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“And You Thought Christie Was Bad”: Report, Scott Walker’s Jobs Agency Pouring Money Into Red Districts, Neglecting Others

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has long been criticized for his state’s poor jobs numbers — but now the potential 2016 presidential candidate is under fire for the locations of the jobs that have been created.

In 2011, under Walker, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation was established as the state’s largest private-sector jobs agency. The WEDC’s purpose is to develop and facilitate economic programs that create new jobs or subsidize already existing ones. Using taxpayer money, the WEDC awards, grants, and loans money to businesses across the state.

According to a Citizen Action of Wisconsin report released in February, however, data reported by the WEDC shows “[jobs] impact concentrated in a handful of legislative districts” – specifically, districts represented by Republicans.

Furthermore, because red districts in the state are benefiting more from the WEDC than other districts are, members of the Republican Assembly who are in leadership positions benefit from a disproportionately increased number of jobs in their districts.

Using numbers reported by the WEDC, the report finds that Republican assembly districts have approximately 86 percent more jobs projected in the first quarter of the 2014 fiscal year than Democratic districts. While there are 453 jobs projected per Democratic district, an overwhelming 842 jobs are projected per Republican district.

Additionally, while over 6,000 jobs are projected to be created in just one GOP assembly district alone, 14 districts have zero jobs projected, which calls the WEDC’s methods of distributing funds and impacting job creation into question.

“There’s a real question about what’s actually being done with public money, and whether or not the resources are being distributed fairly across the state,” says Robert Kraig, the executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley denies the agency has committed any wrongdoing, explaining, “What we’re really focused on is economic development all over the state. We absolutely do not make any political favorites or geographical favors, when it comes to granting awards.”

WEDC’s own data, however, proves inconsistent jobs impact across districts not only represented by different parties, but also home to varying socioeconomic classes. As Citizen Action points out, there is one job impacted for every 36 residents in Wisconsin’s Waukesha County, but one job impacted for a whopping 166 residents in Milwaukee County. The difference between the two counties extends beyond partisanship: Waukesha’s average income is 73 percent higher than Milwaukee’s, and its poverty rate is 75 percent lower.

Maley denies that the impoverished county — which also happens to be Democratic — is not being helped by the WEDC. In fact, he says, a million-dollar grant has been awarded to the city of Milwaukee to renovate an automotive facility, but the grant will not show up in the report because it was not part of the WEDC data used by Citizen Action.

Governor Walker also denies that any particular districts are favored under the WEDC and blames the “completely biased and partisan” Citizen Action report for painting a different reality.

Walker adds that “…you have a significant number of business leaders more often than not [who] happen to be Republicans vs. Democrats. We measure success not by party affiliation. We measure success by whether those employers are creating jobs.”

But as Kraig counters, the conservative governor’s logic suggests that Wisconsin families should “move to Republican districts where they can live in closer proximity to the supposed ‘job creators,’” which not only is an unrealistic and unfair expectation, but the answer to an already shaky defense.

 

By: Elissa Gomez, The National Memo, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Scott Walker | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Missing White Poor”: Guess Who Makes Up A Plurality Of America’s Poor?

You may have heard about how last week, Paul Ryan made some unfortunate remarks about poverty, blaming it at least partly on, well, lazy black people: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular,” Ryan said, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” The reason many people got angry about this is that when we talk about poor white people, nobody suggests that it’s a product of a pathology that lies within those particular people. Republicans may think persistent poverty in rural areas is a regrettable thing, but they aren’t delivering lectures to those people about their “culture.” It’s kind of a generalized version of the fundamental attribution error—people like me are poor because of conditions outside themselves, while people unlike me are poor because of their inherent nature.

Ryan’s words set off a predictable round of “Is Paul Ryan racist?” contemplation (see here, for example), and in response to that we have to remind ourselves that that is always the wrong question. It’s impossible to know with certainty whether anyone is racist, because that requires looking into their heart. But much more importantly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what people say and do, not what lurks within their souls. You can say to Paul Ryan, “Here’s what’s wrong with what you said” without shouting “You’re racist!” which not only doesn’t convince anyone of anything, it only leads everyone who doesn’t already agree with you to shut down and refuse to listen to anything else you have to say. Before we get to today’s chart about race and poverty (oh yes, I do have a chart), you should play this classic from Jay Smooth every time you’re tempted to call a politician a racist.

Now, on to our chart. Everyone knows that minority populations in America, particularly blacks and Hispanics, suffer from disproportionate levels of poverty. For the moment, we don’t have to go into why that is and what can be done about it. I just want to note something that seldom gets mentioned: the actual racial makeup of America’s poor. In fact, when I tried to find a chart laying it out to paste into this post, I couldn’t find one. So I took poverty data and population data and made one myself (this is as of 2012):

The point of this chart is that even though blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately poor, the largest group of poor people in America is … white people.

Despite that fact, when you say “the poor,” what pops into most people’s heads is an image of a black person, probably due in no small part to the fact that poverty in America is represented in the media as a largely black phenomenon (I’m not just saying that; there’s research backing that up).

I’m not saying there aren’t different kinds of poverty that might demand different solutions, given the particular economic challenges that characterize particular areas where certain people are concentrated. Though it’s worth noting that many of the states with the highest poverty rates among whites also have the highest poverty rates among blacks. These are largely in the South, where Republican economic policies of low taxes and light regulation have, weirdly enough, not resulted in economic nirvana for all. But the point is that when we talk about “the poor,” the image of a white person should be just as likely to come to your mind as the image of a black or Hispanic person. But I’ll bet it isn’t.

Finally, a programming note. All this week I’ll be guest-blogging for Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, so my posting here will be somewhat lighter. Be sure to check both places!

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stripping Away The Rhetoric”: Rebuilding The American Dream, One Insurance Policy At A Time

The Republicans give lots of reasons for their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Only two really matter.

One is politics. The other is money. More precisely, big-business money.

Like Social Security and Medicare, the expansion of health insurance coverage is making voters more predisposed to support the politicians that championed the law — and they’re all Democrats.

Meanwhile, the more Americans benefit from this new law, the more Republicans are being forced to modify and mellow their rejection of it.

Within a few years, it may become as politically suicidal to openly attack the Affordable Care Act as it would be to call for abolishing Medicare.

Of course, Republicans can’t say they oppose the reform law often called “Obamacare” because it boosts the Democratic Party’s prospects. So they say it violates states’ rights. They say it infringes on individual liberty. They say it hurts small businesses. They say it will cost Americans their jobs.

None of these charges is withstanding scrutiny.

The law was written with states in mind. That’s why states can build their own insurance exchanges. It doesn’t erode individual liberty. The Supreme Court said so. And while it will be some time before we know about the law’s full economic impact, the evidence so far suggests that it puts more money into the pockets of people who will spend it, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Wasn’t that the same report that said Obama’s expansion of health insurance coverage is killing jobs? Indeed, many news outlets reported exactly that. But that’s a misreading of the report.

The CBO found that some workers — mothers with small children, students, and those close to retirement — have voluntarily left the workplace, because they didn’t need a job to maintain access to quality health care anymore.

Once the Affordable Care Act began to take effect, these workers exercised their newfound economic freedom by choosing to quit. They’re now caring for their kids and grandchildren, focusing on their own education, simply opting to enjoy their golden years, or starting their own businesses.

That’s something to celebrate. The critique that the Affordable Care Act somehow reduces the incentive to work doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

The voluntary exit of more than 2 million workers from the American labor force will benefit many people. These workers are free to follow their dreams. If they are providing care, they will ease our caregiving deficit. And other Americans seeking work may finally find a job.

At the same time, money saved on health care can be spent on things that small businesses sell. Yes, I know. Republicans claim higher wages are bad for small businesses, and because small businesses are the engine of the economy, Obama’s expansion of health insurance is a job-killer. That’s just wrong.

Wages aren’t the top concern of small businesses. Taxes and poor sales are. So with more money in more pockets, sales receipts should climb.

When you strip away the rhetoric and take a good hard look at what the Affordable Care Act actually does, it sure looks like the new law raises wages and increases workers’ bargaining power.

 

By: Jonathan Stoehr, Managing Editor, The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Magical Thinking Run Amok”: Now Is A Good Time For The Administration’s Critic’s To Just Shut The Hell Up

Now that the Crimean “referendum,” such as it was, has produced its preordained outcome, and probably even the most intense Ukrainian nationalists have given up hope of ever recovering that territory, the big question now is less one of “punishing” Russia for an undoubted violation of international law, than of losing any influence on what Putin does next.

In that context, all the howling for U.S. “leadership” and “toughness” we hear is more than a little incoherent. As Michael Cohen points out at the Guardian, nobody among the many critics of the Obama administration is willing to advocate military action:

[O]ne is hard-pressed to find a single person in Washington who believes the US should send actual American soldiers to Ukraine – even if Russia truly escalates the crisis and send its troops into Eastern Ukraine.

All of which raises a quite serious and legitimate question: what the hell are we arguing about?

If the US is not prepared to put troops on the ground? If we’re not willing to use military force? If we’re content with taking the biggest tool in the US toolbox off the table, then how exactly is the United States supposed to reverse Russia’s seizure of the Crimea? Our vast military capabilities won’t mean much to Putin if he knows we aren’t willing to use them.

Here’s the dirty little secret of the foreign-policy pundit/expert orgy on what to do about Crimea: the US has at its disposal very few levers with which to change Russia’s behavior, at least in the near-term. We can cancel multilateral summits and military training (already done); we can deny visas to Russian officials (just beginning); we can even ramp up bilateral economic sanctions and try to build support among key European allies for a larger, more invasive sanctions regime (under discussion).

But as our long effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear ambition reminds us, such steps will take time and diplomatic effort to bring results. They won’t offer the guarantee of a satisfactory result, and they could produce significant economic backlash for US companies – and, more directly, US allies.

In the end, we’re stuck arguing over policy responses that largely dance around the margins, and a situation in which Europe’s actions likely matter more than America’s.

One thing is for certain sure: all the high-volume demands we are hearing from American pundits and Republican politicians that Obama magically change the situation by “standing up” to Putin (without, of course, even contemplating military action) aren’t helping. If there were ever a good time for an administration’s critics to shut up for a brief while and await further developments–from the Russians, from the Ukrainians, from the Europeans, and from our own diplomats–this is it.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Ukraine | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McCain’s Cold War Confusion”: Keeping Track Of The Senator’s Competing Postures

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made his latest Sunday show appearance yesterday, having just completed a trip to Ukraine, and though much of the senator’s rhetoric was expected, there was one thing that stood out for me.

Not surprisingly, McCain is concerned about the crisis and sees Crimea’s departure from Ukraine as “a fait accompli.” But the Arizona Republican also told CNN he does not want to see a “re-ignition of the Cold War.” McCain added:

“[W]e need to give long-term military assistance plan, because, God knows what Vladimir Putin will do next, because he believes that Ukraine is a vital part of his vision of the Russian empire and we need to understand that and act accordingly.

“And again, no boots on the ground. It is not the Cold War over again.”

Wait, so McCain doesn’t believe this is the Cold War all over again?

Keeping track of the senator’s competing postures is getting a little confusing. It wasn’t too long ago, for example, when McCain declared, “The Cold War is over.”

Last week, he changed course, telling msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell, “[Obama administration officials] have been near delusional in thinking the Cold War was over. Maybe the president thinks the Cold War is over, but Vladimir Putin doesn’t. And that’s what this is all about.”

And then yesterday, McCain apparently went back to his old position, pulling off the hard-to-execute flip-flop-flip – which, in all likelihood, will have no bearing on his Beltway credibility. How can he accuse the White House of being “delusional” on March 7 for having the same belief McCain endorsed on March 16?

On a related note, the senator had a 1,000-word op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend, complaining that President Obama “has made America look weak.”

For five years, Americans have been told that “the tide of war is receding,” that we can pull back from the world at little cost to our interests and values. This has fed a perception that the United States is weak, and to people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative. […]

Mr. Putin also saw a lack of resolve in President Obama’s actions beyond Europe. In Afghanistan and Iraq, military decisions have appeared driven more by a desire to withdraw than to succeed. Defense budgets have been slashed based on hope, not strategy. Iran and China have bullied America’s allies at no discernible cost. Perhaps worst of all, Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons in Syria, and nothing happened to him.

This is a deeply odd take on a variety of levels. Of particular interest. Obama has said many times that “the tide of war is receding,” in reference to two of the longest hot-war conflicts in American history: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ending these conflicts has made the United States appear “weak”?

It’s hard not to get the sense that McCain believes Vladimir Putin’s aggressive moves in Ukraine are the result of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

As for the rest of the op-ed, McCain proceeded to urge the Obama administration to take a series of steps, which can generally be broken down into vague platitudes (the United States “should work with our allies” and “reassure shaken friends”) and steps the president is already taking (“boycotting the Group of 8 summit meeting in Sochi”).

It’s an underwhelming perspective.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, John McCain | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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