Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Politics (and Principles) of Convenience

In the recent residency requirement Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling,
... Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority in a 5-2 ruling upholding the Legislature's ban on municipal residency requirements.  "The Legislature has the power to legislate on matters of local affairs when its enactment uniformly affects every city or every village, notwithstanding the home rule amendment," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority. "Because (the 2013 law) uniformly affects every city or village, it trumps section 5-02 of the city's charter. Milwaukee may no longer enforce its residency requirement."
So when the Democrats at the Federal level use the same argument to impose environmental, economic and other regulations in opposition to state or local ordinances, I'm sure the Republicans will quietly accept this natural order. Oh wait, Republicans believe every city or state should be able to make their own educational, environmental, transportation and literally every other rule for themselves without any interference from the Federal Government. Except when they don't.

Lets substitute "state" for "city or village" in the Gableman writing:
The Legislature Federal Government has the power to legislate on matters of local state affairs when its enactment uniformly affects every city or every village state. Because the [Federal] law uniformly affects every city or village state, it trumps the city's any state's charter.
Again, yet another example of Republican (lack of) logic eating itself. For some bewildering reason, they're allowed to continually get away with such ridiculousness.

But, on the bright side, hopefully the Feds are reading these State decisions. In such rulings, the States are giving the Feds the legalese they need to impose their will upon the states - for stricter environmental regulations, for country-wide public transportation improvements and greater connectivity, for nation-wide educational standards, for a standardized minimum wage and for stricter regulation of predatory lending, amongst other issues where our country would be better off having a nationalized standard.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Local Yokels

Republicans have long pretended to be the protectors of local rule. No matter what the topic was, it was best left up to the most local body of government to decide their own rules. If a State had a certain view, the Feds should just butt out. If a locality had an idea, the State should just buzz off.

The more local the rule, the better is was, according to Republicans. Except when Republicans are being their usual full-of-shit, crony-laden selves. Yes, Republicans are all for local control, except when they're not.

After a long back-and-forth court process, the police and firefighters of Milwaukee workers and freedom have prevailed. Freedom won the day. Down with residency requirements. God bless America. This is a great day for all freedom-loving people. Because, now, public workers employed by the City of Milwaukee don't have to live there. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Yes, I know the police and firefighters have a tough job. (A lot of people have tough jobs.) But they also knew what they were getting when they accepted the job. Most of which is great pay, great benefits, and a great pension. Their average salaries: $65,649 for sworn police employees. $67,554 for sworn fire employees. Police can retire after 25 years of service, regardless of their age. Firefighters can retire at 49 with 22 years of service. Oh, the humanity! (Other city employees must wait until age 60, or 55 if they have 30 years of service.)

In 2013, 59% of the City of Milwaukee budget went to just the police and fire departments.

Nonetheless, it's probably not a big surprise that a conservative Wisconsin court ruled in favor of their conservative friends.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Milwaukee can't require workers to live in city
In the 5-2 ruling, the court found a 2013 law prevented the city from enforcing a long-standing rule requiring workers to live within its boundaries. The city had argued it could continue to enforce the 75-year-old residency requirement because the state constitution grants local governments broad powers...
The dissenters wrote that the decision would make it easier for lawmakers to meddle with the policies of a targeted city by writing laws that, at least cosmetically, appeared to apply to all local governments. 
"Instead of freeing municipalities from interference by the Legislature when dealing with local affairs, the majority limits the power and restrains the ability of municipalities to self-govern," Ann Walsh Bradley wrote. 
The majority stated lawmakers could set policies affecting local governments if they were for matters of statewide concern or if they affected all cities and villages uniformly, at least on their face. 
On this point, Rebecca Bradley wrote separately to say she believed the Legislature could get involved in local matters only if they were both of statewide concern and affected all cities and villages uniformly. That put her in line with the liberals on that point. 
Republicans who control the Legislature included a provision in the 2013 state budget prohibiting local governments from maintaining residency rules other than those requiring police and firefighters to live within 15 miles of their borders. That conflicted with Milwaukee's policy, enacted in 1938, requiring employees to live within the city.
Yes, for some odd reason, even though the residency requirement is known by anyone applying for a job at the City of Milwaukee, somehow the freedom of the job applicant was being trampled. How this influences anyone other than the City of Milwaukee is beyond me. How does this infringe on anyone's right to apply for a job or live anywhere they would like to? Only if you want a job at the City of Milwaukee are you impacted.

I get that people should be able to choose where they live. Live wherever the fuck you want. But you don't get to choose where you work. The employer hires the employee, not the other way around. So after 75 years of having residency requirement in place, and every single person applying for that job knowing the prerequisites of employment, to now claim freedom or whatever other bumper-sticker bullshit slogan they've come up with, this is total partisan, cronyism, garbage.

My boss says I have to be at work by 9, but that's intruding on my freedom to come and go as I please. So is the 9-5 typical work day an affront to freedom? My boss also isn't paying me enough which is infringing on my freedom to buy more shit. This can't stand! In fact, I shouldn't even have to work. Freedom!!!

But, as is or should be well-known by now, bullshit and hypocrisy are Republicans' bread and butter. The Republicans have no principles left. They will do anything and say anything. They will flip and flop. The means justify the ends. If you can help elect Republicans and keep them in power, they'll do anything for you.

Since taking over the state Legislature, Republicans have moved to restrict local control
"I remember back in the day when Democrats had control of the Legislature, the clarion call for the Republican Party was 'Local control, local control,'" Dane County executive and former Democratic state Rep. Joe Parisi said. "It used to be virtually part of their platform. But as soon as they got into power, they began moving very quickly on a number of fronts to take local control away."
GOP lawmakers passed 128 measures limiting local control since 2011
Republican lawmakers have passed more than 125 measures since 2011 restricting the authority of local government, according to the state’s nonpartisan budget agency. 
Over the past three legislative sessions, since the GOP gained control of the Legislature, lawmakers have enacted 128 provisions that represent unfunded mandates or restrict the decision-making power of local governments, according to a May 16 memo released by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau at the request of Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point. 
Shankland said in a statement that of the 128 provisions, 80 were passed without Democratic lawmakers’ support. 
“From restricting county shoreland zoning ordinances passed by county boards, to banning municipal governments from passing container ordinances that make sense for the well-being of their community, legislative Republicans repeatedly used their majority in a blatant government overreach,” said Shankland.
On the GOP's own website they laud the power of local control regarding education:
Today’s education reform movement calls for accountability at every stage of schooling. It affirms higher expectations for all students and rejects the crippling bigotry of low expectations. It recognizes the wisdom of State and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools.
Wis. Republicans hand over local control to corporate America
A memo issued earlier this year by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailed more than 100 ways in which the Republican Legislature and the governor have eliminated local control while also increasing the number of unfunded mandates — i.e., costs — passed on to local communities. The Republicans’ actions have made it impossible for many local elected officials to balance their budgets while providing services for their constituents. That’s one of the reasons your potholes don’t get filled.
At this point, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the blatantly partisan and hypocritical policies of Republicans. I'm just wondering, at some point, doesn't the public notice this barefaced cronyism? How much can we allow them to just shit all over the rule of law, common decency, accountability and democracy? This is yet another travesty of the Walker administration and another farce in the long line of Republican absurdities.

For Further Reading:
Unfunded mandates and items that would restrict local control 
State Supreme Court guts local control

Monday, June 13, 2016

Walker Mismanagement/Ineptitude Continues

Highway project delays rack up $700 million cost overruns
While some of these increases come from faulty cost estimates or unavoidable inflation, the new figures underline the obvious: Delays can be costly for Wisconsin taxpayers. When projects are paused because of financial challenges in the state's road fund, the price of materials, labor and real estate can rise... 
The four major highway projects were each delayed for one year because last summer Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers couldn't settle on an approach to paying for them... 
Refusing to back increases to the gasoline tax or vehicle registration fees last year, Walker settled on bonding as the solution to the state's transportation funding woes, asking $1.3 billion in borrowing to fund the state's transportation projects while freezing state borrowing for most other needs.

Republican legislators pushed back, ultimately lowering the borrowing to $850 million. 
"He'll say that he hasn't increased taxes, but he's certainly pushed the cost of these projects onto the state credit card, and it's going to cost people a lot more," said Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), a member of the Transportation Projects Commission. "Whoever comes in after him is going to have a complete mess on their hands."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shortage of Skills or Abundance of Excuses?

As most Wisconsinites know, Scott Walker has overseen anemic economic performance for Wisconsin. Job growth has continually lagged the national average.

Once again, Wisconsin job growth trails national pace

Of course, none of this, according to Scott Walker, is Scott Walker's fault. (Regardless that he was elected based on his claims that he could grow 250,000 jobs for the state.) It's the dreaded skilled worker shortage. The jobs are here just waiting for the right workers. 

The laughable link between the two - jobs and the right skills for those jobs - is job training. Another overblown talking-point of economic development hucksters. 

As Marc Levine informed,
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."
This, directly debunking the recent drivel being peddled in a Journal Sentinel opinion piece.

Levine continued,
Work force development policy is based on the fallacious premise that Milwaukee's core employment problem is a shortage of skilled workers (a "jobs-skills mismatch"). ...

The jobs are already here? Hardly. Indeed, taking metro Milwaukee as a whole, there is a gap of 88,000 between the number of jobless (working-age residents unemployed or out of the labor force) and the number of job vacancies reported by employers. It is a job shortage, much more than a skills shortage, that plagues the region. ... 
No matter who controls job training programs in Milwaukee, they are doomed to failure unless this economy produces enough family-supporting jobs.
This isn't to say we shouldn't be offering some job training efforts. This also doesn't mean that at some time during the business cycle, the economy won't experience some structural unemployment. But these supposed panaceas of skills-improvement and job-training have proven largely uneventful over the last few decades.

The continued call for increased skills also ignores the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the majority of new jobs over the next few decades will require only a high school education or minimal on-the-job training. Secondly, its also implies that we, as a nation are becoming less educated; this, also, is false.

This skill-shortage talking-point merely allows most of the decision-makers to take the hands-off approach of blaming the victim. "We've got some tools out there. If individuals don't take advantage, that's their problem."

More effective policies include increasing the earned income tax credit, unionization, increasing the minimum wage and increasing job programs (directly employing individuals).

As long as we keep pretending the market has all the answers and our workforce is so woefully inadequate that we can't do or learn the majority of vacant positions, charlatans and other hucksters will continue to sell job training, skills shortage and other bumper sticker policies that do little to address the issues they claim to be so concerned about.

Wisconsin Reading

The Report That Walker Killed
Walker Administration Delays $101 Million Debt Payment
Impact of Walker Skipping Debt Payment
Fact-checking Gov. Scott Walker's Misleading Claims On The Economy
Remembering Milwaukee's Socialist Party History
The Billionaire's Son
Menard Inc. Violates Labor Laws, National Labor Relations Board Says
How Walker Is Killing Meritocracy
Wisconsin’s State Legislative Districts are a Big Republican Gerrymander

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bursting Bubbles

Real Estate Bubble Explained by Economist Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The term real estate bubble, it is widely known to articles describing the theory of real estate prices going up or rising. Mark Eppli, finance at Marquette University, says that the consumers shouldn't worry. 
He said "I have no problem saying that there is not a real estate bubble. By looking at the short-term, medium-tern and long-term, I think the market isn't going to have a fall out," he adds "I look at the numbers and that's where I get my evidence from," ...
Eppli says while the real estate bubble isn't about to burst, not all is perfect when it comes to the housing market, he said that new homes were overbuilt so the supply right now outstrips the demand, but quickly added "I think that will work itself out. I know there's a lot of concern about it, but it's not something that is going to break the market." 
Marquette's Eppli named president of national real estate organization Wednesday, June 1, 2016
A Marquette University professor of finance with a national profile in commercial real estate has been elected president of the Real Estate Research Institute, the university announced Wednesday. 
Mark Eppli, Ph.D., professor of finance and Robert B. Bell Chair in Real Estate at Marquette, will lead the national nonprofit organization that funds top-tier research on real estate investment performance and market fundamentals for the commercial real estate industry. 
Eppli directs Marquette's Top 10 nationally ranked Center for Real Estate and also was recently named a NAIOP Distinguished Fellow. NAIOP is the leading trade association for commercial real estate professionals. 
"Dr. Eppli represents what's best about Marquette business faculty," said Brian Till, Keyes Dean of Business Administration at the university. "He's a highly engaged scholar and teacher who lends his deep expertise to the broader academic and business communities." 
Let's hope, for the sake of the economy, the Real Estate Research Institute, NAIOP and "what's best about Marquette business faculty," Eppli's scholarly engagement and research has exponentially improved since 2006.