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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 07, 2011

 
Rabbit Hole politics

by digby


One of the Shock Doctrine's characteristics is taking advantage of crises and catastrophes to impose free market fundamentalism on a frightened population.It's bad when it happens as a result of war or natural disaster. But there is nothing more egregiously immoral than doing it in the wake of a disaster made by the very people who are imposing their will. In fact, it's criminal.

Here we have a perfect example:

Wisconsin’s public employees have already agreed to accept pay cuts and to place more of their compensation in Wisconsin’s public employees pension fund. And upon closer examination, Walker’s house-on-fire rhetoric regarding his state’s finances doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, as McClatchy found:

Ironically, in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector unions and reduce pension benefits, he’s exempted police and firefighters, who are among the most unionized public employees. And Wisconsin’s public-sector pension plan still has enough assets today to cover more than 18 years of benefits.

Keep in mind, that’s nearly two decades of benefits that could be paid even before the changes to which Wisconsin’s current public employees have agreed go into effect. Overall, Wisconsin’s pension system is 97 percent funded, according to the Center for Retirement Research.

In fact, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research pointed out, “the shortfalls facing most state and local pension funds have been seriously misrepresented in public debates”:

The major cause of these shortfalls has not been inadequate contributions by state governments, but rather the plunge in the stock market following the collapse of the housing bubble. Given the low PE ratios in the stock market, pension fund assumptions on the future rate of return on their assets are consistent with most projections of economic growth and past experience. Furthermore, when expressed relative to the size of their economies, most states are facing shortfalls that appear easily manageable.

Walker has already been scolded by his state’s finance director for falsely claiming that he would have to lay off state employees if his budget bill wasn’t passed by a certain date. Politifact also rated Walker’s repeated assertions that his state is broke as “false.”



I think most people assume that both the federal and state governments are on the verge of collapse. Certainly, that's the narrative. And they are further convinced that the reason they are on the verge of collapse because of their pension and health obligations to their citizens. This is not true on every level. But most importantly, it is not the cause of the current budget shortfalls, which are also a result of the recession and the lower tax revenue due to unemployment.

We are taking a national trip down the rabbit hole cutting spending to solve problems that won't exist for decades (if at all), in order to pretend to be doing something about the current economy which is starved for stimulus. It's a great disaster capitalist play, for sure. But this country will look back on this in a decade or so and wonder what these wealthy elites put in the water to make the populace so docile and accepting of their own demise.


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