By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter
Don’t ever say Gov. Scott Walker didn’t hand them the cudgel himself.
Now his campaign’s pledge to create 250,000 new jobs and 10,000 new businesses in Wisconsin in four years is all Democrats want to talk about. We understand, of course: politics is mostly the work of turning your opponent’s molehills into public-policy mountains. But the Dems’ tactic tells you how empty the cupboard must really be for potential candidates for 2014.
The Dems won’t tell you what they’ve done over the past two years — and plan to do over the next two — to ensure jobs aren’t created.
First pitched in February 2010, Walker’s ambitious pledge was immediately attacked by his opponents. Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate told reporters on a conference call that Walker was making “numbers up out of thin air.” Walker’s gubernatorial opponents at the time, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann (R-1st District) and Democratic mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett, pounced on the statement, attacking the then-Milwaukee County Executive’s record of job development.
Either because of his pledge or just the need for change after eight years of Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker was elected in 2010. Since then, the media and Walker opponents have been watching monthly state employment numbers as the sole measure of the governor’s success. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even keeps a running total – which may not even be correct since initial data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is questionable at best.
That’s because initial numbers are fuzzy at best and measure no more than four percent of employers in a given month. More accurate data will be available . . . in about a year.
That leads you to wonder why anyone takes these numbers seriously.
I didn’t mind the pledge. Life is nothing without goals, and any politician unwilling to set goals is unworthy of the mantle of leadership. This one showed Walker was truly committed to making Wisconsin a business destination.
But I have always questioned whether Walker could achieve his jobs goal in the current national environment.
When first proposed, Walker and his aides compared the goal with the jobs record of former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s first four years in office. From 1987 to 1991, Wisconsin gained 258,000 new jobs.
But the economy of the late 1980s is not the economy of today. Back then, annual gross domestic product growth averaged between three and four percent and the nation consistently added hundreds of thousands of new jobs every month. The economy of today is nothing close to that.
Since 2009, annual national GDP and job growth have been stagnant. Just this week alone, the National Association for Business Economics lowered its 2012 expectations for real GDP growth to be around 1.8 percent for the entire year. Most economic predictions see more of the same for 2013 with GDP growth averaging below or near 2 percent.
Meanwhile, a national survey of manufacturers highlights overwhelmingly negative attitudes for the first six months of 2013. Few employers plan on, or are able to hire in the first six months of year. Depending on which forecaster you believe, the national unemployment rate is still expected to be in the 7.7 percent range or higher.
Should I even bother mentioning what the fiscal cliff might do?
Funny how all the Democrats in Madison fall silent when it’s time to discuss the president’s role in the sluggish national economy.
In the meantime we have Wisconsin Democrats more than willing to criticize policies that will actually make the state more competitive — that and hoping the governor and the state of Wisconsin fail.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org