Friday, February 18, 2011

Money Not An Issue

Between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, 5:00-5:30 p.m. Central time, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker gave a televised answer to the public sector worker and unions protesting his union-busting scheme: no deal.

The Governor thereby reiterated his earlier response to the head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, who suggested that his members would concede to the Governor on benefits in return for maintaining collective bargaining rights. The Governor had responded "doesn't work.... like very other state, or nearly every other state across the country, our budget is going to have cuts in aids to local governments."

Curious- no, disingenuous- for the Governor to continue to claim budgetary constraints as his motive. Rush Limbaugh, the head of Walker's national party, is leading the disinformation campaign, today exclaiming "There is no choice! They will have to lose. We do not have the money! They are $3.6 billion in debt in Wisconsin." For good measure, Limbaugh would infer that those middle class workers in Wisconsin are unpatriotic: "We are either on the side of the Wisconsin protesters or we are on the side of our country, which can only have economic future if we make these cuts."

We didn't need to hear the Governor reject from a union concessions which would go far in easing the budget deficit to know that the claim of Walker, Limbaugh, and the GOP legislators is a sideshow.

A rough equivalent to the General Accounting Office, Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau, analyzed (report here) the state's estimated $121.4 million deficit. Talking Points Memo summarized the Bureau's finding that $140 million can be attributed to the following initiatives of the Governor:

•$25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.

•$48 million for private health savings accounts -- a perennial Republican favorite.

•$67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring

Governor Walker set out to create the deficit, proposing two programs and a tax cut which cost the state $140 billion- a state now claimed to be $137 million in the hole. And once these were enacted, he cried: we've got a deficit! it's all the government workers' fault! A deficit he created is now being used as an excuse to slash and burn state workers. As an editorial in Madison's Cap Times explained,

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.

This crisis has nothing to do with the budget or with money. It is about breaking the public employee unions in Wisconsin. Digby recognizes the stakes, writing

This uprising couldn't have happened in a more important place or illustrate the threat of corporate dominance in our culture and economy any better. It's a full-blown war on workers, and not just union workers. After all, if union wages and benefits are stripped, all wages and benefits will go down. That's the point.

Today, it's union employees in Wisconsin. But if this attack on the middle class succeeds, it will spread to Ohio and elsewhere- and eventually, not only to public employees or union workers but throughout the American workforce.

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