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Whatsamatta With Kansas? Lots!

Iowa Fiscal Partnership

Catching up on some old reading I finally got around to reading Peter Fisher’s synopsis of the disastrous Kansas budget over at Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

Justice Louis Brandeis once called states “the laboratories of democracy.” As the major laboratory for crazy right wing anti-tax, anti-government policies Kansas has pretty much proven that their policies don’t work.

Here is the synopsis:

Keeping Ahead of the Kansans

By Iowa Fiscal Partnership
4/9/15
IFP POLICY SNAPSHOT /

Iowa’s Neighbors Show the Folly of Drastic Cuts to State Income Tax

• Big income-tax cuts in Kansas have dramatically reduced funding for schools, health care and other services.

By Peter S. Fisher

As state legislators consider drastic cuts in Iowa’s income tax, they would do well to consider the experience of our neighbor Kansas, which enacted a huge income tax cut in 2012, and cut taxes again in 2013. These cuts have dramatically reduced state funding for schools, health care, and other services.

These Kansas tax cuts were touted as a powerful economic development tool. Businesses and jobs would flock to Kansas, and growth would be so strong that, according to some, state tax revenues would actually increase.

Instead, the state of Kansas has been forced to cut school funding each year since enactment. At a time when the majority of states have increased education funding to make up for cuts during the recession, general state aid in Kansas has continued to fall, and per pupil funding is 15 percent below pre-recession levels, with school closings and increased class sizes the result. Two districts recently announced they will have to end the school year early for lack of funds. The state recently abandoned the school funding formula; aid is no longer tied to enrollment. Most of the state’s reserves have been used up just to keep services afloat, leaving the state with no cushion to soften the effects of the next recession. The state’s bond rating has been lowered.

As for the tax cut being “a shot of adrenaline” for the state’s economy, as the governor predicted, the anticipated job growth did not materialize. Instead, private sector jobs in Kansas have grown by 3.5 percent since the tax cuts took effect, well below the 5.0 percent growth nationally over the same period.

It is instructive to consider as well the experience in Wisconsin, where a large personal income tax cut took effect at the start of 2013, with similar results: subsequent job growth of 3.4 percent, farther below the norm than in Kansas.

None of this should come as a surprise. Most major academic research studies have concluded that individual income tax cuts do not boost state economic growth; in fact, states that cut income taxes the most in the 1990s or in the early 2000s had slower growth in jobs and income than other states. Businesses need an educated workforce, and drastic cuts to education are likely to make it difficult to attract new workers, who care about their children’s schools at least as much as they care about taxes. Nor will income tax cuts help small businesses create jobs. Only a tiny fraction of those paying income taxes own a business, and of those most are not in a position to create more jobs, or can expand employment only if demand for their services increases, regardless of taxes. (footnotes at link)

Just Thursday the Kansas legislature overwhelmingly rejected a new tax plan in the face of huge cutbacks for education and drastic lowering of bond ratings. Early Friday morning there was a reversal, but taxes enacted were just tinkering at the edges. More on that here:

Kansas is hardly alone in this. Presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker has turned a similar trick in Wisconsin as noted above.

In Louisiana, the legislature and the presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal are locked in negotiations over how to pay for any services and yet adhere to anti-tax guidelines laid out by Grover Norquist. Yep, legislators turned to Grover Norquist for guidance. Norquist is the unelected self proclaimed anti-tax guru.

We are watching these states and others with Republican governors and legislatures circle the drain of state insolvency while they turn their states into little pits of hell on earth for their citizens. Iowa is but one senator from joining the combination of Republican dominated legislature plus a Republican governor that seems to be the formula for disaster. Thus, while the presidential election gets the press, the local races are extremely important.

While stories abound of states cutting budgets and strangling themselves, Minnesota and California have both shown that fairer taxation and public spending for common good programs can have a great effect on improving the economy. From an analysis of Minnesota’s economy:

Minnesota is one of the top-ten best economies in the country; it is also a high-tax and high-spending economy.

“For so long, the accepted formula is that in order to have a healthy state economy, you have to have low taxes, low spending, and right-to-work laws,” Haglund says. “Minnesota actually has turned all of that on its head.”

Iowa’s Problem Of Priorities

Iowa Fiscal Partnership
Once again the folks at Iowa Fiscal Partnership provide solid analysis on why Iowa is having trouble funding even its most basic services at a time when politicians of all stripes claim the economic outlook in this state is good. The answer lies in the priorities that Iowa’s legislators set. Like so many states these days, priorities are skewed to the immediate gratification of business owners at the expense of their customers, the citizens of Iowa.

Peter Fisher, Research Director at Iowa Policy Project, offers a concise analysis in this backgrounder at the Iowa Policy Project. Fisher’s conclusion is also very concise:

We have a problem of priorities. We keep underfunding services for average Iowa families — education, health, work supports, natural resources — in order to finance massive tax reductions to businesses that don’t need it. And we spend in excess of $350 million each year on business tax credits that continue on autopilot, with no sunset, despite the state’s own analyses that fail to find evidence of appreciable benefit to the state from some of the largest of these subsidies.[7]

It is time to admit that the tax cuts enacted in 2013 were excessive, and are causing long term damage to the state. At the very least, the $50 million increase in the business property tax credit portion of those tax cuts scheduled for next year should be delayed or eliminated.

But that is not enough. There should be a moratorium on any further tax cuts or tax credits. All business tax credits should be subject to effective caps and sunsets to force a serious evaluation.

Without such measures, we will continue down the road of tax-cutting our way to mediocrity and shortchanging our children’s future.

Handing out favors to businesses will not meet what should be Iowa’s real priorities. It is not working in other states either. The booming state economies – California and Minnesota – have budgets that put people first and have raised taxes.

Wages, Jobs, Child Care, Wage Theft: The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Note: This is edited from the weekly email report from Senator Courtney. To see the full report please go to Senator Courtney’s website.

Note2: This post missed the schedule last week. To make sure that important info in here is disseminated it has been rescheduled. Tomorrow we will have the most recent Courtney Report

LET’S INCREASE THE PAY FOR 181,000 LOW-WAGE IOWANS
I was proud to vote this week to increase the wages of Iowa’s lowest-paid workers.

According to the Iowa Policy Project, 181,000 Iowans will benefit from an increase to the minimum wage. Here are some statistics on who will get a raise under the proposal approved by the Iowa Senate this week:

• 72 percent are over the age of 20.

• 59 percent are women.

• 20 percent have children.

• On average, they earn 44 percent of their family’s total income.

It’s been seven years since Iowans have seen an increase to the state’s minimum wage. No other state has lingered at $7.25 per hour longer than Iowa. Five out of six states surrounding Iowa have a higher minimum wage. By following suit, Iowa families will have bigger paychecks that will boost the economy when they’re spent at local businesses.

Senate File 269 increases the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8 as of July 1 of this year and to $8.75 by July 1, 2016. This modest proposal got bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.

STEM IS PREPARING IOWANS FOR SKILLED JOBS
The Legislature has worked hard to bolster efforts to position Iowa’s young people and the state’s economy for growth in high-skill jobs and industries.

This includes efforts to support what is known as STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These are fields that lead to high-skill, well-paying jobs and are vital to a thriving 21st century economy. STEM skills are the basis for innovative problem solving and discovery, which are best acquired through exploratory learning and active student engagement.

STEM is also an economic development tool. When we equip a workforce with high-quality education and skills, we set the stage to attract and expand businesses, which will in turn create more good jobs for Iowans.

Student interest and achievement in STEM has increased significantly in Iowa in recent years, thanks to a statewide STEM initiative that brings together educators, businesses, non-profits, state agencies and community leaders.

Since 2011, an estimated 250,000 school-age Iowans and tens of thousands of educators have benefited from Iowa’s STEM focus. Opportunities for hands-on learning have included community STEM festivals, classroom activities, professional development and more.

Annual evaluations show steady gains in:

• Post-secondary STEM majors at our community colleges, public universities and private colleges. There has been a 43 percent increase in degrees award from public universities in STEM fields.

• The number of teaching endorsements issued for math and science teachers. Iowa saw a 13 percent increase between 2012 and 2014 in teaching endorsements in science or math.

• Support for STEM education and jobs among Iowans. Three years ago, 26 percent of Iowans were familiar with the concept of STEM. Today, 41 percent of Iowans know about the importance of STEM education.

Learn more about STEM and the many programs it’s generating in Iowa at www.iowastem.gov.

QUALITY CHILD CARE FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Most young children in Iowa grow up in homes with working parents. In fact, Iowa has the highest percentage of households with children under age six who have all available parents in the labor force– 77 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

These statistics illustrate that Iowans work hard. With young kids in childcare an average of 36 hours per week, it also shows the importance of high-quality care.

The brain develops rapidly from birth to age five, building the foundation of cognitive and character skills. As many families know, good care that helps ensure a child’s success in school and life can come at a high cost.

The joint Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee recently heard about changes to federal law that will help to improve Iowa’s Child Care Assistance Program. Some of those changes include improvements in training for childcare providers and changes in program eligibility requirements that no longer penalize families when they receive modest pay increases.

The Senate will be proposing additional changes that will reward childcare providers for reaching certain quality benchmarks and changing income eligibility limits so that more working families are eligible for assistance.

These changes will ensure that more families with modest means can get high-quality care for their children. It also means that parents can focus on their jobs when they are at work, with the assurance that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment.

Learn more about childcare assistance in Iowa at http://dhs.iowa.gov/child-care.

ENSURING IOWANS GET PAID FOR THEIR WORK
This week, the Senate passed Senate File 270, a bill to ensure all Iowans get paid for their work.

Sadly, $600 million in wages are stolen from Iowa workers each year. Wage theft can occur in many forms. One example is an employer failing to pay a worker for the hours of work performed or an employer not giving tips to servers.

Iowa’s wage theft laws are so weak that they are impossible to enforce. The result? Iowa workers get ripped off by unscrupulous employers, and the majority of businesses that play by the rules are put at a disadvantage.

Most Iowans aren’t at risk of being cheated by their employer, but low-wage workers often are, and they’re the ones with the most to lose.

Just hiring more investigators won’t fix this wage theft problem. We need laws that make it clear you must pay your workers, and make it easier and safer for workers to stand up for their rights. Senate File 270 would make Iowa’s law more straightforward with these three changes:

1. Employers would be required to keep a written record of the terms of employment.

2. The defense that an employer “unintentionally” failed to pay employees would no longer be acceptable.

3. Employees filing wage theft claims and those who offer testimony on their behalf would be protected from retaliation under threat of penalty.

I urge the House to do right by hard-working Iowans by approving this bill.

Republicans Fake Concern About Income Inequality

branstad jobs numbers

The Iowa senate passed a raise in minimum wage Monday on pretty much of a party line vote. One Republican joined twenty six Democrats to pass the bill. This would be good news if Democrats controlled the other legislative House and we still had a Democrat as governor. However with Republicans controlling both of those branches there is a good chance that this bill will never see the light of day again. As a friend told me you can probably plan on Tom Sands to let it die in the House Ways and Means Committee, never to see any more action. No mess, no fuss and no raises for Iowa’s poor.

No doubt any stories of a minimum wage will disappear from the pages of Iowa’s newspapers and the screens of Iowa’s TV stations. Maybe an occasional mention in blogs like this, but for the most part out of sight, out of mind.

But the real irony in this story is that at the national level the Republican Party is planning on making a campaign out of the inequitable income distribution in this country. Quit laughing, I am serious. Jeb (I am the third) Bush has already been pushing the issue, as have such union busters as Scott Walker and Chris Christie. Even the religious crazy wing of Huckabee and Santorum have suddenly discovered that some Americans are starving. All of course blame President Obama who, in their altered minds, has created the problems by causing Republican obstruction for six years an many jobs bills, spending programs and tax adjustments to pay for them. Makes sense to them.

What do you suppose their answer is? Why give more money to the wealthy of course! Continue that awesome trickle down economy that has brought so many benefits to – well their donors, the .1%. Don’t expect to hear that spoken out loud. Don’t expect to hear any solution spoken out loud. The strategy today is for Republicans to criticize only but answer no questions. Won’t work you say? Ask Sen. Ernst about that.

But there has been some truly grudging movement among the wealthy to finally take a trickle on their employees. Walmart created major headlines last week when it announced it would trickle on its employees a little bit this year, a little bit more next year. Walmart is owned by half a dozen of the wealthiest people in the world. These are people who fought tooth and nail so that no stinking employee would get a nickel of their hundreds of billions of dollars. Now they are suddenly seemingly showering their employees with trickle down. Did they finally get to the point that they realized that they had so much money it was time to trickle?

That would be a laugh. Much speculation has been put forth on the cause, but I think many folks looked way too deep for motives. Walmart was getting hit in the pocket book. Sales are decreasing because one of their major constituents can no longer afford to shop at Walmart. Even though Walmart advertises that they are the low price store they are not. The very poor are now going to dollar stores with the little money they have. The Republican wet dream of cutting food stamps has been partially realized and those who have lost government aid must make what little they have stretch further. Thus Walmart is too costly. With a significant portion of their low level employees getting government aid in the form of food stamps, Walmart’s employees are going elsewhere.

Add to the mix that Walmart employees are in near rebellion over wages and ridiculous expectations of availability to work anytime they are called and you can guess that Walmart had created a monster for themselves. Internal high level memos were leaked to the press that discussed such problems. Sales were sluggish and suddenly board members started to care. See, they got hit in the pocketbook so now they care. One of the memos discussed lack of product on shelves along with expired products on shelves. Since I do have to shop at Walmart about once a month for a couple of products I can get no where else – remember they ran much of their competition out of business – I can attest to those problems. Lots of empty shelves, lots of product out of place, expired or near expired product on the shelves and no one, literally no one working on it.

So Walmart’s raise in wages was not due to their generosity, but to self-preservation. That is a real trickle on by the Walton heirs.

Liberals have long pushed for wages beyond the minimum to what is known as a living wage. A living wage varies from place to place due to cost of living differences. Right now about $15/hour is a generally accepted minimum living wage. There are a couple of small pockets where a living wage is in effect such as Seatac, Washington which voted it in a year and a half ago. It is hard to isolate what effect such laws have had on local economies since those earning a living wage is narrowly defined and do not necessarily live in that community.

But there is one state that has raised wages considerably, taxed the rich a bit more and has done it for a long enough period that the effects can be evaluated. Many may have heard this week of the success stories coming out of Minnesota. Iowa and Minnesota elected new governors in 2010 both changing parties from their previous governors. In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton faced a huge leftover deficit, and the specter go the I-35 bridge collapse under his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty. Branstad came back into power in Iowa to a budget that was actually in pretty decent shape, and an economy that weathered the Republican recession of 2008 fairly well. Branstad came in with promises of 200,000 jobs and higher wages.

The two governors took entirely different approaches. Branstad took the usual Republican approach of tax cuts for the rich and state cut backs in spending. In Minnesota minimum wages were raised and the highest earners were taxed at a slightly higher rate.

Iowa’s economy has plodded along as the national economy has gained steam. Jobs in Iowa have increased but at a pace far below that promised by Branstad. Meanwhile in Minnesota the economy has prospered. Jobs are up nearly 200,000 under Dayton, governmental finances are in tip-top shape and roads are being repaired. Iowa’s roads and especially its bridges are among the very worst in the country.

Once more tried and true liberal answers to economic problems are proven to work while Republican approaches prove not to work. While the contrast between Iowa an Minnesota are stark, the contrasts between Wisconsin and Minnesota are even more stark. Given that Wisconsin and Minnesota are remarkably similar in many respects, the contrast in approaches and results between now presidential wannabe Scott Walker and Mark Dayton are much more easily discerned.

Republican economic ideas are written by the rich for the rich. Democratic economic ideas are based on scientific research and experience. Once again, the Democratic model proves the best and most reliable model.

Just as this is posted, a new Elizabeth Warren video is making the rounds. Warren says in about 6 minutes what I was trying to say. Since I can’t put the video here you will have to go here to watch it.

No Funding For Schools; No Taxes On Some Corporations

Iowa Fiscal Partnership

It surely is a strange situation when we have our Republican legislators tell us out of one side of their mouths that there is no money for Iowa schools to maintain the status quo, yet from the other side of their mouth the can tout all the tax cuts they have garnered for their rich contributors. Once again, Iowa Fiscal Partner brings this to light. Once more I suspect that few will read the report and fewer still will do anything about it.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (Feb. 11, 2015) — More companies are benefiting from a lucrative tax subsidy that permits large, profitable corporations to get checks from the state without paying any Iowa income tax.

The latest annual report from the Department of Revenue on the use of the Research Activities Credit (RAC) shows that 248 companies claimed $51 million from the program in 2014, one-third more than the highest number of companies in the last five years.

Most of the credit claims — $34.8 million, or 68 percent — were paid out as checks, not as tax reductions.

“Most notable is that Iowa continues to give a lot of money to companies that aren’t paying income tax. There were 181 companies that received RAC checks from the state because their tax credits exceeded their income tax liability,” said Mike Owen, executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.

“The $35 million that went to those 181 companies could have provided 1 percent supplemental state aid for public schools, or it could have gone to other public services, if it had been part of budget discussions. But the state does this kind of spending outside the budget process.”

The report, released Wednesday, also shows:
— Only 16 companies — or 6.5 percent — claimed 83 percent of the benefits and at least 75 percent of the checks.
— Those 16 companies each had at least $500,000 in claims, totaling over $42 million in 2014.
— The top five companies benefiting from the credit have been the largest beneficiaries over the last five years: Rockwell Collins, Deere & Co., Dupont, John Deere Construction and Monsanto.

“Those are highly profitable companies. We need to be asking whether it makes sense, when school budgets are tight and enforcement of environmental and workplace laws are weak, to be subsidizing these businesses to do research that they already would have to do, and can afford to do on their own,” Owen said.

Owen noted a special tax credit review panel appointed in 2009 came back in 2010 with many recommendations to curtail spending on business tax credits — including elimination of the so-called “refunds” of the research credit.

Rockwell Collins was the biggest corporate beneficiary in 2014, with $11.7 million in claims, followed by Deere at $9.4 million and Dupont at almost $6.9 million.

checks to corporations in Iowa

Does anyone besides me think that giving money to corporations is a very bad way for Iowa to spend taxpayer dollars? This goes against everything I ever learned about democracy, and also seems to go against everything I hear the right say about government

Wage Theft And Money For Schools: The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Once again we will take excerpts from Senator Courtney’s newsletter.

WHAT DO OUR LOCAL SCHOOLS NEED?
Iowa’s future depends on high-quality local schools. That’s why I’m working hard to ensure that every Iowa child gets the best education possible and that they are prepared to compete for the jobs of the future.

The Republican-led Iowa House passed a bill along party lines this week that would provide a 1.25 percent increase in state funding for our schools.

I have heard from parents and students. I have talked with my local school teachers and administrators. They all tell me that the bill that the House passed is not enough money to keep up with the costs of providing a high-quality experience in our local classrooms. In fact, school superintendents across the state say that their schools are facing larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, outdated materials and staff layoffs.

Although Iowa schools are doing a good job of improving student achievement, we are in danger of being passed up by other states if we don’t provide the resources they need to prepare for the 21st century workforce.

Iowa currently ranks 35th in the nation when it comes to how much we invest in each student. On average, we invest $1,612 less per student than the national average. I want to do better by our local schools and for all of Iowa’s students.

What does your school need to be successful? I have visited local schools and listened to students, teachers and parents. If you would like me to visit your school, please call or e-mail me. I invite all constituents to share their thoughts on funding for our local schools.

STRENGTHEN OUR MIDDLE CLASS BY ENSURING IOWANS GET PAID FOR THEIR WORK
All Iowans deserve to get paid for the work they do. Strengthening Iowa’s middle class depends on it. Sadly, $600 million in wages are stolen from Iowa workers each year.

Iowa’s wage theft laws are so weak that they are impossible to enforce. The result? Iowa workers get ripped off by unscrupulous employers, and the majority of businesses that play by the rules are put at a disadvantage.

Most Iowans aren’t at risk of being cheated by their employer, but low-wage workers often are, and they’re the ones with the most to lose. This week at the Statehouse, Katie Wilson and Justin Banks, servers at the Coralville Applebee’s, talked of their fight to get their share of tips illegally taken from them by management.

Valentine Ruiz of Conesville described his ongoing fight to get paid for $1,200 of welding work he did in 2012 for a company in West Liberty. Because three other people had similar complaints, Iowa Workforce Development sought and won a judgment for back pay and interest. However, no penalty was imposed, and Mr. Ruiz has yet to receive any of the money owed him.

Just hiring more investigators won’t fix this problem. We need laws that make it clear you must pay your workers, and make it easier and safer for workers to stand up for their rights. Proposed legislation would make Iowa’s law more straightforward with these three changes:

1. Employers would be required to keep a written record of the terms of employment.

2. The defense that an employer “unintentionally” failed to pay employees would no longer be acceptable.

3. Employees filing wage theft claims and those who offer testimony on their behalf would be protected from retaliation under threat of penalty.

The Iowa Senate approved reforms to our state’s wage theft law in 2011 and 2014, but the bills were not brought up for debate in the Iowa House.

For more information on the problem of wage theft in Iowa, read the Iowa Policy Project’s report at www.iowapolicyproject.org/2012docs/120829-wagetheft-xs.pdf.

HELPING IOWA KIDS BECOME SUCCESSFUL ADULTS
Promoting the long-term health and wellbeing of Iowa’s children is essential to our state’s future. Kids lead more productive, happy lives if they receive mental health and developmental services when they need them , according to the United Way.

Children’s brains develop over time. The growth and maturation of the brain is guided by genes and impacted by life experiences. When kids experience trauma, that stress disrupts the developing brain, producing negative lifelong consequences for learning, behavior and health.

Legislators heard this week about the problem of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” and progress over the last year to expand early childhood wellness initiatives to more counties in Iowa. The state is now collecting data on Adverse Childhood Experiences, including child abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

Research shows that kids who experience four or more traumatic experiences in childhood have a:

• 1,525 percent greater chance of attempted suicide.

• 555 percent greater chance of alcoholism.

• 443 percent greater chance of illicit drug use.

• 357 percent greater chance of depression.

• 242 percent greater chance of smoking.

• 222 percent greater chance of obesity.

No kids should have to grow up with those kinds of odds working against them. Building resilience is the key to moderating extreme stress and promoting lifelong health. Of greatest importance are prevention and early detection, as well as family-focused approaches to supporting children and their parents.

Effective evidence-based prevention and treatment programs include Iowa’s 1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative, which brings together physicians and social service providers to promote healthy mental development among young kids. If a child is determined to be at risk, appropriate referrals can be made to help the family in optimizing the child’s mental development.

With continued support of the 1st Five Initiative, we can ensure that Iowa’s children begin life with the greatest opportunity to achieve school readiness, academic success and overall wellbeing throughout life.

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

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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