Saturday, June 30, 2012

So much for that budget "surplus" in Fitzwalkerstan

Not that this should surprise you, but that alleged $154 million budget surplus that the Walker folks claimed in the month before the election? Yeah, it was bullshit.
A shortfall in state health care programs has nearly doubled - to $372.3 million - in the past three months, but state officials believe they can eliminate it by next summer, the head of the state Department of Health Services said Friday.

Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith said in a letter to legislative leaders the potential deficit was rising because Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers in March eliminated an enrollment cap on the Family Care program they had put in place last year.

Family Care provides services to help the elderly and disabled stay in their homes or other community settings rather than enter nursing homes.

Walker and his fellow Republicans put the enrollment cap in place in July to hold down costs, but within months federal authorities ordered them to eliminate it.

Removing the cap helped bring the anticipated shortfall in Medicaid programs from $204.3 million in March to $372.3 million now, Smith said in his letter. Medicaid is funded jointly by the state and federal governments, so the state needs to come up with only a portion of that - $148.9 million.

The federal government pays more for the program than the state, but it will pay its share only if the state meets its commitment.
And no, that extra $148.9 million the state has to come up with was never mentioned in the memo released by DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch one month before the election. In fact, the memo said another thing that landed in the news this week.
...the Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics has released its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. This reported stronger growth in employment in the third quarter of 2011 than previously reported.
Well, the BLS just released that report this week (here's my rundown of that report, and the lies it exposed), and it showed that Wisconsin lost 11,000 jobs in the Third Quarter of 2011. Now I understand that there are seasonal adjustments in Summer, but I'm guessing 11,000 jobs lost is not "better than expected employment growth." And the 11,500 more that were lost in the 4th Quarter probably wasn't in the forecast either, eh?

So the Medicaid expenses and the employment losses have proven another pre-election statement from false from this dishonest administration. The real question is, will the media ever learn to be skeptical as a result of it, because they sure weren't before the election. Yes, Journal-Sentinel and State Journal and the rest of you gutless transcribers, THIS IS ON YOU. We expect Scotty and co. to lie at this point, but it is your job to call them out and ask questions to verify this. YOU FAILED AT THIS, and now the rest of us will pay a deep price for the next 30 months as a result.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Many Milwaukee suburbs get a school aid shocker

As someone who went to grades K-8 in Brookfield and graduated from high school in Wauwatosa, I understand the draw that schools have in making families and others want to live there. Ok, Tosa at least has the Village and some older homes that are kind of cool, but there isn't any other reason for someone to live in Brookfield or much of Waukesha County other than good schools (well that and general gutlessness and a need to look down on lower-income people).

So this is why I can't help but crack a little smile at the Wisconsin School aid figures that came out today. Feel free to check out your own place on this list. This gives the amount of state aid a school district gets for the upcoming 2012-13 year, and compares it what you got the year before. And even more amazingly, the Journal-Sentinel jumped all over the fact that nearly twice as many districts will lose funds vs. the ones who will gain them. These cuts are on top of the big cuts that the Walker budget gave for last year, so it's a double-hit for places who lost funds.

Even more hilarious (to those of us with sick senses of humor) are some of the big losers for next year, as many of them are in the heart of Walker Country. Even a key Madison suburb got screwed.

Notable districts that lose state aid in 2012-2013
Kettle Moraine -15.34%, -$1,683,833
Middleton Cross Plains -15.25%, -$1,213,079
Menomonee Falls -15.14%, -$1,479,579
New Berlin -15.14%, -$960,162
Oconomowoc -15.14%, -$841,293
Ashwaubenon -15.14%, -$1,391,956
Brown Deer -15.14% -$797,122
Grafton -15.14%, $996,746
Hartland-Lakeside J3 -15.14%, -$679,873
Cedarburg -15.01%, -$1,524,267
Mukwonago -14.43%, -$2,899,552
Milwaukee -0.66%, -$3,490,149 (largest dollar amount)
Racine- -2.43%, -$3,033,333 (2nd largest dollars)

The New Berlin loss is very chuckle-worthy, because of an article that appeared in the Journal-Sentinel earlier this week. It mentioned that 50 of New Berlin's teachers had quit the school district since the end of the school year, and that up to a third may leave overall. Why the exodus?
New Berlin's departing staff members cite concerns that are difficult to quantify; most have little to do with paying more for retirement or benefits. Based on interviews with more than a dozen employees, the resentment appears to stem from feelings that their input doesn't matter, that the administration doesn't communicate well with them, that they aren't supported or appreciated by people in the district, and that changes meant to be good for kids are poorly executed and fail to improve teaching.

If the goal of the district is to build a more businesslike model, they ask, what successful business wouldn't be concerned by so many employees wanting to flee because of the way they were treated?

Further, Act 10 makes it easier for employees to move from one district to another, with the expiration of contracts that created financial incentives for employees to stay with a district to retirement.
The mass resignations might also have something to do with teaching in a community that had locals screaming obscenities at teachers and handing out pacifiers after being egged on by Vicki McKenna and other hate radio hosts. The inflamous incident occured at a school board meeting where the board not only used Act 10 to give teachers big take-home pay cuts through benefit cost-shifting, but also imposed a school handbook that forced the teachers to take on unpaid work, and pettily installed a dress code straight out of 1950.

Well now NB, you not only have to replace a huge amount of experienced teachers in the next 60 days, you have to do it with nearly $1 million less from the state than you got last year. Enjoy raising those property taxes in a Bagger town like that, and have fun keeping your home values up with your reputation for being anti-education (oh, and racist, too).

And the last Friday funny for you- check out some of the places that got more state aid vs. last year. A whole lotta blue towns, including the bluest and most over-ejukated of em all.

Notable districts that gain state aid in 2012-2013
Shorewood +31.08%, +$1,128,518
Madison +25.40%, +$10,990,471 (most dollars in state)
Greendale +16.62%, +$1,619,547
St. Croix Central +12.85%, +$1,213,628
Sun Prairie +12.47%, +$3,840,159
HartfordJ1 +12.24%, $1,078,959
West Allis +12.10%, +$4,333,321
De Forest +11.66%, +$1,567,183

That's right, us crazy union-thug loving folks in Madtown are getting nearly $11 million more in state aid, and nearly $12 million above expectations, apparently due to high enrollment in the district's new 4-year-old kindergarten. This may almost entirely remove a projected property tax increase of well over 4%, and a lot of the state aid is being transferred from the 262 suburbs who wanted to send us dirty hippies a message on June 5.

Great schools are the cherry on top of an awesome sundae of reasons to live in Madison, but is about the ONLY reason anyone would live in the 262. And now those 262ers are going to have to deal with funding shortages for those schools brought on by the budget of the Gov. Dropout that you voted for by more than 2-to-1, while we deal with a more-comfortable budget and better chance at affording the great quality of life that comes from living in the Capital City.

Karma's such a funny thing sometimes, don't you think? Yes, this post is quite a bit snarky, but after the way those suburban big-mouths have shot their mouths off about the superiority of their way of life and denigrated the places those of us on the side of intelligence and decency find dear, I think I can take a day to smirk.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I got some bad news for Scott lied about jobs

I tend to hit the "next channel"" button when political ads come on, but you might have seen this one this Spring during the recall election campaign. It involves the Guv bragging about jobs being created under his watch in a report that "the government released."

Well, actually "the government" was Walker's own administration, who sent their findings on the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCER) to D.C. for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check out. A week before the election, Walker claimed that the Feds had accepted that 23,000+ number as fact, and the Journal-Sentinel's Politifact gutlessly said it was "half-true" because the BLS had indeed received the report, but didn't challenge whether the jobs number was confirmed or correct.   

It turns out that the "23,000 job increase" claim is not half-true, but A PANTS ON FIRE LIE, as the BLS said today Wisconsin only added 19,551 jobs in 2011, making Wisconsin a pathetic 43rd in % of jobs added in the U.S., and worst in the Midwest. And if you click on the QCEW's handy interactive tool, you'll see the numbers weren't even that good for Walker and the Wisconsin GOP. In fact, going inside the Wisconsin numbers on the report, you'll see that Jim Doyle and the Democrats should be the ones given the credit, and Walker's policies stopped the decent job growth the state was enjoying in 2010 and the first part of 2011.
Wisc. year-over year job change, QCER
Dec. 2009-Dec. 2010- 33,660
Dec. 2010- Dec. 2011- 19,551 (42.0% decrease)

And it's even worse when you look at what happened once Walker's budget took over after June 2011.      

Wisc. year-over year job change, QCER
Dec. 2009- Dec. 2010- +33,660
June 2010- June 2011- +25,308
Dec. 2010- June 2011 (Doyle/ Dem)- +42,121
June 2011- Dec. 2011 (Walker-WisGOP)- -22,570

You're reading that right, the state had 22,570 FEWER people working in the 6 months following Walker's budget being signed. Now, some of that is seasonal effects to be sure, but the state only lost 16,813 jobs in this report for the last 6 months of 2010, so we lost nearly 6,000 more workers after the Walker budget became law. There's a clear slowing that happens once Scotty comes into office, and as I mentioned before, Wisconsin was doing better under Jim Doyle and the Dems.

The wages part of the equation isn't pretty in the QCER either. The report lists Wisconsin as 42nd in the U.S for wages over the last 12 months, with weekly wages DOWN 2.4% compared to the end of 2010. Gee, busting unions, lowering work standards and allowing corporations to hoard more profits due to tax breaks drops wages for all employees? You don't say!
By the way, don't believe that Walker fairy tale about how all of a sudden business will start hiring now that the recall election's over. This week's unemployment claims report shows Wisconsin claims went up over 1,000 for the second straight week, with both weeks coming after the recall election happened. In fact, jobless claims have gone up for each of the last 4 weeks, and is up more than 2,000 than it was at the start of May.    

Wisc. job claims, May-June 2012
May 5- 9,993
May 12- 10,274 (+341)
May 19- 9,034 (-1,240)
May 26- 9,479 (+446)
June 2- 9,692 (+213)
June 9- 10,964 (+1,272)
June 16- 12,092 (+1,128)

And last week is when they do the monthly jobs report survey. Ruh roh, Scotty! But don't worry, I'm sure there will be some other reason why Wisconsin continues to fail despite Scott Walker getting almost every policy he wanted in the last 18 months. And you know why he'll come up with some excuse? Well, I'll let Henry tell you.

I'll go with "Obamacare being upheld" as the big Walker lie for the next month, till something else comes along. Of course, I'd take the job growth in 2010 after Obamacare was first passed, and I'm betting a whole lot of WisGOP legislators running for re-election are hoping the same.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Walker praises WRS...and lies to give himself underserved credit

Found Gov. Dropout's little press release on the WRS amusng in a gallows humor kind of way. He sent it in the midst of another out of state rubber-chicken talk to oligarchs, this time in FIBLand. Check this out.
Wisconsin’s Pension System Strongest in the Nation

A recent PEW study shows Wisconsin’s pension fund is the only one in the nation that is 100% funded.

Madison – Governor Walker is traveling to Illinois today to talk to business, education, and cultural leaders about pension reform and fiscal responsibility. Governor Walker will address the Commercial Club of Chicago which is the oldest civic organization in the city, founded in 1877.

According to a recent PEW study, Wisconsin’s pension system is the only in the nation to be 100% funded and labeled a ‘solid performer’. Illinois’ pension system is only 45% funded and is labeled with ‘serious concerns’.

“Our reforms will only make Wisconsin’s pension system stronger by protecting current and future retiree benefits and keeping the state fiscally strong,” said Governor Walker. “Illinois’ leaders could learn from the hard, but necessary decisions we made in Wisconsin. Because of our prudent decisions, state programs as well as our employers and taxpayers will not be under the imminent stress of increased taxes and/or cuts. Wisconsin is leading the nation forward to a more prosperous future.”
Scotty's got some of that right- that Pew Report showed Wisconsin as the only state in the nation with a 100%-funded pension (see page 49), and credited wise fiscal management as a reaon behind staying afloat despite the Wall Street meltdown of 2008-09. And Illinois' 45% funding of pensions (because of decades of tax cuts and special giveaways instead of backing up their promises) means that $4 billion a year has to be put into Illinois pension funds just to keep from falling behind - nearly 6 times what we need in Wisconsin. Sure makes you glad to be a Cheesehead in this case, eh?

But Walker's moves have very little to do with that. The Pew Report only goes up to the end of 2010, under the Doyle/ Dem budget, and they're the ones that deserve the credit for overfunding the 2010 pensions by $55 million, not Scotty or WisGOP Legislators (not one GOP legislator voted for the Doyle/Dem budget). The only thing Walker did on the pension side that might have any positive effect is increasing the amount of years someone had to work before they could vest their WRS pension (upping it to five years), which could reduce the amount of payout expenses in a given year, albeit not by much. Walker's much-bragged about "taxpayer savings" in Act 10 did nothing for the WRS's solvency, because it merely shifted the funding from the general taxpayer to the public employees- no extra money was put into the fund itself. And I bet your taxes didn't go down either. Nice deal, huh?

The deal was found out to be even worse for Wisconsin taxpayers last week, as Walker and WisGOP apparently overlooked the fine print in Act 10, and ended up costing taxpayers as much as $87.5 million in extra required contributions.
Most of the increase is the result of the [Wisconsin Retirement] system's continuing recovery from investment losses in the 2008 world financial market crash, but an unintended consequence of Act 10 is expected to boost the employer-employee contribution rate to about 13.2 percent — and possibly as high as 13.7 percent — of payroll, the highest since at least the mid-1980s.

Without the Act 10 effect, the rate would have been about 12.5 percent, [ETF actuary Brian] Murphy said. (So public employees get ANOTHER take-home pay cut next year while general taxpayers still pay more!)

Because of a quirk in the law, in the past, a little less than half the employer-employee contribution was credited to employee accounts that are used to calculate retirement benefits.

But Act 10 required that employees pay exactly half of the overall contribution, so when the law took effect last year a little more started being credited to employee accounts, and that increased future employee benefits, Murphy said.

The effect is compounded because higher benefits mean the annual contribution must be increased to cover the higher future benefit cost. In turn, that means employees must put even more money in their accounts, which boosts projected benefits again, and requires a still higher contribution, Murphy said. The benefits structure eventually stops the cycle, Murphy said

Act 10 and other Walker moves caused something else that will put pressure on the WRS. Remember that WRS member retirements doubled in the first 6 months of Fitzwalkerstan, as they had legitimate fears about Walker and WisGOP cutting their benefits and pay, and so those members go from being contributors that put money into the fund, and are instead taking money out of the WRS. Then recall that many of those retirees were not replaced and other public employees were laid off or resigned, to the point that we have 8,700 fewer government employees today than we had when Act 10 was passed in March 2011, and that's a whole lot less money that is going into the system (or that much more will have to be put in by current workers like me. Yee-HAH!!)

But maybe that's what Scotty and his ALEC buddies want- to reduce the input of funds into the WRS, which then will make it "underfunded", and it'll be the excuse they need to sell it off as a 401 (k) system that can be run by Wall Street campaign contributors. Don't laugh this off, it's classic right-wing "starve the beast" mentality, where GOP politicians run up revenue decreases and spending increases, and FUBAR things so badly that the taxes or spending can't be adjusted back to a proper level because is too high. At which point people like Scott Walker can throw his hands up and say "See, this is unsustainble", and use it as the excuse to throw out and sell off a system that was working just fine before they got into power.

And as I'm writing this outside my Madison apartment on a gorgeous June day, I see that Walker is now claiming he is "open to changes" in the WRS. Hmmm, think he's already seen (or instructed!) what that report that's coming out this week will say on a 401 (k) possibility for the WRS?

Hold onto your wallets and be ready to hit the streets with the truth, because we can't let the Big Lie and the Big Liar continue to wreck destruction on the things that made Wisconsin a place worth living in and caring about.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wisconsin Economic outlook? Not so good

Yesterday featured the release of the semi-annual Wisconsin Economic Outlook from the state's DOR, and the numbers seem to contradict the claims that Scott Walker is still clinging to. Most notably that Wisconsin's was in trouble before Walker got into office, and that we were still on track to add 250,000 private sector jobs during Walker's 4-year term of office. This report by Walker's own DOR says the exact opposite.

First of all, Page 2 shows that Wisconsin's GDP rebounded at a higher level than previously known under the Jim Doyle/ Dem budget, and stagnated in 2011 after Walker took office.

Wisconsin GDP growth

2010 (Doyle) +4.0% (+1.5% above previous listing)
2011 (Walker) +1.1%

That report also shows that Wisconsin had also managed the recession better than the typical Midwestern state, but then fell behind once Fitzwalkerstan began last year.

GDP growth, Wisconsin vs. Great Lakes, 2008-2011
2008 Wis -2.2%, Great Lakes -5.8% (Wis. +3.6%)
2009 Wis -3.6%, Great Lakes -5.8% (Wis. +2.2%)
2010 Wis +4.0%, Great Lakes +3.8% (Wis. +0.2%)
2011 Wis +1.1%, Great Lakes +1.4% (Wis -0.3%)

In addition, the report shows several economic indicators and forecasts for both Wisconsin and the U.S. And in these reports, Wisconsin is projected to fall well behind Walker's out-of-his ass goal of 250,000 private sector jobs, and even the growth in the U.S. I'm going to use the January 2011- January 2012 figures to get 2011's amount, and then combine this with the projected growth from the DOR.

Projected job change, Wisconsin - DOR
2011 -19,800 total, -1,000 private
2012 +40,200, +30,900 private
2013 +48,100, +45,500 private
2014 +45,200, +43,300 private

TOTAL- +113,700 total, +118,700 private

So Walker won't even get halfway to that 250,000 jobs goal. And what's even scarier? Those numbers are optimistic! The DOR report also says that by the end of the 2nd Quarter, we should have 2,766,800 total jobs and 2,358,700 private sector jobs. After May's mediocre jobs report, we'd need to add MORE THAN 30,000 JOBS IN JUNE just to reach the DOR's figures. Gotta tell you, that ain't gonna happen.

Even more remarkably, the DOR says Wisconsin will be behind the U.S.'s jobs growth for 2012 (1.0% gain vs. 1.5% nationwide), and will basically match the U.S's growth for 2013-2015. In other words, the Walker jobs gap (currently around 63,000 jobs) will if anything grow in the next 2 years.

And along with the jobs gap, Wisconsin is also having a gap in income growth. The DOR Report backs up information from the BEA that shows Wisconsin income growth hit a wall once Act 10 was passed, and was dead last in the U.S. for the last 3 months of 2011. The DOR Report says that personal income in Wisconsin FELL 0.2% in the first quarter of 2012, and will continue to trail the U.S. for the rest of the Walker term.

Personal income change, Wisconsin vs. U.S. 2012-2014
2012- Wis +2.9%, U.S. 3.8% (Wis -0.9% vs. U.S.)
2013- Wis +4.1%, U.S. +4.2% (Wis -0.1% vs. U.S.)
2014- Wis +4.6%, U.S. +4.9% (Wis -0.3% vs. U.S.)

So we're not going to gain jobs in any significant amount, our economy has stopped growing, and our incomes are falling behind. Oh, and unemployment claims are on their way back up (up more than 1,200 for the week ending June 9). So tell me again how "It's working?"

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pew Report confirms, Wisconsin pensions fully funded

Looks like the Pew Center on the States has confirmed what we kind of knew- Wisconsin was the only state in the nation in 2010 that had its public employee pensions 100% fully funded.

This report goes along with the article I mentioned yesterday, which showed that Scott Walker could not use the failures in other states as an excuse to steal from and "reform" the WRS when the report on the system comes out in the next 11 days. If you look at the Wisconsin report on Page 49, you'll see how the state has been responsible in putting the money behind their promises to public sector workers for decades, unlike many other foolish places who underfunded these pensions as an excuse to give away goodies and tax cuts to others. As the report notes, the Doyle/Dem budget (which I'll remind you ended up in a $215 million surplus) put up $742 million in 2010 for WRS pensions (some paid by employees, but mostly by taxpayers).

In fact, Pew notes that Wisconsin actually overfunded its pensions in 2010 by $55 million, and also had post-retirement employee health care benefits covered at a rate that was nearly 5 times the national average. By point of comparison, look at Minnesota's situation on Page 23. The 'Sotans set aside $121 million more than Wisconsin for pensions in 2010...and still fell more than $400 million short of their recommended contribution. Why? Because past underfunding put them further in the hole year after year, while Wisconsin was fully funding WRS, and saving taxpayers millions in later years as a result because they didn't have to "catch up." So Wisconsin's fiscal responsibility has put it ahead of the curve, and allows us to have much more flexibility and fewer fiscal constraints than many other places as their Boomer employees leave the work force.

Of course, that wasn't enough for Governor Walker, so he decided to make public employees pay a lot more into the system (cutting their take-home pay in the process), while yanking out the same amount from the state. So what did we get for those alleged $370 million in tax savings? The most job losses in America and the lowest wage growth in the U.S. for the 4th Quarter of 2011. Oh, and a divisive, hateful atmosphere that resulted from the Walker Administration's scapegoating of public employees. And another $558 million in borrowing to "balance" the budget that has put us further in debt for future years.

So if Walker comes up with some kind of claim that employee pensions and benefits are destroying Wisconsin's budget, don't you dare fall for it. Because despite Walker's national ambitions and desire for D.C. media attention, he's still getting paid by us taxpayers to pass policies that are in the best interests FOR WISCONSIN. If he dares to touch a fully-funded WRS System that approximately 1 in 5 Wisconsin workers is a part of, it is time to take it to the streets and cut off the lies.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walker has no mandate, especially when it comes to Wisconsin pensions

You can see the setup coming. The Wisconsin State Journal getting a story planted in their Sunday version warning that the Wisconsin Retirement System may become underfunded if the markets don't pick up. This is quite timely, as the Walker Administration is supposed to produce a report in the next 2 weeks discussing what would happen if some of the WRS were converted to a 401(k)-type program, which no doubt Gov. Walker's out-of-state hedge fund contributors would love, as it would give them a huge group of new investors to reach as clients (or as they like to call it "fresh meat").

As the article points out, the constraints of the still fully-funded pension system come from Wall Street's 2008 meltdown, and not the benefits due public sector workers.
To avoid a fifth straight year of reduced benefits in Wisconsin, the fund needs an unusally high investment return of 27 percent to 31 percent in 2012, said Jon Kranz, employee trust department budget and finance director.

Other options to cope with an investment return below 27 percent include increasing contributions from the taxpayers and employees or eroding the fund's base.

Over the last 20 years, fund investments have met or exceeded its 7 percent return goal on average. But it suffered a 24 percent loss in 2008, which has meant an unprecedented series of benefits cuts in 2009 and each succeeding year. Next in line for reductions are those who retired in 2002 or earlier.
The same thing happened in the City of Milwaukee, where a fully-funded pension system has now required City taxpayers to kick in funds since 2010 to keep that pension fund over 100% funded. But these contributions do not allow pensioners to exactly live high on the hog. The State Journal story quotes the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's information on the public employee benefits from the WRS, and I'd hardly call them Cadillac-level.
Wisconsin retirement system at a glance

Individual pension benefits are calculated to reflect an employee's length of service, salary, age and investment gains earned by the pension fund.
•Average annual benefit: $23,000
•Average retirement age: 60
•Average retiree age: 70

Two-thirds of current retirees had from 10 to 35 years on the job.

Years of service/ Average final pay/ Average annual benefit
10-15 $32,443 $9,384
15-20 $39,179 $14,112
20-25 $44,732 $20,448
25-30 $50,220 $29,256
30-35 $54,579 $37,572
But these relatively menial figures still get jealous derision from other workers who have had their pensions stolen by the Mitt Romneys and Bain Capitals of the world, and for some reason want the public sector workers to be dragged down to the same unacceptable level they are. It's a process 1670AM's Sly rightfully calls "Scott-holm Syndrome", where Walker and his supporters get low-wage, screwed-over private-sector workers to get on the same side as the corporate slime who put them in this mess, and have them blame public sector workers who did nothing but show up at their jobs every day.

Maybe if these Scottholm Sundrome cases would read the Department of Employee Trust Funds FAQ's on the WRS, they'd realize it isn't costing them much at all, and in fact should be a model they should shoot for instead of trying to shoot down. If they flip to Page 8, the answer is right there:
14) There has been a lot of media coverage about the financial health of pension systems across the nation. Is the WRS fully funded and able to pay benefits?

• Yes. The WRS is fully funded and able to pay benefits to current and future WRS members.
And the Pew Center on the States report from last year backs this up, as Page 3 shows Wisconsin as 1 of 2 states with a 100% funded pension system and a taxpayer contribution of about $123 a Wisconsinite. Compare that to places like Minnesota, who had required taxpayer contributions nearly double Wisconsin's (with a lower population) and were only 78% funded in 2009, or the boogeyman of Illinois, with its 51% funding and needs of $4.1 billion a year just to keep up.

But you can bet Scotty and company will try to make the comparisons to Illinois and Minnesota and other places like California, and will try to use the recent recall election as evidence of some kind of mandate. Well sorry guys, but just because voters didn't decide to kick you to the curb, it doesn't mean they see things your way. In fact, when the exit poll shows 60% of the voters thinking recalls should be for official misconduct only and 18% of Walker voters would support Obama in November, it tells me that a sizable number of voters went for Walker only because they disagreed with the concept of a recall election. In fact, if those people are more than 4% of the voting population, it means Walker would have lost a "regular" election.

With that in mind, I got a feeling the WisGOPs are going to find out the hard way that people don't want to see pensioners get screwed over by turning the WRS into a casino-style 401(k), but it's just the type of overreach I'm counting on them to do. It's up to us to get the truth that Wisconsin's fully-funded pension system works, keeps salary and other compensation costs down (which it does), and stabilizes Wisconsin's economy. Otherwise, you know the right-wing propaganda machine will try to lump Wisconsin's responsible system with the wasteful giveaways that have plagued places like our neighbors to the South and West, and these comparisons just don't hold water with what we have here in Dairyland.

So no, we are not California, we are not Illinois, and we are not remotely close to those places when it comes to the health of our pension fund. So when Sykes and Belling and Icki rant about how employee benefit costs are "killing" budgets, it's simply not true in Wisconsin. The only thing that is putting these pension funds under stress is the Wall Street casino that brought this country's economy to its knees, with virtually the only groups getting long-term relief being the banksters who screwed things up in the first place. And we certainly shouldn't put our futures in the hands of Wall Street by turning over a stable WRS system that more than 10% of Wisconsinites rely on for income security to those wolves.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Racine recount is Walker pay-to-play in full effect

When I read the flimsiness of the complaint of "voter irregularities" in Racine during the recall election, my BS radar went off. And not just because of the lameness and sketchiness of the complaint. Basically, some guy took in a bag of voter materials that he said he found in a dumpster near the Cesar Chavez Community Center. The Racine County D-A's office refuses to say who the guy is, but given that a bunch of Texasses were flown in to Wisconsin for voter suppression reasons, one of those guys would be a good first guess.

But my first instinct was to see who the Racine County D-A was and how he got the job. I didn't have to look too far back, because it turns out Rich Chiapete was appointed by Governor Walker to the job 3 months ago, right as the recall election campaign was heating up, which sure makes you wonder what kind of deal was made as part of that appointment.

And then One Wisconsin Now did a quick check of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's website, and noted that Chiapete's wife Jennifer gave $100 to recount-requestor Van Wangaard's campaign last November. In addition, Racine County Sherriff Chris Schmaling gave $100 to Chris Wright, who ran for State Assembly against Cory Mason in 2010, and the Schmaling family has also given to Robin Vos and other GOP candidates in the past. As Badger Democracy's Scott Wittkopf points out, Schmaling has followed the sell-it-off philosophy of Vos and company since taking over at the RCSD.
[Schmaling] is a staunch GOP supporter, and proponent of privatization of County services. On his own campaign website, Robin Vos (R-Rochester) uses Schmaling’s department as an example of how Act 10 is “working”:

“This week, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling told me the county can now outsource food service for their jail. The result is big savings for taxpayers and will help in the crime fighting efforts in our area. The change from doing the food service internally to outsourcing it to a company named Aramark…”

Aramark has faced repeated criticism on cost, service, product, and treatment of employees. The company was virtually forced to end its contract with Florida Department of Corrections following numerous fines for contract violations. Racine residents should keep a close eye on the real costs to taxpayers associated with this contract.
So the Racine County Sheriff's and D-A's office is obvious connection Number 1.

And then Scott Wittkopf at Badger Democracy takes us to obvious connection Number 2- the guy that Chiapete replaced as Racine County D-A, Mike Nieskes.
The appointment of Chiapete came after Walker named then-DA Mike Nieskes to a vacant Circuit Court Judgeship (more on that in a bit). Chiapete will not face an election until January 2013, and was the only applicant to the vacancy. Staff in the DA’s office informed Badger Democracy today that Nieskes was instrumental in securing the position for Chiapete internally....

...Nieskes left his position to accept a Circuit Court Judgeship after being appointed by – you guessed it – Governor Scott Walker in December, 2011. Nieskes has been DA since 2005, after running unopposed. Prior to that, he was acting DA after the embattled Lennie Weber stepped down in 1993 to serve on the State Gaming Board (Weber was a Tommy Thompson nominee). Weber resigned the gaming board amidst scandal in 1994. While serving in a supposed “non-partisan” office, Nieske donated to Scott Walker in 2010, Bill McReynolds in 2006, and Reince Priebus in 2004.
GOP backscratching corruption runs deep with this crowd, doesn't it? Obvious connection Number 2.

And now the real reason for this recount. WisGOP doesn't believe that they can win, and One Wisconsin Now's own report shows that new registrations in the City of Racine matches the number of new voters, so no issues there (and none that would be solved with voter ID, either). But what it does do is give a whole lot of time for race-baiting talk show hosts on 620 and 1130 to bring up the non-existent issue of "voter fraud" again, and play on the fears of the racists and shut-ins that listen to that crap.

This is all done with a wink and a nod from the Walker Administration and WisGOP, proving once again that they are not serious when they talk about trying to work with Democrats on coming up with "bipartisan" policies that help this state. These scumbags aren't going to back down, and it's up to us to not do the same. We need to remember that numerous exit polls show a sizable portion of people voted for Walker on June 5 not because of agreement with his policies, but because they fell for the propaganda that a recall was unnecessary, and therefore Scotty didn't deserve to lose his job before his term was up.

The voters know in their hearts that WisGOP is wrong, and just because they didn't pull the trigger on their careers doesn't mean they started to believe that "it's working." (a majority know it's not) It's time to push back harder on all of these racist, political games that WisGOP plays, and send the message loud and clear that these people are corrupt, and do not care about improving our democracy, or the quality of life in our state. If so, this is one main area where Wisconsin progressives and the DPW can go with Fall 2012 campaign, making the message clear that they will not pull these shenanigans, and will restore dignity and decency to Wisconsin politics.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mediocre May continued Wisconsin job stagnation...and bad spin

Today featured the release of the Wisconsin May jobs numbers, and they were tepid at best. How do we know they aren't good? Because of the hilarious burial of the lead and associated spin job Reggie Newson and company put together at DWD.
MADISON – The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revised estimates for April and preliminary estimates for May, covering unemployment and employment statistics for the state of Wisconsin. In brief, the estimates showed:

 Place of work data: Upward revisions to seasonally adjusted total nonfarm and private-sector job numbers in April by 1,700 and 1,900, respectively.

 Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.8 percent in May. In addition, there was an increase in the state’s labor force participation rate, which shows a greater share of Wisconsin’s population is in the labor force either working or actively seeking employment.
That's their f***ing lead! They don't even tell you that the 6.8% is an increase from last month's 6.7% (not a big deal, it's the same as the U.S., and like the U.S., it's because of increased job-seekers), or that jobs went up by 2,600 total and 900 in the private sector, which are the biggest items people care about on that stat.

So when you put these numbers into the charts, and you'll see that there was actually a reduction in the Walker jobs gap for all jobs in the U.S., mostly due to the U.S.'s weak growth in May (golf clap!). The bad news for Walker is that it only cut the gap by about 1,100, it was only the 3rd time the state outperformed the U.S. in the 14 months since Act 10 was passed (that's a .214 average, for you scoring at home), and the gap still sits at 62,200.

The private sector didn't do as well in Wisconsin fotr May, however. 900 jobs is far from sufficient, and that caused the private sector jobs gap to go up in May. In fact, the private sector Walker jobs gap is now larger than the overall jobs gap, at nearly 63,000.

The private sector jobs picture includes a distressing decline in Construction employment of 3,300. Construction employment statewide has now dropped 9,200 since February (or 10%) despite record heat for the state in the same time period. Not a good sign at all. The warm weather also may have held down usual Summer hiring in the Leisure and Hospitality industries, as those industries had their hiring pushed forward into March and April, meaning their 10,600 non-seasonal gain in May comes in as a seasonally-adjusted 2,200-job loss.

That's all in the jobs report, but I also note what's missing this month from their charts- the year-over-year comparisons. Guess they didn't want to talk about that, so I will give it to you here.

Change in jobs, Wisconsin, May 2011-May 2012
Total jobs -15,200
Private sector -9,500

We'll see tomorrow if that keeps Wisconsin at its "Number 1 for job loss" status. However, the Walker folks will counter with their own little Census numbers (you know, the ones they conveniently cooked up 3 weeks before the election?) and they'll try to tell you things aren't that bad because they have these (mediocre) numbers. Not surprisingly, the DWD does include those stats in the jobs report. Of course, Badger Democracy's Scott Wittkopf revealed 2 weeks ago the numbers still haven't been verified by the BLS, and they won't be for another 2 weeks, but our vaunted media consistently forgets to mention that part of the equation.

What's interesting about the Employer Census report is that out of the alleged increase of 23,608 in jobs, over 7,000 are in the "unclassified" sector. Now you'd think that would statistical noise, except that the number of "unclassified" jobs increases from 3,649 to 10,651 in 12 months, or nearly triple the amount there were in 2010. Makes you wonder what the hell those jobs were, don't it? Were they counting Koch posters to websites to show Walker's "grassroots" support? I'll be very interested to see what happens when the BLS gives its report on these numbers, and be able to compare them to other states in the Midwest.

But given that the verification is 2 weeks away, I'll go with today's DWD report as evidence instead. The numbers still suck, and given that Wisconsin unemployment claims continue to stay at a high level (they were actually up for the week of May 28, despite the fact that Memorial Day meant only 4 days of work to miss and file claims), I don't see that reversing any time soon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More to life than property taxes

Interesting report came out today from the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum, which showed the trends for Milwaukee-area property values and property taxes over the last 4 years. It's got a lot of good info on the trends and in the 7-county Milwaukee area, and I highly recommend giving it a look.

Not surprisingly, the Journal-Sentinel headlined the the drop of $59 in property taxes on average-priced home in the region. To the J-S's credit, they do mention the decrease in property values across Southeastern Wisconsin, and as the following table shows, that $59 was far outstripped by a loss in average home values for this year, continuing a trend from 2010 to 2011.

These numbers create an interesting conundrum if you're trying to justify that Walker's tax policies are working, because you could say the best example of it "working" is in Walker's former home of Milwaukee County, where the average tax bill has dropped by more than $100. However, it also means that the average home price in Milwaukee County has dropped by $20,000, and the tax RATE has climbed by over 10%, which hurts homeowners whose homes have kept their value.

Same trend has happened in the pro-Walker 262 suburbs, as Ozaukee Couty's rate is up nearly 3% the last 2 years, Washington and Waukesha each up over 5.5%, and Walworth tax rates up nearly 7%. This can hit many suburban and rural areas that don't revalue homes each year, and can mean the homeowner gets the double-whammy of lower overall home values, which hurts their ability to sell their homes, combined with higher taxes due to a lack of a revaluation.

With schools continuing to be devastated by Walker's cuts and retirements continuing to happen at a heavy clip, do you see any reason the suburbs will have their home values go up any time in the near future? Of course not - good schools and the livability that results from them are the only reasons to live in a place like Germantown or Grafton. And now these advantages are being taken away for what? Saving a total of $5 a month on tax-deductible property taxes? As I mentioned last year, was it really worth it to screw up our state's great services and bottom out your home values for a handful of bucks on your tax bill?

You'll find out the hard way soon enough, because here's the biggest catch. Act 10 "savings" were a one-time shot that may have taken some of the costs out of the equation for 1 year, but kept the lower property tax limits for future years. Nothing new has been created from taking this money out of the economy (certainly no jobs were created). The miniscule tax savings are far outweighed by the thousands of dollars in lost wealth from the home market drying up and the state's economic downturn continuing in the age of Fitzwalkerstan, proving once again how much a sucker those rural and suburban folk were for keeping these policies in place for the next 2 years.

Watch the howling begin over the next year-and-a-half when the average homeowner realizes how much they have lost from this deal, both in the quality of their services (which'll go down with no ability to pay for them), and in the tanking of their home values. Well, far too many of you chose to pick a slight drop taxes over a higher quality of life, and now we'll all the pay the price for it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Election recap pt. 2- the turnout was there

I wanted to go back to Tuesday's results, and see if my hypotheses about turnout happened. Turnout statewide was definitely up from 2010, but not to the levels that the GAB predicted. There were just over 2.5 million votes cast, which made turnout around 58%, slightly below the GAB predictions of 60 to 65 percent. However, this varied greatly based on where you may have lived.The WisDems strategy of increasing turnouts in their strongholds of Madison and Milwaukee seem to have work, as evidenced by the 73% turnout in the City of Madison, (would have been more had students been in classes), and 76% in the City of Milwaukee. But working in Walker's favor were the big turnouts in the Green Bay and Appleton areas, where Brown County had turnout near 76% and Outagamie County near 78%. So in addition to the big swing that went to Walker in those areas, he also benefitted from a huge turnout in those places.

With this in mind, let's go to our top 10 counties in turnout for the recall election (results unofficial for now).

% of overall state vote, Governor recall election 2012
Dane County 10.17%
City of Milwaukee 9.24%
Waukesha Co. 8.53%
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 6.53%
Brown County 4.15%
Racine County 3.43%
Outagamie Co. 3.10%
Winnebago Co. 2.83%
Washington Co. 2.76%
Rock County 2.52%

Now let's run the numbers from 2010, and you'll see the effects of that increased turnout for both Green Bay-Appleton (helping Walker), as well as the City of Milwaukee (helping Barrett). The deep-red county of Washington continued to gain as a share of voters, but so did blue-trending Rock County.

% of overall state vote, Governor 2010
Dane County 10.19% (2012 was -0.02% from this)
Waukesha County 8.71% (2012 was -0.18%)
City of Milwaukee 8.69% (2012 was +0.53%)
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 7.09% (2012 was -0.56%)
Brown County 4.09% (2012 was +0.06%)
Racine County 3.37% (2012 was +0.06%)
Outagamie Co. 3.02% (2012 was +0.08%)
Winnebago Co. 2.83% (no change in 2012)
Washington Co. 2.73% (2012 was +0.03%)
Rock County 2.42% (2012 was +0.10%)

So in terms of a turnout advantage in this year's election vs. 2010, the advantage went slightly to Barrett, especially when you consider that Racine, Rock, and the City of Milwaukee were among the few areas that swung toward Barrett vs. 2010. But along with NE Wisconsin, the other, lower-vote total parts of the state is where Walker really cleaned up, and maintained his 6-7 point advantage.

I'll go more into this later, but I got a killer Brewer tailgate to hit. Catch ya on the flip side.

(EDIT:) I'm back now on Sunday, I wanted to throw in the 2008 turnout figures and see if we had any changes.

% of overall state vote, President 2008
Dane County 9.48% (-0.69% vs. 2012)
City of Milwaukee 9.22% (-0.02% vs. 2012)
Waukesha County 7.81% (-0.72% vs. 2012)
Rest of Milw. Co. 6.71% (+0.18% vs. 2012)
Brown County 4.18% (+0.03% vs. 2012)
Racine County 3.37% (-0.06% vs. 2012)
Outagamie Co. 3.07% (-0.03% vs. 2012)
Winnebago Co. 2.94% (+0.11% vs. 2012)
Rock County 2.65% (+0.13% vs. 2012)
Kenosha County 2.64% (approx. +0.14% vs. 2012)
Washington Co. 2.49% (-0.27% vs. 2012)

So what this shows is that on June 5, Wisconsin;s turnout resembled a low-turnout presidential election, with the composition of the electorate, and this was especially shown with the larger share for the City of Milwaukee. The big exceptions are the pro-Walker counties of Outagamie, Brown and Washington, who all grew their share of the turnout. Waukesha County still had a bigger share than they had in 2008, but you can see where the Milwaukee turnout and other high levels of voting diluted them a bit. Interestingly, Dane County stayed so high in turnout that they stayed above their 2008 levels, and that was with quite a few UW students voting elsewhere (as noted by turnouts below 10-15% in the student dorm wards).

Bottom line, increased turnout generally gave a small boost to Barrett and the Dems, but it was overcome by shifts in votes to Walker in NE and rural Wisconsin, and that's what made the difference Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So what the hell happened on Election Night- Swings or no swings

Well that was a major letdown (with the exception of the Lehman win giving Dems the Senate). When I heard by 9pm that Walker was being projected the winner while ballots were literally still being cast in Milwaukee and counted in Madison, I was hoping for it to be some kind of mistake that would be reversed with a major turnout and a Barrett win (and wouldn't that have been an amazing ending for this!). Then I got to my girlfriend's place after doing my duty for democracy, and saw this statewide map, and my disbelief turned to "What the fuck???"

So what went wrong that turned what seemed to be a close race into a near-7 point win for Walker? The map tells part of the story, and especially as you look to the north and west in the state. As you'll see, in recent years, Western and Central Wisconsin had trended blue, but that didn't happen yesterday.

So that's what I want to discuss- the swings. Remember, I said that Barrett needed a lot of "springbacks" from the 2010 election back toward Obama's win total in 2008 in order to take this race. Well, that generally didn't happen, and the interactive map shows Walker expanded his lead in several major counties, particularly near Appleton, Green Bay, Wausau and Western Wisconsin.

Major swings to Walker, 2012 vs. 2010
Outagamie Co.- Walker +9.1% to Walker +23.2% (+14.1%)
Brown County- Walker +13.6% to Walker +20.0% (+6.4%).
Waupaca County- Walker +19.6% to Walker +30.0% (+10.4%)
Marathon County- Walker +17,2% to Walker +24.9% (+7.7%)
Trempealeau, Buffalo and Pepin Co's combined- Walker +3.4% to Walker +18.0% (Walker +14.6%).

I have to think those are the places where the money advantage played a big role, as Walker used ads to convince people of a reality that generally didn't exist (because there wasn't a lot of direct appearance of Walker's damage other than some staffing changes at school districts). Also, as John Nichols accurately pointed out, this was an area where Walker's Milwaukee-bashing might have hit home. Those types of swings made a major difference in keeping Barrett's turnout-based larger leads in Dane and Milwaukee Counties at bay (Barrett won those 2 counties by a combined 205,000 votes, or another 42,000 above his 2010 advantage).

There were a few places who swung towards Barrett. Dane County swung 1.7% to Barrett for a 15% springback to '08, and Milwaukee County swung 3.1% to Barrett for a springback of about 24%. Note some other main counties that swung toward Barrett yesterday,

Major swings to Barrett, 2012 vs. 2010
Rock County- Barrett +6.9% to Barrett +12.3% (+5.4%), 24% springback.
Racine County- Walker +13.1% to Walker +6.2% (+5.9%), 29% springback.
Kenosha County- Walker +3.7% to Barrett +1.2% (+4.9%), 21% springback.
Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Co's Combined- Barrett 18.1% to Barrett +25.8% (+7.7%) 40% springback.

Note that Rock, Racine and Kenosha are all blue collar counties with an industrial heritage. You don't think Walker's union-bashing played a role in them moving to Barrett (and putting Lehman in the Senate over Wangaard)? Paul Ryan should take notice of that, too, since all 3 counties are in the heart of his district. And Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland are in the area where the Mining Bill was written for. Guess it tells you Walker didn't exactly have the support of the locals with that one, did it?

And that does seem to be a pattern. The more you were directly affected by Act 10 and other Walker policies, the more you didn't like the guy. Meanwhile out in the sticks, the damage of Fitzwalkerstan hasn't been easy to see, except for the mill closings around Wausau - I don't know what the hell those people are thinking by standing with Walker, other than showing resentment of people whose lives haven't taken the hits.

The pro-Walker media propaganda and the lack of firsthand experience of Walker's damage probably helped lead to these answers from the New York Times exit poll.

When are recall elections appropriate?
For any reason 27%
Onlt for official misconduct 60%
Never 10%

And since Walker hadn't been charged by John Doe yet, it seems a vast majority of voters were casting ballots in an election that they felt shouldn't happen. If only 3.5% of voters changed their vote from Barrett to Walker on the basis of it being a recall vs. general election, that's the difference in the election right there. I'm thinking that's probably the case.

So this is why Walker hardly has a "mandate" for action or is vindicated in any way- it is likely that a strong reason for his victory is the reluctance of certain voters to remove elected officials before their term is up. All I can say is that I bet a lot of those people will regret that way of thinking within the next 12 months, to all of our detriment.

The other lesson to be learned from the vote swings- the Dems need to become a 72-county party. They have lost the Hwy. 29 corridor and the Northeastern part of the state. The DPW already is good at getting the boots on the ground and voters out in Milwaukee and Madison, but they need to take that same attitude to the rest of the state to get back a lot of the voters they have lost in those areas since 2008.

And it starts with going face-to-face with a strong message of values explaining why we invest in education, respect our environment and demand a chance at an improved life for all Wisconsin citizens, not just the rich and the corporate. What people forget about the recalll movement is that when the Uprising began, a lot of it had a core message of "We do not do business this way in Wisconsin, we're better than this." The Dems need to capture this message and use it positively as a contrast to the constant negativity and division that WisGOP tries to sow. Because if they do, I have a feeling they will stand to make major gains in the next 29 months as the damage of the Fitzwalkerstanis becomes obvious.

So yes, last night was a setback, but it was not a killer. We will fight on, hold these guys accountable, stop and reverse the destruction to the Wisconsin institutions that we hold dear, and restore this state to the great place that we know it to be.

Monday, June 4, 2012

PPP poll confirms- with high turnout, Barrett wins

Lot of attention from yesterday's PPP poll on the recall election. And like other previous polls, it showed a slight Walker lead at 50-47. However, like most other polls, it has its flaws and skews, and a closer look will show this thing is dead even.

Like most other polls, the crosstabs tell the real story, and a couple of figures jump out at you. First of all is the traditional questions on Party ID and ideology.

Party ID, PPP Poll
Democrat 32%
Republican 34%
Independent/Other 34%

Ideology, PPP Poll
Very liberal 9%
Somewhat liberal 17%
Moderate 35%
Somewhat conservative 24%
Very conservative 16%

Both of these numbers do not jibe with the reality of the 2010 Wisconsin exit poll, and this time, I'll use CNN's 2010 Governor exit poll, which was right on with a prediction of Walker by 6.

Party ID, 2010 Wisc exit poll
Democrat 37%
Republican 36%
Independent 27%

Ideology, 2010 Wisc exit poll
Liberal 21%
Moderate 42%
Conservative 37%

Both show a smaller GOP turnout, but a mixed picture with a lower Dem number, but a higher liberal number. But there's a second variable in play here. Given that the GAB has indicated that turnout will be well above the 2010 turnout of 50%, and closer to the 2008 turnout number of 69%. If that's the case, you get a very different electorate, as the 2008 Wisconsin presidential election poll shows.

Party ID, 2008 Wisc exit poll
Democrat 39%
Republican 33%
Independent 29%

So instead of the GOP +2 in the PPP Poll, you have 2010 polls with Dem +1, and 2008 with Dem +6. With this in mind, and with turnout expected to be closer to the 2008 turnout than even the 2010 turnout, that poll sample should be adjusted for who will actually be in the polls. So let's use figures between the 2008 and 2010 turnouts as a general rule of thumb, and use that as a predictor for tomorrow. In Party ID cases, this would make the turnout Dem 37, GOP 34, Independent 28. So put that in with the same PPP crosstabs and what do we get?

Barrett 48.38, Walker 47.45

And even though we don't have a 2008 ideology stat, let's use the 2010 figures and bump liberal up 2 and moderate down 2, turning it to 23-40-37 liberal-moderate-conservative. Then we'll run PPP's numbers on that., and we get...

Walker 49.25, Barrett 47.80

So even though Walker leads, it's cut in half to a virtual toss-up. In addition to political preferences, there are demographics that the PPP was off in, and a regular turnout would swing these votes toward Barrett. Here's a couple to go over.

Age of respondents, PPP Poll
18 to 29 10%
30 to 45 26%
46 to 65 39%
65 and over 25%

Now compare it to turnout history.

Age of voters, 2010 exit poll
18 to 29 15%
30 to 44 23%
45 to 64 46%
65 and over 16%

Age of voters, 2008 exit poll
18 to 29 22%
30 to 44 29%
45 to 64 35%
65 and over 15%

So the PPP poll oversamples young voters and oversamples elderly voters. This is a big difference that favors Walker in the poll, as Scotty's base of support in the PPP Poll are people on Social Security.

18 to 29 53-39 Barrett
30 to 45 52-46 Barrett
46 to 64 51-47 Walker
65 and over 58-39 Walker

So let's use an average of age turnout for the 2008 and 2010 exit polls, which basically slides 8% of the voters from the old to the young, and see what the results become.

Walker 48.66, Barrett 48.10

I also want to bring up minority voting. The PPP poll shows Walker getting a surprising number of minority votes, with Barrett only winning 58-36 among non-white voters (who are correctly listed as around 11% of the vote). Except that Barrett won the non-white vote 69-31 in 2010, and Obama won it approximately 75-25 in 2008. I'd guess 70-30 is a more likely number tomorrow, particularly given Walker's Milwaukee-bashing and J.B Van Hollen's race-baiting "voter supervision" acts, as well as with people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton holding turnout rallies in Milwaukee's inner city. That 10-to 12-point addition in minority voting share would allow Barrett to gain 2-3 points on this alone.

Also, the PPP poll has an unusual response to the following question:

Who did you vote for in 2008?
Obama 49, McCain 42. Actual vote: Obam 56, McCain 42.

It doesn't ring true that all 7% that drop off from the 2008 election would be Obama voters, especially when it likely that some of McCain's voters WOULD BE DEAD, given how old the average GOP voter is. A more realistic figure would be 51-40, if you think about 9% have dropped off. Turn that change into the PPP Poll and you get:

Barrett 48.50, Walker 47.98

The common thread in all of this, Barrett gains when you look at how the demographics tend to play out on Election Day, and that this race is as close as you can get. And if Barrett and the Dem groups are successful in turning out their voters, they have far more upside vs. Walker, who's pretty much going to get the same amount of votes regardless of the total turnout, just based on the type of person that votes for Walker (old white men outside of Milwaukee and Madison- Barrett wins practically every other demo).

With that in mind, my prediction for tomorrow is straightforward. If there are more voters in the City of Milwaukee than Waukesha County, and if the youth and minority turnouts are anything close to their 2008 levels, Tom Barrett will be the new govenror of Wisconsin. That's not a guarantee, but it's also an outcome that I think has a good chance of happening. I'd be shocked if the Obama people, unions, and Barrett's campaign do not execute tomorrow, regardless of the tricks that the GOP will try to pull.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Election notes Part 2- The swings and places that will decide things

And now here's the companion piece to the first part of my election analysis, which discussed the turnout changes for the last 4 large statewide elections from 2004 to 2010. This time, instead of going over HOW MANY people vote, we'll look to see who they VOTED FOR in these elections, and to see which areas would be harbingers for a Barrett or Walker win.

To give you an example of how certain places swing from one election to the other, check out Craig Gilbert's excellent article from 2011, showing the votes for president in 2008 and governor in 2010 in every Senate district in Wisconsin. From that, we can analyze the districts that had the largest swings from Democrat to Republican in the state between the 2 elections. Statewide this swing was +19.68 GOP, going from Obama +13.91 to Walker +5.77.

Largest swings and party of Senate seat 2008 vs. 2010
District 9- R (Sheboygan-area) 28.1%
District 17- R (SW Wisconsin) 26.8%
District 23- R (Eau Claire/ Chippy Falls- RECALL) 25.2%
District 29- R (Wausau and rural NC Wisc.- RECALL) 24.6%
District 24- D (Stevens Point- Rapids, etc.) 24.0%
District 32- R/D (La Crosse area- RECALL 2011) 23.9%
District 12- D (Northwoods- RECALL 2011) 23.6%
District 1- R (NE Wisconsin near Green Bay) 23.5%

So it looks like the areas that Barrett could see the largest swings back into his direction would be up the northeast Wisconsin coast, on and along Hwy. 51 from Stevens Point all the way up North, and in SW Wisconsin. Remember, a 6-point swing statewide with the same turnout gives Barrett the election, so if Barrett could grab half of this swing in these areas, that would pretty much do it. It would also help Kristin Dexter and Donna Seidel in the Senate recall districts of 23 and 29, as both of these districts went for Walker by 13-16 points, but also went for Obama by significant margins as well.

By comparison, look at the places that changed very little from 2008 to 2010, and you'll see a commonality.

Smallest swings, 2008 vs. 2010
District 6- D (Milwaukee) 3.3%
District 26- D (Madison) 4.7%
District 4- D (Milwaukee) 7.3%
District 8- R (North suburbs Milwaukee) 13.0%
District 7- D (Milwaukee Lakeshore and south burbs) 13.1%
District 5- R (Tosa, Brookfield) 13.3%
District 16- D (Sun Prairie, Monona, east side Madison) 13.4%
District 27- D (Middleton, Verona, W. Dane County) 14.5%

All in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, which means that the bigger benefit here for both the GOP and (especially) the Dems is to maximize turnout and run up total votes instead of changing the minds of those who do.

Let's go back to the swings, and do a bit of math to see how much of the voters would have to swing back to Barrett in order for Tom to become governor. This is assuming the same proportion of votes come from these districts as they did in 2010 (this is a bit different than what I measured in part 1, which indicates that increased turnout alone should help Barrett). I'll define this as a "springback", which would be a percentage of the swing that went from Obama to Walker in 2010. For example, if the swing in a district was 20% in 2010, say from Obama +10 to Walker +10, a 25% springback would be 5% back toward Barrett in the recall election (or 1/4 of 20%), which would be make the result Walker +5 in this district. Voter turnout also matters in these districts, as a high-turnout district will mean more votes, as will a high-swing district.

Statewide springback in every district
25% springback- 102,914 votes (Walker wins by 21,700 votes)
40% springback- 164,662 votes (Barrett wins by 38,000 votes
50% springback- 205,827 votes (Barrett wins by 81,200 votes)

But some places are swingier with more turnout than others, so let's look and see where the Barrett Administration would get the best payback from getting a portion of the electorate to spring back. And the places appear to be in mostly red territory.

The number of the side is the margin that would swing to Barrett in each district, and the number on the bottom is the State Senate district that the change would take place in. (click to make bigger)

In other words, the places with the biggest payoffs in switching voters back for Barrett, and the places Walker needs to defend are-

District 11- R Elkhorn, Lake Geneva, etc.
District 9- R Sheboygan
District 1 R- outer GB
District 20 R- Grothmann's district! West Bend, Ozaukee County
District 33 R- More 262 Bagger Land, Waukesha, Hartford, etc.
District 17 R- SW Wisconsin, which is likely to swing back if the Kloppenburg/ Prosser election is any indication.

And right after that are 3 Senate recall districts (Seidel/Petrowski, Moulton/Dexter, and Fitz/Compas!) as well as college town Stevens Point. All of these are useful territory for Barrett to try to make up.

So with this analysis, the key swinging area codes are 920 and 715, and Walker will have to defend his huge margins in the reddest of the red districts in the 262. Even if Barrett only gets a third of the votes in those 262 districts, it wuld probably be enough for him to win. For the 608 and 414, Barrett needs turnout (and Walker needs to prevent it), as those districts are less likely to change who they vote for, and their low turnouts make it doubly less worthwhile to convince people of one candidate vs. another.

Let's also look at the areas that seem to tell you what the final vote will be statewide. The most "bellweather" districts would be the ones that most closely match the results for both the 2008 and 2010 elections. Here's who seem to fit the bill.

Bellweather Senate districts, Wisconsin
District 22 (Kenosha) Obama +15.8% (+1.9% vs rest of state), Walker +6.3% (+0.5%)
District 30 (GB and north) Obama +14.4% (+0.5%), Walker +8.6% (+2.8%)
District 31 (Western Wisconsin) Obama +17.2% (+3.3%), Walker +5.9% (+0.1%)
District 21 (Racine area- RECALL) Obama +11.9% (-2.0%), Walker +8.3% (+2.5%)

Very different districts than above, except for the Wangaard- Lehman showdown in the Racine area, (which helps explain why that race and the voting around it is so big, it could decide the Senate and Guv races). And it also illustrates a Dem opportunity, as Part 1 pointed out that Kenosha County is an area that has a huge bump in turnout in presidential year elections, and with the turnout expected to be high on Tuesday, Kenosha would seem to be a place to reflect that. Seems like Kenosha is a key place to watch on Tuesday with these two factors in mind.

So there you go. It's a long, geeky analysis, but I think it'll give you some things to look for. And chances are that your vote will matter greatly, either due to helping "run up the score" in turnout, or in helping to swing (or not swing) certain parts of the state back toward its 2008 levels. So GET YOUR ASS OUT TO THE POLLS ON JUNE 5 and cast that vote!

Election numbers to look for Pt. 1- Clues from past turnout

I'm going to do a 2-part series on historical Wisconsin turnout, as a prelude to another post that'll go over what to look for on Tuesday.

First of all, let's look at the last 2 gubernatorial elections, in 2006 and 2010. What I'll do is first show the turnout % for the state, based on the GAB's numbers for all Wisconsin elections in the last 65 years, and then show the top 10 Wisconsin counties for number of voters. This comes to between 52 and 55% of total votes cast for the state.

Total votes, Governor 2006 2,166,671
Turnout percentage, 2006 50.9%

% of overall state vote, Governor 2006
Dane County 9.90%
Waukesha County 8.15%
City of Milwaukee 7.99%
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 7.00%
Brown County 4.33%
Racine County 3.30%
Outagamie Co. 3.23%
Winnebago Co. 3.00%
Rock County 2.55%
Washington Co. 2.47%

Total votes, Governor 2010 2,171,331
Turnout percentage, 2010 49.7%

% of overall state vote, Governor 2010
Dane County 10.19% (+0.29% vs. 2006)
Waukesha County 8.71% (+0.56%)
City of Milwaukee 8.69% (+0.70%)
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 7.09% (+0.09%)
Brown County 4.09% (-0.24%)
Racine County 3.37% (+0.07%)
Outagamie Co. 3.02% (-0.21%)
Winnebago Co. 2.83% (-0.17%)
Washington Co. 2.73% (+0.26%)
Rock County 2.42% (-0.13%)

This shows that the pro-Walker counties of Waukesha and Washington (and the City of Milwaukee, interestingly!) made significant gains in their percentage of the vote in 2010, while lean-Dem Rock County fell down the list, and the Fox Valley counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago also declined in significance.

Now let's turn this over to the last 2 presidential elections, as turnout is expected to be between the governor and presidential-year numbers at 60-65% (which would be somewhere between 2.6 million and 2.8 million votes), and see if the breakdown changes. 2004 was the tight race between Bush and Kerry that Kerry won by just over 11,000 votes (and could be a good guide for Tuesday's breakdown), while 2008 was an Obama blowout that he won over McCain by 56-42.

Total votes, 2004 3,016,288
Turnout percentage, 2004 72.9%

% of overall state vote, President 2004
City of Milwaukee 9.26%
Dane County 9.15%
Waukesha Co. 7.69%
Rest of Milw. Co. 6.83%
Brown County 4.11%
Racine County 3.39%
Outagamie Co. 3.00%
Winnebago Co. 2.96%
Rock County 2.69%
Kenosha County 2.55%
Washington Co. 2.42%

Total votes, 2008 2,996,869
Turnout percentage, 2008 69.2%

% of overall state vote, President 2008
Dane County 9.48% (-0.71% vs. 2010)
City of Milwaukee 9.22% (+0.53%)
Waukesha County 7.81% (-0.90%)
Rest of Milw. Co. 6.71% (-0.38%)
Brown County 4.18% (+0.09%)
Racine County 3.37% (same as 2010)
Outagamie Co. 3.07% (+0.05%)
Winnebago Co. 2.94% (+0.11%)
Rock County 2.65% (+0.23%)
Kenosha County 2.64% (+0.37%)
Washington Co. 2.49% (-0.24%)

A few interesting differences to ponder:

First is who moves up the list- the City of Milwaukee passes Waukesha County, and in 2004 even passed Dane County for total votes. They also see their share of the vote go up quite a bit, which is pretty important when you see that the City of Milwaukee went 78-21 for Obama in 2008, as well as 72-27 for Kerry in 2004, and 74-25 for Barrett in 2010. Waukesha County is also neutered a bit, as their share goes down nearly 1% from the share it had when it helped elect Walker in 2010.

No wonder D-B Van Hollen wants to have DOJ officials in Milwaukee on Tuesday to give a closer look to those voters - if we have turnout near presidential levels, it's likely that a good amount of the gain will be in Milwaukee, which would be a major help for Barrett and would hurt Walker. (Keep this one-sided move in the back of your mind when you consider Van Hollen coming up for another term in 2014.) On the flip side, Dane County's influence is also neutered a bit, but not quite to Waukesha County's levels (probably in no small part to Dane County's large student population, who are more likely not to vote in non-presidential elections).

Also notice that Kenosha County appears on the list, and passes Washington County for 10th place. Washington County's huge GOP vote is also neutered some in this case vs. 2010 by about 0.25%. Given that Kenosha County has run around 2% more Democratic than the rest of the state, this would again help Barrett, and between Washington and Waukesha Counties, that's about 30,000 to 35,000 votes that would be dispersed across the state instead of staying in the 262, going to more Democratic areas. It would also be big for Barrett if Rock County would return to the 2.6% level it was at in 2004 and 2008 instead of the 2.42% it was at in 2010, given that Rock County gave 52.5% to Barrett last time (6 points above Tom's statewide total), and was 8% above the statewide Dem percentage in both 2004 and 2008.

So this should give you some good benchmarks to check for on Tuesday - if Waukesha County is getting more votes than the City of Milwaukee and Washington County is casting more votes than Rock or Kenosha Counties, Walker's in great shape. But if we're seeing over 10% of the total vote coming from Dane County (which means total votes are around their 2008 levels of 282,000), 250,000 votes from the City of Milwaukee, and Rock and Kenosha are outvoting the Grothmann supporters, then Barrett's already gone a long way to winning.

P.S- Tweet out from PPP poll- Lists Walker leading 50-47, but adds: "Our projected WI electorate voted for Obama by 7. He won the state by 14. Close that enthusiasm gap in the last 36 hours and Barrett wins." And I would concur with that. If 2008 Obama voters and turnout happens, Scotty's going home.

Those to our south might find Walker's quotes familiar

Tell me if these quotes sound familiar to you.

"I am dying to show you how innocent I am."

"I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated."

"I have the most powerful ally on my side - and it's the truth....And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong."

Scott Walker talking about John Doe? Not exactly.

Somehow I'm thinking Scotty will have more in common with Roddy than just being a governor of a Midwestern state and having bad hair.

Illy-T was all over this more than 10 days ago - there is nothing stopping Walker from commenting on the case, other than on things that he has already testified to. If he's innocent, he can say so. If he's cleared, he can ask for and get a letter saying so, much like how real estate broker Andrew Jensen got after giving testimony in John Doe.

It's only if you're at risk of being guilty that makes not answering the question or releasing the emails a good move. Which means one thing...

Why are we having an election on Tuesday?

Leave it to the great Stuart Carlson to explain why. Needless to say, this type of honesty explains why he doesn't work for the Journal-Sentinel anymore.

Union rights are definitely a key part, but it's about a lot more than that. It's about the deceptions, power-grabs and legislating on the behalf of corporations over people. And it's about the huge wreckage that Tom Barrett would already have to make a huge effort cleaning up, and making sure it stops now before this little boy burns the house down.

Vote June 5, and make sure others do too.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Badgercare and Family Care- two more bombs Walker is waiting to set off

Hidden in the campaign heat is this release from Rep. John Richards and Legal Action of Wisconsin, who are suing the state's DHS for illegally denying BadgerCare Plus to two Dane County women.
The Medicaid program for childless adults, which started in January 2009, capped enrollment that October because demand exceeded the budgeted participation of about 54,000 people. A waiting list was started, which now has more than 130,000 names.

Only 26,000 people remain in the program, as enrollment has dropped through attrition. People on the waiting list should be enrolled, advocates say.

"The assumption was that the freeze would be removed," said Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Stephanie Smiley, spokeswoman for the state health department, said the freeze remains because the state has a projected Medicaid deficit of $82 million in state funds and $204 million overall.
But wait, I thought we had a surplus and all needs were met and there shouldn't be a problem with this? That tells you we don't, but the denial of service to deserving individuals shouldn't surprise you, because Walker's DHS has consitently tried to use a Medicaid deficit as a reason to kick people off of the rolls and into the more-expensive private insurance market.

Remember, the Walker Administration has already set up a plan to kick off 17,000 people from Badgercare, and it might have been 65,000 except that the Obama Administration told them they'd lose federal matching funds. If somehow Walker wins on Tuesday, you can bet they'll care a lot less about the consequences of throwing people off of the state system, and tens of thousands more Wisconsinites will fall through the cracks.

And the other bomb wating to go off is Family Care, which was given a third (and probably final) extension to July 23 to have the state comply with Obama Administration rules in order to get nearly $900 million in funding. DHS Secretary Dennis Smith has been consistently slow to release information required by the feds, such as notifying possible Family Care recipients that they can get services, and it's why the state hasn't been in compliance with the Fed requirements on Family Care so far. But again, this is not surprising either, because the only reason the Family Care cap was lifted was due to requirements from D.C. (Remember that cock-up by the Walker folks and Walker's lying press conference at the end of 2011?) Don't believe for a second that a Walker Administration with 2 more years in office wouldn't screw over tens of thousands of Wisconsinites just to cosmetically balance the budget and allow their campaign contributors in the assisted living community to have a larger client list, which they certainly would if Family Care were to be capped or removed.

Much like I pointed out last week, there are a large amount of fiscal bombs set by the Walker Administration that are waiting to go off over the next 2 years, and if they do, the damage will be so great that it may never be able to be adequately fixed. Or the effort will be so great to fix them that many other areas of the state will have to suffer (much like how the nation still hasn't recovered from the Bush Administration's malfeasance). So let's stop the damage on Tuesday and defuse these explosives, both for our health, as well as the health for our family members, some of whom probably use or need these services in the near future.

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Wisconsin media fails

In the short time I have between now and today's rally at the Madison Labor Temple with Tom Morello and friends, gotta go over some more unacceptable failures by our 4th Estate over the last few days.

1. Far too many headline writers took the Walker Administration's word for granted this week when they said the the BLS had confirmed Walker's job growth numbers as accurate. Fortunately, Uppity Wisconsin actually made the effort to contact the BLS itself, and found Walker's claims to be a complete LIE.
Communications Director Gary Steinberg, reached by phone said, with his emphasis on numbers and methods:

"The Bureau can not comment on the fourth quarter numbers because they haven't been released. I can say that we would not have confirmed the numbers yet, but would only have confirmed the methods used.

We can’t confirm fourth quarter or later data and would not have confirmed it to the governor’s office either."
In other words, we got their info, now we're checking to see if it's bullshit or not. And with good reason, because if one state is able to front-run on this data, it puts everyone else at a disadvantage, along with covering up any chance for an apples-to-apples comparison.

But since when did reality faze the Walker folks? The Hooters girl was doubling down on the deception today, demanding that the Barrett Administration take down an ad that dared to question the numbers, and saying that the numbers had been "verified" by the BLS. Me think the lady doth protesth too much, but as I've said before, why does it take bloggers to expose this when our media should be skeptical and asking this question of the BLS in the first place?

2. Walker's friends at Politi-crap have tried to blunt the money shot landed by Barrett in yesterday's debate when Tom said "I have a police department that arrests felons, [Walker] has a practice of hiring them." Barrett went on to say that none of his staff of 28 years has been charged with a crime, and Politi-crap tried to play the "gotcha" game, saying Barrett's claim is "false" because the Mayor's Office receptionist was arrested in 2010 and convicted for beating and suffocating his girlfriend.

Politi-crap rating is absurd false equivalency move for 2 reasons. First is because Tom Barrett isn't the one interviewing for and deciding on the office receptionist, and Barrett's office immediately put the guy on leave and removed him after the arrests, if I remember right. By comparison, it is well-documented that Scott Walker went out of his way to hire Walkergate criminals like Tim Russell and Kelly Rindfleisch. Second, how is someone getting into a domestic dispute related to his office duties, and how could Barrett have done anything to prevent that? The answer is nothing of course. Compare that to Walker's "smoking gun" email to Tim Russell the day Darlene Wink got arrested, showing both his knowledge and direct interest in the crimes, and it's not even in the same galaxy of sketchiness.

Also interesting, Politi-crap ignores the second part about Barrett's statement never having to set up a criminal defense fund. Walker would have been given a "half-true" if the shoe was on the other foot. How do I know this? Because Politi-crap just gave a "half-true" to Walker on the jobs claim, arguing that the BLS's mention of receiving the data makes it half-true. COME ON, MAN!

3. But then again, we know Politi-crap is cozy with the Walker Administration, and would take these steps to protect their boy. Uppity Wisconsin gets another hat tip for revealing an exchange between Wisconsin Politifact editor Tom Kertscher and Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie where Kertscher is actively asking Werwie for Politfact ideas.

In addition to being a clear violation of an indepedent press, Werwie uses the conversation to try to dig up dirt on State Sen. Dale Schultz when Schultz was objecting to the mining bill. I would not doubt if the same situation played itself out here, where Werwie or some other Walker campaign staff contacted Politi-crap staff to come up with this false equivalency move, knowing that Barrett's receptionist had been arrested 2 years ago.

So down the stretch of this historic and close race, we still have our media playing into Walker's hands through acceptance of his spin and through his friends at Politi-crap allowing false equivalencies to give negative stories to his opponent. Too bad for them it only fools the dingbats who support Walker in the first place, and fires people like me up even more to make sure the average Joe and Jane gets the real truth about these stories.

And on that, it's time to head to the Labor Temple, and feel the full blast.