Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Wall Run Just an Emergency Plan B?

Terrence Wall has officially entered the race for U.S. Senate even though his only other runs for office involved his losing twice for Maple Bluff Village Trustee. It just seems odd that Wall couldn't convince those that know him best to elect him. So rather than highlight these pathetic loses, he has made the decision to make this about his development business. In doing so he claims that he is "considered and expert in economic development". But looking beyond the T. Wall press release we find many questions regarding his "expert" claim. Actually some of my recent readings make me wonder if his stock as a businessman is on a steep decline and his run for U.S. Senate is more of an emergency move to save face rather than to serve the public.

On April 30, 2005 the Captial Times gave the details of Wall plans to expand his operation to Arizona and Colorado. The latter never seemed to materialize but according to his website two projects did move forward in Arizona. Unfortunately only the first phase of his Superstition Commerce Park project has been completed. Phase two appears to be on hold while his other Arizona development, the Southern Avenue Marketplace, has apparently not started. An April article in the Arizona Republic entitled "East Mesa office market is overbuilt, analysts say" mentions Wall's project and sheds a bit more light on the subject. A local expert comments in the story that because of the market and the vast amount of square feet in the area of Wall's development it may not become the next big thing for quite a while.

Wall's Arizona projects are apparently not the only expensive endeavors that he is having to sit on for a while. It appears that his Wisconsin-based Bishops Bay development may have been halted as well. This was supposed to be yet another huge development but it seems that investors might not be interested right now.

Not only is Wall having to sit on some of his massive projects but a May 18, 2006 Captial Times story states that "Wall is leveraged to the hilt". That observation was made in 2006 and we all know what has happened to the real estate market since that time. One would imagine that these things plus his stalled projects can't be good for business. So in November 2007 in came the New York based investment fund – Five Arrows Realty, (Rothchild Realty Mangers, LLC), who put some $110 million into T. Wall Properties. They didn't just put money into Wall's company but they also put a couple of their principals on Wall's Board of Directors. Some wonder if New York is now taking over given their transformation of the Wisconsin Trade Center. Besides all of the NY artwork and various corridors named for NY landmarks they are even ditching the Madison themed room names.

An April story in the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the stress in the real estate market. In doing so it reports that Wall laid off six of his 50 employees last year and quotes him lamenting the lousy economy and its negative impact on his business. Add all of this bad news on top of Wall's failed bid to redevelop the downtown library in the City of Madison and it just doesn't paint a great picture.

So if Terrence Wall is really such an "expert in economic development" why would he pick such a bad time to launch a total long-shot run for U.S. Senate? Wouldn't an "expert" want to fully see his business and investors through such a difficult time rather than totally switch his focus? It just seems like really bad priorities and even worse timing if you are really an "expert in economic development". The absurdity of it all really makes you wonder if Wall's choice to switch focus at this time is really his choice in the first place. It really makes you wonder if Wall's run for U.S. Senate is really just a face saving emergency plan B.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gableman Attorney Now a National Joke

The guy that Michael Gableman hired to to defend his right to lie to voters was part of Stephen Colbert's "The Word" segment last night. James Bopp is not only fighting for sitting supreme court justices right to lie but he is also fighting for extreme right wing group's right to lie to the public as well. This time related to a gay rights issue in the state of Washington.

The Word - Don't Ask Don't Tell

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Walker Flailing brings a Fact Check

The Scott Walker campaign built its entire operation on attacking Governor Doyle. Ever since the Governor announced that he was not running for reelection, team Walker has been flailing about not really sure who to attack next. That is not a good thing when the entirety of your campaign is built on little more than attacks. It is too bad that someone at the Walker campaign couldn't start giving solutions or at least a few substantive answers along with the bumper sticker slogans. The latest example of Walker campaign flailing came today in their reaction to news that Lt. Governor Lawton would not be running for Governor.

"The voters will have a clear choice next November," said Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes in a statement. "Our plan to fix the economy is to create jobs in Wisconsin through low taxes and less government - instead of the Doyle-Barrett plan of more spending, higher taxes, and overreaching government."

Wait a minute, my first question is "who is Doyle Barrett and when did he announce for governor?"

Not only is the Walker campaign lacking any real direction but they are also making statements that are quite easily fact checked in a way that could actually backfire against them. We did this just recently but it looks like we will have to remind Walker and Friends of his actual record vs. his flailing rhetoric on a much more frequent basis.

More government and more spending you say?

Walker Proposed Spending in HIS BUDGET for 2003: $1,100,274,125
Walker Proposed Spending in HIS BUDGET for 2010: $1,481,577,120

That is a 35% increase in spending since Walker has been at the helm. You can't blame that figure on the county board or anyone else since those numbers are Walker's from his own proposed budgets.

Are you really sure that you want to talk about higher taxes?

Walker Proposed Tax Levy in HIS BUDGET for 2003: $218,708,524 Walker Proposed Tax Levy in HIS BUDGET for 2010: $257,637,284

That amounts to nearly a $40 million increase or an 18% raise in the tax levy as proposed by Walker in his own budgets. Sorry, that doesn't look like a freeze to me.

Just to make things extra easy for us, the next thing you know Walker and Company are going to start complaining about fee hikes (even though he has increased fees across the board from 36 percent all the way to infinity).

Like I said, not just flailing but flailing in a way that desperately needs a regular fact check.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Video Mania

A Presidential shout-out to small biz...I hear you Mr. President!

Americans for Stable Quality Care recently released this pro-reform ad. It highlights the plight of far too many people due to the dysfunctional status quo.

And "The Real Story of Canadian Healthcare".

ht: Capper

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Caption Contest Anyone?

I learned about these pictures of Mark Neumann after Heartland Hollar posted one of them. Xoff has also commented on them. Which highly paid consultant was involved in this photo-op disaster?

In any case, is anyone in the mood to have a little fun with it? How about a caption contest? If you are game, post a caption for this photo in the comments section. You won't win anything but my admiration.

“Because I said so” is not an answer

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the Milwaukee County Finance Committee voted against Scott Walker's proposal to privatize security and housekeeping at the courthouse, and crash and rescue jobs at the airport. Elimination of those jobs alone would send some 92 workers to the unemployment line. If Walker gets his way he will send an additional 115 workers to the unemployment line.

The story dutifully reports that Walker causing the unemployment of 207 workers will carry "a first year saving of $5.9 million." After making that statement, the story does not go any deeper by, oh I don't know, trying to confirm those numbers.

Last year I blogged about how Walker's annual effort to privatize the Targeted Case Management program would end up costing the county more. This year I did the same while also adding the Community Support Program to the list. In both cases I provided the latest rates for which private firms were doing that kind of work and compared it to Walker's overly optimistic budget numbers.

Has anyone bothered to ask Walker where he is even getting the numbers that he is using to allege this supposed "savings"? If the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported on that, I have certainly not seen it. Shouldn't we make sure that Walker's assumptions have any legitimacy before we talk about any alleged savings through privatizing services?

I know that conservatives often parrot the falsehood that private companies are always more efficient and cheaper but that talking point is not the reality. I gave one of those examples in a previous blog posting. Privatized security at the Behavioral Health Division certainly hasn't been very efficient. They were over budget by over $525k last year and they are over budget again this year.

So when Scott Walker talks about an alleged "savings" by privatizing jobs and putting workers in the unemployment line, it would be helpful if someone would actually look a little deeper than his reading of talking points. Reporting something just because Scott Walker says it is true is not the kind of reporting that we need in this process. I don't think that it is asking too much to verify basic information, challenge assumptions, look a little deeper, and start asking some tough questions.

The Carnac of Wisconsin Politics

On Monday Heartland Hollar noted that both Scott Walker and Mark Neumann had separate media events the next day. In an act of self described "Preporting" Harris Kane predicted that both candidates would toss out a bunch of the same bumper stickers and slogans but say nothing of real substance. It looks like Kane has nailed it again! Walker said very little and Neumann said even less, but the media was more than happy to report both. With his track record so far, I think that I am going to start referring to Harris Kane as the "Carnac" of Wisconsin politics.

Petri makes the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame

Yesterday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) unveiled their latest entries into the House Republicans Hypocrisy Hall of Fame . This "honor" is given to Republicans that have been caught trying to celebrate the benefits of projects that they opposed in President Obama's recovery bill, the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, and the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Wisconsin's very own Representative Tom Petri has now officially joined that "distinguished" list of 67 Republicans. Here is the actual citation from the DCCC:

Representative Tom Petri (WI-06) - Representative Petri is a "strong supporter of the allocation" of $754,000 to restore and maintain navigable channels in the Two Rivers harbor, as "maintaining navigable waters in the area is essential for the local economy." [Manitowoc Herald Times; 2/27/09] Representative Petri voted against the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

Congratulations to the hypocrite inductee from Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

T-Wall's Pumpkins Set to Music!

First One Wisconsin Now introduced us to Terrance Wall's 2-acre pumpkin patch and now Blogging Blue has set the story to music in this video:

Public Option Still Gaining Support

Nearly all polls in recent months have shown that public support for a public option in health care is increasing. The latest example is the Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday. Public support for a public option went up from 55 percent in September to 57 percent now. According to this poll, the public option's lowest level of support was 52 percent in August. That is not too shabby of a number (still a majority)because it was taken in the midst of the corporate funded scare/confuse campaign.

Some of the interesting side notes from this poll is the fact that only 20 percent of adults identified themselves as Republicans. That is the lowest number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. In addition, the poll shows that 51 percent would back the Democratic congressional candidate if the midterm elections were held today. In comparison 39 percent said that they would vote for the Republican. As with all polling information of this type, the election is not being held today, and it shouldn't hold a huge amount of value for an election that is over a year away. That being said, I still find the information interesting and worth noting.

UPDATE: Heartland Hollar makes some interesting observations while also asking a few more key questions...Like this one:
So tell me again how these GOP challengers have a chance of winning when they are being outspent; running against a popular President; are on the wrong side of the biggest issue debate; when only 20% identify themselves as they do, as being Republicans; and when only 19% trust that they will do the right thing?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Walker Numbers v. Walker Rhetoric

It doesn't take long to figure out that both Scott Walker and his most dedicated followers will spout his latest talking points in response to almost any substantive line of questioning. Walker's talking points (and his positions) change with each day, so trying to have a substantive conversation with him or his most fervent supporters is nearly pointless. Rather than waste time arguing over his latest and ever changing round of talking points, perhaps it is better just to present Walker and his followers with his own numbers. Why not just make them square the circle that Scott Walker has created? Why not just force him to defend his own rhetoric against his own numbers?

Government Spending

Given the chance Scott Walker will quickly jump right into typical conservative shtick saying that government and government spending is bad. He may even suggest eliminating various levels of government. But how does that "government spending is bad" rhetoric stand up to Walker's numbers while Milwaukee County Executive?

Walker Proposed Spending in HIS BUDGET for 2003: $1,100,274,125

Walker Proposed Spending in HIS BUDGET for 2010: $1,481,577,120

That is a 35% increase in spending since Walker has been at the helm. You can't blame that figure on the county board or anyone else since those numbers are Walker's from his own proposed budgets.

Tax Levy

I have made this point in previous blog postings but it is important and worth repeating constantly. Scott Walker and Friends claim that he has presented budgets with a zero percent tax levy increase but this is not true when you actually compare old Walker numbers to new Walker numbers.

Walker Proposed Tax Levy in HIS BUDGET for 2003: $218,708,524

Walker Proposed Tax Levy in HIS BUDGET for 2010: $257,637,284

That amounts to nearly a $40 million increase or an 18% raise in the tax levy as proposed by Walker in his own budgets. Sorry, that doesn't look like a freeze to me.

Fee Increases

When he presented his current budget Walker commented that he wanted to make Milwaukee County an affordable place to live, work and play. He has a funny way of showing it when you look at these numbers:

Scott Walker is proposing that Milwaukee County residents pay a fee to park along the lake. That is a new fee and is an 100%infinite increase.*

Bus fare was $1.50 in 2003 and in his current budget Walker wants to increase it to $2.25. That is a 50% increase. He also wants to implement a new fee to get a paper transfer which is an 100% infinite increase.*

Zoo Admission was $9 and parking was $6 in 2003. Scott Walker's current budget would raise those amounts to $13.25 and $11 respectively. Those raises amount to 47% and 83% increases.

It even costs more to die in Milwaukee County as a result of Walker's fee increases. Death Certificates cost $55 in 2003 but are now $75, a 36% increase. Cremation permits cost $145 in 2003 but in his current budget Walker increases it to $225, a 55% increase. Walker is also proposing a new transport fee to haul your dead body around, which is an 100% infinite increase.*

Whether it is Walker's increased spending, his rising tax levy, or his massive increase in fees, the bottom line remains the same: Walker's numbers completely conflict with Walker's rhetoric.

*A reader kindly offered a correction on this in the comments section. Either way, the point is that Walker's new fee in each example is much more than none at all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bill Frist: It isn't "Socialized Medicine"

Former Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) made some very interesting observations on CSPAN yesterday. Not only is he a former Republican leader in Congress but he is also a heart surgeon that has worked in Great Britain. Not only did he have some compliments about their health care system (as well as criticisms) but he also started off the discussion by debunking the idea that the health care reform being proposed in the U.S. is "socialized medicine".

ht: Wonk Room
Other prominent Republicans that are publicly supporting real health care reform include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), and former HHS Secretaries Louis Sullivan and Wisconsin's own Tommy Thompson. In addition, four former surgeons general last week issued statements supporting health reform.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'll Trade My Loser for Yours

First Scott Walker started using the services of former Mark Neumann man, RJ Johnson. As I stated at that time, there are worthy questions that should be asked about who is paying RJ because it doesn't appear that Walker was doing so. Now in some political consultant version of Wife Swap we are learning that former Walker man, Bruce Pfaff, is going to work for Mark Neumann. Is the talent pool so shallow for Republicans that their primary candidates have to swap their closest advisers?

Heartland Hollar reminds us of Pfaff's working for Scott Jensen during the "caucus scandal". They also reference the records of RJ Johnson and Bruce Pfaff when it comes to actually winning elections. The numbers that Heartland Hollar gives us don't look pretty and they rightfully compare the situation to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

By our count, between Johnson and Pfaff, they have worked on at least nine losing campaigns-Scott Walker, John Gard, Paul Bucher in 2006, Tim Michels in 2004, Scott McCallum in 2002, John Gillespie in 2000, Sharon Rose in 1999, Mark Neumann in 1998, and Cate Zeuske in 1994.

I wonder if Walker and Neumann actually planned this trading of one political loser for the other?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Budgeting by trial and error (rates)?

As I was looking at the Behavioral Health Division (BHD) numbers in Scott Walker's proposed budget it raised several important concerns. On Friday I addressed one of those by showing that Walker's plan to privatize Targeted Case Management (TCM) and the Community Support Program (CSP) would actually cost the county more. As I was looking at the data, a more fundamental concern quickly appeared. There appears to be a significant disconnect between the original BHD budget that was submitted to Walker and what ended up in his own proposed budget.

When you look at the BHD budget it suggests that privatizing two programs would save $637,289. They appear to have arrived at this figure by considering salaries only. In Walker's budget he suggests less savings ($593,390) and he has added "fringe savings" to the equation. Exactly how can these two budgets within the same administration regarding the same division and the same programs be so fundamentally different? Those differences can't help but make you wonder about the accuracy and conclusions of both budgets.

Naturally I don't consider myself an expert on the minutia of this specific subject, so initially I assumed that I might be missing some unspecified detail that explains the disconnect between the two budgets. But after reading an analysis by a person that is an expert on the BHD and on these programs in particular, I felt that my original concern was in fact warranted. That analysis was presented to the County Board last week, and makes the following observation on this matter:

Based on the Milwaukee County Executive's budget, 56% of the total salary cost was added onto the salaries to come up to numbers reported in the budget. When you look at the reported savings of $593,390.00 and reduce it accordingly to see the salary costs, the salary savings for the Milwaukee County Executive's budget is $380,378.00.

The reason this is important is that in the first budget submitted by BHD reported that the salary savings alone would be $637,289.00 for 2010. However, now in the Milwaukee County Executive's budget the salary savings is $380,378.00 a difference of $256,911.00 or more significantly, a 67.5% error rate between the two budgets.

Not only do the original BHD and Walker budgets have fundamental differences but there is also a whopping 67.5% error rate between the two? Exactly how are we supposed to trust the claims of two budgets for the same division that say such drastically different things? How can anyone make an informed decision based on this apparent disconnect? Someone may want to explain this difference or the Walker Administration should go back to the drawing board and come back with numbers that don't conflict from within his own administration. That would be more preferable than trying to rely on something that appears to be suspect. It really makes you wonder if people down there are just making it up as they go along. I have heard of doing things by trial and error, but I have never heard of sound budgeting by trial and a massive error rate.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

National Equality March in DC

Initial reports say that tens of thousands participated in the march, including at least two buses from Wisconsin. America Blog and Huff Post have more pictures and the AP has raw video. CSPAN has video of speakers at the post-march rally which was at the Capitol.

Milwaukee Passes Daily Beast IQ Test

The Daily Beast posted the results of its, "America's Smartest Cities, From First to Worst". In the analysis they tried to rank the largest 55 cities in America by intelligence. They only considered cities with metropolitan areas consisting of one million or more people. Here is the data that they examined on a per-captia basis:
  • bachelor's and graduate degrees
  • nonfiction book sales
  • ratio of institutions of higher education
  • political engagement

Obviously these kinds of projects are not fool proof but they are interesting nonetheless. After crunching the numbers, the Daily Beast ranked Milwaukee 15th smartest of the 55 largest cities in the country. Your welcome Wisconsin! First went to Raleigh-Durham, fourth went to the Twin Cities, Chicago and St. Louis were tied for 24th place. Some of the lowest ranking cities included Dallas-Fort Worth, Memphis, Louisville, San Antonio, and dead last went to Fresno California. They gave the following comments regarding Milwaukee's 15th place ranking:

The Milwaukee area is renowned more for its breweries than its smarts.
Rounding out the top 15 on our list may undermine that stereotype. Milwaukee did
well in the universities per-capita category and was also above average for
voter participation.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scorecard on State Health System Performance

The Commonwealth Fund has released a scorecard judging each state's health system performance. Wisconsin ranks in the top tier in the overall ranking, in access ranking, in prevention and treatment, and in it's healthy lives ranking. Wisconsin takes a step down to the second tier in the areas of Equity (our lowest ranking), and in the avoidable hospital use/costs ranking. Wisconsin's overall ranking has moved up from 11 in 2007 to 10 today.

The study includes an interactive map as pictured below. It is hard not to notice that the states that make up the new Republican base (the deep south) have some of the worst overall rankings in the country.
ht: Daily Kos

Friday, October 09, 2009

Targeting a Walker Privatization Scheme

Whenever we talk about government services and programs, inevitably we hear proposals that suggest privatizing them. It is often assumed that privatization of government programs and services is always more cost effective. Although such proposals may fit the strict ideologies of some people they often don't deliver a better solution economically or otherwise. One of the biggest cheerleaders for blind privatization in our state is Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Every year it seems to be a major part of his plans regardless of the actual subject. So let's focus on a couple Milwaukee County examples that clearly show that privatization is not always the silver bullet that some may believe it is.

Almost every year Scott Walker proposes to privatize the Targeted Case Management (TCM)program at the Behavioral Health Division (BHD). That program pairs up a person living with serious mental illness with a case manager that helps them fully and properly function in the community. As I have stated many times before, I have a relative that has been part of this program from the beginning and it has truly been a major factor in their successful treatment. In addition to TCM, Walker has proposed privatizing the Community Support Program (CSP). When he proposed this last year, I wrote about how his plan to privatize these programs would cost more not less. The same is true this year.

I believe that there are moral and quality related arguments that could be made here as well as threats of clients going without much needed services but right now I will only focus on the economic impact of Walker's proposed privatization.

There are at least 7 potential private vendors that provide services similar to TCM at an average cost of $2,656.55 per client. The cost per client that is allotted for this program in Walker's 2010 budget proposal is $1,781.41. The actual cost to privatize this service would be 49% more per client than Walker's numbers imply. A more dramatic difference is revealed when you examine the cost per client for CSP services. The average cost per client for the private companies is $4,252.12. Walker has allotted only $2,342.67 per client in his proposed budget for that program. The actual average cost per client by the private companies is nearly 82% more than what Walker allots in his 2010 proposed budget!

Currently there are 240 clients in Milwaukee County's TCM program and 365 in the CSP. If you multiply those numbers by the average privatized cost per client, you get a total cost of $903,227.00 to privatize TCM and $1,552,016.50 to privatize CSP. Walker has allotted only $427,538.00 (TCM) and $855,076.00 (CSP) for those programs. Those large gaps are not going to close themselves. Not only will they quickly eat up any alleged savings ($593,390)but they will go well beyond that and end up costing Milwaukee County more to privatize these services (at least $579,239 more).

A perfect example of this is the already privatized security services at the BHD. Although privatization is supposed to deliver savings and efficiency, those security costs were over budget by $527,961.13 in 2008 and are going to be over budget again at the end of this year. The numbers show that we can look forward to more of the expensive same if Walker gets what he wants.

If Scott Walker wants to target TCM again this year that is his business, but don't try to play the public for suckers by pretending that the privatization will somehow save money. The fact is when you get behind the rhetoric and the narrow ideology and actually look at the numbers, it is the Walker privatization scheme that should be getting targeted right now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What Really Caused the Deficit?

A new article breaks down what really caused the growth of the budget deficit. Matthew Yglesias used the data from that article to produce this simple pie chart:

Walker Lives Large as Workers get the Shaft

One of the hollow cornerstones of Scott Walker's credit card budget is based on drastically cutting the pay/benefits of hardworking people in Milwaukee County. When he is not drastically cutting their pay he is trying to send them to the unemployment line by privatizing their jobs. We are not talking about rich people here, just regular people working hard, contributing to society and trying to make ends meet. Yet Walker is demanding that they give up what amounts to 16% of their earnings. For example, that amounts to Walker lifting $8,000 from the checkbook of someone making $50,000 a year. What makes Walker look especially bad is not just his money grab, but him doing it only a year after he gave himself and several underlings massive raises.

Right now he is trying to grab that hypothetical $8,000, but just last year he essentially gave himself a raise that equals some worker's entire salary. When he was first running for County Executive, Walker promised to only collect part of his salary but last year he decided that it was time to ditch that idea. So instead of bringing home about $69,611 a year, he now brings in closer to $119,611. Please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't that amount to a 72% raise as he was calling for layoffs of frontline workers? Now the very next year he wants to cut those workers take home pay by 16% and send others to the unemployment line? If he feels so strongly about cutting the average worker's take home pay, then why doesn't he lead by example and go back to his original promise?

I'd guess that his 2007 purchase of a new home might have something to do with it. After all, it is worth $122,000 more than his last one. Maybe Walker forgot that rank-and-file workers have mortgages to pay as well. Heck, just Walker's upgrade may be worth more than the entire value of some Milwaukee County workers' homes. Walker's new home is nothing to scoff at, at least from a working person's perspective. He now has double the number of bedrooms, double the number of bathrooms and an addition of almost 1,000 more square feet of living area. The new home also sits on over two times the amount of acreage as the old one. I don't think that anyone really cares much about the size and upgrade in Walker's home, except for his awful timing. How can you upgrade your own living situation and massively increase your own pay while you are also advocating totally eliminating and/or severely cutting the jobs of much lower paid county employees?

Scott Walker didn't just upgrade his own situation, over the last two years he was also looking out for his loyal foot soldiers. Last year Walker originally tried to give his Chief of Staff a whopping 26% raise. Although he ultimately didn't get that raise, the fact is Walker did propose it while at the same time he was threatening massive layoffs of regular hardworking folks. When he originally proposed that massive raise he also was calling for a 12.5% raise for up to seven of his administrators.

Apparently Scott Walker has two tiers for Milwaukee County employees. One consists of frontline workers earning a rather modest pay. That tier has to endure never ending threats of layoffs, massive cuts in pay and even the total elimination of their jobs. The other tier consists of Scott Walker and any "yes men" that he deems worthy. Those fortunate few don't have to worry from day to day about how to pay their bills. Those fortunate few get to live large (at our expense) while the rest continually get the shaft.

UPDATE: One Wisconsin Now posted a blog this afternoon saying, "Walker's Public Option on Swimming Pools is apparently to have the public pay for his private pool". This was news to me, and they even have a Google Earth shot of it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Before Wall Spends it All, He Should Talk to Tim Michels

There have been numerous reports that Madison area real estate mogul Terrance Wall is seriously considering a run against U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. As soon as that word started to spread people began examining some of Wall's wildly right wing rhetoric. Thanks to some timely research and several blogs that expanded on it, we also know about Wall's questionable business practices, which include trying to shortchange Wisconsin. Now the latest word on the street is that Terrance Wall has been having conversations with national Republicans. People like RNC Chairman Michael Steele and key representatives of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have apparently been whispering sweet nothings in Wall's ear.

Is Terrance Wall really ready to spend his fortune to try and defeat Senator Russ Feingold? It's pretty clear that the only reason that national Republicans are talking to Wall is because of his status as a zillionaire. I have to wonder if Steele and the NRSC have made the same kind of promises to Wall that they made to Tim Michels in his failed attempt to beat Feingold? If you will recall, in 2004 the NRSC promised Michels that they would help him if he won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Unfortunately for Michels, he was left high and dry by the national Republicans. The NRSC even went as far as to cancel $1.2 million in TV ads that they had reserved for Michels. Obviously whatever promises the national Republicans made to Michels were broken and he was left to write his own checks for the entire grueling process. Is Wall ready to do the same?

Tim Michel's unfortunate experience with the NRSC came during a year where Wisconsin was considered one of the most targeted states in the country. For 2010, several independent political outlets have consistently ranked Feingold's race in the Safe/Solid Democrat category. These rankings are for good reason, because even a recent poll by a right wing organization confirmed that Senator Feingold is one of the most popular elected officials in the state. Senator Feingold is Wisconsin's top vote getter , gathering some 1,632,562 votes in 2004. That year he actually won 27 counties that George W. Bush won, which is a clear indication of his broad array of support. The bottom line is that Russ Feingold is extremely popular and he clearly knows how to win big in both good and bad years for Democrats.

I would imagine that someone that has amassed as much wealth as Terrance Wall, would have the business sense to properly analyze a situation before blindly acting. Given all of the facts, is Terrance Wall really ready to spend it all? We already know that Steele, the NRSC, and other national Republicans are probably flirting and making all kinds promises to Wall, but no matter what they say Wall should know that this race isn't a real priority to his new friends. Terrance Wall shouldn't be listening to Steele, the NRSC, and DC based consultants, the person that he should be talking to is Tim Michels.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Did Walker Just Surrender in the Twit-Off?

Back in July we started bringing you the exciting coverage, "Walker v Neumann: The Twit-Off". There have been several twists, turns and even some lack of machismo in the process. But today might mark the end of this award winning coverage as Heartland Hollar has reported that Scott Walker's Twitter account has been "suspended due to strange activity". Does this mean that Walker has surrendered in the great twit off? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Speaking of suspended right wing Twits, Heartland Hollar points out that Karl Rove's Twitter account has also been suspended.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Steele softens comments in Walker’s presence

The same day that Scott Walker introduced his credit card budget, bumbling RNC Chairman Michael Steele sent out an email. The subject of that email admonished Wisconsin Republicans to "stop the stimulus spending boondoggle!" Yes, Steele complained about the federal stimulus and government spending on the same day that Scott Walker formally announced his heavy reliance on both. Walker's credit card budget relies on a massive influx of federal stimulus funds (something that he was obstructing only a short time ago) and it relies on a massive amount of government spending/borrowing.

Michael Steele was in Wisconsin this weekend speaking at a Republican event in Kenosha. There were several other Republican politicians there including Scott Walker and his opponent for the Republican primary, Mark Neumann. After the email that made Walker look so bad one would think that Steele would have steered clear of such harsh criticism in person. While it doesn't appear that Steele used the same heated rhetoric he did decide to hit on some of the same themes.

Steele suggested that Democrats in Wisconsin might switch parties because of what he called "Obama's failed policies and emphasis on big government." I guess we are supposed to just forget the fact that the President's numbers in Wisconsin are even higher than they are nationally. Putting that aside for a moment, the real question is what "failed policies" is Steele referring to exactly? Would the federal stimulus be among those? You mean the same stimulus that Scott Walker has built his entire Milwaukee County budget around? Would Steele's definition of an "emphasis on big government" include the kind of 6% government spending spree that Walker has planned for Milwaukee County? Would it include Walker's idea of front loading three years of government borrowing into one year simply to finance that spending?

While Michael Steele's harshest criticism of Walker's budget was saved for his email, anyone following Steele's line of reasoning on Saturday had to come to pretty much the same conclusions. If you are going to rail against the federal stimulus and against government borrowing and spending then you simply cannot support Scott Walker's proposed 2010 budget for Milwaukee County.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Americans for Prosperity (but not for Wisconsin)

The reaction of a group from Americans for Prosperity after Chicago was eliminated from the running for the 2016 Olympics.

ht: Huff Post

Walker Disregards Disabled, CRG Disregards Truth

I can just imagine how it may have unfolded. Scott Walker is busy in his office preparing his campaign style speech for the campaign style event planned by Citizens for Republican Responsible Government. All the while some 70 advocates for the disabled are trying to get in to speak to Walker about the disastrous effect his credit card budget will have on them. Apparently Walker was just too busy to speak to those that suffer most under his pretend budget. Certainly he is not too busy to prepare for and participate in an event sponsored by a group that recently appeared to come out of the political closet for him. I guess the lesson from this is that if you are hurt by Walker's carelessness you are disregarded and if you ignore your own stated principles to support him, you get all kinds of face time.

The advocates for the disabled are probably not very surprised that Scott Walker disregarded them in the literal sense because he has been disregarding their needs through his budgeting and damaging policies for seven years. Every year he prepares a budget and every year he seeks to cut, reduce and/or privatize services that are critical to the disabled. Walker even tries to sell off programs to the highest bidder even though it often costs just as much (or more) than it would to just continue funding these critical programs. It really makes one wonder what is really behind his knee jerk drive to privatize and otherwise diminish critical services to the disabled.

Speaking of disregarding, Walker's useful pawns over at CRG are not only disregarding their previously stated principles but they are equally disregarding the truth. They have started a round of robo-calls trying to get people to attend what really amounts to a political rally of support for Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign. In the call they even tell us to "stand up" for Scott Walker. The disregarding the truth comes in when the speaker says that Scott Walker's budget "cuts spending". Apparently CRG didn't bother reading Walker's budget in their blind rush to support him. His budget calls for a massive 6 percent increase in spending, more than double the rate of inflation!

If CRG and their followers want to come out and support Scott Walker regardless of his actions, then they should just say so but they shouldn't try to deceive the public in the process. If they were not disregarding the truth, they would include some of the following low-lights in their robo-calls, mailers and rally speeches:

  • Walker has suggested $40 million in increases to the tax levy between HIS first proposed budget (for 2003) and HIS current one.
  • Walker front loads three years of Milwaukee County borrowing/spending into one year (an election year).
  • Walker increases/creates fees all over the place in this current budget.
  • Walker's budget relies heavily on the same federal stimulus that he and his followers have loved to hate in the recent past.

Don't look for them to point out any of these inconvenient facts because it doesn't promote their political agenda. It is much easier to just follow Scott Walker's lead and disregard real people, real policy and real honesty.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Walker Built His Budget on the Sand

Last week Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker started his annual shell game sometimes referred to as a budget. In fact it is little more than a political document meant to cover some of his self inflicted wounds long enough for him to try and leave town via next year's election. I've already written on several factors of Walker's proposed 2010 budget but the closer that you look at it the more it resembles a house built without a foundation. He and his followers can try to put pretty curtains in the windows but it won't take long and it won't take much for the entire thing to come crashing down.

We already know that his budget relies heavily on the Milwaukee County credit card as Walker plans on front loading three years of borrowing and spending into one year (an election year). We know that it's tax levy is more than 18 percent higher than the one he proposed in 2003. We also know that it relies on new and hiked fees. But one of the other key things that he is trying to build his budget on is perhaps even more flimsy than all of those. The Walker proposed 2010 budget relies on some $32 million in concessions by county workers that he has not secured, negotiated or even mentioned until now. Even though the union has been at the negotiating table with the county for some time and already agreed to certain concessions, neither Walker nor his representatives have made a peep about the 13% wage/benefit cuts that he is trying to build his budget on. How can you build a house when you don't have a foundation? I don't know, I imagine that it's about the same way that you build a budget without one. It's all about show and little about reality.

It is tragic that the media hasn't challenged him on this point at all (or on many others). Why not ask the obvious and very simple question? What happens to your budget when you don't get $32 million of concessions? I don't know what spin Walker would give but I can tell you exactly what would happen. Walker's show budget will come falling down and the county board will have to pick up his repeated slack and build a real budget based on a solid foundation-again.

The closer that I look at Walker's 2010 proposed budget the more it reminds me of a very simple lesson that I learned through a Sunday school song as a child. "The Wise Man Built his House Upon a Rock" is a simple lesson on the importance of having a solid foundation. The "Wise Man" built his house on a rock and the "Foolish Man" built his house on the sand. When the rains and floods came the "Wise Man's" house stood firm and the "Foolish Man's" house fell flat. Based on his 2010 proposed budget, Scott Walker is a very foolish man because he just built his "house" on nothing but "sand".

UPDATE: In Friday's MJS story about this very subject, a new analysis describes this element of Walker's budget as "very unrealistic". Yeah, like I said on Thursday, it is "built on sand".