The REAL Paul Ryan GM Janesville record – politics over people

Paul Ryan has been representing Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999. Ryan’s recent statements inferring that Barack Obama could have possibly saved the Janesville GM plant in 2009 are, at best, misleading; to be blunt, they are lies – especially as Ryan’s own record proves he knows better.

A report released as early as July, 2005 was an early warning that the Janesville plant was vulnerable to closing.  The study predicted decreased demand for SUVs manufactured at the Janesville plant, largely due to rising oil and gas prices:

If the cost of a barrel of oil rises to $80 or $100, possibly due to a supply disruption, gas prices would reach $2.86 to $3.37, according to the study, which may be enough to drive down demand for SUVs and larger pickup trucks.

The changes that this would bring would gravely impact the auto workers and the communities these manufacturers are in, said Walter S. McManus of the Transportation Research Institute.

Was it possible Ryan was unaware of this situation? Considering this report was cited in a July 28, 2005 article in the Wisconsin State Journal – not likely. Fast forward to 2008…

On June 3, 2008, Ryan issued a statement in response to the GM announcement that the closing of the Janesville plant by 2010 was imminent:

“Today’s news is downright gut-wrenching for Janesville. Growing up and living in Janesville, this is something we’ve always feared…It is my hope that as this 2010 shutdown date approaches, Janesville will be in a better position to reverse this decision.”

The same day, June 3, 2008, Ryan, Kohl, and Feingold issued a joint response to GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner. A key part of their response:

We ask that you reconsider the decision to close the Janesville GM plant and request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss GM’s plans for the Janesville plant, including the possibility of retooling the plant for different production lines.

Clearly, Ryan knew in mid-2008 the plant would be closing within the year.

In September 2008 Ryan and other state leaders, including Senators Kohl and Feingold, and then-Governor Jim Doyle scrambled to convince GM to keep the plant open. Ryan flew to Detroit with Jim Doyle that month to present an unprecedented package to GM Executives. The union concessions, combined with state and local tax breaks, amounted to a $195 million package for GM. Ryan also personally lobbied GM executives to keep the plant open. Again, clearly, Ryan was aware of the impending closure.

On October 13, 2008, Ryan issued a press release in response to the GM Janesville plant closing announcement:

GM’s decision to end production of their SUVs at the end of this year gets at the heart of our economic crisis. Today’s announcement is disappointing, although not surprising given the drop-off of sales of SUVs. (emphasis mine)

The press release itself refers back to the 2005 study (cited above) warning of the closure of the Janesville plant. In his own words, Ryan acknowledges the timing of the Janesville plant closure. By his own actions, he confirms the desperate attempts by Wisconsin officials to keep the plant open; in spite of the failing Bush economy.

Ryan even broke with his own party at the end of 2008 in a last-ditch attempt to save the Janesville plant; and to save face in his District. In November 2008, Ryan was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as being opposed to pending auto-industry bailout legislation:

Like most Republicans and a number of Democrats, Ryan opposes using part of the $700 billion financial bailout package to help the ailing industry, arguing it would not be the proper use of those funds.

“This is not what the (money) is for or should be for,” he said. “It was to save the broader economy from crashing.”

After the Thanksgiving recess, Ryan returned to Congress and voted against his party, to pass HR7321 on December 10, 2008. The legislation (sponsored by Barney Frank D-MA) approved $14 billion in auto industry bailout money. Ryan was 1 of only 32 Republicans to vote for the bill in  a 237-170 passage. Was this a last-ditch attempt to give GM resources  to re-open the Janesville plant? Or a political ploy to save face in his own district – ravaged by plant closings on his watch…

The Ryan record of words and actions are clear. Paul Ryan is now attempting to re-write the history and record of the Janesville GM plant closing. He leaves behind the workers in his district whose lives were turned upside-down; and moves ahead with his political career – taking no responsibility for the closing on his (and George W. Bush’s) watch.

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Facts elude Scott Walker…along with the truth

Scott Walker’s press release on August 29th fired a shot across the border at Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Illinois from A+ to A with a “negative outlook.” From the Walker press release:

There could not be a more stark contrast between Wisconsin and Illinois. Political leaders in Illinois kicked the can down the road, raised taxes, and ignored fiscal realities.  Now, they’re realizing the consequences of their actions: credit downgrades and negative outlooks. Wisconsin balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, reducing services, cutting Medicaid, or engaging in any massive public employee layoffs.  We enacted long‐term structural reforms, which led to another bond house giving our current budget a “credit positive” outlook.

Walker omits the critical part of the story, resulting in a lie of omission. His attempt to take credit for an already sound fiscal policy has been completely missed by Wisconsin media. The Chicago Tribune gets it right:

The agency lowered the state’s credit rating from A+ to A, citing a “lack of action” on changes aimed at lowering the pension system’s unfunded liability that could hit $93 billion by next summer if nothing is done.

The downgrade was regarding the Illinois pension fund – which had been raided to offset budget deficits over a period of several years. The Walker Administration, desperate to receive positive press, is taking credit for a sound state pension fund which Walker inherited; and whose policies to date have had zero impact on. Walker omits this critical piece of information in his press release. The Wisconsin press corps has yet to call out Walker on this lie of omission. 

This is consistent with Walker’s behavior in making public statements throughout his term in office. At the GOP Convention last night, Walker repeated the persistent lie of Barack Obama being responsible for the Janesville GM plant closing. In this case, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Al Sharpton call him out on national television; letting Walker paint himself into an uncomfortable corner – all the while maintaining the lie.

The record is clear. GM officially closed the Janesville plant on December 23, 2008; laying off 1,200 workers. A small crew of several dozen workers stayed on to complete a small order of trucks under contract to Isuzu. Yesterday’s Politifact (August 29, 2012) makes this clear, rating Ryan’s assertion false; including the assertion that Obama “promised” to keep the plant open.

Perhaps the Wisconsin media misses this because the status quo is Walker lying. Watch for headlines when he actually tells the truth…or is indicted and forced to admit to the truth.

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Scott Walker is controlling the message…literally

Emails obtained by Badger Democracy confirm what has long been speculation. Conservative talk show hosts in Wisconsin, particularly the Metro Milwaukee market, get their talking points directly from the office of Governor Scott Walker.

Two sets of email chains specifically name Charlie Sykes, Vicky McKenna, and Jerry Bader in statewide broadcast radio; and former TMJ4 television Executive Producer Julie Pearl. The reach of these media outlets through syndication is virtually statewide; and is a flagrant use of on-air broadcast as a full-time campaign mechanism for the Walker Administration – outside of the campaign.

The first set of emails is from Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie to Governor’s staff, and Walker himself; though the email is redacted along with one other email address. The email is dated June 7, 2011:Important to note the contact is initiated by Cullen Werwie to Charlie Sykes on Monday, June 5; soliciting an appearance for Walker on June 9 to explain how his reforms are already “producing positive results.” Sykes confirms, and Werwie replies on June 7, sending an attachment titled “6.9.11 Bader Sykes McKenna briefing”

The “Meeting Briefing” for the radio hosts is an outline of talking points, strategically planned for not only Walker’s interviews; but for the hosts themselves.

The audio archive of Sykes’ show from June 9, 2011 shows that all major points from the above briefing were discussed – many with Walker himself. The CEO ranking and “job creators” message, supposed savings for local schools, and the Middleton/Cross Plains teacher arbitration issue were all discussed in the Walker interview. Sykes touches on the other primary points during the balance of his show.

The Jerry Bader show from June 10, 2011 was staged as a “call-in” show for Walker’s segment. The points covered during this segment encompass most of the memo. Walker’s fiscal reforms already working, increased pension and health premium contributions by teachers saving districts money, local government savings, and the favorable CEO rankings/”job creators” message were all discussed during this call.

Badger Democracy was unable to obtain audio archive of Vicky McKenna’s June 9, 2011 show – a Clear Channel staffer informed BD that older podcasts had been removed.

WTMJ television producer Julie Pearl receives a solicitation on June 1 from Werwie for a Walker appearance on the morning show. This after Werwie gives a “no comment” to the status of Act 10, after Judge Sumi struck down the law in May, 2011. Just days after the “no comment” response, Werwie replies to Pearl – “Julie, can you give me a call when you get a chance today? I think I’ve got an offer TMJ might be interested in. Give me a call on my direct line (redacted).”

On page 2 Werwie gives Pearl a full briefing on the event, and includes Tonette Walker in the appearance:

On page 3, same day, Pearl replies “Would love to have them on.” Werwie promises exclusivity, noting it is the Walker’s first joint appearance since inauguration:

Page 4, same day (June 1), and Pearl expresses her gratitude: “Thanks Cullen! And thank you for giving us the opportunity to have the Governor and Tonette on. It means a lot!” The email also brings in Tonette Walker’s scheduler Annie Nolan for the final itinerary:

Just days later, June 7, as Werwie is also coordinating the radio media blitz for Walker, he again solicits an appearance from Pearl – this time with a friendly “smiley face” for emphasis. Pearl replies in kind, saying “Definitely want this.” How professional…

In the final exchange from June 8-9, 2011; Werwie expresses thanks for having Walker on the morning show. Pearl responds in kind, and offers a spot for Tonette Walker to talk about “how she’s dealing with things – dealing with the attacks on her family re the collective bargaining law.” The email is forwarded to Nolan and Tonette Walker (email redacted).

The emails reveal a blatant use of mainstream media posing as news organizations; for campaign purposes posing as state business.

In a statement to Badger Democracy, Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski raised grave concern over this practice:

If it is not illegal it certainly is unethical for these broadcast corporations to be providing propaganda support in a scheme straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook. The employers at WTMJ and the other stations should explain how they are independent of the Walker administration and how their hours and hours of slavishly positive-and now, we see, coordinated-coverage fits within their own ethical guidelines and the rules and laws of Wisconsin and the United States.
The idea that the government can so directly control broadcasters who use public airwaves represents a major crisis for Wisconsin journalism.
As long as reporters and broadcast “journalists” are in collusion with conservative politicians like Walker, reporting political agenda as news, democracy is in serious trouble. Zielinski also points out that progressive talk show host John “Sly” Sylvester is never given “talking points,” and has, on many occasions, disagreed with Democratic Party officials and candidates.
For the record, a WTMJ spokesperson referred Badger Democracy to corporate counsel – no response has been received. WTAQ station manager referred Badger Democracy to Jerry Bader who is solely responsible for his content. Bader is in Tampa and has not responded to emails. WIBA also had no comment beyond stating that the memo represented basic show preparation for McKenna.
An explanation should be required by WTMJ, WISN, WTAQ, and their affiliates. Don’t hold your breath as the hypocrisy continues…
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DOJ referred to take over civil forfeitures by Capitol Police; Dane Cty DA clarifies “agreement” with DOJ

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesperson Dana Brueck confirmed via email to Badger Democracy this morning that the Department of Justice received a referral from Capitol Police to prosecute civil forfeitures at the Capitol.

WI Statute 16.846(2) states, in part :

An action for a forfeiture under sub. (1) (b) 2.may be brought by the department, by the department of justice at the request of the department, or by a district attorney.

Brueck confirmed the request was made by the Capitol Police, under the Department of Administration. Brueck also stated, “we don’t have the authority to direct DA Ozanne to do anything…We are working with his office…”

In a phone interview this morning, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne clarified the nature of his office’s “agreement” with DOJ. Ozanne stated his office met with DOJ after the referral and policy change went into effect. He said he would not characterize it as an “agreement.” Merely DOJ acting within their jurisdiction.

The Dane County DA will continue to receive copies of all civil cases referred to DOJ for prosecution, and will continue to handle criminal prosecutions. That is the extent of the “agreement.” Ozanne’s office was not consulted before this change in policy went into effect.

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WMC, Corporate Conservatives pushing the lie of government regulation costs

A filing with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission this week requested the deregulation of public utilities. In its filing, the “Compete Coalition” cites the need for “free market” principles to reduce costs to consumers:

“Electricity consumers can only win if Wisconsin takes steps to reduce the adverse impact of protected monopolies and adopts laws and policies allowing competitive market forces to provide incentives for increased efficiencies, lowest available costs, and environmental improvements.”

The Compete Coalition is a front group for Washington DC lobbyists affiliated with three powerful firms – Wexler & Walker PPA, The Nickles Group, and Covington & Burling LLC. Each of these firms individually spend tens of millions of dollars annually on behalf of corporations looking to influence energy, health, and financial legislation. In addition, Compete Coalition members contribute millions more to this lobbying effort. The group’s request with the PSC is, in reality, self-serving, and holds no benefit for taxpayers or consumers. Further study reveals this to be the case with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and conservative lawmakers’ calls for regulation reform.

In its 2011-2012 Legislative Policy Agenda, WMC lists “foster a competitive regulatory environment” as first priority. According to WMC, regulation easing and reform:

…will improve the business climate by
reducing the costs and barriers to business expansion and job creation, imposed by government.

On July 26, 2012, WMC praised Congressman Reid Ribble’s (R-WI 8th CD) “Midnight Rule Relief Act,” passed by the House as part of the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Jobs Creation Act” (HR 4078). Ribble’s Act would serve to:

…have an economic impact of $100 million or more annually with the exception for emergency health, safety, criminal, and national security purposes.

Just one day before, Ribble spoke in support of the bill; citing the high cost of regulation and impact on job creation. In the remarks, Ribble speaks from experience as a small businessman – suggesting that data to the contrary be ignored in favor of his anecdotal testimony.

Yesterday (August 23, 2012) Green Bay Rep. John Klenke (R-88th) issued a statement praising an activist Appeals Court opinion striking down EPA authority to strengthen coal emissions standards. According to Klenke’s statement:

These mandates are also costing thousands of jobs yet provide marginal  environmental benefit.”

Conservative think-tanks and “scholars” have published their own studies supporting policy advocates like WMC, and conservative legislators like Klenke.  The most highly regarded and cited study was commissioned by the Small Business Association Advocacy Office in 2010, “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms” by Nicole V. Crain, Lafayette College. The study quantifies the regulatory costs to business at $1.75 trillion. For conservative legislators and corporate, free market advocates, that number is gospel. In reality – it misses the big picture, ignoring significant data. Just how does regulation impact jobs and the economy?

For the first time, in 2011, The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a report to Congress on the costs of regulation and unfunded federal mandates. The key findings show that current regulation benefits far outweigh the costs to taxpayers:

1. The estimated annual benefits of major Federal regulations reviewed by OMB from October 1, 2000, to September 30, 2010, for which agencies estimated and monetized both benefits and costs, are in the aggregate between $132 billion and $655 billion, while the estimated annual costs are in the aggregate between $44 billion and $62 billion.

2. Some rules are estimated to produce far higher net benefits than others. Moreover, there is substantial variation across agencies in the total net benefits produced by rules. For example, the air pollution rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produced 62 to 84 percent of the benefits and 46 to 53 percent of the costs.Most rules have net benefits, but several rules have net costs, typically as a result of statutory requirements.

To reiterate – the benefit to taxpayers of current regulations and mandates far outweighs the costs – particularly EPA regulations. Benefits measured include medical/health benefits as life expectancy and cost savings, environmental safety and protection, and actual costs of programs. These benefits include protections and benefits to business – not just consumers.

But government regulations are “job killers…” Are they? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) documents statistical reasons for business closings and layoffs. In the most recent release of Mass Layoff Statistics (MLS) (August 14, 2012), the numbers clearly show that government regulation has a very small impact on employment.

In 2011-2012, Government Regulation/Intervention  accounted for 8 of 3,100 Mass Layoff events (.2%). By contrast, 301 layoff events were caused by “insufficient demand” (10%).

In 2011-2012, Government Regulation accounted for 1,218 separations (individuals) out of a total of 563,447 separations (.2%). “Insufficient demand” caused 38,788 separations (7%).

A five-year study published in 2010 by the BLS shows the data is consistent. From 2006-2010 there were 3,815 Mass Layoff Events; 26 were a result of Government Regulation (0.7%). Of 851,767 separations, 7,843 were a result of regulation (0.09%). This data is based on surveys of the affected businesses.

The facts do not bear out the argument against necessary regulation; nor do they support deregulation as a cost/job saving mechanism. In fact, the very Crain/SBA study being cited by conservatives as proof of economy – killing regulatory practices appears to be a fraud.

Sidney Shapiro, Professor of Law at Wake Forest Law School, examined why the $1.75 trillion regulatory costs  cited in the Crain/SBA study (link above) far exceeded the $62 Billion cited by the OMB study (link above).

Crain’s calculations for the regulations not covered by OMB’s report appear to be based largely on a decidedly unusual data source for economists – public opinion polling, the results of which Crain and Crain massage into a massive, but unsupported estimate of the costs of “economic” regulations.

That’s right – they extrapolated data not from actual statistics, but opinion polling. The skewering of the study continues.

Crain and Crain have refused to make their underlying data or calculations public – apparently even withholding them from the Small Business Administration office that contracted for the study — it is difficult to know precisely how they arrived at the result that economic regulation has a cost of $1.2 trillion dollars, comprising more than 70 percent of the total costs in their report.

Secret data based on opinion polling. Not a good source for an economic “study.” It turns out even the source of the poll used disputes the validity of the data from the poll.

…their numbers are based on the results of public opinion polling, specifically a poll concerning the business climate of countries that has been collected in a World Bank report. The authors of the World Bank report warn that its results should not be used for exactly the type of extrapolations made by Crain and Crain, because their underlying data are too crude.

The self-serving attacks by the corporatic Robber Barons aimed at regulation have no valid place in a responsible debate on governance. The very studies they commission and cite are a fraud. The data are sifted and sorted to support a foregone conclusion, receive no peer review, and are used for one purpose – to influence gullible, ideologically driven legislators.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “…facts are stubborn things.” Things too ignored today by conservatives.

(BD note: WMC and Congressman Ribble were contacted for a response to this article by phone and email on August 22, 2012. They did not respond)

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The Day the First Amendment died under US Senator Ron Johnson

UPDATE FOLLOWS:

The First Amendment to the US Constitution: 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

At a small GOP gathering in a reserved room at the Monona Terrace today for Mitt Romney, the GOP and US Senator Ron Johnson dealt a blow to “freedom of the press.” Dylan Brogan, credentialed journalist with WTDY radio in Madison, was escorted out of the event by Madison Police.

Badger Democracy will update as information is available. Inquiries to Madison Police, the Romney Wisconsin Campaign and Senator Johnson’s Wisconsin and Washington DC offices have yet to be returned.

UPDATE – 4:45pm – Ben Sparks, Romney campaign spokesman, told Badger Democracy that he informed WTDY reporter Dylan Brogan that he was being denied access to campaign events. After which time Brogan created a disturbance and was escorted out by police. Sparks characterized the access denial as a “time out” for Brogan and WTDY based on previous campaign event disturbances caused by “WTDY” staff, not disturbances caused by Brogan himself.

Dylan Brogan’s report is found on this link with extended audio

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Breaking News : Van Hollen asks Supreme Court to act on Voter ID…again

Breaking News: Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen has asked the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to immediately bypass the Court of Appeals in two cases, and take up the controversial Voter ID legislation, now on hold in two Dane County Circuit Court cases. The law was put on hold by Judges Flanagan and Niess, and is pending in two separate Appellate cases.

The AG’s motion seeks to consolidate the two cases in the Supreme Court; and would have the State Supreme Court bypass the cases pending in the Courts of Appeals. In a statement, AG Van Hollen makes clear his motivation for the motions filed today:

My action today, now allowed under the Court’s rules of procedure, gives the Wisconsin Supreme Court another opportunity to bring prompt, clear resolution to the law and settle this matter in advance of the November elections.

In April, the state’s high court refused to take up the Voter ID issue, in a brief, single sentence denial of the motion; in advance of the May and June recall elections. This is Van Hollen’s second attempt to have the Court bypass the Appeals Court hearings.

There are currently two Federal cases pending on the Voter ID law – Bettye Jones, et al. v. David G. Deininger, et al., Case No. 12-CV-185, and Ruthelle Frank, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al., Case No. 11-CV-1128. Trial dates are pending for those cases.

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