Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

What? Romney’s Forgotten the Message That Wisconsin Voters Demand More Teacher Layoffs? So Soon?

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday said that President Barack Obama’s call to hire more police, firefighters and teachers proved that he didn’t “get the message” from Republican wins in the recent Wisconsin recall elections.

During a press conference earlier on Friday, Obama had called on Congress to pass a jobs proposal that would prevent layoffs and rehire public workers like police, firefighters and teachers.

But that was then.  This is a full four months later, and Romney apparently has forgotten he message of Wisconsin.  He now wants to … hire teachers!

Four months from now, though, if he wins, he’ll probably remember that message from Wisconsin.  

United Citizens and Wisconsin

by Run 75441

United Citizens and Wisconsin

Heading into the Tuesday vote Mayor Barrett with ~$4million in election funds of which 26% is drawn from out of state sources faces off with the under siege Governor Walker having ~$30 million in funds with 2/3rds coming from out of state sources. Again the Koch Bros are kicking in with a sizeable contribution of $1 million as well as the multi-billionaire owner of the Sands, Sheldon Adelson, with another sizeable sum ($1 million?). The unions and citizens of Wisconsin are hard pressed to support Barrett in a similar fashion. So much for payroll wages versus corporate profits. Tuesday election may be a bellwether for the Democrats and the November elections as the 99-percenters and labor take on corporate interests and the “1-percenters’ who are both investing heavily in Walker intending to sway the state into the Red column.

Tuesday’s recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker is the most expensive in Wisconsin history. More than $63.5 million has been spent by candidates and independent groups, the overwhelming majority underwritten by out-of-state sources.

The record spending total was made possible thanks to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision — which had the effect of invalidating Wisconsin’s century-old ban on independent expenditures by corporations and unions — and a state law that allows unlimited contributions to the incumbent in recall elections.” Election a national referendum on public sector unions

Having amassed a sizeable war chest directly resulting from United Citizen’s opening the donation flood gates for corporate interests and a state law allowing recalled Governor Walker unlimited contributions, Walker has a slight lead and is favored to win. While this may end the recall efforts by angered unions and others, Walker’s troubles may not be over as he faces indictment over fundraising efforts by aides and his choice for Lieutenant Governor Brett Davis. There is quite a bit of speculation how this will all play out and it is not the first time the former Milwaukee County Executive has found himself in trouble for questionable activities.

Kelly Rindfleisch said she was hired to campaign illegally for Scott Walker on taxpayer time,’ Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Tuesday. “With his admission that Rindfleisch was hired to do what ‘she was expected to do,’ has Scott Walker now implicated himself in the criminal conspiracy that was central to his rise to political power? 

Is Scott Walker Facing Indictment And Does It Really Matter To Walker’s Wisconsin Supporters?  Forbes

John Doe Judge Grants Immunity to Walker’s Former Spokeswoman  WUWM Public Radio

Wisconsin Judicial Election

Wisconsin Supreme Court election update

They seem to have gone to sleep over in Wisconsin. I did too but now I’m awake.
The current state of the supreme court election is that 3,596 of 3,630 precincts have reported and the incumbent conservative Walker ally is Prosser is ahead of the challenger Kloppenberg by 733,074 to 732489, that is by 585 votes. The precincts which haven’t reported are almost all in counties which went heavily for Kloppenberg.

I calculated a crude predictin by extrapolation assuming that votes in precincts which haven’t reported will be equal to the county average over precincts which have reported. This requires two approximations, first that the fraction won by Prosser is about the same and second that there are about the same number of votes in each precinct withing a county. Importantly, it is reported that some precincts which have “reported” haven’t reported absentee ballots.

Anyway, I extrapolate that Kloppenberg will gain 1857.13 votes on Prosser and so win by 1,272 votes which is about 0.09% of the extrapolated total.

I confidently predict a recount.

Plain text version of spreadsheet after the jump.

Update: hat tip rjs
twitter via google: seungminkim‎ RT @HotlineReid: WI Supreme Court results as of 10:43a.m. ET: Kloppenburg 738368, Prosser 738228. Difference of 140 votes (.000009%)Twitter – 1 minute ago 10:51 AM

norep Prosser Kloppen norep/rep Pr-KL
6 Ashland 1037 2504 0.2727 -400.09
2 Crawfor 1689 2428 0.08 -59.12
1 Dane 48627 133513 0,004048583 -343.67
2 Dunn 3790 4649 0,052631579 -45.21
1 Jefferson 12860 9365 0,025 87.38
1 Juneau 2337 2546 0,035714286 -7.46
12 Milwauki 95129 125090 0,025 -758.51
8 Sauk 6166 7625 0,258064516 -376.52
1 Taylor 3602 2266 0,034482759 46.07
34 so far 733074 732489 pred p-k -1,857.13

Wisconsin Senate Passes Bill Ending Public Bargaining Rights

Wisconsin Senate Passes Bill Ending Public Bargaining Rights by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism writes on this evening’s news on Wisconsin political conflicts. Reposted.

After claiming repeatedly in the media that the fight to end public worker bargaining rights was all about the budget, Governor Walker stripped the collective bargaining provisions out of the budget (which required the participation of at least one Democrat to have a big enough quorum to satisfy Constitutional requirements for fiscal votes) and the Wisconsin legislature passed it separately.

Details from David Dayen:

If you’ve been following along in my last post, you know the news: the Wisconsin State Senate rushed through and passed a bill that strips collective bargaining rights from most public employees. The vote in the State Senate, entirely composed of Republicans, was 18-1; only moderate Dale Schultz voted no. The budget repair bill was split at the last minute, cleaving the “non-fiscal” anti-union piece from the fiscal components of the bill. The non-fiscal piece did not require a quorum, so the Senate was able to pass it.

This may not pass muster constitutionally in Wisconsin. Here is the germane language:

Vote on fiscal bills; quorum. SECTION 8. On the passage in either house of the legislature of any law which imposes, continues or renews a tax, or creates a debt or charge, or makes, continues or renews an appropriation of public or trust money, or releases, discharges or commutes a claim or demand of the state, the question shall be taken by yeas and nays, which shall be duly entered on the journal; and three−fifths of all the members elected to such house shall in all such cases be required to constitute a quorum therein

The language may seem ambiguous (claim of rather than claim on?). But there is likely to be precedent, and if not, the Court would look to the debates at the time the constitution was passed, to resolve the question of intent. It is very likely that the concerns expressed then would extend to both sides of the fiscal equation, that is, tax collection and disbursements, which would thus include obligations like employee contracts.

And Walker said repeatedly that the collective bargaining matter was fiscal. In modern contracts, you often have language in the agreement to exclude the headings from any interpretation. The Constitution would not have such language. So the “fiscal” in the heading would be included in any effort to parse the meaning.

But since the Supreme Court has a Republican majority, that would seem to cast a pall over challenges. But Supreme Court elections are on April 5, and the unions have a lot of support in the state. This bill passage (getting it through the Assembly is guaranteed) is subject to legal challenges not only on Constitutional but also on the basis of violating legislative procedures. And there is talk of a general strike, something which if you had asked me two months ago, I would have deemed to be pretty much impossible in America. They may be permissible if spontaneous, as in bottom up rather than called by union leadership.

Some details of the official version from the Washington Post:

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats….

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which spends no money, and a special conference committee of state lawmakers approved the bill a short time later.

The lone Democrat present on the conference committee, Rep. Tony Barca, shouted that the surprise meeting was a violation of the state’s open meetings law but Republicans voted over his objections. The Senate then convened within minutes and passed it without discussion or debate.

Spectators in the gallery screamed “You are cowards.”

Before the sudden votes, Democratic Sens. Bob Jauch said if Republicans “chose to ram this bill through in this fashion, it will be to their political peril. They’re changing the rules. They will inflame a very frustrated public.”

Wisconsin, Have you Met L. Paul Bremer?

By Daniel Becker

Now that the story is getting out that Governor Walke et al’s bill is about more than just busting unions, a little bell went off in the back of my head. Yes, I read Shock Doctrine. Yes, I understand the true concept of fascism. I read What would Jefferson do. I read C & L, AB, Hullabaloo, Glen Greenwald, watch Rachel, Ed, Cspan, etc, etc, etc. And, there are some people pointing out the connections between some of all these perspectives. However, Wisconsin’s current event just seemed too familiar. Deja vue familiar. More familiar than all the reading and listening would allow. It is experiencingly familiar and I don’t mean Egypt.
I mean, we can all see (or at least a majority are now seeing) the thread of connection to all the seemingly disjointed liberal/progressive commentary about what has been happening in America since around 1981. We even are accepting that Clinton et al’s governing time was part of the thread. It’s economic. It’s societal structure, it’s civil rights, it’s power (always is since the constitutional convention).
But, where’s the beef. Show me the money. Where is the materialization most recently that it all came together as to the implementation of the play book that Governor Walker et al are using such that I know this is real…this is really and honestly currently America…American?
Folks…I give you Iraq: 10/10/2010

The political deadlock in Baghdad, which has prevented the formation of an Iraqi government more than six months after the parliamentary elections in March, has not prevented the administration of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki from opening the southern oilfields to the world’s giant corporations. Nor has it stopped the US Embassy and Commerce Department from reinvigorating the Bush-era program of selling the country’s public assets to corporate buyers. And because Iraqi unions have organized opposition to privatization since the start of the occupation, the Maliki administration is enforcing with a vengeance Saddam Hussein’s prohibition of public sector unions.
The United States may have withdrawn its combat brigades, but it is not leaving Iraq. And while Washington may have scaled back its dreams of nation-building, it has not given up on a key aspect of the economic agenda behind that project: encouraging corporate investment by sacrificing the rights of Iraqi workers.
June demonstrations over blackouts, supported by the union — the first national union led by a woman, Hashmeya Muhsin — were put down by police, who killed one protester and injured several others
Also in June, longshoremen protesting the prohibition of unions in ports south of Basra were surrounded by troops, and the union’s leaders were transferred hundreds of miles from their homes.
In January the government threw the president of Basra’s Iraqi Teachers Union in jail. According to Nasser al-Hussain, an executive board member, the government seeks to establish control over an organization it views as far too independent.
After the 2003 invasion, occupation czar Paul Bremer decided to keep on the books Saddam’s Law 150, which bans public sector unions. Each succeeding Iraqi administration continued the prohibition.
Wisconsin is not Egypt nor the rest of the protesting that is going on in the middle east other than that there is protesting. Not at all. Wisconsin is Iraq for one big, monstrous, sledge hammer to the head reason: Iraq’s oppression and thus resistance by the unions is all American. The union busting to the benefit of capital (big, huge money for the rest of you, as in Rockefeller’s Standard Oil time) in Iraq is purely American. We own it. Yes, we have propped up dictators such as in Egypt. What is singularly different in the protesting of Egypt/Mid East is freedom. They protested for freedom. Now we’ll see if they get unions. However, Wisconsin and Iraq are free. American style free in that Iraq is American made. They also have/had unions.
At the end of World War I, Iraqi workers wasted no time in forming oil, railway and dockworker unions in the fragmented country that Churchill had carved out of the desert, connecting the oil fields of three Ottoman provinces–Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. Their hold on the terrain already tenuous, the British occupiers responded with force. Repeated strikes were quashed, often violently.
Under Qasim’s watch, unions along with civic groups swelled in rank and number. By 1959, 250,000 workers had joined unions in Iraq; peasants had formed 3,000 village associations for 200,000 peasants; the Iraqi Women’s League boasted 20,000 members and the Democratic Youth Federation 84,000 youngsters.
Qasim’s “progressive” autocracy was fleeting, however, and in February of 1963, the Baath party, in alliance with a sect of the nationalist armed forces, and with the help of the CIA, overthrew Qasim.
When Saddam Hussein seized control in 1979, he built upon the Baathist tradition of usurping the unions as an instrument of state power. As part of his brutal purge of all leaders and activists refusing to pledge total allegiance to the Baath party, he eradicated all non-Baathist unions. In 1987, the Baathist unions fully backed Saddam’s Orwellian decree: “From now on, the title ‘worker’ is abolished and all workers shall become official employees by the State…As everybody is now a government employee, there is no more need for trade unions.” Interestingly, Saddam did tolerate private sector unions, albeit with certain laws circumscribing their powers. The exception appears irrelevant, because, since the 1970’s through the fall of Saddam, no strikes are known to have occurred in Iraq, according to Political Risk Services, a well-respected corporate consultancy firm.
If you think Obama’s recent commentary is hopeful for unions, guess again:
When questioned by reporters about the union bans, an official at the US Embassy, the world’s largest, said mildly, “We’re looking into it. We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way.” The Obama White House has not spoken out, and the latest State Department report on human rights plays down the oppression of Iraqi unionists, calling their situation a “limited exercise of labour rights.”
Can you say Public Option? I knew you could.  However, start asking you gen X’ers and younger if they have heard of the “labor wars“.  You might be surprised, and not pleasantly.  Just like the term “rat race“.  Remember that one?  You need to.   

Are Wisconsin Public Employees Over-Compensated?

by run 75441

Are Wisconsin Public Employees Over-Compensated?

Conclusion: Wisconsin public employees are not overpaid: The earnings equation estimates indicate that state and local government employees in Wisconsin are not overpaid. Rather, local and state public employees are undercompensated. When we make comparisons controlling for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and disability, both state and local public employees earn lower wages and receive less in compensation (including all benefits) than comparable private sector employees.

A standard earnings equation produces what some may consider a surprising result: full-time state and local employees are undercompensated by 8.2%. We observed, however, that public employees work fewer hours, particularly employees with bachelor’s, master’s, and professional degrees. An earnings equation controlling for work hours of full-time employees demonstrates that Wisconsin public employees earn 4.8% less than comparable private sector workers working comparable annual hours. EPI

WI public employees are underpaid by ~4.8% when compared to the private sector. Knight at Naked Capitaism kept insisting the bill would not remove collective bargaining. Technically, he is correct.

Who the bill impacts and how it impacts them:

“General municipal, county, and school employees (except police and fire), and school boards and local governmental units may only bargain over “total base wages.” Health insurance, pension, vacation, holidays, hours of work and any other conditions of employment (promotions, evaluations, safety, grievance/arbitration procedures and just cause standards for discipline) will be prohibited subjects of bargaining.” PROPOSED CHANGES TO MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE BARGAINING RIGHTS MUNICIPAL EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS ACT UNDER CH. 111.70 [MERA]

The police and Fire Departments supported Walker so they are not subject to this bill.

Unions did offer up concessions:

“This afternoon, Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Workers Union, sent a message to the Governor’s office agreeing to the cuts to pension & welfare benefits sought by Walker in his bill. The governor’s response was “nothing doing.” He wants the whole kit and kaboodle – the end of the collective bargaining rights of the public unions.” Koch Brothers Behind Wisconsin Effort To Kill Public Unions, Forbes Magazine

Wisconsin, fiscal responsibility, and power (plants?)

Have you heard about 16.896?
“…with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.” Who knew behind the scenes it was also power plants? From rortybomb at the link above:

The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. The parts everyone is focusing on have to do with the right to collectively bargain being stripped from public sector unions (except for the unions that supported Walker running for Governor). Focusing on this misses a large part of what the bill would do. Check out this language, from the same bill (my bold):

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

(Update: Dan here…see also Linda Beale’s post on the same issue via Mark Thoma. Yves Smith adds her comments.)

The bill would allow for the selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants without bids. This excellent catch is from Ed at (who, speaking of Madison, took me to the Essen Haus on my 21st birthday, where the night began to go sideways). Ed correctly notes:

“If this isn’t the best summary of the goals of modern conservatism, I don’t know what is. It’s like a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism. Extra bonus points for the explicit effort to legally redefine the term “public interest” as “whatever the energy industry lobbyists we appoint to these unelected bureaucratic positions say it is.”

It’s important to think of this battle as a larger one over the role of the state. The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new “public interest.”

Wisconsin, fiscal responsibility, and power

From the Capitol Times op-ed (hat tip juan):

In fact, like just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better — or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.

The Fiscal Bureau memo — which readers can access at — makes it clear that Walker did not inherit a budget that required a repair bill.