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Why Does Wisconsin Continue to Fall Short in Job Creation?

Issue of the week

May. 30, 2017
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The newly released numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages has shown again that Wisconsin continues to rank among the worst-performing states for job growth. For the past year, December 2015 through December 2016, Wisconsin increased the number of jobs by less than one half of one percent or .48%. This past year has represented the worst 12-month period for job growth since 2010, which was the middle of the financial crisis.

Gov. Scott Walker won his first election by promising to create 250,000 additional jobs in his first four-year term. Obviously that was just a made up number with no sound strategy to back it up, but he rode that number to victory in 2010. Now, more than six years later, Wisconsin has created only about 180,000 additional jobs, which puts it very close to the bottom in terms of job creation performance among our neighboring Midwestern states. 

This failure in job creation was not some unfortunate, random accident. It is the direct result of failed policies of the Republicans who have controlled state government for the past six years. There is a long-discredited theory of job creation championed by the right wing to defend their policies of massive tax breaks for the wealthy and cutting social programs for the rest of us. The theory argues that giving massive tax reductions to the wealthy; dramatically cutting environmental, health, safety and various other business regulations; and cutting government spending, including monies for education, will create a “good business climate” and result in robust job growth. The problem is that the theory just doesn’t work out well in practice. Essentially, these policies are trying to make the state look more like Mississippi or Louisiana, which have some of the lowest job-growth rates in the country. Policies like this are what conservative business economists argue create a strong business climate. And, yes, there are some companies that will respond to these policies, but they are becoming fewer and fewer and progressive business owners view them as the bottom feeders. 

The forward-looking companies and entrepreneurs want to live and work in a state that highly values education at all levels, protects the environment, has a fair tax system and efficiently utilizes these taxes for things like modern infrastructure. States that follow these forward-looking policies are some of the states with the highest job-creation rates. There is a reason that states like California are creating a lot of new jobs.

As long as Gov. Walker pursues his current strategy of trying to make Wisconsin look like Mississippi, Wisconsin will continue to be among the weakest states in terms of job creation. When will the voters begin to realize that Wisconsin’s very weak job growth is not an unfortunate accident, but a result of flawed policies?


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