Monday, March 09, 2015
The Method To Scott Walker's Budget Madness And The Antidote
My guess is this blog post will seem both elementary and contrary to my more politically astute readers, while others will reject its prescription outright. My only hope is this opens a larger public debate before it's too late.
I submit that Walker's seemingly unorthodox style of government budgeting is not driven by issues, economic needs, constitutional responsibilites or even "conservatism" in its raw fiscal form. Well OK, that's not news.
But, besides his obvious thirst to lift his career ambitions on the divide and conquer of working poor and middle-class Americans, what I believe is the endgame of his rolling budget deficits is a total reversal of progressive taxation he mistakenly believes funds government dependency. His budget "reforms" radically shift the burden of taxation enough to begin the destabilization of our contemporary American way of life, under the guise of fiscal responsibility and smaller government.
This is how Walker's budgets work:
Walker's "balanced" budgets (and by extension, the state's GOP-controlled Legislature) are DESIGNED to produce a deficit in the NEXT budget, a budget deficit that will be "balanced" again with more cuts designed to produce a deficit in the next budget.
IF by some wild chance higher tax revenues are generated and a surplus is created, even if only a projection, they don't use it to shore up previous cuts to state programs, state agencies or roads. Instead, Walker "refunds" that surplus in lieu of other taxes or in the form of a tax cut to serve as a political device he can promote to show his reforms are working. This entire routine continues ad infinitum.
The uber-wealthy, particularly the authoritarian shouters of "personal liberty" and "freedom," recognize the Norquistian format immediately for the upward redistribution it is and that's why they are quick to throw millions his way. It's an easy three ingredient government-stirred recipe to brew Galt's Island.
The problem of course is, how can we liberate ourselves from this madness?
One huge mistake, and this is key in my opinion, is Wisconsin locals inherent fatalism of helping Walker over and over again by raising taxes onto themselves through referendum to replace the lost "redistributed" aid (our tax dollars) he withholds at the state level for his politically-driven priorities. Wage-earning local taxpayers across Wisconsin would have to be fools to think they can fight a central state imposed race-to-the-bottom economy carried out on perpetually targeted cuts in state aid and programs, then ADD new burdens onto our RTW-shrunken paychecks by doubling-up tax obligations with higher local fees and taxes.
THAT is not going to work.
In fact, it is irresponsible budgeting and would likely encourage Walker to withhold even more state aid in the next budget to fund another surplus projection to pay for new tax cuts for the top. See mom, it's working!
The reality is, when locals raise taxes on themselves, all they're doing is repairing or preventing the damage THEY KNOW Walker's "reforms" are intended to accomplish. Yet, his madness counts on the competitive nature of community self-preservation. He expects locals to respond with self-inflicted tax hikes.
I understand what I'm describing here is counter-intuitive, but there is absolutely no better way to show it's "working" than by giving Walker photo-ops of the roads, schools and infrastructure his reforms were prevented from destroying, but instead were saved through emergency restoration (referendum) local tax hikes, wheel taxes or new fees. Walker's supporters regularly cash in on that meme when they say, "the sky hasn't fallen like you said ...see!" Yep, that's how it's done and that's how it works. They bank on it.
Secondly, since Walker's budgeting style is so welcoming and transformative, (afterall he won election, recall and re-election) why would anyone object to applying his budget format of cuts and balancing future deficits with more cuts at the local level? Why fight what works?
Unless someone can convince me otherwise or present a logical alternative, I strongly believe local officials (township, city, county) should duplicate Walker's budgeting style, particularly his "don't spend more than you have" principle to a T.
Stop funding the ever-increasing dosage (repeated self-inflicted tax hikes to replace lost state aid) in a zero-sum game, so we can see the madness in living color.
Instead, smart local officials should brace their communities for the decline, what a local business group called a "death spiral," and immediately begin working on plans for closing unsafe areas and crumbling roads, and mothballing public schools, facilities and other physical structures affected by Walker's reforms.
In essence, the "antidote" I prescribe is not a departure from the madness itself. But it is Walker's way and implementing it locally should serve as a starting point for some rare common ground with his business establishment support base.
Maybe my perspective over-simplifies the problem and over-complicates the solution. Maybe I'm wrong about snuffing it out with a backdraft at the local level, but with local officials facing another round of beatdown cuts from Walker and the Legislature, it's time to understand their true intent, and for local leaders to step up and adapt to it accordingly. History is on my side.
To fight it is to feed it. To feed it is surrender.
RNR - Elected On a Surplus, Walker Promised To Invest In, Not Cut, Priorities
RNR - At The Crossroads, Paul Ryan's Hometown Facing a Death Spiral. But Where's Ryan?
RNR - Walker's Establishment Base Disillusioned By His Big Bold Borrowing
RNR - Conservative Newspaper Wants "Progressive" Community For Its Own Backyard
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:01 AM