A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part X

I ventured some time ago that President Trump’s most critical foreign policy flaw is that he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing: that his focus on trade, his harping on perceived underpayments by NATO allies, etc., etc., betrays his own preoccupation with money and finance that has frequently hampered his understanding of and ability to effectively deal with global leaders, who generally think in terms of power. I would pose that the President’s chief substantive and political defect during the COVID crisis has proven to be the same: his visceral fixation with the virus’ effects on the state of the U.S. economy, which – arguably because his perception of Americans’ priorities is colored by his own – he sees as the proxy for his electoral prospects. He doesn’t understand that the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes place the highest value on the health and wellbeing of their families, friends, neighbors and themselves; that they view money not as an end but as a means to secure their higher priorities. Since the Coronavirus provides a particularly acute instance in which wellbeing and money can by some measures be considered at odds, it has caused Mr. Trump to be uncharacteristically tone deaf even with his base. Most tragically, his initial and continuing denials of the realities of the virus – reportedly due to his fear of the effect on the economy – has arguably resulted in greater illness and loss of life (and, ironically, damage to the economy) than would have occurred had he acted promptly, decisively, and consistently. At the time this is typed, the New York Times is reporting upon an internal CDC document projecting that virus-related deaths will increase from their current level of 1,750 a day to 3,000 a day by June 1. Even from a purely the political perspective, Mr. Trump’s uncertainty, inconsistency, pettiness and unreasoned behavior (the comment about disinfectant injection being the most disconcerting) has made plain to a wider swath of Americans – perhaps an electorally determinative swath — that he is at least a bit unstable, that his values are different from theirs, and – most crucially — that he cares more about himself than he does about them. I’ve seen various scholars grasping for American historical parallels to the bootless manner in which Mr. Trump has approached the COVID crisis. To me the most apt is obvious: Herbert Hoover, who proved unable to effectively deal with an economic depression engulfing his people — the closest an American President has heretofore come to the apocryphal account of Emperor Nero, said to have fiddled while Rome burned.

The Foxconn saga in southeast Wisconsin provides its own Coronavirus-related kaleidoscope. It is undisputed that the project is now a drastically-scaled back version of that proposed with such fanfare by Mr. Trump, then-WI Gov. (Republican) Scott Walker and then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Republican) Paul Ryan in June, 2018. It seems not unreasonable to assume, given a March Wall Street Journal report that Foxconn’s net profit had fallen 24% in Q4 2019 even before Coronavirus effects and an April Reuters report that its 2020 Q1 revenue was 12% below its comparable 2019 totals, that the company wishes to tap funding sources and perhaps reassess its investments. In light of the Wisconsin’s project’s underperformance, I had wondered whether Foxconn might attempt to take the political sting out of its shortcomings by blaming the virus. The company is apparently taking a different tack: below is a link to an April 9, 2020, CNBC piece indicating that Foxconn has filed paperwork with the state asserting that it has met its contractual hiring targets, perhaps entitling it to incentives approximating $50 million. The piece further indicates that the Administration of WI Gov. Tony Evers is studying Foxconn’s filing, but even if Foxconn is accurate and is entitled to the contractual benefits, the 550 jobs Foxconn claims to have created are reported to be a quarter of those it originally promised by this juncture. This seemingly creates a political optics problem for Republicans: a financially-strapped company seeking millions in incentives for a dramatically-reduced project from a state currently receiving ten times its 2019 unemployment claims while reasonably anticipating declining tax revenues. Foxconn is presumably aware of this; the final (at least as of now) pattern to its kaleidoscope: Medtronic and Foxconn are allegedly partnering to make ventilators at the Wisconsin facility. If brought to fruition, this welcome news and will put a positive face on the project; whether this is any more than talk remains, like other representations related to this Wisconsin facility, to be seen.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/09/foxconn-says-it-met-hiring-targets-in-wisconsin-now-it-wants-its-money.html

Costco has recently announced that it will not let customers into its stores unless they are wearing masks. This has provoked an emotional negative response from what is obviously a tiny segment of Costco customers, who have been reported as tweeting comments such as, “Im [sic] a free citizen of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA I will not comply with your mask rule! My body, my choice!” While the overall level of American mental acuity may be enhanced if, as we confront a highly contagious and dangerous disease, Charles Darwin’s principle of Natural Selection manifests itself within this segment of our populace as well as within the segment carrying assault weapons while demonstrating in and about state legislatures, one cannot help but fear for all lives endangered by such capricious behavior.

We consider the CDC projection a warning: Don’t get bored, or complacent. Keep your guard up.

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part VI

As millions of people lose their jobs – and for many, their employment-based health insurance as well – it may, for a pivotal segment of our electorate, transform government-run Medicare for All from a “socialist” idea into a preferred policy position. Depending upon how the COVID crisis evolves in the coming months, finessing any such transition in voter sentiment could present a challenge for President Trump and Republicans. It might, ironically, also present a challenge for former Vice President Joe Biden if U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders presses Mr. Biden too overtly to embrace it. I would submit – and hope that Mr. Sanders will recognize — that even if Mr. Biden simply maintains his call for a “Public Option” to augment the Affordable Care Act, the pandemic’s impression upon the American psyche will, for good or ill, probably tilt public sentiment and selection toward a government-operated health care system.

Despite last week’s verbal skirmishes between President Trump and state Governors, and irrespective of any White House guidelines guiding states as to how to ease Coronavirus prevention behaviors and reopen businesses, I agree with those that suggest that the economy is going to open up slowly no matter what the President declares or state governments implement. The United States is a consumer-driven economy. Drawing upon the basics of the project planning methodologies in which I was tutored at times during my days in corporate America [my primary tutors being among those that follow these pages  ;)], I would offer that consumers have “Needs,” “Should [Have]s,” and “Nice [to Have]s.” Food, prescription drugs, ATM cash, doctor visits, and car repairs all are or can be Needs; these have continued through the crisis. Visits to close family, barber/hair stylists, and dental hygienists seem among the “Shoulds” to which most of our people are likely to more readily return when the economy reopens. But until there is an effective way to identify disease trends and hotspots, and/or a widely-administered effective vaccine, how enthusiastically will they engage in Niceties? If during May, our citizens can return to favorite restaurants, how many will? If youth activities officially open, how many will allow their children to participate? How likely are most to quickly return to the mall rather than buy online?

That said, I’m of two minds regarding WI Gov. Tony Evers’ recent extension of his Executive “Safer at Home” Order through the Memorial Day Weekend. Assuming that the surge of Wisconsin’s new cases will have passed by Memorial Day, Gov. Evers is commendably attempting to avoid a resurgence of the Coronavirus in the state by limiting the increased human interaction that accompanies the Holiday. On the other hand, the Memorial Day weekend is a pillar of revenue generation for much of the state. At the time this is typed, approximately 75% of the state’s 4000+ reported cases are in Milwaukee, Dane (Madison, for those that read these pages from outside the state), and the counties in proximity to Milwaukee County. Waushara County – in the middle of the state, where we spend one of our favorite weeks of the year every August – has two reported cases. Although Milwaukee area and Dane County residents (as well as Illinois residents from in and around Chicago) – likely transmitters of the Coronavirus – provide much of their tourism revenue, upstate financially-strapped communities and small business owners – for whom all have sympathy — may wish to ignore the danger. Mr. Evers may be inviting civil disobedience by being perceived to have prematurely imposed a quarantine on a majority of the state’s counties that (1) need the money and (2) have thus far experienced few COVID consequences. While extending his original order into May was a necessary step, it might ultimately prove to have been wiser for him to have taken the approach of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: extend the quarantine to May 15, and let the data existing in early May inform further extensions that might have included Memorial Day.

Speaking of Gov. Cuomo: although later last week, Mr. Trump in effect backtracked on his earlier declaration that the President’s authority to address a crisis such as a pandemic is “total,” since he is clearly nettled by both Mr. Cuomo’s proactive leadership during the crisis and the generally positive response Mr. Cuomo’s efforts have received, there seems no small irony that in No. 67 of The Federalist, Andrew Hamilton (writing as “Publius”), advocating for adoption of the Constitution, sought to reassure Americans leery of the danger of a monarchial presidency by declaring that under the Constitution, the President’s power would be akin to “[t]he authorities of a magistrate, in few instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a governor of New York …” [Emphasis Added]

We consider Friday, March 13, to mark the beginning of our self-isolation, since it was the first night that we didn’t go out to dinner as we normally would because of Coronavirus uncertainty. We both woke up on April 13 feeling … the blahs. Whether our doldrums arose from a letdown after Easter, or because it coincidentally marked the end of our first month in self-quarantine, the feelings were unmistakable. Our virus-related behavior changes are no longer arrestingly novel, merely humdrum. Perhaps you are feeling or will feel the same. We are resolving to keep at it. If you are among the fortunate experiencing no virus symptoms, it seems likely that the safeguards you’ve been employing have been working. It seems reasonable to suggest that getting through the remaining period of this crisis – no matter how long that might be – may depend upon your diligence and constancy. If you’re getting restless and assessing your odds of surviving a COVID-19 infection, you might find the recent Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal articles linked below – although much of what is related in couched in qualifiers — sobering antidotes for cabin fever.

https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-10/coronavirus-infection-can-do-lasting-damage-to-the-heart-liver

https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-ravages-the-lungs-it-also-affects-the-brain-11586896119

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript … Expanded

In the above Postscript published Tuesday, I noted de facto Democrat Judge Jill Karofsky’s victory over de facto Republican Justice Daniel Kelly, and commented that Ms. Karofsky’s 10-point margin of victory over Mr. Kelly was particularly impressive “… given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County.”

Although I have been writing in these pages for quite a while, I’m still not sure whether anyone but me can readily view entered comments. Soon after the post, a close friend questioned my implication that the Milwaukee County voter turnout was depressed by the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature’s insistence on holding the April 7 election notwithstanding pandemic fears and the grossly reduced number of Milwaukee city polling places. He noted that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total (which approximated 200,000) was higher than the Milwaukee County vote total in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between de facto Republican Brian Hagedorn and de facto Democrat Lisa Neubauer (which approximated 150,000), won by now-Justice Hagedorn by .5%. There are no pure apples-to-apples comparisons — the Karofsky/Kelly ballot included a Democratic Presidential primary not on the Hagedorn/Neubauer ballot, and the Karofsky/Kelly total was roughly half that of the Milwaukee County turnout in the 2018 Gubernatorial contest between current WI Gov. Tony Evers and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker – but the 2019 Hagedorn/Neubauer Milwaukee County vote total – a quarter less than the corresponding Karofsky/Kelly county vote total – is certainly an objective indication that the Republican action did not depress last week’s Milwaukee County voter turnout to any significant degree. Our friend added: “I know that the argument is that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote. Either they’re not very good at it or that is not what is going on. Data doesn’t seem to support the suppression theory.” [Someone very close to me asserts that just because the Karofsky/Kelly numbers weren’t down compared to similar races doesn’t mean that the Republicans’ action didn’t suppress voter turnout in the City of Milwaukee. I intend to leave this debate to them ;)].

The reference to actual Milwaukee County vote totals was a valuable reminder for me: all news sources, either intentionally or unconsciously, emphasize those facts that they consider the most important. After seeing any number of reports about an impending depressed Milwaukee turnout and the indisputably grossly reduced number of polling sites in the city itself, I assumed that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total clearly lagged the County’s totals in the most comparable state contests – which, no matter which side of the suppression debate you take, it did not. In an editorial published on the evening of April 14, The Wall Street Journal observed, “Republicans may have disenfranchised many of their own voters, who tend to be older and perhaps feared voting in person if they hadn’t requested an absentee ballot.” Without regard to political persuasion, if one believes that the Republicans were trying to manipulate the election process for Justice Kelly’s benefit – which I do – one cannot help but conclude that they were, indeed, not very good at it.

The exchange arising from the Postscript was in another way an excellent reminder for me that I fear is too easily overlooked in today’s partisan environment: it is as important to safeguard the voting rights of those with whom we disagree as it is to safeguard the franchise for those with whom we agree. Although it’s a particularly keen irony if Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts did ultimately significantly depress their own supporters’ vote in last week’s election, any suppression should be abhorred in a true democracy.

The Wall Street Journal said nothing significant in its editorial that our friend hadn’t noted during the day’s exchanges.  Some of us retirees really get into this stuff.    🙂

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript

[I had no intent to post today, but given the outcome of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race announced last evening, cannot resist  🙂 ]

As part of the above-referenced post on April 6, I indicated the following about the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between incumbent [de facto Republican] Justice Daniel Kelly and challenger [de facto Democrat] Judge Jill Karofsky:

“The currently-projected outcome [of the election] is obviously devastating for Ms. Karofsky, who perhaps anticipated victory at the end of January because a contested Democratic presidential primary would have brought thousands of liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Now – and this ranks among the observations I have made in these pages that I would most like to see proven wrong – she will probably lose, a political victim of the Coronavirus.”

It is hard to overstate my pleasure at noting that I was proven wrong – in a result announced yesterday, Judge Karofsky defeated Justice Kelly – and will thus succeed him on the Wisconsin Supreme Court – by a margin I have seen reported at 55.3% to 44.7%.

I consider Ms. Karofsky’s margin of victory as shocking at the outcome. Two years ago, Democratic WI Gov. Tony Evers defeated former Republican WI Gov. Scott Walker by a little more than 1%. Since President Trump has made “Republican” synonymous with “Trump,” the size of Ms. Karofsky’s win over Mr. Kelly – even more impressive than it otherwise would have been, given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County, the largest Democratic stronghold in the state — would seemingly send an ominous signal to the President and his campaign cohort regarding the President’s current standing in a swing state integral to his re-election prospects.

Hopefully, the Karofsky – Kelly result actually reflects current Wisconsin sentiment toward both Mr. Trump and the partisan Wisconsin Republican legislature, although – as the late Marquette basketball coaching legend Al McGuire would say – the November election is still an eon of time away. There is certainly NO room for complacency; this result will cause Wisconsin Republicans to redouble their efforts for November. Even so, and despite the health challenges confronting us across the nation, Wisconsin moderates as well as its liberals should be allowed a moment to savor Judge Karofsky’s victory.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I

In recent days, a number of friends from outside Wisconsin have asked: Why is my state continuing with its scheduled election despite the danger posed to voters’ health by the Coronavirus?

Wisconsin is again, sadly, a political epicenter in what should be entirely considered a health crisis. WI Gov. Tony Evers has asked the Wisconsin Legislature to postpone the election scheduled for April 7, citing the danger to citizens and election workers involved in having large numbers of citizens assemble at voting places (the number of sites reduced due to so many long-serving senior-aged poll workers’ understandable withdrawals to avoid the crowds) during the week that on April 5 Trump Administration Surgeon General Jerome Adams called “… the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” The Wisconsin Legislature has refused to postpone the election. The reason is simple: Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Daniel Kelly, recently cited in these pages as hosting a fund raiser at a gun range the day after five people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee, is, due to what will probably be a depressed turnout, likely to defeat Democratic Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Jill Karofsky if the election is held as scheduled. Ms. Karofsky’s electoral chances are arguably enhanced if the election is delayed, thereby affording a greater number of Wisconsinites the opportunity to cast ballots. (Note: through no partisan fault, Wisconsin voting authorities have had trouble accommodating a recent understandably-unanticipated surge of absentee ballot requests). The currently-projected outcome is obviously devastating for Ms. Karofsky, who perhaps anticipated victory at the end of January because a contested Democratic presidential primary would have brought thousands of liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Now – and this ranks among the observations I have made in these pages that I would most like to see proven wrong – she will probably lose, a political victim of the Coronavirus.

My answer to the friends that have inquired, and speaking as one who is pleased to acknowledge that he supported former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in each of Mr. Thompson’s Gubernatorial runs: current Wisconsin Republican lawmakers are in large measure venomous, vindictive, self-righteous and small-minded – but a gussied-up partisan rabble. They must have their way. Their behavior makes manifest that only winning – not electoral fairness, not their citizens’ health — matters to them. Under these circumstances, I find the prospect of Ms. Karofsky’s defeat disheartening … but it is what it is. One can only feel embarrassed at the state’s decline from one of congenial feeling and forward thinking.

Kelly Gun Range Fundraiser the Day after Brewery Shooting

I mentioned last Friday that I wouldn’t be posting for a bit, but this piece was called to my attention and is worth abandoning my indication. Attached is a link to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reporting upon a campaign fundraiser run by Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly the day after five of our people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee. This is in a sense a useless post, since I’m fairly confident that no Wisconsin voter that supported former WI Gov. Scott Walker or his agenda reads these pages … but I don’t know how to reconcile in my head the level of wanton insensitivity Mr. Kelly is reported to have exhibited here.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2020/03/02/justice-dan-kelly-held-fundraiser-gun-range-day-after-molson-coors-shooting/4929200002/

Contrasting Matt Bevin and Roy Moore with … Foxconn

Liberal talking heads are currently reveling in Kentucky Democratic Governor-Elect Andy Beshear’s apparent (albeit narrow) victory over KY Republican Governor Matt Bevin. While I understand a certain amount of liberal chortling – President Trump held a big rally in Kentucky the night before the election, unwisely declaring that the outcome would be a referendum on him — Gov. Bevin’s electoral weakness in a solid Republican state, although particularly heartening to a couple of readers of these pages literally or viscerally closer to the Bluegrass State than I am, was seemingly due to local issues related to his abrasive manner and the state’s public teachers’ organized and spirited opposition. I don’t think any pundit is opining that even a centrist Democratic presidential nominee can win Kentucky’s Electoral College votes in 2020. Likewise, Alabama voters’ narrow 2017 selection of U.S. AL Sen. Doug Jones over former AL Chief Judge Roy Moore – the latter then facing multiple credible accusations of sexual misconduct – seems an understandable idiosyncratic result in an otherwise-solidly Republican state. As with Kentucky, I doubt any commentator considers Sen. Jones’ election a harbinger of electoral risk for any Republican presidential nominee in Alabama in 2020.

That said, Wisconsin’s 2020 Electoral College votes could in part hinge on a local issue because it is the rare local issue that can be tied directly to Mr. Trump. As most are well aware, in late June, 2018, to significant fanfare, Mr. Trump, together with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and such Republican luminaries as then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker, broke ground for a Foxconn manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant, WI, in the Racine/Kenosha southeastern corner of the state between Chicago and Milwaukee. Mr. Trump offered lengthy remarks at the ceremony (more on that below). Below this paragraph are links to three articles respectively published in July, September, and October of 2019, recounting: that Foxconn has reduced the number of jobs it projects for the facility from 13,000 to 1,500; that Foxconn has canceled the announced 20 million-square foot manufacturing facility while instead breaking ground on a 1 million-square-foot facility [with its announced operation commencement date to be at or about the time of the 2020 presidential election (wink, wink)]; that the implementation of Foxconn “Innovation Centers” around the state, projected to provide hundreds of sophisticated jobs, has been suspended; claims that Foxconn has a history of delivering a fraction of its promises and that the Mount Pleasant project is a “snow job”; and displacement of hundreds of homeowners allegedly “railroaded” by local governmental deceit.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/10/20689021/foxconn-wisconsin-governor-jobs-tony-evers-manufacturing

https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2019/09/owners-near-foxconn-say-they-were-misled-now-their-homes-are-gone/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/23/20929453/foxconn-innovation-centers-on-hold-wisconsin-mount-pleasant-trump-deal

On July 31, 2019, the W.E. Upjohn Institute issued a report, “Costs and Benefits of a Revised Foxconn Project,” in response to a request by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. A link to the report is below. The Upjohn analyst, Timothy Bartik, makes clear in the report that neither he nor Upjohn was compensated for the analysis. He indicates:  that even a reduced Foxconn arrangement that follows the credit rates of the original arrangement would result in incentives to Foxconn in the range of $100K to $200K a job, compared with average U.S. incentives to prospective employers of $24K a job; that the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s report that the project would fiscally break even in 2042-43 was “incomplete and overly optimistic”; and that “the Foxconn deals are far greater than … the [recent] Amazon deals in New York or Virginia.”  Mr. Bartik concludes:

“The most important conclusion of this analysis is that … a revised Foxconn incentive contract, which offers similar credit rates to the original contract, has … incentives [that] are so costly per job that it is hard to see how likely benefits will offset these costs.”

https://research.upjohn.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1244&context=reports

A link to the transcript of the June, 2018, Mount Pleasant groundbreaking ceremony attended by Messrs. Trump, Gou, Walker, and Ryan is included below (given what has transpired, it is not tinged, but rather drips, with irony).

Amongst his remarks, the President declared:

“Moments ago, we broke ground on a plant that will provide jobs for much more than 13,000 Wisconsin workers.”

“Terry [Gou] is a friend of mine and I recommended Wisconsin, in this case… this was something that just seemed right.”

“I said, ‘Terry, this place is such a great place.’ … And I said to Terry, ‘This would be an incredible place.’”

“So I had this incredible company going to invest someplace in the world — not [in the U.S.] necessarily. And I will tell you they wouldn’t have done it here, except that I became President …. And I immediately thought of the state of Wisconsin.”

Mr. Walker chimed in: “Well, thanks, Mr. President. As you mentioned, you got the ball rolling …. And we couldn’t be more proud to have [Foxconn] … in the state of Wisconsin.”

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-foxconn-facility/

Given this apparently undisputable Foxconn fiasco, it would seem that any Democratic Presidential nominee should, by merely uttering, “Foxconn,” whenever entering Wisconsin, easily carry the state against Mr. Trump. It will obviously not be that simple.

An irrelevant but irresistible aside: in the transcript of the groundbreaking ceremony, one finds that the President also declared: “I just realized the other day, they told me — when we won the state of Wisconsin, it hadn’t been won by a Republican since [President] Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Did you know that? And I won Wisconsin. And I like Wisconsin a lot, but we won Wisconsin. And Ronald Reagan — remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win. And that was in 1952. [My emphasis].” (In fact, Mr. Eisenhower won Wisconsin again in 1956; Republican President Richard Nixon won Wisconsin in 1960 (in a losing effort), 1968, and 1972; and – certainly not least – Republican President Reagan carried Wisconsin in both 1980 and 1984.) The description of Mr. Trump coming to mind is that attributed to and never denied by former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson …

On the Foxconn Unraveling and Related Reflections

This supplements earlier references in these pages to Wisconsin’s relationship with Foxconn: a transaction that is now becoming almost undisputedly recognized as a fiasco. Despite Foxconn’s recent declaration – after jawboning by President Trump – that the facility will include manufacturing capability, upon hearing of the Foxconn statement, I had the same thought as set forth by Charlie Sykes in The Bulwark article linked below:

“[The Foxconn statement about maintaining manufacturing at the Wisconsin facility] seemed driven more by a desire to kiss the president’s ring than by business realities. So what will Foxconn do? Short term, they are likely to maintain a sort of Trumpian Potemkin village in Wisconsin to keep up the appearance that the company is doing Trump’s bidding. [My emphasis].”

https://thebulwark.com/the-foxconn-boondoggle-was-even-worse-than-we-thought/

Mr. Sykes clearly implies that he believes that Foxconn simply intends to wait out Mr. Trump. If the President’s political fortunes continue to slide, it would seem likely that Foxconn will ultimately quietly scuttle its Racine manufacturing plans with no real fear of U. S. reprisal … but with possibly significant consequences for Mr. Trump’s potentially-pivotal 2020 Wisconsin electoral prospects.

Mr. Sykes’ comment reminded me of a reference in a recent Wall Street Journal piece about current U.S. – E.U. trade negotiations, which suggested that in the face of aggressive U.S. demands, one of the E.U.’s strategies may be simply … to wait out the Trump Administration.  As recently as last Friday, the Journal similarly reported that in current U.S.-China trade negotiations, “…Chinese officials seem confident of a deal because they believe Mr. Trump needs the political boost … The Chinese team came [to the negotiating table the week of January 28] with very few new proposals … Instead, the officials largely reiterated [past Chinese] pledges ….”

If the President’s political standing doesn’t improve, Mr. Trump and his team may find that over the next two years, delay and retrenchment become favored tactics across a wide spectrum of those from whom the Administration is seeking concessions.

On Messrs. Walker, Fitzgerald and Vos … and Ford and Leopold

On December 14, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did indeed sign the package of “Lame Duck” bills, presented to him by the Wisconsin Legislature under the leadership of State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Voss, designed to limit the ability of incoming Governor Tony Evers and other Democrats to take the actions upon which they had victoriously campaigned and to suppress the future turnout of Democrat-leaning eligible voters.  It was a disappointing display of the mean-spirited petty partisanship that characterized the past eight years of state Republican leadership.

I speculated in an earlier post that given the national negative attention that the Republican measures had drawn, Mr. Walker might be feeling conflicted between the prospects of leaving office labeled a Sore Loser if he signed the bills, and incurring the wrath of his core supporters if he didn’t.  If he did feel any such tension – and it appears that he may have, given his delay in signing the bills, the pains he took to downplay their impact, and his protestations regarding his legacy — he clearly determined that his own political future was better served by doing what his supporters wanted him to do, presumably recognizing that those most offended by his final official actions would never vote for him anyway.  From a political handicapping standpoint, it’s hard to question his calculation.

Although it’s exhilarating to use – as I have – the word, “execrable,” to describe the Republicans’ recent actions, and the word, “outrage,” to describe one’s frustration at the manner in which they’ve thwarted the will of the majority of Wisconsin citizens, now that the storm has passed, I find myself more nettled than angered.  While the Republican actions currently cast an unsavory air over Wisconsin and will for a time slow the state’s return to what I believe is its natural heritage, the state was able to overcome the national stigma that it must have endured following the downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s; compared to that, the fallout here is seemingly of little account.

I very much enjoy leafing through “The New York Times Front Pages 1851 – 2012,” given me a while back by our daughter and son-in-law.  On its front page of January 8, 1914, the Times reported that Henry Ford had just announced that Ford Motor Company was going to dispense $10 million of its 1914 profits to its employees, and that it was establishing a minimum pay scale of $5 per day for all employees.  Treasurer Henry Couzens is quoted as saying, “Believing as we do, that a division of our earnings between capital and labor is unequal, we sought a plan of relief suitable for our business.  We do not feel sure that it is the best, but we have felt impelled to make a start, and make it now.”

In the late 1940’s, the renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac, describing life in and around the farm he owned in the 1930’s and ‘40’s along the Wisconsin River near Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Among his depictions of central Wisconsin wildlife, fauna, and evolution, Mr. Leopold at times ventured further.  At one point he observed, “We classify ourselves into vocations, each of which either wields some particular tool, or sells it, or repairs it, or sharpens it, or dispenses advice on how to do so … But there is one vocation – philosophy – which knows that all men, by what they think about and wish for, in effect wield all tools.  It knows that men thus determine, by their manner of thinking and wishing, whether it is worth while [sic] to wield any.”

Those that cling to outmoded ways disappear with them.  Whose thinking will be relevant in 50 years?  That of Messrs. Walker, Fitzgerald and Vos?  Or of Messrs. Ford and Leopold?  Considering that tempers my frustration …

The Horns of Governor Walker’s Dilemma

As all of you are aware, on December 5, in an “Extraordinary Session,” Wisconsin Republicans passed a number of measures designed to provide the state GOP future political advantage and/or limit incoming Democrats’ ability to take steps upon which they victoriously campaigned.  These “Lame Duck” actions have received national notoriety and been criticized not only by Democrats but also by some prominent state Republican donors and politicians (including former Republican Governor Scott McCallum).  On December 9, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that as of Friday, December 7, the bills had not yet been formally sent to Governor Scott Walker for action, and that they will not be formally sent to him until December 20 unless he asks for their formal tender.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on December 8, “Walker can sign the bills into law, veto them, or exercise his partial veto authority to strike certain provisions before signing them.”

It is certainly not a stretch to suggest that that these bills were constructed in a spasm of Republican partisanship and indignation arising immediately following the Governor’s close defeat, in an attempt to hold onto policy directions forged by Republicans over the last eight years that incoming Governor Tony Evers has pledged to modify.  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­During debate on the bills – which were, according to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, crafted in close consultation with Mr. Walker’s office — Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated, in urging their passage:  “… [W]e are going to have a very liberal governor that is going to enact policies that are in a direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

Any number of pundits have commented on the effects that the Republicans’ actions will have upon the reputation of the State of Wisconsin if these measures are enacted, and I certainly have my impressions, but those can await the final disposition of the bills by the Governor.  What I find intriguing at present is the fact that the Republicans don’t appear to have anticipated the amount of high-profile notoriety and ridicule their actions would bring upon themselves and the state.  Perhaps most intriguing are the horns of the dilemma that Mr. Walker seems to be personally confronting as he determines how to act upon these measures – horns that he may now appreciate if he has not yet called for the bills to be sent to him.

Mr. Walker is a career politician.  Running for and holding office has been his life.  If he signs these bills — which already have his fingerprints all over them — he’ll be branded within Wisconsin and across the nation as a Sore Loser who was determined to thwart the will of the majority of the 2018 Wisconsin voters – a label that I would submit could be much more detrimental to any future political aspirations he might have than his narrow loss.  On the other hand, if he vetoes or materially modifies the measures, he’ll presumably be viewed as a traitor by his Wisconsin Republican legislative allies (who have already reaped and will continue to incur derision for their passage of these measures) and the core supporters that would form the bedrock of any future run he might wish to undertake for Wisconsin statewide office.

I have wondered whether there might be a third avenue – a way for the Governor to have his cake and eat it, too.  Will the bills become law if Mr. Walker simply does nothing?  Article V, Section 3 of the Wisconsin State Constitution provides:

“Any bill not returned by the governor within 6 days … after it shall have been presented to the governor shall be law unless the legislature, by final adjournment, prevents the bill’s return, in which case it shall not be law. [Emphasis Added].”

Numerous accounts of the Extraordinary Session have indicated that the Legislature “adjourned” after passing the controversial measures.  With zero background in the nuances of Wisconsin legislative practice, I’m assuming that this adjournment would be considered “final” in the constitutional sense.  If so, any failure by Mr. Walker to act will cause the bills to expire without becoming law – which, I suspect, would cause him to incur the same level of wrath from his supporters as would an outright veto.

Clearly more to come.  Something I wonder, but will never know:  whether at this point, Mr. Walker wishes, from his own personal perspective, that he had simply graciously accepted his defeat …