Friday, December 31, 2021

A dreary 2021 was better than 2020, but a whole lot better is needed in 2022.

I usually have some kind of positivity post as a year ends, but I can't find a lot, because like most decent Americans, I find myself gloomy and worn out at the end of 2021.

What's remarkable about this feeling is that this country is in a much better place than it was as 2021 started. I just checked this week's unemployment report, and noted that the number of people getting continuing benefits has shrunk from nearly 17.6 million at the start of the year and nearly 19 million in late February, to less than 2.2 million by the end of the year.

While some of that is due to the ending of the gig-related PUA and long-term PEUC claim programs, we've also seen "regular" unemployment claims decline from more than 5 million at the start of the year to less than 2 million now.

US unemployment has dropped from 6.7% at the end of 2020 to 4.2% now, and I'll certainly take that scenario with 6.8% inflation over unemployment being the item that's at 6.8% with low inflation.

Economically, it feels like we've made great progress, and it was related to a wide-ranging effort that fully vaccinated more than 100 million Americans by late April, which led to a boom in consumer confidence and spending. That number is now more than 204 million today, yet feels disappointing because 1/3 of the country refuses to get on board with reality, and has a Republican Party that is actively cheering this destructive behavior because they feel that the prolonging of COVID will help them in the midterms.

And we don't have enough pushback from DC Dems and a Democratic president, who seem to believe that being "the adults in the room" and believing in our Systems are the proper ways to act. But you can't do that when the other side launched an insurrection to try to overturn the will of the voters in 2020, and is actively abusing power to allow them to rig elections for 2022 and 2024.

You can't lay back and avoid confrontation and refuse to patch obvious holes in the system, or wait for voters to do it for you. And you certainly can't use the excuse of needing a supermajority filibuster in a Senate that is already gerrymandered in favor of obstructionist GOPs.

And you can't "trust the System" when our legal and political systems seem incapable of doing what it takes to hold the most flagrant lawbreakers accountable. Trump trash laugh as they break the law and threaten Democratic leaders with violence without being locked up or losing their jobs. An immense catharsis would come from seeing the January 6th plotters, Trump White House officials and members of Congress perp walked AND LOCKED UP for what these bastards tried to do and got others to do. It would go a long way toward lifting the feeling of cynicism and hopelessness that many of us feel right now.

Democratic voters and activists did their job in 2020 to put Dems in power to reverse the damage from the Trump years and get this country in a new direction, and it is dispiriting to be told "trust us" and see excuses from DC Dems in not using that power to the full extent possible. Instead, we are asked by these same people to "vote harder again so we have wider margins in Congress" instead of taking the steps that are needed.

I can do math and I get what they're saying, but dammit, CAN DC DEM "LEADERS" USE THE POWER AND THE PLATFORM THAT THE PEOPLE GAVE THEM? And if you can't, find some leaders who will. These people make 6 figures a year with government benefits, yet far too often are passing the buck to everyday people who don't have that amount of money, and have real jobs and lives to deal with.

Then COVID continued to drag on, first in the Summer in the Confederacy, then into other parts of America in the Fall (mostly in unvaccinated MAGAt areas), and now it's back in vaccinated, urbanized areas with omnicron, and new cases are at their highest levels ever. Leading things to feel not much different than they did at the start of 2021, even though deaths are down significantly because of the vaccine and advances in treatment. Especially when so much work time and other time is spent glaring at a computer/phone screen.

Many like me did all the right things in the first half of 2021 to avoid this very situation. We stayed in through the COVID Winter of 2020-21, got ourselves the shot when we were able to (after waiting behind the more vulnerable members), continued to mask up at work and crowded indoor situations, and got ourselves boosted near the end of the year. We did these things so we'd be able to return to normal and come and go without having to worry about COVID. Yet 30%er COVIDIOTS have kept that from happening, and have been rooted on by a Republican propaganda machine that believes undermining public health is a political winner.

And now we are in December, where a friend of mine had to endure pain in his elbow and arm that so severe he couldn't stand up, but couldn't be admitted to the hospital in Madison for 2 weeks because of MAGAts from other parts of the state were taking up beds. Now that he has been admitted, they don't want him to be home for New Year's, because if they release him, they fear it will be difficult to re-admit him if things flare back up. These are the real damages happening from COVIDiocy today.

And because we have a broken system that doesn't hold this type of scumbaggery accountable, either in everyday life or in politics, it makes it hard to function on an everyday basis because I'm infuriated by what I see, but the current Systems are either controlled by the bad guys (Wisconsin Legislature, courts) who block any action, or see justice delayed because of stodgy methods that advantage the rich and connected, and those in power aren't tough enough to stamp on those toes and force the confrontation and crushing that has to happen.

Which mean there isn't much I can do in my everyday life that won't get me fired and/or in prison. And I bet I'm not alone. It's even limited me on thios page, because I have a job and a life and it becomes downright depressing to be smashing my head against the wall against all of the bad things that continue to overhang. So I've largely kept myself to the econ side and other numerical things on this blog more than the politics, although I certainly could riff a long time on that if I wanted to mess up my mental health. (I often use the quick, reactionary slams on Twitter vs here).

What's also distressing is that the stakes of the bad guys winning in 2022 (both in Congress and in Wisconsin) are so high. It's the key to their plans to rig the Presidential election in 2024, and want to wreck the resemblance of fair elections at the state level. The WisGOPs are already showing some of the ways they would do this.

Add in the horrendous gerrymandering that makes it very hard to remove Republicans from controlling the lawmaking process in this state, and it can take a person to a dark place when they try to figure a way out to restore the Wisconsin that we loved prior to 2011.

But I also know giving up is the ultimate goal of the bad guys, and letting the Bad Guys win and permanently screw over this state is an outcome I won't accept. This blog and my social media feed is a great outlet for venting my seething rage and maybe gets read by someone who actually is in a position to take steps to stop this madness. And I hope I can at least give some salve to others that are like "This is messed up, right?", but don't see much pushback to it in their everyday life.

I'm going to still be here in 2022, and maybe we see progress where people that believe in decency, self-respect and fairness actually start getting a payoff for belieivng in such things. We're definitely not enough of it today, as grifting, arrogance and selfishness run rampant, without any accountability or comeuppance.

I have to believe that 2022 will be a lot less of the "bleh" slog that we have today. Which leads me to this song that was the focus of the latest episode of the excellent "60 Songs that Explain the '90s" podcast from Rob Harvilla. He talks about Counting Crows and particularly focuses on the melancholy song "A Long December", which seems to sum up a lot of the cloudiness that we live under, despite the reality that things really are in a better spot compared to the start of the year.
Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean
I guess I should.

Thanks for those of you still reading, and let's make 2022 what we hoped 2021 would be, and then some.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

We know COVID cases are rising again in Wis. But will severity follow?

After a couple of days to catch up to delayed data from the Christmas holiday, we're now seeing the inevitable spike in the amount of COVID cases being reported in Wisconsin. For the first time in more than a year, we are averaging more than 4,000 new COVID cases a day.

The big change is in where those Critically High levels are occuring. While the Fall and first half of December saw a strong correlation between low levels of vaccination and higher case rates (when Delta was the dominant variant), that's now reversed with omnicron becoming the main strain. It's higher-populated and often highly-vaxxed areas reporting more cases, and it includes Dane County's first visit to the red zone, with a similar case rate over the last 2 weeks to what we've had statewide.

Deaths in Wisconsin are still showing a significant "vaxxed vs unvaxxed" variance, and have ranged between 100 and 165 a week ever since Labor Day. This continued onslaught has now put the state's death toll from COVID over 10,000.

But despite lower death rates, state hospitals are in a worse situation than they were at the start of 2021 because everyday ailments have combined with hospitalized people having an increased chance of surviving COVID to overwhelm state hospitals, leading to these horrendous headlines from this week.

So it's not just people with COVID that are suffering that are facing hardships as a result of the higher number of people in the hospital. The questions now become:

1. "How long will this spike in cases with omnicron last?" Does it burn itself out in a couple of weeks and cases quickly come down, or does this thing keep flying around and hit a large proportion of the state's people?

2. How serious will these cases end up being? If many of these are breakthrough cases on the vaccinated, and for those people it just becomes an annoying virus that goes away in a few days like a lot of wintertime viruses do (early and anecdotal evidence is strongly leaning this way). If so, there might not be a lot of economic damage that results, and things can still operate much like they did before we had ever heard the word "omnicron".

I know that last part can come off as callous for people who will be damaged with any form of the virus (particularly the elderly and immunocompromised). And I'm a bit grossed out by the "show must go on" theme that is being touched on by a lot of corners as 2021 ends - including a reduction in COVID-related isolation that seems to be driven more by complaints from Delta airlines than sufficient data about how long omnicron sickens someone and leaves them contagious).

But it is also undeniable that we are in a different situation with COVID than we were at the start of December. More people may be testing positive for the virus, more of them are what we used to ID as "breakthrough cases" (although you're still more likely to get it if unvaxxed), and while early data is encouraging, we need to wait a couple of weeks to get a definitive answer as to whether the new variant will lead to more or less severe illness.

And so the slog continues, nearly 2 years after COVID started to break out in America. I don't know whether to laugh, feel despair, or feel rage against MAGAts people who have made so many unforced errors and allowed this thing to become far worse than we ever would have imagined, or ever should have allowed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Foxconn finally gets state tax dollars for some jobs. After $1 billion+ that was already spent for them

Hey look, Foxconn's finally added enough jobs to get some money back from the state of Wisconsin!
Foxconn will receive $28.8 million in state tax credits for 2020, just shy of the maximum award the Taiwanese manufacturer could receive under the revised deal Gov. Tony Evers signed this spring.

WEDC CEO Missy Hughes said Wednesday the state certified 579 jobs the company had created at its Racine County facility, which was within the target range. But it fell short of the target capital investment of $268.6 million by nearly $2.5 million.

Had the company hit that target, it would’ve qualified for $29.1 million in credits....

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. on Wednesday also released an auditor’s report from late August that found the company paid $40.2 million in wages during 2020.
So basically, Foxconn had just enough people working at the end of last year that they will get $28.8 million back for building a few warehouses....and whatever is going on in here.

$28.8 million for 579 jobs comes out to just less than $50,000 a job. For that kind of cash, we could have just paid the workers ourselves.

To backtrack, the new Foxconn contract that Governor Evers got them to sign earlier this year is limited to $80 million in total, and means that 10% of Foxconn's capital expenses are paid back. That's better than it would have been under the disastrous original contract that Scott Walker set up with Foxconn 4 years ago, as the Foxconn contract would have given back 15% of all construction costs to the company. That lowering of payback from 15% to 10% means a savings of about $13 million.

The flip side is that the new contract allowed for lower job thresholds for Foxconn to get their refund from the state, to try to salvage something out of this white elephant and keep Foxconn from pulling out entirely (wait, would that be all bad? Anyway). The original contract said that they needed to have 1,820 jobs by the end of 2020, which should remind you about just how BS the claims that Scott Walker, Foxconn and the rest of the lowlifes involved in this scam were giving 4 years ago. Let's go back to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's original paper on the deal, and remember the numbers that were being thrown around.
As noted, permanent staff at the Foxconn facility are estimated to increase from about 1,000 in the second half of 2017 to 13,000 beginning in calendar year 2021. The average annual wage for these employees is estimated at $53,875, based on a headcount distribution, by job type, provided to EY by Foxconn and median wages for each occupation from the Economic Research Institute. Total ongoing payroll at the company is projected to be $13.8 million for the remainder of this year and increase to approximately $700 million annually beginning in 2021. State tax revenues associated with the additional employees and wages are estimated to increase from about $900,000 this year to $44 million annually beginning in 2021.

Indirect and induced jobs associated with the project are estimated to total 22,000 beginning in 2021, based on a multiplier of 2.7. Average annual wages for these individuals are estimated at approximately $51,000. Total ongoing wages are estimated at $1.12 billion annually, and related state taxes are estimated at $71 million per year. Smaller impacts are estimated in calendar years 2017 through 2020 as the project ramps up.

Based on these figures, DOA projects that the cost of the refundable state tax credits under the bill will exceed the potential increased tax revenues until the last EITM payroll credit is paid in fiscal year 2032-33. As of the end of that year, the cumulative net cost of the incentive package is estimated at $1.04 billion. Beginning in 2033-34, payments to the company would cease and increased state tax collections are estimated at $115 million per year. DOA estimates that the project's break-even point would occur during the 2042-43 fiscal year.
Yeah, not thinking we're breaking even on this one.

Also remember that those empty Foxconn promises led Walker and WisGOP to blow hundreds of millions of state dollars to upgrade roads while other parts of Wisconsin saw Scottholes crop up all over. Then add on the hundreds of millions more that the local communities are still on the hook for, and are paying big amounts of debt back on today.

For example, the Village of Mount Pleasant paid more than $93 million in debt costs for its Foxconn Tax Incremental District this year, and is planning to re-sell much more debt to cut that cost down in 2022 to $9.6 million between Foxconn and Foxconn's clean water fund, and to keep from going under. (Click on the picture to see the numbers clearer)

That's the real reason Governor Evers and WEDC felt like they had to allow Foxconn to come away with some kind of tax credits, because otherwise that foreign company might well pack up and go off to scam some other place, and leave Wisconsin taxpayers to bail out the local yokels in Racine County who would have bankrupted their community.

Oh, and let's not forget this great nugget from a Wisconsin Public Radio, which goes into another part of the Foxconn grift that has led Mount Pleasant to throw away even more taxpayer dollars.
The project director hired to oversee the struggling Foxconn development in the Village of Mount Pleasant is consistently billing taxpayers for 40 hours per week, but records are unable to account for how all his time is being spent.

Claude Lois is a contracted consultant with engineering firm Kapur and Associates, and he works in Mount Pleasant’s Village Hall. His role as project director has no official job description, and records obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio of Lois’ time card and village-owned calendar do not match...

Lois, who bills $175 per hour, is scheduled to get a raise to $200 an hour starting Aug. 21. Lois declined to comment.

As of Dec. 13, Kapur and Associates billed Mount Pleasant approximately $362,000 for 2021, which was largely for Lois' salary. By comparison, [Village Administrator Maureen] Murphy is paid $108,000 annually, according to the village budget.
Come to think of it, maybe those dopes in Mount Pleasant don't deserve the state bailout that will likely be requested.

Foxconn continues to be the grift that keeps on giving (away) in this state, and as Rebecca Kleefisch gears up to run for Governor in 2022, she should be tied with a cord of steel to the other scammers who tried to BS Wisconsinites before the last Governor's election 4 years ago.

FUN FACT - All these guys are now out of power!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Population growth flatlines in US, Wisconsin in 2021

Cleaning up from the Holidays, and I wanted to talk about a stunning decline in population growth in the country in 2021, as the US Census Bureau said we added less than 400,000 people in the United States. The large increase in deaths in COVID-19 and other sources certainly played a role. And we found out in a USA Today report from this week that some parts of the country likely had a lot more deaths from the coronavirus than they previously let on.
Nationwide, nearly 1 million more people have died in 2020 and 2021 than in normal, pre-pandemic years, but about 800,000 deaths have been officially attributed to COVID-19, according to the CDC data. A majority of those additional 195,000 deaths are unidentified COVID-19 cases, public health experts have long suggested, pointing to the unusual increase in deaths from natural causes.

An investigation by Documenting COVID-19, the USA TODAY Network and experts reveals why so many deaths have gone uncounted: After overwhelming the nation’s health care system, the coronavirus evaded its antiquated, decentralized system of investigating and recording deaths.

Short-staffed, undertrained and overworked coroners and medical examiners took families at their word when they called to report the death of a relative at home. Coroners and medical examiners didn’t review medical histories or order tests to look for COVID-19. They and some physicians attributed deaths to inaccurate and nonspecific causes that are meaningless to pathologists. In some cases, stringent rules for attributing a death to COVID-19 created obstacles for relatives of the deceased and contradicted CDC guidance.

These trends are clear in small cities and rural areas with less access to health care and fewer physicians. They’re especially pronounced in rural areas of the South and Western USA, areas that heavily voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The record amount of death in the country led to the remarkable finding in the Census Bureau's report that deaths nearly matched births in the country as a whole, with 1/2 of states having more death than birth, and immigration added more people to America than that "natural increase".
Between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, the nation’s growth was due to natural increase (148,043), which is the number of excess births over deaths, and net international migration (244,622). This is the first time that net international migration (the difference between the number of people moving into the country and out of the country) has exceeded natural increase for a given year....

Twenty-five states experienced natural decrease in 2021, where there were more deaths than births. This was attributed to further decreases in fertility combined with increased mortality. Florida had the highest natural decrease at -45,248, followed by Pennsylvania (-30,878) and Ohio (-15,811).
But Florida gained nearly 260,000 people last year from people moving in, both within the US and internationally. And the changes in population at the state level led some to try to play some kind of "red state superiority" theme, as California, New York and Illinois had the largest losses of people, and rural and Southern states had the largest gains.

Locally, Wisconsin also had near-zero population growth, with an estimated increase of only 3,585 from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021, and with deaths (62,985) outpacing births (60,404). But our state benefitted from international immigration and in gaining residents from other states.

And while our increase in population was tepid, it's actually better than most other Midwestern states. 3 out of the 7 states in our region lost population in 2021 (with Illinois losing the 3rd most people out of any state in America), and Wisconsin added more people than Minnesota for the first time in several years.

Now some might say this gives proof behind the WMC/WisGOP strategy of "poach rich FIBs to move here and grow Wisconsin's economy" (which I ridiculued earlier this month), but we still need people of working age to be part of a labor pool that those rich FIBs can take advantage of, and who's going to want to do that in a place where schools are unfunded and wages suck? Plus, the evidence from the 2020 Census is that people were moving TO Chicago for work and life, and it was the rest of the state that was losing.

Obviously 2020-2021 was an extraordinmary time in America, with work and everyday life disrupted, and ended far too often. We will find out if the drastic changes and near-zero population growth is a one-time oddity of the COVID era, or if it's going to be the start of a realignment in where people live and work. And how those changes manifest themselves in the 2022 elections as well as the econmomic growth possibilities for these places.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Through November, people were still spending, and a lot of signs of "normalcy" for incomes

Yes, COVID and omnicron is an overhang of the national mood, but at least for the first part of the Holiday shopping season, it wasn't keeping Americans from going out and spending. We saw more proof of that in Thursday's income and spending report, which continued to show steady increases at or near the rate of inflation.
Personal income increased $90.4 billion (0.4 percent) in November according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (tables 3 and 5). Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $70.4 billion (0.4 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $104.7 billion (0.6 percent).

Real DPI decreased 0.2 percent in November and Real PCE increased less than 0.1 percent; spending on services increased 0.5 percent and spending on goods decreased 0.8 percent (tables 5 and 7). The PCE price index increased 0.6 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.5 percent (table 9).
On the spending side, levels jumped up with the first round of vaccinations for most Americans this Spring, and has remained elevated since then, even after accounting for inflation.

It's also intriguing that services spending continued to grow even as COVID cases grew in the North and weather cooled, a much different pattern compared to what we saw when COVID cases rose in 2020 and early 2021.
The $104.7 billion increase in current-dollar PCE in November reflected an increase of $97.4 billion in spending for services and a $7.4 billion increase in spending for goods (table 3). The increase in services was widespread, led by housing and utilities. Within goods, an increase in nondurable goods (mainly gasoline and other energy goods) was partly offset by a decrease in durable goods (led by recreational goods and vehicles as well as motor vehicles and parts).
To me, this indicates that we have now adjusted to the COVID World, and now are spending and existing in similar patterns to what we did pre-COVID, with modifications in behaviors such as masking and perhaps in the method in which we consume the same items we did before.

But despite the gains in the last 9 months of 2021, some parts of the services side of the economy still have yet to benefit from the overall gains in spending that have happened in the country over the last 21 months. Food and accomodation services have barely nudged ahead of the inflation-adjusted pre-COVID totals, and transportation and recreational services are still in the hole.

With omnicron hitting bigger cities and complicating Holiday travel plans for many Americans, the December numbers in this sector will tell an interesting story, one way or the other.

On the income side, it's worth noting that CARES and ARPA-related stimulus measures are largely faded out, with stimulus checks being already paid to those who were eligible, and total unemployment benefits actually falling below the amount that they were at before COVID hit. Meanwhile, wages and salaries continued to grow form the 9th straight month.

You'll also notice that the direct payment of Child Tax Credits are the second-largest source of growth on this list, at an annual rate of more than $222 billion. That would be quite a bit of income to suck out of the economy if those checks were to go away in January, which seems like something to keep our eyes on in the next 3 weeks, and 3 months if we are foolish enough not to renew this poverty-reducing measure.

The other income item of note that grabbed my attention was on how business owners are doing. For the first time since the pandemic started, business owners were getting more money from their everyday operations than they were from PPP loans and other subsidies, which is a strong indicator that things have finally returned to a near-normal situation during this Biden Boom.

So business owners are doing fine, corporate profits are at record levels, wages continue to rise (particularly at the low end), the stock market is at record highs, and spending continued at a solid pace in November despite all of the media-induced fears about inflation.

Other than the record profiteering (which can be controlled with the better anti-trust enforcement and higher corporate taxes that are in Build Back Better, this seems like a good situation to be in, although that nagging virus is certainly the wild card as 2021 winds down.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

COVID now hitting all corners of the state in Christmas week. Be smart and boosted, folks

As you'd imagine, the state's COVID numbers aren't going well as the omnicron variant makes its way into Wisconsin. And the cancellation of this week's Badger men's and women's basketball games underscores that new cases numbers have evened out throughout the state, instead of being confined to less-vaccinated parts of Wisconsin.

Not only is the statewide rate at the "extremely high" level (where 1 out of 100 Wisconsin reported a positive COVID-19 test over the previous two weeks) for the first time since the first few weeks of the year, but you can see that the northern tier is starting to see reported cases fall out of the "red zone" while larger-populated areas further south are seeing cases go up.

But the earlier spike in COVID cases that hit in the lesser-vaccinated areas of the state in October and November is now manifesting itself in higher death totals as 2021 ends, with more than 20 deaths a day being reported.

Dane County also offered the latest update of its COVID numbers today, which is worthwhile to look into as more than half of County residents have gotten their booster, and because the Dane County Department of Public Health offers a breakdown of case rates for the vaccinated, unvaccinated, and boosted. And while the gap between these groups has tightened from last week's totals, all 3 still have notable differences.

The death and hospitalization totals are going to be what to look for in a couple of weeks, to see if the combination of the omnicron variant and higher levels of vaccinations lead to lower levels of COVID-related severe illness. But that's little consolation for us today as COVID overhangs our state and country during the week of Christmas, with new cases staying at or above an average of 3,500 a day. Stay smart if you're meeting with family and friends this weekend, and the boosters do seem to help so far. So do your part, if you can.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Manchin opposes Build Back Better for complete BS reasons

I'm on semi-vacation this week, but I wanted to give a few thoughts and relay a few tweets about the big economic agenda discussion happening in DC.

Let's start with Sunday's dick move that infuriated any decent Democrat/American that wants to see childhood poverty get cut, have Americans get access to needed supports and not have people go broke when they have to pay for insulin and other medications.

The decision to make this announcement on Faux News is just the chef's kiss. What a piece of crap.

This BS about "the debt and inflation" again? First of all, Build Back Better limits inflation through provisions such as negotiating for drug prices, offering an expansion of in-home long-term care services, and increasing alternatives to oil and gas as energy sources. It also discourages profiteering and stock buybacks through higher corporate taxes.

Second, if our national debt was causing inflation, 10 years of debt wouldn't be costing less than 1.5% a year, and you wouldn't be seeing the US dollar at 17-month highs.

Manchin also mentioned long-term costs of these programs, but as I mentioned last week, that's largely based on a BS group of assumptions that aren't in the Build Back Better bill, and don't assume tax increases that are slated to happen in 4 years under the GOP Tax Scam (aka "current law"). The only way many of these programs would continue is if future Congresses voted to continue them...because they were too good/needed to take away.

Also, if Manchin cares so much about the effect of omnicron or whatever else the pandemic throws our way in coming months, wouldn't you want to vote for a bill that expands health coverage for seniors and expands the ability for our most vulnerable to get more medical services at home instead of having to go to our already-overloaded hospitals and doctor's offices?

To further Manchin's economic illiteracy, this analysis was released in the wake of Manchin's comments about not being able to vote for the current BBB plan.

Wait, you're telling me more supports and services is good for the economy? No wayyyy!!!

And as certain House Dems pointed out, it's funny how Manchin has concerns about how certain types of spending affects the US debt (even if they are taxed for, like Build Back Better is), but not other things.

And that's $768 billion for 1 YEAR. Or about 4 times more (on a 10-year basis) than the cost of Build Back Better.

While the bad economic takes from Manchin are eye-rolling enough, the real reason Senator Houseboat Maserati opposed the bill was leaked out soon enough (undoubtably from Dems who have had it with this douche).

And if that's Manchin's real concern, there's an easy solution for that.

Manchin deserves a lot of public heat because of the absurdities he's said and the forums he's chosen to say them in (constantly addressing DC media and Faux News). But let's also note that not ONE Republican is willing to help give stability to the tens of millions of vulnerable Americans that would be helped by Build Back Better, and not ONE Republican is willing to make a move to protect our planet and property owners from the effects of increasingly severe weather and a changing climate.

Naturally, it takes the one guy that DNC hacks complain is "not a Dem" to lay out this reality in a way that is the most effective in making voters recognize who the real failures and enemies are.

Two final thoughts.

1. Just put the damn bill on the floor, and allow Manchin to put up amendments that change the bill to what he wants to see happen. Put up or shut up, and let's see if it sinks or swims. And let's see if Manchin truly has a clue and wants to work with the popularly-elected president to improve things for Maericans, or if he is just babbling like a bought-off, mediocre hack will do.

2. We wouldn't have to slam things together into one big bill if it wasn't for a GD FILIBUSTER THAT ALLOWS SENATORS WHO "REPRESENT" 20% OF THE US POPULATION TO BLOCK ALL OTHER BILLS, and we only needed a majority of votes to have any bill pass this already-gerrymandered, outdated "institution".

Monday, December 20, 2021

WisGOP 0% income tax scheme just more Koched-up BS that won't work

As part of his continuing post-Governor grift, Scott Walker was on AM 1130 last week to front for a WisGOP Tax scheme that has the same BS themes that past WisGOP tax schemes have had.

And guess which UW professor was tasked to do the "study" on this plan? If you've been following this page in the last few years, you already know.

Let me remind you who funds Williams and CROWE.
Professor Noah Williams is director of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, established in July. It operates out of the Social Sciences Building, 1180 Observatory Dr. Funding for the center includes $240,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation and $100,000 from the Bradley Foundation, according to a proposal for the center approved in March by the UW-Madison College of Letters and Science’s Academic Planning Council....

The mission of CROWE is to “provide objective economic research to support economic development and policy evaluation for important state-level issues,” according to the proposal. The center will “provide a crucial link in tying the UW to the broader policy and business community statewide, expanding the outreach from academic research to practical application,” the proposal said.
"Objective economic research". Funded by the Kochs and the Bradleys, while using the UW-Madison name to cover up for their GOPperganda. Just gross.

You can read Williams' entire Koched-up report here, especially if you want the comedy and-or eye-rolling exercise. There actually is some good Wisconsin tax history in there, and Williams splits up the analysis between a 1-year "all-in" plan that changes the income tax to 0% and sales tax to 8% in 2023, and an 8-year "phase-in" plan that makes reductions every 2 years until we get down to 0% by 2030.

Let's go into the magic that Williams says would happen if Wisconsin's income tax went away. The main crux is explained through this chart, where Williams tries to figure out what the state's 5% sales tax rate should be raised to in order to get to some kind of "sweet spot" that makes up some of the lost tax revenue, but also improves the state's economy.

The table shows that, regardless of the level of sales tax implemented, all of the proposed reforms lead to notable gains in output, employment, and after-tax incomes. That is, moving the state government tax system from an income base to a consumption base promotes relatively substantial economic gains. I take an 8% sales tax rate as my baseline policy proposal. As the table shows, this would result in an average tax cut of $1,705 per household, which means a static tax revenue reduction of 26.8%. However increased economic activity makes up more than half of the lost revenue, with the reform leading to 12.5% lower tax collections in the long run. The economic implications of the reform are strong, leading to a 7.9% increase in output and 6.9% increase in employment. Even though the sales tax rate increases by 60%, consumption grows 7.2% and after-tax incomes increase by 9.4%.
So why would there be a nearly 7% increase in jobs solely due to 0% income tax? Williams tries to answer this question by claiming businesses will hire more and more people will come here.
Undoubtedly, the model implies strong employment effects of the tax reform. Under the baseline forecast, employment would revert to its slow average growth of 0.1% per year, driven by the slow growth of the labor force in the state. The model predicts a strong employment surge in the first two years in response to the all-in plan, with an increase of about 160,000 jobs over that span, then continued but slower growth after that. As above, this initial surge would be tempered somewhat with labor adjustment costs (better known as "people getting paid more") , but the overall trend would be similar. Under the phase-in plan, the model predicts that employment would largely continue on its pre-pandemic growth trend. While these effects are large, recall that the average marginal tax rate on labor income is 5.8%, which would drop to zero under the reform. Thus, while the labor supply effects are large in magnitude, they come in response to a large change in take-home pay. Fundamental tax reform in Wisconsin has the promise of increasing labor market participation among state residents, as well as increasing the population and labor force by drawing new workers from out of state. See Kleven et al. (2020) and Moretti and Wilson (2017), for recent evidence on the strong impact of state taxes on migration.
In others words, Williams is saying "Just trust me, it'll happen", without mentioning that Wisconsin employers would have to stop underpaying workers compared to our Midwestern neighbors/rivals, or without the state investing in any type of quality of life measures that would be needed to convince people to move to a state that has below-freezing temperatures for 4-5 months out of the year. (Then again, if the Kochs get their way, maybe the planet will be heated up enough that our climate is more like current-day St. Louis instead of Minneapolis so....winning)?

What evidence is there that there would be some huge influx of new workers to fill this alleged increase in demand? We saw nothing like that throughout the tax-cutting Age of Fitzwalkerstan in the 2010s (our population growth was the slowest in decades), and as 2021 ends, we have an unemployment rate of 3.0% with a workforce participation rate of 66.4% vs a US rate of 61.8%. And what person with talent would want to move to and/or raise a family in a state filled with backwards-ass legislators that hate public education, equal rights, and science? That would no doubt be what you'd get with a Legislature that would pass such a "reform", given who makes up WisGOP today.

Leaving aside the reality that the Wisconsin workforce won't grow like Williams claims it will, how are we going to maintain a balanced budget with such a large reduction in revenues? Williams says "Well, we have a surplus, may as well blow it!", and includes this chart which compares current-day tax revenues (in black) with the 8-year phase in (in red) and the "all-in" change in 2023 (in blue).

The figure also helps put the magnitude of the tax revenue cuts in context. Under the all-in plan, state tax revenue in 2023 would fall by about $3 billion in absolute terms from 2022 and about $3.5 billion relative to what it would be in 2023 under current policy. But that simply returns state tax revenue in 2023 to almost the same level it was in 2020, before the huge increase in 2021. After that initial cut in 2023, tax revenue continues to increase. The phase-in plan leads to a smaller cut in 2023, of about $1.2 billion from 2022 or about $1.7 billion relative to what it would be under current policy. After that initial cut, tax revenue under the plan would generally trend upward, with an additional $1.1 billion dip in 2029 (or $1.7 billion additional cut relative to the baseline).
But the lack of revenues serves a second purpose, to cause a "Starving the Beast" scenario where Republicans can induce a budget deficit and the need to cut funding for needs such as public education and medical care. Naturally, Williams doesn't give any mention about what might get cut or how the lack of that stabilization and investment would limit economic activity and increase personal hardship.

One other item that isn’t mentioned is whether local governments are allowed to have the freedom to raise their own sales taxes. Because you know that the lack of revenue at the state level is going to be “paid off” by cutting revenues to local governments, so there better be a way for it to be made up.

(HAHAHAH, I kid, we know WisGOP would screw them over like they did in the 2010s).

Tamarine Cornelius at the Wisconsin Budget Project mentioned that Scott Walker floated this stupidity before – 8 years ago, and the same problems are in play. Wisconsin already has a heavily-regressive tax system, and this )% income tax plan would make this much worse.

It's right in front of you, Governor Evers. "The Republicans will throw us back into budget deficits and raise taxes on the poor while cutting taxes even more for the rich." They've shown their hand with this Koched-up Bradley Bullshit proposal, and it should be tied around their necks.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Wis COVID update - more cases overall, but Vax Gap stays strong, and is overwhleming hospitals

Like much of America, Wisconsin is seeing our level of new cases rise as 2021 ends. While Friday’s figures had a bit of settling back down, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services says we are still well above September’s peak, and have had a 7-day average over 3,000 cases since the start of December.

We now have a majority of Wisconsin counties with rates of new cases at the “critically high” level of 1 in 100 residents per 2 weeks, and we are nearly at that point statewide (0.996 per 100).

The bigger problem is that hospitals in the state are overwhelmed, as the large amount of COVID patients adds to a typical amount of people that need hospital services for "regular" reasons. A great, in-depth feature from Davids Wahlberg in Friday's Wisconsin State Journal illstrated how this is causing major strain in some of the smallest (and least vaxxed) communities.

Leaders at Aspirus Medford Hospital gathered this week to assess their situation: 19 patients, double the regular load. Twelve with COVID-19, 11 of them unvaccinated. Three on ventilators, with another likely needing ventilation soon.

The small facility in north-central Wisconsin normally would send ventilated patients to the larger Aspirus Wausau Hospital nearly 50 miles away, but its critical care beds were full. In Medford, four emergency room patients were waiting for hospital beds. To open more beds, the hospital needs more nurses. They’re in short supply.....

In Medford, a city of 4,300 people where many jobs involve making windows, cheese or frozen pizza, hospital workers feel frustration from being in the county with the state’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate. Just 34.5% of residents in Taylor County had received at least one dose as of Friday, compared to 61.3% statewide and 79.9% in Dane County.

Amanda Keeling, a nurse who grew up in Medford and moved back after going to school in Oshkosh and working in Green Bay, said some friends and family don’t believe her when she says the steady stream of COVID-19 patients is wearing her and other nurses out. There’s little interest in discussing how more vaccination could make the situation more manageable, she said.
Need I mention that Taylor County gave more than 70% of its votes to Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020?

By contrast, even though the rate of new cases has doubled this month in very blue, heavily-vaxxed Dane County have doubled this month, that county also has the lowest death rate in the state and has had few fatalities in this September-December resurgence while the rest of the state is seeing more than 20 deaths a day.

The difference in outcomes was reiterated Wednesday, where the Wisconsin Department of Health Services released their monthly look at “vaxxed vs non-vaxxed” cases for November. While the gap in case rates between vaxxed and non-vaxxed has narrowed a bit, it still exists, and the vaccinated are much less likely to end up in the hospital or dead.

Dane County went a step further, and included information on the more than 180,000+ county residents that have already been boosted in its weekly data snapshot. While the time period is small, those with boosters are seeing cases rates 95% lower than those without the vaccine, and were 9 times less likely than the vaccinated-but-not-boosted to get the COVID virus in November.

So while the looming spectre of omnicron is worrying, and the overhang might make for a second straight gloomy Holiday season, there still seems to be a major difference in outcomes between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Getting boosted (so far) seems to be even more helpful, so if you haven’t done so, you might want any time off around the Holiday to take care of that, which will likely make for an easier start to 2022.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A big Wisconsin jobs report in November, and big October revisions

Thursday featured another Wisconsin jobs report, and if you were worried that an increase in COVID cases might keep employers from hiring or having Wisconsinites try to get jobs, you'd be wrong.

That 3.0% unemployment rate is well below the 4.2% US mark, and represents another 6,200 Wisconsinites identifying themselves as "employed". This report indicates that we have the least amount of Wisconsinites saying they unemployed and seeking work since March 2018. Pretty amazing stuff, especially after the state's unemployment was revised down from 3.9% to 3.2% after the Bureau of Labor Statistics discovered more accurate Midwestern demographic information last month.

As for payrolls, we gained 12,300 private sector jobs and 10,200 jobs overall in November, and October's jobs numbers had a big revision upward of 6,800. So that's 17,000 more jobs than we knew before today. It's a big-time report, and we have now added nearly 77,000 jobs in the 12 months since Joe Biden was elected president (hey, I'm just saying).

Manufacturing (+1,700) and construction (+2,600) had very nice gains in Wisconsin in November, and now there are more jobs in both of those sectors than there were at the start of 2020.

Leisure and hospitality also had a second strong month of gains - 6,700 in November and 15,300 since September. Hopefully that is reducing some of the labor shortages we've been seeing in those industries, and while the sector still has nearly 10% fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic, 4/5 of the losses of Spring 2020 have now been recovered.

Pretty good spot to be in, although there is a legitimate question as to how much more Wisconsin can gain back, given that we are at 3.0% unemployment. Guess we better work on trying to attract talent to our state, so we can keep the growth going. And no, WisGOP, you don't do that by getting rid of our state income tax and causing massive cutbacks in education and services.

Things are going pretty good in these parts during the Biden Boom, especially given that we have a governor that actually uses stimulus funds to help people, improve services and help businesses that were hurt by the pandemic. So why would we want to screw all of this up and return to the failed, corporatist BS that we saw in the Walker years?

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

If you think Build Back Better will raise deficits, then let's talk about a permanent Tax Scam

In order to discredit the Build Back Better bill in the Senate, Republican Lindsey Graham sent a request down to the Congressional Budget Office to ask what might happen to the US budget deficit if the act became permanent, instead of with much of it expiring after a few years. And CBO gave Graham the answer he wanted.
The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation project that a version of the bill modified as you have specified would increase the deficit by $3.0 trillion over the 2022–2031 period (see Table 2). That amount includes three components: effects usually counted in CBO’s cost estimates (which are labeled conventional effects in the table), the effects of increased resources for tax enforcement, and effects on interest on the public debt. Under long-standing guidelines agreed to by the legislative and executive branches, estimates to be used for budget enforcement purposes include the first component but not the second and third.

In comparison, including the same three components, the version of H.R. 5376 that was passed by the House of Representatives would increase the deficit by $0.2 trillion over the 2022–2031 period, CBO projects. The largest difference between the two estimates stems from an increase in the child tax credit that ends after 2022 in the House-passed version of the bill.
In fact, the Child Tax Credit part is $1.4 trillion of that $3.0 trillion, and the child care and preschool parts of Build Back Better would be another $371 billion.

There’s a lot of dishonesty in Sen.Graham’s request (some of these items are intended to be temporary reactions to our current situation), but there’s also BS that isn’t part of Build Back Better at all. CBO counts the higher cap on the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction as both a negative (before 2026) and a positive (after 2026) due to the change in the tax code, but Lady G’s Sen. Graham’s CBO request gets rid of the SALT Cap entirely after 2025, which adds another $260 billion to BBB’s “deficit”.

Those 3 items alone are more than $2 trillion of the $2.8 trillion of the added deficits that CBO says making BBB permanent would lead to.

In addition, this analysis assumes that the added IRS agents that are part of Build Back Better wouldn’t account for any more revenues after 2026 (after recovering at least $207 billion from tax cheats the first 5 years), which is an absurd assertion. So knock that off of the figure as well. Then remember that this is over 10 years, so even if you assume all of the non-SALT items happen, making Build Back Better permanent would cost around $200 billion a year, about 5% of total spending today…..or around ¼ of what we are projected to spend on the military in those years. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin’s Senior Senator piled onto this dishonest analysis with some spin of his own.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) issued the following statement on the real cost of President Biden’s and Congressional Democrat’s Build Back Better plan:

“President Ronald Reagan once quipped, ‘Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!’ I appreciate the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recognizing that wisdom when it provided a more honest score of President Biden’s and Congressional Democrat’s Build Back Better (BBB) budget busting plan. Dispelling the lie that BBB is fully paid for and will not ‘add a dime’ to our debt, CBO projects it will add $3 trillion. Oops, guess the Democrats forgot to tell the American people that. This latest example of Democrat governance reveals how dishonest Congressional Democrats are in trying to sell their radical far left socialist agenda to the public.

Democrat Party! SOZHIALIZM!

Actually RoJo, these programs would only remain if voters and their Reps wanted them to remain. But Build Back Better would be likely to stick around because does things that people want, such as Medicare coverage for vision and hearing, expanding availability of Medicaid services in the home, more access to child care and preschool, an expanded Child Tax Credit, more clean energy and cheaper drug prices.

This is what Johnson and other Republicans are REALLY scared about – that Build Back Better will improve people’s lives, give them more choices and make them less reliant on corporate providers. Which is not what the GOPs (and their oligarch puppetmasters) want in any way.

And by the way, (mo)Ron, if you are so concerned about long-term costs and debts, why don’t we also look at how much our deficit grows if we assume the GOP Tax Scam continues through 2031? Most of those items are slated to expire in 2026 or earlier, because that was the only way it could be passed under the 50-vote reconciliation rules. I do see an analysis from the Citizens for a Responsible Federal Budget mention that an extension of the Tax Scam to 2028 would add another $1.2 trillion in deficits, and an earlier estimate from the Tax Policy Center estimated the cost at $480 billion by 2027 plus “a growing amount thereafter.”

But “deficit hawk” Ron Johnson sure doesn’t say much about that, now does he? In fact, I’d bet Republican hacks would screech about “TAX INCREASES!!!” if the Scam is allowed to go away at that time. Because RoJo and other GOPs want to use the lower revenues from the Tax Scam as an excuse to decimate Social Security and Medicare…..after he and many of his fellow Boomers are dead, of course.

To flip it around, why doesn’t CBO include the expiration of the GOP Tax Scam as an additional pay-for on Build Back Better? After all, under current law there would be revenue boosts as the Tax Scam ends, and those dollars could be used to pay for whatever might get extended in Build Back Better.

The fact that GOPs like Ron Johnson never ask about the long-term costs and economic effects of the Tax Scam and other giveaways to the rich means we should completely ignore their crocodile tears about “future costs” of new spending programs. Particularly the ones that are in Build Back Better which can level our economy back toward something that gives our most vulnerable a better chance at stability and improvement.

Monday, December 13, 2021

As COVID sticks around Wisconsin, it's time to stop having MAGAts hold us back

Wisconsin is one of many states that has had to deal with another COVID resurgence as 2021 ends, and the last couple of weeks have had the highest levels of new cases for this year, and are nearly double the amount that we were having at the end of October.

And as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services updates their figures and has more information come in, we see that deaths started rising in late August, and has run consistently near or above 100 COVID fatalities a week over the last 3 1/2 months. However, that's not close to the amount of death that was happening this time last year, before vaccinations were available.

Worse, the hospitals continue to be filled to capacity throughout the state.

Cases continue to be most widespread in the northern and western parts of the state, while heavily-vaccinated Dane County continues to be well below the state rate.

I do want to give one bit of good news, as you can clearly see the disparity in cases among children. High school-aged kids had the most COVID cases last year, but have had fewer cases this year. Meanwhile, you can see that a large gap between children age 9-13 (in yellow) and 4-8 (in orange) has shrunk in the month since children ages 5-11 have been eligible for the vaccine.

As always, vax up and be smart about things. But I'm also done with MAGA areas holding the rest of us back and keeping this virus going. And I think that what the Bizarro Wisconsin known as Colorado has decided to do is good path going forward, even here in Dane County.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

If you're freaked about inflation, you're buying the hype over the reality

As inflation becomes a top economic concern voiced by Americans, you can bet there will be another month of "concerns" over rising prices after Friday's Consumer Price Index came out.
Inflation accelerated at its fastest pace since 1982 in November, the Labor Department said Friday, putting pressure on the economic recovery and raising the stakes for the Federal Reserve.

The consumer price index, which measures the cost of a wide-ranging basket of goods and services, rose 0.8% for the month, good for a 6.8% pace on a year over year basis and the fastest rate since June 1982.

Excluding food and energy prices, so-called core CPI was up 0.5% for the month and 4.9% from a year ago, which itself was the sharpest pickup since mid-1991.
But it's also worth mentioning that many Americans are seeing raises that are keeping up with those price increases, especially at the lowest ends of the wage scale. And as I noted previously, the jobs report from earlier this month showed some workers have been able to get double-digit wage increases over the last 12 months.

Year-over-year change, Average hourly wage, Nov 2020- Nov 2021
Leisure and Hospitality +13.4% (+$1.97 per hour)
Education and Health Services +7.4% (+$1.92 per hour)
Retail Trade +5.25% (+$0.94 per hour)

It's the higher end of the wage scale that is more likely to see wages not keep up with inflation, but those people are also much more likely to benefit from a stock market that is seeing double-digit gains. And new unemployment claims are at their lowest levels in more than 50 years, so rising prices aren't forcing businesses to cut back on workers. So are there really a lot of people having to change their consumption habits due to rising inflation? While a 6.8% jump in inflation is a lot, much of the year-over-year jump is driven by a big recovery in gasoline prices from the depths of the COVID World in 2020 - up 58% over the last 12 months and up 6.1% in November alone. But that rise in gas prices has stopped and reversed a bit in December, down by 2.6% from a month ago, according to AAA. So that should at least limit December's increase in the CPI.

Meats are another big driver of high inflation, up 16% year-over-year, and it is undoubtably is hurting both consumers and the food service industry. So should we count on that continuing? Not really, given what the futures markets are telling us. Cattle traders are saying prices won't change much at all over the next 8 months.

Pork prices are slated to jump next Summer, but then go back down to December 2021 levels this time next year.

So let's check back in 6 months and see if meats are still on that 16% price increase track, or if that also settles down into something that is at least manageable.

One thing should not buy into is the GOPs/media's complaints about how it's "government spending and debt" that's driving this inflation. In fact, we got news this week that the budget deficit is lower now than it was at the end of the Trump Administration.

For the October-November period, tax revenues totaled $565.1 billion, 23.6% above revenues in the same period last year and a record for the first two months of the budget year.

The big increase reflected an improving economy that has seen corporate profits rise and millions of people going back to work, which boosts individual tax payments. In addition, businesses are having to make up for their portion of Social Security tax payments that were deferred last year as part of the tax relief Congress granted during the pandemic-triggered recession.

Government spending totaled $921.5 billion, also a record for the first two months of the budget year, and 3.9% higher than the same two months last year. And the Congressional Budget Office notes that the $35 billion in increased "spending" are actually due to other types of tax breaks, mostly in the form of the Child Tax Credit.
Outlays for certain refundable tax credits rose to $49 billion (more than four times the amount spent in the first two months of fiscal year 2021)—an increase of $38 billion. Advance payments for the American Rescue Plan Act’s child tax credit accounted for about 60 percent of that increase.
In addition, the US dollar is stronger now than it was when the Biden stimulus package was passed in March, and the 10-year Treasury note is still fetching less than 1.5%. The markets are clearly unconcerned with US debt, other than having conditions seem Bubbly, so we're in a much different situation than we saw with the 1970s-early '80s inflation.

So let's be real here - much of the inflation we've seen over the last year is for the "good reason" - higher demand that comes with higher incomes, which are due to both government assistance and higher wages. In an economy that has 70% of it based on consumer spending, this is a healthy thing.

What we do need to do is to make sure companies aren't performing non-competitive measures such as holding back supply in order to maximize profits. This can be done both through strong anti-trust enforcement by the Biden Administration, and higher corporate taxes that make profiteering a less-valuable possibility. In addition, we also should be encouraging more production and supplies to come from the US, which would leave us less susceptible to COVID-related disruptions in other countries.

But I also think much of this inflation worry is corporate and GOP propaganda. It's not something holding back much of the economy, it's not holdiing back hiring or causing layoffs, and it's not driving down our dollar or raising our interest rates. In fact, I'd argue much of this inflation would dissipate if we did something to tamp down the corporate greed that is at Bubbly, record levels in this country, and take steps to encourage more competition and alternatives to what exists today.

Bottom line to me - I'd much rather have 6.8% inflation, higher wages and 4.2% unemployment than 6.8% unemployment, stagnant wages, and low inflation. Don't you agree?