No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Archive for July, 2010

July 29, 2010

Another Tax Man stinker – 2008 edition

by @ 20:31. Filed under Economy, Politics - National, Taxes.

(H/T – Charlie Sykes)

In his discussion of the requirement of every small business to report to the IRS every payment of at least $600 in the aggregate (discussed here earlier this year), David Frum found a real gem of a form – Form 1099-K (draft version). While that is not the form he is thinking of, one of his readers remembered what that form is for. It seems a credit/third-party network transactions reporting requirement was slipped into the “Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008″ by Harry Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats, and it is a doozy, and the IRS made it an even bigger doozy in its proposed implementing regulations.

To cut to the quick; all payment-card payments (on cards issued by an entity unrelated to the entity accepting final payment) and all third-party network transactions that exceed $20,000 and 200 transactions to a particular payee in a year from said network (not from an individual account holder, but from every account holder) must be reported on an aggregated monthly basis, and a separate 1099-K must be filed for each determinable cardholder/account owner.

Are you going to use that Chase MasterCard to buy a $800 computer from Best Buy in March 2011? Are you going to use your debit card to buy a $8 meal from Culver’s in April 2011? Are you going to use PayPal to buy a $500 airline ticket from AirTran in June 2011? Will you be passing through a tollbooth using EZ-Pass in January 2011? Will you be using a WMATA SmarTrip card on a DASH bus in February 2011? Will you be making a phone call using a prepaid phone card in September 2011? If so, the IRS will find out about it.

But wait; it gets “better”. If you accept a payment-card or third-party network transaction, you better tell that card or payment company your correct Taxpayer ID Number if you don’t want them to withhold federal taxes on the payments due you.

I suppose there is one little bit of good news. If those proposed IRS regulations I linked to go through without changes, those of you with businesses just might have a little less paperwork to deal with. If all of your payments to a particular vendor are made with a business credit card, you won’t have to report those payments because your credit card company will take care of that for you.

July 28, 2010

My superintendent in Franklin is grossly underpaid (and so is yours)

by @ 21:59. Filed under Miscellaneous.

DISCLAIMER: I am not picking on Franklin Superintendent Steve Patz or any other super…..just stay with me, ok.

You cannot make this stuff up.

I was driving to a meeting today listening to Charlie Sykes. He was devoting a segment of his program to a breaking story, and kudos to them, on Milwaukeenewsbuzz.com. It is mind blowing and mind boggling:

“Some Milwaukee Public Schools teachers could be getting their hotel accommodations or other Spring Break vacation expenses paid by the district under an agreement reached with the teachers union.”

The details follow.

Now this comes after yours truly blogged information received earlier this month from the MacIver Institute:

“Information provided by MPS and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and compiled by the MacIver Institute shows that in 2002, the average MPS teacher made $63,413 in salary and benefits. Next year, the average teacher will make $98,423*.

Now they’re getting vacation expenses paid for them??!!

Holy phone lines, Batman! That’s a talk show topic.

So Charlie opened up the airwaves to the audience.

Some teacher union sympathizer got in and tried to go head to head with Charlie.

Mistake.

The talk show host always has the upper hand. He’s a better communicator, debater, and he has studied up on the facts.

He defended this sweetheart vacation deal the teachers were getting.

He claimed that the poor, whiny, moaning teachers deserve far more than what they get.

And Sykes, as you might expect, had him for lunch. Whiny, moaning crybaby teachers don’t need whiny, moaning, crybaby sympathizers to rush to their defense…..because they have no defense.

Alright, alright, Kevin. Why drag Steve Patz into this?? Huh??

OK, I’ll tell you, and again, I have nothing against Patz per se.

It’s just that this ignoramus that foolishly called into the Sykes program said, and you can hear it on the podcast, that school superintendents deserve a lot more than what they are currently being compensated.

Oh really?

Yes, really.

How much?

Try, in the millions.

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Say what?

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School superintendents need to be paid in the millions.

That’s WAY WAY WAY more than
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THE GREAT OBAMESSIAH!

Sorry.

Superintendents,  and that would include Franklin’s Steve Patz, don’t deserve more than the governor. Those of you who were in on negotiating Patz’s contract, you got screwed and so did the Franklin taxpayers.

Millions for school superintendents who are running districts cranking out failing student after failing student?

Wow. Are we in trouble.

Public Policy Polling returning to its Democrat roots?

by @ 12:39. Filed under Politics.

Jim Geraghty and a couple of his regular readers found some rather odd crosstabs in recent Public Policy Polling releases in New Hampshire and California races that purport to show surges for Democrat candidates. At the same time other pollsters (no, Bill, not just Rasmussen) are finding fewer self-identified Democrats and liberals nationwide, PPP somehow found more of them in both New Hampshire and California for their latest polls.

Something tells me that a close examination of the PPP crosstabs in their next series of Wisconsin releases is in order.

Only in government, MPS edition

by @ 12:26. Filed under Education, Politics - Wisconsin.

(H/T – Charlie Sykes)

Milwaukee Magazine‘s NewsBuzz reports on an employment situation that can only happen in government. First, the setup: Milwaukee Public Schools has, for the past several years, scheduled an in-school school-day district-wide taking of the ACT college admission examination in order to facilitate the participation of every high school junior. For this coming school year, they scheduled it for Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Somebody in the district offices forgot to tell those who negotiated the 2010-2011 school calendar with the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association that 4/27/2011 is the Wednesday after Easter. The tentative agreement, reached in early June, had spring break at its traditional Good Friday-through-Friday after Easter slot.

The MPS board caught this potential problem at the June 24 meeting, during which the final ratification of the school calendar was supposed to take place. Rather than attempting to reschedule the date of the ACT test, asking high-school juniors who want to take the test come in during spring break, or asking those juniors to take the test on one of the several Saturdays and at one of the several locations (some of which are MPS facilities) suburban and private-school students take the test, they told the negotiators to move spring break to accomodate the 4/27 ACT test date, and decided to hold off on agreeing to the school calendar until that was done.

On July 9, MPS and MTEA reached a pair of agreements regarding spring break. First, they agreed to move spring break to the week before Easter plus the Monday following Easter. That in itself is not at all controversial – it is the same number of weekdays, and it encompasses Easter.

However, the second part is something only a union would demand and only a government entity would grant – a chance, at the board’s discretion, of reimbursement for any and all expenses on an altered or cancelled vacation during the week after Easter that are non-refundable, non-reimbursable, or penalties generated by an alteration or cancellation.

Yes, you read that right – MPS will in all likelyhood pay for the assumptions made by employees based on an unofficial and never-ratified schedule. In the private sector, especially in a non-union shop, the employer would have told the employees, in so many words, “Tough luck.” In fact, that same sentiment would have been given had the vacation been forced to be altered or cancelled at the last minute.

A Tale of Two Responses to Last Week’s Storms

by @ 7:44. Filed under Miscellaneous.

This past weekend, countless Milwaukee households grappled with what to do next to put their very existence together following life-threatening rain storms last Thursday. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, still battling the severe injuries he suffered when he singlehandedly took on a weapon-wielding fanatic gone berserk last August managed to somehow on his rare day off from Milwaukee City Hall reject spending time with his family so he could survey the damage to the city he loves more than freedom itself.

Barrett emerged from his home early Saturday morning while the overwhelming majority of his constituents slept safely in their warm beds thanks to the mayor’s ongoing efforts that have stifled violent criminals in Milwaukee, The mayor saw a young woman walking a parched poodle down the street. Without hesitation, Barrett ran to his outdoor hose, and grabbing it with his still injured hand, turned the water on and hustled back to quench the animal’s thirst, the dog now lying on its side from the early morning July heat.

Aides to Barrett repeatedly asked the mayor if he wanted to drive him to the damaged areas. Barrett stoically replied, “No. I’ll walk.”

Along his path, Barrett encountered numerous constituents. One young boy, wearing knee braces and with a tear in his eye asked the mayor, “Could you help me, someday?” Barrett, choking back tears of his own replied, “Son, when I’m governor, the sick, the ill, the fragile couldn’t ask for a better friend in the state Capitol than me.”

“Thank you, Mayor,” the young boy responded.

Barrett smiled and winked to the young lad who looked happier than he’s been in months.

Before arriving at his first stop of what would be many to see the havoc Mother Nature caused, the mayor thought it best to enter a nearby church and pray for the victims and their recovery. While inside, some nuns who gathered to recite the Rosary, normally unflappable, found themselves overcome, unable to hide their emotions and show how impressed they were with Barrett.

“God bless you, sir,” said one of the nuns.

“All in a day’s work, Sister,” said Barrett.

On his route, Barrett passed four children’s lemonade stands and bought drinks at all four, offering to come to each child’s classroom in September to discuss how each and every one of them deserves a great school.

In the absence of crossing guards, Barrett also escorted nine elderly men and women, six with canes, three in wheelchairs across busy intersections.

During one stretch of his walk, Barrett encountered at least a half dozen gang members congregating on a busy street corner. Completely forgetting  and ignoring the peril that struck him last year when he courageously stood up to a mad man armed with a tire iron, Barrett stopped, and after first asking the gang members if their mothers knew what they were doing, implored the young men to give up their life of crime before he enthusiastically handed them schedules to Milwaukee’s summer ethnic and church festivals.

Despite being urged by aides to pick up his pace and get to the scene of storm-ravaged homes, Barrett insisted that these were necessary stops for the good of the community and all mankind.

Barrett would, indeed, conduct his own personal assessment of the damage, visiting over 175 homes personally before the sun completely set.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the right-wing conservative candidate who stands in the way of a fine gentleman like Tom Barrett becoming governor and whose party has often been characterized as mean-spirited had a slightly different weekend.

Having watched the 10:00 news on all local TV stations the night before and having been advised by staff that a tour of the mass destruction in Milwaukee County Saturday might be a good idea, Walker slept in until at least 10:00 the next morning.

Upon finally waking up as thousands of Milwaukee County residents feverishly worked to clean up their basements, Walker ate two rather unhealthy bowls of Captain Crunch that have caused many Wisconsinites of voting age to become obese while watching an hour of the Cartoon Network. Too much Tv viewing has also been said to contribute to obesity.

Walker then called his bookie, believed to be located in Las Vegas, and placed at least three bets against the Milwaukee Brewers, the most beloved team in our city, the team that drew three million fans the past two seasons at Miler Park, many of whom vote.

After taking a two-minute shower, Walker briefly toweled himself off, got dressed and went to Potawatomi to play some slots.

“I just love the second-hand smoke,” Walker was overheard saying to a fellow gambler. “Annoys those damn liberals.”

Upon leaving Potawatomi, a casino that has, by its very existenece destroyed numerous lives, Walker was met by a young Indian child soliciting donations for blankets. Walker refused to contribute after the girl couldn’t come up with a large campaign donation in return.

Most of the afternoon, Walker spent reading the National Review in his hammock on his outdoor patio while snacking on liver pate, crab legs, and caviar.

“Hell, it’s the weekend. Screw the brown bag crap,” said Walker.

When asked by an aide if he might want to take a personal look at the storm damage for great shots with struggling families, Walker became indignant. “This is Milwaukee. We’re a hearty bunch. Don’t they have shop vacs?”

The rest of the afternoon, Walker spent time envisioning his very first state budget as governor that would end all state aid to hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Saturday night, Walker sat on his front porch, throwing rocks at senior citizens walking by.
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Folks, this has been a satirical look at how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported how Tom Barrett and Scott Walker acted this past weekend following last week’s storms.

Here is the actual article the paper published.

Milwaukee’s dailythat so desperately wants Barrett to defeat Walker, may as well have gone with what I just blogged.

July 27, 2010

Unconstitutionally dismantling the Electoral College – Massachusetts edition

by @ 22:49. Filed under Politics - National.

(H/T – DaTechguy)

Massachusetts is the latest state to sign away its independence in the selection and action of its Electoral College, and Massachusetts resident DaTechguy is spitting mad. I refer the reader back to some Classic NRE, for both the non-partisan and partisan versions of why this is not a good idea, and amplify the Constitutional point a bit.

The folks pushing for this note that there are any number of “compacts” that don’t explicitly have Congressional approval. However, the main case they cite in defense of not needing Congressional approval, Commonwealth of Virginia v. State of Tennessee (1893), actually makes the case that Congressional approval of the compact is proscribed by the Constitution. By its very nature, that effort is a pact of “political co-operation” designed to affect the influence of the states that are a part of the effort on the selection of the President.

Tuesday Hot Read – Letter In Bottles’ interview with Ron Johnson

by @ 18:53. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

Steve S. over at Letters in Bottles interviewed Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson yesterday, and he fleshed out Johnson’s views on foreign policy and trade, a couple of items not exactly on the front burner of the Senate race. The interview was expansive enough that the transcript took two posts. I recommend reading them both:

- Part 1 – foreign policy

- Part 2 – trade and economics

I highly recommend reading both halves. Great job with the interview, Steve.

Revisions/extensions (6:53 pm 7/27/2010) - I forgot what day of the week this is :-)

Government Motors earning its TARP keep

by @ 18:41. Tags:
Filed under Business, Politics - National.

(H/T – Van Helsing)

If you thought the Chevy Volt was a bad deal, wait until you get a load of this. I present the lede from Bloomberg’s story on Government Motors buying subprime lender AmeriCredit Corp. for $3.5 billion:

General Motors Co., the automaker 61 percent owned by the U.S., is buying subprime lender AmeriCredit Corp. for $3.5 billion to help it reach more customers with leases and loans to borrowers with faulty credit records.

A couple points of order:

  • Where, exactly, did Government Motors get the $3,500,000,000 to pay a 24% premium for a company?
  • Isn’t the bubble of the subprime lending market, something Government Motors explicitly said it would restart, a major contributor to the Double-Dip Dempression we’re in?

Quoting American Enterprise Institute’s John Berlau, “When we bailed out GM, what were we bailing out? The rationale behind the financial-regulatory bill that just passed was that subprime lending was bad, but the government’s in the subprime business.”

Envirowhackos and Government Motors thank you for paying half the lease on the Volt

by @ 17:31. Filed under Business, Envirowhackos.

(H/T – Will Collier)

CNN reports that Government Motors announced the price structure for the 2011 plug-in “hybrid” Chevrolet Volt, a 4-seat plug-in “hybrid” that is smaller than the Honda Insight. The retail price will start at $41,000, which after the $7,500 federal tax credit on plug-in vehicles, would create an effective price of $33,500. Even at the full retail price of $41,000, the Volt is going to be a money-loser for GM.

That is bad enough a business deal. What is worse is the 3-year lease terms – $2,000 $2,500 down, $350 per month, which CNN helpfully notes puts it in the ballpark of the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The bad part for the taxpayers is that we’re going to be paying just under half the $15,100 that Government Motors will get for the lease.

It gets worse for GM. At the end of the 3 years, GM would need to get $25,900 on the used-car market to get the full retail value of the car back. Meanwhile, used (and larger, and longer-ranged) Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids will likely be going for $15,000-$17,000, and similar-sized conventional cars will be going for less than that. Something tells me that GM won’t get the $10,000 premium they think they’ll get for a plug, which only increases the losses.

Revisions/extensions (10:16 am 8/1/2010) - Corrected the down payment on the Volt lease. The rest of the numbers are unchanged.

July 26, 2010

Monday Hot Read: WSJ’s “Survival of the Fattest”

by @ 16:18. Filed under Corn-a-hole, Politics - National.

Yes, this one is behind the NewsCorp pay wall, but it is worth either getting the online subscription or grabbing a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal (I’ve done the latter) to read this editorial on corn-a-hole, based on the Congressional Budget Office report on subsidies for biofuels. Both the report and the editorial are devastating, and since I want to include the WSJ’s close, I’ll start with the CBO’s numbers, and expand beyond the corn-based ethanol the WSJ focused on because the rest is even more devastating:

  • The producers of corn-based ethanol get $0.73 per “gallon of gasoline-equivalent” of taxpayer subsidy, producers of cellulosic ethanol get $1.62 per “gallon of gasoline-equivalent” of taxpayer subsidy, and producers of biodiesel get $1.08 per “gallon of diesel-equivalent” of taxpayer subsidy.
  • Those direct subsidies are not the only costs taxpayers bear. Figuring the difference in taxes between traditional fuels and biofuels, as well as the difference between the amount of biofuels produced because of the subsidies and the amount that would be produced without the subsidies, it costs taxpayers $1.78 to replace a gallon of gasoline with corn-based ethanol (or 63.8% of the average cost of gas in Milwaukee as of today), $3.00 to replace a gallon of gasoline with cellulosic ethanol (or 107.5% of the average cost of gas in Milwaukee), and $2.55 to replace a gallon of diesel with biodiesel (or 86.1% of the average cost of diesel in Milwaukee).
  • Not counting the the effects of the conversion of land to biodiesel production, the costs of carbon dioxide reduction are far greater than the $26 per metric ton tax the House passed as part of its cap-and-tax proposal: roughly $750 per ton for corn-based ethanol, $275 per ton for cellulosic ethanol and $300 per ton for biodiesel.

I can’t write a close that’s better than the one the WSJ editorial writers did, so I’ll borrow their close (emphasis in the original):

Given these realities, the only mystery is how an industry that produces a fuel that no one would willingly buy has managed to be subsidized over four decades at costs that are higher than anyone ever imagined. But then, maybe it merely illustrates the theory of the politically fittest.

Well, you’re wrong – Neumann property tax edition

by @ 12:10. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

On Spike TV’s “MXC”, a humorous dub of Tokyo Broadcast System’s “Takeshi’s Castle”, the Captain Tenneal character had a catch phrase he used right after he asked the contestants an opening question. That phrase, “Well, you’re wrong,” applies to both the Mark Neumann campaign’s sales pitch of his property tax shift and some of the critics of that plan.

First things first, it is not a tax cut (with a possible exception which I’ll address as a concern in a bit). Rather, it is a shift of when the property taxes are paid. Instead of the 2011 property tax (the first bill that would be affected by Neumann’s proposal) being paid either at the end of 2011 or over the first 5 months of 2012, it would be paid over the course of the entirety of 2012.

On a related note, the “no other enterprise waits an entire year to bill for services” bit is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Who here has paid their entire 2010 income tax? Who filed their 2010 income tax return back in April? Indeed, because the property tax bill comes in December of the named year with the ability to settle the entire tax bill before the end of the year, the dating of a particular property tax bill makes more sense than the dating of the income tax bill, which cannot be settled in full until sometime in the following year.

Indeed, Neumann’s plan, unless he simply decides to call the 2011 property tax the 2012 property tax, makes it worse. Instead of waiting a maximum of 17 months (to the end of the following May) for the final payment, one would wait a full 2 years for the final payment.

As for the criticism that the tax deductibility would be lost, that also is false. For those that itemize on their federal income tax return, the amount paid in property tax is deductible on the same year’s tax return that the property tax is paid, regardless of the date on the property tax bill. The reason why a lot of people pay their property taxes in full in December is that they don’t want to wait two return cycles to deduct the property tax payment. In fact, I am sure there are some people who wait to pay one year’s property tax until January (or even May) and then turn around and pay the next year’s property tax in December to get effectively a “double” reduction on the second year’s income tax.

As for the plan itself, there are two concerns I have. The first is that, once an owner decides to get in, there’s no way out, not even for a new owner.

The second relates to the liability of the previous owner in a sale. Currently, tax liability for the previous owner extends to the month of the sale. Neumann was unclear on whether that means the previous owner gets to walk away from a year’s worth of taxes or whether that owner has to pay property taxes on his or her old property for 12 months after the sale.

Beyond that, I could just as easily flip a coin weighted slightly against the proposal. Offering a smaller per-payment tax bill that is paid more often will allow property-taxing authorities to grease the skids for a bigger property tax hike.

July 24, 2010

The most laughable guest opinion that has run so far this year in the MJS appears in Sunday’s paper

See it here now.

Absolute garbage.

AP: Unemployment unchanged by stimulus

Economists: The stimulus didn’t help

100 stimulus projects: A second opinion

Feds to spend $795,000 to create 5,000 rural jobs

Journal Sentinel gives Barrett campaign a boost

by @ 19:33. Filed under Miscellaneous.

That was quite an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today giving detail after detail about the sentencing hearing for Anthony Peters. Giving key testimony was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett who was attacked by Peters with a tire iron last summer as Barrett and his family were making their way to their car following a visit to the Wisconsin State Fair.

Barrett, you’ll recall was attempting to intervene in a domestic dispute when he was hit repeatedly with a tire iron by Peters.  Many, including yours truly, found Barrett’s actions highly commendable and heroic.

The newspaper’s coverage of the sentencing hearing, a bona fide news story, was legitimate. I have zero qualms about the reporting.

However, the cynic in me feels that Journal Sentinel editors were more than happy to gift wrap all that free campaign publicity to their guy who they want desperately to be the next governor.

Quote after quote after quote from an emotional Barrett. Graphic pictures. A sidebar story about the mayor’s bionic hand. They would deny it, but you know darn well the newspaper brass was thinking that you add it all up, the emotional quotes, the pictures of a badly beaten face and bloodied hand, and you just might stir up enough sympathy, dare I say, votes for the Democrat gubernatorial hopeful.

Again, I want to clear. This clearly is a story that deserved coverage. And Barrett’s biggest print cheerleaders were more than happy to go overboard.

July 23, 2010

Are all soldiers heroes?

by @ 23:16. Filed under Miscellaneous.

Absolutely not.

So claims William J. Astore, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Astore makes his case in a column published in the LA Times that originated on the web site, TomDispatch.com. Here are excerpts from, “Our American Heroes.”

“Ever since the events of 9/11, there’s been an almost religious veneration of U.S. service members as ‘Our American Heroes’ (as a well-intentioned sign puts it at my local post office). But a snappy uniform — or even dented body armor — is not a magical shortcut to hero status.

A hero is someone who behaves selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place.

Whether in civilian life or in the military, heroes are rare — indeed, all too rare. Heck, that’s the reason we celebrate them. They’re the very best of us, which means they can’t be all of us.

But does elevating our troops to hero status really cause any harm? What’s wrong with praising our troops to the rafters and adding them to our pantheon of heroes? A lot.

By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down. In celebrating isolated heroic feats, we often forget that war is guaranteed to degrade humanity as well.

When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior. Heroes, after all, don’t commit atrocities. They don’t, for instance, dig bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies in an attempt to cover up deadly mistakes, as the Times of London recently reported may have happened in Gardez, Afghanistan.

Even worse, seeing the military as universally heroic can serve to prolong wars.

In rejecting blanket ‘hero’ labels today, we would not be insulting our troops. Quite the opposite: We’d be making common cause with them. Most of them already know the difference between real heroism and everyday military service.

So, next time you talk to our soldiers, Marines, sailors or airmen, do them (and your country) a small favor. Thank them for their service. Let them know you appreciate them. Just don’t call them heroes.”

You can read Astore’s entire piece here.

I respectfully disagree with Astore.

Dictionary.com defines hero:

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.

Now, there certainly are bad soldiers. Granted, some are better than others. But what criteria does one use to determine which soldiers are heroes and which ones are not? I would hate to have to make that call.

A young man or woman that volunteers for extremely dangerous, risky duty for his/her country that could result in the ultimate sacrifice, to me, is a hero in every sense of the word. In my view, it would take inappropriate action or behavior on the part of a soldier to relinquish that well-deserved description.

July 22, 2010

Your local taxing officials don’t give a damn about you

by @ 22:00. Filed under Miscellaneous.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

The following blog has the dullest opening in the history of the Internet, but is relevant and significant nonetheless and will become quite apparent as you read along and you know you will. Here is our guest blogger, Kevin Fischer:

According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), “Municipal operating expenditures in Wisconsin’s 237 largest cities and villages increased an average of 3.7% per year for the five years ending in 2008.”

That’s it? No jail photos of Lindsay Lohan? No close-ups of her fingernails? No Wisconsin candidate for higher office using the words “bitch” and “ho?”

No. I’m afraid not.

However, let’s talk about an issue just a bit more important than the food Lohan is eating while incarcerated…..your pocketbook.

That 3.7% figure cited by WISTAX might seem small and insignificant. Keep in mind it’s an average. The trend is that locals, your counties, cities, towns, and villages keep spending and spending and spending and spending and spending.

They will hide behind their notorious and tired old whine that the big, bad, state of Wisconsin simply doesn’t give enough assistance. This is especially true of local school boards. At budget time, school board members, not a single one of them truly fiscally conservative, will stand up in their best Oscar performance, tears rolling down their cheeks, and proclaim that they hate what they are about to approve, but they must for the children, and that they have no other alternative but to increase the property tax levy. That, of course, is baloney. Forget all those phony speeches, door-to-door promises, pamphlets and brochures that got them elected.

Like an Easter ham and a Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas presents under the tree, jacking up taxes and spending is tradition for county, city, town and village officials. It’s like a disease. They simply can’t help themselves. It’s all they’ve ever known. Suggest another course of action? That might cause cardiac arrests. All they’ve ever done is vote yes to send taxes skyward. The only question is by how much.

At the risk of being simplistic, let me assert, and I’ve worked in government for some time so I ought to know, that the public sector does not operate like a business. Hell, it doesn’t even come close to operating like your household.

America, and that includes Tax Hell USA, aka Wisconsin has been wrapped firmly in the grips of a long, brutal recession. How has Washington responded? Spend, spend spend. Hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars…..no jobs in return.

How has the state of Wisconsin with Democrats in control responded? Spend almost 10% more in the last state budget and create a bunch of new programs that normally have warm fuzzy names like BadgerCare, only to find ourselves $2.5 BILLION in the hole.

How have the locals at your town, village, or city hall responded? With people sitting at home having been handed pink slips? They jack up taxes and spending. Why?

1) Because they can.

2) Because that’s the only “solution” they know.

3) Because they don’t care.

4) Because you will re-elect them anyway.

Oooooooohh. That last one hurt. Sometimes the truth does.

OK, property taxpayers. The last couple of years, be honest. How did you respond to the economy that found itself sharing company with the Tidy-Bowl man? Did you:

A) Run out and buy a new car?

B) Book a trip to the Bahamas?

C) Put in a glamorous new rec room in the basement?

D) Have a family discussion and resolve that certain frills and luxuries needed to be cut back until things turned around?

I think I know your response.

You probably cut back on expenditures and have survived. Government could, too, but refuses.

Government officials with taxing authority will use that power because they can. Very recently, I asked a local official to endorse a property tax freeze. After all, if hard-working families have cut back and are getting by, why can’t City Hall.

Are you ready for the weak-kneed response?

No can do, baby!

Property tax freeze?

Here’s what I was told:

“Which politician that ever proposed a tax freeze actually carried it out? – it’s just rhetoric and playing politics.”

Translation: I don’t support such an idea and I dismiss it outright. Won’t even think about it.

That’s very revealing. Why? Because moms and dads all across Wisconsin have done what many officials with taxing authority would consider unthinkable: they have cut back on their expenses. Would it be too crazy to think taxpayers spent this year what they spent last year, in effect a spending freeze? I certainly don’t think so. But suggest that at a budget meeting? Suddenly it’s Armageddon. Blood will flow down the streets. People will die. Life as we know it will end.

So while the locals won’t even fathom the thought of a freeze, can you imagine tax/spending cuts? OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

The big, bad state of Wisconsin is a villain, having increased spending by close to 10% in the current state budget and increasing taxes and fees by over $3 billion. Let’s not forget those directly capable of jacking up your local property taxes: your mayors, your village presidents, your aldermen, your county supervisors, especially your school board members.

This December, your taxes will go up again. While you are deciding whether it’s a brat or an Italian on the grill this weekend, your local officials are already calculating how much they will screw you.

You can do something about that this November 2, and next April when some of your locals are up for re-election.

And now the guest-blog lamp is lit

by @ 8:17. Filed under The Blog.

I’ll be at RightOnline in Las Vegas this weekend, so blogging on my end will be non-existent. Fortunately, Shoebox and I have put together a family of great guest-bloggers (which, coincidentally, was added to this morning) so things won’t skip a beat here.

Here we grow again

by @ 8:13. Filed under The Blog.

Partly because it’s been so long since I invited in a guest-blogger, but mostly because he is that good, I’d like to welcome Kevin Fischer to the NRE family. Kevin, whose home blog is This Just In, is a prolific defender of taxpayers on the far side of 27th Street (Franklin, Wisconsin for those of you not familiar with the area), a veteran broadcaster who still occassionally does guest-host duties at WISN-AM, an aide to state Sen. Mary Lazich, and most-importantly, a great and proud husband and father.

Welcome to the party, Kevin.

Thursday Hot View – Ald. Jim Witkowiak’s testimony to GAB regarding vote fraud

Kevin Fischer points to a rather remarkable presentation by Milwaukee Alderman Jim Witkowiak during yesterday’s Government Accountability Board hearing. Wisconsin Eye brought its cameras to the meeting, which first dealt with challenges to the nomination papers, and moved to an indepemdent candidate for state Assembly who wanted to put “NOT the ‘whiteman’s bitch’” as her statement of principle on the ballot (the GAB board narrowly did not overturn the staff recommendation of not allowing it, with 3 of 5 present board members voting to allow it and the potential 4th/deciding vote for allowing it absent).

Immediately after that, the GAB began taking open public comments. Ald. Witkowiak was second on the list, and he explained how both same-day registration and a lack of an ID check can and does affect elections, even to the point of changing the results. I do recommend watching the entire appearance, which begins at the 1:50:50 mark of part 2 of WisEye’s coverage and runs to the end of part 2. A quick summary:

  • In the spring 2000 election, Witkowiak lost his re-election bid by 17 votes.
  • During the recount, after the campaign of Witkowiak’s opponent admitted to him they caused irregularities, Witkowiak found about 200 people who didn’t exist yet voted in the election, scattered between those who registered at the polls and those who claimed to be somebody they were not. The Milwaukee Election Commission did disallow a bunch of votes, but because there is no way to tell who the disqualified voters voted for, it was a random vote removal and thus did not change the result of the election.
  • An assistant city attorney who sat in on the 2000 recount process said that Witkowiak, “There’s more meat in this sandwich than I’ve ever seen before in my life.” Of course, this is Milwaukee, so nothing was done..
  • Witkowiak thought he was done with politics after 2000, but the residents of his district pulled him back into the race in 2004, and he once again became an alderman.
  • Fast forward to 2008. Witkowiak found that 400 people had registered at the polls in the spring primary, which for the first time in Wisconsin also included the Presidential primary (previously, the Presidential primary was held with the spring general election). Since Witkowiak had a spring general election to run in, he wanted to get a hold of those 400 to campaign to them. After a bit of a delay, the Milwaukee Election Commission gave them to him.
  • Witkowiak did a mailing to those 400, and about 80 of those mailings came back as undeliverable. He then went out to try to find those 80, and while he did find a few that existed, he couldn’t find about 75, with reasons ranging from people living at or managing apartments at the location never hearing of the alleged registered voter to the address being a non-residential property to the address simply not existing.
  • Witkowiak turned over the evidence to the Milwaukee County District Attorney and the Milwaukee Police Department. Guess what happened? If you said, “Nothing,” give yourself a prize.

July 21, 2010

Robbing the people blind, California edition

by @ 13:06. Filed under Politics.

(H/T – Allahpundit)

The story of Bell, California and its $800,000/year city manager sounds more than just a bit familiar:

Hundreds of residents of one of the poorest municipalities in Los Angeles County shouted in protest last night as tensions rose over a report that the city’s manager earns an annual salary of almost $800,000.

An overflow crowd packed a City Council meeting in Bell, a mostly Hispanic city of 38,000 about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, to call for the resignation of Mayor Oscar Hernandez and other city officials. Residents left standing outside the chamber banged on the doors and shouted “fuera,” or “get out” in Spanish.

It was the first council meeting since the Los Angeles Times reported July 15 that Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 — with annual 12 percent raises — and that Bell pays its police chief $457,000, more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck makes in a city of 3.8 million people. Bell council members earn almost $100,000 for part-time work.

I do have a word of warning for the residents of Bell – do not stop until ALL the theives are out of office. We in Milwaukee County thought that throwing out the county executive and 6 of 25 supervisors in 2002 after we found out they voted themselves million-dollar pension lump-sum payments and enhancers that made their pensions at least the same value as their highest couple years’ worth of salaries would be enough for the remainder to learn their lesson, but they didn’t.

Beyond the numbers – July gubernatorial edition (now with Walker)

by @ 8:38. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

Revisions/extensions (12:19 pm 7/21/2010) – The GAB finally got done collating Scott Walker’s report, so a look at it can now be made. That’s been appended to the bottom of the post.

The Government Accountability Board’s Campaign Finance Information System has once again proven inadequate to handle Scott Walker’s fundraising efforts, taking over 12 hours to generate the report but we can at least take a look at the other two major candidates’ finances for the first 6 months of the year.

First up, Democrat Tom Barrett. On the surface, things look rather normal, with about $1.8 million raised from individuals, another $191,000 from “conduits”, a relatively-minimal $45,000 in “in-kind” donations, and $348,000 from PACs for a total of $2,390,821.96 raised. Because, unlike Neumann and Walker, he does not face a serious challenger (just a person whose campaign Christian Schneider describes as a “crazy train”), the campaign only spent a tick over $1 million, and has $2,894,232.24 cash on hand with just under $11,000 in unspecified obligations to US Bank and no outstanding loans.

There are, however, a few “gems” in the report. With the ongoing government takeover of health care, an unusually large number of health-care providers decided to donate to Tom Barrett in what appears to be a desperate attempt to be the last private health-care provider standing. I won’t hold my breath for the media to notice that Big Med, like Big Finance, has shifted their donations to Democrats.

Speaking of Big Finance, it looks like Barrett is the official candidate of M&I Bank, at least before Walker’s report became available. A couple pages’ worth of donations (mostly in the conduit section) came from M&I employees.

Another significant donation base for Barrett is the “unemployed”. Another failing of the CFIS system is the lack of sortability, but the best I can determine, somewhere around 2 dozen “unemployed” people donated at least $100, with at least 7 topping the $1,000 donation mark, despite a lack of employment. I’d like to meet their financial planners; I can’t exactly afford to drop $1,000 on anything.

That brings me to Mark Neumann. His campaign took in $294,230 in individual donations, $1,760 in “conduit” donations and $23,181 in “in-kind” donations, and Mark loaned the campaign $2,525,070 the first 6 months of the year. Campaign expenses of $2,758,625.49, including $880,000 in loan repayments (more on that in a bit), left the campaign with $1,059,922.73 cash on hand, with $2,721,120 in personal loans still outstanding.

JR Ross of WisPolitics notes there’s a discrepancy between what Neumann’s campaign staff released and what the report has. That stems from the decision by the PR flacks to effectively not count the $880,000 in “flash cash” Neumann loaned his campaign on 12/31/2009 to make his numbers work and took back on 1/4/2010, as that $880,000 paid back was replaced by fresh personal loans.

I have to give credit to Patrick Marley and Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for twigging onto the “flash cash”, though they didn’t quite expound on it. The quick explanation:

  • On 12/31/2009, the last day covered by the January 2010 continuing report, Mark Neumann loaned the campaign $970,000 to bring the total personal loan amount to $1,076,050.
  • That $970,000 represented almost the entirety of the $974,177.55 cash on hand at the end of the day 12/31/2009.
  • On 1/4/2010, after a minimal donation take and taking care of the expense of meeting the payroll, the campaign paid back Neumann $880,000 of that loan.

They also noted that Neumann loaned the campaign $1,000,000 on June 30, the last reporting day for this report. Once again, that represents almost the entirety of the cash on hand. However, since the campaign is in full-spending mode (as it should be), I don’t think we’ll find a “repayment” in the next report.

Finally, Scott Walker. His campaign took in just over $2.1 million in individual donations, about $222,000 in “conduits”, about $28,000 in in-kind donations, and just under $145,000 from PACs for a total of $2,589,997.95 raised. Campaign expenses of $2,016,721.81, including $101,090 in contemporary returned contributions and another $5,000 returned contribution initially made in 2005, left $2,571,774.80 cash on hand.

Speaking of those returned contributions, while the Walker campaign was the only one to specifically itemize returned contributions, the Barrett campaign noted that it returned some contributions in early July.

M&I appears to be playing both sides of the aisle, making significant donations to both Barrett and Walker. Again, the CFIS system does not allow for easy sorting of donations, so I cannot do more than a rough eyeball of the reports. The volumes of contributions are roughly equal between the two campaigns.

There is an oddity with the CFIS format of Walker’s report. Every other gubernatorial report that had multiple sources of individual donations had them in the order of monetary, conduit and in-kind (with Neumann’s loans appearing between the conduit and in-kind sections). That order on Walker’s report was reversed.

One more thing – there is exactly one active gubernatorial candidate people associated with Graef-USA donated to the past year, and it’s not Walker.

Wednesday Hot Read – James T. Harris’ “White Man’s Burden”

by @ 6:00. Filed under Politics.

James T. Harris lights up a local liberal racist who thinks he knows what being “black” means. I usually don’t bother with the local nutroots because personality conflicts aren’t worth it, but in this case I’ll make an exception because one of the co-bloggers over at Folkbum’s needed the smackdown. I’ll skip to the close:

Dear LORD! Is it 1950? Are we in Mississippi? Did I somehow get abducted from my home in Sherman Park’s Uptown Crossing, a predominantly “black” neighborhood, by the way… where I reside with my gorgeous, smoking hot “black” wife and my three brilliant and beautiful “black” children (though the Wizard might denounce the above as my phony black wife, phony black kids and phony neighborhood… he of infinite, all-knowing phony black wisdom)?

Seriously, my patience for this ridiculous liberal race dance has now run out. I’m black and conservative among many other things…

Get over it.

I don’t need any arrogant, liberal Euro-wannabe lefty or his surrogate telling me how to vote, think or talk. Earl and his “community” of listeners obviously do.

Dats why dey be Democrats!

July 20, 2010

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

by @ 21:34. Filed under Global "Warming", Politics - National.

We all know about President Obama’s concern regarding global warming.  We all know he blames whatever warming he alledges on the use of fossil fuels.  To put his money where his mouth is, so to speak, President Obama has told federal workers to cut down on their travel and commuting by car:

In a statement, Obama noted that the government is the biggest energy user. “The government has a responsibility to use that energy wisely, to reduce consumption, improve efficiency, use renewable energy, like wind and solar, and cut costs,” he said.

By doing this, President Obama has set a goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 13% a reduction by 2020.

President Obama for once, is practicing what he preaches and I applaud him.  In January, 2009 when President Obama took office, there were approximately 2.772 million federal government employees.  As of June, 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are now 3.227 million federal government employees, an increase of over 16%!  I suggest that rather than chide employees to drive less, President Obama simply reduce the federal employee employment level back to 2008. By doing so he would not only reduce the greenhouse gasses, perhaps as much as 16%, but also reduce the budget deficit…another goal that President Obama tells us is important to him, and you know how fervent he is in achieving his goals.

Go ahead President Obama, use my idea, I won’t even charge you for my consulting time!

Tuesday Hot Read – Christian Schneider’s “Jim Doyle’s Legacy, On One Page”

by @ 17:47. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

Christian Schneider absolutely disembowels a one-page press release from Gov. Jim “Craps” Doyle (WEAC/HoChunk-For Sale) reacting to the State Supreme Court smackdown of his $200 million theft from the Patients Compensation Fund. There’s so much goodness, it’s almost impossible to choose just one morsel to tempt you with, but I’ll go with the delicious irony that is the postscript:

As a postscript to all this, there’s a hidden portion of the Justice Prosser’s majority decision in the case overturning Doyle’s raid that deserves notice. In paragraph 58 of the opinion, Prosser cites a 1995 Attorney General’s opinion that points out the “longstanding view in Wisconsin law that trust funds are to be treated differently than general revenue, and that the state has less power to regulate the use of trust funds.”

The author of that quote?

Jim Doyle.

Do read the rest, from a reminder that Doyle had his eyes on the fund the moment he got into the governor’s mansion to the threat from Doyle to punish those that exposed the theft.

The term “trust fund” means something, even if it is a state government-run one

by @ 15:57. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

Revisions/extensions (5:03 pm 7/20/2010) – After reviewing the roll call vote for the conference substitute amendment version of the budget (i.e. the version that passed the Legislature) anid finding both then-Speaker Mike Huebsch and current Minority “Leader” Jeff Fitzgerald on the aye side, I added the Assembly “Republican” “leadership” to the scorn list.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that the “transfer” of $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund by governor Jim Doyle, Assembyman (and candidate for lieutenant governor) Brett Davis, the Legislative Democrats, and what passed for Assembly “Republican” “leadership” for the purpose of allowing general spending to increase by $200 million more than it otherwise could was unconstitutional as the fund had all three elements of a trust, and as named beneficiaries, the Wisconsin Medical Society and a specific doctor who joined the lawsuit have a constitutionally-protected property interest in and an equitable title to the assets of the fund.

The end of the majority’s discussion sums things up rather well (emphasis in the original):

¶99 In sum, any removal of money from the Fund for an improper purpose is an unconstitutional taking of the health care providers’ property interest in the Fund because it infringes upon their rights to the security and integrity of the Fund, to realize the Fund’s investment earnings, and to have excess judgments paid to proper claimants. When money is improperly taken from the Fund, the health care providers are deprived of their right to have that money managed on their behalf. Furthermore, any such removal of money will almost certainly result in an increase in health care providers’ assessments. If assessments are not raised, the solvency of the Fund is jeopardized, increasing the risk that the Fund will be unable to pay excess judgments. If the Fund becomes unable to pay excess judgments, the cost of those judgments will have to be borne by either the health care providers or the proper claimants, both of whom are the express beneficiaries of the Fund….

¶101 We would be hard pressed to say that the legislature could not discontinue the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund prospectively, provided that it honored all loss liabilities created up to the date of discontinuation. The Fund is not immutable in its present form. But we are frankly taken aback by the Secretary’s position that the legislature could discontinue the Fund and seize all its assets, save only those assets necessary to pay off existing claims, and renege on the loss liabilities to existing victims whose claims are not yet perfected. This is not only the logical extension of the Secretary’s position, it is the actual articulation of the Secretary’s position, both to the circuit court and before this court. A failure on our part to recognize the property interests at stake in the Fund would be an open invitation to the legislature to take money from the Fund at will.

¶102 We are sensitive to the changing needs of state government and the basic principle that one legislature cannot bind another. But that cannot mean that anything goes, that recognized property interests evaporate when the winds shift. The legislature created a “trust” for health care providers and their patients and families, and it pronounced that trust “irrevocable.” We take the legislature at its word.

The financial situation of the fund as outlined in the “Background and Procedural History” section of the majority opinion (starting at paragraph 23) is even more devastating than the mere “transfer” of the money. At the end of FY2007 (i.e. June 30, 2007), before Davis and the Legislative Democrats approved Doyle’s “transfer” of the money, the fund had a net asset balance of +$94.4 million on total assets of $798.5 million.

At the time the first transfer of $71.5 million from the fund to another fund that had been shorted $200 million in general funds was made in October 2007, there were not enough liquid assets in the fund to allow the transfer to happen directly. The fund temporarily borrowed $51.3 million from a third state fund to make it happen, with repayments including interest charges.

The same lack of liquid assets occurred when the second transfer of $128.5 million happened in July 2008. The fund owed $76.8 million to the State Investment Fund as of June 30, 2009, and had incurred $2.5 million in interest.

Also as of June 30, 2009, the fund had assets of $645.1 million, total loss liabilities (what the fund expects to have to pay out for incidents that occured prior to June 30, 2009 whether or not claims had been filed by that date) of $675.4 million, and a net asset balance of -$109 million.

Of note, that net asset balance of -$109 million is larger than the $100 million supplemental appropriation made in the FY2008-2009 budget in case the fund couldn’t cover the judgements it was designed to cover.

That’s right – the Patient Compensation Fund did not have the cash to give, but Doyle, Davis, and the bipartisan Party-In-Government stole the money anyway.

July 19, 2010

Bleg time

by @ 19:33. Filed under Miscellaneous.

No, not for me – I wouldn’t do that to you. R.S. McCain wants to blame Erik Telford in person for not getting a speaking gig at RightOnline, and he needs your cash. Since I’m the bastard that launched this round of #BlameErikTelford, I feel honor-bound to ask you readers to help Stacy make it out to Vegas along with Uncle Fred, a whole heap of friends, and me.

If you have the means, make it a large donation so he can actually fly out instead of zombie-driving with his 17-year-old son.

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