I get it. The difference, I get it.  We are all good people who care about others, our families, friends, neighbors, community. It’s just that, as a Progressive, our sense of community goes so much further than that of Conservatives'. For Conservatives that sense of community only extends as far as their own interests. Progressives view our community as global.

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Eilene Stevens

Eilene Stevens's activity stream


  • published Memorial Day approaches in Newsletter 2022-05-24 16:08:06 -0500

    Memorial Day approaches

    Let's start off with an announcement from the Ozaukee County Democrats: "Exciting news! Our very own Bob Tatterson (24th Assembly) and Dan Larsen (60th Assembly) announced their candidacies for state assembly at this week's Ozaukee Democrats meeting! .... And here's a link to Larsen's nomination form." Be sure you live in the district before signing his nomination papers. And that goes for any nomination papers you sign.

    It's really important that the Democrats field candidates in every race. Not only do nominees help get the message out; they really help elect others up and down the ballot. How? They make it more likely that people will turn out to vote. We're going to need every last blue vote we can muster to return Governor Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul to their offices. And we need to elect a new Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer. Plus, the Secretary of State is also on the ballot in the August 9 primary and the fall general election. We need to win all five statewide offices plus the race for US Senate if we want to keep our rights and our democracy from falling into the hands of would-be autocrats.

    Behind the scenes, right-wing operatives are ginning up ways to thwart the will of the voters. Here's one you've probably never heard of: a Talking Points Memo/ProPublica article about Jay Stone and his role as Big Lie proponent in Wisconsin.

    Last weekend, the Wisconsin GOP held its convention. Can we say Republicans in Disarray? Here's how Urban Milwaukee announced the fact that Republicans failed to endorse a gubernatorial candidate ahead of the August 9 primary. As the article notes, "After a weekend of extreme politics, the race to the bottom for the WisGOP gubernatorial nomination continued at the state convention. It appears that the chaos will not be ending any time soon: the Republican Party of Wisconsin chose not to endorse a single candidate ahead of the primary on August 9." At the same convention Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was booed when he said the 2020 election results cannot be decertified. "We need to focus on going forward," he told the audience. Let chaos reign!

    A few more nomination papers have trickled in. To sign any candidate's papers, you must live in the district the candidate is running in. You need to sign nomination papers and get them back in the mail (email and fax won't cut it) ASAP. You can search on your own address to make sure you know what district you're in.

    • Peter Peckarsky is running for the nomination for US Senate. Because it's a statewide race, you don't need to look up a district map. You can download his nomination papers and send them back by mail (Peckarsky For Wisconsin, 1345 N. Jefferson Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202). In the event of a delay in seeing the papers and snail mail will not be fast enough, please contact the campaign by email ([email protected]) or telephone (414-719-1838) and the campaign will schedule someone to pick up the fully signed papers from you.

    • Steven Olikara is also running to be the Democrats' US Senate nominee. Here is his nomination form and a Cap Times piece about him. Send nomination forms to Olikara for Senate, P.O. Box 510216,Milwaukee, WI 53203.

    • Darrin Madison is running for Assembly District 10. You can help him get on the ballot if you live in the new AD10. (Look up your new voting district here.) Send his nomination papers to 4080 N. 21st St. Apt#4, Milwaukee, WI 53209. Or you can phone or text his campaign and someone can pick them up from you: 414-303-2404 or 414-366-5778. WisPolitics.com published an article about him recently.

    You can find others' nomination forms on our Elections 2022 pages.

    Say NO to RoJo

    Here's an oldie but a goodie op-ed from Urban Milwaukee, December 2020: Paging Dr. Johnson. The article begins "Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson is an impostor pretending to be a health care expert and a U.S. senator. But Johnson is in over his head and oblivious of facts. He is an object of ridicule, even from other Republican senators." Johnson says COVID is similar to “a cold or a normal flu.” He rejects mask mandates and recommends discredited treatments. He also calls the Affordable Care Act “the greatest single threat to my freedom…” and repeats erroneous statements about it.

    Even though 1 million Americans have already died from the disease, he's still at it. We MUST defeat him in November. But to do that, we have to vote August 9 to nominate a US Senate candidate who can WIN! Request your absentee ballot at MyVote.WI.gov today! Or plan to vote early in person at your municipal clerk's office. Early voting will begin on July 26. Make a plan and VOTE.

    Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone! I can smell the grilling already.

     


    Visit Grassroots North Shore on Facebook and Like Us!

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  • Roe v. Wade Repeal: Predicted Economic Impact on Women and Families

             On May 10th, in her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated,  “I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”  She predicted that the labor force participation of women would fall, that their incomes would fall, and that their career paths would be delimited. Committee-member  Senator Scott (R-SC) responded by labeling her analysis "callous." He spoke over her while she was talking, smothering her response: "... that's the truth."     A few days later,  Scott posted an opinion piece in the Washington Post stating that his extremely hard-working single mother had raised her children while working multiple jobs (which would seem to buttress Yellen’s argument, not his). [1]

             Economists have produced a large body of economic research on the relationship between abortion access and the economic status of women. An excellent place to initiate study of the topic appeared on November 30, 2021, on the Brookings Institution website, entitled  "What can economic research tell us about the effect of abortion access on women's lives? [2]" by two economists, Professor Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College and economist Morgan Welch of the Brookings Institution. They point out that in their plea before the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the State of Mississippi asserts “there is simply no causal link between the availability of abortion and the capacity of women to act in society” and hence no reason to believe that abortion access has shaped “the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.”  In strong disagreement, 154 distinguished economists provide hard evidence in their September 20, 2021 amicus brief ("friend of the court brief")[3].

    The amicus brief is rather long, but a few samples of the findings can be summarized here. From page 10: ”For young women, the estimated reduction in birth rates due to abortion legalization was three times as much as that of all women. Legalization of abortion, together with policies specifically granting young women the ability to obtain an abortion without parental consent, reduced teen motherhood by 34% and reduced teen marriage by 20%.”

    Several findings appear on Page 14, which can be summarized: Abortion legalization has shaped families and the circumstances into which children are born, reducing the number of children who lived in single-parent households, lived in poverty, received welfare and social services, suffered child neglect and abuse. Moreover, children in those families with abortion access had increasing rates of college graduation. 

    And, from page 23: “Approximately 49% of women who seek abortions are poor, 75% are low income, 59% already have children, and 55% report a recent disruptive life event such as the death of a close friend or family member, job loss, the termination of a relationship with a partner, or overdue rent or mortgage obligations.”

                  Because the amicus brief was submitted in mid-September,  the justices and their interns had two months to consider the arguments and evidence presented in it.  But during those oral arguments in December, Chief Justice Roberts interrupted the presentation of the economic evidence and waved it off as irrelevant. Furthermore, in the famously-leaked draft opinion written by Justice Alito, there is no evidence that the economics studies detailed in the amicus brief were taken into consideration, or even read. Evidently, the predictable economic consequences of the court's decision are not considered a part of the decision-making process.[4]  

     

    [1] (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/17/tim-scott-abortion-single-black-mothers-economic-problems/)

    [2] (https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-can-economic-research-tell-us-about-the-effect-of-abortion-access-on-womens-lives/)

    [3] (https://www.supremecourt.gov/ DocketPDF/19/19-1392/193084/20210920175559884_19-392bsacEconomists.pdf).

    [4] Anyone wishing to pursue this topic further would be well served by first reading the Myers/Welch article in Brookings before reading the wealth of information and references contained in the economists' amicus brief.  

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     


  • published Let's go! in Newsletter 2022-05-18 09:23:05 -0500

    Let's go!

    his week's newsletter will introduce a regular feature: Say No to RoJo. But before we get to that, some upcoming Grassroots North Shore events you won't want to miss. On Sunday, June 5, we're holding a Zoom webinar for the top four candidates for the US Senate nomination. And on Sunday, June 12, we're holding an outdoor meet-and-greet with those same four candidates plus candidates for Lt. Governor at Virmond Park in Ozaukee County.

    And I have a few more links to candidates' nomination papers to share with you.

    In a final note this week, there's news about a current lawsuit that seeks to to knock Senator Ron Johnson, Representative Tom Tiffany, and Representative Scott Fitzgerald off the ballot for aiding the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Our own Grassroots North Shore co-chair, Cheryl Maranto, is one of the plaintiffs bringing the suit.

    Unlike previous efforts in North Carolina (to get Madison Cawthorn off the ballot) and the one in Georgia (to get Marjorie Taylor Greene off the ballot) — both of which failed, this one is in a federal court. An article in UpNorthNews provides a clear explanation of what the suit entails. A hearing on what's known as "standing" — whether these specific plaintiffs are entitled to bring this suit — will take place soon.

    Now we turn our attention to the main electoral event of the year: the November 8 election. Let's start with some excellent reasons to re-elect Governor Evers! Although I do not usually include graphics in the newsletter, this one is just too good to pass up. We need protection from the shenanigans the GOP legislature gets up to. And Tony's our guy!

    Evers_saves_the_day.jpg

    MAKE A PLAN TO VOTE! And request your absentee ballots for the August 9 partisan primary and the November 8 election, if you have not already done so. Absentee ballots can be returned either by mail or by delivering the ballot to your municipal clerk. Right now we are awaiting a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on the availability of drop boxes. You should also make sure you know what Assembly district you are now in by using the search icon — in the lower right corner.

    Say NO to RoJo

    In an article published last month, Politico notes that "Ron Johnson’s approval ratings are underwater in a swing state that President Joe Biden won." And they touch on a few of the most egregious lies he has recently told "He has said that gargling mouthwash can kill the coronavirus, Jan. 6 was a mostly 'peaceful protest,' and unvaccinated people around the world are being sent “'basically into internment camps.'" Time to turf him out, don't you think?

     

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  • published A FIRST LOOK AT MARKETS AND POLICY in Econ4Voters 2022-05-14 09:43:21 -0500

    A FIRST LOOK AT MARKETS AND POLICY

        A FIRST LOOK AT MARKETS AND POLICY[1]

             To foster the economic prosperity of a society of 330 million people, the US relies on both a market system and different levels of representative government.  Often public policy questions center on the proper role of government in complementing market activity, and when to let the market self-regulate.  Contemporary headliner examples include whether to control or end the use of fossil fuels; or to regulate health insurance markets or nationalize that service; or to subsidize higher education tuition versus enabling students to finance their education through long-term borrowing.   Questions of this type are inherently political questions, often accompanied by great polarization, angst, and concern over election outcomes.

            Advancement of public discourse about economics requires a common "language," i.e., an understanding of what people mean when they use key economic terms and concepts.  Of particular concern is the frequent use of the misunderstood term: "free markets," a term at odds with core economic analysis of markets.  

            The powerful forces of markets can be used to complement the regulation of utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and cable TV; to guide the construction and operation of infrastructure projects such as streets, roads, bridges, and airline flight paths; and to modulate climate change.  Examples such as these, and many more, show the importance of economic understanding in the development of public policy and in the evaluation of politicians at election time.

           Although every societal problem has a significant economic component, Democrats seem disinclined to use economics in their policy development and public discourse, preferring to frame issues with vague references to fairness and justice.  Meanwhile, self-branded conservatives invoke with gusto the verisimilitude of economics, confidently asserting that economic goals of growth and prosperity can be met within a robust market system that is free of government intervention.   In their telling, "free markets" are self-regulating,  serving the public better than if the government were to intervene.   

    Model-Building in Economic Education

       In contrast to contemporary liberals and conservatives, economists are more cautiously analytical in determining whether and how markets can serve the public interest.   Economists introduce economics through the  "competitive market model," a composite of principles describing the conditions required for a market to help society improve its economic well-being despite Nature's scarce resources.

     Profit and Loss

       The process of competition coordinates myriad choices. When buyers can choose among a large number of sellers, those sellers are incentivized to provide goods and services of reliable quality, durability and price. Price is determined by the interplay between sellers’ supply and the buyers’ demand for goods and services.  Investors enter an industry when profits can be expected, and exit to avoid expected losses. Price is forced down by entry or up by exit, until a "Goldilocks" price level is reached at which shortages and surpluses are eliminated: at that price the amount buyers want to buy equals the amount sellers want to sell.  

     

    The most surprising and counter-intuitive result from this model is that each of the competitors intends to improve their own profit but the process of competition transforms that intent into a greater quantity and lower price for the benefit of buyers.   This was first proposed by Adam Smith: self-interested profit-seekers  guided by the process of competition – – "as if by an invisible hand" -- to serve the public interest "even though that is no part of their intent."   Smith referred to this as a “system of natural liberty.” 

       This competitive market outcome requires key preconditions, including a large number of independent sellers as well as well-informed buyers.  Economists beginning with Smith have warned against over-reliance on the beneficent outcome of competitive markets without regard to these preconditions. He emphasized the incentive for individual sellers to attempt anti-competitive efforts:   "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."  For example, if firms obstruct the process of competition by forming cartels -- i.e.,  agreements among competitors to reduce total output to force prices up --  consumers are denied the benefits of competition, such as reasonable prices for drugs or gasoline or meat.

    Further Toward Realism: Competitive Markets Require Rules Set by Government

       Markets cannot function free of government. Instead, they require certain foundations provided by government, including rule of contract law, property rights law, ownership rights law, and other sectors of the law that form the “rules of the game.”  Because mutually beneficial exchange is central to the functioning of the competitive market, tradable ownership rights must be created and protected.  Although these legal systems are prerequisites for markets to function, they are a public responsibility; markets cannot provide them. 

    Another implication of the model that becomes explicit in practice: for the competitive process to serve the public interest, exchanges must be mutually beneficial to all parties affected by the transaction.  Consequently, all costs must be borne by buyers or sellers or shared between them, not shed to "third parties" external to the market's buyer-seller transactions. An example of such external costs would be an agreement between buyers and sellers that imposes noise, or danger, or the sight of ghastly architecture onto people who are not parties to the arrangement.  

    "Free Markets" versus Economics   

           The term "free market" is used very frequently in public discourse, particularly by people who brand themselves "conservative," and whose all-purpose policy prescription is tax cuts and deregulation.   When the word "free" is affixed to "market" it conveys a market that is free of government involvement in its operation.    

           Because the economics profession has devoted a great deal of attention to the benefits of competition, "free markets" are often conflated with "competitive markets."  This is a mistake; they are very different concepts.    Economists frame economic problems as seeking ways to improve economic well-being by overcoming some of Nature's constraints on resources -- land, labor, capital equipment, and time.   In that conception, economic freedom rises or falls depending upon whether the society's access to resources increases or decreases, whether that involves government or not.    

    Fossil Fuel Freedom?

           The competitive market model not only lays out the preconditions for market efficiency, but it also pinpoints possible remedies when those preconditions are not met.   That is, if those missing pieces can be provided through regulation, then economic freedom rises even though the market is less free from government.  For instance, as the competitive model shows, the market will tend to ignore external costs of the use of fossil fuels (i.e., pollution, emission of heat-trapping gas), and consequently underprice and, thereby, encourage overuse of those fuels.    To correct for the too-low price of fossil fuels, economists recommend implementation of a carbon tax to force buyers and sellers to factor in the external costs to their decision-making. With that correction, economic efficiency rises because of, not in spite of, increased government involvement.  While the market will be less free, economic performance and economic freedom improve.   This example and many more show the inherent contradiction between free-market concepts and the peer-reviewed findings of the economics profession.  

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    [1] This is the first of several articles on markets and public policy, written with the conviction that misunderstanding of this concept, deepened by dis-information from economic opportunists, is central to the polarization facing the nation.  


  • THE ROLE OF STUDENT BORROWING IN COLLEGE FINANCE

             The college education is an exploration of the amazing achievements of the human race as well as enabling students to discover their own talent and passion within a galaxy of opportunity.  It is an expensive endeavor; borrowing from the student loan program is an essential part of the strategy to maximize the value of the educational asset.   This is the first of two essays on student loans for the Grassroots North Shore.  It focuses on ways to make high-valued use of student borrowing.    The second essay will present a two-part plan to improve the market for student loans to reduce the burden of repayment. 

             A college education is a costly service and must be paid for somehow.  Students do not pay full cost; in addition to the student share of cost, the remainder is split between state and federal support of higher education,  as well as fund-raising and yield on endowment.   While the total cost of an education has gone up at about the rate of inflation, the state share of the cost has gone down, requiring the share of cost paid by the students to rise faster than inflation.

             45.5 million college students and graduates have built up $1.75 trillion in student loan debt.   It is not uncommon for individual graduates to have ten or twenty thousand dollars of indebtedness,  in some cases much more. Hefty monthly payment obligations begin soon after graduation.  Proposals to ease this burden include making tuition "free" and canceling some or all of the debt already accumulated. 

              Free tuition and student loan cancellation would constitute a  transfer of costs from the student share to taxpayers.  Taxpayers are already under strain, saddled with the cost of public health, prisons, pensions, and the trillions of dollars of debt inherent in neglected infrastructure. Students are under strain, too,  which makes the student loan issue one of the more nettlesome of the prominent issues facing the nation and its voters.

    Does Borrowing Make a Borrower Worse Off?

                The math boils down to this:  if  borrowed money is invested in an asset with a rate of return greater than the rate of interest on the borrowed money, the borrower becomes better off financially; if the rate of return is less than the rate of interest on the borrowed money, the borrower becomes worse off.[1]   

             Put more simply: if the borrowed money is invested in a way that enhances ability to repay, the borrower's financial position improves over time.     If a student borrows money to buy the time needed to build an educational asset that will not only be personally rewarding but will also enable a net economic gain after loan repayment.[2]  However,  students who borrow money for college and then earn low grades will not add much to ability to repay. 

    Should Low-income Students  Borrow Less or More than Middle-income Students?

              Borrowing does not make poor students poor; they are already poor. Poverty is the problem to be solved; for many poor students, a rigorous college education is a way to solve that problem. A well-regulated student loan program enables the poor students to earn the same degree as the higher income student who doesn't have to borrow from the student loan program.   

     Strategies for Growing the Net Benefits of College 

             Targeted high school preparation can reduce college costs and grow the benefits.   First up:  computer skills.   College is high-tech these days in virtually all disciplines across campus,  from science and engineering to social science, humanities, and fine arts.      Textbooks come with ancillaries such as websites,  electronic problem sets,  video clips, and tutorials.  Similarly, modern technology enhances communication with professors, teaching assistance, and other students.   The high school years are a good time to enhance computer skills.  

             Second: English and math are the languages central to the study of the wide range of knowledge available for guided study in college. The non-routine projects required during a rigorous college education require skill in writing,  revising, and editing essays as well as the intricate strategies for math problem-solving.   High school elective courses that require expository writing and word problems in math help prepare. 

    The Danger of Borrowing Too Little

              Working at low-paying jobs that consume a lot of time and energy could be counterproductive.  Often the time would be better spent in pursuing high grades in a rigorous education, even though that path might require additional borrowing.    When prepared and mature enough,  students should borrow to buy the time needed to earn high grades.   

    The Double Major Option

             As Payscale.com reports, some college majors have a higher lifetime financial pay-off than others.      Students whose passions are enlivened by a major with little likelihood of financial payoff might combine that interest with a more financially promising second major. For example, one of the high-paying engineering majors, or business finance or economics could combine with social science or humanities major. Such combined study can fulfill both intellectual interest and financial security, including the ability to repay student loans.  

             Education is a lifetime asset of greater value than any other. Borrowing enables students to enhance that value.  The next essay in this series includes suggestions for improving the loan repayment formulas to reduce the repayment burden so that students can more fully enjoy the benefits of their asset.     

     

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

      

     

    [1] Private sector banking industry requires borrowers to pledge guarantees to the bank, called "collateral," of assets that the bank can take possession of should the borrower default on repayments. Federal student loan guarantees substitute for that collateral, and direct federal loans do not require collateral.

     

    [2] See Payscale.com for data on the returns to college by type of degree and major course of study.

     


  • published stormy weather in Newsletter 2022-05-10 20:18:37 -0500

    stormy weather

    We are living through very dark days. As I'm sure you're aware, a draft opinion on the Dobbs v Jackson case at the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) leaked and was published by Politico last week. You can read the draft opinion yourself. If it stands as written or even if the opinion is modified a bit but the heart of it stands, Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood will both be overturned in their entirety. For Wisconsin, that means abortion will be illegal once again, as it was before Roe v Wade made reproductive healthcare a universal right under a right to privacy seven Justices wrote that the Constitution implied.

    While the opinion drafted by Justice Alito goes out of its way to try to distinguish between abortion cases and all the other rights that have relied on the same legal reasoning about privacy that forms the basis of the Roe v Wade decision, the truth is all sorts of other decisions — access to contraception, same sex marriage, and interracial marriage, to name just a few — are likely to be challenged on the same grounds. Alito holds that because there is no mention of abortion in the Constitution, and there is also no explicit right to privacy, Roe and Casey were "wrongly decided."

    Our current Attorney General, Josh Kaul, has announced that his office will not prosecute cases of abortion. Milwaukee's District Attorney, John Chisholm, was a bit more circumspect but both note that such cases would deflect resources from more urgent matters. On the other hand, Republicans running for Attorney General support prosecuting abortions should the 1849 Wisconsin law that banned abortions once again be in force.

    It's easy to fall into despair over this turn of events. After all, there does not seem to be a clear avenue to protect reproductive health rights at the federal level. And our state legislature, dominated as it is by radical Republicans, will certainly not repeal the draconian anti-abortion laws already on the books here. (See this account of Wisconsin's abortion laws in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.) But we must not. Our recourse is simple: on Mother's Day thousands of people took to the streets in protest. Public pressure of that sort, though, won't reach the stony hearts of the five Justices who have already signaled that SCOTUS will overturn Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood. The important thing to do now: VOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT OUR RIGHT TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE! What stands between us and a rash of new legislation attacking all sorts of other rights to privacy is the veto pen Governor Evers wields and the determination of Josh Kaul. Re-electing them in November is our ONLY WAY to protect our personal privacy in Wisconsin.

    And in other startling, but perhaps not shocking, news, Russia's infiltration of the GOP goes back at least to the McCain campaign in 2008. So says Steve Schmidt, who, as campaign advisor for the 2nd half of the campaign, ought to know. Politico has the Twitter thread and the story. Plus Mark Esper, former Secretary of Defense under the former guy, reveals more of *Rump's viciousness and stupidity in an interview with Norah O'Donnell. So our president wanted to shoot missiles into Mexico and try to pretend we didn't; to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters; and to remove all US troops from South Korea. And he called his VP and other officials "f'ing losers." Nice, right? And we might be seeing this dangerous clown act return in 2025! Again, we must vote like our country depends on it. Because it does.

    So here's a little help sorting out who should be the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. Three declared candidates visited virtually with the steering and advisory committees. We're sharing the video on our YouTube channel. It's about 50 minutes long, but take the time to watch it. All three candidates — Peng Her, Sara Rodriquez, and David Bowen — are impressive. Mr. Her, founder and CEO of the Hmong Institute, declares on his campaign website that he is running because he is "a strong advocate for building strong and safe communities, helping small business succeed, and increasing access to quality health care." Sara Rodriguez, currently a member of the Wisconsin Assembly representing Waukesha County, is a nurse and public health professional, according to her campaign website. David Bowen is also a current State Assembly representative. You can find out more about him on his campaign Facebook page. You can help get one of them on the primary ballot by downloading and circulating their nomination papers from their websites. But remember you can nominate ONLY ONE.

    We will be interviewing and meeting the top candidates for the Democratic nomination for US Senate in June. It's a two-part event. On June 5, Kathleen Dunn, former NPR host, will speak with the candidates on Zoom. You can sign up to watch. We will also make the video available if you can't attend the event. And on June 12, we will hold a safe outdoor event at Virmond Park in Ozaukee County. You can meet and talk to the Senate candidates in person. The candidates for Lt. Governor will also be available for you to meet. Sign up for part two here.

     

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  • published Roe v Wade is a goner in Newsletter 2022-05-04 08:53:50 -0500

    Roe v Wade is a goner

    By now you have undoubtedly heard the news, either from watching cable news channels last night or from Journal Sentinel, the Washington Post, the New York Times, or indeed any national news outlet. A draft majority opinion is poised to overturn Roe v Wade. Once the ruling is final, Wisconsin's 19th century state law banning doctors from performing most abortions will be immediately enforceable again, as it was before the 1973 landmark Roe v Wade decision. In much of the country, women will not be able to access abortions. And that's not all. Many other rights depend on the right to privacy that the Roe decision relied on but that the current court seems to believe does not have constitutional protection. Contraception may in fact be the next target of the theocrats who want to turn back the clock on women's rights.

    In case you had previously doubted the meaning and importance of elections, this pending decision should settle the matter. It also MUST GALVANIZE YOU TO VOTE AND TO WORK to elect candidates who will support a national law protecting a woman's right to choose. The primary election, in which we will determine which Democrat will run against — and DEFEAT — Senator Ron Johnson, will take place on August 9. Absentee voting will begin in early July. So get yourself informed and ready to vote by attending a special two-part event Grassroots North Shore is hosting on June 5 and June 12. On June 5, Kathleen Dunn, a former NPR host, will interview the top four senate candidates: Mandela Barnes, Sarah Godlewski, Alex Lasry, and Tom Nelson. (By then, we should have information about these candidates and many others on our Elections 2022 pages.) Register for that Zoom event here. On June 12, we will hold an outdoor, in-person meet-and-greet with the four top candidates at Virmond Park in Ozaukee County. Here's the sign-up. Candidates vying to be the Lieutenant Governor nominee — David Bowen, Peng Her, and Sara Rodriguez — will also be there.

    If you have not already done so, please request an absentee ballot. You can take care of that task at MyVote.Wi.gov. You can also check your registration, track your ballot so that you know your request has been received, when your ballot is mailed to you, and when the municipal clerk's office has received it. Absentee voting is safe and secure. It is also the best way to make sure you are available to help run elections, either as a poll worker (aka election inspector) or as an election observer. If you live in Milwaukee County, you can work at the polls in the city. Apply here. Or you can contact your municipal clerk to ask whether poll workers are needed in your municipality.

    There are a few upcoming events of note that are not yet on the list because they're farther in the future than the list usually covers. But I want to bring them to your attention now so you can put them on your calendar. So, for those of us who live in Ozaukee County, you should know that the 6th CD Convention will take place on Sunday, May 23rd, at the La Sure Supper Club in Oshkosh. A continental breakfast and lunch will be served. Cost: $30 general fee, $25 for students, $40 at the door. The Oz Dems can send 35 delegates. This is a gateway to the state Dem convention. If you want to be considered, contact the Oz Dems to get information: (262) 423-7578.

    On Thursday, May 19, the Wisconsin Justice Initiative will feature Mark Joseph Stern, staff writer at Slate, discussing the court's justices decisions, and trends and the dangerous paths the Court may be taking. Stern covers the Supreme Court and the law. Given the Court's blow to a woman's right to choose, this program is especially timely. You can register now.

    The events list is modest again this week and is likely to continue to be until the primary heats up in early June. So in the meantime, you might want to send postcards to support Senator Warnock in Georgia. Activate America, with whom Grassroots North Shore worked in the 2020 election, is organizing the effort. Sign up with them. You will have to supply your own postcards and stamps so you'll need to get right on it. The primary in Georgia is on May 24. Grassroots North Shore will begin its own postcard campaign in June. Watch for it and sign up when it's time!

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  • ON JUNE 12TH MEET THE 4 CANDIDATES FOR US SENATE

    We are lucky to have four such experienced and talented candidates vying for this position. Now, take this special opportunity to meet and talk and question each of them, with nothing standing between you and the candidate.  See you on June 12th from 4 pm - 6 pm at Virmond Park in Mequon.

    Mandela Barnes

    Sarah Godlewski

    Alex Lasry

    Tom Nelson

     


     

    You will also be able to meet and talk with the candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Gov. and those running to be the Democratic nominee for State Treasurer.

     

    WHEN
    June 12, 2022 at 4:00pm
    WHERE
    Virmond Park in Mequon
    10606 N Lake Shore Dr
    Mequon, WI 53092
    United States
    Google map and directions
    94 rsvps rsvp

  • rsvped +1 for The US Senate: How Do We Win? 2022-05-02 15:43:00 -0500

    The US Senate: How Do We Win?

    On June 5th, Grassroots North Shore presents Kathleen Dunn interviewing the four top-polling Democratic candidates who hope to oust the worst Senator in Wisconsin's history. Her astute questioning will help us make an informed voting choice. Join us online at 7 pm.

    WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? One of these four candidates - Mandela Barnes, Sarah Godlewski, Alex Lasry, or Tom Nelson - can tip the Senate, save democracy, and send Ron Johnson....somewhere else.

    Mandela Barnes

    Sarah Godlewski

    Alex Lasry

    Tom Nelson

    Kathleen Dunn's radio show aired from 2006 to 2017. NPR said of her that "Dunn and her producers strove to be as timely as possible when choosing topics and guests. The immediacy of the show attracted many loyal listeners who sought in-depth discussions that go beyond the headlines" We are honored to have her working with us on this project.

    THEN MEET THESE 4 CANDIDATES IN PERSON ON Sunday, June 12th at Virmond Park in Mequon from 4-6. Ask your own questions, and make an informed decision.  RSVP for Sunday, June 12th here.


    Candidates for Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor, David Bowen, Peng Her, and Sara Rodriguez also will be on hand.

    Co-Sponsored by 

                

    WHEN
    June 05, 2022 at 7:00pm
    WHERE
    Zoom
    245 rsvps rsvp

  • published let's get ready in Newsletter 2022-04-26 17:07:20 -0500

    let's get ready

    August 9 may be months away but the time to register and educate voters about the new districts, rules for absentee voting and like is NOW. Supermarket Legends legend Linea Sundstrom is holding on online voter registration training on Sunday, May 1, at 7pm. To attend, send an email to her at [email protected]. The Zoom link will arrive in your email on Saturday, April 30. Grassroots North Shore is organizing efforts to register eligible high school students at Nicolet, Brown Deer, and Whitefish Bay schools. And we could use a lot of help. So more about this volunteer opportunity as plans firm up. Also keep in mind that we will be sending postcards and organizing some phoning ahead of the August election. More information coming soon.

    If you have not already done so, request an absentee ballot at MyVote.WI.gov. Voting absentee is still the safest method and it also allows those who can work the polls as election inspectors or election observers to do so on Election Day. To be an election inspector, you can contact your municipal clerk to find out what's needed. You'll find phone numbers for many North Shore municipalities on our page for early in-person voting. If you live in Milwaukee County, you can also apply to be an election inspector for the city. Here's a link to the Milwaukee City Election Commission information about election inspectors. You'll find a link to the online application and other helpful bits at the bottom of the page. To help with voter protection, both before and during the elections, volunteer with the Voter Protection Team.

    The matter of drop boxes and also the question of assisting voters with disabilities to return absentee ballots were argued at the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 13. NPR has extensive coverage of the hearing and the issues. No decision has yet been rendered but one could be issued in the next few weeks.

    Also, be sure to mark your calendars now for the Grassroots North Shore US Senate candidate forum. We're going to have two parts to this event: first, an online virtual forum moderated by Kathleen Dunn on Sunday, June 5, and second, a meet-and-greet outdoor gathering at Virmond Park on Sunday, June 12. I can't tell you how vital voting in this primary will be. Choosing a candidate for the general election in November is always important but this year we have an excellent chance to give Senator Baldwin a partner instead of an opponent. A lot of really interesting candidates are vying for the nomination. This event will give you a chance to meet and talk to them in person.

    And while I'm forecasting the future, here are two other events you might want to pencil in. On Thursday, May 12, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and also the county chapters in Dane, Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties are presenting a talk by Reggie Jackson on "How We Got Here: The Hidden History of Diversity in America." You can sign up here. And on Sunday, May 19, a Wisconsin Justice Initiative featuring Mark Joseph Stern (staff writer at Slate) will tackle the question "Can Democracy Survive This Supreme Court?" Stern will discuss the court's justices, decisions, and trends and the dangerous paths the Court may be taking and will entertain questions from attendees at the event, which will be held from 5:30 - 7:30 pm at The Cooperage. Get more information and sign up.

    There's a lot of shrugging about the virus going on, but you should know that, according to the New York Times Tracker, cases of COVID-19 in the Milwaukee Metro area have increased by 50% in the last two weeks. While the seven-day average stands at 303 daily cases, that's an 18% increase over Monday's seven-day average. In other words, cases are beginning to increase at a fast clip. You should definitely order home test kits from the federal government. You might also want to consider masking in indoor public spaces and observing social distancing for the next few weeks as this wave waxes (and then, we hope, wanes).

    A new Marquette University Law School poll will be released on Wednesday, April 27, at 12:15pm CDT. The survey looks at preferences for the Republican and Democratic primaries being held in August as wall as a host of salient issues. Poll director Charles Franklin will talk with Alan Borsuk, senior fellow in law and public policy, about the findings. You can watch the video beginning at 12:15. Just click on the "WATCH NOW" button. The full poll will also be posted after 1pm.

    As you're probably aware, richest-man-in-the-world Elon Musk is apparently going to buy Twitter and take it private, assuming that the deal passes regulatory muster. What that will mean for the social media behemoth remains to be seen. But there's plenty of speculation. He says he's a "free speech absolutist" who believes that anything that's legal should not be removed from the site. So no content moderation. However, there's what he says he'll do and then there are the downstream effects. As NPR points out, "[e]xperts who study social networks fret about Musk's push to loosen the rules of engagement on Twitter. They say that could give license to harassers, trolls and others who abuse the platform to target people. They also worry relaxing the rules on Twitter will empower those looking to exploit the platform by spreading misinformation, or flat-out lies, about political events, government officials and matters related to public health and safety." In short, the prospects are like dark clouds: threatening stormy weather.

     

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  • campaigns, candidates, and covid -- again

    The saga of our post-2020 census redistricting maps has been resolved for now, and not in a good way. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has now selected the maps the legislature submitted in light of the US Supreme Court's shadow docket ruling on the previous maps from Governor Evers the WI Supreme Court originally approved. The new maps pretty much ensure Republican control of the legislature for the next decade. And they also reduce the number of majority-minority Assembly districts from the current six to only five. The issues surrounding majority-minority districts are likely to be further litigated, questioning the maps' compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act. The US Supreme Court, though, looks increasingly hostile to the VRA in general. So the outcome of such litigation both in Wisconsin and elsewhere could be frightening. And the legal battles will almost certainly have to wait until the November 2022 elections are over. The result is we cannot miss turning out a single one of our supporters. And we need EVERYONE to step up.

    Nomination papers for everyone running for office in August and November can circulate now. Many candidates are sending nomination papers to supporters. Others are posting them online for you to download, fill out, and mail back to the campaign. If you are contacted by a candidate you support, you should fill out the nomination for that candidate if you can. For those of you in the 4th Congressional District, here is a link to papers for Representative Gwen Moore. You can sign both as a nominator and as a circulator on the same form. What you cannot do is nominate more than one candidate for the same office. So sign only one nomination form for, say, a candidate in the 4th or 6th congressional district. Or for Governor. Or Attorney General. You get the idea.

    In other election news, as you may already know, former Governor "Tommy Thompson won't launch a fifth campaign for Wisconsin governor," according to an article published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday afternoon. The article doesn't really explain Thompson's reasoning, but reading between the lines it seems that maybe his chances of winning the Republican primary weren't good enough. At least that's how I interpreted this sentence from the article: "[...] a conservative group created by a former Thompson administration official conducted a poll about Thompson's chances" before he made the decision. Presumably he's not sufficiently trumpy.

    COVID-19 infections are on the rise again in many parts of the country. Here in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties, the rise is so far very small. But another surge may well be starting. I find the tracker in the New York Times to be a useful way of keeping up with the pandemic in our area since the Journal Sentinel is no longer publishing articles about it very frequently. You can find and customize the NYT tracker here. And if you have not yet ordered at-home test kits from the federal government, you can do so at covidtests.gov. Every address can request two sets of four tests. It's handy to have them around in time for the next wave. And since it can take a couple of weeks to receive yours, don't delay.

    Earth Day — on Friday, April 22 — is right around the corner. This year's theme is Invest in Our Planet. The Milwaukee Riverkeeper is hosting an annual river cleanup on that Friday with a celebration at the Harley Davidson Museum afterwards. You'll find the event in the list below, but you can also sign up to participate right now! There will also be a rally and march sponsored by the Milwaukee Earth Day Coalition at city hall at noon. No sign-up needed: just show up. Or you can call 414-269-9525 for more information.

    Finally, here's a way to help support Ukrainians: donate what you can to an organization called Ukraine TrustChain. It's a grassroots group that provides direct aid like meals and evacuations under extremely dangerous conditions. Ukraine TrustChain was founded a little over two months ago by Daniil Cherkasskiy of Evanston, IL, along with other Ukrainians in the Chicago area and around the US to respond to the Russian attack on their former country. The organization has a network of volunteer teams in Ukraine who communicate with each other and document their harrowing achievements. As of Sunday, April 17, they have evacuated 26,019 people (more than half children), and have provided over 50,000 daily meals. It costs approximately $6-$8. to evacuate each person. To date the group has raised $432,340. You can learn more about this incredible local effort to fund these courageous teams and their accomplishments by reading the Ukraine TrustChain Newsletter. For more information, email or call Norma Gilson (414-588-1241).

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  • published The Essential-Worker Paradox in Econ4Voters 2022-04-18 09:34:11 -0500

    The Essential-Worker Paradox

           Ordinarily, the contribution of sanitation workers, store-shelf stockers, bus drivers, delivery people, emergency medical technicians, childcare providers, and many others, are routine, unnoticed, and taken for granted. During the covid pandemic, however, the general public became acutely aware of their dependence on these essential workers. But if their value is so high, why is their pay so low?

     The Diamond-Water Paradox

    The quandary of value versus market-determined price has a long history in economics.    250 years ago Adam Smith, founder of modern economics, examined the logic of the problem when he posed the Diamond-Water Paradox: Why does water, essential for life itself, sell for a low price, while gem diamonds, mere adornments, sell for a  high price? Smith never solved the riddle; it was not until 1816 that David Ricardo observed that this is not a paradox at all; price and value are very different economic concepts.   He explained that the value of water in its use —  especially the life-sustaining uses —  is greater than its price in market exchange. In fact, the two measures can move in opposite directions:  the greater the abundance of water the greater its value in use but the lower its market price.

      Applying Ricardo’s logic to labor: wages paid do not measure the total value of what workers produce any more than the price of water measures the value of water in its many uses. Just as the market price of water lies far below the total value of water, the wages of essential workers under-represent the value of their work. 

    The Market Distributes Surplus Value Upward

           When goods and services are bought and sold in the market system, those exchanges generate surpluses, defined as the excess of value over price.  The surplus value resides in the work product, not the wage.  Those with more disposable income can purchase more goods and services, and, in turn, acquire more of the associated surpluses; those who are paid less are constrained to buy less and so acquire less of the surplus.   Therefore, because the surpluses are enjoyed by those who own the work product and are not included in the market wages paid to the workers, the market forces will redistribute the surpluses to the higher-income people who can afford to buy more of that work product.  

           Although market-determined wages do not measure the contribution of labor to national wealth, markets do perform a very important “allocative” function in the labor market: they equate “supply and demand.”  That is, the market wages are determined at the level where the quantity of labor that employers want to employ equals the quantity of labor that workers want to offer.  

    Sharing the Surpluses.

    A society that recognizes the mismatch between wages and value of work-product commonly wishes to supplement the low incomes of essential workers, either in kind or with money payments.  One way is to use progressive income tax revenue to provide public goods of benefit to those workers, such as education, health insurance, transportation, and enabling them to vote in minutes rather than hours. Most Americans, certainly most of the essential workers, rely on these public resources for their health, safety, education of their children, and other social investments and risk-sharing insurances.  Such a redistribution requires a political role in mediating market forces through a democratically-elected representative government.

    A second way is to use general taxes to finance wage supplements. Such staunch adherents of market economics as Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan advocated using the tax system to supplement low-wage work. During the Reagan administration, this redistribution was implemented through the “Earned Income Tax Credit,” which reversed the flow of taxes for low-income workers: instead of paying into the tax system, these workers would receive wage-supplement payments from the tax system. These wage supplements could take the form of bonus payments paid to emergency health workers as “hazardous duty pay,” or even universal basic income, core support for low-income citizens.

    Such redistribution uses market forces to offset some of the upward distribution of surpluses inherent in labor-market transactions.  Markets are great producers of wealth through the coordination of incentives, but political intervention is needed to distribute the wealth more in line with individual contributions to the total. 

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

     


  • published post election processing in Newsletter 2022-04-13 08:33:14 -0500

    post election processing

    Although we cannot know for sure, our effort to inform and to turn out voters seems to have been successful. Of the candidates we endorsed, only Judge Lori Kornblum lost her race. The Appeals Court she was running for encompasses 16 suburban and rural counties and excludes Milwaukee County. So it's pretty Republican. And our communications only reached into the southern half of Ozaukee County. In her letter thanking her supporters, Kornblum notes that even "in this deeply red district, we won three counties -- Kenosha, Winnebago, and Green Lake -- and came within a handful of votes in several others. We won in many municipalities including the Cities of Sheboygan, Racine, and Mequon." Wow: both Mequon and Sheboygan! These are traditionally Republican territories. But maybe the tide is turning.

    Liz Sumner won her reelection for county supervisor in District 1 quite handily. And Judge Hannah Dugan (Milwaukee Circuit Court Branch 35) also won.

    Our next election is the partisan primary on August 9. We will be electing nominees for

    • Governor
    • Attorney General
    • Secretary of State
    • State Treasurer
    • US Senator
    • Representative in Congress District 4 and 6
    • Representatives for Assembly and state Senate Districts
    • Milwaukee County Sheriff
    • Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Court

    There will be additional offices in Ozaukee County that are not yet listed here. But rest assured we will do our best to provide information for all races in our area.

    Of course the Assembly and state Senate races cannot be determined until we have new electoral maps. And that has not yet happened. We are still awaiting word from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And even then, parties could still appeal to the US Supreme Court. It's a mess!

    As part of its election information, the Village of Whitefish Bay has posted the following: "in the interest of public safety and welfare, the Village of Whitefish Bay is urging ALL voters to vote by mail for the 2022 elections. Voting by mail is easy and secure." It's seriously sound advice since we do not know what the virus environment will look like in August. You should request absentee ballots for both the August 9 primary and the November 8 general election right now. There are a couple of ways to make the request:

    • Online at myvote.wi.gov;
    • By an emailed or mailed request to the clerk of your municipality (you can find the contact information for your election officer at myvote.wi.gov).

    Wisconsin's political struggles continue to make national news. The ruling that voters could not use unattended drop boxes to return absentee ballots and that every voter would have to mail or hand his/her/their ballot to the election officer for that municipality created a huge challenge for disabled voters. Here's the story in Grid News and coverage on MSNBC.

    And in the continuing coup saga, Wisconsin is playing a key part. It seems that John Eastman, *rump lawyer and likely criminal co-conspirator, visited with GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos just a few weeks ago. According to reporting in Daily Kos, "While there, Eastman pushed the official to overturn the 2020 election results by 'reclaiming' those electoral votes that went to President Joe Biden."

    Finally, in case you missed the local news, Governor Evers vetoed nine election bills last week. The Republicans who passed the bills naturally claimed they were only exercising common sense, but the Governor was having none of it. This glimpse into the election battles in Madison makes a strong case for ensuring that Governor Evers is reelected in November. Grassroots North Shore will be counting on you to help!

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  • answered 2022-04-09 21:30:17 -0500
    Q: Do you think it is important to have the office open to serve as a campaign hub for the upcoming elections? Please explain.
    A: Yes, but only if it is safe for all of us old people who will man the office.

    Opening the office

    The Administration Team has been discussing how, when and if to return to our office at 5600 W. Brown Deer Road.  Please fill out this questionnaire at your earliest convenience to give us your opinion about office use.  Once we receive everyone’s input (no later than April 18) we will convene a meeting to discuss the results and determine a plan of action.

    Take the survey

  • published the all-elections news edition in Newsletter 2022-04-06 22:28:57 -0500

    the all-elections news edition

    It's ELECTION DAY! If you have not already voted by absentee ballot or by in-person early voting, you have until 8pm this evening to cast yours. As recent events both in United States and in Ukraine have demonstrated, exercising your right to vote is not just something good to do. It's your way of saying that you care deeply about representative governance. Voting is foundational to our country, and to our way of life. We now know that it is more than possible to lose any meaningful representation. If you need to find out where your polling place is, consult MyVote.WI.gov. If you need information about candidates for school boards, municipal offices, Milwaukee County judges, Milwaukee County Supervisor District 1 candidates, or Appeals Court District 2 candidates, check our Elections 2022 pages.

    In other local political action, the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition is joining with the Wisconsin Voter Empowerment Project to thank our election workers and let them know how grateful the FMC is that they count every vote and protect our freedom to vote. Join the FMC on April 12 to Thank Election Heroes! Register here to participate.

    Fair Courts Series
    Join the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin at noon on Wednesday, April 13, for a conversation about how money and weak recusal rules are undermining our courts. This second webinar of the League's Fair Courts series will feature Prof. Edward Fallone, Lisa Graves and Jay Heck. The panel conversation will be moderated by Joy Cardin, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio talk show host. For those who cannot attend, the recorded event will be posted on the League's website and YouTube page. Watch the first webinar. Register for this second one here.

    There's still no word from the Wisconsin Supreme Court about the legislative maps the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) remanded for further analysis of the impact of the Voting Rights Act on the establishment of an additional majority-minority Assembly District. To bring yourself up to speed on what's at issue, you can read the SCOTUS decision, the responses to that SCOTUS decision (warning: it's a long list), and/or watch a recording of the Fair Maps Coalition briefing.

    Also, in case you missed this development, Gillian Battino, who had been running for the Dem nomination for US Senate, has switched to running for Wisconsin Treasurer. Here's her website. The Journal Sentinel published an article about her and her switch to the Treasurer race in February just as the news about the war in Ukraine pushed nearly everything else off the front pages.

    Grassroots North Shore will be bringing election information to you as soon as candidates have qualified for the August 9 primary. Mark your calendar now and MAKE A PLAN TO VOTE in the August election. Many contenders for the Democratic nomination for US Senate will be on that ballot! Grassroots North Shore will be holding a forum with those senate candidates in June. In addition, there are contested races for Lt. Governor, and Treasurer. There may also be contested races for Assembly and Wisconsin Senate (assuming we ever get new electoral maps for those offices!)

    In important national news, three Republican Senators have announced that they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the US Supreme Court. Senators Collins, Murkowski, and Romney have all publicly declared their support. So she will have at least 53 aye votes. (See the account in the Washington Post.) The vote is likely to take place on Friday. We can assume she will be sworn in and take her historic seat on the court this summer when Justice Breyer formally resigns.

    Rick Hasan's Election Law blog reports that the non-partisan elections taking place in Green Bay today will have uniformed police on duty when ballot counting begins. Quoting Politico, the story recounts "tension building for over a year." Both a Democratic super PAC and a Republican super PAC have become involved, running ads questioning the legitimacy of the city's elections (on the GOP side) and urging voters to participate (from the Dem side.) And this is only one of the stories circulating about our elections in national media. A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a story about Robin Vos being held in contempt of court for his failure to turn over documents from the Gableman fiasco. If he and the legislature fail to comply within 14 days after the ruling, they will be fined $1000 per day until they do. Plus they will have to pay the legal costs of the organization that brought the suit. But of course, taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill.

    Finally, in welcome news that will probably never reach national media distribution, a bipartisan group of county clerks in Colorado are calling on Big Lie proponents to back up their claims with real evidence. Apparently even clerks in GOP strongholds have joined with their Democratic colleagues to demand the proof! Daily Kos has the story. Perhaps election commissions in our state can do the same!

    I'll finish up with a time-sensitive ACTION ITEM: Even if you don't live in Ozaukee County, please sign this petition to ensure that Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs is designated a nature preserve in perpetuity and to keep it as an amendment Lion's Den Gorge. The alternative is selling it to an undisclosed special interest that wants to purchase the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs and break it up into a little over 35 plots to sell for real estate development. This loss will effect the thousands of folks who visit Lion's Den Gorge in the future and reduce habitat for migrating birds and wildlife. The Ozaukee County Board is voting Wednesday to put $1 million behind the effort. We all value the beautiful lakeshore and the nature preserves that so enhance our lives. Signing the petition will show the Board how much we value and want to protect our environment. Take a few minutes and do it NOW.

     

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  • CAPITALISM REQUIRES A WELL-FUNCTIONING PUBLIC SECTOR

              In this campaign year, much of the time will be occupied by discussions of the huge cost of President Biden's infrastructure packages. It will be called fiscally irresponsible; some will call it "socialism."       Now is a good time to bring up two points. The first is the impact of infrastructure on both productivity and cost within market activities.  That is, the synergy of infrastructure and the functioning of the market system.     

             Second, the charge of socialism will be a reliable Republican campaign smear tactic. When applied to infrastructure spending, the accusation reveals a special case of economic ignorance because capitalism requires a well-functioning public sector.   It is also laughably ignorant since it violates not just economic logic but fundamental logic as well.  

    The Market System Requires Public Sector Infrastructure.

             There are certain things that provide benefits to society and enhance the market system that the market system does not have the financial incentives to provide for itself. Among these are hard infrastructure assets; i.e., streets, roads, bridges, sewer systems, water systems, broadband, etc. These are assets that can be invested in during one period of time in order to produce public (and private sector) benefits in many future periods of time. All of these assets add to labor productivity in the marketplace.[1]

             The cost of market activity tends to rise and fall inversely related to the rise and fall of productivity. This has two major impacts. First, when productivity rises and costs fall, the cost of doing business within the state of Wisconsin falls. As a result, the competitiveness of Wisconsin to attract more business increases. 

             Secondly, increasing productivity is one component of the never-ending battle with price inflation. When productivity grows, it is reflected in slower-growing producer prices.  In turn, lower producer prices will -- after a time lag of a few months --  be reflected in slower-growing consumer prices.

    Wisconsin’s Hard Infrastructure Report Card

              The American Society of Civil Engineers provides a report card for each of the states, and Wisconsin is not doing well. Some of the state's more prominent public assets are getting terrible grades. For instance, bridges are assigned a grade of C+, which means terrible road surfaces, time-wasting lane closures as well as occasional closures of entire bridges.  Because bridges are usually built in places where there are no nearby alternative routes, these lane and bridge closures impose gigantic time costs on commuters and freight haulers.

     

             Drinking water earns a C- grade -- and that's an average:  in some municipalities, the residents have to use boiled or bottled water. Ports earned a C+; how is Wisconsin supposed to move heavy manufactured goods to the world through Great Lakes Ports that are not in good working order? 

             Roads in Wisconsin earn a D+.  Prominent economist Lawrence Summers has estimated that roads in such poor condition cost car owners more in repair bills than it would cost to fix the roads; such is the idiocy of long-term neglect!

    The Charge of Socialism

             There is an election coming up in November and the opposition ads have already begun to label government expenditures on infrastructure as "socialism." Advocates of spending on these productivity-enhancing assets should get ready for this onslaught.  It is an absolutely ridiculous charge because capitalism requires a well-functioning public sector that includes roads and bridges.

             Case in point: Interstate 43 from the City of Milwaukee to Green Bay is in terrible shape. North of the city, and well into the next county,  this is a commuter route,  congested at every rush hour and often in between. This 10-mile stretch is in a D+ condition and an additional lane has been called for the past 20 years.   All of this is underway right now. Time costs will fall and smooth surfaces will increasingly greet electric cars and electric buses and vans for commuters as internal combustion vehicles are replaced. Those buses and vans will enable city residents to take jobs north of the city, where there are many advanced manufacturing and other state-of-the-art employers providing jobs with the promise of upward mobility.  This is a win-win for our employers, our citizens, and Wisconsin.

     The Socialism Smear Violates Logic 101

                 The logic is simply stated:  socialists advocate government ownership of the means of production, therefore advocates of government ownership of means of production are socialists.  It's as if repairing a road or a sewer system is a mile down the road to serfdom where gulags await those who complain.

              This logical fallacy is known as "affirming the converse."  Students are warned to avoid this fallacy in formal logic courses, and students in good geometry classes encounter it in high school.  Affirming the Converse is so absurd that the fallacy is often explained with derisive examples,  such as Green Bay Packers are all strong men;  therefore all strong men are Green Bay Packers.  Or: all dogs are mammals; therefore, all mammals are dogs.  Still, the rhetorical ploy is used all the time by faux conservatives, basically because they know they can get away with it unchallenged by their opposition and by journalists.  

             This charge of socialism is an exercise in economic ignorance that would be comical if it were not so damaging to the nation, the localities where the infrastructure would be built,  and the wages and working conditions of the people who would do the building. The infrastructure is a public responsibility because only the public can earn a cost-beneficial return on investment in these public goods.  Hard-working and skilled workers are ready to bring the infrastructure report card up to straight A's, and earn family-supporting incomes while doing it.    

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     

            

     

    [1] Topics for future essays in this series:  investments in people, such as the child tax credit, subsidized college tuition, nutrition programs, etc, which, like infrastructure,  also raise productivity.  

     


  • published voting news and investigative news! in Newsletter 2022-03-29 10:59:45 -0500

    voting news and investigative news!

    This week's newsletter is much longer than usual. My apologies for that. Feel free to quit reading any time! I just came across so much juicy and important news this week that I simply could not resist highlighting the stories.

    I want to begin with a reminder that the spring, nonpartisan election is happening NOW in your municipal clerk's office (or at several libraries throughout the City of Milwaukee for city residents' convenience) until the close of business at 5pm on Friday, April 1. Grassroots North Shore has put up a fairly comprehensive page for the 2022 Elections. The pages include

    On the pages for races, we have separated contested races from uncontested ones. We also produced and posted responses to a questionnaire that was sent to candidates in contested races. For each candidate, you will find links to their websites, Facebook pages, and/or Twitter accounts. While we cannot endorse in every race — we often do not have enough information or a request from a candidate's campaign — we have endorsed three: Liz Sumner for Milwaukee County Supervisor, Judge Lori Kornblum for Appeals Court District 2 (for Ozaukee County voters), and Judge Hannah Dugan for Milwaukee Circuit Court Branch 31.

    The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put together a great set of resources for voters, including everything you need to know about how to get registered, how to fill out and return your absentee ballot, or what you’ll need to bring with you to vote early in person or on election day. The party also provides a Voter Assistance Hotline at (608) 336-3232. This information is especially helpful for first time voters. Please pass it along to anyone who could use the information.

    Now for some bad news. Complicating the start of the partisan elections, the US Supreme Court has sent the legislative district maps approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court back to the state court for more analysis to determine whether the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of a seventh majority-minority district in Milwaukee. What will happen next is unclear. Prospective candidates supposedly can begin circulating nomination papers on April 15, less than three weeks from now. But for those contemplating running for Assembly and state Senate Districts, at least in the Milwaukee area but possibly in a wider area of the state, it won't be possible to do until district lines are drawn and approved. You can view the opinion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the order from the Supreme Court of the United States.

    The case has garnered substantial media commentary in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Daily Kos for three excellent examples. Perhaps the best analysis comes from Professor Rick Hasan on his Election Law Blog: "[T]he way this case was handled is quite bizarre and is another signal of a conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court showing increasing hostility to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act." He ends his initial take this way:

    So, to sum up: the Court used a case in an emergency procedural posture [the so-called shadow docket] to reach out and decide an issue that could have waited for full briefing and argument either in a lower court in a challenge to the maps or if the Supreme Court had set the case for argument. It decided these issues in ways hostile to minority voting rights without giving a full opportunity for airing out the issues and pointing out how this will further hurt voters of color. It continues to chip away at the Voting Rights Act without acknowledging that it is killing off the last major protection for minority voters from discriminatory districting plans.

    And the good, better and best news? Although the war in Ukraine has dominated the news of late, some important domestic news has broken through. Chief among them, the revelation that Ginni Thomas — wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — "wanted President Trump to take extreme measures to stay in office in the days following the 2020 election" (Vox, March 25, 2022). The newly released text messages between Ginni Thomas and then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows date from just after the 2020 election and insist that the election results be overturned.

    The publication of these message has stirred up a hornet's nest of backlash, even among conservative scholars, with some even calling for an impeachment proceeding to expose Justice Thomas' bias or, as some suggest, his corruption. The texts reveal Ginni Thomas as an avid conspiracy monger with a deep, Christian nationalist point of view. If you have not heard much about this matter, let me recommend a piece at Politico published just a few days after the story originally broke. Especially interesting is the section titled "Legal experts say Thomas’ texts present a real problem for the Supreme Court." Even if you're up-to-date on the whole story, this piece is worth a read. Also worth a read, Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker: "Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s 'Stop the Steal' Texts."

    In an interesting — possibly hilarious — turn of events, the previous guy (that's DJT in case you forgot) has filed a lawsuit against Hilary Clinton and others alleging that SHE conspired to rig the 2016 election. Reuters had the initial story, including this tasty paragraph:

    Trump's allegations in the lawsuit are undermined by a 966-page report issued by a Republican-led U.S. Senate committee in August 2020. That report concluded that Russia used Republican political operative Paul Manafort and the WikiLeaks website to try to help Trump win the 2016 election.

    Philip Bump at the Washington Post has followed up with an in-depth analysis showing how "Trump accidentally proves that the Clinton campaign wasn’t the driving force of the Russia probe." The key is this paragraph:

    [A]s Trump and his lawyers were trying to prove that Clinton was the driving force behind the investigation into Russian interference, they were relying on documents released as part of that interference effort. It’s some mixture of dishonest and galling — and it’s not even the most ridiculous part of the case the lawsuit tries to make.

    I saved the most intriguing news for last. A federal district court judge ruled that the former President Trump probably broke the law when he "likely attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress" on January 6, 2021. The ruling does not convict Trump of a crime, of course. It comes as the culmination of a suit filed by lawyer John Eastman — the architect of a "legal theory" that Vice President Pence could in effect overturn the certified results of the 2020 election. The judge's conclusion undergirds his ruling in Eastman's effort to conceal his emails from the Jan. 6 committee on the grounds of lawyer-client privilege. The government has argued that the privilege is not valid if the communication furthered a crime. Hence, the ruling that Trump and Eastman were engaged in criminal activity. Here's the opening of the story as NBC News first reported it Monday.

    "The illegality of the plan was obvious," Judge David Carter wrote of Trump and lawyer John Eastman's plan to have then-Vice President Mike Pence determine the results of the 2020 election.

    "Every American — and certainly the president of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed. With a plan this 'BOLD,' President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle. Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021," Carter wrote, ordering emails that Eastman wrote furthering the plan to be turned over to the Jan. 6 committee.

    Eastman's lawyer said that he intends to comply with the order. Although the ruling is part of a civil case in which the government did not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed, the judge nevertheless wrote that "both Trump and Eastman likely knew what they were doing was wrongful." The government had argued that Trump and Eastman had "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States." Judge Carter seems to have agreed.tten. More information and registration.

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  • published Early Voting Begins Today! in Newsletter 2022-03-23 10:41:41 -0500

    Early Voting Begins Today!

    Today is the first day of early in-person voting. Our election coverage includes information about the hours of early voting for communities on the North Shore and the southern half of Ozaukee County. In general early in-person voting takes place in the clerk's office of your municipality. It's often a good idea to call first. You'll find a phone number on the Early Voting Info page as well. You will need to take an approved photo ID. And if you need to register before you vote, you will need proof of residence as well. Check a page from MyVote for information about what kinds of proof of residency are needed. For questions about voting issues, you can contact Common Cause Wisconsin's Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). For Spanish, use this number: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682). Please pass this information along, especially to young people or first-time voters!

    Voting rights continue to be a litigated both here and in other states. The Wisconsin Supreme Court's approved maps have been appealed to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the Assembly map creates an additional — and according the the appeal unconstitutional — majority-minority district. The argument is aimed at the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and claims that the electoral maps are primarily based on racial criteria. Of course the VRA actually stipulates that creating majority-minority districts protects the voting rights of minorities by enabling them to elect candidates of their choice. So far no word on whether the court will consider the appeal. Meanwhile, time is running out to change the maps because potential candidates have to know district lines before they can begin circulating nomination papers. And the date for the start of that process is April 1, a mere nine days away.

    In other news about redistricting, The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio “House Republicans are discussing whether to impeach Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a third set of legislative maps and effectively ended all hope of a full May 3rd primary." In rejecting the maps, the court wrote that "The commission should retain an independent map drawer – who answers to all commission members, not only to the Republican legislative leaders – to draft a plan through a transparent process." (Sounds right, and familiar.) In New Hampshire, Republican Governor Chris Sununu "said ... he will veto the congressional redistricting map approved by his fellow Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature." NH has two congressional seats so the GOP decided to ensure that one seat was safely Republican and the other safely Democratic. Sununu opined that the effort didn't "pass the smell test." Election Law Blog has the story.

    The news out of Ukraine becomes more dismal every day. But the Ukrainian military and the country's citizens continue to hold their own. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the "Russian military has lost more than 10% of the combat force that President Vladimir Putin sent to invade Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday." In addition, "Russia continues to have problems supplying its troops in Ukraine with food, fuel and weaponry, the official said. Some soldiers have suffered frostbite because they don’t have proper cold-weather gear. There are signs that they are having trouble keeping ships fueled at sea, the official said." In the last few days, Ukraine has even pushed the Russian military back a bit, according to the live updates on the war in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

    In disturbing news, it appears that COVID-19 is not done with us. On March 18, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the presence of the virus in Milwaukee's wastewater is once again increasing. As the New York Times put it, "Another Covid Surge May Be Coming. Are We Ready for It?" But it looks as if there's no "maybe" about it: "Latest version of omicron accounts for most new infections in many parts of the U.S., genomics testing shows" according to the Washington Post. So if you are not yet boosted, now's the time. However, the FDA is in no hurry to issue an authorization for a 2nd booster shot. Here's what the New York Times had to say: "It’s hard to predict how soon — or if — the F.D.A. might authorize a second booster (or fourth dose) for all adults. The agency is expected to convene an advisory committee next month to discuss the issue. And while experts say it’s reasonable that the committee might move swiftly on Pfizer’s application for older adults, it is unclear if Moderna’s more sweeping request [for all adults] will get the green light."

    Finally, there's an under-the-radar local story that is now getting some traction. The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust wants to preserve the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs for public use. Assemblywoman Deb Andraca emailed supporters about it last week. The Land Trust has raised a lot of public and private funds but needs a grant from the DNR's Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. However, an anonymous objection from one member of the Joint Finance Committee has stalled the proposal. The committee has failed to hold a public hearing on the issue. Representative Andraca urges that "anyone who cares about preserving the most beautiful pieces of Wisconsin to contact members of the Joint Finance Committee and demand a public hearing on this issue." You can find which legislators are on that committee on this Wisconsin State Legislature page. Clicking on the name of each legislator will provide you with contact information. Consider this your ACTION ITEM of the week.

    ALSO MAKE SURE YOU VOTE. And that goes for friends and family too. If you have received an absentee ballot, make sure you return it, either by taking it to your municipal clerk during regular business hours or by popping it in the mail by Tuesday, March 29! For this election, absentee ballots put into municipal drop boxes will not be counted. Also, you cannot help someone else by putting their ballot in the mail or taking it to the municipal clerk for them. This "rule" is especially difficult for eligible voters who are disabled and will undoubtedly disenfranchise many of them. See the Journal Sentinel story.

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  • NO SENATOR JOHNSON: SOCIAL SECURITY IS NOT A PONZI SCHEME

                   Senator Ron Johnson recently told a group of donors that Social Security should be privatized because “it is a Ponzi scheme and the bonds in the Social Security Trust Fund are worthless.” In doing so, he demonstrates his misunderstanding of  Social Security and of Ponzi schemes. 

                A Ponzi scheme sets up a fund and attracts investors who buy shares of that fund on the promise of very high returns on their investment.  But there are no real resources backing up the fund, nor is there a reasonable-risk venture such as car production,  or a medical technology invention.  Instead, there is simply a sequence of investors in the fund, with early investors gaining a return via payments out of the fund financed by the payments into the fund by later investors.   As the high returns get paid, the news travels fast, and more and more investors gleefully invest. As long as each successive group of investors is sufficiently larger than the preceding group, the promised returns can continue to be paid, and, of course, the scheme organizers reap huge profits as well. Eventually, however, the laws of arithmetic catch up with the Ponzi scheme.  It becomes impossible for each succeeding investor group to be larger than the preceding group; the investor returns collapse, disappointed investors sue the scheme organizers, and, as in the cases of Bernie Madoff and Charles Ponzi, the organizers serve prison terms.

     By contrast, Social Security is remarkably solvent; the system is going strong after 80 years, never having missed a payment. It is an insurance program backed by real resources, i.e., the taxes paid by current workers as well as the bond fund to be explained shortly. Most workers are required to participate by paying a payroll tax as their contribution to insure against poverty in their old age. It is designed as a “pay-as-you-go” system: current workers pay for current retirees with the expectation that, when they reach the age of eligibility,  future workers will pay their Social Security benefits. This can be reasonably expected because over the decades each generation has added to and passed on the physical and knowledge capital of the nation. As a result worker productivity per hour has been increasing at a rate of roughly 1.5% annually. The immense value of this transfer of productivity from old to young enables younger workers to produce the national income out of which the old take their piece. There is no similar reciprocity in a Ponzi scheme.

                Such pay-as-you-go systems are stable if each succeeding generation has a bit higher total productivity than the preceding one.  Even though productivity per worker is rising, stability of an intergenerational financing of the Social Security system is hard to achieve when one generation is much smaller in number than the preceding one. Just such a problem was created when the baby boomers numbered 77 million and the subsequent generation numbered only 47 million. In 1985, when President Reagan foresaw the problem Social Security would face by 2012 when the boomers would begin to retire, he augmented the original pay-as-you-go design by increasing the payroll tax rate.  This forced the boomers to add savings of their own to the payroll taxes they were already paying.    

                To understand the Reagan plan, we must follow both cash and bonds. Beginning in 1985, the increase in the payroll tax rate drove receipts above payments of retiree benefits, the difference generating a surplus. These surplus dollars were invested in a "Trust Fund," a reserve of special-issue US Treasury bonds that can only be traded between the US Treasury and the Social Security Administration. During the years that Social Security holds these bonds, Treasury has the corresponding cash, a chance to boost national economic growth by investing in assets like roads, bridges, broadband, and port facilities.  Whenever payroll tax revenue is insufficient to pay scheduled retirement benefits, either due to the large number of retirees or setbacks such as the Great Recession of 2008-09 or the COVID-19 crisis of 2020, the bonds can be cashed in to add to the payroll tax.  Contrary to Senator Johnson's misunderstanding, the bonds are definitely not worthless; they represent money loaned to the general public by boomers during their work years to be repaid later during the boomers’ retirement years.  If the bonds were worthless, then the Reagan plan would have been massive theft. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan was no Charles Ponzi!

                In the original 1985 plan, the payroll tax rate was calibrated so that the bonds would run out around 2060 after all but the most persistent boomers will have passed on. However, the combination of slower-than-projected economic growth plus the blessing of longer life will exhaust the bond fund around 2034. At that point, the payroll tax revenue will be about 79 percent of what is required for scheduled benefits. Consequently, just like a private insurance plan adjusts to changing demographics and returns on endowment, adjustments will be required to Social Security.  Phasing in small changes, such as an increase in the eligibility age and raising the top end of the taxable income range, will make up for the shortfall.  

      Social Security is not a one-way transfer of funds from workers to retirees. Rather, it is a program that recognizes the reciprocity between generations. In a market system, with well-functioning capital markets, each generation’s productivity is enhanced by the efforts of preceding generations, and each generation pays a part of that increased productivity in the form of retirement benefits for the generation that made it possible.  The young pay the old out of enhanced productivity made possible by the old when they were young. 

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

     


  • published PLEA TO THE JOURNALISTS in Econ4Voters 2022-03-20 10:42:18 -0500

    PLEA TO THE JOURNALISTS, PUNDITS, AND POLITICOS:  DO THE MATH

    The debt of the United States is currently $29.6 trillion and is rising fast: the 2020 federal deficit (i.e., the one-year addition to the debt) was $2.8 trillion; and in 2021 was $2.14 trillion.    Numbers this large tend to boggle the mind. Such numbers lower our nation's sense of financial security, increase anxiety and, for younger/future taxpayers especially, foster insecurity. 

    But, why? What if that level of borrowing did not occur?  The United States borrowed more in 2020 than ever before in order to save businesses and household solvency during the pandemic, now they are bouncing back.  In earlier years, more common lower levels of borrowing financed national defense, repaired the nation's infrastructure,  improved math and science education, and fought recession and joblessness. Should anxiety over America's debt prevent us from modernizing the country? It is essential to think about these numbers in a rational way. 

    As a second example of misleading reporting, recent spikes in the price of gasoline "at the pump" have caused a great deal of angst because newscasters and politicos have stated that the gas price has never been higher in history! This is simply not true: this misleading notion comes from the failure to adjust for inflation, one of the simplest arithmetic calculations in all of economics. As President Joe Biden might say: "C'mon man. Do the MATH!"

     INFRASTRUCTURE BILLS

    To help voters understand the debt capacity of their government, just as for a corporation or an individual, they should be shown the relative earning power from which that debt will be repaid.  This logic can be applied to the infrastructure bill passed last November, whose projected spending is  $1 trillion over 10 years,  and to the soft infrastructure bill often dubbed “Build Back Better”, whose projected cost over 10 years is $3.5 trillion.  To determine the true affordability of these investments, simple arithmetic is required.  First, in each case, the spending is to take place over 10 years.  So, to compare the actual size and proportion of the expenditure to the nation’s ability to pay, the huge figure must be divided by the number of spending years to calculate the annual cost. This result must be further divided by the annual national income to determine its relative percentage. 

    HARD INFRASTRUCTURE BILL  (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of November 2021)

           Total new  Cost Estimated = $1 Trillion

           Projected Spending Period = 10 Years

           Cost per year = $100 Billion

           Percent of Annual National Income = 0.44% (less than ½ of 1%!)

     

    SOFT INFRASTRUCTURE BILL  (Ten Year Budget Framework aka  "Build Back Better.")

           Total new Cost Estimate = $3.5 Trillion

           Projected Spending Period  = 10 Years

           Cost per year = $350 Billion

           Percent of Annual National Income = 1.54%

     

    This arithmetic, which is obviously not ideological but simply factual, shows that when huge numbers are compared in proportion to the ability to pay they provide a much more rational way of deciding whether the nation should make such expenditures.  Failure to make these two adjustments to the relative costs and benefits of public investments is not only misleading, but it prevents rational decision-making. 

    GASOLINE PRICE ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION

    A second example of how arithmetic must be applied to avoid misleading the public is in comparing economic data from different time periods. Recently it was announced that the spike in gasoline prices had driven the average "price at the pump" above the previous all-time high. This was reported in major newspapers, on television, and screamed on Fox News in an attempt to make the Biden Administration look bad. Apart from the fact that no president has much impact on the price of any individual commodity, it is a common but serious error to compare prices from different years without adjusting for inflation. Fortunately, the correction is simple.

    First, the data.  In the table below are listed two important years, 2008 which had very high gasoline prices, and the current year, 2022.  Also shown are the dollar prices from those two years.   Without adjusting for inflation, the 2022 price is higher. 

    Year

    Price

    Consumer Price Index (CPI)

    2008

    $4.10

    212

    2022

    $4.33

    284

     

    The table also shows the consumer price index for the two years.  Using this index, we can adjust for inflation in two ways. First, the 2022 price of $4.33 can be expressed in 2008 dollars, by multiplying it by the CPI from 2008 divided by the CPI  from 2022:

    THE 2022 "PRICE AT THE PUMP" IN 2008 DOLLARS:

         $4.33 x 212/284  =   $3.23

    Result: contrary to news reports, this means that in a direct comparison with the 2008 price today's price is only 79% of the 2008 price.

     

    The second way to adjust for inflation is to convert the 2008 price to today's dollars by taking the 2008 price and multiplying it by the ratio of the consumer price indices for those two years:

    THE 2008 PRICE IN 2022 DOLLARS:

         $4.10 x  284/212  =  $5.49

    In this scenario, the 2008 price adjusted for inflation is $5.49, actually 26% higher than today’s price.

    Correcting Mis- and Dis-information

    In national budget discussions, projecting large, scary expenditures such as the $29.6 trillion debt figure should not be introduced without explaining them in relation to the economy's projected ability to cover their cost,, or National Income. Omitting this second factor introduces false and possibly misleading information, and presents a deceptive picture.

      Because most of the general public has only a limited understanding of such large numbers,  reporters, politicians, pundits, editors, and professors should follow these basic rules of arithmetic.

    Rule No. 1: Never use large debt numbers without stating the time period over which they are to be incurred and their corresponding percentage relative to the ability to pay, or National Income.

    Rule No. 2: Never compare dollar figures from different years without adjusting to a common year using the consumer price index, readily available online at FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Database:  fred.stlouisfed.org).

    Rule No. 3:  When a violation of Rule No. 1 or Rule No. 2 leads to a false conclusion, a correction should be published or broadcast with the same degree of audience reach as the original misleading statement, including a complete reference to the original misinformation. 

    William L. Holahan is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.