On Walker’s website and the Wall Street rabble-rousers

I’ve been slacking on my blog-posting duties of late, so I figured I’d sort through the flotsam and jetsam of my mind and assemble it – found-art style – into one of those insufferable “quick hits” columns.

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve been otherwise occupied. I had to travel to Stockholm to accept my Nobel Prize in Fruitless Sarcasm, of course. I ran out of Krugerrand polish, and as we all know, a man with an insufficiently lustrous gold hoard is scarcely a man at all. But the biggest issue has been more pressing duties at work, coupled with the fact that every episode of Arrested Development is now available on Netflix streaming. Curse you, Netflix! Unlimited entertainment for $8 a month. I can see why everyone is so angry.

  • Democrats are griping about Scott Walker’s new website, which touts the “success” of his budget repair efforts. They’re claiming it’s little more than a thinly disguised campaign site, and complain that taxpayer money shouldn’t be going to what they see as a naked attempt to fight off a mounting recall effort.

    I’m not sure whether to be angry or not. Seriously, look at the site. The way I see it, the governor either spent billions in taxpayer funds constructing a time machine so he could travel back to 1995 and build the site on Geocities, or he dropped about six bucks on a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards and had his nephew do it. Ockham’s razor tells one to always go for the simplest explanation, so I’m not that worried about it.

    More troubling is the fact that the site resurrects arguments that have long since been debunked. Take, for instance, the “Kaukauna miracle.” Supposedly, the Kaukauna School District used Walker’s reforms to turn a $400,000 deficit into a $2 million surplus. Others have done a fine job of shredding this argument (see here and here), so I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that the district’s teachers had submitted a proposal that generated almost identical savings.

    I, for one, think we should save money by refusing to teach kids the correct use of possessives, since you can apparently be elected governor without ever attaining such rarefied grammatical expertise.

    From the governor’s new website:

    “Changing insurance companies cut the districts (sic) expenses by $1 million a year alone.”

    Beautiful.

  • Not sure what to make of the Occupy Wall Streeters. On the one hand, I think it’s bonkers to talk seriously about abandoning capitalism in favor of socialism. On the other hand, I agree that capitalism needs to serve the people, and not the other way around.

    On the one hand, I think people have every right to be angry at a system that has failed them. On the other hand, I like to keep my shirt on at all times, except – and this is very relevant to the discussion – when I’m showering.

    But if there’s anything I can add, it’s this: Much has been made about the bottom 99% vs. the top 1%, but maybe we should focus more attention on the fortunes of the top .0000035% vs. the rest of us.

    It’s no secret that the distribution of wealth has become more unequal in recent decades, but it’s really starting to get ridiculous.

    Consider this: The 400 richest Americans are now wealthier than the bottom 50% combined. Forget about fairness for the moment. Is that really sane?

    And this: A study by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has concluded that a handful of transnational corporations really do control a massive share of the world economy. Sounds like something you’d see in a brochure handed to you by a protester with more Che Guevara tattoos than changes of underwear, but this news appeared in the U.K.’s New Scientist.

    From that esteemed publication:

    “From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, [the systems theorists] pulled out all 43,060 [transnational corporations] and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company’s operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power. The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1,318 companies with interlocking ownerships. …

    “When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a ‘super-entity’ of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40% of the total wealth in the network.”

    It’s become fashionable in the U.S. ca. 2011 to say that anything mega-rich individuals acquire comes to them solely through the sweat of their own brow, and that taxing the wealthy at a higher rate than everyone else is basically stealing, and merely punishes success. The implication is that the super-rich are all self-made men and women. The Wall Street occupiers would probably prefer to describe them as lucky. I see them (or many of them anyway) as extraordinary men and women who succeeded through a great deal of ingenuity, effort, and courage – as well as societal support and good fortune.

    They should be rewarded handsomely – and they are. But let’s not forget that they had lots of help from the bottom 99.9999%. Put them on an island with a box of stone tools and all the natural resources they could ever ask for and see how far they get.

  • I guess some “quick hits” are quicker than others. I’ll try to blog more frequently, unless the global capitalist machine – or Netflix – shuts me down.

    Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.