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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Margaret Jane Bullock Johaningsmeir, 2001-2010



update: thanks to everyone for your kind words and good thoughts about Maggie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Republicans are all about the deficit

by folkbum

Increasing it, that is:



It's an old fetish. Like Reagan old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dear Politi"fact" Wisconsin

by folkbum

Sirs,

It has come to my attention that you have recently deemed two Democrats worthy of "pants on fire" status. This is amusing, no doubt, to those who find immolation to be a hoot-n-a-half. But beyond the offense that may be taken among the pre-immolated and the professional firefighting community, the awards--to Julie Lassa (via the DCCC) and Rep. Steve Kagen--betray a frightening amount of willful ignorance on the part of the, I think you call them, "fact checkers" at your employ when it comes to Social Security.

To wit, a small but not insignificant portion of this morning's laugh riot:
Here is what [Up Nort' candidate Reid] Ribble actually said, based on a longer video of the same statement posted on YouTube. We’ll highlight where the new words pick up.

"Somehow we have to establish a phase-out of the current Social Security system to a new system. And that will have to happen over time. It could happen in a single generation."

Ribble goes on to discuss how the life expectancy of Americans has grown since Social Security was established in the 1930s, and its effect on the system.

"It has to change," Ribble said of Social Security. "It will bankrupt this country if it doesn’t change."
It is remarkable to consider that your application of the "pants on fire" label was not awarded to this very statement itself. For you see, Mr. Ribble--are you sure he's not a Muppet?--is spinning quite the tale about bankruptcy.

The numbers, unlike Mr. Ribble, do not lie. If you believe, as the right-wing hand-wringers do, that the moment Social Security starts dipping into its trust fund, the sky will shatter and fall impaling us all with sharp daggers of fiscal doom, then 2015 is the big date. 2037 is the other big date. Over the course of those 22 years, the Social Security Trust Fund will pay out about $4.2 trillion in interest and principal on the treasury bonds it holds. Or an average of $191 billion a year.

This is a lot of money. It is more money than you or I put together can ever hope to make in a lifetime. It is, however, small potatoes comparatively. The Pentagon's annual budget is nearly four times that, for example. And the total federal budget today is 18 times that. To suggest that such a small number is enough to "bankrupt" us, particularly when no such claim is made about hugeanticon defense budgets or the ginormous hole favored tax cuts would leave in the budget, is a bald lie. Indeed, expiration of all the Bush tax cuts, on schedule for the end of the year (but possibly to be stopped in a lame duck session that may or may not still let them expire for the very wealthy dear jebus just shoot me in the head now the Democrats are blowing this one too) would cover the Social Security Trust Fund and then some.

After 2037, when the fund would be exhausted, there would still be a shortfall of about 22% of promised benefits between income (in the payroll tax) and outflow. This would amount to $5.4 trillion through 2084. Over those 47 years the annual cost to cover that shortfall is a mere $115 billon, even less than the non-bankrupting amount already discussed.

In short, sirs, the technicality by which you ascribe liarliar status to anyone who accuses Republicans of wanting to dismantle Social Security ("they'll replace it with something!" you cheerily wave into the ether), is a mere whiff of smoke compared to heaping mounds of burning Dockers Republicans have been shoving at Americans for decades. Social Security is not going broke. It is not going to bankrupt the country. It is not going to disappear before you or I or your grandkids retire unless Republicans destroy it.

Which they will. Mr. Ribble says he wants to replace Social Security with "something"--perhaps pixie dust and bottled genii. Rep. Paul Ryan wants to give people "guaranteed personal accounts," whatever that means, which is "a good starting point," according to Reality TV wunderkind Sean Duffy. Now, you want to talk about bankruptcy, Ryan's plan will do it. In spades.

Howso? Because Ryan is promising the same dollar to two people. You and I are paying into Social Security right now, and that money is going out to grammy in her monthly check. Ryan wants the money you and I pay to go into a "guaranteed personal account" and in grammy's monthly check, since he promises currently and nearly retired folk won't see their benefits change. Suddenly, the shortfall goes from almost nothing in 2011 to hundreds of billions, years earlier than expected. By the time currently and nearly retired folk finally keel over and stop soaking up the gummint largesse--say, 25 years from now, maybe--the cumulative new debt from the transition would be somewhere on the order of an additional $4 or $5 trillion!

And remember, Paul Ryan is the serious numbers guy!

So, sirs, in the future, please be certain that you aim your pantsafire judgments squarely at those telling the greater falsehoods. Mr. Ribble, Sean Duffy, Paul Ryan, and Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson have all been spreading lies about Social Security and need to be called to account. And, as you have appointed yourselves arbiters of all that is true or false in the world, get to work on that, please.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FriTunes

by folkbum



Apparently, Ani DiFranco turned 40 this week. She's one of those performers who was like "my age" and making a living doing the singer-songwriter thing when I was in college. So now I feel old. :(

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dissing Social Security sure is Ponz-ular

or, No One Ever Went Broke Scaring You Into Thinking Social Security's Going Broke

by folkbum

Every six months, I send a big chunk of dough to American Family to insure my car. That money doesn't go into a safe with my name on it. Instead, that money goes into 1) a set of investments designed to increase AmFam's long-term financial stability and 2) the settlement payouts of other clients found to be at fault. Someday, I will (sadly, not too long ago, I did) need AmFam to pay for an accident myself. When that happens, the payout will come from the immediate cashflow of the company--the premiums their other customers are paying at that moment.

If you're Ron Johnson, or Rick Esenberg, or Nick Schweitzer, or any one of countless others on the right, that makes American Family insurance--hell, any insurance--a Ponzi scheme.

For after all, Social Security, which all of the above have happily (though RoJo's backing away? maybe?) called a Ponzi scheme, does exactly the same thing. We pay into it, the SSA invests some, and they use the rest to pay out benefits to other people.

Hell, the RoJos and Esenbergs and Schweitzers of the world would have beaten George Bailey to death in the bank, screaming at him about putting their money in Joe's house.

No, actually probably not. See, there's a political advantage to trashing Social Security that doesn't exist in trashing banks and insurance companies and every other operation that exists with a similar structure. We have been told for decades that Social Security is going bankrupt and will not be there for (me, you, your children, the creepy guy next door who peeks in your window, take your pick), and it has worked. Polls consistently show that people believe remarkable falsehoods about Social Security. And when you have people scared about Social Security, there's a campaign issue for you.

To be fair to the bloggers above, they try offering arguments. Probably because they, too, believe the falsehoods and have to twist and turn to make sense. Esenberg:
People like Jay who defend the system like to say that the government won't or can't default on those bonds. It certainly can. Congress could repudiate the bonds, although it likely won't. The problem - the one that Jay elides by saying that the trust fund "can pay" out benefits for a number of years - is what it would take to pay those benefits.

The trust fund can't just write a check. It must redeem those bonds, i.e., call in the government's IOU to itself. The government can't just write a check to honor the bonds because it doesn't have the money. It must either raise taxes or borrow more money. To the extent that this cannot be done, benefits must be reduced. Thus taxpayers who have paid "extra" as "we went" really have nothing to draw on. They must either forego benefits or impose even higher taxes on younger people.
Let's pretend for a second that the trust fund isn't really what is and instead is, like my mythical AmFam payments sitting in a safe. Every dollar spent from that trust fund would have been deficit spending (or higher taxes) over the last thirty years. If it was okay (or would have been) to deficit spend back then--on star wars, the war in Iraq, "ending welfare as we know it," whatever--why is it suddenly anathema to raise taxes or deficit spend to keep a promise we've made to our elders and poor? And it wouldn't take much: Social Security will continue to draw revenue that nearly meets the promised benefits for many years, bottoming out at between 75% and 80% of benefit levels. Small tweaks now--lifting the cap on taxable income, or redefining income to include more than just wages, or pushing the payroll tax up a smidge--would make future work to meet those promises much easier (either because you believe in the trust fund or because current deficits will be lower).

Schweitzer:
My question [. . .] is... where is the choice with Social Security? Yes, Social Security doesn't deceive anyone... everyone does in fact know how it works... or at least should. But Social Security has one advantage that no privately run Ponzi Scheme has... there is no choice in whether or not you participate. I belong to an entire generation of people who truly believe that we will not get anything from Social Security. [ed: see! I told you!] I am planning my retirement on the idea that Social Security will not pay me one red cent. I have to. I know exactly how Social Security operates, and I can also see demographics and how population is changing. There simply won't be enough people to pay me once I rise to the top of the pyramid.
For this, I defer to erstwhile Republican Charlie Crist, who makes a salient point: "There are other ways we can help fund it, by creating a pathway to citizenship. [. . . I]f we have those 11 to 14 million people productively participating in the American economy and paying the payroll taxes that would be attended to it, that would help Social Security." There is a labor force in this country willing and waiting to contribute to our financial health--and Nick's financial future--but the same forces scaring the pants off of you about the safety of Social Security are also busy scaring you about the Brown Menace because, you know, that too makes a good election issue. What's good for the country is bad for electoral fortunes.

And it's those fears that RoJo and his political allies are counting on, and apparently winning, in their quest to return to the freewheeling Bush years of no regulation and vast income growth for the already well-off. Esenberg and Schweitzer have become willing tools in that quest.

Well then, what does work?

by folkbum

I noted yesterday that a recent study of performance pay (where "performance" means "your kids get higher standardized test scores) showed that even big-money incentives for teachers had little effect on students. So what will?

As I have written here repeatedly, we have a good idea what we need to do to improve achievement among our worst students, and all of the solutions are ones that a time- and resource-intensive. Significantly. The LA Times ran an op-ed from David Kirp yesterday that made this plain: "Effective education can't be accomplished on the cheap," he says. But he's not talking about paying me or other teachers more.

Instead, things that do work include high-quality preschools, keeping schools open more days and longer hours, much smaller class sizes, and better-funded schools in general. Beyond what's in Kirp's op-ed, we know that other models held up as great successes--things like SEED schools or the Harlem Children's Zone--do what they do in large part because they are supported in significant ways by funds not available to schools that consistently underperform.

If you want to make closing the achievement gap and improving education in the worst areas, make real investments in children's lives and communities rather than throw carrots and sticks at the teachers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I doubt that

by folkbum

The lede of a Washington Post story on teacher merit pay:
Offering teachers incentives of up to $15,000 to improve student test scores produced no discernible difference in academic performance, according to a study released Tuesday, a result likely to reshape the debate about merit pay programs sprouting in D.C. schools and many others nationwide.
I don't doubt the first part, that such incentives, especially when tied to things teachers see as unimportant, like test scores, are ineffective. That resonates as a billion percent true with me.

It's the second part, that this study will have an effect on the debate, that rings false. Of course it won't have an effect on the debate: Those pushing merit pay almost exclusively do so for ideological reasons (gotta make schools like "the market"!), and reality simply never enters into their consciousness. So good luck changing that debate one bit.

Ron Johnson: Too much crazy for one paragraph

by folkbum

But Steve Benen tries mightily:

Ron Johnson is one of the year's stranger Senate candidates (and in 2010, that's saying something). He's the far-right candidate who rails against government intervention in private industry, but has sought and received federal aid for his business enterprises. He thinks "sunspots" cause global warming, which doesn't make any sense. He's argued that China is better for businesses than the United States. He thinks Greenland has snow because of global cooling. At the height of the BP oil spill disaster, he said he'd sell his BP stock, just as soon as it was more profitable for him.

Much better at encompassing all the crazy is the Awl, which thoroughly skewers the man. If you read one thing today, make it this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chairman Johnson's Workers' Paradise

by folkbum

If only the US Business climate were more like China's, Ron Johnson wistfully dreams. Really?
In China, death from overwork is so common, there's a word for it: guolaosi. But despite the fact that guolaosi kills over 600,000 Chinese workers a year, working conditions in China are improving. And consumers in the West can help prevent guolaosi deaths by demanding fairly-produced goods from China.

Yan Li's family knows the meaning of guolaosi far too well. Li worked for a Foxconn factory in Southern China where he helped assemble components for iPads, Playstations, and mobile phones. He stood on the assembly line in one place, making the same tiny motion with his wrist all day. Sometimes, according to his family, his shifts would last for 24 hours. Sometimes up to 35 hours at a time. Li had no trade union, no group to represent his interests, and if he had tried to form one he'd probably have been imprisoned or killed. This went on until one day 27-year-old, otherwise healthy Li finished a particularly long shift and dropped dead.

Gualoisi is not uncommon in China. In fact, China Daily estimates that up to 600,000 workers a year die from overwork. That figure includes many workers like Li who are young and have no serious health problems before starting brutally strenuous jobs. It also includes workers who commit suicide to escape abusive work environments, which incidentally, happened to another worker at Li's factory the same night he died. These deaths occur at factories that make things all of us have in our home and use daily — cell phones, computers, car parts, etc. The factory where Li died might have made the computer I'm writing this story on, on the one you're using to read it. (via)
For our sakes, lets hope Chairman Ron doesn't get to set economic policy for the US anytime soon.

(Also worth wondering why then PACUR hasn't been shipped to China, like lots of Bemis's other suppliers.)

Crickets

by folkbum

The righty blogs were all kinds of giddy over weekend revelations that a minor union cog stood outside a bar puffing himself up to a stranger about how he was almost single-handedly going to bring down the Walker campaign for governor. John-david Morgan couldn't even get the names or job titles of his alleged conspirators right, yet his drunk-talk was taken as gospel evidence of illegal coordination and a complex, interconnected web of operatives planning unspeakable horrors in the weeks to come.

So I waited with great curiosity to see how those same righty blogs would react to documentary evidence of actual coordination between the state Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, and local Tea Party groups to engage in voter caging. In addition to, this time, the operatives getting the names and titles right, you have the people involved initially lying to the press to cover up what they had done.

You might be surprised to learn that all of this has been met, by the righties, with dead silence. Well, no, you're probably not surprised. I know I'm not.

CAVEAT: Since the story broke, Charlie Sykes hasn't been on the air. It's entirely possible that he will jump on this story later this morning, condemning the people involved in no uncertain terms (perhaps while getting their job titles wrong, too!), and then the herd will dutifully follow with their own critiques of the state GOP, AFP, and the Tea Parties. And if you believe that, I have some great lakefront property to sell that you may be interested in ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chart of the Day, Get Some Perspective Edition

by folkbum

We're nearing the 9-year anniversary of our latest Grand Adventure overseas. Here's a graph I'm stealing from ED Kain (who got it from here). You'll have to click on it or one of the links just now to read the type. But that's part of what makes it stunning.




Bonus chart of the day, from Kevin Drum, which offers a similar whack in the head on a different subject entirely:



This is a chart of share of income as it has changed in the past 30 years. On the left is 1979, and the brown line, one of only two to see positive growth in share of income (and it has doubled!) is the top 1% of households. The blue line is the next 4% of households. Some--not all!--of these folks would pay a few percent more tax only on income they earn over $250,000 under plans by Democrats. Republicans don't want to let that happen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Benefit of the doubt

by folkbum

I'm sure that Scott Walker's re-issue of his months-old vague jobs plan as a "new" 68-page large-print "book" happened simply because Walker's campaign staff is putting the final touches on that long-overdue county budget.

Friday, September 17, 2010

FriTunes: Reminder--see me perform live tomorrow!

by folkbum

Just a reminder that Saturday, Sept. 18, my pal Chris Head and I will be doing our annual fall show at the Coffee House. More info here. I expect to see all of you.

Also, too, I will not be playing this song:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ron Johnson: Vote for me, because I don't understand how Social Security works, either

by folkbum

How long is this list, now, of things millionaire Senate candidate Ron Johnson doesn't seem to understand how they work? There's global warming, which he thinks is "just" caused by sunspots. There are industrial revenue bonds, which he thinks have no government subsidy attached. There's being a "self-made" man, which he thinks happens by marrying into wealth.

Now, he boldly and unequivocally tells teevee watchers that he doesn't know how Social Security works. "Russ Feingold and politicians from both parties," he intones, "raided the Social Security Trust Fund of trillions and left seniors an IOU. They spent the money, it's gone."

See, that "IOU" of which he speaks is a collection of US treasury bonds that, like all the other treasury bonds ever issued in the history of this country, will be honored by the federal government because the US is not, by law, allowed to default on its debt. The money for the Social Security trust fund is no more "gone" than the money Ron Johnson has invested in BP stocks, although you can rest assured that whatever specific dollars Johnson handed over to BP years ago have long been spent.

And why is the trust fund an "IOU" of t-bills? Because of decisions made long before Feingold--indeed, long before most of the current batch of Senators--was elected. Reagan, Greenspan, and Democrats in Congress in the early 1980s made the decision to over-tax the working class now (the payroll tax has, for 30 years, consistently raised more than it needed to, meaning you and I are overpaying) to prepare for the demands of later. It's a system that is working just fine, and even if we do nothing, it will pay out full benefits to retirees for 30 more years, and then still pay out 75% of promised benefits pretty much indefinitely thereafter. If we do nothing. If we make small tweaks, such as asking millionaires like Johnson to pay the payroll tax on their full income, the way you and I do on ours (I'm assuming the bulk of my readers earn less than $100k a year), then Social Security can pay full benefits for pretty much ever.

This is not complicated and it's something we've discussed here before (click on the "Social Security" label below). Why Ron Johnson, who's asking us to trust him because he's some kind of whiz at this whole finance thing, can't get it is beyond me. And he wants you to vote for him so he can be in charge of this program he doesn't understand? Good luck with that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Start the general election with a Cheddarbomb

Goal Thermometerby folkbum

UPDATE: We have blown past 100, 125, and 150 by 5:00 already today. Let's try for 200! If you haven't clicked yet, do so now!

So the results are in (I assume; I'm scheduling this post in advance since my bedtime is 9:00 these days), and the general election is now officially underway.

Join me and bloggers all around the Left Cheddarsphere in assisting with the inaugural "Cheddarbomb." You've heard of the "moneybomb," right? One day, as many donors and as much as possible? This is Wisconsin, ain'a, and so we have to do it our way. Cheddarbomb.

So click on the thermometer to the right and drop some Cheddar on Russ Feingold. Married-into-millionaire Ron "Sunspot" Johnson has a personal fortune he's willing to spend on this election. Russ has us. Today the plan is "15 on the 15th"--15 being the number of thousands of donors for today.

The bloggers have set a reasonable goal of 100 donors from our collective readership. If we can double that number, I would be a happy man. Click. Give. Let's show Sunspot that his millions are no match for the netroots.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You voted yet?

by folkbum

No? Then get off the internet and go do it. Now. (Reminder of my recommendations.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

451° Stupid

by folkbum

The latest So There! argument from my commenters (a So There! argument is a point so stupid that a reasonable response is impossible to craft because of the enormity of the stupid; see, for example, this video, taken by those on the right as a So There! on global warming but by those on the left as proof that some Congressmen are too stupid for their own good)--

By now you've lost the thread. I get it. Take two:

The latest So There! argument from my commenters is that because radical Islamists will use Quran-burning among Americans as a recruitment tool and potentially ratchet up the violence against American troops or other targets, therefore Islam as a whole is not a peaceful religion. So There!

See what I mean? It's hard to know where to start. But I suppose I will start with a question, as simple one, and if the commenters can honestly answer the question, maybe we can move on from there.

Why do you want to burn the Quran in the first place?

I mean, I think I know the answer. I think it's clear that a certain segment of the American right wants to provoke the exact reaction described above. Their worldview begins and ends with "teh mooslems is scary!" and they need occasional validation of this. That's why a peaceful Sufi congregation in Manhattan seeking to fix up its existing overflow prayer location has been transformed into a hive of radical jihadists bent on building a "victory mosque" at Ground Zero. And it's why the haters--Fred Phelps has been doing this for years, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Phelps is anything other than a giant douchebag--that's why the haters want to burn Qurans. That's why, in a fit of utter imbecility, the burners have argued that "moderate Muslims" should want to burn the Quran, too: If you aren't willing to burn your own holy book, it just proves that you're a terrorist too, and that I'm right to hate all of you, even the moderates.

Otherwise, why do it? What's the point? What do you prove by burning a book, any book, ever?

Friday, September 10, 2010

And You're Voting Republican Because...?

By Keith R. Schmitz

Those damned pesky numbers.

Princeton political science professor Larry Bartels took a look at income growth from 1948 to 2005 with a breakout by income levels.


As expected, poorer Americans made out pretty good under Democrats. But what is surprising is that those occupying the top didn't do bad either, so where is the dreaded income redistribution that the GOP frets about?

As far as I am concerned, I really don't care who makes the pie higher. If the Republicans can bring us prosperity, well God bless 'em. Job well done. But the numbers don't permit passing out praise in this case.

Many regard me as a liberal, but in reality I am a resultist, and this chart confirms that Democratic administrations are doing something right. Granted, there are a lot more factors than who is sitting in the White House, but almost 50 years of data should even things out.

You into money? That's cool. But if that's the case, why aren't you voting Democratic or supporting Democratic style policies when ultimately we all make out?

Can never figure that one out.

FriTunes

by folkbum



As Atrios asked, tomorrow is 9/11 Day (Patriot Day if you're trying to make a buck), and I wonder if the Official Keepers of the 9/11 Celebration Etiquette Rules--i.e., the self-appointed uber-victim right-blogger crowd--would mind sharing the list of dos and don'ts so I can be sure to genuflect at the right time and not offend the 9/11 gods and whatnot?

I'm hopeful that the above video fits. Sure does for me, anyway.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Koran Burning "Minister" Was Booted out of Deutschland Church

By Keith R. Schmitz

Der Spiegel, reveals that Terry Jones, the faux Christian who is seeking to grab attention for his 50 member Florida mini-church got the heave-ho from the house of worship he headed in Germany, for a whole bunch of unsavory reasons.

This megalomaniac badly needs attention, at the cost of American lives overseas. Too bad that George W. Bush, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Liz Cheney, Mitch McChinless, Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling and other Republicans don't have the same common sense that these Germans had to admonish Jones.

In a jaw-dropping turn of cluelessness, Johnny Boehner compares this act with the building of the Islamic culinary center somewhere or other near Ground Zero. Then the ex-plastics salesman goes on to say we have "freedom of religion." Huh?

The media coverage that would ignite radical recruiting in the Islamic world could be curtailed and like so many anti-war protests, we would not know this extravaganza didn't happen. But now thanks to the notoriety images would appear on the Internet anyways. Strong admonishment in this country would prove to the Islamic fence sitters that we don't condone this tasteless nonsense.

There are Christian churches, however, that do practice what they preach.

Still, too many in this country seem to be suckers for bogus revelation, which makes us a laughing stock world-wide.

Grammar Nerd Fixes teh Internets, Episode #12,621

by folkbum

Would that all candidates could use the subjunctive!

bonus fact you wouldn't know if the conservative blogosphere didn't exist: running for office a lot makes you a career politician! being a career politician doesn't!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Memo to J. Rawson Schaller

To: J. Rawson Schaller
CC: Patrick Dorwin
From: Your Humble Folkbum
Re: At least my co-bloggers have never threatened to kill anyone

Beauty may only be skin deep, but ugly goes straight through to the RSS feed. Someone needed to post this for posterity, and I gladly volunteered.

Note to casual readers: DO NOT click to embiggen the picture (or read the google cache, here) if you are offended by foul language and conservative commentators being open and honest about their murderous feelings for once.

Also, DO NOT click to embiggen the picture (or read the google cache) if you don't really care about cheddarsphere blog-wars. You will just end up asking questions that have no good answers.

The official folkbum primary endorsement post

by folkbum

I was hoping to have time and inclination to do better with these, but this quick list will have to suffice since we're just a week away. Note that I will be filling out the Democratic side of the ballot (surprise!) but I am making a couple of Republican recommendations below.
WI-GOV, D: A reminder--despite the certain groundswell of support between now and election day, I cannot accept your write-in votes for me. I appreciate the thought, but let's all try to settle for Tom Barrett, okay? I give him the nod over Tim John, who just will not have the resources to compete in a race that national Republicans will be targeting. I am not in love with Barrett, but he is our man and we will have to come to grips with that.

WI-GOV, R: Not my fight, and not that any of you likely to be voting on the other side of the page will listen, but if my opinion is worth anything, I recommend you Rs out there vote Mark Neumann. Why? Because Neumann is not bat-guano insane the way Scott Walker is. If we have to suffer under Republican rule again in this state, Neumann would at least try to hold things together. We have eight long, long years of evidence in Milwaukee County that Walker is not all that interested in good government. Plus, I try to live by this rule of thumb: Always vote against the guy Charlie Sykes is supporting.

[Edited also, to add: WI-LTGOV, D: I can't believe I forgot the one actually competitive state-wide Dem race! I'm voting for Spencer Coggs over Henry Sanders. Tom Nelson and James Schneider are also running.]

WI-SEN, R: [Edited to add: I will, of course, be voting Feingold next week and in November; the following is for my R friends.] Ron Johnson was inspired to run for office because Dick Morris said someone with a lot of money should run against Russ Feingold--Feingold, of course, being among the senators with the least personal wealth. And then Johnson started the whole thing with a lie about being a self-made man. Plus, you know, Charlie Sykes. So vote Dave Westlake!

WI-TREAS, D: Does it matter? I think I'm voting Dan Bohrod, just because I'm a sucker for a low-rent website.

WI-AG, D: Scott Hassett it is. Though in fairness I will note that Republican JB Van Hollen has not been the disaster I was afraid he would be. I mean, I knew he couldn't be as bad as Paul Bucher would have been, but aside from a few bad moves, like wanting to throw taxpayer dollars at the suit against the Affordable Care Act, he's mostly just done his job.

WI-7SD: There aren't a lot of exciting House, Assembly, or State Senate primaries, but the Chris Larson-Jeff Plale race on Milwaukee's east and south sides is a hummer. If you've been paying attention so far, you probably know where I'm coming down on this one, since Charlie Sykes has been defending Plale and attacking Larson. Look, Jeff's a nice enough guy, and generally his more-conservative positions don't end up hurting Dems too much. And I do appreciate that Plale was the only local elected official who came out to volunteer at my high school on GE Community Day. But his refusal to distance himself from slimeball Scott Jensen and some of the other characters supporting him is a real problem. Last time around I stayed out of this primary--and I'm glad I did, given the way things turned out--but this time I am actively urging a Chris Larson victory.

MKE-SHERIFF: Four years ago, I supported Republican Don Holt in his quest to unholster (Sykes-supported) Sheriff David Clarke after Vince Bobot failed to beat Clarke in the primary. This time around, Chris Moews is the one trying to beat Clarke in the primary, and he gets my vote hands-down.
There are a few other contested primary races out there that are just not enough on my radar or near enough me in geography for me to have an opinion. Feel free, though, to shill for your favorites in the comments below.

Monday, September 06, 2010

$50 billion is not enough

by folkbum

Believe me, I appreciate that President Obama came to visit and stump and drop a plan for some infrastructure spending. None of those things present a problem. This does:
President Barack Obama will announce on Monday a six-year infrastructure revamp plan with an initial investment of $50 billion to jump-start job creation, a white house official said. [. . .]

With a jobless rate near 10 percent, Democrats are facing predicted losses in the November 2 congressional elections and the Obama administration is trying to convince voters that Democratic policies can lead the way out of the country's deepest recession in 70 years.
$50b? That's a drop in the bucket. As I have noted before, the current recession has sucked an annual $1.2 trillion, with a T as in Trouble, out of the economy. The stimulus passed so far has amounted to a paltry $150 billion, with a B as in Baloney, annually. Even my readers who listen to Glenn Beck can do math well enough to know that $150b is a lot less than $1.2t, even if the decimals make it confusing.

Another $50 billion, spread out over six years, is a pittance. It's laughable. It's embarrassing. Unless this week brings some additional announcements about additional stimulus, the game is over. Obama and the Democrats had a choice to go big or go home. Apparently, they want to go home.

Happy Labor Day

by folkbum

Sunday, September 05, 2010

@everybody

by folkbum

Apparently, I'm on twitter now. Follow me @folkbum. #consideryourselfwarned

Walker cribs education plan from Duncan's failing notes

by folkbum

Here's a chunk of an article about Scott Walker, Tosa Ranger's education "plan":
Failing schools would be required to sign a contract aimed at turning them around. In exchange for receiving more resources, school boards and administrators would have to select one of several models for improvement.

In one model, administrators would be replaced; in another, administrators and half the staff would be replaced; in a third, the school would be closed and replaced with a charter school; and in another, the students would be sent to other schools.
Now, for contrast, here's a chunk of an article about current US education policy, under the Democratic appointee Arne Duncan, as applied in Wisconsin at the present moment:
At the persistently low-performing high schools, MPS must implement one of four turnaround measures to receive the money:

• Firing the principal and at least half the staff and re-opening with new staff.

• Allowing a charter management company or other educational management company to take over the school.

• Replacing the principal and taking other steps internally to improve how the school operates.

• Closing the school, and sending the children to higher-performing schools in the district.
Aside from the fact that one is in bullet-points and the other isn't, can you spot the difference? No? I couldn't either.

I am no fan of the Obama-Duncan Department of Education, and, as I have noted before, these reform models do not have a history of success. Duncan himself does not have a history as success, nor a significant background in education beyond a badly failed Chicago 2010 initiative.

So why on earth would Walker be 1) so lazy as to copy, wholesale, the Duncan master plan and think we wouldn't notice and, 2) interested in perpetuating a system doomed to keep failing schools deep in failure for years to come?

Oh, wait:
In Milwaukee, Walker would lift the cap on the choice program, which allows taxpayer money to be used for private schools, including religious schools. The cap is now 22,000 students.
There's the devilish detail: He is interested in driving more public dollars to prop up the financially challenged system of parochial schools and other fly-by-night voucher institutions. Got it. Keep Milwaukee's public schools in a death spiral and use tax dollars, shock-doctrine style, to enrich the private sector and his religious supporters.

FSM help us if he gets his mitts on our tax dollars.

In Which The Smartest Guy in the Room is Also the Shortest

By 3rd Way

This Labor Day we should listen to our former labor secretary's analysis of what is ailing our economy.

The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working...

That’s because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.

This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage...

But for years American families kept spending as if their incomes were keeping pace with overall economic growth. And their spending fueled continued growth. How did families manage this trick? First, women streamed into the paid work force...

Second, everyone put in more hours. What families didn’t receive in wage increases they made up for in work increases. By the mid-2000s, the typical male worker was putting in roughly 100 hours more each year than two decades before, and the typical female worker about 200 hours more.

When American families couldn’t squeeze any more income out of these two coping mechanisms, they embarked on a third: going ever deeper into debt... From 2002 to 2007, American households extracted $2.3 trillion from their homes.

Eventually, of course, the debt bubble burst — and with it, the last coping mechanism. Now we’re left to deal with the underlying problem that we’ve avoided for decades. Even if nearly everyone was employed, the vast middle class still wouldn’t have enough money to buy what the economy is capable of producing.

Where have all the economic gains gone? Mostly to the top... In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation’s total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income...

The rich spend a much smaller proportion of their incomes than the rest of us. So when they get a disproportionate share of total income, the economy is robbed of the demand it needs to keep growing and creating jobs.

What’s more, the rich don’t necessarily invest their earnings and savings in the American economy; they send them anywhere around the globe where they’ll summon the highest returns...

THE Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field...

Policies that generate more widely shared prosperity lead to stronger and more sustainable economic growth — and that’s good for everyone. The rich are better off with a smaller percentage of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of an economy that’s barely moving. That’s the Labor Day lesson we learned decades ago; until we remember it again, we’ll be stuck in the Great Recession.


Until the political parties controlling this country can agree on the root cause of our economic doldrums I don't see how our government can do much to help the job situation. It is absurd that one party's cure for what ails us is to increase the national debt by continuing tax cuts for some of the wealthiest people in the world while selling themselves as champions of the middle class. It is equally absurd that the opposing party isn't capable of standing up to special interests and truly be the champion of the middle class.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Out Of All the Damage Sykes Does . . .

by bert
. . . on a daily basis, his sloppy use today of what turned out to be a false rumor doesn't move the outrage meter much. Charlie Sykes, both on his WTMJ talk show and on his blog, spread an emailed rumor that gubernatorial candidate Barrett attended a secret fundraiser with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi while she was in Milwaukee attending the national American Legion convention. The state GOP leadership, just about as professional, ran with it.

The Republican party released its attack on Barrett -- which including a drawing of Pelosi handing a bag of cash to Barrett -- based on statements by WTMJ-AM (620) Charlie Sykes and questions from reporters, said Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for the Republican party.

"At this point it appears that the media report that I based it on was unreliable, so I will pull it back," Welhouse said of the release.

Of course, a lot of us don't see much to raise the eyebrows about a Pelosi-led fundraiser for Tom Barrett even if it were true. Also, the sorry episode also doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about the integrity of the ex-reporter Sykes.