Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wisconsin House Republicans vote to Raise Student Loans and Starve Government Services to prove Government sucks.

So Paul Ryan and his Republican pirates have plans to plunder the wallets of their constituents to prove their point that government involvement just makes college loans more expensive? See for yourself below, from Roll Call, as Ryan poison pills the student loan program: 
Accounting for credit programs: The House adopted accounting rules that would raise the stated cost of direct-loan and loan-guarantee programs in the U.S. budget by giving more weight to risk. Democrats said that to define programs such as student loans as more costly would make them a more inviting target for spending cuts.
Voting to make student loans more costly and thus prone to cuts? Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Ribble.
Intentionally price ourselves out of essential services: Letting inflation cut everything out of existence is just irresponsible and lazy. Guys, we can see what you're doing. Sabotage?
Republican spending rules: The House passed a GOP-sponsored bill (HR 1871) to remove inflation from calculations that determine the all-important “baseline” figure in congressional budget deliberations … over Democratic arguments it would automatically lock in unwarranted cuts each year in discretionary spending.
Voting to eventually price government services out of existence: Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Ribble. Even worse? Ryan and the Republicans know what they’re doing:
Veterans, disabled children: The House defeated a Democratic motion to prevent HR 1871 (above) from triggering spending cuts in programs for student loans, food and aviation safety, veterans’ benefits, nursing-home safety and the education of disabled children. A yes vote was to adopt the motion.
Can they do this without committing political suicide? Apparently, if you go by recent polling: Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Ribble all voted for this Dickensian path to wealth prosperity.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rep. Tom Petri bows out, greases skids for State Sen. Glenn Grothman.

With large number of Republicans retiring, you'd think there would be more stories about the party being in trouble...oh yea, guess gerrymandering gave our elections GOP "certainty." 
The Republican Party of Wisconsin applauds Congressman Tom Petri for his service and dedication to the voters of the 6th Congressional District.

Walker's Wisconsin back of the pack for Business Creation.

Remember this comment from the pollsters at St. Norbert College:
“57 percent of our respondents think the state is going in the right direction.”
Imagine how many voters will never know how wrong they were. 

They do like their charismatic leaders.

But the jobs picture is even worse now, with the news new business start-ups lag the nation. Wisconsin even had one of the largest decreases in business formation in 2013:
WSJ: Wisconsin has one of the lowest levels of new business starts in the nation, a study shows.

The report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City ranks Wisconsin, tied with Washington state, fifth from the bottom in entrepreneurship in 2013, with 170 new businesses created for every 100,000 adults. 

Wisconsin also had one of the largest decreases in new business formation last year compared to 2012, with a drop of 0.08 percentage points, for an entrepreneurship index of 0.17 percent in 2013, the study said.
Don't be mislead by Scott Walker's claims of small business creation, which takes into account LLC's. Many individual business owners and small groups start LLC's for liability protection, not because they're new or growing businesses.

Voter Suppression tactic: No Restrooms. Ohio flurry of restrictions leaves no doubt intent.

I think this bizarre attempt at voter suppression might be the best tactic yet:
During the 2012 presidential election, voters reportedly waited on line for upwards of six hours. That wait alone is enough to deter would-be voters from going to the polls. But now residents in Florida’s most populous county will have another disincentive: they won’t be able to go to the bathroom.Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities … the policy change was in “direct response” to an inquiry … whether they had assessed accessibility of polling place bathrooms to those with disabilities.

The county would close all restrooms at polling places “to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly,” a January email stated. “[T]he Department’s policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days,” Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves said in a Feb. 14 email. Elections Department officials did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress inquiries. 

The state’s next-most populous counties, Broward and Palm Beach, told the Sun Sentinel they would not implement this policy. 
Ohio is still working on holding down the vote. This is already beyond surreal. Rachel Maddow explains:

Minimum Wage Hike at Walmart should be no-brainer.

Can consumers afford a hike in the minimum wage? Slate's video is crystal clear about the cost:   

Sheriff Clarke to run for Milwaukee Mayor? I'm in Blogger Heaven....

Anyone who talks about themselves in the third person…?

Conservative Democrat? Crazy Sheriff Clarke is not only considering a run for Milwaukee Mayor, but he seems confused or just loco about running as a Democrat or Republican. Is that really so hard?

Will he or won't he run? Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke spoke openly at Marquette University that he's seriously considering a run for Milwaukee mayor. 

Clarke has run as a Democrat, but considers himself a conservative. 

"David Clarke will decide for himself what kind of Democrat he wants to be: A conservative one. You can do that," Clarke said.

White House stumped over simple Equal Pay for Equal Work executive order.

How to completely screw up the message? Look no further than the White House.

My conservative friend in Milwaukee has been on me about the pay equity problem in the White House, and they have totally screwed this up.

Right wing sites have had a field day on this, like NewsBusters:
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, White House correspondent Major Garrett completely dismantled President Obama's left-wing talking points on the supposed gender pay gap of women making 77 cents on the dollar compared to men … Now, the White House said it's gender pay gap is tied to job experience, education, and hours worked, among other factors. This matters because those explanations, according to the Labor Department, explain a good deal of the gender pay gap nationally."
Equal Pay for Equal Work: How hard is it to make that point? No one is arguing for equal pay across the board within a workplace, so that’s not the issue. But no one pointed that out.

In this Major Garrett report transcript from CBS’s This Morning, the truth about equal pay for equal work is right there in his introduction:
And isn't that the point? My head is hurting.

Krauthammer: Left Dare’s to describe Right Wing Accurately, Mucking up Bubble World Reality.

Did you notice, bigotry, racism, and the war on women doesn’t exist on the right, it’s all a liberal creation to silence and crush conservatives. Everything opposed by Republicans is really not debatable. 

No matter what liberal Americans do or say, they are dismissed as “the left.” You know, the “other.”

Charles Krauthammer just provided us with a bright shining example of dismissiveness, projection and a not so subtle reinforcement of just who the master-Americans really are. Ripping into a ridiculous petition to ban all anti-global warming commentary from the NY Times, Krauthammer envisions the roll out of the progressive totalitarian state.

Be amazed at the incredible projection, where conservatives continue to defend themselves against their own “unpleasant impulses, by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others." This is one of the most under-reported of Republicans characteristics , and an important revealing insight into how they think and what they want:
It perfectly illustrated my argument that the Left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition. The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced.
Oh, you mean like climate change doesn't exist? Or that the war on poverty is a failure? Or that supply side economics works? Those controversies are over, right? Krauthammer then suggests that the “herding cats party” mindlessly follows their leader, “King” Obama:
Sometimes the word comes from on high, as when the president of the United States declares the science of global warming to be “settled.” Anyone who disagrees is then branded “anti-science.” And better still, a “denier” — a brilliantly chosen calumny meant to impute to the climate skeptic the opprobrium normally reserved for the hatemongers and crackpots who deny the Holocaust.
If the name fits…? And yet when faced with the choice of perhaps hedging their bets on climate change, they chose to gamble with everyone lives. Playing it safe is for wimps.

You’ll notice Krauthammer’s attempt to rationalize his own insecurities and bigotry, by denouncing those who choose to call a rose, a rose:
Then last week, another outbreak. The newest closing of the leftist mind is on gay marriage. To oppose it is nothing but bigotry, akin to racism. Opponents are to be similarly marginalized and shunned, destroyed personally and professionally.
There’s also a major constitutional question, but that’s not Krauthammer’s point; rights should be decided by the tyranny of the majority.

Did you notice, bigotry, racism, and the war on women doesn't exist on the right, it’s all a liberal creation to silence and crush conservatives. Everything opposed by Republicans is really not debatable. Other unsettling laughable quotes:
Similarly, to question ObamaCare’s mandate of free contraception for all. Or try objecting to the new so-called Paycheck Fairness Act for women, which is little more than a full-employment act for trial lawyers. To bring suit, they need only to show that women make less in that workplace.
But the following really pissed me off, because it flies in the face of what I’m hearing from Scott Walker, who dismissed the massive protest and recall election here. Reminds me of the message in the movie, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier:"
But the trend is growing. Oppose the current consensus and you’re a denier, a bigot, a homophobe, a sexist, an enemy of the people. Long a staple of academia, the totalitarian impulse is spreading. What to do? Defend the dissenters, even if — perhaps, especially if — you disagree with their policy. It is — it was? — the American way.

David and Charles Koch not the rugged free market individuals they say they are? Inherited Wealth makes for Big Talkers.

The free spending Koch brothers are like every other self righteous conservative who thinks they're entitled to a few extra benefits in life than everyone else. Inheriting wealth is one hell of a way to get a jump on everyone else. 

But do the Koch's walk-the-walk, and live by the same ideological political agenda pushed by their front groups like Americans for Prosperity? Even that names comes across like a sneering inside joke on seniors and low information voters.

The National Memo pointed out the Koch hypocrisy below with a list of 4 handouts they have no problem accepting:
1. In the midst of campaigning against the Affordable Care Act, the Koch brothers still managed to reap benefits from the new health care law. Koch Industries of having received subsidies under the Affordable Care Act’s temporary Early Retiree Reinsurance Program … the Associated Press confirmed … Koch Industries received $1.4 million in early retiree subsidies, which are meant to compensate employers who have to provide insurance for employees who retire before becoming eligible for Medicare.

2. Though the Koch brothers … outspoken critics of welfare programs that tend to help the poor and disabled … have aggressively lobbied for taxpayer handouts for Koch Industries refineries — the primary form of corporate welfare. Additionally, according to a ThinkProgress report, a failing Koch Industries oil refinery based in Fairbanks, Alaska once asked then-governor Sarah Palin’s administration for the type of taxpayer-funded bailout that libertarians routinely decry.

3. Despite advocating for a laissez-faire economic system, the Koch brothers obtained massive government contracts that allowed Koch Industries to buy millions of barrels of crude oil from the Middle East – specifically from Iraq, during the U.S. occupation. Koch Industries has also benefited from billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies in the form of federal government contracts and awards – billions of dollars Koch Industries never declined to accept.

4. The Kochs have also benefited from an existing provision of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program, which conservatives over the years have condemned as socialist. A Koch Industries subsidiary and cattle ranching company, Matador Cattle Company, actually uses one of the New Deal’s existing provisions — the Land Utilization Program —  to “profit off of federal land for free.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scared Scott Walker hopes activist State Supreme Court kills second John Doe Investigation.

Scott Walker is really worried this time. Perhaps we should talk about the second John Doe a little bit more...? Walker's acting like a very guilty man. What's he trying to hide?

I find it almost humorous the way Walker and the Republicans want every challenged law to go straight to their sure bet, the conservative activist State Supreme Court. Come on, it's an open admission they've got a lock on the law there. jsonline:
Remember this award? 
Gov. Scott Walker's campaign Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to take over a case from the Court of Appeals to determine whether prosecutors had the ability to subpoena documents as part of their secret investigation.

The filing is the latest in the legal maneuvers surrounding a long-running John Doe investigation into campaign fundraising and spending in recall elections.

Conservative "legislative" justices have got their colleagues back:
An attorney for Walker's campaign, former U.S. attorney Steven Biskupic, on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to take the case from the appeals court and decide the matter itself.

Remember Charlene Dill. Denied Medicaid Expansion in Florida Ended her Life.

Everything Republicans say is a form of projection. Remember "death panels?" Republicans governors have become the panels bureaucratic leaders, passing out 5 to 6 death sentences a day. 

Here's the story of one victim, as told by Thom Hartmann:
Millions of Americans are unable to afford life-saving healthcare, because Republicans would rather play politics than protect people's lives. In fact, the rate of uninsured Americans is a staggering 50% higher in Republican-controlled states. 

In Florida alone, 750,000 Floridians are without insurance ... Harvard researchers estimate that 6 people in Florida die every day because of Governor Scott's decision.

Charlene Dill was one of them. Charlene was a hardworking single mom, who worked three jobs to help make ends meet. Last year, Charlene made just $11,000 cleaning houses and babysitting. She used that money to help put food on the table for her children, and to put a roof over their heads. Charlene also had a severe heart condition, but she couldn't afford the proper treatment for it, because she didn't have health insurance.

Despite her health woes, Charlene continued to work three jobs, and continued to be the best mother that she could be for her children. But then one day late last month, when she was in a neighbor's house trying to sell a vacuum cleaner, Charlene died from her untreated heart disease. She died because multimillionaire Rick Scott chose to play politics, rather than protect the lives of the Florida citizens he is supposed to be serving.
It's hard to imagine something like that happening in this country, willfully. Here's Charlene's story from MSNBC's Alex Wagner:

Former Republican Legislator Struggles with Real World DOT Budgeting! Principles don't Pave Roads?

It's an absolutely wonderful example of principled ideology running head-on into reality. I'm loving every second of it too. 

Walker's kick-the-can-down-the-road delayed road maintenance policy, and no tax pledge, doesn't solve problems. Seeing that it doesn't work the way he thought, former legislator Mark Gottlieb is getting the a taste of his own medicine. 
Biz Times: Despite more than $1 billion a year in road construction and hundreds of millions more on maintenance, Wisconsin’s transportation system is falling behind and facing a shrinking revenue stream. The department faces a $600 million funding gap in the next two-year budget cycle. And with Americans driving fewer miles in more efficient vehicles, it’s facing a 20 percent decline over the next decade in fuel tax revenues, the DOT’s single largest source of funding. “We are falling behind,”. That was the message transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

The Department of Transportation is one of Wisconsin’s largest state agencies, supporting all modes of transportation, including state highways, local roads, railroads, public transit systems, airports, harbors and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Dirt road revivalists are liking it. Scott Walker's election year property tax cut gimmick ride to reelection and bid for the White House is about to hit a bumpy road, if the Democrats bring it up. The harsh winter made things worse, leaving the states highway system in shambles. And things are only going to get worse:
A commission appointed by Gov. Scott Walker has identified a total of $6.8 billion that will be needed to fund road projects in the next 10 years.

Republican State Sen. Mike Ellis in Deep Sh**!!!

ALERT: Friday-jsonline:
State Senate President Mike Ellis dropped out of his bid for re-election Friday, two days after a secret recording was released revealing him discussing setting up an illegal political action committee to attack his challenger.
Why did Ellis' decide to drop out? See below the line....
There's even more of Republican State Sen. Mike Ellis. Yikes.

In case you didn't hear:
State Senate President Mike Ellis is defending himself after he was secretly caught on video talking about illegal campaign activity. "I am putting together my own super PAC. I have a $400,000 committee and Judi Rhodes will, I am raising the money, she will manufacture the crap," said Ellis. The video was posted by Project Veritas, an organization led by conservative activist James O'Keefe.
Here's part of the original video release from O'Keefe:

One of my favorite lines:
At one point, the person recording the conversation said Walker was focusing on a potential presidential run in 2016.

“Amen. I think Walker’s working for Walker.”
But as I mentioned, WKOW's Greg Neumann had even more of the story:

I thought these two comments from conservative UW Prof. Ann Althouse's blog made a few good points:
mrs.e said...O'Keefe is going after Ellis because Ellis is hard for Walker to handle. He's got a tremendous independent streak that's to unpredictable for Walker and his funders (Bradley Foundation/Koch) to handle. Regardless of who's paying, it sure smells like authoritarians hellbent on ideological purity.

Mark said...Hit job. Question is who. Bradley Foundation? Robin Vos setting his ladyfriend up with a plum seat? Walker getting rid of a squish who caused problems passing what he was told last session? He will get knocked out in the primary now - it's not like the James O'Keefe was tipped off to this tiny bit player as a favor to WI Dems.

Media confronts Gov. Rick Scott over pushing lie...

How many times have we seen and heard Scott Walker, WISGOP and majority Republicans stick to their often repeated lies no matter how debunked? It’s almost like they never expected to be corrected, so they had no backup.

So it is with Republicans, and their voters keep letting them get away with it, without asking, was that the only lie?

Here’s a doozy with Gov. Rick Scott, whose reaction is so classically, Republicans:

HuffingtonPost: When reporters asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) about reelection campaign ads that incorrectly imply 300,000 people in the state have lost their health insurance plans as a result of Obamacare, he licked his lips and dug in.

"Clearly, the ad's accurate," Scott told reporters gathered outside a senior center in Miami on Wednesday.

"But it's not, governor!" insisted one reporter, who pointed out that the Blue Cross-run agency at the center of the claim had already debunked the numbers. A second reporter continued to question the assertion, which has been factchecked by newspapers across the state and discredited. Scott, however, remained unmoved before being "quickly ushered away by his media aide," according to CBS.

One Degree to Scott Walker...

Really, this is a story?

Americans were pushed into Food Stamps under Bush Republican Economics.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman hates food stamps so much that's he's decided to run for congress. Republicans increased the use of food stamps when they were in the majority under George W. Bush. For the party whining about our "food stamp President," facts continue to get in the way.

PolitiFact took a look at Grothman's claims about the increase, and revealed the unintended consequences of conservative trickle down economics. Of course things got worse after the GOP's experiment in free markets resulted in the Great Recession:
Welfare reform, the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA),” did put in stricter conditions in place for food stamps eligibility, so the reduction under Clinton didn't all come from increasing employment and a near zero deficit. The reforms failure came in the form of keeping people in poverty by never lifting them out. It was almost impossible to go back to school because of the work requirements, and the wealth gap continued to grow.

Personal Emails now a part of new Right Wing Blacklist.

If you've ever emailed your lawmaker, then you are now open to political harassment and blacklisting.

The message is clear: Shut up!  

Wisconsinites just lost the power of representation in one fell swoop, when the conservative fringe group MacIver Institute forced State Sen. Jon Erpenbach to reveal the email addresses of everyone concerned about the passage of Act 10. You can also thank our conservative activist judges.
The conservative Waukesha Second Circuit Court handed down their first warning shot to all voters; we’ll know what you’re thinking, and we’ll know who are.
Judge Brown: “This result is a notice to legislators and citizens, whoever they are and whatever their opinions, that communications to legislators are subject to the open records law, without redaction.
Yes, Judge Brown gave us “notice” when it came to contacting our elected representatives via email.
“We conclude the redacted information is not ‘purely personal.”
Your email address isn't personal? Of course former Republican lawmakers make for great wise and wonderful judges too. Take Mark Gundrum’s remarkable "can't prove a negative" logic:
Appellate Court Judge Mark Gundrum, a former Republican lawmaker, wrote that Erpenbach couldn't prove those emailing his office could expect threats for their advocacy or that they had any expectation of privacy when emailing the senator. "In this day and age, it would be unreasonable for a person sending an email to a lawmaker in an attempt to influence public policy to believe that the email and all the information therein might not be seen by persons other than just the lawmaker," Gundrum wrote.
Really, ask any voter, I'll bet you get a different answer. Erpenback offered this:
Erpenbach believes the ruling creates “big problems” because it prevents lawmakers from shielding the identities of people who bring highly personal and possibly embarrassing problems to the attention of their elected representatives. “I think people don’t realize how far-reaching this is,” Erpenbach said … he fears people corresponding with his office could be subject to “McCarthy-like” harassment if their identities were released. He pointed to the negative publicity faced by some people who signed recall petitions against Walker.

“The Senate rules clearly say I can protect the privacy of the citizens of this state that contact my office … I can protect the rights of citizens over special interest groups. If we do not preserve the voice of individual people then we give all of the power in this state to those that can buy the best lobbyist. The issue becomes, is it possible to do a cost benefit analysis on the Constitutional rights of the citizens of this state?”
And while dark money pours into our pubic elections, these conservative activist judgers have the balls to say:
“Public awareness of ‘who’ is attempting to influence public policy is essential for effective oversight of our government,” the judges found.
The public is on notice:
“This result is a notice to legislators and citizens, whoever they are and whatever their opinions, that communications to legislators are subject to the open records law, without redaction.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

GOP Voucher School Success?

So, let’s expand the voucher privatization efforts statewide?

It will be interesting to see how Republicans defend media questions about the poor test results, IF they’re ever asked by reporters in the first place.

But the spin is already whirling around the topic, as exemplified by this ridiculously deceptive headline in the Journal Sentinel:
Lags? WKOW put the following graphics together that offered the most breathtaking and honest assessment.

Vouchers have been a complete and unmistakable disaster.

The Wisconsin State Journal left the spin out with this headline, "Wisconsin voucher schools show lower test scores compared to public schools." Just as interesting is the opt out penalty, where schools are discouraged from trying to hide their failings by not testing as many kids. The "statewide" voucher schools do not include Milwaukee or Racine: 
Students attending private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers in a new statewide program did not score as high overall as public school students on state tests in reading and math ... 48.6 percent of all students enrolled in public schools scored proficient or advanced in math and 36.6 percent in reading ... Just 578 of more than 432,000 public school students in tested grades didn’t take the test under the opt-out provision.

Of the 272 (voucher) students enrolled in tested grades in the statewide program, 33.2 percent scored proficient and advanced in both reading and math. But that percentage doesn’t include 61 students — or 22.4 percent — that opted out of taking the state tests.

When those who opted out were included in the total and counted as not scoring proficient — as is the case for public school students who opt out — (vouchers) 25.7 percent scored proficient or advanced overall.
Graphics from both the State Journal and Journal Sentinel:

Maddow: Dumb Ron Johnson's backhanded attitude toward the victims of Sexual Predators.

Instead of editing for time, here's the MSNBC long version of the Dumb Ron Johnson/Rep. Bill Kramer sexual assault story, compliments of Rachel Maddow, that shows just how much he cares about women's issues. As noted below from the nice summary provided by Think Progress, Johnson is a powerful defender of predator rights.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported a third alleged assault three years earlier. The victim was an aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who informed Johnson, his chief of staff, and a Waukesha County GOP official at the time, though no one took action.

Although Johnson did not violate laws by not reporting the crime, he has had a spotted voting record on taking sexual abuse and harassment seriously. In 2010, Johnson testified against a bill that would have made it easier for victims of child abuse to sue their abusers. Explaining that the bill would “likely create” “economic havoc,” Johnson said he thought trial lawyers would benefit from the Child Victims Act, but not the actual victims. “This bill could actually have the perverse effect of leading to additional victims of sexual abuse,” he claimed, “if individuals, recognizing that their organizations are at risk, become less likely to report suspected abuse.”

Last February, Johnson was one of 22 Senators, all Republican, who voted against an expanded reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. At the time, he claimed that the bill’s provisions for Native American rape survivors an “unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority.”

St. Norbert Poll: Walker 15% lead over Burke!

This odd poll of basically conservative respondents should not be discounted, despite the flaws. The conservative message is winning because it's been consistent and unrelenting. All it takes is a little nudge from outside groups, which is more like a tidal wave, to put rehire Scott Walker. 
WPR: St. Norbert College's Strategic Research Institute said that 55 percent of respondents said they will vote for Walker while 40 percent said they'd back Burke. "And 57 percent of our respondents think the state is going in the right direction, so it's very close to the numbers with the vote choice ... the governor's approval ratings right now, it's at 59 percent."
The breakdown of the poll is almost embarrassing. As we all know, independents are conservative leaning jerks who don't think it's anybody's business how they'll vote. 
While 32 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 37 percent said they were Republicans. 25 percent voluntarily said they were independents (401 respondents). 
Remember, Walker is a rightwing authoritarian. This is the actual direction we're headed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kids Fight Back in Support of Education and School Sports.

The following segment from The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell gave me so much hope last night about the vision our kids have of their schools:
Nearly 30 inner-city students performed their original poems at the 8th Annual “America Scores” poetry slam.
In the words of these kids:

Here's Xavier Crowell with his moving poem in support of education:

The Walker Authority up close!!!

Thanks to a nice piece at MAL Contends, I was able to finish reading John Dean's great analysis of Scott Walker's authoritarian behavior, and the frightening implications of putting even more power into this guys hands. I forgot all about it back in March, 2012.

Below, I've gathered what I thought were the essential points of Dean's scorching but fair research into what I've called the Walker Authority. Interestingly, Dean assumed other "social scientists or political psychologists in Wisconsin" would do what he did, and tip voters off to the potential consequences of putting Walker power again. Well, that didn't happen thanks to political pressure (censorship) on our state university. This was written before the recall election for Verdict/
John Dean: My focus here is on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who strikes some who have written to me as a distinctively prototypical authoritarian politician; what social science has labeled as a “double high” authoritarian; and the type of person which I described in my book as a conservative without conscience.

They occasionally found persons who garnered high scores for their cold, calculating dominance, yet also gained high scores on the tests for submissive followers … these Double Highs relate to the questions regarding submission not by considering how they themselves submit to others, but rather how others submit to them.  They simply see the world as a place where they are always in charge.

Domination: Authoritarian leaders seek to control others; in short, they are social dominators. This is the story of Scott Walker’s life. At Marquette, he was elected to the student senate, and twice sought but failed to get elected president of the student body.  He ran for the Wisconsin State Assembly the same year that he lost his bid to be student president at Marquette, losing the Assembly race as well. Since then, Walker has never stopped running.  In 1993, he was elected to the State Assembly … In 2002, he sought the post of Milwaukee County Executive, and he held that post until he was elected Governor in 2010.  This is the behavior, writ large, of a dominator.

Opposition To Equality: There are many examples of Walker’s harsh and uncaring treatment of those whom he does not believe to be entitled to equality.  None is more glaring than his intolerance of gays and lesbians … as Governor, he has worked to end Wisconsin’s recognition of the rights of same-sex couples. He fired the law firm defending the state’s domestic-partnership law.  And he appointed a woman to the state’s Labor and Industry Review Commission who believes that gays can be harassed in the workplace.

Desirous Of Personal Power: As governor, Walker sought to remove civil service jobs, in order to make them political appointments, and thus subject to his control.  Most strikingly, he has sought to undercut the public-employee unions so that he would not have to deal with them, thus increasing his power. Often overlooked is the power grab to fill three dozen civil-service jobs with political appointees.  For instance, the “budget repair bill” politicized and placed under Walker’s control functions like open-records requests, the selection of general counsels for key agencies, and the selection of communications spokespeople in key departments.  He has increased his personal power over some fifteen state agencies, and I suspect that he is just getting started. Walker’s push to get Act 10 passed into law was done in about as authoritarian a fashion as you will ever see, outside of a dictatorship.

Amorality: It is found in his history of ethics violations and the record of his lying … ethics problems go back to his Marquette University days, when the college newspaper called him “unfit” for student office. Later, in the Assembly (in 2005), Walker would earn the distinction of receiving the second-highest fine for an ethics violation in Wisconsin history.  His lying is notorious. Politifacts Wisconsin finds Walker to be an accomplished falsifier. I watched a video of a Walker speech at the Goldwater Institute.  He’s slick: Fast-talking, confident, and dishonest—I watched him distort facts with which I was familiar.  He spoke in mostly half-truths.

Submissive To Authority: While Scott Walker plays by the rules of the authorities he accepts, because he is a dominator.

Aggressiveness On Behalf Of Authority:  The aggression in authoritarian followers is largely fueled by fear, but it is also emboldened by the abundance of self-righteousness that such people possess. As a member of the Wisconsin Assembly, in 1996 Walker was the moving force behind the building of a 500-bed “Supermax” prison, which he claimed worked better than normal facilities; others had doubts.  Also, when state officials sought a 200-bed unit, Walker insisted on more than doubling the request.

Another instance … can be found in an example from 1997, when Walker pushed legislation that eliminated all parole, while increasing maximum criminal sentences by fifty percent.  Walker also pushed for draconian legislation that would send juvenile offenders to adult prisons at age 15, although his colleagues in the Assembly rejected this excessively harsh approach. These, too, are examples of classic authoritarian behavior at work.

Wisconsin’s Double High Authoritarian Governor: To me, it is clear that Wisconsin has a double high authoritarian governor, a conservative without conscience.  If I lived in Wisconsin, I would be uncomfortable with this man, whom I find more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself … have many friends who fall into this group, who are wonderful people.  But none of my double high authoritarian friends are suited to serve as President of the United States, or as governor of any state … they are failures as presidents and governors, and as Bob Altemeyer’s work has shown, they can be dangerous to democracy.

Hopefully, one or more social scientists or political psychologists in Wisconsin, where there are many, will step forward and tell the people of Wisconsin more about what they have on their hands, with Scott Walker as their governor. Altemeyer estimates that about twenty-five percent of the population has, in varying degrees, the disposition to follow a double high authoritarian, many blindly or simply because it assuages their fears.  And, of course, these are aggressive followers who can attract others who are unaware of the nature of the person they are electing, thus enabling an authoritarian leader like Walker to gain ever-growing control. Good luck, Wisconsin.

Walker's Voter Suppression efforts to show up in Election Performance Rankings in the Future.

Just for the record, I’m posting this story about where Wisconsin ranks in electoral performance and voting. There is no doubt that our high ranking this time around will fall, but how fast and how far is anybody’s guess. Thank god Scott Walker is putting in place much needed stricter election laws. 

Election Performance Watch: Placing 3rd in election performance was a warning sign people were losing faith in the system, requiring a second round of Republican changes? Didn't think so.
jsonline: Wisconsin came in 3rd place in 2012 for its election performance, behind North Dakota and Minnesota. Four years earlier, the Dairy State came in second. Mississippi came in last place in 2008 and 2012, with a ranking of 44% in the latest report.

Wisconsin ranked in 2nd place for voter turnout in 2012, just behind Minnesota. Both states had turnouts of well over 70%.
Online Registration Watch: We’ll see how long it takes for Wisconsin to jump onboard the online registration bandwagon, since Republicans seem wary of letting too many people vote.

The report spoke positively of online voter registration, saying that practice can make voter rolls more accurate and save taxpayer money.

13 states had online voter registration in 2012, up from 2 states four years earlier. Last week, Nebraska became the 20th state to allow the practice. The Wisconsin Assembly approved a bill last year that would have allowed online voter registration, but the state Senate did not take it up.
Waiting Times Watch:
Wisconsin's average wait time for voting; 8.2 minutes in 2012, ranking it 19th in that category. Florida had the longest wait time in 2012 — 45 minutes, a more than 16-minute increase compared with 2008.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rick Scott, like Scott Walker, is blaming the Republican Great Recession and Job Losses on former Governor Christ.

Conservative voters can't be this gullible? Come to think of it, it did take the news media here nearly 3 years to call Scott Walker out on that lie. Well, here we go again, but in Florida.

According to Gov. Rick Scott, it appears former Gov. Charlie Christ also tanked the U.S. economy and shed nearly 1 million Florida jobs at about the same time Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Jim Doyle did. Great Recession? Never heard of it. From the conservative loons at Americans for Tax Reform:

And like Walker, Rick Scott is taking credit for the state surpluses he and every other state is receiving due to the recovering U.S. economy, courtesy of Pres. Obama. If this works....

Yes, Republicans will Repeal the Affordable Care Act no matter what. Believe it.

When Scott Walker and the Republican super majority ignored hundreds of thousands of protesters at the Capitol and around the state, I knew we had entered a new more authoritarian political age. It didn't matter 1 million signed up to recall Scott Walker, they still didn't soften the swift passage of their extreme legislation.

With talk of “leadership” and “courage,” Republicans were point blank telling us they were going to make all the decisions for us, whether people agree with them or not. Compromise is a sign of weakness, and they will not raise taxes ever again (except on the poor). They do have the moral high ground remember.

ObamaCare is Goner: After everything I mentioned above, I never understood why Democrats thought the ACA was here to stay, no matter how many people signed up. We even know what the numbers will probably look like in the future:
TPM: These conservatives are confronting the realities of Obamacare, which include roughly 7 million signed up on the exchanges, 3 million new Medicaid enrollees and 3 million young adults on their parent's plan. By 2016, the political cost of repeal will skyrocket as Obamacare is projected to cover 30 million Americans. 
GOP not Hiding Repeal: Despite overt declarations they will repeal the ACA, Democrats believe they won’t. For Republicans, its a matter of principle:
But elected Republicans now face a difficult choice: rescind these benefits or demoralize their right-wing base, which remains animated for total destruction of the health law. And so GOP lawmakers haven't flinched in their quest for repeal as reporters force them to confront the impracticality of undoing Obamacare. "I don't buy that for a second," said House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), maintaining that "the architecture of this law is so fundamentally flawed that I think it's going to collapse under its own weight."

See, Republicans will be doing us all a big favor by killing ObamaCare. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Paul Ryan doesn't want to pay back the Social Security Trust Fund Money borrowed by the Rich.

I really tried to edit this down, but that was impossible, so here it is in all its glory, everything you needed to know about Social Security and its trust fund. Oh, and the rich need to pay back hard working Americans in the middle class, even if it means they pay a higher tax for a few decades. The problem? Republican took a pledge never to raise taxes.  
LA Times/Journal Sentinel: By Michael Hiltzik: Don't let Paul Ryan near your money

There should be a rule - or even a law - that politicians who propose "fixes" to Social Security should at least show they know something about the program. By that standard, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would flunk. What's worse, his misunderstandings - heck, let's go ahead and call them misrepresentations - are aimed at taking your money.

But what concerns us here is his description of the Social Security trust fund, which currently holds close to $3 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds - all purchased with payroll tax paid by working men and women since 1983 ... to bank excess tax revenue against the looming wave of baby boomer retirements, which has now begun ... the trust fund is still growing because Social Security's income streams - payroll tax, interest on its bonds and revenue from income taxation of benefits - still are sufficient to cover current benefits, and then some. Ryan wants you to think different. Here's the passage in question, from page 66 of his plan.

"Any value in the balances in the Social Security Trust Fund is derived from dubious government accounting. The trust fund is not a real savings account. From 1983 to 2010, it collected more Social Security taxes than it paid out in Social Security benefits. But the government borrowed all of these surpluses and spent them on other government programs unrelated to Social Security. The Trust Fund holds Treasury securities, but the ability to redeem these securities is completely dependent on the Treasury's ability to raise money through taxes or borrowing."

Let's examine the misrepresentations embedded in these 90 words by explaining exactly how the trust fund works.

From 1983 on, the payroll tax was increased to produce more revenue than was needed to pay benefits each year. The idea was to build up a reserve to cover the coming wave of baby boomer retirements. In effect, the baby boomers have been pre-funding their own old-age benefits.

The natural question was: What should be done with the money in the meantime? It wouldn't make sense to just place it under a national mattress, because inflation would have reduced the value of the holdings by as much as half over the last three decades.

The answer was to place the money in an interest-bearing account - that is, invest it for a yield above inflation. (This is the folly of Al Gore's old line about keeping the money in a "lockbox." That can't be done because the lockboxed funds would turn to dust.)

That's what's been done. The money has been invested in U.S. Treasury securities, just as you might do by purchasing Series EE savings bonds, or TIPS. Why do people invest in T-bonds? Because they're the safest securities in the world. The U.S. has never, ever defaulted on them, though the tea party wing of the GOP seems to think that would be a good idea. The money isn't invested in corporate securities or anything else, because Congress hasn't allowed that.

The Social Security trust fund's bonds are backed by … the U.S.' "full faith and credit" as any other Treasury security. Keep your eye on that ball, because Ryan is going to try to palm it.

When one buys a T-bond, one is effectively lending money to the government, which then uses it to do things. So, yes, Ryan is correct in stating that "the government borrowed all of these surpluses and spent them on other government programs unrelated to Social Security."

Right. On national defense. Two wars. Construction of roads, school buildings, courthouses. On the salaries of congressmen like Ryan. What of it? Was this money wasted? Hardly. The U.S. economy has more than doubled in size (adjusted for inflation) over that time in significant part because of the infrastructure and services provided by government - including with that borrowed money.

It's worth noting that under George W. Bush, the government also used those surpluses to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy by spending the borrowed funds on those wars without having to raise the income tax, which is predominantly paid by the wealthy. The payroll tax is predominantly paid by the middle class and the working class, so, in effect, the latter two classes have made an interest-bearing loan to the wealthy.

As I've written before, when you hear people like Paul Ryan talk as though the country can't afford to pay back the money by redeeming the bonds in the trust fund, what you're hearing is the sound of the wealthy preparing to stiff the working class.

If the income tax has to be raised to turn those T-bonds into cash for payment of benefits over the next couple of decades, that's how the rich will be made to repay the people who lent them the money. Some people love to claim that the government has "stolen" the trust fund. The correct reply to that is "Not yet."

But if Ryan has his way, yes, the money will be stolen. It's up to you and me to make sure that doesn't happen.

So, to put all these pieces together, there's no "dubious government accounting" involved here - the dubious accounting is all Ryan's. The trust fund is indeed a real savings account, involving deposits and interest.

Yes, the government borrowed the money, and it has paid interest on it every year. And, yes, "the ability to redeem these securities is completely dependent on the Treasury's ability to raise money through taxes or borrowing." What Ryan doesn't say is that the Treasury's ability to raise taxes and borrowing is effectively unlimited.

The most important factor is the one that people like Ryan want you to forget: The money in the Social Security trust fund came directly or indirectly from the payroll taxes paid by millions of American workers - 100% of it. It was paid by workers in the trust that the government would pay it back. Paul Ryan is hinting, pretty strongly, that he doesn't want to pay it back. So why would you trust him?

Ryan's student loan lies and his not so sneaking way to throw the poor off Medicaid.

The conservative echo chamber believes in the following; federal student loans have increased tuition, and block granting Medicaid offers states the flexibility to shape their own programs and saves money.

While many countries provide their citizens with a free college education, we don't: Instead of free, the GOP would like to make life more difficult by making us shop for everything, like a student loans, health care and soon, K-12. Imagine if all these things were provided through a general tax, and we could focus our energies on so many other things.

Republicans have been setting up the student loan program to fall for years: State Republicans continue to cut funding for their public colleges, forcing tuition increases. And on the other side, congressional Republicans blame the tuition increases on the availability of federal funding. Their con is to do away with the governments affordable student loan program and give banks the freedom to make even bigger profits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren would instead lower student loan interest to just above 3%.
Warren’s latest proposal would allow students and former students to refinance old loans at current government-subsidized rates. She proposes paying for the losses to the government by levying bigger taxes on top earners. “It’s billionaires or students. Where do we want to make our investment?” Warren asked a Washington audience recently.
Democratic Rep. Ron Kind quickly responded to Paul Ryan's latest proposal with this reality check:
Students --CUT $145 billion in education funding and $90 billion in Pell grants. Students would also be charged interest on their loans while still in school.
The solution is easy; Republicans need to start funding state colleges again, and get behind the idea of an educated public. Use general revenues to shore up our public schools and colleges-lower tuition's.

Medicaid, it's all "philosophical?" What Scott Walker did to the poor on Badgercare is mild compared to what he could have done if the federal government didn't regulate (strings attached) the use of funding. Paul Ryan wants to get rid of the strings. It's a "philosophical" thing, and a very brave "it doesn't effect me" move that only tramples on the unhealthy.

From Political Capital, Ryan amazed host Al Hunt at how disconnected he was to the reality of the problem: