Thursday, December 31, 2015

Most Immature GOP Manly Man craze....

This was so ridiculous....

Walker's Crumbling Wisconsin.

After 5 years, the Republicans wheels are starting to come off in a big way, exemplified in a number of recent jaw dropping stories that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, a purely ideological agenda minus common sense or compromise doesn't work.

Thanks to bloggers and a few near fearless reporters, it's clear we're closing out the year on a frightening note. Included are a few of my predictions for 2016 as well.

Goodbye to Gun Free Zones: While it never occurred to Wisconsinites to do away with all gun free zones, especially at schools and colleges, Republicans will eventually ram through unrestricted concealed carry everywhere in 2016:
WSJ: A bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns into college and university buildings probably won’t come up for a vote during this session of the state Legislature, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said … co-author State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum said that he “absolutely” plans to reintroduce the bill if voters re-elect him … began circulating the bill in October, days after a gunman killed nine people at a community college in Oregon. 
Scary and Dangerous Prius driving, latte drinking, anti-gun liberals: Republicans fear peaceful middle class families the most. That's why Scott Walker spent $577,000 on overtime for his security team, who he tried to stiff, until ordered by the federal government to pay up. Worse still, that money came out of our almost non-existent transportation fund, which is now mostly borrowed:
Fox6: Federal labor regulators say the state Department of Transportation has paid Gov. Scott Walker’s bodyguards more than half-a-million dollars in overdue overtime. $577,189 in overtime earned between May 2013 and May 2015. The Department of Labor ordered the DOT to award the overtime pay in August.
Minimum Wage Wasteland: It doesn't occur to our "purple state" Republicans that we're now further right than most every other red state. Consumer demand is 70% of our economy. But not to true supply-siders. As one twitter troll put it, "(liberals are) conspiring to make everything in Wisconsin more expensive:"
Urban Milwaukee: Wisconsin is one of the 21 states where the minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour ... The seven-year freeze in Wisconsin’s minimum wage has contributed to the widening income inequality in our state ... Wisconsin had a faster decline than any other state in the percentage of households in the middle class during the period 2000 to 2013.
Walker, the Courageous Underachiever: As county executive, Walker not only saw jobs disappear in Milwaukee, but he nearly bankrupted the county, even suggesting breaking it up and selling off the parts. I suppose we should be happy we're not at the bottom of the bottom half of job creating states:
Political Heat
“Gov. Scott Walker can't avoid the latest bad news on jobs in Wisconsin. A new government report shows that our state ranked 32nd in private-sector job growth among the 50 states in the five-year period that ended in June. That's the entire recovery period since the last recession.”
After Punishing WEDC for Mismanagement & Failed Audits, Republicans to return some Funding Cuts: Imagine the GOP putting more money into the GAB after their bad audit, instead of killing it. Did you ever get the idea that nothing the Republicans ever do is a failure, no matter how much taxpayer money is wasted?
JS: Speaker Robin Vos backed off from his idea of rebranding the state's economic development office, but said he is still considering injecting more money into the agency … after talking with officials at the agency and at the local level. "They don't want rebranding because they think WEDC's brand is OK," Vos said.

Troubled businesses have gotten taxpayer-funded incentives, and top officials at WEDC have steadily left the agency. Faced with those problems, GOP lawmakers in July cut $46 million from WEDC over two years, slashing its budget by 41.5%, Top lawmakers last month said they may restore some of that funding.
'Try Christianity' Christmas Greetings from Republican Legislator Scott Allen: Using taxpayer money to push and endorse a religion is okay this time, according to Speaker Robin Vos. Yes, it's our "fly-by-the-Constitutional-seat-of-our-pants" Republicans again, who think crossing that legal line is no big deal. "...consider the hope offered by the Prince of Peace." Along with a few taxpayer supported Bible passages, what's the harm?
Twin Cities: Vos told The Associated Press that Allen made the video in the Legislature's television studio in the state Capitol's basement using state equipment. He said he felt Allen's message was "entirely appropriate. People are really making a mountain out of a molehill," Vos said.
Walker's digging a Deeper Debt Hole! With more Tax Cuts on the Horizon: Supply-side is back to its old tricks, but that just fine, you'll see:
"Follow me down...?"
Cap Times: According to the state's Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report, Wisconsin's general fund GAAP deficit grew in fiscal year 2015 by about 28 percent, from $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion.
I can't help feeling a little anxious about the coming year, and the lack of criticism from conservative voters who can't all be in the tank for this career incompetent.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kleefisch takes Scattershot aim at everything, including what it is to be a responsible gun owner.

Well, well, well, another "responsible" gun owner is caught not being responsible?
Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) said he's been cited for killing two turkeys with one shot.
Yup, that's Lt. Governors Rebecca Kleefisch's hubby Joel, our very own Duck Dynasty gun totin' Republican representative. Nothing more admirable than a responsible gun owner taking responsibility for not being responsible. Hey, he didn't mean to shoot two:
Kleefisch said … he killed the tom as well as a nearby jake with pellets from the same shot … he didn't mean to shoot the jake. He was told he would be cited since he was warned several years ago about being sure of his target when he dropped three geese with one shot.
Yea, he was warned a few times already, and still broke the law. 

Under the measure children under 10 years old would be able to hunt next year … (which he) said studies show lifting the current age requirement for mentored hunting won't lead to more hunting accidents … it's needed to keep the state's hunting tradition alive. The number of new hunters taking up the sport has been declining in recent years.
Kids with guns, is just another dumb law to make irresponsible gun behavior completely legal. Why do you think Republicans want to allow firearms in and around schools? They want to make forgetful irresponsible gun owners responsible law abiding citizens again, the easy way.

My "responsible" conservative friend in Milwaukee continues to unintentionally carry his concealed gun into "No Gun" zones, dismissing it as no big deal, he just wasn't paying attention to the signs.

The comments following the article get it.... 
-These are the same republican legislators the promote concealed carry permit holders having gun battles in crowded shopping malls. I am sure Kleefisch has his hunter safety permit which is all you need in WI to get a CC permit. One of the things they teach in hunter safety is to make sure of your target and what is behind and around it. His hunting privileges should be taken away for three years for this infraction.

-He is at best nothing more than a reckless dope that is carrying a gun. This guy should not be in the legislature making laws, when he is consistently breaking them himself. Time to throw this embarrassment of a legislator out in the next election.

-Kleefizch = the idiot who thought hunting in a Milwaukee county park was OK.

-Now we know why Republicans support lax and ineffective gun laws. They can't even follow basic safety rules. This behavior makes all lawful Hunter's look bad. He's spoiling the sport for the rest of us.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"BernieCare" single payer vs Republican Rube Goldberg free market based health care model.

It's interesting to note that the government already "pays about half of the nation's health care bills." That said, Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to go all the way, with an all inclusive government run system.

Real Freedom and liberty: It's easy to sell this too, which begs the question why Democrats don't run with this; No more surprise bills in the mail, no more paperwork, every doctor is your doctor, every hospital is your hospital, and dental is finally included. Say goodbye to outrageously high long term care insurance policies. A yearly premium for someone making $40,000 equals about one monthly premium in our current system.

Bernie's Plan - Breaking it down to the basics:
(It puts) the $3.2 trillion-a-year U.S. health care system in the hands of the federal government, with states acting as administrative subcontractors.
1. Eliminate such things as insurance premiums, deductibles and copays. In their place would be taxes ... a new 2.2 percent "health care income tax," with higher rates for upper-income earners.

2. Sanders would incorporate Medicare and Medicaid into the new system, promising that patients would have no gaps in coverage.

3. You could go to the doctor or spend two weeks in the hospital and not worry about getting a bill.

4. No insurance premiums, deductibles, cost-sharing or copays, even for brand-name medications. Gone would be worries about being penalized for seeing an out-of-network doctor.

5. Long-term care would be covered, whether in a nursing facility or one's own home.

6. Most dental care would be covered, too.

7. For drugmakers, the single-payer system means government-set prices, a reality they must endure in other countries.
WHAT ABOUT INSURERS? Economic changes, new technologies, and globalization have disrupted many industries. People in the United States have learned to live with fast-paced change, even if they don't like it. Under Sanders' plan insurers would be relegated to selling supplemental coverage for services not covered under the single-payer plan. States could hire them to help administer coverage. But hundreds of thousands of jobs would disappear. Billions of dollars in shareholder equity would evaporate. Sanders has proposed a transition plan for workers displaced by the conversion to single-payer. That plan, too, would have to be paid for with taxes.
1. Administrative savings would come from doing away with layers of insurance company bureaucracy. Those would be offset somewhat because the government bureaucracy would grow.

2. As with Medicaid, states would be expected to cover part of the cost of new system. How much remains to be determined.
Crazy Rube Goldberg Ideas from the Right: Adding to the convoluted GOP list of plans is Dr. Ben Carson, who should know better. Take his plan for Medicare; we already know a seniors ability to manage finances drops dramatically as they get older, so forcing them to shop for health coverage is insane:
Medicare itself would be restructured, providing beneficiaries with a fixed payment for a private insurance plan of their choice. His proposal relies largely on tax-sheltered personal accounts, 'Health Empowerment Accounts," opened for every citizen at birth, to promote patient choice, and foster competition among private insurers ... The tax-sheltered accounts would be paired with high-deductible major medical insurance. Routine costs could be covered from the accounts, which would build up balances with time. Carson would also gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age to 70 from the current age of 65.  
I included Carson's Medicare plan because it's similar to the "free market" GOP vision for health care in general, and the "market oriented" systems in Singapore and Switzerland, which is god awful. Singapore takes a whopping 20% out of your paycheck to pay for in patient health care, but not outpatient, which you pay for on your own. Ouch!

Remember, Bernie Sanders' plan takes only 2.2% out of your paycheck.

You'll notice "cost-efficiency" touted below, but that applies to the government, not to us. We get soaked, leaving our economic security up for grabs. It's a convoluted nightmare. The Atlantic:
Socialized medicine saves money, relative to the American system. Switzerland and Singapore  provide powerful examples of how market-oriented health care systems are more cost-efficient than socialized ones.

In Switzerland, there are no government-run insurance plans, no "public options" ... the Swiss get subsidies, much like "premium support" proposals for Medicare reform or the ACA exchanges, from which Swiss citizens buy health care from private insurers. The subsidies are scaled up or down based on income. Switzerland is high on the league tables in terms of government health spending  ... combining high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts for routine expenditures.

THE SINGAPORE MIRACLE?: Singapore has the most market-oriented system in the world. Singapore's comparable (if not higher) health outcomes, and spends an absurdly low amount on health care relative to the West. The key to the Singapore system is mandatory health savings accounts ... like our Social Security system, Singapore takes mandatory deductions from workers' paychecks--around 20 percent of wages--and deposits them into health savings accounts called Medisave. Medisave accounts are used mostly for inpatient expenses, but ... Singaporeans are expected to pay most of their outpatient expenses with non-Medisave cash.

On top of Medisave, Singapore has a government-run catastrophic insurance program called Medishield. Singaporeans can opt out of that plan and buy private catastrophic insurance. Premiums for Medishield can be paid for using the Medisave health savings accounts.

Then there is Medifund, a safety-net program for the bottom 10 percent of income earners, and Eldershield, a private insurance program for long-term care for those with old age-related disabilities. On top of these government-sponsored programs, Singaporeans can buy supplemental insurance for things like outpatient expenses.

It incorporates the central idea behind free-market health care: that health-care spending is most efficient when that spending is executed by individual patients, rather than third parties. It's easy to waste other people's money. But if that money is your own, you are going to try your best to spend it wisely.
No, it's actually called self rationing, which is never a good idea:
Singapore, of course, isn't a democracy--which allows the government to install sweeping changes that wouldn't be realistic here.

The Swiss and Singaporean models wouldn't be perfect models for America...
Check out this ridiculously biased Cato Institute report on universal care vs market based: 2008 paper by Michael Tanner.) The report points to 4 arguments against single payer, and two of them are the same; long lines and rationing. Really, we don't have waiting periods here to see a specialist, and people that can't pay or are dropped for preexisting conditions isn't rationing?

Texas Republicans Tantrum over ObamaCare raises premiums and subsidies.

Republicans made their point, by increasing the cost of ObamaCare (ACA).

Blame their never-ending tantrum over ObamaCare. Specifically, Republicans hate the risk sharing program (risk corridors, where the program collects insurer profits above a certain threshold and pays out to carriers with excessive losses). Republicans don't want ObamaCare to step in to supposedly "bailout" insurers. Those risk corridors expire after 2016.

So you might be surprised to learn Texas insurers are getting the biggest reimbursements (bailouts). Follow me on this, as we compare Texas to California. Dallas News:
In Texas, insurers lost a combined $377 million in the first year of, according to claims in a federal risk-sharing program. In California, insurers contributed over $180 million in profit to the same program.
ObamaCare works in California:
Covered California ... opted to become an “active purchaser,” negotiating with carriers, standardizing benefits and picking plans for the exchange. California also required policyholders to move into the new marketplace even though many resisted.
Texas did just the opposite, choosing instead to have a tantrum over Obama's broken promise that people could keep their existing plans. So Obama gave in and let people keep their plans and "that affected insurers, because it didn’t force everyone — healthy and sick — into the same pool."
California rejected Obama’s proposal and took some heat. But that “short-term political sacrifice” produced long-term market stability ... That decision helped create a more diverse mix of customers. And “California had the healthiest risk pool of all 50 states.
And because Texas stayed with the old system:
In Texas, insurers are raising premiums, restricting prescriptions, narrowing provider networks and eliminating most out-of-network benefits. 

For 2016, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, the state’s largest insurer ... premiums rising an average of 19 percent. Scott & White increased exchange premiums by over 32 percent. Humana’s up 21 percent, and Cigna and UnitedHealth, over 16 percent.
Raising the price of ObamaCare: Those higher premiums mean higher subsidies, draining ObamaCare:
Higher rates affect about 1 million Texans who buy coverage on and also increase federal subsidies that offset the costs.

In California, exchange premiums are increasing by ... 4 percent next year.

Texas politicians didn’t help the situation. They put up hurdles for federal navigators who helped customers select plans, and they’ve never encouraged enrollment. Not surprisingly, fewer Texans get coverage on the exchange: just 31 percent of those eligible compared with 47 percent in California, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If Texas matched the participation rate in California, over half a million more residents would buy insurance.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Can we finally call Trump's "crazy talk," crazy talk.

I finally found someone that clearly stated what I've been trying to say for years; crazy talk is not, and should never be, any part of a serious debate. And yet, that's what we're now doing.

Saying it much better than I just did, here's New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, responding to a video clip showing Trump joking about not killing journalists like Putin:

"Just hold on...just think about what we just saw. Insanity, it's just insanity. And everyday it becomes a little more normal to all of us, and so we're just kind of...we keep meeting it half way, and we''s insanity we just saw...and everybody is now on the internet quoting this poem 'First they came,'  right, first it's the Mexicans, now it's the Muslims, now it's just journalists. And he's kind of a presidential front runner joking about executing journalists.   Um, but think the question is what is it about our system that provides no checks on the rise of someone like this. And what's it about everybody else, that's not allowing them to tap into the same anger in a constructive way?"
And on the absurd idea that as Americans, we're being asked to seriously give up some of our rights:
"You watch the Democratic debate, the number of questions that were essentially versions of "but which freedoms to we have to give up, which freedoms to we need to give up? Trump set that agenda and now the debate's in this weird kind of psycho-drama where we all end up negotiating with Trump. And so the Democratic debate moderators are saying, 'okay, we're accepting the premise that freedom must be curtailed'...when did we accept that premise?...'and now it's a question of which ones.'" 

Republican wants Gun owners to clean up society of Scum Bags, boycott businesses that deny 2nd Amendment remedies.

One Republican let it all hang out, telling the public just what the Republican mindset is behind the lax, almost nonexistent guns laws in Wisconsin. And it's scary!

Quick story: I remember my conservative gun toting friend in Milwaukee telling me how he often
mistakenly goes into gun free zones with his firearm. It doesn't occure to him that that makes him an irresponsible gun owner. He even carried a gun before it was legal to do so, which made him not just irresponsible, but a criminal. Ask you're responsible gun toting friend if they did the same thing. I'll bet they did.

Reacting to a recent East Towne Mall shooting in Madison between a couple of disputing "responsible" gun owners (until they're not), Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, made it clear yet again that if you didn’t carry a gun, you're asking for it, especially in a gun free zone. It's Bizarro World, opposite day is everyday thinking. 

This should be a national story. It blows the lid off the gun lunacy sweeping the nation. WISC:
"The universal symbol that is now referred to as a 'target rich environment.' Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags. A gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass, as this is how you’re trained to eliminate the threat these creeps pose to you, your family, and all law abiding citizens unwillingly dragged into their public crime spree."
“Criminals no longer have any fear of our courts or our prisons, so it’s time that the citizens of this fine state stand up and fight back … I refuse to spend my money at any business that believes my Second Amendment rights have to be left in my car.” 
WPR came up with this audio quote:
Gannon: "If one in twenty at that mall had the ability to drop the creep, it would sure bring it to a close in a hurry. I refer to that as self defense. If it happens to terminate the bad guy, too bad, so sad-dy." 

The Democratic response came from Rep. Chris Taylor:
"The incident at East Towne Mall was scary, but the answer is not to add more people with guns to the mix, and certainly not to call for private citizens to ‘shoot center mass.   Representative Gannon is living in a James Bond dream world. If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world." 

Taylor cites a Stanford University study that links conceal carry laws to an increase in violent crime.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tea Party Republicans take aim at Paul Ryan.

As much as I hated big parts of the omnibus budget plan, the fact that it got a lot of things out of the way during an election year is a good thing; it's pissing off conservatives nationwide. Yup, Tea Party Republicans might end up doing what Democratic challengers in Wisconsin haven't been able to do; defeat Ryan. 

Like this...
All patriot’s should contact your groups leaders and begin organizing nationwide to put down this RINO in order that he is not re-elected to his seat in Wisconsin. The Badger State patriots need to begin soliciting your State Senators, high-profile business leaders or the State Legislators who reside within the 1st District of Wisconsin.

Apparently nobody in the 1st District has announced any intention of forcing Ryan into a primary, but it is time to locate someone willing to do this who might actually have a chance (with enough grassroots support) at defeating our newest RINO-Speaker. America doesn’t need another John Boehner but that is apparently what we now have as Speaker of the House.
Here's hoping this catches fire:
A facebook page was set up to primary Paul Ryan from Congress.

The page already has 4,335 likes.

There is also a Fire Paul Ryan webpage set up online.

And now this…On Friday the Wisconsin Tea Party declared war on Ryan.

Abandoned Rural Voters waiting for Democrats!

Blue Jean Nation's Mike McCabe should be the first stop for every wayward Democrat who still can't answer a question yes or no; who still muddies up and stumbles around the easiest solutions; and still can't find it in their hearts to outright oppose any part of the Republicans agenda. I personally flame on when I hear them beg to be included, promising to give up every value they hold dear just to be a part of the process. Weakened, bruised and has that worked out?

McCabe's focus is on disenfranchised rural voters, farm communities I've written about ad-nauseam. My growing list of stories, ignored by the party, can be found here. Republicans have all but abandoned them, instituting hard line policies that are killing local control, their schools, roads, and polluting their wells. 

The thing is, Democrats have been on the farmers side for years. And McCabe's advice and consultation is free, so take it. Audio from WPR's Central Time. 

1. Restore home rule. Republicans used to be for local control, now they are controlling the locals. If local communities want to put rules in place to protect their air and water and landscape from sand mining or put limits on high-capacity wells or manure spreading by large-scale animal feedlots, let ’em. Give ’em back control over their schools, their local zoning, their taxation. Let ’em manage their affairs.

2. Keep rural schools open. A local school is a rural community’s bedrock, even to a greater degree than in urban or suburban areas. The rural school is a hub of community activity. Everyone goes to the school play or the high school football game. School district consolidation and school closings have hit many rural communities with the force of a bomb. Anyone who cares about the vitality of rural communities knows that extreme measures need to be taken to keep rural districts viable and their community schools operating.

3. Rethink bypass-happy highway planning. Most every major highway project done any time in recent or distant memory that reaches out into rural areas has featured bypasses of small towns. Think about the impact this has on those communities. Their family-owned cafes and coffee shops and restaurants close. Their main streets die. Shaving a few minutes off your or my travel time can be a death sentence for a small town.  

4. Universal access to high-speed Internet and mobile phone service. Look at a map showing which parts of the U.S. have access to broadband. The urban centers do and the rural areas don’t. The telecommunications industry and its apologists in public office often are heard saying that programs are in place to address this disparity. But the fact remains that in 2015 over half of all rural Americans lack access to high-speed Internet. How can you start a business and compete in today’s economy without access to these services? High-speed Internet and mobile voice are to the 21st Century what telephones were in the 20th, namely essential communications technologies. Essential technologies that remain out of the reach of most rural people.
The last point has more to do with offering free college tuition to all, without regards to income:
5. Stop means testing. Many rural voters oppose programs to help what they regard as the “undeserving” poor is an incredibly important point for Democrats to ponder. For decades now the Democrats have ignored the political law of universality: That the most widely supported and successful government programs are ones where everyone pays and everyone benefits … the party had a big hand in creating things that tangibly benefited everyone … like Social Security and Medicare, rural electrification, the GI Bill and the interstate highway system. Today’s Democrats seem to want to means test everything and target assistance to particular constituencies, which makes their programs highly vulnerable to the divide-and-conquer tactics of the Republicans.

Doing these five things would be enormously helpful to rural areas. But today’s GOP won’t do any of them. They won’t do the first four because today’s breed of Republican is philosophically at odds with the measures required to accomplish those aims. In fact, they are moving in the exact opposite direction. And they won’t do the fifth because it is politically advantageous for them to be able to pit the poor against the nearly-poor. If these five steps are to be taken, it’ll be the Democrats taking them. If enough of them wake up to the need . . . and the opportunity.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Republicans love it: Dark Money now controls Government!

There’s a chance Republicans might be securing themselves a permanent majority party, both statewide and national.

Despite having no unified plan to solve societal problems, Republicans are focused like a laser on being in power forever. They're so sure of themselves that they’re not even worried that someday those the same laws could be used against them by Democrats.

The Dark Money Party: It’s hard to believe anyone would support secret donors pushing completely secret agendas (with the eventual elimination of open records laws), but that's what's happening. Scott Walker just signed into law coordination between campaigns and special interest groups running supposed “issue ads.” Any grownup know those ads are meant to influence elections, but for some reason we can’t honestly and legally say so. AP.
New laws are removing limits on the use and reporting of "dark money" from secret sources. The laws enable coordination between political campaigns and advocacy organizations, something almost all other states forbid.
Common sense tells you something is wrong here.
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, was among those who lobbied against loosening the rules.
"If you legalize the coordination, why would you give $20,000 to Walker when you could give $20,000 to an issue ad group and not have your name disclosed — or you could give an unlimited amount to that same group? It would be stupid to have your name out there if you could do it secretly."
Paul Ryan just Greased the skids to a Corrupt Dark Money free-for-all: It's funny how Walker's latest move fits in with the following jaw dropping addition to the just passed federal omnibus budget deal. Playing off the phony IRS attack on what was an avalanche of tea party groups seeking tax exempt status to influence elections, Ryan slipped this one in. Huffington Post:
A provision buried on page 472 (prevents) the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from taking any action to reign in the political activity of 501(c)4 organizations. These organizations weren't originally supposed to engage in political activity at all. In recent years, however, they've become a favorite of anyone who wants to buy political influence without attracting attention. Since there's no legal requirement that 501(c)4 organizations disclose their donors, anyone can use them as a vehicle to pour unlimited money into our political system.

As former Republican Federal Election Commissioner Trevor Potter has pointed out, even foreign nationals and governments could use 501(c)4s to quietly influence U.S. policy.

Let that sink in folks: Rather than allow the IRS to prevent the abuse of tax-exempt nonprofit status for purely political purposes by both parties, Congress has specifically banned the agency from taking any kind of action -- even at the risk of allowing secret foreign money to poison our elections.
This has Paul Ryan's finger prints all over it. He's got a proven track record of radical bills that would scare the living crap out of voters. Take a look at the list HERE. Add to the proliferation of dark money groups this gem...
On a similar note, another provision tucked away on page 1,982 prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring corporations to disclose their political spending.

This is especially outrageous because disclosure is one of the least controversial and most basic steps toward reform the government can take. As noted by the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik, even the Supreme Court made a point of emphasizing the need for disclosure in its widely reviled Citizens United ruling:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority:"With the advent of the Internet ... prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters ... determine whether their corporation's political speech advances the corporation's interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are 'in the pocket' of so-called moneyed interests."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Walker writes another JS opinion fairy tale.

I guess it’s all in how you look at criticism. 

Scott Walker and every Republican in the legislature represents the uber-conservative wing of the party, the activists who will go to any length to pass their agenda. The voters are sadly starting to catch up.

Framing the Criticism: Criticism, to Walker and like-minded conservatives, is always coming from their “opponents.” Claiming the mantle of infallibility is never a good starting point in a multi-party system of government.

So here's how Walker started off his recent JS commentary:
Many of our political opponents seem to be frustrated with the positive progress being made in our state (see Rep. Daniel Riemer's Dec. 10 column ). Thankfully, the facts point to a true comeback story.
A true comeback? Only if you believe the middle-class is doing just fine. 
Middle-class taxpayers are better off in Wisconsin today than we were five years ago.
Nope, but if he's says it enough, people will believe it. from March, 2015:
WSJ: Despite a new report showing Wisconsin has the fastest-shrinking middle class in the U.S., the Gov. Scott Walker administration says the state is headed in the right direction. 
Same script, same lie. And because Wisconsin has always been near the middle or back end of job creation, it's reasonable to assume the low unemployment rate would have happened anyway, thanks to an improving economy. But Walker will take full credit anyway.
Walker: "Property taxes are lower on a median-valued home than they were five years ago — Income taxes are also lower..."
And what did we give up for that? We defunded our parks, dramatically defunded the UW, made some of the biggest cuts to K-12 in the nation, defunded the DNR, and won't fund transportation for road building/repair. The fact that the state didn't collapse right away means its working. High bar, huh?

Voucher Disaster Alert: Achievement Gap worst in nation: After 25 years of vouchers, promoted as a way to help minorities escape their failing schools, our achievement gap is now the worst in the nation. But vouchers are set to expand anyway. Forget the achievement gap, just focus on the overall state scores, which are still impressive:
Walker: "Schools are doing better. High school graduation rates are up again — now ranking third in the nation. Reading scores are up in fourth and eighth grades. ACT scores are second best in the nation."
Well, sure, that's because the state is still using Common Core, which is about to come to an end, and vouchers hasn't completely defunded our public schools yet...but that's coming too.

Frozen Tuition's won't be for long: Set to expire in 2017, Walker's artificially frozen tuition gimmick will result in huge future increases. I mean really, get serious:

Walker: "For the first time in University of Wisconsin history, in-state tuition is frozen at all UW campuses for four years in a row. That makes college more affordable for our students and working families."
And don't get me started on Walker's costly mistake not taking Medicaid expansion, and his liberal use of taxpayer money to pay off the hospitals treating the uninsured who now can't afford health insurance due to co-pays and deductibles:  
Walker: "During my time as governor, we eliminated the waiting list for Medicaid access to health care for people living in poverty and helped those above poverty transition into the workplace."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Walker Republicans working up to Secret Government, attempt after attempt after attempt....

Republicans talk big about "integrity" and "public confidence" in government, a joke to be sure, but closing that government to the public isn't one way they'll ever get that done.

And pretending communications between lobbying and elected officials is unimportant and off limits for public scrutiny is doubly insulting. They got caught, and are now backtracking:
State officials are backing away from their effort to ease the requirements for maintaining public records following a backlash among open government advocates.

The board that oversees state public records will instead revisit its August vote on so-called transitory records, such as texts and other messages deemed to have only temporary value, its chairman Matthew Blessing said ThursdayThe August action by the Public Records Board could limit the access of citizens and media outlets to information from texts, emails, Facebook messages and other electronic methods that public employees might use to communicate about official actions.
If you think state officials will make this go away, you're mistaken, they're still going to make texts messaging exempt:
...the board "will place those items on a detailed agenda for an upcoming meeting."
And just like before, when Walker threatened to do away with our open records laws, he took a few steps back hoping to deflect blame, for now anyway. Too late...
A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker distanced the governor's office from the issue. "The Public Records Board has been in place long before the governor took office and has received no directive from our office," Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said.
Still, Walker tried to make it seem like his governorship is open to the public:
"Occasionally, when I get emails or texts on my own personal phone, I forward those to my state account so it's easy for us to do a search on those," Walker said. "So they're actually in the state system" ... he tries to document texts or other communication he receives on his personal cellphone."
Of course he does, since they're really part of the public record. But in reality, Walker would make those emails and texts "transitory," off limits.

The same day he made these comments, two former administration officials admitted they were told to keep important communications secret. No, really, it was that quick:
But on Friday, a new report found former members of Walker's cabinet say the administration has had a policy of communicating official business through private channels. Peter Bildsten, former secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions, and Paul Jadin, former head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., told the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that they were instructed in Walker's first term by then-Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch not to use official email or state telephones to relay important information or documents. Huebsch said, "Don't send me an email of anything important on my state computer, and don't call me on anything of importance on my state phone. If you have anything of consequence or importance, call me on your personal phones or walk it over."
Because open government and open records is so important to the Walker authority?
jsonline: "And that is how most communications were handled going forward," Bilsten told Dee J. Hall of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Jadin said he remembers Huebsch "bragged" about not using email and "making a big deal about what emails were discoverable."
Huebsch went as far as to throw both important members of Walker's cabinet under the bus, in an incredible juvenile moment of lying:
Huebsch, who now serves on the Public Service Commission, denied he told cabinet members "to avoid making public records" and said the allegation that he told them not to use state telephones is "ludicrous. In this era of 'gotcha' politics, where opponents and some journalists use anything available not just to embarrass but destroy, extra caution is essential."

Walker's Wisconsin 37th in Private Sector Job Growth. June to June Slowest since Great Recession ended.

Ask a “Stand with Walker” supporter about how well the governor is doing, and you’ll get rave reviews. Sadly, the reason has less to do with Walker’s jobs and business success than it has to do with their satisfaction level of just being in power.

The latest bad news about job growth will again get the Walker treatment; distract supporters by talking about the low unemployment rate, which by itself, is another manipulated area of failure; Walker made it more difficult to get and/or stay on unemployment, and the exodus of labor leaving the state for higher wage jobs elsewhere.

And yet the consequences of simply keeping Republican politicians in power, no matter how bad it gets, continues to mount; slow job growth, increased utility rates, a eventual dramatic hike in tuition, declining wages, and local referendums to increase taxes for schools and road funding. 

Many of us knew we were in trouble when conservative voters we’re high-fiving Walker’s $1 cut in property taxes. Pathetic?

Wisconsin is slipping nationally again…but so what right:
WPR: The latest "gold standard" job numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Wisconsin ranked 37th in the nation in private-sector job growth from June 2014 to June 2015.

Wisconsin also ranked eighth out of 10 Midwest states. Among states that share a border with Wisconsin, only Iowa added jobs at a slower rate.
And while Walker bashes Obama for the nations higher unemployed non-participation rate, it’s just another distraction: 
Overall, Wisconsin added 30,759 private-sector jobs, a growth rate of nearly 1.3 percent. By comparison, the national economy added jobs at a rate of 2.3 percent.

This June-to-June period was one of the slowest for Wisconsin since the Great Recession ended.
Here are the numbers from a June report:

During the four years of Walker's first term, Wisconsin ranked last among its peer states in the Midwest, a region that shares a common economy of factory cities and farm towns. Wisconsin's 35th job-creation ranking trailed Michigan (10th), Indiana (18th), Minnesota (23rd), Ohio (25th), Iowa (31st) and Illinois (33rd).
It should also be noted how big money from big business, especially during Walker's presidential fund raising, had the attention of Republican politicians, when they should have been focusing in on smaller business startups:
Research Finds Wisconsin Is Home To Fewest Startups In The Nation: Ask WMC Leader Jim Morgan why Wisconsin comes in dead last in the race to attract new entrepreneurs, and he'll tell you it all comes down to perception.
The Walker war on Milwaukee has had an especially negative impact on startup businesses, the real source of job creation:
Wisconsin looks like a lagging state in technology entrepreneurship, said Greg Meier, managing director of WERCBench Labs, an accelerator for Milwaukee-area tech start-ups. The issue is particularly acute in and around Milwaukee, which is in a "deficit situation" in terms of technology innovators, Meier said. "The rest of the world isn't waiting for us to catch up," Meier said.

Start-ups create more jobs than established entities, he said. "We reap the seeds we sow at the end of the day," Meier said, "but we sow very few seeds in terms of entrepreneurship."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ryan's Omnibus bill abandons American workers for cheap imported labor and waters down prevailing wages.

Rep. Paul Ryan has done so little to help labor and business in Wisconsin, it’s almost stunning. As House speaker, Ryan is taking that attitude nationwide.

Even my conservative friend in Milwaukee alerted me to this story via his most reliable news source, Breitbart. It wasn’t as badly written as almost everything else is there, but still, I’m ready to go with The Hill’s story first:
The $1.1 trillion omnibus bill includes language that would dramatically increase the number of visas available for foreign workers … The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars … intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.
I can see a need for agricultural labor, that's always been an issue, but this is ridiculous. The changes were spread out and almost unnoticeable in the 2,000-page budget (see pictures).

And after getting caught undermining American labor, surprise, it wasn't exactly Paul Ryan’s fault. Hey, he never did promise to protect American workers specifically. He just promised not to provide a path to citizenship. Come on, you knew that right?
A House GOP aide said the visa provision was written by the Judiciary Committee, and that the Speaker was not involved. The aide added that Ryan did not pledge that he wouldn’t touch any programs related to immigration.
Ryan's a true leader. But the bills threat to labor is real, no matter how fast Ryan backs away from taking responsibility. Oh, and he’s not exactly promising to immediately change the provisions either. 

Even Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions blasted the attack on labor. Pinch me I must be dreaming:
“These foreign workers are brought in exclusively to fill blue collar non-farm jobs in hotels, restaurants, construction, truck driving, and many other occupations sought by millions of Americans. The GOP-led Congress is about to deliver Obama a four-fold increase to one of the most controversial foreign worker programs. The result? Higher unemployment and lower wages for Americans.” Sessions estimates the number of H-2B visas will soar from 66,000 to 250,000 because of the language in the omnibus.

NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for reduced legal immigration levels, criticized Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for allowing the provision into the omnibus after pledging to look out for American workers. “H-2B visas are for low-skilled foreign workers who typically compete with people who have a high school diploma or less and these are the people who are struggling the most. These are the people that Ryan seemed to be referencing in his speech and yet he sneaks in a provision in the omnibus that’s going to quadruple the number of low-skilled foreign worker visas.”

Ryan is also going after prevailing wages, like his old friend Scott Walker did in Wisconsin, leaving that decision up for corporate abuse. Here's that section of the bill:

So much for "Ryan calling on Congress to look after working-class families."
The AFL-CIO and the International Labor Working Group also took aim at the visa provision, warning it would lead to exploitation of foreign workers and Americans losing jobs. “The language basically rolls back protections for low-wage workers and guest workers and American workers in this industry while lowering the protections for workers” … it would also water down workers’ protections in dangerous industries such as forestry and seafood harvesting. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Republican low: Kill the innocent families of terrorists!

The party of sociopaths? That would explain how Republicans could so easily ignore the horror of the Newtown massacre, and every other mass shooting since. Their callous indifference should have been a major tip-off.

The GOP presidential debate solidified that point in the most brutal way when the blood thirsty crowd supported of the idea expressed in the headline story pictured to the right by Sam Stein.

Make no mistake, this really is the path Republicans want to take us down, as a nation.
Donald Trump: “We have to be much tougher, we have to be much stronger than we've been. We have people that know what is going on … I would be very, very firm with families. And frankly, that will make people think, because they may not care much about their lives. But they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives.”

Dr. Ben Carson: “You have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it's actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks.”

When co-moderator Hugh Hewitt, no shrinking violet when it comes to conservatism, asked Carson if he was “OK with the deaths of thousands of innocents children and civilians,” the crowd mercilessly booed.
How long will it be before Republicans rationalize going after other perceived enemies, like the Democrats? Isn't it time they took their country back? Like Jeb said:
"The idea that that is a solution to this, is just crazy!"

Here's a string of tweets during the debate:

Jeb Bush's Trickle Down Plan Forces Cuts to Safety Net Programs.

Republicans are back at it again, proposing massive tax cuts that will only result in massive revenue shortfalls.

Now it's Jeb Bush's turn to offer up another crisis creating trickle down budget.

That means cutting social safety net programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, education, etc.. This is getting so old.

Economist Jared Bernstein wrote this about the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analysis of Jeb Bush’s proposed tax cuts. The TPC’s findings:
First, the Bush plan lowers tax rates on both individuals and businesses, on both earnings and investment income. It repeals the estate tax, and shifts to a territorial system for multi-national corporations (meaning they don’t have to pay U.S. taxes on foreign earnings). 

TPC estimates that the plan would lose $6.8 trillion in the first decade relative to the current tax code, and $8.6 trillion in the next decade; that’s 2.6 and 2.3 percent of expected GDP over these years. 
And because this is another iteration of trickle down economics, the trillion dollar budget losses will be offset magically with cuts to discretionary spending, which really isn't discretionary at all.

Creating a Budget Crisis to Cut our Safety Nets: As the TPC pointed out:
If the deficit effect is as large as we estimate, government borrowing would push up interest rates and crowd out private investment, possibly offsetting some or all of the positive incentive effects. The campaign has said it intends to cut spending to offset any revenue loss from its tax cuts. Offsetting a deficit this large would require very large cuts in entitlement and discretionary spending.
Take a look at who benefits again in the chart. Big surprise? Still, conservative voters don't mind getting the tax cuts scraps. Behold the results of supply side economics:

Ryan's big gift to Big Oil will cost consumers at the pump.

It's not unexpected to see the Republican Party, foot servants to Big Oil, hand their favorite deep pocketed lobbyists another big win, all at the expense of the American driving public:
AP: Congressional leaders and the White House have reached agreement on a massive year-end tax and spending package ... An end to the ban on U.S. crude oil exports ... Lifting the decades-old export ban has been a top energy priority for Republicans for more than a year ... the liberalisation of exports will help companies producing in the US by enabling them to find the most profitable markets for their oil.
But that's going to raise the price of gasoline. The "abundant" supply of U.S. oil will disappear, costing consumers more in the long run:
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is throwing another proposal into the mix with his idea that certain oil refiners — who are likely to see reduced profits if oil exports are allowed and domestic prices increase as a result — should get tax credits in the deal.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Should everybody get a "universal basic income" in the U.S.?

Finland is getting rid of the welfare state in 2017 and replacing it with something called a "universal basic income."

Tired of wealth redistribution to the poor? Well this is it. No cheating, fraud and no purposely embarrassing hoops to make poor people jump through. Everybody gets the same un-taxed monthly check regardless of income. Simple, but can it work, and how will it cover those who will still fall through the cracks? Here's the fascinating story:
In 2017, Finland will introduce a type of universal basic income scheme, in which most of the country's welfare state will be abolished and replaced with a single €800 (£579, $879) per month stipend, payable to all Finns, regardless of their income, tax-free.

Citizens of Finland will be allowed to spend it in any way they want. No longer will state benefits be doled out based on the status, personal circumstances, or the qualifications of the applicant. Everyone gets €800 a month.

Basic income is one of the most-discussed, least implemented macro-economic ideas. Basic or universal income enjoys support ... Both Marxists and libertarians have proposed basic income schemes. Milton Friedman was an early proponent.

Left-wingers like it because it dramatically allows the collective wealth of a nation to be shared in way that provides support for all. It does away with the punitive, humiliating nature of collecting welfare benefits. No more food stamps, credits, or housing benefit, where the state decides for you what its largesse can be spent on.

Conservatives like it because it kills off the massive administrative bureaucracy required to handle hundreds of micro-benefits and all the application paperwork they generate. It makes the state smaller. And because it leaves the money directly in the hands of individuals — rather than as credits or forced payments for certain services like energy or food — it lets the market decide what the cash gets spent on. The poor can now pay the rent or play the casino, with no further moral requirement for the state to step in.

In Finland, €800 a month will cost the government €52.2 billion a year. The government's revenue for 2016 is €49.1 billion. In theory, the shortfall should not be a problem because not every Finn is an adult (only those of working age will receive it) and richer Finns' payments will be taxed. In addition, the end of other social programmes should produce savings.

This is the other part of the huge appeal of basic income: it's technically neutral on the government's income statement, but everyone will instantly be able to see how much tax they're paying and how much welfare they're receiving in return.

One of the criticisms of basic income is that it would kill off the desire to work. Few studies have been done of this, but those that have indicate that people only reduce their work hours by a small amount on average.

The fact that a fiscally neutral basic income scheme would pay out only £423 per month per adult (€585 or $644) means almost everyone receiving it would still need a job. £423 a month is simply not enough to survive — or even pay rent — in most areas of Britain.

It might disincentivize some work, however. Young people living for free with their parents might suddenly feel rather rich. And that would mean employers currently offering unpleasant jobs with low pay might need to increase their pay rates or go out of business.

That might not be a bad thing: A basic income pre-supposes that most people want to work anyway, because productive activity is how we create meaning and identity. Basic income would give workers the freedom to not be forced into the jobs that no one wants — think about rubbish collectors — or to let people grow richer by taking on those onerous tasks. It might force society to revalue unpleasant but necessary tasks, and reward them more justly.

It would alter the labour market in favour of labour, in other words.
Check out this Wisconsin research experience,  similar to the basic income, but known back then as a "negative income tax."
Researchers in the Office of Economic Opportunity, the brain trust for Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the midsixties, began planning a large-scale field experiment of the idea. Several sites in New Jersey were ultimately selected for the test, which was launched in 1968 with the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty in charge of the research and a Princeton-based firm, Mathematica Inc., in charge of field operations and data collection.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Republicans ignore Jobs, Wages, Business Startups...dream up ways to stay in Power.

Imagine finally electing a Democratic governor, bringing to an end one party Republican rule. Well, that's not going to make much difference if Republicans get their way.

The scheme is simple and costly to taxpayers: Our Republican gerrymandered legislature is planning to insert their own partisan “inspector generals” into the governors agencies to supposedly stop what they would call “waste, fraud and abuse.” Hey, it’s just oversight of the executive branch, that’s all, a not so separation of powers grab.

And it would cost every budget tight department hundreds of thousands of dollars. LaCrosse Tribune:
Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill that … could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars and open the door to cronyism, according to critics.
Not mentioned in the article? How this proposal sets up an earlier Republican idea that would get rid of the Legislative Audit Bureau. That didn't go over very well, but who knows, maybe no one will notice this time.

And with their partisan “inspector generals” in place for 6 years, they could muck up and delay state agencies until another election cycle.
Rep. David Craig and Sen. Stephen Nass’ proposal calls for 13 inspectors general … assigned to investigate waste, fraud and abuse across 16 state agencies, including the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the departments of Administration, Corrections, Natural Resources and Public Instruction.
And what about conveniently timed “investigations:”
Legislative leaders also could direct the inspectors general to investigate agencies.
Of course they could. 
The inspectors general would be more pro-active than the Legislative Audit Bureau, which typically launches its reviews after the fact, they said. The party that controls the Legislature can further entrench itself by placing its inspectors general appointees within state agencies for six years. The inspectors general may feel beholden to launch or drop investigations according to partisan wishes.

Matt Rothschild, executive director of government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, warned “This could increase cronyism. It could increase corruption. It could entrench one-party rule. All three of those things are bad for democracy.”
You might have noticed the enemy of public education and the UW, Sen. Steve Nass, will have his inspector hitman inside the university to dig up another convenient phony outrage to cut even more funding.