Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broken record- Wisconsin still last on jobs

Hidden in all the legal and political blows the Walker folks took yesterday is another one that underscores their complete failure. The BLS came out with their monthly state-by-state report, which shows how all the states are doing. And stop me if you've heard this before, but Wisconsin has mainted its position on top... of the bottom.
Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 43 states and the District of Columbia and decreased in 7 states. The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in North Dakota (+6.8 percent). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.6 percent).

And that's undersold, because Wisconsin has lost nearly 8,000 more jobs than its nearest "competitor" in the "50th out of 50" sweepstakes since the age of Fitzwalkerstan began.

Job change Jan. 2011- Feb. 2012
Wisconsin -11,500
Nevada -3,700
Mississippi -1,400
Missouri -1,100
Nebraska -500
Rhode Island -500

And as usual, Wisconsin continues to be in stark contrast to its Midwestern neighbors, who are seeing a major jobs boost in the Obama Recovery.

Midwestern job growth, Jan. 2011- Feb. 2012
Ohio +83,000
Mich +63,100
Minn +42,300
Ind. +39,000
Ill. +35,800
Wisc -11,500

That's right, Wisconsin is 47,300 jobs away from the nearest state in the Midwest. But none of those states have a fool like Scott Walker for governor, now do they? A couple of other notes from this Midwestern comparison stand out.

That closest competitior to Wisconsin is the state Walker keeps telling us we don't want to be like- Illinois. Well given that Illinois is creating 3,500 jobs a month more than us, and given that Illinois gained $3.8 billion in extra income taxes and $4.3 billion in overall revenues last year while Wisconsin is starting to see revenue drop and its budget deficit grow, maybe the FIBs aren't so far off, are they?

Another interesting point to see is Ohio's huge rebound, most of which has been in the last 3 months. Well, what happened in November 2011 in Ohio? Corporate puppet John Kasich had his collective bargaining law overwhelmingly repealed by the voters, a vote that was followed with dire warnings about massive tax increases and layoffs to follow if it was repealed. So what's happened? Ohio has added more than 50,000 jobs in the three months after the voters shot down SB5, and added more jobs than any state in the country in February.

Now compare Ohio's success to Wisconsin's awful record of job creation under Walker, where we started losing out on the U.S. recovery and losing jobs right after Act 10 was passed in March 2011.

Sure, you can try to say "correlation doesn't equal causation," but you certainly can't say taking away collective bargaining rights helps to GROW a state's ecnomy, and that reinstalling collective bargaining rights would slow a state's economy. That reality contradicts what the Walkers and Kasichs of the world have tried to sell us, and they must be held to account for it.

And that's why I continue to do this monthly update on Walker's total failure to create jobs and illustrate how much Wisconsin has fallen behind its neighbors in the last year as a result. Because our media refuses to tell this big story, and the Dems honestly haven't been doing enough to keep it in people's consciousness. Even the national media has ignored this angle with the Wisconsin presidential primary only 3 days away, it's like they want to generate a storyline of "he said, she said" conflict to drive election spending instead of tell the unambiguous story of the RESULTS of these huge changes - which is ABJECT FAILURE.

We need "50th in jobs" and "50th in income growth" to be a constant drumbeat for these last 2 months, to drive it through people's heads that no matter what AM 620, 1130, and 1310 and milllions of Koch-infused ads might be saying, it ain't working for Scott Walker.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Not a bad way to end the quarter

No sense going into a long post about a couple of recently-released reports. I'll have plenty of time the next few days to do that.

The obvious media story is the historic recall elections being called today. Not a huge "new news" headline in itself, but when you realize only 3% of Walker signatures got tossed (when most figured it would be 10-15%), it shows how good a job the Dems and United Wisconsin did in weeding out suspect and duplicate sigs. And now they have all those signatures and names on file for May 8 and June 5 to find and get out to the voting booth.

But then you get alleged Walkergate criminal Kelly Rindfleisch getting slapped down in court and forced to stand trial in Milwaukee County...instead of her home in Columbia County (where she illegally kept her residence while being paid by Milwaukee County). So far, not so bad.

And then you have more news that the FBI is on the heels of Herman Cain's "Smoking Man" Mark Block and seeing if he and his Koch-funded front groups violated the tax code as they made campaign contributions to Walker and other Wisconsin GOP candidates in 2010. Then you remember that Tim Russell's criminal complaint mentions Walker's buddy/campaign worker flying down to Atlanta to meet with Block and Herman Cain after Walker's election, and the pieces seem to fit quite well, don't they?

Oh, and now the worst nightmare for Scott Walker and Kathy Falk jumps into the guv's race (not named Feingold, of course). And Tom Barrett doesn't have to run on "not being another Jim Doyle" this time, he now can run on "not being Scott Walker." If Tom runs hard, brings fact and truth abut Walker's record, and brings the honesty we know he has, he'll be in good shape. Note, this is not an endorsement of Barrett, because I have no assurances he'll run harder than the defensive, half-assed campaign he ran in 2010. But I also think things have changed a bit, for him, for Wisconsin Dems, and especially for the now-exposed failure that is Scott Walker as Governor. If that's true, these next 67 days should be a lot of fun, culminating on June 5.

And there will be less of Act 10 to repeal once Walker gets replaced. The parts that were struck down include the state's withholding of union members' dues and the absurd standard that required unions to have 51 percent of all members (including those not voting) to recertify every year, and to make the unions pay for those elections. In addition, the decision notes that the politically-motivated decision to leave out the police and firefighters' unions were a big reason behind the change in the now-unconstitional rules so now any attempt to reinstate these measures will have to include those public safety unions. Good luck with that, GOP.

You know, I like living in this state on bad days, but when a day like this comes around, it becomes even more amazing than usual.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nope, not working. Wisconsin dead last in income growth

Another economic report out today illustrating the failures of Scott Walker. This time it's the Bureau of Economic Analysis' report on personal income, which features both full-year 2011 stats, as well as the 4th Quarter stats. And much like we've seen with the unemployment reports, Wisconsin gets its name mentioned...and not in a good way.
State personal income averaged 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, the same as in the third quarter. Growth ranged from 0.5 percent in Wisconsin to 1.5 percent in North Dakota.
In other words, Wisconsin was DEAD LAST for income growth in the U.S. from October-December 2011. 50 out of 50.

Table 10 of that same report shows that Wisconsin was also dead last in the U.S. for increased earnings by employees in the 4th Quarter of 2011, at 0.79% increase in wages, supplements, and self-employed income. This puts Wisconsin well behind its Midwestern peers for the same time period.

Increase in earnings, 4th Quarter 2011
Iowa 1.28%
Mich 1.20%
Minn 1.05%
Ill. 0.99%
Ind. 0.96%
Ohio 0.96%
Wis. 0.79%

The state does better on the year-long report, which the Milwaukee Business Journal dutifully reports (while ignoring the "50th out of 50" status for 4Q). Wisconsin had a year-over-year increase in personal income of 5.2%, slightly above the 5.1% for the U.S. in the same time period (albeit below our neighbors in Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois, and just ahead of Minnesota's 5.1%). But even that number shows the damage of Walker policies, as state income grew by 2.3% in the first 3 months of 2011, and then only grew 2.2% for the rest of the year, after the passage of Act 10. Wisconsin also slipped from 24th to 25th on per-capita income, getting passed by Iowa and staying nearly 10% behind Illinois and Minnesota.

We'll see if the media picks up on this new piece of evidence offering further proof that Wisconsin continues to slip economically under Scott Walker, and that any "turnaround" is from the disaster THAT WALKER AND WisGOP CREATED IN THE FIRST PLACE! But if they fail to do their duty, well, that's why people like me are here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Marquette getting closer, but not quite there

Just read up on the newest Marquette University poll which shows a tight governor's race at this time, with Scott Walker leading Tom Barrett by 2, Kathy Falk by 4, Doug La Follette by 7, and Kathleen Vinehout by 8 (interestingly, Walker is under 50% in all races). This is a closer score than we had with Marquette's last poll, which had Walker up at least 6-7 points on all comers, which caused me to shred Charles Franklin's poll for oversampling right-wingers and old voters.

Well, much like the poll results, Franklin's gotten rid of some of the excesses, but he's still oversampling Scott Walker's voters. And as usual, I'll break down how, and I do want to thank Franklin and Marquette for being transparent enough to show their methodology.

Ther first tip-off comes from the Topline demographics, and I'll break down 3 in particular: gender, ideology, and age.

First of all, the gender breakdown in the poll is 52% men, 48% women, and strangely Franklin gave men a higher weighting, as the actual respondents were 51-49% men. This goes against the largely accurate 2010 CBS News Exit poll, which had the split at 50-50. On the surface, a 2% difference doesn't seem like much, except that you look further at the poll and realize Walker's approval is +12 among men, and -6 among women, and Falk's favorability is -20 among men but only -3 among women. This gender gap is quite obvious in the heads-up races:

polls by gender
Walker vs. Falk men: Walker +12.4, women: Falk +4.4
Walker vs. Barrett men: Walker +8.3, women: Barrett +6.0
Walker vs. Vinehout men: Walker +16.2, women: Vinehout +0.8%
Walker vs. La Follette men: Walker +15.3, women: La Follette: +1.0

Guess that 14-16 point gender gap tells you that Walker is in a world of hurt if women use the superior numbers in the population to get out and vote, doesn't it?

And the leaning towards men is evident in the skewing of some of the other numbers. The higher amount of pro-Republican men also seems to help explain the higher amount of conservatives being part of the poll. Among those answering the question, the ideology breakdown is as follows: 20% liberal, 39% moderate, 41% conservative. Now this is better than January's debacle, which was 22-34-44 liberal-moderate-conservative, but it still doesn't come close to matching the 21-43-36 voters in the 2010 elections.

If there are more moderate voters, it massively hurts Scott Walker's poll standing, as Walker's approval rating is 43% among moderates, and he loses moderates by nearly 18 to Barrett, 11 to Falk, 7 to Vinehout, and 6 to La Follette. In fact, if you use the 21-43-36 parameter in the 2010 exit poll, the Falk and Barrett races become quite interesting indeed.

poll using 2010 exit poll weighting
Falk 46.8 - Walker 46.6
Barrett 47.6 - Walker 44.9
Walker approval- 48.7 - 48.6 (vs. 50.4-46.6)

Think the news stories on the polls might be a bit more interesting if Walker was losing by 3 to Barrett, tied with Falk, and had his approval-disapproval dead even? Again, it's not an egregious error by Franklin and Marquette, but a 4-5 point swing is a lot in the race's perception right now.

Lastly, the Marquette poll only has 7 percent of voters under 30, and nearly 60% of voters at 45 or older, and that's after deflating the actual respondents, of whom 77% (!) were 45+. So let's compare that to the GAB's list of registered voters after the 2010 elections, and the 2010 CBS exit poll.

Voters under 30 and over 45, estimates
Marquette under 30 - 6.9%
GAB under 30 - 9.5%
CBS 2010 exit poll- 15%

Marquette over 45 - 59.6%
GAB over 45 - 57.2%
CBS exit poll - 62%

While the older vote seems to be in the ballpark, the younger vote seems to be underestimated in the Marquette poll, and that's no small deal, because 65% of those polled under 30 years old DISAPPROVE of Walker, Barrett beats Walker 3 to 1 among young voters, Falk beats Scotty by nearly 40, and Vinehout and La Follette beat Walker by well over 30. Needless to say, if young voters get out and vote above their numbers, Walker will have a very tough time winning, but the Marquette poll underplays this huge deficit Walker has among the young, because young people simply don't answer phone calls from weird numbers.

So when you look at the Marquette poll, they've clearly made some tweaks that don't make the numbers seem as absurd as they did 2 months ago, and they get minor credit for that. But they're still overrepresenting conservatives and underrepresenting moderates and young voters - two constituencies that don't like Scott Walker. So when you look at those poll numbers, it may be fair to knock down Walker another 2-3 points, and when you realize that most Wisconsinites have made up their mind when it comes to Scott Walker, that 3 points may put him in a major hole that he can't get out of.

The challenge for the Dems is now to make sure they maintain the fire, and get young voters and women out to the polls on June 5. If that happens, Wisconsin will be likely to make history by being the third state to kick out its governor through a recall. Now can the Dems continue to act in a way that makes people want to get out to the polls and vote for them, or will they be a top-down, backroom-deal group that doesn't understand how the game has changed in the last year? We'll see.

Occupy Wisconsin newspapers! Part 2

I wanted to forward you to a couple of links that showcase a couple of recent examples of how the editorial boards of our state's newspapers continue to cowtow to their corporate masters instead of doing their duty as journalists and demanding a free an open society.

The first is an excellent rundown on Blogging Blue of how Gannett-run newspapers in Appleton, Wausau, Fond du Lac, and other markets across Wisconsin ran the same editorial denouncing employees who signed recall petitions. not only is it McCarthyist to consider disciplining a food writer or sports writer for signing something that does not affect their beat (and is within their rights as a citizen), and disgusting that they used that Texass Teabagger group's illegitimate database to find this out, but there's a bigger issue here.

If these newspapers are all writing the same thing, that tells you that the orders came from the top at Gannett, and they told the editors of these Wisconsin newspapers to write this editorial. So why would a huge chain like Gannett care about what individual citizens do in little communities in Wisconsin? Because they and their corporate advertisers got a lot of money riding on being in the good graces of Scott Walker. Which means they're more interested in the bottom line than putting out a good product that informs Wisconsin citizens.

The second example is in response to the Journal-Sentinel writing another cop-out editorial against recalls, this one supporting ALEC boy Robin Vos' efforts to limit the reasons for recall petitions. We know the J-S is in the bag for Walker in order to continue to curry favor with the MMAC and other Milwaukee oligarch organizations, but even this is beyond the pale for them.

As James Rowen points out in a great article, the J-S contradicts itself on ths editorial, as it openly said Walker was not elected to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers. Rowen correctly adds:
A recall election is the only means available to hold Walker accountable for an out-sized lie of omission: his failure to disclose when it counted - - during the campaign - - that he intended, if he were to win, to do away with most public sector collective bargaining - - a lie compounded by his subsequent insistence to the contrary, PolitiFact has found.
And James also leaves out the corruption in Walker's County Executive's office, where more Walker appointees continue to be questioned about doing campaign work while being paid by county taxpayers, and that the offices of Walker staffers were raided the night before the 2010 elections as part of the John Doe investigation. There's also the "50th in the nation" status on job creation under Walker, and the huge amounts of out-of-state money and ALEC influence that has defined the Walker Administration's agenda. None of this was reported by our media in 2010 (scary thought- "not being reported" does not mean they didn't know), and now that we do know, we deserve the right to decide whether this administration be allowed to spend our taxpayer dollars while in office.

And further, the J-S demanding that recalls not happen when politicians lie, cheat and ram through legislation that the people do not approve of goes against all marks of a functioning democracy where politicians have the "consent of the governed", i.e., the PEOPLE. What the J-S wants is to have a small society make the rules for the people, and have the media report on how it affects their small Village of friends. Meanwhile, they expect us to follow like a bunch of brain-dead suckers. NO SALE GUYS. Much like I mentioned earlier this month on the state media's failures to hold Walker to account, I'm starting to believe our state's newspapers and editorial boards need to get Occupied in order to start calling it fairly. Apparently cancelling subscriptions might not be enough.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Debunking the Walker "turnaround theme"- Unemployment claims

Greetings from cloudy and cooler La Crosse. Sometimes posts just fall into your lap, and today was a good example of that. As soon as I saw this Scott Walker press release in the Wheeler Report, I knew I had an easy "debunk the spin" post coming.

In Part 1 of what promises to be a pathetic series of attempts to bullshit Wisconsinites into thinking that our economy is "turning around" due to Walker policies (while conveniently leaving out that Walker policies tanked a growing Wisconsin economy in 2011), our fair Governor tries to grab the credit for the state's reduced unemployment claims.
After the first full 11 weeks of 2012, the average new claim total declined by almost one-fourth when compared to the first full 11 weeks in 2010. The average total of new Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims through the first 11 weeks of this year are one more indicator that Wisconsin’s economy is headed in the right direction.

“Helping Wisconsinites get back to work and getting them off of the unemployment rolls is good for everyone in our state,” Governor Walker said. “While I am encouraged by this good indicator that Wisconsin’s economy is turning around, we still have a lot of work to do.”

During the first 11 weeks of 2012, the average number of new UI claims has dropped by 23 percent percent when compared to the first full 11-week period in 2010, and by 12 percent when compared to the first full 11 weeks in calendar year 2011. Wisconsin has seen dramatic decreases in average weekly totals for initial claims, which haven’t been lower for the 11th full week of a calendar year since 2005. In addition, continued claims have declined by 29 percent through the first full 11 weeks of 2012 compared to the first full 11 weeks of 2010.
Well, of course Walker brings up the decrease in Wisconsin from 2010, but passes over the drops that happened during 2010, under Jim Doyle and Legislative Dem policies. And it proves to be a typical Walker lie by omission, because after January the year-over-year decrease in weekly unemployment claims was never below 17 percent for any week in the rest of 2010. It takes some serious brass balls to try to take credit for drops in UE claims that happened before you ever took office!

The second part is also intentionally misleading, because it misses the context that the rest of the country is seeing unemployment claims at their lowest levels in more than 4 years. Wisconsin SHOULD be seeing drops in unemployment as the Obama Recovery continues to pick up steam. Explain to me how that proves it has anything to do with Scott Walker and GOP policies? The obvious answer is that it doesn't, but that doesn't stop Scotty the Grifter from trying to say it does.

In fact, let's compare Wisconsin's year-over-year increase in claims for both the Doyle and Walker years, and see who measures up better. The timing is fortuitous, because we've had exactly 52 weeks of unemployment claim data to check since Act 10 was passed in March 2011, so compare Wisconsin's results with the U.S. in the previous year before Act 10, and then match it with the record vs. the rest of America after Act 10.

Wisconsin vs. U.S. change in jobless claims

As you can see, Wisconsin was consistently seeing drops in jobless claims 10-15% below the national average in the year before Act 10 under policies passed by Jim Doyle and the Dems, and showed little to no difference from the U.S. for much of the year after Act 10 - we lost our advantage under Walker's policies. In fact, the only time you see the streams cross is in the last few weeks, which are the only weeks that don't have Doyle vs. Walker, but Walker vs. Walker! In other words, the only reason it looks like "improvement" is because Wisconsin was coming off Walker's higher-than-they-should-be claims numbers in 2011, which means he deserves no credit for minor improvements over what he already screwed up.

Given the "part 1" reference, you can bet there will be more of these releases filled with statistics that lack context and lie by intentionally leaving key bits of information out. But I'll wager good money that I'll be spending a few posts this week debunking the "Walker turnaround" meme. And you can also bet that a lot of the "turnaround" should be credited to Jim Doyle and Barack Obama - just like the drop in unemployment claims over the last 2 years.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Revenue drop shows Wisconsin budget deficit may grow

It wasn't done as an intentional Friday afternoon news dump, but the Wisconsin DOR came out with its February revenue figures yesterday, and much like Janaury's numbers, it wasn't very good.

For income taxes, they were down 57% from last February, but the DOR rightly points out that February and March income tax numbers can be misleading, because "70,705 more people [filed] their income tax returns electronically in February 2012 than they did in February 2011", and that meant there were a lot more refunds sent back (I was one of those). This would reduce the total income tax amounts given out, and may not reflect people working and wage amounts, although I'd argue that the large amount of refunds go directly to the bad job performance in Fitzwalkerstan and the hundreds of thousands of workers who had their take-home pay cut in the middle of the year. These people had income and taxes taken at a much higher level at the start of the year than their full-year earnings would indicate, and the refunds would make up that difference. Act 10 and other Fitzwalkerstani policies prove again to be the gift that keeps giving, doesn't it?

A better indication is the year-over-year trend, and that's going in the wrong direction, especially in the last 5 months. This means that we're heading toward a growing revenue shortfall, based on the state budget's projections.

Wisconsin income tax collections 2011 vs. 2012
Budget projection, FY 2012 vs. FY 2011 - +2.5%
FY 2011 thru Feb. vs. FY 2011 thru Feb. - +2.4%
Last 5 months 2012 vs. Last 5 months 2011- +0.7%
First 2 months 2012 vs. First 2 months 2011- DOWN 6.87%

And recall this time last year that income tax revenues were picking up, leading to the infamous Fiscal Bureau revenue upside surprise last May which proved Walker's "budget crisis" requiring Act 10 to save his "broke" state was a total lie.

By comparison, the LFB mentioned last month that low revenues are a big reason behind the $208 million deficit that will have to be made up in the next 16 months, probably in the form of another budget repair bill. We're actually below those 2011 tax levels for the first 2 months of last year, so while the income tax gap right now would only be about $5 million or so for this fiscal year, that could well grow these last 4 months.

The bigger indicator of trouble is sales tax revenues. February 2012 had 1 more day than February 2011 due to Leap Year, so you'd logically assume a 3.6% increase in sales taxes, all things being equal. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Wisconsin sales tax collections 2011 vs. 2012
Budget projection, FY 2012 vs. FY 2011 - +3.91%
FY 2012 thru Feb. vs. FY 2011 thru Feb. - +3.16%
Last 5 months 2012 vs. last 5 months 2011 - +2.88%
Feb. 2012 vs. Feb. 2011 - DOWN 1.95%

Now you can chalk this up to the Packers not winning the Super Bowl this time or there not being history-making protests in Madison for this February. But that alone shouldn't account for a drop of $571,000 in sales taxes A DAY, which is what we got for this February. A 0.75% gap in sales taxes vs. the budget would mean another shortfall of about $32 million, and I don't think we're going to see the fiscal boost from protest coverage like we did last year.

Another place we're coming up short is excise taxes, which go on items like cigarettes, alcohol and other types of sins. While I try to keep up on the beer side, looks like others were not doing the same in the first 2 months of the year (then again, given the crowds out last week, I wouldn't be shocked to see a slight uptick for March :P)

Wisconsin excise tax collections, 2012 vs. 2011
Budget projection, FY 2012 vs. FY 2011 - +1.99%
FY 2012 thru Feb. vs. FY 2011 thru Feb. - DOWN 3.48%
Last 5 months 2012 vs. last 5 months 2011 - DOWN 5.06%
Feb. 2012 vs. Feb. 2011 - DOWN 4.55%

If we stay 5.5% below budget projections on excise taxes, that's another $40 million that we come up short. So smoke and drink up, will ya!

Lastly, Walker's corporate tax cuts have barely started to take effect, and we're already seeing it cost the state money. Despite the U.S. corporations having record profits in late 2011 as they hoard money instead of paying wages, Wisconsin hasn't seen that translate into better corporate revenues.

Wisconsin corporate income taxes, 2011 vs. 2011
Budget projection, FY 2012 vs. FY 2011 - +3.28%
FY 2012 thru Feb. vs. FY 2011 thru Feb. - DOWN 0.49%
Last 5 months 2012 vs. last 5 months 2011 - DOWN 7.60%
First 2 months 2012 vs. First 2 months 2011- DOWN 21.52%

That's a fun thing to see if you're still doing your taxes, isn't it? Knowing that profits are at record levels and seeing Wisconsin corporations paying fewer taxes on those profits. Amazing how that works out when you have a corporate puppet occupying the key spots in the Capitol.

If we somehow reverse the corporate tax shortfalls of the last few months and only stay at that 3.77% shortfall that we're at for this fiscal year, that means another $33 million below estimates. So let's add up the Walker revenue deficit sheet so far:

Income tax - $5 million
Sales tax - $32 million
Excise tax - $40 million
Corporate tax- $33 million
TOTAL SHORTFALL $110 million

In other words, a little more than the $103 million loss the Fiscal Bureau anticipated for this year, and that's assuming the negative trend for 2012 reverses enough these last 4 months. If it doesn't, that $208 million 2-year deficit will only grow bigger, and there will be another budget repair bill by the start of 2013. But this time, there will be a lot of new faces in the Legislature required to fix it and maybe they won't waste time on castle doctrines and abortion like the last one did. I also hope at that time we have a new Governor that is willing to stop giving away the store to corporate contributors at the expense of state revenues, economic growth, and needed services, because the current one has been doing just that, and it has failed by any measure.

The web grows on Walkergate

Good stuff from Capper putting together the new transcripts in Walkergate. This includes new players such as Walker's spokeswoman while he was County Executive and the Finance Director for Walker's campaign.

Please, go to Cog_Dis and check it out. That drip of information is going to become a flood pretty quick, and it's pretty obvious where the source is. The fun part is seeing which tributaries are flowing in, and it seems like there's quite a few.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another month, another update for the Walker jobs deficit

When I came back from some out-of-town work Thursday afternoon, I saw a headline for what appeared to be a pretty good February Wisconsin jobs report- 8,300 jobs added and unemployment staying at 6.9%. But the Walker Administration was strangely quiet over this one, and after reading the actual report, I could see why.

The biggest reasons behind the job "growth" were largely cosmetic. January's jobs figures were revised down by 7,300, and the Cap Times article says it's in no small part because of a tweak in the UW System's schedule for this year that had the schools starting their Spring semester one week later than usual.
"That appears largely due to college students returning to campus after the semester break," says John Dipko, a spokesman for DWD. "Many of them may have started working in the latter part of January and are now being included in the February estimates."
This helped revise state government jobs down by a seasonally-adjusted 5,500 for January, and led to a "rise" in the following month of February of 4,300 - more than half the job growth for the entire state.

But those weren't the only revisions, as private sector employment in January was also reduced by 1,900, which means the 4,000 increase over January is really only 2,100 when you subtract that downward revision (and due to the UW adjustment, total employment is only up 1,000 from the initial January figures). As a result of these downward revisions, the Walker jobs gap between Wisconsin and the growth rest of the nation continues to be unacceptably huge.

All jobs - Walker jobs gap = 58,650

Private sector - Walker jobs gap = 50,900

And even some of that private sector job growth is much like January's alleged "growth"- it reflects fewer layoffs than are typical for the month instead of more people actually working. More than half of the increase in private sector jobs came in Construction, but the non-seasonally adjusted numbers show that the number of people actually working construction went down by 300. Of course, the BLS adjusts these figures because typically February is too cold to have lots of construction in Wisconsin, so this is how that drop of 300 people can become a gain of 2,100. But this wasn't an ordinary February, as it was part of 3rd warmest winter in Wisconsin history, and as mentioned previously the good winter weather has probably accelerated home building and home sales, skewing the numbers higher.

I wouldn't doubt if we see a similar effect with this record March. For example, I'm already seeing large amounts of green grass on the lawns and orange barrels coming onto the roads over the last month, and this was happening in Madison 3 weeks ahead of schedule.

But even with the weather and boosts from other seasonal factors and the strengthening U.S. economy that Wisconsin has received over the last 2 months, Walker and WisGOP's jobs record is still awful. There are still fewer people working than when Walker took office at the start of 2010, and over 21,000 fewer jobs than there were when Act 10 was passed. No wonder Walker and Reggie Newson in DWD didn't say much when the jobs numbers came out yesterday, because the less attention given to their brutal record, the better.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So close, but....

I'd comment more about things, but still feeling heartsick from the Badgers' 1-point loss to Syracuse. That botched last possession with Jared Berggren (Bucky's best player in this game) getting stuck at the scorer's table with 1 TO in Bo Ryan's pocket is going to haunt me for a while.

This'll sting a bit. You don't get many chances when things start clicking at the right time, and this seems like it was one of them, given how UW was nailing 3's for much of the second half. I guess that's why I'm taking this harder than I thought I would. I'll get by, but it won't mean I won't think about this one for a while.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

That econ. growth report isn't saying what Walker wants it to say

Sometimes it's frustrating to be working during the day when news breaks and someone blatantly deceives on what happened. Today was one of those days when I read Scott Walker trying to take credit for the Philly Fed report which showed that Wisconsin was projected to grow in the next 6 months. Check out this bilge.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank released a new economic growth forecast for states yesterday. The report forecasts Wisconsin to grow 1.95 percent over the next six months. It is the best economic forecast for the state since 2003. Wisconsin also experienced the most improved forecast in the nation. Wisconsin’s three-month change was 2.36 percentage points, moving to a forecast of solid gains.

Governor Scott Walker today released the following statement on the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s forecast of solid growth in Wisconsin over the next six months:

“Strong signals suggest we are turning things around for Wisconsin’s economy, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s newest report of state leading economic indexes provides yet one more indication that our pro-jobs policies are moving us in the right direction. Although there is much work left to be done, the forecast along with additional economic indicators such as our state’s lowest unemployment rate since 2008 indicate we are heading in the right direction.”
Well, at least Walker got the numbers right. Too bad that's all he got right on that report. Sure, Wisconsin is projected to grow in the next 6 months, BUT SO IS EVERY OTHER STATE.
And Wisconsin's growth is nothing too special. It barely qualified for the dark green shade at 1.95%, and trails the rest of the nation, and is well behind most of the Midwest.

Forecast growth for the next 6 months- Philly Fed
Mich 3.21%
Ind. 3.20%
Ohio 2.96%
Ill. 2.52% (failures, right Scotty?)
U.S. 2.17%
Wis. 1.95%
Iowa 1.16%
Minn 0.88%

So credit Obama for the Wisconsin economy coming back, not Walker. This is especially true when you look at where we've been the last several months. Another big part of the Philly Fed survey is going over the last 3 months of economic performance. And as shown in prior months, Wisconsin remains a standout for the wrong reasons.

And that's far from all, as Wisconsin had its economy contract for all of 2011 (i.e. in RECESSION and worse off than when Walker took office) while every one of the other Midwestern states bounced back. Going back to the start of the U.S. recession at the beginning of 2008, you'll see that Wisconsin was beating both the U.S. and most of its neighbors in economic performance under Jim Doyle. Then Walker came along and Wisconsin got passed by the U.S. and Indiana in 2011, with Ohio poised to do the same in the first half of the year. Coming up quickly on the stagnant Wisconsin is...Illinois. (click on picture for bigger view)

Economic growth, 2008-2012, Philly Fed

But Walker is hoping that you'll be as shallow as the average Milwaukee talk show listener and not notice the context that the next 6 months' growth is from a much lower point than it should be, and that it would be merely an effect of the U.S. economy continuing to gain strength under President Obama. Certainly Walker's backers at the Journal-Sentinel are willing to play stupid, giving prominence to Walker's side of the story on the projected growth while burying the fact that the U.S. and most other states are slated to grow faster.

And because you know the corporate mouthpieces at Journal Communications and the Wisconsin State Journal won't tell that truth, it's up to people like me to break these stats down and write about it. It's up to readers like you to call out this bullshit and continue to expose the economic failure that is the Scott Walker Administration to your friends and the public. We'll win if the truth gets out, we just have to do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

J-S blows it again, this time on home sales figures

I noticed that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was trumpeting the Wisconsin Relaltors' Association report of an increase in home sales for February on its front page in Madison today. Seems like a good sign that maybe Wisconsin is catching onto the Obama recovery despite the best efforts of the Walker Administration...well at least until you actually read the report.

The Realtors' Association report shows that while sales are up and inventories are starting to drop, it also shows that a lot of sales were the result of bottom-feeding, and not actually a growing economy. The prices of those sales continue to fall, down to a median price of $115,000 vs. $117,000 last year (1.7%), down $5,000 year-to-date. Worse, in lots of parts of the state with large amounts of sales, it was a bigger drop than that.

Median home sales prices, Feb. 2011 vs. Feb. 2012
Milwaukee Co. $92,500 2011, $74,500 2012 (-19.5%)
Racine County $122,500 2011, $89,500 2012 (-26.9%)
Waukesha Co. $228,000 2011, $219,250 2012(-3.8%)
Dane County $197,250 2011, $188,875 2012 (-4.2%)
Rock County $73,500 2011, $83,249 2012 (+13.3%)
Brown County $131,000 2011, $126,000 2012(-3.8%)
Outagamie Co. $121,500 2011, $137,000 2012 (+12.8%)
Western Wisc. $115,000 2011, $116,500 2012(+1.3%)
Marathon Co. $98,950 2011, $80,500 2012 (-18.6%)
North of Hwy 29 $89,512 2011, $85,000 2012 (-5.0%)

Well, no wonder these people might be seeing lower property taxes- their home values are in decline. I imagine the handful of dollars in taxes they might be saving is small solace in comparison to the thousands of dollars in lost home value they might be seeing in the age of Fitzwalkerstan. And scarier, these home prices and sales figures were probably helped by the country's economic recovery and the abnormally warm weather we've been having. From the same Journal-Sentinel article that tries to promote the big pick-up in home sales is this passage.
Realtor Tammy Maddente said there has been enough positive news about the economy, especially an improving unemployment rate, that more people are feeling confident enough to take a serious look at buying a house.

"No matter how good interest rates were in the last year or two years, no matter how good the pricing was, people just didn't have the confidence," said Maddente, executive vice president of First Weber Group. "I think people are sick of having their lives on hold."

According to the Realtors report, existing home sales increased in every region in the state in February, with most increasing more than 10% from a year ago.

The mild winter has helped, Maddente said.

"You have good economic news coming out on the federal front and the state front and then you have 70-degree weather. What could be more perfect? It's really helped ignite the spring market," she said
And indeed, others are pointing out that our amazing run of weather (83 again today in the Mad City, which I spent on the deck on the Malt House enjoying fine beverages) is its own mini-stimulus for the 1st Quarter of 2012. This CNBC report mirrors a number of others that indicate that sales which usually would be happening around April and May are happening now because people want to buy and get homes built when the weather's good. And that certainly matches the Realtors' history of the last 3 years in Wisconsin, where April through October are the peak months of home buying, and then there is a drop off from October through January as the weather cools.

So while the good weather and low prices may be skewing home sales higher in Wisconsin, it also means that we could well be seeing a bigger cutback (or smaller-than-usual increase) once we get to the Spring, because the underlying lack of demand hasn't changed- it's just people taking advantage of the prices and record temperatures. We'll need to see what happens in April and May (assuming the record heat ends) for both in sales numbers and in sales prices to see if there is some kind of actual strength in the Wisconsin economy. It can't be taken as a sign of improvement to see dropping home values despite the tailwinds of low interest rates and 2nd Quarter sales getting pushed into the Q1, and it sets up the real possibility of that Journal-Sentinel touted "rebound" becoming another "drop" come Springtime.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Job creators", Wisconsin less likely to give health insurance, workers squeezed

Paul Krugman wrote a strong article today showing how employers have become much less likely to be a source of an American's health insurance, and it included the following graph that was part a paper on employer coverage from the National Institute for Health Care reform.

What's remarkable in that graph is not only the decrease in number of Americans under 65 that get employer coverage (from nearly 70% in 2001 to 53.5% 9 years later), but also where that sixth of Americans did as a result.

1/2 of that group went on Medicaid
1/3 of that group ended up uninsured
About 1/10 got individual insurance
About 1/12 went on Medicare

Another key part of the study shows that the real speed-up in people not getting employer coverage happened with the start of the recession in 2007. The report notes that 10% more families weren't working at all (understandably), and some of those that did keep a job had their hours reduced from full-time to part-time, which made it less likely to get health care benefits. There were also a couple of particular groups of workers who weren't as likely to get their coverage through work:
Among young adults aged 18 to 27, the share [being a member] in a working family dropped from 70 percent in 2007 to slightly more than 50 percent in 2010, and the share enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent. For people in families headed by someone with a high school education or less, the share in working families dropped by 16 percentage points to just more than half, and the share with employer coverage declined from 47 percent to 36 percent between 2007 and 2010. Families headed by people with a college degree experienced smaller declines in both employment and employer-sponsored insurance. Families at the edge of the labor force were most susceptible to losing health insurance because of long-term cost trends and were most likely to lose jobs during the recession.

Among working families, only those employed by small firms - fewer than 100 workers - experience a statistically significant decline between 2007 and 2010 in employer health coverage, from 51 percent to 45 percent. Decline in both the [employer] offer rate and the [employee] take-up rate contributed to the overall decline in coverage for workers in small firms.

It's also interesting to note that over 1/4 of workers with a high school degree don't take employer-sponsored health plans even if offered them, probably because the plans are too expensive for them (which means they are uninsured or on public assistance), or they are covered through another family member (spouse, parent, etc.).

So with fewer people getting their insurance through their job, it now falls to the government and the individuals to pay for health insurance, and this is where you get the squeeze. Wisconsin is a good example of how an individual worker can get hit from a lack of support in health insurance from both the employer and the government. If you take a look at the $91 million in approved Medicaid cuts that went through Joint Finance last week you'll see that over 40% of these savings come from large increases in BadgerCare Plus premiums for families that make between 133% and 200% of poverty. For example, a 3-person family making just over $30,000 would go from paying $27 amonth in premiums to $115 a month. That's a serious bite for a single-parent with 2 kids working full-time making $14.00 an hour, and DHS officials figure 7,500 Wisconsinites will simply drop out instead of making the payments. What happens to them? They might end up uninsured (and go to the emergency room for treatment), or the end up on the individual insurance market, where they'll be hard-pressed to get the affordable, comprehensive care they might need.

Related to that, another $20.8 million in DHS savings is from raising premiums in "transitional" Medical Assistance. The original DHS plan was to entirely cut off the single-parent, 2 kid families at $38,000 in income, but after the Obama Administration threatened to pull their side of the funding . (much like how they did to Rick Perry and Texas last week) , Dennis Smith and company backed off of that. So instead, they'll raise premiums for parents by as much as $200 a month (if you make $38K) and $450 a month (if you make $57K). Children seem to be exempted, but realistically some parents might choose a different family coverage if they have pay $200-$450 a month for health coverage, and DHS figures another 2,643 Wisconsinites will go off the Medicaid rolls as a result.

Now you put it together from the report on employer coverage mentioned above, and you see that both governments and employers are finding a logical place for savings is putting the stress onto the individual as a way to cut costs of operations. So my question is simple - why don't we admit that health insurance is a serious burden for individuals and businesses, and the increases in cost for insurance continue to go up, so why not have Medicare for all to cover these costs, take the burden off of the individual and business to pay these expenses? Any resulting tax increase would probably be less than the widely varying and increasing costs we have now, (in fact, Krugman offers another good takedown of GOP lies about health care policy, as he points out the estimated costs of Obamacare keep coming down) and there'd be a much wider base to spread the expense around. Seems simple and logical to me, and it would stop the crunch that millions of workers are getting caught in with less jobs, stagnant wages, and less employer health coverage.

Oh wait, that would cut into the profits for insurance corporations and drug companies, and they contribute too much to have their interests take a back seat to having government contribute to the general welfare and economic stability. Silly me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Get Bucky off of hate radio!

At last week's big rally in Madison, I carried a sign that included the following:

And a few people took notice. I particularly recall an older gentleman reading the sign, kind of nodding and saying "Never really thought about how that all tied together," and I replied "Yeah, even more interesting when you know Bain Capital runs Clear Channel, and Romney used to work at Bain Capital." At which point another person nearby disgustedly shook his head in agreement.

But make no mistake, while these stations specialize in right-wing hate radio during the weekdays, they set aside nights and weekends with other programming to lure others in. And most of the time, this "other programming" involves Wisconsin sports teams. Take a look at the Badger Sports Network affiliates, and notice that almost all of the stations in the picture also carry Bucky, and 1130 in Milwaukee carries Marquette instead of UW. This is a classic example of radio stations trying to have it both ways, by employing hate-radio hosts who constantly denigarate Madison and the UW as crazy liberals while getting a whole lot of listeners and advertising revenue from UW sports.

These hosts and stations also give overly favorable and unchallenged coverage to Governor Walker, who cut UW-Madison by $250 million and tried to set up a separate authority to run the university, while stacking that authority with his hack appointees. And then the Walker Administration hurt the UW even more when it targeted Bucky and the rest of the UW System for an abusurdly disproportionate amount of budget lapses, while keeping his buddies in areas like the Road Builders fat and happy.

So as I've asked before, why does UW Athletics continue to associate itself with a bunch of scumbags who want to destroy the university that allows Bucky to play sports in the first place? I've called for UW to get off of 620AM for the last 2 years because of the station's AM daytime hate lineup, and this seems more true than ever given that TMJ has carried Walker's water for the last several years while Walker and other Republicans have tried to mess up the UW. UW already has an agreement with WOKY 920 to broadcast games that TMJ bumps off of the station (including today's UW March Madness game? Unacceptable!)

I think UW has the upper hand in this equation, because it's well-known in the radio business that a main reason to get sports programming is to allow people to lazily stay with that station for its other dayparts. But the reverse is generally not true. Let's be honest, if Lucas and Le Pay are calling the game and you want to find it, you're going to get to the station that has it, and learn quickly where it is. That heavy UW sports listener is much less likely to care where Rush or Sykes or Belling or McKenna is, and won't end up tuning into their anti-UW poison by accident as a result.

This is why I think UW needs to use its leverage to pull itself off of stations that are intending to hurt the university. And there are a lot of easy ways to do so. In Milwaukee, why not go to 920 or some other station like 1250 full-time? Those stations would be more than willing to shell out the money to get the extra listeners, and it would allow the Badgers to be the priority they deserve to be in Milwaukee (and they most certainly are not on 620, as the Milwaukee pro sports teams all get preference over Bucky). And Badger fans wouldn't have to deal with bullshit like Sykes and Wagner promos interrupting their enjoyment of the game.

In Madison, the option is even easier, as they already have games on WIBA-FM, and Clear Channel does "backup" Badger games on their sports station of 1070. Why not just make 1070 the UW station (and Packer and Brewer station for that matter), and leave 1310 to the hate radio? Granted, it's still Clear Channel (which has its own set of issues given Limbaugh's hefty salary and pathetic act is a major weight around its neck), but it separates the UW from the screeching of McKenna and overall stupidity that 1310 has, and would increase audience share for 1070's other shows. Seems to be a win-win to me.

And Bucky should also go really hard after 1330 in Sheboygan and 550 in Wausau. There's just enough competition in those towns and areas that another AM station would salivate at becoming the new home of Badger sports, so why not tell them to turn off the hate, or their listeners will turn elsewhere to get Bucky? There should be a price to be paid for these stations allowing this unchallenged garbage on their stations, and pulling sports programming may be even more effective than hammering advertisers on these stations through boycotts and public exposure. (though by all means, do that too. The only way hate radio stops is when it becomes less profitable to have it than not to have it.)

C'mon Alvarez and the Athletic Department, you OWE this to the many alums and UW supporters that are tired of having our university get torn down on the very stations that are "the home of Badger athletics." Do your fans a favor and make these stations pay a price for taking UW for granted, because I'd argue that only the Packers have more pull and importance for Wisconsin sports on a statewide basis (though I admit the Brew Crew is close to UW). In addition, maybe these stations will learn to stop killing the best resource this state has- the high levels of education and quality of life that results in a big way from the contributions of UW-Madison and the rest of the UW System.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Walker's great train wreck

Well, today the Wisconsin GOP put the final touches on the wrecking of one type of Wisconsin transportation, as the Joint Finance Committee voted to walk away from the state's contract to make trains in Wisconsin. This was a project that previously would have been paid in large part through federal funds from President Obama's stimulus package, but the project was shifted to state taxpayers after the horrible, talk-radio-based decision Scott Walker made in the 2010 elections to stop the expansion of passenger rail from Milwaukee through Madison to the Twin Cities.

Well, this was the next domino to drop as a result of that Koch and WSOR-backed decision. If you read the LFB rundown of the train maintenance facility proposal, you can see how Walker's bad decision quickly FUBAR'ed into another.
At the time that the Talgo equipment was purchased in 2009 (their first cars should be ready to go in a few months), the Department [of Transportation] indicated that it was sometimes difficult to ensure that Amtrak would supply enough passenger cars in good working condition for the Hiawatha route (to Chicago). Owning the Talgo equipment would allow the state, instead of Amtrak, to control the supply and condition of passenger cars. If the Department's request is not approved and the Talgo equipment is not used to replace Amtrak equipment, the availability and condition of Amtrak equipment may continue to be an issue.

Also at the time of the purchase, the Department envisioned that the Talgo equipment could be used as part of the proposed Milwaukee to Madison extension and for possible future service extensions to the Twin Cities. Under such a scenario, the fixed costs associated with providing maintenance would have been spread over a larger number of passenger-miles than would be the case if the cars are only used on the Chicago to Milwaukee route. Consequently, limiting the use of the cars to the Chicago to Milwaukee route reduces their relative cost-effectiveness.

In other words, the Wisconsin DOT is now at the mercy of D.C.-based Amtrak when it comes to rail car maintenance and comfort, and given the way the D.C. Teabaggers are treat passenger rail, that means the quality and availability of Amtrak service could deteriorate further. This is especially distressing because the Hiawatha line is showing record ridership of nearly 2,250 rides a day and I-94 south of Milwaukee is going to be under construction for the next several years.

The second part is also key, as making the new rail cars for Milwaukee-Chicago only instead of Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities means that it is now much less financially worthwhile to have that facility. And sure enough, ALEC cabin boy Robin Vos noted that having the Talgo facility would cost an extra $10 million a year because of the larger cost-per-mile that resulted from having no high-speed rail extension, and therefore, it was now not worth it to try to build a new facility. Of course, Vos conveniently left out that a lot of the extra cost is due to more frequent maintenance work at the Talgo facility vs. Amtrak, giving the rail cars a longer, more productive life (and it's done in the private sector instead of gov't-supported Amtrak, Robin! I thought you ALEC boys were all about that). It also doesn't mention the extra tax revenues that would result from people working at a Talgo facility, and he never mentioned the increased time and cost to Wisconsin consumers that will result from extra driving and congestion, This is especially short-sighted when you realize we are moving into a time when $4 gas and reconstruction of Milwaukee-area freeways are looking to become the new normal, and having that alternative of rail travel is increasingly inviting and convenient.

So what happens now? Well, DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb (who wanted the facility to be built) says that the Talgo trains will now probably not be used, and will sit idle until some other DOT wants to buy them (productivity!). It also means that any jobs in the Menomonee Valley will soon be gone, and another part of Southeast Wisconsin won't get these manufacturing jobs, so that bit of job creation goes out the window. And as for Talgo? The LFB says
in the event of the failure to meet the terms of the maintenance agreement, the company would proceed under the dispute resolution terms of the agreement. Under that procedure, if informal negotiations fail to resolve the dispute, the a third-party expert is chosen to resolve the dispute. (In other words, it'll be hashed out in court, probably at signifcant state expense)
Another point to bring up is that the bond expenses that already went into engineering and study on the facility have to be paid back, probably through DOT funds, so we'll have to see even more money get shelled out for a project that now will yield NOTHING for Wisconsin rail passengers.

And lastly, what kind of reputation is the Wisconsin Legislature and DOT going to have now that it's gone back on its contract with Talgo. Yes, some of it was sketchy and possibly overpriced due to the exacting nature of what Jim Doyle and the DOT wanted, I'd agree with that assessment (but contrary to the J-S article, it was NOT a no-bid contract, but instead a situation where only Talgo responded to what the DOT wanted out of the rail cars. I know Sykes works for Journal Communications, but COME ON!). But that still in no way excuses Walker for his idiotic pose on stopping the train and turning down the money, precisely because it opened up a can of worms like this that compunds the error with every move.

If Scott Walker was any type of astute politican, he could have used the post-election time period to complain and say Doyle stuck him with the bill and that he wished he could do something but that Doyle "screwed" the state into having the rail line get built. And if he did that, Walker would now be in position to take credit for the new jobs created by the rail line, it'd be likely that Talgo would be building their facility in or near Milwaukee, and we'd be preparing for train service to come to Madison next year. Instead, he chose to gain talk-radio brownie points with the basement-dwelling 620 and 1130 crowds, and it will cost this state millions more than if he just his mouth and let the train happen, with fewer jobs created to boot. It has also given Wisconsin a bad reputation nationwide as a place that has a Legislature that doesn't think long-term or fulfill the terms of its contracts, so good luck having businesses get confidence in wanting to locate or do projects in this place as long as Walker and the WisGOPs are running the show.

So here's another Scott Walker decision that comes back to bite the state over time. And much Walker said to Tim Russell about the illegal campaigning that happened under Walker's watch in Milwaukee County, we can't afford to have any more screw-ups like this. Which is why we must end Walker's disastrous reign as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walker's Wisconsin still No. 1. For the last 12 months!

I was waiting for today's Bureau of Labor Statistics' report of unemployment by states, and it confirmed what I figured it might when last week's brutal 2011 revisions were revealed. Wisconsin is still Number 1 in America during the age of Fitzwalkerstan, and it ain't even close!

Biggest job losses Jan. 2011 - Jan. 2012
Wisconsin -12,500
Missouri -4,100
Miss'sippi -2,900
Alabama -1,900
Rhode Isl. -1,300

And the BLS also took notice, giving us a special place in the report.
The largest over-the-year percentage increase occured in North Dakota (+5.7 percent), followed by Texas and Utah (+2.5 percent each). The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.5 percent), followed by Alaska, Mississippi, and Rhode Island (-0.3 percent each).

Now, in Scott Walker's defense, we are up to 47th when it comes to private sector job growth (900 whole jobs!) in the last year, so let's not come down too rough on Governor Dropout (we beat Mississippi, Rhode Island and Alaska). But it certainly does mean we horribly lag our Midwestern neighbors, who have thrived during the Obama Recovery.

Midwest job growth, all jobs Jan. 2011 - Jan. 2012
Ohio +62,500
Mich +61.700
Ind. +38,700
Ill. +29,200
Minn +25,800
Iowa +9,200
Wis. -12,500

Midwest job growth, private sector Jan. 2011 - Jan. 2012
Mich +72,300
Ohio +69,200
Ind. +41,800
Ill. +40,100
Minn +33,200
Iowa +13,200
Wis. +900

Naturally, the Dems in Wisconsin jumped all over this new evidence of Walker's failures, with releases from Peter Barca and the DPW, among others. So what did Walker's folks do? Doubled down on the "it's working" theme, with more absurd spin from our buddy, DWD Secretary Reggie Newson. I'll take this release apart in pieces
Representative Barca needs to get beyond his shortsighted view and look at the picture, starting with the loss of nearly 150,000 jobs during the three years before Governor Walker took office. In 2011, Governor Walker and his partners in the Legislature took action to stabilize our state's economy and set the stage for job growth.
How convenient of Reg to mention the job losses in Wisconsin starting in 2008 without mentioning that the U.S. lost more than 7.5 million jobs in the same period. You think the Bush Depression/Wall Street meltdown might have had a little to do with the job losses in the state at the time? And it also conveniently forgets that the Wisconsin's economy actually stabilized in 2010, and grew by more than 50,000 private sector jobs in the 12 months before Scott Walker took over. Lies by omission are still lies, Reggie.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest point since 2008, and some 11,700 more Wisconsinites were employed year-over-year as of January 2012 according to the latest BLS data.
First of all, Reggie switches to the household survey that gives the unemployment rate, not the place-of-work report that gives non-farm payrolls. Very cynical, but nowhere near as cynical as crediting Walker policies with lowering the unemployment rate to 2008 levels. As I pointed out last week, more than half of the drop in the unemployment rate under Walker is because of 15,000 people leaving the Wisconsin work force, and has NOTHING to do with job growth. In fact, if Wisconsin had grown its labor force the same as Minnesota or Illinois last year, its unemployment would be barely changed at 7.6%, and if it grew like Indiana, we'd be up to 8.5%! So the 6.9% unemployment rate isn't a sign of Walker success as much as it is his failures in driving people into retirement and out of the state. Now, onto the last part of that paragraph.
The drop in our state's unemployment rate, the drop in new Unemployment Insurance claims, and the increase in state sales and withholding tax collections last year are all indicators of economic growth that bode well for our state.

More lies by omission. The drop in unemployment claims has little to do with Walker, and everything to do with the general growth in America, as the rest of the country is lowering UE claims as fast or faster than Wisconsin is, as the upward slope in red indicates.
As for the "increase in sales and withholding taxes," notice that Newson says last year , when revenues stayed somewhat steady, but ignores this year, which had drops in January income and corporate taxes that lowered revenues enough to convince the LFB to project a $208 million budget deficit.

So regardless of what Walker's DWD wants to say, there isn't another way to spin these numbers today. It further confirms the absolute failure of Walker's austerity and Robin-Hood-in-Reverse policies, and it has set Wisconsin well behind much of the rest of a national economy that seems to be picking up steam. And given that the seasonal adjustments that helped Walker's numbers in the last few months will be going away, and more people will enter the work force at some point, it's a good bet that Wisconsin might look even worse than the the Midwest and the rest of America by the time the recall elections roll around in 13 weeks.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Do Wisconsin newspapers need to be occupied?

I mentioned before how the pro-Walker nature of Wisconsin media is destructive in this ongoing debate and recall, but we saw a couple more flagrant examples of it in the last week, and it needs to be exposed and discussed.

First, The Wisconsin State Journal's Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza wrote a pathetic column blowing off the video showing Scott Walker lying to the Oshkosh papers before the 2010 election. I understand the State Journal is run by Lee Enterprises and went against 2/3 of Dane County voters by endorsing Walker in the 2010 election. But to say that showing the current Governor lying about the benchmark move that he was planning to do - he claims in the video that "you have to negotiate" changes, which Walker never did with the state or local public employees' union - is "underwhelming" is the mark of a newspaper that cynically wants the story to go away instead of performing real journalism. It's a pathetic, cynical copout by Barbour and Spicuzza to not compare Walker's words to his later actions and hold him accountable, and it shows that they value their paycheck more than doing a public service.

Of course, this leads to another question on that video. Why was Jud Lounsbury on Uppity Wisconsin the one to reveal this deception when the Oshkosh Northwestern did the interview 17 months ago? Where the hell was the Northwestern when Act 10 blew up and tens of thousands of us were protesting the bill around the Capitol? They had this tape in their possession where Walker says negotiation is a major part of working with public sector unions, and then Walker went back on that word? Did the Northwestern choose to bury the video because it was an inconvenient truth, and to whom? The editorial board also endorsed Walker over Barrett, and a non-cyncial reading of their endorsement shows that they were absolutely tricked into doing it.
A few cautionary points have emerged on the campaign trail as well. Walker's ultimate success as governor will depend greatly on his ability to work constructively with state employees. He must not fall into the trap of demonizing state employees. Additionally, steps that would undermine Wisconsin's burgeoning biotechnology industry would be a blow to an economic growth engine for the future.
Uh yeah, looks like you guys in Oshkosh missed on that one. Walker DID demonize state employees and has never stopped for the last 13 months. And how's that technology sector working out for us when Walker has cut the hell out of education and the UW System that is a main reason the state had a "burgeoning biotechnology industry?," and the state has lost 1,900 jobs in the "Professional, Scientific and Technical Services" sector of the economy over the last year. So why aren't you showing some pride and being PISSED at this, and why didn't you respond by releasing the tape and admitting you made a mistake by endorsing this bum? Was that an inconvenient truth to Walker, to your owners at Gannett, or to the corporations that pay for your ads? What media chooses not to report on is every bit as important as what they choose to report, and the State Journal and Oshkosh Northwestern's dismissal of a clear deception by the sitting governor is dereliction of their duty to the public.

(By the way, they weren't the only ones who have Walker pre-election interview where he lies about his plans to "drop the bomb", as Lounsbury is back again with a Wisconsin Eye video where Walker mentions negotiations and furloughs, but never mentions the removal of collective bargaining rights. Why is it bloggers like us that have to bring these things to light when "professional" media is pulling down a nice paycheck to allegedly find these things out?)

Now let's turn to the Walker-endorsing Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who pulled another of their classic cop-outs by saying it wasn't Walker's fault that Wisconsin's jobs picture is so bad. I'll let you read John Peterson's excellent takedown of that bullshit for a deeper look into it, but I'll add a couple of other notes to it.

First, the J-S claims the budget "is in balance." That is an absolute lie, as the J-S themselves covered last month's LFB memo which indicated Wisconsin had a $208 million deficit in the Walker budget due to low revenues and job growth, and there was a J-S editorial written by GOP Rep. Dale Kooyenga complaining about the state's $3 billion GAAP deficit. Does the J-S editorial staff read their own damn paper? Or is it because Journal Communications' CEO Steven Smith lets his fellow officers on the Board of Directors of the pro-Walker Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce write the editorials instead of J-S writers? Peterson also rightfully calls out this passage:
Politicians are always eager to offer simple solutions; voters sometimes are too eager to believe them. The real reasons elude such mushy thinking. Whatever is the matter with Wisconsin - if, indeed, anything is - has a whole lot more to do with business conditions here and elsewhere than it does with the actions of any single politician.
Except that any breakdown of the last 12 months would tell you that Wisconsin has fallen backward while the rest of the country's job growth has picked up, and that we have the worst economy in the Midwest since Walker's budget was signed. So the "business conditions" are unique in Wisconsin, and few places have had the radical changes in funding of public services and worker rights that Wisconsin has. So yes, we should be correlating it to a single politician (Scott Walker) and a party (the GOP) that backed these devisive measures. And you know who agreed with that sentiment? The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board when it endorsed Walker in 2010. In their endorsement, the J-S gives a ridiculous theory that Walker wasn't responsible for any part of Milwaukee County's "persisting dysfunction" and that he had somehow put the County on the rght track when the same newspaper reported 2 weeks prior to the editorial that the County was on the brink of bankruptcy after 8 years of Walker. But also check out these couple of passages from the bilge they spewed to back up the MMAC's and WMC's boy.
Scott Walker has said repeatedly during his campaign for governor that he will develop strategies to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.

It's a big promise - one that has been derided by his critics. But for the sake of Wisconsin, Walker had better be right....

There can be no more kicking the can down the Wisconsin road. If there is one thing Walker has shown in his tenure as county executive, it is an abiding intolerance for the failures of business as usual.
But now that Walker's failing on an historic level when compared to the rest of the nation on jobs, and now that our budget deficit still persists and in fact will expand in later years due to excessive borrowing in 2011 and 2012, Walker somehow shouldn't be held to account for it. GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK. You know, J-S, 90% of this state isn't stupid enough to listen to your company's right-wing propaganda on WTMJ, and unlike the listeners of 620, it's insulting to us when you think we'll forget what you said in the past. And you wonder why I haven't paid a cent for that newspaper in over a year, and the same for the WSJ?

When you see developments in the last week where the State Journal, Oshkosh Northwestern and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel clearly cover up for Scott Walker despite having mounds of evidence that counteract the Governor's claims, how can you not question who's calling the shots? It doesn't seem like the reporters are doing it to me, it looks like the corporate bosses and advertisers that's telling the paper what to say...and more importantly, what not to say. It angers me that I and many others across the Cheddarsphere feel we have to constantly publish on sites like this in order to get truth and reality out, because the MSM refuses to do their job. And unfortunately, a lot of people still believe the corporate media has legitimacy in Wisconsin, when a lot of them are nothing more than moutpieces for the WMC and other oligarch organizations that couldn't give a shit about the average Wisconsinite.

It tells me that not only do we have to step up the strength and volume of our work here and in other blogs over the next 3 months, but we also need to be actively drawing attention to the corporate puppetry that has taken over the editorial boards in many of our state's largest and most influential newspapers. In addition to occupying banks, I think we might have to start occupying Journal Communications and 1901 Fish Hatch in Madison, to let these people know that we're onto them, and we will make them pay if they assist in allowing this destructive administration to keep perpetuating this fraud on the Wisconsin that we care for a lot more than Scott Walker and Friends ever will. Either they shape up and start telling the truth, or we'll take them out every bit as much as we're going to take out Walker and his enablers at WisGOP over the next 8 months.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some weather, eh?

Can't argue with 62 degrees and sunny for Selection Sunday, nor am I going to complain about what things have been like all winter up here, as temperatures have been well above normal, with little snow and very little extreme cold. Wisconsin's had its 3rd warmest winter on record, and as NOAA tells us, we're hardly alone.

It's also led me to think that it's helped some of the economy as well, and I haven't been the only one speculating this. And while this might be the Spring Fever or some other goofiness going on, I'm going to do something unusual and lead you to a Fox Business report that asks if the good Winter weather is helping things along?

The report brings up some things that me and others have hit on as well. James Hamilton at Econbrowser backs up Shapiro's Fox Business report on how car sales have grown in the usual down months of January and February, as the weather isn't cold enough to make people stay off the car lots. In fact, 2012 saw an all-time record number of domestic cars sold in February, even above the pre-recession figures in 2006 and 2007.

U.S. domestic car sales, 2006-2012. (click for better picture)

And here's more backup for Shapiro's reference to the killer February retail sales, up 6.5% vs. the cold, snowy February we had last year.

And the comment about how the warmer winter is lowering seasonal layoffs is certainly backed up in the U.S. jobs figure\s. Check out these three seasonally-variable sectors in the last 2 U.S. jobs reports.

Jan. -281,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +21,000 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. -41,000 non-seasonal adjusted = -13,000 seasonal-adjusted

Jan. -62,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +52,000 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. +22,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +31,000 seasonal-adjusted

Food service and drinking places
Jan. -213,400 non-seasonal adjusted = +30,500 seasonal-adjusted
Feb. +96,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +40,800 seasonal-adjusted

Same goes for Wisconsin in last week's January jobs report, as I alluded to when it came out.

Wis. Construction
Jan. -8,100 non-seasonal adjusted = +4,200 seasonal-adjusted

Wis. Manufacturing
Jan. -1,000 non-seasonal adjusted = +3,700 seasonal-adjusted

Wis. Accomodation/ Food service
Jan. -5,400 non-seasonal adjusted = +2,400 seasonal-adjusted

That's about 2/3 of the 15,700 private sector jobs "created" in January in Wisconsin- it's not hiring, it's fewer layoffs than in a typical January. So the real question becomes this: Were there fewer layoffs because businesses see growth coming, or was this just more work due to a warm winter, and March and April will have job "losses" because the Spring hire-backs already happened?

So while I'm very happy to see the U.S. having these booming job numbers the last few months, and certainly the Obama Recovery has some legitimacy, we and the Walker folks both need to keep our optimism in check, as we could be seeing some "moderation" in growth over the next few months as the warm winter's boost wears itself out as the mini-stimulus that it is.

But I ain't gonna bitch about it right now. In fact, I think I'll get myself out today and much of the rest of the week to take full advantage. I think the Memorial Union Terrace is calling me for a visit or 2 or 3.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Scott Walker = Tom Crean, pt. Deux

Bucky 79, IU 71, bringing Bo Ryan's record vs. Tom Crean to 14-2. And no, you cannot hope to stop Rob Wilson when he's feeling it, though hge might be slowed down if Tan Tommy even made an adjustment to guard him. :P

And just as I said last year Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean like reality and Madtown own Scott Walker. The only thing that's changed here is point 7, given that Crean's job is safe (because of one lucky year), and given that Scotty just announced a legal defense fund during a Friday afternoon news dump, he's in a lot more danger of losing his job than he was a year ago.

Get your ass to the Capitol tomorrow, and announce your presence with authority! See you there (at least until I see Bucky take it to MSU later that afternoon).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

January's "great" jobs report - actually not so great (Part 2)

I wanted to give the disastrous 2011 revisions its own post and not clutter it with the January 2012 report info as well. So here are my thoughts on that.

Sure enough, the Journal-Sentinel runs with the headline numbers of an increase of 15,700 private sector jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 6.9%, while conveniently ignoring the brutal downward revisions that would have turned January's totals into a job LOSS. But this is not surprising given that they're in bed with Walker and the MMAC, and I think they are starting to recognize the blowback, as Craig Gilbert gave a more evenhanded type of article later today, while still giving the GOP equal time for their one-month uptick.

But let's check out the numbers, as there are definite positives and negatives in them. On the household survey, previous-year revisions show that Wisconsin actually dropped as much as the U.S. unemployment rate did in the last 12 months, from 7.7% to 6.9% (a drop of 0.8%). So at first glance, Walker has broken even, and allowed Wisconsin to keep pace with the Obama Recovery. But the reasons behind the drops are different.

If you look at the U.S. unemployment numbers (a separate survey from the payrolls survey I usually mention) you'll see that that measure shows a jobs increase of more than 2.3 million since January 2011 (1.66%), while Wisconsin's is a paltry 11,700 (0.41%). So how is Wisconsin dropping unemployment by the same rate? Because the survey indicates that 15,000 people have dropped out of the Wisconsin work force. This could be because of the huge increase in retirements for teachers and other public sector employees, who took off to avoid dealing with damage from Walker's policies, as well as people giving up looking for work, or leaving the state entirely.

This becomes even more stark when you separate "out of the work force" for the reasons behind the drop in the unemployment rates for both the U.S. and Wisconsin. How I'm going to do this is to use the January 2011 "labor force" figure, and then compare it to the Jan 2011 and Jan 2012 "employed" figures

Unemployment drops, Jan 2011- Jan 2012
Wisconsin Jan 2011 7.71%, Jan 2012 6.88% (-0.83%). -0.38% due to employment, -0.43% due to out of the work force.

U.S. Jan 2011 9.08%, Jan 2012 8.26% (-0.82%). -1.50% due to employment, +0.68% due to out of the work force.

And there's your difference. While the U.S. labor force has expanded by 1.3 million, limiting the drop in the unemployment rate nationwide, Wisconsin has lost people, and it makes the unemployment rate seem better than it really is. If we had those 15,000 back in the work force, we'd be at 7.3%. If our labor force grew like the rest of America's, we'd be at 8.0%! So why are Reggie Newson and Scott Walker bragging so much about Wisconsin's low unemployment rate? The biggest reason it's grown is because they've driven people away!

Also, I took a look at the non-farm payrolls number in the other survey, and on a seasonally-adjusted basis, it's pretty impressive. 12,500 jobs created overall, and 15,700 in the private sector. Even better, 4,200 of the gains were in Construction and another 3,700 in Manufacturing, in line with the nationwide increase of 21,000 in Construction and 50,000 in Manufacturing.

But that doesn't mean more people were actually working in Wiscosin in January. In fact, the DWD report's NON-seasonal adjustment shows that 62,000 jobs were lost in January, and 46,400 in the private sector. But then how can there be a disaparity with the seasonally-adjusted jobs? Simple, in Janaury you have lots of retail jobs cut people after the Holidays, a new calendar year means changes and cuts in local governments (with their new fiscal year) and cold weather usually means less outdoor work and need for related types of manufacturing. It's the flip side of the Summertime seasonal adjustment, when we get a lot more jobs due to construction and tourism, and we have to adjust it down to give a real idea if we're growing or falling behind.

This definitely held for a number of sectors in Wisconsin in January

1-month seasonally adjusted change vs. non-seasonal change, January 2012

Construction +4,200 seasonal, -8,100 actual
Manufacturing +3,700 seasonal, -1,000 actual
Retail trade +2,200 seasonal, -13,800 actual
Hotel/food serv. +2,400 seasonal, -5,400 actual
Local government +800 seasonal, -6,500 actual

You can see where this makes a big difference. It also explains why there was a massive drop in government jobs in August, as that's when school districts often hire new teachers for the year. Given that many retirements were not replaced, this is where you saw the difference (also explains why August got revised down and Sept. up in those sectors, the non-hirings were moved to August on further review).

So it's really a case of "we didn't lose as many jobs as we usually did" in January as opposed to real job growth caused by hiring. And that explains how January revenues were down nearly 2% vs. last year in a huge job-growth month. The revenues were so low and the job market so bad in previous months that it convinced the LFB to project a $208 million Walker budget shortfall due to the low revenues.

Obviously, the right-wing lie machine won't give you this level of analysis and reality on the January jobs numbers, as they'll stick to the top-line numbers and try to convince you that it's finally starting to turn around for Scott Walker in Wisconsin. It's not, and we won't really know until the Summer to see if we're making any progress in the 53,000-job deficit that Walker has put us in, as the seasonal adjustments and depatures from the work force will stop skewing the numbers above what they should be. And even then, much more of the growth would be due to the Obama recovery (watch for another 200,000 jobs to be announced in tomorrow's Feb. jobs report).

So now you know the real story. Will you use it to counter the cynical bullshit the righties are going to try to pull? You'd better, because the media won't have the brains or the guts to do so.