Scott Walker’s budget lie (yes, LIE) he receives a “pass” from the media on again and again…

The lie has been told repeatedly by Scott Walker – in debate, in campaign ads, and more specifically, on his campaign website:

“Governor Walker Promised To Control State Spending And Eliminate The Historic $3.6 Billion Deficit Without Raising Taxes. The 2011-13 state budget signed by Governor Walker Eliminating the $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes. (2011 Wisconsin Act 32)”

In addition – Walker has continually claimed to have achieved this without the use of “accounting gimmicks.” In reality, Scott Walker created this fiscal crisis – and he is using it to further his political ambitions.

Walker cited the memo from DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch on May 10, 2012 as proof that his “reforms are working.” The report contends that due to his diligence as DOA Secretary, Huebsch and the Department of Revenue discovered over $278.2 million in revenue the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau missed in its February 2012 report. The added revenue will result in a $164.7 million surplus for FY 2012, and an $89.5 million surplus for FY 2013. The change is dramatic, as the LFB estimate put the state in the red over $53 million for FY 2012, and negative $208 million for FY 2013. The combined difference  is nearly $500 million – quite a miss for the LFB, and unprecedented. Or is there more to this…

Setting aside the fact that this estimate relies heavily on Walker’s disputed quarterly jobs data, based on the QCEW (Quarterly Census of Employees and Wages) not yet released by the Federal BLS (note:In an interview this morning with Richard Clayton at BLS, the analyst in charge of the state data verification, Mr. Clayton emphasized for Badger Democracy that he only verified with Wisconsin DWD that their verification study had been completed – he did not verify or attest to the numbers being cited by the Walker Administration), and showed a net gain in private sector jobs, not a loss for 2011. Let’s give Scott Walker that one to expedite this analysis. 23,000 jobs created when 200,000+ are needed just to return to 2007 employment levels is insignificant. The information obtained by State Senator Kathleen Vinehout from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau have much greater impact on this budget analysis – and expose the LIE Scott Walker is perpetuating.

In January  2011, before Scott Walker took office, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) sent their annual letter to Joint Finance Chairs Alberta Darling and Robin Vos (2011_01_31Vos&Darling LFB Memo ). When Walker took office, the LFB forecast a $56.3 million SURPLUS – after accounting for the $65 million statutory “minimum balance.” That’s correct – Wisconsin was poised for a surplus on the day Scott Walker took office.

The same memo one year later shows the effects of the Walker budget, and GOP “business friendly” policies. In essence, Scott Walker created the crisis with his policies – as shown in the LFB memo to Darling and Vos dated  February 9, 2012 (2012_02_09_Darling_Vos_Revenue estimates). As cited above, the deficit in the biennial budget of a combined $261 million is attributed to Acts passed in 2011. Decreased income tax collections and personal revenue collections are attributed directly to the impact of Act 10 on working families (in essence, a tax increase):

“The revised estimates incorporate
the effects of a number of law changes estimated to reduce revenues by approximately $175
million in 2011-12 and $225 million in 2012-13. The most significant law changes are increased
deductions for medical insurance premiums, tax deferrals for capital gains that are reinvested in
Wisconsin-based businesses, and exclusions and deductions related to health savings accounts.
Income tax collections will also be reduced as a result of the additional state and local employee
retirement and health insurance contributions required under 2011 Act 10.”

The tax giveaways to corporations also have had an effect on state revenues, especially in the DOR’s ability to collect taxes due big, profitable corporations by opening up previously closed loopholes:

“The corporate income and franchise tax estimates have been adjusted to reflect the effect
of certain law changes, including requiring corporations that are members of a unitary group to
file combined returns, repealing the domestic production activities deduction, requiring
throwback sales to be included 100% in the apportionment formula, allowing combined groups
to use pre-2009 net business loss carry-forwards, and the phase-in of the state qualified
production activities tax credit”

The analysis shows that instead of CREATING jobs and increasing business activity, Walker policies are actually slowing output and production, as consumer demand and buying power stagnates – a function of the persistent long-term unemployment problem:

“…overall business activity is
projected to continue to expand, but at a slower pace than in 2010 and 2011. For example, real
investment in equipment and software, which increased by 14.6% in 2010, and by an estimated
10.3% in 2011, is projected to increase by 7.9% in 2012, and 7.6% in 2013. Real durable goods
purchases increased by 7.2% in 2010 and by an estimated 8.1% in 2011, but are forecast to
increase by 5.6% in 2012, and 4.5% in 2013. Manufacturing output growth is projected to be
4.3% in 2012 and 3.4% in 2013, after increasing 5.4% in 2010 and by an estimated 4.5% in
2011.”

So much for the “job creators.” How could Walker show a balanced budget, much less a surplus, in the face of this LFB analysis? Simple – as with the disputed job numbers, he made his own surplus – empowered by Acts 13 and 32 of the 2011 GOP-controlled Legislature – who are all complicit in this fiscal fraud.

Simply stated – Scott Walker pushed off paying state debt in the amount of over $500 million to 2030. The interest paid will total over $156 million. This is all debt that should have been by the end of 2011-2012. It is critical to understand that the deficit Scott Walker created in 2011, and decrease in revenue collections from his fiscal policies are the very reason this debt is being pushed off over two decades – placing a higher burden on future generations.  In a memo to Vinehout dated May 18, 2012, non-partisan State Fiscal Analyst Al Runde details the impact:

“Under each debt restructuring
transaction, the principal on the state’s existing GPR supported general obligation and commercial
paper debt would have been paid off from the general fund through sum sufficient debt service
appropriations, but is instead paid off with the proceeds from the issuance of additional debt. As a
result, that principal will now remain outstanding for a longer period of time and thus an estimated
$156.2 million in additional interest costs could be incurred by the state.”

The debt principal would have been paid off from the general fund – but is now being paid off by issuing further debt. An additional $156.2 million in interest will be paid by the state. To use an apt metaphor, Scott Walker placed the existing debt, which should have been paid this year, on a giant credit card – to be paid long after he is out of office.

Conservatives will say, “but Jim Doyle did it all the time…” This writer would be as critical of ANY Governor who practiced this economic fraud – and is no defender of Jim Doyle. If you are a true fiscal conservative, this practice should strike at the heart of your sense of fiscal accountability and responsibility. In a second memo, Runde details the history of debt restructuring since 2001 ( 2012_05_18-Vinehout-Debt-Restructuring-Since-2001). The amount “restructured” by Walker is the equivalent of ALL debt restructured from 2007-2011. Prior to that, only $127 million had been restructured.

To say that he has balanced the budget without raising taxes, in light of this information, is a lie. No coincidence that $500 million is the amount the DOA estimate “found” to increase revenue from the previous LFB estimate. Over $500 million, and more in interest, charged off to future generations two decades distant – while Scott Walker insists his “reforms are working.” Where is the media on this issue?

If this is not sufficient grounds to recall Scott Walker, then nothing is; and those that stand with him, stand with a fraud and a liar.

 For the record, both the Walker Administration and Campaign were given repeated opportunity to respond to this information since Friday, May 25. They have not.  Share this information and VOTE. Solidarity.

Latest Marquette-Franklin poll will send GOP spinning, convulsing…Barrett supporters take heed

The last Marquette University poll (May 30 poll toplines) from Charles Franklin before the recall election, when analyzed, will send Scott Walker and the GOP into full spin and attack mode. Even after spending tens of millions of dollars, outspending Tom Barrett 12-1, and plastering the airwaves with the basest propaganda – the race is a virtual tie.

The GOP and conservative pundits will say Walker has a commanding lead. Among likely voters, Walker leads Barrett in this poll 52 – 45%, with a 4.1% margin of error (MoE), larger than the 3.7% MoE in the rest of the poll due to smaller sample size. Based on the MoE, the results are virtually unchanged from the last poll. A look deeper into the poll will explain why this is good news for Barrett supporters.

As Badger Democracy has always maintained, the polling done by Charles Franklin is sound – the only errors arise from media outlets and propagandists misrepresenting what the poll says. Franklin does a much better job than many polls at disclosing all the information, methodology, and crosstabs. Here are the facts – suitable for offsetting right-wing radio talking points. The bottom line…due to the random sample and geographic population distribution, this is a poll which leans significantly conservative – by as much as 5-8%. Here’s how:

First, post-stratification, or “weighting” of the samples to reflect the overall population. The only weighting done in this poll was for age and sex. The rest of the poll results were “sufficiently close to the population values that only age and sex were used for estimation of the weights.” As samples are derived from random phone dialing, here are significant statistical differences from the samples based on the May 30 poll Methodology pdf:

1. “PID3 w/lean” – This is the party people identify with, when pushed into choosing. Unlike the last poll, the sample actually breaks a little more toward Democratic, 48-42.5%. So why the higher percentage for Walker? The poll is under-representative of Independents (by 7% under), a demographic Barrett is doing very well with, according to previous polls. The other issue, is this is simply an overly conservative sample. According to the crosstabs, Walker gets nearly 18% of the “Democratic” vote in this poll, and 45% of Independents – these reflect what is often considered “outlier” samples…leaning considerably further than expectations based on previous samples. In past polls, Walker has gotten no more than 10% of Democratic voters, and under 40% of Independents. The reason this poll leans so conservative can be found in the population distribution.

2. Franklin is sampling his polls to be reflective of population distribution, based on the most recently available Claritas estimate. Here is the population distribution from this poll, very close to the actual population:

City of Milwaukee                                    12.66%
Rest of Milwaukee DMA                       32.68%                                                                                              Madison DMA                                         16.83%                                                                                           Green Bay
Appleton DMA                   18.50%                                                                                          Rest of Wisconsin                                  19.33%                                                                                               Total                                                              100%

While this reflects the POPULATION distribution, the VOTING distribution is very different. Here is the vote distribution by corresponding region from the 2010 General Election, and the corresponding difference in sample (source, GAB election data by county 2010):

City of Milwaukee                                   16% (-4) 
Rest of Milwaukee DMA                     19% (+13)
Madison DMA                                            15% (+1)
Green Bay‐Appleton DMA                 10% (+8)
Rest of Wisconsin                                    40% (-21)
   Total                                                               100%

Significant that the “collar counties” of Milwaukee are over-represented by 13% because of the emphasis on population distribution, while Milwaukee is under-represented by 4%. Meanwhile, in 2010, Dane County only had statewide average turnout of about 43%, instead of its usual 55-60% – thus only accounting for 15% of the vote. A much higher turnout in Dane County will mean a higher impact than the 15% reflected by the voting distribution, potentially as high as the 16% range seen in the population distribution. For purposes of analysis, let’s consider Dane County even, somewhere in the 15-20% range.

Also of significance is the over-representation of the Fox Valley (traditionally more conservative) by 8%, and the outstate vote – accounting for 40%, is under-represented by over 20%. This is the most significant number for Tom Barrett and his supporters. Based on the differences in population and voting distribution; along with the virtual even distribution in party (though slightly under-representative of independents) it is fair to say this poll could be conservative leaning by as much as 8% (based on the MoE), bringing the race to dead even.

Despite the 12-1 financial advantage for Scott Walker; Tom Barrett and his supporters have brought the race to even, and there is a noticeable shift in momentum.  Mobilizing the Democratic and progressive voters in the upstate areas of Wisconsin, Dane and Milwaukee Counties will make the difference in this election. Every poll has been consistent in that fact.

The Marquette – Franklin poll, by being factually accurate about who is sampled, and the composition of the sample, has given us a clear path to victory – mobilizing voters in these key areas of the state will lead to victory on June 5th.

As Mahlon Mitchell and the fire fighters say… “All hands working” for the next 6 days. Solidarity.

Mahlon Mitchell Interview…”All hands working” on a historic campaign

The historic recall election against Rebecca Kleefisch as Lieutenant Governor has received far less attention than the Scott Walker recall election. The same is true for the candidate running against Kleefisch – Mahlon Mitchell. The success of Mitchell’s candidacy cannot be underestimated. Defeating Kleefisch on June 5 is critical to bringing Wisconsin back together, and healing the divisions that exist from the Walker/Kleefisch administration – especially with the current attacks on Milwaukee being executed by the Walker campaign. The reasons to recall Kleefisch are many; this interview will focus on Mahlon Mitchell and why his candidacy is exciting, critical, and reflective of the new political movement in Wisconsin.

Mahlon Mitchell was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 24, 1977. His family moved to University Park, Illinois shortly after his birth. When he was in 4th grade, his family moved to Delavan, Wisconsin where he remained until graduating from Delavan-Darien High School (ironically, the same High School Scott Walker attended). Following his two brothers who are also career firefighters, Mitchell joined the Madison Fire Department at the age of 20, becoming heavily involved in Local 311, Madison. Mitchell served on the Executive Board of Local 311, and was also in charge of finances for the union. In January of 2011, only about one month before Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” that became Act 10, Mitchell was elected President of the Professional Fire Fighters’ of Wisconsin (PFFW). He is the youngest individual and first African-American to be elected to that position. He is now also a candidate in the first Lieutenant Governor recall election in United States history.

On February 11, 2011 after word of Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” had surfaced, Mitchell said “he had a decision to make” as President of the PFFW. His decision, made with his fellow officers, was to stand with teachers at the Capitol in solidarity against the attacks on worker’s rights. On February 18, 2011 led by pipes and drums, Mitchell and hundreds of fellow fire fighters from around the state marched into the Capitol – which had been occupied by teachers from around the state. It was the defining moment in the protests, solidifying solidarity across professions and boosting morale and visibility of the demonstrators. Said Mitchell, “fire fighters respond to emergencies…that’s what we were doing, responding to a labor emergency and showing support for the state.”

 When asked for the most influential moment to him personally, he chose March 12, 2011. The day Mitchell and the fire fighters led the “Wisconsin 14″ Senators back to Madison“showed we were all in this together…this movement is bigger than all of us.”  “The rallies really motivated and entrenched my actions…in deciding to run for Lieutenant Governor.”

As for his qualifications, Mitchell points out his opponents lack of qualifications before election, and adds “what I lack in experience, I will make up for by doing the right thing…we need someone who will bring people together and unite the state. Walker had experience, and look what he has done – divide and conquer, look where he went with that experience. We need to be working on solutions together. We have a serious poverty problem in this state Walker has ignored – up 17% among children. At the same time as he makes $1.6 Billion cut in education, yet he says his reforms are “working”? 

“We have 35,000 jobs available in skilled labor – yet Walker cuts funding of state technical colleges. We need jobs – we lost 6,200 jobs last month (April 2012 job numbers, BLS/DWD statistics)- we have to invest in education and  training to put people to work.”

“My first initiative would be to bring people to the table – especially in Milwaukee. To meet with community leaders in areas hit hardest by unemployment, and listen to their ideas and concerns. A plan is nothing without people in poverty having a seat at the table. I take a hands on approach to problems, and would assemble a roundtable of citizens, businesses, communities, minority leaders to solve our problems together. Our mantra as Fire Fighters is ‘ALL HANDS WORKING’ and that’s the approach I would take and encourage around the state. ‘All hands working’ also means the wealthy have to pay their fair share in times of need.”

When asked about the 2010 election, when 39% of all union households voted for Scott Walker, Mitchell stated unequivocally “…we are educating and galvanizing labor this election. I guarantee you will not see 39% voting for Walker in this election. There will be a huge sway in that vote. That would be like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”

The focus of our message is to put an end to the civil war in Wisconsin, bring people together, and all really pitch in – All hands working. When we are successful, we can then work on legislation to repair the damage done (by Scott Walker). Our boots on the ground will be the counter to big money.”

Fitting words from a Fire Fighter. “Boots on the ground” to defeat the big money of the Walker/Kleefisch ticket. The more the word on Mahlon Mitchell is spread, the more likely he is to win. Kleefisch is counting on staying under the radar by avoiding the spotlight and debates – polls show she has higher name recognition as of two weeks ago, with the challenger gaining ground. Mitchell has wide appeal, is a dynamic speaker, and has risen directly out of this unprecedented movement. He represents the best of us, and deserves our energy and support. The question is – what are you willing to do for Mahlon Mitchell – he has made it clear he will advocate for the people of Wisconsin.

Share the Mahlon Mitchell story with ten people, and challenge them to do the same – “All hands working” for the recall for the next week…

Solidarity.

The Unemployment Numbers Scott Walker doesn’t want made public while he plays politics

Scott Walker is playing a political game with the unemployment numbers. Releasing unverified survey results last week, over one month ahead of the official verified Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers, Walker again walked the thin line of legality in his “official” announcement – closely followed by the release of a new campaign ad on  statewide television. Recent long-term unemployment numbers not released by the Walker Administration were obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) by Badger Democracy. These verified figures show that under Scott Walker, Wisconsin has suffered persistent long-term unemployment-which Walker himself has ignored in lieu of playing political games with the numbers in the short recall election cycle.

Walker claims that in 2011, Wisconsin saw job growth of 23,300 in the private sector. This data was in direct conflict with verified data from the BLS showing a net loss of over 30,000 jobs during the same time period. In the April Jobs Report released by the DWD the day after Walker’s miraculous press release, the verified BLS data shows Wisconsin with a net loss of 6,200 private sector jobs from March-April 2012. Private Sector losses for the year April 2011-April 2012 were 11,100. Walker now claims the BLS numbers to be in dispute, insisting his reforms are working and Wisconsin is gaining jobs – pointing to the declining unemployment rate, which dropped to 6.7%.

In Wednesday’s April unemployment rate report from DWD, Secretary Reggie Newson reiterated the good news about the states declining rate of unemployment:

“Compared to a year ago, unemployment rates are lower in every county, all metro areas and all major cities except Brookfield, where the rate was unchanged,” DWD Secretary Reggie Newson said. “More people are working, and we expect more people to gain employment in the weeks and months ahead.”

“More people are working…” If the unemployment rate is dropping, that must be true – especially if the Walker Administration says it is so…or is it?

Besides the conflicting numbers from Walker, there is a glaring problem in the analysis. During the same year in which the unemployment rate dropped from7.5% to 6.7%, the “Labor Force” has remained virtually flat. In fact, from January 2011 – April 2012, the Labor Force has actually DECLINED – from 3,069,656 to 3,068,900 (-756). This is significant, as the Wisconsin population grew 6% from 2000-2010.  This would statistically result in a growing, not declining labor force. Wisconsin DWD statistics show the state has a chronic unemployment problem, as shown by information obtained by Badger Democracy.

Badger Democracy submitted requests to DWD for the numbers of workers who have dropped out of the unemployment system – due to discouragement or other reason, after having looked for work the previous year, and being currently available for work. The number of workers receiving unemployment benefits who have exhausted their benefits was also requested. The numbers are staggering – especially when taking into account the current unemployed number for April 2012 reported as 205,300.

The tables on civilians not in the labor force from DWD show this as being a chronic problem from the first quarter of 2011, with the relevant data in bold type:

Table 11b. Civilians not in the labor force by sex and age, 1st Quarter, 2011 (based on CPS)
(Numbers in thousands)

  Total Age Sex
   
16 to 24
years
 
25 to 54
years
 
55 years
and over
 
 Men  Women
  Wisconsin
Total not in the labor force…………………… 1,363.7 221.0 249.7 893.0 589.8 773.9
Do not want a job now……………………….. 1,254.7 185.2 211.1 858.4 537.7 717.0
Want a job…………………………………. 109.0 35.8 38.5 34.7 52.1 56.8
Did not search for work in previous year……. 60.1 19.4 18.9 21.8 26.0 34.1
Searched for work in previous year…………. 48.9 16.3 19.6 12.9 26.1 22.8
Not available to work now………………. 7.3 5.8 - 1.5 4.6 2.7
Available to work now………………….. 41.6 10.5 19.6 11.4 21.5 20.1
Reason not currently looking:                        
Discouragement over job prospects…… 17.7 5.0 7.3 5.4 11.8 5.9
Reasons other than discouragement…… 23.9 5.5 12.3 6.0 9.7 14.1
 
The above table shows 41,600 civilians “Available to work now” from over 1.36 million “not in the work force” for various reasons in the 1st quarter 2011. This includes 17,700 who report having searched for work in the previous year, but are “discouraged over job prospects” currently. Another 23,900 are not looking for other reasons. According to Professor Laura Dresser at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a labor economics expert at UW-Madison, the discouraged workers number is always low in reporting – primarily because of people’s hesitance to report being discouraged. The total number of “not currently looking” must be considered, as people will drop out of the workforce in a poor employment climate using “other reason” instead of admitting to discouragement – becoming a “stay-at-home” mom, adult student, or other.
The second quarter of 2011 shows an increase of over 6,000:
Table 11b. Civilians not in the labor force by sex and age, 2nd Quarter, 2011 (based on CPS)
(Numbers in thousands)

  Total Age Sex
   
16 to 24
years
 
25 to 54
years
 
55 years
and over
 
 Men  Women
  Wisconsin
Total not in the labor force…………………… 1,358.1 209.6 274.9 873.6 563.5 794.6
Do not want a job now……………………….. 1,248.1 172.4 235.4 840.3 511.4 736.7
Want a job…………………………………. 110.0 37.2 39.6 33.3 52.1 58.0
Did not search for work in previous year……. 47.1 12.6 16.4 18.2 16.5 30.7
Searched for work in previous year…………. 62.9 24.6 23.2 15.1 35.6 27.3
Not available to work now………………. 15.0 8.8 3.9 2.2 5.1 9.9
Available to work now………………….. 47.9 15.8 19.2 12.9 30.5 17.4
Reason not currently looking:                        
Discouragement over job prospects…… 14.2 3.2 6.0 5.0 8.6 5.5
Reasons other than discouragement…… 33.7 12.5 13.3 7.9 21.9 11.8

The total for 2nd Quarter 2011, above, 47,900 civilians available to work , who looked last year, but have given up.

Third Quarter 2011 showed a little improvement, down to 44,700:

Table 11b. Civilians not in the labor force by sex and age, 3rd Quarter, 2011 (based on CPS)
(Numbers in thousands)

  Total Age Sex
   
16 to 24
years
 
25 to 54
years
 
55 years
and over
 
 Men  Women
  Wisconsin
Total not in the labor force…………………… 1,370.1 175.1 290.5 904.5 607.2 763.0
Do not want a job now……………………….. 1,265.4 148.0 248.2 869.2 559.4 706.0
Want a job…………………………………. 104.7 27.1 42.3 35.3 47.7 57.0
Did not search for work in previous year……. 48.4 9.7 20.7 18.0 20.0 28.4
Searched for work in previous year…………. 56.3 17.4 21.6 17.3 27.7 28.7
Not available to work now………………. 11.7 2.8 3.5 5.4 3.4 8.3
Available to work now………………….. 44.7 14.6 18.1 12.0 24.3 20.4
Reason not currently looking:                        
Discouragement over job prospects…… 14.3 6.7 4.8 2.8 8.8 5.5
Reasons other than discouragement…… 30.3 7.9 13.3 9.1 15.5 14.8
 

Fourth Quarter 2011 shows marked improvement, dropping to 28,500 – the “discouraged workers” dropping to 6,800:

Table 11b. Civilians not in the labor force by sex and age, 4th Quarter, 2011 (based on CPS)
(Numbers in thousands)

  Total Age Sex
   
16 to 24
years
 
25 to 54
years
 
55 years
and over
 
 Men  Women
  Wisconsin
Total not in the labor force…………………… 1,410.4 228.5 281.5 900.4 608.3 802.1
Do not want a job now……………………….. 1,332.9 202.5 257.5 873.0 566.7 766.2
Want a job…………………………………. 77.5 26.0 24.0 27.4 41.6 35.9
Did not search for work in previous year……. 44.0 13.3 9.8 21.0 24.9 19.2
Searched for work in previous year…………. 33.5 12.8 14.2 6.4 16.7 16.7
Not available to work now………………. 4.9 3.2 1.7 - 1.0 3.9
Available to work now………………….. 28.5 9.6 12.5 6.4 15.7 12.9
Reason not currently looking:                        
Discouragement over job prospects…… 6.8 2.7 3.1 1.0 5.3 1.5
Reasons other than discouragement…… 21.8 6.9 9.4 5.5 10.4 11.4
 
The significant drop in the fourth quarter is explained by Professor Dresser as due to temporary holiday hires – with the first quarter 2012 expected to see a steep increase as those holiday jobs come to an end. That pattern held true, as the number jumps to 35,200 – with the “discouraged number nearly doubling to 12,600:

Table 11b. Civilians not in the labor force by sex and age, 1st Quarter, 2012 (based on CPS)
(Numbers in thousands)

  Total Age Sex
   
16 to 24
years
 
25 to 54
years
 
55 years
and over
 
 Men  Women
  Wisconsin
Total not in the labor force…………………… 1,395.7 272.9 260.4 862.4 582.7 813.0
Do not want a job now……………………….. 1,312.3 245.1 230.6 836.6 538.2 774.1
Want a job…………………………………. 83.5 27.9 29.9 25.7 44.5 38.9
Did not search for work in previous year……. 41.1 12.5 15.6 12.9 25.4 15.7
Searched for work in previous year…………. 42.4 15.4 14.2 12.8 19.2 23.2
Not available to work now………………. 7.2 3.1 3.3 0.7 3.0 4.2
Available to work now………………….. 35.2 12.2 10.9 12.1 16.2 19.0
Reason not currently looking:                        
Discouragement over job prospects…… 12.6 4.0 2.9 5.6 5.0 7.6
Reasons other than discouragement…… 22.6 8.2 8.0 6.4 11.2 11.4
 
At the end of March 2012, there were over 35,000 civilians available for work - who had sought employment in the previous year, but gave up. These people do not collect benefits, nor are they reported as “unemployed” for reasons of calculating the unemployment rate.
How many workers have exhausted or been denied unemployment benefits for the same time period (Q1 2011 – Q1 2012)? The first response came in the form of an email from DWD spokesman John Dipko, and referred to those collecting extended benefits under the Economic Stimulus Act, which terminated in March, after Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell below the 7% mark:
Wisconsin had 44,384 final Extended Benefits payments from January 2011 through March 2012. Exceptions include Extended Training and Trade Readjustment Allowance. While this is payment data (v. claimant data), the information provides a good indicator of the number unique claimants who have exhausted all benefits programs.”
Allow me to emphasize that number – 44,384 people were thrown off benefits in March. Again, that number is not reflected in the unemployment rate. The final email response from Dipko was to the question of regular benefits expired, or not qualified to collect benefits for the same period. The brief equation at the end is directly from the email:
“Scott: an additional 14,608 claimants during the time frame specified were identified as either regular claimants who did not qualify for emergeny unemployment compensation, or regular claimants who qualified for benefits in a different state. Except in very few cases, the claimants would have no benefits available in Wisconsin. Again, exceptions include Extended Training and Trade Readjustment Allowance. 
44,384 + 14,608 = 58,992″
Again, let me emphasize the total number by the end of March – 58,992 Wisconsinites living outside the system. Collecting zero benefits, and not being reported in the “unemployment rate.” But they are there. Nearly 2% of the total workforce…over 1% of the population. 29% above the current number of reported unemployed. If that number of individuals is added to the 205,300 unemployed, the rate would jump to 8.6%. If we include the 35,200 civilians who have given up looking for work, but had been looking the previous year, the total is 94,192 at the end of March, 2012. This would bring the unemployment rate to 9.8%.
While the presumptive rate above is speculative, there is one fact from this data that is striking. Wisconsin has a chronic and persistent long-term unemployment problem. At the end of March, 2012, as a state, we dropped over 50,000 people off benefits, and another 35,000 reported giving up looking for work. Professor Dresser characterized these numbers as “highly significant.” Dresser points out that to return to 2007 employment levels, Wisconsin needs 200,000 jobs now taking into account population growth. Even if we give Scott Walker the 23,000 jobs he says he created in 2011 – nearly double that number lost their emergency benefits in March.
In light of this long-term and persistent problem, Scott Walker’s supposed gains in the unemployment rate are meaningless. He is playing political games with the numbers to give the illusion of progress – when in reality, he has chosen political gain, ideological civil war, political patronage, and propaganda over addressing the real problem. There are real people who need real jobs, and they have been unemployed for a long time. The Walker Administration and 2011 GOP-led Legislature have done nothing to address this issue. This Administration has squandered the opportunity and trust placed in it by the people of Wisconsin – to work for the good of the majority of people in the state. How can there be any further doubt that a recall is not only justified, but necessary.

Scott Walker would love Whole Foods Market – forcing employees to “vote” for increased benefit contributions…

By now, many have seen the video of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker promising billionaire widow Diane Hendricks to “divide and conquer”, as a means of pursuing right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin. The effects of “right-to-work”, even as a philosophy, leads to treatment of employees that is inherently unfair. Even as a company like Whole Foods Market (WFM) presents a “corporate conscience” to the public – they are currently forcing employees (“Team Members”) to partake in a “benefits vote”, selecting which increases in employee benefit contributions they wish to make. All this while WFM is enjoying unprecedented growth and profitability. It is a stark and hypocritical example of how workers making $13/hour are valued less than the $4 products on the shelf – and what adoption of right-to-work would mean to workers. Whole Foods is a very profitable company. Based on the company’s own 10k filing with the SEC, WFM’s growth and profitability is outpacing the cost of medical insurance (more on that later). Yet employees were required to attend a 30- minute class in April to educate them as to why the “vote” to cut benefits is so important. The choices and proposed cuts will affect everyone – especially those with more years’ experience and families to support. Increased benefit contribution will cost employees between $500-$3000/year (estimated). The average wage for a WFM employee is about $13/hour.

The cover page of the “Your Complete Guide to the Benefits Vote Primary” (complete pdf linked) booklet state the case: “The Vote …supports our stakeholder philosophy and principle of shared fate. The concept of shared fate describes how we all have an equal stake in the company’s success.” Whole Foods’ core value #3 is “We support Team Member happiness and excellence.” What does this “shared fate” mean to employees that WFM cares for so much – and does WFM share in it’s success? The basic premise for this “vote”, and subsequent benefits cut is as follows:

  1. Cost increases over the past three years of 10.2% on average.
  2. WFM paying 90% (10% Team Member) of health costs, expected to increase to 91%/9% in 2012.
  3. Health Care costs to WFM will amount to $193.3 million (projected) in 2012.

The numbers WFM presents are accurate. The context in which they are presented are a farce. As WFM is a publicly traded company, all the following information is available in the 10k filing link above. Taking the 10.2% cost increase at face value, that is a total cost increase, not per capita increase. When a company grows, and adds more employees, its total health insurance costs will increase as a result of insuring more employees. For the same time period, WFM is projecting a sales growth of 13-15%. This includes a growth of 18-20% in “earnings per share” to investors in WFM stock – many of whom reap the benefits of team members’ labor without actually working in a WFM store.

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(page 22 of the 10k pdf above) 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).  As a percentage of sales, WFM costs are decreasing, sales and profits increasing. This includes the cost of insuring employees. The cost of health insurance, as a percentage of sales will remain well under 2%. In fact, for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, costs to WFM totaled $101.1 million and $109.4 million (pg 40 of the 10k filing). This amounts to 1.1% of sales for both years. Projections would put the cost at about 1.1-1.3% for 2012. According to the IRS data, the national corporate average is 1.6%, putting WFM at the low-end of health costs as a percentage of sales. In fact, page 33 of the 10k filing indicates that all payroll, benefits, and bonuses due team members have remained at about 2.7% of the total sales – sales totaling $10.1 Billion in 2011.

Employees have no choice in the vote. At one store, when vote participation was lagging, employees were taken off their work stations and forced to vote on the clock, by team and store leadership. The “Benefits Vote Worksheet” (full pdf link) outlines the proposed cuts, choices, and costs to employees of each. Cuts are assigned points – all employees were instructed to keep selecting cuts until they reached 15 points. They were then allowed to submit their vote. The final vote will take place in June, with employees having no voice or choice – their benefits will be cut while Whole Foods continues to grow and reap record profits; holding a virtual monopoly on the organic grocery business.

Whole Foods founder John Mackey is a self-proclaimed disciple of Milton Friedman and his extreme free market theories of economics.  The “Benefits Vote” is proof that the current Board of Directors has been hand-picked because they agree with Mackey’s philosophy. The Board and Executives of WFM chose the well-being of investors and the stock market over the “happiness” of Team Members who create the wealth these investors (“stakeholders”) enjoy.  WFM could choose to make a slightly lower return on investment, have slightly lower growth in profits over the next three years, and hold the line on cutting benefits and pay to Team Members. But they didn’t. At a time when the economy is difficult for employees working every day just to make ends meet, WFM recognizes profitability and investment return over the day-to-day financial well-being of its Team Members. There will be denial of this fact from WFM leadership to be sure, but the facts are undeniable. WFM is in a position to maintain current benefit levels.

It is the choice of the Board and Executives not to do so. The labor struggle in Wisconsin is the most critical in out lifetime. It will determine whether workers have a place at the table to help determine the conditions they work in; or they will be indentured servants – working only at the behest and whim of the few that control capital, and subsequently workers’ lives. The farce that is being put on as “choice” by Whole Foods in the “Benefits Vote” is no choice, and is no vote. They are being asked to choose which finger to sever – and that is no choice.

This message should be sent to every public and private union worker in America. Beware “right to work” – it is no right at all – only to live as a slave to capital.

The May Marquette – Franklin poll…what did we learn?

The May Poll released by Marquette University and Charles Franklin has received attention from both sides of the aisle. Scott Walker and the Republican Party are touting the 6 point lead as proof that voters know “it’s working.” Tom Barrett and the Democratic Party are responding by attacking the poll, and the pollster himself, alleging intentional conservative bias. The truth is neither of the above. As a poll is a snapshot in time, the May poll, when observed in the context of the previous four months (January – April polls) give us a clear picture of how close this race really is – and what Barrett needs to do to win.

First, a word on the methodology of the Franklin polls. Accusations of intentionally biased polls on the part of Charles Franklin are unfounded. Badger Democracy has interviewed at length two independent experts in the area of polling and statistics (one at UW-Madison, one at The University of Illinois-Chicago). Both agreed that the polling methods used at Marquette are sound and unbiased – with full disclosure of the results and any bias through random sampling. So let’s take this poll as it stands, and look at what it means.

One issue the polling raises is how the population distribution is calculated and “post-stratified” (or weighted to reflect the population of the state based on regional populations).  As seen in the May Poll Methodology, the population distribution is adjusted to reflect census data. As is the case in January Poll, February Poll,March Poll, and April – the end result is very close to the real population distribution. While this has been consistent for all the Marquette Polls, the potential issue is how the population distribution differs from the actual voter distribution.

According to Government Accountability Board 2010 General Election statistics, the difference is significant. In the 2010 Fall election; Milwaukee accounted for 16% of the statewide vote, Suburban Milwaukee 12%, Dane County 10%, Green Bay/Appleton 7%, with the rest of the state 55%. The population models result in suburban Milwaukee (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington counties) being over weighted by about 15%, and the statewide vote being under weighted by as much as 30%. The upstate, non-urban vote is largely under-represented. The highly conservative collar counties of Milwaukee are over-represented. That is critical to those who are involved in campaign strategy.

The current May poll also results in a 5% higher response from Republican identifying voters, with 5% lower independents. This has not been the case in every Marquette poll. January leaned 4% GOP, February was almost even GOP/Dem, March leaned slightly Dem (3%), April about 3% GOP (the difference between 5% higher GOP and  2% Dem, lower Independent). In general, it is fair to say the poll, over the past 5 months, has leaned slightly GOP, with May being an anomaly – for several reasons.

While every other poll from January-April have adjusted for age, the May poll did not. The age brackets from 18-29 and 30-44 were under represented (based on census data) by 8 and 11% respectively. The age range of 60+ was over represented by 16%. The reason – the under 30 age group broke significantly higher not only for Scott Walker (55 Walker – 44 Barrett), but for Mitt Romney (51 Romney – 44 Obama). This is nearly a 20 point flip from all other polls, and as Professor Franklin acknowledged in an email to Badger Democracy, “a random fluke.” This, coupled with the over 60 (generally GOP voting) age group being over represented, shows an anomaly in the random sample – this group was just overly conservative.

In fact, the picture of the respondent that influenced this vote can be seen by the fact that married respondents were over weighted by 6%, while all single groups were under weighted by about 20%. The “voter” that influenced this poll was most likely the younger, married, white male that lives in a collar county of Milwaukee – leaning Republican.

Polls give us a picture in time of a group of voters. In random sampling, just as flipping a coin, you can have a period of time when you get five or six “heads” in a row. If you flip the coin enough, the result will “regress to the mean” of about 50%. The May poll is an example of that reality. Taking all five polls into account, and the trend, the picture is clear.

This will be a very close election, decided by two points or less. It is all about turnout. Walker and the GOP are relying on big money and a huge propaganda machine – walking the line of legality. Dems and progressives are relying on grassroots, boots on the ground. If progressives achieve our biggest turnout ever, Walker loses. That is the bottom line.

The proof? The final question in the poll shows where this GOP – leaning demographic has gone in two years:

Did you vote for the Republican Scott Walker or for the Democrat Tom Barrett in November
2010 or did you vote for someone else?

Scott Walker 301      52%
Tom Barrett 238     41%

Within the margin of error for this poll of 3.8% (which resulted in a 50-44 lead for Walker). The respondents in this poll did not change their vote in the past two years. The path to victory gets out every vote for every person that HAS changed their mind. The cumulative results of all five polls show that a slightly GOP leaning poll gives the slim victory to Walker. A slightly Democratic leaning poll gives the slim victory to Tom Barrett.

The path to victory is clear. Get out the vote – every union household, rural, minority, progressive, women, teachers, and democratic voter in the state must get to the polls on June 5th. If that is accomplished – Scott Walker will not be Governor on June 6th.

What Walker has wrought, is not our Wisconsin…a call to Winter Soldiers

It is mid-May, and as the battle to recall Scott Walker enters its final weeks, the political season feels more like winter – just before the spring thaw. The words of William Shakespeare, from Richard III seem highly appropriate:

“Now is the Winter of our discontent/made glorious Summer by this sun (son) of York.”

In addition, the reference to the Steinbeck novel (The Winter of Our Discontent) about Ethan Allen Hawley abandoning his honor and integrity to recapture social and economic esteem is appropriate on many levels. Perhaps one day Scott Walker will see his own works in his children’s actions, and reach an epiphany of his wrongdoings.

The most relevant literary question of this recall moment would have been posed by Thomas Paine.

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

The question at hand, is – are we the Winter Soldier, or the Sunshine Patriot? Twenty one days from now, we will be celebrating a glorious triumph over the tyranny of Scott Walker – a hard-fought conflict none of us will take lightly, and the first victory in recovering democracy for the people.  Or, we will be facing the re-election of Scott Walker – the consequences of which will be an affirmation that democracy in Wisconsin is on its last legs – and we are a hairs breadth away from single party, Mississippi-style rule; in the state Robert M. LaFollette called home.

Meditate on that reality. Share that reality. That should be our motivation to do everything humanly possible for the next twenty days to urge every qualified elector in Wisconsin to vote. If the drive that existed to sign the recall petitions exists on June 5 – we win. If the voters who feel disenfranchised and cheated by Scott Walker cast a ballot on June 5, we win. Do not watch the twitter feed go by, and think someone else will do it.

We have thought that for far too long – and that someone else was the Democratic Party – both of Wisconsin and the National Committee. They have both proven lacking to the task at hand. Unable to coordinate campaign expenditures and resources for statewide and local support; spending the early days of this movement as observers; and running campaigns and messaging that have been cut-and-pasted time and time again. THIS IS OUR TIME.

There are 40% of the voters in Wisconsin that don’t care about Scott Walker’s lies. They don’t care about the John Doe investigation which may yet indict Walker. They don’t care about throwing kids off Badger Care, Women’s Rights, or the fact that Walker is leaving the state with higher debt to revenue ratio than any governor before him. They live in the alternate reality where trickle down economics works, I am the next millionaire (so the government better keep their hands off my money), and the American way is only the strong survive – and that’s capitalism.

Scott Walker has driven a wedge into the middle of the state. That is a fact. And the truth is, for most of us, that is not Our Wisconsin. Say it again – that is not Our Wisconsin. It’s a simple message – one that everyone can identify with who has been affected by this corporatist ideologue that passes for a temporary governor.

We don’t need a party to spread that message – only each other. Look for this message to go out from the grassroots…and pass it along. It can resonate with everyone. Share, share, share, and talk to everyone between now and June 5th.

In my Wisconsin, we support public education for our children’s future…cutting $1.6 billion to public schools is not our Wisconsin.

In our Wisconsin, we come together to solve our problems with the best Wisconsin minds…cutting the UW system, holding closed-door partisan meetings, and adopting laws written by lobbyists and multinational corporations is not our Wisconsin.

In our Wisconsin, we treat workers with respect and dignity…taking away basic rights and slashing workers pay while handing out huge bonuses and tax breaks to corporate elite is not our Wisconsin.

In our Wisconsin, women should get paid the same salary for equal work…repealing laws to enforce that idea doesn’t happen in my Wisconsin.

In our Wisconsin, everyone eligible has the right, under the state Constitution to vote without encumbrance – hidden poll taxes, disenfranchisement of minority populations, and greater regulation of voting is not our Wisconsin.

In our Wisconsin, we practice ethical political discourse and conduct…Scott Walker’s governance is not our Wisconsin.

The list goes on, and on, and on. So does Badger Democracy. For the next twenty days, the focus will be on the lies, misdeeds, unethical, and fraudulent conduct of Scott Walker and his administration. Because in Wisconsin, we believe in ethical, open, and honest government. Scott Walker’s style of governing belongs in Mississippi – he is not my Wisconsin.

(Note – next in Badger Democracy, an inside look at the “Benefits Vote” being conducted this week by Whole Foods Market – and forced upon its “Team Members” in spite of record profit and growth. An example of right-to-work at an employer that considers itself a “corporation with a conscience.”  The Walker record exposed will resume immediately after the Whole Foods expose.)

The smoking gun…new video exposes Walker’s true intent on “right to work”

In spite of his denials, Scott Walker has been captured in a documentary video  referring to “divide and conquer” in the treatment of workers – both public and private sector unions.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the story this evening, and a storm is now swirling after Walker has repeatedly denied pursuing right to work legislation – something specifically referred to in the conversation with Diane Hendricks, Beloit billionaire who donated $250,000 within one month of Act 10 passage, and $510,000 during the current recall campaign.

The video raises question of fraud in the introduction of the “Budget Repair Bill” as a fiscal issue – Walker’s conversation clearly shows that it is a policy decision – the “divide and conquer” approach to break unions.

 

Democratic Primary Endorsement – Wisconsin needs a woman Governor…

When the introduction to the Badger Democracy Democratic candidate interviews was written, I promised to not endorse a candidate in the primary. At the time, this writer had requested of union and statewide leadership to take unprecedented steps in unprecedented times, and refrain from a primary endorsement. Instead, it was suggested to expedite and sponsor a tour of debates and informational town hall meetings statewide, to give the citizens a close look at all the candidates – allow the people to decide. Then jump in with a full-force effort to take down Scott Walker after the nominee is chosen. That suggestion fell on deaf ears, because in the words of some in the movement…”that’s what we always do….we have to endorse for the sake of our members.”

Since the first endorsement by WEAC, the process has continued; and thanks in large part to the outright laziness and borderline conspiratorial neglect by the out-of-touch and politically inept statewide media, this turned into a two candidate race. Tragic, as the years of experience and wealth of knowledge and ideas brought to the table by Kathleen Vinehout and Doug LaFollette deserved better treatment in this process – and so did the people who started this movement. It is for this reason I have decided to make a late endorsement – to send a message that this is still the people’s movement, and in the end, the people will decide, and the nominee shall be accountable to us.

Badger Democracy is endorsing Kathleen Vinehout to be the nominee to face Scott Walker in the June Recall Election. Anyone who has heard Vinehout speak on the floor of the Legislature or in a debate setting knows she would make Scott Walker look like a sixteen-year old at his first debate club competition. Vinehout’s understanding of the issues at hand in Wisconsin is second to none in the state, and the painstaking specifics of her policies and initiatives demonstrate that she is the only candidate in this race who has written specific legislation and policies – not talking points – to repair the damage done by Scott Walker immediately. Her relationships in the Legislature make it a real possibility that she would have bi-partisan support in many of her initiatives – the most important being the repeal of Act 10. This fact has been completely ignored by the media. She is a leader in the Senate, and has vast administrative experience in overseeing the graduate and undergraduate programs in Health Administration programs at the University of Illinois – Springfield. A brief look at the issues:

Labor – It is a little known fact that Kathleen Vinehout left the security of academia after the faculty union at U of I was de-certified in a brutal and personally devastating loss in 1997. She left the state in support of collective bargaining rights as on of the “Fab 14″ Senators. Vinehout’s strategy to repeal Act 10  doesn’t wait for the biennial budget cycle, and uses the “across the aisle” relationships and political capital she has with her Republican colleagues in the Senate to get the job done – again, something no one else is discussing.

Budgeting – Vinehout wrote her own budget in response to Scott Walker’s. It actually balanced the budget (unlike Walker’s) without the draconian cuts to education, health, and collective bargaining rights. No other candidate has authored as specific a statewide budget as Vinehout.

Education – Vinehout is a champion of public education. She was recognized by the Wisconsin School Administrator’s Association (staunch critics of the Walker education cuts) as “Legislator of the Year”, saying…“A tireless advocate for school finance reform, she clearly understands the challenges facing Wisconsin school administrators.  But, what’s most important, she follows that understanding with action.  In 2009-10, no state legislator had a greater positive impact on Wisconsin schools than Kathleen Vinehout.”  Recognizing the negative impact of the Walker budget on public education, she wrote an “Emergency School Funding” bill. Again – there is simply no other candidate with as specific, and progressive, a plan for supporting public education.

Health Care – Vinehout holds a PhD in Health Services Research, and her MPH. She actually wrote the Wisconsin Health Exchange Bill, with an emphasis on accessibility and affordability in rural Wisconsin. This is a slam dunk – no one touches Vinehout on Health Care issues and policy initiatives.

Voting Record – Vinehout has an extensive voting record, and has been very consistent during her tenure as State Senator. Her record of Legislationis even more impressive. While this writer, as many others, had initial concerns over women’s health access, Vinehout put this issue to rest during our interview. When asked, “as Governor, will you commit to vetoing ANY legislation that would restrict, deny, or diminish women’s access to medically sound care or procedures?” Her response was emphatic:

Vinehout – Absolutely. Even if those issues ended up in the budget, I would veto them, especially anything funding related. Particularly in the case of narrowing access through legislative language to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding; I would absolutely veto any bill or budget item that has that effect. This session has been particularly brutal towards women. I have never seen a legislative session with so much intentional political payback and attacks by one side over another. That is not how Wisconsin should be governed.

Most importantly is Vinehout’s true grassroots nature. The term “grassroots” is being thrown around these days by everyone from labor unions and the Democratic Party, to Americans for Prosperity. While there is no doubt that labor unions have the potential for being grassroots – if they indeed serve the membership; there is no doubt that groups like Americans for Prosperity are the antithesis of “grassroots.” Vinehout is running a low-budget, statewide, volunteer driven, grassroots effort – and wherever she goes, she is winning people over.

In one of the most brutal election in state history (2010), she won re-election over a very popular challenger – Ed Thompson. In Spring of 2011, she turned back a recall effort which never got off the ground. It is also less known that there was a second recall effort which failed  in Fall of 2011. Vinehout connects with all her constituents, across the aisle.

The true grassroots campaign is being run by Kathleen Vinehout, and in debate after debate, she proves herself strongest on the issues. It is also clear the lack of special interest and corporate money would make her accountable to the people who have elected her. That is why she has earned this endorsement.

The full interviews of Kathleen Vinehout, Kathleen Falk, Tom Barrett, and Doug LaFollette can be read at the previous links. Exercise your democratic obligation and right – VOTE on Tuesday. On June 5th, we will recall.

Solidarity!

Candidate Interview – Tom Barrett

As the last candidate to enter the Democratic Primary in the 2012 Recall election, Tom Barrett got off to a late start – but entered the abbreviated recall race with the highest statewide name recognition of all the candidates. The Mayor of Milwaukee has garnered support and endorsements from key Democratic politicians, but questions persist regarding his record on labor and cuts implemented to public employees in Milwaukee – before and after Act 10. Barrett also created controversy when he attempted, with then Governor Jim Doyle’s assistance, to turn the Milwaukee Public School Board into a mayor-appointed board – as Richard Daley did in Chicago, and Rahm Emanuel continues amidst concern over who the board is accountable to. The plan failed, and Barrett insists he supports public education in Wisconsin.

The interview with Barrett was conducted by phone on April 27, and lasted about 30 minutes.

BD – What does this movement mean to you, not just as a politician, but as a citizen of Wisconsin?

Barrett – This is an unprecedented time in our state political history. I brought my 12-year-old daughter to Madison during the Capitol protests, because I wanted her to see peaceful protests in action. I wanted to get her engaged in democracy, important for people coming of age. I also wanted her, as everyone needs to know, that we are not done yet. With money coming into politics at unprecedented levels on both sides, it begs the question – what is going to happen to democracy? This movement is critical to that question.

BD – What was the determining factor in your announcing your candidacy, and when did you finally decide to run?

Barrett – In February 2011, the day after the Super Bowl, Scott Walker decided to “drop the bomb” (Walker’s words, not Barrett’s) and launched an ideological civil war in Wisconsin. Walker has made the state more divisive than ever and I think people are tired of that divisiveness. We used to be able to talk politics amongst friends, family, at work – and in many cases we can’t do that anymore because of how Walker has turned citizen against citizen in this ideological civil war.

In my opinion, Scott Walker had three opportunities to “dial down” this ideological war. The first was when AFSCME and WEAC both agreed to the increased contributions toward health and pension benefits to help balance the budget. He could have sat down with them and negotiated as we have always done in Wisconsin. Instead, he continued the ideological assault on unions – for no fiscal benefit, but to continue his ideological war.

The second, came after the Senatorial recalls last summer, which sent a clear message that Walker and the Republicans were going too far, and shifted power in the State Senate. Instead, Walker and the GOP continued pushing their ideological civil war during the “jobs” special session. The focus was not on jobs, but instead continued the ideological assault on Wisconsin’s middle class.

The third was after the Ohio referendum repealing the collective bargaining assaults there. There were clear similarities between the Ohio movement and the Wisconsin Recall movement – yet Walker and the GOP continued pushing their ideological assault – ignoring the outcome in Ohio and denying any similarity in the movements.

The first casualty of this civil war has been jobs. Scott Walker has failed by his own metric. He said that he should be judged by his job creation record – and his promise to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin. By his own metric, he is a failure. Wisconsin was last in the nation in job creation from March 2011-March 2012 and the only state in the nation to have negative job creation in that time.

I decided to run because this comes down to the election being a response to two questions. First, do the people of Wisconsin want this ideological civil war to continue? Second, are people satisfied with Wisconsin being number 50 in the nation in job creation? I think the answer to those questions are no, and the people of Wisconsin agree. This election is a referendum on Scott Walker, and I am the best candidate to beat Scott Walker in this short election cycle.

As for the timing, six weeks prior to making my announcement I saw an ad from the Republican Governor’s Association attacking me, and I was not even in the race. I decided then to wait until the GAB (Government Accountability Board) certified and set the dates for the election. I made my announcement before the Milwaukee Mayoral election (which I promised the voters of Milwaukee), and about 7 hours after the GAB announced the election dates. I didn’t want to make the strategic mistake of playing Walker’s game and engage him earlier when he had unlimited amounts of money to spend against me. 

BD – On February 14, 2011, you wrote a letter to Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald LINK (Senate and Assembly majority leadership, respectively) referencing then Senate Special Bill 11 (eventually Act 10). The letter asked for further additions to the scope of that bill; including Milwaukee Police and Fire to be included in collective bargaining restrictions and increased health and pension contributions, among other increased cuts. Your opponents have characterized this as an attack on labor. Was this a political letter, in that Milwaukee Police and Fire endorsed Walker in 2010, or were there policy issues behind the letter?

Barrett – Fist of all, in principle, I don’t believe any of the city employees should be treated any differently than any other. A fireman shouldn’t get special treatment that a librarian or janitor doesn’t – that’s not fair, and it’s the game Scott Walker has played in pitting worker against worker. I didn’t want workers treated differently for political purposes, which is what the exemption was.

 In Milwaukee, as in most major cities, the bulk of our labor expenditures are in pension and healthcare costs. When Scott Walker’s budget made massive cuts – greater than at any other time under any other governor – in shared revenue to the City of Milwaukee, he forced me to choose between using Act 10 and making massive layoffs. It put many of us in local governments in a bad situation – of choosing to use Act 10, which we objected to as bad law, or laying people off in a bad economy. I chose to use Act 10, because after analysis, it was apparent that most of the people who would have to be laid off were new, younger workers. My administration didn’t want to lay those people off in a bad economy with few job prospects. It was a no-win scenario Scott Walker forced many of us into, taking away local control by massive cuts to shared revenue. I have always opposed the taking away of collective bargaining rights. I am also the only candidate to put together an operating budget post Act 10 and deal with those consequences. (Note: It was pointed out to Mayor Barrett that Kathleen Vinehout had authored a state budget as a response to Scott Walker’s last year, and while never passed or presented to the Legislature, it did address fiscal issues without the deep program cuts seen in Walker’s budget. Barrett indicated he had not seen the Vinehout budget.)

BD – How do you repair the damage done in this budget to Labor, Public Education, and Healthcare in this political climate, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau forecasting a revenue deficit of over $200 million– after Scott Walker came into office with a surplus of $56 million?

Barrett – We have to closely examine Scott Walker’s tax policy, and close loopholes and political favors in the tax code that allow companies and the wealthiest individuals to avoid paying their fair share. That money must be re-invested in our public schools, tech schools, and universities to create an educated and skilled workforce. That is how we create good jobs, build our infrastructure and get Wisconsin on track.

BD – Do you believe that collective bargaining is a basic human right?

Barrett – Yes. I believe collective bargaining is the right of every worker, private or public.

BD – How do you connect with and relate to the grassroots citizens and organizations that started this movement, and be accountable to them?

Barrett – 2010 was a very different year politically. As I’ve said before, Russ Feingold and I ran into the nationwide Tea Party “buzz saw”, yet I only lost to Scott Walker by about 6 points. My campaign is only 4 weeks old, and we’ve made great progress in reaching out to the grassroots, engaging grassroots, and will continue to do so. I have also picked up key endorsements across the Democratic spectrum.

BD – What will be your first act as Governor?

Barrett – I will take a multi-faceted approach to repealing Act 10 through a Legislative Special Session. We cannot afford to wait until the next budget cycle to repeal Act 10, so the only way to do it immediately is through a Special Session.  Another issue with placing collective bargaining in the budget is that in Wisconsin, unlike the federal budget, the state would continue to operate under the Walker budget until the new budget is passed. This would put the Republicans in the position of already having the budget they want, and just stalling until collective bargaining is removed from the budget – or we continue under the Walker budget. We can’t afford that either – with some of the largest cuts in state history to education and healthcare, we can’t play that game with the next budget.

BD – Do you think you would have the votes in the Assembly (assuming it remains Republican and the Senate flips to Democratic) to call a Special Session? Senator Vinehout indicated in a previous interview that she felt there are some moderate Republicans in the Assembly who may have had a change of heart on collective bargaining?

Barrett- I agree with Senator Vinehout. Having been a Legislator, I know that something that looked really good 15 months ago looks very different now. There was considerable pressure on the Republican Legislators to fall in line; and now after recalls, divisiveness, and the direction polls are moving – the consequences of Act 10 are adding up. It’s important to look back after the birth of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and realize that there have been 5 GOP Governors – Knowles, Dreyfuss, Thompson, McCallum, and now Walker. Only Scott Walker has been so divisive, and gone so far as to repeal most of the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

This election revolves around some very central issues – collective bargaining, ending the ideological civil war, and the worst job performance in the country. Add to that the attacks on public education, healthcare, and women’s rights – and this election will be a referendum on Scott Walker.

To conclude this interview, a few author comments:

Tom Barrett is a different candidate than in 2010. He seems to have a genuine passion and fire, also seen in Kathleen Vinehout. One walks away with the idea that he gets it. An interesting part of our conversation outside of the interview related the fact that his family has been directly affected by Scott Walker – Barrett’s wife being a public school teacher. Barrett also considers his city to be under direct assault by Walker – for example the killing of high-speed rail, and the manufacturing jobs that would have followed. The question this writer came away with is – does Tom Barrett get it? Has Scott Walker affected his life and his city to the extent that he has had an epiphany bringing him to this movement? Or is this political expediency and opportunism?

We may very well have the opportunity to find out the answer to that question.

Next – I go back on my word, and make an endorsement in the Democratic Primary. Why? Because a blogger/activist’s prerogative is to change his mind, and I feel it necessary to make a statement.