Monday, October 27, 2014

Walker & Republicans, Stop Lying! A $1.8 Billion Deficit Isn't Budget-Saving!

Another conservative hack was given space in the Journal-Sentinel to espouse more complete right-wing fabrications. David Fladeboe, of the Wisconsin chapter of Americans For Prosperity, referred to Scott Walker's Act 10 as "budget-saving."

A $1.8 billion deficit, for those of us familiar with arithmetic, would not be considered budget-saving.

Fladeboe blathers on, "In no universe real or otherwise were powerful labor bosses and their unions ever going to make meaningful concessions that benefited hard-working teachers and public safety workers, let alone Wisconsin taxpayers."

I don't remember the Republicans calling teachers "hard-working" during the past two election cycles. "Overpaid," I believe, was their favorite adjective for teachers back then. And, public safety workers were exempted from Act 10 -- meaning -- they can still bargain for higher wages.

Fladeboe obviously has no idea what he is talking about. He's simply repeating the misguided Republican talking-point about thuggish and greedy unions, completely unaware of the fact that, over the past decade, union members have paid more for health care and pensions, gone without raises, and taken furlough days. Again, for those of us familiar with arithmetic, these would be considered "meaningful concessions."

And the idea that public sector workers are to blame for budget deficits turns reality on its head. It was all those deregulated, tax-avoiders connected to Wall Street (whom the Republicans adore and subsidize) that drove our economy into the ditch.

[I haven't seen the counter-point to these blatant right-wing falsities in the Journal. Timeliness is of the essence in these matters. Especially during election season.]

Here again we have the right-wing lying, attempting to rewrite history, and claiming their policies are working. The Democrats, the Unions, Liberals, etc. - everything is their fault. The Republicans promised jobs and budget surpluses. Neither of those promises has materialized, but they still keep on claiming and writing about how all their policies are working. And our media, for the most part, seems to be letting them get away with it. But that doesn't change the fact - the Republicans and their henchmen are lying to us.

For Further Reading:
Wisconsin's budget deficit was created by Scott Walker's irresponsible policies
Scott Walker's budget implodes. $1.8 BILLION in Wis deficits

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Special Alert: You're Not Saving Money At Walmart!

Walmart prices, overall, are no better than most other shopping options. Just as 'Dollar' Stores Aren't Actually The Cheapest Stores. It sounds good (hey, I'm going to save money) and we hear it so often, it's taken for granted. Though, most of the time, it is not true.

Undoubtedly some items may have better prices at Walmart, but even though they left your pocket with a few more pennies when you left their store, Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance, so you're paying for Walmart even when you're not shopping at the store.

As Forbes reported:
“The study estimated the cost to Wisconsin’s taxpayers of Walmart’s low wages and benefits, which often force workers to rely on various public assistance programs,” reads the report, available in full here
“It found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.”
In a study by Jon Hotchkiss, he found, "On the grocery items I compared, Walmart was cheaper some of the time. However, they were more expensive other times. Moreover, several times when they were cheaper, it was just by a penny or two."

Walmart is the worst grocer according to Consumer Reports.

Costco pay its workers much better and actually provides them with health insurance.

So Walmart's low-price mantra is more pomp than circumstance. They also cost communities money in the form of health care, food stamps and numerous other subsidies. And, if you must shop at a mega-mart, you'd be better off - for yourself and your community - to shop at Costco.

For Further Reading:
Wal-Mart Low Prices Myths

Scott Walker Made The WRONG Decision On Medicaid Expansion

Today, again, we have a great example of what's wrong with the Republicans, their distorted reality, and the mix of the two in prescribing ill-conceived and inequitable public policy.

Scott Walker made the right decision on Medicaid expansion, opines Brett Healy of the John MacIver Institute (a right-wing group of hacks similar to the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute).

As usual, Healy and his closed-minded ilk are all wrong.

The facts are in: states that went along with the Medicaid expansion have controlled costs better and insured more citizens. States that rejected Medicaid expansion have lost billions. Even the states that rejected Medicaid expansion have seen many of their constituents sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

As the Star Tribune reported:
The state's Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare, covers about 782,000 people, most of them children. Costing state taxpayers about $4.6 billion, it is the second most-expensive item in the current two-year budget, accounting for 15 percent of total spending, behind only aid to schools. 
Walker took a unique approach to the Medicaid issue, breaking from other Republican governors in states like Ohio, New Jersey, and Michigan, who accepted the Medicaid money. 
Walker lowered Medicaid eligibility from those earning 200 percent of poverty to just 100 percent. The federal money would have paid for coverage for those earning up to 138 percent of poverty. 
Instead, nearly 63,000 people lost Medicaid because he installed tighter income requirements — those earning less than $11,670 for an individual and $23,850 for a family of four qualified. If he had accepted the federal money, individuals earning up to $15,421 and families of four making up to $31,721 would have qualified.
By refusing Medicaid Expansion, the White House estimates 120,000 Wisconsinites will go without coverage.

The 20 states choosing not to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act are forgoing billions of dollars in federal funds, while residents in their states are contributing to the cost of the expansions in other states, according to a new Commonwealth Fund study.

After taking into account federal taxes paid by state residents, states with the highest net losses include Texas, which will see a net loss of $9.2 billion in 2022; Florida, which will lose $5 billion; Georgia, which will lose $2.9 billion, and Virginia, which will lose $2.8 billion.
Wisconsin will lose $1.848 billion, according to the study.

The Census Bureau found, "New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that among the eleven major metropolitan areas with uninsured rates higher than the national average, seven of them are in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act."

"Harvard and CUNY researchers say death toll from 25-state ‘opt-out’ may be as high as 17,100 annually; hundreds of thousands more will be harmed by depression, untreated diabetes, and skipping mammograms and pap smears," said the Physicians for a National Health Program.

Bill Moyers informed, "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute released a study showing that the 24 states that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act will miss out on $423 billion in federal health care dollars through 2022."

Here again, with regard to public policy, the Republicans are marching around the country misrepresenting reality and harming millions of Americans in the process. The same people they keep claiming their policies are helping. When will American voters learn - Republicans don't have your best interest at heart.

For Further Reading:
States forgo billions by opting out of Medicaid expansion
GOP States Give Up $423 Billion By Rejecting Medicaid Expansion
Rejection of Medicaid expansion costing Kansas, Missouri hospitals billionsStates Are Turning Down an Insane Amount of Free Money by Refusing to Expand MedicaidThe 23 States That Have Declined Medicaid Expansion Are Spending $152 Billion For Nothing

What Would Elections Be Like If Everyone Voted?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Best American Riverfront: Milwaukee

Vote for Best American Riverfront

The RiverWalk in Milwaukee extends along the Milwaukee River from Riverwest all the way to the lakefront. Part of the revitalization of downtown, the area is home to some of the city's best outdoor dining at the restaurants and breweries that line either side of the river. The RiverSculpture! outdoor art gallery along the RiverWalk features a collection of temporary and permanent installations from national, regional and local sculptors.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekend Reading

Paul Ryan Declares War Against Math
The Remarkable Impact Of The Deep Tunnel
Corporate Deadbeats: How Companies Get Rich Off Taxes
Return Of The Bums On Welfare
Skill Gaps, Skill Shortages, And Skill Mismatches: Evidence For The U.S.
Rep. Paul Ryan's Whopper About Competitive Districts
Why Public Investment Really Is A Free Lunch
Unlike Walmart, Costco Has No Plans To Cut Employee Health Benefits
The Koch Brothers' War On Transit
Wisconsin Supreme Court Vs John Doe

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Get Your Jobs Here!

'Hiring event' looks to fill 1,000 job openings at 75 companies.

Which would fill 1.4% of Walker's dubious claim of 70,000 job openings in Wisconsin.

Hopefully the participating companies are ready to pay a living-wage to attract workers to the open positions. 

Welding Job Fair Fails To Spark Interest 
There is such a skills mismatch. Some Wisconsin companies just can't find welders. MATC was nice enough to organize a job fair to facilitate those looking for work connecting with the companies that supposedly need them. Too bad the companies, crying about Wisconsin not having skilled workers to fill positions, also seem to not have the time to show up.
If companies are unwilling to pay an honest-day's-pay, they can't realistically expect someone to do an honest-day's-work.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fact-checking The First Debate

The Journal Sentinel summarized the first debate between Mary Burke and Scott Walker in, Mary Burke pounces on Scott Walker's comments on state's 'work problem'.

"We don't have a jobs problem in this state. We have a work problem," Walker said during a discussion about raising the minimum wage.

During an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker explained that he is seeking to boost workers in two areas. First, he pointed to employers who need trained workers for higher-skilled jobs like welding. 
"We have jobs, we don't just have enough people with the skill sets to fill those jobs," he said. 
Walker also said he wants to help others acquire the basic skills needed to hold down any job. Walker has proposed requiring drug tests for working-age recipients of public benefits.
This is yet another of the many Republican talking-points that continue to live on even though there isn't a shred of evidence supporting it. In writing about the job training myth, Marc Levine detailed, "As Gordon Lafer, one of the country's foremost researchers on job training, puts it: "Whatever the problem, it seems job training is the answer. The only trouble is, it doesn't work, and the government knows it. . . . Indeed, in studying more than 40 years of job training policy, I have not seen one program that, on average, enabled its participants to earn their way out of poverty."

As I previously wrote in Myth Busting: Job Training, "Most of the new jobs being created require an associate's degree or less. 85 percent of the population in the U.S. have at least a high school degree. Over 27 percent have a bachelor's. The percentage of high school and college graduates has increased since 2000. We have neither an unskilled nor an uneducated workforce. Education as a corrective to the employment problem seems minimally significant." The idea that there are not enough Wisconsin citizens with the needed-skills is ludicrous.

As Catherine Rampell, of The New York Times, reported, "What’s especially odd about these survey responses is that if employers are having trouble finding qualified workers, they should be bidding up wages to attract the few qualified workers who are out there. But that’s not what the data show."

There is no training or skills crisis. We have a class warfare and living-wage crisis.

The Journal falls down, again, and fails to correct these falsities. Instead of practicing journalism and helping the reader to see the truth between competing narratives, they just spread the taking-points for Republicans.

They then go on to insinuate that Mary Burke is a meanie, "For their part, Republicans noted after the debate that Burke appeared ungracious when the candidates were asked to name something that they admired in the other." [This "meanie" issue is actually about a quarter of the entire article.]

I don't admire anything about Scott Walker either. He's a self-absorbed, closed-minded, partisan, hack. No matter where he has gone, controversy and deficits have followed. Does this make me ungracious? Oh well. The simple fact that one is in a debate doesn't also mean that person has earned respect. And, in dissecting the career of Scott Walker, it is awfully difficult to find something to hang your hat on. In preparing for the debate, was Mary Burke supposed to focus on what would make Scott Walker look his best?

Hopefully Wisconsin can move toward a debate of ideas and facts rather than boogeymen and mythology.

For Further Reading:
The Skills Crisis & Job Training
Skills Shortage Sham
For Scott Walker, Jobs Service Is Not Job Number One
Melissa Harris-Perry Takes Scott Walker To Task For Dishonest Ad On Reproductive Rights

Whatever It Takes To Save American Lives, Except...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Corporate Profits and Taxes

The Lt. Governor Nobody Wanted

The Lt. Governor Nobody Wanted [excerpt]
When the results of the 2010 Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor came in, most GOP insiders were shocked at the results. Few expected Rebecca Kleefisch to win. The smart money was on Brett Davis, who was backed by much of the Republican establishment, including members of Scott Walker’s inner circle. But Kleefisch not only won, she crushed Davis, with 46 percent of the vote to his 26 percent; three other candidates split the rest of the vote. 
That left Walker with a problem he didn’t want. His top aide Keith Gilkes had declared that “we are not touching anything to do with Kleefisch,” calling her “radioactive,” in emails to then-Milwaukee County Executive Walker’s staff members (included in documents released from the John Doe investigation of Walker). Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch dismissed Kleefisch as “fluff” and after she skipped one political forum, wrote “I hope she keeps missing them. And topples over on her high heels.” Said another Walker staffer, “I cannot see how anyone can take this woman seriously.” 
One Republican who worked on the Kleefisch campaign described her as a very weak candidate who was “not very smart… she would try to memorize facts.” 
Yet this is the person just a heartbeat away from the governor. Walker, who wants to run for president, has refused to promise he’d finish a four-term for governor, should he win reelection, so it’s possible Kleefisch could one day be called on to succeed him.
For Further Reading:
Fisching For Answers
Give Reality Back To Taxpayers