Sunday, January 31, 2021

Your guide on any Wisconsin budget subject

We're about 2 weeks away from Governor Evers formally putting out his 2021-23 budget. And as those games begin, it's important to know the programs and how we got here. So here's the link to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's informational papers, and it gives good history along with the program information.

Wisconsin makes progress vs COVID for January. So of course, WisGOP wants to screw it up!

On the COVID front, January showed a some good progress in Wisconsin. The month ended with weekly cases falling below 10,000 for the first time in months.
Deaths and the rate of positive tests are also trending down, although still at levels well above what we had in Summer.
At the same time, the number of vaccinations went up, as we seem to be making progress on getting doses into the arms of Wisconsinites, even if the amount of doses are limited. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports over 187,000 Wisconsinites received a vaccine last week.
So as we finally seem to be going the right way in the fight against COVID, naturally this is the time that the Wisconsin GOP feels we should stand down against the virus. These guys really don't want things to get better. They only care about the Bubble World of BS that exists on AM Radio.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Income, spending numbers give more proof of skidding economy at end of 2020

We already had plenty of proof that there was an economic slowdown happening at the end of 2020, but Friday’s income and spending report gave extra confirmation that things took a step back in December.
Personal income increased $116.6 billion (0.6 percent) in December according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $111.6 billion (0.6 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) decreased $27.9 billion (0.2 percent).

Real DPI increased 0.2 percent in December and Real PCE decreased 0.6 percent. The PCE price index increased 0.4 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.3 percent.
And much of that increase in income was due to government payments, and not a boost in wages and salaries. This includes $48.3 billion (annual basis) in newly enhanced unemployment benefits and $44.4 billion in additional payments to hospitals and other health care providers under the CARES program.

As you can see, wages and salaries have still not gotten back to the levels they were at before the COVID World seeped in, and unemployment benefits remain elevated, going back on the rise in December.

I’d expect incomes to jump more in January as the $600 payments from DC kick in, and a full month of the 300-a-week add-on for unemployment also is registered. But that's only a temporary boost, and if wages and salaries don't recover, it's going to be hard to sustain consumer spending.

And consumer spending is already flagging. Not only did total consumption expenditures go down for the second straight month, but October's gain was revised down, and November's revisions showed a bigger loss than previously reported. That means consumption dropped by $73 billion compared to what was reported last month, and that's before inflation is accounted for.

Add inflation in, and consumption is no better than it was in August, and has had a notable decline in the last two months.

The drop in income for business owners showed that the subsidies from the CARES Act was fading at the end of 2020, and "regular" operations were also still depressed. This helps explain why PPP and other supports were renewed in the stimulus bill signed in the last few days of the year.
So while the COVID recession of the Spring may be over, with Q4 reporting 4.0% (annualized) growth this week, you need to remember that this is an AVERAGE rate across 3 months. It is clear that the economy stalled out and may have declined in December, and with the virus still rampaging in much of America and travel still limited, there is little to believe that it got much better in the first month of 2021.

And as you can see, we are still not back to the economic activity we had at the start of 2020, which is why more stimulus/stabilization is needed, and quickly.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

More claims in all types of unemployment programs for January

The third full week of 2021 continued a bad trend in the jobs market, as new unemployment claims remained high.
In the week ending January 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claimswas 847,000, a decrease of 67,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 14,000 from 900,000 to 914,000. The 4-week movingaverage was 868,000, an increase of 16,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 3,750 from 848,000 to 851,750.
And while last week was a seasonally-adjusted decline from the week before, the overall trend continues to rise after bottoming out in late November.
What we also saw in this report that Americans are reapplying to the gig economy-related PUA program, and the PEUC program for the long-term unemployed. Both of these programs were slated to end on December 26, and because Congress and President Trump delayed in getting the next round of stimulus through, those programs weren't restored until December 28.

The data we have for both of these programs only goes through the week ending on January 9. But we can see where people didn't apply for those programs at the end of 2020 and over New Year's, because they didn't think the program would be around. And then they came back on the week of Jan 9.
This meant that over 17.5 million Americans were approved for benefits in the middle of January, with little to indicate that it would let off any time soon. But the delays in reauthorizing PUA and extending PEUC is also likely keeping people in many states from getting benefits, even if they did re-apply. Wisconsin is an example of one of those states.

Neeraj Kulkarni, director of DWD's Bureau of Information Technology, said in a legislative committee hearing Wednesday afternoon that the department expects to have PEUC benefits available to unemployment recipients in the first week of March, "as of our current estimates."...

Kulkarni didn't share a timeline for when new benefits under another federal program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), would be available. That program extends unemployment benefits to those not typically covered by the unemployment system, like self-employed people and contract workers.

Congress similarly granted an extra 11 weeks of benefits to recipients in the PUA program in the latest round of coronavirus relief.
While the weekly stats don't indicate how many benefits are being PAID, these delays are likely discouraging some Wisconsinites from applying, as the number of PEUC applicants has fallen by nearly 15% since the last week of December, and the number of PUA claims has remained virtually flat in the last 2 weeks while it has risen in other parts of America.

We'll see next week if this trend of increased unemployment claims translates into a second straight month of job losses in the country. And it's worth mentioning that PUA, PEUC and many of these other measures are again looking at a lapse in 6 weeks. Given the high number of claims that keeps coming in, that'll likely be in line for another extension soon.

Assembly pause isn't able to mask just how dumb WisGOP is being

Today, the gerrymandered WisGOP Legislature was planning to revoke Governor Evers’ emergency declaration on COVID-19 and its related mask mandate because of….FREEDUMM!!?? And it led to a farce across both houses at the Capitol.

Trying to get rid of the mask mandate and hamper the Governor's ability to act against COVID is bad enough, but on the eve of the vote in the State Assembly, the WisGOP found out that more than public health would be hurt if they made the move.
Republican state lawmakers plan to end Wisconsin's health emergency order on Thursday, which would prevent nearly 243,000 households from collecting $49.3 million in assistance a month, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Republicans introduced their plan a week ago and rushed it to the Senate floor without holding a hearing on it. Until late Wednesday, they had given no indication their effort could take away food assistance in the middle of a pandemic that has forced thousands of people out of work.
OOPS!!! How did that happen?

Let’s wind this back to go into how ending a COVID-19 emergency could take away food stamp benefits from hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.Start with the state law that explains how Governor Evers was able to declare a public health emergency. And how it can be continued or revoked by the Legislature.
323.10 Declaration by governor. The governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or the imminent threat of a disaster exists. If the governor determines that a public health emergency exists, he or she may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency related to public health for the state or any portion of the state and may designate the department of health services as the lead state agency to respond to that emergency. If the governor determines that the emergency is related to computer or telecommunication systems, he or she may designate the department of administration as the lead agency to respond to that emergency. A state of emergency shall not exceed 60 days, unless the state of emergency is extended by joint resolution of the legislature. A copy of the executive order shall be filed with the secretary of state. The executive order may be revoked at the discretion of either the governor by executive order or the legislature by joint resolution.
As the gerrymandered Legislature has done nothing after April, Evers has felt the need to do a series of 60-day emergency declarations as COVID has lingered. But that last sentence does give the Legislature the ability to end such an emergency, so that’s what they were planning to do.

And here's how that move would have taken away Food Stamp benefits, based on this guidance from the US Department of Agriculture.
States that have already received [Food and Nutrition Service] approval for EA (the extra SNAP benefits) issuance in March and April, or April and May, are approved to continue issuing EA benefits each month. This approval to extend these EAs will remain in place until such a time as the Secretary for Health and Human Services rescinds the public health emergency declaration that was issued on January 27, 2020, under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act or the State-issued emergency or disaster declaration expires.
This was continued in the next COVID stimulus bill that became law at the end of December. And you can see where the problem kicks in, because if the Legislature revokes the emergency declaration, families can’t get the extra SNAP benefits.

And that $49 million isn’t just a one-time loss of benefits – it’s how much that would be lost a MONTH in 2021. With the possibility of SNAP funds being cut now being known, the Assembly GOP backed down this afternoon...for now. But wait, Steve-nASS and other Senate Republicans have a solution to this quandry! "Hey Guv, we don't want to allow you to say it's an emergency or have any authority. But we do want you to tell DC it's an emergency, so we can get more money from them." Yeah, I don't think that's how it works out, guys.

That meaningless amendment is attached to the Assembly GOP's piece of garbage COVID bill that includes provisions like this.
[1.] Bar employers and health officials from requiring people to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
[2.] Bar local health officers from closing places of worship to curb the spread of the virus.
[3.] Give the Legislature’s state budget committee oversight of how federal COVID-19 stimulus funds are spent.

Yeah, I can't see Evers signing that one, guys.

Will the GOP’s belief in handcuffing Evers on COVID-19 stop their whole anti-science idiocy, now that it will actually cost Wisconsinites money for food? Don't count on it, as it is symptomatic of a Republican Party that cares more about AM radio talking points than governing and policy. And because that's the case, you get the foolishness that we've had in the last 24 hours at the Capitol.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Our stupid reality, in 2 parts

Two items that illustrate our insane reality in 2021. Where many others choose to bend reality.
And it was because of a group of Redditors decided to do a 2020s version of this, except it was the old Wall Streeters that were short selling, and the little guys that were bidding things up.

As he so often does, Charlie Pierce summed up the situation well, not only alluding to this great movie scene, but also in recognizing that today's stock market has very little to do with "investing".
Up until Wednesday, GameStop was one of those places in the mall that just blended into the essential mall-ness of all malls, like Auntie Anne's or Cinnabon. I woke up this morning and it was the armored vehicle busting in through the front gates of American capitalism. If we ever needed more proof that The Market is just a bookie joint with aspirations, this was it. And I still think if you unwrap a Bitcoin, there's a chocolate coin inside.
And at Madison's Capitol, many are living in their own virtual, alternative reality. In the real Wisconsin, we've gotten through the post-Holiday period, and are continuing to improve on the COVID front, with infections are down to their lowest levels in 4 months.
Apparently that's too good for the Republicans in the gerrymandered State Legislature.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the sucker for working and paying bills, masking up in public, limiting my COVID exposure and trying to get by in a normal way.

New stimulus means Wisconsin lawmakers have new tax choices to make

After much wrangling, Congress passed a second stimulus bill in late December, and after a week of delay, then-Presiden Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) into law right before New Year's. Thrown into that massive bill (which also authorized a lot of regular spending for the 2021 Fiscal Year) were some tax changes that are now rippling their way down to the state level. Some of these changes are automatically changed into state law, but some are not. Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau went over these updated tax provisions, and says many would need formal action at the state level in order to have them match up with Feds. Most would a minimal effect on collections, but there are a few exceptions.

The largest of the changes deals with what can be written off if a business owner gets a PPP loan or similar federally-funded bailouts. This current difference in state vs Federal laws were the subject of this recent news report out of Wausau.

Now, let's not get too weepy for the business owner, as the LFB explains that this Federal provision basically allows for a business to write off expenses that a PPP loan has already paid for.
The CAA provided for a second round of PPP loans to businesses having 300 or fewer employees, with certain expansions in eligibility and qualifying expenses compared to the previous round. State law previously conformed to federal law in disallowing deductions for business expenses paid with forgiven PPP loan proceeds so as to avoid providing a double tax benefit on the forgiven loan amounts. However, the CAA later provided that, for purposes of federal law, taxpayers may deduct business expenses paid using forgiven PPP loans for both the first round of PPP loans under CARES and the second round under the CAA.
This type of “double-deduction” of expenses also applies to Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), other SBA loans, and the new federal grants to bail out various entertainment venues and museums that haven’t been able to get attendees in the COVID World.

If Wisconsin were to adopt the federal laws on accounting rules with PPP and other subsidies to hard-hit industries, LFB says it would result in a big tax break.
It is estimated that adopting these provisions would reduce state revenue collections by $232,000,000 in 2020-21, $164,000,000 in 2021-22, $48,000,000 in 2022-23, and $13,000,000 in 2023-24.
This does not appear to have been discussed by any legislative committees at this point, as it does not appear on the list of introduced bills, although other tax changes have.

The second-largest item (around $30.6 million for this year) that the state could go along with would involve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was recently changed to allow more Americans to get the credit when they file their taxes in the coming months.
The CAA modifies the federal EITC and the refundable component of the child tax credit as follows. For EITC and child tax credit claims filed for tax year 2020, the CAA allows a taxpayer to use their earned income from the prior taxable year when determining their credit amount, provided their earned income in 2020 is lower than in the preceding year.
Why would someone want to use 2019’s income totals instead of 2020? Because it’s possible they didn’t work as much in COVID-wracked 2020, and therefore don’t have enough income to get EITC, or their write-off is smaller because they paid fewer taxes in the first place.

This would be a back-door way to boost the usage and payments of the EITC, which had less usage and fewer payments in the 2010s, partially due to an improving economy lessening the number of working poor, and because of a cut in the state credit that Scott Walker signed in 2011.
Legislative Dems are already asking for the expanded EITC to be adopted by the state. That, and another bill to allow business owners and others to write off CARES-related grants handed out by the state via the We’re All In program and similar initiatives, was released today. (However, those bills do not mention write-offs for PPP loans or similar direct Federal aid).

The other significant tax changes that the state could follow the Feds in adopting would involve:

1. Allowing individuals and corporations to write off more of their charitable contributions in 2021, like they are able to do in 2020 ($3.6 million this year, $13.6 million next).

2. Letting Wisconsinites write off any medical expenses that take up more than 7.5% of income. This used to be 10% and was changed for 2020 in CARES and made permanent in CAA. Wisconsin OK’d this move for 2020, but has yet to go along with allowing the deduction to apply at the state level for 2021 and beyond. If they do, LFB says that would be an annual tax break of $5.1 million starting in the 2022 Fiscal Year (when 2021 taxes are filed).

3. Letting landlords write off depreciation of residential rental properties quicker ($6 mil this year, $4.9 mil next).

As we found out yesterday, there is enough money around to pay for these tax cuts, as the state is projected to have nearly $1.8 billion to carry over into the 2021-23 budget. But with tax season already underway, state lawmakers are going to have to move fast if they want to have the Federal tax changes trickle down to the state level with as little conflict as possible for Wisconsin filers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

All of a sudden, Wisconsin government's got PLENTY of money

I figured the Legislative Fiscal Bureau would come out this week with their revenue estimates for the next state budget, and sure enough, we got the numbers today. Whoa. This is quite amazing given the job losses in 2020, so let's dig into the LFB report and see where it comes from.

First, the LFB goes along with IHS Markit's projection for the economy to bounce back strongly in 2021 (real GDP growth of 4.0%) and 2022 (real GDP +3.9%), even with today's headwinds of increased unemployment and an ongoing pandemic.
Notwithstanding the difficulties at the end of 2020, IHS Markit forecasts that the federal stimulus and a successful inoculation campaign will cause payroll employment to increase beginning in January and through the second half of 2021. The unemployment rate is forecast to generally decline over 2021, falling from 6.7% in December of 2020 to 4.3% by the end of 2021. Afterwards, the unemployment rate is forecast to continue improving to 3.9% in 2022, before stabilizing at 4.1% in 2023....

Personal Income. Despite the enormous job losses and disruption to the economy caused by the COVID-19pandemic, income and savings in 2020 actually increased due to the large amount of transfer payments and government support from CARES and other stimulus measures. IHS Markit expects the $900 billion stimulus enacted under the CAA to similarly support personal income in the economy in the first quarter of 2021, lifting incomes by nearly $2.0 trillion (at an annualized rate). IHS Markit forecasts that real disposable income will grow by 23.9% in the first quarter (compared to the previous quarter), but then decline by 17.5%, 2.6%, and 0.5% in the remaining quarters of 2021 as the effects of the stimulus fade. Meanwhile, wage and salary disbursements are forecast to recover from 0.6% growth in 2020 to 6.3% in 2021. As a result, IHS Markit forecasts that overall personal income will grow by 1.6% in 2021, 2.0% in 2022, and by 4.2% in 2023.
Well, if that's what's going to happen in the next 2 years, then sure, we'll have plenty of money to play with.

And here's how the LFB projects that to go between now and June, 2023.
Corporate taxes jumped 20% in 2019-20, and it's expected to have another huge jump in this Fiscal Year. Here's the LFB's explanation as to why, which includes last year's delayed tax filing deadline inflating numbers for 2021.
Two factors account for the forecasted decline in 2021-22. First, state income and franchise tax filing deadlines for estimated payments and net finalpayments due in April, May, and June were extended to July 15, 2020. All of these amounts accrued to 2019-20, except that a portion of corporate estimated payments were thrown forward and attributed to state fiscal year 2020-21. Under accounting principles applied by DOR, corporate estimated payments received in July of 2020 that relate to a taxable year ending on or before June 30, 2020, were attributed to state fiscal year 2019-20. Any estimated payments related to a taxable year ending after that date were thrown forward to 2020-21. DOR received $280 million in corporate estimated payments in July of 2020, which is $243 million more than was received in July of 2019 ($37 million). DOR determined that $97 million was attributed to 2019-20, and the remaining $183 million was thrown forward and attributed to 2020-21. This compares to July, 2019, estimated payments of $37 million, of which $28 million was thrown forward to the following fiscal year. As a result, collections in 2020-21 are enhanced by a one-time increase of approximately $155 million. Because the thrown forward amount is not expected to reoccur, collections in 2021-22 are not similarly enhanced, and thus decline by $155 million relative to 2020-21.
The LFB also credits increased audits from the DOR for making corporations pay more to the state.

Then you see the big jump in income and sales taxes for 2022-23, which the LFB says comes from projections that count on a big jump in Consumer Spending.
Personal Consumption Expenditures. IHS Markit forecasts that the stimulus will maintainnominal PCE in the near term, by supporting consumer spending in the first quarter (0.2%) notwithstanding the surge in COVID-19cases, then later serving as a bridge to improved economic circumstances as the population is inoculated through the rest of the year. Distribution of the vaccines is expected to release pent up demand for consumer services in the second half of 2021, when spendingon services other than healthcare, housing, and utilities is expected to jump by 12.6%. By comparison, as spending patterns return to their pre-pandemic trends, spending ongoods is expected to grow more slowly as consumers return to spending on services. For example, spending at restaurants is expected to grow,whereas purchases for eating at home areexpected to decline. Overall, nominal PCE is forecast to grow 6.1% in 2021 and 2022, before slowing to 4.3% in 2023.
If those rosy scenarios come true, then the tax revenues will pour in under current law. Combine that with extra aid from the Feds for several state spending programs (especially Medicaid), and a number of spending limitations that the Evers Administration put in when they feared the COVID-induced recession would cause a budget crisis, and there is a whole lot of money that Evers can play with in this budget.
Based upon the November 20 report, the administration's general fund condition statement for 2020-21reflects a gross ending balance of $1,221.9 million and a net balance (after consideration of the $85.0 million required statutory balance) of $1,136.9 million.

Our analysis indicates a gross balance of $1,851.4 million and a net balance of $1,766.4 million. This is $629.5 million above that of the November 20 report. The 2020-21 general fund condition statement is shown in Table 1.
Seems like a pretty good time to go big, and to make an effort to fix even more roads, and to stop having our local governments be so dependent on property taxes. Especially if more help is coming from Dems in DC giving more help to states.

The full budget will likely be out within a month, and you gotta figure there will be plenty of one-time opportunities to take care of needs that were ignored throughout the Age of Fitzwalkerstan in the 2010s. The door is open to reverse a lot of that negligence, and it's time to step through it.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Wisconsin jobs bounce back in December, but still in a big hole as 2020 ended

While the United States lost jobs for the first time in 8 months in December, Wisconsin went the other way. We had a big, seasonally-adjusted gain after a couple of months of losses.
…The data shows that Wisconsin total non-farm jobs and private-sector jobs increased 15,100 and 19,200 respectively. Wisconsin's unemployment rate for December was 5.5 percent, up from November's revised rate of 5.3 percent.
Some of this may be reversion to the norm on both the payrolls and household surveys, which can happen at the state level with a small sample size. Wisconsin jobs surveys
Unemployment rate
Sep 2020 5.4%
Oct 2020 6.0%
Nov 2020 5.3%
Dec 2020 5.5%

Payrolls survey
Oct 2020 -12,100
Nov 2020 -6,000
Dec 2020 +15,100

On the payrolls side, the gains were pretty broad-based, including a gain of 1,100 construction jobs and 6,500 manufacturing jobs, continuing the rebound that we’ve seen in these sectors in recent months.
On the service side, retail (+8,500) and health care/social assistance (+3,200) had a good jump to end 2020. But bars, restaurants and lodging (-1,600) continued to get hurt from Wisconsinites continuing to social distance as COVID stayed high and temperatures got colder. Arts and other entertainment-related industries also dropped in December (-600) as shows and sporting events were still limiting or outright banning attendance.

Those “going out”-related industries had an awful 2020, and a sizable amount of Wisconsinites that were working in those industries at the start of the year were out of work by the end of it. It also was a bad month for state + local government (-4,200 jobs in December), and nearly 1 in 10 of those types of jobs went away last year.
Along the same lines, a Forward Analytics study on “The COVID Economy” was released on Monday. It illustrates how a large amount of the job losses in Wisconsin have come in jobs where people weren’t making much money to begin with.
The two industries most impacted by the pandemic, the arts and entertainment industry and accommodation and food service, have a significant number of low wage jobs. Average annual pay in the accommodation and food service industry was $16,500 in 2019. In the arts and entertainment industry, it was $31,300. These average pay rates are well below the statewide average for all jobs in Wisconsin ($50,413).

While recessions typically are challenging for low-wage workers, this one has been particularly difficult. Figures from Opportunity Insights1 show that, as of mid-October, the number of low-wage jobs in Wisconsin was down 19.0% compared to February (see Figure 5 on page 8). The number of moderate-pay jobs had fallen 4.1%, while high-paying jobs were down less than one percent.
And there's no reason to think those depressed areas are going to bounce back any time soon, not as long as most Wisconsinites aren't vaccinated. So those job losses in 2020 might linger well into 2021. which means that targeted support might be necessary, beyond the small business support that is part of the state's "We're All In" program.

These numbers will be benchmarked in about 6 weeks, so it's not the final word on just how much was lost in the Wisconsin jobs market in 2020. But we know that it was significant and hit some areas much harder than others, and that needs to be corrected in 2021 in order for this state's economy to return to decent health.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A few Packer thoughts

The is the kind, non-depressing version of my reaction to today's game at Lambeau Field. And to give it away like that. A horrible TD given up with 1 second left in the half, 2 FGs (and 0 runs) in goal-to-go circumstances in drives where a TD ties the game. Dropped 2 point conversion. And then this coaching decision. Then they kicked away and never got the ball back. And lost to MAGA Tom Brady. Thankfully I'm older and get over stuff like this fast. But I sure hope that wasn't Rodgers last chance to get to the Big Game in Green Bay. It shouldn't be, but at this point, you never know.

29 years with 2 Hall of Fame quarterbacks playing for them, and the Packers been to the Super Bowl only 3 times. And once since 1997. What a waste.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Biden goes big on minimum wage, and it would start re-leveling our unequal country

Next week seems poised for a lot of talk about economic stimulus, and one of the big parts of President Biden's (YES!) plans include an significant increase in the country's minimum wage.
President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday said he will ask Congress to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current $7.25 per hour. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009.

The call to raise the federal minimum wage is part of a larger $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package called the American Rescue Plan aimed at helping boost the U.S. economy from the damage of the pandemic.

“There should be a national minimum wage of $15 an hour,” Biden said during a Thursday night speech. “Nobody working 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty line.”
Along those lines, let me introduce you to an interactive tool from the Congressional Budget Office that goes over plans to raise the wage. It starts with the 2019 Raise the Wage Act, which was passed by House Democrats and would allow the minimum wage to hit $15 by 2026, and then gets indexed to the increase in median wages from there. It's a bit outdated, since it assumed we'd be nearing by now, but you'll get the idea.

What you'll find is that it would result in slightly higher unemployment, but a much higher number iof workers would be better off. Raising the waged also would significantly reduce poverty, and would reverse some of the massive economic inequality that exists in 2020s America.
And $15 is where you see a major change in outcomes and behavior, because if you use the same CBO projections for a $12 minimum wage by 2025, the effects are much smaller.
What is perhaps even more intriguing is that not only is Biden calling for a $15 minimum wage for "regular" work, but he is calling for $15 an hour for ALL types of jobs.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as well as ending the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities will help ensure that workers across the country can provide for their families, according to the briefing.
Ending the "tipped wage" would be a significant game-changer for jobs such as bartending and waiting tables, as that hourly wage is far below $7.25 in many states. This includes Wisconsin, whose tipped wage is $2.33 an hour, and as low as $2.13 for teenagers that are just starting the job. Workers with disabilities can also be paid under $7.25 an hour under current law, as long as it there are reviews to confirm that the business isn't using that exception to get around wage laws.

That may be a tough slog to get through all at once (given that the Wisconsin Restaurant Association actively promotes their opposition to paid sick leave and the ability for local communities to have higher minimum wages, I'd think they would hate this). But let's plug in the numbers into the CBO report (assuming we get to $15 in 2026), and see what we get.

Still has big, short-term effects on reducing poverty and incomes for those workers that don't make much today. But you can see that inflection point around 2026 where the good effects start to fade. My guess is that this assuming significant automation effects due to the types of jobs that currently pay less than minimum wage today.

This isn't a perfect analysis to where we are today, since that CBO report happened before the COVID World hit and changed the method of providing many goods and services, which likely has sped up the automation moves at many businesses, and changed buying habits for Americans in general. But that also reiterates that there needs to be a stronger safety net to deal with this transition to a higher wage.

Since there may be a few more people out of work, we need to be breaking down barriers to unemployment instead of making it harder to get benefits. We need to unlock work from health care, and give all Americans a baseline of coverage, and we will likely need to have stronger support measures for smaller businesses that might have more of a problem in handling a significant increase in salaries than a large corporation will, due to the corporations' advantages of scales.

And we can do that and smooth out the disruptions in the coming years, while still having a better society overall. Given that more lower-income individuals will have more money in their pockets and that poverty will be reduced overall, perhaps social needs will be reduced, and those businesses that fret about higher costs are also getting more business, so they're remaining equally profitable (or perhaps even more so).

Seems like a better way to live to me. And maybe we can find a good compromise that raises the tipped wage to somewhere between the absurd $2.33 we have today, and the $15 an hour for "regular" work. It also would likely reduce resentments that would come from established jobs that are making $35,000-$50,000 today. Although with more money flowing around, they should be able to ask for more money, and Biden's support of workers organizing and demanding better working conditions should also help.

Isn't it nice to be talking about a president and Congress that is debating how MUCH to help workers and reduce poverty instead of one who is constantly funneling money to the rich and corporate at the expense of everyone else? Let's have it continue.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Unemployment claims stay high, and offer strong proof many Americans got cut off

January has been a bad month when it comes to Americans falling out of work. Today’s unemployment claims report followed that trend, with the number of new claims well above the highest levels of the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
In the week ending January 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 900,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 39,000 from 965,000 to 926,000. The 4-week moving average was 848,000, an increase of 23,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 9,750 from 834,250 to 824,500.
Bad enough that 900,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, but the gig-economy-based PUA program also has had a rising number of applicants in each of the last 2 weeks, bouncing back above 400,000 after a quick driop around the start of the year.

The reason for that fall and rise seems to be related to the same reason that as many as 3 million Americans got cut off from unemployment benefits over the new year - delays by Congress and the Trump Administration in getting the stimulus bill signed.
More than 1.7 million people dropped off Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program paying benefits to self-employed, gig, part-time and other workers, between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, according to the Labor Department.

Roughly 1.1 million stopped receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which offered extra aid to those who ran out of their standard allotment of state benefits.

Other programs barely picked up the slack. States offer Extended Benefits during times of high unemployment, for example. Only 83,000 people rolled into that program over the same time period. Those benefits were available in just 20 states as of Jan. 2.
And Wisconsin is not one of those states that have Extended Benefits (EB), which made the lapsing of PEUC in our state and other places all the more alarming.

As I have pointed out in the past, many Americans had already reached the time limit under PEUC before the end of the year. And while PEUC got extended for 11 more weeks in that stimulus bill, a sizable number of people still weren’t getting those benefits, or PUA benefits as 2021 began.
The drop of 3 million off unemployment rolls doesn’t include Americans who had exhausted their entitlement to aid before the official cliff. More than 2 million had run out of benefits through the PEUC program by the end of November, for example.

Many of these workers are now eligible for additional aid from the $900 billion relief law, including back pay for any missed weeks. However, some states haven’t begun issuing that assistance yet, potentially stressing Americans struggling to pay bills now.
At least as of 10 days ago, Wisconsin is also among these states where new PUA and PEUC claims haven’t restarted, but Wisconsinites did finally start getting the $300 add-on for claims that was part of that stimulus bill last week.

We'll see if the continuing PUA claims and extended unemployment claims also rise over the next couple of weeks due to re-enrollments in those programs. But December's delays in passing the short-term stimulus had a significant effect on the number of Americans getting aid as 2021 began, and the increased new claims for the first 3 weeks of January inidcates puts even more stress on an economy that is already teetering.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

So who's getting the shot? More Sconnies can, but the shots need to be there

As of tomorrow, the State of Wisconsin will likely allow a lot more state residents to get their COVID shots.
A subcommittee for the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee last week had proposed adding 1.1 million people to the next wave of vaccines, called 1b, including those over 70, inmates, corrections staff, inmates and those in other congregate living facilities, people living in shelters, teachers and daycare workers, police and firefighters and mink farmers.

On Tuesday the subcommittee lowered the age limit to 65, for a total of 700,000 seniors, the demographic that has overwhelmingly seen the greatest number of deaths. And on Wednesday the subcommittee added 40,000 to 50,000 disabled adults and senior care beneficiaries, and 138,000 essential workers, including 911 operators, utility employees, public transit workers and food chain employees, which include grocery store workers.
These groups of people will be added to nursing home residents, the staff at the nursing homes, and frontline health care workers. And those people in group 1a are dealing with their own holdups.

And the problems with the CVS/Walgreens program isn't the only reason that Wisconsinites will still be waiting a while to get vaccinated, even with more people being able to get the shot. That's because there are significant supply constraints on how many doses of the vaccine will be available in Wisconsin.
The expansion of those eligible to receive vaccines doesn’t mean shots will be available for those groups anytime soon because the state is expecting only about 70,000 new doses of vaccine per week.

But officials say that as the vaccinations of medical workers and nursing home residents winds down, the expanded pool of vaccine recipients will allow flexibility to the state’s approximately 1,200 vaccinators to use available doses.

Eventually, health officials say the number of doses will ramp up, but two to three times the current allotment would be needed to open the state to mass vaccination, deputy DHS Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Tuesday.
And reports indicate we'll have to wait until May or June before that happens. Which means that middle-aged, normal health guys like me are several months away from getting our shots, barring some huge ramp up in production and improved distribution.

However, it looks like the WisGOP Legislature has a plan to get people like me vaccinated sooner than that. At Warp Speed, if you will.
Everyone would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-March regardless of how much vaccine is available, under a bill heard by the Assembly Health Committee on Wednesday.

The state is taking a “lackadaisical” approach to vaccinating people, bill sponsor and committee chairman Rep. Joe Sanfelippo said at a hearing on the measure Wednesday. The bill would speed the vaccine rollout and another proposal would expand those who can deliver the shots.

“We want to safely administer as many vaccines to as many people as quickly as possible," Sanfelippo said.
This is where I tell you that Joe Sanfelippo has a Scott Walker level of education ("attended", but did not graduate from, Marquette), and his expertise in medicine comes from.... owning a landswcaping company and a Christmas tree farm.

Medical logistics, that's my game!

Needless to say, the people who actually know something about medicine and vaccinations said that this wouldn't work out.
The Wisconsin Public Health Association and the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards issued identical written comments raising concerns about the supply of vaccine coming to the state.

“We appreciate the bill’s intent to make sure the vaccine is utilized as quickly as possible,” the groups said. “However, we believe the source of the issue is a lack of vaccine supply. Once supply is sufficient, the challenge will be enough workforce to administer.”
At least we now have a president who will try to get things out quickly and efficiently, and utilize the power of the Federal Government to give sufficient dosages for everywhere, unlike the last guy.

But having dumb state legislators trying to put in place idiotic rules and mandates in order to have AM radio talking points is clearly going to be a problem in getting this done well or quickly in Wisconsin. It's bad enough that months of bad GOP (non) leadership in DC is making vaccination go slower and be more confusing than it should be. Having these arrogant, gerrymandered clowns trying to play doctor and dealer is a real problem that Evers will need to overcome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

WisGOP "solutions" for unemployment issues? More buck-passing and foolishness

After months of concern about Wisconsinites not getting unemployment benefits, the Wisconsin State Legislature was given another chance to do something about it today. That was the date Governor Tony Evers gave to start a special session of the Legislature to take up a bill that would spend $5.3 million to upgrade outdated infrastructure at the Department of Workforce Development.

You can guess what "action" the Legislature took on that bill. The line from Republicans that run the gerrymandered Legislature is that Governor Evers should be acting on his own to upgrade infrastructure at DWD.
According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, the Evers administration has numerous current appropriations that could potentially be used for IT upgrades.
· Finance a system through the state master lease program (which is how IT upgrades are typically financed)
· Expedite the procurement of a new system and any contractors needed to successfully implement a new system
· Utilize past or future federal funds made available to the administration
· Existing appropriations which the governor has the authority to prioritize
· Request expenditure authority through the Joint Committee on Finance review process.
The GOPs also included a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as evidence of this claim. But naturally, they’re not giving the full story on this.

First, let’s go over what the LFB says about the Master Lease Program, which is what often funds large-scale tech/equipment purchases by state government.
The master lease program is administered through DOA and is available for all state agencies, and any association, society, or other body of the state entitled to expend appropriated funds, including the Legislature and Courts. Under the master lease program, state agencies submit requests to DOA for approval. The Department's review includes a determination as to whether lease financing is the best alternative for acquiring the equipment and the state agency has the resources to make the required lease payments. An agency's master lease payments are not included in the state budget as a separate line item, but rather are included with other expenditures in one or more of an agency's existing appropriations.

From July, 2014, through December, 2019, $157.9 million of master lease funding was approved by DOA, of which 90% ($142.1 million) was related to 28 information technology projects. During the same time period, state agencies made $154.4 million in master lease payments, including repayment of principal, interest, and administrative fees. As of December, 2019, $88.6 million in certificates of participation was outstanding.

It should be noted that DWD assumes a UI benefit system upgrade project could cost between $48 million and $70 million. It is also thought the development of a new UI benefits system would require both a substantial period of planning prior to executing a purchase, as well as funding to complete such processes. Once a purchase agreement is in effect, it is not immediately clear how long a master lease term would last for such a purchase and what DWD's annual cost would be.
Basically, this would require DWD to go into debt in order to buy the upgraded technology, and then pay it back over the coming years. Sure, Evers could go ahead and do it, but you know WisGOP would then start bitching about the extra costs in future years.

You can't expect us to actually do stuff, can you?

Naturally the WisGOPs say NOTHING in their press release about being willing to set aside funds to pay those debt costs in future budgets. So what happens if the Legislature takes those costs out of the staffing costs for DWD in future years, or from other agencies? After all, these guys always say the Legislature is an equal partner in the budget.

As for the current DWD fund availabilities, there is about $14.45 million in an account for “program integrity”. But that is also money that goes into researching whether applicants are committing fraud, as the LFB describes.
Currently, this fund is used for fraud investigation, worker classification enforcement and outreach, identity verification and crossmatching, and investigation and prosecution of criminal UI fraud.
Not surprisingly, as the number of unemployment applicants skyrocketed in Spring 2020, the state spent more than 7 times in the last fiscal year to verify claims than it did the year before.

Program integrity fund expenditures, Wisconsin DWD
2018-19 $663,472
2019-20 $4,774,673

And the amount of money coming into the fund is likely to remain the same under current law, because the funds come from a 0.01% unemployment tax on employers, and penalties from people convicted of committing fraud. Given that we are likely to now have a full fiscal year of elevated unemployment claims, that $14.45 million in the Program Integrity account is likely to be gone quickly.

That is, unless the WisGOPs want to get rid of all of the barriers and forms it put in place to cause all of this work that goes into Program Integrity, and make it easier for Wisconsinites to get their benefits. But I don’t see them putting up any bills to do that.

The other money lying around DWD is $15.6 million that comes from “unemployment interest and penalty payments”. But a lot of this money is set to be sent back….and then some!
The Department has estimated an $85 million liability to this appropriation account once DWD has completed noncharging reimbursable employers, as specified under 2019 Act 185.
This is an act that the WisGOP Legislature added to the state’s CARES bill last April, as a scheme to make sure employers continued to pay lower unemployment taxes. OOPS!

As for federal funds, there isn’t really much coming from the Feds outside of extra money to pay for expanded unemployment benefits. The LFB mentions $1.6 million is left over from the 2009 stimulus bill for “unemployment administration”, which I suppose could be used to pay for this. But that’s a small portion of the $48 million -$70 million that the IT upgrade would cost.

The LFB adds that there could be money moved from one agency to another, but the Joint Finance Committee would have to sign off on it, and Evers would have to identify what agency gets cut to pay for DWD’s IT upgrade. JFC and the Legislature could also try to transfer funds from one agency to another, claiming a “fiscal emergency”, but they haven’t chosen to take that step.

That being said, if I was Evers, I would call the bluff of the WisGOPs, and ask for the money via some kind of transfer between accounts (if there is money to be found), then also ask the Legislature to cut expenses in the Program Integrity Fund by removing the barriers that WisGOP built in order to make it such a pain to get benefits.

How would WisGOP react? Likely the same way they are now.


Because WisGOP doesn't want to step up and help Wisconsinites get their benefits in a smoother manner. They just want to whine about the situation and push all the blame on Evers for the problems that WisGOP caused through their Walker-era negligence and talk-show based idiocy.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Wisconsinites continue to pay less in taxes. But is it enough for our budget?

In something Republicans view as a great accomplishment, Wisconsin's taxes are the lowest they've been in decades. That was reported in-depth in a recent report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The Policy Forum says it was the 9th straight year state and local taxes as a % of income dropped.
The effect of the coronavirus could be seen across many of the state’s major revenue streams, with gas tax collections falling for the first time since 2013 and driver’s license fees also dipping. One exception was corporate tax revenues, which remained surprisingly strong despite the downturn.

Local taxes rose more rapidly, hitting their fastest growth since 2010. The larger increase reflects the fact that the property tax – Wisconsin’s most important local tax by far – remains more stable in recessions and was increased by local officials on bills that went out a year ago prior to the pandemic. Among local taxes, the main pandemic-related impacts involved sales taxes – mostly at the county level – and room taxes on hotel stays.

Though both state and local taxes grew in the most recent year, their overall increase was outpaced by the income that state residents collectively receive from employers and many other sources. That left the tax burden slightly smaller when measured according to Wisconsinites’ ability to pay it – 10.2% in fiscal year 2020 compared to 10.3% in 2019 (see Figure 1). That was the lowest since at least 1970.
As the report mentions, this decline reflects incomes rising in a growing economy, and taxes paid not rising as much. It makes you wonder if those trends last in a recession with depressed employment. I also wonder if the state continues to benefit from the major increase in corporate taxes that we have seen in the last few years, including a jump of more than 20% in 2020.
The Forum has noted several factors that may have played a role in strengthening collections in recent years, from an increase in state auditors to federal and state legislation that may have led more business entities to file and pay their taxes at the corporate level. Like workers, businesses benefited as well from various efforts at the federal level to bolster the national economy amid the blows from the coronavirus.
It also gives an indication just how much of a break corporations have gotten at the federal level, if they're willing to pay more taxes at the state level. With the recession likely to lead to significant tax refunds for corporations in the coming months, it'll be intriguing to see if those high levels of collections continue for the rest of Fiscal Year 2021.

We've also seen individual income taxes decline at the state and federal levels in recent months as layoffs has grown.

Change in individual income tax revenues, FY to date
Wisconsin -0.3% July-Nov
Federal -10.9% Oct-Dec

It's not necessarily alarming at this point, as the estimates that the Wisconsin DOA put together in November counted on a decline of -2.3% in income taxes for the 2021 Fiscal Year. But it also counts on corporate taxes continuing to rise by 15.9% from their already high levels in FY 2021.

I bring this up because we will likely find out this week what the Legislative Fiscal Bureau will estimate for tax revenues over the next 2 years, which will be what Governor Evers and the Legislature will base as a method of figuring the amount of money that might be available for the 2021-23 budget.

Right now, it appears that Wisconsinites aren't paying all that much, but enough has come in from state taxpayers as well as through increased aid from DC to keep a significant budget crisis from appearing, even with the COVID-induced recession. But the recent layoffs and economic slowdown may change the calculus, as might the possibility of more stimulus coming as a result of complete Dem control of DC.

Lastly, let's not confuse a lower tax burden with a great overall situation in Wisconsin. We had exactly 1 quarter in that time period of lower tax burdens where we reached the top half of job growth in America, as measured by the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), and were well behind the rate of growth in the rest of the country.
We also had a slowdown in population growth in the 2010s, and especially 2020, so the lower taxes didn't exactly get people to flock to Wisconsin. And frankly, more population, more jobs and a higher quality of life are things that should matter more than tax rankings when it comes to figuring how Wisconsin is shaping up. Especially as we need more services and supports given the rough circumstances of the COVID World.

COVID cases going down in Wisconsin, but stupidity is still widespread

The previous week indicated that there was a bit of progress in the fight against COVID 19 in Wisconsin. We had the second-lowest amount of new weekly cases in the last 3 months, although it's still well above 2,000 Wisconsinites getting the virus every day.
The numbers in the largest counties in Wisconsin also saw decent declines last week.
But let's check back on that Brown County number in a couple of weeks. And there's another game next weekend. I hope the fans are celebrating again (I think there's a good chance they will), but I don't want to see them jamming establishments on Lombardi Avenue and Holmgren Way, tearing up the town as the Pack go to the Super Bowl.

After Trump, we cannot "return to normal". MLK knew it, and DC Dems better know it

On this Martin Luther King Day, one statement keeps coming back to me as we have watched the horrors of the last 12 months.
This desire for "order" kept far too many people from taking the steps needed to deal with the real crises that are ravaging the country. This is particularly when it comes to the evils, abuses and violence of Trumpism, which has put our country in previously unimaginable circumstances. And the inability of our leaders to admit that evildoers have exploited flaws in our political and law enforcement systems could lead to serious catastrophe this week if we don't honestly deal with the wreck that we have become.

As of now, President Biden is planning on having an Inaugural ceremony that is little different than others, outside of the heavy military presence around the Capitol. This is despite the fact that there is still an ongoing investigation into who caused the deadly riot in DC less than 2 weeks ago, with major questions as to how much of an inside job it was. Yet Biden seems determined to cling to an swearing-in ceremony that will have former presidents, VP Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other political dignitaries in the same place outside. You know who won't be there? Any member of the Trump family.

It sounds like the setup for some kind of political thriller movie where a terror attack happens from supporters/allies of the President that was voted out, either in a last-ditch attempt to retain power, or to leave the country in a smoldering ruin that can't recover. And it's predictable as hell, to the point that you want to yell "Can't you see where this is going?" to the screen.

I am far from the only one with this fear. Elie Mystal of The Nation is spot-on with how the concerns of political upheaval and racists in law enforcement/White House security are a scary nexus for this Inauguration ceremony.
...No matter how many threats Biden receives from Trump supporters and their enablers in Congress and the current administration, he will be inaugurated on that platform for everybody to see. It’s a statement, not just to white seditionists like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley but also to governments around the world that the United States is “strong” and cannot be intimidated by violence. As far as Biden is concerned, he has to be inaugurated on that stage—the same stage Trump supporters clambered over on their way to assault the Capitol—no matter how manifestly unsafe the conditions of his inauguration may be.

Biden has to be there, but Kamala Harris does not. Nor does Nancy Pelosi. The principle of protecting the continuity of the government suggests that Harris and Pelosi, who are respectively the first and second in line to assume the presidency should something happen to Biden, must be shielded at all costs during Biden’s big day.

The problem is, even more than a celebration, we deserve Harris alive. And we deserve a government that can continue to function in the face of a white-supremacist attack. We don’t let the president and the vice president fly on the same plane lest bad weather decapitate our government. So why would we risk having both of them in the same place, at the same time, when the forces of white supremacy have promised to return to the Capitol they just tried to sack, in more numbers and with more guns, to finish the job?

I don’t think the MAGA crowd can overcome the United States paramilitary apparatus that is set to be deployed to defend our government. I don’t think law enforcement can be overpowered in a repeat of its January 6 failures—unless, that is, its members want to be overpowered. We still haven’t wrestled with the fact that the people who stormed the Capitol clearly benefited from inside help—or at least from permissiveness from members of the Capitol Police. Ayanna Pressley reports that the panic buttons had been ripped out of her office. Women of color like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush all recount harrowing experiences. Jim Clyburn says the mob found his private, unmarked office—not the one with his name on the door. Nobody knows if people of color in Congress are safe from their own law enforcement.

Two officers have already been suspended for appearing to aid the insurrectionists on the day of the riots. More suspensions could be coming. But whether the department suspends two or 200 more officers, there is zero chance we will have rooted out all the Trump sympathizers within the Capitol Police by the time of the inauguration.
But yet, so many DC Dems think that once we get to January 20 and Biden can get put into power, and gets his people in charge of agencies and a few executive orders are signed, that things will return to "normal." That somehow the evil of Trumpism and misinformation media will melt away.

This mentality is why no impeachments and few hearings were held in the 2 months after the election to look into why the Trump Administration was preventing the Biden Transition Team from getting national security information. Or why the Defense Secretary and several other top Pentagon officials were removed by Trump right after the election, and replaced by Trumpist hacks. Or why Bill Barr resigned as Attorney General 4 weeks before Biden was going to take office.

And there were plenty more signs that bad things were afoot. But instead, Congress decided that keeping government functioning as-is was more important than seeing the steps toward treason that were occurring right before our eyes. Instead of challenging the OLC memo from 47 years ago that claimed a sitting president can't be indicted, so many Dems in DC and other places decided they would wait it out until Jan. 20, without realizing that another antiquated DC ceremony on January 6 came first.

It's still happening today. Even after the riot of 1/6, Senate Dems reverted to "typical procedure" and allowed a measure that prevented any discussion of removing Trump for nearly two weeks. Here's the description from the chief of staff to the previous Dem Senate Leader, Harry Reid. Why was this agreed to? Chuck Schumer and DC Dems should have been demanding hearings about what happened at the Capitol, and holding immediate public testimony and evidence-gathering at the Capitol. Sure, Moscow Mitch McConnell might have blocked it, but it would have kept the issue in Americans' cosciousness, and maybe Moscow Mitch and enough Republcians would have decided to get Trump out of there to avoid being lumped in with the traitors.

Of course, part of the problem is that Republicans are still in charge at the Senate as of now, even though Georgia voters chose 2 Dems to put Dems in power 2 weeks ago. Georgia officials could allow Jon Ossof and Raphael Warnock to take office and force a 50-50 tie in the Senate, as all counties certified their results by Saturday. And why aren't Dems publicly demanding the state act to draw attention to this delay?

On a related subject, why do we allow a crook from Kentucky to decide the agenda and proceedings for the entire a 100-person Senate, other than "it's always been done this way"? This is the type of "default to tradition" that Trump?GOP showed to be only as worthwhile as the people who decide to keep it, or destroy it. And perhaps some traditions don't need to continue after we've seen how they can be abused in this horrible time.

You can bet GOPs will try to memory-hole all of the abuses and Trump-encouraged violence that has occured in this awful era, just like how so many House GOPs claimed it would be "divisive" to actually do something about the attempted insurrection on 1/6 (and what a bunch of disingenous crap that was, as if unity can't be acheived by saying "INSURRECTION AND OVERTURNING ELECTIONS IS WRONG.")

These slugs will try to do the same stuff they did the last time a Dem took over from a horrible GOP president. And we can never forget or forigve all of the Republicans and others in DC that knew better, and refused to step up and tell the truth. Because they cared more about their careers than their country. So many are still trying to hang on through Wednesday, and trusting that the Biden Inaugural will work out like all others have. But that ignores the many warning lights that are flashing about, and Dr. King's warning about the white (or Dem) moderate that claims it's not worth the battle to eradicate this disease of Trumpism that has infected so many parts of our country seems especially prescient today.

These are not normal times, we should not pretend that they are. With that in mind, Biden should hold the Inaugural at a private, undisclosed location in DC, or at his front porch in Wilmington. This is not a time for ceremony and other DC BS - believing in that, and the "institutions of government" gave openings for Trumpism to ooze its way in. It is a time to GET TO WORK, and you can't get to work if you aren't around to be the president, or if there isn't anything to preside over.

That's a sad way to approach things. But it's also the right way to approach things in January 2021. To fix the mess, you don't ignore how it was messed up. You have to identify what caused it, how it has to be cleaned up, and remove who is trying to keep you from making it better.