Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Milwaukee may surpass Chicago's murder rate, despite concealed carry promises

Homicide rates increase in Milwaukee, decrease in Chicago.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about growing violence in the state of Wisconsin after a controversial concealed carry law was passed.

While it isn’t clear whether the concealed carry law itself contributed to the rise in crime, it is clear that the promises made -- including some that insisted crime would decrease as a result of the law -- were false. Indeed, when Gov. Scott Walker signed the law in late 2011, he said that:
By signing concealed carry into law, we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.
In the year that followed, violent crime increased by 18 percent per 100,000 citizens in Wisconsin. The homicide rate on its own increased by 26 percent in 2012.

In Milwaukee, the number of murders also increased from 2011 to 2012, albeit at a smaller rate change. Homicides in the city increased by more than six percent in the year after concealed carry was passed in the state.

The results of this research were only for one full year of Wisconsin homicides under concealed carry. But as we enter the next year, we’re beginning to see that these trends may permeate through the years to come as well.

2013, the second full year of concealed carry, also saw an increase in crime within Milwaukee -- and with it, an increase in homicides.

Unofficially, Milwaukee saw 102 murders in 2013. Assuming that its population stayed the same size (or relatively close) to its 2012 numbers, that would mean Wisconsin’s largest city saw 17.01 murders per 100,000 citizens -- a rate that’s higher than its 2012 homicide rate of 15.18.

Chicago, meanwhile, saw a very bad 2012, and many media outlets dubbed it the new “murder capital of the U.S.” This was an erroneous moniker, however, because it disregarded murder rates and focused solely on raw numbers.

While Chicago’s 500 murders in 2012 did make it the highest city in total homicides reported, its murder rate per 100,000 was far below several other major cities, including St. Louis, Birmingham, Little Rock, and New Orleans.

In 2013, however, Chicago had a miniature “turnaround.” While its total number of murders is high, at 412 it’s still a significant drop from the year before, and the lowest number of murders the city has seen in over 40 years.

* Rates if population numbers hold steady
If the number of homicides is accurate, and the population of the city remains the same, Chicago will see its 2013 murder rate decrease to 15.21 per 100,000, down from 18.46 the year before.

Comparing the numbers between Milwaukee and Chicago shows that the two cities have swapped places in 2013 (again, if populations of both cities hold steady).

If the numbers hold true, Milwaukee will have an estimated rate of homicide that is 1.8 persons per 100,000 greater than Chicago’s, meaning that you’re more likely to be murdered in Wisconsin’s largest municipality than you are in Illinois’s largest city.

Again, the data here does not necessarily translate towards any definitive effect that concealed carry itself (nor any other policy for that matter) increased crime in the state or in Milwaukee. What it does show, however, is two straight years of homicide rate increases for the city, which is inconsistent with the view that concealed carry made our state safer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Weekly audio commentary: on free speech and Duck Dynasty

Today I introduce a new segment...a weekly commentary.

Today I speak on Freedom of Speech and the controversy over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

Audio recording >>

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Walker idea to eliminate income (and raise sales) taxes would hurt Wisconsin’s poor

Effective tax rates, already somewhat regressive, would flip overwhelmingly in favor of the wealthy while burdening families with lower incomes

Gov. Scott Walker is all about cutting taxes...except when it comes to the poor. For the poor, he’s all about raising them.

Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, 2013
Early on in his term, Gov. Walker proposed and passed a budget that included a cut in the Earned Income Tax Credit. The budget that passed into law reduced the amount that Wisconsin’s working and middle class families could claim, effectively raising taxes on Wisconsinites who qualified for the credit.

For a two-parent household with three children earning $40,000 annually, for example, the cut to the EITC implemented by Walker effectively raised their taxes by about 1.3 percent. Overall, the tax credit was reduced by $56.2 million in the 2011 budget.

This week, Walker introduced a new “reform” idea for the state of Wisconsin: possibly eliminating the income tax entirely. And when pressed for how he would make up the difference, Walker suggested that we could do so in a very simple way:
Walker told WisPolitics.com on Tuesday that he is “envious” of other states that have eliminated income taxes, and that he could support raising the state’s 5 percent sales tax rate or eliminating sales tax exemptions to help cover the revenue loss that would result from killing income taxes.
Emphasis added.

Raising the sales tax, of course, would be an increase in taxes that historically hurt the working poor. Indeed, sales and excise taxes make up 6.2 percent of taxes for the poorest of Wisconsinites. For the top 20 percent of income earners, however, they only make up between 0.9 to 2.5 percent.

Overall, sales tax makes up for about two-thirds of the effective tax rate (PDF) that the poorest 20 percent in the state pay. Again, for the richest 20 percent, sales tax makes up about a quarter of what they contribute to taxes, at most.

Eliminating the income tax would greatly benefit the wealthiest of Wisconsinites, but it would do next to nothing for the lowest quintile of earners, and barely anything for the lowest two quintiles (the poorest 40 percent). The effective tax rates (the sum total of all taxes paid, e.g. sales, income, property and so forth) for Wisconsinites earning below $36,000 per year is currently between 9.6 and 10.7 percent. Eliminating the income tax would change those numbers very minimally, reducing the effective tax of this income group to between 8.6 to 9.7 percent.

That’s without raising the sales tax, which experts suggest may have to increase to 12 or 13 percent per purchase, more than doubling its current rate. If we take into account the elimination of the income tax, but double the share of household income dedicated towards sales tax for these families, the effective rate actually rises to between 13.8 and 15.8 percent on the lowest 40 percent of income earners (with the poorer actually paying the higher end of that percentage range).

For the top 1 percent of income earners, eliminating the income tax and doubling their family share of sales tax would be a huge win -- reducing their effective tax from 6.9 percent to 2.2 percent.

Overall, eliminating the income tax would create a huge tax burden on the poor, creating an effective tax that would be more regressive than it is already today in Wisconsin.

Any reductions in the income tax with increases in the sales tax shifts the burden to the poor and middle classes. An outright elimination of the income tax and a substantial jump on sales tax would spell catastrophe for those with modest family budgets in Wisconsin.

It would be irresponsible to go forward with a plan like this, and Gov. Walker should stop any talks about doing so immediately.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Walker tells a fairy tale on his jobs record, hoping we’re stupid enough to believe him

Governor's dishonesty based on the assumption that our collective memories are erased

I’ve said it before, but it continues to be a problem, so I’ll say it again and again until it sticks:

People need to wake up to the fact that Gov. Scott Walker thinks we’re all suckers.

Speaking on whether or not he will run for re-election, Walker talked briefly about criticisms he had regarding his potential challenger, Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke.
“There are some questions even about Trek and whether or not jobs were sent overseas,” Walker said. “And then as secretary of Commerce under Jim Doyle … those policies when she was part of the administration saw the state losing 133,000 jobs.”
Several on the left have already brought up their reservations about Burke’s record at Trek. Burke has defended her record, saying that the company employs more than 1,000 workers in Wisconsin, more than any other bike company in the country.

But those parts of Walker’s comments aren’t what I’m worried about. What’s more troubling is the second half of his comments, mainly that they distort the reality of what actually happened in the state during that time.

Yes, Wisconsin lost 133,000 jobs during the time that Gov. Doyle was in office. Yes, Mary Burke was Commerce Secretary under Jim Doyle.

Aside from those facts, Scott Walker is creating a fairy tale about what really happened.

The loss of 133,000 jobs in Wisconsin occurred as the world -- not just the state -- was engulfed in a catastrophic economic recession.

Never is that mentioned in the Republican Party’s or Walker’s talking points. They’d rather not mention them, in fact, hoping that you’re gullible enough to believe that the cataclysmic numbers are entirely the Doyle administration’s fault, and that Walker is the “patron saint of jobs” in the state.

Actually, quite the opposite is true: Walker’s policies are slowing us down.

First, some real facts: Mary Burke left Commerce before the recession hit Wisconsin (and the country, world, et al). When she left her cabinet position, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was at 4.6 percent.

The total number of people who were unemployed in the state decreased by two percent overall during that time, with 2,952 less unemployed persons across the state from when Burke started at Commerce to the time she left her post.

The recession officially began about a month after Burke left the public sector.

Not only is Walker not being honest about WHY Wisconsin lost so many jobs, but he’s also being dishonest about WHEN Burke served as Secretary of Commerce. She wasn’t even in office when the job losses occurred...not that it mattered because, again, EVERY STATE and EVERY COUNTRY in the world was hit hard economically.

Fast forward a few years, and we can examine Walker’s record compared to Doyle’s, sans recession. The second year of the last budget passed by the Doyle administration lasted from June 2010 to June 2011. During that time, Wisconsin grew the number of private sector by 39,909 jobs (about 3325.75 jobs per month).

The latest numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Walker’s numbers during the same calendar time are considerably less -- from June 2012 to June 2013, Wisconsin grew 23,963 (less than 2,000 jobs per month).

To sum it up: Scott Walker is attacking Mary Burke for a record he’s created in his imagination. The “myth” of Burke losing jobs for Wisconsin that Walker has crafted ignores a global economic recession as well as the fact that Burke wasn’t in office when it occurred.

Meanwhile, Walker is ignoring his own record and creating another myth, that he’s done better on jobs for the state. In fact, looking at the data above, the numbers from Doyle’s last budget year are 66 percent better than Walker’s current year.

Of course for Walker, storytelling might be his last resort: with headlines like “Wisconsin Ranked 37th in private sector job growth,” it’s hard to sell the case that you’re somehow better than what we had before.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Burke should endorse progressive jobs plan

Increasing aid, growing the minimum wage, and restoring the EITC could help improve the jobs situation in Wisconsin

The campaign for the governor’s race is heating up, and Mary Burke, the only declared candidate from the Democratic Party’s side, is taking heat from the right on some of her policy positions.

From the Journal Sentinel:
In recent days, the GOP stepped up attacks on Burke for entering the race without a jobs plan.

Burke’s response?

“It will be an important part of my campaign,” she says, adding that her jobs plan will be “one that is well thought out and one that I will implement as governor.”
I personally have no doubt that Burke will come up with a jobs plan that will be competitive with current Gov. Scott Walker’s. Indeed, the Republicans who are critical of Burke ought to transfer at least some of that criticism towards their own ranks, as job growth has actually slowed significantly under Walker’s watch.

It might behoove Burke to consider some progressive ideas for job creation, ideas that have worked in the past and that reject the “trickle down” theories of Walker and the GOP.

Increasing Public Aid

Among the first of these ideas is increasing aid for public assistance programs. This is one plan that Burke herself has already explicitly said she would have done differently than Walker, particularly on the issue of accepting federal Medicaid dollars.

Walker rejected Medicaid funds, a move that cost the state more financially and removed nearly 100,000 adults from BadgerCare across the state.

More aid to those who need it allows some of the state’s citizens a bit of increased purchasing power. By increasing purchasing power, demand for labor rises as goods and services are purchased at a higher rate. Removing individuals from BadgerCare, however, creates more fiscal concerns for Wisconsin’s downtrodden, which means less capital is placed into small businesses across the state...and thus, less hiring occurs.

Growing the minimum wage

A second method to growing jobs is increasing the statewide minimum wage. Now, countless conservatives have argued that raising wages actually hurts jobs, forcing business owners to pay employees more and hire less.

But recent studies have proven just the opposite holds true -- that increasing pay has little to no effect on curtailing employment, and may in fact lead to more hiring as a result of, once again, greater purchasing power by those previously earning a lower rate of pay. By increasing what workers earn, we grow the purchasing power of the average worker, much like growing public assistance helps. The benefits of raising the minimum wage, however, is that there aren’t any direct costs to government itself -- the government simply states that this is the new minimum wage, and businesses must comply.

A growth in Wisconsin to $8.50 per hour would increase the average 40-hour minimum wage worker’s salary by about $50 per week, more than $200 per month. Imagine if thousands of minimum wage workers across the state suddenly had $200 more to spend each month. Wouldn’t that increase sales across Wisconsin, infusing much needed cash flow into the state’s economy, which in turn would boost employment? You bet it would!

Restoring cuts to the EITC

In 2011, while arguments were still being made against the controversial bill curtailing union rights in the state, Gov. Walker remained on the offensive with a controversial budget proposal. Among the items in his first budget was a cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a reduction of a popular tax credit that helped families in dire economic need.

The 2011 budget cut the EITC by $56.2 million from working families across the state. For a single mother with two kids earning minimum wage, the cut amounted to about a one percent increase in her taxes. A two-parent family with three children earning 150 percent of the federal poverty line saw their taxes go up 1.25 percent, and families of five earning just at the poverty line saw a 1.88 percent tax hike.

Restoring $56.2 million to the consumer class will undoubtedly help spur demand, and with it an increase in the need for more labor.

We’ve seen Walker’s failures -- now we need positive action

We’ve seen the “Scott Walker approach” to growing jobs in Wisconsin. More importantly, we’ve seen how much it has failed.

From June 2012 to June 2013, Wisconsin’s jobs numbers slowed down significantly. There were 23,968 jobs created during that time, a 39.9 percent slower increase than the last year of Gov. Jim Doyle’s final budget.

What can we learn from these numbers? Walker’s invention, the private-public Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was an epic failure that mismanaged funds intended to help grow business and jobs. His other policy, of granting billions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations in the state, also failed to spur any job creation whatsoever. And decreasing take-home pay for state workers also likely diminished the number of jobs we could have created.

Let’s remember: these tactics were part of how Walker promised to grow 250,000 jobs in four years. We aren’t anywhere close to that number, nor are we close to being on pace to it. Quite simply, the Walker policies are failing Wisconsin. A different approach is needed, one that has been proven to work.

By embracing the progressive ideas outlined above, Mary Burke (or any other Democratic candidate) has a real opportunity to appeal to a progressive base as well as offer a positive vision much different from the failures of Gov. Walker.

We need solutions that will work, as well as appeal to a vast majority of Wisconsinites. When those two collide, it spells a winning formula for success, in this case removing Walker from office. The ideas outlined above provide just that: a jobs plan that can be both successful and popular in the state.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

One year after Sandy Hook, America (and Wisconsin) has a lot yet to learn

A quick rant on the need for reasonable gun regulations in our state and our country

One year after the most horrific of nightmares became reality for a sleepy New England town, little if anything has been done to address the events of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Twenty children and six school administrators were killed that day, for no apparent reason. What went through the shooter’s mind that day -- addressing him by name serves no grand purpose -- remains a mystery. He and only he knows why he did what he did, and that secret has been taken to his grave.

It isn’t fair to those children, it isn’t fair to those families, what this man took from them. So much potential, so much promise...gone in an instant.

There is no happy ending to this story. Few (if any) can imagine what a happy ending could even look like, what any resolution could bring for these people.

Families from across America held onto their little ones a little tighter that night, as the reality of the situation became apparent: Newtown, Connecticut, was really Anytown, U.S.A.

Yet, the possible remedies for such a tragedy were readily dismissed by the usual parties -- the National Rifle Association specifically, as well as the lawmakers they fund. Hoping to calm the nerves of a populace fed up with such tragedies, NRA leaders came up with their own solution: more guns, especially in schools.

Any calls for regulation of any kind were scoffed at by those “defending” gun rights. No, banning weapons of any kind was out of the question. No, limiting the magazine count was also an option they couldn’t accept. And don’t even think about expanding background checks, or closing the gun-show loophole, both ideas which were also readily dismissed as an “infringement” on gun owners’ rights.

Each of the regulations intended to curb abusive gun behavior was turned down by conservative lawmakers in Congress and their pro-gun sponsors. They were called cowards by the left, and heroes by the right. The rest of America, already understanding the realities of a do-nothing Congress, went on with their lives, cynically believing there was nothing that could be done.

Four months earlier, Wisconsin saw a tragedy of its own, in a place of worship no less. At that time, we heard the usual lines from those favoring loose gun laws -- there was no way to prevent this, except to have more guns. We heard the (errant) line that gun-free zones only encouraged “bad guys with guns” to do their dastardly deeds, in spite of the fact that the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek wasn’t a gun-free zone.

Wisconsin itself has experienced a rise in gun-related crime, in a year when a newly-enacted concealed carry law went into effect. The idea of the law, its proponents asserted, was to allow citizens the freedom to carry their weapons wherever they wanted to. More guns, after all, would lead to less crime...or so we were told.

In fact, crime in the state went up. Violent crime, defined by the FBI as murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, increased by a rate of more than 18 percent (per 100,000 citizens) compared to the previous year’s numbers. Murders and aggravated assaults went up by 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively. And the number of murders related to guns went up even more so, increasing by 34 percent.

Those that had us believe that concealed carry would fix things, at least in the short term, were wrong. And it wasn’t just in urban areas, either: take Milwaukee and Madison out of the equation, the two largest cities in the state, and Wisconsin’s murder rate per 100,000 went up by 83 percent from the previous year.

On the issue of gun violence in this country, and in this state, we’re clearly missing the point. Something needs to change in our collective minds about the growing number of tragedies we experience. Instead of finding solutions, however, we’ve simply numbed ourselves to these experiences, resigning ourselves to offer prayer and condolences, and nothing much beyond that.

I myself can’t offer a solution that everyone is going to like (nor should I -- I’m a mere opinion writer, not a lawmaker). I don’t actually think that’s possible, in the gun debate or any other political issue facing the nation or the state. But the solutions offered by those purporting that more guns are needed, or that concealed carry will lower crimes, are wrong.

One thing I’m certain of, however, is that the cynicism of our time needs to end. The solutions need to be discussed openly, honestly, and without callous.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fired for all the wrong reasons? Walker campaign may have had other motives

Friends of Scott Walker fire Taylor Palmisano...three years after racist remarks, one weekend after embarrassing email

A senior staffer from Gov. Scott Walker’s electoral campaign has been fired for racist remarks she made against Hispanic individuals.

Taylor Palmisano, who up to this week was serving as deputy finance director for Friends of Scott Walker (the official campaign arm of Gov. Walker), made derogatory (and violent) statements about individuals who were near her at the time.

Gov. Scott Walker / Taylor Palmisano
I will choke that illegal mex in the library,” reads one tweet. “Stop banging ****ing chairs around and turn off your Walkman.”

Another tweet, again making reference to the documentation status of the people around her, echoed similar lines of intolerance.

This bus is my worst ****ing nightmare,” it read. “Nobody speaks English & these ppl dont know how to control their kids

The second tweet included the hashtags “#only3morehours” and “#illegalaliens.”

After her removal from the campaign, Walker’s spokesman, Jonathan Wetzel, was quick to point out the governor didn’t approve of these tweets.

“Both the Governor, and the campaign, condemn these insulting remarks which do not reflect our views in any way,” he said.

But is that the real reason for her departure? It’s hard to say. Palmisano was also the author of the now-infamous campaign email that asked contributors to forgo buying Christmas presents for their children in favor of giving to the Friends for Scott Walker campaign.
Instead of venturing into the cold this Black Friday, stay in and give your children a gift that will keep on giving.


Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken, or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of.
So was Palmisano fired for the racist tweets? Or for the messed up email that caused national international embarrassment?

Consider this: the tweets that landed Palmisano in trouble were made almost three years ago. On the other hand, Palmisano was promoted to her position as deputy finance director this past July.

So, two years after she said she would “choke that illegal mex,” Palmisano got a promotion on the Walker campaign. Six months later, she writes an embarrassing email that paints Gov. Walker in a bad light, and she’s suddenly fired for tasteless tweets.

Seems a little...suspicious.

Don’t get me wrong: firing her was the right thing to do. The comments that Palmisano made are disgusting, and she was deservingly kicked off of the Walker campaign.

The thing is, Palmisano deserved to be fired a long time ago. Palmisano didn’t deserve to be on the campaign for as long as she did, much less to get a promotion five months ago.

For a governor whose administration did enough of a background check on a STUDENT that they would refuse him a position on the board of regents for signing a recall petition, you’d think his own campaign would do enough of a check on a potential hire to know that they have such extreme racist views.

And that’s why I’m skeptical Palmisano was fired for the right reasons.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Minnesota created more jobs because Scott Walker created less demand

Simple economic theory explains why Minnesota is miles ahead of Wisconsin on job creation

Job numbers from BLS, First quarter 2013 QCEW
Job creation is spurred by one simple concept: demand. A job will be created when it’s necessary to have, when doing so is beneficial to the person who owns or runs a business.

Demand itself is driven by a strong consumer class. When people are able to purchase a particular good, the demand for that good increases. Production needs to go up to keep up with that demand. When the need for production goes up, the need for labor rises, and with that (and the capital created from the purchases of goods) a job can be created.

Some have argued that tax cuts for businesses will help create jobs. On a small level, this can help: small businesses that have enough demand for a product can use these tax breaks to create work if they lack capital. But on their own, tax cuts for corporations do not spur job growth.

What is needed is a growth in capital for consumers. When the middle- and working-classes are able to make purchases, it’s great for businesses. It’s even better when they’re able to increase the number of purchases they make, as this increases the cycle of demand, production, and job creation.

Wisconsin and Minnesota serve as two states to compare when it comes to job creation and the means how to do it -- or, in one case, how NOT to do it. Both states have similar demographics and population sizes, and each took different directions in governance in 2010.

Gov. Scott Walker pledged to grow jobs by 250,000 by the end of his first term. He is so far failing in keeping his promise, unable to keep up with the pace he said was his "floor."

Minnesota, meanwhile, has seen a growth of jobs that puts Wisconsin to shame -- this, in spite of the conventional wisdom purported by conservatives that tax increases in their state would deter job growth.

What makes Wisconsin and Minnesota so different? The consumer classes in Minnesota saw an increase in their purchasing power, while Wisconsinites saw significantly smaller changes. Here’s a few of the differences that were seen, according to numbers from the first quarter of this year:

  • State workers. In Minnesota, from 2011 to 2013 the average state worker saw their income increase by more than $24 per week, or an increase of $1,248 per year. The number of state workers also increased, by 1,050 employees over the two-year period, a 1.38 percent increase.

  • Private workers. Private sector wages also went up in Minnesota on average by almost $3,800 per year for the typical worker.

  • Jobs created. The total number of jobs created from March 2011 to March 2013 for Minnesota was 99,905 jobs, almost a 4 percent jump.
  • State workers. Wisconsin, on the other hand, saw state workers’ incomes drop from 2011 to 2013 by $72 per week, or $3,744 per year per average worker. The number of state employees also dropped, by 1,375 workers during the two-year period, a decrease of 1.75 percent of the public sector workforce.

  • Private workers. Private sector wages went up by almost the same rate in Wisconsin as it did in Minnesota. However, the average private sector Wisconsinite still earns significantly less than the average Minnesotan -- more on that below.

  • Jobs created. The total number of jobs created in Wisconsin from March 2011 to March 2013 was 54,084 jobs, just barely above a 2 percent jump.
Income comparisons
  • Both Wisconsin and Minnesota saw private sector wage increases. The rates between the two states are pretty similar, but the increase in weekly dollar amounts differ slightly. Minnesota’s private sector workers saw an average increase of $73 per week, while Wisconsin private sector workers saw an average increase of $60 per week.

    In total, the average private sector worker in Minnesota received a salary of $53,144 in 2013; in Wisconsin, the total was almost ten grand less, at $43,316 for the average private sector worker.

  • The private sector gap favored Minnesota in both 2011 and 2013. However, the gap between those two years has grown. In 2011, Wisconsinites earned $176 less on average than private sector Minnesotans. That jumped up to a $189 difference between the states in 2013, a $13 increase in the gap favoring our neighbor to the northwest. That means the private sector wage gap has increased by 7.3 percent between the two years.

  • The public sector wage gap between the states, which until recently has been significantly higher in Wisconsin, has shrunken. In 2011, Wisconsin employees in the public sector earned $112 more than their Minnesota counterparts. In 2013, that gap shrank to just $16 more. For more comparison, in 2011 public sector Minnesotans earned 89.6 percent of the same income that public sector Wisconsinites earned; in 2013, that number changed to 98.4 percent.
What we’re seeing is an increase in wages for private sector employees in both states; however, public sector employees saw a significant jump in Minnesota, whereas in Wisconsin wages actually decreased. What’s more, the number of public sector workers in Wisconsin, who generally earn more than the average private sector worker, shrunk as well.

The average wage (from both sectors) grew in both states. In Minnesota, the average wage increased by 7.5 percent, while in Wisconsin it shot up by 6.9 percent. Both of those numbers are good news; however, in Wisconsin the average wage is still much lower than in Minnesota, which means the purchasing power of the average worker in our state is significantly smaller.

Cutting social programs will only make the problem worse

With a number of individuals being booted off of several social programs in Wisconsin, things aren’t likely to change for the better any time soon. Social programs help aid those who face economic hardships by providing assistance in purchasing or providing a needed service. But social programs do more than just help an individual or a family; they help the economy as well.

For example, Medicaid helps those with lower incomes have health insurance. This is morally sound policy, but it’s great economically as well, as the added hardship of purchasing private insurance would require extra dollars taken out of the pockets of the poor. Those dollars instead contribute to the local economy -- which, as pointed out above, helps create jobs.

Gov. Scott Walker declined federal funds to increase the number of Wisconsinites onto BadgerCare; as a result, nearly 100,000 Wisconsinites will now be without state-funded insurance. Minnesota, on the other hand, accepted those funds and increased its Medicaid enrollment.

This will undoubtedly result in a stronger economy for Minnesotans once again, and stronger job numbers as well. Wisconsin will continue to lag behind, the results of which will come through a diminished purchasing power of the citizenry of the state.


Job creation depends on one very simple concept: demand is necessary before a job can be created. For demand to exist, however, there needs to be a strong consumer class, a large segment of the population that is able to make purchases on goods.

Our consumer class in Wisconsin is getting better, but not through any initiative created by the Walker administration. Indeed, the economic policies produced by Gov. Walker have done very little to spur any strengthening of consumers' pocketbooks.

Walker slashed state workers' pay by instituting the economic provisions of Act 10. He reduced the amount that individuals receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit can claim. And he's set to cut more than 95,000 individuals from BadgerCare, effectively forcing them to purchase insurance they cannot afford.

Meanwhile, in a failed effort to create jobs, Walker gave billions of dollars to corporations in the form of tax relief. That job creation initiative produced very little to show from it.

That's because Walker was trying to aid the wrong entities. Instead of giving capital to corporations -- which will hold onto the added source of income as though it were added revenue WITHOUT demand -- Walker ought to consider ways that he can grow the purchasing power of the citizenry as a whole, who will use the added capital to jump-start the "demand-production-job creation" cycle.

If Walker doesn't change the method for which he supports job creation, then Wisconsin will continue to lag behind. It's as simple as that.