Reprehensible? Before Walker implemented his plan, most state employees who were part of the Wisconsin Retirement System contributed a minute fraction of their wage compensation -- 0.2 percent -- to their pension plans and 6.2 percent toward their health care premiums. Now they are contributing 5.8 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively. Taxpayers are still contributing the lion's share.
Have Walker's reforms worked? The Heritage Foundation reports that prior to Walker's reforms, Wisconsin's state workers received health benefits 2.3 times as valuable and pension benefits 5.7 times as valuable as those received by employees in large private firms. After the reforms, their health benefits are still twice as valuable, and their pension benefits are 4.5 times as valuable. Their total compensation was 29 percent higher than private-sector employees before the reforms and is now 22 percent higher. After the reforms, the average public-sector employee's total compensation is $81,637, whereas the similarly skilled private worker's is $67,068.
How about the reform's impact on Wisconsin's fiscal health? Walker inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit, enormous overspending and the fourth-highest tax burden among states. Walker implemented structural reforms without raising taxes, without major layoffs and without cuts in Medicaid. Walker reports that for the first time in 12 years, his state's property taxes are going down on medium-value homes, and the state has a $154 million surplus.
Those are the facts. But if Democrats succeed in their propaganda effort in Wisconsin, it will be a setback for the Republicans' prospects in 2012, about which I am now very optimistic. But I would feel more sanguine if Republicans treated the Wisconsin election with the same urgency as Democrats do and demonstrated they are willing to take the gloves off in the 2012 campaigns. For though the facts are on their side, those facts do not ensure electoral victory against Democratic money, distortions and election chicanery.
President Obama has a miserable record by every measure I believe most Americans care about, which is why his propaganda team has already begun fraudulently sanitizing his record, such as the risible claim that he has not been a big spender, and demonizing Mitt Romney. I know Team Romney is equipped to respond factually and promptly, but I am not sure it has the political will and courage to go after Obama in ways that John McCain wouldn't. We shall see.