Sunday, March 1, 2015

Walker budget removes "Wisconsin" from the UW

With the release of the plain-English version of the Wisconsin state budget by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, we've been getting new information on the depths of this new Walker budget. And if you dig inside to the University of Wisconsin System's part of the budget, in addition to the $300 million in cuts to System funding and the spinning off of the System into an independent authority, there is an obvious theme, which is this- the UW System's mission of outreach to the rest of the state is being taken out.

What grabbed a lot of the media's attention over the last two days is the passage in the LFB's analysis that mention the removal of a requirement to report sexual assault statistics on campus to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (page 50 on the PDF). Now, the Walker Administration and some newspapers have tried to walk back the story, as a UW System spokesman claims the System was the organization that asked for the provision, claiming it to be redundant since the feds already require such reporting.

But our media shouldn't let the Walker folks off the hook on this issue, and not just because the UW spokesman claiming the removal was the System's idea was a guy appointed by Walker last month, and wasn't an active part of these budget discussions. Because there is an overriding theme of Scott Walker's budget when it comes to the UW System - that the college system isn't supposed to serve the common good, outside of the campus's boundaries. I'll give you three examples (and there are many more).
Delete current law establishing, requiring the Board to establish, or requiring the Board to maintain the following institutes and centers: (a) the institute for excellence in urban education at UW-Milwaukee, which engages in research, public service, and educational activities pertaining to issues in urban public education; (b) the solid and hazardous waste education center in the UW-Extension, which promotes pollution prevention through an education and technical assistance program; (c) the area health education center at UW-Madison to support community-based primary care training programs; (d) the center for environmental education within the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point, which assists in the development, dissemination, implementation, and evaluation of environmental education programs for elementary and secondary school teachers and pupils; and (e) the center for urban land economics research in the UW-Madison School of Business, which conducts research and undertakes educational, public outreach, and grant activities related to real estate and urban land economics. In addition, delete the requirement that the Department of Safety and Professional Services pay $10 of each real estate broker license renewal fee to the UW System to support the center for urban land economics and research....

Delete the requirement that the Board offer, establish, or maintain the following UW-Extension programs: (a) a local planning program to educate local policymakers; (b) a program of education and technical assistance related to recycling market development; (c) programs to educate consumers about biotechnology processes and products and risk assessment techniques; and (d) a higher education location program (UW HELP) to provide information on undergraduate admission requirements, degree programs, enrollment, student financial aid, student housing, and admission forms....

Delete current law requiring the Board to establish or maintain all of the following related to its research and public service missions: (a) agricultural demonstration stations; (b) a state soils and plant analysis laboratory in connection with the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and UW-Extension; (c) a pharmaceutical experiment station in the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy; and (d) an herbarium at UW-Madison.
Delete provisions requiring the Board to authorize research, experiments, or studies related to the following: (a) experimental work in agriculture; (b) bovine brucellosis; (c) Dutch Elm disease; (d) the feasibility of reintroducing elk into the northern part of the state; and (e) the Fond du Lac Avenue corridor in Milwaukee.
James Rowen also has more on the removal of this outreach mission, including the removal of protections of the Donner Woods sanctuary in Milwaukee. And while I understand that the Board of Regents of the proposed System Authority could keep all or most of these outreach missions around, the removal of these required programs and reserach and the lack of legislative oversight sets a dangerous precedent. What's stopped a Walker-stacked Board of Regents from getting rid of some of these duties, and instead pawning it off to well-connected private interests?

And it goes to a deeper point that started when we found out that the Walker Administration removed the Wisconsin Idea from the UW's mission statement in the original state budget (a deletion that has not been formally amended as of this writing, by the way). Note what Walker said to reporters the day the story broke, before he and his team had to walk back such an absurd and petty action.
Walker adds to the opening line, on the mission of the UW System, “to meet the state’s workforce needs.”

“The focus would be honed in, in particular to look at making sure that we prepare individuals in this state . . . for the jobs and opportunities that are available in the state,” Walker said during a stop in DePere on Wednesday.
Now do you see how this ties together? They want the UW System to be a glorified technical school that produces workers for corporations, and not as a source of public good that provides research that improves people's lives. Because if the UW System were to serve the public and have certain lands set aside, it would get in the way of maximizing the profitability of such a service, and having them reach conclusions that warn against the damage that might result from maximizing profits or bespoiling the land. And that is a threat in Walker World, which wants to funnel as much money and power as possible to the rich and well-connected, at the expense of every other person and natural resource of the state.

It sure makes you wonder, if the System Authority is set up without all of these requirements of public service to the state, how long before we have the Koch School of Land Management Brawndo School of Medicine?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Returning to Idiot America

Heading back to the mainland tomorrow, so I'll be able to catch up with all the shenanigans that have been going on in the crazy week I've been away. But I've been using the time to re-read some great books that seem even more fitting today, including Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine and Charlie Pierce's Idiot America .

Pierce mentions that Idiot America (best exemplified by the average Fox News watcher) has three Great Premises. Given our fair Guv's descent into a further depth of stupidity than I even thought possible this week, let me give you Pierce's summary of those premises and see how it applies to today.
The First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
And a corollary of that is anyone who can move those units is given credibility, even if what they have to say it absurd bullshit.
Which leads us, inevitably to the Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
If that doesn't define Milwaukee AM talk radio and other GOP-aganda, what does? Repeat the lie loud enough, send it around to enough venues, and it becomes "something people are talking about" and has to inevitably be followed up by the "legitimate" media. Much like how Walker has flat-out lied about the threats he has faced from protestors in the last 4 years (very few, despite the damage he has tried to impose), and that the state was bankrupt and flailing when he took over (actually it was adding more jobs than it is today, and the Doyle/Dem budget ended up in a surplus with better revenues, the direct opposite of today's budget mess).
The sheer initial force created by the effort people are willing to put behind the promulgation of what they believe to be true inevitably leads to the Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
In this mentality, you can claim that 100,000 teachers, bureaucrats, librarians, and other public employees are just as scary and destructive as ISIS, and enough rubes might suck it up.

In a better time, we had a media that would call this BS out, and ultimately humiliate and expose a candidate who clearly was clueless and/or so blatantly dishonest. But because a whole lot of people at Journal Communications stand to make a lot of money on Scott Walker books to go with their revenues from Scott Walker ads, they tend to stay silent when our fair Guv makes a fool out of himself and lies about the way things are back home.

Which is why it is up to us to continue to respond vocally and forcefully, to counteract the pull of Idiot Wisconsin and Idiot America, which is fueling the (likely already fading) Scott Walker boomlet. We need to generate equal heat to grab the casual bystander's attention, and if our response is based on fact, it's a lot more likely to succeed over the long run.

That being said, the mistake too many Dems have made in Wisconsin is in thinking that being kind and appealing solely to reason will encourage enough voters to agree and win midterm elections. The other guys have bellowed from the Gut, and that's been enough to get 29% of the voting-age population to pull the lever for Walker, and keep this destructive Reign of Error going. Reason and facts do matter, but so does a little fire, and I hope we see more of it back home in Wisconsin from the good guys tomorrow and over the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Guv's budget in plain English

Big day for Wisconsin budget geeks, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released its analysis of the Governor's budget. The link will get you to the front page, and you can click on any department of revenue item you want from there.

So dig in, and let me know what you find unusual in it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We must keep speaking up

Some may say that the fact that the WisGOP/Walker machine plans to blast through "work-for-less" is a reason for those of us who oppose this theft to hold our fire. I completely disagree. We need to be speaking up and exposing these crimes against workers and most of the rest of Wisconsin, and send the message that we do not approve.

See, Scott Walker's main message as a presidential candidate is to appeal to the Nxion/Cheney wing, and show that has smashed all opposition, and that the people must follow along with what he wants to do, even if it has nothing to do with what he said on the campaign trail.

Instead, we can turn the tables, expose how radical and failed these policies are, and sink Walker and the GOP nationally and in the state of Wisconsin. But only if we speak up and refuse to accept the budget-ridden economic underperformance that is happening to our state.

That's my thoughts on the strategy and approach to take. The budget is clearly caving in, as yesterday's subpar revenue figures show (corporate taxes down 21% from Jan 2014!), and work-for-less is not likely what most Wisconsinites elected these people to do (if it was, they would have said so outside of the 262. They did not). So this time, we keep up the pressure, and don't water it down like the DPW has tried to do far too often.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Solidarity from South of the border

It was about 100 degrees warmer today where I was at vs my home, if you factor in the wind chill. So that helps explain why you haven't seen much from me in recent days, even with all the craziness breaking out with work-for-less and our fair Gov dropping racist dog-whistles everywhere against our president.

But I'm sending big wishes for the brothers and sisters to draw some serious attention to what these bums are doing over the next few days, and reiterating to the rest of the country that cutting wages and worker rights are harmful to an economy.

And if you have to take it to the next level, then that may be what has to be done. Chuck D has always been quite a worthy prophet to listen to, and he certainly applies here.

Public Enemy - Shut Em Down from Cena do Louco on Vimeo.

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Unintimidated"? Try coreless coward

I'd like to thank John Peterson at Democurmudgeon for directing me to these two excellent clips from the last 24 hours that illustrates just how weak our Governor's act has been.

The first includes MSNBC's Chris Hayes and the always-awesome Charlie Pierce, who start off by bringing up Rudy Giuliani's disgusting dog-whistle claiming that President Obama "doesn't love America" because "he wasn't brought up like we were." Then they mention the complete lack of tact that passes for a reaction from the special guest at Giuliani's speech at New York City's posh 21 Club- Scott Walker.

That incident was also discussed on another MSNBC show that had a guest with Wisconsin ties today. Ed Schultz had the Capital Times' John Nichols on to discuss the fast-tracking of (right-to) work-for-less legislation for next week, which just so happens to emerge less than 48 hours after Scotty dines with those right-wing oligarchs at the 21 Club. Nichols mentions how Walker is so gutless that he is willing to let anything slide and promote any type of idiotic policy, if he feels it'll help his chances at the Republican nomination in 2016.

And you really have to ask yourself, you know, where's the "there" there with this guy? If he is so intimidated by his donors and powerful players, how can you expect him to lead as a president?
But perhaps the most damning statements about Walker's lack of character came from the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. Milbank is usually beholden to Beltway BS which tries to pass off bad behavior as "just part of the game", and he usually pulls his punches accordingly. Not this time, as the headline gives you an idea where his column is going: "Scott Walker's cowardice should disqualify him," and says Scotty is "avoiding anything that might resemble leadership."
Last week, in London during the annual Darwin Day observance, he refused to answer a question about evolution. “I’m going to punt on that,” he said when asked about evolution at a British think tank. “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another, so I’m going to leave that up to you.”

At home in Wisconsin, Walker’s leadership has been conspicuously missing. His tax cuts have left the state with a $283 million deficit that needs to be covered by midyear and a deficit projected at $2 billion for the two years beginning in July. Bloomberg News reported this week that the state will delay $108 million in debt payments due in May — a move that will ultimately increase the amount Wisconsin has to pay.....

That dinner Wednesday, at New York’s 21 Club, is where Giuliani challenged Obama’s love of country. Even the former mayor preceded his outrageous allegation by saying, “I know this is a horrible thing to say . . . ”

Walker surely knew it was horrible, too, but he refused to say so — and in this failure he displayed a cowardice unworthy of a man who would be president.
Shoot, he's unworthy of running a hot dog stand on Water Street, let alone the state or the country.

Let's hope people are starting to see the reality- that there is no center to Scott Walker, and the guy can't win anything resembling a fair fight. Which is why he hides behind the GOP-agenda machine in Wisconsin media, never takes direct responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and never will appear in public in an unscripted situation.

As Lee Elia would put it: "Unintimidated? My f***ing a$$!"

A primer on the lies, deception and truth of (right-to) work-for-less

Given today's headline of the Wisconsin GOP deciding to introduce and ram through (right-to) work-for-less bill, as well as Governor Walker's promise to sign such legislation (proving that his statements on the subject in his governor campaigns were lies), let's review some of my prior posts about how stupid and regressive this idea is.

1. Wisconsin isn't having a problem with high wages restricting job growth, as Wisconsin's wages and wage growth has been lower than most of the Midwest from early 2013 to early 2014. In fact, the only states that were in the same range as Wisconsin's lame 1.2% wage growth in the last year were Michigan and Indiana...who were the two Midwestern states that passed this stupid legislation in the 2 1/2 years.

2. Here's something I wrote last month that went over a study from a Marquette University economist which showed that (right-to) work-for-less would cost Wisconsinites billions of dollars. Take a look at Dr. Abdur Chowdhury's analysis, and you may remember this specific passage.
The potential net loss in direct income to Wisconsin workers and their families due to a RTW legislation is between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually. Using a conservative estimate of an impact multiplier of 1.5, the total direct and induced loss of a RTW legislation is estimated between $5.84 and $7.23 billion annually. Based upon the two estimates of lost incomes and an overall effective tax rate of 4.0%, the economic loss in state income taxes is estimated between $234 and $289 million per year.

While considerable efforts are being made by certain legislators to pass the RTW law in Wisconsin, the empirical evidence on the effect of adopting such a law does not support prescribing it as an economic policy tool. Overall, this study shows that RTW legislation would provide no discernible economic advantage to Wisconsin, but would impose significant social and economic costs. Low wages would weaken consumption. Higher rates of labor turnover and adversarial labor-­‐management relations would decrease productivity. It would also burden the state with higher ‘mop-­up’ costs [costs for social programs such as child care and food stamps].
That same post also includes a similar analysis from Bruce Thompson in Urban Milwaukee, which shows that states that don't have this stupid legislation have higher incomes than states who do, and a lot of those allegedly booming "right-to-work" states are places like North Dakota and Texas that were seeing benefits from the oil boom. A boom that has now busted.

3. And here's a post that debunks a set of lies from the Oligarch and Mediocre Businessmen's Club Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. One of the biggest lies from these folks is the claim that Michigan and Indiana have done better since instituting work-for-less (if anything, job growth slowed down since putting these laws on the books), as well as WMC's bad habit of wanting to shift taxes and costs onto the little people and use big government at the state level to override local interests.

Lastly, the timing of this is VERY interesting, as the national media has caught on to Gov Walker's Administration trying to fill this year's budget hole by skipping $108 million in debt payments and putting them off into future budgets, and January revenue figures due to come out in the next week will likely show the budget gap to be even worse (Assembly Dem Leader Peter Barca and Joint Finance member Gordon Hintz were all over this today). It's also worth mentioning that this work-for-less news is breaking 2 days after Walker spent time at the elite 21 Club in New York City to "pledge allegiance to charlatans and cranks" that have been wrong about the economy for the last 35 years. There aren't many coincidences with these guys in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and giving the go-ahead to this idiotic, divisive bill would be a classic misdirection move, as well as a nice kiss-up to big-money oligarchs for the Walker 2016 campaign.

As for how to fight it, first of all, we have to give as many facts as possible and go on the attack against WMC, AM 620/1130, and other GOP-agandists who will lie about the "freedom" to get screwed over at work. I also think there should be active, vocal opposition to this, and if it means tens or hundreds of thousands walk off the job to come to the Capitol, I say DO IT. We need to send the message that this guy's agenda is not accepted and is not working, because the hidden subtext for Walker 2016 is that "I can impose every right-wing dream on people, and eventually they sit back and accept it, giving us more power." I'd also suggest cutbacks in every other type of personal spending, to wreck the budget even further, and give real economic damage to any organization that backs this regressive BS (the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a great source here).

I just feel bad that I'll be on vacation and have to miss all the fireworks next week (well, as bad as trading 10-degree weather for 80 degrees can be, anyway).