Updated: July 12, 2012 4:28PM
Jobs, jobs, jobs — that’s the mantra driving the 2012 presidential election, everyone agrees. That’s certainly true as far as it goes. If the Wisconsin recall election is any guide, voters also are attuned to the unsustainable growth in government spending driven by the insatiable demands of the entitlement state dream.
Further evidence came in votes in two big California cities, San Diego and San Jose, also reining in the spiraling costs of retirement for public employees.
Yet, such is the allure of the entitlement dream that liberals are in a state of denial over Tuesday’s results. The failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker over his reforms of collective-bargaining privileges for public workers has Democrats offering all sorts of explanations for what happened — rationales out of touch with the political and economic realities of the day.
It’s worth taking a moment to look at what the Wisconsin result was not.
It was not a manifestation of some kind of attack on government employees. Everyone recognizes the good work done by public safety workers, teachers and the civil servants staffing government offices. What the voters were saying was that the pay, pension and health-care benefits public workers enjoy must be in line with what the taxpayers earn and that government workers must pay their fair share of the costs. This was a defeat for unreasonable public labor unions and the political clout of labor bosses, not a repudiation of civil service work.
The losers in Wisconsin lament that they were heavily outspent. True, but that complaint ignores the growing realization among voters that the goodies awarded government employees by the politicians in their pockets are a bad deal for taxpayers, are bankrupting state treasuries and are reaching such high levels that they threaten funding for other governmental services.
The money argument is belied by polls showing that the vast majority of voters had made up their minds long before Election Day. Motivating voters favoring reform were the vivid memories of the ugly demonstrations last year as thousands of abusive public employees, often with phony sick notes written by unscrupulous physicians to excuse them from work, descended on Madison to try to disrupt the legitimate legislative process enacting the will of the voters.
Another rationale from Democrats for the loss was that polls showed voters disapproved of the recall procedure being used for political reasons rather than for removing an office holder for misconduct. But recall fatigue is not a passionate issue that drives voters to flock to the polls.
What drives Walker’s reforms and Wisconsin voter support for them is the undeniable evidence that the country faces staggering fiscal challenges. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that this year federal debt will be 70 percent of gross domestic product (the value of the U.S. economy) and headed to triple digits. That’s up from 40 percent in 2008 and the highest level since the overwhelming costs of World War II. Wisconsin showed that voters, no doubt in part to the agony of the housing implosion, understand debts have to be paid. Hopefully, it’s a sign voters nationwide are ready to confront the ever-rising costs of the entitlements driving U.S. debt. Unrestrained spending and borrowing lead to the road to perdition. Take a look at Greece.