A Wisconsin Lesson for Congress

What are the lessons from Wisconsin if Governor Scott Walker prevails in today’s recall election?

Over at National Review, John Fund provides a rather in-depth answer.  Importantly, he says a Walker victory will mean voters view the reforms as working:

Walker can claim to have wiped out a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes or seeing service cutbacks. Indeed, property taxes fell statewide by 0.4 percent last year, the first time they’ve fallen since 1998. The average homeowner’s property tax bill would have been about $700 higher if the previous rate of increase had continued. The state now expects to have a surplus of $150 million at the end of the current budget cycle.

One area Fund does not address though is the impact of a Walker win on Congress.  If voters reward Walker for taking a principled stand and enacting reforms that actually work, lawmakers in Washington who are willing to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose should feel empowered to lead.  Given America’s increasingly perilous state, there is no shortage of opportunities.

First, lawmakers must resist a return to the status quo:

Highway Bill: In 2005, 98% of lawmakers approved a highway and transit bill that bankrupted the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), necessitating multiple bailouts and costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.  Later this week, the House will vote on a commonsense solution to Washington’s profligate highway and transit spending: a motion to ensure federal highway and transit spending does not exceed revenues coming into the trust fund.  Of course, longer-term, lawmakers must begin the process of turning back transportation authority to the states.

Farm Bill: Although there is bipartisan talk of reform, the entrenched special interests appear to have been successful in blocking serious reform.  For decades, lawmakers have used the farm bill to funnel subsidies to special agriculture interests and further distort the market through mandates (see ethanol).  Lawmakers must make the case that this market-distorting system cannot be sustained, and vigorously oppose the upcoming farm bill on its merits.

The other element of the farm bill, which accounts for roughly three-quarters of its spending, is the food stamp program, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In the afterglow of President Obama’s stimulus binge, spending on food stamps doubled, going from $39 billion in 2008 to $80 billion in 2012.  Lawmakers should consider SNAP separately, building on the House-passed reconciliation measure and outlining serious reforms to the program.

Spending: Last summer’s debt ceiling debacle capped discretionary spending for FY2013 at $1.047 trillion.  House Republicans wisely rejected that number, instead opting to spend $19 billion less than allowed under the law.  While more can and should be done to reduce discretionary spending, it was a small but important policy step and conservative lawmakers must stand their ground.  It sends an important message to Americans that they are serious, and will not be bullied by President Obama’s outrageous claim that a step toward fiscal responsibility will “degrade many of the basic Government services on which the American people rely.”

There are also numerous opportunities for lawmakers to put forth a proactive agenda: privatization of Fannie and Freddie; comprehensive welfare reform; elimination of all energy subsidies; allowing states to opt out of No Child Left Behind; allowing individual union workers to be rewarded outside the framework of their union contract; and, of course, Heritage’s comprehensive plan to save the American dream.

Unfortunately, as The Hill reported last month, moderate lawmakers have put pressure on House leaders to move away from principled legislative fights:

The fact that GOP leaders relied on Democratic votes to pass the [Export-Import Bank] reauthorization did not go unnoticed by conservative insiders, who contend that such a pattern began following last summer’s deal to increase the debt limit.

Not only have they worked with congressional Democrats to reauthorize the bank, which President Obama once called a “fund for corporate welfare,” but they have also embraced the President’s call to maintain a lower, taxpayer-subsidized rate on Stafford loans.  Yet, despite those policy accommodations, President Obama continues to criticize congressional Republicans as he attempts to turn Washington’s legislative paralysis into a political energy shot for his sluggish reelection effort.

Back to Fund, he notes the Wisconsin reforms are not only working from a budget perspective, but they are also increasing economic confidence within the state:

Separately, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey just found that 62 percent of the members it surveyed plan to create jobs in Wisconsin by year’s end. A full 95 percent of CEOs surveyed said the state is headed in the right direction. “The word is out from Main Street to Wall Street that Wisconsin is the place to create jobs and expand,” says Kurt Bauer, the president of WMC.

Properly understood, a Walker victory should embolden lawmakers – especially conservatives – to put forth bold, reform-oriented proposals that would limit the size, scope and cost of the federal government.  Heritage Action is convinced, despite the spin and antics from the left and hostile media outlets, that good policy is indeed good politics.  And if Walker thrives today, it will be yet more proof that Americans will respond positively to serious leaders who put forth bold solutions.

Please Share Your Thoughts

7 thoughts on “A Wisconsin Lesson for Congress

  1. Oh! If only there were more men….(regardless – Republican – OR – Democrat)…. as dedicated to and who dearly LOVE AND APPRECIATE our country, the good ole’ USA, understanding the TRUE MEANiNG of our Constitution …… and be as true a citizen as this (these) FINE gentleman:

    Gov. Scott Walker

    (and Richard Lugar of Indiana)

  2. Is it possible? I wonder if politicians who came to DC to do a good job are not threatened with career ending smears or bodily harm if they refuse to “play bal”l with the godfather like lobbyists of Washington who are backed by those who rule the country. Not only themselves but their families as well may be threatened. Their children will have no future-they will be blackballed. Is it bribery or payoffs? What is it that causes politicians to neglect their duty? Go along to get along? I hope all of the above days are over and we return to the days of honor and statemenship.

    • We NEED Term Limits with “teeth”. Perhaps, then, Washington corruption can be cleaned up, (somewhat).

      • Term Limits is the start to complete congressional Reform without it nothing changes. You can see that in those elected in 2010 they are now entrenched. We should start demanding Term Limits 4 terms in the house and 2 terms in the Senate and then leave no lobbying, no working for others in Washington go home.

  3. Wellfare reform, there are two many on wellfare who in reality are not eligable to recieve, this is also the case3 with the food stamp program. It is on record that there are those who have no intention of seeking wook, when they get a free ride on these easily obtained programs. To phyicaly handicaped, and legidiment needy families, these programs are necessary. But, it should be work, or not eat to those freeloading parasites, who take advantage of an easily led Bureaucracies.

  4. Sorry Alma, but Richard Lugar’s approach got us into this mess! What has to happen is to go toe to toe with Obama and compare his programs like companies that failed after he dumped tons of our money into a pipe dream. He has to be shown that Romney’s work in restoring companies, while there is some pain, in the long run everyone benefits. Their lies about the efforts to revise things is going hurt everyone and everything have to be exposed for what they are LIES! Obama’s method like Solyndra etc. look like a big benefit, and then it is realized that it was smoke and mirrors. Our current government plans will do the same and there will be much pain. We must turn the tide as Scott Walker did and convince the non belivers that we are the real answer and are deeply concerned about everyone’s welfare!
    Frank Luarde

  5. The American People are frequently working two jobs to hold on to what they have. If not two jobs, three if they can get them. They are very concerned about the future, and not a lot of them understand the full processes of Obama and friends.

    Rather than calling the folks who support the ideas of the left names, point to the pragmatic right and explain why selling refrigerators at the north pole is not a good idea. The Heritage Foundation does a rather good job of pointing to the fallacies of the Lefts’ arguments. Use those article and reference them in a response to a position, but don’t call them broad brush names and move on. The right does NOT need the temporary ‘Hooray’ boys.. it need longer term pragmatic souls that work for the good of the country and people. ‘Stuff’ that has worked in the near past is a whole lot better than a revolution and putting this country in our version of the Third Estate

    The Third Estate:

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