If you want to know how much worse our economic recovery could be, check out Scott Walker’s austerity-rocked Wisconsin — which has gone from 11th in job creation to 44th in just two years.
Walker stormed into office in 2011 on the crest of a Tea Party wave and immediately added $117.2 million to the budget deficit with a series of tax cuts that did nothing to spur job creation. He “paid” for these cuts in part with an attack on public workers that he failed to mention in his campaign that he was going to pursue.
The governor and his Republican majorities cut workers’ salaries by about eight percent across the board, eliminated collective-bargaining rights and essentially tied any future wage increases to the rate of inflation.
The growing budget deficit Walker inherited was mostly the result of the financial crisis. Investors enabled by conservative politicians had collaborated to create the worst economic crash since the last time investors and conservative politicians had crashed the economy.
But who was Walker going to make pay for this downturn? Teachers — and other state and local workers — because they still had decent jobs, unlike the millions who lost their livelihoods thanks to Wall Street.
Where did Walker get the idea to go after workers? It was a well-concealed fact in the run-up to the 2010 election — as Republicans were still trying to pretend their goal was to “protect” Medicare — that the Tea Party was a sleeper cell for some of the nation’s most powerful anti-tax, pro-corporate billionaires who had been trying to trigger a “non-partisan” populist movement for decades to destroy the one thing standing in the way of completely privatizing the American government — unions.
Walker saw himself as a new Ronald Reagan — who had led the assault on public workers when he fired all of America’s air traffic controllers during his first year in office. We know this because Walker made the comparison himself when he was crank-called by someone posing as billionaire David Koch.
The state erupted, triggering recalls, including one of Walker himself. Walker won — thanks to voters rejecting the idea of a recall and Walker’s right-wing allies outspending Democrats and labor by an 8-1 margin.
So Wisconsin still has Scott Walker and Wisconsin has fallen to 44th in job creation.
Why? Let’s ask the governor.
“The first year we had a lot of protests in the state,” Walker said recently. “We had two years’, almost, worth of recalls. A lot of employers here I think can relate to the fact (that) uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges for employers big or small or anywhere in between. There was a lot of uncertainty. The good news is that’s passed.”
It couldn’t be Walker’s policies — it has to be the way people reacted to his deception and assault on workers.
Of course, people have other opinions.
“The only question is, ‘Why are we doing so poorly?'” said Jack Norman, former research director of the liberal Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. “The plunge in job growth, compared with other states, coincides exactly with Scott Walker’s time in office. This is no mere coincidence. . . . Act 10 led to large cuts in public workers’ take-home pay, which was a blow to the state’s economy.”
One thing Scott Walker clearly promised to do in his campaign was create 250,000 jobs. So far he’s created between 44,600 and 60,000, depending on which report you believe.
So now that no more recalls are planned Walker and there isn’t any more “uncertainty,” certainly things will get better. To make sure of this, Walker is proposing a tax cut that — of course — would disportionately help out the rich:
Despite his failure to live up to his promise of creating jobs, Walker is still a hero in conservative circles.
He received some of the loudest applause at CPAC, and the right sees him as such an important national figure (and potential Republican 2016 nominee for president) that he’s weighing in on national issues. For example, he thinks same-sex marriage should be left to the states — because they’re so much better at discrimination.
How could such an epic failure of a governor, literally ranked 44th out of 50 in the criterion that matters most to voters, be considered a hero? It’s simple. In every way that matters to the major donors of the Republican Party, he’s a champ.
He took on the unions, cut worker pay and proposed a tax cut that mostly helps the rich.
Heck, in 2012 the GOP nominated a guy who was 47th in job creation as governor — a guy who cared so much about destroying unions that he said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” just to try to make that happen a little faster.
Obviously, for the billionaires behind the Republican Party, attacking the unions and blaming them for the problems conservative economics have created is more important than anything — maybe even winning elections.
AP Photo/Seth Perlman