Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to create jobs in Wisconsin: increase demand, reduce burdens for consumers

The Walker administration has slowed growth by refusing to acknowledge that capitalism requires strong consumer base

What creates jobs? That question is likely to be on the minds of several Wisconsin voters this fall.

Gov. Scott Walker, who promised at least 250,000 jobs created in his first term in office, is well short of his pledge (that’s a generous conclusion -- he’s not even halfway there). Whether voters will hold him accountable to that number or find the number Wisconsin has created as acceptable is yet to be seen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Newest quarterly job numbers show a continued “Wisconsin Slowdown” under Walker

Predecessor's share of jobs created during Wisconsin's recovery is higher in proportion to time his budget was in play

You can say this about the governor: his optimism, despite the evidence of his policy failures, is surely something to envy.

There’s no other explanation for how this governor can continue to say things are “working” in Wisconsin.

After Madison’s WKOW published a story describing how the state had delayed its regularly scheduled release of the quarterly job numbers (a fact that was noticed by Jud Lounsbury five days ago), the Department of Workforce Development issued a presser that showed the state had gained 28,653 jobs from March 2013 to March 2014.

In the release, Secretary Reggie Newson said, “After losing 133,000 private sector jobs during the four years before Governor Walker took office, the latest 12-month actual jobs data available shows Wisconsin's economy is continuing to grow and add jobs for Wisconsin's working families.”

If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, it should: Walker, in his political advertising, continuously states that 133,000 jobs figure. And just like Walker, Newson leaves out the context that the state was immersed in a global economic recession at that time.

One has to wonder why Newson, a public employee who is supposed to serve the people of this state, is touting a line from Gov. Walker’s campaign. Perhaps Walker’s people are merely coordinating with the DWD? At this point, the list of people Walker’s campaign ISN’T coordinating with may be smaller than the list of people he IS.

But let’s ignore the suspicious use of campaign rhetoric by Newson for a moment. Are these numbers a positive sign of growth for the state? A positive number is, after all, a move in the right direction. But could we be doing better?

It turns out we DID do better, before our current governor took office. Scott Walker isn’t the sole proprietor of the “Wisconsin Comeback,” as he likes to call it -- recovery in the state began during then-Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure in 2010. And since Walker took office, the recovery has slowed substantially.

Let’s compare first quarter job numbers with each other. We can call Q1-2011 a “mostly-Doyle” time -- from March 2010 to March 2011, Doyle was governor for nine out of 12 months. What’s more, those first three months of 2011 were under Doyle’s last budget, which ended in June 2011. So for the MOST part, the Q1-2011 job report is Doyle’s to claim.

How did Wisconsin fare during this time? Private sector job growth rose by 41,350 jobs, a rate of growth of 1.9 percent over that year.

That’s right: a Doyle period of job growth produced over 144 percent of what we saw happen during the latest quarterly numbers released by Walker.

In fact, under Walker Wisconsin’s yearly private sector job growth rate was, on average, about 1.42 percent. That’s more than 25 percent slower than what our recovery was under Doyle’s final first quarter performance (again, which occurred from 2010 to 2011).

Look at the graph below to see the real story:

And even though his budget represented only 25 percent of the period of time expressed above, Gov. Doyle’s last budget produced more than 30 percent of the yearly first quarter jobs gained during that time.

Doyle's budget represents 25% of the time but 30% of the jobs created
We’re not experiencing a “Wisconsin Comeback.” We’re witnessing a “Wisconsin Slowdown” with Walker in charge.


The most troubling thing about this whole jobs mess? That the governor continues to try to make it seem better, even when it’s clear job growth isn't improving. In his latest campaign ad he touts the July 2013 to July 2014 private sector jobs created, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly stats.

Walker praised those same numbers in 2011, but changed his tune when they started to turn sour. In 2012, Walker announced he would start releasing the BLS quarterly numbers a month early -- conveniently allowing him to produce positive job growth numbers just weeks before his recall election.

Since that time, Walker’s DWD has released those numbers a month before their official release, calling them the gold standard over the monthly numbers. But the summer release of December’s yearly jobs numbers came with the release of the state’s unemployment numbers, and were buried in that report without a title stating they were even there to read.

That Walker and DWD released these latest numbers only after pressure from a news organization should speak volumes. It seems the governor is embarrassed, and is using whatever data is available to him that could possibly put him in good standing, even if his administration has previously described that data as “flawed and a poor indicator of the true economic outlook in Wisconsin.”

Whatever works for him, the governor will take it. Inconsistency and manipulation of the facts seems to be his favorite campaign strategy. Don’t fall for it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A comment on John Doe -- “I’m not a target” does not equal “I did nothing wrong”

Why Scott Walker can’t shake off his John Doe problems

Another set of documents from the not-so-secret-anymore John Doe investigation was released this weekend, describing in more detail what prosecutors meant when they said that Gov. Scott Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” in other papers released earlier this summer.

From Politico:
Newly released court documents include excerpts from emails showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to a key conservative group that would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him.
Though, once again, no definitive case of wrongdoing against Walker can be made, the latest document dump shows that those he surrounded himself with told the governor to solicit donations and to funnel the money directly to Wisconsin Club for Growth. Doing so would allow donors to give unlimited amounts of campaign cash to the organization, anonymously, where it would be distributed across a network of several other groups who backed Walker in his recall election campaign.

In one of the documents released, Katie Doner, a fundraiser for Walker’s campaign, described the plan to RJ Johnson, “a paid adviser to Walker who was also involved with the Wisconsin Club for Growth” according to WisPolitics:
[Walker] wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru (sic) one group to ensure correct messaging ... We had some past problems with multiple groups doing work on ‘behalf’ of Gov. Walker and it caused some issues. In Wisconsin, a 501(c)(4) is the legal vehicle that runs the media/outreach/GOTV campaigns. The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure...
Emphasis in bold mine.

There are also troubling donations given to the WCFG that could spell out possible pay-to-play schemes. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Among the funds that flowed into the Wisconsin Club for Growth was $700,000 from [mining company Gogebic Taconite, who were] trying to build a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Soon after the 2012 recall and general elections, Walker and Republicans eased environmental regulations, helping the firm.
The donation from the mining company could open anew a bitter debate between environmentalists and those who say a mine would deliver good-paying jobs to the hard-hit Northwoods.
“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” investigator Dean Nickel said in documents unsealed Friday.
Emphases in bold mine.

In response to the documents released, Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said, “As previously reported, the prosecutor’s attorney stated that Governor Walker is not a target.”

We’ve heard that line from Walker in the past as well. But the facts back up the allegations: Walker’s people were telling him to solicit donations from millionaires or corporations for Wisconsin Club For Growth. Later on, those very people (after meeting with Walker) are donating vast sums to the organization.

These documents, without having direct evidence of wrongdoing on Walker’s part, indicate that Walker indeed isn’t a target of the investigation. But it’s pretty clear to see that Walker wasn’t an innocent bystander either. And without a direct statement from Walker saying, “I did nothing wrong,” suspicion and theories of what he did do during this time will surely grow.

Saying “I’m not a target of an investigation” is not the same as saying “I am innocent and haven’t done anything wrong.” It’s clear, with evidence of people surrounding the governor engaging in illegal campaigning activities, that something is VERY wrong with this governor.

It was Walker who said, in his 2010 campaign for governor:
“Governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

#BurkePutMoreToWork -- Employment growth in WI was stronger when Burke was at Commerce

The "Wisconsin Comeback" meme put out by Walker, RPW, is in reality a "Wisconsin slowdown"

Who would be better for improving employment in Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker or Democratic rival Mary Burke?

To some, the question may seem absurd. Wisconsin has created more than 100,000 jobs under Walker’s watch. As he and the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) have put it, we seem to be having a “Wisconsin Comeback.”

That job growth, however, is slower than it should be. Under the second year of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s last budget, which ended in June of 2011 (six months into Walker’s term), Wisconsin created 39,909 jobs. During the first year of Walker’s first budget, the state created 37,959 jobs (June 2011 to June 2012), and only 27,752 jobs in the year after that (June 2012 to June 2013).

In fact, if you average those two years of the “Wisconsin Comeback” with the first year of the state's recovery (again, which was under Doyle’s budget), it’s clear that the state’s “comeback” is slowing down under Walker’s watch.

Despite the visibly disturbing “Wisconsin Slowdown” under Walker, he and the RPW have attacked candidate for governor Mary Burke for criticizing Walker’s performance in creating jobs.

Since the RPW isn't going to recognize the slowdown for what it is, let’s take a look at a different measurement: employment. It’s important to note that jobs and employment are two different things. A single person could have three part-time jobs, and that would be reflected in a jobs count three times, but in employment it only counts once. To some, though, what matters more than how many jobs are created is how many people are employed, that is, how many have at least one job.

How has the current governor performed in that measure? Not too well. In the 43 months since Gov. Walker has been in power, employment has grown in the state by 68,210 more workers. Compare that to Doyle’s last year in office, and it’s not an impressive improvement (Walker only does about three percent better than Doyle's last year in average employment growth per month).

OK, so Walker’s years as governor is a tiny bit better than Doyle’s last year in office. But Walker isn’t running against Doyle -- he’s running against Burke, who served as Commerce Secretary under Doyle in a separate set of years, from February 2005 to November 2007. It’s only fair that we compare her time at Commerce with Walker’s record.

And when you look at that comparison, it’s clear to see Wisconsin fared better with employment growth with Burke at the helm of Commerce than it did with Walker and his Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation:

As the chart above shows, Wisconsin’s employment grew by 74,268 workers during Burke’s tenure at Commerce. That’s 6,050 more workers employed in the state under Burke than Wisconsin has seen since Walker took office.

But there’s another thing to consider: Burke’s time at Commerce was only 34 months. Walker’s been in office for about 43 months. So to get a true comparison, you have to look at their monthly average employment growth:

In the 34 months that Burke ran commerce, more than 2,184 Wisconsinites gained employment per month. In the 43 months since Walker’s been governor, only 1,586 Wisconsinites gained work per month, a rate that is 27 percent slower than Burke.

Perhaps the #WisconsinComeback campaign by Walker and the RPW needs to be tweaked a bit. A more fitting hashtag would be #BurkePutMoreToWork, in honor of the fact that more workers were hired under Burke’s watch than Walker’s.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The lessons of #Ferguson, and how they apply today in Wisconsin

The Badger State is riddled with its own problems related to racial prejudices in law enforcement

A young boy is dead in Ferguson, Missouri.

Much about this boy and the events of the day he died is in dispute -- such as whether he fought with a police officer or not, whether he robbed a store or was misidentified as a criminal, and several other aspects of his life that some have brought up, necessary or otherwise.

There’s no disputing these facts, however: this teen was unarmed, and was shot by an officer of the law in the middle of the street.

Whether you believe Michael Brown to be innocent or not, it’s hard to dispute that his death was unjustified. Darren Wilson, the officer who pulled the trigger six times to stop the unarmed boy, may have felt threatened by the teenager. But Michael Brown will now never be able to defend himself, in neither a court of law nor in the court of public opinion.

I question how threatening an unarmed teen like Brown may be. Certainly Wilson should have defended his own person, and I don’t dispute the right of officers to do so when necessary. But could he have stopped at one shot? Could he have aimed for the boy’s leg? Accounts of the event say Brown was running away. Was he a real threat at that point, enough to put his life to an end?

As a result of this unnecessary death, protesters have taken to the streets of Ferguson. Most of the protests have been peaceful, but some have turned violent. Police in Ferguson have rightfully dealt with those individuals who have expressed their anger in negative ways.

It is the response to peaceful protests and to members of the media by law enforcement that is disturbing.

Americans have a right to express their dissatisfaction with society. When an event such as this occurs (in a jurisdiction where law enforcement already has a troubled reputation when it comes to race relations), the community should be allowed to express its anger in ways that are lawful, and without interruption.

When that expression is denied, and when media coverage of the suppression of that free speech is itself halted, the situation gets worse. What’s happened in Ferguson, Missouri, these past few days is wholly un-American. And it’s visually disturbing.

We’re used to seeing a militarized response to citizens in countries where democracy is forbidden, not in our own backyards. Thirty years ago the images we see today would have seemed commonplace in Communist-aligned nations, not in Midwest America.

We must force ourselves to deal with these events, to ask the tough questions that we’re afraid to speak aloud. Americans of all colors must recognize that racism, blatant or subtle, is still rampant in our country. We must all do our part, working within the confines of the law, to change the way we treat each other, and to create a real system of justice that treats everyone equally under the law.


The true horror of Ferguson, however, is that it could happen anywhere, even closer to us. There’s no reason to believe that Wisconsin is immune from such events, and in many ways we’ve already seen problems within our state. Whether it’s the mistreatment and misapplication of justice for African Americans, or the government’s insistence that it can reduce tenets of democracy, Wisconsin, too, has to face the facts and learn the lessons of Ferguson.

Wisconsin incarcerates a higher rate of black men per capita than any other state in the nation. Our metropolitan areas are heavily segregated. And we treat black citizens in a reprehensible way, especially when it comes to law enforcement. Indeed, illegal strip and cavity searches are routinely a problem for black men and women in Milwaukee, where more than 60 people are now suing the city’s police department for such intrusions.

At the same time, in the state Capitol building we’ve seen lawmakers regularly try to regulate speech and assembly rights of the people. From fines to improper arrests, individuals in the rotunda have seen their own share of abuse from some members of law enforcement. Though it isn’t related to race, it doesn’t take much to imagine a situation where black men and women could witness such protesting restrictions like those in Missouri.

For his part, Gov. Scott Walker has expressed concern for what’s happening in Missouri. But when asked about race relations in Wisconsin, the chief executive of our state offers up only one piece of legislation that he signed, a bipartisan bill that requires external review of police-to-civilian killings, as a method of fixing things in the Badger State.

That’s a step in the right direction, and one where Walker needs to be commended. But his other actions don’t leave one too confident in his commitment towards helping things to improve. Racism remains rampant here. Whether law enforcement engages in it or not, however, is largely unknown, thanks in part to the governor’s signature on a key piece of legislation early on in his term.

The law that passed the legislature and was signed by Walker removed requirements to collect arrest records that would ensure profiling wasn’t a factor in any individual officer’s -- or for that matter, department’s -- practices. Citing time costs associated with the previous law, the governor proudly signed its repeal, leaving in doubt the reliability of how just and equitable treatment for minorities really was in the state.

Trainings and investigations into officer-related killings are both helpful, but accountability of local law enforcement is also a crucial step towards ensuring equal application of the law, for blacks and for whites, is being faithfully carried out. By repealing the old law, Walker has ignored the real concerns of minorities, who lose a feeling of justice being correctly executed after events like Ferguson occur.

Wisconsin is in danger of seeing a similar event of racial disparity, if it hasn’t witnessed it by now. Certainly a significant moment like what’s happening in Ferguson could occur here. If (or when?) it does, our state will be ill-adapted to deal with it in a manner that is just, in a way that leaves everyone assured that our laws were applied equally.

Real change is needed, both within society and our law-books, before we can guarantee that justice is allotted to every citizen in our state and nation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scott Walker’s refusal to answer questions on latest ad could cause distrust among voters

Are five of the jobs Walker touts as having created acting gigs?

In the latest ad for Gov. Scott Walker, a number of people look at the camera and say, “I got a job.”

Problem is, when asked who these people were, the Walker campaign refused to say.

It seems the only job we really know for sure that these people got was an acting gig to be in the very ad they say they got a job in. Other than that, it’s a complete mystery.

Why won’t Walker’s campaign release the names of these people, or where they got their jobs? Spokeswoman Alleigh Marre says it’s to protect their privacy.
Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said the people are “Wisconsinites who are among the thousands of workers who got new jobs during the Walker administration.”
She said “the campaign respects the wishes of the private citizens who prefer not to release their personal information.”
Emphasis added.

That excuse sounds somewhat absurd, however, given that these individuals are starring in a statewide advertisement in several media markets. What kind of person who values their anonymity would casually place their face and endorsement behind a controversial and divisive gubernatorial candidate?

No, it doesn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. But Walker’s refusal to acknowledge the very people in his own ad doesn’t pass the sniff test. If he can’t answer the simple question of who these people supporting him are, how can he expect voters to trust him to lead?

That’s a question he’ll have to answer before November.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Walker, WisGOP continue the lie -- and hope you forget about the recession

Walker campaign and Republican Party of Wisconsin errantly place job loss blame on Mary Burke, ignoring the Great Recession while doing so

I recently wrote about a dubious claim made by Gov. Scott Walker about the number of jobs lost under former Gov. Jim Doyle.

The Walker campaign, in their latest television advertisement, implied that 133,000 jobs lost during the Doyle administration were that governor’s fault -- with the assistance of his Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, who is now running a neck-and-neck campaign against Walker.

Here's the message that the Walker campaign said in its ad:
Mary Burke served as Jim Doyle’s Commerce secretary. She said, “I support Gov. Doyle’s policies entirely.” And when Doyle’s term ended, Wisconsin had lost 133,000 jobs.

Then Scott Walker took over as governor, and Wisconsin gained over 100,000 jobs.
I pointed out, however, that this line of thinking should cause “anyone with a critical mind to question: just how gullible, how stupid does Gov. Scott Walker think the average voter is? ... To pin the blame on the sitting governor of that period is foolish, and ignores the economic realities witnessed at that time.”

Indeed, those 133,000 jobs that were lost came at a time when the entire country was experiencing the worst economic crash seen since the Great Depression, a fact that is never discussed or even acknowledged by the Walker campaign.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Can Scott Walker's campaign actually explain how Doyle's policies lost us jobs? $100 says they can't.

To paraphrase a quote from Scott Walker's hero, Ronald Reagan: "There he goes again."

The latest ad put out by the Walker campaign repeats a favorite line of the administration -- that we lost 133,000 jobs under the previous governor, and oh by the way, Mary Burke was part of that governor’s cabinet.

Mary Burke served as Jim Doyle’s Commerce secretary. She said, “I support Gov. Doyle’s policies entirely.” And when Doyle’s term ended, Wisconsin had lost 133,000 jobs.

Then Scott Walker took over as governor, and Wisconsin gained over 100,000 jobs.
It’s a line that catches the attention of its viewers, but it also causes anyone with a critical mind to question: just how gullible, how stupid does Gov. Scott Walker think the average voter is?

We lost those 133,000 jobs during an economic recession, the worst of any kind seen in more than a couple generations. The global effects of the economic meltdown not only hit Wisconsin, but other states as well, not to mention other nations around the world also.

To pin the blame on the sitting governor of that period is foolish, and ignores the economic realities witnessed at that time. In fact, according to some experts, Wisconsin actually fared better than most other states during the recession.

The ad put out by Walker, of course, omits this relevant information, implying that the blame for job losses rests solely with Doyle, and by extension with Burke as well.

That line of thinking was debunked almost exactly one year ago by PolitiFact Wisconsin. Not one to let facts stand in their way, however, the Walker campaign erroneously and irresponsibly repeats it today, as if saying it enough times will make it true.

In February this year, I pointed out that the Republican Governors Association must think we’re stupid, too. They also ignored the realities of the economy from the recession period, pinning the blame squarely on Jim Doyle and Mary Burke for our economic troubles.

So here’s a deal: I will pledge $100 to the Walker campaign if they can convincingly state their case for why and how Doyle’s policies led to 133,000 jobs being lost. If the Walker campaign can make an argument that is sound, that lays out how Doyle's policies, and not the economic recession, were responsible for those losses, they will gain one more donor to their campaign.

Truth be told, I’m not expecting much from them. It is, after all, a flawed argument, and I’m convinced that Walker and his surrogates don’t truly believe it themselves.

Oh, and one more thing: comments on the above video have been disabled by the Walker campaign. I’m guessing they don’t want anyone saying certain things about their, you know, how absurd it really is.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Headlines say Obamacare is unpopular, polls tell a different tale

Majority find the law went far enough or should have gone farther in overhauling health care system

There’s a big problem with media today: the average consumers of news tend to only read the headline of an article, and, thinking they understand the complete picture, ignore the nuts and bolts of what’s the real story.

Several examples of this can be found, but recently I stumbled upon an article describing the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity, simply titled, “Obamacare Is More Unpopular Than Ever, Poll Shows.”

Other headlines are similarly down on the health law, but this one piqued my interest as I read on. It wasn’t until the bottom of the article that the reader realizes that while a majority of Americans find something disapproving of the law, they don’t want it repealed outright: they simply want it fixed.

The poll, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, finds that 60 percent of Americans want Congress to “work to improve the law.” Only 35 percent want Congress to repeal the law outright. Even a third of Republicans, the largest political group to oppose the law, merely want it tweaked a little rather than replaced.

Tell this to an ordinary person who consumes the news in ordinary ways (e.g. glancing over headlines alone), and it may surprise them. Tell them that disapproval only tips the scales due to liberal disappointment, and it may surprise them even more.

A recent CNN poll demonstrates just that (PDF). That poll, conducted in the middle of July of this year, shows that while 59 percent of the public opposes the law, only 38 percent do so because they think it’s too liberal. Another 17 percent think it’s not liberal enough, while 40 percent think it’s just fine the way it is.

Taking a look at it in those terms and it’s clear that a plurality of Americans are happy with the law. Another perspective finds that a majority think Obamacare is just liberal enough or could stand to go even further left.

These findings are rarely mentioned in the headlines of today’s top stories. Indeed, the “too liberal/not liberal enough” part of that poll isn’t even talked about until paragraph seven of this small blog post on the CNN site.

Is it any wonder that people think that Obamacare is such a disappointment? Our media continually portrays it as such, and people subsequently form an opinion based off of that portrayal. In truth, only a small segment of America thinks the law is so terrible that it deserves repeal. A supermajority, on the other hand, favors the law, or, sensing some problems with it, want those alone addressed and the law itself left in place.

That’s the real headline on the law, and it deserves to be said out loud as often as possible.