Thursday, October 27, 2016

Trump, Ryan tax plans don't measure up to Clinton plan

Been tied up with my own life, but I wanted to forward the latest article in Bruce Thompson's often-strong "Data Wonk" segment in Urban Milwaukee. I encourage you to read the whole thing, as Thompson compares the following 3 tax plans.

1. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

2. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

3. The tax plan put forth by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the House GOP

I'll give you the nice pictures, and you can read Bruce's article for more detail. First of all, when these tax plans were scored by the Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center, both institutes agreed that Clinton's would raise additional revenue by taxing the rich more, while both Trump's and Ryan's plans reduce revenues by cutting taxes for everyone, but especially the rich and corporate.

Now, if you're into having government collect less in taxes on principle, you may still prefer either of the GOP's plans, and the lower revenues can also be a good excuse to cut Medicare, Social Security, and other social spending (strangely, these people never seem to bring up military spending as a place to cut). But Thompson mentions that what those Trump or Ryan tax cuts won't do is grow the economy in the long term as much as Clinton's plans. The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton model indicates that while Ryan's or Trump's tax cuts may give a very small bump in economkc activity in the first couple of years, it'll drop activity far below the current trend line in the years after that, and make us worse off than both the status quo and Clinton's plan.

And Thompson concludes by noting that even if you buy into the right-wing magic of "dynamic scoring", where people respond strongly to tax cuts to grow the economy much more than history shows it will, the GOP cuts will still leave revenues depressed, leading to either huge deficits, or major budget cuts, unlike Clinton's plans.

So there you go. Run with that information any way you want over these last 12 days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wait, why are GOPs suppressing UW student votes anyway?

You've probably heard about the latest bout of WisGOP voter suppression going on, this time in the City of Green Bay. Ari Berman of the Nation blew the cover off of this with an article yesterday that detailed the behind-the-scenes discussions that happened in Titletown as the city finalized early voting plans for the Fall elections.
After the [April presidential] primary, leaders of eight different student groups—including the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian parties and the Black Student Union—asked the city to put an early-voting location on campus to alleviate long lines. But city officials ignored the request and opened only one early-voting site on September 26 for the entire city—the third-largest in Wisconsin—at the clerk’s office, a 15-minute drive from campus, which is open only during business hours. City Clerk Kris Teske, an appointee of Republican Mayor [and soon-to-be convicted criminal] Jim Schmitt, a close ally of Governor Scott Walker, said the city didn’t have the money, time, or security to open an early-voting location on campus or anywhere else.

“For this to be the site for early voting is encouraging the students to vote more than benefiting the city...”

But privately Teske gave a different reason for opposing an early-voting site at UW–Green Bay, writing that student voting would benefit the Democratic Party. “UWGB is a polling location for students and residents on Election Day but I feel by asking for this to be the site for early voting is encouraging the students to vote more than benefiting the city as a whole,” she wrote on August 26 in an e-mail to David Buerger, counsel at the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. “I have heard it said that students lean more toward the democrats…. I have spoken with our Chief of Staff and others at City Hall and they agree that budget wise this isn’t going to happen. Do I have an argument about it being more of a benefit to the democrats?”

The e-mails were provided to The Nation following an open-records request by the One Wisconsin Institute, which has successfully challenged early-voting cutbacks in the state.
First of all, if GB thought having multiple early voting sites was too expensive to do, could be legitimate and certainly seems legal (although that excuse seems flimsy and somewhat undemocratic). Not doing it because it benefits one party or the other, however, is not a good reason, and likely not legal. And very stupid to say in an email that is subject to open records and legal discovery.

The state Elections Commission's lawyer said budgetary reasons were likely a sufficient excuse, and expressed skepticism about Teske's idea that early voting would favor Democrats.
Nathan Judnic, the Wisconsin Elections Commission's legal counsel, wrote Teske her concerns about budget, staffing and ballot security "are all legitimate factors that other communities were weighing as they considered whether to open multiple early voting sites."

"As far as stating that one political party may be advantaged more because of a particular location, I might be hesitant to make that argument unless you could point to something other than 'I've heard that students lean more democratic,'" Judnic wrote. "Additionally, the in-person sites could be used by all residents of the city and wouldn't be restricted to use by students. Finally, if the campus polling location is OK for election day, and there is no 'political advantage' then, I'm not sure what the difference is for in-person absentee voting at that same location?"
And that led me to ask a simple question- do UW-Green Bay students vote for Dems more than other residents of Green Bay? The assumption is yes, because college students and younger voters generally have favored Democrats in the state and the country in the Obama era, but it's relatively easy to test this theory for UWGB, because one city ward for voting is largely contained to the UWGB campus- Ward 3.

So I went the GAB's site with records of past elections in Wisconsin, and compared what happened in that ward compared to the rest of the city. And you know what? Other than the elections last April, the GB students haven't been all that much different, and actually favored Scott Walker in 2014 more than the rest of the Green Bay did.

UW-Green Bay student vote
2012 November election
Ward 3, Green Bay- Obama 56.9%, Romney 41.1%
Rest of City of Green Bay- Obama 56.6%, Romney 41.9%

2014 November election
Ward 3, Green Bay- Walker 51.4%, Burke 45.6%
Rest of City of Green Bay- Walker 50.6%, Burke 47.9%

2016 Votes, Presidential Primary
Ward 3, Green Bay- Dem 61.3%, GOP 38.7%
Rest of City of Green Bay- Dem 51.5%, GOP 48.5%

Ward 3, Green Bay- Kloppenburg 54.0%, Bradley 45.6%
Rest of City of Green Bay- Bradley 53.1%, Kloppenburg 46.6%

In other words, Teske's theory that UWGB "favors Democrats" compared to the rest of the city generally doesn't pan out. Guess they're not big at looking at data down at GB City Hall.

By comparison to GOP-run Green Bay, the City of Madison has actively encouraged early voting for its residents, both in having large amount of days to early vote, and in having numerous sites around the city. It seems to be paying off, as the numbers that came out today have to scare the daylights out of the Trump and Ron Johnson campaigns.
As of Tuesday, the City of Madison Clerk had issued a total of 35,497 absentee ballots and had 31,421 returned to be counted, shattering the previous records of 32,012 issued in 2008 and 29,199 returned in 2012.

The City has also established another new record with 26,527 absentee ballots cast in person at early voting locations. The previous high was 18,752 ballots cast in person in 2012.

The Madison Clerk's office expanded both the early voting period for 2016 and the number of locations, after a federal court struck down a state law in August that had limited early voting to two weeks prior to the election with no weekend hours and only allowed cities to provide one location for people to cast in-person absentee ballots.

In response to the court's ruling, the City of Madison started in person absentee voting on September 26 at 11 different locations, which expanded to 13 locations this week and to 14 by next week.
What we don’t know is how much of that early vote in Madison is being done by UW students, and how much of it is from everyone else. And what’s interesting is that when you look at the “liberal UW-Madison” student vote (which I derived by looking at the results from 17 wards in areas on or near campus where UW students live), and the checked the results from that area for the November elections of 2012 and 2014, and the April 2016 Supreme Court race/presidential primary, the Republican candidate actually did better on/near campus than in the rest of the city.

City of Madison vote
President, 2012
UW Student Wards- Obama 72.5%, Romney 24.6%
Rest of the City- Obama 79.4%, Romney 19.0%

Governor, 2014
UW Student Wards- Burke 69.0%, Walker 29.2%
Rest of the City- Burke 79.8%, Walker 19.1%

Supreme Court, April 2016
UW Student Wards- Kloppenburg 76.6%, Bradley 22.8%
Rest of the City- Kloppenburg 80.4%, Bradley 19.4%

Of course, there are still big Dem advantages in the student wards of Madison, as those areas gave Obama an extra 12,000 votes over Romney, while Burke beat Walker by over 7,000 votes, and Kloppenburg beat Bradley by over 9,700. But at least in Green Bay and Madison, we don't see the breakdown in how students vote being that much different than the vote in the rest of those cities. Yes, that vote will likely more rural leaning than the redder rural areas (who generally aren't affected by how much time is given to early voting), but it does show that encouraging early voting in student areas at UWGB and UW-Madison would be more for boosting overall student turnout than in favoring one side over the other.

But it's those increased margins in Madison and increased proportion of the electorate for UWGB college students that explain the real strategy behind the GOP’s voter suppression. They are choosing to hold down the vote totals of UW students rather than develop policies and ideas that might get more of those students to vote for them. That's what WisGOP fears- having more young people voting PERIOD, because then they have to care more about what young people think, and the WisGOPs might want to think twice before screwing over the UW again, or in placating narrow special-interests by passing regressive social legislation. But the sad fact is that all of us, not just the young folks, are the ones losing in Wisconsin because of those kinds of bills and the backwards approach that goes with them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Walker gaffe shows he will deform state employee health care, if given chance

These are three short paragraphs in an article in the La Crosse Tribune. But they say sooooo much.
Any new money for public schools most likely would be distributed through both equalization and categorical aid, Gov. Scott Walker said Monday.

He visited the Barney Center in Sparta for an invitation-only “listening session” that was closed to the media.

Walker has pledged to spend more on public education by using savings from changes to state employee health plans. He said the specifics will come early next year when he sends his biennial budget to the state Legislature.
"Invitation-only "listening session" that was closed to the media? It's nice to know the Guv is staying in touch with everyday Wisconsinites isn't it? And you wonder why this state falls further and further behind the rest of the country in both economy and quality of life when you have this guy deciding to hide inside his protective bubble?

But even worse is what you see in the last sentence. Extra money that goes into public education will be available due to "savings from changes to state employee health plans." What changes are we talking about, Scotty? Notice that he's not saying until after the election (Unintimidated!), but let's go with what we do know on that subject. The Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds sent out a Request for Proposal in July looking for the following.
The objective of this RFP is to acquire health benefits administrators to provide Services that will accommodate the current Uniform Benefit plan design and enhance the value of the plan through the following changes: 

Transition to a self-insured health benefit program; 
Regional, statewide, and nationwide networks; 
Consistent administration of health benefits;
Value based plan design; and 
Data sharing and strategic coordination with other Contractors and/or third party administrators, such as the State’s data warehouse, PBM, consulting actuaries, wellness Contractors, etc.
Those proposals had a deadline of September 20, but conveniently will not be opened and shown in public by the Group Insurance Board until November 15- one week after the elections. Selecting one statewide vendor for self-insurance or even choosing a handful of private organizations to cover the various regions would be a major departure from the competitive environment of bidding that happens with state employee health benefits these days. And a new system is far from guaranteed to give savings to taxpayers....unless Walker has already planned to push off costs onto state employees through higher premiums, or by cutting costs through major reductions in covered services for those employees.

And ya think the chosen vendors just might be champing at the bit to grab the hefty profits that are sure to come from such a system, and that they just might be willing to say "thank you" with a few campaign contributions to Scott Walker's 2020 presidential campaign or the WisGOP legislators that have to sign off on them? Win-win all around! Hey, who cares about the jobs and low-cost efficiencies that go with the well-functioning current health care system for state employees when there's money to be kicked back, right?

What Walker said in Sparta yesterday is the definition of a gaffe- someone telling a truth that they don't want the public to know, and one that makes the speaker look bad. Know that if voters in Wisconsin allow rubber-stamp Republicans to stay in power after November 2016, then this type of screw-job is coming. In a way, I guess we should thank Scotty for being so stupid as to give the game away.

Monday, October 24, 2016

FEMA aid will be a big help to get flooded Wisconsin back to normal

After last month's major floods in western Wisconsin, local and state governments were facing an extra level of road repairs that they didn't account for. While the state of Wisconsin sets aside $1 million a year in the Transportation Fund, and budgets an additional $6.5 million of General Fund Aid for the 2015-17 biennium to help local governments pay for damages, that wouldn't be nearly enough to handle the needs that have arisen from record rains that happened last month, as well as the widespread damage from a 12-inch downpour in July in Northern Wisconsin.

Governor Walker and members of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation made a request of President Obama to release funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration to lower the burden that state and local governments would have to shoulder for repairs to roads and buildings. And on Thursday, the President agreed, making a major disaster declaration for much of western Wisconsin, which means FEMA will pick up 75% of the costs involved in repairs from the floods. Governor Walker announced the FEMA declaration in a press release and thanked President Obama's Administration for the move (without using Obama's name, of course).
...The counties included in the declaration are Adams, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, and Vernon.

"We're pleased these communities will receive federal assistance as they work to repair roads and other infrastructure that was damaged during the flash floods last month," said Governor Walker. "The damage caused by these flash floods and mudslides have placed significant strains on many local budgets, so this federal assistance is a welcome relief."

Last week, Governor Walker formally requested a federal disaster declaration. Although impacted by the floods, Eau Claire and Trempealeau counties did not sustain enough damage to qualify for the federal assistance.

Heavy rains hit western Wisconsin September 21 and 22, causing flash floods, mudslides, and washed out roads. Preliminary damage assessments conducted by FEMA determined the storms caused more than $11 million in damage to public infrastructure, including over $5.2 million in damage in Vernon County.
Walker's request and promotion of the FEMA aid seems ironic for a guy who ranted at the Republican Convention about how states like Wisconsin shouldn't rely on "liberal Washington." And while I applaud Walker for actually doing his job and asking for help from FEMA, it shows how absurd that neo-Confederate "state's rights" pose is, because the state of Wisconsin and especially the local governments in the western part of the state would have faced significant disruptions to their road repair plans if they had to pay for it on their own. And no local or state government deserves to be handcuffed because of natural disasters like the large-scale floods that have afflicted Wisconsin in recent months.

Now that the feds have done their duty to help the states in their times of need after natural disasters, there will likely be little long-term damage to state budgets and infrastructure. The FEMA funds are especially handy for Vernon County, a place without a lot of people or money flowing around, and the Vernon County 2017 budget needs to be finalized in the next month after millions of dollars in unforeseen repairs have been made.
Vernon County Highway Commissioner Phil Hewitt said Obama's Federal Emergency Management Agency declaration is like Christmas coming early.

"It means that we're going to be able to do road construction and that sort of thing next year instead of paying for flood damage," Hewitt said. "This declaration, especially with the townships and even with the county, it saves us.".
The Vernon County Highway Commissioner also says in the Wisconsin Public Radio article that the FEMA money also allows for pre-emptive measures that minimize future disasters.
Hewitt said FEMA officials usually approve funding for infrastructure improvements, not just replacements. Without FEMA authorized improvements to riverbanks and bridges after flooding in 2008, this year's flood damage would have been 10 times worse, he said.

"That's the big thing about FEMA, is they usually will allow you to do mitigation on some of these projects, and then you don't have to go down this road again," Hewitt said.
And there's no question that preparing for the next storm is something that is a worthwhile investment of tax dollars. With these once-in-a-lifetime floods seeming to hit every few years these days, and 1-2 inches of rain forecast for much of southern Wisconsin over the next 48 hours, it seems that natural disasters are something that will cost us more money now and in the future. And regardless of how much the Kochs shell out to make GOP politicians deny the man-made contribution to climate change, to not budget and prepare for this new reality of weather-related costs is something that cannot be done by any responsible government.

"Special needs vouchers" - a scam in more ways than one

Throughout the 5 ½ years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, we have seen the continual and increased funneling of taxpayer dollars away from K-12 public schools through various voucher programs, putting those funds into religious schools and other private (often for-profit) organizations. This has been infuriating enough to those of us who understand that one of Wisconsin’s few advantages over other states had been its strong public schools, and it is no concidence that the state’s economy has floundered and failed to attract talent as the Wisconsin GOP has deinvested in K-12 public schools and the UW System.

But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Erin Richards gave new, in-depth information today on the most recent voucher school scam in the state- a new “special-needs scholarship” program that started this year, designed to allow special education students to get additional money to attend private schools.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau described the funding of the new special needs program in this manner.
Set a per pupil aid transfer amount of $12,000 in 2016-17 to be transferred from the resident district to the nonresident district for each special education pupil who open enrolls. Specify that this amount be indexed annually in a manner similar to the transfer amount for a regular education pupil, which is based on the revenue limit per pupil adjustment and the change in categorical aid funding per pupil in a given year.
That $12,000 is $4,024 to $4,670 more than what is handed out in state aid for a “regular” voucher student. And just like with the traditional voucher program, many of these special needs vouchers came from students who were already attending the voucher school in the first place and whose parents were already getting a tax break for private school tuition (another scam put in by WisGOP in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, enabling those parents to write off private school tuition and the property taxes they pay for public schools).

This new special needs voucher doesn’t have any money budgeted for it in 2015-17 state budget, but instead will be “paid for” by cutting the general aids of the public school that’s in the student’s home area. Richards describes how this has resulted in further aid reductions for two prominent Milwaukee-area districts, which they just found about.
Down the road in Hartland, Arrowhead Union High School officials opened their state aid figures this month to find a new deduction of $84,000 to pay for seven resident children using special-needs vouchers.

The method for paying for special-needs vouchers results in districts with declining enrollment, like Arrowhead, losing a separate cushion of funding. That amounted to an additional $20,000 loss from last year, Business Manager Steve Kopecky said.

“It’s a new tweak we have to budget for," he said.

Districts can recoup some of the aid losses through a complicated funding formula. But over time, most districts would still face a gap of at least $2,000 per participating child each year.

Milwaukee Public Schools has the largest number of resident children using new special-needs vouchers. The district will lose about $1.8 million in state aid to pay for about 150 resident students.

Interestingly, the state budget also threw in an extra $5,000,000 for High-Cost Special Education aid for students with exceptional needs. As the Legislative Fiscal Bureau described
Under the current law program, school districts, CESAs, County Children with Disability Education Boards (CCDEBs), and independent charter schools are eligible for high-cost aid for 90% of non-administrative costs above $30,000 for an individual pupil in the previous school year, if the costs were not reimbursed by state special education categorical aid, federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or the federal Medicaid program. If funding is insufficient, payments are prorated.
This program had maxed out its allocation of $3.5 million in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, likely meaning that at least some districts did not get that full 90% reimbursement (the 2015-16 figure has not been produced, as it is among the “missing appendix items” in last week’s Annual Fiscal Report). So $5 million was added to the $3.5 million for a total of $8.5 million available in high-cost aid for the 2016-17 school year. But while these extra funds for high-cost special education are nice, they only apply to a small portion of students. And the money comes with a major catch: the 90% coverage of costs over $30K that were previously covered was reduced by WisGOP to 70%. So while there’s more money available, the district has to eat more of the high costs associated with students with exceptional needs. So much for that “funding increase.”

Even worse, the State of Wisconsin hasn’t raised the amount of special education aids it gives to K-12 districts for 8 years. This often means that the extra, required costs of special education get loaded onto general education, and the property taxes of district residents. And now these special needs vouchers are taking out even more of the general aids for schools.

And it’s not like special education instructors and aides can be reduced in these districts just because a few students (and their parents) grab the special needs vouchers and head to a private school. There are still sizable amounts of students in need of special ed services, and it would be hard to justify reducing one of those staff positions just because a few students have left, as it would likely be an inefficient move (in addition to being really scuzzy).

I suppose that outcome might lower the student-to-teacher ratio a bit, as the remaining special education students in the district might get a little more individual attention. But that marginal help doesn’t come close to the loss of resources that the district has had to take on, both for this year and in previous years. Given the lack of an increase in special ed funding from the state and the cuts to general K-12 aids, it is likely that the level and/or quality of special ed services have declined over the last 8 years.

We shouldn’t be surprised that convicted criminal Scott Jensen and the voucher lobby have pulled off another scam on Wisconsin taxpayers with this “special needs scholarship” program. But we can stop it from getting worse, by voting out every and all GOP legislative candidates that have voted for this crap, or getting help from voucher front groups this election season.

And no matter what these GOP puppets may say to their voters in public, and no matter what “show votes” they may make against the state budget, if they are kept in office, the voucher lobby’s agenda will continue. NONE ARE INNOCENT. And if the voucher lobby’s agenda continues, the deterioration of Wisconsin’s public schools will continue, and the rip-off of Wisconsin taxpayers will continue.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"How rural America lost its F**ing Mind"- and why it's understandable wouldn't seem to be a great source of social and economic commentary, but David Wong beat those expectations earlier this month with a great article titled "How Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind." Wong grew in downstate Illinois, and notes that part of the reason Donald Trump has done well with small-town, lesser-educated white people shouldn't be limited to mere racism. It's also because rural America has a very different experience than the America that lives around big cities, a point Wong reiterates by noting "[Illinois] isn't blue. Freaking Chicago is blue."

Wong notes these differences lead to major limitations in small-town America, but that these differences are largely ignored in media and therefore the consciousness of most Americans.
If you don't live in one of these small towns, you can't understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around the city is now a hundred-foot wall called "Cost of Living." Let's say you're a smart kid making $8 an hour at a Walgreen's and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you're paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters. Unless, of course, you're planning to move to one of "those" neighborhoods (hope you like being set on fire!).

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may be only two doctors in town - aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The "downtown" is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in WalMart's blast crater, the "suburbs" are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic...

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will put out an iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this comment saying, "You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!" Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about inner cities.
This is a great point. Because our media is based out of big cities on the coasts, the fact that much of small-town America has gone down the tubes in the 2000s and not recovered much (especially in ALEC states like Wisconsin) gets largely ignored by the media, even as the rest of American economy got back on track.

Because life in these communities is so limited, and the "American Dream" meme is "you can succeed anywhere if you are born into any circumstance", this naturally causes a conflict and leads a lot of those people to lash out at forces that really are keeping them down, but that they can't do much about. Sure, some of these people are very limited and made bad choices, but lots of kids in big cities do the same thing, and their lives don't seem to be shit...or at least the media notices that their lives are shit and rightfully recognize it as a PROBLEM that needs to be talked about.

So what do people in these small, isolated communities do? They turn to people who actually "feel their pain", even if that person is racist fool whose policies will leave them worse off. As Wong notes later in the column
The rural folk with Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I'm telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It's not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal miners. Well, except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse.

So yes, they vote for the guy promising to put things back the way they were, the guy who'd be a wake-up call to the blue islands. They voted for the brick through the window.

It was a vote of desperation.
That doesn't mean we should excuse small-town white people for falling for Trump or for accepting the racism and regressive mentality that comes with accepting Trumpism. But we should understand where it comes from, and try to deal with the different often-bleak reality that exists in small-town America in 2016. Instead, we have a DNC that concentrates on the "Obama Coalition" of educated whites, minorities, and others who believe that diversity and equal rights makes the country better off. And despite those values of respecting diversity being a good thing, what has often been ignored by Team DNC/Clinton is a strong platform addressing economic inequality, realizing that "free trade" with 3rd world Countries has eliminated jobs and reduced the wages of a lot of Americans who did nothing wrong, and cleaning up a corrupt government where the rich and connected are able to play by different rules than the rest of us in "99%-land".

Republicans have used this legitimate anger to rise to power in many states, despite having an economic agenda that makes the crappy life in rural America even worse (especially by defunding public schools, one of the few levels small-town America can have). Some of this is done by distracting older, rural voters with social issues like guns or abortion, because those are personal items that rural people can relate to over racial/sexual equity questions or how to best balance the state budget. It's also done by driving resentment against "educated elites"- (mo)Ron Johnson denigrating Russ Feingold as somehow being a lesser person because Russ chose to be a lawyer, politician and college lecturer vs Johnson's more "legitimate work" of inheriting his father-in-law's business is a great example of this strategy. People in small towns with HS education have little concept of the work that goes into obtaining a higher education, or the value that educational institutions give to a society, but they can see a local mill or business, and think most of those guys are legitimate.

Again, this doesn't excuse the mess and social damage that Trumpism has caused, and it won't go away after November 8 just because a sizablre majority of people of this country will reject Trumpism. These resentments in small-town America will continue, and those of us that live in states that aren't overly dominated by big cities will have to deal with these realities. If small-town America continues to be made invisible, the country will fail to reach its potential because we will have a sizable amount of states run by people like Scott Walker who take advantage of those resentments to win off-year elections, and then those GOPs will put in policies that do nothing to solve the chronic economic problems that make life in the small towns so depressing and anger-inducing, and that'll continue for years until the cycle is broken by a new Dem mentality, or because the rural population declines and dies off enough that they get outvoted for good. And that is not a near-term future that sounds any good for anyone.

PS- Here's a Saturday Night Live skit from last night, where Tom Hanks plays a rural white guy who kicks ass on "Black Jeopardy", because he seems to have a lot in common with the lives of the working/lower-class black people that the questions are geared toward. Well, until when they get to "Lives That Matter" question, and then the answers between Hanks and the two other (African-American contestants) seem likely to be a LOT different.

And you can bet that right-wing radio and rural white America will turn this into "see, look at how those Hollywood elites think of you." And far too many rural whites will say "Yeah, fuck them! What do they know?"

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Awful September jobs put exclamation mark on horrible Wisconsin record

After yesterday's release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' state-by-state jobs report which showed Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state in September, I wanted to update a couple of stats that look at Wisconsin's performance vs the rest of our Midwestern neighbors.

First let's start with the September report, which showed some other Midwestern states lost jobs, and that Indiana had a huge increase. But Wisconsin definitely "separated" itself from the rest.

Change in jobs, September 2016
Ind. +16,300
Ill. +7,400
Mich +5,400
Minn +1,900
Iowa -900
Ohio -3,100
Wis. -10,500

Private sector
Ind. +10,100
Ill. +6,300
Mich +4,900
Minn +300
Iowa -100
Ohio -300
Wis. -8,500

The same trend of Wisconsin lagging continues if you widen it out for the last year. Only the dysfunctional mess in Illinois keeps Wisconsin out of the Midwestern cellar over this time period.

Change in jobs, Sept 2015- Sept 2016
Mich +2.00%
Iowa +1.90%
Minn +1.61%
Ind. +1.45%
Ohio +1.35%
Wis. +1.25%
Ill. +0.73%

Private sector
Mich +2.11%
Iowa +1.96%
Minn +1.81%
Ind. +1.58%
Ohio +1.27%
Wis. +1.27%
Ill. +0.85%

But even worse is if you narrow out to the last 6 months. When you do that, Wisconsin is in a class by itself....of losing. And it looks even worse when you see the growth on the other side of the St. Croix River.

Change in jobs, March-Sept 2016
Minn +29,100
Ind. +23,100
Iowa +11,800
Ill. +9,600
Mich +6,900
Ohio +6,500
Wis. -13,000

Private sector
Minn +24,500
Ind. +21,700
Ill. +13,100
Mich +10,500
Iowa +9,100
Ohio +1,400
Wis. -11,700

And of course, we were already near the bottom of the Midwest for job growth in the 5 years before March 2016, according to the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages. The list above, with Wisconsin being the only state to lose jobs, are the 6 months that have been reported since that last report ended. Ruh Roh.

So maybe it's time to pull the plug on this ALEC crap and remove the puppet politicians that have allowed this mess to happen. You wouldn't accept the Badgers or the Packers to be this horrible compared to our neighbors, so why do we accept it in something more important like jobs, schools, or quality of life?