Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Walker really won Wisconsin

Comic book economist
Best analysis ever of what really happened in Wisconsin by Jeffrey Sommers at Counterpunch.

Sommers, a Wisconsin resident,  writes that Walker took advantage of anger over  falling living standards. Working families in Wisconsin are poorer than they used to be because of globalization, union busting and predatory corporations -- not because government workers make too much money. But Walker managed to shift the voters' concerns over the private economy onto government:
(Gov. Scott) Walker was able to capitalize on the frustration over the continued erosion of living standards and insecurity felt by most Wisconsinites.  Walker provided a false empowerment to the electorate by transforming them from victims to owners of the system.  His campaign rebranded the electorate as “the taxpayer” or veritable stockowners of a company they owned: government.  The people would take charge of their lives through a Walker-led movement against government waste by union and bureaucratic “elites.”
Yes, Walker and the billionaires he served wildly outspent his opponent. For months they carpeted Wisconsin's media with half-truths and propaganda. Still, his message worked. That's because he had a way to put more money into workers' pockets without solving their economic problems: tax cuts:
The public sector is an inviting target for (private-sector workers). It’s one of the few places where the working and middle class still receive decent benefits (medical, retirement, etc.).   This makes them suspect to a population that has largely lost these.  Yet, rather than ask why they too no longer enjoy these, instead, Walker’s supporters want to know why the people in their employ (the public sector) still have them?  Walker’s supporters largely assume that “we are broke.”  They fail to recognize that the US economy is larger than it has ever been, but that wages have not risen with economic growth since Reagan.
Unfortunately, that isn't the way to help the economy. Even Ronald Reagan understood that. Writes Sommers:
...Reagan gave up on the cost cutting enterprise as hopeless within two years of assuming office.  Indeed, Reagan’s early austerity policies further depressed the economy.  Thus, Reagan “corrected” and launched a massive military Keynesian debt-fueled binge that pulled the economy from its torpor.  Meanwhile, given the US success in 1970s of getting oil priced in dollars, Reagan was able to press the pedal to the floor on both government spending and the dollar printing presses alike. 
Unfortunately, Walker has a comic-book understanding of economics. He doesn't understand that it was spending under Reagan that improved the economy.

Walker's austerity policies did to Wisconsin in his first year what Reagan's cost-cutting did to the country in two years. The Badger State has the worst jobs record in the nation.

Sommers predicts that Walker's attacks on unions will only get worse unless he admits his mistake. He probably won't.

Buckle your seat belts, everybody.