Just two weeks ago, the New York Times published a chart comparing the economic progress of all 50 states since 2007, when the Great Recession began. Based on three key metrics, Wisconsin came in 37th. In other words, 36 states have made more economic progress than Wisconsin and only 13 have fared worse.
Now the Wisconsin State Journal has an interactive graph (reproduced as a static graphic here with the states labeled) showing how Wisconsin compares to the US average and to 6 other Midwest state along 4 dimensions: Nonfarm Employment, Manufacturing Hours, Unemployment Rate, and Wages. The graph shows the percent change over the three month period ending with December 2013 along the y axis and the percent change since January 2011, when Governor Walker began his (only) term. On the y dimension, the higher the dot, the greater the progress. On the x dimension better performance shows up as a greater distance from 0. The red dot represents Wisconsin.
As the chart shows, Wisconsin bested 3 of its neighbors in the last quarter of 2013, but lags behind all 6 Midwest states when the entire tenure of our current governor is measured. The green dot just to the right and somewhat above the red Wisconsin dot represents the aggregate of all 50 states. And there too, we lag behind whether we want to look just at the last three months of 2013 or we want to look back over the past 3+ years.
It didn't used to be this way. And it doesn't have to continue.
Every election cycle has its own landscape so it is important to get an overview of the lay of the land for Wisconsin Assembly and Senate races coming in fall 2014. Matt Brusky, Deputy Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, takes us through where the opportunities and challenges lie in both Assembly and Senate districts. You can listen to and watch the presentation on the AnyMeeting site: https://www.anymeeting.com/702-244-435/EF53D685834D. You can view just his slides right here.
Senator Grothman has just introduced yet another piece of legislation designed to put obstacles in the way of citizens who want to vote. This time it's same day registration. Previously, it was reducing and restricting early voting days and hours, preventing people from voting in the evenings or on weekends. And of course there's the Voter ID law currently being adjudicated in both state and federal courts.
These efforts weaken our democratic system both because they make it more difficult for eligible voters to register and cast their ballots and because they send a discouraging message to people who would exercise their franchise if it were convenient and easy to do so.
Call your state legislators and object to this latest attempt to subvert our democratic system: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/waml.aspx
In today's New York Times, Floyd Norris compares the economic fortunes of all 50 states using three different measures of progress since the recession began. And Wisconsin comes in 37th. Meanwhile, Mike Ivey in today's Capital Times reports that "[i]ncome inequality in Wisconsin is increasing at a faster rate than the nation as a whole, a trend that authors of a new report warn [by the Wisconsin Budget Project] is causing social upheaval and straining government services."
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation: Factory Farms Harm the Environment
Kim Wright, Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc., discusses how the increasing industrialization of farming in Wisconsin is damaging the environment, polluting wells and other water resources, and impacting public health. CAFOs, also known as factory farms, are heavily concentrated in a few areas of Wisconsin and are especially dense near Green Bay. The problems they cause include air pollution and contamination of private wells.
You can see Kim's presentation and the question and answer period here:
In the question and answer period, some people wanted more information about getting well water tested. Here's a link to resources for that issue: http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/watershed/Pages/GWWell.aspx
Kathleen Dunn's radio show recently discussed the food stamp program and how the new cuts to the program will affect recipients. The usual folks called in and perpetuated the myths and stereotypes regarding food stamp recipients. No matter what facts were presented by those in the trenches, such as the director of the HungerTask Force, people continued to talk about "personal responsibility," "getting a job," and controlling what people are allowed to buy with their food stamps. This PBS portrayal of actual food stamp recipients tells the real story of people who are hungry in America and why they came to need food stamps.
The problem of hunger is not concentrated solely in our cities. It afflicts large areas of rural Wisconsin even more than it is experienced in Milwaukee County and the areas around Racine and Kenosha, as the map to the left shows. The darkest areas show where the highest concentrations of the hungry live.
The Republican controlled legislature has fast-tracked a bill, AB 750, that would prohibit localities from adopting "living wage" laws. What this will mean is a substantial wage CUT for many workers in cities like Madison and Milwaukee, where there have long been living wage laws in effect. And it will prevent Milwaukee County from implementing a new living wage law that is just about to be enacted.
Wisconsin Jobs Now explains the bill this way:
"The bill would ensure ongoing poverty by making it illegal for municipalities to set living wage standards. The measure passed on a party-line vote. This is misguided and unfortunate, but not shocking. With barely 48 hours between the bill’s introduction and adoption in committee, Assembly Republicans continue to strong-arm widely-unpopular legislation through the Capitol, only breaking to allow the bare minimum in legally-mandated public input." [Wisconsin Jobs Now, February 13, 2014]
To see just how difficult it is to live in Wisconsin with wages below a living wage, visit MIT's Living Wage Calculator for Wisconsin. The same site shows the average hourly wages for various occupations. Here is what those wages look like for Milwaukee County (the figures in red fall below a living wage standard for an adult with one child).
|Occupational Area||Typical Hourly Wage|
|Business and Financial Operations||$26.27|
|Computer and Mathematical||$31.00|
|Architecture and Engineering||$29.82|
|Life, Physical and social Science||$25.51|
|Community and Social Services||$19.72|
|Education, Training and Library||$21.22|
|Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media||$18.13|
|Healthcare Practitioner and Technical||$27.88|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related||$8.77|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and maintenance||$10.94|
|Personal care and Services||$9.70|
|Sales and Related||$11.05|
|Office and Administrative Support||$14.49|
|Farming, Fishing and Forestry||$12.16|
|Construction and Extraction||$21.46|
|Installation, Maintenance and Repair||$19.49|
|Transportation and Material Moving||$14.18|