Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Scott Walker's Billion Dollar Buffoonery

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a historic recall in just six weeks, is getting pretty nervous, if one judges this by the size of his lies.

Walker came out on Monday and made a bold statement that he saved Wisconsin taxpayers $1 billion, mainly through his union busting Act 10. Even the pro-Walker news sources had a hard time with reporting that without jeopardizing the little bit of their remaining credibility (emphasis mine):
Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that his policies had saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion so far - savings largely achieved by the Republican governor and lawmakers repealing most public workers' union bargaining and effectively lowering their compensation.

Much of those savings - more than three-quarters of a billion dollars - could be verified, such as state and local workers picking up more of the tab for their health care and pension. But the figures also included a significant amount of savings for local governments that could not be verified.
As is the case of almost all of Walker's such grandiose claims, it started crumbling almost immediately.

For example, Walker claimed that property taxes dropped like a rock. Funny, my property tax went up by 4.5%. But I digress.

But there is something else funny about this claim. He is saying that the average property value dropped by 0.4%, which comes to about $11 savings for a median sized house. What he doesn't mention is that the average home fell about 2.2% in value for the purposes of property taxes. The translates to a $3,500 drop in value, which would be - wait for it - $11 in tax savings.

To make things even more dubious for Walker's claims, it's also been reported that an increase in lottery ticket sales accounted for another $4 drop in property taxes.

And if that wasn't enough, the Wisconsin property tax levy went up 2.2%.

Walker math makes fuzzy math look clear.

It should also be noted that Walker's budget did raise taxes on the poorest of the poor:
Last summer, the state Legislature reduced the amount of money low- income families can receive in tax credits by $56.2 million.

That places Wisconsin among only a handful of states that will effectively raise taxes on their poorest residents in 2012, according to a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit think tank.

"At a time when low-wage workers are already struggling, this makes it that much more difficult (for them) to feed their families and pay their utility bills," said Jon Peacock with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, an advocacy group that opposed the changes
When the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau crunched the numbers for Walker's budget, they found that there was a small dip in taxes. But they also found there was a huge spike in fees:
In summary, the changes included in the Joint Finance Committee's budget would decrease net taxes by $23,572,000 ($5,135,000 in 2011-12 and -$28,707,000 in 2012-13) and would increase net fees by $111,340,800 ($37,248,900 in 2011-12 and $74,091,900 in 2012-13).
Another problem quickly sprung up for Walker's claim regarding any savings. The numbers he was using apparently were picked out of an rear-facing orifice and had nothing to do with reality:
Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican lawmakers announced Monday that their controversial budget bill curtailing most collective bargaining rights for public workers has thus far saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion — though their estimates appear somewhat inflated in Sheboygan County.

The $1 billion figure includes an estimated $1.3 million in savings in the City of Sheboygan, where city officials said the money saved under the budget bill was far less, totaling $420,000.

City Administrator Jim Amodeo said the governor's estimate assumes Sheboygan employees weren't previously paying any money toward their health insurance when in fact most were paying 8 to 10 percent.

"The savings wasn't everything the governor's office said it would be," Amodeo said.
Other parts of the state were also noticing that Walker's numbers weren't matching the ones they actually had to deal with in their budgets. The most telling aspect of Walker's ideological attack on the working people was clearly laid out by Onalaska Mayor Mike Giese:
Giese said, “Time will tell” whether doing away with most aspects of collective bargaining for union employees will save the city any money in the future. But Giese said the approach Walker has taken to dealing with public employees may end up costing taxpayers in unforeseen ways because experienced employees will leave for greener pastures.

“I feel very strongly that the cost associated with turnover in an organization is surprisingly high. Tenure in the job really does provide increased efficiency,” Giese said. “The pennies we gain aren’t going to offset the dollars we lose in lack of stability and tranquility within our workforce.”
Indeed, that was shown by a recent report from the state's Department of Public Instruction that shows just how severe a hit the school systems are taking:
The larger than usual cuts to school staff for the 2011-12 school year support projections from the Department of Workforce Development last fall. The majority of staff cuts, more than 60 percent, were among teachers.
• Statewide, 311 of 424 school districts, or 73 percent of districts, reported cutting teachers this year.
• Overall, public schools in Wisconsin are employing 1,446 fewer teachers this year than they did in the 2010-11 school year. This represents a 2.4 percent loss in full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff at a time when student enrollment is stable.
• The largest cuts statewide were to school librarians and career and technical education, special education, and reading teachers. For the current school year, there are 414 fewer elementary teachers in public schools, which is a staffing cut of about 2 percent statewide.
An even greater blow to Walker's claims of prosperity came out on Tuesday, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Wisconsin suffered the greatest percentage loss of jobs over the last year, most of which came from the public sector:
Wisconsin saw the largest percentage decrease in employment in the nation during the 12 months ending in March, a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
During that time period, while 27 states and the District of Columbia saw significant job increases, only Wisconsin saw "statistically significant" job losses, the report said.

From March 2011 to March 2012, the state lost 23,900 jobs, for the country's largest percentage decrease, at 0.9 percent.

Of the 23,900 jobs lost in Wisconsin in that period, 17,900 were from the public sector and 6,000 were from the private sector, according to the BLS.

Wisconsin also had the third-worst employment losses for March compared to the previous month, with 4,500 fewer jobs than it had in February, the report said. Only Ohio and New Jersey were worse, with 9,500 and 8,600 fewer jobs, respectively.
Laughably, Walker tried to focus on the fact that there was a decrease in unemployment. But economists have already pointed out that this only shows that a great number of unemployed Wisconsinites have just simply given up looking for work.

Also supporting Griese's statement is the fact that the state's corrections system is so dangerously understaffed that they've had to ask the state legislature to authorize another $1.2 million dollars just to cover the overtime overruns.

Now, I realize that all of these facts and figures might not persuade die-hard Walker backers that his claim of saving a billion dollars from the union busting is that much baloney.

But perhaps, just maybe, if someone they know and love and respect says that the union busting saves the state no money, then they might believe it. So, as the last bit of irrefutable proof, I present the one person who should know better than anyone that Walker's claims are that much poppycock, testify to that fact, under oath, before a congressional panel one year ago:

In case you missed it, the key part of the transcript can be found here, including the offer of evidence that Act 10 was a non-fiscal bill and thus had no impact on the budget.

You know the infamous quote by Joseph Goebbels that goes: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Well, I think Walker just proved that there are limits to even that.


  1. He should volunteer to be an inmate for a few months. He could hold a press conference and announce a "lock in" for his supporters. He could get some ideas on how to improve efficiency and save money in the prison system.

  2. Many of the teachers at our middle school are leaving their teaching occupation altogether. These are teachers I've known through two older kids but they won't be there for my youngest. The teachers can't anticipate the unknown and instability of Walker's regime. So the long term quality teachers will be gone and we'll get just what Walker ordered.

    1. In order to qualify my comment I will say my mother worked for the school district for 25 years, my sister is a teacher and my wife worked as a non teaching employee. And after discussing this mass retirement going on over Easter dinner they agree, it sounds like Walker found a way to weed out the ones who were there for the wrong reasons.

    2. Because they wanted to teach children and be treated with respect is the wrong reason? Or perhaps, it was one of those situations where they just let you ramble on and thought it be better just not to argue with you than try to educate you?

    3. Walker isnt taking away their ability to teach children, or the respect they get from parents on a daily basis. No, he took a little of the money away, and believe me, my sister works in Indiana and our teachers are still far better off than them. Notice how I didn't say they are extremely liberal because they don't agree with everything I do? Their liberal eyes are starting to open, thats all.

    4. Gee, that's not what the proven facts say. Again, it's your perception vs the reality.

  3. And about that drop in unemployment? I saw a report last week that most of it is accounted for by the drop in Wisconsin population, with more than 42,000 Wisconsinites leaving the state in recent months.

    That does not mean that those 42,000 were unemployed. Many were employed here but left for employment elsewhere with better pay and benefits. (Some of them are in my family.)

    What it means is that doing the math for the unemployment rate changes when the denominator changes -- the number of Wisconsinites overall.

    And what it means is that many of our best and brightest, educated in Wisconsin, and often by Wisconsin at our public universities, are gone to other states glad to get Wisconsin-educated employees. Now, how are we doing on getting educated people from other states to come here, to take their place to pay taxes here?


  4. The Act 10 "savings" are not savings, just redistribution of funds away from Wisconsin public employees and residents to different Wisconsin residents and, of course, out-of-state corporations.

  5. Lets face it like all jobs there are bad apples. So saying that Walker's changes got rid of bad teachers is somewhat true, but how many great teachers are we losing in process? Working with Administrations and Unions to practice effective accountability would have helped bad teachers and retained good ones. Accountability needs to be used more in the public sector, maybe this john doe investigation is a good start.

  6. Try this math. Take a small Wisconsin City with a population of less than 10,000. Now take an average of $400.00 / month out of the pockets of approximately 230 union employees. That reduces the money available to spend locally by $92,000 each month.

    $92,000 less that gets spent in the local community for the most part. Is it any wonder that after a year of nearly $1.1 million less circulating money in the community that the whole community is feeling the pinch.

    Business have fewer customers spending money. Their revenues are going down. Their tax bills at best are remaining the same. Their expenses are going up if only given the increase due to gas prices.

    They are forced to reduce their cost. Often meaning laying of employees. Eventually even closing their doors. Adding to a reduced tax base.

    In summary go after those union jobs take money out of their pockets Smile about it if you want. High five if you want. But......

    But say goodbye to $1.1 million dollars circulating in your community.

    Say goodbye to having some of those dollar circulate through your pocket.

    Say goodbye to that after school job your kid has at the local hamburger joint.

    Say goodbye to extra dollars keeping your city vibrant and alive.

    Watch your mainstreet slowly wither away. As small business close their doors reducing the tax base.

    Say hello to reduced services and increase tax bills as your share increases to offset the loss of $1.1 million in your community.

    Say hello to loosing value in your home as a flood of homes go on the market.

    Say hello to.. "What goes around comes around". Think about it.

    1. I have to send a note to Blogger to add a "Like" button...

    2. Exactly. And we already had the evidence of that a few years ago, but we weren't supposed to talk about it, because a Dem governor did it.

      Doyle's pay cuts -- which he got away with calling furloughs, but a lot of state workers were not allowed to cut workloads at all -- cut salaries more than 3 percent, for 2 years in a row.

      But after only the first year, state income revenues declined, and the economic spiral downward began for the entire state. The state is the leading employer in the state, and had any other employer of its size cut pay by more than 3 percent, the media would have been howling at the effect.

      So the spiral: When state income tax revenues decline, and taxes are not increased to compensate -- as they were not -- state expenditures have to decline. The state also is the number-one spender in the state, so the reducing spending then reduced revenues for lots of businesses. Then they had to do layoffs and reduce expenditures for their suppliers, who then had to do layoffs and . . . etc.

      All of this was so predictable, even then, but no one came to the defense of state workers; instead, then -- under Doyle -- is when the demonization began about "union thugs" (although many were not allowed by law to unionize) and the nonsense that state workers are somehow now state taxpayers, too.

      They are, and they've had no raises in years since at the state's largest employer, the state -- so, of course, the spiral downward will continue for at least two years more, as Walker's budget allowed for no raises this year or next year, either (except for his chosen few, as we learned this week).

      No raises for almost all workers at the largest employer in the state for almost a decade by then? The outcome is inevitable. The spiral will continue statewide, and for all the businesses that state workers once could afford to support, too.

    3. sorry, correction: In the third-to-last paragraph, it ought to end -- of course -- "the nonsense that state workers are somehow not state taxpayers, too."

      And I meant to add that because the state revenue collectors already had seen the impact of Doyle's cuts to employees at the largest employers in the state, the state itself, Walker and his administration simply could not have been unaware of the impact of further cuts, not only again to all state employees but also to all public employees.

      The larger public ought to have been able to do this basic math, of course, but the major mainstream media in the state bear the blame for not making this clear and an issue on the public agenda. Why they didn't do so with their hatred of Doyle, I dunno. But their pro-Walker bias prevented them from performing their basic role again.

      The only consolation is the reduced revenues for those media companies, as fewer and fewer of the public can afford to buy a newspaper -- and, even more, as fewer and fewer businesses can afford to advertise in those media. Sadly, though, that means more workers at media out of work, and the spiral downward continues. . . .

  7. And let us remember that the "savings" achieved via state and local workers picking up more of the tab for their health care and pension should not be attributed to Walker's most excellent leadership.

    The unions had agreed to those give-backs when Doyle was still governor. Act 10 was a political jihad on organized labor, carried out because union folks support Democrats.

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  9. I added up my tax cuts then subtracted the cuts my wife and I make as teachers. Not even close...I am in the hole. Now how about the unemployed? Did the tax saving help them? Now how about other public employees? Did the saving help them? Anyone?

    1. Between the cuts in my salary as a county worker and my wife losing her job, we are deep in the hole. Add to that that my property taxes actually went up 4.5% and well...

    2. Your property taxes (and mine) went up because Milwaukee county is still run by liberals. Wait until the state is run by one and there are no more limits on property tax increases, and no means to balance a budget other than tax increases. I would assume if you got everything you wanted politically you and the teachers would come out slightly ahead, but the rest of the state residents would take a loss at the end of the year. Let Falk justify that in the debates.

  10. Yes imustberacist, the ONLY teachers who are leaving teaching is Wisconsin were the lousy ones! That's a good one. Truth is that the ones who are leaving are the ones who could do anything with their lives and CHOSE to become teachers. Unlike your family relations who were teachers because that was the only thing they were good enough to do.

    Wisconsin is fast gaining a reputation across the US as the WORST place to teach in the country. Our colleges of education in Wisconsin have seen a 50-70% drop in the number of young people wanting to be teachers. Long after this civil war in Wisconsin ends, Wisconsin will suffer the ill effects of being known as the WORST state in America to teach, to live, and to raise a family.

    No amount of Koch dollars will be able to heal the deep wounds in our state that Walker's civil war has opened up. The future of Wisconsin is very bleak indeed.

  11. Yes I do say that the reason for the mass retirments is greed. Its a fact that would take even Capper 4 paragraphs to spin away from. If you truly love what you do you are not doing it for the money. I am not saying they have to love their job, but if they are there just to push up there retirement account with the hopes of retiring and being re-hired in order to double dip at the trough I say good bye and good riddens. So far I have not seen a teaching position go unfilled yet so save your reputation claims.
    Just wait until Illinois cannot pay there state pensions, then we will see just how bleak WI's future is.

  12. Lord, but you're illiterate, imustberacist, with yet another comment filled with misspellings and more writing errors.

    And yet, you keep expecting us to put any credence into your pronunciamentos on education. The illogic of the content of your comments is even worse. You ought not have to be in the field of education, or even educated enough to spell correctly, to understand that the workers who are hired away by other employers are the best workers.

    You also need not be even minimally educated to understand supply-and-demand, so that in a state with the highest job losses in the country, and a high jobless rate, positions in any field can be filled. And in the teaching field, Walker's cuts have caused more than 2000 to be laid off this year alone.

    But in the teaching field, supply-and-demand works for you and your ilk only for now. Wait and see what it will cost you to replace teachers fleeing the field or fleeing this state entirely. In a few years, with the impact of a reported 50 percent drop in the number of students in Wisconsin seeking education degrees, the bill will come due. It always does.

    However, as to your final uneducated statement, please: You have been informed again and again of the vast differences between the Illinois and Wisconsin pension systems, that Wisconsin's is adjudged the most solidly funded pension fund in the country, etc. So peddle that pronunciamento somewhere else populated by others who also refuse to become educated and informed citizens. This is not such a place so not the place for you, where you only embarrass yourself, again and again.

  13. Well then, I guess I didn't realize I was commenting to the elite educators like yourself. I felt the need to qualify my comment above, but I did not realize I needed to proof read it so as not to help you confirm your elite status.

    You are what is wrong with education. You feel you are better than the average taxpayer and your annoyed when they don't look up to you. So keep crossing your t's and dotting your i's Because it looks like we are going to see if "the sky is falling". Every private sector union has made concessions in this economy, what makes you think you don't have to?

    I have seen what has become of education in Wisconsin under union influence. Seems to be more about the teachers than the children. At least you didn't deny my allegation of greed fueling the mass retirements.

    And yes, I will continue to compare WI to Illinois because their government is taking the exact opposite path as Walker to try to correct their budget imbalance, unsuccessfully I might add.

    I dont mind you looking down your nose at me. I have enough people that look up to me, I dont need you to. I constantly question my opinions and listen to others. Thats why I put them out there. But I might not be as ignorant as you think, just because I dont hold as much value in perfectly written paragraphs. Which by-the-way have done little to convince me that my theories are wrong.

  14. I read Walker's comment that much of the deficit can be blamed on the "expanse of government." Logic would dictate that that means he would first cut government expenses, such as the staff at the governor's mansion, travel costs, legislative aides, legislative salaries, his own salary, etc.--and do this first to show he was truly serious and willing to share the hits that he expects everyone else to suffer. But nowhere have I been able to find any evidence of government cuts that actually affect those operating the government. This certainly makes clear to me what his real agenda is. Get rid of him--he is dishonest and he does not truly care about the people he is supposed to serve. And his claim about fighting special interests when he came to office and making reforms is really a joke when you look at where his support and funding are coming from. He just means special interests that are not his own and his parties favorite special interests. What a hypocrite!And by the way, I am an Independent. I vote for both Republican and Democratic candidates, but this guy needs to go!