Wisconsin citizens are proud of our state’s long tradition of hard work and innovation. We expect our children to grow up with a strong work ethic and to contribute to the prosperity of our communities. Over the last two years Wisconsin has lost ground in jobs. Our increase in jobs is half that of the US average and less than any neighboring state. We can bring jobs back to Wisconsin by investing in education, job training, public transit, and infrastructure on the ground and in cyberspace. All sectors of Wisconsin’s economy are vital to growth. Family farms, factories, construction, high tech, the service sector, and small businesses together will create our state’s sustainable future.
Politicians promised a great boom in jobs if middle-class Wisconsinites would give up their rights to bargain for higher wages and safer working conditions, pay more for health care, and shield corporations from lawsuits over product safety and fair treatment of workers. If only low income Wisconsinites would give up some or all of their health care and food assistance, jobs would pile up like snow in January. The people of Wisconsin held up their end of the bargain, but the jobs never showed up. Why? Because taking money out of the pockets of those who spend locally hurts local economies. A sinking tide lowers all boats.
The graphs below show how Wisconsin is faring compared to the whole country and compared to our neighboring states:
As the country recovered from the Bush Recession, Wisconsin has been stuck in its own Walker Recession. Along with few employment opportunities came a drop in average wages and family income.
Lagging jobs growth in Wisconsin shows the need for a new economic development plan for the state (Institute for Wisconsin’s Future).
Respecting the rights of workers to a living wage and safe working conditions will reward the high levels of productivity for which Wisconsin is justly famous. It is time to halt the long decline in family incomes by raising the minimum wage and providing small businesses assistance in choosing benefit plans for workers. Stagnant or declining wages mean that families have less money for recreation, dining out, and personal enrichment classes—in other words, less money circulating in our communities. Unemployed workers need our support, not punishment and humiliation for economic forces and policy decisions that are beyond their control. Unemployment insurance is meant to give families a hand up. Cutting this benefit will make the state’s unemployment rate look better, but communities will pay a high price in foreclosed homes and more families dependent on public aide.
Wisconsin has a jobs gap. Recent studies show that Wisconsin has more skilled workers than it can employ. Workers with certificates and degrees are holding jobs that do not require any post-secondary training or education. Meanwhile, average wages in Wisconsin have gone down at twice the rate of the US as a whole. Our leaders need to focus on bringing in long-term, family-supporting jobs that can give our graduates a chance at a debt-free future. <link to a power point showing how to do economic development in Wisconsin>