Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can’t avoid the latest bad news on jobs in Wisconsin. A new government report shows that the state ranked 32nd in private-sector job growth among the 50 states in the five-year period that ended in June. That’s the entire recovery period since the last recession.
Private-sector hiring in Wisconsin grew just 7.6 percent during those five years, far behind the national growth of 11.2 percent and behind nearby Midwestern states. Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa and Illinois all did better. (Although, certainly in the case of Michigan, the growth of its economy had much to do with having fallen so far in prior years).
As usual, Walker is trying to obscure the facts. The governor spins a different tale — one of manna and tax cuts from his magic touch in Madison.
It simply ain’t so, governor. The facts are clear.
Is Walker entirely to blame for Wisconsin’s anemic job growth? Of course not. There are fundamental forces at work here that keep the economy in this manufacturing-intensive state from growing at a faster clip.
Wisconsin, for better or worse, is home to large industries whose growth is sluggish. Certainly, Walker should own his record — he did make the brave claim in 2010 that the state would grow 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term.
But while some of this is his fault — presiding over a dysfunctional state jobs agency comes first to mind — most of what is happening here is beyond the control of any politician. And thank heavens for that.
We continue to believe that there are things that government can do. Increasing the minimum wage would help. Americans living at the edge of poverty haven’t had a “raise” in years. It’s time to give them one. And state government ought to use its scarce dollars for economic development efficiently and wisely. Two strikes against the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., though in theory it remains a good idea.
The far bigger issue is the lack of growth in the Upper Midwest generally. This is a shared problem among most of these states, which are home to industrial giants with names such as Harley-Davidson, Ford, GM, Cummins and Eaton. State governments, business groups and educational institutions should do what they can, within the bounds of reason and sensible budgets, to assist these legacy businesses.
But all interested parties should focus more energy than they have so far on creating a culture of innovation that spawns new companies springing from new ideas.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL