Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yep, Tom Crean = Scott Walker

   After last night's whirlwind comeback by Bucky over the Hoosiers, I think it's time to update something I first spoke about 2 years ago. Indiana (and former Marquette) basketball coach Tom Crean is a whole lot like (Marquette dropout) Scott Walker.

    Here's the original post from 2011, where I noted Crean did very little in Milwaukee with future Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade, and Walker can't do anything in Milwaukee without Charlie Sykes. And that both Marquette and Milwaukee County are doing better after they're gone (although Buzz Williams is certainly a bigger upgrade than Chris Abele).

  Here were the steps I listed last year, which included the thoughts that 2014 would be bad years for these guys.

    Now here are the updates.
    1. Both seemed to be riding high in 2013, but with outbreaks of hubris and foolishness that foreshadowed the bad things to come.

    2. Both are seeing things come crashing down in 2014, leaving only hacks, clueless pundits and red Pom-Pom wavers as their only support.

    3. Neither are talented enough to be in the position they're at, and the people in the know recognize them as clueless, classless charlatans.

   4. Both are getting big money based on their poses, and a whole lot of contributors of that cash can't be liking what they're seeing around now.

    5. The biggest difference? IU's deficit-addled program is stuck with Tan Tommy for a while, while Wisconsin can get rid of Walker in 8 months. Looks like us in Wisconsin are the lucky ones in this equation, if we choose to be.

    And as you saw last night, once the Wisconsin folks wake up and bring reality into the equation, neither Tom Crean nor Scott Walker have a response to stem the tide. They'll just try lame tactics to delay or defuse the inevitable (including Crean fouling several times in the last 2 minutes despite being down by 12-15 points, classless).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Escaping the vortex....and the Walker train wreck

Can't talk in too much detail on this weekend's developments, mostly because it's 85 and sunny where  I'm at for this week.

   So instead, I'll direct you to Charlie Pierce, who discusses Governor Walker making a fool out if himself of "Fox News Sunday". The fact that our Right-wing governor gets asked tougher questions on a Faux News than he does back home should be something that humiliates every Wisconsin journalist. But I bet it doesn't, which is how this guy is still in office.

  I'll also forward you to the guy who's been on top of John Doe more than our media has- Capper at a Cog Dis. Not only does he also discuss the FAIL on Faux News, but he brings up a few other deceptions Walker tried to slip in that interview.

  Not that I miss being out of the polar vortex, but things on the scandal front look like they'll be moving along quite a bit this week.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wisconsin is top 6! Oh wait...

Heading out on vacation for a week, so blogging will be down. But wanted to draw your attention to the latest weekly jobless claims by state report, from the US Department of Labor. This is for the week ending February 8, and is a week after Wisconsin had the highest jump in unemployment claims in the country (over 5,000 more).

The good news (if there is any) for Wisconsin is that the state had a drop of 809 in new claims from the previous week. But here's the bad news.

Most new unemployment claims, week ending Feb. 8
1. Cali 64,049
2. Penn 26,171
3. N.Y. 23,610
4. Tex. 17,139
5. I'll. 14,573
6. Wis. 13,947
Wisconsin is 20th in U.S. population. That's not so good.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Koch phone call- still speaking volumes in 2014

With this week's revelations from the Walkerdocs on the way our Governor's 2010 machine operated behind the scenes, it brings to mind another time we got a window into the way this guy operates. And its 3-year anniversary is this week.

I am talking about the infamous phone call Governor Walker took from who he thought was David Koch, right after the "Wisconsin 14" had fled the state and crowds continued to grow at the Capitol to protest Walker's union-busting bill. You can go over the transcript here, or you can give it a listen.

I've gone over the call before, but in light of the Walkerdocs, I want to shed some new light on this, as there are a few items that are more into focus 3 years later.

First of all, remember that the guy who let "David Koch" (in reality talk show host Ian Murphy) through was Keith Gilkes, who was Walker's chief of staff at the time, with the first point of contact being scheduler Dorothy Moore, who is also mentioned in the Rindfleisch emails. Murphy recounted how it happened in an interview soon after the phone call
The first call [was] answered by a male secretary. He knew the name David Koch. He transferred me over to Executive Assistant [to the] Governor Dorothy Moore. She told me my name sounded familiar and asked me to please call back.

I called back and spoke to Keith Gilkes, Walker’s chief of staff. He was expecting me to call. He was thrilled to talk to me. I told him I had to talk to Scott.

He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. One problem was that I was using Skype. So I told them my maid Maria washed my cell phone. I would’ve had her deported, I said, but she works for close to nothing. Gilkes thought this was funny.

He checked the governor’s schedule and told me to call back at 2 pm. And I did and I got through to the governor. With pranks, you have to tip your hand a little. I tipped my hand with the maid, so they kind of deserved it.
The lack of checking and racist humor is an insight into the type of clowns that Walker hired when he took office, and has continued to hire. Gilkes was Walker's campaign manager, and said information relating to a possible lawsuit over a death at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Center "should be buried" until after the November 2010 election. Gilkes also allegedly was the person who set up a separate conference line for the "inner circle" to discuss election plans while Walker and his staff were on the Milwaukee County taxpayer's dime, and Gilkes was memorably quoted in another email as demanding of Walker's staff that "there is not a paper anywhere that details a problem at all" after a teen was killed by falling concrete from a County parking garage in Summer 2010....even though Gilkes had no official County job at the time.

Why would Walker hire such a scumbag for this important job? This part of the Koch call can help explain it.
WALKER: An interesting idea that was brought up to me this morning by my Chief of Staff [Keith Gilkes], we won’t do it until tomorrow is putting out an appeal to the democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down to talk to him, the Assembly Democrat [sic] leader, plus the other two republican leaders. Talk, not negotiate, and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn, I’ll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state assembly, they can recess it to come back and talk to me but they have to come back there. The reason for that is we’re verifying it this afternoon, but legally we believe once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they actually in session that day and they take a recess, the 19 senate republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. We’re double checking that but that would be the only if you heard that I was talking to them, that would be the only reason why we would only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. And my sense is, hell, I’ll talk to them—you want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that but I’m not negotiating.

KOCH: Bring a baseball bat. that’s what I would do.

WALKER: Have one in my office here. You’d be happy with that. I’ve got a slugger with my name on it.
Yep, Scotty wants to double-cross the state senators, and then sneak the bill through that way. Oh, and then he talks himself up by bragging about his "Slugger". Which is later followed by this infamous exchange.
KOCH: Right, right. We’ll back you anyway we can. But uh, what we’re thinking about the crowds was, a, was planting some troublemakers.

WALKER: You know, the well [sighs] the only problem with – because we thought about that. The problem with, my only gut reaction to that would be right now the, the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this, uh the teacher’s union did some polling of some focus groups I think and found out the public turned on them the minute they closed school down for a couple of days. The guys we got left are largely from out of state and I keep dismissing it in all my press conferences and saying uhh, they’re mostly from out of state. My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused, is that that would scare the public into thinking that maybe the governor has got to settle to avoid all these problems.
In addition to Walker being dead wrong about popular sentiment (people were actually heartened as the protests went on and more info came out), the fact that he and his staff would consider planting troublemakers to cause a potential riot shows how amoral they really are. When you realize that, it's not all that shocking that they'd be cool with the racial and anti-Semitic emails that were part of the Rindfleisch data drop, or that key members of the team would be so callous to say "No one cares about crazy people." THESE ARE THE TYPES OF RATFUCKING LOWLIFES WHO WALKER APPROVES OF AND HAS THINGS IN COMMON WITH.

The Rindfleisch emails are part of John Doe 1, which resulted in 5 of Walker's current and former staffers to be convicted, and discoveries from John Doe 1 led to John Doe Deux. That investigation is ongoing and involves illegal coordination between GOP campaigns (including Walker's 2012 recall election) and "independent" third-party groups many of which have ties to the Koch Brothers. Walker certainly knew in 2011 that this type of coordination with outside parties was illegal, because he told "David Koch" that he was trying to bust Democrats on the same statute.
WALKER: of the things we’re looking at next probably announce in the next day or two, we’ve been working with our Republican leaders in the legislature, we’re still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up outta the state, we think there’s at a minimum an ethics code violation if not an outright felony....

Well, people can pay protestors to come in, that’s not an ethics thing, but literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators, if they’re paying for their food, their lodging, anything like that, we believe at a minimum it’s an ethics code violation, and it may very well be a felony misconduct in office because see technically, it’s not just a political contribution. If they’re being paid to keep them from doing their job, we think that’s a, you know, legally an obstruction of justice, but an obstruction of their ability to their job and we still got the attorney general’s office who is looking into it for us.
So Scotty knows that this type of favoritism is illegal. Now watch what he says a couple of minutes later.
WALKER: The other thing is more long term and that is after this, um, you know, the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t necessarily need ads for them but they‘re going to need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy a good thing to do for the state so the extent that message is out over and over again, that’s obviously, that’s obviously a good thing.

One year after the fake Koch call, the actual David Koch admitted he was giving big bucks to Walker.
"We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more."
This was done in several ways (and John Doe Deux is finding more), but it was most prominent through Koch front group Americans for Prosperity holding pro-Walker rallies statewide, running a series of ads titled "It's Working" that claimed Wisconsin was on a pathway to success due to Walker's changes, and AFP/Koch shelled out millions in other ads and "education sessions" over the next 16 months.

As a last note, in a crazy example of "art foreshadowing life", is the way the Koch call ended.
KOCH: Ha, ha, ha. Well, I’ll tell you what Scott once you crush these bastards, I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

WALKER: All right that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us to move the cause forward. And we appreciate it and we’re uh, doing it, the just and right thing for the right reason and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.

KOCH: Absolutely and you know we have a little bit of vested interest as well. Ha, ha.

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

KOCH: All right then.

WALKER: Well, thanks a million.
Turns out it was a lot more than a million that got Walker over in the recall election of 2012, as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated outside groups spent $22 million propping up Walker in that election. And Walker has since made numerous out-of-state trips to raise both campaign funds and his national profile. This includes a $25,000-a-person California golf outing for the Republican Governor's Association last May, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private jets to fly him out to meet oligarchs around the country.

I know some people like to think the Koch call is old news and that we should concentrate on things to come. But there are a lot of clues in that call that explain what followed, and how this governor and his underlings continue to do things. It's often said that character is what is shown when people aren't looking, and the way Scott Walker's corrupt and amoral character shone through time and time again in the Koch call gives a whole lot of insight to what this guy is about today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Did some Walker scandal drop today?

Lotta scuttlebutt going on. Is there some huge Scott Walker scandal related to a huge email dump from one of his convicted aides or something? Why yes, yes there is.

Yep, today was the big document dump by convicted Walkergate figure Kelly Rindfleisch. Here, feel free to page through it yourself, if you care to download a 400MB document.

There isn't a whole lot I can say that you won't get from the #walkerdocs Twitter feed, but there are a couple of items that seem to have slipped by in all the (rightful) fury over Walker clearly being in the know and communicating through alternate email addresses, racist email notes passed among the campaign group to "lighten the mood", and Rindfleisch blowing off bad incident and resulting questions at the County's mental health center by saying "No one cares about crazy people."

One of the items that I haven't seen mentioned much is the fact that Rindfleisch found two ghost jobs after Walker's 2010 election, first with GOP mega-donor Michael Eisenga, and then with GOP fundraiser Judith Rhodes-Engels. They knew Rindfleisch was under investigation at least as early as November 2010, why did they keep her on? Sure seems like hush money from here.

Here's another connection. The Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice did an article showing that Tim Russell's partner, Brian Pierick, was the person who set up the "" website. This site magically disappeared right after Darlene Wink was arrested in May 2010, and Walker gave his famous "We cannot afford another story like this one. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.” order to the county workers that were doing campaign work for him. Well, go back to the Tim Russell criminal complaint, and you notice this passage, which is part of a list of items showing what Russell spent money on after embezzling funds from veterans.
A review of GoDaddy records produced in response to a John Doe Search Warrant show that the $145.28 Godaddy transaction was a payment for the renewal of multiple domain names, all being some variation of scottforgov and scott4gov with ".net," ".com," ".info" and ".org" suffixes ....

Likewise, the GoDaddy transaction for $58.38 described above was also for renewal of domain names, all being some variation of scott4gov and Milwaukee Countv Executive Scott Walker For Governor with ".com" and ".info" suffixes.
And guess who gave Tim Russell the job of handling the funds for those veterans? None other than Scott Walker!
On October 20, 2009, however, in a Memo to the Cudworth [American Legion] Post, County Executive Scott Walker terminated the Memorandum of Understanding between the Cudworth Post and Milwaukee County. County Executive Scott Walker wrote:

To ensure its ongoing operation and success, I have identified a non- profit corporation to which I am transferring Operation Freedom. While I created and have supported Operation Freedom, its existence and success should not depend on me. This new structure will allow the community to take ownership of it.

The non-profit that County Executive Walker identified in his Memo was the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, Inc.(HGPS). On the same day the Memorandum of Understanding with the Cudworth Post was terminated, on October 20, 2009, County Executive Walker transferred Operation Freedom to HGPS, the corporation controlled by Timothy D. Russell.
But I'm sure the fact that Russell used some of those funds to go toward paying for his partner's website is total concidence...

The only other item (for now) that I'll talk about in relation to John Doe is the release of documents associated with the hearing that led to a November 1, 2010 search warrant which confiscated much John Doe-related evidence. Not only are many of the names associated with Scott Walker's inner circle and former and current officials with the Wisconsin Republican Party get named along with the actions that provided the probable cause leading to the search warrant being executed, but a key member is spokesperson Fran McLaughlin, who received immunity as part of this investigation, and has not been charged with crimes like Rindfleisch was. Not only is she sending messages "off-the-job" as "" (nice touch) but on Page 57-58, she's sending pro-Walker spin to "friendly blogger" Aaron Rodriguez. Rodriguez not only has a Journal-Sentinel column, but he's the husband of recently-elected State Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, who was elected in no small part due to the help of convicted criminal Scott Jensen and the pro-Walker voucher lobby.

And that's my (non-insider) guess as to where this is going. The stuff they found Walker and his staff copied in with made its way far outside of Milwaukee County, and therefore out of the jurisdiction of the original John Doe investigation. It's pretty clear to me that John Doe Deux is merely a continuation of John Doe 1, with a lot bigger fish going into John Doe Deux's pond, including members of the Koch machine inside and outside of Wisconsin. To Scott Walker's detriment, the national media is now focusing on him as people in right-wing bubble-land promote him as a national candidate (because the GOP is just that desperate these days), and unlike the Wisconsin media, the prospect of bringing down a piddling Midwestern governor isn't something that scares their bottom line. So maybe we'll finally get some real investigation and legitimate questions being asked of this crooked administration.

Lots left to play out here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CBO: Raise minimum wage, raise incomes, lower poverty

Looks like we got Republicans trying to deceive about another CBO report, so looks like I have more debunking to do. This time it's about a proposed increase in the minimum wage.

In the CBO report (which you can read in full by clicking here), they go through a scenario where the federal minimum wage is raised to $9 by 2016, and a second scenario where it goes to $10.10 in the next 3 years. What I imagine righties might try to harp on is this passage.
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects. As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers....

The $9.00 option would reduce employment by about 100,000 workers, or by less than 0.1 percent, CBO projects. There is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight increase in employment and a reduction in employment of 200,000 workers, in CBO’s assessment.
"JOB KILLER!" Well, we can't have that, now can we? Actually, we can, and should. Because look at how many more others end up better off under the CBO's analysis.
Many more low-wage workers would see an increase in their earnings. Of those workers who will earn up to $10.10 under current law, most—about 16.5 million, according to CBO’s estimates—would have higher earnings during an average week in the second half of 2016 if the $10.10 option was implemented. Some of the people earning slightly more than $10.10 would also have higher earnings under that option, for reasons discussed below. Further, a few higher-wage workers would owe their jobs and increased earnings to the heightened demand for goods and services that would result from the minimum wage increase.

The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
That's all interesting, as it's not just the poverty-stricken and working poor that would benefit from a minimum-wage increase, but also many people who would identify as middle and even upper-middle class. The CBO explains in more detail later how the minimum wage increase could ripple through other parts of the economy.
After a minimum-wage increase, some employers try to preserve differentials in pay that existed before—for example, so that supervisors continue to be paid more than the people they supervise—by raising the wages of people who previously earned a little more than the new minimum. Also, some wages determined by collective bargaining agreements are tied to the federal minimum wage and could therefore increase. As a result, an increase in the minimum wage causes some workers who would otherwise have earned slightly more than the new minimum wage to become jobless, for the same reasons that lower-wage workers do; at the same time, some firms hire more of those workers as substitutes for the workers whose wages were required to be increased.

The change in employment of low-wage workers caused by a minimum-wage increase differs substantially from firm to firm. Employment falls more at firms whose customers are very sensitive to price increases, because demand for their products or services declines more as prices rise, so those firms cut production more than other firms do. Employment also falls more at firms that can readily substitute other inputs for low-wage workers and at firms where low-wage workers constitute a large fraction of input costs. However, when low-wage workers have fewer employment alternatives overall, employment can fall less at firms that offset some of the increased costs with higher productivity from employees’ working harder to keep their better-paying jobs and with the lower cost of filling vacant positions that results from higher wages’ attracting more applicants and reducing turnover. Some firms, particularly those that do not employ many low-wage workers but that compete with firms that do, might see demand rise for their goods and services as their competitors’ costs rise; such firms would tend to hire more low-wage workers as a result.
The CBO also indicates that lowering the minimum wage will reduce inequality. This is illustrated with this graphic, which shows that families making basically $100,000 or less will be (on the whole) better off than they are today with a higher minimum wage.

You'll notice that those in the lowest levels of income get significant increases in their income, and the CBO notes that poverty will be reduced as a result of a higher minimum wage.
[Under a $10.10 minimum wage], real income would increase, on net, by $5 billion for families whose income will be below the poverty threshold under current law, boosting their average family income by about 3 percent and moving about 900,000 people, on net, above the poverty threshold (out of the roughly 45 million people who are projected to be below that threshold under current law).
By comparison, a $9.00 minimum wage would only lift 300,000 out of poverty, so I say $10.10 seems like the way to go, with a good bang for the buck (literally).

What about those folks losing income in the chart? Well, the CBO says this is for a somewhat obvious reason- richer people are more likely live off of stocks and profiteering, and they wouldn't be able to take as much of the added productivity from workers for themselves, since more money would have to go to wages.
According to CBO’s estimates, the increase in earnings for the few low-wage workers living in of families would be more than offset by income reductions, in part because the losses in business income and in real income from price increases would be concentrated in those families.
Of course, this lost income is all of 0.4% of these people's total income, compared to an increase in income of 3% for those in poverty. I think the rich folks will get by, and it's a worthwhile trade.

Those are my big takeaways from the report- a higher minimum wage will raise incomes for 16.5 million Americans, lower poverty, and make work something more likely to be pursued, as there's a higher payoff for entering the work force. And those 500,000 fewer jobs that the righties will constantly yap about? That's more than offset by the people that won't be tied down to a subpar job now that Obamacare removes part of the reason for "job lock." Combine Obamacare and a higher minimum wage, and you all of a sudden have a lot of lower-wage workers with a little more ability to control their own destiny, enabling them to be more likely to pick a job and a wage that's more to their liking.

And that power for workers is the REAL reason the GOP doesn't want a higher minimum wage- they want us to be as desperate as possible, so they can keep wages down and grab as many profits as they can. And you can see how well THAT mentality has worked for us over the last 30+ years. It's time for the tide to be turned back, and raising the minimum wage is a way to do it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Consumer sector in Wisconsin has the winter chill

In the middle of another snowy, cold day for the winter of 2013-14, we received more information that the Wisconsin economy may
be going the same way as the temperatures have been going.

The big bombshell was American TV announcing today that they would close ALL of their remaining stores in the coming weeks, which includes 7 stores in Wisconsin and the corporate offices in Madison. In addition to the nearly 1,000 jobs going away nationwide, it also hits home to a lot of us who grew up in the Madison and Milwaukee areas with extra sadness, because we grew up with ads like this from "Crazy TV Lenny".

I suppose it's a sign of the times, as brick-and-mortar electronics and furniture stores could be considered relics from a pre-Internet era. But it's worth noting that American is just the latest victim of what seems to be a rough retail sector in Wisconsin. You may remember that J.C. Penney announced last month that it would close 5 stores in Wisconsin in the coming months, more than any other state. Racine-based S.C. Johnson (the makers of Windex and other household items) said in early February that they were going to lay off as many as 400 in a corporate "restructuring." And nationwide, the retail sector has been seeing a recent downturn, as retail sales have been down year-over-year for each of the last two months, including 0.4% in January.

The consumer weakness spread to the housing sector in January, as the Wisconsin Realtors Association reported that home sales in Wisconsin were down 6.8% compared to January 2013, the second decline in the last 3 months after 28 straight months of sales growth.

The bad winter weather may indeed be a factor- NOAA reports that Wisconsin had its coldest combined December and January in 35 years, and 6th-coldest ever. But maybe it's also a reflection of the stagnant wages that have hammered a whole of lot of Wisconsinites in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. We still have the lowest weekly manufacturing wage in the Midwest, and public sector workers still haven't received a payback from having thousands of dollars a year pulled out of their pockets in 2011. And no tax cut will make up for the lack of income in the first place. Perhaps demand matters, especially when it comes to, you know, BUYING STUFF.

But do these retail job losses, lower house sales and other economic uncertainties make our "Unintimidated" leader think twice about whether our projected surplus is going to actually happen? Of course not! Scotty and most of the rest of WisGOP are full-speed ahead with fiscally wrecking the state for the future. Even Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said this weekend that the biggest changes his house would make would be refusing to require excess revenues to be added to the state's rainy-day fund, and instead leave it for later budgets. It's a cosmetic change at best, and if anything, it reduces flexibility for the state's ability to dig its way out of the problems that will result with the next recession- which economic history indicates will happen sooner than later.

On the three-year anniversary of the "Wisconsin 14" leaving the state to allow the details of Act 10 to be revealed, the more it makes sense why such a drastic move was made by the Senate Democrats. They saw what a mess these ALEC-mentality policies would lead to, and the Fitzwalkerstanis continue to fail and leave Wisconsinites behind, in no small part due to the lack of demand and resulting job losses in consumer-related sectors. I know it's been a bad winter here and yes, that'll drive your desire to spend stuff, but I think the retail job losses and a stagnating Wisconsin economy goes a lot deeper than just the snow flying and falling temperatures.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sweet 16 Dance for Bucky

Monster road win for the Badgers in Ann Arbor. Great offensive execution in much of that game, and if they hit some more of their open looks, that would have been a 20-point rout against a top 15 team. This season sure has turned around in the last 8 days, that's for sure. And with this being Bucky's 21st win, I can safely say that they are a LOCK for the Big Dance in March for the 16th straight year (!).

Ah, the '70s. When irony and sarcasm apparently didn't exist.

Heck, the Badgers keep winning like this, and I'll be seeing them in Milwaukee. Which would be a blessing for the atmosphere...and a curse for getting tickets. But it's a problem I'd love to have.

This week in WisGOP corruption- school voucher version

Three examples from the past week shed more light on just how backroom a lot of the GOP legislation backing school vouchers is in Wisconsin. And like most things WisGOP, it's a combination of incestuous relationships and flat-out corruption of public funds.

1. One Wisconsin Now did an expose of who actually wrote a recent voucher bill making its way through the Assembly. And no, it wasn't WisGOP members of the Assembly that were the ones putting the bill together.
Under the terms of Assembly Bill 748, a "new private school" that wished to receive taxpayer money through the voucher program would in certain limited circumstances need to meet a new accreditation standard. However, schools already participating in the program, even those failing to produce positive results for students, are largely untouched by the so-called accountability legislation.

Drafting records reveal the bill's provisions were crafted by a lobbyist for the private school industry that is slated to receive over $380 million from state taxpayers through the private school voucher program in the 2013-15 budget.

An email from the School Choice Wisconsin lobbyist to legislative staff provides specific drafting instructions. A later email from the agency that drafted the language of the bill reports that it was done so per the directions of the voucher lobbyist included in his earlier email.

The bill's purported legislative authors are no strangers to the school privatization industry. Senate author Leah Vukmir declared she would not support the 2013-15 state budget if it did not include an expansion of the private school voucher program. Meanwhile Assembly author Representative Jessie Rodriguez previously worked for the voucher industry and benefited from big spending from voucher-connected groups in her late 2013 special election.

Ah yes, Jessie Rodriguez, the recently-elected new representative for the southern part of Milwaukee County. Whose election came in no small part due to tens of thousands of dollars in voucher money, and whose husband (Aaron) and brother-in-law (Jesus) head up the voucher front group Hispanics for School Choice. I'm sure these things are all coincidences, right Jess?

2. Speaking of Jessie Rodriguez's bosses in the voucher lobby, that led to another interesting moment last week. Former Assembly Speaker and convicted criminal Scott Jensen came out of his hole, and appeared at a state hearing for another voucher bill.

You almost can't see Scooter holding the puppet strings.

...for the first time since he resigned in 2006 amid a scandal that led to a misdemeanor conviction that bars him from ever seeking public office, the former speaker of the state Assembly testified at a public hearing.

[Scott] Jensen is one of three former Assembly speakers behind a powerful lobbying force that advocates for expanding school choice in Wisconsin. Normally content to work the hallways and private offices of the Capitol where he once wielded power as Assembly speaker between 1995 and 2002, Jensen’s decision to offer testimony on an accountability bill shows how much is at stake.

“I think it was very important to communicate how committed the American Federation for Children was to a serious accountability system,” Jensen said Friday when asked why, after three years as a lobbyist, he decided to speak publicly.
Especially when that bill keeps voucher schools from having to face immediate sanctions for failure, unlike public schools. Ain't that right, Mr. Jensen? After all, you didn't shovel all that money to GOP candidates running for the Legislature to come away with nothing, did ya?

3. Which leads to another note regarding one of those recently-elected GOP legislators. Andy at Wisconsin Soapbox takes apart State Sen. Rick Gudex from Fond du Lac, whose 2012 election was helped in no small part by the voucher lobby. First of all, Andy points out that Gudex addressed an AFP/Koch "town hall meeting" in Fond du Lac last week which was held at....11am on a Wednesday. Not really a time that anyone who teaches or a someone with a job and kids in school is going to be around. What a pathetic wuss.

Gudex also has a very corporate-based approach on what "education" should do, which is something that a real teacher like Andy finds a bit off.
[Gudex gives a] direct quote that I, as a teacher, found particularly notable:

Training is a big part of a company's cost, especially when you're at a point where you're really getting to the point where you're looking for employees who don't have the skills that you need.

It's pretty amazing how I look at that quote. I'm a high school teacher, and it's really not my job to specifically train a business's worker. It's my job to provide students a well-rounded education where they are aware of the world around them and get exposure to how they are connected to the world. Once students leave the secondary education system, students then decide to pursue a certain course of study, not necessarily a "job training" program.

That is where the disconnect is. It's a societal conversation we need to be having, and unfortunately we aren't. What is "job training" and what is an "area of study" and how do they relate to the job market/world today.
It's even more telling that businesses want to have the state its schools be the ones who essentially pay for their training, whether it's through more money for tech schools, or allowing more of these students to be taken on for free as apprentices or even for "trial runs" where they essentially get free and reduced-price labor. And certainly raising wages for those jobs to encourage more and better applicants for those positions is something that those businesses NEVER consider. Funny how that works.

These people have a whole lotta corporate bankroll behind them, but they don't have the support of the real people of Wisconsin(which is why these things aren't going through). If they are brought into the light, and if the average Wisconsinite realized just how much contempt this voucher cabal from the Milwaukee area has for what works in education for the vast majority of the state, the Wisconsin GOP wouldn't win most of rural Wisconsin.

Because the bottom line is that today's Wisconsin GOP doesn't care about better educational outcomes or improving the state's competitiveness or giving more "choice" for parents- all they're doing is funneling taxpayer dollars to campaign contributors. It should be called out as such.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Your (somewhat complete) Wisconsin tax guide

I finally have a bit of time to dive into this, so I wanted to go over where the tax bills in the Wisconsin Legislature are, and explain the budgetary impacts of them.

First of all, the State Assembly passed Scott Walker's tax cut bill this week, and also threw in a goodie for contractors that added to the amount of the tax cut. However, this goodie had to be reduced in scope when this sales tax exemption was shown to be a lot bigger than first thought.
Republicans did support one change to the bill that would extend a sales tax exemption to construction companies doing work for schools, local governments and some nonprofits. The estimated cost was $20 million a year, but that was scaled back to $7.5 million by not allowing the exemption for state government projects.

Current law grants the tax exemption to schools and the local governments for materials they purchase, but contractors must pay the sales tax. The proposed expansion of the exemption would take effect starting in July 2015.
Fitting that they don't have this kick in before the next 2-year budget starts, since the LFB noted this week that under the original tax cut bill, there is no breathing room left in the budget to add any cuts or spending.
The gross balance under the special session would have been $74,163,800 and the net balance $9,163,800 ($74,163,800 - $65,000,000). However, current law requires a transfer to the budget stabilization fund of $9,163,800 in 2014-15. This transfer would be reduced by the enactment of any bills with general fund fiscal effects of up to $9,163,800. Under current law, the Legislature may not pass legislation that would reduce the general fund balance below the required $65 million.

Recently, the Governor signed into law seven bills dealing with mental health (2013 Acts 126 to 132). For 2013-15, those bills appropriate $4,220,000 from the general fund to various programs. Thus, the transfer to the budget stabilization fund is reduced by that amount to $4,943,800 ($9,163,800 - $4,220,000).

If additional bills are enacted during the current legislative session, the general fund fiscal effect of those bills cannot exceed $4,943,800 if the statutorily required balance of $65 million is to be maintained.
But what this also means is that the sales tax exemption is adding another $15 million to the next structural deficit, which the LFB estimated at $807 million before the sales tax exemption was added in. So now the deficit is up to $822 million, and this reality is leading to some heartburn for GOP State Senators, many of whom have been in office long enough to remember how similar giveaways by Scott McCallum and Tommy Thompson in the late '90s and early 2000's led to chronic fiscal problems in Wisconsin, and how similar tax-cut foolishness and arrogance by the Bush Administration helped to lead to big Dem victories in 2006 and 2008.

So how can we get both tax relief and the structural deficit reduced? The answers may lie in looking at the original Walker tax bill, and then comparing it to a proposal put forth by Assembly Dems (which Robbin' Vos and his GOP lackeys in the Assembly rejected out of hand, as they do anything with a "D" behind it).

Income tax cuts
A big problem with the Walker tax cuts is the timing of them are done intentionally to have the impact hit before the November 2014 elections, and have the consequences hit after it. The $98 million added tax cut to the lowest bracket (dropping it from 4.4% to 4.0%) hits retroactive to January 1, 2014. Then you combine that with the indexing of the withholding tables, which applies the Koo-Koo tax cuts from last year and the effects of inflation since October 2009, and you have a massively lower amount of money coming into the State Treasury between now and early 2015. This explains how a projected surplus near $1 billion for this biennium can get drained down to $0 with these bills.

A better solution would be to delay the change in withholding tables to July 2015, and not have the new 4.0% bracket hit till 2015 either. This spreads out those tax cuts, and gives time to adjust in case there's a downturn between now and next year. With the state's recent rise in unemployment claims and this brutally cold winter piling up the bills, this would seem to be an especially good time to be cautious. In addition, a wise budgeter would follow the Dem proposals to get rid of the $35 million in tax cuts geared toward the rich and corporate, which deal with previous Walker giveaways that the LFB points out will go into effect in future years.
Modify the current law procedures for claiming the manufacturing and agriculture credit so that the credit may be claimed as an offset to both the regular tax and the alternative minimum tax under the individual income tax. These provisions would apply retroactively to tax years beginning on January 1, 2013. Decrease estimated individual income tax collections by $11,300,000 in 2013-14 and $24,000,000 in 2014-15. Due to the credit's phase-in, this provision would reduce estimated individual income tax collections by $39,000,000 in 2015-16 and by $49,300,000 in 2016-17 and thereafter.

The credit was created in 2011 Act 32 and is being phased in between tax years 2013 and 2016. The credit is available to taxpayers to offset the tax on income from manufacturing and agricultural activities in Wisconsin. Currently, individual income tax provisions allow the manufacturing and agriculture credit to be used only to reduce regular tax liability.
So by throwing this one item out, you're saving $35 million this year, and reducing the next structural deficit by $88 million in the next budget.

Tech College Funding and Property Tax Relief
Another place to look at is the $406 million to be added to tech schools as a property tax relief measure. On its face, I like the provision, as I think the state should be more involved in these institutions, instead of having unelected, regionalized tech college boards call the shots and use property tax dollars to do so. But the problem is that it also raises the expenses that are expected to be used for future years, which drives up the structural deficit by $812 million for the next budget. It also means that tech colleges are put under a revenue limit, which could lead to major property tax increases or tuition hikes in future years if fiscal restraints require this extra state funding to be pulled back (especially if Walker and the Assembly GOPs intend to use this as a one-time gimmick that goes away after 2014, which would be their style).

Perhaps a better idea is to use the Dems' idea of expanding the First Dollar Credit (which also offsets property taxes) and also gives a flat amount to everyone that owns something other than unimproved properties. This improves equity, since higher-priced properties don't get a bigger tax break (sorry, Waukesha and Ozaukee Counties), and the LFB indicates that it'll also reduce property taxes on a median-value home by another $100 over the Walker plan. This expanded credit could even be cut in half for the same level of tax cut as the Walker plan, with less money being spent in the process.

So once again, even when the Walker Administration and the GOP goofs in the Assembly want to do questionable tax cuts, they do it in a more fiscally irresponsible manner, which drives up the future structural deficit and reduces flexibility in later years. But then again, when the ultimate goal of you and your puppetmaster is to FUBAR government functions so that they have to be made less effective and/or sold off so you can make big bucks and grab power in the process, maybe this setup makes perfect sense.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wisconsin back to Number 1- in new unemployment claims

Maybe it's all the cold and bad weather, maybe it was reflecting the Badger basketball team's slump at the time, or maybe it's just a pre-Olympics malaise, but Wisconsin's economy slipped in the last week of January, causing this passage to appear on Thursday's unemployment claims report from the Department of Labor.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 1 were in Wisconsin (+5,041), New York (+4,830), Pennsylvania (+2,448), New Jersey (+1,853), and Ohio (+1,780), while the largest decreases were in California (-9,631), Georgia (-2,558), Indiana (-2,444), Michigan (-2,411), and Florida (-1,387).
Ouch! New claims spiked from 9,720 during the week that included MLK Day, to 14,761 in the following week. This graph will show that this came after a stretch of lower unemployment claims, but this also was more than just a typical seasonal jump, as the 14,761 is nearly 20% above the 2013 amounts for the same week, and is almost back up to 2012's new claims numbers in Wisconsin.

And early numbers from the Wisconsin DWD indicate that it wasn't a one-week fluke, as preliminary numbers show that initial unemployment claims remained at a high level last week, staying near 14,000. These numbers aren't finalized, so I won't put them into the chart until next week (I also want the 50-state comparison there), but it does not bode well for the February jobs figures, which should have been surveyed this past week.

The mystery to me is that with Walker's tax cuts being passed by the State Assembly this week, you'd think the state's newspapers would want to take notice of this potential slowdown in the state's economy, which very well could reduce the surplus that is being used as justification for this Bush-like proposal. But instead the Journal-Sentinel and both Madison papers have neglected to inform their readers of this "Number 1 in the Nation" status. Which explains that when I tweeted this news out, over 20 others retweeted it (an extremely rare occurrence for me), and several more tweeted my follow-up asking why the media hadn't picked it up.

It also explains why I'm bringing it up here, so you can let others know when Walker tries to intimate things are going in the right direction in Wisconsin. Because these unemployment claim numbers would indicate that Wisconsin's economy was as cold as the weather in first half of February. Now maybe things get back to decent growth as the temperature gets to the 30s and 40s next week (!!!), but it certainly seems to have hit a snag early on in 2014.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Quick update on low post frequency

Been tied up with work, family and outside items, so that's why I haven't said much in recent days. But I did get to see Mary Burke in action, and while she can be a bit rehearsed (Mary, you're on our school board, we know who you are), she hit on a surprising number of progressive themes and stands. If she does that, and answers the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, she could do quite well, indeed.

More to come this weekend, but back to the real world for the short-term.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's cold outside, so pay the bills instead of cutting taxes

There have been a couple of interesting updates on the proposed new round of tax cuts and the effects of this awful winter on the state and local budgets.

First of all, as temps are again projected to fall to -20 tonight, we've seen several stories showing the toll this cold and snowy winter is having throughout the state. Salt shortages continue throughout the state, and several places are having to take measures to deal with large amounts of frozen pipes and water main breaks (we had one on our street in Madison last week). This includes Fond du Lac, the cities of Waukesha and West Bend, numerous communities in Western Wisconsin, and in Monona and Reedsburg. This will run up bills for both homeowners and local governments for the water repairs, and also will likely require extra work on the streets for this Spring and Summer.

There are also higher costs coming from huge increases in the costs to heat buildings and homes. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave an idea on the level of this hit resulting from this winter.
Frigid January temperatures pushed heating costs for Wisconsin utility customers up by 25% to as much as 40%, depending on the utility.

Back-to-back bitterly cold air masses — those polar vortexes — are to blame for the big run-up in heating costs for customers using natural gas.

Demand for natural gas was so heavy with the frigid weather that We Energies shipped more of the fuel to customers in January than it had done in any other month on record, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.
And this was before this latest cold outbreak that could drive those numbers even higher. It would seem prudent to wait to find out how much the increased costs would be, as legislators would look quite foolish if they had to double back and cut something else to pay for these bills later this year.

The recent developments also makes the $43 million proposed for extra road projects nothing more than a token measure that may do little to reduce the needs in the state. That bill is scheduled to be taken up by the full Assembly tomorrow, and while it's nice to accelerate a little road work, it is still slated to be taken out of the Transportation Fund instead of the surplus in the General Fund. That decision means there is even less cushion inside of the Transportation Fund left for this year, and there is still $1 billion in extra Transportation needs unaccounted for in the next budget. That $1 billion was before we figured any emergency funds that might be needed due to the added costs from this winter, by the way.

The Legislature is also still talking about the tax cut package, and there was another development in that today. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released information on 3 amendments to the package that was passed by the Assembly's Jobs, Economy and Mining Committee (in itself an odd decision by Speaker Robbin' Vos, as the Joint Finance Committee usually takes up budget bills like this). Jason Stein has an article on these provisions and other fiscal bills being taken up (including the $43 million in highway spending), and it looks like the amendments include a targeted giveaway to contractors that do work for non-profits and government buildings.
AA 4 would extend the exemption from the state sales and use tax to include sales to a construction contractor who makes purchases of tangible personal property and, in fulfillment of a real property construction activity, transfers that property to an exempt entity...provided that the property were to become a component of a facility in Wisconsin that is owned by that exempt entity. For purposes of this exemption, a "facility" would mean any building, shelter, parking lot, parking garage, athletic field, athletic park, storm sewer, or water supply system. "Facility" would not include a highway, street, or road. The proposed exemption would take effect on the day after publication of SS AB 1, and would first apply to contracts entered into on July 1, 2015. The amendment should be modified to also include an effective date of July 1, 2015. Otherwise, the new tax exemption would appear in the statutes for more than one year before it first applies.

In general, construction contractors must pay sales and use taxes on their purchases of taxable goods and services under current law. However, if an entity exempt from the tax purchases property on behalf of the construction contractor, transfers those items to the contractor, and the items become a component of a real property construction in Wisconsin that is owned by the exempt entity, no sales and use tax is collected from the construction contractor under current law. Surveys of construction contractors indicate that many, but not all, local units of government and not-for-profit organizations purchase tax-exempt property to be used by contractors. The Department of Administration's Division of Facilities Development, however, indicates that the state does not purchase taxable property on behalf of state contractors. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, state expenditure reports, growth estimates from IHS Global Insight, Inc., and construction contractor surveys, it is estimated that the amendment would reduce state sales and use tax revenues by $20 million, annually, beginning in 2015-16. It should be noted that the estimated reduction in state tax revenue could vary from year to year depending on the number of construction projects authorized and entered into by the tax-exempt entities.
Two major problems with this 1. You know that amendment is the result of a sketchy situation where some interested party whispered in a legislator's ear (in this case, State Rep. Andre Jacque), and it got thrown in there for no other reason other than making a contributor certain party happy. 2. It adds another $40 million to our structural deficit ($20 million less in each of two years), bringing the total deficit near $850 million if all tax cuts and changes were passed.

In addition, the LFB reported today that if all of the tax cuts in the Walker/WisGOP package were to be approved, there would be basically zero breathing room left over the next 17 months of this budget.
Recently, the Governor signed into law seven bills dealing with mental health (2013 Acts 126 to 132). For 2013-15, those bills appropriate $4,220,000 from the general fund to various programs. Thus, the transfer to the budget stabilization fund is reduced by that amount to $4,943,800 ($9,163,800 - $4,220,000).

If additional bills are enacted during the current legislative session, the general fund fiscal effect of those bills cannot exceed $4,943,800 if the statutorily required balance of $65 million is to be maintained.
It also means that if our revenues fall short of the LFB estimates by even 1%, we will need a significant budget repair bill before the end of June 2015. And by the way, this is before deciding what to do with the state's $93 million Medicaid deficit, or its $43 million W-2 deficit. In addition, the last two months of U.S. job reports have been lackluster, and other reports have shown the economy isn't expanding as fast as predicted. With these factors in mind, and with state and local governments needing funds to take care of expenses resulting from this rough winter, does it make any sense to you to blow a not-yet realized surplus on more tax cuts?

Only if you think George W. Bush's Administration's strategy of "cut taxes, run up the deficit, and screw the next one in office" was a good one (this is also known as "starve the beast"). And I thoroughly believe that tying the hands of future (Dem) governors is part of the plan with this puppetmasters of this administration, (whether Governor Walker knows it or not is debatable). This crowd doesn't care how many needs go unmet and what type of condition Wisconsin is left in, as long as they and their campaign contributors got paid first, and got out before the disaster hit.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Good Walkergate and voucher scam updates

Two great articles from the Cheddarsphere that you really need to check out.

1. Capper at Cognitive Dissidence had an update on convicted John Doe criminal Kelly Rindfleisch. Seems Kelly was landing ghost jobs with WisGOP connections that went beyond donor (and all-around scumbag) Michael Eisenga.
About a year ago, Rindfleisch got a new gig at a political consulting agency named Cross Rhodes Strategies. The registered agent for this agency is none other than Judith Rhodes Engels. Interestingly, the website that they once had for their agency is no longer to be found. In fact, the only traces my meager Googling skills could find was on a couple of aggregate sites - Find the Company and Bizapedia.

Interestingly, sources report that more than a few GOP legislators have Cross Rhodes listed in as an expense in their campaign finance report. Another interesting tidbit is that Engels' husband just received a cushy state job last summer.

We became familiar with Rhodes Engels during the original Walkergate investigations. She is the favorite fundraiser (and really, really special friend) of Senator Scott Fitzgerald. Rhodes Engels is also known for her past caucus scandal involvement and her Harley riding skills. And despite her rub-ins with the law, Rhodes Engels is either a slow learner or just indifferent and got caught getting involved with the gerrymandering scandal, although she should not be involved in governmental business at all.
Rindfleisch had already been convicted of illegal campaigning by the time Rhodes-Engels' business hired her, which makes it quite the interesting placement, eh? Of course, Rindfleisch was also in the news last week when an Appeals Court judge ordered emails involved in her case to be released to the public. The web involved in John Doe just keeps connecting and expanding with each day. Keep spreading the news, and shame the

2. The second update comes from Andy at the Wisconsin Soapbox, and it continues his excellent series on bills that would expand school vouchers and screw over Milwaukee Public Schools. It's a very deep dive, but well worth the read. Here's his summary.
Seriously, if this is the "compromise" that has been put together for this session, still count me out.

It's not nearly as bad as Sen. Olsen's dead-giveaway to charter operators, but it still does nothing to actually address the problems that our lowest achieving schools have. It also does nothing to give them support to help them improve and do right by our students. It's like they somehow magically think that all the "failing" schools that exist right now have always been failing schools and the people who are there are the same people who've always been there.

Have these people ever spoken to a teacher at one of these schools? Have they ever spoken with a principal at one of these schools? Here's an even better idea, have they ever spoken with or held a public hearing in a neighborhood that sends their children to these schools?
Looks like there's a hearing in an Assembly Committee this week, and the goofballs in the Robin Vos-run lower house want to push some kind of voucher giveaway so they can grab election-year donations from Scooter Jensen and other lobbyists. Stay vigilant with these guys, as it is not in ALEC's interest to keep Wisconsin's K-12 public education system functioning well- not enough profit in that.

We have to keep doing our reporting, as our "legitimate" media is failing to do their part. Capper and Andy have done great work this weekend.

Redistricting- Waukesha County shouldn't be legislating for Milwaukee and Dane

In the wake of gutless inaction by the GOP-run Legislature, retiring State Senators David Cullen and Dale Schultz are going to have their own hearings on Monday discussing how to install non-partisan redistricting in Wisconsin. In addition to the hearings, Sens. Schultz and Cullen got the LRB to draw up maps under their proposal. Here's an example of the Assembly districts that were produced as a result.

Now compare that to the GOP-drawn maps that we're currently under in Wisconsin.

So how did we end up with the gerrymandered maps looking as they did? Well you start with partisan voting patterns, and distribute accordingly. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert wrote a piece this last week showing the divide between Milwaukee County, and the three counties to its west and north- Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee. The redder a place is on this map, the more Republican it votes, and the bluer a place is, the more Democratic it votes.

Note in particular the purple areas in western Milwaukee County, which are basically the cities of Wauwatosa and West Allis. Those areas used to be split off into their own separate legislative districts before the 2011 redistricting, but aren't anymore, which leads to distortions and more partisanship in the Legislature.

That's because when the Republicans did their secret redistricting, they set up numerous state legislative districts to involve parts of Milwaukee County, but also allowed those purple parts to be drowned out by obnoxious righties in Waukesha County. It's worthy to look into the Daily Kos's index of Wisconsin's 2012 vote in the Baldwin vs. Thompson Senate race by each Assembly and Senate district to see how this works. Baldwin won this race 51.47-45.91%, so a Baldwin (a Dem) winning by 5.54% would be the baseline for the state. All of these seats are "represented" by Republicans, by the way.

5th Senate District (Vukmir)
Milwaukee Co. 49.37% Baldwin, 48.54% Thompson (Dem +0.83%)
Waukesha Co. 32.12% Baldwin, 66.07% Thompson (GOP +33.95%)

13th Assembly District (Hutton)
Milwaukee Co. 47.79% Baldwin, 50.11% Thompson (GOP +2.32%)
Waukesha Co. 31.95% Baldwin, 66.34% Thompson (GOP +34.39%)

14th Assembly District (Kooyenga)
Milwaukee Co. 50.95% Baldwin, 47.32% Thompson (Dem +3.63%)
Waukesha Co. 29.40% Baldwin, 69.12% Thompson (GOP +39.72%)

15th Assembly District (San Felippo)
Milwaukee Co. Baldwin 49.33%, Thompson 48.23% (Dem +1.10%)
Waukesha Co. 35.95% Baldwin, 61.75% Thompson (GOP +25.80%)

The populations of these districts are such that you can nearly create 2 Assembly districts entirely in Milwaukee County and 1 in Waukesha County instead of spreading them all out into both counties, and the Milwaukee County territory would still be slightly GOP-leaning compared to the rest of the state. But doing so wouldn't have helped the GOP grab these seats, which is why they set it up as they did. In every one of these districts, Milwaukee County had slightly more votes than Waukesha County, but it's the stubborn Republicanism of Waukesha County that put each of these legislators over the top, so they legislate like they're from the 262 instead of the 414. If you look at some of the most heinous, anti-Milwaukee legislation that's come up in this session, including the anti-MPS voucher expansion bill and the recent proposal to have an appointed state board oversee Milwaukee's mental health services, you'll notice it often sponsored by legislators such as Vukmir, Kooyenga, San Felippo, Darling, and Lazich, who represent parts of Milwaukee County, but owe their allegiance to the 262. And Milwaukee County is losing out on representation that cares about their interests as a result.

The same phenomenom is true in Dane County, where Republican legislators Joel Kleefisch and John Jagler represent sizable amounts of South Central Wisconsin, despite being former Milwaukee "news" personalities, and despite roundly rejected by South Central Wisconsin in their own races in November 2012.

37th Assembly District (Jagler)
Dane County- Jagler 34.90%, Arnold 65.06% (Jagler -30.16%)
Columbia Co.- Jagler 41.15%, Arnold 58.73% (Jagler (-17.58%)
Jefferson Co.- Jagler 61.84%, Arnold 38.08% (Jagler +23.76%)
Dodge County- Jagler 62.09%, Arnold 37.28% (Jagler +24.81%)

38th Assembly District (Jagler)
Dane County- Kleefisch 36.04%, Michalak 61.30% (Kleefisch -25.26%)
Jefferson Co.- Kleefisch 54.26%, Michalak 43.00% (Kleefisch +11.26%)
Waukesha Co.- Kleefisch 70.39%, Michalak 27.43% (Kleefisch +42.96%)

And the Dane County parts that each of these guys lost by more than 25% aren't insignificant- they accounted for more than 1/5 of the votes in each race. But Jagler and Kleefisch ignore this sizable part of their district because they owe their victory to the counties that extend to the Milwaukee media market, so they vote in favor policies based out of the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation and their front men and women on AM radio instead of caring about what many of their constituents think. And so the county that added more people than any other in Wisconsin is basically ignored by some of its "representatives."

No wonder why these unpopular policies are being pushed by GOP legislators. They got elected by the non-Milwaukee and Dane County parts of their constituency, and decide that this makes it their right to make laws for those other places. Even if those places didn't ask for them, and don't support at their local levels of government. And it's also no wonder why the State Senate is backing off a lot of bills like the anti-Milwaukee voucher giveaway, because many of the districts up for re-election include districts closer to a 50-50 split with less Milwaukee influence. These Senators that would be vulnerable include Allan Lasee (1), Mike Ellis (19), Terry Moulton (23), Jerry Petrowski (29), and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (13, which includes Kleefisch's and Jagler's districts).

Looking at the maps helps to explain the outsized power that the 262 area code has in this legislature (and in WisGOP in general), and it's why so many of these policies seem to be out of step with what the vast majority of the state. Because it's well-documented that politicians from the 262 area code are generated from a Bullshit Mountain of bubble-world that relies on Faux News and AM Milwaukee radio for its "facts", and the Bradley Foundation and ALEC for its policy formation, and as a result, the rest of us all lose. So not only is independent redistricting a good thing to do from a "clean government" standpoint, it's also something that would seem to lead to better public policy as well.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Obamacare's Bullsh*t Mountain is a symptom of the problem

There's a reason I find Jon Stewart to be the most trusted news man in America, and it's for clips like these. Jon demolishes the GOP talking points on this week's CBO report regarding Obamacare which adds onto what I talked about earlier this week in posts like this one, as well as this one. Strangely, the Daily Show online splits the opening segment into 3 smaller ones, but they're all good, and as an extra bonus Jon calls out Wisconsin's own Lyin' Ryan for his complete contradiction on this subject between 2009 and today.

The fact that GOPs can say such obvious lies and display clear contradictions on Bullshit Mountain goes to a deeper problem, one illustrated by poll released last week by Public Policy Polling. It shows that when nothing but bullshit goes out to certain people, they don't recognize it as bullshit.
35% of Americans say they trust Fox News more than any other TV news outlet, followed by 14% for PBS, 11% for ABC, 10% for CNN, 9% for CBS, 6% each for Comedy Central and MSNBC, and 3% for NBC. It leads the way because of its continuing near total support among Republicans as the place to go for news- 69% of Republicans say it's their most trusted source with nothing else polling above 7%. Meanwhile Democrats are split between a lot of different outlets when it comes to who they have the most faith in- PBS at 21%, CNN and ABC at 18%, and CBS and MSNBC at 12% all poll in double digits. It's interesting that while Fox News and MSNBC are often thought of as equivalent, Fox News is by far and away the most trusted source of GOP voters while MSNBC is only tied for 4th among Democrats.

Fox News also leads the 'least trusted' list in our annual poll. 33% give it that designation to 19% for MSNBC, 14% for Comedy Central, 11% for CNN, 5% for ABC, 4% for CBS, and 2% each for NBC and PBS. That's largely because 57% of Democrats give it their least trusted designation, with only Comedy Central at 18% also hitting double digits with them. MSNBC leads the way among Republicans at 38%, but CNN at 17% and Comedy Central at 13% both hit double digits as well. It's interesting to note that Republicans seem to hate MSNBC more than Democrats like it.
The numbers are even more striking when you go into the crosstabs, which shows that old, white righties are truly living in a Fox-generated bubble that's separate from the rest of us. Even moderates know that Faux is bullshit.

Trust Fox News? January 2014
Very conservative 76% yes, 12% no
Somewhat conservative 64% yes, 15% no
Moderate 28% yes, 51% no
Somewhat liberal 18% yes, 73% no
Very liberal 24% yes 70% no

Age 18-29 36% yes, 46% no
Age 30-45 40% yes, 45% no
Age 46-65 42% yes, 43% no
Age over 65 55% yes, 31% no

White 48% yes, 39% no
Hispanic 26% yes, 45% no
African-American 28% yes, 57% no

You look at those numbers, and there's an opportunity for Dems and other candidates to destroy the Republicans on in 2014 and 2016. Everyone other than the pale and stale knows that Fox and other right-wing outlets are lying, but yet far too many Dem candidates succumb to Fox framing and fears of the right-wing noise machine. It would do Dems a lot of good to realize you can't fix the willfully stupid and misinformed, and that the only thing they'll understand is defeat and humiliation. So the best way to make those things happen is to come out strong against these paid liars, which will get the vast majority of the other 65% or so of voters on your side, and wake up a lot of bystanders to just how wrong many of their allegedly "politically aware" conservative associates truly are.

Of course, this can be a bit harder to do in a market like Milwaukee where 95% of the daytime talk radio is dominated by right-wing propaganda. So this is where billboards, rallies, and ads calling out the Sykeses, Bellings, and McKennas need to be done by Democrats and other organizations that give a crap about the future of this state. But when these people are allowed to say the garbage they do, and not have it challenged because there is no Wisconsin equivalent of Jon Stewart, then those false ideas are allowed to fester, along with the bad public policies that generate from those false premises. It has to be ended NOW, and done so forcefully, because Bullshit Mountain has already done more than enough damage to our country over the last 13 years.

Friday, February 7, 2014

January jobs- no disaster, just keep your eyes peeled

Today was a jobs Friday, and it was a somewhat blah one, with only 113,000 total jobs added in January, although the private sector had a decent gain of 142,000. Also noteworthy is that December's tame job gains were barely revised up (by 1,000, to 75,000), so it makes for two lower-than-trend months of job growth. Weather wasn't named as a major factor in the lower job gains, and in fact, some jobs you'd associate with warmer weather had big gains.

Job gains, January 2013, seasonally adjusted
Construction +48,000
Manufacturing +21,000
Food services and drinking places +14,800

Granted, these "gains" reflect lower-than-normal January layoffs, but it's still worth pointing out, as manufacturing in particular has had a very good run-up in the last four months (82,000 jobs added). Given how manufacturing-heavy Wisconsin is, you'd think this would translate into better gains here (and for the last quarter of 2013, it did).

On the flip side, the household survey had a huge increase (638,000 more listed as "employed" compared to December), which helped drive the unemployment rate down to 6.6%, the lowest it's been since late 2008. The employment-population ratio also jumped up 0.2%, to 58.8%, which is the highest it's been since August 2009.

Also important is this report is that January features the annual benchmarking of jobs numbers, as the BLS adjusts numbers based on additional data that has come in over time. Unlike previous years, the new benchmarks didn't change the story of overall growth for 2013.
These counts are derived principally from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), which enumerates jobs covered by the UI tax system. The benchmark process results in revisions to not seasonally adjusted data from April 2012 forward. Seasonally adjusted data from January 2009 forward are subject to revision. In addition, data for some series prior to 2009, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, incorporate revisions.

The total nonfarm employment level for March 2013 was revised upward by 369,000 (+347,000 on a not seasonally adjusted basis, or 0.3 percent). The average benchmark revision over the past 10 years was plus or minus 0.3 percent.

This revision incorporates the reclassification of jobs in the QCEW. Private household employment is out of scope for the establishment survey. The QCEW reclassified some private household employment into an industry that is in scope for the establishment survey—services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. This reclassification accounted for an increase of 466,000 jobs in the establishment survey. This increase of 466,000 associated with reclassification was offset by survey error of -119,000 for a total net benchmark revision of +347,000 on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Historical time series have been reconstructed to incorporate these revisions.

The effect of these revisions on the underlying trend in nonfarm payroll employment was minor. For example, the over-the-year change in total nonfarm employment for 2013 was revised from 2,186,000 to 2,322,000 seasonally adjusted.

So the overall change isn't very different, but let's plug in the new numbers from 2009 forward, and it'll show the slow but steady job growth in the U.S. over the last 4 years.

Dec 2009- Dec 2010- 1.058 million total jobs, 1.277 private sector
Dec 2010- Dec 2011- 2.083 million total jobs, 2.400 private sector
Dec 2011- Dec 2012- 2.236 million total jobs, 2.294 private sector
Dec 2012- Dec 2013- 2.312 million total jobs, 2.368 private sector

On a related note, Wisconsin and the other states will also be benchmarked at the next jobs state report, which we should see in about a month. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if the QCEW is an indication of what Wisconsin's new benchmark should be, this shouldn't change much when we see the update next month (if anything, it'd go down a small amount). And if true, this would keep the Walker jobs gap through the end of 2013 at nearly 43,000 total jobs, and over 52,000 in the private sector.

Looking ahead, I'm starting to fear that we're in a soft patch with the economy, and if wages don't pick up, our growth for earliy 2014 may not be as hot as a lot of the experts were saying. Of course, maybe it's all of these below zero nights that are bringing down my mood, and the underlying economy seems to be bumping along OK. With the state's surplus being projected in no small part due to a strong economic outlook and a booming stock market, it indicates to me that maybe we shouldn't count on all those dollars before they actually come in, and we certainly shouldn't be blowing tax cuts on revenue and job growth that might not necessarily happen.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Whole lotta Cheeseheads were hanging with the Kochs

Great work from Mother Jones, who has an article out today where they tell you who attended the Koch Brothers' retreat in Palm Springs California last week. Like with most things in the Koch cabal, they try to keep a lid on who's showing up and who's doing these oligarchs' bidding (this is one of the items that John Doe Deux is working on, since they launder these funds), so this is a very big deal. And yes, Peyton Manning' favorite pizza maker is on the list.
Attendees of these summits are warned that the seminars, where the Kochs and their allies hatch strategies for electing Republicans and advancing conservative initiatives on the state and national levels, are strictly confidential; they are cautioned to keep a close eye on their meeting notes and materials. But last week, following the Kochs' first donor gathering of 2014, one attendee left behind a sensitive document at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort outside of Palm Springs, California, where the Kochs and their comrades had spent three days focused on winning the 2014 midterm elections and more. The document lists VIP donors— including John Schnatter, the founder of the Papa John's pizza chain— who were scheduled for one-on-one meetings with representatives of the political, corporate, and philanthropic wings of Kochworld. The one-page document, provided to Mother Jones by a hotel guest who discovered it, offers a fascinating glimpse into the Kochs' political machine and shows how closely intertwined it is with Koch Industries, their $115 billion conglomerate.

The more than 40 donors courted by the Kochs include hedge fund and private-equity billionaires, real estate tycoons, and executives of top corporations, including Jockey International and TRT Holdings, owner of Omni Hotels and Gold's Gym. A number of them have never been identified as members of the Koch donor network, including Schnatter, one of the more prominent names on the list.

Come on out for world domination and drinks in the desert!

And this shouldn't surprise a lot of us in Wisconsin, but we do get an idea on just "who is AFP."
At least half of the one-on-one sessions involved representatives of Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers and their top political adviser and strategist, Richard Fink, a Koch Industries executive vice president and board member. The AFP officials called to duty for these discussions included AFP's president Tim Phillips, chief operating officer Luke Hilgemann, vice president for state operations Teresa Oelke, and vice president for development Chris Fink (Richard Fink's son). The state directors for AFP's Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida chapters were also slated for tête-à-têtes during the Koch summit. (AFP spokesman Levi Russell declined to comment on the meeting document.)

In the past, Koch Industries has distanced itself from AFP and its political activities. The company has said the group is just one of "hundreds of organizations" that receive funding from the Kochs and that it operates "independently" of Koch Industries. But the document suggests a close collaboration between officials of Koch Industries, AFP, and Freedom Partners, whose staff and board are stacked with numerous current and former Koch Industries employees. Michael Lanzara and Jeff Noble, who transitioned over to Freedom Partners from Koch Companies Public Sector—the company's legal, lobbying, and public affairs branch—were scheduled to meet with donors alongside AFP staffers. The Koch brothers and Richard Fink were also listed as taking part in some of these sessions. (Fink, a man of many hats within the Koch firmament, is also an AFP board member; David Koch chairs the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.)
Ah yes, Luke Hilgemann, a former Chief of Staff for slimeball State Rep. Scott Suder (who's back in the news for using campaign funds to do some partying of his own). He also used to be a board member at the sketchy United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, and famously boasted "BRING IT!" in relation to the sliminess becoming public. These guys were so "Unintimidated" that United Sportsmen's state grant was rescinded, Suder resigned his seat in the Assembly and Hilgemann high-tailed it to D.C. to work at the AFP corporate offices soon after.

But as Mother Jones shows with the list, Hilgemann isn't the only Koch whore with Wisconsin connections that was at the Palm Springs blowout. Here are some of the others.
Bob and Steve Fettig: The Fettigs run the metal fabrication company Tankcraft, based in Darien, Wisconsin. Steve is the company's CFO; Bob is CEO.

Debra Waller: Since 2001, she's been the chairman and CEO of [Kenosha-headquartered] Jockey International Inc.

"Players" (read: Koch front men and women)
David Fladeboe: He's the state director for Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin.

Luke Hilgemann: He's Americans for Prosperity's chief operating officer.
Is it any wonder why Scott Walker was so quick to take that phone call 3 years ago, and asked "David Koch" for help during the Uprising? He knows his owners as well as anyone. And if we don't stop these sickos, we'll be owned by them as well. It's these oligarchs' ultimate end game.

And that's why it's sickly ironic that these two guys get fined and convicted in federal court for messing up (Koch-owned) Angel Soft's computer server in 2011, but the Kochs can help to launder hundreds of millions of dollars to political causes and duck the taxes they and their fellow oligarchs should owe, and claim "free speech". I think we got the "lawbreakers" and the "good guys" mixed up here.

Obamcare lie starting to get smacked down outside the bubble

It's been interesting reading the online reactions the day after the CBO report on the deficit and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) came out. This report indicated that Obamacare will lead to an estimated 2 million Americans opting out of the work force in the next 3 years, and when the report originally came out, Republicans tried to jump all over it, claiming it "proved" Obamacare was a job-killer. Not surprisingly, the lame-os in the D.C. media went along with it.

Just as predictably, grandstanding GOPs tried to get CBO director Douglas Elmendorf to say "Obamacare costs jobs" at a Budget Committee hearing today, but it didn't go quite as planned for the Repubs.
On page 124, the report estimates that the ACA will “boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services.” This, the report says, “will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years.”

“When you boost demand for labor in this kind of economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate, because those people who are looking for work can find more work, right?” [Dem Rep. Chris] Van Hollen asked Elmendorf.

“Yes, that’s right,” Elmendorf said.

Elmendorf added that the factor Van Hollen had identified was something CBO thinks “spurs employment and would reduce unemployment over the next few years.”
And Van Hollen and Elmendorf aren't the only ones to note the positives in that CBO report, and the meme might be turning already. Check out this segment from Chris Hayes' MSNBC show yesterday. He not only shreds imbecilic Sen. Marco Rubio for claiming Obamacare is a fiscal drag (it actually REDUCES the deficit in coming years), but then he discusses the "people leaving the work force" talking point with Business Insider's Josh Barro. The stuff on the work force effect starts around 4:30, and it's good, wonky stuff that's on an understandable level.

That's how this is going to work in the real world, and the last point about how this gives some power to the worker over the employer is a big one- you can't use "health care" as a reason a worker needs to stay at your job, because they could now get covered through the exchanges or expanded Medicaid (if you're in a place lucky enough to take expanded Medicaid). THAT'S the real reason why the Kochs are trying to fight this so badly.

And it's why Koch puppets in Congress that continue to live in the right-wing bubble refuse acknowledge that the CBO report shows that Obamacare is a net benefit for many Americans, and probably the economy as a whole. Exhibit A of that type of Congressman, U.S. Sen. (mo)Ron Johnson. I'll have the reality in italics.
“Sadly, yesterday, we receive further proof of the true harm done to our country by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). (Go on....) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the budget (link here) that shows PPACA is expected to lower wages and depress the incentive for individuals to look for higher wages. (Actually, it's the complete opposite- it raises wages) CBO’s analysis should put to rest any doubt left among the proponents of this law that it is harmful. (The real world already doubts that your conclusion, Ron) The people of Wisconsin are already seeing their insurance cost skyrocket, losing access to their doctors, and losing the health plans they liked. (For the few Wisconsinites this may be true for, that's on Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin GOP Legislature for not setting up our own exchange and expanding Medicaid.) This report is additional proof that the law damages every component of our economy. (Not even close)

“It is unconscionable that the Democrats who passed this bill and the President who signed it into law would let this debacle continue. We must act responsibly to repair the damage caused by the law and limit and prevent future damage. (Yes, not forcing people to work till they drop and grab higher wages is such a calamity! How will we ever survive?) It goes beyond callous to stand idly by while people are losing their livelihoods and having their health put at risk.” (Name one.)
And outside of (mo)Ron Johnson's right-wing bubble is Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald, who ended his article today by stating
Is the CBO correct? Who knows? As with any predictions, these estimates are based on economic models and assumptions, and those can be wrong or they can change. But the CBO certainly has not provided any serious new information that can be used by the critics of Obamacare. So, when politicians and commentators say that the new CBO report is devastating proof of the terrible impact of Obamacare, just know this: they’re lying.