Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Enjoy driving your kids to nonexistent schools over rutted roads made up primarily of potholes. (Publicus Proventus.)

As Governor Patsy fights to get his tax breaks passed -- tax breaks that would apply to less than 1/3 of businesses, on average, and which accountants say will not likely save even the smallest businesses enough money to hire even a single new employee -- keep in mind that the tax cuts he's proposing are going to increase the state's budget deficit, which, in light of Walker's "no new taxes" pledge means that the government will have to cut services.

Which sounds great, in theory: less government! Lower taxes! More freedom! But what, exactly, are you getting less of at the state level? Do you know what the state government budget is used for?

According to one estimate, about 31% of all Wisconsin's spending is on education. 2/3 of that is spent on primary education -- grade school through high school.

Are we going to cut that?

Another big chunk of spending is on what's loosely called "Other spending." That includes forests, waste management, water supply -- like that chromium, Madison? Get used to it... -- and then on transportation. Together, education, "Other spending" and transportation make up about 45% of all government expenditures, according to that estimate.

So when you cut services to get more freedom, you are cutting roads, education, safe drinking water, clean forests...

And who's going to do those things? Are you? Probably not -- or you're not going to like it. Last year, in an apparent effort to avoid raising property taxes, my city opted to switch garbage companies. The new company has all kinds of restrictions, number one of which is that if it doesn't fit in the can, you can't throw it out. So when a kitchen chair broke, I couldn't throw it out. I have to take my garbage myself and find a landfill and throw it out myself, at my own expense.

Maybe you like doing that. Maybe you don't. I don't. But whether or not you want to be your own teacher/garbageman/road builder/forest ranger, you should at least know that's what you're getting when you keep insisting that government cut spending.

Taxes don't go into a wormhole, and much of what state and local governments do is provide necessary services. Keep insisting on cutting spending, and you'll have plenty of former-tax-money left over to send your kids to private schools, schools you'll have to send them to because the public schools will be terrible. And good luck getting your kids to those schools without a public transportation system or decent roads to drive on.

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