Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trump-Feingold voters? Sure seems like it

I saw this map get tweeted out yesterday, and found it very telling.

That map is comparing the vote totals, so the bluer something is, the better Trump did compared to Johnson, and vice versa for the red part of the map. As the tweet implies, Trump generally did better than Johnson in the 608 and 715 area codes, and Johnson did better than Trump in the 414, 262 (especially) and the 920.

So what can we learn from this? I think that Dems have a chance for a strong bounce-back in the Western part of the state in 2018, since a common thread in a voter's mind with Trump and Feingold could be related to an anti-establishment, anti-big money mentality. Yes, I know it's silly to think of Trump as anti-big money these days, but vs Hillary Clinton, that was the image being presented to casual and low-info voters in November 2016. We have seen more than a few articles since the election that indicated part of the reason these places flipped to Trump was out of fear and frustration with a political, economic and social system that they felt was leaving them behind.

With Trump now being exposed as a racist, ineffective moron as president, with little changing in the economy (especially in rural Wisconsin), you would think that a strong message of real economic populism against big money and Big Ag would resonate well with those Trump-Feingold voters. And I would bet more than a few of those low-info Trump voters have been shamed by Trump's open welcoming of white supremacists into the White House, and a unifying message of "THIS IS NOT WHAT THIS STATE AND THIS COUNTRY IS ABOUT" should be a central message of Dems in Wisconsin in all corners of 2018.

A quick sidelight- this map also shows the fallacy that "Clinton did better than Feingold in November." She didn't. It was more a reflection of people being more likely to vote 3rd party in the presidential race. Take a look at these final figures from the 2016 election.

Total votes
Clinton 1,382,536 46.5%
Feingold 1,380,335 46.8%

This is the base that Dems should start from, and try to work up from. Interesting how it's not much different than the 46-47% they've consistently gotten against Scott Walker, is it?

Back to the map. Let's go over to the red eastern half of the state is a strong indicator of the influence of "never Trump" voters that get their orders from AM talk radio. These are individuals who got upset that Trump's vicious tone and ignorance was in their face, and they turned away from it (they prefer the more subtle dog-whistles of Ron Johnson, Paul Ryan or Scott Walker).

These people were never with Trump to begin with, and followed along with Walker and his AM radio spokespeople in April 2016, when they voted for Ted f'ing Cruz over Trump. But also note where Trump won, and how it matches up with the blue parts that he overperformed in for the first map.

This is where Dem candidates for Congress can win big with a message of "I am the only candidate that will stop Trump's madness." It also could be a good place for Dems to win downticket, as the general idiocy and two-facedness of Walker has become apparent, as Scotty has kissed up to Trump for the past year, and is now refusing to call out Drumpf for his racism and false equivalencies after the events in Charlottesville. This would also have a good byproduct of driving up anger and resentment with Dem voting constituencies that will be needed next year.

Also, a strong message against corporate handouts like the Fox-con could also be a winning argument in the eastern half, as the resources being funneled down to the SE corner of the state will result in some funds being taken away from road projects and other services in the Milwaukee and Fox Cities areas.

Lastly, Trump's lagging results in eastern Wisconsin also shows an opportunity to attack RW talk radio itself, as a dishonest broker that isn't telling people the full story. The dummies who still listen to KLAN radio 1130 and Bader and other cynical AM slime might not listen, but a lot of casual bystanders and low-info voters might, and once you can start breaking the Bubble of Bullshit that exists in the 262 and 920 as a result of corrosive talk radio and other obnoxious GOP partisans, then the GOP's ability to run up the margins they need in those areas goes down greatly.

Those are my musings, and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of angles. But the fact that there were a sizable amount of Trump-Feingold and Clinton/3rd Party-Johnson voters is something that Dem leaders in Wisconsin should think about, learn from, and utilize to win in 2018.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wisconsin still far behind in jobs, and Foxconn won't change that

The state-by-state jobs report came out this afternoon, and it made Wisconsin's recent swoon in job growth look even worse.

A stat that immediately jumps out at you is that most Midwestern states continued to gain jobs in recent months, but not Wisconsin.

April 2017 – July 2017
All jobs
Ohio +29,000
Ill. +19,800
Minn +14,100
Iowa +10,700
Ind. +4,300
Mich +3,400
Wis. - 5,500

Private sector
Ill. +20,300
Minn +13,600
Ohio +12,800
Iowa +10,500
Ind. +10,000
Wis. -1,200
Mich -3,300

Yes, the Illinois stats surprised me, especially given that it spans their fiscal crisis. But 3 months is a small sample size, and could simply be a regression to the norm from Illinois underperforming in the seasonally-adjusted stats earlier in the year. Likewise, Wisconsin's job growth was allegedly strong between January and April, but has fallen back since then.

If you widen it out to the last 12 months, Wisconsin ends up mediocre at best- 4th out 7 for total jobs and 5th of 7 for private-sector jobs. Even worse, take a look at who is lapping the field at the top.

July 2016-July 2017 job growth
All jobs
Minn +2.08%
U.S. +1.49%
Mich +1.44%
Iowa +1.01%
Wis. +0.90%
Ind. +0.88%
Ohio +0.87%
Ill. +0.55%

Private sector
Minn +2.24%
U.S. +1.68%
Mich +1.49%
Iowa +1.39%
Ind. +1.01%
Wis. +0.99%
Ohio +0.91%
Ill. +0.68%

UW professor Menzie Chinn has more on how Minnesota has continually kicked Wisconsin's ass for job growth over the 6 1/2 years in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And even more remarkable, July 2017 marks the first time that Minnesota has more total jobs than Wisconsin, likely for the first time ever.

Ok, so we’re not Illinois. But as I have said numerous times, we wouldn’t base the Packers’ success over whether they finished ahead of a 3-13 Bears team. So why are we accepting not being the complete governmental train wreck that Illinois is….for the time being.

By the way, take a look at how another tax-cutting ALEC experiment has been doing on the jobs front over the last year.

July 2016-July 2017 job growth
All jobs
Kansas -0.76% (-10,800 jobs)

Private sector
Kansas -1.05% (-12,100 jobs)

No other state is close to this bad for total job loss over the last 12 months, and only the small petro-states of Alaska and Wyoming have lost jobs AT ALL in that time period (-1,100 for Alaska, -3,000 for Wyoming).

Given Wisconsin’s declining budget situation, we are getting more like Kansas by the year, and the Fox-con will speed up that wreck, given that the majority of the tax handouts will occur before most of the jobs even start at the facility.

Is that what you want, to become a wasteland like Kansas? Or do you want to be like Minnesota, which is creating jobs twice as fast as we are, and with a much healthier financial situation on top of it. Funny how that happens when you don’t give away the store to the rich and corporate, and actually invest in education and quality of life, isn’t it?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wisconsin falls further behind with a mediocre July jobs report

As the State Assembly debated the Foxconn package today, the state’s Department of Workforce Development dropped the July jobs report for Wisconsin. And on the top level, it looks like a lot of “Meh.”
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added 26,500 total non-farm jobs and 25,000 private-sector jobs from July 2016 to July 2017, with a significant year-over-year gain of 9,600 manufacturing jobs. The state added 3,600 total non-farm and 100 private sector jobs over the month.

Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in July 2017, up slightly from 3.1 percent in June. The rate remains lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in July 2017. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate decreased slightly to 68.8 percent and continues to outpace the U.S. rate of 62.9 percent in July.
Mediocre numbers for July, but the bigger news hit with revisions to June’s figures, and not to the good side.

June 2017 Wisconsin jobs revisions
All jobs -4,100
Private sector jobs -2,300

So you combine with July’s figures, and that adds up to LOSSES of 500 jobs overall and 2,200 in the private sector. Not the right direction. Combined with job losses in May, this means that Wisconsin is reporting fewer jobs now than they were back in April.

And the DWD’s happy talk of “26,500 total jobs and 25,000 private sector jobs” over the last year also sucks. Last month those 12-month figures were 38,400 and 35,700, respectively, and it now puts the state’s job growth rate under 1% for the last 12 months, which is well below the US rate over the last year.

Rate of job growth, July 2016 – July 2017
All jobs
US +1.49%
Wis. +0.90%

Private Sector
US +1.68%
Wis. +0.99%

And the Walker jobs gap has grown larger as a result, now over 115,000 jobs for both private sector and total jobs.

Also, take a look at what happened on the other side of the St. Croix River while we were stagnating in July.
Minnesota employers added 7,700 jobs in July, according to seasonally adjusted figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

In addition, June’s employment figures were revised upward by 4,900 jobs to bring total gains that month to 9,300 jobs. Minnesota has added 66,701 jobs in the past year, an increase of 2.3 percent, compared with a national growth rate of 1.5 percent during that period.
That's 2 1/2 times the job growth that Wisconsin has had since July 2016. And Minnesota isn’t destroying their budget to hand out $3 billion to a foreign corporation and carving up environmental standards in the process. Why aren’t we looking at the places that are actually succeeding in 2017, instead of doubling down on the same failed giveaways?

And with even more evidence today that the Walker/WisGOP Way is continuing to leave this state behind, why would anyone trust the claims of this Governor, WEDC and the GOP-puppets in the Legislature? This is true not only in how Robbin’ Vos and other WisGOP crooks making the laughable claim that their “reforms” have improved the state’s economic situation (the reality is more like “Thanks, Obama!”), but also when it comes to thinking that the Fox-con development will somehow change things for the better for the entire state.

This Reign of Error has gotta end, or else we aren’t ever going to be economically competitive with the rest of the country for decades, if ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GOP budget dysfunction means K-12 schools will likely struggle again

The largest part of the delayed Wisconsin state budget is aids to K-12 schools, and with Milwaukee Public Schools already opening up this week, and other most public schools following in 2 weeks, these districts are dealing with some serious uncertainty.

Molly Beck of the State Journal had an in-depth breakdown of the difficulties many districts are having in trying to pinpoint how much money they will have available for the start of the school year, and how some schools might have to take out a loan to pay the bills until the budget is finalized.
The leaders of the state Senate have said lawmakers on the state’s budget-writing committee could resume work on the budget Aug. 23. But if a budget is not in place eight days later, schools in rural areas will miss state payments they usually get in September to subsidize school operations, according to a memo from the Department of Public Instruction sent to budget-writing committee members this month.

“(The delay) may cause some districts to have to short-term borrow to cover this deficit,” said Kim Kaukl, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. “The majority of our districts are already working with very tight budgets and any aid delay in payments can have a serious impact.”

DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said the department could push back the rural school payment deadline if lawmakers gave DPI a “clear signal” that the budget was going to be passed quickly.
A couple of large complications in figuring out the final amount of school aids is whether the Fox-con becomes law in the next 2 weeks, as that might restrict the amount of revenue available, and it is unknown how much voucher money will be funneled away from schools, and this caused many districts to back off on hiring and improvements for this year. This means that the start of the school year could be quite a mess.
...[Since] Republican lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly have each proposed separate education spending plans. Kaukl said a number of rural school districts have delayed hiring and purchasing until they know what is included in the state budget.

“This may mean classes may begin with substitute teachers covering a class, classrooms being overloaded or, worse case, courses being dropped,” Kaukl said.
That is NOT what Governor Walker wanted when he put in a proposed increase in K-12 school spending in this pre-election budget. But all Scotty seems to care about these days is selling and shoving through the Fox-con instead of giving a damn about what happens with the budget. And Walker and the Legislature have no one to blame but themselves, because it is their dysfunction, corruption (especially on vouchers) and no-tax gimmickry that prevented them from coming up with a sensible solution in a K-12 budget that should have been relatively easy to figure out.

It's completely unacceptable, and it's yet another example of why these self-absorbed WisGOP clowns at the Capitol need to be kicked to the curb ASAP.

Will Wisconsin even have the people to pull off the Fox-con?

As the Foxconn package comes up for a vote in the full Assembly tomorrow, more discussions of the project and what might actually happen if the multi-billion dollar giveaway incentive package becomes law. What hasn't been brought up much is the question about how the Foxconn package fits into the overall state economy.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz put that other factor in play when it comes to questioning the Fox-con - can a state with a stagnant and aging population even handle a massive project like this?
The important statistic when considering the availability of labor is the “prime working age” population, which economists classify as people between 25 and 54 years old. Wisconsin had 105,000 fewer prime working age people in 2015 than it did in 2010. Some of the sharpest decreases occurred in Jefferson, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. As the state with the 15th oldest population in the U.S., Wisconsin’s prime working age population is expected to continue to shrink through 2040 to just 33% of its total population. This is down from 41% in 2010.

Looking at 2016 census estimates for Racine and Kenosha counties, Racine lost 6,709 (8.3%) of its prime working age population in just the past 6 years. Kenosha lost 2,998 (4.3%) since 2010. So the very region being counted on to fill as many as 35,000 jobs has a smaller number of working aged people, and that number is continuing to decrease….

In addition to the lost workforce due to the retirements of baby boomers, more than 27,000 people left Wisconsin between 2010 and 2014, according to a study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). According to Todd Berry, WISTAX president, Wisconsin lost people “at a faster rate than we should, and this means not only are we not going to grow the workforce, we’re going to see a shrinking workforce if we keep that up.”

Hintz goes on to note that Wisconsin takes in a smaller amount of immigrants than much of the country (4.8% foreign-born vs 13.5% nationwide), so there’s no help in the state’s demographic issues there, and while the low amount of people in the working-age population could mean a labor shortage that drives up wages (which would be good if it happens), Hintz adds that this will increase the incentive for Foxconn to turn to robots and other automation faster.
Not sure I agree with the “higher wages” part of the hypothesis from Rep. Hintz, as I think Wisconsin’s low manufacturing wages are something that won’t change with the Fox-con, but I agree with the point about Foxconn automation being a real possibility (especially over 25 years) and lessening the payoff in terms of jobs and income taxes. But there are two other more factors that also are in play.

A generic job making $12-$15 an hour at Foxconn isn’t going to be something that makes a person pack up and leave for Racine or Kenosha County on his/her own. That area is going to have to offer quality schools, decent roads and services, and a good quality of life in order to encourage the labor pool that will be needed for such a large project. Given the future budget cuts and environmental degradation that will accompany this Fox-con, that will not happen. It exposes what a rushed, desperate gimmick the Fox-con is, as there is no larger strategy coming from Gov Walker or the WisGOP Legislature beyond trying to cut taxes on the rich and corporate, and funnel taxpayer dollars to campaign contributors.

Do the white guys in this pic have a clue?

In addition, if people actually do choose Foxconn over other employers, what happens to other businesses that aren’t getting a state handout? There is already displacement going on in the state’s economy due to legislative buffoonery in the WisGOP-run Capitol. Take a look at this article that floated out near the end of last week from the Daily Reporter, and these words from Terry McGowan, the head of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
WisDOT officials have seen the state’s highway money dwindle in recent weeks as lawmakers struggle to pass a new two-year budget. Wisconsin’s previous spending plan expired on June 30. Without a new budget in place, the state continues to run on a “base-level” of funding that does not include the sort of new bonding that many road projects depend on.

McGowan said the budget struggles are having real consequences for the union members he represents. At a Local 139 meeting in Pewaukee on Wednesday evening, he was told by several people that they had “migrated” from road jobs to working on buildings and underground utilities.

“The road industry has been unreliable,” he said.

McGowan also mentioned that operating engineers are disheartened when they hear that some lawmakers want to repeal what remains of the state’s prevailing-wage laws. Uncertain that they will be able to continue making a decent wage on public jobs, many have decided to try their luck in the private sector.
There are only so many construction workers to go around, and if the ALEC-GOP Legislature continues to support wage suppression laws that discourage workers from choosing Wisconsin as a place to work, what happens when Foxconn sucks up most work in that area? Do costs go through the roof, and/or are businesses not able to afford to hire contractors because Foxconn takes up too much of the work?

Now add in the pothole-filled roads in other parts of the state that become even less likely to be fixed, and the likelihood of budget deficits leading to cuts that affect jobs and services in all parts of the state, and you can see where funneling so many resources toward Foxconn could hurt the economy in many other parts of the state.

This displacement of spending and economic activity isn’t mentioned in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis of the Fox-con, but maybe it should. Because without a reversal of the recent trend of people leaving and/or growing old in Wisconsin, there will inevitably be problems in trying to find workers to do the work needed. This is true not only for Foxconn, but for other parts of the state’s economy. And I don’t see the ALEC-GOPs passing anything that’ll make the casual person want to come to Wisconsin - on either the “pay and work conditions” side, or in the “quality of life” side.

Well, there is one way to increase the likelihood of workers being available for jobs on the Fox-con - a recession with sizable unemployment. But if that's the case, wouldn't a New Deal-style public works package do a lot more good for Wisconsin than using all of those tax dollars on one corporation (and allow a lot more Wisconsinites to reap benefits from those projects)? And oh yeah, a recession would collapse the state’s house-of-cards finances faster than the Fox-con will.

So barring some kind of unforeseen "Escape to Wisconsin" by people who don't live here now, we're pretty screwed if this Fox-con package becomes law.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

While WisDems call out Trumpist hate, Walker's silence is deafening

As President Trump digs a deeper hole by sympathizing with Nazis and other white supremacists, some of the disgust is soothed by media and Democrats have generally been pushing back on this racist garbage, and calling out half-assed statements and false equivalencies.

A good example was this response from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the event in Charlottesville over the weekend. DPW Chair Martha Laning had a decent statement that both said neo-Nazism had no place in America and that Dems will "continue to build bridges, not walls. We will continue to advocate for communities of color, for our LGBT brothers and sisters, and for those of every faith."

Then Vice-chair and State Rep. David Bowen laid the lumber.
"We must recognize the connection between the words and policies of Alt-Right and Tea Party leaders who have infiltrated the Republican Party. The stakes are too high to pretend otherwise. When President Trump began his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, neo-Nazis heard his words and knew they had a candidate they could support. President Trump took it a step further by hiring many top officials in the White House with direct ties to white supremacy groups. Those actions legitimized and set precedent for the actions that occurred in Charlottesville.

"If you want proof of this connection, look at the statements and actions put out by President Trump, and his colleagues like Governor Walker. Neither were willing to name white supremacists as the cause of violence and death in Charlottesville. Neither is willing to label the perpetrators as domestic terrorists. Instead, President Trump condemned the “many sides” involved in this violence, and Scott Walker responded by putting out one tepid, generic tweet.

"These are not the actions of strong leaders or those seeking a swift end to xenophobia and bigotry. They are the actions of cowards who fail in the call for accountability and then aim to use hatred to win elections while further dividing this country.

"President Trump and Governor Walker have shown the world their true colors. When they are next on the ballot, we’ll show them ours.
-State Rep. David Bowen

That's how you do it, Dems, and they must continue to remind voters that the Republicans and their spokespeople on AM radio are more than happy to pander to the gut instincts of racists. Dems must make the voters choose sides, because sides must be chosen after the disgraceful events in Charlottesville and the pathetic minimizations that have been done by this Fascist-friendly president.

The Giovernor made his side not choosing. Take a look at Scotty's Twitter feed in the last 3 days, since his pathetic non-statement against "violence and hate" in Charlottesville. A whole lot of "job photo ops" with campaign contributors and BS spin about the Fox-con. Oh, and this thing.

Pence has generally taken the "both sides are to blame" tact and whined that "the media spent more time criticizing the president's words" than discussing the violence itself. I would guess Scotty's in the same boat, as I can't remember Walker saying one bad word against Trump since the Donald took the GOP nomination over a year ago.

And I bet he won't have the guts to say anything now, because Walker will pander to and take money from anyone, if it improves his chances of winning. As I mentioned on Sunday, race-baiting and stirring up resentment among mediocre white people has been central to this grifter's career, and I am convinced there is no bottom that Scotty wouldn't explore. Walker's deafening silence in this time of a crisis of leadership in the White House confirms that instinct that I have about him.

He and his WisGOP backers need to put out into the political wilderness. They honestly deserve worse than that, but that's the least they must get in the next 15 months. Or else this state is done and likely not worth saving.

Monday, August 14, 2017

No tax revenues + no Trump Boom = more Wis budget problems

With all of the Foxconn talk in Wisconsin, it’s also worth remembering that we still don’t have a state budget for the next two years. And an article today from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Jason Stein mentioned that the budget picture is starting to concern Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald and others in WisGOP leadership, because the house of cards that this pre-election, gimmick-filled budget was based on may be starting to collapse.

The reason? One we should be used to in GOP-controlled Wisconsin - lower-than-projected tax revenues.
In May, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projected state revenue growth of 2.7% for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Final tax collection numbers including the month of June have not yet been released by the Walker administration. But as of the end of May state revenues were at 2.5% growth for the year.

That modest difference — if sustained through June — could amount to up to a few hundred million dollars of smaller than expected growth. What's more, lower tax collections for last year would drive down estimates for each of the next two years within the next state budget, compounding the effect.
Actually, a 0.2% shortfall would only be around $34 million, but the point about the effect of driving down future year revenues is the real problem. And that shortfall for the net 2 years would be likely become larger if the predicted “Trump Boom” that LFB and other economists were counting on in January doesn’t happen.

Back in January, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau was basing its rosy revenue outlook on a strong GDP growth outlook on a "Trump Boom" that would include tax cuts and big increases in infrastructure.

Jan 2017 LFB estimates of real GDP growth
2017 +2.3%
2018 +2.6%
2019 +2.3%

But so far in 2017, we’ve seen real GDP growth come in at 1.2% in the 1st quarter and 2.6% for the 2nd quarter, which means growth would have to speed up to 2.7% in both the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017 – the fastest pace in 2 ½ years. And the tax cuts and infrastructure package hasn't even gotten off the ground, and the uncertainties in health care will also hold down the economy in the coming months.

Don't bet on it, Scotty

This stagnation contributed the International Monetary Fund downgrading projected US growth in 2018 to 2.1% last month. Instead of economic stimulus, what’s now more likely to come out of DC is a fiscal crisis, as the debt ceiling and a new federal budget both have to be figured out in the next 7 weeks. Good luck getting either of these items passed in any sort of smooth manner, given the buffoons running Congress and the White House these days.

With the economic and fiscal picture getting dimmer, State Rep. Gordon Hintz noted how absurd it was for Republicans to talk about giving away massive amounts of money in corporate tax cuts while there may be less money to go around.
Hintz said that Republicans are considering cutting the personal property tax assessed on some businesses in the state and committing to up to $2.85 billion in cash payments to Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan in exchange for a liquid crystal display plant. Both actions could make it harder to balance future state budgets, he said.

In light of the uncertainty, Hintz said he was considering asking the fiscal bureau to revisit its revenue estimates prior to the update that is currently scheduled for January.
Maybe the reality that things are going to get worse is exactly why Governor Walker and other WisGOPs are trying so hard to jam through the Fox-con, to distract people from the mediocre present and lousy outlook for both Wisconsin’s economy and its (still not-completed) budget. Why else would they lie and overpromise about what the Fox-con is about?

With another Wisconsin jobs report coming up later this week and the final 2016-17 revenue numbers likely coming out by the end of this month, what I see between the lines is a lot of concern from WisGOPs who fear that they will finally be held accountable for how Wisconsin keeps lagging behind our Midwestern neighbors and the rest of the country after 6 ½ years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and an Obama Recovery that has gone on through that entire time period.

And they should be afraid.