Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | June 6, 2012

This is what “Forward” looks like

One thing I like about Governor Scott Walker is that he reclaimed the excellent English word “forward” – which is the state motto of Wisconsin – before President Obama decided to use it as the theme-word for his 2012 campaign.  I also like Walker’s policies and the quiet, dogged way he works.  But the “forward” theme is important.  Wisconsin has moved forward, and it needs to move further forward.  How?  By getting government off people’s backs.

I wonder, myself, how much further Wisconsin could have gone by now if it had a better regulatory environment.  In 2011, Forbes ranked Wisconsin 35 out of the 50 states for regulatory environment.  The Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council ranks Wisconsin 24th overall in its Small Business Survival Index, but says Walker has been making improvements.  Wisconsin ranked 34th in the SBE Council’s 2011 study in “Taxation,” with high personal income taxes, corporate income and capital gains taxes, property taxes, and fuel taxes.

Walker has indeed made efforts to streamline and reduce regulation; he’s getting a lot of criticism for it.   But the bureaucratic, statist regulation favored by progressivism is well entrenched in Wisconsin and has been for a long time – Wisconsin having pioneered it.  The Badger State has a ways to go to be a more jobs- and business-friendly environment.  If you want to know why “only 30,000” jobs (see more below) have been created in Wisconsin (while unemployment has somehow managed to drop from 7.7% to 6.8% under Walker), look to the regulatory and tax environment.

I wrote last year, during the legislative crisis in Wisconsin, about the importance of the showdown with the unions for the future of government and progressivism in the US.   My thoughts from that period remain pertinent:

Because political “factions” often objected to being regulated in the manner proposed by progressives, the creation of agencies was intrinsic to the progressive agenda. The agencies were sold to the public as a means of taking the corrupt politics out of issues that ought to be decided straightforwardly by disinterested experts. The progressive idea has always been that this stable of public experts should be insulated from the demands of interest groups – even if the interest group in question is a majority of registered voters.

The Wisconsin Republicans are challenging that idea directly. The vociferous political left isn’t wrong about that: the crisis in Wisconsin is a power struggle for the future of government, not just a clash of this year’s fiscal priorities. If the voting public can, in fact, deny professional autonomy – in this case, the option to organize for collective bargaining – to public employees, the essential premise of progressivism is badly undercut. Public employees, in their professional capacity, would not then have a “right” to anything the voters don’t choose to accede to.

But there is a danger in focusing too exclusively on the benefits and negotiating privileges of the government-worker unions.  It is certainly important to prevent them from bleeding the productive private sector dry, but that alone won’t balance the budgets in most badly overspent states (e.g., California, New York, Illinois), nor will it release the states’ economies to revive and flourish.

Government-worker benefits aren’t going to go away, and even cutting them on the margins won’t relieve California, for example, of a meaningful amount of its unfunded pension obligations.  The future “pie” has to be enlarged.   And in that regard, authorizing government regulators to overregulate is even worse than suffering government-worker benefits to over-increase.

Spiraling state debt and credit downgrades are symptoms of overregulated economic atrophy, as much as they are of fiscal irresponsibility.  We could afford a lot more public expenditure – without going into debt – if we reduced the regulatory burden on the economy.  (We also wouldn’t need as much public spending, even by the standards of our welfare state.)  But we haven’t lifted the regulatory burden on a national basis for nearly 30 years; we have only increased its weight.  Besides the environmental measures linked above, Wisconsin under Walker has joined a few other states in lifting some regulations on the telecommunications industry, but the colossal juggernaut of government regulation has barely been touched by most state reform efforts, including Wisconsin’s.

A small vignette in the Walker saga is emblematic of the problems embedded in our culture, as well as the forward motion Scott Walker’s administration represents.  The much-debated jobs numbers for Wisconsin (for 2011) derive from two sources: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Wisconsin Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW).  The BLS figures indicated a loss of 34,000 jobs in Wisconsin in 2011, a number Walker’s critics quickly ran with.

But the QCEW – which the BLS uses to correct its numbers, usually about six months after the initial Bureau estimates – showed a net increase of 23,000 jobs in Wisconsin.  (This is different from the “30,000” figure being repeated in much of yesterday’s news coverage.)

The QCEW survey takes into account all employees on which employers are paying taxes.  It is not a small sample, like the BLS approach, but a survey of almost all employers in the state.  The QCEW numbers are fully auditable against the state’s tax records.  They’re the best numbers we have.  It was a good thing that Walker released them; but hilariously enough, a Forbes columnist, Rick Ungar, took Walker to task for it in mid-May.  This was his complaint (emphasis in original):

The Governor has simply decided to ignore the system used by the Department of Labor —and every other state in the nation —to measure job growth (or loss) and elected instead to go with a different set of numbers that makes things in Wisconsin look better.

I kind of love this: we should stick with bureaucratic procedure rather than publish the truth in time for the citizens to use it in forming their judgments.  There is now, in many realms of intellectual endeavor, a general regimentation and bureaucratization of the American mindset that we are only slowly waking up from.

For many people, especially younger ones, ideas about which government rules and “services” we can happily do without will be new and startling, and it may be awhile before enough people make the mental leap.  But it is possible to slip the surly bonds of the Regulated Man construct and envision a better future.  Wisconsin has taken an important step toward that future.  Walker’s Wisconsin is what “Forward” looks like.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

Note for new commenters:  Welcome!  There is a one-time “approval” process that keeps down the spam.  There may be a delay in the posting if your first comment, but once you’re “approved,” you can join the fray at will.

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Responses

  1. Emperor Obama has no cloths and is in freefall, a dangerous time ahead

  2. “Walker’s Wisconsin is what “Forward” looks like.”

    I’m afraid that assessment is a bit premature. The same voters who soundly approved of Walker’s policies, appear to have simultaneously handed control of the state Senate to the democrats…

    That indicates that the public continues to be misinformed and thus confused.

    If so, Walker’s ability to continue to move Wisconsin ‘forward’ may well be derailed through democrat opposition. The MSM will characterize this state of affairs as ‘proof’ that Republican efforts at reform are at best wrongheaded and at worst, evidence of greedy corporate toadyism.

  3. The Wisconsin senate doesn’t meet again in regular session until the after the next election, so the Dems “victory” in one senate race isn’t very meaningful.

    The amazing thing about the Dem’s failure with the Wisconsin recall embarrassment and also the two public employee modifications that passed in San Jose and San Diego is how small the negative effect on the employees is. Hopefully, these elections will lead to still more reductions in unaffordable public employee benefits.

    In reality public employees should have to annually bid for their positions with the low bidder getting the job, just like other government contracts.

  4. Has anyone noticed the numbers game played with employment statistics? The news media announce, to great fanfare, (for example) that the economy created 120,000 jobs in January, which is up from the previous month. Then the Bureau of Labor Statistics adjusts that preliminary figure, and it is almost always down. Let’s say the adjusted number is 100,000 jobs. The adjusted figure gets little press. But, in February, they can announce the creation of 110,000 jobs, UP 10,000 from the previous month. Then, February is adjusted down to 95,000, The March preliminary numbers come out and, lo and behold, we created 100,000 jobs, up 5,000 from the previous month. And so it goes.

    The past two years have seen a national recovery of sorts in employment, although it has been weak and erratic. The question is what would the recovery be if the federal government did not hamstring business with new regulations and the threat of higher taxes? Remember that the current circumstances have a lot of factors that should spur recovery and business investment: Lower wages and more plentiful supply of labor; lower costs for real estate and construction; historically low interest rates.

    • Well:

      The numbers game is a standard Propaganda Tool of the partisan Bureaucracy. Most of the numbers are fudges and lies anyway.

      The GDP should be calculated with Government spending being a net negative, but it is calculated as a positive (a fundamental insanity since the government creates no wealth). If we went back to the old GNP calculation we’d probably have seen the last four years as a serious “stagflationary” period where the economy contracted (deflated) while prices inflated.

      Inflation counts nothing of actual value to the consumer to measure inflation. The “shopping basket” is suspiciously devoid of products that produce cascade inflationary pressures on pricing; FUEL being one, and many surprising missing items from the grocery cart. My guess is that real inflation is pretty stout right now; on the order of 5 to 6% – not the 12% of the 70′s but the pressure is mounting, and the idiot stock market liberal drones are clamoring for more inflation by the FED as I type this.

      Unemployment; the real rate is probably hovering around 12% and the more important underemployment plus unemployment figure is probably closer to 20-25% now. The 8.2% figure is a flat out provable lie, especially when to force that number, the workforce numbers have to be pushed down to 1981 levels.

      Baseline budgeting from Congress is the worst offender. Right now, as planned by the Democrats, once their 1995-2006 Pork Spending Replacement Bill (Stimulus Bills from 2008-2010) were locked in, by the Senate refusing to produce a budget, and thus locking in the 8% per year budget growth. The only fix to that was a refusal of the Congress to increase the debt ceiling, a “non-act” that the GOP refused to partake in… because they have little or no political courage. But the national budget is essentially a lie, too.

      Lies are the casual selling of one’s integrity to the devils of popularity and convenience. The payment is rapidly coming due.

      Scott Walker’s recall was a demonstration as to why the GOP is so spineless when it comes to the purse strings. People who like “greasing it in”, sliding by, keeping it pleasant… who avoid conflict at every turn, are not likely to ever do what is necessary to fix the mess, including those lies that the Democrat Party Propaganda Ministry (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS) put out.

      Walker’s victory is small recompense for them. To most of the Establishment GOP, Walker was a problem. He rocked the boat, when all he had to do was play along, give they unions what they wanted, and make nice. His insistence in actually trying to solve the problem almost “ruined everything”.

      We need more Scott Walkers and fewer Mitch McConnells, that’s for sure.

      Time to fight, when the hooptie finally hits the ground (see prior commentary, the car flew off the cliff on January 20, 2009…) we are going to need leaders to help clean up the mess.

      R/John – TMF

      • we are going to need leaders to help clean up the mess.

        Alright, at least you’re admitting it. We don’t operate under a system regulated by a constitution, a rule book that guides and restricts government no matter what men are involved. We have, as mankind has always had, a society whose gyrations are determined by personalities and their own particular ideas. Caesar Augustus, Charlemagne, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Abraham LIncoln, Hitler and FDR threw the rules in the trash can and operated according to their own wishes. We can’t know for sure if the community organizer-in-chief has what it takes to mold the country to fit his and his followers’ blueprint but we do know that the system as it is now is insufficient to arrest his concept of progress, that some other personality will be needed to bring the warped agenda to a halt.

        In other words, we’re not that far removed from a tribal society ruled by chiefs and emirs or a divine right monarchy, being dependent on individuals in the end, rather than institutions. Unlike in bygone days, the human cream doesn’t rise to the top. There’s zero evidence that BHO, or any of the current media/party political creations have what it takes to temper the
        popular delusions that infest the populace. Certainly, leaders have always had advisers and coteries of supporters and camp followers that live off of their influence, just as boxing champions do. But in our klepto-democracy image is everything. The ideal candidate, the one most likely to win an election, is the one that fits the media example of an evening newsreader. A clone of Walter Cronkite could easily become chief executive. Of course, those types aren’t necessarily able to articulate their own ideas even if they might happen to have some. That’s where physically and intellectually repulsive political strategists like James Carville and David Axelrod fit in. They’re living their own dream through the big guy, and it’s our nightmare.

        • chuck, Speaking of Carville, A few years ago I saw Rove and him have a debate of sorts in Boston moderated by Charlie Rose (I think they went to NYC and Chicago too). Rove simply dismembered him. Carville seemed like he went in there winging it and Rove seemed like he studied for days for the event. At one point when Rove was trying to ask Carville an inconvenient follow up question to something Carville had just mentioned, Carville just kept yelling his “point” repeatedly, thus drowning out the question he knew Rove was trying to ask him until Rove had to give up in order to maintain a level of dignity for the “debate.” Yet another unlovely attribute of Carville. It’s a lesson the Left has learned well. If you ever see, for example, Barney Frank or DWS in an interview where they don’t want to answer the question, they either rudely talk over the interviewer with their own tired talking points or start yelling. Or both.

  5. What I like are people who feel that words in the English language are degraded when used by politicians of the sort that those people find objectionable.

    I’m good with that and think that it’s fair to say that in 2012 the Nigerian Candidate (despite being the incumbent president o the US) should be required to campaign using Nigerian or something like that.

  6. and here’s one from an optimistic Christian preacher showing that it’s even worse than I realized and it’s not merely the American language that the usurper is screwing up!.

    http://lezgetreal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/o-OBAMA-EFFIGY-HUNG-570-500×357.jpg

    • Nice try but if Moveon.org’s Bushitler ads don’t negate your sides points then neither do our extremist’s racial insensitivity negate our sides validity. If your extremists veiled calls for Bush’s assassination don’t negate your arguments, then neither does that individual’s call for Obama’s death negate our arguments.

      • Geoffrey, would it do any good at all to assure you that I’m in no why “on the side” of Moveon.org?
        is it possible that you might consider that some people who are not right-wingers actually aren’t left-wingers?

        Will your view of the world ever include adamantine centrists?

        • I’ll accept it as a possibility but your knee-jerk criticisms of our host, your frequent refusal to acknowledge rebuttal to which you have no relevant response and your complete absence of expressed agreement with valid, undeniable criticisms of the left, the MSM, democrats and Obama make that highly unlikely. Actions still speak louder than words…

          I readily accept that many people are centrists, independents and neither right or left ‘wingers’. That category consists of the apathetic, the politically uninterested and those with a marked lack of consistency in principle (you have to stand for something son or you’ll fall for anything) as well as those rare individuals who are able to see both sides of an argument while maintaining a coherent set of principles. Only such a rare individual can genuinely claim to be a “adamantine centrist”.

          My view of the world does include such a view. As example, I offer the following: Capitalism, despite its susceptibility to misuse retains its unique status of offering the highest quality of life, for the greatest number, at least of economic systems which are sustainable in the long term. When properly implemented, it’s inherent inequity is a necessary good. As privately held pools of investment capital are necessary for growth and job creation.

          Human nature ensures that the selfish and unprincipled will abuse the system and behave unconscionably. Those who seek to over regulate capitalism in the vain attempt to prevent as much abuse as possible do more harm than good, as laws imposed are an inadequate substitute for a coherent moral rationale embraced by a culture’s citizens.

          That said, from 1976-2011 American productivity increased approx. 80%, while over the same period, the wage increases of the middle-class have averaged out at 8% but the top 1% income has increased by 240%. That disparity is real and both societal cohesion and the proper operation of our economic system
          require it be addressed. An optimal capitalist system has a large, prosperous and upwardly mobile middle and lower class. Such a system retains its bell curve graph but maintains widespread access to upward mobility for all. Opportunity however is inadequate, if not coupled with a strong work ethic which expects to have to earn its rewards and an attitude which distinguishes between a helping hand and entitlements.

          Socialistic ‘solutions’ cannot satisfactorily address that inequity. Capitalism not only isn’t the problem, Capitalism optimally managed is the solution.

          • GB, all you know of me is from words, so the “actions speak louder” thingee is kinda ganging a bit aglay.

            • No, I don’t think so. You are attempting to minimize the insights into your thinking and attitudes your consistent position of opposition provides… beliefs and attitudes determine our actions.

              • replying to bullspit from yourself and some others on the far right is not determinative of my thinking and attitudes Gb and nor does it comprise the extent of my “constant opposition”. I spend more time and verbiage replying to bullspit from the far left.

                I’m quite pleased to mention that I’m described as an extremist who hates Muslims, a Nabka-denying SOB, a blind devotee of FOX News, a filthy Zionist murderer, a Likudnik pig, an Israel-firster, and a traitor to America.

                • Bullspit? Struck a nerve there did we? One can only assess your attitudes by those you express fuster. So, you claim to be a disputatious curmudgeon…Ok, that’s certainly a plausible alternative possibility.

                  • I don’t merely claim it, GB and there’s a “crusty” in the middle

          • “Human nature ensures that the selfish and unprincipled will abuse the system and behave unconscionably.”

            Agreed, GB, and this is the case with EVERY system. There is no such thing as a system that cannot be abused by the selfish and unprincipled.

            Free-market capitalism is the system that gives each person the maximum amount of freedom. Under socialism, the good people are trampled by the selfish and unprincipled who have been allocated power over them by the political rulers. Under capitalism, the option exists of saying “No” or making one’s own arrangements, if one is unhappy with the proposals of others.

            In a free-market capitalist system, especially one friendly to entrepreneurialism, as America once was, other people’s problems of selfishness and lack of good principles need not become ours.

            And indeed, wherever you find big companies in a capitalist society gouging their customers, it is always because governments have repressed their competition for them. There was a time when I didn’t understand that as well as I do now. But it’s true, and it applies to other dysfunctions as well, such as sclerosis and overcommitment like those of the US auto industry. It is a very sound principle, whenever you see a big company flailing or committing consumer enormities to “chercher le gouvernement.”

            • I fully agree that every system can and will be abused by the unethical and your view regarding a free market capitalist system versus a socialistic system.

              Regarding; “wherever you find big companies in a capitalist society gouging their customers, it is always because governments have repressed their competition for them”

              IMO that is an incomplete explanation, though certainly a major factor. Besides repression of competition by regulatory government, big companies, made up of individuals, may gouge their customers out of greed but increasingly, all do due to an inherent attribute of almost all modern big companies.

              In privately held companies, ownership and management’s focus is upon customer satisfaction. As the relationship between company and customer is direct with sales being the only source of revenue for the company. In a privately held company, the quality of the company’s product(s) directly reflects upon the social standing and public perception of the owner. The desire for other people’s respect and regard is a powerful motivator of human behavior.

              But when privately held companies go public, which almost all do when growth reaches a certain stage, that dynamic is broken and becomes depersonalized.

              Management’s focus and fiduciary duty changes to the maximization of shareholder value who are now the ‘owners’ of the company. In such a situation, there is little personal connection between the company, its products and the shareholders personal and public regard.

              Over the last 40 yrs. upper management’s primary compensation has become increasingly tied to stock options, which incentivizes management to place short term gain above any other consideration.

              When management’s fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value becomes aligned with the bulk of management’s compensation being determined by their company’s stock price, customer satisfaction becomes a minor consideration.

              Quality, long term value, employee loyalty… all suffer accordingly and short term profit becomes the sole consideration. That focus upon short term profit ensures behavior that the public will perceive as predatory.

              Yet if management does not keep increasing the company’s stock price, it not only fails in its fiduciary obligation to its shareholders but also fails to maintain its competitiveness, for investors will invest in other companies that are offering ‘better’ returns, resulting in a reduced stock valuation and lessening the ability of the company to grow and prosper.

              Its a little appreciated negative spiral and over time becomes a vicious self-perpetuating cycle. Just look at GM products for confirmation of this dynamic.

              • I don’t disagree with you about the public-company dynamics at all, GB. But I do disagree that any companies could get away with price-gouging or other anti-customer activities for very long, if government were not repressing their competition for them.

                Government doesn’t have to do that in a specific, targeted way, although it sometimes does. Raising the general barriers to entry in commercial business is often good enough. The more regulated and taxed businesses are, the bigger a company has to be to survive. Fewer small businesses get started, fewer grow bigger, and fewer generate real competition for the biggest companies.

                I can, in theory, affect government policy, and have a right to. Unless I’m a shareholder, I have no right to harangue a private business about its methods. My option, if I don’t like them, is to not buy the company’s product.

                We haven’t yet reached the point at which we’re forced to buy products from the government’s preferred vendors in order to survive. The Obama administration does, on the other hand, foresee a time when we will be required to make mandated purchases in order to avoid fines or other penalties. Health-care plans are the most obvious, but others relating to home energy use and private vehicles have been discussed by Obama’s agencies. If those mandates were to be implemented, we can assume we would lose choice rapidly, as people have with their health-care plans.

                • I”m mainly in agreement but regarding, “I do disagree that any companies could get away with price-gouging or other anti-customer activities for very long, if government were not repressing their competition for them.”

                  In theory that is correct but history contains many examples of companies colluding with each other to eliminate competition and maintain artificially high prices to the consumer, which of course led to The Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Yet even today the Telephone and Cable TV companies are resisting replacing their copper cables with fiber optics, which would allow for greatly expanded services.

                  Cell phone plans greatly exceed the actual costs, providing the Cell phone carriers with near obscene profits. Nothing prevents Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or t-mobile from offering much lower cost cell phone plans but the bottom tier of $40-50 per month has held firm for at least the last 20 years. They’ve greatly increased the number of minutes each tier allows but dropped their prices not at all nor has competition between them resulted in the theoretical benefit of lower prices that capitalistic theory assumes.

                  None of this is meant to imply that Capitalism is flawed, just that as previously agreed, unscrupulous people will find ways to manipulate the system and consumers.

                  • Interestingly, each example you give is a form of service provision that is regulated by the government.

                    We can certainly agree that if the electromagnetic spectrum were not “managed” by a central authority, different kinds of apparatuses and networks would interfere with each other. I’m not convinced anymore that the only solution is the one we have chosen; I think if we had had to deal with more interference, we would have devised ingenious ways to reduce its impact as a problem. But I’m also not urgently pushing for a change in how we do business. It’s a matter of priorities.

                    That said, your examples pretty much make my case. Industries in which access is controlled directly by the government are the ones in which price-gouging is most likely to occur. The need to obtain an allocation from the government is what advantages the big companies and minimizes their competition.

                    • Interesting rejoinder and certainly fuel for further reflection upon the issue.


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