This used to be frowned upon

We can’t comment on all that’s gone wrong with Madison’s one remaining daily newspaper, but the weird and inconsistent editorial page can still provoke us, once in a while, to write something.

Before we get to griping, however, let’s applaud (yet again) the State Journal’s continuing efforts to get Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature to hold just a simple darn hearing on fair voting districts. That hearing won’t happen, of course, because… well, look at who the Republicans are. But onward to the latest gripe.

On Tuesday the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized for cuts in food stamps. Holy mother of God… Need it be said? This kind of un-does any credit they were accruing from their fair redistricting editorials.

Call us old-fashioned but we believe everybody should have food to eat. Time was, everybody believed that. Or if they didn’t, they felt constrained to keep it to themselves. Especially during Christmas season.

So it’s been amazing to see the Republican Party roll out their attack on food stamps. Doubtless there’s some cohort of bloodless Scrooges who are on board for bashing the hungry, but are there really that many of them? And now the State Journal?

Hating the poor and the hungry used to be frowned upon. Saying “screw the hungry” wasn’t illegal, but it was definitely frowned upon. All the major religions were agreed on that point at least. This kept society just a little more decent. Less vicious. Now that’s changing. Republicans have decided to double-down on Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe. Fuck the poor. Fuck the hungry. It’s the latest new song in the GOP hymnal, and we were surprised to see the State Journal pick up the melody so quickly.

Hymn #206 — All Praise the Makers, Forget the Takers. Was that song always in the hymnal, lurking, waiting to be discovered and sung aloud? We’d never noticed it until lately. Things sure do change.

Once upon a time, Americans would never resort to torture. It was part of our shared American brand, and then suddenly we learned that we were, in fact, performing systematic acts of torture, worldwide. Soon, all the Republican candidates for President were on stage endorsing torture. None of them demurred. The old rules were out. Torture was in, under a new name. The State Journal never said peep.

That’s the way it works. One day torture is frowned upon. Slamming the poor with their food stamps is looked upon poorly. Then later, if the signal comes, it can all change before you know it.

Wisconsin State Journal again offers only confusion on the debt

For some strange reason, whenever the State Journal editorializes about the federal debt, it’s almost exactly like Republican spin. Today, of course, was no exception. They’re demanding seriousness from the Dems at their national convention. That would be okay, but we’d rather just see honesty all around.

We don’t think debt is our current number one problem. We actually need more spending to stimulate job growth and demand for business. We should be building and repairing now while borrowing costs are low. We need jobs, jobs, jobs. But let’s put that aside and focus on the debt.

What’s causing the debt? Let’s look again at this graph.

Note first that the graph begins at a low point in 2001. In 2001 we weren’t adding to the debt, because the Clinton years succeeded in balancing the budget.

Then George W. Bush and the Republicans took over. They promptly set us back on the path of more and more debt. Note the orange swath at the top. The Bush-era tax cuts are THE biggest factor driving increasing federal debt, now and in the future.  Really, nearly everything in the graph — tax cuts, wars, the recession, and measures to fight the recession — were Bush-era policies enthusiastically supported by Republicans (yes, including  Paul Ryan).

So the Republicans were merrily — really, merrily — adding to the debt until approximately the day Barack Obama became President. And then, the Republicans turned on a dime and began their public hysterics over debt. Naturally the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board did the same.

Now you might think that a good way to reduce the debt would be to examine what’s causing it and then stop doing that. This would first mean getting rid of the Bush era tax cuts.

Simple? Well, it would be a big start. But as everyone knows, the Republicans won’t have it. They won’t allow it. They can’t. Getting rid of the Bush tax cuts, would be a “tax increase,” and the Republicans are simply intransigent. They’ve signed pledges to Grover Norquist. If they vote for any kind of tax increase, the Club for Growth and a dozen other well-funded groups will fund their opponents in the next Republican primary.

So all kinds of reasonable compromise has been blocked. And we use the word reasonable intentionally. We don’t think you can look at the graph above, and “reasonably” say, “we want to attack the debt, but the Bush-era tax cuts must continue.”

But that’s the Republican message. Serious people should not take it seriously.

Are you listening, WSJ editorial board?

State Journal completely tickled by Ryan announcement

Oh, boy, our local editorial page is simply over the moon today, excited by the thought of Congressman Paul Ryan as VP candidate.  Wait, did we say “excited”?  More like “thrilled,” “electrified,” and “all-a-twitter.” They’re reveling:

“How far that jolt travels and how long that spark lasts remains to be seen, but for now we’ll revel in the moment and enjoy the national spotlight that will shine brightly on our state between now and Nov. 6.”

Their socks have been knocked right off!

They invite their readers, as in olden times, to send letters for [possible] publication later in the week. Us? No, we don’t think we’ll do that. Here’s this graph. (They don’t let letter-writers include graphs.)

Now Romney and Ryan are not even hiding their plans (à la Scott Walker). Ryan and Romney affirmatively promise to make things even BETTER for the rich, and worse for everyone else.

To a moral imbecile, that might make sense. But to anyone else?

Yesterday, Professor Mark Thoma’s Economist’s View blog:

If you think the middle class has it too good, too much security, taxes aren’t high enough, not enough fear of unemployment, too much help for education, and so on, while the wealthy haven’t been coddled enough in recent years, not enough tax cuts, too little upward redistribution of income, not enough bank bailouts, etc., etc., then the Republican proposals should make you happy.

(Hyperlinks don’t work in those ‘letters-to-the-editor’ either.)

Why the governor and a lot of his pals SHOULD be recalled

The State Journal used its editorial today to argue against recall elections for anything less than “illicit behavior.” Once elected, they say, office holders

…shouldn’t be targeted for recall because of public policy decisions.  (emphasis added)

We’re inclined to agree, but we don’t think “public policy” means what the State Journal thinks it means. Winning a 52-48 election and then screwing the 48% is not normal public policy.

  • Look, we’re not in any union. But we know WHY they went after the unions. It wasn’t just to plug a budget. Unions have always been a powerful source of (big D) Democratic support, with money, organizing, phone banks, and volunteers. When the public unions conceded on money, Walker still wanted them dead. Union money has never come close to matching corporate money in our elections, but the union bodies and the social networking were powerful. In a post-‘Citizens United’ environment, couldn’t the unions have been allowed to play their traditional role, albeit ever-more-outmatched as the contribution floodgates opened to private wealth? Nope. This was the perfect moment to unsheathe the knife. In gutting the public unions, Walker was making a pure play for advantaging the Republicans in every election in the future. Karl Rove and the sociopath wing of the Republican party smiled in their very private meetings. This had been a most excellent “public policy decision”.
  • Look, we’re not all that young or all that old. We’re not blind, or handicapped, or unable to show a driver’s license. We’re not moving around because we’re in school or looking desperately for work. But we know WHY they wanted Voter ID. Everyone knows why (although not everyone can say it in public). Like the unions, certain voters tend — not overwhelmingly — but tend to vote wrong (you know, for Democrats). This is precisely why the Governor and his temporary majority passed unnecessary restrictions on who could vote. The “right” to vote? The sanctity of one person, one vote? Screw the lofty rhetoric; bring on a small (and enduring) systemic advantage in future close elections! Screw the cost. Seven million dollars? Why, what a bargain! The absence of any problem to be solved? We can work around that by repeating “voter fraud” over and over. It’s easy; we’ll just ram it through.  What?!! It’s not “illicit” or anything. It’s just a “public policy decision”. We’ll just get our pals at the newspaper to repeat that over and over. You know… maybe they’ll even believe it.

Editorial nonsense.

There is literally nothing to say about today’s Wisconsin State Journal Mother’s Day editorial headlined End the ‘mommy wars’. There ARE NO mommy wars. There IS NO war on Christmas. These are phony controversies ginned up by right wing media hacks to excite their ever-excitable base of reprogrammable ragebots. Congrats to the State Journal, now competing head to head with Bill O’Reilly.


Raising the retirement age to 70?

Today in an editorial headlined, “Slowly increase retirement age,” the Wisconsin State Journal offers its suggestions for Social Security.  First on their list is to raise the retirement age to 70.

We try to understand where our conservative Republican brothers and sisters at the State Journal are coming from. We fully agree that this is [partly] a math problem. We agree that we want to find a point of equilibrium where the program is financially sound for as far into the future as predicting can be done (maybe 2 or 3 generations — 60-70 years).

But this is not JUST a math problem. There are people.

Do we really want to say that people should, normally, work until they’re 70 years old? Is that what America has come to?

Is it even possible to work that long? It seems to us that a lot of people are doing work that simply cannot be done when you get that old. And it also seems to us that jobs for the elderly are often just not there.

Does any of this enter into the thinking of the conservatives in the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board room?

Now we’re talking about reality?

[traveling, so this will be short]

Another interesting State Journal editorial. It urges Wisconsin Republicans to embrace something that is no longer a serious element in the GOP canon of beliefs – the need to align politics with “reality”.

The editorial says,

… openly flouting reality and having candidates claiming to be something they clearly are not — feels unseemly and somehow contradictory

“Openly flouting reality” has been, um, standard operating procedure for the GOP for quite some time. Easily half the party base is made up of anti-science, fundamentalist bible-jugglers who think the guy in the white house is a foreign-born, secret Muslim planning to wreck the constitution through death panels, health care insurance, and a crushing, job-killing failure to lower taxes on the people who really need it, the wealthy. Not everyone in the party needs to believe every bit of it, but without its active, reality-challenged base, the party is a goner.

And it’s not only hayseeds who populate the reality-averse GOP. The GOP leadership is actively selling snake oil. Probably the State Journal’s most favoritist Congressmen, Paul Ryan, put together a budget that would again cut taxes (mostly on America’s highest earners) by 4.6 trillion dollars, and replace Medicare insurance with vouchers so grandma can go shopping on the private market for a company that wants to sell her (and her 80-year-old husband with diabetes) health insurance.

Utter divorce from reality.

How many House Republicans voted for Ryan’s proposal 10 days ago? Yep, all but ten of ’em.

A scary Easter egg from the Wisconsin State Journal

After more than a week of generally dull editorial page work, the Wisconsin State Journal returned to duty on Easter Sunday, fumbling with their Deficit Worry Beads.We don’t know whether they actually believe this stuff or whether it’s a condition of employment to fake it, but really, it doesn’t matter.

None of the details of the editorial matter — a vote was taken in Washington, it failed, massively. Nothing happened. The importance of  the editorial, the need for writing it, was to worry the lightly-informed by repeating some scare words — deficit, debt, entitlements, crisis, fiscal meltdown, and children and grandchildren. These words can be used in any order in sentences that need not make any real sense. The importance lies in simple repetition and in forgetting the context, that is, forgetting the past.

As we skimmed through this latest bit of quacking, we were reminded of the famous Winston Smith, the main character in Orwell’s novel 1984. Winston works at his desk in the Ministry of Truth rewriting the past: old news articles, official reports, ministry forecasts, and indeed whatever he’s instructed to alter, so that records from past can agree with whatever had now become official party doctrine. Winston knows it’s all rubbish, but in the novel he does what he’s told, obliterating the past sometimes even skillfully. As it turns out,  nowadays in real life, great skill is not actually required.

The actual work of altering the past is much, much easier than Orwell predicted. It turns out you can simply ignore the past, if you’re so inclined, and you can just make things up if you care to. You just need to work together. Once large swaths of the media are all repeating more or less the same message, many people think there must be something to it, regardless of whether it’s true, or even plausible. At some point. It just becomes conventional talk, common sense, conventional wisdom.

As Winston describes it

It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. “Reality control,” they called it.

Look at today’s scary Easter egg from Madison’s only remaining daily.

  • Today’s fretting about the federal budget deficit, as with all such fretting on the State Journal editorial page, requires it to forget that President Clinton presented President George W. Bush with a budget surplus.
  • It was only 12 years ago, but if you somehow just cannot remember that fact, you can begin worrying yourself sick about the deficits that have now returned.
  • It was only 12 years ago, but you can imagine that having a balanced federal budget would be impossible without everybody (well, almost everybody) sacrificing things they used to enjoy, just 12 years ago.
  • And if you somehow just can’t remember that it was two very large Bush tax cuts that promptly threw us back into federal deficits, then it’s easier to pretend that all the current Republican hysteria over the deficit is genuine.
  • And if you can’t remember exactly how we got into [another] two wars, and how conservatives resolutely opposed asking anyone to pay the [financial] price, you can start to believe these deficits aren’t the result of determined conservative anti-tax policies.
  • If you could manage to forget that the country’s most elite financial institutions went bankrupt four years ago, nearly wrecking the world economy, you might begin to think that, well, we’re just not the richest economy in the world anymore… or are we? Who knows? Who remembers?
  • And so, obviously, that requires old folks to give up Social Security and Medicare, and young adults to give up affordable college tuition, and poor people to give up Medicaid, and schoolchildren to give up smaller classrooms, and a whole host of sacrifices that everybody (well, not exactly everybody) now needs to give up.

By simply operating with no memory of the recent past, the State Journal editorial page can quack anxiously about “a fiscal meltdown” that will engulf us all (well, almost all of us).

Of course, in reality, returning to tax policies that worked perfectly well 12 years ago would go a long way toward solving the debt problem, as it did then. Do we need to say it?  Just 12 years ago!

But, of course, that might only occur to those with a memory, or a wider group of friends, or access to books, or the internet…. We honestly don’t expect any of that to happen for the State Journal. It hasn’t happened yet.

Wisconsin State Journal goes gaga 4 Republican primary

Was it too many green beers? Too many basketball games? Was it springtime itself? Whatever it was, some lightheaded editorialist at the State Journal (and we think we know who) got way too giddy in public in this dingdong editorial which begins,

Bring it on!

The race for president rolls into Wisconsin this week and next as four contenders for the Republican nomination prepare to duke it out in the April 3 primary.

Enjoy the front-row seat…

Front row? Popcorn? No thanks. Maybe a big ol’ bottle of Orwell’s Victory Gin, because this spectacle is sad. Not just the 4 candidates, but the rivers of great wealth they float in on, and the bewildered citizens who think maybe they’ll vote for one, and the information systems that allow for so much bewilderment.

Editorial provokes thought bubble

We found today’s Wisconsin State Journal editorial “Five to finish” thought-provoking. No, honestly!

It provoked this line of thought in us: 

“Hm! These five items that the Journal wants the Legislature to pass before adjourning aren’t entirely misguided.  Why, two of them are actually fine, and the last one might be, as well.

If the State Journal were in the Legislature with an “R” behind its name, and we were in the Legislature with a “D”, we might actually have room to talk to each other! Maybe work something out….”

Now, if you drop in here often, you will recognize that this is a more charitable view of the day’s editorial page than often times. But, to be fair, the Journal editorial page — if you consider it within the context of today’s ever more extreme Republican party — is relatively moderate.

Now is that saying anything? A little, but not nearly so much as you might hope.

The Grand Old Party has gone from questioning Roe v. Wade to questioning the whole idea of birth control.  Rick Santorum is mounting a case against university education, fer gawd sakes.  They’re passing state laws forcing vaginal probes on women.  Last year Republican Tea Partyists forced a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating! The uniquely powerful Rush Limbaugh  goes on the air and calls a woman a slut, and a prostitute, and demands she make sex-tapes for him to watch. Here in Wisconsin the reliably extreme Sen. Glenn Grothman has a bill to label single parenthood as a factor leading to child abuse!

To appear “relatively” sane, in this context, has become trivially easy.  That is, if you’re a Republican who cares to do that, which fewer and fewer do.  There’s a reason people keep gravitating to the metaphor of Republican “Clown Show“. The metaphor suggests itself. A party where Donald Trump or Herman Cain can be Presidential front-runners, even for a moment, is seriously off the rails.

So, in this little thought experiment where the State Journal editorial page somehow gets to be a Republican state legislator, we cannot imagine how they survive. The Journal (at least today, March 4, 2012) is too moderate.

Of course, the same might be said about President Ronald Reagan who raised taxes eleven times. Too realistic, too pragmatic… he couldn’t be a player in today’s Republican politics.