Scott Walker made certain the projections were bleak, bordering on the catastrophic, and the media ate it up. In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on February 7, 2011 Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie was quoted as saying:
“Bill collectors are waiting at the door of the state Capitol. Without taking action to reduce the deficit in the current fiscal year, thousands of Wisconsin children and families could lose their health care coverage through BadgerCare, and there would need to be even more aggressive spending cuts in the future.”
Before presenting a budget, Walker had succeeded in creating a $3.6 billion deficit panic. The mantra continues today, as it continued on the campaign trail. Even across the border as Walker addressed the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in April. The Romney Campaign is embracing Wisconsin as the role model for the nation. Scott Walker is the hero that conquered the deficit beast, and America must embrace the austerity measures to save itself – as they have saved Wisconsin.
The entire budgeting premise upon which Walker based his “deficit crisis” was a lie. Having been a legislator in Wisconsin, he would have known this, or he is a complete idiot. We also now know what these “austerity” measures do to a national economy, yet it is being largely ignored by the media. Should the Walker policies continue to expand, and Romney wins the White House in November pass the potatoes – because Wisconsin will look more like Ireland in two years than the state we all know and love. Read on for details.
Walker’s $3.6 Billion deficit was based on the 2011-2013 State Agency Budget Requests . Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) received and released a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo from February 16, 2011 - but no media were paying attention. Scott Walker was intervening in the budget process prematurely – for the purpose of creating a fiscal emergency. As shown in the memo, the final Agency Budgets are never funded at the levels requested by the agencies. There are constant negotiations and compromises in both revenues and expenses during the budget creation process – much of which happens in the Legislature. The 2011-2013 requested increases of 7.2% contributed to much of the reported deficit, and would have been greatly reduced in the legislative budgeting process. The Agency appropriations for 2009-2011 actually received a cut of 2.6% from the baseline, due to one-time federal stimulus payments. This so-called “deficit” existed only on the paper from the Agency Funding Requests.
On January 31, 2011 (before the Walker “deficit emergency” took hold in the media) the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) sent a memo to Joint Finance Chairs Robin Vos and Alberta Darling. Based on the 2009-2011 Doyle budget in place, the LFB forecast a year-end SURPLUS of over $56 Million. This had actually been a revision of the Doyle Administration’s earlier forecast of a $112 million surplus due to several reasons:
1. Lower tax collections.
2. Debt payments being made in 2010-2011.
3. Budgeted Minnesota reciprocity lapse payment.
4. Some increase in department revenue and lapses.
That’s right citizens – before Scott Walker took office, Wisconsin had a budget surplus. In addition, the Agency appropriations had not been addressed as part of the budgeting process. The truth is, the $3.6 Billion “deficit” was only on paper – it was not functional. The lie persists; the result being an affirmation of Walker’s austerity measures. Where has that gotten us? On a road paved with intended and known consequences – known because we have an economic precedent.
The February 9, 2012 LFB memo submitted to Vos and Darling on shows the effects of austerity. Unlike any DOA or DOR analysis, the LFB is the only truly non-partisan budget analysis taking in factors from all fiscal agencies, and using a consistent measure. Wisconsin is now faced with a $208 Million + deficit by the end of 2013. The memo specifies the effects of laws enacted in 2011 to decrease revenue, and increase the burden of state expenditures on a shrinking middle class. The memo also cites the decrease in tax revenue being collected and pursued from large corporations; a function of greater loopholes and deregulation of corporate taxes and collections.
As the GOP has already indicated, the answer to this decrease in revenue will be to cut, cut, cut – more austerity. A word of warning, which, based on the recall election may be too late. Wisconsin’s economy is only being bolstered by a slightly improving national economy. While we rise in the “business friendly” and “economic freedom” indicators of the Heritage Foundation, there are severe consequences for the policies we are pursuing. In the absence of any stimulus, Wisconsin would have gone from stagnant to depressed. The model exists for Wisconsin under Scott Walker and a potential Romney presidency. It is Ireland.
In an interview on the Colbert Report, June 18 2012, Paul Krugman put the Ireland economic example in perspective. In response to the suggestion by Colbert that electing Mitt Romney president would solve our economic problem, Krugman sates:
“Ireland is Romney economics in practice. They’ve laid off a large portion of their public workforce, they’ve slashed spending, they’ve enacted extreme austerity programs, they haven’t raised taxes on corporations or the rich at all. They have 14% unemployment, 30% youth unemployment. Ireland is what the US economy would be under Romney.”
In 2008, Ireland was ranked as the 3rd best economy in the world for “economic freedom” by the Heritage Foundation. Low corporate taxes, little regulation, the “Celtic Tiger” was a model capitalist state – having achieved its economic freedom and prosperity over a decade of free market growth. By 2009, the economy was in shambles, and Ireland was the first and most aggressive European nation to adopt austerity measures. In April 2009, Paul Krugman sounded the warning to us and Europe:
“Unfortunately, we didn’t save for a rainy day: thanks to tax cuts and the war in Iraq, America came out of the “Bush boom” with a higher ratio of government debt to G.D.P. than it had going in. And if we push that ratio another 30 or 40 points higher — not out of the question if economic policy is mishandled over the next few years — we might start facing our own problems with the bond market.
Not to put too fine a point on it, that’s one reason I’m so concerned about the Obama administration’s bank plan. If, as some of us fear, taxpayer funds end up providing windfalls to financial operators instead of fixing what needs to be fixed, we might not have the money to go back and do it right.
And the lesson of Ireland is that you really, really don’t want to put yourself in a position where you have to punish your economy in order to save your banks.”
That is precisely what we are doing – the overall economy is suffering to save the banks, multinational corporations, and wealthiest among us. While Euro-zone leaders hail Ireland’s continued austerity, the people are suffering – 14% unemployment, wage cuts, healthcare cuts, public services slashed, and nearly 40,000 have left the country for greener pastures. On June 17, 2012, Paul Krugman addresses the “success” that the International Monetary Fund considers Ireland:
“…this was a statistical illusion, reflecting the fact that very capital-intensive industries, especially pharma, had weathered the crisis better than labor-intensive sectors. Meanwhile, the real thing — slight wage decline in Ireland while wages rise in Germany — has been proceeding at a relatively glacial pace. And the promised payoff in increased market share is still invisible.”
Continued austerity will have the same effect here – decreased wages, high unemployment, decreased revenues, the list goes on. So does the GOP austerity train…
The lie of the deficit emergency, if allowed to persist as the greatest threat to our state and nation, will have dire consequences for the ever-shrinking middle class. Either Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and the GOP powers know and want this – or they are idiots.
Stock up on corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. Pass the Jameson. We’ll need good whiskey for the revolution.