Monday, April 8, 2013

The Walker effect on jobs -- like driving 36 mph on the Marquette Interchange

Comparison of economic slowdown makes it easier to see that we're doing worse under Gov. Walker

Here's an easy way to describe Scott Walker's performance on job creation in the private sector...

Pretend that we were traveling between Madison and Milwaukee on I-94. In 2010, when Gov. Jim Doyle was leaving office and Scott Walker was just about to be sworn in, let's say that we were traveling at about 60 miles per hour. That's fast, probably not as fast as we'd have liked to have gone, but still a decent pace.

Two years later, in September of 2012, we've decided to drive back to Madison from Milwaukee -- but this time, instead of driving the "Doyle car" on jobs, we're in the "Walker car" on jobs. And how fast would that car be going?

It'd be traveling about 36 miles per hour on the interstate.

Which, as anyone can tell you, you don't want to be doing, especially around the Marquette Interchange.

Among Wisconsinites, consensus found on same-sex recognition, gun checks

Poll findings should cause us to wonder, "why can't our politicians act on bipartisan agreements?"

The figures presented below are from the latest Marquette Law School poll, which you can find here.

Several issues in the state of Wisconsin polarize the citizenry, an observation that isn't that hard to take note of. The right and the left can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on anything these days.

But on two specific issues it seems there is room for compromise -- that is, if the political establishment is willing to allow it.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, the two sides still see some disagreement. Only 17.6 percent of those who consider themselves Republicans support allowing gay and lesbian couples full marriage rights, while 64 percent of Democrats see no harm in expanding those rights to same-sex couples.

Yet when it comes to granting at least some rights, Republicans and Democrats can reach common ground. More than 36 percent of Wisconsinites who consider themselves Republican support granting civil unions to same-sex couples. In fact, only 14 percent of Republicans want to restrict gay and lesbian couples to having no legal recognition whatsoever.

That number is significant because that’s exactly what the marriage amendment of 2006 did. But today, more than half of all Republicans across the state now believe that same-sex couples deserve some or all marriage rights, a substantial leap from just seven years ago.

What’s more startling than Republicans supporting reasonable recognition rights for gays and lesbians? The fact that three-quarters of all Republicans across the state support reasonable gun measures.

On the issue of requiring gun sales to go through a background check, 75 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats support such a plan. Though only a third of Republicans want to ban “assault style weapons,” it’s still a step in the right direction to see compromise is within reach on the possibility of closing the “gun-show loophole” in the state.

Overall, more than 80 percent of Wisconsinites, regardless of political persuasion, support the idea.

So with this groundbreaking support for reasonable gun checks and at least SOME protections for same-sex couples, why can’t we pass legislation enacting laws that the people support? Perhaps it's the lawmakers who don't see eye-to-eye with their constituents, especially those who govern from the conservative side of the aisle.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For Republicans, ignorance is bliss: Jobs grew at faster rate BEFORE Walker became governor

WISGOP celebrates slower job growth under Scott Walker's tenure

The Republican Party of Wisconsin released a statement this week that aimed to do some major damage control on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker’s track record.

Walker, who was named loser of the week by UW’s Badger Herald, is under immense criticism for his failure to produce significant job growth during his first couple of years in office.

Currently, our state is ranked 44th in terms of private sector job growth -- a significant drop from the end of 2010 when our ranking was 12th in the nation.

But that didn’t stop WISGOP from touting Walker’s record -- at least, his record as they see it, from the perspective of their rose-tinted glasses.
In the three years before Governor Walker took office, Wisconsin lost 150,000 jobs. Excessive taxes, out-of-control spending, and a large regulatory burden on our job creators hurled our state down the wrong path.
According to the Republicans, it seems, the losses in jobs were due totally to Democratic proposals by then-Gov. Jim Doyle.

But one thing is missing from the Republican press release: any mention whatsoever of the economic recession that occurred during that time.

In fact, the word “recession” doesn’t even appear in the release.

Not once.

The press release goes on to say:
While the Left may not like the way that Governor Walker and the Republican-led Legislature has turned our state around from the doom-and-gloom past that they created, they cannot argue with the facts at hand. We are headed in the right direction and we are moving Wisconsin Forward.
Emphases added.

Characterizing the state’s jobs situation as a “doom-and-gloom” creation of Democratic Party policies once again misses the broader picture: the entire nation, and in fact the world, was encapsulated in a recession. 

But that “doom-and-gloom” description is wrong for a second reason -- things were on the upswing before Walker took office. The Wisconsin economy was better, in fact, in terms of job growth and take-home pay, during the year before Walker.

In the last year of Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure, Wisconsin gained more than 33,600 private sector jobs. That’s 2,800 jobs per month under the previous administration.

Contrast that to the last year for which data is available, September 2011 to September 2012 (the third quarter data that Gov. Walker frequently cites as showing “progress”). During that time, with Scott Walker’s budget fully enacted, Wisconsin gained less than 20,500 jobs, amounting to about 1,700 jobs per month.

Yes, we gained more jobs -- but at a slower rate than the rest of the nation, and indeed a slower rate than what we had before Walker came into the governor’s office.

What’s more, the jobs we gained under Walker weren’t as good as the jobs we had before he took over. The average yearly salary in December 2010 for a Wisconsin worker (the month before Walker became governor) was $43,420. In September 2012, the average Wisconsin salary dropped by more than $3,300, suggesting that the new jobs created weren’t getting money back into the hands of hard-working Wisconsinites. 

Under WISGOP's policies, job growth has slowed and income has diminished
How this can be seen as an improvement is beyond comprehension. But the Republican Party of Wisconsin still totes these numbers as if things are working.

While jobs did increase, Walker’s policies likely had nothing to do with them. Job growth in the state was on the way up before he took office, and has slowed since he and the Republican-led legislature have taken control.

If anything, this indicates that Republican policies are making it harder to recover in Wisconsin. Indeed, if we had kept going at the rate of job growth that Gov. Doyle had produced at the end of his term, we’d reach the 250,000 jobs pledge more than a full year earlier than under the current rate that Walker’s policies have produced.

I’ll say that again because it bears repeating: the promise of 250,000 jobs that Scott Walker had made as a candidate for governor has been pushed back by more than a full year since he’s come to office. We would reach that goal a year faster under the rate of growth that had been produced under his predecessor.

The Wisconsin GOP is hoping that you don't notice the slowing trend under Walker. They're hoping that you see an increase in job numbers, and see that as being good enough. But the facts are there for anyone looking: jobs were growing faster before Walker took office than they are now.

Whether the Republican Party of Wisconsin chooses to acknowledge that or not is up for them to decide. But omitting that information is key to their battle plan. In other words, Republicans in Wisconsin are hoping that you are ignorant of the facts.

That's not leadership. And it's certainly nothing to be proud of.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DPW would do well to learn from the spring election results

Incumbents have huge advantages in Wisconsin elections

What did we learn from tonight?

The spring election results demonstrate a simple notion, that incumbents do really well in Wisconsin. So well that people are willing to engage in cross-ticket voting just to keep the familiar office holders in power.

Tony Evers and Pat Roggensack were the liberal and conservative candidates for office, respectively. Evers won his race, and Roggensack won hers. Both candidates won by the same percentages, relatively speaking.

Which means that the people who determine the outcomes in Wisconsin elections -- i.e. the moderates -- are content with incumbents keeping the office they hold, so long as they don’t “rock the boat,” so-to-speak.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin needs to heed the outcomes of tonight with this special warning:

Scott Walker, being the incumbent governor, has a huge advantage already for 2014.

It's going to take one helluva candidate to defeat him next year.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Limits on the recall process reduces democracy

Proposal would require "triggering mechanisms" for recalls of local officeholders

A proposed bill in the State Senate would limit the recall process for local officials.

Under Senate Bill 114, recall petitions for “a city, village, town, town sanitary district, or school district” officials would require a statement describing a specific criminal or ethical wrongdoing that had occurred before a petition could be circulated.

Currently, recalls for elected officials need only a reason to be listed, and doesn’t require a “triggering” mechanism such as criminal activity or unethical behavior before it can come about.

The law proposed would only affect recalls at the local level. Statewide officials -- state senators, the governor, and any other officeholder elected to serve in state government -- would be exempted from the law because they are bound to state constitutional standards, as would county officials.

Changing those standards requires an amendment, while changing the standards for local recalls merely requires a change in state law. Yet the law, if passed, would create a terrible precedent, and already Republican lawmakers are seeking to change the recall process for state officials as well.

With the onslaught of recalls our state saw in 2011 and 2012, it’s expected that some will welcome this legislation with open arms. But it sets a terrible precedent, and needlessly upends a legislative right that the people deservingly hold.

The consent of the governed is what determines who serves at the state and local levels. Progressive reformers in the early 20th century, recognizing the growing influence of corporatist lawmakers oftentimes ignoring the will of the people, suggested the recall as a vehicle to hold them responsible for their votes.

Critics of the recall, such as Republican State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, view it more negatively:
It is a very dangerous road to go down to allow recalls when there’s a disagreement on an issue. You don’t want to discourage elected officials from making those tough decisions.
The argument over whether legislators serve as trustees or as delegates to the people has been a dichotomatic fixture of political philosophy for centuries, and its relation to the recall is certainly worth continuing the debate over. But certainly the people have the right to select a representative that reflects their interests, to recognize for themselves when they have stepped too far in favor of the “trustee” model and acted outside of their desires in a way that causes more harm than good.

The people ought to have a mechanism that allows them to punish those that have gone too far, to reprimand the lawmakers that seemed to have represented them initially and who once deserved their votes, but who no longer carries similar desires as their constituency. They shouldn’t be forced to have to spend the remainder of the legislator’s term subjected to “improper representation,” to having a person in their appointed seat casting votes that go against their collective will.

The recall serves in that capacity, and changing it in the way proposed above would hamper the democratic process. Yes, politicians need to make bold decisions that at times go against their constituents’ wishes. But for all other circumstances, and especially when politicians make moves that lack ANY empathy for the people they serve whatsoever, the recall is a reasonable tool for ousting a representative in favor of one who better serves constituents’ needs.

The problem that political “leaders” like Scott Walker and Sheila Harsdorf see is the recall itself; it may do them some good to understand that’s not the problem at all. The real problem is that political leaders are passing legislation that goes against the wishes and desires of the people they serve.

When that problem is properly addressed, the need for recalls will become obsolete. Until that time, however, recalls are a necessary element in our unique and independent Wisconsin democracy.