September 15, 2010

Feingold has a built-in attorney at WKOW

Nor is any advance permission required:
"The fair use doctrine of copyright law allows anyone to use excerpts from copyrighted work for purposes of comment," said Bob Dreps, WKOW legal counsel.
Then why is WKOW complaining?

WKOW's story (which isn't much of a real story and is entirely self-serving) is headlined, "Feingold's campaign ad causes confusion," except there's no evidence of any confusion presented in the story.

Rather, it's more likely that WKOW was caught flat-footed by the language its own reporter used. The Associated Press said, "One newscaster in the ad refers to the money as a government loan," and then characterized the reference as "misleading." Which it isn't anyway: there's nothing wrong with calling the industrial revenue bonds Ron Johnson's company, Pacur, received "government loans."

They are loans and they are facilitated by the government.*

Nor is there anything misleading about characterizing as a subsidy the obvious financial benefits of securing capital improvements financing at up to 2-1/2 percent below the prime interest rate.

Despite Ron Johnson's marshaling a small cadre of career politicians** for a news conference yesterday, the bonds were loans coordinated and administered by a cooperative undertaking of federal, State, and municipal authorities. In fact the latter entity actually held title to the building on Johnson's corporate property that the loans financed.

And the party with whom Ron Johnson was signatory to one of the loans was the Oshkosh, WI city manager. That's the government.

The only person who's being misleading is Ron Johnson, as he runs around the State telling everybody what a principled free and unfettered marketeer he is, when his own company benefited to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars worth of loan interest payments saved thanks to the federal, State, and local governments.

Apparently it's A-okay for Ron Johnson, if not for you. I doubt whether anyone begrudges Johnson for being an astute and successful businessman. But obviously his prior sweepingly Randian pronouncements preclude him from acknowledging the leg up he got from these government programs. That's what is at issue here.

* The libertarian Cato Institute has been sharply critical of the use of industrial revenue bonds. See The Political Economy of Corporate Welfare (.pdf; 11 pgs.): "In sum, industrial revenue bonds tend to distort, rather than facilitate, the market process. ... [T]he increasing use of IRB finance alters relative prices, which makes it more costly for consumers and producers to make accurate decisions regarding resource uses. The entrepreneurial process whereby resources are put to their most highly valued uses is disrupted."

** Including the redoubtable James A. Buchen of WMC notoriety.

1 comment:

Grant said...

there's nothing wrong with calling the industrial revenue bonds Ron Johnson's company, Pacur, received "government loans."

I can sorta understand a journalist wanting to clarify that Johnson didn't walk down to the Federal Reserve and pick up a check, i.e., the distinction between a direct loan program an tax incentive structures.

But goddammit, one would think the ability to identify a red herring is a prerequisite for refereeing an argument.