Moving on…and up

It’s been quite a ride. Twenty-six months ago, I launched Badger Democracy blog to comment on what was (and still is) happening politically in my beloved Wisconsin. This blog has also filled in a void of information left by a media that has been steadily in decline. Thanks to the literally thousands of you who have read Badger Democracy over the past two years, and especially those who continue to engage in the political process.

But as the title of this post says, it is indeed time for me to move onward, and upward. As many of you already know, I recently co-founded and am heavily committed to the “Forward Institute.” We are a non-profit, non-partisan policy research and messaging organization, and we are already creating some buzz and making some waves. Our recent study, Wisconsin Budget Policy and Poverty in Education has received statewide press coverage. It is also changing the way policy makers and legislators are thinking and talking about education issues in Wisconsin. We’ve received bi-partisan support, and continue to engage and collaborate with statewide grassroots groups, and other 501c3 organizations.

As a final request on this blog, I am asking all of the 1,000 ++ who follow this blog to keep up with, and follow the Forward Institute’s research and future work, and even engage with us wherever possible. We founded to fill another void. We are Wisconsin’s first truly independent think tank, and we are here to do the research and messaging work that grassroots organizations can’t do themselves, then share it statewide.

We are doing a great deal of that work right now…in fact we’ll be in Black River Falls this weekend to take part in the Regional Frac Sand Mine Conference. We are also looking for independent funding sources outside of relying on the people we will be serving and working with. But as many of you know, that is always slow to develop. Our expenses are relatively small right now, but any contribution of any size would be greatly appreciated, to help offset the little things we need as we continue to grow. And yes, we are a 501c3 – so just let me know, and I can get you a receipt. You can use the donation button below, or contact me with any questions.

We are all making a difference. Stay engaged, stay strong, and please keep in touch through Forward Institute or email. Badger Democracy will stay on this site, as will the archives. Thanks again, and I look forward to the day when we are all back in the Capitol celebrating the restoration of our Wisconsin, always moving FORWARD!

Solidarity,

Scott Wittkopf

Chair, Forward Institute (scott@forwardinstitutewi.org)



				

And here we go again in Wisconsin…of idiots and ideologues

Hear me, people: We have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our Fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. (Chief Sitting Bull, Powder River Conference, 1877)

Is there a better processional for the parade of idiots and ideologues in the 2013 Legislative Session? The People who were here long before Wisconsin became a state were led by visionaries that understood the motivation of a white man corrupt with power.

A Mining Bill is poised to pass out of both committees this week, on the fast track to a swift vote within weeks. A bill which would mean devastation to one of the world’s great supplies of freshwater. Water which means life not only to an indigenous people, but those who have since settled and call the Bad River watershed and Lake Superior Basin home. But damn the torpedoes, science, and those inconvenient geological facts…full speed ahead Mr. and Ms. Chairman/Woman, we have (paying) corporate constituents to serve.

The only hope for defeat of this bill lies in the Republican-controlled Senate, and the possibility that four of its members still listen to a little voice most of us hear as a conscience. Dale Schultz, Mike Ellis, Robert Cowles, and Luther Olsen may be the only sane Republicans left in this biennial assemblage of insanity we still call a “Legislature.” This writer holds out hope that the smokescreen of empty jobs promises is wearing thin in a state moving closer to honorable entry into socio-economic “Dixie”…and further away from its progressive roots.

Has there been a time in our state’s recent history which more closely resembles oligarchy than democracy? The unholy triumvirate of Walker, Fitzgerald, and Vos…let’s face it, in 2010 Jeff Fitzgerald was nothing but a figurehead. Vos is, and has been pulling the strings all along. I digress. This triumvirate has the state government in lockdown, controlling the message in and out, controlling debate, the media, and god forbid anyone should sing in the Capitol. Every moment of every day is a campaign. Public policy is built on a campaign strategy, and supported by money. Lots of it. If you are on the right (literally) side, the money pool is almost unlimited. If you are on the wrong side…well, money doesn’t follow losers. And no money, no access.

Even the Capitol press corps is being kept on a short leash, with passes and access being strictly controlled by the powerful few. Say the wrong thing, write the story the wrong way, come across as the least bit partisan (read – report what we tell you to), and no access for you. End of story, end of job as a Capitol correspondent. This sort of power concentration is rare in Wisconsin. Scott Walker has power, and he is using it.

Walker is raising unprecedented amounts of money, and spending a lot of it on his legal defense fund. Let’s all be honest here…something stinks about the way Walker has campaigned, raised money, and conducted his business in and out of office. His administration is loaded with insiders, fixers, and power mongers. No interest in governing, just power and money. Crooks, liars, sharks. The smart money is that there is something illegal here…but that same money doubts the political will of a Milwaukee County DA to take on the Walker machine. But the Feds? Reminds me of something…

Richard Nixon in 1972. Re-elected, destroying McGovern in a landslide. Everyone knew, but few said it, that Richard Milhous Nixon was a crook. The media knew – but sat on the story until after the election. Once there was blood in the water, the media went in for the kill. Before Watergate, Nixon was untouchable, and had concentrated more power than almost any other president in history. The scary part is, once the scab was ripped off, no one knew how bad the wound was, or how long it would take to heal. Maybe it never has…and maybe we failed to learn the lessons of too much power in the hands of a man like Nixon…or Scott Walker. And so here we go again…in Wisconsin.

There is some light, in this dark time of plutocracy. There are voices rising above the din, who don’t rely on a Capitol press pass. We are getting one back tomorrow. John “Sly” Sylvester is back on the air Monday, February 4th from 3 – 6:30 pm. Sly will be on one of the last remaining locally owned and independent stations in the entire country – 93.7FM WEKZ. He’ll now have a three state reach – Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Sly will also be contributing to the good fight against Democrats who are mere posers in our neighboring states – like Rahm “NAFTA, TIF King, Kill Public Schools” Emanuel, and Pat “screw the pension fund” Quinn. Station link to listen live here.

I’ll be listening. Why? Because in this time of incredible propaganda, Sly is honest about what he says and believes. He’ll question and confront both Republicans and Democrats who turn their back on Wisconsin working families. And that is important.

The new debate on economics and education will continue to demonize teachers and other public employees. It will perpetuate the myth of impending fiscal doom to preserve the wealth of those paying to spread that myth. Scott Walker will continue to do what Sitting Bull warned about in 1877: They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.” It is voices like Sly’s we need to call out the Walkers, Fitzes, Vos’ Emanuels, Ryans, and Johnsons of our time for what and who they are. Greedy, power-hungry, sharks and fixers who are out for blood. The life blood of Wisconsin – its people and resources in exchange for money and power.

A final quote before sign-off…a warning shot across the bow of our fragile democracy:

When democracy granted democratic methods to us in times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we…never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used the democratic methods only to gain power, and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in times of our opposition.

No, that was not from a Walker secret conversation with Robin Vos.

It was Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, 1935 propaganda pamphlet, quoted in Vol. I “Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,” US Government Printing Office 1946 

Vigilance. Always vigilance.

Mining Bill will be voted on in Committee February 6

This afternoon Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany and Rep. Mary Williams announced an Executive Session in both Senate and Assembly Committees taking up SB/AB1 (The Mining Bill).

The Assembly Committee will take up The Mining Bill in Executive Session:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
10:00 AM
417 North (GAR Hall)

The Senate Committee will take up the Mining Bill the same day:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
10:00 AM
201 Southeast

The Executive Session will occur three days prior to the hearing scheduled in Ashland by Senator Bob Jauch and Rep Janet Bewley, who serve constituents that would be directly impacted by a Taconite mine in the Penokee Range. That hearing is scheduled for Saturday, February 9 at the AmericInn in Ashland.

No “official” hearing is scheduled in the region, and based on the scheduled Committee hearings and likely vote to message to the full legislative bodies, the current mining bill appears to be fast tracked in spite of significant technical and legal issues with the bill as written.

A representative in Mary Williams’ office confirmed to Badger Democracy this afternoon that the bill would be voted on to refer out of committee on February 6.

The hidden danger in the Mining Bill version 2013

Tomorrow, Wednesday January 23 at 9:00 AM, Room 411 South at the Wisconsin State Capitol will be the only scheduled hearing  (for now) on the new Mining Bill.  The hearing takes place before a joint committee, and will undoubtedly be contentious. One of the greatest miscarriages of justice in this process has been the omission of participation, and lack of  recognition of the Bad River Nation and the impact on this legally sovereign entity.

This is intentional, as there is a hidden danger in the new Mining Bill which has received little attention in the press. The result, if this bill is passed, will be a bad law – which is what happens when corporate influence holds outsized sway over a legislative body. The only jobs that will be created if this bill passes will be for attorneys, and rightly so. The current bill has language that will virtually deregulate one of the greatest hazards to freshwater and the Great Lakes – sulfide ore. The passage of this bill could lead to mining activity that would turn surface water into acidic runoff, ruining the environment in one of the greatest freshwater basins on earth.

Senate/Assembly Bill 1, page 3 contains the Legislative Reference Bureau’s analysis of the change in “sulfide ore” regulation:

Current law prohibits DNR from issuing a permit for metallic mining in a sulfide ore body (a mineral deposit in which metals are mixed with sulfide minerals) unless it finds, based on information provided by the applicant, that two conditions are satisfiedUnder the bill, these conditions on issuing a permit for metallic mining in a sulfide ore body do not apply to issuing a permit for iron mining.

The expedited release of sulfide ore deposits into surface water, and the damage it causes has been well documented over several decades:

The acidic discharge and metal-laden leachate from mining activities is known as acid mine drainage (“AMD”)…AMD is one of the most damaging and widespread pollutants associated with the mining industry throughout the world.  As of 1997, over 60 mines or mineral processing plants were on CERCLA’s National Priorities List, indicating contamination so severe that it requires federally-funded cleanup. (S.R. Jennings, D.R. Neuman, and P.S. Blicker (2008). “Acid Mine Drainage and Effects on Fish Health and Ecology: A Review”. Reclamation Research Group Publication, Bozeman, MT for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anhorage Field Office. Available online at http://www.pebblescience.org/pdfs/Final_Lit_Review_AMD.pdf)

Among some legislators associated with this bill, there is confusion regarding iron ore mining and sulfides. This confusion has been propagated by GTAC, in the hopes of keeping the facts (and legislators) in the dark. Part of the confusion is based on facts regarding iron ore mining:

It is important at the outset to clarify some common confusion surrounding sulfide mining and to distinguish it from other traditional forms of mining in the region. While iron mining has a long history and still continues in the upper Midwest, it does not involve the mining
or disturbance of sulfide ores. Iron is generally mined out of an iron oxide ore, not an iron sulfide ore, and iron oxide ores do not degrade and toxify the same way that sulfide ores do. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, “Great Lakes: Basic Information.” http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/basicinfo.html)

The Penokee Range Taconite is unique, however. A report issued by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and scientists at Michigan Tech in March, 2012 draws the distinction:

This issue can be confusing because iron sulfides (e.g., pyrite, iron disulfide) are among the most prevalent of sulfide ores, so they are often the leading causes of acid mine drainage (“AMD”) in a sulfide mining operation. This does not, however, mean that iron mines are always associated with sulfurous AMD. In fact, the presence of sulfur in an iron ore is considered a weakening factor, rendering the ore undesirable for iron extraction. Iron sulfides are simply a common byproduct of the extraction of other metals from sulfide ore bodies. 

A taconite mine that disturbs sulfide ore bodies, on the other hand, would present the same hazards as non-ferrous metallic mines. The Gogebic Taconite mine under development in northern Wisconsin is an example of a taconite mine that may disturb sulfide minerals.

A recent article published by The Wisconsin Academy titled “Ironwood: The Rocks of the Penokee Range” confirms and details the unique geological features of the formation:

Figure 2. Block diagram showing the Ironwood Formation and adjacent bedrock layers. The view is looking toward the west (from U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1730)

Geologist Tom Fitz details the composition of the “Tyler Formation;” the large, wedge-shaped layer above the “Iron-Formation” layer (see figure, above).

There is also pyrite present in the Tyler Formation, some of which would end up in the tailings as well. When pulverized and put in contact with oxygen and water at the Earth’s surface, pyrite and other sulfide minerals can undergo chemical reactions that create sulfuric acid. This acid can leach harmful metals and compounds that end up in groundwater and surface water.

It is also possible that sulfate ions released during the weathering of pyrite would affect the growth of wild rice and other elements of the sensitive ecosystem found downstream from the mine. 

 The legislation passed in January 2012 by the Wisconsin State Assembly would have decreased the rigor required in scientific studies regarding potential impacts, making assessment of potential damages difficult. At the same time it would weaken many environmental regulations that protect the Bad River and its tributaries from significant water quality changes.

THAT is the hidden danger in the current Mining Bill. The authors have created a special exception for Iron Mining, taking away the regulations and processes that will protect the surface water and Lake Superior watershed from the harmful sulfides created from extracting iron ore through a heavily pyrite layer. The waste runoff created from destruction and disposal of the sulfide ore will have a longterm impact on regional water quality:

Figure 4. Map of the Bad River Watershed showing the location of the iron ore and the Bad River Reservation

The major corporate entities poised to benefit from the bill have intentionally perpetrated a fraud in this bill, and it endangers the very lifeblood of North Central Wisconsin – the water. The reason? They cannot mine the ore because of the low price of iron, and make millions of dollars in profit unless they are able to pollute the water – and they know it. THAT is why they created this provision in the bill. From the NWF Mining Study cited above:

Wisconsin’s sulfide mining law has perhaps the greatest regulatory scope of any of the
U.S. jurisdictions surveyed…Notably, state agencies are charged with the essential task of completing the environmental review for the project in the application phase, rather than the permittee. Special attention is paid to siting criteria and water quality, and the financial assurance mechanisms are written to ensure that any necessary cleanup will be fully funded by the permittee.

If you wanted to make a quick, multi-million dollar deal on a mine, this is how you would do it.

For the record, this has NOTHING to do with creating jobs. It’s about creating a “boom” economy in North Central Wisconsin, so a few people can make a quick buck.

Who cleans up when the bubble bursts, as it always does?

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and “Conscious Capitalism” – putting lipstick on a pig

John Mackey is the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, its founder, and a self-proclaimed independent libertarian. Mackey has also recently authored a book, “Conscious Capitalism.” While he speaks in platitudes about corporations acting as conscientious citizens of the world, Mackey’s actions as CEO of a major corporation betray his real motivation.

Mackey was forced to back pedal from his comments on the Patient Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.

Mackey is dead wrong on the government-corporate relationship under fascism. Italian historian and fascism authority Emilio Gentile gives the authoritative description:

Corporative organization of the economy that suppresses trade union liberty, broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power, yet preserving private property and class divisions. (Payne, Stanley G (A History of Fascism, 1914-1945). University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 5–6)

More importantly, it is time to call Mackey’s vision of capitalism (and Whole Foods Market) what it is, and this writer does not use this term loosely. “Corporate fascism” is an accurate and apt description of the Mackey philosophy. Consider Gentile’s definition. above, in light of Mackey’s actions and writings.

Mackey is a staunch proponent of a corporate-centric economy, with no government or regulatory intervention. Both Whole Foods Market and Mackey are anti-union, anti-worker’s rights. The Mackey philosophy would see a collaborative corporate control over the means of production, to achieve its own goals of power through corporate solidarity (WMC, US Chamber of Commerce, etc.). Preservation of private property and class division are a necessity for the Mackey vision, as there can be no cheap labor production without class division. Ironically, Mackey is a proponent of the expansion of state intervention, as long as it is on behalf of corporate welfare expansion. There is plenty of proof to support this assertion…

On November 16, 2011, Mackey penned an op-ed by invitation in the Wall Street Journal, titled “To Increase Jobs, Increase Economic Freedom.”  In a response to Mackey’s article written on February 1, 2012, Badger Democracy addressed the fundamental arguments in the op-ed:

1. Cut the size and cost of government - 100 years ago, government spending was 8% of GDP; today it is 40% of GDP. This additional money spent by the government could be used to “create jobs.”

2. Cuts should be made in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense – many of these services could be privatized, using the “success” of Chile and Singapore as models.

3. Stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and regulations - Mackey explains that cutting taxes would “increase revenue… as entrepreneurs create new businesses and new jobs and as people earn more money.”

In his own op-ed, Mackey supports further provisions which would continue the US economy down a dangerous path. Greater corporate consolidation of power, greater consolidation of wealth, greater class inequity, and greater corporate influence on policy which would regulate said power.

The dagger in Mackey’s theory is a recent report in the conservative-leaning Financial Times, also reported in the New York Times. The article cites a steady decline in earned wages and a steady rise in investor income through profit and interest:

“58%…is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much. If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740 billion this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations.”

More power and wealth for the corporate fascists, with less taxes and accountability means more money to influence and drive politics and policy:

 

Corporate Taxes Paid by US Corporations, 1950-2010

(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis)

Corporate income tax graph

 

Cheap labor production is possible due to the expansion of the wealth gap and class disparities:

 

 

John Mackey’s Whole Foods Market has also forced employees to “vote” to cut their own wages and benefits. Wages have been cut due to reduction in hours, and employees will be forced to contribute more in spite of enormous corporate growth:

In 2007, WFM profits (after taxes and expenses) totaled $182.7 million. Four years later, in 2011, profits totaled $342.6 million – nearly double in 4 years.  For the first sixteen weeks of 2011, total profits were $88.7 million; for the same period in 2012, profits totaled $118.3 million. Store expenses have decreased by 38 points in 2011, including 28 points due to wage cuts. In real numbers, most stores have executed 3% cuts in labor over the past fiscal year, resulting in most employees seeing a 5-8% cut in wages (due to hours being cut).

Of course, Mackey built Whole Foods with his own two hands, with no government help (sarcasm)…therefore, government should stay out of his business. This is the great lie of corporate fascism. Mackey and his ilk want the government to work for them. The doctrine of so-called “corporate conscious” follows in the words of Gentile:

…broadens the sphere of state intervention, and seeks to achieve, by principles of technocracy and solidarity, the collaboration of the ‘productive sectors’ under control of the regime, to achieve its goals of power.

The corporate fascists would have us believe the great lie of their own self-determination and success, that personal strength and sacrifice alone built their empires. Mackey is as guilty of this as any of them. Whole Foods is a prolific recipient of government intervention and welfare on its own behalf.

In 2011, an $8 million tax break for a new Washington DC Whole Foods development raised questions of return on public investment and why public money was even needed:

And why does this project require a special subsidy to move forward in the first place?  This Whole Foods already would qualify for a set of tax incentives for grocery store development, including a 10–year property tax break on the store itself.  Moreover, while some projects near Nationals Park have languished in the recession, this area is likely to be part of the emerging rebound, thanks in part to prior public investment by the District.  Finally, if a Whole Foods will revitalize this neighborhood as it did in Logan Circle, why won’t private market interests step up to make it happen?

In the same year, Whole Foods received $4.2 million in tax subsidies to open a Detroit area store, uncovered only by FOIA requests:

The documents, obtained by the Chaldean News under the Freedom of Information Act and provided toCrain’s, show that Whole Foods is asking for $4.2 million in city, state and federal incentives to open a store in downtown Detroit.

According to the exchanges, the 21,000-square-foot project is expected to get $1.5 million in local and community foundation funds, $1.2 million in federal tax credits under the New Market program and $1.5 million in state incentives.

Michael Sarafa, president of the Bank of Michigan and co-publisher of The Chaldean News, questions the use of incentives to lure a national grocery chain to Detroit. He said there are 83 independently-owned grocers in the city, many of them owned by Chaldeans, who did not receive incentives.

 

Controversial “TIF” funds are being used for construction of a Whole Foods-anchored development in St. Louis, hardly in a blighted area.

The new Whole Foods development in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago is being partially funded by an $11.3 million “TIF” in an already well-developed area.

Mackey is now on the record confirming that Whole Foods will begin eliminating full-time employees as a result of “Obamacare” being fully enacted. This in an interview with Greta Van Susteren:

…there will be a strong temptation for businesses to keep people under 30 hours, so they don’t have to provide health care. And you will have a lot of part-time workers and fewer full-time workers, a lot of people underemployed.

Whole Foods prided itself, we’ve always had a higher mix of full-time to part-time workers like 80 percent full-time and 20 percent part-time, which is very rare in retail. But as I suspect as our health care costs are driven up by health care reforms then we’ll end up gradually lower our full-time ratio to a much lower number.

There is no fiscal truth to this statement. As proven in Whole Foods’ own financial statements and a previous Badger Democracy blog, the company’s health care costs per employee are actually lower than they were before “Obamacare’s” passage. The reason for Whole Foods’ higher total costs is simple – the company is growing. With government and public help.

It is time to take the lipstick off the pig. The philosophy of John Mackey should be called what it is. Corporate freedom, rights, and independence over all – even the individual. No worker’s rights, no government regulation or intervention EXCEPT on behalf of the corporation and its own interests. In short…corporate fascism.

And Mackey calling “Obamacare” fascism? Pure projection.

 

Supreme Court Denies Van Hollen petition on Voter ID

In considering Wisconsin State Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s November 7, 2012 petition to bypass the Court of Appeals and consolidate the two Voter ID cases (League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Inc, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al.,and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al.), the state’s high court denied the petition on both counts.

In the decision published this afternoon, the Court again refused to take up Voter ID, pending the Court of Appeals hearing, and also refused to consolidate the two cases.

This represents the second refusal of the State Supreme Court to take up Voter ID ahead of the Court of Appeals. On September 27, 2012, the Court denied another similar Van Hollen request, citing the motion as being “premature.”

Van Hollen has made enactment of Voter ID a centerpiece of his term as Attorney General, in spite of the staggeringly low occurrence of voter fraud in previous elections.

Why is Paul Ryan still considered a “serious” person…when he suffers from DCFS?

After a brief hiatus, Badger Democracy is back. We’ll get to Paul Ryan and deficit hawks in a moment, but first, some announcements.

Thanks to all followers of Badger Democracy for your comments and participation in 2012. 2013 will be a critical policy year in Wisconsin, so continue to stay informed and engaged in the democratic process. To that end, Badger Democracy will focus on media coverage of political events in Wisconsin, and look to fill the void, offering media criticism when and where appropriate.

Next, Congratulations and welcome back to Sly! There will again be a little balance on political talk radio in the state. Sly is taking over afternoon drive time with a three state on-air reach (Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa), and worldwide on the web. Starting February 4th, Sly will be heard from 3 – 6:30pm, Monday – Friday on 93.7 WEKZ-FM. Updates and archived segments will be available on the revamped “Sly’s Office.” Watch out Rahm and Pat Quinn, Sly can now be heard in Illinois…

Now, for Mr. Ryan. Congressman Ryan rejoined the ranks of “serious people” on Sunday, joining Greg Neumann on Capitol City Sunday. The Congressman from the 1st District of Wisconsin continued his litany of deficit reduction being of greatest importance to the fiscal health of the nation. Unfortunately for Mr. Ryan, he is suffering from DCFS – Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome.

The President got his tax increase.  That pays for about five percent of the deficit, (and) spending is the ultimate part of the problem here that we have to deal with.  The President has been trying to hide, or stay away from a conversation about spending.  We gotta deal with spending.

I want to do this in a responsible way, but I do not want to let an opportunity slip by to get a control on spending, which we so desperately need if we’re going to prevent a debt crisis.

Classic DCFS (Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome). If using serious language is the new standard for being taken seriously, our nation is in serious trouble. The media in Wisconsin needs to read the memo from real economists, and see through the talking points. The deficit is not our biggest problem. Chronic, long term unemployment is our biggest problem. What the new breed of conservatives refuse to acknowledge is that by creating real, family-supporting jobs and an increase in revenue, our deficit problem will be solved.

Brad DeLong illustrates the point rather nicely today.

…policies to reduce the deficit in the short run–before 2016, say–are highly, highly likely to actually increase the long-run burden of the national debt. Even making the unlikely assumption that deficit reduction in the near future would reduce rather than increase the long-run burden of the debt, the fact is that the debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio is now stable until at least 2020. A lower debt-to-GDP ratio would be a good thing in the long run, but there is absolutely no urgency. And there is enormous urgency in getting the economy moving again. (emphasis added)

“Moving again…”- as in investment to create those illusive, family-supporting jobs that pay more than $15/hour. The truth about the deficit is, that with the current growth of the economy (as slow as it is) and recent revenue measures, the debt-to-GDP ratio is already beginning to stabilize. Paul Krugman posted the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities graph last Thursday:

Image

 

The vertical line represents the projected debt as a percentage of GDP. Each colored line projection represents a different scenario affecting the deficit. Krugman breaks down the analysis:

The blue line at the top represents the projected path of that ratio as of early 2011 — that is, before recent agreements on spending cuts and tax increases. This projection showed a rising path for debt as far as the eye could see.

Conservatives are framing the discussion as if that dark blue line represents the current fiscal reality, because it re-enforces DCFS (Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome)…but that is not the truth of the situation. Krugman continues:

The orange line shows the effects of those spending cuts and tax hikes (Budget Control Act 2011, American Taxpayer Relief Act 2013): As long as the economy recovers, which is an assumption built into all these projections, the debt ratio will more or less stabilize soon.

“The debt ratio will stabilize soon.” The CBPP advocates for an additional $1.4 trillion in combined revenue and spending cuts, represented by the red line. As a frame of reference, in 2010, debt-to-GDP exceeded 100% and has been on the decline – dropping to about 72% in 2012:

Based on the factual data, not Paul Ryan’s DCFS talking points, the deficit situation, even without any additional revenue or cuts, is stabilizing. It has been stabilizing since early 2011, a fact that is consistently ignored as the media continues allowing Ryan and company to get away with promoting their DCFS talking points.

The runaway debt crisis talking point is something that should be relegated to the 2012 election dustbin. The focus should really be jobs that get the economy moving again, and investment to make that a reality.

With all due respect to Greg Neumann, who is one of the best political reporters in the state, I would suggest referencing the final point from Krugman for his next interview with a conservative who attempts propagating Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome (DCFS):

  …at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.

Fear never solved anything. Paul Ryan and company need help getting over DCFS-Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome, so we can get down to something REALLY serious – solving our long-term unemployment problem.

 

 

Help keep independent journalism alive!

 

 

Wisconsin really is “Open for Business,” so where are all the jobs?

Give Scott Walker credit. He made his campaign slogan “Wisconsin is Open for Business” a reality. In an administration rife with incompetence, corruption, and political patronage, he got this right. According to data compiled by The New York Times from state and federal agencies, Wisconsin is now one of the top corporate welfare states in the nation, second in the Upper Midwest only to automobile bailout-heavy Michigan.

In spite of all these “job creating” incentives and programs, Forbes Magazine recently dropped Wisconsin from 40th to 42nd in the nation in their annual business rankings, making Wisconsin one of the worst states for business in the nation. Just what is going on? By the numbers, Wisconsin should be swimming in jobs. Based on the conservative theory that tax breaks for the job creators will…well…create jobs…

Let’s let the numbers tell the full story.

In total corporate incentives, Wisconsin ranks 14th overall in the nation. At least $1.53 billion went to corporate subsidies in the past year (the state cut $1 billion in public education funding in the 2011 – 2013 budget). These subsidies cost the average taxpayer $268 per year. Remember that number the next time you complain about a $30 per year property tax hike to fund public education. A full 10% of the state budget went to pay these corporate subsidies.

Of the 903 reported corporate grants listed in the Times report, 300 (nearly one-third) have come in 2011-2012 alone, during the Walker administration, primarily through the WEDC “Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit.” In fact, seven of the top ten grant awards totaling over $270 million are 2011 or 2012 grants:

Corporate subsidies

Where has the $1.53 billion in “job creating” investment gone? Could this be the end of the myth surrounding corporate subsidies and incentives spurring job growth? Wisconsin under Scott Walker could be an example of an epic failure of this economic policy theory. Over the past two years, Wisconsin has been far behind the nation in employment recovery, and early 2013 is not looking any better.

Wisconsin employers will slow the pace of hiring in the first three months of 2013 even as the nationwide outlook for job creation is at the most promising levels since the recovery began nearly three years ago, a new survey says.

In Wisconsin, “employers are slightly less optimistic about their staffing plans,” said Manpower spokeswoman Mary Ann Lasky. Nationally, however, “optimism among U.S. hiring decision makers continues to improve,” according to the Milwaukee-based global staffing services company. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/10/12)

The December 1, 2012 unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed Wisconsin with the most first time unemployment claims in the nation for the week ending December 1.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 24 were in Wisconsin (+5,876), Oregon (+2,328), Ohio (+2,252), Washington (+2,107), and Iowa (+1,262), while the largest decreases were in New Jersey (-23,966), California (-7,053), New York (-6,682), Texas (-6,425) and North Carolina (-2,609).

On December 12, 2012 Scott Walker appeared at a Waukesha County Business Alliance lunch and claimed to be “just under 100,000″  jobs created since he took office. It did not take long for Politifact to rate Walker’s claim “Pants on Fire.”

However, several within his own administration, including his primary spokesman, have said that is the wrong way to measure jobs — you can’t combine partial and full year data sets. As one aide said: It would be “misrepresenting the truth.”

By his administration’s own yardstick, his statement is false. We think it’s ridiculous to — after private admonitions — publicly present it this way. Pants on Fire.

Walker’s continued denial  of his policy failure is becoming sociopathic. In spite of his administration awarding literally billions of dollars to corporate subsidies, Wisconsin continues to lag behind in the recovery. The jobs crisis in Wisconsin is very real – and will not be cured with $10-$15/hour jobs, right-to-work legislation, or ideological social engineering.

Just how bad is it? Recent BLS data from measures the Walker Administration accepts (LAUS, QCEW) show that the money being given to corporations and “small business” to create jobs is not. The question remains…where is the money going?

First, the Quarterly Census (QCEW), Scott Walker’s favorite.

QCEW 1

Since 2010, there is a very moderate upward trend. The actual data show a non-existent job recovery in Wisconsin.

QCEW table

 

According to the latest verified QCEW data, Wisconsin has gained about 40,000 jobs January 2011-March 2012. The yellow highlights indicate the peak pre-recession employment in 2008 – 2,840,648. It is imperative to understand that Wisconsin still has a 200,000 job deficit just to get back to pre-recession employment levels, without accounting for population growth.

But this is December. The QCEW data is slow to be verified and released. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) gives a more current measure based on unemployment data – which the Walker Administration has accepted as an accurate measure. The LAUS paints a similar picture:

LAUS graph

Again, the actual LAUS data shows a jobless recovery:

LAUS table 1

 

The yellow again highlights peak employment, pre-recession. The green highlights the last QCEW data entry in March 2012. According to the LAUS data, from January 2011 – October 2012, less than 20,000 jobs were created since Walker took office. The same data shows a jobs deficit of only about 100,000 to get to pre-recession levels.

While the baseline for each measure is different, the result is the same. Since taking office, Scott Walker has only created 20% of the jobs needed to just get back to pre-recession levels, not accounting for population growth.

The untold story of Walker’s tremendous job failure in relation to corporate welfare is the anemic labor force. Since Scott Walker took office, the total labor force has been virtually stagnant:

labor force graph

 

Once again, the actual data show an anemic labor force – not what a recovery looks like with over $1 billion a year in corporate subsidies being granted.

LAUS table 2

 

Note the high point of the labor force shortly after the recession took hold, in yellow – nearly 3.14 million people. When Scott Walker took office in January 2011, the number had dropped to nearly 3.07 million. As of October 2012, there are only 3.06 million people in the labor force. While the adult population has grown since April 2009, the labor force has dropped by over 70,000.

An 80% deficit in job growth, coupled with a decline of 70,000 people in the labor force. Is this the employment climate over $1.5 billion per year in corporate subsidies gets us?

The people of Wisconsin would be better served investing that $1.5 billion back into public schools. Because the question still remains, what has Wisconsin received for that $1.5 billion “investment?”

 

John Doe Investigation and a Rice Lake Harley Dealer…all roads lead to Scott Walker

On the day Timothy Russell pleads guilty to embezzlement as a result of the Milwaukee County John Doe Investigation, another John Doe related story flew under the radar. Christopher Brekken owns a Harley Davidson dealership in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and he is now suing Assistant Milwaukee County DA Bruce Landgraf. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report:

Brekken has sued Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, seeking damages for false imprisonment and abuse of process related to a 2010 subpoena for records about some credit card purchases from Rice Lake Harley-Davidson.

The suit, filed in Barron County Circuit Court in September, claims that Brekken could not produce or obtain the very specific information that had been subpoenaed, and that he told Landgraf he could not.

But a bench warrant was issued for Brekken’s in October 2010 that required him to travel to Milwaukee in November 2010 to again affirm under oath that he couldn’t find out the full credit card number used by a specific person on a specific date at Rice Lake Harley.

What does this have to do with the John Doe and Scott Walker? Recall May, 2010.

Scott Walker as Milwaukee County Executive heads out on his annual “County Executive’s Tour.” Even in 2010, there were criticisms and questions about the tour really being a campaign jaunt on the Milwaukee County dime. This from Graeme Zielinski on May 15, 2010:

So we’re in Greenfield and surrounded by Milwaukee County staff — all of whom are on county time. There’s a county park a few blocks away where they could be mowing the lawn, but instead they’re here to fuss about Scott Walker’s taxpayer-funded campaign junket. Walker, before the horde leaves, makes holy sounds about how this ISN’T a campaign event and how this is about promoting Milwaukee County tourism. If that were true, of course, he’d be headed down to Chicago, the biggest pile of cash in the Midwest. Instead, he’s going to all the media markets that will be involved in his race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, as well as stops in Rockford and Dubuque.

Meanwhile, a county department head is traveling with Walker, who also is shilling for AirTran, the airline with which Walker is negotiating a lease deal. Walker is wearing an AirTran hat and singing the praises of the airline. Who knew the job of the Milwaukee County executive was as corporate pitchman?

The “county department head” travelling with Walker was Timothy Russell. But wait, there’s more.

Badger Democracy has obtained two videos of Scott Walker on his Rice Lake tour stop – at the Rice Lake Harley Davidson.

The first video shows Walker interacting with supporters. At about one minute in, former Assembly Rep. Dave Zien appears, followed by then Assembly Rep. Mike Huebsch, and Assembly Rep. Sheila Harsdorf. A member of the press is seen trying to interview Mike Huebsch, and is told to talk to “Scott” Walker. Tourism – not so much.

The second video continues Walker’s interaction with his supporters. Throughout the second video, Walker is discussing potential gubernatorial scenarios with supporters. He makes half-hearted efforts (nudge nudge, wink wink) at saying “I can only talk about tourism.” At 3:15, one supporter actually tells Walker, “…next time your up here we can talk about legislative initiatives and local governments.” Watch at 3:30 in as Walker supporter Doreen McDonald gives Walker a gift. Try buying your Legislator a cup of coffee sometime and see what they say.  That’s a big no.

At 4:38, former Assembly Rep. Dave Zien begins discussing the “big mining project.” Zien states that Jim Doyle “never did a thing about” a proposed Gogebic Taconite mine expansion. Sounds more like Walker is campaigning for Governor than enjoying a tourism trip.

At the end of the video, Walker can be heard saying, “…see you on Friday,” meaning at the State Republican Convention. Walker’s 2010 stop in Rice Lake had nothing to do with tourism. It had everything to do with mobilizing his supporters. This mobilization was done on the Milwaukee County taxpayer dime.

The Barron County case filing has redacted the name, date, amount of purchase, and partial credit card number.

Scott Walker knows the rules. His hope for the John Doe to end tomorrow is complete denial. Prior to today, no one would have connected Walker’s 2010 County Executive tour with the John Doe proceedings. In 2010, there were already red flags about Walker’s campaign and County office being in violation of state law.

Look like the chickens are coming home to roost.

Help keep independent journalism alive!



				

“Give Sly The Mic” – a win for progressives and Clear Channel…call to action

In case you haven’t heard by now, there is a very active campaign to “Give Sly The Mic.” Sly being long-time Madison talk radio personality and progressive labor champion John “Sly” Sylvester. The Mic being Clear Channel Madison’s 92.1FM “Progressive Talk” station, which runs nationally syndicated talk shows (Ed Schultz. Stephanie Miller, etc.) all but one late afternoon hour of the day.

For progressives, the calculus is simple. Without Sly, Wisconsin (and the nation) loses one of the few remaining independent voices in talk radio. Unlike the ultra-conservative talk radio voices saturating the state (Sykes, Wagner, Belling, McKenna, Bader), Sly’ opinions are uniquely his own, as it should be. Regular listener’s of Sly have had the pleasure of hearing Democratic Party leadership sweat on the “live line” or in the studio hot seat. Even before Scott Walker dropped “the bomb” of Act 10, Sly was a tireless champion for working Wisconsin. And no one knows state politics like him.

 

As unlikely as it would seem, the calculus works for Clear Channel as well. There can be no doubt that Clear Channel Communications is politically active. Federal Election Commission records show hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to federal campaigns and PACs. Clear Channel Communications has its own very active PAC based in San Antonio, Texas.

While the Clear Channel PAC most definitely leans GOP, there are significant contributions to progressives and Democratic candidates as well. In Wisconsin, Clear Channel PAC gave $1,000 to Tammy Baldwin for Senate – nothing directly to Tommy Thompson. The PAC has also given hundreds of thousands to national Democratic Campaign Committees. The bottom line is that while Clear Channel is leaning significantly to the political right, this decision will not be made on the basis of politics. It will be a business decision. From a business point of view, Sly would be a win for Clear Channel.

The latest Arbitron Ratings for the Fall Period 1 (FallP1) show that WTDY was on an upward trend, with WXXM (The Mic) on a downward trend. WTDY went from a 0.9 in the first quarter of 2012 to a 1.7 in the most recent rating. WXXM had dropped from a 3.7 to a 2.4 for the same period. It is safe to say that “Sly in the Morning” was carrying the ratings of WTDY. Outside of Kurt Baron’s 10 am hour, and two hours of local news at noon and 5pm, the rest of the day’s programming was syndicated. Speaking from personal experience, when Sly was done, I changed the channel and went back for local news at noon and 5pm. The ratings would suggest most listeners subscribed to the same pattern.

That is where Clear Channel would win in “Giving Sly The Mic.” This is also where everyone who reads this can help make this an easy decision for Clear Channel. A savvy station manager and program director should look at the rating increases that Sly listeners would bring to WXXM, new progressive and conservative interest in the station by supporting an independent local format, and a slew of long-time committed sponsors Sly would bring to the station, and reach the decision to “Give Sly the Mic.”

Call to take action TODAY - It is incumbent on anyone interested in supporting local, independent radio to make it abundantly clear to Clear Channel that Sly has an audience and sponsors as committed as he is.

First – go to “Give Sly the Mic”  (www.giveslythemic.com) and sign the online petition.

Second - CALL: 608.274.5450 and tell the Mic:

                       1. I strongly urge you to put Sly in the Morning on your airwaves as soon as possible. 

                       2. I support Sly in the Morning and his sponsors because he is a life-long Wisconsinite who provides an entertaining, insightful perspective that can’t be found anywhere else.

                       3. I would become an eager 92.1 listener and supporter if you decide to add Sly to your lineup.

Third – Send an email to Station Manager Tim Scott (timscott@clearchannel.comand make sure he knows that Sly brings a large number of new loyal listeners, sponsors, and business to 92.1 The Mic.

Progressives, independents,  and middle class Wisconsin need Sly on the air for three simple reasons:

1. Workers need a voice on the public airwaves fighting for them.

2. Small businesses that take good care of their employees depend on Sly’s loyal fan base.

3. Sly and his listeners give progressives the support they need to stand up to Scott Walker.

Clear Channel needs Sly on the air to give The Mic the local political voice it needs to be credible, successful, and grow its audience.

Make your voice heard – today. Solidarity!

 

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