Keep the Walker economy going

My column for the Washington County Daily News is in the paper today. Go buy a copy, but here’s a snippet:

Finally, unlike the previous governor, Walker actively recruits businesses to move to Wisconsin. There is no doubt that had it not been for Walker aggressively recruiting Foxconn, that multibillion-dollar investment would have gone to another state. Walker not only asked for the business, he closed the deal. A lesser governor would not have succeeded.

Wisconsin’s economy has made a complete turnaround under Walker and is heading in the right direction. It is a mistake to think that the state’s economy will continue in that direction under Tony Evers. Leadership matters and Wisconsin’s economy needs Walker to remain at the helm.

Nine Eleven

This summer I spent a little time in Manhattan with a couple of my teenage daughters. We took in the sights, toured the museums, enjoyed the food, and explored the city. We made a special point of visiting the 9/11 Museum and memorial prior to seeing Come From Away on Broadway. It was not my first time to Ground Zero, but it was their first time. Being there always gets to me. The searing memories of that day still burn. Standing there… seeing the remnants… hearing the 911 calls and cockpit recordings… it still hurts.

My daughters were babies when 9/11 happened and have grown up in the post-9/11 world. I imagine that me talking about 9/11 to them is akin to my parents talking to me about the Kennedy assassination. Whatever, dad… The world in which we live – the September 12th world – is the only world they have ever known. But being in the ruins of the Twin Towers, I think they began to understand. In particular, hearing the phone calls and flight recorder from Flight 93 and those last moments of fear, courage, and resolve, hit all of us hard. Heroes.

If you have the opportunity to visit Ground Zero, don’t miss it. Amid the ruins, artifacts, and memorial are the signs of rebirth and renewal.

But most of all… Never Forget.

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Evil Walmart Forces Cash into Employees’ Pockets

SHAME!

WEST BEND — More than 915,000 Walmart associates across the country received a share of more than $200 million in cash bonuses based on their stores’ second-quarter performance, the company announced Friday.

The bonuses were included in associates’ paycheck Thursday.

In Wisconsin, hourly associates received $4.33 million.

According to a news release, these bonuses came on the heels of the best performance for Walmart U.S. in more than 10 years — with comp sales growth (excluding fuel) of 4.5 percent — along with an increase in customer traffic of more than 2 percent.

Perhaps more interesting is that Walmart seems to be bucking the trend to online shopping while other brick-and-mortar retailers are dying. Or are all stores seeing a boost in this booming economy? It will be interesting to see the performance of other stores over the next few quarters.

DOJ Completes Testing of Old Sexual Assault Kits

Good news.

MADISON, Wis. – Attorney General Brad Schimel announced today that a major milestone has been reached as testing has been completed on all sexual assault kits initially inventoried and designated for testing in Wisconsin’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI). WiSAKI is a statewide effort, voluntarily initiated by Attorney General Schimel, to address the decades-long accumulation of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) that were in the possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals across Wisconsin.

“When I took office in 2015, I worked with our team to identify and collect more than 6,000 sexual assault evidence kits that had never been submitted to the crime labs for testing, some of them dating back to the 1980s,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel. “Today, I am proud to announce that testing is complete on all 4,154 kits slated for testing. In less than three years, we will have tested the kits that built up over several decades, and justice can be served to sexual assault survivors.”

Opioid Crisis Linked to Decreased Labor Force Participation

Speaking of West Virginia

The opioid crisis appears to be contributing to decreased labor force participation, especially in certain U.S. states, according to a chart by Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok.

Opioid use has been one of many driving forces behind higher disability rates, Yahoo Finance previously reported, which leads to more people being out of the labor force (even when the overall economy is humming).

West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas are seeing a particularly high correlation between opioid prescriptions and lack of labor market participation, as indicated by this chart:

Torsten Slok / Deutsche Bank Research

West Virginia Moves to Impeach Entire Supreme Court

I don’t know enough about this to have an opinion, but it sure is interesting. I think it fair to say that buying a $32,000 suede couch is not an appropriate use of taxpayer funds. I like to see checks and balances being exercised.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s unprecedented impeachment process for four Supreme Court justices gets started this week with initial appearances before the state Senate.

The justices or their lawyers have been ordered to appear at a pre-trial conference Tuesday before the Senate, which will serve as the jury. Dates for the actual impeachment trials have not been set.

The House of Delegates voted last month to impeach justices Robin Davis, Allen Loughry, Beth Walker and Margaret Workman. Davis retired hours afterward but remains a target of impeachment articles.

A conviction at trial could mean a justice would be disqualified from holding public office.

The impeachments stemmed from questions involving renovations to the justices’ offices. Those questions evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Democratic lawmakers, who hold minorities in the House and Senate, have characterized the impeachments as an unprecedented power grab by the GOP.

[…]

A legislative audit report released last week said the Supreme Court’s chief justices skirted state law concerning pay for senior status judges who are no longer on full-time duty. State law prohibits those judges from making more than active circuit judges. The audit said that to circumvent the law, Supreme Court officials began converting senior status judges from employees to independent contractors.

The audit tallied Supreme Court office renovations between 2012 and 2016 at $3.4 million, including $1.9 million for the five justices’ chambers. Auditors say invoices for renovations to the court’s law library and administrative offices were not made available.

The report also showed the court spent a $29 million budget surplus between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, whittling it to $333,514. The money was used for renovations; pay increases for judges, justices and magistrates; computer services; and attorney legal services, among other expenditures.

Individual office spending by the justices for renovations included $503,000 by Davis, $367,000 by Loughry, $131,000 by Walker and $113,000 by Workman.

Among Loughry’s expenditures were a $32,000 blue suede leather couch in his office and $7,500 for a wooden floor state map with individually outlined counties. Davis spent $56,500 for glass countertops and $28,000 for rugs.

Coming Robot Apocalypse

Well, duh. I saw Terminator.

Robots could become radicalised if they are badly coded, an expert has warned.

Professor of electrical and computer engineering Subhash Kak from Oklahoma University believes robots could become mass murderers if they are not wired correctly.

Although the danger does not exist with the current technology, Dr Kak believes future technical malfunctions could put thousands of peoples’ lives at risk.

Earlier this year he issued another chilling warning saying that the machine takeover will lead mankind into a ‘hellish dystopia’.

Tesla’s Union Busting Ways

Huh. The darling of the Left hates unions. Can’t blame ’em.

Tesla and its billionaire owner, Elon Musk, have earned a reputation for union-busting efforts over the past few years. In February 2017, Musk accused a factory worker who outlined several issues within Tesla in a Medium blogpost of being a “union plant”. In an email, Musk also promised workers free frozen yogurt in a letter to employees that framed unionization efforts as an effort against Tesla by big car companies. The same month, Tesla employee Michael Sanchez alleged he was asked to leave the Tesla factory by security for handing out pro-union flyers outside to fellow employees.

The NLRB filed a complaint currently on trial over Musk’s alleged promise to workers in a June 2017 meeting to fix safety standard concerns if they refrained from efforts to form a union. Several similar charges against Tesla are currently under consideration by the NLRB, including one alleging surveillance and intimidation against workers attempting to form a union.

Complaints from workers over being fired for engaging in efforts to unionize at Tesla have become common. “I was a union supporter. I wore a union shirt almost every day to work and my supervisor at the time asked me why I wore it,” said Jim Owen, who left the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, in March 2018 due to concerns for his safety after a robot almost severely injured him while working on car hoods. “He told me upper management wouldn’t appreciate me wearing it.”

Town of Trenton Presents Road Referendum

From the Washington County Insider.

In the Spring Town Crier, it was mentioned that the Town Board may be asking residents to approve an increase in the levy in the near future. Because of the increased road repair needs, as well as the comments and questions received regarding road repair and maintenance, the Town Board has resolved to place a referendum question on the November 6 ballot.

The question will state: “Under state law, the increase in the levy of the Town of Trenton for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2018, is limited to 1%, which results in a levy of $942,366. Shall the Town of Trenton be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2019, and going forward permanently, for the purpose of improving and maintaining Town of Trenton roadways, by a total of $500,000, equating to 53.5885%, which results in a levy of $1,433,036?“

Voting “yes” means you approve the Town increasing the annual levy by $500,000 to be used for Town road repair and maintenance. Voting “no” means you do not approve the Town increasing the annual levy by $500,000 and therefore the Town will be limited to the state-imposed levy limit increase.

The levy increase referendum must be presented at a General (November) election, or at a Special Election. The Town Board decided it would be better to present it this year, rather than wait until the 2020 General Election, or spending money on a Special Election in 2019.

Walker Facing Tough Race

Interesting that The Guardian is covering the Wisconsin election – and that they sought out Charlie Sykes as their primary local political analyst.

Sykes pointed to another potential problem. Walker’s base lies in the suburban counties that surround Milwaukee, areas that have typically given him more than 70% of the vote. But in those counties in 2016, Trump ran far behind other Republican candidates.

Sykes also said, however, that despite the fact Walker is behind, the Republican’s campaign is “comfortable being exactly where they are right now”. He looked back to 2014, when “everybody really thought [Walker] was in trouble and he did just fine”.

Sykes noted that Walker’s campaign is staffed with veterans of electoral dogfights. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a state Republican strategist echoed such thinking, saying the governor was “sailing into a pretty big storm but he’s built a pretty good ship”.

Walker, Sykes concluded, has “been through all of this before and Tony Evers has not”.

Republicans Soften Before Midterms

If there is one lesson Republicans should have taken away from the 2016 election, it is that a yuge chunk of their base is fed up with business as usual in Washington. They are fed up with politicians who lay down and refuse to fight. If the Blue Wave materializes and swamps the Congress, it will be in part because Republicans declined to build a sea wall to prevent it.

On a number of issues ― food stamps, a border wall, even Obamacare ― Republicans appear to be softening their hardline stances, if only for the moment before voters go to the polls.

Take the border wall, for instance. Congressional Republicans have consistently said it’s a priority of theirs to secure money for this cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s agenda. But a year and a half into Trump’s presidency, the wall has not materialized. Congress, like Mexico, does not seem willing to pay for it.

While Republicans have said all year that it’s important to get wall funding in the next round of appropriations, Democrats have made it clear they’re unwilling to go along with that sort of spending bill. So, rather than potentially shut down the government over a wall, Republicans are passing as many government funding bills as possible and leaving the wall for another day.

“Not fighting for the wall becomes a tactical question more than folding,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told HuffPost on Wednesday. “You know, when’s the best time to take that fight?”

It’s not that Republicans are giving up on the wall ― they’re not. They just recognize that a messy spending fight, over a wall, several weeks before an already gloomy midterm election is not the best closing argument for keeping Republicans in control of the House and Senate.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Graduate of Kettle Moraine Lutheran H.S. serves as pallbearer at Sen. McCain memorial

 There was a Washington County tie to the funeral of U.S. Senator John McCain as 2016 Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School graduate Collin Schwab had the honor of serving as a pallbearer at the memorial service in Phoenix. Schwab, 20, serves in the US Navy.

Mike Schwab said his son is humbled by the experience.

“He’s been given the honor of seeing to it that America’s Navy veterans are laid to rest with the decorum and dignity they deserve and that’s a huge responsibility,” he said.

While at KML Collin Schwab was captain of the Chargers wrestling team, football team and track team. He was also part of the school’s Veteran’s Day program.

Collin Schwab is the youngest of three brothers. His oldest sibling is an aerospace engineer with Boeing and the middle brother is a mining engineer.

“Collin was going into nuclear engineering but when the military determined he was color deficient the Navy asked if he would participate in the ceremonial guard and he’s been doing that since October 2016,” said Mike Schwab.

The Schwab family found out Monday, Aug. 27 via text their son would participate in the Senator McCain procession.

“He rarely does funerals anymore but said he would be flying out Monday night,” said Mike Schwab.

In the past, most of Collin Schwab’s duties had been at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

“He’s done funerals for Metal of Honor recipients, Secretaries of Defense, and he helped with funerals for dignified transfers for soldiers killed in the USS John McCain incident in August 2017,” Mike Schwab said.

There were times, according to Mike Schwab, when his son was doing up to six funerals a day at Arlington National Cemetery.

Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School Superintendent David Bartelt said while the situation surrounding the event is sad, it’s exciting to see a local graduate in the midst of such a high-profile event. “It’s very nice to see our graduates doing good things,” he said.

Mike Schwab said Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School really helped prepare his son and give him a solid foundation for his future.

“His education at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School certainly gives him a perspective on life-and-death issues. He’s always been a kid with a lot of decorum and he understands how to act,” Mike Schwab said.

Since the service in Phoenix on Aug. 30 the Schwab family in Jackson has been receiving comments and texts from across the country.

Senator McCain died following a battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 81.

OSHA said Sunburst contesting citations

OSHA completed its inspection, found violations and proposed penalties of $48, 041.

This week OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said the owner of the ski hill is contesting the findings.

“I just got word they (Sunburst) contested the citations so it will go before an Independent Occupational Safety Review Committee to make a final determination on whether the citation and penalties will be upheld or whether there will be some type of settlement talks,” Allen said.

In terms of appeal, Allen said “some companies will agree to pay the penalties and abate all the issues and some will contest the citations and have settlement discussions or it will go further to a legal process and make a final determination.”

There is no date on when a final decision will be made. Allen said it could “take up to a year to get it finalized.”

As far as resolving the violations in the OSHA write up, Allen said “technically the company doesn’t have to abate all the issues until everything has been resolved legally.”

“A lot of these cases will get resolved before it goes to a full legal process and they’ll get a settlement negotiation and they’ll come to some terms where they’ll abate the issues and the penalties will be reduced, but that is not always the case,” he said.

D.J. Burns, director of operations at the Sunburst Ski Area said shortly after the incident occurred OSHA’s inspectors arrived on site to review the work area where the injury occurred. During that site visit OSHA staff alerted Sunburst to some potential improvements that could be made in order to help Sunburst ensure workplace safety.

“The case file is still open but an informal conference was held near the end of August and Sunburst provided notice of its intent to participate in an informal conference to all of its employees as required by OSHA.

“The informal conference was held to discuss OSHA’s findings, potential methods to improve workplace safety and to discuss the alleged violations contained within OSHA’s notice.

“Sunburst also had the opportunity to inform OSHA of its ongoing work through the National Ski Areas Association in regard to best practices to ensure workplace safety at ski resorts throughout the United States,” said Burns.

There is no closed date until OSHA reviews the information

OSHA will follow up with a letter apprising Sunburst of any grouping of violations or elimination of violations and any reductions in associated fines.

Burns is hoping OSHA will review improvements Sunburst has already made to its facility.

He said the culture of safety at Sunburst is vastly different than other ski resorts across the country.

“Our commitment to employee safety is such that we train all our senior management and management staff in CPR, First Aid, and AED,” said Burns. “That comes at a great cost but we want to ensure a safe workplace.”

Recount Monday for Big Cedar Lake PRD

There’s going to be a request for a recount during Monday’s meeting, Sept. 11, for the Big Cedar Lake PRD.

Petitions from candidates Troy Zagel and Nicole Gonring have been filed. The pair lost in an election at the annual meeting on August 29.

Four candidates were vying for two seats on the Big Cedar Lake PRD. Each seat carried a 3-year term. The terms of board members Roger Walsh and Jim McGath had expired. McGath chose not to run again.

Walsh was on the ballot with David Claussen, Nicole Gonring and Troy Zagel.

Nearly an hour after ballots had been cast and votes tabulated the results were read by Walsh which showed he finished first followed by a very close second through fourth place finish.

Only five votes separated three candidates.

Dan Carroll, Operations Manager/Chief of Patrol at Big Cedar Lake PRD, said they counted the votes five times. There were about 300 people who voted Wednesday night.

Gonring questioned if they counted five times, how come these were the final totals they settled on. Monday’s meeting begins at 5:45 p.m.

City of West Bend considering sharp shooters for deer management

On Sept. 10 the West Bend Common Council will review a managed deer hunt for the 2018-19 season. The city is targeting a reduction in deer numbers in an effort to reduce deer damage to habitat, property and car/deer collisions. For this year the Deer Management Committee will recommend licensed sharp shooters perform the hunt during the evening at Ridge Run Park and Lac Lawrann Conservancy. The hunt will be conducted while the parks are closed.

The sharp shooters are part of a cooperative service agreement with the USDA Wildlife Service. They will target the removal of 30 deer per park. The financial plan for the managed hunt will not exceed $9,002. The City is also applying for a $5,000 Urban Wildlife Damage Abatement and Control grant.

Veterans from Washington Co. on the Sept. 15 Honor Flight

Eight veterans from Washington County will be on the Sept. 15 Stars & Stripes Honor Flight. Veterans include Jerry Bentfield of Hartford who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, Oscar Rathke of Jackson, and six veterans from West Bend including Ed Farrell, Vietnam War Army, Lester Hahn, WWII Army, Michael Henner, Vietnam War Army, Bob Martin, Vietnam War Army, Bob Schulz, Vietnam War Army, and Ivan Vorderbruggen, Korean War Army. This is the 47th mission of the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight since 2008.

Silver Lining Chamber Artists Concert Series      By Ian Tomaz

Ian Tomaz, West Bend High School class of 2013 and recent graduate with distinction from the University of Wisconsin Mead Witter School of Music, has created a 10 concert monthly series of classical chamber music recitals as part of his Artist in Residency position at Silver Lining Arts Center for the 2018-2019 school year. The first concert is Sept. 9 at 3 p.m., featuring vocalists and string instrumentalists in a range of works from classical composers Brahms and Debussy to early American Jazz and Disney classics. Tickets are $5 for adults and seniors, free for students and children, with a portion of proceeds going to a scholarship fund for students involved in the performance class.

Updates & tidbits

Make your life more secure by shredding old documents and make your community better too. Horicon Bank, 1535 W. Paradise Drive, in West Bend will be collecting donations for the Wisconsin Honor Flight at its Shred Day event, Saturday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. – noon.

-Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 777 S. Indiana Avenue, in West Bend is dedicating its $3.2 million “Building Connections” expansion project Sunday, Sept. 9. There will be a meal and banquet following the 10:30 a.m. service.

The annual St. Frances Cabrini Used Book Sale and Rummage Sale is Saturday, Sept. 8 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 9 from 8:30 a.m. – noon in Mother Cabrini Hall in the lower level of church.

The Kettle Moraine Ice Center will host a try hockey free weekend Sept. 14-16. Any interested family can register at www.wcyha.org

-Cars in Kewaskum, formerly the Grand Larsony Custom Classic Car Show, is set for Saturday, Sept. 15. Mike Beal from Top Fuel is organizing the event. This year money raise will be donated to Art Klemme and Janine Prunty. Modern Woodmen will provide matching funds.

– St. Gabriel’s Parish is excited to announce Milwaukee Brewers Hernan Perez, will be at the St. Gabe Flea Market on Sept. 8 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30am for a meet and greet and Perez will be signing autographs.  Proceeds will benefit Karl’s Place/Family Promise in West Bend.

– Hartford’s H.e.l.p. Corner at Redeemer Church is slated to open mid-September.

– The annual Friends of Pike Lake Community and Campfire concert is Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. Entertainer Randy Peterson, will perform in the Pike amphitheatre.

-St. Frances Cabrini annual Rummage Sale is Thursday, Sept. 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 21 from 8 a.m. to noon in Mother Cabrini Hall in the lower level of the church. Baked goods will also be available. Rummage items can be dropped off Sept. 15 through Sept. 19.

– There’s a golf outing Sept. 23 at West Bend Lakes Golf Club and proceeds go to the Luke Gromowski Ironman Scholarship Fund. Gromowski was a senior at West Bend East when he died in a car accident in November 2014. Registration is 8 a.m. with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The cost is $100 per adult and $50 for a student. Contact Ed Ihlenfeld at 262-707-5449 for more detail.

– Rally Time Sports Bar and Grill in West Bend is looking for a part-time line cook position. Rally Time has a family-friendly team atmosphere. The position is primarily day shift and coverage as needed. Call Dan at 262-389-1142 or Cindy at 262-389-0839 or stop at the bar for an application.

Sign up today for the 8th Annual Swinging for Seniors Golf Outing at West Bend Lakes Golf Club on Friday, Sept. 14. All proceeds benefit Senior Citizens Activities, Inc. Stick around after golf and take part in the Classics for a Cause Raffle and a chance to win a 1968 Ford Mustang.

Training for the big day in New Zealand                               By Lexi Bullis          

Slinger High School grad Lexi Bullis, 18, has been participating in the Junior World Snowboarding Championship in New Zealand. She posted this story below.

Training on Saturday and Sunday went really well. We had to wake up around 4 a.m. to make breakfast and leave by 5:45 a.m.

We drove up the road and got to watch the sunrise over the mountain range across the valley and it was the most amazing sight. Because it is still winter here sunrise doesn’t happen until 7 a.m.

Training was from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Coaches Justin Reiter and Lynn Ott had me working on a few things before the races. I was a quick study and afterward the coaches said my riding improved tremendously and I could definitely feel the difference.

The courses are really fun, however during training the snow didn’t hold out well as ruts formed fast because so many good riders use the same line. Both days we got off the hill around 10 a.m.

Food in New Zealand varies a lot and meat pies are one of my favorite.  I’ve had steak and venison. It’s similar to a pot pie but smaller and more delish. Come to find out it is also a British food.

Since eating out hasn’t always been the easiest or healthiest, I have learned to cook on this trip! My teammate Kaiya and I have made everything from steak to pasta to my now famous breakfast sandwiches. It has been a ton of fun.

Monday was supposed to be our off day from snowboarding but during the early afternoon, the U.S. guys decided we were going to go on a 10 km hike. We hopped in the van and drove through the valley and straight into the mountain range.

There were signs along the fence-lined roads that said ‘Animal crossing next 20 km.’

The road turned from pavement to pasture and animals, including sheep and cows, were everywhere. At one point the car in front of us had to slam on its brakes and swerve out of the way from hitting a cow; it walked across the road like it owned it. As we passed that same cow turned and almost walked straight into the side of our van.

The trailhead started at the end of the road and the glacier hike followed a river uphill into the mountains. It was 3.5 miles there and 3.5 miles back, but the view was outstanding.

The higher we hiked the colder it got and we finished where a recent avalanche had gone through. The ground was very soft and everything was broken up. It was nearly dark by the time we got back and we had a total of 3.5 hours of hiking under our belt.

Tuesday was our final training day before the race and all of the countries had finally arrived including China, Russia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Portugal, Canada, U.S., Sweden, Poland, and a few others I’m forgetting.

We were instructed to only take a few runs and not burn ourselves out. I felt good on my practice runs and went in for the day. In the afternoon, we did a small recovery session and had a team meeting. It was late by the time we had a chance to eat so the girls, Kaiya, my coach Lynn and me, decided to get some Indian Curry. I have never had Indian food and it was absolutely amazing. We went to bed early to get ready for race day.

A big thanks to my sponsors for helping make this tour possible including: Donek Snowboards for the sweet rides that have served me well, Glacier Hills Credit Union, Lifestar Ambulance, and Attitude Sports. This is an experience of a lifetime and I appreciate the community support.

Wages Rise in Robust Economy

Fantastic! Wages are always a lagging metric. It’s good to see them rise.

Annual wage growth hit a nine-year high in the US last month as the economy created more jobs than expected.

Average hourly earnings rose by 0.4% in August, pushing the annual rate of increase to 2.9% – the fastest pace since June 2009.

Hiring in the construction sector and in professional services helped the economy to add 201,000 jobs last month.

The strong wage growth is likely to strengthen expectations of another rise in US interest rates later this month.

The US Federal Reserve, which has already raised rates twice this year, is due to meet on 25-26 September.

The dollar rose in response to the data. The dollar index – which measures the greenback against a group of major currencies – hit a two-day high.

NFL Season Kicks off Tonight

The NFL season kicks off tonight. As I sit here with the TV on in the background, I see that rain has delayed the kickoff. It seems somewhat emblematic of the NFL as a whole right now.

For a little background, I love football. I came of age in the great state of Texas where life happens around football games. Thursday nights were for JV games, Friday Night Lights warmed you up for college ball on Saturday. Sundays were full of football and Monday Night Football capped off the week. After the weekend (Tuesday and Wednesday), the cycle started again. Watching football during on Thanksgiving and Christmas were as much a part of the traditions of those holidays as eating too much and a couch nap.

The last couple of years, I noticed that I was watching a lot less NFL. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I’m not boycotting. But I used to watch any NFL game that was on. I would make a point to watch my team, but I was perfectly happy turning on a Bengals game if it was on because I enjoyed watching the game.

As this season kicks off, I didn’t even realize there was a game tonight until about an hour ago. I’m in a fantasy football league this year after a break for a couple of years. I struggled to know a good number of the players for the draft. I’m not even really sure which teams are expected to be good or not.

I’m just not as interested as I used to be. Why?

I suppose it could be age, but I still love to watch college football. I’ll watch any of the games. I also really enjoy watching high school football. I still really enjoy watching the game – just not the NFL as much.

Part of the reason is that the NFL has screwed with the schedule too much. Now there are NFL games on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sunday mornings when they play in Europe, etc. It’s a mess. Sometimes I just don’t even know there’s a game on.

Then, the NFL decided to mess with the delivery options. I realize that there are many options available for delivering television content. We pulled the plug years ago. But I’m not going to sign up for a subscription service I don’t already have, buy the NFL channel, or log into Facebook to watch a game. I remember when they first had a game exclusively on the NFL network. I shrugged and said, “oh well… it’s just a game.” That was one less game that I might have watched.

In recent years, the NFL has also been making the rules incomprehensible. I don’t mind complexity in the game. That is part of what makes it fun. It is a complex game with 22 men on the field with different assignments, skills, and responsibilities. There are nuances to coaching, clock management, officiating, etc. But the rules have become so ridiculous that even knowledgeable viewers can’t tell if a catch is a catch, or a touchdown is a touchdown, without a slow motion replay, an abacus, Ouiga board, 5 dice, and a Magic Eight Ball. And even then you’ll come to a different conclusion than the official. I don’t mind arguing about the occasional bad call, but I can’t even tell if the call is bad or not most of the time.

Finally, there are the protests. Sports are fun, but they are an escape from “real life.” They are supposed to be a mental break from work, politics, and the stressors of daily life. When watching or not watching a game becomes some sort of political virtue signal, I’m less interested in participating. I’d rather find a different way to spend my leisure time.

I suspect that football will be around for a long time, but I am starting to have my doubts about the NFL. I am, after all, one of their target demographics. I’m a football-luvin’ middle-aged guy with enough discretionary income to go to games and buy their advertisers’ merchandise if I want. I’m just not that into the NFL anymore. The league won’t die because of boycotts and protests. It will die when too many people don’t even know what’s going on in the NFL because they aren’t even paying attention to it.

 

One more thought… when and if the NFL falls, it will happen very quickly. Their cost structure is such that they have massive labor and infrastructure costs. Those costs are fixed, or the most part, because the labor costs are weighted to the batter players and you can’t run a team with fewer than 11 people – at the bare minimum. Realistically speaking, something around 35 players is probably the minimum to still put on an entertaining professional entertainment product. On the other side of the ledger, much of their revenue is tied to the massive broadcast deals – many of which are being paid by broadcasters who are struggling themselves. If the value of those deals collapse, the dominoes will fall quickly and NFL revenue with them. With a rigid cost structure, the NFL will not be able to adapt quickly enough and will enter bankruptcy rapidly to get out of the employment contracts.

Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Supports Unconstitutional Obamacare

What a simplistic argument.

Oral arguments on a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act took place Wednesday in Texas. The democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General said the state would not be a part of it if he is elected.

Josh Kaul called the lawsuit led by current attorney general Brad Schimel wrong and not in the best interest of Wisconsinites. Obamacare prohibited insurers from denying coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition.

Kaul says over two million residents in the state has one of these conditions.

“We just shouldn’t have people who are unable to have access to health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. We certainly shouldn’t have our attorney general using our tax dollars to fight to take protections away from Wisconsinites,” Kaul said.

Obamacare was SO MUCH BIGGER than just the provision regarding pre-existing conditions. But he focuses on that because that’s one of the few parts of it that was popular. And the media let’s it stand unchallenged. What does Kaul think about the other parts of Obamacare? Is he cool with the individual mandate? How about the ballooning costs? Does he like the drastically reduced options through the Obamacare exchanges – with some counties having only one option? Does Kaul love him some higher taxes? Obamacare is full of those. What about the fact that it is utterly unconstitutional (and yes, Roberts was wrong)?

I guess if you really like Obamacare that you should vote for Josh Kaul. Duly noted.

Deep State Grumbles

Whether this anonymous source is real or not (the media has a poor track record at having to back off of stories sources by anonymous sources), all it does is underline the view of many Americans that there is a Washington establishment, or deep state, that doesn’t really believe in representative government. They believe that they should run things. Like it or not, Trump was duly elected and has the right and obligation to govern. If Americans don’t like it, our recourse is to vote him out of office or elect a Congress that will check his progress.

An unnamed senior Trump official has said members of the administration are working to frustrate parts of the president’s agenda to protect the country from his “worst inclinations”.

In a New York Times editorial, the author said President Trump’s “amorality” and “impulsiveness” had led to ill-informed and reckless decisions.

Mr Trump labelled the anonymous writer “gutless” and the newspaper as “phony”.

His press secretary said the mystery writer was a “coward” who should quit.

The Times defended the editorial in a statement, saying: “We are incredibly proud to have published this piece, which adds significant value to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration.”

The opinion piece comes a day after excerpts of Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House suggested that his top officials have been engaged in an “administrative coup d’etat” to protect the nation from the president, including removing key documents from his desk before he has a chance to sign them.

Trump improves retirement savings options for Americans

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Amid all of the tweets, insults, accusations, lies, betrayals and other palace intrigues that the media obsess over, President Donald Trump is aggressively deregulating and advancing reforms for the benefit of the middle class. In one of many examples, Trump signed an executive order last week to instruct federal departments to make it easier for Americans to utilize tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Since the 1970s, the federal government has encouraged Americans to save for their retirement by allowing them to defer income taxes for money put into certain retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs. One could certainly argue whether or not it is the role of the federal government to use tax regulations to encourage this behavior, but given the fact that our nation has decided on a social construct whereby taxpayers will financially support people who did not, or could not, save enough to provide for themselves in their elder years, such inducement for people to save certainly improves the general welfare. There is little doubt that the individuals who use these plans benefit immensely.

The rules regarding these tax-advantaged retirement plans have been changed over the years as conditions and preferences have shifted. One of Trump’s orders is a relatively minor tweak. Trump directed the Department of the Treasury to evaluate changing the rules regarding required minimum distributions to allow retirees to keep money in their accounts longer.

Under the current rules, retirees must start taking money out of their 401(k)s and IRAs when they are 70 1/2 years old, even if they do not need the money. The reason, from the federal government’s perspective, is that the income tax on that money was deferred, not waived. The government needs the money to be withdrawn before the retiree dies so that it can be taxed. People are living longer now, so Trump’s directive is to raise the age and required distribution amounts to better reflect current demographics. Ideally, Trump will go one step further and work with Congress to waive the required minimum distributions completely.

The other parts of Trump’s executive order are arguably more important. Despite the popularity of taxadvantaged retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s, a large percentage of Americans do not have one available to them through their employers. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, 35 percent of private-sector workers older than 22 do not have access to a 401(k) plan through their employer. Access is skewed to the younger generations with 41 percent of millennials lacking access through their employers.

One of the things preventing access is that smaller companies are often unable to afford the costs to set up and administer these kind of retirement plans. Trump ordered the departments of Treasury and Labor to find ways to reduce the regulatory burden for small businesses to offer workplace retirement plans.

Furthermore, federal law prohibits small businesses from pooling their resources to offer retirement plans unless they are related businesses like members of a trade association. Trump ordered the departments of Treasury and Labor to issue regulations allowing any group of small businesses to join to offer association retirement plans to their collective employees.

Combined, these two parts of Trump’s executive order will make it easier and more affordable for businesses of any size to offer attractive retirement savings plans to their employees. With more Americans having access to more retirement saving options, more Americans will be inclined to save for their sunset years.

The sad thing for America is that the media are so caught up in the daily soap opera of the White House that they almost completely ignore the actions Trump is taking that actually matter to Americans. Trump does not help matters by feeding the frenzy. In fact, he seems to enjoy it. But most Americans are just trying to live their lives and would like to know when the government is doing things that might affect them — especially when it is good.

As we transfer another Labor Day into a memory, President Trump is taking yet another action to improve the lives of American workers by making it easier for them to save for the time when they will no longer work. That is far more important than yet another breathless story about yet another tweet.

Budgets are About Priorities

And MPS’ priorities are clear. Ouch.

So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the Facebook page for an upcoming high school reunion, I learned the school is getting a new $5.7 million stadium. The stadium will have artificial grass and a new track for WIAA events. The report I saw didn’t mention metal detectors, but it would be a good idea.

The new stadium is part of an $11 million improvement in athletic facilities for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.

So the next time someone tells you that MPS needs more money, remind them that more money does not mean a better academic performance. And if they ask for evidence, ask them if $5.7 million could be better spent than on a new stadium for a failing school. And then ask them if the students would be better off with a new track instead of shutting the school down entirely.

At least the artificial turf matches the artificial concern of Wisconsin’s Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, for the well-being of MPS students. Perhaps the new scoreboard can flash the number of kids being pushed through the system without learning anything – not that any of the students will be able to read it.

James Wigderson
Editor
RightWisconsin

Trump improves retirement savings options for Americans

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Yes, it’s a bit boring, but that’s sort of the point. We should be spending more time talking about boring policy issues that actually impact our daily lives instead of the daily circus. Here’s the opening.

Amid all of the tweets, insults, accusations, lies, betrayals and other palace intrigues that the media obsess over, President Donald Trump is aggressively deregulating and advancing reforms for the benefit of the middle class. In one of many examples, Trump signed an executive order last week to instruct federal departments to make it easier for Americans to utilize tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Jon Kyl to Represent Arizona in Senate

Good choice. At least this gets us through Kavanaugh’s appointment.

The US Senate seat left vacant by John McCain’s death will be filled by Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator from Arizona, it was announced on Tuesday.

The decision was revealed by McCain’s widow, Cindy, who wrote in a tweet: “Jon Kyl is a dear friend of mine and John’s. It’s a great tribute to John that he is prepared to go back into public service to help the state of Arizona.”

“There is no one in Arizona more prepared to represent our state in the US Senate than Jon Kyl,” Doug Ducey, Arizona’s governor, followed up in a statement.