The radical concept of fiscal responsibility

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s George Lightbourn thinks a new era may have dawned in Wisconsin politics:

Over the past year in Madison, the psychology of government is changed.  No, it’s not because of changes to collective bargaining or recalls. The change is that for the first time in a long time, competence and fortitude have value.

For years, the snide undercurrent running through the State Capitol was a belief that the citizens weren’t really up to the task of understanding the state budget.  Why else would our elected leaders so consistently approve budgets that they knew were unbalanced? The press conferences where governors of both parties signed the rivers of red ink into law were scenes where there was more winking going on than a Saturday night in Amsterdam. …

Leading up to the last election for governor, our pollster asked if the public thought the elected leaders in Madison were, “capable of solving the state budget deficit.” Only 23% said they did. 59% of those same citizens told our pollster that they saw the state budget as a big problem.

What a disconnect. It’s not often that you can actually measure public cynicism, but that is exactly what that poll did. It is ironic that the cause for the cynicism was the very political leaders who were counting on the public on being too dim to understand what was really going on in the budget?

Now, after Governor Walker and the Legislature have rather famously – some would say infamously – balanced the state budget, how is the public feeling?  We asked about that last October when 41% of the public said that they actually thought the budget – a budget that included numerous cuts – would actually improve the future quality of life in Wisconsin.  This level of approval is surprising given that most people – even Republicans – tend to get weak in the knees when it comes to spending cuts.

Even more telling was the most recent Marquette Law School poll. Charles Franklin, who runs the poll, took a different approach to testing public sentiment around Walker’s austere budget. Franklin found that fully 71% of Wisconsin adults feel that the middle class in the state, “won’t catch a break unless we get state spending under control.”  In that same February poll, 38% of the respondents said that Walker’s budget would reduce the chance that we have budget deficits in the future.  Only 25% disagreed with that sentiment.

So have we entered a period where nerdy, wonkish budgeting is fashionable?  I think yes.

I guess I’ll agree with Lightbourn when I see the results of Recallarama Part Deux and then the legitimate November elections. I’ll also be more convinced that Republicans have seen the fiscal responsibility light when they pass legislation to officially correctly measure state spending by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles instead of on a cash basis, as well as when spending and tax controls are added to the state Constitution.

I’m not going to waste my time suggesting that state Democrats see the fiscal responsibility light, even though they should. Apparently the party is collectively too dense to figure out that while a significant number of voters may oppose the way that Walker balanced (on a cash basis) the 2011–13 state budget and fixed his predecessor’s deficit in the 2009–11 budget, going back to the way things were will be neither good for the state nor a winner with unattached voters. A Bill Clintonesque Third Way candidate might win a recall election, but if not, would be a frontrunner for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Proof of the ineffectiveness of the bend-over-for-the-government-unions-strategy is that, according to Rasmussen Reports, opponents of Walker’s recall now have an 11-point margin over supporters of his recall. Most distressing for Democrats is that according to Rasmussen, 58 percent of unaffiliated voters oppose Walker’s recall.


A message for Wisconsin CEOs who want to count

The Nicolet Bank Business Pulse has measured the opinions (the “pulse” if you will) of business owners for several years.

The Business Pulse is now expanding statewide. In addition to the 498 participants in the regional Pulses, another 134 business owners and CEOs are participating in the statewide Business Pulse.

Anyone who has read my opinions since 1994 (with the seven-year break from mid-2001 to early 2008) knows how I feel about the importance of Wisconsin business to Wisconsin. William F. Buckley Jr. once said if the choice was to be governed by the faculty of Harvard University or an equivalent number of names at the beginning of the Boston telephone book, he’d choose the latter. (I don’t think the fact he was a Yale graduate had anything to do with that.)

My corollary is that I’d rather be governed by the members of any chamber of commerce in this state, even Madison’s, than any equivalent number of state legislators, regardless of party. Compare the net positive impacts of business people to politicians; business people win by such a large margin that you can’t count that high. Compare the net positive impacts of business to labor unions, and the margin is larger. All that business does is pay people in salaries and employee benefits, provide products and services for their customers, purchase products and services from other businesses, and contribute, financially and otherwise, to the communities in which they have facilities.

Those who survey and poll as their livelihood will tell you that the larger the sample size, the better. So if you’re the ultimate decision-maker in a business, you can have your opinions counted (and find out the opinions of your peers) by signing up at You can also pass on this item to your CEO/business owner/entrepreneur/person-who-makes-the-state’s-economy-go-and-contributes-positively-to-our-quality-of-life friends so they also can participate.

Presty the DJ for March 7

Today in 1962, the Beatles recorded their first radio appearance, on the BBC’s “Teenagers’ Turn — Here We Go”:

Proving that there is no accounting for taste, I present Britain’s number one single today in 1970:

The number one single over here today in 1970 was by an act that had already broken up:

Today in 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Luther R. Campbell aka Luke Skyywalker, et al., Petitioners v. Acuff-Rose Music, Incorporated. Campbell and the rest of 2 Live Crew took Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” …

… and turned it into 2 Live Crew’s “Pretty Woman”:

Since 2 Live Crew hadn’t gotten Acuff–Rose’s permission (though they had asked), Acuff–Rose sued Campbell et al. The Supremes upheld the original U.S. District Court decision that parodies may be protected fair use under Chapter 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.

Birthdays begin with Chris White, who played bass for the Zombies:

Matthew Fisher played keyboards for Procol Harum:

Peter Wolf sang for the J. Geils Band:

Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers:

Matt Frenette played drums for Loverboy:

One death of note today in 1988: Gordon Huntley, pedal steel guitarist of Matthews Southern Comfort: