Dear Person in the Future:
Greetings from the year 2009. As a gesture of goodwill, there are some things we need to discuss.
First, congratulations on the Brewers winning their 3rd World Series in a row, beating the Prince Fielder-led Yankees in seven games. A big atta-boy to Keanu Reeves for winning his first Oscar, playing a gay washed up ex-wrestler who ages backwards. It certainly was the role of a lifetime. I understand that, due to a federal mandate, General Motors is close to developing a car that runs on sunshine and dreams – here’s hoping the technology works out for you. And it’s nice to see that the prophecy is true – everyone actually does eat Dippin’ Dots.
The main purpose of this letter, however, is to issue an apology. Certainly, people in the future are still talking about the economic downturn of 2009, and the effect it had on the state’s finances. Believe it or not, when the economy went bad in 2009, we actually cared more about how government was hurting than how regular people were coping with losing their jobs. (Then again, the most famous woman in America in 2009 was a crazy Angelina Jolie look-a-like who had octuplets, so that might explain some things.)
You see, in 2009, we found out the state had a $5.9 billion budget deficit. In other words, the state was committed to spending $5.9 billion more than it was taking from working people of Wisconsin. Naturally, government sprung into action and did what government knows how to do best – it figured out new ways to spend more money and further micromanage our lives.
In fact, Future Person, at a time when Wisconsin state government could have restructured itself in a way to prevent future crises, it instead kicked the can down the road, preserving itself over the interests of the citizens. In his 2009-11 proposed budget, Governor Jim Doyle raised taxes by $2.2 billion, claiming that he was making the tax system more progressive by raising taxes on the top 1% of wage earners. Fortunately for him, nobody in the media pointed out that he was raising the cigarette tax, the most regressive tax that exists (and paid for by the poorest citizens in Wisconsin), by $257 million.
Actually, while Doyle promised “major” cuts to make up the deficit, his proposed budget spends 8% more in 2010 than it did in 2009. His increases are funded largely by swapping out general fund spending for federal “stimulus” aid, which constitutes a one-time budget plug. In the most egregious example, Doyle cut school equalization aid by $498 million, then replaced it with $498 million in temporary federal funds. Additionally, there are hundreds of millions of dollars Doyle plans to sprinkle over the budget like fiscal oregano, seasoning his budget to the government workers’ tastes.
Of course, since the teachers’ unions have undoubtedly improved financial education in the future, you already know what this means: funding ongoing programs with temporary funds leads to large budget deficits. And that is why, according to Doyle’s own budget document, his plan leaves structural deficits of $2.5 billion in 2010 and $2.3 billion in 2011 – barely less than the $5.9 billion he claims to have “balanced” this time around. By now, you have figured out what that meant – billions of dollars in tax increases to feed the state’s insatiable spending appetite.
So, dear Person of the Future, I apologize for waking you out of your hyperbaric slumber to deliver this apology. I know it’s enough to knock you right out of your Snuggie. We had our chance back here in 2009, we knew exactly what was going to happen, and we blew it. Not even President Miley Cyrus can bail you out of this predicament now. So when you send a killer cyborg in a time machine back to correct all our wrongs, make sure he has a good calculator.
-February 23, 2009