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.

Eilene Stevens 3704.20pc

Eilene Stevens

Eilene Stevens's activity stream


  • 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.


  • published All elections matter in Newsletter 2022-03-16 10:35:00 -0500

    All elections matter

    The April 5 election is just three weeks from today. Early in-person voting (generally in your municipal clerk's office) begins a week from today. And Grassroots North Shore needs your help RIGHT NOW. We're helping to turn out the vote in contested elections with two races in particular: the Appeals Court District 2, in Ozaukee County, and the school board for Fox Point-Bayside. We're calling strong Democrats who sometimes miss a midterm or local election. Please help us out. Email Norma Gilson to volunteer. She has a script and the call lists. You can work from home on your own time and leave messages!

    I know everyone hates calling and being called! But I wouldn't ask if it weren't important to make sure the right candidates win. I've come to appreciate how critical our court system is. Ditto school boards. Recent history shows that we cannot afford to shrug about local elections. Our state is in crisis and we must do everything we can to help bring it back to the forward-leaning place it once was — and can be again. So sign up and let Norma know whether you want to reach Dems in Ozaukee or in Fox Point and Bayside.

    If you just can't face phoning, here's another way you can help with the election on April 5. The Wisconsin Democratic Party's Voter Protection Team is in its final week of recruiting poll observers. "Poll observers choose part-day or full-day shifts ..., and they communicate with our team about any problems voters may face in casting their ballot. Poll observers are crucial to ensuring everything goes smoothly on Election Day."

    The situation in Ukraine seems dire, but reformed neocon Francis Fukuyama thinks Russia will lose the war. And then "Putin will not survive the defeat of his army. He gets support because he is perceived to be a strongman; what does he have to offer once he demonstrates incompetence and is stripped of his coercive power?" You can help Ukrainians with a small donation to one of the charities helping both inside the country and with the millions of refugees streaming out of it. Daily Kos is sponsoring the page on Act Blue that let's you choose to split a donation to six charities: World Central Kitchen, International Rescue Committee, Razom for Ukraine, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Americares Foundation, and Save the Children's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. Or you can give to the individual charities. The page provides a brief explanation of what each group does.

    In an interesting bit of news about the insurrectionists, the Washington Post is reporting that “Fearing political violence in 2024, judges sentence Jan. 6 defendants to probation through the next election.” The first paragraph basically says it all: "U.S. judges including those appointed by Republican presidents are increasingly sentencing defendants who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol to three-year terms of court supervision, fearing they could be misled into committing political violence in the 2024 presidential election."

    In lighter news, Randy Rainbow fans will be thrilled with his new offering: "You're a Karen" tearing into Marjory Taylor Greene and Lauren Bobart. Have some fun on this Ides of March Day! You'll find more delightful Randy Rainbow performances on YouTube.

    And now on to the events. It's fuller than last week's. So there's sure to be something you can attend.

     

    Read more

  • published once more, it's the elections! in Newsletter 2022-03-09 10:08:45 -0600

    once more, it's the elections!

    There's a lot of Wisconsin news from the last week. So let's begin with the so-called Gableman report. You can read about it, in all its ridiculousness, in the Journal Sentinel's take. Or a shortened version of the same story at Election Law Blog. The Washington Post's Editorial Board offers the justified ridicule: The Wisconsin GOP’s investigation into the 2020 election is a farce. It’s time to abandon it. The opinion piece is definitely worth a read.

    The latest Marquette poll of WI candidates and issues shows that we have a lot of work to do to re-elect Governor Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and a progressive Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. You can read a discussion of the poll results and/or look at the released data yourself. Apparently half of the Republicans surveyed have not yet decided who will get their vote for the gubernatorial nomination in August. Similarly, half of the Democrats are undecided about their August vote in the crowded race for the US Senate nomination. If you read far enough in the data release, you'll find that "Gov. Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 50%, while 41% disapprove. When last measured in October 2021, 45% approved and 46% disapproved." Above water and heading in the right direction but not safe!

    According to WHERE WILL YOUNG VOTERS IMPACT THE 2022 ELECTIONS?, a study by Tufts U Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Wisconsin is one of the key states, ranking second out of ten states for the importance of the youth vote in the Senate race and fourth in the gubernatorial race.

    The youth population in Wisconsin, which is in the top 5 of both of our rankings, is similar to other states in the upper midwest, making up 16% of the state’s population. Wisconsin is also an above-average youth registration (68%) state and, historically, a high turnout state. In 2020, the state’s young voters preferred President Biden by 23 points in a state that was decided by less than 1 percentage point—though in this state with a lower share of people of color, youth are less Democratic-leaning than young people nationally. The 2022 Senate race for the seat held by Ron Johnson (the only Republican statewide official in Wisconsin) is considered a toss-up. ...[I]n 2022 Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers will seek a second term; the race is rated as a toss-up in this perennial battleground state.

    You've undoubtedly heard that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the map submitted by Governor Evers was the best of the "least changes" maps submitted to them. You can read the 4-3 decision, with Justice Hagedorn voting with the three most liberal justices and writing for the majority. (With the front matter and the dissents, the whole thing runs to more than 160 pages.) The maps now include seven majority-minority districts in the Milwaukee area and represent a less bad option than the maps drawn by the Republican majority in the current legislature. The remaining conservative justices each wrote extensive dissenting opinions and each signed on with the others' dissents. The majority's opinion, however, runs to about 25 pages, excluding front matter. Justice Anne Walsh Bradley's concurring opinion, only four pages long, takes issue only with the court's original decision in November 2021 to use a "least changes" approach as the chief criterion for deciding which maps to adopt. The rest of the approximately 160 pages includes the three dissenting opinions. The conservatives on the court seem mighty unhappy with the decision.

    The Republicans have, of course, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on the grounds that "[t]he petition by the Legislature and WILL argues the map Evers drew violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it drew the seven [Wisconsin Assembly] districts based solely on race without proving a need under the law" (Journal Sentinel Online, March 7, 2022). In other words, the appeal focuses on the state legislative maps, not the Congressional one, which pretty much divides the state into 3 districts Democrats are likely to win and five districts Republicans are likely to win. Pretty much the same as the situation with the previous maps. Given what SCOTUS has been doing to the Voting Rights Act lately, the appeal might just have some legs. But time is not on their side. Candidates will begin circulating nomination papers on April 1. And the Court has already refused appeals that are too close to the beginning of the partisan primary cycle.

    In other gerrymandered map litigation from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the Court has denied the emergency appeals, citing the proximity of primary elections in those states. Those appeals were based on the theory that only state legislatures can prescribe the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives" as specified in the US Constitution's Elections Clause. As NPR notes, "Under this theory, any state court decision requiring the redrawing of state legislative maps is unconstitutional under the federal constitution. That is a dramatically different understanding than has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court." However, three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — "dissented from the court's decision on Monday not to entertain the North Carolina case and in their written dissent all but embraced the independent state legislature theory." Apparently Justice Kavanaugh has also signaled "strong interest in the independent state legislature theory." There's likely to be trouble ahead.

    A final note on gerrymandering: An organization called "Issue One" — describing itself as "the leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington, D.C." — has provided a discussion of 12 examples of how state legislators have drawn unfair maps for partisan gain over the next decade in an article online called "Extreme Gerrymandering." Wisconsin is on the list which includes seven Republican-controlled states and five in the hands of Democrats.

    I can't finish up this newsletter without taking note of the trucker convoy now cruising the Washington Beltway, a stretch of superhighway that encircles D.C. Dana Milbank, in Monday's Washington Post, has the best skewering I have seen. Here's the most amusing bit:

    As the truckers crossed the country, the reason for the protest largely evaporated: Mask and vaccine mandates tumbled — not because of the convoy but because the pandemic receded. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated news coverage, leaving the truckers largely forgotten and sharply increasing the cost of fuel for their now-pointless mission.

    Now, they’re in the Washington area, camping out in Hagerstown, Md., and they’ve decided the best way to get themselves noticed would be to … make traffic on the Beltway?

    Threatening to increase traffic on the Beltway is like threatening to add water to the Potomac River: How would anyone notice the difference? The 64-mile loop around the capital is in a state of perpetual slowdown.

    The events list is kind of sparse, but please find SOMETHING you can do, either to support Ukraine and its refugees — Daily Kos has put together a donation page, the proceeds of which will be distributed to various charities providing aid — or support a candidate for the April 5 and August 9 elections. You can find candidate information and links for the April election on our 2022 Elections pages.

    There's a lot of Wisconsin news from the last week. So let's begin with the so-called Gableman report. You can read about it, in all its ridiculousness, in the Journal Sentinel's take. Or a shortened version of the same story at Election Law Blog. The Washington Post's Editorial Board offers the justified ridicule: The Wisconsin GOP’s investigation into the 2020 election is a farce. It’s time to abandon it. The opinion piece is definitely worth a read.

    The latest Marquette poll of WI candidates and issues shows that we have a lot of work to do to re-elect Governor Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and a progressive Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. You can read a discussion of the poll results and/or look at the released data yourself. Apparently half of the Republicans surveyed have not yet decided who will get their vote for the gubernatorial nomination in August. Similarly, half of the Democrats are undecided about their August vote in the crowded race for the US Senate nomination. If you read far enough in the data release, you'll find that "Gov. Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 50%, while 41% disapprove. When last measured in October 2021, 45% approved and 46% disapproved." Above water and heading in the right direction but not safe!

    According to WHERE WILL YOUNG VOTERS IMPACT THE 2022 ELECTIONS?, a study by Tufts U Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Wisconsin is one of the key states, ranking second out of ten states for the importance of the youth vote in the Senate race and fourth in the gubernatorial race.

    The youth population in Wisconsin, which is in the top 5 of both of our rankings, is similar to other states in the upper midwest, making up 16% of the state’s population. Wisconsin is also an above-average youth registration (68%) state and, historically, a high turnout state. In 2020, the state’s young voters preferred President Biden by 23 points in a state that was decided by less than 1 percentage point—though in this state with a lower share of people of color, youth are less Democratic-leaning than young people nationally. The 2022 Senate race for the seat held by Ron Johnson (the only Republican statewide official in Wisconsin) is considered a toss-up. ...[I]n 2022 Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers will seek a second term; the race is rated as a toss-up in this perennial battleground state.

    You've undoubtedly heard that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the map submitted by Governor Evers was the best of the "least changes" maps submitted to them. You can read the 4-3 decision, with Justice Hagedorn voting with the three most liberal justices and writing for the majority. (With the front matter and the dissents, the whole thing runs to more than 160 pages.) The maps now include seven majority-minority districts in the Milwaukee area and represent a less bad option than the maps drawn by the Republican majority in the current legislature. The remaining conservative justices each wrote extensive dissenting opinions and each signed on with the others' dissents. The majority's opinion, however, runs to about 25 pages, excluding front matter. Justice Anne Walsh Bradley's concurring opinion, only four pages long, takes issue only with the court's original decision in November 2021 to use a "least changes" approach as the chief criterion for deciding which maps to adopt. The rest of the approximately 160 pages includes the three dissenting opinions. The conservatives on the court seem mighty unhappy with the decision.

    The Republicans have, of course, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on the grounds that "[t]he petition by the Legislature and WILL argues the map Evers drew violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it drew the seven [Wisconsin Assembly] districts based solely on race without proving a need under the law" (Journal Sentinel Online, March 7, 2022). In other words, the appeal focuses on the state legislative maps, not the Congressional one, which pretty much divides the state into 3 districts Democrats are likely to win and five districts Republicans are likely to win. Pretty much the same as the situation with the previous maps. Given what SCOTUS has been doing to the Voting Rights Act lately, the appeal might just have some legs. But time is not on their side. Candidates will begin circulating nomination papers on April 1. And the Court has already refused appeals that are too close to the beginning of the partisan primary cycle.

    In other gerrymandered map litigation from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the Court has denied the emergency appeals, citing the proximity of primary elections in those states. Those appeals were based on the theory that only state legislatures can prescribe the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives" as specified in the US Constitution's Elections Clause. As NPR notes, "Under this theory, any state court decision requiring the redrawing of state legislative maps is unconstitutional under the federal constitution. That is a dramatically different understanding than has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court." However, three justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — "dissented from the court's decision on Monday not to entertain the North Carolina case and in their written dissent all but embraced the independent state legislature theory." Apparently Justice Kavanaugh has also signaled "strong interest in the independent state legislature theory." There's likely to be trouble ahead.

    A final note on gerrymandering: An organization called "Issue One" — describing itself as "the leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington, D.C." — has provided a discussion of 12 examples of how state legislators have drawn unfair maps for partisan gain over the next decade in an article online called "Extreme Gerrymandering." Wisconsin is on the list which includes seven Republican-controlled states and five in the hands of Democrats.

    I can't finish up this newsletter without taking note of the trucker convoy now cruising the Washington Beltway, a stretch of superhighway that encircles D.C. Dana Milbank, in Monday's Washington Post, has the best skewering I have seen. Here's the most amusing bit:

    As the truckers crossed the country, the reason for the protest largely evaporated: Mask and vaccine mandates tumbled — not because of the convoy but because the pandemic receded. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated news coverage, leaving the truckers largely forgotten and sharply increasing the cost of fuel for their now-pointless mission.

    Now, they’re in the Washington area, camping out in Hagerstown, Md., and they’ve decided the best way to get themselves noticed would be to … make traffic on the Beltway?

    Threatening to increase traffic on the Beltway is like threatening to add water to the Potomac River: How would anyone notice the difference? The 64-mile loop around the capital is in a state of perpetual slowdown.

    The events list is kind of sparse, but please find SOMETHING you can do, either to support Ukraine and its refugees — Daily Kos has put together a donation page, the proceeds of which will be distributed to various charities providing aid — or support a candidate for the April 5 and August 9 elections. You can find candidate information and links for the April election on our 2022 Elections pages.

    Read more

  • published Cautiously optimistic in Newsletter 2022-03-01 16:51:14 -0600

    Cautiously optimistic

    Let's begin with some good news: the Covid-19 Omicron wave is rapidly dissipating in Wisconsin. This morning's Journal Sentinel reports that the number of ICU patients with Covid-19 and the numbers hospitalized with the disease are both at lows last seen in summer 2021. At least until the next variant hits us, we seem to be in a reasonable place. Responsible people might want to continue to mask up in crowded, indoor spaces. And those of us who are especially vulnerable should remain cautious. But overall, it's welcome news. The rapid development of effective vaccines has had a lot to do with weathering the storm. Read "Why Covid-19 vaccines are a freaking miracle" to find out more about how we got these shots so quickly.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the news remains pretty awful. Besides the horrendous events in Ukraine, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments yesterday in a case that involves the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. And it did not go well for those of us hoping that the country and the world can at least mitigate catastrophic climate change. Amy Howe at scotusblog.com has the full story. But as she reports, "The oral argument occurred on the same morning that a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations issued a major new report that warns of dire effects from climate change and concludes that nations are not doing nearly enough to cope with a warming planet." As the Washington Post notes in an analysis before the oral arguments on February 28, "With the court’s conservative justices increasingly suspicious that agencies are overstepping their powers, the case’s outcome could not only reshape U.S. environmental policy but also call into question the authority of regulators to tackle the nation’s most pressing problems." We'll know more when the decision is rendered this summer but it's looking like bad news from the Court. Again.

    So let's do what we can to improve life here at home. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is looking for volunteers to be election observers for the April 5 nonpartisan election. Here's their appeal: "Volunteer election observers help ensure we have a fair election by watching for signs of voter disenfranchisement and intimidation and by monitoring the way Wisconsin’s election laws and procedures are being applied. Even if you only have a couple of hours on Election Day, you can still make a difference. Sign up to be an election observer today! Learn more and sign up to volunteer." Russian aggression in Ukraine reminds us that democracy is both precious and under attack. Do your part to shore it up, please.

    Two of our Grassroots North Shore communities have candidate forums for school board memberships and for municipal offices this week. For Whitefish Bay, the event is on Zoom at 7 pm, Thursday, March 3. Bay Bridge is hosting and the League of Women Voters is moderating. Here's the link to the event. It becomes available when the event starts Thursday evening. In Shorewood, the forum will be live-streamed on Facebook on Sunday, March 6, at 12:30 pm. Sponsored by the Shorewood Women's Club (SWC) and moderated by League of Women Voters Milwaukee County (LWVMC), the candidates for school board and for Village Trustee will be participating in person, but the audience will connect via the SWC Facebook page. You do not need a Facebook account to tune in to the live feed. If you get wind of any others, pass on the details to me at [email protected].

    Tonight, President Biden will give the first State of the Union address of his presidency. (Last year's speech to a joint session of Congress doesn't count as a SOTU speech because ... reasons!) He's scheduled to begin his address at 9 pm EST or 8 pm CST. You can watch on TV or streaming online. The Milwaukee County Democratic party and the 4th CD are hosting an online "watch party" beginning at 7:15 with discussion both before and after the speech. You can register here.. His approval ratings need a boost. So tune in.

    Finally, anyone who is concerned about the highly gerrymandered maps in Wisconsin, where our state is said to be the worst in the nation on this issue, is invited to create a #MadAboutMaps video to be posted to social media on March 15 — designated as Mad About Maps Day. The Fair Maps Coalition has extensive online help about when and how to participate. The link above will point you in the right direction. Read the call for participation and then signal that you plan to take part.

    Read more

  • published Make your voice heard in Newsletter 2022-02-24 11:04:25 -0600

    Make your voice heard

    Last week, the League of Progressive Seniors held a webinar on the disenfranchisement of people with mobility issues. Mark Thompsen, a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission, spoke eloquently about the ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that enjoined the use of drop boxes and prohibited anyone other than the voters from taking absentee ballots either to their municipal clerk's office or to their mailbox. The limitations will significantly impact the disabled. You can watch the program (1 hour) on YouTube.

    Unfortunately, it's not easy to figure out how many voters are likely to be affected for the upcoming April 5 election — or for the August 9 primary and the November 8 general elections should the Supreme Court rule on the matter for those elections too. But Wisconsin is a closely divided state both in presidential elections and in gubernatorial ones. After all, Governor Evers won office in 2018 by only 1.1% of the votes and President Biden won here by a slim 20,608 votes. Some data, however, suggest the effects could be substantial.

    About 17.5% of Wisconsin's population is over 65 years old. Not all elderly are disabled nor do all disabled people have trouble voting, of course, but in a population estimated to be approximately 5,895,908, the group most heavily affected are likely to be the elderly. In Wisconsin, the over-65 population is about 1,031,784 people. According to Wisconsin Election Commission, there are 959,199 registered voters over 65 — the largest age group on the rolls. But the figure may be an undercount because people who registered to vote before 2005 do not have a birth date on file with the voter registration system. According to the Journal Sentinel," Rutgers University's Fact Sheet on Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2018 Elections found a 10.4% gap in Wisconsin voter turnout between citizens with and without disabilities." (The data for the 2020 election are also available.)

    In an article titled "The Era of Easier Voting for Disabled People Is Over," The Atlantic reported on the nationwide participation of disabled voters:

    Nearly 62 percent of Americans with disabilities voted in 2020, a surge of nearly 6 percentage points over 2016, or 1.7 million more voters. The number of disabled voters reporting difficulties while voting also dropped significantly; in 2020, 11 percent of disabled voters reported having problems, down from 26 percent in 2012, according to an Election Assistance Commission report. That’s not to say voting was suddenly simple: Mail-in ballots aren’t easier for everyone, including those with visual or cognitive disabilities. And in 2020, disabled Americans were still roughly 7 percent less likely to vote than nondisabled Americans.

    So the problem of disallowing anyone other than the voter from returning an absentee ballot and disallowing drop boxes, which can be accessible from a vehicle and are available outside of regular business hours, seriously impacts the ability of the disabled and the elderly to vote. According to Mark Thompsen, the only recourse we have right now is to petition the individual members of the court. Here's what you should do.

    ACTION ITEMS:
    1. Petition the seven Supreme Court Justices. Write each of them a letter and send it to —
      Office of Justices
      Attn: name of justice
      16 East State Capitol
      PO Box 1688
      Madison, WI 53701-1688

    2. Share with others, especially those who are themselves likely to be affected by the injunction.
    The justices are: Hon. Annette K. Ziegler (Chief Justice), Hon., Ann Walsh Bradly, Hon. Patience D. Roggensack, Hon. Rebecca G. Bradley, Hon. Rebecca F. Dallet, Hon. Brian K. Hagedorn, Hon. Jill J. Karofsky.

    And while I'm discussing ACTION ITEMS, here are three that Grassroots North Shore is pursuing ahead of the April 5 election:
    1. Distributing flyers to households of strong Democratic women in Brown Deer, Fox Point, and Whitefish Bay.

    2. Phoning people in the Mequon-Thiensville School District to turn out the vote for two of the candidates running for school board and an incumbent judge running for a seat on the Appeals Court District 2.

    3. Writing postcards to strong Democratic women in Ozaukee County to turn out the vote for Judge Lori Kornblum running for election to the Appeals Court District 2 she currently sits on. She's a member of Grassroots North Shore and we have endorsed her.
    We're almost ready to begin distributing flyers and phoning in the Mequon-Thiensville School District. And we should be ready to begin writing postcards in about 2 weeks. Please volunteer for at least one of these activities by contacting our Co-Chair Norma Gilson or Nancy Kaplan. Please put "GRNS volunteer"in the subject line.

    Finally, I'll just mention that the fringy right has turned its attention to undermining public education, both in Wisconsin and in the nation. At least 16 efforts at school board recall elections have been mounted here! I'm happy to report that all of them failed. But it's important to be informed about the issues and to urge your family and friends to know who is running in your area and to turn out to vote for sensible people. You can find out more about the issues by watching the video of our last event: "School Boards Under Attack." And you can find out who is running in your school district on our page for 2022 School Board Elections. That page also provides links to candidates' information so that you can discover at least some of their positions.

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  • published Econ4Voters 2022-02-22 12:18:22 -0600

    Economics for Voters: Index of Articles

    Economics for Voters is a new feature of the Grassroots  North Shore website, a series of essays by Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Economics at UWM,  Bill Holahan.   These will be about your money, your economy, and your country. The essays will appear about once per week, the newest on top. Scroll down and enjoy. So far, the table of contents is:

    May 23, 2022, URGENT: MAKE A CARBON TAX PART OF CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY NOW (An brief explanation of how a carbon tax could be part of a broader policy to limit climate change.)

    May 20, 2022, Roe v. Wade Repeal: Predicted  Economic Impact on Women and Families (A short review of an Amicus Brief by 154 prominent economists who summarized for the Supreme Court numerous peer-reviewed forecasts of the economic impact of overturning Roe v. Wade.)

    May 14, 2022, A FIRST LOOK AT MARKETS AND POLICY  (This is the first of several essays on how markets work, and the role markets play in public policy.)

    May 11, 2022,  THE ROLE OF STUDENT BORROWING IN COLLEGE FINANCE   (An essay that points out that education is a lifelong valuable asset and suggests ways to enhance the value of that asset net of  borrowing to pay for it.)

    May 10, 2022, EASING THE BURDEN OF STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT (An essay showing that the burden of student loan repayment could be reduced by extending the term of the loan to 30 or 40 years and capping the annual repayment to a small  percentage of annual earnings.)

    April 19, 2022, HITTING BACK WHEN CHARGED  WITH “SOCIALISM”  (This essay suggests ways to use economic reasoning to strike back when public investments are labeled "socialist.")

    April 18, 2022, ESSENTIAL WORKER PARADOX  (An essay showing why some workers -- caregivers, sanitation workers, food delivery workers -- produce great value but receive low pay, and suggests a few remedies.)

    April 6, 2022: CAPITALISM REQUIRES A WELL-FUNCTIONING PUBLIC SECTOR (An essay showing that infrastructure enhances productivity and reduces cost in the market system, but is a public responsibility.  Therefore, to label such investment "socialism"  reveals acute ignorance of economics.)

    March 30, 2022: EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT IS OFTEN COUNTER-INTUITIVE  (An essay introducing the counter-intuitive role of government in modern economics, with a special look at the often-heard claim that the government should be run like a business.)

    March 22, 2022: NO SENATOR JOHNSON: SOCIAL SECURITY IS NOT A PONZI SCHEME. (An essay in response to Senator Johnson's  false notions that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and that Social Security bonds are worthless.)

    March 20, 2022: PLEA TO THE JOURNALISTS, PUNDITS, AND POLITICOS:  DO THE MATH.  (An essay showing how essential, and easy, it is to express economic data in a rational form, and a plea to the journalists, pundits, politicians, and politicos to perform the simple math when they discuss the economy.)

    March 18, 2022: SENATOR JOHNSON STILL WANTS TO REPEAL THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT   (An essay responding to Senator Johnson's remark that Republicans should repeal the Affordable Care Act if they retake Congress in 2022 or 2024)

    March 6, 2022: BRING BACK DROP BOXES  (An essay in response to the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that the use of ballot drop boxes is contrary to a clearly written statute. Because recent elections show that drop boxes add significantly to voter participation and do not detract from ballot integrity, change the law.)

    February 28, 2022: INSTANT RUN-OFF VOTING: A PATH TO MAJORITY RULE  (An essay that explains why current rules nullify majority rule in a primary season with a large number of candidates, and why Instant Run-off Voting (aka Ranked Choice Voting) cures the problem.)

    February 22, 2022: FEDERAL CONTRACTS BRING HIGHER-PAYING JOBS (An essay in response to Senator Johnson's public acceptance of sending truck production jobs to South Carolina because Wisconsin has a shortage of workers.)

    February 17, 2022: CRITICAL RACE THEORY AND THE SUBURBAN VOTE ( An essay which addresses the chief concern of parents: kids are slipping behind and  need  organized tutoring, especially in math and English.)

    February 10, 2022: INFLATION AS A REPUBLICAN GOLD MINE  (An essay in response to Senator Scott (R-FL) who claims that inflation will provide the basis for a Republican landslide in 2022.)

    February 10, 2022: IT TAKES PARENTS AND A VILLAGE  (An essay in response to Senator Johnson's comment about taking care of "other people's children."

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • FEDERAL CONTRACTS BRING HIGHER-PAYING JOBS

     

     FEDERAL CONTRACTS BRING HIGHER-PAYING  JOBS

             When Oshkosh Corp. landed a contract to produce delivery trucks for the United States Post Office, the company decided to split the tasks: 100 design jobs would be located in Oshkosh Wisconsin and 1000 production jobs would go to  South Carolina. Wisconsin Senator Johnson spoke approvingly of this division of labor, stating that Wisconsin has plenty of jobs already: "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin. The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers."

             That is a rather odd thing for a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin to say, seeming to defy  market process.  Although this is a long-term contract, the labor shortage Johnson refers to is a temporary market adjustment to the hot national economy. In addition, the labor market has been further complicated by Covid and the concern for workplace safety, a complication lessened by the success of the vaccine and its distribution.   This USPS contract can contribute to the long-term process of capital accumulation essential for stable demand for well-paid workers.   

             In his statement, Senator Johnson ignores two additional, broader economic concerns.  First,  climate implications:  the federal government is anxious to modify the contract to build a truck fleet that is more climate-friendly. Wisconsin can become a major player in the burgeoning market for electric vehicles.

            Second, the construction contracts would put more federal dollars into circulation in Wisconsin,  stimulating economic development well beyond the initial contract. 

     Climate Implications

              The Biden Administration has set a national goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050; meeting that goal will require the replacement of fossil fuel-powered vehicles with electric vehicles. The  Environmental Protection Agency has asked for a review of the contract, as it stands only 10% of the Oshkosh contract is for battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs). 

                The country has built its transportation infrastructure around the interstate highway system and the local and state highway grids.    The recently-passed bi-partisan infrastructure bill is a further commitment to that network.    The electrification of vehicles is imperative, especially large vehicles like buses and freight and local delivery trucks.  This will entail a multi-decade conversion; Wisconsin companies can gain a competitive position in a high-demand industry, rather than cede this high ground to other states and to China.  Large government truck-fleet contracts give the private market a jumpstart. A contract that provides both quantity and price per unit greatly reduces the risk of capital accumulation first to fulfill the contract for several thousand Postal Service trucks and later to compete in the market for other private-sector vehicles like delivery trucks sought by FedEx, Amazon, UPS, etc.          

    Economic Development Multiplier

             Federal money to build or convert postal delivery trucks will have multipliers far beyond that particular contract.   Like all of the 50 states, Wisconsin is in an economic federation.  When money enters the state from the federal government, it is initially spent on the initial purpose, in this case, payment in exchange for a manufactured good. But then that money gets paid out in salary and wages to the many individuals -- from CEO to line worker to janitor --who took part in the fulfillment of that agreement --  i.e., the design, capital installation,  manufacture, and delivery.  The money gets spent again in accordance with the preferences of all those people. They spend the money on rent, food, gasoline, pet supplies, for myriad other goods and services, supporting jobs and wages in those markets.  The people who supply the apartments, food, gasoline, etc. receive payments as income and re-spend the money according to their preferences.   The money is spent multiple times,  in each round stimulating more economic activity.

             Wisconsin has invested in its comparative skill advantage for fulfilling complicated long-term contracts: its experienced and educated workers,  graduates from the UW and private university engineering schools, as well as graduates from the vocational-tech schools and trade apprenticeship programs.     Steering federal contracts to state firms would boost not only the accumulation of capital in the private sector and the growth of labor demand but also the return on the taxpayer investment in the educational and skill development enterprise while contributing to the national goal of net-zero carbon emissions. 

     

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

     

               


  • published Election Day is TODAY in Newsletter 2022-02-16 11:08:19 -0600

    Election Day is TODAY

    In case you hadn't noticed, today is an election day. If you live in Bayside, Fox Point, Glendale, River Hills, Shorewood, or Whitefish Bay — and you have not already voted — please vote in this important primary election. Grasssroots North Shore recommends that you vote for Liz Sumner for Milwaukee County Supervisor in District 1.

    And if you live in the Cedarburg School District or the Mequon-Thiensville School District, you have an important primary too. In both cases, the lowest vote-getter will be eliminated from the April 5 ballot. In Cedarburg, we don't have a solid endorsement to give you. But various trusted voices have recommended that you vote for FOUR of these five candidates: Kate Erickson, Ryan Hammetter, Hani Malek, Mike Maher, and Jamie Maier. In Mequon-Thiensville, we know more because there was a recall election there in November 2021. The recall was handily thwarted but one of the defeated participants is trying again. To thwart her again, we are recommending that you vote for TWO of the following three candidates: Paul Buzzell, Maria Douglas, and Jason Levash.

    There's a lot of news, both in Wisconsin and in the national media. The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily ruled that while drop boxes could be used for the election happening today, they will not be an available avenue for returning absentee ballots in April. The ruling is temporary because the court has not yet held a hearing on the matter but will do so in time to make a general ruling before the partisan primary on August 9 and the November 8 general election. Here's the article in the Journal Sentinel.

    If you want the convenience of voting absentee for one or all of the remaining elections in 2022, you can request absentee ballots for them at MyVote.WI.gov. If we cannot use drop boxes in August or November, you have two additional choices to return your ballot: either put the envelope with your ballot in the US mails — at least a week ahead of election day — or deliver it in person to your municipal clerk's office.

    Our own Senator Ron Johnson is suffering what I hope is a disqualifying case of foot-in-mouth disease. Oshkosh Defense, Inc., won a large contract to build postal vehicles but announced that it would not be building them in Wisconsin. Instead, they're going to manufacture the trucks in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Senator Johnson has publicly declared that he will not urge the company to use a Wisconsin facility. "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he said. It's hard to believe that our senator thinks good union jobs aren't needed here. Watch the short video about this matter that a More Perfect Union created to expose both the company and our just-plain-wrong senator.

    Our website just added a new featureMoney Talks — with articles from Bill Holohan, emeritus professor and former chair of the Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. The pieces will give you a fresh understanding of the economy. Sort of like our own Paul Krugman.

    Finally, on the local front, Citizen Action is holding a virtual event called "In the Wash: A Virtual Workshop about Wisconsin Water Quality" on February 24. You can sign up for it here.

    The national news is pretty meaty too. The Trump Organization's long-time accounting firm has just divorced itself from the company and has concluded that nearly 10 years worth of financial statements it developed for TFG (that's the former guy, in case you're not up on the lingo) are unreliable. And the MyPillow CEO/coup advocate announced that his bank is closing his accounts by February 18 because he's a "reputation risk" to the bank. These guys can't get more love from companies that have served them for years! Both events both happened on Valentine's Day, yet another example of the upside down, alternate reality world the MAGA folks are drawn to.

    Today's Washington Post has two interesting stories on settlements reached in pending lawsuits, one by the Sandy Hook families who sued Remington Arms (the maker of the AR-15 style rifle used to kill their children) and the other by Virginia Giuffre who sued Prince Andrews for sexual abuse. The Sandy Hook case, ongoing for eight years, is a landmark: it's "the first instance in the United States of a gun manufacturer facing liability for a mass shooting."

    If you have time for a short read, I recommend Jamelle Bouie's column in today's New York Times. "Why We Are Not Facing the Prospect of a Second Civil War" offers an excellent, abbreviated history of the forces that produced the Civil War of 1860.


  • published Elections matter, all of them in Newsletter 2022-02-10 11:55:05 -0600

    Elections matter, all of them

    Let's begin with important election news. The February 15 non-partisan primary is just a week from today. You may already have requested an absentee ballot at MyVote.wi.gov. If you have not yet filled it out and turned it in, do so today. You can use a drop box located in your community or you can take it in person to your municipal clerk. Early in-person voting is going on now but it ends this Friday, Feb. 11. Find links to information about the candidates on our Elections page.

    The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is holding a Get-Out-the-Vote Weekend of Action on Saturday, February 12, and Sunday, February 13. They're using virtual phone banks so you can "go" in your jammies if you want. The virtual staging locations they are setting up will provide a brief training at the beginning of each shift. So SIGN UP and get a running start on what is going to be a GOTV-filled year.

    But the broader issues around voting just keep coming at us. Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the "Republican lawmakers rolled out a constitutional amendment banning the use of grant money to administer elections" while "Democratic lawmakers called for a state elections commissioner to lose his job after pretending to be an elector for former President Donald Trump." A constitutional amendment will take years to accomplish and will need to be put before the voters — perhaps as early as next year. Needless to say, Grassroots North Shore will mobilize around this issue. And those fake electors should at the least be investigated for pretending to be public officials and for forging state documents!

    The League of Progressive Seniors is holding an online workshop to grapple with efforts to suppress the votes of senior citizens and the disabled. State Assembly Leader Robin Vos apparently wants to prosecute members of the Wisconsin Election Commission for allowing residents of nursing homes to vote in 2020 even though Voting Deputies could not attend, as the law stipulates. And now they're trying to use the courts to prohibit the use of drop boxes for voting and to forbid friends or family of people with limited mobility from assisting them by delivering their absentee ballots for them. The program will take place on Friday, February 18, from noon to 1pm. To sign up, you need to email the League.

    In the nation as a whole, we've had some victories in the fight against gerrymandering in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. In all three states, maps rigged by Republicans have been rejected by those states' Supreme Courts. The ruling in North Carolina was especially pointed about the effort to lock in GOP control: the legislature violates the state constitution "when it deprives a voter of his or her right to substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation," the order stated. We're still waiting for Wisconsin's Supreme Court to rule on our electoral maps but it could happen any day now.

    However, we may have suffered a grievous setback with the latest "shadow docket" ruling on a case about the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The court didn't actually rule on the case: it just stayed a ruling that a lower court in Alabama found discriminated against Blacks by failing to provide for a second congressional district with enough Black voters to enable — but not to guarantee — that they could elect a favored candidate. The Supreme Court's stay effectively restored the Alabama legislature's map, "suggesting that the court was poised to become more skeptical of challenges to voting maps based on claims of race discrimination," according to an article in the New York Times. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. But of course his vote left him in the minority as all five of the "conservative" justices voted to let the maps stand until the case winds its way through the court. So, justice delayed. It's likely the new maps with its one majority-minority district will be in effect for the November 8 election.

    Finally, you should catch up on some jaw-dropping news from Senator Ron Johnson. Of course he "refused Saturday to say whether the Republican Party was right to censure two members of Congress and whether it had properly characterized the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as 'legitimate political discourse'" (JSOnline, Feb. 5, 2022). That he's a coward goes without saying. But he really topped his own record of saying stupid stuff when he said "he won't try to persuade a Wisconsin manufacturer to place more than 1,000 new jobs in his hometown." Here's quote: "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin. The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers" (JSOnline, Feb. 7, 2022). I've paid attention to politicians and their campaigns since the 1960s. I've never heard one say that we don't need any more good jobs around here! Sheesh.

     

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  • published IT TAKES PARENTS AND A VILLAGE in Econ4Voters 2022-02-10 11:33:30 -0600

    IT TAKES PARENTS AND A VILLAGE

             “I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.”  So says Ron Johnson, currently a candidate for a third term as US Senator from Wisconsin. In his view, the care of children should be the sole responsibility of the family. All payments, whether consumption items like food, clothing, nutrition, or investment in education, skill development, housing, are all the responsibility of parents.

             His sentiment surely is a long way from "it takes a village to raise a child!" It is also contrary to long-established policy: government does complement the economic well-being of virtually all children through its taxation and spending authorities (just as it does for virtually all businesses, including Mr. Johnson's). Some expenditures in support of children are long-standing: public financing of K-12, community colleges and state universities being the most obvious.  Other examples include public health services, the Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program (SNAP), rent subsidy, investments in hospitals, research universities, disease control, vocational schools, and polytechnics, to mention just a few ways in which taxpayers assist in  "taking care of other people’s children."

    DIRECT PAYMENTS TO PARENTS

             Johnson's current objection is directed at government assistance to children via direct payments to their parents, either by a tax credit or rebate.  For example, he opposes extension of President Biden's child tax credit (CTC), a key element of the American Rescue Plan that lifted approximately 30% of poor children above the federal poverty level during the pandemic.  That subsidy expired in December but its revival is included in the now-stalled Build Back Better plan, along with additional assistance to children that Johnson opposes, including a proposed subsidy for child care, and universal pre-K, which would enable more parents to go to work knowing their kids are safe and in productive learning environments.    

             The United States economy is primarily a decentralized market system that guides economic activity via price incentives. But all modern market systems require a strong public sector to produce goods and services which benefit society but which will not be produced in the market due to insufficient incentives. Modern democracies have devised public policies to assist parents rather than rely solely on the powerful but inadequate forces of the market.    

             The prominent "conservative" and Nobel-prize-winning economist Milton Friedman reasoned that some government assistance on behalf of children is best managed by their parents; better to enhance parental ability to pay than to make choices for them.   For example, addressing a national goal of better nutrition requires both money and decision-making. Rather than have government deliver pre-determined food packages, the SNAP program provides a debit card to pay for food, leaving the food choices up to the parents.    

              Another example promoted by Friedman and implemented by President Reagan was the earned income tax credit (EITC). This program adds to after-tax hourly wages which, in turn, enables lower-income workers to provide more for their children. A third example is the child tax credit (CTC), which pays parents $3,000 per year per child under age 17; $3,600 if under age 6.

    WHY DOES IT TAKE A VILLAGE? 

             If investment in children is so vital to the performance of the economy, why won't the free market make those investments?   Investments are inherently intertemporal:  spend money now for benefits later.  To support the upbringing of children, parents can spend out of current income or via borrowing, but only if those resources are available to them; the parent with no access to investment funds can at best meet immediate needs. The market provides investment funds only through loans with expected repayment plus interest, an impossibility for people who cannot make those assurances.  In the world that Johnson envisions,  cycles of poverty will not be broken.        

             The US is designed as a market system guided by representative-government rulemaking. Both function better with full development of their people. Thomas Jefferson instructed us that the benefit of investment in people extends beyond the individual to benefit society as a whole; democracy is strengthened when its populace is educated. We the people have to invest to produce that public good.

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

  • published INFLATION AS A REPUBLICAN GOLDMINE? in Econ4Voters 2022-02-10 11:26:13 -0600

    INFLATION AS A REPUBLICAN GOLDMINE?

             Inflation is both a financial and psychological issue, particularly for older people who experienced the "double-digit inflation" of the early 1980s, and the tough monetary policy that drove up interest rates to near 20%. They recall how inflation crushed the markets for long-lived assets like cars and houses and squeezed savings, wages, and living standards. The recently reported annualized inflation rate of 6.8%, well above the Federal Reserve target of 2%, provides rueful reminders of those high-inflation years, threatening to erode public support for spending on Joe Biden's initiatives.  Initially, it was hoped that this rate of inflation would be transitory, i.e., at least partially self-correcting, but increasingly it looks more permanent and dangerously upward spiraling, prompting Fed chair Jerome Powell to announce a plan to rein in inflation by raising interest rates beginning in March, although in a far less draconian pattern than was imposed in the 1980s. 

             Meanwhile, Republicans see this as an opportunity to gain seats in Congress and the White House in 2024. Senator Rick Scott of Florida proclaimed, "We're going to continue to have inflation. And then interest rates will go up. This is a goldmine for us."  

     COVID AND TODAY'S INFLATION ARE LINKED

              The linkages between the ravages of Covid and the performance of the economy are by now familiar. Workers feared unsafe working conditions. Understaffed businesses reduced hours and some closed, temporarily for some, permanently for others.  Meanwhile, consumer preferences shifted from services to goods, increasing the pressure on already-bottlenecked ports, freight rail and long-haul trucking. All of these factors raised costs which were passed on in the price level.

              Fortunately, the supply chain blockages that developed due to Covid are being moderated by policy. Extended hours of operation in the major ports of Savannah, Long Beach, and Los Angeles as well as enhanced fees and bonuses for on-time delivery seem to be loosening up the blockages. Worldwide, however, the pandemic continues to slow manufacturing and freight operations, further affecting global price levels.   

     RAPID RESPONSE

             The strategic republicans will find a "goldmine" in any negative factor they can associate with President Biden. In response, Democrats can point out that inflation is only one indicator of economic performance. Other major measures are unemployment, wage growth, unemployment and wage growth among minority groups, child poverty, food insecurity, job insecurity, and many others, all improving during 2021. Growth of the economy during 2021 was 5.7%, the highest rate since 1984. Most strikingly, nearly 6 million jobs have been added during that time, a record for the first year of a presidential term, accompanied by the fall in the unemployment rate to 3.9%.

             Because inflation and covid are linked, Republicans could better serve the nation by admitting that the evidence is in; vaccines and masking work. Moreover, as NPR reported recently, for example, counties that voted most heavily for Trump in 2020 have 5.5 times more deaths per 100,000 from Covid than did counties that voted most heavily for Biden.  To save lives, and reduce economic uncertainty, all leaders should promote the Covid-fighting measures that the scientists tell us will help get and keep the pandemic under greater control.   

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

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • published Voting Info for the primary in Newsletter 2022-02-01 14:33:23 -0600

    Voting Info for the primary

    February has begun! And you know what that means: a non-partisan election is a mere two weeks away. There are primary elections in most of our North Shore and Ozaukee County communities (except Brown Deer). And we can't afford for you to miss it. So be a voter: go to myvote.wi.gov to request your absentee ballot today! Also, visit our 2022 elections page. You will find information about early in-person voting, which begins today, and drop box locations for your community. Drop boxes can be used for this primary but their fate for future elections is uncertain. The WI Supreme Court will rule on the issue before the next election on April 5.

    Key Voting Tips

    There are primaries for the Cedarburg School District and the Mequon-Thiensville School District. You'll find links and information on our school boards page. In both cases, the candidate with the lowest vote total in the primary will not appear on the April 5 ballot.

    For the Cedarburg SD, we don't have a firm recommendation. We can tell you, though, that the current president of the board, Rick Leach, is a gun enthusiast and Laura Strobel is the wife of a Republican Assembly Representative.

    Having handily defeated the recall election in the Mequon-Thiensville SD, Grassroots North Shore has a lot more information about those running in that election. Scarlett Johnson and Jill Chromy are both on our "do not vote for" list. So vote for the other three — Paul Buzzell, Maria Douglas, and Jason Levash. Skip making a fourth choice.

    On the North Shore, the key primary is in the race for County Supervisor for District 1. The district has been redrawn as a result of the 2020 census. Shorewood and Whitefish Bay used to be in District 3 (Sheldon Wasserman is the incumbent) but are now in District 1. The other communities in that district are Glendale, River Hills, Fox Point and Bayside. If you live in these six communities, this primary will affect you. See the new map on our Milwaukee County Supervisors page.

    There are three candidates on the ballot for the county supervisor primary, which will eliminate one. This race pits our preferred candidate — Liz Sumner, the incumbent — against two newcomers. We urge you to vote for her and simply skip a second choice.

    Little is known about one of the candidates — Karen Gentile. She's a member of the Republican party, we hear; apparently is not campaigning; and does not want to be contacted (we've tried repeatedly to no avail). She does have a personal Facebook page, though, which will give you some idea of what she's about.

    The third candidate in the race — Peter Tase — is much more worrisome. He has no website or Facebook page, but he has recently published an essay supporting the former guy's "Big Lie." A video of a campaign event showcasing his noxious views has apparently been removed from vimeo. However, Daniel Bice published an extensive piece on his views: it's definitely worth a full read.

    Local Notable News

    COVID 19 remains a huge headache. Now a subvariant of omicron has already been detected in Wisconsin. Its claim to your worries is that it may spread even more easily than omicron.

    According to the Wisconsin Examiner, "Assembly Speaker Robin Vos struggles to maintain control" of the legislative body and messaging. The article pokes at his latest press conference and the "review" of the 2020 election he hired Michael Gableman to conduct — an expensive boondoggle, "which numerous observers including newspaper editorial boards, nonpartisan watchdogs and legal experts have labeled a fiasco."

    National Notable News

    The New York Times has purchased Wordle! Earth-shattering news indeed. And oh yeah, tRump has now admitted, in writing, that he wanted former Vice President Pence to OVERTURN (his exact word) the 2020 presidential election. Today he wants to walk that felonious claim back. And in shocking, but not surprising, revelations, it turns out that he was deeply involved in the plot to seize voting machines, instructing his minions to request three cabinet departments to take action: Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense. All turned him down. So is it time to indict him for seditious conspiracy?

     

    Read more

  • published 2022 Annual Meeting Resources 2022-02-01 14:00:48 -0600

    YOU CAN HELP GRASSROOTS NORTH SHORE

    Keep up to date on issues that need to see the light of day within your community.
    When you contact a GRNS representative (see list below) about a candidate or issue, we can find out more and try to alert our membership in your village/city/town.
    This is not intended to repeat smears or hearsay about candidates, but to make sure that community elections or board votes cannot be commandeered by a small group of people without anyone really knowing about it until it happens. Here are a few examples:
    (1) Whitefish Bay School Board Tax Levy where emails were sent to round up people to vote "no" to the levy as leverage against books they did not approve of in the school library - we were able to alert residents and get a good showing to support the levy;
    (2) The Mequon-Thiensville School Board recall, where we helped disseminate information about candidates;
    (3) Current primary for Supervisor in District 1, in which one of the candidates has made unsubstantiated accusations against the incumbent and has also revealed right-wing positions. We have been able to let people know where he stands.
    Community Volunteer email
    Bayside Eilene Stevens [email protected]
    Brown Deer Emily Siegrist [email protected]
    Fox Point Shirley Horowitz [email protected]
    Glendale Linda Deskalo [email protected]
    Mequon Kath Michel [email protected]
    Shorewood Kathy Kean [email protected]
    Whitefish Bay Shirley Horowitz [email protected]

    Resources from Barbara Miner and Bob Peterson

    Websites:

    https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed by The Center for Media and Democracy

    http://www.unkochmycampus.org/ Focuses on Koch and the attacks on higher education and K-12. See their recent report

    “Koch Funded Moral Panic: Ultra Right Think Tanks and Critical Race Theory,”

    Books:

    Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-century of Public Education in an Iconic American City, by Barbara Miner, New Press, 2012

     A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School, by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, New Press, 2020

     Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s  Stealth Plan for America, Nancy MacLean, Viking 2017.

     The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed American and How We Can Fight Back, by Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian, New Press, 2021.

    Articles:

    A recent New Yorker article, “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie” 

    New York Times opinion, The Real Roots of the Debate Over Schools During Covid, by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

    Link to video of the event.

    Remember to vote on Feb.15; see our Endorsement of Liz Sumner for District 1 Supervisor

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • published what's happening to our elections in Newsletter 2022-01-25 17:48:12 -0600

    what's happening to our elections

    The most important news item today is the ruling the District 4 Court of Appeals issued yesterday. It restores our ability to use drop boxes for the February 5 non-partisan primary. (See the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online or one in the Wisconsin Examiner.) It also allows people other than the voter to return absentee ballots. Both issues are addressed only temporarily. That's because there's a general rule that changes to voting procedures should not be issued too close to an election to avoid confusion and possible disenfranchisement of voters who have not learned the new rules. Absentee ballots are already being mailed to voters. So if you have not yet done so, you should request your absentee ballot NOW. You can use myvote.wi.gov or you can send an email request to your municipal clerk. You'll find phone numbers for most of our municipalities on our early voting information page.

    While I'm on the subject of elections, Grassroots North Shore has gathered information on the candidates running for non-partisan local offices. We know, or should have recently learned, how vital these offices are. So visit our 2022 Elections page. We have a page for early voting information, one for Milwaukee County Supervisors, one for school boards, one for municipal elections, one for the District 2 Court of Appeals, and one for Milwaukee County Judges. The page on drop box locations (as of the 2020 election) is also up.  Drop Boxes are available for ballots at least for this first election of 2022. And make a plan to vote!

    Also, don't miss the Grassroots North Shore Annual Meeting, coming up on Zoom on Sunday, February 6, at 7pm. We're presenting speakers knowledgable about attacks on school boards — Wisconsin-based education journalist Barbara Miner, and Milwaukee Public School Board President, Robert Peterson. (So RSVP already!) As you might remember, there was a recall election for the Mequon-Thiensville school board in November, 2021. It failed! And it failed big-time because people came out to vote. Now we have to do it again. One of the people running for a seat in the primary is trying again. And she has company. Both Scarlett Johnson and Jill Chromy have major backing from the fringy right of the Republican party. The primary will eliminate one of the five candidates, leaving four contenders for the April election. Talk to your friends, co-workers, family who live in the district and urge them to vote for the other candidates so we can try to repeat our success from last fall.

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments on proposed legislative maps from the parties to the lawsuit and from various groups who sent amicus briefs in support of various maps. The court had earlier ruled that it would not look at partisan gerrymandering in selecting a map and that it would really only consider so-called "least change" maps. Conveniently, however, the court failed to define what "least change" means. And sure enough, there was plenty of argument about whether to consider how many voters would have to be moved to new districts — the governor's map was most successful at meeting this criterion — or whether the key would be districts that contain equal numbers of voters. Oddly enough (heavy on the snarkiness), the lawyer representing the GOP legislature argued vociferously for the latter standard, even though it would not preserve the present maps as much as possible. A ruling on the maps should be issued soon.

    In the flurry of redistricting happening in all 50 states now, Democrats and progressives have feared that Republican-controlled states would use as much power as they could muster to gerrymander the heck out of the maps to maximize their advantage. And in a few states, like Ohio and North Carolina, they have indeed tried to do that. But the Ohio maps have been struck down by the state's Supreme Court, and there are lawsuits over the North Carolina maps also. It turns out that our fears may be a tad overblown. See a succinct account of it on Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog. And Marc Elias's Democracy Docket has a nifty round up of the redistricting process for each state. You can find that article here.

    Making the Most of Infrastructure Dollars, 8:00am
    American Family Field Restaurant, Milwaukee

    Join WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com for a special breakfast on the topic: “Making the Most of New Federal Infrastructure Dollars.” Doors will open at 8 a.m. at the restaurant and a moderated panel discussion will start at 8:30 a.m. Registration is open until January 27 and cost is $20. Registration and more information.

    WISDON: Transformational Justice Campaign, 6:30pm — 8pm
    Zoom

    Taking On Mass Incarceration in Wisconsin. This event occurs every Thursday until February 24, 2022 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. via Zoom. The Zoom information is the same for all sessions. Session 1: January 24, Session 2: February 3, Session 3: February 10, Session 4: February 17, Session 5: February 24. For questions, email. Register here.

    Saturday, February 5

    Stand for Peace, 12:00 – 1:00pm
    Capitol Drive & Teutonia Avenue, Milwaukee

    Stand for Peace has resumed in-person events with masks and social distancing. Check for more information. Organized by Peace Action Wisconsin.

    Sunday, February 6

    Grassroots North Shore Annual Meeting, 7pm — 8:30 pm
    Zoom

    School Boards Under Attack. Who’s behind these attacks, and why? Are the abusive rhetoric and challenges to school board incumbents a grassroots phenomenon, or do shadowy backers provide the funds and pull the strings? After a brief business meeting, Wisconsin-based education journalist Barbara Miner, and Milwaukee Public School Board President, Robert Peterson, will help us peek behind the curtain. RSVP.

    Notable Upcoming Event

    Saturday, February 12

    UN Association of Greater Milwaukee, 10am — 12pm
    Zoom

    Pushing Peace in the 2022 Elections: Join the Planning! Featuring Four Milwaukee Peace Activists Discussing How To Bring Foreign Policy Issues To The Candidates And Voters. A Virtual Zoom Program – Free & Open to the Public – Preregistration is Required. The activists include Jim Carpenter, Steve Watrous, Pam Richard, and Sharaka Berry. Advance registration is required. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting. For more information: Contact Steve Watrous at 414.429.7567 / [email protected].

    Read more

  • Let's get loud for Fair Maps and safe elections

    The issue of Fair Maps — i.e., getting rid of rigged and gerrymandered election districts — is very much in the news. In fact, Wednesday, January 19, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hold a lengthy hearing on the case, beginning at 9am. It can probably be viewed, or at least heard, by accessing Wisconsin Eye. You can also watch Lisa Pugh's interview with Barry Burden, political science professor at UW Madison, for a review of how the case got to the WI Supreme Court and what the complicated case entails.

    Concerned Citizens of Wisconsin, a group of folks who have been meeting regularly with North Shore Fair Maps, collaborated with fair maps activists around the state, including Western Wisconsin for Nonpartisan Voting Districts and Wisconsin Map Assessment Project (WIMAP), to file an amicus brief — that's a "friend-of-the-court" brief — with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the Johnson v. Wisconsin Election Commission redistricting case on behalf of voters representing all 33 Senate districts in the state. You can read the brief here. (Shoutout to Laffey, Leitner & Goode for providing pro bono legal services.) A group of legal scholars from across the country also filed an amicus brief, which you can read here. Sign up to show your support, and to make sure you get invited to the follow up meetings where you will hear all about it! Finally, you can access all the documents in the case.

    ACTION ITEM: Rallies to demand Fair Maps are taking place all across the state on Friday, January 21, at 12 noon. In Milwaukee County one will take place outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 930 W. Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53204. You can sign up here . In Ozaukee County, the rally will take place at the Old County Courthouse, 109 W Main St., Port Washington. You can use the same link to sign up: just choose the Port Washington site as the one you plan to attend. These rallies are sponsored by WFP, LIT (Leaders Igniting Transformation), HAWA (Hmong American Women's Assn), Democracy Campaign, Citizen Action of WI, WI Fair Maps Coalition, and other groups.

    The attacks on our election systems are relentless. Not only are the maps the GOP-dominated legislature wants the Supreme Court to bless truly an awful partisan gerrymander designed to keep Republicans in power and mere voters powerless to affect what they do. No, now they have found a judge in Waukesha to rule that municipal drop boxes can no longer be used as receptacles for absentee ballots. The ruling is, I believe, being appealed. But meanwhile, if you want to vote by absentee ballot for the February 15 primary, you need to request your ballots for the whole year NOW! And you need to turn your ballots around quickly so they will be sure to arrive on time. Either that, or plan to take your ballot to your municipal hall and turn it in there. Here's the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online (published January 13). And of course, it's national news too. The Washington Post published a news item about it the next day.

    Our Grassroots North Shore election coverage is now available but still lacks lots of significant information about local candidates and in-person early voting. However, there will be several important primaries in some areas. In the North Shore communities in Milwaukee County, the County Supervisor districts have, naturally, been redrawn. So there are new district lines for supervisor district 1, whose current incumbent is Liz Summer, and district 3, whose current incumbent is Sheldon Wasserman. You can visit our page for these elections to get maps of the new districts and, eventually, for links to candidates' campaigns. There will be primary elections in both districts.

    In Ozaukee County, two important school board elections have primaries on February 15: the Cedarburg School District and the Mequon-Thiensville School District. If you can vote in either of those districts, please visit our page for school board elections to learn more about what's going on. And again, we will have more links to the candidates' campaigns soon.

    School board elections have traditionally been both low-key and primarily of local concern. But not any more. The members of school boards have been personally attacked. As you may remember, the Mequon-Thiensville School District just went through an acrimonious — and I'm glad to report unsuccessful — recall election over mask mandates, critical race theory, and other political issues. Although they were soundly defeated, some of the challengers in that recall election are trying to run in the spring election, hoping to win a seat on the board. And two of the incumbents who were challenged in the recall have decided not to run again. Our upcoming meeting on February 6 will focus on "School Boards Under Attack." The program will feature Barbara Minor (education journalist in Wisconsin) and Robert Peterson (Milwaukee Public School Board president). You won't want to miss it. Sign up to get the Zoom link.

    SAVE THE DATE: For recipients of this newsletter who vote in the city, Citizen Action is holding an online Milwaukee mayoral forum ahead of the February 15 primary on Saturday, January 29, at 9am. The next Milwaukee Mayor must be someone who works with the people of Milwaukee to make progress on racial justice, to address climate change and the energy burden put on communities of color, to ensure that everyone has access to a well paying job and the transportation to get to that job. Join the top Citizen Action candidates to hear their vision for the future of Milwaukee. Sign up here.

    And a brief word about COVID-19 in our area. Cases continue to be quite high in Milwaukee County. According to the Department of Health Services, Milwaukee county ranked 4th in cases per 100,00 people and Ozaukee County ranked 15th. In both counties, transmission severity is high. Vaccinations with boosters continue to be the best way to avoid serious illness. And masking with a K95 or KN95 remains the best way to protect others, too.

    The events list is strangely skinny this week. And that's probably because one of the calendars we use for tracking events has been recently changed and the old one is no longer being updated. But the new calendar is inaccessible, as far as I can tell. So there are undoubtedly events in the offing that I don't know about. I've alerted the relevant people and hope it will be fixed soon. Meanwhile, I hope you'll engage with the Fair Maps rallies in your area and will stay tuned to future Grassroots North Shore newsletters.

    EVENTS

    Wed Jan 19, 2022

    Ozaukee County Dems Meeting, 7pm -7pm
    Zoom

    The next regular monthly meeting of the Democratic Party of Ozaukee County will be Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held virtually on Zoom.

    Suspended: Southwest Region Dems Meeting, 7pm - 7pm
    Suspended

    Southwest Dems (Region 5) cover Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Milwaukee (Southwest), West Allis, West Milwaukee. For information on when a meeting may be held check here or contact [email protected].

    Sat Jan 22, 2022

    Suspended: Community Brainstorming, 8am - 11am
    Suspended

    Community Brainstorming Conference will suspend its monthly breakfast forums until further notice. More information.

    Rally for Fair Maps, Milwaukee County, 12pm
    Milwaukee County Courthouse, 930 W. Wells St, Milwaukee
    You can sign up here.

    Rally for Fair Maps, Ozaukee County, 12pm
    Old County Courthouse, 109 W Main St., Port Washington
    Use this link to sign up for the rally in Port Washington.

    Thu Jan 27, 2022

    Mental Health Board Meeting, 9am - 9am
    Teleconference

    This is a teleconference meeting (see Agenda for details). Public Comment: none. More information.

    WISDON: Transformational Justice Campaign, 6:30pm - 8pm
    Zoom

    Taking On Mass Incarceration in Wisconsin. Register here.

    Mon Jan 24

    MKE County Dems Meeting, 6pm - 7:30pm
    Zoom

    The next Members Meeting, on Zoom, is rescheduled for Monday, January 24, at 6pm (to honor MLK Day). Due to the community spread of COVID-19, we will need to assess the situation month by month. When you RSVP, you will receive an email with the Zoom link in it.

    Read more

  • published And here we go! in Newsletter 2022-01-12 12:47:43 -0600

    And here we go!

    Grassroots North Shore's Annual Meeting

    On February 6 (7pm - 8:30pm), Grassroots North Shore will hold an informative virtual event — School Boards Under Attack — featuring Barbara Miner (Wisconsin-based Education Journalist) and Robert Peterson (Milwaukee Public Schools Board President.) Joining the featured speakers will be residents of communities that have recently succeeded in containing the siege on school board members and programs. Sign up and plan to attend!

    Two school boards in Ozaukee County — Cedarburg School District and Mequon-Thiensville School District — are experiencing this kind of attack right now. Both will have will have primaries on February 15 and a general election on April 5. If you live in one of those school districts, it is especially important that you come to this event. AND YOU MUST VOTE. Actually, that goes for everyone this newsletter reaches. You can request absentee ballots (i.e., ballots to be mailed to you) for the whole year at myvote.wi.gov.

    Before the start of the main program, the Annual Meeting will begin with a short presentation reviewing the work of the past year, outlining our plans for this year, and voting to affirm the selection of steering committee members for 2022. Anyone who has paid their membership dues in 2021 or 2022 can vote for the slate. If you have not yet become a member, now would be a perfect time. You can do it online or mail a check to Grassroots North Shore, 5600 W. Brown Deer Rd, Suite 116, Brown Deer, WI 53223. Memberships are $5 for students, $20 for an individual, and $30 for a family. Up your political game and become a member!

    Wisconsin in the News

    Senator Ron Johnson has at last announced that, despite his original vow to resign from the Senate after two terms, he's going to run for re-election this year. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered Johnson's announcement, and also included brief responses from four key opponents. A lot of national media considered his announcement an important story too. NPR coverage is here. Here's the Washington Post's take. And here's the New York Times's piece. The last two of these outlets use their subheads to note that Johnson tells numerous lies about the 2020 election and covid. Meanwhile, Kathy Bernier, a Republican state senator who has "stood up to attacks on the 2020 election results from other Republicans", has announced that she will not run for re-election. Aside from Talking Points Memo the story was not generally picked up. News of the Big Lie and its impact is everywhere, but vocal opposition is not.

    And you should take the time to read an Ezra Klein op-ed in the New York Times and a Greg Sargent post in the Washington Post, both about election strategies and both with quotations from Ben Wikler, Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

    COVID News

    WISN is reporting that the positivity rate for Milwaukee County from December 31, 2021, to January 6, 2022 was 36.2% while in the city of Milwaukee, over approximately the same time period, it was 41.2%. These are extremely high percentages. And it means your chance of encountering an infectious person is also extremely high if you are out and about. The director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, made the bad kind of news when she went on Good Morning America on Friday and "said that the majority of Omicron fatalities had occurred in people who already had other medical conditions at the same time — known as comorbidities" (Newsweek, Jan 10, 2022). She implied that those who have died were sick anyway, so.... Not what she meant, apparently, but that's the way it came across.

    Spring 2022 Election Information

    As we always do, Grassroots North Shore will provide you with the information you need about upcoming elections on our website. This year for the first time, we will be including links to candidate information — or at least such online information as we can find — for school board, municipal, and judicial elections in the North Shore and Ozaukee Counties. You will also find links to information about drop boxes (unless the GOP succeeds in outlawing them!) and in-person early voting. Many communities and school boards will not have primaries on February 15. The Cedarburg School District and the Mequon-Thiensville School District are the only two we currently know about. Information about what's at stake and who the candidates are (with links to the online information that's available) should be up by Monday, January 17.

    You can request absentee ballots for the whole year by going to myvote.wi.gov. And you should. Do it now while the link is in front of you. Unless you've moved since you last voted, you should be registered to vote. But you can check that too when you're on the site. As we get closer to an election date, you can also see a sample ballot for your voting district.

     

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  • 2022 GRNS Annual Meeting-School Boards Under Attack

    The event may be over, but the work continues. If you want to find your community's volunteer who has agreed to receive notices about shady doings in your town or village.  Just click the link to see the list.

     


  • published Welcome to a big election year! in Newsletter 2022-01-06 12:21:59 -0600

    Welcome to a big election year!

    Now that we're a few days into 2022, there's lots of stuff you should do. Not so much on the Events List, but in a group of urgent action items.

    ACTION ITEMS

    As we approach the anniversary of the attack on our Capitol, people all over the country are organizing remembrances and other activities. Here in Milwaukee, there are three January 6 events you could join:

    1. Defend Democracy voter registration drive from 10am — 1pm CST, starting from El Rey, 916 S Cesar E Chavez Dr, Milwaukee 53204.
    2. We the People candlelight vigil, 2:30 — 6pm CST at the Milwaukee Federal Building, 517 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee 53202.
    3. Textbanking with Field Team 6, a virtual event from 6pm - 7pm CST. To join this action, you will need to do some prep work first. So read the instructions before you join.

    Contact Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin to urge both of them to vote for the two voting rights acts pending in the Senate: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. If you've already done this, do it again. If you haven't, do it for the first time.

    Send email to Assembly Speaker Vos and Senate President Kapenga to object to the Gableman sh*t-show: you know, the effort to "audit" the 2020 election in Wisconsin. You can download and send a drafted letter (feel free to edit) or you can concoct your own.

    Contact Paul Geenen to work on Criminal Justice Reform and the new bill to set up a systematic data collection to help us better understand what needs to be done. Paul is arranging for a meeting with Senator Alberta Darling to discuss the recently drafted bill and to get Senator Darling's support. He's holding a preliminary meeting with participants on January 6 via Zoom at 12pm. The zoom link is https://us04web.zoom.us/j/79639787210?pwd=ejllSmFpd1I3TFNEOVQvd2V6RVJQdz09 Or you can use the Meeting ID (796 3978 7210) and passcode (A3Z7uR).

    Catching Up with the News

    Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has declared that the US Senate will debate and vote on changes to the filibuster (mis)rule on Martin Luther King Day (January 17) so that voting rights legislation can pass with only 51 votes. He has not specified what his changes to the filibuster will entail, but a smart leader would not make such an announcement without some degree of certainty that he will have the necessary votes. Talking Points Memo has a good piece on this. As does the the Washington Post.

    The Omicron variant apparently has an R0 number of 10! (The R0 number specifies how many people an infectious person is likely to spread the disease to.) To put that in perspective, here's a snippet from The Lancet, published December 17, 2021: "The original strain of SARS-CoV-2 has an R0 of 2·5, while the delta variant (B.1.617.2) has an R0 of just under 7. Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (London, UK), reckons omicron's R0 could be as high as 10." Although fully vaccinated and boosted individuals may experience breakthrough infections, they are less likely to be hospitalized or to die from COVID-19. Still, it's best not to get infected at all.

    It's difficult to get up-to-date information about the spread of COVID-19 in our area and state, but on December 31, 2021, WKOW released some data from the state's Department of Health Services. And the picture is pretty grim. The DHS dashboard, with data up through January 2, 2022, shows the beginnings of a steep spike in cases and positive test results. You can see that high transmission is occurring throughout the state by looking at their map of Wisconsin. The DHS offers several ways of looking at the data — by county and census tract; by city, village and town; by school district; and by zip code tabulation area — though some of the breakdowns are not up-to-date. Only "58.2% of residents have completed the vaccine series." But it's not clear whether the statistic includes those who have received vaccines but not boosters.

    Our electoral maps are in the news again. In case you missed it, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had an important piece on the state of play in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, January 3, 2022. The article looks at what the "least changes" decision the Court issued in November might mean. In particular, the map the GOP-dominated legislature adopted puts more Wisconsin voters into new Assembly districts — about 16% of voters. Governor Evers's map moves only about 14% of voters. So by this measure, the Governor's map should be preferred. Bottom line, though: "least change" is hard to define and the Wisconsin Supreme Court failed to do so in its November ruling.

    And in a little bit of sports news: the Green Bay Packers clinched the #1 seed in the NFC. That means the team gets a bye (i.e., won't have to play on the first weekend of the playoffs) and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Packers fans already know that the team has not lost a home game this season. Go Pack Go!

     

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  • published 2021 rolls into 2022 but we're stuck in Newsletter 2021-12-29 15:35:45 -0600

    2021 rolls into 2022 but we're stuck

    I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday break. Starting next week, though, there will be an increasing volume of important stuff to do. And Grassroots North Shore is counting on you to help win the elections that will be coming our way in 2022.

    There is no Events List this week. So I'm using the newsletter to cover four important topics: the criminal justice reform work being undertaken by a Grassroots North Shore Issue Team, gerrymandering, the pandemic, and the Jan. 6 Select Committee in the House of Representatives. I hope you'll find the information helpful.

    Action in the Criminal Justice Reform team is about to heat up. And I encourage you to get engaged. Paul Geenen, who is spearheading this group, is arranging for a meeting with Senator Alberta Darling to discuss a bill that has recently been drafted. Here are its main provisions:

    • Establishes a statewide criminal justice data system that closes the gaps in our state’s information silos.
    • Costs $3 million over two years, funding a full time data analyst, and ensuring 4-5 years of continuity.
    • Data would be used to address a number of justice issues in our state, including opioid and meth usage, alternatives to incarceration, violent crime, racial disparities and bail bond practices.
    • It will be housed in DOJ Criminal Justice and Data Council, with the data sharing sub-committee from DOJ, DOC and state courts providing guidance.
    • Includes language that protects Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as an incentive for local agencies to be more comfortable in sharing data.

    To prepare for the meeting with Senator Darling, Paul has set up a Zoom for everyone interested in lobbying on this issue. This pre-meeting will be held on January 6 at 12 CST. Please contact Paul directly for a full copy of the bill and for the link to the pre-meeting Zoom.

    Gerrymandering Action: Electoral maps can have enormous influence on both national and state election outcomes. Because states must redraw their maps to account for shifts in population revealed by the US Census conducted in 2020, gerrymandering (i.e., rigging electoral district maps to favor one party) is now going on all over the country. Although there has lately been some argument about the proposition, Democrats generally fear that Republicans can and will gerrymander their way to a majority in the House of Representatives. Professor Hasan's Election Law Blog has a thorough discussion of a column by Eric Levitz that claims the new maps are not as skewed as all that. So why does this question matter? Aside from the fact that Republican redistricting is resulting in significant impacts on minority representation at all levels of government, that is. Hasan concludes with a paragraph making a strong case for the reforms embedded in the two voting rights acts currently stalled in the US Senate by the filibuster. It's worth taking a small amount of time to write our senators — Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson by email. When there is enough of it, public pressure — can have an effect.

    Ditto at the state level. Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Project has the TAKE ACTION initiatives we need. He urges people to write letters to the editors of media outlets (while offering help and training), to contact your state legislators to support Senate Bill 389 and Assembly Bill 395, and to contact the chairs of the Senate and Assembly committees that should hold hearings on the bills to establish a "fair, independent, nonpartisan and transparent way to draw new voting district maps." You can also find a succinct summary of the three court cases about electoral maps filed in 2021 on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's website.

    Pandemic information: As you are certainly aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging in Wisconsin, and will likely be exacerbated by gatherings for Christmas and New Year's celebrations. The spread of disease has seriously disrupted some major sporting events: college bowl games cancelled, the National Hockey League "paused," and the NFL postponing games. Broadway shows have also gone dark. Several Milwaukee events have also been cancelled. And we're just at the beginning of the Omicron wave here. According to today's news, "roughly 2 in 5 recent Wisconsin cases sequenced in a lab have been the fast-spreading omicron variant." Masks are an important part of your efforts to reduce the spread and protect yourself and others, but not all masks offer adequate filtration and apparently there are lots of counterfeit masks around. To make sure you get bona fide N95 masks, consult Project N95, a site that evaluates sellers of masks so that you can order the genuine articles.

    The severity of the Omicron variant is STILL not conclusively measured, but today's New York Times has a particularly helpful analysis, complete with easily understood graphs, about who was dying from COVID in late fall. "[W]hile for much of the pandemic, older Americans and people of color were more likely to die from the virus, the demographics of those dying from Covid have shifted too, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How the arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will affect these trends remains to be seen, since the current data on deaths is reliable only through late November." The article notes that "Covid-19 now accounts for a much larger share of all deaths for [middle-aged white people] than it did before vaccines were widely available." Wisconsin fares reasonably well compared to such hotspots as West Virgina, Kentucky and much of Florida. Still, three weeks ago, Wisconsin NPR reported that "Wisconsin hospital leaders are sounding the alarm as the state endures another COVID-19 surge. The seven-day average of new infections is over 3,500 — the highest it's been in a year." The current data shows 1,672 currently hospitalized (up 39 from a week ago) with 405 in a Wisconsin ICU right now.

    Investigating the Insurrection: The House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection was a major news story before the holidays and promises to be so again as it resumes work next week. Some aspects of the events leading up to and on that day have been well covered, especially the rallies on Jan. 5 and 6, but Talking Points Memo has striking new information on a third rally that was planned for 2pm on Jan. 6 in front of the Supreme Court building, right across the street from the Capitol Building. That rally was scuttled once the assault on the Capitol began to unfold. In a second essay in TPM, Josh Kovensky takes a stab at explaining why the planners might have wanted a rally there. The context, he writes, includes a lawsuit Sidney Powell filed in Texas in hopes of prompting Justice Alito, who covers emergency filings there, "to halt Biden’s certification. Had there been more of a delay, Powell suggested, Alito might have had time to intervene."

    And the Jan. 6 Select Committee "has signaled it intends to explore potential criminal wrongdoing by former President Drumpf, marking a significant escalation for the investigation" as reported in The Hill on Dec. 26. As an article in the Washington Post explains, "Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in an interview that of particular interest is why it took so long for him to call on his supporters to stand down, an area of inquiry that includes obtaining several versions of a video Drumpf reportedly recorded before finally releasing a message 187 minutes after he told his supporters to march on the Capitol during the rally that preceded the attack." Criminal referrals from Congress don't carry any special weight with the Department of Justice, but "Drumpf’s actions could amount to criminally obstructing Congress as it sought to certify the election results."

    Finally, just FYI, since most of you will not be able to vote in this race: there seem to be eight current candidates to become the next Mayor of Milwaukee:

    State representative Dan Riemer originally declared his candidacy but recently dropped out. And today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Senator Chris Larson is seriously considering a run. The candidates' websites will undoubtedly have links to their donation pages as well as their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The primary will be held February 15 with the election on April 5, 2022.

    May 2022 bring a healthier, happier New Year.