Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to create jobs in Wisconsin: increase demand, reduce burdens for consumers

The Walker administration has slowed growth by refusing to acknowledge that capitalism requires strong consumer base

What creates jobs? That question is likely to be on the minds of several Wisconsin voters this fall.

Gov. Scott Walker, who promised at least 250,000 jobs created in his first term in office, is well short of his pledge (that’s a generous conclusion -- he’s not even halfway there). Whether voters will hold him accountable to that number or find the number Wisconsin has created as acceptable is yet to be seen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Newest quarterly job numbers show a continued “Wisconsin Slowdown” under Walker

Predecessor's share of jobs created during Wisconsin's recovery is higher in proportion to time his budget was in play

You can say this about the governor: his optimism, despite the evidence of his policy failures, is surely something to envy.

There’s no other explanation for how this governor can continue to say things are “working” in Wisconsin.

After Madison’s WKOW published a story describing how the state had delayed its regularly scheduled release of the quarterly job numbers (a fact that was noticed by Jud Lounsbury five days ago), the Department of Workforce Development issued a presser that showed the state had gained 28,653 jobs from March 2013 to March 2014.

In the release, Secretary Reggie Newson said, “After losing 133,000 private sector jobs during the four years before Governor Walker took office, the latest 12-month actual jobs data available shows Wisconsin's economy is continuing to grow and add jobs for Wisconsin's working families.”

If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, it should: Walker, in his political advertising, continuously states that 133,000 jobs figure. And just like Walker, Newson leaves out the context that the state was immersed in a global economic recession at that time.

One has to wonder why Newson, a public employee who is supposed to serve the people of this state, is touting a line from Gov. Walker’s campaign. Perhaps Walker’s people are merely coordinating with the DWD? At this point, the list of people Walker’s campaign ISN’T coordinating with may be smaller than the list of people he IS.

But let’s ignore the suspicious use of campaign rhetoric by Newson for a moment. Are these numbers a positive sign of growth for the state? A positive number is, after all, a move in the right direction. But could we be doing better?

It turns out we DID do better, before our current governor took office. Scott Walker isn’t the sole proprietor of the “Wisconsin Comeback,” as he likes to call it -- recovery in the state began during then-Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure in 2010. And since Walker took office, the recovery has slowed substantially.

Let’s compare first quarter job numbers with each other. We can call Q1-2011 a “mostly-Doyle” time -- from March 2010 to March 2011, Doyle was governor for nine out of 12 months. What’s more, those first three months of 2011 were under Doyle’s last budget, which ended in June 2011. So for the MOST part, the Q1-2011 job report is Doyle’s to claim.

How did Wisconsin fare during this time? Private sector job growth rose by 41,350 jobs, a rate of growth of 1.9 percent over that year.

That’s right: a Doyle period of job growth produced over 144 percent of what we saw happen during the latest quarterly numbers released by Walker.

In fact, under Walker Wisconsin’s yearly private sector job growth rate was, on average, about 1.42 percent. That’s more than 25 percent slower than what our recovery was under Doyle’s final first quarter performance (again, which occurred from 2010 to 2011).

Look at the graph below to see the real story:

And even though his budget represented only 25 percent of the period of time expressed above, Gov. Doyle’s last budget produced more than 30 percent of the yearly first quarter jobs gained during that time.

Doyle's budget represents 25% of the time but 30% of the jobs created
We’re not experiencing a “Wisconsin Comeback.” We’re witnessing a “Wisconsin Slowdown” with Walker in charge.


The most troubling thing about this whole jobs mess? That the governor continues to try to make it seem better, even when it’s clear job growth isn't improving. In his latest campaign ad he touts the July 2013 to July 2014 private sector jobs created, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly stats.

Walker praised those same numbers in 2011, but changed his tune when they started to turn sour. In 2012, Walker announced he would start releasing the BLS quarterly numbers a month early -- conveniently allowing him to produce positive job growth numbers just weeks before his recall election.

Since that time, Walker’s DWD has released those numbers a month before their official release, calling them the gold standard over the monthly numbers. But the summer release of December’s yearly jobs numbers came with the release of the state’s unemployment numbers, and were buried in that report without a title stating they were even there to read.

That Walker and DWD released these latest numbers only after pressure from a news organization should speak volumes. It seems the governor is embarrassed, and is using whatever data is available to him that could possibly put him in good standing, even if his administration has previously described that data as “flawed and a poor indicator of the true economic outlook in Wisconsin.”

Whatever works for him, the governor will take it. Inconsistency and manipulation of the facts seems to be his favorite campaign strategy. Don’t fall for it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A comment on John Doe -- “I’m not a target” does not equal “I did nothing wrong”

Why Scott Walker can’t shake off his John Doe problems

Another set of documents from the not-so-secret-anymore John Doe investigation was released this weekend, describing in more detail what prosecutors meant when they said that Gov. Scott Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” in other papers released earlier this summer.

From Politico:
Newly released court documents include excerpts from emails showing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign team told him to instruct donors to give to a key conservative group that would run ads for Walker and distribute money to other conservative groups backing him.
Though, once again, no definitive case of wrongdoing against Walker can be made, the latest document dump shows that those he surrounded himself with told the governor to solicit donations and to funnel the money directly to Wisconsin Club for Growth. Doing so would allow donors to give unlimited amounts of campaign cash to the organization, anonymously, where it would be distributed across a network of several other groups who backed Walker in his recall election campaign.

In one of the documents released, Katie Doner, a fundraiser for Walker’s campaign, described the plan to RJ Johnson, “a paid adviser to Walker who was also involved with the Wisconsin Club for Growth” according to WisPolitics:
[Walker] wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru (sic) one group to ensure correct messaging ... We had some past problems with multiple groups doing work on ‘behalf’ of Gov. Walker and it caused some issues. In Wisconsin, a 501(c)(4) is the legal vehicle that runs the media/outreach/GOTV campaigns. The Governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure...
Emphasis in bold mine.

There are also troubling donations given to the WCFG that could spell out possible pay-to-play schemes. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Among the funds that flowed into the Wisconsin Club for Growth was $700,000 from [mining company Gogebic Taconite, who were] trying to build a massive open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Soon after the 2012 recall and general elections, Walker and Republicans eased environmental regulations, helping the firm.
The donation from the mining company could open anew a bitter debate between environmentalists and those who say a mine would deliver good-paying jobs to the hard-hit Northwoods.
“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” investigator Dean Nickel said in documents unsealed Friday.
Emphases in bold mine.

In response to the documents released, Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said, “As previously reported, the prosecutor’s attorney stated that Governor Walker is not a target.”

We’ve heard that line from Walker in the past as well. But the facts back up the allegations: Walker’s people were telling him to solicit donations from millionaires or corporations for Wisconsin Club For Growth. Later on, those very people (after meeting with Walker) are donating vast sums to the organization.

These documents, without having direct evidence of wrongdoing on Walker’s part, indicate that Walker indeed isn’t a target of the investigation. But it’s pretty clear to see that Walker wasn’t an innocent bystander either. And without a direct statement from Walker saying, “I did nothing wrong,” suspicion and theories of what he did do during this time will surely grow.

Saying “I’m not a target of an investigation” is not the same as saying “I am innocent and haven’t done anything wrong.” It’s clear, with evidence of people surrounding the governor engaging in illegal campaigning activities, that something is VERY wrong with this governor.

It was Walker who said, in his 2010 campaign for governor:
“Governors should be defined not just by what they do and say, but who they surround themselves with.”