Saturday, August 22, 2015

Republicans defy growing public support for Unions

You read that right, the public is interested in seeing unions grow again, despite the right wing attempts to return our nation to a slave labor economy.

The south is of course convinced no one wants them anymore, big surprise. But after so many years, they're used to wallowing in their own misery, blaming themselves for everything their politicians did to their way of life. And let's be honest, Republicans don't like unions funding the Democratic Party. That's been made pretty obvious by the favored unions supporting the GOP:   
Gallup: Approximately one in eight working adults in the U.S. (12%) belong to a labor union, equivalent to 8% of all Americans. More broadly, 17% of Americans live in a household where at least one person belongs to a union. 

But, notably, this varies markedly by region, with just 6% of adults in the South living in a union household, compared with 18% in the West and roughly a quarter in the East (24%) and Midwest (23%). Membership is also higher among nonwhites (24%) than whites (13%), and among Democrats (24%) than Republicans and independents (13% each).

Republicans, circa 1935 on Social Security: "Enslave workers, cruel hoax, a fraud on the workingman." Same old BS.

Marking Social Security's anniversary, this interesting bit of history seemed almost new:
Huffington Post: According to the Republican critics at the time, the new liberal retirement program was "socialism." They said that it would a job killer, the death knell of democracy and the end of American prosperity. 

Republican presidential candidate Alf Landon said that it was "a cruel hoax" and "a fraud on the workingman. One GOP Representative from New York suggested that the new law was purposefully designed "to enslave workers, and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people." Another intoned ominously that "the lash of the dictator will be felt."

It all sounds oddly current and familiar. But it happened decades ago when Social Security was first proposed. Social Security was signed into law 80 years ago by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on August 14th, 1935. But it was Frances Perkins, the first female Secretary of Labor and cabinet member, who was the driving force behind the creation of the program.

Republicans claimed that the law was unconstitutional. And several lawsuits eventually made their way up to the Supreme Court. President Franklin Roosevelt was able to see the results first hand of that extended experiment in "smaller government." And as he remarked in his second inaugural address:
"I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished."

Scott Walker's constitutional Birth Right Citizenship position is No Position. Surprised or just Comical?

Foot-in-mouth Scott Walker is showing us how his off scripted comments say more than any word salad non-answer. Talking to NBC's Kasie Hunt, our wondering governor accidentally spilled the beans - twice:

Last night I had to laugh at the way the WKOW news anchor unintentionally phrased Walker's...position? Great stuff:

Scott Walker willing to balance Human Lives with Cheaper Coal Energy.

While Scott Walker tries to create a manufacturing renaissance in Wisconsin, he's also working on retaining our retaining our reliance on coal. Think of Wisconsin as a "retro-50's" playground for old-fart corporate dinosaurs clinging to the past.

But what makes Walker's coal fired future so bizarre is what he's willing to "balance" out with coal: human life. Personally, that's not even a question, or shouldn't be anyway.
Coal or combined coal/gas make up the majority of Wisconsin's power plants ...Scott Walker rang alarm bells saying customer rates will go up as emission levels go down, calling the EPA regs a chain saw to the economy. 
The writings on the wall...but: Despite the rapid closing of coal mines nationwide, Walker's stubborn insistence to stay with coal is just setting us up for the eventual future cost of catching up to the new green energy marketplace. At least that spending won't be on Walker's watch, and that's all that matters to him.

WPT's Here and Now talked with Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, who made it perfectly clear about the human cost being bargained away by lobbyists at WMC and Scott Walker. The supposed massive cost of moving away from coal deceptively never figured in the savings costs associated with the change:

Scott Manley, vise president for government relations at WMC (he's a lobbyist), bragged about the smog, soot and carbon monoxide standards his industry never wanted in the first place, warning us at the time it would kill the economy... and didn't. Manley then had the nerve to say climate predictions haven't been accurate:
FREDERICA FREYBERG: So this has become an argument, then, of jobs versus the health of people or the environment?
SCOTT MANLEY: No, it doesn’t because we actually don’t need this rule to have clean air. We have smog standards, soot standards, carbon monoxide standards in place right now … these are health-based standards that protect human health. This rule…is an incredibly ineffective rule as it relates to global warming and climate change…why are we going to spend billions of dollars and put thousands of middle class factory workers out of a job so that we can have a negligible impact on global temperature?

Did you notice how Manley shifted from human health - he dropped it completely - to bash climate change instead? So much for the human carnage:

CBSNews: If the latest report from America's top weather experts is an indication, it's becoming really hard to deny global warming. Temperatures last year across the world reached record highs, according to the "State of the Climate in 2014" report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Weather and Climate. Sea levels continued to rise andglaciers kept shrinking while record concentrations of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were recorded in the atmosphere.

The most jarring data from the NOAA climate report was on temperatures, with four separate, global data sets confirming the world saw record high temperatures in 2014, with 20 countries from Europe to Mexico setting records. These were the highest temperatures seen in the past 135 years.
From NASA, this unnerving gif showing global warming, a supposed fiction pushed by big business. Many Republicans won't even play it safe, you know, just in case:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Walker on the Black Lives Matter movement: "Who knows who that is?"

Since when does a career politician have time to spend on solving the nations race relation problems?

Remember, just talking about police shootings and the mounting number of black victims will only make things worse:
"One, I think in general if anyone focuses on racial discord we’re going to get more. If we focus on unity we’re going to get more of that. The families of the massacre in Charleston showed us the way. I think it’s a prime example if we focus on things that unite us, ways to share the American dream." 
Even after all the press and interrupting a Bernie Sanders event, Walker never heard of the Black Lives Matter movement:
CNN: Gov. Scott Walker stumbled through a question Friday about whether he would meet with representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Walker dismissed the possibility by saying, "I meet with voters. Who knows who that is," Walker said, apparently referring to Black Lives Matter activists. "I'm going to talk to American voters, period."

"It's the same way as saying we meet with the tea party. Who is the tea party? There's hundreds of thousands of people ... It's a ridiculous question. I'm going to talk to voters. This is a ridiculous question."
These are the kinds of disjointed answers Walker is known to give when presented with something he hasn't already rehearsed for weeks. The comments section offered up these insights:
1. It's "rudiculous" to expect Walker to answer intelligently.

2. oh no, someone asked him questions he was not prepared to answer. Didn't have that one in the script. He gave a totally off the wall answer - I'd call it more than stumbling. Followed up by the tea party reference?? incoherent. Bet he was received real well. No wonder he is dropping in the polls.

3. should be; walker stated " I meet with campaign donors"

Targeted for extermination by Walker, GAB audit found no problems and no reason to destroy nonpartisan election oversight.

Despite all the trouble Gov. Scott Walker had as chairman of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (he was booted for lost and forgotten money), it's now on the fast track to become less unaccountable with even less oversight.

The Government Accountability Board on the other hand, overseeing elections and investigating election wrong doing (catching a few Republicans and nearly Scott Walker), is on the chopping block and about to become a political arm of the administration. Republicans took a few audit problems and went into phony outrage mode.

In this jaw dropping WPT Here and Now interview, Republican State Sen. Devin LeMahieu thought nothing of admitting the parties bizarre and vengeful intentions. This will instill more confidence in out elections?

Common Cause wrote this:
Walker, Fitzgerald and Vos particularly despise the fact that the six retired judges that comprise the GAB voted unanimously in 2012 to authorize an investigation into possible illegal campaign coordination between Scott Walker's campaign during the recall election, with outside special interest groups (Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce) … such coordination was very clear at that time and the GAB decision was completely in accordance with established law. 

What really irks Walker, Fitzgerald and Vos is that the GAB is not controlled by them and has not done their bidding. And so now, this Fall, the Republican majority will move in September to eviscerate the independence and non-partisanship of the GAB and attempt to ram through their own legislation that will make the GAB a partisan tool firmly under their control. In doing so, the GOP will seek to dictate the outcome of Wisconsin elections, campaign finance law, ethics and lobbying law and manipulate it in such a way that they will gain permanent political power and control in the clean, honest, accountable and nationally-admired state formerly known as Wisconsin.
GAB Director Kevin Kennedy addressed many of the phony issues LeMahieu mentioned above on WKOW's Capitol City Sunday:

But that was then, this is now, and they lost their reason for change. WKOW:
An audit released Thursday looking into how Wisconsin's nonpartisan elections and ethics board, the GAB, handles complaints found no major problems, leading the panel's director to say it should put to rest concerns about its operations even as Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker plan major overhauls. The report shows that the six retired judges on the board are engaged as they review material presented by staff. Republicans who control the Legislature along with Walker, who is running for president, have said for months they plan to make significant changes to the board, including possibly doing away with it and starting over. 

Walker tricked: Business loves Quality of Life, Smart Employees, Recreation, a Safe Place for Families! Cost of government, not so much.

I know, another story showing Wisconsin losing to Minnesota. But now we're talking about something Republicans can't stop talking about and can't live without; lower taxes. Minnesota has lower taxes, and they didn't have to stop funding their state parks, their university system, public schools and halt road construction. All false choices sold to willing "Stand with Walker" dupes.
Tax and spin: Most families in Wisconsin, it turns out, would save on taxes by moving to Minnesota: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, has pursued the sort of agenda that might cause Walker to break out in hives: expanding union membership, increasing school funding and  — most notably — implementing a tax hike on the wealthiest Minnesotans. 
As it turns out, "Wisconsin has some of the highest residential property taxes in the country"
The result is that across every income bracket, homeowners in Wisconsin pay a higher share of their income to property taxes than those in Minnesota, according to data compiled by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank that studies tax policy … for all but the top earners,  property tax rates are low enough to make up for higher income tax rates. 
Of all the things that could have been changed by Wisconsin Republicans, they left one thing out:
Unlike Minnesota and all but seven other states, Wisconsin is required to tax all property equally, be it commercial or residential. That means Wisconsin can’t shift any of the tax burden from homeowners to owners of other types of property, as many states do (including Minnesota). As a result, Wisconsin’s high property tax essentially wipes out any savings most taxpayers would see due to the lower income, sales and excise taxes compared to Minnesota. In fact, the only group that faces a higher tax burden in Minnesota than in Wisconsin are families with household incomes over $200,000. 
And despite helping small businesses in Wisconsin, we're not seeing the intended result. Guess what, it's all about the quality of life, strong schools and recreation, all things of no interest to Walker or Republicans:
David Ross, president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, says that’s partly because moving a business can be risky, if for no other reason than political ideology can change with each election. Instead, what’s reliable is a quality work force — the main incentive for businesses to locate in an area, as is quality of life. 

Ross said “The cost of government is certainly, within a state, an important factor to keep in mind. (But) people want to live in a community where there’s a strong public school system, where it’s a safe place to raise a family, where there’s strong recreation. I think those states that are focusing on cost of government are in a bad place. We’re promoting much more lifestyle and a place to live, not just a place to work. ... So I am not impressed with the position of Walker.”
Wisconsin will have a long road back, to even catch up.

Walker tames weak state Republican leaders, who were afraid of Big Bold Walker Agenda? Not what they remember...

Our brave unintimidated Governor Scott Walker has just bitten off more than he can chew. It seems that when you belittle and cast your fellow Republicans in the legislature as timid and weak, you're going to get some blowback. Maybe even come across as a blowhard liar of sorts. jsonline:
Some Republican leaders in Wisconsin are disputing Gov. Scott Walker's latest account of how he took on the GOP establishment during his battle with public employee unions. Walker in recent days has been stressing the resistance he mt not just from ... Republicans.
Walker: "Sometimes people (think) I just took on the unions or the other party. We did. But before all that, we had to take on our own party's establishment. There were a lot of people in my party, particularly in the legislative branch, who said, 'You know it's nice to be in the majority, that means we've got a bigger office and more staff and nice titles but I don't know that we really want to do all that much more.' They said, 'It's kind of safe here, if we have to push some of the big, bold reforms you're talking about, there might be some push-back. And some of us in safe seats might actually have some challenges.' You know what? We said, 'Never mind. We got elected for a reason. We didn't get elected for a title .... We got elected to do something.'"
What a leader? 
He is selling himself as a politician who will fight for voters and who is willing to embrace "big, bold" ideas.
Walker is so desperate to get that Iowa vote he'll even trash his lackey, one party legislature that pretty much does everything he wants:
But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Republicans in that house never balked over the controversial proposal to all but end collective bargaining for most of the state's public workers, known as Act 10. "That was not my recollection. I wasn't in every meeting but on the Assembly side, I never met anybody (in leadership) who wasn't on board from day one." Vos said he did not recall the kinds of push-back that Walker is now describing. He added that he never heard any GOP leaders worry about losing perks, such as their title or office. "It seemed to me the whole discussion was about how we were going to get it done. I have always felt we were a team." 

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) made similar comments on Twitter Friday morning. "I was new at the time, but timid is not a description that fit our caucus. Resolute and united is," he tweeted.

Former Sen. Dale Schultz, who was the only Republican senator to vote against Act. 10, said he remembers Walker visiting the Senate GOP caucus. "There was a lot of concern there, but the leadership had already bought into doing this. We'd already been told this was going to happen."
My favorite comment came from Sen. Luther Olsen:
The comments struck a nerve with Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.
"The thing is, we were all the guys facing the crowds every day coming in and out of our offices. We didn't have the police protection," he said. "Taking on your friends ... and saying you were the tough guy? Thanks a lot, buddy."

Walker's Wisconsin template for U.S. - Worst in Nation Shrinking Middle Class; Bottom half of job creation!

I'm still having a hard time understanding how someone like Scott Walker can run for president on his deplorable record in Wisconsin. Wake me from this nightmare.

The two following points should be enough to end Walker's dream of world conquest:
Report: Wisconsin worst in nation on shrinking middle class: Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to the Pew Charitable Trust report … the largest decline in the percentage of families considered "middle class," or those earning between 67 and 200 percent of their state’s median income.

In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the middle class category but that has fallen to 48.9 percent in 2013 … All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure … Also, the median household income in Wisconsin was $60,344 in 2000 but now stands at just $51,467 after adjusting for inflation. That’s a dip of 14.7 percent. Nationally, median household incomes declined by 7.2 percent.
Big time jobs problem for Walker policies:
Wisconsin again in bottom half of states in yearly job growth: Wisconsin had a statistically significant increase in private-sector jobs in July, but not enough to get out of the bottom half of states for job growth over the last year. Most of that growth was in service-providing fields.

Between July 2014 and July 2015, Wisconsin's private-sector job level grew by 40,300. That 1.66 percent growth ranked 29th in the country; it's the third straight month that Wisconsin has been in the bottom half of states in job growth over the previous year

Walker ignores educated workforce leaving Wisconsin, as he tries to revive old Manufacturing base!

My head hurts when I hear Scott Walker brag about his low unemployment numbers, while at the same time claiming his low job creation numbers are due to fewer jobs lost during the recession. Crazy!

Walker has received little criticism for trying to revive Wisconsin's flagging manufacturing base, all the while discouraging a new generation of businesses that will not only bring with it manufacturing jobs, but also high tech employment. Personally, Walker's governorship came at exactly the wrong time, when the economy readjusted itself after the Great Recession.

That's why the next generation of educated workers are leaving the state; they're seeing nothing but under-appreciated low paying jobs. Here's the latest research proving that point:
WSJ: Why is Wisconsin in the bottom third of states when it comes to creating jobs? UW-Oshkosh economics professor M. Kevin McGee thinks … Walker hasn’t been able to create jobs because there aren't enough workers to go around.
Walker’s focus on big business ignored the other half of the equation; employees. And guess what, people seeking employment don't like the GOP's attitude toward labor and the added difficulty getting when people are between jobs.  
"We are no longer attracting workers to come to Wisconsin, and are indeed losing workers at nearly every age level over the prime working years. If this continues for long, it would not bode well in the long term for the state."

"I see no evidence that he's (Walker) had any positive impact on the state's economy. Yes, the unemployment rate is low, but Wisconsin's unemployment rate is always low ... ironically, that may be a reflection of the underlying problem. People who leave the state often do so when they are between jobs, so an out-migration will artificially lower the unemployment rate." The state is having trouble attracting and retaining workers, particularly in the 18-26 and 36-44 age groups.

“Wisconsin’s anemic labor force growth rate has resulted in the lowest job growth rate in the area in the last year — May 2014 to May 2015,” he writes. “As a result, in June 2015 Wisconsin had roughly 58,000 fewer jobs than it would have had if it had kept up with its neighbors.” McGee found that Wisconsin's population growth has fallen behind projections for just over four years. "But I don't think you could easily categorize state policy over the last four years as having been particularly 'worker friendly.' To determine whether that has mattered, we'd need to survey a whole lot of those state emigrants -- and I don't think that's likely to happen."
Let's not forget the other big reason for our slow economic growth:
Several economists, including McGee, have in the past blamed the state’s anemic recovery from the recession on Walker’s move to effectively cut the take-home pay for the massive public sector workforce.
This interesting letter to the editor about the above research summed it up well:
I think one can directly attribute the reason people are leaving the state to Scott Walker and his cronies demeaning young people, educated people, state employees, etc., etc. I am writing this from Chicago where my wife and I moved three years ago after the Act 10 was enacted and the recall failed. I am a retired state employee who got out when I could and my wife took a good job here in Chicago.

Why would anyone want to stay in Wisconisn when highly educated hardworking people are vilified at every turn. Walker and his Republican idiots are trying to dumb down Wisconsin so they can keep pulling the wool Wisconsin.

Roger James    Chicago, Illinois

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Walker's cobbled together Health Care puzzle a dangerous and costly prescription.

The health care reviews are in, and thank god, reporters everywhere are starting to catch on to how draconian and elitist Scott Walker's and Marco Rubio's plans are.

First, I think the following Bobby Jindal statement says it all about the ruthless detached anger sweeping the Republican Party today. This is third world stuff. It's the best example of the almost Hunger Games-like attitude Republicans have about their vision of society:
Jindal: “In Governor Walker’s plan, a new entitlement is created for every single American human being from the time they are born right up until they grow old and become eligible for Medicare. It is frankly shocking that a Republican candidate for President would author a cradle to grave plan like this. When did conservatism die? When did we accept the idea of dependence on government?"
Why stop there; why should we accept the idea of our cradle to grave dependence on the nations highways; dependence on clean water, air and a safe food supply; dependence on educating the public; depending on mass transit; dependence on national security, etc.? If you can't profit from the nations citizens, then what's the point?

Flip Flop on Means Testing; "Stand with Walker" supporters are cheering for a plan that does what they are now complaining about, using taxpayer money via the big federal government. More oddly, the Republican plan does the opposite of what they've been trying to do with Social Security and Medicare; means test it. Age not Income: Tax credits will be given out based on age, and not the GOP's favored means test. And seriously, what insurance company isn't going to build in the rates doled out by the government, since the dollar amount is a specific unchanging number? The tax credits in some ways exceeds the ACA's credits (which also include cut off points, Walker's doesn't), but what you get and have to pay for cost more money. There is no cost containment either, something we're seeing a little of in ObamaCare.

But that's just a small sample my own criticisms. Here are a few other insights:
Huffington Post: Walker's plan -- "The Day One Patient Freedom Plan" -- is a patchwork of recycled health care proposals that various Republicans have put forth over the years, none of which the party has been able to coalesce around in Congress. 

Bloomberg Politics: Scott Walker's Obamacare Replacement Plan Is Popular With Republicans—But Can It Work? Tim Jost, a prominent health care expert said: 
Walker's "tax credits at the level proposed would not begin to cover the cost of decent coverage. There is not a new idea in here." ... let health insurers sell plans across state lines ... critics fear it would motivate insurers to migrate to the states with the least regulations and sell the more bare-bones policies across the country.

Many states already have high-risk pools, but they haven't worked well because, due to the fact that they cover many poor and sick people, they have high costs and are generally underfunded.

Functioning high-risk pools are very expensive, as are his proposed tax credits. That's a tall order for a plan that eliminates the $1 trillion in largely upper-income taxes imposed by Obamacare, and in a Congress run by anti-spending Republicans ... plans like this would upend coverage for a lot of people."
LA Times: Walker's healthcare plan is perfect, if you want almost no insurance at all: The loopy irrationality of this proposal can be seen if one contemplates that a 30-year-old millionaire would receive the same grant ($1,200) as one earning $20,000. Under the ACA, the latter would receive $1,939, on average. Walker also puts in a plug for workplace wellness programs ... the danger is that they'll be used by some employers to harass and punish unwell members of their workforce. So if you want to buy health insurance with no standards whatsoever, Walker's your man.

The Week: What Scott Walker and Marco Rubio don't want you to know about their health care plans: Incentives for providers to move away from a fee-for-service model, which encourages lots of spending, and toward a model that pays them for keeping the patient healthy, reducing hospital readmissions, and so on … all those providers that have spent a couple of years changing how they operate would now have to change back. The millions of people who are now on Medicaid because of the law's expansion of the program would immediately lose their insurance. The millions who got coverage through the health care exchanges would probably also lose their coverage, because the exchanges would cease operating, and the plans that insurance companies designed with the ACA's regulations in mind would likely be eliminated. Those who rely on the ACA's subsidies would, under both Walker and Rubio, get a tax credit — but in many cases one less generous than the subsidy they're getting now, making insurance unaffordable again.

Voxdotcom: Marco Rubio's Obamacare replacement plan: Under Rubio's plan, pretty much everyone — workers, seniors, the poor — will pay more for the health coverage they currently receive. When people have less insurance … people won't just cut out unnecessary care — they'll lose access to medical care that they do really need and could potentially die without.

Slowly wind down what is known as the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance. Voters hate the idea of ending health insurance tax exclusion because it means the same exact health benefits package they get right now could get a whole lot more expensive. The 56 percent of Americans under 65 who get their insurance through their employer hate this the most.
Two more takes that I thought were important:
Forbes: The Wisconsin governor says he’d help make insurance affordable with refundable tax credits and expanded health savings accounts. The credits would increase from $900 for those up to age 17 to $3,000 for those 50-64. They’d be available for anyone without employer-sponsored health insurance. 

For context, the Obama Administration estimates the average premium subsidy for those buying on the exchange this year was about $3,100. Thus, Walker’s highest credit would be lower than the average ACA subsidy. And, like most credits, they come with a cash flow problem. That fry-cook has to pay his premiums monthly, but won’t see cash from the credit until after he files his tax return. In addition, Walker does not say whether his credits would be indexed for medical inflation. If not, their value would decline rapidly as premiums rise with health costs. 

Walker would also raise contribution limits for HSAs (and allow unused funds to pass to surviving children, parents, or grandparents). But it’s hard to see how more generous HSAs would help that low-wage worker. He’s unlikely to have discretionary income to fund a tax-advantaged health account and would not benefit from the exclusion from taxable income since he already owes no income taxes. Walker’s health plan would add hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax preferences to the Code. Not exactly Reaganesque.

Walker does not say how he’d pay for the credits and expanded HSAs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the ACA alone would increase budget deficits by $137 billion over 10 years.
From WPR's Joy Cardin Show, audio that really dissects the problems with Walker's plan. HERE! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wisconsinites discovering the real Scott Walker, and some even like him.

It was more than entertaining to hear callers on the Mitch Hank Show vent over Scott Walker's criticism of protesters attending his soap box speech in Iowa.

I put a few of the callers together, including "Stand with Walker" supporters who still hate the 1st Amendment and the whole idea of protesting the government.

I came across this interesting "cover story:"

Big surprise? "Unintimidated" Walker screens tougher Health Care questions out at press conference!

Scott Walker is a control freak of the first order. "Stand with Walker" supporters can no longer pretend poor Scott Walker is an attack victim of the left wing media, or that he's not at fault for hiring scumbag aides who thought nothing of breaking state laws.

Walker's experience as a career politician means that as a presidential candidate, he's going to be even more secretive about his real motivations. I'd like to welcome the national media to the Scott Walker we've become so familiar with in Wisconsin. Politico:
The Scott Walker campaign is quickly building a reputation as the most press-averse group in the Republican field. On Tuesday, Walker's policy team held a press call with reporters to discuss the Wisconsin governor's health care plan … But when reporters tried to submit a question, they were greeted by a press aide who demanded to know what question each reporter intended to ask.
"Was on Gov. Walker health plan press call. First time as a reporter I've ever had my questions pre-screened before I could ask them," Stephanie Armour, The Wall Street Journal's health care policy reporter, tweeted after the call.

"On Scott Walker's health care policy call, reporter questions are being screened," her colleague Reid Epstein wrote.
This is not the first time Walker and his team have exercised extreme caution when dealing with the press. In March, Walker made public appearances in Texas and South Carolina but closed the events to press and refused to take questions from the media. In April, while visiting Europe, he held no public events and took no questions from reporters. In May, while visiting Israel, he did the same. An aide told the Journal that Walker was going to "focus on educating himself about Israeli issues and won’t hold public events or take questions from reporters."
The article did mention this:
Walker has held his share of press interviews and media scrums.
But those press interviews don’t ask or pursue those dangerous follow-up questions politicians hate so much. The media never takes the time to drill deeper into Walker’s now infamous non-answers. It's encouraging to see the national press taking notice, including the Wall Street Journal.

Like so many other times, the comments section is often needed to tell the whole story:
Paul Atkins: I live in Wisconsin. Walker never appears in uncontrolled places. His favorite media event takes place on a factory floor in a business owned by a financial supporter with poor unhappy looking workers in the background as props. He never takes questions. He travels with the largest security detail of any Wisconsin governor. He never gets off message. His book titled UNINTIMIDATED is the height of irony given he never was out in the public during the massive protests. He went underground via tunnels to avoid the inconvenience of meeting his constituents. He is a masterful politician, but a poor excuse for a human being. He is a snake.

Laffy: And yet, his groupies will give him a free pass while crying about Hillary "not taking questions from the press."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Walker's health care flop!

With a ridiculous name like "Day One Patient FreedomPlan," Scott Walker is loudly declaring that as a career politician receiving taxpayer benefits, he doesn’t know a thing about the U.S. health care mess he wants to go back to...on steroids.

Walker’s big Republican government solution is similar to the obstacle course of voting hoops he’s making people jump through in Wisconsin. This is Walker's idea of simplification.

Even more bizarre is Walker's maze of confusing choices, that will only get worse:
Opening the health insurance market across state lines ... the federal government would provide funds to states to help provide coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions ... reform Medicaid in innovative ways/give states the ability to run Medicaid and reorganize it into smaller, focused parts ... EXPAND COVERAGE OPTIONS BY ALLOWING CONSUMERS TO POOL TOGETHER AND PURCHASE INSURANCE AS A GROUP ... allow for new purchasing arrangements so farmers, small businesses, religious groups, individual membership associations, and others could join together, pool members, and offer health insurance policies for the group ... allow the private sector, including health insurers, to offer products that reflect consumer demands for assistance at home. 
Walker also lied when he said the ACA caused any kind of damage, suggesting falsely that ObamaCare is adding to the deficit. Just the opposite in fact, and it's paid for:
My plan would roll back the damage done by ObamaCare and when compared to the realities that existed before ObamaCare, would not add to the deficit.
So you have to ask, how does Walker intends to pay this Rube Golberg health care plan; with wishful free market thinking and upside down magical math:
Walker said it would not be funded through new taxes and mandates despite his plan to repeal all of the ACA's $1 trillion in new taxes. "To offset these improvements, we would simplify and reform how the federal government helps people access health insurance."
Another words, keep your fingers crossed Americans, get out your checkbooks, you're on your own.

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS: Worst idea ever. You've heard the complaints about ObamaCare, where the deductibles are too high, right? You can thank Republicans for that, because they created the HSA monster. I had them for years, and they're an unaffordable self rationing ripoff:
MORE CHOICES AND MORE ACCESS BY IMPROVING HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (HSAs) My plan would allow anyone who signs up for an HSA to receive a $1,000 refundable tax credit. Existing limits on annual tax-free HSA contributions would be increased to $6,250 for individuals and $12,500 for families.
Ouch! Who can afford to just stow away $12,500 bucks and let it sit there? Didn't thinks so: 
These reforms would give individuals the opportunity to save, tax free, for health expenses – giving them more control of their health care spending.
I know health care and have blogged about the ins and outs of every plan for years. I was about to offer my criticism on Walker’s plan when I found the following great analysis from Voxdotcom. Ezra Klein and Sarah Cliff have been writing about health care for years at Wonkblog, and are now offering the following eye opening analysis that exposes Walker’s purely ideological “solution:”

While Obamacare's tax credits are tethered to income (lower earners get more help), Walker's plan would base tax credits on age. For high earners, this might be great. Under Walker's plan, Taylor Swift would get $1,200 to help buy coverage because she's 25, while Obamacare would give her nothing on the grounds that she's super rich. For lower-income people, this is a lousy deal under Walker (because under ObamaCare) a 25-year-old earning $17,000 at a low-wage job would get a $1,962 credit.
Walker's plan says it would "protect all Americans with pre-existing conditions," but when you read the fine print, you realize that's not accurate. It would only bar preexisting conditions for Americans who have continuous coverage (this is current law) — who never have a lapse between their plans. But there aren't any protections mentioned for people who do drop coverage at some point. This group is big: One study found that between 2004 and 2007, 89 million Americans had at least a one-month gap in coverage. Walker would cover these people with preexisting condition pools.
These are taxpayer supported high risk pools that every Republicans should be against; it gives their hard earned money to someone else; is nothing more than a handout to the insurance industry raking in cash from only healthy Americans; and socializes the risk.

JUNK INSURANCE POLICIES: Coverage will be minimal, hanging you out to dry if you get the wrong sickness:
Walker's plan would no longer require insurance plans to cover a core set of benefits (Obamacare has a set of "essential benefits," including preventive care and pregnancy costs, that insurers must cover). This would likely mean the benefits available to people buying their own coverage would become cheaper — since they cover fewer services — but also less robust.
BLOCK GRANT MEDICAID: Note: Republicans want this for one reason; to cut the program through drug testing, income and time limits, work requirements etc., essentially make it impossible to get.
Turning Medicaid into a "block grant" simply means handing control of the program — and the funding for it — over to the states. The Kaiser Family Foundation assessed the block grant proposal in Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget and estimated that it would mean between 14 and 20 million fewer people receiving Medicaid by 2022.

While Iowa Protester was Attacked, Walker Bragged he wasn't Intimidated!!!

It was a little out of character, but Scott Walker needed a boost in the polls.

When the news broke about Scott Walker's egomaniacal attacked on a few protesters in a small crowd at the Iowa State Fair, I had a chance to ask my conservative friend in Milwaukee what he thought; do people have a 1st Amendment right to redress their government if they disagree with policy, or are they now seen as disloyal Americans, trying to "intimidate" their political leaders?

Without hesitation he said it was intimidation, just like Walker. Another real constitutional scholar. And since it is intimidation, Walker no longer has a responsibility to listen to those now vilified dissenters. It's a perfect example of rightwing authoritarianism.

In Wisconsin, Walker typically avoids public confrontations with scheduled appearances closed off to all but his corporate supporters and captive employee audiences.

Walker's outburst was calculated to play off his book (boost sales?), and play up his reputation for taking on hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites in the dead of winter who protested his "divide and conquer" agenda.
Published on Aug 17, 2015: At the Iowa State Fair Soapbox, Governor Scott Walker brings the crowd to a thunderous applause when he says he is unintimidated and a proven, tested leader.
The funny irony? Walker bragged about standing up to 100,000 taxpaying American people, because he wants to "fight for the American people." You can't make this stuff up folks. Here's a more complete look at Walker's attack:

"Again, unintimidated. I am not intimidated by you, sir, or anyone else out there. I will fight for the American people over and over and over and over again. You want someone who’s tested? I’m right here. You can see it. This is what happened in Wisconsin. We will not back down. We will do what is necessary to defend the American people going forward. If you give me the chance, I will not be intimidated, just like I wasn't intimidated here or anywhere else."

"Go get 'em, Scott!" a supporter screamed in response.
I also included Walker bragging about freezing tuition for the last 4 years, as if that's any kind of solution to rising college cost. Oh, and he blamed Hillary's speaking fees for skyrocketing college costs. He really did.

The press gave little attention to the scuffle caused by our brownshirted constitutional conservative freedom fighters trying to rip the protesters sign apart. So much for free speech. Special Note: The Walker thugs against political speech should be charged for disorderly conduct and vandalism, just like a Germantown kindergarten teacher was for a similar offense, which was written about for months in the Wisconsin Watchdog:

UPDATE: Now we know more about the confrontation Walker never tried to stop or defuse:

More video @GovWalker points and his supporters pounce. @AddInfoOrg ‪#‎iacaucus‬"Unfortunately for Walker, those protestors happened to be Addicting Info proprietor Matthew Desmond and two of his friends, Aaron Black and Khalil White. Matthew explained what happened to him and his friends as they stood peacefully protesting Walker in the front row:

“I was holding up [a] sign, wasn’t yelling at him, but he was screaming at us and his supporters attacked us. We [he and Aaron Black] were both attacked and had our signs ripped up. I kept pulling out more from my pocket and one guy attempted to climb on a hay bale and dive bomb me. They pushed my friend Khalil White, who has a torn meniscus in his knee, and ripped up his sign. Then they pushed me over, at one point, onto a woman in a wheelchair.”
As Charles Pierce recently wrote: Scott Walker's Lies at the Fairgrounds - Scott Walker and his campaign's toxic combination of belligerence and aggressive victimhood were on display:  
Alone among the crowd of candidates, Walker most clearly is running on his record of being a complete prick to the right people – which include teachers and nurses and the people who clean up after Alzheimer's patients in group homes. He truly is a remarkable liar, already a far more remarkable liar than even Mitt Romney was, and I didn't think that was possible. For example, the evidence is that while he managed to ram his programs through his pet legislature, he hid behind his capitol police. He took a tunnel to get to the office. He and his pet legislature changed the rules of what was allowed in the Wisconsin capitol building, which always had been open space. He was unintimidated by singing grandmothers because his administration had them arrested and hauled away.​

And, it scarcely needs to be mentioned, when 100,000 of his constituents showed up on his lawn, Scott Walker did not deign to meet with them. 

(And, you have to admit, it takes some big clanging brass ones to talk about "taking on the big special interests" a couple of weeks after giving $250 million of that sweet taxpayer cash to the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, to say nothing of riding to victory three times on tidal waves of dark money.)​ 
Hat tip to Jake's Economic TA Funhouse for highlighting Pierce's article.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Is Scott Walker a ruthless con man...?

There's no way I can add anything to the following reporters comment below, about Scott Walker's "Family Care" con. Come on, even "Stand with Walker" Borg-ites will feel like taking a shower after this one. Wausau Daily Harold:
It was the week after Christmas and before New Year’s in 2011, the end of Walker’s first
year as governor. Our usual political reporter was off with family, and so I was given the job of calling in to a news conference Walker had called to announce an end to the state’s cap on Family Care enrollments.

This was greeted as terrific news. Family Care, which is a Medicaid program that helps elderly people and those with disabilities to stay in their homes rather than go into nursing homes, is a popular program and it helps a lot of people.

Walker and Republicans had placed a cap on enrollments shortly after coming in to office in 2011. This end-of-year announcement meant the program would do away with its waiting lists and would expand from 57 to all 72 counties in Wisconsin. It was “very good news,” the executive director of the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin told me.

So, great. Walker had a change of heart. We reported the news.

And then that night a Wisconsin political reporter, not me, scooped that, in fact, Wisconsin had been ordered by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to lift the cap and expand the program. It was illegal not to do so.

Walker had called a press conference to take credit for something he’d spent a year resisting, a policy he had changed only when he was forced to do so.

I felt like a sucker for writing a credulous, straightforward account of the policy change. As I remember it, we ran my story in print the next day, only to then have to pick up the Associated Press’s better, less bamboozled report the next day, explaining that Walker had been forced to make the amazing policy change he’d touted as his own. Well, you win some and you lose some. I remember this story because it embarrassed me.

Now it is 2015 and Walker is running for president. You’ll never guess what happened this year. In the budget he proposed this year, Walker wanted to dismantle Family Careand a related program known as IRIS. Those proposals were altered in the budget process, with some portions of the proposed cuts restored. The program is now going to be overseen by insurance companies.

Maybe Walker should call a news conference to brag that he saved the program. 

Are Voters really "reserving their copy of Scott Walker's #ObamaCare repeal and replace plan?"

I rarely agree with blogger Christian Schneider, but his targeted tweet at Scott Walker nailed it:

Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin is known for taking an endless amount of time writing very long books, which frustrates his fan base...similar to "Stand with Walker" believers I'm guessing.

Walker's plan will no doubt be a regurgitation of every free market, "patient centered" GOP idea we've rejected for years. The problem: the failed individual market (the ACA replaced it) was based on free market principles that resulted in dropped junk policies, weeded out those with preexisting conditions, and saw double digit premium increases that screamed collusion within the industry. Yea, lets try that again. 

Citizen Action of Wisconsin notified the public of this bit of "ObamaCare" irony: 
On Tuesday August 18th, Scott Walker's Presidential Campaign is going to release his plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. It is not often you get advanced notice of a major gaffe, but this is one of those times.

The reason is that, of all the places the Walker Campaign could choose to release their healthcare plan, they pick the one state that shows how to properly rein in insurance companies - Wisconsin's western neighbor Minnesota. Minnesota has the most affordable health coverage in the country, while Wisconsin has the most expensive Silver plans in the Midwest.
 In fact, the cost disparity is so bad that the small business in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center where Walker is announcing his plan would likely be paying from $500 to over $1,000 more per employee if they were based in Milwaukee County, where Walker used to be County Executive. Minnesota uses rate review to police insurance company rate increases to root out excessive costs. 

Average Silver plans are 60% more in Wisconsin, averaging $1,692 more per person per year, and the average Silver plan in Wisconsin has a $600 higher annual deductible.

Scott Walker's idea of Local Control: Floats idea of overriding liberal voting rights states with strict Voter ID laws.

He wants it all folks. John Dean didn't pick Scott Walker as a the best example of a rightwing authoritarianism for nothing.

Here's Scott Walker's nationwide, one-size-fits-all voter suppression idea, that abandons individual state control for the sole purpose of smashing and eliminating blue state opposition. Walker doesn't just beat the opposition, he destroys them too. Consider yourself lucky on this one; Walker usually springs stuff like this on the public without warning:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wind Energy, both power and jobs, is happening despite what backward Wisconsin Republicans and WMC are telling us.

I made an amazing discovery the other day while paging through a really old alternative Milwaukee newspaper, the American Bugle. The 1975 weekly featured an article about wind energy, pictured below. Imagine where we'd be today if big energy didn't keep wind from becoming a serious player. Of course they're still at it, with doom and gloom warnings about killing business and rising customer utility bills, never mind their continual requests at the PSC for hikes using cheap coal. So what's that all about? 

That myth gets trashed in the current article at the bottom that proves wind energy isn't just affordable now, but a job creator to boot. So let's take a look at what the "21st Century" will like. Click on the picture here to enlarge:

Now here's the latest good news that will once and for all end premature deaths due to fossil fuel pollution:
WaPo: Two new reports published Monday by the Department of Energy find that one key renewable sector — wind — including the 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report, published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — suggest that wind is being installed at a rapid rate, that its costs are plummeting, that its technologies are advancing, and that it is creating 73,000 jobs to boot.
Sad to say, Wisconsin is not one of those job creating states. Easing our energy dependence on coal isn't even a thought, and neither is being more self sufficient producing our own energy:
Wind energy in the U.S. is now providing roughly 5 percent of total U.S. electricity demand (66 gigawatts). And 13 more gigawatts are now “in the construction phase” and set to come online by 2016.

According to the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “It really dispels some of the past myths that you cannot have significant amounts of wind energy in the system — a variable source in the system — without really affecting the overall efficiency.”  

And most striking, it found that the wholesale cost of wind energy — bought under a “power purchasing agreement,” or PPA, in which a utility or company buys power from a wind farm under a long term contract — is now … cheaper than the average price of wholesale electricity in many parts of the country,” says Ryan Wiser of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a lead author of the new report. Granted, it’s important to note that costs would not be so low without the wind production tax credit. Still, it’s impressive. With the wind production tax credit expired, beyond 2016 there may be less wind growth.

Distributed wind, like distributed solar, refers to wind energy — typically just one or two turbines — installed by private individuals or companies to allow them to generate a portion of the electricity they need onsite, rather than having to buy it from a utility company. Wind isn’t the only renewable sector booming — at least for rate of growth lately, solar greatly surpasses it, with the electricity generated from solar in the U.S. doubling between 2013 and 2014. However, thus far, wind contributes a larger percentage of our total electricity than does solar.

Walker/Republicans are their own worst enemy in Manufacturing Decline, and it'll only get worse.

The nation could learn a lot from the way Scott Walker is managing Wisconsin, and none of its good.

Wisconsin was once a manufacturing powerhouse. But since we heard that giant sucking sound, where jobs and manufacturing left the U.S. via our disastrous free trade agreements, those days aren't coming back anytime soon.

But you can't tell that to Scott Walker, and voters should find that unsettling. Walker is stuck in the past, working on a manufacturing renaissance in Wisconsin. In fact, Walker is attacking, vilifying and stopping emerging industries he feels aren't part of the Republican Party platform, like wind, solar and mass transit. And that doesn't bode well for a Walker led U.S..

Here are two charts Walker will never look at, to the detriment of everyone else looking for some leadership:

Add to that the GOP push for tax cuts and user fees, as an answer to the complaint, "I don't want to pay for someone else's trip to the state parks; someone else's public college education; someone else's health insurance; someone else's community entertainment facilities; and someone else's freeway improvements.

It's a national movement too. Republicans refuse to pay for a massive job creation no-brainer rebuilding the nations infrastructure. They are also big on new free trade agreements that gave us the horrific looking charts above, all the while resisting a higher minimum wage that will increase demand.

As the Economic Policy Institute's Robert Scott advises:
Taken together, steps to eliminate trade deficits (by ending currency manipulation and unfair trade) and rebuild U.S. infrastructure could easily generate sufficient demand for manufactured products to return most or all of the 5 million manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2014. Growing trade deficits and the shortfall in demand caused by the Great Recession, and not productivity growth, are the major causes of manufacturing job loss in this period.