The utter worthlessness of Scott Walker’s latest economic talking point

Scott Walker is doing a bang-up job … of finding metrics that have absolutely no bearing on the real world or the health of Wisconsin’s economy. Creating jobs and making Wisconsin a better place to live for most of its residents? Not so much.

Last year, Walker wrote a Washington Post op-ed titled “What Wisconsin can teach Washington” in which he boasted that our state had jumped from 43rd to 17th on Chief Executive magazine’s list of best states for business.

Of course, it’s a silly measure, as it relies on a survey of CEOs across the country, and naturally they’re going to favor states with low taxes (including personal income taxes), few regulations, and employees who don’t sass-talk their bosses.

Chief Executive says as much on its website when it goes over the criteria used to compile the rankings:

For example, a state’s attitude toward business is viewed as a critical component of its tax and regulatory regime, while employees’ attitude toward management is considered a crucial factor in the perceived quality of a region’s workforce.

You mean CEOs like working in places where they can find acquiescent employees, don’t have to follow a lot of rules, and don’t get taxed on their multimillion-dollar incomes? Shocking!

Last year, when Walker bragged about Wisconsin’s improved ranking in Chief Executive magazine’s survey, I remarked that it was a little like noting that High Times readers would rather live in Colorado than Rebecca Kleefisch’s basement.

Well, now Scott Walker is trumpeting Chief Executive magazine’s latest faux finding, and I may have to ratchet up the snark just a bit.

Say, why don’t we survey readers of The Advocate to determine once and for all who’s the most fabulous entertainer on the planet: Cher or Larry the Cable Guy.

This year, Wisconsin climbed three notches to No. 14 on Chief Executive’s list. As the Walker camp notes on the governor’s campaign website, “Wisconsin’s huge improvement in the rankings comes in stark contrast to the three years Mary Burke led Wisconsin’s Department of Commerce under former Governor Jim Doyle. Every year Burke led Commerce, from 2005 – 2007, Wisconsin got worse in the rankings.”

Ouch. You got her there, Scott. Republican CEOs like your policies more than they like a Democrat’s. How will her campaign ever recover from that apocalyptic revelation?

But all you really need to know about Chief Executive magazine’s ranking is this: It lists California dead last among the 50 states with respect to business climate. Wow, California must be a black hole of despair. Those poor Silicon Valley IT moguls. They must have to take in Mexican billionaires’ laundry and sewing just to make ends meet.

Of course, Chief Executive’s survey hardly tells the whole story. Or any credible story, for that matter. In reality, California has been crushing Wisconsin with respect to annual GDP growth and has blown our doors off when it comes to private-sector job creation (the only kind Republicans seem to care about).

Check this out: California, the absolute worst place to do business in the USA, has the nation’s fourth-highest rate of private-sector job creation, according to the latest Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. In fact, it’s tied with Texas, which Chief Executive magazine ranked as the very best place to do business.

As for Wisconsin? We’re mired in 35th place.

Oh, but California and Wisconsin are hardly comparable, you say. True. If California were a separate nation, its economy would be one of the largest in the world (and Chief Executive magazine would no doubt be ranking it well behind Somalia and the Cayman Islands on its list of best countries for business).



Well, what about Minnesota? That’s a comparable state, isn’t it? Chief Executive ranks it a dismal 34th in its best states for business survey. Meanwhile, its GDP has been surging compared to ours, and it’s also creating jobs faster than we are (+1.9% versus +1.2%). So Minnesota’s governor must really be conservative, right? He must be to the right of Pinochet. He must have cracked down on the teachers union, slashed taxes for the wealthy, and created a secret commando death squad to infiltrate pickup Hacky Sack games and take down every progressive book club in Brainerd.

Well, no. He’s a big, squishy, fuzzy-headed lefty. He doesn’t even have the decency to play along with the two-party system. He’s part of something called the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which sounds like the kind of group that might get its mail delivered to the basement of a Kinko’s or to a local farmers’ market or something. Who knew that a bunch of motivated citizens could so thoroughly fail to destroy their state’s economy?

So remember all this the next time you hear Scott Walker boast about his economic record. Is what he’s saying real, or is it fatuous nonsense targeted toward low-information voters? I’d say, when in doubt, lean toward the latter.

Bonus Scott Walker B.S.: Speaking of misleading talking points, remember last fall when a series of pro-Walker ads ran touting Wisconsin’s second-place ranking in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Coincident Index? Of course you do.

Well, those were garbage as well. Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse has the full story.

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