Friday, January 30, 2015

AZ legislature joins Dicey Ducey in forcing public schools to be sold to charters

Or, more precisely, they are trying.

Here are snippets from a report by Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Service that was carried by the AZ Daily Star (tucson.com). Headline: "State senators took the first steps Thursday to giving charter schools access to unused public schools."

Without dissent, the Education Committee approved legislation mandating that if school districts are selling off or leasing no-longer-needed buildings, they cannot refuse to make them available to charter schools that may be competing for the same students.

WTF? Without dissent? Even from the few Dems at that table?

SB 1074 now goes to the full Senate.

The legislation came over the objections of Pima County School Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian, who told the panel in written comments that the question of who has access to the unused buildings should be left to local school boards.

[State Sen. Kelli] Ward’s bill stops short of a proposal by Gov. Doug Ducey to force schools to make not only unused buildings, but also empty classrooms in existing schools, available to charter schools.

But Ducey has yet to explain exactly how that would work, with questions ranging from whether there would be any compensation to the school districts to responsibility for utilities and liability insurance. The governor said those details are still being worked out.

In both cases, though, the issue surrounds efforts by charter schools to get more students.

Ducey, a proponent of “school choice,” has argued more students would go to charter schools if they had the space. That’s why he wants to force public schools to make their classrooms available.

Once the public school facilities get sold off to charters (which include for-profit entities), any expansion of public schools is DOA. But that is exactly what Ducey and his GOPlins want. Let's call "school choice" what it is: a transfer of a public good to a private entity.

We are still doing crazy in AZ.

Dicey Ducey joins other GOPlins in bids to make AZ government secret

Craig McDermott over at Blog for Arizona reports that Dicey has taken a step to hide his visitors from public view.

Earlier this week, the Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives voted to close their caucus meetings to the public.

Now, new governor Doug "Dark Money" Ducey has joined them in the effort to impair the ability of Arizonans to keep an eye on activities at the Capitol – he’s removed the visitor logs from the governor’s office.

And then there is this:

[State Senator John Kavanagh's] SB1098 would *quadruple* the size of public service corporations (energy utilities, water companies, etc.) allowed to seek consumer rate increases without a public hearing before the Arizona Corporation Commission.

SB1098 is being fast-tracked – it’s scheduled to go before the state senate’s Committee on Commerce and Workforce Development on Monday (1:45 p.m., SHR1).

Back in the mental health dark ages, we locked up people in "insane asylums". Apparently the GOPlins believe that we can similarly hide crAZy from public scrutiny by making their actions secret. In The World According to GORP insanity is OK so long as you hide it.

This is one for Comedy Central.

Koch brothers lead "hostile takeover" of United States

You think that headline is over the top? An exaggeration? Scriber gone bonkers?

Check this one from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. The Kochs have pledged nearly one billion dollars to buy the 2016 election. (Quotes from original story in the Washington Post indicated by "WP".)

WP: The network has evolved into a sophisticated political operation that mirrors those of the official parties. Along with its main political advocacy arm, Americans for Prosperity, the network finances groups such as Concerned Veterans for America, the Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity. Last year, it added a super PAC to its arsenal, but most of the allied groups are nonprofits that do not disclose their donors.

WP: Network officials used the conference to lay out ambitious goals to promote free-market principles in government, business and the media. There were also frank assessments of what they need to do to refine their tactics.

WP: One area seen as a major improvement over 2012 was how the network uses data to improve its voter outreach. Another major 2014 investment — expanding a national field organization — was also viewed as promising, but officials believe it will take time to make it more effective.

WP: In his speech Saturday night, Charles Koch exhorted his fellow donors to deepen their commitment.

WP: "It is up to us," he said. "Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of our lives."

AZBlueMeanie comments (quoting Teddy Roosevelt):

What Charles Koch is describing is a hostile takeover of America from the citizens of this country by a few hundred "malefactors of great wealth" . . . "so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing."

This "hostile takeover" is not new. It has been going on, surfacing now and then, for as long as this country has existed. The most recent emergence was planned by Lewis Powell 40 years ago. With the complicity of the conservative justices on SCOTUS via Citizens United, the realization of the Powell manifesto enabled by the Kochtopus will soon weigh heavily on our nation.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wanted: Obscene poster ...

... of an oil company fornicating with a supposedly state-regulated utility.

While on break, I read The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Both are historians. The main part of the book is an essay, a part science, part fiction, post-apocalyptic report, written by a Chinese historian many decades in the future. It's about why (in the present day) we knew exactly what harm our fossil fuel solutions to our energy needs were doing to the planet and yet did nothing (effective) to counteract them.

Then I returned home to find this piece in my news feed. Indiana is considering legislation to guarantee that solar users will be penalized thus sucking the economic blood, one bite at a time, out of an industry that promises to help stabilize the planet.

Why Chinese historian? Read it to find out. Put this book on your reading list.

Dicey Ducey needs to try harder: AZ drops out of media spotlight

At least it was not included by alternet.org in its piece on red states as laboratories for plutocracy.

In the American political tradition, states are known as "laboratories of democracy," miniature examples for the rest of the country to learn from. Following the 2014 elections, Republicans gained more power in state legislatures than they've had in their party's history, controlling 69 of the 99 different state chambers across the country.

With these wide majorities, these Republicans are using these laboratories to put into action some of their wildest plutocratic legislative dreams, everything from enacting discriminatory legislation against gay and lesbian Americans to assaulting the rights of workers, to clawing back laws at every level that protect the public interest.

Among other right-wing-nut gems, the piece included this about state [de]financing.

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback blew a huge hole in his state's finances by cutting income taxes (all levels of the income ladder saw a reduction but the rich saw their taxes cut almost in half) in a bid to become a "Texas-like economic powerhouse," in the words of the Wall Street Journal.

This resulted in a budget deficit of nearly a billion dollars. Brownback has decided to make up this gap partly by cutting $127 million from schools and delaying pension payments.

Texas, the model for Kansas, is doubling down on its own philosophy, as Senate Republicans are advocating for an additional $4 billion in tax cuts, "even in the face of lower oil prices and scaled-back state revenue projections."

Texass? Hey! Where is crAZy? But Dicey can recover from this PR blunder. We still have the legislative session to look forward to.

And make that MethLabs for Democracy.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Scriber searches for his heart

Translation: Scriber will be on vacation for a few days. I have occasionally been described as "heartless". (But if that were the case, literally, where do those wires from my pacemaker go?) Having (successfully) bid on four nights in San Francisco at the DCSRA auction in November, it is time for Scriber to step up and honor his Democratic obligation. So, Mr. and Mrs. Scriber will be searching for Scriber's heart under the assumption that he left his heart in San Francisco. (Or maybe given advancing age, Scriber just misplaced it.) Stay tuned.

Must read alert: Fitz skewers the Dicey Duceynians ...

... and takes them to task for their practice of voodoo economics. If you read nothing else today, read his column here in the on-line version of the AZ Daily Star (tucson.com).

Never mind the alert - you need to read this one too.

How the American dream can be a nightmare for dreamers. This is the sad ending to the movie "Spare Parts". Winners in America can turn out to be losers as we waste talent because of our (Scriber thinks racist) immigration policy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

GV News introduces new LD2 Rep. Chris Ackerley

Here is the GV News interview with first two questions and answers quoted below.

Gov. Ducey is suggesting deep cuts to higher education in his budget. What are your thoughts on that?

I’m concerned. What I really think we need is a plan to move forward. We have a budget that’s going to be tough. I’m not sure that anybody at the end of the day is going to like the budget, but it’s going to be a question of whether we can live with it. I’m certainly not comfortable with the cuts to higher education that are being proposed in the budget as a starting point.

So, how are we going to provide state support for universities and community colleges? The Arizona Constitution mandates that higher education for in-state residents must be nearly as free as possible.

What aspects of the governor’s budget proposal do you like and do you not like. How would Southern Arizona fare under his plan?

I am concerned on a lot of levels. He does not include the inflationary portion of K-12 funding as mandated by the courts. He does have a starting point where education is, depending on which way you classify the $23.9 million in the Student Success Fund that he’s proposed to shift over to capital funding, essentially a wash. I commend him on that portion of it. It still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It doesn’t address capital funding for school districts and it doesn’t include the inflationary funds.

Now it remains to be seen whether his being "concerned" translates into anything other than party line votes. Stay tuned. The SkEyeEyeslandScriber is watching.

David Safier: What to make of new Ed. Supe Diane Douglas' State of Education message

... what does it all mean? Douglas was famously mum during the campaign season, so lots of what we're hearing from her, we're hearing for the first time. Some of it sounds good, I must say. But I've learned not to read public officials' statements with my hopes and dreams. Gov. Ducey's State of the State message vs. his budget proposal is a case in point. Better to read exactly what Douglas' words say, then try to guess what they might mean, making sure to view them through the lens of Douglas' basic Tea Party philosophy.

You can read David's post here at Tucson Weekly/The Range to fill in some of the details of his take on several things Douglas said. For example:

Douglas didn't quite say we need to raise teachers' salaries, but she almost did when she said, "Arizona’s average teacher salary is ranked 42nd in the nation and salaries are a major obstacle when recruiting outside Arizona." It's a lovely sentiment, one I agree with heartily. If Ducey's proposal to shift non-classroom funds into the classroom goes through, it could happen — likewise if Republicans agree to abide by the court's decision that they need to add hundreds of millions to school funding. But since Douglas didn't say we need to increase the state's education budget, however, her words are nice but don't mean much. They would have been nicer still if she urged the lege to spend more on our children's educations.

David concludes:

... I'm reading wisps of word-smoke generated by Douglas' first major statement, which is only slightly better than reading tea leaves. We'll have to see the new Ed Supe in action to find out what it all means in real life.

During her campaign I noted that she gave up part of the Supe's job by acquiescing to the fiscal status quo for public education. I see little to change my mind on that one. Money, the $300+ million owed, may not be the only thing public education needs, but it is a required starting point and Douglas is losing the opportunity to use her position as a bully pulpit.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

John Nichols: Obama's 2016 game plan

John Nichols at The Nation views the possible outcome of Obama's State of the Union address from the perspective of 2016 and beyond. Nichols concludes:

Even on issues where he and the Congress are likely to remain aggressively at odds, including his centerpiece plan to increase taxes on capital gains and close loopholes that currently shelter America's wealthiest families from fair taxation, Obama can position himself and his party on the right side of history.

That may not get Obama immediate legislative wins in the fight to address income inequality. But if he uses his bully pulpit to forge a genuine economic-justice message—and if he avoids the coalition-splintering damage that would be done by engaging in a foolhardy push for "fast track" (and the inevitable compromises of principle and policy that go with attempts to enact unpopular trade deals)—he could build sufficient momentum to frame the 2016 election debate . In so doing, the president could set the stage for electing a new Democratic president, restoring Democratic control of the Senate and developing a governing trajectory where—as with FDR and Truman, and as with Reagan and George H.W. Bush—initiatives begun by one president are completed by the next. In such a scenario, this president can reject the lame-duck status to which McConnell so hopes to consign him and make his "fourth quarter" an essential pivot point in what Obama hails as "the work of rebuilding America."

What is held sacred in The World According to GORP: Education or Vets?

Actually none of the above. If you mess with Vets heads will roll and saving Dicey Ducey's political head is high priority - as evidenced by his turn-around on redirecting Vet donations to a cemetery fund. Now, about education? I guess his head is safe on that one, even if his head is so in the wrong place.

Here is David Safier's post in Tucson Weekly/The Range on that turn-around.

Yesterday I wrote a post condemning Ducey's decision to take money donated to help living post-9/11 veterans and use it to keep cemeteries for veterans running. My headline was, Vets Join Arizona's "Budget Balanced on the Backs of" List. A line from the post:

Let this be a wake-up call to people who think these sons of bitches hold anything—other than cutting taxes for corporations—sacred.

I sent it to Chelo Grubb, the Weekly's web editor, for her to put on The Range. A little while later, she sent me an email saying Ducey had backed down, so my post was on hold. Consider this a replacement for that post and a retraction of the above unpublished quote.

Contrary to my assertion, Ducey & Co. do consider something sacred other than corporate tax cuts: their heads, which were nearly bit off by veterans groups and Republican legislators. Parents and educators can yell all they want about Republicans withholding funding from schools. No problem. Courts can even tell the legislature its cuts are illegal to the tune of $330 million. Republicans appeal the decision, and Ducey talks tough but does nothing. College students and their parents can raise a fuss over regular increases in college tuition because state funding for universities keeps getting cut. Ducey says students need to pay their fair share of the cost of college. The governor can brush off those complaints with a quick swipe of his hand. But he learned an important lesson from his latest attempt at a funding sweep. Don't mess with vets.

Messing with our kids is OK in The World According to GORP. They don't vote anyway.

2014 sets high temperature record ... but not in the United States of Asininity

You know this already. You know it because there is good scientific evidence. But the denizens in The World According to GORP brand you as a liberal conspirator and dismiss the evidence as unreliable. Here is a report with details from truthdig.com. Snippets follow.

Last year was the warmest year on record, according to two separate analyses by two giant US government organisations.

Oops! Bad PR that. GOPlins hate big government and so they can dismiss the evidence it produces. But we carry on ...

The findings, which confirm a conclusion that meteorologists confidently predicted last November, mean that 14 of the warmest years on record have happened this century, and nine of the 10 warmest years have been since 2000.

Scientists from the space agency NASA and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both examined surface temperature measurements around the planet and decided that 2014 was on average the hottest since 1880—the earliest year for global records.

Rowan Sutton, who directs climate research at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, UK, said: "By itself, a single year doesn’t tell us too much, but the fact that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the turn of the century shows just how clear global warming has become. This is yet another flag to the politicians, and to all of us."

And Bob Ward, policy director at the UK’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said the figures exposed the myth that global warming had stopped. The rate of increase in global average surface temperatures had slowed over the last 15 years to about 0.05°C a decade, but was likely to accelerate again.

"Measured over a period since 1951, global mean surface temperature has been rising about 0.12°C per decade," Ward said. "There is mounting evidence all round the world that the Earth is warming and the climate is changing in response to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"Carbon dioxide levels are close to 400 parts per million—40% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution, and probably higher than they have been for millions of years."

No politician, he said, could afford to ignore this overwhelming scientific evidence, or claim that global warming was a hoax.

Maybe that would be true in the UK, but not so much in the United States of Asininity.

Keystone XL and other broken pipes in the news

Keystone XL company moves to take Nebraska land via eminent domain. And, apparently, it is perfectly legal. How did our great nation come to this - agreeing to seizure of private property by a foreign company? All your right-wing neighbors should be howling.

If drinking Montana water doesn't make you sick, this report will. Al Jazeera describes the terrible consequences of the failed pipeline spill on the Yellowstone river. And the pipeline people think it's worth it. Keystone XL anyone?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Full text of State of the Union address ... and an alternative version

Text courtesy of TalkingPointsMemo.

And a zinger for the GOP who are glad Obama has no more campaigns (but who forget who won the last two).

The State of the Union address that might have been (by Ezra Klein at Vox.com).

Report on tax policy: Arizona among the "terrible 10"

Here is a new report produced by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). (h/t Jean Vickers)

Who Pays?, A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All Fifty States (the fifth edition of the report), assesses the fairness of state and local tax systems by measuring the state and local taxes that will be paid in 2015 by different income groups as a share of their incomes. The report examines every state and the District of Columbia. It discusses important features of each state’s tax system and includes detailed state-by-state profiles that provide essential baseline data to help lawmakers understand the effect tax reform proposals will have on constituents at all income levels.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Arizona is among the 10 worst states with respect to its regressive tax policies.

The graphic in this post conveys the essence. All states do poorly, but AZ is among the worst.

Dicey Ducey Ditches Death Deal

Facing a backlash, Ducey scraps plan to raid Vets fund to pay for cemeteries. From the AZ Daily Star:

Facing a flurry of opposition from veterans and questions from legislators, Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday abandoned his plan to pay for cemetery operations from a fund to help the families of wounded veterans.

"We're going to find another source of revenue,'' said Daniel Scarpinato, the governor's spokesman.

Scarpinato said the governor does not yet know exactly where he will come up with the $929,400 needed to run the existing state veteran cemetery in Sierra Vista, as well as the costs for new cemeteries near Flagstaff and Marana set to open next year. But he said the governor believes the dollars can be found somewhere else in the proposed $9.1 billion budget.

Ducey's reversal comes less than 12 hours after Capitol Media Services first reported on Ducey's proposal.

The plan drew an outcry from representatives of several veteran organizations, and drew a rush of questions from lawmakers when they were briefed Tuesday morning by John Arnold, the governor's budget chief.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'Given the choices of “good government” and “petty and vindictive government”, what do you think GOP legislators choose? Hint: the answer doesn’t start with “good”…'

Oh, man. This is a must-read head shaker. I was going to stop with the three following posts. But this bit of unnecessary legislation is a real DUzI (pronounced "doozy"). This is a classic case of legislative stupidity trumping science. From Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona. I used his title.

Paul Krugman: Why facts do not matter

Paul Krugman asks why facts do not matter to public policy debates. (h/t Phil Silvers)

... at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.

The list includes climate change (2014 was the hottest year on record), health care (more people insured, costs coming down), and failure of supply side economics (Kansas fiscal crisis).

And the list goes on. On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk. If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?

Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.

And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.

Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.

I suspect that the explanation is much more complex and rooted in the difference between conservative and liberal brains. But Krugman is right on this much: arguing rationally with those who deny reality is futile.

"the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter" and, unfortunately, that fact may not matter.

Despicable Dicey Ducey's Deal for the Dead: Takes money from living Vets to pay for cemeteries

As much as I despise what Dicey's budget does to education, this one is even more over the top. AZ Daily Star's lead article in their morning print edition has the details:

Gov. Doug Ducey wants to take more than $900,000 donated by taxpayers to help post-9/11 veterans and use it to operate new veterans cemeteries near Marana and Flagstaff and keep the doors open at an existing one in Sierra Vista.

Ted Vogt [OMG! He's back.], the governor’s chief of operations, acknowledged the state promised the federal government, which paid $15 million to build all three facilities, it would find money to operate the new facilities.

Ducey’s proposed budget, submitted to lawmakers Friday, does that by shifting the $929,400 from the Military Family Relief Fund.

Jon Altmann, who lobbies on behalf of the Association of the U.S. Navy, said the money in that fund was solicited specifically to provide one-time help to those returning from the Middle East. That can range from remodeling a house to paying for airfare and lodging for a family member to get to the hospital where the wounded warrior is being treated.

He said the fund shift was made without consulting veterans groups, and said the move sets a bad precedent.

Dave Lucier, legislative coordinator of Unified Arizona Veterans, an umbrella organization of veteran groups, was more succinct in his objections to the raid.

"People donated to that fund thinking they were going to help improve someone’s life, not putting (them) in the ground and burying them," he said. "There’s a case for bait and switch to be made there," he said.

I guess dead Vets are more important than live ones.

And more important than our schools.

 

Economic inequality continues to rise: Why the world needs revolutionary thinking

No, I am not advocating Jihad. But the problem with the status quo is that the status quo is getting more quo. Here is the story from Al Jazeera reporting that, by 2016, the wealthiest 1% will have cornered over half of the entire world's wealth. And there is no sign at all that there is much resolve on the part of any government or agency to take corrective action. The end result is global poverty and global insecurity.

Obama's tax proposal, to be aired tonight in his State of the Union speech, is likely DOA in the Republican controlled congress. It does represent a modest step toward reducing the extreme inequality, but even small steps are resisted by the GOPlins.

Here are some other facts listed by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.

But even if GOPlins don't want solutions, businesses should act in their own best interest. More from AZBlueMeanie:

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who is speaking at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality today, called on business leaders meeting in Davos to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.

She said: "Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.

"Extreme inequality isn’t just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector’s bottom line. All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority."

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. The wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.

THE INTERNATIONAL AGENCY IS CALLING ON GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT A SEVEN POINT PLAN TO TACKLE INEQUALITY:

  • Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
  • Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  • Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth
  • Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  • Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  • Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  • Agree [on] a global goal to tackle inequality.

Those steps do seem preferable to pitchforks.

 

Monday, January 19, 2015

About the civics test and education

Dicey Ducey's first piece of legislation is an unfunded mandate - a civics test. It will be/was voted on and supported by adults who themselves could not pass the test. Here is EJ Montini's biting criticism.

And then there is Dicey's budget which whacks support systems in public schools. Who takes the hit? Poor kids (who don't vote so Dicey and the GOPlins in the legislature are safe on that one). TUSD superintendent Sanchez has some choice things to say about that (via Tucson Weekly/The Range).

This week in the AZ legislature

FYI - Listing and links to various activities. Courtesy of Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona.

 

Are Democrats a species facing extinction?

We all should be thoroughly familiar with the oft-quoted definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (But see this comment from Salon.com.) The definition is broadly applicable to individuals and social institutions - more on that in a moment. But it also applies to species. Geographically isolated species evolve biological and behavioral adaptations that are beneficial except when those adaptations are inflexible in the face of external challenges like an invasive species. That appears to be one cause of mass extinctions (see The Sixth Extinction). So if a political party keeps doing the same thing over and over and keeps losing at the polls, does it face extinction?

Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona directs our attention to an essay by former Clinton White House counselor Bill Curry in Salon yesterday.

Curry’s critique of Democratic Party leadership is searing, to say the least. His primary focus is on how old and tired and out of ideas Democratic Party leadership is. It’s not so much that Democratic caucuses, as Curry notes, are literally run by gerontocracies, it’s that the same people with the same tired ideas and the same ties to the same consultants and the same donors have been in power for decades.

Curry opens up thunderously.

As a wise man once said, never underestimate the capacity of an entire social order to commit suicide. The Democratic Party’s old order is doing it now. It may seem strange but make no mistake, the Democrats’ leaders are already unconscious. If they don’t wake up soon, they’ll go the way of the Whigs. If progressives don’t wake up now, they’ll go with them.

Curry then lists examples of the Democratic practices that work against survival of the party. He closes with the recent budget votes as an especially egregious example.

Worst of all was the Democrats’ complicity in passing a corrupt, shameful budget. Aside from its senseless priorities — wars are winding down so let’s give the military some more dough — it curtailed efforts to slow global warming, restored Wall Street grifters’ ability to shift their losses onto honest wage earners and weakened what’s left of campaign finance laws. Without scores of Democratic votes it could never have passed.

The budget crystalizes a debate Democrats have with themselves every day. On one side are those who decry the compromises they believe led the party to its present impasse. On the other are those who decry the decriers, who say life is compromise and that criticizing Democrats only helps Republicans. It’s a false choice. The issue isn’t whether to compromise but how and with whom.

Democrats thought opposing the budget risked a shutdown. But could Republicans afford to get caught sticking taxpayers with the bill for Wall Street’s next scandal? Within weeks of an inglorious defeat the Dems had a chance to hit the reset button. Instead they gave Republicans priceless cover while making it harder for their own members to go on posing as populists. They bartered their honor and got nothing in return. Someone should tell these "realists" that their compromises are killing them.

In late November Chuck Schumer stopped by the National Press Club to expound on the election. After urging his party to "embrace government," he said its big mistake was passing Obamacare: "Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them… We put all our focus on the wrong problem — health care…" He said Democrats should "focus on the middle class" and craft "stronger themes" for the next campaign.

With so many reporters on hand it’s odd no one thought to ask Schumer if he understood that health care done right would be the best gift Democrats ever gave the middle class, or had ever considered the possibility that he himself might be part of the problem. Language for the Wall Street bailout came from Citicorp, a Democratic ally in good times. Schumer was all for it. He thinks he can make up lost ground with stronger themes. Some people never learn.

Schumer gets a lot wrong, but credit him at least for speaking up. After their last defeat Republicans tripped over themselves to confess old sins and proclaim new visions. Congress opened with hardly a whisper of any new Democratic strategy or agenda. Instead Democrats prepare for 2016 in their usual way: raising money to pay for polls, to craft ads, to woo voters. Someone must break their tragic cycle of dependency and begin to build a new model of politics and governance. Who will it be? We know for sure it won’t be them. How could it be? They’re practically dead.

I've said it before. Playing Republican-lite is a path to extinction. It is shameful, at least, that the party of FDR inflicts this fate upon itself. Are there new voices and new ideas in the wings that might save the party? Sanders? Warren? PDA? Progressive Caucus? And will this come together in time for 2016?

 

Eisenhower was the last responsible Republican president

The more I learn about Ike the more I long for a return to those good old days. Remember 91% tax rates? Remember the interstate highway system? Remember huge economic growth? Well, maybe you would rather indulge in your favorite form of forgetfulness given what is coming our way. Here are snippets from Robert Reich's column.

The last Republican president to deliver broad-based prosperity was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s.

Then, the gains from growth were so widely shared that the incomes of the poorest fifth actually grew faster than the incomes of the top fifth. As a result, America became more equal than ever before or since.

Under Ike, the marginal tax rate on the richest Americans reached 91 percent.

Eisenhower also presided over the creation of the interstate highway system – the largest infrastructure project in American history — as well as the nation’s biggest expansion of public schools.

It’s no coincidence that when Eisenhower was president, over a third of all private sector workers were unionized. Ike can’t be credited for this but at least he didn’t try to stop it or legitimize firing striking workers, as did Ronald Reagan.

Under Reagan, Republican policy lurched in the opposite direction: Lower taxes on top incomes and big wealth, less public investment, and efforts to destroy labor unions.

Not surprisingly, that’s when America took its big U-turn toward inequality.

These Reaganomic principles are by now so deeply embedded in the modern Republican Party they’ve come to define it.

When Jeb Bush admits that the income gap is real but that "only conservative principles can solve it," one has to wonder what principles he’s talking about if not these.

And when Mitt Romney promises to run a different campaign than he did in 2012 and focus on "opportunity for all people," the real question is whether he’ll run on different economic principles.

That the leading Republican hopefuls recognize the economy has to work for everyone and not just a few is progress.

But unless they disavow the legacy of Ronald Reagan and adopt the legacy of Dwight Eisenhower, their words are nothing more than soothing rhetoric — akin to George W. Bush’s meaningless "compassionate conservatism."

Their rhetoric does not even sooth. Think Ted Cruz in charge of HHS. Think Rubio in charge of foreign policy. Think Ryan in charge of the budget. Sleep well.

Cartoons to begin your week

From AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

So you thought you lived in AZ? Wrong. Try the "meth lab of democracy"

It's worse than Kansas, Toto. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona exposes the incredible hypocrisy of the Tea-publicans evident in Dicey's budget. The new tax on motorists is now a "fee". Remember the health care fee that was called a tax?

As for that "new tax" on vehicles Howard Fischer alluded to yesterday:

That new charge for motorists is a $6 to $7 hike in the existing $8 annual registration fee charged on top of the value-based levy on vehicles, which is expected to raise about $65 million a year to help fund the Department of Public Safety.

"This is not a tax increase," Scarpinato insisted, calling it an agency fee.

That is hilarious, monkey boy! This is exactly the same thing that Gov. Jan Brewer said about the "hospital assessment fee" to pay for her Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan, for which the Tea-Publicans in the legislature are currently in court suing to set aside because it was not passed with a two-thirds super-majority of the legislature under Prop. 108 required for "new taxes."

You really should read this one. Get mad. Then commit to getting even.

AZ Daily Star: "Ducey's budget for schools is not what it seems"

See the editorial in today's Star here.

Analysis of Dicey Ducey's budget from AZ State Senator Steve Farley

Here is an analysis from Steve Farley (with thanks to Steve for sharing).

A few of the problems with the Governor's budget package. What kind of Arizona do these items suggest Governor Ducey stands for?

--It may end up being a best-case scenario, since its revenue projections are $250 million more optimistic than the legislative revenue projections for FY16, so the legislative leadership will surely demand more cuts.

--K-12 education funding is cut by $135 million, in part because the Governor only funds the inflation increase at $75 million, while the court has already ordered them to fund the inflation increase at a $318 million level. That means that once that case is final, the schools will do better (and they desperately need that money and more!) there will be another $240 million in cuts or revenues needed, and I'm guessing they will go after the universities, which get a $75 million cut for now.

--Speaking of higher ed, community colleges are cut by 50%.

--AHCCCS providers like UAMC and TMC face a 3% rate cut on April 1. UAMC also faces huge cuts from a DSH-Pool 5 cut designed to help hospitals with high levels of unreimbursed care.

--TUSD faces an $8 million cut and Pima County a $9 million cut from the dramatic reduction of the QTR property tax formula that only applies in Pima County, possibly leading to higher property taxes for us Southern Arizonans. All K-12 public schools also must cut $115 million from librarians, cafeterias, computer labs, transportation, security, principals, and all other non-classroom funding.

--$25 million in school performance funding is eliminated and used to back charter school debt to buy new buildings which will be privately owned.

--And while education gets slashed yet again, private prisons get yet another boost, with 3000 new beds and $55 million more costs annually by 2018.

--The HURF transfer, raiding our gas taxes for purposes other than transportation, continues, stealing $90 million a year from our roads.

--Counties will be forced to pay for 25% of the costs of juvenile prisoners in the state system.

--$303 million will be raided from special state funds for things like transportation, job training, economic development, and job creation.

--Programs for parents of kids with autism, the homeless, and long-term care are eliminated, and childcare subsidies are cut again.

--State funding for tourism marketing is eliminated.

--Cities and counties will have to pay for collection costs at the Department of Revenue.

And I hear that the Senate President and House Speaker are 100% on board, with a few more cuts.

Sleep well, Arizona!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dicey Ducey slices and dices: Major budget cuts to education

Here is the first take on the budget released yesterday from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

The man who has had no details on what he intends to do about a $1.5 billion dollar budget deficit, Dicey Doug Ducey, released his budget today and it is the standard GOP operating procedure: slash and burn. So much for those "new ideas" he talked about in his State of The State.

Howard Fischer has a quick take on the details; more analysis to come later. Ducey’s budget plan cuts university funding by 10 percent:

Gov. Doug Ducey proposes to balance the state budget by cutting aid to universities by more than 10 percent, taking a cut of revenue sharing dollars for cities and counties, and imposing what amounts to a new tax on motorists.

Wait, what? Mr. "not on my watch" is proposing a tax increase? Doesn’t that violate his "no new tax" pledge?

Ducey’s nearly $9.1 billion spending plan also cuts funding to promote tourism and dips into other state funds to the tune of $304 million.

The governor said, though, his budget increases classroom funding by $134 million. But there is really less there than meets the eye.

Most of that is in voter-mandated inflation funding. But even there the governor proposes only a fraction of the $330 million in additional dollars a court already has said schools are due.

But even that $134 million increase is not really there in the bottom line for schools.

Ducey proposes to force schools to spend 5 percent less on things outside the classroom, ranging from administration to transportation and utilities. That and other changes total $123.7 million.

The bottom line is that the actual year-over-year increase in state funding for public schools is a mere $11 million out of close to $3.8 billion.

There’s that GOP "fuzzy math" again. Is he going to use "dynamic scoring" too?

For those of you ready to take a deep dive into Ducey’s budget, here is what is posted at the governor’s web site:

The complete Executive Budget can be viewed via the links below.

executive_budget_summary.pdf (1.77 MB)

state_agency_budgets.pdf (5.64 MB)

state_funds_book.pdf (5.35 MB)

Signs of the sixth extinction: What happens when apes rule the earth

To borrow from Pogo, we have met the apes and they is us. And we are not doing a good job of caring for our dominion. Here is a sample from a story from the NY Times on a recent study.

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

"We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event," said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found. Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.

Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.

As some of you might know, I've spent over 30 years pursuing my hobby of scuba diving and underwater photography. I think the 40 percent statistic is an underestimate, at least for some tropical regions. I've seen estimates as high as 80% for the Caribbean (and that squares with my own experience).

Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already. Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey. Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges. At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic.

"If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy," Dr. Pinsky said. "In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans."

Here is another NY Times summary of findings on global warming.

Last year was the hottest on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the western United States last year. Records were set across large areas of every inhabited continent. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except near Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.

In the annals of climatology, 2014 surpassed 2010 as the warmest year. The 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997, a reflection of the relentless planetary warming that scientists say is a consequence of human activity and poses profound long-term risks to civilization and nature.

What about our corner of the planet, the American west?

... last year’s extreme warmth in the West meant that Alaska, Arizona, California and Nevada all set temperature records. Some parts of California essentially had no winter last year, with temperatures sometimes running 10 to 15 degrees above normal for the season. The temperature in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, never fell below zero in 2014, the first time that has happened in 101 years of record-keeping for the city.

Do check out the Times article; it has some good graphical depictions of the warming trend.

I grant that not many of us will run off and read original research articles in Science. But you can and should read the book The Sixth Extinction. It will scare the bejesus out of you. Us apes are transforming the planet at a rate never before seen in geological history. And we are not changing things for the better. Buy the book. Read it.

Why SCOTUS should reject the AZ legislature challenge to our Independent Redistricting Committee

Not being a lawyer, I pass this one along FYI. The author provides arguments on why the legislature's arguments are weak and/or faulty given precedents. But then there might be an outbreak of SCaliaOTUS - let's hope the court has its vaccinations.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Things to ponder while we await Dicey Ducey's budget.

From Tim Steller at the Daily Star this morning: "STATE OF STATE IRONY"

The excitement about Doug Ducey’s governorship is palpable when you’re talking with Republicans and some conservatively-inclined independents.

He’s a fresh face from the business sector without the baggage that some recent Republican officeholders carried (see: Horne, Tom and Brewer, Jan). His platform appeals broadly to those on the right, and he’s trying to position himself as a governor for everyone, not a divider.

Well, let's see what's proposed in the budget. Without revenue increases there will be losers. The question is who and by how much.

So I can understand why it’s a buzzkill for Republicans to hear the critiques arise immediately after his State of the State speech, critiques like mine in Wednesday’s column and even more pointed ones like that made by Rep. Rebecca Rios, a Phoenix Democrat.

She highlighted the irony that Ducey made an issue of deadbeat dads in his speech, but at the same time refused to ask the Legislature to pay the $317 million it owes public schools under a court order. In essence, she said, he’s letting the deadbeat Legislature off the hook.

Ducey will be fine, though. He’ll always have supporters like the dark-money king Sean Noble, who applauded the speech, saying "Governor Doug Ducey once again defies conventional wisdom by demonstrating that he will be a governor for all the people, ensuring opportunity for everyone."

Again, the budget will define Dicey's version of "all the people." With the dark money guy pulling the strings, it will be interesting to see who "everyone" is.

About this "opportunity for everyone": AZ's regressive tax policy

One of the benefits of being rich is that our state helps you get richer. Here is an observation from Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona.

In Arizona, the bottom 20% by income pay on average 12.5% of their income in state and local taxes. The top 1%? They pay just 4.6%.

Believe it or not, there are actually seven states with worse tax policy than Arizona. But I’m guessing that won’t last. We just elected Doug Ducey.

 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Steve Farley's view of Dicey Ducey's speech

Our friend Steve visited the Wednesday morning discussion group a while back and expressed the hope that Ducey would go for pragmatic (as opposed to ideological) governing. The new Governor's opening speeches, while short on details, were not cause for hope. Here are some snippets from Steve's Friends of Farley report including a review of how AZ got into our current mess.

The action tipped off with Governor Doug Ducey's first State of the State speech given to the assembled House and Senate on Monday afternoon. I had been looking forward to hearing his words and was hoping he would flesh out some of the vague statements he had given on the campaign trail and during his inauguration speech the previous week.

He started out promisingly -- he stated that it was important that we all work together in a bipartisan way to solve the state's problems. Sadly, it went downhill from there.

Right up front he demonstrated his central policy passion -- corporate tax cuts. I had hoped we would hear as much or more passion for rebuilding our public schools, but we did not. The only line in the sand he drew, the only time he said "not on my watch," was when he stated that he would never even consider suspending the remaining corporate tax giveaways that have not yet gone into place.

Here's a bit of background to refresh your memory. Two years ago, on the top of the $3 billion annually in tax cuts enacted in the previous 20 years, the legislative majority voted for and Governor Brewer signed into law a package of corporate tax handouts dubbed hopefully "The Jobs Bill".

Two years later, we have received none of the benefits we were promised -- in fact, the Arizona economy is still lagging the rest of the nation (including states with much worse tax climates than ours) in economic activity, job creation, and wage growth.

By 2018, these cuts will have eroded our corporate income tax base alone by more than 44% within four years. What have we received in return? We are facing a $500 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year ending in June, and over a billion-dollar deficit next fiscal year.

And it could get a lot worse, billions of dollars worse, if the GOPlins overturn the Medicaid expansion and have to pay the full tab for what they owe to public education. Steve continues:

It is clear to many thoughtful people that true economic development needs more than simply low corporate taxes to succeed. Businesses need well-educated employees and a great transportation system to get their people to work and goods to market. We all need a new generation of entrepreneurs to graduate from our universities and start world-changing businesses to fire up our economy and help us compete in the global economy.

If we keep giving away taxpayer dollars to out-of-state corporations based on outmoded theories of voodoo economics, leaving us without the money to fund our schools, universities, community colleges, and transportation system, it won't matter how low taxes go -- no businesses will want to come here or grow here. A healthy economy requires balance. We are currently dangerously unbalanced.

We need to invest in our state's future prosperity, not just give taxpayer money away with no accountability.

... In the end, I don't think I knew any more about his direction after I heard Gov. Ducey's talk than before. That will have to wait till Friday morning, when the Governor briefs Democratic leadership on his budget, and we can examine his spreadsheets in detail to find out what's really going on.

I'm hoping that his comments were simply sugar for his base so that he could help some medicine in the form of moderate reforms in his budget get through the legislative majority. I fear I may be too optimistic.

We are one day away from Dicey Ducey's budget proposal. The few statements he made in his speeches that could be seen as signaling actions based on principle lead me to believe that Dicey lives in The World According to GORP. I hope I am wrong, but ...

Short takes

Confused by who is voting for what? You are not alone. Here is a report from Arizona Politics on votes by Sinema and McSally.

Will Elizabeth Warren run for President? She says no. Backers won't accept "no", are pushing a draft movement. Here's the update from John Nichols at the Nation.

 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dicey Ducey's speech was a projective test

Wikipedia defines a projective test in this way: "In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts projected by the person into the test. ... [In answering] an individual puts structure on an ambiguous situation in a way that is consistent with their own conscious and unconscious needs."

If I am correct in my assessment of his speech, then we should (a) find in it few details thus maximizing ambiguity, (b) find some respondents who nevertheless find much substance in the speech with which to agree, (c) find other respondents who find much with which to disagree, and (d) find yet other respondents who take note of and object to the ambiguity.

Yep. We find all of the above.

(a) Yesterday, in this blog I demonstrated the speech's maximum ambiguity citing numerous instances of "lacking in specifics".

(b) The editorial staff of the Sierra Vista Herald (also reprinted in the GV News this morning) extolled the speech as representing a "clear vision". They cited Dicey's call for public education to be "reasonable in their demands". (Scriber: How about having the legislature abandon their legal machinations and pay the schools what was mandated by the voters?)

(c) Tim Steller in the AZ Daily Star (tucson.com) takes exception to Dicey's plan to transfer public facilities to private educational enterprises.Gov. Doug Ducey proposed in his state of the state speech Monday to let excelling schools with waiting lists use public-school buildings that are empty.

Dig a bit below the surface, though, and you find a seething mass of interests and assets. It’s the sort of complexity that makes you ask: Why couldn’t you just pay the state’s education bill instead of messing around with these gimmicks?

As with most of Ducey’s proposals, the details are not clear yet. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that this and another of his proposals would mainly benefit the state’s highest-performing charter schools. In Tucson, think of the Basis Schools and Sonoran Science Academy. In the Phoenix area, Great Hearts Academies.

... if the state forced TUSD to sell the closed Wakefield Middle School to Basis, for example, it would be forcing a local district to provide a structure built years ago with local taxpayers’ money to a for-profit corporation.

A deeper problem is the underlying assumption in Ducey’s actions that poorer districts such as TUSD and Sunnyside have low-performing schools mainly because they refuse to innovate the way the most successful charter schools do.

This ignores the reality that students’ socioeconomic status is closely linked to their educational performance, which helps explain the struggles of schools in poor neighborhoods. Charter schools that enforce high academic standards can find ways to force out students who don’t keep up. District schools don’t have that luxury.

Now consider the underfunding of Arizona’s public schools. While district schools have empty space in part because they have lost students to charters, they also have been forced by cuts in state funding to economize — for example, by putting more students in fewer classrooms.

Ducey has refused to ask the Legislature to fund the full, court-ordered amount owed to schools — more than $317 million. When you consider that, what you’re left with is a governor willing to benefit the charter-school operators who support him politically at the cost of out-of-favor district schools, further aggravating the problem of empty schools that he is purporting to solve by helping his friends

(d) Last, but not least, is AZBlueMeanie's dissection of Dicey's speech in Blog For Arizona.

[The BlueMeanie listened to] Arizona Governor Dicey Doug Ducey deliver his State of The State Speech to the Arizona legislature, in which he offered the same tired old conservative bromides of "let’s cuts taxes, let’s reduce the debt, and let’s get rid of some regulations, and that’s it, we’re done, " ...

Governor Ducey’s State of The State speech was panned by political pundits as entirely lacking in substance and details.

[The lack of detail] does not speak well of Dicey Doug Ducey’s intellect, preparation, and attention to detail. I am getting the uneasy feeling that this guy is just a front man, and that the details will actually come from the people with whom he has surrounded himself, in particular his new chief of staff, former "Kochtupus" dark money bag man Kirk Adams. The media should keep a watchful eye on who influences our new governor. They are the power behind the throne.

See? The speech was a projective test.

Stay tuned to this space for my "watchful eye".

 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to track the AZ legislature from home ...

... or anywhere else that you have a computer or tablet.  Here are some tips from Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services (in this morning's AZ Daily Star).

Quote of the week

First choice for quote of the week: “It will take time to flush out all the details,” press aide [to Gov. Ducey] Daniel Scarpinato said.

That from the AZ Daily Star report on Dicey Ducey's state of the state speech.  

Here are other candidates for quote of the week.

The headline was "Ducey calls for better schools, no tax hikes."  How is he going to do that?  Read on.

Star's print edition: "Details are scanty"

"Ducey provided no specifics"

"Nor did he explain"

"did not say where that money will come from"

"lacking in specifics"

"no specifics on questions regarding paying"

"Details on another Ducey priority, wresting control of underperforming schools from local control, were equally thin." (And local control I thought was a big GOPlin deal.)

'Pressed for how Ducey wants to change that, Scarpinato said, “The details are coming.”'

All this sounds Dicey to me.  Perhaps the best we can hope for is that they hit the flush button after the details hit the bowl.

House GOPlins are going back to the future

In The World According to GORP banks can do no wrong and financial regulators can do no right.  Thus Dodd-Frank and Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection bureau are instruments of a fiscal devil.  So here come the inquisitors.

The GOPlins in the House of Representatives are aiming to take Wall Street back to the good old days before Dodd-Frank.  You know, those days in which unregulated trading in arcane financial instruments screwed the economy.  (Sorry - it only  screwed the economy for the bottom 90%.)   Here are snippets from a report from Mother Jones.

The Republican-dominated House is poised to approve legislation this week that would obliterate a slew of important Wall Street reforms. The legislation arrives just weeks after Congress and the Obama administration gave Wall Street two big handouts, and serves as an opening salvo in what will be a sustained Republican assault on financial reform over the next two years.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), is called the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, but its name obscures what it would actually do. The legislation is a compilation of deregulatory bills that failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate in the last Congress. It would alter nearly a dozen provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, loosening regulation of Wall Street banks. ...
[This] legislation signals the beginning of a sustained assault on Dodd-Frank by the new GOP Congress. Up next: the consumer protection bureau that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) helped create. (More about that here.) "We're going to see repeated attempts to go in with seemingly technical changes that intimidate regulators and keep them from putting teeth in regulations," Marcus Stanley, policy director at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform told the New York Times this weekend. "If we return to the pre-crisis business as usual, where it's routine for people to accommodate Wall Street on these technical changes, they're just going to unravel the post-crisis regulation piece by piece. Then, we'll be right back where we started."

That is, back to the future -- GOP style.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Will Ducey follow Brownback? Will they raise taxes? Cut education?

The answers, I think, are "yes", "some, grudgingly", and "probably, but they won't call it cuts".

I wrote the above answers yesterday based on my reading of a report in The Wichita Eagle (h/t TalkingPointsMemo).  Here is some of what the Eagle reported about Brownback's plan.

His budget problem: a huge deficit he created

When Brownback starts his second term — and the 2015 legislative session — on Monday, he will have to balance his signature tax-cut policy with a deficit projected at $648 million in the next fiscal year. His handling of this challenge, which his critics say is self-imposed, could define his legacy as governor.
In 2012, he championed and signed into law an income tax policy that significantly lowered rates for wealthy Kansans and eliminated income taxes for certain types of business, promising the changes would act like a “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy.
Now the state faces a budget shortfall caused by the drop in income tax revenue and a projection that the Kansas economy will grow at a slower rate than the national economy this year.

So much for the voodoo economics.  Brownback's theory does not produce greenbacks for his state.  He won't admit that, but ...

Backpedaling on taxes

Gov. Sam Brownback will include proposals to increase tax revenue to help fill a projected budget hole when he unveils his budget plan later this week, his chief of staff says.

Also, there is interest in eliminating tax exemptions, increasing sales taxes, and delaying scheduled tax cuts.  See the list of options in the Eagle's report.

What he will do to public education

[Brownback's chief of staff] confirmed that education spending, which Brownback left largely unscathed in the plan he announced last month to trim this year’s budget, would not remain untouched this time around.
School finance will be part of our budget conversation,” Hummel said. “The governor feels like the growth in spending that’s occurred the last several years in school finance is unsustainable. He’s going to encourage them (the Legislature) to look at ways to do that, to address that. There’s different ways to do it. You could reform the current system or you go to a completely new system.

What will Ducey do?

This morning's AZ Daily Star carried a report on some of Dicey's commitments and options.  The headline was about a proposed hiring freeze but included in the article were some insights into Dicey's thinking.

On education funding

“We’re going to have a values-based budget and prioritize what’s most important,” Ducey continued. “So you’re going to see a ‘classrooms first’ initiative that protects classroom spending,” the governor said. “It’s actually going to propose more spending for classrooms next year than this year.”
And it’s going to be done, he said, without new taxes.

So one possible take on this is increasing classroom spending while decreasing the overall education budget.  Guess what gets cut under this scenario.

The governor may also fund his promise of more classroom dollars by squeezing education elsewhere. He said there will be “belt-tightening … with the bureaucracy and administration.”

Counselors and custodians might find this one worrisome.

Also on Dicey's agenda is more money for charter schools - although he did not put it quite that way.

Ducey also said he will unveil a plan to provide more choice for parents who may not be satisfied with the education their children are getting at the neighborhood school.
“They’re trapped in a school that’s not performing,” the governor said.
Students already are allowed to attend any public school in the state. That includes both charter schools which are public schools as well as traditional schools in other districts.
The problem, Ducey said, is the right to attend another school is contingent on there being space available. The governor said he will detail a way of dealing with that problem.
“We want that open enrollment and parental choice to be more than a hypothetical,” he said.

Concerning the budget

Remember his promise to reduce or eliminate the state income tax?  Well, a revenue shortfall has a way of imposing reality on fiscal conservatives.

What he will ask from legislators, at least this year, falls short of actually reducing tax rates. “You’re going to see me propose something to improve our tax code,” Ducey said, declining to provide specifics.
That still leaves the question of exactly how he proposes to balance the books.
Ducey inherits a state budget that already is running about $190 million in the red. And that doesn’t count another $317 million a court has said the state now owes to schools for failing to comply with a 2000 voter-approved law to make annual adjustments to compensate for inflation.
That could probably be handled by draining the $450 million in the state’s “rainy day” fund and the other short-term measures like the hiring freeze.
Next year, however, is a different situation.

The projected deficit doubles and approaches a billion dollars. What will Ducey do then?

AZ Daily Star pumps fossil fuel

Speaking of the Star: what the F*&# is the Star doing? They've got two articles in this morning's print edition about the benefits of fossil fuels.  One pretends to be a news article and the other is one of their Monday morning he said-she said pieces on the editorial page.

The (supposed) news article listed reasons for approving the XL pipeline.  Don't look for balance here.  The only benefit listed to the U. S. is to refineries on the gulf coast.  All the rest of the benefit goes to the Canadian company, TransCanada.

The editorial piece was on the theme "CO2 is good for U".  It was authored by the CEO of a company employed by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.  Basically this editorial piece is a defense of denial: denial of climate science, denial of any harmful effects of rising greenhouse gases, denial of the scientific observations.  In publishing this piece of trash the Star has implicitly given denialists a 50% correct status even though their claims are bogus.  For example: "Sea ice is not melting".  Really?  So the satellite photos are doctored by Obama?  Greenland is faking the immense decrease in glacial ice cover?

Not all opinions are created equal. Some are based on fact and others are not.  This morning the Star used a kind of false equivalence to grant legitimacy to falsehoods promoted by climate change denialists.  They may not agree, but in so doing, they came down on the wrong side of a phony argument.  

You might want to consider changing one of the vowels in the title of this post

New installment of AZ legislature participaion series

From Craig McDermott at Blog for Arizona.  This one covers the Secretary of State web site.  Coverage includes campaign contributions.  Toward the end, he shows you how to get disclosure forms - some interesting tidbits there.

Cartoons to start your week

A great selection from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Mexican-American war continues ... in TUSD classrooms

David Safier at tucsonweekly.com/TheRange issues a warning to TUSD teachers and superintendent about complacency in the face of Diane Douglas' reaction to culturally relevant course material.

I know some people who support the ethnic studies programs at TUSD are cautiously optimistic about Education Superindent Diane Douglas' statements concerning the current Culturally Relevant Curriculum. I know Superintendent H.T. Sanchez has expressed hope he can work things out with Douglas. Me, I'm far from optimistic.
The one promising thing Douglas said is that she accepts the curriculum TUSD wrote for its ethnic studies courses, something Huppenthal wasn't willing to say. But that only means she interprets the words in the curriculum documents in a way that she can accept. When she sees how it's being implemented in the classroom, however, that doesn't fit her reading of the curriculum, and she says it needs to change.
“If we continue to work together and (TUSD) Superintendent (H.T) Sanchez remains committed to correcting and supervising the implementation of the approved curricula, then we can avoid having to impose penalties on TUSD,” Douglas said.
The question is, what will she decide is appropriate implementation of the curriculum?

(And what happened to Douglas' commitment to local control?)

Douglas says she's OK with the use of music in the classrooms. That means absolutely nothing. Is she OK with the song by Rage Against The Machine that Huppenthal criticized? She doesn't say. It's possible her idea of using music in the classroom is playing mariachi music and "negro spirituals" as examples of Hispanic and African American culture, but all those angry songs that stir up resentment are inappropriate.
Douglas says she's OK with exposing students "to the suffering, trials and triumphs of all ethnic groups who have contributed to our state’s rich cultural mix." What, exactly, does that mean? It could mean it's OK with her to teach that slavery was awful and Hispanics were mistreated in the past, but now we're a post-racial society where a black man is president and Oprah Winfrey is one of the country's most respected women, so it's time for everyone, including the people teaching those classes, to stop playing the race card. What if a teacher wants to discuss the idea that the recent shootings of unarmed black men by police officers is an example of the continuing problems with racism in our society? Is that OK with Douglas, or is that promoting resentment? At this point, no one knows.
This is Thought Police stuff. People from the Department of Education will descend on TUSD on a regular basis to sit in on ethnic studies classes and determine if teachers are abiding by the anti-MAS law, SB 2281. That's a dangerous stifling of academic freedom. Academic freedom isn't absolute, of course, but when the only guideline for what materials are acceptable for use in the classroom and what ideas can be presented by a teacher is a judgement call by someone from the state department who is monitoring the class, that creates an oppressive atmosphere where teachers have to second guess how to present the information and ideas which form the substance of their courses.
If I were one of those teachers, I would be terrified that any materials I brought into the classroom or anything I said could result in the state deciding the program is in violation of the law. My job could be in jeopardy because someone decided I was promoting resentment toward a race or class or promoting the overthrow of the government. If I continued teaching the course in the way I believed it should be taught, I could even be accused of purposeful violation of the law and have criminal charges brought against me.

As an ex-teacher I too would be living with fear of reprisals for what I teach.

There's no way to predict what Douglas' next move will be. But Tucson has a years-long history of the Mexican American Studies program being scapegoated by two previous superintendents, Horne and Huppenthal. We know from statements Douglas has made that she's a conservative cultural warrior of the first order. It's naive to believe she'll be satisfied with anything less than a major overhaul of the way the courses are taught.
If Sanchez and those board members who are supportive of the program want to hope for the best, that's fine, but they should be prepared for the worst. They need to have clear guidelines for themselves about where they're willing to compromise—what they're willing to concede—and where they will draw the line and say, "This far, and no farther."

Superintendent Douglas should be working to put the whole issue to rest.  Policing the classroom is not the way to do it.