Sunday, October 31, 2021

A deep dive on the 2020 vote in Wisconsin

Nearly 1 year from the day that Wisconsin was the tipping point state in Joe Biden's victory, the Catalist data group released their updated analysis of what happened in our state in the 2020 election. And despite the thought that our red-blue divide is urban-rural and white-non-white, there are other factors at work. In particular, there is a big divide in among our state's white voters by education and gender.

First, here's how Catalist broke down the data nationwide, and then narrowed it in to Wisconsin.
Catalist’s national-level What Happened analysis for 2020 focuses on what we can glean from our voter file at the national level. But battleground states differ demographically and politically from the country as a whole. By supplementing our national analysis with reliable, state-level data we can shed light on these distinctions.

When comparing these results to our national What Happened analysis — and even comparing changes across years and groups — we caution readers that statistical analysis of smaller populations and subpopulations come with higher levels of uncertainty.

These uncertainties are larger at the state level. Catalist’s approach is a pooled model, meaning estimates are derived from national models, granular election results, survey data in states, demographic modeling, and other building blocks.
Noted, but combining who voted with registration information, and then seeing how an area voted can still give you a lot of insight, and that's what Catalist uses as the basis for their assessments.

White people are the overwhelming majority of voters in Wisconsin, and unlike the rest of America, they make up a similar proportion of the electorate as they did in Barack Obama's first election in 2008. But more of those white voters have college degrees compared to that time, although they are

And that growth of college-educated white voters has helped Democrats, as they have gained among voters with college educations starting with Trump's first election in 2016. But there is a significant drop in Dem support among white voters without degrees, and that has allowed elections to be closer than Barack Obama's 7-point win in 2012.

Interestingly, while Catalist notes that Dems do better with white, non-college voters than they do in the rest of the nation, but Biden did worse with those voters than Hillary Clinton did, while college-educated white people shifted more toward Dems in Wisconsin than in the rest of the country.
We estimate that white non-college voters in Wisconsin are more Democratic than they are nationally by 2 to 3 percentage points, a function of the many so-called “ancestral Democrats” in the state. Compared to 2016, white non-college voters comprised 1 point less of the electorate, down to 58% of Wisconsin voters. Meanwhile, 40% of white non-college voters cast ballots for Joe Biden, a half-point drop in support for the Democratic ticket in Wisconsin since 2016. Nationwide, Biden and Harris gained 1 point with this group. At the same time, white college-educated voters increased their share of the electorate by 1 point compared to 2016, comprising 31% of all Wisconsin voters. They also voted strongly for the Biden/Harris ticket, with two-way support at 61%, a 4 point increase since 2016 compared to a 3 point increase nationally. White college-educated voters in Wisconsin were 7 percentage points more supportive of Joe Biden than similar voters nationally, relatively unchanged from 2016.

It’s also useful to think of this as a change in electoral coalitions. While white non-college voters remain a significant part of the Democratic coalition, their share dropped significantly in Wisconsin over the last three presidential elections. In 2012, Barack Obama's winning coalition in Wisconsin was 56% white non-college while in 2016, when Democrats lost the state, that number fell to 49%, a 7 point drop. And in 2020, Joe Biden's coalition was just 46% white non-college, a further 3 point drop from four years prior.
Within the white vote, there is also a significant gender gap. White women were more likely to vote for Biden than white men were in Wisconsin, but it's worth noting that Trump actually did better with non-college white women than he did in 2016, while losing ground among the other 3 groups of white voters when cross-listed by gender and education.

Also notice the big jump in Dem support among men with college degrees, especially married men. Which would go along with big Dem gains in the suburbs, and it sure seems like a campaign against jackassery and in favor of pre-K, child care and K-12 education would be a way to cement those gains.

Moving over to racial information, in a state where race-baiting and maintaining some of the worst racial disparities in America is central to WisGOP strategy, it's no surprise that Dems get a large amount of the non-white vote, and those voters were a key part of the Biden-Harris victory. But Catalist notes that Black voters didn't have the surge in turnout and/or surge in diversity in suburbs that benefitted Dems in other states.
Black voters provided overwhelming support for the Biden-Harris ticket, at 90% in two-way vote share, yielding a margin of approximately 125,000 votes for Democrats, far exceeding the margin of victory in the state. While Black turnout increased by 1 point, turnout also increased more among other groups, causing Black voters’ share of the Wisconsin electorate to stay stable at around 5 percent. Nationally, Black turnout was up 5 points. The number of votes cast by Black voters increased in raw terms by 6.5% in Wisconsin but increased by about 14% nationwide.

At the same time, Democrats retained more of their high levels of support among Black voters in Wisconsin than in the rest of the country relative to 2016. Black support for the Democratic ticket fell by just 2 points in Wisconsin compared to 4 points nationally. These trends may be directly related. In our national report, we noted that the 2020 surge in Black voter turnout may have brought in less partisan first-time or infrequent voters, which reduced the overall margin for Democrats among an already very Democratic-leaning group. Wisconsin’s relatively lower boost in Black turnout could paradoxically have meant less change in overall Democratic vote share compared to other places with larger increases in Black voter turnout.
Also worth noting, while Dems have maintained their advantage among younger voters in the age of Trump, and increased it among younger white voters, Voters of Color weren't giving as many of their votes to Dems. (click on the graphic if you want a clearer picture).

This tells me that just saying "Trump/GOPs are bad" may not be enough. Dems need to show young voters (and voters of color especially) that they make things better and improve over what has been a dismal time in this country over most of those voters' lives. This means delivering real change which can take on many forms - from being more foreceful on voting rights, to seeing the rich and powerful be held as accountable as everyone else, to re-leveling the economy to actually work for more people, to legalizing marijuana.

Those young voters are not going to accept "it's hard to change things, so vote harder." And while demographics are slowly turning in Dems' favor in Wisconsin, it's going to take a forceful message and good results from having Dems in charge that'll make it more likely for them to win in Wisconsin in 2022 and 2024.

And if that isn't enough, perhaps scaring the hell out of white people who believe in masking, hate gerrymandering and want voters to decide elections instead of leaving it to crooked hacks at the Capitol (HINT!).

There's a lot to break down in that Catalist report on Wisconsin's vote in 2020, and I suggest you read the whole thing.

Friday, October 29, 2021

No more unemployment = less income in September. But spending was still strong

As another stimulus/infrastructure package gets debated in DC, a central part of the last package passed back in March is starting to fade out. The expanded unemployment benefits that allowed for Americans to receive UI for more than 26 weeks as well as the gig employment-based PUA program both ended after Labor Day, as did the $300/week add-on to benefits. That is starting to show up in recent data.

The ending of unemployment benefits is the reason overall American income dropped in September, as we found out on Friday.
The decrease in personal income in September primarily reflected a decrease in government social benefits, both in unemployment benefits and “other” benefits. Unemployment insurance decreased reflecting decreases in payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. “Other” social benefits decreased primarily reflecting decreases in the Provider Relief Fund, economic impact payments, and Paycheck Protection Program loans to nonprofit institutions.
As that paragraph alludes to, a lot of CARES and ARPA-era relief was going away as the 3rd quarter of 2021 ended, and the $254.6 billion (annual basis) decline in benefit payments brought income from unemployment down to levels that we haven't seen since COVID shutdowns began in March 2020.

Conversely, wage and salary growth continued to roll on last month, and now is far and away the largest source of income growth today compared to where we were before COVID first broke out.

This drop in unemployment benefits is also clear when you look at the number of people on the rolls. Not only because the PUA and PEUC programs ended, but claims in the regular program are also shrinking as the economy continues to recover.

The obvious question going forward is “What happened to those millions of people who lost benefits”? Did they go back to the work force? Did they drop out of the work force and never come back? And are they going through hard economic times now, which might limit spending in the future.

That didn’t happen in September, as consumer spending went up by a decent 0.6%, and August’s increase was revised up from 1.0% to 0.8%.
The $93.4 billion increase in current dollar PCE in September reflected an increase of $63.6 billion in spending for services and a $29.9 billion increase in spending for goods .Within services, the largest contributors to the increase were spending for health care as well as food services and accommodations. Within goods, an increase in spending for nondurable goods was partly offset by a decrease in durable goods. The increase in nondurable goods primarily reflected increases in food and beverages, “other” nondurable goods (led by pharmaceutical products), and gasoline and other energy goods. The decrease in durable goods primarily reflected a decrease in motor vehicles and parts (led by new motor vehicles).
That cutback in cars and auto parts was a major overhang in the 3rd Quarter GDP figures, and the question going forward is whether the appetite for buying autos comes back as more vehicles come back on lots, or if that’s a leading indicator of consumer weakness in other areas.

I think the rise in wages that has been happening in 2021 should keep consumer spending going through what is anticipated to be a record Holiday season. But keep an eye on what happens as the bills keep coming in and any left-iver relief funds get used up over the last 3 months of this year. And let's see if further help is on the way from DC – either in the form of more social supports, or straight paychecks like the Child Tax Credit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Even if GDP growth is 0% for the Summer, I'm not too worried

If you look at the projections from the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, it is possible that we will see headlines tomorrow that say real GDP growth was near ZERO for the 3rd quarter of 2021. And it's because the high growth that was anticipated at the start of July didn't end up happening.

That would indicate an economy that is stalling out, in a time when unemployment claims are dropping and September’s “disappointing” jobs report was still a gain of nearly 200,000. So what’s going on? The breakdown of the Atlanta Fed’s analysis gives a good clue.

The biggest culprits are that there has barely been any real consumer spending growth, and that our trade deficit has significantly grown (as indicated by the net exports figure). Both are especially odd to see in a time when there is much concern over supply bottlenecks of products coming from overseas, which indicate high demand and not enough imports coming in.

So what’s going on? It seems that part of this is related to the bump up in inflation that has happened in 2021, if you go by the income and spending reports. Nominal growth in consumer spending has recently been around a 5% rate, but overall inflation is also running around 5%, which would mean real growth of 0%. But that may be a widely different situation depending on what industry you’re in, as we’ve seen in recent months.

For example, real spending in transportation services has continued to grow throughout the Summer, and rose by 5.8% between June and August. But spending on autos and RVs have plummeted since Spring, with autos unwinding almost all of the gains that happened in the previous year.

This indicates to me that this economy is still wrestling with the fallout from the pandemic (along with the fact that a sizable amount of people are, you know, no longer with us), and that the Biden Boom that we had in the 1st Half of 2021 has leveled off for the time being.

If you think it seems like I am not worried about the overall state of the economy despite what may be a lousy GDP number, you’re right. Job and wage growth is continuing (and in fact, wage growth is accelerating), and some of this is merely reversion to a more normal level of 9-month growth for 2021 than it is any kind of economic weakness.

I have confidence that many of these supply strains are short term, and in looking at recent data such as the increase in homes under construction and in authorized housing construction that has yet to start, it indicates that perhaps some growth is coming back to those industries.

Once those products finish and come on line, along with the recent growth in manufacturing shipments and inventories, those items will be added to our GDP numbers, and some of the shortages might be able to be cleared to meet demand that still seems to be there.

So while the adjustments aren’t fun for now, and that our recovery from the COVID-19-induced recession may have taken a breather in Q3, I think the underlying situation isn’t that bad. But I also don’t think this economy will ever operate the same as it was before 2020, so we need are policies that make our support system more robust to deal with the disruptions that the “new normal” is giving us, and to take steps to re-level a playing field that has been far too slanted toward those who are already prospering and secure.

This week and the next one will give us a lot of clues as to whether we can do that, or if we’ll continue to slog our way through an economy that may be near its limits in terms of what more it can do without improved public health, and the government restructuring how things are done.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

WisGOP assessment change would cut property taxes for big buildings, raise them for homeowners

In addition to the typical cultural issue BS being debated in the gerrymandered GOP Legislature this week, there is a group of bills coming through that deal with housing and assessment practices in the state. And one bill in particular could make Wisconsin homeowners pay a lot more starting next year.
Madison City Assessor Michelle Drea contended one of the bills, which would prohibit assessors from using what is known as the income approach to determine a property’s fair market value, would actually do the opposite for homeowners across the state by shifting taxes paid by commercial property owners onto residential property owners….

Assessors use a wide variety of data to determine the value of a parcel of property. The three traditional approaches to assessment are based on comparable sales, cost and income. Homes are typically assessed through the sales approach and income is used for business-related properties.

“The foundation of the income approach is the concept of anticipation, assigning a current value to anticipated future benefits — how much income will this property reasonably produce,” Drea said in an email. “AB 610 would prohibit the use of future or anticipated benefits, thus outlawing the income approach to assessment.
Which makes little sense, given that part of the value of a property is based on what can be done with it. But then you see who’s lobbying for this bill, and it makes more sense.

Why the Realtors would want to jack up property taxes on homeowners escapes me (and shows them to be RW hacks more than an interest group), but commercial realtors and apartment associations? They’re more than happy to have office buildings and multi-family housing have their assessments go down.

(But hey, maybe those owners of multi-tenant properties will gladly cut their rents if their property taxes and….HAHAHAHAHA!!! Sorry, I can’t keep a straight face with that one.)

Madison Assesor Drea says that because the assessed value of commercial properties would significantly drop, it would man residential homes take up a higher share of the city’s property values, and would result in significantly higher property taxes for homeowners.
Drea said lowering commercial assessments would increase property taxes by an average of $2,000 per residential property, though the exact increase on any given property would vary depending on its assessed value. Drea did not provide an estimate for the specific impact on an average single-family home, which last year was valued at $315,200 and paid $7,082 in property taxes.

Drea said the 50% loss of the city’s commercial value was a “conservative estimate” and would be a direct result of having to artificially deflate commercial assessments as she would have to support those assessments using less reliable data before the Board of Assessor, Board of Review or circuit courts.
In addition, if the new criteria leads to more lawsuits filed by major real estate holders, that’s going to drive up costs for local governments to argue those cases in court. Or they’re going to relent and lower those assessments to avoid the costs and headaches, which is another way the ultra-rich and connected are able to get breaks in the system that everyday Wisconsinites.

That being said, it looks like WisGOPs felt some blowback from this bill, because they put in an amendment (approved unanimously in committee) allowing assessors to take into account how much the property generates today.
Assembly Amendment 1 adds “actual or market rent” as a fourth item of information that an assessor must consider when determining value of real property under current law. The amendment defines “actual or market rent” as the most probable rent that a property should bring in a competitive and open market reflecting all conditions and restrictions of the lease agreement, including permitted uses, use restrictions, expense obligations, term, concessions, renewal and purchase options, and tenant improvements.
It’s a small start, and given that rents are rising in the state overall, at least allows some of that reality to be included as part of the property value assessments of buildings.

But it’s still something to worry about, and the looming property tax hike on homeowners due to this giveaway by WisGOP should be all the reason Governor Evers needs to veto this bill, should it even reach his desk.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Wisconsin is part of the Great Resignation, and employers have yet to adjust

One item that’s gotten a lot of recent attention is what’s known as the Great Resignation, where record numbers of Americans have quit their jobs in recent months. Among the reasons mentioned for all the people leaving jobs includes increased COVID infections, substandard pay, and a lack of child care to make it easier for parents to work.

The St. Louis Fed was able to put numbers behind the anecdotes, and says a whole lot of people have retired out of the work force in the COVID World.

The St.L Fed says there was going to be some increase in retirees in 2020 and 2021 due to aging demographics. But what’s happened in the last 18 months goes far above that.

The figure shows that the percentage of retirees in the U.S. population (the blue line) was relatively stable at around 15.5 percent until 2008 (the vertical dashed line). That year marked not only the beginning of the Great Financial Crisis but also when the oldest Baby Boomers, those born in 1946, turned 62 years of age and became eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits. As Baby Boomers began retiring, the percentage of retirees in the U.S. population grew to 18.3 percent in February 2020, the eve of the COVID-19 outbreak. The percentage then increased at a much faster rate, reaching 19.3 percent in August 2021.

One simple way to disentangle "normal" retirements from excess retirements due to COVID-19 is to compare the predicted percentage of Baby Boomer retirements from 2008 to February 2020 (the red dashed line in the figure) with the actual percentage of all retirements. The 0.92 percent difference between the two can be interpreted as the excess retirements. Based on that number, as of August 2021, there were slightly over 3 million excess retirements due to COVID-19, which is more than half of the 5.25 million people who left the labor force from the beginning of the pandemic to the second quarter of 2021.

There are several reasons why some people may have decided to retire early, some directly related to the pandemic. First, these "excess retirees" tend to be older people, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and were thus motivated to leave the labor force because of the serious risk of infection and death. Second, the COVID-19 recession was abnormal in the sense that it featured a sharp downturn in real economic activity but also rising asset values, such as for housing and stocks. Standard theories of household behavior predict that when people get richer, they work less, and there is some evidence that the evolution of asset values influenced labor force participation in previous recessions, especially for those closer to retirement.5 The large rise in asset valuations during the pandemic suggests that retirement may have become feasible for many people.
So we saw a whole lot of people leave the work force on the older end of the market, and there aren’t nearly as many coming in to replace these workers. Especially as COVID resurged in Summer 2021.

And while most places have had an uptick in quits in 2020 and especially 2021, some states are seeing more of it than others.
Kentucky, Idaho, South Dakota and Iowa reported the highest increases in the rates of workers who quit their jobs in August, according to a new glimpse of quit rates in the labor market released Friday.

The largest increase in the number of quitters happened in Georgia, with 35,000 more people leaving their jobs. Overall, the states with the highest rates of workers quitting their jobs were Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho.

The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics builds out a portrait of August's labor market, with historic levels of people leaving jobs and a near-record number of job openings showing the leverage workers have in the new economy. It offers the first detailed insight into the state-by-state geography of this year's Great Resignation.
You dig further into the state-by-state JOLTS report, and you see a few Midwestern states on the list of those with highest rate of quits in August.

Highest rates of quits vs total jobs, Aug 2021
Kentucky 4.5%
Georgia 4.2%
Idaho 4.1%
Alaska 3.9%
Indiana 3.6%
Iowa 3.6%
Nevada 3.5%
Illinois 3.5%

Wisconsin was just below this group of states, with a (seasonally adjusted) quit rate of 3.4%. That represented 97,000 state workers, and was a notable jump from the already-high levels of previous 3 months. I'm also going to include August 2020's figure, to give you an idea of how different things look today.

That 97,000 figure dwarfs the estimated 21,000 Wisconsinites who were laid off/discharged from jobs in August – a rate of 0.7% that was below the US average of 0.9% and was 2nd lowest in the US. Put that together, and it means there were a lot of Wisconsin businesses looking for workers at the time.

While the number of openings decreased from July’s record highs (mirroring the pattern in the rest of America), they were still quite high in August. However, less than half of those openings were filled, which helps explain why the state ended up losing 10,800 jobs in that month despite so many employers claiming they needed people. (openings are in yellow, hires are in gray)

As for the future, let’s go back to the St. Louis Fed’s article on the big increase in Boomer retirees. They say that a major wild card is if these recent retirees stay retired, or if they come back to work when conditions change.
Finally, there is the question of whether the excess retirements are permanent. If they are, then the amount of slack in the labor market may be smaller than the 5.25 million "lost workers" may suggest. However, many of these new retirees may decide to return to the labor force, which will depend on personal factors as well as aggregate labor market conditions.
And to me, that means getting COVID back under control and offering more supports for workers of all ages. This will make it more worthwhile to return to work, and if employers do their part and raise wages to a more acceptable level, then we might start to see the record rate of quits level off, hiring pick back up, and some of these imbalances start to even up.

If we don’t see those adjustments and new supports get put in place in the next few months, then get used to things staying disrupted with high levels of jobs going unfilled. That’s doubly true in Wisconsin, where it seems workers had had enough by August while employers weren’t willing to make the adjustments necessary to get the workers that they claimed they needed.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Make no mistake. WisGOPs are fine with overturning the 2024 election

If you are under any illusions that Wisconsin Republicans would gladly overturn the choice of Wisconsin's voters in 2024, they should be gone after what we've seen in the last 10 days.

The first example came from this gaffe from the person who (for now) is the leading candidate to get the GOP nomination for Governor next year.

If you get asked "Would you allow the Legislature to overturn elections results?", and your immediate answer is not "NO!"? That's a yes, Becky. You'd gladly allow the election to be overturned. Duly noted.

The other confirmation comes from a larger article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on WisGOP plans to try to pass laws to make it tougher to vote. That these guys would try to suppress the vote as an offshoot of the Big Lie is no surprise, but this part at the end of the article grabbed my attention.
Republicans are also considering requiring a two-thirds vote by the Elections Commission to approve presidential results. Now, only the chairperson of the commission confirms the results.

The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats.
What that means is that if all 3 Republicans (let's say) refused to certify the results of the presidential vote, it would get thrown to the gerrymandered GOP Legislature. And guess who they would say won the election, no matter what the voters of Wisconsin said?

Governor Tony Evers would doubtlessly veto such a bill (reason #586970 to be thankful Evers beat Scott Walker in 2018). But the WisGOPs may try to get around that by either:

1. Making the change an amendment to the state Constitution, which would require both houses of the Legislature to pass it in both this session and in 2023. Then it would (theoretically) go to the voters in April 2024, to be put in effect by November.

2. Getting more members of the GOP into the Legislature after 2022, so they have 2/3 majorities to override Evers if he's re-elected. That would require the WisGOPs to pick up 5 seats in the Assembly and 1 more in the Senate next year. While that situation is unlikely to happen in the same election Evers wins, they're definitely thinking of it, which helps explain why these guys revealed Gerrymander 2.0 last week.

The Wisconsin GOP is already doing whatever they can to avoid having the wishes of Wisconsin voters be what decides the state's 10 electoral votes in 2024, along with who "represents" the voters in Capitols in both Madison and Washington, DC.

Know this, and punish accordingly.

New Census numbers helped rural Wis, hurt MKE. Also explains some of 2020 voting patterns

Since the US Census released their official population figures, I hadn't gone back to looking at how the final numbers differed from past estimates, and if that changed a pattern I noted after the 2020 election - where it was Donald Trump and Trump-voting areas that benefitted from higher-than-expected turnout in Wisconsin.

In the original analysis, I checked "increased votes vs increased population" for all counties in Wisconsin, based on the 2019 Census estimates, which were the most recent numbers available at the time. And it showed that most of the counties that had the largest relative increase in votes were counties that shifted even more toward Trump than they did in 2016 (shown in red).

In addition, the increase in votes in Milwaukee and Dane Counties were not suspicious at all by comparison - the exact opposite of the Big Lies being spread on AM radio and other RW GOPper-ganda.

But then the 2020 Census figures came out, and we knew there were some surprise shifts in population. Particularly, the state had more people than we were on track to have (based on prior estimates), and much of that unexpected growth was in Northern Wisconsin, as well as a more severe drop in population in the City of Milwaukee.

With that in mind, I split up the decade's population changes by the estimated change from 2010-2016, and then the change from 2016 to the actual Census number in 2020. Note how much population outstate Wisconsin allegedly gains in the last 4 years of the decade.

So I re-ran the numbers. The surprise increase in votes in some counties in Trump Country is not as significant as we first thought (although Menominee's turnout is even more impressive), and the turnout in Milwaukee County wasn't as far behind as the initial numbers indicated. I'll remind you that the red/blue figure is based on whether votes went more toward Dems/GOPs in 2020 (when it had a 1.4% shift to Dems statewide).

Which leads me to 2 conclusions.

1. The reason WisGOPs do so much Trumpy BS is because of that boosted turnout in rural areas, and the only reason the presidential race was even close in Wisconsin in 2020 is because of the higher-than-expected vote totals. So the gamble WisGOP is pulling is that they can take back some of the losses they had in 2020 in red-voting suburbs, holding down the vote in growing blue areas, and continue to stir up the rubes in the sticks.

What upsets that plan? Dems improving in either the rural areas, or the suburbs. On ideology, the rural areas should be fertile territory for Dems who believe in expanded broadband, improved community schools, better roads, and expanded access to health care, but it's a two-way street, and voters have to choose those reasons over "cultural" reasons. Meanwhile, the suburbs are more likely to have people be vaccinated, support gun control, and oppose WisGOP regression/racism on cultural issues.

The Dems can give both messages to both sets of voters, but need to be blasting those messages directly to the voters, instead of relying on regular media to get that message to people who consistently tune out everyday media. There is no WisDem equivalent to WisGOP-perganda on AM Radio, or Facebook misinformation, and trutsting reason and ideas to win on their own is a losing strategy for Dems in 2022. You gotta fight for it and put it in people's faces.

2. We know the Trump Administration messed with Census in 2020, and used the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to cut the count short. Is that part of the reason why we saw so much population loss in Milwaukee County (especially among People of Color) and surprise increases in population in rural Wisconsin?

And given that unvaxxed, rural areas of Wisconsin have been getting the worst of the COVID pandemic in 2021, have the universe of voters in those parts of the state had a notable decline in 2022? That won't mean much for Legislative districts that are drawn based on these numbers (more representation is going to rural areas as result), but it would definitely show in the many statewide races in 2022.

How you interpret these numbers explain a lot as to why certain strategies and messages will be given out over the next year, and you can bet at least one of the main political parties in the state will choose the wrong thing, based on what they think those numbers tell them.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Taxing, spending and Building Back Better

Even though the process has been annoying, and the corruption of 4% of Senate Democrats has been screwing it up for the rest of us, it looks like we might be getting to a final price tag for a Build Back Better plan that can get through Congress.
Manchin - who, along with fellow moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema, has been pushing for a smaller package - said he believed Democratic negotiators could settle on a final figure by Friday. That would resolve a key sticking point, though progressives and moderates would still have to sort out the substance of the bill, including what programs to keep, what to cut, and how long to fund them for.

"We're looking at everything today and tomorrow and hopefully we can either have a framework: We agree or disagree and (it) is either irreconcilable or it is something we can work out," Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill….

Biden told lawmakers on Tuesday he thought he could get Manchin and Sinema to agree to a figure in the range of $1.75 trillion to $1.9 trillion, according to a source familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Getting to that number would mean giving up priorities, including a plan to offer all Americans the opportunity to attend two years of free community college, and scaling back others such as a child tax credit and funds for affordable housing.
“Scaling back” is not great, but if you can keep the payments for the child tax credit going and help people obtain and stay in housing, those items will likely be very hard to take away. Just get them in place and get things running, and voters will reward it.

A question on the Build Back Better plan is how it gets paid. And what seemed to be a no-brainer may be derailed by….a no-brainer.
Taxes remain a sticking point as well; Sinema has told the White House she will not support Biden's proposed rate increases for corporations and wealthy individuals. The White House told some Democrats this week that the corporate tax hikes may be dead.
You have to be one helluva fool who’s getting paid off by rich a-holes to be against making the rich and corporate give back a small amount of the massive tax breaks they got 4 years ago. Especially when you arrived in Congress saying things like this.

Why doesn’t she just quit, which allows Dems to replace her and lets her grift into more money and TV appearances? I digress.

So instead, we might end up with a different type of tax hike on the ultra-wealthy.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, meanwhile, floated a "billionaires income tax" proposal that congressional sources said would apply to around 700 taxpayers and would raise hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh revenues to help offset the cost of the Biden plan.

A source familiar with the White House's thinking on the billionaires tax said: "The president is favorably disposed towards this tax, as well as a series of other options that would ensure the wealthy pay their fair share and make the price tag."

The plan aims to clamp down on some billionaires who find loopholes to avoid or significantly lower their tax payments.

The congressional sources said the tax would apply to taxpayers with more than $1 billion in assets or over $100 million in income for three consecutive years.
Another part of the GOP Tax Scam that lingers is the question of what happens to the limit on write-offs for state and local taxes (aka the SALT deduction). This is a provision that limits this write-off to $10,000 for both single filers, and for married couples filing jointly.

While GOPs claimed that the SALT limit was intended to make tax filing simper, in reality it was a measure targeted at blue states that rely on income and property taxes to fund their governments. And when combined with the larger standard exemption in the Tax Scam, it wasn’t worth it for many married couples (especially) to use that SALT deduction, or other write-offs like charitable contributions and mortgage interest.

Still soooo punchable.

SALT Cap reform has been a constant call from Dems since 2017, and some are claiming that not changing it this time might be a deal-breaker for the larger bill.
“I want something done, obviously, on the SALT issue,” said House Ways and Means Chair [Richie] Neal, who also supports additional relief. “I think it's a complicated matter, often said that one of the challenges with the SALT deduction is that there's some truth to what everybody says. And I'm looking for a remedy that will address the concerns of what everybody says.”

Democrats who are closely following developments know they will have to make some concessions to the New York and New Jersey Democrats to assemble their bill. One idea under discussion is to cut the marriage penalty on the SALT deduction, essentially allowing married couples to double their deduction. Another idea would be to raise the cap by a few thousand dollars, rather than eliminate it entirely, to give families in high-cost areas some relief.

Other Democrats, including [Rep. Tom] Malinowski, are floating proposals to raise the deduction cap over 10 years. Since the existing $10,000 cap expires at the end of 2025, they point out that even a significantly higher cap would technically be a tax increase after that — meaning they can claim budget savings in the following years. They believe they’d found a way to make the policy entirely revenue neutral, though talks are still ongoing with party leadership and the White House.
That last idea seems to be too clever, but getting rid of the SALT Cap’s marriage penalty seems like a logical move. This would limit how much of a tax break richer people would get, and it would make a big difference for two-earner couples who own homes in places with a sizable cost of living (raises hand).

But raising/removing the SALT Cap would also lower tax revenues, which leads to a balancing act between fulfilling campaign promises of Dems who said they would fix the SALT issue, and promises that the Build Back Better bill wouldn’t add much (if anything) to the deficit. The idea was that raising taxes on the rich and corporate would take care of both of these concerns, but you can see where the Sinemas of the world monkey-wrench that idea.

In fairness, the SALT Cap change could be done as part of the regular budget to fund the Federal Government for the rest of FY 2022. Right now, that deadline is looming in 6 weeks, and if done right, the SALT Cap could be made retroactive to include the 2021 Tax Year, which would mean the larger write-off goes into people’s pockets when they file next Spring, before the midterms. Seems like a plan to me.

And as part of that plan, House Dems should vote first, with an agreement that works for all sides of their caucus, and throw that agreement onto the Senate floor. I have a feeling that once Manchin/Sinema are not in a place to negotiate behind closed doors and actually have to go on the record, they’ll not want to be known as the people who tanked an investment and support package that real America wants.

But the time for haggling needs to be over, and Build Back Better needs to be put into place sooner than later, so people can see just what they’ve been missing as our safety net has been eradicated and our middle class hollowed out over the last 40 years.

Having these initatives up and running by Summer 2022 also allows Dems to remind the voters who delivered that needed support, and who tried to stop things from getting better and more secure.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Wisconsin gerrymandering 2.0 - how WisGOPs want to rig it even more

This week, the Wisconsin GOP Legislature released their preliminary maps for the 2020s. Given that the WisGOPs have already passed a resolution that the gerrymandered maps of 2010s would be the basis for these new maps, it is no surprise that these new maps are gerrymandering 2.0.
Under the plans Republicans released Wednesday, 61 of the Assembly's 99 districts would lean Republican, according to recent voting patterns analyzed by Dave's Redistricting, an online platform that allows the public to review maps.

A small number would have only a slight GOP lean, meaning Democrats would have a shot at winning a few of those 61. But the vast majority of GOP seats would be quite safe for their party. (Republicans would also have a shot at winning a handful of the 38 Democratic-leaning seats.)

The new maps would include 62 Assembly districts that are more Republican than the state as a whole. That would keep in place the same dynamic that was created when Republicans drew the current maps a decade ago.

Few Assembly districts would be highly competitive. Eighty-one of them would have double-digit leans for one party over the other. The remaining 18 would have single-digit leans.
Here's what the WisGOP Legislative maps looks like. The black lines are Senate districts and the purple lines show the 3 Assembly districts within those Senate districts

But just because the WisGOPs used the 2010s maps as a basis, it doesn’t mean they didn’t use 2020s Census count to mess with the maps to help their chances even more. Wispolitics goes over some of these key changes.
Under the current maps, Biden won 37 Assembly districts as he took the statewide contest by more than 20,000 votes. Under the proposed lines, he would’ve won 35, according to a review of data posted by the Campaign Legal Center. The group describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that “advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels.”

Both the existing Senate map and the one proposed yesterday have 11 Biden districts.

Still, the GOP proposal would make two suburban Milwaukee seats significantly better for Republicans.

Biden won the 5th SD by 9,455 votes under the current lines, according to a analysis of presidential vote by district. Under the proposed map, he would’ve won the seat represented by Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, by about 570 votes.

Biden lost the suburban Milwaukee 8th SD by 167 votes. He would’ve lost the proposed 8th by about 5,900 votes. The seat is now represented by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
This is due to the population losses in the City of Milwaukee, which required the MKE-based 3rd, 4th, and 6th districts to take up more land. On a related note, Gerrymander 2.0 does maintain 2 majority-Black Senate districts, adds 1 new Hispanic-majority district (due to Hispanics becoming more of the population of the near South Side of Milwaukee), and has 9 majority-minority Assembly districts (8 in Milwaukee and 1 in Racine).

While that allows for sufficient majority-minority districts to comply with what remains of the Voting Rights Act, it also means that more of these Dem-leaning voters are packed together into the same districts. And that seems to be a trend throughout this new gerrymander – GOPs are trying to protect what they have and make now-competitive districts safer for Republicans.

To give you a visual, here's the current Milwaukee-area Senate map.

And here's Gerrymander 2.0 for the 2020s.

The way the eastern half of Tosa is cut out of Senate District 5 and moved to Senate district 6/Assembly district 18 is a good example of this creative map-making (although it's a nice admission that the city I graduated HS from is now a blue place that GOPs can't win in). Conversely, the WisGOPs moved two entire Assembly districts in SD-5 into Wauesha County vs splitting them like they did in the 2010s (because they ended up losing 2 of those Assembly districts in 2020). They also merged the blue-voting Milwaukee suburbs of Whitefish Bay and Brown Deer into 1 district, instead of having them in separate districts like they are now, while pushing all of Glendale into a district with Shorewood and majority-Black areas of Milwaukee near I-43.

There are some other eye-rolling aspects of these GOP maps, mostly in that they divide up smaller cities when there is no legitimate need to do so. Sheboygan is still split between two Assembly districts, and so are the college towns of Whitewater and River Falls. Not surprisingly, combining all residents into one district in all of these cities would mean that one of those districts either becomes Dem-leaning, or at least much more competitive.

The WisGOPs' Congressional map looks benign when you first see it.

But that also has city-splitting that is both lame and gerrymandered. In the 3rd district (an open seat that will be pivotal for control of the House), the City of Baraboo (population 12,000) is cut right down the middle. And while the 3rd loses the “pitchfork” where Stevens Point was shoved into it in the 2010s, Point is now pitchforked into the 7th district up North. WI-7 is also split off from Plover, which would now in the Green Bay-based 8th district, while District 8 loses part of the Appleton area because of…reasons.

None of that had to be done. When I drew up the Wisconsin Congressional map, I didn't have WI-3 be part of the Minneapolis media market, didn't go as far into Central Wisconsin put all of Sauk County and the two counties south of it into WI-3. Then I moved Mark Pocan's WI-2 district to the east, which allowed for WI-5 to be almost entirely a WOW-County district. I also put Stevens Point in Glenn Grothman's WI-6, which made WI-8 have less land area and more of the Fox Cities region included (Neenah-Menasha in particular).

But if the WisGOPs used my map vs the Gerrymandering 2.0, the GOP advantage in WI-3 (using the 2020 presidential election as a basis) shrinks from GOP +5 to GOP +7, and the race would likely get more attention from the Madison media market. So there you go.

Back to the State Legislature, I note that the WisGOPs pulled a nice little trick to try to shore up the Green Bay area. They stretched the 89th Assembly district from Marinette to the GB suburb of Howard and western edge of Green Bay itself. This lets them move the (safe Dem) 90th district in Titletown further east, and allow the increasingly competitive 88th district to go further into the country and become more red.

Wonder if that was a deal to encourage current 88th Rep John (Wacko) Macco to drop his campaign for Governor?

I also note that the Senate districts are drawn in such a way that the 1st has that odd hook that stretches into De Pere while going up to Door County and over into the Appleton suburbs, but the 30th is basically split 50-50 between the GB metro and the countryside.

In addition, a couple districts in the Northwest corner of the state represented by Democrats got their boundaries moved around, despite seeing little change in population. Here are the 73rd and 74th Districts as they stand today.

And here it is under Gerrymander 2.0.

Note how the 74th cuts further west into territory that was previously the 73rd? And how the WiGOPs make up for this by having the 73rd hug the St. Croix River in (GOP-voting) Burnett County? Doing this also takes the Town of Lac du Flambeau in Vilas County (and the associated Indian Reservation) out of the 74th Assembly/25th Senate district, and puts it into the strongly red 34th Assembly/12th Senate district. Which makes a difference when you realize that Joe Biden got more than 60% of the vote in the Town of Lac du Flambeau

The result? Those 2 Assembly districts and the 25th Senate district held by Janet Bewley are now GOP-leaning as well.

Look, rigging the game is who the WisGOPs are, and will always be. We just need to be able to point out the arbitrary choices being made on top of the already-egregious gerrymander that we’ve been living under since 2011, and hope we can get the courts to at least make these districts reasonable enough so that if the voters want Republicans out of power (like they did in 2018), it will actually happen in this decade.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Are Wisconsin jobs already maxing out? And how do we raise the ceiling?

A new Wisconsin jobs report came out on Thursday with September’s figures. And the main news is that little changed at all.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate remained at 3.9% in September, the same level it has been at since April, according to new data from the state Department of Workforce Development.

Thursday's report provides the first look at Wisconsin's unemployment rate following the conclusion of enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which expired on Sept. 6. Some had targeted the enhanced benefits as exacerbating the state's workforce shortage challenges by creating a disincentive to work, with Republicans in the Legislature trying to strike the federal payments earlier this year, but others say Wisconsin's labor woes are more complicated and won't be going away anytime soon.

"I think we’re probably looking now at 2023 in terms of any sort of normalcy," Rimantas Buinevicius, executive search partner with Patina Solutions, said during a labor shortage discussion hosted last week by the Wisconsin Alumni Association. "I think it's going to be related to seeing pure confidence that Covid infection rates aren’t going to come back and the supply chain coming back to normal, because until the supply chain comes back to normal there’s just no way you’re going to get back to a normal situation….

DWD's report, which is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary employment estimates, found that total non-farm jobs in Wisconsin remained the same as in August, while private-sector jobs in the state dropped by 100. The state's labor-participation rate increased slightly from 66.5% in August to 66.6% last month.
What's interesting is that while Wisconsin's unemployment rate has stayed at 3.9%, the number of people in the work force has continued to grow in 2021 while the number of people unemployed is pretty much the same as we had at the start of the year. It indicates that Wisconsinites have continued to enter the work force in 2021 (even with the $300/week add-on for unemployment), and have found jobs when they do.

But while we're up more than 45,000 jobs for the year, seasonally-adjusted payrolls have dropped from their peak in July.

Given the circumstances, it’s possible that we’re at a maxed-out scenario for the labor market. Although I will note that the only reason we didn’t have a significant increase in payrolls for September is because private education services “lost” 4,900 jobs, reflecting lower-than-normal seasonal hiring.

On the flip side, lower-than-normal September layoffs led to seasonally-adjusted increases in a couple of key sectors for September.

Change in jobs, September 2021 Wisconsin
Not seasonally adjusted -2,000
Seasonally adjusted +4,100

Leisure and Hospitality
Not seasonally adjusted -18,600
Seasonally adjusted +1,400

It would be ironic if a lack of seasonal layoffs might be a way to get our labor situation more towards normal in the coming months. But that’s not going to help us grow and fill gaps when we need more people next Spring, so Wisconsin’s “business lobby” gave their ideas on how to get more workers to want to come here.
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturer’s association – and a coalition of business groups sent a letter to Gov. Evers urging him to launch a talent attraction campaign aimed at addressing Wisconsin’s workforce shortage. The letter calls on the governor to utilize $3 million in funds from the Wisconsin State Budget and additional money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

WMC recommended the talent attraction campaign be modeled after the campaign launched in 2018 by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The talent attraction campaign started in 2018 by WEDC helped share with the rest of the country that Wisconsin is a great place to grow, learn and thrive.

In part the letter reads:

“Employers in Wisconsin have severe worker shortages and an inability to fill key positions. According to Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s (WMC) most recent Wisconsin Employer Survey conducted in June of this year, the biggest challenge facing Wisconsin employers is the workforce shortage, with 86% of employers indicating that they are struggling to hire workers. Moreover, 72% of these employers responded that the workforce shortage is the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin.

“Employers throughout the state share a strong desire to have a coordinated campaign to attract new workers to Wisconsin. In WMC’s recent Wisconsin Employer Survey, 73% of employers think the state should fund a talent attraction campaign. These employers understand that individual talent recruitment programs can be difficult and have little impact, but partnerships with regional and statewide initiatives can bring the next generation of talent to their businesses.”
Hey WMC, you know what part of the state attracted the most talent, jobs, and population over the last decade? MADISON. You might have noticed what's going on within 3-4 blocks around your office building on Blair and E. Wash.

Maybe you could ask some people on the street why they keep wanting to come here, instead of wasting $3 million on a marketing campaign.

You know what isn’t going to attract talent? Regressive BS like all those abortion bills passed this week at the Capitol, or allowing the hunting of sandhill cranes and letting any meatball carry a gun. That’s what we’re getting from same WisGOPs you’ve given millions of dollars to over the years, and supported with ads discussing those stupid social issues instead of the anti-tax, anti-worker garbage you pay them to support.

I think we should try to make Wisconsin a high-quality place that’s open-minded and pays good wages. Do that, and I’d think more talent will want to come here. But hey, I'm not a big fish in a small pond running my Daddy's company “business leader”, so what do I know?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Some progress on COVID in mid-October. But Wisconsin is far from in the clear

It does look like there has been progress on the COVID front in Wisconsin over the last week. The 7-day average of new cases have dropped below 2,000 in the last 2 days for the first time since the middle of September, and has declined by more than 1,000 from the peak that was hit a month ago.

We also saw a notable decline in the number of counties that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services listed as having "critically high" rates of cases in the last 2 weeks, from 16 last week to 8 today. And for the first time in a month, we have a Wisconsin county with a merely "high" rate of cases under 350 per 100,000 for the last 14 days.

Of course it's the overly-vaxxed types of Dane County with their mask mandates in the blue. But we weren't the only ones with falling cases, as more than 1/4 of Wisconsin counties had significant shrinkage in cases over the last week. All good signs to be sure, but let's not forget that we are still well above the levels we were at between February and mid-August this year, as well as all of 2020 through September.

And we are still seeing the damage from September's spike of cases, as over 700 Wisconsinites have died of COVID since the end of July, and we have seen 8 straight weeks of 65 deaths or more.

We also know that vaccinations among Wisconsinites above 12 years of age have hit their 2021 lows, and given the large increase in children that have been afflicted with COVID since the start of school, it would be very helpful to see children ages 5-11 be able to get vaccinated next month, so we can continue to tamp down on the virus as Winter comes in.

So it's far from the optimism that we were seeing in May, June and July, when vaccinations were up and COVID cases got under 100 a day in Wisconsin. But it is an improvement from where we were a couple of weeks ago, and if more places start to go in the direction of Dane County's trend in October and November, we can start to clear up more space in our health care system to treat people for sicknesses and injuries that aren't so avoidable.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

One year of stimulus won't cure underfunding of Wisconsin's public schools

Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the enrollment and funding figures for all Wisconsin school districts (you can click here to find yours). Those figures show that the amount of Wisconsin kids in public schools continues to shrink, both due to demographics, and due to the odd circumstances that 2020 and 2021 have brought.
Annual statewide numbers released Friday showed a 0.5% drop in students attending public school districts, down 4,000 students from 2020, when enrollment was down nearly 26,000. In total, there were about 814,000 students in public school districts during this year's September headcount, down from 844,000 in 2019, before COVID-19 led schools to close and change their methods of instruction. The number of students attending independent charter schools or receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools, meanwhile, continued to climb. The data released Friday by the state Department of Public Instruction doesn't include most private school students or homeschooled children — data that will be released in January, the state Department of Public Instruction said in a news release Friday.
Independent charters had a notable increase in enrollment this year, with headcount up by more than 1,400 after a couple of new schools with sizable enrollment got certified for this year. And voucher schools outside of Milwaukee and Racine had more than 2,300 additional FTE of students for this year in September (partly because another class of voucher students gets added to go along with the students already in the program).

While public schools had a significant decline in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, you'll notice that the number of Wisconsin kids in school in general went down at that time, and hasn't recovered.

As the former Superintendent of Schools, Evers knows well the harm that happens to a district’s finances if there is a decline in enrollment, and with the disruptions of the COVID World, Evers wanted to keep districts from being punished for the decline in enrollments that happened in Fall 2020. Which is why he included this provision as part of his K-12 budget in February.
Specify that for calculating a school district's revenue limit for the 2021-22, 2022-23, and 2023-24 school years, the number of pupils enrolled in the district in the 2020-21 school year is the sum of the following: (a) the greater of the number of pupils enrolled in the district's September enrollment count in the 2019-20 school year or in the 2020-21 school year; and (b) the greater of 40% of the district's summer enrollment in the 2019-20 school year or in the 2020-21 school year. For revenue limit purposes, a district's enrollment is the sum of its pupil count taken on the third Friday in September plus 40% of its full-time equivalent summer enrollment. A three-year rolling average of a district's enrollment is used to calculate its revenue limit.

For example, for the 2020-21 revenue limit, the average of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 enrollments is used to calculate the 2019-20 base year revenue per pupil. Then, the average of the 2018, 2019, and 2020 enrollments is used to calculate the 2020-21 current year revenue per pupil.
The WisGOP Legislature didn’t go for that plan, so that means there may be districts facing significant cutbacks in resources if they lost students last year, and could well be facing further declines next year.

Then remember that the GOP Legislature didn’t allow for any increase in the revenue limit whatsoever in either of the next 2 years, which means that the minor increase in general school aids (2.2% this year, 3.7% next year) only goes toward reducing property taxes, and not into the classroom.

While stimulus funds from DC will help for this year, Marquette faculty member and ex-Journal-Sentinel education writer Alan Borsuk had an article today that recapped a recent meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin School Alliance. Borsuk reports that many districts say they won’t get that much assistance in 2021, and are fiscally imperiled for 2022 and beyond due to the lack of state funding.
Many expressed concerns about their schools’ financial future, given that the revenue cap on per student spending was left unchanged in the state budget passed in June. Republican legislative leaders cited a large influx of federal pandemic money as a reason for granting no increase. But that money went heavily toward districts with many low-income students. Some of those responding in this informal survey were from districts that were getting little federal money while facing inflation and other financial challenges.

Asked about the impact of the federal money, one answered, “Virtually none, since the bulk of the funds went to urban districts.”

“Planning for the fiscal cliff that will be faced due to absence of inflationary increases in revenue limits in the 21-23 state budget,” another listed as a major concern.

One wrote, “Funding is not aligned to the needs of children, families, staff, and school communities.”

Another wrote, “It is terrifying. Money that should be used to help students overcome the educational gaps from the past 18 months has to be diverted in part to operations. We could face an economic budget cliff like never experienced before the next school year.”
And most of those federal funds are supposed to be targeted toward learning loss and other COVID-19 related mitigation. And as mentioned, much of this fills budget holes that happened over the last 2 years as schools had to take on some of the installation costs for virtual learning and other COVID-related adjustments.

Evers did reveal plans
to give $100 million in additional stimulus funds for all schools after the budget was signed, which comes out to around $100-$120 a student. But that’s also short-term.

If you look at the projected breakdown of where ARPA school funds would go, the average payment per student for public districts, independent charter schools and specialty schools was $1,721 per student. But some districts got much less than that.

Even with the adjustments made by the GOPs on Joint Finance to give more money to districts that had more in-person school days last year, the minimum payment was only raised to $781 per pupil for those districts. It still was a solid boost for property-rich, mostly suburban districts (at least the ones who kept their kids in the classroom during the COVID year of 2020-21), but again, that’s only for this year. And the space adjustments and enrollment changes that the COVID era has brought on isn’t going to make up for that.

But it’s intriguing that the 2021-22 distribution of state aids seems to give notable boosts in aid to those same suburban and/or property-rich districts. I don’t see a reason why, as it doesn’t appear the way they hand out the aid is very different, but it’s definitely noticeable.

Largest % increases in state aid, 2020-21
Lac du Flambeau +244.15% (+$1,338,535 vs 2019-20)
Elmbrook +178.76% (+$5,932,056)
Woodruff J1 +82.08% (+$90,086)
Washington-Caldwell +52.13% (+$242,154)
New Berlin +48.93% ($3,587,933)
Siren +45.27% ($272,412)
Turtle Lake +43.30% ($366,692)
Erin +37.94% ($119,031)
Arrowhead +37.82% ($1,828,128)
Brighton +33.48% ($73,121)
Germantown +31.91% ($3,423,280)
Menomonee Falls +27.93% ($2,451,562)

Maybe there was a huge one-year bump in vouchers/online schooling in those districts for one year (which would reduce funding for the district in that year) and then they came back or something. But much like a lot of things in the COVID World, while things aren’t as distorted as they were this time last year, it's also not the same as it was in October 2019. And likely never will be.

And 1 year of stimulus won’t change the damage of a decade of underfunding public schools and attacking teachers. If this state and this country wants to be economically competitive in the coming years, it needs to be going forward and encouraging education and creative thinking, and not having MAGAts suppress those skills and goods out of fear and arrogance.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Jake does redistricting, Pt. 4- What if WisGOP gets their way?

You may recall that the Wisconsin GOP have passed a Joint Resolution laying out how they wanted to re-gerrymander the State Legislature for the 2020s. And no surprise, but the WisGOPs want to continue with the current rigged maps as much as possible.
3. Retain as much as possible the core of existing districts, thus maintaining existing communities of interest, and promoting the equal opportunity to vote by minimizing disenfranchisement due to staggered Senate terms.
This will be likely be the basis of their argument to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for drawing new maps, and so I wanted to take a look to see what it might be looked like to draw up a map that way.

Obviously, the maps wouldn't be very different than the gerrymandered mess that we have today. Let me remind you what that looks like. First the Assembly.

Looking at the 2016-2020 composite voting numbers in Wisconsin (as outlined by the Dave's Redistricting site), the current maps break down as follows, based on who got the most votes in statewide races in each of those districts:

Assembly GOP 61, Dem 38
Senate - GOP 22, Dem 11

This is despite Dems having around a 1% advantage in that 2016-2020 composite vote. Some of this is simple geographic packing (Dems have 80-90% of the vote in districts, GOPs have no more than 71%), but the real way the gerrymander shows itself is in the number of close districts that lean GOP.

Assembly current maps
Win by 0-5% - GOP 7, Dem 4
Win by 5-10% - GOP 8, Dem 4

Senate current maps
Win by 0-5% GOP 4, Dem 1
Win 5-10% GOP 3, Dem 1

So keep those numbers in mind, and then take a look at what I drew up. Starting with the statewide map.

And then the Milwaukee area in particular.

The loss of population in the City of Milwaukee is apparent here, districts on the north side (especially) have to grow in geography to make up for the loss of people. So city-based districts are now absorbing suburbs like Brown Deer and Glendale, which ironically may help Republicans who got too cute in the last gerrymander, and ended up making more districts competitive by trying to combine those areas with pro-GOP suburbs to the north.

You can also see where the growth in the Madison area shrinks those districts, particularly in the western half of the county. This likely will benefit Dems, as more districts have to include blue territory than they do now, and likely would sink current GOPs from Lodi and Dodgeville that have seats today.

Put it together, and the GOP would maintain their lopsided advantage in the Assembly.

Total districts - GOP 61, Dem 38 (no change)
Win by 0-5% - GOP 9, Dem 4 (GOP +2)
Win by 5-10% - GOP 7, Dem 5 (GOP -1, Dem +1)

The Senate combines 3 Assembly districts into 1, and here's what that current map looks like.

The main difference with my updated districts is that you will see is how Jon Erpenbach's district gets confined mostly to western Dane County instead of going to Baraboo and Portage under the current gerrymander, and how the districts around there have to get closer to Madison as a result.

And Milwaukee County has fewer places that have bleed over from the WOW counties, as the Milwaukee districts have to grow in geography to make up for the loss of people.

Put that together, and the GOP maintains their 2-to-1 advantage in the Senate.

Total districts - GOP 22, Dem 11 (no change)
Win by 0-5% - GOP 4, Dem 1 (no change)
Win by 5-10% - GOP 2, Dem 1 (GOP -1)

Interestingly, all 5 of the closest districts would be up for re-election in 2022, with none in the 2024 cycle.

You can see why WisGOPs want to keep this as the basis for redistricting. It takes Dems winning around 54-55% of the vote to flip either of these chambers (and in the Senate, it would be 2 elections in a row), which helps explain why GOPs spend more time worrying about the 20%ers frothing at the mouth (since those dipshits vote in low-pturnout primaries), than they do the middle 5% of voters.

As I've mentioned before, "fair maps" in Wisconsin don't mean that the breakdown is 50-50 for seats (it's more like 57-42 in Assembly and 20-13 for the Senate). But it does mean that Dems only need 52-53% to flip, and that the close districts are a near-even split between Dem and GOP.

That's what needs to be adjusted, and "just vote harder" isn't an adequate response if the GOPs are allowed to rig things for the next 10 years.