Monday, October 31, 2011

AP points out the obvious: GOP candidates ignorant on jobs situation

De-regulation, tax cuts for corporations, won't fix the economy or unemployment rate

The belief that cutting taxes for the rich and de-regulating businesses will help our economic outlook is in fact a fallacy. Regulations that make sense, protect the consumer, and still allow the business to function are well worth having, if they serve a purpose. Removing regulations for the sake of "job creation" makes about as much sense as taking your vitamins and expecting dramatic weight loss. In both cases, you're not going to see positive results by doing those actions alone.

A recent Associated Press article lays this out in greater detail. Acknowledging the proposals by Republican candidates for president, the AP pointed out that many of their statements simply don't hold any weight to them whatsoever:

Consider proposed cuts in taxes and regulation, which nearly every GOP candidate is pushing in the name of creating jobs. The initiatives seem to ignore surveys in which employers cite far bigger impediments to increased hiring, chiefly slack consumer demand.


As for the idea that cutting regulations will lead to significant job growth, [Republican economist Bruce] Bartlett said in an interview, "It's just nonsense. It's just made up."

Government and industry studies support his view.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies' reasons for large layoffs, found that 1,119 layoffs were attributed to government regulations in the first half of this year, while 144,746 were attributed to poor "business demand."
So layoffs were 129 times more likely to be due to poor business demand rather than regulation. In fact, layoffs due to "excessive government regulation" account for only 0.2 percent of layoffs altogether.

But what about tax cuts? Don't they create conditions that make it easier for businesses to grow jobs? Surely we should do whatever we can to get more money into the hands of "job makers!"

It might help some -- if corporations weren't already swimming in money:
The Republican candidates...are calling for tax cuts that would primarily benefit high-income people, who are seen as the likeliest job creators.

"I don't care about that," Texas Gov. Rick Perry told The New York Times and CNBC, referring to tax breaks for the rich. "What I care about is them having the dollars to invest in their companies."

Many existing businesses, however, have plenty of unspent cash. The 500 companies that comprise the S&P index have about $800 billion in cash and cash equivalents, the most ever, according to the research firm Birinyi Associates.
Emphasis added.

Getting money in the hands of "job creators" is important under ordinary circumstances. A business can't hire an employee without cash to pay for their work. But if these companies, who have more cash on hand than ever before, still refuse to make any more hires under those conditions, the problem clearly isn't a lack in capital.

Not even small business owners are citing regulation or lack of capital as a problem:
Small businesses rate "poor sales" as their biggest problem, with government regulations ranking second, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Of the small businesses saying this is not a good time to expand, half cited the poor economy as the chief reason. Thirteen percent named the "political climate."
Emphasis added.

We need a more proactive approach to fixing the jobs problem in our country. Tax cuts and de-regulation alone won't solve anything. Businesses have to WANT to hire people, have to have a NEED to do so. Getting more money to corporations for the same amount of productivity they have expended previously creates no incentive for hiring more people. Why make that investment if you're bound to make more money for the same amount of workers you already had?

Reject the Republican talking points. They're not accurate, and won't do a lick of good for job creation in this country.

Premature changes to recall districts likely to fail

Moderate Republican Schultz to vote against Lazich bill

A move to change the state legislative districts two years early, affecting who could sign recall petitions for several state senators, is not only political posturing of our electoral process but also a move that destroys the democratic rights of thousands of Wisconsinites.

Fortunately, it will not pass. Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican, has signaled he won't vote in favor of the bill. If every Democrat votes against the bill as well (an expected occurrence, seeing as it's a blatant partisan jab against their party), it will fail in the Senate.

The state senators in office that would have been affected by this change were meant to represent their constituents until 2012. But by preventing their people the right to sign the petitions, the bill would have essentially rendered them "representative-less." It would have disregarded their rights as voters to take part in the recall process (if they choose to do so) by saying that the person they elected is no longer their legislator, long before their official term as such had expired.

The bill proposed by Sen. Mary Lazich is an action that could conceivably give even more justification to the very recall elections she's attempting to obstruct. It is, after all, Lazich herself who stood to benefit most of all from this bill's intent, alongside her conservative colleagues, all of which would have seen their constituencies change in drastic ways due to the new (and controversial) legislative maps their party alone had crafted.

If this bill had passed the legislature, it would have reignited the outrage that recall petitioners currently hold against Republicans in the legislature. But just because it will fail to pass doesn't mean that it still shouldn't enrage state voters. Conservative forces in our state are attempting to change the rules in the middle of the game, attempting to hold onto power by any means necessary (even if that means destroying their democratic rights). This is but one example of their interfering with the democratic process -- more have come about, with more examples likely materialize as well.

Republicans like Lazich ought to be ashamed of themselves. Yet we should also take this opportunity to thank Republican Dale Schultz for his brave stand against partisan tactics that obstruct Wisconsin voters' rights. His principled defense of democracy should be celebrated by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Assessing -- Part 3: The abuse of state resources

"Reforms and Results" site hardly pretends to be a non-partisan, governmental resource

Having looked at some of the content found within it (part 1, part 2), it behooves us to analyze the purpose behind the "Reforms and Results" website itself. Located at, it's clear that the site is a misuse of state resources for the purposes of political "campaigning." Tax dollars should never be spent to promote an individual for a political purpose -- but that's exactly what's being done on this state-run site.

The context of "Reforms and Results" frames the "accomplishments" that the state has seen (a questionable claim itself) as wholly-owned by Gov. Scott Walker, as goals reached by an individual and not by Wisconsin.
When Scott Walker was sworn in as the 45th Governor of Wisconsin on January 3rd, he told the crowd, "What is failing us is not our people or our places. What is failing us is the expanse of government. But we can do something about it right here, right now, today."

And he did.
How dramatic.

The spin on the site is deplorable as well, but typical for what a candidate for political office might use. For example, Walker -- er, uh, the state of Wisconsin -- touts the first six months of job growth as an accomplishment worth taking note of:
"During the first six months of 2011, the private sector in Wisconsin created nearly 40,000 new jobs"
But the site disregards three straight months of job losses following that, doesn't even include resources for attaining either statistic (for fact-checking purposes), and celebrates a job-growth number from earlier this year that has since been halved.

That's improper use for a site that is meant to provide a truthful analysis of the policies passed this year.

It's clear the site is nothing more than a promotional device for Gov. Walker ahead of the recall petition drive. It's about par for Walker, though, who has done similar things while County Executive in Milwaukee -- including taking a state-wide joy-ride on a Harley Davidson using taxpayer dollars in order to promote himself during a gubernatorial election year...or rather, as he put it, to promote "Milwaukee County."

But if you're still not convinced, consider what viewing the website would entail in any other media format.

On a television, it'd be a campaign ad;

On the roadside, a campaign billboard;

Read over the airwaves, a radio campaign;

In the mailbox, a campaign mailer.

No matter which way you put it, it can only be seen as a promotion of Walker, serving political gain, not educating the public on the issues involved.

The site even includes partisan jabs at the former governor, touting Walker's current accomplishments over what was done in the past. That's fine to point out -- on Walker's own dime. But playing a game of "I'm-better-than-you-are" is really something that shouldn't be a part of a state government's website.

Don't misinterpret what I'm getting at: the governor and the state are both free to promote themselves (together or separately) for the "accomplishments" they've performed. If it were otherwise, we might one day enter a situation of not knowing things that people in government do, good or bad. But self-promotion, uniquely timed after your opponents' recall intentions are announced, that omit remaining challenges your policies face, and exaggerate the "greatness" of your leadership, serves only one purpose: a political one.

Considered in every context offered, the "Reforms and Results" website, administered through use of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars, is political posturing, nothing more. It can hardly even be called a proper place to become informed about the issues involved as it is one-sided and blatantly subjective material in favor of Gov. Walker, without even a hint of consideration into what wrongs he's done.

It should be removed from the web, and an apology should be issued to the taxpayers of the state.

Read more:
Part 1: Jobs
Part 2: WI School districts and Act 10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Assessing -- Part 2: WI School districts and Act 10

Taxpayer-funded (campaign) site touts Walker's "accomplishments" for schools across the state, ignore complications

More analysis from the recent "Reforms and Results" site set up by Gov. Walker's campaign committee the State of Wisconsin.

The Kaukauna School District has been exemplified on the website as being "saved" as a result of Act 10 -- the law that stripped state workers of collective bargaining rights, including teachers, in Wisconsin. What happened in the northeastern Wisconsin town of Kaukauna was seen as a miracle, vindicating the actions of Gov. Scott Walker for having held a firm line against unions that caused such a "problem" for school districts.

From the site:
Shortly after Act 10 took effect, Kaukauna emerged as an early example of how concessions can change the financial landscape of a school district, and now the board wants to be a leader in taking actions to reward its best teachers.

The school board took advantage of the Governor’s reforms and turned a $400,000 deficit into a $2 million surplus.
There are a few things wrong with that analysis, however (aside from the surplus only being $1.5 million). Kaukauna was facing a huge budget hole -- nearly $400,000 for this fiscal year. Because of Act 10, it's said, the district was able to make substantial savings in both curbing the amount of pay given to the teachers and faculty (forcing them to contribute more towards their health care plans) as well as other nuances that go along with budgeting (limiting sick day allocations, for example).

The problem is, that $400,000 shortfall wasn't the result of unions -- it was a projection based upon proposed cuts in Walker's own budget proposal, a prediction from Kaukauna on what it was about to lose as a result of the governor's steep cuts to education across the state.

From Badger Democracy:
The forecast Kaukauna 2011-2012 budget (PDF) (page 5) cites a revenue loss of nearly $2 million from state shared revenue - a result of Governor Walker’s budget impact on public school revenue cuts. Conveniently, this impact has been ignored as a basis of the deficit “crisis” facing the District. The District also faced an $840,000 loss in Open Enrollment (page 10) from students enrolling outside of the district and subsequent shared revenue adjustments. The summary shows a nearly $3 million deficit in revenue to expenditures before any adjustments are made (page 12).
Emphasis added.

What's more, there was an alternative solution presented to the school district, one that the teachers had submitted that was virtually ignored but would have given the district a $1.4 million surplus -- nearly the same surplus now being touted by the Governor and the Kaukauna School District.

But here’s the thing: The collective bargaining ban, in and of itself, was not responsible for achieving these savings and this surplus. As the Appleton Post Crescent reports, the teachers union had already offered up financial concessions that would have produced almost identical savings and an almost identical surplus.
After assessing the true effects of the original deficit in Kaukauna, and the ignored offer by teachers there, the spinning that the Walker administration has done on, a tax-dollar backed website, is appalling.

But it's not the end of it: Walker ignores key aspects of Act 10 that have acted negatively for state workers. Focusing on teachers again, let's shift from Kaukauna and move to New Berlin. Earlier this year, after Act 10 became law, a revision to the teachers' handbook was bitterly debated, with severe penalties and new provisions added that were downright nasty.

Some of the changes include a new dress code (no skirts above the knees) and the removal of kitchen appliances (no microwaves, coffeemakers, or refrigerators). Others were more drastic than that, such as added hours for teachers -- 95 annually for secondary and 205 annually for elementary, the latter the equivalent of more than a months' work, all without any added compensation whatsoever. (Imagine being told that you had to work into your schedule an entire months' worth of hours within a years' time. Oh, and you won't be seeing a penny more in your paycheck [in fact, we're taking money from you, too].) Another provision "eliminates retirement insurance for teachers with less than 20 years in the New Berlin school system and who retire after 2021."

There's no doubt that money will be saved as a result of Act 10 -- we shouldn't try to say it won't be. But how those savings will accumulate will likely depend upon the benevolence of the local governments involved. As was the case in New Berlin, there wasn't much benevolence to speak of -- teachers were given an incredibly raw deal, in some cases being asked to work an additional months' time without any just compensation.

Stating that surpluses are created after severe deficits were made without explaining those deficits is also a grave mistake to overlook -- and a spin beyond epic proportions. It's improper to say that savings couldn't have been found had Act 10 never been implemented, as would have been the case had Kaukauna taken the teachers' proposal before passing their new teachers' handbook.

There will be savings found within the state's school districts -- savings that very well could have been found without having stripped the rights of thousands of workers. The governor's campaign page State of Wisconsin's Reforms and Results page is wrong to tout such savings without pointing out the effects of those changes on teachers' workplace conditions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Assessing -- Part 1: Jobs

Taxpayer-funded website touting Walker's accomplishments only tells part of the story on jobs

The "State of Wisconsin" recently released a new website that touts the accomplishments this year under Gov. Scott Walker. The site, at, looks a lot like a campaign website, using phrases like "How Governor Scott Walker's reforms are working for Wisconsin," implying that this site is about Walker more than Wisconsin.

That would be a clear violation of the law, as government resources cannot be used to promote a candidate for office. Walker isn't unfamiliar with such tactics, and may currently be under investigation for similar misconduct in the offices of Milwaukee County.

With Walker's recall set to begin November 15, it's almost as if Walker is trying to stop the movement dead in its tracks with talking points, supplied by the state of Wisconsin's taxpayers' dollars.

Looking past that just for right now, we should consider the points that Walker -- I mean, the state of Wisconsin -- makes on the site.

"During the first six months of 2011, the private sector in Wisconsin created nearly 40,000 new jobs."

That's an accurate assessment, and every part of that claim is factual. But it's a spin -- it disregards the remaining three months following Walker's -- I mean, "Wisconsin's" -- accomplishment.

In December of 2010, there were 2.7363 million jobs in the state. By June of 2011, there were 2.7751 million, an increase of about 38,800 jobs. But what happened after that?

A lot happened. By September, the number of jobs Wisconsin had decreased to 2755.8 million...a drop of 19,300 jobs, halving Walker's claims -- again, my apologies, "Wisconsin's Reforms Website's" claims -- of creating jobs for the year to 19,500 total.

Total number of jobs in Wisconsin, June to September 2011
All numbers are in thousands

But that assessment only tells half the story. The total number of jobs doesn't tell how many people HAVE jobs -- it doesn't discern from people who have two jobs or people who have multiple part-time jobs. When you judge Walker by the total number of Wisconsinites who are employed, things are flipped completely.

All numbers are in thousands

Except for a blip between February and May of 2011, when 20,000 additional Wisconsinites were employed, from January of this year to September, nothing has changed at all.

In January of 2011 we saw 2,819,301 people employed. In September, that number "grew" to 2,819,319, an increase of 18 more individuals employed.

So Walker's touting of his jobs is rather dull. We've seen a net increase of nearly 20,000 jobs in the state, and a net increase of 18 more individuals employed. Looking at the first six months only tells half of the story of Walker's "accomplishments," which again are being touted in a very campaign-like manner on the taxpayers' dime.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

September job numbers out -- WI still not growing

Since January, number of employed Wisconsinites has 18 people

During the campaign for governor, Scott Walker made the ambitious claim that he could create 250,000 jobs within his first term. Many people scoffed at the idea, but Walker credited it with being a major reason why he was elected governor.

In June, six months after he took office, the Walker administration announced that its projections would be lowered by about 70,000 jobs, and in September, Walker spoke to WISN's Mike Gousha about the promise he had made on the campaign trail.
Walker: My goal is to still get there -- my goal is to actually exceed that amount [250,000 jobs]. We’re still going to keep pushing.

Gousha: Is it going to be tough to reach that?

Walker: Oh, I think without a doubt.
In other words, Walker backed off slightly of his jobs pledge, framing it as more of a "goal" than a promise.

This week, the Department of Revenue changed it's projections again -- down to 136,000 jobs being added by the end of Walker's term.

It seems that every few months the projections just keep getting lower and lower.

In January, Walker pushed for a special session on jobs and got exactly what he wanted: tort reform and tax cuts for corporations. He got even more corporate tax cuts in the budget he proposed.

Now we're in a different special session on jobs. Aside from a slew of socially conservative bills that have nothing to do with job growth, Walker is yet again poised to get exactly what he wants -- more tort reform legislation and bills catering to special interests among them.

What have we seen as a result of similar legislation from January? Hardly any impact on jobs. In fact, with job numbers released this past week, it's clear that Walker's "jobs" initiatives aren't doing a thing to create more work for Wisconsinites.

When Walker took office, there were 2,819,301 people who had a job in Wisconsin. In September, that number went up to 2,819,319 -- an increase of 18 people employed statewide in nine months. The unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent, an improvement from August (7.9 percent) but still higher than January (7.4 percent).

The higher unemployment rate for Wisconsin bucks the trend that Walker had inherited -- in Gov. Jim Doyle's last year of office, Wisconsin saw its unemployment rate decrease every month, beginning at 9.2 percent in January of 2010 and ending at 7.5 percent in December of that year. That trend continued until April of 2011, after which Wisconsin saw increases in its unemployment rate while under Walker's control.

Wisconsin's rate has increased faster than the national rate, which has remained relatively stagnant since the start of the year, when it was 9.0 percent in January, to it's current position of 9.1 percent.

What can we draw from this? Walker's jobs session earlier this year didn't do anything to help the state. His job session that is currently taking place, with many of the same initiatives found within it, will likely have the same effect.

With Walker running things, Wisconsin won't see any improvement in its job numbers. It's just one of the many reasons why a recall of the governor is justified, among many, many others.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In trying to explain broken promise, Gov. Walker lies to the people

"Extra credit" doesn't make up for broken campaign promise

In 2010, then-candidate Scott Walker made a lofty campaign pledge, that he would lead by example and pay the full amount of benefits changes he'd require of other state employees to pay, even before they (or he) would legally need to do so. But as the Associated Press pointed out, Walker didn't start making payments until he was obligated to earlier this summer, thus neglecting his pledge completely.

To me personally, this was a non-story: Walker DID screw up his campaign promise, but it wasn't a significant event. It could have been far worse: he could have paid nothing the first few months, requiring changes from other state employees but making no contribution himself.

However, that wasn't the case -- Walker made the same contribution he required of others. Yes, he broke his campaign promise, but it wasn't as if that promise significantly altered or affected Wisconsin in any way. In other words, Walker misled the people, but it's not the most damning thing he's done in the ten months he's been in office.

Yet Walker's response to criticism on the issue is something I take issue with.

From Channel3000:
Walker said he believes he exceeded the promise because he started making pension contributions in August at a higher percentage as required under the law than what he said he would voluntarily make starting in January.
That, in my mind, seems like a flat-out lie, further diminishing the character of "Eagle Scout" Scott Walker.

Here's two analogies I feel best explain the situation a little better. In the first, consider a student that has a project for school that is long-overdue. For months this project is never completed, and the teacher finally insists that the student turn in what he has. After discussing with the student potential grades for this project, the student offers to do extra credit assignments to make up for the lateness of his initial project.

Was the student's assignment late? And should he receive a worse grade for it being late?

In the second analogy, consider a person making payments on a loan. This loan isn't due for six months, but the person fails to make the scheduled payments on the monthly basis. Finally, on the day that the loan is due, the debtor surprises the creditor by paying it off completely, with interest.

Looking from the perspective of a credit rating agency, would this person receive a higher or lower credit score? Does their making the final payment mean that we can ignore the lack of payments from months before?

Again, as I've pointed out, Walker's broken campaign promise isn't as controversial as it seems -- it doesn't put Wisconsin in a worse-off state of being. Still, to insist that his promise wasn't broken because he's made additional "payments" to make up for that lost time is faulty logic: the governor promised within a set time-frame that he'd make those sacrifices, and he didn't.

At best, we can credit him with making up the difference in his paychecks following the law's implementation. But like the student who failed to turn his assignment on time (making up for it with extra credit), or the debtor who pays off a loan (without making payments for months beforehand), making up for a broken promise doesn't eradicate the broken promise itself.

Walker didn't make do on his campaign pledge to lead by example; and he's lying when he tells you that his extra contributions make up for his broken promises.

"Wisconsin can't wait"

Reasons behind recall of Gov. Walker justified in new web video

A great video was released this week by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. It highlights exactly why our governor, Scott Walker, is leading our state in the wrong direction.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A short rant on corporate greed, impact on society

Resurgence in progressive movement isn't about ideology, but rather tackling corporate influence in society

Let's get this straight: I don't hate corporations. I think that some corporations, even most, do a lot of good for our society. They provide the products we use, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and so forth. Those taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement certainly utilize some of corporations' greatest technologies when they update their actions daily using smart phones and social media. Corporations aren't the enemy -- at least, some of them aren't.

This movement you're hearing about isn't about changing our economic system, isn't a call for socialism or anarchism or anything like that. Are there some socialists and anarchists among the crowds in New York and elsewhere? Sure, but they're not a majority. Even if they were, however, this is not what this movement is about.

This movement is about removing corporate greed and influence from certain aspects of our society.

Allow me to define that: there is a big difference between corporate greed and a corporation seeking to maximize profits. In the latter example, a corporation seeks to grow its consumer base by listening to their customers, creating products or performing services that they prefer, and cut costs when they're necessary to cut.

Corporate greed, on the other hand, is much more devious. A few examples might be in order to better explain it. It's when a health insurance company collects money from its customers and then denies them coverage based on acne a person once had or a rape that a victim once went through. It's when a business decides to reward its CEO and other members of the board with large pay raises when it requires its own workers to take pay or benefit cuts. It's when corporations openly lobby Congress or take part in our democratic process under the auspices of "free speech" in order to lessen restrictions on air pollution laws or child labor standards.

In short, corporate greed is different from a corporation trying to advance itself in that it seeks greed for the sake of profit in the short-term (without regard for their customers or others), and not for the sake of improving its product for the consumer and therefore its image in the long-term.

A corporation that makes it easier for the deaf or hard of hearing to hear their own voices is acting in a way that's going to promote their business in a healthy way; a business that raises the prices of life-saving prescription drugs in order to squeeze a couple hundred dollars out of grandma is not.

This isn't rocket science -- this is general knowledge, things that everyone should know and work to improve in our society. Sensible regulations on corporations, to restrict their influence in our elections and on our legislators, won't impede on their ability to collect a profit. If some within the corporatist right want to argue that "corporations are people," then those people within corporations, not the corporations themselves, should seek out their lawmakers as individuals, just as the rest of us do.

We don't need to fear socialism because that's not the issue here -- this isn't about socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or any ism (except maybe corporatism). It's about reasoned approaches to corporate influence in our lives, about how much a business or group of businesses, large or small, should take part in our discourses within our democracy. There are appropriate ways this can be done and there are inappropriate ways.

What we're witnessing in our society today is a plethora of inappropriate influence on the part of corporations. Again, not all corporations -- just the greedy ones.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Today's Daily Stat: Government regulation doesn't affect job numbers

AP fact check shows that GOP claims of government "stifling" businesses are untrue

Government regulations -- specifically those formed under President Obama -- are costing Americans jobs, according to Republicans.

It's a repeated meme that never goes away: regulations aren't good for business, stifling growth, which in turn forces business to hold back on hiring new workers or even laying off the ones they currently have. It's a sad state of affairs, a reality we must bear to live with.

If it were true.

In fact-checking the GOP presidential debate that was held last night, the Associated Press did some real digging -- and discovered that government regulation isn't all-too responsible for much job loss at all.

In fact, businesses reported that layoffs the result of government regulation accounted for only two-tenths of one percentage point (0.2 percent) across the country. That means for every layoff based on government regulation there are 499 other layoffs that are based on some other criteria.

Government regulation wasn't even the top concern for businesses: consumer confidence was. The top complaint among businesses was that there wasn't enough customers, and thus not enough cash-flow, to warrant more hiring.

The belief that regulation somehow stifles business is baffling. Certain kinds of regulations can do this -- but with proper implementation, regulation doesn't need to hurt the businesses of American entrepreneurs, and thus doesn't need to hurt economic or job growth.

This is clearly the case within the Obama administration, as, once again, less than 1 in every 500 layoffs were due to government regulation. And that's also today's Daily Stat.

0.2 percent of jobs lost are the result of excessive "government regulation."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recall of Walker warranted -- a short list of grievances

Movement to remove governor adds up to one conclusion: Walker must go

The recall campaign against Republican Gov. Scott Walker will begin in just over one month from today. As the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put it, "This is it. This is history."

The list of reasons behind the recall are numerous. Here's just a short list:
  • The termination of collective bargaining for public employees, ending more than fifty years of bipartisan precedent for this respected right.

  • The voter suppression/ID bill passed under the auspices of making elections more secure (a safeguard that is unneeded, a concern that is unsubstantiated).

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to education, and restrictions on how school districts can make up for the loss, that "shorts" Wisconsin schools by over a billion dollars.

  • Cuts to BadgerCare (half a billion dollars) and waiting lists for Family Care (funding the program only for those already on it).

  • Tax breaks for the wealthy and corporate elite while actually RAISING taxes for the working poor.

  • An overall disregard for the people of this state (and even Democratic legislators who tried to reach him in Illinois) during the protests while answering "the call" from billionaire donors.

  • An added disregard for a major campaign promise of "jobs," setting up two "special session" supposedly dedicated to increasing employment in the state, but in actuality dedicated to greater tax breaks for the rich and tort reform, neither of which has grown employment numbers for the state (we've actually seen lower employment numbers since Walker has taken office).

  • Cronyism that has resulted in questionable conduct on the part of the governor; it has included hiring former staff members, Republican Party members loyal to Walker, and the family members of big-money donors to the chief executive, all over more qualified candidates for the positions being considered.
If the governor were guilty of one or two of these offenses, a recall might not be warranted; we might be able to live with him, to survive another three years of his tenure, and work for his defeat in 2014. But because of the combined weight of these grievances, because of the length of this list (which isn't even complete), a recall of this governor isn't just warranted but quite possibly required if we're to keep our state's prominence in this country preserved.

Wisconsin cannot survive for long under the conditions that this governor has put us into, that he will continue to put us into. If we're to restore our values, to restore the sentiment of what makes us proud to be citizens of the Badger State, Gov. Scott Walker cannot be in charge of the executive office. Wisconsin cannot wait -- Walker must go.

Support the recall movement, make a donation today, and volunteer to work towards Walker's removal in 2012.

Just felt like sharing...

Another statement on the OWS movement

My Facebook status tonight:
Just so you know...I'm not a part of any "mob" (Eric Cantor, Republican House Majority Leader). I'm not "un-American" or even "anti-capitalist" (Herman Cain, GOP Presidential candidate). And I'm not going to "drag you into the streets and kill you" (Glenn Beck, conservative commentator). But I AM a part of the growing movement of people who are upset with corporate influence in our government and society. I am 99 percent.
To be fair, my other FB status updates have ranged from the recall announcement (more on that soon), to the various sporting events occurring tonight as well. Still, I just felt like sharing this sentiment with everyone who isn't a personal friend of mine on Facebook.

Democratic poll shows governor recall a strong possibility

Recall will be difficult, but not out of reach: most in WI disapprove of Walker

A new poll released by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin shows that Scott Walker is vulnerable to a recall election.

More than half the state disapproves of Walker's performance as governor, and more Wisconsinites trust a Democratic alternative to Walker on issues important to the state.

Among the poll's findings:
- 52 percent disapprove of Walker's job performance, with 41 percent strongly disapproving
- Only 31 percent of Wisconsinites strongly approve of Walker, with his overall approval at 46 percent
- The Democratic option is considered the better choice on various issues, preferred by those polled on education (by 18 points), improving life for the middle class (by 15 points), and seen as more honest than the governor (by seven points)
- If a recall were held today, a majority of Wisconsinites would vote for the Democrat (51 percent) over Gov. Walker (42 percent)
What does this polling show us? Things are bad for Scott Walker -- but they don't necessarily guarantee victory for Democrats. Working towards a recall will be difficult, but it's not impossible, either.

If the required 540,260 signatures are collected, the next step will be convincing the public that the Democratic choice is the better of the two. Fortunately, if this polling is correct, things are already headed that way: most of the state sees that the direction Walker is taking Wisconsin is on the "wrong track" (52 percent).

"JOBS!" -- it wasn't the focus then, it isn't the focus now

History shows that "special session," Walker's aims, aren't concerned with jobs

In 2010, when Republicans were trying to win a midterm election campaign in Wisconsin, including a gubernatorial seat that had opened up, the focus of their campaigns were clear: "JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!"

Then they won. And that focus...changed a bit.

It started small -- in the form of tax cuts for corporations in the millions of dollars (OK, that's not really small). The promise was that these cuts would inspire businesses in the state to 1) hire more people and increase employment (with increased capital that these corporations would gain assisting in some way) and 2) for businesses out of the state to be lured to come to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, that didn't really happen, and Wisconsin ended up having a loss in employment numbers.

But that wasn't so bad: the focus was still there, right? Instead of "JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!" the focus was simply altered slightly, to "TAX CUTS! JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!"

That may have been fine, except that it wasn't the ending of this "little" shift. An attack on workers' rights took center stage shortly thereafter, and the focus was lost for a long period of time.

Still, the focus was just slightly off-course: it became "TAX CUTS! DESTROY THE UNIONS!" Then, "JOBS! JOBS!" The promise of more employment opportunities in our state was still attainable, if just modified.

And yet, no job bills came. A budget was passed which included the largest cuts to education the state had ever seen, amounting to a billion-dollar shortfall for schools across the state. New caps to Family Care (a program designed to help elderly and disabled Wisconsinites), nearly half a billion in cuts to BadgerCare, and more tax breaks to the wealthy and corporate elite were all included in the values-changing budget proposal by Gov. Walker, eventually passing and receiving his signature earlier this summer.

So where were our priorities then? Clearly, the "jobs" mantra had disappeared entirely. It was replaced with "TAX CUTS! DEFUND EDUCATION! DESTROY THE UNIONS! MORE TAX CUTS! SCREW THE ELDERLY!"

Oh, and we musn't forget guns and voter suppression.

But then, lo and behold! Gov. Walker came to the "rescue" again! After a September where Republican lawmakers decided they only needed to schedule one day of actual work, the governor held a "special session" to jump-start the call for "JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!" once more.

Except...we're falling into the same pattern again. There's the bill that would repeal the need to teach children a comprehensive lesson on sexual education. Another group of lawmakers feel there is a greater need in criticizing Madison police for doing their jobs during protests earlier this year. 16 of the bills in the special session appear to reward special interests that are allied with Republican lawmakers (read: their supporters/donors). Tort reform, which in no way would create any jobs whatsoever, is among those billed as part of the session.

The best part? The special session is set to start October 18...the same day the legislature was set to start its regular session anyway. Suddenly, this session doesn't seem so "special," does it?

What we need to realize about the Republicans in our state is that "jobs" were never their primary focus. Even in a special session dedicated towards job growth, it's not their true aim. Gov. Walker and his Republican allies aren't pushing for "JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!" any more than they were the first time they said it, nearly ten months ago.

Giveaways for the rich and the corporate elite, "pet" conservative projects, and rewards for donors in particular are all that Walker has ever and WILL ever push for. The end result is that nothing from our state, nothing from our Republican-controlled government, will ever be focused on "jobs" while Scott Walker is our governor.

Wisconsin is open for business, all right: it's conservative-led government is for sale to the highest bidder. And all that talk about jobs? It's only talk.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" a genuine movement of the people

Criticism of protests by right unwarranted, based out of misunderstanding of movement's aims

The protests on Wall Street and elsewhere across the country (including Madison) are symbolic of a people frustrated with corporate influence in our society.

Occupy Wall Street seeks to address these grievances, to set forward a push to limit this influence in a way that allows "We the People" to have a voice in our government once more. Corporations aren't inherently "evil" -- indeed, many have done a lot of good for our country, have provided countless services to consumers in a decent way.

But these protests aren't about those corporations. Rather, they're about the corporations that swindle the common person in favor of corporate profit; that provide minimal services, or none at all, while charging a large fee for that "service"; and that try to interject themselves into the national political conversation by spending millions of campaign dollars in our elections.

It isn't wrong to seek profit, to want a better outcome for the company you set up or are a part of. Such competitive spirit betters our society, creates a system wherein the consumer benefits, for the most part (when it's done right). But when the goals of corporations trample upon the livelihood of individuals, it's clear that things need to change.

A little bit of government regulation, done in a way that protects the consumer while doing no irreparable harm to the corporations in question, is completely justifiable. The father of capitalism himself, Adam Smith, wrote in "The Wealth of Nations" that, "When the regulation is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters." (Smith also believed in proportional taxation, saying, "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expence, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.")

Such comments made today would be seen as sacrilege by the current makeup of the Republican Party.

Occupy Wall Street seeks to remedy the free market's overreach in a way that Adam Smith himself would find acceptable. It's also doing so in a democratic fashion -- indeed, the mantra of the movement is that it represents the "other 99 percent," a jab at the top 1 percent of income earners that own a disproportionate amount of the nation's wealth (42 percent in 2007).

But Occupy Wall Street isn't, as some commentators and politicians assert, "un-American" or "anti-capitalist", isn't a mob movement, and certainly isn't inspired by the White House by any stretch of the imagination. Dismissing these demonstrators in such ways is destructive to our discourse, ignoring throngs of protesters who are true American patriots exercising their First Amendment rights. This is a genuine movement of people, dedicated to preserving the vision of the American dream.

That vision is one where people, not corporate power, shape the future of our country...and it's a vision that every American should get behind.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nation's job numbers out: mixed results, but overall positive

More than 100K jobs created last month (and 99K more jobs in previous months' reassessments)

The employment data for the nation overall for the month of September has been released, and the news is pretty mixed.

The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent, the same rate it has been since July, signaling a stagnant impasse.

Yet, when lookin at the raw numbers, job creation actually did better than expected. The country added more than 100,000 jobs last month. Though analysts say 150,000 jobs are needed to keep up with population growth, this month's numbers show that the economy is capable of getting back to work, though painstakingly slower than what we'd like.

There was other good news as well. Job numbers were also revised for August and July. The new data reveals that, in addition to the job numbers initially announced for those two months, 99,000 more jobs were created than what was originally thought.

Critics of the Obama administration will contend that the slower-than-needed job growth is proof positive that his economic policies are failing. But remember: when the president took office, he inherited an economy that had been losing more than seven times as many jobs than what was GAINED this September. Overall, since Obama took control, the nation's economy has recovered greatly, if slowly, since his stimulus went into action. To return to the failed policies of the previous administration, a move that the Republicans would happily embrace, would be a huge mistake.

It will also be interesting to see where Wisconsin will be in a couple of weeks, when its employment numbers are released. While the country has maintained a relatively stable unemployment rate, Wisconsin's figures haven't been so fortunate. The number of employed Wisconsinites, in fact, has decreased since Scott Walker became governor, dropping by thousands in a matter of nine months.

Hopefully, my continued doubts will be put to rest and Wisconsin's numbers will reflect the gains the rest of the country had. After all, when it comes to employing the state, I'd rather be wrong than be right, rather see people get back to work than have some sense of pride. However, I won't be holding my breath for too long: if the current trends continue, we're in for a messy September jobs report as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some thoughts on the Confederate flag debate

Governments should reject symbolism of hate, terror

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently faced criticism for a position he took (while Lieutenant Governor) regarding keeping the Confederate flag within state institutions, including his state's Supreme Court building.

Let's deviate from the campaign politics for a moment and focus on the issue of the flag itself. Long seen as a symbol of intolerance, many white southerners see it instead as a historical artifact, a piece of their culture that is, in their minds, worth preserving.

But oddly enough, the Confederate flag flew for less than two years during the Civil War. Adopted in May of 1863, the design was actually the second for the fledgling rebel resistance, a part of the CSA for a shorter time period than the "Stars and Bars" design.

The flag held much more prominence, both today and then, as part of the resistance to the era of Reconstruction. Members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups proudly displayed the flag as a symbol of their dedication to southern values.

Though it was also a huge symbol during the war, it's significance changed from one of honor under General Lee, to one of despair and terror under Jim Crow. It's symbolism has remained this way for generations, especially for African Americans, up to the present day.

Historic symbols ought to receive respect, as should individual rights to freedom of speech. But when the symbols carry with them a weight of intolerance and subjugation, those individuals must understand the hate that their beloved artifacts hold in the eyes of others. A Nazi flag, for instance, is just another piece of cloth -- but the symbolism it carries with it is similarly one of dread and terror.

The individual has this right, can display these images if they so choose, understanding that they carry that historic weight with them. But these symbols, shrouded in such terrible traditions, should not be so readily embraced by a government, whose sole aim is to cater to everyone's interests, and not prolong a sentiment of fear and terror.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To limit number of recalls, limit the NEED for them

Raising the threshold for signatures not the right direction to take

There are even more calls for changing the recall elections process, this time from conservative blogger James Wigderson.

Wigderson is concerned because, unless something is changed, Wisconsin could enter a never-ending election season:
So recalls have gotten easier and threaten to get easier still. If something is not done, we may enter a period of permanent election campaigning in Wisconsin.
To his credit, Wigderson recognizes the problem that comes with the proposed constitutional amendment authored by Republican Rep. Robin Vos. Says Wigderson:
Unfortunately, if we are limited to Vos’ parameters for recall, we are limiting ourselves to levels of conduct that should compel the Legislature to remove the member without waiting for the recall.
Precisely. An issue that shouldn't be partisan -- recalls serve a purpose beyond solely removing elected officials for misconduct.

But Wigderson's remedy is only slightly better than Vos's, if only because it doesn't limit the reason for a recall. Instead, he'd rather increase the already-high signature threshold to start a recall:
If the constitution were changed to allow a recall only in those cases where the organizers were able to get a majority of those who voted in the last election to sign the petition, then we would go back to limiting recalls to those cases that truly require them.
That, too, would severely curtail the number of recalls this state would see, but at the expense of creating an unrealistic threshold that would equal the amount needed to win an election anyway.

Conservatives in our state, whether they want to change the threshold for/the terms of a recall, miss the point entirely: Wisconsin doesn't HAVE to enter a constant state of election madness. Consider this radical notion: Why were the recalls initiated? Perhaps it was because lawmakers failed to listen to their constituents.

When hundreds of thousands of protesters are knocking at your office doors, pleading with you to vote "no" on a bill, what do you think the response is going to be when you ignore them?

It's not possible to vote every time in a way that will make your voters happy. But recognizing when it's in your best interest to do so is why the recalls were implemented in the first place: to remove lawmakers that fail to listen to the people in ways that go beyond the expectations of representative democracy.

It's not surprising that recalls, which were established as a Progressive-era response to "big money's" influence in politics, were initiated this year when "big money" called in a favor from Walker & Co. Voting your conscience is one thing, but voting your pocketbook (or your campaign coffers) is an entirely different can of worms, one that itself warrants a recall.

It's also deeply troubling that Republicans, who are all of the sudden concerned with the costs of recalls for the state, instigated a plan that increased their cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars by running "fake" Democratic candidates to force recall primaries -- not to mention the nearly $6 million in costs to implement an unnecessary voter ID law.

There's no need for changing recall process, either in the number of signatures needed or the reasons behind having a recall itself. If conservatives are concerned about "permanent election campaigning," they should focus on eliminating the need for them in the first place.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daily Stat: seven states surpassed WI in employment rates

Unemployment rates of seven states go from worse-to-better than WI in nine months

What do Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah have in common?

They are all states that started out in 2011 with worse unemployment rates than Wisconsin, but have since bested our state's rate as of last month.

Wisconsin started out 2011 with an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. August's unemployment numbers showed that we lost more jobs, and our rate of unemployment has actually climbed to 7.9 percent.

These seven states were struggling more than Wisconsin in January of 2011. Alaska's and Louisiana's rates were both 7.8 percent; Maine and Montana, 7.5 percent; Massachusetts, 8.3 percent; New Mexico, 8.7 percent; and Utah, 7.6 percent.

But unemployment in those states have all dipped, and Wisconsin's grown, since Gov. Scott Walker took office. Alaska went to 7.7 percent; Louisiana, 7.2 percent; Utah was at 7.6 percent (it saw no change); Massachusetts down to 7.4 percent; and New Mexico went down to 6.6 percent, a more than 2 percent drop. Maine and Montana both saw increases in their unemployment rate (7.6 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively), but the changes in their rates increased slower than Wisconsin's rate change.

That seven states have now surpassed Wisconsin in terms of unemployment should send a shock of reality to anyone believing that Walker's economic policies are working for Wisconsin. The sad truth is, they're not -- they're failing our state, failing our workers, and all while making Wisconsin less hospitable to families overall.

The seven states that have passed over Wisconsin since the start of January should make everyone in our state ashamed of our governor's failure to employ this state. Coincidentally, in case you were wondering...the number of states that Wisconsin has surpassed since January is a resounding zero.

And that's today's Daily Stat.

Number of states Wisconsin has done better than in unemployment numbers since January: zero.

(All unemployment data gathered from

Tort bill won't create jobs

Bill would give preference to corporations over people

The first sentence of Sunday's Journal Sentinel article says it all:
People who successfully sue for injuries would earn a lower interest rate on their judgments than banks and credit card companies who take their customers to court, under a bill Gov. Scott Walker included in the upcoming special legislative session on jobs.
There are two things in that one sentence that need to be addressed.

First: personal injury or consumer credit victims who successfully sue would earn a lower interest rate of restitution (if the defendant failed to make their payments on time) under this bill than corporations would if the situation were reversed. Under one proposal, individuals would receive 4.25 percent interest, while corporations would receive the current rate of 12 percent.

That says a lot about Gov. Walker's intentions right there.

And second: this bill is included in the special session on jobs, which shows you that this "special session" isn't really all-too concerned about jobs at all.

The bill wouldn't do a thing to create jobs. It would put more money in the hands of corporations, who wouldn't be forced to pay higher interest rates, while at the same time preserving these corporations' own right to collect higher rates than the people themselves can attain. We've seen what corporations do when they earn more money -- they don't go out and hire people. They give their CEOs raises, whether they're warranted or not, and leave workers' pay stagnant.

This proposal also shows an incredible double standard: either corporations are people, or they're not. The insistence that they are works fine for conservatives when it involves corporate influence on elections. But when it comes to court-mandated interest rates in legal judgments, conservatives want corporations to pay less to the people, and get more from them. It's total hypocrisy. If we're to say corporations are people, then they should be treated just the same, and not given special treatment.

(Then again, I'm more apt to say corporations AREN'T which case, they should be treated with more scrutiny than they are now.)

Tort reform is an issue that needs serious evaluation, but it's certainly not a job creator by any means. If it were, Wisconsin would be seeing more job growth instead of less right now -- Walker signed a bill limiting awards in injury cases earlier this year, and while we saw a slight spike in job growth, the number of Wisconsinites that are currently employed right now is actually lower than when he took office.

If Gov. Walker's idea of creating jobs is to limit the amount that victims of corporate abuse can attain in legal judgments, then our state is in worse shape than previously thought. Walker came out swinging hard for bipartisanship -- but what he really meant was more of the same he's been dishing out all along: more favors for his corporate donors, and more disrespect to the working class people of Wisconsin.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Demise of discourse on the right at dangerous levels

Conservatives should reject extremism within their ranks

A crowd boos at a gay military service member that supports the recent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A man heckles the president, deriding him as the Antichrist, as he interrupts a scheduled POTUS appearance. Another crowd cheers enthusiastically when a GOP candidate suggests a hypothetical man in a coma who lacks insurance should be left to die because he has to live with his choices.

Is this the new base of the Republican Party?

These observations (and others like them) are important because they step away from the politicians for a moment and focus instead on the people who support them. This isn't to say that every Republican -- candidate or constituent -- acts in this manner. Indeed, I'd be willing to concede just the opposite holds true, that most Republicans or conservatives are level-head individuals willing to talk things out. But a growing trend among the most ardent of supporters on the right is the embracing of a more extreme tone of sentiment. These hard-right "warriors" are taking charge of their party, pushing aside level-headed alternatives for extremist attitudes and initiatives.

Like a football fan screaming "interference!" at the television screen on every down, conservative extremists, too, exhibit a fervor that's inexplicable, yet at times violently passionate. Any questioning of their character or policy positions is seen not only as too critical of their ideas but also as an attack on them personally, one that must be responded to in kind. Their defense mechanism is a rebuttal of rage, laden with claims that are easily thought up of on the spot without much care given towards factual evidence, personal bias, or integrity for that matter.

This isn't to say that liberalism doesn't have this element to it as well. Extremists exist on both sides of the political spectrum, and to ignore this fact would be comparable to the actions of those I'm trying to condemn. However, it's clear even to the most objective of observers that the extremists on the left aren't driving the policy of liberals in positions of power today -- that is, their influence on those "representing" them is hardly noticeable.

The same cannot be claimed on the right, where Republican candidates seem to be rushing towards supporting the lowest common denominator of conservative extremism, who are fast determining who is viable within their field of presidential candidates.

This mentality needs to be rejected, not embraced, by the right. I say this not as a liberal who'd obviously like to see my positions prevail over "theirs," but as a concerned citizen who is witnessing a breakdown of discourse in our society. The marketplace of ideas is one of America's greatest assets. When it falters, when one side determines it's "do-or-die" on many of the issues it supports, our country suffers for it, and compromise of any kind cannot be reached.

We must fight, ironically, for the preservation of proper argument in this country. It's a fight well-worth having, one that will benefit both liberals AND conservatives who are willing to engage in meaningful debate.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Month in review - September 2011

Top five stories from Political Heat last month

Perhaps this can be a new thing on the site: a review of the top five stories, from last month, as determined by the number of page views that each story received.

5. DOT memo encourages trickery with new voter ID law (9/10/11)
State employees shouldn't be encouraged or required to engage in acts of trickery. Government officials should instead push forward a policy of openness and honesty, especially when it involves democratic rights of the people.
4. No matter how you look at it, Gableman unfit to serve (9/4/11)
Either way this pans out, there's a problem with Gableman. Either he has difficulties with his memory, in which case he may be mentally unfit to serve; or he has problems telling the truth, of fabricating a story to damage a fellow justice's reputation for political reasons, in which case he's ethically unfit.
3. Justice Gableman's account of 2nd altercation has serious holes in it (9/1/11)
If Gableman was a witness in his own courtroom, his testimony would have serious holes in it. He'd likely be dismissed by any court, Supreme or otherwise, for changing his story to fix the missing pieces within it. The fact that no other justice on the Court, even those aligned with him ideologically, has come forward defending his story, is further proof that he's likely making it up.
2. Grothman and Vos show disrespect to Madison police (9/15/11)
These two, in considering stiffing the city reimbursement of funds on that fabricated basis, go beyond even a slap in the face, and demonstrate the way these Republicans wish to legislate, employing pettiness and revenge towards a city that's merely politically unaligned with their own personal beliefs.
1. Scott Walker cautions state on his jobs pledge (9/12/11)
Walker is wrong to pass the buck onto the national government for the state of Wisconsin's jobs outlook. He's also wrong to believe that the policies he's enacted (and has yet to enact) will benefit us. Wisconsin, and the workers within it, cannot afford to have Walker its governor much longer.