Sunday, December 30, 2007

A letter to the editor of the MJS editorial page....(copy to Jack Norman)


Your editorial page, and the extent to which it has become amateur hour, is simply one more reason to no longer pay for a subscription. I read parts of the paper on line, but that's as far as I am willing to go.

Your community columnist, Barbara Fischer, self-described as a conservative economics teacher at a liberal arts college, doesn't warrant her "case". She has a seriously bent notion of what constitutes profit in a business.

She describes her faux-Socratic method of inducing truth and wisdom through cagey construction of questions posed to students. She also describes how she morphs into a dogmatist --answering the question before the students get a chance to be drawn out with further useful, clarifying questions. In the end she appears to have them chanting the same answer to every question. I'm not certain what she's describing; but it isn't education. Sounds like a madrassa. Here's her quote on how she gets it rolling:
"And how does the company have the means with which to pay you?"

The student replies, "I guess from their profits."

I respond, "That is correct."

That is, quite clearly, not correct. Employee wages are part of the cost of goods sold. That is deemed an expense. It is not derived from "profit". It is not taxed. Don't talk to me about payroll taxes. I'm almost certain that your perfesser hates them, too. But that's not what she is asserting with "That is correct". She's saying that employers/companies pay their employees out of profits.

A college level economics teacher (and Department Chairperson of the the Business/Economics Dept. at Cardinal Stritch University, according to information I googled up) who proudly displays that level of definitional and practical ignorance about what constitutes the portion of corporate revenue subject (if you happen to be one of the "little people" in the world of profits) to taxation ought to pack it in--as economist, as columnist, as animal rationis capax.

I actually believe I could make a good and workable case for completely abolishing corporate income taxes, though I wouldn't expect Fischer to second the motion As it stands now this class of taxation is so subject to the construction of backdoor finagling, and bizarre exemptions purchased from compliant legislators, it is indeed an immensely unfair system. Worse, it creates all manner of distortions of business practices that are designed not for any genuine business objective or efficiency, but merely as ways of shielding corporate profits from taxation.

Throughout the rest of the industrial world, a Value Added Tax (VAT) works well and with quintessential simplicity, not to mention even-handedness. That is the kind of thing that a bright and well-informed business economist could be writing on you page. So, why not recruit a well informed economist to write for your page instead of this bizarrely misinformed scribbler, who describes herself in the Cardinal Stritch Faculty list as having a Ph.D.,A.B.D.* degree.

Ph.D. A.B.D., for the untutored, describes an utterly laughable reification. Someone who lists "Ph.D., A.B.D." as a credential will try to persuade you to buy a "Semi-boneless Ham" or a pint of "Fat-Free Half and Half". It is either a ham with a bone in it, or it is boneless. Try to suss out from which half have they leached the butterfat to create something that is not good, not even half-good, not to mention impossible..

Either your columnist has a Ph.D. or she doesn't. That alphabet soup tacked on to the Ph.D. she claims to have, but doesn't have, says that she took a lot of courses, but still can't think straight, nor write with the cogency required to be called, to be a genuine academic, a professor, a Doctor of Philosophy.

Sad to say, this page has gotten increasingly ragged since your arrival; and seems to be getting even worse, now that they bought you a hotshot deputy from the outside -- one who looks to be getting vetted for a takeover. Back when Jean Otto had Op-Ed, she talked of how the schemers and bean counters often finagled to steal a quarter of the Op-Ed page for ads, how she had to fight for the turf. It's worse for you; my guess is that the ad people don't think there's currently enough readership. Or their clients who want good placement (next to Brett) aren't interested in the demographics of the editorial page and op ed, won't pay for readers who don't move their lips. Thus, you get lots of space to fill up with community columnists. It's like reality TV--you don't have to pay the "talent".

Just some pushback from a forty-year watcher of (used to be one who looked forward to the arrival of) the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel. It has become way less than the sum of its parts.

This isn't for the paper, it's for the editor. (And Jack--who should have turned out the lights when he left 4th and State--because B.F., PhD., A.B.D. clearly had his recent work in mind as she scribbled that nonsense).

* A.B.D.= All But Dissertation

1 comment:

John said...

I've been fascinated by this woman and her Ayn Randian world view since reading her previous pieces: "Misgivings about taking action for the 'common good" and "What's so wrong with being selfish?"

Thanks for the A.B.D. info, which I included in my own rant at

I guess I'm a Ph.D A.B.C.W.A.D. ("all but course work and dissertation")

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.