The progressive Wisconsin-based Cap Times recently released a graph featuring Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers showing Wisconsin well below neighbors Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois in job creation over the past two years. Liberals have been tittering over the graph, because in 2010, Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker campaigned on the promise of creating 250,000 new jobs in his first term, yet the state has witnessed a net decline of 16,000 jobs since he took office in January 2011.
In defense of Walker, comparing Wisconsin unfavorably to Michigan and Illinois—two of the states with the highest unemployment rates in the country—is hilarious. In December 2012, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 6.6%, compared to Illinois’s at 8.7% and Michigan’s at 8.9%. (Iowa, with its Republican governor and House, is admittedly doing very well at 4.9%).
Remember that Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term, which lasts until January 2015. I think it’s a bit premature for liberals to gloat over the presumed economic fallout from the slight limitations he enacted on lavish taxpayer-funded union benefits via his Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. As anyone who grimaced while first-term President Reagan rode out the second half of a double-dip recession can attest, reform takes time to kick in. There’s so much variability in the numbers of jobs Wisconsin’s neighbors have created over the past 24 months—from Minnesota’s 72,200 down to Iowa’s 18,600—that it’s way too early to tell whether Walker’s policies have worked. And Reagan didn’t have to waste the first year of his presidency fighting a pointless recall election staged by powerful public sector unions. (The Wisconsin recall election also set taxpayers back to the tune of 16 to 18 million job-killing dollars.)
Also remember that the change in Wisconsin’s net jobs includes not only private-sector jobs but government jobs. Since Walker explicitly campaigned on a platform of cutting government spending, it’s safe to assume that several thousand of those “lost” jobs came from laying off pencil-pushing bureaucrats to save the state money.
In addition, Walker promised to create jobs via business expansion. Yet Democrats have been doing everything in their power since he was elected to stymie his job-creation legislation. Most regrettable is their effort to stop his mining bill that would open territory in the Lake Superior region for a gigantic $1.5 billion iron ore mine and create thousands of jobs in the mining, trucking, and housing industries. Despite the bill’s recent passage after a year of Democratic stall tactics, the mine’s opening could be delayed for years due to environmentalist legal challenges.
But since Democrats want to draw comparisons, let’s take a broader view. Crunching the numbers reveals that unemployment rates declined more across the country in red states—as defined by 2012 Electoral College votes—than blue states from January 2011 to December 2012: 20% on average in red states and 14% in blue states.
Unemployment increased in only two states over the past two years: New Jersey and New Hampshire—both blue. Unemployment decreased by piddly single-digit percentages in New York, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania—all blue states. Similarly, decreases were 17% or less in blue states Michigan, Washington, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Colorado, and D.C.
In contrast, unemployment plummeted for red states Utah (32%), Idaho (32%), Missouri (30%), Louisiana (29%), Texas (27%), Alabama (24%), Montana (24%), Oklahoma (23%), Kentucky (22%), West Virginia (22%), Wyoming (22%), Kansas (21%), South Carolina (20%), and Tennessee (20%).
Florida was a blue state in 2012—barely—but has a Republican governor, Senate, and House, and their unemployment dropped a whopping 33% from January 2011. Swing state Ohio similarly tipped blue in 2012, but also has a Republican governor, Senate, and House, and their unemployment plunged 29%.
Red states also had lower average point-in-time unemployment rates in December 2012 than blue states—7.5% vs. 6.6%. The following red states all boasted unemployment rates below 6.0%: North Dakota (3.2%), Nebraska (3.7%), South Dakota (4.4%), Wyoming (4.9%), Oklahoma (5.1%), Utah (5.2%), Kansas (5.4%), Louisiana (5.5%), and Montana (5.7%). Seven of the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates in the nation are red. The states with the four lowest unemployment rates are all red.
Meanwhile, these poor blue states all had miserable unemployment rates above 8.0% in December 2012: Rhode Island (10.2%), Nevada (10.2%), California (9.8%), New Jersey (9.6%), Michigan (8.9%), Illinois (8.7%), Connecticut (8.6%), D.C. (8.5%), Oregon (8.4%), and New York (8.2%). Seven of the ten states with the highest unemployment rates in the nation are blue. The states with the four highest unemployment rates are all blue.
So here’s some advice for Democrats who whine when Republican governors fail to fully implement their economic growth promises quickly enough: Stop saddling them with costly, time-consuming recall elections, and stop opposing every job-creation measure they propose. They can create a lot more jobs that way—if that’s truly what you want.
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- Governor of state that’s 42nd on job creation brags that ‘the national outlook isn’t as bright’ (dailykos.com)
- Scott Walker’s Wisconsin is losing jobs while neighboring states are creating jobs (bluedownstate.wordpress.com)
- Is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker trying to stimulate the Illinois economy? (bluedownstate.wordpress.com)
- Guess Where Chicago Landed On Forbes’ List Of America’s Most Miserable Cities? (b96.cbslocal.com)
- There was more to Gov. Scott Walker’s fight with public employee unions than speeches and protests (jsonline.com)