Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker is almost certain to run for president. He’s got two blue state election victories under his belt, ravening anti-union bona fides, and a record that would make him the most conservative presidential candidate in at least 50 years. Best of all, he’s got a pleasant, mild demeanor — none of the bug-eyed nutcase affect of other right-wingers.
However, he’s recently run into some budget troubles. Back in 2013, Wisconsin had a sizable budget surplus. Walker did what conservatives always do: he passed $2 billion in tax cuts heavily weighted towards the rich, blowing through the entire surplus and then some. Now he’s resorting to financial chicanery to avoid default:
Scott Walker, facing a $283 million deficit that needs to be closed by the end of June, will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts. [Bloomberg]
Whether Walker — who has surrounded himself with Ronald Reagan’s crackpot voodoo economists — can talk his way out of this will be a big political question. But this does demonstrate a fundamental truth of American politics: conservatives don’t care, at all, about deficits or debt. They use deficit concern trolling as a convenient excuse to cut social insurance and other benefits. But when it comes down to brass tacks, they choose larger deficits, not smaller.
To be clear, Walker’s move is perfectly legal. But it’s just a delaying tactic, and it will cost more in the future. Per Bloomberg‘s analysis, it will increase debt service payments “by $545,000 in the next budget year, which starts July 1, and by $18.7 million in the one after that.”
Kansas’ Sam Brownback, another Republican governor, did the exact same thing to his state. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another possible 2016 contender, has the same problems as Walker, only worse — his budget hole is $1.6 billion. He passed massive tax cuts early in his term, and has spent the rest of the time cutting services, especially higher education, to the bone in a desperate, futile bid to make up the shortfall. He won’t rescind the tax cuts, of course.
And when collapsing oil revenues turned the budget problem into a full-blown crisis, Jindal began raiding every change jar in the state to keep Louisiana from defaulting outright, including selling state property and burning through all manner of special reserve funds.
The Republican Party has gone precisely nowhere on fiscal policy since 2000, when President George W. Bush pulled this exact same trick. He took the Clinton surplus and spent it on tax cuts for the rich. The following eight years, incidentally, resulted in the worst economic performance since Herbert Hoover.
Policy-wise, there isn’t that much to learn from this, other than conservatives produce absolutely atrocious economic policy. But we already knew that.
However, there are two political lessons. For liberals, very much including President Obama, it implies that any hard work done reducing the budget deficit will be immediately negated the moment Republicans get a chance. All of Obama’s cherished deficit reduction — accomplished at gruesome cost to the American people — will go straight to the 1 percent if Walker (or Jindal, or Jeb Bush) is elected.
Second, for paid-up members of the centrist austerity cult, who worship a falling deficit like some kind of fetish object, realize that Republicans are lying to your face. If you genuinely care about the deficit, the GOP is not going to deliver.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, February 20, 2015
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), the son of a Baptist preacher, frequently talks about his Christian faith. But his familiarity with other religions, especially in a state in which minority faiths represent a tiny percentage of the population, appears to be rather limited.
Occasionally, that can be a problem.
The Capital Times in Madison reports today, for example, on an unfortunate incident from Walker’s tenure in Milwaukee, before he was elected governor.
In an undated letter unearthed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now during the August release of documents from the first of two John Doe investigations related to the governor, Walker responded to a letter from Milwaukee attorney and chairman of the Wisconsin Center District Franklyn Gimbel.
Walker told Gimbel his office would be happy to display a menorah celebrating “The Eight Days of Chanukah” at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and asked Gimbel to have a representative from Lubavitch of Wisconsin contact Walker’s secretary, Dorothy Moore, to set it up.
The letter is signed, “Thank you again and Molotov.”
In all likelihood, Walker intended to write, “Mazel tov,” which is a Jewish phrase used to congratulate someone or wish them well.
“Molotov,” on the other hand, is a word more commonly associated with “a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2014
One of the silver linings Democrats were looking for on Tuesday was the possibility that some particularly nasty Republican governors might be shown the door. The most repellent had to be Maine’s thuggish Paul LePage, who due in large part to an independent candidacy will enjoy four more years to embarrass and immiserate the people of that fine state. Far more consequential, however, was Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Having survived a close shave, Walker can now board a train of destiny leaving Madison and heading all of 300 miles southwest to Des Moines.
Of all the potential GOP 2016 candidates, Walker may be the most terrifying. Yes, it would be a calamity of apocalyptic proportions if Ted Cruz were to become president, but we all know that’s never going to happen. Walker, however, is a much more credible candidate. Ed Kilgore has some insightful thoughts:
But it’s hard to think of any of the domestic government priorities of today’s conservative movement—from election suppression to rolling back abortion rights to undermining entitlements to erosion of collective bargaining rights to an entire economic strategy based on making life easy for “job-creators”—on which Walker hasn’t distinguished himself, against enormous resistance. In many respects (as I argued in a TNR essay about Walker in 2011), Scott Walker is exactly what you get if you take southern Republicanism in all its sordid glory and apply it in a frosty and unfamiliar environment. So the man is going to have an instinctive appeal to conservative activists everywhere, and has an electability argument few can make.
It’s true—Walker could stand up in a Republican debate, look around at his competitors, and say, “All these guys say they hate labor unions, but who’s done more to hasten the death of collective bargaining than I have?” then repeat the argument on any number of issues. So one could certainly see him catching fire in the primaries.
But as Ed says, Walker isn’t exactly brimming with charisma. With prior GOP nominees, even the ones who lost, you could understand why they might have some plausible appeal to the general electorate. Mitt Romney was a handsome, can-do business leader with a record of working with the other party. John McCain was a mavericky maverick. George W. Bush was a good-natured fella who wanted to be “compassionate.” But Walker? He’s all hard edges and ideological search-and-destroy missions, leaving bitterness and anger in his wake even when he wins.
Of course, if you aren’t in Wisconsin you’ve only seen so much of him. Maybe in the long slog of a primary campaign, he’d reveal depths of complexity and charm that aren’t yet apparent. But let’s hope not.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 7, 2014
“The Broader GOP Benefits Of Walker Losing”: Intra-Party ‘Feud’ Complicates Walker’s Race In Wisconsin
No gubernatorial race in the country is as competitive as Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) re-election bid in Wisconsin. The last four publicly released polls have shown the race either tied or within one percentage point.
And with just a week until Election Day, the incumbent governor isn’t convinced the Republican Machine is rallying to his defense to the degree he’d prefer.
At a morning campaign stop in Mayville, Wisconsin, Walker openly groused that the outside spending supporting his campaign “pales” in comparison to the Democratic effort to defeat him. He spoke dismissively of an upcoming campaign visit from [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie], telling reporters that the Garden Stater was visiting because “he asked if he could come and we weren’t going to say no.”
In fairness, Walker later clarified that he’s grateful for Christie’s support, but he’s frustrated because he believes Democrats are rallying behind Mary Burke’s campaign with even stronger support.
The result is an awkward “feud” of sorts – Walker desperately needs backing from the Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Christie, but at the same time, Walker believes the RGA is holding back, in part because of 2016. And he may have a point – both Christie and Walker are preparing to run for president, and if the Wisconsin governor comes up short, Christie will have one less credible rival for the GOP nomination.
It’s created a dynamic in which Christie’s RGA wants Walker to win, but it also sees the broader benefits of Walker losing.
And that in turn has generated chatter about whether the New Jersey Republican is undermining his Wisconsin ally on purpose to advance Christie’s ambitions.
The Weekly Standard, which is clearly attuned to Republican insiders’ thinking, had an interesting report on this late last week.
Is New Jersey governor and Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie undercutting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s reelection effort? That’s a question a number of influential Wisconsin Republicans have been asking behind the scenes over the past week after an October 16 Associated Press report indicated that Walker and his allies were being outspent by Democratic challenger Mary Burke and her allies. […]
Why would the RGA spend more on Rick Snyder than Scott Walker? A number of top Wisconsin Republicans have expressed the same concern in separate conversations with THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That RGA chairman Chris Christie might be tanking Walker, a potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. As Republican governors who took on public employee unions in blue states, Christie and Walker would be chasing after some of the same donors and voters in the 2016 race (if both men decide to run). Knocking Walker out of the running now (while giving extra help to Rick Snyder, a governor of an important early GOP primary state) could be in Christie’s interest.
As for Democrats, President Obama will be in Wisconsin today, rallying support for Burke’s campaign, which “comes on the heels of high-profile events with Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 28, 2014