31 thoughts on “The Recall in Wisconsin: Summary Statistics

  1. JBH

    On Intrade, the probability of Walker winning has reached 96%, with upward momentum of six tenths of a percentage point per day. Alas that America cannot also have a referendum on Marxist professors and primary school teachers (not all) who are similarly purblind, biased mainstream media, and the corrupt revolving door between (a) the dual-headed Democratic-Republican party of professional politicians, (b) Wall Street money, and (c) the power of multinational corporations that lobby against the rest of America to offshore, and by stealth are hollowing out the manufacturing and support industry of this great nation. The elite revolving door writes and rewrites laws often from the bench, that ordinary Americans are then morally and ethically bound to follow, skirting and twisting out of shape from original intent many parts of the US Constitution most steps of the way. Perhaps the open discourse of the internet will offer a way forward. What is about to happen in Wisconsin, ultimately every bit as historic as president Reagan’s standdown of the air traffic controllers, is precisely such a step.

  2. 2slugbaits

    JBH If you look at the long run trend in the TPM chart, what you see is that Walker’s support has grown mainly by adding the votes of marginally engaged low information voters. That’s the GOP’s target demographic. The early polls showed that ~10% of the electorate had no opinion, while ~50% supported Barrett. Walker’s gains have come from the unengaged marginal voter.
    Just to correct the record regarding Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers, the commonly held view that Reagan fired them because they went on strike is not accurate, although that’s how most news stories characterize things. What actually happened was that the air traffic controllers threatened to go on strike but were (quite rightly) told by the Reagan Administration that this was illegal and they would go to jail. The air traffic controllers then all tried to resign. The leaders of the air traffic controllers union were then convicted on charges of resigning from the government without getting the concurrence of the government. That’s a technicality that not many people in the private sector understand. When you work for the government you are not allowed to resign or retire without the concurrence of the government. Similar to the military. Government service is in many respects a kind of indentured servitude, and that’s one very strong rationale for public sector unions. At the federal government level public sector unions do not exist in order to threaten strikes (as tj seems to believe). What public sectors mainly due is provide legal representation to make sure that the government follows its own rules when dealing with personnel issues. So when a friend of mine with a critical skill wanted to retire but the government refused to concur and he was threatened with prison if he didn’t continue to work, the union stepped in and helped work out a settlement. Or another example, such as when a BRAC action from several years ago inadvertently closed a base that had the only skillset available to disarm Pershing II missiles, those workers immediately quit to find private sector employment. Afterall, they were about to lose their jobs because the base was clsoing. They were then told to quit their new private sector jobs and return to work for the government or go to prison. (Note: The US government had just signed a treaty to dismantle the Pershings.) So when uninformed voters rail against public sector unions, that’s the kind of thing that they are actually railing against…but they’re uninformed voters so they just don’t know that’s what they’re railing against. Uninformed voters think public sector unions are just Teamster thugs dressed in business casual khakis.

  3. AS

    An interesting article appears today in the WSJ about public safety pensions in San Jose, CA. Citizens of San Jose are finding it difficult to support growth annuity pensions of $93,000 + for fire and police officers who retire much earlier than others. Interesting also, that a police officer when interviewed, said; ‘how many police officers do you want out there in their 50s?’ Most workers find a new job when they age out of one type of work, rather than retire on the taxpayer with lavish pensions. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304821304577438452821346064.html

  4. 2slugbaits

    AS As usual, Fox Noise Print Version misreads the gullible subscriber. The average (private + public) salary in San Jose is $91K, so top end pensions of $93K are not out of line.
    Firefighter salaries are not out of line with salaries in that region:
    Look at the base pay column. The total cash compensation figures for some of the top retired folks look really high…but take a closer look. Those are all figures for people who had worked in 2011 and retired during the year and elected to take cash buyouts in lieu of other compensation. Most of the regular working stiffs just earned a regular salary.
    And it’s clearly in the public interest to have reasonably well paid fire and police officers. If you don’t understand why that’s the case, then I suggest you take a trip to New Orleans where cops earn only $36K per year:
    I’m having this hysterical mental image of AS carrying 60 pounds of gear on his back while climbing a ladder to fight fires or scrape up body parts from car crashes. I doubt you would last 2 days.

  5. Alice Finkel

    Inflexibility of government sector unions are making it very difficult for governments of all sizes to balance their budgets. Just look at Greece and Detroit.
    Big changes are coming, and not to the liking of the union – political – syndicate complex.

  6. tj

    Cry me a river…Government service is in many respects a kind of indentured servitude
    From the CBO, who we like to use as the final authority around here -
    Overall, the federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector, after accounting for certain observable characteristics of workers.

  7. 2slugbaits

    tj Yes, I’ve seen that study. Federal government employment has almost always been better for those at the bottom end of the income ladder, about even for those with bachelor degrees and significantly less for those with graduate degrees. As the study notes, most of the advantage for federal workers comes from non-wage compensation, but keep in mind CBO’s qualifier:
    “These estimates of the costs of benefits are much more uncertain than the estimates of wages, primarily because the cost of defined-benefit pensions that will be paid in the future is more difficult to quantify and because less-detailed data are available about benefits than about wages.”
    The study’s timeframe includes a time when there were effectively two different pension systems, CSRS and FERS. CSRS had a very generous pension package, but in exchange for the generous pay package federal employees made about 22% less in wages. Then in 1984 FERS replaced CSRS for all new employees. FERS is a lot less generous and the federal government had a very hard time attracting workers during the 90s boom up until the Great Recession, so wages & salaries were increased to attract workers. Even with higher wages the government has had a hard time attracting workers with graduate level degrees, which is where most of the new positions are. Federal employment has been falling since the 90s, although there has been a small uptick post Great Recession:
    So the CBO study covered a peculiar period in which wages were comparable to the private sector, but average compensation was high because of the grandfathering of CSRS pension plans. FERS pension plans are roughly one-third as generous as CSRS plans. In other words, the study’s calculation of non-wage compensation is a little bit misleading because it is an average of two very different retirement systems. About as meaningful as taking the average weight of an elephant and a dog.
    But you also missed one of my main points, and that is that government workers give up a lot of rights that private sector employees do not.

  8. AS

    Most employees get an easier job when they age out and do not retire on the taxpayer. By the way to support myself while going to college, a couple past jobs of mine included working in the open hearth area of a steel mill, lifting 100 pound bags for the gunite machine and using jackhammers to break three foot think slag in hot soaking pits. I also served as a laborer for brick masons. You are such a small person I can hardly believe you can stand yourself.

  9. Menzie Chinn

    AS: Oh, wow. Gee, I worked in an anodizing plant swing shift to help pay for my college education. Does that make me a better person than somebody who worked flipping burgers to get through college?

  10. AS

    Professor Chinn,
    I did not say I was a better person. I was responding to the comment from 2slugs about not being up to the job of doing hard physical work. He tends to use ad hominem attacks and miss the point on most posts that do not agree with his political views. The point about certain government pensions is that the taxpayer does not feel they are affordable anymore due to the enhancements over the past many years. San Jose is one of the cities that may vote big changes in benefits and wages as mentioned in the WSJ article. And as I said, other than government workers, the usual action upon aging-out of hard jobs is to find an easier job in old age not retire at age 50 on the taxpayer with a generous inflation adjusted pension.

  11. tj

    What would the weighted average look like for public sector workers with weights applied by level of education? I would guess the vast majority of public sector jobs are bachelors degree or less.
    Public sector workers know their rights when they are hired. What you refer to as indentured servitude, most would call job security.

  12. Menzie Chinn

    AS: OK, I see. Since we are all anonymous, I agree it would behoove us all to restrain comments on personal attributes. That being said, it is one thing to do hard manual labor of the sort mentioned when 20 or 30; and yet another when 45 or 50. Then one can reasonably ask, if one has trained to be a fireman, and has stayed in that position all one’s life until 50, what options one has at the point (computer programming, new career as a math professor? Possible – yes; likely? I don’t know).

  13. tew

    JBH would have us believe that public sector unions only exist to ensure the government carries out its own rules and to make sure government workers can quit their jobs.
    JBH then accuses people of being “low information” / uninformed if they don’t understand this.
    What nonsense. The public sector unions lobby for the rules themselves. They lobby for pay. They lobby for work rules. They lobby for pensions. They lobby for perks. They spend money influencing and intimidating elected officials just like corporations do.
    Were their agenda strictly limited to enforcing rules there would be no need for a full strength union.
    Anyone who swallows JBH’s line hook, line and sinker is indeed uninformed.

  14. Rick Stryker

    Where do you get your history? First, you think the 2004 GSE hearings were about subprime and now this? Close to 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike on Aug 3, 1981. Picket lines were formed around major airports and non-strikers had to cross these lines. Reagan fired 11,345 workers on Aug 5 for refusing to return to work.
    PATCO was not formed to provide legal representation for workers in rule disputes with the government. It was attempting to get serious concessions and benefits for its members. The so-called uninformed voter understands that far better than you apparently do.

  15. 2slugbaits

    AS I’m sure that many of us worked physically demanding jobs when we were young. Fresh out of high school and college aged I worked a sewer and water job literally digging ditches and lugging around sewer pipes. Fun work when you’re 18…not so much fun at my age today. It’s the same thing with firefighters. That’s also one of the rationales for generous pensions for retired military. One of the dirty secrets about the Iraq war is the shocking number of heart attacks suffered by deployed military and civilian personnel who were probably too old to be in uniform.
    tj Public sector workers know their rights when they are hired.
    Taxpayers also knew the future costs when they decided to move towards deferred compensation in lieu of higher wages.
    The most recent data I have is from 2008, and it says that 44.3% of the federal workforce had a bachelors degree or higher. That’s a lot higher than the private sector.
    Remember, salaries for those with a bachelors degree were almost identical to those in the private sector. The difference was in the non-wage compensaton. But as CBO admitted, that non-wage compensation calculation was dicey because it conflated different retirement packages. Here’s something from factcheck.org that explains some of the confusion regarding non-wage compensation:
    Rich Stryker No one said the PATCO workers weren’t separated from government service; my point was that before going on “strike” they tried to resign so as not to be in technical violation of the law. Reagan was able to “fire” them precisely because he refused to accept their prior resignations. And that was the legal grounds for imprisoning the PATCO leaders.

  16. Rick Stryker

    No, you are attempting to change your point. You said
    “the commonly held view that Reagan fired them because they went on strike is not accurate, although that’s how most news stories characterize things.”
    But 11,345 strikers were fired because they went on strike not because they tried to resign. Also, despite the misgivings of some in the Reagan Administration, the Justice Dept sent federal marshals to picket lines, union halls, and private homes. In the end, 78 strike leaders were prosecuted for either illegally striking or failing to obey court orders to return to work. And not all of them were imprisoned either. Some plea bargained, some got probation, some got minor jail terms, and some had charges dropped.
    Your facts are just wrong. The “uniformed” voter is on to this, which is why Walker is going to prevail.

  17. tj

    Your gyrations are entertaining. You are citing lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to try to refute the CBO results. They are pretty straightforward, they add those caveats to add cover for their left leaning friends. There were plenty of footnotes to CBO scoring of Obama policy, but I didn’t see you going through outrageous histrionics to show how wrong the CBO was when the results favor your point of view.
    Menzie – Then one can reasonably ask, if one has trained to be a fireman, and has stayed in that position all one’s life until 50…
    After 30 years of service, (age 20-50) firefighters can retire with full pension, so your point is moot.

  18. Buzzcut

    Thank GOD this is going to be over today.
    You know, this is an ECONOMICS blog, right? No mentioning of the RECORD LOW 10 year T-bill rate?

  19. Menzie Chinn

    tj: Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the point of this thread was debating the view it’s okay to cut pensions for firemen, etc., at age 50 because they could just go out and get another job after thirty years fighting fires? So I don’t think the point is moot.

  20. Equityval

    Not sure what polls TPM was using, but those results were nothing like the ones on real clear politics and nothing like the blowout that actually occurred in the election.
    Menzie, your side lost big. There is a new conversation that is going to happen between taxpayers and public sector unions across the country.

  21. Robert

    Wow! Looks like slackards in Wisconsin got their heads handed to them tonight. So Menzie, you gonna teach an extra course next year given that there are no slackards like those at UW?

  22. Jim Glass

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the point of this thread was debating the view it’s okay to cut pensions for firemen, etc., at age 50
    As a member of the general tax-paying public, I thought the issue was why they should be able to retire at age 50 at all. None of us can.
    As to the polls, yes, RCP was *far* closer to reality all along. How TPM’s numbers were so different (and wrong) until the very last two days is really striking. File for reference when tracking future poll results.
    Well, FDR was famously opposed to public sector unions — calling the thought of strikes by public sector employees “unthinkable and intolerable” — and Wisconsin’s were the first, so at least he’s smiling wherever he is. Though here in NYC, all the govt unions that sent members to Wisconsin to work the voters are lamenting.
    But all is not lost. The unions still rule, and with a strong hand here — laws against public sector strikes be damned! — here in Gotham, which by itself has a population millions more than all of Wisconsin, so the fight will go on. And on.

  23. Equityval

    The silence on this thread is deafening.
    By my count, there are 32 posts by Menzie related to Walker and Wisconson starting with “Cairo has come to Wisconsin” [Not so much, BTW], all of which either promoted the perspective of labor or presented Walker’s job performance in the worst light possible. So given all of these arguments for labor’s point of view, what’s the take-away from the election?
    Menzie, since you obviously felt this was an important topic to comment upon, is there no post mortem, so to speak? Or are you in the MSNBC-Wisconsin-is-Roswell-New-Mexico crowd, “what you thought you saw didn’t really happen, move along please or we’ll use our progressive neuralyzer on you”? Has the Walker recall become the crazy aunt in the attic that progressives can no longer discuss?
    We all await your lessons learned. (Also feel free to comment on the two pension related ballot initiatives in California.)

  24. Menzie Chinn

    Equityval: I have been in rural Vermont since Sunday, with intermittent wireless access, on what is called a vacation (well, my wife is teaching music composition, but I am liberated from grading/problem set/exam writing). I only happen to have easy access now in a layover at the airport.

    Next week, check into this CAP event, “Assessing the Austerity Experiment”, where I’ll provide my thoughts on how contractionary fiscal policy impacts Wisconsin and the broader national economy. But for now, suffice to say the state will experience more redistribution from poor to rich, and continued evisceration of K-12 education. I’m sure there are many who will rejoice at that outcome.

    [This comment typed on my personal laptop!]

  25. colonelmoore

    A city council 8:3 Democrat:Republican in San Jose where every elected state or federal elected official is a Democrat put a reform on the ballot that is more radical than Wisconsin’s in many ways and the voters who are registered Democrats by a large majority passed it overwhelmingly.
    It is clear from San Jose’s and San Diego’s results that the changes taking place cross party lines.

  26. Equityval

    Responses (or more accurately non-responses) like that will chase your readers away pretty quickly. The recall was the second most important election in the country this year, a referendum on whether public sector unions should continue to have collective bargaining rights with which to negotiate sweetheart compensation agreements with pliant politicians grubbing for votes and campaign cash. The answer was a resounding no, both in Wisconsin, and in California, as colonelmoore has pointed out up thread. Your response is an attempt to distract the reader with a Krugmanesque rant about austerity and ruining public education. Sorry, Menzie, there is a elephant in the middle of the room that you just walked around. This blog has a reputation as being a place where serious issues are discussed and debated with a lot of integrity in that effort. Responses like this are completely inconsistent with that reputation. It will make me far less likely to read your posts, which I have in the past even though I don’t agree with many of them. Pretending doesn’t make the issue go away.
    PS: Next time you find yourself in a remote location with “intermittent wireless access”, can I suggest you seek out the local public libary? Thanks to a tax that Al Gore (you know the guy who invented the Internet) insisted be placed on every single phone in the country, every libarary in the country has an internet connection and probably several PCs with working browsers. That way you can keep up with what’s going on with your own blog and dispense with the Verizon/AT&T-sucks-can’t-type-on-my-iPhone excuse.

  27. Menzie Chinn

    Equityval: Jawohl! Next time I surely will hop to it and reply to our post immediately. (Man, you have a lot of pent up anger!) For now, my thoughts go up in a new post, rather than responding to you. Note that this is not a political assessment (I leave that to the political scientists), but rather a look at the macro implications of the various policies implemented, and the resulting outlook.

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