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February 23, 2011

Comments

Don't go off all half-koched, Marty.

which is now how I officially define my political affiliation, CCDG

Understandable. Tuesday Weld would turn anybody's head.

Just remember: when you read "Koch", think "Milton Armitage".

What "fig leaf" of a budget crisis? That $3.6 billion in the next two years isn't imaginary, and it *does* kind of have something to do with the unions, you know. The cost of union benefits is a major part of it.

The 3.6B is imaginary- it is a sum of the budget requests of all of the agencies, which the state usually does not meet in total anyway, let alone during a fiscal crisis. There will almost certainly be a shortfall- which Walker exacerbated by cutting taxes...
It is a fig leaf insofar as Walker isn't motivated by the 2-3 year window; the unions have offered basically all of the givebacks that he's asked for over that period. Ergo, Walker cares more about union-busting than he does about the 2-3 year budget shortfall. Im not sure there's a way around that logic.

Now, maybe he thinks this is about the long-term fiscal health of the state. But he's not saying it that way, it's usually not reported that way, and despite your protestations to the contrary, it appears that that way would be a much harder sell than using the fig leaf of the budget crisis.

(same thing to McTex: my problem isn't that Walker wants to union-bust or that he talks tough or whatever. It's that he presents his position as addressing a short-term fiscal matter when it isn't, and the media allows him to get away with this. For example, in the call he speaks about using layoffs to pressure union members. In public he speaks about using layoffs to ease the current fiscal problems.)

So, again: what are you referring to as "the current deficit" that Walker is taking issue with, and what portion of it is Walker responsible for?

Well, it's not again, since I don't think I even saw the earlier request on another thread...
Im talking about the current (ie not the projected) budget shortfall, projected by the gov's office at 137M. There's also the sum of the budget requests for the next 2-year budget, which if they were all fully funded (which they never are) would lead to a 3.6B deficit.

Anyway, on to the meat of the matter:
In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.

The Fiscal Bureau memo -- which readers can access at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2011_01_31Vos&Darling.pdf -- makes it clear that Walker did not inherit a budget that required a repair bill.
source

Insofar as that's correct, Walker is responsible for the entire current shortfall. Im not sure how his new measures affect revenues over the coming 2 year budget window, but iirc they were within a factor of two of the savings expected from the union givebacks.

Dobie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCjeh3oukC4

Thanks for answering, Carleton.

It looks as if Walker is, among other things, engaging in jobs-creation programs that create no jobs. I hate it when that happens.

I'm not sure how a health savings account can result in a budget loss, since those things are generally financed out of deposits made by the accountholders, as far as I am aware.

This link seems to disagree with yours as to where the blame lies, though. According to it, too:

The tax cuts have no effect on this fiscal year -- the time period the current proposal focuses on -- because they don’t take effect until later.

But in the 2011-’13 state budget, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo found that tax collections would drop more than $100 million because of the tax cuts. That adds to the projected deficit.

Which is a decent point to consider, if true.

I am now an official CCDG candidate for the 2012 presidential race. We will be making all of our signs in purple.

Appropriate attire will be Levis, White short sleeve dress shirts and blue blazers until you get South of the Mason/ Dixon line at which point the blazers become optional. (No cardigan sweaters allowed, white tennis shoes are ok until Labor day).

We will be anti union and anti union busting, but pro workers rights. We will stand with the corporations until they get too big and then we will stand with the small corporations and the workers.

(Unless we need money, then we will cut a deal with big something, then only talk bad about them to get votes. So if everyone will just send us enough money we won't have to cut any of htose deals)

We will balance the budget by raising taxes without ever mentioning it so no one will have to get upset, but we will save SS and Medicare, while reducing the benefits of each so that we can set a minimum income level for all Americans therefore reducing the need for both of them.

We won't be prochoice or prolife because that law is already on the books and we will just uphold it as it needs be.

We will be promarriage of all types, yet work hard to get all mention of marriage out of every benefit in the federal laws and replace it with something that allows each person to name their heir, significant other, medical proxy, financial partner without having that be "ordained" by the state.

What we won't do is call the other side 4,5 and 6 letter words, rant about how they are going to destroy America and how the flyover states and the coastal elites will eventually take up arms to destroy each other at the cost of both of their ways of life.

Mojitos will also become the national drink and the blues will be required to have equal representation on the peoples licensed airwaves in each market. Although a Blues/reggae station will be granted an exemption.

We will not go to war barring a direct attack on us or a country we have a specific mutual defense treaty with. Our energy policy will include drilling, exploration, and extraction of whatever resources are necessary to facilitate the production of enough electricity to support an all electric economy. All alternative energy sorces will be designed to contribute electricity to the upgraded grid.

The defense budget will be enough for defense.

Health care will be provided for anyone who doesn't have it through their employer or is unable to get it privately through a baseline set of benefits administered by Medicare on needs based pricing. Every American is covered.

Did I mention Mojitos? and Purple?

The budget gets balanced every year, after the first year the budget is however much we took in this year is the most you can estimate for next year, so we are always one year behind in growth times.

ran out time

I'm not sure how a health savings account can result in a budget loss, since those things are generally financed out of deposits made by the accountholders, as far as I am aware.

I believe that it's a tax break for those accounts, ergo a budget loss.

And, not that you said this, but I should say: maybe these programs are great. I hope that they are. But they are revenue-negative, and implementing them at the time of a self-proclaimed crisis- well, that makes the crisis seem like less of a crisis. If "fiscal crisis" means implementing all of the programs you wanted to implement anyway and cutting the ones you don't like, then I don't see how that differs from business as usual. When the changes to the latter don't even affect the short-term budget window, then portraying them as responses to the crisis are particularly disingenuous IMO.

Looks like we might have another Tea Party candidate for elective office in 2012:


http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/indiana-official-jeff-cox-live-ammunition-against-wisconsin-protesters

Carleton:

But they are revenue-negative, and implementing them at the time of a self-proclaimed crisis- well, that makes the crisis seem like less of a crisis.

so you agree that employer-provided health care should be taxed as regular income, right? Because I think that's what the HSA provision did: it exempted HSA contributions from tax, just like employer-provided health care.

Insofar as that's correct, Walker is responsible for the entire current shortfall.

His measures won't come into effect, as I understand it, until the next biennium. I don't think he has anything to do with the current shortfall.

Also, according to the Wisconsin Budget Blog , the state would only have a surplus if it allowed programs like medical assistance and corrections to run out of money in the spring.


There's also the sum of the budget requests for the next 2-year budget, which if they were all fully funded (which they never are) would lead to a 3.6B deficit.

But, as I understand it, that's not the whole picture. Certainly there is that element. A UW professor thinks the deficit is around $3.1B . The foregoing is probably the best discussion on this issue and is fairly short. More here , but it isn't as clear as the UW report. Short version: it's much, much more than agency budget requests. The UW professor in fact factors those out. Still a huge deficit.

There is also the issue that the fiscal bureau assumed the prior governor's planned cuts (furloughs and such). Without those assumptions, even the fb would have found a deficit.

It is a fig leaf insofar as Walker isn't motivated by the 2-3 year window;

How about being motivated by the 10-15 year window? The problem with allowing collective bargaining over pensions is that it is a good way for a union to get an increase in pay that doesn't affect the current budget (like my comments that have drawn no attention about the true present value of these future obligations). It's much harder to bargain over current pay because it has to fit the CURRENT budget instead of some far-away budget when the politicians negotiating them are no longer in office. So pension stay fixed. Could someone explain to me why this is bad? Usually pensions are based on factors of pay, length of service and retirement age. Is the formula so bad in Wisconsin?

Wait, I'll answer my own question. You can retire at age 55 in Wisconsin, 50 in the "protective" category. The formula takes into account There is no reduction at age 54 for protectives, 62 for elected officials (fancy that) and 65 for teachers. Max retirement is 70% for regulars; 65% or 85% for protectives depending on whether they are covered by social security. Not quite California's gold standard of 90% for prison guards, but there you go.

What I'm curious about is how much of the total government budget goes to state and local pay and benefits. Here in California, changes in pay would have a huge impact. I'm not sure how much it would in Wisconsin.


so you agree that employer-provided health care should be taxed as regular income, right? Because I think that's what the HSA provision did: it exempted HSA contributions from tax, just like employer-provided health care.

Did you read the part of my comment to Slarti where I explained that I'm not trying to comment on the worthiness of the governor's changes?
Im avoiding that because then this just becomes a debate about whether Democratic or Republican spending/cutting priorities are better, and I don't see that going anywhere. The discussion that I wanted to have is whether it makes sense to 1)use a short-term budget crisis to justify actions that don't have a significant effect on the short-term budget and 2)commit to policies that do hurt the short-term budget outlook at the same time. And 3)whether the media should be presenting this as he-said she-said, or allow themselves the simplest of analyses pointing out these inconsistencies.

But, as I understand it, that's not the whole picture.... Still a huge deficit.

Things I said: 3.6B is probably an overcount.
Things I didn't say: the state isn't facing a budget shortfall for the upcoming budget.

I said that because it's just another example of the MSM taking the governor's word rather than doing the elementary footwork of googling that both you and I have done. 3.6B is easy because one of the principals said it, Googling actual projections is just slightly harder. So we get "3.6B" repeated over and over. It's shoddy journalism that values a false statement by a principal over googling something- my sense is that the media prefer to report the 'fact' that the governor said "X" rather than the better-informed 3rd parties that it's really "Y" or "Z" and open themselves up to debates about what the right number ought to be. But I dont have a cite for that.

How about being motivated by the 10-15 year window?

Sure. Maybe he's motivated by that. Maybe he's motivated to hurt the Dems politically by hurting their grassroots. I dunno how much of either of those are factors. But I am pretty sure that the upcoming 2-year budget isn't a big factor, since the unions have already agreed to those givebacks.
Yet both Walker and the media are presenting this as if this was the biggest factor in the decision. Im all for an open debate about benefits etc. Im pretty firmly against the idea that getting rid of collective bargaining or the other built-in attacks on unions is either good or fair though.
But the thing Im most against is not having the debate at all, cloaking the actual motives with claims of concern about the short-term budget shortfall. The media ought not allow our politicians to get away with that sort of thing. Let's talk about the 10- to 20-year budget projections, and how various tax cuts or benefit programs fit into them.

my comments that have drawn no attention about the true present value of these future obligations

OK, so I'm trying to understand the scale of WI's unfunded pension liability.

Depending on who you ask, it's either $252 million (Pew) or $62 billion (AEI).

!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Gnash your teeth in despair.

From here.

Well, wouldn't it be? I mean, seriously, set aside the fact that they're your guys, wouldn't you think it a serious ethics violation, possibly a felony, if anybody you didn't like paid legislators to stay away from work?

Yes, Brett, you're quite right. Just like having a supporter give you, oh say, a luxury vacation in Cali[fornia] in return for your actions in office.

Marty, I was with you all the way until you got to the Mojitos. But I guess no candidate is perfect. sigh.

P.S. Just curious, how much of this was a conscious crib from Teddy Rooseveldt? 'Cause an awfull lot of it sounds like him.

All was free form CCDG rant wj. My political influences, like my musical ones, are varied.

I'd do it for the mojitos, but only in the dead of summer.


And only if you put a chunk of perfectly ripe (and not overripe because they sour when that happens) sugar cane in it as a swizzle stick/chew toy.

Winters, I'm back to beer.

russell:

The link you cited does show a small (252M) pension liability, but also a 1.7 B health care unfunded liability.

Also, if you look at the AEI report on explicit debt and pension debt combined as a percentage of GDP, Wisconsin and California are almost the same. So THAT's why I've been using California . . .:)

Looks like there is considerable difference of opinion on the necessary reserves due to rate of return smoothing (or not) and whether the unfunded liabilities truly reflect the current market. In my fairly uninformed opinion, given the current status of the economy, I'd tend to think the unfunded liabilities are on the larger side until things get better. In other words, I'm not very smooth.

That debate would make it a lot harder to do what I was thinking. The Total number of WRS participants is expected to double in the next 10-15 years, hence the deficit I think. 32B plus the unfunded health care means something should be done now. Like don't let the pension benefits get any larger for now. It also means that using what Wisconsin currently PAYS for retirement is not a fair measure of public employee's total comp. Need to factor in the $32B somehow.

I don't have enough info to calculate,like how many current retirees, the average age to retirement for the others, etc. But I think $34B spread over the years and over the current and future participants still would result in a significant total comp increase from what is being reported.

can someone tell me why the Koch brothers are widely regarded to be evil?

I'll take a swing at this.

First, "evil" is not the issue. None of us (as far as I can tell) know the Kochs. They might be evil, they might be lovely. I'm sure they're a little of both, like everybody else.

What is at issue is the result of their participation in the political process, and in public life.

IMO, their participation in politics is harmful and destructive, because they bring very large resources to the table, and they advocate policies that will further increase the ever-widening gap in the distribution of income and wealth, and that lead to the increasing economic insecurity of millions of people.

They advocate policies that weaken the proper function of government to oversee commercial activity, which will lead to the further degradation of the natural environment, and will further the transfer of risk and accountability from private commercial concerns to the public sphere.

In short, Koch brothers are considered harmful. Not personally evil, but in terms of their engagement in public life, harmful.

They help make bad things happen.

HTH

IMO, their participation in politics is harmful and destructive, because they bring very large resources to the table

russell, if you happened to trip and fall into several billion dollars, would you try and use some of those dollars to further the ends that you, personally, favored?

And...well, let's return to George Soros. George uses his money worldwide to influence the direction he thinks things should be moving in. Is that a bad thing, and is it a bad thing independent of whether you agree or disagree with Soros' worldview?

Slart,
I'd suggest that it is the element of transparency that is the problem. Soros was pretty open about what he was doing and why he was doing it. The Koch brothers do not seem to be as open. This is from the New Yorker article that has been linked to by a few people

few weeks after the Lincoln Center gala, the advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—an organization that David Koch started, in 2004—held a different kind of gathering. Over the July 4th weekend, a summit called Texas Defending the American Dream took place in a chilly hotel ballroom in Austin. Though Koch freely promotes his philanthropic ventures, he did not attend the summit, and his name was not in evidence. And on this occasion the audience was roused not by a dance performance but by a series of speakers denouncing President Barack Obama. Peggy Venable, the organizer of the summit, warned that Administration officials “have a socialist vision for this country

This sort of gets back to my bete noire, which is trying to figure out if someone is acting in bad faith. I'm not assuming that all activities deserve the same level of transparency, but, to take a Godwin busting example, if I were a Holocaust denier and I donated large amounts of money to provide a more sympathetic reading of David Irving's tracts, I think we'd agree that this is a problem.

I also think that as you have more influence, you need to be more transparent. I realize that sucks if you are a multi-billionaire, but I'd be happy to trade with them if that's too tough.

which is trying to figure out if someone is acting in bad faith

Not sure what you're getting at, here. You mentioned bad faith, and then left it hanging there.

Elaborate, please.

My response to your elaboration is going to occur after some stretch of sleep, though.

No worries, one of the things that I've been trying to get at with Walker is how we satisfactorily prove that he is saying one thing and doing another thing and is aware that he is doing that. This transfers to the Kochs, in that how can I prove what russell suggests. I understand that it is a suggestion and anyone can disagree with that, so how do we move past the 'he is' 'is not' stage. If I go with your formulation, the Kochs can spend their money on whatever they like, as long as they are not doing something illegal. That seems a bit off to me, especially if the Kochs are funding groups that are problematic in their approaches. And I don't think a law against something like astroturfing is the best way to deal with it.

This isn't to say that I'm not saying that we can dictate what they spend their money on, but when it comes at an social and environmental cost, more knowledge of it and the reasons they are choosing to go about in the way that do should ideally create a bit of friction.

That isn't a whole lot clearer, but I wait til you comment before having another go.

The Koch family history likely has something to do with the perception of them being evil.
---
Sponsoring the arts says not that much about moral character given that some of the most evil characters in history paid some of the greatest artists. They suck(ed) their fellow humans' blood to buy their way to heaven.
Today guys like that stick out since the rich and powerful these days tend to have an awful taste.

if you happened to trip and fall into several billion dollars, would you try and use some of those dollars to further the ends that you, personally, favored?

I'm sure I would. I have yet to trip and fall into several billion dollars, but I already do this with the somewhat more meager resources I already have in hand.

My point is that the policies the advocate are harmful to a lot of people. In general, I find that conservative policies end up being harmful to a lot of people, which is why I am not a conservative.

I suppose I should preface that with an "IMO", but I don't really think it's a matter of my opinion.

And I also have no wish to make it a personal issue. The Koch's might be total jerks, or they might be wonderful generous thoughtful people. I have no idea. It's not about whether they're crappy people, it's about the consequences of the policies they advocate.

The basic policies of American economic conservatism have led to the economic stagnation and, in many cases, impoverishment of folks who are not wealthy. They have not delivered what they claimed they would deliver, and in fact have materially harmed millions of people. That's a bad thing. It's a bad thing for those millions of people, and it's a bad thing for the nation as a whole.

So I'm agin 'em.

As far as the involvement of folks with money in the political process per se, whether from the right or the left, my personal preference would be to restrict contributions of money or kind to political campaigns or organizations to only natural persons, and specifically natural persons who are citizens of the US. No corporations, no unions, nothing.

And I'd put a per-year limit on the value of the contribution. I don't care if it's a big limit or a small limit. Make it $100K. But there should be a limit, for all of the plainly obvious practical reasons.

That's my take on the whole thing.

I have nothing against the Kochs personally. I find the policies they advocate harmful, and I find the influence they can exert by virtue of their wealth to be inherently unfair and distorting to the political process. And yes, I'd say the same about Soros.

'My point is that the policies the advocate are harmful to a lot of people. In general, I find that conservative policies end up being harmful to a lot of people, which is why I am not a conservative.

I suppose I should preface that with an "IMO", but I don't really think it's a matter of my opinion.'

Russell:

I formerly considered myself a 'conservative' but have relinquished the use of that term to describe my political views. A number of conditions affected this need for change. One has been the influence of organized religions' social preferences on 'conservative' politics. Another has been the obvious connection between 'big' business and 'big' government and this influence on 'conservative' politics.

I think this 'bigness' moves policy decisions in ways that favor the 'big' players, and the results are harmful to many people of varying political persuasions. The ability of 'big' organizations (read corporations, unions, and political advocacy) to move unlimited sums of money into political campaigns is not helpful to insure the average voter's political influence is maintained at the level warranted.

Since I see 'liberal', 'left', or 'democrat' policies as favoring 'big' government and 'conservative', 'right', or 'republican' policies as favoring 'big' business, its difficult for me to see your focus on 'conservative' policies as harmful to many people as sufficient.

GOB -

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I fully agree that what passes for conservatism at the moment is, in many ways, not particularly conservative. It is, and this is IMO, more about enhancing and preserving the privileges of wealth.

Nothing wrong with being wealthy, but it's not the only good thing that deserves consideration in public policy.

When I say I self-identify as a lefty, that is less about the size of government and more about scope. Specifically, I am completely comfortable with government intervening economically and socially where and when that advances some broad public good. I'm not using "public good" in the economic-term-of-art sense, but in the plain, workaday usage of something useful, helpful, or necessary for common public life.

It's a commonwealth model of the purpose and function of government. I'm a commonwealth kind of guy.

You don't necessarily have to have a huge government apparatus to do those things, nor do they have to always be done at the federal level. Government should be of a scale commensurate with the responsibilities we ask it to fulfill, no larger or smaller.

That's my perspective.

Thanks again for your thoughts here.

What Russell and LJ said.

Slart:

russell, if you happened to trip and fall into several billion dollars, would you try and use some of those dollars to further the ends that you, personally, favored?
Yes. Almost tautologically, almost everyone would, unless they chose just to distribute it absolutely randomly, since even walking away and leaving it in the hands of existing banks, or in piles of Scrooge McDuck bills, or whatever form one fell on it, would redistribute the money to those best able to get at it.

Too general a question; not useful.

And...well, let's return to George Soros. George uses his money worldwide to influence the direction he thinks things should be moving in. Is that a bad thing, and is it a bad thing independent of whether you agree or disagree with Soros' worldview?
a) Too general.

b) Can you name three things Soros has done, specifically, with his money that are "are harmful to a lot of people" who aren't themselves doing greater harm?

If we're naming what billionaires have done, indeed, return to George Soros:

[...] He played a significant role in the peaceful transition from communism to capitalism in Hungary (1984–89)[5] and provided Europe's largest-ever higher education endowment to Central European University in Budapest.[7] Later, the Open Society Institute's programs in Georgia were considered by Russian and Western observers to have been crucial in the success of the Rose Revolution.
Who thinks this is, on balance, more harmful than good?

[...] The Open Society Institute has active programs in more than 60 countries around the world with total expenditures currently averaging approximately $600 million a year[8].
Anyone have specifics on the harm done?
[...] In August 2009, Soros donated $35 million to the state of New York to be ear-marked for under-privileged children and given to parents who had benefit cards at the rate of $200 per child aged 3 through 17, with no limit as to the number of children that qualified. An additional $140 million was put into the fund by the state of New York from money they had received from the 2009 federal recovery act.[23]

On October 26, 2010, George Soros donated $1 million to the Drug Policy Alliance to fund Proposition 19, the biggest donation in the campaign, that would have legalized marijuana in the state of California if it had passed in the November 2, 2010 elections.[52]
[edit] Eastern Europe

According to Neil Clark in the New Statesman, Soros's role was crucial in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.[53] From 1979, as an advocate of 'open societies', Soros financially supported dissidents including Poland's Solidarity movement, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union[42] donating $3 million a year according to Clark.[53] In 1984, he founded his first Open Society Institute in Hungary and pumped millions of dollars into opposition movements and independent media. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Soros' funding has continued to play an important role in the former Soviet sphere. His funding of pro-democratic programs in of Georgia was considered by Russian and Western observers to be crucial to the success of the Rose Revolution, although Soros has said that his role has been "greatly exaggerated."[54] Alexander Lomaia, Secretary of the Georgian Security Council and former Minister of Education and Science, is a former Executive Director of the Open Society Georgia Foundation (Soros Foundation), overseeing a staff of 50 and a budget of $2,500,000.[55]

Former Georgian Foreign Minister Salomé Zourabichvili wrote that institutions like the Soros Foundation were the cradle of democratisation and that all the NGOs which gravitated around the Soros Foundation undeniably carried the revolution. She opines that after the revolution the Soros Foundation and the NGOs were integrated into power.[56]

[...] n June 2009, Soros donated $100m to Central Europe and Eastern Europe to counter the impact of the economic crisis on the poor, voluntary groups and non-government organisations.[60]
[edit] Africa

The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa is a Soros-affiliated organization. [1] Its director for Zimbabwe is Godfrey Kanyenze, who also directs the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which was the main force behind the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change, the principal indigenous organization promoting regime change in Zimbabwe.

I'll put him up against the Kochs and compare donations any time. Let's talk specifics. I won't overwhelm. I'll simply match any claim with the same numbers, and leave the observer to judge.

Happily.

Great stuff, Gary.

You keep this up and you're going to end up on Glen Beck's blackboard with multiple intersecting lines heading off in every direction.

From the esteemed Radley Balko:

Curiously missing, however, is the $20 million donation the Kochs made to the ACLU to fight the Bush administration over the PATRIOT Act. Browsing various accounts of the Kochs political spending over the years, that $20 million appears to be substantially more than the Kochs have contributed to all political candidates combined for at least the last 15 years. . . . It's true, when you strip away all their giving that didn't go to political candidates, as Chait does, the Kochs look fairly right-wing. But you've also just stripped away the vast, vast majority of Koch giving. The more complete picture is pretty doctrinaire libertarian, with support not just for civil liberties, but donations to promote civil society in general.

RTWT as inclined.

That's a good donation, Slart. Thanks for that information.

I do note that Radley caveats:

I should note that both the linked sources above are secondhand, and I'm waiting to hear back from the ACLU for confirmation.

I imagine the Kochs don't kick their dogs, and do many good things. Certainly their donations to the arts, and standard philanthopies are good, though they also are almost mandatory for any social standing in their world, and it might be more impressive if they didn't insist on having their names on the buildings, but we all have egos, and so do I, and there's nothing horrible about having huge signs put up, mandated by contract, so everyone in the world you can possibly reach are notified of your generositity. George Soros doesn't hide all his good contributions, either.

And maybe George Soros is mean to animals and waiters and employees in person. I have no idea, though I suppose I could google for info.

Everyone is a mixed bag. The question is where they come out in the larger scheme of things, on balance, in the end.

And people sometimes change over times.

Everyone thinks they're doing what is right and best, and most people try hard. Rich or poor.

But being kind to the little people, in person, is good, and any good is good, and I'm all for good, because as Batman once said: "Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."

Radly also mentions, and I did not know this:

I suspect that like most libertarians, they'd rather avoid the unseemly world of politics as often as possible, where winning generally means forcing other people to bend to your will. (David Koch did run for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, but on a platform of legalizing drugs and prostitution, and abolishing the FBI and CIA.)
Uh, okay. And speaking of changing over time, obviously D. Koch did change his views on getting directly involved in politics, but that's entirely reasonable, over decades, or even in five minutes.

And even I amn't sure I want to completely abolish the FBI and CIA, though it depends upon what one means; some of their functions need to be retained, others not, and then one needs to get more granular.

But this is also the problem with "stripping away" this or that, and going short, rather than long. If you go long, you get tl;dr, and TMI, and MEGO.

If you go short, you strip out useful information, are accused of selection bias, and slanting facts.

There's always fault to be found, and choices to be made, and it's all balance and trade-off, and we do mostly all tend to present things so they emphasize our points, and that's also a matter of approach, and how much time one has to write, and to research, and what your word-count limit is, and so forth.

I love most of Radley's work; it's invaluable, and I praise him almost constantly.

But Radley is also himself presenting things in ways that he prefers -- we all do -- and he mentions:

They seem more interested in contributing to voluntary, civil society, by promoting ideas (yes, through think tanks and magazines like Reason) [....]
Which is to say, unsurprisingly, Radley focuses on the libertarian suport, because that's Radley's primary orientation -- and we overlap on many of our views, and that's why I like h im -- and Reason also pays his bills, some of them, but he works for them because that's his political orientation, and it's circular.

It's also a small world online when one has been around. Nick Gillespie was sending me good Reason books to review when I was in Boulder. Matt and I go back to Class of 2002, and used to comment and email each other all the time; now the online world is bigger, he's moved up, we haven't communicated in a long time, not due to hostility, but simply we're both more busy.

Maybe in five years "Stephen J. Smith
2011 Spring Intern" will be a well-known writer, and in ten, he'll be editor-in-chief of Reason.

Or maybe he'll go off to another career. It's interesting to watch people progress or not, or have ups and downs, or sideways turns over years. :-)

Maybe I should focus more on my libertarian side, and get a grant from the Kochs. Or maybe I can get a grant from George Soros.

I'd think more kindly of either, if either did, I suspect. :-)

RTWT as inclined.

See, for me, this discussion is less complex than it is for many people, because I want *all* corporate money out of politics, and I want *all* personal private political contributions limited to some sane number.

Right, left, red, blue, conservative, liberal, libertarian, anarchist syndicalist. Whatever. I don't care.

I don't want the Koch's money skewing political life, and I don't want Soros' money skewing political life. I don't want Goldman-Sachs, Monsanto, or Archer Daniels Midland involved in politics, and I don't want the AFL-CIO or SEIU involved in politics.

People. Individual natural human persons, who are citizens of the US. That is who is sovereign, and that is who should have the privilege of participation, at any level and in any form, in American political life.

And it's lovely that the Koch's are generous with their wealth, but I'd prefer a world where the wealth our economy produces is spread broadly enough that public institutions don't have to rely on the largesse of billionaires to survive.

russell:

And it's lovely that the Koch's are generous with their wealth, but I'd prefer a world where the wealth our economy produces is spread broadly enough that public institutions don't have to rely on the largesse of billionaires to survive.
You are clearly a Stalinist.

;-)

I want *all* corporate money out of politics

I think we're of one mind on this matter, russell.

want *all* personal private political contributions limited to some sane number

But this is where I suspect we begin to part ways. See, although I would prefer to split money from politics, I don't see any good ways to do that that don't also constrain personal liberty. Limiting individual campaign contributions is a decent start, but that just has like-minded people pooling their money. I read, and I don't recall exactly where, that David Koch donated the maximum amount possible (I think that's less than $50k) to Scott Walker's campaign. How that translates to Koch pulling Walker's strings, that being something like a couple of percent of Walker's total fundraising, is a question for people who make that kind of assertion to answer.

To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, there's too much money in politics.

How it translates into pulling Walker's strings: the Koch brothers have been openly advocating the pritazing of public power. Walker's budget calls for the sale of public power through no bid contracts. The Koch brothers are on phone-the-gov whenever they wish terms with Walker. There is a responsiblity to connect such obvioulsy conected dots. Refusing to do so is like denying a rape attempt unless penetration is achieved.

Besides if the Koch brothers were investing in politicians out of an altruistc love of democracy they'd invest in Walker AND his opponent.

It isn't up to people who recognize the connection to prove it. Its up tot he deniers to explain how these dots could possibly be not connected. What possible innocet explannation could there be?

Walker's budget calls for the sale of public power through no bid contracts.

What are you talking about, here?

What are you talking about, here?

Maybe this?.

See, although I would prefer to split money from politics, I don't see any good ways to do that that don't also constrain personal liberty.

We "constrain personal liberty" all the time, when it makes plain good sense to do so, and we are correct to constrain it.

You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater.
You can't set up your own radio station without an FCC license.
In many cases, if you want to "peaceably assemble" in a public place, you need a permit, so you don't screw up traffic.
You give up the right to have your person and personal effects free from search without a demonstration of probable cause every time you fly in a plane.

Make the limit $100K. Any individual person can donate $100K of personal funds to national political officeholders, parties, campaign organizations, etc.

Hell, if you and a few of your buddies pool your money, you can probably come up with million between you. Depending on where you are, that's got to be worth at least a House seat.

But a limit of that size also makes it possible for 1,000, or 10,000, of your fellow citizens to put their nickels together and match your war chest.

If $100K doesn't do it for you, pick another number. But absolutely no per-person limit on money donated to officeholders or spent on political campaigns basically puts political office-holders up for public auction to the highest bidder.

Personal liberty needs to be balanced against the broader public interest.

Yes. The bill Walker is promoting would make it possible for an appointee of the governor's to oversee the sale by no bid contract of Wisconsins's public utilities. There are lots and lots of references to this in the better coverage of the Wisconsin uprising. I think even some of theTV news talkinng heads have managed to notice it although I'm not sure abouut that since I don't watfh TV news.

From JanieM's cite:

"We're going to have an open and accountable process so that everyone knows who's interested in that, and what the process is," Walker said. "This only gives us the option. We're only going to move forward on this if it's good for the taxpayers and good ultimately for the ratepayers in this state."

"This only gives us the option."

"Trust me. I'm not like the other guys."

Maybe it makes sense to sell the plants, maybe it doesn't.

No bids, and no review by the Public Service Commission to evaluate whether the public interest is being served? That should set anybody's radar off, I don't care what your political persuasion is.

The bill Walker is promoting would make it possible for an appointee of the governor's to oversee the sale by no bid contract of Wisconsins's public utilities.

I think we've at least partially disposed with that point, wonkie, here. Wisconsin doesn't have much in the way of state-owned power generation facilities, as far as I can tell.

Here's a list of power-generation facilities in Wisconsin. Obviously, it's not exhaustive because it doesn't list the 9MW plant at UW-Madison. Because it's too small to mention, is my guess.

As much as I agree with your larger point, russell, I don't think it's necessarily a given that swapping valuable stuff to the Kochs for...campaign contributions; whatever...is in the offing.

Of course its a given! The issue isn't the possible sales--it's the no bid.

But bottom line: billionaires don't invest in politicians as a public service like paying to fix a fountain. In this case the union busting ideologue who is opposed to the public ownership of public utilities has invested in a governor who is busting uions and wants to sell public utilities by no bid sales. Amazing coincidence? Honestly, what's the point of denying the connection? Would you deny the tit for tat if the issue ws unions investing in a politician to protect pensions? I wouldn't.

Honestly, what's the point of denying the connection?

I'm guessing that you have completely missed what I said above. What possible advantage do you think an enormous enterprise like Koch would gain by acquiring (for example) an aging 9 MW coal power plant?

I agree, though, no-bid contracts are bad.

Ok, so just to wrap this up:

According to TPM:

The state of Wisconsin owns several dozen power plants, most of which are used to power government facilities and the University of Wisconsin infrastructure. And while some have raised questions about the general language of the provision, and the no-bid aspect, no one reached by TPM suggested anyone stood to make very much money by buying these plants.

"When you actually zero in on this particular issue, I can see where people who don't like Walker and don't like his budget ideas would probably say that," David Hoopman, who works on regulatory affairs for the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, told TPM. "But to take it the next step and say that this is a bonanza waiting to happen for private business, I think is a bit of stretch."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Administration (p 58), the total cost of all energy consumed by all government facilities, whether it's generated by a state-owned power plant or not, is something less than $200M. Assuming all of that is generated onsite, and power-generation profit margins being what they are (WEC's is about 9%), we're talking less than $20M/yr that the Kochs could possibly expect to see from these facilities.

Sure, they could come in, buy the plants for a song, and sell them at a tidy profit. They could possibly make a one-time profit of hundreds of millions of dollars, if Walker were stupid enough to just give them away, and assuming that laws in place really, truly do give him the power to do that.

I think David Koch probably could rustle that up by cleaning out between his couch cushions. The guy owns 42% of a company whose revenues are $100B.

I want to caveat the above by saying that not all of the information is easily accessible, so I might be missing a thing or two. But from what I can tell, this is somewhat like Ernst Stavro Blofeld hatching an insane plot, involving the usual machinations, to get a discount on his auto insurance.

wonkie:

It isn't up to people who recognize the connection to prove it. Its up tot he deniers to explain how these dots could possibly be not connected.
I was right with you until you assert that it's obligatatory for people to prove a negative, and I can't go there. It's not, of course, necessarily an argument from ignorance, but it's still basically a logical fallacy, and unreasonable in principle, even if in specifics I tend to agree with you.

I'd suggest sticking to proving your own case, rather than insisting that, in principle, everyone in the world first has to accept your POV, and then prove to you it's incorrect, because that's a rhetorical tautology:

[...] A rhetorical tautology can also be defined as a series of statements that comprise an argument, whereby the statements are constructed in such a way that the truth of the proposition is guaranteed or that the truth of the proposition cannot be disputed by defining a term in terms of another self-referentially. Consequently, the statement conveys no useful information regardless of its length or complexity making it unfalsifiable.
Perhaps more clearly, perhaps not, it's begging the question, which is a fallacy.

So: can't go there into fallacy land, no matter how much I agree with you in specific, sorry. Illogic is illogic, I am not programmed to respond in that area.

Ezra 12:22 PM ET, 02/23/2011:

To Walker's credit, he doesn't say anything incriminating. When Murphy/Koch offers to plant demonstrators, Walker declines. The worst you can say is that when Murphy/Koch makes a lewd comment about Mika Brzezinski, Walker doesn't challenge him on it. But that portion reads to me as Walker politely grunting in response to an odd provocation. I imagine politicians are pretty good at gently moving the conversation along when their contributors say crazy things.

But if the transcript of the conversation is unexceptional, the fact of it is lethal. The state's Democratic senators can't get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor's front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That's where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.

The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It's a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals. That's why Murphy -- posing as Koch -- was able to get through to Walker so quickly. And it shows what Walker is really interested in here: He is not opposed, in principle, to powerful interest groups having the ear of the politicians they depend on, and who depend on them. He just wants those interest groups to be the conservative interest groups that fund him, and that he depends on.

What young punk whippersnapper Ezra Klein said.

As much as I agree with your larger point, russell, I don't think it's necessarily a given that swapping valuable stuff to the Kochs for...campaign contributions; whatever...is in the offing.

I have no idea what is in the offing, and I'm not speculating about what is in the offing.

My larger point is my only point.

I have no idea what is in the offing, and I'm not speculating about what is in the offing.

Sorry, russell; I didn't mean to conflate your point with wonkie's. I suppose I was aiming at some linear combination of your comments and wonkie's.

As a side note, I linked upthread just a tad to an article that discussed no-bid contract awards by both former governor Doyle and by then-county-executive Walker. There is a difference in kind between omnibus service contracts (which are (in federal government work) in general bid on, but permit the winner to work any and all jobs that fall under that contract without a separate bid), and no-bid transfer of property.

I think there's greater opportunity for fiscal harm with the latter kind. The former kind still require work performed at rates arrived at (in general; I really can't tell if this is the case here) by bid.

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