I was watching Monday Night Football last night in bed with my wife (it’s never a bad thing when the Cowboys lose), and a Scott Walker ad came on. Since the wife had the remote for the channel, I had to throw up my phone in front of my face to avoid having to deal with most of the BS in the ad, but I did catch one part of the ad where Walker talks about Wisconsin’s unemployment falling from a peak of 9.2% to the 5.5% today, and Walker takes credit for it.
Of course, Walker is being dishonest from the start, because he was 1 year from taking office as governor in January 2010, and those final 12 months of the governorship of Jim Doyle and a Dem-controlled Legislature featured the largest 1-year drop in Wisconsin unemployment during the recovery from this recession. Wisconsin’s unemployment was down 7.7% by the time Walker took office, a decrease of 1.5%, and has only fallen by 2.2% in the 44 months measured since then.
Bad enough that Walker is trying to take credit for the work that Jim Doyle and the Dems did to get the start going in the right direction in 2010 (we also added more jobs in 2010 than in any year under Walker), but he’s also taking credit for the Obama Recovery that has dropped unemployment all over the country, and especially in the Midwest. Take a look at this chart, which compares the rise and fall in unemployment for the U.S. as well as Wisconsin and three of our Midwestern neighbors since before the start of the Great Recession, which began at the end of 2007.
It’s interesting to note that Wisconsin’s unemployment started at 4.8% (the “bad old days” when Mary Burke headed up the Department of Commerce), and actually stayed below 5% until September 2008- 5 months after all of the other states had broken that barrier, and the U.S was shooting past 6%. You can also see that Wisconsin never reached the double-digit peaks that both Indiana (10.8%), Illinois (11.4%), and the U.S. as a whole (10.0%) would hit, and started dropping in 2010 faster and farther than the country as a whole.
With this chart in mind, here’s how Wisconsin shaped up compared to these Midwestern neighbors and the country as a whole when Scott Walker took office in January 2011.
Unemployment rates, January 2011
So Wisconsin was 0.9% higher than Minnesota, 1.4% below the U.S. average, 1.3% below Indiana, and 1.7% below Illinois. Now compare that to where we are at the last month that was measured, in September 2014.
Unemployment rate, September 2014
Ill. 6.6% (-2.8% vs Jan 2011)
U.S. 5.9% (-3.2% vs Jan 2011)
Ind. 5.7% (-3.3% vs Jan 2011)
Wis. 5.5% (-2.2% vs Jan 2011)
Minn 4.1% (-2.7% vs Jan 2011)
So all of these places, as well as the country as a whole, have reduced unemployment at a notably faster rate than Wisconsin has since Scott Walker took office in January 2011. Minnesota is especially interesting to note, as they started from a lower rate and yet have reduced its rate further, to full-employment levels of 4.1%. Wisconsin is not close to doing the same.
Here’s another way to look at it, where we compare these four states with the U.S. rate. So a number below 0 would indicate a rate below the U.S’s amount, and a number above would be a higher rate. In addition, if a state is losing ground to the rest of the nation, the number on this chart will move “up”, while if they’re reducing unemployment at a faster rate, the number will drop. Take a look at the trends since the start of 2007.
Look at how Wisconsin’s numbers dive from early 2009 through October 2010- the time period that Jim Doyle and the Dems had complete control of Wisconsin’s government. Sure, these weren’t great times because we were undergoing the worst economy in 75 years, but compared to the rest of the nation, us and Minnesota were doing pretty darn good. By comparison, look at how first Indiana and later Illinois got hammered with the recession, and while both recovered by late 2010, Illinois missed out on the drop in the unemployment that followed nationwide over the next 3 years, but has dropped by quite a bit recently.
You also can see that Wisconsin has missed out on a significant amount of the nation’s 3.9% drop in unemployment during the last 4 years, as our “advantage” over the next of the nation declined from 1.9%, when Walker was elected in November 2010, to 0.4% by the end of 2013. It’s varied between 0.4% and 0.8% for all of 2014, while Minnesota’s “advantage” has stayed between 1.6% and 1.9% for the year, and is still 1.2% below us. With the exception of a few good months at the start of 2014, Indiana has mostly been in tandem with the U.S. rate over the last 4 years, and now sits exactly between the unemployment rates for the U.S. and Wisconsin, at 5.7%.
So in looking at this chart, it is absurd for Scott Walker to take credit for any of the drop in unemployment that has happened in Wisconsin in the 56 months since unemployment topped out in January 2010. The first 12 months featured the fastest drop in the state’s unemployment under the Jim Doyle Administration and Democratic control of the State Legislature, and the lower unemployment in the 44 months since comes down to two words- “THANKS OBAMA!”
In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that Wisconsin should be in a much better spot than we are today, with our neighbors in Minnesota continuing to add jobs to the point of full employment, and Indiana and even Illinois getting a sizable amount of their people back to work in 2014 after particularly tough times. The fact that Walker has to cherry-pick these figures and be this dishonest at this point in the campaign should give you an idea just how bad this guy’s record is. And it's also why he needs to be gone before the Obama Recovery ends, and our region and our country faces the next economic slowdown.