Why Scott Walker can’t afford to tell you the truth about his jobs record
You’ve probably seen this new Scott Walker ad — the one in which he touts Wisconsin’s third-place ranking in the Midwest in job creation — and you likely had one of three reactions.
If you’re a stalwart Republican who’s deeply invested in the blinkered, true-believer conservatism of Walker and Co., you were heartened to see that our governor’s reforms were apparently working. If you’re a Democrat, you howled to the rafters, sure that this was just more election-season legerdemain. And if you’re a low-information voter who gets most of his news from the Khloe Kardashian podcast (which, granted, is a regular Huntley-Brinkley Report compared to the Today show or Fox News), you were pretty darn convinced.
Of course, for anyone who doesn’t have the attention span of a drunk gibbon in a Las Vegas Chuck E. Cheese, Walker’s sleight-of-hand was easy to spot.
As Mary Burke and others have pointed out, Walker’s new jobs numbers are of the same ilk as those he dismissed as inaccurate, incomplete, and just plain bogus two short years ago when he was fending off a recall attempt.
If you hop into your Wayback Machine and set it for “Scott Walker, May 2012,” you’ll see that at the time, Walker was harshly criticizing the BLS Current Employment Survey, which showed Wisconsin was dead last in the nation in job creation, having lost an apocalyptic 33,900 jobs during the governor’s first year in office. To deflect criticism, Walker — rightly, as many of us were forced to admit at the time — noted that the BLS survey is highly inaccurate, as it only surveys 3.5% of the state’s employers. So with his political career in danger, Walker took the unusual step of prematurely releasing the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages numbers, which are based on tax reports from 96% of state businesses and are thus much more reliable than the BLS numbers. The QCEW numbers at the time showed the state had actually added a modest 23,321 jobs in Walker’s first year. Not great, but not a disaster either.
So basically Walker was saying, “Don’t pay attention to those BLS numbers, which make me look like a hapless, bumbling moron. Pay attention to these other, more accurate numbers, which make me look hopelessly mediocre.” The ploy worked. The Sword of Damocles that had been hanging over his head turned back into the Pewter Cheese Knife of Tom Barrett, and he won the recall election.
Now Walker’s gone back to citing the BLS Current Employment Survey because, you guessed it, the QCEW numbers, which he claimed two short years ago were the “gold standard,” make him look bad. According to the latest QCEW figures, Wisconsin ranked 37th in the nation in private-sector job creation last year. We’ve also ranked last or second-to-last among our closest Midwestern neighbors (Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Michigan) each year since Walker took office. (See this chart. You’ll also note that under Gov. Jim Doyle, we were generally near the top or in the middle of the pack every year.)
So that pretty much sums up the big lie behind Walker’s latest ad, but if you prefer colorful moving pictures, this dispatch from the hated lamestream media should drive the final nail into the coffin:
So any way you slice it, actual gold-standard job-creation numbers under Walker have been pretty dismal. Not only are the BLS numbers Walker currently cites inaccurate (by his own admission), they only cover the period from July 2013 to July 2014. As you probably know, he’s been governor much longer than that, and unfortunately he’s presided over a yawning jobs gap in comparison with our neighbors during the whole of his tenure.
So why is this so important, and why are Walker’s detractors so obsessed with his failures as a job creator? Is it really fair to keep blasting him with both barrels over a bunch of esoteric statistics that are, in many ways, out of his control?
Yes it is, and here’s why.
Scott Walker didn’t come into office promising to negotiate in good faith with public-sector unions. He didn’t come into office promising to expand reproductive health care options for women. He didn’t come into office promising to drastically cut the number of uninsured Wisconsinites by embracing the president’s Medicaid expansion efforts. He didn’t come into office promising to foster a new spirit of comity between our state’s warring political factions.
Scott Walker came into office promising that he’d turn Wisconsin into an economic powerhouse that would create 250,000 jobs in his first term alone.
He brought with him a scorched-earth attitude and an evident disdain for public-sector unions, and he implicitly promised that public workers’ pain would eventually translate into everyone else’s gain.
Clearly, that hasn’t happened. So when we see our teachers and other public workers — our friends and neighbors — being offered up as scapegoats for the sins of Wall Street, our poor missing out on the health care they would have enjoyed under a more progressive governor, and our state standing divided like never before, we wonder what the past four years were all about.
That’s why Scott Walker can’t begin to tell you the truth about his record on job creation. Unless you count the red meat he’s tossed to the Tea Partiers, job creation is the only thing he has to run on. And he’s failed miserably at it. He’s a one-trick pony who never really bothered to learn his trick.
In the next two months, you’re going to see Walker and his confederates spinning like tops in an attempt to burnish the governor’s spotty record and make Mary Burke look like the second coming of Herbert Hoover.
But the truth is out there, and Walker knows it. He just hopes you don’t have the time or the inclination to seek it out.
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.