Friday, March 04, 2016
Walker's Act 10 "reforms" "saved" Taxpayers $5B? Blown to Pieces
Have you seen the latest from Gov. Scott Walker's re-election campaign media tools? They're making a claim that his Act 10 "reform" "saved" Wisconsin taxpayers more than $5 billion in the five years since being enacted.
You have to admit it's a great re-election sound bite, "My Act 10 reform saved Wisconsin taxpayers five billion dollars," isn't it? But that's all it is - a simple sound bite.
So I won't over-complicate a closer look at it, but instead get back to conservative basics.
Using their rules, government doesn't have a revenue problem ...it has a spending problem. More spending - more government. Less spending - less government. When they're spending more - they are increasing the cost of government and they're increasing the future burden on the collective body of taxpayers. IF, if you're building a meme or political campaign on saving taxpayers money ...you spend less.
I mean come on ...amirite?
But that's not happening in Wisconsin because each budget since, Walker has spent more than the last. According to the Cato Institute, a Koch Industries think tank, Wisconsin state spending grew 15 percent from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2015. So how could Act 10 save taxpayers money when the state spent more? Simply, it did not.
Now let's get to the "savings" part. If a gallon of milk is $2.85 all week everywhere, but one store has a sale for the same brand, same size at $2 - shoppers could legitimately say they saved 85 cents at the sale store. When you get the same product or the same service for a lower price, you saved the difference. Simple concept. Simple math.
Or another way to save is through refunds or rebates. You pay the listed price for a product or service with a promise from the seller that if you jump through a few hoops (fill out some forms, etc.) 25% of your purchase price will be refunded to you in a rebate check mailed four weeks later. Again, those are tangible savings you could put in your pocket.
The big problem for Walker and his media minions with their $5 billion fairy tale is none of the above happened. Even when Walker was boasting a couple years ago how he's going to return a "surplus" to the taxpayers - there were no tax refunds or rebate checks from the state to the taxpayers - at all. Not one. It was simply a re-election campaign sound bite.
Now, some of Walker's more virulent supporters might stomp and scream, "but you didn't have to pay as much in taxes as you would have without. Your tax bill is smaller!!!"
But that narrative has a problem too.
Because not only is it a hypothetical, there is much data available that shows Wisconsin is not the same product as before. Over that time, Wisconsin's middle-class shrunk more than any other state, the UW slipped out of the top ten in public university ranking, Wisconsin's roads are among the worst in the nation, poverty has reached the highest level in 30 years and the property tax burden paid on home value went from ninth worse to fifth worse. And ...I'm barely scratching the surface on how Walker has turned Wisconsin into a second rate state.
Truth is, we're really not saving anything.
So, when they say Walker's reforms "saved" Wisconsin taxpayers $5 billion, people aren't getting the same product as before. Instead, we're getting a milk jug sold well past its sell-by date that looks like a gallon, but instead contains only 96 ounces of product.
Unless Walker and the state's big spender party have a cache of unicorn dollars hidden away, they have confiscated more money from the body collective and returned less product. There's no way around it.
Sure, we could get technical about this by poring over charts and graphs on spending to state GDP or per-capita spending, but that's not what their little political narrative is about. It's simply a claim that Walker's Act 10 "saved" Wisconsin taxpayers $5 billion since it was enacted and that should mean - going by the common conservative narrative of the day - that those savings are reflected with less spending while getting the same product. The truth is - that is simply not the case.
Oh, and let's not forget the folks who never wanted to pay for good schools or good roads or anything good publicly funded. Obviously, those are the only folks who really are getting their money's worth and who by the way are the same folks claiming Wisconsin taxpayers saved $5 billion. They are a hoot.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 1:35 PM