Are you unhappy with the reports of Wisconsin's lagging behind the rest of the midwestern states and the nation as a whole? I am too. I learned from the blog, Waukesha Wonk, that new research by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future indicates that recent economic policies have slowed our state’s recovery.
Here are three reasons why this is so:
1. A new rail terminal in Madison and high-speed railroad tracks through Wisconsin were supposed to open this summer. A factory in Milwaukee was supposed to build the railroad cars for the new system and others like it throughout the United States. But, because our governor turned down the hundreds of millions of federal dollars that would have made these things happen, there is no new terminal, there are no new tracks, and the railroad car company closed down and moved elsewhere.
2. In the current governor's first year, fifteen thousand five hundred jobs were lost in Wisconsin state and local governments due to his and the Republican state legislature's actions. It was the second largest loss of public sector jobs in the United States in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The public sector workers in Wisconsin who kept their jobs lost about eight percent of their spendable income, due to new requirements that they pay larger percentages of the costs of their health insurance and retirement contributions. Those workers would have spent most of that income at local retailers' businesses: grocery stores, hardware stores, and such. That’s nearly a billion dollars a year lost to local Wisconsin retail businesses.
3. Wisconsin's unemployment rate remains around seven percent. Meanwhile, just across the border, Minneapolis-St. Paul has an unemployment rate of only five percent.
Progressive commentator Ruth Conniff wrote in Isthmus (7/18/13), "...any business owner can tell you that consumer demand...drives business growth and job creation." In order to stimulate consumer demand, we must put money in the pockets of consumers. Jobs like the ones we lost, the ones that were downgraded, and the ones we DIDN'T get in Wisconsin are what put money in the pockets of consumers. Money in the pockets of consumers gets spent. The governor has made some wrong assumptions and some wrong decisions about how to get the Wisconsin economy rolling again.
Meanwhile, what do we get in Wisconsin? An old-fashioned, open-pit, low-grade iron ore mine way Up North.
Modern infrastructure, built and operated by local employees, public and private sector jobs, income spent at hometown businesses: these are the kinds of things we need to get our economy moving again. Our current Republican state government has made wrong assumptions about what makes an economy go. Want to know the solution to this problem? Next time, vote Democrat.