Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Waukesha takes low road in opposing sick pay benefits

The Waukesha Chamber of Commerce has announced that it plans to join the Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in aggressively opposing Milwaukee's sick leave ordinance arguing that it would create a "negative business climate for the region...."

On November 4th Milwaukee residents by more than two to one approved a binding referendum that requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick days. Milwaukee joined San Francisco and Washington D.C. as the third city requiring sick day benefits.

Under the new law a full-time worker would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or nine days a year. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees would be required to provide 5 days a year to full-time employees.

For most of the past decade Waukesha's employers have experienced labor shortages. Until the recent economic downturn, businesses reported that the biggest obstacle to expansion was a shortage of skilled workers.

Increasing compensation by providing additional benefits such as paid sick leave makes employment more attractive. It builds employee loyalty which increases productivity.

Henry Ford understood this basic truth when a century ago he established the $5 day, doubling the average manufacturing wage. Ford's 300% turn-over rate vanished as increased compensation bought increased loyalty from Ford's employees.

The Waukesha Chamber of Commerce knows that if Milwaukee-based firms provide their employees with paid sick days it will make it harder for Waukesha firms that do not provide these benefits to compete for workers.

Companies can compete based on high-volume, low-cost production or they can compete through innovation, quality production and high levels of service. The Waukesha Chamber of Commerce is committed to a low-road strategy that might help some firms prosper in the short run, but will not create a thriving regional economy with shared prosperity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

President Bush is AWOL

The economy continues to spiral downward.

Two million American have lost their jobs since the beginning of the year. One out of ten borrowers is facing foreclosure. The automobile industry with its 3 million direct and indirect jobs is on the verge of collapse. And the President of the United States is AWOL.

In 2006 the noted Princeton historian Sean Wilentz wrote an article about President Geoarge W. Bush entitled "The Worst President in History?"

He concludes the essay:

The president came to office calling himself "a uniter, not a divider" and promising to soften the acrimonious tone in Washington. He has had two enormous opportunities to fulfill those pledges: first, in the noisy aftermath of his controversial election in 2000, and, even more, after the attacks of September 11th, when the nation pulled behind him as it has supported no other president in living memory. Yet under both sets of historically unprecedented circumstances, Bush has chosen to act in ways that have left the country less united and more divided, less conciliatory and more acrimonious - much like James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Herbert Hoover before him. And, like those three predecessors, Bush has done so in the service of a rigid ideology that permits no deviation and refuses to adjust to changing realities. Buchanan failed the test of Southern secession, Johnson failed in the face of Reconstruction, and Hoover failed in the face of the Great Depression. Bush has failed to confront his own failures in both domestic and international affairs, above all in his ill-conceived responses to radical Islamic terrorism. Having confused steely resolve with what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "a foolish consistency . . . adored by little statesmen," Bush has become entangled in tragedies of his own making, compounding those visited upon the country by outside forces.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert echoes this theme today when he writes:

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job...

The president would give the wealthy and the powerful virtually everything they wanted. He would throw sand into the regulatory apparatus and help foster the most extreme income disparities since the years leading up to the Great Depression. Once again he was lighting a fire. This time the flames would engulf the economy and, as with Iraq, bring catastrophe...

The catalog of his transgressions against the nation’s interests — sins of commission and omission — would keep Mr. Bush in a confessional for the rest of his life. Don’t hold your breath. He’s hardly the contrite sort.

The entire article is linked.

Both writers point out that President Bush refuses to be held accountable for the damage he has done to the country.

Herbert writes:

"He told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “I don’t spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don’t worry about long-term history, either, since I’m not going to be around to read it.”

The president chuckled, thinking — as he did when he made his jokes about the missing weapons of mass destruction — that there was something funny going on.

This is from the leader of a Party that argues that personal responsibility is the key to solving the nation's myriad problems and that individuals have to be held accountable for their actions. The President's hypocrisy is matched only by his mendacity.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Journal Sentinel says disenfranchising voters will help MPS

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently editorialized that the Milwaukee Public School board should be dissolved and replaced by an appointed board.

Peter Blewett, the current MPS board president, wrote in reponse that:

Like all urban school districts, MPS faces serious challenges. But none of the issues stem from the right of Milwaukee's citizens to elect their School Board representatives. ..Rather than disenfranchising the citizens of Milwaukee, all of us - the board, administration, educators, staff, parents, business, community leaders - must work together to ensure that the district's teachers have the necessary training and resources to provide Milwaukee's increasingly marginalized youth with the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century.

Blewett's op ed is linked.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obama's economic opportunity

The dismal state of the economy presents President-elect Barack Obama with the chance not just to produce a recovery but to restore a more egalitarian society -- and a progressive majority.

Robert Kuttner, economist and co-editor of the American Prospect, writes:

History has delivered Barack Obama the greatest economic crisis since the one that greeted Franklin Roosevelt. As in 1933, the crisis is the direct result of free-market ideology and conservative misrule, which once again stand disgraced. This creates a once-in-a-century opportunity for Obama to redeem American progressivism as the nation's majority philosophy, with government playing a far more active role in the economy -- not just to produce a recovery but to restore a more egalitarian and secure society. However, this opportunity also produces an equally huge risk of failing, which would be seen as a failure of liberal government. Conservative ideology and Republican rule would come roaring back.

Success requires bold, immediate action. First and foremost, Obama must pull back the economy from the brink of depression. Only if he masters this primary challenge and points the economy toward recovery will he gain the political capital needed for the other hurdles -- from reform of collapsing health and pension systems to the long-term conversion of the energy economy.

The entire article is linked.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mayor endorses downtown location for UWM engineering campus

Has Milwaukee's Mayor Barrett decided that downtown Milwaukee is a better location for UWM's new engineering campus than the County Research Park in Wauwatosa?

It appears that might be the case.

In a December 18th article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Larry Standler reported that the Mayor's stimulus proposal included: "$15 million to help the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee develop its new School of Freshwater Science and downtown engineering campus."

According to one City Hall insider, the Mayor has concluded that the new campus should be built in downtown Milwaukee.

Whether this is a bargaining chip aimed at getting the County to reduce its price or a recognition that a downtown location maximizes the investments economic development potential in a more student friendly location, it is welcome news.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has editorialized several times in favor of the County Research Park in Wauwatosa and buried the story when the Milwaukee Common Council endorsed a downtown location.

The paper claims there is a fire wall between the editorial page and the newsroom. If so, one would think that the Mayor's change of heart on the engineering campus's location would be worthy of coverage.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama labor department appointee, Hilda Solis, says unions are good for the community!

A world gone Madoff

Paul Krugman writes:

"The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation’s income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it’s not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.

Let’s start with those paychecks. Last year, the average salary of employees in “securities, commodity contracts, and investments” was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated; high pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence.

But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion...

We’re talking about a lot of money here. In recent years the finance sector accounted for 8 percent of America’s G.D.P., up from less than 5 percent a generation earlier. If that extra 3 percent was money for nothing — and it probably was — we’re talking about $400 billion a year in waste, fraud and abuse."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Japanese experience with economic stimulus

In a front page Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads' column, Amity Shlaes cites the failure of Japan's "huge" fiscal stimulus program in the 1990s as a cautionary tale for President-elect Obama.

Shlaes who has become the darling of free market conservatives for her repudiation of the New Deal and all things Keynesian misrepresents the Japanese experience as a case of large public expenditures in infrastructure that failed to ignite the economy, arguing that infrastructure investments are better left to the private sector.

Leaving aside the obvious problem that a fiscal stimulus is needed precisely because private investment has collapsed, it's apparent that Shlaes is misinformed about Japan's experience. Perhaps she has not read Adam Posner's definitive work, Restoring Japan's Economic Growth, which is a detailed refutation of her arguments.

Japan's 1990s fiscal stimulus, changes in government spending and taxes, was disappointingly modest, not huge, as Shlaes contends. It amounted to only about a third of the announced stimulus and according to Posner: "This limited quantity of total fiscal stimulus was disbursed in insufficiently sized and inefficiently administered doses, with the exception of the 1995 stimulus package."

In 1995 Japan implemented an aggressive fiscal stimulus that led to strong economic growth in 1996. But its impact was undermined in 1996 and 1997 by fiscal contraction. Posner concludes: "On net, the Japanese fiscal stance in the 1990s was barely expansionary...."

The problem in Japan was not a huge stimulus package, as Shlaes contends, but an overly timid one.

This is similar to the U.S. experience in the 1930s. The economy began to grow in 1934 in response to increased deficit spending. But President Franklin Roosevelt, under pressure from his era's balanced budget hawks, was forced to cut federal spending in 1937 and the economy began to contract, only to be rescued by World War II and dramatic increases in federal spending.

So what are the real lessons President-elect Obama and his advisers should learn from Japan and the New Deal? First the stimulus package must be large enough ($700 billion to $1 trillion) to ignite the economy. And second, once the stimulus begins to work and the economy begins to grow, the Obama administration should reject any pressure from the Shlaes' crowd to prematurely cutback on the stimulus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Obama considering $700 billion to $1 trillion stimulus

The Wall Street Journal reports that economic conditions have become so dire that President-elect Barack Obama's economic advisers now think a two-year stimulus of between $700 billion and $1 trillion is needed to jump start the economy:

"President-elect Barack Obama's economic team is considering an economic-stimulus program that will be far larger than the two-year, half-trillion-dollar plan under consideration two weeks ago, according to people familiar with the team's thinking...

With the unemployment rate now expected to hit 9% without aggressive intervention, Obama aides and advisers have set $600 billion over two years as "a very low-end estimate," one person familiar with the matter said. The final number is expected to be significantly higher, possibly between $700 billion and $1 trillion over two years."

The article is linked.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feingold's statement on Senate's failure to support the auto industry and its workers

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold On a Minority of Senators Blocking Effort to Save Millions of American Jobs

I supported this plan to help the U.S. auto industry because without this assistance, millions of American jobs, including tens of thousands in Wisconsin, will be jeopardized. In these tough economic times, allowing our auto manufacturers to fail could be catastrophic for our economy and could send already increasing unemployment levels skyrocketing. I am greatly disappointed that some Senators didn’t hesitate to bail out Wall Street, but decided not to help millions of working class Americans."

Doyle says federal aid needed to avoid tech college and UW cuts

Wisconsin's Governor, Jim Doyle, told the House Appropriations Committee yesterday that unless they pass a stimulus package that includes support for state and local governments he will be forced to cut technical college and state university funding:

"...state budgets ...allow kids to get a good education, and a chance at a good university or technical college education that their families can afford..." Doyle said." So that's what is threatened: our schools, our universities, our technical colleges...These are the areas that determine our budgets...And these cuts could undermine years of careful progress."

Doyle's entire testimony is linked.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Investment in higher ed crucial to affordability and prosperity

Wisconsin received an F for the affordability of higher education in a new study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

College education was more affordable in Illinois and Minnesota, two states that have higher per capita incomes and a larger percentage of four- year graduates than Wisconsin.

For several years Wisconsin's political, education and business leadership has made increasing the number of four-year college graduates a public policy goal. But the state has not made the investments necessary to accomplish this goal.

According to a New York Times article on the report: "The rising cost of college — even before the recession — threatens to put higher education out of reach for most Americans..."

The report found that published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

The increase in costs has been particularly hard for middle class and poor families. Last year, the net cost at a four-year public university amounted to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university cost 76 percent of the median family income.

Among the poorest families — those with incomes in the lowest 20 percent — the net cost of a year at a public university was 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000.

Even at two-year colleges the cost was 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.

The cost of attending Wisconsin's public colleges has risen rapidly because state support has declined precipitously. As recently as 1990, the state provided the Wisconsin Technical System's colleges (WTCS) with about 30% of their funding. That contribution has fallen by 50% to less than 15%. WTCS students, who pay 20% of the costs, now contribute more than the state! And the state contribution to the University of Wisconsin's total operations budget has fallen to below 20%.

As the state's investment in higher education and occupational training has declined, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) have raised tuition and fees, shifting the cost of post-secondary education to students and their families.

The WTCS's adult basic education tuition has increased 54.6% over the last ten years; collegiate transfer tuition by 57.3%. Two-year UW college tuition increased by a whopping 82.6% and UW Madison by 83.8%.

These tuition increases are making higher education less accessible for middle class and low- income students. Recent studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin System concluded that students from lower income families were increasingly under-represented in the state’s public baccalaureate education institutions. Between 1992 and 2002, the percentage of freshmen reporting family incomes in the lowest quintle (less than $30,000) fell by nearly one-fourth, from 14.5% to 11.0%. At the same time, the percentage of freshmen reporting family incomes in the state’s top quintile (greater than $87,000) rose by nearly one-fifth.

The WTCS/UW Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion concluded: "...Wisconsin students from lower income families have less access to a college education than in the U.S. as a whole."

Wisconsin's continued disinvesment in higher education makes a mockery of the goals of increasing the number of four-year college graduates and training a skilled labor force.

If these trends are not reversed, higher education and occupational training, keys to competitive advantage in the global economy, will be increasingly inaccessible for Wisconsin's middle and working class students.

State leaders, faced with a $5.4 billion deficit, need to resist the temptation to reduce Wisconsin's investment in higher education. It is a strategic investment that is essential to Wisconsin's long term growth and the prosperity of its businesses and citizens. It is particularly crucial now as dislocated workers and returning veterans flock to tech colleges.

In these hard times, the state needs to increase its investment in tech colleges and public universities so that when the economy begins to grow again we have the the skilled and technical workforce and the innovative ideas that a growing economy requires.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta-a voice for freedom

Odetta, who gave voice to the civil rights movement as it marched through the deep south in the 1950s and '60s died last night. She also helped Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader Stokley Charmichael and singers Bob Dylan and Joan Baez bring the fight for the civil rights to the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. I was 15 years old and still remember her performance and call to action vividly.

Odetta, born in Alabama, sang at the march on Washington in August 1963. Her song that day was “O Freedom,” dating to slavery days: “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me, And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free.”

Rosa Parks, who helped start the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., was once asked which songs meant the most to her. She replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”

Odetta was 78 years old.

Monday, December 1, 2008

National Bureau of Economic Research declares recession began in December 2007

The U.S. economy entered a recession a year ago this month, the panel that dates American business expansions said today.

The official declaration was made by the cycle-dating committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit group of economists based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The last time the U.S. was in a recession was from March through November 2001, according to NBER.

“The committee determined that the decline in economic activity in 2008 met the standard for a recession,” the group said in a statement on its Web site. The 1.2 million drop in payroll employment so far this year was the biggest factor in determining that start of the contraction, the group said.

The 73-month economic expansion, lasting from November 2001 to December 2007, was well short of the previous cycle that lasted a record 10 years. At 12 months, the current contraction is already longer than the last slump that covered the eight months from March to November 2001.

Although a recession is conventionally defined as two quarters of successive contraction in gross domestic product, the private committee doesn’t require supporting GDP data to make a recession call. Its members focus on month-to-month changes in the economy.

The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.5 percent pace in the third quarter after expanding 2.8 percent in the previous three months. Economists at Goldman Sachs group Inc. and Morgan Stanley in New York are among those projecting the economy will contract at a 5 percent pace this quarter.
Members of the committee are Stanford University professor Robert Hall; Martin Feldstein of Harvard University; Jeffrey Frankel, also of Harvard University; Northwestern University economics professor Robert Gordon; NBER president James Poterba; David Romer of the University of California at Berkeley; and Conference Board economist Victor Zarnowitz.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Noble prize winning economist calls for $1 trillion stimulus

Noble prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has joined the ranks of those urging that the stimulus package being developed by President-elect Barack Obama's economic team be "very big."

Stiglitz writes: "A large stimulus package can always be trimmed later if it’s not needed because the economy returns to health faster than most economists think. But we need to plan for what looks to be a deep and long downturn. By relying heavily on automatic stabilizers — expenditures like increased unemployment benefits and revenue sharing with states — we can dose out the medicine as needed. The deeper and longer the downturn, the greater the spending.

Faint measures would be foolhardy. A weaker economy will suffer lower tax revenues, more foreclosures and more bankruptcies. Once a firm is bankrupt, you can’t unbankrupt it by providing a stronger stimulus later on."

The op ed is linked.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Barack Obama calls for bold stimulus program to create jobs and jumpstart the economy

President-elect Barack Obama annouced Saturday that he had begun work on a bold, two-year economic stimulus plan designed to create 2.5 million jobs by investing in public works programs to repair the country’s failing infrastructure, its failing schools and in alternative energy programs.

“We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy," he said. "We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Invest in the Big 3 with conditions posted an article I wrote about the automobile industry, "Bail out the Big Three with strings attached."

It is linked here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Deal stimulus & the Great Depression

An entire revisionist cottage industry has emerged attributing the Great Depression to intrusive government.

Curt's letter to mid coast views earlier this week parroted this analysis.

Noble Prize winning economist Paul Krugman corrected the record when he responded to a similar suggestion by conservative commentator George Will.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

MJS's wrong on Big 3, auto workers & the UAW!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) is nothing but consistent when it comes to editorializing on labor relations. While it expresses regret over the loss of family supporting jobs and Milwaukee's nationally high and very stubborn poverty rate, it has never missed an opportunity to push for wage or benefit concessions for unionized workers.

A year and one half ago, when the economy was expanding with corporate profits the highest since the Gilded Age and labors’ take the lowest, the editorial board urged three separate groups of local employees to agree to concessions.

First, County employees were urged to be “realistic”and praised for accepting higher health care premiums and scaled back pension and sick leave benefits.

Then Milwaukee’s Harley Davidson workers were urged to accept lower wages for new employees and changes in their health and pension plans even as Harley generated record revenues and rewarded its executives with huge compensation increases.

Shortly afterwords, the editorial board urged Kenosha’s Chrysler Engine Plant employees, members of UAW Local 72, to "be realistic" and accept “painful concessions” from the company's new owner, the private equity firm, Cerberus, even though Cerberus hadn't even asked for them.

More recently, it has supported eliminating firefighter and Milwaukee County jobs and opposed requiring employers to provide their employees with paid sick days. But its recent editorial that advocates letting the U.S. auto industry with its 3 million middle class jobs go out of business takes the cake. It blithely ignores that the U.S automobile industry is:

  • the backbone of America's manufacturing sector

  • responsible for 1 out of every 10 private sectors jobs and $150.7 billion in personal income

  • critical to America's national defense

The editorial also ignores that failure would cost $156.4 billion in government revenues over just three years at a time when the economy is reeling, unemployment soaring and the deficit approaching one trillion dollars.

Not only does the MJS editorial advocate allowing the Big Three to go bankrupt, but it targets the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and its middle class members for unjust criticism. It is so loaded with tired, inaccurate and anti-labor rhetoric it could have easily have been cut and pasted from a 1970s' Heritage Foundation report.

Here's what the MJS editorial writers alleged about the UAW and its members and the facts:

A second bailout won't make up for decades of mismanagement and union intransigence...

The U.S automobile industry has been mismanaged. Congress has responded by appropriating $25 billion to assist the industry in developing a new generation of energy efficient vehicles and green technologies. But the industry's current crisis is driven by the credit markets collapse and the resulting recession. One million three hundred thousand (1.3 million) private sector jobs have been lost causing consumer spending to decline for the first time since the early 1970s. As a result, car sales for all auto companies including Toyota have plummeted.

The Big Three are seeking a bridge loan to help it deal with the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The UAW has been anything but intransigent. The 2003 and 2007 contracts cut billions of dollars in costs for the Detroit 3. In 2007, new hire wage rates were halved to $14 per hour, new hires got reduced health care benefits and were not included in the existing defined benefit health plan. In addition the creation of the VEBA for retiree health care saved the companies $33 billion in future health care obligations.

The UAW has also allowed many sub assembly operations traditionally done in-house to be outsourced to suppliers and has agreed that certain non-core functions like housekeeping could be contracted out to lower paid workers.

The Detroit 3 and the UAW have been operating as if they were in bankruptcy for the last several years. One hundred thousand (100,000) autoworkers have lost their jobs in just the last two years as auto companies have closed plants and reduced capacity.

The overhaul should include severe cost reductions and the end of onerous union rules that hamper productivity.

The UAW long ago recognized that world class quality and high levels of productivity are essential. The UAW at plants like the Chyrsler Engine Plant in Kenosha and the GM Assembly Plant in Janesville have worked in partnership with management to improve quality and productivity. The Chrysler Kenosha Engine plant has been recognized as an industry leader in team based manufacturing techniques modeled on the same operating systems used by Toyota.

But bankruptcy is a system for reorganization - companies continue to operate in Chapter 11. Jobs would be lost, lots of jobs, and a bankruptcy for any of the three companies would be painful. But all 3 million jobs tied to the industry would not vanish. Other companies have emerged from bankruptcy stronger. The airlines repeatedly have foundered only to re-emerge.

The truth is, the Big Three would most likely face a Chapter 7 liquidation not a Chapter 11 reorganization. It is highly unlikely that the Detroit 3 could get debtor in possession financing to continue operating or that consumers would buy cars, the 2nd largest consumer purchase, from bankrupt companies.

It's astounding that the MJS would suggest that the U.S. airline industry is a model. That industry has been a basketcase for almost thirty years. It is currently hemorrhaging billions of dollars and tens of thousands of middle class jobs while reducing routes and capital investment and increasing fares. It is a model for the failure of deregulation.

The truth is, the government has delayed this day of reckoning for years. It bailed out Chrysler in the late 1970s, imposed quotas on Japanese imports in the 1980s, and for decades let the Detroit automakers build gas guzzlers under sham federal fuel-efficiency standards. For its part, the UAW kept fighting for expensive benefits and embracing a 1950s worldview even as the automakers were crashing

The Chrysler bail out was an unmitigated success story. When the federal government offered its help, Chrysler was responsible for one out every one hundred private sector jobs, most located in urban areas. The loans were repaid in full ahead of schedule. A viable Chrysler continued to exist providing family supporting jobs, health care and pensions to tens of thousands of workers and retirees around the nation and in Wisconsin.

Quotas were never imposed on foreign automobile competitors, although Japanese companies adopted voluntary trade restraints in the early 1980s.

Perhaps the MJS editors are confusing the Big Three with Harley Davidson which successfully restructured under the protection of actual quotas.

It is also untruthful and irresponsible to maintain that the UAW embraced a 1950’s mentality as the automakers were crashing. As a result of the 2003 and 2007 contracts the cost gap between the Detroit 3 and Toyota will be eliminated.

Anyone who has been inside a UAW represented Ford, GM or Chrysler plant recently will attest to the strong union commitment to streamlined work rules designed to build high quality vehicles at low cost.

According to the authoritative Harbour Report, the UAW represented Chrysler Belvidere assembly plant was the most productive car assembly plant in the United States in 2007 topping every foreign owned plant. Another UAW plant, a Chrysler joint venture engine plant in Dundee, Michigan was the most productive engine plant in this country last year.

Wisconsin is the home to hundreds of automotive supplier firms such as Johnson Controls, Dana Holding Company, Charter Wire, and Stratech. Tens of thousands are employed at these companies. We have begun to see the impact of GM's shutdown in Janesville which now has the highest unemployment rate in the state. We simply cannot afford to allow this critical industry to go bankrupt. Congress should provide the Big Three with a bridge loan to help it survive the current recession and retool for the next generation of green vehicles and middle class jobs. The MJS should listen to our new President. It needs to reexamine its blind faith in market fundamentalism with its anti-labor animus and support policies that actually promote the middle class and family supporting jobs.

John Drew, UAW Local 72 President (1996-2004), UAW International Representative Region 4

Michael Rosen, Professor of Economics, MATC

Friday, November 14, 2008

China enacts large stimulus-U.S. needs one!

Sixty-seven thousand (67,000) Chinese factories have closed and tens of thousands of workers have been laid off since the beginning of the year. As a result, the Chinese government announced a $568 billion stimulus program, 7% of GDP, aimed at bolstering its faltering economy.

The United States has lost 1.3 million private sector jobs since January while the ranks of the long-term unemployed have grown at record rates.

Goldman Sachs economists are predicting that the unemployment rate (now 6.5%) will rise to 8.5% by the end of next year and go even higher in early 2010 because "U.S. domestic demand and production are dropping sharply." The cumulative trough-to-peak projected increase of more than 4 percentage points in the jobless rate would be the most since World War II.

Like China, the United States needs a bold stimulus program.

Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, is urging U.S. policy makers to think big, suggesting a back-of-the- envelop number of $600 billion. That's a significantly smaller percentage of the U.S. economy than the Chinese plan, but much bigger than the $300 to $400 billion plans currently being discussed in Washington.

Krugman notes that if the stimulus package is larger than needed and the economy overheats, the Fed can easily raise interest rates to head off the threat of inflation. But if the stimulus is too small, there is nothing the Fed can do since interest rates are already at historic lows.

The Bush administration and Congress moved quickly when Wall Street and its highly paid CEOs were teetering on the edge of financial collapse. Now that the middle class is facing a similar catastrophe they are dithering while America is burning.

Krugman's column is linked here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's election: death of the southern strategy

The New York Times reports that:

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

The increased turnout in the South’s so-called Black Belt, or old plantation-country counties, was visible in the results, but it generally could not make up for the solid white support for Mr. McCain. Alabama, for example, experienced a heavy black turnout and voted slightly more Democratic than in 2004, but the state over all gave 60 percent of its vote to Mr. McCain. (Arkansas, however, doubled the margin of victory it gave to the Republican over 2004.)

Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies on issues like welfare and tax policy, experts say.

That could spell the end of the so-called Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Richard M. Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics — which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many Congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton were from the South — appears to have ended

Wisconsin needs economic stimulus that assists workers and the economy

Since January, the economy has shed 1.3 million private sector jobs, over half a million in the last two months. More than ten million Americans are now out of work including tens of thousands in Wisconsin.

Not only are workers losing they jobs, they are having a harder time finding new ones. The number of people who are involuntarily working part-time has dramatically increased, by 544,000 in October, bringing the two-month rise to a record 844,000. The U-6 index, the broadest measure of labor market slack, rose to 11.8 percent, tying the rate for January 1994 (when the measure was first established) as the highest on record.

The percentage of long-term unemployed (more than 26 weeks) rose by 1.2 percentage points to 22.3 percent. It had been 17.9 percent just a year ago. And the average duration of unemployment increased by 1.3 weeks to 19.7 weeks. The two-month rise of 2.3 weeks in average duration is the sharpest increase ever.

For those remaining on the job, wages and hours of work have declined. As a result, consumer spending, the economy's engine for almost three decades, has fallen (by a 3.1% annual rate) for the first time since 1974.

The recession is causing a precipitous decline in state and local government revenues. Wisconsin is facing a record $5 billion budget deficit; New York $12.5 billion. California recently cut its spending by $7 billion.

Nationally states and local government will be forced to slash spending by $100 billion because they are required to balance their budgets. The consequent reduction in demand will make what is already a very nasty recession even worse.

Congress needs to enact a stimulus plan immediately. It should be based on three principals:

1) minimizing the human suffering that is caused by widespread unemployment and underemployment;

2) generating the biggest and quickest bang for the buck;

3) increasing investments in strategic areas that strengthen the economy in the long run.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's proposal to cut investment taxes misses the boat on all counts. Ryan and his Republican brethren, including President Bush, remain ideologically committed to the notion that the only acceptable federal response is to cut investment taxes. This approach is wrong on three counts.
  • First, cutting capital gains and dividend taxes which are already taxed at lower rates than earned income won't help the 10 million people who have lost their jobs or those who can't find full time work.

  • Second, tax cuts on non-existent profits and dividends won't stimulate the economy because unearned (investment) income has plummeted with the real economy's decline. Ryan's proposal amounts to little more than a brazen attempt to use the crisis to enact tax breaks for very wealthy people.

  • Third, cutting investment taxes is ineffective because in an economy where credit markets remain tight, interests rates high and consumer demand is declining, business tax cuts won't stimulate increased investment. Businesses don't invest in research and development or new plant and equipment unless there is a demand for what they produce. Yet, consumer spending fell last quarter for the first time since the early 1970's. And that didn't include the impact of the credit crunch which hit in October. We need to stimulate demand (public and private) which will jump start the economy and allow investors to respond to the market.
The current economy demands a stimulus package that will provide immediate relief to the unemployed and provide maximum economic bang for the buck.

Most of the money from the original tax rebate stimulus was saved rather than spent thus blunting its stimulative benefit. By comparison, other options—such as infrastructure spending on deteriorating roads, bridges, mass transit and sewer systems, aid to states, increased food stamps, and unemployment insurance (UI) benefits—are much more cost-effective because they are more likely to channel money directly into the economy.

Mark Zandi from Moody’s estimates that each dollar of refundable tax rebates only boosts GDP by about $1.26, while each dollar of infrastructure spending could provide a $1.59 boost.

Not only are many of these stimulus options more effective than tax rebates, but they also have the added benefit of assisting those hardest hit by the downturn, ensuring necessary public services are provided and tackling long-standing infrastructure needs that would lower transportation costs, decrease traffic, and increase future business productivity.

Zandi’s analysis also shows what doesn’t work as stimulus: a variety of tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals which cost over twice as much as they return to the economy. Yet, these are the very breaks that Congressman Ryan and President Bush support.

The Congress needs to shift its focus from Wall Street to Main Street and craft a stimulus package that grows the economy from the bottom up, provides emergency aid to states and local government and invests in the nation's infrastructure. Such an approach will not only create jobs and help those who need it the most, but prevent state and local spending cuts that would make the recession worse and have the added benefit of rebuilding the nation's deteriorating infrastructure creating the basis for long term economic growth and a shared prosperity.

The time to act is now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olberman: Proposition 8 is discrimination!

In memory of Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa

Miriam Makeba, the South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her country with music that was banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died overnight after performing at a concert in Italy on Sunday. She was 76.

Widely known as “Mama Africa,” Ms. Makeba was a prominent exiled opponent of apartheid after the South African authorities revoked her passport in 1960 and refused to allow her to return after she traveled abroad. She was even prevented from attending her mother’s funeral after touring in the United States.

“I never understood why I couldn’t come home,” Ms. Makeba said, as quoted by The Associated Press, during an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990 as the apartheid system began to crumble. “I never committed any crime.”

Music was a central part of the struggle against apartheid. The South African government censored many forms of expression, while many foreign entertainers refused to perform in South Africa and discouraged others from doing so in an attempt to isolate the white authorities and show their opposition to the regime.

From abroad, Ms. Makeba acted as a constant reminder of the events in her homeland as the white power structure struggled to contain or pre-empt unrest among the black majority.

Ms. Makeba wrote in 1987: “I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realizing.”

Many of her most famous songs are on Youtube. In the following video, Ms Makeba leads a stadium in singing N'Kosi Sikeleli Africa, the the South African national anthem. It is a fitting memorial to her passing.

Ms Makeba's New York Times' obituary is linked.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Toddlers' world changes with Obama's win

Reflection on Obama's win by Doug Udell

The day after the election I sat observing a student teacher at work in an inner city placement.
As I admired the spirit and energy of the group of toddlers at play in her room I couldn't help thinking, do they know their world has been changed today? Something that was not previously possible has become so. Virginia, the cradle of the civil war, went blue and helped propel a black citizen into the presidency. Well over two centuries in the making, all of us were here when it happened. Many of us helped.

And if all goes well those toddlers will one day think little of it, this huge thing, no more of note than watching a black man or a Latino take his turn at bat on any summer day in any of two dozen scheduled major league baseball games around our country.

Yes, it was a good day. Maybe we haven't fully arrived, maybe the mountaintop is still up there somewhere, maybe we're still climbing-but heavens, turn around for a moment and take a look at that view!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In electing Obama we reclaimed our country!

Frank Rich writes:

On the morning after a black man won the White House, America’s tears of catharsis gave way to unadulterated joy.

Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

The column is linked.

Krugman calls for bold New Deal

Paul Krugman writes that the nation needs a New Deal:

...right now happens to be one of those times when ...good morals are good economics. Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax. Providing aid to beleaguered state and local governments, so that they can sustain essential public services, is important for those who depend on those services; it’s also a way to avoid job losses and limit the depth of the economy’s slump.

So a serious progressive agenda — call it a new New Deal — isn’t just economically possible, it’s exactly what the economy needs.

The bottom line, then, is that Barack Obama shouldn't’t listen to the people trying to scare him into being a do-nothing president. He has the political mandate; he has good economics on his side. You might say that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself.

Here's the article.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Change is gonna come-November 4, 2008

This post and day are dedicated to a generation of men and women most of whom are not here to cast their votes, but whose life-long commitment to the American ideals of justice and equality helped make it happen:

My father, Sam, and friends and mentors, Jack Rosenberg and Seymour Lefco, who never lost their faith that this nation could do better and their commitment to making it live up to its promise. They would have reveled in casting their vote for Barack Obama today;

My Uncle Jimmy Ginsburg, with an 8th grade education but life-long appetite for knowledge, and his wife, Gert, who helped organized the American Federation of Teachers in Baltimore Maryland. They fought against Jim Crow in Baltimore, their segregated home town and in Madison, Wisconsin when it was unpopular. They would be first in the voting lines today;

Aunt Evelyn, who worked for more than 30 years at Briggs and Stratton and never forgot her southside roots. She was a union maid who never missed an election until today;

Aunt Ida who photographed Rosa Parks at the Highlander House when they were young woman training to challenge southern segregation in the early 1950s. Their dream of a world that is fair and just is a little closer today;

And my mom, who raised her children to listen to and be generous with their hearts and speak with their voice;

All would have cast their ballots for Barack Obama!

And to all the men and women of the greatest generation who lived through the Great Depression, defeated fascism, created the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare and the blue collar middle class, ended legal racial segregation and have despaired as their efforts to build a decent and inclusive society for working men and women have been undermined by the reckless policies of privatization, deregulation and financial liberalization.

Today is for all of them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama salutes his Grandmother as quiet hero

Barack Obama's grandmother dies

Barack Obama's grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped much of the life of the Democratic presidential contender, has died, Obama announced Monday, 1 day before the election. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86. Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said Dunham died peacefully late Sunday night after a battle with cancer.

They said: "She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

Obama learned of her death Monday morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. He planned to go ahead with campaign appearances.

The family said a private ceremony would be held later.

Last month, Obama took a break from campaigning and flew to Hawaii to be with Dunham as her health declined.

Obama said the decision to go to Hawaii was easy to make, telling CBS that he "got there too late" when his mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at 53, and wanted to make sure "that I don't make the same mistake twice."

The Kansas-born Dunham and her husband, Stanley, raised their grandson for several years so he could attend school in Honolulu while their daughter and her second husband lived overseas.

Her influence on Obama's manner and the way he viewed the world was substantial, the candidate himself told millions watching him accept his party's nomination in Denver in August.
"She's the one who taught me about hard work," he said. "She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me."

Obama's nickname for his grandmother was "Toot," a version of the Hawaiian word for grandmother, tutu. Many of his speeches describe her working on a bomber assembly line during World War II.

Madelyn and Stanley Dunham married in 1940, a few weeks before she graduated from high school. Their daughter, Stanley Ann, was born in 1942. After several moves to and from California, Texas, Washington and Kansas, Stanley Dunham's job landed the family in Hawaii.
It was there that Stanley Ann later met and fell in love with Obama's father, a Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama Sr. They had met in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. Their son was born in August 1961, but the marriage didn't last long. She later married an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, another university student she met in Hawaii.

Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother and stepfather at age 6. But in 1971, her mother sent him back to Hawaii to live with her parents. He stayed with the Dunhams until he graduated from high school in 1979.

In his autobiography, Obama wrote fondly of playing basketball on a court below his grandparents' 10th-floor Honolulu apartment, and looking up to see his grandmother watching.

It was the same apartment Obama visited on annual holiday trips to Hawaii, a weeklong vacation from his campaign in August, and his pre-election visit in October. Family members said his grandmother could not travel because of her health.

Obama with his grandparents Madelyn and Stanley Dunham (aka Toot and Gramps) at his high school graduation in 1979.

Madelyn Dunham, who took university classes but to her chagrin never earned a degree, nonetheless rose from a secretarial job at the Bank of Hawaii to become one of the state's first female bank vice presidents.

"Every morning, she woke up at 5 a.m. and changed from the frowsy muu-muus she wore around the apartment into a tailored suit and high-heeled pumps," Obama wrote.

After her health took a turn for the worse, her brother said on Oct. 21 that she had already lived long enough to see her "Barry" achieve what she'd wanted for him.

"I think she thinks she was important in raising a fine young man," Charles Payne, 83, said in a brief telephone interview from his Chicago home. "I doubt if it would occur to her that he would go this far this fast. But she's enjoyed watching it."

Stanley Dunham died in 1992, while Obama's mother died in 1995. His father is also deceased.

When Obama was young, he and his grandmother toured the United States by Greyhound bus, stopping at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Disneyland and Chicago, where Obama would years later settle.

It was an incident during his teenage years that became one of Obama's most vivid memories of Toot. She had been aggressively panhandled by a man and she wanted her husband to take her to work. When Obama asked why, his grandfather said Madelyn Dunham was bothered because the panhandler was black.

The words hit the biracial Obama "like a fist in my stomach," he wrote later. He was sure his grandparents loved him deeply. "And yet," he added, "I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears."

Obama referred to the incident again when he addressed race in a speech in March during a controversy over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he said.

Dunham was "a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world but who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her on the street."

Still, much of who Obama is comes from his grandmother, said his half sister.
"From our grandmother, he gets his pragmatism, his levelheadedness, his ability to stay centered in the eye of the storm," she told The Associated Press. "His sensible, no-nonsense (side) is inherited from her."

Madelyn Lee Payne was born to Rolla and Leona Payne in October, 1922, in Peru, Kan., but lived much of her childhood in nearby Augusta.

She was the oldest of four children, and she loved to read everything from James Hilton's "Lost Horizon" to Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd."

Dunham and her husband were "vicious" bridge players, according to her brother Jack. After retirement, the two of them would take island cruises and do little but play bridge and a more difficult version called duplicate bridge.

Statement by John and Cindy McCain on the death of Barack Obama's grandmother:

ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, U.S. Senator John McCain and Mrs. Cindy McCain issued the following statement on the passing of Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham:

"We offer our deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact in their lives."

Stay in line-Don't be stopped from voting!

Friday, October 31, 2008

What would you tell my mother?

A few weeks ago I spoke to the residents of a senior center in Milwaukee's central city.

It was diverse group of older working class men and women - a Vietnam vet, a disabled County employee, a retiree from A.O.Smith, a retired nurse. Not surprisingly, all were supporting Barack Obama.

After the discussion, a couple of women approached me with a concern. I had heard before when a colleague told me that her 82 year old mother and several friends were afraid to vote for Barack Obama because they feared for his life.

My colleague wrote her mother: “…if Dr. King had not made the sacrifice that he did for our nation we would not be where we are today...I am sure that Barack and Michelle have discussed his safety and are willing to make the sacrifice. By not voting you will be silently voting for MaCain and Palin.”

She asked me: “What else can we tell this population of potential voters that feel this way Mike?”

I replied: “Your mother is right that when the status quo is challenged there is push back.”

Little did I know at that time that the McCain Palin campaign would launch the most vicious personal attacks on a presidential candidate in recent history.

I continued:

Your mother knows better than I Frederick Douglas' truth that “...without struggle, there is no progress…that power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

But history is informed by Douglas' insight. Let me tell you a story about my family that you could share with your mother.

When the Nazis were rounding up the Jews in Europe, many good people,
including some Jews, argued that to resist would make things worse. Six
million innocent people perished.

I had two aunts (women who survived and married my uncles) who were captured by the Nazis. One was imprisoned in Auschwitz. Her father, mother and youngest sister were murdered. She, her sister and brother were old enough to work so they were sparred.

My other aunt, Mariam, was 13 years old, a child really, when Hitler's army invaded Poland. Her brothers, 18 and 19, were captured, strip naked and shot as she watched. Later she also witnessed the murder of her older sister and child.

A local farmer hid my aunt. He provided her with a baptismal certificate, a medallion, some bread and water and said “Tomorrow is Sunday, lots of people will be on the road. Start walking and don't look back.” She did.

Eventually she was captured. Her life was spared, but she was enslaved for several years.

My aunts, both now dead, didn't often talk about that period of their lives. They took the farmers’ advice and tried not to look back. They lived with demons to be sure. But they tried to lead their lives with a dignity that belied their experience.

My parents made sure I knew this history. They believed that silence in the face of injustice equals complicity; that without struggle there is no progress.

So what would I tell your mother?

I would tell her that the blood and sweat, the hopes and dreams of her parents and those who came before are now embodied in the movement to elect Barack Obama. He carries my aunts’ dreams for a decent world as well. If we let him down, out of fear, we are letting anyone who has been unfairly treated or struggled for justice down, and we are letting ourselves, our children and their children down as well.

Barack is demonstrating that we have one life and we should live it with purpose. Talk to your mother. We need her vote. My aunts needs her vote. History needs her vote.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Paid Sick Days Is A Sound Economic Development Measure


As academic researchers on economic development and workplace productivity, we urge Milwaukeeans to vote YES on the city’s sick leave referendum.

Milwaukee has the seventh highest poverty rate in the nation, a 51% African American male jobless rate and the largest racial disparities in unemployment and poverty in the country. 43% of the city’s workers earn less than $20,000 a year and many are among the 122,230 Milwaukeeans (47% of the private workforce) who do not have paid sick days.

In this economic context, everyone agrees that Milwaukee needs more family-supporting jobs. Yet, employment that lacks paid sick days forces employees to choose between their jobs and caring for their families. A job that does not provide employees with paid sick days so they can care for their families is not a family-supporting job.

The lack of paid sick days hampers economic development in Milwaukee in myriad ways:

• It costs workers job stability, as employees who become too ill to work or who take off to care for a sick child or parent are frequently fired;

• It costs companies in workplace stability and productivity, in turnover, training, and absenteeism, and health care expenses;

• It contributes to Milwaukee’s high rates of student absenteeism as older siblings stay home to care for their sick younger brothers and sisters because their parents are denied that right;

• It creates public health obstacles to workplace productivity, forcing sick employees with contagious diseases to work.

Opponents say mandatory paid sick days are a worthy objective but not economically viable. Some have even invoked the possibility of recession as a reason to oppose improving our city’s workplaces.

But these opponents simply offer the same discredited methodology and arguments that backward employers and their academic apologists have used throughout history in opposing child labor laws, the minimum wage, workers compensation, clean air and water regulations and virtually every other labor standard this nation has adopted. In every case the opposition characterized the new labor or community standard as a job killer. And in every case, after the standard was established, the business community adapted, the economy grew and our country, its workers and their families were better for it.

In the 1990’s business lobbyists used the very same arguments now being used against paid sick days to oppose raising the minimum wage. But after states and even cities raised their wages above the national minimum, economists found that the chicken little scenarios of the opponents did not occur: that incremental increases in the minimum wage did not increase unemployment or cause minimum wage paying firms to lay people off.

Facing similar dire warnings, San Francisco enacted a paid sick leave ordinance in 2007. However, despite an economic downturn affecting all counties in the Bay Area, San Francisco maintained a competitive job growth rate that exceeded the average rate of nearby counties.

Internationally, of the twenty most competitive economies, only the United States does not guarantee its workers paid sick leave.

Economies and firms can try to compete on price and cost. But in world where two billion people live on less than two dollars a day, Milwaukee will not succeed by trying to get poor. The only way Milwaukee can thrive is by getting smart- competing with high skill, high productivity, high-wage employees.

Indeed, opponents of the sick leave referendum, such as the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) point out that many of their members already provide paid sick leave. These MMAC members should welcome higher standards for all employers, which would protect them against unfair competition from businesses without standards, and would prevent a destructive race to the bottom in workplace standards.

Providing all Milwaukee workers with paid sick leave is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do because firms that treat their employees humanely benefit from increased commitment, inventiveness and productivity, the keys to competing in an increasingly competitive global economy.

We urge the citizens of Milwaukee to VOTE YES on the sick day referendum.

Zohreh Emami, PhD, Professor of Economics, Alverno College
Marc Levine, PhD, Professor of Urban Studies, UWM Center for Economic Development
Michael Rosen, PhD, Economics Instructor, Milwaukee Area Technical College

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin courted conservative DC insiders and they swooned

It turns out that Sarah Palin didn't come out of Alaskan tundra to be picked by John McCain as his vice presidential candidate.

Richard Cohen reports in today's Washington Post that leading conservative intellectuals and activists were actively courted by Palin while cruising in Alaska more than two years ago.

Cohen writes:

In 2007, several conservative journalists got off their cruise ships and met Sarah Palin. They saw the present, and she was a babe.

The cruises were sponsored by the National Review and the Weekly Standard, journals of significant influence in conservative circles. The ships disgorged some top conservative editors and writers, who on two occasions were invited at the governor's mansion. Almost to a man, they were thunderstruck.

What followed, once everyone returned to the lower 48, was a gusher of mush -- praise, love notes, sweet nothings and, altogether, the sort of mooning one does not usually hear from the likes of William Kristol, Fred Barnes, Rich Lowry, Dick Morris and my Post colleague Michael Gerson. In short order, important writers set themselves the task, in print and on television, of promoting Palin and, in the process, making perfect asses of themselves. They succeeded at both.

The account of that summer of love comes from yet a third magazine, the New Yorker. In it, Jane Mayer
detailed the efforts of the highly ambitious Palin to become well known in the Washington political-journalistic milieu she pretends, in proper demagogic fashion, to detest. After an apparently bravura saying of grace, she wowed her guests with some excellent halibut cheeks and the Category 4 force of her personality. Some of them sank into a kind of delirium known to high schoolers and praised her as "my heartthrob" (Kristol), "a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc" (Gerson) and, so far not evident, "smart" (Barnes).

The entire article is linked here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain and Palin have crossed the line with their McCarthyite attacks

I received another McCain campaign mailer this weekend claiming that Barack Obama is a terrorist.

Enough is enough!

McCain, Palin and the Republican Party have crossed the line with their McCarthyite attempt to associate Barack Obama with Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. Their irresponsible and dishonest ads are promoting an atmosphere of fear and anger that increases the potential for violence against Barack Obama and his campaign volunteers.

Barack Obama is a United States Senator, a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, constitutional law professor, and community organizer and a candidate for the President of the United States. His Grandfather fought in World War II. His Grandmother, gravely ill, was a bank Vice President.

He is no more a terrorist than I am the Pope!

Obama was 8 years old when Bill Ayers was active in the Weather Underground. The fact that Obama and Ayers, Chicago's Citizen of the Year in 1997, have served on some philanthropic boards together and live in the same neighborhood is irrelevant. I serve on several boards and know nothing about the personal or political histories of my fellow directors. Nor do I have any control over my neighbors political activities or their past actions even though I have been welcomed into their homes.

William C. Ibershof, the lead federal prosecutor of the Weathermen in the 1970s, recently repudiated McCain's efforts when he wrote::" I am amazed and outraged that Senator Barack Obama is being linked to William Ayers’s terrorist activities 40 years ago when Mr. Obama was, as he has noted, just a child."

It's a thoughtful letter that repudiates the McCain campaign's unprincipled attempt to malign Barack Obama for events that he had no role in.

McCain's suggestion that Obama condones violence and intimidation to pursue political objectives turns American history on its head.

Violence and terror have mainly been used as political weapons by the American right wing.

Following the Civil War the planter class that had provoked the War by seceding organized violent, white supremacist paramilitary organizations like the White League in Louisiana and the the Red Shirts in Mississippi, North and South Carolina, to terrorize and murder African- Americans for exercising their newly won freedoms.

Black political participation declined precipitously, reconstruction was betrayed and African Americans were stripped of their constitutional rights for almost 100 years.

The terrorist Ku Klux Klan enforced the post-reconstruction system of racial segregation (Jim Crow) throughout the south through beatings, cutting off fingers, burning down houses, and destroying the crops of African Americans.

Murder was common. There were 5,000 lynchings which were often treated like festivals by white families enjoying the spectacle of execution as entertainment in the post Civil War period. More often, victims were lynched by a small group of white vigilantes under the cover of night. While hanging was most common, some victims were beaten, burned, stabbed, shot, or slowly tortured to death.

Violence was also been routinely used against American workers for trying to bring democracy to the workplace. Workers were routinely fired, evicted from the company owned housing, beaten and murdered for simply trying to organize. From the Colorado and West Virginia coal wars through Andrew Carnegie's use of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency to the Henry Ford's secret police headed by the notorious Harry Bennett, terror was employed by employers against their own employees.

More recently, terror was used by states rights extremists against Americans organizing non-violently to extend citizenship rights to African Americans.

Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers, Michael Schwerner Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Viola Liuzzo among others were brutally murdered. Others were viciously beaten, including Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and hosed. Bombings, most notoriously of the 16th Street Baptist Church, were frequent.

Pro-life terrorists bombed and burned women's health clinics and murdered doctors who performed legal abortions more than 150 times between 1982 and 1996.

McCain and Palin's attempt to undermine Barack Obama's growing support by labeling him a terrorist has not worked.

It won't because he is not and because the American people have real concerns like the losing their jobs, their homes, their life savings, their health care and their sons in daughters in an ill conceived war. But by suggesting that Barack Obama is a terrorist and associating him with the 9/11 attack on America, McCain and Palin are creating an atmosphere of hate and fear that is fertile ground for extremists among their followers.

If there is, God forbid, an attack on Barack Obama, the blood will be on their hands.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sarah Palin's lipstickgate!

Remember when Sarah Palin talked about being a plain old hockey mom, a self-described pitbull with lipstick?

Well today we learned that Ms. Palin's been buying a whole lot of lipstick, and rouge too.

Or at least her traveling makeup artist, Amy Strozzi, was.

Now hockey moms know all about traveling teams. But traveling makeup artists? Not so much.

It turns out that Ms. Strozzi was the highest paid McCain staffer for the first two weeks of October taking home a sweet $22,800.

Not only that. Ms. Palin also has a traveling hair stylist, Angela Lew. She pocketed another $10,000.

And earlier this week we learned that the Republican Party dropped a cool $150,000 at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, not your typical hockey mom turf, outfitting Palin.

Of course, the serious issue is the McCain campaign's hypocrisy in trying to paint Senator Barack Obama as an out of touch elitist when it is John "I don't know how many houses I own" McCain and Sarah "Neiman Marcus" Palin who have tastes the rest of could only dream about.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain's hand is in Joe the plumber's pocket

After the last presidential debate, John McCain declared Joe the plumber the winner.

A day later we learned that Joe's name was Sam and he wasn't really a plumber.

More importantly, Joe better watch out. John McCain's hand is in his pocket.

Despite productivity increases of almost 20%, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters haven't done well over the last eight years of Bush inspired high income tax cuts, the kind that John McCain wants to make permanent. Almost all of the economic gains of the past eight years have gone to the wealthiest Americans. The richest 1% of Americans, averaging $1,5 million annually, capture more of the nation's income than at any time since 1929. The average working family earns less today in real dollars than they did in 2000.

John McCain's Republican Party has presided over one of the largest redistributions of income and wealth in American history. McCain, one of the richest men in the senate, isn't opposed to redistribution. He just prefers to redistribute it upward. His approach is less like Robin Hood and more like Robin Hood in reverse!

Winner of the Noble prize in economics, Paul Krugman, writes about this and more in his latest NYT's column.

On November 4th remember which political party is been better for your wallet?

Bulls, Bears, Donkeys and Elephants


Since 1929, Republicans and Democrats have each controlled the presidency for nearly 40 years. So which party has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole? Well, here’s an experiment: imagine that during these years you had to invest exclusively under either Democratic or Republican administrations. How would you have fared?

As of Friday, a $10,000 investment in the S.& P. stock market index* would have grown to $11,733 if invested under Republican presidents only, although that would be $51,211 if we exclude Herbert Hoover’s presidency during the Great Depression. Invested under Democratic presidents only, $10,000 would have grown to $300,671 at a compound rate of 8.9 percent over nearly 40 years.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell endorses Obama criticizes negative campaigning

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president on Sunday morning as a candidate who was reaching out in a “more diverse and inclusive way across our society” and criticized the McCain campaign for its negative campaign.

The endorsement, on the NBC public affairs program “Meet the Press,” was a major blow to Senator John McCain, who has been a good friend of Mr. Powell for decades.

Mr. Powell told reporters after the taping of “Meet the Press” that he had been disturbed in recent weeks by the negative tone of Mr. McCain’s campaign, particularly its focus on Mr. Obama’s passing relationship with William Ayers, a 1960s radical and founder of the Weather Underground. The McCain campaign has sought to promote the idea that Mr. Obama is “palling around with terrorists,” in the words of Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, because of Mr. Obama’s weak links to Mr. Ayers.

“I thought that was over the top,” Mr. Powell told reporters. “It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth.”

Mr. Powell also told reporters on Sunday that he was troubled that a number of Americans believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, although he did not directly link that supposition to the McCain campaign.

In his interview he criticized those suggesting Obama is Mulsim on factual grounds because Obama is a Christian. But Powell went on, citing the a death in combat of a Muslim American soldier, to say that Muslim Americans are citizens with the same rights as all Americans.

He also pointed out the negative impact the Republican campaign tactics are having internationally: “These are the kinds of images going out on Al Jazeera that are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world it doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you are. If you’re an American you’re an American.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe ain't a plumber, but Milwaukee's Al is and he is voting for change!

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that:

Joe the Plumber's story sprang a few leaks Thursday, a day after John McCain referred to him 21 times in the presidential debate with Barack Obama and declared him the real debate winner.

It turns out:

Joe the Plumber ain't a plumber at least not a licensed one.

His name isn't Joe. It's Sam.

And Joe or Sam, whatever, is concern about increased taxes - but hasn't paid his own. He owes Ohio about $1,200 in personal income taxes that he hasn't paid, according to the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas records.

As a result, Joe has an active lien on his property filed in January 2007, records from the Ohio Department of Taxation show.

The Toledo Blade, examining Lucas County Building Inspection records, reported that…"Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell's license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work," the newspaper said. "He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio - which means he's not a plumber."

What else did Americans learn about average Joe this week?

He is registered as a Republican, and voted in the state's GOP primary in March, county elections records show.

He was previously registered, dating back to 2007, in the Natural Law Party.

Joe may not be a real plumber, but Al Knapinski from Milwaukee is. Listen to what Al has to say about the presidential election: