Sunday, March 13, 2011

Private Delusions

A perspective from a Journal Sentinel reader, "With the elimination of most collective bargaining rights for most public employees, I'm starting to feel 50,000 hands slowly being withdrawn from my pockets, thanks to the brave actions taken by some brave Wisconsin senators doing their jobs."

And I'm sure this reader's pockets would be equally happy if police officers and the court system, fire fighters, schools and teachers, snow plow drivers, the sewers, clean water, parks, and waste management (to name a few of the services provided by public workers) were privatized and became even more costly.

As some cities who have privatized water and parking have found, the grass isn't always greener on the private side. The Legislative Audit Bureau, in a previous analysis, found that the majority of publicly-performed highway projects that had been privatized in Wisconsin would have been cheaper if they had remained public.

The answers to some obvious questions should discredit this notion of an onerous and inefficient public sector. Some data of tax incidence and a direct spending comparison with other states reveals this notion to be mythological.

Are taxes for public services taking a larger percentage of our income? Is spending really out of control? Are we spending a comparatively large amount? Is the size of the public workforce growing? And, are we spending more than other states spend for similar public services?
  • The number of state and local employees per 1,000 state residents was 8.2% below average, ranking 41st nationally.
  • Total government spending at the state and local level in Wisconsin was $570 (6.1%) per person below the national average in 2007-08.
  • State and local spending in Wisconsin in fiscal year 2008 was 4.4 percent below the national average when it is measured on a per capita basis.
  • Total state and local taxes were $40 per person less in Wisconsin in FY 2008 than the national average, and Wisconsin ranked 17th in that category (compared to 8th in 2000).
Wisconsin government size appears small. Spending is below the national average. Taxes were below the national average.

It has also been noted, government, in general, is cutting jobs at the fastest rate in 30 years. Spending is on the same trajectory it's been for over a decade.

As Audra Brennan, Wisconsin Department of Revenue, concluded: the Wisconsin tax system is progressive to proportional for 90 percent of residents, the progressive nature of the individual income tax makes up for the regressive nature of property and sales taxes, and business taxes have little effect on the overall picture.

The waste in government isn't the living wages, stable retirement packages, and decent health care for the public workers, it is in the corporate welfare, subsidies, tax cuts, giveaways, and the numerous other public gifts slyly called private sector incentives.

For Further Reading:

No comments: