Monday, February 28, 2011

Milwaukee's city attorney says budget repair bill unconstitutional

WisPolitics Budget Blog: Milwaukee's city attorney says budget repair bill unconstitutional

Langley stated, “… in our judgment, the courts would find the statue unconstitutional on three grounds: first, that it unconstitutionally interferes with and intrudes upon the city’s home-rule authority over its pension plan; second, that given certain vested rights or benefits that have accrued to employees currently in the plan, the statute would constitute an unconstitutional impairment of contract rights under the state and federal constitutions; and third, given these same vested rights or benefits, the proposed statute would violate the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions because it would abrogate the terms and conditions of the Global Pension Settlement …”


Sunday, February 27, 2011

More clarification on Walker's Contribution Scam

The Contribution Scam - NYTimes.com


So the right question — the only question — is whether government workers are getting an overall good deal compared with private-sector workers. Why, then, are we hearing so much about the meaningless contribution comparison?

The answer is simple: it’s because doing the comparison right doesn’t yield the desired answer. The new report by the Times gets the same answer asother studies: low-paid government workers do a bit better than their private-sector counterparts, but others if anything do worse.



So how is it, again, that I'm a freeloader? Oh wait... I forgot for a second: I'm actually underpaid.

More clarification on Walker's Contribution Scam

The Contribution Scam - NYTimes.com


So the right question — the only question — is whether government workers are getting an overall good deal compared with private-sector workers. Why, then, are we hearing so much about the meaningless contribution comparison?

The answer is simple: it’s because doing the comparison right doesn’t yield the desired answer. The new report by the Times gets the same answer asother studies: low-paid government workers do a bit better than their private-sector counterparts, but others if anything do worse.



So how is it, again, that I'm a freeloader? Oh wait... I forgot for a second: I'm actually underpaid.

Walker appointing double dipping friends to state jobs

Nardelli moves to state job - JSOnline


Must be nice to be king.


Nardelli will be paid $90,000 in his new job. He was paid about $75,000 with the county as Walker's chief of staff.

Nardelli collects a $30,000-a-year pension from the city and another undisclosed sum from the Army, where he served more than 25 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He's also eligible for a county pension of about $4,500 a year, but that won't kick in until April, when his unused vacation and personal time runs out. Nardelli will also be eligible for a state pension. If he keeps his state job for four years, he could get about $5,700 a year.

Walker wants monopoly.

You heard it here first: Tax the rich and solve budget shortfall - JSOnline

Holy smokes... the local press is finally awake.




You heard it here first: Tax the rich and solve budget shortfall - JSOnline


The reality, of course, is that Walker's plan is not the only way to fill the $137 million gap; it is a policy choice which, to borrow from Warren Buffett, represents "class warfare . . . but it's the rich class that's making war, and we're winning." Rather than attacking the living standards of middle class teachers, prison guards and health care workers, Wisconsin policy-makers can easily close this budgetary gap - and reduce surging inequality in the state - by temporarily raising taxes on the superwealthy and corporations.

As economist Dean Baker points out, the tax increase "only needs to be temporary, since the state budget should be fine once the economy recovers." Business tax cuts in Wisconsin in recent years have reduced the share of state revenues provided by corporate taxes to almost half the level of 20 years ago. By one measure, from the pro-corporate Council on State Taxation, our business tax burden ranks 12th-lowest in the country.

Scott Walker's War To tear Wisconsin Apart.

Remember, all of this divisiveness serves someone's purpose. Whose?


Scott Walker's War - Isthmus | The Daily Page

And, as the Wisconsin State Journal reported, the largest share of savings in Walker's budget repair bill for the current fiscal year ($165 million) will come from refinancing state debt, not new payments from public employees ($30 million). And the elimination of most collective bargaining — which allows employee unions to negotiate everything from benefit levels to sick days — has no direct impact on the state's bottom line.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pat Strachota votes against middle class membership for public employees.

Wisconsin Assembly roll call vote on budget bill | wausaudailyherald.com | Wausau Daily Herald


My naivete cleans my clock again. I thought we'd elected her to use judgment rather than obedience to ideological principle. Silly Rabbit.

Police group says it stands with protesters.

State Capitol will remain open; police group says it stands with protesters - JSOnline

"Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Governor Walker's attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin's devoted public employees is wrong," Palmer said. "That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them tonight."


Of course.

Facts overshadowed in debate over union bill - Yahoo! News

Facts overshadowed in debate over union bill - Yahoo! News

for instance:


MADISON, Wis. – The facts have been overshadowed by rhetoric at the Wisconsin Capitol, where protesters and politicians have been engaged in a tense standoff over the governor's proposal to strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

Gov. Scott Walker insists the state is broke and must make drastic spending cuts. Unions believe Republican leaders are trying to wipe them out. Two weeks into the debate, The Associated Press assessed the claims in an effort to shed light on what's at stake.

Walker says his plan is needed to ease a deficit that is projected to hit $137 million by July and $3.6 billion by mid-2013.

The budget as it stands now is balanced, and Walker is under no legal obligation to make changes. But by mid-summer, the state could come up short on cash to pay its bills, largely because of a projected $169 million shortfall in its Medicaid program.



That's right. It is. Awake yet?

Recall the Governor, keep the Republic

Hi everybody,


So, here we are again.

Saturday's column.



Recall the governor, keep the republic


Gov. Walker, who now compares himself to Ronald Reagan, has not had a great week. Everyone in the country sees his “Budget Repair Bill” for what it was: union busting wrapped up in the flag of a fake “financial crisis” – a strategy he used to squeeze Wisconsin workers out of their county building security jobs last year, inappropriately if not illegally, as the arbitrator has now ruled.

Everyone sees it, that is, except for the indignant Walker-supporter castaways in the news stream and the Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth funded advertisers who continue to pound their shoes on the table. like howler monkeys having a bad hair day, repeating the whole “public employees don’t want to pay their fair share” bull hockey. You don’t hear self-righteous anger in their tone anymore. It’s fear – they sound like resentful guard dogs barking to protect the huge tax breaks Mr. Walker promised their owners.

But it’s just barking and, as usual, barking up the wrong tree.

The “fair share” decoy never really floated. The money is off the table, in fact, it’s been off the table for a while. A lot of the latest concessions were drafted and ready to go late last fall during that round of contracts the lame duck legislative session voted down. In the meantime, public employees have come forward and, once again, said “no problem, we’ll take a hit for the team” by paying more on their pensions and health insurance.

Of course, a truth like this gets in the way of an emotionally satisfying fit of barking. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more barking – especially if people keep feeding the dogs.

But the barking isn’t working very well. In fact, it’s alienated some of the most important sectors of Wisconsin’s population. The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Diocese of LaCrosse issued statements of support for state workers. The Wisconsin State Firefighters Association showed up to support the protesters and the executive board president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association says he now regrets endorsing Walker for governor. Even former Green Bay Packer members of the National Football Player’s Association have issued statements of support for Wisconsin workers.

When you’ve alienated both the Catholic Church and the Green Bay Packers, you really need to re-think what you’re doing.

Oh, and Time magazine reports that people are phoning into local pizza parlors in Madison to buy pizza for the protesters. They’re phoning in from all over the world, including Cairo.

Even Egypt is sending pizza.

On top of all that, the governor got caught admitting to going after Wisconsin union families in a telephone call from someone impersonating one of the Koch brothers. Apparently a fake billionaire can reach the governor on the phone when real Democratic senators cannot. That tells us everything we need to know.

But wait, there’s more.

Gov. Walker is just getting warmed up. All of this hubbub is only the beginning. Like I said, there’s going to be a lot more barking and a lot more pain for Wisconsin families. Even the sunny new, non-threatening Club for Growth ads showing happy Wisconsin cows (as opposed to their initial, menacing and divisive ads that tried to drive a wedge between union and nonunion families) won’t keep the pain away. These cuts to public employee salaries will only take care of about 8 percent of the budget problem. That other 92 percent is still on the horizon, like a storm rolling in from Iowa.

Make sure your windows are up.

If you think the public employees got irritable having their union rights threatened, and if you think the effect of cutting their salaries (which will drain $42.4 million out of the local economy in Ozaukee, Washington and Dodge counties alone) just wait until Gov. Walker asks your local municipalities to cover the rest – wait until they cut your town’s snow- plowing budget and garbage pick-up in order to cover the lavish and delicious tax cuts Mr. Walker promised his buddies.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We can ask the Legislature to figure out a smarter way to balance this budget, and in a way that addresses the budget rather than the political promises Mr. Walker made to Big Money.

Or we can recall the rascal in 2012.

Hey, Wisconsin is good at this. What if we stood up to Wall Street fat cats – like Gov. Walker’s friends the Koch brothers (who opened up a brand new lobbying office across from the Capitol) – and made government work for the other 98 percent of us for a change?

Let’s remember how this great American Party got started.

As Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powell from Philadelphia shouted out to him: “Well, doctor, what have we got?”

“A Republic," Ben responded, "if you can keep it.”

Let’s keep it.

What do you say?



hiho
Mp

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tax Breaks vs. Budget Cuts

Which prove, it's good to be king.


Infographic: Tax Breaks vs. Budget Cuts

Even Forbes finally weighing in: The Wisconsin Lie Exposed



The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions - Rick Ungar - The Policy Page - Forbes

Here's some of it.

Johnston goes on to point out that Governor Walker has gotten away with this false narrative because journalists have failed to look closely at how employee pension plans work and have simply accepted the Governor’s word for it. Because of this, those who wish the unions ill have been able to seize on that narrative to score points by running ads and spreading the word that state employees pay next to nothing for their pensions and that it is all a big taxpayer give-away.

If it is true that pension and benefit money is money that already belongs to state workers, you might ask why state employees would not just take the cash as direct compensation and do their own investing for their retirement through their own individual retirement plans.

Again, simple.

Mr. Johnston continues-

Expecting individuals to be experts at investing their retirement money in defined contribution plans — instead of pooling the money so professional investors can manage the money as is done in defined benefit plans — is not sound economics. The concept, at its most basic, is buying wholesale instead of retail. Wholesale is cheaper for the buyers. That is, it saves taxpayers money. The Wisconsin State Investment Board manages about $74.5 billion for an all-in cost of $224 million. That is a cost of about 30-cents per $100, which is good but not great. However it is far less than many defined contribution plans, where costs are often $1 or more per $100.”

If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.

What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.


Desperation among Republicans in WI Assembly

WI Assembly GOP Passes Walker Budget In Surprise Vote -- Dems Chant "Shame!"



Then Kramer called the vote. Within seconds, the digital vote system on the wall announced 51 ayes and 17 nays, and voting was suddenly closed. With a total of 96 members, that got to a majority for the bill but left 28 members who hadn't had a chance yet to vote.

At that point, the Democrats got up, chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and similar exclamations, as the Republicans filed out of the room.

Jon Stewart Rips Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Over Prank Call

Whatever happens, we need to encourage the Governor to keep talking. ;^)


Jon Stewart Rips Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Over Prank Call (VIDEO)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What the Right Wing really thinks: "Use Live Ammunition" Against Wisconsin Protesters"


Indiana Deputy AG : "Use Live Ammunition" Against Wisconsin Protesters


On Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted a report that riot police might soon sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin capitol building—something that didn't end up happening—one Twitter user sent out a chilling public response: "Use live ammunition."

From my own Twitter account, I confronted the user, JCCentCom. He tweeted back that the demonstrators were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were "physically threatening legally elected officials." In response to such behavior, he said, "You're damned right I advocate deadly force." He later called me a "typical leftist," adding, "liberals hate police."

Only later did we realize that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general for the state of Indiana.

Ex-AG sees violations by Walker in stunt call

The Gov is having trouble with his previous actions in the courts and arbitration... and now this?

Didn't the Republican Party check any of this out before they ran him? And why did the news media wait until now to start digging??

Ex-AG sees violations by Walker in stunt call



When Gov. Scott Walker discussed strategies to lay off state employees for political purposes, to coordinate supposedly “independent” political expenditures to aid legislators who support his budget repair bill, and to place agent provocateurs on the streets of Madison in order to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, he engaged in what a former attorney general of Wisconsin says could turn out to be serious ethics, election law and labor violations.

Much of the attention to the “prank” call that the governor took from a blogger who identified himself as billionaire David Koch has focused on the bizarre, at times comic, character of the discussion between a blogger posing as a powerful political player on the right and a governor whose budget repair bill has sparked mass demonstrations in Wisconsin communities and a national outcry. But the state’s former chief law-enforcement officer described the governor’s statements as “deeply troubling” and suggested that they would require inquiry and investigation by watchdog agencies.

Bad reporting contributes to confusion: Workers do pay for their pensions.

From Tax.com


Accepting Gov. Walker' s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply "contribute more" to Wisconsin' s retirement system (or as the argument goes, "pay their fair share" of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin' s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.

The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: "The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee." This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.

The collective bargaining agreements for prosecutors, cops and scientists are all on-line.



Walker's advertising hammer has been bogus from the start.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison

They're HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison

The expanded lobbying effort by the Koch brothers in Wisconsin raises red flags in particular because of a little discussed provision in Walker's repair bill that would allow Koch Industries and other private companies to purchase state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts.
"It's curious that the Kochs have apparently expanded their lobbying presence just as Walker was sworn into office and immediately before a budget was unveiled that would allow the executive branch unilateral power to sell off public utilities in this state in no-bid contracts," says Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.


Yeah, curious. :)

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About

I wonder if the problem is that most conservatives are still looking at the world through the lenses of political ideology when they've been co-opted by people who look through the lenses of economic power? Is it that they see "rugged individual responsibility" instead of "if we can keep them from hanging together, we can hang them individually"?


Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About | Mother Jones


‎"...30 years of free-market evangelism have convinced nearly everyone—even
middle-class voters who keep getting the short end of the economic
stick—that the policy preferences of the business community are good for
everyone. But in practice, the benefits have gone almost entirely to
the very wealthy."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin Power Play... ja der hey.

Krugman thinks so too...

Wisconsin Power Play - NYTimes.com

For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

Positive effects of Wisconsin's budgeting for Education

Interesting... a bit below the national average in spending and above the national average in results. That sounds like Wisconsin.

So, let's try to fall back to average, want to?

State Profiles Home Page

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On the other hand, the Dems outcut Republicans in the last Biennium...

Something overlooked:

Walker will soon have to introduce an actual budget, which will outline spending and revenue policy for the two years between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013. And the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau -- the official scorekeeper -- does project that he'll face a $3 billion shortfall. But Democrats faced a shortfall twice as large ahead of the previous budget cycle and managed to close the gap.


And without getting rid of unions... which weren't responsible for the budget debt we have now anyway... they're simply annoying to Walker's owners.

The Hidden Budget Bill Item Even Worse Than Union Busting

Burning Down Wisconsin: The Hidden Budget Bill Item Even Worse Than Union Busting | The Awl


What has been widely ignored about Walker's bill (in part because of the speed with which he's fisting it down Wisconsin's gullet) is a sneaky provision that paves the way for him to cut, or eliminate, Medicaid and BadgerCare healthcare benefits for low-income people.

Administrative rules changes sound about as interesting as the words "administrative rules." And Walker's "administrative rule" change is the kind of complex, procedural legislative legalese that few reporters are sickly masochistic enough to slog though through. (And it's especially true that nobody reports on America's rising war on the poor. This was evidenced by the fact that major network stars have yet to appear in Madison, and, until this weekend, the tens of thousands sleeping in the capitol warranted segment bites equal in length and depth to the latest update on reporter Serene Branson's migraine.)

So in short: Walker's administrative rules change would allow the Department of Health Services, via the overwhelmingly GOP-controlled budget committee, to change state laws unilaterally, skipping the legislative process altogether. In terms Vicki McKenna can understand, this means Walker's bill will allow the governor to subvert the legislative process and make his own laws without going through the tiresome and long American tradition of lawmaking. But wait, there's more!

Tea Party and education: they can’t even take attendance « Jim Rosenberg's Blog

Tea Party and education: they can’t even take attendance « Jim Rosenberg's Blog

No doubt why they hate all those smart people so much.. :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Apropos of the Koch puppet speeches in Madison today.

Friends on the ground report that apart from the AFP talking points, which nearly crowd nouns off the page with adjectives like "lavish" "bullying unions" and "lavish", most of the speeches collapsed into the standard name calling about freeloading socialists.

But if you needed a refresher....

YouTube - Learn to Speak Tea Bag



Scott Walker Padded Salary Increases for Cronies During Budgetary Distress: 24% Salary Increase for Aide with 2 Public Pensions

So, apparently this is how Mr. Walker and his friends are paying their fair share. As expected.

Scott Walker Padded Salary Increases for Cronies During Budgetary Distress: 24% Salary Increase for Aide with 2 Public Pensions | BuzzFlash.org

Illinois Senate President continues to thank Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for marketing effort

Illinois Senate President continues to thank Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for marketing effort


The Catholic Church supports the unions..

Ahem.



However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth. As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, “[a] union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.” (Laborem exercens #20, emphasis in original)

It is especially in times of crisis that “new forms of cooperation” and open communication become essential. We request that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good. We also appeal to everyone –lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions – to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis.

Daily Kos: Wisconsin update: Majority of Wisconsin residents oppose Walker’s bill

How about that?

Will they come to the aid of their neighbors when the Tea Party rolls in it's muscle? :^)


Daily Kos: Wisconsin update: Majority of Wisconsin residents oppose Walker’s bill


This also appears to be the case with unions. Recent surveys from Pew and Clarus (PDF) do not give unions, in the abstract, very high marks from the public. The Clarus poll is particularly brutal. However, when the abstraction is removed and the people fighting for unions are your neighbors, your friends and your children’s teachers, then people tend to side with the union.

This point is demonstrated by the first non-partisan poll to ask Wisconsin residents what they thought of Governor Scott Walker’s controversial plan for public sector unions. According to the poll, a majority of Wisconsin residents don't like it:

We Ask America, 2/17, 2,397 adults, MoE 2.0

”As you may know, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan to limit the pay of government workers and teachers, increase their share of the cost of benefits, and strip some public-employ unions of much of their power. We’d like to know if APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of Gov. Walker’s plan.”

Approve: 43%
Disapprove: 52%

While non-partisan, We Ask America is actually a conservative polling firm, according to Nate Silver.

Walker's Trojan Horse.

Hi everyone,

Someone clearly zapped Wisconsin with the old May you live in interesting times curse. But you do have to admit, Democracy is still better than all the other alternatives.


Saturday's column




Walker’s Trojan Horse

Budget fixes abound without going nuclear



As we approach my final column next week I thought I might describe the wonderful new professional opportunities that have come on line during the last few months (election to the board of directors of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, a paper I’m presenting at a national conference on popular culture in April, and a chapter for an anthology on political philosophy I have to finish up over the summer). Or, since that probably sounds like snoresville to most people, I thought I might regale you with my adventures as a member of the Milwaukee Ukulele Club and the designated master of ceremonies for next September’s Third Annual Milwaukee Ukulele Festival (find us at mufest.com or on Facebook!).

But then Gov. Walker decided to go nuclear.

First of all, nothing Gov. Walker has done should surprise anyone. “You have to dance with them what brought ya,” as my grandma used to say, and Mr. Walker is simply looking after the interests of the people who bankrolled his campaign. Those folks tend to hate unions, public employees and the idea that a government should work for people instead of for business. So far Mr. Walker is doing a good job for them. Even though the protest is drawing support from all over the United States, including our own Green Bay Packers, Walker is still the governor. Politics can be tough.

Second, there are a couple of inconvenient facts that Walker – and even the local news media – keep dancing around.

Walker’s budget is based on the claim that the state of Wisconsin is broke – that there’s a budget crisis – but, what if the crisis is a fake? What if it’s a Trojan Horse?

Here’s what I mean: on Jan. 31 the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that the state would end the year with a surplus of $121.4 million. A surplus? Well, it was a surplus until the governor’s “special session” pushed through $140 million in new special interest spending. Pretty special, eh? The facts are indisputable; if the Republicans in Madison hadn’t spent the money, there would have been no “crisis” to speak of and, therefore, no need for desperate measures.

Walker pulled the same trick in Milwaukee County in 2009 to privatize security at the Courthouse. The board cut his privatization plan out of the budget, but Walker used his super-veto powers and reinstated it. The board then overrode his veto, but Walker declared a fiscal “emergency” and privatized the guards anyway. See? He’s had practice at this. Ironically, the security jobs he took away from Wisconsin residents ended up going to people from Chicago and Florida.

But wait, what about that $3.6 billion debt in the next biennium. Isn’t that a “crisis”?

Nope.

If we raised the sales tax by 1 percent, it’d bring in an extra $800 million a year. A few years of this (with a fireproof sunset clause!) would fix the problem. I’m opposed to sales taxes as a rule, since they’re regressive, but if this is all it would take, then what we have here is a budgetary concern – not a crisis.

So, the budget brouhaha is fake – but what if it goes through anyway? When it does, there are going to be repercussions, not just public employees, but for local businesses too.

There are 5,036 public employees living in Washington County. Each one of them will have their take home pay cut by roughly 8 percent or about $3,094 on average. It adds up to about 15.6 million fewer dollars spent in Washington County this year. That threatens a lot of your favorite restaurants and local merchants – people who work hard and have to compete against national chains with sweetheart tax deals.

But we can all help.

Folks, we’re going to have to spend locally. Try to hit locally owned restaurants and stores; shop at the farmers market this summer to support local farmers; and take a moment to think about ways to help keep the money you spend in Washington County IN Washington County.

I know that my colleagues over the on the Right Wing believe that the most important social relationships are economic ones, but they’ll never convince me we don’t have responsibilities to our country, our state, our city and especially to each other, that go beyond the Almighty Dollar.

At the end of the day, I don’t think they should convince you either.

So a final thought. Here’s what I keep wondering about as Big Money moves our jobs overseas, buys legislators to give it bigger and bigger tax cuts and shifts more and more of the tax burden to the middle-class.

Is this land made for you and me?

It’s something to think about.





Now, there's always a skunk in the woodpile and I missed a stinker.

The numbers I used from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau report were accurate... but because of the way the Wisconsin budget reports are written, it wasn't obvious at first that the apparent surplus did not include the infamous "restructured" debt... not obvious to me or to the 3 newspapers from which I got the initial numbers. If you'll check http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/ (just underneath the Flaming Lie Meter next to Governor Walker's claim that union negotiating rights will be left intact by this budget bill) you'll find the problematic numbers under a quote from Rachel Maddow... which, this morning, is off line -- too many hits perhaps, or under amendment.

But even Politifacts notes you have to check the fine print. The fine print suggests that the state budget was, adding in these carry over debts, PLUS the $100 something million the Governor tacked on for his friends during his special session, about $250million in the red. That's the calculation I'm seeing this morning. Apparently the hermaneutics are fluid right now. :^)

Having said that, however, there remains the question of whether this change in assumptions is a problem for my argument, which was: Given the simple, 1% solution, is this really a crisis?

I'll let you decide.

Another reinforcing bit of news that came in after my deadline, is that the unions took the money off the table and have said they'll accept the cuts. Governor Walker's response has been to ignore this -- which makes it appear as if collective bargaining was always the real target here rather than fixing the debt load.

The fact that everything in the state Republican play book was provided by Koch Enterprises also suggests the motivations here are political and, well, oligarchic rather than budgetary.

hiho
Mp

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Governor Walker, Welcome to the Show

How do you take a nearly bullet proof majority, and then make enough people mad enough to screw it up? Like this.

Howard Schweber: Governor Walker, Welcome to the Show

We're not Egyptians, it turns out -- we won't wait 30 years to make our objections known. That was a tough lesson for the Democrats in November, and just three months later it's turning out to be a tough lesson for Republicans as well. What can I say? This is American democracy, the big leagues. Welcome to the show.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Walker's Trojan Horse. Gov gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies



Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies
Wisconsin needs to be fiscally responsible.
There is no question that these are tough times, and they may require tough choices.
But Gov. Scott Walker is not making tough choices. He is making political choices, and they are designed not to balance budgets but to improve his political position and that of his party.
It is for this reason that the governor claims Wisconsin is in such deep financial trouble that Wisconsinites should view this as a crisis moment.
In fact, like just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better -- or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.
In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.
To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.

The Fiscal Bureau memo -- which readers can access at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2011_01_31Vos&Darling.pdf -- makes it clear that Walker did not inherit a budget that required a repair bill.
The facts are not debatable.


Shocking. The Gov lied and faked a 'budget crisis,' just as he did in 2009 in Milwaukee County, in order to funnel money to his political owners?

Duh.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thousands Protest Wisconsin Governor's Plan To Roll Back Union Rights | TPMDC

Thousands Protest Wisconsin Governor's Plan To Roll Back Union Rights | TPMDC

Members of the firefighters union appeared in solidarity at the Capitol event, as well, even though Walker's plan has exempted them.

Walker has previously said that he had alerted the National Guard, in case of unrest or if crucial state services are disrupted, but he has not called them into action yet.


The firefighters and police in the state recognize 'divide and conquer' when they see it.

Green Bay Packers Players Join Unions in Rejecting Gov's Cutbacks - WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM

Green Bay Packers Players Join Unions in Rejecting Gov's Cutbacks - WTAQ News Talk 97.5FM and 1360AM

Of course, they are the only socialist owned football team, so....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap

I guess I'm crazy to worry about what happens when the income distribution in the US is now worse than Egypt's and the governor is going to pay for tax cuts for the rich by balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class.

Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap | OurFuture.org

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation...)
Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. "In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent." (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)
400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.


So, there is more than enough money in the top 1% to balance the budget? Well, better not to bother them about this. We'll let the working class handle it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Irony exhaustion: Tea Party claims: 'Stupid People Are Ruining America'

Um....Yes, they are.


Herman Cain To CPAC: 'Stupid People Are Ruining America' (VIDEO) | TPMDC

So, budget problems, but? Wisconsin increases football coach Bret Bielema's salary to $2.5 million

Wisconsin increases football coach Bret Bielema's salary to $2.5 million - ESPN

Walker's strategy: divide and conquer.

If this were only about budget deficits, a 1% sales tax increase for 2 years would cover it... but this isn't just about budget deficits. It's about corporate power.

‎"One thing that even the dim bulbs in the media should understand by now
is that there is in fact a class war going on, and it is the rich and
powerful who are waging it. Anyone who does anything that empowers the
little people or that threatens the wealth and power of the plutocracy
must be destroyed." - John Cole

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In praise of moderate Republicans.

Hi everyone,


Saturday's column.





I'll be leaving my regular post here on the op-ed page in a few weeks and, in the last few columns, I want to take care of some leftover business.

Here's one of the things somebody needs to say.

Dear moderate Republicans, it's time to man up and take back your party.

Look, the real of job of conservatives in our democracy has always been to watch the money. It's what you do. You're typically in business, so your lives depend on it. That's why you're good at it. Back in the day, the rest of us relied on you to do exactly that -- to be the responsible partner in the relationship so that while those of us on the left worried over social justice, you carefully tracked the costs. It worked for everybody.

You've been marginalized lately on the political front because YOUR party -- the Republican Party -- has been rocked by a bunch of irresponsible yahoos. Your party leadership seemed to think it would be great to ride the demographic riptide left over from Mr. Reagan's Southern Strategy (now converted into followers of Palin and Beck) for as long as possible. They kept your party in power, but there's been a price. They began to test Republicans for ideological purity, purged moderates from the party, and pushed a social agenda rather than looking carefully after the money.

You should know, from your own market research, that a lot of those people fall into the category of so called "inner-directeds" -- a category in standard Values and Lifestyles analysis (VALs) that characterizes voters who describe themselves as looking for more "self-actualization." It was this group which, only somewhat counter-intuitively, voted for Reagan because he promised they could have whatever they wanted -- so long as they helped him "get government out of their way." It was brilliant, of course; starting with Reagan and culminating with Karl Rove and the Fox News demand-creation experts, those folks were the core swing votes who have kept lots of votes away from the Democrats.

Taking back your party will be great for everyone. Look what happened last time the Republican Party was able to dislodge its loony-fringe-social-engineering agenda: Newt and Bill balanced the budget and put America in the black. That worked pretty well until Karl Rove and Dick Cheney went back to those voters to squeak out an electoral victory over a Democrat who actually won the popular vote. And after 9/11 they deliberately went back to the inner-directeds in order to shore up power in the House and Senate -- and in state governments across the country. While they were unleveling the economic playing field and pillaging the US treasury for their favored corporate friends, they strayed well away from the kind of economic common sense most small businesses know is required for a healthy economy -- one in which competition, not no-bid monopolies, are encouraged and in which we don't balance the cost of our toys, or our wars, on the backs of our grandchildren.

Worst of all, sacrificing fiscal responsibility on the altar of ideological purity, as a kind of national Passion Play, has led Americans to think of themselves as consumers instead of citizens. That may be the most dangerous thing of all.

So look: America needs you. Get busy. Show up. Tell the yahoos to sit down and listen to reason. They won't listen to me, but they might listen to you. Make them learn about math. Make them read the Federalist Papers.

Don't forget that you're the real Republicans. The RINOs are those nut jobs who want the Republican Party to spend its political capital standing up for young earth creationism and Sarah Palin's understanding of geopolitics. Seriously, does that kind of Republican belong in the party of Lincoln?

It's up to you.

Sure sure, the Democrats have their own issues, but I promise those of us who can do math on the political left will exert ourselves, if you will -- and then maybe we can all have our country back.



hiho
Mp

Friday, February 11, 2011

This is where we live: Governor threatens state employees with National Guard.

Really?

No, really??



Walker says National Guard is prepared - chicagotribune.com

Gov. Scott Walker says the WisconsinNational Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Something we knew already. Wisconsin public workers underpaid

I've been asking Sen Grothman and Assemblywoman Strachota, for some years now, where oh where the money is going... and they don't know.

Why is that?

Because it's easier to blame those of us earning 4.8% less than private sector workers?

Report: Wisconsin public workers underpaid | The Business Journal

Government employees in Wisconsin receive 4.8 percent less in compensation for an hour of work than private-sector workers who perform similar duties, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.


The report came out on Thursday as state officials are considering pay cuts for public employees to balance the upcoming two-year state budget. The study compared public and private-sector worker wage, salary and benefit programs based on what type of work people performed and their education levels. It concluded that public workers are not overpaid, and that they are not the cause of, or solution to, current state budget deficits.


Iowa Republicans still believe President is a Muslim.

Because? Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.


Lawrence O'Donnell Asks Rep. Steve King if He's Got His Christian ID Card to Prove He's Not a Muslim | Video Cafe

Monday, February 07, 2011

Will the Europeans arrest Bush?

Torture complaints hit Bush on ninth anniversary of key decision | Raw Story

Is the US Chamber of Commerce Committing Treason?



UPDATED: Is the US Chamber of Commerce Committing Treason? | Crooks and Liars

Let's see:

The Chamber has argued in public and in communication to its membership that the lobbying it undertook to weaken Iran sanctions was absolutely necessary to keep corporate "persons" from doing business with other companies in the Middle East. All fine and well, but it still does not excuse them writing to the Iranian government in direct opposition to current administration policies.

Happy Birthday Mr. Reagan: 10 Things Conservatives want us to forget about you.

Some of us remember.

10 Things Conservatives Don't Want You to Know About Reagan

Raised taxes, signed the biggest deficits in history into law, increased the size of the federal government significantly more than Obama... and the list goes on.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Die at the Right Time! A Subjective Cultural History of the American Sixties

Die at the Right Time! A Subjective Cultural History of the American Sixties

From p. 369: "Reagan may have acted the part of the genial communicator to his constituents and may thereby have fooled millions of people, but he did not fool us. In reality, beneath that thin veneer, he was as mean as a snake. Like most arch-conservatives, he claimed to defend freedom, but, because he equated freedom with the right of conformists to get rich however they chose, while letting the chips fall where they may on the rest of us, he in fact defended only property, both private and public, never genuine human rights."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Paul Ryan's Highway to Heck

Hi everyone,

Listening to Paul Ryan give the "Republican" response to the State of the Union (or was it Michelle Bachman? and are they really different from each other in any meaningful way?) provided a kind of sublime thrill.

Here's why.


Saturday's column



Paul Ryan’s highway to heck
Congressman and idol Rand didn’t practice what they preached



We’ve finally topped the Roman Empire for public blood sport. In Ancient Rome gladiators amused spectators by cutting each other up in the Colosseum. Today, political spectators can watch politicians cut themselves to pieces without the assistance of an opponent.

Surely, progress is wonderful. Consider Republican Party Golden Boy Paul Ryan, whose official response to the president’s State of the Union Address warmed the hearts of liberals across America as the contradictions of his own life story cut through him like shrapnel. His Roadmap for America, and his plans for your retirement, include denying future generations the kind of government benefits he received himself.

But it’s tastier than simple hypocrisy. Ryan isn’t simply posturing for votes; he’s an ideological purist, a fan of Ayn Rand, the radical libertarian novelist whose works, like “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” remain a favorite of self-obsessed adolescents everywhere. Her books are the equivalent of “Catcher in the Rye,” but scaled down for once-young Alex P. Keaton wannabes who found a welcoming ideological greenhouse inside the Republican Party. Talking Points Memo reports that Ryan requires people on his staff to read “Atlas Shrugged” and gives out copies as gifts.

Rand’s basic premise is simple, and simplistic: Everything good is the result of individual actions and everything bad is the result of sacrificing one’s own selfish interests, regardless of what they are, for the benefit of others. Rand’s ideological purity, like all Big Political Theories, works great on paper, especially if you’re the one who benefits from it – but for everyone else, not so much. More ironically, her ideological purity is appealing in exactly the same way Soviet-era Communism was. I mean, Stalin did some good things, right?

Uh, yeah. If you were in the Party.

Ideological purity is one of the places where I find myself in complete agreement with my non-loony friends on the political right. We all believe it’s a bad thing. (You wouldn’t know it from recent media coverage but there are still quite a few, true fiscal conservatives left out there. They’re simply being drowned out by the howling Right Wing Dementors vacuuming up souls in the jet stream of Murdoch media outlets and by the Koch Brothers’ Mad Hatter Tea Parties.)

Ideological purity is dangerous regardless of whether we’re talking about Stalinists or Free-Market Capitalists. The problem is that reality is not ideological pure – it’s messy. Big Political Theories provide some good guesses about general principles but, as one of my favorite professors used to say: “Whenever you slap an -ism on the end of anything, you turn it into a religion.” This is true whether you’re talking about communism or socialism – or capitalism. Adding that -ism turns what might be a good idea into a religious conviction and, at that point, conversation ends and sermonizing begins.

Sermonizing is what we got from Rep. Ryan and it betrayed him. Liberals everywhere were overcome by great joy when, during the last few weeks, the press discovered that Ayn Rand, guru of Ryan’s political testament, received Social Security benefits – something like $11,000 a month for the last eight years of her life. So much for radical individualism.

It was as good as photographs of Donald Rumsfeld kissing Sadam Hussein on the mouth. Happier still was the discovery, reported in Wisconsin Interest, that Ryan himself received “Social Security benefits until age 18, which he put away for college.”

So it warms the heart of the Left to know that the man who’s entire life is owed in no small measure to the benefits of publicly managed Social Security, wants to deny those benefits to everyone else. “Privatization,” after all, is just an ideologically pure concept which, in the real world, means “entrusting our financial future to the same blackhearted Wall Street Casino bosses who crashed the economy in 2008, made off with stratospheric bonus payouts, and then got tax payers to cover their losses.”

What we’re left with in Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap is a retread of the same voodoo economics President George H.W. Bush correctly diagnosed in Ronald Reagan’s slick campaign advertising. Voodoo Economics depended on ideological commitment rather than mathematics, and to see it here once more provides a momentary delight, and much pathos, as we glimpse the glaring contradictions in Ryan’s intentions: the promise of an opulent socialism for Rep. Ryan’s owners, and Dickensian capitalism for the rest of us.


hiho
Mp