Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ari Berman goes deep on how GOP rigged the vote in Wisconsin

Ari Berman of The Nation has been tracking the issue of voter suppression for several years, and has had a lot more to write about since the GOP and ALEC started taking over increasing amounts of states in the 2010s. And nowhere has this type of “GOP takeover followed by voter suppression” sequence played out more than in Wisconsin, both in the restrictions on the vote, and in the success in helping the GOP’s chances for “victory” in elections.

Berman is out today in Mother Jones with a tremendous article titled “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump.” Berman starts out by talking to Andrea Anthony, an African-American from the North Side of Milwaukee that had voted reliably for nearly 20 years. That turned out not to matter in November 2016.
She’d lost her driver’s license a few days earlier, but she came prepared with an expired Wisconsin state ID and proof of residency. A poll worker confirmed she was registered to vote at her current address. But this was Wisconsin’s first major election that required voters—even those who were already registered—to present a current driver’s license, passport, or state or military ID to cast a ballot. Anthony couldn’t, and so she wasn’t able to vote.

The poll worker gave her a provisional ballot instead. It would be counted only if she went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new ID and then to the city clerk’s office to confirm her vote, all within 72 hours of Election Day. But Anthony couldn’t take time off from her job as an administrative assistant at a housing management company, and she had five kids and two grandkids to look after. For the first time in her life, her vote wasn’t counted….

Anthony said her 19-year-old daughter and 21-year-old nephew, who didn’t drive regularly and had misplaced their licenses, were also stymied by the new law. “It was their first election, and they were really excited to vote,” she said. But they didn’t go to the polls because they knew their votes wouldn’t count. Both had planned to vote for Clinton.

On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.
If those 41,000 votes also turned out to be 77-18 Clinton, that would be a margin of 24,000 votes- enough to allow Clinton to win Wisconsin.

Berman goes on to interview Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht, who quantifies how voter ID and other suppression made a big difference in the turnout of the Trump/Clinton race in Milwaukee.
“I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”

A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7 percent in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3 percent in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3 percent. If Wisconsin had seen the same turnout increase as states whose laws stayed the same, “we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016,” the study said. These “lost voters”—those who voted in 2012 and 2014 but not 2016—”skewed more African American and more Democrat” than the overall voting population. Some academics criticized the study’s methodology, but its conclusions were consistent with a report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee had decreased turnout by roughly 2 to 3 percent, with the largest drops among black, young, and new voters.

And as I've shown before, the real "success" in GOP voter suppression in November 2016 was how it was pinpointed to Dem-voting cities in southern Wisconsin.

Yes, there is some blame to be given to Team Hillary/DNC on this one, as they should have adjusted to the possibility that GOP election rigging would throw Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania into play. I also blame President Obama for not publically and forcefully calling out Walker and WisGOP for their attempts to keep Wisconsinites from voting, and for not federalizing troops to make sure those rights were able to be exercised.

But the biggest blame goes to Republicans, who have had a long-term plan to try to Block the Vote and increase their chances of winning. For years, they’ve lied to their AM radio-listening sheep about why voter ID is needed, as outlined by this infamous message from an MMAC lobbyist, which was sent to convicted criminal/GOP lobbyist Scott Jensen in 2011, and Jensen sent it on to Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling and other AM radio slime.

And they don’t even make a pretense of fairness these days, and are doing voter ID entirely for political gain, as US Rep. Glenn Grothman admitted in April 2016.

Berman’s article also reminds us of federal court testimony of a State Senate aide where Grothman and ALEC Queen/US Senate candidate Leah Vukmir were “frothing at the mouth” behind closed doors to rig elections in the GOP’s favor.

So it’s well-documented that Wisconsin Republicans will cheat and lie to stay in power. My responding questions to that fact are twofold-

1. Why do they have to pull this race-baiting and voter suppression BS in the first place? Is it because they know in their hearts that the general public doesn’t buy into their right-wing garbage policies?

2. If these WisGOP office-holders are indeed illegitimate, why do so many in Wisconsin still allow them to carry on as if they earned their spot in power? Isn’t “consent of the governed” still a thing?

Given that this election-rigging was successful in Wisconsin last year, Berman points out that GOPs will try even harder to cheat next year.
Control of Congress in 2018, not to mention the presidential election in 2020, hinges in part on states like Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia that have put new voting restrictions in place. The lesson from 2016 is terrifyingly clear: If voter suppression can work in a state like Wisconsin, with a long progressive history and a culture of high civic participation, it can work anywhere. And if those who believe in fair elections don’t start to take this threat seriously, history will repeat itself.
On a related note, if a majority of Wisconsinites are not allowed to throw these people out of office by the ballot box, take a look through history and see where that leads to. HINT: it isn’t anywhere good, for either the average citizen, or the tyrants who cling to power without legitimacy.

It’s a great write-up from Berman on just how rigged things were here in 2016, and still are today. Read the whole thing.

Tuition reciprocity, special counsel, and other odd costs

One of the odd items I like looking at in the state’s Annual Fiscal Report is at the end of the main document, which has a list of all of the uncapped expenses for the year.

Better known as “Sum-Sufficient” appropriations, it budgets a certain amount for each item, but it could be above or below that amount depending on how things work out. Overall, the $4.3 billion in sum sufficient appropriations had actual expenses fall short of that figure by a little more than 1%, helping the state’s bottom line by $45.7 million.

This was split up with $12.15 million in above-budget spending, and $57.9 million in lower spending in other places, and it was interesting to note that a sizable amount of that net increase happened in higher education tuition and assistance.

Amount of higher-than-budgeted costs, FY 2016-17
Minn-Wis student reciprocity $3.24 million
Wisconsin grants for UW System students $242,000
Academic Excellence Higher Education Scholarship $55,000
Wisconsin Covenant $8,000

That’s over $3.5 million that had to be sent over to help pay for financial aid. Obviously, not big in the overall condition of a $16 billion budget, but it’s odd to me that the Joint Finance Committee only added $2 million to the 2017-18 amount for Wisconsin-Minnesota reciprocity, and am keeping it flat the following year.

I suppose they’re figuring that some of the increase was a one-year fluke (it was related to the big funding cut to the UW in 2016-17 and UW’s “reduced costs” as a result), but it also counts on an increased amount of Wisconsinites heading across the border to Minnesota and paying higher tuition, which means that we taxpayers do not have to make up as much of a difference to the students Minnesota “lose” to Wisconsin. We’ll see if that gamble pays off, or if we end up paying more this year in reciprocity as well.

This increase in Wisconsin grants was largely because the UW System and Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB) had to deal with eligibility requirements that had not kept up with increases in costs, leading to a financial aid waitlist. By allowing more students to qualify for the grants, more expenses were needed last year. In response, Wisconsin grants got a nice boost in the last budget, nearing the $60.97 million that was paid out in 2017 for this year, and then adding another $3.55 million for them in 2018-19.

On the other side, it’s interesting to see who some of the biggest lapses were in the sum-sufficients for 2017, as millions were sent back to the state treasury because projected job incentives fell short.

Sum-sufficient lapses, FY 2017
Enterprise Zone Tax Credits $8.50 million
Business Development Credit $5.635 million
Jobs tax Credit $5.425 million

That’s $19.6 million that could have been budgeted/used for some other purpose if the estimates were closer to accuracy. And it’s 1 year after the Jobs Credit fell short by $4.27 million (the Business Development Credit didn’t exist, and the Enterprise Zone was only off by $1.27 million).

Interestingly, the Joint Finance Committee increased the amount of Jobs Credits from $16 million to $20 million for this year, before declining to $13 million in 2018-19, after getting information from WEDC that more credits would be granted this year due to past activity. Also noteworthy is that Governor Walker wanted to expand the amount of state Enterprise Zones in the 2017-19, but was shot down by Joint Finance.

And here are a couple of other items in the sum-sufficients that seem worthy to point out.

1. “Special counsel” for the State Department of Administration was over $1.03 million in FY 2017, overshooting its budget by $419,000. There’s no further explanation of what that Special Counsel was used for (gerrymandering case?), and why the State Department of Justice couldn’t handle those cases

2. $3.24 million was set aside for “Disaster Damage Aids” in FY 2017, but $0 was used. It’s not like we didn’t have floods and other natural disasters messing up roads, and a look at the Transportation Fund part for Disaster aids shows $1.86 million of those funds being spent last year. This might not be a big deal, except that the 2015-17 budget only set aside $1 million in DOT funds to pay for disasters, meaning that the Walker Administration chose to “bank” that $3.24 million in General Fund money, and make the Transportation Fund eat $860,000.

Those types of moves are worthy for at least a little discussion why these choices are being made, and perhaps if there needs to be better policies that match the needs that are out there. And that’s why sometimes the fine print of the Annual Fiscal Report presents some intriguing information that can be a bigger story than the toplines and overall figures would indicate.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fox-con secrecy and WEDC arrogance continues

Put your shock face on! The Fox-con may have some details that need to be cleaned up.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. delayed a vote on a nearly $3 billion incentive package for Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn until November after an unspecified problem was discovered with the deal board members were set to vote on Tuesday.

Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, declined to describe the problem but characterized it as a “nuclear bomb” that, had it not been addressed, would have resulted in a contract that “would not have protected taxpayers whatsoever.”

WEDC board chairwoman Lisa Mauer confirmed the vote was pushed back because of a particular concern but also declined to provide specifics. She said it was detected late in the negotiating process.
Huh, maybe we should have had these details ironed out before our State Legislature agreed to send Foxconn $3 BILLION, eh? And you would think that the Village of Mount Pleasant and the rest of Racine County might want to know about this before they vote to give away hundreds of millions more in land, property taxes and infrastructure in the next month.

By the way, remember how Scott Walker and his WEDC lackeys claimed that the Legislature had to blast through the Fox-con by September 30? Weeks later, the same crew feels no need to reveal a final agreement between the state and Foxconn, and WEDC Chair Mark Hogan said yesterday the details are “very complex” and requires more time.

And there’s no oversight or input from the public on any of these details, so we’ll have the information sprung on us at the last minute with little ability to say “No.” In essence, Walker, WEDC and Foxconn put a gun to the heads of the legislators and the public and said “Promise us the money, and we’ll handle the rest later.”

In fact, the WEDC Board doesn’t even get to approve or veto the contract itself. Instead they are given an outline of the agreement, and give an up-or-down vote to allow the GOP hacks WEDC executives to finalize the deal with Foxconn.

The arrogance is so deep with this group that even members of the WEDC Board are being kept in the dark about the proposed agreement, let alone be allowed to ask questions of Foxconn themselves. Sen. Carpenter told reporters that drafts of the underwriting agreement were being changed one day before yesterday’s meeting, with little information being given to board members to figure out what exactly would or would not be allowed.
[Carpenter] said he raised several questions about language in the report. One issue he raised was the language didn’t appear to compel WEDC to rescind tax credits if the company wasn’t complying with the terms of the contract.

He said he asked for the vote to be delayed, but he didn’t learn it would be delayed until Tuesday morning after a separate issue that he had not raised was discovered by WEDC officials.
I know that closed sessions are supposed to be top-secret, but with state taxpayers being potentially on the hook for such a large price tag, don’t the people have a right to know what safeguards are (or more appropriately aren’t) being put in so we don’t get stuck losing tax revenues AND jobs?

We know the GOP appointees that control the WEDC Board won’t step up to do their duty to protect taxpayers and Racine County homeowners from being screwed by the Fox-con. So even if it violates the spirit of closed sessions, isn’t it time for the two Dems on the WEDC Board to go public with what this “nuclear bomb” is, and give us time to prepare and possibly mitigate the damage through further legislation or actions?

Let’s face it, if the Fox-con was a good deal for the state, they wouldn’t have had to create special laws for Foxconn’s enterprise zone, and the Walker Administration wouldn’t be trying to overpromise about how many jobs would be at Foxconn. Now add in that these guys are hiding all of the details of the publically-funded contract from the public and the WEDC Board?

The Fox-con already was slimy as hell (let's check out who's on the most recent donation list for Walker and WisGOP), but the secrecy makes it seem even worse. It’s a mode of operation that befits a Banana Republic(an), and not anything resembling American capitalism and government that we want to believe that we have.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Bigger surplus" is because of cheap WisGOPs that cost Wisconsin plenty

I was waiting yesterday for the release of the State of Wisconsin’s Annual Fiscal Report, which comes out every October 15, but since it fell over the weekend, it didn’t get released till late yesterday afternoon.
Turns out the topline was pretty good for the final numbers for Fiscal Year 2017.
Wisconsin’s budget finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a $579 million surplus, $126 million more than expected and the fourth-largest surplus of the past two decades.

The amount was higher than expected mostly because agencies spent about $116 million less than they were authorized to spend.

Tax collections and departmental revenues came in almost level — $4.9 million more than projections that were made when the 2015-17 budget was approved two years ago, an indication that economic growth has held steady since then.
We had a good idea that the revenue side would be mostly in line, based on what came out a month ago from the Wisconsin DOR, but the lower-than-expected expenses (aka “lapses” in expected spending) are what led to the bigger carryover.

So let’s go into the AFR and its more-detailed Appendix, and what we find is that the savings were mostly concentrated in a couple of areas.

1. $353.6 million in lapses for “Health Care Access and Accountability” from the Department of Health Services. The overwhelming part of that was due to Medicaid spending coming in at an estimated $325 million below budgeted levels for the 2015-17 biennium.

I’ll leave it up to you as to how that large amount of Medicaid savings happened, but this cushion allowed for the current Medicaid budget to be reduced, freeing up funding for other areas and additional tax giveaways in the 2017-19 budget.

2. There was a $536.2 million lapse in the Department of Administration’s “Supervision and Management” functions, which seems directly related to several debt swaps the Walker Administration has made, including one in August 2016 to avoid a large balloon payment that would have hit this May (I described it in this post). That debt swap contributes $128 million of the large structural deficit that looms in the next budget.

Oh, and check out this note on another source of savings for the state.
In FY 2017, Chapter 20 included a compensation reserve for employee salary and fringe benefit increases (for state employees). The total amount reserved (appropriated) was $18,616,800 and the amount allotted was $1,224,500 leaving a lapse amount of $17,392,300.
So nothing given out in raises....again. And you wonder why the state is having trouble getting enough workers to adequately staff needed services?

Also worth looking at are the figures regarding the Transportation Fund in the Appendix of the AFR. Looks like the Transportation Fund ended up with a year-end balance of $219.1 million, which would be $74 million above what we saw projected in the budget that passed for Transportation last month.

But that’s actually not a good sign, and here’s why

Total state spending in Transportation Fund
2015-16 $1,929.6 million
2016-17 $1,941.1 million (+$11.5 million, +0.6%)

Debt payments, Transportation Fund
2015-16 $340.8 million
2016-17 $356.1 million (+$15.3 million, +4.5%)

So that means we actually SPENT LESS on fixing the roads and in giving out local aids for roads and transportation in Fiscal Year 2017 than Fiscal Year 2016. Which helps to explain the side effects of the 2015-17 austerity budget. Think about how many more wheel taxes and similar local fees that have had to be imposed in the last 2 years so communities could adequately fix their streets, because they didn’t have enough funding from the state or feds to take care of these needs.

That is a direct result of Walker/WisGOP shell games to push the taxes down to the local levels. Makes it pretty darn easy to “hit your numbers” when that happens, but the average Wisconsinite ends up paying more and dealing with more aggravation as a result.

And the other side effect was Wisconsin’s lagging economic performance in the 2 years of the 2015-17 biennium.

Change in jobs, June 2015- June 2017
Mich +3.48%
Minn +3.278%
U.S. +3.275%
Ind. +2.49%
Ohio +2.087%
Wis. +2.086%
Iowa +1.67%
Ill. +1.15%

The stagnant economy and the anti-education GOP policies that became especially pronounced for the 2015-17 budget helps to explain why Wisconsin’s population growth further stagnated from its already low amount. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the west aren’t just gaining more jobs than us, they've added 120,000 more people than we have in the last 6 years.

So while we have slightly more money than we thought we had at the end of Fiscal Year 2017, look at what it cost us to get there. We got our ass kicked economically, our population is growing slower, and we added on more debt. How can anyone honestly stand there and think that was a good trade-off? Or that this decline will turn around with the same crew in charge?

Monday, October 16, 2017

UW reorg might work, but Cross, GOP not worthy of trust

As people digest the announcement by UW System President Ray Cross about his plans to link the 2-year UW Colleges with 8 of the 4-year UW campuses, many are looking for more details as to how all of this would actually work out.

Noel Radomski heads up the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education on the UW-Madison campus, and posted on to the WISCAPE site with his thoughts. Radomski said Cross’s potential new operating model could work well in dealing with the financial and efficiency problems caused by the loss of enrollment at the Colleges.
The proposal to integrate the UW Colleges campuses into UW four-year institutions is interesting, and it has the potential to stem the decline in enrollment at the UW Colleges (future branches campuses), the UW’s four-year regional universities, and UW-Milwaukee​; ​facilitate transfer​; and improve the number and success of transfer students. The probability of meeting the proposal’s stated goals will increase if adequate time and resources are provided for the planning, adoption, and implementation of the proposal. The proposal could fix the problems caused by the recent, hastily planned and executed regionalization of the UW Colleges. Hopefully, a stronger focus on local control and a regional focus will be the twin pillars driving the future of the branch campuses and regional universities.

The proposal to move Cooperative Extension to UW-Madison is timely and​ could pay great dividends. If enacted, it could rekindle the relationship ​between the state’s land grant institution and ​its citizens, agricultural sectors, local and start-up businesses, established businesses, targeted industry clusters, community-based organizations, governments, K-12 districts, and others. It takes us back to the past: UW Cooperative was part of UW-Madison until ​they were divorced in the mid-1960s. Though it was yanked from UW-Madison with the best of intentions​ -- the expectation that a large infusion of federal and philanthropic funding would be provided to address Wisconsin’s urban renewal and the war on poverty​ -- these never came to fruition due to federal monies being diverted to the Vietnam War. Now, with this proposal, county agents will once again serve as a direct bridge and translator between UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students and the communities they serve.
But Radomski noted that the concern Cross stated about “declining high school graduates in Wisconsin” is at best overblown, and perhaps signals that System needs to adjust to changing demographics. Radomski also questioned why some UW-Extension services were being centralized into System administration in Madison.
The premise that Wisconsin’s current and projected high school graduates is contributing and will lead to more enrollment declines is highly questionable and must be revisited. The December 2016 report, Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), shows that the number of Wisconsin high school graduates will be stable for a number of years, and then slowly decline. However, if you dive into the recent and projected number of Wisconsin high school graduates, you will find that the number of white high school graduates is declining, and the number of Latinx and (to a lesser extent) black high school graduates is increasing. Many UW System institutions have already made significant changes to their programs that better serve the increasing number of underrepresented students enrolling, persisting, learning, and succeeding in their institutions. It is those youth who will be tomorrow’s civic leaders, employees, and business owners, if they have more than a high school diploma or GED. The previous hope that international students will either halt enrollment declines or provide enough tuition revenue to cover for the loss of domestic student tuition is not proving true for most of the UW Colleges and regional comprehensive universities. UW-Madison is the exception….

The proposal to move three [other] UW Extension divisions to UW System administration is highly suspect and identification of better placements should proceed immediately. Is the role of UW System administration to run divisions and programs?

Stevens Point-based writer Bill Berry had a similarly mixed reaction to Cross’s reorganization plans. Berry says a well-done reorganization could be a win-win for both the Colleges and the 4-year UW campuses they would feed into, and deal with challenging demographics in Central Wisconsin.
…The merger could solve some of the knots in the current arrangement. It could ease the transferability of credits from two- to four-year institutions and perhaps provide savings on administrative overlap. It may also address the current plunge in student numbers, pushed at least in part by declines in high school graduates.

Most of the four-year campuses to which the two-year centers would be hitched are struggling with the same challenges posed by declining enrollment, worsened by withering cuts in state support. At UW-Stevens Point, which would inherit UW-Marathon County and UW-Wood County, officials are already struggling with these issues and public reaction to efforts to address them.
But Berry also notes that Cross, the Board of Regents, the right-wing Governor who selected those Regents, and the GOP legislators that helped land the UW System in these funding constraints cannot be trusted to do this the right way.
But it’s hard to be confident given the record of the current governor and many legislators, who have used our public universities as punching bags over the past decade despite the fact they are major drivers of local, regional and state economies. Some have acted with outright malice toward the universities. They can only be viewed as anti-higher education. This is piled on top of almost a half-century of dramatic declines in state support. The same lawmakers have then cynically complained about rising tuition costs.

Who knows, maybe this merger proposal will help shed new light on the value and importance of our universities. If nothing else, people who make decisions in Madison may get an education about how much local communities value their colleges.
Maybe, or maybe it’ll make constituents in places like Rice Lake, Wausau, Marshfield, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac recognize that they need to get rid of the regressive ALEC trash that are defunding and deforming the UW Colleges in their communities.

And we should be wary of the motives behind this, particularly because of the isolated way Cross undertook to come up with this plan, leaving UW students and faculty in the dark until last week. At the same time, Cross is allowing input from another group of people, as the UW's Kris Olds noted from Cross's appearance on Mike Gousha's show this weekend.

So Ray Cross is talking to business leaders about how to shape a sizable amount of the UW System’s future service delivery, but isn’t doing the same for the actual students and faculty that will be directly affected by it? You’d think he’d want to get some buy-in and shaping of the plan from those groups, since the plan won’t work well if those groups don’t get on board with it.

Radomski was also alarmed by Cross’s secrecy, and said the idea that this reorganization could start in less than 9 months (before some current Colleges students would even finish their 2-year program).
UW campus administrators, faculty, academic staff, university staff, students, civic business leaders, and the fourth estate were not informed of the proposal to restructure the UW System until they read the October 11 press release announcing it. ​Though individuals can now submit questions about ​the proposal through a web page, ​ at a minimum, President Cross and the UW System Board of Regents should also convene a series of open community hearings with Q&A sessions across the state. ​In addition, they should conduct an informational session at a UW System Board of Regents meeting before the Board votes on the proposal. The approval and implementation date, therefore, need to be extended. The idea of approving the restructuring proposal at a November 2017, UW System Board of Regents meeting is folly, as is a July 1, 2018, implementation date.
Yeah, there’s a lot that has to be figured out with this proposed reorganization, and it seems quite telling that Cross and the Regents are trying to jam this through as quickly as possible, with changes starting before the 2018 elections, where “future of the UW System” would be a major issue if this plan was hanging out there.

But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, right Ray? Just like I’m sure it slipped your mind to talk to the students and faculty about how their jobs and academic plans might be upended, eh boss? That act is why I also have serious misgivings over this plan, even if it might help the current declining situation at these Colleges and campuses.

Because the people Ray Cross are working for are not to be trusted, and refuse to come clean with the public about what they want to see as a final outcome of these changes - Well, at least an outcome that doesn’t involve destroying higher education in the state, or one that resides firmly in Fantasyland.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

During "recovery", much of Wisconsin has stayed subpar

A great cover story by the Isthmus's Mark Eisen helps to explain why the economic situation in Wisconsin may seem very different depending on where you may live. It helps to explain why much of the state seems to be drowning in resentment and stangation, with alarming trends that only project to get worse if we continue in the same direction.

As the article notes, when it comes to economic performance, we have "Two Wisconsins." The Madison area and a few suburban counties have done very well in the last few years, but the rest of the state is falling behind.
Today, while Dane County booms and the bigger cities in the Fox River Valley and western Wisconsin prosper, the rest of the state is largely mired in a downturn that is a recession in all but name.

Wisconsin is not alone. This dichotomy is also America’s story, as the Economic Innovation Group, a centrist research group in Washington, D.C., first documented in May 2016. The EIG study — widely ignored and fraught with political implications, as pundit Harold Meyerson has argued — detailed how painfully limited the economic recovery from the Great Recession (the magnitude of job destruction earned its adjective) was compared to post-recession periods in the early 1990s and early 2000s.
That EIG report referenced in the article noted that in particular, bigger urban areas came back very well in the 2010s, but the rest of the nation may never have noticed that we were in a recovery. From 2010 to 2014, the EIG says a total of 73 counties in the US accounted for 50% of the new jobs in the country, and that counties with 1 million or more people added jobs twice at twice the rate as counties that had less than 100,000 people of them. In fact, 31% of US counties still lost jobs from 2010 to 2014 while the rest of the country was recovering. In addition, the amount of new businesses starting up has notably declined compared to the recoveries in the 1990s and 2000s.

Wisconsin fares even worse than most states for these troubling trends. Only 27% of Wisconsinites lived in counties that had job growth beat the US rate in that 2010-2014 period, we are notoriously dead last for entrepreneurship, and our population has stagnated in many of those counties that have trailed for job growth.

Eisen notes that the state is failing when it comes to attracting people to the state, and it's a definite indicator as to how we are being left behind in general.
Truth be told, Wisconsin is old and unadventurous in many ways. Almost 72 percent of the population was born here, according to the UW-Extension. That’s the fifth highest percentage in the nation. In more economically dynamic states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California and Washington, the percentage of homeys is under 50 percent. That’s because ambitious job-seekers are steadily flocking to those states.

Ain’t the case in Wisconsin. The state’s “brain drain” — the loss of college graduates, despite the presence of the expansive UW System — is a recurring topic of worry in Wisconsin business circles. How can we compete in the knowledge economy if our best and brightest graduates leave the state?

[The UW-Extension's Steven] Deller and his colleagues counter that the problem isn’t so much outflow — they say the Wisconsin exodus of its college grads is not extreme. The real problem is inflow. Wisconsin just isn’t attracting college grads to move here.
Huh, sounds like we need a number of policies that encourage talent to locate in Wisconsin, eh? You know, like not having the regressive social legislation and the defunding of education that are a hallmark of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And maybe we should use the state's "Economic Development" organization for something other than a slush fund for donors from established corporation.

And it needs to change soon, because the inability to get young people to come into the state and raise families here is leading to a demographic nightmare in the state, especially in the rural areas that are being left behind. It's bad enough today, and it'll be a lot worse in 20 years if it doesn't change.

If there are no jobs being added and no one moving to these places, how are we going to be able to support a bunch of elderly people, especially with very few additions to the tax base in those places? It's going to lead to an even bigger displacement of resources, with more areas needing to be supported by the few places doing well.

These economic and demographic trends make it obvious that we need new strategy and leadership in the state, and it has to happen ASAP.

Sunday reading- listen to the Pack's Lance Kendricks

Been a busy weekend over here with friends in for Badger football and other outings. But I wanted to direct your attention to a great feature from the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood, who talked with current Packer and former Badger Lance Kendricks about his decision to sit during the national anthem before the Pack's game with the Bengals 3 weeks ago.

Kendricks is a Milwaukee native whose grandparents and uncles served in the military during wars, and while the article mentions that he had been racially profiled, Kendricks indicated his protest was more related to the fact that President Trump was ignoring the disaster in Puerto Rico, where his wife's family is from.
Some of the stranded are your wife’s family. One uncle waited in line 12 hours for gas. You want to make a difference. Maybe, you think, your platform can raise awareness.

After the storm, you constantly check the news for updates. President Donald Trump is speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Ala., and you anticipate encouraging words from a president whose authority extends to Puerto Rico. You hear something entirely different. “Son of a bitch,” Trump curses. He doesn’t mean the hurricane.

“That broke the camel’s back,” Kendricks says.
Wood's article continues with Kendricks being annoyed with that fans who tell athletes to 'Dance fucker, dance!" "Stick to sports" are forgetting that atheles are people as well, and just because they play football, it doesn't mean they are cut off from the outside world. And Wood notes that if you remove "football player" from Lance Kendricks' biography, he still has a resume and background that would be impressive, and familiar to a lot of other people living and working in Wisconsin.
Lance Kendricks is you. A few inches taller. Certainly faster and stronger. He’s a professional athlete, but Kendricks could’ve been a financial analyst. He earned his diploma from the University of Wisconsin, choosing economics over an art degree, he said, because of the rigorous coursework.

He wishes there was no need to use the national anthem in protest. Kendricks was a Cub Scout. In uniform, he saluted during the pledge of allegiance. He learned how to fold the flag.

Kendricks left the Scouts when sports conflicted, but he never lost an appetite for world events. It doesn’t matter how much money he makes playing a game, Kendricks says. He is a person with multiple dimensions....

“People don’t understand how smart football players are,” Kendricks says. “I think people just think we’re idiots, we’re dumb jocks from high school with the letterman jacket that cheated on tests and just got good grades, and went to college and lived their life. It’s like, no, we’re extremely smart.

Do you care why he is doing this?

There is also some severe white privilege in play among people who get agitated over (mostly minority) football players making gestures during the national anthem. Why is a white person's belief in what proper conduct is during the anthem and what the flag stands for supposed to be standard in this country anyway? And why is another point of view supposed to be viewed as "less than" and disregarded out of hand? Why don't these white people want to at least listen and find out why these protests are happening? Is it because they're too arrogant and/or weak-minded to want to find out, because it might cause them to question what's going on in this country, and their own values and status in life?

Look, I think a lot of the whole "anthem protest" issue is played out. People are forgetting the main point of the protests- to bring attention to the fact that many Americans are not being treated equally and with respect, and instead trying to make it about their own actions and agendas. But it is the height of white entitlement to think that they get to make the ground rules for what people like Lance Kendricks can or cannot do, and what is or is not damaging to the NFL's image (I'm looking at you Jerry (I Sign Woman-Beaters) Jones).

Again, read the long and well-written piece from Ryan Wood on Lance Kendricks. It's worth looking at to get some perspective before today's Packers-Vikes game.