Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Milwaukee may surpass Chicago's murder rate, despite concealed carry promises

Homicide rates increase in Milwaukee, decrease in Chicago.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about growing violence in the state of Wisconsin after a controversial concealed carry law was passed.

While it isn’t clear whether the concealed carry law itself contributed to the rise in crime, it is clear that the promises made -- including some that insisted crime would decrease as a result of the law -- were false. Indeed, when Gov. Scott Walker signed the law in late 2011, he said that:
By signing concealed carry into law, we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.
In the year that followed, violent crime increased by 18 percent per 100,000 citizens in Wisconsin. The homicide rate on its own increased by 26 percent in 2012.

In Milwaukee, the number of murders also increased from 2011 to 2012, albeit at a smaller rate change. Homicides in the city increased by more than six percent in the year after concealed carry was passed in the state.

The results of this research were only for one full year of Wisconsin homicides under concealed carry. But as we enter the next year, we’re beginning to see that these trends may permeate through the years to come as well.

2013, the second full year of concealed carry, also saw an increase in crime within Milwaukee -- and with it, an increase in homicides.

Unofficially, Milwaukee saw 102 murders in 2013. Assuming that its population stayed the same size (or relatively close) to its 2012 numbers, that would mean Wisconsin’s largest city saw 17.01 murders per 100,000 citizens -- a rate that’s higher than its 2012 homicide rate of 15.18.

Chicago, meanwhile, saw a very bad 2012, and many media outlets dubbed it the new “murder capital of the U.S.” This was an erroneous moniker, however, because it disregarded murder rates and focused solely on raw numbers.

While Chicago’s 500 murders in 2012 did make it the highest city in total homicides reported, its murder rate per 100,000 was far below several other major cities, including St. Louis, Birmingham, Little Rock, and New Orleans.

In 2013, however, Chicago had a miniature “turnaround.” While its total number of murders is high, at 412 it’s still a significant drop from the year before, and the lowest number of murders the city has seen in over 40 years.

* Rates if population numbers hold steady
If the number of homicides is accurate, and the population of the city remains the same, Chicago will see its 2013 murder rate decrease to 15.21 per 100,000, down from 18.46 the year before.

Comparing the numbers between Milwaukee and Chicago shows that the two cities have swapped places in 2013 (again, if populations of both cities hold steady).

If the numbers hold true, Milwaukee will have an estimated rate of homicide that is 1.8 persons per 100,000 greater than Chicago’s, meaning that you’re more likely to be murdered in Wisconsin’s largest municipality than you are in Illinois’s largest city.

Again, the data here does not necessarily translate towards any definitive effect that concealed carry itself (nor any other policy for that matter) increased crime in the state or in Milwaukee. What it does show, however, is two straight years of homicide rate increases for the city, which is inconsistent with the view that concealed carry made our state safer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Weekly audio commentary: on free speech and Duck Dynasty

Today I introduce a new segment...a weekly commentary.

Today I speak on Freedom of Speech and the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

Audio recording >>

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Walker idea to eliminate income (and raise sales) taxes would hurt Wisconsin’s poor

Effective tax rates, already somewhat regressive, would flip overwhelmingly in favor of the wealthy while burdening families with lower incomes

Gov. Scott Walker is all about cutting taxes...except when it comes to the poor. For the poor, he’s all about raising them.

Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, 2013
Early on in his term, Gov. Walker proposed and passed a budget that included a cut in the Earned Income Tax Credit. The budget that passed into law reduced the amount that Wisconsin’s working and middle class families could claim, effectively raising taxes on Wisconsinites who qualified for the credit.

For a two-parent household with three children earning $40,000 annually, for example, the cut to the EITC implemented by Walker effectively raised their taxes by about 1.3 percent. Overall, the tax credit was reduced by $56.2 million in the 2011 budget.

This week, Walker introduced a new “reform” idea for the state of Wisconsin: possibly eliminating the income tax entirely. And when pressed for how he would make up the difference, Walker suggested that we could do so in a very simple way:
Walker told WisPolitics.com on Tuesday that he is “envious” of other states that have eliminated income taxes, and that he could support raising the state’s 5 percent sales tax rate or eliminating sales tax exemptions to help cover the revenue loss that would result from killing income taxes.
Emphasis added.

Raising the sales tax, of course, would be an increase in taxes that historically hurt the working poor. Indeed, sales and excise taxes make up 6.2 percent of taxes for the poorest of Wisconsinites. For the top 20 percent of income earners, however, they only make up between 0.9 to 2.5 percent.

Overall, sales tax makes up for about two-thirds of the effective tax rate (PDF) that the poorest 20 percent in the state pay. Again, for the richest 20 percent, sales tax makes up about a quarter of what they contribute to taxes, at most.

Eliminating the income tax would greatly benefit the wealthiest of Wisconsinites, but it would do next to nothing for the lowest quintile of earners, and barely anything for the lowest two quintiles (the poorest 40 percent). The effective tax rates (the sum total of all taxes paid, e.g. sales, income, property and so forth) for Wisconsinites earning below $36,000 per year is currently between 9.6 and 10.7 percent. Eliminating the income tax would change those numbers very minimally, reducing the effective tax of this income group to between 8.6 to 9.7 percent.

That’s without raising the sales tax, which experts suggest may have to increase to 12 or 13 percent per purchase, more than doubling its current rate. If we take into account the elimination of the income tax, but double the share of household income dedicated towards sales tax for these families, the effective rate actually rises to between 13.8 and 15.8 percent on the lowest 40 percent of income earners (with the poorer actually paying the higher end of that percentage range).

For the top 1 percent of income earners, eliminating the income tax and doubling their family share of sales tax would be a huge win -- reducing their effective tax from 6.9 percent to 2.2 percent.

Overall, eliminating the income tax would create a huge tax burden on the poor, creating an effective tax that would be more regressive than it is already today in Wisconsin.

Any reductions in the income tax with increases in the sales tax shifts the burden to the poor and middle classes. An outright elimination of the income tax and a substantial jump on sales tax would spell catastrophe for those with modest family budgets in Wisconsin.

It would be irresponsible to go forward with a plan like this, and Gov. Walker should stop any talks about doing so immediately.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Walker tells a fairy tale on his jobs record, hoping we’re stupid enough to believe him

Governor's dishonesty based on the assumption that our collective memories are erased

I’ve said it before, but it continues to be a problem, so I’ll say it again and again until it sticks:

People need to wake up to the fact that Gov. Scott Walker thinks we’re all suckers.

Speaking on whether or not he will run for re-election, Walker talked briefly about criticisms he had regarding his potential challenger, Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke.
“There are some questions even about Trek and whether or not jobs were sent overseas,” Walker said. “And then as secretary of Commerce under Jim Doyle … those policies when she was part of the administration saw the state losing 133,000 jobs.”
Several on the left have already brought up their reservations about Burke’s record at Trek. Burke has defended her record, saying that the company employs more than 1,000 workers in Wisconsin, more than any other bike company in the country.

But those parts of Walker’s comments aren’t what I’m worried about. What’s more troubling is the second half of his comments, mainly that they distort the reality of what actually happened in the state during that time.

Yes, Wisconsin lost 133,000 jobs during the time that Gov. Doyle was in office. Yes, Mary Burke was Commerce Secretary under Jim Doyle.

Aside from those facts, Scott Walker is creating a fairy tale about what really happened.

The loss of 133,000 jobs in Wisconsin occurred as the world -- not just the state -- was engulfed in a catastrophic economic recession.

Never is that mentioned in the Republican Party’s or Walker’s talking points. They’d rather not mention them, in fact, hoping that you’re gullible enough to believe that the cataclysmic numbers are entirely the Doyle administration’s fault, and that Walker is the “patron saint of jobs” in the state.

Actually, quite the opposite is true: Walker’s policies are slowing us down.

First, some real facts: Mary Burke left Commerce before the recession hit Wisconsin (and the country, world, et al). When she left her cabinet position, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was at 4.6 percent.

The total number of people who were unemployed in the state decreased by two percent overall during that time, with 2,952 less unemployed persons across the state from when Burke started at Commerce to the time she left her post.

The recession officially began about a month after Burke left the public sector.

Not only is Walker not being honest about WHY Wisconsin lost so many jobs, but he’s also being dishonest about WHEN Burke served as Secretary of Commerce. She wasn’t even in office when the job losses occurred...not that it mattered because, again, EVERY STATE and EVERY COUNTRY in the world was hit hard economically.

Fast forward a few years, and we can examine Walker’s record compared to Doyle’s, sans recession. The second year of the last budget passed by the Doyle administration lasted from June 2010 to June 2011. During that time, Wisconsin grew the number of private sector by 39,909 jobs (about 3325.75 jobs per month).

The latest numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Walker’s numbers during the same calendar time are considerably less -- from June 2012 to June 2013, Wisconsin grew 23,963 (less than 2,000 jobs per month).

To sum it up: Scott Walker is attacking Mary Burke for a record he’s created in his imagination. The “myth” of Burke losing jobs for Wisconsin that Walker has crafted ignores a global economic recession as well as the fact that Burke wasn’t in office when it occurred.

Meanwhile, Walker is ignoring his own record and creating another myth, that he’s done better on jobs for the state. In fact, looking at the data above, the numbers from Doyle’s last budget year are 66 percent better than Walker’s current year.

Of course for Walker, storytelling might be his last resort: with headlines like “Wisconsin Ranked 37th in private sector job growth,” it’s hard to sell the case that you’re somehow better than what we had before.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Burke should endorse progressive jobs plan

Increasing aid, growing the minimum wage, and restoring the EITC could help improve the jobs situation in Wisconsin

The campaign for the governor’s race is heating up, and Mary Burke, the only declared candidate from the Democratic Party’s side, is taking heat from the right on some of her policy positions.

From the Journal Sentinel:
In recent days, the GOP stepped up attacks on Burke for entering the race without a jobs plan.

Burke’s response?

“It will be an important part of my campaign,” she says, adding that her jobs plan will be “one that is well thought out and one that I will implement as governor.”
I personally have no doubt that Burke will come up with a jobs plan that will be competitive with current Gov. Scott Walker’s. Indeed, the Republicans who are critical of Burke ought to transfer at least some of that criticism towards their own ranks, as job growth has actually slowed significantly under Walker’s watch.

It might behoove Burke to consider some progressive ideas for job creation, ideas that have worked in the past and that reject the “trickle down” theories of Walker and the GOP.

Increasing Public Aid

Among the first of these ideas is increasing aid for public assistance programs. This is one plan that Burke herself has already explicitly said she would have done differently than Walker, particularly on the issue of accepting federal Medicaid dollars.

Walker rejected Medicaid funds, a move that cost the state more financially and removed nearly 100,000 adults from BadgerCare across the state.

More aid to those who need it allows some of the state’s citizens a bit of increased purchasing power. By increasing purchasing power, demand for labor rises as goods and services are purchased at a higher rate. Removing individuals from BadgerCare, however, creates more fiscal concerns for Wisconsin’s downtrodden, which means less capital is placed into small businesses across the state...and thus, less hiring occurs.

Growing the minimum wage

A second method to growing jobs is increasing the statewide minimum wage. Now, countless conservatives have argued that raising wages actually hurts jobs, forcing business owners to pay employees more and hire less.

But recent studies have proven just the opposite holds true -- that increasing pay has little to no effect on curtailing employment, and may in fact lead to more hiring as a result of, once again, greater purchasing power by those previously earning a lower rate of pay. By increasing what workers earn, we grow the purchasing power of the average worker, much like growing public assistance helps. The benefits of raising the minimum wage, however, is that there aren’t any direct costs to government itself -- the government simply states that this is the new minimum wage, and businesses must comply.

A growth in Wisconsin to $8.50 per hour would increase the average 40-hour minimum wage worker’s salary by about $50 per week, more than $200 per month. Imagine if thousands of minimum wage workers across the state suddenly had $200 more to spend each month. Wouldn’t that increase sales across Wisconsin, infusing much needed cash flow into the state’s economy, which in turn would boost employment? You bet it would!

Restoring cuts to the EITC

In 2011, while arguments were still being made against the controversial bill curtailing union rights in the state, Gov. Walker remained on the offensive with a controversial budget proposal. Among the items in his first budget was a cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a reduction of a popular tax credit that helped families in dire economic need.

The 2011 budget cut the EITC by $56.2 million from working families across the state. For a single mother with two kids earning minimum wage, the cut amounted to about a one percent increase in her taxes. A two-parent family with three children earning 150 percent of the federal poverty line saw their taxes go up 1.25 percent, and families of five earning just at the poverty line saw a 1.88 percent tax hike.

Restoring $56.2 million to the consumer class will undoubtedly help spur demand, and with it an increase in the need for more labor.

We’ve seen Walker’s failures -- now we need positive action

We’ve seen the “Scott Walker approach” to growing jobs in Wisconsin. More importantly, we’ve seen how much it has failed.

From June 2012 to June 2013, Wisconsin’s jobs numbers slowed down significantly. There were 23,968 jobs created during that time, a 39.9 percent slower increase than the last year of Gov. Jim Doyle’s final budget.

What can we learn from these numbers? Walker’s invention, the private-public Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was an epic failure that mismanaged funds intended to help grow business and jobs. His other policy, of granting billions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations in the state, also failed to spur any job creation whatsoever. And decreasing take-home pay for state workers also likely diminished the number of jobs we could have created.

Let’s remember: these tactics were part of how Walker promised to grow 250,000 jobs in four years. We aren’t anywhere close to that number, nor are we close to being on pace to it. Quite simply, the Walker policies are failing Wisconsin. A different approach is needed, one that has been proven to work.

By embracing the progressive ideas outlined above, Mary Burke (or any other Democratic candidate) has a real opportunity to appeal to a progressive base as well as offer a positive vision much different from the failures of Gov. Walker.

We need solutions that will work, as well as appeal to a vast majority of Wisconsinites. When those two collide, it spells a winning formula for success, in this case removing Walker from office. The ideas outlined above provide just that: a jobs plan that can be both successful and popular in the state.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

One year after Sandy Hook, America (and Wisconsin) has a lot yet to learn

A quick rant on the need for reasonable gun regulations in our state and our country

One year after the most horrific of nightmares became reality for a sleepy New England town, little if anything has been done to address the events of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Twenty children and six school administrators were killed that day, for no apparent reason. What went through the shooter’s mind that day -- addressing him by name serves no grand purpose -- remains a mystery. He and only he knows why he did what he did, and that secret has been taken to his grave.

It isn’t fair to those children, it isn’t fair to those families, what this man took from them. So much potential, so much promise...gone in an instant.

There is no happy ending to this story. Few (if any) can imagine what a happy ending could even look like, what any resolution could bring for these people.

Families from across America held onto their little ones a little tighter that night, as the reality of the situation became apparent: Newtown, Connecticut, was really Anytown, U.S.A.

Yet, the possible remedies for such a tragedy were readily dismissed by the usual parties -- the National Rifle Association specifically, as well as the lawmakers they fund. Hoping to calm the nerves of a populace fed up with such tragedies, NRA leaders came up with their own solution: more guns, especially in schools.

Any calls for regulation of any kind were scoffed at by those “defending” gun rights. No, banning weapons of any kind was out of the question. No, limiting the magazine count was also an option they couldn’t accept. And don’t even think about expanding background checks, or closing the gun-show loophole, both ideas which were also readily dismissed as an “infringement” on gun owners’ rights.

Each of the regulations intended to curb abusive gun behavior was turned down by conservative lawmakers in Congress and their pro-gun sponsors. They were called cowards by the left, and heroes by the right. The rest of America, already understanding the realities of a do-nothing Congress, went on with their lives, cynically believing there was nothing that could be done.

Four months earlier, Wisconsin saw a tragedy of its own, in a place of worship no less. At that time, we heard the usual lines from those favoring loose gun laws -- there was no way to prevent this, except to have more guns. We heard the (errant) line that gun-free zones only encouraged “bad guys with guns” to do their dastardly deeds, in spite of the fact that the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek wasn’t a gun-free zone.

Wisconsin itself has experienced a rise in gun-related crime, in a year when a newly-enacted concealed carry law went into effect. The idea of the law, its proponents asserted, was to allow citizens the freedom to carry their weapons wherever they wanted to. More guns, after all, would lead to less crime...or so we were told.

In fact, crime in the state went up. Violent crime, defined by the FBI as murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, increased by a rate of more than 18 percent (per 100,000 citizens) compared to the previous year’s numbers. Murders and aggravated assaults went up by 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively. And the number of murders related to guns went up even more so, increasing by 34 percent.

Those that had us believe that concealed carry would fix things, at least in the short term, were wrong. And it wasn’t just in urban areas, either: take Milwaukee and Madison out of the equation, the two largest cities in the state, and Wisconsin’s murder rate per 100,000 went up by 83 percent from the previous year.

On the issue of gun violence in this country, and in this state, we’re clearly missing the point. Something needs to change in our collective minds about the growing number of tragedies we experience. Instead of finding solutions, however, we’ve simply numbed ourselves to these experiences, resigning ourselves to offer prayer and condolences, and nothing much beyond that.

I myself can’t offer a solution that everyone is going to like (nor should I -- I’m a mere opinion writer, not a lawmaker). I don’t actually think that’s possible, in the gun debate or any other political issue facing the nation or the state. But the solutions offered by those purporting that more guns are needed, or that concealed carry will lower crimes, are wrong.

One thing I’m certain of, however, is that the cynicism of our time needs to end. The solutions need to be discussed openly, honestly, and without callous.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fired for all the wrong reasons? Walker campaign may have had other motives

Friends of Scott Walker fire Taylor Palmisano...three years after racist remarks, one weekend after embarrassing email

A senior staffer from Gov. Scott Walker’s electoral campaign has been fired for racist remarks she made against Hispanic individuals.

Taylor Palmisano, who up to this week was serving as deputy finance director for Friends of Scott Walker (the official campaign arm of Gov. Walker), made derogatory (and violent) statements about individuals who were near her at the time.

Gov. Scott Walker / Taylor Palmisano
I will choke that illegal mex in the library,” reads one tweet. “Stop banging ****ing chairs around and turn off your Walkman.”

Another tweet, again making reference to the documentation status of the people around her, echoed similar lines of intolerance.

This bus is my worst ****ing nightmare,” it read. “Nobody speaks English & these ppl dont know how to control their kids

The second tweet included the hashtags “#only3morehours” and “#illegalaliens.”

After her removal from the campaign, Walker’s spokesman, Jonathan Wetzel, was quick to point out the governor didn’t approve of these tweets.

“Both the Governor, and the campaign, condemn these insulting remarks which do not reflect our views in any way,” he said.

But is that the real reason for her departure? It’s hard to say. Palmisano was also the author of the now-infamous campaign email that asked contributors to forgo buying Christmas presents for their children in favor of giving to the Friends for Scott Walker campaign.
Instead of venturing into the cold this Black Friday, stay in and give your children a gift that will keep on giving.


Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken, or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of.
So was Palmisano fired for the racist tweets? Or for the messed up email that caused national international embarrassment?

Consider this: the tweets that landed Palmisano in trouble were made almost three years ago. On the other hand, Palmisano was promoted to her position as deputy finance director this past July.

So, two years after she said she would “choke that illegal mex,” Palmisano got a promotion on the Walker campaign. Six months later, she writes an embarrassing email that paints Gov. Walker in a bad light, and she’s suddenly fired for tasteless tweets.

Seems a little...suspicious.

Don’t get me wrong: firing her was the right thing to do. The comments that Palmisano made are disgusting, and she was deservingly kicked off of the Walker campaign.

The thing is, Palmisano deserved to be fired a long time ago. Palmisano didn’t deserve to be on the campaign for as long as she did, much less to get a promotion five months ago.

For a governor whose administration did enough of a background check on a STUDENT that they would refuse him a position on the board of regents for signing a recall petition, you’d think his own campaign would do enough of a check on a potential hire to know that they have such extreme racist views.

And that’s why I’m skeptical Palmisano was fired for the right reasons.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Minnesota created more jobs because Scott Walker created less demand

Simple economic theory explains why Minnesota is miles ahead of Wisconsin on job creation

Job numbers from BLS, First quarter 2013 QCEW
Job creation is spurred by one simple concept: demand. A job will be created when it’s necessary to have, when doing so is beneficial to the person who owns or runs a business.

Demand itself is driven by a strong consumer class. When people are able to purchase a particular good, the demand for that good increases. Production needs to go up to keep up with that demand. When the need for production goes up, the need for labor rises, and with that (and the capital created from the purchases of goods) a job can be created.

Some have argued that tax cuts for businesses will help create jobs. On a small level, this can help: small businesses that have enough demand for a product can use these tax breaks to create work if they lack capital. But on their own, tax cuts for corporations do not spur job growth.

What is needed is a growth in capital for consumers. When the middle- and working-classes are able to make purchases, it’s great for businesses. It’s even better when they’re able to increase the number of purchases they make, as this increases the cycle of demand, production, and job creation.

Wisconsin and Minnesota serve as two states to compare when it comes to job creation and the means how to do it -- or, in one case, how NOT to do it. Both states have similar demographics and population sizes, and each took different directions in governance in 2010.

Gov. Scott Walker pledged to grow jobs by 250,000 by the end of his first term. He is so far failing in keeping his promise, unable to keep up with the pace he said was his "floor."

Minnesota, meanwhile, has seen a growth of jobs that puts Wisconsin to shame -- this, in spite of the conventional wisdom purported by conservatives that tax increases in their state would deter job growth.

What makes Wisconsin and Minnesota so different? The consumer classes in Minnesota saw an increase in their purchasing power, while Wisconsinites saw significantly smaller changes. Here’s a few of the differences that were seen, according to numbers from the first quarter of this year:

  • State workers. In Minnesota, from 2011 to 2013 the average state worker saw their income increase by more than $24 per week, or an increase of $1,248 per year. The number of state workers also increased, by 1,050 employees over the two-year period, a 1.38 percent increase.

  • Private workers. Private sector wages also went up in Minnesota on average by almost $3,800 per year for the typical worker.

  • Jobs created. The total number of jobs created from March 2011 to March 2013 for Minnesota was 99,905 jobs, almost a 4 percent jump.
  • State workers. Wisconsin, on the other hand, saw state workers’ incomes drop from 2011 to 2013 by $72 per week, or $3,744 per year per average worker. The number of state employees also dropped, by 1,375 workers during the two-year period, a decrease of 1.75 percent of the public sector workforce.

  • Private workers. Private sector wages went up by almost the same rate in Wisconsin as it did in Minnesota. However, the average private sector Wisconsinite still earns significantly less than the average Minnesotan -- more on that below.

  • Jobs created. The total number of jobs created in Wisconsin from March 2011 to March 2013 was 54,084 jobs, just barely above a 2 percent jump.
Income comparisons
  • Both Wisconsin and Minnesota saw private sector wage increases. The rates between the two states are pretty similar, but the increase in weekly dollar amounts differ slightly. Minnesota’s private sector workers saw an average increase of $73 per week, while Wisconsin private sector workers saw an average increase of $60 per week.

    In total, the average private sector worker in Minnesota received a salary of $53,144 in 2013; in Wisconsin, the total was almost ten grand less, at $43,316 for the average private sector worker.

  • The private sector gap favored Minnesota in both 2011 and 2013. However, the gap between those two years has grown. In 2011, Wisconsinites earned $176 less on average than private sector Minnesotans. That jumped up to a $189 difference between the states in 2013, a $13 increase in the gap favoring our neighbor to the northwest. That means the private sector wage gap has increased by 7.3 percent between the two years.

  • The public sector wage gap between the states, which until recently has been significantly higher in Wisconsin, has shrunken. In 2011, Wisconsin employees in the public sector earned $112 more than their Minnesota counterparts. In 2013, that gap shrank to just $16 more. For more comparison, in 2011 public sector Minnesotans earned 89.6 percent of the same income that public sector Wisconsinites earned; in 2013, that number changed to 98.4 percent.
What we’re seeing is an increase in wages for private sector employees in both states; however, public sector employees saw a significant jump in Minnesota, whereas in Wisconsin wages actually decreased. What’s more, the number of public sector workers in Wisconsin, who generally earn more than the average private sector worker, shrunk as well.

The average wage (from both sectors) grew in both states. In Minnesota, the average wage increased by 7.5 percent, while in Wisconsin it shot up by 6.9 percent. Both of those numbers are good news; however, in Wisconsin the average wage is still much lower than in Minnesota, which means the purchasing power of the average worker in our state is significantly smaller.

Cutting social programs will only make the problem worse

With a number of individuals being booted off of several social programs in Wisconsin, things aren’t likely to change for the better any time soon. Social programs help aid those who face economic hardships by providing assistance in purchasing or providing a needed service. But social programs do more than just help an individual or a family; they help the economy as well.

For example, Medicaid helps those with lower incomes have health insurance. This is morally sound policy, but it’s great economically as well, as the added hardship of purchasing private insurance would require extra dollars taken out of the pockets of the poor. Those dollars instead contribute to the local economy -- which, as pointed out above, helps create jobs.

Gov. Scott Walker declined federal funds to increase the number of Wisconsinites onto BadgerCare; as a result, nearly 100,000 Wisconsinites will now be without state-funded insurance. Minnesota, on the other hand, accepted those funds and increased its Medicaid enrollment.

This will undoubtedly result in a stronger economy for Minnesotans once again, and stronger job numbers as well. Wisconsin will continue to lag behind, the results of which will come through a diminished purchasing power of the citizenry of the state.


Job creation depends on one very simple concept: demand is necessary before a job can be created. For demand to exist, however, there needs to be a strong consumer class, a large segment of the population that is able to make purchases on goods.

Our consumer class in Wisconsin is getting better, but not through any initiative created by the Walker administration. Indeed, the economic policies produced by Gov. Walker have done very little to spur any strengthening of consumers' pocketbooks.

Walker slashed state workers' pay by instituting the economic provisions of Act 10. He reduced the amount that individuals receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit can claim. And he's set to cut more than 95,000 individuals from BadgerCare, effectively forcing them to purchase insurance they cannot afford.

Meanwhile, in a failed effort to create jobs, Walker gave billions of dollars to corporations in the form of tax relief. That job creation initiative produced very little to show from it.

That's because Walker was trying to aid the wrong entities. Instead of giving capital to corporations -- which will hold onto the added source of income as though it were added revenue WITHOUT demand -- Walker ought to consider ways that he can grow the purchasing power of the citizenry as a whole, who will use the added capital to jump-start the "demand-production-job creation" cycle.

If Walker doesn't change the method for which he supports job creation, then Wisconsin will continue to lag behind. It's as simple as that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Latest job numbers show Walker's policies are slowing us down

Second quarter 2013's numbers demonstrate a 40 percent slowdown compared to Doyle

The finer points:
  • Latest job numbers show WI produced less than 2,000 jobs per month
  • Comparing Walker's job numbers (to former Gov. Jim Doyle's) demonstrates a dramatic shift and a slower pace in job creation

Wisconsin’s latest quarterly employment data was recently released, and the results aren’t good.

For the second quarter of this year (PDF), the state saw a yearly growth (from June 2012 to June 2013) of 23,968 jobs, or less than two thousand jobs created per month.

While growth of any kind is good, the numbers represent a painful slowdown for the state. For comparison, Wisconsin saw 37,959 jobs in the previous year (June 2011 to June 2012) and 39,909 jobs in the year before that (June 2010 to June 2011).

That 39,909 jobs number from June 2010 to 2011 comes from the last year of Gov. Jim Doyle’s final budget. Comparing Gov. Doyle’s totals to current Gov. Scott Walker’s current year numbers, we see a 39.9 percent slower job growth comparison.

In other words, Gov. Walker’s job performance is performing at three-fifths the pace compared to numbers we saw during the last year of Jim Doyle’s final budget.

Here’s another way to compare: let’s pretend job numbers are similar to driving on the interstate highway system. If Gov. Doyle was driving on the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee at 65 MPH, Walker would be driving 39 MPH.

It’s disappointing to say the least that this slowdown is occurring. What’s more troubling, however, is that Walker’s supporters continue to believe that his policies are “working.” They are not, and it’s time the people of Wisconsin start realizing the truth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

WI murders involving guns rise after first year of concealed carry

Murder rates increase in spite of promises of lower crime

The finer points:
  • One year after concealed carry passed, Wisconsin's murder rates increased by more than 26 percent (from 2011 to 2012)
  • Murder rates involving guns increased by more than 34 percent

Last week, I discussed at great lengths how murder and crime rates in general had gone up in Wisconsin, despite 2012 being the first full year of concealed carrying licenses being granted to citizens.

It was once posited by pro-carry Wisconsinites in the lead-up to the bill being signed into law in 2011 that concealed carry would make the state safer. Indeed, Gov. Scott Walker himself said that, “By signing concealed carry into law, we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.”

And while one year of evidence shouldn’t determine definitively whether the law succeeded in reaching those ends or not, the first year has nevertheless shown some worrisome trends.

From 2011 to 2012 many things changed for the worse. As I pointed on Thursday, the violent crime rate (per 100,000) in Wisconsin increased by more than 18 percent. Murder and aggravated assault rates also went up, by 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

The rise wasn’t just in the urban areas, either. When you subtract Milwaukee from the equation, the murder rate in Wisconsin increased from 2011 to 2012 by more than 60 percent.

The City of Madison’s murder rate actually went down from year-to-year, decreasing by 63 percent. This was in spite of warnings by gun activists that our “no guns allowed on premises” signs would lead to more robberies (which also saw its rate decrease by more than 12 percent in the city).

After I published my post, I got to thinking: what about guns specifically? That is, with crimes involving guns, specifically murders, did Wisconsin see any changes?

It should be noted that I had never set out to prove that Wisconsin was more violent under concealed carry -- my intention, rather, was to show that concealed carry had failed to make the state safer, at least in its first year.

Still, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to look into these numbers as well. What I found was that the number of murders committed through the aid of guns increased at a rate that was even higher than the state’s “general-murder” totals.

That is, homicides through gun usage went up, and at a higher rate than I reported last week for homicides overall.

While the murder rate per 100,000 in Wisconsin went up by 26.8 percent, the murder rate for homicides involving guns went up by 34.7 percent.

To compare, murders that didn’t involve a gun at all only went up by about 15.7 percent per 100,000 citizens statewide.

That means that homicides involving a gun increased at a rate that was twice the rate that murders without a gun went up by.

To be fair, this is only one year of data, and the rate increases could be due to some unseen variable.

Still, it’s troubling to see murder rates increase when we were told the concealed carry law would make the state safer. The rate of murders through the usage of guns went up significantly higher than murder without guns, and no amount of spinning by gun advocates can change that fact.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisconsin's first year of concealed carry yields worrisome results

Data not definitive, but is the state heading in the wrong direction?

The finer points:
  • Wisconsin's murder rate shoots up from 2011 to 2012
  • Gun advocates previous claims of concealed carry making us safer comes into question

On November 1, 2011, Wisconsin officially became the 49th state to legalize concealed carry.

That means that the year 2012 was the first full year that concealed carry was the law in Wisconsin, where citizens could legally, with a permit, carry guns and other weapons on their persons.

Prior to the concealed carry law being enacted, I wrote a blog post on the necessity of stronger regulations, specifically to the training that goes into obtaining a license:
An argument often made in the gun debate is that more guns make people safer. While the evidence suggests that, at the very least, gun ownership doesn't equate violence, it's tough to assume guns necessarily make us safer on their own. These guns are heavily regulated, whether concealed or not, tracked to ensure that the people who use them are found immediately following their use. Guns are safer, it seems, with stronger regulations attached to them.
Two years have passed since concealed carry became law, and we now have a full year of evidence to compare records with. So, did concealed carry make Wisconsin safer?

The answer? There’s nothing in the statistical analysis that can be definitive. There’s no strong evidence, one way or another, that can link concealed carry to a rise or fall in crime rates. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, and it’s much too soon to be making any generalization in one way or another based on the new law on its own.

But it’s interesting to note one aspect of the statistics, available through the FBI website: crime in Wisconsin actually went up, statewide. And it’s not only in Milwaukee, but in the state at-large as well.

Violent crime in Wisconsin in 2011 was at 236.914 incidents per 100,000 citizens. In 2012, that rate increased to 280.525 per 100,000, an increase of 18.4 percent.

The rates of murders and aggravated assaults also increased in the state from year-to-year, by 26.8 percent and 29.1 percent, respectively.

Milwaukee continues to be the city with the most murders in the state, and notably crime has increased there as well. Indeed, Forbes recently named Milwaukee the tenth most dangerous city in the nation (among cities with populations exceeding 200,000, excluding Chicago because they collect records differently).

But homicides in Milwaukee climbed only slightly as compared to the state as-a-whole, by 6.7 percent. That means that, although Milwaukee still has the highest homicide rate in the state, the murder rate climbed faster outside of its jurisdiction (the rest of the state) than it did inside.

Indeed, if you subtract the population of Milwaukee and its murders for the years of 2011 and 2012, Wisconsin saw its homicide rate shoot up, increasing its rate of murder per 100,000 by more than 60 percent.

Like I said before, none of this data can definitively tell us whether concealed carry had an adverse or positive affect on crime in Wisconsin. More years of evidence is needed before such a conclusion can be reached.

Still, it’s interesting to look at this data and wonder, which direction is Wisconsin heading in? If this year’s data is any indicator of what the future holds, the promise of “less crime under concealed carry” seems to be a floundering one.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day, 2013

Veterans deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. They deserve thunderous applause, standing ovations, and more for what they’ve done.

They are given this day of commemoration to recognize their valor -- but a day isn’t enough. Veterans deserve our praise on this and every day of the calendar year.

You’ve likely read many status updates, Facebook “shares” and Twitter “retweets” regarding this year’s Veterans Day. These sentiments deserve to be spread as far as they can go across the net, for without the sacrifices given selflessly by our servicemembers, we could not enjoy the many freedoms and benefits that we hold today.

Criticism of how our society functions, its role in our lives, and our nation’s role in global activities will undoubtedly continue. Those criticisms deserve to be heard, and should righteously be made. There are wars and events we don’t necessarily need to intervene in militarily, and it is our duty as citizens to debate the merits of our involvement in conflicts as they arise.

With that said, the veterans of our wars deserve to be commended, regardless of where they served. It wasn’t their decision to fight overseas in this conflict or that one; they served regardless of where the nation’s geopolitical stance was.

They didn’t sign up to fight; they signed up to defend. They signed up because of a strong sense of duty, towards keeping our nation safe, and for that we must show our immense gratitude.

It takes a special kind of person to dedicate a portion of their lifetime so that others can live ordinary, free lives. For that, we should dedicate our lives to ensuring our veterans know that we don’t take them for granted, that we understand what they’ve given so that we can pursue our happiness. We cannot thank them enough for what they’ve done.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dialogue over insensitive school mascot names shouldn't require a signature threshold

Race-based mascot names should be discussed openly, whether 1,000 or just 1 believes so

Acts of racism and discrimination don’t require anyone’s approval for them to be racist and discriminatory.

Yet, the Republican-led State Senate just passed a law that would require signatures totaling 10 percent of a school’s enrollment to begin the process of determining whether a mascot name is offensive.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Candidate bashing won't get Democrats anywhere

Debate is good, but opposition based on false premises and biases leads to more problems

The finer points:
  • Candidates deserve scrutiny, no matter who they are.
  • But candidate bashing without context won't net a positive impact.
  • Weighing the benefits/imperfections of a candidate is worth pursuing; but "put-downs" will only serve the interests of opponents to progressive ideals.

For the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed several sites and other media outlets taking part in criticisms against Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke. And most of them have come from a strange source: the progressive wing of the Democratic Party itself, who worry about Burke’s credentials as a liberal.

These criticisms have perplexed me, and I have often engaged those who have made such statements to explain themselves a bit more.

I won’t go into the details, of who said what and so forth -- it doesn’t really matter. It’s wrong to expect everyone to accept Burke as the de facto nominee, and I’ve never demanded that of anyone in these conversations.

If someone has a problem with her, they should bring it up, and be able to rationalize themselves in a way that produces a logical argument for opposing her.

And at times, individuals have brought up good points that some could justly be critical of. No candidate will ever be perfect, and we shouldn’t expect that of Burke or anyone else, but these issues are necessary to address nonetheless.

Bringing up these issues allows us to have an internal debate, and to rationalize whether Burke’s imperfections are worth digging into deeper, or whether they can be overlooked.

But at other times, I’ve seen downright bashing of Burke, of comments whose sole purpose were only to blatantly downgrade her as a negligible candidate, with hopes that another, more progressive option would be taking her place.

I worry over such commentary. Democrats are, after all, looking for a candidate who is for environmental safeguards, for promoting public education, for defending a woman’s health decisions and access to care, for electoral and redistricting reform, and for advancing the conditions of the working class in Wisconsin.

These ideals exemplify what the candidacy of Mary Burke is about. On all of these issues, and more, Burke has stated her beliefs -- and they are squarely on the progressive side of things.

Some have concerns over Burke's desire to be cooperative, to listen to the other sides of arguments, and to make "no promises" when it comes to the campaign itself. Nobody is "wrong" for bringing these issues to light.

Yet to degrade Mary Burke over other aspects of her campaign (whether they are non-issues or imaginary beliefs that the candidate holds) creates more problems for ourselves -- and only serves the interests of our opponents.

A rational debate over Burke’s credentials is necessary. We wouldn’t be doing any good for ourselves or for the state of Wisconsin if we allowed ourselves to blindly accept any candidate without first questioning him or her.

Some of the commentary about Burke is belittling, distasteful, and hurtful towards our goals. A discussion, as I’ve already stated, is fine -- but creating a discourse out of commentaries that serve only to bring a candidate down, through unfair comparisons or straw-man arguments, won’t help create a better candidate, whether it is Burke or somebody else.

Let’s have debates, argue on the merits of the candidates’ stances, and even get mad at one another from time-to-time. Let’s also remember: we don’t move forward through unnecessary bashing of any potential nominee. Mary Burke deserves both our scrutiny and our respect, as does any other candidate considering a run for governor on the Democratic ticket.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Despite gun advocates' claims, Chicago is NOT the "murder capital of the U.S."

Murder rates indicate Chicago is a safer city than several other cities

The finer points:
  • Chicago is not the “murder capital” of the country
  • Many other metropolitan areas, with looser gun laws, have much higher murder rates than Chicago
  • Gun advocates are wrong to correlate murders with restrictions on gun ownership

Several media outlets have recently dubbed Chicago the newest “murder capital of the U.S.” after it surpassed New York as having the most murders in the nation this past year.

Many have used this new moniker as justification to blast Chicago’s strict gun laws. They ask, how can the “murder capital” defend laws that aren’t preventing violence?

Their prescription: strip the regulations on guns, and crime will decrease.
To gun rights advocates, the city provides stark evidence that even some of the toughest restrictions fail to make places safer. “The gun laws in Chicago only restrict the law-abiding citizens and they’ve essentially made the citizens prey,” said Richard A. Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
But that argument overlooks several significant variables. For starters, calling Chicago the most murderous city in America is a mistake. It’s not even one of the ten most-dangerous cities in the country. While Chicago may have the most murders of any jurisdiction, without context the ranking of “murder capital of the U.S.” is a misnomer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Poll shows Walker vulnerable, state turning “bluer”

Polling answers suggest a progressive turn for Wisconsin is possible

The latest Marquette Law School poll shows that Gov. Scott Walker is vulnerable.

When matched up against declared candidate Mary Burke, as well as undeclared (but likely) candidate Kathleen Vinehout, the polling suggests that Walker may be in for the political fight of his life come next fall.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CORRECTION: Mary Burke stands for many positive changes for Wisconsin

Criticism of "no promises" pledge shortsighted

I have to correct myself on a blog post I made last week.

I stated that the “No promises” pledge made by Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke was a bad strategy.

I stand by the idea that making no promises during the campaign may be perplexing. But I must correct myself a bit, and admit an error in my reasoning from the original post.

Progressives United backs Mary Burke for governor

More than three-quarters of members responding throw their support behind her

Progressives United, a liberal advocacy group founded by former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, has officially backed Mary Burke for the 2014 race for governor.

“She will work tirelessly to restore the progressive traditions of Wisconsin, create good paying jobs for Wisconsinites, and end the nasty politics of division that have become Scott Walker's trademark,” executive director Cole Leystra said.

The endorsement is significant because Burke is considered to be a moderate by the left, and criticized by the right as being “too wealthy” (and thus, out of touch) to run.

Perhaps hoping to quell those accusations, the organization asked its members directly whether they should support Burke or not. According to the group, more than 75 percent said they wanted to back her in 2014, without waiting for a possible primary challenge.

Progressives United’s vision statement reads:

“Realizing a true democracy in which all Americans are fairly represented in a government free of dominance by wealthy individuals or corporate interests.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

"No promises" promise a risky campaign strategy

EDIT: a Correction to this post has been made. Please view the latest I have written on this topic here.

Burke campaign offers few clues on what she'd do as governor

Now that Mary Burke has tossed her hat in the race for governor, her campaign is understandably facing some criticism.

This is to be expected. Every candidate, for every office ever run for, has strategic choices to make. Not everyone is going to agree with those choices, and it creates a debate on how best to win the office for that candidate...or whether that candidate is the right person to run for office in the first place.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Property tax cut not all it's cracked up to be

Proposal fiscally irresponsible, politically motivated, barely helpful

Gov. Scott Walker unveiled a new plan late last week to give property tax cuts to homeowners across the state.

The plan would create $100 million in tax cuts. On its face, it sounds like a pretty large sum of cash. Broken down further, however, and it amounts to less than a tank of gas for property owners over two years’ time.

Taxpayers would receive an average of $13 the first year in breaks, and $20 in the second year. Much of the first year’s savings would be essentially erased, however, due to the fact that property taxes were expected to go up on average $11 for the typical homeowner anyway.

Plans to enact the tax cut would also damage the state’s already troubled economic picture. If these tax cuts and other work training programs are signed into law, the state’s projected shortfall in the next budget would increase by about $180 million.

It's likely that the property tax cut proposed by Gov. Walker is going to garner bipartisan support. Furthermore, any time that the average homeowner can get a relief on their taxes, it’s a good thing.

But let’s not trump this up as anything more than what it is: this is simply irresponsible budgeting and political maneuvering in order for Scott Walker to look good, just days after a challenger to his gubernatorial campaign stepped forward. Being able to say he "cut property taxes" makes for good campaign material, even if the tax cuts he's lauding are particularly dull.

This hastily written bill needs further fiscal consideration, and the Walker administration needs to re-address its priorities, working to help the people of this state rather than preserve or improve the political image of this governor.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Grading Scott Walker's WaPo editorial

Editorial by Walker misleads and lies to its audience

Gov. Scott Walker recently penned an op-ed to the Washington Post titled, “What Wisconsin can teach Washington.” In it, Walker describes the calamitous state he supposedly inherited, and how he improved things (in his own mind, at least).

I took a look at the article, printed it out in fact so that I could make notes on the sides. What started off as reading material started to resemble a graded assignment from an educator who wasn’t satisfied with their pupil’s work.

And frankly, how can you blame me? The article that Walker wrote is so riddled with misdirections and statements that are flat-out lies that, by the end of my reading, there was more red ink on the page than black.

That’s never a good sign.

So here’s Scott Walker, graded. Enjoy:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mary Burke: a remedy for divisive politics?

The qualities that Burke possesses could fix Wisconsin's partisan atmosphere

I just wanted to add my two cents about the announcement of Mary Burke running for governor. As a progressive, I do have some reservations about her ideology. We have yet to hear where she stands on specific policy issues, although that’s something that’s sure to come about in the campaign.

But I am excited about the potential candidate she can become, for a variety of reasons:
  • She’s a businesswoman with strong knowledge on how jobs are actually created (which can defuse a talking point by the Walker administration, who claims to be pro-jobs);

  • She’s had some political experience, but for the most part isn’t too political;

  • She’s willing to listen to every reasonable idea that reaches her, and more importantly, work for compromise;

  • And she possesses a strong desire to help those who are in need of aid the most.
Those are all qualities that we need in any candidate that stands a chance to win back Wisconsin from Scott Walker (R-Koch Industries). That doesn’t mean we have to be satisfied with Mary Burke, and accept her as the only candidate Democrats have to offer -- indeed, a primary that focuses on the issues and qualities of the candidates, without much mudslinging, could prove to be very beneficial.

But with all of that said, Mary Burke provides a reasonable and desirable replacement for the current governor in office. She’s not only a good candidate for the Democrats -- she’s also a good candidate for Wisconsin, and possibly the remedy we need to bridge a state that has been so heavily divided because of Scott Walker.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Walker says -- again -- that recalls hurt job creation. Here's why he's wrong.

Governor erroneously blames recalls, protests, for a different year of slow growth

Seriously, Gov. Walker, I JUST wrote about this.

In a statement to Chicago journalists earlier today -- because heaven forbid the governor of Wisconsin actually speak on the subject in Wisconsin -- Gov. Scott Walker took time out of his schedule to explain, once again, the reason that jobs were so slow in the state had nothing to do with him or his policies:
Walker commented on a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed Wisconsin added private-sector jobs at a 1.1% pace in the 12-month period from March 2012 to March 2013, while the U.S. added jobs at a 2.0% rate.


“These numbers are March to March, and in March of last year, we were still three months out from the recall election,” Walker said at a press conference in Chicago, where he appeared at an economic forum. “And as I point out repeatedly, employers in the state were basically frozen until they knew what would happen in that election and the uncertainty it caused.”


“There’s no doubt in our first two years, because of the protests, the recalls, that they had an impact early on. Much as there is concern nationally about the impact of Obamacare and the impact it has on employers, they just wonder with uncertainty.”
Emphases added.

I’ve previously written on the effect on jobs that the recalls had -- or rather, didn’t have. There’s no substantial data to show that the recalls had negative effects on job creation.

But just yesterday, I also pointed out data that showed the governor’s job record has failed, and it has nothing to do with recalls or his predecessor.

In fact, taking a look at the graph above, the recalls and the protests can hardly be blamed for anything tumultuous in Wisconsin, with regards to job growth.

The protests began in February of 2011 and ended later that spring. From March 2011 to March 2012, Wisconsin grew 39,756 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Remember that, during that time, there was the tail end of the protests, State Senate recalls, the petition drive for the recall of the governor, and part of the gubernatorial recall campaign. That’s a heckuva-lot-of-stuff going on -- and despite it all, the state saw nearly 40,000 jobs gained.

Taking a look at the following year -- from March 2012 to March 2013, the year Gov. Walker was responding to reporters about -- we see a significantly large drop in jobs, from nearly 40,000 to just barely 24,000.

Yet, what Walker complains about in those job numbers were three months of recall campaigning...which is much less "uncertainty" than the twelve months of protests, recalls, and campaigning that occurred prior.

What’s more, Walker said himself that jobs in the state would grow following the recall election:
A day after becoming the country's first governor to win a recall election, a triumphant Scott Walker told his cabinet Wednesday to put their energy into creating jobs and said he was taking steps to improve bipartisanship.

"We're going to spend the remainder of this term focused like a laser beam on creating jobs," he said to the cabinet.


Walker said he expects employers to start hiring in the next several weeks, now that they know the changes he has pursued in state policies over the past 17 months will not be sidelined by a different administration.
Emphasis added.

Walker didn’t say the effects of the recall would linger for months or even years -- he said employers would start hiring within weeks of his recall victory.

Gov. Walker wants to blame everything he can so that his performance on job creation doesn’t look so bad. Yet Walker has no one to blame but himself. The year that the senatorial recalls and protests occurred (with most of the campaigning for the gubernatorial recall occurring as well) saw more job growth than the year where only three months of recalls happened.

Walker thinks that three months of “uncertainty” is more burdensome on job creation than 12 months of the same political circumstances. Such thinking shows exactly why he can’t be trusted to create the conditions needed to grow jobs in the state.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Job woes continue to plague Scott Walker as WMC ads distort his record

Lacking contextual meaning, WMC ads conceal Walker's dismal job creation record

Recent advertisements in support of Gov. Scott Walker are trying to highlight new ratings made by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve.

According to the Philadelphia Fed, Wisconsin now ranks as second in the country in terms of potential economic growth.

On the surface, that ranking sounds like things are finally turning the corner in Wisconsin. After months and years of lagging, finally we’re at the top of the country in an economic ranking!

But the context of that ranking is significant. It doesn’t mean that Wisconsin is poised to be the next-to-best state in the country. Rather, it means Wisconsin has the second best chance of seeing positive growth in the next six months.

Part of that is due to some economic recovery. But a good portion of where that ranking is coming from is the fact that, since Wisconsin has faltered for so long, it has nowhere but upwards to move.

Case in point: the recent quarterly survey of jobs shows that Wisconsin is 34th in the nation in private sector job growth.

Indeed, job growth in the state has slowed significantly since Walker’s plans and initiatives have been implemented, as evidenced in the graph below:

The blue bar in the graph above shows private sector job growth from March 2010 to March 2011. During that period, Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget was in place for the entire time (even as Walker was governor for the last three months). Total job growth was 41,350 private sector jobs.

The next year -- from March 2011 to March 2012, the purple bar above -- saw a minor drop in total job growth. This year had three months of Gov. Doyle’s budget still in place with the remaining nine months being Walker’s very first budget being enacted. Total growth was 39,756 jobs, a drop of about 3.9 percent from the previous year.

But the last year for which data is available -- from March 2012 to March 2013, the red bar above -- saw a tremendous drop in private sector job growth. 24,305 private jobs were created, a 41 percent drop in growth from the 2010-11 job growth numbers.

While it’s true that jobs are still being created, it’s hardly the case that things are better off now than they were when Walker wasn’t yet governor. Indeed, the way that lobby groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce put it, you’d think that Wisconsin has stepped up big time when it comes to economic prowess compared to the rest of the nation.

In reality, however, Wisconsin is falling behind. Without the context of the Philadelphia Fed ranking, WMC’s jobs ads serve only one purpose -- to distort Walker’s jobs performance, and to confuse the state into believing he’s done good for the state.

The truth is that the state has slowed down in a big way, in terms of jobs growth. And Walker cannot escape that fact, no matter how many millions of dollars his lobbyist friends want to throw behind him.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to "succeed" at job creation, the Scott Walker way

Job creation claims by the Walker administration are crafted to look better than they are

Scott Walker’s book, the upcoming “Unintimidated,” should be a magician’s manual.

With all the smoke and mirrors he and his lackeys throw around surrounding his supposed economic successes, Walker really is the king of illusion. Or maybe delusion.

There are three especially callous ways in which Gov. Walker tries to swindle the people of Wisconsin into believing his bogus claims on jobs.

The first: he showcases surveys that are meaningless.

Take, for example, a survey that Gov. Walker touted showing that Wisconsin had jumped from the 41st best state in the nation to do business in to 17th place. That’s a significant gain...but without the context of how the rankings are crafted, it doesn’t mean much.

It means even less when the context IS given. The rankings in that particular survey ask more than 500 CEOs across the nation to rank states based on perceptions of states’ business climates...not their actual empirical rankings measured by data, but rather attitudes of people running companies. While such rankings can have some importance to them, they typically mean nothing when it comes to measuring or ranking states in meaningful ways.

Because Walker had been in the news quite a bit for his work against public unions, Wisconsin got a big jump in the rankings -- not for actually creating more business opportunities, but for implementing policies that CEOs liked.

The second way that the governor showcases his falsified credentials is by taking advantage of his predecessor’s job gains and claiming them as his own. In the 2012 recall, Gov. Walker claimed that his “reforms” were responsible for creating over 20,000 jobs.

But a closer look at the year in its entirety reveals that a majority of those job gains occurred while Walker’s budget wasn’t in play, when Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget was still in effect, and that a net loss occurred when Walker’s budget was implemented:

Another example of Walker taking credit when it wasn’t due is revealed in his tricky wording on unemployment numbers. Walker once said, “We went from unemployment at 9.2 percent when I decided to run for governor four years ago to two points lower.”

While technically true, it places the start of Walker’s barometer on jobs at a time when he wasn’t even in charge of the state -- when he simply decided to run for office, not when he was actually in office.

As PolitiFact Wisconsin points out, Walker is again taking credit for numbers that happened under Doyle’s watch:
Here’s the timeline:
-- From its 9.2 percent peak in June-July 2009, the rate fell almost monthly during the late stages of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s second term, dropping 1.4 points to the 7.8 percent mark in December 2010 when Doyle left office.

So exactly two-thirds of the drop Walker mentions happened on his predecessor’s watch.

-- After Walker took office in January 2011, the rate ticked down but was essentially flat for nine months before falling slowly to 6.7. Then it reversed course early in 2013, taking some of the luster off the positive trend. That left the total drop during Walker’s time at 0.7 points.
Emphases mine.

Lastly, Walker uses a third method of manipulating economic statistics that is highly overlooked -- that of crediting himself with job gains after significant losses have already occurred under his watch.

Earlier today, Gov. Walker tweeted a new “success,” that teacher jobs in Wisconsin had gone up over the past year. Citing a story from the Fond du Lac Reporter, Walker stated the following:

A growth in the number of teachers makes it sound like Walker’s reforms haven’t had an effect on the quality of education. But there’s a few problems there.

First, the number of teachers being hired is quite minimal from this year to last. A total of 156 net positions were added over the entirety of the state, a net increase of just 0.26 percent.

Second, those gains still have a long ways to go to make up for the losses during the years prior. Looking at Gov. Walker’s tenure alone, there was a 2.38 percent loss in teachers (PDF) from when Act 10 was implemented to the following school year. In other words, the small gains in this year’s hiring covers just barely a tenth of those losses.

Image from COWS.org
Whether we look at the private sector or the public sector, Walker’s claims on jobs are highly inflated. While there has been some minimal growth, he has yet to match or surpass the last year of his predecessor’s job gains in any of the single-year job growth numbers he has produced while in office.

What’s more, the rate of job creation for Wisconsin has slowed significantly under Walker’s watch. Where the state once surpassed the national rate of job growth, under Walker Wisconsin’s job growth is now slower than the country as a whole (PDF).

He can play his games all he wants, even having his lackeys creating exaggerated commercials “thanking” him for bringing supposedly better business conditions in the state. But the people aren’t falling for the act -- Wisconsinites will know, come 2014, that Scott Walker has failed to make things better.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Democratic infighting over Mary Burke is overblown

Leftists and moderates should focus on the bigger picture, and not quibble over the party's methods

To Burke, or not to Burke. That is the question.

Well, not really. No one is being forced to support Mary Burke as a candidate for governor at this point, and any notions that suggest otherwise are overblown accounts of what the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is really doing.

The infighting among Democrats in Wisconsin about Mary Burke has less to do with her policy positions and more to do with how she’s becoming a candidate.

Mary Burke is considering a run for governor
To be sure, there are definitely some party members who find her views to be wrong for them personally, with several going so far as to say that they couldn’t support her candidacy were she the eventual nominee for the party.

While they may say that now, it’s hard to imagine any Democrats, who are so ardently against current Gov. Scott Walker, sitting on their hands in 2014 if Burke wins the nomination. She may have some moderate viewpoints, but her overall character far surpasses the current governor’s extreme tone, and she’d be a much more preferable option to these holdouts than another four years of Walker.

The real criticism of Burke as a potential candidate, however, is not what she’s said or done, but rather what actions the party has taken in supposedly propping her up as a frontrunner.

Some have described Burke’s interactions with party insiders as “back door dealings,” bringing forth disturbing imagery of smoke-filled rooms and party bosses strategizing ways to keep her the frontrunner and edging out all other possible contenders.

Whether or not one agrees with Burke as a candidate, this description of her is not wholly correct. While it may seem like the party is trying to accommodate Burke more so than any other potential candidates, the reality is that Burke is the most serious person considering a run at this time.

Until another candidate steps forward, making their potential candidacy understood as clearly as Burke has, the actions of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin shouldn’t be construed as preferential treatment.

The leftists and the moderates in the party need to reconcile their differences. Starting such infighting so early, over the idea that the party is allegedly pushing one candidate more than any other, shouldn’t deter the overall goal of ousting Scott Walker from office.

If there’s a primary, Burke will have to win it; if there isn’t, it won’t be due to the party preventing one from happening.

Anyone who is a Democrat can run for the nomination, and the DPW can’t stop candidates from forcing Burke (or anyone else) from facing challengers before the general election.

Let’s end the infighting, stop with the conspiracy theories, and focus on the issues that matter more than anything else: where Burke or other candidates stand, where the party stands, and whether each potential nominee would be a suitable fit for office accordingly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WISGOP depiction of Mary Burke is full of holes

Republicans call potential candidate "out-of-touch," overlooking their own party's foibles

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is trying to depict a potential candidate for governor as “out of touch” with the middle class.

They’re wrong, and need to look at their own party's actions before making such assumptions.

Mary Burke, a member of the Madison school board and former Doyle administration cabinet appointee, is the daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke.

As reported by the Journal Sentinel, Burke has paid more than $500,000 in taxes over the past five years -- a figure that puts her in the top one percent of income earners in the state.

But the assessment that Burke is somehow “out-of-touch” with the middle class is hypocritical, especially coming from the GOP, and also full of errors about Burke's character.

Since Gov. Scott Walker came to power, Republicans have passed several pieces of draconian legislation that have impeded the ability of low-income and middle class Wisconsinites from making ends meet during these hard economic times.

From cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, to booting nearly 100,000 needy citizens from BadgerCare, to creating new barriers for unemployed workers to receive benefits, to the infamous Act 10 (which cut the incomes of thousands of state workers), the Republicans have quite the record when it comes to the middle class and the working poor.

The GOP being critical of Burke is outrageous for another reason: Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is (at least) of equal wealth as her, yet Wisconsin conservatives simply state that his wealth adds to his credentials. Indeed, it was a moniker -- whether deserved or not -- that the Johnson campaign clung to vigorously in his senatorial campaign in 2010. What’s a strength for Johnson, however, is typified as a character flaw for Burke by the right.

It’s also very, very tough for Republicans to call Mary Burke “out-of-touch” when Gov. Walker himself is holding fundraisers where the minimum donation is $2,500 per plate.

The characterization of Mary Burke as an “out-of-touch” millionaire is a hypocritical statement on the part of the Wisconsin GOP. It’s also wrong, and indicative of how little Republicans actually know of her -- Burke has a strong understanding of the struggles of low-income and middle class families, as evidenced by her many donations and involvement in organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Road Home. She also volunteers several hours of her week towards helping others who are less fortunate than herself:
She sits on five different boards of directors for area nonprofits. She volunteers twice weekly at Frank Allis Elementary. She mentors a sophomore in the AVID/TOPS program, as well as a teenage mother coming out of foster care. And through a program at Porchlight Inc., she has befriended a formerly homeless diabetic man.
Burke’s personal story is also worth sharing:
"When I was growing up, my father was a small businessman with a family of seven to provide for, so we grew up like most middle-class families in Wisconsin," Burke said by email. "My commitment to creating jobs and opportunity so that more families can prosper in Wisconsin is why I'm looking so seriously at running for Governor."
The Republican Party is wrong to state that Mary Burke is an “out-of-touch” millionaire. She is a very wealthy individual, with strong business credentials...and that’s exactly the reason the GOP is going after her. She's successful AND empathetic to the problems and challenges facing working class individuals today.

It’s BECAUSE she’s successful that Republicans feel the need to bring her down, before she’s even a declared candidate, because if a business-savvy woman stands up to Gov. Scott Walker, it can expose a vulnerability in Walker’s supposedly pro-business image.

The Democrats don’t need to rush to pick a candidate quite yet. Nor do they need to worry themselves with the possibility of a primary election. But Democrats (and those who typically identify with the party) shouldn't stand by while errant characterizations of a potential candidate are being thrown about either.

Mary Burke may become the eventual nominee for governor for the Democrats, and she may not. But if she does, it'd be beneficial to correct these baseless attacks before they become mainstream talking points of the right.