Choosing The Low Road: Walker And Wisconsin Have Other, Better Options

 

There's an excellent piece in Saturday's online edition of the Journal Sentinel by Marc Levine (hat-tip Jim Starowicz via Deb Romilly on Facebook). It's called You heard it here first: Tax the rich and solve budget shortfall. Right off the bat, he equates the Walker budget and refusal to consider any other options as exactly what they are: class warfare. The piece has a mix of straightforward and sarcastic elements that make it even harder-hitting:

The immediate crisis, according to Walker, is a $137 million shortfall in the current biennial budget. "We're broke; we don't have the money," says the governor, and only slashing the compensation and bargaining rights of public employees can get us through the crisis. (Let's ignore for the moment the inconvenient fact for Walker's "we're broke" trope that at the same time he was slashing compensation for teachers, he was increasing the deficit by bestowing $117 million in business tax breaks.)

Levine then goes on to point out

Rather than attacking the living standards of middle class teachers, prison guards and health care workers, Wisconsin policy-makers can easily close this budgetary gap - and reduce surging inequality in the state - by temporarily raising taxes on the superwealthy and corporations.

But, of course, that's not what Walker wants. He wants to further reduce corporate taxes. Levine's done his homework, tho, and provides some references to economist Dean Baker's facts, figures and reasoning that any such tax hike need only be temporary. Levine sums it up nicely toward the end (emphasis mine):

In short, contrary to the governor's repeated claims, Wisconsin does have options. Walker has made a choice: He would rather mandate 8% compensation cuts on teachers and abolish collective bargaining than levy a temporary 1.5% income surcharge on the superwealthy. Walker's choice, however, damages the state's social fabric, contributes to growing inequality in the state, and harms our prospects for future economic prosperity. [...snip...]

To be sure, Wisconsin still needs to manage a $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-2013 budget cycle. But rather than trying to meet that challenge by attacking middle-class workers and by gutting spending on, say, public education, we would be better served by a balanced plan that makes spending cuts where they would be prudent, and raises revenues in ways that reduce inequality and are least damaging to the most vulnerable.

Amen to that.

You can find the full piece at the jsonline website. Go read it, and share it widely. Thank you.

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