Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thing 1 and Thing 2

Of the Top 25 employers in Wisconsin that force their employees to rely on public assistance for health care, retailers top the list, coming in with approximately 7005 employees enrolled in the program. Of the 7005, 4203 are children and 2802 are adults.
Top 25 BadgerCare enrollees by industry

These numbers are down from last years, which was recorded as approximately 7140, with about the same 60/40 ratio of children to adults. As can be seen from chart 2, the trend will continue, all other things being equal.

But what these charts show more than trends in enrollment in BadgerCare is the performance of our economy overall and of our state economy in particular.

As more and more people lose their once good-paying jobs to outsourcing and off-shoring due to so-called Free-Trade agreements, they are forced into the service industry, notorious for paying lower wages and for lack of important benefits such as health care and paid time off.

Top 25 BadgerCare enrollees by %
And while there are some enrollees working in the manufacturing sector, they are employed as temporary workers, long a source for low-wage and no-benefit workers for the industry. And that trend has been ongoing since the 1970’s, very much like the efforts to shift taxes down to the lower wage earners. Trickle-down, all around.

Compare these facts with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign promise to add 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin in his first term. As anyone living here knows, he’s fallen quite short of the mark. Yet I really don’t think that actually adding those jobs was his goal.

He just needed enough people to buy into his spiel and vote for him, and it worked.

But this next election cycle presents the Governor with some significant problems, namely, John Doe, 1 and 2. Reminds me of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from the ‘Cat in the Hat’ books.

Thing 1 is his dismal performance as Governor. Thing 2 are the John Doe investigations that he says are old news, yet before them, I didn’t know about his secret email system. Or his staff’s secret racism. Or the concern about his image as County Executive when a 13-ton slab of concrete fell of the O’Donnell Park parking structure, killing Jared Kellner. Because that’s what real leaders do in a crisis: they worry about themselves.

Let’s not forget how his wants to eliminate the state’s income tax. Sure, he’s only publicly said that this was something he’d like to have a conversation with the state’s taxpayers with, which means he’s learned something: at least telegraph what you’re going to do anyway so that there appears to be a consensus. Eliminating the state income tax might seem like a good idea, but unless you’re a high-wage earner, above $300,000 per year, it isn’t.

 In states where there is no state income tax, more of the tax burden is picked up through property taxes, which affects the less wealthy more harshly or through increased excise taxes, such as gasoline and heating fuel, and sales taxes. All these forms of revenue are regressive and place a greater share of the tax burden on those making the least.

I really can’t imagine Walker winning another term for Governor. But politics is strange game, so he can’t be counted out with certainty, at least not yet.