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Walker will fall short of job goals

By Matt Pommer

Scott Walker won the governor’s race in 2010 in large part by vowing to add 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin’s economy.

That is unlikely to happen.

Walker’s backers are trying to put distance between the campaign promise and what the reality will be. Jobs have been a key Republican issue both in Wisconsin and across the nation.

Professionals in the State Department of Revenue are suggesting that 134,000 additional jobs will be created in the 2010-2014 period. That’s just about enough to return employment to pre-recession levels.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said “it’s a foregone conclusion” that Walker won’t hit his goal of 250,000 new jobs by 2015.

Walker’s promise is not the first to deal more with politics than reality. In this case, the reality is Wisconsin doesn’t operate in an economic vacuum.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance made that observation in a report late last year.

“Wisconsin’s economy is tied closely to the nation’s: for example employment here moves up and down with national movements,” according to the WTA report. “In fact, over the last several years, the state’s job gains and losses were more closely related to national trends than in all but 12 states.

“During the 2007-2009 recession, job losses in Wisconsin (minus 5.1 percent) and the nation’s (minus 5.4 percent) were similar. Since January 2010, job gains here (1.6 percent) also have tracked the U.S. (1.4 percent).”

Republican George W. Bush was president from 2001 to 2009, and Democrat Jim Doyle was governor from 2003 to 2011.

People on both sides can argue the other party is to blame for the national and state economic woes. However you slice the employment politics, the overriding fact is: Wisconsin moves with the national trends.

But the limited job gains in Wisconsin provide an opening for another anti-union law, this time in the private sector. It will be triggered as Indiana moves to become a right-to-work state that bars contracts that require workers join a union.

Call it the domino approach to labor relations. Business and industry will contend Indiana has become a more attractive place in which to place factories. Conservatives will argue Wisconsin needs such a law if it is to compete with Indiana and other right-to-work states.

Walker co-sponsored right-to-work legislation when he was in the Wisconsin Legislature. He may not need much convincing to promote the idea.

The domino theory may sound familiar to those old enough to collect Social Security.

America became deeply involved in Vietnam on the fear that one communist state in the region would have a domino effect on the rest of the region. More than 57,000 Americans would die in that war.

Matt Pommer worked as reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.


  1. Taxpayer’s alliance says, ““Wisconsin’s economy is tied closely to the nation’s: for example employment here moves up and down with national movements,””. Except of course since Walker’s budget took effect. National private sector employment has been increasing steadily while Wisconsin has lost jobs for 6 months in a row. We’ll see what the January Wisconsin numbers are in a few weeks.

  2. However…If you use the new definition for job creation as introduced by Obama and the Democrats, now as ‘jobs created, OR SAVED’…why, he could easily claim 4 or 5 hundred thousand, maybe more….You guys eat that up, and take it as gospel when Barak throws it out there.
    I’d much rather see hard numbers showing real growth, but fall a bit short of goals, than to be spoonfed some nebulous “or saved” number that’s meaningless, and impossible to define, or track.

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