This was the subject of some conversation at NRO’s Corner today, as Veronique de Rugy repeated a question asked by Nick Gillespie at Reason:
Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie has a question for “Scott Walker Recall Fans”: If you guys want more spending, or don’t want to cut spending, how do you plan to pay for it? This is a serious question. Whether we are talking about the Greeks, the French, or the anti-Walker activists in Wisconsin, the question of how new or current spending will be paid for or how deficit gaps will be closed is always overlooked. With taxes? If so, how much higher should Wisconsin’s taxes be? He reminds us:
According to the Tax Foundation, in 2009, Wisconsin had the fourth-highest combined state and local tax burden in the country, with only New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut residents paying more. 2009 is the latest year available for this figure, but there’s little reason to believe much if anything has changed. In 2009, the Tax Foundation found that Wisconsin residents paid 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The compared to 12.3 for New Jersey residents (the highest rate) and 6.3 percent for Alaskans (the lowest rate).
Wisconsin has historically been a high-tax state – in 1985 for instance, it had the second-highest combined state and local tax rate in the nation, at 12 percent – but it seems unlikely that increasing taxes to spend more money (or borrowing more money to be paid back later via tax revenues) is a smart way to boost a flagging economy.
The post goes on to note that Wisconsinites have among the highest per-capita debt loads in the country.
A lot of this is information that we’ve kicked around on this blog before, with related observations about how all of those un-evil Democrat governors who took directions different from Walker’s have been cutting state payrolls. Moonbeam sent out a message to state employees earlier this week telling them they should brace for cuts, what is what they have to do because they’re not willing to negotiate any kind of reductions in their benefits. To them, this is a principled stand, and the heck with you if you don’t have seniority. And a couple of weeks ago there was a manufactured scandal over Walker giving performance bonuses to some state workers, to which we responded that we had no particular ideological objection to people being rewarded for good performance.
[T]he question of how Scott Walker recall enthusiasts would balance the budget is a pretty live issue in the state right now. Back in early April, John McCormack of the Weekly Standard got the ball rolling, asking Walker’s soon-to-be opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, what he would have done to balance the $3.6 billion budget deficit. Barrett essentially took a pass, mentioning that he would repeal some of the corporate-tax cuts Walker created, which only add about $100 million per year to the deficit. (And can only be claimed by businesses that are actually creating jobs in the state, which one presumes Barrett thinks is a good thing.)
Two weeks later, Barrett said he thought the key to creating jobs, and thus increasing revenue to the state, was — and this is not a joke — to encourage “clean energy” technology. Barrett specifically listed windmills as a technology that will help the state turn the economy around.
This is all particularly ironic, as one of the key talking points from the governor’s opponents was that Walker didn’t explicitly run on the issue of scaling back collective bargaining. They argue that if he had mentioned doing so in the 2010 campaign, he never would have been elected. And yet now they have a candidate who is trying to defeat Walker by declining to answer any questions about how he would govern if he were to win.
And with the most recent polls showing Walker at the magic 50% point, and 5 points ahead of Barrett, Wisconsin Republicans have begun pressing the Democrat nominee to explain just how he would pay for all those programs and benefits that Walker has rolled back, to his consternation:
Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat running against Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election, has relentlessly attacked Walker’s budget cuts. But Barrett has refused to say what he would have done differently to balance the budget or even how much he would have cut from education in particular. In a letter released today, the co-chairs of the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance step up the pressure and call on Barrett to provide a budget plan for the future or at least explain what he would have done differently than Walker to balance the budget last year.
“If you don’t have a comprehensive fiscal proposal for the future, then perhaps you could answer how you would have turned the state around this past legislative session,” Representative Robin Vos and Senator Alberta Darling, wrote in a letter to Barrett on Thursday. “Would you have raised taxes and cut programs – or both – to close the $3.6 billion deficit?”
Barrett refused to answer similar questions in an April 11 interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD. He said that he would not have enacted business tax cuts that Walker and Republicans did–but those tax cuts amounted to just over $100 million, a mere 3 percent of the state’s $3.6 billion deficit.
Now that Barrett has defeated Kathleen Falk—who was the union choice, and on whom unions in and out of state dumped a whole lot of wasted cash—these are questions that he has to answer. Lots of us expressed our concerns over Mitt’s candidacy against Obama, saying that his choice would nullify a lot of the advantage Republicans hoped to find over Obamacare, since his own program in Massachusetts had been looked to as a model for that atrocity. Wisconsin Democrats find themselves in a similar bind, since Walker’s reforms have eased some of the economic crunch in Milwaukee, where Barrett is Mayor. And the unions themselves are in a ticklish place, considering the bashing they put on Barrett in an attempt to get Falk.
Public unions are displaying a united front after Tuesday’s public drubbing of their preferred candidate, Kathleen Falk, in the gubernatorial recall election.
But internal dissension lies behind the smiles and the pro-Tom Barrett campaign signs, over union leadership’s early decision to endorse former Dane County Executive Falk before other candidates got in the race and, perhaps, against the wishes of rank-and-file union members.
How deep, lasting and significant that dissension remains to be seen.
But Tuesday’s election, in which Democrats overwhelmingly chose Milwaukee Mayor Barrett to take on Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 recall election, clearly indicated union votes are not dictated by union endorsements.
Some are wondering whether labor unions’ political power is what it used to be.
That’s what happens when you drive big businesses out of your state: you lose union members and you lose clout. Plenty of not-very-bright parasites have evolved in ways that make it possible for them not to kill their hosts, but blind evolution is far smarter than the entitlement lampreys that plague Wisconsin and other states. As Meep has pointed out, if I recall correctly, several times on this blog, unsustainable promises will not be sustained. That may sound obvious to you and me, but it is not so to the unions, who have never looked at the big picture, because their conception has always been us against the world, and screw the world. As happens in national politics, stupidity ensures that those with the most to gain are best rewarded for telling soothing ideological fables to somnolent shitheads who believe they have harnessed the awesome power of this fully operational Tooth Fairy.
Now, the unions have to pretend that none of the nasty things they said about Barrett really matters very much, even if in their heart of hearts they wrongly disbelieve that he’ll be very different from Walker, and part of the reason that they are obliged to drink down this cup of dregs is because they framed this contest as one that would prove their own might, not only to Wisconsin, but to the nation, the world, and possibly the universe . . . that relies so heavily on them.
Obama’s economic policies also play an ironic role. Just as unions were the organizations that pushed hardest for the business-wrecking Health Care Reform, only to hypocritically turn around and ask for and receive by far the greatest number of waivers from the legislation they laid on us, they now find themselves weakened by the other economic policies that they backed. Get this through your heads, unions: a bad economy means you have less influence. The reason isn’t corporate greed, but the job market. The fewer jobs there are, the greater the competition for them. This means that under Obama, labor has been a buyer’s market, despite the government’s attempts to grow the dependency sector in order to keep the labor market from flooding, because many people still suffer from the false-consciousness belief that self-reliance is a Good Thing. These people would rather be citizens than subjects, and many of them are what used to be termed ‘liberals.’
A lot of people are worried about a lot more than just their pensions and benefits, and guess what? They are more motivated than you, for all the ginning up you do. We realize that this is a hard concept for you to grasp, but there it is, all the same.
UPDATE: CAC’s generally more accurate analysis at Ace of Spades HQ sees Walker with an even larger cushion.