Walker defender challenged
In "Defending the Budget Repair Bill" (5/27/11), Larry Kaufmann says we should extend peace, love and understanding to Walker, yet demonstrates his own lack of understanding of the bill's opposition.
Hello? We state workers already agreed to pay more into our pensions; that's not what the protests were about. Most of us were protesting union-busting, which Walker later admitted will not save the state a penny. We were also protesting Republicans' myriad attempts to silence us: trying to pass the bill in less than a week, cutting off a public hearing, lying about Capitol damage in order to lock us out, etc.
Walker has no excuse - he knew exactly what he was doing by attaching union-busting to a budget bill. I'm willing to give Kaufmann the benefit of the doubt, though. I hope he's merely ignorant. If he truly wants to help tone down "the politics of hate," he'll need to listen to both sides, not just to Walker.
If Larry Kaufmann is really an "economic consultant," we should be glad he is not a plumber. His work doesn't hold water.
Kaufmann alleges that the state retirement system is going broke. The fix, he says, is to change where half of its money comes from. It would take in no more, pay out no less, but this would somehow fix it.
He tells us Wisconsin is in "economic decline," relative to other states. How to solve it? Make our state workers pay half of their pensions. Lowering their income will somehow raise our incomes.
Finally, he brings out the old argument that private-sector workers are doing even worse, so if we make state workers do just as badly, that will fix everything.
Larry Kaufmann states that "state employees will keep their 'defined benefit' pension plans...that remain generous by private-sector standards." The ongoing comparison of benefits offered to public employees versus those offered to private employees by supporters of the "repair bill" is exactly like comparing apples to oranges. And to assume public workers should have only what private companies offer is an unnecessary zero-sum game.
That is, saying that something good for public workers somehow takes away from, or harms, private workers is absurd.
Is the Wisconsin Retirement System aware that it is going broke? I'm receiving a retirement benefit from it, and the last I heard it was one of the most solvent public retirement plans in the country, with close to a 100% asset-to-liability ratio.
As far as the budget repair bill being "good legislation," what benefit will the state see in prohibiting, say, a highway worker in Vilas County from negotiating over when annual vacation requests are to be solicited?
You can put all of the lipstick you want on this pig, Larry, but it is still union busting by the Republicans to remove a support base from the Democrats and thus weaken their chances of winning elections.
Kaufmann entertains no alternative to Walker's budget other than tax increases, which he claims "would almost certainly exacerbate the state's economic woes." Not so. The soaring post-World War II economy took place during a marginal tax rate of 90% for the wealthiest - that's roughly three times what it is today - while considerably lower rates applied to middle-class families.
This was no anomaly: The same progressive tax policies lasted for decades more. Remember, it was an economy not unlike ours (wartime, economic stagnation, etc.) that floundered amid low taxes, until FDR introduced a more graduated approach.
Kaufmann's claim regarding taxes is stated without evidence. I encourage readers to see the facts on historical tax rates for themselves, at www.taxfoundation.org.
A full explanation
In response to letter writer Tom Elverman ("About That Activist," 5/27/11): First, it appears that you were misinformed, and I apologize for this. While my day-to-day involvement at Boulders is minor, these are not minor roles [as the climbing gym's general manager stated].
Second, my quote in Isthmus ("Big business and real estate and agribusiness are busy making their case, but none of these are the job creators") may have been taken out of context. What I meant to convey was that while many people work for big corporations, most people are employed in small business.
Lastly, I want to clarify: On topics not directly related to Boulders, I speak solely for myself. My views of the Walker administration have nothing to do with its employees and investors.
I believe Scott Walker's proposals are detrimental to small business in Wisconsin. Just as my employees and investors are free to disagree with me, so are you. I'm sorry if you feel as if you were minimized and disrespected by my quoted comments. That was not my intent.
In the group that we are creating, we welcome any small business owner, including manufacturers, farmers and real estate professionals. People in these businesses in particular don't seem to be well represented by their respective professional associations here in Wisconsin. If you agree, please join us. We're an inclusive group.