March 18, 2011- This week Governor Scott Walker gave himself kudos for closing the gap between state employees and his brother who works in private industry. The governor recognized an inequality: state employees receive better benefits than most employees in private industry. He could have done one of two things to help solve this problem. He could have worked to make the situation better for his brother and others like him, or he could have worked to make the situation for state employees worse. He chose to make the situation for state employees worse.
The governor's comments undermine his apparent zeal for private industry, confess problems with the health care system, portend future troubles for his brother, and raise moral questions.
The governor plays the part of champion of private industry and claims his state is open for business. He is handing out goodies to companies that suggest they will create jobs for the state. But he's unhappy with the jobs they are creating in exchange for state resources. The governor laments that his brother (a banquet manager and bartender) pays nearly $800 a month for health insurance and has difficulty saving for retirement. That is the plight of most of the middle class. It won't change with more of the same sort of jobs.
Heralding job creation in one breath and observing their inadequacies in another call the governor's judgment into question. He is paying a lot for the jobs he doesn't particularly value. Other states have made similar mistakes, paying as much as $3.1 million for one $85,000 job. Blind commitment to job creation won't solve problems.
With all of his job-creation rhetoric, the governor is perfectly willing to layoff state employees, the opposite of what he claims is his top priority. Because he is using funds to pay for jobs in private industry, he cannot rely upon cost savings to justify eliminating state jobs.
By referring to the cost of his brother's health insurance, the governor implicitly acknowledges a deficiency in our country's health care system. Instead of expending efforts to fix that problem, he is ensuring that everyone feels the pain. He is taking steps to further expose his state's employees to the growing burden of health care.
Budget cuts couched in the name of equality may appeal to some people, but if anything, the trickle-down effect of cutting public services will worsen the situation of the governor's brother. For example, cutting teaching jobs and funding for education will create another item to add to the list of the brother's woes — poor public education for his children.