Notwithstanding T.S. Eliot’s declarative that “April is the cruelest month,” I’d like to begin this a little atypically with the announcement of good news. (I know, right?)
Former Governor Patrick Lucey has withdrawn his support of Justice Prosser and is instead backing Kloppenburg. Released in a media statement last night he expressed his “increasing dismay and now alarm [over] the campaign of Justice David Prosser, whom I endorsed at the outset of his campaign and in whose campaign I serve as the honorary co-chairman. I can no longer in good conscience lend my name and support to Justice Prosser’s candidacy. Too much has come to light that Justice Prosser has lost that most crucial of characteristics for a Supreme Court Justice — as for any judge — even-handed impartiality. Along with that failing has come a disturbing distemper and lack of civility that does not bode well for the High Court in the face of demands that are sure to be placed on it in these times of great political and legal volatility.”
You know who has endorsed Prosser however? Sarah Palin. Enough said.
Here is a fundraising letter Majority Leader of the State Senate Scott Fitzgerald has been sending out to constituents or past donors. Now if you’re thinking what I am on the just the face of this – that the Republicans in Wisconsin need more money like the Pentagon needs more bombers – then we can collectively shake our heads in sad dismay over such shameless and base greed. If you have the stomach for it, it’s worth reading to see what propaganda is being put out there. For example, he alleges that Barack Obama – not “President Obama,” which title he’s entitled to, even though in the same sentence Senator Fitzgerald refers to Governor Scott Walker – and “his” White House (whatever happened to THE White House, you know, as in that lauded pillar of American democracy laurels and all, respected by all irrespective of who happens to currently reside there?) was behind the Madison protests and is behind the recall efforts, or that the unions, while not busy making death threats, “packed the State Capitol with raging mobs” – many of whom don’t count since we are from out of state – who were “worked into a frenzy.” The other thing that caught my attention is where he suggests amounts to be donated, starting at the highest, then descending to the lowest. Maybe this is the scale used in Republican circles. I have ever donated only to progressive causes – saving whales or Girl Scout cookie sales, fewer jails and less ozone contrails, safe harbor for refugees, not the Haley Barbours of the world. Never have I seen the scale start from fat gobs of money and then winnow down to more modest amounts. I simply find it indicative of their main world view.
J.B. Von Hollen
So, a couple months ago a Circuit Court Judge in Florida by the name of Roger Vinson ruled that President Obama’s health care act was unconstitutional. Fine and good; that’s his take on it. But our Attorney General J.B. Von Hollen giddily leapt on that bandwagon faster than a fair weather fan and had this to say: “Judge Vinson declared the health care law void and stated in his decision that a declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction. This means that, for Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead – unless and until it is revived by an appellate court. Effectively, Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal health care law.”
Let’s back up for a second here and review. After a lengthy and ugly process, Congress eventually voted for the Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed that bill into law. Those were legislative and executive branches doing what they do. Along came a circuit court that said nay. That’s what the judicial branch does. No problems yet for AG Von Hollen. Except for when that circuit court happens to be in Dane County, Wisconsin, and the judge there places a restraining order on a suspicious piece of legislation weirdly voted on by the Legislature and signed into law before the ink was dry by the governor. Activist judge! Legislating from the bench! She has no authority! Who does she think she is! My God, what an overreach of power! Said Von Hollen, “The Legislature and the Governor, not a single Dane County Circuit Court Judge, are responsible for the enactment of laws.” He would go on to say in the same press release statement, “No matter whether individual citizens agree with the substance of the bill or the manner in which it was enacted, I would hope all see the value in ensuring this matter be given the opportunity to work its way expeditiously through the judicial process.” But so-called “Obamacare” is effectively dead in Wisconsin. Dead like the concept of co-equal branches of government?
(Admittedly, this is neither here nor there, but am I really the only one who keeps thinking Van Halen when I see Von Hollen, and starts singing “Jump,” “Panama,” “Top Jimmy,” or “Hot for Teacher” in my head from that watershed record, 1984?)
Pop Quiz: Q: What rhymes with phony baloney? A: The Plaudits of Republican Family Values.
Pt. 1: Valerie Cass
This isn’t new per se, but to backtrack just in case, State Senator Randy Hopper-R, Fond du Lac, has allegedly been shacking it up with a 26-yr-old lobbyist nymph who now works at the State in the Department of Unregulated Licentiousness — I mean, Regulation and Licensing (I beg your pardon) — at a salary 35 percent higher than her predecessor’s. Fine. But it turns out she never even applied for the job! In an email she sent to Keith Gilkes, the transition manager of the Walker Administration before he was sworn in, she foreshadows her incipient hire…somewhere in state government. The date of the email is December 28, 2010 — two months before she was hired (which fact flies in the face of the argument that her name didn’t appear on the applicant list because she applied late).
For more on this story, kindly see here.
Pt. 2: Brian Deschane
And then there’s this gem: the 27-yr-old college dropout and two-time DUI offender with zero commensurate experience also offered a job at the Dep’t of Reg. & Lic — here commanding a salary of $81,500 (while his predecessor’s salary was $64,728). I don’t know if he’s sleeping around with any state senators, but he is the son of one of Walker’s top-five campaign contributors and prominent lobbyist of the Wisconsin Builders Association. And guess what? He too never applied for the job in the first place. Two days after this story first hit the press, Deschane’s salary was “demoted” to the original $64K and change. And then a couple days after that dear Brian resigned altogether. Spokesperson for Walker, Cullen Werwie, claimed no understanding of why. Go figure. For the full story, check this out. Even NPR mentioned this story in a 60-second blip this morning: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/05/135135540/wisconsins-governor
Where to begin, good lord!?! How about with jobs.
To date, I believe two companies have moved to Wisconsin from Illinois: Catalyst Exhibits, which provides meaningful benefits to our society in the way of tradeshow materials, and that paragon of staid business ethos, FatWallet.com, a coupon website hawking “hot deals” and “savings slashing.” So Walker has to his credit over-caffeinated shills at tradeshows and more annoying coupons no one wants in the first place. Wow, the badger state’s really starting to become a beacon of American workplace pride.
But like Saul Bellow wearied, “I’ve never seen a fig leaf yet that didn’t have a price tag on the other side.” Consider this: these companies aren’t moving from Chicago or central Illinois; they’re already far northern Illinois, i.e., northern enough to easily warrant its IL-resident employees to commute to work. Catalyst is moving from Crystal Lake, IL, to Pleasant Prairie, WI, and FatWallet’s going from Rockford to Beloit, distances of 42 and 19 miles, respectively. So (a) it’s debatable how many jobs are actually being created (as opposed to being merely imported), and (b), due to reciprocity agreements between Wisconsin and Illinois, these IL residents who will soon work over the border will not have to pay a single cent in WI income tax. (To quote the state Department of Revenue’s website under Reciprocity, “Wisconsin generally will not tax the personal service income (e.g., salaries, wages, commissions, and fees earned by an employee) of individuals who are domiciled in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, or Michigan who are employed in Wisconsin.”)
Now, also consider this: the Kenosha Area Business Alliance is providing a $1.25 million low-interest loan to Catalyst Exhibits, while the state Department of Commerce is providing a $500,00 loan (no info found on interest). So when Catalyst promises to make a $2.5 million investment in WI, is that after their loans are paid off, or including that money? (If the latter, that’s only $750,000. Better than nothing, sure, but hardly warranting the victory laps of look-at-me boy pride the governor’s agog after this deal.) As for the skinny on FatWallet.com, they did one of the two following (I’ll let you guess which): move to Wisconsin, lured by Walker’s enticements; or escape to Wisconsin to avoid paying taxes in Illinois after the recent Amazon.com lawsuit down there (filed after the governor of IL signed into law legislation that would protect brick-and-mortar IL businesses against online enterprises that neither pay nor charge state tax). With such a gallant name like FatWallet.com, I’m shocked their business model isn’t more honorable!
And let’s not forget that all of this is saying nothing of how arguably shitty these jobs probably are in the first place in terms of, well, meaningful work for one, but more important whether they actually pay a living wage that actual families can make it on.
Meanwhile, here’s how “open for business” our spread-eagle climate (no pun intended) is for renewable energy: two Chicago-based wind energy companies, Invenergy and Midwest Wind Energy, have decided to take their business elsewhere after already making inroads (so to speak) in Brown and Calumet Counties. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association stated that Midwest Wind Energy would have brought $225-$245 million in direct investment to Wisconsin, while Invenergy would have generated $600,000 annually in municipal revenues to Brown County and four host townships and more than $600,000 annually to host landowners and their neighbors. According to Boldt Construction, installing one turbine alone takes some 1,300 hours of labor to do, and a 100-turbine project would support a payroll of over $10 million. But who has the time, much less the future, for clean, renewable energy when we’re busy setting up dumbass demos at tradeshows or enabling tax-escaping companies sending us pop-up ad coupons for Pizza Hut?
Governor Walker ran on a campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first four years. Now, we know that’s not going to be possible, because we’re going to recall his ass out of office by this time next year. But leaving that aside for now, according to the Wisconsin Dep’t of Workforce Development, since Walker took office on January 3rd, at least 19 companies have laid off over 2,200 workers (see list below). This list runs only to the middle of March and thus may be out of date. Also, it does not include the lost light rail jobs from Talgo nixed by the Walker Administration or the wind energy ones mentioned above. So the man of new math owes us at least 252,200 jobs by my reckoning.
Would that this inventory of dunces in confederacy were so exhausted, but there are others, of course… And I do wish all of this were mere early an April Fool’s prank, but alas, this is the state of things. For now.
Raking the muck in solidarity!
1/5/11 Kmart Store #7100 Sheboygan Retail department store; New Closing: 62 employees
1/11/11 Patrick Cudahy Inc.; Layoff: 388 employees
1/13/11 US Bancorp Milw. Comm. Banking; New Layoff: 64 employees
1/13/11 NewPage Corporation Whiting Paper Mills, Closing: 366 employees
1/14/11 Robin Manufacturing USA Inc. Hudson Other Engine Equip Mfg; New Closing 29 employees
1/14/11 Unified Solutions, Inc. Pleasant Prairie Packaging & Labeling
Services 561910 New Layoff: 228 employees
1/24/11 Federal-Mogul Corporation Schofield Piston ring mfg; Closing: 183 employees
1/27/11 Wisconsin Food Gift Company, LLC; New Closing: 102 employees
1/27/11 Quillin’s Village La Crosse Supermarkets & Other Grocery Stores; New Closing 99 employees
1/31/11 Aerial Company, Inc. Marinette Service Estab Equip Merch Whls; Layoffs: 77 employees
1/31/11 Everbrite LLC La Crosse Sign Mfg; 339950 Closing: 9 employees
1/31/11 Ruan Logistics Corporation Eau Claire General Freight Trucking Long Distance; New Closing: 63 employees
2/16/11 Portage Daily Register Div. -Madison Newspapers Inc. Portage Newspaper; New Layoff: 33 employees
2/25/11 Zalk Josephs Fabricators LLC Stoughton Fabricated Structural Metal Mfg; New Layoff: 20 employees
3/3/11 West Asset Management Wausau Collection Agencies New Layoff; 163 employees
3/3/11 Ultra Mart Foods LLC, dba Pick n’ Save Food Store West Bend Supermarkets & Other Grocery Stores; New Closing: 96 employees
3/10/11 JCPenney – Asset Recovery Center Milwaukee Mail Order Houses; New Closing: 52 employees
3/14/11 CSM Bakery Products NA Oak Creek Commercial Bakery; New Closing: 100 employees
3/17/11 Nice-Pak Products, Inc Green Bay Sanitary Paper Product Mfg; New Closing: 68 employees