Wisconsin is in a showdown. Washington is headed for a government shutdown.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won’t budge. He insists on delivering a knockout blow to public unions in his state (except for those, like the police, who supported his election).
In DC, House Republicans won’t budge on the $61 billion cut they pushed through last week, saying they’ll OK a temporary resolution to keep things running in Washington beyond March 4 only if it includes many of their steep cuts.
Republicans say we’ve been spending too much, and they’re determined to end the spending with a scorched-earth policies in the states (Republican governors in Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey are reading similar plans to decimate public unions) and shutdowns in Washington.
There’s no doubt that government budgets are in trouble. The big lie is the reason is excessive spending.
Public budgets are in trouble mainly because revenues plummeted over the last two years of the Great Recession.
They’re also in trouble because of big tax giveaways, mostly to the rich.
Governor Walker signed $117 million in corporate tax breaks. Wisconsin’s immediate budge shortfall is $137 million. That’s his pretext for socking it to Wisconsin’s public unions.
Nationally, you remember, Republicans demanded an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. They’re intent on extending them for the next 10 years, at a cost of $900 billion. They’ve also led the way on cutting the estate tax, and on protecting Wall Street private equity and hedge-fund managers whose earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 per cent.
Meanwhile, of course, more and more of the nation’s income and wealth has been concentrating at the top. In the late 1970s, the top got 9 per cent of total income. Now it gets more than 20 per cent.
So the problem isn’t that “we’ve” been spending too much. It’s that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation’s total income. And the super-rich have been contributing a steadily-declining share of their own incomes in taxes to support what the nation needs — both at the federal and at the state levels.
The coming showdowns and shutdowns must not mask what’s really going on. And Democrats should make sure the public understands what’s really at stake.
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