Friday, February 18, 2011

Picking A Fight

The protests and the drama in Madison, Wisconsin, over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to limit collective bargaining for some — but not all — public employees have been getting the attention of the country. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the guy with the “sensible” budget plan for the country, has made the unfortunate comparison between Madison and Cairo, probably without thinking that he was casting Mr. Walker in the role of Hosni Mubarak, and the protesters won. The drama got even more amusing when the Democratic caucus basically went into hiding in order to avoid getting a quorum in the state house and blocking passage of the bill. (They headed for a restaurant in Rockford, Illinois, just over the border.)

But it turns out the governor actually created the budget shortfall willfully so that he could force through the cutbacks in the state employee benefits.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

“Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he [sic] control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”

In other words, he wanted a way to screw over the unions — except the ones that had supported him in the last election — and the manufactured budget “crisis” was the way to do it.

It takes a certain amount of hubris and gall to deliberately tank the state budget just to exact political revenge. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some other politically ambitious and callous hack tries it in another state… like, oh, say, Florida.