Monday, April 30, 2012

Double quotable for Milwaukee

Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman on Gov. Walker's big press conference claiming $100 million in loans available to "Transform Milwaukee"
“It’s totally phony. WHEDA already does all of those things. If they really want to do something (for Milwaukee) they should restore the transit cuts, restore the education cuts, restore the cuts to shared revenue and stop running Talgo out of town, which is doing business in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Just put us back to where we were before. Leave us alone. Then we would be happy.”
And Bauman is no buddy of Tom Barrett's by any stretch of the imagination. I hear what you're saying, Bobby. I hear you.

And speaking of transforming Milwaukee? Remember when Milwaukee was one of the most competitive airports in the U.S. for price and flights for a city of its size. Not anymore, and Frontier's cutting of direct flights to 6 places and its layoff of 125 employees is the next shot to the gut of Mitchell Field.
The move will bring to about 36 the number of employees the airline will have at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, said Lindsey Carpenter, a Frontier spokeswoman. The airline has other employees here who are part of Milwaukee-based flight crews that fly out of other cities, she said.

The only direct flights Frontier will continue to fly out of Milwaukee will be to Denver, Orlando, Washington, D.C. and Rhinelander, Carpenter confirmed. Non-stop service will be cut to New York LaGuardia, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Omaha and Pittsburgh, she said.

The regional jets that were used on many of those routes will be put into service in other markets where there are "better options" for partner agreements, Carpenter said.
Huh, you mean when Scott Walker allowed of AirTran to expand their share at Mitchell Field in exchange for "sponsoring" his campaign trip bike ride throughout Wisconsin has after-effects that hurt Milwuakee flyers long-term? Who'd a thunk it?

Oh wait, I did. And as an extra bonus, you get to see Walkergate criminal Tim Russell in his previous gig, rocking an AirTran jacket.

Say this about our economic performance- it's consistent

Wanted to follow up on last week's report of the Philly Fed's read on how the states' economies are doing, which showed Wisconsin trailing every state in the Midwest and the U.S. economy as a whole over the last 3 months, and put it together with Friday's Leading Index report, which measures the next 6 months. You'll find that the trend looks quite familiar.

Yep, Wisconsin's the standout in the Midwest again, as the only state in the light green with all the other states predicted to grow twice as fast as Wisconsin for the next 6 months. The report says Wisconsin's economy is slated to remain tepid, with only 1.14% growth projected between now and September, below the U.S. rate of 1.71%, and nearly cut in half from the amounts that the Walker Administration was bragging about 6 weeks ago. In fact, when you put the leading index numbers together with what's happened in the 14 months of the Walker Administration, Wisconsin's will fall even further behind our neighbors in the coming months.

Projected total growth, Jan 2011- Sept. 2012
Mich 9.11%
Ohio 8.92%
Ind. 7.53%
Ill. 6.61%
Iowa 5.88%
Minn 5.44%
U.S. 5.16%
Wis. 1.75%

And none of the nearly $9 million of out-of-state money sent to Scott Walker in the last 4 months changes that reality (h/t One Wisconsin Now for the map). Walker's economic failure has already set this state back a far ways from our neighbors, and if it isn't ended now, the damage will become too much to make up.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Milwaukee's property woes go directly to Walker

In recent weeks, Wisconsin cities, villages and towns have been releasing their property assessment figures, and most of the news hasn't been good if you're looking to sell your house. Milwaukee area home values tanked in 2011, with the average home assessment down over 13% in the City and median home sales prices also down 7.2% in Ozaukee County and 5.6% in Waukesha County. In the City of Madison, the average home value went down more than 3 percent, and median home sales prices were down 6.4% statewide.

Well why did this happen? The first obvious answer is Scott Walker's budget and Act 10 measures helped lead to Wisconsin having the most job losses in the U.S. by far. Certainly that plays a big role, but there are other reasons as well, particularly when you look at Milwaukee's situation.

Walker's budget singled out the City of Milwaukee for damage. Walker cut state shared revenue to the City of Milwaukee by more than $10.3 million in 2011, and cut street aids to Milwaukee by over $2.5 million. Walker also cut $6.8 million out of the Milwaukee County Transit System, and then reduced the ability to offset these cuts by limiting the ability of the City to raise that revenue with strict limits on property taxes (only allowing increases in tax levies if a community did sprawl-related new construction- a hard task in a city where most parcels are already developed). Remember, the City of Milwaukee by law cannot raise a sales tax or income tax, meaning it has to turn to state aids and property taxes as two of its main source of revenues, so Walker was intentionally harming the city with these moves.

Walker then compounded those cuts further by exempting the largest group of Milwaukee City employees from having to be subject to Act 10 concession - police and fire department employees. In addition to this being a politically-motivated decision based entirely on those groups endorsing Walker in the 2010 Governor's race against Tom Barrett, it also negated Walker's claim that using Act 10's "tools" would make up for these cuts in shared revenue. As Barrett accurately pointed out in as Act 10 was being debated Act 10 "pits general City of Milwaukee employees against the police and fire unions," because it was the general employees that would have to shoulder ALL cuts if police and fire were not paying their share of the sacrifice. And Barrett was proven correct that it was a major Act 10 flaw, as the judge that struck down part of the law last month said:
The fact that none of the public employee unions falling into the general category endorsed Walker in the 2010 election and that all of the unions that endorsed Walker fall within the public safety category certainly suggests that unions representing general employees have different viewpoints than those of the unions representing public safety employees. Moreover, Supreme Court jurisprudence and the evidence of record strongly suggests that the exemption of those unions from Act 10’s prohibition on automatic dues deductions enhances the ability of unions representing public safety employees to continue to support this Governor and his party.
So Walker's policies tied the hands of Mayor Barrett in trying to deal these cuts, but it wasn't just city services that were put on the chopping block by Walker's budget. Milwaukee Public Schools were cut by $47 million for this school year, and only $8.5 million was restored to MPS for next year. Not surprisingly, MPS can't keep up services for its 79,000+ students with that kind of a cut, and they recently announced plans to shutter 6 buildings and cut 400 positions overall, including 234 teaching positions. MPS' budget is independent of the City of Milwaukee's, which made the Walker's campaigns attempts to blame Barrett for MPS' closings all the more ridiculous, as Barrett couldn't do anything about it if he wanted to. It also shows that Walker is unfit for office if he doesn't understand this difference, or that his campaign cynically thinks the voters are too stupid to know the difference. Either is a recallable offense in itself.

Barrett points out in the Journal-Sentinel article on declining home values that the City of Milwaukee continues to have large numbers of foreclosures, and City Assessor Mary Reavey, Alderman Michael Murphy and Greater Milwaukee Realtors head Mike Ruzicka concur.
Ruzicka, Reavey and Ald. Michael Murphy, chairman of the Common Council's Finance & Personnel Committee, agreed with Barrett about the impact of foreclosures on residential values.

As of February, banks owned 1,634 foreclosed properties, the city owned another 727, and 6,066 more were in the foreclosure process, city figures show.

"People don't realize the foreclosure crisis is not just a one-time event," Murphy said. "It continues to drag on."
And not surprisingly, foreclosures lead to the values of occupied homes to drop, because the competition for similar homes comes cheaper (sorry, Rick Santelli, it's true). So an obvious answer to boost up property values is to reduce the amount of foreclosures by giving aid to people to keep them in their homes, if possible.

Except that Walker and Attorney General J-B Van Hollen made that a lot tougher a couple of months ago when they stole $25 million intended to go to foreclosure mitigation, and instead used it to reduce the Walker-induced budget deficit. So with nothing to stop the run on foreclosures, property values continued to drop in Milwaukee.

Between the cuts to schools, city aids, transit and foreclosure aid, Scott Walker has chosen to remove tens of millions of dollars from the City of Milwaukee's economy that could have helped turn things around in the state's largest economic engine. And despite what Walker's campaign tries to say, there was very few options Tom Barrett had that could limit the damage in the face of these moves - in fact, I'd argue that Barrett deserves credit for limiting property tax increases and keeping services afloat in the last 2 years in the face of these headwinds. Keep it in mind when you start seeing ads complaining about Tom Barrett's record in Milwaukee, and trying to pawn off the city's dropping property values onto Barrett instead of the true culprit in the decline- Scott Walker's anti-Milwaukee policies.

And it's not just in Milwaukee where people are seeing the damage, as all throughout our state, property values are falling and tax rates rising as a result of the pro-corporate, anti-services Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Somehow, I'm thinking most people don't appreciate that the $20 they may have saved in property taxes also came with a drop of thousands of dollars in their home. And unless you step up on June 5, that cycle of lower home values and lower jobs is not going to break.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Drafting a few notes and heading south

Getting ready to head out and watch the NFL draft the best way I know how. Drinking with friends in a bar and ripping the picks. I'm just looking for the Pack to get some kind of defensive impact guy, either a rush end to help Claymaker, or even a good safety to replace Nick Collins (Charlie Peprah and what they have now isn't going to cut it in the 2012 NFL). Also intersted in seeing if Konz or Zeitler (or both) go somewhere tonight, or if it's tomorrow.

Then it's off to the road to St. Louis for family items this weekend, and maybe see if the Brewers can get themselves on track and make up some ground, so that means a lot less blogging for the next 3 days. With my luck, that means John Doe breaks (or the Philly Fed survey shows Wisconsin goes into the red for the next 6 months), but I'll be back by the end of the weekend, so all 5 of you who regularly read can get your latest installment of "As Fitzwalkerstan Turns and Burns."

See ya on the other side, everybody.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wisconsin was better off under Jim Doyle

And three economic items released in the last few days prove it.

First, let's go over today's release of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, who just released a county-by-county look at income growth in the U.S. for 2010, which was the final year of Doyle's tenure as Wisconsin governor. You'll notice than Wisconsin is covered in quite a bit of blue, which shows counties with income growth above the national average of 3.7% for 2010. (click on the picture if you want it bigger)

This is also borne out when you compare Wisconsin with our Midwestern counterparts and the U.S. as a whole. As you'll see, Wisconsin outpaced the U.S., and all but 1 of our Midwestern neighbors.

Income growth, 2010
Minn. 4.45%
Wis 3.80%
U.S. 3.67%
Mich 3.25%
Iowa 3.10%
Ohio 2.96%
Ill. 2.79%
Ind. 2.47%

Then you compare those good numbers in 2010 with the fact that Wisconsin was DEAD LAST IN THE U.S. in income growth between October and December 2011. That's quite a step backward, and strike 1 for Walker's policies.

Also today, the Journal-Sentinel had a story on a report released by the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty
showing that Wisconsin's strong safety nets actually reduced poverty during the Great Recession year of 2009.
Given the substantial loss of market income in Wisconsin, the latest findings of the 2010 Wisconsin Poverty Project are quite surprising. When we estimate poverty using our alternative poverty measure, the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM), we find that state poverty actually dropped between 2009 and 2010, from 11.1 percent to 10.3 percent.

Behind this surprising story is the impact of tax-related provisions and near-cash benefits from programs that government officials augmented to offset increased economic hardship due to the recession. The official poverty measure considers only pre-tax cash income as a resource, failing to fully capture the effects of national and local government efforts to stimulate the economy and ease economic adversity caused by the recession.

To provide poverty estimates that more accurately account for the needs and resources of Wisconsin families while taking into account the antipoverty impact of policies, researchers at the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have developed the WPM, now in its third year. The WPM considers not only cash resources, but also tax credits and noncash benefits, as well as work-related costs that reduce available resources, like child care and health care costs, in determining poverty status.

...In last year’s annual Wisconsin Poverty Report, we found essentially no change in poverty between 2008 and 2009 under the WPM, primarily because the drop in families’ earnings and cash income was offset by tax credits and food assistance benefits, which saw substantial increases in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In this fourth annual Wisconsin Poverty Report, we reveal that not only did tax credits continue to play a large role in fighting poverty in 2010, but also, nutrition assistance benefits became more effective during that year; this resulted in an unexpected drop in the number of individuals and families living in poverty in 2010.
That's right, the big increases in food stamp-type assistance and tax credits caused by Obama's stimulus, as well as improved child care and medical subsidies by Doyle-backed programs like Badger Care helped to keep many Wisconsinites from hitting the IRP's defined poverty line from 2008-2010. Compare that to Walker cutting stabilizers like Badger Care while reducing tax credits on poverty-reducing programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Homestead Credit. When combined with the state's status as Number 1 in the nation in job loss, it is clear that Wisconsin's poverty rate under the IRP's measure is going to go up under Walker, and not by a little. So strike 2.

The last stat I want to hit on is this week's release of the Philly Fed's coincident index, which measures the last 3 months of economic growth for all states. And if you cast your eyes to the Midwest, guess which state stands out for lower growth the 1st quarter of 2012. U RAH RAH WIS-CON-SIN!

But let's back up and show you how we got here over the last 4 years.

As this first graph will show, Wisconsin's economy didn't collapse nearly as badly as places like Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and (especially) Michigan from the onset of the recession at the start of 2008, and I think Doyle and Wisconsin deserve some credit for having enough economic stability to keep the state from imploding like other places. Then notice what happened in the last 14 months of Doyle's administration- Wisconsin (marked in red in these graphs) grew at a rate faster than the U.S., and faster than half of our neighbors (Also note the ones who grew faster were the ones who fell further in 2008 and 2009, so I'll take that trade).

And using the last 14 months of Doyle is intentional because we also have 14 months of data since Scott Walker took over. Now compare where Wisconsin sits under Scotty...right in the cellar, and not by a little.

We've barely grown at all while the rest of the Midwest and the country has taken off. Wisconsin's growth has slammed to a halt, from 3.24% in 14 months under Doyle to 0.60% under Walker, while U.S. growth has gotten faster (2.48% vs. 3.39%).

The clear impact of Scott Walker policies on stopping Wisconsin's growth in a time of an expanding economy everywhere else is a big-time strike 3. And that means HE HAS TO BE OUT.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pro-Walker Realtors spin warm weather into hot housing

The Wisconsin Association of Realtors released their March numbers today, which showed what improving numbers for Wisconsin's sick housing market. Among them included the first year-over-year increase in median home sales prices since Scott Walker was elected governor in November 2010, and a 25.6% increase in new sales compared to February. And March certainly showed good numbers, especially when it completed the highest number of sales for the Jan-March quarter since 2007.

The Realtors are a pro-sprawl group that has given heavily to Walker, and Walker personally thanked the Realtors last month at a signing for wetlands de-regulation. The Realtors continue this trend of backing the Governor by trying to give Walker some kind of credit for the better home numbers in March, claming "an improving state jobs market is helping home sales," and using Walker's talking points about job growth in January and February. (I notice they ignored mentioning the 4,500 job losses in March) March's increase isn't part of a long-term trend, unfortunately, as median home sales prices are still down 2.0% for the year compared to 2011, and down 11.1% from this time 2 years ago (as home buying credits ran out). In fact, Wisconsin home prices have been declining for the better part of the last 5 years, and they've steadily dropped since Walker took office in 2011.
Wisconsin median home sales price, 2007-2012

The price increase in March isn't even that impressive compared to other parts of the nation, as the national figures show that Midwest median home sales prices went up 5.2% vs. 2011 compared to Wisconsin's 0.4%, and the U.S. as a whole had prices up 2.5% compared to last March. And when you look at the chart in Wisconsin, you can see a reason why. Prices traditionally rise throughout the Spring and peak in Summer, as families and others are more likely to look for homes in those years, as the weather is better and school gets out of session in the Summer. Well given that Wisconsin was among numerous states with a record-warm March. With that in mind, it wouldn't be surprising that March home values would go up accordingly, as that March weather felt a lot more like May.

By the same note, the sales numbers for March are nice, but those also rise with the temperature, and the 4,816 sales are still below what Wisconsin gets for a typical May. And they're still nowhere near where we were before the Great Recession started to sink in around the start of 2008. (the chart may be a bit messy, and it's skewed by the tax credits from mid-2009 to early 2010, but I think you can get the idea)
Wisconsin # of home sales by month, 2007-2012

Wisconsin's sales are up an impressive 25.0% year-over-year, but the rest of the Midwest has also benefitted from the strong weather, with total sales up 13.9% year-over-year. And given that this April has seen temperatures fall back toward normal (tell me about it, it's cutting into my Terrace Time), let's see if the improved March numbers are merely sales from later in Spring that got pulled forward due to the historic heat. Let's check back to see if April's sales numbers stay at the level that we saw in March, or even fall to the 4,300+ from April 2011. If it stays above that, and if home prices rebound toward 2010 levels, then we might be able to say Wisconsin housing is on the rebound. But it's ridiculous to say so based on this one month. So if I was the Realtors, I wouldn't exactly break out the party hats quite yet, and I wouldn't take the March sales report as any kind of major positive for their boy Scotty.

And when the typical Wisconsinite trying to sell a house has seen that home lose between $12,000 to $15,000 in value over the last 2 years, I'm thinking that Walker's bragging about saving people a handful of dollars in property taxes falls a little flat, don't you? In fact, given the drop in home values, most Wisconsinites are paying a higher tax rate (which is a tax increase in everywhere but property taxes, apparently), and they're seeing their wealth go down. That's not exactly the combination you want if you're trying to claim that cutting worker salaries and aid to schools and communities is "working."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rewarding who kiss ass and hurting who does legit work- Fitzwalkerstan 2012!

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Oshkosh Northwestern last Thursday. It is relayed here for you to enjoy.
An Open Letter to Governor Walker,

I have received your letter requesting funds for your recall election effort. Sadly, I am an employee of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. About a year or so ago my wages were cut due to increases in my health insurance premium. Since becoming an employee of the UW System in 1999, five percent of my pay has been withheld and automatically applied to the WRS fund for my retirement. However, around the same time as my insurance premiums nearly tripled, an additional five percent of my pay was taken from me and applied to the WRS fund. Mind you, my pay was not increased to replace what had previously been negotiated out of state employee paychecks and I now find myself taking home less in 2012 than I did in 2007.

With the prices of gas, milk, cereal and other things continually increasing, but my take-home pay continually decreasing, I simply do not have any money to contribute to your campaign coffers. However, I did notice that according to the 2011-2013 Compensation Plan, the Office of Governor received a pay increase. Please consider the portion of my state income tax that was applied to your pay increase as my contribution to your re-election effort.

Daniel M. Hoyt

But the Guv's Office isn't the only highly-connected, taxpayer-funded gig getting a raise. Looks like over 200 others will get "merit raises" of over $765,000. And one certain group seems to have gotten the bulk of the raises.
The state Department of Justice, which couldn't find enough money to fully fund services for sexual assault victims last year, was the biggest spender, giving out nearly $300,000 to 94 workers.

Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar, who defended Walker's collective bargaining law in an open meetings challenge and has handled the state's defense of Republican redistricting legislation, got a $1,000 bonus and a $1.50-an-hour raise in March, bumping her salary by more than $3,000 to $104,730.

Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John, who defended the collective bargaining law in front of the state Supreme Court, got a $2.51-an-hour raise in March that adds up to more than $5,000 per year and brings his pay to $134,307.

Thirty-seven DNA analysts, meanwhile, got raises worth $158,000.

The Justice Department handed out raises even after it warned budget cuts had forced it to reduce grants from its Sexual Assault Victim Services program by 42.5 percent. Walker later reduced those cuts amid an outcry from service providers.

DOJ Executive Assistant Steve Means defended the awards, saying the money came from not filling positions and the agency can't shift money from salaries to cover other expenses. Raises and bonuses are crucial to retaining star performers like Lazar and St. John, he added.

"If people understood why we're doing what we're doing, I don't think they'd be concerned about it. It's a good use of limited resources," Means said. "If Kevin St. John were to announce today he wanted to go work in private practice, he'd have at least a half-dozen law firms on the phone in 10 minutes offering him twice as much as he makes here."
And by "leaving for the private sector", Means is describing events like Ray Taffora leaving DOJ after Walker's election to take part in a high 6-figure no-bid contract from Michael, Best and Friedrich in exchange for helping the Walker boys to draft Act 10. It seems like the biggest reason Michael Best alum St. John grabbed a bonus was for deciding to represent the Republican party and Guv's office in the Act 10 suit brought before the Supreme Court. Oh, and I'm sure he and fellow DOJ appointees turning down requests for help on the Walker-related John Doe case didn't hurt his cause either.

At least we now know what gets you paid as a state employee in Walker World - kissing the right ass and saying the right lines. Guys like Daniel Hoyt showing up for work every day? That's such a quaint and old-fashioned way, and it sure isn't going to help you move up the salary ladder.

As I said over a year ago, this is the predictable outcome of turning 37 positions from the Wisconsin civil service into appointed jobs. It leads to rampant cronyism, and rewards for doing what's in the best interests of the Governor and his lackeys. Whether that's the same as being best for the state of Wisconsin is irrelevant (and with this guy, it usually isn't). Despite being paid by the people, it's clear that in Walker World your accountability isn't to the people, but it's to the elected and appointed hacks above you, and the agenda they want to drive.

These conflicts are why civil service and public sector unions were created in the first place- to guarantee independence and ethics in government work and maintain accountability to the real bosses that pay your salary- the taxpayers. And accountability to the people and independence in decision-making is the LAST thing the Walker folks want. Just like Walker's "cousin" George Walker Bush had it in D.C. ("doing a heckuva job, Brownie!") So Daniel Hoyt loses his bargaining rights and loses his take-home pay, while suckups like Kevin St. John and Maria Lazar get bonuses for backing questionable laws that have driven down the standard of living and respect of government for a large amount of Wisconsinites. All in the name of acting more like a profit-driven corporation.

Oh wait, kissing the right ass and doing things with questionable ethics IS what gets you rewarded in the corporate sector. Maybe the Walker folks aren't that far off in their thinking after all. Of course, our corporate sector is an inequality-growing failure that funnels money toward an idle few at the top with screwed-up priorities and makes our economy woefully inefficient. But since that seems to be the goal of this administration to screw up government and the people's trust in an institution that is supposed to stand up for the people that fund it, maybe this is another step closer to "Mission Accomplished"!

Walker can run from Education Cuts, but he Can't Hide

The Walker folks keep flailing and trying to tell people things are proceeding just fine in Wisconsin schools, despite the $1.6 billion in cuts in state aid over the next 2 years and a lack of property tax flexibility to soften the blow. Well, the Department of Public Instruction put a nice piece of reality to cut up that lie, showing that 1,446 teaching positions and over 2,300 FTE staff were eliminated for this school year. And while Walkergate immunity flack Cullen Werwie tried to blow off the losses by saying they were concentrated in 3 large districts that have not had Act 10 take place (Milwaukee, Janesville and Kenosha), Chris Walker at Political Heat blew that bullshit out of the water by showing that the districts that used Act 10's "tools" also had their teacher losses double for this year.

Among those school districts that lost jobs is a place the Walker folks constantly try to tout as the best example of how the "tools" were working in reducing staff layoffs - the Kaukauna Area School District. Kaukauna's own self-reported data shows that they cut 16 FTE teachers and 8 FTE of support staff for this year, even with the tools. Hate to say I told you so 9 months ago, but I did tell you so.

In fact, the number of districts reducing teaching jobs went up by 20% for this year, with 311 of the state's 424 districts cutting teachers (73%). Also, it's not like 2011-2012 was the first year that Wisconsin was cutting teaching jobs. Take a look at the last 9 years and the reductions that have taken place, and it makes you realize how foolhardy Walker's argument of "teachers haven't suffered losses like the private sector" really is, as teaching jobs were cut by more than 1,800 in the 8 years under Jim Doyle.

Under this context, you see how hazardous it is to make these cuts on top of what had already happened in the past. And outside of a blip in 2004-05 (which may be a data error, according to DPI), public school enrollment hasn't declined all that much in the same time period, only falling 0.4% in the last 6 years that had been recorded (the Blue Book has good info on public and private school enrollment through 2011 if you want it).

This isn't bringing up the obvious adverse selection problem that Walker's cuts in take-home pay and available jobs is causing for the teaching profession. If you're educated and tough enough to want to be a teacher, you also have the ability to take a lot of other jobs, depending on the opportunity. This is the real long-term damage that keeping this disastrous Administration on for one more day past June 5 would be- fewer and fewer highly-qualified people will choose to enter the teaching field, and fewer and fewer people are likely to stay in the field.

I know how this works, because I was one of those teachers from 2003-2005, and I decided to further my education and move back to Madison (my pay was raised by 50% for doing so after getting my Master's 3 years later, by the way). How many others will choose the same path if Walker's cuts are allowed to stand and be built upon? As you can see above, the cumulative effect is even more damaging than any one-year loss, which is why we have to END THE AGE OF FITZWALKERSTAN now. If we don't Walker's huge damage to public education will become a FUBAR situation that turns this state into a Confederate place with low wages, low education levels, and zero hope of attracting people with talent that enjoy a high quality of life.

Oh wait, that IS the Walker/Koch/ALEC goal. Maybe that's why they keep saying "It's working". Because what they want to see work when it comes to Wisconsin's public education isn't what most of us in the real Wisconsin want.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How Walker kept Wisconsin jobs behind, in pictures

I'm following up from yesterday's post on how the Walker jobs deficit continues to grow by corresponding it with the BLS's statewide unemployment/ jobs figures. Those figures show that not only did Wisconsin lead the nation in job losses the last 12 months, but they did so by more than 20,000 losses over the next state. Heckuva job there, Scotty.

But let's get some historical reference to how badly this state has gone backward in this 15-month Reign of Error. First of all, let's think about where we were leading up to 2011. The Great Recession hammered everybody, including Wisconsin's Midwestern counterparts, and Wisconsin had severe job losses at the start of 2009. But after the Dems and Jim Doyle signed a "tax-hiking, job-killing" budget in June 2009, you see those job losses level off and end within a few months, and Wisconsin largely matched the nation's job growth after that budget was signed. By the time Scott Walker took over, Wisconsin had gained back about 1% of the 3.5% of jobs it had lost since the start of 2009.

Jobs, Wisconsin vs. Midwest, U.S., Jan 2009-Jan 2011
(Jan 2009=100)

Much like the rest of the U.S., job growth slowly but surely improved in Wisconsin in 2010, and Scotty figured he had to fix that. And fix it he did. Watch what happens once Act 10 gets passed in March 2011, and especially after Walker's budget becomes law in July 2011, and then compare that with the steady job growth in the U.S. (noted in blue)

Jobs, Wisconsin vs. Midwest, U.S., Jan 2011-March 2012
(Jan 2011=100)

That's right, not only has Wisconsin lost jobs since Scott Walker took the oath of office in January 2011, Wisconsin massively trails all of its Midwestern partners and has missed out in the Obama Recovery. Also take a gander at Ohio's results, as they were losing jobs under John Kasich most of 2011, until you get to Fall. Well what happened around that time? Ohioans rejected Kasich's union-bashing SB5 at the polls, and restored collective bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of workers. Hmm, so much for the theory that reinstalling bargaining rights will destroy jobs- it seems to have brought it back, along with business confidence in Ohio. Think the same could happen here? Wouldn't you like to find out?

It's one thing for the state to lose jobs when everyone else is losing them, like it did under Jim Doyle, it's wholly another to lose them when the rest of the nation and your Midwestern partners are recovering, which is what we have under Scott Walker. Here's a percentage list to give you a better idea of the level of underperformance in Wisconsin since the Age of Fitzwalkerstan started.

Change in jobs, Jan 2011- March 2012
U.S. +1.81%
Mich +1.65%
Minn +1.57%
Ohio +1.43%
Ind. +1.37%
Iowa +1.04%
Ill. +0.84%
Wis. -0.52%

Wisconsin trails our closest neighbor (Illinois) in job growth by 1.36%, or the equivalent of more than 37,000 jobs over the last 15 months. So why the hell was Scott Walker addressing the oligarchs at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and giving pointers on how Illinois "could benefit from taking actions like Wisconsin?" All evidence indicates that Walker's Way is exactly what you DON'T want to do in order to grow jobs, and businessmen are always yabbering about how they're all about performance, so you'd think the bottom line would matter most to these guys (yeah, right, it's all about the pose and the power with those fuckheads).

Oh wait, they were actually applauding Walker for destroying Wisconsin home values so much that they can buy vacation land for a lot cheaper up North. And our shitty performance under Walker makes Illinois a lot more attractive by comparison. Now I get it.

Anyway, isnt getting advice from Scott Walker on how to balance budgets and create jobs is like getting a speech from Don Morton on how to grow a winning football program? After all, isn't Scott Walker's policies the equivalent of the veer offense, and about as successful in the big-time? So it's time to make the same call Pat Richter made 23 years ago, realize we are better than this crap, kick this second-class loser to the curb and get some real leadership and performance into Madison.

Friday, April 20, 2012

March may have been hot, but Wisc jobs sure were not

Just a quick start on this before I have to get my weekend off to a start, but in light of yesterday's bad March employment report in Wisconsin, where 4,300 private sector jobs were lost and 4,500 overall, looks like I need to update my charts.

First off, here's the private sector chart, which started falling off once Walker's budget was passed in June, and is more than 55,500 jobs behind where we'd be if we were creating jobs at the same steady pace as the rest of the U.S.

Private sector jobs, Wis vs. U.S., 2011-2012

And now here's the overall number, which is down nearly 24,000 jobs since the passing of Act 10 in March 2011, and putting the Walker jobs gap at nearly 64,000 vs. the rest of the nation.

All jobs, Wisconsin vs, U.S., 2011-2012

Anyone who says it's working has to be a making a very sick joke. Unless the goal is disaster capitalism and 3rd World status. Given this crew, I wouldn't doubt if that IS the goal.

Unless we stop it in 46 days, that is. And we have to.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wisconsin's economic turnaround only exists in Walker propaganda

Not sure why I missed this in recent weeks, but we have more examples that Governor Walker's attempted theme of "Wisconsin's economy is turning around" is yet another Walker lie.

It's not like we haven't pointed this out in the past few weeks, but I missed another fresh piece of evidence that came out 2 weeks ago- the Philly Fed survey for February. Walker tried to take credit for growth in the January survey, while conveniently leaving out that Wisconsin's was growing at a slower rate than the rest of the Midwest and the U.S. as a whole. And at first glance, it looks like Wisconsin has solid growth in line with the rest of the U.S.

Except that isn't true. Wisconsin barely qualifies for that light green, as they are now exepcted to grow only 1.51 percent in the next 6 months, mmuch lower than the 2.40 percent the Philly Fed projected in January. It also means that Wisconsin is looking at growth that is less than half the rate in the U.S., and the worst growth rate in the Midwest.

Philly Fed forecast growth, Feb. - Aug. 2012
Ind. 3.89%
U.S. 3.25%
Ill. 3.16%
Ohio 2.72%
Mich 2.03%
Minn 1.89%
Iowa 1.87%
Wis. 1.51%

And it's not like we're coming down from robust activity in recent months. The coincident index reflecting Walker's claims of better growth months of December, January, February makes Wisconsin seem pretty sickly and pale compared to the rest of the nation.

Philly Fed coincident index, U.S. and bottom 5 states Dec.2011-Feb.2012
U.S. +1.55%
Haw. +0.51%
Wis. +0.49%
Mass +0.45%
N.Mex +0.27%
Nev. +0.17%

Woo-hoo! We're number 47! Hey, given that we were worst in the lower 48 for the 3 months before that, I suppose you could call that improvement. As long as you still call it unacceptable, of course.

And hey, look! There's another jobs report for Wisconsin out tomorrow. We'll see if the record heat meant a one-time bump in jobs, although the mediocre nationwide report might keep things under wraps a bit. Just to remind you, the Walker jobs gap sat at 58,700 in Feburary, and we need to create another 2,500 just to keep from falling behind further in March. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poll part Deux- Don't let media tell you Walker's up

Now I want to go back to the PPP poll and look at the Governor's race, because that poll also produced a surprising result, with Walker holding leads between 5 and 12 points above all Dem challengers. Now, some of this reflects the fact that the Dem primary has yet to be settled and one candidate hasn't emerged as the choice (any candidate's numbers should go up after that happens), but I want to re-examine those suspicious demos and see how much of an effect they have.

Ther are a number of fishy responses in these crosstabs (voters under 30 will vote for WALKER by double digits when they vote Dem by 20 points in many polls? Women vote Dem +15-20 nationwide but only Dem +6 against the guy who just repealed the ability to get damages in workplace sex discrimination cases? 95-97% of Republicans will vote for Walker? CMON!), but let's go into a few typical ones.

Demographics of April PPP poll
Dem 31
GOP 32
"Independent" 37

Liberal 18
Moderate 43
Conservative 38

Obama voter 50
McCain 41
Didn't vote 9

However, we know that these numbers fly in the face of who actually should be expected vote, whether we're using the example of the 2011 recall election polls or the 2010 exit poll, both of whom were pretty bang-on with their numbers. For statewide races, we'll use the 2010 exit poll, and go from there.

We know that the liberal number went up 3 and the conservative number was down 2 in 2010. It also had a Dem +1 ID and a much smaller Independent figure, so let's do that as well.

PPP poll with 2010 exit poll demos-Party ID
Walker-Barrett- 50-46 Walker
Walker- Falk- 51-45 Walker
Walker-Vinehout- 50-39 Walker
Walker-La Follette- 51-41 Walker

PPP poll with 2010 exit poll demos- ideology
Walker-Barrett- 48-46 Walker
Walker- Falk- 48-45 Walker
Walker-Vinehout- 48-39 Walker
Walker-La Follette- 49-41 Walker

Little closer, isn't it? Walker can't even get to 50% in this case. You'll also notice that poll respondents said they voted for Obama 51-40, while the actual result was 56-42 Obama. Well let's just say we get a turnout that looks more like 2008, and I'll drop the margin a couple of points down to 12 to reflect a bit of churn (and I'm giving the GOP a break, because given how old the average GOP is, it's probably more likely that their 2008 voters will be the ones who are DEAD). So let's go with 55-43 Obama, as we assume those who didn't vote might split their votes (the PPP poll says they'll vote 3 to 1 for Walker. Given that a lot of 2010 non-voters or Green Party voters were part of the protests, I find that extremely doubtful)

PPP poll with 55-43 Obama sample
Walker-Barrett- 47-46 Walker
Walker- Falk- 47-45 Walker
Walker-Vinehout- 48-39 Walker
Walker-La Follette- 48-40 Walker

Now it's basically a toss-up with the 2 front-runners, and single digits with Vinehout and La Follette. Puts a little different look on it, doesn't it?

What gets me angry about polls like this is that the media blindly run with the results without looking how those results show up. So they portray some agenda as "Walker's winning" that the casual bystander might catch onto, and it'll encourage or discourage that voter into casting a vote, helping the candidate that is ahead in the poll. This certainly happened in 2010, as evidence by low Dem turnout leading to the disaster we know as Fitzwalkerstan.

The flip side is that when a poll with more legitimate cross-sections comes out, it'll be perceived as having the gap close (or reverse if one or more Dems go ahead). And then the media will start to pressure Walker into trying to "stem the tide". The bottom line is not to get too down with a poll like this, because inside the numbers, it's pretty clear that the poll is GOP-skewed garbage.

But it also shows the opportunity, and the way this race will be decided. If Dems and progressives navel-gaze and complain that everything isn't going their way, then we have a good chance of getting stuck with Scott Walker for 2 1/2 more years. The tightie righties might be fired up to take to the polls, and PPP seems to give them that credit, but they expect us to be a bunch of moody bitches and give up. But PPP is wrong, because we ARE taking this shit back. PPP shouldn't dare underestimate what we'll do, or how hard we'll work, and they'd better start changing their poll demos to reflect the fact that we aren't going lay back and allow Walker and the WisGOPs to hurt us any more.

If we stay engaged, bring the fire that many of us had in 2008, had at the Capitol in 2011, and that we still have and are ready to go with, we turn that fire into action. That translates into GETTING OUT AND VOTING ON MAY 8 AND JUNE 5, and getting your friends and family engaged and voting as well. We do that, we make history and blow that bastard out of office. I think it sounds like a plan.

Wisc poll says only GOPs and Indys will vote in Senate recalls. They're wrong

Saw that PPP released another poll this week on the Wisconsin recall races, and unlike 6 weeks ago, the numbers weren't all that encouraging. This poll had Scott Walker up 5 on Tom Barrett, 7 on Kathleen Falk, and double digits on Kathleen Vinehout and Doug La Follette. The Senate numbers showed all 4 Dem candidates behind, albeit with one race at 2 points and with both candidates under 50%. This could be seen as even more worrysome because PPP nailed the Wisconsin Senate recall elections last Summer.

So what happened? Did a whole lot of people just change their mind and decide "it's working?" Uhhh, no. Let's let PPP explain it themselves.
The biggest change is probably that this was our first time using a likely voter screen, We found with almost all of the recall elections last summer that the electorate just wasn't as Democratic as 2008, even if people were at least more excited about the recalls than they were about the 2010 elections. Gov. Scott Walker gains a few points as a result of that.

In other words, they consciously changed who they were polling, and it shows in the demographic numbers at the bottom of the page.

Demographics of April PPP poll
Dem 31
GOP 32
"Independent" 37

Liberal 18
Moderate 43
Conservative 38

Obama voter 50
McCain 41
Didn't vote 9

Let's go back to the 2010 CBS exit poll in Wisconsin, and remember that voting population in a GOP-slanted year- 21 liberal, 43 moderate, 36 conservative, and 37 Dem, 36 GOP, 28 Indy. Then remember that Obama carried Wisconsin 56-42 in 2008. So PPP's screen indicates that many of the Obama voters in 2008 won't show up here, and the voters taking their place will be more likely to be GOP or independent (and remember, a sizable amount of "Independents" are Tea Baggers, who are nothing more than Republicans in disguise).

However, when you look at PPP's success in 2011, the theory that a lot of Obama voters leave the scene isn't true. Let's use Craig Gilbert's excellent article using Wisconsin Senate districts and the 2008 and 2010 vote, then compare to PPP demographics in their accurate polls in the 6 GOP senate elections that took place last August.

voting by Senate districts, 2008, 2010, PPP poll 2011
District 2- Obama +6, Walker +16, 2011- McCain +3, Walker +10
District 8- Obama +4, Walker +9, 2011- Obama +0, Walker +3
District 10- Obama +2, Walker +18, 2011- McCain +2, Walker +12
District 14- Obama +5, Walker +16, 2011- McCain +2, Walker +7
District 18- Obama +4, Walker +16, 2011- McCain +3, Walker +8
District 32- Obama +23, Walker +1, 2011- Obama +14, Barrett +2

Looking at the data, looks like the dropoff is generally the same for both Walker and Obama voters (the La Crosse-area District 32 is the exception, as Obama's dropoff is 9 vs. Walker's 3). So let's run the same test with PPP's 2012 polls on the 4 GOP Senate recalls. The one slight difference is that the poll asks who the person would favor in a recall guv election, Walker or Barrett.

voting by Senate districts, 2008, 2010, PPP poll 2012
District 13- McCain +3, Walker +26, 2012- McCain +4, Walker +19
District 21- Obama +12, Walker +8, 2012- Obama +0, Walker +7
District 23- Obama +12, Walker +13, 2012- Obama +4, Walker +15
District 29- Obama +9, Walker +16, 2012- McCain +2, Walker +23

All of a sudden Scott Walker gets more support in District 23 (Eau Claire) and Distirct 29 (Wausau) than he did when he was less known in the 2010 elections? In districts that are heavily unionized and with a huge UW campus in District 23? And in districts where the recall threshhold was easily reached? BULLSHIT. Between that and the double-digit drop-offs for Obama in District 21 (Racine) and District 29, you know that poll sample is slanted badly for the GOP, except for the Fitzgerald-Compas race in District 13, which if anything favors Lori. Not surprsingly, that race is 54-40, which is a bit big but within striking distance, and an 12 point shift that would be a huge help for Walker's Dem opponent.

So let's make this change be reflective of what really happened in the 2011 recall elections, and the results might look more like this. Then I'll divide the differences by 2 to show what the shift in the overall numbers might be.

District 13- McCain +10, Walker +19 (shift from poll GOP +3)
District 21- Obama +4, Walker +0 (shift from poll Dem +7.5)
District 23- Obama +4, Walker +7 (shift from poll Dem +4)
District 29- Obama +2, Walker +9 (shift from poll Walker +9)

So let's now use the adjusted Obama and Walker figures, and we can try to create a hybrid that might give us a better idea.

District 13- Fitz +17 (GOP)
District 21- Lehman +5.5 (Dem)
District 23- Moulton +6 (GOP)
District 29- Petrowski +5

Looks a whole lot closer now, doesn't it? And after all of the GOP and Walker moves against women, including the limiting of damages from the Equal Pay Law, does anyone not think this will shift further Dem as the election gets closer? Of course it will.

The last thing I want to bring up on this poll is another comment from PPP's Tom Jensen, whose Senate polls have samples that are consistently 75% GOP and INdependent outside of District 21.
One thing we saw in all these state senate polls is a much more GOP-friendly electorate than 2008. That suggests to me that Democratic voters are suffering from recall fatigue— this has been going on for so long and we are now so far removed from the protests in early 2011 that the passion Democratic voters have for coming out and removing these folks from office just isn't what it was a year ago. It's possible those folks could be reenergized by the campaign over the next couple months but right now Democratic interest in these elections isn't what it needs to be.

Sounds like someone's not out on the ground. Because if you don't think we're not going to be blasting full-force by June 5 and our determination to blow Scott Walker and the GOP Legislature out of power has flagged, you aren't talking to anyone that's actually here in Wisconsin. After gathering over 900,000 signatures and being this close to making history, we'll be damned if we'll fizzle out, not turn out to vote, sit back and let this thuggish gang continue wrecking the state we love. Hell no.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Great moments in J-S false equivalence

Great catch by Man MKE at Uppity Wisconsin, who catches the Journal-Sentinel trying to portray yesterday's Koch-funded Tea Party rally as being as big as the anti-Walker rally last month. The Journal-Sentinel article claims "several thousand" attended Saturday's rally, but this picture seems to indicate differently.

Now, compare that with another rally attended by "several thousand"- the anti-Walker rally last month in the same place. With similar sunny weather.

And that's the street level- where the Bagger rally couldn't even reach. Interestingly, the J-S isn't carrying a wide-angle "up top" picture like that on the Tea Party rally. Makes you wonder why, eh?

Oh, but the J-S will continue that the recall movement and the Tea Party movement are equally intense and worthy of coverage, just like they did last year when the Baggers were outnumbered 20 to 1 at their own rally. Suuuuure they're equal. The J-S just keeps getting themselves closer to being Occupied with this act.

Hey Baggers, your work ethic IS being redistributed

As infuriating and stupid as I think Tea Partiers are, one thing that riles me up in particular is a Bagger bumper sticker that says "Redistribute my work ethic." The implication is along the lines of "I work hard, so why is the government giving funds to others that don't (allegedly) work as hard as I do? My taxes should be lower as a result" And I can see where that frustration comes from, because people are working harder than ever and getting less back from it. But I got a tip for these guys, because they're on the right track, but it ain't the government that's taking money out of your pocket and sending it to others.

A good example of this is the one major economic stat that seems to be getting kept out of what I've been calling the Obama Recovery, and that's wage and income growth. This week illustrated this troubling trend, as the BLS reported that real (inflation-adjusted) hourly earnings dropped by 0.1% in March and weekly earnings went down 0.4%. In addition, real hourly earnings are now down 0.6% compared to this time last year, and the only reason weekly earnings are flat is that the average work week has gone up a bit (granted, that's a good thing, as it shows more people are being hired full-time).

And those numbers continue the trend we've seen in the last 3 years, where real earnings were stagnant or declined.

Real hourly earnings, all non-farm workers 2009-2011
2008 vs. 2009- -1.0%
2009 vs. 2010- +0.3%
2010 vs. 2011- -0.9%

And if you're on the lower end of the wage and education, this is no real surprise to you, because if you don't have a college degree, you really don't make any more money than you would have a generation ago. (as usual, click the page to see a larger picture)

Real wages and education, 1979-2009

And it's not like people have been stagnant when it comes to getting the job done, as you may recall this graph showing where productivity is way up in that time, while incomes for both the private and public sector have barely creeped up.
Productivity vs. wages, 1989-2010

So you're working smarter and faster, but chances are that you haven't been paid much for it. Unless you're a 1%-er. In that case, you've gotten big returns since 1979, well above those in the top 20%, let alone those who aren't lucky enough to be upper-middle class or above. And remember that this graph hasn't been updated to show the negative real incomes for those of us on Main Street since the start of the Great Recession at the end of 2007.

Oh, and the top marginal income tax rate in 1979? 70 percent. Since then, it's been:

1981-82- 50 percent (Reagan)
1987- 38 percent
1988- 28/33 percent (Reagan-Bush I)
1991- 31.9 percent
1993- 40.8 percent- (Clinton, minus Medicare tax)
2001-2003- 40.3 percent- 36.1 percent (Bush II, minus Medicare tax)

Not coincidentally, the capital gains tax rates (which are paid on legalized gambling like the stock market and real estate) have also gone down

1978- 39%
1979- 28%
1981- 23.7% (Reagan)
1982- 20%
1987- 28%
1988- 28/33 percent (Reagan-Bush I)
1991- 31.9 percent
1993- 29.2 percent (Clinton)
1997- 21.2 percent
2003- 16.1 percent (Bush II, divdends too)

(you can check the history of top and bottom tax rates here, it's good stuff).

Anyone else sense a coincidence here? As you drop the highest income tax rates and capital gains taxes, these funds are confiscated by rich and corporate interests for themselves, as the "penalty" for hoarding incomes and profits is less, and there is less incentive for them to hire and pay workers (or work themselves) when they can just throw the money in some risky investment and get taxed less if their gamble pays off. And this trend has been going on for over 30 years.

So it's no surprise that working and middle-class people would be upset that they feel they're seeing no benefit to the hard work they put in, as there is a group that is stealing money that the workers helped make - the idle rich and the corporates who take all the benefits, without putting in all the work that we do. And those culprits keep the cycle going by paying off the politicians to keep the tax code and government policies in their favor, and they buy and pay off the media to keep them from bringing this reality to the attention of the average everyday worker.

See, if our media and our politicians did their job of being responsive and informational to the public, we might have a real Tea Party, where people would be rightfully protesting the redistribution of their work ethic. But if they did, this time they'd be recognizing the reality that the redistribution is going to the rich, corporate and well-connected, and they wouldn't need the Koch Brothers and talk-show hosts to sponsor the fake outrage, because it would be the real thing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I hired her to work while I campaigned, she did campaign work for me, but it's a pure coincidence!

That is what you have to believe if you believe Scott Walker has nothing to do with the criminal charges that Kelly Rindfleisch is facing as part of the John Doe investigation, and two developments this week prove it.

The first is the release of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Open Records request to Milwaukee County, which shows that Scott Walker signed off on accused Walkergate criminal Kelly Rindfleisch's appointment in January 2010, and promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff 2 months later (and making a tidy $58,000 a year). And a County Executive or Mayor is the one who is responsible for the staffing his or her office, it is a different and more direct hiring method than lower-levels positions, which are usually funneled through the DOA office and approved that way. This means Rindfleisch was WALKER's PICK FOR THE JOB.

Now combine that with Rindfleisch's motion this week to again ask that her trial be moved from Milwaukee County (where she allegedly broke the law by campaigning on the taxpayer's dime) to Columbia County (where she has a home in Columbus). If you look at Pages 8 and 9, this passage proves mighty interesting:
...Rindfleisch acknowledges staying at a friend's home in Milwaukee County a few night a week while she was employed by the County,[the home of former Walker Chief of Staff Jim Villa] but she asserts that at all times relevant to these proceedings, her permanent residence was her home in the City of Columbus, in Columbia County, Wisconsin. Specifically, Rinsfleisch averred that she purchased a home in Columbus, Wisconsin in 2001, that she still owns that home and, but for seasonal clothing and a few personal items, she left her possessions in that home when she traveled to Milwaukee County for work....

Rindfleisch futher stated in her affidavit that she has never owned property in Milwaukee, registered to vote in Milwaukee County, resided in Milwaukee County for more than a few days at a time or intended to establish a permanent domicile or residence in Milwaukee County. She stated that she has always intended to return to her home in Columbia County.

That second part is the real smoking gun. If she was hired at the start of 2010 to work in Milwaukee County, but never intended to work there full-time and planned to go back to Columbia County, why would she take the job? The answer is obvious: SHE WAS DOING WORK FOR THE 2010 ELECTIONS, and would get some state staffer job after the election was over.

And how do we know this? Because Kelly Rindfleisch admits it herself in the evidence against her! Straight from Rindfleisch's criminal complaint, Pages 3-6:
(Rindfleisch is Internet chatting with a friend, I've cleaned up the language and line breaks to give a clearer view of what is said)
Friend: do you have a residency requirement?
Rindfleisch: yep, I live on the corner of 93rd and Greenfield, you actually get six months to move, which in this case, if he (meaning Scott Walker) wins, it wouldn't matter
Friend: dude, did you sell your house?
Rindfleisch: no, it's my friend villa's house
Friend: nice
Rindfleisch: I stay 2 nights a week, hence having Michaela take care of the beasts
Friend: so when he wins, you can just live in Columbus
Rindfleisch: yep

(later on, Rindfleisch is chatting with another friend)
Friend: Who do you work with?
Rindfelsich: tim russell
Friend: What are your policy areas
Rindfleisch: fran, I don't have specific policy areas, I do projects tim gives me
Friend: what's your title?
Rindfleisch: policy advisor
Friend: that's fancy
Rindfleisch: but I don't need fancy
Friend: I wish you didn't work for I can't talk to you about campaign stuff online
Rindfleisch: I'm on my laptop, separate system
Friend: oh...not shit, so it's cool?
Rindfleisch: yah
Friend:are you going to be helping out the campaign too?
Rindfleisch: really, half of what I'm doing is policy for the campaign, its policy stuff but its for use over there
So Rindfleisch just admitted in her court filing that these statements are true, and that she only took the Milwaukee County job as a campaign position for the election season. Put this together with then-County Exec Walker being the sole person signing off on Rindfleisch's hiring and promotion, and you see that Scott Walker brought Kelly Rindfleisch on as a campaign worker, but paid her out of the County Executive's Office, in clear violation of state law.

And lastly, let's not forget that Rindfleisch admits in the chats that she does projects for Tim Russell and has the separate laptop and computer system. And what did Scott Walker do on the night the Darlene Wink resignation happened, and the Walkergate web was starting to be revealed? He sent Tim Russell (who Rindfleisch was doing projects for on the separate laptop and wireless system, remember) the following message:
We cannot afford another story like this one. No one can give them any reason to fo another story. That means no latops, no websites no time away during the work day, etc.
As Garry Trudeau put it during another scumbag GOP's scandal nearly 40 years ago:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thoughts from tonight's Dem forum

Just got back from the Dem forum at the Madison Concourse. The place was packed beyond capacity and the Dane Dems should have been smart enough to hold it at somewhere like the Wisconsin Union Theatre or the Orpheum or somewhere bigger, but it shows the intensity and interest that's still out there. I highly recommend checking one out if you get a chance.

Quick thoughts on the candidates:

Tom Barrett- If this Tom Barrett had run in 2010, he'd be governor today and we wouldn't have this mess. He rightfully attacked Walker on Scotty's inability to not get things done because Walker would rather pose and be ideological instead of getting results. He's gonna be coming out swinging if he's the nominee and he clearly backed collective bargaining rights being restored with the smart political move of calling a special session. He had a great personal story about how his wife got laid off in MPS cutbacks due to Walker's budget, and how it hurt to see how the teaching profession was being attacked by WisGOP and their allies.

Quick disclosure on Barrett: I worked for Tom in a past life, and I really like the guy as someone to work for, but this edge and forceful approach on Walker is something that he generally did not show either as Mayor or as a candidate for Guv, and it probably cost him in 2010. I think this primary is making him a better candidate, and it makes you think that the Dems dropped the ball by shoving people out of Barrett's way in 2010, because it didn't toughen him up and didn't allow him to be introduced to enough Wisconsinites before the election.

Kathleen Vinehout: It is hard not to like her. She's firey, she's very wonky at times (as evidenced by her excellent blog work at Uppity Wisconsin.), and is awesome at getting down into the details of how government works and how to make it better. I can see why she has a passionate following (the Vinehout supporters are pretty evident at most of these forums, they're the ones in orange enthusiastically giving you stuff on her), and I would love to see her mop the floor with Walker in a debate.

She also seems to legitimately have fun at these kinds of things, laughing along at others' points, and when she gets going, she is hard to slow down. Don't be surprised if she does well on election night, and if we had instant runoff voting, I'd bet she'd finish second on everyone's ballot if they didn't vote for her.

Doug La Follette: An old-school politician who has excellent ideals on good government and working together. It's a lot of things that we have lost in the last 25 years in this state in clean government, and is his very understated kind of way, La Follette has core beliefs in the Wisconsin Way that are endearing. Not exactly the most photogenic guy in the world, but I can see him being a real asset on the stump with people who know the Walker Way of pay-to-play isn't proper, and it's clear that everyone respects him. Can't see him winning (or even finishing 3rd), but his real boost will come in May and late June when he helps the winner.

Kathleen Falk: Another disclaimer, I generally don't like her, as I've always found her kinda scheming and somewhat self-absorbed. However, the competence and results she had when Dane County Executive are indisputable. And when she concentrates on those items, and how we can restore Wisconsin, she's very good. She can even loosen up and be somewhat personable in the right circumstances (she was greeting some people on the way in and it didn't come off as fake or forced, very unlike the stone-faced ice queen she's often portrayed as), and in quite a few times, I could see why people could get behind her.

But then they had the inevitable question on "How would you restore collective bargaining if you didn't have an all-Dem Legislature?" And Falk blew it even more than she did when she announced the stupid union-suckup pledge to veto the budget if it did not include collective bargaining rights. Falk explained that the GOP-led Legislature wouldn't take up collective bargaining after she was elected anyway, so it wasn't worth it to try. This reasoning was dumb because it is 1. Defeatist (it assumes it won't work) and 2. Doesn't put pressure on the GOP to make a statement before the November elections. Especially if Walker gets blasted out by 8-10 points (very possible if things are run right), you know every GOP will be running scared, and you know it'll be a Dem Senate with 18-20 votes in it.

The second part of Falk's answer on the veto pledge was equally non-sensical. She says that the Legislature has to pass a budget by law and that it allows her to neogtiate from a position of strength by saying what she will do and will not accept. Actually, saying what you will do is often a sign of weakness in negotiation, especially when Teabaggers in the Legislature could just sit on their hands and do nothing, which keeps the disastrous Walker budget in power, AND keeps bargaining rights from happening. Don't doubt that it could be the GOP strategy in that scenario, and a Governor Falk would catch some of the blame for "not compromising" (not my thoughts, but the "both sides" media would certainly portray it that way) and focusing on one issue instead of the whole budget.

Barrett (and to an extent Vinehout) got the answer right- You call a special session for July, and you put the pressure on the GOP to allow bargaining rights. You know there's a lot of first-term GOP Assembly members that'll be feeling the footsteps of the public, especially if Walker gets his ass kicked on June 5, and maybe Jeff Fitzgerald will try to hold up a bill through the GOP primary in late August, but after he gets blown out in that (and he will), a whole lot GOP legislators might be willing to tell Little Fitz to fuck himself instead of fucking them over in the next election. If nothing else, going special session would be a great political move coming right around the time a lot of schools and municipalities will be discussing budgets, and if the GOP continues to bow to ALEC instead of Wisconsinites, they'll be a minority party in this state for quite a while, redistricting or no redistricting.

I'm not making an endorsement, at least not yet (though I can think you can tell who I like and who I won't vote for). But it was also very telling that Dane County Dem chair Mike Basford made a call for all supporters to come together after the primary on May 8 to defeat Walker, and he was met with a rousing ovation from the crowd. We may disagree on our candidates, but unlike what Sly, the AFSCME people and the Journal-Senintel are trying to portray, there is no major split going on in the Dem party (just a few loudmouths), and we will unite behind whoever wins this primary. And any of these 4 will be a major improvement over what we have now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

U.S. weather well above average in March. Jobs? Meh

I wanted to follow up with something I examined earlier, which looked at the incredibly warm winter and whether it was changing some economic stats. I certainly thought it had a minor effect on Wisconsin home sales and jobs through February, as seasonal layoffs were lessened and home sales were slightly up. However, February's warmth was nothing compared to March, which broke records in nearly half of the states in the U.S., and included new records for EVERY Midwestern state (marked by the bright red state and the "118").

Wisconsin was especially warm in March, even among all the states setting records. Look at this chart showing Green Bay's average temperature from Jan 1 to March 31. Needless to say, the Tundra wasn't exactly frozen before March 1, and then month number 3 blew everything away, even among the previous records.

So you'd think that might speed up Springtime hiring in jobs such as landscaping and construction and even retail food and beverage outlets (if they had an outdoor area- I guarantee you the Union Terrace a UW-Madison set a March record). However, you take a look at the March employment report that dropped on Friday, that didn't seem to be the case. The media concentrated on the lower-than-expected 120,000 jobs created for March, which by itself isn't that big of a deal, because the U.S. has still created 1.9 million jobs for the last 12 months and 2.1 million in the private sector, as steady growth continues. I'll worry that we're slowing down if I see those numbers stay down at the 120K levels each of the next 2-3 months, but it very well could be a one-off.

What I found interesting was when I went inside the numbers and looked at the different sectors of job performance for the month. I was expecting construction and related outdoor jobs to go up past the typical seasonal adjustement, but that didn't happen. The only exception seems to be places like the Home Depot. Meanwhile, restaurants and bars definitely hired up.

Change in jobs, U.S. February-March 2012
Construction -7,000 seasonally adusted, +86,000 non-seasonal
Food and beverage stores -6,100 seasonally adjusted, -8,500 non-seasonal
General merchandise stores -32,300 seasonally adjusted, -18,800 non-seasonal
Building material and garden supply stores +5,300 seasonally adjusted, +50,900 non-seasonal
Food services and drinking places +36,900 seasonally adjusted, +214,200 non-seasonal.

Where we might have seen a difference with the warm winter comes from the household report that determines the unemployment rate. In particular, a lot of entrants to the work force in February was offset by fewer-than-normal entrants in March, and a similar amount of non-seasonal job gains translated into many fewer seasonal job gains.

Work force numbers, February, March 2012
February- +679,000 non-seasonal, +476,000 seasonal
March - +202,000 non-seasonal, -164,000 seasonal
Two-month change- +881,000 non-seasonal, +312,000 seasonal

"Employed" status, February, March 2012
February- +740,000 non-seasonal, 428,000 seasonal
March- +728,000 non-seasonal, -31,000 seasonal
Two-month change- +1,468,000 non-seasonal, +397,000 seasonal

So when you look at it that way, it's possible that some of the activity that would usually have happened in March already happened in February, and that in reality the 2 months reflect what would normally be job growth in the 180,000 range each month instead of +240K in February and +120K in March.

We'll see in a couple of weeks how this plays out in Wisconsin, as last year's initial report of 9,100 seasonally-adjusted jobs was less than the non-seasonal increase of 13,200 (it was later revised down to 4,300 seasonal, by the way). This seasonal deflating of jobs is the opposite of the first two months, where lower-than-normal construction layoffs translated into a "gain" of jobs.

To review, looks like the weather boost from the record heat wasn't very much in the U.S. except for a few minor sectors, and it's not helping construction nationwide. What it may have done, however, is helped move some activity forward into February, as the dead of winter wasn't so dead, but the start of Spring in many parts had already sprung by March 1, so you didn't see a lot of help there. Wisconsin could prove the exception (we usually still deal with major snows in March, instead of seeing green grass and trees blooming like this year), but nationwide, the hiring bump didn't happen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Walker vs. Barrett- who really messed up Milwaukee?

This will be a "work in progress" report over the next few hours and days and I grab things together, but in light of the dishonest RGA ads that try to paint Tom Barrett as someone who drove Milwaukee into high taxes and high unemployment during his tenure as Mayor, I figured I'd take a look at the data and see if there was any validity to it. However, unlike the weaklings at the RGA, I will also compare Barrett's record with another Milwaukee-area politician that was in charge during Barrett's time in office - then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. This will sort of be the companion piece to my report comparing Kathleen Falk's Dane County record with Walker's Milwaukee County record, which showed Walker raised spending more per person than Falk, with much worse results.

First of all, the property tax argument against Barrett goes away almost immediately once you compare the property tax increases from 2004 to 2011, which is when Barrett and Walker were both in office in Milwaukee.

increase in property taxes 2004-2011
Barrett- $47.7 million (+24.0%)
Walker- $50.1 million (+22.8%)

Property tax per capita
Barrett- $335.08 2004, $414.74 2011 (+23.77%)
Walker- $233.60 2004, $284.42 2011 (+21.76%)

Property tax rates
Barrett- $9.73 2004, $9.12 2011 (-6.27%)
Walker- $4.66 2004, $4.47 2011 (-4.08%)

You see that Walker raised property taxes by $2.4 million more in total dollars, and even in percentage it was only 1.2% less than the increase for Barrett. A negligible difference at best, and Barrett didn't have the luxury of having $5 million in extra sales tax money like Walker did, because the City of Milwaukee has no sales tax (it's all state and county).

In addition, if your property value stayed the same through the turbulent 2004-2011 time period, you had a bigger drop on your bill from the City of Milwaukee under Barrett than you did to the County under Walker. Even if you had a Milwaukee home grow from $150,000 to $200,000 in the same time period (as the city's 2011 Assessment reports shows on Page 22, both home values would be above the media anywhere except the swinging 3rd district on the East side), your property tax increase was basically the same county vs. city- 25% in the City vs. 21.8% in the County.

The RGA ad also tries to play the "Barrett's a big spender" card, and when you look at Operating expenditures, there is a difference, as Barrett increased spending more than Walker did. But when you consider how Walker defunded and screwed up areas like the Milwaukee County Transit System and the attempts to sell off courthouse security and parks maintenance Walker's cheap and borderline corrupt ways are not necessarily a good thing.

Increase in total Operations spending 2004-2011
Barrett $974.25 million 2004, $1.363 billion 2011 (+39.88%)
Walker $1.078 billion 2004, $1.262 billion 2011 (+17.11%)

So sure, Barrett did increase spending more than Walker, but given the larger needs in the City of Milwaukee for social services, especially police and fire protection, it's hardly surprising that the city would have more needs to spend. Not surprisingly, the Koch-supported RGA doesn't mention that obvious point.

Another obvious point the RGA leaves out of their ad relates to unemployment. The commercial mentions that unemployment went up under Barrett in Milwaukee, and anyone with a clue should respond "Well no shit unemployment went up between 2004 and 2010, because it went up everywhere." (you may recall the economy had a bit of a recession under Dubya in the late 2000s) This statement holds true for Barrett, Walker, Doyle, and Bush/Obama. In fact, using the RGA's own metric, the increase in unemployment for the City of Milwaukee had under Barrett was the lowest of the 4.

Unemployment rates December 2004 vs. December 2010
City of Milwaukee (Barrett)- 6.6% Dec. 2004, 9.7% Dec. 2010 (up 47.0%)
Milwaukee County (Walker)- 5.2% Dec. 2004, 8.1% Dec. 2010 (up 55.8%)
State of Wisconsin (Doyle)- 4.3% Dec. 2004, 7.7% Dec. 2010 (up 79.1%)
U.S. unemployment (Bush/Obama)- 5.1% Dec. 2004, 9.4% Dec. 2010 (up 84.3%)

So while the Republican Governor's Association can try to use Tom Barrett's record as a means to attack him as a possible opponent to Scott Walker, those attacks fall flat when compared to Walker much worse record as Milwaukee County Executive. The RGA knows that Walker screwed up Milwaukee almost as badly as he is screwing up Wisconsin, with a bad jobs record, destruction of services, and several instances of corrupt cronyism. But much the candidate that they support, they choose to serve up lies of omission and deflect any responsibility from Walker's failed policies in evaluating the performance of their guy.

Now it's up to the media to tell the truth on this. And more people like me apparently have to be the ones to make the drumbeats loud enough so that the media has to listen.