Sunday, January 24, 2016

Urban Milwaukee shows how ALEC, Koch state policies don't work

For Sunday reading, wanted to direct you part 1 of a series of articles by Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Thompson that will look at the state of Wisconsin's economic performance in the five years that Scott Walker has been governor. The first part of this analysis is looking at how right-wing organizations gave Wisconsin and other GOP-run states high marks for their policies, but that the actual results haven't been so good.

Thompson starts with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who ranks all 50 states for their "business favorability" and related right-wing metrics. As Thompson notes, while Wisconsin may rank higher in ALEC's ratings under Walker, it's performance hasn't gotten any better at all.
Walker entered office with the slogan “Wisconsin, open for business.” Early surveys of members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce showed a marked improvement in the perceived business climate. Whenever the Journal Sentinel reported on a business expansion, among the comments were several who nvariably said, “Thank you, Governor Walker.”

Many organizations on the right were enthusiastic about the changes in policy under Walker. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) raised Wisconsin from 32nd place to 13th among the states on its “Outlook” scale, based on Walker’s policies, and the graph shows.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s actual performance did not match its enthusiastic reviews. Job growth came in at about half the promised numbers, well behind that of all its neighbors except for Illinois which is suffering from the worst-funded public pensions in the nation. Despite ALEC’s enthusiastic Outlook rating, Wisconsin remains mired near the bottom — anywhere from 41st to 44th place among the states — when it comes to the same group’s “Performance” rating

Thompson points out a similar contrast between right-wing rankings and reality when it comes to the Charles Koch-founded Cato Institute's approval of state policies. Thompson provides these two graphs showing how the "best" states under Cato's "Fiscal Policy Report Card for America's Governors" generally have done worse for job growth in the last 5 years than Cato's "worst" states.

By the way, if you put Wisconsin on this list, we'd mired around Alabama and Kansas in the top graph, at 5.8% job growth, and that doesn't count the job losses that the state saw in December. Thompson said Wisconsin just ended up off Cato's "top states" list due to allegedly spending too much (apparently Cato doesn't differentiate between higher amounts of road building and WEDC giveaways vs cutting education funding).

But then again, you shouldn't be too surprised by what Bruce Thompson found in this analysis, because right-wing bubble-worlders like ALEC and Cato (and state-level tools like WMC) don't really care about growing jobs or improving the economic well-being of most people. All they care about is increasing profit, whether that's by reducing the wages and bargaining power of workers, or through privatization that gives their corporations large state contracts.

This part isn't surprising- it's the nature of corporatism to favor greed and self-interest over things that help the public good. But what is alarming is that it means the puppet politicians that these organizations buy off also don't care about the well-being of the very people who voted for them, and who pay their salaries and benefits. Which means anyone who uses Cato, ALEC, or WMC as a legitimate campaign resource or policy influence should be removed from office as soon as possible, before Wisconsin slips any further down the abyss of economic failure.

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