When Gov. Scott Walker was campaigning for his very well-paid position, he promised that he would focus his term on one goal: the creation of 250,000 new jobs for Wisconsin workers.
He was assuming that he would have a four-year term in which to accomplish what was actually a rather modest goal. Since he was campaigning in the depths of the recession that began during George Bush’s second term, it was entirely reasonable to believe that, as the recession eased, Wisconsin would experience significant job growth.
After all, under former Gov. Jim Doyle, Wisconsin had an unemployment rate that was significantly below the national average. And in the last year of Doyle’s term — after Doyle and legislative Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Mark Miller and Mark Pocan balanced the state budget — Wisconsin had begun to show signs of real recovery.
So Walker came into office with every indicator in his favor. The task he had set for himself was entirely doable — even if he did very little. All the governor had to do was avoid screwing things up.
Unfortunately, he screwed things up. Badly. Walker turned down federal funding for transportation and expansion of broadband communications, effectively opting out of 21st century infrastructure development. He picked fights with public employees and teachers, rather than making them partners in a development push. Then he crafted a low-road budget that made deep cuts in education funding and services — effectively telling businesses that while they would have plenty of support in other states, they would be on their own in Wisconsin.
At the same time, he refused to address the burning questions raised by the John Doe probe into official and campaign corruption that has already ensnared a number of his closest aides and campaign donors.
Nothing Walker did inspired confidence on the part of responsible companies.
And the results were painfully predictable.
By now, according to Walker’s stated goal, Wisconsin should have seen roughly 80,000 jobs created.
Instead, since the governor took office, only 5,900 private-sector jobs have been developed. Wisconsin has one of the worst job-creation records in the nation; indeed, it has frequently led the nation in monthly job losses.
The most recent monthly survey — for March — saw Wisconsin lose another 4,300 private-sector jobs.
If Wisconsin continues to shed private-sector jobs at this rate, there is a very real prospect that the state will be a net job loser during Walker’s term by the time the gubernatorial recall election rolls around on June 5.
The governor now predicts a “dramatic” increase in the number of new jobs after he faces voters in the recall election that was scheduled after almost 1 million Wisconsinites demanded that he face an accountability moment.
Walker may actually be right about that “dramatic” increase in jobs after June 5.
If the governor is removed from office, and if his policies begin to be reversed, there is every reason to believe that Wisconsin will begin to see the same sort of meaningful job growth that other states are experiencing.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org