Category: Wisconsin business

We’re number 19!

Dan Mitchell:

According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America, the most economically free jurisdiction in North America used to be the Canadian province of Alberta.

But Alberta then slipped and New Hampshire claimed the top position. And, according to the the 2020 edition of Economic Freedom of North America, the Granite State is still the best place to live.

But since most of my readers are from the United States, let’s focus just on American states, and specifically look at how they rank based on the policies they control.

On this basis, you can see that New Hampshire is in first place, followed by Florida, Virginia, Texas, and Tennessee (if you’re looking for a common thread, four of the five have no state income tax).

Here are some highlights from the Fraser Institute’s summary.

Economic Freedom of North America 2020…measures the extent to which…individual provinces and states were supportive of economic freedom… There are two indices: one that examines provincial/state and municipal/local governments only and another that includes federal governments as well. …The all-government index includes data from Economic Freedom of the World… The top jurisdiction is New Hampshire at 8.16, followed by Florida and Idaho at 8.10 , then Wyoming (8.09) and Utah (8.08). Alberta is the highest ranking Canadian province, tied for 9th place with a score of 8.06. The next highest Canadian province is British Columbia in 27th at 7.98. …The highest-ranked Mexican state is Jalisco with 6.70… The lowest-ranked states in the United States are Delaware at 7.72 in 56th place, following Rhode Island (7.76 in 54th) and New York (7.77 in 53rd).

As I noted above, I think it’s especially instructive to see how jurisdictions compare when looking at the policies they control.

Here’s what the study says about the subnational index.

For the subnational index, Economic Freedom of North America employs 10 variables for the 92 provincial/state governments in Canada, the United States, and Mexico in three areas: 1. Government Spending; 2. Taxes; and 3. Labor Market Freedom. …There is a separate subnational index for each country. In Canada, the most economically free province in 2018 was again Alberta with 6.61, followed by British Columbia with 5.98… The least free by far was Quebec at 2.84… In the United States, the most economically free state was New Hampshire at 7.84, followed by Florida at 7.73. …(Note that since the indexes were calculated separately for each country, the numeric scores on the subnational indices are not directly comparable across countries.) The least-free state was New York at 4.25… In Mexico, the most economically free state was Jalisco at 6.57.

One obvious takeaway is to avoid Quebec and New York.

And almost all of Mexico as well.

One of the many great things about the Fraser Institute is that they are very good at sharing their data.

And, because I was curious to know what states are moving in the right direction and wrong direction, I downloaded the excel file so I could make the relevant calculations.

Here are the numbers, showing the both the overall shift since 1981 as well as the data for 1981-2000 and 2000-2018.

The good news is that every single state has more economic freedom today that it had in 1981. Michigan and Massachusetts enjoyed the biggest increases over the past four decades, though both of them still plenty of room for upward improvement.

Looking at the 1981-2000 and 2000-2018 periods, there was much more reform at the end of last century than there has been at the beginning of this century. So maybe the “Washington Consensus” influenced American states as well as foreign nations.

I realize I’m a dork about such things, but I was especially interested to see that some states (Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Colorado) were very good performers in 1981-2000, but fell to the bottom group in 2000-2018.

By contrast, other states (Montana, North Dakota, Washington, and New Mexico) jumped from the bottom 10 to the top 10.

The Wisconsin 1981–2018 ranking is entirely driven by what has happened in this state since the turn of the century. Except for two years, Republicans had complete control of the Legislature, and for six of the eight years of Democratic Gov. James Doyle. The state GOP can be criticized for a lot (and notice that 19th was with eight years of complete GOP control of state government, meaning the GOP didn’t do enough to defang state government), but at least compared to other states Wisconsin was among the most economically free in the U.S.

 

Great moments in PR and journalism … not

A friend of mine sent me a big steaming lump of fail earlier today.

It started with a news release about a new hotel in Sister Bay:

Error number one was that the PR professional sent this news release to 84 people, all of whose email addresses were in the “To” field. The correct place for media email addresses is in the “BCC” field. That way no one knows who else is getting the release. Competitive pressures will make the publication of the news more likely since no one wants to get scooped by a competitor. (At least that’s the theory.) It also is a small step against inundating others with junk, superfluous or irrelevant emails. (Such as a letter to the editor I got at work yesterday from a California writer who believes his opinion about Donald Trump should be read by all the readers of a Southwest Wisconsin newspaper.)

The other reason you don’t put more than your own email address in “To” (so you can tell it got sent out because you get it back) is because if you do, this can happen:

No description available.

Yes, the editor/architecture critic of Door County Style magazine decided, either deliberately or by not knowing how email applications work, to tell all 84 recipients what he thought of the new hotel. He may not have intended to tell everyone who received the news release, but by hitting “Reply All” instead of “Reply” that’s what he did.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Critic then sent …

No description available.

… once again, apparently to everybody, because between emails he apparently didn’t learn the difference between “Reply” and “Reply All.” (One wonders if those two then exchanged further thoughts about the “f’ing ugly building.”)
The alternative theory to the technological ignorance theory is that said writer may have thought his opinion and his knowledge of PR was so important that everyone who got the original news release should be educated as to how smart he is. As I read this the writer has certainly educated at least 84 people about what a jerk he is, at least. (I use that term to replace a more pointed term that has seven letters and begins and ends with vowels.)

I admit I have no dog in this hunt, so to speak, no longer being in Northeast Wisconsin journalism or business journalism. You would think, though, that someone with the title “publisher” would realize that witlessly offending people to show off your brilliant intellect runs you the risk of losing business. (The publisher claims to be “providers of web-based business solutions in marketing and public relations,” which is ironic.) You would also think that someone with the title “editor” who has appointed himself as an architecture critic might be capable of better prose than “f’ing ugly,” which is f’ing amateurish.

You’ve no doubt read on emails “think before you print” to save on paper. (Door County Style proudly announces itself as a “paperless production.”) The better idea is to think before you send, both for content reasons and audience reasons.

 

Biden’s tax and money lies

Joe Biden claims that he will not raise middle-class taxes if he’s elected president tomorrow (or whenever the election becomes official).

Biden is lying as much as he is lying about the bad effects of Biden/Harris policies on your wallet.

Example number one from Jordan Davidson:

A new study shows that Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden’s proposed economic plan would significantly hurt the long-term American economy if implemented.

While many mainstream media outlets claim Biden’s plan will target the wealthy and save the middle-class money, the 50-page study released by the Hoover Institution shows different results.

“Economists have paid too little attention to the economic effects of the Biden plan,” said Casey B. Mulligan, professor of economics at the University of Chicago. “Our report, which focuses on taxation, health insurance, regulation, and energy policy, suggests that these effects are potentially very large indeed.”

The study conducted by a group of financial and economic experts including Mulligan, former Chief Economist of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Kevin Hassett, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers since 2017, demonstrates how Biden’s plan will hurt everyone.

“We conclude that, in the long run, Vice President Biden’s full agenda reduces full-time equivalent employment per person by about 3 percent, the capital stock per person by about 15 percent, real GDP per capita by more than 8 percent, and real consumption per household by about 7 percent,” the report stated.

If Biden’s proposed changes are implemented, the economists warn that, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections, 2030 may yield “4.9 million fewer employed individuals, $2.6 trillion less GDP, and $1.5 trillion less consumption in that year alone.” The economists also note that the median household income in 2030 would fall by $6,500 despite Biden’s promises to prioritize the middle class.

In the study, the economists’ main findings center on three conclusions. First, that for Biden to achieve the “ambitious plans to further cut the nation’s carbon emissions,” 1.3 million net additional energy workers will need to be added into the transportation and electrical industries.

“Biden’s plans are ambitious,” says Mulligan. “Unless people drive a lot less, the electrification of all or even most passenger vehicles would increase the per capita demand for electric power by about 25 percent. Simultaneously, more than 70 percent of the baseline supply (i.e., electricity generated from fossil fuels) would be taken offline and another 11 percent (nuclear) would not expand.”

The study also concludes that “labor wedges are increased by proposed changes to regulation as well as to the ACA.” Because of the subsidations, the study found the average marginal tax rate on labor would rise by 2.4 percentage points.

“Labor falls primarily due to new and high implicit taxes associated with more generous health insurance assistance delivered in the framework of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” the study reads.

“Our quantitative findings for the ACA should be no surprise given what had been found for previous efforts in the U.S. and other countries to expand health insurance coverage,” the study adds.

Lastly, the study concludes that Biden’s plan “reduces capital intensity by increasing average marginal tax rates on capital income.”

“Biden’s plan to raise personal income and payroll tax rates would push their federal rates from below 40 percent to, often, above 50 percent, and these are on top of state income taxes,” the study states, which would hurt small businesses, their employees, and consumers substantially.

While Biden and his VP Nominee Kamala Harris previously promised that they will not “raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000,” they have also promised to repeal the tax cuts made by President Trump, which gave 80.4 percent of all taxpayers a cut and 91 percent of the middle quintile a cut.

“On Day One, Joe Biden will repeal that tax bill. He will get rid of it,” Harris said during the vice presidential debate in early October.

Repealing a tax cut is a tax increase, as those who enjoyed Barack Obama’s allowing the Great Recession payroll tax cuts to expire should know.

Example number two is from John Joyce: posts something determined accurate by Politifact:

Did you know Biden wants to get rid of something called “stepped up basis”? How does this affect you! When your parents pass and leave you the family house, normally you would inherit that property at what it is worth today. If you were to sell that house you would only pay taxes on the gain from what it is worth today and what it sells for. If Biden does away with “stepped up basis,” you will inherit the property for what your parents paid for the property. If you decide to sell you will pay taxes on the difference between the original purchase price and what it sells for today. Here is what this looks like!
Inherited House at Current Value – $200,000
Sells for $205,000

Taxable income = $5000

Taxes Due – 20% of $5000 = $1000

Profit to you = $204,000

Biden Policy

Inherited House at original purchase price – $40,000

Sells for $205,000

Taxable income = $165,000

Taxes Due – 20% of $165,000 = $33,000

Profit to you = $172,000

If your parents were to have sold this property prior to passing, they would have paid no taxes because it was their primary residence.

So much for helping the middle class get ahead.

My educated guess would be that at least 95% of Americans don’t even know Biden has proposed this. We are talking tens of thousands of more tax dollars for the average sold after inheritance! Wow, google “Biden stepped up basis” and educate yourself because this is a biggie!

Example three and more come from the Wall Street Journal:

‘I don’t see red states and blue states,” said Joe Biden in the final presidential debate, borrowing a line from Barack Obama. He must not have examined the policies that he and Democrats in Congress are pushing that would do disproportional harm to Republican states, especially in the South, while favoring Democratic states. Let’s examine four policies in particular:

• A $15 national minimum wage. Mr. Biden supports it and House Democrats last year voted to raise the federal minimum in $1.10 annual increments to $15 per hour in 2027 from the existing $7.25 floor.

Mr. Biden says a federal $15 minimum won’t harm small businesses. But the labor market isn’t national. It varies by state and region based on the dominant industries, labor supply and cost of living. The Labor Department says 21 states plus Puerto Rico had a $7.25 minimum wage as of Sept. 1. Ten of those are Southern states with lower per capita incomes than the Northeast or West Coast.

Their small businesses would be hurt far more than New York ($11.80 minimum wage) and California ($12), where the state minimum is already headed to $15. Seven blue states and 28 cities have imposed a minimum of $15 or higher that will kick in over the next seven years.

A new study from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) estimates the House legislation would result in two million job losses across the U.S. Fewer than 10% of the losses would be in states with a Democratic governor and legislature. Layoffs would be especially heavy in Texas (370,664), Pennsylvania (143,402), Florida (133,328), North Carolina (121,581), Ohio (108,312) and Georgia (106,427). They’d also be high in 16 other states where the minimum wage isn’t set to rise above the current federal floor.

Labor makes up a smaller share of business operating costs in blue states because rents and utility bills are higher. Businesses in wealthier areas also have more flexibility to raise prices to offset higher labor costs. Most workers on the job for more than a few months earn more than the minimum wage, and a higher minimum discourages businesses from hiring less-experienced workers—or those with criminal backgrounds.

The EPI study estimates that about 60% of job losses from a $15 federal minimum wage would occur among workers between the ages of 16 and 24. No matter. Liberals want to equalize hiring burdens nationwide so Democratic states aren’t less economically competitive.

The blunt reason some people don’t make $15 per hour is either because they don’t provide $15 per hour of value to their employer (labor costs are the number one cost of small businesses), or they cannot be replaced by someone who will work for less than $15 per hour. Employees who don’t like that should improve themselves. The purpose of a business is to provide goods or services to its customers, not to employ people.

• Banning right to work nationwide. That’s also the logic behind the plan to abolish right-to-work laws in the 27 states that prohibit employers from requiring workers to join unions. Most right-to-work states are in the South and West, though West Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan joined the club more recently.

Right-to-work states have added more jobs and population this past decade, though they also tend to impose lower taxes and other burdens. Boeing announced a few weeks ago it would consolidate its 787 Dreamliner assembly in right-to-work South Carolina after shifting some production there a decade or so ago from Washington state to avoid strikes by its machinist union.

States have been able to pass right-to-work laws since Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Democrats want to repeal that right to help unions in non-right-to-work states.

• Restoring the state and local tax deduction. The pandemic is accelerating the flight of businesses and high-earners from blue states. By capping the SALT deduction at $10,000, the 2017 tax reform exposed the well-to-do to the full pain of high taxes in blue states. Democrats want to restore the full state-and-local tax (SALT) deduction, albeit with much higher federal tax rates.

In 2017 California, New York and New Jersey accounted for 40% of SALT deducted, according to IRS data, with only 20% of the country’s population. Texas, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina and Montana accounted for about 20% of the U.S. population and a mere 10% of the SALT deducted. Red states tend to have much lower income and property taxes.

• Another bailout for state politicians. House Democrats passed the Heroes Act in May that provides $915 billion to state and local governments. Senate Republicans oppose this blowout after the $150 billion in direct aid plus $90 billion for schools, public transit and Medicaid that flowed to state and local governments under the Cares Act in March.

Democrats will certainly pass another bailout in 2021 if they win the election. This will amount in effect to a red-state subsidy for public-union governance in states like California, Illinois and New York. The Heroes Act would also help blue states by raising the federal Medicaid match by 14 percentage points, and overall bailout funds are mostly allocated based on state population and unemployment.

Democratic states that stayed locked down longer and have higher unemployment have drawn more federal aid. According to our calculations based on Bureau of Economic Analysis data, annualized per capita government transfer receipts in the second quarter after the Cares Act passed were significantly higher in New Jersey ($14,033), Illinois ($9,223), New York ($9,030), California ($8,673), Washington ($8,511) and Oregon ($8,258) than Texas ($6,450), Indiana ($6,085), Tennessee ($5,430), Florida ($5,399), Georgia ($5,353) and Arizona ($5,326).

Mr. Biden is right when he says the government shouldn’t pit states against one another. But he ignores that the national policies Democrats are pushing have the effect of systemically discriminating against red states.

While this state veers politically like someone who has had too many Brandy Old Fashioned, the vast majority of this state outside the Axis of Evil (Madison and Milwaukee) is politically and culturally conservative. So votes for Biden are votes to hurt a majority of this state.

The economic consequences of the coronavirus

Benjamin Yount:

Some of the jobs lost to Wisconsin’s coronavirus shutdown will not come back.

The state’s economic development office, the WEDC, sent a report to lawmakers that outlines the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“Although this report can only capture a snapshot in time and further monitoring will be required to fully understand and refine recommendations, several clear themes were identified that clearly have the potential to shape Wisconsin’s recovery,” the report states.

WEDC found:

  • Tourism, retail and service businesses are still closed, are open in voluntary limited capacity or are struggling for customers. Most have seen substantial declines in their business and are unsure of their long-term prospects.
  • Agriculture and food and beverage, which have been identified as essential businesses, are seeking to anticipate the markets and manage disruptions to the supply chain.
  • Manufacturing and construction saw less immediate disruption but anticipate the long-term economic impact with slower consumer spending and overall activity as well as declining capital investment.
  • Forest products have had perhaps the starkest divide, with consumer paper goods at record highs while the decline in printed advertising has seriously impacted the catalog and magazine industry.
  • Education and health care – both huge economic engines in their own right – have also been disrupted or nearly brought to a halt by the pandemic.

“If anything, this report reflects the complexity of a crisis that hits every person, every region, every economy in our state and beyond our borders,” WEDC CEO Missy Hughes wrote in the report.

But some aspects of the report are brutally simple.

“Many jobs simply disappeared overnight, especially among service workers,” Hughes noted. “The reality today is many of the jobs previously held in the service industry will not recover.”

Hughes doesn’t have a number for how many jobs will never return, but the report does have some estimates about the number of jobs lost and the amount of money the coronavirus lock down cost businesses.

The report says businesses reported $22.2 billion in income losses, and another $37.8 billion in other economic losses. Those same businesses reported 2,648 lost positions.

Some of those business losses were offset by nearly $14 billion in federal aid. The vast majority of that federal money went to farmers and businesses in the state through programs like PPP and farm payments.

WEDC’s report notes that both income and sales tax revenue to the state dipped during the worst of the coronavirus lock down. But the report states it is too early to tell just how much state government will lose by the time 2021 rolls around.

Recall, however, that Gov. Tony Evers tried his best to shut down the state by dividing businesses, and therefore their employees, and therefore Wisconsinites, into “essential” and “nonessential” (including the businesses whose employment is nowhere near normal). Keep that in mind when you assess fault.

 

While Gov. Nero fiddles …

Benjamin Yount:

Wisconsin’s largest business groups are using such words as “devastating” and “extinction-level” to describe the economic problems created by the state’s coronavirus lockdown.

Wisconsin’s Manufacturers and Commerce and the state’s Restaurant Association were just two of the groups pressing lawmakers to reopen the state on Thursday.

The groups said many businesses cannot wait another month to reopen.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association President Kristine Hillmer says half the state’s restaurants could close forever if the lockdown lasts longer.

“Prior to the crisis, there were 12,796 eating and drink establishments in our state. We employed over 284,000 people, representing about 9 percent of people in our state,” Hillmer said. “That represented $10.1 billion in estimated sales in Wisconsin.”

Hillmer said the numbers today are very different.

“A survey conducted between April 10 and April 16 this year illustrates the devastating impact on our industry,” Hillmer said. “One hundred thirty-six thousand-plus restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the outbreak.”

WMC’s Scott Manley said it is an economic imperative to reopen the state’s economy.

“As we sit here, right now, we have 19 percent unemployment. That is twice as high as it was during the worst days of the Great Recession, Manley said. “We’ve got 450,000 people who’ve filed for unemployment claims since social distancing regulations took effect.”

Manley added that most stores had seen their foot traffic cut in half, and restaurants and bars in the state have it worse than that.

Governor Evers says he’s willing to talk about reopening the state, but wants to see a plan from Republicans first.

Hillmer said that lawmakers and the governor should be working together, not squabbling.

“It is urgent that we use this time to figure out how these businesses can reopen, safely,” Hillmer told lawmakers.

How to Crash Wisconsin’s Economy, written by Tony Evers

WFRV-TV in Green Bay:

The results of a statewide survey by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh show 35 percent of responding businesses say they will be forced to close if current coronavirus-related conditions persist for more than three months.

According to UWO, results also showed 8,795 jobs lost in the earliest days of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, along with losses of $95 million in inventory, $126 million in income, $26.6 million in lost wages and productivity income and nearly $404 million in other impacts.

The survey yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties from April 1-10, according to Jeffrey Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS).

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” Sachse said. “These impacts are certain to rise when we revisit these companies in a month, two months and six months’ time. The assistance that these companies require and the effects felt throughout the state’s economy are both unprecedented and continuous.”

UWO is partnering on the survey project with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation as well as New North and eight additional Regional Leadership Council organizations to assess coronavirus recovery ability and state and federal aid efforts. Additional cooperators include the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association.

The business, ranging from small sole-proprietorships to large firms like Kobussen Buses and UW Health, were still trying to adapt to changes implemented in the Safer at Home order at the time of this survey.

UWO says 40 percent of responding firms indicated not being able to report specific impacts at the time, making the results understated.

The findings only point to greater effects as the worldwide health crisis persists, Sachse said.

He adds the firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, as means of minimizing the impact of the crisis.

“Responding firms suggested that their greatest immediate needs are access to greater liquidity in the form of low-interest loans, grants, and access to customers. This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration,” Sachse said.

Firms reported seeing a sharp reduction in productivity due to a shift to working from home, with most reporting a 25-50 percent decrease. This also tracks with national trends and reflects the difficulty that many traditional firms face in adapting to the rapidly changing conditions, he said.

The survey is the first in a series that will track the economic impact of the coronavirus, according to UWO. Responding companies will be surveyed again during the first months of May, June, July, and for the foreseeable future, with results released during the third week of each month.

Companies are invited to continue to respond to the initial survey at http://uwo.sh/covid-19-econ-disruption and be added to the survey group.

In addition, CCRS has released an interactive dashboard detailing survey responses along with advice and insights from University faculty at http://uwosh.edu/ccrs/covid-19-survey.

Evers’ response was the Badger Bounce Back, which essentially freezes the state’s economy for a year by creating an impossible standard for testing.

 

Evers vs. farmers

M.D. Kittle and Josh Waldoch:

Times were tough down on the farm before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, each new day is filled with dread, filled with collapsing markets, looming bankruptcies and ruined lives.

“At this point, we’re all looking at a train barreling over a cliff, not really sure if anyone is going to survive when we hit the bottom,” Brodhead-area farmer Rob Riemer told Vicki McKenna this week on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.

The pasture-raised cattle and egg Riemer Family Farm dates back nearly a century. The third generation now wonders if their southcentral Wisconsin farm will survive the coming months.

The pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ sweeping Safer at Home order locking down much of Wisconsin has hit America’s Dairyland particularly hard.

Dan Smith, president and CEO of Cooperative Network, said the agriculture industry in general was just beginning a slow recovery from a painful downturn over the last four or five years. The severity of the coronavirus shutdown of the economy at large was like “pouring gasoline on a fire,” Smith said.

Overnight, the dairy industry lost about 40 percent of its marketplace — the food service industry. A big chunk of that market includes schools, which began closing en masse a month ago. Markets instantly changed, as Evers ordered most consumers to stay home. Food processors couldn’t turn on a dime to meet the changes, and everything seemed to slow to a crawl.

Riemer said last year was bad enough. His farm suffered a “six-figure loss.” The reserves are gone. Now, if the economic shutdown continues, his family farm, like so many family farms, won’t make it.

“We’re just talking a matter of months basically. Most of us will probably survive a month or two, some will not. But if this goes on extended, by the end of the summer, fall, or later, I don’t think you’re going to have more than a handful of farms survive this,” the farmer said.

A report earlier this month, Institute for Reforming Government lays out the rising challenges confronting Wisconsin farmers and calls on the Legislature to finish the business of passing reform legislation that will help bring back prosperity to the Dairyland’s farms.

Smith said farmers do need help, but just throwing money at the problem isn’t going to cut it. He said it’s time for systemic changes to sustain agriculture and promote a safe and reliable food system.

But things are going to have to change quickly if Wisconsin wants to save its family farms, the ag expert said.

“Agriculture was already the at-risk patient, to put it in the language of the pandemic,” Smith said. “This really hits at the worst possible time.”

Listen to the Vicki McKenna’s interview with Rob Riemer here.

When Tony Evers seems reasonable

Gov. Tony Evers posted on his Facebook page a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about the state’s dairy industry and said …

‪We cannot accept this as the future for Wisconsin dairy farmers. This is America’s Dairyland and in our state you never have to go it alone. ‬
‪We are in this fight together. ‬

Or not. WI Nate posts responses to Evers’ post:

There may be Republicans or Republican-leaners who don’t drink milk or eat dairy products. They do not seek to eliminate an entire industry because they don’t like milk. That is entirely a phenomenon of the political left.

By the way: What would happen if humans stopped consuming dairy products? Cows would become extinct. There is no other reason for cows to exist.

 

Pot, meet kettle, meet other kettle

Bruce Murphy:

Somebody high up at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel doesn’t like the Wisconsin Examiner, the new progressive publication covering the state Capitol. You can tell this because the newspaper keeps hammering the same misleading message.

First there was an August 20 JS story on the rise of liberal ‘news’ websites in the state, the use of quotes around news tipping readers off that maybe these groups don’t do real journalism. Then came an August 21 summary of the newspaper’s stories that week by reporter Sarah Hauer which described the Wisconsin Examiner as a “partisan political website.” And then there was JS editor George Stanley’s August 23 column warning to his readers to “Watch out for slanted political coverage” from publications like the Wisconsin Examiner.

So If the Examiner is a “slanted” and “partisan” operation whose claim to cover the news deserves to be questioned and put in quotes, it should be easy to find and report some examples of such journalism, right?

And yet the Journal Sentinel story on the Wisconsin Examiner, by Patrick Marley andMary Spicuzza offers not one example of a slanted or inaccurate story by the publication.As the reporters surely knew, the Examiner actually had one the biggest Capitol scoops in its first few weeks of launching. Its editor Ruth Conniffdid a story revealing that Republicans were discussing using a Joint Resolution to pass redistricting and thereby bypass Gov.Tony Eversand continue gerrymandered districts in Wisconsin.

The Journal Sentinel did a follow-up story that credited the Wisconsin Examiner, while quoting Republican leaders (who pointedly declined to respond to Conniff) denying any such plan.

Conniff also credits her reporterIsiah Holmes with being the first Wisconsin journalist to report on Pentagon spy balloons doing overhead surveillance of the state. This was based on an earlier story by The Guardian, but Holmes hit upon a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, which sells a similarly sweeping surveillance system.

His story was published at 9:30 on August 8th and about 90 minutes later the Journal Sentinel published a similar story byBruce Vielmetti that also mentions Persistent Surveillance Systems in his story. Did he get that from the Examiner story? “I don’t think so,” Vielmetti says, adding that he remembers the company from some prior stories he read.

That’s a pretty squishy reply and it’s worth noting the Journal Sentinel has always been reluctant to credit other publications who are first to report a story. Indeed, back when Holmes was a free lance reporter for Urban Milwaukee, he did a remarkable investigative piece revealing that a transitional living center that is supposed to help drug addicts had seen five residents die of overdoses within eight months and that the center hadn’t been licensed by the city.Weeks later the Journal Sentinel did a story on the opioid deaths and the city review of the center’s license without crediting Holmes or Urban Milwaukee, whose reporting led to the city’s scrutiny.

The main thesis of the JS story on Wisconsin Examiner is that it is a “left-wing” response to right-wing sites like the MacIver Institute. But MacIver was started as a think tank, not a news site. And when it did do journalism, its methods could be questionable, as Sourcewatch has noted: In 2009 MacIver operative Bill Osmulski was charged with obtaining interviews with two elected Wisconsin officials under false pretenses. The MacIver Institute falsely claimed the state Government Accountability Board would deem recall signatures from “Mickey Mouse” or “Hitler” to be valid when counting signatures in the recall effort against then-governorScott Walker.

MacIver is first and foremost a political group whose staff works to support the Republican Party. Thus, it filed class action suits against the Government Accountability Board and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for their role in the John Doe Probe of Walker. While MacIver has done more reporting in the last couple years, it does so sporadically: its site lists four new stories it did in the month of August and 13 in July. The Examiner did more than that in its first two weeks. One of MacIver’s main “reporters” is Chris Rochester, who is also the communications director for the group. The other is Matt Kittle, who previously wrote for the now defunct conservative site, Wisconsin Reporter, where he did hundreds of stories with Captain Ahab-like obsessiveness bashing the John Doe probe.

The Examiner has hired four experienced journalists, including Conniff, who worked for two decades for the Progressive Magazine while also doing columns for the Madison weekly Isthmus, Erik Gunn, a former Milwaukee Journal reporter of many years and longtime Milwaukee Magazine contributing editor, Melanie Conklin, who worked for years as a reporter for Isthmus and the Wisconsin State Journal, and Holmes, who free lanced for several years for Urban Milwaukee and other publications. The JS story only reports on Conklin’s background.

The Examiner is funded by the liberal Hopewell Fund, but as Conklin told the JS, the publication is “non-partisan,” and it has already proven itself with many solid news stories. Whereas the JS has already followed up on two Examiner stories, it rarely cites the MacIver Institute. I emailed Marley and Spicuzza for examples of some MacIver stories cited by the JS, and Marley, who responded, had to go all the way back to 2009 to come up with three stories. Versus two for the Examiner in two weeks.

Nice bit of weasel work on Cunniff’s and Murphy’s parts here. “Nonpartisan” and “nonideological” are not synonyms. I’ve been on the radio with Cunniff. Her politics are obvious, as are Isthmus’ for decades. And as I’ve stated here before, Murphy despises Republicans and conservatives, and he proves that here.

Their story has the feel of one assigned by an editor (to not one but two journalists) with a pre-ordained thesis. Most stories start that way, but a good reporter (and both Marley and Spicuzza are good ones) is first and foremost curious and driven to find the real story, even if it departs from the original thesis. In this case there is a huge one that was ignored: the decline of for-profit journalism and the rise of non-profit journalism.

Between 2008 and 2018, newspapers lost 47 percent of their newsroom jobs, as the Pew Research Center has reported. “These major cutbacks, according to the Institute for Nonprofit News… are fueling the growth of nonprofit news outlets,” as the Johnson Center, which tracks non-profits, has reported. “In late 2017, both the Guardian and The New York Times announced the establishment of nonprofit wings….philanthropy is pouring new money and emphasis into nonprofit journalism.”  According to another analysis, there are now some 270 U.S. nonprofit news sites, with most popping up in recent years.

You can see that in Wisconsin, where the for-profit Wisconsin Gazette went of business, the Journal Sentinel has suffered a massive loss of staff and the size of the Business Journal has steadily declined. Meanwhile non- profits like WUWM-FM and Wisconsin Public Radio have maintained or increased their news coverage. Even Radio Milwaukee does some news stories these days. Now add the Examiner to the list.

On an average day, a reader interested in coverage of the Capitol will find more stories by checking Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Examiner than from the Journal Sentinel. Urban Milwaukee republishes stories by both publications, along with stories by Neighborhood News Service, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Wisconsin Justice Initiative, all also non-profits. And as for-profit entities like the Journal Sentinel continue to decline, you’re likely to see more of its one-time coverage replaced by non-profit journalism.

That’s the big trend in journalism which the JS story on the Examiner pointedly ignores, because it’s bad news for the newspaper. Instead it publishes a sloppy story lumping the Examiner in with political entities like MacIver or the liberal super PAC American Bridge. Whatever nuance emerges in the story by Marley and Spicuzza (and it isn’t much) was quickly overwhelmed by Hauer and Stanley slamming the Examiner as partisan and slanted. It’s all part of an exercise to convince readers the JS is the only news source you can trust, and to do this the paper publishes an obviously misleading story.

I learned something decades ago. A publication should never, ever write about its competition. There is no way for you to look good in the process. Do good work, and let the readers and advertisers decide. And the market (which, as you know, liberals hate) will decide whether the Wisconsin Examiner survives or not.