Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jobs? Walker's Wisconsin is losing its Midwestern edge

Couple of reports came up this week that illustrates the Walker Way isn't one that is and will not work for Wisconsin.

The first is the new statewide jobs report. A whopping 900 jobs was created in May in Wisconsin , a rate slightly below the dismal nationwide showing of 54,000 total jobs and 90,000 private sector jobs. In fact, if you take out the state government's addition of 1,700, Wisconsin would have LOST jobs in May, and only 4,400 jobs have been added in the last 2 months. Not exactly a pace for 250,000 in 4 years, now is it?

"But Jake, aren't we doing better than our neighbors?" Well, we survived the Bush recession job-wise better than our East North Central bretheren, and when Walker took over in January 2011, we had a smaller hole to dig out of, as Wisconsin's job loss was at least 1% less than any of the other states.

vs Jan. 2008 - 2009 2010 Jan. 2011
Wisconsin -2.57% -5.82% -5.11%
Illinois -3.19% -6.86% -5.79%
Indiana -4.34% -7.06% -6.09%
Michigan -6.59% -9.47% -7.71%
Ohio -4.04% -7.70% -6.61%

But since this January, we've seen now higher-taxed Illinois keep pace in job gains with Wisconsin and Ohio, while 2 other states have gone the other way of the rest of the country, and have job LOSSES- Indiana, which happens to be led by...Walker's "sell everything off" guru, Mitch Daniels, and Michigan, led by Rick "the hell with local control" Snyder.

Wisconsin +0.73%
Illinois +0.71%
Indiana -0.14%
Michigan -0.37%
Ohio +0.71%

If you go deeper into the BLS's May report on state job changes, you can see which states have been coming on, or coming down. Check out the picture on Page 18 of the report, and you'll notice a total of 2 states east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio River that have the dark shading signifying a loss of jobs vs. this time last year. Who are the two? Indiana and New Jersey- home of union-bashers Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie. As I mentioned 4 months ago, these states are going the wrong way, but it seems to be what Scotty wants to be the Walker Way.

Well I don't want to be part of losing state, and before Scott Walker took over, Wisconsin wasn't a losing state, because our investments in social welfare and education stabilized us better than the other states in our region. But if we don't blow Walker and his supporters out of power soon, history suggests we will be losing. It makes it critical to drive these facts and figures about slowing job advantages to people over the next 6 months, because there is next to nothing in this budget bill that will actually create jobs and improve lives for real Wisconsin.

Connect the dots- Wisconsin version

Our media isn't exactly great at using this Google thing to reach back and figure out the connections between certain groups and the legislation that follows. This is why I'm glad to help those lazy-asses on a pro-bono basis.

Example 1: GOP promotes relaxing of child labor laws in Wisconsin.

Big Proponent is Wisconsin Grocers' Association head Brandon Scholz (his second in command Michell Kussow is quoted in the article), a former Chief of Staff to GOP Congressman Scott Klug and longtime Madison lobbyist for GOP causes. In addition to heading up the Wisconsin Grocers Association, his and Kussow's Lobbying group does quite the array of fronting for right-wing organizations. It helps to have connections, don't it?

And by being able to hire more part-time teens, this allows the corporate grocers to avoid having to hire adults full-time at higher wages, and means the grocers are much less likely to have to pay benefits to those adults (the teens are covered by their parents). Of course, the fiscal effect of this is that more of those adults get pushed onto public assistance like BadgerCare (which I and others call the Wal-Mart effect, as over 3,300 Wal-Mart associates (and 9,900 when you figure in family members) are on BadgerCare in Wisconsin - by far the most of any employer in the state.

Now instead of being exhibit A for the need for a public option, as the public option would allow freedom of movement by employees and free employers from the expense of providing health care, this expansion of Badger Care cases can be used as an excuse by Republicans that "these social programs cost too much", and be the impetus for cutting this, as well as other things they don't like, such as family planning service and public schools. And it all starts from corporate greed via lowering wages and benefits.

Example 2: Then- Gov. candidate Scott Walker flies down to Florida to meet with the Wisconsin Road Builders in Feburary 2010. (apparently this group isn't tough enough to handle a Wisconsin winter and spend their money in their own state?)

The Road Builders give $25,000 to Walker's campaign in the 3 weeks after he jets down to Fla., and over $100,000 through August 30, 2010 of the campaign season. This isn't even counting the individual contributions road builder employers may give "on their own" (quotations are intentional, as the case of William Gardner shows, these are frequently people being shaken down by the boss to get around finance laws).

Walker's "budget-cutting" budget includes increases in DOT expenses by 6%, funneling $137 million a year in General taxes to the Transportation Fund instead of GPR_-funded services like schools and medical aid (it's on the first few pages of this document). At the same time, it cuts state aid to transit agencies by 10% and recall that Scotty sent back the Feds' train money for the Milwaukee-Minneapolis line (both would have made for nice alternatives to using the roads in a time of $4 gas). Now check out pages 37-39 for the extra goodies thrown in by his GOP colleagues in the Legislature, where $35 million is sent away from road aid to local communities and highway maintenance, and funneled into state highway rehab (i.e. new roads to build and fix). Guess who might be getting those juicy contracts? Yep, the same people who paid Scotty to fly down last year.

And we're not even bringing up the ridiculous provision that Vos and Darling and co. on Joint Finance passed that would have forced local communities to give their road building projects to private companies if the cost was over $100K and involved more than 1 jurisdiction- even if the road builder cost more to the taxpayer. It was so bad that GOP Senator Mike Ellis and others ound it "stupid" and threw it out of the finalized budget. But given what else the Road Builders got for their investment in a puppet like Scott Walker, why not try this as well? When you're clearly open for corruption, why not go all the way?

Example 3: Voucher school supporters gave Walker over $125,000 over the table, and a whole lot more under the table in "issue ads". In fact, contrary to right-wing radio rants, the "sell off schools" lobby drastically outspent WEAC and public school supporters in 2010.

Flash forward to the state budget and SURPRISE! Here's an expansion of voucher schools and funneling of state dollars to these organizations combined with reductions in funding for public education. We know there's no real school crisis in Wisconsin right now, as Wisconsin has the highest high-school graduation rate in the U.S., and it's strong educational background is a big reason why our unemployment rate and poverty rates are significantly lower than much of the rest of the industrial Midwest.

So why expand voucher schools when public schools are working just fine? Because the voucher supporters paid for that investment, so the Walker Admin., knowing who butters their side of the bread, wants to make sure that their boys and girls get some of that taxpayer dough. They can even argue that it costs less to educate kids, as long as you don't remind them that they're violating federal rules by avoiding the kids that require the most attention and cost. The expanding voucher argument also makes sense if you want public schools to fail, because when you make it harder for them to succeed, it justifies your argument for saying "See, there's a problem that needs to be changed." Just like with the relaxing of child labor laws leading to the cuts they want in Badger Care.

I'm glad to see groups like One Wisconsin Now file Open Records Requests against legislators who promote this crap, as the dots will be connected even further between these shady groups, campaign contributions, and legislative action. Now, the voucher schools can still be expanded due to an even shadier amendment introduced in the Legislature during the budget bill that removed GB by name, but added criteria that numerous cities could fall under. Now Scotty's flacks may say the expansion will just be in Racine, but we know that they'll conveniently leave this provision in there...."just in case."

These are only a few examples of how Doyle's "pay-to-play" has been put on steriods by this corrupt administration. Now, more than ever, the directive of Deep Throat in "All the President's Men" is instructive. "Follow the money." And you'll see exactly why these things are put in place.