MON AM News: Local Voices Network applying advanced language analysis to policy conversations; Fed member suggests economy doesn’t need another interest rate hike

— A public opinion research project involving UW-Madison political scientist Katherine Cramer is using advanced language analysis to explore views on health care, housing and other issues. 

“We’re trying to bring out the stories people have about their various policy stances,” Cramer said last week in Madison at the Midwest Polling Summit, hosted by “It’s when we can hear each other’s stories that we best understand where each other come from.” 

She’s partnering on the project with Deb Roy, a computer scientist and natural language processing expert based at MIT. He first connected with Cramer while she was on a speaking tour for her popular book, “The Politics of Resentment,” which documented the political angst and frustration felt by rural residents of Wisconsin. 

Cramer spent years traveling the state for her book, joining conversations at coffee shops and other community gathering places. By listening to people in a natural setting with others they normally speak to, Cramer came to understand that small town residents were feeling left out and ignored by places like Madison — “basically from people pushing the levers that affect their lives.” 

“It was sometimes anger, but more often just this sort of simmering emotion that had been there for decades … that had so many different layers to it,” she said. “It was resentment toward cities and city people, elites, liberal elites, people of color, the Democratic Party sometimes.” 

Donald Trump was elected president less than a year after her book was published, and Cramer began a speaking tour not long after that to discuss her work and the insights she gained. That’s where she linked up with Roy, who had the idea to expand her methods with various technologies to reach communities across the country. 

The Local Voices Network was launched in January and has hosted more than 115 conversations nationwide with over 400 participants so far. The pilot chapter was based in Madison, but others have been launched in Boston, New York City, Birmingham, Ala., as well as Waupaca and Appleton. 

See more: 

— An upcoming event at UW-Platteville will focus on struggles facing farmers in the state: the ongoing trade war, weather and workforce issues. 

Farm news personality Pam Jahnke will moderate a discussion on the state’s troubled farm economy. Panelists will include State Agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff; State Representative Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City; Paul Mitchell, director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute; Landmark Creamery cheesemaker Anna Landmark; and Charles Irish, the emeritus Volkman-Bascom professor of law and former director of the East Asian Legal Studies Center. 

The Oct. 17 event is part of’s “Navigating the New Economy” series supported by the Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training. It’s also part of the “East Asia Now” series supported by the Center for East Asian Studies, UW-Madison.

See more and register here: 

— The president and CEO at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is suggesting the Fed shouldn’t drop short-term interest rates again any time soon.

Eric Rosengren spoke at the American Economic Challenges Symposium in Madison on Friday, reassuring people the American economy is firmly where it should be when compared to projections from late 2018 and early 2019. The Fed’s economic numbers show consumption rates are relatively stable, the rate of inflation is at the desired level, and unemployment is actually below projections of full employment.

“Overall that’s a pretty good outcome; we’re not far from where we want to be,” he said.

Rosengren said he wasn’t in favor of dropping the short-term interest rate any lower until the economy makes a significant downturn, instead arguing the Fed needs to be patient and evaluate data that the next two quarters will bring. However Rosengren did acknowledge that if the economy were to go into recession he would be in favor of lowering rates to zero, but that would be the worst-case scenario.

The Fed is set to meet on Oct. 29-30. In mid-September, the Fed cut interest rates by 0.25 percent. 

He also said the ongoing trade war with China hasn’t hurt the economy as much as it may seem on the surface, pointing to Fed projections of the economy six months ago that nearly mirror current economic figures. 

“Despite all the bad headlines, whether the trade war or the recent Turkish attacks, we didn’t actually forecast a growth rate six months ago that’s too different than from we’re seeing now.”

Jan Hatzius, chief economist for Goldman Sachs, agreed with Rosengren, saying he also doesn’t expect the economy to go into a recession. However, Hatzius expects the Fed to cut rates one more time before the end of the year to compensate for the risk of recession.

“We aren’t seeing many of the typical imbalances that predict a recession, despite the inverted yield curve we saw briefly this summer,” he said.

Economic data from Goldman Sachs shows households in America are still holding a surplus of money at the end of each month, while businesses aren’t spending money at a breakneck speed that often spells an upcoming economic downturn. Hatzius said things would change if the trade war with China escalates much further, but that it seems unlikely to happen.

“We expect the escalation to be in its late stages, due in part because of the run-up to the election. President Trump will want to keep the economy strong to win the election,” Hatzius said.

— A book printer based in Stevens Point is planning a $12.5 million expansion that will boost employment at its manufacturing site by 50 jobs. 

Worzalla produces children’s books, cookbooks and other light literature. According to a release, company leaders expect to boost production levels by 30 percent once the capital improvement plan is put into action. 

The company’s manufacturing headquarters will be expanded by 20 percent with 50,000 square feet of new space for storage and additional equipment. The plan also includes adding two new machines used in the book printing process. 

Worzalla was first founded in 1892, and President and CEO Jim Fetherston says the company is an “integral part” of the Portage County community.  

“We’re making this investment in direct response to the growing market interest for additional U.S. book manufacturing capacity, as the demand for domestic book production has been steadily rising over the past two years,” he said. 

See the release: 

— UW-Madison is getting $15 million from WARF to expand a veterinary medicine building on campus. 

The expansion of the School of Veterinary Medicine building will double the size of the school’s small animal hospital and “significantly enhance” the large animal hospital, a release shows. Animal and human disease labs will be expanded along with a separate research space for studying infectious diseases. 

The expansion project was approved in the state’s 2019-21 budget, which provides $90 million in state funds and calls for the School of Veterinary Medicine to provide $38 million in private support. WARF’s $15 million investment brings the fundraising total above the required amount. 

The design process has begun and construction is planned for summer 2021. The new addition is expected to be completed in 2023, with renovations to the existing building in 2024. 

See the release: 

— The state Department of Health Services is now tracking 73 confirmed and probable cases of severe lung illnesses in people who reported vaping, with 15 more cases under investigation. 

At least 26 people around the country have died in connection to this outbreak, and more than 1,300 cases have been identified in every state except Alaska. No vaping-related deaths have been reported in Wisconsin. 

Track the state-level investigation:


# Doctor’s dilemma: Determining if patients are sick from flu or vaping

# Octopi Brewing Co.’s $11 million expansion helps expand its mission beyond beer

# Madison entrepreneurship program, CEOs of Tomorrow, takes ‘life-changing’ trip to Botswana

# Wisconsin DNR: New lead contamination rules not good enough



– WFBF: Perdue dairy comments taken out of context

– Not many changes in latest Wisconsin crop forecast


– Oak Creek officials seek clarity on USPS mail-sorting center


– VIP crowd helps Ramirez family raise $1.68 million for St. Augustine

– New bills could fully fund 4-year-old kindergarten, extend to some 3-year-olds


– October cold front makes for a chilly Wisconsin weekend


– Aloha Poke planning second area location in Wauwatosa

– Camp Bar owners bringing Deer Camp to Old World Third Street

– Culver’s raises over $2.5 million for ‘Thank You Farmers’ fund


– UW-Madison PAs visit West, help students ‘visualize’ health care career


– Jury awards $5.2M in Walmart disability discrimination case


– Kohl’s CFO is stepping down, retiring at fiscal year end


– Falls Manufacturing Inc. moving from Butler to Richfield


– Developer for The Couture pays delinquent property taxes for project site

– City seeking youth services providers for Tree Lane Apartments


– Evers to consider bill to legalize kids’ lemonade stands


– WEDC, UW System award grants to help 8 Wisconsin companies bring products to market


– Tom Still: Injecting a dose of urgency with fresh approach to clinical trials at UW Health

– Dr. Timothy Harrington: Dane County has a health care access problem


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

UW System Board of Regents: Approves resolution recognizing UW‑Superior freshwater research

LDF Construction: Awarded First Federal 8(a) Contract by USDA Forestry Service

Dept. of Workforce Development: Wisconsin Business Closing & Mass Layoff (WARN) Notice: TGI Fridays