What’s going on in Wisconsin is a replay of what Bush did to the whole country’s economy, except that Bin Laden handed Bush a crisis to exploit. While the country was still in the fetal position, whimpering with existential fear, he was able to put two wars and a huge security bureaucracy on the national credit card. Then he cut taxes on the nation’s hard-working millionaires so that the nonproductive rest of us would be stuck with the bill.
But if Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker wanted to succeed in his new job as butler to the rich, he had to do something fast about that pesky balanced budget he inherited. Since he couldn’t go to war (although he’d plainly like to), he did the next best thing. He created a fiscal 9/11 by looting the state treasury for his bosses:
Like just about every other state in the country, Wisconsin is managing in a weak economy. The difference is that Wisconsin is managing better — or at least it had been managing better until Walker took over. Despite shortfalls in revenue following the economic downturn that hit its peak with the Bush-era stock market collapse, the state has balanced budgets, maintained basic services and high-quality schools, and kept employment and business development steadier than the rest of the country. It has managed so well, in fact, that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently released a memo detailing how the state will end the 2009-2011 budget biennium with a budget surplus.
In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.
To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.