Friday, March 11, 2011

Ironic Dissent

From a post on the Isthmus forum, in response to the "To All My Friends:"

My favorite part was this:
But apparently we have to do it anyway. Because you know, it's economic theory. Even as it stands unproven, we heard it once. We don't know the actual economics behind it, and we don't know if it's being applied correctly, but we heard it somewhere.

So, this guy basically admits that he and many others don't understand the economic arguments behind the political changes happening in our state and across the country. He doesn't propose any counterargument based on an alternative interpretation of economic principles, so I presume he doesn't have one.

Not true at all, and actually, it's not even my responsibility in the matter to articulate an alternate proposal. The burden of proof is on those proposing a solution. The Governor owes Wisconsin a full and honest airing of as many alternatives possible. Especially when livelihoods are on the line.

If we're going to cut public salaries and jobs, the folks making the economic claim need to justify that these losses are the best and only way to keep Wisconsin's economy moving. We have yet to be presented with a single shred of evidence, with any specificity, that taking money and jobs away from teachers and other public workers is the best way to create new jobs. Walker's plan is not the only way to balance the budget - there are an infinite number of other ways we can go about making up the shortfall. Each different possible method should be laid out, heavily scrutinized, and debated. An easy example: raise sales taxes 1%. We'd see a relatively minimal impact on the economy, and, according to UWEC Economics Professor Thomas Kemp, our state would raise $860 million in just one fiscal year.

It's true: tax cuts do work from time to time, but there's ample evidence and basic math to support whether or not a specific tax cut will actually stimulate a specific economy. The Governor and his counterparts have provided no such documentation - only blind ideology. Blind ideology should never be enough for us to conduct public policy. It's irresponsible on its face, even if no one gets impacted, and even if our broken clocks are right twice a day. But when we're talking about the livelihoods of our neighbors, we owe it to each other to look for the best way forward, with the least amount of visible impact.

Look: I don't always side with the populist mob. Eau Claire had a controversial plan to build an addition to its county jail last year. All my liberal friends were 100% opposed. I'll be honest, though (and this may get some folks pissed off!): I looked at the numbers carefully, and at the end of the day, I supported the expansion. Maybe I missed some data, but the information that was publicly available pointed directly toward the option the county ended up choosing. In the end, the beauty of the process we had here was a complete airing of all the issues, financial, environmental, community-effecting, and otherwise. There were many valid points on either side. The community benefits from a healthy debate where each side is willing to compromise. And you know what? We're all still friends, united as a community.

There was no compromise this winter - only dishonesty and manipulation.

Wisconsin is ours - it's not just yours, it's not just "theirs," and it's not just mine. The sheer level of callousness toward those deeply affected by these cuts is difficult to swallow. But I think over time, that will fade away. People will begin to see the ripple effects that Walker's plan is going to have on the rest of the community, and wish we'd had a more serious, considered debate on these policy items before we rushed headlong into policies that may sound wonderful ideologically, but end up devastating in a pragmatic sense.