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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blog of the Week: Uppity Wisconsin

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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How Judge Koschnick Can Shave His Campaign Budget
www.uppitywis.org

Judge Randy Koschnick’s campaign for the Supreme Court is hard-pressed for money, so here’s some gratuitous advice about how to save a few bucks:

For starters, shut down the campaign Web site and fire your press guy. With the Journal Sentinel and Steve Walters working for you for free, there’s no need to pay anyone.

Koschnick doesn’t even have to make an outrageous new charge or put out a new release to get a story from the JS and Walters anymore.

The latest ran on Sunday, unprovoked by any new campaign developments. Walters and the JS were just concerned, apparently, that Koschnick’s message wasn’t getting out enough.

So, to help it along, they did a story repeating Koschnick’s bogus claims that Justice Shirley Abrahamson is soft on crime. In fact, it’s not clear that Koschnick has ever used that phrase. It is the newspaper that uses “soft on crime” again and again. It’s the JS shorthand for the slightly more nuanced things Koschnick has to say to keep from getting his hand slapped by some judicial watchdog.


Hero of the Week: Wisconsin Credit Unions

Our Hero of the Week is not a person but a set of local institutions that deserve praise simply for doing what they are designed to do: Wisconsin credit unions. Local banks and credit unions are financial intermediaries that, in theory, are created to take deposits from local citizens and businesses, pay them a fair interest rate for their money and then use this money to lend to other local citizens and businesses at a higher rate of interest, thus earning their profits from the spread between the interest rate they receive from borrowers and what they pay their depositors. Obviously it gets more complicated in the real world, but that is the basic theory of being a financial intermediary. Credit unions in Wisconsin are not in trouble and are not asking for government involvement because they continued to play by the basic rules and kept most or all of their loans in-house; they made sure that they didn’t give loans to people unless they were fairly confident that they would be repaid or that there was enough value in the collateral should the loan default. They also didn’t gamble on exotic financial instruments such as derivatives traded on the world financial markets. After this scary period, we strongly believe that many small- to medium-sized banks will be going back to the fundamentals of banking and function more like our successful credit unions.


Jerk of the Week: Congressman Paul Ryan

If you want to see the Republican Party transform itself into a small regional party of right-wing ideologues bickering among themselves as to who is the true conservative, we should make Congressman Paul Ryan the Hero of the Week. Instead of taking responsibility for the economic disaster that he and his colleagues have gotten the world into—Paul, don’t forget that your party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for most of the 21st century—he acts like some outside observer who is now critical of President Obama for not fixing everything over the past six weeks. For creating the problem and then ducking responsibility, Ryan has earned the Shepherd Express’ Jerk of the Week.

Ryan’s economic strategies seem to come straight from the playbook of President Herbert Hoover or, more recently, Ronald Reagan. His solution to virtually every economic problem is to cut taxes on the wealthy or corporations and hope that good outcomes flow from that. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has stepped back from his blind faith in the free market, admitting that there were flaws in his theories, but that hasn’t deterred Congressman Ryan from continuing to promote what Greenspan has repudiated.

Interestingly, Ryan doesn’t seem to be upset with government spending when it goes for a “war of choice” like Iraq, which will end up costing thousands of lives and a trillion dollars before we are out of there— and where good Republican companies like Blackwater and Halliburton made off with billions of taxpayer dollars.

Ryan is, however, smart enough to have learned from Karl Rove that, when in doubt, scare the hell out of voters. His current mantra is that Obama’s budget will create stagflation, the situation we experienced in the mid-1970s when we had a stagnant economy and inflation. It’s a difficult situation to fix, but fortunately only a small group of extremists think there is any chance of stagflation developing.


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