Here in the suddenly right-wing satrap of Wisconsin, it's the same-old, same-old: Yet another anemic quarterly job-growth report. Federal data for the period ending in June shows the once sturdy and proud Badger state continued to languish, ranking 37th among all 50 in private-sector job growth. Worse, about half of the state's counties saw job declines in the quarter. National job creation ran at levels nearly double those in Wisconsin.
The bad results produced a rather ho-hum reaction except among apologists from the Republican Party and its right-wing backers, who in reading the report continue to see Wisconsin as a shining example of constructive conservative politics. That includes more of the unbelievable "it's working!" claims from the camp of presidential wannabe Scott Walker and -- worst of all -- more thumb-sucking and functionally disinterested coverage from Wisconsin's mainstream news media.
Take, for instance, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's front-page story today that essentially asks: Why is job growth in Wisconsin so very, very slow, especially given that nearby states, such as politically progressive Minnesota, are doing far better? The story's sleepy conclusion was right out of a Perry Como Christmas special. In so many words: Well, it's just the way Wisconsin is and has always been. Why, slow growth has been a characteristic of the state not only under Governor "250,000 jobs by the end of my term" Walker but under Democrat Jim Doyle before him and numerous governors before that. Which is to suggest: They all do it, or rather, they don't do it. So the story's tone would suggest.
Most important, reading the Journal Sentinel's latest attempt to make sense of all this bad job news in Wisconsin as the national economy continues improving, you are led to believe the declining growth in jobs has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with the policies of Walker, who has bent over backwards to subsidize business interests while taking a fiscally antagonistic approach toward workers.
You see, going by the Journal Sentinel's account, it's all just the inevitable result of our state's overriding component of aging, outsourcing and off-shoring industries like paper mills, and similar stuff. That's the cause of all this. The job-creation failure is nothing that a governor -- well, at least a REPUBLICAN governor -- could possibly affect or for which (we infer) he should be held responsible.
Yes, as the story's sub-headline says, the latest crummy jobs report is indeed a "perplexing trend."
And yet, the situation isn't as vague, or as simple, or as apolitical, as the Journal Sentinel front-pager seems to suggest.
Check out the graph accompanying this post. Seen here before, it shows that, under Walker, Wisconsin job growth has been far more feeble than it was under Doyle before him.And didn't Walker, unlike Doyle, avoid the brunt of the national economic meltdown that began late in 2007, three years before he took office? The Journal Sentinel piece ignores all that history. Instead, it insists that both major political parties regularly "cherry-pick" the jobs data to make their policies look better. Yeah, but in the Doyle era, the federal job reports actually WERE better, overall, so any puffery the Doyle administration attempted was from a base of relatively decent results, compared to Walker's base of, started with a good situation and made it lousy.
In any event, what to do next? Stay the Walker course? Shift toward more creative and less politically genuflective fiscal policies? The Journal Sentinel reporters weren't too illuminating on that point. If only, their article moaned, could the state attract more venture and investment capital. Now, where could Walker find some of that kind of capital? Oh, I don't know. Maybe by accepting $810 million in federal grants for high-speed passenger rail construction? Or hundreds of millions in federal aid to expand Medicaid assistance in Wisconsin? Whoops, no go, because those opportunities violated Walker's principle core beliefs that mass transit is bad, health insurance for the poor is bad and that the federal government is bad.
The Journal Sentinel won't tell you this, but Walker's top remaining opportunity in his supply-side trick bag might be to raid the public worker pension fund, via mandating that it invest in risky state business start-ups. Yeah, go ahead, risk public employee retirement security; that'd be just fine with the one percenters.
Meanwhile, Walker's two main efforts to date (One, creating a totally dysfunctional Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Two, slashing public-sector employment and the pay and benefits of hundreds of thousands of remaining public workers) really haven't done the trick. If anything, these arguably are main contributing factors in the state's economic tailspin. And yet, we in the Badger state continue to be bombarded with "it's working" nonsense, from the likes of the ideamongers at the MacIver Insta-Suit and our oh-so objective in-state press corps.
My all-time favorite moment summing up this rah-rah, fact-free zone was State Rep. Dan Knodl's triumphant claim back in mid-2011 that Wisconsin job growth was "outpacing the nation" and "twice the national average." Whoops, got that exactly backwards. The Republican lawmaker based the wonderful news on exactly one month of data during the state's unadjusted hiring peek, coinciding with annual farm and tourist labor up-ticks. Moreover, Knodl's reliance on monthly data utterly contradicted Walker's view that quarterly data, not monthly data, told the real story. Yeah, and -- unfortunately for Walker and company -- annual data even more.
We living in Wisconsin continue to labor (or actually don't labor) under such self-contradictory rhetoric. The disinformation campaign is working! Overtime.
The Journal Sentinel's edition today did offer some alternate enlightenment regarding the state's economy. In a separate story, readers learned that a recent "study" -- which concluded that Wisconsin's economy is rich and promising -- was not only authored by the creator of the discredited, Reagan supply-side economic theology, but also funded in significant measure by the notorious billionaire Koch brothers, via the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council, a national group that has roped many Wisconsin Republican lawmakers into their cockeyed cabal and its crazed notions about how to run the world.
The author was Prof. Arthur Laffer, the economist responsible for selling the discredited theory that giving tax breaks to the wealthy will "trickle down" to create jobs for the rank and file. Tellingly, Laffer wrote similar subsidized reports for other states like Mississipi that are also in economic misery but which also happen to be run by Republicans.
Gilding the lily in a new gilded age, Laffer insists that Wisconsin has a great economic future because of -- wait for it -- Walker's fiscal policies! So, you see, Walker is simultaneously responsible for Wisconsin's great economic success and yet not whatsoever responsible for Wisconsin's great economic decline! And all this you can learn in just one edition of the state's biggest newspaper. Well, ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice.