Remember back in February, at the height of the controversy surrounding public employee unions in Wisconsin, the idea was trotted out that Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union efforts were part and parcel of a broader, bolder economic vision that would lead to growth and prosperity in the Badger State? Now one year on and with a recall election looming for Walker ironically it may be his record on job creation that does Walker more harm than his anti-union sentiments. Why, because since he took office and enacted his program “Wisconsin has lost more jobs…than any other state”, according to Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. What follows is an analysis of Scott Walker’s economic performance. The figures below are all seasonally adjusted, all statistics courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Photo by Lena

1) Total Jobs. “In Gov. Walker’s first 13 months (using December 2010 as the baseline), the state lost 8,500 non-farm jobs. That was worst among the 50 states. Only four other states experienced a net decrease in that time. If you take the most recent 12 months — January 2011 to January 2012 – the state lost 12,500 non-farm jobs, also worst in the nation, a fact Democrats have seized on.”

2) Government jobs. “Wisconsin shed 14,500 public-sector jobs during Walker’s first thirteen months. That was the fifth-biggest decrease among 50 states in terms of total jobs lost, and the second biggest decrease in percentage terms (3.5%) after Texas.”

3) Private-sector jobs. “In Walker’s first year in office (ending last December), Wisconsin had the 49th worst record for private-sector job growth, losing 9,700 jobs. But preliminary January numbers released last week were the best of any month so far of the Walker tenure: private-sector jobs rose by 15,700. That now puts the state in the positive column for net private job growth during the governor’s first 13 months, with 6,000 jobs added. Still, it’s a long way from the governor’s campaign promise of 250,000 new private-sector jobs during his first term. It also places the state 36th among the 50 states in private-sector job growth since Walker took office…”

4) Wisconsin’s performance compared to the nation. “The state has lagged substantially behind the national pace in private-sector job growth…”

A close examination of the data points provided by the Journal Sentinel reveal a track record of failure for Scott Walker, a track record that lays waste to his claims about being a leader who could effect positive economic growth in Wisconsin. Like those who touted the windfalls that would follow austerity in Europe and elsewhere, those who banked heavily on Walkers program in Wisconsin have likewise invested too heavily in wishful thinking and the worn out rhetoric of fiscal conservativism. To date neither Scott Walker’s program nor austerity generally have been at all effective in the throes of a major economic downturn. Like Europe, Wisconsin has little to point to for having bet so heavily on theories that, to my knowledge, have never worked in this type of economic environment.

To make matters worse, Walker’s union and economic woes may be the least of his worries, for you see Scott Walker has also been implicated in a criminal complaint against some of his aides that may involve theft of public time and money: “A recall from his position as Wisconsin’s governor could ultimately be the least of Gov. Scott Walker’s worries, if a criminal complaint quietly moving forward in the Badger State court system continues on its current trajectory. At the moment, Walker seems to be at the bottom of a mountain where an avalanche is just beginning to roll. A 51-page criminal complaint (the “Rindfleisch complaint”), which formally charges Kelly M. Rindfleisch with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, contains factual allegations which implicate a number of individuals, listed as “interested parties,” including WI’s controversial Republican Governor, in a wide-reaching criminal conspiracy to misuse public employees and resources for partisan political gain.”

Another potential problem for Walker may arise from the fact that Walker is currently sitting on a $25 Million dollar plus war chest amassed to save his job from a recall election. Why, because much of that money is likely to have come from donors seen in the state as unwelcomed interlopers of the ultraconservative variety. According to Chuck Todd of MSNBC, two thirds of that money came from out of state contributors, something that his opponents are sure to focus on even as they themselves receive outside funding.

All of this adds up to what could be a toxic stew for Walker: residual public animosity borne of his anti-union animus, generally the worst job creation record in the nation, criminal scandal and the taint of being a tool of wealthy conservatives like the Koch Brothers. From what I’ve read it seems that the Wisconsin electorate is almost evenly divided for and against Walker’s recall with a mere 5% of the voters undecided. Will this toxic soup be enough to sway that 5% or cause others to go from voting for Walker to voting against Walker? It’s impossible to know but even if Walker succeeds in remaining in office after the recall it may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory anyway. It certainly will be if he survives and ends up out of office due to being tied to criminal misconduct. But then again, even if he survives all of these challenges its hard to see how, going forward, he could ever truly regain public trust and political effectiveness. After all voters elect politicians to office so they can produce tangible policy results and bipartisan harmony, not conflict and controversy. Walker may have already engendered so much of the later that it will cripple him in achieving the former.

Steven J. Gulitti
5/9/12

Sources:

In Wisconsin Recall Fight, Focus Shifts from Unions to Jobs: http://swampland.time.com/2012/05/08/in-wisconsin-recall-fight-focus-shifts-from-unions-to-jobs/?iid=sl-main-lede#ixzz1uNnuVPFw

The politics of Wisconsin’s sluggish job growth; http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/142860605.html#!page=17&pageSize=10&sort=newestfirst

Latest Indictments Look Bad for Scott Walker; http://www.progressive.org/latest_indictments_look_bad_for_scott_walker.html

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Implicated in Criminal Complaint Against Aides; http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=6692:wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-implicated-in-criminal-complaint-against-aides