Welcome Mr. President, but Laverne and Shirley Don't Work Here Anymore

Laverne and Shirley For many Americans, Laverne and Shirley remain the enduring icons of the city of Milwaukee. Barack Obama was a teenager when the sitcom about two independent young women working in a beer factory was a popular hit in the late 1970s. But the sad truth about Milwaukee is that Lavern and Shirley don't work here any more.

After 30 years of de-industrialization, Milwaukee is a shell of its former self and the Great Recession has left the city reeling. Into this mix on Monday, steps President Obama, here to celebrate Labor Day in a city where labor is on the rack.

Jobs Situation Disastrous

The job situation in city and across the great state of Wisconsin is disastrous. A new statewide jobs report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy indicates that one in twenty jobs were lost since the recession began in 2007. Moreover, a quarter of black workers are unemployed, numbers not rivaled since the Great Depression.

The assault on wages continues as profitable companies squeeze even more concessions of their workforce. Marching in the Labor Day parade with President this year are the 140 remaining members of United Electrical Local 111. This will be the last march Labor Day march for this 73 year-old local. It was founded in 1937 and at it's height represented some 6,5000 Allen-Bradley employees. But the company (now called Rockwell) is intent on moving production overseas and contracting out the remaining tasks to nonunionized workers even though it tripled its global profits in 2009.

Milwaukee's flagship manufacturer, Harley-Davidson, is threatening to move out of its longtime home in the Milwaukee are to Kansas City, Missouri. Even though the firm was profiled recently in the Wall Street Journal for its "soaring profits," Harley wants to carve $50 million dollars of its payroll off the backs of its 2,000 workers. The company slogan "the road starts here" is not as inspiring when it is the low road of cut wages and benefits.

What does Milwaukee need? "Massive investment in the economy," says Wisconsin AFL-CIO president David Newby who will welcome President Obama to the Milwaukee Labor Fest on Monday.

"The private sector is sitting on 1.8 trillion in cash reserves. They are not investing it to modernize production facilities or hire new workers. In the absence of private-sector investment we need another large infusion of public-sector funds to prime the pump, to get people back to work, leading productive lives, paying taxes and by doing so reducing the deficit," says Newby.

Foreclosures and Personal Bankruptcy on the Rise

Two years after the financial crisis began, foreclosures and personal bankruptcies are on an uptick. Milwaukee is seeing a steady rate of about 500 foreclosures a month, while in Wisconsin as a whole, August filings jumped 14% from this time last year. These are not families taking a loss on pricey investment homes; these are families that are being forced out of their modest homes and communities in a daily tragedy that is spreading well into the middleclass outer-ring suburbs.

In a sign of more trouble in the future, a growing number of Wisconsin homeowners had trouble staying current on their mortgage payments in the second quarter than earlier this year. Plus, bankruptcy filings in Wisconsin rose 16% during the first half of this year.

What does Milwaukee need? The answer is simple says Bethany Sanchez, Director of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair lending Program, with homes in foreclosure or simply underwater "Wisconsin families need a principle reduction on their mortgages" she says flatly.

According to Sanchez, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is the federal government's flagship program for helping distressed homeowners "has simply not been effective. There are no sticks and not enough carrots to force lenders to do something meaningful." Tragically many people get foreclosed upon while their loan modification is being review under HAMP, something that is supposedly not allowed. In Milwaukee, the big bad banks are US Bank, Deutche Bank and Wells Fargo, all institutions bailed out by governments and taxpayers, but doing nothing to help citizens in distress.

"The Only Answer is the Federal Government"

Like the majority of states, Wisconsin's state government is also reeling. The worst recession since the 1930s has caused the steepest decline in state tax receipts on record. As a result, even after making very deep cuts, states continue to face large budget gaps. The state of Wisconsin is facing a $2.5 billion dollar budget gap for the coming year and this is on top of already steep cuts it has made.

When the private sector is not doing the job and the state has its hands tied by a balanced budget amendment, "the only answer is the federal government," says Center on Wisconsin Strategy economist Laura Dresser.

But isn't the federal government broke? Where are they going to get the money?

"Lets start with the Bush tax cuts," says Dresser. The Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 disproportionately benefit the wealthy and are set to expire in December 31, 2010.

President Obama has proposed extending the cuts for individuals making less $200,000, but allowing them to expire for the wealthiest Americans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that letting the tax cuts expire would generate some $700 billion over the next decade. Others, like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who will be in Milwaukee with Obama, think the President can do more by "making Wall Street pay" for the disaster it caused with a modest tax on high-speed, high-volume trading.

But as Laverne and Shirley would tell the president: The only way to get "on the track now" is to make smart federal investments in Milwaukee and cities like it across the country. The President has many bold options to get the economy moving again. The question is if he has the courage to pursue them or if on Labor Day he will announce another weak proposal with little chance of success.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


The HAMP program, using taxpaid funds, designed "very carefully" by Geithner of our U.S. Treasury, and practiced by such banks as the Bank of America is a total SCAM ! It was never supposed to "assist" the desperate American homeowner, but IS to be used to buy time (and money) for the bank to clean up its loans to show a better balance sheet for the stock investor. That our government participants in the SCAM, and encourages its use, thus causing further stress to unknowing citizens (often resulting in unnecessary foreclosures) is a disgrace and a crime ! The last time this happened was in NAZI Germany ! Madashellincarsoncity

we couldn't agree more, HAMP was designed to aid the banks, not families facing foreclosure.

What the US elite, this merciless band of pillaging capitalists has been doing ad nauseam since the end of the 2nd World War to the rest of a bleeding planet is now coming home to roost as it had to. As for the dignity of an honest day's work for an honest day's pay...can anyone imagine anything coming out of Hollyweird today that even smacks of working class America? By that I mean precisely "working" America -not the banksters, crooks, gangsters and despicable lying pols that pollute the corporate media,press and all sources of communication with the exception of the internet. The jobs are gone and instead of workers, family and shared societal values embedded in a culture respecting "we the people" who built this land (even got our hands dirty in the process) they now broadcast a permanent stream of fear, violence, bigotry and Jesus blaspheming lunatics pumping despair, materialism and hatred into our homes as our rabid elite plunder the wealth that was built on our backs and squander our treasure in their wars for a foreign power. No wonder that the permanent serial wars abroad and the social destruction, crime, drugs and despair at home are the new "norms" of a nation that has apparently landed on Skid Row. We were too complacent and the culture of "our troops" and my country "right or wrong" foisted on us by our corpocratic militocracy through the poisoned media has ensured that we will continue to decline because of the stupidity and moral corruption of those we have "elected" to betray us in the stinking corridors of power in Washington. Meanwhile the real Shirley and Lavernes are dying in slum housing because they can't afford medical care and heating fuel as the squalid neighborhood around them is boarded up and ghettoized and rats infest the streets! Now I'm off to watch Sex in the City or whatever other Muslim baiting sludge will be pumped to my flat screen tonight by the jingle meisters of our long gone to seed society!

More state aid? This policy seems like Japan in the 90's when $billions were poured into the economy to stimulate it, and all failed. Obama is out of his depth on the private sector, and his use of previous banking apparatchiks like Geithner to "resolve" the banking crisis will get nowhere. America has a proud tradition of recovering when the chips are down, but so far we have not seen any real government actions to change the economic climate. Lets see what happens in November.

The HAMP is doing the right thing during this sickly economy. Let's hope and pray the plans flows through and save us from this nightmare soon

I wonder if these two actresses realize the limp minded airhead attitude they helped popularize is part of the reason we working fools have been so thoroughly victimized. While our corporate culture which plunders the world even as we speak claims to be capitalistic the truth of the matter is that the New World Order is total communism turned upside down. The toil of the workers is centralized and controlled by and for the benefit of a small group of greedy, egotistical, self aggrandized sociopaths who have managed to amass financial reward through their willingness to screw any and everybody to "get ahead". Once contracted the disease of greed has no cure. No amount of wealth is enough as every morning begins with the need to get more at any cost using any tactic. These self proclaimed elitists are truly the scourage of humanity. Unless society begins to treat these greedy bastards as the mentally unbalanced sickos' that they are the earth is destined to lose its' ability to sustain life as we know it. Of course the elite don't care as long as they have the most toys when the time comes. I'm sure that some of these psychos think they will survive the cesspool they are creating. All they have to do is get in their bomb shelters or their super secret continuity of government hide a ways as the rest of humanity suffers from the wonders of the greatest life form know in the universe self destructs because of the ignorance of the social giants and leaders of the "intelligent" animals called man. Face it, the great experiment of self government known as "democracy" has been hijacked by the mental midgetry of those "special" individuals who have convinced themselves of their own superiority. Sadly they have convinced many others as well. Too many people in society deify these narcissists and hold them in awe. It is time that we as the salt of the earth treat them like the trash that they are. Most of them belong in jail or a mental institution. The church and religion is one of the greatest tools ever conceived to aid in the control of the masses by a handful of the most self centered of the species. If people fail to recognize the structure of social order imposed on humanity by christianity and or muslinity then armageddon will become the self fulfilling fate of humanity brought about intentionally by "man made god" worshippers in order to prove to themselves they were right all along. See, god had to destroy the world to save it Talk about insanity! The entrance to hell will be choked with christians. What we need to do is put those who engineered this mess in jail and seize their assets, which is pirate booty anyway. Bush and his whole gang belong in maximum security without hope of parole. The defense industries owned by Bush and friends must be shut down and the blood money put into the public coffers. The idea of him getting tortured some how appeals to me although I do not condone it. Not just Georgie either since his daddy has been working this angle ever since Kennedy was removed. The list would only be a few hundred at most. Many people who have enabled the overthrow of democracy have done so only through there lack of ability to see the big picture, too stupid to realize they were being used. These individuals should be given a chance to redeem themselves but never to hold the public trust again. Those within the military like Powell, should be hanged as traitors after a military tribunal of course. Those within government who have demonstrated their willingness to sell the public out should be treated as the traitors they are. I'm thinking the supreme court here. Those who have aided and abetted the enemy, like Obama are traitors too unless they have been under the threat of the CIA or NSA or homeland security. It is clear that Obama has been George Bushs' patsy since day one. Equally clear is his administration of bankers and corporate henchmen who do his dirty work for him are industry insiders who have no intention of serving the public in any way. I don't know if it is possible to restore the house or congress to the institutions they were meant to be. Only a handful of these men and women appear to have any moral fiber, character, conscience, not to mention backbone or conviction to a worthy cause. The entire federal government must be purged of the cult of secrecy and the underpinnings of paid political representation. The public interest must be restored to the primary focus of government and individuals who gain personally through their political office or appointments must be swiftly punished and the evil they do must be undone. In order to restore the "rule of law" all the crimes of the past must be investigated and the guilty held accountable. Organizations like the CIA NSA, homeland security, the fed, and any other "front" agencies must be sanitized by the light of truth and disbanded. The justice departments protocol of non engagement towards corporate wrongdoing and the courts kid glove treatment or reprehensible corporate practices and policies must be replaced with strict accountability and responsibility for their actions. No longer should the public clean up the mess created by wreckless corporate avarice and unsustainable plundering. The great corporate giants of industry must be converted to serve the public, when it is in the interest of the public, on a not for profit basis in such industries as media, energy, public utilities, including water rights, transportation, and food. Private sector industry can certainly be allowed to compete with government provided cost basis goods or services such as insurance and health care. We must not allow global corporations to co-opt the publics wealth and property to become super wealthy only to enslave the lower classes of other nations of the world while continuing to pollute the very eco-systems necessary for life on this planet. Do you really think there is any hope of this administration providing any sort of financial relief from the misery that they intentionally created so that they could profit? If you do, you are a fool! We must stop acting as though these criminals have any redeeming social value. The emperor is naked and must be jailed, not for his nudity, but for his attempt to subvert the intent of the almighty by robbing humanity of its potential. Obama is Bush, sent by Bush, to protect Bush. We are still being Bushed and until his incarceration, nothing will change. There's change you can believe in.

You might want to give it a rest, cowboy.