You can’t spell ‘Scott Walker fails’ without ‘Scott Walker,’ part 1,273: the WEDC

The growing disconnect between Scott Walker’s actual accomplishments and the chorus of hosannas disgorging from his faithful fandom got even weirder last week following the revelation that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the governor’s pro-growth brainchild, was apparently more troubled than Mel Gibson at an open-bar bat mitzvah.

In its report on the Legislative Audit Bureau’s recent review of the WEDC, the AP noted that the agency “repeatedly broke state law in its first year of operation, failed to adequately track money it awarded for economic development projects, and sometimes gave money to ineligible recipients.” The agency also “made unexplained purchases of University of Wisconsin football season tickets and iTunes gift cards.”

In addition, the audit found that the WEDC didn’t have policies in place to adequately administer its programs and that it neglected to ask Baker Tilly, which it hired to help improve its IT systems, to disclose any conflicts of interest it might have. (According to the LAB, seven potential conflicts of interest were later identified.) The agency also approved $2.5 million in Jobs Tax Credits to one company but didn’t require the company to create any jobs, even though by law it should have been required to do so.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the WEDC has been caught with its pantaloons down. In October, we found out that the agency had simply lost track of $12.2 million in overdue loans.


Is this what Republicans mean when they say government should be run more like a business? Is it enough to simply slap a “Corp.” on an existing government agency’s name, rough up a few unions, and wait for a river of conservative drool to ferry you to the White House? Is that what passes for economic stewardship these days?

Indeed, Walker is the apotheosis of the all-hat-no-cattle pol of legend. By now it’s clear to everyone with a pulse that he’ll fulfill his 250,000-jobs pledge around the same time Lindsay and Dina Lohan collect their third Nobel Prize for their work on superstring theory, yet Walker-mania continues to run amok. It’s like Bieber Fever without the hair gel and 8×10 Tiger Beat posters.

At this point, I’m not quite sure what Walker’s plan is. His policies have disappointed more Wisconsinites than Forrest Gregg and Prohibition combined, yet it’s full speed ahead. The only thing I can think of is that he plans to unveil a new 12-point economic recovery plan based exclusively on ticketing the Solidarity Singers. (Oh yeah, that’s a thing now.)

The good news is that even some Wisconsin Republicans are refusing to let this latest snafu slide. Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) told the AP, “This audit shows there is a significant disconnect between our expectations of WEDC and the reality of their performance with regard to transparency and accountability.”

Of course, Democrats were a bit less circumspect.

In a statement, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said the following:

This audit confirms what legislative Democrats and concerned citizens have been saying from the beginning. By refusing to adopt commonsense accountability and transparency amendments proposed by Democrats, Republicans doomed the hastily created WEDC to fail.

The revelations made in the report are nothing short of shocking. According to the audit, WEDC provided awards to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and for ineligible amounts. WEDC didn’t even track half what its staff was buying with agency credit cards.

Losing track of taxpayer dollars during difficult economic times is unacceptable. We cannot allow WEDC to continue this fraud, waste and abuse at a time when neighborhood schools aren’t able to spend a single new dollar in the classrooms and 90,000 Wisconsinites are being cut from BadgerCare.

I might have added, “Dude, seriously!” But I’d say the above is a pretty good summary.



The bigger picture

Friday’s jobs report revealed that the U.S. added an encouraging but still underwhelming 165,000 jobs in April. Less widely reported was the fact that the country shed 11,000 public-sector jobs.

Indeed, one wonders where we’d be were it not for the steady hemorrhaging of public-sector jobs during Obama’s tenure.

As ThinkProgress notes:

This has been a steadily recurring trend with each monthly jobs report: even when the private sector adds a solid number of jobs, the overall figure is pulled down by losses in the public sector. 741,000 jobs have been lost in the government sector since the beginning of the recovery period in June 2009, with 89,000 gone since this time last year.

Overall, the government has shed 718,000 net jobs since President Obama took office. While often accused of bloating the government, the trends show exactly the opposite: President Obama has overseen a sharp decline in public sector payrolls as compared to his predecessor President George W. Bush.

While the smoking crater that was the Bush II economy made many of these job cuts unavoidable, Republicans’ zeal for austerity has further eroded the jobs picture. But don’t expect Republicans to point that out. The strategy seems to be: cut a job, blame Obama, see if anyone notices. And whatever you do, don’t mention George W. Bush.

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