Thursday, November 30, 2017

Even corporations admit that tax cut won't help real people

While it's dizzying and exhausting to keep up with the latest GOP sleazy tax plan and figuring out where it stands in the Senate, there is one thing that's quite obvious. This tax cut isn't going to do a damn thing for Main Street.
Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been “actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and I’d expect us to continue that.” Executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer have recently made similar statements.

“We’ll be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback” after a tax cut, Kramer said in a Nov. 16 interview.

U.S. voters disapprove of the Republican tax legislation by a two-to-one margin, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Nov. 15, and corporate promises to return any windfall to investors aren’t helping the White House sales effort. The Trump administration has appeared flummoxed. At a Nov. 14 speech to the Wall Street Journal CEO Council by Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, the moderator asked business leaders in the audience for a show of hands if they planned to reinvest tax cut proceeds. Few people responded….

Trump has insisted that the Republican tax plan cut the U.S. corporate rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. Another provision would impose an even lower tax rate on companies’ stockpiled overseas earnings, giving them an incentive to return trillions of dollars in offshore cash to the U.S. That money is also unlikely to spur hiring because companies are already well-capitalized and can bring on as many employees as they need, said John Shin, a foreign-exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“Companies are sitting on large amounts of cash. They’re not really financially constrained,” Shin, who conducted a survey of more than 300 companies asking their plans for a tax overhaul, said in an interview. “They’re still working for their shareholders, primarily."
No kidding? Next you'll tell me that the 700 point runup in the Dow over the last 3 days isn't based on any kind of economic fundamentals, and is nothing more than gambling that this regressive giveaway will pass, blowing the stock market Bubble even higher.

I also noted this part from the updated GDP report for 3rd Quarter 2017. Not only was GDP growth for the Q3 2017 bumped higher, to 3.3% from 3.0%, but profits took a major leap.
Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment and capital consumption adjustment) increased $91.6 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $14.4 billion in the second quarter.

Profits of domestic financial corporations increased $60.6 billion in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of $33.8 billion in the second quarter. Profits of domestic nonfinancial corporations increased $12.5 billion, compared with an increase of $59.1 billion. Rest-of-the-world profits increased $18.6 billion, in contrast to a decrease of $10.8 billion. In the third quarter, receipts increased $23.1 billion, and payments increased $4.6 billion.
In fact, post-tax corporate profits were up 7.7% in Q3 2017 compared to 1 year prior to that. So economic growth isn't a problem these days, and corporations are clearly far from burdened under our current taxation systems, as profits keep going up. Giving them a lower tax rate would increase that incentive to grab profit over paying workers (or adding workers), and then the CEOs dole out those excessive profits in the forms of dividends to shareholders.

And it's not like the typical American worker is doing well in late 2017 Average real hourly wages actually went down from June to September, and went down again in October. So if this absurd tax bill passes, inequality will grow as the stock market Bubble keeps blowing while wages continue to stagnate. At the same time, housing continues to be less affordable, and then this tax scam makes owning a house less worthwhile for the middle and working classes because it reduces the benefits of write-offs for mortgage interest and property taxes.

This is leading to two crash scenarios - 1 in the housing market which would mirror what we saw in the mid-to-late 2000s, combined with a stock market bubble that is eerily similar to what we had in the dot-com days of 2000 (one which quickly deflated, leading to recession in 2001).

We could choose to slow and reverse these destructive trends by raising taxes on the rich, possibly installing a wealth tax, and encouraging workers’ rights to raise the wages of the average American. We also could be expanding stabilizers like Social Security for workers between 55 and 67, and putting in Medicare for All, which not only is good social policy, but prevents consumer spending from going down the tubes if the GOP deforms Obamacare and causes premiums to go up.

Instead, the GOP’s Trump/Ryan tax plan seems determined to put this on steroids, hastening the crash and making it worse for the overwhelming majority of Americans. But then again, that just clears the way for Step two of this evil, Piece of Shit tax plan.

And no, any small boost in growth that might happen from this Tax Scam WON'T COME CLOSE to making up for the revenue that Uncle Sam will lose, and the Joint Committee on Taxation confirmed today that deficits will blow sky high.

And the GOP is still trying to blast this through, despite not having a complete picture of how this will affect our economy and fiscal picture, or even having actual text as to what tax provisions are or are not in the final bill.

It makes me wonder if there's a guillotine manufacturer that I cash out some of my current stock holdings into. Seems to be a good upside play if this Piece of Shit somehow goes through.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hey Scotty, you don't need a $7 mil ad campaign to get young people to Wisconsin!

I know this happens a lot in a country where Donald Trump is the president and a state where Scott Walker is the Governor, but add this to the “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” file.
Walker on Wednesday called on the [Wisconsin] Legislature to approve funding for the $6.8 million ad campaign before the end of the current session in early 2018. He said the marketing campaign would pitch Wisconsin as a more affordable place for millennials to live where they could be spending more time in a canoe, having a drink with friends or attending a concert, rather than sitting in traffic.

Walker announced the marketing effort at the Future Wisconsin Summit, an annual meeting organized by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation bringing together some of the state’s business leaders.

Calling it “critically important” to “get more bodies,” Walker said the effort would be a collaborative marketing campaign that involves the state’s chief economic development and job-creation agencies and the Tourism Department. The effort would include $3.5 million in ads targeting military veterans and their families and $3 million marketing Wisconsin as a destination for young professionals, particularly those already living in nearby Midwest cities of Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago, Walker said…

Part of the effort would be to woo back young adults who attended college in Wisconsin. The key time to reach them is four or five years after graduation when they start thinking about where they want to live long term and raise children, Walker said.
Hey Scotty, I thought we were “Open for Business” and low taxes under GOP rule would attract workers all by themselves. Are you telling me that maybe people make decisions on something other than $5 off of their property taxes when it comes to finding a place they want to work and live in?

Not that you deserve any help at this point, but I’ll give you a tip, Scotty. If you want to get young families to settle in Wisconsin, maybe you should FUND PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PAY THEM A GOOD WAGE. Think about it- what talented person would come to a state that pays them less and has a declining standard of education at the K-12 and college levels when he or she can go to plenty of other places nearby and end up better off on both counts?

And throwing hundreds of millions in WEDC money at donors corporations who continue to pay substandard wages and having WisGOP push for bills that would outlaw state standards on air pollution isn’t something that's makes the typical person choose Wisconsin for their home? Who would have thunk it?

I have a better suggestion. Put that money into roads and good transit, and maintain Wisconsin’s great natural resources and scenery. This will encourage our state’s visitors to want to become residents, and improve our chances of keeping around the little talent we have in the state because of a higher quality of life.

Instead, Governor Dropout wants to blow nearly $7 million in taxpayers’ dollars on an ad campaign to convince people that our lack of transit…is a good thing?

Hey Scotty, if people are in a place in Wisconsin where they can bike to work or nearby rural areas-

1. They won’t be the type of people that take a 1-hour train ride to work because THEY’D LIVE NEAR THE CITY AND BIKE IN ALREADY,

2. Or they’ll live in the burbs in Wisconsin, like they do in Chicago, which means they’d either be busing in or (more likely) be stuck in traffic on our many pothole-filled highways,

3. Or they’ll live in a small Wisconsin town that doesn’t pay anything near the big-city wages they currently pull down, and likely lacks high-speed internet because YOUR DUMB ASS TURNED DOWN $23 MILLION IN 2011!

And why would they locate in any of these places for quality of life reasons as long as Wisconsin’s public schools stay underfunded and polluters are allowed to spew whatever filth they want without consequence? Because that’s the reality they’d deal with as long as Scott Walker and the GOP are in charge.

State Senator Dave Hansen has a better idea on how to attract young, educated people to Wisconsin. Take action to remove one of the biggest barriers to economic stability so they have the flexibility to choose to live in Wisconsin.
Hansen said one of the best ways to keep and attract young workers would be to pass his Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill that would allow Wisconsin residents to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

“Employers could use a state student loan refinancing program as a selling point to prospective applicants, many of whom are struggling under the high cost of their student loans. Passing HELD would give Wisconsin employers a competitive advantage over their competition in other states. And refinancing could be done at very little to no cost to state taxpayers.”....

“Rather than paying millions to media consultants for a marketing campaign that is unlikely to work, Governor Walker and Republicans could do something that would actually benefit up to 900,000
Wisconsin residents and provide a real incentive to keep and attract young workers by embracing student loan refinancing and the Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill.”
Of course, Scotty is too busy kissing up to banksters and other big-money donors to do this common-sense move that would give a real competitive advantage to Wisconsin when it comes to attracting millenial talent.

But the real story here is that Scott Walker is admitting that his policy decisions since 2011 HAVE FAILED MISERABLY when it comes to trying to attract young talent to the state, which puts a lid on any type of growth the state may have. And just like with Scotty’s one-time boost to K-12 public schools, he thinks a PR Band-Aid is somehow going to wipe away all of the bad things that have left us far behind our peers over the last 6 years.
Sorry Governor Dropout, a few ads and the Confidence Fairy won’t change the rotten, regressive political choices that you and the rest of the ALEC crew have made, causing our economy to stagnate and make Wisconsin unattractive to people with options for their careers.

And if that wasn't enough, this image from last year has already driven away a lot of young people who might consider Wisconsin for their future careers.

Young adults hate that guy. They aren’t going to vote for Trump, Walker or any other Republican, and they don't want to live in a place that supports such a hateful moron. Besides, why is Scotty trying to bring college-educated young people that value quality of life to Wisconsin anyway? After all, if Walker actually is serious about getting more young people with intelligence to live in Wisconsin, he’s increasing the chances that he loses next year!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

One good quarter doesn't stop 6 years of Wis economy lagging

It may have been buried due to the shortened Thanksgiving week, but the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released another bit of data that gives us a clue about where Wisconsin stands among the states- this time in comparing each state's Gross Domestic Product for the 2nd Quarter of 2017.

And it looks like Wisconsin outpaced most of its Midwestern neighbors this Spring, with a strong 2.5% growth rate that nearly matched the US rate of 2.8% for Q2. The BEA's graphic also shows the bounce back of oil states in early 2017, after most of those states fell into recession in 2016.

But what was also noteworthy about the BEA's report was summarized this paragraph.
In addition to the new 2017:Q2 statistics presented in this news release, BEA also revised quarterly GDP by state statistics for 2014:Q1 to 2017:Q1 and annual statistics for 2014 to 2016. Updates were made to incorporate source data that are more complete, including the September 2017 annual update to the State Personal Income Accounts, and to align the states with revised national estimates that were released with the November 2nd annual update to the Industry Economic Accounts and the July 2017 annual update to the National Income and Product Accounts.
So that's a lot of significant, updated data. And when you look at those numbers, Wisconsin doesn't fare so well at all, and it diminishes the good number that we saw in Q2 2017.

Q2 2017 also was the final quarter of the 2015-17 Scott Walker austerity budget that had significant cuts to try to impress RW oligarchs during his (epic failure of a) campaign for president. So let's look at that time period, and see how our growth measured up to other Midwestern states, and the rest of the country.

That's not so good, especially in the first 12 months, when Wisconsin was 6th out of 7 Midwestern states for GDP growth and barely exceeded 1% overall. The state did a little better in 2016-17 (Iowa's flatlining helped), but we still lagged the country in the rate of growth, and were more than 2% behind our neighbors in Minnesota and Michigan.

We also can use the updated figured from 2014-2016 to get a longer-range view on how Wisconsin has fared in GDP growth since Scott Walker and the Republicans came to power in 2011. And this makes Wisconsin look even worse, as we were 6th out of the 7 Midwestern states over this time period, with a growth rate 1/4 slower than not only the US, but also 3 of the 4 states that border us.

So let's not think the good numbers for Wisconsin's GDP in the middle of 2017 are any indication that ALEC/GOP policies are "working". As you can see, we have a long way to go if we want to catch up from how badly we fell behind during the first 5 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and given the stagnant population and wage situation that Wisconsin continues to be mired into, it's hard to see how that gap is going to be narrowed in the near future.

GOP tax scam advances. But still garbage, and needs plenty of repair

While it may be noteworthy that the Senate Finance Committee advanced the GOP's tax package to the full Senate on a 12-11 party line vote (with all GOPs voting yes, including the allegedly shaky Ron Johnson), it's not a huge deal in the big picture. As Politico noted, the final bill that will/won't be voted on may look a lot different, because GOPs are trying to jam this through using budget reconciliation, instead changing laws through the typical legislative process.
The Senate budget panel was required to green-light the tax bill because Republicans are using a budget maneuver that would allow them to pass the bill with only 51 votes. Under those procedural rules, the committee could not substantially change the legislation before it heads for a full floor vote.

“Our work today is of a ministerial nature,” Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said during the markup.
So now we get down to the nitty-gritty of trying to work out a version of this scam that can get enough votes to pass the Senate. One of the Republican senators who is hesitant to approve of the current Piece of Shit is Bob Corker. Corker admits claims that he is concerned that economy won't grow enough to avoid blowing up the US budget deficit, and he has floated the idea of a "trigger" that could end the tax cuts sooner if the deficit gets too big.
The Tennessee Republican and others are seeking the protection in case the nearly $1.5 trillion in proposed tax cuts do not meet the GOP's expectations for sparking economic growth. The "trigger" described by Corker would raise taxes if the plan does not boost the U.S. economy enough.

"What several of us have asked for is a backstop or trigger in that event we don't meet the projections that have been laid out — since we're not going to score it — that we have a backstop. And so that's what we've been working on throughout the weekend and feverishly today," Corker told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"So, I hope we'll get there. I know it's important not just to me, but numbers of members who want to make sure that, for some reason these projections are off, we don't have the growth that's been laid out, it doesn't generate revenues, that we're not passing off increased debt to future generations," he added.

Asked who would bear the brunt of the tax increases under the backstop provision, the senator said he did not want to take away from the "certainty" of tax policy that businesses would want to see to invest. Prompted on whether that means individuals would see their taxes raised while corporations would not, Corker responded that "both" would have an increase.
Of course, Corker later admits in the same CNBC interview that his main goal is cutting taxes on corporations, and if tax cuts for individuals have to be "[thrown] in the trash can" in order for it to pass, then he is alright with that. What a guy!

Of course, there's another type of "trigger" that most Republicans would like to pull as a consequence of this tax deform, and former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett nailed it today

Let's add that even without a "trigger", the Senate bill already ends tax cuts for individuals after 2025 just so it can stay within the budget constraints, while corporations have their tax cuts be PERMANENT. This, along with other regressive "reforms" in this Piece of Shit tax scam, led the Congressional Budget Office to say Americans making less than $75,000 would pay higher federal taxes under the Senate plan (numbers are total dollar amounts for each income bracket, obviously there are many more people making $50-$75K than there are $1,000,000+).

Now that type of regressive nature might not be one of the reasons the tax bill is being held up (GOPs have no problem sending money from the poor to the rich), but there are many other details within that tax distribution that have to be figured out, including whether there will be exemptions for State and Local Taxes (SALT), the income levels where the new tax brackets kick in and what those brackets are, and whether any deforming of Obamacare will be part of this Piece of Shit. And those issues are far from resolved when it comes to merely getting to 50 votes in order to get the tax scam out of the Senate.

And even if this Piece of Shit gets out of the Senate, there has to then be discussions with the House on a very different tax plan, and then both houses would have to pass any compromise bill that might come out of that. Needless to say there's a long way to go on this thing, and we need to be vocal and present to call BS on any tricks and lies the GOP try to pull over in these coming weeks.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fox-con means Racine Co taxpayers pay big to make others leave Racine Co

As mentioned before, the state giving up to $3 billion to Foxconn isn’t the only taxpayer cost that will result from this scam. Local taxpayers are going to be hook for a whole lot in this deal as well, as last week’s Racine County Board meeting reminded us.
The [Racine] County Board on Tuesday approved bonding up to $80 million to help with interim financing to purchase land in Area One of the proposed project. That area lies between Interstate 94 and Highway H, and Highway KR and Braun Road.

The money also will help with financing for other project expenses. Of the $80 million total, $70 million will go to purchase land in area one, $5 million for financing other project expenses, $3.5 million to pay for the capitalized interest on the bonds during 2018 and 2019, and $700,000 for professional services.

Brian Della, senior managing consultant for PFM Financial Advisors, said the debt will eventually be paid for by the Foxconn project…..

To speed up the process, Della said it is important for the county to get the money before it starts buying property.

“We thought it would be most prudent to have the money in hand before you start exercising $70 million worth of (land purchase) options,” Della said. “Because, say this deal doesn’t go through, it would be tough to find $70 million laying around in sofa seats.”
So in addition to the fact that many individuals in Mount Pleasant and the surrounding area will be forced out of their houses (and it’s up for debate whether the amount of money they are getting is an acceptable trade), Racine County will go into significant debt to get the money to buy these people out. In addition, whoever remains in Racine County will be the ones paying back that debt over several years, since Foxconn’s land is in a TID that won’t be paying taxes for up to 25 years.

That TID is also going to include major costs for upgrading roads near the Foxconn site. It seemed sadly notable that there was a fatal car vs. semi-trailer accident on Highway 11 over the weekend where the truck crossed in front of the car to enter I-94, and the car’s driver was killed. The spot of the accident is the north end of the proposed Foxconn campus.

Roads such as that Highway 11, I-94, and other nearby roads will likely have major increases in traffic and capacity needs as a result of the Foxconn facility. We know that there is over $250 million in General Fund money being poured into I-94 as a piece of Robbin’ Vos pork related to the Fox-con, but local roads and state highways will also need upgrades, and that will go into the tax-free area of Foxconn’s district. That means all other taxpayers in the county, town, and/or village that have Foxconn-related roads and other infrastructure projects will be the ones shelling out for those costs.

And you gotta love the $700,000 the County has set aside for “professional services” related to land purchases. That’s a private contractor helping to put together the deals and their proper documentation. It reminds me of the excellent story by Lawrence Tabak in Belt Magazine from a few weeks ago, and how one industry that is seeing a pickup in business with the Fox-con are well-connected land speculators and deal-makers.
On October 11, some 100 affected people, many of them senior citizens, gather in Mt. Pleasant’s municipal hall to learn more about their fate. The session is conducted by Madison-based Peter Miesbauer, heir to G.J. Miesbauer & Associates, “right of way acquisition specialists.” One of a growing list of contractors brought in by Mt. Pleasant to work the Foxconn deal, Miesbauer patiently listens to the often quite specific questions and answers in repeated generalities, restating the statutory definitions of property acquisition and the statutory requirement that the buyouts will represent “fair market value.”…

The next night I queue up with local residents in the marble-floored entranceway of the main room of Racine City Hall, built in 1924 in the standard-to-the-time neoclassical style. Carved into stone above the doorway in two-foot letters is Virgil’s proclamation that “The Noblest Motive Is the Public Good.” Inside are booths highlighting the various components of Foxconn and the local project, set up and manned by staff from Mueller Communications, a Milwaukee-based PR firm, another of the many contractors already engaged by the Village of Mt. Pleasant, all to be paid via the village and county’s massive Tax Increment Financing project.

I speak to one of the large landowners in the area who had already been contacted by Milwaukee-based real estate firm Pitts & Brothers with a hard-sale offer to sign a purchase option at $50,000 an acre for his 40-acre lot. The price per acre is several times the going rate for agricultural land in the area, a multiple that homeowners on smaller lots will not be receiving via eminent domain. Nevertheless, the landowner, who preferred to remain unnamed, believes his land is worth twice as much, and has several objections to the offer: he says it undervalues his property, it doesn’t include several acres of road front, and includes a 5% commission taken from his end, which would mean paying Pitts close to $100,000 for the hour or so they devoted to explaining the offer. (A principal of the Pitts firm, Michael Pitts, is an enthusiastic Republican donor, so much so that he was cited for exceeding the legal contribution limit to the Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor in 2003.) The landowner rejected the Pitts offer and made a counteroffer to the village, but has yet to hear anything back.
When you connect the stories, it becomes obvious that Fox-conn will benefit an exclusive club of connected, rich individuals, while the overwhelming majority of the rest of us pay the costs for them. And most of the people of Racine County will be in that group paying up for a development that may do little when it comes to improving their job prospects or quality of life.

But hey, they’ll be able to get plenty of assembly line jobs that (maybe) pay $15 to replace whatever they’re doing now, and they’ll need it to pay for the added property taxes that’ll be coming in the next 2 decades as a result of the Fox-con. So enjoy those crumbs down in SE Wisconsin!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

14 years and counting!

This is a picture that never gets old.

It is a lot of fun to see that defense dominate like they have. There were at least two 3rd-and-long plays where the Gophs gave up and called run-option plays that had ZERO chance of getting a first down...because throwing the ball would likely have been worse for them via either INT or sack!

Now we get to the toughest test on Saturday vs the Buckeyes, but it's been a pretty fun ride so far. And 14 straight wins over your closest geographical rival is something that should be cherished.

Can you imagine if WisGOP politicians cared as much about Wisconsin beating Minnesota in its economy and in other parts of higher education, as they did for the Badgers laying the smack down on the Gophers in football?

More proof that most Wisconsinites would be losers under GOP tax scam

Now that the post-Holiday frenzy and frolic is dying down, it's time to get back to business. Let's check back in on the Piece of Shit tax bill that the GOP is trying to jam through Congress, and look at how people would be affected as it stands today.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has given a pretty thorough examination of the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, and may be voted on in the next few days. The ITEP’s analysis shows the cynicism of the GOP plan, as it hikes taxes on individuals in a few years in order to stay within budget guidelines (to allow it to pass with 50 votes in the Senate), but allows corporations to keep grabbing their part of the tax cut.

In addition, the bill gives back-door tax increases to individuals in two other ways- Chained CPI and messing with Obamacare.
Under the bill as written, the provisions affecting corporations would remain in effect in years after 2025, but of the provisions affecting individuals, the only two remaining in effect would be revenue-raisers. One would raise taxes by using an inflation measure that would more quickly shift middle-class income into higher tax brackets and gradually make provisions like the Earned Income Tax Credit less generous. (This measure is often called the chained consumer price index or chained CPI).

The other revenue-raiser is the provision repealing the mandate to obtain health insurance. This would result in a small revenue loss because no one would pay the penalty that is in effect today for some individuals who go without health insurance. But it would also result in a much larger revenue gain because some who would no longer be covered are those who receive tax credits to pay insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Fewer premium tax credits would be paid out, resulting in a revenue gain.

Under the Senate bill, at least 29 percent of households would pay higher taxes in 2027 than they would under current law. Among the bottom three-fifths of income-earners, 33 percent would pay higher taxes in 2027. While most of the figures in this analysis include the tax impacts of the health insurance mandate repeal as well as other provisions in the bill, the estimated share of taxpayers with a tax increase does not include the effects of the mandate repeal. (While the impact of the mandate on each income group can be determined, it is more difficult to identify the precise number of taxpayers affected in each income group.) This means that the share of taxpayers with a tax hike is likely to be greater than what is estimated here.

In addition to the lack of subsidies for insurance, ITEP adds that the higher premiums that would result from ending the Obamacare mandate would also leave the typical lower-income or middle-income person worse off beyond the impact of higher taxes. And if the rising deficit leads to cuts in stabilizers like Medicaid and Social Security, that's another hit to the majority of Americans under this Piece of Shit GOP Senate bill.

As bad as this is, Wisconsinites will likely have it even worse. The ITEP did analyses for every state, which showed that Wisconsin is one of 19 states that would have its citizens paying higher taxes in 2027 than it does today. The Wisconsin Budget Project broke down the findings, and summarized them accordingly.
More specifically, new figures show that 10 years from now – when the amended Senate plan has been fully phased in – the lowest earning three-fifths of Wisconsin taxpayers would pay about $365 million more, while the top one percent of Wisconsinites would save an estimated $201 million that year…

The following bar graph illustrates that Wisconsin taxpayers in the bottom three-fifths of earners (those making less than $94,700) would have tax increases averaging from $180 to $200 in 2027, while the top one percent of earners (making more than $693,000) would get an average tax cut of nearly $7,900.

Yet I’m not thinking this regressive reality is why Sen. (mo)Ron Johnson said he originally opposed the Senate bill – (mo)Ron wants it to be a BIGGER giveaway to LLCs, likely at the expense of anyone making less than 6 figures. But the fact that most Wisconsinites will be hurt should make you ask why all 5 Republican Congressmen from Wisconsin voted for a similar tax package in the House.

We gotta keep our eyes on this Piece of Shit tax bill in the coming weeks, as the GOP changes the bill and tries to ram through votes with few hearings or notice. Because despite the fact that it'll make things worse for a lot more Americans than it helps, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose this Piece of Shit, the few that are helped are the ones with the most money lying around to give in donations. It's a classic case of "which side are you on?", and we need to be armed with the facts to blast back against the Koched-up propaganda machine that will try to convince people that THIS TIME, what trickles down won't be piss.

Don't fall for it, and make any GOP greedhead that votes for this Piece of Shit pay a major price.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nov 2017 Dem wins "kept it local", took on non-Dem help. WisDems should note

If Wisconsin Democrats want to return to power in 2018, maybe they should look to other states where Democrats are winning at the state level. And the way that those Dems are winning aren't by following the advice of insiders and cynically triangulating to reach soccer moms, but by bringing the FACTS, sticking to the issues, and talking about things people from all walks of life should support.

Danica Roem made history earlier this month by becoming the first openly transgender candidate to be elected to a state legislature. And while her gender identity was attacked by the homophobic Republican candidate, she didn't take the bait and turn the race into a tribal "us vs them" affair, instead choosing to talk about health care and improving Virginia's roads.
Roem said she was of two minds about the ads. As a transgender woman, they were hurtful. But as the head of a campaign, the Republican attacks were a gift.

“That was their closer, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I can win that fight. That’s easy,’” Roem said. “So message to Republicans: Discrimination will backfire in your face. Stop doing it and start focusing on infrastructure.”

It’s a fitting summary of her campaign: a history-making candidate who tried not to dwell on the ways she’d make history, focusing exclusively on local issues in a race that captured the nation’s attention.

“You can’t just say, ‘I hate Trump, vote for me,’” Roem said. “That doesn’t win you the House of Delegates. If you can’t speak fluently about your local issues, you’re just not going to win, period.”
And I noticed the same "talk local" sentiment from Anna Langthorn, the 25-year-old leader of the Democratic Party of Oklahoma. Langthorn has helped guide the party to several legislative pickups in red seats this year, including another State Senate seat on November 7.

After that election, Langthorn went on Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC, and said Trump hasn't been discussed in these elections, but instead their candidates have focused on the GOP's many failures in the nearly-bankrupt oil state (in typical Maddow fashion, Rachel takes 3 minutes to intro the story and Langthorn comes on around 3:15).

They are largely a referendum on the local politics here in the state of Oklahoma, which is dire....
...typically people my age not only are apolitical, they also don't necessarily believe in a bipartisan system. They don't believe that two parties is working for us, and there is some merit to that argument."

-25-year-old Anna Langthorn, Chair of Democratic Party of Oklahoma

Notice in these stories that both Roem and Langthorn don't talk about issues as "Dem vs Republican" things as much as they are "right vs wrong". I also don't hear a mention about stupid turf wars over whether it takes a Party membership card to be the only one that decides what direction the Dems should take, and who they should listen to. Voters don't care about these things, they care about how a candidate can help make their life better (or not screw it up), and last I checked VOTERS decide who gets elected to office.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel of the Nation noted this subtext behind many Democratic victories across America this November, and said that progressive organizations that weren't necessarily linked to the Democratic Party helped the Dems get a lot of people into office.
In races from Jackson, Mississippi, to Birmingham, Alabama, to Aurora, Colorado —where 23-year-old Crystal Murillo defeated a Republican incumbent to become the youngest member of the city council — Democratic candidates in state and local races have won in 2017 not by running to the center or even running against Trump, but by embracing progressive policies and, critically, working to build coalitions that transcend class and racial lines. Indeed, the elections show why the debate among Democrats between "identity politics" and economic populism presents such a false choice: Progressives win when they embrace both. And while the official party organs are more than happy to take credit, it is evident that both new and established activist groups on the left including the Working Families Party, Our Revolution and People's Action played an indispensable role in the party's victories. For instance, nearly 200 of the "progressive heroes" that WFP identified and worked to elect in local races this year, including Ayala, Guzman, Krasner and Keller, went on to win.

Just a few weeks ago, there was widespread panic that Democrats in Virginia were blowing it, so the party's jubilation today is justified. But their success doesn't mean Democrats should accept the conventional wisdom that Trumpism without Trump can't win. It proves that when they campaign on bold, progressive ideas, collaborate with the grass roots and compete everywhere — up and down the ballot — they can guarantee that it won't.
And this strategy would seem to do well in for Wisconsin Dems in 2018. The "divide and conquer" of Walkerism has failed miserably when it comes to raising living standards, and has denigrated communities through its defunding of roads and schools. Add in the rampant pay-for-play corruption and power-grabs in the GOP Capitol, and a large amount of people have been left behind and ignored. Speaking these facts to voters and connecting it to the out-of-touch Governor and GOP Legislature is something that Dems have to hit hard for the next 11 1/2 months.

The only difference is that Trump could play a role in the messaging for Wisconsin Dems , because as the Capital Times' Paul Fanlund noted recently, Walker was practicing Trumpism before Trump was ever a candidate for president, and we've seen the awful results of that arrogance and corruption.

It also helps that Walker continues to tie himself to Trumpist haters and other Bubble-Worlders.

Seems fitting that a guy who mysteriously left Marquette after cheating in a student election would go on the wingnut welfare circuit to speak to the 2017 versions of Scott Walker-types preparing for their future careers as ratfuckers and political grifters. And it confirms yet again that Walker cares more about what connected elites and donors in the RW Bubble World think than he cares about the thoughts of the typical Wisconsinite that's just trying to make ends meet.

It wouldn't take much for Dems to point out the clueless arrogance and "I only care about my donors and base" mentality that comes from Governor Dropout and the ALEC crew at the Capitol, then link it to the type of disgusting "leadership" that we see from the White House. And while that connection wouldn't lose a ton of voters for Walker, it would lose more than enough (given that 48% of the state already hates this guy's guts already), and drag down the rest of the rubber stamps in the WisGOP Legislature with him in 2018.

But that should be a sidelight to what worked in states like Virginia and Oklahoma. The bottom line is that the Dems are better ON THE ISSUES than Republicans, and in Wisconsin there will be 8 years of strong evidence by 2018 that the ALEC agenda has failed the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites. Walker's only chance to win in 2018 is to turn the race into negative, tribal mud-slinging. And while the Dems shouldn't back down from calling out Walker's and WisGOP's many failures in policy and morality, they shouldn't make that ripping the centerpiece of their post-primary campaign, no matter how much the Walker Boys deserve it.

Instead, Dems should point to a better way of governance, a removal of corruption at the Capitol, and a better quality of life for the typical Wisconsinite. It'll have the extra benefit of being true, and sticking to the issues is the best chance for Dems to get the landslide in 2018 that is needed to begin the healing process from the Fitzwalkerstani Reign of Error.

Friday, November 24, 2017

FIBs head north, but Sconnies head further south in 2016.

One of the items I've been waiting for is to see how Wisconsin has been faring when it comes to gaining or losing talent, and just last week, the Census Bureau released their information on state-to-state migration for 2016.

Not surprisingly, states that border Wisconsin have the most number of people in this migration stat, along with the high-population warm-weather states that many retire to.

As you can see, Wisconsin gets twice as many people moving into the state from Illinois than we have going the other way, a net gain to the state of more than 15,700. Some of that Illinois stat makes sense just due to numbers - there are many more people within 60 miles of the Wisconsin-Illinois border in Illinois than in Wisconsin, not surprising that more would move here than the other way around. There is a lot of movement to and from Minnesota on both sides, with Minnesota gaining about 650 people last year. And then Wisconsin loses a lot of people to Florida and Arizona by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Overall, Wisconsin reversed the trend that we saw in 2015, as nearly 5,000 more people moved into the state than left it.

Obviously, the main reason for the positive net migration is because of Illinois, who accounted for over ¼ of all migrants to Wisconsin. In fact, the Census Bureau says Wisconsin only gained 1,000 or more people from 2 other states – Indiana and Idaho (!). Meanwhile, we lost over 10,000 combined to Florida and Arizona, likely indicating retirees, which makes me wonder if those individuals are being replaced in both the work force and in their communities.

The Census stats don’t dig deeper into the individuals that do move, and doesn't go down into the county level, so we don't know what parts of the state they are moving to. And as reader Jake H alluded to in a recent comment, this seems particularly important when looking at the migration of Illinois and Minnesota.

The answer to the “Illinois” question is particular intriguing in figuring out the impact on our economy and our politics (commuters to jobs in Chicago? Boomer retirees going up North to "escape" the FIBs' fiscal mess? "THOSE PEOPLE" heading into Wisconsin's larger cities?). Minnesota works the other way – some have hinted here that some of the sizable population growth in western Wisconsin is because the Michele Bachmann crowd sees the reddening Wisconsin as more suited to what they like (we’ll find out more in the upcoming State Senate election out there). By contrast, younger professionals may prefer opportunities and lifestyle in the Twin Cities over what we have in Wisconsin.

And the trend of Wisconsinites moving south and west for warmer weather and better jobs (both within the state and outside of it) may increase the population decline of a lot of areas that are already graying and hurting. Keep an eye on that as we see new population and jobs figures in the coming year.

And those demographic problems make it all the more vital to figure out what Wisconsin can do to encourage people to come into the state to replace those older individuals. Granted, it's cool that Wisconsin is now getting Portillo's, but I don't think relying on escapees from Illinois is a viable long-term economic strategy for a place with 5-month winters, especially if we don't gain much from the rest of the Midwest. Just sayin'.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

If Wisconsin's job growth is jumping, why are most metros losing jobs?

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday hit, we got a look at the Wisconsin local job and unemployment figures for October. I expected these numbers to be good throughout the state, given that we found out last week that Wisconsin allegedly gained 10,500 jobs in October.

But instead, as I dug into the numbers I found out that most metropolitan areas lost jobs last month. An obvious exception was Madison, which continues to set the pace for economic growth in Wisconsin, while the state's largest metro area continues to lag behind.

Seasonally adjusted job change Oct 2017
Milwaukee-WOW -2,400
Appleton -800
Eau Claire -600
Fond du Lac -600
Oshkosh-Neenah -500
Green Bay -400
Racine -300
Janesville -200
Wausau -200
Sheboygan -100
La Crosse +500
Madison +1,100

Rest of the state +15,000

Really? The metro areas lost a total of 4,500 jobs last month, but there were 15,000 new jobs in October for small-city and rural Wisconsin, (who account for barely more than ¼ of the state’s total jobs)? That doesn’t add up either way.

It’s also noteworthy that Madison has tripled up Milwaukee and pretty much any other metro area in the state over the last year. This time we'll go top to bottom, as most of the metro areas have some (usually small) amount of job growth.

Seasonally adjusted job change Oct 2016 - Oct 2017
Madison +6,800
Appleton +2,300
Janesville +2,200
Milwaukee-WOW +2,000
La Crosse +1,600
Racine +700
Wausau +400
Oshkosh-Neenah +300
Fond du Lac -300
Green Bay -600
Sheboygan -700
Eau Claire -1,400

Rest of state +29,100

Again, over 2/3 of the job growth in the last 12 months has been outside of Wisconsin metro areas, in a time when rural Wisconsin is stagnant or declining in population? Color me skeptical. It makes me very intrigued to see what happens when we see the "Gold Standard" Quarterly Census on Wages and Employment in a couple of weeks, as well as the benchmark revisions of jobs in March, because it seems like those figures might tell a very different story than Walker's Department of Workforce Development is giving these days.

And if any of the 5 regular readers are heading out to the small-town Wisconsin this weekend or any time soon, tell me if this "rural boom" is a statistical fluke (or worse), or if it's legit.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Again, the Trump/Ryan tax cuts will not pay for themselves.

One of the absurd canards that Paul Ryan and others in today’s GOP try to claim is that their tax cuts will “pay for themselves”, as huge increases in incomes and economic growth would make up for the loss of tax revenues that would otherwise happen, and won’t require spending cuts to keep the deficit from growing out of control.

The Tax Policy Center took a look at the tax plan that recently passed Ryan’s House of Representatives (a bill backed by all 5 Wisconsin Republicans in the House, by the way), and found that just like Ben Stein told us 30 years ago, this tax plan will not “pay for itself”.

Sure, the Tax Policy Center says that the House bill would boost the economy because of more disposable income being available. But that boost would be limited because the tax cuts are so heavily slanted toward the rich (who spend less of their incomes) and because the economy is already in a good place without any juice needed from tax cuts.
The legislation would increase aggregate demand, and therefore output, in two main ways. First, it would reduce average tax rates for most households over the first few years after enactment, increasing after-tax incomes. Households would spend some of that additional income, increasing demand for goods and services. These economic benefits would be modest because most tax reductions would accrue to high-income households, who spend a smaller share of any increases in after-tax income than lower-income households. Second, by allowing businesses to elect to immediately deduct (expense) new investment over the next five years, the legislation would encourage firms to increase their near-term investment, further increasing demand. The boost in demand would raise output relative to its potential level for several years until higher interest rates and prices cause output to return to its long-run potential level. Because the economy is near full employment, the impact of increased demand on output would be smaller and diminish more quickly than it would if the economy were currently in recession.
Another point by the TPC is that any help that comes to corporations due to this package would come into capital over actually paying workers, and that investment would likely go down in later years.
Largely because the plan would reduce the corporate income tax rate and temporarily allow businesses to expense investment, the legislation would increase the after-tax returns to saving and investment significantly. That would encourage saving, foreign capital inflows, and investment.

Although the legislation would increase incentives to save and invest, it would also substantially increase budget deficits unless offset by spending cuts. Higher deficits would push up interest rates, which would tend to discourage investment. Thus, while the plan would initially increase investment, we estimate that rising interest rates would eventually negate the incentive effects of lower tax rates on capital income and decrease investment below baseline levels in later years.
As a result, the TPC says that while GDP might be boosted by 0.6% in 2018 with this tax cut package, that increase fades quickly, and while overall we’d stay ahead over the next 10 years vs doing nothing, we’d actually be looking at lower growth starting in 2019.

And the TPC notes that this tepid stimulus would come nowhere near making up for the losses in revenue that would result. This means the federal budget deficit would increase by a total of $1.266 trillion by the end of 2027, even if we account for the added economic growth that would result from the tax cuts.

The Tax Policy Center's analysis doesn’t even account for a few items that likely will make this tax cut even worse for the typical American. The first is that because the rich and corporate are so preferred with this tax cut, that it would encourage even more profit hoarding and wage suppression than we see today, increasing the crippling inequality and stagnant incomes that have led a large amount of Americans to feel very little of the prosperity this country has allegedly had over the last 40 years in this country.

The next problem is that the tax package will likely depress home prices due to the larger standard deduction making it less likely that people will see tax benefits from owning a house (as mentioned in this post). Just go back to 2006-2008 and find out what happens when a bubbly housing market and stock market declines. That boost of 0.6% in GDP doesn’t mean much if the economy is in recession.

And the last item to be worried about is the second part of the “tax package two-step” that makes it especially harmful on poorer and working-class Americans. The higher deficits are likely to lead to calls to reduce spending to get the balance sheet in line, and Ryan and other GOPs in Congress are champing at the bit to use that as an excuse to cut benefits for Social Security and health care- programs that have kept tens of millions of older and lower-income Americans out of poverty for the last several decades.

Not only that, but cutting benefits and other governmental spending to “get the deficit in line” would reduce economic output, and counteract any (already-fading) added growth that the tax cuts might give in a few years. It also could lead to fiscal problems at the state and local level, since some of the cuts could be in the form of aids sent down to other levels of government.

But with Republicans, the economic calamity that might follow would be a feature and not a bug. It would allow for injury of vulnerable people that they otherwise couldn’t do in isolation, and would tie the hands of Democrats that will be forced to clean up from the mess the elephants cause.

God, I hate these vandals. This tax scam and the GOPs backing this voodoo need to go down in flames, along with the oligarch slime that are the only ones that seem to be in favor of this failed regressive garbage.

Walker and rest of GOP doesn't want fair elections - harder to win that way

You may have noticed that the Wisconsin Elections Commission has been sending messages to Governor Walker’s administration and other Wisconsinites that they need more assistance in securing the state’s elections system after Russian interests tried to hack them last year.

That effort continued yesterday as the bipartisan Commission unanimously agreed to request additional staff to improve security before the voters to go to the polls to choose a new Supreme Court justice in the Spring, and vote for Senator and Governor in the Fall.
The commission approved a request for three additional workers at its Monday meeting in Madison. The agency is writing a new elections security plan to put in place for the 2018 elections.

Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas said if they don't get the employees, they'll only be able to implement parts of the plan.

"We thought three was the minimum we needed to be confident in ourselves that we are putting in place all the best practices that are out there," Haas said….

Gov. Scott Walker cut five new positions for the commission in the 2017-2019 state budget with his veto pen (and the Wisconsin GOP-run Legislature refused to vote to override this veto). He said the commission could function with temporary or contract employees to fill any gaps, but Haas said that can be problematic.

Haas said a 28 percent reduction in staff since 2015 has weakened the ability of elections workers to address voter safety and eroded fulfilling all other state and federal law requirements.
By itself, you may think that this is simply Scott Walker being incompetent and caring too much about having money available for political talking points and WEDC favors over making sure our state’s elections are secure. But then take a look at this interview from Mother Jones over the weekend, and the reasons become a lot darker.
Republican efforts to make it harder to vote—through measures such as voter ID laws, shortened early voting periods, and new obstacles to registration—likewise “contributed to the outcome,” [Hillary] Clinton said. These moves received far less attention than Russian interference but arguably had a more demonstrable impact on the election result. According to an MIT study, more than 1 million people did not vote in 2016 because they encountered problems registering or at the polls. Clinton lost the election by a total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

“In a couple of places, most notably Wisconsin, I think it had a dramatic impact on the outcome,” Clinton said of voter suppression.

Wisconsin’s new voter ID law required a Wisconsin driver’s license or one of several other types of ID to cast a ballot. It blocked or deterred up to 23,000 people from voting in reliably Democratic Milwaukee and Madison, and potentially 45,000 people statewide, according to a University of Wisconsin study. Clinton lost the state by fewer than 23,000 votes. African Americans, who overwhelmingly supported Clinton, were more than three times as likely as whites not to vote because of the law.

“It seems likely that it cost me the election [in Wisconsin] because of the tens of thousands of people who were turned away and the margin being so small,” Clinton said.
And guess who actively backed and then signed those voter suppression laws in Wisconsin? SCOTT WALKER. As I’ve posited before, there is no question that smaller turnouts in key Dem cities were a big reason behind Trump’s surprising win here, and regardless of whether that’s a direct effect of Walker/WisGOP voter suppression or indifference toward Clinton, the GOP were certainly happy with the results.

That graph gives the game away to me when it comes to why Walker won't add the tiny investment to help guarantee fair elections. Walker doesn’t want Wisconsin’s elections to function properly in 2018, because that chaos and rigging helps him and other Republicans win. This is a guy who is the personification of a Republican Party that doesn’t believe in any concept of “public good”, and believe the best use of government is as a means to grab more money and more power.

Frankly, Democrats haven’t done nearly enough to call this Banana Republicanism out and directly go after it. The Obama Administration and Clinton campaign didn’t actively fight Walker-style voter suppression in ALEC states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania before the 2016 election, likely out of arrogance that Clinton would win and therefore there wasn’t a need to “rock the boat”. How did that work out for us?

Brian Beutler points this out today in an article titled “Grappling With a Legitimacy Crisis”. Beutler argues that ignoring that Donald Trump was AT THE VERY LEAST elected with the help of foreign propagandists and suppressed votes in key states, and that it likely affected Senate and state races as well (hi, Ron Johnson!), is to ignore that American democracy is in big trouble.
But comparably few prominent public figures are willing to suggest Russian interference changed the outcome of the election. Some are reluctant because they don’t want to look like sore losers. Others are reluctant because it implicates their own conduct. Yet more will refuse because nothing less than the legitimacy of the president is at stake.

This explains the credulous and dissonant spectacle of platform monopoly executives, who boast endlessly of the revolutionary power of their products, but now downplay the political impact of the foreign propaganda content that thrived on their networks last year.

It explains why CIA Director Mike Pompeo contradicted the intelligence community (which understand how counterfactuals work) to declare that Russian meddling didn’t sway the U.S. election result, and why the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee began a hearing on Russian social media agitprop with special pleading on Trump’s behalf.

If the U.S. citizenry were immune to foreign propaganda, there’d be no need to conduct any oversight. The implication of the hearing, and of the multiple Russia investigations, is that foreign propaganda can sway voting decisions. But once you acknowledge that, you have to contend with the possibility that foreign propaganda might be capable of swaying enough decisions to tip a close election—and elections don’t generally come closer than the election Trump won. Running away from that inescapable logic sends a clear signal to future saboteurs that American institutions are too paralyzed and self-interested to protect their own elections, which will thus be vulnerable to future meddling and a massive crisis of faith.
Then again, a lack of faith in government and an acceptance of corrupt Banana Republicanism is exactly what slime like Donald Trump and Scott Walker want, so that situation becomes a win for them.

To go along with Beutler’s point, I am having a hard time figuring out an appropriate response to the fact that that we may be in a state and a country with an illegitimate government, elected in no small part through propaganda and election-rigging. And if that illegitimacy cannot be rectified by the constitutional channels of government oversight, voting and impeachment, then the next option becomes a lot worse – and a lot more destructive to many of us.

Let’s not have it come to that, and start to get this cleaned over the next 12 months, shall we?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pre-election spending increases don't make up for failure of Walker's austerity

The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) released their annual State Expenditure Report last week. If you dig inside the numbers, you can see how Scott Walker’s attempt to use his 2015-17 budget as a prelude to a presidenctial so badly shortchanged the state, and how the lack of investment slammed job growth to a near-halt.

The NASBO report says that Wisconsin was only 1 of 8 states that spent less money in Fiscal Year 2016 than Fiscal Year 2015. Wisconsin wasn’t hit with the oil bust like many of these other states were, which means we fell into the other common category behind spending cuts in that year - bad leadership.

States with less spending in FY 2016
Alaska -25.3% (oil bust)
Ill. -16.3% (delayed payments due to bad leadership)
N. Dakota -5.9% (oil bust)
N.J -0.9% (Chris Christie credit downgrades)
Wis. -0.8% (bad leadership)
Mississippi -0.3% (it’s Mississippi)
Oregon -0.2% (“other state funds” had a one-year decline)
Louisiana (-0.1%, Bobby Jindal’s bad leadership AND oil bust)

It’s even worse when you focus in on the actual spending on K-12 education for 2015-16. Wisconsin was number 2 in the nation for cuts in spending and 1 of only 6 states to cut in this category.

States with less K-12 spending 2015-16
Cal. -3.3%
Wis. -2.7%
Okla. -2.6%
Kansas -2.3%
W. Va. -2.0%
Va. -0.8%
Alaska -0.5%

The California part is interesting, although I am not sure where that comes from. I do know this, when you’re cutting K-12 education more than Oklahoma, Kansas, and West Virginia, that is a BAD sign.

Also noteworthy is that Wisconsin didn’t come back with much more spending for Fiscal Year 2017, with only oil states, Colorado and West Virginia being lower on the list for the 2015-17 biennium. And no Midweste111rn state had a smaller increase in Wisconsin, including Illinois (which paid back some of their past-due bills in FY 2017)

Total spending change in FY 2017 vs FY 2015
Alaska -24.9%
N. Dakota -8.8%
Wyo. -1.5%
Col. -1.4%
W. Va. +0.4%
Wis. +2.0%
Conn. +2.1%
Ver. +2.3%

Any coincidence that Wisconsin’s job growth noticeably declined compared to the headier days of 2013-2015?

Even more remarkable is that most of Wisconsin’s spending increase in 2015-17 is concentrated in one area – Medicaid. NASBO says that of Wisconsin’s $909 million increase in total spending over those two years, $631 million of it was concentrated in Medicaid, which means spending for everything else in the state went up by less than 0.75% for those two years. That’s way below the rate of inflation for that time period, and it’s no coincidence that the state’s pothole problems and new wheel taxes and local sales taxes multiplied in those years.

Those spending reductions and the bad results that followed is what made the actions of the 2017-19 budget all the more notable. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance noted this reversal of previous austerity policies by noting that the current budget increased General Fund spending by the largest amount since Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP came to power in 2011.
Planned spending in the recently enacted 2017-19 state budget departs from recent pat­terns in two important ways. First, general fund expenditures rise 8.8% over the two years, the largest biennial increase since 2009-11 (12.1%). Second, much of the increase is for school aid, which has grown less in recent years. K-12 aid will grow 8.3% over two years, the largest biennial jump since 2005-07 (9.0%)….

The state’s largest expenditure is for K-12 school aid, which grows significantly over the next two years. School aids are rising 3.4% ($187.4 million) this year and 4.7% ($264.3 million) in 2019 to $5.9 billion. School aids rose 5.6% and 3.9%, respectively, during the prior two biennia. Nearly all of the additional dollars are directed into a relatively new “per pupil” aid, rather than into the much larger equalization aid formula; this is a major shift in school funding.

Two other areas claim the bulk of remaining new spending. The budget uses income and sales taxes to reduce property taxes. It eliminates the state levy for forestry programs ($90 million annually) and the personal property tax on machinery, tools, and parts ($74 million); increases the school levy credit by $87 million per year, and raises the lottery credit by shifting $48 million of general fund taxes to pay lottery expenses.
But at the same time, some areas still were subjected to cutbacks in the latest budget, particularly when it came to state highway and high-cost bridge spending, which was cut by a total of $245 million for 2017-19. Yes, some of that was made up by increased local aids to streets (and you can argue that this is a better allocation of resources), but the needs on the state’s main highways will be worse in 2019, and require more costs, taxes and borrowing.

But again, those cutbacks in highway spending (done in a desperate attempt to stay on the good side of RW oligarchs by not raising taxes) make the Scott Walker/WisGOP Christmas Tree budget of 2017-19 all the more striking. It’s basically an admission the austerity gimmicks of that budget did not work either economically or politically.

So no Scotty, you don’t get to turn around and take credit for “extra investments” when your previously failed strategy set the state back. Instead, you must be held accountable for the screw-ups that you caused by deciding to value donors and right-wing oligarchs over the people of Wisconsin that PAY YOUR SALARY.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

11-0! Fun times in the Mad City

That was a lot of fun to watch yesterday. Yeah, it made for a long Saturday due to the 11am kick, but that's a mere trifle when Bucky comes through like that. And by the time UW had taken a 21-10 lead after 3, the Camp was rocking.

It's been an enjoyable ride, and the last 2 games in particular have been very gratifying (it's fun to watch a team physcially dominate like UW does). And THEY'RE NOT DONE YET.

The Budget Guy on GOP tax deform - "The End of All Economic Sanity"

As the debate over taxes continues in DC, one of the must-follow writers on the topic is Stan Collender of Forbes - aka TheBudgetGuy on Twitter. And what he wrote this weekend is especially relevant to figuring out where things stand on the tax issue.

While his approach is more fiscally conservative than I prefer, Collender is a must-read when it comes to understanding the Federal Budget and the many different proposals being floated around under the guise of "tax reform." Collender has constantly criticized the Trump/Ryan efforts to give a large tax cut to the rich and to corporations, and his most recent column proclaims "GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington."
There's no economic justification whatsoever for a tax cut at this time. U.S. GDP is growing, unemployment is close to 4 percent (below what is commonly considered "full employment"), corporate profits are at record levels and stock markets are soaring. It makes no sense to add any federal government-induced stimulus to all this private sector-caused economic activity, let alone a tax cut as big as this one.

This is actually the ideal time for Washington to be doing the opposite. But by damning the economic torpedoes and moving full-speed ahead, House and Senate Republicans and the Trump White House are setting up the U.S. for the modern-day analog of the inflation-producing guns-and-butter economic policy of the Vietnam era. The GOP tax bill will increase the federal deficit by $2 trillion or more over the next decade (the official estimates of $1.5 trillion hide the real amount with a witches brew of gimmicks and outright lies) that, unless all the rules have changed, is virtually certain to result in inflation and much higher interest rates than would otherwise occur.
Not sure I buy Collender's inflation argument too much, because unlike 50 years ago, the average worker isn't getting pay raises that match the increases in the deficit or other assets.

But I agree that it is absurd to have a major tax cut package for the rich in a time of full employment and a Bubbly stock market. I'd go further than Collender, and say a deficit-increasing tax cut would make the situation in the 2010s and 2020s worse than what we saw in the 1960s and '70s, because the only thing it'll inflate are assets like housing and gasoline. Those needs become less affordable for the average person until the asset bubbles inevitably pop - which is exactly what we saw with the 2006-2008 US economy and the resulting Great Recession that some parts of this country still haven't recovered from.

Collender adds that passing this deficit-busting tax package would lead to a structural deficit of $1 trillion, which goes along with the projections the Congressional Budget Office gave to the House GOP's bill earlier this month.

And Collender points out that those numbers grow higher into massive fiscal problems once that Bubble does pop and the economy falls into recession.
The tax hikes that will be needed to resolve the structural imbalance between federal spending and revenues will be impossible for political reasons.

Whenever the U.S. economy grows more slowly than expected or there's a downturn, an annual deficit of $2 trillion could easily become the norm.

The federal government will have far less ability to respond to economic downturns unless previously unimaginable and politically intolerable deficits, tax increases or spending cuts suddenly become acceptable.
And guess where spending cuts would have to come from? Medicare, health care, and Social Security, which is just what Paul Ryan is counting on.

As if you needed more reasons to punch this face.

And on top of that, let's not forget that the Joint Committee on Taxation said this week that the Senate bill would raise taxes on low-income workers 3 years after the tax bill takes effect. And then EVERYONE would see their taxes go up in 2027, as part of a budget trick designed to allow the tax scam to pass with 50 votes in the Senate.

There is no honest justification for the type of "tax reform" that the GOP is trying to shove through Congress (and all 5 House GOPs from Wisconsin voted for this crap last week)). But of course, this has nothing to do with good tax policy.

And yet these guys being paid with OUR tax dollars to only do the bidding of those oligarchs at the literal expense of the rest of us? They gotta go.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

UW merger may be on, but it's still not being done right

Now that the merger of the UW System's 2-year campuses with several of its 4-year campuses has been approved by the UW Board of Regents, the hard work of implementing the change will happen over the coming months and years. Faculty and staff were largely locked out of that merger decision, and that is something that former Regent and Assembly Speaker Tom Loftus contrasted with what was done 30 years ago.

In an open letter to UW System President Ray Cross, Loftus describes a listening tour that he and then-Gov Tommy Thompson took to discuss the best way to sort out some of the issues that remained from the prior merger of UW-Madison with the Wisconsin State System. Loftus says those listening sessions (which actually involved listening to and dealing with the public, unlike the hand-picked charade of friendly audiences that our current Governor does) led to new ideas and better solutions.
The result was that we came back to the Assembly and put forward a series of proposals that represented a distillation of what we had learned. And, we learned a lot. The proposals we put forward were quite different than what we thought we would do before our listening marathon.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, “there was more in heaven and earth than thought of in our philosophy.”

We sold the package to the Republicans and the Democrats; and the Governor; and Madison and the four year campuses; and, the faculty and students. What passed was a consensus that still governs much of how the System operates today…

I ask you to take back the role of speaking to the public, after you listen to your constituents.

As an early and public advocate of yours it pained me to see the actions that lead to a faculty vote of no-confidence in your leadership. Use the listening tour to show that they were heard and you came to town to listen.
If you read between the lines of Loftus letter, you can tell that he’s dismayed at the top-down and secretive manner in which Cross and the Walker-stacked Board of Regents are trying to pull off this merger. And that such a method of decision-making will doom the merger to not working out as well as it should.

But that's the suboptimal way Cross and the rest of the pro-Walker crew at the Board of Regents do things. Let me direct you to an excellent column from former UW professors William Holahan and Charles Kroncke that starts off with good news. UW-Milwaukee just recently joined UW-Madison as an “R-1” top-tier research institution, and that UWM produces a sizable amount of Wisconsin’s highly-educated work force, as 80% of its graduates stay in Wisconsin. Holahan and Kroncke also note that Milwaukee’s business community frequently relies on UWM innovation and research to improve their products and service delivery.

But despite UW-Milwaukee gaining prestige and value for the state, 7 years of budget cuts and anti-intellectual mentality from Governor Dropout and his lackeys in the Legislature and the Board of Regents is taking its toll. The professors note that talented academics are leaving UWM and going to places where their talents will be better appreciated.
Since 2010, the number of tenured and tenure-track professors in the physics department is down 24% (from 26 to 19). The story is the same in biological science—from 38 down to 26. The economics department has lost 26 % of its faculty; educational psychology 48%; history 27%. One measure of the quality lost is to look at where they have all gone: UCLA, Minnesota, Tufts, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Ohio State and Duke. Not a single program has been immune. All university stakeholders—students, parents, donors, business collaborators, alumni—should be alarmed.
Holahan and Kroncke also point to the arrogant mentality in how Walker and his hand-picked Regents administer the state’s 4-year schools, and how these right-wing “business-oriented” people have no clue about the product that comes out of academia, or how that product is made.
In most instances, the regents are successful members of the Wisconsin business and legal communities. They are far more likely to be attuned to the nuances of business organizations than to those of academic institutions. Authority in most business organizations tends to be top-down, with those at the top taking risks with their own time and money, thereby earning the right to direct employees.

Accordingly, the regents have a hard time understanding why faculty cannot be managed by university administrators. They envision faculty as “employees” and “subordinates” to administrators—even though most of those “bosses” have no understanding of what those faculty do in their research or in the classroom. The reason is that, in universities, professors normally know far more about their work than administrators. Consequently, the true job of a university administrator is to facilitate the work of the faculty, not try to lead it.

Moreover, evaluation of faculty research work relies on “peer review”—the rigorous process conducted by scholars throughout the world qualified to judge the research output of university professors. The top-down authoritarian business model being implemented at the UW system will disrupt this natural relationship between faculty, administration and the international community of scholars.

Disruption can be great for society, especially when new products or processes are introduced into the marketplace to supplant less efficient ones, but this new alternative “business” model will not advance teaching or research at the university, rather it will retard growth and stifle creativity and innovation—the very life blood of our economy and economic wellbeing [-the] essence of the contribution that the university makes to society.

And then we wonder why this state continues to stagnate and have talent flee under the ALEC crew? These mediocre corporate front men and women either do not know or do not care that they are strangling the success of the UW System, and damaging the state’s economic competitiveness as a result.

Just a thought, but when it comes to higher education we should listen less to Wisconsin’s failing, regressive business community and more to the faculty and students that are still succeeding at the UW despite the ALEC crew’s attempts to mess it up. But that’ll only come with new leadership at the top, starting in the Governor’s office, and trickling down to the Board of Regents and the Legislature.