Thursday, July 21, 2016

Barack Obama's and The Democrats' Accomplishments


Republican Benghazis

13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51. 
October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of "Bali Bombings." No fatalities. 
February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed. 
May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb. 
July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people. 
December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed. 
March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name "David Foy." This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what's considered American soil.) 
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar" storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded. 
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities. 
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two. 
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed. 
September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months. 
Prior to Benghazi, were there 13 attacks on embassies and 60 deaths under President George W. Bush?
Garamendi said that "during the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died." There are actually different ways to count the number of attacks, especially when considering attacks on ambassadors and embassy personnel who were traveling to or from embassy property. Overall, we found Garamendi slightly understated the number of deadly attacks and total fatalities, even using a strict definition.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones

Van Wanggaard (if that is your real name?!), Wisconsin state senator from Racine, recently opined in the Journal Sentinel that, basically, before citizens in other cities and municipalities, within the state, have their tax dollars redistributed for anything concerning Milwaukee, Milwaukee needs to get their act together.

Wanggaard throws out a lot of big numbers, but gives little context to those numbers. He rambles on about the money going to Milwaukee Public Schools, but carelessly doesn't break that down into a cost per student or even compare that to what other communities are getting or spending. He writes about failing schools and proficiency tests, but fails to show how this compares to others in the state. Without this context, just throwing out big numbers is meaningless.

And, as conservatives continually do, in the face of data that shows otherwise, Wanggaard praises the school choice program. Yet, as I've written before,
If we actually look at the data, we find that there is little difference between voucher school students and Milwaukee Public School students. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found, "City property taxes go up for each student who uses a voucher, compared to what would be the case if that student went to MPS, while state income taxes go down, as do property taxes in most of the rest of the state.
But why let the data get in the way of kicking Milwaukee. That's just what Wisconsin conservatives do. If you're going to keep pounding that drum as some sort of alternative public education option, at least give us information showing improved test scores, cost-savings or some metric we can hang our hat on. To just knock MPS and hold up school choice as a ticket out of that "quagmire" is sloppy at best, but totally inappropriate and misleading for a state senator.

He also seems to not understand that Racine, too, receives money from taxpayers outside of Racine. He makes it sound as if all money collected at the state level goes to Milwaukee. And, beyond this misrepresentation, state aid has been declining. Since 1995, Milwaukee has seen a 36% decline (in real dollars) in state aid.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's 2015 Notice of State Aid and Credit Payments, Milwaukee (with a population of 599,164) received roughly $219,000,000 in state aid; approximately $365 per person. Racine (population 78,199) received roughly $25,000,000 in state aid; $321 per person.

This type of finger-pointing equates to blaming the victim. Milwaukee has been the destination for much of the state's poor and mentally ill. There are obviously large costs involved, social and financial. Wanggaard even writes about Milwaukee's high poverty rate. He seems to assume, though, that Milwaukee likes it that way, that Milwaukee is choosing to have a high proportion of the state's poor. More like monied interests have left the City and its problems behind. Ever heard of white flight, Mr. Wanggaard?

According to the Census Bureau, Milwaukee's poverty rate is 29%, Racine's is over 22% and for Wisconsin 13.2%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a high school diploma or higher - in Milwaukee 81.8%, in Racine 81.2% and Wisconsin 90.8%. The percent of persons, age 25 or higher, with a bachelor's degree or higher - in Milwaukee 22.8%, in Racine 17.2% and Wisconsin 27.4%. People under 65 without health insurance - Milwaukee 15.9%, Racine 16.7% and Wisconsin 8.6%.

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard shouldn't be throwing stones from his glass house.

I think some of our public servants have no idea what their mission is supposed to be. Yes, you're supposed to serve your constituents, but, as a STATE senator, you also need to reach across the isle, find compromise and solve issues that have implications beyond village and city boundaries.

If Wanggaard really wants to solve things and since he believes in choice so passionately, why not improve public transportation between the City, suburbs and the surrounding communities and allow students to attend any school they want? Let's not stop there - since we would now have efficient transportation connecting the region, Milwaukee's poor citizens could now have access to jobs in the surrounding communities.

Something tells me that's not what he or any other Wisconsin conservatives want - keep those "problems" in Milwaukee.

In the end, Wanggaard's article really just seems to be another kick at Milwaukee. In his article, he admits "the Milwaukee area still is the economic driving force of our state. Almost one-third of the state's economy takes place in metro Milwaukee...with world class attractions, restaurants and festivals. It attracts visitors, investments and spending. Cranes and construction are everywhere. Wisconsin needs a healthy Milwaukee so that the state can continue to thrive."

Yes, despite Scott Walker and the Republicans best efforts to handicap Milwaukee, the city is thriving. Billions of dollars are being invested in this "quagmire" of a city. Maybe Republican scorn is the key to economic growth? Republicans continually disparage and blame Milwaukee for almost everything, yet the city has been booming.

With a little over 10% of the state's population, Milwaukee is responsible for a third of the state's economic activity. But in Mr. Wanggaard's world, this indicates Milwaukee isn't pulling its weight? I guess night is day and up is down for Mr. Wanggaard. Hey Milwaukee, you're only producing three times what would be expected, pick it up!

Maybe Mr. Wanggaard should worry more about the houses in Racine that are soon to be part of Lake Michigan. Milwaukee will continue its efforts to improve conditions for all its residents whilst continuing to fuel the economy for the entire state.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

If Only Slogans and Buzzwords Were Needed For Economic Growth

David Haynes, editorial page editor of the Journal Sentinel, opines a lengthy list of platitudes as a prescription for economic growth in the area. He holds up the Research Triangle in North Carolina as a best practices example or guiding post.
The Research Triangle area of North Carolina — with Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill at its vertices — has long turned good ideas into business enterprises. World class universities attract an enviable supply of talent. and a range of companies — from startups to Cisco, BASF and GlaxoSmithKline — keep that talent anchored. The Triangle has one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the nation.
The Milwaukee region is not the Research Triangle and shouldn't try to be. Southeastern Wisconsin has to call on its own strengths, starting with an economy forged by industry leaders such as Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, GE Healthcare and Fiserv as well as a growing research presence at its academic institutions.
Marc Levine addressed this leap of faith in The False Promise of the Entrepreneurial University:
In short, university research parks are anything but sure-fire investments in urban or regional economic prosperity. Success is relatively uncommon, as Wallsten’s impact study makes clear. “Game-changing” success – the kind that remakes a regional economy—is even more rare, the product of unique historical factors, good luck, and timing. For example, the North Carolina Research Triangle Park’s oft-cited (and oft-emulated) success, “was built around its first-mover status in the field of science parks,” generous state and federal funding, and a uniquely patient multi-decade commitment by political leadership – and even with all those difficult-to-replicate factors in its favor, it took more than 30 years to see evidence of the cluster development attributed to the park (Weddle, 2007, 7). Universities that cavalierly pursue and oversell URPs as “transformational” economic development investments risk creating white elephants and misallocating millions of dollars that could be better invested bolstering the core missions of their institutions.
Now, Haynes does say we shouldn't try to be the Research Triangle, but that we do need to foster more entrepreneurial activity, and then he uses numerous Research Triangle examples to illustrate the path we should emulate.
The region's poor entrepreneurial performance matters: Research has shown that new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation, according to the Kauffman Foundation, and they juice local economies by boosting competition and innovation. If a region isn't creating enough new companies, it will likely have sluggish growth.
A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports people who want to take the leap from idea to business formation is one essential element of a strong ecosystem for business development. So is the support of business leadership in the community. These are deep strengths in the Research Triangle.
Research has also shown that new businesses account for most job loss.
The claim that most net new jobs came from new firms conceals the fact that existing firms added tens of millions of jobs in this 25-year period. Of course existing firms also lost tens of millions of jobs. We can say that the net job creation for existing firms was zero, but if we did not have an environment that was conducive for the job adders to grow (how many jobs did Microsoft, Apple, and Intel create after their first 5 years of existence?), then existing firms would have lost tens of millions more jobs.
And, of course, Haynes had to mention venture capital, another one of the economic-clubs pundits continually beat us with whenever they're trying to sell these unsupported ideas.

Josh Lerner, of Harvard, has found the number of exceptional venture capitalists is very small. Harold Bradley, of the Kaufmann Foundation, believes venture capitalists have plenty of money, but allocate it very inefficiently, and therefore should not be receiving additional public dollars with the hope of boosting a local economy. Bradley and Carl Schramm, in an article for Business Week, write that the current focus on fees has promoted start-up flipping rather than nurturing.

In 2013, The Legislature overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to provide $25 million in taxpayer money to start-up companies. And we all know the booming job creation the Scott Walker regime has presided over since then.

Haynes closes with, "That's thinking like an entrepreneur. And it's the kind of thinking we could use more of in Milwaukee."

Let's start with the fact that a lot of economic momentum for a city or region is impacted by state and federal policies. Scott Walker killing the train, which would have better connected businesses and citizens in the region, was definitely not thinking like an entrepreneur. That infrastructure investment would have improved efficiencies, bolstered existing businesses, encouraged start-ups and increased the attractiveness of the region as a place to work and live. It would have been an investment of more than a billion dollars into the economy. I think we would have seen quite a bit of venture capital, start-ups, entrepreneurial activity and the like with an injection of a billion dollars.

So, maybe when our leaders stop cutting off our nose to spite our face we can have a real discussion about what's best for job growth.

For Further Reading:
Another False Idol: Venture Capital
Starting Up More Trouble
Faulty Excuses
A Steaming Pile of Boldness
Venturing Aimlessly
Venturing Wisconsin's Money
Selling Entrepreneurialism
Starting-Up More Trouble 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Walker Enriching Dutiful Cronies

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation also known as WEDC is a public-private agency created in 2011 by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Governor Scott Walker created the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. WEDC grants loans that would give assistance to a company's attempts to grow and employ more workers within the state of Wisconsin. [source]

Scott Walker’s WEDC in Full Meltdown
In May 2014, One Wisconsin Now ran the numbers on WEDC loans and found that nearly 60 percent of some $975 million in assistance distributed by WEDC since 2011 went to firms that had contributed to Walker or the Republican Governor’s Association. 
"This new audit confirms that WEDC is the embodiment of the cronyism, corruption and incompetence of the Walker administration,” One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross told CMD.
WEDC made 27 awards totaling $124.4 million without proper review
Gov. Scott Walker’s flagship job-creation agency has made at least 27 awards totaling $124.4 million to companies without conducting a formal staff review, the agency reported Friday afternoon. 
The new information comes on the heels of a State Journal report last month that found the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded an unsecured $500,000 loan to a struggling Milwaukee construction company at the urging of Walker’s top cabinet secretary.
And, from a Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau report:
WEDC did not consistently follow statutes or its policies when making financial awards. WEDC did not comply with all statutory requirements related to program oversight. Staff did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s governing board. Additional efforts are needed to help ensure that WEDC administers its state-funded programs effectively.
Industry clusters, workforce training and a new, competitive grant for organizations assisting start-ups are the biggest winners in what is essentially a flat 2017 budget proposal by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 
WEDC's budget, the first that top executive Mark Hogan has overseen since taking the helm in October, was approved by the agency board's finance committee earlier this month. It will be presented to the full board in July for approval. 
Under the proposal, about half of WEDC's expenditures for services delivered around the state — $18.2 million — would go to businesses and communities for redeveloping contaminated sites, job creation and job and workforce development. Another 20%, or $7.3 million, would go to entrepreneurship and innovation efforts. 
The rest of the spending is divided among advancing key industries (19%, or about $7 million), building export capacity (9%, or $3.5 million) and attracting businesses to the state (3%, or just under $1 million).

I think we can safely say that these clowns, apparatchiks of the Walker regime, have no clue on economic growth. To some degree, I don't really think they care. This is just another way of funneling public dollars to private accomplices. Yet, again, we have Republicans (in this instance, the Scott Walker administration) using the government as a slush fund for their private excursions, paybacks and cronyism.

More Good Money To Be Piled On The Boondoggle Bandwagon

Milwaukee convention center expansion to be included in strategic study
Expanding the Wisconsin Center convention hall will be included in a strategic plan the convention center’s owner will embark on later this year. 
The strategic plan will provide the Wisconsin Center District board with insights on all the district’s facilities, including the downtown Milwaukee convention hall, chairman Scott Neitzel said Thursday.
I've been writing about the misguided push for expansion of the convention center for years.

Beware Of The Economic Development Hucksters

Milwaukee's Boondoggle Twofer

The Convention Center Cabal
But, as experience has shown, the number of conventions and convention-goers has been falling the past few decades. With faltering demand already in place, increased supply drives the value down for everyone. A classic case of a race to the bottom. Maybe it's a good thing Milwaukee hasn't wasted hundreds of millions on pointless convention center expansion...
And, the numbers in the Business Journal article show that, even though we haven't expanded the convention center (which is deemed so necessary), hotel occupancy rates have improved. We've built more hotels and more of those rooms are being used even though Milwaukee hasn't upgraded the convention center. This increase in hotel room occupancy (from 58% in 2010 to 62% in 2015) has occurred alongside declining convention center events (from 78 events in 2014 to 53 in 2016). So, it may be more accurate to believe that investing dollars into the convention center would be a drain on other more effective economic activities in Milwaukee.
Hopefully we can pass on this round of corporate welfare. There are many other, more needed and more effective, investments our community can make.

[Aside: I will always find it amazing that unemployment, food stamps, aid to the poor and working-class, in general, are always frowned upon and those pulling the purse-strings are always looking to cut, cut, cut! Even investments in our infrastructure are put off into the future. But when billionaires come around with their hands out, looking for money, we're always scrambling and desperately looking for anyway possible to fork over millions of dollars, and more often than not, supported by dubious reasoning.]

Wisconsin Reading

The Property Tax Scam for Brewers, Bucks
Beloit Billionaire Posts String of Zeros On State Returns
State Continues to Lag Behind Nation in Job Creation
Ballpark Commons Could Get $26 Million in City Funds, Study Suggests
The Radical State Supreme Court?
Wisconsin No Longer Has Electoral Competition

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Laboratories of Democracy

Violating Logic

What exactly do 'Conservative Principles' entail these days? Is there really such a thing?

How can supposed 'conservatives' be for smaller government, yet support the most costly government programs and even push for growing those?

How can 'conservatives' continually blast bureaucrats and the government as inefficient, wasteful and incompetent, and then turn around and call for more and more money funneled to certain pet governmental units?

Enter our favorite wingnut sheriff.

Sheriff David Clarke Jr. Calls on City to Hire 400 New Police Officers
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is calling on the city to hire 400 new police officers. 
Clarke, while speaking Friday before the city's Public Safety Committee, also urged Milwaukee County to hire an additional 200 sheriff's deputies... 
He urged for "stop, question and frisk" policing, 100 searches per night of homes where those on parole are living and aggressive traffic stops targeting repeat offenders. 
"We need to rain holy hell on these individuals — lawfully," Clarke said. "We don't need to violate anybody's rights to do this." 
During Friday's meeting, Ald. Terry Witkowski asked Clarke how the city would pay for 400 new officers, estimating it would cost Milwaukee about $40 million annually. Witkowski also noted that state officials have limited the city's ability to increase taxes...
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn called Clarke "irrelevant to my work." 
"I'd love to have 400 more cops, if somebody could come up with a way to pay for them without breaking the backs of Milwaukee taxpayers," Flynn said. "There's no there there." 
He suggested Clarke talk to "his good friend" Gov. Scott Walker about restoring money that's been cut from Milwaukee's shared revenue payments. 
"Just restore state aid and we'll have a discussion," Flynn said. 
Christopher Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said Clarke's presentation promoted "largely discredited theories" and shows he is "out of step with the best ideas in current debates over improving public safety." 
"Predictably, his principal recommendation is 'more boots on the ground,'" Ahmuty said. "Hopefully, the majority of the Public Safety Committee will take his views for what they are worth, antiquated and unhelpful." 
Clarke makes regular appearances on Fox News and other television and radio news shows —often wearing one of his signature cowboy hats — where he sounds off on a variety of issues, including BeyoncĂ©, the Black Lives Matter movement, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
We can clearly see why Clarke has so many issues with his County budget. Apparently he's not much of a numbers guy.

(And, the "stop, question and frisk" policing - searching 100 homes per night where those on parole are living along with aggressive traffic stops targeting repeat offenders. "Raining holy hell — lawfully. We don't need to violate anybody's rights to do this." How do you "rain hell" and not violate people?)

Wouldn't it be great to have more teachers and better schools? How about better public transportation and roads? Maybe replacing all the lead water pipes in the City?

But where to get the money to pay for any of it? With the State cutting shared revenue and limiting the City's ability raise additional revenues, coming up with the money for anything is increasingly more and more of a problem.

And, I guess, according to Clarke, the answer is making blustery speeches without any consideration of the details. "This, that and the other should be done...someone else figure out how to pay for it!"

WOW! What a visionary! I can see why FOX News lets him spout his wisdom regularly.

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Scott Walker's Incompetence

Gov. Scott Walker Holds Down Gas Tax - And Growth
In violation of conservative "pro-market" economic principles, Gov. Scott Walker has once again decided that Wisconsin's gasoline tax will not be raised. Instead, to finance road maintenance and repair, he prefers to borrow $850 million, adding that amount to the state's debt. Since even this large amount of borrowing will not be sufficient to finance the projects being planned for the coming year, he says that some will have to be slowed down or not even begun.

Curve Balls

Bradley Foundation gives $250,000 to 'The Bell Curve' co-author
The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation helped propel the career of conservative scholar Charles Murray, who famously argued in a 1994 book that genetic differences between white and black people were a partial cause for differences in IQ.
Now Murray, 73, is getting another prize from the Bradley Foundation — a $250,000 check.
Bradley Foundation Gives $250,000 To Racist Charles Murray
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bradley Foundation gave a million dollars to Charles Murray to research and write "The Bell Curve." This book argued that African Americans are genetically inferior to whites and thus are not as smart. It further argued that for this reason, it didn't pay to spend a lot of money to try to educate black children
Who is Backing The Bell Curve?
The explosive conclusions of The Bell Curve are now common knowledge. What is less well known is that the country's leading conservative foundation paid co-author Charles Murray $1 million to write the book. Foundation funding of research is nothing new. But Murray's support from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is an example of the highly ideological research that conservative foundations favor as they seek to mold public policy. Even in the marketplace of ideas, it takes money to compete. 
The Bell Curve's key educational policy recommendation dovetails with the Bradley Foundation's top education priority: support for school choice, including public funds for private and religious schools. This bolsters the case of those who argue that despite the rhetoric of choice, many voucher advocates have abandoned the vision of a quality education for all children.