Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Public Plan

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is rambling on about Scott Walker again, Walker economic development plan could find backers. Par for the course, context and criticism are absent.

A few thoughts ran through my mind thinking about this article and some of its broader implications:

Developing a county Office of Business Development? Really? Come on, guys. We can actually do some bold, innovative things in economic development. This is duplicative and more parochialism in the supposed age of regionalism.

And why the County won't turn over the Park East land to the city is vexing, to say the least.

A quick solution is to turn over county functions to city management. Not only would this transfer and make better use of institutional knowledge, it would achieve a quasi-regionalism with the City of Milwaukee representing the whole county. [I know...good luck with that one.]

Any work that is contracted out should be contracted to local firms, paying a prevailing wage, with a community benefits agreements, and with specific clawbacks in the contract.

Infrastructure - water, roads, garbage, etc. - should be handled by public workers: unionized, well-paid workers. First, the public sector acts as a safety cushion. During economic recessions they still spend - using restaurants, movie theaters, concerts, buying appliances, doing remodeling, etc. - enabling businesses to stay open and workers to keep their jobs. Establishing, at least, a respectable floor during downturns. Second, they maintain the roads, water ways, sewers, airports, and on and on, that we all - businesses and individuals - count on for nearly everything we are able to do in our daily lives. This is kind of an important function for a civilized society. Not something to be privately controlled by the best-connected bidder.

We as citizens and taxpayers should, through our investment (taxes), be building/exporting a model that gives individuals a step up. People attack public employees because they have health care or because they have a pension. Are these not assets that any worker should want? How does criticizing and thereby disintegrating such achievement of labor help anyone? The more bargaining power one group of workers gains (and thereby increased wages), the more every worker is able to achieve better pay.

Why is it that taxpayers criticize public worker earnings, yet they defend CEO compensation? The same CEOs that are subsidized and bailed out with our tax dollars. Public workers actually perform a service for you. What did AIG do for you?

How is it that just 30 years ago our society had:
  • one breadwinner supporting a household
  • wages that allowed families to be (realistic) homeowners
  • a secure retirement
  • health insurance with a close relationship between doctor and patient
Technological change, globalization, and other advancements, no doubt, explain some of the change. But the majority of it is explained by conscious policy choices by our local, state, and national government - which, coincidentally, tracks closely with our adoption of supply-side, free market worship. We had a just and equitable society, and we can again.

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