Saturday, December 31, 2011

Final thoughts for 2011- Every Breath We Take

Just wanted to leave a last note as we wash away this extraordinary year. When I started 2011, I wasn't in a good place politically, as the election of Scott Walker and other deceptive, foolish Tea Baggers had led me to wonder if there was any point in doing things the way I thought was proper. It didn't seem like having good values and working hard was paying off, not in the corporate world, not at the ballot box, and not in everyday life. It seemed like indifference and lies were trumping decency, fact, and doing the right thing.

Then Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" in February, and the despair turned to anger. And when I saw tens of thousands of my fellow Wisconsinites take to the streets with the same emotion, I realized that all was not lost- that decency and respect and doing the right thing still mattered deeply to more people than just a handful that I was fortunate to know personally. I have full confidence that 2011 will be shown to be the year that millions of people finally GOT IT, where they realized that most of our elected officials do not have our best interests at heart, and that it's going to take direct action to drive these moneychangers from the temple. And that direct action means more protests, recalls if necessary, and puncturing the bubble that far too many of the media and middle America want to rest in.

You saw this reflected in this blog. I'd only written occasional items in the first 3 years this had been in existence, mostly casual economics-related stuff or sports items or general silliness that I'd come across. But I found an outlet for all the anger and bullshit and undiscussed realities that needed to be let out into the open. I noticed how the media was failing to report was obvious to anyone who was in Madison in February and March of 2011- that there was an out-of-state corporate takeover of Wisconsin and Wisconsin's values being attempted, and despite the media's "false equvialency" game of lies and spin, that reality was on one side, and Scott Walker/ Koch/ ALEC was on the other. And that something had to be said and done to break through the noise.

I also knew how to read and figure state and local budgets, and figured this space could be used to allow people to separate the fact from the bullshit as to whether Wisconsin was truly "broke", and if these rash meaures were actually needed. I figured out very quickly that the state was far from broke, and having the archives for these posts have frequently led to future posts as the WisGOPs continue to think that the average citizen will have the convenient amnesia that our media seems to have (or wants to have in exchange for access). I realized I could use this space to alert others to what was really happening in our state and nationwide, let them find the same information I knew, and have them become educated in the budgetary and rhetorical games these guys were trying to play (like when I knew in March that Walker was lying about laying off state employees because the numbers didn't add up) My goal at the time was to not only let people know I thought something was bullshit, but to have them DISCOVER AND SEE WHY it was bullshit, and then encourage them to use that knowledge to act, and pass those facts onto others.

But this blog changed when I woke up on the 4th of July, used my knowledge of K-12 policies and the state budget, and exposed the lies the Walker boys were making about Kaukauna schools. 2 days later, I checked back into this space, and saw that instead of the usual 15 or 20 hits, there were more like 400. And it turned out that Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had discovered my story and shot it nationwide. It's still by far my most-hit post, at nearly 2,000 pageviews as I write this.

And maybe the Kaukauna incident has now allowed this blog to take on a life of its own. I almost feel a need to say something every day or two, or whenever the latest lie or instance of corruption or policy failure comes out of Wallker's administration (which seems to be about every day or two these days). And the 2 or 3 people that have stumbled upon this place have now become 10 or 20 or 30, they're passing along the words that I have, and are adding their own knowledge, allowing us to write abook of reality in Wisconsin to counter the fallacies in Walker World. And they're teaching me a lot more with their great work. Since the media won't do the job, it becomes our job in the Cheddarsphere to drive these bastards out, and because we know the facts and have the outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and these blogs, WE WILL DRIVE THE BASTARDS OUT. Sure, it won't be easy, but it's a whole lot more doable when the facts tend to fall on your side. In 2012, I may be busy with other parts of my life, but I'll still be on this site quite a bit, doing what I can to bring what I see and know to the rest of you, and thanking you for helping me know more too.

And for Governor Walker, and the WisGOPs and your corporate puppetmasters, I have one final message, courtesy of Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland. As an extra bonus, maybe this'll bring the tune back to you in the way Sting originally intended it to mean.
That's right, we'll be watching you. Happy New Year to all who read this, and let's make some history.

Walker boys keep lying on lowering school taxes

Great stuff from Heather Bourenane Monologues of Dissent today. She not only revisits my post from last month, reminding you that FUBAR'ing Wisconsin schools came at a net savings of a whopping $18 per Wisconsin household, she also destroys Gov. Dropout for lying in his email to constituents.
First of all, you claim in your letter that you have lowered the school portion of the property tax levy by one percent across the state, putting $228 million "back in the pockets" of Wisconsin taxpayers, which you claim "amounts to $69 for every man, woman and child in the state" just for the school portion of the tax bill. What kind of fuzzy math is this? Every man, woman and child? The 2010 census puts the population of Wisconsin at 5,686,986. Multiply this by $69 and you get $392,402,034 (not the $228 million you claim you put back in our pockets). As my Dad asked, where's the other $164,402,034? In your pocket?

This question is rhetorical, of course, because these figures - like my question - are a joke. It just doesn't add up. According to data from the Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance, Wisconsin taxpayers actually saw an increase in the tax rate ($9.84 this year, compared to $9.76) despite an overall decrease in the tax levy. In 2010-11, the school district levies statewide totaled $4,692,935,468. In 2011-12, the total is $4,645,873,099. That's a .98 percent decrease, true: a difference of $47,062,369

So let's do the real math. If we divide that $47,062,369 by the 5,686,986 Wisconsin men, women and children whose pockets you care so much about, each of them saves $8.28 compared to last year. Not the $69 you claim. (Not that even $69 a year would do anything to compensate for how much less I now take home in my paycheck, incidentally).
And it gets even better from there, because Heather wasn't even lucky enough to see those menial savings in Sun Prairie:
And for what it's worth, my own property taxes did not go down. They went up, and significantly so, due in no small part to the handiwork of our conservative City Council and Mayor John Murray (you know, the guy with no justice experience that you just appointed to be head of the Office of Justice Assistance for close to $100,000 a year?). [Ed. Note: Murray's also a main guy behind the September firing of an state employee who dared to remind co-workers that people could get free IDs to vote. ] And our school tax levy only changed by a few cents, even though citizens had turned out in force at the annual School Board Budget Meeting and voted to raise it more to safeguard against your cuts that would force us to drop some much-needed programming.

No, it's not working, and it will never work. And the more we tell the truth, the more we'll kick Walker and WisGOP's reality-ignoring asses in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Van Hollen's DOJ, WisGOP, and Michael Best - pure naked corruption Pt. 2

This is why a good memory is something I'm glad to have. Just in time for New Year's we have a new revelation in the Walker Admin's John Doe investigation, and it inovolves a lack of cooperation (cover-up?) at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The Patrick Marley and Dan Bice story includes emails that clearly shows DOJ officials getting a supbpeona for emails from Scott Walker's guv campaign, and clearly were worried about it.
"This is one to try and stay away from. I can't see any good coming from it," Ed Wall, head of the department's Division of Criminal Investigation, wrote in a Nov. 15, 2010, email.

"Absolutely," responded David Spakowicz, director of field operations for the division's eastern region.

Wall's email was sent just hours before he met with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm about the John Doe investigation. Also at the meeting were then-Deputy Attorney General Ray Taffora and Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern.
The meeting happened just two weeks after Walker was elected governor and a month and a half before he was sworn in....

...the records also show Department of Justice officials discussed the investigation on Nov. 1 - the day before the election and the day prosecutors executed a subpoena for emails from Walker's campaign, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

"Are you available for a call - ASAP - in order to brief you on this sensitive matter?" Spakowicz wrote Wall at 1:40 p.m. that day.

Wall said he was available and six minutes later wrote to Taffora, then the No. 2 official in the department, to ask when he could take a call.

David Matthews, director of field operations for the Division of Criminal Investigation, later wrote Wall to say: "Spak has briefed me on today's SW activities."
Notice a familiar name in there? I did - the name of Ray Taffora.

Who is Ray Taffora? He's the former Number 2 guy in the Attorney General's office and a GOP campaign contributor who left DOJ right after the election to go to Michael, Best and Friedrich to help the Walker boys during the Act 10/ budget repair bill controversy, and signed a blank check, taxpayer-funded contract right before Walker "dropped the bomb." Hmmm, wonder why he wouldn't want something like Scott Walker's campaign to get investigated too deeply when he stood to make major bank off of Walker's election? And neither would GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who heads up the DOJ.

We also saw Taffora's name earlier this week as part of the group of Michael Best and GOP officials that were meeting in secret to hammer out redistricting this summer. You know who else we saw in that redistricting story that was in the news in the las 48 hours? Eric McLeod who just quit Walker's commission that helps Scotty pick judges. (fun sidelight- in typical Walker lying fashion, Scotty tried to claim to the media that he had asked for McLeod's resignation to make it look like Walker believed in "transparency"....except Walker made the statement after McLeod had already told Walker he was quitting.)

There's so much smoke here, I'm starting to choke from just looking at the connections between the DOJ, Michael, Best and Friedrich, and the GOP. It's all out there, just connect the dots, folks.

Family Care fiasco = everything we can't stand about Walker

I couldn't help but roar in laughter as Scott Walker's pathetic act this week at a press conference announcing the removal of Family Care enrollment limits. It's something that has all of the elements of what has made this administration such a failure.

1. Stupid ideological pose causes equally silly reversal- Capping the amount of elderly and disabled people who can enroll in a system that allows them to stay in their own homes is sick on its face, and the mark of a sociopath who views people as nothing but commodities. But then to turn around, reverse that policy, and then promise $80 million to go toward Family Care with no explanation of where the money will come from is beyond stupid. It's much like how $500 million in Medicaid cuts were slipped into the state budget, and then the details worked out later on how to throw 64,000 people off of Badger Care. Just saying something will happen isn't the same as actually making it happen.

2. Shooting first, dealing with the fallout later - This is a recurring theme with this administration. Instead of figuring out if they actually could continue to receive federal Medicaid funding if they cut people off of Family Care, the Walker boys just went ahead and did this. That's the most interesting part of the letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to the Wisconsin DHS to me.
Please note that these types of waiver amendments, even if potentially approvable, may receive only a prospective approval date. Until specific approval of an amendment is received, the State is required to continute to operate the waiver as described in the currently-approved 1915(c) waiver application...

Because the currently approved waiver includes an entitlement to waiver services, we are instructing the State t operate the waiver as it was approved by CMS.
In other words, you don't get to change the caps until we tell you you can change the caps. So now all these individuals are rightfully put onto Family Care with no way to pay for it.

It is strongly reminiscent of the fuck-up involving high-speed rail, when the Walker folks tried to insist rail money could be used for highways, and the Federal Railroad Administration had to remind them that no, rail money is for...rail, and Wisconsin taxpayers ended up paying millions more than they otherwise would have and got less for it. The Walker Administration is either so arrogant or stupid that they are incapable of realizing the strings attached to federal money- while constantly attaching strings like tax levy limits and Act 10 requirements to local governments.

3. The lies and the lying spin - This is the most egregious part. It was bad enough when the press conference was first held, and it seemed like a cynical move designed to soften up Walker's image among a voting populace that already views him as a scumbag. But then when it came out that Walker was lying about why the caps were lifted (because the Feds told him to, not because he wanted to), DHS Administration Secretary (and deceitful Heritage Foundation hack) Dennis Smith followed up with this pathetic press release trying to weasel out of this embarrassment and claim no wrongdoing.
"The sole person responsibile for yesterday's announcement on lifting the Family Care caps is Governor Walker. The Governor stated publicly severeal times that he was committed to Wisconsin's seniors and disabilities with his intention to lift the cap by the end of the year...

Critics who are not involved in our discussions with our federal partners at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are choosing to ignore the months of work we have done to get us to the point of yesterday's announcement. The Governor also announced we would be expanding the program to counties previously not served by Family Care, a decision that goes beyond any procedural matters raised by CMS."
WHAT A WHINY, LYING BITCH! Untrue that this was all Walker's decision, and then whining over "critics" who dare to tell people how things really went down. If you don't like the job, Denny, GET THE HELL OUT and go back to D.C. where you bubble-thinkers belong.

4. The aftereffects after the move - The "expansion to other counties" may also be a disaster in the making, because Dane County Exec Joe Parisi did a good job trying to cut off Walker at the pass with his own letter to Dane County state legislators asking that Dane County not be part of any Family Care expansion. The reason why? Dane County already handles long-term home care services at a level above and beyond Family Care, and Parisi's predicting that Walker might use this Family Care expansion as a mandate to make Dane County cut its level of services.

It wouldn't be out of the question for the low-lifes in the Walker Administration to try to pull a stunt like that, under the guise of "efficiencies" and "improvements" for Family Care. It's why we have to keep an eye on what the proposal that comes out of covering the new enrollees in Family Care really is once it goes into the Joint Finance Committee, and see if anything else is cut or "lapsed" as a result. It's been this Adminsitration SOP to assume the average Wisconsinites is as stupid as the average talk-radio listener, and won't look too deeply as to what will really happen in the bill, and that's the time we need to be most vigilant and remind people of why we're in this mess in the first place.

So if someone has been out of the state for a year and is asking "Well, why do people hate Scott Walker?", just show them the 4 different types of wrongdoing that this one Family Care incident illustrates. And it's why we have to end it now, before the damage gets deeper and tougher to get out of.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Walker and WisGOP- follow the money here and in Cali

Couple of sick stories involving the money chasing and funneling that defines the Wisconsin GOP and Scott Walker's reign of terror over this state.

The first involves Governor Dropout and his gravy-training of the Badgers' trip to the Rose Bowl. Why you give a governor who intentionally gave huge cuts to the UW System is being allowed to travel as part of the UW's 32-person party is beyond me, when instead that spot should go to a UW worker who got their take-home pay dropped by $300 - $500 a month so that Scumbag Scotty could shovel tax breaks at his campaign contributors.

But rooting on a university he couldn't even get in to apparently isn't all Scott Walker is doing out in California, as apparently he's headlining a fundraiser in the OC tomorrow night. If the UW is paying anything toward Walker's attendance or travel to LA, they need to rescind it NOW, and make Scotty pay for his own damn tickets. Heck, Walker was more than willing to take a trip out West on someone else's dime.
Fake David Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks, thanks for all the support and helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it. We’re, uh, we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back. [Editor's note: "freedoms"? Being down 34,000 jobs with lower take-home pay for hundreds of thousands more tends to get in the way of "freedom"]

Fake Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]

Walker: Well, that’s just it. The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.

Fake Koch: All right then.

Walker: Thanks a million!
And it's not like going out of state to shake down right-wing greedheads is a new thing for Scotty. Seems like he's been doing it plenty in recent months, without letting the public know when he's leaving his post. "Thanks a million?" More like "thanks a $2.5 million," which is what he's taken from people who can't vote for him in this Summer's recall election. And you wonder why people think this guy is tone-deaf and out of touch with the Wisconsin public.

But it's the way WisGOP operates - take money in from selfish interests, pass bills to reward said special interests (remember the famous "this is OUR moment" line to the fake Koch?), and then funnel taxpayer dollars to contracts that go to said special interests.

The latest example includes the testimony that came out today from GOP staffers during a hearing in front of federal judge looking to overturn the GOP-led redistricting for the 2012 November elections. I'll leave the clear lies in the testimony about the redistricting not being political in basis (check out the story yourself if you want) . Here's another passage that caught my eye which shows how this REALLY worked.
An office was provided to Foltz, Ottman and Handrick at the Madison branch of Michael Best, where they worked on the maps, according to the testimony. Also involved in developing the maps were the Fitzgeralds, Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Rich Zipperer (R-City of Pewaukee). They were assisted by attorneys Eric McLeod, Jim Troupis, Sarah Troupis, Ray Taffora and Michael Screnock, according to the testimony.

Not only did these guys get an office at taxpayer-funded partisans Michael, Best, and Friedrich (who took home a cool $400,000+ for helping the GOPs in these shenanigans), but check out who they're hanging with.

1. Eric McLeod- He's the guy who represented Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman for "free" when Gableman was accused of ethics complaints by state investigators. Now you see what that "free" service helped to buy.

2. Jim and Sarah Troupis- who pulled down $75,000 from David Prosser during the Supreme Court recount, and has pulled down $700,000 in work for the GOP for the Act 10 and redistricting suits.

3. Ray Taffora- A former DOJ lawyer who gave $4,000 to JB Van Hollen's campaign, quit his DOJ job when Walker took over to head to Michael, Best and Friedrich, and then got Van Hollen to sign MBF up with a $500,000 no-bid contract to take cases relating to Act 10 and other issues, instead of having Van Hollen keep it in-house with lower-cost DOJ lawyers. And done with Walker's complete approval.

Hmmm, you think it might be easier to have redistricting or Act 10 stand up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court if you've bailed out 2 of the 4 judges that you need to see the case your way? And you get the impression this redistrciting testimony is only the tip of the iceburg in how these backroom connections between politicians, law firms, and judges all tie together when it comes to making law in Fitzwalkerstan?

It's a nice little country club they have, isn't it? You know the only people left out in this club? The millions of Wisconsin taxpayers that allowed them to get into power (out-of-staters are fine if they pony up a few bucks). You'd be a fool to think any of these corrupt bastards would give up the good deal they seem to be pulling down at our expense, so instead it's gotta be us Wisconsin taxpayers that take em out, and shut down their backroom mob rule.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The real WisGOP-Walker goal- rigging the system against independent public service

A couple of very good stories popped up in the recent Milwaukee Magazine blogs.

The first comes from Bruce Murphy, who goes over the disgusting sleaze that envelops Supreme Court Justice Michal Gableman. We already know about his unethical "free advice" from Michael, Best and Friedrich, which clearly was done in exchange for helping MBF out in Act 10, redistricting, and other cases funneled to them by the Walker Administration and WisGOP. But Murphy goes back further to show how Gableman rose from partisan hack to local yokel judge, and how he cut corners of decency to get that far.
...Gableman was originally an Ashland County D.A. who began a concerted campaign to win the favor of Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, who would later give Gableman a judgeship. Gableman organized a campaign fundraiser for McCallum, made two contributions of $1,250 each to McCallum, and used his government office to make some 60 phone calls to political headquarters or donors to McCallum.

Gableman also took a day off from his job to attend the McCallum fundraiser. A Gableman spokesperson would later explain that he had his supervisor’s permission to do so but offered no explanation for why Gableman was paid for that day’s work, essentially charging the taxpayers to campaign for McCallum.

Around this same time, Gableman inexplicably stepped down from his position as D.A. to take the bureaucratic-sounding job of administrative law judge in Appleton, even though the switch dropped his pay from $80,000 to $54,000. Gableman’s official campaign biography barely mentions the job, and he has never explained why he made the switch.

This was the position Gableman held (for just three months) when McCallum elevated him to the position of Burnett County Circuit Court Judge. Normally a governor picks the candidate from a list of finalists determined by a judicial review panel. But McCallum overruled the panel and chose Gableman.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation, though typically not very aggressive, later launched an investigation of Gableman’s use of government resources to campaign for McCallum. It found “Gableman may have been imprudent or may have used poor judgment,” but under the law “an intentional violation of the statute” must be proven and that “appears an insurmountable burden.”
The man is an unqualified GOP hack, and does not judge, but instead legislates as such as hack. If we believe in any system of judicial fairness where the merits of something are determined by facts and the laws in place, this man has no business deciding the things that he does.

But that's the way they like it in Walker World. Check out a second Milwaukee Magazine article from Michael Horne. Buried near the bottom of an already-good read is this nugget.
...The [Wisconsin Labor and Industry] review commission hears appeals of decisions by Administrative Law Judges. One of them, Carolina Stark, has announced her candidacy for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Branch 17. Stark, who is also a member of the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, plans to take on incumbent Nelson W. Phillips III, who was appointed by Governor Walker to fill the unexpired term of the retired Judge Francis Wasielewski.

Asked if the Walker administration is meddling in the affairs of administrative law judges, Stark replied in the affirmative.

“Every year we have a conference of judges to discuss recent issues, and the secretary of the Department of Workforce Development traditionally says a few words to the group,” she said.

“This year Secretary Reggie Newson – the third secretary since the Walker administration took office – told us ‘I have been hearing from employers that your decisions do not favor them. I’d like you to keep that in mind when you make your decisions,’” she said.

“All of the judges were stunned. I could feel the hair rising on the back of my neck. This was an utterly inappropriate comment. We may not be elected judges, but we make our decisions based on the facts and the law, not on preconceptions.”
But Ms. Stark, judging based on facts and the law is not what the Walker folks want you to do. They think judges' jobs are to help the people who pay their bills, most notably sleazy employers, out of state industries trying to pollute without punishment, and union-busters who want to squeeze every cent of profit out of the state even if it sends the rest of the state's citizens into poverty. And if a previously-passed law is in the way, then a good GOP judge should become an activist and make something up to lead to the desired result (like the Gableman-led Open Meetings ruling this year). Decency and fairness have nothing to do with it, but big money and consolidating power sure do.

This really shouldn't be a surprise- it's SOP for Walker and the WisGOPs. Turning dozens of civil service positions into appointed spots to be handed out at the whim of politicos is another way WisGOP is trying to end the idea of independent public service. Cindy Archer is the tip of the iceburg of this abuse, (speaking of, has Cindy gotten to her new job yet?) but from Brian Deschane to Valerie Cass, putting ass-kissing yes-men and women in high positions of power is the clear priority of the Walker folks. And their service isn't to the people of Wisconsin, but to the politicians and the special interests they represent.

And now you know why these people despise public sector unions, because unions can protect individuals from having to lie, cheat and steal in order to keep their jobs, and require independent analysis that reveals facts the administration doesn't want to admit. Unions keep teachers from having to acquiese to PTA moms and administrative pressure, keeps the principal's or school board member's unqualified sibling from takeing over for an established and more deserving teacher. It also gives teachers the freedom to give students the grades they deserve, and relay knowledge on subjects in the way that they know from experience works best.

From Gableman and Walker on down, Wisconsin Republicans clearly want to be allowed to ignore reality and law and impose their own way of life without regard to the effects of quality of services that results. And only by rising up and blowing them out of power will they be stopped. So therefore, we do.

Wisconsin economy worst in lower 48- and worse than we thought

Happy post-Holidays everybody. I hope Santa and the others treated you well this weekend.

Several items have broken around the holidays, and like most people, our media was tied up with holiday items to give you the full update. So here's one such item.

You may recall a post I had in the previous month quoting the Philly Fed survey's finding that Wisconsin had the worst economic performance in America from August to October. Well, the Philly Fed came back at the end of last week with its November update, and here's the picture to follow.

While Wisconsin isn't in the bright red anymore but has dropped down to the less severe pink, that change in color really doesn't show any improvement. Instead it reflects lower revisions for five straight months from May to September.

Wisconsin 3-month coincident index, previous vs. revised
May 2011- 138.00 original, 137.91 revised (-0.09)
June 2011- 138.18 original, 138.06 revised (-0.12)
July 2011- 138.19 original, 138.06 revised (-0.13)
Aug. 2011- 138.03 original, 137.91 revised (-0.12)
Sept 2011- 137.74 original, 137.66 revised (-0.08)
Oct. 2011- 137.40 original, 137.41 revised (+0.01)
Nov. 2011- 137.23

So with the revisions, the July-October drop is now 0.47%, and the August- November drop is 0.49%. It means the previous month would not have had that bright red that stood out so clearly, but also means that the decline is worse now than last month, not better, despite what the maps show.

And Wisconsin is still bottom feeding compared to the rest of the nation, and remains the worst-performing state in the lower 48.

July-October 2011
Alaska -0.58%
Wisc. -0.47%
Ind. -0.30%
Wyo. -0.22%

August- November 2011
Alaska -0.60%
Wisc. -0.493%
Minn. -0.490%
Wyo. -0.26%

So no, Governor, we are not better off than we were a year ago, or than we were before your budget was signed in June. You'd better hope Santa made a lot of debt-ridden deliveries this week, or else it isn't going to look good anytime soon, either.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Milwaukee sports arena news

Maybe there was a Brewer stimulus after all. The Miller Park Stadium District announced a huge increase in October sales taxes in the stadium district, reflected in this month's distributions being up nearly 16 percent vs. the same month last year. In fact, the last 3 months of sales tax collections (reflecting August- October) now show a clear increase from the same months in 2010, as the collections were up 11.5% this year.

Good to hear, as Milwaukee County could especially use the extra revenues. But it also illustrates the rest of the state didn't join in, as the DOR revenue figures from October show that sales taxes were only up 3.6% statewide at the same time. So once the Brewer and Holiday seasons wear off, watch out below on that figure.

Also, there was a rare Scott Walker move this week that I agree with. Walker said the Bradley Center can raise its own damn money for repairs and maintenance, and I agree. In tight budget times, this is something that can afford to be cut, and something that the Bucks and Marquette and the Bradley Center board should be ready to take care of. Yes, the Bradley Center has its financial difficulties, but that's what you get with a 22-year old arena that was out of date 5 years after it was built. Given that Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are constantly cutting services, they shouldn't be expected to chip in more for any type of major renovation or new arena.

And frankly, there's not really the demand there, as the Bucks were 23rd in NBA attendance in 2010-2011, with an average of more than 3,000 empty seats each night. Honestly, if the Bucks left, there'd be a minor effect at some nearby bars, but other than that, would they really be missed? I think it's a risk worth accepting at this point, especially given that the NBA did nothing to change the two-tier society that exists in that league, where the league's stars demand to go to a handful of teams. I can't see the Bucks as a long-term viable option, and it's OK to me if they evetually leave to be more competitive. Maybe after Herb Kohl kicks the bucket.

Sorry to be rough there, but the Bradley Center will still have a use after the Bucks leave. Marquette basketball, the Admirals and concerts can still be there, and it'll turn the Bradley Center back towards one of its original intents- to be a target for any NHL team that wants to relocate. I think hockey would work every bit as well as the Bucks would, for both attendance, interest, and revenue development. So why not make the trade?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More money, more jobs in Wisconsin? Ehhh....

A couple of interesting reports got released in the last few days that I wanted to mention.

The first is the personal income by states report released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and a couple of items stand out in this report.

1. Income growth dipped to 0.145% in the 3rd Quarter of 2011, reflecting the slow economy of the time, and Wisconsin right in line at 0.149%. The odd part about this is the small variance among all the states- everyone was between + 0.6% (Washington) and -0.4% (West Virginia), a 1.0% difference (the previous 4 quarters had a difference of at least 2.0% from high to low, if not 3-4%). The year-over-year numbers for both Wisconsin, our Midwestern neighbors and the U.S. reflect the slowdown in income. None of these numbers are adjusted for inflation, and I tried to bold up Wisconsin (in blue) and the U.S. (in purple). (click to make bigger)

Year-over-year income growth 2010-2011

Note that Wisconsin and most Midwestern states have generally stayed ahead of the U.S. in income growth, but that Wisconsin has reverted back to the U.S. average in the last 3 months, and Michigan Ohio and Indiana have dropped below the U.S. (all run by GOP Governors that are buddies of Scott Walker). Wisconsin was 2nd in our Midwestern group for income growth in 2010, but has fallen to middle of the pack in 2011, trailing Minnesota (Number 1 throughout for growth), and passed by Iowa and...Illinois. Yep, the same "high-tax" Illinois that Walker promised to steal jobs from when he took office. How's that working out for us?

The other interesting recent report is the add-on that goes with the monthly statewide jobs numbers from DWD, which is the metro area job report, with the individual metro areas broken down on Page 3. In addition to more DWD whining about October's revisions, the report has a few other items to offer.

The report shows that the Milwaukee metro area lost 4,700 jobs in November, accounting for nearly a third of the 14,600-job bomb that hit the state last month. The 4,700 jobs isn't that disproportionate, as the Milwaukee area's about 30% of the state's jobs in general, and the Milwaukee area is still up a decent 5,300 jobs over the last 12 months, which is more than the 4,500 jobs that have been added in the state in the same time.

Yes, you got that right, the rest of the state outside of the Milwaukee area has LOST jobs over the last 12 months. The biggest losers? Green Bay (2,200 jobs) and Racine (1,500 jobs). Green Bay was one of the biggest areas that swung to Walker in 2010, and Racine elected the soon-to-be-recalled Van Wangaard to the Senate, and lays claim to being the home of ALEC tool and Joint Finance Chair Robin Vos. You can hear the "Ruh-roh's" coming hard from the WisGOP offices on those realities, can't you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sorry Reg, Walker still makes Wisconsin Number 1

As suspected, Wisconsin got named again in this month's BLS "Jobs Report by State" report. And yes, Wisconsin is indeed Number 1.
In November, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 29 states and the District of Columbia, decreased in 19 states, and was unchanged in 2 states. The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in New York (+29,500) and Texas (+20,800). The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-14,600), followed by Minnesota (-13,700) and Colorado (-4,500).
Yep, we lead again. But that's not the fun part of this story (if disastrous job loss can be considered fun).

The best comes from the reaction from various sides of the political aisle. First, we got Assembly Dem leader Peter Barca: (Run Peter, RUN!)
"For the second month in a row, Wisconsin led the nation in job losses. And the latest response from the governor and his administration has been to complain about the methodology.

"Other states continue to benefit from ongoing national job gains. Unfortunately, instead of regaining ground that's been lost every month since passage of this Governor's economic plan, Wisconsin lost another 14,600 jobs in November.

"The monthly figures were used by the governor to boast at a press conference in June when they showed gains, primarily in tourism, before his budget passed. Since that plan took effect in July, the numbers have fallen every month."
And then we have the counter spin, from Walker flack/ DWD Secretary Reggie Newson.
"The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics dramatically overestimated Wisconsin’s job loss for the month of October, and revised figures show Wisconsin did not lead the nation in job loss during that month. Representative Barca is not only wrong, but his false statements only reaffirm the need for a job reporting system that more accurately reflects the status of Wisconsin’s workforce.

The truth is that Wisconsin's unemployment rate has dropped this year, the number of unemployment claims has dropped this year, and state sales and withholding tax collections have grown this year.
And on its face, Newson's comments have some validity. With the revisions, Wisconsin was only Number 6 for job loss in October and not number 1 (Yay! Golf clap!) And DOR revenue estimates show that Wisconsin revenues have somehow continued to grow for these 5 straight months of job losses vs. the same months last year. However, that revenue growth isn't by much (3.7% sales, 4.9% income, 4.6% overall), has leveled off over the last 2 months, and that "improvement" will stop once the much-better-than expected months of December 2010 - May 2011 are used in these year-over-year calculations. We'll still fall $500 million or so short on revenues for this fiscal year, you watch.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate has now dropped to 7.3% vs. the 7.4% it was when Walker took over, after being as high as 7.9% three months ago. But the U.S. unemployment rate has still fallen twice as fast as Wisconsin's since Walker's budget was signed into law (0.6% vs. 0.3%), and even in that survey, Wisconsin has lost jobs since June, with the lower unemployment only due to 11,200 people dropping out of the work force. So if Newson was really being honest, he'd credit Obama a lot more than Walker with this cosmetic drop in the unemployment rate. But he doesn't get paid to tell the truth, now does he?

And despite Barca's misspeak about being the leader for the second straight individual month (we're back at 1 month of "leadership"), he's right on another point. WISCONSIN KEPT ITS POSITION AS NUMBER 1 FOR JOB LOSS SINCE WALKER'S BUDGET WAS SIGNED IN JUNE. And no other state is close to how bad we've been.

U.S. job change June 2011- November 2011
Wisconsin -34,900 (-1.26%)
Georgia -8,600 (-0.23%)
Missouri -8,200 (-0.31%)
Minnesota -7,200 (-0.27%)
Montana -2.400 (-0.55%)

Sorry Reg, but there's no way to spin job losses that are 4 TIMES THE NEAREST STATE. And given that this report was made before the mill closings in Wausau and Brokaw, as well as the strike in Manitowoc and the closing in Two Rivers, do you really see this turning around any time in the next few months? Of course not, and it is insulting to try to pass the blame off to the BLS and D.C. when the rest of the nation is kicking our ass. Hell, "high-tax" Illinois has beaten us by over 43,000 jobs since Walker's budget was signed. Maybe business owners see demand and respect for work in Illinois that doesn't exist here in Fitzwalkerstan, and that's why they're choosing to set up there instead of here.

So as much as Reggie Newson may try to give his little half-truths and lies by omissions, he can't cover up the disaster that Wisconsin has been under Walker and the GOP's budget. And the only way this disaster changes course is to end Fitzwalkerstan, and return us to the Wisconsin we know and love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Madtown's taxes are up- it's the state, not the schools

Was hanging around with my girlfriend on Sunday morning, and we were discussing home values and Madison neighborhoods, and property taxes came up (in connection to a "this is how much you'll really pay in a mortgage" discussion).

First of all, she lives in a middle-class Madison neighborhood, and her home was assessed at a shade under $200,000, with no major change in home value (from what I could tell) vs. last year. Her property taxes were up 1.4% for 2012, not exactly the property tax freeze Scott Walker promised us, but also not as much as the 2.7% tax increase the average Madison home got. But going inside where those numbers come from is more interesting.

As part of the bill, the City of Madison shows state aid to the City/ taxing entity as a matter of comparison. I noted that her school taxes were down somewhere between 1-2%, particularly noteworthy because Madison teachers accepted a contract extension through 2013 that included added employee contributions to medical coverage and pensions, but at levels well below the requirements of Scott Walker's "tools".

Let's repeat that, Madison teachers and the Madison Metropolitan School District collectively bargained an agreement that lowered property taxes for homeowners in the district. Collective bargaining WORKS in tough times, as proven by the most anti-Walker teachers' union in the state accepting concessions to continue the high level of education in their community, because those teachers work, live, and pay taxes in those communities. Don't ever forget it.

And those taxes sure weren't helped by Scott Walker's budget, because the state dropped aid to Madison schools by over 11% for the City of Madison. When my girlfriend asked "Where did the other $11 million go?", I shrugged and said "Tax breaks for corporations, giving them room to allow the GOP to funnel money to the road builders from regular taxes, that kind of thing." This got her even more incensed with Governor Dropout than she usually is (and yes, she's also signed the recall petiton and been at the Capitol).

It was a nice reminder of what I discussed a couple of years back when I went over how upper levels of government often pass the buck down to the lower ones with no money to back it up. And Gov. Dropout has made this even worse by not allowing local communities the flexibility to make up for the state's cuts even if the community so wants (Walker folks would claim the "tools" can make up the difference, but time after time, the state cuts are larger than any savings to be had from funneling off public employee take-home pay). When this happens, there is no choice available but massive cuts, ineffectiveness of the service, and possibly selling off the services to a private entity who just might happen to be a Walker comntributor in the same business (the ultimate goal).

Also on her tax bill was a major increase for Madison Area Technical College, in no small part due to the major Walker cuts to tech schools (about 28% on the tax bill I saw), and the huge building projects and expansions necessary to meet the expanding enrollment and employer needs. You know, to meet the needs of manufacturers to say they're constantly in search of skilled workers and that they can't find them in the current workforce? But Walker's not so keen on allowing tech. schools the "tools" to meet the needs the job creators say they want - so much for being "Open for Business."

The other taxing entities were relatively straightforward on tax rundown, with mild increases resulting from cuts at the state level, cuts that also reflect the inequities of a Shared Revenue system that Paul Soglin has rightfully called out for giving Milwaukee 45 times the "County and Municipal aid" money Madison gets, > In fact, a statewide list of this aid shows that Madtown falls several times below cities with significantly lower populations such as Racine, Beloit, Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, La Crosse, and Manitowoc.

So like a lot of places in Wisconsin, Scott Walker's promises of lower property taxes didn't happen for my girlfriend in Madison, and very likely didn't pan out for you as well. The problem is that next year's budget doesn't allow your municipality to raise property taxes while still cutting these aid payments from the state- so anticipate more layoffs, more fees (which you don't get to write off like property taxes) and fewer services in 2013.

Well, that is, unless you change how the money falls from the state, or allow your town to raise taxes in some other way. Both probably require recall elections to be in effect for 2013. Guess we have another reason to get on it, eh?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Milwaukee, Madison papers cop out, and other media BS

Looks like Graeme Zielinski's callout of WTMJ being a front for WisGOP has clearly hit the mark. First, they try to bury their response in a multi-topic editorial with a headline discussing Jeff Fitzgerald's absurd plans to change an "Anti-Republican" GAB that has 5 of its 6 members be Republican. The innocence act TMJ tries to pull is eye-rolling.
Graeme Zielinski, the spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, has a bulldog style that either endears or appalls. It was the latter on display Friday morning on "Wisconsin's Morning News" on WTMJ-AM (620), which is operated by a sister company of the Journal Sentinel.

In a tongue-lashing that went on for several minutes, Zielinski went after the radio station and its morning talk-show host Charlie Sykes for supporting Gov. Scott Walker.

A sample:

"People in Wisconsin are taking their state back from jokers like Charlie Sykes and you guys. People are standing up for themselves."

Sykes is a Walker supporter and certainly is fair game for criticism. But Zielinski is off base by lumping the rest of the station in with its conservative talk-show hosts.
A. A lot of us don't find Zielinski's response "appalling". We find ourselves applauding and cheering and saying "ABOUT FUCKING TIME!" But I bet you at Journal Communications sure are appalled to hear someone directly challenge you on your BS- elitist snobs do hate it when someone punctures their bubble.

B. When "Reward Walker" gear has your station's name on them, you bet we're going to lump your station in with those hosts. Illy-T mentions that Sykes' TV-4 show had none other than the head of Media Trakkkers on today. (and why does Sykes get a show on TMJ-4? I'm sure that's not corporate synergy by a "sister company" or anything) Do you think Sykes asked Sick-ma why he ran with unfounded BS allegations? Or do you think Char-LIE gave Sick-ma the legitimate question of "Why should anyone believe you when you've been proven false several times and you're funded by right-wing organizations?" Suuuuure.

Saying Charles Sykes and Jeff Wagner and other bilge-spewing hosts do not represent "the rest of the [AM 620]station" is like saying Jerry Sandusky doesn't represent Penn State University. Give me a fucking break, J-S. Right-wing propaganda defines your station when you don't have sports on. OWN IT.

2. The Wisconsin State Journal tried the pathetic "both sides do it" story when discussing out of state donations for and against the Recall Walker effort. The comparison tries to show that both the Dems and Walker get big money from out of state, but check out the difference in numbers.
Documents made available by the state on Friday showed that nearly 60 percent of the donations and almost 30 percent of the $1.18 million raised by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin since July came from outside the state.

That news comes a day after Gov. Scott Walker submitted documents revealing nearly half of the $5.1 million he raised — the most by one candidate in one filing period in state history — came from beyond state borders.
30% of $1.18 million is about $350,000. Now explain to me how the Dems' $350,000 is anything close to or equal to Scott Walker's haul of $2.5 million from out of state? And how is 30% of Dem total money close to the 50% of Walker's money? For crying out loud 2 Walker donators (a Texass Swift-Boater and the head of pay-for-play company U-Line) gave Walker more cash than the Dems got from the other 49 states combined. HOW IS THIS REMOTELY THE SAME? But the State Journal's story is clearly intended to give a "both parties rely on big amounts of out of state money" storyline that diminishes how bought-off Walker is by out-of-state interests.

Bill Lueders is more honest about this difference in his article on Saturday, mentioning the Dems' numbers, but also concentrating his article on Walker's fund-raising, naming names, and including the stat that Walker got 45% of his money in donations of $1,000 or more. Not surprisingly, Lueders works outside of Lee Enterprises, and doesn't work for a paper that went against the wishes of 68% of Dane County by endorsing Walker for Governor last November.

This "both sides are guilty" technique is used by media in D.C. all the time, where they try to take one or two people doing what the majority of the other party does to make the actions seem even, or defensible, as the (usually corrupt) other party can say "Well see, the other guy took money from ____" or "See, those guys also believe in ____." Well actually, most of them don't and the amount of money and level of influence it buys isn't close, but our media constantly fails to give this truth in the name of being "nonbiased." It's pathetic, and it consistently gives cover and advantages to certain corrupt organizations and self-centered interests, while also playing into a "both sides suck so you shouldn't demand more" cynicism that turns the average citizen off to politics, and keeps those selfish interests entrenched.

We need to see past these games played by corporate media, and demand more honesty, detail, and perspective in reporting, instead of lazy journalism that seems to worry more about grabbing headlines and being "balanced" over reporting reality. They're going to try it to play these games a lot in these next 6 months, and the only way they won't get away with it is if we stay vigilant and make them pay.

P.S- Capper has more good numbers on how much more Walker relies on out-of-state money than the Recall groups do. The State Journal would never lay out the numbers this way, despite it being true.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The long-overdue callout of WTMJ and Journal Communications

Read this article on Dem Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski going on WTMJ's Morning show and taking the opportunity to lay the smack down on the station and its right-wing talk hosts. Of course, TMJ responded with rightful indignation, because it realized it made the mistake of having someone who would dare to yank the curtain back on how that place operates. Journal Communications' newspaper has an unintentionally hilarious rundown of the incident.
"People in Wisconsin are taking their state back from jokers like Charlie Sykes and you guys," Zielinski said. "People are standing up for themselves."

As Zielinski attacked Sykes and Walker's record as governor, Mueller pointed out that, "What happens after 8:30 on this station is none of my concern. Let's keep it to the issues here."

Reached for comment, Steve Wexler, executive vice president of the Journal Broadcast Group, sent this email: "I heard the segment this morning and thought it was odd that Mr. Zielinski would use so much of his valuable on-air time to critique our programming instead of making his case regarding the recall, but that was his prerogative. Our listeners are smart enough to understand that our news programs consistently present opposing viewpoints but that our talk programs have a different mission."
There's lots to rip in these 2 statements by Journal Broadcasting employees.

1. To Gene Mueller- C'MON MAN! I grew up listening to you and Reitman 30 years ago. You know as well as anyone that ratings, cross-promotion and corporate bosses drive the radio industry, and what Char-LIE Sykes and Jeff Wagner say after your show affects what gets covered, talked about, and framed for your station. Lots of those topic choices come from the top, or could be shot down from the top.

And Mr. Mueller, if what happens after 8:30 doesn't affect "Wisconsin's Morning News", then why is your station advertised on "Reward Walker" gear? How can you say it's separate when your former morning show partner John Jagler left TMJ to become Scott Fitzgerald's media lackey? Why did your radio, TV, and newspaper entities run with the race-baiting Media Trakkkers story when you knew it was sketchy at best and later proven to be a lie? Why is Sykes given a "public affairs" show on Sunday mornings on your company's TV station when it's documented that he's a right-wing hack, and there's no similar left-wing hosted show?

Seriously, Gene- Don't you admit it would sound pretty stupid if you called your co-worker a one-sided liar when Sykes and Wagner drop one of their numerous unsubstantiated arguments, and then handed the mike over to those same people and "cross-talk" with them? How can you say you're objective and independent of your company when the station you work for is a daily advertisement of union-bashing and promting the interests of WisGOP? That's like saying the bartenders at the Madison bar with "Sign Recall petitions here" posters in the window could be expected to have no opinion or support Walker. Riiiiight. Gene, you may be trying to be quite the organization man, but your comment is a crock of shit.

2. Wexler's cop-out is even worse- He views Zielinski's comments as a "waste of valuable air time"? First off, don't flatter yourself, Steve-o. About 5% of the state at most listens to your station at a given time, and most of those are either too lazy to flip the channel after the Packer game, or they're incapable of getting up from their chairs in the nursing home, or they're wedded to their mother's basements.

Second to Mr. Wexler, maybe Graeme was trying to spark the discussion of whether your station is a slanted pile of garbage in collusion with the Walker camp, and that what Sykes and Wagner and your other hosts have to say is spin and lies. Lots of bystanders in this state think that talk shows and radio stations are somehow "objective" and just "giving the news directly to you", with no ulterior motives. They don't get that it's no coincidence that Scott Walker and other right-wing politicians are given hours of free air time on TMJ to spout their lies and not be challenged by them. Why do you think Zielinski was on the morning show? He'd never be allowed to be on with Sykes, Wagner or Belling- it's why he had to take his shot when he did. Same thing for any Wisconsin Dem politician...if the "largest stick in the state" will ever have them on for 5 minutes.

The average bystander also doesn't understand that opposing callers are usually screened out of shows like Sykes and Belling in favor of those who won't challenge or stray for the hosts' agenda, (or worse, like how Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Gleck Beck's radio syndicator pays actors to call in to the show) , giving a false impression that "average Wisconsinites" are on board with this WisGOP propaganda without dissent. These people just go on living their everyday lives, because they don't have the time to investigate the truth or falsity of Media Trakkkers-based rumors that are portrayed as fact, but the lie is now implanted in their heads, and affects what they know (or think they know) about the way things operate. Comments like Graeme's are going to awaken those same people to the BS that exists in right-wing radio operations and their media manipulation. Once they're alerted to this possibility, it isn't hard to find and expose, and will cause them to question everything a WTMJ or "TV partner" TMJ4 might choose to report, alert them that the Journal-Sentinel's support of Walker last November may have a lot to do with Journal Communications' broadcasting wing, and then the GOP's game will be up.

This callout has been a long time coming. Former TMJ news director Dan Shelley exposed the way Sykes and co. operate in a great expose 3 years ago, (the original article has been moved, somehow) and Sykes' lame responses were subsequently taken apart by Milwaukee Mag's Bruce Murphy. Heck, I called for UW Athletics to disassociate itself with TMJ 20 months ago in no small part because of TMJ's right-wing anti-UW stances and bashing of the residents of the City of Madison. Given that the Walker folks cut the UW System massively in the state budget, then turned around and demanded the UW System take on nearly 40% of the state's lapses while leaving Transportation and other agencies relatively unscathed. Think UW might need to reconsider giving TMJ lots of added listeners if getting screwed over by TMJ's favored politicians is all they get for being on that station?

So I'd like to thank Graeme Zielinski for saying in the most public of forums what most of us have waited to hear from our "mainstream" Wisconsin media. The most prominent radio station in the largest city in the state is one filled with GOP propaganda, and that anything they or the Journal-Sentinel print should be heavily questioned, if not completely disregarded, until they allow something resembling political balance and fairness to be broadcast on 620 TMJ and TMJ-4.

I'd say we're pretty close to Occupying 720 E. Capitol and taking the message right to these corporate puppets...maybe we can do it right around Packer playoff time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another month, another loss of jobs. But this time with awesome spin!

Guess my prediction of minor job increases in November was way off for Wisconsin. Try the biggest monthly loss yet, 11,700 private sector jobs, and 14,600 overall. But maybe even more sickly hilarious than the God-awful jobs report is DWD Secretary Reggie Newson's remarkable spin on it.
Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) monthly report showing Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent from 7.7 percent. (Ed. Note: This is a separate survey, and largely reflects a smaller workforce, much like the U.S. drop from 9.0% to 8.6% in the same month) October’s job loss number was significantly reduced to 2,400 from the initial estimate of 9,700, a 75 percent correction.

Secretary Reggie Newson today issued a statement on the newest set of monthly Wisconsin employment numbers. “October was the fifth straight month and the eighth month this year in which the federal government overestimated the preliminary job loss numbers or underestimated job gains for Wisconsin,” Secretary Newson said. “I am particularly concerned by the disparity in the October preliminary numbers, which were off by 7,300 for total jobs and 7,900 for private-sector jobs. These unreliable employment statistics out of Washington misinform the public and create unnecessary anxiety for job seekers and job creators about the shape of our state’s economy."
WOW, and not just for the horribly written part about "overestimating th preliminary job losses" (you mean understating total jobs?)And Newson and DWD double down on it from there, with a huge chart showing upward revisions in previous months...but also showing that there were still serious job losses from the time Walker budget was signed in June. Only about 1 1/2 pages in are November's numbers mentioned.
...Preliminary November data indicates employment declines for the month in most categories. The data show that, compared to November 2010, the private sector gained 16,600 jobs, including 5,600 in manufacturing and 11,400 in educational and health services. The public sector lost 12,100 jobs over the year. Without seasonal adjustment, the estimates had similar results, a monthly private sector job loss, but a 15,600 gain over the year.
Yeah, of course, the DWD release doesn't mention that as part of the 15,600 private sector gain, 22,600 private sector jobs were gained between November and March (you know, before Act 10 was passed busting unions?). Which means we've LOST 7,000 PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS SINCE ACT 10. Guess it was just an oversight, eh Reg?

And even with those revisions cutting October's job losses from 9,700 to 2,400, it still means there was a loss in a month where there were 100,000 new jobs in the U.S., and it still means Wisconsin lost the most jobs in the U.S. in those 4 months. Lipstick on a pig indeed!

Looks like it's time to update the charts.

Wisconsin vs. U.S. jobs 2011

And manufacturing has fallen apart in Wisconsin, down 9,000 jobs since the budget was signed, and 9,800 since August, while the U.S. has maintained steady growth in this sector.

Manufacturing jobs, Wisconsin vs. U.S. 2011

Add in this disaster, the Walker budget record now reads:
Wisconsin -34,900 total (-1.26%), -25,000 private (-1.06%).
U.S. +0.50% total (+1.76% vs. Wisc.), +0.66% private (+1.72% vs. Wisconsin)

That's right, we're coming up at being down 2% vs. the rest of the country. But that's what you get when you have the 1 and only Scott Walker! Doing the math, this now means you can directly point to Walker's policies as costing Wisconsin 40,500 private sector jobs, and nearly 49,000 total jobs.

Hmm, no wonder half a million have signed the recall papers, and no wonder this Administration is floundering about with baseless lawsuits trying to stop the inevitable end of Fitzwalkerstan. Because the reality and their record show them to be historic CLUELESS FAILURES.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Walker tactics- Shoot first, correct and clean up later

In a J-S story on the disgraceful mining bill giveaway to Walker contributors Gogebic Taconite, looks like there might be a little hangup.
New mining legislation may conflict with the Great Lakes Compact, according to an official with the Department of Natural Resources.

A water resources administrator with the agency said that language on the use of high capacity wells in a mining bill unveiled last week might run up against restrictions on water use in the compact.

“There is a potential conflict,” said Russ Rasmussen, deputy water division administrator said on Wednesday before a hearing on the legislation....

It would also require the DNR to approve mining applications in 360 days. The current regulatory process takes at least 2½ years, according to the Legislative Council, the research arm of the Legislature.

A representative of Army Corps of Engineers also raised questions about the timeline.

“Our concern … is that 360 days may not be enough time to partner with the state,” said Rebecca Graser, program manager of regulatory affairs for the corps in Wisconsin.
Oops! Looks like we might have a few unintended consequences from rushing through this giveaway, now don't we? The hundreds that packed the State Fair Park conference room have a few concerns as well, so maybe it's not such a good idea to jam something through if you don't know what'll happen next, is it, WisGOP?

But sadly, this is the way they operate. Look at these Walker Admin- promoted laws over the past few months, and see how they have to come back later to fix them up, usually at a much higher taxpayer expense.

The best example is the Walker Admin's pose on the train from Milwaukee to Madison to the Twin Cities. Walker and his (road builder and WSOR-supported) supporters cried over the potential of a few million dollars in state costs needed to support the line once it was built with Federal stimulus money, and sent such clear signals against the project that the Obama Administration rightfully told them to fuck off and sent the money elsewhere.

The payoff from this short-sighted move came in this year's state budget, and was felt again last week when the Joint Finance Committee set aside $2.5 million more in state funds to study a new site for the train manintenance facility- a facility that would have been 100% funded by the Feds (i.e. only 1.8% by Wisconsinites) if only Walker and the 262 trailer trash that whined about it had shut up and allowed the project to go through. And they might not even get the facility (and its jobs) in Wisconsin any more, as it could now get built in Chicago!

The final price tag for Walker's symbolic BS? Between $65 and $84 million dollars, according to the LFB. Wisconsin's 1.8% share of building the $810 million rail line? About $1.5 million. So we threw away a building project that would have added a few thousand jobs for the next 3 years and what did we get in return? Somewhere between $60 and $80 million in extra expenses and a reduced amount of jobs and tax revenue. And our federal spending and taxes didn't even go down, because the money went elsewhere (mostly to California and Illinois- you know, the states with the highest job growth last month).

Another example is the absurd voter ID bill, which in addition to being disenfranchising and discriminatory, also has a major price tag to it. When it was passed, the LFB figured around
$5.7 in extra costs
to the GAB, DMV, and universities to "solve" this problem that only existed in race-baiting right-wing radio.

But extra cost is not the only concerns that have cropped up with this unneccesary law. First, the disproportionately low-income and minority technical colleges were left off of the list of schools where IDs were acceptable documents to vote, an "oversight" that was only reversed after a serious lobbying effort by the state's tech college officials. It also has thrown up so many barriers that 84-year old Central Wisconsin grandmothers that have served on village boards face the possibility of not being able to vote. This woman's disenfranchisement is a centerpiece of this week's ACLU lawsuit that asks to throw Voter ID out entirely, but before it gets tossed, Wisconsin needs to waster another $436,000 in a TV ad campaign informing people about voter ID.

Much like turning down the train, voter ID was a pose and a bone thrown to the Walker boys' hateful base, and a false solution for a mundane or non-existent "problem." (Yeah, I'm using the air quotes a lot in this post, but the thinking is so absurd and bullshit, I really have no choice) Apparently having the 2nd highest turnout rate in America in 2008 was such an issue for the Koch-publicans that they just had to waste millions of our taxpayer dollars to make sure we don't approach that figure again. (Wisconsin being Number 1 for job? Not so urgent.)

And I could go on and on how the Walker boys are such slipshod fools. This includes possibly throwing tens of thousands of Wisconsinites off of Badgercare because of an arbitrary December 31 demand of the Feds to break their own Obamacare rules - a move so stupid the Walker-endorsing Journal-Sentinel is calling it a bad idea. It also includes the "now-you-need-concealed carry training, now-you-don't" ridiclousness pulled by Walker and the autocratic Rules Committee, which only caused a massive amount of confusion over which rules applied, and still could be changed again in the next few months.

And let's not even start with the Wacky-hut silliness in Milwaukee County, or the soon-to-be-ignored and tossed protesting rules at the Capitol. It's all part of the pattern of how the Walker folks are a lot more about poses and looking like they're taking action....and not so much about results, effects and reality. And I may be old-fashioned, but I demand my legislators to have the ability to see more than 5 minutes and one poll into the future when they put laws into place, and get it right the first time.

They clearly don't beieve that, and we've all paid a major price in both taxpayers dollars and in effective government. And that WisGOP inability to see past their own noses, think on anything above a spoiled-child level ("I want it! I want it!") and deafness to anything except talk radio is why there'll be a new group in power in the next few months.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Midwest in recession and recovery

When I saw the treasure trove of data that came from that Federal Reserve "GDP By States" report that I referenced in the post that showed Wisconsin having the worst economy in the nation over the last 3 months, I had to look into it further. (Why? Probably because I am a pathetic geek on these things). I've mentioned before that Wisconsin handled the recession better than most of its neighbors, and this data will back most of it up, as well as show the Scott Walker effect that has taken away these advantages.

I wanted to show Wisconsin in comparison to its upper Midwestern neighbors, so we have a total of 7 states including Wisconsin in this study, as well as the U.S. numbers as a whole. The first chart shows GDP drops and recovery from 2008 (the U.S. started seeing the numbers drop in Jan. 2008) through today. You'll see that Wisconsin muddled through a lot better than any of its neighbors to the south and east (Michigan was so bad it literally went off the charts in 2009), and we were slightly better than the U.S. each year from 2008-2010. But in 2011, Wisconsin dropped below the U.S. for growth, and now trails by almost 1%. (click for bigger image)

Interestingly, Iowa and Minnesota are the clear leaders in this chart, and the two states that beat Wisconsin in our region. Minnesota in particular is almost back to where they were when the recession started. It's not the only way they've been beating Wisconsin in economic stats in the last couple of years - think this might have something to do with the Twin Cities being a lot more open to new ideas and new people than Milwaukee and the 262? If you don't, you should.

Now check the next chart, which shows how the economy has rebounded in the 2 years since Wisconsin hit bottom in October 2009 (we actually came out of recession 2 months before the country as a whole). You'll see Wisconsin continues to match U.S. growth as a whole and was solidly in the middle of the pack when compared to our neighbors...until Walker's budget was signed in June. Now, we're next to last in our group for growth in the last 2 years, and have gotten passed by Illinois and Minnesota, as well as the country as a whole. (again, click for the larger image)

You'll notice a few things here:

1. Michigan and Ohio had the highest increases, which isn't all that surprising since they were so far down to start. Likewise, Iowa is the only state to increase slower than Wisconsin in this time, but Cornholio didn't fall very far to begin with.

2. The U.S. economy has continued to steadily grow in the last 4 months, while Wisconsin has dove down.

3. The other state in clear recession in the Upper Midwest Region? Mitch Daniels' Indiana, continuing its underperforming trend under one of Scott Walker's political idols.

So there's more evidence of how Wisconsin is starting to trail and see the damage from Scott Walker's policies. And given the higher jobless claims over the last few weeks and the disastrous mill closings in Central Wisconsin announced last week, you can't expect it to improve much in the next few months. Now I'm going to go out on a limb and say we may have gained jobs in November, but it won't be much, and it won't get us back to where the rest of our region has been the last few months.

By the way, those new jobs numbers come out on Thursday and the state numbers will probably be on Friday. Between that and the inevitably larger property tax bills that are hitting people's mailboxes (and yes, they'll be up...or the home values will be down), you don't think there's a bit of flop sweat coming from DWD and the Walker Admin right now?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Braunie now knows the power of a union

I'm still recovering from the stomach punch I got around 6:45 last night when I was watching ESPN with my Dad and the "special report" came on with Ryan Braun allegedly testing positive for PEDs and facing a 50-game suspension. I know I shouldn't be shocked about baseball players being accused of PEDs,'s Braunie! Between this and Prince's likely departure, it really gives a huge cloud over this franchise going into 2012.

Now that being said, Braun is insisting he will be cleared, and maybe he's got a tight case (I could see Braunie having top-notch legal and PR people around), but the East Coasters on the Sports Reporters don't seem to be buying it this morning.

And for all you union-bashers that love the Crew- Aren't you glad Ryan Braun has a union that allows him a chance to appeal a questionable drug test and get due process? See how this type of thing works when you have someone backing you up (and part of a group smart enough to reach an agreement with management on drug testing through COLLECTIVE BARGAINING). Sure beats being someone like Allison Rozek at the DWD, and getting fired for no apparent reason other than whistelblowing about sexual harrassment and not kissing the right person's ass.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nope, Walker's moves don't work- Pt. 23521

The failures just keep rolling in on this clown. James Rowen has an excellent find showing the monthly Federal Reserve report that lists Wisconsin DEAD LAST among the states in economic activity, and in clear recession over the last 3 months.
And it looks even worse when you see what it looked like when Walker was elected in November under "growth-killer" Jim Doyle.
In fact, the Fed says Wisconsin's economy grew in every month from October 2009 through the start of 2011. And while things were starting to slow down, we will still holding up when Walker's budget passed in June.
Now, we're back down to where we were in March, before Act 10 was passed in that illegal vote. And don't believe for a second that the past isn't prologue. So unless you like being Number 50 in the nation, I think it's well past time to pull the plug.

And speaking of the past being prologue, a hidden story in the J-S this week includes the Milwaukee County Auditor admitting that Walker's handling of employee relations in his previous job was a miserable failure.
Milwaukee County’s use of unpaid employee furloughs last year to help balance the budget saved the county about $5.2 million, but resulted in thousands of hours of lost employee work time, forced overtime and demoralized employees, County Auditor Jerome Heer said Thursday.

The savings also could be nearly wiped out if the county loses a court case over furloughs, Heer said.

"These furloughs were not all they were cracked up to be," he told supervisors. "It’s a very inefficient way to achieve savings."

Doesn't this sound like the Wacky-hut screw-up all over again? You know, where Milwaukee County taxpayers got socked with paying more than they would have had they just kept the same unionized staff on the job? I've touched on this before, but furloughs only work if the reductions are intended to be short-term items that get a budget back in balance due to unexpectedly low revenues. It is NOT to be used as a consistent tactic, and if benefit costs and structural deficits are the issue (as they allegedly were in Milwaukee County), and the jobs are still needed (which they apparently were, because Walker would have demanded layoffs instead of furloughs if they weren't), then the best answer is to be an adult and NEGOTIATE A BETTER DEAL.

And just like he did as Governor in Madison, Walker failed to do this, possibly because he doesn't have the mental capabilities to think past what'll play in the next 5 minutes on the Charles Sykes show. And just like in Madison, this dictatorial approach backfired badly, but not before serious damage was done to the area he was in charge of.

Lies, lies and WisGOP-damning reality

First of all, two great pieces of reporting work from the Left Cheddarsphere this week.

First, a great job of connecting the dots by James Rowen on the closing of the Wausau paper plant in Brokaw and that company's connections the Bradley Foundation, Wall Street, and $4.5 million payouts to its CEO. Required reading to show how these all tie together to slam a Central Wisconsin town into oblivion.

Next, here's Jeff SImpson at Blogging Blue exposing the lies in that pro-Walker ad wiith the Cottage Grove teacher. Monona Grove schools already have numerous classes above their desired standard due to Walker's budget, filled this year's budget holes with Obama stimulus money and NOT the tools, and their own superintendent says the district is in a $1.5 million hole under Walker's budget for NEXT year, with no tool adjustments to be made.

When you have to lie and omit these things to the public, you're damn near done. And why are they lying? Because of this reality.

News came out this week showing Wisconsin to be a national leader. Unfortunately, it was as the state with the biggest increase in unemployment claims for the Thanksgiving week. And the bottom of the page adds that it wasn't by a little.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 26 were in Wisconsin (+8,172), Michigan (+2,643), Iowa (+2,228), Indiana (+1,645), and Ohio (+1,500) while the largest decreases were in California (-27,440), Texas (-8,543), Florida (-5,306), South Carolina (-4,670), and New York (-4,614).
Wisconsin's new unemployment claims have been consistently creeping up the last 6 weeks, so don't expect Wisconsin's worst in the nation job performance under the Walker budget to improve any time soon. By the way, any report of that in the Journal Communications, Inc. newspaper? No, of course there wasn't. Hmmmm...

Maybe if we get back to valuing good, old-fashioned skill advancement and hard work, we can get our Wisconsin way back. I had business in NE Wisconsin this week, and caught this headline from the Shawano Leader. KI is expanding their operations in Bonduel, adding an estimated 27 new jobs in that small town. And why did they decide to do this? Because Wisconsinites are better workers than Confederates.
KI plans to phase out production at its plant in Pontotoc, Miss., beginning in January. The plant, which has about 40 employees, will close by June 1. Manufacturing of seating and table products done in Pontotoc will move to Bonduel.

KI started production at the Bonduel facility in 1998. It employs 176 people and is the fourth largest KI manufacturing facility in the nation.

With the closing of the Pontotoc facility, KI also will convert its manufacturing facility in Tupelo, Miss., to a warehouse and distribution center; two of Tupelo's product lines will move to Bonduel. Because of the changes, KI will drop its staffing in Tupelo from 55 to about 30 people.

Yes, it's a net loser for the country (those 27 jobs added come at the expense of 65 in Mississippi), and it's a big reason why the whole "play one state off vs. another with tax incentives" idea is stupid, but it sure tells you something when KI feels it's better off with half the employees in Wisconsin rather than keep their operations in Mississippi. So much for the theory about the low-tax, low-wage South being a more desirable place for manufacturing jobs, huh? Doesn't matter much when you have smarter, better workers in the North. Kinda makes you think a winning strategy is to invest in tech schools that teach needed manufacturing skills and improve K-12 education so companies want to locate in an area that values high-skill, adapatable workers.

Oh wait, Walker cut the fuck out of technical schools and K-12. Sounds like we need a new governor to get more KI-type expansions on track for Wisconsin's future, don't we?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Walker deceived on June jobs release? NOOOOO!!!!

Well, just color me surprised. Walker and his boys were told by DWD officials that the short-term June jobs spike was all due to tourism jobs outside of metro areas and other short-term, seasonal factors that would go away in the next few months. They ran with it anyway with a big public display, probably because it was 3 weeks until the Senate recall elections.

Hell, I don't even work for DWD and I told you that 4 months ago.

The real story is that it means you need to keep your eyes peeled for similar lies from the Walker folks about Wisconsin jobs "turning a corner" if they get any sort of positive job news in the next few months. Given the U.S.'s steadily improving economy in the last few months, Wisconsin SHOULD see an increase in jobs coming up, if all things stay equal. But you can bet Walker and the paid liars on talk radio will try to ignore the positive U.S. news, and try to take all the credit for any added employment in Wisconsin - even if it's temporary Holiday jobs that will go away in January. Don't fall for it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

U.S. job revisions = Walker cost Wisconsin 39,000 jobs in 4 months

The number getting all the attention in yesterday's U.S. jobs report was the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.6%. And while that's significant, it's also skewed by 315,000 people dropping out of the work force, and a very low 64.0% participation rate, so there's lots of work still to do.

Less mentioned was the total job increase itself. 120,000 were total jobs added in November and 140,000 in the private sector, as well as decent upward revisions in the previous months. This continues a trend of steady if unspectacular job growth throughout most of the last 2 years, with nearly 2.9 million private sector jobs created since the end of 2009, and almost 2.4 million jobs overall.

U.S. job growth 2011
2011- 1.58% private, 1.06% all jobs

U.S. job growth 2010-2011 combined
2010-2011 - 2.70% private, 1.85% all jobs

It also magnifies the failures of Scott Walker in the same department, as the revisions increase how far behind Wisconsin is with the gains in the rest of the country, especially since Walker's budget became law on July 1.

Wisconsin vs. U.S. jobs Jan.-Oct. 2011
U.S. +0.97%, Wis. +0.13% (-0.84%)
Wisconsin GAP -23,100 jobs

Wisconsin vs. U.S. jobs June-October 2011
U.S. +0.41% Wis. -0.99% (-1.40%)
Wisconsin GAP -39,000 jobs

You read that right. If Wisconsin grew at the same rate as the rest of the country over the last 4 months, we would have had 39,000 more jobs than we do now. If Wisconsin had kept up with the country since January (the month before Walker "dropped the bomb"), we'd be up 23,100 jobs.

And it looks even worse when you compare that to the numbers in the previous 12 months to "dropping the bomb."

Wisconsin vs. U.S. jobs Jan. 2010-Jan. 2011
U.S. +0.81% Wis. +1.44% (+0.63%)
Wisconsin GAP +17,000 jobs

You read that right too. 6 months after Jim Doyle the Dems' "tax-hiking, job-killing" budget, Wisconsin was GAINING 17,000 JOBS OVER WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE. Wish you had them back now?

Now, I know math and numbers are items that scare the daylights out of the average tightie righty, but 17,000 JOBS OVER is a helluva lot better than 39,000 JOBS UNDER. These numbers also show that we're back below the 2-year trend of growth for the rest of the nation.

Why would we accept Wisconsin staying behind the country's job growth? Oh, wait, over 300,000 of us has decided that we won't accept that, and another 600,000 of us (or so) will probably follow. And no unenforceable DOA protest policy's gonna stop that us from reminding you of that reality.