Finally, Mr. Milfred pipes up on Trump Wisconsin State Journal: Clinton, not Trump

[Almost] no American newspaper has endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Stalwart Republican newspapers like The Arizona Republic have warned their readers don’t vote for Trump.

Newspapers that have never before taken sides in a presidential race (e.g., USA Today) have called Mr. Trump “unfit for the presidency”.

So, we had wondered back on August 21,  “Will the Wisconsin State Journal ever start addressing the Trump phenomenon?”

It’s true that 5 months earlier the State Journal had published an earful when Trump threatened to “open up our libel laws” (?) to sue news organizations for being too critical.

“If I become president, oh, do they have problems. We can sue them and win lots of money.”

It’s true that this anti-constitutional dumbassery deserved pushback, very strong pushback, but still we had to withhold credit at the time, because Mr. Trump had been offering multiple stupidities, lies, and reversals week after week after week. And yet, seemingly, it took a threat to the newspaper industry to get Mr. Milfred aroused? We were not wowed by the moral clarity of defending one’s very own wheelhouse.toles-trump-covers-every-side-of-every-issue

But now at long last, on Sunday, Mr. Milfred put forward an official endorsement for the 2016 race: “Hillary Clinton — by far — is best prepared to lead our nation toward peace and prosperity.” And his essential brief against Trump? “[H]e can’t even work with his own party. He’s tearing the GOP apart.”

So that was pretty good. You know, accurate. So, pretty good!

Mr. Milfred might have said that Trump is tearing America apart, not just his beloved GOP. But baby steps….

Now if, if, if Mr. Milfred hopes to rebuild a winning future for conservatism, or America, or the world in general, he could stand to read not here, but the blog of NYU professor of journalism Jay Rosen. Many of the old rules of journalism are fried, he says. There is actually some bipartisan agreement on this starting point.


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.


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.

 

 


Not just wrong but harmful Wrong question, wrong time

Yesterday on Super Bowl Sunday, in a fit of pique, we lambasted the Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial of the day. We may have left the impression our principal complaint was the tone-deafness of such an editorial on America’s sacred wintertime blowout festival day of foodbawl and fun…

That was part of it.

Yes, the editorial was tone-deaf, but also, we asserted, it was “wrong”.  And yet wrongness isn’t even exactly at the heart of our objection either. It’s that the message was and is harmful, and not for the first time. The State Journal has been publishing variants of this same bad advice ever since conservatives pivoted from merrily building up the national debt (the Bush II years) to suddenly weeping and rending their garments at the thought of debt accruing during the Obama years. Literally, the pivot to new talking points began the very day that Obama put his hand on the Bible and ‘W’ flew off to Houston.

Now, there is a time for a nation to address its level of debt. The time for that is when the national economy is booming. Need it be said that “booming” does not describe the current American economy? There’s still plenty of slack. We are still struggling to get back to job and wage levels that existed before the housing/financial collapse of 2007.  We have lost somewhere around 5 trillion dollars of potential economic progress by letting people, equipment, talent and potential go unused.

All that scaremongering about debt and deficit since 2007 has been harmful. To the tune of trillions. Much of the scaremongering was a conscious political strategy by Senate and Congressional Republicans intending to prevent anything good from occurring on Barack Obama’s watch. And, of course, additional hand-wringing was provided in the usual peanut galleries and echo chambers. (This may describe the State Journal editorial page. There’s no way to see inside the motivations.)

In either case, millions of people have been hurt. We don’t ever like to say, “lives were ruined…” because is any life ever truly ruined? But bad results were widespread. How do you characterize it? Does losing a job when you’re 50 years old and never really finding another job “ruin” your life? [Note: none of this is self-descriptive… we are fortunate.] Let’s just say that a LOT of lives have been damaged. It shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t have lasted as long as it has.

We should have been rebuilding roads and bridges and mass transit. We should have been putting people back to work. The recession was the time for stimulus, and when the stimulus showed itself to be inadequate – and it did show that – exactly – then it was the time for more stimulus (yes, more debt… just like in the 1930’s), not more pulling back.

But of course fiscal stimulus was blocked whenever possible by the Republican congress. For political reasons nothing good for the middle- and lower-working classes would be allowed to happen on the Obama watch.

Even things that had long been in place — automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and food stamps — came under conservative attack. Conservatives insisted on austerity, on fiscal ‘rectitude’, on fears about debt, on angst about “debasing the currency”, on balancing the budget, on trimming the social safety net, on “reforming entitlements”, on getting the unemployed out of their “hammocks”, on “encouraging the job-creators”, and on and on… a litany of strategies and slogans that were either useless or actively harmful in a time of recession.

Regular readers of the Wisconsin State Journal will recognize how often these terrible memes were repeated and reinforced on the editorial page.  The bad memes were handed out all during the great recession, and they were handed out yet again yesterday. For the umpteenth time.

We are exhausted and frustrated with this run of incompetence. There have been multiple natural experiments in the real world comparing Keynesian and austerian policies for rescuing capitalist democracies from economic bubble-deflations. If the State Journal is going to weigh in on this kind issue, they need to study up and get right.


Super Bowl: Wisconsin State Journal fumbles again It's a humorless tradition!

It’s something of a tradition that the Wisconsin State Journal editorial page delivers a stink bomb opinion on Super Bowl Sunday, and guess what, they’ve done it again!

budweiser-clydesdale-puppyOn a day when we are all entitled to unhealthy food choices, and possibly excessive use of liquids while safely sprawled on our sofas… as we wait for heartwarming ads featuring Clydesdales and puppies, and yes, attractive spokesmodels…  the State Journal manages to cloud the moment with one of its patented tone-deaf (and wrong, but we’ll not even get into the wrongness part) editorial opinions.

Give it a rest, State Journal.

Today should be marred only by the fact that, just like us, the Packers are watching it on TV. (Well, possibly also marred later today if we lose money in a harmless but technically illegal friendly wager.)

No one needs you, Mr. Milfred, to mar the day also.

You want grump about red ink? Here’s an idea. Do it next week. Do it instead of one of those sublimely irrelevant and yet unaccountably frequent pieces about what the State Journal said 100 years ago.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Traffic is grinding to a halt as the snow continues to fall. There’s a fire in the fireplace. Try this: Have a bratwurst. Have some barbecue sauce. Have a beer for chrissake. And shut up about the friggin’ deficit for a day, because you kinda don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, and now is not the time. It’s almost time for the Clydesdales. We’ve got the Pats by one point, even though we kinda hate ’em. Now bring on the puppy. Everybody loves the puppy!


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.