In today’s era, the information highway is readily accessible and at the fingertips of many. However, in a sea of information, it can be hard to ascertain what information is objective and what information is a distortion. A few weeks ago, Walker took a guarded approach to reports of a federal bailout. In his editorial, Walker made it clear that as a general rule, “federal money nearly always comes with strings attached.” Thus, Walker set up a formula of “legitimate projects” that would be worth considering. The formula was simple. Legitimate infrastructure projects will require no local matching, no long term commitments, and no future maintenance expenses. Like the formula, the reasoning is also quite simple. Wisconsin has a record 5.4 billion dollar deficit, and we cannot afford to sustain government spending on long term projects.
However, some on the left were quick to distort Walker’s position as a principled, yet foolish decision for gubernatorial gain. Most of their arguments centered on Walker’s refusal to accept funds, which they believed would establish a secure platform for economic growth. Some have even quoted the Los Angeles Times (you know, the paper that refused to do its job by not releasing footage of Obama vouching for and socializing with a well known anti-Semite) in order to bolster their point. In a story from the LA Times, Maura Reynolds cites various conservative economists who are supportive of a stimulus package that emphasizes government spending over tax cuts. The rationale is that during a deep economic crisis, government spending is more likely to increase GDP because it guarantees spending, whereas apprehensive citizens may freeze their tax refunds instead of re-investing it into the economy.
Before the liberal left begins jumping for joy here, it's important to note that these conservative economists accept a tax cut stimulant as the general rule of thumb during times that are considered non-emergent. Only during extreme economic times do they stress increased government spending as a temporary solution for an unproductive GDP.Now, this theory makes good sense. However, some bloggers have suggested that these economists contradict Walker's stance on federal aid. This is not the case. During periods of sharp decline in consumer expenditure and business investment, economists like Harvard Professor Martin Feldstein are suggesting increased federal spending, not increased state spending. Wisconsin cannot afford to increase its spending on projects borne from the expectation of a federal bailout. Instead, our spending must be on projects that are both productive and "shovel ready."
For instance, the LA Times article suggested that a stimulus package would prompt public agencies to build new schools. How exactly is building a new school supposed to help us emerge from a recession? It would most certainly create a local stimulus for those contractors involved, but it will not stimulate long-term economic productivity. Building a new school will have a minimal effect on business investments and will have no effect on consumer expenditures. Therefore, such projects will ultimately net greater losses for the local government than an actual gains for the private sector. Remember, schools will require “long term commitments” like paying maintenance costs, academic materials, athletic supplies, and so on.
Another important point is that tax cuts shouldn't be marginalized. If it is a genuine concern that people may not reinvest their tax refunds into the economy, then we need to devise a way where they can. Perhaps Congress ought to focus the tax-breaks on small businesses in order to inhibit unemployment, to prompt investment-based spending, and to incite business growth. There is certainly more than one way to skin a cat, and I trust that Congress is capable of doing this despite their rather obvious track record of incompetence the past two years under democrat leadership.
All of this aside, the point is that Scott Walker did not refuse a wholesale acceptance of federal funding. From the beginning, he laid out a criteria for accepting federal aid on projects of legitimate need. However, his position has been twisted and misrepresented by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel through incompetent columnists like Eugene Kane. Even in Steve Schultze’s article, he made it appear that Walker was backtracking or in his words, “opening the door a bit wider to acceptance of federal aid” due to major criticisms. However, Walker’s later statement that he would consider federal aid if it put money into programs with legitimate needs was essentially no different than his original position published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
In Walker’s editorial, he stated,
Since the proposal is not even introduced in Congress, we really don't know what any of the details will look like when passed into law.Walker’s point, missed by some leftist bloggers, is that he cannot unequivocally reject a bill that has not yet been proposed by Congress. We have no idea what this bill will look like until Congress gives it some skin. So my suggestion to those liberals who are sharpening their knives and salivating at the chance to end the political aims of Walker ought to wait until Congress actually puts meat into the legislation.
The Walker hysteria in Milwaukee has been premised on a straw man argument. Walker never gave a wholesale rejection of federal assistance, but rather presented a formula for considering the infusion of federal aid into projects of worth. Leftist bloggers are quick to cite conservative economists, like Martin Feldstein, when they agree with left, but fail to mention that during times of real economic duress, the spending must be federal, not local - temporary, not permanent -accompanied with tax cuts, not without them - and strongly focused on military production. We'll see if the Obama Administration encourages strong investments in military spending in order to beef up our GDP like FDR did during WWII.
It is the responsibility of local officials to run a tight ship and guard against wasteful spending. Walker's willingness to reject federal aid when strings are attached, and yet accept it when they exclude wasteful spending proves that he is a good guardian and a wise county executive.