Man MKE's blog

No. 1 most disgusting silence on right-to-work-for-less bill: public-safety unions exempt from Act 10

This week the players' unions for Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Hockey League all issued statements opposing the Republican Party's blitzkrieg move to turn Wisconsin into a so-called "right to work" state that would gut private-sector union power. http://www.wqow.com/story/28204175/unions-for-professional-athletes-oppo...

Burying the lead: News media ho-hum about state's latest, lousy jobs report

The official State of Wisconsin web page reporting on jobs is still stuck in the past, touting the fact that, as of last Dec. 12, the state's unemployment rate had declined to 5.2 percent. Whoopee! Party on, dudes!

And so far, the state's news media haven't done much to update that skewed perception of great results under Walkerism. Oh, it did come up in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, albeit buried in the back of the paper's business section, with this relatively understated headline:

The dumbest question asked by a GOP senator at Tuesday's sham right-to-work hearing

As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal: When opponents of the right-to-work law said, based on real experience in other states, that the law would encourage some employees in a union shop to "free ride" on the benefits obtained through collective bargaining by the union, State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) wondered aloud why employees would chose not to pay union dues if the benefits are so valuable.

Walker union busting didn't just damage both organized labor and Wisconsin's economy, it created a new social rift

The Washington Post and Salon.com have both just produced new articles on how Scott Walker's Act 10 law has in three years not only weakened public employee unions (as was its intent) and not only damaged the state's economy (which may have been an unintended consequence) but also has generated a third, under-reported side effect.

This extremely pernicous effect is one that Walker -- who has preached the alleged evils of "big labor bosses" and "big government" on his permanent-campaign trail -- arguably would not find problematic. From the Post's story:

Walker budget deficit not special, but right-to-wreck law is extraordinary

Wisconsin Republicans all the way up to Scott Walker are quickly re-establishing themselves as liars, hypocrites and opportunists of the first rank in their contrary approaches to the state’s current budget deficit and their rush toward a so-called “right to work” law (it’s more like a “right to wreck” law).

Consider just a few facts:

1. Republicans from Walker on down seem unconcerned about the state’s constitutional requirement that a projected deficit obliges the governor to call a special session of the legislature to make fixes to the state budget. That, apparently, would be too embarassing for the nationally ambitious Walker, who paints himself as a fiscal conservative. Republicans in charge of both houses of the legislature have sat silently while the Walker administration insist the budget will magically fix itself without legislative action -- even while Team Walker is busy off camera freezing state employee merit raises, skipping payments on state debt and otherwise racing around in apparent panic trying to close a quarter-billion-dollar gap before July.

Walker's just-in-time, stealth budgeting screws state workers yet again

According to Wisconsin President (er, Governor) Scott Walker (R-Hopeful), the state's fiscal condition is simply great; so swell, in fact, that he can dump a couple hundred millions of dollars into a new, privately developed basketball arena for Milwaukee while maintaining tax cuts that mostly benefit the state's wealthy. And, he proclaims, he'll have enough left over so that, in his proposed 2015-'17 budget, he'll return to you another ten bucks in tax savings. Wow. Ten bucks. That will get you half of a sit-down pizza. Don't eat it all in one sitting, though, because it's got to last two years.

Moreover, Kochwalkerstan is so fantastically, fiscally strong that Walker feels unconcerned about increased borrowing -- in the billion-dollar range -- to build more highways and freeways than many of us think we need.

But if that tale of fiscal strength is all true, why trim more benefits for at-risk Wisconsin families, seniors and the disabled? Why whack already stressed public education on up through the UW System by another 400 or so million? Why cut natural land preservation funding? But most telling, why this sudden move, reported in the Wisconsin State Journal today:

A few thoughts on Scott Walker's latest budget ironies

What's wrong with this picture? Scott Walker says his coming state budget proposal will include $220 million in bonding authority for a new Milwaukee sports arena even while he's planning another $300 million budget cut for the University of Wisconsin System.

So, more money for bread and circuses (well, since Walker has trimmed food assistance programs for low income residents, actually it's just circuses) and less money for higher education and advanced research.

A couple of points on each of these proposals, starting with:

NEW ARENA FOR THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Bonding is essentially borrowing authority, backed by the state for public and private projects. The Milwaukee arena would be an essentially private development. Without a new arena, the Bucks probably leave the state. On the other hand, Republicans profess to hate borrowing.  I stress the word "profess."

Walker is already past the billion-dollar point in borrowing for highways and other state government needs, as much and more indebtedness than past Democratic governors ran up. The GOP legislature has blessed that approach. Message: borrowing is bad...but, hey, it's good!

RICH GET RICHER: New study says that under Walker, everyone in Wisconsin pays higher taxes than the wealthiest one percent

CLICK TO ENLARGE; last line shows total tax burden by class

Scott Walker frequently gabs about how his tax-cut policies are benefitting many taxpayers when, in reality, Wisconsin's middle class and poor pay are now paying higher tax rates than the wealthiest state residents.

If you're not among the top 20 percent of Wisconsin taxpayers, you're paying a higher, combined state and local tax rate than those wealthiest state residents. And the state's very most wealthy residents -- the top one percent -- pay a measley 6.2% in those taxes, less than everyone else and nearly three points lower than the poorest state taxpayers are made to hand over.

To see the details, click on the table, above left, to enlarge it for easier inspection.

Joel McNally, columnist at Milwaukee's Shepherd Express and Madison's Capital Times, dug out statistics from a new national study released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization. The study refutes the kind of political rhetoric on tax policy that Walker has used to win re-election and run for president.

The planned Milwaukee streetcar system makes another stop, for Alderman Joe Davis and his political ambitions

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Proposed Milwaukee streetcar station at Courture high-rise

Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis seems like a nice guy, well-educated, and devoted to his north side district, many of whose residents are black and low income. He's worked hard on economic development and appears to genuinely care about the city. But now he seems to care more about becoming Milwaukee's next mayor. And to do that, it looks as if he has decided he should mimic the hard-right, anti-mass transit rhetoric of Scott Walker, now governor and previously Milwaukee County executive.

Specifically, Davis, like Walker before him, has come out swinging against the new streetcar network pushed by Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, a project supported by many other aldermen. Davis has joined forces with Ald. Bob Donovan, another mayoral hopeful, and a panoply of right-wing groups, including the Koch-fueled Americans For Prosperity, among some of the same outfits that backed Walker; strange bedfellows, allied for varying reasons to defeat a key Barrett project.

Sen. Darling's "recovery district" idea mimics the Republican Party's further sell-off of public education

Five years ago, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) penned an opinion column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wringing her hands about the condition of public education in Wisconsin, especially the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). But she brightened at the prospect that public schools would soon come under more political control. "I am optimistic on the prospects for real education reform because it's on the minds of leaders of all political stripes. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has ideas for breaking up MPS into more nimble and accountable pieces."

Walker is now governor, of course, and has deeded those ideas about breaking up the public schools to Republican state legislators, Darling included. Following past GOP actions designed to weaken public schools and rob them of revenue, the GOP is now considering a number of even more problematic "reforms," including a trial balloon from suburbanite Darling herself. She would "fix" MPS by enacting a law that would punish underperforming schools in the city. Judging by other GOP initiatives already in the pipeline, "performance" would be measured according to simplistic and self-serving standards. Punishment would range all the way up to a death sentence for targeted schools, judged to be "failing."

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