Wisconsin State Journal flubs up debt-ceiling discussion AGAIN

A short while back we recalled the very poor work of the Wisconsin State Journal as it discussed the previous debt-ceiling “crisis” two years ago. We said in part

In it, they managed to portray the whole farce — not as extortion by the GOP’s newest, most unhinged, most extremist wing, which it was — but rather as a battle between the extremes of both parties, which it wasn’t. How does a board of so-called “journalists” ever wash away the embarrassment…?

Now they’re at it again. And they’ve bungled it, again. And in exactly the same way. They simply cannot say that Republicans — indeed about 90 Tea Party House Republicans — are to blame.

GOP AngryThe Tea Partiers are playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship, and Republican House Speaker Boehner is so far allowing them to do so. And it’s all based on the outlandish belief that they, as a minority, in one branch of government, should dictate. That cannot — cannot — be allowed.

But how does the Wisconsin State Journal describe it?

Congress should stop playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.

It’s “Congress“? It’s not Tea Party Republicans in the House? It’s just everybody in Congress? “Congress” needs to stop playing games?

We suppose it’s possible — if you stick your head way, way up, uh, somewhere — to call carjacking a “dispute over who should drive,” but it certainly wouldn’t be useful journalism. It would be going way out of one’s way to obscure the truth.

C’mon, State Journal editorial board. This was unacceptable.

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial drinkin’ game

Jameson WhiskeyOver at our place, we play a particular drinkin’ game by reading a Wisconsin State Journal editorial. Sometimes it goes nowhere. But other times, the editorial board will sort of criticize their beloved Republicans, and then the game is on. Will there be a matching swipe at Democrats? Are ya kidding? As soon as we find the matching swipe (and we will, it’s never not there) it’s time for everyone to shout, “Booyah Casserole!” and down a shot of Jameson.

Here’s an example. It’s actually a mostly good editorial — Partisan maps share blame for shutdown.  True enough. Gerrymandered voting districts really do help to explain why the GOP has gotten increasingly out of touch with the broad range of voters.

But then the editorialists can’t help themselves. In order to “balance” a criticism of their beloved GOP, they need an equal-and-also jab at Democrats, or in this case, “progressives”:

Fixing the process in Wisconsin won’t magically tame the tea party in Washington or turn progressives into pragmatists.

Bingo, there it is. Everybody take a drink.

Of course, in reality, we have no idea what makes progressives un-pragmatic. Who are they talking about? What are they talking about? They don’t explain. It’s just a quick insult, which always needs to be done. For faux balance? Is it an obsessive-compulsive symptom? Dunno, but it’s the reliable basis of the WSJ Editorial Drinking Game!

We should leave it at that, but we’ve got a couple of minutes to burn, so let’s get serious. The State Journal’s idea that progressives need to be more “pragmatic” has, let’s say, no particular basis. If they can defend the idea, we’d love to hear it. Thus far we believe it to be just an insult without basis.

Consider the debate over what everyone now calls “Obamacare.”  Obamacare is not what most progressives wanted. They would surely have preferred a single-payer insurance plan, like the well-regarded systems in other western democracies –. Universal coverage?  Lower costs? Better outcomes? — that would’ve been the progressive dream proposal.

But progressives were assured that single-payer could only be a pipe dream in the current American context. In order to get the existing private health insurers on board, the private health insurance industry would need to endure and be incentivized with more citizen/customers able to buy their private insurance. And practically speaking, that was probably true. Yes, the new plan would be pretty complicated, and it wouldn’t succeed in getting everyone covered, but it would be a good step forward, progressives were told. And progressives said OK. They supported the complicated compromise.

It was pure pragmatism. Now, compare that if you like to what’s going on in the Republican/Tea Party.


Detail from “One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved II (No. 6),” a painting purchased and altered by Jake and Dinos Chapman. JPEG image appropriated and further altered by J.

What this shows is that the drinking game requires no actual facts or actual journalism. It simply requires the WSJ editorial board to do what it obsessively does. They apparently cannot help themselves. As we said, this was an example of a basically good editorial. It didn’t need the ritual insulting of the enemies. The editorial didn’t become stronger through the ritual insulting. The 3 members of the editorial board didn’t secure absolution through the ritual. It’s just something, seemingly rooted in the 3 men’s psychologies, that they need to do.


In a sense, it’s a “fantastic” editorial

Always remember to prepare yourself (rubber gloves and a clothes-pin) before glancing at the Wisconsin State Journal editorial page. The thing is, they’re not always wrong (who could be?), but when they’re wrong, they can seem to be writing from another planet where important pieces of news haven’t yet arrived.

Consider this one, on the subject of Obamacare. This baleful effort posits that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) ain’t perfect (true enough). So what stands in the way of improving it? For the State Journal, the answer is always the same. It’s those two political parties. Both of ’em, equally. Why don’t they meet somewhere in the “sensible center”™?

Some Republicans and Democrats are digging in for a political standoff…

The 173-member House Republican Study Committee is committed to repeal of Obamacare, disdaining the idea of fixing it. Meanwhile, Democratic rhetoric focuses on defending Obamacare against all criticism…

Good grief. What would it mean to work together here? Where would discussion begin? The GOP (as the editorial noted) is demanding outright repeal of the whole hard-won thing. It’s really nonsense to suggest that the Republicans will discuss tweaking the ACA to produce actual improvements. All the evidence is that they want it to go down in flames.

House Republicans have now voted 40 times to abolish/defund the ACA. Once or twice might have been semi-normal symbolism, a bit of political grandstanding, but at 40 times — each time guaranteed, in advance, to be futile — it’s become a kind of bizarre and repetitive ritual performance art. This is a party with an overabundance of oddballs and zealots.

Hatred for the ACA is now a standard doctrine within the GOP. Gov. Romney promised he would ‘End Obamacare’ (on his first day in office!) and he really did need to make that promise in order to win nomination, even though Obamacare looks a heck of a lot like Romneycare in Massachusetts. In fact, Obamacare looks a lot like ideas that used to come out of the Heritage Foundation. Still, the Republicans now just hate, hate, hate it. A kind of inchoate rage boils within the Republican Party about this, so the very last thing they want to do is sit down and discuss improvements.

They’re threatening government shutdown.

They’re offering crazy-talk about forcing another downgrade of US debt unless President Obama weirdly agrees to somehow end/kill/renounce it (headline: “Obama renounces Obamacare”?). As Politico warns, one of these times, the Money wing of the party may not be able to overrule the Tea Party wing.

There has always been a lunatic fringe in our politics, and they do no great harm as long as they remain a “fringe”, but now they compose an important wing of the GOP. The same thing has not occurred in the Democratic Party. It’s time for the State Journal to notice. If the State Journal could just do that, it would work in their favor, and everybody’s, really.