Sunday, April 8, 2012

Walker vs. Barrett- who really messed up Milwaukee?

This will be a "work in progress" report over the next few hours and days and I grab things together, but in light of the dishonest RGA ads that try to paint Tom Barrett as someone who drove Milwaukee into high taxes and high unemployment during his tenure as Mayor, I figured I'd take a look at the data and see if there was any validity to it. However, unlike the weaklings at the RGA, I will also compare Barrett's record with another Milwaukee-area politician that was in charge during Barrett's time in office - then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. This will sort of be the companion piece to my report comparing Kathleen Falk's Dane County record with Walker's Milwaukee County record, which showed Walker raised spending more per person than Falk, with much worse results.

First of all, the property tax argument against Barrett goes away almost immediately once you compare the property tax increases from 2004 to 2011, which is when Barrett and Walker were both in office in Milwaukee.

increase in property taxes 2004-2011
Barrett- $47.7 million (+24.0%)
Walker- $50.1 million (+22.8%)

Property tax per capita
Barrett- $335.08 2004, $414.74 2011 (+23.77%)
Walker- $233.60 2004, $284.42 2011 (+21.76%)

Property tax rates
Barrett- $9.73 2004, $9.12 2011 (-6.27%)
Walker- $4.66 2004, $4.47 2011 (-4.08%)

You see that Walker raised property taxes by $2.4 million more in total dollars, and even in percentage it was only 1.2% less than the increase for Barrett. A negligible difference at best, and Barrett didn't have the luxury of having $5 million in extra sales tax money like Walker did, because the City of Milwaukee has no sales tax (it's all state and county).

In addition, if your property value stayed the same through the turbulent 2004-2011 time period, you had a bigger drop on your bill from the City of Milwaukee under Barrett than you did to the County under Walker. Even if you had a Milwaukee home grow from $150,000 to $200,000 in the same time period (as the city's 2011 Assessment reports shows on Page 22, both home values would be above the media anywhere except the swinging 3rd district on the East side), your property tax increase was basically the same county vs. city- 25% in the City vs. 21.8% in the County.

The RGA ad also tries to play the "Barrett's a big spender" card, and when you look at Operating expenditures, there is a difference, as Barrett increased spending more than Walker did. But when you consider how Walker defunded and screwed up areas like the Milwaukee County Transit System and the attempts to sell off courthouse security and parks maintenance Walker's cheap and borderline corrupt ways are not necessarily a good thing.

Increase in total Operations spending 2004-2011
Barrett $974.25 million 2004, $1.363 billion 2011 (+39.88%)
Walker $1.078 billion 2004, $1.262 billion 2011 (+17.11%)

So sure, Barrett did increase spending more than Walker, but given the larger needs in the City of Milwaukee for social services, especially police and fire protection, it's hardly surprising that the city would have more needs to spend. Not surprisingly, the Koch-supported RGA doesn't mention that obvious point.

Another obvious point the RGA leaves out of their ad relates to unemployment. The commercial mentions that unemployment went up under Barrett in Milwaukee, and anyone with a clue should respond "Well no shit unemployment went up between 2004 and 2010, because it went up everywhere." (you may recall the economy had a bit of a recession under Dubya in the late 2000s) This statement holds true for Barrett, Walker, Doyle, and Bush/Obama. In fact, using the RGA's own metric, the increase in unemployment for the City of Milwaukee had under Barrett was the lowest of the 4.

Unemployment rates December 2004 vs. December 2010
City of Milwaukee (Barrett)- 6.6% Dec. 2004, 9.7% Dec. 2010 (up 47.0%)
Milwaukee County (Walker)- 5.2% Dec. 2004, 8.1% Dec. 2010 (up 55.8%)
State of Wisconsin (Doyle)- 4.3% Dec. 2004, 7.7% Dec. 2010 (up 79.1%)
U.S. unemployment (Bush/Obama)- 5.1% Dec. 2004, 9.4% Dec. 2010 (up 84.3%)

So while the Republican Governor's Association can try to use Tom Barrett's record as a means to attack him as a possible opponent to Scott Walker, those attacks fall flat when compared to Walker much worse record as Milwaukee County Executive. The RGA knows that Walker screwed up Milwaukee almost as badly as he is screwing up Wisconsin, with a bad jobs record, destruction of services, and several instances of corrupt cronyism. But much the candidate that they support, they choose to serve up lies of omission and deflect any responsibility from Walker's failed policies in evaluating the performance of their guy.

Now it's up to the media to tell the truth on this. And more people like me apparently have to be the ones to make the drumbeats loud enough so that the media has to listen.

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