Sunday, September 30, 2018

September peaking

Crazy Saturday for me, as I enjoyed my first Quivey's Grove Beer Festival, and then got home, and saw this.

This man is operating at a level that few ever have in the biggest moments of the season. May his and the Brewers' incredible month of September reach its pinnacle today. I'll be there with my wife. Just trying to save my emotional energy till then.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Up against Wall of a shutdown, Trump wusses out

Sunday is the end of the Federal Fiscal Year, and in typical GOP Congress fashion, they waited for the last minute to keep operations moving for the next 2 1/2 months, with a whole lot of extra money thrown in along the way.

But the bill doesn't include things our manly, "America First" president claimed he had to have. So what's he going to do?
The House on Wednesday evening passed an $853 billion spending bill that does not include money for President Donald Trump’s border wall, but he indicated he would sign it anyway.

“We’re going to keep the government open,” he said after a photo opportunity in New York City, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.

That decision means Trump will finish the first half of his term failing to make any progress on his campaign’s most famous promise: the construction of a wall along the southwestern border. For the year and a half of his campaign, he vowed he would build a 30-foot-tall concrete wall and would force Mexico to pay for it....

From that point forward, Trump has been occasionally issuing angry statements on Twitter about the Republican-led Congress not giving him wall money, threatening a veto of a spending bill that fails to fund the wall and — alternatively — falsely claiming that the wall was already under construction.

But given an opportunity to make good on his veto threats, Trump has backed down and instead appears to be going along with congressional Republican leaders’ advice not to shut down the government just weeks before the midterm elections.
It was always a metaphorical "wall" anyway, right MAGAts? #SUCKERS

"Budget Guy" Stan Collender laughed at the fiscally feckless President, and how Trump backed down to Congress. Collender adds that this would have been a great time for Trump to push for priorities like his Wall, adding funds for infrastructure, defunding Planned Parenthood, or whatever else Don the Con was promising the rubes this week.
...when faced with the opportunity this week to veto the legislation that didn’t provide any money for his wall and actually to shut down the government, Trump ran from the fight he had been threatening so loudly for so long. While he was 250 miles away from Capital Hill in New York, Trump meekly said he would avoid the confrontation with Congress and sign whatever he was sent.

In other words, Donald Trump is a federal budget wuss.

This was a not strategic retreat by the White House. If anything, it’s going to be even harder for Trump to get what he wants on spending and taxes in a lame duck session than it was before. This was his best chance.

This is especially true of funding for his wall. Congress has already refused multiple times to provide the funds Trump wants and that isn’t likely to change after the election. That’s particularly true if the Democratic wave many are predicting actually happens and Trump’s policies become even less important to Republicans.

It’s also true of Trump’s other budget priorities. The two “minibus” appropriations that Trump’s signature will enact will provide funding for the full fiscal year and include the majority of the spending the president gets to approve. Trump simply won’t be able to have that much of an impact on what’s left even if he tries.
Like with a lot of other Republicans (hi, Scott Walker!), Donald Trump can't seem to connect his big talk to actual policy that can work in the real world without wrecking a lot of other stuff in the process.

And on a related note, if Dems do win at least one house of Congress (if not both!) in 38 days, they might be wise to put Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell up against walls of their own before the December 8 shutdown, and say "No funny business before we take over, or we shut it all down right before Christmas, and won't open it until we get in after New Year's." And the increasingly shrinking president won't have any political authority or support to do anything in response.

Why Wisconsin's low unemployment isn't as good as Minnesota's or Colorado's low unemployment

From our west comes this report from Minnesota's North Star Policy Institute, who reminds us that there may be very different reasons for why states have a low unemployment rates. And it's why Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP shouldn't speak too much about Wisconsin's 3.0% rate today.

The North Star analysis begins at the end 2007, where it notes both Wisconsin and Minnesota had the same 4.7% unemployment rate. Wisconsin suffered more damage than Minnesota did during the Great Recession, but kept its unemployment rate below the US average (and well below other Rust Belt manufacturing-heavy states like Michigan and Indiana). Once the Obama Recovery got going, logically Wisconsin had its unemployment rate fall more than Minnesota, as it was further away from full employment as the 2010s started.

The North Star Institute picks up the contrasts from there by reminding us how the unemployment rate is determined. As part of this, the "employment" figure the North Star Institute is using is the household survey of all individuals, and is in contrast to non-farm "jobs" numbers in that it captures people that work in all sectors (farm and non-farm), and credits a state with a person "employed" even if that resident works in another state.
The unemployment rate is equal to the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the entire labor force. In order to be part of the labor force, a person must be working or seeking work. (When a person stops seeking work, that person is no longer counted as unemployed or as a member of the labor force.) Whenever the percentage growth in employment exceeds the percentage growth in the labor force, the unemployment rate falls.

Thus, it is possible to have weak employment growth and still have a drop in the unemployment rate—provided that growth in the labor force is even weaker.

This has been the Wisconsin route. From December 2007 to August 2018, employment in Wisconsin has increased by 4.7%—well below the national growth rate of 6.3%. However, Wisconsin’s labor force growth has been even more anemic: 2.9% versus a national rate of 5.1%. The relatively weak job market in the Badger State likely discourages workers from looking for work, thus restricting growth in the labor force and lowering the unemployment rate not through job growth, but through frustration.

By comparison, higher-wage, less regressive Minnesota continues to attract workers and other individuals, which makes its sub-3.0% unemployment rate much more impressive. The differences in labor force also bear that out.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has achieved its low unemployment rate with job and labor force growth well above the national average. From December 2007 to August 2018, Minnesota’s employment and labor force increased by 8.8% and 6.7% respectively—both rates significantly above the national average and approximately double the Wisconsin growth rates.

And that trend has continued in the last year, as Minnesota has nearly doubled up Wisconsin for workers in both availability, and actual employment.
Since the previous North Star article was published last fall (based on October 2017 data), Minnesota’s employment and labor force have increased by 1.6% and 1.1% respectively, compared to 0.8% and 0.6% in Wisconsin.† Over this period, Minnesota has added nearly 1.9 jobs for every 1.0 in Wisconsin. The most recent Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Minnesota has surpassed Wisconsin in terms of the total number of jobs, despite the fact that Minnesota has over 200,000 fewer people.

To a significant extent, Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate is driven by a weak job market that discourages workers from entering or staying in the labor force. Meanwhile, in Minnesota the low unemployment rate results from strong labor force growth combined with even more robust growth in the number of jobs.
Along with Minnesota, I also want to compare Wisconsin’s record with another mid-size state that has a lot of natural beauty, one major metro area, a lot of snow and an unemployment rate just below 3% – Colorado.

At the start of 2011, when Walker and Dem Governors Mark Dayton (Minnesota) and John Hickenlooper (Colorado) took over their respective states, Wisconsin had more people living and working in their state – and a lot more when compared to Colorado (whose unemployment rate was higher than Wisconsin’s at the time, at 8.8%).

Household employment, Jan 2011
Wis. 2,831,200
Minn 2,737,400
Col. 2,486,600

Population, 2011
Wis. 5,705,812
Minn 5,345,967
Col. 5,116,411

Move ahead to today, and that gap has closed. To the point that Colorado may pass Wisconsin by 2020 in both stats if the trend continues.

Household employment, Aug 2018
Wis. 3,083,200 (+252,000)
Minn 3,015,360 (+277,960)
Col. 3,000,250 (+515,650)

Population 2017
Wis. 5,795,483 (+89,671)
Minn 5,576,606 (+230,639)
Col. 5,607,154 (+490,743)

And the growth in the Labor Force over the same period also reflects these trends.

Change in Labor Force Jan 2011- Aug 2018
Wis. +99,540
Minn +163,715
Col. +364,600

Compared to Minnesota and (especially) Colorado, you can see that Wisconsin’s drop in unemployment has much less to do with having more people in the state working than it was due to growth in our population and labor force greatly being much slower than those other mid-size states.

So keep that in mind when hear Scott Walker and other Republicans claim that their policies are working in Wisconsin because unemployment is so low. A lot of that “credit” is because regressive Republicans are repelling people from wanting to live here, and it’s limiting the ability of Wisconsin’s economy to grow. And that won’t change until the leaders in the Wisconsin Capitol making policy are changed.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Thoughts of the day

You can add to that list a Dropout Grifter Governor who claimed his bald spot was due to hitting his head on a file cabinet, and who posts stock photos of food on social media to try to convince people he's "just like us."

When they lie about little things, you should be insulted, and realize they will hurt people on much bigger things.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Another "big jobs" announcement, and tens of millions of Wis tax dollars along with it

Hey look, it’s another “jobs announcement” event for the Governor to attend!
Komatsu Mining Corp.'s proposed new office, manufacturing and training operations in Milwaukee's Harbor District are expected to eventually total around 1,000 jobs, including 600 local employees who will move there.

And that will provide a huge boost to the city's plans to redevelop the Harbor District by converting vacant lots and underused buildings into a hub of jobs, housing, retail space and other new uses.

Komatsu's future $285 million corporate campus will house manufacturing operations now based at 4400 W. National Ave., West Milwaukee, as well as corporate offices at Honey Creek Corporate Center, 135 S. 84th St., on Milwaukee's far west side.
It does sound like a great project, particularly because it moves Komatsu’s operations to the harbor, which makes it much easier for them to ship large cranes and other equipment via freighter.

But by this point, you should know that after you ask “What’s the project?”, the second question in Fitzwalkerstan is always “How much will it cost us?”
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced it has agreed to provide the company $59.5 million in state income tax credits over the next 12 years.

The amount of those tax credits will depend on the number of jobs created and retained, the amount of capital investment and the amount spent on purchasing equipment, goods and services from Wisconsin-based companies, the WEDC said.

Also, the city is proposing to provide up to $25 million in funds through new property tax revenue generated by the corporate campus. That would come through a tax incremental financing district, which would need Common Council approval.
There's also $15 million that the City of Milwaukee is putting up for a public Riverwalk in the area, and complementing a new 8-story mixed use facility of housing and the headquarters ofd Michels Corporation's 400-employee Milwaukee headquarters.

So nearly $100 million in tax money is being used to move a company 4 miles and MAYBE add 400 jobs? For a Wisconsin manufacturer that already was paying next to nothing in state taxes due to the Manufacturers and Agriculture Tax Credit?

At the same time, it’s notable that the business community in the Fox Cities and elected officials in the 920 are still pleading with the State Legislature to give a FoxConn-style bailout of $100 million to keep a Kimberly-Clark plant open near Appleton. And remember last month that Walker and WEDC has set aside $60 million to Green Bay Packaging for another alleged expansion of 200 jobs.

Now add in the $469 million of state tax dollars that is slated to go to the Foxconn development in the 2019-21, and can you tell me where that money is going to come from? Remember that Wisconsin has seen corporate income taxes fall in each of the last 3 years, requiring individual income taxes and sales taxes to make up the difference.

In addition, corporate income taxes at the federal level have also been cut, with 30% less revenue going to Uncle Sam despite record profits. And it sure isn’t trickling down into accelerated job or real wage growth – if anything, it’s slower than it was this time last year.

So maybe it’s time that the free ride for corporations and tax-funded handouts be put to an end, with a fairer tax code that helps the rest of us. Tony Evers noted this in a recent address to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, where he noted the large amount of Wisconsin families living close to the edge, as mentioned in the recent ALICE survey from the United Way.
Speaking at a Milwaukee Rotary Club event Tuesday, Evers cited an August United Way of Wisconsin report that found almost 40 percent of Wisconsin families struggled to pay for basic needs like transportation and child care.

Evers said giving these families a tax cut would boost the state’s economy more evenly. Funding these cuts, he said, is a matter of priorities….

Evers maintains the state can find savings in parts of government, including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s job creation agency, which Evers has vowed to eliminate and replace.
Along with dumping the tens of millions we give away each year in WEDC welfare we can have around $325 million a year come in from dumping the MAC giveaway. Then add in $200 million a year that the state saves from stopping its sabotage of the ACA and taking the Medicaid expansion, and that’s well over $1 billion extra in the next budget that can be used for real investments and tax cuts for people that could use a break.

As the Wisconsin Budget Project has frequently pointed out, low-income Wisconsinites have seen their taxes rise by Walker and WisGOP’s decision to whittle away at the Homestead and Earned Income Tax Credits over the last 8 years while not allowing for the state’s minimum wage to go above $7.25 an hour. And while Walker is proposing to finally expand those credits if the state re-elects him (nice timing to come around, eh?), those plans will still do nothing for most low-income working Wisconsinites, as it’s targeted to specific demographic groups like the elderly and the newly-married.

But face it, Scotty doesn’t care about tax fairness, he just wants a headline and pictures for ads (along with kickbacks for his campaign). And he’ll worry about what to cut and who to screw over for this corporate welfare at a later point (if he’s not able to leave it for the next Guv to clean up). But the rest of us that actually do care about what this state will look like and realize that the rest of us will be paying dearly for the billions in corporate giveaways, both in higher taxes and in a lower quality of life because better, longer-lasting investments are being passed up.

So let’s end the GOP’s corporate gravy train and get back into the 20th and 21st Century-style policies instead of this Gilded Age garbage and graft that isn’t helping 99% of us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Farm prices keep falling, and it'll cost us real tax dollars

Uncle Sam is stepping in to help farmers that are being plagued by plunging prices, with payments scheduled to come out around this time. The New York Times went over the Trump Administration's new farm subsidy, and also looked into whether the handouts will be enough.
The Trump administration is providing up to $12 billion in emergency relief funds for American farmers, with roughly $6 billion in an initial round. The three-pronged plan includes $4.7 billion in payments to corn, cotton, soybean, dairy, pork and sorghum farmers. The rest is for developing new foreign markets for American-grown commodities and purchasing more than two dozen select products, including certain fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat and dairy.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last month that soybean growers will get the largest checks, at $1.65 per bushel for a total of $3.6 billion. China is the world's leading buyer of American soybeans, purchasing roughly 60 percent of the U.S. crop. But since Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on soybean, imports prices have plunged.
There is grumbling in that story about the level of those subsidies (you can click here to see what they are), which varies widely based on the crop. Corn farmers are complaining about only getting 1 cent a bushel, and wheat farmers would only get 14 cents a bushel. Neither of those subsidies seem likely to come close to covering the losses that farmers are taking.

By comparison, soybeans are scheduled to be more than 3/4 of the total subsidy. The Trump Administration claims the subsidy amounts were based on how much prices fell and how much products were affected by the trade barriers, it’ll be intriguing to see if those figures are adjusted in a second round of subsidies later on.

And the trade wars and lowered prices don’t seem likely to end soon. In fact, China and the US just had 10% tariffs go into effect on a number of products Monday, and the Producer Price Index report from earlier this month showed the prices farmers were receiving had been dropping all Summer.

These charts on soybeans and cheese prices show the upcoming months may become even tougher.

Another source of needed help for Wisconsin dairy farmers could come from a new Farm Bill. The current law is set to expire at the end of this week, and the Wisconsin State Journal noted that more assistance to dairy farmers seems likely to be part of a new Farm Bill, if it ever becomes law.
The dairy provision in the current farm bill, the Margin Protection Program, was a disappointment. Based on an insurance system in which farmers paid premiums to get taxpayer-subsidized insurance to protect against losses, the system proved to be a money-loser.

The Senate and House versions of the new dairy insurance program are slightly different, but both offer a stronger safety net. A University of Missouri professor concluded the new program could offer six times the benefits of the old program, depending on the size of a farm and the choice of coverage.

For taxpayers, the new insurance program should be more cost-effective. The current bill’s dairy program has a budget baseline of about $50 million a year. The new program should cost taxpayers about $100 million more over five years. For that extra expense, consumers should gain more stability in dairy product prices and supplies.
Right now, the new Farm Bill is sitting in the House, where Paul Ryan's crew are figuring out if they want to hurt the working poor by taking their food stamps, or if they actually want real policies that might help farmers survive these times. It isn't scheduled for action, despite there being only 5 days left in the current Farm Bill, and the 2018 Fiscal Year.

Those drops explain why the Trump Administration felt that they had to send out the subsidies to help farmers get through in the short term. And the New York Times article notes that even the farmers themselves wish they didn’t have to get it.
"Nobody wants to have an aid package. I mean, if you're a farmer you're in the business of producing a crop. We just want a fair price for it," said Joel Schreurs, a soybean and corn producer near Tyler in southwestern Minnesota who sits on the board of both the American Soybean Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

His personal operation is about 1,000 acres. He farms an additional 500 acres with his son-in-law and other relatives. He estimates that the tariffs would cost him $40,000 to $50,000 in lost income and that he would get $16,000 to $20,000 in emergency aid.

Schreurs worries that it will be hard for farmers to get back the buyers they'll lose as a result of the trade wars. "And in the short term we have to find another home for those beans, otherwise they're going to pile up and it will keep prices depressed," he said.

Given the circumstances, it definitely seems like it's time for Mr. Mellencamp to give an update to this one. Heck, Farm Aid was just last weekend - you think it'd have gotten more attention given the times (John comes in around 3:40)

Walker claims we've got plenty of money to fix the roads. Don't buy it.

Yeah, I’ll take this statement with a heavy dose of skepticism.
In the midst of ongoing criticism of his transportation record, Gov. Scott Walker doubled down Tuesday, highlighting savings he says the state will see after finishing a 12-mile stretch of Interstate 39/90 one year early.

Walker also affirmed that the savings, along with extra money in his next budget, will cover a 50 percent increase in funding to county road programs he announced in La Crosse earlier in the week.

The state will save about $70 million by finishing a portion of Interstate 39/90 from Janesville to Edgerton in July 2020, Walker said. The entire interstate expansion project is 45 miles and will reconstruct the interstate in both directions from four to six lanes. Moving up a piece of the project will have a “cascading effect” to fund other transportation projects in the state.
Walker can SAY whatever he wants about that project’s timelines and its costs. But reality often is very different from that, and I’m not going to trust that interstate is ahead of schedule until the project is actually finished.

This was last year. No one bought your BS then, either.

After all, we’ve seen these tricks before, where the Walker Administration promised “magic savings” that allow them to afford certain highway projects, and then failed miserably when forced to show the receipts.
In a Feb. 7 letter to Democratic lawmakers, DOT official Dana Burmaster said that other road projects wouldn't be affected by the state taking on $102 million to $122 million in extra costs from seven additional projects to pave the way for the Foxconn factory. That's because the state managed to save $127 million last year on other projects, Burmaster wrote.

But the fiscal bureau report found that most of the savings last year and this year were used in other ways and covered just $32 million of the Foxconn costs.

The remaining money for reconditioning and resurfacing roads would total at least $1.53 billion over two years, or just slightly more than would have been available if lawmakers had not increased funding levels from the previous budget…

Even with $1.7 billion a year in funding, the share of state roads in "fair and above" condition would fall from 79% to 62% over the next 10 years, the report says. At current funding levels, an even lower percentage will be in good repair, it found.
In addition, Walker's claims of extra money available doesn’t seem to take into account all of the added needs that are the result of the many rainstorms that washed out roads throughout the state in the last month.

Working on this was not in the DOT's plans.

Simply put, this I-39/90 “announcement” happened because Walker is seeing polls that shows the average Wisconsinite knows their roads are falling apart, and that voters think he and WisGOP have no idea on how to come to up with the money to fix it other than borrowing us into oblivion. So now he’s trying to point to a highway plan that “is sufficient” when in fact things are being held together by glue and baling wire.

In fact, the only real DOT savings that have happened in recent years in Fitzwalkerstan aren’t due to efficiencies or accelerating projects, but by passing the buck down to local communities.
Wisconsin taxpayers will foot a bigger share of the bill to replace local bridges due to a new funding policy at the state Department of Transportation, county transportation officials say.

While the agency says the new policy spreads money to more projects around the state, some counties are seeing their costs increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After years of bridge replacement delays due to a lack of state funding, the DOT has rolled out a new program called "Replace-In-Kind." It directs local governments applying for state bridge aid to design replacements to minimum state engineering standards based on current traffic. If the application qualifies, the state promises to pay for 80 percent of the replacement cost with local governments picking up the rest.

If counties or municipalities want to design bridges that go beyond the minimum standards, the "Replace-In-Kind" policy lets them do it but on their own dime.
It’s just another Walker shell game that allows Scotty to maintain his higher priority – staying on the good side of RW BubbleWorlders like Grover Norquist and the Kochs by claiming he didn’t raise taxes.

But taxes have been raised plenty at the local level, as shown by the tripling of wheel taxes since Walker took office (with more to come, as Dane and Eau Claire Counties are among the places with new taxes coming on in the next few months). And even with those higher taxes and costs of car repair. Wisconsin’s roads continue to be bad, as 31% of state roads were listed as being in “poor” condition in the most recent TRIP report, including more than half the roads in the Milwaukee and Wausau areas, and nearly half in the Madison area.

In his typically whine, Walker complained about TRIP’s motivations, and hinted that he should try to create his own reality on the subject.
“I fundamentally disagree with the reports that many allude to, reports paid for by the special interests that are running ads attacking us on transportation,” he said. “If the media is now using reports that are paid for by groups as the basis of their information, than maybe I should go out and create a group and pay for my own studies."
This is such a rich quote. Not only does this completely bought puppet of a governor complain about “special interests”, but we also know why Scotty would make up his own study. Because when a legitimate report was put together by the Wisconsin transportation Policy and Finance Commission in July 2013, Walker promptly ignored its calls for more taxes and fees to pay for the state’s many highway needs, and claimed he had a better idea. 5 years later, we have Scott-holes all over Wisconsin.

Then again, if I was Scott Walker, and I was down 7 points, burning through campaign funds and not getting them replaced, and faced with having to get my first real job, I’d be panicking and claiming anything too. Unfortunately for Scotty, facts and records do matter in the real world, and Wisconsinites aren’t going to buy any “good news” and "special plans" from this guy when it comes to the future of Wisconsin’s highways.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How Russian hackers and other trolls tricked Sconnies in 2016. Don't get SUCKERED again

I wanted to let you know about a tremendous in-depth article from Jane Mayer titled “How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump. “ In this piece, Mayer talks to describing information from an upcoming book by social scientist Kathleen Hall Jamieson called “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President. What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know, and connects the dots between information we’ve seen in Mueller probe indictments, and what we saw in the 2016 elections.

For example, how did the Trump campaign know that they could win states like Wisconsin, when polling data at this point in 2016 said they were far behind? Jamieson indicates that it was because Russians (and therefore the Trump campaign?) had inside information that Hillary Clinton’s support in the Midwest was soft, and that many were open to persuasion when it came to not voting for the Dem.
Another revelation from the indictment which jumped out at Jamieson was that the Russian hackers had stolen the Clinton campaign’s data analytics and voter-turnout models. A month later, when we met in Philadelphia, Jamieson said, “So we’re starting to close in on a pretty strong inference that they had everything needed to target the messaging” at “key constituencies that did effectively mobilize in this election.” Cocking an eyebrow, she added, “The possibility that this happened starts to become a probability—starts to become a likelihood—pretty quickly.”

Joel Benenson, the Clinton pollster, was stunned when he learned, from the July indictment, that the Russians had stolen his campaign’s internal modelling. “I saw it and said, ‘Holy shit!’ ” he told me. Among the proprietary information that the Russian hackers could have obtained, he said, was campaign data showing that, late in the summer of 2016, in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, an unusually high proportion of residents whose demographic and voting profiles identified them as likely Democrats were “Hillary defectors”: people so unhappy with Clinton that they were considering voting for a third-party candidate. The Clinton campaign had a plan for winning back these voters. Benenson explained that any Clinton opponent who stole this data would surely have realized that the best way to counter the plan was to bombard those voters with negative information about Clinton. “All they need to do is keep that person where they are,” he said, which is far easier than persuading a voter to switch candidates. Many critics have accused Clinton of taking Michigan and Wisconsin for granted and spending virtually no time there. But Benenson said that, if a covert social-media campaign targeting “Hillary defectors” was indeed launched in battleground states, it might well have changed the outcome of the election….

Benenson said that, when he first learned about the theft, he “called another consultant on the campaign and said, ‘This is unreal.’ ” The consultant reminded him that, in focus groups with undecided voters in the fall of 2016, “we’d hear these things like ‘I really hate Trump, but Hillary’s going to murder all these people’—all sorts of crazy stuff.” Benenson admitted that many Americans had long disliked the Clintons, and had for years spread exaggerated rumors of their alleged misdeeds and deceptions. But he wonders if some of those conspiracy-minded voters hadn’t been unknowingly influenced by Russian propagandists who were marshalling the Clinton campaign’s own analytics.

Jamieson and Mayer go on to note that Russian/GOP propaganda efforts may even have “worked the refs” so well that not only did media over-report anti-Clinton themes relating to her emails, but it prodded FBI director James Comey and others into making anti-Clinton statements about events that weren’t worthy of public debate.

This included Comey’s press conference in July 2016 where he publically admonished Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of emails before admitting that there were no charges warranted against the Democratic candidate for president. Why did Comey do that instead of doing a simple press release saying the matter was closed? Because of fake Russian emails (amplified by the Faux News crowd) that implied Attorney General Loretta Lynch would give Clinton a break for political reasons. Comey wanted to publicly cut that meme off….and helped the Russians immensely in the process.
Six months after the election, the Washington Post broke a story that solved the mystery. At some point in 2016, the F.B.I. had received unverified Russian intelligence describing purported e-mails from Lynch to a member of the Clinton team, in which she promised that she’d go easy on Clinton. An unnamed source told the Post that the intelligence had been viewed as “junk.” Nonetheless, Comey has reportedly told aides that he let the disinformation shape his decision to sideline Lynch.

Fearing, in part, that conservatives would create a furor if the alleged e-mails became public, he began to feel that Lynch “could not credibly participate in announcing a declination.” A subsequent report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, described Comey’s behavior as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” and found his justifications unpersuasive.

Nick Merrill, a former Clinton-campaign spokesman, describes Comey’s actions as “mind-blowing.” He said of the intelligence impugning Lynch, “It was a Russian forgery. But Comey based major decisions in the Justice Department on Russian disinformation because of the optics of it! The Russians targeted the F.B.I., hoping they’d act on it, and then he went ahead and did so.
Which should remind us that James Comey is not a good guy, and lauding him because of what he has said against Trump in 2017 and 2018 should never forgive him of the disgraceful and unsavvy act he pulled in 2016.

The Republicans and Russians are clearly doing this “work the refs” act today, from the many ways they are trying to smear alleged female victims of Brett Kavanaugh, to the ways that Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP try to blame anyone but themselves for their failures. There are two prongs to this attack, much like there were with Trump in 2016.

One is to stir up and distract low-info voters that know in their minds that the GOP is bad news. This was done by Russians with the Trump campaign with lots of flag-waving and Christian symbols, crossed with a solid bit of racism and resentment plays. In Wisconsin, it’s a Scott Walker tweet-storm where he acts like he supports protecting people with pre-existing conditions and funding roads and schools, while not mentioning that he’s had 8 years to do these things, chose not to, and caused the problems that he now claims he'll "solve".

And when they get called out on it, boy do they screech and whine.

This will only stop when Russians/GOPs see their gaslighting and propaganda efforts hurt the GOP at the ballot box. These amoral slimeballs won’t do the right thing, so it’s up to the Dems to call out the lies and ways the Russia/GOPs try to trick voters, and it’s up to the voters to make the GOP pay a price for their sick game.

If that price is not paid by the cynical GOPper-gandists, it’ll be much worse in 2020. So please, for the mental health of this state and this country, don’t be a SUCKER this time, and don’t fall for the Russia-GOP’s psy-ops.

Josh Kaul can beat Schimel for AG...if he lets people know who he is

I wanted to take a few moments to discuss Wisconsin’s Attorney General race between incumbent GOP Brad Schimel and Dem challenge Josh Kaul. While the most recent Marquette Law School Poll indicated Schimel had a slight lead, it also identified opportunities for Kaul to take control, if he steps up to do so.

If you look at the toplines of the Marquette Poll from a couple of weeks ago, here’s the story they tell.

Attorney General’s race, Sept 2018 MU Poll, likely voters
1st response
Schimel 44%
Kaul 38%

With leaners
Schimel 48%
Kaul 41%

Favorability of AG candidate
Favorable 24%
Unfavorable 20%
Don’t Know 12%
Haven’t Heard Enough 44%

Favorable 7%
Unfavorable 5%
Don’t Know 18%
Haven’t heard enough 69%

From those figures, it seems pretty obvious that Schimel’s “lead” is a function of having twice as many people have an opinion on who he is than Kaul (56% vs 30%). And the upside for Kaul would seem to be much higher than Schimel, based on these three issue questions in the poll.

Bigger priority- Protection of environment vs economic growth?
Environment 60%
Economic growth 26%
Both should be equal 11%

Should abortion be legal?
Legal in all or most cases 62%
Illegal in all or most cases 32%

What should be done with the ACA/Obamacare?
Keep as/is or improve 59%
Repeal and replace 26%
Repeal and not replace 10%

In all three of those cases, Kaul’s opinion matches up with what the majority of Wisconsinites want. By comparison, Attorney General Schimel has told the DNR to allow CAFOs to take as much water as they want and pollute at will, has used tax dollars to defend Wisconsin’s unconstitutional abortion limitations, and has sued to abolish the ACA.

You wonder why Schimel was trying to insulate people in the GOP Bubble last week from what will be said about his horrendous record? Because if Kaul actually lets people know how far out of step Schimel is from the Wisconsin mainstream, and how much more Kaul matches what they believe in, not only would Kaul be likely to grab most of the 11% undecided, but also much of Schimel’s soft support who is only backing the current AG on name recognition.

Hi, do you know me?

That Marquette Poll also indicates to me that the Kaul campaign and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin are missing a great chance to make up ground and firm up support for November. Kaul’s campaign has chosen to do a lot of meet-and-greets and co-appearances with other Dem candidates (here’s an example from a Racine County event over the weekend). But door-knocking and talking to people who already know and support you only works in two situations.

1. Where both candidates are running for local office, aren’t well known, and deal with issues very specific to a neighborhood.
2. Where the candidates are both very well known, running for a statewide/federal race, and you want a presence in certain areas and/or the community is densely populated where lots of people move in and move out.

Neither of these cases apply to the AG’s race as we stand today, so Kaul’s challenge is to let the average person who doesn’t follow politics know who you are, and who the other guy really is. That means TV ads, whether you like that fact or not, because if nothing else, TV ads make media talk about the ads, which is an easy way to get free publicity and raises the profile of the race for the average lower-info (often non-partisan) voter.

Schimel has been following this strategy with cynical photo ops where he hands out millions in tax dollars for “school safety” and “mental health”. He’s held numerous free media events over the course of several weeks promoting this one-time payout, and an extra “tell” that it’s a campaign stunt is that the Republican Attorney General’s Association is now running ads on this.

Kaul and the Dems should be reminding voters that Schimel has been the rare AG that has refused to sue the opiod manufacturers even as opiod-related hospital visits and overdoses skyrocket in the state. But instead they are too often ceding the stage to the cynical, crooked Schimel, and make it seem like he actually cares about something other than campaign donations.

It’s not like the Kaul campaign doesn’t have the money, Kaul outraised Schimel again for August, and basically has the same amount of cash that Schimel has, despite having a much shorter time to raise it. You gonna do something with that $917,000 in the bank, Josh? You’re a very good candidate who has defended voting rights and stood up for the right people vs corporations. Why don’t you let some people know about it?

And I have concerns that time is getting a bit short for Kaul to define himself and redefine Schimel. Sure, there are still 6 weeks left in an Attorney General’s race where 2/5 of the electorate don’t know either candidate, which makes it much easier to make up ground if you do it right. But October comes next week, and soon after, average dopes will have their brains scrambled from so many ads that they won’t want to watch any ads or information you put up.

The time to strike is NOW, and cement opinions in people’s minds before they stop caring and retreat into their safe cocoons of ignorance and “voting with the gut.”

Monday, September 24, 2018

Back to the '80s prep life with Brett Kavanaugh

The more I read about Brett Kavanaugh's younger days, the more this scene from "Trading Places" came to mind.

And then in his later college years, I could see Kav being part of this crew. Especially the soulless James Spader character.

It's not a coincidence that "Less than Zero" author Brett Easton Ellis went to a elite country day school growing up, and then went to Bennington College on the East Coast. He knew these entitled types well.

People like Brett Kavanaugh may be elite, but they aren't special and aren't worthy of respect. They got to where they were through being members of the Lucky Sperm Club, and an ability to go lower than anyone else, without an ounce of empathy for anyone outside of their Bubble.

This is the type of scum that makes up most of the DC-based side of the GOP, and Paul Ryan fit right in with these guys once he got to the Beltway 20 years ago. Their act was sickening 30 years ago, and it's even less OK today.

Walker Admin doesn't want us to know the costs and needs of our highways

6 weeks before the November elections, the Walker Administration knows they are vulnerable on what they (haven't) done with the state's roads. And as we found out by an article from Katelyn Ferral in today, this has now led WisDOT to hide data that might let the public to know just how crowded and delay-ridden Wisconsin highways are.
The state affirmed that it has retired the delay and reliability metric, which tracks congestion on roads, from its quarterly Mobility Accountability Preservation Safety Service (MAPSS) reports because the federal government has changed how it monitors congestion. Wisconsin's Department of Transportation says it will still measure congestion in some form for reports it sends to the federal government.

Critics say that federal change should not preclude the state from measuring congestion on its own as it has for years and regularly sharing that information with the public. Congestion was not included in the agency's latest MAPSS report from April or July, nor is it considered in the DOT's latest state budget request that was released this month, a departure from past reports and budget requests.
I’m sure this is just a coincidence, and it has nothing to do with the recent national TRIP report from an pro-infrastructure organization which showed that $1.9 billion a year is wasted due to road congestion, and that Wisconsin motorists pay over $3 billion a year in additional costs as a result of bad roads.

This costs serious money.

That same TRIP report also showed that 50% of the state’s roads were listed in “fair” or “poor” condition, and noted that the amount of travel on the state’s roads was rising, especially in recent years.
From 2000 to 2016, annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in Wisconsin increased by 12 percent, from 57.3 billion miles traveled annually to 64 billion miles traveled annually. Vehicle travel in Wisconsin increased eight percent in the last three years (2013-2016).
The inconvenient truths of the TRIP survey and other metrics leads the head of a group representing county highway officials to say that WisDOT chose not to include the congestion information for an obvious reason - it would make WisDOT look bad.
Tracking congestion levels is often the most visible, direct way for drivers to understand how roads are functioning and a key indicator for transportation officials to evaluate what system changes might be needed. Without timely, consistent measurement of it, said Dan Fedderly, executive director of the Wisconsin County Highway Association, it is hard to hold the DOT accountable.

"The whole MAPSS program is, in very simple terms, to rate DOT's performance. So once they start changing the parameters around that then it becomes difficult to rate their performance," he said. "I suspect partially it's due to the fact that it's not a metric they're going to do well on based on some of their other policies."
While Fedderly may have a special interest in his theory, the overall point is correct. How are we going to make the best decisions on how to prioritize highway projects if we’re not going to use data that shows how heavily traveled those roads are?

The article goes on to quote new DOT spokesman Christian Schneider as saying that removing congestion from MAPSS has nothing to do with the fact that it would make Walker’s WisDOT look like it was falling further behind in keeping our infrastructure up with the needs of the state. Nooo. Instead, Schneider claims it was to match up with newer and fewer reporting requirements that are coming down from the Trump Administration.

He wouldn't be spinning away from reality, would he?

OK Christian, flat-earth Trumpists may not want all that information these days. But explain to us why WisDOT shouldn’t still use the information from MAPPS to help figure out where and when to spend money to adjust the capacity of our increasingly crowded and deteriorating roads.

After all, it’s not like there isn’t planning going on with these traffic forecasts. As a new article today notes, we’re slated to spend nearly half a billion dollars to not only alleviate congestion on I-94 south of Milwaukee, but to help Foxconn use driverless vehicles to ship products.
The 18.5-mile upgrade that runs from south of College Avenue to Highway 142 in Kenosha County is intended to ease congestion on a roadway where traffic is expected to grow from a current range of 83,000 to 153,000 vehicles a day to 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles daily by 2034, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Another key focus, state officials say, is that the upgrade will help Foxconn Technology Group automate the shipping of goods and people for its Mount Pleasant campus, and move freight from Mitchell International Airport to operations in Racine County.

The tech upgrades being built into the freeway were a key selling point when Wisconsin received a $160 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Transportation in June.
Oh wait, Foxconn kickbacks and free federal money were in play here. Got it.

The Walker Administration continues to try to run from their failures on road funding ahead of the November elections. But tactics such as hiding congestion data and the costs of new projects from the DOT’s budget request just makes them look even more unfit for the job, and it reiterates that we need new Dem leadership that’ll give honest assessments about what investments need to be made to have our infrastructure reach an acceptable level for the 2010s.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

In today's GOP, the scum rises to the top. And Dems should stop letting it slide

I saw a series of tweets from David Rothkopf, a longtime DC journalist, Cabinet member and lobbyist this morning. I'll give you a taste of it, as it summed things up perfectly to me, and why a lot of the last few years feel so sickening and depressing.

It's true. In today's GOP, the scum rises to the top. And the less moral you are, the better off you become.

Look at this week, and all of the stories about what kind of the lowlifes exist in today's GOP World. This is just a small sample.

So why are these a-holes allowed to be in power and wreck things for the overwhleming majority of us who aren't evil bastards? The answer may lie in something I saw in a Michael Moore interview.

Moore mentioned that he got a chance to talk to former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon in the runup to the release of Moore's new movie, Farenheit 11/9. . And Bannon told Moore the reason GOPs end up winning more than they should - LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR.
[Moore:] What I really want to know is, How did you do this? [Bannon] said, “Look, it’s very simple — we go for the head wound and your side has pillow fights. The head wound will always win over the pillow fight.” And that seemed so true and so honest, because liberals and Democrats are constantly about compromising. Never about having real health care that’s universal like in other countries; half-measures like Obamacare. I knew what he said was true.
It's a sickening comment, but Bannon's got a point. Too many voters have been too weak to fight off these simplistic, gut appeals, and Dems haven't slapped back hard enough at the evil, racist, garbage that GOPs spew. And the other mistake too many Dems do, is that they let things drop, instead of pounding a meme of "the GOP are crooked bastards" into people's heads - a meme that would have the extra benefit of being true.

Whether we like it or not, many Americans are not going to think deeply about issues. And while they recognize things aren't right, they aren't going to examine why that might be. They're just unhappy and want things to get better. What Dems have to do is to isolate the evil that is in today's GOP, that they don't have anything in common with the everyday person that's just trying to get by.

And we need to show people that many of these men (gender intentional) at the top in our society didn't get there on merit, but they got there because they were willing to plumb depths most of us would not sink to. And that these men at the top are not worthy of the authority or respect that they believe their position gives them.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Walker's cynical two-step on ACA finally catching up to him

I see our "Unintimidated" Governor tap-dancing all over the place when it comes to the Affordable Care Act this week. Check out this statement.

In addition to the unstated admission that Walker and WisGOP are losing on this issue, we know it's BS for other reasons. After that State of the State speech, Walker signed off earlier this year on letting Attorney General Brad Schimel lead a federal lawsuit that seeks to throw out the ACA entirely, which would include the provision on requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions. So Walker is OK with getting rid of the ACA in court while claiming "we don't need a state law to protect pre-existing conditions because the ACA already does that."

Walker has also pulled this type of two-step on other parts of Obamacare. He has refused to use federal dollars that would have paid 100% of the costs to expand Medicaid, despite the fact that it would have covered more people, saved Wisconsinites nearly $700 million as of 2017, and will save at least $200 million a year in future years. Why? Scotty claimed it was because the ACA might go away some day, so we can't rely on the money, an uncertainty that doesn't exist for Scotty when it comes to the ACA's protections for pre-existing coverage.

If that sounds absurd, it's because it is. This ad from A Stronger Wisconsin hit the nail on the head as to the real reason Walker won't do the right thing with the ACA.

Refusing Medicaid expansion was a Walker calculation that let him stay on the good side of big-money right-wingers and the idiots that make up a lot of the GOP primary electorate nationwide, and what was best for Wisconsinites did not matter.

However, now that he is losing in the 2018 election, Walker is more than glad to use the ACA as an excuse to keep the insurance premiums mentioned in that ad from rising even higher before we vote in November. That's the central part of his reinsurance scheme, where Walker relies on federal ACA paybacks to subsidize insurers in an attempt to encourage them to keep prices down.

In addition to the absurd double-talk, we also know Walker doesn't mean it when he says he'd work to protect Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions. See Scotty, the Google exists, and through it we know what Walker said right after the House GOP passed a bill in May 2017 to gut the ACA.
Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that he would consider seeking a waiver to let insurers raise premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions if the House Republicans’ health care plan becomes law.

House GOP members narrowly passed the bill Thursday that would roll back former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Part of the bill would allow states to seek waivers exempting insurers from Obama’s prohibition on higher premiums for people with pre-existing problems. States could then use federal dollars to fund government-operated insurance programs for pools of expensive patients.

Walker, a Republican, told reporters that he would consider seeking such a waiver, saying Wisconsin has run high-risk pools well in the past.

“We had a very effective program before,” Walker said. “I think a lot of people were disappointed that Wisconsin was not allowed to have that under the Affordable Care Act, under Obamacare. So that’s something we’d certainly consider.”
Oh please. The only people who were disappointed were health care lobbyists, and Koched-up oligarchs who read Walker's comments in the right-wing Washington Examiner. But of course, that's who Walker was speaking to, since they pay bigger donations than destitute people with pre-existing conditions.

Governor Unintimidated backed off within hours once there was major public blowback. But make no mistake, if he thought it would help his electoral prospects at the state or (after 2018) the national level, he'd go back to "kill the ACA and leave it up to the insurance industry" in a heartbeat.

The fact that the ACA has been law for 8 years, but Walker STILL has no clue about what he'd do if it went away is another "tell" that Walker is scrambling with empty promises.

We also know what Walker said about the ACA during his hilariously failed attempt to run for president. His statements were filled with "repeal and replace" BS and deregulation of insurance that absolutely would have allowed insurance companies to turn down individuals for coverage due to their medical conditions - either through outright rejection, or by making premiums and treatment so expensive that they would become unaffordable.

Just like with road funding and school aid cuts, we're seeing Scott Walker turn himself into a pretzel now that his past choices of "donors and politics over governance" are coming back to hurt him and other Wisconsinites. And just like with the other 2 issues, the more this grifter Dropout Governor tries to talk his way out of it, the more foolish he looks, reiterating that he is unfit for a third term.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Scotty's way to fix the roads is to...sell them? What a dumb Hoosier idea that is!

I was wondering what our Fair Governor’s idea was when it came to paying to fix our Scotthole-laden roads with money that currently doesn’t exist. Well, we found out via Patrick Marley on Friday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Gov. Scott Walker's transportation secretary told business officials and others last week he had talked to a London financier about selling off Wisconsin's highways but had rejected the idea.

Transportation Secretary Dave Ross told a group last week that Walker's administration was adopting new ways of getting its work done and mentioned in passing his discussion about selling off roads, according to people familiar with the meeting.

He then said he was not pursuing the proposal because Wisconsin has good contractors to maintain the state's roads...

[DOT Deputy Secretary Bob] Seitz was present when Ross made his comments last week at a meeting at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce headquarters in Madison. He said he hadn't heard about Ross' meeting with the businessperson until then and didn't know the person's name.
Nice to see Walker Cabinet officials floating this our to their puppetmasters at WMC in private, isn’t it? Banana Republicanism at its “finest.”

While it's not openly stated, it seems like this would be in the form of a new toll road in Wisconsin, as that would be the easiest way for the highway's operators and maintainers to get their money back. Basically someone would give the state of Wisconsin a bunch of money up-front, and then the operators would get the revenues that come in from operating the toll road and/or other businesses on or near the road.

I have a bit of familiarity on how some of this works, as I was just leaving Indiana in the mid-2000s when then-Governor Mitch Daniels sold off the state’s Toll Road to a foreign company for $3.8 billion, and I still have friends in the state. Technically, it was a 75-year lease to the consortium, but I would think this is a model that any Wisconsin selloff would follow.

The experience in Indiana worked out reasonably well in the short-run for the state’s motorists, as the money was invested and used for a highway program called Major Moves which meant that new tax money wasn’t needed for expansions and repairs.

But for the financiers, it wasn’t going so well, as Forbes noted in 2014.
What happens when the wave of the future files for bankruptcy?

That’s what they’re asking in Indiana now that its privatized toll road, lauded as a new era in public/private infrastructure partnerships, has filed for a “pre-packaged” Chapter 11 bankruptcy…

For one, the Indiana Toll Road, as well as many others, experienced dramatic drops in traffic due partly to the Great Recession. In 2010 it was estimated that the road needed nearly 11 million toll-paying trucks each year just to break even, but only half as many traveled the highway.

While the revenue situation improved in 2012, the road’s financing structure may have had an even bigger impact. Using a common project finance tool called anaccreting swap, the consortium hoped to exchange low debt service costs early on with higher costs later, and then eventually refinance. But the consortium’s inability to meet these increasing debt costs that ultimately prompted the filing. The road’s total debt obligations now stand at nearly $6 billion, up from $3.4 billion at the time of acquisition.

This wasn't such a great investment
Another part of the deal said that the tolls in Indiana would be frozen for 10 years. However, those 10 years ended in 2016, and in June 2017, we got this story.
Robin and other commuters we talked to didn’t know about the rate freeze that kept the cost of a trip down the entire length of the toll road to just $4.65. Robin was surprised to hear that the same trip would cost $10.52 on Thursday.

“Why is this happening? Why am I being charged this much? “What is the reason for it,” asked Robin.

There has been some debate over just whose best interests were being served by the freeze. “It did some favors for the people who enacted it,” said Ind. Rep. Scott Pelath, (D) Michigan City. “It kicked the can down the road past a few elections.”

“Now the money for paying the subsidy has worn off,” added Ind. Rep. Ryan Dvorak, (D) South Bend. “The true cost of the toll increases are going to be borne by everybody.”
And just this week, Indiana and the new operators of the Toll Road worked out a deal where the operators will send the state $1 billion over the next 3 years, while the tolls for trucks and other heavy vehicles will go up 35% next month.

In addition, those billions that Indiana received from the original sale eventually ran out, and Daniels and successor Mike Pence (yeah, THAT GUY), didn’t reinvest. This led to Interstate 65 being shut down for months in 2015 due to deficient bridges, and causing a Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune reporter to rip Indiana as the “Land of Cheap.”

By 2017, with money getting scarce again, Pence’s had a privatization plan for getting a new interstate built in southwest Indiana, But Pence’s scheme turned into a disaster with the project being delayed and eventually stopped, and the company in charge of building it going broke.

The plan was that an organization called I-69 Partners would borrow money, and the state of Indiana would then pay the organization as it completed work and maintenance on the road. Most of the money for I-69 Partners came from a European company named Isolux, and they were not a good source.
Within the past two years, Isolux has been replaced on jobs in Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. The company is near insolvency. The bonds it used to finance I-69 construction, to use the industry's term, are "junk."

Even a supporter of public-private partnerships, Robert Poole of the libertarian Reason Foundation, had a harsh assessment: "This is one of the worst failures that I've seen in the state-level [public-private partnerships]"…

Just four months after construction finally started, one of the subcontractors, Aztec Engineering Group, issued a Notice of Default to Isolux for not paying for work on time, according to a court record.

Isolux made the payment but was the target of two more notices in March and June 2016, due to an outstanding balance of more than $4 million.
At various times that summer and into fall, as Pence campaigned for vice president, unpaid subcontractors walked off the job site. In June, Aztec suspended its work altogether and was replaced. In September, Crider & Crider of Bloomington stopped work.
The State of Indiana gave I-69 Partners the boot on the project after Pence left office, and now the project will have to be re-bid to a new vendor at a much higher cost and be completed well behind schedule. But hey, Pence doesn’t have to deal with that fallout, now does he?

So with that background in place, let’s go back to the report about Scott Walker thinking about selling our interstate projects off to private interests as a way of alleviating our increasing backlog of road work.
Some who were familiar with the meeting said Ross referred to the businessperson as a billionaire, while one said he referred to the person as a financier.

The idea comes as road funding emerges as a central issue in the GOP governor's re-election bid. Walker has fought raising the gas tax, but has faced pressure from some of his fellow Republicans who want to do that to get more projects done.
In other words, selling Wisconsin highways was Walker’s bright idea as to how to get road projects done, while not getting on the bad side of Grover Norquist, the Kochs and other out-of-state oligarchs by (gasp!) raising taxes to pay for this work.

And how much would you want to bet some Walker donor would get a nice deal to operate any Wisconsin toll road, likely as a kickback for an even bigger donation? Always projection with these guys.

I wouldn't count on this working out either.

Amazingly, I saw a Koch ad this week claiming it was Tony Evers that was thinking about toll roads, not Walker. Now I’ve seen Evers talk about increasing the gas tax to stop borrowing for these needed repairs (an increase which is not going to be by $1, righties. Evers reiterated that yesterday), but he’s never mentioned tolls as an option as far as I know.

Based on the track record in Indiana (and they’re far from the only place these schemes have failed), it’s a horrible idea to try to use WisDOT’s budget problems as an excuse for Scott Walker and WisGOP to strike another deal that throws out taxpayer dollars to cronies. Any potential operator won't give Wisconsin the windfall that Indiana received for the Toll Road, now that there is more familiarity with costs and benefits of such a deal. Walker and anyone else who thought about this scam should be ripped mercilessly for even thinking of something so stupid and crooked.

See, this is the problem when you try to “legislate” by sloganeering, poses and empty promises, Reality catches up to you at some point, and the lies and schemes you try to pull to get yourself out of it just compounds the problems you caused.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

ALEC-run Wisconsin continues to lag for jobs, no matter how you look at it

Another week, and more information that shows just how badly Wisconsin has been left behind under the rule of the GOP.

Let's start by digging into the “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and compare the latest report (which goes up to March 2018) to where we were in March 2011 (the first quarter that Scott Walker and 5 other Midwestern Governors were in power), and see how we shape up.

This shouldn’t surprise you, but Wisconsin was in the bottom half of the pack in the Midwest for both private sector jobs and total jobs added. And the US’s rate of growth outpaced Wisconsin by a factor of 3-to-2.

Note Minnesota being in the top half. Our neighbors to the West have had notably higher job growth over these 7 years, and they didn’t have to wreck public education, worker wages, and the state’s roads in the process. Despite starting from a lower number in 2011, Minnesota now has almost completely caught Wisconsin when it comes to overall and private sector jobs.

Zooming out to how Wisconsin shapes up vs the rest of the nation, we look like a state that hasn’t been in the top half for job growth since June 2011. In total, since March 2011 we are 31st in the US for private sector job growth, and 31st for all jobs. Hey, can’t say we’re not consistent(ly subpar).

Bruce Thompson also took a look at how Wisconsin shaped up to the rest of the country for Walker’s tenure in office in his most recent Data Wonk column for Urban Milwaukee. In particular, he looked at the ratings for policy from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who has been a puppetmaster driving force behind many Walker and WisGOP bills for the last 7 years.

Not surprisingly, ALEC likes what Wisconsin has done in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, but Thompson notes that hasn’t come close to meaning success in the real world.
The graph below comparing Wisconsin and Minnesota shows the measure that ALEC uses in rating the states’ policies, its so-called “Outlook” score: The bigger the number, the worse the policy, in ALEC’s view. As can be seen, the measures are heavily skewed towards low taxes, particularly taxes on wealthy people. Conversely, states are penalized for such measures as minimum wage laws that are aimed at helping lower-income people. In most cases, Minnesota (in blue) has a higher and thus worse rating than Wisconsin (in red).

In their overall “Outlook” score, Wisconsin ranks 19th best, easily beating Minnesota, which ranks 44th best among the states. Yet when it comes to ALEC’s ranking of the states’ performance, Minnesota, in 22nd place, is far ahead of Wisconsin at 37th.
If ALEC were honest, they would then adjust its criteria in the face of Minnesota’s clear outperformance. But they wouldn’t dare do that, because then they’d have to rethink their whole low-tax/wage-suppression agenda, and honest analysis is not why the oligarchs who fund ALEC give them big money.

Thompson goes on to cite two examples of mid-size states that followed the ALEC agenda to the letter, and the failures that followed.
The best-known attempt to apply supply-side principles at the state level is Governor Sam Brownback’s in Kansas. Taxes were radically slashed, as was state spending on services like education. The cuts in services led to a backlash and a split between moderate and very conservative Republicans. Another governor entranced by the supposed economic magic of tax cuts was Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal in 2008-2016, who left his state in dire financial straights without creating the promised economic boom. As can be seen below, both attempts failed to generate the promised economic gains from businesses rushing in to take advantage of the lower tax rates. instead, job growth in both states badly trailed the nation.

Also notice that the chart shows Kansas finally going back on the upswing for jobs in early 2017, which coincides with 14 ALEC/Brownback puppets getting booted out of the State legislature in the 2016 primaries, followed by tax hikes in 2017 that were passed over Brownback’s veto to get the budget more in balance.

The Kansas example gives a road map for how a state can start to work itself back from a damaging, Koched-up agenda. Our Governor and Koch/ALEC Legislature have gone down the same failing path as the Jayhawks, and also followed in the footsteps of Jindal, who was as hilariously awful on the 2016 presidential trail as Walker was.
This brings us to Wisconsin and the eight years of Scott Walker administration. As a whole, Walker’s policies follow the supply-side prescriptions—cut taxes, weaken regulations particularly on the environment, and keep labor cheap to attract industries. Has this worked? As the chart above shows, Wisconsin has seen job growth during this period that is moderate but well below the national average.

The question then is how much of the gap results from things inherent in Wisconsin (cold winters, dependence on manufacturing, the state’s culture, etc.) and how much on Walker’s policies. In a recent column, I presented one way to get at this question. Calculating Wisconsin’s relation to six other upper Midwest states in the period before Walker took office and projecting it to the Walker period results in a prediction about 80,000 jobs higher than the actual Wisconsin count. Walker’s policies, in short, have cost the state 80,000 jobs.
And Thompson is being kind. If you assume Wisconsin would have grown at the same rate as the US as a whole since January 2011, we’d have around 140,000 more jobs today. This is illustrated through the Walker jobs gap, which includes today’s report which shows 2,000 fewer private sector jobs in August than we thought we had, after July’s totals were revised down.

Thompson finishes his column by noting that supply-side ALEC BS usually leads to subpar economic results anyway, but it’s especially awful in this time of rising inequality and stagnant wages.
Supply-side economics suffers from three strikes. First, at a time when growing economic inequality is raising increased concerns, its recommendations help increase the gap. Second, it results in more pollution and a less-desirable environment. Finally, the evidence indicates it fails as an economic development strategy. With the support of wealthy people who benefit from supply-side’s prescription, the theory has lasted long beyond its expiration date. The sooner it is taken out back and buried, the better off we will all be.
You got that right, Bruce and it’s especially true in Wisconsin. But burying this supply-side BS won’t happen until we get rid of the Dropout Governor and the ALEC-owned GOP legislators that have been his rubber-stamp through these underperforming years in the 2010s.

So let’s get on with that step in November, and put these GOP-puppets and their failed feudal philosophy deep into the Swamp for a while. They’ve earned it.