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And The Year Starts Out Really Sucky

2015 will be like this for many Americans

2015 will be like this for many Americans

I do not know any better way to describe it. We are barely one week into 2015 and it is starting out to look to be even more sucky than the recent sucky year of 2014. Mostly due to the insane statements and actions by Republicans and their ilk. See the previous post to see some other moves they have already made.

Industry eliminates High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Yep, the much maligned ingredient in damn near everything will disappear soon – from the nutrition label, anyway. Apparently the foods and additives industry have had enough of real scientists blaming HFCS for everything from cancers to obesity to diabetes. So they have met the challenge head on!

They changed the name of HFCS to a couple of names that no one will recognize. Thus they intend to fool the public while still peddling their noxious concoction. No longer will you see “HFCS” or “High Fructose Corn Syrup” on those damn meddling gummint required labels. Now you will have to look for “Isolated Fructose” or the very revealing “fructose” or “fructose syrup.”

Arsenic by any other name will still be just as deadly

Mitch: Republicans Save The Economy Again
Got to say one thing. The next two years may be a glimpse of hell for most Americans while Republicans continue in their quest to turn this country into yet another third world country that corporations and the wealthy can exploit. But for comedians this could be a golden age. There will be a competition to say the most insane thing among Republicans who will be bellying up to try to take credit for anything good, no matter how much they opposed it.

Thus Wednesday Mitch McConnell jumped forward to claim that the economy is suddenly good because Americans elected a Republican congress. Yep – the day of the election it was morning in America again.

Once again Republicans ignore history. Just as they did in 2008 when they claimed the economy was just hunky-dory right up until election night of 2008 when the son of Lucifer from Kenya was elected.

When scientists talk about wormholes leading to alien worlds, I suggest they follow the worms that have burrowed into Republican minds wherein they will find minds living in a world totally alien to earth.

2015 and Branstad
When the newest job numbers came out Friday it was once again a major gain in the US employment. Just statistically, Iowa should show a gain of 1% of those jobs. Over the past year the country gained 3,000,000 + jobs. I have no doubt that Iowa will fall short of their share and remain short in the recovery. The folks over at Iowa Policy Project keep a very close eye on this.

Iowa Policy Project is one of the few places in this state that gives a truly objective take on the state of Iowa’s economy and other trends in the state. If they reflect badly on Branstad, that is due to Branstad not doing his job.

California raises taxes, economy soars.
Kansas Schools sue to get funding

Here’s another one you won’t hear on Fox News. A few years back, voters in California got sick and tired of Republicans and their no tax bad economy. Jerry Brown was elected governor, huge Democratic majorities were elected. They then went about repairing a broken economy by raising taxes and restoring priorities to things like infrastructure and schools, and away from tax cuts for the rich. The economy has soared.

Meanwhile down in our neck of the woods, good old rock-ribbed Republican Kansas continues to reel as Sam Brownback was given 4 more years to prove just what Republican policies can do. They can turn a good solid economy into such a horrible economy that even the school districts have had to turn to the courts to get funding to keep schools running.

While some might think that increasing taxes at this point would seem reasonable in Kansas it probably won’t happen. Look for larger classes, shorter school years, maybe 4 school days a week. Kansas would rather watch their schools and infrastructure sink to 3rd world status rather that raise one more penny in taxes. BTW Koch Oil is headquartered in Kansas.

One unmentioned effect of low wages
Social Security funds and Medicare funds will be depleted greatly as more and more Americans are forced to accept low wage jobs. While this may not be the central objective of keeping wages unlivable low, adding the possibility of depleting Social Security and Medicare funds is an unreported plus for Republicans.

How low can they go? As Al Jolson used to say “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Poverty, Health, Food Issues For Iowans

Iowa Job Deficit 4/30/2014

Iowa Job Deficit 4/30/2014


Every time I see a big positive TV ad for Terry Branstad, my first thought is – “What is it that we are not being told?” While he brags on employment under his administration, most observers understand that Iowa has lagged the national average and is well behind where they should be. What else is under the surface can be gleened from a report from the non-partisan Iowa Policy Project.

The Iowa Policy Project analyzes the numbers and places them in context of the whole picture. In a cold light without the rah-rah of a campaign these numbers can often be quite sobering. They also often suggest that to get to reasonable goals we need more concrete, less partisan solutions than are being proposed. Here is an excerpt from their last study of jobs and unemployment in Iowa:

Issued Friday, September 19, 2014
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa nonfarm jobs increased in August to 1,553,500, but the unemployment rate remained at 4.5 percent, down from 4.7 percent a year ago. The Iowa Policy Project today released the following statement by research associate Heather Gibney about the latest numbers:

“The month of August saw a very small increase in total nonfarm jobs, which is right in line with the fact that Iowa’s major job sectors lost about the same amount of jobs that were gained. Professional and business services and leisure and hospitality saw the largest gains while construction experienced the biggest loss.”

“It’s also important to look at long-term trends rather than one-month changes. Iowa is now above pre-recession job levels — but those jobs serve a 4.9 percent larger population, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The net job gain since the December 2007 start of the recession is only 28,600 — but 75,400 jobs were needed by now to keep up with population growth. Therefore, the state shows a job deficit of 46,800 jobs.”

In another study, Iowa Fiscal Policy (a subsidiary of IPP) reveals that as the campaign talks about Iowans gaining in the wage area, the reality is much different. With 1 in 8 Iowans below the poverty level, the trend has been up and continues in that direction:

“Nearly 1 in 8 Iowans were living in poverty in 2013, that’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four and $12,000 a year for an individual. These new Census numbers highlight the fact that many people have not yet recovered from the recession and shows the need to do more to help struggling Iowans afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, transportation and reliable child care,” said David Osterberg, founding director of the Iowa Policy Project, part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

Other findings include:
* Iowa’s poverty rate of 12.7 percent compared with 11 percent in 2007 and 9.7 percent in 2001. There was no change from the 2012 poverty rate of 12.7 percent

* Child poverty was 15.7 percent in 2013 (about 111,119 children), up from 13.1 percent in 2007 and 12 percent in 2001.

* Median income was $52,229 in 2013, changing little from the 2001 inflation-adjusted dollars, but dropping from $53,132 in 2007.

Finally on the subject of food security, Iowa Fiscal Policy noted that while Iowa is doing better than many other states, there is still a problem and a trend that is troubling:

“While Iowans’ very low food security was lower than the national average of 5.7 percent, it was almost 50 percent higher than it had been only a decade before,” said Mike Owen, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project, part of IFP. Owen noted that level had risen from a 3.0 percent average for 2001-03 to 4.4 percent in 2011-13.”

I thank Iowa Policy Project for their research which takes the hype out of the story and reports the facts. Members of the legislature would be well served to check into this research at least once a week to get a true look at what is going on.

Business Climateers

Iowa Policy Project

Iowa Policy Project


Iowa’s Policy Project’s Peter Fisher is one of the best around these woods for ferreting out the utter BS that is being peddled by the business lobby to make themselves seem like a picked on group. To me, Peter is Iowa’s version of David Kay Johnston. Johnston as many of you know has exposed the grip that business has on America’s legislators.

Mike Owen, Iowa Policy Project Director, sent out a little teaser on Fisher’s work. As Owen notes in his blog:

http://iowapolicypoints.org/2014/08/18/beware-the-business-climateers/

“Iowa’s business lobby appears to be preparing a new assault on the ability of our state to provide public services.

It would be the latest in a long campaign, in which lobbyists target one tax at a time under a general — and inaccurate — message about taxes that we will not repeat here.

Suffice to say, Iowa taxes on business are low already. Many breaks provided to businesses are rarely reviewed in any meaningful way to make sure that taxpayers are getting value for those dollars spent, ostensibly, to encourage economic growth. Rarely can success be demonstrated.

The Iowa Taxpayers Association is holding a “policy summit” this week and promoting a new report by the Tax Foundation to recycle old arguments that are no better now than they have been for the last decade.

Fortunately in Iowa, we know where to turn to understand claims from the Tax Foundation, and that resource is Peter Fisher, our research director at the Iowa Policy Project. Fisher has written two books on the so-called “business climate” rankings by the Tax Foundation and others, and is a widely acknowledged authority on the faults in various measures of supposed “business climates” in the states.”

Owen then links to a summary of one of Dr. Fisher’s works where we find this gem:

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 28, 2012) — A new study finds that state tax and regulatory policies recommended by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) fail to promote stronger job creation or income growth, and actually predict a worse performance.

Since ALEC first published its annual Rich States, Poor States study with its Economic Outlook Ranking in 2007, states that were rated better have actually done worse economically.

Those are the key findings of “Selling Snake Oil to the States,” a study published today by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project and freely available online at http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/snakeoiltothestates. It was released at a press conference the same week ALEC holds its annual fall meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We tested ALEC’s claims against actual economic results,” said Dr. Peter Fisher, research director of the Iowa Policy Project and primary author of the study. “We conclude that eliminating progressive taxes, suppressing wages, and cutting public services are actually a recipe for economic inequality, declining incomes, and undermining public infrastructure and education that really matter for long-term economic growth.”

The Iowa Policy Project should be mandatory reading for legislators who have the good of all Iowans in mind.

IPP: Minimum Wage And Business Taxes

IPP-webbanner-draft5
Once again, our friends at Iowa Policy Project come to controversies with those nasty little things called facts. Not sure if they meant for this to happen, but they published two guest opinions in local papers that took a couple of old business pushed chestnuts out for examination and found them wanting.

In one Heather Gibney examines Iowa’s low minimum wage and the arguments for it and argues that they simply don’t hold water. In a paragraph that really hits home Gibney states:

“If you want to make a philosophical case against the minimum wage, go ahead, but it won’t feed families. And, despite the scare tactics about effects on job numbers, good research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research has examined the most rigorous economic research over the last two decades on the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and found no effect.”

A few days later Peter Fisher comes along to do battle with the long pushed concept that Iowa has a bad business climate. This concept has been leveraged by business lobbyists to try to leverage business favored legislation over decades. Here Fisher takes this idea to task and finds it quite wanting:

“So where does this “terrible tax climate” notion come from? The basis for it is a Rube Goldberg contraption built by the Tax Foundation called the State Business Tax Climate Index. It is a mishmash of 118 tax features, selected to emphasize progressivity. These various measures are weighted arbitrarily and combined into a single number for the index.

This number has no real meaning. It produces wacky results because it gives great weight to some minor tax features (such as the number of tax brackets) while leaving out completely two things that have a huge impact on corporate income taxes in Iowa: single sales factor, and federal deductibility.

Only by ignoring the important factors can the authors conclude that Iowa’s corporate income tax ranks 49th. Supposedly only one state has a worse tax. Yet the Iowa corporate tax per capita amounts to only half what it does in the average state, and the tax actually paid by business is among the lowest in the country. The authors’ own charts show that corporations are taxed quite lightly here.”

As always I invite you to keep up on IPP’s well thought out take on issues important to Iowans, especially their pocketbooks. Stop in here a couple times a week to see what is happening

Iowa Job Growth — Steadily Slow

iowa policy project

The Iowa Policy Project today (July 18) released the following statement by Executive Director Mike Owen about the latest numbers:

“Stability in Iowa’s job market received a boost in June from public-sector jobs. Despite a 4,300-job increase in government jobs, a mixed performance in other sectors combined for a slight decline, leaving Iowa up 3,100 for the month.

“Iowa’s overall modest growth of 1,800 jobs per month during the past year is about the same pace of the previous 12 months. At this rate it would take about three years or more for Iowa to completely recover for the losses from the recession, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.”

Job Growth Perspective
Governor Branstad set a goal of 200,000 new jobs over five years. Iowa’s economy has produced 73,400 net new jobs through the first 41 months of his term. To add the remaining 126,600 jobs, Iowa would need to add 6,700 new jobs per month over the next 19 months, compared to a pace of 1,800 for the first 41 months.

An approach more relevant to evaluating economic progress is to look at the job numbers in the context of recovery from the last national recession. Iowa is now above pre-recession job levels — but those jobs serve a 4.8 percent larger population, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The net job gain since the December 2007 start of the recession is 24,700 — but 72,800 were needed by now to keep up with population growth. Therefore, the state shows a job deficit of 48,100 jobs.

Iowa job deficit 4/30/2014 per IPP
Graph reflects Economic Policy Institute Analysis
************************************************************************
Hmmmm……. This sounds nothing like the Branstad commercials I have seen. Is he still fabricating his numbers?

Immigrants In Iowa – From IPP

Once more, the folks over at Iowa Policy Project take an hot button issue, take the emotion out of it and give us a sober fact based report. I certainly wish some of our politicians would take a cue from IPP in their actions. This month they look at the effect of immigrants in Iowa.

As an aside, in today’s parlance “immigrant’ has seemed to become synonomus with “Latino.” IPP in no way designates a specific group of immigrants in their report. This is some interesting reading for the Fourth of July weekend in a land built on immigration.
IPP-webbanner-draft5
Immigrants in Iowa
What New Iowans Contribute to the State Economy

Immigrants are important to Iowa and its economy:
– generating income as workers, spending money as consumers, and contributing to state and federal revenues as taxpayers;
– starting businesses that contribute to local economic development and job creation; and
– contributing to the vitality and culture of Iowa communities.
In fact, immigrants make up about 4.3 percent of the Iowa population, account for 4.5 percent of the state’s economic output and represent 1 in 20 Iowa workers.

These contributions would increase further if immigration reform were to make work authorization or a path to citizenship possible for the subset of Iowa immigrants who currently lack such documents. That subset — undocumented immigrants — pays an estimated $64 million in state and local taxes, and another $37 million in federal payroll taxes.

In a new report for the Iowa Policy Project, researchers Heather Gibney and Peter Fisher explore the facts that should be part of an accurate understanding of Iowa’s immigrant population and its relationship to the state’s economy. Read our new report — or the two-page executive summary here.

immigrant contribution chart

Did you know? The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over half of undocumented workers have federal and state income taxes withheld from paychecks, along with payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Yet they are unable to access benefits that they are helping to fund. Learn more in our new paper.

Looking Back At The Session

Iowa Policy Project

Iowa Policy Project


Once again we wish to thank Iowa Policy Project for their solid and in depth analysis on issues in the state of Iowa. We are quite lucky to have such a policy analysis group in a small state such as Iowa. They sent out his teaser in email last week. We recommend taking some time to walk through their analysis:

Looking back at the session
Another year of a tuition freeze and a change in Child Care Assistance to help working parents who go to school part time — both moves from the 2014 legislative session should help working families. But much was left on the table when lawmakers went home.

140502-pf-regents-tuition-indexo

‘How much?’ is the question
Raise in Iowa’s minimum wage is long overdue
Stability can be overrated. The state’s minimum wage has not been raised since January 1, 2008. That means six years of increases in costs of food, health care, child care, clothes, utility bills, transportation costs from fuel to vehicles to insurance. You name it and if it’s part of a regular household budget, the costs have gone up, whether you’re making six figures or the minimum wage. But the minimum wage has held at $7.25 an hour, well below the cost of living in our state. Read more about this on Iowa Policy Points, with these posts:
http://iowapolicypoints.org/2014/04/25/raising-debate-about-a-raise/
http://iowapolicypoints.org/2014/04/10/basic-needs-and-the-minimum-wage/

On our blog: Making policy matter
As Iowa Policy Project research has described, frac sand mining poses environmental, aesthetic and economic threats to one of Iowa’s most picturesque regions. Local officials in Allamakee County are attempting to respond. Learn more in David Osterberg’s post on Iowa Policy Points, or his radio interview with Michael Devine on KVFD Fort Dodge.

Iowa has a jobs deficit
While there are more people working now than there were before the recession started in December 2007, a full recovery not only would recapture lost jobs but also create enough new jobs to keep up with increased population. And by that measure, Iowa remains about 56,100 short. Read more about the Iowa job picture in our latest Iowa JobWatch report.

Did you know?
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit benefits about 15 percent of Iowa tax filers. In tax year 2012, this contributed over $439 million to the Iowa economy. See what it looks like in your community.

Iowa Families Struggle to Meet Basic Needs‏

IPP-webbanner-draft5
FRIENDS:

Today we put out the second installment of our Cost of Living in Iowa report, which found 1 in 6 Iowa households do not make what is needed for a basic-needs household budget (3 out of 5 single-parent households).

Basic RGB

As co-author Peter Fisher noted in our news release:
“No one discussing issues such as the minimum wage, and eligibility for child-care assistance, can reasonably ignore the economic realities facing these families.”

Find the report here:

Kind regards,
The IPP Staff

Mike Owen
Executive Director

Keeping Iowa’s Debates Honest, Factual And In Perspective

iowa policy project
FRIENDS:

The Iowa Policy Project has been watching Iowa’s job picture for more than 10 years with a monthly review of the state’s job data as it is released. Along with our annual reports on The State of Working Iowa, this monthly analysis — Iowa JobWatch — has been a frequently quoted feature of IPP work, and has established IPP as a place to turn when media, advocates or policy makers are looking for perspectives about what’s happening in Iowa’s job market.

As we aggressively maintain a nonpartisan approach to our work, the introduction of a blatantly political element to the official job data provided by Iowa Workforce Development has been disappointing. So our Iowa JobWatch reports in recent months have featured the actual count of net job change since Governor Branstad took office in January 2011 — with the caveat that there is a better approach.

The graph below represents the more appropriate alternative to job counting that we have encouraged Iowans, including the Governor, to consider. Provided by the well-respected Economic Policy Institute, this measure looks at net job change dating back to 2000. It shows where jobs dropped in our state during the last recession (red area), and shows how many jobs we are short given the increase in population since the recession began.

140328-NF-deficit

The Cedar Rapids Gazette recently reprinted an Iowa Policy Points blog post from IPP’s Mike Owen about why we need to take care with official data, and what we should be able to expect from official state sources on it.

Three other major Iowa newspapers have printed IPP perspectives on various issues in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, we appeared in two different newspapers about two different issues: the minimum wage and Iowa’s unchecked spending on tax credits. Here are links (Note, if any of these links expire on the newspaper websites, our published guest opinions also may be found on the IPP website):

— In The Des Moines Register, Heather Gibney’s “Iowa View” on the minimum wage: “Opportunity wage is a misleading term.”

— In the Quad-City Times, Mike Owen’s piece on the Research Activities Credit:
“Auto-pilot tax credits add millions to Iowa firms.”

In addition, IPP’s Peter Fisher had a guest opinion a week earlier in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about public-sector pension plans: “Strengthen, don’t break, Iowa’s public pension plans.”

Wage theft was the topic for David Osterberg last Thursday in our regular early-Thursday interview on Mike Devine’s “Devine Intervention” radio program (KVFD Fort Dodge) to discuss wage theft. That recording is available here on our website.

Thank you as always for your interest in our work, and for your support. Remember, you can always make a tax-deductible contribution to us securely online — even set up regular monthly or quarterly donations. Our work doesn’t happen without support from people who want to assure good information is produced and circulated in our state.

Kind regards,
The IPP Staff

Mike Owen
Executive Director

20 E. Market St. • Iowa City, IA 52245
(319) 338-0773 • (319) 331-1287 cell
iowapolicy@gmail.com
www.iowapolicyproject.org

Branstad Counts Funny

IPP-webbanner-draft5

IPP Friends: How to Count Jobs‏

FRIENDS:

Keeping Count of Iowa Jobs — Carefully

Numbers are funny things. Except when they’re not. And when it comes to jobs, they are not something to be treated lightly. That’s why IPP today put out a special Iowa JobWatch — a report that normally goes out only when Iowa Workforce Development releases monthly updates on employment in the state.

Find today’s report here:
http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/IowaJobWatch/IowaJobWatch1311S.html

The Governor’s Office has been peddling a number above 160,000 for jobs the administration claims have been created on the Governor’s watch. The best explanation for that number that we have found is that … well … there isn’t one.

Meanwhile, we have done the math every month for the last 10 years and it’s quite clear: The Governor’s count is wrong. He is claiming almost triple the number of jobs actually added by the Iowa economy since he took office. In our special report today by Colin Gordon, we note the real number: 56,600.

But more to the point of job-tracking, we step away from the political lens that others focus through, and instead we look at jobs from the standpoint of economic performance. And when you do that, you see we are still are 55,100 jobs short of where we need to be to (1) recoup the number of jobs lost during the Great Recession, a level Iowa reached this summer, and (2) add enough additional jobs to keep up with growth of the Iowa population.

We have made such points in our JobWatch reports, but we thought recent publicity for the faulty numbers merited a “primer” to help everyone as a reality check. When policy choices are being debated, using solid data is essential. Try your own count at home. We are pretty sure you’ll come up with the same number we do.

131113-jobsdeficit-w

Starting Each Month Further Behind

For those working low-wage jobs and receiving SNAP benefits, November delivered a new blow. All beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — 420,000 people in Iowa — began getting fewer benefits as an improvement from the 2009 Recovery Act expired, even though the recovery is not complete. Find our blog post about the change, A new look for the first of the month, which comes as the House and Senate are still negotiating a new Farm Bill that could cut benefits even further — drastically so, if House leaders get their way.

Thank you as always for your interest in our work!

Kind regards,
The IPP Staff