cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
When we live beyond our means, we create a real mess. You and me have few choices in those situations other than to pull the belt tighter and cut our spending...or to finally admit we fouled up beyond belief and close our doors by declaring bankruptcy.
Madison, as a euphemism for those whom we elect to represent us, has been living beyond its means for years. It has made spending decisions that make no sense to you and me. It has been spending one-time "found" funds to create new ongoing programs with no idea as to where money to fund the future costs will be found. Madison has not been open and honest with us as often as it has claimed. If you and me were told the truth, rather than given the old "wink and nod", I can't believe we would've permitted this to go on and on.
A new education coalition known as the Wisconsin School Finance Network has been formed to lobby for more state aid for education in spite of the serious financial situation we now find ourselves attempting to work out from under. This coalition counts the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the American Federation of Teachers - Wisconsin, Fair Aid Coalition, School Administrators Alliance, Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin PTA and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards as its members.
Alan J. Borsuk of the Journal Sentinel wrote that its plan includes the following, in part:
We are fortunate to have a "crystal ball" through which we can divine our future, if that future includes state-run health care.
Massachusetts has been kind enough to develop a state-run health care program that has many similarities to that proposed regularly in Wisconsin. The following is from the Heartland Institute's Health Care News for February, 2009:
State costs have gone up so much that Massachusetts has decided to cut payments to physicians and hospitals, reducing access to medical services.
The state is also planning to mandate an increase of 10-12 percent in insurance premiums while cutting payments to physicians and hospitals by 3-5 percent; this will reduce access to care even more.
Even the poor (who have been aided under other programs) are being hurt; the Cambridge Health Alliance, which has long provided care to the indigent, is cutting staff, reducing services and limiting referrals to specialists in an effort to stay solvent in the face of rising costs and reduced payments.
Why would a couple of 17 year old kids decide to expose a pepper-type agent inside the Germantown Wal-Mart? If the police have found the right people, maybe we'll find out what led them to this act.
A radio advertisement is running in Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's congressional district touting the fact that he voted against the bailout plan wending its way through Congress. The ad buy came from the Democrat party and is designed to set him up to be knocked from office at the next election. Sensenbrenner is among the most conservative members of the House of Representatives and continues to be re-elected by significant margins over any opposition.
Apparently the people making these decisions on behalf of his opposition have lost sight of a simple fact:
Abortion is in the news and it probably is a subject that I should avoid...but I cannot do so in good conscience.
The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority Board has approved second-trimester abortions being performed at a UW-owned surgery center. It professes that this is necessary because it will protect the health of the woman.
There is a troubling story circulating about our new Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. He has said that he wants half of the $35 to $40 billion he expects to get in the "stimulus" bill to be spent in a year. This is going to happen in the Energy Department that is still trying to spend money allocated by Congress in 2005 because of the red tape that exists.
If they've not gotten the 2005 money/loan guarantees out yet, how in the world will they ever get $17.5 billion to $20 billion out within the next twelve months?
Thomas Hobson was a livery stable owner in England who offered a seemingly free choice of taking the horse closest to the door or taking none at all. In effect, not much of a choice.
We in Wisconsin have a bit of a Hobson's Choice if we choose to call it that. Governor Doyle has a huge budget deficit (nearly $6 billion) with which he is wrestling. He has been led to believe that the federal "stimulus" bill may carry aid to states with which they can solve some or all of their budget issues, even though those states are responsible for creating those issues through careless and overboard spending.
The consolidation of health care entities in our area was a favorite topic of mine last year. We discussed the heavy competition and its cost to all of us.
Another piece of that change has apparently come home to roost.
MATC Head Arrested...
Darnell Cole, President of MATC, was arrested very early Monday morning for DUI. He is reported to have registered a .20 while the legal limit for intoxication is .08.
John Doe Hearing...
The John Doe hearing that was held in Judge Gonring's court yesterday started with Village President Tom Kempinski exercising his rights by refusing to answer the initial question and those that followed under advice from his attorney. The initial question was whether or not he was the Village President of Germantown. I suspect that this is customary in situations where the person being questioned is planning to avoid answering everything based upon his or her Fifth Amendment right against possible self-incrimination.
Why not? Businesses are made of money and those darned employers ought to pay their fair share!
Let's say that our economic situation spawns annual inflation of just 5%; it'll probably be higher at the rate we're going. The new $7.60 per hour is, of course, going to increase annually tracking the effects of inflation.
Associated Bank has accepted $525 million in TARP (troubled asset relief fund) money from the federal government even though they apparently didn't need it according to their CEO, Paul Beideman.
Associated Bank is sending about 100 employees to Puerto Rico for a celebration of their high levels of achievement. That will cost quite a bit of money when you consider the airfare, the $450 per night rooms plus all the extra activities that are planned. This is apparently a valid reward for excellent performance, and that is all well and good.
Attendance Highest Ever at Drug Talk...
I received an e-mail from Anita Hillman who was a major organizer, along with Officer Ray Borden, of the recent parents' drug awareness program held at the Germantown High School and presented by Cpl. Dan Delmore.
Our school board is dealing with a range of issues from kindergarten to school upkeep to wage and benefit negotiations. All seem thorny and all seem to require more money. Our board members are, I believe, genuinely trying to do their best to fairly resolve all their issues however some are more vexing than are others. The coming elections provide the opportunity to retain one member or replace that member, and to select the replacement for another who has decided not to continue his service. I must confess that I would not want that responsibility, and I am very happy there are those who are willing to accept it. These people do not get rich doing this.
The negotiation with teachers and staff concerning wage and benefit settlements is, to my way of thinking, the most concerning since it deals with the greatest single area of cost to our system, and thus to the taxpayers.
Politics Pays Well...
Jessica Erickson, a long-time Democrat operative, has landed a plum assignment. She is the new Executive Assistant for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. This spot pays something in the range of $100,000 per year plus benefits.
As I read the article written by Thomas J. McKillen in the February 14th edition of the Express News, I couldn't help but think of the old-time "schoolyard bullies".
This article reported on the February 9th meeting of the school board and the remarks made by Mr. Tom Wilcox, a negotiator for the Germantown Education Association, the teachers' union. He was quoted as saying that what the GEA was asking above the QEO "... brings us a couple of tenths of a percent apart in salary each year. The cost above the QEO would be approximately $44,000 per year of a two year contract. The cost equates to about one Starbuck's tall latte per resident of Germantown per year."
There are four races that we will be able to vote on in Germantown on Tuesday. Those are:
State Superintendent Of Public Instruction (State Superintendent):
The Journal Sentinel has maintained "data on demand" databases for some time and I noted that the Germantown School District data has been refreshed with more current information.
Since there is debate ongoing over the school board's offer and the GEA's threat to conduct job actions commencing Monday, February 23rd if their demands for a contract that exceeds the mandates of Wisconsin law are not met, it seemed appropriate to make that database readily available.
Sick Leave Ordinance Approved...
Reacting to the sick leave mandate on private employers that now hangs over Milwaukee, the trustees approved a new ordinance last evening which bans the regulation of private sick leave for private companies based in Germantown.
Governor Doyle has included the ending of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) provision in the new biennial budget that he announced last evening. This would presumably happen coincident with the beginning of this biennium which would be July 1, 2009.
He did not, so far as I can determine by reading the budget summaries, provide any assistance to communities and their property tax burdens. There is a three percent (or gain from net new construction) property tax increase limit and that is extended for another two years.
What will it be like after the QEO program is killed?
Well, it will mean that arbitration/mediation will become the big stage in this ongoing drama. School boards typically lose in this process. That means that teachers usually win in this process.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has just announced that it is freezing wages, and that it may have to furlough employees for a week without pay. It has already gone through two staff reduction efforts with about 10% leaving the first time and another 5% the second time around.
This is not restricted to the Journal Sentinel. To the contrary, the Journal Sentinel may be in better shape to withstand this onslaught than many of its competitors across the country, but there is a limit for each newspaper organization. Howard Kurtz wrote a column in the Washington Post today that discusses this 'phenomenon' titled, "How Low Will Newspapers' Ad Revenues Go?"
Tucked away in the 1,743 page budget document created by Governor Doyle was the elimination of cost analysis for state contracts. Apparently he believes that we all should be comfortable with his ability to decide what to spend, when, at what amount and with whom. And, we should be so trusting as to permit all this to occur with no oversight.
I, for one, do not feel good about this possibility. Some Democrats, very few actually, have indicated that they, too, feel a bit queasy at this thought. I presume that all Republicans will also share that queasy feeling.
The MATC board voted 6-3 to fire President Darnell Cole. I was surprised with this outcome having surmised that he would receive a reprimand and be required to submit to classes to change his habits, etc., etc. As I have stated, I wish him the best as he works through this issue, and I'm thankful that no one was injured.
Sitting here on a snowy winter morning, I am pondering where we have gotten in what seems a very short time. The length of time is actually longer than it seems; our travels down the current path have been part of our lives for years. We have over-spent, as individuals and as a country, and under-saved for years. We, collectively, have permitted elected officials to take us places that we should've more thoroughly thought through before proceeding. We have now selected a man with little experience but a great persona to lead us in what might be our most difficult time in several decades. We are each responsible for what has become, in one way or another.
I listen to the people with whom I interact. I listen to people on the state and national scene. I read...perhaps too much. I watch talking heads who attempt to convince me of this, that and the other. I witness the economic trials that we're facing, and I see those conditions shifting and changing, seemingly on a daily basis. The news is not good news, by in large. I am still trying to resolve whether or not that is because there is no good news, or that there is good news but that I'm not finding it.
The ethanol debacle continues.
We were forced to use gasoline that contains 10% ethanol. We were forced to subsidize the new "industry". We were treated to 10% fewer miles per gallon. We watched as this use of "food stocks" caused our edible food product prices to soar.
Archbishop Dolan has been selected as the new Archbishop of the New York Archdiocese, and will likely become a Cardinal sometime following his assumption of this role on April 15th.
Before going on, I'll set the record straight: I am not Catholic; I am Lutheran.
It seems a bit over-the-top considering where the economy is at the moment, but our good Governor Doyle announced today that he and a couple of his high-level people are going to fly to Spain on Tuesday, and will stay until Friday.
He is going ostensibly to meet with manufacturers of high speed trains.
Governor Doyle's budget package seems to have been very deftly "packaged" as more and more things surface.
Among those "little things" that trouble are these:
I received an e-mail from a long-time reader suggesting that I look into a "blurb" on Harry Markopolos, American Hero. My first thought was, "Harry who?"
Well, Harry Markopolos is truly an American Hero and of little renown, unfortunately. Harry Markopolos has spent some nine years of his life trying to help the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) understand that something wasn't right with the hedge fund operation of Mr. Bernie Madoff.
I spent yesterday in Madison as part of a lobby group and visited the offices of Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dan Knodl as well as listening to many speakers from both sides of the aisle. With all due apologies to those with whom I interacted yesterday, the following found its way into my mailbox this morning, and I just couldn't help myself...
New Element Discovered
Germantown Schools Update...
The Germantown Education Association presented its "final offer" as it said it would, and the school board found it called for "unaffordable salary increases". It is now expected that the Wisconsin Employment Relations Council (WERC) will declare that the talks are deadlocked. It is then assumed that the board will proceed with the QEO process.