Saturday, June 30, 2018

Koched-up Kudlow living in trickle-down FantasyLand

In between every other disgrace coming out of this administration, there was this bit of garbage yesterday from Donald Trump's top economic adviser.

"Growth solves a lot of problems." Except that it's never grown us out of borrow-and-spend GOP deficits. Didn't happen in the '80s under Kudlow's beloved Ronald Reagan - it's why we had to do "Tax reform" in 1986, because the deficit had ballooned despite the rebound in the US economy.. But notice when we did balance the budget with growth - under the Clinton years, which had higher tax rates on the rich.

And the Bush tax cuts of the 2000s never got us back to $0. Yes, the Bubble-fueled growth of the mid-2000s cut $252 billion out of a $412 billion deficit, but look what happened once that Bubble burst. Again, it took a Democratic president to start to dig us out of the hole.

But let's humor the former coke addict, and see what's happening today. Let's go back to the CBO's projections from a couple of months ago, and compare it to Kudlow's statements. What's noteworthy is that the Congressional Budget Office is already counting on sizable GDP growth in the next 2 years.

CBO projections, real GDP growth
2018 +3.0%
2019 +2.9%

Given the 2.0% final figure for Q1 2018 that came out this week, that means the CBO is counting on 3.3% growth for the rest of this year. And even with that strong projected growth, the CBO says the US budget deficit will rise in each of the next 5 years, hitting $1.27 trillion by 2022.

And do you think Faux Business said anything to Kudlow's face calling hin out for peddling this disproven garbage? OF COURSE NOT. And you wonder why 35% of this country remains in a Bubble of misinformation?

Given that spending isn't picking up after the tax cuts took effect and that real wage growth is already at 0%, that "3% growth" estimate for the next 2 years seem like very generous estimates. If so, this projected deficit number will go higher.

There is no way to balance the budget with "tremendous growth" at this point, and that's especially true given that Boomers like Larry Judlow aren't being replaced by young people and immigrants (a hidden factor behind Reagan's and Clinton's great growth - demos were on their side).

If you truly want to balance the budget (which is debatable in itself, given that the economic damage might not make it worth it), the only ways it can be done is by taxing the rich and corporate, or cutting the daylights out of Social Security and health care programs. (Wait, you could cut the military......HAHAHAHAHA!!! Just kidding!)

But then again, there will always be plenty of Koch/GOP welfare out there to give people like Larry Kudlow a large paycheck, and continuing to claim that tax cuts for the rich will trickle down into great economic growth that lifts all of us (NOPE) and keep us fiscally stable (HELL NO). So people like me have to keep reminding you and others of the reality.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Housing Bubble, low wages, and low savings is making it feel like mid-2000s all over again

I've been getting a lot of flashbacks to George W. Bush's second term, and not just because our GOP-run federal government is acting disgracefully toward brown people and compromising America's values in the process.

The real reason is what I'm seeing in the economy. Housing prices have continued to rise at levels well above the increases in income, meaning that housing affordability in the US is now at its lowest levels in nearly 10 years.
In the first quarter [of 2018], affordability as measured by the average share of income needed to buy a median-priced house was at its worst since the third quarter of 2008, according to Attom Data Solutions. The firm's affordability index fell to 95, the lowest since it read at 86 nearly a decade ago.

This was not just because home prices were too high. In fact, the rate of appreciation slowed in the first quarter, according to Attom.

What really tipped the scale was the rise in mortgage rates, said Daren Blomquist, the senior vice president at Attom, in a report. Mortgage rates hit their highest level in seven years last month, and the national average 30-year fixed rate is now above 4.4%, according to A year ago, it was 3.8%.

And so, mortgage rates are up along with prices. Wages are rising, too, but not yet quickly enough to move the needle on affordability.

"Home-price appreciation continued to outpace wage growth, speeding up the affordability treadmill for prospective homebuyers even without the rise in mortgage rates," Blomquist said.
That mediocre wage growth combined with higher home prices and long-term interest rates are combining for what appears to be a minor downturn for the volume of home sales in the near future.
Homebuyers are pulling away from this summer’s expensive and competitive housing market, even as interest rates settle. Total mortgage application volume fell 4.9 percent, seasonally adjusted, last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. There were 12 percent fewer applications compared with the same week one year ago.

Applications for mortgages to purchase a home led the decline, falling 6 percent for the week. More new listings are coming on the market this summer, but buyers are bumping up against high prices and multiple offers. Cash buyers often have the upper hand, as sellers would rather not deal with appraisals that might not meet those higher prices.

If June is anything like May, demand is still high, but sales will be lower. A monthly demand index from real estate brokerage Redfin found the same number of people were requesting home tours in May as in April, but the number of buyers making offers fell 16.7 percent year over year.

"People listing their homes for sale in higher numbers this April and May is good news for buyers, and good news for home sales," said Redfin's head of analytics, Pete Ziemkiewicz. "But it's still not enough to satisfy buyer demand, which means price increases will likely continue."
And the problem of less-affordable housing is being compounded by the fact that other types of debt are also eating into Americans’ wealth. On a dollar amount, it’s higher than it was when the economy crashed in 2008, although the gains during the Obama Recovery have blunted some of this burden.
By the end of the second quarter, LendingTree is forecasting total mortgage and consumer debt to reach $15.7 trillion compared with $14.7 trillion 10 years ago. During the past decade, credit card debt, student loans and car loans have increased 45% and are set to hit $4 trillion by December. Mortgage balances currently make up about 68% of disposable income, while credit card balances are under 7% of income. In 2008, mortgage balances were as high as 98%, while credit card balances accounted for 10% of income. Millennials, noted LendingTree, are underrepresented in the homeownership rates. "Homeowners today, on average, have significant equity in their homes," said LendingTree in the report. "Ten years ago, equity was virtually nonexistent."

While mortgages aren't as much of a burden on homeowners as they were during the housing crash, the burden is still increasing thanks to rising mortgage rates and growing property values. According to research from online real estate company Zillow, during the first three months of the year, monthly mortgage payments accounted for 1% of the median income. The last time the mortgage burden was that high was in the second quarter of 2009.

Zillow found that the share of income needed to cover the monthly mortgage payment increased to 17.1% in the first quarter of 2018, which is up 1.2 percentage points from 15.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017. It remains below the historical average of 21.1% from 1985 through 2000. What's more, mortgage payments haven't accounted for that percentage of income since the second quarter of 2009, when mortgages were 17.5% of median income. Zillow noted that mortgages were becoming more affordable back then as home prices and interest rates were declining owing to the recession. The share of income that went toward a monthly mortgage payment hit a peak of 25.4% in 2006 amid the real estate bubble, noted Zillow.
“But Jake, the economy’s doing great and should expand by 4.5% 3.8 for this quarter.” True, it also went up by 4.9% in the first three months of 2006, as the Bubble was reaching its peak, and even rose more than 3% in Q2 2007, before things caved in.

And even though unemployment is at a low 3.8%, wages aren’t rising as you’d think they would in a tight labor market. But you know what is rising? Prices, to the point that we have no real wage growth in this country these days.

There was more evidence that perhaps American consumers are slowing their spendthrift ways today, as May's income and spending report said that there was no increase in Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) last month, when adjusted for inflation. That led the US savings rate to rise for the first time in 3 months to 3.2% for May. However, that level is still well below the 6% range that it was in until 2 years ago, and that 3.2% is still down at levels we saw in the Bubblicious mid-2000s.

Interestingly, while we had a jump in long-term interest rates in the first few months of the year, that’s reversed a bit in the past few weeks, with the 10-year Treasury note shedding about 25 basis points from its peak of 3.1% in mid-May. That’s nice if you’re looking to borrow for a house, but it also has happened at a time when the Federal Reserve has been consistently raising short term rates, to the point that the 2-year note is fetching more than 2.5%, not far below the 10-year rate.

And that convergence has been a consistent sign on Wall Street that the economy is likely to hit a downturn in the near future, as Matt Phillips of the New York Times noted earlier this week.
The gap between two-year and 10-year United States Treasury notes is roughly 0.34 percentage points (now less than 0.32%, as of today's close). It was last at these levels in 2007 when the United States economy was heading into what was arguably the worst recession in almost 80 years.

As scary as references to the financial crisis sound, flattening alone does not mean that the United States is doomed to slip into another recession. But if it keeps moving in this direction, eventually long-term interest rates will fall below short-term rates.

When that happens, the yield curve has “inverted.” An inversion is seen as “a powerful signal of recessions,” as the president of the New York Fed, John Williams, said this year, and that’s what everyone is watching for.

Every recession of the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve, according to research from the San Francisco Fed. Curve inversions have “correctly signaled all nine recessions since 1955 and had only one false positive, in the mid-1960s, when an inversion was followed by an economic slowdown but not an official recession,” the bank’s researchers wrote in March.
UW’s Menzie Chinn had a similar observation last month in Econbrowser, and included the following chart of the last 35 years.

I’m not saying things are going to be near as catastrophic as the Great Recession that followed. But as the Obama Recovery hits its 9th year this month, the stagnating housing market, low savings, no real wage growth and bad Wall Street signals show there’s not much left to keep it going for long.

Yep, a whole lot of things sure seem like 2006 these days, and not just because it’s shaping up to be a big year for out-of-power Democrats in this November’s elections. I just hope the quality of music in this country picks up to that 2006 level.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

As groundbreaks, Foxconn digs Wisconsin into a deeper hole of dollars and corruption

You may have heard that our president, our governor, and the Speaker of the House was in our state for the official groundbreaking at Foxconn today.

And as these scumbuckets in suits put their feet on the shovels, we found out that this boondoggle is even more of a fraudulent scam. This was summed up well by Assembly Dem Leader Gordon Hintz, who wrote a column on Foxconn ahead of Donald Trump's appearance, and drew attention to the shifting reasons and sketchy details behind the Fox-con.

First of all, Rep. Hintz notes that there will be nowhere near the $10 billion investment that was promised by the foreign company, with fewer “indirect” jobs than the Fox-con package was based on, and a different product than the large screen displays that Foxconn claimed it would make.
The problem is the facility Foxconn is now building only requires a $2 billion to $3 billion investment and does not require a local supply chain, according to industry experts. Smaller screens don’t just mean a different project scope, they mean fewer jobs than the number promised when the state incentive package was passed

The change in Foxconn's plans comes “as global panel makers face a glut of TV displays that likely will last for years,” according to the Nikkei Asian Review, a 140-year-old publication that covers Asian economics, industries and markets.
9 months after the Fox-con was passed into law, Hintz points out that we still don’t know much about what state taxpayers is giving away billions for. And with each bit of Foxconn news that does come out, the parameters change, and it looks like an even bigger scam on the public.
A deal of this magnitude, one involving handing billions of dollars in state taxpayer money to a privately owned company, requires transparency and accountability. Yet neither Foxconn nor the Walker administration have been straightforward about this ever-changing project.

The project that was awarded to Wisconsin, approved by the Legislature and signed into contract by WEDC has fundamentally changed in ways that impact the project cost, investment, employment and tax subsidy. Yet very little has been shared with the public about the impacts of these changes.

And despite the repeated pledges by Foxconn to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, last week the chairman of Foxconn, Terry Gou, said the company plans to replace 80 percent of workers with robots in the next 5 to 10 years. What will this mean for the workforce demands at Foxconn moving forward?
Related to the last part that Rep. Hintz brings up, this little detail seemed a bit ominous.

But wait, Foxconn claims the smaller first factory is only the beginning!
The firm, however, has said “categorically” that it remains committed to investing the full $10 billion in what it has named the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park, and to creating 13,000 Wisconsin jobs with an average $53,875.

In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it still plans to build the larger type of factory in a second phase of its project, along with "other next-generation manufacturing facilities."…

In its statement, Foxconn said it has always planned a phased approach of construction "to ensure that we continue to meet current and projected demand for advanced LCD panels and the other technologies and products that will be the focus of that campus."Foxconn says it could build the larger type of factory in a second phase of its project. The company has ample land available for such construction.
Riiiight. Because THIS TIME, Foxconn is telling you the straight story, and these plans won’t “change” either. Maybe if you were Governor Dropout, you’d be dumb enough to beLIEve them, but I’m not a college dropout nor am I lifetime grifter/politician, so I don’t.

Some of the lack of transparency Rep. Hintz references relates to the contracts which Foxconn has been handing out to build the facility. These no-bid deals have included a sizable number of Walker and WisGOP donors, including general contractor Gilbane’s $359,000 to Walker’s campaigns over the years, and Walker donors are also in on the latest round of $14 million in contracts that were just announced this week.

(In fairness, the many Illinoisians that end up working at Foxconn will be familiar with the pay-to-play kickbacks, and impressed by the dollars being sent to donors. Maybe that’s the “new level” Walker and WisGOP hacks keep talking about with the Fox-con).

Another concern is that taxpayers will still be on the hook for the near-full amount of the billions in expenses for the Fox-con, even if they don’t hire the 13,000 individuals at the site that they claimed they would. Let’s go back to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s final summary of the Foxconn bill, and note this part.
Under the Act, "state payroll" means the amount of payroll apportioned to this state, as determined under the old corporate apportionment statutes. "Zone payroll" means the amount of state payroll that is attributable to wages paid by the claimant to full-time employees for services that are performed in the zone or that are performed outside the zone, but within the state, and for the benefit of the operations within the zone, as determined by WEDC. "Zone payroll" does not include the amount of wages paid to any full-time employees that exceeds $100,000. A "fulltime employee" means an individual who is employed in a job for which the annual pay is at least $30,000 and who is offered retirement, health, and other benefits offered to an individual who is required to work at least 2,080 hours per year.
So a few thousand high-priced engineers overseeing the robots could give Foxconn as much of a taxpayer-funded handout as 13,000 line workers. But you know what won’t be scaled down even if fewer people work at a smaller Foxconn plant? The $386 million in state tax dollars earmarked to upgrade the highways around Foxconn, along with the hundreds of millions of dollars in local tax subsidies and infrastructure improvements to serve Foxconn.

And the amount of salaries paid by Foxconn “as determined by WEDC” shouldn’t make you feel confident at all, because WEDC was spending all day making tweets like this on its taxpayer-funded account.

If the people of this state are stupid enough to keep Scott Walker and his lackeys at WEDC in power after November, do you think WEDC will do any kind of follow-up to verify Foxconn’s claims of employment and wages before giving them 17% of that money back in tax dollars? HELL NO! They’d probably go public and portray the inflated total as fact before Foxconn does!

As I’ve said before, the best thing that could happen for this state’s fiscal stability and future economic competitiveness is that today’s stunt is the last thing Foxconn does in the state, and that they leave ASAP. I don’t see that happening, unfortunately, because just like Republicans in DC, Scott Walker and the rest of the Wisconsin GOP will try to hurry the Foxconn development as much as they can before the November elections.

After all, the Fox-con has already set precedent in throwing out environmental rules for a designated site, and it enables GOPs to throw out so much money on this development in Fiscal Year 2019 that it’ll hamstring the Dems who will have to clean up the mess that will be left behind. And no matter how the paid-off media and GOP hacks like Scott Walker might try to portray it, the Foxconn seems like a grift and a boondoggle that becomes a bigger albatross for Wisconsin by the day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Milwaukee falling behind, and rural Wisconsin losing jobs over the last 12 months

After a couple of horrible statewide jobs reports in Wisconsin the last two months, I wanted to see how our cities and other communities were shaping up. We got a look at that from the local and metro area jobs and unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today.

The best comparison in this report is to use the 12-month change in jobs, since it only tracks raw, non-seasonally adjusted numbers. And by that standard, Milwaukee trails all mid-size metropolitan areas in the Midwest when it comes to job growth.

Job growth, May 2017- May 2018
Minneapolis-St. Paul +29,000
Indianapolis +18,500
Detroit +17,200
Kansas City +16,000
Cleveland +13,900
St. Louis +12,300
Cincinnati +11,900
Columbus, Ohio +11,700
Milwaukee +6,700

And yet, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and their pathetic front man Tim Sheehy continue to be unquestioning supporters of Scott Walker and the WisGOP policies that keep us behind.

Even with that flagging record in Milwaukee, what jumps out when breaking down Wisconsin’s jobs number to the metro level is how heavily concentrated job growth has been in the 2 largest markets in Wisconsin over the last 12 months. Put together, over 61% of the state’s job growth was in the Madison and Milwaukee areas.

Job growth, May 2017- May 2018
Milwaukee metro +6,700
Madison metro +4,500

That stat illustrates just how bad it's been throughout the state, but including the smaller metro areas in Wisconsin pinpoints the problem. Along with Milwaukee and Madison areas, Wisconsin's metro areas accounted for a little less than ¾ of the state’s jobs in May 2018, but had metro areas had 117% of the state’s job growth.

How did they get 117%? Because the rest of the state has LOST jobs over the last 12 months.

Job growth, May 2017- May 2018
Milwaukee metro +6,700
Madison metro +4,500
All other metros +10,300

So not only is Wisconsin trailing all of our neighbors for job growth over the last 12 months, but rural “Trump/Walker country” is getting the worst of it. And how is it going to get better in small-town Wisconsin with agriculture getting hammered with falling dairy and soybean prices to go along with rural schools continuing to be underfunded and closing throughout the state?

While rural Wisconsin is losing jobs and dying, Governor Dropout is choosing to attend a photo op tomorrow with President Trump on a Fox-con that’s diverting even more jobs and resources from these declining areas now and in the coming years, and literally running people off of their land.

Do you wonder we’re losing in every corner of this state with these economically foolish oligarchs and their GOP puppets in charge?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another way Trump tariffs hurt WIsconsin - cheese prices are collapsing

In addition to the news about Harley-Davidson moving some jobs to Europe, another significant Wisconsin industry is feeling the hurt from Donald Trump's trade policies - dairy farming. Things were already tough in the state, as evidenced by Western Wisconsin leading the nation in farm bankruptcies for 2017.

And then Trump proposed his tariffs, which led countries like Canada and Mexico to retaliate by putting duties on dairy products coming from the States. Ana Swanson of the New York Times recently came to our state and looked into the effect of those countermeasures other counties were throwing onto Wisconsin dairy products. In the article, the head of Sartori Company noted that not being able to sell products in other countries means that there is likely to be a surplus of cheese in America as a result, which could lead to a repeat of stuff you heard about in the days of the Great Depression.
“If export markets get shut off, I could see us getting to the point where we’re dumping our milk in the fields,” said Jeff Schwager, the president of Sartori Company, which has produced cheese in a nearby town for generations with milk it purchases from more than 100 dairy farms throughout Wisconsin. “It’ll be a big ripple effect through the state.”

The markets are already counting on a major plunge in cheese prices due to the effect of tariffs and the oversupply in the US over the coming months. The price for cheese to be delivered in August has gone down by 15% on the trading markets over the last month.

It was counties like Sheboygan, where Plymouth [the headquarters of Sartori] is located, that helped sweep Mr. Trump into the White House, and many people in Plymouth are still staunch supporters of the president. But many differ with his negative views of global trade, which has generally been good for the dairy industry.

Nafta, which the president often calls the worst trade deal ever, has given the industry a valuable foothold in Mexico. That country is now America’s largest export market for cheese, absorbing more than a quarter of all the cheese that leaves the United States. Dairy farmers and cheesemakers generally supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation pact Mr. Trump withdrew from in his first days in office, which would have opened up valuable new markets, including Japan.

They have watched woefully as other countries move ahead without the United States, signing trade agreements that cut barriers to each other’s markets and put American producers at a competitive disadvantage. The European Union in April signed a deal with Mexico that is expected to slash tariffs on European dairy and offer further protections for European cheese names like feta, muenster, fontina and Parmesan, blocking American companies from using those labels.
Given that many dairy farmers and related jobs are in danger, what does our Fair Governor recommend to deal with this tough situation?

Seriously, that's his whole strategy.
Governor Walker also participated in Wisconsin Cheese Day by visiting cheese producers.

He stopped at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison and Great Lakes Cheese in Wausau.

When asked how consumers can help the dairy industry, Walker said "eat more cheese".
Let's see if Trump or Walker talk about the crisis facing dairy farmers in the state when they attempt to have their photo op to commemorate Foxconn's groundbreaking this week, and mention policy ideas that can help farmers get by in what looks to be an awful 2018 for that industry. Ah, who am I kidding? Neither of those guys have a clue or a care about this group of suckers people whose rural votes got these guys elected.

And yet these dupes still think these guys know what they're doing. Swanson talks to Scott Ditter, who owns a small farm in Sheboygan County and ships his milk to Sartori for them to use. Ditter supports Trump (and likely Walker) and claims that ultimately he'll be better off due to the Donald getting tough on trade.
Mr. Ditter said that Mr. Trump had the back of Wisconsin dairy farmers and that the president’s tariff threats were an effort to ultimately negotiate lower tariffs for American businesses.

“Maybe it’ll get the attention of these other countries,” Mr. Ditter said, as he stood in his field alongside a dozen dairy cows, each christened by his wife and their granddaughter with names like Julep, Chandelier, Thunder and Magic.
Oh, it got their attention, Scotty. And the tariffs they're putting on your products as a result will probably put yourself and numerous other small farmers out of business.

But hey- MAGA baby! Just remember to stop drinking for 12 hours before you pee in the cup for your unemployment benefits.

Monday, June 25, 2018

SCOTUS throws Walker/WisGOP a lifeline on Internet sales taxes. And the WisGOPs would throw it back.

Over the weekend, we had a good rundown by the Matt DeFour and Mark Sommerhauser in the Wisconsin State Journal about last week's Supreme Court decision allowing for states to require companies selling a product over the Internet to have sales tax included on a purchase, and the effect that it might have on Wisconsin’s budget.

The article mentions that all companies who sell items to Wisconsinites aren't required to pay sales tax because no law has been passed in the state requiring it. But adding that requirement could generate a lot of money.
In Wisconsin, [a] report from the [U.S. Government Accountability Office] estimates, the new revenue would total $123 million to $187 million a year.

Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview, chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, said state DOR officials told him the additional revenue could be about $160 million per year.

That’s about what a one-time child tax credit and back-to-school sales tax holiday is expected to cost this year, or how much the state recently received in federal funds to finish the Interstate 94 expansion project in southeast Wisconsin to accommodate the $10 billion Foxconn project, or almost twice as much as the state approved for school safety grants earlier this year.
Today, if a company doesn't impose Wisconsin sales tax when someone buys their product online, the Wisconsinite making the purchase is supposed to pay that sales tax when he/she files their taxes. However, the Wisconsin State Journal article notes that barely more than 3% of Wisconsinites included that uncollected sales tax for the 2012 tax filings, and paid a relatively measly $4.9 million (implying that only $98 million in online purchases by Wisconsinites didn’t collect sales tax).

It seems logical that there's a lot more of sales tax is not being paid, which is what the Supreme Court decision is trying to prevent. So what do Wisconsin Republicans want to do with this opportunity improve the state’s financial stability? GIVE IT AWAY, of course! And our fiscally illiterate Governor Dropout is leading the way.
Gov. Scott Walker signaled Monday the state would start collecting sales taxes for internet purchases — but offset any new money with cuts to other taxes by the same amount.

“It shouldn’t be a tax increase. It should be leveling the playing field for retailers,” Walker told reporters after touring the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s dairy operations at Babcock Hall…

The GOP governor told reporters he favored collecting the money, but wanted to tie it to tax cuts of the same size so the state doesn’t take in more money overall.
But the problem is that Wisconsin is going to need all the tax revenue it can get. And you can see where that problem starts, based on the recently-approved final budget projections for the 2017-19 biennium, which includes the pre-=election spending spree by Walker and WisGOP. based on in-year adjustments.

FY 2018-19 projected budget balances
Opening balance July 1, 2018 $579.0 million
Closing balance June 30, 2018 $547.3 million (-$31.7 million)
Closing balance June 30, 2019 $181.7 million (-$365.6 million)

So we’ve got deficits built in for this fiscal year and a much bigger one for next year. That reflects the fact that the Walker/WisGOP pre-election spending spree is especially targeted to hit between July 1 and the November elections. That $365.6 million imbalance for FY 2019 will carry over into the following budget, unless you count on the child tax credit and sales tax holiday measures to be one-time gimmicks, in which case the imbalance would “only” be around $235 million.

Now, let’s go back to the 2019-21 budget projections that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau put out in September. This document notes that this includes $168 million in increased debt payment costs (from Foxconn-related construction of I-94 and prior Walker Admin measures to scoop-and-toss prior debt payments into later years), and has the (now-rosy) projections of added jobs and costs that are part of the Fox-con package.

If you account for the changes in recent policies, and assume the one-time tax moves end, it places the state's structural deficit at around $1 billion for the 2019-21 biennium. And that's assuming we don't spend another dime of General Fund money on our already underfunded schools, UW System, and health care (good luck with that when inflation is going up 2.5%+ a year). In addition, our underfunded roads account for another $1 billion deficit in our Transportation Fund, with backlogs and deferred expenses growing by the year, but today Walker didn't offer any of the new sales tax money today to go to the roads.

GOP Reps. John (Wacko) Macco and Dale (Koo-Koo) Kooyenga echoed Walker's ideas in the State Journal article, wth both Joint Finance members saying they wanted to use the $160 million in increased sales taxes to cut income and/or property taxes. Do we need a remnder of how this would end up?

Reality tells you that these proposed GOP income tax cuts cannot happen without even more deterioration in the state's already declining services and quality of life. Then again, that’s what the ALEC-GOPs in charge at the Capitol want- all the better to sell off the state’s services to campaign contributors and encourage more progressive and/or talented people to leave the state, with only a few oligarchs running things and a number of indentured servants working for them.

I have a better idea. In addition to helping Main Street businesses that improve our communities, the one-time revenue boosts can be a way to return the state to fiscal wellness. It also can lead to investments in public goods and services that used to make Wisconsin a great place to live and prosper in, and make us more economically competitive in all parts of the state.

But to do so, we’ll have to boot out Governor Walker, Wacko Macco and Koo-Koo Kooyenga from their very vulnerable seats of power this November, and get some people in charge that recognize that leveling the playing field by requiring sales taxes on Internet purchases offers a lifeline for this state. Because the statements by the ALEC-GOP crew in light of last week’s Supreme Court decision shows they’ll repeat the failing pattern of “cut taxes for my cronies, borrow against our future, and let everyone else deal with the fallout” if they’re allowed to grab these hundreds of millions of dollars.

Trump tariffs make Harley send jobs overseas, and Foxconn lessening job plans. MAGA!

This bit of news from the morning isn’t exactly Making America Great Again.
Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG.N) said on Monday it would move production of motorcycles shipped to the European Union from the United States to its international facilities and forecast the trading bloc's retaliatory tariffs would cost the company $90 million to $100 million a year.

The shift in production is an unintended consequence of U.S. President Donald Trump's administration imposing tariffs on European steel and aluminum early this month, a move designed to protect U.S. jobs.

In response to the U.S. tariffs, the European Union began charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of U.S. products including big motorcycles like Harley's on June 22.

In a regulatory filing on Monday, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company said the retaliatory duties would result in an incremental cost of about $2,200 per average motorcycle exported from the United States to the European Union, but it would not raise retail or wholesale prices for its dealers to cover the costs of the tariffs.

The company expects the tariffs to result in incremental costs of $30 million to $45 million for the rest of 2018, the filing said.
In other words, it looks like the EU has actually succeeded in using tariffs to encourage companies to make their products in their part of the world, while the US is losing both jobs AND paying higher prices for various products. That’s what you MAGA types were counting on in 2016, right?

Even more darkly funny is that Harley is one of Trump’s favorite companies to use in his “America first” theme. Like this photo op from the first weeks of Trump’s time in office.

It’s worth noting that meeting came two days after this fiasco.
President Donald Trump will not head to Milwaukee for a previously scheduled visit of a Harley-Davidson factory after the company decided it wasn't comfortable hosting him amid planned protests, an administration official said Tuesday [January 29, 2017].

Trump had been scheduled to tour the factory Thursday, where he also planned to sign executive orders related to American manufacturing.

The visit had not been publicly announced, but White House staffers were already on the ground in Milwaukee setting up for Trump's planned visit to the factory on Thursday.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed Trump is not expected to go to Milwaukee on Thursday.


Last year’s aborted Trump trip to Harley-Davidson seems relevant as Trump is scheduled to do a similar photo-op and fly-in on Thursday at the Foxconn site in Racine County. At the event, Trump will hang out with Governor Scott Walker, who uses a Harley as a campaign prop to seem like an everyday human being, and Foxconn executives, in an attempt to convince people Trump is returning manufacturing to the US.

That photo op event comes at another time when Trump and his administration are enforcing other cruel anti-immigration policies. Even before last week’s revelations about atrocities at the border and separations of families, there were already protests planned for that Trump/Walker/Foxconn event based on the boondoggle and environmental damage of the Fox-con. Those protests seem all the more relevant now that Foxconn execs are admitting that the project will create far less than the tens of thousands of jobs that were promised last year.

Now add the hated policies of baby jails, concentration camps, and other family separations to go along with the Trump tariffs making Harley send jobs overseas? You’ve got a lot more reasons for people to show up and let Trump, Walker and Foxconn execs hear them for acting against the public's wishes. I’ll put even money that Trump doesn’t make it to the groundbreaking this week, likely at the insistence of the Walker Administration, who is already losing politically on the Fox-con.

Well, wait a minute. There is a massive fundraiser in the Milwaukee area that Trump is supposed to be at, with money going to a Trump SuperPAC and the RNC. We all know Scotty won’t walk away from a chance to grab a piece of that donor money, especially before Saturday’s 2nd Quarter fundraising deadline. So you can bet the Donald will be asked to show up for that one (note that the article won’t reveal where that fundraiser is, other than it’s being hosted by Milwaukee oligarch Ted Kellner).

Buckle up. It feels like there’s a lot to develop in the next few days as these immigration and trade policies intertwine in Wisconsin. Let’s see if the GOPs keep doubling down on their reckless, cruel and failing policies, and pour gasoline on these embers of anger.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

In addition to the issues at the border, keep your eye on the GOP's budget mess in DC

While many in the country are rightfully giving lots of attention to the separation of families trying to get into the US to escape atrocities in their home countries, other parts of US politics and policy continue as well. And "Budget Guy" Stan Collender notes that the GOPs that control Congress also are failing to do their job when it comes to figuring out what to do with the federal budget.

As he recounts what he calls "The Worst Week EVER for GOP Federal Budget Nonsense", Collender notes that Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP-run Senate is so scared of losing their slim majority that they won't even follow the House in voting to rescind $15 billion in previously authorized spending, even though the money will never be spent anyway. In addition, the Trump Administration is throwing out ideas that are electoral albatrosses, and will never be passed anyway.
The GOP Senate majority rejected the Trump rescission even though it would have mostly cut previously enacted appropriations that were never going to be spent anyway.

Of course, it could be the federal government consolidation plan that [Trump OMB Director] Mulvaney announced (and made sure he himself got credit for developing) but which at this point in the congressional session has little-to-no chance of being considered and even less of being adopted.
And yes, the issue of separating children from immigrating parents and putting them into concentration camps is part of this budget mismanagement. Collender points out this observation from MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who noted that there isn't any money designated for these crimes against humanity operations.

In addition to not explaining where that money is coming from in a time a trillion-dollar budget deficits, Collender notes that Trump has threatened to shut down the government 1 months before the November elections if he doesn't get $25 billion a year to build his beloved wall on the Mexican border. Seems like that politically unpopular bluff should be called, especially if you're a Dem.
There was also the House Budget Committee’s approval of a fiscal 2019 budget resolution that was adopted more than two months after the statutory deadline for Congress as a whole — not just a committee — to agree on something.

But missing the deadline by two-plus months was actually far less ludicrous than the fact that the committee-approved budget resolution includes $5.4 trillion in politically unacceptable cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory programs that may never be voted on by the full House and won’t be considered by the Senate.

In other words, the House Budget Committee was both very late and doing something that was incredibly superfluous. Saying that it was “symbolic” is giving it way to much credit.
So not only are the Republicans tying themsleves to a policies that most Americans hate, they''re proposing these cuts to deal with a deficit that is the result of a Tax Scam that already is going to be (rightfully) used against them this November.

The acceptance of racism and xenophobia in the 2010s GOP is awful enough, as is its refusal to hold their own party members accountable for illegalities and sickening behavior. But it's also the incompetence of GOP leadership in Congress along with the recklessness and cruelty of their own fiscal policies that should get them blown out of power at all levels of government this year.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Weekend reading - Walker has never cared about how "others" are treated

Great stuff from One Wisconsin Now's Savion Castro in Madison 365 today. In an article titled "Scott Walker's Cowardice on Trump Border Policy 25 Years in the Making," Castro discusses on Scott Walker's history of indifference to the suffering of anyone that's not part of "his people," including Walker's refusal this week to say or do anything about the separation of families seeking asylum in the United States, and these individuals being put into concentration camps and relocated around the country.
Scott Walker offered something worse than deafening silence on Donald Trump’s unconscionable policy of tearing infants, toddlers, and children from their parents and placing them in 21st-century internment camps when he said he wouldn’t comment on a “federal” issue.

Forty-eight hours later, when Gov. Walker traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Trump, he still felt no obligation to speak out against the human rights violation occurring on our border against children. Instead, he has been fundraising, through Facebook ads, on the need to build the border wall and sending Wisconsin National Guard troops to the border.
Dem gubernatorial candidate Kelda Roys rightfully called Walker out for this two-step, a form of dog-whistling that Scotty has pulled for his entire career.

Castro notes that Walker also looked the other way and ducked the issue when young Wisconsinites were being mistreated at the state's juvenile correctional facilities, allowing things to get worse for both staff and inmates.
Before Walker stood with Trump on indefinitely detaining immigrant children and their families fleeing violence, we must not forget that he codified the separation of young men and women from their families, and failed to speak against the cruel and immensely unjust of separation of children from their families, among the nearly decade-long saga of cruelty at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. In his tenure as Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker has unequivocally failed to be a steward to the children less privileged than his.

Six years ago, Scott Walker received a letter from a Racine County judge detailing the horrific conditions at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. Governor Walker did not act. As details continued to pour out, and the traumatic experiences in the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities continued to pile up, Governor Walker did nothing until the crisis came to a head during an election year.

When a news broke that a 16-year-old inmate had his arm broken by a guard, and was left naked in his cell for hours, and then waited a week for proper medical treatment, Scott Walker was silent. When three institutional psychologists left the institution for malpractice, Scott Walker was silent. And, when inmates at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake told former Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall that “They’re hurting us. They’re harming us,” Scott Walker was silent. Eventually, Walker’s hand was forced by a federal investigation from DOJ and a lawsuit from the ACLU.
That history of neglect is what makes Tony Evers' latest ad ring true. In that ad, former Walker Corrections Secretary Ed Wall claims that he was ordered by Walker's Chief of Staff to cover up atrocities at Lincoln and Copper Hills because it was hurting Walker's fundraising prospects, and that Walker's Administration had few other considerations other than crass, political calculation.

Our media almost never directly calls out Walker and his administration's malicious negligence of our most vulnerable people (with a few notable exceptions, particularly Katelyn Ferral on the mistreatment of residents at the King Veterans Home). So it takes Dems and everyday citizens to say it directly and KEEP SAYING IT, so the media won't let these awful developments fade away.

With that in mind, I'm heading downtown to watch soccer 1st, and then be one of numerous others to express our disgust with what's being done in our name at the border. The silent majority who are disgusted by these amoral GOP slugs need to stop being silent, and allowing these atrocities to slip by and continue.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Once again, Walker Admin using your tax dollars to spread propaganda...about bad performance

Here is a good example of rampant, everyday sketchiness/corruption that happens in the Walker Administration.

Sounds pretty good, right? But why is the taxpayer-funded Wisconsin Department of Revenue using their account to tweet it out? That doesn't have anything to do with helping collect taxes from Wisconsinites or give them information about refunds.

And the bigger tell is the @ symbols. A whole lot of right-wing GOPper-ganda outlets in Wisconsin and other paid liars. It's clearly done to cause a "Human Centipede" situation where this GOPper-ganda is catapulted forward into social media and other outlets that those groups are associated with. Then if things go right (wing), the "legitimate" media might report it without any context, and the average dope might believe Wisconsin is doing well, which should help Scott Walker in the November elections.

The strategy is cynical enough, but here's the bigger prpblem. Wisconsin didn't do well in income growth in the 1st Quarter of 2018.

If you look at Thursday's report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Wisconsin's 4.0% annualized growth for the 1st QUarter of 2018 isn't all that special.

That 4.3% places Wisconsin 30th in the US out of the 50 states, and is a decline from the Q1 2017 increase in Wisconsin of 8.1% (Q1 often has large one-time increases because of COLAs and other Jan 1 adjustments, which are multiplied by 4 for Q1 because it's an ANNUAL rate of change).

Also, notice that the states around Wisconsin have bigger numbers than us? It means we ended up 6th out of the 7 Midwestern states for Jan-March 2018 when it came to income growth.

Midwestern income growth Q1 2018 (annual rate)
Ind. +5.5%
Mich +5.4%
Iowa +5.0%
Ill. +4.9%
Ohio +4.7%
Wis. +4.3%
Minn +4.0%

And if I may pick a cherry, that stat looks even worse if you look at the last 2 quarters. I'm not going to annualize this, so double it up if you want to get an approximation for that.

Midwestern income growth, Q3 2017- Q1 2018 (total change)
Minn +2.96%
Ind. +2.57%
Mich +2.39%
Iowa +2.34%
Ill. +1.62%
Ohio +1.60%
Wis. +1.41%

This is the context that the Walker Administration doesn't want you to know when they send out that tweet, they just want to you nod and stupidly accept that "it's working." In reality, it means we are falling behind our neighbors in another economic stat, and given that we lost more jobs than any other state in the nation in the first 2 months of Q2 2018, do you think we're going to look much better when this report next comes out in Septemnber?

Look, the GOP hacks in charge of these Twitter accounts are desperate to keep their phoney-baloney jobs (remember, Walker changed all these gigs to appointed positions). But that doesn't make it OK to spread campaign propaganda on our tax time. Especially when it tries to dress up bad news as good news.

Farm bill cuts of SNAP another example of GOP cruelty, And economic stupidity

After many weeks of debate and an embarrassing defeat in May, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives finally got a Farm Bill passed this week (it went through by the bare minimum, 213-211, with 4 members not voting). Notably, the bill includes new restrictions on people who want to receive food stamps.
The measure restricts who is eligible to receive aid and also requires millions of Americans who receive food through government assistance to work 20 hours per week, enroll in job training programs or be cut off from those benefits.

Democrats have been relentless in their opposition to the changes to SNAP, arguing the new provisions are cruel and will cause food insecurity for millions of Americans…

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called it "a big deal" in a statement, adding:

"This bill includes critical reforms to nutrition benefits that close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and encourage people to move from welfare to work, so more Americans have the opportunity to tap into the economic prosperity we're seeing right now."

Sooo punchable. Like this guy's ever had a real job

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have followed this farm bill as it has tried to worm its way through Congress, and notes that Ryan’s claims are absurd, as many of the people harmed by this farm bill are children and people WHO ARE ALREADY WORKING.
Among those likely to lose food assistance are a considerable number of working people — including parents and older workers — who have low-wage jobs such as home health aides or cashiers and often face fluctuating hours and bouts of temporary unemployment that could put their SNAP benefits at risk. In addition, substantial numbers of people with serious physical or mental health conditions, as well as many caregivers, may struggle either to meet the monthly work-hours requirement or to provide sufficient documentation to prove they qualify for an exemption — and, consequently, may be at risk of losing nutrition assistance.

While the requirements focus on adults, children, too, will be harmed, because when parents lose SNAP, there are fewer resources available for food for the family. Going forward with policies that reduce food assistance to poor children flies in the face of research showing that SNAP not only reduces short-term hardship but has a positive effect on children’s long-term health and educational outcomes.

Though the bill’s proponents say they want to encourage work among more SNAP recipients, the bill is likely to leave many people who face substantial barriers to work with neither earnings nor food assistance. Most people who participate in SNAP are workers — most work while receiving SNAP, while many others are between jobs. The large majority of those who aren’t working are caring for someone else, suffering from a disability or chronic health condition that limits their ability to work, or going to school
Because the upper limits of SNAP assistance get cut off for most families at 130% of poverty in the bill, and because it doesn’t allow states to go above those limits, it becomes an especially harsh hit in Wisconsin. The state currently offers benefits up to 200% of poverty (which equates to an annual income of just over $24,000 a year for a single person, or a little less than $41,000 for a single parent with two children).

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo from last month showed that over 75,000 Wisconsinites would lose SNAP benefits under this Farm Bill, including more than 23,000 children. Even more notable are the areas who would have the largest percentage of SNAP recipients losing their benefits – HINT, it’s not large cities filled with THOSE PEOPLE. I’ll also include the member of Congress who “represents” those counties.

Wis counties with largest percentage of recipients losing SNAP under bill
Green Co. 17.59% (Pocan)
Price Co. 16.63% (Duffy)
Pepin Co. 16.61% (Kind)
Lafayette Co. 16.35% (Pocan)
Ozaukee Co. 16.23% (Grothman)
Waukesha Co. 15.97% (Sensenbrenner, Ryan)
Washington Co. 15.70% (Sensenbrenner)
Kewaunee Co. 15.59% (Gallagher)

In addition, as the CBPP noted, having such strict work requirements limits the options of many individuals, and forces them to choose between spending more time taking care of their family members (either children or vulnerable adults) and losing benefits, or being stuck at a menial job for more hours of the week.

The Wisconsin Budget Project added at the time that having such a strict cut-off at 130% of poverty to receive benefits flies in the face of “reforms” that the Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP promoted last year.

Wisconsin Republicans have been especially vocal about the importance of structuring public benefits so they phase out gradually, rather than creating benefit cliffs that can penalize low-wage workers who get a raise or increase their hours. Although most benefit programs have long been designed to avoid benefit cliffs, conservative Wisconsin lawmakers have nonetheless been using the potential problem as a rationale for redesigning public assistance. With that in mind, it’s hard to comprehend why Republican lawmakers wrote a Farm Bill that changes SNAP from a program that in most states gradually phases down assistance into a program with a substantial benefit cliff.
Yet EVERY SINGLE WISCONSIN GOP CONGRESSMAN VOTED FOR A FARM BILL THAT DOES JUST THAT, and I haven’t seen a note from one Wisconsin GOP legislator opposing this bill.

Heck, our Fair Governor was just in DC yesterday to hang out with his buddy President Trump. Why didn’t he use the opportunity to ask to get those cliffs out of the Farm Bill, and talk up the “Wisconsin Way”? (answer: because those “reforms” were always poll-tested talking points, and Scotty doesn’t really care about helping the working poor in Wisconsin)

As the recently-released Wisconsin Poverty report showed, SNAP is one the biggest ways that child poverty is reduced in Wisconsin. And likewise, pushing individuals into the work force more can have raise poverty if those individuals have to pay for child care or other work-related expenses.

All the more reason that it is bad policy to cut off SNAP from the working poor, like the GOP House just did.

The cruel House Farm Bill is far from becoming law, it needs to be reconciled with a Senate bill that doesn’t have these changes to SNAP and then have the compromise bill passed by both houses. But even if these cuts to SNAP don’t happen, never forget that there were plenty of House Republicans that were more than happy to cut off millions of American families from food assistance without any way to make higher wages or improve stability that would lead to the self-sufficiency that Paul Ryan and other GOPs claim they want to see.

And make them all pay a price in November. And that should especially be true for the rural and suburban parts of Wisconsin that are “represented” by these amoral slime, since many of those places would be the ones hurt the most by the cuts in this farm bill. If these Republi-clowns think it’s so easy to live on the edge and be forced to work in a crappy job, maybe they need to see what it’s like for themselves.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Foxconn exec: Why don't the little people in Wisconsin appreciate what we're doing?

Apparently Foxconn executive Louis Woo thinks that I and the majority of Wisconsinites who question his company’s project should be a little more grateful.
From where Woo sits, Foxconn is bringing to Wisconsin high-paying jobs, billions of dollars in investment, transforming the economic structure in Wisconsin, and attracting other global business.

"No matter how we look at it, it should be a good thing. In fact, an extremely good thing. And I would imagine when I walk down the street of Wisconsin, people should be rushing to me and patting my back and saying, 'Thank you, Mr. Foxconn. You guys are really helping us out doing the right thing,'" Woo said.

Yet the flat screen plant has come under harsh criticism for the state's agreement to use government funds for Foxconn incentives in exchange for job creation.

"I just don't understand -- because I thought the economy would go beyond politics. What is good is good regardless of who proposes it. Regardless of who's doing it. Fortunately, we are a global company. We are not a Republican company or a Democratic company. We are a global company," Woo said.

Why aren't the Cheesheaded subjects more loyal?

That’s right you peons. Don’t ask why billions of your tax dollars are flowing down to the corner of the state to pay for a major multi-national corporation to set up shop. Don’t be upset that your roads and schools are falling apart and that we face years of budget deficits because all the money is being sent to Foxconn. Just be glad they’re providing jobs at all, dammit!

And this whole “transforming the economic structure” argument? I’m a bit skeptical on that claim, given that Foxconn is already changing what they plan to make at the facility in Racine. Woo admitted this week that the Foxconn plant isn’t going to produce the screens they originally claimed they would. That also means there won’t be another company setting up a glass factory nearby, as was originally promised with the Fox-con.
Woo said the change in plans is about producing a wider variety of screen sizes and is still the latest technology. A Gen 6 plant would allow Foxconn to produce screens for items ranging from a notebook computer to a central display in an autonomous vehicle to an 80- or 90-inch television.

“The Gen 6 would give us a lot of versatility,” Woo said.

He said a rapidly-evolving high tech industry and shifting supply and demand characteristics drive the change in plans. Building the first thin-film-transistor or TFT-Fab in the U.S. will give the company the opportunity to explore new display technologies or other semiconductor processing technology on glass…

Bob O’Brien, a partner at Display Supply Chain Consultants, told BizTimes in May a Gen 6 plant produces roughly 5 foot by 6 foot panels while a Gen 10.5 plant produces 10 foot by 11 foot panels. He also said a $10 billion investment makes sense for a Gen 10.5 plant, but a Gen 6 plant would require a $2 billion to $3 billion investment.

The second phase of what Foxconn calls the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park could include a Gen 10.5 plant, Woo said, and adding a glass plant would likely be a necessity at that point.
Oh, and there will also be fewer workers inside the Foxconn plant, as they are likely to be relying more on automation. That was revealed by Foxconn executive Alan Yeung in an address to the Greater Milwaukee Committee last week.
“I think what that means is more robotics,” he said, noting much of the work has focused on advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 techniques.

He said that would result in an increased reliance on highly trained workers.

“Many of the workers or our personnel down there will no longer be your old-fashioned, blue-collar workers, many of them will be knowledge workers, developers, engineers (and) professionals,” he told the GMC audience.
Sounds like cool stuff, but it wasn’t what was sold to the public by Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP when they signed off on the multi-billion dollar Fox-con package 9 months ago. And that “robotics” line should especially raise red flags, because that means there will be a lot less than the “13,000” BS that Scott Walker still tries to trot out in his taxpayer-funded junkets.

While it’s a good thing that Foxconn has officially closed on a downtown Milwaukee building for its North American headquarters, even that has its sketchiness. The building was owned by Northwestern Mutual Life, whose employees have given Scott Walker over $246,000 over the years, and the transaction sure seems like a nice way for NML to get out from under a failing asset. And they get to sell it to a business in Foxconn that will have plenty of taxpayer subsidies to offset that cost, and free PR from the Foxconn-cheerleading corporate media in Milwaukee. Win-win-win!

I even reserve a sideways look about Foxconn’s announcement that they will install a $30 million system to treat and reuse water at their (15% subsidized) facility in Racine. This would lessen the amount of Lake Michigan water they plan to use from 6 million gallons a day to 2.5 million.

Funny that they just reveal this now, a week after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources granted a hearing to contest Racine’s planned diversion of millions of gallons of Lake Michigan water using public resources to solely help a private corporation. It seems like an obvious motivation is to assuage citizen anger about that fact, but it also seems to be leading toward a better outcome for everybody. That’s not a bad thing…other than the fact that Wisconsin taxpayers will be paying $4.5 million of that $30 million system in tax credits (and you thought this Koched up WisGOP crew didn't encourage sustainability!).

Here is what Mr. Woo needs to understand. The problem so many of us have with the Fox-con isn’t that there’s a new business being built in Southeastern Wisconsin. It’s that we’re giving you billions of tax dollars in subsidies and infrastructure improvements to do so, along with taking people’s homes, and eradicating our environmental laws.

And Mr. Woo, you need to understand that the rest of the state is seeing a decline in roads, schools and other services because we allegedly don’t have enough money to afford it. Now throw in the fact that your Foxconn factory won’t bring anything close to the jobs that you and Scott Walker claimed it would, but you will still get the same improved highways, property tax abatements, and improved infrastructure.

You see why we might be a little touchy, and why a lot of us would be happier if you just packed up and went away before we throw more money down the hole of the Fox-con? That interview on Fox 6 was a “Let Them Eat Cake” moment, and it just made the already-deep hole that you guys were in even deeper.

Even with GOP-stacked Marquette Poll, Walker barely above water. And voters don't support his policies

Yesterday featured the release of the first Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin politics in a few months. Despite pollster Charles Franklin’s sketchy ties to the Bradley Foundation, the Marquette Poll can give good insights into Wisconsinites’ thoughts. It’s also important because our state’s media can’t resist a good “Marquette poll” story (hey, it beats doing real reporting!), so it guides a lot of coverage and public interest.

But when I saw this tidbit leak out on the Twitters just after 12, I gave a “COME ON!”

What convenient timing for Scott Walker to have his first net-positive approval rating in 3 1/2 years, in the Summer before his re-election!

In addition to that, Walker had modest-to-decent leads on all potential Dem challengers.
The poll asked all voters about a match-up between Walker and Evers and also between Walker and former Rep. Kelda Roys, who won the straw poll at the Democratic Party state convention earlier this month. All other candidate match-up questions were posed to half of the respondents, and thus carry a one-and-a-half point higher margin of error.

Walker led in the head-to-head match-ups by margins ranging from 44 percent to 42 percent against McCabe to 49 percent to 36 percent against corporate attorney Josh Pade.

Walker led Evers 48 percent to 44 percent and he topped Roys 48 percent to 40 percent.

“We have a moderately close race, one that in most of those cases is inside the margin of error or close to it, but with the governor a little bit ahead,” Franklin said.
Any of those numbers will narrow even more as Dems get their candidate finalized in the next 7 ½ weeks. But they still didn’t ring true to me, so I chose to take a look at the topline results for myself, and also looked at the always-useful crosstabs.

Sure enough, the poll had a lot of Republicans answering it.

Party ID, June 2018 Marquette Law Poll
Republicans 29
Democrats 27
Independents 44

Party ID with leaners, June 2018 Marquette Law Poll
Republicans 47
Democrats 44
Independents 8

Now compare that with the last time Walker ran for office, with the Election Day exit poll from 2014.

Party ID, 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Election
Republicans 37
Democrats 36
Independents 27

It’s-2% more Republican in 2018? Despite the fact that Democrats have already flipped two formerly GOP-held Senate seats in areas that went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016? And despite more-liberal Rebecca Dallet destroying Scott Walker’s hand-picked choice for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court by double digits?

Also note that Franklin’s own poll showed Democrats being more motivated to vote in November than Republicans (71-67), and this story from Mpother Jones which looked at findings from Pew Surveys and others which indicate that the 4-point enthusiasm gap for Dems in Wisconsin is understating what they're seeing nationwide.

It defies belief that the combination of election results so far in 2018 along with higher Dem enthusiasm for November would translate into them being LESS of the Wisconsin electorate this November. But that’s what Franklin is assuming in this poll. Makes me wonder who made that flawed decision – Chucky, or the oligarchs that pay the Marquette Law School for him to put these polls out.

Even with that slanted poll group, the MU Poll showed two major Walker initiatives are in disfavor with Wisconsinites that were asked.
On Foxconn, the mostly negative reviews continued. The Marquette survey of 800 registered voters found 46 percent of respondents believe the multi-billion-dollar state incentives package for Foxconn isn't worth it, while only 40 percent said the aid will pay off.

Nearly two-thirds of voters polled around Wisconsin predicted their local businesses won't benefit. However, a majority said the Foxconn project will help the Milwaukee-area economy.

On Act 10, the poll showed a change of public opinion.

Forty-seven percent favor a return to more collective bargaining, while 43 percent back Act 10. Franklin said that's a reversal from several Marquette surveys over the last few years, including one in March. He said the governor's race may be why.

"The one thing that is different is there's maybe a little more conversation going on about Act 10 and collective bargaining from the Democratic candidates in the last few months, as relatively unknown as (the candidates) are," Franklin said. "But nevertheless, it's a little more on the table for discussion than perhaps it has been for the last few years.
The Act 10 result surprised me. I personally think it badly hurt the state and we would be better if it was gone, but I also think of it as a dead issue for the time being, especially in the political arena.

I also think Mr. Franklin (and his benefactors) don’t want to admit another part of these results in public. People are recognizing that everyone who works for a living is getting the short end of the stick these days in favor of oligarchs and corporations. It explains why the teacher strikes that we have seen in several states this year getting the public support they did, followed by most of the strikes ending after concessions from state and local elected officials.

A related question from the Marquette Poll shows people want to invest in their public schools by wide margins.

Which is more important to you: reduce property taxes or increase spending on public schools?
Increase spending 59%
Cut property taxes 35%

Party ID with Leaners
Republicans 56-36 cut property taxes
Democrats 83-13 increase spending
Independents 63-33 increase spending

So even in this GOP-heavy poll, meaning the GOP Bubble Worlders get disproportionate weight, Wisconsinites are favoring the more liberal/Dem policy choices.

The disconnection between the attitudes on public schools and Foxconn the relatively good results for Scott Walker makes the poll all the more perplexing to me. Are that many people being fooled by Walker’s taxpayer-funded campaign stops at businesses and public schools claiming everything is going great in Wisconsin? Are that many people ignoring that their local public schools are still closing and underfunded, and that Foxconn is an increasingly obvious boondoggle that won’t come close to being the “game-changer” that was it was originally sold as?

See, that’s what initially depressed me about the Marquette poll. It’s not as much that the numbers are Bradley-funded, pro-WisGOP bullshit, but because it’s another brick in the wall of shameless GOP-perganda that the people of this state are barraged with. This GOPper-ganda ranges from the daily “Walker photo op at a campaign contributor”, to the absurd spin on each jobs report from Walker’s Department of Workforce Development, to some BS TV ad where Walker calls himself “the education governor”, to Bradley/Koch-funded fake studies and polls (hi, Noah Williams!) that are intended to blur facts and put false narratives into the public.

Add in a media that never takes a critical eye to any of this garbage, and never asks a follow-up question to Walker or other Republicans calling out their BS spin WITH FACTS, and this type of crap floats out in the air over unsuspecting, busy Wisconsinites who are just trying to get through their day-to-day. And I fear that’s some of what we saw in this week’s Marquette Poll (in addition, a lot of those people simply aren’t tuned into the elections yet).

Why the Democratic Party of Wisconsin doesn’t get that mass communications and polls can be used as psy-ops that influence opinions and elections 4 ½ months before voters go to the polls, this Marquette Poll gave the GOP a bump that didn’t exist in the real world until Chucky Franklin came onstage in Milwaukee this week (HEY WISDEMS, CAN YOU START FIGHTING IN THIS INFO WAR?).

Once we get a poll that actually deals with the pro-Dem electorate that’ll vote in 2018, Walker’s “above water” approval level and head-to-head leads will likely disappear. But that false narrative of “Walker leads” still has its effects in some low-info voters, and now has to be overcome. And that pisses me off.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Job creator" Ariens closing down in Janesville, thousands of others in Wisconsin also losing work

For every tax-funded photo op that our Fair Governor makes at a campaign contributor "expanding business in Wisconsin," there are a number of job stories that don't get attention in the state. And sometimes there's good news and bad news at the same Wisconsin company.

For example, here's Ariens Company claiming some good news last week.
Outdoor power equipment company Ariens will be closing a plant in Nebraska, and moving the work to Wisconsin.

Ariens announced Thursday that nearly 200 employees at its Auburn, Nebraska plant will be affected.

Production will be moved to the company headquarters in Brillion, Wisconsin, as a way to hold down costs.

Workers in Nebraska can apply for positions at the Wisconsin plant, with the assistance of a relocation bonus.
Of course, it doesn’t say that there will actually be jobs added at the Ariens facility, just that they’ll be moving the work to Brillion. But it SOUNDS good and it SOUNDS like a Wisconsin business is expanding, which was the intent of the press release.

The bad news from Ariens came a few days later.
Ariens, a Brillion-based maker of garden tractors and snow throwers, said it is closing its Janesville facility, which includes a large distribution center, as it leaves the direct marketing field. The company got into direct marketing with its January 2014 purchase from W.W. Grainger Inc. of three brands providing equipment and supplies to niche professional markets.

Ariens said it has agreed to sell two of the three brands to separate buyers who will move the operations out of Wisconsin. The company said it “continues to explore options” to divest the third brand, Gempler’s, which sells equipment for agriculture, horticulture and grounds maintenance.

Ariens expects to begin cutting jobs by August 31 and finish by March 31, 2019.
And here’s the kicker for those two stories. Ariens CEO Dan Ariens is a former WEDC Board member and was just elected the Chairman of the Board at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce last December. And look at the sloppy wet kiss Mr. Ariens gave to the trickle-down policies of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP at the time.
“I know that Governor Walker and pro-growth lawmakers are committed to improving our business climate and WMC will play a leading role in developing and advocating polices that create jobs,” Ariens said. “WMC members can provide the day-to-day economic reality of what’s happening in the towns and cities and workplace across Wisconsin, one job at a time.”
6 months later, I’d say the “job creators” at Ariens sure don’t seem to be doing so well on that front these days, given the announced layoffs of nearly 350 people at these plants in Nebraska and Janesville over the past week.

But Ariens isn’t the only Wisconsin company laying off these days. A quick look at the list of Wisconsin’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices shows two other Wisconsin businesses gave public notice of layoffs on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Roche will be closing its facility on the west side of Madison over the next 2 years, laying off 79 employees, with many of them being scientists and software engineers.

A DHL trucking facility is closing in Mequon, resulting in 59 workers losing their jobs in August, most of whom are forklift drivers.

In addition, there were WARN notices associated with 2 Wisconsin grocery stores that came out this week. The disruptions involve the Sentry on Janesville’s east side and the Piggly Wiggly in Menasha. In both cases, the WARN notices say that the new owners plan to keep the grocery stores operating at the site, and that seems better than the alternative. But come August, 49 people will still be laid off in Janesville and 69 in Menasha, and forced to reapply if they want to keep working at that store.

Also worth noting from the WARN page - a number of retail store closings and related major layoffs have happened or will happen this month. They include:

Bon-Ton Stores in 11 cities, and Milwaukee headquarters – 2,255 jobs

The JC Penney distribution center in Wauwatosa – 520 jobs

Final winding down at 8 Toys R’ Us stores – 326 jobs

American Girl facility in Wilmot – 185 jobs

That’s nearly 3,300 jobs in all, and while there are often other stores opening to replace some of these positions, I want to see what effect this’ll have on retail employment in the state for June and July. Especially given that seasonally-adjusted reports assume lots of Summer hiring, 3,300 layoffs in that sector will be a double-whammy for the jobs numbers.

Between this and the largest job losses in America for April and May, and it seems like things are getting shaky in the Wisconsin economy these days. That seems to be a bigger story that the state's low unemployment rate (a byproduct of people leaving the state and not being replaced), and no amount of press releases from WMC or photo ops from corporate puppets like Scott Walker changes that reality. I just wonder when the reality of our economic shakiness will hit the average voter in the face.