This past Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin went to the ballot box to decide on the recall of Governor Scott Walker. And by reconfirming Walker with a larger percentage of the vote than he won in the original election in 2010, Wisconsinites decided to say no to the kind of public-sector union extremism that is currently bringing Southern Europe (not to mention California and Illinois) to the brink of insolvency.
Would you like a piece of Greek baklava? No thanks, I’ll have a good bratwurst instead.
Apparently someone forgot to tell President Obama the news about Walker’s victory prior to his press conference yesterday. Because, in addition to his comment that the private economy in this country is “doing fine,” the President also said that if Republicans in Congress really wanted to help the economy, they would allocate more aid to state and local governments, because that is where the economy is really hurting – in the public sector.
This is the most disingenuous and/or self-deluding statement I have heard from a politician in some time. And given that politicians make a living out of uttering such false statements on a regular basis, that’s saying something.
It is true that some state and local governments are facing severe budget shortfalls that are forcing cuts to government payrolls and some services. But the President’s solution, showering these hurting government entities with more federal financial aid, ignores why they are facing difficulty in the first place. One: tax revenues, which come from those private sector companies and individuals who according to the President are doing “just fine,” fell sharply at the start of the recession in 2008/9 and have not recovered to anywhere close to their pre-recession levels. Two: state and local governments face a unsustainable burden of pension and other benefits costs for their public sector employees. These costs continue to grow unabated, each year consuming a greater share of the total fiscal budget.
[Nevermind, for now, the fact that the President doesn’t explain how he proposes to pay for this aid. I guess he believes that this aid, like everything else, can be paid for simply by just taxing those high earners a little bit more.]
State and local politicians are faced with two options in this scenario [assuming the President doesn’t just shower them with more cash]. They can try to attack the root cause of these escalating costs, by forcing employees in the public sector to agree to modifications to their benefits packages to bring them more in-line with the benefits received by private sector employees. For example, requiring public sector employees to pay a greater share of the medical insurance costs. And requiring them to accept greater responsibility for their retirement savings. Again, not to levels beyond what is standard in the private sector, but simply to something close. [And by the way, there have been many studies that have debunked the myth that public sector employees are paid less than their private sector counterparts for similar jobs. So the counterargument that public sector employees deserve these more generous benefits packages to compensate them for reduced salary doesn’t hold water.]
Since the Democratic Party, public sector employee unions, and public sector employees have, over the last 50 years, formed an incestuous relationship whereby the politicians lavish out these benefits packages to the public sector employees in exchange for their continued support keeping the politicians in office, going after the root cause of these rising costs isn’t really a realistic option in municipalities controlled by Democrats. So instead, if they can’t kick the can down the road by issuing more public debt to cover the budget deficits, the politicians in these municipalities are more likely to resort to cuts to discretionary services (think art and music programs in public schools, sanitation services, etc.) and personnel cuts. Nevermind the illogic of job cuts to teachers, police and firefighters, it’s easier to take that course than to confront them over restructuring benefits.
When Republican Scott Walker took office in 2011, he opted for the first course of action. He enacted laws that redefined the relationship between public employees and their employers (ie THE TAXPAYERS). In the year and a half since Walker’s reforms began to take effect (really less time, but for now let’s pretend that the reforms all happened the day he took office), Wisconsin has been able to close its budget deficit and reduce property taxes – oh, while also not having to layoff teachers or public safety personnel.
The voters (again, i.e. taxpayers) in Wisconsin seem to have gotten the message.
You would think that someone in the mainstream media might have called the President on his comment or at least drawn the contrast between the President’s rhetoric and the reality of what has been happening in Wisconsin and validated by the voters. But given that the MSM really aren’t much more than a mouthpiece and propaganda organ for the Democratic Party and the President, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
We’re seeing the President’s vision of the solution to our problems playout in Greece (and probably soon in Spain and Italy as well). But hopefully the Wisconsin experience is a turning point and voters/taxpayers across the country, and politicians of both parties, will take notice that there is another alternative.