Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Raises for State Employees

The salary compensation plan was announced today and as expected it contained no raises for state employees. What really struck me in reading both the reports of the announcement and other reader comments was this disconnect between reality and perception. The reality is that state employees haven't had a raise in 2 years already. In fact they had their take home pay reduced by 3 percent in each of the previous 2 years due to furloughs, something that Gov. Walker has said did not save the state money. This is probably where he gets his math on the benefit payment plan of only being a reduction of 8 percent when the reality is that it is closer to 12%. But yet there is this perception that the state workers have not felt the pain as everyone else has. Maybe it was that the media didn't play up the furloughs and the 0% raise or talk about the previous 2 years with a 1 and 2% raise (that is 4 years ago, what were private sector employees getting then?). Most state employees understand that they are not going to get rich, they hope to make ends meet and have decent benefits. That is changing with the changes to health care. The state plan is probably really no better than what a large company provides (although everyone is cutting health care benefits, and they say that we don't need a national plan).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ron Paul on Education

Ron Paul is calling for an end to the Federal Student Loan program saying that the program (or more specifically government) is responsible for soaring tuition costs. Look, I like Ron Paul but he is dead wrong on this one. I went to UW-Madison when the State (government) was subsidizing the school by 2/3. So, with research grants from corporations and the federal government and out of state students paying much more those of us from Wisconsin were left with paying $1000 per year. Not cheap but an amount of money that could be obtained by working a minimum wage job. The Federal Student Loan program also existed at that time. What has changed? The subsidy from the state to UW for one, they are slated to take a $250 million dollar cut this year alone. Federal research grants for another. This has resulted in tuition now being nearly $10,000 per year. In order to earn that much money working a minimum wage job you need to work full time for more than 33 weeks. The sad reality is that most 18 year olds are going to working for minimum. I would contend that it is nearly impossible for someone to "work" their way through school today.

There are still private research grants coming into the universities but this is a problem in another direction. A private company can place research into a university for much less money than doing it themselves. The problem is that when the students that did that work graduate and need a job no jobs are available because the research has been outsourced to the universities.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I don't get it

I was reading the paper today and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is dismayed that in this economy they are having a hard time finding qualified employees. I wonder if they think that maybe cutting education funding might be a problem. We are caught in a trap. We don't have qualified workers but we can't fund training and education that might create qualified workers. Unfortunately, business doesn't look at education as being important to their business so they advocate against it. The reality is that education is a big subsidy to business. Imagine if education was the responsibility of business. What do you think they will teach? How much will it cost them?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Poll: 37 percent approve of Wall Street protest

Really a nice article today in the Wisconsin State Journal breaking down the recent poll of the country's opinions of the Wall Street protest. The comment from Jan Jarrell 54, retired school custodian, was interesting for a number of reasons. First clearly leaning to the tea party it illustrates the hypocrisy of that group, retired from a public job at 54. Isn't that something that they are against? Public jobs, early retirement, pensions, health care,... Second the statement that they should go to Washington because the government makes the policies. If only the evidence to that were true. Yes, Congress and the President ultimately make the policy but it is increasingly obvious that those policies were crafted long before by groups such as ALEC, Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, PNAC, and the list goes on. What do those groups have in common. They are largely fund by large corporations, large banks, and wealthy individuals. Thanks the the Citizens United case we the people can never know who exactly is funding these groups because that can all remain secret. No I think that the protesters are targeting the right people. They are the ones that created a regulatory environment that allowed for the collapse of the economy and then had the nerve to ask that the taxpayers help them out with trillions in loans and subsidies all the while suggesting that less regulation and taxes on them will solve the problems that they created.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Republican Endgame

You have to wonder what the Republican endgame is. We are in the middle of special jobs sessions at both the State and Federal level and as far as I can tel they have done nothing to create jobs but they have done much to increase unemployment and further a social agenda. In Wisconsin there is a proposal that would criminalize stem cell research, there goes hundreds of jobs at UW Madison alone. In Wisconsin they passed a bill that would allow students test performance to be used to determine whether public school teachers are fired. This after much research indicates that many times it is not the teacher but the child. Private school teachers are exempt, although in the areas of the state with private school choice they are receiving taxpayer money. In Wisconsin the number one job creator is the UW system. What has the legislature done for them. They increased the budget cuts to $310 million dollars with another possible $50 million if we don't create more jobs, ironic. Instead of trying to help the UW help the state we had a hearing on what criteria is used to admit students. We should have had a hearing on what we can do to help students stay in school. At the federal level they decided to break-up the President's job package, so last night they voted on spending $45 million dollars to help states meet salary obligations for teachers, police, and firefighters. Every Republican voted no. I suppose that the argument is that they should take less money. The reality is that they have taken less and there have been layoffs. Is the goal to take the country back to the late 18th century when you contracted with a private company for fire protection? Remember the Chicago fire, that was the end of that practice. And what about police? I can agree that less police is a good thing but when there is real crime you want some police. Are we going to try a 18th century solution and privatize the force. Pay them like security guards and hope that with enough open and concealed weapons around you don't have to worry about crime. I really don't see how any of this is going to advance the needs of the nation not to mention promoting the general welfare.

Dane County's Heroin Epidemic

Dane County has a heroin epidemic and has formed a task force to crack down on it. The numbers of ODs shows that there is a problem. We have multiple problems to deal with if we are going to stem this epidemic. First is the plentiful cheap drug. This is largely a result of our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. For a country that professes to be engaged in a war on drugs we have watched as production of opium has skyrocketed in Afghanistan. Second you have to deal with the underlying reasons for addiction. Bad homes, bad childhoods, depression,... try to solve these issues. Third we need to get the economy moving so that there isn't this lingering malaise. And, finally I would not allow the police and EMTs to carry narcan. Yes, it works but I think that it is an enabler for continued drug use. People are overdosing and being saved which leads to a false sense of security. The example of the MT Horeb man who was "saved" on consecutive days by emergency personnel. Maybe if the chances of dying were increased people would wake up and use less of the drug.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Double Dipping

Double dipping or the process of hiring retires back in their old job so that they are collecting both salary and a pension. I agree with the papers that are saying this is problematic. Unfortunately these same papers could have taken a principled stand with David Ward. Ward was brought in as interim chancellor of UW Madison and then the papers joined with the faculty to recommend that he stay 2 years. What the public needs to know is that chancellor Ward is a retired state employee and as such is collecting a pension and a salary (a very high one). Why the double standard main stream state media.

Admissions Hearing

So this week we had a hearing to expose the unfair admissions practices of UW-Madison. Well I spend time on campus and I have to say that if it is unfair it is hard to tell, UW-Madison is a pretty white school. One thing that did come up in the hearing was that if you are an athlete you are given preference and not one legislator questioned this aspect of admissions. There are coaches that recruit athletes whose test scores make them eligible to go to college but are way way below what the average freshman has. Why isn't this discussed more? Could it be that the legislature doesn't have a problem with minority students taking up places on athletic teams as long as they are successful in their sport? Maybe the University should put all admissions on an equal footing and scale back this big time athletic program and focus on education.

Some Things That I Would Ask

You have 8-10 people running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States and they have been having a lot of debates but there are a few questions that should be asked but aren't. I have compiled a list:

1. You often talk of restoring the Constitution. Can you explain why some parts in your mind are open to interpretation and others are fixed? For example what exactly do you think that article 1 section 8 means by the role of the federal government is to promote the general welfare of the people?
2. It is often been stated that you are running to take the country back. From what or to where, can you explain?
3. Do you favor a repeal of the minimum wage?
4. You talk about smaller government but yet you are strong defense advocate, shouldn't defense have to shrink proportional to the rest of government?
5. If you are really for getting government out of people's lives why are you pro-life?
6. Will you renounce all nanny state laws as President including the war on drugs?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Best Quote From Wall Street

"They arrest me for blocking the street but give a raise to the people who destroyed the world economy"

Mellon Mine

The Wisconsin State Journal is doing a series on the proposed mine in Mellon. I want to start by saying this is going to happen and Mellon will become like Hibbing MN at least for the next 35 years. Why is this such a sure thing? It is really pretty simple. Mellon is not Minoqua or Hayward, they are a backwater. The town that tourism passed by. So the mine will not be taking down the big hills in some recreational home owners backyard. The discussion ought to be is this mine a good use of public land resources? What about the water that will be used? What is the reclamation plan for the land? Are the hills going to be restored? Many questions that won't be considered. We are going to talk about jobs and how to get product to market.

How Dumb Can You Be

Pam Galloway (R Wausau) came out today saying that JB Van Hollen had over reached in his interpretation of the concealed carry law because he was requiring a 4 hour training period. She went on to say that no where in the law does it talk about a 4 hour training period. That is because Pam, it says that training is required, no specifics given. Keep in mind Pam, That the Gov. said that he would not sign any legislation that did not have a training component in it. So Pam, if you don't want the people charged with enforcing the law legislating from the bench maybe the next time you write a law that is so incredibly vague that it must be interpreted you'll do a better job. Your constituents would probably in the future actually really appreciate clear, concise legislation instead of the overly broad and vague law that is concealed carry.