Blundering Paul Ryan destroys 350 middle-class jobs in Waukesha "Policy wonk Paul Ryan" --Wisconsin State Journal, 10-14-2015

Paul Ryan 12As we noted earlier, in the process of urging Paul Ryan to run for the House Speaker’s job, the State Journal went way over the top ladling on words like (Did we say, Over.The.Top.?) “statesman,” “intellectual heft” and “political savvy.”

Their piece also included this puzzling bit:

…he’s railed against the “crony capitalism” of Washington that delivers favors to well-connected special interests…

That surprised us. Ryan’s surely made a name for himself as an enemy of Social Security and Medicare, but has he really been “railing” against “crony capitalism”? We’d missed that.

Now we’ve stumbled on the answer. Yes, he sort of has been “railing,” but it’s actually a shabby little bit of political theater which has now led to 350 lost jobs in Waukesha.


Ryan has been shoulder-to-shoulder with Tea Party members in the House who are eager to shut down the U.S. Export Import Bank, a smallish federal agency that has never, until this year, been controversial. You can be forgiven if you never paid attention to the U.S. Export-Import Bank. No one paid it any attention, except for exporters and importers.

But why do America’s most conservative Congresspeople suddenly want to kill off the Ex-Im Bank?

There is no argument that the bank has been a drain on the Treasury. It never cost taxpayers at all; it made money. Every year it sent a sizeable profit back to the U.S. Treasury ($675 million last year). And, of course, it supported billions of dollars in private business profits, which was its mission. And of course, it inevitably supported lots of private sector jobs. It actually sounds quite useful. Why were conservatives in Congress trying to kill it?

The truth is it’s just a good talking point, if you’re speaking to a rabidly anti-gov’t audience.  By killing Ex-Im the Tea Party lawmakers could show supporters that they’re really doing something to make government smaller.

And they did shut down Ex-Im for 3 months. In July the Tea Party zealots of the House, along with Mr. Ryan, blocked reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank.  (This just in: In a big-surprise vote last night, the House has voted to re-approve Ex-Im.)  But back to Paul Ryan.

Here is Ryan back in July explaining why he wanted to get rid of the Ex-Im Bank. Note that it is pure ideology:

My friend Rep. Jeb Hensarling has recently launched a great challenge against the crony capitalist economy, and in particular, against one of its manifestations, the Export-Import Bank. But the bank is just one example of how bureaucratic government is corrupting free enterprise through and through. Conservatives must stop defending this. Cronyism is the Progressives’ project for economic control. Let them defend it.

And in Waukesha, Wisconsin, because of this Ex-Im Bank kerfuffle, General Electric announced the closing of its large-engine manufacturing plant:

Blaming Congress for its failure to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an institution that finances sales of U.S. industrial equipment to overseas customers, General Electric Co. says it will stop manufacturing engines in Waukesha and move that work to Canada.

About 350 jobs will be lost at the Waukesha plant, where GE Power & Water, a division of Fairfield, Conn.-based GE, builds engines used in the petroleum industry.

The company says it will move the production to a new $265 million engine factory to be built in Canada during the next 20 months.

GE has said the decision will not be reconsidered.

Please re-read Mr. Ryan’s words. Try to find the “statesman,” “intellectual heft” and “political savvy” stuff the State Journal wrote about.


Wisconsin State Journal giddy for Paul Ryan as Speaker

paul Ryan 1Days ago we predicted the Wisconsin State Journal would print a rapturous editorial supporting Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House. Sure enough, they delivered a fawning tribute that Ryan’s own staff could’ve written. According to the State Journal, not just the Republican House but the entire country needs Paul Ryan in the Speaker’s chair.

The editorial calls him a policy wonk (Ryan’s favorite claim). They say he’s fearless, he’s a leader of substance, he’s got intellectual heft, he’s a grown-up, he’s pragmatic, he’s a statesman. Jiminy-pop, the State Journal is head over heels.

Amusingly, just before climaxing, the editorial’s author (Milfred we assume) gets so worked up that he can no longer write, edit, or use a spell checker, offering this:

The Republicans badly need a statesmen [sic] in charge of the House with intellectual heft and political savvy.

(It’s a one sentence with both a typo and a misplaced preposition. But let’s put that aside. Shouldn’ta mentioned it. Mistakes are part of life. Later, we’ll throw in a few typos of our own, just in solidaridy, because we is all humen.)

The real problem here is the over-the-top adoration thrown at Congressman Ryan. “Intellectual heft”?  “Statesman”? We don’t see it.

The truth is there’s almost nothing — at the policy level — to distinguish Ryan from any of his Republican colleagues. He’s a reliable booster of more and more tax cuts for the rich. This is simply a Republican orthodoxy. It has shown itself again and again (see below) to work nicely for the rich and work badly for everyone else.

Currently all the GOP candidates for president want tax cuts for the rich.  The [conservative] Tax Foundation estimates a Rubio plan would cut 27.9 percent for the top 1 percent. The Jeb Bush plan would raise after-tax income of top earners by 16.4 percent.  Trump would raise income of the top 1 percent by 27 percent.

This is just standard modern Republican theology. It’s not “wonkery.” And it’s not “fearless.” Enabling a tiny minority of king-makers to buy our elections — for what seems a tiny outlay to them — is a lousy idea for America. Lousy.

Income - divergence at the top

And indeed, in a nice bit of reporting at the New York Times, we saw the headline last week

Just 158 families have
provided nearly half of the
early money for efforts to
capture the White House

(i.e., 138 families backing Republicans, 20 families backing Democrats)


Of course there’s more to Congressman Paul Ryan than his tax cuts for the rich.

He “doesn’t know” if humans are causing climate change , and he opposes any steps to combat it. Such fearlessness! Such intellectual heft! The State Journal has really taken the measure of the man.

His religious views on abortion are translated into votes on policy, as are his prejudices (religious or otherwise) against gays.

And as we noted earlier:

Surely the State Journal guys know about the now famous meeting on the night of Obama’s first inauguration. Republican leaders met at a tony D.C. steakhouse where they agreed in advance, simply as a self-serving partisan strategy, to oppose whatever Obama would seek to do. In their plan Obama would have no accomplishments to run on for a 2nd term. And whatever that meant for the American people was irrelevant. Surely the State Journal guys watched this strategy — a pure partisan strategy — play out over the next 7 years. And surely they knew that Paul Ryan was one of the small group settling on that strategy that night.

Yes, in 2013 he did cut a budget deal with Democrats. So America continued to have a federal government, and the world had its benchmark currency. This doesn’t make him a great pragmatist with “intellectual heft”.  It’s what any sane American wanted, and perhaps more to the point, it’s what bond-holders wanted.

The State Journal can urge Ryan to run for the Speaker’s job. They can fairly say that since he is respected among Republicans, he might be able to reign in loose-cannon colleagues in the House who are threatening anarchy in our federal government and in world financial markets. Of course, that might be bad for Mr. Ryan’s prospects in the future. The State Journal recognizes the potential danger to Ryan’s reputation if he were suddenly more in the public eye. But what the State Journal should not have done is ladle on the thick, worshipful praise. It’s just silly. It tells more about the State Journal than it tells about the congressman.


Paul Ryan for Speaker? his budget plan "a ludicrous mess of magic asterisks"

Congressional Republicans are begging Paul Ryan to be their new Speaker of the House. We assume the Wisconsin State Journal will soon join that chorus.

Paul Ryan with dumbbell

Fortunately Paul Krugman is around to remind us that Paul Ryan is a flimflam artist. [Emphasis added]

More than anyone else in his caucus, he has the reputation of being a brilliant policy wonk.

And that tells you even more about the dire state of the GOP. After all, Ryan is to policy wonkery what Carly Fiorina is to corporate management: brilliant at selling himself, hopeless at actually doing the job. Lest we forget, his much-vaunted budget plan proved, on even superficial examination, to be a ludicrous mess of magic asterisks. His big contribution to discussion of economic policy was his stern warning to Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing would “debase the dollar”, that rising commodity prices in early 2011 presaged a surge in inflation. This guy’s delusions of expertise should be considered funny.

Yet he may indeed be the best they have.

Does it matter to the State Journal that the guy’s posing as an economic policy wonk while, in fact, being routinely wrong?

The dollar hasn’t been “debased”. That’s just Glenn Beck gold-bug talk. And inflation remains below the Fed target. In practice he just wants to give tax cuts to the wealthy, like Trump, and Rubio, and Romney, and Bush II, and Walker, and on and on. It’s impossible for them to say it aloud. Ordinary Americans don’t want more tax cuts for the rich, even Republican majorities say this in polls. But if you look at the record and the continuing GOP proposals, that’s what the stars of the Republican Party continue to offer.

A functioning news media would make this all intensely clear. It doesn’t happen.

They don’t make it clear. Surely this means something.

We predict the Wisconsin State Journal will continue to be dazzled by Mr. Flimflam.

Dance with the one what brung ya Does contributing millions to Wisconsin Supreme Court judges work in your favor?

Justices Recusal HeadLn bwToday the 4 conservative members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who benefited from millions in contributions and campaign spending by the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, paid that generous investment favor back!

Nine months ago, Dee J. Hall (in our opinion the State Journal’s best reporter, now working elsewhere) delivered a front-page story documenting just where the money to elect these judges had come from — Justices face questions of recusal. It poses a simple question:

Should the four-member conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court decide a case involving groups that spent more than $8 million to get them elected?

This was great work at the State Journal.

And from 900 miles away, the New York Times editorialized

If the toxic effects of outsize spending in judicial elections were not already evident, the fiasco playing out in the Wisconsin Supreme Court should erase any doubt….

…A 2013 poll by the Brennan Center for Justice found that more than 9 in 10 people believed that a judge should step aside if a party to a case had spent significant amounts to help him or her get elected. Surely, that sensible principle is something an elected judiciary should embrace.

We waited for the Wisconsin State Journal‘s editorial. It never happened. To the best of our knowledge the editorial page never said peep. During these 9 months they produced 3 editorials in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, about which they could literally know nothing, since it was secret.

This local news organization is literally in a fight for its life. And the state of Wisconsin is experiencing its darkest days since the railroad barons of the 1800’s . The State Journal editorial page weighs in on behalf of theoretical free trade? Milfred needs to do better….

On the other hand there's this

rainbowAfter the U.S. Supreme Court okayed same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized, Let freedom — and wedding bells — ring.

And the sentiment was genuine. The State Journal editorial page has been good on the issue of gay marriage for a number of years.

As we have acknowledged many times, even offering it as a possible editorial page slogan:

We’re not always wrong!

Too often though, they are wrong, or inexplicably missing in action. Why, for example, aren’t they asking Governor Walker and the legislature,

“Why are we not accepting the $345 million dollars on offer in the ACA (“Obamacare”) Medicaid expansion? The budget’s a mess. We could instantly fix that damaging and foolish cut to the UW System.”

It’s simply baffling that the State Journal is so very silent on this senseless waste of our tax dollars where the only apparent motive [for refusing the money] is to help Scott Walker run for president. Do Wisconsin citizens really want to kick in $345 million of their tax dollars to help the governor campaign for higher office? Has there ever been a more stupid way to waste people’s money? Is this really going to go unremarked by the State Journal? It’s a question that should be asked again and again and again.

There was a good Phil Hands cartoon about this two weeks ago, but that’s about it! The general silence is beyond frustrating.


Oh, dear… look at this It's Milfred again

Today Mr. Milfred discusses the WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation) which is widely known for fumbling its job-creation mission, handing out ill-considered and unrecoverable loans, and failure to operate under normal and routine business accountability standards.

Milfred acknowledges the wreckage, which has after all been featured on his own paper’s front page. But on his page — did we mention that Milfred is the editorial page editor? — surprisingly, he writes

Gov. Scott Walker wisely proposed removing the politicians — including himself… — from WEDC’s board.

Wait a minute. He “wisely proposed”?  Is that the best way to put it? Wisely???

In what sense was the Governor wise?

WEDC was his idea, his baby.

He made himself Chairman of the Board.

He presided over 4 years of failure and mismanagement, and then as the whole thing is looming as a great embarrassment to his all-important campaign for president, he flees.

Milfred credits the governor for being wise. We credit Milfred for churning out silly nonsense. Please do read the entire editorial.



Wisconsin State Journal cuts staff again The shrinking news. It's less fun for dogs to fetch.

We just learned (five days late) that the Wisconsin State Journal has once again cut its newsroom staff. Story from the invaluable Bill Lueders at Isthmus online. Were we the last to know? Could be. Look, we never said we had connections at the State Journal, or any newspaper. We just used to read the thing. Regularly. For many years.

So 7 more newsroom professionals are gone from the State Journal, although one of them, Dee J. Hall, the paper’s best reporter, had departed for a better job, managing editor of Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The State Journal won’t fill her position, so it’s a cut for the State Journal.

Our first reactions were sorrow and a peculiar narcissistic shame. We don’t want anyone to lose their job, certainly not journalists working in Madison. And the shame? We’d stopped buying the paper and now seven journalists were gone. Were we partly to blame? Maybe we should’ve hung in there despite the difficulties.

Can these cuts possibly do anything other than compound the difficulties?

I paid for a copy of the Wisconsin State Journal! First time in a long time

This week your humble scribe actually forked over a dollar for a copy of the Wisconsin State Journal (print edition). I hadn’t done that for a long time.

Over the last 15 years — buffeted by the internet, and hemorrhaging ad revenue — the State Journal, like other newspapers, laid off newsroom staff. The product went from a healthy thud landing in the driveway each morning to a light-weight tissue fluttering in on the morning breeze. Combine this shrunken ability to get to the bottom of things with a dismal editorial page that far too often works against the interests of ordinary people, and you’ve got a product that I normally do not buy.

DeFour and Hall Front PageBut then there was this. A front-page story by Matthew DeFour and Dee J. Hall, handed out free, as usual, on Sunday at Metcalfe’s Sentry.  Whoa, actual investigative journalism!?! Not just a summary of another scathing audit of the “troubled” Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), but an investigation into one of the loans made by WEDC. And it was one highly peculiar loan.

This was the kind of story that used to make people like me buy the State Journal.

A quick summary:

Struggling business owner gives $10 thousand to the Walker campaign in 2010. It’s the day before the election; it’s the maximum donation allowed by law. Later the struggling business owner wants a loan from Wisconsin taxpayers via Scott Walker’s WEDC, which exists (supposedly) to create jobs in Wisconsin. On the loan application, business owner lies. Sez he’s not been sued lately, although he has been sued… including once, recently, by the State of Wisconsin. Nobody at WEDC checked? Hard to say. The loan file’s gone missing! The guy gets a half million dollars in an unsecured loan!!! (No collateral!!!) Who gets that kind of loan? The business fails. A half million dollars of public money vanishes. Not a single job is created. Walker, harkening back to the secret email scandal, says he knows nothing. Yes, Walker’s top staff, including campaign manager Keith Gilkes and DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch, had lobbied strongly for the loan (actually for a loan 8 times larger!!). WHY? And they did so without Walker even knowing??

In an online discussion, reporter DeFour said he’d been working on the story for two months, so this was an expensive story for the State Journal to fund.

During the rest of this week, I bought a copy of the State Journal every day, either at the Sentry or the Walgreens. It’s not subscribing, but I’m happy to have reporters DeFour and Hall at work. Tip o’ the hat to them, and to the unnamed editors and bean-counters who supported them.

The story is now playing out, even in the thinnest of news sources (the radio, the tv). It seems like there’s more to the story than what’s been reported so far. The numbers make no sense. Guy gives $10,000 and gets back $500,000 no strings attached? Did some of that $500,000 come back to the Walker recall treasure chest, but this time through an impenetrable conduit of dark money like Wisconsin Club for Growth? Maybe some reporter, someday, finds someone to talk more.

Supposedly William Randolph Hearst once remarked,

“News is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising.”