Tag Archives: middle class

Trump budget threatens dream of buying, owning a home

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin Chair Noel Halvorsen issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s budget proposal which would eliminate the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, commonly referred to as NeighborWorks America:

The proposal by the White House will have a detrimental impact on people in every part of Wisconsin when it comes to achieving and maintaining homeownership.

Communities throughout Wisconsin have experienced positive economic impact from the housing and community development activities provided by the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin, which is made up of six groups all chartered by NeighborWorks America.

In our most recent Economic Impact Study, it showed that in 2014 the impact of homeownership services and development activities from the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin sustained 495 jobs and generated more than $69.17 million in economic activity.

These findings demonstrate the value of NeighborWorks organizations in supporting homeownership and community development.

Losing NeighborWorks America would be a tremendous setback for communities across Wisconsin.

Although the agency’s budget is small, less than three thousandths of a percent of the federal budget, the 1.4 million that came to Wisconsin in 2016 was leveraged into tens of millions of direct investment in homes and neighborhoods and generated $13.8 million in real estate and income tax revenue at all levels of government.

Unfortunately, the White House proposal goes even further and includes elimination of:

• the HOME program.

• CDBG.

• CDFI.

• Funding for Habitat, Enterprise, LISC, and more.

Essentially, the budget proposal empties the federal toolbox for underserved market housing investment  and community revitalization.

That would mean fewer Wisconsin families buying homes and less renovation of blighted houses in at-risk neighborhoods.

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin calls on Congress to reject the president’s proposal and craft a budget that maintains NeighborWorks America and other critical agencies and programs that help families achieve and maintain the American Dream and help all of us build stronger communities.

Wisconsin Dems introduce legislation to expand overtime pay law

Legislation to bring Wisconsin’s overtime pay law in line with existing salaries and the current cost of living was introduced by state Sen. Dave Hansen and state Rep. Cory Mason, both Democrats.

The legislation was first introduced in 2015 by Sen. Julie Lassa and Rep. Andy Jorgenson.

Wisconsin’s middle class has shrunk faster than any other state in the nation between 2000 and 2013.  In just 13 years, real median household incomes fell almost $9,000 or 15 percent.  A Gallup poll found that salaried Americans are working an average of 47 hours a week, with 18 percent working more than 60 hours per week.

“Under this governor and Republican leadership, it is the wealthy who are making out,” Hansen said.

In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour they worked over 40 hours a week. By 2013, only 11 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay.

Mason said, “Setting Wisconsin’s threshold at a realistic administrative salary of $970 per week or $50,440 a year would more than 80,000 more Wisconsin workers will be eligible for overtime and that Wisconsin workers would be paid fairly for the hours they work and help them regain the purchasing power their parents had 40 years ago.”

Wisconsin’s threshold has not been updated since 1977, meaning that under current state law anyone making more than $9,000 a year would be considered “white collar” and ineligible for the overtime pay they deserve.

Federal law hasn’t been adjusted in more than 10 years.

How Trump’s and Clinton’s tax policy would affect your wallet

For America’s wealthiest families, the presidential campaign presents a stark choice when it comes to tax policy: A big tax increase if Hillary Clinton wins the election — or a big tax cut if Donald Trump wins.

For everyone else? Right now, neither candidate is proposing major tax changes.

Tax policy is probably where the two nominees differ the most. On trade, Clinton has backed off her previous support for free trade agreements and, like Trump, now opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact involving the U.S. and 11 other nations.

And Trump has said he would spend twice as much on building and repairing roads, airports and other infrastructure as Clinton would.

On trade and infrastructure spending, Trump has taken a populist approach that jettisons Republican orthodoxy. But on tax policy, his proposed tax cuts for individuals and businesses are more in line with previous Republican candidates and elected officials.

Clinton, for her part, is proposing to raise taxes for the wealthiest households to pay for traditional Democratic proposals such as expanding access to higher education.

“Here, at least, they fall into very much traditional Democratic and Republican proposals,” said William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute.

Yet on taxes, the two candidates remain far apart. Here are summaries of their proposals:

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TAXES ON HIGHER INCOMES

TRUMP: His tax policy would cut the top income tax bracket to 33 percent from its current level of 39.6 percent. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has made the same proposal, which the conservative Tax Foundation said would help boost after-tax income for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans by 5.3 percent. Trump updated his tax proposal in a speech last week in Detroit, and hasn’t yet released many details. Tax experts haven’t been able to evaluate his proposals as a result.

CLINTON: She is proposing several tax increases on wealthier Americans, including a 4 percent surcharge on incomes above $5 million, effectively creating a new top bracket of 43.6 percent. And those earning more than $1 million a year would be subject to a minimum 30 percent tax rate. She would also cap the value of many tax deductions for wealthier taxpayers. All the changes would increase taxes in 2017 for the richest 1 percent by $78,284, reducing their after-tax income by 5 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.

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TAXES ON MIDDLE INCOMES

TRUMP: Would reduce the seven tax brackets in current law to three, at 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent. Using the Tax Foundation’s evaluation of the House Republican plan, which includes the same brackets, the change would lift after-tax incomes for the bottom 80 percent of income earners — those earning less than about $195,000 a year — by just 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.

CLINTON: Says she will not raise taxes on the middle class. Her current proposals would have little impact on the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center.

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CORPORATE TAX RATE

TRUMP: Would cut the corporate rate from its current 35 percent to 15 percent. He would also cut taxes on “pass-through” business income from partnerships such as law firms to 15 percent. More than two-thirds of “pass-through” income flows to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

CLINTON: Would not change the corporate tax rate.

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“CARRIED INTEREST” LOOPHOLE

TRUMP: Managers for private equity firms and hedge funds can classify their investment profits as “carried interest” and pay capital gains taxes on their income at rates that can be as low as half the regular income tax rate. Trump says he would eliminate the loophole, but hedge fund and private equity managers would be able to pay even lower tax rates under his proposal to cut business taxes to just 15 percent.

CLINTON: Would eliminate the loophole and tax carried interest as ordinary income.

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ESTATE TAXES

TRUMP: Would eliminate the so-called “death tax” on that is currently levied on estates worth more than $5.45 million ($10.9 million for married couples).

CLINTON: Would increase the estate tax to 45 percent from 40 percent and apply it to more estates, starting with those worth $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples).

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CORPORATE INVERSIONS

TRUMP: Says his steep cut in the corporate tax rate would end the practice of corporate “inversions,” which occur when a U.S. company acquires a foreign corporation, then relocates overseas, to avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes. The U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent is the highest in the developed world, though many companies use deductions and other strategies to avoid paying that amount.

CLINTON: Would discourage inversions by making it harder for a U.S. company to classify itself as a foreign-owned to avoid U.S. taxation. She would also place an “exit tax” on companies that leave the U.S. while still keeping earnings overseas that haven’t been subject to U.S. tax.

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CHILD CARE

TRUMP: Wants to make all child care costs tax-deductible. Would allow the deduction to apply to Social Security and Medicare taxes to benefit lower-income earners who pay little or no income tax. Current law allows parents to deduct up to $6,000 in child care expenses.

CLINTON: Has made several proposals intended to help limit child care expenses to 10 percent of a family’s income, but hasn’t proposed using the tax code to achieve that goal.

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SOCIAL SECURITY

TRUMP: Would allow taxpayers to deduct child care costs from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

CLINTON: Says she will ask the wealthiest to “contribute more” to Social Security, by raising the cap on income currently subject to Social Security taxes, but has not released any details.

 

Total U.S. wealth doubled between 1989 and 2013, but probably not your family’s wealth

Total wealth in the United States doubled between 1989 and 2013, but the wealth of  families in the middle of the economy barely budged during that period.

This finding comes from a new report prepared by the Congressional Budget Office for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who waged a hard-fought battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Over the period from 1989 through 2013, family wealth grew at significantly different rates for different segments of the U.S. population,” CBO wrote. “The distribution of wealth among the nation’s families was more unequal in 2013 than it had been in 1989.”

Sanders, in a press statement, said, “The reality, as this report makes clear, is that since the 1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. There is something profoundly wrong when the rich keep getting richer and virtually everyone else gets poorer. That is unacceptable, and that has got to change.”

As of 2013, the top 10 percent of families owned three-quarters of total family wealth in the United States. The average wealth of the top 10 percent was $4 million, but families in the bottom 25 percent were $13,000 in debt on average, according to the CBO report.

More about the numbers

Since 1989, the amount owed by indebted U.S. families tripled. In 2013, families in the bottom 25 percent were $13,000 in debt, on average, whereas they had virtually no debt in 2001. A total of 15 million families were in debt in 2013, with an average indebtedness of $32,000.

Higher education plays a role in determining family wealth, according to the report. In 2013, households headed by someone with a college degree had four times more wealth than households headed by an individual with a high school degree.

Yet student loan debt was largely responsible for the increase in debt among the bottom 25 percent of families. Between 2007 and 2013 “the share of families with student debt increased from 25 percent to 36 percent, and the average amount increased from $24,000 to $36,000,” CBO wrote. The percentage of indebted families with outstanding student debt rose from 56 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2013, and their average student loan balances increased from $29,000 to $41,000.

“If we are going to reduce wealth inequality in this country, we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free and substantially lower student loan interest rates so that millions of young people do not leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades,” Sanders stated.

DIVIDED AMERICA: Rosy economic averages bypass many in US

Dozens of FedEx jets queue up for takeoff at the airport here in Memphis, Tennessee. Beale Street, the heart of the music district, hums with tourists. Yet the empty storefronts in Memphis’ moribund downtown and the cash-advance shops strewn near its highways tell another story.

It’s a tale of two cities, all in one place. And it’s a tale of two Americas: the one that national averages indicate has all but recovered from the Great Recession and the one lost in the statistics.

The pattern is evident in cities and towns across America, from Memphis to Colorado Springs, Colorado, from Wichita to Jacksonville: The national numbers aren’t capturing the experience of many typical people in typical communities.

         This story is part of Divided America, AP’s ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions in American society.

A key reason is that pay and wealth are flowing disproportionately to the rich, skewing the data used to measure economic health — and producing an economy on paper that most Americans don’t recognize in their own lives. That disconnect has fueled much of the frustration and anxiety that have propelled the insurgent presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Again and again, primary voters who were most worried about the economy told pollsters that they had cast their ballots for Trump or Sanders, according to Edison Research, which conducted the surveys on behalf of The Associated Press and television networks.

Trump’s candidacy, in particular, has been driven by support in some of the most economically distressed regions in the country, where jobs have been automated, eliminated, or moved to other states and countries. It’s in these places that the outsider message of an unconventional candidate promising a return to the way things used to be resonates most.

Mike Williams earns $22 an hour as a maintenance worker at an Owens-Corning factory, along with health care and retirement benefits. But after a recent raise, his hourly pay has only recently returned to where it was a decade ago, when he worked as a welder.

“I feel like I’m going backward rather than forward,” Williams, 51, said on a recent afternoon after finishing his shift.

In March, Williams voted for Trump in the state’s primary, which the real estate billionaire won easily. One reason he backed Trump, he said, is he feels less secure than in the past, when more manufacturing work was available.

“I remember when you could quit a job today and go to work somewhere else tomorrow,” Williams said.

After seven years of national economic expansion _ to the point where the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates again _ the depth of such insecurity across America has caught many observers off guard.

Said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust and former economist at the Federal Reserve: “The averages certainly don’t tell the whole story.”

Consider incomes for the average U.S. household. They ticked up 0.7 percent from 2008 to 2014, after taking inflation into account. But even that scant increase reflected mainly the rise in income for the richest tenth of households, which pulled up the average. For most others, incomes actually decreased _ as much as 6 percent for the bottom 20 percent, at a time when the economy was mostly recovering.

In Memphis, hiring resumed after the recession and the unemployment rate has declined to match the national figure of 5 percent. Yet those figures, too, obscure as much as they reveal: Many of the new jobs, in Memphis and elsewhere, are in lower-paying industries and are more likely to be part time or temporary.

In Millington, a Memphis suburb where Trump held a rally in February at a military airfield, residents complain that most of the available jobs are in the fast-food chains that dot Highway 51, the main thoroughfare.

The U.S. economy has added a healthy average of roughly 200,000 jobs a month since 2011. Yet most have been either high-paying or low-paying positions. By the end of 2015, the nation still had fewer middle-income jobs than it did before the recession, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

That reflects what economists call the “hollowing out” of the workforce, as traditional mid-level positions such as office administrators, bookkeepers, and factory assembly-line workers are cut in recessions and never fully recover their previous levels of employment.

In Memphis, jobs in the one-third lowest-paying industries, such as retail, restaurants and hotels, are the only category to have fully recovered from the recession, according to Moody’s Analytics. Higher- and middle-paying jobs still trail their pre-recession levels.

In the first half of the recovery, jobs grew 5.6 percent nationwide. Yet in the wealthiest one-fifth of zip codes, hiring jumped 11.2 percent, according to the Economic Innovation Group think tank. For the rest of the country, total jobs increased just 3.3 percent.

“It’s hard to find an average city,” Tannenbaum says.

The same is true for households. These data suggest that the post-World War II trend of a steadily growing middle class, lifted by broader national prosperity, is reversing.

Slightly fewer than half of adults now fall in the middle-class camp, according to the Pew Research Center, a shift that followed four decades of decline. In 1971, 61 percent of households were middle class, according to Pew, which defines middle class as income between two-thirds and double the median household income.

Chris Rice, 29, has worked steadily in the Memphis region for the past 10 years, all at temporary jobs. Rice most recently worked as a forklift driver for Electrolux and for CEVA Logistics, a warehouse firm. The CEVA job ended after the company lost a contract to distribute Microsoft’s X-Box.

Rice said he was hopeful of getting a new temp job at a plant owned by printer manufacturer Brother International.

Still, “I’d love to have a permanent job,” he said. “I’m tired of going from temp agency to temp agency when there’s no work.”

Wisconsin fails small businesses and startups

 

Last year the U.S. economy soared, thanks to a strong dollar, increased job growth, lower gas prices, higher consumer spending, and improvements in the housing sector. But Wisconsin saw scant benefits, and the state’s GOP leaders are largely to blame.

A critical problem with the GOP’s approach to governing jumped out at us a year ago from the pages of a Pew Research Center report. The data is clear: Wisconsin is now home to the fastest-shrinking middle class in the nation.

Middle-class purchasing is the nation’s largest single economic generator. That means that when middle-class dollars shrink, so does economic activity. Our Republican leaders have failed to focus on policies that benefit the middle class, and the economic result was predictable.

In fact, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers have initiated few, if any, policies in general to help the state’s economy. Instead, they’ve focused on making government less transparent and elections less fair. They’ve taken the state backward socially by attacking women’s health, transgender rights and immigrants.

What economic policies the GOP has enacted are counterproductive in at least three ways. First, they’ve extended tax breaks and incentives to large corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

This tactic has never worked. It’s based on the disproven premise that economic benefits showered on people at the top will “trickle down” to the middle class. More than 30 years of history have shown this simply doesn’t happen.

Wealthy people use their money for investments, luxury goods, vacation properties and other expenditures that do not put dollars into Wisconsinites’ pockets the way that middle-class spending does.

It is small businesses and startups, not corporate titans, that form the backbone of the nation’s economy. Small businesses create most of the nation’s jobs and led the post-recession economic recovery. Nearly 54 million Americans now work for themselves in small businesses that they created.

But in a second failure, the state’s Republican leaders have ignored the economic potential of small business growth. Wallet Hub recently ranked Wisconsin 46th in the nation for business start-up activity, 30th for “innovation potential,” and 38th in economic activity. States where those measures rank high, such as Utah, Washington and California, have the nation’s most successful economies.

Third, the GOP embraces right-wing ideology over reality. They’ve shifted money away from higher education, even though that’s necessary for a healthy economy. They’ve eliminated regulations, such as restrictions on pollution, that make doing business in the state less burdensome for companies, but at the cost of public health and safety. They’ve misguidedly “invested” taxpayer dollars into businesses through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Walker’s disgraced job-creation agency.

With policies like these, it’s no wonder the state is an economic basket case.

So what can Wisconsin lawmakers do? For one, they can stop doling out tax credits to politically connected companies that, in return, either ship jobs out of the state or create ridiculously few of them. They can stop cutting and rather restore funding to K-12 and higher education. They can offer meaningful tax relief — more than a few dollars per month — to poor and middle-class earners instead of the one-percenters.

To rebuild our middle class, GOP leaders must start investing in venture capital and assistance for small business startups. Successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — not self-interested politicians — should be involved in making decisions that involve investing our tax dollars.

Republican leaders must also invest in infrastructure improvements. Just ask a middle-class person — if you can find one — the cost of our disintegrating roads.

The bottom line is this: So long as Republican leaders continue to put their political interests and those of their corporate donors above the good of the state’s economy, Wisconsin’s middle class will continue to suffer and its economy will fail to launch into the 21st century. Walker and crew must take note of the remarkable economic successes achieved by states such as Utah and Minnesota, where start-up businesses proliferate. They must emulate the policies of those states rather than continue to legislate in ways that only serve their personal interests and political ideology.

 

Politifact gets a false for tax loophole finding

This past week, Politifact Wisconsin wrongly gave Senator Tammy Baldwin a “false” rating on statements she made pertaining to closing the carried interest tax loophole. Instead of looking at the big picture, Politifact Wisconsin chose only to see the numbers they wanted. Fortunately, the group Patriotic Millionaires, a group of millionaires who want reform the tax code so the rich pay their fair share of taxes, did their own analysis and found that Senator Baldwin’s statements were correct.

Read Excerpts from the piece below.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is certainly entitled to their own opinion that millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t be asked to pay their fair share of taxes; after all they have opposed the Buffet Rule, which would do just that. They also can offer their own editorial opinions about tax policy through “politfacts” but one thing that they are not entitled to is their own set of actual facts.

In a recent opinion from the paper’s “Politifact Wisconsin,” they claimed Senator Baldwin made a “false” statement about legislation she has introduced to close the carried interest tax loophole and require the managers of investment partnerships to pay the same tax rates on their income that most American workers pay.

As Chairperson of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of more than 200 Americans with annual incomes over $1 million and/or assets of more than $5 million who believe that the country’s current level of economic inequality is both dangerous and immoral, we strongly support Baldwin’s legislation. We also couldn’t disagree more with the Journal Sentinel’s shallow review of both the Senator’s statement and this important reform proposal that closes a tax loophole which allows some of the highest-paid people in our country to pay less taxes as a percentage of their income than many hard-working middle-class Americans.

[…]

The substantive crux of the argument is this: all else being equal, at any income level, nurses, truck drivers, and teachers pay higher tax rates than an investment manager would at the same level of income. This is because we currently have a rigged tax code that rewards wealth rather than hard work. This point is lost on the paper in its attempt to play a game of gotcha with Baldwin.

[…]

PolitiFact Wisconsin cherry-picked which specific tax rates to include in their analysis, all while omitting the fact that the surtaxes apply to ordinary taxes as well as capital gains. However, what they have done is take the extremes and compare them as apples to cherries. They took an investment fund manager’s taxes by adding capital gains plus the surtaxes and compared it to what hard working ordinary taxpayers pay minus their FICA, Medicare, and all other deductions and credits. The true issue is that the base rate for investment fund managers is lower than that of regular workers.

Baldwin has offered a serious solution to an unfair tax loophole that only serves the millionaire and billionaire fund managers. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated that her tax reform would raise more than $15 billion in revenue during the next 10 years.

That is $15 billion that could be invested in cities like Milwaukee. We know Baldwin understands this and it why she has taken on this special interest tax loophole. As she has said, closing this loophole can enable “an investment in workforce readiness, job training and small businesses—which can lead to greater economic growth and raise the incomes of working families struggling to get ahead.”

[…]

Morris Pearl currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of 200 high-net-worth Americans who are committed to building a more prosperous, stable, and inclusive nation. Previously, Pearl was a managing director at BlackRock, one of the largest investment firms in the world.
Read the full article here.

Read the release on WisDems.org

 

Sanders’ campaign goals clash with political realities

Bernie Sanders promises voters a “political revolution” that will fundamentally remake the American economy and its education and health care systems.

“That’s what our campaign is about. It is thinking big,” Sanders said during a debate last month in Charleston, South Carolina. “We are going to have a government that works for all of us, and not just big campaign contributors.”

Often left unsaid by Sanders, but increasingly at the center of Hillary Clinton’s arguments against her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is that the political reality of achieving such goals is likely to be a whole lot more complicated.

It would require Sanders not only to win the White House, but to sweep a wave of Democratic lawmakers into office along with him. While Democrats may be able to gain the four or five seats necessary to win back control of the Senate in November, they need 30 seats to recapture power in the House.

But even with majorities in both houses of Congress, Sanders would face challenges. Clinton’s advisers often point out how difficult it was for President Barack Obama to convince a Democratic-led Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sanders’ plan — called “Medicare for All” — would go significantly further by establishing a national health care system run entirely by the government.

Sanders also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, break up the biggest Wall Street banks, pour $1 trillion into the country’s infrastructure, expand Social Security benefits and make college free at all public universities by raising taxes on Wall Street. All of those ideas are nearly uniformly opposed by Republicans and would face strident opposition in Congress.

Many of those plans would require tax increases on corporations, wealthy taxpayers and middle-class families — a difficult political sell for lawmakers of both parties.

Campaigning at a union hall in Las Vegas on Saturday, former President Bill Clinton called Sanders’ ideas politically unviable, giving the realities of divided government and ability of the Senate minority to block proposals that lack the support of 60 members.

“You can’t get 60 votes!” he exclaimed. “Why, when we’ve got all this gridlock, would we waste any time trying to do something we know we can’t do when there’s so much we can do to get the show on the road? Don’t go down a blind alley.”

Sanders does frequently acknowledge that it will take more than just winning the White House to accomplish his goals.

“No president can walk in there and make changes unless millions of people become engaged in the political process in a way that we have not seen for a very, very long time,” he told more than a thousand supporters gathered in a community college gymnasium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Sunday.

He casts his “revolution” in a long line of social movements that have reshaped American society, citing the progress made by civil rights activists, feminists and gay rights advocates. He argues that if voters line up behind him and fight for his plans, their collective power can overcome political intransigency, big campaign donors and special interests.

“Every day the media asks: ‘Your ideas are so ambitious, how are you going to get them done?’” he said. “We will get them done because people are going to demand that we get them done.”

Clinton has tried to counter that message with promises to tell voters exactly what she’d do and how she’d do it if elected. Since launching her campaign in April, she’s rolled out dozens of policy plans, tackling issues from autism to the Islamic State.

“I’m not making promises I can’t keep,” she said during Thursday’s Democratic debate. She added: “Let’s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do. A progressive is someone who makes progress.”

Clinton’s ideas are also sure to face opposition from congressional Republicans. And should the GOP nominee become the next president, their promises to roll back the work of the Obama administration will face the same challenges from Democrats eager to protect his legacy.

But in a Democratic primary traditionally powered by the most liberal voters, pragmatism has been less appealing than big promises. Sanders’ aspiration message has struck a chord with progressive Democrats and younger voters, boosting him to a near-win in Iowa and a sizable lead in New Hampshire, which casts the first primary ballots on Tuesday.

“I want to give him a shot,” said Nick Ayoub, 22, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. “You’re never going to know if you don’t try.”

Derek Scalia, 33, of Keene, New Hampshire, said he knows that campaign promises don’t always come true, but he likes Sanders’ vision.

“Bernie is the only one that’s talking about health care as a fundamental human right,” Scalia said. “Every industrialized country in the world offers universal health care.”

Scott Walker setting himself up for a third term as governor

Gov. Scott Walker is setting up himself up to run for a third term as governor.

Walker says he will wait until late 2016 or after the end of the year to make a formal decision, but he says he feels good about the progress he’s made and thinks he can build off it.

Walker, who’s never held a job outside of politics, made the comments to reporters Jan. 26 after he signed a bill at the Rock County Courthouse expanding the state’s Family Care program to the county.

Although Walker and the right-wing spin machine have been cherry-picking economic data in the state to make it appear as if Walker’s economic programs have been a success, they’ve actually failed miserably.

Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2015, released at the end of last year by the Dept. of Administration showed that the state’s General Fund deficit, as measured by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, increased in fiscal year 2015 by $414 million — from about $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion.

At the same time, his scandal-plagued “job creation” agency has lost track of millions of taxpayer dollars. Sixty percent of taxpayer funds provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Council went to Walker donors, some of whom had terrible financial records. The money was given to companies that didn’t promise to create jobs in the state. Some of them took the money and built up their operations in other states.

Wisconsin lost 10,000 jobs last year, when most states posted job gains.

Wisconsin has the nation’s fastest-shrinking middle class. Household income shrank in two-thirds of Wisconsin counties from 2009 to 2014.

The state ranks third in the nation for student loan debt.

Walker has worked with the state’s Republican leaders to restrict public access to government records and to eliminate laws and agencies designed to ferret out corruption.

Against this backdrop, Walker will have to regain the public’s confidence to run again. Walker’s approval rating dropped to 37 percent during his failed and heavily mocked presidential campaign last year. Wisconsinites were turned off by not only by the many gaffes he made on the campaign trail, but also the many months he spent outside the state campaigning for president.

Walker also racked up huge costs to Wisconsin taxpayers to provide him with transportation and around-the-clock security.

Shortly before his tight 2014 reelection, Walker said he had no interest in a White House run.

In a public-relations effort to assure Wisconsinites that he’s still interested in the state, he is currently touring the state conducting invitation-only listening sessions. He says that he’s spending time thinking about the next 20 years for the state.

Walker and his wife Tonette are selling their house in a Milwaukee suburb. His personal financial problems, including a high level of consumer credit card debt were well documented by the press during his presidential campaign.

The two-story, three-bedroom colonial in Wauwatosa is on the market for $338,000. Walker tweeted Sunday night that with his sons in college, the couple is looking at downsizing.

See also: Scott Walker’s latest approval rating

2015: The year Wisconsin lost itself

In 2015, Wisconsin completed a 180-degree turn away from the state’s lauded history as a model of good government. The year saw the fruition of a process set into motion in 2011, when conservative Republicans gerrymandered the state so they couldn’t lose. They stopped even pretending that we live in a democracy in which opposing viewpoints have the right to be heard. Instead they proved the axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Their changes to the fundamental character of Wisconsin have occurred so fast and furiously the media and progressive groups haven’t been able to keep up with them. Stories that would have grabbed headlines in prior years were buried in the avalanche of game-changing laws tumbling out of the Capitol.

For every legislative travesty that’s been publicized in time to stop it through public outcry — such as the measure to abolish the state’s open records law, which was slipped quietly into the budget on a Friday afternoon — there have been dozens of other reckless laws enacted. Wisconsin citizens are likely to discover many transgressive laws on the books in the coming year that no one except Scott Walker, the Legislature’s Republican leadership and a few of their corporate backers are even aware of.

There’s not enough room in this editorial to enumerate all of the new measures that go against the grain of Wisconsin’s history. But we can say with certainty that few of them have spurred our economy, which is what our current leaders vowed to do when they were voted into office.

Walker did not create anywhere near the 250,000 jobs he promised. The state has hovered near the bottom of job producers for most of his time in office. Wisconsin has the fastest shrinking middle class is the nation; median household income here has fallen at the nation’s highest rate since Walker took office.

Walker has doled out $279 million of taxpayer money in the form of tax credits — many more millions than are allowable under the law — to businesses that failed to create jobs, partly because they weren’t even required to do so in exchange for their corporate welfare. Some of that money has disappeared into thin air, leaving no trace of where it went. This is money that, along with Walker‘s tax cuts to the wealthy, was supposed to create jobs. Instead it left Wisconsin with a budget shortfall and without any way to restore Walker’s draconian cuts to education, the worst in the nation. It left the state with no way to repair its crumbling infrastructure or maintain its natural splendor. It left no money to accomplish the myriad of things required for the state to really grow its economy and maintain its quality of life.

In truth, Walker and the Republicans have paid scant attention to the economy. The majority of their efforts have gone toward appeasing corporate and right-wing special interests in order to keep themselves in power. And they’ve abused that power by getting rid of a panoply of laws passed to ferret out and prosecute political corruption. It’s impossible to believe politicians who prioritize eliminating government watchdog groups and related prosecutorial officers have their sights set on good deeds.

Instead of jobs, Walker and his GOP colleagues have focused on issues such as expanding gun ownership, fighting same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive freedom, eliminating environmental protections, telling people getting food stamps what they can buy, packing state government with inexperienced cronies, repealing laws involving fair wages, such as the equal pay law for women … the list feels endless and hopeless.

Scott Walker promised last year during his re-election campaign that he would not seek the presidency in 2016. But he was the first to throw his hat in the ring. He went on to neglect his responsibilities here and the lunacy of his public behavior and remarks made a laughingstock of Wisconsin.

He seemed to return to his lesser job angry and dejected — more determined than ever to reshape the state according to his impenetrable and conflicted ideals.

How well he’s succeeded.

The only hope for the future is that Democratic and Republican voters alike get out next year and vote for candidates they can trust to focus on the issues that are important to our collective future — and not to candidates who are intent only on furthering their personal interests and those of their patrons.