Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Less aid, less hotel $ + higher property taxes. Local govts are crunched

Two items in recent days illustrated the crunch that local governments are looking at as they determine next year's budgets. Both deal with a lack of state aids - one is yet another instance of a lack of shared revenues that dumps more of the burden onto local governments, and the other is dealing with the higher property taxes that homeowners are likely to face this December.

The first item comes from the Wisconsin Policy Forum, who released an intriguing report on the state's Payments to Municipal Services program this week. First of all, let's allow the Policy Forum to explain what this program does.
The payments offset the share of the cost of providing fire, police, and waste removal services to state facilities that otherwise would be borne by local property taxpayers. Other municipal services to state facilities, such as water, sewer, or electrical, are paid for by the responsible state agency in the form of user fees. While counties may not receive direct payments under the program for services such as law enforcement, they may be repaid indirectly through an inter-governmental agreement with the municipality where the state facility is located.
Because state agencies don't pay property taxes for their buildings, this is basically a services agreement allowing the locals to give protective services, pick up garbage, and perform other duties for these buildings.

The Policy Forum notes that these buildings are taking up a higher proportion of land values in many Wisconsin communities, if they were able to be counted on the property tax rolls.
The formula used to calculate MSP entitlements increases a municipality’s entitlement if there is an increase in the ratio of the property value of its state facilities to the values of all of its private real estate improvements, such as buildings. Land values, private or public, are not included in the state’s formula and neither are state highways. In the municipalities receiving payments, this statewide ratio increased in the last decade, from about 5.4% in 2009 to about 7.2% in 2019.

In one key example, the city of Madison in recent years saw the construction of large facilities such as the Hill Farms state office building and numerous buildings on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. This caused Madison’s ratio of state facility values to those of all real estate improvements to increase from 20% in 2009 to 23.8% in 2019.
The problem is that what the state is giving these communities isn't nearly as much as they could, if they fully funded the program.
State funding to reimburse municipalities for services linked to state-owned facilities was about $18.6 million in 2019, or 34.7% of what communities were eligible to receive — the smallest share on record (see Figure 1). This resulted in a total funding gap of more than $35 million for municipalities last year.
Not surprisingly, Madison gets the worst of this arrangement, as it could get another $15.8 million from the state if it fully funded the program. Yes, I know that having a lot of state jobs and the flagship UW school adds a lot of demand for property that might otherwise not exist, which raises tax base. But the Policy Forum notes that if the Mad City got that extra $15.8 million from the state, it would be double the $7.9 million that Madison motorists paid in the new $40 wheel tax this there wouldn't be a need for the wheel tax.

When these services are dumped onto local governments, it often falls on the property tax to pay for them. And we found out Wednesday that Wisconsinites are already susceptible to higher property taxes this Winter, because the Legislative Fiscal Bureau gave their projections of how much the state would give out in the Lottery Fund, and it's taking a dive vs last year.

Lottery Fund property tax relief

Dec 2019 actual $271.74 Million

Dec 2020 budget $256.58 Million (-$15.16 Million vs 2019)

Dec 2020 actual $238.11 Million (-$33.63 Million)

So there's another $33.63 million in property taxes that Wisconsinites will be paying in a couple of months. On top of many of them facing higher bills due to the Bubblicious property values in their community.

Let me also remind you that another source of local government funding has also collapsed, and that's room taxes. Channel 6 in Milwaukee had this piece that followed up on an alarming report from the state's lodging industry.
"We've been saying a long time that our industry is devastated," said Bill Elliott, Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association president and CEO. "Now we're really seeing it start to take effect."

Elliott said the extent of damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming clear. A recent internal survey shows a staggering 47% of Wisconsin lodging establishments could be forced to close in the next year without loan or grant assistance.

"We need help from the federal level," said Elliott. "We need help from the state level."

More than 50% of hotel staff in the state remain furloughed or laid off.
With fewer people staying in hotels, that means fewer room taxes for pay for services that the community relies on. And since almost all cities, towns and villages don't have sales taxes, that means the amount of resources that the property tax pays for becomes higher and higher....until it reaches the state's levy limits, which leads to layoffs and other cutbacks.

This is what's ironic about GOP complaints over defunding the police. Wisconsin's local governments have been so squeezed by the lack of shared revenues due to previous GOP policy, and the lack of lodging receipts due to the GOP President's botched response on COVID-19, that they likely will have no choice but to consider reducing police costs as they consider their 2021 budgets in the coming months. Among other things.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

We need stimulus. Pelosi wants stimulus. But she isn't forcing GOP to choose "shutdown or stimulus"

While the economy has managed to claw back a decent amount of what was lost in March and April due to the shock of COVID shutdowns and the ongoing structural changes in spending habits, we are far from out of the woods. Wall Streeters are aready warning that because DC lawmakers might stop pumping so much money into the economy, they are dropping their US growth estimates for the coming months.
In a note to clients published Sunday, Ellen Zentner and the economics team at Morgan Stanley lowered their fourth quarter GDP forecast to annualized growth of 3.5%, down from 9.3%. For the full-year 2020, Morgan Stanley now expects the economy will contract 2.7%, more than the 1.5% forecasted previously.

And this move followed downgrades to growth from JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs last week. JPM now sees fourth quarter growth coming in at 2.5% with the economy contracting 4.2% in 2020. Goldman expects the economy will grow at a 3% clip in the fourth quarter and contract by 3.5% for the full-year 2020.

All three firms targeted the same culprit: a lack of new fiscal stimulus.

Though in cutting these outlooks for growth, all three firms acknowledge that it does seem a better-than-feared dynamic has come to pass for consumer spending and the state of household balance sheets.
Well, I’m not sure that the balance sheet and spending situation has survived if you're among the tens of millions getting unemployment benefits these days. But the fact that the economists are noting that the economy in general will move along illustrates how lopsided our “recovery” has been.
With the threat of massive amount of restaurants, hotels, and retail businesses closing as the weather cools, and with an election looming in 5 weeks, House Dems and the Trump Administration both have their reasons for wanting to add stimulus to try to keep that from happening. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts are expected to do their part, passing a stimulus bill that is less than the $3 trillion+ HEROES Act that was passed in May, but still would give a lot of aid to a wide swath of Americans.
Writing to House Democrats on Monday night, Pelosi said her party is “making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill” because it cuts more than $1 trillion from their original plan.

The new legislation would:

Reinstate the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit through January

Send a second $1,200 direct payment to most Americans

Give $436 billion in relief over one year to state and local governments

Authorize more money for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for the hardest-hit businesses and industries

Send $25 billion to airlines to cover payroll costs

Inject $75 billion into Covid-19 testing and contact tracing efforts

Put $225 billion into education and $57 billion into child care

Set aside billions for rental and mortgage assistance

You hope it isn't too late, but passing this would at least put pressure on the GOP-run Senate and the Trump Administration to sign onto a deal, as they would be rightly blamed for doing nothing as economic conditions deteroriate in October.

But Pelosi made a strategic error last week that could allow the GOPs to slink away, let things fall apart, and force an incoming Biden Administration to have to waste lots of time cleaning up an economic mess. That's because Pelosi told her caucus to pass a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government through early December. Which means instead of the possibility of a government shutdown coming tomorrow, most federal government departments will continue to operate as they do today.

I think Pelosi's strategy of passing the CR first was completely stupid. You know what would have gotten the Republicans more likely to sign on to big-ticket Dem assistance bill? The possibility of a government shutdown if they didn’t agree to a stimulus deal.

Especially with the Senate GOP already in serious danger of losing their majority, being seen as uncaring and causing a shutdown 5 weeks before the election would have guaranteed a serious ass-kicking at the polls - even more than what they currently have coming to them. Nancy could have made GOP senators take a position on the stimulus, and draw voters' attentions to what they (wouldn't) do, especially if the GOPs would have chosen to shut down the government

But NOOOOOOO, that would have been mean!
Nancy opted for stability, taking the GOP Senate out of the loop in the process (which Moscow Mitch is more than happy to be. It lets them sneak through more judges instead of doing real work that people pay attention), and gave this reasoning as to why the Trump Administration would "do the right thing".
Pelosi at her weekly press conference said she hoped to sit down soon with White House negotiators. “Now that the CR’s done, we hope that the Administration will come forward with the resources to meet the needs of the American people,” she said.
Hey Nancy, do you really think TrumpWorld cares, about what's responsible? All they care about is doing just enough for low-info voters not to get upset, and (in their minds) get re-elected and avoid prison.

You know what would have made TrumpWorld feel like it had to do something, and take time away from screwing more with the American justice system? Seeing the American people get furious about a government shutdown the month before an election. Instead, it's an open question whether Trump or the GOP Senate will go along with a Dem stimulus package, meaning we could end up with nothing, and our already-fragile growth ends with a thud.

This is the game that GOPs always play – mess things up and then blame Dems when they step up to avoid catastrophe. And because the average American dope hasn’t punished the GOP for being so negligent, they do it again and again. Yet DC Dems like Nancy Pelosi think “being the adult in the room” and maintaining stability is still something that wins elections over fighting for things that the people want and need and making the bad guys pay for hurting Americans with a rigged economic and political system.

I'm trying not to be negative, because that creates a bad feedback loop that you don’t need before an election, but demanding the CR makes me wonder how badly Nancy wants to crush the opposition. And crushing the GOP is the one way we can get real change that makes the country much better than the failing status quo.

Instead, Pelosi seems to care more about not rocking the boat to make sure the Dem keep 218+ seats in the House, without wanting to cause a showdown that might give Dems 275 seats. That’s a mentality that might have worked 20 years ago on “The West Wing”, but isn’t a winner in the wreck known as 2020. Dr. King called this out 60 years ago, during another time of great turbulence.
I'm glad that Pelosi and House Dems recognize that we need more stimulus to keep the economy from falling back into recession this winter. But if she would have hardballed the GOP by threatening a shutdown for tomorrow, we'd probably be more likely to have stimulus already, and at a much more robust level.

I hope playing it safe doesn't backfire. Not just for Dems' hopes at the ballot box, but also in getting much less than we could have, and seeing the economy backslide as a result.

Wisconsin Trump rallies and COVID-19 are combining in very bad ways

Looks like our President is heading back to Wisconsin, as he desperately tries to stay out of prison find a way to win a state he can't afford to lose. With that in mind, let's go back to the last time Trump was in Wisconsin, less than 2 weeks ago. Not a lot of masks in that picture. With that in mind, let's look at the number of Marathon County's new cases of COVID-19.
I'm not saying the increase is related to Trump's rally. But you sure can if you want.

And Trump could hardly choose two worse areas of Wisconsin to fly into when it comes to COVID breakouts. Brown County is currently having the worst breakout in the state, with no signs of slowing down.
While La Crosse has its highest number of new cases in the week before last, it's still at levels it had never been close to until the last month.
A president with a shred of humanity might ask local officials if he should still show up, or if he at least should take steps to avoid having large masses of (unmasked) people gathered together in a small, relatively enclosed space.

But this is Donald Trump we're talking about. He's never cared about COVID except as to how it might affect his election, and he'd rather hear the cheers from dead-enders than try to care about what might happen to those suckers after he takes off in Air Force One.

So between Trump's superspreader events this weekend and the increasingly colder weather, you can bet the state's hospitals will to continue to be on the verge of disaster for much of October. And our increasingly awful COVID situation is now getting national attention. Given that we just had the largest COVID-19 death toll in 4 months today, the next and most damaging step of COVID's resurgence in Wisconsin seems to be starting up. Don't be a foolish MAGAt, folks. Mask up and stay away from these self-centered weaklings, and you'll have a much better October and November than they will.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Unemployment audit shows years of negligence + record layoffs = disaster

Saw this headline on Friday, and I can see why Governor Evers asked Caleb Frostman to leave as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. In reading the report from the Legislative Audit Bureau, it notes that most claims never need to be phoned in at all. The ones that do are specialized cases that often require more technical help.
DWD requires most individuals to file online for unemployment benefits. Individuals may file through a call center only if they meet certain requirements, such as if they do not have internet access or if they cannot file online because, for example, their claims are based on having worked in Wisconsin and another state.

According to information that DWD reported weekly to the co-chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, 93.4 percent of all initial claims were filed online from April 26, 2020, through August 22, 2020, as shown in Table 1. The remaining 6.6 percent were filed by telephoning the call centers.
Even with the ability for many to file online, the overwhelmingly volume of calls, which were coming in at a rate that was 50-60 times the previous year, led to the predictable inability of most of those calls to get through.
From March 2019 through June 2019, individuals filed an average of approximately 4,700 initial claims for unemployment benefits each week. From March 15, 2019, through June 30, 2019, individuals made a total of 88,552 telephone calls to the program’s call center. DWD indicated that none of these calls was blocked….

We analyzed DWD’s data on the number of telephone calls to the call centers from the week of March 15, 2020, through the week of June 21, 2020. We also reviewed but did not independently confirm the accuracy of summary information that DWD reported to the co-chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee from the week of June 28, 2020, through the week of August 16, 2020. As shown in Figure 2, 5.8 million telephone calls were made to the program’s call center during the week of April 12, 2020. The number of telephone calls declined after early-May 2020.

The fact that DWD couldn’t handle the number of calls makes a strategy the Walker Administration made in 2014 all the more false and harmful.
(insert 2015 audit language).
Walker and WisGOP figured that since all calls were being handled in a time of near-full employment, there wasn’t a need to add staff or invest in new technology. The problem was solved, so why worry!

That didn’t quite work out once we got the unprecedent number of claims that happened as a result of COVID-19’s breakout and the shutdowns that followed.
Beginning on May 8, 2020, DWD reported to the co-chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on the weekly numbers of telephone calls that were blocked, abandoned, and answered. However, DWD did not report on the number of telephone calls that resulted in individuals receiving busy signals. From April 26, 2020, through June 27, 2020, DWD reported that 4.9 million telephone calls were blocked. However, we found that over this time period a total of 19.6 million telephone calls were either blocked or resulted in busy signals. Individuals were unable to reach the call centers if their telephone calls were blocked or they received busy signals. DWD should modify its weekly reports to indicate the total number of telephone calls in which individuals were unable to reach the call centers, including telephone calls that were blocked and telephone calls that resulted in busy signals. Doing so will provide the co-chairpersons with complete information.
Once it became obvious that DWD couldn’t handle all of these new unemployment claims, they tried to hire Limited Term Employees (aka LTEs) to take phone calls, but it took a while to get those people hired and on-board.
As shown in Table 6, DWD hired a total of 98 call center staff from March 15, 2020, through July 31, 2020, including 56 LTEs. DWD began recruiting for these positions on March 23, 2020, but indicated that it needed time to review the 850 applications it received, conduct interviews, and perform background checks. DWD indicated that the hired staff received four weeks of training and, thus, were not ready to answer calls until June 8, 2020. ….
When that wasn’t enough, DWD signed contracts with private companies Alorica and Beyond Vision to get more people on the phones. However, the audit says that DWD failed to require that one of the contractors actually had the promised extra staff in place.
DWD contractually required Alorica to provide at least 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions. DWD did not contractually specify the date when Alorica needed to provide these positions, but it contractually required Alorica to provide the supervision and administrative support necessary to operate a call center of this size by May 21, 2020. DWD indicated that its contract contains no provisions for assessing monetary penalties because it needed to quickly execute the contract, and it believed that Alorica would comply with the contract to avoid a negative performance review. (headdesk) And as we saw with the regular DWD staff, it takes a while to get a bunch of people up to speed on often-complicated state unemployment rules, and to get the call center to hook into the company’s phone system.
Figure 4 shows the average daily number of FTE staff positions in Alorica’s call center. Not until the week of July 19 did more than a daily average of 500 FTE staff positions work in the call center. DWD indicated that it took time to provide Alorica’s call center staff with access to its IT systems, and that it was busy with other tasks, such as increasing the number of staff in its own call center and providing them with training and access to its IT systems.
And by July 19, the number of calls had already slowed down compared to the previous months. It’s nice that we have the extra staff as weather gets colder and more real-world layoffs happen, but that is little consolation to those who were out of work before July and waiting for benefits.
As shown in Figure 3, almost all telephone calls to the program’s call centers were blocked or resulted in busy signals each day from late-March 2020 through May 2020. Most of the remaining calls were abandoned. On almost all days in April 2020 and May 2020, less than 1.0 percent of all calls were answered. Beginning in June 2020, the proportion of telephone calls that were blocked or resulted in busy signals declined, and DWD reported that few calls were blocked or resulted in busy signals in August 2020. DWD provided us with summary information indicating that the program’s call centers received 55,698 telephone calls during the week of August 16, 2020, and it indicated that none of them was blocked or resulted in busy signals.

No, the WisGOP Legislature can't steal our electoral votes. Because we voted out Walker

You may have heard about the article in The Atlantic last week that laid out a strategy by Trump/GOP to dispute the election by using gerrymandered GOP state legislatures to give the state's electoral votes to Trump, no matter what the vote totals might say. This is how that might work.
We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Since the late 19th century, every state has ceded the decision to its voters. Even so, the Supreme Court affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.” How and when a state might do so has not been tested for well over a century.

Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires....

The Trump-campaign legal adviser I spoke with told me the push to appoint electors would be framed in terms of protecting the people’s will. Once committed to the position that the overtime count has been rigged, the adviser said, state lawmakers will want to judge for themselves what the voters intended.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ” the adviser said. Democrats, he added, have exposed themselves to this stratagem by creating the conditions for a lengthy overtime [where ballots that come in after Election Day are counted if they are postmarked on or before Election Day).

“If you have this notion,” the adviser said, “that ballots can come in for I don’t know how many days—in some states a week, 10 days—then that onslaught of ballots just gets pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. So pick your poison. Is it worse to have electors named by legislators or to have votes received by Election Day?”
I get the argument, but I don't see that happening, especially in Wisconsin. That's not because I don't believe the GOP would try such scumminess (I put nothing past them and TrumpWorld), but because Wisconsin's laws don't give them the chance. That was reiterated in a news report from this week where Wisconsin elections officials say that WisGOPs couldn’t pull off such a scheme if they even wanted to.
The Atlantic reported this week that, in addition to potentially claiming fraudulent election results if he loses to former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 3, Trump has allegedly asked GOP leaders in battleground states to circumvent the state’s popular vote and select their own electors to cast votes in the Electoral College, which ultimately determines the winner.

However, Wisconsin statute does not grant state lawmakers the authority to choose electors, Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said Thursday.

“To the best of our knowledge, there’s no role for the Legislature to decide which electors go and which ones don’t,” Magney said….

“I think that’s laid out pretty directly and in black and white in the Wisconsin state statute in terms of how that process works and there’s not room for other things to happen in that process,” WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe said on a media call with reporters Thursday.

Any change to that process would necessitate legislative action, but that would require the Legislature, which hasn’t formally convened since April, to meet and actively change state law. What’s more, under split government, Evers, a Democrat, could veto such an effort.

You can try, but it ain't gonna work.

That matches up with what I found. In 2016, there were no formal meetings in December of either house of the State Legislature after the November election (and that would be required if the Legislature had to approve the results). The Elections Commission simply gave the results of the votes to then-Gov Walker, who signed off on the result.

The fact that he is EX-Gov Walker is key here, because I have little doubt that scumbucket would be up for some kind of pro-GOP election-rigging if he was still in office, and that Robbin’ Vos and Scott Fitzgerald would have shrugged and let Walker block our electoral votes. But that ain’t the case today (THANK GOD), and I can’t see Evers failing to sign off on the results no matter what they, unless there’s some kind of serious disenfranchisement (highly unlikely).

Vos and Fitz have no say in what Evers will do regarding election results after the election. Now, that doesn’t mean those lowlifes might not talk about some kind of lame-duck shenanigans, or try to cook up some kind of dispute that they think could go to court, and we need to be ready to forcefully shove back against that BS. But much like Vos/Fitz's empty threats against Madison's multiple ballot drop-off points in the city's parks yesterday, they're bluffing on the legal action side, and instead are trying to intimidate Dem voters, trying to trick low-info rubes into thinking "smething is up" any Dem wins in November.

I also can’t see where an already-despised WisGOP thinks the potential damage is worth whatever they might gain from such a squawking, and I definitely don’t think these guys believe Donald F’ing Trump is worth a trip to the stocks or the guillotine. Especially when such an effort is likely to lose and/or be mocked as absurd. They'd ultimately hold their fire and try to screw everything up for the first 2 years of Biden's tenure in office, and hamstring all of the Dem governors that are up for re-elecftion in 2022. We need to be ready for that gabrage as well.

This tweet sums up the bottom line well - if Biden wins by 5-10%, there's nothing the GOP can do. MAKE IT SO.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Massive DC cheese gave a big boost to Wisconsin incomes. But we lag otherwise.

A report on state incomes came out from the Commerce Department on Thursday, and it had this amazing lead stat.
State personal income increased 34.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2020, an acceleration from the 4.1 percent increases in the first quarter, according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (table 1). Personal income increased in every state and the District of Columbia ranging from 15.3 percent in the District of Columbia to 76.3 percent in Massachusetts.
That 34% increase in income was at the same time that the US economy was shrinking by nearly 32%. On its face, that doesn't make any sense at all, so what happened?

Basically, the plummeting economy led to major handouts from DC to keep people afloat as much of the country was dealing with COVID-related shutdowns.
Transfer receipts. Transfer receipts increased $2.5 trillion for the nation in the second quarter of 2020, after increasing $80.3 billion in the first quarter. The increase in transfer receipts reflected increases in state unemployment insurance compensation, all other transfer receipts and Medicaid benefits (chart 2). Transfer receipts increased in every state, ranging from $3.8 billion in Wyoming to $342.6 billion in California (table 2).

State unemployment compensation was boosted by a $600 increase in weekly benefits provided by the CARES Act, as well as an expansion of eligibility of workers not previously covered by state unemployment compensation programs. The increase in all other transfers reflected $1,200 economic impact payments to individuals, as well as provider relief funds for nonprofit institutions, such as hospitals and health care providers, serving individuals.
That major boost in dollars from DC more than offset a massive decline in earnings.
Earnings. For the nation, earnings decreased 27.5 percent in the second quarter of 2020, after increasing 3.4 percent in the first quarter (table 2). The declines were moderated by PaycheckProtection Program (PPP) loans to proprietors. The decrease in earnings reflected the partial economic shutdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020.

Earnings decreased in 20 of the 24 industries for which BEA prepares quarterly estimates (table 4). Accommodations and food services, and healthcare and social assistance were the leading contributors to the overall earnings decrease. The percent change in earnings across all states ranged from -14.0 percent in Utah to -38.1 percent in Nevada.

As the chart shows above, Wisconsin was slightly below the increase in total income, at 30.4% for Q2. But the state's decline in earnings was also slightly lower than the country as a whole (27.3% decline in Wisconsin vs 27.5% in US). Wisconsin also had a sizable decline in wages that was more than overcome by the major increase in transfer payments.

For both Wisconsin and the US, much of the major increase in income in Q2 will be reversed in Q3, due to the lack of further stimulus checks and the end of the $600-a-week add-on for unemployment benefits. We already got a hint what that might look like with July's personal income report, which showed US income was $1 trillion below April's number (when most of the stimulus was sent out), but also was $1.3 trillion above March's figure.

Looking at a longer-term trend, Wisconsin's income growth was more than 1% below the US's in the 12 months before COVID-19 caused all of these disruptions and changes.

One other item in this "income by state" report was revisions for annual numbers for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Wisconsin's revisions were relatively small for the first 2 years, but there was a sizable downward revision of more than $2 billion for 2019, or 0.66%.

That 3.36% growth isn't so great when you realize these income numbers are not adjusted for inflation. And this was in a time where TrumpWorld was claiming the economy was as good as it could ever get.

While the annual number for 2020 income growth might look good because of stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits for several months, you gotta wonder if income will be higher at all in December 2020 than December 2019. In addition to the stimulus being mostly gone, a whole lot of jobs and wages will also be gone compared to the year before, and we'll see what our new baseline ends up being.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Uninsured rose in 2019 before COVID, and Medicaid has blown up since then

Last week, we had the annual list of information on how many Americans do and do not have health insurance. For the second straight year, the percentage of Americans without health insurance rose, this time from 8.9% to 9.2% (Trump boom, ya know!). You can also look here for the list of uninsured by state.

Wisconsin had its number for uninusred go up for the second straight year, from 5.5% to 5.7%, but that's slightly less than the increase the nation as a whole had, and remarkably it is less that the increase in most Midwestern states.

Change in uninsured rate by state

U.S. 8.9% to 9.2% (+0.3%)

Ill. 7.0% to 7.4% (+0.4%)

Ind. 8.3% to 8.7% (+0.4%)

Iowa 4.7% to 5.0% (+0.3%)

Mich 5.4% to 5.8% (+0.4%)

Minn 4.4% to 4.9% (+0.5%)

Wis. 5.5% to 5.7% (+0.2%)

That survey also looks into how people get their insurance. It was mostly the same as the prior year, other than it appears some people fell off Medicaid, but didn't necessarily get covered through private insurance. NOTE: Numbers won't sum due to the combination of insurance that some people have.
Which indicates to me that there is a gap of the working poor that likely became a significant problem once COVID 19 broke out and many of those lower-wage jobs got shut down. And as the COVID World has taken hold in Wisconsin, we’ve seen a sizable increase of people needing Medicaid in the last 6 months. And the Medicaid rolls have continued to go up in recent months, even as some of the jobs have come back.
Of course, these numbers only go through the end of 2019, and don't reflect the job losses and related stresses of the COVID World. Then add in the looming Supreme Court case against the Affordable Care Act, and we may look back at 9.2% uninsured as a time of great security compared to scariness that 2020 and beyond is offering.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How to save Wisconsin's restaurants.

Wisconsin restaurants continue to be in dire straits.
A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association showed that 33% of Wisconsin restaurants are unlikely to be in business six months from now if pandemic restrictions continue.

The association surveyed 3,500 restaurant operators from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, and called the results "stark for Wisconsin and nationally."

Prospects for Wisconsin restaurants looked slightly better than the nationwide number — 37% — of restaurants that reported they were unlikely to still be operating in six months if no additional relief is available from the federal government.

Other state numbers in the recent National Restaurant Association survey showed that 68% of restaurant owners don’t expect their restaurant’s sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months. Overall sales for Wisconsin restaurants were down 36% on average.

While sales were significantly lower for most restaurants, 53% of Wisconsin restaurant owners and operators said operational costs, as a percent of sales, are higher than they were before the COVID-19.
Some are already going under, as shown in this piece from Channel 27 in Madison, which visited a really good restaurant in Oregon (I've eaten there) where the owner says he couldn't make it after the PPP money ran out.

While the Federal Reserve’s “Main Street lending program” is supposed to be another source of sustenance for these types of businesses, Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell told a Congressional panel today that banks aren’t giving smaller loans to smaller businesses, even with the backstop of the Fed.
“Extending credit in those small quantities would require a facility built from the ground that would be quite different than Main Street,” Powell said.

“It wouldn’t look like the current Main Street facility now. It’s just a very different kind of thing,” he added….

Powell said smaller business loans would be better handled with grants from the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided loans to small businesses that could be forgiven if they did not lay off their employees.

“Trying to underwrite the credit of hundreds of thousands of very small businesses would be very difficult,” Powell said. He said many of these small loans are based on personal promises.
But the temporary aid provided to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) expired last month, so there likely needs to be some new source of assistance if we want to see these types of businesses survive. One way might come as part of as a new stimulus package, either in the form of an extension of PPP (although it's too late for Charlie's in Oregon), or through a separate bill that Sen. Tammy Baldwin and others have sponsored, which is intended to give a bailout to the part of the food service industry that is most imperiled.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) cosponsored the bipartisan Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act to establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19 and support the reemployment of 11 million workers. “Local restaurants and workers across Wisconsin need our support now to survive this economic crisis,” said Senator Baldwin. “Many small and independent restaurants are operating at reduced capacity and may be forced to close their doors for good if we don’t act now. Our legislation will create the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that will help folks in Wisconsin and across the country get through this pandemic and keep our Made in Wisconsin economy moving forward.” …Small independent and franchise restaurants are more at risk of permanently going out of business because of the pandemic because consumer spending at these establishments has been disproportionately affected and they lack the same access to capital markets. In whole, the recovery fund would generate at least $183 billion in primary benefits and $65 billion in secondary benefits – more than double the amount of the proposed grants.
But Wisconsin’s governor doesn’t need to wait on Moscow Mitch and the rest of Congress. He can step up and publicly try to preserve these businesses himself. That's because Governor Evers had just over $200 million in CARES money that had yet to be formally set aside as of early September, and that money needs to be spent by the end of the year.

With outside dining/drinking season quickly coming to an end, and record COVID breakouts leading to a 60-day extension of the state’s mask mandate, many restaurants will be badly in need of funds to get through the winter. Or else these places might close their doors instead of take the losses.

What Evers could do is announce a grant program to give cash assistance to these restaurants, with an October 15 deadline to apply. And not just the $2,500 grants that went out from the All-In fund for small business, but how about $10,000 to help these businesses stretch through the winter? You could prop up 5,000 restaurants and other bars/music venues for $50 million, and likely prevent a whole lot of people from losing their jobs and/or ending their dreams of running their own business.

These independent business owners are seeing their profitability go down the drain through no fault of their own. It’s the Trump Administration’s failures on COVID-19 that have made people less likely to go out to these businesses, so it seems logical that federal money be used to keep these places alive. Whether it’s through CARES money or the RESTAURANTS Act doesn’t matter to me, but it needs to be done NOW, in order to avoid a large-scale disaster in the food service sector of the economy.

Evers extended the mask mandate because COVID is jumping everywhere

In case you were wondering why our Governor decided to extend our COVID-19 emergency and mask mandate, let me give you a few pictures. The first is the outbreak in and around UW campuses, which continued to pile up record cases. Yes, Dane County's amount of new cases went down, but we still had over 1,000 more people test positive in the last week. And counties with 6 other UW campuses continued to see cases rocket to new records in September.
But it's not just college towns that were having record cases. The I-41 corridor continues to see the situation worsen, starting in the Green Bay and Appleton areas, with new cases shooting up by hundreds and reaching record levels, and going all the way down to the Milwaukee suburbs.
Even Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties had notable rises in the last week.
And on a per-capita basis, it seems to be even worse in rural Wisconsin. No Trump Country, you are not immune from COVID. No, it's not good. And it's not just on campus, and it's happening right before the weather gets colder and we stay inside more, which seems to make us more susceptible. So yes, that requires action, and given that our GOP Legislature has been content to stay on their multi-month paid vacation, it fell to Gov Evers to feel that we had to continue the mask mandate and health emergency. Can you blame Tony? Only a dope living in the AM Radio BubbleWorld would.

Monday, September 21, 2020

In a time of record wealth, many are left behind. And no stimulus means even more will be hurt.

Not that this should surprise you, but how the economy is doing may seem very different depending on your specific circumstance. For example, if you had a white-collar job, and owned a house and/or stocks, you probably haven't suffered much beyond the social inconveniences of the COVID World. That was reiterated today, as we found out that despite a record drop in GDP, household wealth hit record levels in Q2 of 2020.
Americans' household wealth rebounded last quarter to a record high as the stock market quickly recovered from a pandemic-induced plunge in March. Yet the gains flowed mainly to the most affluent households even as tens of millions of people endured job losses and shrunken incomes.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that American households' net worth jumped nearly 7% in the April-June quarter to $119 trillion. That figure had sunk to $111.3 trillion in the first quarter, when the coronavirus battered the economy and sent stock prices tumbling.
On the other end of the spectrum, we are still tens of millions of jobs in the hole, and it has disproportionately hit people who were already close to the edge without much opportunity to build wealth.
The full recovery of wealth even while the economy has recovered only about half the jobs lost to the pandemic recession underscores what many economists see as America's widening economic inequality. Data compiled by Opportunity Insights, a research group, show that the highest-paying one-third of jobs have almost fully recovered from the recession, while the lowest-paying one-third of jobs remain 16% below pre-pandemic levels.

The wealth data “highlights the inequalities in the recovery in the sense that high-income workers not only have jobs that for the most part have come back; they also have savings that have continued to grow,” said John Friedman, an economist at Brown University who is co-director of Opportunity Insights.

The recovery in household wealth has benefited mostly a narrow slice of affluent Americans. The richest one-tenth of Americans owned more than two-thirds of the nation's wealth, according to Fed data through the end of March, the latest available. The top 1% owned 31%.
The growth of wealth and lack of lost jobs in certain sectors has insulated a lot of people from realizing just how bad things still are, which raises the chances that we will get another, longer-lasting economic downturn.
“There has always been a reckoning that needs to occur which has not yet taken place,” said Steve Blitz, chief US economist for TS Lombard. “And that is the possibility of an extended recessionary environment. Because most people believe this is a COVID cycle as opposed to a true economic cycle, the forward sentiment never dropped like it would in a regular recession.”

By “COVID cycle,” Blitz means changes in economic activity dictated by the need to control the spread of the virus: short-term business closures, temporary layoffs, and so on. The sense that this is not a “real” recession comes from the fact that the economy is so bifurcated, keeping the Americans who need assistance “off the radar,” he said in an interview.

“The burden is more on the people making $14 an hour than those making $40 an hour,” Blitz said. That also masks the blow to the economy: “The $14-an-hour people are only responsible for 9% of consumer spending. And the top 40% have had a lifestyle change but their lives haven’t changed and their balance sheets are bigger than they were at the beginning of the crisis.”
One way to help those individuals who have lost their lower-wage jobs would be a new round of targeted stimulus, to give a push to the already-flagging growth in consumer spending. And if no new bill is passed, both the stock market and the real economy are likely to fall apart.
Strategists at BCA Research earlier in September quantified exactly how much fiscal support they believe is needed: at least $500 billion, to ensure consumer spending grows about 2% over the next 12 months. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, spending growth averaged between 2% and 6%, BCA notes.

BCA’s calculations show that if Congress were to extend another $1.1 trillion worth of stimulus, that would boost spending to 6% over the next 12 months. But the team estimates that even just holding spending growth flat requires more spending – roughly $249 billion, they reckon – “and that outcome would almost certainly disappoint markets,” they said.
This is especially true as unemployment claims are still at unprecedented levels in a time when expanded benefits are expiring in much of the country.
Yes, the Supreme Court fight will be a big deal. But I'd argue that it's even more important in the short term for House Dems need to put Senate GOPs and the GOP in the White House on the defensive by passing another stimulus bill this week, even if it's a pared-back $1.5 trillion package. Dare Moscow Mitch and the several endangered Senate GOPs to say no, and show Americans that they care more about rigging justice than in the economic suffering of tens of millions of Americans. That'll turn a 4-5 seat Dem pickup into 9 or 10 seats.

And the last thing Nancy Pelosi and other House Dems should do is pass a Continuing Resolution that offers no stimulus, which allows Senate GOPs to punt on stimulus until after the election. Not only will this cause major hardship for a lot of workers and business owners that are barely hanging on today, but you can bet that if Biden wins and gets a Dem Senate (a likely combination of outcomes), you know that Senate GOPs will gladly allow the economy to die so Biden can inherit a mess that handcuffs him and the Dem majorities in Congress (just like in Obama's first term).

Besides, if House Dems really want to fight for RBG, they should put Moscow Mitch, Russian Ronnie and the rest of the GOP in the position of SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT by choosing judges over stimulus. That'll make the markets tank really fast ahead of the election, and when the 1%ers start losing their wealth and privilege, Senate GOPs tend to start caring more about what their (in)action is causing.

Now's not the time for order and "proper governance." Now is the time to take things to the wall. Both with SCOTUS, and with the stimulus that so many Americans still need.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wiconsin COVID breaks out to new levels, and gets worse in new places

Needless to say, it was a bad week for Wisconsin with the COVID pandemic. To the point that we will likely exceed 100,000 total infections today, and we are now in the US's top 5 in a very bad way. The common thread of these 10 states? All voted for Donald Trump and have GOP-run Legislatures. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

I said a couple of weeks ago that we3'd find out if the higher numbers that came with a new school year would be a blip or the start of a new level of infections for the state. In mid-September, the trends are not promising, as new cases have more than doubled in the last 2 weeks, and the rate of positive tests keeps going up.
If there's any positive news from this, it's that the number of individual Wisconsinites being tested rose for the first time in several weeks, and deaths are at at their lowest in nearly 2 months.
But there are a couple of trends that are worrying on the severity front. Yes, most of the jump in new cases in Wisconsin are from people aged 18-24. But we're also starting to see older age ranges have a bump up in infections over the last couple of weeks, and those people are more likely to suffer more severe health issues from COVID.
And we are starting to see that translate into big jumps in hospitalizations in the 920 and 715 area codes.
On a related note, did we mention that President Trump had a rally in an airport hangar in North Central Wisconsin last week? I'm sure all these people will be around in 6 weeks with no difficulties so they can get out and vote in person like a "real 'Merican." SUCKERS!

But hey, we got football coming back at the pro and college levels. So, according to Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos, things are getting back to normal with nothing to worry about! Enjoy your tailgating at the bars around Lambeau today, and don't worry about what might happen in the county with the highest rate of COVID infections in the state!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

RBG's dead, and the GOP will grab more power. So what are we going to do about it?

I could give this whole rigamarole about how Republican Senators should be consistent and not fill the vacancy on SCOTUS that has been caused by RBG's death until a new Senate and presidential term is in place, like they did with another SCOTUS vacancy in 2016. But why waste my time on things that won't happen?

Look, Republicans don't care about consistency, fairness or decency, and they don't get shamed when they're called out for not being consistent, fair or decent. They only care about two things - POWER AND MONEY for themselves and their supporters. All of that high-minded shit that you were taught in school about "public good" and "consent of the governed"? They couldn't care less about that.

Shoving another SCOTUS justice on the court allows for this country to become even more distanced from the will of the people, and slanted in favor of the rich, connected and (mostly) white. And makes the rest of us have to work even harder just to draw even with those favored groups.

Ari Berman of Mother Jones has covered the GOP's many attempts to limit voting and grab power in recent years, and summed up just how out-of-whack things are when it comes to who is in power in DC. The same mentality pervades in Wisconsin, where GOP Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos did his typical pipsqueak bravado act this week, and in the process, he admitted he doesn't care about the large number of people who might not vote for a certain candidate.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, [R]-Rochester, conceded that some suburban seats were competitive, but he said Republicans knew how to win there.

"I think these are all pipe dreams on the part of the Democrats," Vos said. "If somebody wins with 60 percent or 57 percent, it might make you feel a little bit better. But just like in football, all that matters is who wins the game."

Or if they win with 55% or less of the vote, like 13 GOP Assembly members did in 2018, which enabled this notorious picture to emerge after those elections.
Because GOPs can't win with the general public on their ideas, tactics are what they have left. So they rig voting to make it easier for GOP-leaning groups and harder for Dem-leaning ones, and used one good election in 2010 to rig electoral districts to give control to the party that gets fewer votes from the state's voters. In DC, it involves abusing the powers of a US Senate that gives preference to state borders that were drawn 150-300 years ago instead of the number of people who live in those states, and then filling courts with judges who make up decisions to fit the GOP/corporatist agenda, no matter how ridiculous or repressive they may be.

So what do we do from here? Former Hillary Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon summed up the steps perfectly. When the GOP grabs their power, we pack the court. And we outlaw gerrymandering, and we blow up the filibuster in the Senate. Sure, that's not how they drew things up in 1787, but when you have a GOP that is acting more like a Fascist dictatorship than a constitutional republic, it's what you need to do to keep the republic.

You've taken the fun out of everything..."

Friday, September 18, 2020

Retail sales shows a leveling off, with danger of a double-dip

I think we are starting to see more examples of the economy leveling out to its new baseline with August's figures. This includes the US's retail sales numbers, which showed decent growth, but also growth that was declining from previous months.
Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $537.5 billion, an increase of 0.6percent (± 0.5 percent) from the previous month, and 2.6 percent (± 0.7 percent) above August 2019. Total sales for the June 2020 through August 2020 period were up 2.4 percent (± 0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The June 2020 to July 2020 percent change was revised from up 1.2 percent (± 0.5percent) to up 0.9 percent (± 0.2 percent).
On the positive side, retail sales in the US are actually higher than they were before COVID-19 broke out. But you can see the flattening over the last 2 months.
But even though the total sales are what you might have expected 6 months ago, the COVID era has caused a major change in where people are spending their money. Some retailers have benefitted from having more people staying at home, including non-store retailers like, along with grocery stores and home/garden stores. Those places had big gains starting in March, and have held most of those gains in the months after that.
Conversely, money spent on going out continues to be depressed, and brick-and-mortar retail that relies on in-store purchases is floundering. These sectors have not seen many of their jobs come back, and I can't see it getting much better as the weather turns colder while COVID continues to fester.
Instead of a short-term adjustment to a lockdown, these changes are now becoming structural. And unless there is a significant bailout for these sectors coming, many of these businesses are going to go under in the coming weeks and months, with little to replace them.

And once those businesses and jobs go away this Winter due to the lack of demand, that likely will make retail sales decline again, unless there is some kind of assistance coming from DC to allow the typical American to keep spending somewhere. We would then go from the K-shaped "recovery" that we've been seeing back to a full-fledged double-dip recession that starts from an already-weakened economy, and whoever is president and in Congress in 2021 will be walking into a mess.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Like America, Wisconsin kept gaining jobs in August, and is still in a major hole

Much like the rest of the US, Wisconsin continued to regain some of the jobs in August that it had lost in March and April, and the unemployment rate continued to fall. But also like the rest of America, Wisconsin is still far behind where we were in February. First, the numbers.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's unemployment rate in August was 6.2 percent, 0.9 percent lower than July's revised rate of 7.1 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 8.4 percent.

Place of Work Data: Wisconsin added 34,700 total non-farm jobs and 16,700 private-sector jobs in August.
The drop in unemployment was for the “good reason” – the labor force increased by 21,900 in Wisconsin, and the number of people employed went up by 47,700. But it’s worth mentioning that the labor force number still is significantly down from where we were at the start of the year, which keeps the rate lower than it would have been with the same proportion of people working in prior years.
As you can see, the number of Wisconsinites identified as "employed" in the household survey is down more than 142,000 since the start of 2020. If the same number of people had been in the labor force since January, our unemployment rate would be 8.1% instead of the 6.2% reported for August.

On the payrolls side, you may have noticed more than half of the jobs added in Wisconsin was in government. Almost 30% of that came from the Feds (5,300), likely through the Census, which added 247,000 jobs last month nationwide. There also was a sizable increase in Local government jobs (+10,600), but I wonder if that’s simply an odd timing thing related to when people started working for K-12 public schools this year. I’ll have to wait until September’s report to see if this is a long-term recovery or just a trick of the calendar.

Looking at the private sector, Wisconsin continued to slog back from the large jobs deficit it was put into in March and April. Construction and manufacturing accounted for 4,700 of those regained jobs, and a few beaten-up service sectors had a bounce-back in August.

Job change, Wisconsin, August 2020

Retail trade +6,300

Arts, Entertainment + Rec +2,600

Accomodation/Food Services +2,500

That being said, those last two sectors reflect lower-than-normal seasonal layoffs in August, and that likely reflects the fact that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites in those sectors were laid off well before August.
When looking at total jobs, like the rest of the country, Wisconsin still has yet to gain back half the jobs they lost in March and April, as illustrated by UW-Madison professor Menzie Chinn in Econbrowser today.
And like a lot of things in our economy, I think August is going to mark the end of the "rapid restoration" part of the recovery, and I think it’ll be worthwhile to think of August’s numbers as part of a new baseline to figure out if things are going in the right direction.

As it stands today, we still have more than 200,000 jobs that need to be brought back in the state (and more than 11.5 million in the country), and there's no underlying economic drive to do so. So the challenge is now going to involve figuring out how we accomplish the hard work of getting those last jobs back and continuing to reduce the still-huge unemployment rolls and output gaps, and given what we're (not) seeing in DC, I'm not seeing what does that.

Robbin' Vos on socialism

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos retweeted this yesterday. This is the same Robbin' Vos who got Wisconsin taxpayers to send hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure to his district as part of the Foxconn boondoggle.

This is the same Robbin' Vos who took between $150,000 and $350,000 from Uncle Sam under the PPP program, which was set up to defray the results of a recession.

This is the same Robbin' Vos who has headed up schemes to give hundreds of millions a year to private schools, as a taxpayer-funded kickback for Betsy DeVos's campaign contributions.

I suppose Robbin' Vos can speak a lot about socialism, because he sure believes in using government resources and olicy to improve outcomes for himself and his donors. But unlike real socialism, the everyday person doesn't get helped one bit from Vos-style redistribution, and I suppose that's the difference, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Wis college towns are the worst for COVID breakouts, but not the only ones

I ran the numbers for counties through Monday in Wisconsin on COVID-19 cases, and to no surprise, counties with UW campuses have had significant increases in the last few weeks as college students come back to school. The biggest jump has been around the Madison campus, which reversed weeks of lower cases in Dane County.
And other UW campuses also have seen a big jump. All five of the counties listed in these charts are place with sizable UW campuses, and you can see when the students got back.
As I mentioned a few days ago, when you create a situation where UW campuses are increasingly reliant on tuition and dorm revenues to survive, it puts the schools in a situation where they feel they have to put students on campuses if it is at all possible. And the record high levels of new COVID cases are the unsurprising result. But it's not just college towns that are seeing cases hit record levels. The I-41 corridor continues to get record cases, and not just in the Oshkosh area. Appleton and the rest of Outagamie County is doing especially bad.
This culminates with Brown County having more than 600 new cases reported last week, surpassing the previous highs that were reached in later April and early May, when meat packing plants around Titletown were having huge breakouts.
While most of the college towns have yet to see a significant increase in hospitalizations (partly due to the younger population, but also because it seems to take 2-4 weeks for the full cycle of COVID to run its way through people), that's not the case in the Fox Valley. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the number of people hospitalized in that part of Wisconsin has more than quadrupled over the last 2 weeks.
There is one area in Wisconsin where COVID is on the wane - most of Southeastern Wisconsin, and especially Milwaukee County. The county with the most people in Wisconsin is having its lowest numbers of new cases in 3 months, and accounted for less than 1 in 10 new cases in the state last week.
But the Milwaukee County numbers are small solace for much of the rest of the state, who is seeing COVID come back at levels that is giving the state national notice. And we still got 2 weeks where students have to stay in school so the UW can get its tuition, room and board. Oh, and then it'll get colder with more people going inside after that. Hoo boy. And that's before we go inside for good in about a month. Hoo boy.