Government Spending

Wins in Wisconsin and California Signify Triumph of Common Sense and Basic Math Over Status Quo, Ideology; Will Be Replicated Everywhere.


Election results from Wisconsin and the California cities of San Jose and San Diego communicate a simple message that is likely to be misunderstood by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

The short version: Voters everywhere are finally starting to realize that municipalities, states, and (here's hoping) the federal government are out of money. That's the real message of the major contests last night.

It's not particularly ideological, though both winners and losers will likely take it that way. Democrats, liberals, and pro-union forces will bitch and moan about "outside money," the effect of Citizens United, the decimation of the working man and the middle class. Republicans, conservatives, and anti-union types will chest-bump each other about how they're taking the country back from leftists who want to devote more school lessons to Lenin than George Washington and can now feel safe about pushing traditional values and whatnot.

None of this is the case. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker was targeted for a recall because he pushed to limit collective bargaining of teachers and public workers other than cops and firefighters. But the stripping of union power was incidental to what Badger State voters actually wanted, which was for public employees (including cops and firemen) to pay more for their health care and retirement benefits. Wisconsin faced a multi-billion budget deficit and getting public-sector workers to kick in more for their benefits, which are relatively plush compared to analogous private-sector workers, helped close the gap. The Reason-Rupe Poll of Wisconsin adults found that about 70 percent of residents thought that made sense, even though a plurality of them had favorable opinions toward public employee unions. By and large, voters care less about "unions" and more about whether they feel like they're paying too much for services.

In San Diego and San Jose, the second- and third-largest cities in California, roughly 70 percent of voters favored putting new public-sector workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans. This is no small thing. The main upside of such defined-contribution plans is that it caps what taxpayers are on the hook for and it does away with bullshit annual returns for retirees that typically far outpace the market. San Diego and San Jose, like the state of which they are part, are tight on cash and pension costs are a major reason. From Business Week's accounting:

In San Diego, the eighth-largest U.S. city with 1.3 million residents, officials budgeted $233.6 million for retiree benefits this year, up from $87 million in 2004, according to budget documents. The city's share of retirement costs would have grown by $100 million over 10 years without the proposed changes in the ballot measure.

In San Jose, the 10th-largest U.S. city with 946,000 residents, annual retirement costs increased to $245 million from $73 million in the past decade, according to ballot measure supporters. Pensions now account for more than 50 percent of city payroll, and more than 20 percent of the general fund, backers said.

More here.

Golden State residents haven't suddenly turned vengeful toward Democrats or union members any more than residents in Wisconsin have (by the Reason-Rupe Poll and other surveys, President Obama enjoys a 10-point lead over presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney). And for all the talk that Gov. Walker slashed spending, the two-year budget he passed actually increases total spending 3 percent while holding taxes essentially flat (watch vid below). And government workers after Act 10, the law that triggered Walker's recall, are still pulling in far more than comparable private-sector workers.

Last night's results—and moves by other Democratic governors such as New York's Andrew Cuomo—suggest that the voting public is finally getting the message that we can't keep spending far more than we take in at every level of government and that we can't keep promising more and more expensive benefits for public workers who are already earning more in salary than their private-sector counterparts. That's tremendously good news and it represents the triumph of reality over ideology.

But it doesn't mean that some sort of massive partisan realignment is upon us and politicos who think it does won't be in a very good position to speak meaningfully to voters in the coming months.

NEXT: Fullerton Recalls City Council Members Over Kelly Thomas Death

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  1. Great alt-text on the baby pic.

    1. Better alt text: “tastes like chicken”

      1. Ky. Fried Human, or Human Delight. Say…DOES Chicken Delight still exist?

        1. Regular or Extra Crispy?

        2. Yes.

          1. Holy crap–the one on Forest Avenue is still there!

  2. It is not a realignment. But it is the beginning of the end of the New Left’s hold on the Democratic Party. Without union money, why should any Democratic pol pay any attention to the New Left?

    1. This is something that had occurred to me as well, though not quite in those terms. If the relationship with the unions that the Democrats have, which had previously proved very useful, is no longer nearly as useful, the Democrats are going to be in a tough situation. Unions are a huge part of their support. Will they scale down their union involvement, thereby making the unions even weaker? Will they look for other constituencies to court?

      Politics is truly repulsive.

      1. Yet another unsubstantial post from the Axis of Glib!

        1. You’re just not being a substantive, tarran.

          1. Neither one of you have PHDs. You are are just wasting everyone’s time.

            1. Who made a comment about PhDs? Was that Tony in another thread?

              1. That was an MNG classic. He had a PHD and was not afraid to use it.

                1. I have a PhD in mathematics from Cornell, but you don’t see me arguing that I’m right on that basis.

                  1. You could if we were talking about Fourier analysis of something John. But the Wisconsin elections, not so much. And MNG thought it was more of a Swiss Army knife of arguments.

                    1. MNG’s terminal degree in political science trumpted all other arguments on any topic.

                    2. Silly. I know plenty of PhDs, and outside of their topic of expertise, they can be as wrong as anybody else. They do tend to be overall smarter than average, but also tend to be more blind to their own faults and unwilling to admit lack of knowledge.

                  2. I have a PhD in sexual mechanics, but I never got a license.

                    1. Steve Smith gives that exam. You don’t want the license.

                2. If by use it, you mean browbeat people with it.

                  1. “If it’s a lesson in love, watch out. I suffer from a very sexy learning disability.”

                3. It wasn’t a Harvard PhD was it? I had a college english professor who was a “Harvard PhD” and was not afraid of letting everyone know it. One of his favorite canned lines when giving writing assignments was “It’s not everyday that you get to have your writing critiqued by a Harvard PhD.” That was where I first learned to despise ivy league PhDs. What a smug prick.

                  1. “It’s not everyday that you get to have your writing critiqued by a Harvard PhD.”

                    Thank your lucky stars.

                    1. “It’s not everyday that you get to have your writing critiqued by a Harvard PhD.”

                      But now I know where to go when I want to tell one to fuck off.

                      *grabs paper back, flips bird*

                  2. Oh my god. The smug hurts from here. I can’t predict how I’d react in real life.

                    1. Not only that, picture the stereotypical aging hippie douche. Balding, with a ponytail in the back, birckenstocks on his feet, very punchable face. And he would talk with his eyes closed like smug people do, I shit you not.

                      The smug cloud that followed him around was almost as bad as the one that came from George Clooney’s oscar acceptance speech.

                4. And yet he always misspelled no one as noone.

      2. They will look elsewhere. I think you will see a return of a more conservative Democratic party. And the left will be completely marginalized.

      3. But it will take losing at least this election and the next mid terms for them to get the message. Never underestimate the power of stupid. Meanwhile, the left will probably resort to blowing shit up.

      4. The question, as always is, if the Unions stop supportiong Democrats, where do they go? We keep talking about Obama supporters peeling off, but no one ever answers: “To where?”

        Politics is a bit of a zero-sum game. If voter A no longer supports Democrats, where does Voter A land? He has to go somewhere.

        He can:

        not vote
        vote third party
        hope that Obama will see out his true legacy during his second term

        I don’t see any of these guys swinging libertarian or Republican.

        1. I would imagine inertia would mean they’d still vote TEAM BLUE. But their ability to demand shit from TEAM BLUE politicians would be severely reduced. It’s what happens to marginalized but traditional TEAM BLUE constituencies now; they get fucked because TEAM BLUE knows they’ll keep voting for them.

          1. It goes both ways. If they don’t have collective bargaining power anymore and are not a member of a union, why should the union members vote team Blue? What are they getting?

            So what happens is things reshuffle with some union members going team Red and team blue finding a way to replace them by getting team red voters to come over to team blue. My guess is that you will see the return of the social conservative southern Democrat.

            1. Hmm, I think that the union members are actually more likely to be social conservative but fiscally liberal Democrats. So if they leave the Democratic Party, then the realignment would be a bit different than you posit, I think.

              1. Again, the rise of the socially conservative Democrat. They will no longer be chained to the New Left and committed to things like publicly funded abortion.

                1. John has a point, JT. It’s this strategy that got Reagan elected, the so-called “Southern Strategy” relying on those “Dixiecrats”. A similar phenomenon could happen here; these types of voters could be attracted to, say, a Ron or Rand Paul. Particularly a Rand Paul. Even a Gary Johnson. Too bad they are stuck with a Shit Flopney as the most likely alternative.

                  1. Oh, I agree that those voters got Reagan elected. The point is that in a two party system, permanent advantages are rare. Re-alignments of one sort are met with re-alignments of another. The shift of socially (and often fiscally) conservative Democrats to the the Republican party was met by a shift of fiscally (and often socially) liberal Republicans to the Democratic party.

                    The move of Dixiecrats to the GOP was met by the move of Yankee Republicans to the Democrats.

                    Vermont used to be the most Republican of all states; not because it was conservative or libertarian, necessarily.

          2. To be fair, the same thing happens to those who vote for RED MEAT.

        2. The so-called Reagan Democrats were predominately middle-aged, blue-collar workers that hated the socially-liberal wing (aka hippy-wing) of the Democractic Party.

          Some of these people will go Republican if the Democratics give up on union goals.

          1. Yes, I think so. But how would the Democrats respond? By going after more of the New Left types, combined with “pro-business” types that like state-directed capitalism in “industries of the future,” I think.

            1. They are going to court Hispanics like never before.

              1. Hmm, yes, that’s another option.

                Apparently Romney is being laughed at because his pitch to Hispanics is, pathetically, “exactly the same thing as he says in English, only translated to Spanish.” This is considered much worse politics than lying about how you’re going to do immigration reform in Spanish while nothing saying anything about it in English and then stepping up record deportations.

      5. I go with “other constiuencies”. They’ll drop PubSec union issues like they’re hot, allowing cities and states (with the exception of IL — who are going to ride the elevator all the way) to balance income and entitlements. Some better, some worse, but for the most part finding non-catfood for seniors solutions.

        I predict full throated support for gay relationship equalization in the short term and a longer slide back to being pro-domestic energy. If Obama loses, I’ll bet money that the 2016 Dem candidate supports OG drilling, refining, and pipelines.

      6. The unions have always been a bit of a problem for Democrats as well. The Dems love union money, but union compensation has been taking a bigger and bigger bite of their budget, making it more and more difficult to fund the creation of more gov’t dependency and social engineering the Dems so badly want/need.

  3. Voters everywhere are finally starting to realize that municipalities, states, and (here’s hoping) the federal government are out of money.

    I don’t think that’s the case at all. Most of the voting public doesn’t get to retire without having to pay something into it, and they don’t see how it’s fair that the public union members do. This isn’t about saving money so much as leveling the playing field.

    1. States and municipalities are currency users, and they are out of money. The Federal Government is a sovereign currency issuer, and can never run out of money. Swing voters do understand this.

  4. Full of sound and fury…

    1. I like that top comment: Der? slush fund is kaput!

  5. Wrong! This is all about racism!…..77067.html

  6. I don’t know. It has always seemed to me that common sense and basic math are losers, come election day…

    1. Everyone wants to believe in unicorns, but you can’t just keep trotting out the same faded cardboard cutout of a unicorn from Legend and expect people to buy it. They need CGI unicorns, preferrably ridden by hobbits.

  7. But the stripping of union power was incidental to what Badger State voters actually wanted,

    Hmm, I don’t think that “incidental” is precisely the right word choice here. You’re correct that what the public wants is the outcome of lower pay and benefits (getting what they paid for), but doesn’t like the idea of changing the process to take away rights.

    However, I think it’s also well demonstrated that public union collectively bargaining seems to inevitably lead to these crises of overpromising. (Then again, so does letting voters vote on their own benefits.)

  8. The exemption of the police unions flatly belies Gillespie’s panglossian interpretation of this as a “common-sense” and “non-partisan” reform.

    The police were exempted for one reason and one reason only: they lean Republican. Period. End of story.

    Walker is not going to free government from “special interests.” He is merely going to reconfigure the mix of “special interests” that get to slop at the government trough.

    ON THE OUTS: the educators and social-service providers who tend towards liberalism and the Democratic party, and who serve constituents that need and want human services from government.

    INSIDE THE TENT NOW: the cops, the government contractors and the “crony capitalists” who want the brute physical and economic muscle of the government to keep low-wage workers in line and intimidate social or political dissent. Their needs are perfectly compatible with the the Christianist-Theocon agenda the Walker champions, and that “Team Fusionist” is just fine acquiescing to, so long as it furthers matters of such vital national interest as the carried-interest loophole and “block-granting” SNAP.

    1. Yes because Wisconsin is just one big hot bed of theocons. God you people are pathetic. Walker won because the majority of the public understands that the public sector unions are bankrupting the country.

      1. It’s not the Theocons, John.

        It’s people like you, who make common cause with them, and let them have their way, even though you know how evil they are, because of your own hate-driven ressentiment of anybody who takes a dollar of tax money for human services.

        Your priorities are as upside-down as an Escher staircase.

        1. Math is a wicked mistress. We can’t have a government where the employees retire at 20 years on 80% salary.

          1. Unless they are cops.

            1. *shrug*

              It’s the Democrats and swing voters who forced cops to be excluded from the law. Look at what happened in Ohio.

              True believers like John would love for cops to be included. That they’re excluded is fault of people like you.

              1. Nice try.

                1. Ah, you’re conceding the argument, then?

                  Certainly more extreme right-wing states (not just Republicans, look at Virginia and NC doing this under Democrats) have tried to include cops. However, as we see from what happens in Ohio, swing voters and Democrats don’t like including cops.

                  Blame the moderates.

                  1. Walker made the choice to give the cops a pass because cops are more friendly to the GOP than educators and social-service workers.

    2. You’re so fucking stupid it actually burns, Gabriel.

      1. Wait, huh? Gabriel? What happened to Mary/White Indian/Rectal? Is this a new one?

        1. Gabriel is a troll that used to post at Hit und Run under the handle “Danny”, and was probably part of the griefer infestation, as he is a little bitch just like Mary, making their little bitch styles very similar.

          1. Looks like we have a difference of opinion here, Epi. Am I “Mary,” or “Gabriel,” or maybe someone else entirely?

            Inquiring minds want to know.

            1. Oh, and I definitely was part of the griefer infestation, insofar as I was, and still am, constantly stalked by you and Sevo with obscene expletives and other vile and non-substantive harrasment.

              1. So it has admitted it is a griefer.

                If reason were my website, that would be enough for me to break out the ban hammer.

                1. I wish they would break out the ban hammer on somebody, but this just goes on and on.

            2. “Am I “Mary,” or “Gabriel,””

              You’re neither. You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.


      Mary has a sad I think.

    4. You don’t like Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals being turned around and used against your side very much, do you Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary? The divide and conquer, reward our friends and punish our enemies ethos of politics isn’t very nice, is it now Mary? Here’s a thought: maybe your ilk should have thought of that a long time ago, because what comes around goes around, instead karma’s gonna get you, and all that other stuff.

      Having said that, as execrable as you are, you’re absolutely correct that it’s wrong to treat the cops and firemen differently than the schoolteachers. But don’t worry, in time they will be reined in as well. Because incrementalism is another Rule for Radicals your enemies have learned from your side over the years. You can’t grab for the whole loaf all at once; you have to boil that frog nice and slowly, right Mary?

      1. ” But don’t worry, in time they will be reined in as well.”

        Mark my words, Mike M.: you are WRONG about this.

        Never never never never never never never never never never never never never

        Get it? Clear? Understand?


    (seriously though, see below story of how Govt austerity is bad, because of retarded children or something)…..5uavNSB3nA

    1. That is fucking retarded

    2. DERP. Link not workin’ (like the spanish dad in the story)

      here tis…..nkers.html

  10. You all are missing the real tragedy, reported by a Californian over at dkos:

    What bothers me is talking to a parent of one of my daughter’s friends who was downtown tonight. She is a state employee and told me she’s having a hard time deciding how to tell her daughter that she will have to cut out dance lessons. She also told me that their house upgrade and remodeling plans are now scrapped. Maintenance is always one of the first things to be cut when budgets are tight.

    Do you want to live in a world so full of cruelty that state workers may possibly be unable to simultaneously pay for dancing lessons and renovate their houses? And you call yourselves Americans?

    1. I have the feeling that that argument would go a lot further in a strong economy. Plenty of people in the private sector have faced a couple of years without raises.

      When unemployment is high, is the first concerned comfortably upper-middle class white collar workers?

    2. And she didn’t even mention having to tell her daughter she can no longer attend the Lab School and will have to go (gasp) public school. That is just too difficult to face right now.

    3. Here’s the thing.

      Every week, there’s a family meeting which I chair. The final item on the agenda is an excel spreadsheet listing all the stuff we want, ranging from my daughter’s desire to have her puppy to items like a new toilet for the upstairs bathroom.

      We have a budget, and the kids are learning about making tradeoffs. Interestingly enough, the kids are starting to make sacrifices – like both kids telling me that while they like seeing movies in 3-D at the theater, they wanted to rent from Red Box and kick the rest of the money budgeted for entertainment into the general fund.

      That woman whinging about giving up tap and her home remodeling should fucking parent up.

      1. Sorry tarran, and no offense, but your family life scares me. Do you really break out an Excel spreadsheet? To each their own.

        1. I was thinking the same thing Mo. It is not just the spread sheet. It is the language. Who has a “general fund”? If his kids over spend their allowances, are they guilty of an anti-deficiency act violation?

        2. The kids are like me; they love spreadsheets.

          Also, given that the first item on the agenda is to order the post meeting pizza, it’s not completely dreary.

          1. Nothing says family bonding like Robert’s Rules of Order.

            1. That’s not the disturbing part. When he whips out the neighborhood map with red X’s over disliked neighbors’ houses … that’s the disturbing part. That and the bounty system, which, of course, comes out of the general fund.

      2. The excel spreadsheet may be a little much, but I’m giving full marks to tarran on this one. Especially the ‘slush fund’.

        Bringing kids in on the family budget is one of the very best ways to teach them about personal finance. The slush fund is good because it makes it clear that any budget has to allow for the unexpected.

      3. You are totally one of my heroes. My brother-in-law has a spreadsheet with every thing he has spent on each of his three kids. Whenever one of them hits teenagerhood and says he’s a horrible dad and doesn’t do anything for them he’s going to show them the “bill”.

    4. Libertarian solution: the daughter takes pole dancing lessons and drops out of school to dance at clubs to pay for the house remodeling.

      1. Is the daughter hawt?

        1. There’s always the Wednesday lunch hour shift if she’s not.

          1. oh man…..that’s messed up.

      2. do they actually pay for pole-dancing lessons?

        Like anyone cares about their athletic skills up there.

    5. Oh no!!!!! Government employees might actually have to budget their money instead of being able to afford whatever they want courtesy of the taxpayers! They might have to make choices just like the private sector peons do! Perish the thought! What have we done!

    6. Why does having her future pension reduced by the voters mean that she can’t afford dance lessons for her daughter today? They didn’t vote to cut her take home pay.

  11. it does away with bullshit annual returns for retirees that typically far outpace the market.

    Fun fact: Most pubsec pension plans assume an annual rate of return on their assets of 8%. The real return on the S P since 1950 is 7%. Even if you want your pension invested 100% in stocks, that 8% assumed rate is too high. Once you realize that some to most of your pension is invested in bonds (with a sizable dose of Treasuries kicking out between, umm, nothing for T-bills, all the way up to 3% for 30 year bonds, that 8% begins to look criminally high.

    Meaning, those pension funds are grossly underfunded. Apply a more reasonable assumed return of, say, 4%, and they are underfunded by nearly half.

    1. Yes. Low interest rates are destroying pension funds everywhere. In a no-low growth economy, interest rates have to be low. It is all part of a big credit cycle.

  12. Alt text: “tastes like chicken”

    1. Alt text for 1st picture: [in a Borat voice] Hi five!!!

  13. MSNBC is calling it “Auction 2012”
    complete with ballot box stuffed with money.

    idiots. don’t they know we prefer a non-descript brief case to the sack with a dollar sign on it

    1. The dollar sign money sack was good enough for my grandfather so it’s good enough for me!

  14. So Slick Willie didn’t sway the Wisconsin public? Who knew….

  15. leftists who want to devote more school lessons to Lenin than George Washington and can now feel safe about pushing traditional values and whatnot.

    Given Mrs. Williams my third and fourth grade teacher made us learn Pete Singer, Woodie Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary songs, and likely played the Internationale to us (I recognized the words and tune instantly when I first heard them as a young adult), it doesn’t seem that far fetched. A cross check with the Verona Intercepts, I’m going to find her aren’t I?

  16. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker was targeted for a recall because he pushed to limit collective bargaining of teachers and public workers other than cops and firefighters.

    Don’t fall for the bullshit, Nick. The unions were perfectly willing to make all the bargaining concessions he wanted. He was targeted because of he removed the mandatory dues collection. The unions can’t survive without coercion, and they know it. No, Walker was targeted for the simple reason that he gave choice back to his constituents.

    1. Thank you, Coeus. If any good is to come of all this, we must constantly emphasize this point.

      Gov Walker was quite plainspoken: “The unions threw them under the bus on every issue but the forced collection of dues.”

      Let us simplify the debate. Crystalize it. Leftists should hear a never-ending loop consisting of one question: “Why not let public sector union members decide for themselves to pay dues or not to pay dues?”

      They will be unable to answer honestly. I have noticed that it is the second question that makes Leftists become abusive – no matter what the question happens to be. So here’s a good follow-up: “Why should the taxpayers pay to have union dues siphoned from the paychecks of union members?”

      Thar she blows!

  17. My impression is that this election started out closer in the polls than it became in later polls and the actual vote. I suspect that the unions were their own worst enemy here — Whatever the public’s general sympathies in favor of unions and workers facing cuts, they have a basic resentment of angry mobs, and particularly angry mobs funded by outsiders.

  18. Another city in CA is getting the picture too.

    First Libertarian Run City

  19. While the people who think we can’t afford what we’ve been paying aren’t ideological, these opinions do align better with conservative than liberal thought. That gives the GOP a potential advantage over the near term.

  20. “Republicans, conservatives, and anti-union types will chest-bump each other about how they’re taking the country back from leftists who want to devote more school lessons to Lenin than George Washington and can now feel safe about pushing traditional values and whatnot.”

    This is what burns me about libertarians. Conservatives and Republicans are agreeing with libertarians and instead of saying “See! Republicans and conservatives get it!”, libertarians still have to stick it in their eye with a total straw man. Of all the conservative commentary I’ve heard and read, none of it came anywhere close to this characterization here. It has all been about fiscal realities and responsible governance.

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