Where is the Mayor getting his data from?
submitted by Torrey Jaeckle

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz argued recently in his blog for more federal stimulus spending. According to the Mayor, "We risk a plunge back into deep recession or worse if our federal government doesn’t inject another shot of stimulus into our still anemic economic body."

He goes on further to state that "Most economists seem to be on the side of more stimulus spending," and that "I side with the economists."

The Mayor doesn’t cite his source for the claim that "most economists" support more stimulus spending. Surely the source wasn’t CNN which ran this headline in April: "Economists: The stimulus didn’t help." That article claims that 73% of private sector economists surveyed said that the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had "no impact" on employment at their companies.

And certainly it wasn’t MSNBC which ran the headline last December declaring "Economists see no need for more stimulus," according to "the majority of economists surveyed."

It couldn’t have been the Wall Street Journal, which over a year ago was already running headlines such as this: "Few economists favor more stimulus." Forty-three out of fifty-one economists in that survey were against another stimulus package.

And it couldn’t have been based on this anti-stimulus ad which ran in newspapers early last year, and to which 250 economists signed onto (including four Nobel laureates).

Which begs the question: Where is the Mayor getting his data from? The mayor claims that it is "only political types" who are arguing against more stimulus, while most economists support increased stimulus. In fact the Mayor has it exactly backward, and he himself is a case in point: It is the "political types" who are arguing for more stimulus, with the majority of economists holding the opposing viewpoint. This irony would be humorous were not the ramifications so serious.

But the Mayor is very clear about the real reason he supports more stimulus: Because "it is good for local governments" and "will help us do even more infrastructure projects." Bingo.

Don’t get me wrong — I am all for government investing in necessary and smart infrastructure projects. But government also needs to prioritize, spend wisely and within its means, and make changes to non-essential budgets to free up money for essential services. The Mayor, it seems, simply wants a federal bailout for local government to preclude the need for making tough necessary decisions — the same decisions that most families and businesses have had to make throughout this recession.

Mayor Dave believes the federal bailout is "good for taxpayers" because it will help keep property taxes down. But is anyone really buying the Mayor’s free-lunch theory? Where does the Mayor think federal money comes from, or who will need to pay it back after it is borrowed? The taxpayers of course! But it sure does make the Mayor look better if he can keep property taxes unchanged here, and instead have taxpayers pay the federal government for local government services. The Mayor hopes that such a delinking of service provision from payment will keep taxpayers from noticing that they are still ultimately paying the bill.

Will Madison voters be buying the Mayor’s un-cited claims and free-lunch theories when he comes up for re-election next year? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet you one thing: The majority of economists won’t be.

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