Sunday, January 29, 2012

Walkergate- sometimes others say it better

While I also have plenty of thoughts related to the arrests of two more major Walker aides in the last week, but other than to say the words "destruction of digital evidence" probably means there's a LOT more to come out, I'll hold off for now.

Instead, I'll forward you to Jud Lounsbury's excellent work showing Walker aide Tim Russell was working outside of Walker's County Exec's office when Walker sent the "smoking gun" email of "We can't have this happen laptops, no websites." If Russell was out of the County Exec's office in May 2010, why was he being ordered to tell County Exec staff to cut it off? Ruh roh!

I'll also direct you to Capper's excellent rundown of the John Doe charges, as he has been on this case for a long time, and he hints at a lot more to come.

And despite Walker's "I am not a crook" protestations, those of us who weren't born last night can put together the fact that he hired a Caucus scandal crook in Kelly Rindfleisch in early 2010 for a plum taxpayer-funded job, and she admitted in webchats that "half my job is policy for the (GOP guv and Lt. Gov) campaign." You'd have to be a damned fool not to know that campaign work and meetings with donors were the main part of Tim Russell's and Kelly Rindfleisch's real jobs. It's just a matter of who the Milwaukee County DA's office indentifies as the connections.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The real story abut Vos/ Ellis conversation

If you haven't seen the youtube that Politiscoop originally unearthed with Rep. Robin Vos along with Sens. Mike Ellis, Sheila Harsdorf and Glenn Grothmann hanging out at Inn on the Park, well, here it is! Ellis does most of the talking, and his Fitzgerald rips are early on, while the "Green Bay Preble is a sewer" talk comes near the end.

A couple of quick notes that aren't being hit hard enough from this story. 1. When they get around to talking about the voucher bill and the plans to make Green Bay eligible for them, notice that Ellis and the others say that vouchers need to be contained to high-poverty areas (this is why Ellis wants to only have the voucher schools be in the Preble district, because it "has all the poor people" vs. the other GB schools). So the legislators admit that poverty is a huge factor in low school performance. It's not the teachers, not the union situation, not the kids. IT IS POVERTY that is the source of this problem. But God forbid the GOP ever do anything to deal with poverty, in fact, these same legislators complain about the cost of programs such as Badger Care, technical colleges and mass transit that help to reduce the chances of people going into poverty, and reducing the chances of poverty-stricken people to get access to jobs that reduce the chances of them coming out of poverty. They'd much rather get big money from Scooter Jensen and the voucher lobby and send kids (and the state money that follows) to the operators of those schools instead of doing something that might be effective and reduce the "problem' that leads to voucher schools being discussed in the first place. 2. Vos's comment about "$200 million in venture capital" for voucher schools is interesting, because if these guys have $200 million to throw around, what's the need to use taxpayer dollars for private schools? (Answer: because this isn't about saving money or better outcomes, it's about sending taxpayer money to campaign contributors with no accountability for what happens to those dollars). I'll also remind you that Vos was the guy who took $147 million away from the state's general fund in the most recent budget (which funds public schools, among other programs) and sent it off to the Transportation Fund, to reward his buddies in the Road Builders' lobby. And Vos is the same guy who complains that the state can't follow the Obama Administration's order to raise the Family Care caps because he claims the state doesn't have extra money to pay for it. Well Robin, if you stopped paying off your campaign contributors with taxpayer dollars, I think we'd have plenty of money to solve these problems, and with much more efficient results than the waste you promote.

So this video is another excellent example of GOP complicity and cynicism, where they claim to be stewards of the taxpayer dollar and people concerned over less-than-ideal outcomes in education. But the reality is that the GOP knows the real problems are poverty and inequality of opportunity, but taking the steps to solve the problems wouldn't get them paid, and therefore, they want nothing to do with coming up with a real solution.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pretty pictures about an ugly Wisconsin economy

I'm gearing up for IU-UW hoops tonight, so no time to go into all the John Doe details at this time. Instead, I'll give you some pictures that illustrate that Scott Walker has cost this state more than just Wisconsin's previous reputation for realtively clean government.

The Philly Fed released it's 3-month coincident index today, reflecting each state's economy from the end of September to the end of December. You'll notice Wisconsin shining in bright red....and as usual, that's not a good thing. (click for bigger pictures)
We may have gone down further than last month, and we greatly lag a growing U.S. economy, but at least we aren't worst in the lower 48 anymore! We're all the way up to 46!

3-month coincident index, Philly Fed October- December 2011
-1.11% Alaska
-1.10% Rhode Island
-0.79% Minnesota
-0.66% Wisconsin
+0.77% U.S.

The next picture really puts the lie to Scott Walker's State of the State theme of "going in the right direction." In addition taking credit for the January job increases of 10,100 private sector jobs, (which is 2/3 of ALL job growth for 2011) and notm mentioning that the growth occurred before he "dropped the bomb," Walker tried to again compare Wisconsin favorably with our neighbors to the South, bragging about the lower unemployment rate and "lack of debt" that Wisconsin allegedly has over Illinois.

Uh Scotty, I wouldn't quite talk up how great our state is doing compared to our neighbors. Because in the Midwest, Illinois and 2 other states passed us since your budget took effect, as has the growth rate for the U.S. as a whole.

See how Wisconsin bends downward starting in June 2011? Minnesota was at least rising in Summer before it started dropping after September - not us. We're now the worst-recovering state in the Midwest since our recession ended in October 2009, and we were holding our own until this Summer. So Scott Walker's right, he's definitely changed the direction of this state economically. But it sure isn't in any kind of way that would help the average Wisconsinite.

I'm not sure who he thinks he can peddle these deceptions about a "growing, debtless" economy to, but it isn't to anyone that knows the facts, that's for sure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the State- Wisconsin is still Number One!

I was waiting for the state report from the BLS which finally came out this week before I commented on another month of Wisconsin job losses in December. But again, it confirms that Wisconsin is staying on top in the U.S.A....for job losses since Walker's budget became law 6 months ago.

Top job losses, July-December 2011
Wisconsin - 35,600
Missouri - 19,200
Georgia -9,400
Rhode Island -6,800
Montana -2,300

And the BLS followed up with a year-long report showing that Wisconsin fell down to 44th among the states in private sector job creation for the first full year of Fitzwalkerstan.

Yet Walker's State of the State address is titled "Wisconsin is Heading in the Right Direction." Between the horrible job performance and Fitz's warning about the next budget being worse than this one's, how can Walker believe that this is true. Of course, the answer is that he doesn't believe, but that he thinks he can get over on enough dead-end rubes that he can trick them into voting him back into office.

And despite what that absurd Marquette Law poll says today, he is wrong. All we have to do is stay steadfast and beam our message of truth over the right-wing lie machine. Spin may work for winning arguments, but lies eventually catch up to you, no matter who you are. And lying against simple math isn't a good way to get anyone's trust.

Marquette Law poll says Walker leads with Baggers, old suburbanites

Sometimes you see a headline and your immediate reaction is "Bullshit!" And that's exactly what I did today when I saw the a Marquette Law School poll that Scott Walker led all listed Dem challengers in a recent poll, and that Walker had jumped to a 51% approval rating. I understand that sometimes living in Madison can be a bit of a bubble, but I've done plenty of traveling around the state the last 2 months and seen little to zero outward support of standing behind Walker in a large amount of communities, so I tend to be suspicious when I see numbers that show Walker to have better approval ratings than President Obama.

And it turns out with good reason, because the poll is garbage, with fixed numbers and bad samples. The Marquette people even admit they fiddling with the figures on their "methodology" page.
...In telephone surveys it is common for potential respondents who are younger and have fewer years of formal education to exhibit higher rates of non-response resulting in these groups being under-represented in the sample. To compensate for these non-response effects the sample is weighted to bring sample characteristsics into line with the population values.
In other words, the pollsters had to change their actual numbers of the responses to make up for the fact that they didn't ask a representative group of people.

And I'm sure this'll stun you, but if you look on Page 2 of the methodology, you'll find the people they asked were disproportionately conservative, from the Walker-supporting 262, old, and on landlines. For example, 76.4% of those who answered the phone were 45 or older, and over 40% were past 60, so Marquette had to change its numbers by changing the raw totals for both these groups, and the ones under 45. In addition, 77% of the respondees answered on their landlines, and the Marquette people only deflated that down to 73.2% weight. Now do you really believe that 3/4 of the people in Wisconsin answer their land line first, and talk to complete strangers? Well, maybe if they're shut-ins, elderly, or live way out in the sticks, but not most people with jobs, lives and interests in metro areas with size.

Geography is another major fail. It's no secret that suburban Milwaukee is the area most likely to support Walker, and the Madison area and City of Milwaukee is most likely to vote him out. But again, the suburbs/ Milwaukee DMA (which brings in Racine, Kenosha among other places) got more respondees than they warrant (31% vs. 24% of the Wisconsin votes in 2010), while Madison and outstate were a good 2-3% less than their vote share in 2010.

Even the people they could get in the City of Milwaukee were a shaky group, because the poll's crosstabs of Milwaukee's vote in a Barrett-Walker rematch have Barrett winning 62-31, which sounds OK until you realize that Barrett beat Walker 74-25 in Milwaukee in 2010. So are you telling me that Walker would GAIN 18 points on Barrett after Scotty has tried to dienfranchise Milwaukee minorities with voter ID, and his collective bargaining stances would probably cost him the endorsements and votes of police and firefighters that backed him in 2010? Think about it for 2 seconds and you know those numbers are seriously flawed, and you feel like an ESPN analyst and say "C'MON MAN!"

And the Milwaukee poll results go to the biggest failure of this poll - oversampling of Tea Baggers and other right-wingers. As a starting point, let's use CBS's 2010 exit poll of the Feingold-Johnson Senate race, and figure the voters would be the same for the Walker-Barrett race that was also voted on at that time. At the height of TeaBaggery in an election filled with motivated Republicans who saw a chance to win their first big statewide elections in the 21st Century, we had the following ideological breakdowns, and support for the Tea Party:

Ideology, 2010 election
Conservative 36%
Moderate 43%
Liberal 21%

Tea Party, 2010 election
Support 36%
Oppose 32%
Neutral 29%

Now compare those figures with this poll.

Ideology of poll responders (those who answered question)
Conservative/ Very Conservative 44%
Moderate 34%
Liberal/ Very Liberal 22%

Tea Party, poll responders
Favorable 33%
Unfavorable 41%
No Opinion/ Neutral 26%

So they've basically flip-flopped conservative and moderate numbers in Wisconsin's voting population. Well, no kidding that Walker leads if you overstate conservatives by 8% at the expense of moderates, especially when he loses moderates by 6-10% in this poll (that's probably light, I've seen other polls that have Walker disapproval around 60-70% with moderates). Get the same numbers but an accurate moderate vs. conservative number, and this thing is a toss-up if not Walker trailing.

And the Tea Party stat is especially BS, because most national polls have Bagger support around 26-30%, but non-support over 60%. But in this poll the favorable/unfavorable bi-normial is more like 45% aprove, 55% disapprove. But that's who picks up and answers the phone when strange people call, so instead of the pollsters using an ounce of common sense and realize that they've overloaded their poll with Baggers that will make Walker look better than he really is, they just shrugged and went with the numbers. This is either negligent, or it's intentionally trying to make news by producing a story line of "people still support Walker" that doesn't exist.

This is the reason I worry over polls like this, because when outlets like just run with the numbers without doing any analysis of where the numbers came from, it favors Walker, and leads to flawed coverage and opinions. The 2010 polls in the Feingold-Johnson race consistently overstated Johnson's lead, and both that race and the Governor's race ended up being 4-5 points closer than most polls on Election Night. You think the casual citizen who likes to "be on the side of the winner" might have been more likely to vote for either Feingold or Barrett if they thought the race was a virtual toss-up instead of a 8-10 point GOP lead? You bet.

That's why you have to hammer these polls, because you know the media won't have the guts or time to, and good news from fake polls gives the Walker folks enough of an alibi that can allow them to try to steal a close election with more Kathy Nickolaus-style shenanigans. We need to be vigilant at all turns, and make sure fake stories and faulty polls don't get made into a media reality.

P.S.: And We Are Wisconsin illustrates how you respond, by going right to the JS and pointing out why it's garbage. In addition to my point on oversampling conservatives, they point out that union households are underrepresented vs. the 2010 exit poll (if anything, they'll vote more), and they call out the collective bargaining question (the poll says "limits" on collective bargaining- Walker ABOLISHED it. Big difference).

We need this type of rapid response to propaganda like this. Well done, We Are Wisconsin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Did Fitz just give away a secret?

Just got time for a quick note before we take advantage of Madison Restuarant Week and hit the El Dorado Grill. I couldn't help but notice this exchange from the state Senate, via
Fitzgerald then challenged the Dem senators considering a run for guv to use the chamber floor to launch their campaigns and lay out what they plan to do

"I'll tell you what I think you're going to do. You’re going to raise taxes," Fitzgerald said. "If you think this budget was scary, wait until the next one." (emphasis mine)

Fitzgerald said he hopes Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang will tell lawmakers within the next few weeks that somehow income and sales tax collection have grown compared to a year ago.

"But I'm not optimistic because that's where the national economy is," Fitzgerald said. "I'm not sure what happened in December, but I hope retail sales will change that."
Hmmm, seems to me that Fitz just admitted that the Walker/ WisGOP budget really isn't balanced, and that we're looking at quite the deficit for the next 2 years.

Oh yeah, the Walker people admitted it themselves to the Obama Administration last month, when they said we had a GAAP deficit of $2.99 billion this year and $3.02 billion next year. At the same, Walker was running around the country and polluting airwaves with ads that said the budget was "balanced" without raising taxes (neither of which is clearly true). Of course, the GAAP deficit was brought up to the Feds because the Walker boys were trying to drop tens of thousands off of Badger Care, so in typical Walker Admin. fashion, but they couldn't do so unless they actually had a deficit necessitating the cuts. In other words, Walker and WisGOP are fudging numbers whenever it seemed to get whatever idological goal they wanted accomplished.

So Fitz's little outburst has let the cat out of the bag in full view- the Walker budget was filled with one-time gimmicks and rosy scenarios that were not going to come close to balancing the budget in 2013-2015 in real life. And given the huge job losses and funny money the current budget had, this one isn't going to be balanced when Lang and the LFB release their numbers this week.

And the last lie that Walker can cling to will go down in flames. Fitz's little outburst should be all over Dem ads for the next few months...including against Fitz himself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Are your property taxes down? Better ask why!

In the Blogging Blue rundown of the little "Stand with Walker (Without Walker)" rally in Tosa, there's a gallery of pictures of some of the clowns that attended. A common theme has something to do with bragging about their 2012 property taxes dropping some nominal amount, and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance followed up earlier this month saying that the 0.3% average property tax increase is the lowest in 15 years. Well, that's all nice and kindly, but as usual, the raw numbers don't tell the reality.

And that reality came shining through in today's year-end report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. It showed that the median home price had dropped by 6.4% statewide in 2011, and 11.1% from November to December. Worse, median home price sales fell by more than 10% in 3 of out every 10 counties throughout Wisconsin in 2011, including 29% in the Northern tip of the state in Iron County, and 17.2% in Racine County, and 18.2% in Milwaukee County. When you're having home value drops like this, I'd sure hope your property taxes go down some. I mean, when we make less money and pay fewer taxes as a result of that lower income (like lots of us that work for the state will this year), we won't celebrate that Walker gave us a tax cut, will we? Of course not, but these Walker wingnuts were doing just that with their stupid little signs and sheltered lives.

And if you're home value didn't drop or wasn't re-assessed, well then chances are that you faced a massive hit this year, even if you didn't get a raise yourself. Check out this story from Mount Pleasant, right in the middle of Robin Vos's district,where a retired truck driver saw his property taxes go up 20% on his relatively modest home. Hey suburban Racine, how's your penchant for that voting on cultural issues and "sticking it to them lib'ruls" thing working out for ya? Like how your taxes are going under an ALEC Cabin Boy like Wee Wobby Vos?

And that screw-job will be even worse next year, as one-time stunts like the Act 10 "tools" are already used up, while the Walker/ WisGOP cuts to local governments and schools remain. You're already seeing districts warn about more problems for next year, from the losses in the tiny Lake Holcombe district in Chippewa County, to layoffs in Lodi to big changes in Manitowoc, to major retirements in the Appleton area, and multi-million dollar deficits next year in Oshkosh, leading to an absurd proposal where teachers teach more classes for the same pay.

Guess what'll happen to your home values as the job losses and public sector retirements continue? Your home sure won't go up, so good luck getting anything out of that investment as long as we have Walker World. So who cares if your property taxes went down a miniscule amount in 2011? Given Wisconsin's property trends and destruction of a major home price stabilizer in our previously high-qualirty public schools, I would hope your taxes did, or else you're getting a massive double-whammy.

That $18 in property tax savings can't be worth it to you though, can it?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

If I say I'll create 500 jobs, can I have some tax credits?

One the reasons why Gov. Walker seemed so blearly-eyed when he was being destroyed at last week's MLK celebration is partly because he's been jetting off all over the country to get campaign contributions from oligarchs instead of staying in Wisconsin. But he did have time to do some in-state business, as Scotty used the state plane to run up to Superior that same day to announce that Kestrel Aircraft would use large amounts of state help to locate a plant in Superior. Kestrel is a glorified start-up looking to make small, luxury planes, and originally planned to be in Maine, but a look at Maine reports tells you why they backed out- they couldn't get enough taxpayer dollars out of Maine.
When the company first proposed setting up at Brunswick Landing, Kestrel was offering just the kind of jobs Maine wants. But Kestrel also needed up to 100 million dollars to start up production. And it turned out Maine wasn't able to help the company find that money quickly enough to land all the jobs. Wisconsin was able to provide the needed financing, so Kestrel went West.

Economic Development Commissioner George Gervais says Maine was very competitive with Wisconsin - except for one area. Kestrel was counting on a federal tax credit program called New Markets to provide the financing needed to start up production. A private, non-profit economic development agency called CEI manages the New Markets program in Maine, and Gervais says CEI had assured Kestrel it would provide the company all the tax credits it needed to raise money. But it only approved $20 million in credits, far less that the company required.

Wisconsin reportedly provided up to $90 million in New Markets credits.
Gervais blames CEI for the loss of Kestrel. But CEI says that's not true. The agency says it never promised Kestrel more than the $20 million in tax credits the board approved last year. Charlie Spies of CEI says that was clear to Kestrel all along. He also says CEI has provided financing for at least one other company setting up at Brunswick Landing.

State senator Stan Gersofsky says he also thinks Kestrel would have stayed if it had gotten all the tax credits it expected
Basically, Kestrel and other investors will get major federal tax write-offs for going in on this project, and the state of Wisconsin is gambling a large amount of their projected allotment on this one project. If you look at the New Markets tax credit 2010 award announcement, you'll see that there is only so much money to go around, and that the $90 million is just an expected amount that Wisconsin will win. What if they don't get all of the $90 million they think they'll get in the coming years? Hmmm...

And it's worth mentioning that this Kestrel project was chosen by Walker and WEDC instead of many others in low-income areas that could use the help. It's a classic case of picking winners and losers, and you sure hope this wasn't done out of complete desperation by the Walker folks, given the recall election and the "50th in the nation" status on jobs.

You certainly hope there's not a backroom pay-for-play deal involved in it, like I highly suspect in another tax credit/ expansion announcement this week. Tim O'Brien homes is co-owned by current U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann, and announced plans to set up a second office in Madison, with a possible (key word) addition of 200 jobs over the next two years. Of course, the same announcement mentions the head of the Wisconsin Builders Association will run the Madison division of O'Brien Homes, and the Builders Association/ Building a Better Wisconsin PAC has thrown $7,000 to Walker in the last year, and the Realtors PAC has thrown another $15,000.

And gee, who was up there at yesterday's "Stand with Walker Rally" in Tosa? That's right, Mark Neumann, supporting someone he was (rightfully) calling out 2 years ago. Guess everyone's got a price, eh Mark?

Oh, and here's another one of our "job creators" putting our taxpayer dollars to good use- Spectrum Brands. Looks like Spectrum is using their state loan and tax credits to move its headquarters from Madison to Middleton late next year. (They also get a nice amount of TIF write-offs on their property taxes from Middleton. I'll try to contain your shock at that one.)

You may recall that earlier this month we found out that Spectrum gave its CEO a stock-option laden compensation package worth as much as $13.7 million as a reward for losing $75 million in fiscal 2011. Of course, it's a lot easier for a stock to go up when its getting free tax write-offs from the state and a local government. And who picks up the difference in taxes in the meantime, until this Trojan Horse actually nets something down the road? That's right, you and I.

Cool deal, huh? I think I'm going to announce that I'm opening an amusement park called "Jake's Funhouse" near Olin-Turville Park in Madison, which I'm certain, CERTAIN, will net a few hundred jobs in a few years. I just need the financing and tax credits to get it off the ground. Think WEDC and the Walker boys will float me a few million bones in credits or loans to get me rolling? Or do I need to ante up to Friends of Scott Walker first?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wisconsin revenues holding for now- thanks Obama!

I was struck by an interesting quote from Walker DWD Secretary Reggie Newson in the most recent excuse-filled monthly jobs release, where he mentions "higher state sales and withholding tax collections" as proof of some kind of growth in Wisconsin, regardless of what the 6 months of job losses are telling us.

Coincidentally, the Department of Revenue released their December tax collections late Friday afternoon, and it does seem like tax collections have held up for the first half of the 2011-2012 fiscal year. So far, individual income taxes are indeed up 5.5% for the year, and sales taxes are up 3.7%. This puts income taxes above the 2.5% increase figured in the 2011-2012 budget, and sales taxes are in the neighborhood of the 3.91% rise for this year. So at first glance, it seems that perhaps that $500 million budget deficit I predicted due to low revenues might not show up, as revenues have stayed strong.

But, as usual with this Administration, things aren't a good as they appear at first glance. To start, Newson crediting Walker policies for the strong income tax growth is very misleading, because as usual, we need to look at national figures to get the full story. Daniel Gross at Yahoo Finance tipped me off to the fact that U.S. tax revenues are on the upswing, and are on track to reduce the deficit, perhaps down below $1 trillion (it's still not enough, but it's a start). So I went to the U.S. Monthly Treasury Statement, and took a look at what federal taxes have done for the last 6 months, to get a nationwide perspective. Once I crunched the numbers for Federal Income and Corporate taxes, Wisconsin's increase didn't seem so impressive.

Change in Tax Revenues July-Dec. 2010 vs. July-Dec. 2011
Individual income tax
U.S. +10.08%, Wis. +5.55%
Corporate tax U.S. +7.44%, Wis. +3.98%

As you can see, the U.S. tax collections for individuals and corporations are growing twice as fast as Wisconsin's, so if you're going to credit anyone for the good revenue figures, CREDIT OBAMA. This is especially true when you realize Wisconsin individual income tax rates were not really changed at all by Walker and the WisGOPs (corporates got the breaks, not people), so it's quite funny to see that an Administration that seems to want to take on the White House at every turn is relying on them for keeping their "balanced" budget somewhat solvent.

And by the way, Walker and the WisGOPs have a long way to go if they want to stay on track for 2012. While the numbers look good when you compare July-December 2010 and 2011, you need to remember that January-June 2011 were huge months for Wisconsin revenues under the Doyle/Dem budget (you may recall the surprise "surplus" that showed up in May, proving we were never "broke" and didn't have a massive budget deficit).

Wisconsin fiscal year 2011 1st 6 months vs. last 6
Individual income - $3.147 Billion 1st 6, $3.534 Billion last 6 (+12.3%)
Sales Taxes -$1.736 Billion 1st 6, $2.373 Billion last 6 (+36.7%)
Corporate Taxes - $363.97 Million 1st 6, $489.10 Million last 6 (+34.4%)
Excise Taxes - $319.02 Million 1st 6, $401.83 last 6(+26.0%).
(Quick sidelight, excise taxes are the one thing that is down vs. 2010 - almost 1% the last 6 months. Start drinking and smoking, fellow Cheeseheads!)

So we have a lot of catch-up that needs to hit in order to reach those year-long goals over the next 6 months, and we need income tax growth of a god 6-7% vs. the last 6 months of 2011 just to reach the budgeted amounts of $6.868 Billion. Given that 3.5%-inflation indexed brackets automatically reduce taxes collected on flat paychecks for 2012 (hey, there's your Walker tax cut!), this seems like a very tough number to reach. Sales taxes require even more of a push, at 37.28%. And given the amount of post-Holiday sales items that keep getting emailed to me (and the Packers collapse against the Giants), good luck with coming anywhere close to that.

Let's keep an eye on these revenue numbers, especially when the LFB releases its new budget figures in the next 10 days. These projections could play a major role in denying the last big claim the Walker folks are clinging to - that they "balanced the budget."

(Oh wait, the Walker folks admitted to the Feds they haven't balanced the budget either.)

Unemployment claims- the trend ain't Walker's friend (geeky)

Given the recent unemployment claim figures and job figures in both the U.S. and the state of Wisconsin, I wanted to take a look and see how we were shaping up vs. the rest of the nation when it came to new filings for unemployment. My interest was especially peaked with Thursday's DOL release, which not only showed good news for Barack Obama and the U.S. overall, but possibly Scott Walker as well.
In the week ending January 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 352,000, a decrease of 50,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 402,000. The 4-week moving average was 379,000, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week's revised average of 382,500...

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 521,613 in the week ending January 14, a decrease of 124,606 from the previous week. There were 549,688 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011..... the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-7,657), Michigan (-5,208), Iowa (-4,675), New Jersey (-4,667), and Kentucky (-3,577).
Of course, this was a week after Wisconsin and Michigan were the top 2 for increased claims, so some of this is reversion to the norm, but it's still worthy of mention.

So given that seasonality and other factors make the weekly claims number a bit volatile, I wanted to take a look at how Wisconsin has fared vs. the U.S. on a year-long trend under the policies of Jim Doyle and the Dems, as well as Scott Walker and the GOP. So I took the yearly changes for this week in 2010 (reflecting Doyle/ Dem) and 2011 (reflecting Walker/ GOP), and then graphed it out. I used unadjusted claims for both the U.S. and Wisconsin, because that's what's used for state figures, and then took at look at how much Wisconsin changed vs. the U.S. in new unemployment claims.

In other words, a number below zero is good news for Wisconsin, because it means our claims dropped more than the U.S. did (on a % basis), and a number above zero means we're filling out more claims than the rest of the U.S. So here's what I got. The blue trendline reflects Doyle/ Dems, the red one reflects Walker/ GOP. (Editor's note: the huge jump at the start of 2009-2010 is mostly due to huge public sector job reductions in local 2010 budgets, and is a clear outlier that gets smoothed out within 2 weeks)

change in new unemployment claims, Wisconsin vs. U.S.

As you can see, the Doyle/Dem trend line dives below the U.S. rate in the first 2 months of 2010, and then consistently is 10-20% below the U.S. changes by the middle of the 2010, showing that Wisconsin was holding up better than the country, which at the time was just starting to show economic signs of recovery after the Great Recession. In fact, Wisconsin only did worse than the U.S. in 2 out of 44 weeks after mid-February 2010, and not surprisingly, Wisconsin averaged around 4,000 private sector jobs a month in Jim Doyle's last year in office.

So Walker and WisGOP found themselves in a winning situation at the start of 2011, which shows in red line being down around -20% vs. the U.S. when he and his boys took over in January, and it showed the nearly 16,000 jobs created in Wisconsin in the first 2 months of 2011. But then the Walker policies took over, and when Walker "dropped the bomb" in February was also the time when the red and blue lines cross on the chart, showing that his Administration wasn't faring as well as the Doyle/Dems. Right after the bomb dropped, Wisconsin was above 0 for 6 of the next 9 weeks, and were trending worse than the U.S. for the first time in over a year.

After gaining a bit of ground in the Spring (remember the fluke jobs report that Walker overpublicized despite them knowing it was a one-time deal?) , the red line had retreated back toward -10%. But notice it never reached as far down as the Doyle/Dem line , and once the Walker budget took effect on July 1, the red line started kicking back up again. Now, we've been back above 0 for 5 of the last 9 weeks, and the trendline had kicked back above 0 by the end of December.

Not that this is big news that Wisconsin has gone backward while the American economy has picked up steam in the last 6 months, but it's another chart to figure and go back to, because the action from the first 2 weeks of 2012 and Walker's shortsighted refunding of federal money is sure to keep his red lines trending up, which means our state will continue to trend least until we find a way to turn that red line back into something like the blue one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephen Colbert > Chuck Todd

I'd like to thank Chuck Todd for showing exactly why the D.C. kiss-ass media continues to do the public a disservice, and Chuck outs himself as a classic Villager. Todd complained last night that Stephen Colbert's character and recent establishment of his own Colbert Super PAC was hurting Republicans because his act made the real ones look stupid. He also complained that it was inappropriate for Colbert to testify before Congress in character, and that comedians like him make people lose confidence in a political election system that's far too serious to not take seriously.
He [Todd] cautioned the media to be "careful" about amplifying Colbert's message, and said it should not be treated as "shtick" or satire.

"What is his real agenda here?" he said. "Is it to educate the public about the dangers of money and politics, and what's going on? Or is it simply to marginalize the Republican Party? I think if I were a Republican candidate I would be concerned about that."

Todd concluded by saying that he "idolized" American politics and didn't want to see people become more cynical about them.
Yes Chuck, because a presidential election system that decides to treat people like Batshit Bachmann and Herman "9-9-9" Cain as legitimate candidates and refuses to call out Mitt Romney for flip-flopping or deceiving on....well pretty much any issue is absolute high-class royalty that should be given the utmost respect. At least Cain gets the joke, he and Colbert held a rally in Charleston this afternoon, and I bet a lot more people turned out for that than most other events in that silly state this week.

Colbert continues on a roll, just killing it in an appearance on "Morning Joe" in South Carolina today. The answers from Colbert about how his Super PAC is actually separate from his candidacy despite having the same people working out the ads and money-funneling are tremendous, because our media will never ask those real questions of candidates being led by the Koch PACs and Karl Rove PACs of the world. And there's probably more legitimate answers given from "Candidate" Colbert in that interview than you get in the typical debate, because the "legitimate" candidates are given focus-group tested crap that avoids giving realistic answers to our tough problems.

Chuck Todd's whiny protestations illustrate exactly why Comedy Central has more legitimacy than the "legitimate" media. Chuck's big concern is that people like Colbert will delegitimize this game that he and the politicians he covers play, and that it makes folks like him on the "serious" media look bad. Well Chucky, you look bad because YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB BADLY. You are more concerned with maintaining a two-party system that allows you a lot of media attention and (most importantly) ACCESS to people in power. And that's why you and the other D.C. media keep up this false equivalency game that gives two opinions equal time, regardless of which may be true and which may not, and never calls out the clearly corrupt and money-influenced system that we have, because your network (and indirectly, your salary) gets a lot of income from maintaining the corrupt system, and you don't dare bite the hands that feed you.

On the other hand, Colbert has no problems in hammering his subjects, as evidenced in what is still about his best performance - in front of George Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2006, and exposing the media for not questioning Bush's BS much earlier.

In other words, comics like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart call out the BS existence that people like Chuck Todd and other D.C. media relies on, and comedians like them are able to use judgment to mock those who deserve to be mocked, instead of being a media member that kisses up in exchange for grabbing the next big interview that'll propel a Chuck Todd-type "Journalist" into further fame.

We see through your game Chuck, and this country is far too important to us to allow it to be debased and destroyed by gravy-training "serious" media members like you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Picture this reality

I'll go more in-depth on another month of job losses later this weekend, but in the meantime, I think this picture from Political Heat tells it all in the meantime.

And yes, I'm with the Marquette County voter at Blue Cheddar- Peter Barca, you're the guy to get Wisconsin back in the Blue, and back to trending up.

Walker self-absorption and hyprocisy is destroying our health

I've long figured out that Scott Walker and DHS Secretary Dennis Smith were up to no good when it came to helping Wisconsinites get quality and affordable health insurance. From the deceptions on a state report on the positives of Obama's health care reform, to misjudging a federal disability rule and costing Wisconsin millions, to the Family Care fiasco, to the (intentional?) overstating of the Medicaid deficit as an excuse to cut it further than needed. But the last 7 days have taken this evil treatment of health care in Wisconsin to new levels.

It started with the hiring of an an oncology nurse to take over the state's emergency public health management, and then added a former insurance industry lobbyist and another state's liason to other lobbyists to be the DHS' top lawyer. Bad enough on its face, but here come the real kickers on these hires.

The oncology nurse ran a small group of hospitals and only came to prominence by writing an article for the Heritage Foundation, a bastion of right-wing hackery that previously employed...Dennis Smith. Scary enough for the affirmative action hire, but then you realize both come from TEXASS! "But Jake, shouldn't we try to get the best from around the country to come here and make policy?" I don't necessarily disagree, but the best in the country when it comes to health policy and outcomes do not come from TEXASS. As Table 6 of this page from the Census Bureau will show you, Wisconsin was Number 3 in the nation in fewest percentage of people with no health insurance in the most recent survey, while TEXASS WAS DEAD LAST. Why should we ever be copying the people who have failed in taking care of their own?

Because that's what this Administration wants - to turn us into a corporately-owned two-tier society like the Lone Star State, instead of keeping Wisconsin as the high-quality, high-service place that we know and love. And the ultimate slap in the face came last night, when Walker announced he was turning down $37 million in federal assistance toward allowing Wisconsin to form their own Obamacare insurance exchange, and might need to send back another $1 million to the feds as a result of the move. In addition to being stupid fiscally, and remarkably similar to Walker's short-sighted refusal of high-speed rail money (which is now costing Wisconsin millions more), it also leaves Wisconsin wildly vulnerable to having no plan in place once 2013 and 2014 roll around, and will probably leave us with a system that doesn't fit the unique needs of a state that already does a good job in covering its citizens. (Edit: Turns out that it's actually, $49 million they're blowing, because it includes BadgerCare Plus improvements that Walker had previously supported. It really is just like the train screw-up, where it costs us more to get less.)

And the worst part of this turning down of Obamacare exchange money? The blatant hypocrisy from the Administration on the subject of health care competition. A common talking point from the Walker folks is how their school reforms allow districts to shop from competing health plans and save money (no matter how bullshit and deceptive their spin may be). OK, great idea as long as the insurance companies continue to offer a better package to districts and enrollees after the first year or two. But then why do they have such an issue with Obamacare health exchanges which do the same damn thing by offering choices for individuals and small businesses?

Because the Walker boys don't give a damn about health care outcomes of individuals and small businesses. They're all about 1. scoring political points on talk radio, so they'll use school district health plan competition as a way to bash WEA and teachers' unions, with any cost-savings being a very secondary positive, and 2. They want to push more potential clients onto the rolls of huge insurance companies and allow those companies to rack up even higher profits, with no intent of improvement for care, costs or outcomes for the average inidividual or business owner. THAT'S what these moves are all about - politics and decimating the Wisconsin health care safety net in favor of big-time blood money for the corporate insurer campaign contributors.

Now does it make sense that Walker was hitting up disgraced former AIG exec Hank Greenberg for cash on Park Avenue this week? Because both guys are all about profit at all measures, without regard for any effects or injury to others. It's sickening, and yet another reason why these people must be removed as soon as possible.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This recall just isn't going to win itself!

Obviously, this is an historic day up here. I figured there'd be a lot of signatures to get Scott Walker, Becky Kleefisch and 4 GOP Senators, and it would exceed the threshholds to force an election by a convincing amount. But ONE MILLION SIGNATURES??? That even went past my best expectations. Not that I didn't know this movement was real, but it shows how wide the support is- it's not just a bunch of hippies on Willy Street.

But you know, this is merely Step 1, and we still have to actually defeat Walker in the inevitable election later this year. And Walker continued on his defense of his seat in the Governor's Chair by.... retreating into Bubbleworld.
Walker was in New York on Tuesday, attending a fundraiser. Ciara Matthews, his campaign spokeswoman, said he was "completely booked for the day" and unavailable for comment. But the governor did make time to speak to conservative radio hosts Charlie Sykes and Rush Limbaugh.
Guess we know who Scotty's listening to, and they sure ain't anyone that works for a living in the state of Wisconsin. But hey, at least the NYC oligarch he's getting cash from is a legitimate job creator, right?...Oh wait, you're telling me it's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, who did this in 2009?
The Securities and Exchange Commission said [September 6] that former American International Group Inc. CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg agreed to pay a $15 million fine to settle fraud charges.

The charges are tied to an accounting scandal earlier this decade at AIG that led to Greenberg's ouster in 2005. The following year, AIG paid more than $1.6 billion to settle charges of improper accounting.

The case is unrelated to the government bailout of AIG< which is in the process of trying to sell off assets to pay off the $182.5 billion in loans it has received since last September.
Hmmm, I'm sure THAT will help Walker seem like he's not an oligarhcial puppet that's out of touch with the average Wisconsinite. Maybe saying "I'm not with Scott Walker" IS going to be all a Dem needs.

Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK and speaking truth to power in 2012

This is a must-watch, and needs to go viral. Law professor Sherrilyn Ifill tells the truth about Dr. Martin Luther King and his views, and destroys Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Kleefisch in person, without needing to call them out. Check out the video, and notice how exhausted Walker looks. Having come back from Vegas, I know that look well, and it's the mark of someone doing too much jetting off to multiple places to continue to close on slimy corporate cash instead of staying home, being ethical, and DOING YOUR JOB.

I also like the parts where she mentions Dr. King's work against housing segregation and having to deal with vicious white racism in the North in the mid-to-late '60s. Politicians like Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch and radio talk hosts like Charles Sykes and Mark Belling owe their careers to the resentments of the type of people who would have thrown rocks at Dr. King, and they approve of keeping America a two-tier society of "us versus them," instead of the inclusive and fair society Dr.King envisioned.

Thank you, Professor Ifill, for exposing the truth about what MLK believed in. MLK died supporting STRIKING PUBLIC SECTOR UNION WORKERS, and he would be leading rallies to remove slime like Walker. Notice that the biggest cheers came from Prof. Ifill's mention of Dr. King's support of union rights, and marches against voter suppression and other restrictions. That wasn't coincidental in the slightest.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New developments on old news in Fitzwalkerstan

Been tied up with my girlfriend, work, travels, preparing for my trip to Vegas for serious sports gambling this weekend, and a half foot of snow, so I haven't been able to jump in the last few days. But I've seen a few things in the last few days that are nice reminders of what we've been hitting on for the last year.

1. The GOP's one-sided tinkering with redistricting and elections continue to cost Wisconsinites. One way is how the Fitzgeralds jammed through redistrcting in such a top-down, imposed manner of local governments that many voters are not matched to their polling place or actual district, and that Wisconsin addresses are shown to be as far away as Africa on the statewide database software. Hmmm, you think that destroying decades of Wisconsin tradition of having local districts go first in determining polling precincts might have something to do with this? Maybe that rushing through of redistricting in the Summer wasn't such a bright idea when it came to good policy and easy-running elections.

And related to that, former Walkershaw County GOP State Senator Mac Davis's absurd decision to force the GAB to be the entity to lookm over recall signatures, is now going to force the signature review process past 60 days, delaying the inevitable recall election. Not only that, but now the GAB has to shell out at least $100,000 of taxpayer dollars for database software to enter and examine the signatures, and have to hire more individuals to take care of signature work, instead of having Scott Walker's corporate contributors pay for it (as all other candidates up for recall have had to). Gee, you mean this partisan decision is going to cost us a lot more cash and lead to more confusion than doing it the right and legal way? 'Magine that. Then again, causing confusion and frustration at this legal recall process is the GOP's goal here, because they know they can't win any of these elections on the merits.

2. Scott Walker's mistreatment of public workers and local governments led to record retirements of government workers in 2011. The state's pension fund, who handles pretty much all public sector employees that aren't in Milwaukee, had an increase of almost 80 percent over the last 7 years, and many of those 18,000+ have not been replaced. In addition to proving how pathetic a lie Scott Walker is giving when he claims Act 10 and other cuts "saved union jobs", (which I and many others exposed when he first tried it last winter, as you can see in point 3 here. ) the lie is compounded by a throwaway line from spokes-hack Cullen Werwie at the end of the article.
Werwie said he had no information on how much payroll had been reduced because of retirements, and the administration wasn't tracking where most retirements were occurring.
Well if you're not tracking these retirements and replacements, how the hell do you know you've saved jobs and how can you brag that you've "cut public payrolls"? HMMMMM? And you wonder why I say these guys aren't fit to run a McDonald's let alone the state?

In addition, we've seen the effects of these public sector job losses into the overall job market over the last few months. Another report came out this week on Wisconsin having the largest job losses in state government the 2nd Quarter of 2011, as it went down by nearly 8,000 people in the few months before Walker and co. started massive reductions in take-home pay for most state employees (Blogging Blue had a great report on this). And gee, what's happpened to Wisconsin jobs since the second quarter of 2011?

Jobs lost since June 2011 in Wisconsin
24,900 lost private sector, 10,000 lost public sector

Hmm, so much for the theory that public sector job losses "free up" the private sector for growth, eh?

3. We saw that connection come up again in this week's new jobless claims number as once again, Wisconsin was prominently mentioned in the report, and not in the good way.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 31 were in Michigan (+10,364), Wisconsin (+10,203), Pennsylvania (+8,135), New Jersey (+7,989), and New York (+7,746) while the largest decreases were in California (-23,969), Illinois (-4,696), Texas (-2,385), Nevada (-1,590), and Kansas (-1,341).
Yep, that's right, it's more than 10,000 ADDITIONAL jobless claims for the last week of 2011, right when local governments lay off employees for the start of their new fiscal year. And oh yeah, Illinois had the 2nd largest the last thing we'd ever want to do is to go in their direction, right?

But even worse is the total number of new jobless claims, which is now at 27,797, which meant only 5 other states had more jobless claims than Wisconsin that week - California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York - all states with much higher populations than Wisconsin. In addition, that 27,797 is more than 1,000 more than the increase over the same week last year, which is at the same time that new jobless claims have consistently dropped year-over-year in the nation.

Once again, Wisconsin's economic performance goes down while the rest of the nation is recovering, and there's nowhere else to look except to the Governor's Office....if you can find Scott Walker there. (where's he today? Austin? D.C.? Cali? Aspen?)

I'll tell you where I'll be this weekend- VEGAS BABY! VEGAS! Much like the Pack, I hope to come back a winner and in good shape for next week, but it is far from a sure thing.

P.S. Here's one more before I go- the hack-filled group that is the Walker Administration gets a new addition- a correspondence-course-educated Texass oncology nurse who will now run Wisconsin's emergency medical proceedings. Somehow, I'm guessing the paper she wrote for DHS's Dennis Smith at the Heritage Foundation went a longer way toward getting her the job than actual, you know, work, ability and experience. But hey, it does mean we get our own version of Brownie!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A few other links

Wanted to give some props to good work by others who have cited my work in the past.

1.Phil Scarr and Lisa Mux go undercover among the scariest of Wisconsinites, the losers who would attend an Americans for Prosperity Rally in Walkershaw. With a special appearance by Tim Russell's buddy, Mark (Banned from Wisconsin Politics) Block!

2. Here's a great catch by James Rowen showing how the Wisconsin Builders' Association has its fingerprints all over the foolish mining bill, and is working in tandem with GOP legislators to try to jam it through.

3. And here is Illy-T with an excellent smackdown of Marquette Law School prof and right-wing affirmative action hire Rick Esenberg, as well as the requisite call-out of Journal Communications for giving him a megaphone he does not deserve.

Today's example of a screw-up that's Walkered back

Today's Governor's Office eye roll is best explained by the start of the State Journal story:
Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday he is creating a new council to help better prepare students for college and careers.

The move comes after Walker and the Legislature last year cut $71 million over two years from funding for Wisconsin's technical colleges, whose primary mission is to train students for available jobs.

Democrats and others criticized that cut and a $250 million reduction in funding for the University of Wisconsin System as harmful to worker training efforts. Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature made the cuts as part of their plan to address a predicted $3.6 billion gap in the state budget.
I can't make this type of idiocy up. Once again, we have an example of Scott Walker's "Act first, think and react to reality later" type of decision-making. Walker decided to cut the living daylights out of tech schools and K-12 education to get after dem ejukay-ted types and funnel tax cuts to his campaign contributors, Then once his approval ratings and Wisconsin's economy tanked, Scotty was left scrambling, and had to look like he was "doing something" to combat the lack of skills Wisconsin businesses say potential employees have.

Whenever I read about these type of "Walker correcting a screw-up" stories (and there have been many), this song always seems to play in my head.

Of course, a real leader would have dealt with the skills deficit in the first place, and asked both Wisconsin workers and businesses for advice on how to deal with this problem, instead of huddling with ALEC-type oligarchs and randomly slashing one of the key resources that could help solve the problem (the tech schools).

And the solution Walker and his advisors came up with to "solve" this problem he helped cause is so haphazard that it stands a good chance of not working, and will come at a higher taxpayer expense to boot.
Walker said in a statement that the council would work to improve student readiness for college and careers through a variety of measures, including designing shorter and less costly degree programs aimed at filling jobs that are in demand and expanding dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities for high school students....
Not a bad start, but a lot of those dual-credit courses for high school students have a slight hang-up - half of Wisconsin school districts reported cutting "career and tech" classes this year due to Walker's cuts to public schools. That's a Rick Perry Texas-sized "OOPS!"

I also want to see what these "shorter and less costly" degree programs are, because that screams University of Phoenix-style privatization that just might coincidentally move students into paying tuition at second-rate schools that just so happen to be run by Walker contributors. So let's wait for the details on this part of the plan.

Here's a few more parts of the Walker correction of an economic development plan.
Walker also threw his support behind a bill designed to make it easier for veterans and those in the military to receive professional credentials from the state and another measure that creates a pilot program to provide unpaid, part-time training with employers that may lead to full-time work.
Good idea trying to hire vets, as they're struggling with high unemployment and a disproportionate amount of work-related disability. But having them be glorified interns with unpaid training from employers? In addition to giving vets short shrift for their service, this seems to be a way to allow employers to pass the buck when it comes to training their employees, and instead moving that cost onto the taxpayer. Of course, socializing the costs and allowing businesses to keep the profits are a GOP staple, but it's still very sketchy and the apprenticeship goal could probably be accomplished in a way that looks a lot less like a giveaway to contributors.

The governor also directed the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to bring together unemployment insurance claimants with businesses looking to hire.

Walker said the Department of Workforce Development will double the number of job fairs it holds across the state to 100 this year in hopes of getting the unemployed into current vacancies.

The department also will hire 14 additional staff members who will be able to serve roughly an additional 400 job-seekers a week, Walker's office said.
Ok, I'm glad to see there might be more connections for job-seekers. But tell me Scotty, WHO'S PAYING FOR THE 14 NEW HIRES AND ALL THESE NEW EVENTS? It's like the Family Care cap situation, where you shouldn't have been cutting in the first place, or at the very least discussing about what might happen if you did. But because of this Administration failure to think ahead, now they have to turn around and spend money that isn't in the budget to deal with a problem that you didn't need to have in the first place. So in addition to the infuriation that Walker's bad policies have landed us in such a bad spot that we have to do another huge correction at added cost, I'm not so sure this new plan will even do anything to solve the skills and jobs problems, and in fact, might be just another giveaway to GOP contributors over something that might yield positive results.

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to have governors and other chief executives that possess the foresight to see what will happen more than 1 week in the future, instead of throwing together foolish back-room policies and then have to compound the problems and extra costs once the failure to plan comes to the forefront. Oh well, I guess we'll have to find out how an effective, thoughtful, planning leader might act when we get a new governor in the next 6 months.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jobs- Not bad in U.S., which makes Wisconsin REAL bad

You may have seen yesterday the strong December jobs report that came out from the BLS yesterday, with 200,000 new jobs created and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.5% - lowest in nearly 3 years. It topped off a year where U.S. jobs slowly but surely came back, with 1.92 million jobs created in the private sector in 2011 and 1.64 million jobs overall, and we are now at rates of unemployment and total jobs that we haven't seen since around the time the stimuus was passed in 2009. (which further illustrates my theory that while it was too small for what was needed, the stimulus definitely stabilized an economy that was in free fall in early 2009). You have to go back to the start of 2007 (right before the housing bubble popped) to find a time when a higher percentage of jobs had been created in the last 12 months, and even manufacturing did well this year, with 225,000 more jobs than at the end of 2010, and 23,000 more in December alone.

This U.S. job improvement needs to be a constant reminder to people who constant denigrate Barack Obama's jobs record (while he certainly hasn't done all that he could have or should have, our economy is definitely in better shape than we were 3 years ago). It also needs to be a reminder of the failures of Scott Walker, because had Wisconsin kept up with the national trend of job growth, we would have seen the following record: (you'll need to add in December's Wisconsin numbers for the year-long comparison).

2011 Wisconsin = U.S. job change 34,450
2011 Wisconsin actual job change 3,900 (-30,550 vs. U.S.)

2011 Wisconsin = U.S. private job change 41,200
2011 Wisconsin actual private job change 2,400 (-38,800 vs. U.S.)

2011 Wisconsin = U.S. manufacturing job change +8,450
2011 Wisconsin actual manufacturing job change +5,900 (-2,550 vs. U.S.)

By both private and public job measures, it can be argued that the state is bleeding between 2,500 and 3,000 jobs a month due to policies enacted since Scott Walker became governor and the GOP took over the Legislature. This is in sharp contrast to 2010, when Wisconsin was creating jobs at nearly double the U.S. rate under Doyle/ Dem control. And even if the jobs report is reasonably strong in Wisconsin for December, it should be good. When the U.S. is gaining 212,000 private sector jobs, we should be getting 4,000 jobs in the private sector in Wisconsin. So if we have some kind of positive bounce-back number of a few thousand jobs for December, I don't want to see Scott Walker running around saying "It's working", because the real credit should be going to Barack Obama's tide lifting Walker's sinking boat.

Obviously, there's a long way to go, but I'm finding the recent U.S. jobs reports encouraging, and if it continues, we should be gradually pulling ourselves out of the mess laid at our hands by the execesses and foolishness of the 2000s. But here in Wisconsin, we've gone from climbing to falling, and we'll need a similar "Dubya to Obama" change at the top of our government to help us get out of our 2011 mess.

GOPs have only themselves to blame for Walker recall cost

I see the media has fallen for the latest GOP talking point about how recalling this corrupt Administration and the senators who went along with their thuggery is somehow "too expensive". This arises from a politically-motivated request from ALEC cabin boy Robin Vos to ask the GAB how much a "statewide recall election" would cost, and the GAB estimated the cost to local governments at around $9 million statewide.

Of course, that $9 million needs a bit more explanation past the face-value whining you'll get from right-wing media. First, there's no explanation in the GAB's estimate to whether this shows 1 statewide recall election, or a recall primary AND a full-scale general election. Because if that's the cost of both of those elections, there's an easy way for Republicans to lower the cost of this to taxpayers - stop pulling every trick in the book to extend this inevitable election and stop challenging the 800-900 thousand signatures that will come in to make Gov. Walker face the voters for what he has done. If the GOP just would step aside, accept the will of the people using their rights as outlined in the Wisconsin Constitution, and allow for 30 days for the GAB to check and tally the signatures, this would be sped up at a much lower cost.

If that scenario would play out, then you'd have a Dem Governor recall primary on April 3- the same day as the statewide GOP primary for president and numerous local elections. Elections officials are already staffed up and set for that day, so any extra cost would be minimal. Then you'd only have the recall general elections on May 1 or so, and you'd be done, at a much smaller cost.

But of course, having the recall election as soon as possible at lowest cost is NOT what the GOP is looking for. Witness the cynical judgment in a Walkershaw County court this week from a former GOP legislator that demanded the GAB take steps on their own to flag and remove unacceptable signatures, despite the fact that there is no law demanding the GAB do so and no money allocated to have them do it with any kind of effectiveness. In fact, in the GAB's own response to Vos on the costs of the recalls they say that it'll cost at least $100,000 to put in the software and materials necessary to carry out this unfunded (and unfounded) mandate, and that it would also require the hiring of 50 full-time workers for 8 weeks. So instead of the GOP paying for what they were previously required to do, they have now gotten a hack judge to pass that cost off to the taxpayers...and then the GOP has the nerve to turn around and blame the recall petitioners for the "unnecessary cost!" ARE THEY FUCKING KIDDING?

And of all the people to be concerned over the extra costs to local governments, the last guy I want to hear from is Robin Vos. If Wee Wittle Wobbin was so concerned with the extra costs and burdens on localities, why did he funnel hundreds of millions to his and Walker's buddies in the road builder lobby, including $147 million (If Robin Vos is so concerned with the extra costs, why did he funnel hundreds of millions to his and Walker's buddies in the road builder lobby, including $147 million (or 16 of these recall elections, Robby) raided out of schools and local government aids? Why did he ban local governments from working together on road projects, forcing the work to be privatized, EVEN IF PRIVATIZING COSTS TAXPAYERS MORE MOENY? Because alleged fiscal conservatives like Robin Vos are not serious about saving taxpayer money, only steering it to who pays their bills.

And especially after 2011, when the GOP cost taxpayers $400,000 for running fake Democrats in last summer's Senate recalls, and were the first groups to file recall petitions against 8 Wisconsin Dem Senators (eventually ending up with only 3 elections that the Dems all won handily) I don't want to hear a damn word from them about this. They seem to have no issues with wasting taxpayer dollars on recalls when it suits their needs, but when the other side give them the same treatment, now they get all concerned over the costs? Spare me, you hypocritical bastards.

Lastly, the biggest reason GOPs have no business whining about recall costs is that it was their own actions that made us do this. Scott Walker lied his way into office, then called hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers "haves" and "dropped the bomb" without any discussions with those workers. Bad enough, but then Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald admitted the move was about hurting Dems in 2012 instead of any type of fiscal reason that would help Wisconsinites, and it became obvious that the move was a political one made by Koch and ALEC-affiliated groups from outside of our state, we had a duty to fight back against it in Wisconsin. When the GOP-run Legislature rubber-stamped billions in cuts to schools, local governments, and other services while funneling hundreds of millions in tax breaks to corporate contributors, then we deserve to have our say before the damage becomes permanent. When Wisconsin has the worst economy in the lower 48 and the largest job losses in America, we deserve a chance to end this disaster.

Especially when you have an Administration that is wracked with favortism and play-to-play corruption, From the latest Walkergate examples of money laundering and influence peddling, to the Michael Gableman, Michael Best, and WisGOP triangle, to the incompetent booobs hired as a result of campaign kickbacks and the GOP spoils' system, to the lying to the public about Medicaid data and the lifting of the Family Care cap, this state's tradition of clean governmnet has been damaged nearly beyond repair. Because WisGOP lacks the balls or integrity to call their own people into account, and instead thinking they can wave their little red pom-poms to score political points, the clean-up job has to be left to us.

At a cost of less than $3 a Wisconsin adult, that clean-up job will be an absolute BARGAIN.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Today's Walkergate questions and connections

Hilarious to see tightie-righties try to say "Nothing to see here" with today's felony embezzlement charges against Tim Russell, a former top aide to Scott Walker in Milwaukee County, and later Scotty's Housing Administrator, as well as another 2 brought up on felony charges as part of the John Doe probe. Sure, Walker isn't guilty of any of the stealing from Veterans' Groups, and he certainly has no part in Russell's gay partner getting flagged for trying to get 17-year-old boys to go inside his van, but there are definitely interesting connections.

If you read the complaint against Russell, you'll notice that most of the thefts were taken from the Heritage Guard Preservation Society. What's that? Well, it helped handle a Milwaukee County veterans' event at the Milwaukee County Zoo called "Operation Freedom," and how Tim Russell landed a gig handling its finances goes straight to Walker.
Due to alleged financial mismanagement, in about 2009, Operation Freedom donations were entrusted to the Alonzo Cudworth American Legion Post. While by all reports thge Cudworth Post discharged their financial duties in exemplary fashion, in October 2009, then County Executive Scott Walker transferred the Operation Freedom funds - some $19,000 - to HGPS, the corporation controlled by [Walker's then- Deputy Chief of Staff] Tim Russell.
And interestingly, Russell had set up bank account in HGPS' name 2 months before Walker's proclamation, and named two Milwaukee County Walker employees as 2nd and 3rd in command- Darlene Wink and James Tetjen (hilariously, both of them say they have no idea what this organization was and never attended any of its meetings). Amazing this new "community" organization was being run by a bunch of Walker lackeys, huh?

Now this is where you need to stop and put on your memory caps and put things together. Who is Darlene Wink? She's Walker's former Constituent Services Coordinator (Tim Russell's old job) who quit in May 2010 when it was revealed she was posting pro-Walker comments on blogs as part of her job, and John Doe investigators took her work computer as evidence, as they did with Russell. And among the expenses listed in Russell's criminal complaint? A series of trascations to to register in 2010, which Capper noted was an Astroturf Walker campaign site that magically stopped running after the election. And oh yeah, Capper also untangeled their connections to a certain rally at a Milwaukee County Park (under Walker's jurisdiction) in 2009.
To summarize this whole thing, we know that there was a Koch-funded Tea Party rally held at a Milwaukee County park, and that the park logo was on the banner proudly announcing the rally. It doesn't really matter which front group sponsored it. But the request for information from the official unofficial campaign blog for Scott Walker [], which all information available points to Darlene Wink of being a contributor, was directed to Wink. Then when Walker's spokeswoman supplied her answer, it immediately appeared on the blogsite. And this once mystery group was able to get the requested information and pay the obscenely overcharges that Walker would charge an average citizen.

So to summarize the summary, Walker was already playing up to the Koch Brothers using County property. To keep this relationship and overreach of his powers from receiving too much attention, he and his politically appointed cronies would give incomplete and/or inaccurate information, often at overly inflated prices, to those who did not support him. But if it was an ally (or one of his own staff) the restrictions magically lifted and accurate information was presented promptly and at very low price, if not for free.

Are you starting to see the pattern yet?

The actual url of the site was interesting in itself: It does make one think it was a campaign site, doesn't it?
Well, and given that is also mentioned in the criminal complaint as another domain name improperly paid for by Russell's little non-profit, yes it does.

I also have seen the WTMJ crowd trying to spin Walker as some kind of honorable person because his Milwaukee County administration helped blow the whistle on Kavanaugh (a real POS who stole cash from organizations that helped the families of killed and wounded veterans, all to cover up massive debt he and his wife had accumulated). Darlene Wink was ordered by Walker to send cash to Kavanaugh's organization from Operation Freedom in 2006, and Kav was supposed to run the expenses appropriately. Then the money was first discovered missing back in 2008, when Walker Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli was informed the Zoo was never paid for the 2007 Operation Freedom event, and asked Kavanaugh about where the money went in "on numerous occasions" in 2008 and 2009. Shortly afterward, Nardelli spoke to the Milwaukee County DA, and indicated that Kavanaugh's organization owed Operation Freedom about $11,000 in cash.

Remarkably, Kavanaugh was still allowed on the scene at the 2010 Operation Freedom , and this article features great stuff from him, Tim Russell, and the recently-resigned Darlene Wink. In the article, Russell is shrugging and saying it could be "bookkeeping errors" explaining the missing money, when the criminal complaint says he had already stolen thousands from Operation Freedom earlier in the year! These people have no shame whatsoever- high-characters hires by Walker, to be sure. If Walker knew about the fact that Russell and Kavanaugh were stealing money from Operation Freedom, why in the world were they hanging around the event in June 2010 while Walker was campaigning for governor?

The Milwaukee County DA didn't file charges after talking with several others in 2011 to gather evidence...including Darlene Wink in November 2011. So it seems like they used some information and interviews from their Walker campaign corruption case to put details together on how the Operation Freedom money was allegedly stolen by Kavanaugh, and it was enough to nail him on it.

Also interesting is to see that the donators to "Operation Freedom" happen to be a whole lot of Milwaukee businesspeople, as well as future U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and the Republican Party of Milwaukee County, but I'll give that a pass, as it may just be coincidence...for now. Because what you can't ignore is that if Walker's Number 2 in the office was running this organization, how do we know that he spent money on more than just himself, and what other similar "third-party" organizations was he funneling money through?

Remember, the one guy who blew the whistle on missing money for Operation Freedom was Tom Nardelli, and what did Nardelli do when Walker got elected governor? He followed Walker to Madison in late July, but then quit his $90,000 a year state job a few days later, right as the John Doe investigation was heating up. I'm not saying I know why, but you think it might be possible Nardelli knew a bit too much about where the money from Operation Freedom and other 3rd Party Walker organizations was REALLY going to? (I could be hired on Fox with that type of question, couldn't I?)

It seems quite clear that in the process of discovering the usage of money-funneling schemes by the Walker campaign, Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm came upon these clear thefts by Russell and Kavanaugh, as well as the child enticement Russell's partner tried to pull, and got these charges on the record as early as he could. Much of the criminal complaint mentions that these revelations come "as part of the John Doe investigation", and Chisholm clearly signaled today that there was a lot more they were still looking into connected to the case. Notice that Cindy Archer never gets mentioned in this incident, despite the fact that she was higher up the chain than Russell, and had to be privy to what was happening with items like Operation Freedom. That tells you the fun is only starting here, as much as the Walker whiners don't want to believe it, and it's only going to get bigger and more direct as the next few months go on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hey WEDC, can you spare a millionaire a dime?

Just noticed that Gov. Walker was running around trying to take credit for the 120 jobs that might develop from the Shopko-Pamida merger that was announced today. The good news is that Shopko wisely chose Wisconsin over Flori-duhhhh to keep its headquarters in Ashwaubenon, and it looks like Shopko will put in a lot of money to remodel Pamida stores into what will become Shopko Hometown stores. Of course, as with most mergers, you can bet some stores will eventually be found redundant and close, but it's probably an overall plus for Wisconsin when a large employer decides to expand its corporate headquarters in state.

Now, the Walker folks were quick to throw out a press release touting the fact that the newly-formed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation gave Shopko up to $2 million in tax credits in connection to the move. But that's sketchy reasoning at best, as Shopko is a solid firm, and had already owned and operated 7 Pamida stores as Shopko Hometown. So was it really worth it to give them a tax write-off of $16,666 a job, especially if it might have happened anyway.

I sure hope Shopko doesn't follow the lead of Madison's Spectrum Brands, who got $4 million in tax breaks from the state around Thanksgiving in return for saying they would create 60 some point. Apparently all they had to do was ask and the Walker boys threw them the $4 million in credits like it was candy. So what did Spectrum do with the cash? They promptly turned around and gaven their CEO $2.5 million in salary and benefits and $11.2 million in stock options.

Hmmm, $4 million in state tax write-offs, $2.5 mil in salary, and standing to make a whole lot more if you jack the stock price up (likely by using the tax credits as extra "profit", or eventually laying off employees and/or cutting salaries). Not a bad payday for "leading" the former Rayovac to a $75 million LOSS last year, and a $190 million LOSS the year before.

With that kind of record, do you blame the Bradley Center to come begging to the Administration for more state money? (so far they haven't been successful, which I view as a good thing) The Bradley Center probably thought the Walker Administration and WEDC was so desperate for good job-development publicity that Scotty wouldn't only just give them money, but he'd put in a free day in the Bango costume. Or he'd chip in for primo Marquette seats in return for a few more credits toward his degree. One of the two.

Edit": For more on this, read what the Chief has to say about how unneeded these tax credits really were.

More Walker Medicaid hijinks- truth or fantasy?

Got tied up with watching Bucky basketball slug along against Michigan State and lose on yet another replay call last night. So I couldn't jump on this when I saw it break. Fortunately, Capper and James Rowen have a good rundown of the sketchiness surrounding the Walker Administration's newly-found $300 million reduction of its Medicaid deficit.

What I want to go into is why this deficit dropped from $554 million to $232 million, and combine it with some past history. The DHS itself admits that they and the Walker Administration have done nothing to "improve" the Medcaid deficit picture in the letter they sent the Joint Finance Committee. I'll throw in my own notes at the end of each of the 4 points in the letter.
Caseload: Under current eligibility standards, based on actual enrollment to date, we project that enrollment growth will be smaller in FY 12 compared to Act 32 [the state budget] assumptions. We project that enrollment will continue to grow, however, eventually reaching roughly the same average level in FY 13 as assumed in Act 32....[basically the DHS thought there would be more people on Medicaid than there actually were. Oops.]

Medicare Part B Premiums: The state is required to pay Medicare Part B premiums for Medicaid enrollees who also participate in Part B. In November, the federal government announced 2012 premiums that were lower than assumed in the September estimate. [in other words, the Feds demanded less money than the state thought they would. "Thanks Obama!"]

Drug rebates: The September projection assumed that the Department would need to return $25 million of drug rebates received in FY 11 to the federal government based on provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [THIS IS OBAMACARE!] Based on a more detailed analysis, the repayment amount is now estimated to be approximately $7 million. [or $18 million saved. Once again, "Thanks Obama!"]

Cost per enrollee trends: Actual expenditure data in FY 12 indicate costs per enrollee for various services will be lower than assumed in the September projection. The projection still assumes that costs for the average enrolee will increase during the biennium, based on historical trends. [DHS overestimated the costs. Oops again].
So out of 4 reasons for the reduced deficit, 2 are due to the state overstating the amount of the Medicaid crisis, and 2 are due to Obama Administration policies that help states. Nice, huh?

Of course, despite the improved budget picture, DHS Secretary and Heritage Foundation hack Dennis Smith is still saying that they won't reduce any of the $554 million in projected Medicaid cuts, because Smith said "We have to make sure we grow the profits of our insurance company donators and throwing people off of Medicaid and Badger Care and into the private market is a great way to do that." (Oh wait, he didn't say that, but was only thinking it. Sorry bout that)

And why am I skeptical of how this played out? Because Smith, DHS and the Walker Administration have a history of lying and deceiving on these topics. The worst example was in August, when Smith and DHS cherry-picked and gave false impressions when they relayed the state's own report on the effects of Obamacare, then tried to silence the author of the report, lest he tell media that Obamacare would cover over 340,000 more Wisconsinites in the next 5 years. More recently, you have the Family Care fiasco, where not only did the Walker Administration put an illegal limit on enrollment in the popular program, but then Walker held a press conference and tried to take credit for the move when DHS and Walker had been ordered by the Feds to lift the cap. So with that sort of background, why wouldn't Smith and DHS give a "rosy scenario" of increased Medicaid enrollment and costs to cause a "budget crisis" to appear, and then use this crisis as an excuse to put in big cuts to social services and other areas of the budget?

It's not like Walker hasn't pulled similar garbage before, such as when he sent off layoff notices of Milwaukee County employees in 2009 and then admitted it was a trick to grab more budget concessions (messing with employees' jobs- HILARIOUS!), and then 5 months later ended up with a $9 million budget surplus.

And in the unforgettable David Koch phone call, Walker bragged about planning to send "5 to 6,000" layoff notices to state workers to "crank up a little more pressure" on the Wisconsin 14 after they left the state. Walker's administration knew thousands of state workers had already retired or left service and that there was no need for layoffs if they wanted to lay off current staff to bring down expenses to the level they wanted (for that reason, I knew the threat was bullshit at the time, and I was hardly a higher-up).

So "broken" budgets and huge cuts have been consistently pulled by Walker and his boys as a deceptive hardball tactic to try to get his way, and so I reserve the right to be suspicious of past and current Medicaid numbers. Don't be shocked if some other new "surprise" pops up as this runs through Joint Finance and the Legislature in the next few weeks, and maybe we'll see some other fun revelations at the State of the State on Jan. 25. Keep your eyes open on these things and don't let up, because Scotty thinks he can grift and deceive his way into selling off Wisconsin one more time to his contributors, but he won't be able to do it if we do a little "cranking up" of the pressure ourselves.