As they face massive cuts to pay and benefits, as well as bizarre and belittling restrictions (no microwaves allowed, skirts must cover the knees…), Wisconsin teachers are retiring at an unprecedented rate. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to teachers:
In the first six months of 2011, overall public employee retirements were double that in all of either 2009 or 2010.
State agency retirements were particularly dramatic, nearly tripling from 747 in all of 2010 to 1,966 through June. Retirements from the University of Wisconsin System more than doubled, up from 480 last year to 1,091 this year. All told, 9,933 public workers had retired by the end of June, a 93% increase from 5,133 in 2010. The year before, there were 4,876 retirements.
Labor Day is going to feel a little different in Wisconsin this year.
Jeff Fitzgerald announced his plan to run for Herb Kohl’s senate seat in 2012. Jeff is the Assembly Speaker and the brother of Scott Fitzgerald (who is the State Senate Majority Leader). His father, Steve Fitzgerald, was appointed by Scott Walker to head the Wisconsin State Patrol (an agency that was spared from Walker’s union-busting efforts). What a tangled web…
Representative Michele Bachmann noted recently that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income tax; all of them, she said, should pay something because they benefit from parks, roads and national security. (Interesting that she acknowledged government has a purpose.) Gov. Rick Perry, in the announcement of his candidacy, said he was dismayed at the “injustice” that nearly half of Americans do not pay income tax. Jon Huntsman Jr., up to now the most reasonable in the Republican presidential field, said not enough Americans pay tax.
Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and several senators have made similar arguments, variations of the idea expressed earlier by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana that “everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”
This is factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong. First, the facts: a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes. Only 14 percent of households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution. The poorest fifth paid an average of 16.3 percent of income in taxes in 2010.
Economically, reducing the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — which would be required if everyone paid income taxes — makes no sense at a time of high unemployment. The credits, which only go to working people, have always been a strong incentive to work, as even some conservative economists say, and have increased the labor force while reducing the welfare rolls.
The moral argument would have been obvious before this polarized year. Nearly 90 percent of the families that paid no income tax make less than $40,000, most much less. The real problem is that so many Americans are struggling on such a small income, not whether they pay taxes. The two tax credits lifted 7.2 million people out of poverty in 2009, including four million children. At a time when high-income households are paying their lowest share of federal taxes in decades, when corporations frequently avoid paying any tax, it is clear who should bear a larger burden and who should not.
-The New York Times. Without a doubt, this is the best editorial I have read all year. Read the entire piece here.
Earlier this year, while most of the state was focused on his union-busting efforts, Scott Walker quietly took control of the power to directly appoint the head of the Veterans Affairs Board.
With this new authority, Walker appointed John Scocos, a man who had already been fired from this position in 2009. Scocos is also currently suing the board members and the agency, seeking $500,000 in damages.
As a result of this controversial appointment, Peter Moran, the Vice Chairman of the Board and a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, resigned today.
That’s because the head of the group that sponsors the Wausau Labor Day Parade, the Marathon County Central Labor Council, is telling Republican lawmakers from the area that they’re not welcome Sept. 5.
“Usually they’ve been in the parade, but it seems like they only want to stand with us one day a year, and the other 364 days they don’t really care,” said Randy Radtke, president of the council.
“Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.”—Paul Krugman, Republicans Against Science. Notably, this was published the same day as an article about Michele Bachmann claiming Hurricane Irene happened because God wants the U.S. to cut spending.
“The Cubs, their owner and their fans either can be discouraged when watching the Brewers this weekend. Or encouraged. Safely on their way to winning the National League Central, the Brewers have an aggressive, youngish owner, a payroll of only $85 million, a sparkling stadium that public funding helped build and a farm system that produced its two biggest stars in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They are everything the Cubs want to be and have everything they want to have.”—The Chicago Tribune.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”— Teddy Roosevelt.
Scott Walker will be in RIVERWEST at Messmer Prep (Fratney and Burleigh) in Milwaukee on Friday Aug 26 arriving around 12:30PM. Protest starts at noon on the other side of the street. - from FB friend Ellen MAP.
Elle magazine has an interesting piece on a new generation of conservative women.
Feminist bashing remains the surest way to earn cred in the conservative movement, and “feminist” is an easy, all-purpose insult, eclipsed perhaps by only the dreaded “liberal.”
I was particularly surprised by the findings of a poll conducted among women ages 18 to 34 on the issues of health care and education; 44% of those polled identified as conservative while 22% identified as liberal on these issues. The entire story (linked above) is an interesting and insightful read.
“Harsh state judicial campaigns financed by ever larger amounts of special interest money are eating away at public faith in judicial impartiality. There are few places where the spectacle is more shameful than Wisconsin, where over-the-top campaigning, self-interested rulings, and a complete breakdown of courthouse collegiality and ethics is destroying trust in its Supreme Court.”—The New York Times, A Study in Judicial Dysfunction. A must-read.
“I learned: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can’t be judged by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain.”—
I sometimes read obituaries in the morning (is that weird?) and today I read one that has been on my mind all day. It reminded me to be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
The author of the obituary frequently writes about mental health issues for the local paper and she wrote this article with honesty and compassion. I don’t know the man who passed, but his story was interesting and inspiring; I thought I’d share it in case others find something interesting and inspiring in it, too. You can read the obituary here.
Wisconsin Democrats and unions have been the big winners in Wisconsin recalls. We may not have retaken the Senate, but Republicans won nothing and lost two seats. Gov. Walker’s assembly line of rightwing legislation is shut down, as moderates take center stage and the debate gets pulled to the…
FDR Went to Wisconsin To Battle 'Economic Royalists' But Obama Avoids Both The State and the Fight.
The last pair of recall elections will be held today and two Democratic State Senators are fighting to keep their seats. Obama will be within 20 miles of Wisconsin, but he refuses to cross the state line. The Nation has a great piece comparing Obama’s approach to that of another great Democratic leader, FDR.
Like Obama, FDR had been elected on a promise of “hope” and “change.”
Like Obama, FDR had tried with mixed success to deliver on that promise.
The thirty-second president went to Green Bay to explain to a crowd of sympathetic but worried Wisconsinites that the economic battles of the moment needed to be seen in the perspective of the great American contest between a privileged few that engaged in the “private means of exploitation” and the great many that had “waged a long and bitter fight for [their] rights.”
With the start of school approaching on Sept. 1, about two-thirds of Wisconsin’s school districts are rushing to finalize employee handbooks to replace now-extinct collective bargaining agreements that for decades outlined duties and salaries for workers.
The passage of the state’s new “Act 10” legislation - in effect for all districts that didn’t extend a contract with teachers before the passage of the law - gives administrators the ability to make sweeping changes to teachers’ pay scales, hours and working conditions without having to negotiate them with unions.
Some sacred cows are disappearing, such as teacher tenure, layoffs based on seniority and the guarantee of 10 years’ worth of post-retirement health insurance. Other big and complex changes on the horizon include new salary structures and pay-for-performance plans.
The day after the President’s press secretary admitted he didn’t know whether the President was even aware of the results of the recall elections in Wisconsin, requests from the Obama 2012 campaign to start volunteering are coming in droves. That’s rich, Mr. President. Really.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is strong, organized, and frankly, deserving of more than a half-assed statement in February about union workers being “our friends…but everybody has to make adjustments.” Neglecting your base is a bad strategy and ignoring people until you need something from them is bad manners.
“Five months after Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pushed through a law stripping public unions of their bargaining rights, the Republican Party has paid a price. Two of the state senators who backed the law were thrown out of office by voters on Tuesday and replaced with Democrats. Mr. Walker’s opponents did not succeed in turning over the Senate, but it was still an impressive response to the governor’s arrogant overreach.”—The New York Times, Wisconsin’s Warning to Union Busters
“The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough. On occasion they may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say ‘no’ - they may not be smart enough to say ‘yes’.”—Keith Olbermann.
“As the people of Wisconsin stand vigil on the eve of historic recall elections, Scott Walker has gone missing. He is not out campaigning with the Republican senators who slavishly followed him and supported his agenda. He does not even appear in their campaign literature or basic material… It seems that having finally gotten what he wanted, an election about him, Scott Walker has suspending his self-regard in a moment of expediency and has come to the realization that he’s, well, toxic.”—Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate, on Gov. Walker’s noticeable absence from the campaign events for Republicans facing recall tomorrow. (via quickhits)