I'm still awe-struck by the Republican's refusal to take responsibility for the economic mess we're in... and to keep coming back with the same worn out economic policies that landed us here.
[Scott Walker is the Milwaukee County executive now running against Tom Barrett (former Congressman and now Mayor of Milwaukee) for Governor.]
This week's column.
Scott Walker just says no to tax dollars
There must be something in the air, here in the unhappy-Republicans-who-aren't-being-listened-to post-partisan universe. Paul Ryan, at the federal level, and now Scott Walker here at home, are both heading back-to-the-future with Bush-style tax plans.
President Obama is not the popular guy he was, but remember that entire hopey-changie-thingie last year when Republicans, and their anti-regulation cut-taxes-for-the-rich shell game, were tossed out of power because their economic theories crashed the economy? People are starting to lose some of the hope, but the reasons for tossing out the Republican playbook haven’t gone away. Cut taxes on the rich, again? Um ... who dat?
In the meantime, the same meth-laced economic policies that put us into economic rehab are being rewrapped in shiny new tin foil by Ryan and now Walker. It’s deja vu all over again, to quote the Great Yogi. Listening to their financial justifications is like hearing old junkies reminisce about the early days of their addictions when they got to go to great parties and, quarter after quarter, enjoyed the rush of short term economic ecstasy noodling their brains into pulp and wiping out pension funds across the country. “You know,” they stammer at us today, “there’s no reason we shouldn’t try to go back there.”
If you have friends or relatives with addiction issues, you’ll recognize the symptoms of denial wrapped in nostalgia for a past that didn’t exist, except at the other end of an economic crack-pipe. Let’s save Ryan for another time – maybe by then the national Republican leadership will actually acknowledge what he’s up to. What about Walker’s plan for our tax dollar?
Well, if we can believe the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's numbers, Walker’s plan to buy Wisconsin an economic “fix” – by giving tax breaks that benefit mainly corporations and people at the very top – will double Wisconsin’s nearly $2 billion budget deficit. He wants to cut income taxes for everyone earning over $225,000 a year; that’ll come to $287 million. He wants to re-write the law to let companies avoid state taxes by maintaining shell-offices in states that don’t have a corporate income tax; that’ll run us another $375 million. He wants to repeal the current code for tax deductions on capital gains to save those making over $200k some dough as well as help out the wealthiest folks in the state by eliminating any tax on retirement income, no matter how much they're raking in; those two will cost us about $1.1 billion. Sounds pretty good, if you’re in the top 5 percent. For the rest of us, maybe not so much.
The rest of us pay taxes in order to get services from the government we couldn’t afford as individuals. In order to try to keep his promised deficit at the $2 billion mark he’s going to have to wade through those services with a chain saw. Some of the obvious targets would be Badger Care or maybe firing 14,000 school teachers or how about cutting the shared revenue program with municipalities (which would result in spectacular property tax rate increases in order to keep paying for police and fire prevention) or, in a notion sure to find support in the crazier corners of the Legislature, cut funding to the entire University of Wisconsin System.
But, of course, no Legislature will let him – and he must know that. So where will the money come from to support all of his tax cuts? The same place junkies always get the money – they steal it from their parents or their kids. Or they borrow it from their Uncle Sam.
Except here, too, we have a problem. Walker has jumped into the Sarah Palin hot tub and, probably giddy from the bubbles, wants us to reject any federal Recovery Act funds. He says he doesn’t want Uncle Sam’s help.
Here’s why that’s stupid: It’s our money.
Wisconsin has received $2.76 billion in funds from the Recovery Act, $2.76 billion Walker would reject, given the chance. But if rejected, the money would not magically return to our pockets. It would end up in Illinois or California. Progressives are often chided for being out of touch with reality, but no progressive ever refused his own money. Walker, by contrast, seems to think this is actually a good idea.
Fortunately, even though he’s announced all of this publicly, he’s still running for governor. Its a nice way to help guarantee another term of progressive values and true fiscal responsibility in the governor’s mansion in Madison, the kind of responsibility that puts the people of Wisconsin ahead of economic crack dealers.
If only we had someone to run for governor who’s managed large budgets, maybe been a mayor or a well-respected congressman, and who espouses the traditional values of old-time Wisconsin Progressivism. That sort of person might be able to fight against the economic crack addiction young Walker is clearly still working through.
Oh yeah, Tom Barrett is running for governor.
We’ll be OK.