It must be difficult to be a business publication editor in the People’s Republic of Madison.
Either that, or Joe Vanden Plas, senior editor of In Business, has fallen victim to the Stockholm Syndrome. Vanden Plas claims “I don’t really mind a gubernatorial recall” against Gov. Scott Walker, who is only the most pro-business Wisconsin governor of the 21st century:
Before I get into my reasoning, let me state the following: I voted for Walker because I thought the policies he spelled out during the 2010 campaign would improve the business climate in Wisconsin. While there is always room for improvement — we still need to enact a Wisconsin-centric approach to boosting venture capital deployment — I believe the governor has delivered on that promise.
Walker also promised to get the state’s fiscal house in order, and even though we have more challenges with future budgets, we now have a balanced budget. Here’s the rub: he never told us, while campaigning in 2010, that he would limit collective bargaining in order to get there. That little bomb was dropped a couple of days after the election, after victory had been secured.
This is where Vanden Plas’ entire argument falls apart before it really gets going. Readers of this blog know that Walker has done exactly what he said he was going to do, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in June and August 2010, and as repeated by a teacher union publication last fall.
That fact makes Vanden Plas’ next assertions dubious:
Republicans calling for recall reform want malfeasance in office to be the main criterion under which recall elections can be considered. That should certainly be one of them, but what about politicians who promise one thing during a campaign and do just the opposite while in office? Or those who camouflage their real intentions during a campaign and then spring a surprise once the votes are counted?
As much as I appreciate the Governor’s attempts to help job creators, he was guilty of the latter and it was immensely unfair to voters.
Let me amend that: Vanden Plas’ assertions are not dubious if the governor he’s referring to is Walker’s predecessor, James Doyle, who said, “We should not, we must not and I will not raise taxes,” and then raised taxes by $2.1 billion. Voters never got a chance to vote on that since the tax increase was passed right after the 2008 election … except that that tax increase added on to Democrats’ gross incompetence helps explain the 2010 election results. Perhaps Vanden Plas was thinking of the 2009–10 Legislature in his last sentence, “A defeat would send a message to people in both parties — no post-campaign surprises or you could also be recalled.” And as for camouflaging “real intentions,” as far as I know not a single Democratic candidate in Recallarama uttered the words “collective bargaining,” which was disingenuous at best.
I have to wonder why a business magazine would take the side of (1) government employees over those whose (excessive) taxes pay their salaries and (2) government employee unions over the magazine’s own readers, but that’s what Vanden Plas does:
We will have an opportunity to weigh the benefits of a balanced budget and more taxpayer-friendly property tax bills this December (another Walker promise) versus what I hope will be Walker’s opponent outlining an alternative fiscal path.
I have no problem negotiating with public employees, during a budget crunch, to have them contribute more to their health care and pension benefits, so long as they have the opportunity to recoup what has been lost through collective bargaining when economic conditions improve. Diminishing collective bargaining power removes that possibility.
Voters had an “alternative fiscal path” to choose from in November 2010. That path included multi-billion-dollar tax increases, and multi-billion-dollar state budget deficits. Voters emphatically chose the path Walker and Republicans represented. Since January, opponents of Walker have responded by (1) denying that grotesquely large deficits (as in the second largest per capita deficits in the nation) are a problem and (2) proposing to raise taxes.
Vanden Plas’ praise of public employee collective bargaining belies the fact that unions are seen as a negative in nearly every state business climate comparison — comparisons in which Wisconsin has advanced from bad under Doyle to mediocre under Walker and will undoubtedly slide back toward the basement should Walker lose a recall election.
The correct time to object to an elected official’s or party’s political direction is at the next regularly scheduled election, which is less than a year from now. Voters can throw out the entire Assembly and switch control of the Senate back to Democrats if they like. The current path guarantees that the next Democratic governor and members of a Democratic-controlled Legislature will be recalled at the first politically expedient opportunity, which will make this state ungovernable for anybody. (Unless something far worse happens.)
The Dane County economy is more influenced by government — state government, the University of Wisconsin, and the state’s second largest county and city government — then any other metropolitan area in this state. (Imagine if Walker, instead of requiring state employees to pay more for their benefits, had laid off a couple thousand state employees.) But businesses in the People’s Republic of Madison are not immune from the economic laws and forces that affect every other business in Wisconsin. Anything that makes businesses less profitable (as in excessive taxes to fund excessive government employee pay and benefits) is bad for the entire state.