Four years ago and last week

Gov. Scott Walker said last week that he is likely to start out the gubernatorial race behind.

There has been concern in Republican circles about the larger turnout for Democrats than Republicans in last week’s primary. And Republicans certainly need to get out and get out the vote.

Keep in mind, though, that (1) Democratic turnout may well have included people who intend to vote Republican in November but voted Democrat because of (2) the gubernatorial race and because (3) they intended to vote for whoever won the U.S. Senate Republican primary.

For those who panic about polls three months before an election, read this from last week and this from November 2014.



The free press and Trump, and me

The Boston Globe reports:

Around 200 news publications across the United States have committed to a Boston Globe-coordinated effort to run editorials Thursday promoting the freedom of the press, in light of President Trump’s frequent attacks on the media.

Some of the most respected and widely circulated newspapers in the country have committed to taking a stand in their editorial pages, including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Chicago Sun-Times. The list ranges from large metropolitan dailies to small weekly papers with circulations as low as 4,000.

The Globe initiative comes amid the president’s repeated verbal attacks on journalists, calling mainstream press organizations “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.” Tensions came to a boil in early August when CNN reporter Jim Acosta walked out of a press briefing after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders refused to refute Trump’s “enemy of the people” comments.

‘‘We are not the enemy of the people,’’ Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor of the Globe’s opinion page, told the AP last week.

The Globe’s request to denounce the “dirty war against the free press” has been promoted by industry groups such as the American Society of News Editors, as well as regional groups like the New England Newspaper and Press Association. The request also suggested editorial boards take a stand against Trump’s words regardless of their politics, or whether they generally editorialized in support of or in opposition to the president’s policies.

‘‘Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,’’ the Globe appeal said. …

Pritchard previously said the decision to reach out to newspapers was reached after Trump appeared to step up his rhetoric in recent weeks. He called the media “fake, fake disgusting news” at an Aug. 2 rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

‘‘Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?’’ he asked at the rally, pointing to journalists covering the event. ‘‘They don’t report it. They only make up stories.’’

Pritchard said she hoped the editorials would make an impression on Americans.

‘‘I hope it would educate readers to realize that an attack on the First Amendment is unacceptable,’’ she said. ‘‘We are a free and independent press; it is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.’’

If you are a supporter of the free press specifically and the First Amendment generally, then you should accept the existence of, if not agree with, opposing points of view — in this case, Patricia McCarthy:

[Pritchard’s] big idea is her response to President Trump’s relentless attack on those among the media who relentlessly publish fake news.  Trump has never said all of the media are disingenuous, or that all of the media publish and promote fake news.  He clearly goes after the news outlets who do: CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NPR, CBS, NBC, NYT, WaPo, L.A. Times, and too many others.

The president is targeting what has become known as the mainstream media, the MSM, or the “drive-bys,” as Rush Limbaugh rightfully calls them.  They are clones of one another.  There is not an original thought or idea among their “reporters.”  Their reporters are not journalists in any sense of the word.  They all take their marching orders from the leftists who head up each of these organizations.  Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, not one of them deviated from the Clinton campaign party line.

Ms. Pritchard, then, is working hard to prove Trump’s point.  He rages against the leftist machine that is the MSM, and she is bound and determined to prove him right for all to see.  She, and all those editors who are jumping onto her bandwagon, is playing right into his hands.  How clueless can these anti-Trumpers be?  They are mind-numbed idiots, so easily trolled by the master.  They see themselves as defenders of the free press!

The only free press today is vast, available to all of us, and thoroughly outside their realm of conformity.  They think they matter; they have yet to grasp the fact that they are largely irrelevant.  Jim Acosta thinks he is a reporter; he is a rude clown, subservient to tyrants, disrespectful to Trump and Sarah Sanders.  He actually thinks people care what he says, does, or thinks.  They do not.  He is a joke.

Since interest has dimmed in Stormy Daniels and her “creepy porn lawyer,” as Tucker Carlson has dubbed him, the new star the MSM are celebrating is the pathetic Omarosa Manigault Newman, with her book of lies and accusations that everyone knows are fabricated.  The anchors on all the MSM outlets know exactly who and what she is but are wooing her in the hope that she will be the one to take Trump down.  They never give up.  They never learn.  From the Access Hollywood tape to Omarosa, they are confident that each new lowlife with a story to tell will be the one to overturn the election.  They are like Energizer bunnies; they have motors but no brains.  They never give up, no matter how ridiculous the attacks on Trump become.  In short, they are utter fools.

Ms. Pritchard says newspapers use “differing words.”  Uh, no, they don’t.  They use the same words.  Just as that JournoList functioned under Obama, talking points went out, and they all repeated them verbatim.  These people do not think for themselves.  Throw a differing, conservative opinion at them, and they cry racism.  That is their only defense, no matter how specious.

Conservatives are looking forward to Thursday’s coordinated anti-Trump editorials.  We will have a definitive list of news outlets to never trust again because they will have revealed themselves to be unthinking soldiers in a nasty war against a man for whom over sixty million Americans voted to be their president.  So far, he has been a truly terrific president.  He has accomplished more good for the nation than either Bush or Obama did in sixteen years.

  • Economy great thanks to tax cuts and de-regulation.
  • Unemployment at lowest point ever, for blacks and Hispanics, too.
  • Food stamp use down by a few million.

The man who has accomplished all this in nineteen months is whom they want to destroy.  What does that tell us about who the left is today?  Leftists do not have the country’s best interest at heart.  Their hatred of this man motivates them in a most destructive way.  Let those hundred or so newspapers follow Pritchard’s orders and publish their anti-Trump op-eds on Thursday.  They will be demonstrating for all to see just how right Trump is when he calls out the perpetrators of fake news.

McCarthy’s piece is an opinion. So is whatever those 200 newspapers write today and this week.

One of Wisconsin’s best weekly newspapers wrote this piece this week on its opinion page, patriotically called The First Amendment, that its veteran award-winning editor doubts fits into what the Globe has in mind.

As someone who has been doing this crap — I mean, has been a journalist — for three decades, I have trouble fitting in on this subject, which I will attempt to explain here.

Is the free press vital to this democratic republic? There is absolutely no question that it is. Trump specifically and whichever party and politicians in power conveniently forget that, or don’t want that to be the case, far too often. But Trump isn’t the first president to try to prevent the press from doing its job, though he probably has been the most verbal about it. (Other than Harry S. Truman, who once threatened to punch out Washington Post music critic Paul Hume for the latter’s uncomplimentary review of Truman’s daughter’s performance. Trump hasn’t gone that far. Yet.)

Should Trump not say bad things about the news media? Well … I don’t care what Trump or any other politician says about the media generally or myself specifically. I really don’t. Once upon a time when journalists had more backbone than today, nasty comments from politicians were something a journalist should put on his or her résumé.

Our job as journalists is to hold the powerful accountable, regardless of party or lack of party. Politicians, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the educational system and every other level and function of government everywhere do their work with our tax dollars, and for that reason alone the free press is necessary to make sure they’re doing what they should be doing, and not doing what they should not be doing.

Freedom of the press is part of the First Amendment. The First Amendment does not belong just to the press. It belongs to all Americans, and if it doesn’t, then it’s just almost-illegible words on old paper. The Wisconsin Constitution’s free-expression protections also belong to all Wisconsinites, as do the state Open Meetings Law and Open Records Law.

There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding today about the media and its history on the subject of reporter bias. The period where the media was seen as impartial is not that old in American history.

To too many people “unbiased” actually means “biased in favor of my point of view.” Does this strike you as unbiased?

How about this?

In the middle of ABC-TV’s coverage of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds practically demanded Congress pass gun control. So did Cronkite on CBS even though, of all people, Dan Rather correctly pointed out that the gun control measures then in Congress wouldn’t have prevented either Kennedy assassination.

All you need see for evidence of previous institutional press bias is see the number of newspapers with the words “Democrat,” “Republican,” “Progressive” or similar words. And even when those words weren’t in the names of the newspapers, there have usually been conservative newspapers (the Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, and once upon a time the Los Angeles Times) and liberal newspapers (the New York Times, Milwaukee Journal and The Capital Times) in multiple-newspaper markets. The State Journal is unquestionably more liberal than it was now that it’s the only daily newspaper in Madison, while The C(r)apital Times is still as lefty as always, including in its news coverage. (One associate editor wrote in a news story “the so-called Moral Majority,” which is an error because that was the group’s name, and the writer’s opinion of it didn’t belong in a news story.)

Remember these good old days?

My suspicion is that what’s written today and this week is going to be read as nothing more than ripping on Trump (particularly in the opinion of those sympathetic to views like McCarthy’s), and will give an unrealistically gauzy view of the news media, with related offended whining that people fail to worship the media’s work (this, for instance), accompanied by hand-wringing that Trump and his supporters are destroying democracy. (They aren’t and won’t.)

Truth be told, the media has a lot of flaws today, and this campaign might be one of them. For one thing, it’s practically impossible for me, someone who has worked for low pay but long and irregular hours in the First Amendment Wars, to think I have very much in common with Acosta, Pritchard or people who get their paychecks from big media, even though I used to work for one of this country’s biggest (at the time) media companies. They get paid an order of magnitude more than I do in much better conditions with much better benefits, including being wrongly famous.

Is Trump trying to control the media? Of course he is. So did his predecessor, and every president in this media age, and probably every president before that. So do most politicians. They have media relations people to feed quotes and pass on good things about their guy and bad things about the other side. They all answer questions posed by the media with answers to the questions they want to be asked, instead of what they were asked.

That, however, is part of the job, and always has been. A reporter who expects to be fed information and not have to do actual asking of questions is either lazy or a toady for whoever is in power. (Too many journalists worship at the altar of government because they cover government.)

A few things have certainly gotten worse in my professional lifetime. There have been far too many stories labeled “Analysis” that are in fact the writer’s opinion not on the opinion pages. There are far too many expressions of reporter opinion on social media, particularly on Twitter reporter accounts, when the correct number of opinions that are not labeled opinions is zero. (News-media social media should report and only report, not give the reporter’s opinion.)

Too much of this “analysis” since approximately the Clinton administration has been inside baseball — some political staffer feeds their view about the brilliant politics of (insert politician’s name here). That violates the sentence I have had printed on top of every computer I’ve had for more than 25 years — “What does this story mean to the reader?” And unless you’re a political junkie, the political fortunes of a politician are and should be about 367th in your list of important things.

There are also far too many journalists who seek to curry favor among the politically powerful. In fact, I have to wonder how much news media bitching is taking place due to failures to curry favor among the Trump administration. The Washington phrase, “If you want a friend, get a dog,” applies to journalists in state capitals, county seats and basically anywhere else.

There is a large and growing disconnect between the news media and the people we are supposed to be serving. Yes, news media people are considerably more politically liberal on average, and because of that many seem to not grasp conservative views. (Conservatives working in the mainstream media often  keep their political views secret because they think those views will hurt their career among their liberal colleagues and bosses.) The media utterly failed in not seeing the possibility of Trump’s election, and they compound that error by refusing to see why people might have voted for Trump, and that a huge number of Americans believe that government failed them under the previous administration.

But the political divide isn’t the only divide. Those readers who live in communities with newspapers or radio stations with news departments might get an education by finding out how many reporters (1) live in the community they work in, (2) have or had children, and (3) go to church regularly. That was me once upon a time, when the only thing I did among those three was live where the job was. Your view of life and what’s important, and therefore what is important news and what isn’t, changes when you have ties to a community, particularly children. And as has been pointed out on this blog, the media gets more things wrong about guns and gun control than can be listed here.

Here is a dirty little secret about Trump and the media: Trump is president today not just because he was running against Hillary Clinton and as an anti-Barack Obama vote; he is president today in large part due to the news media. Trump has been providing quotable copy and video for the media since he was a New York City developer who showed up on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The media focused on Trump in 2015 because Trump was so much more interesting than any of the other presidential candidates. Trump and the media have a symbiotic–parasitic relationship regardless of what Trump or the media say about eachother.

I sort of feel like an orphan in today’s argument, not on Trump’s side but not on the media’s side.(I can generally pick apart most publications and see their flaws.) I have, I think, more respect for the First Amendment than most journalists do anymore. I believe in giving the opposing side a voice. It’s hard to see that from the national media today.

Individual thinking is not in very much evidence today on any side of the political divide. I have always wanted to be judged on my own work, not lumped in with everyone else in the news media.

But as I wrote before, I really do not care what politicians think of the media or of me, and I have to wonder why media people care what Trump or any other politician thinks of them. I would have thought that journalists would have thick skins and not be snowflakes, but apparently I was mistaken.

In my professional life, I’ve gotten threats of various kinds, including threats to my health. I got invited by a school board president to stand in front of their table and listen to what they were saying while they were trying to skirt the Open Meetings Law. (I did.) I got publicly asked to leave a speech given by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino. (I didn’t. He did.) They didn’t, don’t and won’t faze me from doing my work. Nor will anything any politician says about the news media. We always get the last word when we want it.


The “fall” primary election hangover blog

Back in my public TV pundit days, the late Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show had a post-election “hangover” show in which WPT would invite all of its pundits to an on-air party in Madison.

The last such show was the most strange, because the Friday after the 2000 presidential election was a show that, unlike every previous such show, included one very prominent race that was not yet decided, with no prospect of a decided result.

That is certainly not the case with this “fall” primary election, which if anything featured surprisingly wide margins in some races, including the U.S. Senate Republican primary, with U.S. Sen. Leah Vukmir (R–Brookfield) having no problem defeating Kevin Nicholson despite Nicholson (and his out-of-state money) vastly outspending Vukmir.

Nicholson is evidence of how out-of-state money doesn’t necessarily translate into votes, especially if the candidate has a clueless campaign. Anyone who has paid any attention to politics should have known the fights Vukmir was involved in the Legislature during her career, including Act 10, school choice and various tax cuts. Obviously GOP voters found most of what Nicholson claimed to lack credibility. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the demise of the GOP establishment in Wisconsin was exaggerated.

That doesn’t necessarily end Nicholson’s career, of course. In fact, the next 12 weeks will prove how much Nicholson is interested in Wisconsin politics, or not. If he doesn’t campaign hard for Vukmir and other Republicans, we’ll know the answer. If he’s really interested in haviing a future in state politics, he should also be looking for an office — state Legislature, or maybe the Fifth Congressional District if U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R–Menomonee Falls) retires — to run for in 2020.

Dan O’Donnell has more on the Vukmir race and other Tuesday stuff:

“Crucial Waukesha County” has been a running joke among pundits on election nights, but last night it proved just how crucial it is. As of this writing, Vukmir’s 22,005-vote margin of victory in Waukesha County made up approximately 73 percent of her statewide margin of victory. That, combined with her 9,679-vote victory margin in Ozaukee and Washington Counties, means that nearly all of her statewide margin of victory came from just three counties.

All told, she won just 16 counties (nearly all of them in southeast Wisconsin) while Nicholson won 56. Yet Vukmir’s margin of victory in the counties she won was simply too much for Nicholson to overcome outstate.

In presenting himself during the campaign as an outsider running against the weak, timid, do-nothing Republican Establishment, Nicholson made what would have been in any other state a wise gambit in the Age of Trump.

In southeast Wisconsin, however, it proved to be disastrous.

From the moment Governor Walker first proposed Act 10 in his first major act after his inauguration in 2011, Wisconsin Republicans—especially those who represent the very conservative WOW counties—found themselves in an all-out war with the most thuggish elements of liberalism. But they didn’t waver; they held together and won. And then they kept on winning, passing voter ID and right-to-work laws, repealing prevailing wage for local construction projects, and cutting tax and regulatory hurdles that reopened the state for business.

Along the way, they became the model for conservative governance for the rest of the country and a shining example of what Republicans could accomplish if they would only hold together and hold to their promises. Nicholson’s campaign, though, divisively suggested—first obliquely and then openly after he lost the GOP nomination and internal polling likely showed him struggling in the race’s final months—that the Wisconsin Republican Party was just like the dreaded “Republican Establishment” everywhere else; that it was somehow standing in the way of conservative reform instead of enacting it.

In attempting to cast Vukmir as a “typical politician” and an “Establishment type,” Nicholson also cast the rest of the Wisconsin GOP and those who have supported it as the Establishment. The gross miscalculation of voters in the counties he needed most is enough to make even the most casual observer of politics say “WOW.”

Not surprisingly, those voters resented it, and they punished Nicholson for it.

That, however, was [Tuesday]. Today, the divisiveness of the primary must give way to a united conservative movement or every one of Wisconsin’s conservative reforms is in jeopardy.

In a far less bitter primary, State Superintendent Tony Evers won the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination. As of this writing, more than 525,000 people voted in that primary, compared with about 430,000 who voted in the Republican Senate race and 442,000 who voted in Governor Walker’s largely uncontested primary. Neither of those are perfect comparisons, of course, but they are still gaps of roughly 95,000 and 83,000 more Democrat votes across the state.

In Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, which leans Republican, roughly 1,200 more votes were cast in the contested Democratic primary (which was won by Randy Bryce) than in the Republican primary (won by Bryan Steil).

This would seem to confirm that the enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democrat voters in Wisconsin is both very real and very concerning. To put it in perspective, in the Republican wave election of 2010, Ron Johnson beat incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold by 105,091 votes out of 2.14 million cast for the two men combined—a margin of victory of 4.9 percent. Walker defeated Tom Barrett by 124,638 votes out of 2.13 million cast for the two of them—a margin of 5.8 percent.

[Tuesday] night, the “margin of victory” for statewide Democrat votes cast in the gubernatorial primary over Republican votes cast in the Senate primary was 9.9 percent (and nearly 100,000 total votes out of fewer than half of the total cast in the general election eight years ago).

This, again, is far from a perfect comparison, but it does illustrate the challenges that both Vukmir and Walker will face this November. This is also why it is absolutely imperative that the divisiveness of yesterday’s primary be forgotten (or at least forgiven) today.

If it isn’t, if conservative voters decide that they don’t want any part of Wisconsin’s “establishment” Republican Party, then Democrats will win—not just the Senate race, but the Governor’s race, too—and every conservative reform of the past seven years will be in jeopardy.

Once again, southeast Wisconsin (especially the WOW counties) will take the lead, but every other county must join them and be every bit as active and engaged if conservatives are to win again this year.

One might say it’s crucial.

One explanation for the lower GOP turnout might be the lack of must-vote races. I suspect most Republican voters would vote for the Vukmir–Nicholson winner regardless of Tuesday’s outcome because neither Vukmir nor Nicholson are Baldwin. That, however, requires getting out to vote Nov. 6.

Whom to vote for today

Today is the “fall” primary election in Wisconsin, though the weather is far from fall-like.

The biggest race on the Democratic side is, of course, the 337-candidate gubernatorial primary.

The favorite is supposedly Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, basically because he’s won statewide elections before now. Evers is not only a politician, but he comes from the education bureaucracy. which makes him doubly bad.

Of the Democrats, Christian Schneider writes:

According to the Marquette Law School poll, State Superintendent [of Public Instriuction] Tony Evers has hovered in the mid-20% to low 30% range, with no other Democratic contender even registering in the double-digits.

Either the other seven remaining candidates are all completely inept, or they simply don’t want to win. Only sporadically has another Democrat taken a gentle jab at Evers, the clear frontrunner. Instead, they all emphasize their own credentials and criticize Walker, giving Evers a clear path to stroll to the nomination on Tuesday.

In a perfect world, candidates would be able to simply discuss their own qualifications and leave it up to voters to make their own choices. But this is real politics, where successful candidates not only have to promote their own ideas but explain why the other candidates are wrong. The other seven candidates needed to bring Evers’ numbers down in order to overtake him; instead, they gave him a free pass.

Of the group of Democrats, only gruff attorney Matt Flynn has aggressively targeted Evers, arguing in a debate this week that Walker would “have (Evers) for lunch.” (This likely would only happen if Evers were dressed as a ham sandwich and hiding in a paper bag.) Yet Flynn has little chance of making up ground on Evers, as other prominent state Democrats have called for him to drop out of the race because of his work defending the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

Other plausible challengers, including former State Rep. Kelda Roys and firefighter Mahlon Mitchell, have decided to take a knee. Both had the chance to go negative on Evers weeks ago, but each demurred, intent to simply ride out the election. Both have young families that they may not want to have subjected to a fierce general election; perhaps neither thought they could put in the time needed to raise enough money to challenge Walker’s war chest.

Roys’ timidity is especially puzzling, given the fact that she loaned her own campaign nearly a quarter of a million dollars to keep it alive. She even received the backing of the wealthy EMILY’s List, but special interest groups can read polls, too, and they passed on dumping a truckload of money on her behalf. Clearly, Roys is the candidate Walker would least like to face in the general election, but if it wasn’t for fringe candidate Josh Pade polling at 0%, she’d be in last place.

And, of course, there are candidates like State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Mike McCabe, and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin who are just along for the ride. In the last reporting period, Vinehout reported raising and spending almost no funds. Soglin, who dubbed his vanity candidacy as a “Supper Club” campaign, seems like he may have just been very hungry when he made his choice to run.

While Flynn has almost no chance of winning, he is right in one respect — Evers is the guy Walker likely wants in the general election. At the state level, the two have worked together, with Evers even calling Walker’s most recent education a “kid-friendly” budget. Undoubtedly, Walker has these quotes in his chamber, ready to use them to blunt criticism of his tenure as governor.

Evers and the other Democrats have been bashing Walker for not spending enough money on schools, despite the fact that K–12 spending is up 21 percent since Walker’s first budget and up 12 percent since Gov. James Doyle’s last budget. Evers has also been talking about what needs to be done with schools, which is odd for someone who was supposedly in charge of the state’s schools since he was elected in 2009. (Evers’ Department of Public Instruction media minions keep referring to him as “State Superintendent,” as if Evers has more power than he actually does.)

What about the other candidates? Mitchell has been sending news releases about how much money he’s raised, though that has not apparently led to noticeable popularity. Mitchell is also a government union head, which should make him ineligible for elective office.

I would have expected more of a race from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, but he got on the ballot and, if he hasn’t stopped campaigning since then, he’s been practically invisible, matching his polling. I would have expected more of a race from state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D–Alma) as well, because as a non-Madisonian one would have thought Vinehout could have caused Walker more problems than Roys, but Vinehout’s campaign hasn’t gone anywhere either.

The only candidate that deserves some respect for at least not being a hypocrite is Mike McCabe, who at least has not been aping his fellow Democrats by accepting huge sums of campaign donations and then decrying big money in politics. I wouldn’t call McCabe exactly a moderate, but it’s too bad he didn’t run as an independent instead of a Democrat, since he styled himself as the critic of both parties and government as usual, although his Blue Jean Nation’s Five Aims are big government as usual.

The biggest race on the Republican side, of course, is the U.S. Senate primary, essentially between (though there are other candidates) Sen. Leah Vukmir (R–Brookfield) and former Democrat Kevin Nicholson.

Nicholson has run a stupid race fueled by the money of people who evidently know very little about Wisconsin. It is impossible to imagine how Vukmir, who led the way on Act 10, several tax cuts and other reforms since Walker became governor, can be called unconservative, whether or not you agree with her votes. Nicholson, a former member of the Democratic Party hierarchy, has been far less persuasive than another former Democrat, Ronald Reagan, about why he is an ex-Democrat.

Nicholson’s entire campaign seems to be (1) he was a Marine and (2) he’s running for office for the first time. Being a veteran means you served your country; it does not necessarily mean by itself that you should be elected to office. Nicholson should be running for something other than U.S. Senate first. Nicholson also has yet to explain why he has any chance at all against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisconsin) when Vukmir would seem much more likely to get women to vote for her.

One of the Congressional primary races is in the Fifth Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R–Menomonee Falls) faces an opponent who appears to hold multiple and opposite positions on one issue, James Wigderson reports:

Longtime conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI5) has an opponent in the Republican primary, Dr. Jennifer Vipond of Brookfield. Vipond claims to be a lifelong Republican, and even claimed on Facebook that’s she’s pro-life.

However, Vipond is definitely not pro-life and is in favor of legalized abortion. At a “meet the candidate” event in West Allis, Vipond made her position clear.

“I believe that abortion should not be illegal,” Vipond said. Then echoing the Clinton-esque “safe, legal and rare,” position, Vipond said, “I believe the demand for abortion should be eliminated.”

Vipond also said she would not support legislationto make abortion illegal. “I don’t know. Probably not,” Vipond said. “Making abortion illegal does not reduce the demand for an abortion. Making abortion illegal would make it possibly less likely but it…”

At that point, she was interrupted with a question if she would support a ban after 26 weeks, Vipond responded that she would support a ban after 20 weeks. But then she offered support for “health centers” such as those run by Planned Parenthood.

“The real way to reduce abortions is to get rid of abortions would be health centers and adequate health care,” Vipond said, and said more access to long-term contraceptives would reduce unwanted pregnancies.

“With the technology that we have, abortion should be a very rare event,” Vipond said.

Vipond also claimed that, because of a questionnaire she received, she learned that to be considered pro-life meant that a candidate had to be against all contraception, a position that is incorrect. While many pro-life organizations oppose artificial contraception for a variety of reasons, including those contraceptives that can be used to induce abortions, being pro-life does not mean opposing all forms of contraception.

“I strongly believe in birth control, and condoms. I’ve been prescribing them for 27 years,” Vipond said. “And even if I tried to say that I don’t believe in them, no one would believe me because, you know, 3,000 girls in Waukesha would hold up their prescription with my name on it.”

When asked to choose between being described as pro-life or pro-choice, Vipond said, “Pro-reality. The pro-life people say that you cannot have birth control, condoms, obviously abortion, or education. I cannot say that I am that.”

On the right to bear arms, Vipond refused to answer the National Rifle Association survey, earning an F rating. While she says on her website that she supports the right to bear arms, she would support raising the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21 and would support limits on magazine sizes. She would also support a federal requirement for a minimum amount of instruction for concealed carry permits, and would increase the amount of background checks needed for private sales.

Vipond likes to engage in conspiracy theories, attacking Sensenbrenner because he dares to own pharmaceutical stocks and blaming Congress for the opioid problem. Of course, she’s ignoring the work that Congress, including Sensenbrenner, and Wisconsin Republicans have done to combat the opioid epidemic, and even the bill he introduced to fight Fentanyl abuse.

Vipond even went full-tilt conspiratorial by accusing Sensenbrenner of avoiding media appearances because he didn’t want to give her publicity, even though Sensenbrenner has made countless appearances at town hall meetings with his constituents and is one of the most visible members of Congress in Wisconsin. Apparently Vipond is unaware that equal time restrictions no longer apply and that a Sensenbrenner appearance on any radio or television program does not mean she would be invited on.

Ironically, Vipond brings in a former local politician to accuse Sensenbrenner of being part of “the swamp,” her “friend,” former Village of Menomonee Falls President Joe Greco Sr. As long time observers of Menomonee Falls politics will note, Greco accusing anyone of being part of a political swamp is like an alligator calling someone a reptile.

No suprise, Vipond is being promoted by a very liberal Republican group, Republican Women for Progress, an organization that began as “Republican Women for Hillary” in 2016.

Then there’s the race for state treasurer, a position that, irrespective of how the state’s voters voted in the April referendum, should not exist. I voted for neither Republican, but James Wigderson reports:

The GOP primary for state treasurer got personal Wednesday night when one candidate, Jill Millies, said in a Facebook post that her opponent, Travis Hartwig, would be shot and that his fiancée will be raped.

The post was allegedly in response to Hartwig’s positions on gun control and abortion. Hartwig is pro-life and has an AQ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Millies is for legalized abortion, including support for government funding of Planned Parenthood, and gets an F rating from the NRA.

In an interview on Thursday, Hartwig said he had to re-read the post after being stunned by the content.

“I didn’t think my opponent would go there,” Hartwig said. “And then we started taking it very seriously. We thought it was very inappropriate for anyone to threaten rape or gun violence in a post like that.”

Hartwig said it was especially upsetting that his fiancée was mentioned in Millies’ Facebook post.

“I personally chose to be in this race. I understand politics is ugly,” Hartwig said. “But personally I think my fiancée deserves better than that.”

Millies deleted the post on Thursday and issued an apology on Facebook to those that read it, but not to Hartwig, whose supporters caused her to lose her temper, she claims.

“I would like to apologize to anyone who read last nights comments on Facebook,” Millies wrote. “They have been deleted. My opponent and his supporters got the best of me and drew me into a fight on our beliefs of abortion.”

Millies then attempted to deflect attention by pointing to one question from the Ivoter Guide survey that she says prompted the exchange:

According to Ivoter Guide this question was:
Q: Under what circumstances should abortion be allowed?
Travis said NONE
Jill said “In any case of rape, or the woman is not mentally stable or in health issues.”

However, the Ivoter Guide asked the candidates if they agree or disagree with the statement, “Human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection at every stage until natural death.” Millies said she disagreed while Hartwig agreed.

The guide also asked the candidates to agree or disagree with a statement about Planned Parenthood, “Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, should not receive funds from federal, state, or local governments.” Millies disagreed while Hartwig agreed.

While Millies did not respond to our request for an interview, she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the post was written out of frustration.

“Push come to shove, this is my first time in politics and I’m just sick and tired of Travis and his little minions coming onto my Facebook page and bashing the hell out of me all the time,” Millies told the newspaper. “I guess I just blew it after awhile.”

It’s not clear to me why abortion rights and gun control are issues in a state treasurer’s race. This kerfuffle suggests at a minimum that Millies lacks sufficient judgment to be an elected official until she learns to not assault those with different views from herself on social media, given that if she wins the primary she’s going to have to get the support of those who didn’t vote for her to win in November.

I wrote in Mrs. Presteblog for state treasurer. I voted for Jay Schroeder for secretary of state even though I believe neither office should exist. Secretary of State Douglas La Follette shouldn’t be paid $70,000 a year to protect the state seal.

Cast an informed vote today.


Oooh! I’m a swinger!

M.D. Kittle reports:

A newly released poll provides a compelling counterpoint to the Democratic Party “Blue Wave” narrative – at least in the Wisconsin Legislature.

The poll, commissioned by the Brookfield-based Jobs First Coalition, surveyed 600 likely voters in “Wisconsin Target Districts,” eight legislative districts that could very well determine control of the Legislature in 2019.

“I don’t think you will see a blue wave hitting the Wisconsin Legislature,” said former GOP Assembly Speaker and Jobs First Coalition adviser Scott Jensen.

Republicans hold a slight advantage over Democrats, the poll found, in these districts, with 41 percent of respondents saying they would definitely or probably vote Republican if the elections for state legislator were held today. That compares to 39 percent saying they would vote for a Democrat. A total of 22 percent make up the Lean/Undecided/or refused to answer category of voter in the districts, so despite the bitterly divided nature of Wisconsin politics, there remain plenty of voters to win over.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on July 29-31. The Republican polling firm, led by pollster and researcher Gene Ulm, has been conducting polls in Wisconsin for decades.

Among its key findings, the poll found that Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating in these key districts is well above water, at 54 percent. Meanwhile, the disapproval rating for the Republican incumbent, seeking his third term, is at 43 percent, according to the poll.

Assembly districts 49, 50, 51, 68, 72, and 85, and Senate districts 17 and 23 – including Chippewa and Eau Claire counties in the west to Grant County in far southwestern Wisconsin – make up these all-important swing districts.

They supported Walker in 2014 and helped turn Wisconsin from blue to red in the 2016 presidential election that saw the surprising victory of Republican Donald Trump.

“They haven’t changed their minds how they voted in the last two election cycles for Walker and Trump,” Jensen said of voters in the legislative districts.

Walker’s job approval rating was 47 percent, with 45 percent of respondents disapproving, in the most recent statewide Marquette Law School poll last month. The governor’s numbers rose to 52 percent approval when voters were asked whether Wisconsin was headed in the right direction.

But it’s in the smaller target districts, which gave Walker critical support in the 2012 recall election, where the 2018 general elections will be won or lost, Jensen said. And Walker holds an 11 percentage point favorability lead here.

“Gov. Walker is in a very strong position in the swing districts around the state where the Legislature’s control will be determined,” Jensen said.

Many of these swing districts include so-called “pivot counties” that voted for Republican Trump in 2016 after voting for Democrat President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, according to Ballotpedia. Wisconsin had 23 of the 206 pivot counties in 34 states.

Trump’s job approval rating in the eight swing districts is right-side up, as well. The Jobs First Coalition poll found 49 percent of likely voters approved of the president’s job performance, while 47 percent disapproved. Like several other polls, Trump had significant support (89 percent) among voters in his party, and perhaps more impressive, 49 percent approval among undecided voters and 61 percent among the “Movers” category.

While mid-term elections historically have run against the party in power, the latest polling figures suggest some potential lessening of that trend.

The poll found that health care and public education should be the main focus of state government, or anyone hoping to be elected to serve.

Twenty-three percent of respondents ranked health care as a top policy concern; 23 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats, and 22 percent of Independents.

Improving education was a top priority for 21 percent of respondents, with 37 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Independents saying so. Only 7 percent of Republicans surveyed put the issue at the top of the priority list.

Improving the economy ranked third on the primary focus list, with 13 percent of likely voters in the target districts ranking jobs and economic growth the number one priority – 22 percent of Republicans, but only 11 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats.

Despite all of the legislative battles over the state of Wisconsin’s roads and funding for them, 9 percent of the poll’s respondents said road repair was a top issue.

And 6 percent of likely voters in the target districts say holding the line on taxes is the biggest policy concern. Another 10 percent said they wanted to see a reduction in government spending. Not surprisingly, 14 percent of Republican respondents cited shrinking the size of government as a major issue, while just 5 percent of Democrats said so.

Income and property taxes remain the sources of government revenue that voters in the swing districts would most like to see cut. The poll found 34 percent of respondents – 30 percent Republicans, 38 percent Democrats – favor cutting individual income taxes first. Just below that, at 33 percent of respondents – 39 percent Republicans, 29 percent Democrats – would first choose to trim their property taxes.

The MacIver Institute has proposed “A Glide Path To A 3% Flat Income Tax,” which would go a long way in reducing the tax burden in a state long known for its high tax rate rankings.

The poll looked at a number of controversial ideas or proposals from Democratic candidates, including tax increases, non-resident voting, and a sweeping prison inmate release plan. Those ideas did not test well in the swing districts.

A vast majority of respondents – 71 percent – said they were “Much Less Likely” to vote for a Democratic candidate who wants to release half of the inmates currently in Wisconsin’s prisons; 12,000 convicted felons, some of which are serving time for committing the most violent crimes like murder and rape.

That bold idea comes from Democrat gubernatorial candidate and Madison ultra-liberal, Kelda Roys, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that she would halve the prison population through more parole options, the release of ill and aging inmates, and legalizing marijuana.

The poll found 66 percent of respondents were less likely to vote for candidates who support allowing non-residents to vote in Wisconsin elections.

More than half of respondents weren’t crazy about a liberal proposal to raise Wisconsin taxes by $460 million. That provision is part of Rep. Chris Taylor’s proposed amendments to the state constitution. That’s the price tag of Assembly Democrats’ progressive income tax.

The Assembly Democrat manifesto also includes a provision allowing local government to regulate the carrying of arms, effectively gutting the Second Amendment and the state’s concealed carry law. The poll found more than half of respondents were much less likely to vote for a Democrat candidate who supports allowing local governments to override the Wisconsin state constitution and “restrict the right to bear arms by law abiding citizens.”

But only 33 percent of likely voters said they would be less likely to support a Democrat who would vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Fifty percent of Republicans said as much, while just 17 percent of Democrats sounded opposed to such a proposal.

A majority of poll respondents (51 percent) support the Foxconn incentives deal, with 24 percent strongly in favor, and 27 percent somewhat in favor. On the other side, 30 percent of the likely voters surveyed were strongly opposed, and 13 percent somewhat opposed.

“A lot of Democrats are counting on (the Foxconn deal) to be one of their issues that’s going to help them capture the majority, and I just don’t see that,” Jensen said.

That is certainly interesting reading for someone who lives in the 17th Senate District and the 49th Assembly District, both home to Presteblog World Headquarters. I find the labeling of those two districts as “swing” districts somewhat curious, however. Wisconsin’s reputation as voting on both sides of the political aisle in an election forgets that’s it’s not just whom you vote for, it’s the race too. The fact that a majority of people in a particular legislative district voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016, or that they voted for Tammy Baldwin in 2012 and Ron Johnson in 2016 doesn’t tell you as much as you might think.

Recall that the 17th Senate District was the home of Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center) before his retirement in pique in 2014. My research at the time indicated that the 17th Senate District had been represented by a Democrat exactly twice since statehood, most recently after the 1974 election, when UW–Platteville Prof. Kathryn Morrison, who defeated Sen. Gordon Roseleip (R-Darlington), he of the famous butter vs. margarine taste test. Morrison’s Senate career lasted one term, until she lost to Richard Kreul in 1978.

After then-Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) announced early in 2014 that he was running for the Senate, Schultz announced his retirement in rather bitchy fashion, not bothering to first announce his retirement to news media in his own Senate district. Compare and contrast:

  • Marklein on Schultz: “I applaud Sen. Schultz on a successful career in the State Senate. He will be missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Wisconsin State Legislature.”
  • Schultz on Marklein: “Howard made it clear in his announcement challenging me that his top two reasons for doing so were my votes on Act 10 and mining. It’s pretty difficult to support someone who’s so out of step with the views of my constituents on major issues they care deeply about.”

Indeed, Marklein was so out of step with his future constituents that he won the 2014 election.

I haven’t had to research the 49th Assembly District, but I think it has similar history. The last Democrat to represent the 49th was Rep. Phil Garthwaite (D–Dickeyville). (Note: I covered Phil when he was a high school athlete at the late West Grant High School. Sigh.) He got elected in 2006 over colorful Rep. Gabe Loeffelholz (R–Platteville), and was reelected in 2008 before being flushed out with other Democrats in 2010. Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) ended Garthwaite’s political career and hasn’t really been touched since then. Before Garthwaite, according to my research, a Democrat has not represented Grant County in the state Assembly since 1914.

The 51st Assembly District seems to be more close given that Iowa County is a more Democratic county. Marklein was replaced by Rep. Todd Novak (R–Dodgeville), who is also the Dodgeville mayor and a target of The C(r)apital Times because Novak breaks several Republican stereotypes. Novak had a narrow win in 2014 and in 2016 over a Sauk Prairie School District assistant superintendent, who is running against Novak again. The 50th Assembly District is an open seat after the retirement of Rep. Ed Brooks (R–Reedsburg).

Basically the Senate is considered close because had its majority trimmed to 18–15 in two (wasteful) special elections earlier this year. One of those, the 1st Senate District, will be rerun in November, and if they have any brains Rep. Andre Jacque (R–Manitowoc) and his campaign will be paying attention to the lessons taught by his loss in November.

To believe that the Democrats will flip the Senate basically requires you to believe that the special-election winner (the other will serve until 2020) will win in November and both Marklein and the other Senate district brought up here, the 23rd Senate District, will flip to Democrat. That is certainly possible; anything is possible in these tumultuous political days. Likely?


An attack of Santayana

Wisconsinites Against the Fist posted Friday:

Today my favorite unhinged Madion blogger was making an endorsement for govenor. I am quoting this part of the post because it was the only part that mattered in the whole rant

“We must get back to the point where at the end of the day–whether we agree or not–we can grab a meal together or play a round of golf as friends. Too many stories of hostile Thanksgiving meals due to Walker pitting one group against the other must end.”

I find it odd he blames Scott Walker when it really comes down to the liberal left in this state and in this country being openly hostile. Actually the leadership of the party is guilty of encouraging this hostility. Until the left is able to come to terms with the reality that America wants responsible spending, wants job creations, want secure borders and expect accountability of our politicians, civility is going to be a thing of the past for a majority of them and the left will continue to encourage a hateful intolerant environment in America.

What the unnamed “unhinged Madison blogger” was really saying, of course, is (1) do what I want you to and (2) shut up. A majority of Wisconsin voters have been voting against that since 2012. That can come back if voters vote the wrong way Nov. 6. Recall that George Santayana observed that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.



What is Polish for “Mike”?

WBAY-TV in Green Bay reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has asked state lawmakers to pass a bill naming a new interchange after a late state senator from Neenah.

The newly constructed 1-41/US 10/WIS 441 Interchange would be named in honor of Michael G. Ellis.

“Mike Ellis was a larger-than-life personality who loved Wisconsin and passionately served the people for more than 45 years,” Governor Walker said. “Today, as we gather in Neenah to celebrate Mike’s life, I am announcing that I will include in our budget, or will sign a bill drafted by the Legislature, naming the brand new I-41/U.S. 10/WIS 441 Interchange in his honor—whichever comes first. It would be a fitting tribute for a man who contributed so much to his community and his state.”

Ellis passed away July 20 at the age of 77. Flags in Wisconsin are flying half-staff Tuesday in his honor.

Ellis made a name for himself on the Neenah Common Council in the late 1960s and 1970s. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1970.

Ellis was elected to the State Senate in 1982. He was named President of the State Senate in 2011. He’d serve in that role until his final days in office in 2015.

Ellis told us he was most proud of his work to get Wisconsin public schools more than $400 million in funding, and the transformation of Highway 41 in the Fox Cities. He called it the “Main Street” of the Valley.

That was what Ellis and former U.S Rep. Tom Petri (R–Fond du Lac) were doing while Wisconsin’s two Democratic U.S. senators of the time, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, were accomplishing nothing for the state.

There is, however, an irony to this. When that interchange opened in it’s original design, it was known locally as the Polish Connection, ostensibly because of all the Polish people who lived in Menasha, but more likely because of the interchange’s original design, which included an off-ramp and an on-ramp using the same pavement, one part of the interchange leading to a dead end since U.S. 10 wasn’t extended west of 41 (10 used to be Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton), and even after 10 opened west of 41, drivers could not go from northbound 41 to westbound 10 from that interchange.

The other thing is that, as far as I know, Ellis wasn’t Polish. “Michal” is “Michael” in Polish, for those who care.

On the left

Joseph Curl:

Let’s get right to the good stuff: In a new poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, just 33 percent of those surveyed think the Democratic Party is “in the mainstream.” More than half (56 percent) consider them out of step.

Just two years ago in 2016, those numbers were far different: 48 percent mainstream, 42 percent out. That means the “mainstream” number has plunged 12.5 percent, a huge drop in just two years.

Man, it’s not easy being a Democrat these days.

Chief among the party’s problems (and they have many) is that the Democrats lack a leader. The last head of the party, Barack Obama, took his mojo with him when he left town, and he’s busy partying it up with Jay-Z and Beyonce in Paris. Meanwhile, 2020 is still too far away, so no one has yet emerged around whom the party faithful can rally.

The Democratic Party is a rudderless ship, and the captain left on a life raft years ago. Only the rats are still on board.

What few leaders the party has are all ancient mariners: Rep. Nancy Pelosi is 78, Sen. Bernie Sanders is 76, the two-time loser Hillary Clinton is 70, the wannabe nominee for 2020, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is 69, and the party’s angriest member, Sen. Chuck Schumer, is 67. That’s 360 years combined if you’re keeping score at home.

Still others are just downright nuts, like Rep. Maxine Waters. The networks love putting her on the air to rail against President Trump, but all those Americans out there see is another crazy out-of-the-mainstream Democrat.

Sure, Hillary is still waltzing around in her housecoat or muumuu or whatever the heck she was wearing the other day. And she’s still exhausted and still coughing her lungs out as she makes little murmuring noises that she’ll run again. She doesn’t know it yet, but there’s zero chance the party will nominate her again. Zero.

So that’s left a vacuum in the party. Into that gaping hole has stepped Mr. Sanders and his new buddy, fellow socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old former bartender preaching free everything for everybody as she runs for a House seat. The two socialists joined forces last week to campaign for House candidates in Kansas, where they preached their socialist ideals to a packed auditorium.

The new slogan for the Democratic Party is “A Better Deal,” and the pair declared that means lots of free stuff for everyone. They’ll tax those horrible rich people and those awful corporations (who cares if they’re the ones giving regular people jobs), and they’ll somehow come up with $1 trillion for free health care and a trillion more for all the other free stuff they want to give away.

Now, let’s be clear: That pitch works in the cities and along the two coasts. But it sure doesn’t play in Peoria.

Suddenly, and perhaps not surprisingly, a whole bunch of moderate Democrats are getting worried. They don’t want thxe party to embrace the socialist pitch — toward which some Democrats have been moving for nearly two years — and warn that if they do, the party will crash and burn in 2020.

Then there’s this: Democrats gathered in Ohio last week for a conference organized by the center-left think tank Third Way. The group spent a year taking the pulse of rank-and-file Democrats and came away with one key finding: Socialism doesn’t sell.

“Once again, the time has come to mend, but not end, capitalism for a new era,” Third Way President Jonathan Cowan said in a speech to a few hundred congressmen and Democratic officials. The group is encouraging Democrats to do what Bill Clinton did in the 1990s: moderate. Sure, the centrist take won’t excite the activist wing of the party, but Americans love the middle.

Which is what makes that new NBC/WSJ poll’s findings so fascinating. In 2016, Democrats argued that President Trump was far outside the mainstream, but he turned out not to be. Now, just one-third of those polled think the Democrats of today are mainstream.

Where the party goes next is anyone’s guess. But where it’s going right now apparently scares all those flyover-country “mainstream” Americans.

Democrats here are even farther left. Consider that the state Democratic Party went ahead with Recallarama despite national Democrats advising them not to. It worked so well that since then Republicans have maintained majority control of the Legislature and all but one statewide partisan elective office.


Tax cuts, pro, con and pro

Daniel Mitchell:

Earlier this month, I talked about the economy’s positive job numbers. I said the data is unambiguously good, but warned that protectionism and wasteful spending will offset some of the good news from last year’s tax reform.

This is what’s frustrating about the Trump presidency.

Good policies in some areas are being offset by bad policies in other areas, so it’s not easy assigning an overall grade.

And it’s also difficult to predict the effect on economic performance. If you look at the formula for a prosperous economy, there’s no way of predicting whether Trump is a net positive or a net negative. At least in my humble opinion.

As such, I’ll be very curious to see what happens to America’s score in subsequent issues of Economic Freedom of the World.

It would be nice if the United States got back into the Top 10. For what it’s worth, I’m guessing America’s score won’t measurably improve.

That being said, if there was a pro-con debate on Trump‘s performance, some people would be quite confident about declaring victory.

Mike Solon, a former budget staffer on Capitol Hill, offers the “pro” assessment in the Wall Street Journal.

Are low taxes key to a booming economy? Their success is harder than ever to deny after Friday’s report that the U.S. economy grew 4.1% in the second quarter, bringing the average quarterly growth rate during the Trump presidency, growth has been almost 40% higher than the average rate during the Obama years, and per capita growth in gross domestic product has been 63% faster. …The CBO now projects that additional revenue from this economic surge will offset 88.2% of the estimated 10-year cost of the tax cut. …The CBO’s April revision projected an extra $6.1 trillion in GDP over the next decade—more than $18,000 of growth for every man, woman and child in America. …the Labor Department reports that worker bonuses have hit the highest level ever recorded. The Commerce Department reports that wages and salaries are growing almost 25% faster under President Trump than under Mr. Obama.

Since I have great confidence that lower tax rates are good for growth and that Laffer Curve-type feedback effects are real, I want to applaud what Mike wrote.

And since I’ve also dissed the idea of “secular stagnation,” I also like this part of his column.

Perhaps the most important narrative discredited by the economic revival is the “secular stagnation” excuse. Throughout the Obama years, progressive economists said Americans had become too old, lazy and complacent to achieve the growth that was regular before 2009. But somehow American workers overcame all of these supposed weaknesses when Mr. Trump changed federal policy. The problem was not our people but our government. Stagnation is not fate but a political choice.

Amen to that final sentence. Stagnation is the result of bad policy.

But my problem is that Trump has some bad policies that are offsetting his good tax reform. So I can’t help but think Mike is being too optimistic.

Let’s look at another perspective. It would be an exaggeration to state that Jimmy Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute is in the “con” camp, but he definitely is skeptical.

GOP hot takes will come as fast and furious as the economic growth. “The tax cuts worked!” “Trumponomics rocks!” …Celebrating a stronger economy is not a bad thing, of course. Over the long run, sustainable economic growth is what generates higher living standards and greater social mobility. But drawing sweeping conclusions from a single three-month period is problematic…it doesn’t necessarily tell you a whole lot about where the economy is heading. There were eight quarters of 3 percent growth or faster scattered across the Obama presidency, including four of 4 percent or faster and one of 5.2 percent. But there was never much follow-through, and overall the expansion muddled through at roughly a 2 percent annual pace. …even a very strong report won’t tell us whether the Trump tax cuts, passed in December, are “working.” It’s just too soon. …that process will play out over a numbers of years.

This is a very sensible perspective. I’ve repeatedly warned not to overstate the importance of short-run data. And I also fully agree that there’s often a time lag between the adoption of good policy and the evidence of good results.

But I have the same complaint about the Pethokoukis column as I did about the Solon column. There’s a sin of omission because both focused on the tax reform.

As I noted above, we also need to consider the other policies that have changed in the last 18 months.

I don’t know the answer, but maybe this image will illustrate why we should hesitate before making sweeping assessments.

And also keep in mind that we have no way of knowing whether there’s a Fed-created bubble in the economy. As I said in the interview, what if 2018 is akin to 2006? Back then, most people underestimated the possibility that easy money and Fannie-Freddie subsidies had created an unsustainable housing boom.

But even if we ignore that wild card, I can’t help but wonder whether Trump‘s pro-growth polices and Trump‘s anti-growth policies are resulting in a wash.

That ignores the moral component of tax cuts, that government does not deserve more of your money just because politicians want more of your money. That is particularly true given the fact that no societal problem we have today can be solved by government. The War on Poverty, started more than a half-century ago to get Democrats black votes, has achieved as much as doing nothing would have, except for that part about Democratic votes.

Investors Business Daily doesn’t hesitate:

On the left, the idea that the tax cuts signed into law by President Trump benefited no one but “the rich” is almost a mantra. False, of course, but somehow the media continue to repeat it.

Google “Trump tax cuts of the rich” and you get about 6.67 million hits. So it’s quite an item of discussion out there.

And it’s an increasingly common talking point among the Democrats’ far-left-of-center representatives as the midterm elections loom. Why, it’s almost like they’re spreading “fake news” to the voters or something.

The truth is, as a new report shows, average American workers are benefiting not solely by having their incomes boosted by tax cuts, but by having bigger benefit-packages, too.

Rather than focus on the abstract benefits of the tax changes, Americans for Tax Reform has listed literally dozens of companies that are delivering more benefits to their workers, thanks to tax cuts. They range from very small businesses to major multinational corporations.

Take Firebird Bronze, an Oregon-based foundry, for instance.

We are a small manufacturing business casting artwork for artist in bronze we have 9 employees and because of the tax cuts and the current business friendly climate we are for the first time offering employees health care insurance costing our company 40k per year,” the company said.

Meanwhile, following tax cuts, Express Scripts in Missouri announced, “The company will … create a $30 million education fund for employees’ children. The fund will assist with paying for college and vocational training.”

Retailing giants Wal-Mart and Lowes’ employees will provide a special benefit up to $5,000 for families that want to adopt children.

Lowes says it will also “be expanding its benefits package for full-time workers to include paid maternity leave for 10 weeks, paid parental leave for two weeks … and faster eligibility for health benefits.”

Fast-food giant McDonald’s, which along with Wal-Mart is one of the nation’s largest employers, is extending a raft of benefits to some 400,000 of its workers.

As ATR notes, even McDonald’s “employees who work just 15 hours a week, receive $1,500 worth of tuition assistance every year per year. The money can be applied to community college, trade schools, or a traditional 4-year university for employees or their family members.”

LHC Group, a Lafayette, La.-based health services company, sent out an email to its workers from the CEO detailing exactly why things were changing so workers would understand.

“I want to point out the positive impact the ‘Tax Cut and Jobs Act’ will have for our company and for each of you,” the email begins.

“As a result of this legislation, our company’s effective tax rate has been reduced from roughly 41% to a projected range of 29-30% for 2018. Because of our reduced tax burden, we will be able to make important investments in our company, including additional investments in our greatest asset — our people. But rather than making a small, short-term financial overture, we have decided to make meaningful investments in 2018 that will positively impact our employees — in a sustainable and long-term fashion.”

In addition to most workers seeing more take-home pay, the company will help pay even more of the burden for fast-rising insurance premiums, which have increased at double-digit rates under ObamaCare.

Again, that means more money in workers’ paychecks.

We hope you get the picture. The list of companies goes on and on, and the number of employees that benefit go into the tens of millions. Tax cuts have made everyone richer by enlarging the economic pie.

In case you’ve forgotten, the amount of tax relief was significant.

As reminds us: “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was opposed by all Democrat members of Congress, did several things, such as change the tax brackets to lower rates for individuals, nearly doubled the standard deduction, and eliminated the mandate to buy health insurance, among other reforms.”

And it also cut taxes on U.S. corporations, which, at 35%, faced the stiffest tax burden in the world before Trump’s cuts. Today they’re at 21%.

As a result of these tax cuts, companies have more money left for investments, not just in equipment, but in workers’ training, education and personal lives.

In a faster growing economy with a tightening labor market — and that’s where we are right now, with 4.1% GDP growth and a 3.8% unemployment rate — companies have much greater incentives to retain good workers. So, with the higher profits from tax cuts, they boost pay and benefits.

This, by the way, is why when presidents of both major political parties have cut taxes over the last 100 years, economic boom times have followed. And it happens not some of the time, but all of the time. It’s happening now.

There’s no question that American workers have it better today than they did a mere two years ago. Their wages are higher. They’re getting fat bonuses, some for the first time. And they’re receiving better, more diverse, benefit packages than ever before.

Knowing this, when their politicians return to their districts to campaign for upcoming midterm elections, voters should ask them a simple question: Will you now vote to make the tax cuts permanent?

As economist Milton Friedman famously put it:

But … but … what about the budget deficit?

That applies to this state too. Thanks to Republicans and not Democrats, families with children younger than 18 got a $100-per-child tax rebate earlier this year, and everyone in this state is enjoying our first sales tax holiday on school supplies, clothing and computers and computer supplies through Sunday. (More information here.)

That didn’t come from Democrats. Not a single Democrat running for governor nor, as far as I’m aware, any Democrat running for the Legislature has proposed cutting $1 of taxes. Not one. The letter D after a politician’s name in this state stands for “Dracula,” drinking your money, not your blood.


When a Democrat owns a conservative talk station …

RightWisconsin asks:

Is this the end of conservative talk radio on WTMJ-AM 620? The Milwaukee Business Journal reported Friday morning that Scripps has sold their radio operations WTMJ-AM (620) and WKTI-FM (94.5) to Craig Karmazin, the owner of Good Karma, the parent company of Milwaukee’s ESPN sports-talk station WAUK-AM (540).

WTMJ-AM is the former home to noted conservative author and media personality Charlie Sykes, a former editor of RightWisconsin. WTMJ-AM is currently home to two conservative talk radio personalities, Steve Scaffidi and Jeff Wagner.

In addition to Karmazin’s background in sports talk radio, putting the conservative talk radio format at WTMJ-AM at risk is the new owner’s political leanings. In a memo from Edge Messaging owner Brian Fraley to his clients, obtained by RightWisconsin, Karmazin’s ties to the Democratic party are spelled out.

“A quick check of FEC data indicates Good Karma’s owner, Craig Karamzin, is a major Democratic donor whose support for political campaigns include donations to President Obama, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Dan Kohl, the Democrat currently challenging Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman,” Fraley wrote to his clients. “A look at his record of donating to state candidates here shows he’s been a frequent contributor to Milwaukee [mayor] Tom Barrett and former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.”

However, Fraley predicts that Karamzin will not try to create a liberal talk radio station in the Milwaukee market at WTMJ-AM.

“That format has not proved to be profitable and I would be very surprised if Good Karma would take this incredible asset that is WTMJ and fritter away its value with such a move,” Fraley said. “So while any forecasting as to the direction of the heritage radio station is pure speculation at this point, I would not be surprised to see WTMJ evolve into a 24-hour news station, that also broadcasts live sports as the flagship of the Brewers, Packers and Bucks. That would be a smart business move.”

An acquaintance of mine familiar with the Milwaukee media market — let’s call him Deep Voice — predicts that some of WTMJ’s current voices may be out the door because WTMJ apparently has a lot of high salaries. Deep Voice also thinks there miight be changes at WKTI, whose ratings haven’t been great since its change from its adult-hits format and name The Lake. WKTI was rated 10th in the market in June, and second among country stations.

Good Karma owns WAUK (540 AM) in Milwaukee and WTLX (100.5) in Columbus, branded as “ESPN Milwaukee” and “ESPN Madison,” respectively, along with WBEV (1430 AM) and WXRO (95.3 FM) in Beaver Dam. Karmazin’s thing appears to be sports, given the several ESPN affiliate stations he owns, and getting WTMJ, the originating station of the Packers, Brewers and Bucks, seems like an expansion of that concept. Karmazin’s statement on WBEV/WXRO’s website says:

“The heritage, prestige, and team at the stations, in addition to their incredible sports partnerships, fit our commitment to provide best-in-class opportunities for our teammates, content for our fans, and solutions for our marketing partners.”

Karmazin formerly owned what now is WRRD (1510 AM), which calls itself Resistance Radio, in Milwaukee, which is simulcasted on WTTN (1580) in Columbus. It’s not clear if Karmazin still owns WTTN.

Two thoughts come to mind. Good Karma might be hesitant to make wholesale changes given that WTMJ is the second rated station in the market, and is not really likely to be able to make format changes to get to number one. (Number one is a classic hits station, and WTMJ isn’t going back to music.) Those concerned about the possible loss of Scaffidi and Wagner still have a conservative-talk station, WISN (1130 AM), which has twice the conservative talkers in Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna (also heard in Madison), Dan O’Donnell and Mark Belling.