Another Data Point Musings on politics, economics, and political economy


Trump: Bringing Americans together

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:38 pm

Trump’s debate remark about the “corrupt media” poisoning the mid of the voters is laughable at first. Whatever our complaints about the media, we have a fairly wide ranging array of views on offer, from Fox News to MSNBC — not to mention the internet outlets.

But does appear that the right end of the political spectrum has united with Democrats, Greens and Libertarians in their contempt of Donald Trump.


The GOP is not democratic

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 12:17 pm

Leaving aside the GOP catastrophe that is Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s impact on democracy has been distressingly corrosive.

Trumps ascension is really the result of twin Republican stratagems, and they have finally lost control of the monster they’ve created.

The first tool they employed was Gingrich’s notion that the GOP had to demonize its opponents. The mad rampage of Kenneth Starr is probably the worst example of this, but the email and Benghazi “investigations” are very much related.

The second was the establishment of the right-wing echo chamber that has served its audience a steady diet of fabrications and hyperbole for 20 years or more. Much of the distrust of Hillary Clinton is a product of the right-wing media smear machine.

Now we have a sizable portion of the electorate that doesn’t merely have different ideas of government’s role in society, but believes that a Clinton presidency would be a true catastrophe for the country. They are angry and heavily armed zealots for a weird Randian world view that probably regards them as worthy only to be serfs. They subscribe to the notion that the Obama presidency is the worst thing that has ever happened to the country, despite the (pre-2010) fiscal and economic policies that have put the country in vastly better shape that it was when Obama was elected. They blame Obama for the failures of an obstructionist Congress that has accomplished next to nothing since 2010.

Paul Krugman recently pointed out that Trump supporters don’t believe government data that the economy is better, yet report that they personally are doing better economically which would seem to corroborate the government data, ain’a?

But, returning to the GOP’s assault on  democracy, we should not forget the egregious gerrymandering that has been conducted by GOP state legislatures. The GOP has lost 4 of the last six presidential elections, yet has won control of Congress, suggesting either that Americans are schizoid voters, or that Democratic votes count for less at the  congressional district level due to gerrymandering.

An important consequence of this gerrymandering is that Congressional incumbents are unassailable, and hence less accountable to their constituents. This is a large source of the contempt Americans have for Congress.

If the Democrats win the White House and the Senate, it will be a confirmation of the impact of gerrymandering,  whose effect is primarily on the House of Representatives  and state houses

It isn’t yet clear what impact the Trump candidacy will have on this state of affairs, but I’d guess that Paul Ryan’s career as Speaker of the House is doomed, and just maybe GOP control of state legislatures will be eroded in both the 2016 and 2018 elections. This could mean the reversal of gerrymandering and a return to a much more competitive political environment, which will force some honesty on the GOP.



Flipping the script

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 8:06 pm

Do you remember the election in which a draft dodger was running against a decorated Vietnam veteran, and the veteran was slammed with allegations of cowardice?

If not, maybe the term Swiftboating will jog your memory.

I bring this up 12 years after the event to illustrate a fundamental element in the right-wing playbook: Attack your opponent’s strengths to obscure your own weaknesses.

Which brings us to the Clinton Foundation. The foundation, which has helped millions and is highly regarded by objective charity raters, has magically been transformed into a political millstone around Hillary Clinton’s neck, just as John Kerry’s military service became a dishonorable misadventure.

Media coverage of this “scandal” and the so-called email “scandal” — despite the FBI’s dismissal of the issue and former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s similar use of non-governmental communications channels — has contributed to the public perception of Clinton as an outrageous abuser of power. (The news media’s complicity in this remains something of a mystery to me, perhaps they regard it viewed as sufficient to report a lie told by someone, but not that it IS a lie.)

Clinton, who has devoted her life to public service, is somehow viewed as less trustworthy than Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump a serial cheater of workers, a racist, a bully, a misogynist, who has demonstrably been only in it for himself all his life, gets a pass on his bankruptcies that stiffed ordinary Americans, his scams that bilked thousands (Trump “University”), his incoherent statements about everything from trade to foreign policy (no one is paying for The Wall because no one is building it).

So, you get to choose between a devoted public servant who has worked to help literally millions, and a venal, greedy tyrant-in-waiting.

Here’s a tip: If you want to know who Donald Trump is, listen what he says about Hillary Clinton and apply it to him.


GOP gropes for a Trumpxit

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 6:10 pm

The first thing that must be said is that, as appalling as the “groping tape” shows Trump to be, it’s disappointing  that this election could turn on sexual offensiveness, rather than on the substantive threat a Trump presidency poses to the nation and the world.

Trump was always easily identifiable as a person intellectually and temperamentally unsuited for the presidency. Yet the GOP leadership lined up behind him – Paul Ryan and Rance Priebus are still lined up behind him.

Now, as the GOP tries to distance itself from Trump, it’s worth emphasizing that the GOP is running for cover not for what Trump would do to country, but because of what he’d do to the Republican Party.

But what has Trump already done? He has exposed the GOP’s dog-whistle appeals to hate and fear , promoting policies that are demonstrably bad for most Republican voters and for the nation as a whole. Trump’s divisive, outrageous rhetoric has garnered support from people who were tired of the GOP whispering the same things Trump has bellowed.

The base supported a catastrophic war in Iraq. The base supports a Congress that is devoted to the interests of the 1%. The base supported Paul Ryan, a counterfeit “policy wonk” who sprinkles magic dust over budget plans that would gut Social Security and Medicare – for ideological reasons, not out of  fiscal necessity.

I doubt that Rance Priebus and Paul Ryan share Trump’s contempt for women (unless they are poor women), but it is a serious mistake to suppose that they not complicit in the GOP ideology and tactics that have made Trump’s presidential candidacy a reality.


Quick thoughts for later development

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:15 am
  • Would the American military obey Donald Trump?
    Seems to me that there might be actions ordered by Trump that the military would simply refuse to take. This, I believe, would be unprecedented and highly problematic, but then, so is Trump.
  • There are two ways to do a revolution:
    Sudden, violent overthrow of the government
    Slow, incremental change by the electoral process.
    Not in a single election, pace Bernie Sanders.


Trump and the GOP, Dallas and the NRA

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 3:02 pm

After the Newtown shootings, a British journalist was heard to observe that if the killing of children was tolerable, the gun debate in the U.S. was over.

That may have changed. The killing of 5 police officers in Dallas might finally galvanize public opinion on gun control in a way that nothing has — at least for 50 years.

Dallas, of course has a fraught history with firearms. Because Lee Harvey Oswald used a mail-order rifle to kill President Kennedy, the NRA supported both banning mail-order sales of rifles and the 1968 Gun Control Act.

An illuminating article in the Atlantic Monthly, “The Secret History of Guns,” notes that the Black Panthers’ exercise of  their right to bear arms is what led to the passage of the Mulford Act in California, which repealed a law allowing public carrying of loaded firearms.

But as Mike Weisser, AKA Mike the Gun Guy, observed in an interview with The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, the spectacle of a white motorist being beaten in L.A. following the Rodney King verdict was a defining moment in the NRA’s campaign to use fear — and racial fear —  as a way to promote gun ownership.

[See The Second Amendment’s Second-Class Citizens]

Now a black gun owner professing to want to kill white police officers is implicated in the shooting of 12 Dallas cops, five fatally. It must finally appear to its members that the NRA has opened a Pandora’s Box in much the same way the the GOP’s messaging has ultimately led to the nomination of Donald Trump. Crazy talk leads to crazy actions.

One of the painful ironies is that the Dallas Police Department appears to be one of country’s most respectful and respected. (Listen to Rev. Michael Waters speak to NPR.) And as the Falcon Heights shooting suggests, the proliferation of guns in black communities is unnerving to police.

Another irony is that the extra-judicial killing of the Dallas suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson, will likely be viewed by many as further proof that black lives don’t matter to police. I’ll personally suspend judgment as to whether the robot-delivered bomb was the only solution to the standoff, but I’m sure others won’t.

The killings in Dallas are shocking and horrifying, but aren’t we all, somewhere deep inside, a little surprised that it didn’t happen sooner?

We can expect the killings by police and of police — and vastly more frequently of American citizens by other citizens — to continue until we recognize that the proliferation of instruments designed  to kill human beings — designed to kill human beings — is morally unacceptable, and must not only be halted, but reversed.

It won’t be easy, but the alternative is simply intolerable.


The shame of the GOP

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:57 am

Hearing Donald Trump’s ludicrous response to the mass murder in Orlando takes one’s breath away.

It’s not so much that Trump says what he says, but that, knowing he is capable of saying such things – can be expected to say such things – the GOP has embraced him as their candidate. Surely this is a party that has completely lost any claims to credibility.

Rather than pretending that the U.S. under President Obama has been working steadily and vigorously to defeated ISIS and other forms of Islamicist terror, Trump should be asking – as we all should – how is it that a person in the U.S. can legally obtain the capacity to kill 50 people.


Feeling the whinge

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:13 am

Bernie Sanders needs to do the right thing.

If he wants to continue to run, God bless him.

But if he wants to run on the trope that there’s no difference between Hillary Clinton and any of her possible GOP opponents, then he’s doing the country and his supporters a grave injustice.

As to his complaints about independents being unable to vote for him in New York, that’s really a self-indictment of his own incompetence. The rules were there for all to see; he should have warned his supporters months ago about the voting rules in New York. That his campaign failed to do so doesn’t speak to his ability to assemble a competent economic team, a competent foreign policy team, or a competent cabinet.

One has to wonder whether a President Sanders response to other unnoticed realities — in the Middle East, in Russia, or in Congress — would be more whining about fairness.

It’s no secret that this country has serious problems — and that the future of our youth is imperiled by the income inequality that Sanders has so effectively brought to the public conversation.

But Sanders had better let his youthful supporters know that he isn’t the only answer to their problems, that there are other people — lots of them — with opposing views that must be taken into consideration, and that politics is the art of dealmaking between opponents, or it’s about pure power, which history tells us always ends badly.


Behind with the rent

Filed under: Income Inequality — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:54 pm

I work at a public university, and about 10 years ago,  it occurred to me that, as American workers were losing pensions and health care, they were going to look le and less favorably on having to support my health care and pension. And in 2010, that came to pass.

As I approach retirement, I’ve been thinking about my children’s retirement prospects 35 year hence. And of course, when we look beyond our families, we see a striking generational divide in the prospects of acquiring wealth.

Now comes the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, asking the musical question, “Are We All Rent-Seeking Investors?” I think the “we” in this question are the baby-boomers, which I’m at the tail end of.

The article suggests that as the American economy becomes less competitive, there is less need to invest in competitiveness. Instead, money is going to the financial sector. And, of course, among the biggest investors are pension funds, which, I suspect, are mainly serving the over 50 crowd. Or, as the Stigler Center puts it more elegantly, “are we facing an economic model in which tens of millions of Americans’ pensions are relying on the ability of companies to extract rents from consumers and taxpayers?”

The article is worth a read in a couple of dimensions, but what concerns me most is that, by tolerating income inequality, we are beggaring our children.


Dem bones, dem dry bones

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 10:04 pm

“I think what [Trump]’ll do to the Republican Party is really make us question who we are and what we’re about. And that’s something we don’t want to see happen.”

— Nikki Haley

It’s hard to think of a better summary of the ossification of the GOP’s intellectual foundations than this observation by the South Carolina governor.

The GOP has become the party of naked power. That’s the only way to make sense of the so-called policies they propose — destruction of the safety net, of the environment, the ludicrous denial of climate change, and the even more ludicrous defense of the proliferation of handguns and assault weapons in the hands of the untrained masses.

Of course they don’t want to engage in a little honest self-examination: They are intellectually – and to a large extent morally – bankrupt.

Who wants to see that in themselves?


Mitch McConnell’s new rules

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:15 pm

It’s understandable that Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Barack Obama to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. I didn’t want Ronald Reagan to nominate Antonin Scalia, or George W. Bush to nominate Samuel Alito or John Roberts.

But that’s the way our government works, and any adult should be willing to live with that.

McConnell is no ordinary adult, however. He acts like spoiled child who thinks he gets to change the rules in the middle of the game if he doesn’t like the results.

We elect a president for four years, and President Obama would be guilty of dereliction of duty if he did not nominate a justice to replace Scalia. And the Senate would fail to do its constitutional duty if they did not confirm the appointment in due time.

While while we’re on the subject of rule changing, let’s briefly look at Paul Ryan’s wish for a “mandate” (JSOnline Jan. 23, 2016).  The GOP cannot have a mandate until they represent the majority of Americans, which, because of gerrymandering and voter suppression techniques like photo ID requirements, they may never do. Wisconsin offers the perfect example. In the 2012 election, Republicans won 47% of the popular vote, but 61% of the assembly seats. (See “Our Votes Don’t Matter.”)

Whatever you may think of the Republicans’ policy ideas, no lover of the American way of self-governance should tolerate the rule-bending and rule-breaking the GOP is conducting in our state and in our nation,


Tell Ron Johnson to do better on guns

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 10:48 am

Harry Reid made an effort bring some measure of sense to American gun policy. Ron Johnson voted to defeat that effort.

We need to tell Ron Johnson that he isn’t speaking for the people of Wisconsin on this issue.

Some points to make

  • There is no reason for the proliferation of weapons — handguns , assault weapons — that are designed to kill human beings.
  • It is fundamentally immoral to have weapons that are designed to kill human beings.
  • The American people want sensible gun control — the killers in San Bernadino bought their weapons legally.
  • There is nothing unconstitutional about regulating firearms — why else did the framers include “well-regulated militia” in the second amendment?

Contact Ron Johnson here


Connecting the dots in Planned Parenthood shooting

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 10:04 pm

I feel pretty comfortable drawing a straight line between the GOP and the terrible shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

The GOP not only encourages — or at least makes common cause with — persons who view armed conflict as an acceptable form of social control in this country, but it has encouraged — or at least made common cause with — persons who characterize Planned Parenthood as an evil abortion mill.

Why should we be shocked that an armed, deranged person would stage a murderous attack on an organization that has been calumnized by the GOP and its fellow travelers.

This is not that last episode of this kind.


Conceding to Daesh

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:31 pm

The response of the Republican presidential candidates to the horror in Paris is nothing less than capitulation.

The aim of the mad killers was to strike fear into the hearts of their targets. At least within the GOP, they seem to have achieved their aim.

The ludicrous bill passed by the the GOP-controlled House of Representatives (thank you, Paul Ryan), and the equally ludicrous proposals by Rubio, Bush, and the rest, seem to be the products of minds so blinded by fear as to be incapable of strategic thought.

One can’t be certain whether these people believe in their proposals, or are simply trying to stir up enthusiasm in their supporters, but either way, it’s a sorry spectacle to see in a country that considers itself the greatest democracy in the world.



Prolegomenon to a Critique of Pure Walker

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:31 am

There is much to disdain about Scott Walker’s politics and policy — well, his policy is all about politics — but I think it’s worth considering the foundation of his political thought as a correctve to both his political futures and the dismal trajectory of the country since modern conservatism has established itself.

This means a critique of Reaganism.

There can be little doubt that Walker conceives himself as a successor of Reagan, and indeed his program seems to echo Reagan’s presidency. Consider Act 10 as a repeat of the Air Traffic Controller strike. Consider Reagan’s disastrous tax cuts as a model for Walker’s damaging tax policies.

Now consider the “revolution” begun by Reagan as the beginning of the decline of America’s middle class.

I suspect that Reagan, for all his seriously poor policy ideas, was not as cynical or deceitful as Walker. But there can be little doubt that he made many people comfortable with  those poor ideas. To make those ideas uncomfortable again is a key to delivering a body blow to Walker’s political ambitions.



Oil Trains

Filed under: Global Warming — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:04 am

This is just a running list of items that I have found useful in my consideration of the “bomb trains” that are running through my town, and many others. I may organize it later.

Disingenuous efforts to tie rail safety to tar sands pipeline construction is a bait and switch.

While there has been an oil train boom, the oil riding the rails in the U.S. is almost exclusively light crude, not tar sands oil from Canada…

If we want to reduce the risks from oil trains, let’s fix the trains and toughen safety standards. Disingenuous efforts to tie rail safety to tar sands pipeline construction is a bait and switch. Foisting pipelines on Americans will lock the nation into increased reliance on tar sands oil and more climate-change pollution.

It does nothing to safeguard our communities.

How to Prevent an Oil Train Disaster

Require energy producers to remove more of the volatile gases that the oil contains when it comes out of the ground, before they load the crude into rail tankers.


Sofia’s gonna run a 5k!

Filed under: Life — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 3:36 pm

A major goal of minr for the summer of 2015 is to get Sofia in shape for a 5k run.

It’s uphill, since Sofia’s running a lot slower this year than say, two years ago.

But, we’ll get it done.

Here’s our training route.

Join us!


No ideas in Wisconsin

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:03 pm

Much is being made of the cuts being proposed to the state budget, and people are doing an excellent job documenting the harm that would result from cuts to

  • K-12 Education
  • the UW System
  • Family care plans
  • The environment

and more.

Similarly, we have seen the outcomes of four years of Republican”stewardship” of the state economy.

  • Slow economic growth
  • Slow job growth
  • Extreme stress to our K-12 education

While these particulars are important to examine, I’d like to spend a moment on a systemic problem, which I’ll call ideology over ideas.

Specifically, it occurs to me that much of what’s being done is being done without anticipating and evaluating the consequences.  For example, the proposal to convert the UW System to a Public Authority  — by July 1 — shows no inkling that there’s an actual plan for how this might be done in an orderly way. In fact, all evidence shows that such a dramatic change in a short period would lead to chaos.

Similarly, the rejection of federal funds for

  • High-speed rail
  • Rural internet
  • healthcare exchange

have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars that could have stimulated our economy, strengthened our infrastructure and ameliorated our budgetary problems.

Another example: Our department of transportation seems seems to be stuck in a 20th century model of pouring concrete to solve our transportation problems — of moving cars, not bodies. And we want to borrow billions for this?

It’s small wonder wonder we have budgetary problems, a weak economy, and lag behind neighboring states that take a more evidence-based view of policy.

I would only add that packing all these policy changes into the budget makes it difficult for the citizens of the state to be aware of, much less weigh in on, the impacts on their lives. A cynic might say this is a deliberate attempt to serve the few at the expense of the many.


This cracks me up

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 11:32 am

It’s wicked,but I had to share


Right to the bottom

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:52 am

Following is a letter I wrote to my state representative, Rob Hutton. I encourage you to write to your state representatives to oppose so-called “right to work” legislation.

Rep. Hutton,

I am writing to you in opposition to the proposed legislation limiting union agreements in Wisconsin. It’s being touted as “right-to-work,” but I view it as “free-rider,” giving workers benefits they haven’t worked for.

While I’m mindful of the political benefits that might accrue to supporters of the legislation, as policy,  it is damaging to our state’s workers and economy.

Our state’s economy is already lagging behind our neighbors’ because of policies that serve ideological views, not economic realities.

Economists have shown:

  • “Free-rider” laws have no impact in boosting economic growth: research shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth.
  • “Free-rider” laws have no significant impact on attracting employers to a particular state; surveys of employers show that “right to work” is a minor or non-existent factor in location decisions, and that higher-wage, hi-tech firms in particular generally prefer free-bargaining states.
  • “Free-rider” laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
  • “Free-rider” laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
  • By cutting wages, “Free-rider” laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy.

Lower wages, decreased demand for businesses’ products and services, less health care. These are not things Wisconsin needs today or for the future.

I believe that the intent to “fast-track” this legislation is tantamount to an admission that proper scrutiny of the legislation will reveal its unacceptably harmful effects. That alone should suggest to you that this is bad policy and bad governmental practice.

Opposition to this legislation will best serve the interests of your constituents and the state as a whole.

Thank you.

Greg Walz-Chojnacki
8007 Portland Ave.
Wauwatosa, WI 53213

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