Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Bureaucrat Brags Despite Failure

Ummm… no.

“No administration has ever faced anything like that before,” said Mark Reihl, DWD unemployment division administrator. “We have done everything possible as quickly as possible to bring as many people on as we could … Frankly, I think we have done a great job in this period of time. Is it as good as we would like? Certainly not.”

I see a lot of excuses and slow action. I see very little leadership or results. Take a look at this MacIver story that tracks their very, very, very lethargic reaction and refusal to think outside of their bureaucratic bubble.

When Safer at Home went into effect, DWD had 57 employees at its unemployment call center, and the phone system could handle 450 calls at a time. On Mar. 26th, the day after the lockdown went into effect, DWD was getting 160 attempted calls a second, over half a million an hour.

DWD reacted by transferring 75 of its 1,606 full time employees to help out at the call center, bringing the total up to 132. It also boosted its call volume capacity up to 690 calls at a time, which meant more people would be able to wait on hold.

DWD’s unemployment line got 1.5 million attempted calls during the first week of Safer at Home, but only 115,679 people successfully filed a claim. Not all of those claims were filed over the phone. DWD begged people to file online, citing a 98 percent success rate for the 19,000 who did.

With the call center completely overwhelmed by demand, Frostman added another 18 people to its staff during the second week of the shutdown. That brought the total up to 150. Even though DWD still had over 1,400 full time employees not working at the call center, it announced plans to hire 85 new employees to help process unemployment paperwork.

Frostman said out of date IT infrastructure was the problem, and it “has forced DWD’s staff to work overtime, nights, and weekends to process unemployment claims to support out-of-work Wisconsinites.”

However, they weren’t taking calls 24/7. Phone lines were only open from 7:30 – 3:30, Monday to Friday.

That doesn’t look like “everything possible as quickly as possible” to me.

Predicted Surge in Deaths Fails to Materialize

Again. It seems like every time the anti-civil rights folks claim there will be widespread death if we don’t strip people of their rights, it fails to materialize. Are they incompetent or do they have ulterior motives? Or both?  From Dan O’Donnell

On May 13th, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin saw 291 new cases of Coronavirus out of 4,363 tests for a positive test rate of 6.3%.  Since the virus has an incubation period of between three and 14 days (with an average incubation of five days), the state would expect a massive spike in both positive tests and the positive test rate by today—two weeks after the state reopened—if the reopening was indeed responsible for such a spike.

There hasn’t been a spike in either.  Five days after the court’s ruling on the 13th, the state saw just 144 positive tests even though there were far more total tests (4,828) done than on the 13th for a positive rate of 2.9% on May 18th.

Eight days later, on May 26th, the positive test rate was 3.6% (279 positive tests out of 7,495 total).  Just twice has the positive rate hit or topped 8% since the Supreme Court’s ruling.  By contrast, in April the positive test rate routinely hit 10% per day.  Two weeks to the day after Wisconsin reopened, neither the number of new cases per day nor the percentage of positive tests has even come close to spiking.

Neither has the number of hospitalizations or ICU visits.   In none of the state’s seven regions has there been even a tiny bump per day.  Instead, the numbers have been remarkably consistent throughout the outbreak, suggesting that the reopening has had little to no effect at all on the hospitalization rate and thus the severity of the disease’s impact.

As if that wasn’t enough to disprove the hysterical predictions of death and destruction made just two weeks ago, the virus has somehow become less deadly since Wisconsin started to reopen.

In the 13 days since the Supreme Court’s ruling, there have been 96 Coronavirus deaths for an average of 7.3 per day.  In the 13 days immediately preceding the Court’s ruling, there were 105 Coronavirus deaths for an average of 8.07 per day.

If Wisconsin signed its own death warrant when the Supreme Court struck down “Safer at Home,” then the signature must have been forged.  In no way has the state become a more dangerous place since it reopened.  The “chaos” that Evers repeatedly predicted has been proven to be as nonsensical a forecast as the death and destruction the Governor and his fellow Democrats insisted would result from an in-person election on April 7th.

“Emergency Order 28 is declared unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.”

Hey look. The Supreme Court agrees with me. Go about your business, folks.

IV. CONCLUSION

¶58 We conclude that Emergency Order 28 is a rule under the controlling precedent of this court, Citizens for Sensible Zoning, Inc. v. DNR, 90 Wis. 2d 804, 280 N.W.2d 702 (1979), and therefore is subject to statutory emergency rulemaking procedures established by the Legislature. Emergency Order 28 is a general order of general application within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 227.01(13) which defines “Rule.” Accordingly, the rulemaking procedures of Wis. Stat. § 227.24 were required to be followed during the promulgation of Order 28. Because they were not, Emergency Order 28 is unenforceable.21 Furthermore, Wis. Stat. § 252.25 required that Emergency Order 28 be promulgated using the procedures established by the Legislature for rulemaking if criminal penalties were to follow. Because Palm did not follow the
law in creating Order 28, there can be no criminal penalties for violations of her order. The procedural requirements of Wis. Stat. ch. 227 must be followed because they safeguard all people.

¶59 We further conclude that Palm’s order confining all people to their homes, forbidding travel and closing businesses 21 This decision does not apply to Section 4. a. of Emergency Order 28.  exceeded the statutory authority of Wis. Stat. § 252.02, upon which Palm claims to rely. By the Court.—Palm’s Emergency Order 28 is declared unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.

Most disappointing is that Justice Hagedorn voted in the minority with a ridiculous rationale. This comes after he went lefty on taking up the ballot issue a few months ago. Make no mistake, once Justice Kelly leaves the court, this is now a 4-3 LIBERAL Supreme Court.

Cases in Georgia Continue to Decline After Opening

Remember when Georgia largely opened their economy three weeks ago and some people predicted an explosion in cases and deaths? Yeah, not so much.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Fails to Act

It has been over a week since the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments challenging the constitutionality of Governor Evers’ orders to micromanage our lives, strip our civil rights, and suspend representative government in response to the Coronavirus. Their lethargy is embarrassing and unconscionable. People are losing their jobs, businesses, incomes, savings… governments are on their way to bankruptcy right behind thousands of Wisconsin businesses… and the black robes sit without acting.

Today is the 61st day since Governor Evers issued the first order in accordance with emergency statutes and that authority has expired. While I consider the statutory authority for the original order to be unconstitutionally broad and capricious, the extension order is based on a statute that is unconstitutional on its face. We do not grant unending and unrestrained authority to a cabinet secretary. I do not consent.

Therefore, I consider Wisconsin’s lock down to be null and void as of today. The fact that a tyrant in Madison may issue orders, that does not mean that the orders carry any legal authority. I’m going to go about my life as a free citizen of the United States. I will take reasonable precautions in accordance with medical guidelines, but I will live my life.

Public sector must share burden of economic ruin

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

While rolling out another slew of arbitrary benchmarks for reopening Wisconsin and offering platitudes of sympathy, Gov. Tony Evers said, “As much as people believe we’re going to return to the good old days — that’s just not going to happen.” That is true for many of us, but it is especially true for government. The collapse of government revenue due to the government-imposed economic collapse has already begun and it will not subside any time soon. Governments at all levels will need to make huge structural changes to adapt to the new reality.

Our federal government is spending money at an unprecedented level. Congress and President Trump have already committed to $2.4 trillion in COVID relief packages and are discussing spending trillions more. This spending is ballooning the national debt to over 122% of the nation’s gross domestic product, a level higher than the nation had after World War II.

The federal government has a tool that no other government in our nation has. It can print as much money as it wants to pay off the debt. Doing so potentially leads to hyperinflation and the collapse of the American economy for generations, but it can do it. State and local governments do not have that option. If a state or local government can’t cover its bills, it might go bankrupt and default on its loans.

Last week the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released information on the state’s tax collections for April. Since Evers locked down the state’s economy in the middle of March, April was the first full month of lockdown economics. As expected with businesses shuttered, over 400,000 newly unemployed citizens, and people being forced to stay home, state sales and income tax collections plummeted.

According to the preliminary data, total tax collections were down $870 million compared to April of 2019. That is a 43% decline in revenue over last year and an even steeper decline over what the state expected to collect when they wrote the budget. As we approach the middle of May with no end of the economic misery in sight, the tax collections will be far less than what the budget called for. Meanwhile, some expenditures are increasing to respond to COVID.

To put this in perspective, in January, the LFB forecast that the state would end the budget with a $620 million surplus. Governor Evers actually called a special session of the Legislature because he wanted to spend the projected surplus on schools. At the time I argued in this column that it would be immoral to spend money we did not have. A projection is, after all, not actual money.

Thankfully, the Legislature has more sense than Governor Evers and declined to spend any of the surplus. The decline in tax revenues for April alone have completely wiped out any projected budget surplus and pushed the state budget into a deficit. As tax collections in May and for the foreseeable future will also be well below what the budget called for, the state government is facing a massive shortfall thanks to Governor Evers’ decision to crush the state’s booming economy in response to a virus.

The decline in tax revenue is also cascading to all other levels of government. County, municipal, and school governments are also facing a future with a lot less money to spend. The gravy train has skidded off the rails. So far, the governor and local government leaders have done very little to restrain spending. Perhaps accustomed to having someone bail out their bad decisions, they have been very slow to act.

All this means that state and local governments will have to make some big, difficult, and necessary decisions in the coming months to bring spending in line with what the people can afford. Everything must be on the table including employee benefits, pensions, entire departments, buildings, staff for elected officials, the governor’s mansion, schools, universities, and, yes, entitlements.

When this must happen, government employees and beneficiaries are sure to forcefully object, but it must happen. There just isn’t enough money. Just like private businesses and citizens must adapt to the new normal of smaller economy, so must our government.

The reality is that tax collections are down because people simply have less money. Income tax collections are down because people are unemployed or have had their income cut. Sales tax collections are down because people can’t afford to spend money like they used to. Business tax collections are down because businesses are making less and going under. We can’t tax our way out of budget deficits because the money just isn’t there.

The private sector has already shouldered the burden of government-mandated economic ruin. The public sector will have to carry its load too.

 

 

People Dying At Home

More predictable, if unintentional, consequences.

While no reliable statistics are available on how many Americans with non-Covid-related illnesses are avoiding the health system, doctors responding to an informal Twitter poll reported a 40% reduction in heart attack patients. Cigna, the insurance company, said patients were not actively seeking care for urgent health needs, citing significant reductions in hospitalizations for GI bleeds, seizures and appendicitis.

Though it is not known how many people with chronic disease have died in recent weeks, some may be driving up the number of suspected Covid deaths – a grey area of the data that includes people who have died of related health issues.

Open Wisconsin now

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy!

This week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether or not to end Governor Tony Evers’ dictatorial rule and re-establish the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government. Hopefully the court will side with self-governance and strike down Evers’ unconstitutional power grab. When they do, the governor and Legislature will be left to wrangle over the best plan to reopen the state’s economy. What should the plan be? Get out of the way and let Wisconsinites get to work.

As other states go about opening their economies, they are doing so with a variety of plans. Some are very detailed plans with a strict metrics. Some are looser plans with a schedule of gradual opening. Some, like Governor Evers’ plan, are utterly unworkable and rely on arbitrary decisions made in the governor’s mansion. All of them are based on the incorrect presumption that some politician sitting in a leather chair in a faraway capital is better informed on how to safely open factories, retail stores, processing plants, and offices than the people who own and work in them.

Wisconsin’s experience is the perfect example. Evers closed the state without much of a plan. From the first day, confusion reigned as people tried to comply with the rules, but since the rules were vague and incomplete, Evers resorted to issuing various clarifications every few days. There was never any way that Evers, or his staff of lifer government bureaucrats, were equipped to fully understand the full consequences of the orders they were issuing. They were never going to be able to anticipate and respond to the way their orders rolled through society.

While Evers and his staff may be uniquely and especially bad, no small group of politicians and advisers would be experienced and smart enough to micromanage something on the scale of stopping or restarting an entire state’s economy. The reason Evers failed so badly is the same reason that socialism fails: central planning does not work.

That is why Wisconsin should not go down the failed path of central planning when reopening the economy. Instead, our state and local governments should assume the role of a humble government that uses its granted powers to support the people — not oppress them.

When the coronavirus crisis began, we were facing a very scary unknown danger. The early projections showed that the virus may kill millions, incapacitate many more, and overwhelm our health care system. Based on those projections, our governments responded with draconian measures. With the benefit of hindsight, we can argue about whether that response was warranted, but we have more information as we move forward.

While we are a long way from completely controlling or stopping the spread of coronavirus, we know a lot more about it and its spread. It is not as deadly as we thought. We have plenty of capacity in our health care system. The spread can be greatly mitigated by social distancing, washing hands, covering coughs, sanitizing surfaces, and staying home if you are sick. And the people who are at most risk of serious complications or death are the elderly and those with serious underlying conditions.

We have spent weeks learning about this virus and how to protect against it. We have shifted from dealing with a scary unknown risk to a scary known risk. That is why our government should step back and let the citizens manage the risk for themselves. The people all know how dangerous this virus is now and are perfectly capable of managing the risk just like we do for every other risk that confronts each of us every day.

No business owner wants their customers, employees, or themselves to get sick. No customer wants to put himself or herself at undue risk while shopping. No employee wants to work in unsafe conditions. But it is up to each of these groups of people – employers, employees, and customers – to work out how to interact with each other where everybody is comfortable. Those billions of interactions take nuance and understanding to do correctly. Nuance and understanding are not government’s forte.

While government should step back and let a free, self-governing citizenry open their own economy, we do need our government to do what government does well. We need our government to pool resources to be available to swamp any potential outbreaks. We need our government to provide the latest guidance and recommendations. We need our government to provide legal reform to limit liability for people who might be sued because of the virus.

Other than that, we need our government to get out of the way.

Denmark and the Czech Republic Do Not See Surge of Deaths After Partially Reopening

Good news. Just like the election in Wisconsin, we are over two weeks away from these reopenings and there hasn’t been a surge. We can reopen responsibly.

There was, though, encouraging news from the Czech Republic and Denmark, where phased exits from strict lockdowns implemented early in the pandemic are under way. In Denmark, daycare facilities and schools began reopening two weeks ago, followed by hairdressers and other small businesses on 20 April.

“There are no signs at all that the partial reopening has caused a bigger spread of infection,” said Christian Wejse, a scientist at the department of infectious diseases at Aarhus University. “At least there is no indication that we are heading into another wave. That has been the concern, but I can’t see that at all.”

The Czech health minister, Adam Vojtěch, said the country’s number of new cases had been below 100 for the past eight consecutive days and also reported that a staggered reopening of shops and services had not so far led to a surge in infections.

“So far we do not see a negative trend resulting from previous relaxations,” Vojtěch said. “We will proceed with caution, gradually in the upcoming waves, and I believe we are on a good path.”

Healthcare System is Not Overwhelmed by COVID

We did our job. We flattened the curve. Can we go back to work?

But the bleakest projections have not yet been realized. Despite the mounting number of new confirmed cases each day, public health officials say social distancing, so far, has flattened what might have otherwise been a sharp peak.

Hospitals across the region have not exceeded their ICU bed or ventilator capacity to date. As of press time, health systems in southeastern Wisconsin had a total of 194 available ICU beds, and 1,134 available non-ICU beds, according to Wisconsin Hospital Association data. The region has 511 ventilators available across health systems, with 207 currently in use. 

“People are feeling better … about new cases and the ability to have beds and ventilators than we were feeling two or three weeks ago,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “That’s really the good news. (But) we’re certainly not out of the woods.”

COVID Having a Negligible Impact on Wisconsin’s Death Rate

I love data. It can tell you so much. Here are Wisconsin’s death statistics for the previous decade or so (2017 is the most recent year available)

Over that decade, Wisconsin averages about 49 thousand deaths from all causes per year. That is an average of about 4,095 deaths per month. I wish I could find monthly stats to adjust for seasonal variances, but I can’t. Anyway, looking over the time period, we averaged anywhere from an average of 3,800 deaths per month in 2009 to 4,390 deaths per month in 2017. That’s a monthly death rate of anywhere between 65.27 and 75.40 (rates are per 100,000 residents based on current estimate of a population of Wisconsin at 5,822,000).

What we don’t know is what the real-time death rate is right now in Wisconsin. Obviously, it varies due to all kinds of factors. If you look at the deaths from COVID in the state, we have had 257 as of yesterday. Those all came between the dates of March 20th and April 23rd – about a month. That equates to a monthly death rate of 4.41. In other words, the death rate from COVID is well within the normal rate variances that have always happened.

And this assumes that all of the deaths being counted as COVID deaths are incremental to the already existing death rate. As we know, many people are dying of heart attacks and whatnot and being counted as COVID deaths because the disease was present. In other words, we are not counting people who were killed BY COVID. We are counting people who died WITH COVID.

When all of this is over and we can crunch the data, I’m willing to bet a ham sammich that Wisconsin’s death rate for 2020 will not stick out as abnormal from the years surrounding it. The statistics that will stick out are job losses, business closures, bankruptcies, and foreclosures. Hey, I got the prediction that the Packers would draft a quarterback right. I am even more confident about this one.

Hartford to Reopen Despite Governor’s Unconstitutional Orders

Huzzah for the city leaders in Hartford and the Washington County Sheriff.

HARTFORD — In what Mayor Tim Michalak said could be the biggest decision ever made by the Common Council, aldermen on Tuesday night unanimously agreed to have city staff create a plan to reopen city buildings and services no later than Monday and try to gradually bring them back to normal levels.

“We want the local businesses to also know the police department will not be overtly enforcing the state ‘stay at home’ order,” Michalak said. “Our department will be enforcing criminal and traffic laws.”

City officials said local businesses could reopen after that date “at their own risk and after careful consideration and consultation with their insurance agent and with customers.” The decision comes despite Gov. Tony Evers’ recent announcement to extend the Safer at Home order and other state-imposed rules to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

[…]

“It’s time we do something. We can’t let this go on another month without opening up.”

Michalak said the city is not telling businesses to open up, but city officials are not going to kick in their door if they decide to do it and Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis has backed the city up in this decision.

“When it comes to the different communities he said he is going to follow ‘home rule,’ which means if they have their own Police Department he will allow that department to enforce the rules and or take action,” Michalak said. ‘We are saying we’re not going to be the boot that’s on their neck.’

The mayor said he has received numerous phone calls and emails from business owners who said they are faced with possibly closing their doors for good if the state-imposed orders are allowed to continue.

“We’re going to open the library and we’re going to open the public buildings,” Michalak said. “If we don’t do something soon to help our local

businesses we could see another depression. We need to bring freedom back to Hartford.”

Opening America

It feels like we are seeing those early rays of light before the dawn.

Suffering for thee, but not for me

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

As Governor Tony Evers extended his despotic rule for another month, abrogated our civil rights, and pushed Wisconsin further into an economic depression, he had the audacity to tweet, “we have to remember that we’re all in this together.” Nothing could be further from the truth and the heavy hand of government oppression puts the difference between public and private America into stark relief.

Throughout Wisconsin, private-sector employees are feeling the full brunt of Governor Evers’ haphazard and tyrannical rule. Every day, we wake up to see what new decree might have been announced from Madison to control or crush some other aspect of our lives. Many businesses have already been devastated and been forced to terminate people’s employment and cut back pay and benefits for the employees who remain.

Harley-Davidson laid off the majority of its production employees. For those who are still working, they had to cut salaries, cancel merit increases, and reduce other expenses. Kohl’s Department Stores has closed all of its stores and furloughed most of its store and corporate employees. Thousands of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses across the state have closed or drastically cut back operations. All of their employees are either out of work or seeing reduced wages.

The results of this are hitting families hard. An estimate from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has reached 27%. For some perspective, at the peak of the Great Depression, the nation’s unemployment rate was 24.9%.

In response to the economic and societal devastation being wrought from the governor’s mansion (provided by the taxpayers), private- sector leaders are standing in solidarity with their employees. The CEOs of Harley-Davidson and Kohl’s are both forgoing their salaries. Boards of directors and executives across the state are forgoing or heavily cutting their salaries and benefits to help preserve money for more employees. For small-business owners, many of them do not have a choice. They are being bankrupted and seeing their life’s work obliterated underneath them.

All of these people are “in this together.” Is Governor Evers? Is his staff? What about other government workers?

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

Thomas Paine, in his incomparable “Common Sense,” wrote that government is “in its worst state an intolerable one … our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” Wisconsinites’ suffering is made all the more worse by the fact that while our livelihoods are being destroyed, we are being forced to pay the full cost of the government causing it.

Suffering for thee, but not for me

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Go pick up a copy and keep our local media in business. Here’s a sample of the column:

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.