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John Stewart is not playing with a full deck

If you watch “The Daily Show” on a regular basis since Craig Kilborn left, your brain has probably turned to mush.  The economic ignorance spouted by John Stewart on a daily basis (no pun intended) is absolutely stunning.

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That’s it! It’s the Bush Tax Cuts! They’re to blame for Wisconsin’s current woes! John Stewart said so! Darn those pesky Republicans and their tax cuts for the Rich!  Keep the meme going!  It’s all Bush’s fault!

This is asinine.  John Stewart doesn’t have anything else, so he plays the same hand of cards he always does: Blame the rich, blame the Republicans.

Associating the $700 billion dollar tax increase that would have come from allowing the 2003-2010 Federal tax rates to sunset with teacher salaries in Wisconsin is a logical leap akin to trying to leap the Grand Canyon on a tricycle. The one has nothing to do with the other. Federal budgets and state budgets are only linked insofar as the Federal government gives assistance to the states. Those Federal assistance dollar amounts haven’t changed. What has changed is Wisconsin’s budget deficit, which has swelled from roughly neutral to $3.6 billion in the next two years.

Listening to John Stewart however, the uneducated masses are taught that Federal tax cuts are to blame for state budgetary woes, and (miracle of miracles!) they get to blame their favorite whipping boy, George W. Bush!  That might work in Bizarro World and in the minds of people who simply don’t know any better, but it’s hardly truthful.  Meanwhile, back in reality, Wisconsin has a major budget deficit that has to be dealt with.

The money has to come from somewhere. I’m not saying it has to be teachers (in fact, only about $749 million, or 20.8%, is coming out of primary and secondary education). Most of the cuts are coming from other parts of the state government, and the ONLY things these teachers are actually being asked to do is contribute to their retirement, contribute to their health plan, and give up collective bargaining on PART (not all) of their compensation. That seems pretty reasonable when the alternative is cutting head count and increasing class sizes.

The average compensation for a teacher in Wisconsin is $51,000. According to the Census Bureau, that’s about $13,000 more than the average worker living in Wisconsin in 2007 (the latest data the government shares). Even if wages increased at the rate of inflation (they didn’t), that’s still about $10,000 more than the average worker in Wisconsin in 2010.

So John Stewart ignores these facts, throws down his hand (blame Bush and the Republicans for everything that seems wrong or unfair) and completely ignores reality.  Even though he’s got a jumble of unrelated cards, he calls it a straight flush and claims victory.  Just because he’s on TV, huge swathes of the populace believe him, even though his reasoning has absolutely nothing to do with reality.

John Stewart argues that raising taxes, not reducing expenditures, will help Wisconsin’s budget woes. Wisconsin has the 4th highest tax burden of any state according to the Tax Foundation; so if his objective is to drive jobs (and by extension, families with school-aged children) from Wisconsin, thereby reducing the number of teachers needed, it might well work! Except it won’t. Michigan has already played this hand and driven jobs across its borders with high taxes and regulation and favors to unions, and its budget woes have continued for years.

Raising taxes is not the answer to solving any government’s budget woes, at least not during a recession. Cutting spending is the key, but the government unions in Wisconsin don’t want to be part of the solution.

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