House Republicans celebrate their newest horrible health care bill What the hell is wrong with these people?

Jesus. In a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the U.S. economy, House Republicans have passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. There was no time to read this bill. Because of the rush, no one can know the exact impact, but it was celebrated as a political “win” for President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Of course, the broad themes are clear:

  • millions of Americans will lose access to medical care
  • as a result, tens of thousands will die prematurely
  • the wealthy will get a big tax cut

That’s the broad outline.

Reckless governance, deep immorality, class warfare.

Behold the House Republicans and the President at happy hour.

 


Paul Ryan: weakling, con man, misleader Ryan in headlines

paul-ryan-60-minutesOver the weekend we got to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on CBS News’ “60 Minutes”… Did he disagree with Donald Trump’s [fantastical made-up fantasy] claim of millions of illegal voters in the last election? Mr. Ryan: “I don’t know. I’m not really focused on these things.”

This is actually quite serious. The supposedly “responsible” or “traditional” or “establishment” leaders in the Republican Party [see also Reince Priebus and VP Mike Pence] are actively helping Trump weaken our democracy.

It is time… way past time… for the non-insane press, which is now just one segment of what Americans regard as their news and information system, to call a spade a spade.

Here’s a list — ranked, roughly, from best to worst — of news headlines covering Ryan’s remarks:

GQ: ‘Paul Ryan Apparently Doesn’t Give a Shit if Donald Trump Lies About Illegal Voting’

Politico: ‘Ryan won’t repudiate Trump’s false illegal voter claims’

Raw Story: ‘I have no knowledge of such things’: Paul Ryan plays dumb on Trump’s big lie about illegal voters

Mediaite: Paul Ryan on Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims: ‘It Doesn’t Matter to Me,’ He Won

Yahoo news: Paul Ryan on Trump’s baseless voter fraud claim: ‘Who cares what he tweeted?’

Huffington Post: Paul Ryan On Donald Trump Tweeting Lies: ‘Who Cares?’

Salon: Let’s watch Republicans feign ignorance about Donald Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims

Wisconsin State Journal: Paul Ryan: ‘Who cares’ what Donald Trump tweets if problems are fixed

To their credit, the Wisconsin State Journal did publish something.  But why is the headline so ambiguous? After reading the headline, would anyone know what the story is about? The story is: Trump manufactures a self-serving lie, a YUUUGE lie, a lie corrosive to American democracy. And Paul Ryan fails to marshal courage to say bupkis.

 


Paul Ryan: Statesman or Un-glued Nutball? Feel the "intellectual heft"

The New York Times castigates two prominent Republicans (care to guess who? it’s not that easy) for a howling storm of  misrepresentation following President Obama’s executive announcements on gun law enforcement.

Winning answers: Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan, nut“From Day 1,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, “the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.” Mr. Ryan said that “rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.”

Oh, fer pete’s sake. More examiners to process our existing background checks for gun buyers. Is that really a ‘form of intimidation’? An ‘undermining of liberty’? Good grief.They're coming for our cars

The only detail making Ryan’s words less stupid than the militia occupying that bird place in Oregon is that Ryan didn’t capitalize the “L” in liberty. That could’ve been the cherry on top. Let’s thank Ryan for foregoing the cherry.

And let’s note, this wasn’t just an off-hand comment from the Congressman. As Speaker, he has now got a communications team of nine full-timers. The Times (above) was quoting his official press release which was reinforced by a Twitter tweet, a flattering photo, and all helpfully tagged ‘Second Amendment’ for the benefit of text-based search engines

Can this be the same Paul Ryan our fawning, local newspaper hailed as a ‘statesman‘?


How can the front page be at war with the back page? Wisconsin State Journal shows us how

Paris Climate Conference.  Wisconsin State Journal headline:

“Event goal: Avert global havoc”

WSJ front page

Is this headline controversial? Well, sure and alas, it is.

The headline seems to offer matter-of-fact acceptance that global climate change is real. It is real, of course, but not everyone believes it.

Oh, yes, the insurance industry, the Department of Defense, and scores of U.S. corporations all recognize that climate change is real. Scientists are in consensus. Really, all serious people recognize this looming danger. But that’s not everyone, is it. In point of fact, one of our two major political parties remains ludicrously married to climate denialism.

And that brings us to the back pages of the Wisconsin State Journal. There, on the editorial page, where they ought to be able to speak freely, they’ve got almost nothing to say. On the front page, as we noted, they can say the words “Avert global havoc,” but on the back page, they’re sound asleep. How does this happen? Mr. Milfred, the apparent editorial page editor for life, is snoring away.

Consider Milfred’s recent editorial page celebration of Congressman Paul Ryan — an over-the-top tribute which dubbed Ryan a “statesman” and a figure of “intellectual heft”. Somehow — and we know not how — Milfred seems not to know about Ryan’s nutty stance on climate change.

Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait said this about Ryan’s climate change stance:

During a debate last night for his election to the House, Paul Ryan was asked if he believes that human activity has contributed to global warming. “I don’t know the answer to that question,” he replied, “I don’t think science does, either.”

In fact, science does know the answer. Climate scientists believe with a 95 percent level of certainty (the same level of certainty as their belief in the dangers of cigarette smoking) that human activity is contributing to climate change. There are things science knows, and this is one of them. Scientists may not have the answer to what policies are appropriate for responding to the fact that greenhouse-gas emissions cause changes to the environment, but they can tell us what happens when we release heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

This is another way of saying that Paul Ryan is a nut.

Is “nut” too strong a word? Too colorful? Maybe for some. But really, no one should offer up baseless nonsense about a grave problem facing the planet and still have claim to “intellectual heft”.

 



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.

How?

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.


The Paul Ryan interview He's awesome

Paul Ryan InterviewJust for fun we dug something out of the recycle pile. It was the recent bit where the Wisconsin State Journal talked to Congressman Paul Ryan.

We hadn’t intended to say anything about this. We have things to do — plastic bags to recycle, sew on a button, important stuff.

But then Paul Krugman reminded us on his blog of what a profoundly incompetent predictor of our economic future Mr. Ryan has been. Jiminy. Read Paul Ryan’s various doomsday predictions from the year 2009 and you’ll find his every single economic prediction turned out to be worthless. Everything. All of it. Wrong, wrong wrong.

Now getting stuff wrong should not be surprising for anyone who, like Ryan, has been in thrall to the crank economic philosophies of novelist Ayn Rand. For years, Ryan passed out Rand’s books to his Congressional staff, because he thought she was so insightful. He’d read her books in his formative years and was quite carried away, still into adulthood. And then, a few years ago, someone pointed out that Ayn Rand was an atheist!  Somehow this had eluded Ryan, but ever since, in public, he’s been downplaying his schoolboy crush.

Of course, we might not care that Mr. Ryan got his misunderstanding of macroeconomics from an eccentric novelist if he were some ordinary guy, but alas, he’s chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, so he’s in precisely the spot to do real damage.

Paul Krugman, who is, um, an “actual economist” has for years been dismissing Mr. Ryan as con man and a flim-flam man, because Ryan’s “budgets” invariably have what Krugman calls “magic asterisks” where the savings are supposed to appear but are never specifically described. What’s more these “budgets” always seem to provide tax cuts for the rich, because that’s just common sense to Ryan. When pressed, Ryan will say his budgets are not really “budgets” so much as “roadmaps”, and indeed they have never been scored by the CBO. They can’t be, because of the magic asterisks.

Nonetheless, Ryan’s efforts are always well-received by the 1% and Republican lawmakers. And, we hafta say, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial page.

Back to Krugman:

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

Enter, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board, for a sit-down interview with the Congressman Ryan. What a fruitless little affair. Ryan was treated like a politician on Meet the Press — a question is posed, the politician offers some words he’s been practicing in front of a mirror for months or years, and then the conversation moves on to the next question. It’s only meaningful to people fond of rating a politician’s acting chops.

Now, did we actually expect the fellows at the State Journal to do better than the current multi-millionaire anchorman hosting Meet the Press? No, we did not. And it didn’t happen. Wide swaths of our media fail us predictably, week in and week out, so expectations are what they deserve to be. We certainly didn’t expect the State Journal executives to joust with Ryan on the economy, for the first reason Krugman mentioned above — inability. And in truth, it would’ve been hard, because Ryan has been practicing in front of the mirror for years.

But even if questioning Ryan about economics was too hard for the State Journal executives, they could certainly have asked him about the “partisan politics” they so often decry on their editorial page. There is no trope more common in State Journal editorials than the call for bipartisan cooperation in Washington, a call that Mr. Ryan and his party never bothered to answer. Ryan and party instead raised the bar for intransigent partisanship, and all at a time (think global warming) when we really cannot afford to dither. Ryan and party cannot reliably fund Homeland Security. They cannot agree to do such obvious, and (you would think) non-controversial things as repair roads and bridges.

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.

Fellas, you had him right there across the table.


The eternal dumbness of our media

On Sunday the Wisconsin State Journal featured a brief and mostly self-congratulatory history of itself, written by editorial page editor Scott Milfred.

What’s going on, we asked. Is it time for the annual Wisconsin Newspaper Awards? Where Wisconsin newspapers give awards to one another? But no, it’s not. It’s the State Journal celebrating. They are old — 175 years old.

Did you know that 154 years ago the State Journal endorsed Abraham Lincoln for President? Apparently they did. (Spoiler: Lincoln won.)

It goes without saying that our editorial page editor, Mr. Milfred, was not around for the Lincoln endorsement, so, personally, he gets no credit for that. But credit where credit is due… Mr. Milfred did endorse George W. Bush. Both times… the second time being just extraordinarily foolish.

paul Ryan 1Milfred retained his job, however, and even today he is turning out new nonsense such as “Make it happen, Paul Ryan” which we shall discuss below. It’s a sort of master class in “how to forget everything that’s known and imagine, instead, a UNICORN!”

The ‘Make it happen’ editorial imagines that Ryan, in his new role as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, might reshape tax policy to benefit ordinary citizens. That is hugely unlikely. Simply not plausible. In fact, we’re going to call it dumb, willfully dumb. It might be nice to imagine… sort of a momentary flight-of-fancy? But no.

Here’s the problem.

1. Paul Ryan is 44 years of age. His values are well-established. Mr. Ryan has never proposed a budget (or one of his “road maps” to a quasi-budget-framework) that wasn’t highly favorable to the richest among us and unfavorable to the many. That’s just a fact.

And his very public infatuation with Russian-American novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand should make it clear that Ryan, for whatever reason, instinctively admires the wealthy and the powerful — the “makers”. He’s not alone, of course. Veneration of the rich is a mark among Republican office holders, as both a personality trait and a general ideological stance.

Stephen King In 2012  Stephen King (yes, the author) wrote

They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber.

See? By comparison, our language at The Daily Tissue is actually quite measured. Fans of Ranting (FOR) may enjoy the whole thing from King. Not surprisingly ranting by professional writers is among the best there is.

 

2. Paul Ryan’s jobsite is Washington D.C. Even if he wanted to rewrite tax law to help the “ordinaries” (He doesn’t. see above)…  even if he were a good-hearted Bernie Sanders and really did want to help the ordinaries, he wouldn’t be able to.

There’s a certain formulation that says, “gub’mint doesn’t work.” But that’s not accurate. The truth is it works well for some, and not so well for others. Is this just bar room grumbling? No, there is research.

In a widely reported study, Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page compared American’s polled preferences to actual results in 1,779 instances of government policy-making. Their study covered 20 years, at the federal level, with these results:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

Gilens and Page don’t write as colorfully as Stephen King, but, of course, they’re pretty much not allowed to. Still they conclude

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Finally, it’s particularly noteworthy that Gilens and Page were looking way back at twenty years of policy-making from 1981 to 2002. Should we suppose that the federal government hasn’t grown even more attuned to the preferences of the wealthy and business elites in the last 12 years?

If you can believe that, there’s a guy from the State Journal with a unicorn to sell you.