Start calling him Gov. Bait-and-Switch Walker

Printer-friendly version
Hey, who moved our cheese?

Ol' Scotty is up to his ol' tricks. As Milwaukee County executive he campaigned on ethics and frugality, but left a half dozen criminal convictions in the ongoing John Doe investigation and huge budget problems he claimed to have fixed. Up in the East Wing of the Wisconsin State Capitol, it's more of the same.

Here's the way voters and taxpayers ought to look at Walker's budget proposal for the coming biennium.

Walker said that by cutting programs and greatly clawing back the pay and benefits of state employees, he has created a $154 million budget surplus, which he proposes to return in part to taxpayers with a tiny tax break (tiny, that is, if you're middle class, but large if you're wealthy, and nonexistent if you're among the working poor, who got nailed in his last budget).

But there's a problem with that claim. Walker the campaigner insisted the state should start measuring its budgets based on what the private sector uses, namely "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles." However, as it turns out, when you do that, Walker's supposed nine-figure surplus ending this biennium quiickly turns into a TEN-figure structural deficit within the next two-year budget cycle. 

If you don't believe it, well, believe it! The figure -- $2.64 billion, which approximates the scale of structural deficits under the past two Republican and Democratic governors -- actually appears in Walker's official budget document, although it's buried away at the back in fine print. Meanwhile, he keeps shouting "Surplus! Tax cuts!"

Meanwhile, remember that Walker managed that short-term (timed for the next gubernatorial election) surplus by savaging public education with massive aid cuts, destroying most public employee unions, state and local, and picking away at other high-value programs that have helped define Wisconsin's superior quality of life.And let's not get into what he's willing to do to the state's environment, which adds incalcuable costs.

But it gets worse, because Walker also borrowed heavily (representing another ten figure sum, likely to be repeated in the next budget), and proposes to borrow heavily again. Now, that may be justifiable given current low interest rates, but it is utterly inconsistent with his carefully crafted attempt to look like Gov. Frugal. He spends, and spends big (his first state budget was the biggest ever enacted in the entire history of Wisconsin), but he just defers paying back large amounts of his spending until he's likely off to his next great adventure.

It's true that Walker proposes to increase education spending -- but his budget effectively freezes spending on public schools while mandating greater state taxpayer support for private schools. And think again if you believe Walker plans to make public employees even a tiny bit whole after he imposed what turned out for many to be 12 percent pay cuts over the past two years (after years of tiny or no pay increases before that).

To put it into an analogy that average citizens ought to understand, Walker's budget basically goes like this:

Imagine if the head of the company you worked for showed up at your house one day: "I picked your wallet last year so I could pay our bills, and the result is we're going to have a small surplus beginning in June. So I wanted to come back and return the money I swiped when you weren't looking. Don't worry, it was legal; your door was unlocked.

"Well, and actually, I'm not giving back all of your money. I'm returning five cents on the dollar. The rest goes to the other business executives who live over on McMansion Lane, in the form of personal tax cuts and corporate tax breaks.They're the ones who best know how to spend it, and I'm sure they'll be thinking of you when they do.

Then, as he hurries back down your walk to his car he turns his head and says in a whisper:

"Oh, and one other thing: I'm going to have to cut health care again for you and many of your neighbors, because while I used your money to create a small surplus in June, my operation will be creating a multi-billion-dollar deficit in a year or two. Then I'm going to have to dip into your wallets again, probably.

Then, as he bombs off in his smoke-belching Borborygmous 8 roadster, headed to a fund-raising luncheon in Texas, your boss shouts out a parting bon mot:

"Am I great, or what!?