Scott Walker’s greatest economic illusion: making George W. Bush disappear

Gov. Walker is laboring under a deep, dark delusion — one that, unfortunately for him, is supplying the heart, bone, and sinew of his campaign: The population doesn’t automatically get stupider the instant you make deep cuts to education. It takes years of Mississippi-sized neglect or, alternatively, an intensive 120-hour block of Fox & Friends, complete with A Clockwork Orange-style eyelid props and enough liquid methadone to tranquilize Vicki McKenna — or New Zealand.

It’s well known, as H.L. Mencken noted, that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. The same principle applies to getting elected. But there’s dumb and then there’s “I believe Scott Walker’s TV ads” dumb. It’s a rare, special, roofing-nail-lodged-in-brain-stem kind of dumb. Nigerian scam dumb. President-of-the-Carson-Daly-Fan-Club dumb. An exquisite, rarefied, one-in-a-million Fabergé egg kind of dumb.

In this blog’s last installment, we looked at the nearly incomprehensible mendacity and stupidity of Scott Walker’s “Third in the Midwest” ad.

Well, somehow, as the stink lines were still radiating off that shameless heap of electronic spew, Walker’s campaign managed to come up with something even dumber and more dishonest. Unfortunately, this time he may have skirted a bit too close to the event horizon of stupid. Even those fabled low-information voters — so prized by campaigns because you can feed them just about any kind of brazen nonsense, so long as you repeat it often enough — are unlikely to be gulled by this fragrant mound of gooey Nugent.

Which is why it’s safe to assume that Walker is in trouble — and that he knows he’s in trouble.

Here’s his latest, courtesy of (Note: If symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramps, or liquefied prefrontal cortex occur, immediately discontinue use of

It’s a lot easier to dig a hole than get out of one. The policies my opponent supports, well, they got us in a pretty big hole — raised our taxes, left a massive deficit, cost Wisconsin 133,000 jobs. Our reforms got us out of the hole. We cut taxes, eliminated the deficit, and created over 100,000 jobs. My opponent criticizes the Wisconsin comeback. She wants to undo our reforms and dig another hole. Instead, let’s keep moving Wisconsin forward.

The whole time he’s saying this, he’s shown climbing out of his own grave on a ladder the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just tossed him. (Voting rights? We don’t need no stinkin’ voting rights!)

So yeah, I see a few problems here.

There’s a well-known logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc, which translated from the vulgare Latinum means, “Scott Walker thinks you’re a drunk 4-year-old who just stepped off the Tilt-A-Whirl and hit his head on six different kinds of pavement.”

In classical Latin, it simply means “after this, therefore because of this.” In other words, you can’t just assume something happened because something else happened before it. If your cat died after Scott Walker was elected, it doesn’t mean Scott Walker was at fault. If you examine the situation with all due impartiality and scientific rigor, you’ll discover that Scott Walker’s adorable-kitten-killing policies were likely only a minor contributing factor.

The same is true of those 100,000 jobs Scott Walker claims he created, and the 133,000 jobs he claims Mary Burke’s preferred policies destroyed. Anyone who’s been alive since 2008 knows that we had this really horrible recession that occurred under former President George W. Bush’s watch.

At one point during this recession (which you probably remember, assuming you’re not Gary Busey, an arboreal ape fetus, or a member of Scott Walker’s re-election campaign), our country was shedding 800,000 jobs per month. Eight-hundred-thousand! Every state lost jobs, including Wisconsin.

Then we began climbing out of the hole. When Jim Doyle left office, Wisconsin was ranked 11th in the nation in private-sector job creation. At last count, under Walker, we were 37th. Meanwhile, among our closest neighbors (Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio), we ranked in the middle of the pack or near the top in job creation under Doyle, while falling to last in Walker’s first two years and second-to-last in 2013.

Of course, creating a moderate number of jobs during a national recovery while criticizing your predecessor for losing jobs in the depths of a historically awful recession is a little like bragging that your Door County candy shop sold more saltwater taffy in June, when you were running it, than in January, when the previous owner was still in charge. Not really fair to compare the two.

The question is, what have you done with the hand you were dealt?

And whose policies got us in the hole Scott Walker is so dramatically crawling out of? Doyle’s? Well, no, they were policies cribbed from the standard Republican playbook: Give hefty tax breaks to the rich, cater to wealthy special interests, continue to ignore income and wealth inequality. Those were George W. Bush’s policies, and coincidentally, they’re also Walker’s. But chances are, you won’t see George W. Bush mentioned in any of Walker’s new ads because, well, our memory isn’t that godawful.



As for that structural deficit Walker eliminated? Well, you may have heard: It’s not actually gone. It’s currently $1.8 billion, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. And that could balloon, if this curious snippet from the above-linked Wisconsin State Journal story is any indication:

Before Walker took office, the projected structural deficit in mid-2010 for the 2011-13 budget was $2.5 billion. That grew to $3.6 billion after state department requests were added in.

So Doyle inherited a hefty structural deficit from Republican Scott McCallum when he took office, Walker inherited a structural deficit from Doyle, and now Walker is ending his first term having amassed another big structural deficit. (And let’s not forget, it’s really easy to pile up a big deficit when the economy has blown a gaping hole in your tax receipts. Again, those are the chips Doyle was forced to play with. What’s Walker’s excuse?)

So do you think there’s any chance Walker was playing politics with that structural deficit so he could ram an anti-worker agenda down our throats? Any chance at all? (Before you answer, read this revealing analysis — which is as relevant now as the day it was written — by a former state budget analyst.)

As always, it’s best not to believe much of anything you see in a political ad — but when it comes to Scott Walker, you can pretty much just assume he’s taking you for a fool. Fortunately, we’re not nearly as dumb as he thinks we are.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.