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Wisconsin collective bargaining fight is back on the table

Middle-income jobs shrinking: “Welfare ID” goes in effect; another Cirrus crash; Minnesota stocks gain ground; farm bill delayed; and more.

A taste of punditry on the striking down of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law, Act 10: The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan says: “[H]ere are a few quick takeaways of what Friday’s development could mean on the campaign trail in a state that is being contested at the presidential and Senate levels: The debate over collective bargaining isn’t over: When Walker won his recall, many observers thought that would be the last (major) word in the Wisconsin debate over Walker’s controversial law. Republicans won the reaffirmation of their policies they had sought, while Democrats were forced to deal with the defeat at the highest level. Friday’s decision could re-open the debate. Democrats in Wisconsin who for two years have sought to use Walker as a political bogeyman lost some momentum when he won the recall. They may find new strength in their arguments, if Act 10′s legal standing isn’t sound. At the same time, the Republican base that was so energized to turn out for Walker this summer may return in major way this fall. In the Senate race in particular, former governor Tommy Thompson (R) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) could be debating the issue a lot more than they might have originally thought.”

John Avlon at The Daily Beast says: “It will be interesting to see whether this law is declared unconstitutional by the Chicago court.  After all, the mechanism Walker & Co. used to pass the controversial legislation was consistent with the state constitution, as I reported in a March column. And the law was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision focusing on the process of its passage.  A stay will be issued while the matter is decided by the Court of Appeals.  While Walker’s tactics were unnecessarily heavy-handed, he was acting to close chronic budget gaps in a way that resonates as common sense with many private sector workers, who do not enjoy the same benefits, let alone at taxpayer expense. Despite all the polarization, this is a healthy debate for states — and the nation — to have. Walker’s striking success at surviving the high-stakes recall election should send a signal to the warring factions. Trying to erase reforms, however contentious, through the courts only reinforces the alienating politicization of the judiciary in recent decades.”

John Nichols at Madison’s Capitol Times says: “Late Friday, a well-regarded Wisconsin jurist — who before his appointment to the bench spent 15 years working for Democratic and Republican attorneys general as a top lawyer with the state Department of Justice — issued a thoughtful 27-page assessment of Scott Walker’s signature legislative initiative, Act 10. The decision, grounded in a nuanced reading of state and federal law, and specifically focused on constitutional concerns, displayed immense respect for Walker’s positions and those of the public-employee unions with which the governor has sparred over the past 18 months. … What was Walker’s response to a decision that referenced not just the constitutions that are touchstones of governance and jurisprudence but also a century and a half of Wisconsin case law? Within minutes of the release of the ruling … Walker sputtered: ‘Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backward and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the Legislature and the governor.’ Instead of responding with a constitutionally grounded defense of a law that legislators and lawyers warned last year would not stand judicial scrutiny, the governor engaged in cheap-shot invective that is as ignorant as it is shameful. The irony of Walker’s wrongheaded response could not be greater. This week, he is touring the state to ‘celebrate’ the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.”

The Strib editorializes on the need for a better educated work force to achieve better middle-income wages. Its line of thinking will not please the small-gummint types: “A Star Tribune analysis of state labor data shows that the portion of jobs paying $10 to $25 an hour has dropped sharply in the past decade, from nearly two-thirds of all job postings in 2002 to 43 percent today. Meanwhile, more than a third of today’s openings are for jobs paying less than $10 an hour. … Generic, middle-income, middle-management jobs are disappearing as enterprises learn to function with fewer of them. Low-skill, low-wage jobs are again in demand now, but many remain in jeopardy of replacement by technology. If robots can do a job, they will, and soon. But workers with specialized skills and the capacity to be both analytic and creative ‘can name their price’ in many fields … Minnesota needs a new grand plan for success in the new economy. As [Gov. Mark] Dayton stumps the state for his party’s candidates this fall, we hope he is also gathering ideas and steam for the strategic planning exercise that the 2013 legislative session should include.”

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Call it Welfare ID. And it is now in effect. Julie Siple at MPR writes: “The name of the head of the household must now be printed on the plastic cards that carry food stamp benefits. Until now, no name has been printed on the card. ‘Our concern was fraud and misuse,’ said Republican Rep. Jim Abeler, the chairman of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. ‘And we were very interested in making sure that people who qualified and needed assistance would get it. But those who were not getting it or were selling their cards would be discouraged from doing that.’ … Another recent change makes it more difficult for people to get replacement cards. Previously, food stamp users were able to pick up a replacement in person at a county office. Beginning this month, replacement cards will be mailed to beneficiaries within 30 days at a cost of $2.”

Duluth-based Cirrus, the airplane company, is investigating another crash. The AP and the News Tribune report: “A Cirrus SR-22 private plane crashed early Saturday in southwestern Missouri, killing the pilot, his three children and a businesswoman, authorities said. Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Jason Pace said the single-engine plane went down about 12:30 a.m. northwest of the town of Willard, killing all five people on board. The plane appeared to have been headed toward the Springfield airport when it crashed about five miles away. … It’s at least the sixth fatal crash involving a Cirrus SR-22 this year, according to the FAA and news reports.” And that is what you call bad publicity.

Who needs GPS? The Duluth News Tribune reports: “A Two Harbors man was found safe but dehydrated and hypothermic last week after being lost for four days without food or water in thick woods in Lake County. John Koepsell, 48, lost his way while out scouting for the upcoming hunting season off county Highway 2 about 30 miles north of Two Harbors, Lake County Undersheriff Steve Van Kekerix said. ‘He was out scouting, and he had stopped because his car was overheating, and he took a short walk’ while the car cooled off, Van Kekerix said. The man then got ‘turned around’ in the thick woods. … Koepsell was within a quarter-mile of a cabin, but lost in extremely thick woods, said Jim Williams, captain of the Lake County Sheriff’s Rescue Squad.”

Generally speaking, Minnesota stocks are gaining ground following the Fed’s latest “easing.” Neal St. Anthony and Patrick Kennedy of the Strib say: “[B]efore the Fed’s action, most of Minnesota’s biggest companies were gaining steam. Even some that struggled earlier in the year have gained traction. Total return for the Bloomberg-Star Tribune 100 index of Minnesota stocks was up 13.8 percent through Friday, with 65 gainers and 33 losers. Companies that have stayed active in the mergers and acquisitions market have generally fared better than companies that have treaded water. … Richfield-based Best Buy, which is down 18.5 percent year to date, recently named Hubert Joly as its CEO. … Supervalu shares have slid from $42 per share in 2007 to $1.68 per share in August, closed at $2.41 per share on Friday.” That’s pretty much wallpaper range, isn’t it?

For everyone expecting big things from Congress this fall: Prepare to be disappointed. Even the farm bill will be delayed. Elmut Schmit of the Forum papers says: “Without a new farm bill, planned food stamp cuts won’t take effect. Plus, absent a new farm bill, federal law requires crop price supports to default to those in the 1949 farm bill — much higher than today for commodities such as milk and wheat, he said. (DFL Congressman. Collin) Peterson said Republicans are rolling the dice, gambling the November election delivers them the Senate and the presidency. Then they can write a farm bill to their liking – perhaps gutting the sugar and dairy programs, or slashing aid such as food stamps, he said. In the meantime, Peterson said, Republicans are seeking a 90-day extension of the 2008 farm bill.”

My thanks to Max Sparber for filling in while I was out west … failing to remember I’m not 19 anymore.