Sunday, August 1, 2010

PS427: Be Bold Wisconsin

UpFront with Mike Gousha had a great segment on economic development today with Cory Nettles (former Dem Commerce Secretary) and Bill McCoshen (former Rep Commerce Secretary). They have been part of a new study producing a set of recommendations, including a complete restructuring of the Commerce Department to focus it on economic development.

Here is the link to the segment as it aired.

And here is a link to the "web extra" that extends the conversation.

The full report is here. Read every word and comment below.

Compare with the Wisconsin Technology Council report you read a few weeks ago.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

PS 427: Wisconsin: Land of Beer, Cheese, and…Startups

After more pessimistic posts on Wisconsin's economic climate, here is a visible positive post on the startup culture in Madison and vicinity.

Wisconsin: Land of Beer, Cheese, and…Startups

Can Wisconsin really compete with the Twin Cities, Chicago or Silicon Valley?

If you were recruiting talent to a startup here, how would you do it?

What aspects of the state would you promote? Which would you try to ignore?

How can state government make Wisconsin more attractive to your employees?

Monday, July 12, 2010

PS427: Technology Council pushes for 'bold action'

All the candidates for Governor are talking about creating jobs. The Wisconsin Technology Council has just released a report on policy changes needed to address the problem of encouraging the growth of high-tech jobs in the state.

The Journal Sentinel has the story:

Technology Council pushes for 'bold action' - JSOnline

And here is the link to the Council's full report:

Based on the report, what do you think is possible for the next governor to accomplish on this front? What problems might arise in adopting those policies?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

PS427: Wisconsin Budget Outlook

Two good sources for analysis of the Wisconsin state budget.

On the right, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute:

Wisconsin's State Budget Outlook: The Worst is Yet to Come

On the left, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families:

Wisconsin Budget Basics Guide.

For NEXT week, July 18, base your weekly memo on these two pieces.

Are there broad points of agreement, or do the analyses take fundamentally different assumptions?

Are there prescriptions here, and if so do they agree or differ?

PS427: How facts backfire

From the Boston Globe.

How facts backfire - The Boston Globe

Perhaps this helps explain why sensible debate about policy is so difficult, including issues of budgets.

Is there any chance the solution proposed at the end of the article could actually work?

This Week on ABC has been doing fact checking of guests in recent months. Any indication it has an effect? Can you think of any change that might make the fact checking more consequential?

PS427: Wisconsin candidates' cost-cutting plans don't add up

Journal Sentinel does a little checking up on savings claims.

Wisconsin candidates' cost-cutting plans don't add up - JSOnline

Why is it so hard to produce credible savings, growth, tax claims? This applies equally to both parties.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

PS427: State budget deficit swells to $2.5 billion

From the Journal Sentinel:

State budget deficit swells to $2.5 billion - JSOnline

Review the actual memo here.

Prepare a quick briefing based on the memo. What elements of the budget stand out as most consequential?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

PS427: New Jersey Budget, Christie vs Dems

The New Jersey budget faced an $11 billion shortfall. Newly elected governor Chris Christie drew attention by taking on state employee unions, especially teachers, and pushed throw a budget with major cuts, numerous fee increases, and elimination of tax-rebates. Republicans are looking at Christie as a model for budget cutting while maintaining popular support. Dems are concerned.

This is a striking contrast with the situation in Illinois where little progress seems to be at hand in dealing with state bills that can't be paid. Or in California which as of today (July 4) still lacks a state budget.

Here are a series of excellent articles covering the NJ budget process and the current "near-deal" on limiting property tax increases, which may or may not be a done deal (see reservations by the assembly speaker.)

This is a GREAT overview of the entire budget process and negotiations. Bravo to reporters Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin for an article that covers the complexity so well.

Here is the article on the budget passing. Note the chart on where the money comes from and where it goes. I wish it were a little more detailed, especially on what state agencies spend what but otherwise useful information.

This is a piece that puts Christie's budget in the perspective of what previous governors did to bring the state to its current situation.

And here is where the property tax issue stands today, with an agreement in the senate and some uncertainty in the assembly.

Not all are happy, and here is a piece on groups opposing the budget deal.

Some earlier coverage in the run-up to the budget include:

State worker protests. (Note the likely cuts to state worker benefits in Wisconsin as well. Pensions and benefits are inviting targets. (Why?)  And not just for Reps. Gov. Doyle recommended more or less the same increase in state worker contributions to retirement funds last year that GOPer Scott Walker now supports.)

Universities and colleges take $173M in cuts, plan tuition hikes.  In what ways is that a good thing and a bad thing? Discuss.

Christie fighting with teachers unions.

Oh my! Christie urges towns to reject school budgets without a wage freeze!

Subsequently, 53% of such budgets are rejected. Quite an impressive show of support for the Governor's position. Quite a lack of success for the teachers unions.

Here is a comical attempt to spin the results in favor of the teachers unions.

And here is a good non-partisan overview of Christie's conflict with the teachers and the subsequent votes.

Wow. I could go on and on. The Newark Star Ledger deserves huge praise for their detailed coverage and for a page offering the entire chronology. I wish Wisconsin papers would follow their lead in coverage and organization of that coverage on their web pages. This is a model of good work.

Here is the Star-Ledger's overview page.

Read JUST THE HEADLINES on the overview page. Read from bottom to top so you see it in chronological order. Make note of the issues, areas of cuts and revenue increases, and ESPECIALLY how each interest group howls in protest when their ox is gored. Note also in the budget article above how Republican legislators are very troubled about voting for cuts to THEIR suburban school districts. Concern for YOUR ox is bi-partisan indeed.

This is textbook stuff about budget making. The most amazing part is how Christie marshaled the political skill to get the budget through the legislature, where Democrats control both houses, and how he had to struggle to maintain GOP unanimity of support for his plan.

I don't have a dog in this fight. There are good arguments on both sides of budget debates. But as just plain fascinating politics, this case in New Jersey deserves to be widely studied.

Friday, July 2, 2010

PS427: Illinois Has Stopped Paying Bills

Is this Wisconsin's future?

Payback Time - Budget in the Red, Illinois Has Stopped Paying Bills -

How bad can state finances get without elected officials actually solving problems?

PS427: A big day for economic analysis

The latest employment data are out this morning, prompting a binge of analysis.

The NYT's Economix blog is particularly active with some excellent analysis and graphics. Here are the links:

Is job growth being underestimated? Maybe.  This from the day before the new data arrived.

Is the recovery losing steam? Gloom.  Note the focus on employment. There is much more to the economy than just jobs, so this is a rather narrow view. Looking more broadly might be worse or better, but at least look.

Comparing the recession with the previous ones since 1970.  This includes one of the most elegant and clear graphics showing the depth of the current recession in terms of jobs lost.

Long-term unemployment is the distinctive mark of the current recession. Is this due to structural change in the economy, or as some argue the continuing extension of unemployment insurance? Would more have found a (probably lower paying) job if they didn't have continuing unemployment benefits to fall back on? Will the current GOP blockage of yet another extension of unemployment benefits ultimately force some to take a job less good than they would wish? And for bonus points, as a political matter, can GOP candidates successfully campaign on having "stood against more deficit spending" if it means they did so by blocking extended unemployment benefits? Can Dems campaign for extending benefits even if they must therefore take the blame for more deficit spending?

The 1981-82 recession was the worst post-war recession until this one. Is this one worse, even though unemployment rates hit higher peaks in 1982?  And here is the full report that was the basis of the NYT Economix report.

PS427: Two Budget Analysis Sites

Here are two sites that do interesting budget analysis work.

Leaning left is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  We took a look at some of their work earlier.

And leaning right/libertarian is the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Both have a variety of interesting analyses, and it is useful to compare how and why their conclusions sometimes differ (and where they agree.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PS427: Stabilize the National Debt Yourself

As we are talking about budget choices at both the state and federal levels, here is a nifty exercise in seeing what you care to cut to get the federal debt under control.

Ezra Klein writes about some of the issues here.

And more fun, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has the budget simulation here.

See what it takes you to get to 60% of GDP.

Discuss: What choices did you make?

What political obstacles would arise in getting your choices passed by Congress?

Who do you think should pay for reducing the deficit? The rich through higher taxes, the poor through reduced services, the elderly through Medicare and Social Security cuts, the middle class by removing income tax deductions for homes and state taxes, the military by ending defense spending as we know it? You choose, but explain your choices.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PS427: Soaring Welfare Spending?

The Heritage Foundation has a new report arguing against a substantial increase in welfare spending.

The report is linked here.

Be sure to read the reference notes at the end as well. Click the link at the end of the report to reveal the references.

Discuss: What is "welfare"? What programs does it include and what are not considered welfare even though they are social spending (such as social security or Medicare)? Why make these distinctions?

Why didn't the welfare reforms of the Clinton presidency "end welfare"?

How significant is the growth in this category of spending? How much of the budget is devoted to these programs?

What is the state role in welfare spending and how do states differ in their payments for welfare programs?

What are the policy goals Heritage seeks to promote through guts to welfare spending?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PS427: The Anti-Stimulus, State Responsibility and WFA

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post is an interesting journalist with a wonkish policy focus. This week he published a piece on state budget problems as the "anti-stimulus", amounting to a huge amount of money not being spent that can equal or even exceed the size of the federal stimulus package.

See his article here.

Some reader's subsequently object (quite correctly) that federal aid to the states amounts to enabling their bad budget management and just encourages them to delay confronting the basic shortcomings of their budgeting. Klein raises that issue and presents some counter evidence, along with a link to an academic analysis of the state budget short fall and its roots in unemployment levels:

That link is here.

And finally, what are the roots of government (state and federal) deficits and can't they be readily cured by eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse (WFA). The public seems to think so. See this piece by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Link to opinion about WFA here.


Is Klein's empirical argument one that both lefties and righties should (in principle!) be able to agree on, even if they differ on policy solutions? Or is there an underlying ideological debate about the fundamental point Klein is making, which means that no such empirical agreement is possible?

What role do you think public attitudes play in state and federal efforts to address budget deficits and revenue?

Why does the public continue to believe that such large portions of government revenue is wasted and therefore could be cut without any consequence?

If it is so easy to do, why has NEITHER party made significant headway in cutting spending? (Consider the record of the 1990s and the federal surpluses that resulted as both a positive and a negative example.)

PS427: State budget cuts: across the board, and at cross-purposes


State budget cuts: across the board, and at cross-purposes

Almost every state has suffered budget shortfalls in the wake of the 2008 recession. How states have coped with cuts is varied and of varied effectiveness.

Discuss: Why do states find it difficult to adopt effective budget cutting strategies?

Why are some states more successful than others in dealing with budget problems?

Will these cuts be restored once the economy recovers or are they likely to result in permanent reductions?

Which budget areas of state government are "easy" to cut and which are "hard"? Why?

Why don't they just cut "waste, fraud and abuse" to solve the budget difficulties?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WisconsinEye 2010 Campaign Overview

The video link is here.

I review the 2010 election campaigns in Wisconsin with Steve Walters at Wisconsin Eye.

Friday, June 4, 2010

PS544: Booth's map at Museum of London

Booth's map of London is written up in the New York Times from last month. The Galleries of Modern London at the Museum of London has a show up with the original maps. The Times story is a pretty nice writeup.

Thanks to Flowing Data for bringing this to my attention. Flowing Data is an excellent site for data visualization examples and inspiration.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

PS544: Charles Booth's map of London poverty

A good color reproduction of Booth's map is available from the University of Michigan here.

My favorite spot when in London is Half Moon Street, just north of Green Park, next door to Buckingham Palace. Shockingly the Queen has not invited me to come over for tea.  Not exactly a neighborhood of poverty in those days or these.

A very pretty large scale version of a segment of the map is here.

You can also see and download several of Booth's volumes at Google Books. Here is one.

Here are two of Booth's earliest reports presented to the Royal Statistical Society. (These are at JSTOR so you will need access to link to the articles.)  Article 1 and Article 2

A slightly later address by Booth to the Royal Statistical Society is here. (Also JSTOR.)

PS544: Charles Booth's measure of poverty

Booth ClassificationDescription of class
AThe lowest class which consists of some occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals. Their life is the life of savages, with vicissitudes of extreme hardship and their only luxury is drink
BCasual earnings, very poor. The labourers do not get as much as three days work a week, but it is doubtful if many could or would work full time for long together if they had the opportunity. Class B is not one in which men are born and live and die so much as a deposit of those who from mental, moral and physical reasons are incapable of better work
CIntermittent earning. 18s to 21s per week for a moderate family. The victims of competition and on them falls with particular severity the weight of recurrent depressions of trade. Labourers, poorer artisans and street sellers. This irregularity of employment may show itself in the week or in the year: stevedores and waterside porters may secure only one of two days' work in a week, whereas labourers in the building trades may get only eight or nine months in a year.
DSmall regular earnings. poor, regular earnings. Factory, dock, and warehouse labourers, carmen, messengers and porters. Of the whole section none can be said to rise above poverty, nor are many to be classed as very poor. As a general rule they have a hard struggle to make ends meet, but they are, as a body, decent steady men, paying their way and bringing up their children respectably.
ERegular standard earnings, 22s to 30s per week for regular work, fairly comfortable. As a rule the wives do not work, but the children do: the boys commonly following the father, the girls taking local trades or going out to service.
FHigher class labour and the best paid of the artisans. Earnings exceed 30s per week. Foremen are included, city warehousemen of the better class and first hand lightermen; they are usually paid for responsibility and are men of good character and much intelligence.
GLower middle class. Shopkeepers and small employers, clerks and subordinate professional men. A hardworking sober, energetic class.
HUpper middle class, servant keeping class.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wall's first ad against Feingold

- "Fed Up"

Notice the themes here and speculate about how widespread this theme will be in 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DSCC urges quick offensive

DSCC urges quick offensive for 2010 - Print View

Discuss: If you were a Dem candidate/manager are these the questions you would use against Republicans? If you were a Republican candidate/manager, how would you respond if these were used against you? And is it just me or do these sound like questions that might have come from last summer but which are now outdated (or come from 1964 or 1933??)

Monday, January 25, 2010

G.O.P. Seeks to Widen Field of Play

G.O.P. Seeks to Widen Field of Play in Fall Elections -

This is the huge payoff of pro-Republican national forces: candidate recruitment.

Also see the sidebar on primaries to watch.

And on the Dem side, Beau Biden decides it is a bad year to be part of a political dynasty. Negative recruitment. And note Dad's fine performance over the weekend blurting out his son's plans then getting the Delaware paper to retract the story. And now...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

McCain Faces Primary Challenge

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Hayworth says he will challenge McCain � - Blogs from

Discuss: Is this the legacy of the Tea Party for Reps? Will it energize a new wave of participation or fracture the party at a time it could be poised for rebirth? Given the AZ Rep party, what are the chances he can beat McCain in the primary?

Obama Calls Team From 2008 for Races in Fall

Obama Calls Team From 2008 for Races in Fall -

Plouffe Op-Ed in Washington Post

Too late to get started on this? How about in November after the VA and NJ elections?

Discuss: How much can be done at this point and from a DC center rather than locally? Is it too late for candidate recruitment? Does success in 2008 mean Plouffe is equally adept at state races in 2010? If you are a Rep, what do you do next? If you are a Dem what do you do?

New Media and Campaigns

You are insane if you are in politics but not following this carefully. You are missing a huge opportunity if you are not actively participating in it. Both parties have exciting developments so there is room for everyone to find a niche and play.

How the Republicans Won the Internet--Washington Post

Goldstein & Franklin on Corporate Campaign Decision

A few thoughts on the Supreme Court's "Citizens United v. FEC" decision.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court and Corporate Advocacy

First the legal analysis:

And then the two sides get their say

The Court's ruling is here, though it may load faster from here.

Discuss: How broad is this decision? Will it affect only federal elections, or state also? What is a "corporation" within this context? What limits still apply to corporate political spending? How is this different from what corporate Political Action Committees (PACs) could do already? If you were CEO of a corporation, say Bank of America, would you authorize corporate money to be used to advocate the election or defeat of an incumbent member of Congress? Would you advocate in an open race? Who is helped and who is hurt by this ruling? Why?

Making Sense of Polling

I gave a talk at the Capitol last week for legislators and staff on "Making Sense of Polling".

Here is the video link at WisconsinEye is here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Your candidate just lost. What do you say?

Coakley Pollster Defends Campaign Against White House

Discuss: Better or worse than silence? Better or worse than blaming your own candidate? Despite CYA, is the analysis right or wrong about what moved voters?

Dems on HCR: Now what?

CongressDaily - Democrats Consider Backup Plans

Discuss: If Brown wins, the Dems have about 10-15 days with 60 votes in the senate. Enough? How bad does it look to force the bill through prior to seating Brown? Would failing to pass anything look worse?

Mass Sen Finger Pointing (Dems only)

Coakley adviser memo: D.C. Dems 'failed' Coakley - Ben Smith -

Dem Party Responds to Coakley memo

Ahhhh. And the votes aren't even counted yet.

Discuss: Could a better campaign have saved Coakley? If she miraculously wins, how bad do these folks look? What accounts for the sudden crashing of Coakley and the surge for Brown? Can a seat ever be taken for granted? Is there a just God?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Marquette example of research/teaching spinoff

Lab learns to predict gas demand - JSOnline

This is a really nice story of how university research can both create a business and provide valuable training for students.

Discuss: What aspects of this business make it work in a university setting? What types of business might not be as well suited? How could this scale up if it left the university? Why do students who get involved in this kind of project get better jobs when they graduate, as discussed near the end of the story? Is it them, or the job, or something about both? Could such enterprises become significant in the state economy or are they niches that have little prospect of real growth and impact?

BTW: The Neumann campaign tweeted a link to this. Why? Should Walker and Barrett have done the same if they saw it first?

Becoming Obama's Voice

Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes is penning a different script for the world stage -

This is a nice biographical look at how you can work in the west wing in 10 years.

Discuss: How big a role do the social advantages of being from the upper east side play? Did attending Rice take Rhodes off the fast track compared to attending an Ivy? How did he get his start in DC and why did that work for him? Is his policy knowledge deep enough? If you are Rhodes, why do you not want this story to appear, and why do you want it? (There is a West Wing episode on the perils of notoriety for staffers, if you want some entertainment.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Midterm talking points

A nice article by Ron Brownstein with talk from David Axelrod with the Dem view.

National Journal Online - White House Readies Aggressive Midterm Push

A three short comments from the power house team at Public Opinion Strategies expressing the evidence for the Republicans:

On GOP Message

On Gloomy data for Dems

On Obama approval and the midterms

Discuss: Given the history of midterms, can a presidential party talk its way out of a midterm referendum? If the economy grows in the first three quarters, will that upset Republican campaign plans based on a "failure" of the Dem/Obama stimulus efforts? If you were a Rep strategist, what would your fallback be if GDP grows 4%? If you were a Dem strategist, what would your fallback be in GDP declines in the 2nd quarter suggesting a "double dip" recession?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wisconsin’s economic recovery has begun

Wisconsin’s economic recovery has begun - BizTimes

Discuss: Implications for Gov. Race.

P.S. Here is the Wisconsin unemployment trend in perspective. Unemployment is not necessarily the best indicator of economic recovery, but is certainly not irrelevant to the question.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Neumann kicks off new year

Neumann calls for term limits, other reforms - JSOnline

After a very quiet fall, GOP Gov candidate Mark Neumann has started the new year with a five point plan for reforming Wisconsin government.

Discuss: Are these the best 5 points to lead with? What practical impact are they likely to have? What campaign strategies will they support in opposition to Walker or Barrett? How would you use these to push your candidate?

Sunday, January 3, 2010