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Saturday, May 05, 2018

Dark Store Loophole Becomes Needed Suicide Relief For Anti-Union Businesses

As Republican legislators hold firm in their defense to keep the Dark Store loophole open for some of their biggest campaign donors, the problem doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon in Wisconsin.

Because as long as Wisconsin's private and public sector unions huge declines in membership and revenue is seen as "winning," so goes the urgency to keep some form of local tax relief mechanism in play for declines in middle-class retail spending.

The Dark Store connection to anti-unionism just recently dawned on me when I realized that some of the biggest names in Janesville supporting and endorsing anti-union political candidates also happen to be the biggest names applying for and winning Dark Store property tax relief. Menards, Walmart, the Janesville Gazette and Farm and Fleet are all well known for their support of establishment republicans. The same establishment republicans who passed Act 10, anti-worker Right-to-Work and anti-prevailing wage laws are the same republicans defending the Dark Store loophole.

It should also come as no surprise that the last two fake town halls Paul Ryan held in Janesville was at one of his biggest local boosters, Blaine's Farm and Fleet. Apparently Blaine's needed the congressman to reassure them that more relief, other than Dark Store, is on the way with his promised corporate tax cuts as the retailer's political war on unions, intrinsically tied to the state's shrinking apple pie and Chevrolet customer farm base, became a double crisis for the Janesville-based retailer.

As insanely crazy and suicidal as it appears, there is no question in my mind that by supporting efforts to wipe out unions, these businesses supported efforts to wipe out their most stable and reliable middle-class customer base. Perhaps there is some remorse, but at this stage, they're willing to do anything to justify their war because "winning" is everything.

Republicans see the Dark Store loophole as a necessary and urgent component to relieve businesses for losses their race-to-the-bottom political activities caused. So should residential property taxpayers and everyone else.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Are Dark Stores A Wormhole Into Atlas Shrugged?

Some political watchers in Wisconsin seem to be miffed by republicans reluctance to legislatively fix the property tax loophole known as Dark Store.

The loophole, as you probably know, allows large commercial property owners to challenge their property tax bills by claiming excessive assessments using an argument that the structure's assessed value should be no more than that of an abandoned building. State lawmakers are being asked to close the loophole by simply making it illegal to make that argument in Wisconsin courts. Others claim that republicans are ignoring the dilemma because the loophole enriches their political donor base. That's a perception difficult to ignore.

But so far, republicans have not paid a political price for supporting the Dark Store loophole.

There also appears to be a larger picture and goal in mind by those in power who defend the Dark Store loophole.

You see, there are people who also strongly believe that corporations and commercial properties employing a significant number of people are the "makers." They "make" income taxpayers and those incomes pay the bills so government can survive. So in their view, taxpayer creators deserve full tax exemptions because of their favored symbiotic relationship with government.

Their goal is to exempt "maker" employment properties of the burden of paying a property tax because according to "conservative" economic theories, any taxes paid by corporations are passed through and paid by their customers reflected in higher prices of goods and services. That argument however is self-defeating in that it is an admission that corporations and business properties don't pay property taxes anyways.

Unfortunately, the timing of the Dark Store litigation also happens to coincide with a sympathetic public perception that brick and mortar stores are under added strain competing with property tax burdenless internet inventories.

So the Dark Store loophole, at least for now, appears to provide an incremental step into Atlas Shrugged. Wisconsin republicans haven't budged. They know if the loophole can survive long enough, they might be able to formulate a plan to make the tax burden shift appear less painful on residential property taxpayers. If they can make it painless, opposition to fully exempting corporations and large scale brick and mortar of property tax will disappear.

From there, they will be able to go with full-throated privatization of currently held public assets and common use areas by instituting point-of-use fees, which by the way is now a simple automated payment task with our fully digitalized infrastructure.

I've jumped a little ahead of myself with that scenario, but few can argue that current trends toward exempting business and capital of government regulation and taxes act as a fulcrum for turning public assets into private property - a necessary component to reach their Atlas Shrugged utopia.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Free Market Group Unglued Over Walker's Misguided Policies, Bad Economics

A pay-to-stay incentives proposal for consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark remains in play and, consequently, so does the possibility that lawmakers will be called back in for a special session, @GovWalker said Wednesday. #wiright…

As explained in a previous post by Rock Netroots and contrary at the time to mainstream narration, a Foxconn-like free money deal written by Gov. Walker and state republicans remains on the table for Kimberly-Clark and any other big corporate interests in Wisconsin looking for a long-term government hand-out.

That blog perspective was in response to a Janesville Gazette editorial and a recent press release by the right-wing group MacIver Institute. The group was quick to give credit to senate republicans for the death of the “pay-to-stay” proposal and called it a victory for free market principles.

But now, faced with the realization the deal was never pulled off the table, MacIver partisan tools look for a new bogey man, unions, to blame just in case republican efforts, whatever they are, fail or succeed.

Because if republicans fail, according to MacIver, it's the union's fault. If republicans succeed, unions shouldn't credit democrats.

Because MacIver has political fires that need stoking ...

MacIver Excerpt:
The Steelworkers, which has dumped millions of dollars into Democratic Party candidates and liberal causes, seemed to be more interested in stoking the fires of political discord, dismissing the fact that it has been Walker and legislative Republicans who have led the incentives effort.

MacIver wants to make sure the public knows that it is state republicans, not democrats, who are leading the incentives effort for Kimberly-Clark, an effort just three weeks ago they called misguided policy, bad economics and a troubling precedent.

I couldn't make this stuff up no matter how hard I try.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why Not Impose Walker-Foxconn 17% Statewide Income Tax To Fund Government-Run Economy?

With the impending demolition of the GM plant in Janesville, the "free market conservatives" at the Janesville Gazette posted a new editorial asking Gov. Scott Walker to offer the same free government cash deal the state gave to Foxconn - to developers and hopeful companies considering the former GM site.

Don't worry Gazette comrades, the same free government cash including the environmental exemptions the state gave Foxconn is available to any and all developers and corporations simply for the asking. The recent Foxconn-like package state republicans offered to Kimberly-Clark is evidence for my claim.

Despite a state-based "free market" group's assertion that the Kimberly-Clark package died in the state Senate because of "principled free market" republicans and their laughable spin job to credit those republicans for the demise of the pay-to-stay proposal, the deal remains now and forever on the table. The senate merely pulled the deal while playing a cat-and-mouse game with KC executives. That's what happened.

To put it another way, if anyone believes principled state republicans were responsible for killing a deal meant to prevent KC from pulling out of Neenah, Wisconsin's corporatized media would have hung and burned those republicans in the public square for the loss of 600 jobs. You know it. I know it.

But that's not how or why the KC deal was rejected. Walker and state republicans simply did not want to have their Foxconn deal further exposed for the desperate sham that it is, so they had to move it for appearance's sake. The accepted media-spun narrative gives the state just enough wiggle room to keep the corporate welfare charade alive. The establishment demands it.

But ultimately, it was KC who walked away from it, not republicans.

So let's be blunt. The state's "pocketbook" as the Gazette likes to put it is your wallet, my wallet, your paycheck and my paycheck. The Foxconn deal at its core is based on state taxpayers ultimately funding a government-run re-distributive process that returns 17% of a Foxconn employee's paycheck - back to the employer. If Foxconn employs the minimum amount of workers (3,000) according to the contract, the state promises to ship on average about $200M CASH each year for the next 15 years to the Taiwan based corporation. That's an accurate but basic overview of the "tax credit" part of the Foxconn deal.

If the Gazette believes (they do) Foxconn-rate subsidies for the GM site are the way to go, those deals should be institutionalized for the entire state. Why not? If a little is good - a lot is better.

But the state should depoliticize the process and stop picking winners and losers. They can do that by imposing a new 17% state income tax on everyone. The new income tax would provide dedicated funding for redistribution back to all employers. That way, states can compete in a principled conservative "free market" against each other for more jobs by simply upping the tax and cash back subsidies to 18, 19, 20% or more.

It'll be glorious.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Can Janesville Recover From Paul. Freaking. Ryan.

The Janesville jinx.

There is no sense of loss or betrayal for me since I've had Paul Ryan's number years ago, but there has to be a huge hole developing in the hopes and dreams of many of his local red state political supporters. Remember it was just a few days before his announced exit that Janesville locals were asked about their rock star politician leaving Congress and most of them said no way, that "he's not a quitter."

But the last time I saw Janesville look this psychologically burned was in the mid-2000's when Janesville-born business dynamo Ken Hendricks spoke publicly about how he came back to Janesville to locate his roofing business only to have Janesville banks reject him for the loans. Hendricks, feeling obviously scorned, said it was Janesville's better-than-thou "country club set" that eventually drove him to Beloit where he built his business to quickly become one of America's most successful men.

The Hendricks Fortune 500 story became a major embarrassment for local movers and shakers. Indeed, Janesville let the big one get away.

Some might think the Janesville GM auto plant was another major letdown for Janesville. But I would argue against that sentiment. The Janesville GM plant was a 90 year success story that any town in America would be happy to duplicate even knowing now how it comes to an end. Eventually, all things must pass.

But the same cannot be said for one Paul Ryan. No person or group I know would ever, after selling an individual as courageous and principled as confidently as his supporters have, do it all over again knowing he would leave them dangling at the most crucial point when things got tough. What Ryan did to those who depended on him most was brutal.

Afterall, Ryan IS a product of Janesville. Even Eric Cantor had more fight in him to face the music when possible rejection was becoming imminent.

But not Paul Ryan. A decision so predictable and lingering so permanent. It's reflection on Janesville won't be erased easily.

Janesville will undoubtedly survive Paul Ryan, but not without feeling once again that collectively - it doesn't recognize authenticity and heart, or the lack thereof - when it needed to the most.


Vox - Ryan sold himself as a deficit hawk. Then he championed a $1.5 trillion tax cut

WaPo -Paul Ryan’s pathetic legacy

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Paul Ryan Quits. It's a Glorious Day For America.

April 11, 2018. It's a glorious day for America and an almost personal achievement for me as word spread this morning that Rep. Paul Ryan quit and will not seek re-election. He didn't resign however and is expected to finish his term. Ryan was one of several reasons why I began blogging in 2006.

Unfortunately and ironically, he will however be enjoying a very comfortable government-provided hammock for the rest of his life. At this point, I guess it's a small price to pay for the losses American workers and seniors would have endured had he remained in office.

CNN - House Speaker Paul Ryan won't seek re-election

CNBC - Paul Ryan's retirement makes his seat a more realistic Democratic target in the midterms

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ravaged By Walker's "Reforms," Distressed Janesville Wins Government Aid Zone Designation

Ravaged by eight years of Gov. Scott Walker's "reforms" and preyed upon by some of his biggest local campaign donors for repeated "Dark Store" property tax rebates, nearly a third of the city of Janesville has been designated by the government as a "Economic Opportunity Zone."

City Of Janesville Memo Excerpt:
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced on Monday, April 9, the City of Janesville was awarded three Economic Opportunity Zones which cover the former General Motors Assembly Plant, much of Janesville's downtown, and the south side industrial parks including SHINE Medical Technologies.

Prior to the new designation, two of the zones, the SHINE industrial Park and the city's downtown, in addition to holding a high concentration of Walker cash donors and local Paul Ryan linked developers have tapped local and state taxpayers for more than $60 million in assistance combined over the next ten years.

In contrast, many of Janesville's seniors trying to remain living in their homes on Social Security have been further stressed by new rules to the state's property tax Homestead Credit under Gov. Walker.

Senior households, even some into their 70's and 80's are forced to choose between food or paying high property taxes - no longer qualify for the modest credit if they don't have earned income - while Walker's biggest donors reap giant tax credits or lawyer up for property tax relief for themselves.

City Of Janesville Memo Excerpt:
According to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), "The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act established Opportunity Zones to spur private investment in distressed communities... This new Opportunity Zones program will allow investment in some of our nation's most economically challenged communities through tax incentives... [which] encourage private investment to accelerate economic growth and job creation."

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Local Taxpayers Absorbing More Referendum Funding For Schools: A Big Win For Scott Walker

A lot of folks on the Left, Liberals and Progressives aren't going to agree with this assessment, but when 56 out of 66 Wisconsin communities approved local funding referendums for their schools last Tuesday, Scott Walker won and he won big time.

Wisconsin Budget Project Excerpt:
Voters approved 56 out of 66 school referendums on the ballot, raising their property taxes to replace school buildings, improve academic offerings, and provide needed services to students. Wisconsin residents voted to approve $439 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, $123 million to expand school district operating budgets for a set amount of time, and $4 million to expand school district budgets on a permanent basis.

For the sake of my argument, only school referendums to increase operating budgets are all that is necessary. When local taxpayers voted to increase their annual property taxes by $123 million annually, they handed Walker another answer to his prayers to divert increased state funding away from public schools - and gave him more state tax revenue to spend on his priority - the increased utilization of public tax dollars for private use. Namely, more collective dollars are now available to hand out to his campaign donor class and Foxconn.

Wisconsin Budget Project Excerpt:
Recent poll results have found that Wisconsin voters place a great deal of importance on funding public education. Voters named K-12 education as the highest priority for additional state spending in response to a Marquette University poll in June 2017, and 61% said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to support their highest spending priority.

It's true. Wisconsin places a great deal of importance on public education. But the keywords here are "additional state spending." For schools across Wisconsin to offer kids the same quality curriculum and facilities regardless of each community's economic condition, that means increases or the restoration of state income taxes - NOT regressive local tax hikes that many cannot afford.

WPR Excerpt:
And as Wisconsin Public Radio pointed out today, the usually-tense issues surrounding school referenda had a little extra boost this time, because new potential budget flexibilities approved earlier this year had a catch attached to them.

The new law let's low-spending districts raise property taxes without voter approval, but districts wouldn't get the money if they had a referendum fail in the last three years.

Therein lies the gimp.

Despite some anti-referendum movement earlier from a few republicans who didn't understand Walker's method of madness to force local taxpayers into eating themselves, Walker showed his hand enough where even the most naive of political watchers should understand it when he threw out a poisoned t-bone steak by offering low-spending school districts permission to modestly increase their budget without getting approval from broke taxpayers — but not if they had a failed referendum to increase their budget within the last three years.

By offering an incentive for school districts to spend more, seemingly contrary to his "conservative" reforms, means that Scott Walker WANTS local school referendums to pass. No "reform dividend" for you, unless you vote to increase taxes on yourself.

When school budget referendums pass, it means the shift from state funding to a larger local burden is in flux AND his reforms are working. Sure, Walker was sent two steps back when his candidate for the Supreme Court lost and voters opted to save the treasurers office, but his right-wing engineered budget agenda remains fully operational and a success toward his goals. On a political level, he lost little ground.

I hate to sound so confident, but anyone who doesn't understand what Walker is doing is in denial or they support his agenda.

I've been beating this drum for some time with a slogan, "To fight it is to feed it - and to feed it is surrender." It's all right there. Understanding cannibalism also helps.