Wednesday, October 21, 2009

“Because I said so” is not an answer

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the Milwaukee County Finance Committee voted against Scott Walker's proposal to privatize security and housekeeping at the courthouse, and crash and rescue jobs at the airport. Elimination of those jobs alone would send some 92 workers to the unemployment line. If Walker gets his way he will send an additional 115 workers to the unemployment line.

The story dutifully reports that Walker causing the unemployment of 207 workers will carry "a first year saving of $5.9 million." After making that statement, the story does not go any deeper by, oh I don't know, trying to confirm those numbers.

Last year I blogged about how Walker's annual effort to privatize the Targeted Case Management program would end up costing the county more. This year I did the same while also adding the Community Support Program to the list. In both cases I provided the latest rates for which private firms were doing that kind of work and compared it to Walker's overly optimistic budget numbers.

Has anyone bothered to ask Walker where he is even getting the numbers that he is using to allege this supposed "savings"? If the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported on that, I have certainly not seen it. Shouldn't we make sure that Walker's assumptions have any legitimacy before we talk about any alleged savings through privatizing services?

I know that conservatives often parrot the falsehood that private companies are always more efficient and cheaper but that talking point is not the reality. I gave one of those examples in a previous blog posting. Privatized security at the Behavioral Health Division certainly hasn't been very efficient. They were over budget by over $525k last year and they are over budget again this year.

So when Scott Walker talks about an alleged "savings" by privatizing jobs and putting workers in the unemployment line, it would be helpful if someone would actually look a little deeper than his reading of talking points. Reporting something just because Scott Walker says it is true is not the kind of reporting that we need in this process. I don't think that it is asking too much to verify basic information, challenge assumptions, look a little deeper, and start asking some tough questions.

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