Monday June 26, 2017

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Blue Jean Nation 'Work at the crossroads'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 20 May 2017
in Wisconsin

matc-studentsWe can steer clear of the social, political and economic turmoil and upheaval this new economy has the capacity to create. If heads are buried in the sand, chaos will reign.


ALTOONA, WI - Those in power in Wisconsin’s Capitol want everyone to notice that the state’s unemployment rate has come down some. They are equally eager to have everyone to look past other troubling facts, such as wage and job growth that is lagging behind the national average, a poverty rate that’s higher than it’s been in 30 years, and a middle class that’s disappearing faster than anywhere else in the country. They pay no attention to rising economic inequality and hope no one notices that the income gap is growing faster in Wisconsin than in other states.

As unwilling as they are to acknowledge much less do something about these politically inconvenient realities, they are even more reluctant to engage the public in any kind of discussion about even greater challenges that lie ahead.

There is a reason why most Americans believe our kids will be worse off than their parents. The U.S. is hurtling toward an increasingly jobless economy and everyone can see it coming. Even the politicians can see it but don’t want to deal with what is plainly visible on the horizon. Instead they look for scapegoats, telling frightened workers that immigrants are stealing their jobs. Or they offer empty promises that closed factories can be reopened and lost assembly line jobs will somehow magically reappear. This is the cruelest kind of hoax.

sherman-park-youthToday’s immigrants aren’t replacing yesterday’s factory workers on the assembly lines, robots are. Immigration is not the culprit, technology is. Even if new factories replace the old shuttered ones, how many people will work in those plants? Driverless vehicles are coming. When they arrive, what happens to the truck drivers and bus drivers and cab drivers?

Call this emerging American economy what you will. Some call it global, some call it high-tech. Others label it an information or knowledge economy. Still others see little left but a service economy. Probably the most accurate description is post-human. Workers have every reason to feel vulnerable, and those feelings are only going to intensify.

Fewer and fewer workers have union representation. There was a time when virtually every American household included at least one union member. Today, less than 11% of all Americans and only 6% of private sector workers belong to a union. Labor unions were an outgrowth of the industrial revolution. That revolution came and went. In what came after, unions struggled to adapt and steadily lost membership. Workers lost bargaining power.

In the short term, steps can be taken to empower working people, from affordable and debt-free education and job training to universal access to everything from health care to high-speed Internet. But in the longer term, if our society is going to hold together in an increasingly jobless economy, we are going to have to renegotiate the social contract. Totally new approaches to maintaining social cohesion are going to have to be considered. Maybe part of the answer is moving to the 30-hour workweek that Amazon and other companies are trying out. That would make work available to more people. Maybe the time will soon come for a universal basic income. That would require all of us to see the value in making sure no one is left behind. Maybe making union representation a civil right could be a piece to the puzzle. Perhaps some combination of these or other ideas will light the way.

If minds are open, we can steer clear of the social, political and economic turmoil and upheaval this new economy has the capacity to create. If heads are buried in the sand, chaos will reign.

— Mike McCabe

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Larson 'Lock Your Doors, Protect Your Neighbors'

Posted by Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson (D) is the Wisconsin State Senator from the 7th District in Milwauk
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on Friday, 19 May 2017
in Wisconsin

david-clarkeMADISON, WI – Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke announced Wednesday that he has accepted an appointment as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.

With this disturbing news, it’s clear that Trump continues to betray the nation’s trust with his appointment of Milwaukee County Sheriff as the newest member of the Trump Deportation Team. This is the same person who attempted to incite violence against the very institutions he has sworn to protect by telling people to get their ‘pitchforks and torches.’

In January, Clarke threatened violence to fellow air passengers saying, ‘next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they may get knocked out.’ That threat came after a passenger on a plane shook his head at him. Sheriff Clarke has, again and again, shown our community and the nation a disturbing pattern of bizarre, irresponsible and menacing behavior. Our neighbors are right to be concerned with the damage Clarke could wreak on the national stage.

Trump knows that Clarke will back bad policies that betray our values, harm our neighbors, and enforce policies that rip families apart. As Milwaukee County Sheriff, Clarke recklessly pursued joining the Trump administration in their implementation of 287(g), which gives local law enforcement the ability to operate as federal immigration agents. Many of our neighbors oppose the program as it allows law enforcement to stop and question people based on just their appearance.

It’s no wonder Clarke was seeking an escape from his Milwaukee County mess before the next election, as he is facing communitywide anger for his gross mismanagement of the Milwaukee County Jail, including the recent tragic death of Terrill Thomas by dehydration. In a span of just months, four families lost their loved ones due to Clarke’s negligence and lack of supervision over his department.

Clarke has a history of mocking, belittling and intimidating our neighbors. He is yet another bad actor in a cast of clowns.

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Everyone Needs to Pay Their Fair Share

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Tuesday, 16 May 2017
in Wisconsin

executive-moneyBig business tax credits mean fewer budget dollars for shared services such as police and fire protection, public education, and transportation infrastructure says Sen. Kathleen Vinehout. It's not fair for small businesses and the rest of us to shoulder the cost on our own.


MADISON - “Can anything be done to force the largest corporations in the state to pay something for the roads, ports, airports, fire and police services, educated workforce, etc. that they are using in our state?” Linea recently wrote to me. “This implies the smaller businesses are paying far more than their fair share.”

About the time Linea’s question came to me, so did a new memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) examining the drop in money coming to the state from corporations.

I wondered, just how have business tax credits changed and how might they change in the new budget?

Some of the items Linea mentioned are part of the transportation budget. For this column, I will set aside a discussion of road-related taxes.

Much of state government is paid through our state taxes: including corporate and individual income tax, and sales tax.

The LFB recently addressed tax money coming into the state – “revenue estimates” – for the coming budget. The nonpartisan bureau stated, “Corporate collections for the entire year are estimated to decline by 6.5%, compared to 2015-16, while the year-to-date decrease is 8.9%.”

Over the past year, monthly corporate tax collections, when compared to the same month in the prior year, were down by as much as 22%.

What is causing this rapid decline in corporate tax collections? The answer from analysists included the fact corporations were cashing in tax credits faster than expected.

Tax credits can reduce taxes owed. Business tax credits have grown both in the different types of credits and the total amount of state taxes reduced.

Wisconsin has a lot of new business tax credits.

In 2006, the state had 17 different types of business tax credits. Ten years later, the type of tax credits increased two and one-half times. The cost to the state for these credits nearly tripled. These numbers are from a report produced by the state Department of Revenue called Tax Exemption Devices.

Just one tax credit set the manufacturing and agriculture tax rate to less than half a percent, which cost $650 million in the next budget. (For comparison, this dollar amount is about the cost of State Superintendent Evers’ plan to fix the school funding formula.)

Some credits are more powerful than simply making income tax owed disappear. Some business tax credits are refundable. Claiming a refundable tax credit means you get money back from the state even if you owe nothing in taxes.

One refundable tax credit, known as Enterprise Zone, accumulated awards of over $470 million that can be claimed by companies over several years. A few of the companies benefiting and their awards include: Mercury Marine ($65 million), Kohler ($62.5 million), Quad Graphics ($61.7 million), Uline ($18.6 million), Amazon.com ($10.3 million) Dollar General and Trane (both at $5.5 million).

The stated purpose of all this money given to corporations is to spur economic growth. Of course, the expected robust economic growth has not happened. Wisconsin lost 66,000 manufacturing jobs in 2007 and 2008. In 8 years, we only gained back 44,000 of those jobs. Wisconsin wages are 18th lowest; and we are 23rd in real GDP growth, behind every Midwest neighbor except Illinois. The new revenue in this budget is about the same increase as the past few budgets.

Rather than repeal, or at least demand more accountability for these expensive tax credits, many in the legislature talk about shifting more of the tax burden away from corporations.

A bill introduced last month would eliminate the business personal property taxes and shift the cost of this tax to the general fund, which puts funding for schools, universities, and local governments at risk. Further, rumors in the Capitol suggest this tax plan will be part of a last-minute budget amendment that could cost the state a whopping $530 million. That’s a little more than the price tag of the new money the Governor set aside for K-12 education in “categorical” or “outside” the funding formula.

Lawmakers should take up Linea’s question about big businesses paying their fair share. It’s simply not fair for small businesses and the rest of us to shoulder the cost of shared services like police protection, the UW and public schools when corporations also shared the benefits.

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Veterans, Who Know War, Say 'Try Peace'

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
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on Saturday, 13 May 2017
in Wisconsin

Memorial DayVeterans, especially combat veterans, need to talk about the real costs of war. The veterans’ silence results in enabling power hungry politicians and greedy business persons to push war as the solution instead of creating a more peaceful world.


TUCSON, AZ - We approach Memorial Day honoring the ultimate sacrifices made by 1.4 million American military men and women who died in America’s wars since 1775. We must discuss the horrific impact of war on surviving soldiers and civilians. For only they can teach us working for peace is a better option than fighting wars.

Each death in war brings everlasting tragedy to a family. Each death damages the hope of loved ones.

Humans are brutal. We have many wonderful traits. But we must admit to a brutal streak. And we must hope that we do not exhibit that trait ourselves and are not forced into situations where we too become brutal.

Historians view history as a long string of wars. The most destructive war thus far was World War II. Between 45 million and 85 million men, women and children perished in combat, destruction and resulting disease and famine.

Historians estimate 400 million to 670 million soldiers and civilians died in the largest 35 wars. Wars always kill far more civilians than soldiers.

ChildrenThis drawing and caption of children at the graveside of a Civil War relative killed at Gettysburg depicts our basic problem.

Because a relative served in a long ago war, many children especially boys are socialized into thinking being a soldier is the good thing to do.

Society (families, media, schools, movies, religions) encourage this, many times glorifying war. Recruiters prey on these emotions.

As a future infantry officer, I spent a year of my life being taught how to kill people (fortunately I was sent to S. Korea rather than S. Vietnam in 1969).

"You bet I'm goin' to be a soldier, too,
like my Uncle David, when I grow up.”
"On Decoration Day" Political cartoon c 1900 by John T. McCutcheon.

The military does an excellent job of training men and women to kill. But our generals have no idea of how to train/educate people to “unkill.” Many of our 22 million veterans who were in combat and had to participate in, or were near, the killing, deaths and maimings have memories and emotions they try to control all their lives. Most don’t discuss these memories at all or very much with family and friends. Such discussions are extremely difficult to have.

The veterans’ silence results in enabling power hungry politicians and greedy business persons to use the military industrial complex to push war as the “solution” to problems/challenges nations face.

The result of silence is that millions of veterans are not teaching their children, friends and community that war is not the answer. Killing does not solve problems. It just makes problems more difficult to resolve. You can’t kill a religious idea or political idea with a bullet.

The military teaches team work and being in the military and combat encourages camaraderie. But each vet is on his/her own when it comes to controlling or squashing the bad memories and thoughts.

StatueAmerica spends over $600 billion per year on wars, weapons and designing more weapons.  We spend only $50 billion on the U.S. State Department and the United Nations.

Nine nations have 15,000 nuclear weapons.  Scientists say if just 1% of those weapons are exploded in a nuclear war, tens of millions would die in the first hour.  Millions would die later from the radiation effects and fire storms.  Firestorms, sweeping large areas creating dark dust clouds, would cause an extended winter of possibly 10 years with drastically shortened food growing cycles.  Two billion would be threatened with famine.  Life on earth, as we know it, would be gone.

Khatyn Memorial commemorating the loss of life in Belarus during World War II.

For decades we have had politicians creating more wars instead of creating a more peaceful world via diplomacy, cooperation, helping other nations improve safe water supplies, educational systems, infrastructure, health, food production and strengthening the United Nations to help improve the lives of peoples across this world.

Small steps for America are:  Veterans, especially combat veterans, need to discuss with their families some of what they did in “their” war.  Or skip their personal experiences, if they cannot talk about it, and talk about the horrendous cost in lost lives.  Vets can write letters to the editor of their local papers saying War Is Not the Answer and tell the readers what needs to be done.

Today our nation is controlled by Republican war mongers and meek Democratic followers.  We must all think ahead to November 2018.  We will have an opportunity to vote out of office those who foolishly advocate war.  But right now we must talk about why we must fight harder for Peace than we do for War!

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Blue Jean Nation 'Wisconsin’s Economy: An about-face in 4 steps'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 09 May 2017
in Wisconsin

skilledworkersFor many, it’s hard to find work that enables you to make ends meet. Change is possible, but it will require us to understand growth and prosperity gush up, they do not trickle down.


ALTOONA, WI - When it comes to Wisconsin’s economy, those in power go to great lengths to direct everyone’s gaze at moderating unemployment in the state. They don’t want to acknowledge or discuss that while it’s possible to find work, for many it’s extremely hard to find work that enables you to make ends meet and stay in the middle class. Persistent stagnation and rising inequality are big parts of the full story of Wisconsin’s economy.

For years now, Wisconsin has depended on an economic development strategy devoted to empowering a few thousand of the wealthiest among us in hopes that some of what they have will trickle down to everyone else. Not much has trickled. At the heart of these feed-the-rich policies are tax breaks targeted to the wealthy and taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses with few strings attached.

Wisconsin needs to do an about-face. Instead of seeking to empower a few thousand people and then pray they work some magic for the rest of the population, the state should focus on empowering all of the more than 5 million people who live here. This turnabout can be accomplished in four steps.

The first step is to substantially boost wages. That means raising the wage floor and turning the minimum wage into a living wage. The federal minimum wage has been boosted more than 20 different times, and every increase was greeted by claims it would be a jobs killer. Jobs didn’t disappear. In fact, new ones materialized. The national economy grew steadily through every minimum wage increase. And states that increased their own minimum wages have seen faster job growth than those that didn’t. Makes perfect sense, actually. Put more money in workers’ pockets and they don’t pad their net worth with it or stash it in tax havens in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, they spend it. And that stimulates the economy.

Step two is to restructure Wisconsin’s tax system. When you add up all  the state and local taxes we pay, the wealthiest 1% pay the lowest overall tax rate. That’s gotta change. There’s no need for new taxes, but there is a pressing need to make sure everyone pays the ones we already have. Requiring those in the top 1% to pay their fair share is key to doing something about economic inequality and empowering 5 million people who currently pay a bigger portion of their incomes in taxes.

The third step is to make education and job training as affordable for our kids and grandkids as it was for their parents and grandparents. Debt-free education and training has to be the state’s goal. A high school diploma alone is no longer a sure pathway to the American Dream. Wisconsin needs to clear a path that does not leave young people buried under a mountain of debt.

Step four is equipping every last person living in Wisconsin with indispensable 21st Century tools such as high-speed Internet and access to mobile phone service. Fully participating in the global economy and 21st Century American life is not possible without these tools. Wisconsin is lagging badly in this regard, and failing to catch up is a recipe for further economic stagnation and greater inequality.

An about-face is possible, and it can be done in four steps. But it will require a fundamental change of economic philosophy. Sustainable growth and prosperity gush up, they do not trickle down.

— Mike McCabe

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