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The Volleyball Budget Approach

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on February 13, 2011

In volleyball, the basic strategy is to have a blocker hit the ball to the setter, who in turns sets the ball up for the spiker to take the kill shot.

Scott Walker is using a similar approach to the state budget.

He managed to do his block by campaigning on a jobs platform.  He repeatedly boasted that he was going to create 250,000 jobs in the state in four years.  By doing so, he duped the voters into electing him, which is when he really got to work.

Granted, he was given a formidable debt to contend with, but nothing that couldn’t have been handled with some judicious management.  Unfortunately, as anyone paying attention to Milwaukee County for the past eight years could attest, judicious management is far from being one of Walker’s skills.

Now he is setting the budgetary volleyball up for the kill shot with the announcement that the state is facing a budget deficit that has mysteriously ballooned up to $137 million for the rest of this year and up to $3.6 billion for the next two-year budget cycle.

First of all, I would be hesitant to trust the accuracy of any of numbers coming from Walker’s administration.  One doesn’t have to look too far into the past to see the year that, as Milwaukee County Executive, Walker started out claiming a $15 million deficit, only to have that proven to be a lie (in a hearing, nonetheless) and then tried to claim a huge surplus at the end of the year.  I would not be surprised in the least if we found something similar happening now, but on a larger scale.

Besides wondering about the accuracy of Walker’s numbers is the question of how much he has contributed to them.  Since his first day of being in office, Walker has been hell bent to get the WMC agenda shoved through the legislative process before anyone catches on to what was really happening or before other bad news might break for him.

So far, the Walker/WMC agenda has cost the state in the area of $152 million in lost revenue.  So much for the mantra of stop digging when you’re in a hole.  And the best part? All of this money being squandered, not to mention the environment and our collective health, and not one single job has been created.  (Unless you count the two additional security guards that Walker feels he needs.)

But now that Walker has the budgetary volleyball set up with his self-inflated deficit numbers, he is getting ready to spike the ball.  He’s even doing it with a slight feint.

In his announcement of the deficit, he has his mouthpiece start putting the fear campaign into things:

“Bill collectors are waiting at the door of the state Capitol,” Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement. “Without taking action to reduce the deficit in the current fiscal year, thousands of Wisconsin children and families could lose their health-care coverage through BadgerCare, and there would need to be even more aggressive spending cuts in the future.”

Does anyone really believe that Walker gives a darn about the poor people who need that health care coverage?

I’ve already discussed what Walker will be doing, but here is a recap:

Walker will use the deficit to state that he needs certain concessions from the state workers.  These concessions will never materialize, however, for the simple fact that he will never actually put them down as a proposal in negotiations with the state’s unions.  He will simply continue to use them as dishonest talking points to try to influence the public’s perception.

Then, when the concessions don’t materialize out of thin air, he will go for the spike, by both slashing Badger Care rolls by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people and laying off state workers by the hundreds, if not the thousands.  He’ll also use this as an excuse to continue with other nefarious activities such as eliminating worker’s rights from all workers, not just public sector union members, giving even more lavish benefits, grants and tax cuts to his campaign supporters and WMC members (yes, those two categories do have a great overlap).

The money he will actually save, if there is indeed any, will be negligible at best. The laid off state workers will be collecting unemployment benefits that will further that desperate situation, and negate most of the savings by not having them on the payroll.  Any benefits financial gains the tax payers would see by abandoning the needy would be more than destroyed by the subsequent astronomical hikes in health care costs and insurance premiums.

In summary, Walker is setting himself up quite well, even I have to grudgingly admit.  Sadly, for some inexplicable reason, unless you count sheer greed and/or malice, he has chosen the poor, the working class and the tax payers as his opponents.

The only question now is do we roll over and play dead or do we try to block his attack?

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