being broadcast and printed daily is an advertisement, a nudge, a subtle persuasion, propaganda. It's no longer about how you can live your life better. It's about how you can live your life so that they may live better and, somehow, the rewards will make it back to you.
The Fairness Doctrine immediately needs to be reinstated. A higher proportion of programming should be dedicated to government, election, education, and other public concerns. And, since they are the public airwaves, why don't we charge the networks to broadcast? If they choose not to, those stations can be used for public good. And, if they choose to pay, that is more revenue we can use to repair roads, cut deficits, and catch-up on some long overdue public infrastructure projects.
[We should also be collecting more money from companies extracting minerals and resources from public lands. But that is a topic for another time.]
As Ralph Nader writes, "The television broadcasters were given free license to use public airwaves (worth around $70 billion) by a supine Congress in 1997." What kind of deal is this? So, we as a people, own the airwaves, which are very valuable. But our representatives made a deal with broadcasters to just allow them to operate freely. Are the broadcasters allowing us to watch for free? These are the types of backroom deals that are fiscally destroying the country by robbing us of much needed revenue. What possible reason could they have for suddenly deciding broadcasters shouldn't pay for use of the airwaves anymore?
This episode also parallels Buckly v. Valeo and its pernicious effect on campaigns and elections. Which we'll get to in a bit.
We can see and feel the direct effect on our daily lives from this unchecked, completely profit-driven media presence. The media is now a self-justifying corporate shill. We're instructed more what to buy, how to look, and given a passing he-said/she-said. Facts are now malleable. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. When we have no boundaries nor measurements for truth or fact, when everything is personal perspective, we no longer have truth nor fact.
Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann are worlds aparts. There is barely a Left at all anymore, and nothing that is comparable to the scope and ferocity of today's Right. 40 years ago Olbermann's views would have been considered moderate and Beck would have been laughed out of the political arena and sent back to the zanny morning radio schtick. Today, half of voting Republicans think Beck is a teacher and wise sage. Comparing today's right-wing with recent fascist regimes is much more plausible and supported than the "communist" and "socialist" chants of the Beck-heads.
It's no wonder that 40 years ago we had raising wages, one breadwinner, and shared prosperity. A period where Olbermann-esque moderation governed. A rising tide that lifted all boats. This new, hyper-commercialized, market-driven, greed-era we currently inhabit has resulted in exactly the opposite. Two workers can barely get by today, wages are stagnating, retirements are increasingly volatile, and people are having to choose between medical care and paying their rent.
The rich did not like seeing their social underlings driving cars, owning their homes, and living content lives. So they pushed through Buckley v Valeo (1976) and started buying elections and judges. Once they had their puppets in office, they started pushing through legislation and initiatives that would directly benefit them. Like tax cuts, deregulation, free airwaves, repealing Glass-Steagall, and on and on. All of this right under our noses, neatly packaged, and/or completely obfuscated by the media.
Here we are decades into this failed social experiment. Voters just enthusiastically elected the standard-bearers of this perverted and discredited worldview, in large part thanks to the media and their so-very-terrible representation of reality. To keep doing the same thing, yet expecting different results is insanity. "Cut word lines - Cut music lines - Smash the control images - Smash the control machine - Burn the books - Kill the priests - Kill! Kill! Kill!"
Friday, November 12, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
"Private employees have been required to take pay cuts, furlough days, cuts in their companies' contributions to retirement benefits and have made their sacrifices. They see no reason why public employees shouldn't feel some of the pain," the Journal editorializes.
To imply public workers have not made sacrifices, the Journal is either blind or knowingly delusional liars.
As Roger Bybee wrote (regarding Scott Walker, but which applies to the Journal and conservatives in general), they "would rather attack the benefits of government employees than argue that all working people deserve good benefits." Shouldn't we be trying to make labor conditions and quality of life better for workers? Or, should we all be minimum wage workers without health care nor any chance of ever retiring?
Is the Journal unaware of the 26 furlough days county workers were subjected to? A roughly 10 percent pay cut. Are they unaware of pay freezes, furlough days, and increased health care costs for public workers, in general? Teachers, fire fighters, police, and a whole host of public workers have been fired or laid off. No sacrifices? Claiming such is a complete distortion of the facts and terrible reporting on the part of the Journal.
Yet another example of the Journal's biased, uninformed, and disingenuous journalism.
For Further Reading:
How About Writing About The Good Things Public Workers Do
Local Governments Fire Teachers
Public Sector Job Losses Front And Center
State Budget Crisis Killing Economy
State, City Job Cuts Taint Recovery
The Struggle For A Workers Recovery
Walker Standing On The Necks Of County Workers
As Roger Bybee wrote, "[Scott] Walker would rather attack the benefits of government employees than argue that all working people deserve good benefits." Which is really the crux, the difference between the two parties. The majority of Democrats still want a high-road strategy enabling us to have a middle class. They support Social Security, Medicare, living wages, sick pay, unemployment insurance, health care, and a secure retirement. The Republicans want winners and losers. They want rich and poor. They want individualism. Screw your neighbor! Republicans prefer a sink-or-swim, you're-on-your-own society.
Walker won the governorship due to the over-65-crowd (56%), voters without a college degree (55%), the suburban (56%) and rural (55%) vote, and families earning over $50,000 (56%) and $100,000 (61%). It appears the only Democratic strongholds (over 57%) left in the state are Milwaukee, Dane, Menominee, Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglass counties.
It's amazing that someone who recommends dissolving the government he is overseeing, and giving those duties to cities and municipalities, while also wanting to reject Federal stimulus funds for Milwaukee County, can be taken seriously as a public servant. Which is like wanting to be a mechanic but hating cars. Plus, where would the county be right now without the stimulus? Walker does not represent leadership nor sensible management. He is the epitome of self-interest and parochialism.
One of Walker's goals is to balance the budget. Very original, I know. But also a disastrous aim during a recession. This is one of those great politcal themes, much easier said than done. But, if it will attract votes for Republicans from the detached and easily-manipulated, so be it. Two-thirds of home owners have a mortgage. Meaning: two-thirds of the population lives with debt - their mortgage. So, is home ownership a bad investment? I thought the message of the last half-century was that home ownership was the pinnacle of American life. There seems to be a disconnect between the balanced budget mantra and the way in which most people in the world finance their lives. We live with debt. Student debt, car debt, medical debt, etc. We see this as investment in our lives. It allows us a better standard of life for a monthly fee. If a balanced budget is such an important goal, most Americans are failing. Republicans can't claim everyone should be a consumer and a home owner, while also being against the policies that help workers earn enough to do such, and then complain about taking on the debt - as a government and as individuals - to keep up with the Joneses.
Emblematically, Mr. Walker supports repealing the corporate income tax. (Nevermind the U.S is one of the least taxed countries.) Which, as the Journal cites, is the state's third largest revenue source. Only four states have no corporate income tax. Walker believes taxes are too high, and by lowering the burden, our economy will be ignited and jobs will be created. But as I, and others, have shown repeatedly, this never actually happens during Republican administrations. They lower taxes, but nothing trickles down. In fact, in this low-tax, low-regulation era, income has been massively redistributed upward. There is a class war, and the rich are winning big. Scott Walker wants to make sure they keep winning.
The Journal-Sentinel informs us that our new governor would like to require voters to show ID at the polls and allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. To any coherent observer, there are more crucial issues to tackle when Wisconsin has a 7.8 percent unemployment rate (which, it should be noted, has decreased 1 percentage point over the last twelve-months - September 2009 to 2010 - down from 8.8). And, just for some comparison between Jim Doyle and Scott Walker, over the past year, as Gregory Stanford reports, "Under Walker, the county's unemployment rate soared from 4.6% in April of 2009 to 10.5% in March 2010 - a period when the county lost 34,000 jobs." Mr. Stanford also notes, "Of every six people in the county, one is poor - the tenth worst rate among the 50 biggest counties in the nation."
The new Gov has also declared that he will never raise taxes. Republicans have really become the party of the free lunch. They expect all the modern efficiencies of society (which we all take for granted) without having to find the revenue sources to pay for such infrastructure. Conservatives declare government the problem; they cut taxes and therefore government revenue; programs and services suffer due to lack of funding, people complain; Republicans then claim this shows government is inept and must be shrunk. But, as I hope readers can deduce, this is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy executed robotically by the right-wing, than a true depiction of reality.
Walker has left Milwaukee County in shambles. He and his ilk now control Wisconsin. Hopefully the state doesn't face the same fate as the county. We'll see if Walker puts up or shuts up.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Hey, Small Spender
The Non-Surge In Government Spending
Obama's Stimulus Did NOT Raise Government Spending
Special Bulletin: Fractions Have Denominators
What's Really Behind That $1.3 Trillion Deficit
Their reasoning is that, since we're in a recession and struggling to create jobs, such a measure is "nonsensical". "It is reckless to raise one more regulatory hurdle," they whine. Never do they mention that deregulation and bending-over-for-business got us into the recession. Typical of Republicans, they believe - and it appears the Journal agrees - the answer to our problems is going back to the policies that created the problem.
The intellectual dishonesty and mental jiu jitsu, displayed in such editorials, are necessary to craft such a false reality. Are they also calling for an end to tax breaks, loopholes, and other giveaways to corporations during these tough fiscal times? Likewise, in good times, do they support increasing taxes on the well-off? In good times, do they support increasing Social Security payments, decreasing payroll tax deductions, or some measure benefiting the working class? Or does the sacrifice mantra only apply to laborers? Somehow, in this worldview, everyone must always be looking out for the owners of capital. These owners can't go without their third vacation home or that new Mercedes. Not a chance! The sacrifices must always be made by the workers.
The Journal feels the ordinance would make Milwaukee a "regulatory island, saddled with what would be the toughest such ordinance in the country." Couldn't it also be argued that this ordinance could attract a high-skilled workforce? Those who value their skills and health and want to see that reflected in a respectful sick-pay policy. Isn't this one of the fringe benefits, of a location, that workers and companies consider? And, couldn't this measure also make Milwaukee a shining example to other municipalities of worker rights and healthy social policies?
There is a low-road strategy of allowing business to: dictate policy, pay nothing in taxes, offer no health care nor retirement, and pass on their costs (negative externalities) to taxpayers. But there is also a high-road strategy of: living-wages, health care, attainable retirement, pro-labor policy, shared prosperity, progressive taxation, and an actively engaged - on behalf of the citizenry - government. Let's take the high-road.
Inside Americans For Prosperity's Scheme To Suppress Votes In Wisconsin
Rachel Maddow Reviews Nancy Pelosi's Accomplishments
Taking The Measure Of Rot
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
It appears the real Red Menace - and true threat to our civilization, institutions, and any trace of an equitable society - took back a few levers of power Tuesday.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Can We Save America's Crumbling Water System?
The Corrosion of America
And, surely, when disaster does strike - when a community must go without potable water, due to a major breakdown, and the products which need such (food, drinks, etc.) - Republicans will blame Democrats for not investing in the infrastructure.
Infrastructure investments create jobs now and in the future. They lay the grid, so to speak, for everything we as a society do. Roads, water, sewage, transportation, and on and on.
So, remember this, years from now, when Republicans are complaining about debt and stimulus: deficit-financed spending on infrastructure is a wise and necessary investment. It also produces a huge bang-for-the-buck, especially during a recession. We need to be spending more on such investment now. Republicans can't keep having it both ways - complaing about stimulus spending and then taking credit for the positive outcomes of such.
If Republicans don't get their way in an election, there was voter fraud, or the candidate isn't American, or...well, you get the idea. They always have some excuse.
Conversely, when they are victorious, the system works and the people have spoken.
The Cost Of A GOP Myth
The Great Voter Fraud Myth
The Myth Of Voter Fraud
The Myth Of Voter Fraud
The Republican War On Voting
Scant Evidence Of Voter Fraud
Voter Fraud Myth Persists
The War On Voting Rights