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Monday, Dec. 23, 2013

Walker Is Responsible for the State's Economic Disaster

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We’ve known for a long time Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election may very well be determined by how successfully he can explain away the complete disaster he has made of Wisconsin’s economy.

This was a governor who was elected on a brazen promise that in his first term as governor he would create 250,000 jobs—a number he made up out of thin air.

Going into the final year of that four-year term, not only is Walker more than 150,000 jobs short, but every national economic report documents Wisconsin’s job creation record under Walker continuing to be one of the nation’s very worst.

According to the most recent figures, even as the national economy continues to improve, Wisconsin is headed in the opposite direction, slipping from 32nd to 37th nationally in job creation.

But those are just economic facts. We know today’s Republican Party doesn’t care about facts, particularly in political campaigns.

The Romney-Ryan presidential campaign openly announced it wasn’t going to allow newspaper fact checkers to control what Republicans tell voters.

In Wisconsin, we have a special problem with newspaper fact checking. The state’s largest newspaper fact-checking operation is badly in need of some independent fact checking itself.  

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact column still documents Walker’s terrible jobs numbers, but as Walker’s re-election campaign approaches, the newspaper has begun adding its own explanations to try to excuse Walker’s failure.

After again reciting Walker’s grim economic numbers recently, PolitiFact added: “As we’ve noted in past items, though, a chief executive such as a governor has influence over jobs, but so do a host of other factors, such as national trends, that are beyond a governor’s control.”

Oh, really? So it’s OK to elect a governor on the basis of a very specific jobs promise he made up, but voters shouldn’t hold him to it because he’s not responsible for so many other factors including the national economy.

Walker actually is very much responsible for his own extreme ideological actions in Wisconsin that resulted in the state performing worse economically than the nation as a whole and three-fourths of the other states.

Those actions include rejecting nearly a billion dollars in federal high-speed rail funds that would have created jobs and economic development throughout the state, and massive layoffs and pay cuts for public employees that blew a huge hole in consumer spending in Wisconsin.

 

Arthur Laffer’s Wrong Again

So that’s one Walker apologist attempt at jobs spin from a newspaper that endorsed Walker in 2010. Another by the far right is even more hilarious.

Walker’s right-wing billionaire donors have commissioned one of the nation’s most notoriously simple-minded, conservative economists to simply make up better economic numbers for Walker.

That economist is 73-year-old Arthur Laffer, best known for drawing an economic idea that became known as the Laffer Curve on a napkin at a Washington restaurant in 1974.

Laffer created the illustration for two Gerald Ford administration officials who later helped wreck the national economy by pushing President George W. Bush into an unfunded Iraq War. They were Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The Laffer Curve showed raising taxes would raise more revenue for the government until the curve reached its peak. Past that point, taxes would begin taking too much money from the wealthy who would begin investing less, creating fewer jobs and producing less wealth for themselves (and everybody else) resulting in less and less in tax revenues.

The napkin was the perfect excuse for Republicans to cut taxes for the wealthy. It became the basis for Reaganomics, the supply-side philosophy of economics that has been accepted by Republicans as fact without any real evidence ever since.

Even David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director, later said Republicans didn’t understand that the curve couldn’t be taken literally.

“The way they talked, they seemed to expect that once the supply-side tax cut was in effect, additional revenue would start to fall, manna-like, from the heavens,” Stockman wrote.

Now David and Charles Koch, the right-wing billionaires who have generously funded Walker, have financed a report by Laffer through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to popularize another simple economic idea without any apparent evidence.

The idea is that Wisconsin is an economic success as a result of Walker’s destruction of collective bargaining by public employees.

In “Rich States, Poor States,” Laffer invents his own economic success for Wisconsin, claiming its economic outlook has leaped from 32nd in the country to 15th in the past year because Walker has made Wisconsin the equivalent of a low-wage, Southern, right-to-work state. Laffer puts us right up there with Mississippi.

Of course, in reality, Wisconsin just dropped from 32nd to 37th in actual jobs. But maybe Laffer can draw 250,000 jobs on a napkin for Walker to pass around the state during his campaign.