Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Wisconsin’s fiscal problem when Walker took office was an economic downturn, not an unsustainable spending spree that demanded an uncompromising reversal in direction. Under his Democratic predecessor, the state had fallen from fifth to 14th among the states in its tax burden; in 2009, state tax collections consumed a smaller share of state income that at any point since the early 1960s. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis in 2010 placed the state 26th in public spending as a share of state income.
Brownstein makes a claim about spending, but then cites a bunch of statistics that only seek the obscure the issue. When asserting that an unsustainable spending spree did not take place, the only relevant statistic is, well, spending. The reality is this: in FY 2001, Wisconsin spent $19.82 billion (in 2009 dollars), or $3,670 per capita. In FY 2010, spending had grown to $28.3 billion and $4,990 per capita. Little wonder that Brownstein went hunting for other statistics other than the ones that actually mattered. 

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