On several measures, the current governor fares much worse than his Democratic predecessor
In no way was Doyle a perfect governor. He had his own set of challenges, and on many issues I disagree with how he handled things.
But if we’re looking strictly at how Walker’s time in office compares to Doyle’s, it’s clear that the better of the two was the Democrat.
Walker ran on being able to create more than 250,000 jobs in his first term in office, a promise he has failed to deliver more than three-quarters into his second term.
But Walker has failed in other arenas as well, and in several ways he’s worse than his predecessor.
On unemployment, Walker talks a huge game on how Wisconsin is now seeing significantly lower numbers. But it’s mostly talk, and doesn’t take into consideration that we still have more unemployed workers in Wisconsin today than what we had before the recession took off in the state in 2008.
In other words, we haven’t recovered on unemployment yet to pre-recession numbers.
But let’s take a look at how Walker has done compared to his predecessor. Former Gov. Doyle, who was in office in the heyday of the recession period, set in motion a budget aimed at alleviating poverty and helping people get back to work.
From the worst month in unemployment numbers to the last day his budget was in effect (in June 2011), Wisconsin saw numbers drop by about 2,554 less unemployed workers per month.
How does Walker fare? Since June 2011 to September 2015, we’ve seen improvement but not the same as how Doyle performed: Wisconsin saw a drop of about 2,093 less workers on unemployment per month. That’s a performance rate for Walker that’s 18 percent slower than what it was under former Gov. Jim Doyle.
Crime went up under Walker
We should also take a look at crime in the state under both governors. The change from Doyle to Walker is significant, and not in a good way.
In 2010, the last full year of Doyle’s time in office, the violent crime rate was around 248 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants in the state.
Walker’s numbers are again worse than Doyle’s. In 2014, the last available year of FBI crime statistics, Wisconsin saw a violent crime rate of more than 290 incidents per 100,000. That’s nearly a 17 percent increase in violent crime in the last four years of data.
This is in spite of Gov. Walker’s promise that his policies would make our state safer for law-abiding citizens. After passing concealed carry into law in 2011, for instance, crime in the state jumped by significant margins.
It’s clear that on the issue of crime Wisconsin was much better off under Doyle’s leadership than Walker’s.
Although not a barometer for a specific piece of legislation that either Doyle or Walker championed, it’s important nevertheless to examine how citizens of the state viewed both individuals.
At his worst point, Gov. Jim Doyle saw an approval rating of just 36 percent, and a disapproval rating of 56 percent. Keep in mind, however, that this was a time of growing unrest, of social upheaval and “tea party” politicians instigating fears of the recession lasting for a long time. Only six governors across the nation during this same time period had approval ratings over the 50 percent mark.
Walker remains in office, and has led during a time of national recovery. Yet his current approval rating, at 39 percent and at the start of his second term, is just three marks higher than Gov. Doyle’s was at the end of his tenure. Much worse, Gov. Walker’s disapproval rating is four points higher than Doyle’s disapproval was.
Looking at both the approval and disapproval numbers, Doyle’s net rating was -20 percent when he left office. Less than one year into his second term, Walker’s net approval sits at -21 percent.
This isn’t a defense of Jim Doyle so much as it is a reprimand of Scott Walker. We did indeed see some major struggles under Doyle’s tenure, and he could have done a lot of things differently.
But he also did a lot of things well, including passing legislation meant to strengthen the equal pay laws in the state (legislation that the Walker administration repealed), as well as creating a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples (which the Walker administration did not support).
Scott Walker maintained throughout his first campaign in 2010 that he could do better than Jim Doyle. On the measures listed above, and on others not mentioned, he’s doing significantly worse than his predecessor. It’s time that we recognize of the most recent governors in Wisconsin’s history, the Republican option was the worse of the two.
Numbers on unemployment were obtained through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Numbers on crime were obtained through the FBI website.