Sunday, September 22, 2019

Wisconsin, other Obama/Trump states falling further behind as 2020 nears

Good luck seeing our “businessman president” sell the economy in the states he needs most in 2020 if this keeps up.
Two swing states narrowly won by President Trump in 2016 were the sites of the greatest losses in manufacturing jobs between 2018 and 2019, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The agency's state employment survey found that Wisconsin has lost about 5,200 manufacturing jobs since August of last year. In Pennsylvania, losses of manufacturing jobs topped 7,700, according to the survey.
Wait, you mean a tax cut to the rich and corporate didn’t bring back factory jobs, and the WisGOPs keeping the M&A “Big Giveaway” to Wisconsin manufacturers didn’t spark a surge in hiring? Imagine that!

But it’s not just Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that are struggling in Big Ten territory (pre-Rutgers/Maryland edition), and it’s not just in manufacturing. That same state-by-state jobs report shows several other Obama/Trump states with job growth well below the US’s (declining) rate over the last year, along with an upper Midwest state that stayed blue, but that the Trump people targeted and nearly won in 2016.

US job growth Aug 2018-Aug 2019
US +1.39%
Iowa +0.80%
Penn +0.64%
Ohio +0.45%
Mich +0.36%
Minn +0.09%
Wis. +0.06%

In fact, Wisconsin ranks 49th in the nation for jobs over the last year, with only Louisiana trailing us (they were 3 years ahead of us in the category of “ALEC tire fire imposed by crooked fool of a governor”).

And the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's coincident index of all states backs this up. While part of the country continues to grow, which will likely keep the US economy out of recession for at least the next few months, that may not be true in the key states that DC media likes to talk about, but doesn't seem to understand much.

EDIT- And here's UW's Menzie Chinn reiterating that with an illustrative chart.

WisGOPs try to stir up NON-troversy on DAs that they caused

I wanted to riff a bit on a recent issue WisGOPs are trying to stir up regarding district attorneys. And it's important to know how we got here, and what the concerns are...and why they're largely BS.

In WisGOP's 8 years of complete control of state government from 2011-2019, they barely added any funding to counties to hire District Attorneys to prosecute crimes. This resulted in a major shortage in prosecutors, and delays in justice.

So in his first state budget, Governor Evers proposed adding state funding to support several more local district attorneys in Wisconsin (we require these places to have DAs, the least we can do is pay for them), and Republicans added many more positions and more funding as the budget was deliberated through the Legislature. But Republicans also specified where those DAs would be, and they were overwhelmingly in red-voting counties.

Evers used his veto pen to say "Thanks for the money, but I'll decide where those positions go." And then the Governor announced this week where the positions were. Republicans predictably whined.

Let's get to the numbers on this question.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s budget paper on District Attorneys gives a great background on this, and not only does it show that a total of only 9 state-funded prosecutors were added in 2005-17,it also explains that some of these places are losing non-state funding for prosecutors, leading the state to make up the difference.

For example, Fond du Lac County still gets state taxpayers to pay for 2 more prosecutors, and the one that Evers “cut” seems to be a position that the federal Violence Against Women Act has been paying for. Instead, those duties will be absorbed by the current prosecutors in Fondy, and/or the 2 new prosecutors the state will now be paying for.

Marathon County is a similar story, where the DA’s office in Wausau lost VAWA funding in 2015. Combined with a county budget crunch, it had become difficult for Marathon County to continue prosecuting those cases, and also continue with specialty prosecutors that deal with restorative justice and OWI cases.

So basically Wisconsinites are picking up the tab to allow Marathon County to keep doing these prosecutions (which is fine, but let’s be real about this), and paying for an extra prosecutor on top of that. But apparently that’s not good enough for Wausau State Rep (and former talk show host) Pat Snyder.
“Time and again Governor Evers has prioritized Madison and Milwaukee over citizens in the rest of the state, and this decision is no different. Governor Evers has, once again, blatantly disregarded the needs of my community by making decisions that benefit his base at the expense of Marathon County. His administration’s allocation of these positions directly pulls one position that was assigned to Marathon County to make it available to Milwaukee and Dane Counties.”…

“In the past several weeks alone Marathon County has seen serious incidents of violence; continued escalation of drug-related crimes; and victimization of children,” Rep. Snyder added. “The additional 4.5 ADA positions in the Legislature’s budget were critical to ensuring that our law enforcement officers have the resources that they need to bring prompt justice for victims. The Governor’s reallocation is a step backward and a huge detriment to Marathon County.”
Hey Pat, Marathon County has added all of 2,300 people since 2010 while Dane County has added nearly 50,000, and we’re getting as many new full-time prosecutors paid for as you are. Stop whining, or allow more local governments more flexibility to raise their own money through a sales tax.

As for Milwaukee, that’s simply replacing positions that were funded in another grant, just like how state funding is replacing Marathon County prosecutors that were grant-funded.
The bill recommends the conversion of an additional 3.0 PR positions to GPR funding for the violent crimes unit in Milwaukee County. Funding is currently provided by a grant from the North Central High Intensity Drug Trafficking area and office of National Drug Control Policy. The Milwaukee County DA's office has been advised that the three positions will no longer be funded after December 31, 2019. These three positions are half of six ADA positions that provided legal assistance and advice in support of HIDTA initiative in order to help target drug trafficking organizations and violent gangs. The ADAs work with HIDTA officers during investigations including: drafting, reviewing and approving applications for search warrants, subpoenas for records, wiretap orders, and electronic surveillance orders, and prosecute criminal cases in state court. The ADAs help coordinate referrals for federal prosecution when that venue is more appropriate. In addition, HIDTA ADAs work to identify non-violent, low level offenders, whose criminal activity is motivated by substance abuse, in order to redirect them into alternatives to traditional prosecution.
The difference? GOPs on Joint Finance removed Evers’ plans to replace the funding in Milwaukee for those 3 positions, and 1 other funded by an outside grant. But the GOPs had no problem with Evers helping out Marathon County in the same way, so Milwaukee ends up with one FEWER prosecutor in total, and Marathon has 1 MORE. Funny how that works out.

This shows yet again two themes of the Wisconsin GOP.

1. GOPs don't really care about the amount of government spending. They care that their communities and their donors get the tax dollars.

2. They care more about playing political games with resentment than in being serious about handling a prosecutor shortage that they caused through 8 years of inaction.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bucky's Big Blowout

Well this was how I spent my afternoon today.

That was a serious belting. And a whole lotta fun. Then the Crew kept on rolling tonight.

Much more pleasant and invigorating than the non-sports world these days, that's for sure.

And this out-of-towner from the Barstool Sports universe was definitely impressed.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Wisconsin work force, jobs, economy stagnating even more

A couple of reports out this week further illustrate that Wisconsin is acting like a state that has maxed out its economic abilities, in no small part because the state was unable to get people to want to come to Wisconsin during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And now it is leading to a legitimate concern as to where any future growth might be going.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum came out this week with an analysis that underscored the demographic problems that are hindering the state’s economy. In particular, the Policy Forum says there have been fewer working-age Wisconsinites as the 2010s have progressed.
After peaking in 2011 at 3.6 million, Wisconsin’s working-age population has receded by over 35,000 (or 1%) since, U.S. Census data show. In fact, the state’s working-age population has declined slightly in each of the last four consecutive years. (See Figure 1.) While relatively small, this string of losses re- verses a long-term growth trend and heightens concerns about the state’s future workforce.

Making matters worse, Wisconsin’s population of youth under the age of 18 —a key source of future workers—also has de- creased in recent years. The youth population has declined by over 45,000 since 2011, a 3.4% drop. That trend is likely to continue in the future as well; our past research has shown that the state’s birth rate is at its lowest point in at least a generation, and its fertility rate (births relative to population of women ages 15 to 44) also has declined over the past decade.

And this issue of a shrinking labor pool seems to have gotten worse since the end of 2017. While the state’s labor force finally grew by 2,600 in August (as shown in this week’s Wisconsin jobs report), it’s still down by more than 21,000 since the end of 2017.

Wisconsin labor force, Dec 2017-Aug 2019
Dec 2017 3,142,100
Dec 2018 3,125,600
Aug 2019 3,121,000

In fact, while the state’s unemployment rate has barely changed in that time (3.0% in Dec 2017, 3.1% in Aug 2019), the number of “employed” Wisconsinites has dropped by 24,600.

What’s also concerning is that the Policy Forum notes that many mid- and large-size Wisconsin counties are among the largest losers of working-age people. The only notable exceptions are the Madison and Appleton areas.
Notably, the statewide decline in working-age residents has affected most though not all counties. Among the state’s 23 most populous counties, 17 have seen their working-age populations shrink since 2011. (See Figure 2 on page 2). The working-age population in Wood County (where Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield are located) has declined by the largest percentage (-5.9%) during that period, followed by Manitowoc County (-4.6%). Milwaukee County has lost the largest number of working-age residents (-8,846).

On the other end of the spectrum, Dane County has increased its working-age population by the largest number (>15,000) and percentage (4.7%) since 2011, a trend likely influenced by UW-Madison’s attraction and retention of students from both within and outside the state. Dane County also has shown strong and steady growth in its population of youth under 18, which will help to ensure a healthy labor force well into the future.

Another exception is Outagamie County, where Appleton is located, which has seen its working-age population grow by 2.9%. St. Croix and Kenosha counties also have seen modest increases in their working-age populations, but both counties border neighboring states and many of the jobs held by their residents are located in the Twin Cities and Chicago metro areas.

This is also reflected in the fact that the state’s “growth” in the 2010s to be heavily concentrated in a handful of areas. And it reiterates that the state’s low unemployment rate hasn’t been a function of jadding jobs as much as it is a reflection of an aging state with a stagnant population.

In addition to the falling work force, Wisconsin’s job creation has stalled out over the last 2 years. The “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages told us that 2016 had Wisconsin's the worst growth in the 2010s, until 2018 was even slower.

It’s deteriorating further in 2019, according to the monthly reports that we have seen so far.

Change in jobs, 2019 Wisconsin
All jobs
Dec 2018-Apr 2019 -4,200
Apr 2019-Aug 2019 -2,200
TOTAL CHANGE 2019 -6,400

Private jobs
Dec 2018-Apr 2019 -2,000
Apr 2019-Aug 2019 -3,900

It’s clear that we need to improve the attractiveness of this state to stop the declines in the state's working-age population. Giving everything away to corporations, defunding public education, and paying substandard wages isn’t anything that encourages talented individuals to locate themselves and their families in the state.

The growth of Dane County gives a guide for the rest of the state - invest in quality of life, technology, openness and education makes a place more attractive. And no county is more diametrically different than the regressive economic model that the Fitzwalkerstanis designed. So unless we want Wisconsin to lag and stagnate in the 2020s like it has in the 2010s, then we need to change course, and fast. s s

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

C'mon Dems. GET ANGRY!

After the absurdities in DC of this week, time to play this great West Wing clip again.

Far too much of Dem "leadership" in DC is still operating from that soft, defensive mentality. And they think being proper and following the rules is something that voters will reward, and that you have to "trust the system".

Well voters don't trust the system, and they don't care much about decorum if nothing gets done. They want action and they want politicians that aren't afraid to step up for what they believe them. And they don't need to wait for a poll to tell them to speak out.

You know what a lot of people are waiting for? For Dems to slap GOPs in the face for being a bunch of lawless, amoral crooks. And keep smashing them in the face, and locking them up when they refuse to provide information that they are REQUIRED BY LAW to provide. And when lowlifes like Corey Lewandowski think they can laugh in your face, you air him out in front of all the cameras, call him a lying piece of garbage to his face, and haul his ass out of the House chambers and into a holding room for breaking the law.

It would be cathartic for a whole lot of people. And it is necessary.

Fed cuts rates, but that wasn't the biggest monetary story

As expected, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by another 25 basis points on Wednesday.
The Federal Reserve approved a much-anticipated quarter-point interest rate cut Wednesday but offered few indications that further reductions are ahead as members split on what to do next.

Following its two-day policy meeting, the central bank announced that it would take down its benchmark overnight lending rate to a target range of 1.75% to 2%. That comes nearly two months after the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee went ahead with its first cut in 11 years.
While a majority agreed with the 0.25% reduction, one Fed member wanted a cut of 0.5%, while 2 didn't want any cut at all.

The stock market whipsawed as a result. Wall Street originally was unhappy (I think) because the Fed statement led them to believe that the rate cuts might end sooner than later, and the DOW was down more than 200 points in the first hour after the meeting. But then that reversed and the DOW ended up 36 points....because they figured MOAR COCAINE after all?

But a big story emerged in the days before the Fed meeting, as there was a mini-panic on Wall Street with banks were running low on short-term cash.
Repurchase agreements are the grease that keeps the financial system’s wheels spinning, allowing different market participants to borrow and lend to each other to cover short-term cash needs.

On Tuesday, the wheels stopped turning. The so-called repo rate soared to a high of 10 per cent, when it typically trades in line with the Federal Reserve’s target interest rate of between 2 per cent and 2.25 per cent. The New York branch of the Fed had to step in and inject tens of billions of cash into the system in an attempt to restore order, doubling down on Wednesday with a second short-term injection.
That’s not comforting. So what’s going on here? Let's allow Janney Funds' main bond guy to give his explanation.

To me, it sounds like that situation in Vegas where you're tell others “I have no cash because I made a bunch of bets and the games haven’t been played,” but you have to pay for other things and do some other things, and you have no money.

The Fed also played a role in this freeze-up, as the improving economy throughout the 2010s meant that they didn’t have to do as much to help the stock market and economy by being a buyer of certain securities.
The Fed has been reducing the size of its balance sheet, letting the Treasuries and mortgage bonds it bought following the financial crisis roll off. In turn, that reduces the amount of cash reserves banks hold at the Fed. In 2014, banks held $2.9tn in “excess reserves” with the central bank. Since then, that number has dropped to about $1.3tn, where it has hovered all summer.

Fewer cash reserves means less money available at the banks to cover short-term funding stress.
At Wednesday's meeting, Fed did not necessarily say they would buy up more securities, but they did say it was time to loosen up reserves and make them a source of lower rates for banks.
In addition to the reduction, the Fed cut the interest it pays on excess reserves by 30 basis points, greater than the funds rate cut, amid a breakdown this week in the overnight repurchase lending market. The move was aimed at keeping the funds rate within its target range; the interest on excessive reserves (IOER) historically has acted as a guardrail for the funds rate, which traded 5 basis points above the target.
The next Fed meeting comes at the end of October, and I would have to think that economic data that comes in over the next month is going to be a big deal here, combined with whether these cash crunches are continuing for companies over the coming weeks (another repo operation is scheduled for tomorrow).

It feels like the Fed is in a catch-22/ If the economy seems to have overcome its August and September jitters, that along with 2.4% core inflation would not make more rate cuts a sensible move (no matter what debt-ridden Donald Trump says). On the flip side, the Fed funds rate is now down to 1.75%-2%, so cutting the rates again would send a message that the overall economy is weak and shaky (which Trump and other GOPs wouldn’t want to admit).

As I’ve said a lot in recent weeks, things don’t seem to add up on either Wall Street or in the overall economy these days. And today’s Fed decision seemed to match that level of confused cautiousness, with Fed Chairman Powell admitting the Fed has to make "difficult judgments" with all the cross-pressures.

Monday, September 16, 2019

US uninusred risies in 2018, and both Wisconsin and America is in danger of much more soon

The Census Bureau released their annual figures this week on the number of Americans that have (and do not have health insurance). And it featured this disturbing statistic.
In 2018, 8.5 percent of people, or 27.5 million, did not have health insurance at any point during the year. The uninsured rate and number of uninsured increased from 2017 (7.9 percent or 25.6 million) (Figure 1 and Table 1)
That’s the first increase in the uninisured rate since 2009, and it comes in a year where the economy was still growing. Sounds a lot like what we saw in the 2000s during the Bush “expansion”, doesn’t it?

In fairness, economic growth might explain some of these changes, as nearly 2 million fewer people got their health insurance through Medicaid, so they could have conceivably gone over the income limits in 2018. But instead of those individuals getting insured through the private sector, slightly fewer people got health insurance through that method as well, and it more than offset the increased enrollment in Medicare for 2018.
The percentage of people covered by any type of health insurance in 2018 was lower than the percentage in 2017. This decline appears to be driven by a 0.4 percentage-point decrease in public health insurance (Table 1). Medicaid coverage decreased by 0.7 percentage points between 2017 and 2018. The rate of Medicare coverage moved in the opposite direction, increasing by 0.4 percentage points. This increase was partly due to growth in the number of people aged 65 and over and not a change in Medicare coverage for adults in this age range.

The percentage of people covered by private health insurance, or any of its three subtypes (employment-based, direct-purchase, and TRICARE), did not statistically change between 2017 and 2018…

Employer-based insurance was the most common subtype of health insurance (55.1 percent), followed by Medicaid (17.9 percent), Medicare (17.8 percent), direct-purchase insurance (10.8 percent), TRICARE (2.6 percent), and VA or CHAMPVA health care (1.0 percent) (Table 1).

Direct-purchase insurance includes coverage obtained through a state or federal [Obamacare] marketplace. In 2018, 3.3 percent of people, or 30.8 percent of people with direct-purchase insurance, obtained their coverage through a state or federal marketplace.

Also interesting is the breakdown the Census Bureau gave on the income levels of the uninsured. Not surprisingly, poorer people are more likely to be uninsured than richer ones, but it were more well-off individuals who were more likely to lose their health care in 2018.
Health insurance coverage is generally higher for people in higher income-to-poverty ratio groups. In 2018, people in poverty (the population living below 100 percent of poverty) were least likely to have health insurance coverage (83.7 percent), while people living at or above 400 percent of poverty were most likely to have coverage (96.6 percent) (Table 4). Between 2017 and 2018, overall health insurance coverage decreased 1.0 percentage point for people in families with income from 300 to 399 percent of poverty and 0.8 percentage points for people in families with income at or above 400 percent of poverty. During this time, the overall health insurance coverage rate did not statistically change for any other income-to-poverty group.

Public coverage continued to be most prevalent for the population in poverty (66.8 percent) and least prevalent for the population with income-to-poverty ratios at or above 400 percent of poverty (18.5 percent) in 2018.
In fact, while people from households that make 300% or more of poverty are 5/9 of the country, they accounted for more than 85% of the 1.86 million Americans that lost health insurance last year. To me, this points to people who are likely to use the Obamacare exchanges, and/or might be “gig economy” contractors who weren’t already getting health insurance through their jobs.

Narrowing it down further, the Census report looks at a group of individuals just above the poverty line that can be covered under the expanded Medicaid provisions under the Affordable Care Act....or might not be covered by Medicaid in states that don't expand it.

Health insurance sources, 100-138% of poverty, 2018
Private sector 24.8%
Public sector 63.8%
Uninsured 14.7%
(totals over 100% as some people may have insurance for only part of the year).

In Wisconsin, we also had an increase in the amount of people uninsured. Not by much mind you (from 5.4% to 5.5%), and we are still a decent 11th among the US states and DC. And it certainly seems that Wisconsin has had quite a few individuals get enough income to become less eligible for public health care coverage, mirroring a trend in the US.

In particular, a sizable number of Wisconsin (and especially children) have gone off of regular BadgerCare in Wisconsin over the last year, and have ended up on what are known as “income extensions.”

These extensions are in place for either 4 or 12 months, depending on why the person’s income got above the poverty line, and are intended to prevent people from being cut off of BadgerCare if their income bumps up for a short period of time (like with seasonal/occasional work).
A BadgerCare Plus extension is a period of eligibility given to a person when the assistance group's income increases above 100 percent FPL either due to an increase in earned income and/or spousal support and otherwise meets the BadgerCare Plus eligibility criteria for people with incomes below 100 percent FPL.

A parent/caretaker relative or pregnant woman can enter an extension due to an increase above 100 percent FPL in the assistance group’s earned income, spousal support, or both. The children, stepchildren, and NLRR children of the parent/caretaker will also enter the extension at this time, provided they are under age 19, living with the parent/caretakers, and meet the income requirements outlined in Section 18.1.3 Children.

BadgerCare Plus members eligible as childless adults are not eligible for an extension.
Side note - the Walker Administration wanted to have people getting extensions have to pay a premium, but the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services disallowed that in late 2018.

What this shows is that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites may be in danger of losing their BadgerCare benefits in the coming months as those extensions run out. If those individuals aren’t getting insurance from their jobs/income sources, those individuals will likely have to get it from the Obamacare exchanges…if they get it at all.

You don’t think many of those Wisconsinites just above the poverty line would benefit from having Medicaid, and being able keep the same benefits and providers? And let’s not forget, that by refusing to expand Medicaid, we are paying an extra 31% for all of the current Medicaid expenses of people in poverty, while leaving people just above the poverty line in a tenuous situation.

In addition, the high number of middle-income people losing health insurance in 2018 shows that Trump/GOP attempts to mess with the ACA is having success, as insurance companies on the exchanges aren’t offering policies that people want for the price they’d have to pay. At 300%+ FPL, they are getting little to none of their Obamacare policy paid back through tax credits, it indicates a flaw that needs to be fixed (cough – public option and/or Medicare for All – cough).

And if we're starting to see more people become uninsured in America under a "growing" economy in 2018, what happens when an economic downturn hits sooner than later, and corporations decide offloading the costs of health care benefits are a good source of cost savings? And combine that with the fact that the ACA's individual mandate penalty was removed on January 1, 2019 due to the GOP Tax Scam. Ruh roh.