Wisconsin Living

Tag: Wisconsin Living

Right to Work

Is that FTW?

Governor Walker signed “right to work” (RTW) legislation earlier this week, which it is fair to say has led to mixed reactions among the electorate.   A Wall Street Journal piece touts the “right to work advantage,” whereas Slate.com teaser says “It has never been more painful and humiliating to be a Wisconsin Democrat.”  Owie.

(Curiously, the sign on the table in the photo is “Freedom to Work,” rather than “Right to Work”).

Right to Work laws generally allow employees to work in unionized workplaces without paying union dues. In principle, the free-rider problems caused by the elimation of compulsory union dues mitigates union bargaining power, hence lowering wages (ceteris paribus), and increasing employment.  Clearly, then, this legislation potentially has fundamental implications for employment, wages, output, and probably a whole lot of other stuff.  How is one to sort all this out?

Fortunately, Ed Dolan at EconoMonitor has taken it upon himself to sort it out for us.  He begins by providing a nice review of the history and basic logic of RTW legislation. Following that, he reaches the conclusion that, well, it’s complicated:

The bottom line is that the economic effects of RTW laws are not nearly as clear-cut as their advocates and opponents make them out to be. Correlations of RTW laws with wages and employment are economically small even when they are statistically significant. Most problematic of all is the question of causation—does RTW cause observed differences between states, or do pre-existing differences cause the passage of RTW laws?

It’s almost too bad that the effects are so benign, as RTW is a genuine political dynamo. In response to Walker’s signature, President Obama took to his Twitter feed today to “blast” the Wisconsin legislation and encourage the 25 states that don’t have RTW legislation to keep it that way.


Welcome to Wisconsin

Those of you out-of-staters venturing into Wisconsin for the first time perhaps have noticed a few things — the verdant landscape, the ubiquitous beer-drinking establishments on and around College Avenue, people wearing green and mustard yellow clothing as if that were a normal thing to do, and, of course, the Wisconsin dairy culture (so to speak).

Indeed, Wisconsin dairy farming is second to none (well, second to California, but California is really big) and the locals here embrace the cheese culture in ways that Californians could only dream.  Firstly, of course, the locals actually call themselves cheeseheads, and will go so far to wear cheese-themed headwear.

We also have something else the median Californian doesn’t see much of — winter.  As you might expect, the cheeseheads are busy looking for innovative ways to defray the considerable costs of combating roadway snow and ice.  And, as it turns out, they need look no farther than the cheese on top of their heads.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is on top of the story:

The [Milwaukee] Department of Public Works will go ahead this winter with a pilot program to determine whether cheese brine — a liquid waste product left over from cheesemaking — can be added to rock salt and applied directly to the street…

Tiny Polk County, in the northwest part of the state, has been using cheese brine since 2009. According to the city report, Polk County saved approximately $40,000 in the first year by using cheese brine as a pre-wet agent to salt or a combination of salt/sand.

It seems they spray the cheese on the ground as a primer and then dump the rock salt on top of that.  Rock salt is more expensive than cheese brine (generally, I guess) so it seems to make sense.  Except the cheese is kind of stinky, it seems.

I really liked the writing in the story and the somewhat comical undertones  (though my spell check doesn’t seem to recognize the word cheesemaking, it seems to flow quite naturally in the  Journal-Sentinel prose).  Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that cheese wasn’t the first choice — the city has been toying around with salt-brine, molasses, and beet juice as supplements to defray the cost of rock salt.  

Beet juice!?!

Next time they’ll know better.

Is Walker a Slight or a Heavy Favorite to Win the Wisconsin Recall?

Who are you going to believe?

Case 1:  According to the latest polls, “Gov. Walker Holds Slim Lead in Wisconsin, But with only one day to go the recall election appears far from decided…. Two new polls, released Sunday, have the governor out in front by a handful of percentage points, although in both surveys his lead is within the margin of error.”

Case 2: According to the “prediction market,” InTrade: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to win the 5 June 2012 recall election 93.2% CHANCE.

I’ll have much more to say about prediction markets later this summer as we head into the general election, but suffice it to say that these markets tend to be more accurate than pollsters at predicting elections.  From a Journal of Economic Perspectives piece by Justin Wolfers:

In the political domain, Berg, Forsythe, Nelson and Reitz (2001) summarize the evidence from the Iowa Electronic Markets, documenting that the market has both yielded very accurate predictions and also outperformed large scale polling organizations… (and) the accuracy of the market prediction improves as information is revealed and absorbed as the election draws closer.

That is taken a bit out of context and is comparing national polls to certain political markets, but if it was my money, I’d bet on the market.   That is, right now the polls are running between a coin toss (50-50) and a slight advantage for Walker, perhaps 3:2.  In contrast, the prediction market has Walker at about a 15:1 favorite at this point.  So, to put this in perspective, suppose someone is tossing a coin and you believe it to be a fair coin.  You can lay a $9 on heads to win $10 or $1 on tails to win $10. Which side would you bet?

In calling this one early, it would seem the credibility of prediction markets on Briggs 2nd is now riding in the balance.

What Ever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin?

Is this protected speech?

That’s the title of Monday’s panel in the Hurvis Room of the  Warch Campus Center at 6:30, and it should be a corker. Ever since the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission this past January, all you-know-what has broken loose about money in U.S. politics. The president famously called out the court in his State of the Union address, with Justice Alito brazenly mouthing the words, “not true.” And it hasn’t gotten any friendlier from there. Now, that’s entertainment!

Of course, over here in the econ department, we wonder “Why is there so little money in U.S. politics?”

The event will cover a lot of ground, including these Common Cause talking points:

  • Redistricting Reform
  • Disclosure of interest-group ads and other outside spending
  • Public Financing of Wisconsin Supreme Court and other state elections
  • Campaign Finance Reform in Wisconsin after the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United vs F.E.C.

We will welcome panalists from both sides of the aisle, including State Representatives Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) and Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah), Andrea Kaminski from the League of Women Voters, and Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin.

Given the number of co-sponsors, I’m guessing there is ample interest.  The co-sponsors are: the Lawrence Government Department, the College Republicans, the League of Women Voters of Appleton, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the Education Fund, the American Association of University Women – Appleton Branch, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans.

I am moderating the event, so I hope to see you there.