Wisconsin is Definitely Off My Retirement List

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Fools of Finance

Actually, Wisconsin was never on my list of possible retirement destinations but just to make sure I had enough reasons not to move there, the unions stepped up.

Wisconsin has lots of cheese and the beloved Packers. I’m struggling to think of the other good stuff up there. Even Harley-Davidson has lost a lot of its luster.

On the negative side of the retirement balance sheet is the lousy weather.  Also, Wisconsin’s tax burden is way above the national average. From the Tax Foundation:

For the past three decades Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden has consistently ranked among the nation’s highest; currently estimated at 11.0% of income (4th nationally), above the national average of 9.8%. Compared to the 1977 data, Wisconsin had a tax burden of 12.6% (2nd nationally), decreasing 1.6% overall. Currently Wisconsin taxpayers pay $4,427 per capita in state and local taxes.

At least the people in Wisconsin are well-fed, as in lots of calories consumed. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, since 1990, the obesity rate for adults has more than doubled. Almost 27% of cheeseheads are obese and about 65% are either overweight or obese. Being fat is a universal problem for our country, of course.

Maybe agitating folks to wander around the Wisconsin state capitol waving signs is actually a clever health promotion tactic implemented by the government?

I suppose this will add to the list of readers I have alienated with my version of the geographic hard truth, including Californians and the folks who haven’t yet been able to escape from Detroit.

So if the cheeseheads are cold, over-weight, over-taxed, and facing a huge budget deficit, exactly what good are the unions doing for them? Is that a fair question?

I’m very much looking forward to watching (from outside the state) the Wisconsin scenario play out.


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5 Responses to “Wisconsin is Definitely Off My Retirement List”
  1. Adam says:

    These protests aren’t about the teachers being asked to pay more for health care and retirement (they agreed to those changes). It’s about Walker destroying the collective bargaining rights and making several other unpalatable changes. His union-busting has nothing to do with the budget and everything to do with enacting his own anti-union viewpoints.

    He’s also drastically altering the state Medicaid program (Badgercare) and giving himself power over the Board of Regents of UW Madison.

    Wisconsin has high taxes, but the budget shortfalls aren’t from unfunded pension liabilities. The pension fund of the state was almost fully funded (I heard 97% was the number) as opposed to other states, with lower taxes, that are facing a pension implosion.

    Wisconsin isn’t my favorite state (I moved here for work), but Walker’s agenda is pretty radical for this state, and teachers have just as much right to protest as everyone else. And they should protest over the radical changes to the terms under which they were hired. This move is patently unfair, whether or not you are anti-union.

  2. Brandy says:

    I suppose looking at Wisconsin from the outside it sure doesn’t seem like any place worth living. I have lived in different states but always come back home. Our taxes have always been high but now we have a fighting chance to change our destiny. Scott Walker is not going to back down from the union. They have been destroying our state for the last 40 years. They are takers not makers. I do not know if the pension is fully funded but I do know that we(taxpayers)are tired of paying a ridiculous amount of money for state employee benefits. My nephew just started with the state last month he receives 21 days vacation, a $25.00 a month health care premium and will have a pension.

    Don’t be confused by what you see on tv. Yes people are upset but they also are finding out what the unions have bargained for and are very angry. When we elected Scott Walker we knew things were going to change for the better.

  3. Rick Beagle says:

    Are you really implying that the ills of Wisconsin are all the fault of the union there? Honestly? What happened to Tough Money Love? Why are you so mentally lazy when it comes to unions?

    Whatever, figured I would add this new wrinkle in the Wisconsin debate. Seems the conservatives are suggesting that violence be committed and the blame placed at the feet of the unions in an effort to turn media sympathy away from the unions.

    Disgusting.

    Email to Walker suggested faking violence (original story)
    Posted on March 24, 2011 by Kate Golden

    Carlos Lam, a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Ind., says he did not write the email from his account encouraging Gov. Scott Walker to fake an attack against himself. Photo from a video debate posted at 3 Left Turns Make a Right.
    Indiana prosecutor denies encouraging Wisconsin violence

    By Kate Golden
    Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
    ***
    Updated 3:59 p.m. Carlos Lam has admitted writing the email and resigned as deputy prosecutor of Johnson County, according to a statement from the Johnson County Prosecutor.
    The new, post-resignation version of the story is here.
    ***
    The email came to Gov. Scott Walker from the personal account of a deputy prosecutor and Republican activist in Indiana.
    After praise for Walker, the email — sent Feb. 19, during union demonstrations against Walker’s budget repair bill — then took a darker turn. It suggested that the situation in Wisconsin presented “a good opportunity for what’s called a ‘false flag’ operation.”
    “If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions,” the email said.
    “Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”
    Email headers with detailed IP addresses suggest that the message was sent from Indianapolis.
    But Carlos F. Lam, the deputy Johnson County, Ind., prosecutor and an Indianapolis resident, said he never wrote it.
    Reached Tuesday by phone at the number listed on the email, Lam confirmed his email address matched the Hotmail address appearing on the Walker email, but said he had never written to Walker.
    “I am flabbergasted and would never advocate for something like this, and would like everyone to be sure that that’s just not me,” he said, after being read the email.

    Indiana deputy prosecutor Carlos Lam confirms this email appears to be from his email address, but he denies sending it. Click to see a larger version in a new page.
    Asked his views on Scott Walker, Lam said, “I think he’s trying to do what he has to do to get his budget balanced. But jeez, that’s taking it a little bit to the extreme,” he said of the email’s suggestion to fake violence. “Jeez!”
    Lam said he hasn’t filed a police report, but he intends to do so by the end of the week.
    He said he was minivan-shopping with his family when the email was sent.
    Walker’s bill to balance the budget and strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees was introduced Feb. 11 and triggered protests involving tens of thousands of people at the Capitol for weeks.
    The email was sent the same Saturday on which another Indiana law-enforcement figure, state Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox, tweeted that riot police should “use live ammunition” to clear the Capitol of protesters.
    Cox was fired Feb. 23 after Mother Jones magazine published the suggestion from his private Twitter account.
    The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism discovered the email to Walker among tens of thousands released to media organizations last week as part of an open-records lawsuit settlement with Isthmus and the Associated Press. It was in a folder produced by the governor’s office called “Pro,” full of emails supporting the governor’s budget repair bill.
    A lawyer in the governor’s office, Nate Ristow, said most of the emails to Walker were sorted into folders automatically by a computer, though some were added to the folders manually.
    What’s a false flag operation?

    The expression derives from the naval practice of flying another country’s flag to deceive one’s enemy. It was used in World War II several times, as when the British dressed up a U.S. destroyer, the Campbelltown, as a German sub-chaser. That allowed them to get close enough to the German-held dry-dock at St. Nazairre to blow it up.
    It’s been used to describe political activities, too. An aide to Republican Congressman Charlie Bass resigned in 2006 after posing as a supporter of a Bass opponent and posting discouraging messages on political websites.
    Cullen Werwie, Walker’s press secretary, said no one at the office had seen the email or contacted Lam. Werwie condemned the email’s suggestions Monday in a statement to the Center.
    “Certainly we do not support the actions suggested in (the) email. Governor Walker has said time and again that the protesters have every right to have their voice heard, and for the most part the protests have been peaceful. We are hopeful that the tradition will continue,” Werwie wrote.
    On Feb. 22, when a prank-caller posing as major Walker campaign donor David Koch suggested planting troublemakers in the crowd, Walker began by saying, “Well, the only problem with that — because we thought about that,” but ultimately said he’d decided it was a bad idea.
    “My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems,” Walker told the blogger.
    Walker’s comments troubled Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
    “I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers,” Wray said in a statement at the time.
    Lam, who asked that his name not be used, said he was particularly concerned since “the person who wrote this seems to know a lot about me” and his account “had been hacked in the past.” After being read the email, he said he took down his Facebook page, changed his cell phone number, email passwords, “library, medical, bank, student loan, and a whole host of records,” and was afraid for his and his family’s safety.
    Madison Police Det. Cindy Murphy said that if Lam’s account was hacked and his identity was stolen, either Wisconsin or Indiana could have jurisdiction over that crime. If he filed a complaint, it would be straightforward to request information from Hotmail and Lam’s Internet service provider (ISP) about the location of the computer logged into his account when the email was sent, said Murphy, who specializes in computer forensics.
    “If we run all this down and it does turn out that he was hacked into, then he is a victim, and he should be outraged — and somebody should be held responsible,” she said. “And no one can fake the data that’s held by the ISPs.”
    Prosecutor outspoken about conservative views
    All the information about Lam in the email was available online, including his email and phone number.
    His blog posts, video appearances and comments on the Internet paint the picture of an outspoken, politically active, longtime Republican who has publicly lambasted collective bargaining for state employee unions and alluded to government taxation as “essentially taking money at gunpoint.”

    Carlos Lam’s comments online are consistent with some of the sentiments in the email, which he denies sending. Click for a larger version. Image: Screengrab from SeekingAlpha.com.
    In one of his 1,306 comments on a stock investors’ site, Lam called Indiana “an unsustainable public worker gravy train bubble.” In another, he said “unions & companies that feed at the gov’t trough will fight tooth & nail against anything that un-feathers their nests.”
    Lam wrote in his account profile there that he “believes that to truly prosper as the republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers, we must return to principles of sound money and limited government. He has his own ‘3G network’ that is quite apart from Apple: guns, gold and gasoline.’ ”
    After reviewing the email to Walker, Erik Guenther, a criminal defense and constitutional lawyer at the Madison law firm of Hurley, Burish and Stanton, said that if the writer were to participate in devising such a scheme, he could be held accountable for conspiracy to obstruct justice — “but an unsolicited and idiotic suggestion itself probably is not a crime.”
    Madison criminal defense lawyer Michael Short said that if Lam wrote the email, he should be investigated for a possible breach of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, for “suggesting that officials in the Walker administration commit a felony,” namely, misconduct in public office.
    Those rules state that “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” amount to professional misconduct. They are the rules to which lawyers are held accountable by the Indiana lawyer discipline system.
    But Lam’s boss, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper, adamantly defended Lam, whom he has known for most of his career.
    The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and other news media. Kate Golden is at kgolden@wisconsinwatch.org.

  4. Rick Beagle says:

    “I suppose looking at Wisconsin from the outside it sure doesn’t seem like any place worth living. I have lived in different states but always come back home. Our taxes have always been high but now we have a fighting chance to change our destiny. Scott Walker is not going to back down from the union. They have been destroying our state for the last 40 years. They are takers not makers. I do not know if the pension is fully funded but I do know that we(taxpayers)are tired of paying a ridiculous amount of money for state employee benefits. My nephew just started with the state last month he receives 21 days vacation, a $25.00 a month health care premium and will have a pension.

    Don’t be confused by what you see on tv. Yes people are upset but they also are finding out what the unions have bargained for and are very angry. When we elected Scott Walker we knew things were going to change for the better.?!”

    Could you be any more myopic? Unions are responsible for your taxes and budget woes? Geez, get a freaking clue. How is that recall going? Oh, and want to thank Wisconsin for helping a lunatic attack medicare and medicaid. When you guys vote poorly, you really go all out don’t you?

    The Repubs are trying to incite violence to pin on unions, and are ignoring the courts, but they are going to make changes for the better in Wisconsin?! Seriously, you need to step outside and take a good look around. GE (I believe the world’s largest corporation) pays ZERO taxes, but you are pissed because your nephew has a good health plan and a pension? What the hell is wrong with you? We should all be so lucky, but jealous morons like you keep standing in the way of POSITIVE steps forward, while incredulously supporting the very same people actually responsible for your woes.

    Amazing. Wisconsin (I have been there, good people) is better and smarter than this. I know the Tea Party got you all confused, but it is time to come to your senses folks.

    Peace.

  5. Chris says:

    You’re totally right! I live in Madison and it is ridiculous here. I was born in WI but moved here recently from San Francisco. Unions have already wrecked this state. Since I’m a capitalist, I can say that nearly every good business that has started here has either left or threatened to leave because of unions.

    Oh, and if it weren’t for family here, I would be long gone. I pay more property taxes here on my house than I paid on an entire apartment complex in California!

    People have seriously lost their minds here in Madison. However, the rest of the state is much more “normal”.

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