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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