Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his third State of the State address Tuesday and, like any career politician, he will use the moment to promote his “success story.”
But, as in 2011, when his State of the State address failed to mention his imminent attack on collective bargaining rights that still divides the state, what the governor does not say will be far more significant than what he does.
So what won’t the governor mention?
The number “42.”
According to the national census of employment and wages released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, Wisconsin ranks 42nd in job growth.
When it comes to job creation under Walker, Wisconsin trails every state that borders it: Michigan on the north, Illinois on the south, Iowa and Minnesota to the west.
Some of those neighboring states are adding manufacturing jobs at twice the rate Wisconsin is. That’s right: twice the rate.
On the Bureau of Labor list, the Badger State rests down near the very bottom, just behind Alabama and a few places ahead of Mississippi.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asks: “Why is Wisconsin a slow-growth state?”
Timothy Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, answers: “This is a big question.”
Actually, it has an easy answer.
Walker promised while running for governor to focus all his energies on creating 250,000 jobs over his four-year term. Instead, he focused all his energies on rewarding campaign contributors and political cronies.
Over the past two years, Walker has:
•Refused federal funding for high-speed rail transportation, broadband Internet development and health care reforms that smart business owners know are key to the future.
• Replaced public initiatives to create jobs with a crony-filled “Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.,” which was so recklessly run it is now mired in scandal.
• Changed the job titles and civil service designations of state positions to appoint political allies and children of campaign contributors.
•Attacked public employees and teachers who maintain the physical and educational infrastructures essential to attracting new businesses.
• Implemented an austerity budget that has rendered state and local government increasingly dysfunctional.
Walker has tried to blame everyone else for his failure to focus on job growth. He’s griped about protests, about being held to account with a recall election, about President Obama.
The one thing Walker has not done is correct course.
It is now abundantly clear that Walker can do that only by abandoning the European-style austerity agenda he has chosen, with its attacks on unions, undermining of public services and disregard for education and infrastructure investment.
Unless this governor announces that sort of shift in his State of the State address, you can bet that Wisconsin will remain a slow-growth state. In fact, it’s a safe bet that No. 42 may be recalled as a high-water mark.
If Walker does not change, then the point at which Wisconsin will start competing with neighboring states and moving up in the job rankings will have been identified. Progress will come when someone other than Walker is delivering the State of the State.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org