Know Your Obamacare!

In the first of our series of webinars, Grassroots North Shore co-sponsored a presentation on the positive changes the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has begun to deliver to the American people. Below, you will find Kevin Kane's powerpoint slides from that presentation. Reviewing the talk will provide you with the information you'll need to be an effective advocate for the new healthcare law and to be an effective activist for progressive policies and candidates.

More webinars on subjects vital to progressives everywhere are scheduled for Thursday evenings, from 7-7:30, on January 16, 23, and 30 plus February 13 and 20. Watch this space for links to sign up for the upcoming programs. Each presentation will last about 15 minutes with another 15 minutes for audience questions and answers.

Tune in!

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Information for Activation

Thoughts lead to action, but effective action needs well-informed activists.

That's the purpose behind the Grassroots North Shore Information for Activation series of webinars. Through these weekly sessions, you will learn to be a more effective advocate for good, solid, progressive policies that will benefit all of us.

And now’s the time to get going in earnest: in case you hadn't noticed, 2014 is an election year and the future of Wisconsin is at stake. Because "knowledge is power," you can empower yourself and others by participating in these 30-minute webinars. The information you will hear will help you persuade others to support progressive policies and to vote for progressive candidates in the fall.

Please join us for our next two presentations and mark your calendar for our future ones!


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Follow The Money -- In Reverse

Thanks to Chris Larson's request to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau  we can now see how much money the Walker administration returned to the Federal Government --- $904,484,196.  This does not even include the money rejected for Medicaid expansion or $75,000,000 paid to the Wisconsin Hospital Association to cover more nonpaying low-income patients who will end up going to emergency rooms when they become ill.

In addition to funds to implement the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Wisconsin turned back $637,114 in a Consumer Assistance Grant to provide information and answer questions regarding health care and health insurance, $795,000,000 that would have brought High-Speed Rail to the State, and $22,978,367 to improve internet access to unserved and underserved areas including schools and libraries.

Jobs?  The Bureau estimates that Wisconsin lost 276 jobs in IT alone.  Add the thousands of jobs that building High-Speed rail would have created and Walker would have come a lot closer to the 250,000 jobs he promised to bring to the state.

Read the full report. . . 

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Yet Another Look at Wisconsin's Job Performance

Professor Menzie Chinn at Econbrowser summarized the Walker jobs record in one nifty graph:

actual and projected job growth

Figure 1: Private nonfarm payroll employment for Wisconsin, seasonally adjusted (blue), July 2013 Wisconsin Economic Outlook forecast, interpolated from annual data using quadratic match (red), and Walker's promised path for private NFP (black). September and October private NFP from WI DWD. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BLS and DWD, Wisconsin Economic Outlook, and author's calculations.


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Lots of Nothing to Cheer About

risingUnemployment.jpgAlthough Wisconsin's unemployment rate has fallen (to 6.5%), part of the decline seems to be the result of a shrinking labor pool. And the number of new unemployment claims, as reported by the US Department of Labor for the week of December 7, 2013, was the highest in the nation!

The Cap Times reported an official explanation: "Officials with the state Department of Workforce Development explain that Wisconsin historically sees a seasonal increase in unemployment claims around Thanksgiving -- in part because of deer hunting...." But of course other states also have deer hunting seasons, rendering the "explanation" curious at best. Perhaps even downright ridiculous.

But the increase in new unemployment claims was not the only unhappy outcome of Governor Walker's policies. His decision to refuse to expand Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act is going to cost Wisconsin taxpayers a bundle. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finds that Iowa's path is quite similar in many ways to the path Wisconsin is taking, except that Iowa's strategy is going to cost its citizens "a fraction" of what Wisconsin's strategy will be costing us.

Here are the key paragraphs in the Journal Sentinel story:

The broad structure of Iowa's plan — such as relying more on private health plans and less on the traditional Medicaid program — is similar to the approach developed by Walker and approved by the Legislature to increase the number of people with health insurance.

But in Iowa, the federal government is paying the full cost for the first three years of expanding its Medicaid program to cover all adults. The federal share will eventually decline to 90% of the cost.

In contrast, Wisconsin is paying 40%, and the federal government paying the other 60%.

The difference could work out to several hundred million dollars in additional spending for Wisconsin taxpayers over the next decade.

And the explanation for the decision to forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds?
The Walker administration and Republican state legislators contend that the federal dollars allocated through the Affordable Care Act will be reduced in future years, potentially saddling states with a larger share of the cost of expanding their Medicaid programs.
So Wisconsin citizens are paying federal income taxes and medicare taxes, but these revenues are all flowing to other states because the Republicans in our state are afraid that at some point in the future, federal support for the program might be reduced.
Meanwhile, the "solution" Wisconsin adopted means that "Walker's plan still relies on the federal government paying 60% of the cost of expanding the Medicaid program, and whether that money will be available long-term is not guaranteed, either."
It's hard to understand why anyone would think four more years of this sort of logic would be a good thing.
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A Tale of Two States: Progressive Policies Win

24BORDERS-articleLarge.jpgStarting with the similarities in their histories, Lawrence Jacobs, professor of political science at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, writing in the New York Times, analyzes two extremes and demonstrates how the Progressives in Minnesota have brought growth and security while Wisconsin's Republican majority has failed to make any improvements in the business climate and job growth.

The piece points out that these neighboring states both elected new governors in 2010 and also gave each governor's party a strong majority in his respective legislature. Since then their economic fates have diverged. Minnesota pursued a range of progressive policies, including a highly progressive tax increase to fund essential services and infrastructure, while Wisconsin followed the hard-right playbook by cutting taxes for the wealthiest and for businesses.

As professor Jacobs writes, the election of these opposing governors and legislators "began a natural experiment that compares the agendas of modern progressivism and the new right." Here's the gist of his analysis:

Which side of the experiment — the new right or modern progressivism — has been most effective in increasing jobs and improving business opportunities, not to mention living conditions?

Obviously, firm answers will require more time and more data, but the first round of evidence gives the edge to Minnesota’s model of increased services, higher costs (mostly for the affluent) and reduced payments to entrenched interests like the insurers who cover the Medicaid population.

Three years into Mr. Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker promised to produce 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000.

Jacobs' insights have been picked up in a number of national media outlets like MSNBC, Minnpost, DailyKos, and others.

As it happens, this tale is repeated with another set of comparisons: between California and Wisconsin. And the results are similar. Professor Chinn, Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, posted a piece on the Econbrowser blog in September in which he "compared economic outcomes in two states that implemented contrasting fiscal policies: California, which surged ahead while raising taxes and cutting spending, and Wisconsin, which lagged far behind as it slashed spending on education, and cut taxes. Latest estimates of current economic activity, and forecasted economic activity six months out, indicate continued lagging performance for Wisconsin."

No matter how you slice it, progressive economic policies promote growth; regressive ones don't.


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Fast Food Workers Strike: Citizen Action Podcast


2aj6m87.jpgThis week Citizen Action records from the fast food and retail workers strike headquarters in Milwaukee. Along with the strike, they talk about Gov. Walker’s disgraceful plan to make 83,000 people in poverty wait 3 months for healthcare because he refuses to accept billions in federal money for BadgerCare. They also discuss redistricting, new GOP efforts to pass a Constitutional Amendment requiring a super majority to increase taxes in Wisconsin, and state Supreme Court “F” grade on ethics.

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