Give Scott Walker credit. He made his campaign slogan “Wisconsin is Open for Business” a reality. In an administration rife with incompetence, corruption, and political patronage, he got this right. According to data compiled by The New York Times from state and federal agencies, Wisconsin is now one of the top corporate welfare states in the nation, second in the Upper Midwest only to automobile bailout-heavy Michigan.
In spite of all these “job creating” incentives and programs, Forbes Magazine recently dropped Wisconsin from 40th to 42nd in the nation in their annual business rankings, making Wisconsin one of the worst states for business in the nation. Just what is going on? By the numbers, Wisconsin should be swimming in jobs. Based on the conservative theory that tax breaks for the job creators will…well…create jobs…
Let’s let the numbers tell the full story.
In total corporate incentives, Wisconsin ranks 14th overall in the nation. At least $1.53 billion went to corporate subsidies in the past year (the state cut $1 billion in public education funding in the 2011 – 2013 budget). These subsidies cost the average taxpayer $268 per year. Remember that number the next time you complain about a $30 per year property tax hike to fund public education. A full 10% of the state budget went to pay these corporate subsidies.
Of the 903 reported corporate grants listed in the Times report, 300 (nearly one-third) have come in 2011-2012 alone, during the Walker administration, primarily through the WEDC “Enterprise Zone Jobs Tax Credit.” In fact, seven of the top ten grant awards totaling over $270 million are 2011 or 2012 grants:
Where has the $1.53 billion in “job creating” investment gone? Could this be the end of the myth surrounding corporate subsidies and incentives spurring job growth? Wisconsin under Scott Walker could be an example of an epic failure of this economic policy theory. Over the past two years, Wisconsin has been far behind the nation in employment recovery, and early 2013 is not looking any better.
Wisconsin employers will slow the pace of hiring in the first three months of 2013 even as the nationwide outlook for job creation is at the most promising levels since the recovery began nearly three years ago, a new survey says.
In Wisconsin, “employers are slightly less optimistic about their staffing plans,” said Manpower spokeswoman Mary Ann Lasky. Nationally, however, “optimism among U.S. hiring decision makers continues to improve,” according to the Milwaukee-based global staffing services company. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 12/10/12)
The December 1, 2012 unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed Wisconsin with the most first time unemployment claims in the nation for the week ending December 1.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 24 were in Wisconsin (+5,876), Oregon (+2,328), Ohio (+2,252), Washington (+2,107), and Iowa (+1,262), while the largest decreases were in New Jersey (-23,966), California (-7,053), New York (-6,682), Texas (-6,425) and North Carolina (-2,609).
On December 12, 2012 Scott Walker appeared at a Waukesha County Business Alliance lunch and claimed to be “just under 100,000” jobs created since he took office. It did not take long for Politifact to rate Walker’s claim “Pants on Fire.”
However, several within his own administration, including his primary spokesman, have said that is the wrong way to measure jobs — you can’t combine partial and full year data sets. As one aide said: It would be “misrepresenting the truth.”
By his administration’s own yardstick, his statement is false. We think it’s ridiculous to — after private admonitions — publicly present it this way. Pants on Fire.
Walker’s continued denial of his policy failure is becoming sociopathic. In spite of his administration awarding literally billions of dollars to corporate subsidies, Wisconsin continues to lag behind in the recovery. The jobs crisis in Wisconsin is very real – and will not be cured with $10-$15/hour jobs, right-to-work legislation, or ideological social engineering.
Just how bad is it? Recent BLS data from measures the Walker Administration accepts (LAUS, QCEW) show that the money being given to corporations and “small business” to create jobs is not. The question remains…where is the money going?
First, the Quarterly Census (QCEW), Scott Walker’s favorite.
Since 2010, there is a very moderate upward trend. The actual data show a non-existent job recovery in Wisconsin.
According to the latest verified QCEW data, Wisconsin has gained about 40,000 jobs January 2011-March 2012. The yellow highlights indicate the peak pre-recession employment in 2008 – 2,840,648. It is imperative to understand that Wisconsin still has a 200,000 job deficit just to get back to pre-recession employment levels, without accounting for population growth.
But this is December. The QCEW data is slow to be verified and released. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) gives a more current measure based on unemployment data – which the Walker Administration has accepted as an accurate measure. The LAUS paints a similar picture:
Again, the actual LAUS data shows a jobless recovery:
The yellow again highlights peak employment, pre-recession. The green highlights the last QCEW data entry in March 2012. According to the LAUS data, from January 2011 – October 2012, less than 20,000 jobs were created since Walker took office. The same data shows a jobs deficit of only about 100,000 to get to pre-recession levels.
While the baseline for each measure is different, the result is the same. Since taking office, Scott Walker has only created 20% of the jobs needed to just get back to pre-recession levels, not accounting for population growth.
The untold story of Walker’s tremendous job failure in relation to corporate welfare is the anemic labor force. Since Scott Walker took office, the total labor force has been virtually stagnant:
Once again, the actual data show an anemic labor force – not what a recovery looks like with over $1 billion a year in corporate subsidies being granted.
Note the high point of the labor force shortly after the recession took hold, in yellow – nearly 3.14 million people. When Scott Walker took office in January 2011, the number had dropped to nearly 3.07 million. As of October 2012, there are only 3.06 million people in the labor force. While the adult population has grown since April 2009, the labor force has dropped by over 70,000.
An 80% deficit in job growth, coupled with a decline of 70,000 people in the labor force. Is this the employment climate over $1.5 billion per year in corporate subsidies gets us?
The people of Wisconsin would be better served investing that $1.5 billion back into public schools. Because the question still remains, what has Wisconsin received for that $1.5 billion “investment?”