Book it! (maybe)

I have engaged in a mixed metaphor by using a term sometimes used by UW announcer Matt Lepay to describe a three-point field goal.

Lepay doesn’t announce the Bucks; legendary announcer Eddie Doucette did, with a catchprhase for nearly everything …

eddiewords_2100

… except a three (“Bango!” is for a slam dunk), perhaps because most of his time in Milwaukee came before the National Basketball Association added the three to its rules.

(I started with “Bango!,” not realizing Doucette used it for dunks and not threes, and then Mrs. Presteblog pointed out that almost no listeners even in the early 2000s would have any idea what “Bango!” was supposed to refer to, so I substituted “Bullseye!”, which has stuck.)

This long-winded preamble introduces this from Awful Announcing:

Sports Illustrated has been on the market for some time, and back in April we wrote about how Meredith was looking to sell SI for something like $150 million. Since then, there hasn’t been much movement on the sale front, although there was a fun stretch where Dan Gilbert and Tony Robbins were reportedly interested.

For a while, that lack of movement seemed to be a result of Meredith asking too much for SI. But according to a Reuters report from Carl O’Donnell and Liana B. Baker, Meredith’s patience might be paying off, as they’re apparently close to completing a deal. Not with an existing media company, but with a former NBA player.

Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman, a former U.S. basketball player who became a fast-food mogul, is in the lead to acquire Sports Illustrated magazine from U.S. media company Meredith Corp (MDP.N) for about $150 million, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The deal would be the result of a review that Meredith is carrying out in its portfolio, following its $1.84 billion acquisition of Time Inc last year. It has already sold off its Time and Fortune magazines and is exploring a sale of Money Magazine.

Bridgeman is in the final stages of negotiating a deal for Sports Illustrated after lining up acquisition financing, the sources added. If his effort is successful, a deal announcement could come by the end of the year, according to the sources.

Bridgeman is a former Indiana high school legend from East Chicago who went on to play at Louisville before a lengthy NBA career. After his playing days, he ended up going into an entirely different industry, becoming a restaurant franchise mogul. Bridgeman’s interest was first reported in October by the New York Post‘s Keith J. Kelly.

Considering Bridgeman is apparently willing to offer the asking price, it might be surprising that the deal hasn’t gone through yet, but as Reuters notes, it’s for a very simple reason: Bridgeman isn’t in media or publishing. That means a lack of infrastructure, which means the buyers will need a way to actually print the magazine, among other things.

One aspect of the deal still being hashed out in the negotiations is the outsourcing agreements related to printing and paper costs of the magazine, one of the sources said. These discussions are common when a buyer who does not own a media company purchases a magazine, the source added.

For example, when Marc and Lynne Benioff bought Time magazine for $190 million in cash in September, Meredith entered into a multiyear agreement with them to provide services such as subscription fulfillment, paper purchasing and printing.

If the deal goes through, it will be interesting to see how a new entrant to the world of media handles the Sports Illustrated brand going forward.

It would be great to see SI, which I have read since I was in high school (the first issue I received was the 1982 swimsuit issue) in the hands of an owner who can figure out a plausible yet profitable direction for the magazine. SI has taken its yearly swimsuit issue into its own brand (including models who don’t actually wear swimwear, or anything else), with no indication of financial success. SI.com is now covering the non-sport of “professional” wrestling and has delved into other areas that can’t really be called sports.

SI also now prints every other week instead of weekly. Perhaps that economic decision makes sense, but it tends to restrict covering events after the event, which was the ultimate downfall of Sport magazine and Inside Sports. Some of the greatest game stories have been written by SI writers over the years, but if the event took place two weeks ago, perhaps readers beyond fans of the participating teams have moved on. ESPN The Magazine also publishes every other week, but the magazine has a horrid and unreadable design, perhaps designed for people who don’t generally read. If you don’t cover news (as in what happened, as opposed to what you think is going to happen, failures in which created the infamous SI Cover Jinx), what’s the point of reading?

 

 

Advertisements

News of former and would-be employers

Readers know that the first newspaper job I ever had was a part-time sportswriting job in college.

Nearly all of my career I’ve worked in non-daily publications, except for 7½ months at the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen. The guy who hired me was Jeff Hovind, the editor. So this news from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association is sad to me:

Jeff Hovind, a Milwaukee native and former Wisconsin newspaper publisher and owner, died Thursday, Oct. 25 in Lincoln City, Oregon. He was 62.

After earning his journalism degree at UW-Eau Claire, Hovind started his career at the (Beaver Dam) Daily Citizen as a reporter and editor. He went on to serve as publisher of The (Waukesha) Freeman before purchasing the Merrill Courier.

Hovind, who moved with his wife Susan to Oregon in 2015, is remembered by colleagues for his journalistic passion.

“Jeff cared very much about local journalism and was a champion for open government,” said Bill Yorth, publisher and editor-in-chief for The Freeman. “I learned a lot from him. I always admired his dedication to the paper and to our profession.”

The Daily Citizen was, shall we say, an interesting place to work. Ninety minutes into my first day there someone tried to drive into the building. The driver was a job applicant who had a car whose engine would die when the car was taken out of Park, so she would gun the engine before shifting. Unfortunately for the building she shifted into Drive instead of Reverse, and the car jumped the parking lot curb and smacked into a floor-to-ceiling plate-glass window next to the ad manager’s desk. Fortunately for him the ad manager was out sick that day, but on my first day the newspaper was its own front-page news.

One early afternoon after that day’s paper was done I was sitting at my desk when I got an anonymous phone call with the ridiculous story that two eighth-grade girls had just gotten back from a bus trip to Mexico that resulted from their successfully claiming that they were the children of migrant farm workers who had left them in Wisconsin after the harvest season ended. Then when I started calling around I found out that the story may have been ridiculous, but it was true. One of the two apparently looked vaguely Hispanic, the other took Spanish class, and between the two of them they had convinced a Greyhound Bus terminal clerk and a police sergeant to put them on a bus to El Paso (where one of them had an aunt), whereupon they walked to the border into Mexico, came back and requested a ride home.

The Citizen was the most bureaucratic small business I had ever seen, and ever have seen since then. Somehow I got roped into the company’s Safety Committee, which meant I had to attend meetings with the publisher’s wife. Said publisher owned a late-1970s large Mercedes-Benz sedan, and as it turned out a few other management types, including Jeff, also owned Mercedes sedans, which appeared to me as the Cult of Mercedes.

One project I the education reporter worked on was an eight-day-long series about sex education in area schools. After the series the Citizen received a letter claiming that I was a liberal, which I imagine readers should find amusing. One thing I learned at the Daily Citizen was what we called The Fay Rule, named for one of our typesetters: If we put a name in a headline but Fay didn’t know who it was, the name had to be removed.

The funniest thing that happened was relatively late in my stay there. I was hired as the education reporter to replace another reporter who was moving to the police and courts beat. She then decided to leave, and she hosted a going-away party at her house in Watertown. The only person from the newsroom not at the party was the associate editor, who was legendary in the newsroom for speaking in clichés. Jeff brought a karaoke machine, and so over the course of several drinks each we composed The Tom Song, whose lyrics consisted completely of Tomspeak. Since we didn’t want him to feel left out, we called him around 10:45 p.m. and sang The Tom Song to him. On the other hand, the next day Tom was the only person in the newsroom who wasn’t hung over.

Jeff and his wife took me to lunch the next day and he seemed envious that I was getting into the world of newspaper ownership. (I should have told him it was overrated.) So I’m glad he got the publishing opportunity.

One of the Citizen’s competitors was the Watertown Daily Times, with which I interviewed twice, but the Times decided it was never time to hire me. Another competitor of the non-daily was the Dodge County Independent News in Juneau, which when I worked for the Daily Citizen was owned by Scott Fitzgerald, later to become state Senate Majority Leader. (Cue “It’s a Small World.”) Watertown is on the border of Dodge and Jefferson counties, which means that the Daily Times’ daily competition was the Daily Citizen to the north and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson.

How do I wrap up every newspaper except the Citizen here? With this news:

Adams Publishing Group announced December 3, 2018 they have purchased the assets of the Watertown (WI) Daily Times and Dodge County Independent News from James M. Clifford. The Watertown Daily Times is published Monday through Friday and the Dodge County Independent News weekly. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Members of the Clifford family have owned the Watertown Daily Times since 1919. James Clifford, chairman of the company said that this was a difficult day for the family but felt the Times would be in a stronger position to compete in a challenging and fast changing competitive environment if it were part of a larger group. Clifford went on to say, “My family and I have enjoyed being stewards of this important community institution the past 99 years. We believe we have selected a new owner that will carry on in the best interests of Watertown, the readers of the Daily Times and our wonderful employees.”

Clifford’s son, Kevin is the fourth generation of the Clifford family to have worked at the company and currently serves as the Editor and Publisher. Both James and Kevin Clifford have served in leadership roles in a number of state and national newspaper organizations. …

Adams Publishing Group announced December 3, 2018 they have purchased the assets of the Daily Jefferson County Union and the affiliated Hometown News Limited Partnership from W.D. Hoard & Sons Company. The Daily Jefferson County Union and the affiliated Hometown News Limited Partnership publish 13 community newspapers and shoppers, stretching across parts of six counties in south central Wisconsin.

Brian Knox, president of W. D. Hoard & Sons Company, will continue to operate its other businesses including the Hoard’s Dairyman magazine, a magazine aimed at the dairy industry with world-wide distribution, other agricultural publications, a dairy farm, recently launched cheese products and other businesses.

The Daily Jefferson County Union was founded in 1870 by William Dempster Hoard. The Knox family eventually acquired the company from the Hoard family. Brian Knox, the second generation of the Knox family and current publisher, has been with the newspaper for the past 41 years.

Hometown News publishes the Sun Prairie Star, a twice-weekly newspaper, plus eight weekly newspapers: Milton Courier, Cambridge News/Deerfield Independent, Lake Mills Leader, Herald-Independent/McFarland Thistle (covering Monona, Cottage Grove and McFarland), Waterloo/Marshall Courier, Waunakee Tribune, DeForest Times-Tribune and the Lodi Enterprise/Poynette Press.

Knox said in a statement that his family’s interests are refocusing on other sectors of the company. “148 plus years ago this company was founded on community journalism. When I became publisher, almost all of the 37 daily papers in the state were independently owned, either as single papers or in small groups. Now there are fewer dailies and just a handful of independents left. One of the reasons for this is that in the 41 years I have been publisher, the industry has had to technologically re-invent the way we do business every three or four years to continue on. We have done this successfully and even our circulation numbers have fought the industry trend and grown the last few years. But the reality is that we’ve reached the point where we need to be much bigger to spread those costs and to take advantage of rapidly changing technologies.”

I suppose I should add that the newspapers mentioned two paragraphs ago were all competitors once upon a time too.

 

Government Motors fails again

Investors Business Daily:

General Motors’ decision to close four U.S. plants and lay off 14,700 workers, 15% of its domestic workforce, is an economic tragedy. And it might have been avoided if GM had listened to the market, rather than the Obama administration.

During and after the financial crisis, GM decided to do the government’s bidding in exchange for billions in subsidies. At one point, the federal government owned more than 60% of its shares, costing it more than $50 billion. By the time it sold the shares in 2013, U.S. taxpayers had an $11.2 billion loss.

How’s that working out for GM now? Not very well.

GM’s CEO Mary Barra, who took over the company in early 2014, reshaped the company’s offerings to please the Obama White House’s leftist auto czars, as did her predecessor. Barra has bet the company’s future on electric cars and other less-popular offerings, instead of what people want.

“The (GM) restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from towards SUVs and trucks,” Reuters noted. “In October, almost 65% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50% cars just five years ago.”

So what was GM making? Well, electric cars, for one. But even with a $7,500 subsidy, they don’t sell fast enough. Why? As the joke goes, the extension cord isn’t long enough. For anyone who has a long commute or wants to take a road trip, an e-car makes no sense. As such, GM’s commitment to electric cars is emblematic of its recent market failures.

Worse, it’s based on a kind of environmental fraud. Electric cars aren’t “zero emission,” as we’re constantly told.

For one, building an electric car produces more CO2 than building a regular car. For another, if the car’s batteries get their charge from electricity generated by a coal-fired plant, that makes an “electric car” really a coal-fired car.

It’s the electric-car industry’s dirty secret, one that undermines GM’s rationale for making such a big bet on electric cars.

As for President Trump, he hasn’t directed his anger at electric cars per se. He has directed it at GM’s layoffs from closing four plants here in the U.S., idling nearly 15,000 people.

Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland,” but keeping plants in Mexico& China, Trump tweeted Tuesday. “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”

In particular, Trump’s says the corporate tax cuts and sharply lower taxes on repatriated profits from overseas should be going straight to the bottom line of comes like GM. So he’s now promising to look into cutting subsidies on electric cars and imposing tariffs on domestic car imports.

We understand Trump’s ire. But it’s misplaced.

Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. Period. And that’s exactly what subsidies are: the government substituting its judgment for that of the marketplace. Why do we do it at all?

It never works as expected. It can’t. The government, despite delusions to the contrary, can’t possibly know what people want and need. Yet, a perpetual leftist dream remains an economy run and funded by government “experts.”

We see that in the Obama administration’s decision to subsidize GM during the financial crisis by investing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in its stock and propping up money-losing operations. By ignoring the supply-and-demand signals of the marketplace, it only made GM’s problems worse.

More specifically, it led to GM committing itself to the unprofitable electric car market, one of President Obama’s pet projects. At one point, Obama even vowed to buy a Chevy Volt when he left office. He didn’t.

Not only has GM’s Barra embraced electric cars, but she sees the government as her partner in the enterprise, as she wrote in a recent USA Today op-ed. In it, she noted that her electric car plan “requires collaboration by the private and public sectors, supported by comprehensive federal policies.”

It’s no joke that some today call GM “Government Motors.”

Ironically, one of the victims of GM’s cutbacks will be the hybrid plug-in Chevy Volt. Even so,  GM’s commitment to the subsidy-sucking electric-car market remains unshaken, Barra says.

After all, who needs to please actual customers when government can compel people, either by huge subsidies or outright regulation, to buy your product?

And who buys those electric cars, anyway? Mainly those whom the left calls “the rich.”

“Overall, the top 20% of income earners receive about 90% of EV tax credits,”  noted The Hill. “Additionally, data from 2014 indicates that over 99% of total EV tax credits went to households with an adjusted gross income above $50,000.”

So we subsidize wealthy consumers at the expense of lower-income consumers, who can’t afford electric cars. That’s economic perversion, “regressive” not “progressive.”

“Barra wants taxpayers to foot the bill for her speculation on what the future will look like,” economics writer and Wall Street analyst John Tamny recently noted. “If Barra were truly certain, she wouldn’t ask for taxpayer support.”

Lest you think we’re being too harsh on GM, it’s not alone. Once-dominant GE’s shares have plunged nearly 60% this year. There’s a common theme here: GE’s long slide from grace began when Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s former CEO, began spending more time at the Obama White House than running his company.

There’s a lesson in this for other companies, summed up in Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’ catchphrase: “Get woke, go broke.” Immelt already learned that bitter lesson; Barra is learning it now.

Sadly, GM is just another once-great American company that went wrong trying please a government master, and not the customer. We can only hope other companies will learn from GM’s error.

The hazard$ of voting Democratic

The Washington Times:

The sizzling economy underpins President Trump’s final blitz for Republicans in the midterms, with dire warnings that the jobs boom and higher wages will slip away if Democrats seize Congress.

Mr. Trump enjoys the best first-term economy in three decades with the gross domestic product growing at a 3.5 percent annual rate last quarter, and Mr. Trump wants Republicans rewarded for it at the ballot box.

Analysts agree, however, that good times breed complacency among midterm voters and that grievance, such as the burning hatred harbored by Mr. Trump’s opponents on the left, is a stronger motivator for turnout at the polls.

“We have made so much progress. We don’t want to give up that progress. We can’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trumpsaid at a rally Saturday in Murphysboro, Illinois. “Under Republican leadership, America is booming like never before because we are finally putting America first.” …

At every stop, Mr. Trump touts the historically low unemployment rate, rising wages and resurgence of manufacturing, mining and steel industries.

“More Americans are working today than at any point in the history of our country. How good is that as a sound bite?” Mr. Trump said in a speech to the Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis.

The strong economy provides a foundation in Mr. Trump’s stump speech for the rest of his pitch to keep Republicans in control of Congress. It’s the first item mentioned in a litany of “wins” that he promises to keep delivering if Republicans turn out to vote Nov. 6.

Last week, he dropped references in his stump speech to the stock market and soaring 401(k) balances after a massive sell-off that erased all of this year’s gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The government also reported that the federal deficit is quickly soaring again and that the tax cuts and spending increases that are likely fueling the economy are set to create trillion-dollar deficits by the end of this decade.

But for now at least, Mr. Trump has the economy on his side.

Real gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the last quarter, which ran from July through September, the government reported Friday.

The last time a president had such a hot economy heading into congressional elections in his first term was in 1978, when President Carter was sitting on a 4.1 percent growth rate.

The country was in a recession in 1982, during President Reagan’s first midterm elections, and was growing at a rate of less than 1 percent for President George H.W. Bush. President Clinton managed a 2.4 percent rate, President George W. Bush oversaw a weaker 1.8 percent rate and President Obama had a solid 3 percent.

Mr. Trump took office with the growth rate at 1.8 percent in his first quarter, but the economy quickly heated up. He has since posted quarterly growth numbers of 3 percent, 2.8 percent, 2.3 percent, 2.2 percent, 4.2 percent and now 3.5 percent.

“These results are no accident. This is what happens when we pass policies to help American consumers, workers and businesses generate economic growth and opportunity,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican. …

Strong GDP growth hasn’t been a magic elixir for presidents in midterm elections.

The economy grew at 4.9 percent rate just ahead of the 2014 elections, yet Mr. Obama’s party lost the Senate and suffered even deeper losses in the Republican-led House. Those were his second midterm contests.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clinton’s 2.4 percent growth rate didn’t prevent a Republican wave in 1994.

Stephen Moore, senior economic contributor at the conservative group FreedomWorks and former economic adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, said the third-quarter report shows that consumers “went on a spending spree.”

“Unlike the previous report that was driven by business spending, this report was really driven by consumer spending,” Mr. Moore said in an interview. “That might be the best indication of how well workers are doing. They feel good about things. I think it’s the best indication yet of how widespread this recovery is.”

He said economic growth is averaging double what it was under the Obama administration.

“That’s a huge increase — more than doubling the growth rate in less than two years,” he said. “The liberal economists who gave us ‘Obamanomics’ were completely wrong about potential growth in the economy.”

More Trump bloviation? Maybe not. First, consider this CNBC chart (click on the link to look at the original):

Look particularly at the business confidence and consumer confidence numbers.

Now, consider some history. Over the last 60 years, the 1957–58, 1960–61, 1969–70, 1973–75, 1980 and 1990–91 recessions, plus the Great Recession, occurred with Democrats in control of Congress. (The first accomplishment of the 1987 Congress was the 1987 stock market crash, and Democrats’ taking control of Congress after the 2006 elections was followed less than a year later by the Great Recession.) Only the 1981–82 and 2001 recessions occurred with Republicans in control of at least one house of Congress. (Control was split in the 1982 recession.)

Notice that stock market ups and downs have been more or less following Trump’s perceived political fortunes? The big stock market jump started the day after his election in 2016, because investors evidently believed that the Obama administration’s anti-business policies were about to change. Of course, change can be positive or negative. Elections have consequences, not all of them political.

None of what you read should suggest that anyone should panic about his or her investments based on the stock market over a short period of time. The way one makes money in the market is by being a long-term investor. It is just that in the short term, depending on the Nov. 6 election results it may be a bumpy ride.

 

The Crash: Another view

Matthew D. Mitchell has a different opinion about The Crash of 2008 and the resulting bailouts:

As the 10th anniversary of the historic bailout of 2008 looms, many people will undoubtedly say —as President Bush said at the time—that it was necessary to abandon“free market principles to save the free market system.” They will tell us that the government had no alternative. And they will say that the bailout “worked” because the economy didn’t go from a recession to a depression.

The truth is that there were alternatives. As our George Mason University colleague Garett Jones has written, a process known as “speed bankruptcy”—endorsed by economists on the left and the right—would have permitted quick conversion of bank debt into bank equity, recapitalizing the banks while avoiding the use of taxpayer funds.

We can’t be certain of what would have happened had something like speed bankruptcy been tried. But we do know that even with the bailout, the economy fell into the deepest and longest-lasting recession since the Great Depression. That is hardly proof positive that it “worked.”

Moreover, we know from the history of bailouts that the true cost of a bailout is not the taxpayer expense (which is often recouped) but the expectation it sets for future bailouts, an expectation that invites future disaster.

In 1971, the US government gave Lockheed Aircraft Corporation $250 million in emergency loan guarantees. It was the first time the federal government ever came to the rescue of a single firm. Shortly thereafter, the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad and other struggling railroads received hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency grants and loan guarantees. That was followed by $1.5 billion in loan guarantees for the ailing Chrysler Corporation in 1979.

The phrase “too big to fail” entered the American lexicon in the wake of a federal bailout of Continental Illinois Bank in 1984. Next, the federal government bailed out the creditors of hundreds of savings and loan (S&L)associations in the late 1980s and early 1990s at a cost to taxpayers of around $150 billion. In the late 1990s, the Fed orchestrated the private bailout of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. No taxpayer money was involved, but the Fed’s keen interest in the case led many industry observers to believe that the Fed would not let large institutions—or their creditors—fail.

The record-setting federal bailout of 2008-09 showed that these expectations were accurate. First, the New York Federal Reserve made a $30 billion loan to J. P. Morgan Chase so that it could purchase Bear Stearns. Next, in order to save them from bankruptcy, the federal government took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then the government paused, allowing Lehman Brothers and its creditors to fall on September 15, 2008. Two days later, bailouts resumed and the Federal Reserve made an $85 billion loan to the insurance firm American International Group. The culmination of this series of bailouts was the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion bailout that gave hundreds of financial firms and auto companies emergency government assistance.

Although proponents of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, passed after the 2008 meltdown, claimed it would help avoid future government bailouts, the perception that major financial interests are “too big to fail” remains an unfortunate reality. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s “Bailout Barometer” periodically estimates the extent to which the financial industry’s liabilities are explicitly and implicitly backed by the federal government. According to the most recent estimate, the share of financial sector liabilities subject to implicit or explicit government protection from losses grew from 45 percent in 1999 to 60 percent in 2016, by which time they amounted to $26 trillion. The authors succinctly note that “This protection may encourage risk-taking, making financial crises and bailouts more likely.”

As the Richmond Fed researchers explain in an accompanying document, the Bailout Barometer includes “other liabilities [that] are believed by many market participants to be implicitly guaranteed by the federal government.” The expectation that a company and its creditors will be bailed out by the government, should they find themselves in dire financial straits, can be an extraordinary privilege.

Take, for example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well before they were rescued by the federal government, Fannie and Freddie benefited from the expectation of government assistance. The firms were chartered by Congress and widely assumed to have its financial support. This assumption meant that compared with firms lacking support from the federal government, Fannie and Freddie appeared to be safer investments. As the Congressional Budget Office explains, this expectation, in turn, provided the companies a competitive advantage against private competitors:

“Because of their implicit federal guarantee, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could borrow to fund their portfolio holdings at much lower interest rates than those paid by fully private financial institutions that posed otherwise comparable risks, and investors valued the GSEs’ credit guarantees more highly than those issued by fully private guarantors … The advantages of implicit federal support allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to grow rapidly and dominate the secondary market for the types of mortgages they were permitted to buy (known as conforming mortgages). In turn, the perception that the GSEs had become “too big to fail” reinforced the idea that they were federally protected.”

The federal government’s history of bailing out creditorsmade this expectation especially strong.

Now that the summer of 2008 is a decade in the rearview mirror, we should be mindful that bailouts– and expectations thereof–encourage risky behavior, inviting crisis and further bailouts. Notwithstanding Mr. Bush’s assertion, one cannot save free enterprise by abandoning free enterprise. And free enterprise runs on market signals. Just as firms need profit signals to encourage good decision making, they need loss signals to discourage mistakes.

Unfortunately, just as the bailouts of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s begat the massive bailouts of the 2000s, the likelihood of further–and perhaps even larger–bailouts in the future remains disconcertingly high.

 

The Crash: One view

The New York Times’ Neil Irwin writes about the financial meltdown of a decade ago, and reactions to the fixes:

It’s hard to overstate how deeply Americans despised their government’s response to the global financial crisis. It has helped shape the last decade of American politics, fueling distrust of powerful institutions and speeding a drift toward ideological extremes.

But for all that anger, the engineers of the American crisis response got the economics mostly correct, and more right than most of those — including leading economic thinkers and prominent politicians — who were second-guessing them.

I was a beat reporter covering the events at the time and the key players — including the former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner, and the former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke — and then wrote a bookon the crisis. Looking back on it a decade later, I’m struck by the way that I, and they, misunderstood what “success” would actually mean.

The engineers of the response succeeded in their immediate goal, to preserve the financial system. But they — or, more precisely, they and their political leaders at the time — also left fissures that threaten to undermine the system they sought to preserve. The very underpinnings of modern capitalism are being questioned from all sides. A Republican administration has gleefully cast aside trade deals, for instance, and the energy among Democrats is around democratic socialism.

To understand the challenges and ultimately the failure of the politics of their response, it helps to put yourself back in 2008 and 2009, when the financial might of the United States government — trillions of dollars, cumulatively — was deployed to try to contain the crisis.

Mr. Geithner, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke are centrists in the context of modern American politics, but they are conservatives in the traditional sense — people trying to preserve a system they inherited.

Their strategy was to patch things up as quickly as possible. The goal was not to try to reinvent Wall Street on the fly, but to keep the flow of capital coursing through the global economy while minimizing the depth and duration of the recession that the crisis had caused.

Some 230 academic economists signed a letterattacking the bank bailout legislation that Mr. Paulson proposed as unfair and a potential threat to the vibrancy of private markets.

Mr. Geithner’s disinclination to nationalize banks drew fierce criticism from liberals who argued that the government was essentially funneling money to banks with little assurance they would resume lending.

“Whatever its merits, his bailout plan offers generous subsidies to banks and private investors while protecting bank management and creditors,” John B. Judis wrote in 2009 in a New Republic article titled “The Geithner Disaster.”

Mr. Bernanke’s efforts to pump money into the economy by buying up bonds also met opposition. A group of conservative economists wrote a letter in 2010 arguing that the Fed’s plans to engage in quantitative easing “risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.”

These attacks were misguided.

Mr. Paulson’s financial rescue package did not herald an era of socialism on Wall Street; nor did it come at a huge continuing cost to taxpayers. By many measures, it made money.

Mr. Geithner’s stress tests achieved their goal of restoring confidence in major banks without the cost and political damage of nationalizing them. They were successful enough that similar stress tests are now a part of regulators’ tool kits both in the United States and overseas.

Mr. Bernanke’s aggressive monetary policy probably played a role in getting the expansion on track starting in mid-2009. Quantitative easing and low interest rates did not cause a collapse of the dollar or spiraling inflation.

Nobody would argue that the United States economy is perfect, or that the policymakers got everything exactly right.

If Mr. Paulson had secured financial rescue legislation before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, perhaps the most severe phase of the crisis could have been avoided altogether, though it is a puzzle how he could have gotten the votes for such a plan before the crisis became more severe. If Mr. Bernanke had moved faster — putting an open-ended quantitative easing program in place in 2009 or 2010 instead of waiting till 2012 — maybe full recovery would have come sooner.

It’s not clear how the recovery might have looked had Mr. Geithner embraced a more activist approach to replacing management and taking greater government control of the most troubled large banks, notably Citigroup and Bank of America. Or if he had welcomed a larger program to help relieve borrowers who were underwater on their homes.

The tactics the men chose can be second-guessed, but the result of their efforts speaks for itself. The expansion has lasted nine years, the second longest on record. Although job gains were disappointingly slow for years, the unemployment rate is now 3.9 percent, among the lowest in decades.

From 2007 to 2017, per-person inflation-adjusted G.D.P. rose 6.3 percent in the United States, compared with only 3 percent in the eurozone, where similar policies were embraced more slowly.

In exhaustive research of the history of financial crises, the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff found that it takes eight years on average for a society to return to its level of per-person income. The United States did so in 2013, only six years after the peak of the crisis.

The political price

It was Feb. 19, 2009, less than a month into the Obama administration. Mr. Geithner and his colleagues had introduced plans to assist struggling homeowners, which many liberal critics considered deeply inadequate.

The human cost of the foreclosure crisis was indeed immense; there were 2.8 million foreclosures that year alone. But the politics of helping troubled homeowners were more toxic than the crisis managers had foreseen.

From the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the CNBC broadcaster Rick Santelli began a rant for the ages. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” Mr. Santelli said, as traders cheered behind him. “President Obama, are you listening?”

“We’re thinking about having a Chicago tea party in July,” he continued.

The term stuck, and was embraced by the conservative activists who propelled Republicans to victory in the 2010 midterm elections — driven, in no small part, by opposition to economic stimulus, financial bailouts and the work of the Federal Reserve.

The policymakers knew history’s warnings about economic policy that reacts too sluggishly to financial crisis.

Mr. Geithner spent some evenings in the darkest days reading in Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance” about how an earlier generation of policymakers bungled the response to the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke is a scholar of that era in his own right.

But they seemed to assume that if they got the economics right, popular support would follow. As Mr. Bernanke wrote in his memoir about the Santelli rant, “I remained perplexed that helping homeowners was not more politically popular.”

There’s a reason, of course, that they were in their roles as appointed technocrats and not politicians. But it isn’t clear that George W. Bush or Barack Obama had any better ideas for bringing along the public than did the men they chose to lead financial policy. The crisis response may well have been a Rubik’s Cube of political and economic challenges too complicated to solve.

It was foreseeable, perhaps, that many on the left would view the Geithner-Paulson-Bernanke strategy as too friendly to Wall Street interests. It was also foreseeable that the libertarian right would loathe the bailouts. More surprising were the ways in which some of the biggest beneficiaries of the strategy became vocal opponents.

The Geithner strategy was based on rescuing Wall Street, using hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars — while building a more rigorous regulatory system to try to prevent a similar crisis.

But by the time what became the Dodd-Frank Act was on its way to passage in 2010, the financial industry and nearly all Republicans in Congress had committed to all-out opposition of industry regulation. Only three of 178 Republican House members, for example, supported the bill.

Even as Mr. Bernanke’s easy money policies pushed the stock market upward and coincided with a gradually improving economy and low inflation, the drumbeat of commentary was overwhelmingly negative.

You could turn on a financial network at nearly any hour of the trading day and hear complaints about how quantitative easing and zero interest rates were distorting markets. When Mr. Bernanke left office in early 2014, when the stock market was soaring and the unemployment rate was falling fast, only 28 percent of Republicans approved of his performance, according to a Gallup survey.

Success has rarely been so unpopular.

How the crisis broke our politics

In July, Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Geithner and Mr. Paulson were together again. They invited a handful of reporters to interview them in a conference room at the Brookings Institution, where they will be participating in a crisis retrospective in September.

Might the rise of anti-establishment parties around the world — not least Donald J. Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders-esque socialists on the left in the United States — be traced to their work as crisis responders?

“We know from history that financial crises, particularly big ones, do tend to get followed by a populist reaction,” Mr. Bernanke said. “I think we all tried our best to explain what we were doing and work with the politics, as difficult as it was. I think back to the crisis, we were very focused on preventing the collapse of the financial system. And developing our communication to the broad public wasn’t always our first priority.”

He argued, though, that longer-term trends — like stagnation in middle-class wages, social dysfunctions, rising mistrust in government and hostility to immigration — were a bigger explanation for the rise in a politics of extremes.

This analysis seems both correct and incomplete. Of course, the embrace of anti-immigrant nationalism on the right and of socialism on the left have roots considerably deeper than a bank bailout or a quantitative easing program.

But it was the experience of the crisis, and the sense among Americans of all ideological dispositions that they were being asked to foot the bill for someone else’s mistakes — whether by Wall Street C.E.O.s or by Mr. Santelli’s neighbor with the renovated bathroom — that helped make those long-simmering problems boil over.

The response to the crisis was in many ways the high-water mark for a mold of centrist, technocratic policymaking that seeks to tweak and nudge existing institutions toward better outcomes. It also undermined any widespread popular support for that mode of governing for the foreseeable future.

It turns out, when you throw trillions of dollars at rescuing a system that most people don’t like very much in the first place, the result isn’t relief.

It’s anger.

Watch this space for another opinion on this subject.

 

Trump’s rural economy

The Brookings Institution:

Rural and smaller-town places seemed to be “winning a little more” in 2017, even though the larger trend in the 2010s has been for the nation’s biggest, bluest metropolitan areas to dominate job growth. During President Trump’s first year in office, in fact, rural places captured a slightly disproportionate share of U.S. job growth, while the nation’s big cities slightly underperformed. It was good to see more places participating in the nation’s economic expansion.

Which raises the question: How are things looking as the politicians leave Labor Day behind and lock in on the 2018 midterm elections, with their volatile themes of division, imbalance, and resentment? To see, we have looked at several go-to resources and observe again that the more balanced growth picture of last year is continuing, with more places participating in the economic good times. As the elections approach, smaller, redder places are doing relatively better than they were in 2016.

The central dynamic of the Trump period persists. As Table 1 shows, goods-producing industries have been surging while services industries have seen their seasonally adjusted employment growth slow since 2016.

Table 1

To be more specific, while information-sector growth has turned negative in the last two years (with a slight recovery starting in 2018), resource extraction and manufacturing industries have been growing at their fastest rates since the financial crisis. Mining and logging pursuits (which include oil and gas extraction) have seen rapid employment growth based on strong hiring in the various support activities associated with the sector like exploration and prospecting. Meanwhile, machinery manufacturing; electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturing; and fabricated metal product manufacturing have all been growing smartly as domestic demand has kept factories humming.

These patterns are notable for what they say about the contours of national economic activity but also because they reflect what’s happening on the ground, in particular urban and rural areas. And in this regard, the dynamics of the current economic surge—strong goods production and relatively weaker services provision—slightly disfavor larger, bluer, tech- and service-oriented metros, and relatively favor smaller, more rural, and redder communities by comparison to their recent problems. This conclusion aligns with the findings of smart analysts like Jed Kolko of Indeed. And it suggests that growth patterns are now playing out fairly positively for many if not all smaller communities and rural areas.

To see this check out the county employment map—first for the first quarter of 2016, and then for the first quarter of 2018 (Map 1). As is very visible growth was more widely dispersed this year than in the earlier period:

Likewise, while the bulk of the nation’s job creation has continued to take place in the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas with 1 million residents or more, the employment growth rates of smaller and rural communities actually outpaced those of both the nation and other types of communities earlier this year (Figure 1). This performance was stronger than last year’s. Whether or not seasonal trends portend slower smaller-town and rural growth through the late summer and fall as they often do, the fact remains that smaller communities have been doing relatively better this year.

As to what this means for the fall election, it is no doubt good news for the reeling Republican Party as it slouches towards the midterms. To be sure, very little of the favorable economic shift likely owes to President Trump’s erratic flailing and bluster. As Kolko notes, the rebound of mining employment tracks global oil prices closely. And for that matter manufacturing growth likely reflects normalizing domestic purchasing and stronger global demand. Yet, the current dynamics could be helpful to the Republicans, to the extent that the direction of economic change—measured by employment growth—influences political sentiment and political behavior. After all, counties that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 experienced 4 percent annualized employment growth in the first quarter of 2018, unchanged from the first quarter of 2017, whereas counties that voted for Trump were seeing growth of 5.1 percent a year earlier this year, up from 4.9 percent a year before that and 4.3 percent in early 2016. Many small-town and rural communities may be feeling that things are finally moving in the right direction.

With that said, the political impacts of these incremental growth shifts toward redder counties will likely be modest, and are likely temporary. Cultural rage appears at this point more central to red America politics than economic soothsaying. Beyond that, both near-term and longer-term headwinds lie ahead. In the near term, Trump’s chaotic trade stances may still cost counties manufacturing jobs. Over the longer term, the cyclical nature of many of the industries that have contributed to the current rural and small-town uptick—ranging from agriculture and mining to oil and gas—does not make those commodity industries reliable sources of sustained prosperity. Nor do smaller communities’ education deficits, shortages of digital skills, and specialization in the types of rote jobs that will be most susceptible to automation and globalization.

For now, a little winning in small-town and rural America is welcome news for a nation that has mostly been pulling apart during the last decade.

The latest bad governmental idea

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The announcement puts the search giant squarely in the White House’s crosshairs amid wider allegations against the tech industry that it systematically discriminates against conservatives on social media and other platforms.

Kudlow’s remark to reporters outside the White House came hours after Trump fired off a series of predawn tweets complaining about Google search results for “Trump News.”

In a pair of tweets posted before 6 a.m., the president said the results included only “the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media.” He later deleted the tweets and reposted them, changing “New” to “News.”

“Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” Trump wrote in his tweets.

Google said its searches aren’t politically biased: “When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds,” the company said in a statement. “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.

“Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries,” Google said. “We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump escalated his attacks on the tech industry in response to questions from reporters in the Oval Office, where the president was meeting with Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.

“I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people,” Trump said. “And I think that’s a very serious thing, and it’s a very serious charge.… We have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. And you just can’t do that. So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

Trump’s tweets came the morning after Fox Business News host Lou Dobbs aired an interview Monday night with the pro-Trump commentators Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, who have long claimed that their online videos are being suppressed by tech companies.

“I am not for big government, but I really do believe that the government should step in and really check this out,” Hardaway told Dobbs in the interview.

Google search results are affected not only by region but also by the user’s personal search history. It was unclear whether Trump had Googled himself, or whether he was referring to a recent report in PJ Media, a conservative blog, alleging that 96% of Google search results for news about Trump were from “left-leaning news outlets.” His accusations appeared to mirror those in the Aug. 25 piece.

“Is Google manipulating its algorithm to prioritize left-leaning news outlets in their coverage of President Trump?” asked Paula Bolyard, the “supervising editor” of the site who describes herself on Twitter as a Christian, a constitutional conservative and a “Cultural nonconformist.”

She said she searched “Trump” on Google News and weighed the results using a media bias chart developed by Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News correspondent. Bolyard said left-leaning outlets accounted for 96% of the results, with CNN stories making up nearly 29% of the total. She said she performed the search several times using different computers, and the results did not differ considerably.

But nowhere did the editor and blogger reckon with the fact that the sheer volume of content produced by different outlets plays a major role in determining the share of results they claim. She did, however, acknowledge that her methods are “not scientific.”

A search for “Trump News” shortly after the president’s posts returned three top stories. There was a Fox News report about Lanny Davis, an attorney and spokesman for Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, admitting he was an anonymous source for CNN’s report about Trump’s possible prior knowledge of the summer 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer. There was also a CNN account of Trump’s decision to issue, several days late, a statement praising the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). And there was an NBC story about the surge of Muslim candidates inspired to run for office across the country by Trump’s election.

Trump has raised increasing alarm about what he describes as political bias pervading technology and social media companies. In July, he accused Twitter of using a “discriminatory and illegal practice” to silence conservative voices. Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of the social media giant, said the company’s employees are “more left-leaning” but maintained that political ideology doesn’t affect what appears on Twitter.

Representatives of major technology companies appeared before Congress in July to answer allegations of censorship.

“We have a natural and long-term incentive to make sure our products work for users of all viewpoints,” said Juniper Downs, who works on policy for Google-owned YouTube.

Remember when Republicans were opposed to more regulation of the Internet (i.e. net neutrality)? Those were good times.

This also shows an alarming lack of memory on the Trump administration’s fault, if he’s serious about regulating search engines. The White House was Democratic two years ago. The White House could be Democratic a little more than two years from now. That which a GOP administration regulates now could be regulated in worse ways by Democrats after the next presidential election.

The last time I checked, there were other search engines besides Google. That was the result of a largely unregulated Internet. More regulation is not the answer.

 

The I word

The Wall Street Journal is of two not necessarily contradictory minds on what might be happening to Donald Trump.

First, the WSJ editorial board:

Shhhhhhhhh. Whatever else you do, please don’t mention the “I word” between now and November. That’s the public message from Democratic leaders and most of their media friends this week after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and his criminal allegations against President Trump. Between now and Election Day, “impeachment” is the forbidden word.

“If and when the information emerges about that, we’ll see,” says once and perhaps future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It’s not a priority on the agenda going forward unless something else comes forward.”

Mr. Cohen’s charges are serious, says Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, but impeachment talk is “premature” because “more information has to come forward” and it’s “too early in the process to be using these words.”

Under the coy headline “Can Trump Survive?”—you already know his answer—Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne counsels Democrats that “the argument for impeaching Trump suddenly became very strong, but this does not mean that turning 2018 into an impeachment election is prudent.”

And if you believe this misdirection, you probably also believe that Donald Trump didn’t canoodle with Stormy Daniels.

The political reality is that Democrats are all but certain to impeach Mr. Trump if they take the House in November. After what they’ve said and the process they’ve set in motion, Democrats won’t have much choice. They simply don’t want to admit this now before the election lest they rile up too many deplorables and independents who thought they elected a President for four years.

***

Let’s make the reasonable guess that Democrats retake the House with 228 seats, a narrow but solid 10-seat majority. They’ll have done so after two years of claiming that Mr. Trump is an illegitimate President who conspired with the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election, that he is profiting from the Presidency for personal gain, that he obstructed justice by firing James Comey, and that after Michael Cohen’s plea the President is now “an unindicted co-conspirator” in campaign-finance fraud.

If Democrats finally gain the power to do something about this menace to mankind, do they suddenly say “never mind”?

No doubt Democrats would start slowly by revving up the investigative machinery: subpoenas, hearings, all covered to a fare-thee-well by the media. Michael Cohen will be a major witness, as will the others named in the plea-deal documents. The Trump tax returns will get a star turn.

Once this starts, it will be hard to stop even if Democratic leaders want to. It will be even harder to stop if special counsel Robert Mueller writes a report to his superiors (that will inevitably leak) saying he couldn’t indict a sitting President but here is the evidence that he may have obstructed justice or have shady finances. The evidence may not even matter much since impeachment is a political process and Congress defines what are “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Meanwhile, the battle for the 2020 Democratic nomination will be underway, with multiple candidates vying for the hearts and minds of liberal voters. They’ll compete to see who can be the loudest voice for impeachment. Even Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia Governor who wants to run for President and who defended Bill Clinton against impeachment, has said impeaching Donald Trump is “something we ought to look at.”

There will be more-in-sorrow-than-anger calls for sober judgment, but political momentum has a mind of its own. The party’s liberal base will demand that Democrats be counted on an impeachment vote, and so will its media elites, who want vindication for believing that Mr. Trump could never have legitimately defeated their heroine.

The smarter political play might be to wait until 2020 and ride a potential wave of national fatigue with Mr. Trump, but don’t underestimate the degree to which liberals want this President to be politically humiliated and legally punished. Read their Twitter feeds and columns if you don’t believe us.

We don’t know how impeachment would play out politically in 2019 and 2020. An impeachment based on acts that have nothing to do with Russian collusion would offend much of the public, but as the New York Times joyfully put it this week, “that may not matter.” While a conviction in the Senate may seem improbable at this point, Democrats might not care because they’ll have made Republicans defend Mr. Trump’s behavior.

The main point about this election year is that no one should believe Democrats when they say that impeaching Donald Trump isn’t on their agenda. It’s their only agenda.

The first two thoughts are that any dip in the market represents a buying opportunity, and people in the market should be long-term investors anyway. The Nixon market is a classic correlation vs. causation issue given that thanks to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil prices jumped substantially at a time when inflation had been an issue for most of the decade to that point, leading to such bad Nixon policies as wage and price controls.

Next, Spencer Jakab:

Assigning credit or blame to the man in the White House for the stock market’s performance is an unwinnable argument. Guessing what would happen if he were to unexpectedly leave office is another matter.

President Trump in an interview on Fox News that aired Thursday said he thinks “the market would crash” and that “everybody would be very poor” if he were impeached. History says otherwise. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, for example, the S&P 500 fell 2.8% but recovered within a couple of days.

The near-impeachment of Richard Nixon and impeachment of Bill Clinton, meanwhile, happened during epic bear and bull markets, respectively, that continued after the events.

Or think back to January 1992, when President George H.W. Bushfainted while having dinner with Japan’s prime minister. Rumors during U.S. market hours that he had died sent stocks down less than 1%. If the prospect of “President Quayle” didn’t do the trick, then investors can breathe easy about Mr. Trump’s legal travails.

Democrats may think that impeachment is a no-lose issue for them. Republicans did terribly at the polls in 1974 following Nixon’s resignation, though Democrats already were in charge in Washington. Republicans took some losses in 1998 following Clinton’s impeachment, but retained control of both houses of Congress and everything they had in this state.

 

T-minus 75 days and counting

A new Marquette Law School Poll of Wisconsin voters finds a tight race for governor following last week’s statewide primary elections. Among likely voters (that is, those who say they are certain to vote), incumbent Republican Scott Walker receives 46 percent, Democrat Tony Evers receives 46 percent and Libertarian Phil Anderson 6 percent. Only 2 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean to a candidate.

Among likely voters in the race for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat on the ballot in November, 49 percent support the incumbent, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and 47 percent support Republican Leah Vukmir, while 3 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean toward a candidate.

Among all registered voters surveyed in the poll, the race for governor remains tight, with Walker at 46 percent, Evers at 44 percent and Anderson with 7 percent.

There is a wider margin among all registered voters in the Senate race, with Baldwin receiving 51 percent and Vukmir 43 percent.

Awareness of Evers and Vukmir has increased among registered voters since the last Marquette Law School Poll in July. Forty-six percent lack an opinion of Evers, down from 60 percent in July. For Vukmir, 48 percent lack an opinion now, compared to 66 percent in July.

Among likely voters only, 35 percent lack an opinion of Evers and 41 percent lack an opinion of Vukmir.

Evers is viewed favorably among 38 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 27 percent. Among all registered voters 31 percent have a favorable view and 23 percent an unfavorable opinion.

Vukmir has a 30 percent favorable rating and a 29 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters while among registered voters 25 percent rate her favorably and 26 percent rate her unfavorably.

Few respondents lack opinions of the incumbents. Among all registered voters, 5 percent lack an opinion of Walker and 17 percent have no opinion of Baldwin. For likely voters, 4 percent have no opinion of Walker and 11 percent have no opinion of Baldwin.

Walker is viewed favorably among 49 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 47 percent. Among all registered voters 49 percent have a favorable view and 45 percent an unfavorable opinion.

Baldwin has a 46 percent favorable rating and a 42 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters while among registered voters 43 percent rate her favorably and 40 percent rate her unfavorably.

The governor’s race results are similar to what the poll found at this point in the 2014 cycle. The August 2014 Marquette poll showed Democrat Mary Burke with a 2-point lead over Walker among likely voters, but Walker leading by about 3 points among registered voters.

All things considered, this is good news at least for Walker, and maybe for Vukmir too. Walker predicted last week he’d be behind in the first post-primary polls, but he’s not in the poll that is more credible than other polls.

That point about where Walker was four years ago is important as well. Four years ago voters didn’t know who Mary Burke was, but they came to discover her overstated involvement in her family business and other things that proved she wasn’t ready to be governor.

Four years later, Evers is going to have to explain a few things, such as what James Wigderson reports:

Americans for Prosperity is spending $1.8 million on an advertising campaign to remind voters Evers actually praised Governor Scott Walker’s last education budget before the schools superintendent decided to run for governor himself. Evers was for Walker’s budget before he was against it.

Thanks to his pro-growth policies, Governor Walker has invested millions in our schools and received a lot of praise:
A “pro-kid budget …” 
An important step forward …” 
“… Commitment for K-12 education is good news …”  
So who said those things? Tony Evers. 
But now that Evers if running for office, he’s trying to take back his praise.
The truth? Governor Scott Walker is improving Wisconsin education … and Tony Evers knows it.
Paid for by Americans for Prosperity. 
Not authorized by any candidate, candidate’s agent or committee.

Eric Bott, the state director of Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin, commented on the flip-flop by Evers in a release announcing the ad buy.

“Tony Evers had it exactly right when he praised Governor Walker’s education budget as a ‘pro-kid budget,’ an ‘important step forward,’ and ‘good news,’” Bott said. “Now that he wants Scott Walker’s job, Evers is backpedaling so fast, I’m worried he’s going to end up in Minnesota before too long.”

There is concern over whether Walker could suck resources from other Republicans, specifically either Vukmir or Attorney General Brad Schimel, whose opponent should be elected if you believe in lawsuits for the sake of lawsuits instead of, you know, law and order.

More from the poll:

When asked the most important issue facing the state, 24 percent of registered voters pick jobs and the economy, 22 percent choose K-12 education and 19 percent say health coverage is their most important issue. No other issue reached double digits as “the most important,” although the condition of roads ranked fourth, with 9 percent of registered voters selecting it.

When voters were asked for their second-most-important issue, the condition of roads rose to the top three most-frequent answers, with K-12 education first at 18 percent, jobs and the economy at 17 percent, the condition of roads at 16 percent and health coverage at 15 percent.

I bet the economy number is actually bigger with voters. In fact, in my lifetime, every election has been decided by the economy, or more accurately voters’ perception of the economy. If voters think the economy is doing well, they vote for incumbents. If they don’t think the economy is doing well, they don’t vote for incumbents.

Fifty-three percent of Wisconsin registered voters see the state as headed in the right direction while 41 percent think the state is off on the wrong track. In July, 52 percent said right direction and 42 percent said wrong track.

Walker’s job approval among registered voters stands at 48 percent, with 45 disapproving. … Among likely voters, 50 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.

All of this is generally in keeping with what was reported here last week — that among “swing” counties Walker is doing pretty well.

There is also this, though how it will affect this election is unclear, as pointed out by Facebook Friend Nathan Schacht:

More Dems than Republicans are against tariffs.
58% of Republicans think steel tariffs will help the economy, 9% of Dems think they will help.

On free trade, more Dems than Republicans think free trade agreements are a good thing:
45% of Republicans think they are good,
72% of Democrats think they are good.

So the Democrats are more conservative on trade issues now…good Lord.

I’m not sure “more conservative” is as correct as “more free-market,” except that Democrats are certainly not free-market on such other issues as education and health care. One wonders if Democrats have suddenly realized the virtues of free trade, or if Democrats are now free-trade because Trump isn’t. I think I know the answer by posing the question of whether Democrats have discovered the virtues of free markets in education and health care.