Friday, November 29, 2013

Not thankful for another right-wing media fail on Medicaid

We finally got the LFB information on the Special Session bill designed to extend Wisconsin's current Medicaid laws by 3 months, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of surprises with it. The intent is to make sure Wisconsin families with children and incomes between 100-200% of the poverty line continue to get BadgerCare until April 1, to make sure they don't have any gap in coverage between the end of the year and the time that they are able to get coverage through the federal Obamacare exchanges.

The flip side of this bill is that aproximately 83,000 adults without children who have incomes at the poverty line or below won't be able to get Medicaid until April 1, instead of the January 1 date they are currently slated to be able to get coverage. The upshot of this is that you still have tens of thousands of Wisconsinites getting thrown off of Medicaid and onto the federal insurance exchanges between January 1 and April 1.

So what did the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Jason Stein emphasize in his article on the Medicaid bill on Wednesday? He decides to prop up the $23 million in taxpayer "savings" that will result from delaying the Medicaid changes by 3 months. That number comes from the LFB's analysis, which describes the changes this way.

Changes in Special Session Medicaid bill
3 more months of Medicaid for parents +$17.2 million
Delaying eligibility for adults w/o children -$38.9 million
Delays in expanded prison inmate services -$1.4 million
TOTAL CHANGE -$23.1 million

Now to Stein's credit, he mentions in the article that the bill makes the Department of Corrections have to come up with $2.8 million in extra costs to pay for hospital services for inmates. But the article is still written in favor of the Walker Administration, in a classic example of the MMAC's mouthpiece using GOP framing of this issue to make it sound like Gov. Walker is saving taxpayer dollars and covering more people. However, there are other options favored by Democrats that are on the table that would either cover more people, save more money, or do both.

Stein does at least mention one of these options that would sure no one gets the rug yanked out from under them. State Sen. David Cullen wrote a letter to Gov. Walker Wednesday saying that the state should be covering both childless adults and low-income people with children through the end of March. Cullen points out the cruelty of adding 3 months of delay to childless adults, and notes that the state could easily afford to do so.
The proposed three-month delay risks serious health care concerns for 80,000 who already know of a health problem but put off care because they cannot afford it, or may have cancer or a heart problem that they do not know exists because they display no symptoms and have had no insurance to receive regular check-ups. A three-month delay of coverage to our poorest citizens can and will be extremely damaging and even life-threatening to many of these 80,000 Wisconsin residents.

It is clear that the best option available is to accept federal dollars to fund proper care for both of these groups, and I would find a decision to reject federal dollars for only three months to be outrageous. However, even if the legislature decides not to accept federal dollars, we can still afford to fund coverage for both groups with state funds.

In announcing his decision to hold a special session, Governor Walker stated that "we are talking about real people's lives." I could not agree with him more. That is why I believe it is critical that we guarantee proper health care to both of these groups for three months and avoid all the problems that will certainly occur otherwise.

It's also telling that Stein's article doesn't even consider the option that's the best of all worlds- taking Obamacare's expanded Medicaid funding and sticking with it. The LFB estimated in February that taking the federal Medicaid funds would save Wisconsinites $105 million between now and the middle of 2015 vs. what we have today, save $82 million compared to the special session bill, and cover around 60,000 more people (Walker's policy is Scenario 2, taking the expanded Medicaid is Scenario 4A). This is separate from the issue from having the state set up any kind of exchange for insurance, and could be done tomorrow. But Walker and other TeaBags aren't considering taking that common-sense step, even as evidence piles up that expanded Medicaid funding is politically popular, and is covering large amounts of people in the states that have done it.

Not mentioning that expanded Medicaid funding could be on the table is a major tell in the Journal-Sentinel's coverage, and it's especially disappointing to see Stein's coverage be slanted this way, as he was a main member in the Journal-Sentinel team that exposed the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin scandal, and dug down to find its oligarch roots.

What happened to that guy? I haven't heard much on the United Sportsmen story in the last couple of months, even though they have the same funders as the people being named in John Doe Deux. Did Stein get orders from "upstairs" at JournalComm to back off their boy Scotty, and to frame his articles in a way that makes Walker look compassionate as he needlessly throws tens of thousands of Wisconsinites into turmoil with his Medicaid policies? It sure feels like it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Philly Fed index out- where's Walker's press release?

Remember how the Walker Administration was blabbing throughout the late Summer about the state's high ranking in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's coincident index that compared the economies of all 50 states? Well, we got the last two months of Philly Fed data today, and interestingly, no press release followed from the Governor's Office. And the numbers show you why, as Wisconsin is back behind a couple of other Midwestern states for growth in this index, and is also below the national rate.

Change in Philly Fed Coincident index, July-Oct 2013
Ind. +1.46%
Ill. +0.96%
U.S. +0.73%
Wis. +0.72%
Minn +0.68%
Mich +0.31%
Iowa +0.26%
Ohio -0.55%

Also interesting is that the Philly Fed index had some revisions, which didn't change Wisconsin's ranking all that much, but seemed to increase Illinois a bit, and dropped Iowa some. But what didn't change is the fact that Wisconsin continues to be the worst economy in the Midwest since Walker and WisGOP came to power in January 2011.

Hmm, wonder if anyone in the national media brought up that record of failure to ol' Scotty on his book tour out East? Somehow, I don't seem to recall the topic being broached- almost like the Walker folks wanted to hide it from people. You know, kinda like how they tried to let this release from the Philly Fed survey go unnoticed, unlike the fluky good numbers they were trying to prop in September.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The good, bad and ugly in senior services

I noticed couple of recent stories on senior services, and it illustrates what could be called the Wisconsin version of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" when it comes to caring for our elders and helping their quality of life.

1. The Good was shown today, as the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR) propped up Dane County for its added investment in senior services, as shown by the county's addition of a third Elder Benefit Specialist (EBS).
According to Kate Schilling, manager of GWAAR’s Legal Services Team – the agency’s division responsible for training and oversight of EBSs in 65 Wisconsin counties including Dane – the added position will mean that more seniors will get the help they need. “Older people who need this support will greatly benefit from this decision,” says Schilling. “We thank Dane County Executive Parisi and the members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors who voted in support of this funding. We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts of citizen advocates – particularly Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Dane County board chair Tom Frazier and Area Agency on Aging (AAA) of Dane County board chair Esther Olson – for their tireless efforts to articulate the need for this position.”

The need for the new position arose from the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking the assistance of the Dane County EBSs. In April 2013, the program experienced a 64% increase in cases compared with April 2012. Increased demand stems largely from economic pressures, population increases, and growing consumer awareness of the program’s ability to help seniors determine eligibility and apply for benefits including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FoodShare, SeniorCare, Family Care, and BadgerCare. The program also assists seniors with complex legal issues and appeals including landlord/tenant disputes, discrimination, debtor/creditor issues, health care denials, and other related areas. Because more seniors cannot afford representation through private attorneys, many seek support from the EBS program resulting in caseloads growing beyond the program’s ability to keep up.
This is an example of a local government believing it is a priority to meet the growing needs that elders are having, and finding a way to assist in meeting that need. The EBS is also a civil service position, whose job is to answer to clients and the need for services, and not be a political hack who lets other motives get in the way of helping these Wisconsnites

2. The bad Contrast to another story that came up last week, and one that got several relays when I mentioned it on Twitter. Former GWAAR Board Chair and President Ken Mosentine collaborated with Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) to write a letter to Governor Scott Walker's office, claiming members of his Administration have rigged and mismanaged elder care grants. Interestingly, CWAG claimed GWAAR officials had a conflict of interest in getting certain grants, and alleged current and former officials in the Department of Health Services (DHS) aided this questionable behavior.
In the case of Walker's former political appointees at MCDA, Stephanie Sue Stein falsified her Economic Interest Statement over the last five years by lying and covering up the fact that she is the Corporate Vice President of a Wisconsin based privately-held, non-stock Corporation called the; "WI Assoc. of Area Agency on Aging Directors Inc. (Wis4A's)." According to the Wisconsin Dept. of Financial Institutions, Stephanie Stein, is the Corporate Vice President of Wis4A's, along with the Executive Director of GWAAR - Robert Kellerman, who is the Corporate President of Wis4A's. According to documents obtained in cooperation with Dane County officials, Kellerman and Stein would invoice their own government agencies and Dane County and have them pay membership dues into their privately held, non-stock corporation. Their actions are a not only a "conflict of interest," according to county ordinances and state/federal laws but are in fact illegal under the federal guidelines of the Federal Acquisition Regulation Act (FAR) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Emails and other documents CWAG was able to obtain, reveals Ms. Stein and Mr. Kellerman, conspired with Governor Walker's political appointees at DHS ([current director] Kitty Rhoades, [former director] Dennis Smith, [former legal counsel and alleged Dennis Smith paramour] Mary Spear) when they politically targeted and financially retaliated against CWAG - when they wrongfully and indefensibly removed $1.3 million of multi-year governmental grants from CWAG - without due process and without justifiable cause. This was done, under the cover of an unfounded DHS Audit of CWAG....

In his letter to Governor Walker, [former GWAAR Board Chair and President Ken] Mosentine closed with; "Governor Walker, it is now time for you to stand by your public condemnation of President Obama and embrace your religious values you proudly articulated in your new book - by taking these action steps, which will help you restore the public trust in your administration. This is your Moment of Truth Governor Walker, for you and your administration. The choice is clearly yours - Politics as Usual or Moral Leadership."
Sorry Ken, but given Scotty's track record, I bet he goes with Politics as Usual, especially the corrupt brand followed since 2011 in this state. Amazingly, I have yet to see a word written about these accusations in either the Wisconsin State Journal or the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, despite the story happening nearly a week ago. Is it an inconvenient truth for those Walker-endorsing papers.

3. And I want to combine these two topics into what makes up The Ugly. GWAAR mentioned in their letter to Dane County that many elderly need Medicaid services in order to get by, but many of them are being prevented from getting these needed services because Walker chose to go along with ideological hacks like Dennis Smith and Mary Spear, and refused Obamacare's expanded Medicaid funding. But interestingly, there are still more Wisconsinites (elderly and otherwise) that might get these services in 2014, because the feds indicated that over 10,700 Wisconsinites were told they were eligible for Medicaid services after looking into Obamacare services (see Page 10 of this federal report from earlier this month). Obviously, many of those that will ultimately use the Medicaid services are elderly, or soon will be, and you have to wonder how many more would be helped if Walker wasn't choosing to throw tens of thousands of Wisconsinites onto the federal exchanges?

And for what end has Walker's decision on Mediciad been for, other than to claim that he's "innovative" to ignorant media on his East Coast book tour, and to gain the approval of the Kochs and brain-dead Baggers? To care so little about Wisconsin citizens that Walker would rather they suffer due to unnecessarily substandard care over trying to work with Obamacare is truly ugly, and a dereliction of duty that cannot be repeated to the public enough.

Then compare it to what's happening in Joe Parisi's Dane County, where senior services are given a priority and jobs and funds are being invested to improve those outcomes, and it speaks of the different direction that can be chosen statewide when it comes to our seniors and the care they need. Voters just have to choose to end the Age of Fitzwalkerstan next year, and install a governOR and a governMENT that gives a crap about something other than right-wing political poses.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Something WisGOP isn't Unintimidated about- being a Midwest loser

With our governor's book tour, I find myself surprised that few of our allegedly legitimate journalists aren't asking what the results are of his "Unintimidated" policies- particularly Walker's 2010 promise of 250,000 new jobs (later changed to 250,000 private-sector jobs) in his four years in office. Because that promise is far from getting fulfilled, and Wisconsin continues to trail all of its Midwest partners in getting people back to work.

This was verified again with the monthly release of state-by-state jobs numbers, which is now back on track after the October government shutdown. While the Walker Administration was trying to brag about a large, seasonally-adjusted increase in October of 12,400 private sector jobs, they didn't add that there was a loss of 4,600 jobs in September, which meant the state merely kept pace with the rest of the country for the last 2 months in the rate of job growth. And they certainly weren't going to put it in the context of the larger picture of Walker's failure since taking office in January 2011, where Wisconsin has the worst private sector jobs record in the Midwest.

Private sector job growth, Jan 2011- Oct 2013
Mich +6.27%
Ind. +5.32%
Minn +5.22%
Ohio +4.07%
Iowa +4.04%
Ill. +3.96%
Wis. +3.78%

And here's a graph courtesy of the Capital Times and the Democurmudgeon blog saying the same thing, with the steady U.S. jobs growth included.

What's also getting attention is a part of the Wisconsin DWD's information that it provided to the Quartlerly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW). In addition to a 37% decline in private sector jobs added in the last year (as I pointed out here), the QCEW data said the state actually LOST manufacturing jobs in that time period (by 119). This job loss became part of the Journal-Sentinel's headline story on the state's jobs release, and it clearly worried the "Unintimidated" folks at WisGOP. I say this because they quickly shot out a press release in light of the October jobs report featured an addition of 6,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today released state-by-state employment estimates that show Wisconsin posted the nation's sixth-highest rate of manufacturing job growth from October 2012 to October 2013.

Wisconsin manufacturing jobs grew by 2.1 percent year over year, or 9,700, ranking it 6th highest in growth rate among states in the preliminary seasonally adjusted Current Employment Statistics (CES) data.
Sounds good on its face, but then you look at the non-seasonally adjusted numbers, and the "growth" of the last 4 months isn't as impressive as it looks on the surface.

Change in manufacturing jobs, Wis., June 2013-Oct 2013
Seasonally-adjusted +4,500
Non-seasonally adjusted -2,300

So more people really aren't working in manufacturing in Wisconsin, there just aren't as many seasonal layoffs in the last few months. That's not a bad thing, mind you (less layoffs can be a sign of more demand overall), but it's not actual jobs being created. And having the 6th-increase in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. isn't all that impressive, because as the Journal-Sentinel report shows, Wisconsin SHOULD be near the top in manufacturing job growth.
Economists said the slowdown in manufacturing hiring was significant because the state's manufacturing sector is the biggest single employer. Wisconsin has vied with Indiana for years in leading the nation as the state with the largest share of its workforce employed in manufacturing. In the first half of 2013, Wisconsin's share of manufacturing employment (16.4%) narrowly trailed Indiana's (16.7%).
So giving Wisconsin credit for growth in manufacturing jobs is like saying it means something that Wisconsin is in the upper half of the country for snowfall. It comes with our territory, and unless it's well above most everybody else, it isn't a sign of anything significant or unusual.

Now did you hear anything about this weak jobs record and deceptive promotion come up during Governor Walker's East Coast book tour? No, of course not, that would require a critical media doing its homework that would require Scotty to answer some uncomfortable questions, and you can bet those are taken off the table when his puff-piece interviews were agreed to.

The book may be titled "Uninitimidated", but the Walker folks are most certainly scared over his continued awful record on jobs. And sooner than later, it'll probably sink a lot of the claims he's making east of I-95.

P.S.- And here's an editorial in today's New York Times on how Minnesota chose to take a progressive turn in policy while Wisconsin descended into Walker World, and has kicked Wisconsin's ass economically over the last 34 months.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Far overdue- Bucky is leaving AM620 WGOP

I've waited a long time for this. Wisconsin Badger athletics broadcasts are leaving WTMJ for another Milwaukee affiliate after this season. It's something I asked for in this blog over 3 1/2 years ago, and my feelings on the subject have only gotten stronger in time being. Especially since WTMJ was a major factor in the election of Scott Walker, and the subsequent attacks on the City of Madison and the UW in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Heck, don't take my word for it that WTMJ is a willing partner to Walker and WisGOP, just ask Reince Priebus.

Needless to say, I found it to be unacceptable that Bucky was helping that poisonous station get listeners (and make no mistake, sports programming gets people to tune their dials to 620, where they keep them on during the day when Sykes, Wagner, and Mercure and spreading their BS). And apparently the reason Bucky won't be on WGOP WTMJ is because Journal Broadcast group wouldn't give UW sports the priority it deserves. Here's part of a letter from Journal Broadcast CEO (and right-wing race-baiting enabler) Steve Wexler explaining this.
I wanted to let you know that we've been in discussions with Learfield Sports, the rights holder for Wisconsin Badgers radio programming. We decided to decline to renew our agreement with Learfield, based on their wish for full clearance of all their programming -- something we are simply unable to do for them. Beginning with the 2014 football season, Learfield will presumably move to a new market affiliate.

Clearing Badgers programming has always been challenging for us because of our commitments to the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks. We often have to move Badgers games to other stations in the market due to schedule conflicts. Additionally, unlike Packers and Brewers, we're not the rights holder to Wisconsin sports. We are a network affiliate of Learfield, so none of the commercial inventory in their games is available for us to sell to our local advertisers.
The UW rightfully wants one station to be "the home of the Badgers" in Wisconsin's largest media market, and my bet would be AM 920, which already has two Madison-based talk shows (a morning one with Badger announcers Mike Lucas and Matt LePay, and an afternoon one with Mike Heller), and is the backup station for Badger sports when TMJ bumps them for some random Bucks or Brewers game. I'd love for UW Athletics to do the same thing in Madison, where it's on the AM dial at 1310, which broadcasts hateful, anti-Madison programming such as Rush Limbaugh and Icki McKenna during weekdays. They already have an FM affiliate in Madison, and could move the AM part to 1070, which simulcasts the same local sports shows as 920 in Milwaukee, and is also a backup Badger station.

I don't have any illusions that AM620's right-wing daytime garbage was a reason behind Bucky going off of WGOP WTMJ- I know it was about dollars and exclusivity for UW sports. But it's a great side benefit, and this two-time Badger alum would love to see it continue in the Badgers' hometown.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

October Wisc jobs good, but overall picture still bad

We finally got the release of both the September and October jobs numbers for Wisconsin today, after a one-month delay due to the federal government's shutdown. And at first glance (the only glance the Walker folks want you to take), the situation sounds really good.
In brief, the estimates show:

Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.5 percent in October, down from 6.6 percent in September and the state's lowest seasonally adjusted rate since December 2008. The rate is below the national unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.

Place of work data: Seasonally adjusted private sector job growth of 12,400 from September to October and 41,700 from October 2012 to October 2013; year-to-date private sector job growth of 34,400, the best since 2004.
And all of these stats are true, but they leave out some very important background.

First of all, the unemployment rate dropping has very little to do with people getting jobs. The household survey that determines the unemployment rate only saw a seasonally-adjusted increase of "employed" people of 700. What caused the rate to drop from 6.7% to 6.5% was that a seasonally-adjusted 6,500 Wisconsinites dropped out of the work force, and nearly 33,000 dropped out in raw numbers. If Wisconsin had merely had a normal amount of seasonal dropouts, and had the seasonally-adjusted work force stay the same, then the unemployment rate would have stayed at 6.7% instead of 6.5%. That won't stop the Walker folks from bragging about the state's rate being lower than the rest of the nation (or not mentioning that a majority of the drop since the state's 2009 peak of 9.2% happened under Jim Doyle and the Dems), but it's important to know the context when they say these things, because you can bet our media won't.

And now onto the total jobs numbers. That private sector job growth of 12,400 in October is on the heels of a LOSS of 4,600 private sector jobs in September, and a downward revision of another 1,200 jobs in August. So we're really only 6,600 jobs ahead of where we thought we were 2 months ago, or 3,300 jobs a month. This is actually BELOW the national pace, which would have added 7,800 jobs if you reduce it down to Wisconsin's levels. It means that we've actually seen the Walker private sector jobs gap grow in the last 2 months, and it now stands at just over 51,500.

The release also included the data the Wisconsin DWD sent to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW), aka the "more accurate jobs metric." This report featured the 2nd Quarter of 2013 and compared it with the 2nd Quarter of 2012, and that's worth noting because it includes the dreadful April jobs report, which was chilled by bad weather and awful Walker policies, and also has the bounce-back months of May and June, which saw jobs numbers rise with the thermometer.

The April drop shows clearly in this chart, as the year-over-year growth in that month sunk to less than 12,000 jobs- the worst figure in Walker's tenure in office. The next two months gave some recovery, but as of June 2013, the state was still adding less than 2,000 jobs a month over that year, and the trend was going in the wrong direction.

That graphic should also put to bed another Walker talking point- that the recall elections of 2012 slowed Wisconsin job growth, and that the economy would "take off like a rocket" once Walker was retained. Take a look at the 12 months before the recall, and the 12 months after.

Private sector job growth, Wisconsin QCEW
June 2011- June 2012 (pre-recall) +38,020
June 2012- June 2013 (post-recall) +23,968

That's a slowdown in job growth of 37% in the year after the recall election. So maybe that election did have an effect...just not in the way the Walker folks have tried to sell it.

I do think the next quarter for the QCEW should look better, as the jobs numbers have been generally improving over the last few months (although September's losses show the growth isn't steady). We'll see what the holiday-influenced figures in November and December have to say, as they will probably go a long way toward determining the narrative of "right direction vs. wrong direction" as the 2014 elections near. But with that said, there is little doubt that Wisconsin has been put in the hole over the first 2 1/2 years of Scott Walker's tenure as governor, and the good news we've had recently isn't nearly enough to drag us back to ground level. No matter how much the Walker Admin will try to lie and spin the situation, the overall record is still pretty bad.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More proof of a two-tier society

Time to give you some more Charlie Pierce from this week. Here's an excellent rundown of how screwed up this country's economy is right now, with the accurately titled "WTF is Going on in America?" Pierce brings up that the S&P broke 1,800 and the Dow 16,000 this week, but most people aren't feeling the boom.
For single mother Laurinda Darosa of Dorchester, it has been difficult adjusting to unemployment after a heart operation. Before the cut, she, her 21-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old son relied on $66 in assistance to help them buy food. Now, nearly cut in half, Darosa's monthly stipend is $37, causing her to budget "day by day" for food in a neighborhood where a gallon of milk at Shaw's costs $2.99. "I don't know how I'm going to do it," she said. "Everything is so expensive."

Should have expanded the old investment portfolio when you had the chance.

And, finally, there's an update from the modern heirs to the legacy of commodity traders Scrooge & Marley.

Wal-Mart has been criticized for paying low wages to its 2.2 million employees. Last week, 50 people were arrested after protesting the retailer's pay at a store in Los Angeles. Wal-Mart turned a profit of $15.7 billion last year.
We also found out this week that Wal-Mart is holding a holiday food drive...for their own employees! Of course, this is typical of the Wal-Mart strategy, which involves paying their employees low wages and next to no benefits, which reduces the labor costs as low as possible (and makes the profits as high as possible, which Wall Street likes). In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Human Services says Wal-Mart had more than 3,000 of its employees on BadgerCare between July and September, 2013, more than double any other state employer. If Wal-Mart paid a living wage (or was forced to due to a higher minimum wage), not only might you have some of these gross inequities reduced, it would probably save taxpayer dollars due to fewer workers on Badgercare, along with those workers being more likely to owe income tax.

This low-wage environment helps to explain why inflation is non-existent these days, with the year-over-year rate at 1.01%, and real wages only increasing by 1.3% for the last 12 months (in fact, real wages have DROPPED in 4 of the last 6 months). At the same time, the S&P 500 is up 28% since this time last year (so much for higher capital gains in 2013 being a deterrent).

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the low wage increases and booming stock market are connected. Heck, Wal-Mart spends $7.6 billion a year to buy back its own stock in order to pump up its share price. Needless to say, these practices are a big reason why I don't shop at Wal-Mart, and you shouldn't either.

It is well past time for workers to start taking back a small piece of the gains they have allowed idle investors to get. If we do not stop this cycle of stagnation and cuts for the 99% while the oligarchs thrive, things will get much worse, and much more turbulent. As usual, Pierce sums it up well.
This is not sustainable in viable self-government. It simply is not. Either we change or our democracy does.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back from da Buff- with more media fails!

Back from a long weekend in Buffalo to see some in-laws. Good trip, and I even went to the same Dave and Buster's that the New York Jets attended on Saturday night. But can't say I take responsibility for the Bills kicking the crap out of the Jets the next day, nor did I have anything to do with this guy's condition at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

But there was a lot going on while I've been gone, so I wanted to give a couple of quick links and reactions.

1. The first involves the great Charlie Pierce's rundown of this Sunday's political shows, and he destroyed ABC's This Week for a performance that would embarrass a high school Journalism class. Here's a small example, where Pierce mentions that ABC's Martha Raddatz continually asked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand about the "disastrous" Obamacare implementation and how Obama could regain the people's trust after it had been "shattered", and Gillibrand discussed people who were getting coverage under Obamacare.
Gillibrand and Raddatz were talking in different realities here. The people who didn't have health care before and can afford it now -- the people in the states where the governors aren't such pig-headed ideologues that they took the Medicaid expansion because FREE MONEY! -- their "trust" is not "shattered." Raddatz is talking about a 15-foot radius around her own green room. There is a difference.
Speaking of pig-headed ideologue governors who obstruct Obamacare, Pierce also mentioned ABC's ridiculous interview with recent author Scott Walker, and it was as much of a puff piece as you'd imagine, with ABC's Jonathan Karl visiting Walker at the Capitol.
WALKER: There are signs out there that have my picture with a scope site on it. There are people who say a good Republican is a dead Republican.

This tunnel connects from across the street.

KARL: The Governor gave us a first ever look at the secret tunnel he used to get in and out of his office during the occupation.

The protesters didn't figure a way to?


Brave Sir Scotty! (Precisely what "people" said those things? When?) Ooooo, secret tunnels! And then, the questions. It's a wonder that Walker could stand up under the ferocious interrogation he faced. Anything about not delivering the job numbers he promised? The continuing probe into how he conducted his campaign? The selling off of public lands for private profit? The arrests of elderly people for the crime of singing in their state capitol? The most recent late-night atrocities by the troglodytes in his pet legislature? Nope, Karl didn't have room for that because he wanted -- nay, he needed -- answers to the following.

[KARL:] Governor Walker, for a while, you were the most divisive man in America. What'd you learn from that?
Of course, it's no surprise that Walker chose Jonathan Karl to interview him, since Karl is a known GOP operative masquerading as a journalist, so Walker could count on him not to ask any real questions about his failed policies and lack of morals. I also notice that Scotty is going on the shows of righties Larry Kudlow and Joe Scarborough, but doesn't have time to take up Rachel Maddow's request for a few minutes of discussion. This guy's "Unintimidated?" As Lee Elia would say "My fuckin' ass!"

2. I'm also guessing Kudlow and Scarborough aren't going to ask Scotty about John Doe Part Deux (and have likely been told not to), even though the investigation is clearly heating up. How else do you explain the right-wing oligarchs at Wisconsin Club for Growth revealing to the Wall Street Journal that they have been subpoenaed and their offices. It was the basis for this absurd Murdoch Journal editorial, which first minimized the Milwaukee John Doe investigation, and the six convictions that came from it. The Murdoch boys then tried to give the same failed "persecution" argument from earlier this year that came up with political organizations being investigated by the IRS for ducking taxes.
Perhaps the probe will turn up some nefarious activity that warrants this subpoena monsoon and home raids. But in the meantime the effect is to limit political speech by intimidating these groups from participating in the 2014 campaign. Stifling allies of Mr. Walker would be an enormous in-kind contribution to Democrats. Even if no charges are filed, the subpoenas will have served as a form of speech suppression.

[Eric] O'Keefe [of Wisconsin Club for Growth] told us that the flurry of subpoenas "froze my communications and frightened many allies and vendors of the pro-taxpayer political movement in Wisconsin and across the country." Even if no one is ever convicted of a crime, he says, "the process is the punishment."
OH POOR BABIES! They couldn't raise and shift funds as easily because someone might find out who they were! May I remind you of Lisa Kaiser's excellent expose of Wisconsin Club for Growth and other right-wing groups taking part in a money-laundering scheme during the first two years of Walker's governorship? I think I'll play the world's smallest violin in sympathy, Mr. O'Keefe.

Let me give the righty oligarchs a little tip, if you're scared about people finding out what political activities you're paying for, then you're not doing anything decent. It's why we shouldn't just investigate any coordination, but that we should EXPOSE EVERY DOLLAR that these scumbags donate, and where it is spent on.

There's a whole lot more that broke over the weekend, and is going to break this week, and I'll get to that later this week, now that I'm back in Dairyland through the holidays.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The vast right-wing conspiracy is VERY real

Vital reading on from the Center for Media and Democracy, who have set up a new website at the aptly-named, exposing the oligarch-funded State Policy Networks, and the many front groups the Kochs and other privatizers use to sneak over their spin onto a lazy media. And it has a special chapter on the right-wing propaganda machine in Wisconsin, following the money to showcase the often-hidden funders of lying rags like MacIver and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI). The biggest backer of which is the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.

    It also discusses how the Bradley Foundation is mostly nothing more than WisGOP insiders and money-launderers masquerading as "researchers," with much of the funds flowing from Bradley CEO and 2010 Scott Walker campaign co-chair Michael Greedy Grebe



And that picture doesn't even include Bradley Foundation board member Char-LIE Sykes, or longtime WPRI front men like Chrissy Schneider and Mike Nichols- all three of which have or currently do pull regular paychecks from Journal Communications.

On top of that, I'd also encourage you to read Lisa Kaiser's excellent work in the Shepherd Express tracking the Kochs' money-laundering that has been done in Wisconsin over the last 2 1/2 years. Kaiser starts by looking at the Wisconsin Club for Growth, and tracing the funds back from there.
A Shepherd investigation into Wisconsin Club for Growth’s funding sources found that shadowy national right-wing groups donated to the organization during the recall fight.

They include:

■ Center to Protect Patient Rights: Little is known about this Arizona-based conservative front group headed by the Koch-connected Sean Noble, but, as mentioned above, it donated $225,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and Noble’s blog posted flattering messages about Walker, who survived a recall the year after CPPR made its donation.

The organization paid a record-setting fine in California for not disclosing its funders.

■ The Wellspring Committee: National Public Radio and the Center for Responsive Politics recently investigated this dark-money group run by Ann Corkery, which mixes conservative politics and religion. It’s funded right-wing groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. In 2011, the group sent $400,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth.

■ Faith and Freedom Coalition: This Georgia-based issue advocacy group is headed by former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed and, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, has close ties to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. The national Faith and Freedom Coalition gave Wisconsin Club for Growth $60,000 in 2011.
You know, with Scotty making the rounds on talk shows hawking his fiction-filled book, perhaps some enterprising interviewer might bring this up and ask "Is this what you meant when you asked the fake David Koch for some help in February 2011, during the protests?" I'd be interested in seeing Gov Dropout try to explain that one - and explain it during John Doe, Part Deux as well.

So keep these two articles in mind if you ever wonder why right-wing media and politicians all seem to say the same, bubble-worldish things. Because as these articles show, they're probably all getting their strings pulled by the same puppetmasters.

Monday, November 11, 2013

High speed train fail keeps on a-rolling

With Talgo filing a $65.9 million lawsuit last week against the state for breach of contract due to Gov Walker's refusal to build the high-speed rail line between Milwaukee, Madison, and the Twin Cities, let's take a step back and look at what the price tag now stands at due to Scotty's foolhardy decision.

First, let's look at the $31.6 million in state money that was spent in July 2011 to upgrade the same Milwaukee-to-Chicago rail lines that the feds would have paid out if the rail project was allowed to go through.

Then remember the $2.5 million spent by the state to look into another site for the Talgo plant. Which ended up netting Wisconsin absolutely ZERO when Talgo decided to set up its manufacturing facility (and the jobs that went with it) in Rochelle, Illinois, and IDOT decided to buy its new high-speed rail trains from that facility.

And remember that we're paying $9 million in additional state money in 2011-2013 to operate the Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha line (as shown in item 5 under "Local Transportation Assistance" near the bottom of page 15), and $7.2 million more in state money to subsidize the Chicago-Milwaukee routes over the next two years because the Governor decided to divert $8.8 million in federal aid from passenger rail (as shown in item 6 under "Local Transportation Assistance" near the bottom of page 18 in this PDF), and instead send it instead to highways. You may recall that the feds offered to take care of up to 90% of the subsidy of operating this line if the high-speed rail had been allowed to go through. But NOOOOO, working with the Obama Administration just wouldn't do with the WisGOP saboteurs, so the state is slated to spend about an extra $15 million as a result of this decision.

So from these 3 items alone we get

Cost of upgraded rail lines $31.6 million
Study new facility site, get nothing as a result $2.5 million
Extra costs to subsidize current passenger rail $15 million
Talgo suit $65.9 million

POSSIBLE TOTAL COST to Wisc. taxpayers- $115 million
Total Wisconsin share of stimulus rail- $14.6 million (1.8% of $810 million)
Possible extra cost to Wisc. taxpayers- $100.4 million

I'm not even adding in the lost benefits of jobs or the added service that we've never received, along with that possible $100 million price tag. Instead of having people in Madison and the western suburbs of Milwaukee boarding trains to get to Chicago for the upcoming holiday season, they'll have few options other than driving on congested and potentially snowy roads, due to Walker's high-speed fail. And if Walker's backers in the 262 want to go to Chitown and places further south in the next 2-3 years, they'll have to deal the extra headache of major construction due to the Zoo Interchange and I-94 projects (along with the extra billions of borrowing the state is taking on for those years). Gee, you think those guys are going to wish they had another option of transportation they could take?

Helluva job there, Scotty. I'm sure there are other extra costs that I didn't even hit on, but those numbers alone should be grounds to get these clowns fired, let alone all the other corruption and mismanagement we've seen in the last 3 years.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More empty job promises and WEDC failures

Bad jobs news this week, as APAC Customer Service Inc., in Green Bay announced they were laying off 282 employees by the end of the year, citing "a loss of client business". It is great contrast to what APAC was saying at the end of 2012, as they were in the news at that time planning a huge expansion in GB.
The termination notification comes less than a year after APAC announced plans to add 275 jobs, mostly handling inbound customer service calls at the downtown office, 301 N. Adams St. At the time, those staff increases were seen as a positive sign of revitalization efforts in downtown Green Bay.

APAC is listed as the No. 23 largest private employer in the Green Bay area with 725 employees, according to a recent list from Advance, the economic employment division of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
One additional item to note in this APAC story is that it also received $250,000 in WEDC tax credits since 2011 (as shown on page 13 of this LFB report), as an incentive to have APAC retain 800 jobs in the Green Bay area. One has to wonder what kind of information WEDC had that made them decide APAC was on solid enough ground to deserve that $250,000 write-off.

WEDC was in the news this week for another reason, as the Joint Finance Committee canceled a meeting to discuss whether to release $44 million to the organization. This money was held back pending an examination of WEDC's procedures to see if they had made progress in tracking loans to corporations and improved other oversight duties. JFC Co-Chair John Nygren indicates that the JFC needs more time to take a look at WEDC's plans to make sure it is meeting the oversight goals, and that the JFC won't give WEDC the money until they have more confidence in what they are doing. Sounds like someone's a little worried in WisGOP land about WEDC getting more negative publicity with an election looming less than a year away- but if it leads them to do the right thing, I suppose that's not so bad.

Keep these developments in mind when " you look at the $7 million in tax credits WEDC is giving to to locate its new warehouse in Kenosha. This is in addition to the $18 million TIF the City of Kenosha is giving to the corporation, and WEDC felt Amazon's warehouse was worth taking the gamble on.
The $7 million tax credit can be used over 10 years and only will be applicable to the company’s state income tax liability, said Mark Maley, spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The company can decide to use it all at once or spread the tax credit over multiple years, he said

Use of the tax credit by the online retail giant is contingent upon two criteria: that the company deliver the 1,100 jobs promised and that the company invest about $140 million in capital investments, including the purchase of equipment and other tools necessary for the development....

Maley said the project — which will require the building of a massive warehouse near Interstate 94 — will be close to a $200 million development. The $7 million tax credit is a wise investment on the state’s behalf because of the project’s scope, he said.
Of course, I'm curious to know just how heavily WEDC will keep Amazon to its promises if the jobs or warehouse development doesn't end up paying off, and if it's a long-term investment, or just something that goes up for a few years and goes away once the economy has a downturn or Amazon decides it can deliver its product in a different way.

In addition, the TIF means local property taxpayers, and not Amazon, will be the ones to shell out for the new roads, infrastructure and services required to run such a huge warehouse over the next 2 years. For example, it would seem that Kenosha Area Transit might need to service this part of town more, given the need to get a large amount of people to the job site, so has KAT's schedule or funding been adjusted appropriately to deal with this, either now, or for when the new facilty opens?

Yes, Amazon is claiming it'll add 1,000 jobs as a result of the new warehouse, possibly as soon as next Fall, but take a look at how APAC was also promising big things this time last year, and contrast it to the layoffs that are happening there now. You also should wonder what kind of promises were made by Amazon in return for this major tax write-off. Is it linked to future campaign contributions or GOP support for laws that keep wages down at the Kenosha plant? Was the WEDC part of the package given to Amazon hastily put together in reaction to Mary Burke entering the race for governor (as we know the $100 million property tax giveaway was), and has the short-term financing and long-term ramifications been adequately analyzed? And is Amazon going to be pressured by WEDC and Walker Administration officials to get the warehouse open in time for the 2014 elections, even if it's not ready to go?

I'm not saying it's a bad thing that this huge warehouse is going to be built in Kenosha, and it certainly could be a stimulator for other economic activity in the area by attracting a larger pool of talent and other businesses to the stateline area near I-94. But as we saw with APAC in Green Bay, promises of job creation and future growth don't always match up to the reality, and the results should be monitored well after the pictures of the Chamber of Commerce types pose with their shovels. Expect more of these big promises and large giveaways in the near future, especially from a Walker Administration desperate to show job growth and "improved business conditions" ahead of November 2014.You should be skeptical that any of these job promises can be kept, or that it'll be worth the increased cost to communities and taxpayers in the short term to make up the difference.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GOP Bullsh*t Mountain, Obamacare 11-13 style

Lot of lies about Obamacare are continuing this week, as the computer registration program's glitches are getting worked on, and I want to go over some of these developments, and help to remind you of a past that Republicans don't want you to recall.

1. Bryan Beutler in rightfully puts Obama's now-infamous and incorrect quote of "If you like your health plan, you can keep it," into context. If you recall how things were this time 4 years ago, the GOP was using deceptive Frank Luntz talking points about "government options" and "government takeovers" of the health care industry.
Part of it can be attributed to the Democrats’ elephantine memory of Bill Clinton’s failed attempt to overhaul the healthcare system. It turns out that the biggest obstacle facing anyone trying to reform the healthcare system is that you can’t do it without creating some amount of disruption, and most people in the country have insurance they’re pretty happy with. So Obama wanted to minimize not just the disruption but the fear of disruption itself. A fair critique of Obamacare is that it leaves too many of the worst parts of the old system in place, but that’s no consolation if you took Obama at his word.

Another part of the story, though, is that he was responding to an incredible amount of bullshit...

Noble lies have in many ways defined the debate over the Affordable Care Act, but the vast majority of them have been lies conservatives told in a failed effort to nix reform. Death panels are the most famous such lie. Another is that Obamacare is destroying the economy, creating a part-time labor pandemic and a major obstacle to recovery from the great recession. A third is that it will blow up the debt.

A fourth, also still with us, is that Obamacare is a stalking horse for socialized healthcare. (I wish it was!)
Given all of this noise being thrown around by the GOP (and amplified by right-wing radio and Faux News), Obama felt he had to reassure people that the changes in Obamacare would not be a major disruption to most people's lives, especially those that already had insurance.

Now this doesn't make what Obama said OK, precisely because it was predictable that some insurance companies and businesses would use Obamacare as an excuse to hurt their current customers, and turn the exchanges into the back-door public option that it is. What Obama should have done is been tougher and said "If you're currently insured, you'll keep your plan, unless your insurance company refuses to raise its coverage to an acceptable standard, or your employer wants to be cheap and shed costs. In that case, we can insure you through the exchanges." But of course, this was the Obama that was naively clinging to the belief that he was a ""post-partisan" president that should work with TeaBag Republicans, and not put the spotlight on businesses who were screwing over their customers. And he's now paying the price for that naivete.

2. Jon Stewart used Obama's "If you like your health care, you can keep it" statement to start up a segment where he ended up destroying Faux News and Republicans for lying their asses off about what Obamacare does and does not do, and also on how they're lying over what effects it is having on the insurance market.

But then again, all of the right-wing volume on Obamacare glitches is just another trip up what Stewart accurately called "Bullshit Mountain", a right-wing bubble-world of misinformation.

3. And when Obamacare is fully in place in early 2014, the Republicans trying to take political advantage of the glitches are going to look even worse (and we better not allow people to forget what they said). It's not like the current registration difficulties are leading to major changes in people's opinions about Obamacare. A recent Reuters poll showed that nationwide approval for Obamacare actually went UP in October to 47 percent from 44 in September, and this is particularly true among those who need Obamacare for their insurance.
The uninsured view the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, more favorably since online marketplaces opened - 44 percent compared with 37 percent in September, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll. It found that 56 percent oppose the program compared with 63 percent in September.

A higher proportion of the uninsured also said they are interested in buying insurance on the exchanges, with 42 percent in October, saying they were likely to enroll compared with 37 percent in September. The results have a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

"The launch of the exchanges, that's the first real world event for a lot of people," said Chris Jackson, an Ipsos pollster. "There's been this sense that once people got familiar with it, public opinion would start to move in its direction."
And I'd imagine it'll do even better once people's coverage begins, and folks look around in Summer 2014 and realize the world didn't end, unlike what the Republicans have claimed would happen over the last 4 years.

But if the Republicans want to keep trying to TeaBag Obamacare, especially when they have to come to another budget deal in December and January, they might want to keep in mind that Obamacare repeal was a LOSER in the recent election for governor in Virginia. Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports that only 27% of Virginians wanted Obamacare to be repealed, and Gov-elect Terry McAuliffe's pollster says Ken Cuccinelli's anti-Obamacare stance turned off more voters than it turned on.
“We tested Cuccinelli’s brag that he was the first attorney general to sue to stop Obamacare,” [Geoff] Garin said. “That actually made more voters less likely to support him than more.”

“A majority disapproved of the Affordable Care Act, but in Virginia, as elsewhere, we found that a lot of these voters want to fix the law,” Garin said. “Cuccinellis’ position on Obamacare actually supported what we were saying about him, which is that he was extreme and supported a national Tea Party agenda.”
So please proceed with your no-solution bashing of the Obama Administration and Obamacare, GOPs. It'll lead to a whole lotta Dem wins in 2014.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

John Doe Deux and other GOP money-laundering

This is an outstanding rundown by Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express, showing the large number of right-wing organizations that have popped up in Wisconsin over the last 3 years (i.e. the Citizens United era). In addition to the remarkable way these folks launder funds from one group to the other, starting with DC orgs like Club for Growth, AFP/Koch and the Republican Governors Association, going down to the Bradley machine and its propaganda outlets (Wisconsin Distorter, MacIver, etc.), and over to connected GOPs like Scooter Jensen, R.J. Johnson, Luke Hilgemann and John Connors.

This comes on the heels of Brendan Fischer at the Center for Media and Democracy exposing the many ways GOP mega-donor Terry Kohler has created these front groups gotten people like Connors, R.J. Johnson, and Johnson's wife to run the day-to-day operations), and tried to hide just how much he calls the shots for these fronts. The Journal-Sentinel revealed during its look into the United Sportsmen scandal (click here for a brief recap) that Kohler was right at the center of that scam.
According to open records requests for communications with lawmakers about the group, Kohler personally reached out to Republican lawmakers on the budget committee and urged that they support "a Sporting Heritage Legacy Grant to the United Sportsmen." (This revelation contradicted [then-State Rep. and current paper industry lobbyist Scott] Suder’s earlier statements that the grant was not being steered towards United Sportsmen and was meant to be competitive.)

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a long-time member and leader of ALEC, called Kohler a “good friend” and a "big supporter" of Republicans.

"If Terry sends me a letter, I read it," Fitzgerald told the Journal-Sentinel.
You know, Hillary Clinton was laughed at by many when she said this 15 years ago-
But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this — they have popped up in other settings. This is — the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it - is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. -Hillary Clinton
Not so funny today, now that it's pretty clear that there is a right-wing cabal calling the shots for the Wisconsin GOP, trying to get all the benefits of sending large amounts of money to promote right-wing causes, but without having their role be exposed. Both Lisa Kaiser and Brendan Fischer have done great work in showing the tentacles of these groups and the scummy oligarchs who fund them, and I highly suggest you let others be aware of it, so they can call out the next fake GOP front groups when they inevitably appear for the 2014 elections.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WisGOP austerity leading to double-digit increases in welfare

Here's an interesting item in tomorrow's Joint Finance Committee meeting. They have what are know as "Section 13.10 meetings", and they happen at the JFC every couple of months to deal with adjustments in situations. It usually requires a reallocation of budgeted funds in some way, and the item I wants to go over includes welfare, which has exploded in the last year in Fitzwalkerstan.

W-2 (or Wisconsin Works) is the program that gives assistance and some money for people below a certain level of income. According to this week's LFB report on W-2, the Walker Administration feels comfortable releasing some funds it had held back due to a dispute with the feds over how it billed certain services. Basically, the state won't have to pay back all of the funds it claimed with one of its methods, so that money can be used elsewhere.

But the problem is that the Walker folks predicted that the welfare rolls would shrink in Wisconsin, and instead they have gone way up over the last year. As a result, the state needs millions in additional funds to make up the difference.
Coinciding with the implementation of the new 2013-2016 W-2 agency contracts on January 1, 2013, caseloads and expenditures began to increase in January, 2013. As a result, additional funding of $9,882,500 in 2013-14 and $8,402,000 in 2014-15 was provided for W-2 benefit payments by the Legislature under 2013 Act 20. The increase in funding for W-2 benefit payments assumed that caseloads and expenditures would decline by 1% per month, beginning April, 2013. In addition, Act 20 changed statutory provisions to codify the practice under the 2013-2016 W-2 agency contracts of having DCF, rather than a W-2 agency, making W-2 benefit payments.

With the exception of expenditure amounts in March, 2013, declining from February, 2013, W-2 paid caseloads and expenditures have increased every month through September, 2013, in CY 2013...

The caseload in CY 2013 has increased 15.6% from January, 2013, through September, 2013. Monthly expenditures increased 18.4% over this same time period.
LFB goes onto say that if the amount of expenses and W-2 enrollment remains at those high September 2013 levels, then the state will have to come up with another $16.9 million until the end of this year to fully fund W-2, since they budgeted a much lower amount of cases. The Governor has only asked for $9.9 million of these funds at this time, and instead will use the rest of the money to go to a minor program targeting at-risk youth in Milwaukee, provides Medicaid's lapse for this budget, and leave around $7 million unfunded as of this time.

Now the key question for tomorrow is this. Will the GOP-run Joint Finance Committee fully fund W-2, or compromise and approve Walker's lower level of funding? Or do they look at these numbers, and say "Let the poor fry!", and not fund it at all? I'd keep an eye on this, because will the GOPs go full-on Bagger, will they take the middle ground, or will they use some of their alleged surplus to help some of the people being increasingly left behind in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan? I think the answer will tell a lot.

But one thing there is no doubt about is that for an increasing amount of low-income Wisconsinites, it's not working, despite the Governor's talking up of the (tepid) increase of jobs in the state. It also makes you wonder if it's time to raise the state's minimum wage and other wage structures, because we should not be seeing a 17.4% year-over-year increase in W-2 cases if more people are allegedly working unless people are not getting paid SQUAT. The large amount of low-wage jobs is a real problem in this country and especially here, and it's something that should be hit at hard by any candidate looking to grab bystanders, because it illustrates the real, deep problem of the two-tier society that everyone can see, but far too few politicians want to talk about.

Real health care moochers- drug companies

Two stories out today on settlements involving the Wisconsin Department of Justice that should remind you just how rotten to the core a whole lot of our medical and prescription drug industry has been over the recent years.

1. The U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Johnson and Johnson where the corporation will pay a $2.2 billion settlement related to deceptive marketing and distribution of prescription drugs. The drugs were mostly given to children, adolescents, and seniors, and Johnson and Johnson deceived on what the drugs should be allowed for, and paid off doctors and agencies to make sure their drugs were prescribed.
The cases, which date from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, involve alleged kickbacks to doctors and pharmacies to promote the antipsychotic drugs Risperdal and Invega, and a heart drug, Natrecor. The widely anticipated agreement was one of the largest health-care fraud settlements in U.S. history.

Federal investigators accused a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary of promoting Risperdal for controlling anxiety and aggression in elderly dementia patients, as well as for treating behavioral problems in other “vulnerable” populations, such as children and the mentally disabled, even though the Food and Drug Administration initially approved the drug only for schizophrenia. Officials said the company also promoted off-label uses for Invega and “made false and misleading statements about its safety and efficacy.”
In addition to overly-expansive proscribing of the pills, there were reports of awful side effects, including ,a href=""> studies that pointed to an increased risk of diabetes (with courtroom testimony indicating J&J buried those studies from the public), and numerous alleged instances of young boys growing breasts after taking the drugs. It appears to be a flagrant example of late '90s and 2000s corporate greed overtaking any semblance of responsible administration of drugs, and a lack of caring about who was damaged as long as the monthly quotas were hit.

Locally, Wisconsin is one of many states that will join in the settlement, as the state's DOJ announced today. According to today's release, $24 million will go back to the state's Medicaid program, which will help to pay the extra bills we have due to Gov. Walker's decision to turn down Obamacare funding.

2. And the Medicaid program received funds as part of another settlement with drug companies doing seamy items. McKesson and First Data bank ran through an elaborate, years-long scheme where they inflating pill prices, ripping off the state's taxpayers in the process. You can read about the whole deception here, with the scam starting in Summer 2001, and continuing through much of the 2000s. With this settlement, the state gets its money back from McKesson's Bush-era scam, and First Data's negligence (or worse, cooperation) in allowing it to go through.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, McKesson has paid the State $13,916,115.60 and First DataBank has provided the State $276,881.25 in credits for its services. The McKesson settlement payment included $11,596,763 in restitution to Wisconsin Medicaid and $2,319,352.60 for attorneys’ fees and costs.

In Wisconsin, it is unlawful for any person or company to make representations that are untrue, misleading or deceptive with respect to the sale of pharmaceuticals. McKesson reported false, fraudulent and inflated average wholesale prices to First DataBank, Inc., who in turn published this false information, causing the Wisconsin Medicaid program to overpay for the drugs it purchased.
Combined with the first settlement, that looks like $37 million into the Medicaid program, which might go a long way toward closing the $52 million gap in Medicaid that is projected. Won't do much good for the future years, but at least it might keep even more severe cuts from happening.

This type of corporate fraud was a major part of the "freedom" of what Tea Baggers were calling the "greatest health care system in the world" 3-4 years ago. As Tom Tomorrow brings up in "This Modern World", it's what you get when you have a health care system run by Dr. Hand.

Oh, but it's poor people that mooch off the system, right Dr. Hand? It's not these corrupt drug companies. Suuuure it is.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2010s capitalism- Wealth creation and lobbying > Job creation

Two reports sum up how this country's economy has devolved into a two-tier society.

In Racine, SC Johnson and Company announced plans to lay off 200 employees on Friday. Is that because of a downturn in business or related supply-and-demand issue? Not exactly.
SC Johnson has had five years of record sales and profits, and the fiscal year that ended June 30 was its best ever, Semrau said. But she said the consumer products industry is changing fast and SC Johnson is trying to position itself better to compete with its main competitors: Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser.

"There are two ways to do what we do: You invent the brand or you buy a brand," [spokeswoman Kelly]Semrau said. "... But sometimes acquiring is faster and better because people already know about it."

Buying other companies is expensive, however, and SC Johnson is trying to set aside more cash for future acquisitions, she said.
That's right, SC Johnson is letting 200 people go so they have to get more cash to pay for mergers. Nothing to do with production or efficiency, just to hoard profits to buy out other companies.

And this may stun you, but SC Johnson doesn't just use those record profits to buy up companies, but also to pay big bucks for DC lobbyists and politicians. According to Open Secrets, SC Johnson's corporation and employees gave more than $295,000 to DC lobbyists in 2012, and more than $75,000 to Congressional candidates in the 2012 election cycle. SC tends to spread around their political campaigns, giving about 3/4 to Republicans and 1/4 to Democrats, and $3,500 of those funds found their way to the guy who "represents" Racine in Congress, Paul Ryan.

                            We know who you work for, kid.

That type of lobbying paid off for SC Johnson in 2005, when Purty Mouth Pau-lie promoted a bill suspending import taxes on certain products to help SC Johnson's profit margins.
"I rise today to introduce legislation on behalf of SC Johnson, a family-owned and family-managed company," Ryan stated in prepared text inserted into the Congressional Record. "The company is a global manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of well known consumer household brands including Windex, Raid, Glade, Pledge, Edge shaving gel, Ziploc and Scrubbing Bubbles. SC Johnson has 12,000 employees worldwide and 3,000 employees located in Racine, WI."

Ryan then got down to the air-freshener business. "The two bills that I am offering today will help accomplish this important objective by suspending duties for multiple components of unique air freshener products that are imported from abroad and incorporated into finished products assembled by SC Johnson in the United States," he stated. "One of the devices is a continuous-action device that pumps fragrance throughout a room. The other device is plugged into an electrical outlet and diffuses warmed fragrance throughout an area. No comparable products are produced in this country. Suspending the tariffs will bring down SC Johnson's costs of doing business at home."
I also coudn't help but notice that in the same day that the report of SC Johnson's layoffs came out, 47 million Americans got a reduction in food stamp benefits. And if Rep. Ryan and his fellow House Republicans had their way, several million more lower-income people would see further cuts to food aid and related programs.

Put the SC Johnson layoffs together with its lobbying successes and the War on the Poor, and is it really a surprise that the top 1% got 11.2% richer between 2009 and 2011, while the other 99% got 0.4% poorer? Is it really a surprise that the Dow Jones industrial average is up 136% since March 2009, while at the same time, median household income is DOWN 4.4%. When you have a government and corporate system that emphasizes paper wealth over real jobs, and use tax and spending policy to benefit campaign contributors over citizens, this is a natural result. Trickle-down? More like "funneling up".

It's the type of politics that raises demand for one product in particular- guillotines.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The latest in the Obamacare media fail and sabotage

A couple of video links and other discussions on this Friday evening for you, exposing just how badly our mainstream local and national media do in discussing issues.

The first is an epic Jon Stewart takedown of the media acting surprised that Jon Stewart would be criticize Obama and his Administration because of some of the implementation issues surrounding Obamacare. As Jon brings up, it's kind of his JOB to make fun of public figures, but like a lot of issues, our media doesn't seem to interested into why that might be.

It even has an appearance by the "Go f*ck yourselves" choir!

Ed Schultz also discussed Obamacare this week, and took the media to take for not discussing GOP sabotage and lies to account, particularly about the fact that scam insurance is getting replaced by insurance that actually covers things.

Ed asks the legitimate question "Why does Kentucky get it so right, and a number of other states that are rejecting Obamacare get it so wrong? Republican-led states get it wrong?" He rightly asks the media to "get off its ass" and instead of caring more about conflict and politiCS, start asking questions about the poliCY, and what it does.

Amazingly, it is DC Villager rag Politico that did get off its ass, with an article called "The Obamacare Sabotage Campaign."
The opposition was strategic from the start: Derail President Barack Obama’s biggest ambition, and derail Obama himself. Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law — which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance. Partisan divisions also meant that Democrats could not pass legislation smoothing out some rough language in the draft bill that passed the Senate. That left the administration forced to fill far more gaps through regulation than it otherwise would have had to do, because attempts — usually routine — to re-open the bill for small changes could have led to wholesale debate in the Senate all over again.

But the bitter fight over passage was only the beginning of the war to stop Obamacare. Most Republican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges (Governor Scott Walker did this Wisconsin). — an option inserted in the bill in the Senate to appeal to the classic conservative preference for local control — forcing the federal government to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states — far more than ever intended.

Then congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds to do all that extra work, leaving the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together by redirecting funds from existing programs. On top of that, nearly half of the states declined to expand their Medicaid programs using federal funds, as the law envisioned. (Wisconsin was one of those states as well)
And MAL does a great job showing how Gov. Walker's sabotage is especially disgusting given that this guy has lived off of taxpayer-funded health care his entire adult life.

We need to stay on the reality that Republicans have no plan to assist the uninsured, and actively have pursued policies making it tougher for them to be insured. We cannot allow the media to turn it into political game that relieves the GOPs of responsibility for the sedition they are practicing on the American people.