SYNESTHESIA

Feeling the noise in our cross-wired America

Ron Legro

Ron Legro
Location
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, USA
Birthday
October 12
Bio
A lapsed and reformed journalist, one-time for-profit soldier of fortune in the private sector, and political functionary, Ron is now re-learning the joys of hanging around while watching the microcosm unfold. But he's not above rising out of his enlightened stupor to call out perfidy and hypocrisy when he sees it. Ron was an award-winning reporter who worked at several newspapers, including the Milwaukee Sentinel and Wall Street Journal. His assignments took him aboard ice breakers and into the private lives of sexually miscreant clergy. In his years pounding the street with a notebook, he covered everything from tavern brawls to mob hits to political assassinations. He has contributed to various magazines, incuding Time. As editor-in-chief of a weekly public affairs journal, he led coverage of Wisconsin government down to every last legislative vote. Ron also pulled duty as a daily TV columnist and film critic, who spent most of his space examining the sociopolitical implications of mass media. He moved on to become a consultant to communities, nonprofit interest groups and government institutions on open networks. He's also worked for a power utility, several elected officials, a housing authority, and a university. He produced cable TV programming and once acted in a commercial, just to see what it was like. He and his dear wife enjoy beach combing on Lake Michigan near their home. They go bike hiking on city streets or trails. They like sailing and cross-country skiing, too, but never seem to find the time. They hang their laundry on clothes lines. That's them in the photo, regarding the ultra-modernist, bird-winged cathedral that is the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Ron Legro's Links

MY LINKS
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 4, 2011 12:20PM

In Wisconsin, it's teachers vs. millionaires

Rate: 22 Flag
monopoly moneyWhen Wisconsin Republicans and their enablers yell about the  need to cut the pay of average public employees to balance the state budget, they leave out some very inconvenient and illuminating facts. 

Let's consider a few of those facts in comparative fashion and see what's really going on here. For the moment, let's limit our focus to Wisconsin school  teachers, who represent a vital component in the continued development of the  state's wealth and economic security. Let's compare those teachers economically  and demographically to Wisconsin's millionaires:

Number of teachers in Wisconsin: 59,552
Number of millionaires in Wisconsin: 89,977

Yes, it's amazing, but true: Wisconsin by far has more millionaires than school teachers. Suffice to say, the two categories do not appreciably overlap.

Average Wisconsin teacher salary: $46,390 (US rank: 28th among all states)

Typical wage cut faced by a Wisconsin school teacher if Gov. Scott Walker's non- negotiable give-backs are enacted: $5,567 to 6,958 per year (based on net total compensation reduction caused by Walker's plan).

Continuing average income boost for millionaires in Wisconsin and elsewhere, thanks to the recent extension of  2001 Bush-era federal tax cuts: Approximately $100,000 per year.
 
So here's the bottom line no one on the red side of the political aisle will  ever bother to acknowledge:

If the State of Wisconsin increased taxes on resident millionaires to take back just one-twentieth of the extra money they've been keeping in their pockets thanks to the Bush tax cuts, that would totally wipe out the need to slash teacher salaries under Walker's scheme. Totally.

Would Wisconsin millionaires walking around with an extra $100K in their pockets every year notice the loss of five or six grand apiece? Unlikely.

Will hard-working school teachers notice the loss of five or six grand from each of their pockets, thanks to Gov. Walker? Damn right they will.

Read that again, because it reflects our broader public policies quite well. It adds up to: No pain for millionaires, who already in many  cases enjoy effective tax rates below those imposed on rank and file workers, including teachers; and, meanwhile, huge pain for teachers. 

And none of the above even takes into account state tax cuts for  businesses  that Gov. Walker recently rammed through the state legislature, before Democratic state senators walked away lest he succeed in making further draconian moves against the state's public workers --whom, studies show, already learn less than their direct counterparts in the private sector.
 
Some day, Wisconsin may actually secure new businesses that may create new if not better jobs, but at  this rate the state will also have a less educated and skilled workforce to take advantage.
 
If you like the idea of a society where a small class of wealthy elites drive the mass of workers to put in long hours for low pay, few workplace protections and rare benefits, welcome to Neo-Wisconsin, where the plan to accelerate the socioeconomic race to the bottom is proceeding, based on a largely illusionary fiscal "emergency." The fiscal magicians on the right are busy taking us back to the good old days of the '90s. That is: the 1890s.

What does it say about America's national values? Just this: Being wealthy makes  you worthy of greater reward from your fellow citizens; however, being a public school teacher or any other kind of public worker (except maybe law enforcement, a category Gov. Walker's own measure exempts from his attention) means you're greedy and deserve less.

If you're a struggling private-sector worker whose pay has lagged in recent  years, and who is rightfully angry about Wall Street greed, think hard upon these events. Some of those Wall Street backers of Walker and his ilk have managed to get some of  you very angry at precisely the wrong people. Sure, we'd all like to be millionaires, but is it right to take significant dollars out of the pockets of people who teach your kids, and give those dollars and many more to rich folks who would, from the standpoint of economic utility find the additional income insignificant?
 
Is that fair? Is that just? Does that even  make any kind of rational public policy sense?

This little exercise might be called a teachable moment, but you have not and will not hear it mentioned by Republicans, or for that matter many in the mainstream news media.  Because, increasingly, the conventional wisdom is that being wealthy in America is a virtue; whereas being a teacher is a moral defect, and, moreover, that the two conditions are utterly unrelated.
 
Next victim.
 
ADDENDUM: One correspondent privately responds to this blog item, saying the argument is a  little misleading in that data used to arrive at the 80,000 number consider total net worth, not annual income. Further, says the correspondent, about 5,000 taxpayers in Wisconsin make over a million annually, and there are 32,000 in the top income tax bracket annually (over $200,000).

I appreciate those additional details, but my thought experiment remains. Let's assess my imaginary 5 percent surtax on Bush tax cuts just for that 32,000. That's still a big heap of offset to what the relatively modest-income teachers are getting hit with under Walker, after two previous years in which they absorbed earlier, three-percent cuts.
 
If my imaginary surtax doesn't make up the entire difference, then raise it somewhat, or make the teachers absorb a salary hit that is not so onerous. The wealthy have all sorts of tax excuses, and some seem legitimate. A farmer whose assets are mostly in his or her land is not collecting all that Bush tax cut benefit, for instance.  Other excuses (i.e., "but we create jobs with our tax cuts!") are not convincing.
 
What's uncontestable is that the Walker salary cuts will drive some good teachers from the profession, and stress others out by increasing class sizes and reducing other school resources. Not good for the teachers, or, just as important, our students. 

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
This information should be shouted from every street corner. Thank you!
Dear God, taxes are high enough in Wisconsin already, which is why some of us are now residents of Florida. It isn't taxation that's the problem, and most of the millionaires I've known in Wisconsin are incredibly generous. There are solutions to be found here; this isn't one of them.
A formidable solution! Very well done and the point is crystal clear for anyone who has ears. The generosity of the anecdotal and exaggerated few referenced by our dear *Kathy Riordan* has nothing to do with reducing tax cuts for those privileged few of our citizens who are not feeling the economic stress in their day to day lives. So this is indeed a fair and rational call for action.

The Republican agenda as expressed by Gov. Walker and those who advocate this position exemplifies the decadence and shear depravity we have allowed our dear fellow citizens to sink into. Therefore let us promptly forgive them AFTER relieving them of this sort of foul, immoral depravity that render and prevent their sad, ill awareness from seeing what is clear to those who want less.

Indeed, the wealthy class do not know it, but they subconsciously want the public to rescue them so that they may repent, and once again know the true joy and bliss of CARE. Verily.
Typical Marxist bloviation: Adjust income and assets by simply taking from those with more and giving to those with less. Market economy? No, tyranical Marxist economy.
> Typical Marxist bloviation: Adjust income and assets by simply taking from those with more and giving to those with less. Market economy? No, tyranical Marxist economy.

Well, badscotsman, it seems you don't agree with Robin Hood, so I guess the only solution is the Walkeresque, GOP method of stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. You've forgotten that Gov. Walker has mandated corporate tax breaks roughly equal to the money he's taking away from working-class state employees. If that sounds Marxist to you, you're one heck of a strange, strange capitalist.
I think all the Republicon governors are using the same playbook. In Michigan, everyone gets screwed except the rich and business. Income tax and sales tax (a regressive tax) are going up. Pensions will be taxable, HUGE funding cuts for communities, schools and universities. Businesses, however, get a huge tax cut. Where have we heard this theory before? Trickle down economics didn't work when Reagan tried it either.

The Republican Stategy: use an economic downturn to justify cutting any and all benefits that help the poor or middle classes.
Since government workers are the only jobs that can't be shipped overseas, bust public unions.

The Republicon Philosophy: Social Darwinism . (Odd for a party that doesn't believe in evolution)

The Republicon Goals: Eliminate the middle class so we go back to a medieval-like society of the impoverished (serfs) and the super-rich (Lords). Eliminate democracy through a joint congresssional/corporate/military cabal.

The Republicon Endgame: Oligarchy/Plutocracy

WAKE UP AMERICANS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE

Thanks for an article I wish I'd written.
I'll post a joke I found the other day on a Big Salon comments thread:

A CEO, a tea party activist, and a public employee union member are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle. The CEO takes eleven and then turns to the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants part of your cookie."
Terrific argument. The fact that it cut a bit too close to home for some only attests to its logic.

I am not interested in the "generosity" of millionaires. I'm tired of government-backed wealth shifting that puts more and more into the hands of fewer and fewer. This seems a reasonable solution to anyone but a millionaire, or someone who could easily not even miss a "minuscule" $5,000. Discretionary money doesn't even exist for many of us--maybe not even for most of us. "Discretionary money," for me, is when I have a few bucks left over after the bills are paid to make a few payments on medical bills. For the small group of elite in Wisconsin, well, gee, maybe they might have to take a pass on one of their 8 or 9 annual vacation trips. Awwww.
This is a very interesting post, especially the talking point of it – to compare rich people with a middle class people, suggest for the rich ones how to spend their money and how much they would be able to live without, and, after all, become so agitated about it. This is a very typical view of a very uneducated person. Do you know that the riches 50% of the taxpayers pay around 97% of all income taxes? At the same, the poorer half is paying about 3.3%? The top fifth of households makes 56% of pre-tax income but pays 86% of all individual income tax revenue collected. Almost 48% of the population does not pay any taxes at all!! So what, will you ask? Rich can afford it. They probably can, but do they want to? Just a few examples:
In 2009 the state legislature in Oregon raised the tax rate to 10.8% on joint-filer income of between $250,000 and $500,000, and to 11% on income above $500,000. Only New York City’s rate was higher. Oregon’s liberal voters ratified the tax increase on individuals and another on businesses in January of that year, no doubt feeling good about their “shared sacrifice.”
Congratulations. Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. The Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reported that after the tax was raised “income tax and other revenue collections began plunging so steeply that any gains from the two measures seemed trivial.”
One reason revenues were so low was that about one-quarter of the rich tax filers seemed to have gone missing. The state expected 38,000 Oregonians to pay the higher tax, but only 28,000 did. The rest of them simply left the state. When Maryland recently enacted a big millionaire tax about a third of the states highest income earners moved away.
Raise taxes on rich people and they leave, taking of course, their tax money with them. Raise taxes on corporations – and they leave (of course, without local workers) Learn from former N.J. Gov. Corzine. He raised taxes and the very rich left. Tom Golisano, one of the richest businessman and philanthropist in NY state, took all the monies he used to give away here, and moved it to FLORIDA. Lower taxes are better for all. We must live within our means. This means reduced spending, not increased taxes. I understand how difficult it is for union members to loose their benefits (or have to start paying some money for them). It’s much more difficult to loose what you’ve had, then not to have it in the first place. Unfortunately, we’re living in a very difficult times. I am pretty sure we’ll survive, and I am absolutely sure that you will, too.
Great post! The more people talk about this, the more the country will see who the real enemy is. Wherever appropriate I mention that I am old enough to remember the 90% tax bracket for income tax. Nelson Rockefeller, the former governor of New York and Vice President, was in this bracket, solely because of his thieving grandfather. He paid his income taxes without complaint.
I love you. This is the last thing I'm going to read tonight. We are heading to Madison in the morning and meeting Walker's "Americans for Prosperity" bus tour along the way. I wonder how much the Koch brothers had to pay those folks to hop on that bus...
Perhaps there is an exchange rate possible between life extension and finances. This could go into effect as soon as anyone becomes a millionaire. Once attaining that status it's obvious millionaires are a burden to society so their extravagant life style should be reflected in how much of that life society can afford. It seems society is suffering so much from this burden that perhaps a millionaire should be permitted the luxury of that life for five years. Then they could be painlessly dispatched and turned into catfood. Exceptions could be made for people with exceptional talents such as clowns, acrobats, and an Olympics winner at ice skating. Adept Wall Street financiers should be executed immediately as they attain a million dollars since that would discourage outrageous bonuses.
Are there any recalls happening in your area of the state? We are collecting signatures for our district senator this weekend (Sheila Harsdorf).
Its a shame those generous millionaires who Kathy Riordan knows aren't generous enough to give up some of their tax breaks. Maybe they're very generous in other ways?
I love this. thank-you.
I get tired of the tendency to treat the rich as evil or greedy. You've made it clear that's the way you think, by bringing up Wall Street. It seems to me that vanishingly few people who work on Wall Street live in Wisconsin. Whether you are right or wrong that Wall Street Investment banker greed caused the current economic crisis, that is irrelevant to the issue of Wisconsin millionaires.

In America, the vast majority of the rich are rich because they've worked hard --- and that is a virtue, as far as I'm concerned.

Further, the tax the evil rich is an easy out. Rather than discussing the tax burden and Wisconsin's in high in general, and higher still for the higher income brackets, you want to tax them over there. Not us. They deserve it, we don't.

Let's add to this the fact that the net pay of teachers in Wisconsin ignores the far more generous than average benefits and the nine month year. Some calculations bring this number to 100K$/year, which is, by most counts, a generous salary.

The two questions are: Is the tax structure of Wisconsin fair? and
Is the pay for teachers sufficient to attract produce a large enough pool of good teachers?

You addressed neither of those questions.
You have, no doubt, the right to be tired, but if you think the scams that Wall St pulled that knocked down the economy don't deserve to be punished with forthright criticism and jail sentences you are living in some sort of dream world.
Didn't know the Wisconsin flare-up only involved school teachers.
> The two questions are: Is the tax structure of Wisconsin fair? and
Is the pay for teachers sufficient to attract produce a large enough pool of good teachers?

The tax structure of Wisconsin used to be very fair; now it is fairly regressive, as is the federal tax code, which is to say, it punishes rank and file workers and gives wealthier residents and businesses unwarranted tax breaks, paid for largely by those aforementioned rank and file workers -- which was the point of my article.

As to whether teacher pay is sufficient to attract quality: Wisconsin teacher pay averages 28th among states. Cutting their pay by a significant proportion after two years of earlier cuts surely will not attract as many good teachers going forward.

Finally, several studies have concluded that public workers in Wisconsin -- even with their more generous pension and health care benefits -- are still paid about 5 percent less than comparable workers in the private sector. Take out eventual pension benefits (which after all are not current income and may never be income for some workers who quit or die early) and the Wisconsin public workers compare even less favorably -- about 25 percent less. And that's before Walker's draconian cuts.
What don't I understand? I don't understand how "tax cuts" to the rich create jobs- I think that the opposite is true. Yes, raising taxes on people with disposable income creates jobs! How? Let me tell you. If you're well into the top tax bracket, say, by a million dollars, and the top tax rate is 25%, you're likely to pay the $250,000 and bank the rest, right? Well if the top tax bracket is 91%, the highest it's been at any point in our history, you'd end up paying $910,000 and you'd only be able to keep $90,000 (or the equivalent of two teachers' annal salary.... before taxes!) So what are you going to do?

Reinvest the million dollars in your freakin' business and write off the entire million dollars. You're going to buy/upgrade equipment. You're going to expand. You might actually hire some more people! Maybe you'll start an entirely new enterprise and hire an entirely new staff to run it! In any case, high taxes are only applied to money that is taken out of the system. Money that is put back into a business is written off and no taxes are paid on it at all! The only problem is that the cost of sending jobs overseas can also be written off- that should end. The idea that lowering taxes on really, really wealthy people creates jobs? That should end too. It's a falsehood that is creating a lot of problems right now.
"In America, the vast majority of the rich are rich because they've worked hard."

Where in the world is the evidence of that? I've known some wealthy people (some are cousins and other distant relatives.) Very few (none, I'd venture to say) work the long arduous hours that I do. Some work about average-hard. MANY not only don't work much, but brag about how they earn money in their leisure, while others labor.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the richest half-percent have achieved their meteoric rise in fortunes through unethical "investing." They've pulled another couple percentages along with them. When the bottom fell out in September 2008, they all panicked as a group, because they knew they were not contributing to the gross national product--they were not building true wealth in any sense of the word--it was all on paper, fabricated, a systemic Ponzi scheme. Yet we "had" to bail them out. What a load of malarkey.

Get familiar with the writing of Matt Taibbi. Seriously.
> Didn't know the Wisconsin flare-up only involved school teachers.

Of course it doesn't. There are 60,000 public school teachers in Wisconsin but about 374,000 public workers at all local and state levels in the state. I simply chose teachers as one category to employ for my thought experiment. It could have been engineers, highway plowers, natural resources biologists, accountants, public defenders and all the other hard working public employees who will see similar cuts in their pay.
"We are heading to Madison"

If you make it, please pick up after you. At the moment, Wisconsin taxpayers are being burdened with huge cleanup costs attributable solely to ignorant and slovenly protesters who, typically, have no respect for the property of others. And, come to think of it, that's what this post is basically all about.
> At the moment, Wisconsin taxpayers are being burdened with huge cleanup costs attributable solely to ignorant and slovenly protesters

No, they're not. First, if you have been at any of the huge rallies, it's simply amazing how clean the Capitol areas have been kept -- not just by state workers, but by the protesters themselves. If you're referring to the Walker administration's claim that it will cost $7.5 million to clean up the halls of the Capitol, well, late this week administration officials admitted the actual cost would be only a fraction of that. The Walker lieutenants are just blowing more smoke out there in hopes of making people think there's a fire. It's just smoke.
Thanks for keeping us in the know with your well-researched information. Much of what you present I had read on the NPR and WPR website and the Wisconsin State Journal site. I notice, too, that the NY Times has some good straight news stories, and some thoughtful editorials. Keep sharing your knowledge with us here.

PS--I carried a Hefty garbage bag with me on February 18. I not only carried out my own garbage, but I collected from others. (Apparently, public employees need to eat. Go figure.)

Unless that attitude of respect for the building changed drastically during the next week, I have a hard time believing that the damage was 7.2 million. Crazy. (I did see that the latest estimate is closer to 340, 000 dollars, but even that is dependent upon the people they hire to clean the stone.)

Oh, I never saw the palm trees lining State Street either, but that could be because I was too busy shouting. . . .or maybe I was dodging snowflakes. . . .which never showed up on the Fox News clip either. Crazy. Anyone who lives here knows how much snow is on the ground and how much of the crap we've had this winter.
You want 89,977 millionaires in Wisconsin to give up 1/20th of the $100,000 you claim they “received” from the extension of the Bush tax cuts to “wipe out the need to slash teacher salaries”. It’s a good thing you ain’t the Governor.

The Wisconsin (2 year) budget deficit was estimated by the outgoing Democratic administration to be $2.2 billion. Walker estimates it to be $3.6 billion. Either way your ‘plan’ covers less than $450,000,000. Or, is it that teachers are the only one’s in Wisconsin who matter in your world? The rest of the unfunded liabilities aren’t important. . . I got it. . . .

Later, you seem to admit that you don’t know the difference between possessing the wealth to be a millionaire and earning a million dollars a year. Now all of a sudden, only 5,000 taxpayers are supposed to cover a $2.2 billion to $3.6 billion deficit? I note that you conveniently forgot to make that calculation.

Let’s see. . that would be between $440,000 and $720,000 apiece. But, who cares? They’re rich! They can afford it! They OWE it to us! We’re ENTITLED to the money those rich people in New York City cheated us out of. . . .

Ohhhhhh. . OK. . that’s really too much for those Chippendale furniture owning – cocktail party people. Let’s stretch this deficit over the 32,000 Wisconsinites who earn more than $200,000 per year. . . That’s up to $112,500 each, on TOP of what they now pay in taxes . . . Yeah. . .THAT’s the solution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, of course, all the foregoing neglects the ongoing unfunded liabilities that progressive thinking has brought to Wisconsin. About half the current estimated debt seems tied to the State’s Medicaid program. . . . But, again, I got it. . . we have to take care of them teachers. . . and we’re gonna make those stingy rich people do it. . . . after all it’s all their fault. .. . and we need our kids to know that pie are squared.

Walker seems determined to rid Wisconsin of the kind of thinking displayed in your post.
Jan Sand:
You display the kind of thinking I really despise. The topic here is Wisconsin and its state taxes. If you live in Wisconsin, you almost certainly don't work on Wall Street. Wisconsin isn't known for being a hub of finance, either, so one can conclude that the average Wisconsin millionaire had little to do with the Wall Street crash.

So, if you're punishing Wisconsin millionaires for Wall Street, you're basically saying to be rich is to be bad.

To prove my point, the richest man in Wisconsin, John Menard, made his money on a chain of home improvement stores. Kohler, the next richest, manufactures plumbing supplies. The next are a few Johnsons of Johnson Wax. Then you get a Kellog of breakfast cereal fame.
Snippy:
The rich people I know work very long hours, not including the time they spend on airplanes, which is a special form of hell. All the rich people I know worked for their money.

Let's take, for example, the three richest men in America, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. They all founded the companies that made them rich. They didn't do it by taking long lunch breaks and playing golf all weekend.

Let's take the richest men in Wisconsin: Menard founded a chain of home improvement stores. Kohler manufactures plumbing supplies. The Johnsons made their fortune on cleaning supplies, The Kellogs selling cereal.

Yes, there are some people who made their money manipulating Wall Street, but they don't represent the bulk of the rich.

The next point is that the top tax bracket includes successful professionals: top lawyers, doctors, managers who earn their income by being very good at their profession and people who earn a thousand times as much.
Ron--
This is one of the frustrating things about the news. It's all spin. I've read in credible sources that the comparable pay of teachers is much higher. I presume you used credible sources, too. We come down to an question of what the facts are, not what conclusions should be drawn from the facts.

I do feel that pension matters a lot. If you are guaranteed a good pension (and most pensions carry forward from jobs you've quit long ago), you don't have to invest in an IRA or save as much.

People do count future benefits a lot. When I worked for the Federal Gov't, I worked with many people whose only reason for not quitting long ago was the great benefits --- in particular, the gov't pension.
To be totally unaware of the huge income inequality in the USA (see http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html ) and the monstrous effect it has in buying elections and totally distorting the democratic process through congressional lobbies is either frightful ignorance or unfortunate stupidity or a liberal dose of both. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/21/AR2005062101632.html
Thank you so much for this well-researched post. As one of those greedy WI teachers, I couldn't agree with your argument more.
UncleChri, you misapprehend completely the point of my piece, which is not, as you surmise, that millionaires should cover the entire cost of whatever the real budget deficit is -- and if one thing's for sure, it's that the real deficit isn't $3.6 billion -- that's just requests from state agencies, which this time around include 9 percent hikes, requests that governors and legislatures of the past have never wholly approved.

My comparison, rather, focuses on a thought experiment, to wit: Was it sensible to give people who earn taxable income of a million dollars a year nearly $100K on average in federal tax cuts, when many states -- thanks to the mini-Depression brought on mainly by Wall Street excesses -- are facing greatly reduced revenues? No, it wasn't sensible. But is it okay to nick middle-class teachers and other public employees to pick up a significant chunk of the shortfall in Wisconsin and elsewhere? Apparently, your answer is yes.

Regarding "unfunded liabilities": Wisconsin's projected deficit is, in inflation-adjusted dollars, pretty much in line with continuing projected deficits since Tommy Thompson's administration started running them in the mid '90s. And he and subsequent governors and legislatures -- excepting Walker -- have been able to overcome those deficits without scorched-earth cuts that badly hurt average citizens. As for unfunded liabilities: Not really. Mainly that would entail the state's pension fund, which unlike many others is fundamentally sound -- even after the recession's impact it remains 97 percent funded according to standard accounting methods and has already made a comeback in earnings. Walker and the GOP nevertheless continue to allude to major public pension funding shortfalls in other states as somehow pertaining to this state. But that's untrue. True, Medicaid costs are soaring in many states but Walker's "fix" in Wisconsin is to cut services in a way that reduces federal payments, which will hurt public health and serve as a double economic whammy. Program adjustments and economies, sure, but not nearly as draconian as Walker's, which will totally end health care coverage for many retirees, disabled people and working poor in this state. And that's a huge backwards step.

Walker seems to like cutting corporate taxes and refusing federal aids, and then balancing those lost revenues on the backs of public workers and local economies, through massive cuts that will in fact wreck those economies.

Wisconsin + Walker = Mississippi.
@Jan Sand
I'm not unaware of the income inequality in the US. I support social services for those who need them and I am interested in discussions of what is a fair way to pay for them.

But what infuriates the hell out of me is when I hear I should be punitively taxed because I'm "the enemy." That's not fair at all.
It seems you are quite wealthy and object to paying your fair share of taxes. Your motivations are quite clear.
Jan Sand

Gee, that must be it, because no one in their right mind should object to suggestions that they be killed and made into cat food to appease your wrath against an entirely different set of people.
Evidently you have no sense of proportion or humor. I was merely exaggerating the anger that is very visibly building over people being scammed out of their houses and their medical insurance and their means of making a living and the standard services which are the responsibilities of any decent social system. Make no mistake, the swiping of the representative government to the enrichment of the very small percentage of the very wealthy will have vigorous and very nasty consequences.
As it gets worse, and it looks like it will, some pretty violent things will occur.
For a detailed analysis of what is going on read http://www.counterpunch.org/dimaggio03042011.html

That is, if you are really interested.
Nasty consequences always occur when a class of people get vilified by mass movements seeking simple answers to complex questions.
There is nothing complex about the obvious attempt to destroy labor's right to negotiate for salaries. The individual worker is helpless before an employer. That the rich are adamant in securing the majority of the nation's wealth for themselves impoverishing the rest of the country is obvious, simple and highly destructive of the welfare of the general population. And the anger over this is highly justified.
And of COURSE all those evil millionaires are Republicans right? Give me a break. Do some research and I think you'll find that there are a plethora of these "millionaires" that are Democrats as well. The argument that "they have more money than I do so they should have to pay more taxes" is so ridiculous. Do we really want to send the message to our kids that success is a bad thing? Don't try to achieve anything because if you do you'll be vilified for it. We need to be very careful of the messages that we are sending the next generation. If the unions want to be fair then let them agree to the same pay cuts and job security that exists in the private sector right now. Some of us would be ecstatic to be able to have the choice of a pay cut rather than a lay off. If they don't smarten up and quick they experience that as well.
The difference between the Republicans and the Democrats these days is hardly noticeable, although the Democrats attempt to put a different face on things.

The fact that the wealthy control a hugely disproportionate amount of the country's wealth which impoverishes a frightening percentage of the general populace indicates there is something severely wrong. A nation is conceived as a community that cares for its members, it is not a free-for-all dogfight and when the old, the sick, the out of work are severely damaged by the allocation of too much of the wealth to a very small sector then the nation as a whole becomes very sick and destructive of its creative potential. Success of individuals measured only by personal wealth is a form of social psychosis.
Ron,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’ll go one round here; because I don’t want to hijack your post away from those who sweetly compliment you on your effort.

I continue to claim that I understand the thrust of your post; but I won’t argue this point directly. Instead, let me humbly offer the fact that Wisconsin residents consist of far more than just teachers, public employees, people whose wealth exceeds $1 million and those who earn more than $200,000 per year. Couple this fact with the presumption that the government of Wisconsin is similar to the federal government described by Lincoln – of (all) the people, by (all) the people, and for (all) the people.

Then, if you want to play Governor for a day, consider the entire budget deficit, as your current Governor must do. If you want to play Governor for a day, then have ALL the citizens of Wisconsin share the pain of solving its revenue shortfall.

This world isn’t here for us to take just from the rich and give just to the select poor. That’s a philosophy of envy with respect to the rich and one of misery with respect to those we identify as deserving poor. Such is always the result of socialist and collectivist principles.

America is a land where generally equality is guaranteed only with respect to birth. Thereafter, the only rights to which we are entitled are those that are generally inalienable, along with those more specific ones explicitly enshrined in our federal and State constitutions.

We don’t all succeed equally. We are not all equally entitled to anything else.

We are not entitled to be secure in our jobs. We are not entitled to a living wage. Every citizen must work for these things.

If you want to be the one whose employment no one person, or one entity, can terminate, then find the capital and risk it by investing in a business of your own. Just keep in mind that every business needs one thing – customers. Also, even as boss/owner, your own salary can disappear with a loss and your own job can disappear without customers.

I am foregoing my rant about those who were cheated by Bernie Madoff and whomever you lump with his ilk, simply because it is irrelevant to the subject at hand, both here and in your post. Please be grateful for this. It always takes two greedy people to enter into a contract where one is cheated; and every investment of capital carries with it some risk.

Let me finish instead by humbly suggesting the steps associated with your next “thought experiment” on this topic:

First, pick a number, any number, which you believe accurately estimates the amount by which State revenues will fall short of State expenses for the forthcoming Wisconsin budget. No one will assign you much credibility if you pick a number less than Governor Doyle estimated for this amount; and you won’t have many friends here if you pick a number greater than what Governor Walker is estimating.

Second, pick a strategy of revenue increases and spending cuts whose sum is equal to, or greater than, your estimate of the Wisconsin budget deficit. Increase taxes on all incomes, if you wish. Increase taxes on all wealth, if you wish. Cut benefits for all, if you wish.

In the end, if you still want the rich to bear a disproportionate amount of the tax increases and a disproportionate amount of the benefit decreases, then don’t be surprised if they insist on greater influence in government for the money you are costing them. That’s how they became rich, by making efficient use of their money.

On the other hand, if make this pain ‘equal’ across all sectors, then you might be surprised how quickly Wisconsin voters, in general, will insist on government spending that doesn’t present this deficit to them again.

I am not favoring Governor Walker’s position with this comment. On the other hand, I do not believe that his only targets are teachers and public sector workers.

Good luck!

Chris
To characterize the almost complete subversion of basic democratic processes through the use of overwhelming wealth as merely the efficient use of money is one of the most bizarre justifications for the current US movements towards plutocracy I have heard. It indicates a massive distortion of fundamental human values.
"Nasty consequences always occur when a class of people get vilified by mass movements seeking simple answers to complex questions."

You mean like what's happening to teachers right now? I couldn't agree more.
Well put UncleChri!
The problem is not just revenues it is how the money is being spent. Even if the taxes are raised in the upper bracket that does not mean it should go towards more government retirement funds. There are bridges, roads, and massive infrastructures that need updated, replaced and repaired. And yes paying down the massive debt incurred by the government.

The bottom line is we tax payer are paying more and more into SS and expect less and less return for the money we put in our retirement plans. The government is expecting the citizens to pay more for a longer period while the actual government workers pay less and receive more. Sorry making sure government workers are able to retire in their 50s with better benefits than the people paying the bill is not our priority.

It is time teachers and other governmental workers join the rest of America in the reality that everyone is going to do with less and give more to fix the massive problems facing this country.

42 thousand (51 thousand is the average) is not to shabby considering the average American worker makes less and works on the average 100 day more per year.