Jonathan Chait

What Wisconsin Is Really About

By

Ezra Klein and David Brooks both make similar points about the wildly slanted nature of Scott Walker's austerity program. Here's Klein:

In his State of the State speech, he said, "The decisions we face are not easy and the solutions we must approve will require true sacrifice." He's already called for plenty of it from not only state employees, but also the low-income residents who rely on Wisconsin's BadgerCare program.

But some won't have to sacrifice nearly so much. Walker's campaign platform called for sharp cuts in corporate taxes, including "eliminating corporate taxes for the first two years of operation." His budget repair bill proposes to allow the state to sell energy plants "with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state," and goes on to say that "any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest."

What you're seeing there isn't necessarily a world where deficits are lower. Rather, it's a world where power is distributed very differently. 

And here's Brooks:

The cuts have to be spread more or less equitably among as many groups as possible. There will never be public acceptance if large sectors of society are excluded. Governor Walker’s program fails that test. It spares traditional Republican groups (even cops and firefighters). It is thus as unsustainable as the current tide of red ink.

Moreover, the constitution must emphasize transparent evaluation. Over the past weeks, Governor Walker increased expenditures to pump up small business job creation and cut them on teacher benefits. That might be the right choice, but if voters are going to go along with choices such as these, there is going to have to be a credible evaluation process to explain why some things are cut and some things aren’t.

The lack of proportion between the fiscal implications of Walker's plan and the political-economic implications of his plan is so vast that it can hardly be called an austerity program. Imagine a Democratic governor proposed a plan to close a budget crisis. First he jacked up the Earned Income Tax Credit. Then he proposed a tax hike on the rich and on corporations to close the deficit. And then he packaged it with a stringent campaign finance law, a law to require corporations to obtain permission from shareholders before engaging in any kind of political activism, and other laws designed to crush the political power of corporate America. (Pro-Democratic businesses would be exempted.) It's budget-related, because, after all, you can't maintain higher taxes on the rich if the rich are able to bend the political system to protect their interests. Oh, and Republicans accepted the tax hikes on the rich but opposed the other provisions, but Democrats refused to negotiate them.

I suspect conservatives would interpret this not as a genuine effort to close the deficit but as an exercise in class warfare and raw politics. They'd be correct.

Loading Related Articles...
Article Tools
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Show all 10 comments

You must be a subscriber to post comments. Subscribe today.