I would have done it the same way I've balanced 8 consecutive budgets for the city of Milwaukee. I would set priorities, and as the mayor of the city of Milwaukee, I've always set priorities, particularly as they related to public safety, and at the state level, I would set priorities as they relate to education, because we saw the largest cut ever in education in the state's history, 30% cut for the technical schools, university took big hits....The question was how would you deal with the deficit, and Barrett goes right toward ideas about spending more! He's muttering out this list of things and Gousha jumps in with: "So you want to restore all that?" Barrett — whose face remains impassive — says:
Well, it's not going to be restored overnight...He totally misses the cue in Gousha's question, which was: You're supposed to tell us how to cut the deficit! Instead, Barrett falls more deeply into the idea of how will we get back what Scott Walker took away. He goes on:
... and I have to be honest with the people: You can't restore all those cuts overnight, but that would be my priority.So, he plans to erase the deficit by setting priorities, and his "priority" is restoring "all the cuts"!
And I want the people of the state to know that my funding priority for the next budget will be education. But I also would not have started out... We were in a hole, according to Scott Walker.That ellipsis doesn't signify any words left out. Barrett stopped in the middle of a thought and switched to Walker's metaphor of "a hole."
And so, when you're in a hole, what's the first thing you do?The old cliché. Thanks, Tom. When you're in a hole, stop digging. Oh! Apparently not:
The first thing you do is try to get out of the hole.The only thing worse than a cliché is to miss the cliché. It's a telling miss, because Barrett seems blind to the obvious fact that to save money you have to save money. So yeah, the first thing you do is try to get out of the hole. Hello? So there was a huge hole in the budget, and you would just try to get out of it. Well, you did get out of it, when you lost the election to Walker in 2010. And Walker didn't try to get out of it. He didn't even just stop digging. He filled the hole! And now, for all we can see, Tom Barrett wants to re-dig the hole. And then maybe try to get out of it. What a plan!
I un-pause to continue the transcription and see that Barrett says that the "first thing" Scott Walker did was "he dug the hole even deeper." Oh? But Walker eliminated the deficit. He got us into a surplus. Barrett's idea is that the hole was dug deeper...
... because he had those corporate tax cuts, he had those tax cuts that benefited wealthy people, very, very, in a very good way — from their perspective. I don't think you solve the budget crisis by digging the hole deeper.Still trying to get to the answer to how Barrett would deal with the budget, Gousha asks: So you would repeal those? Barrett's answer is stodgily cagey:
I'm going to look at those and see whether they are tied to job creation, 'cause for me — and I've seen this as mayor — I have people who come in or businesses that come in who want to have tax incentives, and my questions are always the same: How many jobs are we talking about and are they family-supporting jobs? So that, to me, is the tie.That is, he doesn't want to generally lower tax rates to stimulate business. He wants particular businesses to come to him and ask for an individual incentive and convince him somehow that their business is the right kind of business, to work through him. He sees himself as a power broker, dealing in privilege. And, of course, in case you haven't noticed, he still hasn't expressed a single idea about how to deal with the budget. He adopted Walker's "hole" metaphor, ignored the fact that Walker filled the hole, told us the now-filled hole shouldn't be dug deeper, and keeps reverting to an urge to re-dig the hole!
Barrett shifts to complaining that Walker's tax cuts haven't produced jobs, and Gousha pulls him back to the unanswered question: "Don't you have to make some pretty deep cuts?" Barrett says:
Well, let's look at this, 'cause this is where the lost year comes into play. Obviously, we've had a year of ideological civil war....But Scott Walker erased the deficit! How was that a lost year? Barrett is trying to plug in his "civil war" theme: He can end the strife. But the question is the deficit: Don't you have to make some pretty deep cuts? I'm not transcribing every word at this point, because it's completely nonresponsive. It's his canned material about not enough jobs — as if he could bring more — and ideological civil war — as if the Democrats weren't at least equally belligerent. Barrett does eventually get around to saying if only there were a lot more jobs, then the government could collect more income taxes and sales taxes and property taxes, and that money would help fill "the hole." So that's sort of an idea about what to do: First, get a whole lot of new jobs! That's Walker's idea too. Encourage business; grow the economy. But it's not Walker's only idea. Walker got rid of the deficit.
Everyone knows growing the economy would be great. The question is what would work to grow the economy? Why would we think Barrett would be better? Barrett says he would "focus" on growing the economy, whereas Walker has "traveled around the country giving these speeches." I think most of Walker's traveling had to do with the need to raise money to fight the recall, but even if Walker did simply seek stature within the national conservative movement, why would that have a deleterious effect on the growth of the Wisconsin economy? If you were deciding where to locate or expand a business, wouldn't you be positively influenced if Scott Walker's message reached you? By contrast, would you be encouraged to hear that Governor Tom Barrett was focusing?
Barrett would focus, he would set priorities, he would look and see, he would try to get out of the hole. With all this effort, all this thinking, all this observing and focusing.... why is there nothing specific at all? When I think of focus, I think of getting greater clarity and detail. Based on this interview, I don't see any capacity to focus. The closest thing to specificity I heard was Tom Barrett's desire to increase spending and increase taxes. No wonder he wanted to stay fuzzy.