New report: Scott Walker’s Wisconsin worst in nation on shrinking middle class (UPDATED)

As noted by CapTimes reporter Mike Ivey, a new report by the Pew Charitable Trust showed Wisconsin with the largest decline in the nation in the percentage of families considered to be middle class.

If you feel like you’re working harder for less money, it’s not your imagination.

Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to a new report.

The Pew Charitable Trust report showed Wisconsin with the largest decline in the percentage of families considered “middle class,” or those earning between 67 and 200 percent of their state’s median income.

In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the middle class category but that has fallen to 48.9 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Census figures compiled by Pew.

All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure.

The results of the Pew report should come as no shock to those of us here in Wisconsin who’ve felt the full weight of Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on the middle class thanks to Act 10. After all, a vast majority of public employees are middle class wage earners, and the provisions of Act 10 empowered Gov. Walker and his Republican allies in the Legislature to further cut the take-home pay of public employees beyond the cuts those public employees had endured thanks to furloughs under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. In fact, I know a number of public employees whose take home pay is less now than it was nearly ten years ago (in some cases by nearly ten percent), and many of those solidly middle class public employees could ill afford a cut in their take home pay.

While Gov. Walker’s main purpose in “dropping the bomb” that was Act 10 on public employees may have been to weaken public employee unions politically, one of the most destructive side effects of Act 10 was the weakening of Wisconsin’s middle class. It’s widely accepted that a strong middle class with plenty of disposable income grows the economy far better than the trickle down theory of giving tax cuts to the richest individuals and corporations, and here in Wisconsin we’re seeing that fact borne out in the struggles our state’s middle class are facing.

It’s my hope that at some point during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries Gov. Scott Walker is going to have to answer for his absolutely miserable record on job creation and growing Wisconsin’s economy. As proof of Gov. Walker’s absolutely miserable record, one needs not look very far, whether it’s his record of creating more low-wage jobs than middle-wage jobs, or the fact that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the quasi-public job creation agency created by Gov. Walker, sent millions of tax dollars to companies that outsourced jobs to foreign countries. And don’t overlook the fact that Gov. Walker’s job creation corporation also failed to track whether 99 businesses were repaying a total of $8 million in past-due loans over the course of a year. The $8 million in overdue loans the WEDC lost track of constituted 16% of that agency’s $51 million loan portfolio.

That’s not the kind of job creation record I’d want to have if I were running for president, and given the fact that Republicans control all three branches of government in Wisconsin, Gov. Walker has no one to blame but himself for his absolutely miserable record on job creation and the economy. However, Gov. Walker has been quite successful in shrinking Wisconsin’s middle class, which no doubt will play well with with folks like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are the very people who may decide which Republican will be that party’s nominee in 2016.

Did a pro-energy lobbying group commit fraud to drum up artificial support for WE Energies/MGE rate increase?

A few minutes ago I wrote about the rate increase approved by Gov. Scott Walker’s Public Service Commission, a rate increase that would benefit WE Energies, which last year enjoyed record profits of $577 million at the expense of ratepayers (you & I).

In a related story, Mike Ivey of the CapTimes is reporting that a group lobbying on behalf of the rate increase may have fraudulently used the names of Wisconsin residents in order to artificially drum up support for the rate increase.

A fossil fuel industry group backing changes to Wisconsin’s electric rate structure is misrepresenting the wishes of some Madison Gas & Electric and We Energies customers in a legal filing with state regulators.

The Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance on Oct. 7 sent the state Public Service Commission a petition with names of 2,500 electric customers statewide, claiming those consumers “believe changing the current rule will ensure that all ratepayers are treated fairly and electricity bills remain affordable.”

But it’s unclear how many of those customers actually support the proposed changes, which would raise fixed costs for residential ratepayers.

For example, Mary Frawley, who lives on Madison’s near west side, is listed on the petition as supporting the changes. But she told The Capital Times she strongly opposes the MGE plan, which would hike her monthly service fees from $10 to $19 starting next year.

Among the 2,500 ratepayers whose names may have been used fraudulently was Mike Sinicki, husband to Democratic State Rep. Christine Sinicki. In response to revelations the Consumer Energy Alliance may have fraudulently used the names of thousands of Wisconsinites, Rep. Sinicki requested Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm investigate whether any crime was committed.

Rep. Christine Sinicki's letter to MKE DA John Chisholm regarding utility rates

Mike Ivey: Should UW pick a business leader for chancellor to jump-start job growth?

Because what would possibly go wrong with choosing a business leader to serve as chancellor of UW-Madison?

With Wisconsin closing out 2012 as one of the worst states for job creation, critics are once again rapping the UW-Madison for failing to turn its research dollars into new companies that could offer jobs.

It’s not a new complaint.

The UW has long been one of the leaders in attracting federal research grants, although it has slipped a bit lately, falling to No. 4 in the latest rankings.

While I certainly support the idea of the UW being more proactive about promoting more startups (especially as relates to its research efforts), I’d be concerned that a business leader serving as chancellor would be more focused on how to turn a profit off of those startups rather than being focused on how to provide the students of the UW with the highest quality, most well-rounded education possible.