Governors and Economic Effects: Rebutting Some Baloney

In a recent editorial the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that Wisconsin’s “sluggish growth rate likely has to do with Wisconsin’s economic mix” rather than Governor Walker and his administration's policies. We beg to differ. The Walker administration sponsored 2013 Wisconsin Economic Future Study analyzing Wisconsin’s old growth industries recommends four policies that it claims “will elevate the state’s overall business climate”: nurture driver industries; create a forward thinking structure to foster business improvement; address real and perceived skills gaps; and support global opportunities.

Our comparatively poor economic performance stems directly from Governor Walker’s lack of leadership in implementing these recommendations:

  • The Governor’s indiscriminate tax cuts fail to nurture driver industries while at the same time his cuts to educational resources undermine the development of a skilled workforce.
  • Governor Walker’s decision to reject federal funds to improve rail transportation throughout the Midwest fails to demonstrate forward thinking.
  • By siphoning off needed public resources to private vouchers schools, the Governor fails to reduce the skills gap.
  • And because Governor Walker lacks international business experience, he doesn’t know how to encourage exports.

Wisconsin lags its Midwest peers not because governors and their policies don’t affect a state’s economy but because we lack effective leadership to move Wisconsin into the future.

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A Reader Speaks about Bergdahl

This post is the text of an email sent to Grassroots North Shore by Dr. Robert L Seward, MD.

Bowe Bergdahl was rescued alive without the loss of one of our people. In fact, on President Obama's watch, the following crises were resolved successfully without the loss of a single American serviceman or woman: The Somali hostage crisis, the Bin Laden raid, the toppling of Muammar el Gaddafi in Libya, and the recent crisis/showdown with Russia, in the Ukraine. That is remarkable.That is the Obama doctrine, getting things done successfully without getting our people killed or captured.

At the Memorial day service, May 26 2014, at Arlington Cemetery, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran who has worked intimately with the President for a year, said this, in his introduction of the President: "America is approaching another period of transition. As always, these times of change and uncertainty require exceptional leadership. They demand leaders who are strong in the face of challenges, who are wise in the face of complexity, who are prudent in the face of uncertainty, and who are as humble as the courageous individuals they lead. Our Commander in Chief is one of those exceptional leaders.” Coming from Chuck Hagel, that is the ultimate compliment.

Dr. Robert L Seward, MD, is a retired board certified internist. He grew up in Berlin, Wisconsin and graduated from the U of Wisconsin Medical School. He is a licensed physician in Wisconsin and an Air Force veteran (1968-1970). He had the privilege of caring for veterans in Veterans Hospitals for the last 15 years of my career. I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of veterans’ stories and their experiences in combat. Dr. Seward now lives in Oregon.

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The Truth about Walker's Policies and Job Growth

The Journal Sentinel's May 19th editorial on Gov. Walker’s exaggerations about business starts in Wisconsin includes a statement that needs a rebuttal. “We believe there is very little any Governor can do to directly affect job creation.”

In “The Three Little Pigs”, the Big Bad Wolf huffed and he puffed — but he could not blow down the house made of bricks! The forces defending Wisconsin’s status quo can huff and puff about the reasons Scott Walker will not be able to reach his campaign pledge of 250,000 new jobs created during his first term, but they can’t blow away the Governor’s responsibility for the slow job growth.

Private sector jobs increased from January 2011 to February 2014 by 6.8% for the US and by only 4.2% for Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s policies are failing to deliver on the promised 250,000 jobs AND Wisconsin’s rate of job growth is falling short of the United States’ job growth rate. As the United States pulls out of the recession, Wisconsin’s job growth lags US job growth.

While there are many reasons for Governor Walker’s failures, an important reason is that when Governor Walker in 2011 abruptly cut state spending, and reduced the amount of goods and services the state purchases, he reduced demand, which contracted the economy. There are times when such spending cuts are necessary — but not in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s and not abruptly. Not only did Governor Walker’s spending cuts have the immediate negative effect of reducing jobs, they also are having longer term negative consequences on education and infrastructure and weakening control by local elected officials.

Furthermore, Governor Walker’s decisions to refuse Federal assistance for Wisconsin for developing our infrastructure (the improved rail link between Milwaukee and Madison), and for helping those Wisconsin citizens most in need of help (the rejected Medicaid expansion) exacerbated this lack of progress in job creation.  Instead of hundreds of millions of our federal tax payments returning to Wisconsin, Governor Walker told the Federal government to give that money to other states. Also, state dollars have been substituted for federal dollars to support transit and health care.

Governor Walker made choices based on political ideology instead of what has worked — or not — elsewhere. (See Kansas, which has had poor economic growth in spite of large tax cuts)  A pledge without a sound plan is just a recipe for failure.

The graph shows the difference between the rate of job growth in the US and the rate of job growth in Wisconsin from March 2009, when the recession officially ended, through February 2014. Bars above 0% represent better than average growth of jobs while bars below 0% represent lagging job growth. The data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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Attorney General Town Hall Video

State Representative Jon Richards and Jefferson County DA Susan Happ at our very well attended and very informative forum for the Democratic candidates for Wisconsin Attorney General that took place this Sunday.

Along with Madison DA Ismael Ozanne, we have a great slate of candidates and any one of them would make a great AG.


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Where Are the Jobs, Governor?

The official count stands at 91,678 private sector jobs created from January 2011 through December 2013. That's a mere 37% of the 250,000 private sector jobs Scott Walker promised to add to the state's total by the end of 2014 (BloombergBusinessweek News, May 16, 2014). 

The graph shows the sorry picture: below average job growth, compared to the national average, every single month he has been in office.


So, it's election time again and the guv doesn't have a good record on his signature issue. What to do? Make up stuff. According to Politifact, Walker's been rolling out a new talking point: that "17,000 new ready-to-hire businesses have sprung up on his watch" (Politifact, May 17, 2014). But that number, meant to show that the state is poised to add thousands and thousands of new jobs in the next six months or the next year just "crumbles upon examination," as Politifact puts it.

Why? Because 80% of those "business entities" are LLCs, or Limited Liability Corporations. That type of "business entity" is created primarily for tax and liability purposes. They don't employ anyone!

*graph and data from The Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch, May 30, 2013.

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Let's Not Take the Public Out of Public Schools

publicSchoolBus.jpgChris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, is giving an online presentation, sponsored by Grassroots North Shore, on Thursday, May 15, at 7:00pm on the topic "Public Education as the Bulwark of Democracy: What Has Gone Wrong in Wisconsin."

You can register for this webinar here:

Everyone needs to understand what we stand to lose if we allow our public schools to be increasingly privatized (and run for profit) through voucher and charter school initiatives. According to a recently published report from the Economic Policy Institute,

"it appears that charter privatization proposals are driven more by financial and ideological grounds than by sound pedagogy:

  • National research shows that charter schools, on average, perform no better than public schools. There is thus no basis for believing that replacing traditional public schools in Milwaukee with privately run charters will result in improved education.
  • To truly improve education in Milwaukee, we must start with the assumption that poor children are no less deserving of a quality education than rich children. As such, the schools that privileged suburban parents demand for their children should be the yardstick we use to measure the adequacy of education in the city. This means subjecting all schools—whether public, charter, or voucher—to the same standards of accountability, including measurements that account for the economic and disability challenges their students face, and that recognize the value of a broad curriculum and experienced teachers who are qualified to develop the full range of each child’s capacities." [Source:, April 24, 2014]

Join your friends at Grassroots North Shore on Thursday evening: you can participate in your robe and slippers after all. Because on the Internet, no one knows what you're wearing!


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Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Endorses Burke!

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