Friday, November 21, 2014

TGI Michigan PoliLinks

The Curmudgeon wraps up his week preparing the official launch of the holiday season in Lansing, Silver Bells in the City, highlighted by the lighting of the state's official Christmas tree. Silver Bells has traditionally also been the launch of the Michigan Crappy Weather season. Sadly that has come early. Pure Michigan is, along with the rest of the nation, seeing another wild weather swing that climatologists told us years ago would be a part of global climate change. Brrrrrr! But at least The Curmudgeon won't be shivering in the stands of Spartan Stadium or "The Big House" tomorrow...

More on Gerrymandering

An article on the Koch-funded Mackinac Center's blog claims gerrymandering isn't the reason for Republican dominance of the state Legislature. This flies in the face of the fact that Democrats won more votes, in total, for the state House yet actually lost seats (now with a 63-47 GOP majority), and Republicans won 50.7% of the vote for state Senate, and turned that into a 27-11 (71%) majority of members.
It's because of Wayne County, say the election-rigging defenders. The Wayne County vote distorts everything, so really the system is fair.
So The Curmudgeon decided to test this theory. He recalculated Michigan's legislative voting, but eliminated all Wayne County districts from the vote. And he found that gerrymandering was very much at play: Republicans jammed Democrats into as few districts as possible in order to win as many GOP seats as possible:

                                 Votes         Seats Won     Avg. Victory Margin
Democrats     47.6%   30(33%)   8,845
Republicans   52.3%   60(67%)   6,416

                                 Votes         Seats Won     Avg. Victory Margin
Democrats     45.4%    5(16%)   34,254
Republicans   54.5%   26(84%)   14,478

Immigration Reform

What if a tree falls in the woods, but there's nobody there to hear it. Does it make a sound?
What if a President makes a major policy announcement, and the broadcast networks ignore it. Does it still count?
Shame on ABC, NBC, CBS and (of course) Fox for not carrying the President Obama's speech. There is going to be a major debate on the President's actions, perhaps even resulting in efforts to shut down the federal government and/or impeach the President. It would be nice to begin the debate with an informed electorate. But apparently Grey's Anatomy and The Big Bang Theory are more in the public interest than a major domestic policy speech by the leader of the Free World.

In case you missed the speech, you can watch it in its entirety here.

Public Pensions, Private Profit

The Washington Post offers a surprising and sad analysis of public pension fund investments, noting that the money invested to protect the retirement of public employees is helping finance the loss of their jobs.
Getting shafted by the pension that is
supposed to protect him
An example: the pension fund of Chelmsford, Massachusetts schools invests in a private firm called Aramark. (You may have heard of Aramark. It's the company that has brought maggots, illicit drugs, sex-with-prisoners and murder-for-hire into Michigan's prisons through its eclectic food services.)
Aramark contracted with the school district to replace the district's custodians ($25/hour) with Aramark employees ($12.50/hour). The result: Aramark profits, reduced costs for the school district, and a lot of janitors taking it in the ass.
This pattern is surprisingly pervasive: The retirement funds of firefighters, teachers, prison guards and others are invested in private firefighting companies, private public-school-service companies and private prisons. These companies may offer the promise of high investment returns, but they may achieve those returns at the expense of the public employees themselves.

The Obama Recovery Moving into High Gear

For the last five years, the U.S. economy has been recovering from The Great Recession of 2008. We have had 55 consecutive months of private-sector job growth (the longest streak in history), unemployment is below pre-recession rates, the stock market is at record levels and (most importantly for Michigan) automobile sales have rebounded to pre-recession levels.
The University of Michigan's economic research folks say things are poised to get much better. In a report issued yesterday, the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics (RSQE) project GDP increasing from a rate of around 2.7% in 2014 to 3.1% next year, the first annual reading above 3% since 2005. RSQE projects a gain of more than 5.5-million jobs in the next two years, with light vehicle sales growing from 16-million this year to 16.3-million in 2015.

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