Tuesday, October 10, 2017

No surprise- rural Wisconsin has barely recovered at all

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance recently released an analysis sorting out the economic performance in several economic aspects between 2009 and 2016. What the WTA found is that while some parts of Wisconsin have thrived over the 7 years of economic recovery, other places have missed out, with some counties having fewer jobs than they had in 2009.
By combining information on jobs, workforce, unemployment, population, and home values, WISTAX identified 28 counties whose post-recession recovery was above the state average and 44 counties where it was below average. Three counties—Calumet, Dane, and St. Croix—far outpaced all others, while Adams, Buffalo, Forest, and Iron trailed most significantly.

Although many factors affect economic growth, WISTAX identified three that deserve attention: access to major highways, high-speed Internet, and university campuses. Twelve of the 14 fastest-growing counties contained an interstate or other four-lane highway; the two remaining had a major highway within miles of their borders. This is not surprising: A 2014 WISTAX study showed Wisconsin’s industry mix is more transportation-dependent than any other state, except Indiana.
Huh, so maybe investing in public infrastructure and higher ed has a nice economic payoff. Who knew? (certainly not the GOPs at the Capitol).

On the down side, Taxpayers Alliance President Todd Berry says that when it comes to the economy over the last 7 years, the bottom 30% of Wisconsin counties are overwhelmingly in central and northern Wisconsin, and are almost all rural.
“If one word were to characterize these 22 lagging counties,” WISTAX’s Berry said, “it might be isolation.” Nearly all these counties lack access to major highways and high-speed Internet, and are without major cities. Excluding Milwaukee, Manitowoc, and Wood counties, the largest city in these remaining 19 counties is Marinette, with fewer than 11,000 residents. All other cities and villages have fewer than 8,200 residents, and just five had more than 5,000.

In addition to looking back at county economic performance during the 2009-16 period, WISTAX also looked ahead to future workforce trends. “It is the availability of adequate labor going forward that will most impact future economic progress,” Berry pointed out.

WISTAX calculated a “replacement rate” for each county that measures its capacity to replace soon-to-retire 55-to-64 year olds with young people currently 15 to 24. A close look at these replacement rates shows the economic divergence among counties that prevailed during 2009-16 will likely continue for the next decade.

Among the 22 counties that most struggled since 2009, the median (half lower, half higher) replacement rate was 54%. In other words, these counties have about half the number of young people needed to maintain their workforces. By contrast, in the 12 counties with the strongest economies during 2009-16, the median replacement rate was 96%. That is, they have nearly enough young people to replace their retirees.
Huh, sounds like we need to do something to improve infrastructure and encourage younger people to locate in those rural places. Maybe Scott Walker shouldn’t have tried to spite the Black Guy in the White House by turning down $23 millon for rural internet 6 years ago? And maybe we shouldn’t have continued to defund public education in the state, a trend that continued in the 2017-19 budget with the GOP Legislature’s removal of sparsity aids and Scott Walker’s veto of an increase for low-revenue districts that are overwhelmingly in smaller communities and suburbs.

Now I don’t count on the right-leaning Taxpayers Alliance to make that connection. But it exists, and it’s well past time people in those largely rural communities make Scott Walker and their (mostly) GOP legislators pay a price for the regressive policies that have left their communities in the dust.


  1. I stand by my statement on this - there are a lot of people who really don't concern themselves overmuch with their own condition. Their lives are tough, always have been, and that's mostly a badge of honor for them.

    They don't mind holding their own or even losing a bit of ground as long as the right people are losing more.

    Read that as a patchwork of Blacks, Hispanics, gays, uppity women, immigrants, welfare queens, socialists, and smarty pants intellectuals who shower before they go to work rather than when they come home. Few people hate them all, but there's a boogey man in the right wing pantheon for everyone.

    *spits on the ground*

    liberals . . .

    We've been conditioned to despise the "other". While I think Republicans have been more thorough, Democrats have done damage as well. For every MAGA shouting right winger, there's a sneering, condescending liberal staring back at him across the divide.

    As long as the Gov keeps beating the right people down, his people will keep voting for him, liberals will look on them with contempt, power will continue to accumulate at the top, and life will slowly degrade for most of us.

    My despair waits only for Friday and a glass of good scotch. Remember Kathy Cramer's tour? I'm considering doing the same thing in taverns - a slightly more dangerous and visceral version. Respect to Joe Bageant who put the idea in my head years back.

  2. A lot to unpack there.

    I think it's just easier to bitch about "others" than admit mistakes or try to improve. It takes effort to ask tough questions as to why their communities have been left behind and why they are being given the short end of the stick, because it may mean you've been wrong about what you did all those years (and it may not even be your fault).

    Somehow I am a "sneering condescending liberal" because I mention that the solutions are right in front of rural Wisconsin. Keeping public schools strong, protecting the environment and rural scenery, installing better infrastructure and being paid a fair wage for work is something that is especially beneficial for those areas.

    But instead of voting for those things, too many of them would rather knock me down and knock others down instead of rising up and making their lives better. I can't respect that, and I especially resent that I am somehow treated as "less than" by these types by furthering my education and wanting to live in a world where respect is valued over selfishness and greed.

    And what's most frustrating is that I can't make these people help our society for the better, I can just get info out there and maybe that'll help to knock down the Bubble of BS that some people live in...or at least show bystanders that right-wing big mouths are clueless.

  3. Jake - The sneering condescending liberal description was intended as a generalized and somewhat hyperbolic comment not a personal attack. I sincerely apologize for the slight.

    You're exactly right - it's much easier to bitch about "others" and that gets used all the time by the pols. We have at least two generations of conservatives who have been fed from childhood on this milk of "the liberal elite".

    It's so pervasive that we've had fantastically wealthy individuals point the accusing finger at journalists, scientists, teachers, artists and others as if they have more power that the party which controls the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, 35 governorships and 26 state governments in both the legislative and executive branches. It's insanely dishonest, but it's worked because it plays into people's pride. Let's be honest, martyrdom plays well to about 1/3 of the population.

    It's terribly difficult to break through the conditioning and get people to see you as a real person with real ideas. In my experience, I have a chance with maybe 1 in 3 and even with that one, it takes tolerating 10-15 minutes of demeaning boilerplate verbal assaults to get anywhere close to a real conversation.

    And those people are my friends.

    But that's how you get past the bubble. That's how you get people to consider a different viewpoint.

    1. I know you didn't mean me, Jeff. I was more commenting on the resentment/victim mentality that GOP voters have.

      You have more patience than I do for these people. It's a whiny, self-centered value system I can't get with, and therefore I don't have a lot if friends that think that way,

  4. Having to stand and take it from the Wisconsin Righties these past near seven years, I have some sympathy with Republicans in my home state of Illinois, and so my childhood friends remain on my radar.

    It doesn't take a lot to get them to agree that single party rule and gerrymandering are real problems. The willingness to be strange bedfellows seems to be a dying art.