Monday, March 31, 2014

Monologues of Dissent: "No such thing as a free lunch:" Waterford School District sets new low in betrayal of students and taxpayers

Monologues of Dissent: "No such thing as a free lunch:" Waterford School District sets new low in betrayal of students and taxpayers

These extremists have gotten out of hand.

Picking on children?

Is it really necessary to humiliate kids to make a point or punish their parents?

This is a sickening display of counterfeit leadership if there ever was one.

Dan Jensen hasn't learn that real leaders stand up for the weak.

Dan Jensen should be ashamed of himself. He thinks providing school lunch for kids that otherwise wouldn't have them is all about him and his 'libertarian' point of view. Who the hell is Dan Jensen?

Why should it matter if he 'didn't have a problem standing in a different line' when he was in school?

Good for you, Dan Jensen. Clearly, you are a very special person.

Well, guess what, Dan? Your'e still standing in a different line, except the line your'e now standing in is for is the one for the professional B-Teamers.

Could your 'solution' just be payback in disguise for having to stand in a different line?

Dan, if you have a problem with free lunch for needy kids, take it up with the parents. Don't embarrass yourself by picking on children, if nothing else, it drastically diminishes whatever legitimate point you may have.

Dan also talks about paying for other people's healthcare...and when I first heard those words, I wondered what the one thing had to do with the other.

Ironically, they are linked. As we know, poor nutrition leads to greater health problems as well as diminished ability to assimilate lessons for those kids whose nutritional needs are unmet. That, in turn leads to lowered lifetime earnings which leads to...inability to pay for school lunches for their kids.

Penny wise, pond foolish much, Dan?

Additionally, it was stated in the video (go to 'Monologues of Dissent' for the link to the videos) that 'the kids throw the food away anyhow', or words to that effect. What Dan and the rest of the Board missed, was that this is a key driver to their displeasure with the free lunch program and by dismissing it out of hand, are abrogating their responsibility to their constituents to be problem solvers.

Instead, they chose to sweep the problem under the rug, throw their hands up and accept defeat.

They missed an opportunity to be true leaders, recognize an opportunity for improvement, and formulate a plan of action to realize greater organizational performance and achieve substantially improved customer service.

The better course of action (there's still time) would be to acknowledge their own internal shortcomings and understand they have the ability to pursue excellence. Here's how:

Ask the 5 Whys.

Perform Root Analysis.

Find out why the kids are throwing the food away.

Does it taste bad?
Why does it taste bad?
Is it prepared correctly?
Does the staff that prepares have the resources required (training, equipment, ingredients, etc.)?

Solve that problem, and paying for thrown-away food disappears.

But, Dan, whatever you do, don't blame the kids for the adults' shortcomings, like providing strong leadership.

Or do you blame the kids for that too?

Friday, March 28, 2014

How Milwaukee’s Socialist Legacy Made Scott Walker What He Is Today

The legacy of Milwaukee’s socialist past has benefitted Scott Walker in a way that could not have been predicted by the city’s early to mid-20th century socialist leaders.

“Sewer Socialism” – Milwaukee’s version of socialism that came to power in 1910 with the election of the nation’s 1st socialist mayor – Emil Seidel (later the 1912 V.P. candidate on the Socialist ticket). These Sewer Socialists worked for and put in place, among other things, public parks, and public health and traffic safety measures. It meant providing basic government services honestly and with frugality.

Prior to these ‘sewer socialists’ taking the reins of city government, Milwaukee was at least as corrupt as Chicago. They cleaned up city government and kept it clean. After Seidel came Mayor Daniel Hoan, who ran the city from 1916-1940 and then Frank Zeidler from 1948-190.

These guys weren’t the type of socialist that seeks to take over every aspect of life, they just wanted to see city government run to the benefit of all. They did it so well that not only in the city of Milwaukee but the entire state of Wisconsin, good, well run government came to be expected.

For many years, that's the way it was.

So when the pension scandal broke in 2002 and forced the County Executive, Tom Ament, along with a slew of County Supervisors, to resign, it gave Walker the opening he needed.

Walker ran for and was elected Milwaukee County Executive. Welcome to the “What, Me Worry?” era of county governance.

Walker proceeded to undermine Wisconsin’s legacy of good government practice by his now all too familiar game of “Three-Card Monty” governance: tell the public what you think they want hear while secretly doing what’s politically unwise and unpopular, then spring it on the unsuspecting public in a way that’s sure to piss them off.

If anyone finds out, throw a subordinate or two under the bus and move on. After all, who could place responsibility for the administration of the county’s business in the lap of the Executive?

That’s how he operated as County Executive, which has driven investigations of its own (and a number of former Walker employees convicted of crimes) and how he continues to operate as Governor. And, there’s more where that came from.

Don’t be fooled by this counterfeit leader or his rhetoric – that he’s looking out for the less well-off – he’s running for President (some Koch-head must have planted that idea). He has to appear to care about the 99%, after all, he needs their votes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gov. Walker Wants To Eliminate Wisconsin's State Income Tax

Walker recently floated out the idea of eliminating Wisconsin's state income tax. he hasn't come up with a plan yet as he claims he wants input from 'the people'.

That's something we in Wisconsin haven't heard from him before, but he is running for President, so he has to at minimum appear to care what voters think.

He says he has no definite scheme in mind, but we know that can't be the case. This guy's middle name is subterfuge. That's mainly because he knows his policies are unpopular and can't just come out say what he wants to do. Geez, if he did that, he probably wouldn't get elected.

Let's look at Wisconsin's current state income tax, compare it to other state's that have no state income tax and see if it can't be discerned where Walker is really going with this.

Currently, there are seven states with no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

Right off the bat, you can see that the line representing Wisconsin doesn't follow the contour for the states with no income tax. The reason for this is that Wisconsin's current tax structure has a graduated design and is far more progressive than those states that have no income tax.

Wisconsin's state motto is "Forward" and used to be lauded for it's progressiveness. In fact, it was Wisconsin's Republicans that gave the state this reputation.

Now, with Walker running the state, this is no longer the case as his main interest is serving his overseers. And, the one thing his overseers lust after more than possibly anything else, is the elimination of capital gains taxes. Considering that Walker is a man of little or no real substance and will bend to whatever political wind is blowing (Tea Party, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?), watch for it to be forced down the throats of the people.

If we're lucky, we'll end up with a tax structure that resembles the 'overall average' of data sets reflected in the chart above and those least able to fight back will end up bearing the heaviest load. That last part is sure to be a feature of whatever plan Walker comes up with because we now live in an echo of days past where the only ones that mattered were those with money.

Follow me on Twitter for more analysis on this and other topics.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Team Effort

The chart below shows the top 10% share of wealth in the United states since 1917 as well as the corporate tax rate on the 1st $25,000 of taxable corporate income. Keep in mind, this is the taxable income, which is the amount of income that is taxed after all legal deductions have been made.

Considering the tax code is rife with deductions of all manner (many completely understandable and justified), including deductions for depreciation of machinery and equipment, interest on loans (when applicable), etc.

Note that the rate came down considerably from around 1950 to about 1986, where is has leveled off at about 15%, while the share of wealth enjoyed by the top 10% has increased. The chart shows the how changes to the tax structure lead to increased wealth concentration.

Above is a chart showing the top 10% share of incomes in the United States versus the world-wide average since 1908, taken from the Paris School of Economics online database, and is not, as of the date of this posting, exhaustive. Data is being added, and this post will be updated accordingly. To see an enlarged view, click here.

As you can see, and as has been the headline of countless articles and stories on all media, wealth is being concentrated at the top brackets. The chart shows that the trend world-wide (the average for those countries included in the analysis) is toward continued wealth concentration.

One thing that is clear is that this concentration of economic power is not reserved to one political party above another. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have had a hand in this trend, both in the earlier (1921-1933) and the current era.

Another thing that is abundantly clear is that the U.S. trend is steeper than that of the average for all countries in the analysis.

The more recent trending starts around 1971 and continues today, some 41 years later, while the earlier phase lasted only about 20 years and ended right around the time the U.S. began ramping up its wartime arming efforts, when the country needed funding and altered tax rates accordingly.

For a larger view of the chart above, click here.

This chart shows the US trend relative to plus or minus one standard deviation.

The light blue bubble on the right shows the region on the graph from around 1986 to the present.

As you can see, historically, while at times hovering at or near plus 1 standard deviation from the average, the US trend never exceeded that limit for any significant length of time. Starting in 1986, the situation changes.

At that time, we see a pronounced departure from historical trends for the top 10% wealthiest and their share of all wealth.

The next chart graphs the average of the countries analyzed and adds 1 standard deviation (which varies from year to year) to that average. This is the blue line.

The line above it, (red) graphs the share of wealth (as a percentage) of the top 10% wealthiest in the U.S.

As shown on the chart, the equation, based on the historic trend, which describes the forecasted percentage, is listed above the graph. This trend analysis indicates that by the year 2018, a full 50% of the country's wealth will be held by the top 10%.

Also, the trend for the U.S. is growing at a faster rate than the trend for the rest of the world. The real question then, is "how long can this trend continue?"

To see a larger view, go here:
This chart adds the Gross Domestic Product and at the right-most portion, we see that the GDP matches the top 10% share of wealth nearly perfectly. Of course, correlation is not necessarily causation, and in this case the concentration of wealth in the US cannot be the cause of the GDP rise. That is, unless this concentration of wealth is accompanied by a concommitant rise in investment. But, is that the case? Is that what has been happening?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I like Senator Warren.

I like her courage to speak truth to power.

She says she's figured out why the GOP opposes increasing he minimum wage.

She says it's because it will dip into the profits of the already very, very well off.

Close, Senator, but not quite.

The real reason? Power.

Increasing Wealth Increases Economic Power.

Lower-wage earners will be able to pay bills on time, maybe for the first time in a long time.

They might be able to buy the kid's new shoes and clothes in the same month!

The same month! Imagine that?

They might then be able to take a deep breath and think a little harder about things in general, you know, kind of 'regroup' and contemplate stuff. Things like, "Who's really got my back?".

I know that the elite can't fathom the idea of the hired help living better than they are now. Because with the elite everything seems to be a zero-sum game. If, God forbid, some commoner's life gets a little bit better, then their own lives diminish by the same amount, somehow.

If the last-class realizes increased economic power, they might start thinking about lifting themselves up even more. They may even start to think they matter. Lord! If that were allowed to happen, one day their children's children might attend the same schools as theirs. And, what if - (gasp) dare I say it? What if one of 'those people's' children impregnated one of their children?...No! This will not stand!

Increasing Economic Power Leads To Political Power.

The GOP and the rest of the elites (some are Democrats, by the way) have known this for ages.

They've seen how Unions and collective bargaining, along with workplace regulations (Watch your mouth, son. We don't use that sort of language in this house!) designed to increase worker safety, OSHA, Unemployment Insurance, and Worker's Compensation all contributed to providing a sense of security in the population.

And they don't like it, not one damn bit.

Since the 70's, they've been putting their money where their mouths are and have done something about it. They've spent no-one-knows-how-much-because-they-aren't-telling-and-there's-too-many-front-groups-to-know-for-sure fighting each one of those 'social security' measures (Son! What did I just get done telling you? One more outburst like that and I'll take away your Valet privileges!).

The chickens have come home to roost (because, that's all real chickens can do anymore).

We've seen real erosion of worker's rights in the form of weakened unions, Free-Trade agreements that gut the economy for people but bolster if for corporations, tax schemes that increase the burden on the less well off in favor of the already well off, purchasing power that has stagnated for decades.

They've trickled down on the country. So much so that the stench has become unbearable for those standing in the puddle.

But, hey. Don't get me wrong Elizabeth, I'm still with ya.

Taxes Are Not punishment

More accurately stated, taxes are not meant to be punishment.

  • Taxes are where the money came from to build the roads you use to bring in the raw materials you convert into products which are then shipped using those same roads…
  • Taxes are where the money came from to install waterlines to your manufacturing facility, as well as the sewer lines taking your waste away, in order to keep your production lines running...
  • Taxes are where the money came that made sure the trucks carrying your goods to market won't blow up on the way, killing your employee and destroying your goods…
  • Taxes are where the money comes from that paid the lawyers who wrote the contract laws that make certain you’ll get your money when a customer reneges and refuses to pay you the money you rightfully have coming to you…
  • Taxes are where the government gets the money it needs to protect your patent rights, so that you can continue to be successful and not have to worry that someone will steal your design from you and cheat you out of what is rightfully yours…
  • Taxes are where we get the money to pay congress to pass treaties like NAFTA, which only benefit companies like yours, not workers, and not government, only you…
  • Taxes are where the money comes from to do basic scientific research that gives birth to new technologies that companies like yours profit by…
  • Taxes are where society gets the money it needs to make sure your kids don’t have to breathe in too many carcinogenic particulates on their way to school…
  • Taxes are where society gets the money it needs to make sure the food your kids eat won't make them sick…
  • Taxes are where society gets the money it needs to make sure that the elderly are forced to live in squalor…
  • Taxes are where we get the money we need to hire police departments to protect your family and your possessions…
  • Taxes are where society gets money to provide for fire departments so that if your house starts on fire, help is on the way…

And so very much more!

So, you've made it and you’re wealthy. Good for you. The rest of us don’t begrudge your success. In fact, we’d like to emulate it. We just want you to be as responsible towards paying your fair share of taxes as you were in building your success so that the rest of us have a real shot at it.

By refusing to do your share, you’re making it harder for those of us still trying to make it. For every penny of taxes you evade, that’s one more penny the rest of us have to make up for.

That penny only benefits you, by the way. Even though the rest of us helped pay for the roads, the sewers, etc. You are the only one who sees benefit of the penny of taxes you evaded. You cheated

By paying your fair share of taxes, you are ‘paying it forward’. You’re making sure that the next generation has the same opportunities you did. You’ll be doing for them what someone did for you.

Now, if all that isn’t enough to give you pause maybe this will:
  • Taxes are also where we get the money we need to train the country’s armed services to prepare them to go to war to protect your freedoms, including the freedom to run your own business…And
  • Taxes are where we get the money to provide vocational training to veterans when they return to civilian life…so that they have the skills needed to go to work for you.
Maybe we could state this another way:

Don't pay taxes but then don't cry when the competition uses your patents...and no one cares.
Don't pay taxes but then don't cry when your house is on fire...and no one cares.
Don't pay taxes but then don't cry when people cheat you out of your profits...and no one cares.

The truest test of character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.

Where Was Jiminy Cricket When Scott Walker Needed Him?

We here in Wisconsin have been inundated with news stories regarding the John Doe investigations relating to Gov. Scott Walker.

A February 25, 2014 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that John Schultz, former Chief Legal Counsel for the state’s Department of Transportation, has lost his job due to improper emails.

While the email in question was sent before Schultz joined the administration, this is now at least the second time that Walker or his staff's failure to properly vet hires has come back to bite him. I know of staffing agencies that do a better job of researching temporary workers.

Reading the article, I found myself asking how it was possible someone with a law degree can be so stupid to send an email that offensive over the state’s email system. Schultz himself asks the same question, sort of.

After reading the remainder of the article, I was asking other questions: Are there no responsible adults working for Walker? Why do people on Gov. Walker’s staff seem not to be able to excersize any impulse control? Where is Gov. Walker’s Jiminy Cricket?

Who? Jiminy Cricket?

For those not familiar with this valuable asset, let me direct your attention to the Poynter Institute’s article “Meet 12 great employees to toast in 2012”, written by Jill Geisler.

One employee that Walker apparently needs desperately is Jiminy Cricket. Here’s Jill’s description of Jiminy:
“The Jiminy Cricket: Like the venerable little sidekick to Disney’s “Pinocchio,” this employee is characterized by conscience. Jiminy Cricket deftly asks questions that get people thinking about ethics, diversity, fairness, accountability, safety, legality — helping people see past their blind spots.”
It seems as if the Wisconsin Governor has a huge blind spot when it comes to hiring people who conduct their employer’s business with integrity. That’s bad for a private employer conducting private business, and simply unacceptable for any public office holder conducting the public’s business.

Did no one working for Walker either in his administration or on his campaign question this email? More importantly, why was no action taken at the time the email was sent – over the state’s email system, no less?

It seems the only time Walker deals with ethics is after they’ve been exposed. That’s weak because it’s reactive. If you’re forever explaining and cleaning up past mistakes, how do you move forward?

Talk about working harder, not smarter! Walker will now be spending a lot of time and money (taxpayer money) dealing with the aftermath of this disclosure.

One Jiminy Cricket equals ten campaign strategists.

The time and money spent on spinning and distracting, with evading questions and avoiding responsibility won’t be spent of formulating a forward looking strategy designed to govern a state or win a campaign.

In a manufacturing setting, this would be called ‘rework’: doing additional work to a product because it’s defective and the work wasn’t done right the first time. That is directly non-productive, non-value-adding work. That’s what Gov. Walker is doing.

Someone like Jiminy can be a real pain in the neck at times, but his concerns about being ethical, and about accountability when people fall short are a necessary and vital input to open, transparent, and fair practices, whether in the private sector or when conducting the public’s business.

By questioning certain actions early in the process, Mr. Cricket serves as an organization’s Early Warning System – one that saves time and money as well as something that money can’t buy: repute.

Mistake-Proofing, which is really what Jiminy is doing, is comparatively inexpensive, and really not that hard to accomplish.

Walker has aspirations to the Presidency. It might just be too late for Jiminy to help him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Falling Hard While Falling Short

You hear an awful lot from politicians, conservatives mostly, of how important the private sector is and how the public sector should be eschewed. They seem to forget, exactly as they are speaking those words, that they themselves are working in the public sector.

Maybe the reason we hear this repeated so often from conservatives is that they really do know how hard it is to work in the private sector and they’re trying their best to avoid it by getting elected or, if already in office, to stay there.

And, if not public office, at least a friendly think tank assignment.

It is a dog-eat-dog world, after all.

By working in the private sector, one can focus their talents on practicing self reliance and avoid the temptations of receiving public benefits of any sort, gumption...bootstraps...get up and go (but not this kind). 

So the narrative goes. Sounds good, at least at first blush. Yet, how come so many of those that espouse this philosophy do not adhere to it themselves?

Paul Ryan, a front-runner for a leadership position on the Hypocratic Party, is an excellent example of this phenomena. He works hard to try to deny others' government benefits that he was able to take advantage of. Then, he used the education he got to largely avoid working in the private sector. Why?

Could it be that Ryan feels it’s a lot easier to tell other people how to live, what to do, than to live up to those ideals himself?

Ayn Rand’s name often comes up (she is his hero), when someone invariably mentions the ‘makers’ and the ‘takers’, as Ryan has been known to do. It turns out she herself became a taker in her later years, receiving both Social Security and Medicare, after railing against any form of government assistance, yet she saw no irony in it, when she needed it.

Imagine. The Queen of Self Reliance relying on someone other than herself.

(One of Rand's biggest followers, Nathan Blumenthal (who went by 'Nathaniel Branden', in order to incorporate Rand's name in his) had an affair with Ayn and after he lost interest in the John Birch Society's pin-up girl, began seeing another someone who wasn't his wife. Ayn found out, excommunicated him, which led him to contemplate whether the "Collective" (Ayn's ironic term for her inner circle of friends) would try to assassinate him. Fun group, no doubt.)

This begs the question: If it’s okay to take Social Security, Medicaid, etc. with the justification that your own money was put into it and therefore, one is entitled (I apologize for my language - I hope there are no children in the room) to it, okay...okay – but then you have to stop criticizing others (like Ryan does, but spares any criticism of Rand) who are receiving, or have received, Social Security.

If, on the other hand, you maintain the position that Rand became a ‘taker’, then you must denounce her and her philosophy and never repeat it again.

We also have another member of the Hypocratic Party, Ron Johnson, purported job creator, famed Tea Partier, is another candidate for Hypocratic Party leader. This former CEO of Pacur LLC, a company which received a $75,000 federal grant in 1979 and between 1983 and 1985 used industrial development bonds to fund plant expansion.

Ron Johnson, Senator from Wisconsin, is an admirer of Rand. He's another pretender, posing as a self-resourceful businessman who tries hard to make it sound like he's all bootstrap. Except he isn't. He claims that he and his brother-in-law started Pacur. while this claim is technically true, it is also only technically true. The new company had in reality been in operation, and simply took it's one customer and re-named itself.

Again, nothing wrong with this, and at least it is in the private sector. Yet to hear Johnson talk about it, he make it sound as if he did it on his own. The reality is that he caught a break through the public assistance with loans and grants. That, and marrying a woman who's family had a thriving business didn't hurt, either.

And there, right there, is the rub. Both Johnson and Ryan caught a break and that break is what made the difference in their lives, and surely in the lives of their respective families as well. Others who would benefit from the benefits Ryan got, for instance, wouldn’t be able to leverage those ‘breaks’ as well as he did because we all don’t come from wealthy families to begin with. This group would be using that money to survive, not to thrive.

But if you get a break that’s available to anyone and after you get that break and no longer need it, you fight to deny that same break to others who do need it and are currently in the same boat you were in when you got it, is hypocrisy.

When you hold a position of power from where you can achieve that goal of denying other’s what you once had, then you are in the lead for the Hypocratic Party’s nomination.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Looking For Love

When we hear of the latest gaffe made by some politician, usually on the right, we all chuckle a bit at the apparent cluelessness that’s on display. It’s fun when a politician says something stupid or downright inane, it shows them, intellectual warts and all, and it reinforces the idea that maybe these big shots aren’t so high and mighty after all. It’s fun to watch other people make asses out of themselves, especially when they take themselves so seriously.

It’s the reason I watch primary debates.

Yet when these sort of comments are uttered in the heat of a political campaign, it seems to us so insipid of them to not understand that people are listening, and many are waiting for the chance to pounce on some verbal flub. For some, it’s the way they make their living and they’re counting on it to happen.

So when someone says that ‘married women can’t be raped by their husbands’ or that poverty is due to ‘inner city’ culture, it’s invariably followed by a near instantaneous onslaught of attention, mostly on the internet.

Can it be that these pols really are such intellectual lightweights and simply don’t understand why people sit up and take notice when saying some of the things they say? Or, is it because they are so rabid in their beliefs that they can’t understand why their statements aren’t taken as gospel and received with widespread acclaim and standing ovations?

It’s neither. What it is, is advertising.

In the current state of politics in the U.S. with endless election cycles, those aspiring for higher public office have to get noticed. To utter something outrageous is a calculated effort to be seen and heard.

In doing so, they differentiate themselves in some way from the rest of the pack. And, because campaign politics, primary campaign politics especially, is an exercise in ruthlessness and raw ambition if nothing else, even getting noticed for something bad is better than not getting noticed at all.

So when a Paul Ryan says that when we feed a hungry kid, we’re actually doing him long-term harm, he says that not so much because that’s how he feels (although that may be the case as well) but because he knows that that’s what that audience wants to hear, and no marks need be given or taken away for lack of accuracy.

Take the instance of Mitch McConnell taking the stage at CPAC’s 'open-mic nights' bearing a shotgun. What he’s communicating is ‘see, fellas, I’m one of you’. For history buffs, there's Richard Nixon and his peace sign wavery. Let’s not forget to wear our flag lapel pins either, and by the way, mine’s bigger than yours.

They are merely heeding Nixon’s (again with Nixon!) famous advice: If you’re a Democrat in a primary, run to the left. And if you’re a Republican in a primary, run to the right. Both should run towards the center in the general election.

And many have taken his advice, because as weird as Nixon was, he was not a stupid man. The problem is that in our never-ending election cycle, primary season never ends. That’s why we hear these outlandish, even insulting comments coming from the Ryan’s, the Rand’s, the Cruz’s:

They need to get noticed.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Broadcast Blues

I see the folks over at the Heartland Institute (a ‘Think Tank’, so you don’t have to) are whining over the fact that they might have to compete in the marketplace and not have their profits guaranteed for them the way they like it.

It’s just like these so-called free-market invisible-handers: you hear them spout those phrases like a meth addict asks strangers for money (every chance they get) but when it comes right down to it, they want the government to interfere – by making sure they get rich, and when that doesn’t happen, then somehow they’ve been screwed harder than Al Gore and Conan O’Brien put together[*].

The Heartland Institute, according to its webpage, is

“dedicated to finding[†] and promoting ideas that empower people.”

To do what, it doesn’t say. I mean, every third sentence is about less government, more freedom, same boilerplate argument you can get from any other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group. So that’s what they’re all about. 

They have an “Endorsement and Praise” page, just so you know they are really good at what they do. Funny[‡] how the endorsements are from the other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interests groups or politicians and others who owe their salaries to one or another different Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group.

Anyhow, the article in question, written by Seton Motley, a policy advisor to Heartland, complains about the “STELA” bill that’s being worked on in D.C. STELA, which stands for “Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act”[§] is, according to Seton, “crucial to keeping satellite television subscribers connected to the shows they like”.

As someone who doesn’t watch much television, I’ll have to take his word for that. Except that it doesn’t do much at all for satellite subscribers connecting to their TV shows. What it does do is protect local, small-markets from having their advertising revenue diverted into the hands of larger ‘rebroadcasters’, who make money by retransmitting ‘distant signals’ (transmissions acquired from outside localities) into smaller markets (but not always smaller markets) and have no production costs to worry about.

In other words, this fight is about money. Surprised?

In this case we have someone who wants to make money off of someone else. And that someone else is okay with that, provided they are compensated fairly. And that’s the rub. The two parties disagree about how to define ‘fair’.

I couldn’t care less about who wins this fight. There is a reason you don’t see this issue come up during election cycles. The subject is technical and the arguments are nuanced. What bothers me is how the fight is framed.

Heartland would have you think it’s about that mean old federal government sticking its nose in everyone’s business. You know, boilerplate.

What Heartland, and apparently every other Rabid-Wing quasi-political interest group doesn’t seem to get[**] is that the mean ‘ol government is sticking its nose into everyone’s business. That’s right: we, the people, own the transmission spectrum collectively, not any self-interested business that sees a chance at making money off of them.

It would be like someone complaining that the damned bank is interfering in their efforts to make a living because they constantly place guards in front of the vault where the money is kept, stopping easy access to it. Bastards.

Yes, Indeed. The government is sticking its nose in everyone’s business, because this is everyone’s business.

[*] Now, you just go ahead and try to get that picture out of your head.
[†] Finding? Do they look between the cushions?
[‡] Funny in the same way diarrhea is funny.
[§] I know a guy who ran an illegal cable from his neighbor’s house to his. When he got caught, he claimed it was a ‘satellite television extension and localism act’, too.
[**] I think that’s on purpose.
The Path of Least Resistance

We’ve all heard that phrase before, usually in the context of something electrical. But this phrase can also be applied to people as well. When people seek the path of least resistance in their personal lives, you get this. If they choose the path of least resistance in their professional lives, you get this. And, if the entire company’s leadership takes the path of least resistance, you get… Enron.

When this mentality is confined to a person’s personal life, there’s not much to be said about that, unless that person’s personal life intersects with yours.

But when this approach is taken by people you work with, or for, that’s another story.

You know the type. The corners he cuts are the ones you have to glue back on – and only then can you proceed to do your own work.

Jill Geisler, of the Poynter Institute, gives a great example of the antidote for these ‘least resistors’ in her “Meet 12 great employees to toast in 2012”.

Take a look at the article. Do you see anyone in your current organization or someone you’ve worked with in the past that, with just a bit of mentoring, could gain the attributes listed and not be a ‘resistor’? What about yourself?

Which, if any, of these role models listed in the article best describes you?

If the answer is none, you’ve got some work to do. Because, each of us has the potential to gain possibly all of these very attractive qualities, and who wouldn’t want to work with the kind of people Jill has described?

Let’s look at them one at a time.      
The Popular Pacesetter: She distinguishes herself by consistently excellent work, and does so in a way that causes the rest of the staff (including managers) to cheer. Your Popular Pacesetter is a low-maintenance, low drama, high quality performer. Co-workers trust that the product will be better and the work more enjoyable when she is on the team.
I’ve worked with some that absolutely loathe this gal. Why? Because they’re afraid they can’t compete with her. They blame her for their own shortcomings or personal lack of effort. But, beyond the issue of a lack of personal confidence, they’re missing an important point: the Popular Pacesetter (PP) I’m familiar with, isn’t competing with anyone other than themselves. That’s why they’re low-maintenance, low-drama. When they screw up (yes, even high performers make mistakes) they don’t point fingers (often when exactly that could be justified). Instead, they resolve to do better next time. And they usually do.

The PP is also a Process Disciple. She has to be, in order to be a pacesetter at all. She studies individual task itself, how it fits in with the  bigger picture. She thinks about her customer's customer. She thinks about her supplier's suppler. She thinks about her deliverables and how she can improve them. Because she's Process Disciple, she trains her attention on producing the absolute best product possible by making certain that all the 'small details' that many discount are as they should be, according to company standards and customer specifications. If they aren't, she makes them right before continuing.

Because of her dedication to excellence, the PP knows the process forwards and backwards. This allows her to see when something is out of order, when something's wrong. As a Process Disciple, she can detect these variances earlier rather than later, and in turn take corrective action earlier, thereby saving time and money, and even the company's repute.

Because PP's are focused on their own performance, they develop a very good habit of staying on task. Doing so not only allows them to become highly proficient at that task, but it also serves to remind them of why they’re doing that particular task, and for who.

That ‘who’ you might think would be a boss or a co-worker or some other stakeholder (and definitely the end-user), and there is much truth to that. However, as I’ve said many a time, every job is a service job.

We all know that the fellow that takes your order at the local coffee shop is a service worker, as well as the person who does your taxes. Yet I maintain that even someone like Rembrandt was a service worker. After all, he made the paintings for someone, even if that someone was himself. He was a service worker, and the paintings, the art, was how he served his customers.

Rembrandt may not have been a PP in the same sense that I’m using the term here. But, he did strive for excellence, and so do Popular Pacesetters, at least in my experience. But again, the excellence they strive for is their own.

I’ve worked with two kinds of Popular Pacesetters. The first kind, least common (in the universe of all PP’s) are the kind of people that like what they do and are good at it because they enjoy it. For these folks, being a PP comes naturally.

The second subset of PP’s I know are those that have to work hard to perform at a high level and they don’t necessarily like doing the particular task at hand, but excel at it because they take pride in their work, the quality and the quantity of their output. From my experience, these are the people that come through when things get toughest. Yes, they do tend to get put-upon more than others, but they also tend to have greater job security as well. The Popular Pacesetter gets it that her job is, ultimately, a service job.

What can you do if you aren’t a PP but want to be? Well, the one thing you don’t want to do is come to your boss with problems. Instead, come to her with solutions.

How do you find solutions? Be observant. Describe how you think the work should be done (without compromising quality-or safety - ever - in any way). Draw a (current-state) process map. Compare it to what you think the process should be (future-state process map). Detail the area(s) where changes (elimination or mitigation of constraints) need to occur.

Then, make a Pareto Chart listing the negative effects of each constraint.

For each category, devise a plan of action on how to deal with that particular constraint.

Put your thoughts, including any data or other pertinent information on a sheet of paper 11” x 22”. This is called A3 reporting, and it is very effective because it forces you to describe a problem, back it up with data or other information, and propose a solution, all one piece of paper. There are many, many ways to accomplish this. Google the term and do some of your own research.

There are many other techniques used to improve quality and productivity. Who knows? You might even come up with a new techniques of your own!

The point of it all is that to be, or to become, a Popular Pacesetter, you must focus intensely on the job at hand. Figuring out how to outperform yourself on a regular basis is habit forming and the best, most popular pacesetter of them all is the one who is secure in themselves enough to eagerly share what they know. They know that training others can be very difficult, but they will do it because they know that the company as a whole will benefit. Instead of seeking the path of least resistance, they create a path to greater success for others.

As you can see, the PP shares traits with others on Jill's list, and as we move forward in this discussion,we'll explore in greater detail how these various role models can be incorporated into the same employee's skill set.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hoch ‘ebmey tIjon
-          Klingon: Capture All Opportunities

In an opinion piece for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eric Frydenlund informs us that “The most alarming” thing regarding the John Doe email investigations is how easy it is for most of us to downplay the scandal as mere politics.

However, for the vast majority of voters (and almost certainly, all democrats) this is no small matter. The John Doe investigations reveal not merely cynicism from the Governor down, but a willingness - nay eagerness – to disregard not only campaign laws but human decency as well.

The tasteless jokes that were shared amongst staffers in then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s office would have ended with those staffer’s terminations when discovered by their superiors had they been working for a private enterprise.

And we can’t forget the cold-blooded response of how, when informed that a kid died from falling cement at the O’Donnell park parking structure, staffers scrambled to protect Walker’s image and showed no concern for the grieving family or of taking swift action to prevent more tragedy.

Could it be that David Icke is right?

This is because the staffers hitched their stars to Walkers' wagon. Because Walker has no game, brings no discernable talent when comes to actually governing, merely a desire to hold office, image is all there is, and must be protected no matter what.

Scott Walker acts like a Klingon. All he knows is winning – and he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process – even if it’s the very people he claims to want to help.

The Governor doesn’t care about the people he represents – because that’s not the reason he went into politics in the first place. Sure, you’ll hear him say how he was inspired by Reagan. He knows that uttering the patron saint’s sacred name – that act alone – will win the hearts of a certain segment of the populace. Did Reagan inspire him to cheat in the campaign for class president at Marquette?

These new revelations brought out by the John Doe investigations are “the most alarming” thing to come to surface, because they reinforce what many have been thinking about Walker: He’s Nixon. Or, more accurately, he’s Nixon-ish.

Paranoid, secretive, callous, and calculating.

Richard Nixon once said:

"A public man must never forget that he loses his usefulness when he as an individual, rather than his policy, becomes the issue."
What Walker doesn’t get is that these investigations aren’t really about campaign law or what staff did illegally. It’s now about him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the investigations revealed Walker’s own ‘enemy’s list’, provided he hasn’t destroyed it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Of the top 25 employers listed in the BadgerCare Plus Report, in 2013 retail workers accounted for 7005 enrollees.

There were a total of 14,637 BadgerCare enrollees in 2013 associated with those top 25. That means that retail workers accounted for approximately 48% of BadgerCare enrollees associated with the top 25 employer, profitable companies (some very profitable) that can afford to pay their employees a living wage yet choose not to, foisting their obligation onto the backs of Wisconsin's taxpayers.

Even worse, some of these companies receive subsidies from the state, tax breaks by localities for building and operating their business here.

There were approximately 3061 Walmart-related enrollees in Wisconsin in 2013, or nearly 21% of all BadgerCare enrollees in the State employed by these 25 employers alone.

That means that in addition to the aforementioned subsidies, the people of Wisconsin further subsidize these companies, and that's not including SNAP benefits, school lunches, rent assistance, heat assistance, and Earned Income Tax Credits, etc.

When people of Wisconsin hear statistics like these they often think of Milwaukee because it's the most populated city and county in the state. But low and behold! The county with the highest concentration of BadgerCare enrollees is Wood County, with approximately 44% of its population that work for one of the top 25 offenders being forced to rely on public assistance to meet their and their families healthcare needs. La Crosse County comes in second, with approximately 31%.

If you listen to people like Paul Ryan, as fierce a class warrior as he is hypocrictical, it's the 'inner city' culture that's at the root of poverty. Yet here's another case where the facts show how wrong he is. Being wrong doesn't bother someone like Ryan. Or Gov. Walker, or Sen. Johnson, or...well, the list is too long.

They'll tell you that all you need is a brown bag for your lunch and a job, any job, and the good life will come to you. Sure, that 'good life' may mean working for minimum wages (which they think are too high already) 20 hours a week at two or three jobs, and that's if you can even get those.

They complain about people becoming reliant on government yet pass laws that make that outcome certain, like giving subsidies for companies moving jobs out of the country and 'right-to-work' laws that weaken workers ability to organize for better wages and working conditions.

It'll drive you nuts if you think about how these guys operate for too long. Ryan cries about people feeling entitled to Social Security (that might be because they've paid into it all their working lives) yet had no moral compunction against taking S.S. money when he needed it to finish school and get a degree, even though he hadn't paid a dime into the system.

And let's not forget old St. Ron, who didn't become interested in how high taxes were until he himself became wealthy. Then there's Ron Johnson, the 'job creator' that didn't create any job other than his own when he married his wife and into her family business. Listening to him, you'd think his success was due to him and his bootstraps and nothing more.

The Republican Party has become the party of No. As in No Credibility. They know that as long as they speak the words enough times, there will be sufficient numbers of voters that will simply believe it, nay, want to believe it, so it doesn't matter how off-the-mark they are.

Being wrong doesn't matter to these guys because it's not about credibility. It's about advertising.

Five Things The Cato Institute Got Wrong About E-Verify

To see the Cato Institute's Policy Analysis, click here.

1. The only reason labor-intensive farming exists is because there are migrants willing to work for low wages.

Especially in the era of NAFTA. What happens is a company, say, Milwaukee Tools, relocates to Mexico, taking the jobs with them. There, they hire Mexican nationals who either already possess some, albeit, rudimentary skills, or are deemed capable of assimilating said skills quickly.

While this is happening, the U.S. Federal government is subsidizing corporate grain producers in the U.S., making it cheaper for the Mexican government to import (duty free) grain from the U.S., undercutting their own farmers.

Those farmers, being forced off the farm in their own country, lack sufficient skills to get hired by the recently relocated U.S. manufacturers, flee to the U.S. in order to find work, displacing U.S. citizens due to the immigrants' willingness to work for less.

This becomes self-fulfilling. The farmer (and by ‘farmer’ I mean the large corporate farms) knows that migrants (especially illegal migrants) will work the fields for a lower wage than a non-immigrant will. This has always been the case, but since the advent of NAFTA, its never been more true.

The farmer decides that he will only hire illegal immigrants, in many case knowing they are illegal, and at times blatantly hiring them even while being audited by ICE.[1].

These unsavory employers don’t even try to recruit legal workers.The Cato Institute would have you believe that farming would cease if it weren’t for illegal immigrants.

2. E-Verify is too expensive and should be abandoned.

In its ‘Policy Analysis’, which is more marketing than analysis, Cato asserts that E-Verify can cost as much as $147 to the employer. If there are employers who spend that much to administrate a free program, then there are some people running businesses that are not very good at it.

Here, Cato uses a very old tactic: taking the most inefficient employer's costs and labeling them as standard. The tactic has been used in minimum-wage issues, regulations, etc.

Since E-Verify is provided free[2] from the federal government, the costs mentioned in the Cato analysis are “internal costs"[3] which are entirely in the control of the employer. Besides, there are always some costs in hiring that employers will temporarily shoulder – temporary because as we all know, costs are passed on to the customer.

3. Unauthorized immigrants lift everyone’s wage.

In fact, the opposite is true. In a study by George Borjas, a Harvard economist, immigration (and that would include illegal immigration) drives down the average annual wages of native workers by 4%, and by those native workers without a high school diploma, by 7.4%.[4,5]

While making this claim, Cato engages in bald-faced stereotyping racism:

Natives have a comparative advantage in jobs that require communication, while low-skilled immigrants have a comparative advantage in brawn…[6]

Hmmm. The statement speaks for itself.

4. E-Verify drives illegal workers to break the law.

The paper’s author claims that E-verify forces illegal workers to steal legal workers identities in order to gain work or to work ‘under the table’.

That’s like saying that drugs laws force drug dealers to lie about where their income comes from.When an illegal immigrant commits further crime, in this case identity theft, in order to earn money while here illegally, that simply reinforces the fact that illegal workers aren’t necessarily just ‘trying to better their lives’. They may be trying exactly that, but that’s not ‘all’ they’re doing.

Stealing the identity from someone who is legally employable only makes it harder for that legally employable person to work. And that may take food off their table or force them into homelessness, or to accept any low-paying job they can get, squaring the circle...

E-Verify doesn’t compel someone to steal someone else’s identity. It does, however, incentivize an illegal worker to commit more crime, thus proving that illegal workers aren’t too awfully concerned about our laws to begin with.

But, we already knew that.

5. If, in fact, all the claims made by CATO were true, then why would many U.S. companies voluntarily use E-Verify? 

Put a fair market wage on the job, an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, and there will be plenty of native born workers willing to do the job.

The only logical reason for the resistance to nationally mandated E-Verify is to provide a mechanism for unsavory business people to exploit illegal workers for their own financial gain.

It’s not about opportunity, it’s not about being unable to find native workers willing to do the work.

It's about greed.

The Cato Institute would have you think that E-Verify will destroy business and cripple the economy. It won't, but crying 'the sky is falling' is the last tool left for unscrupulous employers who feel they have a right to game the system.

[3]Cost Per Hire, American National Standard. Society for Human Resource Management.
[5]Steven Camarota 1998. "The Wages of Immigration: The Effect on the Low-Skilled Labor Market," Washington D.C.: Center for Immigration Studies. Camarota, Steven A. 1997. "The Effect of Immigrants on the Earnings of Low-skilled Native Workers: Evidence from the June 1991 Current Population Survey," Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 78.