Friday, January 19, 2018

Stop the game-playing, LET IT SHUT DOWN!

As Congress hurtles toward a bailout, I'm reminded of an article written in GQ by Drew Magary (yes, the guy of "Why Your Team Sucks" fame in Deadspin) a couple of weeks ago. This was around the time when Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" was coming out, and Magary noted that Wolff was the rare journalist who understood that the way things are done in a decenct society have been thrown out the window in the lawless, fact-free TrumpWorld.
Everyone around Donald Trump is too polite to Donald Trump. Democrats, foreign dignitaries, underlings… all of them. And the White House press is perhaps the worst offender. From the media pool playing along with Sarah Sanders during press conferences—conferences where Sanders openly lies and pisses on democracy—to access merchants like Maggie Haberman doling out Trump gossip like so many bread crumbs, too many reporters have been far too deferential to an administration that is brazenly racist, dysfunctional, and corrupt. And for what purpose? It’s clear to me that Haberman and the like aren’t saving up their chits for just the EXACT right time to bring this Administration down. No, the only end goal of their access is continued access, to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off. They are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.

But Wolff didn’t do that. He did not engage in some endless bullshit access tango. No, Wolff actually USED his access, and extended zero courtesy to Trump on the process, and it’s going to pay off for him not just from a book sales standpoint, but from a real journalistic impact. I am utterly sick to death of hearing anonymous reports about people inside the White House “concerned” about the madman currently in charge of everything. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.

Trump ascended into power in part because he relied on other people being too nice. It’s fun to rampage through the china shop when the china shop owner is standing over there being like, “SIR, that is not how we do things here!” If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn't even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own? They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.
And that exact same bad-faith mentality is what is permeating the Republicans in Congress right now. Look at the garbage they are trying to spin tonight.


1. No Dem should budge an inch on getting CHIP reauthorized AND having DACA taken care of. It is disgusting for the GOP to play off of two sets of young people living in and contributing to America, especially when there doesn't need to be a choice made between the two. The only proper Dem response to that either/or GOP mentality should be "What the hell is wrong with you?"

2. From most reports, CHIP and DACA could also be passed overwehlmingly tonight as a standalone, combined bill. So why isn't that happening? And more importantly, WHY WASN'T THIS DONE BEFORE CHIP EXPIRED 4 1/2 MONTHS AGO?

To ask the question is to answer it. To Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and most other Republicans, someone's health care and human dignity is a bargaining chip to (ab)use power with. There is no sense of doing these things out of common decency and compassion.

3. The Continuing Resolution that passed the House only funds departments for 1 month. So the same BS brinksmanship would happen in February, and maybe again after that?

Do you understand what a mess that causes for our military, when they don't know how much money and resources they will have for the next 8 months? If you don't, let's let the Press Secretary for the Pentagon explain it.

So I don't want to hear Paul Ryan or any other GOP trying to sell BS about how this bill "funds our troops." You don't give a damn about a functioning military or the troops, or else you'd have already had military appropriations and health care taken care of months ago.

A 1-month CR is Mickey Mouse BS, and should be voted down on "non-serious" criteria alone. And apparently Lindsey Graham and other Republicans are among those that recognize this as absurd and won't vote for the bill as it stands.

So now I'm reading that far too many Dem Senators are trying to compromise with these power-drunk Republicans, and they might allow something to slip by the Senate just so there isn't a shutdown, because "a shutdown will be bad." This is where I want to go back to Drew Magary's statement.
...These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.

No DACA, No CHIP, NO full-year extension? NO FUCKING DEAL. And if it shuts, it shuts. But I am done with Dems being the nice guy who does the right thing by keeping things moving along. It's not rewarded by the electorate and status quo just feels like a slow bleed for most people.

Standing up for young people and standing up for competence and a fully-funded military is how this country gets better, and how Dems win big in November. Stop giving into hostage takers, and if GOP arrogance and incompetence ends up causing things to shut down and go into chaos, LET THEM DO IT.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

10 years in, time for a new name

Just realized that yesterday marks the 10-year anniversary of me sitting in a Madison apartment, casually clicking on a Google search after a couple of beers, and ended up with this site.

As part of that, I came up with Word Salad of "Jake's Economic TA Funhouse." I had just landed a TA position for my last semester in grad school, and so I figured I'd throw that in there. If you click back to the posts in that first year, you'll see there are very few posts and about half of them are sports-related, although more come in as the economy collapsed in late 2008. And then things changed in the 2010s, and it's evolved into what you see today.

But as someone pointed out, having the "Economic TA" part in the title isn't really representative of what my job is today, or what this blog is today. So you'll see that this is now titled Jake's Wisconsin Funhouse, and a few of my subtitles and other things have been modified.

So no, your eyes are not deceiving you, and the top of the page is a little different. But otherwise, it should be the same.

Tax plan already shifting money from Main Street to Wall Street

The Piece of Shit tax plan hasn't even been law for a month, and we are already seeing the effects. Much of those effects are reflected in the otherwise-inexplicable runup of nearly 5% in the stock market since that bill was signed into law.

With that in mind, Yahoo Finance’s Myles Udland noted how the corporate tax cuts are changing the decisions companies make, with more money being used to help stockholders instead of making an actual product. .
On Wednesday, two separate corporate announcements highlighted what is likely to be a theme during a fourth quarter earnings season that will pick up steam in the coming weeks.

Bank of America (BAC), which reported earnings before the market open on Wednesday, said that most of the benefits it gets from tax cuts will be used on capital return. On the company’s earnings conference call Wednesday, Bank of America Brian Moynihan said “most of the benefits” from tax cuts “will flow to the bottom-line through dividends and share buybacks over time.”

Moynihan noted that in 2017, Bank of America had $16.6 billion of net income available to shareholders and returned $16.8 billion through dividends and buyback. “So, yes, we will expect to return more capital to shareholders given the tax [cut],” Moynihan said.

And then on Wednesday afternoon, Apple (AAPL) announced that it would “contribute” $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years. In this announcement, Apple identified $30 billion of direct investment as part of this contribution and $38 billion in taxes due to repatriating overseas earnings.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets said Thursday that this tax indicates Apple will bring back $207 billion after taxes and said they believe “almost all of it” will be used to reward shareholders through share buybacks or dividends. Apple also announced Wednesday that all employees will get $2,500 of restricted stock, and while this news is a clear positive for employees it also implicitly acknowledges that one must be a shareholder to see the clearest benefit from lower taxes.

This a-hole may like it, but how does it help us?

Meanwhile, if you work at a real job with some of these companies, and you’re not making those decisions in the boardroom? Well, you better keep your resume up to date, because lower corporate taxes encourage this type of profit-hoarding and wage suppression over actual business growth.

David Dayen exposed the scam corporations are trying to run on the average American in an article last week for Vice news. Dayen pointed out that last month’s well-publicized corporate raises were done because they carried a bigger bang for the buck than if they did the same this year, and are little more than a cheap PR stunt.
The Comcast and AT&T bonuses were also announced late last year, allowing them to be written off as a business expense in 2017. If a business gave a bonus in 2017, it went against the 35 percent corporate tax rate then in effect. If were to give one this year, the bonus would only go against the new 21 percent rate. In other words, it was cheaper for businesses to announce bonuses in December than January, suggesting we may not see much of their kind again.

But Comcast and AT&T in particular serve as the poster children for dishonesty in this matter. Because around the same time that they made a big show of rewarding employees with bonuses, both companies quietly engaged in layoffs. Comcast fired 500 members of its sales department before Christmas, and AT&T is eliminating “thousands” of jobs, according to its union, the Communications Workers of America. “We believe there's more than 4,000 people AT&T has (notified of layoffs) across the country,” Larry Robbins, vice president of CWA Local 4900, told the Indianapolis Daily Star.

Just to do the math on this, $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 AT&T workers is $200 million. Cancelling 4,000 jobs at the median US compensation of $59,000 per year (some of the workers affected likely earned less) would actually amount to a higher number, and unlike the bonuses, those layoffs are permanent. More to the point, any $1,000 bonus for workers is a drop in the ocean compared to chopping the corporate tax rate by 40 percent, as the Trump tax cuts will. AT&T, according to calculations from economist Dean Baker, will see $2.4 billion in annual savings from that tax cut, more than ten times the likely cost of its the one-time bonus. (Neither Comcast nor AT&T immediately responded to a request for comment.)…

But the real corporate face of the tax cut is Pfizer. The drugmaker is said to have among the largest stash of money of any corporation parked offshore, which under the tax law they can now bring back at a dramatically discounted rate. So how have they repaid workers since enjoying that windfall? They’ve announced a $10 billion buyback, an increased dividend, and the elimination of investment into research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, laying off 300 scientists and putting breakthroughs to fight those diseases further out of reach. (When reached for comment, Pfizer spokeswoman Neha Wadhwa told VICE that the research and shareholder payout decisions were "totally independent of tax reform," and that the company would decide how to react to the tax changes alongside its earnings statement later this month.)

In other words, these announcements are worse than a joke. They represent a deliberate strategy to curry favor with the public and President Trump while executives gorge themselves on tax cuts, most of which won’t trickle down to anyone. Corporations simply don’t make decisions based on taxes, and certainly not decisions to benefit workers over the long-term. These corporate PR departments are deceiving America to preserve an ideology of ultra-low taxes, and hoping nobody notices the truth.
With this in mind, watch what happens when first quarter earnings come in around 2018. If there aren’t massive increases in after-tax profit due to the tax cuts, there will be a lot of pressure to do “cost-cutting measures” to improve that bottom line.

And you can bet those cost cuts won’t come out of the hides of overpaid CEOs and the rent-seeking investor class.

Wisconsin may be near full employment, but isn't closing the jobs gap

As a desperate Walker Administration tries to convince a very skeptical public that Republican policies are working in Wisconsin, the Department of Workforce Development had its monthly jobs report come out today. And given that it was released by 9am, you could figure that it had news the Walker folks wanted to talk about.
Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.0 percent in December matches the lowest rate on record, and sets a new record for lowest December unemployment rate. The unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percent from November's rate of 3.2 percent and is 1.1percent lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, which was unchanged from November. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of 68.9 percent was unchanged from November, but the total labor force continued its strong growth, reaching another all-time high in December, preliminary estimates show.
3.0% unemployment is impressive with a high participation rate, indicating that almost anyone that can work in Wisconsin is working (keep this concept in mind for later). The one drawback is that it also underscores the lack of population growth the state has, especially among the working-age population, which also helps explain why the US unemployment rate keeps dropping while job growth slows down.

But this does show that Wisconsin is benefitting from the continued Obama Recovery, and although we are still lagging behind the rest of the country, we are basically at full employment. Which led Scott Walker and other Republicans to use today’s jobs report as the motivation behind… a special legislative session on poor-shaming?
The bills would increase the number of hours food stamp recipients must work to continue receiving benefits, require recipients of Medicaid to pay child support and require drug screening for residents of subsidized housing, among other changes.

"With more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines: we need everyone in the game," Walker said. "We want to remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available for those who truly need it."
So Scotty’s administration is talking up how strong Wisconsin’s participation rate is, but he and other suburba-GOPs are claiming there’s a whole lot of people “on the sidelines”? Why, because they’re 80, 15, or disabled? The only way that makes sense is if you have indentured servitude as a goal (hey, wait a minute…)

By the way, the “jobs added” part of today's Wisconsin jobs report wasn’t as impressive.
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, Wisconsin added a significant 40,200 total non-farm jobsand 43,500 private sector jobs from December 2016 to December 2017, including a significant 11,500 manufacturing jobs. The state also gained 1,300 private sector jobs from November 2017 to December 2017, including 1,200 construction jobs. November private sector jobs gains were also revised up by 2,100, showing that Wisconsin gained a total of 4,900 private sector jobs from October 2017 to November2017.
The upward revision is nice, but 1,300 private sector jobs added in a month is below the US trend. For the whole year, Wisconsin basically kept up with the US rate on the private sector side, and were barely below it for overall jobs.

The problem is that 2017 added the least amount of jobs in America since 2010. And the Walker jobs gap was so huge going into 2017 that it's still at 115,000 private sector jobs, and over 111,000 jobs overall.

What’s not mentioned by Walker’s DWD in that news release is that despite the alleged increase of 11,500 manufacturing jobs in 2017, the December jobs report said that 2,900 manufacturing jobs were lost last month. And as UW Madison’s Menzie Chinn has noted in the past, you should be VERY skeptical that those manufacturing gains will hold when 2017 job totals are benchmarked in a few weeks.

And going back to the special session - will any of these bills will actually make work pay by raising our minimum wage past $7.25, or by removing barriers to employment through paid child care and family leave, or by removing right-to-work (for less) laws and allowing workers to join together to raise pay and work standards? OF COURSE NOT! The only thing that even seemed to come close was this provision.
Allow the Department of Administration to contract with a private provider for payments to provide social, employment or correctional services to individuals and create a "pay for success trust fund" of up to $20 million.
And I don't know what the "success" is in this case. Oh, but they will give Health Savings Accounts to people on Medicaid (I'm sure that'll go a long way with someone that's in such a desperate situation that they're on Medicaid).

The lack of interest in rewarding Wisconsinites who work reveals the real motivation for this unnecessary and policy-stupid “special session”- to distract rubes with race-baiting to try to ward off the Dem wave that is building for the 2018 November elections. It’s a classic resentment play to redirect the people’s rightful anger from Walker’s and WisGOP’s failures to deal with the real problems of underfunded schools and pockmarked roads, and it reeks of desperation.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sorry Scotty, decent revenue numbers don't fix 7 years of failure

As I predicted last week, today the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released its updated revenue figures for the rest of the 2017-19 budget. And overall, the figures were pretty good news, as the state has some more money to play with.
Based upon our analysis, we project the closing, net general fund balance at the end of this biennium (June 30, 2019) to be $385.2 million. This is $137.5 million above the balance that was projected at the time of enactment of the 2017-19 biennial budget (2017 Act 59).

The $137.5 million is the net result of: (1) an increase of $76.3 million in estimated tax collections; (2) an increase of $1.7 million in departmental revenues (non-tax receipts deposited into the general fund); (3) a decrease of $97.7 million in net appropriations, and (4) a transfer of $38.2 million to the budget stabilization fund.
Interestingly, the larger dollar figure in spending reductions is mostly due to the Walker Administration refinancing large amounts of debt at the end of 2017 while these types of bonds could still be written off (under the tax bill, this opportunity ends in 2018).

I would have liked to have seen more on what types of back-door tax increases may result due to the Piece of Shit tax bill, the LFB didn't really go into that, other than some funds from "federalized" tax cuts that largely help the rich in Wisconsin like the AMT. And besides, the topline umbers are good, and that's what our fair Governor wanted to talk about.

One problem with that claim of "finished every budget with a surplus." It simply isn’t true. Let’s go back to high school, and remind ourselves what a deficit is defined as.
A fiscal deficit occurs when a government's total expenditures exceed the revenue that it generates, excluding money from borrowings. Deficit differs from debt, which is an accumulation of yearly deficits.
So now let’s go to the Annual Fiscal Reports for each of Walker’s 6 years, and plug in the numbers. Let’s also add the revenue estimates that were just released.

Year-end balances
FY 2011 $85.6 million
FY 2012 $342.1 million (+$256.5 million, thank a state employee)
FY 2013 $759.2 million (+$417.1 million)

And what did we get for it? Pre-election tax cuts in 2014. And here's the result.

FY 2014 $516.9 million ($242.3 million DEFICIT)
FY 2015 $135.6 million ($381.3 million DEFICIT)

Major cuts to UW and highways follow in the 2015-17 budget.

FY 2016 $331.0 million (+$195.4 million)
FY 2017 $579.0 million (+$248.0 million)
FY 2018 (proj) $652.1 million (+73.1 million)
FY 2019 (proj) $460.2 million ($191.9 million DEFICIT)

So even with those positive revenue numbers, they also show that we are on pace to have a General Fund deficit next year, making it 3 out of 8 years where we will have spent more than we have taken in. And this doesn’t take into account the debt payments Walker skipped in 2015 and 2016 just to keep those numbers above water.

In addition, file this tweet under “How fucking stupid does Scotty think we are?”

Uh, do you remember BUSH’S GREAT RECESSION in 2007-08 (before the Dems took over in 2009) and did you forget about the OBAMA RECOVERY, which got started with job growth in 2010? Because I sure as hell do!

Seriously, take a look at these two charts, and realize that Walker took office in January 2011. Would you call this a successful effort at improving the state’s economy from where he inherited it?

You want to talk about a deficit, Scotty? 115,000 jobs is a helluva deficit.

Expect a lot of similar desperation and cherry-picked spin from Scared Scotty in the next month or two, as he realizes that the prospect of having to get a real job isn’t very appealing. Just be ready to call out the shameless BS when he does.

What if the Schach wave in Western Wisconsin hits the whole state?

Finally, this state got a glimmer of hope last night that maybe the Age of Fitzwalkerstan is could be nearing its end. And it wasn’t just people in Wisconsin that noticed.

Not only did Patty Schachtner win a GOP-leaning seat in Western Wisconsin over Adam (Sean Duffy wanna-be) Jarchow, but she did so easily, by more than 10 points. So how did she do it?

First of all, fighting against Koched-up big-money corruption and GOP indecency sounds like a winner in 2018, as Schachtner noted in a post-election interview.
Jarchow, meanwhile, saw several groups come in on his behalf on radio as well as through digital ads and trying to turn out voters. That includes a radio ad from the Republican State Leadership Committee that said she was sued by her school district for lunch expenses she’d “pushed off” on taxpayers.

The State Senate Democratic Committee said Schachtner’s husband was injured, wasn’t working and the family fell behind on school lunch payments.

Schachtner said Tuesday the negative ads backfired.

“Kindness counts,” she said.
Now even though kindness and decency do count, that doesn’t mean Dems shouldn’t smash the Republicans’ faces in when it comes to pointing out their many policy failures and rampant crookedness. But it does mean that when you launch an attack IT NEEDS TO BE ACCURATE AND RELEVANT, and that coherence matters (something our governor is failing miserably at these days).

It also didn’t hurt that Schachtner had roots in the area, so the attacks against "generic Dem" by the Koch types fell flat, and she spoke about issues that related to the everyday lives of her (now) constituents.
This campaign was about investing in people and revitalizing our area, whether that is making sure every Wisconsinite has access to affordable health care, funding our public schools, technical colleges and UW campuses, or investing in good-paying jobs right here in Western Wisconsin. Tonight, voters showed that they share those priorities, and I am deeply grateful for their support.

Three months ago, I would never have imagined that I'd be running for State Senate. I feel humbled and honored to know that my neighbors in Western Wisconsin feel as I do -- that our communities are stronger when we work together towards common sense solutions. To my supporters who voted for me, and also those who didn't, I promise to fight every day to make sure your values and needs are represented in Madison.
Now that’s how you say it, folks. This is about VALUES and specific issues like health care, schools, and jobs.

I find it no coincidence that a big key to Schachtner’s win was getting 73% of Pierce County's vote (UW-River Falls) and 68% in Dunn County (UW-Stout). SD-10 was the only Wisconsin Senate district “represented” by a Republican that had 2 4-year UW campuses in it, and maybe the anti-intellectualism with today’s Wisconsin GOP is finally seeping its way into changing the voting habits of the area. It’s well past time for people to make the GOP pay price for hating on educators and the educated.

But it wasn’t just in Western Wisconsin where evidence appeared of GOP losing its grip on the state. There was an open Assembly seat in the West Bend area after Bob (“Are you giving me the finger?”) Gannon keeled over late last year. And the result was surprisingly close.

If the West Bend area is going to be 60-40 GOP, there is absolutely no way that the GOP can win statewide. Combined, these are the two swings in these districts from November 2016 to January 2018.

SD-10 Dem +27
AD-58 Dem +25

Yes, a lower-turnout election in January likely leads to more outliers, and so we can’t take these results as a guarantee of a Dem sweep in November. But even if you cut yesterday’s swings in half, (so Dem +13 as an average), Republicans are in big trouble.

Project those results statewide, use the 2014 totals as a baseline for statewide officials, and the 2016 Trump vs Clinton election results for each district in the State Legislature. Then move the margin 13 points toward the Dems, and here are the results.

Gov- Dems would beat Scott Walker by 7.3 points (more than Walker has won by in any of his elections)
AG- Josh Kahl would beat Brad Schimel by 5.9 points
Senate – 17-16 Dems, and a lot of other GOP districts get close.
Assembly- 51-48 Dems, and 7 other GOP seats are within 2 points.

You wonder why Dem legislative leaders Gordon Hintz and Jennifer Shilling were out today demanding that Walker call special elections in two districts where GOP legislators cashed in at the end of last year? They see blood in the water, and so does Scotty, which is why Gov Unintimidated is breaking state law by refusing to call that election.

And the Legislature’s differences are assuming the districts won’t be redrawn once SCOTUS rules in Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case. If those districts get drawn fairer, Dems would likely control everything at the Capitol.

Is it any surprise that Scott Walker was panic-tweeting “WAKE UP CALL” all night and today, and then tried to unleash a torrent of tweets claiming that Wisconsin is doing fine? Let’s not allow Scotty and WisGOP to whitewash their record, which has left much of the state in the mess it is in today - a mess that likely helped in getting Patty Schachtner elected last night.

Instead, let’s make Scott Walker’s nightmare come true, and make the grifter have to get his first real job after the November elections.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Oh, so NOW Scotty wants to speed up at Lincoln Hills...kinda

2 weeks after our Fair Governor said that he’d wait until 2019 to do anything to close the troubled youth prison at Lincoln Hills (if the voters of this state are stupid enough to keep him around), he changed his mind over the weekend. Now Scotty wants to see something done about it in this legislative session, which would likely mean some time over the next 2 months.

But if you read the statement from Walker that came out this morning, there’s a lot more space dedicated to discussion about prior moves in the current and past budgets (to cover his ass), but not a lot in there about future actions that he wants. Well, except for speeding up the bidding process to build new facilities, with plans for a design firm to be selected next month (cha-CHING!).

The details on how to treat the underage inmates and finding the money to build the prisons are being left for the State Legislature to figure out. Bad enough, but in Molly Beck’s article in today’s Wisconsin State Journal, the Republicans running the Legislature indicate they may use the Lincoln Hills situation to make a significant change in how youth corrections are handled.
Assembly Corrections Committee chairman Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, said the legislation he is drafting with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos would likely allow county governments to have a say in the type of juvenile correctional facility built in their areas.

“I think the goal is to really have DOC out of it, and whether that’s having (the Department of Children and Families) overseeing the program or what ... just so there is uniformity with regard to programming, but really handing it off to the counties,” Schraa said. He said the legislation wouldn’t preclude the state from building the facilities Walker has proposed.

“I think that would definitely be an outcome that could happen — (have the state) spend money up front to build and then let the counties do their thing,” he said,
adding he is seeking support from Democrats and that Assembly Republicans may discuss the proposal Tuesday. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not respond to a request for comment on Walker’s effort or the Assembly Republican proposal
It seems a bit alarming that later in Beck’s story, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Counties Association has said they have not been told of the Assembly GOP’s plan, especially if they might be running these youth facilities and possibly have to deal with funding operations in a time when many counties are struggling just to keep their roads fixed.

Dems in the Legislature are also apparently locked out of these discussions, which gives me an excuse to run this excellent cartoon again.

State Dems (and especially Goyke) asked why the GOP was cobbling this bill for youth corrections in secret, when there was already a plan and a bill that had been formally introduced on the subject.
Goyke in an interview said any legislation to overhaul oversight of juvenile corrections should preserve some state oversight to ensure juvenile offenders are placed in the facilities that best address their needs, even if they’re not close to home.

He also called for a hearing on his own bill and suggested plans sought by Assembly Republicans or other lawmakers could be discussed as amendments to his plan.“I’ve introduced a bill, the bill has bipartisan support (and) it mirrors in substantial form the governor’s plan, so let’s have a hearing on it,” Goyke said. “If there’s something that’s disagreeable about that bill, let’s do it through the legislative process rather than turning it into a partisan redraft.”
But Rep. Goyke, that would imply that today’s Wisconsin GOP actually cares about solving problems and coming with up long-term solutions to legitimate issues, instead of playing political games and demanding to control all aspects of the debate. Sorry Evan, that’s not how they roll.

It’s also intriguing to note that at the same time that Walker and the GOP Legislature were panicking due to low poll numbers speeding up the timetable for action at Lincoln Hills and Copper Hills, the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health was releasing its 2017 annual report to the State Legislature.
There is a lot of data in the Children’s Mental Health report, which looks not only at emotional health, but social conditions and other statistics that may help to identify areas that may require more attention.
One that immediately jumps out was the arrest rate, particularly for younger people, and the number of Wisconsin children with family caregivers behind bars.

Juvenile arrests
US rate 10 per 1,000
Wis rate 32.5 per 1,000

Jailed parent/guardian
US rate 8.2%
Wis rate 9.1%

Interestingly, the report notes that average daily populations at youth correctional facilities are dropping, down from 408 in 2010 to 307 in 2014. This is another part of the concerns at Lincoln Hills, as lower populations make the facility less efficient.

What’s odd is that these higher arrest rates come in the face of lower levels of youth poverty and single-parent households in Wisconsin vs the rest of the nation, which you would think would correlate to higher levels of arrest. So what gives with these conflicting stats?

Perhaps there’s a clue later in the report with this statistic.
Wisconsin ranks 42nd in the nation in youth mental health (Mental Health America) Contributing Factors
• High depression rates
• Low treatment for youth with mental illness
Of note: Wisconsin ranks ranked 11th for adult mental health.
The report also notes that while many of Wisconsin’s children are on public assistance for medical care, mental health doesn’t account for much of their treatment.
9% (54,770) of children on Medicaid (around 600,000 throughout 2015) received Medicaid-funded mental health services (therapy, psychiatric hospitalizations, or other treatments); this represents 4% of the Wisconsin child population.3
•An estimated 21% of Wisconsin’s children have any mental illness. Some children receive mental health services through other public systems or through private insurance (~4% of Wisconsin children),4 but there still remains a treatment gap of about 34% of children.5
One other stat from this report is that rural Wisconsin badly lags urban Wisconsin when it comes to available mental health providers.

Ratio of mental health providers, Wisconsin
Urban 19 providers per 100 residents
Rural 11 providers per 100 residents

This may be why there is a bill that has been introduced in the Legislature that writes off student loans if you take a counseling job in a rural part of Wisconsin. This also seem to illustrate that there are mental health needs with Wisconsin youth that are not being met, and some of those unmet needs are manifesting itself in minor crimes resulting in arrest.

This other note may also explain the “high arrest, low incarceration” situation.
Wisconsin meth arrests, charges, and seizures have tripled since 2011, with greatest increases occurring in rural areas.
So instead of going into WisGOP crisis management mode and coming out with a half-baked plan that’s cooked up in private, why don’t we go more big picture, and discuss how to deal with the root causes of these issues in youth (and adult) Corrections? Sure, we can get Lincoln Hills closed and get the ball rolling on getting new places set up that are closer to many of the youthful offenders’ homes, and perhaps we can recognize that we need better training and pay for our correctional staff, as numerous reports keep going back to the union-busting Act 10 as a main reason for these problems of understaffing and abuse.

But shouldn’t we also talk about the investments we are (or aren’t) making for children’s mental health and home situations, and perhaps realize that this is a topic that won’t go away after any desperate pre-election fix by WisGOP is made to get them through 2018? While partisan GOP hacks think Lincoln Hills and juvenile corrections are a political problem (which is the only reason they really care), it is in fact a societal problem, and it should be approached accordingly.

The Fox-con rises to $4.5 billion

Before the Wisconsin State Assembly planned to meet this afternoon, Dem Leader Gordon Hintz decided to remind people of the GOP’s biggest “accomplishment” in this 2017-19 session- a Fox-con giveaway of billions of dollars to a foreign company.

With that in mind, Hintz produced an updated analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau which shows that the costs of the Fox-con continues to climb.

The LFB memo includes the $134 million in state highway funding for Foxconn upgrades that the Walker Administration transferred away from other highway road projects throughout the state (click here for more info on that scam). It also includes the massive amount of additional local subsidies that were not revealed at the time of the State Legislature’s debate on Foxconn.
The Foxconn development will impose additional operating and capital costs on local governments. Some of these costs will result from providing public services directly to the Foxconn facility in the EITM TIF district, and some costs will be indirect, resulting from providing services to people and property outside, but resulting from, the development outside the district. Foxconn will be subject to any fees charged by the municipality or other local governments for services, such as for utilities. Public service costs funded through property taxes will not generally be recouped from Foxconn, since the taxes on property located inside the TIF district will be dedicated to repaying the TIF district's project costs. To the extent property in the TIF district causes those public service costs to increase, the taxes imposed to fund the services will be shifted to other property within that local government's jurisdiction, but outside the TIF district. However, by allowing tax increment expenditures to include the cost of constructing or expanding fire stations, purchasing police and fire equipment, and the cost of general government operating expenses related to providing police and fire protection services, the Act will allow the municipality creating the EITM TIF district to use tax increments from the district to cover such costs incurred outside of the district, which could help mitigate any potential tax increases on properties outside of the district.

Indirect costs will result from other development related to the Foxconn project. That development will include business suppliers to Foxconn, housing for Foxconn employees, and businesses serving those employees, and the development that will occur within the jurisdiction of the local governments hosting the EITM zone and in adjacent municipalities, counties, and states. The incremental public costs related to the development may be small initially, but they could increase as local governments are required to increase capacity, either by adding employees or infrastructure, such as roads, schools, and other buildings.

In Wisconsin, the property tax is the largest component of own-source revenue raised by local governments and will be used as the primary source for funding the costs described above. Counties, municipalities, technical college districts, and school districts are subject to fiscal controls designed to limit the annual change in property taxes.

So enjoy THAT, if you’re living in southern Racine County, as you’ll be paying for those extra costs and infrastructure. Oh, and local taxpayers will also be paying for the lawyers’ fees associated with lawsuits that result from running people off of their homes through eminent domain and other takings for the plant.

They didn't tell you about those extras, did they?

Another cost will be the $140 million that ratepayers will have to shell out for in extra electricity costs to take care of new systems that have to be put in due to Foxconn. While the LFB says the cost will be low among individual ratepayers and spread out over numerous years, couldn’t you say that about anything else? And most government spending isn’t on something that’s going to help one specific company.
Recently, it was reported that the American Transmission Company will seek state approval for a $140 million transmission line project to provide electrical power to the Foxconn manufacturing development. While it is not yet known, the transmission line project would affect the rates of residential and other electric customers. However, the cost would be spread over a large number of consumers for up to 40 years, so the impact on individual ratepayers is not expected to be significant. Further, the Act modifies current law provisions regarding public utility market-based rates to require an electric public utility providing service to an EITM zone [the Foxconn TIF enterprise zone) to file with the PSC, no later than January 1, 2020, tariffs that include market-based pricing and options that allow a new retail customer within the EITM zone to receive market benefits and take market risks for some or all of the customer's purchases of capacity and energy, provided that the PSC determines that the customer is eligible for an EITM zone credit.
That last part is intriguing as well. Does that mean Foxconn and related companies might be eligible for extra rate breaks from electric suppliers due to the fact that they’re a heavy user? Sure seems like it.

Hintz added up the price tags of these state and local subsidies, and here’s what he found as a maximum cost.

State Tax Credits $2.85 billion (combined total for jobs added and the facility being built)

Local Govt Assistance $764 million
Expedited I-94 Project (plus debt service) 408.3 million
Utility Costs $140 million
Sales and Use Tax Exemption $139 million
State and Local Road Improvements $134 million
DWD Worker Training and Employment $20 million
Grants to Local Governments $15 million
Economic Development Liaison $400,000
Total $4.4705 billion

And one other potential large cost didn’t even make it into Hintz’s list. That’s the possibility that state taxpayers may have to bail out the locals in Racine County if the Fox-con goes belly-up. Known as a “moral obligation” pledge, the State of Wisconsin has promised it will back up 40% of the potential losses, to keep local communities from being bankrupted.
The Village of Mount Pleasant has created a TIF district within the Foxconn EITM zone and anticipates the issuance of TIF revenue bonds to be backed by the state's moral obligation pledge. However, the exact size and the terms of the revenue bond debt to be issued to finance costs related to development occurring in or for the benefit of an EITM zone are not entirely known. Therefore, the potential state fiscal impact of the moral obligation pledge cannot currently be determined, and would depend on the amount of revenue bonds the DOA Secretary designates for the pledge. As an example, for every $100 million in debt issued by a local governmental unit that is covered by the pledge, and assuming an interest rate of 5% and a flat, 20-year repayment schedule, total principal and interest payments would equal $160.5 million. Assuming that no revenues from the underlying project are available to service 40% of the debt, then the Legislature could be called on to appropriate up to $64.2 million for the repayment of 40% of principal and interest costs under the moral obligation pledge.
Using that calculation, the $764 million in the Mount Pleasant TIF district would mean that Wisconsin taxpayers could owe up to another $490 million.

Granted, if the Fox-con works in creating jobs and all of the tax incentives are paid out, that $490 million bailout won’t have to be paid. But that also means the full $4.47 billion may also be out the door, tying the hands of the state financially for years. This state is screwed either way by this gimmick, and given the resources that are being diverted to the Fox-con vs other areas, it likely won’t add much more jobs compared to investments that would be far less costly.

Hintz rightfully connected the rising costs of the Fox-con to the damage that will happen to other state services in future years as a result.
“The costs of this project should alarm every Wisconsin family. This memo shows a 50% increase from the initially reported state investment. We will be pay for this now and long into the future, both in the direct costs and opportunity costs in cuts to K-12 education and the UW System in upcoming budgets.”
Hey rurals! If you follow the Politics of Resentment and complain about resources and jobs being sent to certain areas of the state vs others, you might want to know that it's not Madison and Milwaukee that are sucking you dry. It’s taxpayer-funded GOP cronyism like the Fox-con.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ready to land back in reality

Unpacking my brain at McCarrann Airport. I
I did OK, likely around $50 down, bet-wise, and that was more than made up with the free drinks.

Of course, if the Saints tackle Stefon Diggs in-bounds, I'd have another $88 coming back with me (had the Saints +5 and on the money line). The possibility of being in the Twin Cities the weekend of a Vikings Super Bowl looms quite obnoxiously.

Still a great weekend to be around great people. And since I hit a wall of Day 3 post-football exhaustion and had an early bedtime, I actually feel alright.

And despite the snow that seems to keep falling in southern Wisconsin, looks like we are still slated to get in on time. The 90 miles back to Madison from MKE might not be so easy, however. If only we had a regular train or flight-convenient bus service connecting those two places...

Anyway, back to reality tomorrow. But it was nice to get away from the gritty bleakness and escape for the weekend.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Live from above the Strip

I am out on my annual Vegas trip with some friends. Money is a bit shorter today but the drinks got paid for and life is good.

Don't have much more to say about our resident's "shithole" comments, other than it really illustrates how far down into the gutter today's GOP trash are.

Apparently "give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" doesn't count in TrumpWorld if those people are of color. Duly noted, and how bought off are the GOP CongressCritters that they can't say "Fuck this senile nut job" and throw him overboard.

This has to be ended in 2018. But not by me, not this weekend anyway. I got legitimate bets to win here on the Strip (unlike the rigged casino on Wall Street, which is,being pumped up by some very funny money).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Walker/WisGOP trying to delay Lincoln Hills action, but reality keeps creeping in

This is good stuff from Alan Talaga and Jon Lyons in the Isthmus.

And Scotty's about-face might also have been related to the fact that he knew of yet another bad incident at Lincoln Hills, which was made public yesterday.
Federal prosecutors are investigating an incident in which prison guards allegedly stormed into a disruptive 16-year-old inmate’s cell, broke his arm, strip searched him, left him naked for hours and didn’t get him to a doctor for more than a week.

Details of the March 2014 encounter at Lincoln Hills School for Boys emerged in interviews with the inmate and his mother, state records and a civil rights lawsuit the inmate filed last month, just after prosecutors notified two former guards they could be indicted.

“I told him, ‘You’re breaking my arm, you’re breaking my arm,’ and he kept pulling it harder,” Jacob Bailey said of his treatment from one guard.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and prison officials reviewed the incident at the time and determined little had gone wrong. Federal prosecutors are taking a different view.
Hmm, doesn't seem like Walker's promise of future action at some point is going to make these Lincoln Hills stories go away. And given that juvenile corrections had a $3.2 million shortfall in Fiscal Year 2017, I'm going to reiterate my call for Dems on the Joint Finance Committee to file a formal objection to force a hearing on that and other state overdrafts.

We should know the price tag of these changes and to see if we can get a jump start on getting things on getting these problem in juveile corrections fixed in THIS budget cycle. I think that's a better idea than going with the Walker/WisGOP of sweeping the problems under the rug, and promising to do something in mid-2019...maybe.

A few more layoffs in Wis and the US recently. Don't panic...for now

While Wal-Mart may have gotten some nice PR by announcing they were going to boost its starting wage to $11 an hour (WOO-HOO! Benefits not included) and give some year-end bonuses to staff, you knew there had to be a catch. That catch was revealed later in the day.
Walmart is closing 63 Sam's Club stores across the US, the company told Business Insider.

Several stores were abruptly closed Thursday. In some cases, employees were not informed of the closures prior to showing up to work on Thursday.
Instead, they learned that their store would be closing when they found the store's doors locked and a notice announcing the closure, according to reports.

Ten of the affected stores will be turned into ecommerce distribution centres, and employees of those stores will have the opportunity to reapply for positions at those locations, a Walmart official said.

The remaining stores will stay open for several weeks before closing permanently. All of the affected stores were scrubbed from Sam's Club's website Thursday morning.

PR pay raises don't matter if there's no store

Included in that list are Wisconsin stores in Madison and West Allis. And the bad news kept coming as another notable Wisconsin retailer announced layoffs Thursday.
Middleton-based American Girl said Thursday it is cutting staff. Fifty-seven employees are losing their jobs, 21 of them in Wisconsin, effective immediately.

That amounts to a 3.2 percent work force reduction in Wisconsin, and 2.9 percent companywide.

"American Girl has been facing some major headwinds for the past several quarters," spokeswoman Julie Parks said. "The measures today were part of American Girl's ongoing efforts to truly control costs, align workforce with demand, and improve efficiencies where and when we can."

In the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, American Girl revenue was down 30 percent from the 2016 third quarter.
Many retailers announcing earnings and post-Christmas changes in the coming weeks, and given that the structural change from brick-and-mortar to online shopping seems to be accelerating, let’s see if there are more stories like this breaking in the near future.

Nationwide, the US reported the largest number of initial jobless claims in more than 3 months and the fourth straight week of increases, although at a seasonally-adjusted 261,000 claims, the number is still historically low. However, it was a bit concerning to see Wisconsin contribute to these recent increases, particular in the week before.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 30 were in New Jersey (+9,507), Pennsylvania (+6,850), Michigan (+5,920), Ohio (+5,773), and Wisconsin (+5,274), while the largest decreases were in California (-9,876), Kentucky (-5,485), Texas (-4,219), Oklahoma (-1,737), and Florida (-1,528).
Obviously with that being the “dead week” between Christmas and New Year’s, there’s not a whole lot to draw out of the one-week increase into a fuller picture of the economy. Further on in the jobless claims report, it says that Wisconsin’s big jump in claims was due to “layoffs in the construction, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing industries,” which also seems weather and holiday-related.

But the advance initial claims for Wisconsin for the first week of January jumped another 1,908 claims from the higher amount of the previous week, and only 9 states had a higher increase for that week. It could be just a seasonal blip, but it may be worth keeping an eye on for the short-term.

There have also been a few other stories about companies cutting back in Wisconsin in the last few days. The most damaging one is likely what happened up in Price County late last week.
Layoffs at Flambeau River Papers surprised and shocked the community of Park Falls on Friday. The history of industrial papermaking in the city goes back more than a century.

Eighty-two people are now out of a job at one of the city's biggest employers.

Nearly 300 people were employed at the mill before the layoff. In a town of just about 2,300 people, it's a big change. Executives say it was a financial decision to make the mill more viable in the long run, but for the people who lost their jobs, they're just trying to find out what to do now.
It's been rough in the paper industry in general recently in Wisconsin, as over 500 people at the Appleton Coated plant are still out of work while that facility is being offered up to buyers, and Appvion announced in November it was laying off 200 people at its plant in Appleton and moving some operations out of state. Apparently right-to-work didn't save those jobs...

It still looks like the economy is growing decently despite these recent layoff notices, and I don't see anything yet that would cause any major drop in growth or cause the unemployment rate to go up much. But it also tells me things aren't as sunny as the still-rising stock market would indicate, and that there may be a few clouds rolling in soon despite the image that our GOP leaders are trying to have us believe exists in January 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Unlike the rest of Walker's Wisconsin, Madison is a 2010s success story,

To pick up from my last post, let's go back to a tweet from our Fair Governor.

"Businesses have left and murders have gone up"? Let's go to the numbers!

Start with jobs, and let's begin our comparison in June 2011, as it allows us to look at how the state and the Madison area has performed since Act 10 and Walker’s first state budget were signed into law.

Based on figures from the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW), Dane County has outperformed the rest of the state in private sector job growth for every June-June period in each of the last 6 years, doubling up the state’s growth level in two of those years, and growing 4 times as fast in the 2015-16 period.

Adding up the last 6 years we find that the rate of private sector Dane County job growth has nearly doubled the rest of Wisconsin, at more than 15% compared to a statewide growth rate of 7.76%. And Dane County has outpaced the country while the rest of the state has fallen significantly behind.

As for Scotty’s knock on Madison crime? Even the AP’s Scott Bauer had to call BS on that, and noted that murders are up by 2/3 statewide since Gov Dropout took office.

And writer Chris Walker went deeper, noting that violent crime was down in Madison between 2011 and 2016 (2017 definitely had a rise, we'll see if it is a pattern or a blip). Meanwhile, Wisconsin hasn't been as lucky.
From the time Walker took over the governorship in 2011, and for the remainder of his tenure until the end of 2016, crime went up across the state — and not just in the city centers. The total statewide violent crime rate went up by 29.1 percent. In nonmetropolitan counties, violent crime went up by an even higher rate of 38.2 percent.

In Madison, from 2011 to 2016 the opposite holds true. Violent crime actually went down during that time, dropping by a rate of about 5 percent.

It’s not a huge drop, but it runs counter to what Walker’s claims were in his tweet on Thursday. Crime is not going “up” under Soglin’s watch — just the opposite. Crime is DOWN under Soglin, and UP across the rest of the state.
As a sidelight to this, the Assembly’s Jobs and Economy Committee had a hearing today where Scott Walker and other state agencies want to use $6.8 million in taxpayer dollars in a campaign to attract potential workers to relocate to Wisconsin. Why? Because as Walker himself admitted “We need more bodies” as low population growth has made the talent pool non-existent for employers in many parts of the state.

You know one of the few places in Wisconsin getting those bodies? The City of Madison and Dane County.

In fact, Dane County is responsible for more than half of the population growth in Wisconsin between 2011 and 2016. And the City of Madison was nearly 45% of that growth in Dane county, meaning Soglin's city has accounted for nearly 1/4 of the state’s added "bodies" by itself.

For the record, I’m someone who lists Paul Soglin near the bottom of my choice of candidates in the large Dem field for Governor, and I think this is a useless vanity project for the old guy. But in terms of ways to attack him, “Madison is crime-ridden and declining” is literally the last approach that anyone should take.

Look, I know Mr. "Divide and Conquer" is pulling a lame resentment play for the rubes because he thinks that tactic is still an electoral winner. But it seems very stupid for Walker to have a campaign that tries to claim things are going great in Wisconsin, and then be denigrating the one part of the state that actually is doing well in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Even more amazing is that Walker ripped on the Capitol City one day after it was revealed that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is having the Madison area as a centerpiece of a separate $1 million marketing campaign to encourage Illinois residents to seek a better life in Wisconsin.

The mixed messages led State Rep. Chris Taylor to rightfully give Walker’s act a “WTF?”
“We’re spending $1 million on ads telling Chicago residents what a great place Madison is to live, while at the same time, Governor Walker is taking to Twitter to attack it,” said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison). “The Governor can’t have it both ways. The fact of the matter is, Madison and Dane County are economic drivers for our state. You would think that a Governor who has failed to jumpstart Wisconsin’s economy or raise stagnate wages would be bragging about the thriving Dane County region. Why such hostility towards a proven economic driver of our state’s economy?” …

“It is important to recognize that jobs follow people. People increasingly want to live where there are good schools, strong transportation infrastructure and public amenities such as attractive parks. After learning last week Wisconsin is a top 10 state for people moving away, it’s time for the Governor to stop playing election year politics, and start acting in the best interest of our state.”

I’ll also forward you to the observations of John Peterson at DemoCurmudgeon. John not only calls out Walker for the absurd and scared Tweets, but Peterson also noted that if you want to talk about someone who mismanaged a major metro area in Wisconsin, look no further than Walker’s awful 8 years as Milwaukee County Executive before he became governor.

As I’ve said numerous times in the last few years, maybe Wisconsin “needs more Madison”, and to learn from the economic success that has happened here. It seems a better strategy than trying to knock down one of the few areas in the state that people want to live and work in.

To get talent, Wis doesn't need a marketing campaign. It needs to remove Walker and WisGOP

Wisconsin’s “Economic Development” slush fund organization thinks they have a plan to counteract the state’s brain drain and low population growth. The strategy involves throwing taxpayer dollars to our south to do it.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. launched the $1 million marketing campaign Monday — the first of its kind in state history — with a series of ads contrasting cramped subway cars and apartments in Chicago with cheaper rent and faster commute times in Wisconsin.

“The choice is yours,” states one ad featuring paddlers on Lake Monona with Monona Terrace gleaming in the background. “In Wisconsin, the average commute is less than 22 minutes, so you can spend less time traversing the rails and more time in the sun exploring our 15,000 lakes. Wisconsin. It’s more you.”…

The ad campaign, which runs through June 30, targets 21- to 35-year-olds with idyllic scenes from 15 locations around the state, including Madison, McFarland, Monona, Milwaukee, the Milwaukee suburbs, Green Bay, Appleton, Portage, Nekoosa, Wausau and the Ashwaubenon forest. (1 of 1): 0:17

It includes advertising on social media and other websites, posters in health clubs, coasters in downtown Chicago bars, and ads on the interior and exterior of Chicago Transit Authority trains. WEDC also has redesigned its website to provide job, housing and lifestyle resources for those looking to move to Wisconsin.
That sounds nice, but there’s a problem. What WEDC says is so good about Wisconsin is being taken apart by the GOPs that are running this state.

To prove this point, on the same day that WEDC rolls out this $1 million campaign talking up Wisconsin’s scenery and higher quality of life, this bill advanced in the GOP-run State Legislature.
A Wisconsin Senate committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance a bill that would eliminate all of Wisconsin’s state air pollution regulations.

Under the proposal, the state Department of Natural Resources would have the option to reintroduce those regulations. All existing federal regulations would continue.

"All we're asking is that our scientists at the DNR just take a look at all the things that they regulate above and beyond the EPA, and make sure that it still makes sense," said Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, one of the bill’s sponsors. "If it does, we'll regulate it. If it doesn't, based upon what the scientists say, we won't."…

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute support the bill. The American Lung Association, the Sierra Club and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters oppose the plan.
Yeah, I’m sure a group of Donald Trump/ Scott Pruitt appointees will go heavy against polluting corporations in Wisconsin. C’mon, they’ll look the other way just like they did last week when it came to Foxconn filling wetlands in SE Wisconsin.

And also on the same day that WEDC launches a campaign, to encourage people to come to Madison for its quality of life, Governor “Divide and Conquer” has this to say about the city whose metro area has added the most jobs and people to the state in his tenure.

This is also the same Governor who ran against Tom Barrett in 2012 saying “We don’t want the rest of the state to look like Milwaukee,” with the race-baiting connotations clearly intended. Does Governor Dropout realize that the millennials that you are trying to impress have the Google, and can see what you have done and said about the two cities they are most likely to want to come to?

And this fact isn't helping to bring anyone with talent and options to the state, either.

I’ve got an odd concept. Instead of Republicans who play divisive political games and try to stir up resentful rubes in dead-end dying towns, maybe we should elect public officials who are concerned with having ALL Wisconsin communities get better, and promotes the entire state.

And instead of giving lip service to quality of life in our ads, maybe we should pass policies that expand on our (shrinking) advantages in natural scenery and public education, and work to improve our public transit and infrastructure instead of defunding it. And maybe our companies should pay competitive wages on a scale of bigger metro areas like Chicago and the Twin Cities, instead of us having the lowest manufacturing wages in the Midwest?

Scott Walker and the Republicans would rather mess up the good things that we have (or had) in this state in favor of more ALEC-written crap from campaign contributors. And it’s especially foolish to think that the people we want to attract to come to the state won’t see through the empty words of WEDC if they do 5 minutes of research, and realize this is a state that will be in decline as long as WisGOP is in control.

So if WEDC is serious about getting people to come here for their careers and settle down here, I have a simple answer. Return Wisconsin to the progressive, beautiful and fun state that we had before 2011. You know, the time before Scott Walker and the corrosive slime that accompanied him decided to disassemble everything that made people want “Escape to Wisconsin”?

And as an extra perk, we won’t have to waste $1 million in taxpayer dollars on ads that won’t work on anyone with an IQ above bug level.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

People shouldn't gamble more on Wall Street. They need a raise and a safety net

As the stock market continues to inexplicably climb, it's worthy to note that it is causing the country to be even more a two-tier society than it already is. Let's go back to November, when CNN ran this article illustrating the gigantic gap in household wealth that exists in this country.

Related to that, Yahoo! Finance had an article this week noting that many Americans have little or no savings for retirement.
The study by the National Institute on Retirement Security, using data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, shows that retirement savings "are dangerously low" and that the U.S. retirement savings deficit is between $6.8 and $14 trillion.

Worse, the median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households, the study reports…

"If Americans continue to ignore their future, I anticipate a serious retirement train wreck in 20 to 30 years," says John Brandy, founder of Open Mind Generations, in Redmond, Washington.

The typical savings rate for most people is somewhere around 1 to 3 percent of their annual income, and that's nowhere near enough to turn the tide on low retirement savings. However, history suggests that if we save roughly 10 percent of our incomes, we're likely to achieve many of our goals," Brandy says. "And, if we save 20 percent from gross income before health insurance and taxes, that we are likely to able to achieve most, if not all, of our financial goals."
Well, sure. Just get rid of all the other expenses people have to deal with in their lives (like rent/mortgage, other insurance, student loans, credit cards, etc), and ignore rising health insurance expenses, and there won’t be any problems!

If that DID happen, then our economy would be significantly slowed down, because around 70% of our economy is based on consumer spending. As I’ve mentioned before, a main reason that GDP growth has bumped up in the last year is because the US savings rate has plummeted to levels that we saw right before the Great Recession hit. If that suddenly reversed and people started saving 3-5 times as much as they are now, our economy would likely slide into recession, which would lead to layoffs and lower incomes. Paradoxically, those lower incomes would then make it less likely people can save the 10-20% that Brandy references.

And those “savings” basically involve throwing your extra income into the stock market and other investments. Naturally, this will blow the current Bubbles even higher, and combined with the slowdown in consumer spending, it seems like we’d see that recession get worse.

In addition, many of the same people who don’t save much are among the large amount of Americans who aren’t benefitting from the runup in the bull(shit) stock market. As USA Today noted last week, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 25,000 for the first time ever.
Many Americans, however, have not benefited from the stock market's multi-year rise, as only 54% have investments in stocks, down from 62% before the 2008 financial crisis, according to Gallup. Many Main Street investors got out of the market after it lost more than half its value in the 2007-09 bear market and never got back in.

The Dow closed higher for a third straight day to start the year. It is coming off its best year since 2013.

It took the Dow just 35 calendar days to climb from 24,000 to 25,000, tying the fastest 1,000-point climbs, including the rise to 11,000 back in May 1999 and run to 21,000 in March 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices data show.
So the stock market is partying like it’s 1999? That’s not really a good thing, if you remember what happened next.

S&P 500 returns, 2000-2002
2000 -9.1%
2001 -11.9%
2002 -22.1%

So instead of having Americans “save more” by throwing extra money into a stock market that is due to go back down, I have a better suggestion for improving retirement security. Why don’t we encourage policies that lead to BETTER WAGES while people are working, so people can pay their bills and have more money available to both spend and save?

In addition, why don’t we EXPAND SOCIAL SECURITY and make it available to people younger than 62, so people can comfortably continue spending money on needs and wants as they know they have Social Security backing them up. And not have so many Americans be one bad break away from going over the edge.

And you know what’s also great about better wages and expanded Social Security? It’ll have a better chance of keeping our consumer-driven economy afloat instead of spending less now and gambling on the Wall Street casino with very little margin for loss. Seems like a more sustainable model than what we've seen for the last 40 years of lowering taxes on the rich and corporate, and shredding the safety net for everyone else.

WisGOP might try to say DC-caused tax hike = more tax cuts. Don't buy it

Today in The Hill, there was a rundown of the new fiscal issues at the state level that will result from the recent tax bill passed in DC.
“Now we get to do tax reform in all 50 states,” said Nicole Kaeding, an economist at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. (keep this quote in mind)

Most states conform parts of their tax codes — like definitions set by the IRS or deductions and tax credits for mortgages and children — to the federal code. But states set their own tax rates independently. The federal tax overhaul eliminates some deductions, broadening the tax base at both the state and federal levels.

“The tax revenue that we get in the state is dependent in some cases on the federal government,” said Joyce Peppin (R), the majority leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
That many means taxpayers could soon be on the hook for higher state tax bills.

The reform package “made the federal base of taxation broader, and it lowered the rates. The states couple to the base, but they set their rates independently,” Kaeding said. “Assuming their rates don’t change, which would be a proactive change, then states would have more revenue.”
It’s worth remembering that few of these adjustments to income tax revenues will likely hit until people file for tax year 2018, which means the biggest changes to revenue numbers wouldn’t be seen until the last half of Fiscal Year 2019 in most states.

In re-examining Wisconsin’s regular income tax form, it’s worth noting that we levy taxes based on income that happens BEFORE the itemized deductions and other exemptions, so I don’t see a lot more income that gets taxed as a base (like what’s mentioned in the story above).

But I see three areas that will likely cause Wisconsinites to pay higher state income taxes as a result of the Piece of Shit passed by Republicans in DC.

1. There are no more personal exemptions in the federal tax bill, which means that the write-off of $700 per exemption for state taxes likely won’t apply either.

2. Because the DC Piece of Shit makes it less likely for people to itemize their deductions, it also likely means that the 5% tax credit Wisconsinites get for the following 3 itemized deductions won’t happen any more.

Mortgage interest and other forms of “investment interest”
Unreimbursed medical and dental expenses
Donations to charity

3. Related to item 2, if you use the SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction, and you have a state income tax refund of $1,000, you have to include that $1,000 the next year on your federal return (because you pay less state tax, and so it shouldn’t count in SALT). But at the state level, it’s a refund of taxes you paid to Wisconsin, so that $1,000 doesn’t count as state “income” in future years, which means you get to write off $1,000 at the state level.

With fewer people using the SALT deduction for tax year 2018, that means fewer people get taxed on state refunds for tax year 2019. So that lack of write-off at the state level won’t likely kick in until those 2019 taxes are filed in early 2020, during the next 2-year state budget.

My guess/hope is that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau is calculating the effect of these back-door state tax hikes in Wisconsin, and will include these figures in their new revenue projections, which likely will come out next week. If that’s what they do, I don’t want to hear Scott Walker and other Republican hacks using this tax bump as an excuse to cut state taxes before the 2018 election.

The reason I have for that is threefold.

1. Dealing with these federal tax changes should take more than 1 month of secret meetings and then jamming through any tax bill, which I have fears is exactly what the GOPs would do in Madison (just like GOPs did in DC). There already is a new committee organized to look into Wisconsin “tax reform” that seems tailor-made to go over the changes to the state’s tax code and burdens as a result of the DC Piece of Shit. Have them look at this for the next 10 months, and then make recommendations ahead of the 2019-21 budget submittal.

2. If the Legislature targets any tax cuts as a correction for those who might face higher taxes, those cuts would overwhelmingly go to people in the upper half of the income spectrum (since those individuals are much more likely to itemize today and not have to in future years). And as we’ve seen time and again in Wisconsin, cutting taxes on richer people and corporations often ends up costing more than original projections, because richer people have the time and options to figure out how to game the system. Related to Number 1, it may well be worth it to figure out if there should be wider changes that go beyond just the reflexive patching of the higher taxes handed down from DC.

3. In a time of underfunded roads and serious needs in other state services, any extra money that comes in for the next 2 years might be a good way to stop the bleeding sooner than later, and reduced deferred needs in future years (when funds will be much tighter). Any added funding seems a logical source to get things started on closing Lincoln Hills, along with adding the millions in sparsity aid that Gov Walker called for in his pre-election panic move to fund rural schools.

We need to be ready to recognize that there may be a “surprise surplus” that pops up in Wisconsin in the next couple of weeks due to the ripple effects of the Piece of Shit tax bill, and that we need to point out that this increase will have nothing to do with actual economic growth. Instead, it’s a back-door tax hike that underscores how careless Republicans in DC were in crafting this giveaway to donors tax bill, and that we shouldn’t make the same mistake at the state level.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Scared Walker vetoes his own veto, this time on funding rural schools

A few days after our Fair Governor drastically reversed course and said the Lincoln Hills juvenile facility should be closed, Gov “Unintimidated” pulled another 180 today, this time on school funding.
Governor Scott Walker will visit Coleman High School in Coleman today to announce his support for legislation authored by Representative John Nygren (R—Marinette) that will provide additional Sparsity Aid and a Low Revenue Ceiling increase for rural schools. The increased aid for rural schools is in addition to the historic $11.5 billion investment in K-12 funding, increased support for High-Cost Transportation Aid in rural areas, new support for mental health services and expanded efforts to provide broadband access statewide included in the state budget….

Representative Nygren is authoring legislation that increases Sparsity Aid by $6.4 million for the 2018-19 school year. The bill provides an increase from $300 per pupil to $400 per pupil for districts that currently qualify for Sparsity Aid. Additionally, the bill includes an increase to the Low Revenue Ceiling from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-19 school year, with the Low Revenue Ceiling rising by $100 per year thereafter up to $9,800 by the 2022-23 school year. In order to ensure accountability to local voters, districts where a referendum to raise the revenue limit was rejected by the voters within the past three years would not be allowed to raise their revenue limit.

The Sparsity Aid Program aims to offset the challenges faced by low-population school districts through providing $300 in per-pupil funding for school districts with 745 students or less and a population density of less than 10 students per square mile.
Good ideas in general, and Walker had previously asked for an increase in sparsity aid, but GOP legislators didn’t go along for it during the budget process.

However, Walker calling for an increase of the Low Revenue Ceiling is eye-rolling. The reason why is that 3 1/2 months ago, Scotty said we didn’t need to raise that cap, as he vetoed a provision in the state budget that would have allowed the low revenue limits to go up.
I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input. In several school districts that would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already failed within the past two years. An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher than the state average. This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.

As a result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at $9,100. School districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid. These per pupil increases are equal among all school districts. Additionally, school districts could pursue an increase in their revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law. In fact, numerous districts have already done so by asking taxpayers through a referendum. Increases to the low revenue adjustment can be discussed in future state budgets.
Now I suppose Walker could weasel his way through it by saying “we aren’t allowing districts that turned down a referendum to raise taxes.” But if you look at that veto statement, Walker wasn’t planning on revisiting this issue before the 2018 elections, instead choosing to have a talking point of low property taxes” over having functional schools.

So why the change? Likely for the same reason that Scotty all of a sudden decided to deal with the Lincoln Hills issue. BAD POLL NUMBERS. Voters recognize that Walker has done little to solve the many problems that exist in this state (and caused quite a few of them), and now he’s desperately trying to make himself be seen as someone who cares.

But Scotty is incapable of shedding his partisan, social-climbing nature even if he ends up doing the right thing. Check out this whiny statement from Friday after state Dems rightfully asked why Walker hadn’t taken action on Lincoln Hills for years as the scandals at the youth prison grew.
"For months these people were saying, ‘Do this, do this, do this.’ We’re doing essentially this, and now they’re saying, ‘Wait a minute. We didn’t mean that. We still want to be upset.’ These are people who if I said, ‘The sun was out,’ they’d say, ‘No, it’s not; it’s dark,’" Walker said.
No, you asshole. It’s because we see through your cynical games and know that you couldn’t give a fuck about Lincoln Hills or rural schools until those issues started damaging your poll numbers.

We also recognize that you’re simply copying ideas from others, but trying to claim that you came up with the idea in order to try to solve the problems YOU caused, and hoping the voters are too stupid to remember those facts. Which makes this the theme song of Walker’s 2018 campaign, as he tries to spin his way out of his failing record and the deteriorating state that are a result of his policies.

Expect more of these taxpayer-funded media events and shameless changes in course from Walker over the next 10 months, as he desperately tries to avoid having to get a real job for the first time in his adult life. And the hubris this cynical sleazebucket has in thinking he can slip more BS by people is one of the biggest reasons I despise Gov Dropout. But I guess grifters are gonna grift.