Sunday, February 27, 2022

In 2022, there's a lot less stimulus help than 2021. That's the real danger to the Biden Boom

While the Biden Boom seemed to be continuing in January, there is definitely a warning sign that spending for many consumers may be facing a serious headwind. And it is not inflation.

We already saw this appear in January's US income report, as the amount of Child Tax Credit payments to Americans went down more than 53%.

In addition, the Child Tax Credit payments of 2021 will likely reduce the amount of tax refunds that many parents will get in the coming months, because they got those refunds up front every month instead of getting it in one lump sum the next Spring after they file.

There may be no net change in money that individuals get, but that's not much solace to people that are counting on a certain level of income being sent to them. It's been an interesting policy experiment, and perhaps getting those Child Tax Credit funds up front is a more efficient way to contiunue consumer spending and help families pay their bills.

And we've also seen other types of COVID-era stimulus fade out in recent months, as the economy has recovered and stimulus checks and other payments have gone away. Fortunately, wages and salaries and business incomes have picked up the difference, and are now well above their pre-COVID levels.

But the changes in where people are spending their money is continuing, and as Omicron broke out in January, we saw consumer spending shift again back into goods over services, with spending in the food services/accomodations sector dipping back below the pre-COVID peak.

Some of this may be a seasonal adjustment thing, which deflates December spending totals and inflates January spending totals and exaggerates what may be negligible changes in the post-COVID World. And with Omicron fading, perhaps this bounces back in February and March. But it also shows that another outbreak or other economic disruption can cause real changes in the economy that would likely result in distress for a large swath of Americans.

Perhaps we need to return to sending Child Tax Credit checks and other support directly to people, instead of forcing people to wait for tax season or fill out onerous forms. If I were President Biden, I would direct the US Treasury to resume the payments based on the current Child Tax Credit amount (would be $183/month per child 16 and under), and then adjust it later based on whatever the final legislation might be.

In addition, the upcoming Federal budget negotiations may be a good time to re-subsidize restaurants and other industries that still have yet to recover from the pandemic. Because the recent income and spending data shows that while the overall economy was stil humming along as 2022 began, to pull away all support for families and the travel and food services sector could be a recipe for the Biden Boom of 2021 to hit a wall in 2022.

So let's not do that, even if it raises prices by a couple more % than we are otherwise used to.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Are we still in a Biden Boom in 2022? So far, the data says yes

US Manufacturing continued to roll in January, with new orders and shipments of durable goods going up by impressive amounts last month, and inventories of product continued to grow as well.
New orders for manufactured durable goods in January increased $4.3 billion or 1.6 percent to $277.5 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This increase, up eight of the last nine months, followed a 1.2 percent December increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.7 percent. Excluding defense, new orders increased 1.6 percent. Transportation equipment, up three consecutive months, led the increase, $2.9 billion or 3.4 percent to $87.6 billion.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods in January, up eight of the last nine months, increased $3.1 billion or 1.2 percent to $270.4 billion. This followed a 1.3 percent December increase. Machinery, up ten of the last eleven months, led the increase, $1.0 billion or 2.7 percent to $38.9 billion…..

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in January, up twelve consecutive months, increased $1.9 billion or 0.4 percent to $476.0 billion. This followed a 0.8 percent December increase. Machinery, up fifteen consecutive months, led the increase, $0.7 billion or 0.9 percent to $79.4 billion.
And despite rising prices, real spending by American consumers continued to go up in January, as shown in Friday’s income and spending report And as Omicron rampaged through, we saw spending on goods account for most of the gains, similar to what we've seen in other COVID waves.
The $337.2 billion increase in current-dollar PCE in January reflected an increase of $285.4 billion in spending for goods and a $51.8 billion increase in spending for services (table 3). Within goods, increases were widespread, led by motor vehicles and parts, "other" nondurable goods, and recreational goods and vehicles. Within services, the largest contributor to the increase was spending for housing and utilities…

Personal outlays increased $342.2 billion in January (table 3). Personal saving was $1.17 trillion in January and the personal saving rate—personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income— was 6.4 percent.
Perhaps the lower savings rate is worth a bit of notice, and we’ll see if that recent decline in saving modifies as interest rates rise starting next month. But a 2.1% increase in spending is well beyond the 0.6% increase in prices in the income and spending report.

The one caveat I want to put on these strong economic reports for January is that seasonal adjustment inflates spending and jobs numbers because it counts on a large decline after the Holidays. It’s the flip of assuming a big increase in spending in December, which caused a seasonally-adjusted “decline” in retail sales for that month.

In the COVID and post-COVID eras, the fluctuation in spending may not change month-to-month as much as it did in the past, and that the models have yet to catch up to it.

But it also illustrates that while inflation is hitting consumer sentiment, it isn’t changing people’s buying habits much. Job growth hasn’t slowed down and unemployment claims are staying at or near 50-year lows. That’s a sign of an economy that’s cooking, not stagflating, and we need to be honest about that while being vigilant as to if/when people are changing their habits.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

0% income tax scheme gets dumber...and worse for Wisconsin

Despite the fact that it would drastically reduce taxes on the rich and raise them on most of the rest of us, Wisconsin Republicans are still trying to come up with ways to cut our state’s income tax to 0%. Here’s how the latest scheme would work, as part of a bill sponsored by State Sen. Roger Roth.
Currently, the income tax is 3.54% on the first roughly $13,000 of taxable income for individuals or about $17,000 for married filers. For income between about $13,000 and $25,000, and married filers making between about $17,000 and $34,000, the income tax rate is 4.65%. The state budget signed last summer brought down the income tax rate from 6.27% to 5.3% for income between about $25,000 and about $281,000 a year, or between $34,000 and about $375,000 for married filers. The state’s top income tax bracket, for all income above $281,000 for individuals and $375,000 for married filers, has a rate of 7.65%.

Under Roth’s proposal, the 3.54% bracket would drop to 2.15%, the 4.65% bracket to 2.85%, the 5.3% bracket to 3.2% and the top bracket to 4.5%.

If the amount of tax collections exceeds estimated revenues in future fiscal years, individual income tax rates in each bracket would be reduced for the next year based on the excess amount, according to a memo seeking co-sponsors for the bill.
And then apparently the tax rates keep going down and down each time revenues exceed the (reduced) projections, which reduces the amount of money coming in (sorry Laffer, that is how it works out in the real world). Makes it hard to spend the money if you never have it, right?

This bill was signaled when the Koched-up CROWE group at UW-Madison released a report a couple of months ago featuring typically sketchy models promising ridiculous economic growth if income taxes were cut to 0% in Wisconsin. (I went over that “study” in this post here).

The Wisconsin Budget Project notes that this scheme would be very regressive, in a state that already has the richest Wisconsinites paying the lowest % of income in total [state and local] taxes.

In addition, the budget project notes that this type of tax shift also would give even more advantages to white Wisconsinites in a state that already has massive racial disparities in income.

Wisconsin’s tax code is a major driver of economic and racial inequality, and contributes to the increasing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands—hands that are most likely to be White, due to a long history of racial discrimination. By targeting the bulk of a mammoth tax cut to white households, this proposal would make it harder for families of color to thrive.
The Budget Project also deals with a reality that Sen. Roth and CROWE won't - describing the scale of budget cuts that would eventually happen with this 0% income tax scheme.

This change would result in a massive revenue loss that would make it much more difficult for Wisconsin to make investments in families, schools, communities, and public infrastructure. The state would lose an estimated $5.3 billion in tax revenue a year, forcing the harmful elimination of entire categories of services that make Wisconsin an attractive place to live, work, and do business. To put the tax cut in perspective, it would require budget cuts equivalent to ending the state support for BadgerCare, the program that provides health care for people with low incomes; closing every prison in the state; and ending state support for Wisconsin’s technical college system, all combined.
The CROWE scheme counted on an increase in the state sales tax to 8% to make up some of the difference, and as longtime Capitol reporter Steven Walters reports, State Sen. Jon Erpenbach asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to crunch the numbers and see what would happen, and the LFB said that boosting the sales tax by 3% would have a notable cost to both Wisconsin consumers and businesses.
-Individuals pay an estimated 67% of the sales tax, and businesses 33%. So, an 8% state sales tax could cost consumers $2.7 billion more and businesses $1.4 billion more.

-An 8% sales tax would make Wisconsin’s sales tax the highest in the nation. It could also invite residents along the state’s borders to make major purchases in other states.
In addition, more than ¼ of Wisconsinites don’t owe any income tax under our current tax system, so they would get virtually no benefit from a 0% income tax, while paying 3% more on anything that has sales tax associated with it. But there’s a catch, because of a previous restriction against raising taxes that WisGOPs put into law. So Roth’s bill doesn’t even allow for the state to make up the loss of $
(LFB)….says state law requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, or passage of a statewide referendum, to raise the 5% state sales tax.

Because neither of those will happen, Roth’s bill would only phase out the income tax, if future tax collections exceed estimates. “When the economy was doing well, when money was coming into the state, we would take that and have more or less automatic tax cuts going back to the people until that income tax is eliminated,” Roth said.
And just like in CROWE's scheme, Roth’s bill has no plan for helping state and local governments make up the difference for the lack of funds that would result from a 0% income tax situation. Which likely means that property taxes and/or fees would have to be raised to make up the difference, along with crippling service cuts.

And Republicans are still trying to claim we can’t afford to follow Gov Evers’ plan for a one-time tax rebate of $150 per Wisconsinite because all of our $3.8 billion cushion might not be there in 16 months? Having a permanent drop and/or elimination of tax rates is much more costlier and fiscally risky over the long term over sending back of ¼ of our current projected surplus.

But of course, then Tony Evers would be given credit for doing something that people want, and that is something Republicans want to avoid at all costs. So instead we are likely to have these Koched-up fever dreams put out there as GOP campaign gimmicks for the next 8 ½ months instead of any bills that might actually help Wisconsinites today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

WisGOP thought they could ride the Crazy Train to a 2022 win, and now it's off the track

I’ll begin this post by relaying a quote from Green Bay’s State Senator, who carries a quite fitting name.

“I know Biden won Wisconsin, and there wasn't fraud. But others have been told BS that he didn’t, and because they bought that BS, I have to care about what they've been misled to believe.” Wimpy….errr Wimby, indeed. Real statesmanlike stuff, there.

Wimberger's two-stepping is part of a great rundown by the Wisconsin Examiner’s Ruth Conniff, who describes the absurdities of these bills and the related WisGOP shenanigans.
That struggle was on display at the Assembly State Affairs Committee Monday, where GOP committee members attempted to simultaneously encourage and distance themselves from testimony by members of the public spouting conspiracy theories — some of whom pointed fingers at the GOP legislators themselves. The bills the committee put on a fast track Monday, after first announcing them Friday, without input from Democrats, elections officials or voting rights advocates, included a raft of measures Jay Heck of Common Cause described as “hyper-partisan” and “anti-voter.”….

Dominique Uhl, testified to the committee as a concerned citizen who has done her own research into the supposed massive fraud perpetrated by local officials and election clerks with money “laundered” by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg through the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) — a nonprofit organization that provided grants to municipalities to help with the 2020 election. “It’s critical to understanding the scope and size of this election fraud enterprise that individuals were aware that the election officials in the five Wisconsin cities of Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay formed a contractual alliance that is allegedly criminal when they accepted money from CTCL for their individual cities,” Uhl said. (There is no evidence of anything criminal about the donations from CTCL, which went to pay for personal protective equipment and other supplies in numerous areas around the state, including those where Trump won a majority of votes.)
Typical stupid Big Lie BS from weak people, who all seem to have a lot of time on their hands to “do their own research” while the rest of us have jobs, hobbies, and bills to pay.

But then Conniff adds this part, where the Big Lies come into conflict with other WisGOP BS. And it is awesome.
At the hearing on Monday, the wheels came off the wagon shortly after Rep. Daniel Knodl (R-Germantown), waving around a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, introduced a joint resolution calling for a constitutional convention to draft new amendments to the U.S. Constitution focusing on term limits for members of Congress. Three serious-looking schoolgirls showed up to testify rather forcefully against Knodl’s amendment. Elena, “a 16 year old girl who cherishes the Constitution of the United States of America,” lectured a surprised-looking Knodl on the text of Article V. A constitutional convention, she explained, is dangerous, “because it opens the Constitution up to revisions or replacement.” She and Knodl engaged in a brief debate about the text of Article V. Christie, a somber, bespectacled “13-year-old patriot” also opposed Knodl’s resolution, telling him, “It is my deepest dream to die in a free United States.” Her sister, 12-year-old Christie, testified that she is “proud to be an American and Wisconsinite” and that “I believe that opening our Constitution in the convention will ruin our America as we know it.”

The girls, it turned out, were the children of Dominique Uhl, the self-styled investigator of election conspiracies, who returned to the witness table with her husband, Curtis, who wielded his own pocket copy of the Constitution. Curtis expressed his pride in his children. Then warned, “We need to go back to the small precincts, hand-counted ballots and get rid of these machines that can be hacked at will.” Instead of the dangerous idea of a constitutional convention, Republicans should focus on preventing election fraud.
So instead of one non-issue, the Uhls say the WisGOPs should concentrate on another non-issue. Nice use of our tax dollars there.

And you can sense the panic from Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos, who now is warning against the Guv candidacy of conspiracy theorist Tim Ramthun.

Gee Robbin’, you mean the whole strategy of stirring up ignorant rubes with Faux News/AM radio conspiracy garbage is getting out of your control? Also remember that ROBBIN CHOSE to have wackadoodle Janel Brantjen be the Chair of the Assembly’s Elections Committee, and to hire the increasingly absurd Michael Gableman for his increasingly wasteful “investigation”.

This is what happens with a party that relies on building a Bubble of BS to win elections, and is incapable of winning on ideas. As long as Vos is the Republicans' Speaker, and as long as election suppression bills are going through the Legislature, ALL Republicans should be assumed to be guilty and awful.

There are no “good ones”. Pick a side, folks.

Monday, February 21, 2022

I spent Sunday at the Kohl Center. And still missed the big event

Went to the alma mater's basketball game yesteday, and saw another impressive win for UW as it tries to win a surprising Big Ten title. I also saw the jersey of all-time Badger great Michael Finley get retired, which was extra cool to see as a mid-90s undergrad that personally witnessed 3 of #24's 4 years in Madison.

It also led to this great photo from yesterday.

As the last seconds were ticking off, me and the guy I went to the game with headed up the stairs with the plan of taking advantage of the 50-degree weather, having a drink, and letting traffic clear out. As we were on the way out, we could hear booing start to swell and Matt LePay's voice seem strangely concerned with faster pace to it. We wandered up the ramp to see the remainder of an incident being clearing up, thought it wasn't much, and headed out.

Immediately, the "what happened at the end of the game?", texts started coming in. And we finally saw the video via social media.

And now it's the biggest story in sports. Naturally, I missed it as it was happening.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard is way in the wrong here. Not just for what he was angry about (which I'll go into in a second), but for the very lame act of trying to give a drive-by insult of "I'll remember that sh*t" to Badger Coach Greg Gard, then getting angry when Gard tried to get Howard's attention so Gard could explain himself. I'm not sure what Howard thought was going to happen when he tossed off that insult, but you can't get mad when the other guy tries to stop you from blowing by.

Howard then tells Gard "get your hands off of me", grabs Gard, and puts his finger in Gard's face (note - the former Fab Five member and NBA All-Star is about a foot taller than Gard-o). Badger assistant Joe Krabbenhoft and others from both teams come running in, Howard smacks Krabby in the head, and it's on.

At least for a minute or two, until things settle down, and Brad Davison (who's usually involved in chippiness like this) tried to make sure he and other UW players didn't get hit with further suspensions.

We got bigger fish to fry, like a conference title.

Allegedly the reason why Howard was angry was because of what Gard did late in the game as UW led by 14. Wisconsin had pulled all of its starters, and Howard was pressuring UW's backups to the point that they were struggling to get the ball across halfcourt. In order to avoid turning the ball over, Gard called timeout with 15 seconds left, and Howard viewed that as....taunting?

As CBS' top studio analyst and a longtime former college coach/ESPN analyst point out, Howard's decision to pressure UW's scrubs when the game was out of reach is the only reason that timeout ever had to happen. And means Howard has no right to complain.

Of course, as I write this, the suspensions and other punishments come down.

1. I'd also suspend Howard for the Big Ten Tournament, to lessen the chance of some kind of ugly incident if UW and Michigan end up playing again. But this is relatively in line. I also haven't thought Howard should be fired for this, at least not at this point (if he hit a player, that would be different).

2. Pleasantly surprised to not have Gard suspended, as I worried that the Big Ten would come up with some kind of BS to claim Gard "escalated" an incident that never becomes a fight if Juwan Howard doesn't try the drive-by insult after the game. I also expected Badger Assistant Joe Krabbenhoft to get suspended, as he ran in to the fray with heat and got smacked by Howard.

3. The player suspensions seem proper. Neath was definitely throwing punches along with the two Michigan players. But no suspensions of big UW contributors (and there shouldn't have been).

Now onto a 4-game sprint to make an improbable title happen.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Gas and oil prices rise, but it isn't due to supply and demand

Oil and gasoline prices are the latest example of my theory that a lot of the price inflation we're seeing in this country is nhothing more than good old fashioned profiteering. This week, we saw oil futures rise as high as $95 a barrel as tensions rose between Russia and Ukraine, but even before then, oil was running at 8-year highs, with complaints about "tight supply."

Gasoline has also jumped, with the inflation-adjusted price in 2021 being about 30% higher than it was for 2019, and those prices are likely to go higher through the first half of 2022.

While gas consumption in America has bounced back from last year’s COVID Winter, the outbreak of Omicron blunted gas usage a bit, and January and February consumption is still slightly below the pre-pandemic rates in the Winter of 2019-20.

There was a tighter gasoline situation as people traveled in December, which would warrant higher prices at that time. But by early February, that had been relieved, and the availability of gas in the US is more plentiful than it was in the late 2010s, and isn't any different than it was in early 2020.

In theory, gas prices could rise in the import-heavy sector if the US dollar dropped, making foreign products more expensive. But the relative strength of the dollar is stronger now than it was a year ago, and isn't much less than it was in 2019.

Then combine it with this story from December, courtesy of the Guardian.
The largest oil and gas companies made a combined $174bn in profits in the first nine months of [2021] as gasoline prices climbed in the US, according to a new report.

The bumper profit totals, provided exclusively to the Guardian, show that in the third quarter of 2021 alone, 24 top oil and gas companies made more than $74bn in net income. From January to September, the net income of the group, which includes Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP, was $174bn.

Exxon alone posted a net income of $6.75bn in the third quarter, its highest profit since 2017, and has seen its revenue jump by 60% on the same period last year. The company credited the rising cost of oil for bolstering these profits, as did BP, which made $3.3bn in third-quarter profit. “Rising commodity prices certainly helped,” Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, told investors at the latest earnings report.
Oh, I'm sure those higher prices did help, Bernie.

This supply and demand information tells me that the price increases in oil and gasoline are largely speculation of “global instability” at best and price-gouging at worst. That should make us all suspicious, and should demand harsher oversight, as well as another reason to reverse the GOP Tax Scam that made profit-hoarding all the more lucrative.

Friday, February 18, 2022

WisGOPs fail miserably in trying to "solve" the non-problem of Wisconsinites staying on unemployment.

With the state’s unemployment rate at a record low and wages going up in order to fill positions, Wisconsin Republicans reacted to this situation by…. trying to punish the few people left on unemployment?
Republicans argued AB 938 would work to improve what they called mismanagement of unemployment benefits.

Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Town of Washington, said the bill would increase the ability of DWD to audit unemployment claims to levels seen before Gov. Tony Evers took office.

“This bill will help a legislator get to the bottom of the scope of how much exactly unemployment fraud has occurred under this governor’s watch and what he did or what he did not do to address this important issue,” he said….

The Assembly voted 58-34 along party lines to approve AB 935, which would reinstate time limits and implement work requirements for the FoodShare program.

Under the bill, DHS would be required to enforce and implement the program’s employment and training program requirement and drug screening, testing and treatment requirements.
In addition to the general cruelty and the fact that WisGOP is giving state government ZERO dollars to take these extra steps against alleged fraud, the Wisconsin Budget Project says that these bills would reverse the progress that has been made in helping low-income families survive in recent years.

The Budget Project also says that these bills wouldn’t solve the alleged problem of Wisconsinites not wanting to take jobs, because it doesn’t deal with the real barriers that exist.
It’s very difficult to believe that these proposals constitute a good faith effort to address the worker shortage because the authors of these bills have shown little interest in policy measures that would significantly boost the number of workers. If they truly want to accomplish that goal, they should listen to workers and potential workers about the barriers to work, and they should develop a nonpartisan agenda.

Based on conversations with nonprofits that work with Wisconsinites who are facing barriers to health and economic security, here is our list of recommendations for how Wisconsin can expand the workforce in ways that will help workers, their families, and the state’s economy:

Because a sharp drop in child care slots has forced many parents to drop out of the workforce, policymakers need to increase access to child care by substantially boosting funding for the child care subsidy program and creating more flexibility in the program, so it serves parents with erratic work schedules.

Make adults without dependent children eligible for the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), so low-wage jobs aren’t a poverty trap. Research shows that these credits do a great job of promoting work, but among the 30 states that have EITCs, only Wisconsin excludes workers who aren’t custodial parents.

Stop suspending driver’s licenses for low-income people who are unable to pay fines, if those fines are unrelated to driving.

Increase the minimum wage, which has been frozen at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

Provide paid sick leave and family leave. This would not only help families, but would also benefit our economy by increasing worker retention and creating a more stable workforce.
Assembly Dems echoed the Budget Project’s themes, saying that yesterday’s GOP bills are pointless and cruel.

Rep. Katrina Shelton, D-Green Bay, said in a media briefing the bills “highlight a doubling down on an extreme right-wing commitment to a legislative agenda that is anti-worker, anti-Wisconsin and anti-family.

“They do nothing to promote rejoining the workforce and they literally rip the rug out from underneath those who are trying to make ends meet while they look for work,” Shelton said.
But that’s the whole point of these GOP "anti-welfare" bills, isn’t it? They are intended to make Wisconsinites as desperate as possible, and keep them from being able to turn down crappy jobs with crappy pay.

Workers are not desperate today, as Madison writer Tom Saler pointed out in a recent Journal-Sentinel article that discussed the country’s inflation situation.
Surely, pandemic-related concerns are playing a role in the so-called Great Resignation, in which 4.3 million workers quite their jobs in December alone, leaving the labor market 2.4 million workers smaller than in February 2020. A red-hot economy in which jobs appeared abundant contributed as well, as did money saved from two massive government stimulus programs.

But the pandemic also gave Americans a rare chance to step away, to slow down, to reimagine working lives to include meaning, recognition and astonishment. Or, especially among those approaching retirement, to imagine lives without work at all. And when a shrinking workforce meets an overheating economy, wage inflation inevitably shows up in consumer prices.
The Great Resignation was reiterated again in this week’s state-level JOLTS report, which showed Wisconsinites continuing to quit work at high levels at the end of 2021, while layoffs continue to be almost nonexistent.

So good luck to WisGOP if they want to sell a strategy of “lazy, unemployed Wisconsinites need to be shoved back into work” in the post-pandemic era. A lot of people have seen what happens when they are given choices and supports and power over their wages, and they’re not going to accept being forced back into a spot where they are begging employers for a few crumbs in order to survive.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

COVID receding fast in Wisconsin. Good trend, but we've seen that before

This is a nice illustration of where things are going on the COVID situation in Wisconsin.

We're now down to the lowest level of cases since early September, just above 1,600 cases a day on a 7-day average, with 27 straight days of declines.

The amount of severe COVID illnesses are also falling fast, and should continue to decline as that follows the trend of new cases. COVID-related hospitalizations and ICU admissions are at their lowest levels in 6 months.

COVID deaths are also plummeting in Wisconsin, down by 2/3 after peaking in mid-December.

All of this is great, and is likely a big reason behind Dane County getting rid of its mask mandate in 2 weeks, and many UW System schools are also planning to end their mask mandates next month. My boosted self definitely feels a lot more comfortable doing events inside and in large crowds than I would have a month ago.

But we also saw cases and deaths decline this time last year, when we thought the pandemic was ending as people were first getting vaccinated. And just because masks aren't going to be mandated, it doesn't mean that masking should necessarily go away - risk factors should be accounted for by all of us. So while the clouds of COVID are lifting, and will likely clear up more as the weather warms and people do more things outside, it would be a big error to pretend that we're going back to the pre-2020 World where there was no COVID to be aware of.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Here it comes - how to pay for the the next 20 years of Miller Park

After the 0.1% Miller Park/AmFam Field tax was finally retired in early 2020, you kind of knew it was a matter of time before the Brewers might be hinting at a need for more public help.

AND NOW IT BEGINS, with Tom Daykin of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel giving a good, in-depth rundown earlier this week. While the Southeast Wisconsin Baseball Park District has enough funding to pay for upgraded seats, better elevators/escalators and ongoing fixes to AmFam Field’s roof over the next 3 years, there’s more that is going to be needed after that, and the District claims it won't have enough funding to pay for those future needs.
Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of business operations, told the board at its Jan. 31 meeting of his concerns of a possible funding shortfall if estimated long-term improvement costs exceed the stadium district's $87 million reserve fund.

A shortfall would create a problem for the district.

Its lease to the Brewers, which runs through at least 2030 and could be extended by the club to 2040, requires the agency to pay for improvements — including those needed to keep American Family Field up to the evolving standards of other Major League Baseball stadiums.

No matter what you call it, more might be coming.

Daykin also noted that the Stadium District pays for almost all of those upgrades, and according to the way the agreement is set up, the ballpark has to fixed up to a high level.
"[I]mprovements must be made in a manner consistent with MLB stadiums which "can reasonably be said to fall within the 'top' twenty-five percent (25%) of all such facilities, when such facilities are ranked or rated according to the quality with which they are repaired and improved," according to the lease.

Call it the "keeping up with the Joneses" clause.

The district in the 2005-'06 off-season added a ribbon scoreboard and an out-of-town scoreboard at the cost of $3.1 million. Those boards were updated in the 2019-'20 off-season — costing $2.1 million, according to the district.

Also, LED stadium lights were installed in the 2020-'21 off-season for $2 million. That was another improvement triggered by the "keeping up with the Joneses" clause.
The district (and not the Brewers) are the ones paying for most of those upgrades, and now that the Miller Park sales tax is gone, a lot of their funding doesn't exist. So is it time for the team to step up and pay more of their share? In the 2020s, the Crew has sure been doing a lot better than in 2001, when the ballpark opened.

. It's worth noting that last year, Forbes estimated the value of the Brewers' franchise at $1.22 billion, nearly $1 billion more than the $223 million that Mark Attanasio's group bought it for in 2005. And concessions certainly aren't at 2005 prices ($10.50 for a can of Spotted Cow??), neither are ticket prices nor parking, nor TV/radio revenues. All of that money goes into the Brewers' pockets, and the team only is slated to contribute $1.5 million to the Stadium District in 2022, while the District pays out for many of the improvements.

In addition, Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee has mentioned several times that as part of their lease agreement, the Brewers don't pay property taxes for the hundreds of billions of dollars of land and ballpark that they get to use (this article is an especially good breakdown). And beyond payments to Milwaukee Police to have their cops help out Brewers' employees for gameday security and traffic control, I'm not sure what else the team pays to the City that they play in. Speaking of Bruce Murphy, he responded to Daykin's story in Urban Milwaukee yesterday. Murphy questions why there would be any kind of urgency for the team and/or Stadium District to need more money for investment into the ballpark.
Meanwhile the Brewers were still sitting on a huge pile of money from the taxpayers, because that $605 million in [Miller Park] sales taxes included a buildup of enough reserve funds to continue subsidizing the stadium until 2040, as Urban Milwaukee reported, far beyond the 30-year period repeatedly noted in a 1999 report by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. The reserve funds included $42 million to help pay for the stadium’s annual maintenance costs and $52 million for any expenses that may arise for capital costs. Press reports indicate that $94 million fund is now down to $87 million.

Tyler Barnes, the team’s senior vice president of communications and affiliate operations, said that since the stadium opened in 2001, the Brewers have paid $20.9 million in rent to the district, $112.7 million in capital improvements at the ballpark and $95 million in maintenance and cleaning. Which confirms that most of the costs have been borne by the taxpayers. Though it might help to have an independent analysis of this by the [Legislative] [A]udit [B]ureau.
Barnes’ comment of “the Brewers have paid ____ in rent and capital improvements” is especially unimpressive when you realize he’s referring to the total cost over 21 years. $1 mil a year in rent and under $6 mil in capital improvements is a whole lot less than fair market value for both rent and capital/upkeep costs on an annual basis, while the Brewers keep the overwhelming amount of revenues that come from using the land and the ballpark.

Not that I'm in favor of any subsidy given how things lay out right now, but if they want to do it, then maybe it should be a way to allow Milwaukee to get some long-deserved fiscal help. For example, why not have a 1% tax that is levied on all revenues generated from events at AmFam Field? This could then be split in some way (call it 50-50?) between the team (who uses the money for capital needs) and the City (who provides services that benefit both the Brewers and their fans).

In all seriousness, how can it be justified for the state and county get a cut of the Brewers' revenue (via sales tax), but the City basically gets no boost in tax revenue outside of the contract with Milwaukee Poloice and possibly a few more room taxes from tourists. Aside from a sales tax, another option could be to follow the example of the Bucks arena, which has a $2 ticket tax, of which $1.50 goes to downtown Milwaukee's Wisconsin Center District for future development.

Also, what happens if the City and the State tells the Brewers to pound sand and pay for their own upgrades if/when the Stadium District runs out of money? I suppose the team could go as far as claiming that the terms of their lease is being broken in not allowing the ballpark to be "kept up with the Joneses", and could use that as an excuse to try to leave town in 10 years or so. But do we really see that happening?

That type of brinksmanship is well down the road. But watch out for the talk to begin about how to "keep the Brewers competitive" by finding some kind of new subsidy or some other kind of assistance to keep the Crew from having to pay more into the ballpark that they and so many Brewer fans benefit from. You know it's coming.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Even WMC's own survey says we need more pay and more workers. Think they'll listen?

Usually anything that involves "research" from the oligarchs from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is automatically ignored by me. But it seems telling that even WMC is admitting that wages are going to have to go up in our state.
A survey of 265 Wisconsin businesses found 88% of them are struggling to hire workers and more than 80% plan to raise their wages 3% or more this year, according to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

When listing the reasons why businesses are having trouble hiring people, 44% said there is a lack of qualified applicants, 36% cited the labor shortage and 9% cited generous unemployment benefits, according to the Wisconsin Employer Survey.

“Wages are rising much faster than they have in recent memory,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer.

“Wisconsin does not have enough people to fill the jobs we have available, and that creates an aggressive competition for talent. We are seeing wages rise at a faster rate, sign-on bonuses, work flexibility and many other strategies from companies to attract and retain talent.”
Hey Kurt - you think that maybe having government offer options for child care and raising the minimum wage might help businesses "attract and retain talent"? And maybe you "business leaders" should have recognized that Wisconsin has been paying some of the lowest wages in the Midwest for years, including the lowest manufacturing wage in the Midwest in the last quarter that the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked it.

Average weekly manufacturing wage, Midwest Q2 2021 Ill. $1,392
Minn $1,386
Mich $1,322
Ind. $1,242
Ohio $1,222
Iowa $1,183
Wis. $1,178

You can dig into WMC's presentation at this link. And I noticed a couple of other interesting responses from WMC's selected group of employers.

But while more than 1/2 of these employers claim the state's economy is "strong", WMC will tell you that Tony Evers is somehow holding the state back. Surrrrre.

Here's the other question that stood out to me, that also isn't what WMC wants you to believe.

WMC tells us that cutting "regulations" and "taxes" are what will cause a boom in Wisconsin. But a total of 7% of the employers they talk to say that's their top concern, while more than half say it's the availability of labor.

Since it's clear that we need to make moves that assist in attracting talent and convincing people to come to Wisconsin to work and raise their families, why does WMC continue to blindly give millions of dollars supporting Republicans who pass regressive garbage such as:

1. Promoting the Big Lie, trying to overturn the 2020 election, and its related voter suppression.
2. Defunding and denigration of public education, community schools, and educated people. This includes trying to prevent students from learning any sort of real history or inconvenient fact that could improve their cultural understanding and intelligence.
3. Proliferation of guns, including allowing guns on school grounds.
4. Cruel, micromanaging abortion laws that make women second-class citizens.
5. An electoral strategy of using barely-concealed racism to try to win the votes of dead-end trash while telling non-white people "you are not welcome here."

Hey WMC, if you want people to come to work here, you might want to get rid of the stupid cultural crap that repels a whole lot of people. Y'know if you actually cared about something beyond rent-seeking greed and grabbing even more power.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Big budget surplus allows Wisconsin to fix broken system of funding locals, schools. If we choose

In the last month, Wisconsin has received projections of $3.8 billion additional dollars to be available between now and June 2023. Governor Evers used the chance to ask for a $150 tax rebate for all Wisconsinites, more funding for public schools and a few tax breaks, while GOPs in the Legislature are likely to hold back the funds for later tax cuts (because they don't want Evers to get credit for anything before the November elections).

But the Wisconsin Policy Forum came up with another way to use that money - to change direction as to how Wisconsin's schools and local governments are funded.

In the report, the Policy Forum notes that the original connection between state revenues and the amount of money the state shares to local governments has been broken, Using some of the surplus to restore a large amount of shared revenues would reverse this trend.
According to an article on the Wisconsin Historical Society website, municipalities initially received 70% of the state income tax collections, counties 20%, and the state 10%. Over time, not only have the percentages paid to local governments dramatically declined, but the concept of “sharing” state tax revenues as they continue to grow has been abandoned. In the meantime, with the exception of a half-cent local sales tax option granted to counties in the early 1990s and a similar option later granted to a handful of municipal “premier resort areas,” Wisconsin’s local governments have not received permission from the state to levy income or sales taxes.

In our 2019 report, Dollars and Sense, we estimated that in 2015, total state aid to municipalities accounted for less than one-sixth of the value of state income taxes. That calculation includes federal aid received by the state and passed along to municipal governments.

Moreover, while state income tax collections have more than tripled since the early 1990s, appropriations for the shared revenue program – which is the primary mechanism for upholding the state’s original commitment to redistribute some portion of state income and sales tax collections to local governments – have declined somewhat (see Figure 3). If inflation is taken into account, the disparity becomes more striking. In fact, if the 1990 shared revenue expenditure of $835.6 million had grown at the pace of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), then it would have totaled $1.73 billion in 2021, or more than double the estimated expenditure of $829.6 million.

For perspective, giving another $400 million a year in the next 2 years (restoring 1/2 of the inflation-adjusted cuts to shared revenue) wouldn't even cost 1/4 of the projected surplus that we are projected to carry over into 2023.

WPF President Rob Henken explained those thoughts some more on the most recent episode of Capital City Sunday with Channel 27's AJ Bayatpour.

HENKEN: ....Wisconsin is somewhat unique in terms of, Number 1, the exclusivity, the fact that we say to our local governments your only game in town when it comes to the major source of taxation is the property tax. Now, of course there is an exception for counties, there is an option for a half-cent county sales tax, but even that was put in place in the early '90s and hasn't moved upward since that time.

But what's happening here [is with] this concept of revenue sharing. So when this system was created back in 1911, when the state created a state income tax, the bargain at that time was is that we are going to reserve the right to use that taxation for ourselves, state government, and local governments, you're not going to be able to tap into that form of taxation, but we the state government are going to make a commitment to share...some portion of the revenues that we earn via our state incokme tax, we're going to redistribute that back to local governments.
Henken says that the COVID relief funds that went to local governments should be able to stave some of the strain for the next couple of years, but those are one-time funds to fill in revenue losses and often are targeted for specific needs, and those funds are merely a band-aid that doesn't address the ongoing problem.
When those [COVID relief] dollars are spent, after 2024 and heading into 2025 budget season, that a lot of these local governments are going to face challenges that exceed the challenges they facing pre-pandemic, before any of this even happened. And where that impact may be most pronounced may be in public safety...We are already seeing some significant stress in the ability of local governments to hire paramedics, to hire part-time rosters of employees in these smaller fire departments to respond to fire and emergency medical service calls.
As Henken alludes to, Wisconsin has the fiscal breathing room to be able to put up the funds needed to reform this broken system of funding local governments. Not just with the current $3.8 billion in projected surplus over the next 16 months, but also because of a $1.7 billion "rainy day" fund that literally can't have any more money added to it. And based on the Fiscal Bureau's recent revenue estimates, we have a "structural" surplus of over $1 billion to start the next budget with.

In an odd way, the jobs and inflation situation of 2022 works in the favor of the state's budget, because while higher wages and prices translate into more income and sales tax revenue, then budgeted numnbers of many programs are already set, and can't increase without a request from those agencies. And that's if those agencies and programs even need to raise their budgets at all, given the lower poverty rates and need for services.

But again, this is all temporary and it means that there will be a need to set aside more funds for these services starting next year. If that doesn't happen, this will result in communities having to decide where those needed services will either have to be (further) cut, or the voters will have to approve more referendums to raise their already-high property taxes.

Why should that happen in Wisconsin when we have billions in the bank and an already-high amount of property taxes due to the flawed system that we have? As I've mentioned before, why can't we put together a plan where there's a sizable increase in state aid for schools, where 1/2 of the money goes to replacing and limting property taxes that go into schools, and 1/2 goes into classrooms, teacher salaries, and other K-12 resources.

And if you're concerned about local governments being able to maintain police, fire and EMS services, why not allow them to put in a sales tax of 0.5% or 1.0% that is earmarked for those services (we already do a version of this in the 8 small Wisconsin restort towns that have the Premier Resort Tax). We could also change out local wheel taxes for local road aids from the state - or get help via the extra funds that are now available with the sales tax.

Now's the time to make these tax changes to adjust to the realities of the 21st Century, and if Tony Evers and Wisconsin Dems want to win in 2022, combining lower property taxes + more funding for schools and cops sure seems like a winning strategy.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Lewis Black, Charlie Pierce, and how Wisconsin and the US are "Off the Rails"

A friend scored free tickets to see a comic master last night, and my wife and I were glad to use them.

I'd seen Mr. Black a few times before, and much of his show dealt with how he dealt with COVID pandemic in 2020 while he was living alone in New York, and how it made him and many others crazy. In the act (fitting titled "Off the Rails"), Black remarked on how much of the country operates in two separate worlds with few shared experiences, and idiocy is allowed to run rampant without regard for masks or common respect.
As he says in his special: "We've done something with these two political parties that really is unbelievable. No other country has done it. No other country. We used to have parties that argued ideas. Not anymore. Now we have two separate political parties that actually exist in two totally different realities."

"It's like you go from one reality to another," Black said. "I left New York, and the 'OhMyGod virus,' as I call it, was hitting there. And people were masking up again, and they never had stopped masking. They were masking on the streets in New York City. They were not fooling around. Then I got to Florida. It was like, 'Woohoo, it's over!' You know, it was done there. And there is a real fight in this country. It's those two realities."
And the stupid and crazy seems to continue in RW Bubble World without any brakes or consequence. Today's "big political announcement" in Wisconsin is a great example.

These dopes wouldn't believe the sky is blue if AM 1130 and Faux News told them it wasn't. The level of weakness and self-absorption of these types is something I don't understand, likely because I evolved after age 15.

Along those lines, I wanted to excerpt the weekly column that Esquire's Charlie Pierce wrote this week (members only, so no real link to give). Pierce also sees the large number of self-appointed experts, conspiracy theorists and other morons running for public office as a sign of a country that has gone off the rails in many areas, because we allowed Trump trash and other hucksters to be put in positions of importance.
Remember Joe The Plumber, the guy who became widely (and briefly) famous for mouthing off against candidate Barack Obama? He was a bright little bauble to brighten up the dog days of a presidential campaign. He even got a book deal out of it. The problem is that, through the efforts of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago and his supporters, we’re hip-deep in Joe The Plumbers these days, and worse, their fame is not fleeting. Many of them have deep pockets, like Lindell, which, in our cash-soaked political age, makes them players, no matter how bizarre their particular contributions to the political scene may be. Many of them are elected to political office, like Tina Peters, and there are more of them on the way. My favorite—which is to say, the one I’m dreading the most—is Mark Finchem, who’s running for secretary of state in Arizona. Finchem was in Washington on January 6 and brags about his friendship with the Oath Keepers. Then there’s Kristina Karamo in Michigan. From CNN:

"Based on the series of evidence and knowing how these situations work, how these anarchists operate, I believe this is completely Antifa posing as Trump supporters," Karamo said on an episode of her podcast the day after the January 6 insurrection. "I mean, anybody can buy a MAGA hat and put on T-shirt and buy a Trump flag.”

I wouldn’t buy an apple from this person, never mind let her run my state’s elections. Can we all just agree that, ideology aside, we should not let soapbox screamers and the like take on the job of governing the rest of us? Can we not at least agree on that?
And make no mistake, the Republicans WANT dimwits like this running our elections. Including here in Wisconsin. They want hacks and fascist looneys running the show, because they care more about being in charge and getting all the gains from that power than they do in having a functional, improving country/state that deals with and solves real problems. And never think otherwise. Pierce ends his column by noting that America in 2022 is so self-absorbed and without a sense of community that they've largely given up on
.....What I’ve been calling the prion disease for the past decade has now spread far beyond even the Republican Party. The entire nation is blindly staggering under its effects now. We have so thoroughly abandoned self-government in favor of self-indulgence that we are like the plague-stricken Athenians, of whom Thucydides wrote:

So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honor was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honorable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them.

As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offenses, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.
As both Lewis Black and Charlie Pierce recognize, post-COVID America is a traumatized nation that has become numbed to awfulness and idiocy, in no small part because there is no accountability for such awfulness and idiocy.

That lack of accountability from the cowardice of Merrick Garland and Robert Mueller for not dropping the hammer on crooked, powerful people when they flout the law, all the way down to state legislators and Faux News/AM radio outlets, who have gerrymandered themselves into a place where there is no statement too absurd or no law too hateful/regressive that it isn't immediately followed by people losing their jobs and lots of money. In fact, our political and media system is incentivized today to reward this garbage, which leads other opportunists and low-info bystanders to join in on the destructive idiocy.

This is only resolved through either:

1. Crushing the scumbags and the jagoffs, where they lose their jobs, livelihoods and/or freedom for what they've said and done, and making them non-factors in everyday and political life for several years. This goes for both the politicians and MAGAts in general, since they lack all empathy and only respond to direct punishments. Or:

2. Secession - Let the regressive, scared minority can continue to live out their 20th Century mentality in backwards places that don't attract talent. The rest of us will live in a 21st Century, multi-cultural society that values science and decency over gut and fee-fees, rewards work over wealth, and teaches real history instead of what we wished were true.

In our country just saying or feeling something doesn't make it true, and we will have the cultural senstivity and emotional intelligence to come up with better solutions in both business and politics. We also won't be scared of what the future will hold because we're not being held back by minority rule from the 20th Century dimwits who refuse to grow up or catch up.

I don't want secession, but I do know that we can't keep being dragged down by the freak shows. MAGA types may shoot their mouths off and get the media attention, but a whole of us in the Silent Majority are seething these days over the illness that keeps festering without it being mitigated and stopped by the people who could do so. And that virus isn't COVID.

EDIT- Here's a late addition, where the Chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin says their fake elector scheme was totally cool. And the reason why he can say that, is because no one is getting sued/locked up for it.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Inflation still rising, but so are wages and profits. What should we cut back on? The profits

Oh noes! Inflation keeps rising!
U.S. consumer prices rose solidly in January, leading to the biggest annual increase in inflation in 40 years, fueling financial markets speculation for a hefty 50 basis points interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve next month.

The broad increase in prices reported by the Labor Department on Thursday was led by soaring costs for rents, electricity and food, and could heap more political pressure on President Joe Biden, whose popularity has been declining amid anxiety over the rising cost of living.

The consumer price index gained 0.6% last month after a similar increase in December. Food prices rose 0.9%, with the cost of food consumed at home increasing 1.0%. There were strong increases in the prices of cereals and bakery products, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Meat prices rose moderately. Electricity prices jumped 4.2%, offsetting cheaper gasoline and natural gas.

In the 12 months through January, the CPI jumped 7.5%, the biggest year-on-year increase since February 1982.
1982? Great year!

Well, 1982 isn't so great when you’re talking about the economy. But unemployment today is nearly 5% below the 8.9% that it was at back then. In addition to there being more people working, workers today have had their wages largely keep up with the rising prices in the last 7 months, after losing ground in the first half of 2021. We even eked out a small gain for January in this stat.

Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.1 percent from December to January, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This result stems from an increase of 0.7 percent in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 0.6 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U)….
Still it’s not great when you widen the picture out to the last 12 months.
Real average hourly earnings decreased 1.7 percent, seasonally adjusted, from January 2021 to January 2022. The change in real average hourly earnings combined with a decrease of 1.4 percent in the average workweek resulted in a 3.1-percent decrease in real average weekly earnings over this period.
I know doing a lot of “on one hand…but on the other hand” with this report, and here’s another when it comes to looking at that 12-month drop in real wages. Don’t forget that there were large increases in average wages in the first year of the pandemic, while prices didn’t go up much at all. Even with the decline in real wages that has happened since the start of 2021, we are still well above the real wages that we had 2 years ago.

Now I don’t want to minimize that some people are likely worried as they see prices continue to rise, but when you combine that reality with child tax credits, stimulus checks and other COVID relief, I would bet that most Americans haven’t seen their real INCOMES fall over the last year. That’s a good thing.

When I dig into the data, I keep coming back to finding corporate greed to be one of the main sources of this inflation. And the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report on productivity at the end of 2021 adds to that theory. The BLS says that businesses didn’t have to lay out that much more to make more products, because workers were working more efficiently by the end of the year.
Unit labor costs in the nonfarm business sector increased 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, reflecting a 6.9-percent increase in hourly compensation and a 6.6-percent increase in productivity. Unit labor costs increased 3.1 percent over the last four quarters. (See chart 2 and table A1.) BLS calculates unit labor costs as the ratio of hourly compensation to labor productivity. Increases in hourly compensation tend to increase unit labor costs and increases in productivity tend to reduce them.

Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked by all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers. In the fourth quarter of 2021, both output and hours worked increased for the sixth consecutive quarter following historic declines in those measures in the second quarter of 2020. The fourth-quarter 2021 output index is 4.1 percent above the level seen in the fourth quarter of 2019, the last quarter not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the hours worked index remains 0.4 percent below its fourth quarter 2019 level….
Combine the big jump in prices, along with increases in productivity and relatively muted labor costs per unit, and you get big-time profit for business owners. And they know it.

In manufacturing, those unit costs went up by a little more than other jobs in 2021, but nowhere near the 7.5% increase in prices.
Unit labor costs in the total manufacturing sector increased 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, reflecting a 3.4-percent increase in hourly compensation and a 0.8-percent decrease in productivity. Manufacturing unit labor costs increased 3.2 percent from the same quarter a year ago.
With manufacturing productivity rising by 1% vs Q4 2020, that would translate into decent wage growth in a time of higher prices in a normal economy.

But that’s not happening as much as it should. Manufacturing is one area that has lagged in wage growth over the last year, making inflation bite a bit harder on workers, while giving extra profit to employers to sell products at those higher prices.

Change in wages, manufacturing vs other private jobs
Increase in CPI, Jan 2021-Jan 2022 – 7.5%
Avg hourly wage, Manufacturing +5.2%
Avg hourly wage, Other private jobs +6.9%

Avg Weekly wage, Manufacturing +4.2%
Avg Weekly wage, Other private jobs +5.4%

You know, if people want to have a strike/convoy, maybe it should be because their company is getting rich off inflation while you can barely keep up. Just a thought.

The danger now is in reacting the wrong way to and these prices increases while we have a hot economy. As alluded to in that news report, Wall Street now fears that interest rates won’t just go up in March, but it’ll rise by half a point instead of ¼, which will bring their cocaine party to a quicker and harsher end.

To me, jacking the daylights out of interest rates like its 1979 and inducing 1982-style unemployment is the absolute wrong way to deal with our current economic situation. Instead, 2022 seems like the perfect time to rejigger our economy with a better safety net, strong regulation against profiteering, and encouragement of public competition for drug prices, child care and medical needs.

It also seems like a good time to return taxes on corporations and rich people to at least they levels they were at 5 years ago (i.e., before the GOP Tax Scam), to discourage the hoarding of gains and possibly heading off the damage caused by the bursting of asset Bubbles caused by speculation. Funny, all these ideas sound a lot like Build Back Better, don't they?

As 2021 ended and 2022 began, you could sense that working people recognized they don’t have to settle for the crumbs they got for much of the last 30-40 years. And they aren’t going to accept going back to hearing that businesses and governments can’t afford to help them achieve a high standard of living. Our current demand-and-profit-induced inflation should not be used as an excuse to screw them over.