Depending on your partisan loyalties, this picture of a winking Gov. Scott Walker, soundly victorious in Tuesday night’s Wisconsin recall election, is evocative of either the scrappy kid who just knocked out the school bully, or the fox in the henhouse.

Suzanne Tucker /

Why not both?

Yesterday, I made the case that Walker and his devotees have a narrow ideological view of why the country is mired in debt. Walker and others like him — Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, for example — have achieved national prominence by dealing boldly with state-level problems like overly generous public pensions that have been brewing for a long time. However … these are not the same problems that President Obama is dealing with.

The Great Crash of ’08, with its Giant Revenue-Sucking Sound, threw these state-level problems into sharp relief, and, indeed, made them even worse than they already were.

Yet to listen to the high-fiving GOP pundit class last night, one got the impression that “too much spending” — especially on those school teachers with their cushy retirement packages! — is connected, somehow, to the demise of Countrywide and travesties like “Mantoloking.”

To be sure: I’ve got no fundamental problem with the reforms that Scott Walker imposed on public-sector unions in Wisconsin. I’d have more respect for him if he had imposed them uniformly on firefighters and police officers, but the fact remains that it’s not unreasonable to force government workers to pay more for their health care and retirement.

But Walker’s party is enjoying a perverse advantage right now: They are fooling their constituents into thinking that while they deal decisively with genuine issues of state budgeting, they’re also solving a separate problem (public finances destabilized by tax cuts and private-sector recklessness) that they helped create.

If we must consider the reforms enacted by Scott Walker and proposed by Paul Ryan as of a piece — we shouldn’t, but let’s do, for the sake of argument — then it seems to me they’re like an accident-prone driver who tells a judge he has resolved to quit drag-racing. And the judge replies, “That’s nice. But when are you going to quit drinking, too?”