Friday, April 30, 2010

Former chair of College Republicans of WI leaves GOP « Blogging Blue

See? College does make you smarter.

Former chair of College Republicans of WI leaves GOP « Blogging Blue


Shocking news. Halliburton at fault in the Gulf disaster.

How's that "drill baby drill" thingie working out for ya?

Drilling Process Attracts Scrutiny in Rig Explosion -

The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface.

Federal officials declined to comment on their investigation, and Halliburton didn't respond to questions from The Wall Street Journal.

When the WSJ, a house organ of the Republican Party, can't get an answer from Halliburton, you know something really bad is happening.


Hacking the planet to fix global warming?

Ready to start terra-forming... the Earth?

'Planet Hacking' Raises Dilemmas and Opportunities for Researchers

Or more officially, check out the latest document from NOAA:



Saturday, April 24, 2010

Epistemic closure and American conservatives?

What I like best about this is that 'epistemic closure' was applied here by someone from the CATO Institute.

Have Conservatives Gone Mad?

This week in West Bend: The Purges begin.

Hi everyone,

A small gaggle of social conservatives were elected to office in West Bend last week and, in city council at least, haven't wasted any time settling the score with any opponents left over from last year's self-inflicted library mess. Gaggles like this tend to spread like Asian millfoil so I'm predicting they won't stop while there's a stone left standing in public education or in local government services.

If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to eat crow publicly -- and crow will never taste sweeter.

Saturday's column

Let the purges begin

Last week was a tough week for conservatives in America, although not in West Bend, Wis.

First, President Obama cancelled the National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House and then a federal judge in Madison ruled the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional.

Second, the Milwaukee paper came out with a big report on the real tax burden in Wisconsin. It turns out that Wisconsin is no longer quite the massive flaming tax hell the professional anti-tax protesters need to get their ideology out of first gear.

Wisconsinites do get clobbered on their property taxes, but there’s no traction here for conservatives hoping to make hay about the business climate. Wisconsin only ranks 14th in terms of total tax burden and although residential property taxes put us in the top 10, taxes on industrial property owners “rank in the bottom half and sometimes the bottom third nationally.” A common complaint among conservatives is that Wisconsin is unwelcoming to business but business taxes in Wisconsin are roughly in the middle nationwide. Maybe business doesn’t like tax complainers.

Third, some new members of local government attended another one of those Tea Party rallies in Madison, once again hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the front group for Koch Enterprises’ fear-manipulation profit center. With media attention finally shedding light on the degree to which the Koch family is exploiting the Tea Party movement these rallies have become increasingly embarrassing.

For example: in what reporter John Nicols characterized as an appearance “steeped in irony” consider the mere presence of Tommy Thompson up there on the platform announcing his non-candidacy for the Senate. When an Olympic-class Washington insider like Tommy appears at a Tea Party rally, we get a peek at the ideological decay underneath the pearly white enamel of conservative America’s beautifully veneered smile. Tommy’s making money for his clients these days by working with the Obama administration and all that nonsense about being “regular folks” collapses the minute you start following the money and counting up the indoor swimming pools.

So, a tough week for conservatives – but not in West Bend. Here, they are tearing up the place. After working up a Tea-soaked appetite in Madison, at the ideological equivalent of The Biggest Loser competition, what better way to satisfy that hunger than head home and take out your frustrations on anyone who's disagreed with you over the last few years?

In a move that scans as payback for past sins, the Common Council, with help from newly elected Common Sense Citizen Ed Duquaine, voted 5-2 to remove Barb Deters from the Library Board. Ms. Deters gained national recognition last year for her brave and successful effort to preserve our Constitutional rights in the face of a mean and well orchestrated assault by local fundamentalists. As a reward for her principled and courageous service, the Common Council dumped her off the board. Only one member of the original board now remains, and they’ll get him next time.

Some additional attempts to put a stamp on city government included Mr. Duquaine’s attempt to remove Jed Dolnick (police chief of Jackson) from the Planning Commission, and Steve Hutchins equally queer request for the removal of Douglas Fitzgerald and Mike Palm from the Redevelopment Authority.

These last three were voted down, but already we can read the wind: April's electoral victories portend a new direction for the civic life of West Bend.

In addition to Mr. Duquaine’s election to the Common Council, two of his Common Sense Citizen comrades – Mr. Weigand and Mr. Marquardt – were elected to the School Board. We can now expect that the School Board, led by these new members, will try to get rid of anyone who has crossed them in the past. A safe bet would be that, at their first meeting, businessman and civic leader Joe Carlson will be voted out as School Board president and, presumably, our brilliant and fiscally disciplined district superintendent Pat Herdrich is also on their list. Perhaps Mr. Weigand and Mr. Marquardt will simply cut the superintendent position in order to save money and help fund the new Intelligent Design curriculum.

This is, of course, the worst thing that could happen and is, therefore, the most likely series of actions these newly empowered Citizens might pursue.

It is instructive that in most revolutions, the first people voted off the island are the smartest and most capable.

After cleaning house in the school district’s administration, they’ll go after the teachers next and, finally, the curriculum.

Let’s hope I'm wrong.

In the meantime, I nominate Dave Weigand for School Board president.

And so it goes.

And so do we.


West Bend is not alone. Homophobia spreads to Germantown School board.

Must be catching.

Or is it simply part of the wider, vast right wing conspiracy. :)

Germantown School Board member warns of 'dangers of homosexual lifestyle'

A newly elected school board member in Germantown has called the "Day of Silence" -- which raises awareness about the bullying of homosexuals and others -- "misguided propaganda," according to a GermantownNOW story.

Diana Kline, who made the comments in an email, the weekly newspaper says, also urged fellow Germantown school board members and administrators to educate themselves "about the dangers of a homosexual lifestyle."

After being elected to the board April 6, Kline said in an email to the paper:

"I’m so encouraged to know that there are more and more conservatives taking action and making their voices heard on a local level. I’m looking forward to serving the community and helping to train up the next generation to be men and women of honesty, integrity, valor and virtue."

Values like close-mindedness and xenophobia? Other countries have tried them and they don't work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let the purges begin. WB City council dumps library board member who stood up against censorship.

Here we go.

After swearing in new members, the ultra-conservative majority -- with a lead by former Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schlotfeld -- voted to dump Barb Deters off the library board. Ms. Deters received national recognition last year for her role in the fight to keep local ultra-conservatives from removing material in the West Bend library.

This same clan, so offended by her determination to stand up for civil liberty and voted into power this month in a low turn out election, is now a majority on city council and the local school board. One has to imagine that the purges will continue and accelerate.

Ginny covered it admirably.

On the upside, West Bend promises to be in the national news even more often in the next few years.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Even more bad news for the ultra-rights: Wisconsin is no longer a tax hell.

I guess they'll have to find something new to complain about now -- but they won't.

My favorite comment on this story was the first one which read, roughly: "I don't care if the numbers show Wisconsin is not a tax hell, it is so."

A lot of people have been drinking the tea these days.

A few nice details from the story at:

Fact: Wisconsin ranks 26th in total spending by all levels of state and local government based on the latest figures (as compared with 20th in population, 24th in Gross Domestic Product and 24th in personal income for the same year).

Fact: Wisconsin ranks 14th in total tax burden.


Only a few states rely more than Wisconsin on the big one-two punch of property and personal income taxes. Despite the average government spending, that's an unpopular load for taxpayers and a risky strategy for funding bedrock services.

The state's unusual insistence on taxing all types of property at equal rates puts a larger share of the tax burden on middle-class homeowners.
The result: Taxes on industrial property owners rank in the bottom half and sometimes the bottom third nationally. In contrast, residential taxes are still easily top 10, and residential owners pay more than two-thirds of all property tax collections, up from half in 1970.

As I've continually said, the tax burden is shifted from the wealthy to the middle class... as usual.
And all the whining about Wisconsin taxes being an anti-business pogrom launched by hippy socialists in Madison to drive industry out of the state? That's just an excuse for lousy management... as usual.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Earth Day at 40.

Hi everyone,

Earth Day turns 40 this year, which brought back memories of the very first one -- a national observance for which Wisconsin gets bragging rights. Gaylord Nelson kick started it and now we have the EPA, the air and water are cleaner, an annual crew of volunteers are out today cleaning up the Milwaukee River as it bobs and weaves through West Bend, and kids complain when their parents forget to recycle. It was a great start. We have yet to see how well one day, 40 years ago, will serve polar bears -- but here's something to keep in mind: 40 years ago there were roughly half as many humans on the planet as there are today. Connect the dots.

No wonder traffic seems to have gotten worse...

In the meantime, this week on the 20th, remember your Mother.

Saturday's column.

Earth Day at 40 – from 1,000 feet

Earth Day lands on Aprill 22 this year. I remember the first one. I was in seventh grade. Our teachers had arranged for a speaker from the huge local power company to talk about how they were participating in all of this new fangled environmental thinking by cutting pollution levels around their plants.

The speaker explained with slides and graphs and futuristic architects renderings that, in order to cut pollution levels in our area, his coal fired power station had built a new smoke stack nearly 1,000 feet tall. By pumping all of that sulfur di- and tri-oxide a 1,000 feet into the atmosphere, the pollution at ground level dropped of nearly to zero.

“Isn’t that great kids?” he enthused.

Hands shot up all across the room. Every one of us had the same question: “But did you reduce the amount of pollution coming out of the top of the smoke stack?”

The power company hack explained – patiently, condescendingly, with undisguised annoyance, elongating each word now so that even an annoying seventh-grader could understand – that by raising the smoke stacks to a 1,000 feet pollution levels at the ground had ... been ... cut.

The 13-year-olds in the room weren’t buying it. It was obvious, even to 13-year-olds, that the pollution levels hadn't been cut, they’d simply been relocated.

Some of you will remember that those pollutants, tossed high into the atmosphere over the Midwest, fell as acid rain across the sugar maple stands of Quebec and New England for decades, eventually driving maple syrup from a Sunday morning staple splashed across pancakes into a luxury item doled out with an eyedropper.

Thus, my first lesson in corporate responsibility included a powerful environmental dimension. It was this: Big corporations are allowed to duck their environmental responsibilities in order to make a profit – and if that includes screwing up maple syrup production and lying to 13-year-olds, no problem. Welcome, young middle-schoolers, to the free market economy.

That was then. This is now.

Earth Day turns 40 this year and positive changes have followed since Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson pushed for this national observance. The air and water are cleaner and President Nixon signed the EPA into existence to protect the prosperity of our posterity – but, in a lot of ways, not much has changed.

Corporations continue to increase their profits by outsourcing pollution – either by continuing some variation of taller-smoke-stack-Three-Card-Monte, or by relocating the worst kinds of industrial pollution to developing countries that can’t afford environmental protection or enforcement. Politicians with something at stake in those profits continue to help these corporations duck and cover here at home.

Take for example, local politicians Glenn Grothman and weatherman-turned-state-representative Jim Ott. Both have been honored by Americans for Prosperity for standing up to the world's scientific community on behalf of the petroleum industry, by suggesting that global warming is a hoax.

Just a week or so ago, in fact, Sen. Grothman pushed for an amendment to gut the Governor’s Global Warming Bill (SB 450/AB 649) because “Now that the idea of global warming has so thoroughly been questioned a lot of people feel it was a total waste to have the Clean Energy Committee to meet at all.” A lot of people in the petroleum industry, he means.

Grothman’s posturing was supposed to appear courageous (facing down all those elitist scientists and all their data and facts) and was, one imagines, even more profitable than courageous for the companies that benefit. And where does the money go?

The trail keeps leading back to one spidey-hole: Koch Industries. This privately held petroleum mega-corporation, the focus of a lot of press attention since they were discovered to be major contributors to the Tea Party movement and Americans for Prosperity, have now been exposed as major contributors to the global warming denial industry. Greenpeace recently found that the Koch crowd had spent “over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the climate denial machine” – significantly more than even Exxon Mobil.

I guess it’s not surprising that the petroleum industry would be nervous about letting any accurate scientific reports describing the negative effects of their golden goose appear in public without a full-court press of objections designed to distract or obscure the facts.

It’s darned nice of Grothman and Ott to look after the interests of billionaires this way.

So, not much has changed in the Death-Star intersection of politics and big money since I was 13. That fact may seem a bit gloomy. Major corporations continue to spend tens of millions to make hundreds of billions in profit and they continue to build taller metaphorical smokestacks to bamboozle the public.

But don’t despair. Every year classrooms full of 13-year-olds continue to rise to the challenge and fight back. Join them. Start asking questions and, when you do, start with this one: Where my grandchildren’s world is at stake, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?

And in solidarity with my activist friends, say it with me: No compromise in defense of Mother Earth!


Friday, April 16, 2010

And even more on Koch bankrolling of Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity.

Looks like the press finally woke up.

The Koch Family ties to the Tea Party shell game (like the one they sponsored through Americans for Prosperity in Madison this week) are finally staggering into the day light and, like most vampires, they don't like it.

Another of Koch's beneficiaries is Americans for Prosperity, which was founded in part by the company's Executive Vice President, David Koch. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

AFP, based in Washington, has been a key organizer of many tea party events, including Tax Day Tea Party rallies in at least nine states today. (Indeed, we last encountered AFP when a man holding an "I Am AFP!" sign at an Ohio tea party protest berated a pro-health reform rallier who is disabled by Parkinson's.)

AFP's North Carolina branch has a Web site called that encourages supporters to "contact Americans for Prosperity-NC with questions about throwing a Tea Party in your town! We are here to help you have a great success!"

In an interview this morning, Cohlmia confirmed Koch's role backing AFP. Asking how that squares with the statement that Koch not provide funding "specifically to support the tea parties," Cohlmia said "the statement stands."

She said the unsolicited statement was prompted because, "we've had a number of people who have indicated Koch is funding and orchestrating tea parties."

A spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity directed inquiries back to Koch Industries.

Still, they're just ... you know... 'regular' folks. Like you and me -- except for the private jets and maids and indoor pools. :)

I guess I'm wondering how long America will fall for this shell game... if that past is any indication, we'll believe anything so long as it keeps us happily afraid of someone else.


Yes, 47% of Households Owe No Taxes. Look Closer

Some clever recent talking points from the ultra-rights about how tough it is to be rich.

So why are those radio and television talk show hosts spending so much time arguing that today’s wealthy are unfairly burdened? Well, it’s hard not to notice that the talk show hosts themselves tend to be among the very wealthy.

No doubt, like the rest of us, they don’t particularly enjoy paying taxes. They are happy with the tax cuts they have received lately. They would prefer if other people had to pick up the bill for Medicare, Social Security and the military — people like, say, firefighters, preschool teachers, computer support specialists, farmers, members of the clergy, mail carriers, secretaries and truck drivers.

Koch Industries: We Don't Fund Tea Parties (Except For The Tea Parties We Fund)

I see our new 3rd District Alderman was in the paper as a member of West Bend's Tea Party sleeper cell attending the Tea Party in Madison this week. They're all just regular folks like him... you know, people who live in $450,000 houses with indoor pools who belong to organizations like Americans for Prosperity.


Koch Industries: We Don't Fund Tea Parties (Except For The Tea Parties We Fund)
Now, it's well known that Kansas-based Koch, one of the largest private companies in the world, with a hand in everything from chemical production to commodity trading, and associated foundations plow millions into right-wing causes including climate change denial and pro-corporate economics research.

Another of Koch's beneficiaries is Americans for Prosperity, which was founded in part by the company's Executive Vice President, David Koch. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

AFP, based in Washington, has been a key organizer of many tea party events, including Tax Day Tea Party rallies in at least nine states today. (Indeed, we last encountered AFP when a man holding an "I Am AFP!" sign at an Ohio tea party protest berated a pro-health reform rallier who is disabled by Parkinson's.)

But, so long as you get to work for billionaires... you know.


A business model for schools.... a reader disagrees.

The business model

can serve schools well

While I normally agree with much of what Mark Peterson has to say, I have to take issue with the premise of his April 10 column suggesting that schools should not be run like businesses. Here’s why;

1. While the function of business is to make a profit, it can do so only if it satisfies its customers.

2. When a business faces hard times it works extra hard to provide more rather than less service to the client or customer. This is accomplished by reducing overhead (cutting frills, layoffs, economizing).

3. The function of a school district is to provide quality education in a manner that satisfies its customers (read students and taxpayers).

4. When our school district faced hard times it moved first to cut services to the students, raise their fees etc. This, of course, does not make for satisfied customers. Would we not be better served if the district used the business approach of short changing the “customer” only after all other options are exhausted?

Peterson rightfully talks about social responsibility but one can’t have his cake and also eat it. This responsibility must extend to the student first but also to persons underwriting the cost of the process. These persons have a perfect right to expect the school administration to run the district in a business-like manner.

As to the administration being “chock full of first-rate business experience,” a glance back at facility maintenance policy, referendum proposals and capacity planning makes that statement doubtful at best.

Finally, we should all keep in mind that the public only elects extremists when its concerns are ignored.

Jim Rubenzer West Bend

Monday, April 12, 2010

Even Fox News Shocked by Conspiracy Theories and Right-Wing Extremism in the Tea Party Movement


Fox News Shocked by Conspiracy Theories and Right-Wing Extremism in the Tea Party Movement

Global warming denial industry still on message.

Thanks to Freethinker.

The Blatant Dishonesty of World Net Daily

Of course it's easy when you lie about what's in the official reports.


Small-City Mayor Takes on the Pentagon -- War Spending Should Be Spent on Americans, Not on Killing Afghans | | AlterNet

What if we did this?

Small-City Mayor Takes on the Pentagon -- War Spending Should Be Spent on Americans, Not on Killing Afghans

I know, crazy.


The Five Creepiest Moments of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference

People do crazy stuff in New Orleans.

The Five Creepiest Moments of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference

Sounds like they held some of the meetings at Pat O'Briens.


15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America

From Business Insider:

My fave, but check their other charts.

Wealth And Inequality In America

The ultra-rights will now have to argue that 50% of Americans are lazy slugs living off the top 1%.

-- oh, that's right... they've already sold that argument.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Income inequality increasing...

A reminder that no one ever made a billion dollars in a free market.

Working Group on Extreme Inequality » How Unequal Are We?


More bad news for the ultra-rights: Obama's economics plan is working

What's worse for conservative ideologues than Obama's economics doing well?

Obama taking a page from Bill Clinton and doing well.

Why the Obama economics plan is working -
A Bloomberg national poll in March found that Americans, by an almost 2-to-1 margin, believe the economy has gotten worse rather than better during the past year. The Market begs to differ. While President Obama's overall job approval rating has fallen to a new low of 44 percent, according to a CBS News Poll, down five points from late March, the judgment of the financial indexes has turned resoundingly positive. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is up more than 74 percent from its recessionary low in March 2009. Corporate bonds have been rallying for a year. Commodity prices have surged. International currency markets have been bullish on the dollar for months, raising it by almost 10 percent since Nov. 25 against a basket of six major currencies. Housing prices have stabilized. Mortgage rates are low. "We've had a phenomenal run in asset classes across the board," says Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak + Co., an institutional trading firm in New York. "If Obama was a Republican, we would hear a never-ending drumbeat of news stories about markets voting in favor of the President."

The horror. The horror. :^)


Education is not a business.

Hi everyone,

Here's a little detail that's caused me to say "huh" more than a few times since Mr. Reagan was elected -- a detail missing even from the yakyak of free market economy wonks: business has no social responsibilities. That's why it's difficult to run government, and school districts, like a business.

Oh, and here's further proof that I don't write the headlines.

Saturday's column.

Trust professor Milty

Education is not a business

This spring election favored candidates who staked their public credibility to their personal experience in business – to the belief that running the schools, or city council, as a business would fix everything. This belief, and those campaign promises, left a lot of conceptual dissonance clanging around in the back seat of the bandwagon.

Look, it is always a good idea to run public institutions in a way that spends tax dollars in a business-like way, but it’s complete madness to run a school district as if it were a business. Here’s why: the shoe doesn’t fit – education is not a business.

So, while there was a lot of talk about bringing common sense business experience to running the school district, there were two problems with this: first, the School Board was already chock full of first-rate business experience – more than enough to help us navigate the current economic mess. Second, and even more discordantly, is the question of whether the school district is a business in the first place, and that’s where the definitions start to sound like your sugar-saturated 4-year-old nephew learning to drive stick.

But why isn’t education a business? Why can’t we run public institutions the same way we run businesses? Well, apart from the obvious answer – that we’d be right to question the competence of anyone who wants to run the local schools the way Goldman-Sachs ran things on Wall Street, say – there is an even more fundamental answer that has to do with the difference between businesses and public institutions.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous dictum (which he borrowed from the ancient Greeks, by the way) applies here: Form follows function. Consider then the difference between the function of a school district and the function of a business.

And let’s get it from the horse’s mouth: Professor Milton Friedman, a favorite among Washington County’s pro-cuts clique, has written compellingly about the function of business. Business, Friedman argues, has a single function: to make a profit. Anything beyond this flies at cross-purposes with the very definition of what a business is supposed to do.

In a famous article for The New York Times Magazine (“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,” Sept. 13, 1970 – still a standard in business ethics courses) he expands on this definition to attack what he saw as a grave threat to American capitalism – the idea that businesses should be “socially responsible.” Friedman writes, “in my book Capitalism and Freedom, I have called it (that is, social responsibility) a “fundamentally subversive doctrine” in a free society, and have said that in such a society, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Business then, by definition, has no social responsibilities; in fact, any business that tries to be socially responsible would find itself at odds with its own function and, accordingly, damage its profit margins. So far, so good?

The “let’s run the schools like a business” crowd, run smack dab into their own definitions at exactly this point: the function of a school district is almost entirely about meeting social responsibilities – the responsibility to society to provide the education to enable the next generation to govern themselves, as citizens of the republic, and to achieve self-sufficiency. It is not the function of school district, to go back to Friedman, to make a profit.

Think about it. If the school district was a business, then we should expect anyone running it (as a business) to follow Uncle Milton’s advice and 1) try to make a profit and, 2) avoid social responsibility like the plague.

Ironically, this is exactly the complaint we now hear from the ultra-rights (and increasingly from some of us on the left) about Big Government – that it seems more concerned with making a profit (creating an endless glut either for itself or for its major campaign contributors) than with meeting its social responsibilities. Stranger yet, this marks off some common ground where the Tea Party and the Progressive Left meet. I say let’s have coffee and work it out. Any takers?

All of this, of course, is nonsense. The school district is not a business. It’s function is not to make a profit but to meet the social responsibilities those of us who live here have to the next generation. My best guess for the next few months is that when our newest School Board members find their ideology wrecked on the reefs of reality they will have to moderate their commitment to profit in order to meet their responsibilities to society.

As to whether our new school board members will start to push their creationist views into the curriculum... I double-dare them. I'm betting they don't have the conviction to act on their faith. We'll have to find out.

And so it goes.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Exxon Mobil Paid No Income Tax in 2009

It's good to have good accountants.

Exxon Mobil Paid No Income Tax in 2009

Last week, Forbes magazine published what the top U.S. corporations paid in taxes last year. “Most egregious,” Forbes notes, is General Electric, which “generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.” Big Oil giant Exxon Mobil, which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS:
Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.
Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein notes that, despite benefiting from corporate welfare in the U.S., Exxon complains about paying high taxes, claiming that it threatens energy innovation research. Pat Garofalo at the Wonk Room notes that big corporations’ tax shelter practices similar to Exxon’s shift a $100 billion annual tax burden onto U.S. taxpayers. In fact, in 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that “two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.”

mental health break on a rainy election day.

YouTube - Ukulele Heaven, Strum

Saturday, April 03, 2010

10 Things Every American Should Know About Health Care Reform


1. Once reform is fully implemented, 94% of Americans will have health insurance coverage, including 32 million who are currently uninsured.

2. Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions—or to drop coverage when people become sick.

3. Just like members of Congress, individuals and small businesses who can't afford to purchase insurance on their own will be able to pool together and choose from a variety of competing plans with lower premiums.

4. Reform will cut the federal budget deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years, and a whopping $1.2 trillion in the following ten years.

5. Health care will be more affordable for families and small businesses thanks to new tax credits, subsidies, and other assistance—paid for largely by taxing insurance companies, drug companies, and the very wealthiest Americans.

6. Seniors on Medicare will pay less for their prescription drugs because the legislation closes the "donut hole" gap in existing coverage.

7. By reducing health care costs for employers, reform will create or save more than 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.

8. Medicaid will be expanded to offer health insurance coverage to an additional 16 million low-income people.

9. Instead of losing coverage after they leave home or graduate from college, young adults will be able to remain on their families' insurance plans until age 26.

10. Community health centers would receive an additional $11 billion, doubling the number of patients who can be treated regardless of their insurance or ability to pay.


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10. "Affordable Health Care for America: Summary," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 18, 2010

3. "Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed March 22, 2010

4. "Affordable Health Care for America: Health Insurance Reform at a Glance: Revenue Provisions," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 18, 2010

5. "New Jobs Through Better Health Care," Center for American Progress, January 8, 2010

8, 9. "Proposed Changes in the Final Health Care Bill," The New York Times, March 22, 2010

10. "Affordable Health Care for America: Health Insurance Reform at a Glance: Addressing Health and Health Care Disparities," House Energy and Commerce Committee, March 20, 2010

"Conservative" cut-everything policies cutting middle class opportunities for a university education.

Hi everyone,

A bit of goulash about money and college this week as we're sidelined regarding local politics the weekend before elections. If common sense prevails, the Common Sense Citizens Sturmabteilung will not.

In the meantime, Saturday's column.

Students busting it and protesting for affordable education

Pell grant change should help

These days my classes are filled with students scraping to make ends meet, carrying full course loads, and working full time to pay for it – and they’re caught in a Catch-22: the more they work, the less time they have to study, the less time they have to study, the lower their grades, but if they cut back on their work load to improve their grades, they won’t make enough money to pay for their tuition. They’re stuck.

When people my age hear this, they scratch their heads and say “but when I was in college, I was able to pay for everything while working part time.” During the mid-’70s I only had to work about 20 hours a week at minimum wage to pay for tuition, gas, and an occasional beer. Today’s students struggle to maintain their GPAs high while working 30-40 hours a week. How could that be?

There are two complications: 1) minimum wage is lower today than it was 30 years ago and 2) the full cost of tuition has been increasingly shifted on to the individual student.

The minimum wage in Wisconsin is currently $7.25 an hour. Starting in 1976, when I first strapped on that blistering Red Blazer for the Ramada Inn Corporation, I made a whopping $2.10 per hour. (I worked the front desk and sometimes as night auditor. Hotels offer the perfect job for college students; each shift contains a few hours of chaos when guests check in or out, and then things quiet down and give you the chance to study. [online version: I was finally bumped to $2.15 an hour after stepping up to check in a VIP guest who only spoke German -- thus also being given my first lesson in how corporate America values education among its bottom rung employees].)

$2.10 an hour doesn’t sound like much, does it? Surprise: $2.10 in 1976 dollars is equivalent to $8 an hour today; that is, 75 cents more than the current minimum wage. In other words, I earned 9.73 percent more per hour in 1976 than minimum wage employees do today.

On top of earning less in real wages than students did 30 years ago [when, say Glenn Grothman and I were in college] , today’s students are also paying a larger share of their own tuition. Twenty years ago the state of Wisconsin paid for nearly 75 percent of the cost of a student’s education. Today the state’s contribution is closer to 25 percent.

Tuition has had to go up to compensate for the lack of commitment in the Legislature. The student protests at UW-Milwaukee are a result of successive waves of tax cuts shifting the cost of a university education to the shoulders of students. The main effect of this trend has been to make it increasingly difficult for people from middle class families to afford a university education without incurring terrible debt.

All that tax cutting looked great in election year literature, but the chickens are coming home to roost.

Given these obstacles, the determination we see in today’s students is inspiring.

The Pew Center just released a report on this remarkable bunch. The current crop of 18- to 29-year-olds, now nicknamed the Millenial generation, is different from both Gen-Xers and Boomers. Some of the more obvious differences include: over 75 percent are active on a social networking site, 20 percent have put a video of themselves up online, nearly 40 percent have tattoos and about 25 percent have a piercing somewhere that is not an earlobe. Pretty amusing stuff. But here’s their predicament: 37 percent are unemployed – the highest rate of unemployment in this age group in over 30 years. At the same time, 39.6 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2008 and half of them hope to stay in college through graduate school. That’s a record, too.

Millenials will be the best-educated generation in U.S. history – they’ll have to be if we expect them to compete with China and India.

But 36 percent of them are not in school and polling data tells why: they say they can’t afford it.

Fortunately, this week, President Obama signed The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act which will deliver larger Pell Grants indexed to compensate for years of inflation that eroded the grants’ purchasing power. The extra funding comes primarily from cutting banks out of the pipeline, banks that were being subsidized with tax dollars to deliver these loans.

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating about $68 billion in savings over the next 11 years. That money can now go to students to help them pursue their education and improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Another big chunk of funding is going to the nation’s two-year colleges which, if I may exhibit a little Badger-bias, will help those two-year campuses catch up with the two-year system here in Wisconsin, where we still deliver the most bang for the student dollar.

And so on. Next week, Milton Friedman.