With the start of classes, I took an extended blogging break. But the main theme of the local political blogs on the left has continued to be saturation bombing of Ron Johnson. Ron is not a politician, lawyer or academic and has not yet mastered the art of phrasing his views in a way that will minimize the ability of his opponents to twist them with uncharitable interpretations.
His statement on global warming is an example. It is an overstatement to say that claims of anthropogenic global warming are crazy, but it is perfectly "respectable," i.e., there is lots of scientific support, for the proposition that the claim - or at least its more alarmist manifestation - is unproved. (In fact, I think you can argue that Al Gore's views on global warming are just as scientifically flawed as the weakest of the "deniers.") One might express that, off the cuff, by saying that the claim for AGW is confounded by other impacts on the climate such as solar activity or the very long term climate changes that we know occur but for which we have very little data. While it is unlikely that Greenland was "green" when Lief Erickson tried to sell beachfront realty in Baffin Bay, it was significantly warmer.
Much the same silliness has accompanied the irrelevant accusations regarding Johnson's company benefiting from industrial revenue bonds and his statement that they are not a "subsidy." There is, of course, a subsidy in the sense that, because the state will not tax the interest earned by bondholders, they are willing to accept a lower interest rate. But not everyone would regard the advantages that flow from an absence of taxation as a subsidy. My house undoubtedly has a higher value than it would if potential buyers could not deduct their mortgage interest.
One can argue that IRBs are a bad idea, but wrangling over the use of the word "subsidy" doesn't get us anywhere.
Yet another example is the uproar over Johnson's use of the term "creative destruction" - a phenomenon that all economists recognize - as if it were some radical and evil right wing plot. There is a reason that we don't have many blacksmith shops or typewriter manufacturers and it is a good thing.
Imprecise and hyperbolic statements are something that all politicians - heck all people - engage in. There is, for example, no reasonable reading of anything that Ron Johnson ever said that supports Feingold's claim that he would "turn the Great Lakes over to oil companies." Even if Johnson would support extraction of whatever fossil fuels are located in the lakes, that is a far cry from "turning them over" to "oil companies."
The point of this is to make Johnson seem stupid or scary. So far, it's not working and I doubt it will. Ron Johnson is scary in one sense, though. He's got Democrats petrified.