Sunday, March 31, 2013

Supreme Court vote by the numbers

With next week's elections coming up for Wisconsin Supreme Court and State Superintendent of Schools, I wanted to do a breakdown of who votes in these elections, and see what the differences might be vs. a November election.

Top 10 turnout counties, 2011 Supreme Court
Dane County 12.16%
Waukesha Co. 8.34%
City of Milwaukee 7.78%
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 7.49%
Brown County 4.05%
Racine County 3.39%
Outagamie Co. 2.91%
Washington Co. 2.71%
Winnebago Co. 2.64%
Rock County 2.46%

Now let's compare this with 2012's recall election, as well as the presidential election breakdown of the top 10 counties by votes.

Top 10 turnout counties, 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%

Top 10 turnout counties, 2012 president
Dane County 9.88%
City of Milwaukee 9.54%
Waukesha County 7.91%
Rest of Milwaukee Co. 6.55%
Brown County 4.21%
Racine County 3.37%
Outagamie Co. 3.07%
Winnebago Co. 2.89%
Rock County 2.64%
Kenosha County 2.64%
(Washington Co. 2.58%)

You can see where the bigger turnout in a presidential election diluted the amounts for both Dane and Waukesha Counties (Dane especially), and that while Milwaukee County had only a slightly higher percentage of the overall vote share, there were a lot more of those votes coming from the City of Milwaukee in both elections in 2012 vs. 2011. We'll see if Fallone's status as a Shorewood native and Marquette Law Professor changes those numbers up a bit. In addition, Brown County and Outagamie County have had a steadily higher percentage in each of the 2012 elections, perhaps reflecting those areas being one of the few outside of Madison that are consistently growing in Wisconsin.

Obviously, who votes in these elections is also a big difference, with fewer "casual voters" meaning that often the bases are more likely to come out. And certainly the heat of the 2011 election added to it, as it took place at the height of the Uprising, with the race receiving huge national attention.

 This certainly made a difference in the 2011 race, as dead-red Washington County went for Prosser 75-25 while Kenosha went for Kloppenberg 54-46 and Rock was 60-40 Kloppenberg. Which counties (or in the case of Milwaukee, city vs. suburbs) turn out the voters in Southeastern Wisconsin will obviously play a big part in Tuesday's result. Washington County had their votes watered down with the 2012 presidential turnout, with blue counties such as Kenosha and Rock moving their way past Baggerland (Kenosha was down in 13th place in the Supreme Court race, at 2.05%).

  Now the GAB has said that they think turnout will be closer to 20% on Tuesday, or about 850,000 votes instead of the 1.5 million in 2011. If that's true, let's look at the top 10 counties for the last times we had a turnout like that, and see if there's a difference. I'll use the 2008 closely-contested Butler vs. Gableman election as a proxy, since the 2009 race between Abrahamson and Koshnick was never really that serious.

   Top 10 turnout counties, Supreme Court 2008
   City of Milwaukee- 9.78%
   Milwaukee Co.- 9.45%
   Dane County- 8.60%
   Waukesha Co.- 7.87%
   Brown County- 3.54%
   Racine County- 3.42%
   Outagamie Co.- 2.91%
   Washington Co.- 2.69%
   Winnebago Co.- 2.46%
    Kenosha County- 2.45%

   Note that the rest of Milwaukee County gets almost as many votes as the City, and Dane County especially had a lower turnout than they usually get. And the larger-turnout counties of Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago Counties all take up a smaller percentage, meaning the more rural counties of Wisconsin get a slightly higher amount of importance. Rock County slips all the way down to 12th place in this study.

  Milwaukee County's numbers in particular are interesting in the 2008 and 2011 Supreme Court race, because the rest of the county diluted the City's totals (maybe because of County Exec races on the ballot in both years - that's not the case Tuesday). This is also reflected in the totals of the "pro-Dem" candidate in the Supreme Court race.

   Milwaukee County vote percentage
   2008 Supreme Court- Butler 57-42
   2010 Governor- Barrett 62-38
   2011 Supreme Court- Kloppenberg 56-43
   2012 Recall Governor- Barrett 63-36

  If Butler wins Milwaukee County 62-38 like Barrett, and gets a turnout in Dane County near the amounts of most November elections, he's still on the Supreme Court, and the Court is nowhere near the corporately-bought disgrace it is today. If Kloppenberg wins Milwaukee County with 63% like Barrett did a year later, former Prosser aide Kathy Nickolaus can't come up with the magic votes to get the Choker on the Court, because Kloppenberg would have won by 20,000 votes.


  Now do you see why it's important to get yourself out on Tuesday and get to the polls for Fallone? Because all it takes is a few more of us to do the right thing and to convince others to step up and do the same, and the decline of this state can begin to stop.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

New lows for the Wisconsin jobs disaster- pt. 1

  The week's big news was that Scott Walker's preferred jobs metric confirmed what every other jobs stat had shown- that things had nosedived since he took office, with Wisconsin ranking 44th in the nation in private sector job growth from September 2011 to September 2012, and dead last in the Midwest. 

  While there are plenty of charts that can sum up the economic debacle in Fitzwalkerstan, I think the J-S's chart explained it quite well. It shows that Wisconsin outperformed the U.S. in year-over-year job performance for the 11 months before Scott Walker took office in January 2011. Since Scotty signed Act 10 in March 2011, the state has been BELOW the U.S. in job creation for 17 of the last 18 months measured.

  Any question as to why? Not in the above-ground world. Hilariously, if you go the the handy-dandy QCEW interactive site, you'll see that Wisconsin did lead in job growth for one category- State Government jobs.

    12-month increase in State gov't employment, Sept '11- Sept '12 
   Wis. +2.8%
   Utah +2.5%
   Minn +2.1%
   Mont +1.7%
   Conn +1.6%
And even this number is a damning of Walker austerity, as 8,000 state government jobs were LOST between June 2010 and June 2011 (with Act 10 and the passage of the Walker budget going in during that time period), in no small part because of nearly 19,000 retirements from workers who weren't going to put up with Walker taking thousands of dollars from their pockets. Since August 2011 and September 2012, 6,000 of those jobs have been hired back, as state governments have had to cover for the retirements and Walker has had to cover for the administrative failures such as the short-staffed WEDC. So the abuse of state workers in Act 10 hasn't cut much off of the state work force, and cost the Wisconsin economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost take-home pay for those workers (it's not like anyone got a tax cut or added services from the state-level cuts for Act 10, it just got funneled into future tax cuts for corporations).

  And the numbers going forward from end of the QCEW report in September don't help either, as reiterated by Thursday's release of the February jobs report by Walker's DWD, which showed another 2,300 private sector jobs were lost and the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.2%. This occured in the same month that well over 200,000 private sector jobs were created in the U.S., which added another 7,600 to the Walker jobs gap, putting that number well above 40,000 in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.


 Now interestingly, seasonally-adjusted total jobs went up by 12,100 for February, but that's more to a reflection of MLK weekend and Winter semester starting later than normal for UW System schools, so these job changes weren't caught in the January report like they usually are (causing a "loss" of 10,600 government jobs in January and a "gain" of 14,400 for February- net difference is +3,800, which is more plausible.) This gives a cosmetic uptick for the month, but still puts the total Walker jobs gap at 32,000.


     And notice that we had a big bump in March of last year, in no small part to the record 70 and 80-degree temperatures that hit for a sizable amount of that month. That sure isn't the case this year (there's still snow on the ground outside of my window), and you can bet that many of the 9,000 jobs in March 2012 that were pushed forward due to the early Spring/Summer aren't going to show up for this year.

  So when you combine this week's awful QCEW report with the medicore-at-best job figures of the 6 months after it, don't count on Wisconsin to pull itself out of its current "last in the Midwest and bottom 10 in the U.S." job stats any time soon.

  Oh, but "It's Working!"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Low wage growth- a bigger failure than jobs

   Today the BEA came out with its year-end figures on Personal Income by state. And stop me if you heard this one before, but it doesn't reflect well on how things are going in Wisconsin.

Yep, that's us in the "lowest quintile" for personal income growth- 41st in the U.S., to be exact (income includes items such as selling assets, dividends and other ways to have money coming in addition to wages). And you may also notice the dark blue state to our west. Yep again, it's Minnesota, ranking 6th in overall income growth, continuing a trend where they keep kicking Wisconsin's ass economically. And if you go inside the numbers, it gets even worse for us in Fitzwalkerstan.
  The same report uses the Census Bureau's recent estimates of population for 2012, and figures income per capita based on that report and the income report. On the surface, it makes Wisconsin look merely below-average, at 5th out of 7 Midwestern states.

   per capita income change, 2012
   Ohio +3.84%
   Minn +3.74%
   Ind. +3.40%
   Mich +3.40%
   Wis. +2.43%
   Ill. +2.38%
   Iowa +2.34%

   But then you go inside the numbers, and you notice that it's even worse than that in Fitzwalkerstan. Because several Midwestern states were hit hard by the Summer drought, which dropped income by huge amounts in some places. For example, Illinois lost over $2 billion in farm income earnings, Iowa lost $1.42 billion, and Indiana $734 million. Wisconsin lost some too, $179 million worth, but certainly not on the level of those states (interestingly, Minnesota gained $977 million in farm income). So let's assume all the Midwestern states had $0 farm income, which erases the losses in most states, and gives us the non-farm income change.

   per capita income change with $0 farm income, 2012
  Ohio +3.95%
  Ind. +3.71
  Iowa +3.47%
  Mich +3.44%
  Minn +3.33%
  Ill. +2.75%
  Wis. +2.52%

  Dead last in the Midwest in income-per-capita growth. Another black mark on the record of Scott Walker, and completely contradicts the idea of trickle-down, where lower taxes and lower public expenditures should be offset by higher wages. Hasn't happened.

  And this was borne out today with the release of the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages. Obviously the big headline is  Wisconsin slipping to 44th in the nation in 12-month job growth for Scott Walker's favorite stat, but the wage part is also horrible, as average wages dropped across the board in this 12-month period.

  Wisconsin weekly average wage change, Sept. 2011- Sept. 2012
    All jobs  -2.7% (47th in U.S.)
   Private sector -2.2% (45th in U.S.)
   Manufacturing -4.1% (46th in U.S.)

  And dead last in the Midwest in every one of these stats as well. Hell, who needs right-to-freeload laws when workers are already getting jacked around and paid nothing?

   Don't worry, I'll have plenty to say about today's disastrous jobs reports in the coming days (when losing private sector jobs in February and having unemployment go up to 7.2% is the third-worst jobs story for Scott Walker today, that tells you quite a bit, don't it?). But let's also remind people that it's not just the lack of jobs that is causing pain in Fitzwalkerstan- it's also the lack of wages that the "job-creators" refuse to give to those that DO have jobs. And Walker and WisGOP deserve to pay a price for that failure as well, as low wages for workers are the intelligence of trickle-down's design.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Diane Hendricks interchange" on the way?

This will be brief, as I'm on my lunch hour, but take a look at two press releases and tell me that selling off state property isn't in the plans for Walker Inc.

First came this press release from the Road Builders and their friends yesterday, approving of the major payoff increase in freeway spending in Walker's budget. Note this part.
Some have expressed concerns about the level of proposed bonding, particularly with the future revenue challenges facing the Transportation Fund. To this point, we would like to emphasize several points:

• Approximately 41 percent of all bonding is in the form of Transportation Revenue Bonds, which are repaid with pledged registration fee revenues. Huh? We already spend more than the state takes in for registration fees. And there aren't any increases in fees as far as I know.
• General obligation bonds are being used for the Southeast Freeway Megaprojects and Hoan Bridge only. These are extremely long-­‐life projects that will significantly outlast the life of the bonds.
Bonding for these projects is one way to spread their cost across both present and future users. Of these bonds, $200 million will be retired with proceeds from asset sales, thus eliminating future debt service payments.
WHOA! What asset sales? And those revenues aren't in the budget. Where did the Road Builders come up with this idea?

Here's where. Take a look at what the LFB said about the Walker budget today when it came to asset sales.
Under AB 40, DOA and the Building Commission would generally have similar authority related to the sale or lease of state-owned real property, and the use of the proceeds from the sale or lease of such property. Both DOA and the Commission could sell or lease any state-owned real property, except for specific exemptions (see below), whether or not the property or facility is in use or the agency is required by law to operate the facility. Both would also have authority to sell or lease of state-owned real property under the jurisdiction of the UW System Board of Regents. DOA could only sell property if the sale is approved by the Building Commission. The Building Commission could lease state-owned real property with or without the approval of the agency. AB40 would not provide DOA the explicit authority to lease such property without the agency's approval, although administration officials indicate that it was their intent to allow DOA to do so. The Building Commission could not sell or lease any property after being notified by DOA that an offer for sale or a lease agreement is pending on that property.

Both DOA and the Building Commission would have specific authority to sell or lease state owned heating, cooling, or power plants. (Hi, Mr. Koch!) DOA could not lease such property without agency approval. Also, DOA would have separate authority to contract with any purchaser or lessee of such facilities for the operation of those facilities. Administration officials indicate that it was their intent to allow DOA to contract for the output, rather than the operation, of any leased or sold heating, cooling, or power plants.

The above provisions would essentially allow DOA or the Building Commission to sell most state-owned real property or facilities, including those under the jurisdiction of the UW System Board of Regents and those facilities that are actively being operated or used by an agency. While administration officials indicate they have no plans to do so, these provisions are broad enough that the type of properties that could be sold or leased could include a state highway or bridge, a dormitory facility, or a prison.
And the memo goes on to say that money from these sales do not have to be reinvested in the agency it came from, but could be used for other purposes, such as filling in budget holes in other parts of the budget.

And you thought I was kidding when I mentioned the "Diane Hendricks Memorial Interchange" at I-90 and I-43 in Beloit. It's not a joke, folks. These guys are trying to sell all that the state has to other members of their old boys' and girls' club. And if they do it right, we don't get to have a say about it.

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't rip Minnesota, be more like them

Our governor just can't keep quiet when it comes to trying to promote himself at the expense of our neighbors. The dimwit did it again this week, tweeting "Come to Wisconsin (its beautiful and less taxing than Minnesota)."

I just got done yesterday explaining that Wisconsin trails all of our Midwestern neighbors in economic output for the last year, and are especially getting drilled by our neighbors to the West. In fact, Minnesota is adding jobs at its fastest pace in nearly 30 years.

And it's no major secret why. Look at this story that showed up in the Twin Cities' version of the Business Journal today.
Biotech startup Rapid Diagnostek, once a poster child for economic development boosters worried that promising Twin Cities startups were fleeing to Wisconsin, has returned to Minnesota.

The company quietly moved its headquarters from Hudson, Wis., to Plymouth last August, CEO Harry Norris said in an interview last week.

Rapid Diagnostek relocated to Hudson a few years ago in order to take advantage of Wisconsin’s angel-investor tax credit program, which Minnesota didn’t have at the time. The Star Tribune prominently featured the company’s story in an article headlined “A bio border battle,” which highlighted Wisconsin’s strong infrastructure for biotech startups. (The other poster child in the story, Vitalmedix, later closed in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, though some of its technology survived.)

Minnesota passed its own angel tax credit program partly to keep companies like Rapid Diagnostek here, though that had “zero” influence over the company’s decision to return, Norris said. So why did he return?

“The over arching thing was recruitment of talent,” he said. For instance, he tried to recruit someone from pharma giant Beckman Coulter’s Chaska operation, but the candidate didn’t want to drive 50-plus miles a day to get to Hudson.

And Norris, who lives in Excelsior, was tired of making the drive, too.

Since Rapid Diagnostek returned, the company has recruited three people with decades of experience working at Beckman, which typically employs people with the skills his startup biotech startup needs.
This is Exhibit A of how TALENT TRUMPS TAXES. Every time. And Minnesota and the Twin Cities are kicking Wisconsin's ass because they are attracting talent while Wisconsin is losing the best and brightest.

It's not surprising, given that Minnesota isn't destroying their public education system, isn't destroying the lives of working people, and is on the way to putting marriage equality into state law while Wisconsin has a gay marriage ban.

A lot of Wisconsin residents seem to agree that Minnesota is a better place for jobs, as Census data indicates that every day, nearly 20,000 people from St. Croix County and nearly 10,000 from Pierce County cross the border into Minnesota for work. Less than 5,000 Minnesotans come across the St. Croix to work in those two Wisconsin counties.

In all, the Census Bureau estimates that nearly 51,700 Wisconsinites work in Minnesota. If it wasn't for Minnesota's strong economy, St. Croix County probably wouldn't have been Wisconsin's fastest-growing county between 2000-2010, and Wisconsin's unemployment rate would probably be higher than its current 7.0% (well above Minnesota's 5.5%).

So with these stats in mind, why in the world would Scott Walker be making fun of Minnesota? He should be cooperating with them and working to make for a strong REGION of jobs around the St. Croix River. And if he wants to poach jobs from the area, maybe he should be working on improving the quality of education and services in Wisconsin to encourage those employed in Minnesota to live here. As Rapid Diagnostek showed, taxes mean very little when it comes to growing companies, but being in a place that smart people want to live in makes a huge difference.

Instead of attracting that kind of talent to Wisconsin, the talent is running away in the age of Fitzwalkerstan. In 2011, 1,300 more Wisconsinites headed into Minnesota than Mud Ducks who made their way west into Dairyland. This number is in addition to all the Wisconsinites that commute into Minnesota for work. With the Minnesota's acceptance of marriage equality and strong job growth, I have a hard time thinking that trend won't accelerate when we see the same stat for 2012 and 2013.

But then again, when did results ever matter to Mr. "Unintimidated?" As long as enough suckers fall for his divisiveness and keep on paying his bills, Walker couldn't care less how far we fall behind Minnesota.

Instead, the trend is working the other way.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stuck in the 40s- story of Wisconsin's economy

Given that the Walker Administration tried to make some hay the last couple of weeks with jobs numbers that were revised upward (even though the numbers still suck), I wanted to see how this new data reflected on the overall economic indicators for Wisconsin.

And right on time, the Philadelphia Fed released its monthly coincident indexes late last week (which shows the result of the last 3 months of economic results), and I didn't have to look far to find that it still wasn't "working."

That's right, it shows Wisconsin has the 3rd-worst economy in America the last 3 months, only ahead of Alaska and Maine. However, we also know that's from the adjusted figures that include the increased job numbers in the recent benchmarking. So let's use the coincident index for the last 12 months, as this'll reflect some of the better job figures, and we can get an apples-to-apples comparison with our Midwestern neighbors, and the U.S. as a whole.

Change in Philly Fed coincident index, Jan 2012- Jan 2013
Ohio +3.26%
U.S. +2.75%
Ind. +2.71%
Iowa +2.55%
Minn +2.44%
Ill. +2.25%
Mich +2.04%
Wis. +1.18%

Ugh! Still dead last, and not by a little, as Wisconsin's growth is less than half the rate of the U.S. This 1.18% stat lands Wisconsin 41st out of the 50th states, barely ahead of Alabama and Arkansas.

And when you stretch it out for the 2 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, it's no better. No, our economy certainly did not "take off like a rocket" after Walker survived the recall election, as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos promised that it would last April. Instead, as this chart shows, once Walker was retained, any growth that Wisconsin was having flatlined, while all other Midwestern states continued to grow.

And the recent unemployment claim figures don't indicate Wisconsin is pulling its way out of its Fitzwalkerstan doldrums. Take a look at the combined number of unemployment claims for the last 2 weeks among the Midwestern states.

Total unemployment claims, last 2 weeks
Ill. 24,776
Wis. 22,533
Ohio 22,037
Mich 20,465
Minn 9,326
Ind. 8,909
Iowa 5,709

Note that Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio each have populations several millions more than Wisconsin's, while Minnesota and Indiana are comparable, and Iowa has about half as many people (but 1/4 of the unemployment claims).

So if that's any indication, we might be seeing some rocky numbers for March, especially when you consider that this time last year we had green grass, trees in bloom, and Terrace chairs being put out at the Union, which pushed seasonal employment forward (and the March jobs numbers "up"). You can be sure the next 2 jobs reports won't see that kind of boost, and we'll be finding out soon enough, since both reports will be coming out over the next month. I'm not counting on much changing from the Fitzwalkerstanis horrible economic record, and neither should you.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Payback- Walker heads to contributors' businesses

I've seen three stories in the last week that involved our Governor making photo-ops at various businesses around Wisconsin, as part of what they're calling the "Forward Manufacturing" tour, trying to continue the false hope of "It's Working." (memo to Walker's staff, it's still not working) The visits made me flash back to this story I wrote last year, noting that Walker tended to show up at businesses that made campaign contributions to him and the Wisconsin GOP. So I wanted to see if this hypothesis held for these appearances, and dialed up the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's donation database to see if these visits were a bit of campaign finance payback.

First up was Walker's trip to MEGTEC Systems in De Pere, where CEO Mohit Uberoi has given $250 to Walker is each of the last 2 elections. That's not exactly a difference-making donation, but it sure makes you wonder if there's a "more is on the way" promise made in exchange for the attention Walker gives this company for showing up. It also allowed Walker to promote a policy that would track 12-year-old children into career paths.
One way Walker proposes advancing the industry is through career assessment programs for sixth-grade students.

“Young people need to think, ‘What are my interests, and talents?’ and they should start thinking about it early in school, not three months before they graduate,” Walker said.

Those career assessments will give students direction before they apply to higher education institutions, Walker said, whether it be a trade school or four-year college. Such guidance will help develop skilled workers.
Yes, because when you're 12, you won't change and discover new talents about yourself between then and when you turn 18....or 22. And of course, it requires no additional investment into these workers by MEGTEC or other companies. Very stupid policy.

Also on Walker's tour this week was Skana Aluminum in Manitowoc, which has Thomas Testwuide as its CEO. A quick check of the WDC's database shows Testwuide has given over $1,000 to Walker's campaigns, and thousands more to other GOP legislators in the Sheboygan and Manitowoc areas over the last several years. There's also a whole lot of other Testwuides that have given big dollars to WisGOP candidates, and I somehow don't find Walker's visit to be coincidental.

Lastly, Walker headed to Super Steel in Milwaukee on Friday. Super Steel's CEO is Fred Luber, who has given literally hundreds of donations over the years to GOP candidates, including more than $20,000 to Scott Walker. He also openly criticized Governor Jim Doyle and Mayor Tom Barrett is 2010 after Talgo chose not to work with the company in building trains related to the proposed Milwaukee-Madison and Twin Cities rail line. It's almost like he, Scotty and the WisGOP spokespersons on AM radio were coordinating messages when it came to that subject, wasn't it? The real question is who was driving the train (pun!) on that criticism- Luber's cash, or Walker?

By the way, those train bullders were back in the news on Friday. Our media seems to have missed this one (either intentionally, or just through oversight). Looks like the $800 million in trains for high-speed rail will be built in Rochelle, Illinois, and not in Milwaukee.
The new locomotives to be bought through a competitive-bidding process will be paired with 130 bilevel rail cars being built at the Nippon-Sharyo plant that opened last year in Rochelle in northwestern Illinois.

The federal government has allocated $808 million to build the locomotives and passenger coaches, officials said.

Twenty-one of the locomotives and 88 of the rail cars will operate on routes in the Midwest, IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said.

Delivery of the passenger cars is expected to begin in mid-2015 for testing, Claffey said. "Multiple deliveries per month will start in early 2016," he said.
Ah, Walker's turning down of the rail line just is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to the level of FAIL.

It's not like having these photo-ops at contributors' businesses is a new development, you may remember last August, when a major GOP contributor forced his Ohio coal mine workers to attend and pose with Mitt Romney at such a photo op, and Romney later used pictures from the photo op in "job-creator"-type TV ads.

Don't be surprised if you see some similar pictures from the taxpayer-funded "Forward Manufacturing" tour in a Walker ad next year, as Scotty will desperately try to show things are "turning around" from his earlier failures in creating jobs in Wisconsin.

This is sickening cynicism by the Walker Administration. It's obvious that instead of doing things such as working to improve wages and worker protections to encourage a higher level of applicant (which are the real cause of any "manufacturing skills gap"), or trying to improve education in Wisconsin, Scott Walker is more interested in making appearances with campaign contributors and make their employees a captive audience to his campaign propaganda. Not that this should surprise you, but it is another illustration that when it comes to Walker World, it's the appearances and politics that matter, and not the results.

A few thoughts from Bucky's meltdown

That was not a nice way for the Badgers to go out yesterday, scoring 46 points and getting upset by Mississippi (aka, a state Scott Walker wants us to emulate). Shoot under 26%, and it's pretty damn hard to win. And when you look at the Badgers' games from this year, this stat jumps out at you.

Badgers scored 60 points or more: 21-2
Badgers scored under 60 points: 2-10

I know Nate Silver talks about if something is signal or noise. I think that split inlcudes plenty of sample size to show that 60 points is a signal. Sure makes you wish Vander Blue hadn't backed out of his commitment to UW and gone to Marquette instead, doesn't it?

People say "defense wins championships", but you also gotta score. You can't advance in March expecting to win 55-50. This held true even in the Badgers miracle run to the 2000 Final Four, where Dick Bennett-coached teams scored at least 60 in all four of their wins on the way to Indy.

So what do we do about it? It does seem like the talent will upgrade, especially now that Sam Dekker will be the main guy next year (and Bo can't go with his excuse of having the seniors play over him, regardless of talent). Get a contributor up front along with Dekker, and Bucky should be very good in the next couple of years, with Gasser, Jackson and Brust all back to play guard. And more play-making ability in that group as well, particularly since Gasser will do more ball-handling, allowing Jackson to create and spot-up shoot more (he's got the confidence, the decision-making is still a bit shaking with Tre).

But the lack of talent always seem to catch up to these guys at some point, and it just happened sooner than usual this time. The defense is there for UW, but it's offense and playmaking that needs to pick up next year.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bye-bye rural Wisconsin, hello Madtown!

Last week, we saw another illustration of how rural Wisconsin continues to die in the age of Fitzwalkerstan, and the same study illustrated how people are choosing progressive, growing places to work and live in, both within the state, and in heading outside of the state.

First, I'll give you a taste of the recent Census estimates of 2012 populations. The green indicates population growth between 2011 and 2012, and the red indicates population loss, with the darker shades indicating higher percentages of change. The pattern isn't hard to figure out.

Look at the heavy green concentrated around Madison, as Dane County was the fastest-growing county in the state at 1.42%, and now has over 500,000 people. By comparison, look at the huge swaths of red in the northwestern 2/3rds of the state- people all over that part of the state are taking off and not being replaced.

Let's start with Dane County's growth first. More than 7,000 more people live here now than in 2011, and the county grew for all 3 major reasons that the Census Bureau gives- a younger population, attracting people from other parts of Wisconsin and the U.S., and in getting immigrants from other countries to settle here.

Dane County population growth 2011-2012
Births vs. deaths +3,131
Domestic migration +2,563
Net immigrants +1,364

Dane County accounts for more than 40% of the state's total increase in population of 16,555. It is also by far the county that with the largest number of people moving into it for 2011.

Largest in-migration, Wisconsin counties
Dane County +3,927
Waukesha Co. +1,142
Brown County +794
La Crosse Co. +621
Winnebago Co. +596
Eau Claire Co. +474

You can see that number gets small very fast, and in fact, only 22 of Wisconsin's 72 counties had more people moving in than moving out in the first year of Fitzwalkerstan. This is an obvious problem when it comes to creating jobs, as you have to have people wanting to live somewhere in order to improve your chances of finding qualified employees.

Interestingly, Milwaukee County was the second-fastest growing county in the state (+3,288), but also had the highest number of people LEAVE, with net domestic migration at -5,236. So how did it gain? A young population that 6,776 more births than deaths, and an net increase in immigrants of 1,752.

Compare this to Waukesha County, which gained 1,142 move-ins, but only gained 484 people in births vs. deaths, despite having a population not much less than Dane County. And Ozaukee County is even older- births vs. deaths are nearly even. Sorry Charlie, but the long-term demographics are moving against you guys in Redland, and toward us goofy libs in Madison and Milwaukee. No wonder why WisGOP is so desperate to grab power in the dwindling time they have left.

And older demographics are a big reason behind the 44 Wisconsin counties that lost population in 2011. 19 of those counties are now estimated to have more people dying in them than being born, (and the same is true of 3 more counties that actually had population GROWTH, due to more people moving there). You will find these counties heavily concentrated in northern and eastern Wisconsin, including many retirement areas.

Counties with most deaths vs. births, 2011
Waupaca Co. 167
Oneida Co. 142
Marinette Co. 117
Vilas County 98
Adams Couty 75
Door County 73

The other reason these places are losing people are move-outs. Milwaukee County may have been the biggest loser in net migration, but of course there are also a whole lot more people in Milwaukee County. When you look at it by percentage, it shows that the real places where people are leaving are around the Highway 29 corridor, the non-retirement areas of the Northwoods, and the poor areas of southwest Wisconsin.

Highest percentage of people leaving, 2011-2012
Menominee Co. -2.04%
Rusk County -2.01%
Taylor County -1.52%
Clark County -1.37%
Buffalo Co. -1.16%
Richland Co. -1.16%
Ashland Co. -1.00%
Forest Co. -0.86%
Crawford Co. -0.84%

I've pointed out before that rural Wisconsin is an area that's taken some of the biggest hits in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and with people continuing to leave, and only older people remaining in these places, it means property tax rates are likely to rise and lead to more decline. This is especially true when you consider these areas of Wisconsin were built on quality public education and services, which kept it afloat while a lot of rural areas in other states died. Now combine the lack of jobs and lack of people with this administration's lack of respect for the natural beauty that is part of many of these areas, and you can see where folks would see no use in staying. If this trend is to continue, we will see an even more uneven distribution of population than we see today in Wisconsin, and a loss of this state's rural flavor that helped make it the unique place that it is.

So the Census is indeed telling us a story- small-town Wisconsin declined in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, while the larger-population areas of Wisconsin continued to grow. Some grew due to favorable demographics, like Milwaukee, and some grew by attracting people to move there, like Waukesha County, Green Bay, and La Crosse. And Madison got the best of both worlds- good demographics and a high quality of life that encouraged the most move-ins in the state. Sorry right-wing radio, but Dane and Milwaukee Counties don't seem to be changing this direction of higher population any time soon, which is brutal news for any Republicans that think they can diminish and isolate these blue counties. More likely, we'll be the ones calling the shots in the very near future, especially if young people contunue to leave rural Wisconsin, and red-voting suburban Milwaukee stalls out and literally dies off.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Yep, the Wisconsin jobs numbers still suck

  I figured there was more to the story when the Wisconsin DWD threw out a press release on Thursday bragging about new benchmarking stats which added tens of thousands of jobs from the previously brutal state figures. This benchmarking happens every March and tries to correlate the figures with the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (the same stat Scott Walker lied about right before the recall elections), and it also explains why there was such a delay on these figures from the last report in December.

  But the revisions still only result in tepid private sector job growth of less than 1% for all of 2012, and less than 45,000 jobs created overall since January 2011. Even with a big seasonally-adjusted jump for January 2013, there has only been 67,000 private sector jobs created in the 24 months that have elapsed since Walker took over, meaning the state is on pace to fall more than 100,000 jobs short of Walker's goal of 250,000. I also knew that the U.S. and the other Midwestern states had been growing in a faster rate, so I was waiting for the state-by-state report to see some context for where Wisconsin really stood.

  It came out today, and yep, our numbers are even worse than we previously thought. Mike Ivey of the Cap Times put it together and found Wisconsin to be 44th in job growth in Walker's 2 years.
The new numbers, based on the most accurate current measures available, show Wisconsin with an estimated 2,790,000 non-farm positions as of January 2013 — up 44,600 jobs or 1.6 percent since January 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker took office.

By comparison, Indiana ranked No. 9 with a 3.8 percent job growth rate over the past two years; Minnesota was No. 10 with 3.7 percent growth; Michigan was No. 12 at 3.6 percent; Iowa was No. 24 at 2.9 percent and Illinois No. 30 at 2.3 percent job growth.
 As one of the execs at WEDC so accurately put it:  "We suck, we're bad."

  The Walker jobs gap charts still show that there's a major drop-off between Wisconsin and the rest of the country. You'll also notice that instead of job creation "taking off like a rocket" after the June recall election, as Walker promised, it actually smacked into a brick wall once Scotty was retained while the country as a whole kept growing.

A couple of caveats for the January numbers to keep in mind going forward. First is that January traditionally has one of the largest seasonal adjustments made to the raw, unadjusted numbers. The BLS report indicated that 82,000 fewer people were working overall, and over 48,000 less in the private sector than there were in December. But because these are lower-than-expected seasonal layoffs, it comes in as a "gain." It's kind of sad to note that January and February have been the best-performing months for jobs under Walker, which makes it sort of a "tallest midget" award over actual improving conditions.

Second is that the preliminary numbers showed a "drop" of 19,400 government jobs in January, but those losses are inflated due to the late MLK holiday, so college students and graduate researchers wouldn't be back on the job, so I would think we'll see a large revision upwards in that number for February. On the flip side, with the weather taking a turn for the worse in February and March, I bet we don't see the increases we saw for those months in areas like Construction and Bar and Food services, (we're not having St. Patty's beers on the Terrace like we were this time last year). So let's see where those trends take us in the next 2 jobs reports.

  But the bottom line for now is that despite the positive revisions, Wisconsin remains a laggard compared to our neighbors and the rest of the nation. And with these revisions being based on the QCEW figures from much of 2012, I bet it won't be the last disappointing report to come out in Fitzwalkerstan in 2013.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Now more than ever- Scott Walker = Tom Crean

You're goddam right I'm in a mood to spout after coming back from a pre-St. Patty's Day hangout and celebration, and watching Bucky laid the smack down on the Hoosiers this afternoon for their 12th straight win over IU.


 Oh yes, this means good times for Jake.I'm flashing back to being 20-something and jamming some DMB on a night like this.This probably locks up a 4 seed for the Badgers, and tells me that if they hit some shots and run good offense for the next few weeks, maybe they got a shot to play a while in the Big Dance (and yes, I know I just jinxed the shit out of them).

Today also reiterates a thought I had 2 years ago, that Tom Crean is just like Scott Walker. Sure, weak-minded partisans might be impresed by the way these guys seem so enthusiastic and unflappable, and in the way they can recruit large amounts of talent (or money) their way. But among those of us that actually care about the game (or state) at large, and those of us who are clear-eyed enough to see these charlatans for who they are, we know that there's little to no ability in either of these guys, and if the other folks come strong at them, they'll come up short, no matter how tough they might look on the outside. Us Badgers in Madison know it as well as anyone, and both Crean and Walker rightfully fear that what we know will soon become reality for the rest of their constituencies (much like it did when it came to Iraq or demanding marriage equality or any other number of 21st Century developments that us Madison hippies have been proven right about).

Sure, both Crean and Walker got lucky reprieves in 2012 as a number of things fell their way (Walker convinced enough weaklings that he hadn't deserved to be booted out of office, while players like Oladipo and Zeller saved Crean's job with a Sweet 16 appearance). But even though these guys may be riding high in the eyes of the media, those of us that have a clue know that status is going to be fleeting (Walker's education budget is already blowing up among his GOP backers in the Legislature, and his budget will clearly implode into massive deficits with huge debts costs. Crean will probably lose Oladipo, Hulls and Zeller next year, with nowhere near as much talent ready to replace it). By 2014, both will be on the downslide in the national picture. And while both have delusional dreams of grandeur in 2016, (Crean thinks he's building at empire at IU despite not being half the coach Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, or Thad Matta could be able, and Gov Dropout thinks he can be president, despite barely being able to crack the top 10 among the bubble-world losers at CPAC.) it's probably more likely that they'll be considered a joke at that point, with their careers effectively over.

And yes, I will be laughing at both of these posers, and bragging that I told you so. Those of us with a clue can spot a "nothing-there" poser a mile away, and Tom Crean and Scott Walker are the definitions of that type of "leader".

Who's taking the corrupt bastards down?

For those of us who think the American system should ultimately check and punish those who step over the line, abuse power, and corrupt the lawmaking process, this has not been a good March.

Take a look at the scandal in the redistricting case that broke on Wednesday.
A group of Democrats and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera sued, and the panel of federal judges ruled last year that two Assembly maps on Milwaukee's south side violated the voting rights of Latinos. The court put in place new maps for those districts but not others, meaning the Republican-friendly maps were largely preserved.

But after the ruling, the plaintiffs identified documents - 55 so far - that should have been turned over to them but never were. Last month the court ordered the state to turn over the computers so the plaintiffs could forensically examine them because the judges found "some form of 'fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct' likely occurred."

In the two weeks the plaintiffs have had hard drives, forensic examiner Mark Lanterman has determined documents were deleted in June, July and November. He also found some of them contained "wiping" software meant to delete files so that they cannot be recovered.

The internal and external hard drives come from the three computers that legislative aides, lawyers and consultants used to draw the maps. One of the nine hard drives had a stripped screw, dents and scratches and is unreadable.

Lanterman did not tell the court how many documents had been deleted from the hard drives, but a lawyer for the plaintiffs called the number "substantial."
How is every GOP that was associated with this not sitting in a jail cell for contempt after clearly violating a court order? I'm dead fucking serious here? And the tentacles in this case reach down from RNC head Reince Priebus, through Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and convicted criminal Scooter Jensen, down to the staffer hacks who went off of the Capitol grounds and used the Madison offices of Michael, Best and Friedrich to try to get around open records laws.

The only reason these maps were allowed in the first place was because the federal panel said they felt it wasn't their place to step in vs. the Legislature, but when the GOP Legislative interests have hidden (and now apparently tried to destroy) evidence that was asked for as part of the case, doesn't that go out the window? Because the GOP ultimately got what it wanted, it'll take numerous people to be charged, convicted, and given serious prison time, and these rigged maps to be THROWN OUT AND DRAWN INDEPENDENTLY for justice to be served. Anything less than this is a disgusting travesty, and will show that lying and criminal behavior pays.

Know where else lying and criminal behavior still pays? Wall Street, as we saw again yesterday with JP Morgan and Chase bank executives getting called into a Senate subcommittee hearing on deceptive and reckless accounting practices that continued well after they were bailed out in 2009. Matt Taibbi's blog has a great rundown of this hearing and just how little regard these people have for SEC laws and regulators, and this little drop-in will tell you why.'s crucial to understand that this "London Whale" episode is not an isolated example of the bank blowing off its internal controls. Rosner went bank and found an extraordinary series of settlements Chase has been involved with in the last three-four years, each one worse than the next seemingly, and despite these repeat violations, Chase each time was allowed to skate without serious punishment.

In September of 2009, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission nailed Chase for co-mingling $725 million of its own money with $9.6 billion in customer money, essentially the same activity we saw in the Corzine/MF Global scandal. Chase, incredibly, was allowed to settle for $300,000 in that case.

A year later, the British Financial Services Authority fined Chase 33 million British pounds for doing the same thing – failing to “adequately protect between $1.9 billion and $23 billion of client money between November 2002 and July 2009.”

In April of 2012, the CFTC again found that Chase was failing to segregate customer funds from its own accounts, and fined the company $20 million, which is about 3 seconds of income (I’m exaggerating, but probably not far off) – not even a slap on the wrist, more like hitting them on the wrist with a feather-duster.
Well no wonder they keep cheating if the penalties are going to be a fraction of their gains. And we found out recently that the lack of criminal prosection and small penalties are ACTUAL U.S. POLICY, as Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that some institutions are indeed Too Big to Jail.
“The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy,” [Holder] said. “That is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
That's right, Eric Holder and company are so worried about another financial meltdown that they're willing to let these banks break the law and get off easy. Think that would work for any of us if we broke a law "Sorry officer, I had to drive home, because I was going to get more shitfaced and smash up the bar if I stuck around for the next few hours." WHAAAT?

But Holder's philosophy also sounded familiar for another reason, and I remembered a certain "concerned Wisconsinite" who testified in front of a State Senate panel in 2010.

That's right, it's current U.S. Senator (m0)Ron Johnson arguing that you can't crush the Catholic Church with major damages for protecting pedophile priests, because that could destabilize all these charity-based organizations who might want to help kids.

HEY (MO)RON! Maybe we should be concentrating on making sure there's never a spot where it's worthwhile to cover up for kid-diddlers, and I can't think of a much better motivator than a huge fucking fine and damage payment. Then again, (mo)Ron apparently was on the same panel that was asking these corrupt banks why they continued to cheat, but I don't see evidence Sen. Johnson said ANYTHING to these guys. Typical inherited money-type- (mo)Ron thinks his class is allowed to run by a separate set of rules than people with real jobs. And March seems to indicate this is true.

It's fitting that our unaccountability month began with the news that Milwaukee County D-A John Chisholm chose not to pursue charges against Governor Walker in the Milwaukee phase of the John Doe case. This is despite the fact that Walker directly hired 5 of those individuals convicted of felonies (including Tim Russell to multiple positions), was included in emails that were used as evidence in convicting Kelly Rindfleisch, and admitted to knowledge of the illegal wireless router that Darlene Wink was using when she got arrested.

Now what you have to believe in order to think Scott Walker was totally innocent in John Doe is to think that all of these illegal activities were happening in Scott Walker's office by people Scott Walker hired and these same people worked on Scott Walker's campaign in 2010, but somehow Scott Walker knew nothing and controlled nothing, and is the worst manager ever seen. Even I don't think he's that much of a puppet. So it seems to me that Chisholm got spooked by the amount of smears and lawyers that a Walker indictment would have led to, and bailed on it since he couldn't get an airtight case that would show Gov. Dropout's direct involvement. Making Scott Walker Too Big To Jail, at least in this case.

So what do we do about it? (Well, in addition to making damn sure YOU VOTE ED FALLONE ONTO THE WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT APRIL 2 over the Roggen-hack who has no problem with deciding cases involving corporations that she took money from.) It certainly involves visible public action, because our media is too heavily involved in this corrupt game to do the right thing and call it straight (don't believe me, check out Journal Communications' huge earnings that were based on 2012 election ads). Now I'm not sure if that's merely in the form of doing our own ads, or massive rallies and getting further behind the Move to Amend folks who are demanding a repeal of Citizens United (and you can make your voice heard on that in Dane County April 2 as well).

Or does it take more- is the system so rotten that we gotta start sharpening the blade and reminding the scumbags how it went down 225 years ago in France when the oligarchs stopped respecting their luck in life and threw all the burdens onto the people who helped give them their status? I don't want it to get to that point, but if the crooks aren't going to be sent to jail, then the system has completely broken down, and it's time to replace the officials who have failed to care for the people who pay their salaries.

Somehow this song fits quite well with where my heads at today.

Don't think we can't do it again. And this time, we might not choose to be nice about it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The tropics told me Charlie Pierce is on it

Back from a few days out in Mexico, which beat getting hammered with rain and snow back here in Dairyland. In addition to eating beyond my weight and having a few tropical beverages with significant others and friends, I got a chance to do some book-reading. In my 5 days out of town, I was able to take care of Charles P. Pierce's Idiot America , and while it's a bit more serious than Pierce's excellent work at Esquire's politics blog, it's still great stuff.

(Granted, the book currently has the aroma of tequila on it, because of stupid U.S. customs rules that forced me to re-check luggage in the Detroit airport upon landing there on the way back to Madison, and disallowed me from carrying on the same tequila bottle I carried on in Mexico. Fuckers mishandled the bag that had the book in it, and broke the bottle, which either has now enhanced the book, or distracted from it.)

But I digress, and onto Idiot America itself. First of all, Pierce brings up the 3 great premises of Idiot America- an America where expertise and decency is frowned upon and diluted to the point of nothingness, and everything is a giant grift where no one stops the grifters to say "You're wrong, and you make no fucking sense."
Premise 1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
This defines right-wing radio and Faux News, but also includes other parts of the right-wing entertainment complex, leading to the bubble-world that results with the clown show known as CPAC. And because sober evaluation doesn't always grab eyeballs, we see a whole lot less of it than we need.
Premise 2: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
This explains both how a majority of Americans (and media) could be snookered into thinking Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, why some still cling to climate change as a "hoax" to be ignored, and why Paul Ryan is still given one minute of air time DESPITE BEING WRONG FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS ON PRETTY MUCH EVERY ISSUE HE'S SPOKEN ON.
Premise 3: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
And also if it's repeated enough, like "union thug" memes on AM620 and AM1130. This is also how some (and far too many in DC) still think we have "a deficit problem" when the 10-year note is still standing at just over 2%, and the deficit has been nearly cut in half over the last 4 years (and is scheduled to be cut in half again in the next 2).

The book has an afterword that takes place in 2009- a time when Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Tea Bagging seniors were actually taken seriously by far too many. Pierce uses that moment in time to accurately call out the media for allowing Idiot America to be given creedence in the name of "both sides" journalism.
[Glenn Beck and his supporters] are utterly out of their minds. I do not need to find three sources for this. I do not need someone to say, well, some of them are only sort of out of their minds. If I see a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, I can write that I saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head. I don't have to find someone on the other side who will say, "No, what you saw was a duck walking down the street with a guy on his ass." I am not obligated to treat transparent lunacy as though it was worthy of respect simply because it happens to be popular. I am not obligated to be that nice a person, and neither are you.
Pierce also has Wisconsin ties, as a Marquette grad (the Golden Warriors are just taking the floor in the Big East as I type this, by the way), and has been reporting more than most national figures about the goings-on in this state over the last 2+ years. His most recent article on Gov. Walker discusses the mining bill (for a mine that'll never open) and ties it together with how Walker appeals to the Idiot America and Idiot Wisconsin part of the GOP (which is much of what's left of the GOP).
We have been concentrating a little heavily for a number of reasons on the truly atrocious mining bill that finally passed the Wisconsin Assembly last night. The first is that it is yet another indication that Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, plans to run for president, so it's a good idea to judge him by his works. The second is that the bill is an almost perfect example of the conception held by modern conservatives — which is to say, Republicans — of the way things are supposed to work, and an almost perfect example of the conservative idea of self-government as public oligarchy. And the last one is that it truly is an atrocious bill, being, at the same time, an environmental catastrophe, a staggering economic giveaway, and a deliberate and obvious offense against the idea of a political commonwealth....

The legislation was written in such a way as to defang the state's Department Of Natural Resources, provide what is essentially a liability shield for the company, overturn over a century of environmental protection laws for the benefit of a single company. The mine also would benefit from a proposed budget provision that would repeal a state law dating back to the 1880's that prevented Wisconsin land from being controlled by foreign corporations or governments, leading more than a few people to wonder exactly who's going to get the 75 kajillion jobs that Walker and his pet legislature insist the mine will provide. In short, despite the fact that polls show substantial opposition to both the bill and the mine itself, and despite the fact that its sponsors concede the destruction it inevitably will cause, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law not only to permit the project to go forward, but to immunize the corporation against responsibility for any destruction the project might wreak on the state and the people therein. They gave away public lands to this company while arranging that the political entity known as the state of Wisconsin, and therefore the people they ostensibly represent, would be unable to protect themselves from the damage the company will do. Self-government, and the political commonwealth that arises from it, is just something else gouged out of Wisconsin for a buck. This is astonishing. This is something that happens in China.

This is raw state capitalism at its most egregious, and it demonstrates clearly that the conservative movement has plans that go back in history beyond rolling back the Great Society or the New Deal. They are after every progressive advance made since the end of the 19th Century. This isn't something that the conservative movement is trying to hide....On the fringes, Glenn Beck made a fortune tracing the Great Progressive Conspiracy through the cobwebbed canyons of his mind, and the likes of Jonah Goldberg got rich explaining how Adolf Hitler really was nothing more than a proto-Green Party activist with an air force and submarines. Teddy Roosevelt didn't have three votes in the Wisconsin Assembly [last] week, let alone Bob LaFollette or FDR. They are playing for a newer, and far more permanent Gilded Age, and it is not coming about by accident.
And that's why you should read Charlie Pierce, both for Idiot America, and in his Esquire blog. He's one of the few that'll actually play it straight in this time of lazy media allowing universal deceit.

Friday, March 8, 2013

4 years later- Jon Stewart was right, and Wall Street is still crooked

This week featured Wall Street reaching new levels, with the Dow closing at record highs nearly each of the last four days, and the S&P now being up nearly 9% for the year so far (so much for higher taxes on the rich hurting investments, eh?).

This months also marks the 4-year anniversary of the market's low point during the Great Recession, when the S&P was down around 680 and the Dow around 6,600. It was during those dark days when Rick Santelli went on his memorable rant, where the Chicago floor trader blamed the late 2000s housing crash on irresponsible homeowners, and claimed they shouldn't be bailing out these people to keep the home market somewhat stable. Santelli's rant was quickly found to be classic Astroturf, where a "Chicago Tea Party" magically sprouted up within days, with clear connections to the Koch Brothers and their front groups.

Then, Santelli bailed on an interview with the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, and Stewart memorably destroyed CNBC for blowing it during the financial crisis, and for being in bed with Wall Street and covering up for all the lies that led to the crashing of our economy. I wish I could find an embed of this video, because I still think it's Stewart's finest moment. One of my favorite portions of this segment is when Stewart shows CNBC's Carl Quintanilla kissing the ass of Allen Stanford, before Stanford was arrested and later sentenced to 110 years in prison for running a Ponzi Scheme. Stewart sums up the moment well, yelling "FUCK YOU!"

What's remarkable to me is that none of these assclowns at CNBC have paid a price for the fraud they pulled over on the American public. Santelli, Quintanilla, Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow, the "Money Honeys", Joe Kernan. All of these people have been consistently wrong about Wall Street and the economy for the last several years, and all still pull a paycheck as CNBC is allowed to continue as the pro-Wall Street propaganda factory that it is.

Heck, there was Santelli having a sad today as the U.S. jobs report showed another 236,000 jobs being created in February and unemployment dropping to its lowest levels since 2008. It is disgusting that these hacks still are polluting our airwaves and lying to the unsuspecting dupes at hpme, but apparently when you spout right-wing BS, you never have to be held accountable for being wrong. It's a game we know well in Wisconsin.

And despite the Obama recovery, there still hasn't been nearly enough real change in our economic system over the last 4 years. Sen. Elizabeth Warren illustrated that well this week, noting the irony that drug possessors in the U.S. get huge sentences, but Treaury regulators and U.S. prosecutors did little to HSBC execs who were found to be money-laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money in their banks, and the U.S. allowed the banks to continue their dirty operations.

I do love that woman.

Well, I'm off to see what extreme inequality looks like in a third-world country for the next few days. And no, it's not the Confederacy (that was 2 weeks ago).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Vos and co. Wrecking crew for Milwaukee

The last few days has featured Assembly Speaker Robin Vos bad-mouthing Milwaukee like the 262-area code ALEC boy that he is. He decided to cheap-shot Mayor Tom Barrett while appearing at the Milwaukee Press Club on Monday.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Monday that he is open to talking to Mayor Tom Barrett about the challenges facing the city, but noted that Milwaukee needs to find new ways to save money and become more efficient.

Vos said making that effort "would be a good faith way to reach out to fiscal conservatives in the suburbs."

Making that effort, Vos said, would show conservatives that the city is able to save money and become a world-class city "without taxing ourselves into oblivion."

Referring specifically to Barrett, the Racine County Republican said the mayor has "been very distracted over the course of the past three years running for governor.

"So I think unfortunately he has chosen to abdicate a lot of the things the city of Milwaukee has needed in his fight for trying to win another office. He has to re-prioritize where he wants to spend his time. Reaching out to us to find ways to work together is a good thing for all of us."
Well Robbie, I can think of a public official that spent more time trying to be governor than worrying about things in Milwaukee, but it was Scott Walker when he was County Exec. Walker failed to fix anything in his 8 years in power, choosing instead to pose to Charles Sykes instead of take workable action, and made the problems he inherited much worse with a much lower chance of repair after he left.

And I really don't want to hear Vos chiding the City of Milwaukee, when he and the GOP Legislature are a main culprit behind Milwaukee's fiscal concerns. James Rowen lays this out extremely well today, showing how Vos contradicts himself with his rhetoric about "working together" with Milwaukee, while promiting GOP-backed measures that have handcuffed the state's largest city.
Milwaukee needs to make folks in River Hills and Brookfield and Chenequa and Greenfield feel better about Milwaukee, and Milwaukee needs to do something about why governance and programming in Milwaukee costs so darn much money.

* Like those police and fire personnel payrolls. Spending there makes up the biggest piece of Milwaukee's operating budget - - 59.7% city officials tell me - - including city payments for employee benefits kept artificially high by Act 10 exemptions enacted by Vos' party for partisan, political reasons.

* And like Milwaukee public school costs - - the biggest piece of local property tax collections (about 40% of the total levy, as I read this chart) - - which are inflated for property tax payers by the transfer of state funding through private school vouchers expanded by Vos' party for partisan, political reasons.

* And Vos, as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, knows something about fiscal discipline (if you overlook the taxpayer meter that's running to pay lawyers in the continuing struggle to exact records on redistricting that GOP-hired lawyers just can't seem to complete, and the huge costs coming in litigation the GOP is inviting over the industry-written, treaty-trampeling, constitution-crushing mining bill).

If there was only something Vos could tell Vos about why the biggest ticket items in Milwaukee public budgets cost so much money.
Vos also oversaw a budget from 2011-2013 that pulled tens of millions of dollars in shared revenues out of Milwaukee, and yanked $47 million from Milwaukee Public Schools. At the same time, Vos led the charge to get rid of a potential Milwaukee County RTA in 2011, calling the RTA concept "an abomination." Now, he has the nerve to complain about Mikwaukee's finances when he and his fellow Republicans have given the city no chance to make up for the cuts imposed on it from Madison.

The Milwaukee Public Policy Forum's Rob Henken used Vos's comments (and Barrett's inevitable pushback) to analyze how Milwaukee's moves in recent years under Barrett have affected its fiscal future. Henken says the fact that the state has refused to increase aid to Milwaukee for the last 12 years is a major source of Beer Town's problems.
Almost four years later, we see that the “Rock and a Hard Place” dynamic facing city leaders has yet to be resolved. Milwaukee remains in a revenue straitjacket caused by strict property tax levy caps and stagnant state aid. In the meantime, while it has made great strides in controlling health care costs (thanks in part to Wisconsin Act 10), the city’s inability to apply Act 10 to its pension system and to police and fire unions limits its ability to stave off future fringe benefits growth. (which is a result of a political decision by Walker and WisGOP to give a kickback to those Milwaukee unions in exchange for their support of Walker over Barrett in 2010 and 2012) Consequently, as we pointed out in our 2013 city budget brief, city leaders are now poised to cut 400 to 600 positions in the next four years, “a feat that likely will be difficult to accomplish without noticeable service-level impacts.”

While efforts to identify efficiencies always are important, resolving Milwaukee’s budget challenges also will require real pain. A similar budget paradigm has caused state legislative leaders to launch a discussion on the state tax code and the manner in which we are raising revenues to support vital state services in areas like law enforcement and transportation. Isn’t it time for a similar discussion on the revenue structure supporting our state’s largest city?
Good question Rob, especially given that Milwaukee is one of the few "destination communities" the state has, with events and attractions that grab large numbers of out-of-towners on a consistent basis. You don't think the City of Milwaukee's fiscal situation wouldn't be better if it could grab a 1% sales tax on everyone that went to a Brewers game or Bucks game or bought a beer at Summerfest? And it would reduce the reliance on property taxes and fees that the City has to impose because it has no other outlet under current law.

Then again, kneecapping Milwaukee's ability to raise funds might be the intelligence of the design for the ALEC Cabin Boy, because if he can drive the City of Milwaukee into fiscal peril, it can become the excuse to try to install a Michigan-style emergency fiscal manager law for Wisconsin. This law was imposed last Friday on Detroit, which is already lifting off major protests. Given that a major ALEC goal is to use fiscal crises as an excuse to sell off government services to campaign contributors and other corporate slime (much like with vouchers undercutting public schools), you can see where WisGOP's Milwaukee-bashing serves a pupose that goes beyond simple suburban racism.

Robin Vos's suburban elitism about the City of Milwaukee is a cynical move, because it's Vos's own votes that have helped to cause the problem that exists today. Which is why it needs to be called out for its destructive nature. You know, for an allegedly pro-business party, I don't understand why GOPs like Robin Vos and Scott Walker and GOP spokesmen like Charlie Sykes spend so much time tearing down the state's largest city and economic center. It doesn't really make people with talent want to set up shop there and take the city to the next level.

And you wonder why we continue to lose our workers to Chicago and the Twin Cities with these dingbats in charge?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Once again, it's low wages, NOT low skill levels

I couldn't help but crack a smile when I saw the following headline last week, "UWM professor: Wisconsin Skills Gap is a Myth," written by the Milwaukee Business Journal's
The latest counter-argument comes from Marc Levine, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of history, economic development and urban studies, and founding director of UWM’s Center for Economic Development.

Wisconsin business leaders and state legislators have said the skills gap is one of the biggest hurdles for many companies right now, particularly manufacturers. They say there’s not enough skilled workers in Wisconsin to fill thousands of openings.

“This skills mismatch, it is argued, is the central reason why unemployment remains high, even as job vacancies remain unfilled,” Levine said in his report. “This widely held view, however, is incorrect.”

Among Levine’s evidence:

•Top economists call the skills gap a myth, as high unemployment stems from “deficiency in aggregate demand and slow economic growth,” not workers’ lack of sought-after education or skills, Levine said.....

• There’s triple the number of unemployed workers as there are job openings nationwide, and two-thirds of the jobless would still be jobless even if every unemployed person was a perfect match for the existing jobs, Levine said.

• Wage data - “If Wisconsin employers were encountering a shortage of skilled labor, wages would be going up, but in Wisconsin real wages have declined since 2000,” Levine said. “By contrast, in states such as North Dakota and Wyoming, where there really is demand for and a shortage of skilled labor, caused by a boom in the energy sector, real wages have jumped by double digits since 2000.”

• Seventy percent of Wisconsin’s projected job openings through 2020 will require a high school diploma or less, countering advocates’ claims that future jobs will require more skills and education than Wisconsin workers have.
Levine's findings that it's low demand and low wages causing the high unemployment rates in these fields contradicts the Tim Sullivans and Scott Walkers of the world, who claim that the reason there isn't growth in Wisconsin's manufacturing-related areas is a lack of skills by prospective workers.

You can read Levine's full report here, and it's a good one. Let me give you a sample passage where Levine points out that Wisconsin is cranking out more highly-educated and skilled workers than ever:
In short, educational attainment data provide no evidence of a skills shortage, either in Wisconsin or Milwaukee. Quite the contrary: all the data point to consistently rising human capital formation in Wisconsin and, as we documented earlier, a workforce increasingly overqualified for the jobs available in the state’s stagnant labor market.

In addition, claims that Wisconsin is at a “competitive disadvantage” in economic development because of skills deficiencies –and that this is supposedly a key factor in explaining the state’s poor employment growth over the past decade-- are also without foundation. The educational attainment of the state’s workforce is around the national average, and Wisconsin ranks among the top half of states in educational attainment – a slightly higher rank today than in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the National Center on Educational Statistics, in 2010 Wisconsin posted the second highest public high school graduation rate in the country (91.1 percent), and the 10th lowest dropout rate (2.2 percent). In 2012, the American Physical Society conducted a “state-by-state science and engineering readiness index,” and found Wisconsin ranked 4th highest in the nation in AP calculus scores; 8th highest in the Science NAEP test, and 25th highest in the Math NAEP. And although the skills gap alarmists consistently castigate the job training and placement institutions in Wisconsin, both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor rank the efficacy of Wisconsin’s workforce development and training programs in the top half of all states.

In sum, there is little labor market evidence that Wisconsin faces a skills gap. Nor is there any evidence that Wisconsin is at a “competitive disadvantage” compared to other states in human capital formation and the nurturing of a skilled workforce. Consequently, as we will examine later, policies purporting to rectify the fake skills gap in Wisconsin will have little impact on the state’s real labor market problem: the stagnant growth of family-supporting jobs.
In other words, the "job creators" have failed, and have screwed over Wisconsin workers for well over the last decade with low wages, so understandably they have a problem filling their openings when they refuse to pay a proper wage (stupid supply and demand).

Not surprisingly, the oligarchs at WMC are trying to push back against Levine's study. WMC President Jim Morgan claimed he had anecdotal evidence from business owners that there is indeed a skills gap.
“We read the report and waited to get to the part where the professor talked to manufacturers,” Morgan wrote. “Unfortunately, he did not.”

Morgan said that WMC talked to more than 300 manufacturers last year, and they are struggling to hire because “the skills of the people in the pipeline don’t match the skills needed.”

“If the determination of what is actually going on in the marketplace is between a theoretical review of academic studies and data sources, or the reality of hundreds and hundreds of Wisconsin manufacturers who are trying to hire, we will trust the manufacturers,” Morgan said in his response
Yes, because business owners would NEVER cover up for their own deficiencies by blaming the workers for their failures. And why aren't the businesses doing their job by training these employees and making efforts to cultivate better employees and productivity? I'll tell you why, BECAUSE THEY'RE MOOCHERS trying to extract as much as they can out of a desperate workforce in a time of higher-than-normal unemployment.

And Levine's study backs up the trend we've seen in the last 40 years, where wages have declined as a percentage of GDP to the lowest level it's been since they've tracked the stat.

Methinks Mr. Levine has hit the mark with this one, and the job creators (who create nothing except a mechanism to line their own pockets) don't like the exposure. Because when it comes to growing our manufacturing sector, we don't have a skills gap, we have a LOW-WAGE PROBLEM, and that's not something that oligarchs and GOP politicians ever want to admit, because it'll also admit that the trickle-down mentality of trusting business owners is a failure. But you already knew that, right?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Memories of the Uprising- $7.5 million in damage!!

2 years ago, we had one of the great examples of how our media consistently was used and abused by the Walker Administration during the Wisconsin Uprising. The media ran with a claim from Mike Huebsch at the Wisconsin Department of Administration that protestors allegedly caused $7.5 million in damages to the Capitol, allowing the Walker Admin's meme if "union thuggery" to go out unchallenged. Of course, when actually asked how Huebsch arrived at the $7.5 million figure, the DOA hemmed and hawed and later showed where they came up with the number- out of their ass.

Of course, the actual damage turned out to be about $270,000, which really wasn't much more than average wear and tear, and was more than made up for in increased sales taxes from all the media attention and visitors that came to the Capitol over those 2 months. But the Walker boys were never interested in accuracy or fiscal concerns with that "$7.5 million in damages" claim. They wanted to play divide-and-conquer, so they had their AM propgandists at 620, 1130, and other stations around the state continue to repeat the number so it was ingrained into the heads of the simpletons who listen to that crap. What they did was follow the Mark Twain saying of
A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
Of course, to get away with it, they need a compliant media who wouldn't call out "BULLSHIT!" And given that the media in this state is more than willing to oblige, out of fear of being called "biased", they were allowed to get away with it.

Interestingly, there has been another instance of major damage done to the Capitol since the Uprising, and it also has to do with Walker Administration policy. Last summer, a negligent out-of-state cleaning contractor caused serious stain damage to the Capitol floor after a floor-scrubber leaked fluid onto the floor, and the countractor was fired in late December. That damage was estimated at $16,000, plus the extra time it took for the union thug state workers to clean up the mess and do it right. It also might lead to more state costs, as the state indicated last month that it may try to sye the company for the shoddy work it put in.

But back to the original story of Uprising protestors allegedly causing damage, because it was an illustrative example of how much this administration would lie and deceive in order to get people onto their side and demonize the opposition. And it also showed just how little our media would do to stop them and how it wouldn't try to bring the truth to the forefront unless they were pressured to do so. With a Supreme Court election coming up in 30 days, you can bet the righties backing Roggensack will try to do the same (a good example is where Roggen-hack lying about a judge's endorsement, when the judge not only did not endorse her, but disapproved of her decisions in key cases). We have to confront these deceptions at every turn, and make the fact that this administration and its backers would lie to the public THE key issue over the next 20 months. That, along with the Walker Admin's economic failures, should be more than enough to take these bastards down.