Monday, March 19, 2012

Scott Fitzgerald Starring in Pinocchio's Press Release



An earlier Exit 142A post dealt with Jeff Fitzgerald's press release when the new job numbers came out on March 8th.  His brother, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, also issued one that day.  Here are the pertinent parts of Senator Fitzgerald's release on the job data:
“You’re seeing two different philosophies in the Capitol right now: one focused on jobs and improving the business climate, and the other going in the opposite direction with protests and recalls. Wisconsin lost 150,000 jobs under the Democrats’ control; I’m glad we’re making progress climbing out of that hole,” Fitzgerald said.
According to the Department of Workforce Development[1] today, Wisconsin’s jobless rate dropped to 6.9 percent, its lowest point since December, 2008. Last session under Gov. Doyle, the rate rose as high as 9.2 percent.
The DWD also released final numbers for the past year, showing job gains in three of the past five months. Since Gov. Walker and the Republican majorities were sworn in, Wisconsin has gained 22,400 jobs.
Scott Fitzgerald is a marvel at tossing data aside in the exercise of partisanship.  His propaganda efforts will simply not be constrained by irrelevant things like facts.

Wisconsin actually lost  11,700 non-farm jobs between January 2011 and January 2012.  If one uses the twelve months beginning with February, 2011, because the Republicans were not in control of the legislature for all of January 2011, the job loss on their first year of watch was even worse:  19,900 jobs.  Even if one limited the data to private non-farm jobs (lots of government jobs disappeared), the result is 900 new private jobs, not the 22,400 jobs which Senator Fitzgerald pulled out of the air (or elsewhere).       


Wisconsin actually lost more than 150,000 jobs during the greatest national recession since the Great Depression.   The loss was more like 185,000 jobs from the highest employment point in October 2007 (2,883,700) to the nadir in December 2009 (2,698,400)  But saying the Democrats in Wisconsin were in some fashion responsible for losing "150,000 jobs" over 2008 and 2009 is akin to saying the Louisiana legislature was responsible for the inundation of New Orleans in August 2005.  If you reject the analogy, consider this:  Wisconsin actually fared pretty well in the Great Recession compared to most of the Midwestern states and the U.S. as a whole.  Between January 2008 and January 2010, Wisconsin lost about 5.7% of the jobs it had in January 2008.  This substantially beat the Midwest average of 7.0% job loss, and put us ahead of the national figure of 6.1% job loss.

So if anything, Senator Fitzgerald should be congratulating the Dems on controlling the job losses from the recession better than our neighbors, including Indiana (the state that Governor Walker held up in Op Ed piece he authored last year as a paragon of good GOP pro-growth initiatives).  But of course congratulating the Democrats would be every bit as silly as blaming them as Fitizgerald did. 

One last note, in a recent editorial entitled "Walker Can't be Blamed State's Sluggish Growth," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opined that part of the problem with this past year's job numbers (and the Governor falling so woefully short on his campaign promise) could be blamed in part on all the political turmoil in Wisconsin over the past year:
Although Walker promised 250,000 new private-sector jobs would be created during his four-year term, we've always been skeptical that he - or any politician - could do that much to turn a complex and globally connected economy such as Wisconsin's. Of course, we'll still hold Walker to his pledge - he's the one who insisted on making it - but there is a giant caveat attached to any such promise.
So what's going on? Could the political tornado that blew into Wisconsin with Walker's attempts to bust public employee unions - followed by a storm of protest and serial recall elections - have something to do with Wisconsin's job famine? Perhaps. Companies thinking of relocating here or expanding might reconsider, especially if they believe Walker is on his way out the door of the governor's mansion.
But using this as an excuse for arguing that Walker isn't to blame for the job numbers simply ignores the cause of the turmoil.  It began when the Governor "dropped the bomb" on unions, a premeditated act of political warfare that would have prompted any thinking politician to undertake some rigorous analysis concerning the potential consequences. (What are the Second Order and Third Order effects?)  If Governor Walker didn't foresee the repercussions to Act 10, shame on him.  The quote above also ignores the fact that there was significant turmoil in at least two other Midwestern states during 2011.  Minnesota shut down its government for three weeks because of a partisan stalemate over its biennial budget.  And Ohio had the massive voter veto initiative that lead to their GOP legislature's version of Act 10 being tossed in the garbage can by an overwhelming vote of Ohioans.
So did the turmoil in these states impact job growth?  Here again are the comparative numbers for job creation:

It doesn't appear that Minnesota's or Ohio's job creation numbers suffered from the political turmoil in those two states.

In retrospect, the sharp cuts to government payrolls brought on by a misguided and wholly unnecessary effort to cure the structural deficit in Wisconsin's budget in a single biennium probably is as much to blame as anything other than Scott Walker's rejection of the high-speed rail stimulus funds.  That decision to walk away from the federal rail funds did not save Wisconsin taxpayers a single dime on their federal tax bills as the funds ended up being spent in other states after the Governor rejected them.  And as the Journal Sentinel's Larry Sandler and Jason Stein have done a great job documenting, the mammoth financial repercussions of the decision to reject the funds will hammer the state's taxpayers for many years to come in order just to keep the Hiawatha Line running between Milwaukee and Chicago. 

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