COMPARE: America's newest fiscal crisis has been Wisconsin's Walker-led norm for two years | WisCommunity

COMPARE: America's newest fiscal crisis has been Wisconsin's Walker-led norm for two years

It isn't as though we in Wisconsin are clueless frogs, slowly coming to boil in a pot of water on the stove. We know what's happened to the state's economy, both before and after Scott Walker's assumption of the governor's office. Some among us doubtlessly continue to believe Walker saved a state whose government was "broke" even while it kept on cutting taxes, but more and more -- such as in the state's latest, dismal quarterly labor statistics -- it is becoming clear that Walker's fiscal decisions have been disastrous. And Walker policy decisions like gutting public employee union rights, often sold as fiscal necessities, have added to the state's fiscal woes.

Jack Norman at the Institute for Wisconsin's Future newly estimates that Walker's fiscal austerity program cost Wisconsin's 350,000 local and state public employees more than $850 million in take-home pay in just the first 12 months, a period ending in June 2012. And much more in the ten months since. According to Norman, the typical public employee in the state saw his or her compensation whacked $4,228 annually. For many this cut equaled about an eight percent reduction in salary and benefits.

In a column (URL below), Norman explains just how removing this much disposable income statewide has weakened the state's economy, greatly figuring in bringing once-proud Wisconsin near the bottom in performance among all 50 states.

Oddly, Wisconsin's disastrous experience to date as a result of this reckless, ideological, faith-based experiment has not yet served as sufficient warning to national lawmakers who are hell bent on replicating it across the country. These ideologues similarly pretend that fiscal austerity among European governments has been a success, when, as economists like Paul Krugman note, reality is just the opposite. Those governments that reined in reckless financiers and invested to jump-start damaged economies have done the best.

Here in the US, initial fervor over the automatic sequestration law severely cutting into the federal discretionary budget has since cooled, but a quote today from blogger Karoli at reminded me just how bad Walker's moves have been for Wisconsin and how -- without much fanfare -- similar budget lunacy is now being foisted on the entire nation. Karoli:

This weekend, a friend of mine with two kids in college told me their family will be hit with a 20 percent pay cut because of the sequester. They were grateful to still have a job, but 20 percent is a huge cut to take when they're covering two college tuition bills and trying to get by. They had just started to climb out of their 2008 hole when the sequester took effect.

Many public employees at the federal government level -- many of whom have not seen a pay raise in years -- are now being laid off for unpaid furloughs of up to a month per year. They, like Wisconsin public employees before them, are seeing their take-home pay cut drastically while important public services go unmet. Meanwhile, thanks to the economic ripple effect, private contractors who provide direct or indirect services involving government programs, such as those working at small airport control towers -- are beginning to experience their own pay cuts and layoffs. So are shop owners, restaurants and other merchants.

Meanwhile, what of the people at the top? Billionaires and corporations are sitting fat and happy on fast-growing piles of cash, piles which at this point might not fit into Scrooge McDuck's monstrous money bin.

What's wrong with this picture? Yes, it's that the Republican mantra about and fetish for austerity is now utterly dashed; it's a huge mistake that's not only perpetuating widespread misery but also paralleling the course that brought on the Great Depression of the 1930s. But also unresolved is how too many of our fellow citizens regard all this. Many of them are so stressed and challenged, or besotted with conservative fiscal propaganda, that they are just now beginning to come to their senses. The head-clearing can't happen fast enough.


April 2, 2013 - 10:08am