Wisconsin's unemployment rate nears all-time low as low-skill wages erode

Gov. Scott Walker has touted the state's low unemployment rate as a sign that his policies are working.

JEFF SMITH, CAPITAL NEWSPAPERS

You might not have seen the above picture before, but the governor has been known to don a pair of sunglasses while addressing a captive audience of supporters.

No, really.

From the Walker’s perspective, “The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.” His recently released campaign video and public statements contain similar language.

I appreciate the optimism, but does that rosy picture match the reality of life in Wisconsin under Walker?

At a time when our citizens’ economic prospects are diverging sharply along geographic lines, demonstrated by the recent journalism of Marc Eisen and the economic analysis of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the sun looks to be setting on the Wisconsin way of life for too many, and Gov. Walker is watching it happen, sipping Summer Shandy at his mansion on the banks of Lake Mendota.

In many areas of Wisconsin under Walker’s rule, job growth has been anemic and property values have not returned to pre-Great Recession levels, while Dane County has produced the vast majority of new jobs. Residents of central and northern Wisconsin, in particular, have witnessed their populations decline as young people flee to larger communities in the state and elsewhere.

More than anything, Wisconsinites deserve a governor who sees things as they do, not the way he wishes to see them. We need a leader in the governor’s office who reckons with the most difficult challenges we face and offers real solutions. Wisconsinites are worthy of a champion in the east wing of the Capitol who will stand up against, not for, the big-money interests that are strangling our democracy.

These last seven years we've gotten the opposite.

In Walker, we have a governor who comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. He hands out big checks to billionaire CEOs and cuts the wages of working Wisconsinites. He has cut taxes for well-connected businesses, while increasing them on the working poor. Walker has “divided and conquered” private- and public-sector workers instead of offering policies to encourage balanced growth and shared prosperity in all corners of our state.

The latest and most grievous example of his warped understanding of his role as our state’s chief executive is his championing of the Foxconn deal. This $3 billion payout to a foreign corporation is the largest of its kind in the history of our country, and its benefit will be, in large part, isolated to southeast Wisconsin and Illinois (hey, flatlanders — you’re welcome!). In fact, according to an analysis produced by an economic think tank at Tufts University, “As a place-based policy, the proposed Foxconn plant is not likely to provide many benefits to the areas [of the state] in greatest need.” The report goes on to say, “(I)t is likely that the burden of paying for the subsidies will fall most heavily on low- and middle-income [state] taxpayers.”

So the bulk of the project’s benefit will be limited to a foreign corporation’s investors and confined to a small group of immediate beneficiaries, while middle-class taxpayers all across the state will carry the cost to a disproportionate extent. Sound like a raw deal and a wrong-headed one? It is.

We cannot build a vibrant and resilient Wisconsin for all our residents with a massive $3 billion subsidy for one well-connected corporation. What we must offer instead is a broad-based strategy of investment in Wisconsin’s people, in our public schools, in a 21st century infrastructure, and in our entrepreneurs.

Appreciate these insights? Get Cap Times opinion sent daily to your inbox

It is long past time for us to have a governor who views the present as it is — as Wisconsinites truly experience it — and envisions a future that is better for everyone. Unfortunately, Gov. Walker has proven himself incapable of this challenge at every turn.

The future of our state could and should be bright, but right now it doesn’t look that way to those who have seen their optimism eclipsed by the reality of economic insecurity and stagnation. To these voters, Walker owes so much more than empty rhetoric.

It’s long past time for the governor to put down his sunglasses and take an honest look at himself and the lives of us all in this state. Wisconsinites don’t have the luxury of deluding themselves with hollow sound bites and cheesy photo-ops, and neither should our governor.

Rep. Eric Genrich, a Democrat, represents the Green Bay area in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.