Monday, May 22, 2017

Scott Walker’s tweet on unemployment ignores 18 months of his predecessor’s faster rate decline


Sharper decline of unemployment occurred under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle


Scott Walker made a powerful tweet this morning, alleging that his administration was responsible for a substantial drop in unemployment.

Except, there’s one glaring problem. Take a closer look at the tweet:
Walker states that unemployment “peaked” at 9.2 percent “before we took office.” It then ignores the fact that A WHOLE YEAR PASSED BY before he assumed the governorship. That's a slight of hand that Walker is hoping you don't notice.

But even that ignores another important fact: Walker’s first budget didn’t take effect until July of 2011. So there were six additional months of Walker’s predecessor’s policies in play before Walker’s budget took hold.

In those 18 months, the unemployment rate sank to 7.8 percent. That’s an unemployment rate drop of 1.4 percent over 18 months, or about a 0.078 rate drop per month.

So what? That sure doesn't sound like a lot, right? Well, let’s take a look at Walker's performance, from July 2011 until the most recent unemployment rate report, which as Walker states is 3.2 percent. That rate was achieved after 70 months of Walker's first budget.

That amounts to a 0.046 percent rate drop per month — effectively an average monthly drop in unemployment that is 41 percent slower than his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s results.

We should be happy that unemployment is down, and I’m not trying to suggest a low unemployment rate is bad. But Walker is using hand-waving to make his outcome look better than it actually is.

In reality, we had a sharper drop in unemployment under his Democratic predecessor. That's something you won't read in any news release this week about jobs in Wisconsin.

Data for unemployment rates obtained at BLS.gov

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GOP State Sen. Roger Roth encourages “rural elitism” (with AUDIO)


Lawmakers should look at citizens from cities AND rural areas as equals




I wrote last winter about the idea of a “rural elitism” taking shape across the nation and Wisconsin — that some individuals from rural areas believe their political beliefs and needs are more important than the beliefs and needs of people in cities and suburban locales.

My concerns with rural elitism aren’t so much that I believe city people are better or more deserving of attention. The needs of those who live out in the country should be addressed. And the Democratic Party, in Wisconsin particularly, ought to consider ways to reach out to voters who haven’t identified with them in recent elections.

But I do take issue with the idea that the cities should be ignored, or that the opinions of those in urban areas aren’t even worth discussing.

Recently while browsing through Twitter during the state Republican Party’s convention, I saw that GOP state Sen. Roger Roth made a very curious statement. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley, Roth warned that political history in the state would soon be written by “intellectual types who can’t even change a flat tire on their own car.”
That struck a nerve with me — I consider myself an “intellectual.” Though I would never claim to be the smartest person in the state, I do hold a college degree from a UW System school, and am very proud of that fact. I also know how to change a tire — this past winter forced me to change two, in fact — and to insinuate that intellectual types are somehow weak is something Roth should reconsider doing.

Belittling intellectuals is part of “rural elitism,” since intellectuals are more likely to live near city centers (that’s where Wisconsin’s four- and two-year universities generally are located). That isn’t to say there aren’t intellectuals in rural areas. There are plenty of college-educated individuals living outside of the cities.

The farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin.
Image via Wikipedia.
Roth, however, is trying to stoke anger by capitalizing on a divide between rural people and city dwellers. And it’s an inappropriate move to make, in my mind, because these two groups of people should be equals. One should not be empowered at the expense of the other.

Rural elitism prevents us from protecting the democratic wishes of the populace as a whole. President Trump, in fact, promotes the idea of the Electoral College specifically because it protects a rural elitism (coincidentally, his core voting base). The Electoral College, however, should be dismantled precisely because it pits the interests of one group of people above others, solely off of geographic location. A voter in Los Angeles, California, holds less sway than a voter in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It shouldn’t be that way: every voter in this country should have an equal voice when it comes to selecting the president.

I make frequent visits to rural areas in the state. On more than a handful of occasions, when I respond to people asking where I’m from, I’m told (through either visual cues or explicit rants) that Madison is a terrible place, and that people here aren’t “real.” Often, I’m told that we think we’re better than everyone else.

Some people in Madison probably do think that. And they’re wrong. But the people I’ve encountered in rural areas who scoff at Madisonians are wrong too. They are being elitists without even knowing it. And comments like Sen. Roth’s empower that kind of thinking to continue.

I have a better idea in mind: rather than encouraging a “conversational civil war,” why don’t we push for promoting both rural and city areas? City folk should understand the concerns of rural people, and tell lawmakers to support clean water, fund and increase internet access across the state, and find ways to help family farms stay in business. And rural folk should similarly stand behind increasing economic opportunities and reducing the effects of poverty for people in the cities.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. And politicians like Roth should stop pretending it has to be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

David Clarke’s tweet supporting Trump is full of so many problems that I can’t even


The Milwaukee Co. Sheriff conjures an imaginary bogeyman, and argues that criticism nullifies the will of the people


Give Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County his due: he was an early supporter of Donald Trump during his campaign for president. And now, the sheriff (himself embattled) is doubling-down on his support for the the controversial commander-in-chief, even as Trump faces mounting criticism and possible impeachment for a plethora of issues.

Clarke sent this tweet out on Tuesday evening, defending the president against the so-called “establishment” that’s trying to ruin his presidency.
“The continued attacks on our President is the establishment trying to nullify the will of We the People who elected him to lead this country” — that’s quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down.

First, the “attacks on our president” are wholly appropriate (to borrow a phrase from Team Trump). The president faces scrutiny for a variety of mishaps and problems during his first few months in office, but as I see it these few are the biggest concerns as of late:
  • Trump fired former FBI director James Comey. While spokespeople for his administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails as rationale for his ouster, Trump himself said in an interview with Lester Holt that his firing had everything to do with the direction Comey was taking the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign. His firing screams obstruction of justice.
  • Russian pictures in the Oval Office, and sharing classified info. One day after firing Comey — again, for continuing an investigation into Russian connections to his campaign — Trump actually met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The meeting was behind closed doors, without any U.S. media present. But Russian photographers from their state media service took plenty of photographs, posting the images to social media just moments later. Trump also shared classified information with the Russians, obtained from Israeli intelligence, a move that while technically legal is dangerously stupid.
  • The Comey Memo. And it was revealed Tuesday that Trump had pressured Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, who had met with Kislyak before Trump assumed office, allegedly to talk about lifting American sanctions on Russia once Flynn was in as National Security Advisor. His improper contacts with Russians, his failure to disclose money earned while in Russia and Turkey, and his lying about it to Trump officials, led to Trump asking for his resignation. Comey wrote in a memo that Trump had urged him to drop the investigation of Flynn after Flynn left the White House, and before Comey was fired.
Any objective observer would see the facts outlined above and think, “yes, those actions by the president warrant further inspection.” And that’s being generous — many would read the above and think much worse. But Clarke? Criticizing Trump for those actions are attacks.

Sheriff David Clarke
Next, let’s look at Clarke charging that the “establishment” is behind the attacks of Trump. Who does he mean here?

Democrats? They’re out of power. They are the minority in both houses of Congress. They control barely a handful of governorships and statehouses. And they are being joined by more Republicans daily in their calls for investigating Trump, including Republican Mike Gallagher, who represents the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin. The “political” attacks are becoming bipartisan as more is revealed about Trump.

The media? They merely report on what Trump himself and his surrogates have said. And you cannot fault them for reporting on sources in the White House who are bringing forth a trove of embarrassing information about the president that, more often than not, proves to be true.

So who is the establishment? It’s an imaginary bogeyman. Just as Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” Clarke wants to focus on a character of his imagination that’s seemingly going after the president. Truth is, the president is responsible for his own downfall.

Finally, Clarke says that this imaginary establishment is trying to disrupt the will of “We the People.” This is perhaps the most laughable part of Clarke’s short Twitter rant — a plurality of Americans didn’t select Trump to be president in the first place. He did win the Electoral College, but by a count of more than three million votes Hillary Clinton was the preferred choice of “We the People.”

But much more than that, Clarke implies that anyone upset with how elected leaders govern is trying to disrupt the will of the people. So what was Clarke, Trump, et. al. doing before 2017? Looking back at their statements and tweets from that time, it’s clear to see that they hardly accepted who “We the People” elected (former President Barack Obama), frequently expressing themselves in vehement outbursts how they felt the country was going down the gutter.

And that’s fine — it was Clarke’s right to do so at the time. But turning that around and suggesting criticism of Trump is “trying to nullify the will of We the People” is hypocritical.

Donald Trump is in serious trouble. Liberals and progressives have seen the problems with Trump for quite some time, and now some conservatives are starting to open up their eyes to the problems this president has presented as well.

Clarke is choosing to remain blind to what the president has done. He has the right to choose willful blindness, but he’s wrong to believe he and other Trump supporters are the victims of a made-up establishment’s attacks on the president.

But if Clarke wants to continue backing Trump during his downward spiral, who am I to say he shouldn’t?