Monday, February 27, 2012

Mass layoffs and job loss mean Walker shouldn't be ripping on the FIBs

You might have heard by now that Wisconsin led the Midwest in mass layoffs for January, and the Walker Administration should be rightfully ripped, as much of the Midwest and the country continues to rebound while Wisconsin goes backward.

One of the states that Wisconsin had more mass layoffs than in January was Illinois, which is quite an accomplishment given that Illinois' job base is more than twice that of Wisconsin, and should be higher based solely on that. But it was not the case last month.

Mass layoff stats, January 2012
Illinois 55 mass layoff events, 4,823 first-time unemployment claimants
Wisconsin 78 mass layoff events, 6,014 first-time unemployment claimants

Wisconsin had 23 more events and 25% more first-time unemployment claimants than our neighbors to the south, despite the fact that Illinois has twice the population. No, that's not good.

And those stats are extra noteworthy because Walker and squawk radio were using Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's plan to cut Medicaid by as much as $2.7 billion and major Corrections cuts as a reason to say Walker's Way was better and "working." But what is not mentioned by Scotty and co. is the fact that Quinn chose not to gut Illinois' K-12 or college education funding, and is in fact wants to put in a bit more money to early childhood classes and low-income college scholarships to keep up with demands. It is no different than Walker choosing to cut BadgerCare, K-12 education, the UW System and aid to local communities while giving away hundreds of millions to the Road Builders. It's just a matter of what Quinn has chosen to cut and tax vs. Walker.

And given the results of the last few months, maybe we should conisder that Quinn is handling the situation in a better way, because Illinois' has done laps around Wisconsin in job creation since Walker's budget took effect last Summer.

Private sector jobs since June
Illinois +7,500
Wisconsin -28,100 (Illinois up 35,600)

Private sector jobs since July
Illinois +22,400
Wisconsin -16,900 (Illinois up 38,300)

Not that I'd ever want to be a FIB instead of a Cheesehead, but I sure would not be comparing our "50th out of 50" job performance with the Flatlanders around now, Scotty. Although given the pay-to-play corruption and pathetically one-sided gerrymandering, I'd say Walker and the WisGOPs have done a fine imitation of Illinois-style governance, haven't they?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walker deserves the Costanza response on pensions

Looks like Gov. Walker is starting to hear the concerns that he's going to try to steal the state's fully-funded public worker pensions in order to balance his deficit-ridden state budget. On Friday, he had his cabinet secretaries release an email to employees trying to convince people that the pensions would not be touched. My notes are in bold and parentheses.
Questions have been raised by some of our employees regarding a study currently underway to review the structure and benefits of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Gee why would they think that? Because the employees aren't stupid and know Walker will screw them in a heartbeat. The Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) prepared a brief memo, which provides a technical summary of the details of the study. Please click here to read the memo. The memo basically says the state is working on a study which will be released by June 30, and that one of the options is to turn the system from its current defined-benefit approach to allowing employees to "opt-out" and take part in a 401K-type of system. If that doesn't freak you out, given what we've seen out of the stock market the last 12 years, it needs to.

I would like to emphasize the following points:

§ WRS is a healthy, fully-funded system.

§ Wisconsin law does not allow elected officials to modify already-earned benefits. And 2 years ago public employees had collective bargaining right guaranteed. They can always be changed through legislation. In addition, Governor Walker has repeatedly expressed he has no intention, nor does he have the authority, to change already-earned benefits for current state employees. what about future benefits?

§ By providing policy-makers and agency staff with new research, this study will contribute to the strength of the WRS, by ensuring that the state continues to support retirement security for public employees across Wisconsin at a reasonable cost. i.e- we're trying to cut what we pay into the system for our employees even more and leave you out on your own when it comes to getting benefits.

§ We have a responsibility to study options to safeguard the long-term sustainability of the fund for the future of Wisconsin public employees. And help our pro-Wall Street campaign contributors by giving them more fresh meat for customers.

You really need to take a tip from the George Costanza School of Decision-making when you see Walker officials discussing matters. Take what Walker says, believe the complete opposite, and you'll probably be right. Look at the history:

1. The revealing of Act 10: "We're broke and have nothing to offer." Turned out that the state had a budget surplus on the way, not a deficit, and that union officials told them they would accept Walker's increased health care and pension contributions in exchange for keeping bargaining rights, and Walker turned them down.

2. Walker and paid hacks like Christian Schneider of WPRI like to claims Walker's "tools" have allowed schools to function the same despite hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to K-12 education. This simply is not true, as the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators said that the vast majority of school districts have lost staff and cut classes, because the "tools" did not coome close to making up for the budget cuts, even in schools that could use them. And the 2012-2013 year looks even more dire than last year.

3. Walker and his supporters are still claiming that the Wisconsin budget is balanced with no tax increases. First of all, we're $208 million in deficit (and would be $233 in million if Walker wasn't stealing money from the mortgage settlement), so strike 1, but strike 2 is that Walker's budget included more than $112 million in added fees, including huge tuition increases for UW System schools.

4. Walker actively complained about Jim Doyle's habit of using surplus funds in one area of the budget to pay for another, including a promise not to use Transportation Fund money to pay for General Fund shortfalls. Except Walker used numerous fund raids in his budget, including $160 million sent away from the General Fund and into the Transportation Fund as a kickback from his Road Builder buddies. Even Republi-fact admitted that Walker broke his promise, and also included moves such as environmental cleanup fees going into the Road Building fund instead of being used for environmental protection.

So when the Walker folks claim that they are not going to mess with employees pensions, you need to use the Costanza rule, and realize that they are absolutely going after the pensions if they get to put together another budget next year. Let's not allow that happen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Union thug gets over due to collective bargaining

AWWWW, HELLS YEAH! Guess my Opening Day tickets just got a bit more awesome, eh?

Now do you see why we need collective bargaining? Because it protects people from getting screwed when they might not have done anything wrong, and allows them to continue to do their job without fear of arbitrary reprisals. And if you read Tom Haudricourt's great article in the J-S, part of the reason he may have gotten over is that his first test was so much of an outlier that it had to be BS.

Now, I'm at the point that if any player gets hit up for PEDs, I'm not surprised, just because it's so pervasive to do anything to get an edge. But it never seemed to add up that Braun would blow such a good situation by testing positive for PEDs, and apparently, he didn't (or didn't do enough to get suspended, which is a very high standard of innocence for MLB).

Heck, 43 days to go. Let's PLAY BALL. And given that there's no Pujols, no La Russsa, and no Duncan in St. L, Cubs rebuilding, Reds still questionable, Pirates still young and Houston still awful, why can't the Brewers still win this division. Sure, losing Prince will hurt, but if Gamel is even adequate and Ramirez can give 25-30HRs and 100 RBI (possible), there's no reasomn the dropoff should be great. LET'S DO IT.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Koch call part 2- Outside agitators dreamin' of Cali

Alright, we established in Part 1 of the greatness of the Walker/ Koch phone call that Scott Walker was a legend in his own mind who thought he could trick the runaway 14 Senators into returning within a few days, and make up layoff notices to "ratchet up" the pressure on the Dems. Both of which turned out to be major miscalculations that ended up laughably wrong. We also know that he asked the fake David Koch to coordinate ads in favor of Walker and the Legislative GOP, despite the fact that such coordination is supposed to be illegal. Of course, we had a pretty good idea Walker was having his strings pulled back then, and it's even more clear now.

Now in part 2, let's start by taking a look at the most notorious part of the Walker/ Koch call. As before, my comments will be in italics, and outside the block quotes.
Murphy/ Koch: Right, right. Well, we’ll back you any way we can. But, uh, what we were thinking about the crowds was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, the, well, the only problem with that — because we thought about that. Much like with the John Doe "We can't have this happen again" email, Walker's problem with this concept isn't that such a thing is unacceptably wrong, but that it just isn't politically acceptable to him and his crew. The problem — the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this. Actually, polls indicated that people supported the protestors more than the Kochs and the corporates, and greatly supported keeping collective bargaining rights. The teachers union did some polling of focus groups, I think, and found out that the public turned on ’em the minute they closed school down for a couple days. Only in Sykes World, not the real one. The guys we’ve got left are largely from out of state, and I keep dismissing it in all my press conferences saying, ‘Eh, they’re mostly from out of state (still delusional about who the protestors are) .’My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems. You know, whereas, I’ve said,‘Hey, you know, we can handle this, people can protest. This is Madison, you know, full of the ’60s liberals. Let ’em protest.’ It’s not gonna affect us. And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of the people are telling us we’re doing the right thing, let ’em protest all they want. This goes along with Walker's disproven comment that the Kloppenburg/ Prosser race was "one world defined by Madison and one is the rest of the state," which was proven a lie once you broke the voting numbers. And it wasn't just Madtown, as Walker found out when 2,000 protestors greeted him in tiny Washburn, Wisconsin 3 weeks later.

And now....the grand finale. Hilariously, Murphy is trying to get off the phone, but Walker won't stop talking to "Koch"!
Murphy: Well, good, good. Good catching up with ya’.

Walker: Yeah, well, thanks. This is an exciting time. This is — you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, or excuse me, the Monday right after the 6th. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, (using taxpayer dollars for his security on the trip,) and that Monday night I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, and had already hooked up Ray Taffora at Michael, Best and Friedrich with a 6-figure no-bid contract for the legal challenges that were coming but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. And American wages have stagnated while inequality has skyrocketed since then, just as Walker/ Koch like it. And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. Obviously Walker didn't take much modern U.S. history before he was thrown out of Marquette, because I sure didn't know Solidarity in Poland fought the Soviets because they wanted the freedom to have their unions busted like Reagan would do in America. And, uh, I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. Oh you've done that, Scotty. We went from adding 4,000 jobs a month in 2010 to being Number 1 in job loss the last 6 months. And this is why it’s so important that they were all there. I had a cabinet meeting this morning and I reminded them of that and I said for those of you who thought I was being melodramatic you now know it was purely putting it in the right context.

Murphy: [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. Or Aspen, as the Kochs did for Walker in Summer 2011 for a "dark money" event away from media

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks, thanks for all the support (and propaganda pieces, and numerous lying ads to keep my sorry ass afloat) and helping us move the cause of anti-democratic oligarchy forward, and we appreciate it. We’re, uh, we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, cause we both get a huge payoff from it at everyone else's expense and it’s all about getting our freedoms back to control the lives of those menial plebes and keep them in their place.

Murphy: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. As in no-bid sales of power plants to the Kochs, which was in the bill at the time? [Laughs]

Walker: Well, that’s just it. I know what you gave to our campaign, and what you can do for it in the future The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.

Murphy: All right then.

Walker: Thanks a million! Or 2, or 3, or 10...
Yes indeed, thanks a million Scott. For showing us all once and for all who was really in charge of this state, and who you were willing to drop everything and take 10 minutes to talk to. And it sure wasn't us.

I think people need to see quite a bit more of this phone call, don't you? C'mon Dems, bring it full-scale to the people! It makes even more sense now than it did then, and given that Walker corruption is starting to pass destruction of worker rights as the Number 1 reason this recall is necessary, I think this is a great example of how the 2 are tied together. Because it is.

See, we understood immediately when Walker "dropped the bomb" that destroying collective bargaining was never about the budget, and later actions proved we were right (and the media at the time was way wrong). In fact, the extra health and pension payments for state employees were cynically delayed until after the Summer recall elections- so much for a "budget crisis" that required immediate action. And the administrator Walker put in charge of the changes? None other than Walkergate figure Cynthia Archer! Fun how those things have come around, haven't they?

No, it was always about trying to diminish what Koch called the "union power," which is one of the few groups that stood in the way of oligarchs like Koch from grabbing complete control of our government and economy in early 2011. Instead, going after the unions is going to be the event that awakened millions of others to the jig, and now the Kochs jig is up, and we're never going to allow them to take it all. In fact, Walker looks even more foolish and corrupt than he did one year ago today, when he heard "David Koch is on line 1," and TOOK THE CALL.

The Koch phone call one year later

Where were you when you heard it a year ago? I think was at home and cracked up laughing at how stupid an administration could be to fall for this, and to be so blantant about being paid off. Let's give it a listen, and see how it stands up today. Now, let's take some parts of this, use the transcript, and look at how things ended up. My notes will be in italics
Walker: I mean-you know, amazingly there’s a much smaller group of protesters-almost all of whom are in from other states today. The "they're all out-of-state protestors" line was bullshit from day 1, and anyone that was on the ground would know that. ...The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they’re doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things that members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we’re going to ratchet it up a little bit. Walker thought they'd cave and that the people would turn on the Dems. No one outside of 262 trailer-trash did. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning-he told the Senate Democrats about — and he’s going to announce it later today, and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don’t show up for two consecutive days on a session day, in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk-it’s a little procedural thing here, but-can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted-

Murphy: Beautiful.

Walker: -into your checking account and instead-you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he’s instructing them-which we just loved-to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate. Again, Walker thinks this little maneuver will be all that's needed to make the Dems cave. No clue what he was up against.

This shows the underhandedness (and arrogant stupidity) that he and Scott Fitzgerald operate by, thinking they could bully and embarrass them Dems into returning. The "ratcheting up" included a stunt Fitzgerald pulled a few days prior to the Koch call when he sent state troopers to the Monona home of Senate majority leader Mark Miller. That didn't work either, and like most of Fitzy's little whiny tantrums, only have succeeded in making WisGOPs look like petty bullies.

Let's have more, including who Walker was talking to from the Dems.
Murphy/Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

Walker: Ah, I-there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, uh, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him, well, I wasn’t going to budge.

Murphy/Koch: Goddamn right!

Walker: Mainly, because I thought he’s about the only reasonable one (meaning the one Walker could pull one over on) over there and I figured if I talked to him, he’d go back to the rest of the gang and say, you know, ‘I’ve known Walker for 20 years, he’s not budging.’

Murphy/Koch: Now, what’s his name again?

Walker: His name is Tim Cullen.
Walker has no intent of coming to an agreement, he just wants to use Tim Cullen to talk up his toughness, which he thinks will make the Dems back down, and then Walker will say "SUCKER!" and power through the bill anyway. Didn't quite work out that way, did it? Also, the fact that Cullen would be considered so lame and gullible to be used like this is exactly why his run for governor as a "reasonable moderate" never got off the ground.
Murphy/Koch: Now who could we get to budge on this, uh, collective bargaining?

Walker: Well, I think in the end, a couple of things are one, if the, uh, if the — I think the paycheck will have an impact. Secondly, one of the things we’re looking at next, we’ll probably announce in the next day or two, we’ve been working with our Republican leaders in the Legislature is, we may, we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state, we think there’s at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony. The irony of Walker trying to string someone up on an ethics violation for third-party help is overwhelming. Can you say "John Doe" or "Michael, Best and Friedrich?" ....

Walker: ....people can pay for protesters to come in like we do with Koch buses and that’s not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators-if they’re paying for their food, their lodging, anything like that, uh, we believe at minimum it’s an ethics code violation and it may very well be a felony misconduct in office because, see, technically, it’s not just a political contribution it is, if they’re being paid to keep them from doing their job, we think that’s an, uh, legally an obstruction, not an obstruction of justice, but an obstruction of their ability to do their job. Just like the GOP's lame arguments in the redistricting suit, Walker has no fucking clue what he's talking about and is throwing shit against the wall. ... So we’re trying about four or five different angles, so each day we crank up a little bit more pressure. The other thing is I’ve got layoff notices ready. We put out the at-risk notices. We’ll announce Thursday, and they’ll go out early next week. And we’ll probably get 5 to 6,000 state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might ratchet that up a little bit, you know.

Yes, the old "let's make up layoff notices as a negotiating tactic." A callous and disgusting lack of respect for everyday workers, and again, a miscalculation of whose side the people would take. In addition, people like me were already noting that there was no budget crisis and that many state employees were already retiring, making layoffs an idle threat. Walker even tried to give notice of "unspecified" layoffs the next week (without any plan saying which areas would be laid off) , and then comically backed off of it a week later.
There’s a bunch of recalls up against them. Which all failed. Miserably. But Scotty seemed to think recalls were just swell at this time. They’d really like to just get back here and get it over with. So the paycheck thing, some of the other things threaten them. I think, collectively, there’s enough going on and as long as they don’t think I’m gonna cave — which, again, we have no interest in — an interesting idea that was brought up to me this morning by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders — talk, not negotiate — and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn — but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state Assembly.... The reason for that is, we’re verifying it this afternoon, but legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. [Rambling for a the next few lines]....But I’m not negotiating.

Murphy/Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.

Walker: I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. I got a Slugger with my name on it.

Murphy/Koch: Beautiful.
What a delusional fool. Just like with the Cullen mention, Walker never intends to act with a modicom of decency or negotation, but instead intends to trick the Dems and pass it anyway. Proof you can't trust this weasel to be straight-up on anything other than begging for money.
Walker: So it’s, uh, this is ground zero, there’s no doubt about it. But, uh, I think, you know, for us, I just keep telling, I call, I tell the speaker, the senate majority leader every night, give me a list of the people I need to call at home, to shore ’em up. The New York Times, of all things, I don’t normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times has got a great story, one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism, what is supposed to be objective journalism. They got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital to Janesville, to Rock County, that’s where the General Motors plant once was.

Murphy: Right, right.

Walker: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story is about a guy who was laid off two years ago, uh, he’s been laid off twice by GM, the same shuttered GM plant that would have a pro-Walker "Creating Jobs for Wisconsin" sign in it a year later? who points out that, uh, everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees and it’s about damn time they do, and he supports me. Um, and they had a bartender, they had, I mean, every stereotypical blue-collar worker type they interviewed, nice to know he respects the little guy, doesn't he? and the only ones that weren’t with us were people who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It’s an unbelievable story. So I went through and called all these uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, “Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief.”
Big problem Scotty. Turns out the story was bullshit as the guy turned out to be non-union and the UAW had no record of him being a member. But it made for a good confirmation of what Walker wanted to believe, which is the way righties operate.
Walker: I want to stay ahead of this every day, tonight I’m actually doing a fireside chat, which the state TV stations are picking up and I guess a bunch of the national ones are, too, One year later Walker can't even appear in his own ads because he invites such disgust, let alone do a propaganda chat. and, uh, in the last couple of days when I do the TV shows, I’ve been going after Obama because he stuck — although he’s backed off now — but he stuck his nose in here. Hilarious, because we all know the most dangerous place is somewhere between Scott Walker and a national media camera. And I said, you know, he asked me what I thought about it and I said the last time I checked this guy’s got a much bigger budget deficit than we do, wait, I thought our deficit was untenable and you had "nothing to negotiate with" maybe he should worry about that [Murphy laughs] and not stick his nose in Wisconsin’s business. But you know, we’ve had, uh, you know, all the national shows, we were on [Sean] Hannity last night, I did “Good Morning America,” the“Today” show and all that sorta stuff. I was on “Morning Joe” this morning. We’ve done Greta [van Susteren]. We’re gonna, you know, keep getting our message out. Because we have control of talk radio and Faux News to allow us to spread our unchallenged propaganda Mark Levin last night. And I’ve gotta tell you the response from around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian [Sadoval], the new governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said-he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he’s new as well as me, he said, “Scott, don’t come to Nevada because I’d be afraid you beat me running for governor.” That’s all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. The next question, you know, I talk to Kasich every day-John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think, uh, [Rick] Snyder-if he got a little more support-probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big. Yeah, a list of governors who got their marching orders from ALEC and other "think tanks" over their constituents. Coincidence?

Here comes one of my favorite parts, and this is certainly prophetic.
Murphy/Koch: Yeah. Now what else could we do for you down there?

Walker: Well the biggest thing would be-and your guy on the ground [Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips] probably seeing this (if you didn't know that "Americans for the Prosperity" is the Koch Brothers, there it is) is the, well, two things: One, our members originally got freaked out by all the bodies here, although, I told them an interesting story when I was first elected county executive in Milwaukee of all places, the first budget I put through was pretty bold, aggressive, the union went nuts on me and I got all sorts of grief. But a couple of weeks later I’m in a Veterans Day parade and I’m going down the line and usually unless you’re a veteran or, you know, marching with a veterans group, politicians all get polite applause but nobody gets up. I come down the line, 40-50 people in a row, hands up, thumbs up, you know, cheering, screaming, yelling, ‘Way to go, hang in there, Walker!’And then after about 40-50 people like that, there’s a guy flipping me off [Murphy laughs]. By Veterans Day, do you mean "Operation Freedom," Scotty? You know, the event you put Tim Russell in charge of, and the one where he funnelled veterans money for his personal use and for YOUR CAMPAIGN WEBSITE? Walker always makes stories like this up, trying to claim "the real people" support him.

Walker: ....The people who know it’s right will cheer you, will applaud you, they’ll run through a wall for you. And the people who don’t like it, they’re gonna flip you off. But stop worrying about, you know, them because — the other day, there were 70,000, probably two-thirds were against the bill, one-third were for, 70,000 people at the Capitol. WHAT COMPLETE BULLSHIT. Even when they tried to organize a pro-Walker rally, they were outnnumbered at least 10 to 1, and anyone being honest on the ground knew that. All week there’s been, you know, 15-30,000 a day. But I remind all our lawmakers, that there’s five and a half million people in this state. And just because a bunch of guys who can jump off of work ’cause of their union rules, doesn’t mean the rest of the people in your district aren’t with them. Again, no idea who the protestors are, trying to lump them in as all union folk. They still try this with recall signatures, despite the fact that there aren't close to 1 million union members in Wisconsin. So one thing, per your question is, the more groups that are encouraging people not just to show up but to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor, the better. So fire up the Heartland Institute-type Astroturfers and nickel-a-post bloggers to make it look like we have support in-state, will ya? Because the more they get that reassurance, the easier it is for them to vote yes.

Murphy/Koch: Right, right.

Walker: The other thing is more long-term, and that is, after this, um, you know the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particulary in some of these, uh, more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t necessarily need ads for them, (please run some ads for us through Americans for Prosperity!) but they’re gonna need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that that message is out over and over again, (through lots of Americans for Prosperity ads!) that’s obviously a good thing.
And hey, what do you know? The Kochs did just that. Heck, they just dropped $700K to try to prop Scotty up 2 weeks ago. And the real David Koch admitted last week that he's "spent a lot of money in Wisconsin" for Walker in Wisconsin, adding "We've gotten pretty good at these things." What Koch really means is that he uses his fake think tanks and "non-coordinated" ads to give support to candidates who turn around and give them favors in return.

But wait, wasn't Walker complaining about possible union and Dem coordination at the start of this conversation, and trying to make up some kind of ethics charge based on it? (Look above, he was).

Dang, this is getting long. Let's cut this part off here, and get the second part in another post, which will include KILLERS to Walker given what we know now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Walker's World vs. Falk's Great Dane, by the numbers

I saw that Lt. Gov. Mini-van was shooting her mouth off about Kathleen Falk's record in Dane County and chided her as a tax raiser. Forgetting about the fact that a dimwit like Becky Kleefisch couldn't run a staff of 5 let alone the second-largest county in Wisconsin, it inspired me to go to the numbers, and take a look at how Falk ran her county at the same time that Scott Walker was running his.

So, let's go to Lt. Gov. Mini-van's first comment, about tax increases. And by the raw numbers, Kleefisch (or at least the handlers that told her this stuff) may have a point, as Dane County taxes went up quite a bit more than Walker's Milwaukee County when both Falk and Walker were county execs, budgeting from 2002 to 2011.

Property tax levy 2002-2011
Dane County $90.145 million 2002, $133.069 million 2011 (+47.6%)
Milw County $218.735 million 2002, $269.555 million 2011 (+23.2%)

And if you were a right-wing radio host (or stupid enough to listen to one), you'd stop the discussion there and Falk raised taxes twice as much as Walker did, and you'd also leave out that Milwaukee County's total taxes increased more than Dane County, ($50.8 mil vs. $42.9 mil.) Fortunately, this isn't a right-wing talk show, and there's a really good reason Dane County's taxes went up more. A lot more people were choosing to live in a place run by Kathleen Falk instead of a place run by Scott Walker.

Population change 2002-2010
Dane County +49,192 (+11.21%)
Milw County +6,644 (+0.71%)

Gee, you think you might have more taxes when you add 42,500 more people than the other place? Of course you will. And that growth and better desirability of Dane County shows in other ways. Dane County income growth that was nearly triple that of Walker's county, and property values went up more 5 times faster in Falk's land during the turbulent 2000s.

Median household income, 2002-2010
Dane County $51,230 2002, $58,958 2010 (+15.08%)
Milw County $38,436 2002, $40,582 2010 (+5.58%)

Median home sales price (from the Realtors for 2006 and 2010)

Dane versus Milw
$178,000 $121,300 2002
$214,600 $158,700 2006
$207,000 $125,000 2010 (Dane +16.3%, Milw +3.05%)

So now that Kathy Falk's Dane County massively outperforms Walker's Milwaukee in economic and population stats, let's go back to the property taxes and see what happened for the everyday homeowner in these places.

Property taxes for median home sales price
Dane County $562.48 2002, $565.11 2011 (+0.47%)
Milw County $638.38 2002, $558.75 2011 (-12.48%)

Property taxes/ median home as % of median HH income
Dane County 1.10% 2002, 0.96% 2011 (-0.14%)
Milw County 1.66% 2002, 1.38% 2011 (-0.28%)

Difference in taxes isn't so different isn't it? Yes, Walker reduced taxes on the median homeowner, but that number is still a higher income tax rate in Milwaukee County than Falk's Dane County, and both "cut taxes" if you use a % of income as your basis. This doesn't even mention that if you were the average homeowner in Dane County, your home value went up a lot more, you weren't nearly as underwater as a Milwaukeean if you bought in 2006, you made nearly 50% more money, and that income grew much quicker under Falk than Walker. I'd think the better growth and stability would be well worth the $7 in higher property taxes that you'd pay in Dane County.

Even more remarkable is that with the huge increase in Dane County population leading to people causing a bigger demand for services, Falk's Dane County spending increase wasn't all that much more than Walker's, and was much LESS per person.

Total change in spending 2002-2011
Dane County +34.19% (+$120.713 million)
Milw County +31.46% (+302.014 million)

Total change spending per capita
Dane County $804.40 2002, $970.66 2011 (+20.67%)
Milw County $1,020.00 2002, $1,331.52 2011 (+30.54%)

Yep, Walker's spending per person went up significantly more than Falk's, Walker just benefitted from taking more revenues from other surces (i.e. the state and the feds) and also increased debt service by $47 million while Falk was only increasing it by less than $8 million. So much for the "Walker cut spending and was fiscally responsible in Milwaukee" argument, eh?

So if Kathy Falk is the Dem nominee, the GOP will try to use the same old tired "tax-and-spend" BS that they tend to do, and will try to tell one-sided stats to prove their point. Now you know that Scott Walker actually increased spending more than Kathy Falk did in the same time period, and got much less bang for the buck in the process, because Dane County boomed while Milwaukee County stagnated. Much like a lot of other things that we find when we compare Walker World with the actual one, it's usually better off to live somewhere where people kick in a few dollars to maintain and grow their services, than saving a handful of bucks and ending up a whole lot worse off.

Monday, February 20, 2012

More sketchiness rides with Walker

Great work from Capper in exposing another rider on the Harley rides Scott Walker would take as Milwaukee County Executive, which were nothing more than corporately-sponsored campaign events. Capper tells us about a caucus scandal refugee and GOP fundraiser for the Fitzegerald brothers who seems to have gotten a prime spot on the ride after giving money to Walker's campaign. You put it together with what I brought up last week regarding Walkergate criminal Tim Russell's coordination role and AirTran's pay-for-play sponsorship of the Harley ride, and you get a glimpse into how bought off Walker was even before he got the eye of David Koch.

And now you combine it with Koch's admission that he is giving big money to help Walker through "independent" groups like Americans for Prosperity, and you realize that Scotty is nothing more than an amoral puppet, always in search of another dollar, and willing to do whatever is necessary in order to get it. Without regard to the damage caused by anyone else.

Sure make you wonder what he and the WisGOPs have been promised in exchange for supporting a mining bill that Wisconsinites overwhelmingly reject in a recent poll. You can bet it's nothing that helps the average Wisconsinite, but probably has a big payoff for the fortunate few that are in WisGOP's inner circle.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Obama's DHS and appeals court to Walker- Stop whining and work harder

Friday featured two fun smackdowns of the Walker Administration that I couldn't let go without commenting.

The first is the state's insurance commissioner getting rejected by the Obama Administration as they asked for 3 insurance companies to not have to spend 80% of their premiums on patient care. In short, Obama's DHS said that there is plenty of competition in the Wisconsin market for health care, and as a result, Golden Rule, Humana, and Time insurance are going to have to give their customers some of their premiums back because they can't operate efficiently enough. Don't you feel sorry for those beleagued insurance corporations that have to actually spend some of their blood money on helping their patients instead of paying higher CEO salaries and paying for paper pushers to deny claims? Yes, I'm sure it breaks your heart every bit as much as it breaks mine.

And it's no surprise that State Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel would make this request to give the insurance companies a break, because Nickel is a former health insurance industry lobbyist who gave Walker over $10,000 in contributions and got rewarded with the Insurance Commissioner gig. In fact, Nickel gave Walker so much that he was accused of campaign violations due to his excessive contributions.

It's a great illustration of the hypocrisy of insurance company representatives like Ted Nickel, who constantly ask for "more competition" in the health care market, but when there actually is a competitive health care market like we do in Wisconsin, they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything that might cut into their profits in order to compete with other insurers. Nickel was quoted on Friday as saying the ruling puts "Wisconsin consumers at risk," but given that 5 Wisconsin insurers can run their business at 88.5% or higher going into customer care, maybe Golden Rule, Humana, and Time just aren't good enough at their business to keep up, and maybe they should fail. Sounds like capitalism at its finest to me.

The other great news I saw on Friday was the Walker campaign's request for another extension to review recall petitions being denied by a Dane County court. The Walker boys had previously had their 10-day window for reviewing signatures extended to 30 because of the hige number of people that signed petitions to boot his ass out, but wanted more time because they whined that they were only 1/3 of the way through the list of signers. Dane County Judge Niess rightfully said that it was plenty of time to get the job done (they still have another 8 days to do it), and agreed with Dems who argued that the Walker's request for extension was nothing more than an excuse to continue to raise unlimited campaign funds.

And to go further, Scott Walker is a guy who likes to talk about how he tries to solve problems "like a small businessman would" (despite the fact that he's a career politician that's never worked for a small business in his life). Well, small businessmen deal with lots of work that have to be completed on short deadlines, and they find a way to get the job done. And those small businessmen don't have millions of dollars from out-of-state contributors to help them meet the deadlines. Maybe Scotty's campaign should stop whining and actually hire some people to take a look at the signatures and see if there's even a chance that the number of legit signatures will be below 540,208 (or 600,000 or 700,000 or 800,000 or 900,000). God knows they need more people working in this state.

And hey, they already have an army of volunteers. Look at the huge turnout for a pro-Walker "make sure the signatures are legal" rally in Madison on Friday.
These losers seem to have time on their hands, I'm sure Walker could hire them for cheap to verify the recall (and have most of their challenges thrown out for not knowing election law). (Hat tip to Nick Nice for the picture)

Both of these cases are great illustrations of the inherent weakness that is the average corporate and the average Republican. They talk a big game about how they work hard and deserve to get rewarded, but when they're asked to step up and get the job done, they complain and make excuses instead of shutting their mouth and doing what has to be done. They really believe they can get away responsibility-free living, where they get all the benefits of a free and competitive society without having to take on the duties and work required to be succesful in such a society. And that "have our cake and eat it too" style of laziness is why we have to crush them, because the weak and lazy cannot be running things.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Redistricting follies, and the incestuous GOP circle

Been quite a fun last few days for those of us who believe in decency, transparency, and fairness before the law. A few reactions from "The Redistricting Follies."

In case you hadn't heard, the Wisconsin GOP had to end their stalling and release the emails they worked out with Michael Best and Friedrich relating to redistricting. Here, give em a read if you haven't already. In addition to trying to evade Open Records Laws by using Michael Best's offices and personal email addresses (right out of Walkergate, isn't it?) and actions that lay the groundwork for Adam Foltz's eventual perjury arrest, here are a few standout emails from my end.

Right at the start, you have references to Manny Perez being one to testify in favor of the new maps as giving adequate Latino involvement. Oh yeah, Manny Perez, he had plenty of free time to help WisGOP in July, because he'd resigned after 4 months as Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, allegedly because of a sexual harrassment complaint that cost DWD another employee because the complaintant was locked out of meetings after blowing the whistle on ol' Manny, and she eventually quit. There's a winner to have on your side.

Here's another winner that helped out WisGOP with this redistricting farce, convicted criminal Scooter Jensen.
Jensen is a senior adviser to the American Federation for Children, a group that lobbies for the state's school voucher program and spends large sums to elect Republicans as well as some Democrats who support vouchers....

Shortly after Jensen received the maps from [Fitzgerald aide/ GOP hack Tad] Ottman, he forwarded them to Zeus Rodriguez, president of St. Anthony School and Hispanics for School Choice. His school participates in the voucher program, which allows low-income students to attend religious and other private schools at taxpayer expense.

Hispanics for School Choice and Jensen's group both backed an expansion of the school voucher program included in the state budget just weeks before the maps went before the Legislature.

After receiving the maps from Jensen, Rodriguez consulted with Ottman on the maps and submitted written testimony in support of them.
Hmm, I wonder if voucher advocates get the inside info on redistricting has anything to do with the huge amounts of money Jensen funnels to GOP candidates? Actually, I don't wonder at all, and this story also illustrates why the Assembly GOP is breaking its promise to limit the number of districts that could get vouchers, and trying to defund public education in several Wisconsin districts in the process. Pay-to-play at its best.

Lastly, there are some awesome emails relating to the fixing of testimony to have Republican hacks argue in favor of the maps without ever seeing the maps. One of those asked to testify is Dane County Supervisor Eileeen Bruskewitz,
last seen losing 70-30 to Joe Parisi in last year's Dane County Exective race. GOP laywer Jim Troupis is quoted on Page 6 as telling Fitzgerald's aides that Bruskewitz "will not know the map," and that she and others will need to be "prepped on specifics," and that she should "limit her comments to things she understands." Nice coaching there, WisGOP.

But even better than that is the BS job performed by WisGOP and Journal Communications' favorite lawyer. On Page 47, Troupis reports
Professor Rick Esenberg has agreed to testify next Friday in support of the map. He needs a.) the maps; b.) the numbers; c.) a summary of eq. population, compact/contiguous, minority responsiveness aspects fo the map.
Way to go, Shark, who needs to read the maps when you already have the testimony written? No matter how much he tries to backtrack on what he did and why WisGOP chose him, we all know Esenberg got the gig because he will shamelessly lie and decieve and fit "facts" to match whatever WisGOP wants to see done. Then he uses his token MU Law status as an excuse to fit this spin job under the cloak of "I'm a lawyer, so trust that I know what I'm doing," even if he has no idea what the hell he might be defending, or on what grounds he's defending it on.

It is a nice check, isn't it Rick? You can just make up shit and throw it against the wall, and as long as you sound convincing, enough plebes might be fooled enough to buy it. Way to go Esenberg, and way to go Bruskewitz, you'll fit right in at the Heartland Institute or Bradley Foundation or whatever right-wing affirmative action gig you'll land after you're out of your current job. Cause after all, when you're Republican, who needs credibility as long as the media gives you equal face time, right?

What a complete train wreck the GOP Legislature is becoming. They're going to have this redistrcting thrown out in the most humiliating fashion, and then they're going to lose their majorities, while settung such a low standard that no one with a brain and decency will vote for that party again as long as the current wrecking crew is around. They can keep on whining and spinning, but given that 4 of your Assembly members are already not running for re-election, with 3 announcing that in the last week, I think the pros are starting to realize what's coming, and it's the end of the Legislative side of Ftizwalkerstan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Everybody do the (Heartland) Propaganda!

Remarkable look inside one of these right-wing "think" tanks (suggested motto: "We have the solutions, you come up with the issue!"), sent in an email drop.

I bring you Inside the Heartland Institute.

Check out their plans for 2012 - including Operation Angry Badger, which begins on Page 13.
The [Wisconsin] recall elections of 2012 amount to a referenda on collective bargaining reform at the state level, making the of national interest. Successful recalls would be a major setback to the national effort to regin in public sector compensation and union power...

We are contemplating five projects: (my thoughts in parentheses)

1. Recruit and promote superintendents who support Act 10 (remember the assclown teacher from Monona Grove in the pro-Walker ad saying things that weren't remotely true? That kind of thing)
2. Explain the benefits of Act 10 (without explaining the cuts to education that go further than any cost-reductions that result from Act 10)
3. Document the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin (pure propaganda - I'm guessing they'll leave out our "Number 1 in the U.S." standing on graduation rates)
4. Expose teacher pay in key districts (you can bet it'll be heavy on places that don't use the "tools", while leaving out similar levels of pay at schools who already have used the "tools")
5. Create blogs that shadow small-town newspaper coverage of the controversy (a controversy that only exists because of our BS, and will also consist of "paid posters to comment sections") .

We anticipate that this project will cost around $612,000. Maureen Martin, Heartland's legal counsel, will be the chief researcher and writer for the project (meaning she's the spinmiester who fits numbers to the propaganda and leaves out the 95% of reality that might tell a different story) . The anonymous donor (who stands to make big bucks from this) has pledged $100,000 toward this project. We are circulating a proposal to other funders.
So they're trying to continue the big lie about Walker's changes somehow helping Wisconsin education, which will take quite a high level of bullshit, given that a cursory look at the wires over the last few days shows that school districts in Monroe, Manitowoc, Columbus and Jefferson all have had stories mentioning 7-figure deficits for next year.

And who's paying for all of this work? The usual suspects- the Bradley Foundation (who gave $175,000 over the last 2 years, and will give $50,000 more this year), the Charles G. Koch Foundation and "its network of philanthropists" (i.e. PAID LIARS), most every major drug company (for work on "free-market health care" which just so happens to increase their profits), and the former executive director of ALEC. Not surprisingly, the findings of Heartland Institute "researchers" like Maureen Martin just so happen to fit what the Bradleys, Kochs, and ALECs of the world want to see.

Because in places like the Heartland Institute, facts and results don't matter, pushing ideology and grabbing power does. They have a similar item on Page 18 with the sole intent of making up a bunch of crap to deny climate change and discredit known scientific findings. Then these places rely on an uncritical media who accepts this group's research as grounded fact instead of the one-sided spin and deception that it clearly is. Which is why we need a rapid-response team that is vigilant and unyielding, both to the lie machine and to the media, because there isn't "2 sides to the story" when one side is lying and one side is bringing reality. I thank whoever stepped in and dropped this document, because it's a good look inside to one of the many groups of this right-wing network of shysters and BS artists who pay legislators to put in laws that benefit those who donate to these places.

Hillary Clinton was laughed at 15 years ago for suggesting a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was after her and Bill Clinton during Bill's presidency, but then you see this presentation from the Heartland Institute, where spewing propaganda and misleading facts is standard operating procedure, and you have to wonder. Then you recognize the web of right-wing groups (Koch, ALEC, Bradley, school voucher lobby) who constantly seem to grab a heavy influence on GOP lawmakers, with a few heavy hands calling all the shots and seeming to be immune to most Americans' reality, and you stop wondering, and realize Hillary was right. The conspiracy is real, it needs to be confronted at all turns, and it must be put in the swamp once and for all.

Scott Walker, John Doe, and Frontier Airlines' demise in Milwaukee

At first glance, it might seem that Scott Walker shouldn't be entirely blamed for the huge cutbacks announced last week by Frontier Airlines in Milwaukee, with nearly 450 estimated job losses, and the amount of daily flights out of Mitchell Field cut in half. It could just be the regular ups and downs of one airline that has had a troubled past of leadership, as it transferred from Midwest Express to Republic Airways and then became part of Frontier Airlines over the course of a few years.

But then read Capper's excellent summary of the decline of Midwest/Frontier, and you see Walker's fingerprints all over this. Remember, Milwaukee County runs Mitchell Airport, which means that the County Executive has oversight of how the airport is run and which airlines can operate. And then Capper reminds you who helped Walker in his little bike ride around Wisconsin.
In 2009, when Scott Walker went on one of his infamous Harley Davidson bike rides to promote his campaign tourism in Milwaukee County, he added a new twist - a corporate sponsor. That corporate sponsor was Air Tran Airlines. It turned out that Walker had given Air Tran expanded space at Mitchell International Airport just a few weeks before Air Tran announced that they were going to sponsor Walker's bike ride.
That's right, Walker allowed a company that he had to deal with as part of his County Exec job pay money to sponsor something that in reality was nothing more than a campaign stunt.

Was Air Tran's sponsorship of Walker a payback? Well, you tell me. AirTran expanded its influence greatly in the Milwaukee market during that time period, first in 2008 and then again in 2009, grabbing increase gate space along the way with the approval of Scott Walker. In the short-term, this certainly helped Milwaukee air travelers, as the competition from Air Tran and Southwest helped to cause major increases in Mitchell Field traffic.

And Scott Walker was quick to grab credit. During his primary victory speech in Sept. 2010, he gloated about the "fastest growing airport in Milwaukee", despite an aviation consultant saying the growth had "nothing to do with county government" and had everything to do with 3 airlines "trying to kill each other." And a big reason this was allowed to happen was the quid pro quo that had Walker giving extra airport space to Air Tran while Air Tran sponsored Walker's "tourism ride" around Wisconsin. So the inevitable demise of one of those 3 airlines in Frontier could certainly be traced back to the short-term "grow now" policies of Walker, which mirrors much of the short-term stunts he pulled in Milwaukee County that caused looming problems to grow larger and potentially explode after he was gone. And it's the same policy he's trying to pull for the rest of Wisconsin right now.

However, there's another fun link to Walker's Air Tran corruption and his disgusting bike ride. John Doe chargee Tim Russell had a major role in Walker's little stunt, despite the fact that he was allegedly not on the 2010 campaign and serving as Housing Director in Milwaukee County at the time. The good stuff starts around 0:21, with Russell dressed up in an Air Tran-sponsored jacket and looking like a NASCAR pit crew member. So the guy who Scott Walker emailed from a campaign email account the night of Darlene Wink's arrest to lay down the order of "no laptops, no websites....we can't have anything like this happen again," also seems to be enthusiastically going along with Air Tran's effort to sponsor Scott Walker's campaign event. And that expansion that Russell and Walker's buddies from Air Tran pulled off at the same, with generous help from the Administration of then-County Executive Scott Walker, may have been a big reason why Frontier Airlines announced a major job loss last week.

Yes, the corruption and circles of influence all come around eventually, and not surprisingly, this ends up causing serious pain to the Milwaukee area in the end. This is true not only for the hundreds of workers and their family members that get hurt due to Frontier's job losses, but also for the hundreds of thousands of fliers out of Mitchell Airport, because they will now be facing higher fares due to the lack of competition that is going to come out of these cutbacks.

H/T Cognitive Dissidence

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trend still not Walker's friend

Given a lot of the "1 year ago" look-backs at the Wisconsin Uprising, I wanted to update a chart I threw out here a few weeks back. Basically, this compares Wisconsin's unemployment claims with the rest of the U.S., and we can pretty much give a long-range comparison with Wisconsin under the Doyle/Dem budget and policies in early 2010-early 2011 (marked in blue), and in the 1 year since Walker "dropped the bomb" in early February (marked in red). And in this chart, you do not want to be rising, because it means your unemployment claims are rising faster (or falling slower) than the U.S. as a whole.

Wisconsin vs. U.S. weekly unemployment claims, 2010-2012

You read that correctly, we've done worse than the Doyle-Dem budget almost every week since Scotty "dropped the bomb", and are now consistently doing worse than the rest of the nation (as shown as the trendline going above 0 in the last few weeks).

Daniel Gross of Yahoo! Finance also reminds us of another way that Wisconsin's lagging behind the rest of the nation - when it comes to revenue growth. While Gross notes that federal revenues were up 3.5% last month vs. January 2011, the Wisconsin LFB said last week that Wisconsin's January revenues were DOWN 2.1% vs. January 2011. Likewise, while Gross notes the U.S. deficit is down 16.3% vs. this time last year, the LFB revealed a Wisconsin deficit of just over 1% (meaning 1% over the "balanced" budget) last week, and more than 2% below last year's SURPLUS under the Doyle/Dem budget.

And you wonder why Obama will do better than Walker in this state in the elections over the next few months? Despite what Walker World tries to tell you, results do matter, and lack of results also matter.

Walker/ Michael Best, pure naked corruption - a reminder

The recent revelations that two WisGOP legislative staffers are working out of the Michael, Best and Friedrich offices shouldn't surprise you too much. We've known for months that MBF and the Troupis Law Office are being the BFFs of this Administration, in exchange for pulling down high 6 figures of taxpayer dollars to come up with legal BS to try to cover the rampant WisGOP corruption.

But Peter McKeevey of the Ed Garvey law office has a great article on how a current MBF attorney has inside info on the John Doe case. Who's the attorney? Let's just say you might have seen his name on this blog 6 months ago.
...[Milwaukee Co. DA John] Chisholm met with DOJ senior staff on November 15, [2010]. Among the staff present was Ray Taffora, then the No. 2 official in the department. It is safe to assume that sensitive and confidential information was discussed. This was, after all, a criminal investigation.

At some point, Walker’s campaign hired Attorney Steven Biskupic to represent his interests. Biskupic, a former U.S. Attorney under George Bush, is a criminal defense attorney with Michael, Best and Friedrich, a law firm with offices in Milwaukee and Madison. The Wisconsin State Journal recently described this law firm as “in-house counsel” for Walker and the Republican Party in Wisconsin.

Fast forward to January 20, 2011: Michael Best & Freidrich issued a press release announcing that Ray Taffora had left the Department of Justice and joined the law firm. It said, “Taffora will head the firm’s newly-formed Government and Regulatory law practice Group, which includes a number of highly experienced attorneys including former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic.”

Read that again: Taffora is now working with and apparently supervising the attorney representing Scott Walker in a John Doe investigation about which Taffora has insider confidential information from the prosecutor.
Taffora had to have known he was leaving to get the big bucks and Michael Best at this point, but he still sat in on the meeting, and got the info that could be passed ahead in time for a cover-up from the incoming Walker Administration. (I smell an Open Records Request coming on!)

Not only that, Ray Taffora is the guy who donated $1,000 to Van Hollen's re-election fund in 2010, and signed the sweetheart no-bid deal between the Walker Administration and MBF just over a year ago in anticipation of Walker's union-busting bill, taking the issue away from state attorneys that have taxpayer accountability to worry about.

Chicagoans find this to be a sketchy setup. It's disgustingly corrupt, and it's why they all have to go as soon as possible.

H/T The Political Environment

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Budget follow-up, what will Walker borrow, steal or lapse?

I had a couple of other items to discuss about the LFB's recent paper showing Wisconsin's new $208 million deficit under the Walker budget. (read the whole thing here if you want to). There was a lot I could take apart in my initial analysis, but a few other things slipped through the cracks that also deserve attention.

The deficit would have been much worse had it not been for a $63 million drop in debt service costs. Why did this happen? We'll the LFB tell you, with me adding some emphasis.
First, the state has sold its general obligation bonds at a premium and applied most of these premium proceeds to current year debt service in lieu of using thwe budgeted amounts to pay those costs. A bond that sells at a premium does so because the interest rate on the bond [which taxpayers have to pay off eventually] is higher than the market rate, making the bond worth more to the buyer. Most of these up-front premium payments were used to reduce GPR debt service, with the remainder being applied to the capital improvement fund in lieu of future bonding. Second, GPR debt service is estimated to be lower because current projected interest costs on the funds borrowed under the state's commercial paper program are significantly less than the amounts budgeted in Act 32 for these short-term obligations.
In other words, the state has benefitted from the Federal Reserve's easy-money, low-interest policy and low interest rates on bonds in general (thanks, Bernanke!) and that we'll have to pay more in future budgets than we should have because we offered these bonds at a higher rate. Sure, we got more money for them up front (hence the lower deficit this year), but it'll cost us more in future years than we could have had, and you'll see that with bigger costs in future years.

Also mentioned in the LFB report, a $20 million decrease in "compensation reserves". Well, what is this? "lower premium costs of the state's health insurance program." Gee, another Walker Admin. overestimation (albeit a relatively small one) on health insurance costs, creating more budgetary alarm than what actually existed. And since they're reducing the amount of reserve compensation that's owed to employees, you think they'll use that $20 million to give back some of the money they took from state employees through Act 10? HELL NO, and in fact, they raised the pension contributions by another 0.1% to 5.9% for this year, despite the fact that the pensions are 100% funded and among the most solvent in the nation. Sure makes you wonder if the Walker boys are going to use some of that fully-funded pension to fill in their inevitable budget holes, doesn't it? You know, kinda like how Tommy Thompson tried to do to the teachers in the '90s? (AND FAILED, forcing the money to be paid back later)

Lastly, if you check out the summary on Page 2 of the LFB paper and the General Fund Condition statement, I bring you this line item.

Less lapses-
2011-2012- $306,093,000.
2012-2013- $593,034,800.

That's right, there are nearly $600 million additional lapses expected between July 2012 and June 2013. So could we expect a replay of the disgusting moves done this Fall when the Walker Administration singled out the UW System for 40% of the lapses on top of a $250 million cut to the System in the budget. So are they going to arbitrarily single out the UW or some other "undesirable" type of program to defund with the lapses built into this unbalanced budget? Remember, this $593 million in lapses is on top of the $208 million they already have to fix due to the low revenues resulting from the bad economic performance of Wisconsin under the Fitzwalkerstani reign.

And Walker claims that this time he won't ask for a budget repair bill because they'll find "administrative savings." Seems interesting that now there's no crisis in WalkerWorld when the alleged budget deficit that led to Walker dropping the bomb was smaller than what we have now. (That alleged 2011 deficit was later proven to actually be a budget surplus, in case you forgot)

You think they've got a "screw the UW, screw schools and local services, privatize the hell out of things and steal the pensions" plan all ready to go, and they're looking to break it out if they somehow survive the recall elections? You bet your ass they do. And it's why we have to be all over every one of these moves, and get these bastards out as soon as we can.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quotable John Nichols

John Nichols nails it with his response to Walker's keynote speech at the nutball bubble-world convention known as CPAC.
Like Reagan before him, Walker defines serving the interests of economic royalism, taking big money to deliver big favors, and following an agenda dictated not by the needs of the American people but by the demands of those who write the biggest campaign checks as "courage."

That is not courage. In a democracy, that is heresy. And it is the fight to banish that heresy from the politics not just of Wisconsin but of America that makes the recall and removal of Scott Walker the great democratic struggle of 2012.
Indeed John, sucking Koch and ignoring the public is not strength, it is weakness. But if Walker wants to whine that he's being crucified by large numbers of Wisconsinites, I'm willing to get some nails and wood and help him out.

My little bit for democracy

I took the opportunity to chip in today to the recall effort by heading over to the AFSCME building on Madison's West side for a few hours today. Here's a bit of a rundown on what's going on from the pro-recall side.

First of all, the place was PACKED. The Dems and recall forces are asking for people to bring their own laptops to plug into the database because they don't have enough to go around. There were so many volunteers today that they were practically out of space for people to fill in names and rebut challenges to signatures. And others were signing up for the next 2 weeks to enter data and respond to more challenges, and the atmosphere was postive and upbeat. Pretty inspiring to see ages across the spectrum (from college to seniors) all chipping in to do their part, and unlike the Tea Baggers brought in from out of state for the GOP, we were all locals and none of us were gettin paid (though props to the recall folks for supplying some Subway and soda).

For the Senate recalls, they're checking on challenges by GOP Senators afraid of facing the music. Most of these involve some kind of complaint about illegible signatures or addresses, or include an absurd argument that the new district lines should be in force, and therefore a sizable amount of the signatures are invalid because they're in the old districts. This argument is laughable on its face, because the GAB ruled 4 months ago that Senate recalls were in the current districts, not the new ones made up in the redistricting bill. And the basis for that GAB ruling was....The redistricting bill itself, which said the new districts only take effect for the November elections. (you know, the one done in secret with only GOP legislators attending?)

Anyway, the first part of my job was to look at a handful of signatures in Scott Fitzgerald's district that are being challenged due to allegedly unreadable signatures. A cursory look at these 3 could tell you these 3 are legit (albeit 1 was really poorly written), and any miswritings are noted and initialed. If this is what that tub of goo is relying on to save his ass from recall, he may as well expect to face the voters now.

Others in today's group were checking alleged duplicate signatures or "out-of-district" claims. Most seemed to be easy to refute, and they will stand. Heck, Fitz himself is already admitting the other 3 Senators will be recalled, but he's trying to lie his way out of being Number 4. Maybe if we sued the pig for wasting the time of Dems and taxpayer-funded courts, he'd learn something about how lame his whining is, but I'm guessing he;s too far gone to get it.

The main part of my time there was spent entering data about those who signed the recall petition against Walker. Most of the 140 or so signatures I looked at were from Milwaukee, and we were checking to see if the Dems already had data on the person as a previous contact and/or voter, and if not, we added these people to a contact list. This will help the Dems track them down and remind them to get the vote out when they get the chance to finally send Walker out of office, which could play major dividends for the many elections we will be having in 2012. In addition, we gave a check on the signatures to see if they had any chance of being turned down, and flagged and noted items such as incomplete addresses or illegible writing or something similar.

This goes along with the GAB standard of rejecting (or not rejecting) signatures, which is a looser standard than the Journal-Sentinel's random check that showed only 15% of recall sigs could even be questioned, easily guaranteeing that Walker will face another election. Remember, that 15% includes people who may be living with roomates, people who recently moved to an area, and people who may never have voted in the past but are eligible to do so, and all would be legitimate signatures under the GAB rules (as they damn well should be, given that they've done nothing to lose their RIGHT to vote). Based on the brief study I made of the 140 signatures I entered, I'd estimate that 8-10 were questionable, due to problems such as illegible names and addresses, and the one guy who just signed it "Ricardo" but gave a full address and other sorts of information.

It was a very neat exercise in guaranteeing democracy for people, and I highly recommend others give it a shot if you have a chance. I got a good look at the cross-section of people who took the time to sign recall petitions (lots of them seemed to be at family gatherings or through other groups of mutual friends), and it makes you realize that there's a big world of potential voters that can be tapped and can make a difference, if they're given a reason to do so. It's just a matter of reaching them and realizing that they do matter, and if the Dems do that, I don't see how the GOP can match those numbers.

We have the grassroots, we have the passion, and we have the people. We just gotta execute and finish the job.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jake's complete lack of surprise- A Walker deficit appears

Big day down at the LFB today, as the annual revenue/ budget estimates came out late this morning. I'd been waiting a couple of weeks for this report, and sure enough it revealed what I thought it would. Scott Walker's budget is not balanced, and in a $208 million deficit. Think they'll be changing the Koch Brothers' ads running in support of Walker's "balanced budget?"

Now, the common number used is $143 million, because that's the negative balance, but we also need to have $65 million in our rainy day fund, so in reality, we need to find $208 million in savings over the next 16 months, not $143 million.

So, why did we end up here? The same reason we've had issues at the federal level- low revenues caused by low taxes and a lack of job and income growth. Page 10 of the report explains it:
As shown in the table, total general fund tax collections are estimated at $13,194.6 million in 2011-2012 and $13,603.5 million in 2012-13. These amounts are lower than the previous estimates by $99.9 million in the first year and $172.9 million in the second year, for a biennial decrease of $272.8 million...

The revised revenue projections reflect year-to-date collections data, the new economic forecast, and the effects of a number of law changes that will reduce revenues during the remainder of 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Among these changes include tax breaks for the rich like health savings accounts, "reinvesting" capital gains (which are gains from gambling on assets, not making stuff), and corporate taxes are also expected to be about 2.5% lower, partly due to Walker/WisGOP givewaways. Walker's union-busting is also showing itself in the deficit, as income taxes are also expected to be down due to lower incomes as a result of Act 10, and Real Estate Transfer fee taxes are down nearly $9 million due to fewer home sales. Cigarette taxes are down by about $55 million, and even the beer tax is expected to be down 4-5% (c'mon guys! Light 'em up and throw 'em down!). Heck, if the LFB didn't count the $31.6 million that the state government will take recent settlement banks made with almost all states as damages for screwing homeowners into foreclosure, we'd be looking at $300 million down in revs. (And yes, the state will keep that $31.6 million instead of giving more back to homeowners, as they could).

But hey, maybe the economy will turn around in Wisconsin over the next 6 months and we can close this revenue gap through strong growth? Let's see what the Philly Fed tells us.

Awwww, DAMMIT!

So I guess all those tax breaks and pro-corporate legislation really doesn't help bring in the dough, does it? In fact, the LFB might be giving Walker a break in these revenue estimates, because it bases some of it on the expectation that the U.S. economy to continue with slow and steady growth of 150,000+ jobs a month, while not mentioning the Walker jobs gap that has kept Wisconsin 40,000 jobs below what we should be.

And as tends to be the case, "but wait, there's more!", as the LFB admits that there are other items that could drive the deficit higher, starting on Page 3. (any emphasis added is mine)
...[the deficit] does not reflect the estimated shortfall in the private bar appropriation of the Office of the State Public Defender. It is projected that this appropriation will incur a deficit of $5.8 million by the end of the 2011-13 biennium. Third, [the figures do] not reflect any appropriation changes to the Medical Assistance (MA) program. On January 26, 2012, this office distributed a memorandum to the members of the Legislature entitled "Medical Assistance Program Status." That memorandum inidcated that the MA program faced a potential shortfall of $140.9 million in the biennium. The memorandum further listed a series of savings initiaitives identified by the Department of Health Services that are inteded to address the shortfall (and this is why it isn't counted)
Ah yes, the Medicaid deficit, which I pointed out last week is only closed based on lots of rosy scenarios and hope that the Obama Administration bails them out. And if they don't get the federal bailout, or if the Walker folks don't get savings from allowing Grandma to get a pill dispenser at home, then there's more money that has to be made up in our deficit. So in reality, there could be another $146 million you have to add in, so then we'd have to make up $354 million, not $208 million.

So let's see if the media lets this Administration continue its remarkable 4-in-1 lie of "Walker balanced the budget (WRONG!) while avoiding public sector layoffs (12,000 public sector jobs lost) and holding the line on taxes (ask anyone who got EITC or Homestead credits, and property tax rates are significantly UP), so he shouldn't be recalled." (HE'S EARNED EVERY ONE OF THOSE SIGNATURES). After the liberally biased operation of math has exposed the truth about Walker's job-killing, deficit-inducing budget, there really isn't anything else Scotty can cling to once he gets back from another out-of-state fundraising jaunt. And we can't let them lie their way out of their failures.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Your Walkergate/ Recall links for the day

Can't find time to do all the minutae on the many developments over the last few days in Fitzwalkerstan, so I'll direct you to some quality work by others.

First off, let's go to John Peterson with a great rundown of Baggers being laughed out of the building by the GAB when it comes to recall signatures. And those "illegal" recall signatures and duplicates? Often done by Walker-supporting trash, like this ass-clown Demet in Racine County. By the way, why are the only people left in GOP-supporting groups immoral politicos, clueless middle-aged white men, or 20-something kids mooching off of the Bradley/Koch machine? Just curious.

Now, here's the Root River Siren following up on the amazing report where GOP legislators were told to "ignore public comments" and were sworn to secrecy by Michael Best and Friedrich regarding redistricting plans (despite MBF andTroupis Law getting $400K in taxpayer money....God forbid we have a right to know what they're doing it for).

Even better in that story is where Jeff Fitzgerald aide Adam Foltz tells court officials in a deposition that the new maps have nothing to do with increasing GOP majorities in the legislature...and then memos show that the new maps are intended to do exactly that. And who writes the memos in question? Adam Foltz! BRILLIANT! Wonder how much that perjury will get ol' Adam in the slam?

Speaking of going to the slam, check out Cognitive Dissidence, where Capper asks Hey Scotty, what's in that dumpster filled with papers? I bet Darlene Wink knows what's in that dumpster...and she'll let the DA know if she doesn't want to join what looks to be an increasing number of slimeballs from this Administration in the joint.

The fun just never stops...

Upon further review, U.S. doing even better, Fitzwalkerstan worse

On my way down to the Super Bowl, the BLS came up with the January 2012 jobs report, and it featured very good economic news, with 243,000 more jobs created in January, and 257,000 in the private sector. It continues a strong last few months after a Summer swoon caused by Teabaggers trying to cause a debt crisis, and the unemployment rate is as low as it's been in nearly 3 years, at 8.3%.

But even more than that, the BLS released revisions to all of the months in 2011, which they do every year. These shouldn't be ignored, and a good example is when a review 2 years ago showed that the country lost 1 million more jobs in the 2007-2009 recession than what was previously thought. Well, the revisions went the other way this year, as page 5 shows, 2011 addedd 266,000 more jobs than we previously knew, which means in January 2012 we were actually 500,000 jobs better than what was in the report released last month, and over 2 million jobs better than 12 months ago. Not a full-fledged boom, but certainly a steady recovery and one that seems to be picking up steam.

Which makes Wisconsin's pathetic job performance for the last half of 2011 even worse. Look at the gap that continues to widen between Wisconsin and the U.S. since Walker took office in January 2011.

Wisconsin vs. U.S., 2011-2012

If Wisconsin had merely kept up with what the country did as a whole, we would have added 35,950 total jobs between January and December, and 42,350 in the private sector, which wouldn't have put us too far behind Walker's goal of 250,000 jobs in 4 years. But unfortunately, we do have Scott Walker as governor, and so here's the result.

Walker job gap, 2011
Wis. actual total job performance- -4,500 (GAP: 40,450)
Wis. private sector job performance- +2,200 (GAP 40,150)

That's right, WALKER POLICIES HAVE COST US OVER 40,000 JOBS. This is really hard to do, but then again, it's not every day when a governor is so arrogant, corrupt and incompetent that a million people sign recall petitions against him, either.

The failures in Fitzwalkerstan are also reflected in Wisconsin's lag in manufacturing growth (Wisconsin's largest sector of jobs), which was picking up in the rest of America while Wisconsin was diving for most of the 2nd half of 2011.

Manufacturing jobs 2011-2012

Shoot, who needs reasons like the first conviction in Walkergate or illegal deceit and secrecy in redisdtricting to take Walker and the WisGOPs out of power, when their disastrous results in job loss in a time of U.S. growth should be enough on its own.