Sunday, November 27, 2011

Will Wisconsin ever get back to full employment?

This sort of an add-on to the last post, but here is a good article in this week's Isthmus regarding Wisconsin and the jobs gap that opened up as a result of the 2007-2009 recession. The whole article is good and I recommend reading it, but here's a couple of key takeaways from it.

The first is how the experts show how our economy has changed, and how Wisconsin will have to adjust to meet it. This quote is from Tim Smeeding, who heads the UW's Institute for Research on Poverty.
"These are jobs that were decreasing in the pre-recession period, and the recession made them go down even faster," [Smeeding] says. "Our employment in manufacturing in this country has been dropping since 1970. We don't live in the Mercury outboard motor world, the Chevy SUV world or the Harley-Davidson world anymore. We live in an Epic world."

"Epic" is, of course, Verona's successful medical software company, which has continued to add to its workforce despite the parched economy. The way forward may be technology and specialized manufacturing, Smeeding says. "If you don't have a post-secondary degree, you're in big trouble."
2 thoughts on this:

1. If you need a bachelor's and post-secondary degree to make it in the 2010s and beyond, as Smeeding suggests, why did Gov. Walker impose $250 million in cuts to the UW System is the 2011-2013 budget. And then he doubled down on those cuts by putting in a disproportionate $66 million in additional cuts to the UW system in the DOA's notorious lapses. This will clearly limit the variety of classes UW schools can offer, reduces the ability for these schools to compete for high-level faculty and staff, and raises tuition to the UW schools by a total of $107 million (5.5% in each year for an 11.3% total increase over 2 years). In a time when high-level higher education should be a huge Wisconsin priority, Walker chose to go in the complete opposite direction.

2. Epic Systems, in addition to being the largest private employer in the county that added the most people in Wisconsin last decade, also defines a different way of business in Wisconsin (and I don't just mean the crazy hours and singular culture that Epic is known for in the Madison area). Epic has refused to work with vendors who joined with the right-wing shills at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Why? Because Epic understands that the failed, "profit by any means necessary without regard to other effects" mentality that defines oligarch orgs like WMC is no way to succeed in the 21st Century. Compare that thinking to Scott Walker and Co. feeling they need to cling to WMC/ Bradley old-money, old-boys club style of thinking. Who do you think will develop the strategies to make it in the modern world? I'll go with Judy Faulkner and the folks at Epic.

Here's one other big part of the article, including a former professor of mine at the UW.
Jack Huddleston, a professor of urban and regional planning at the UW, says the last state budget "cut local aids by about a billion dollars. That translates immediately" to employment losses in local government. He's skeptical of projections that these jobs will take another hit in 2012. "I don't see the bleeding continuing," he says.

But Andrew Reschovsky, an economist and professor of public affairs at UW-Madison, predicts that the bleeding will accelerate. "The pressure on local government is going to grow," he says. Stuck in the vise, alongside the state's municipalities, are the state's schools, where teachers have gotten the ax. "You don't make these kinds of cuts without having employment effects," he says.

No you don't Prof. Reschovsky. We've seen that as part of the big job losses that have hit since Walker's budget took effect on July 1 (most notably the loss of 9,000 local government jobs since August, reflecting lower-than-usual staffing at K-12 schools). And you will continue too see that happen in 2012, because many of the cuts reflected in municipal governments do not take effect until the new local fiscal year on January 1. We are not done shedding jobs in the public sector by a long shot, and given that public sector employees buy things and own houses just like private sector folks do, it will put serious pressure on other parts of our state's economy.

So as the Isthmus article shows, a large gap in jobs continues in Wisconsin, much like it has in the rest of America, and it shows that we are a long way from the peak employment times of 1999-2000. But the path that Scott Walker and his backers chose have put us even further behind in the hole, and until his slash-and-funnel-to-the-rich-and-corporate mentality is driven out on Madison, we aren't going to come close to getting back to where we need to be.

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