Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is looking for a new job but, unfortunately, so are too many of his constituents.
After running on the promise to create 250,000 new private sector jobs by the end of his first term, Walker didn’t just fail to meet this goal, he failed miserably, creating barely half of his promised amount.
Even just a glance at economic metrics in Wisconsin tells a story of stifled job growth, ballooning deficits, and a shrinking middle class.
When looking for reasons why Walker may have failed so miserably at creating jobs in Wisconsin, the obvious place to look would be his flagship job creation agency: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). WEDC, which Walker chaired, gave out taxpayer-funded loans to hundreds of companies in the hopes of spurring growth. But the jobs Walker promised never materialized. Instead, in an epic display of mismanagement, WEDC lost track of millions of dollars in loans, gave awards to ineligible businesses, and has generally been a poor steward of taxpayers’ money.
In terms of job growth, Wisconsin has consistently trailed the national average. In fact, Wisconsin only saw 1.5 percent private-sector job growth in 2014. Unfortunately for Wisconsinites, while this is the best job creation number Walker has seen throughout his entire time in office, it lags far behind the national growth rate of 2.6 percent.
But none of this should come as a surprise. Instead of fulfilling his promise to create jobs, Walker has chosen to prioritize attacking public workers and teachers. All this did was create a culture of polarization that has divided his state to the core.
How big a failure have Walkernomics been? Just look next door at Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota, which leads Wisconsin in almost every economic indicator.
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into an over $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By requiring the wealthiest earners to pay their fair share, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure.
In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and faced a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing education funding and refusing to make investments that would benefit middle class families and Wisconsin’s financial wellbeing.
In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, and investing in the middle class, and now we are seen as one of the most business friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the 9th best state for business and careers, 7th in economic climate and 2nd in quality of life. On top of all that, CNBC just ranked Minnesota the country’s top state for business in 2015.
In Wisconsin, Walker refuses to raise the minimum wage and equal pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right to work legislation and anti-collective bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income in Wisconsin is thousands of dollars less than it is in Minnesota.
While Dayton has clearly reformed Minnesota and put our state on a path to economic prosperity, Walker has reformed Wisconsin for the worse. So if Walker wants to run on a platform of his reforms and economic growth, what exactly does he have to brag about?
Walker and other Republican governors running for president like to say their credentials as a governors make them most qualified to be president. But in reality, those credentials amount to failed job creation, tax cuts for the wealthy, and ballooning deficits. Not so presidential in my opinion.
Rybak served as mayor of Minneapolis from 2002 to 2014. He is currently a vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.