“People are hurting…”

In “What Would Tommy Do?” by Marc Eisen, in Urban Milwaukee (April 18, 2016), we get revealing data on the effects of Republican economic policy during the Walker era. I excerpt the essentials here:

In early January, UW-Madison economists Steven Deller and Tessa Conroy released a study on Wisconsin job creation that sank beneath the waves with barely a ripple, despite its insight into the Badger State’s sluggish economy.

The duo, in a report for the UW-Extension, found that new businesses created the largest share of new jobs in Wisconsin. Roughly half of those jobs “come from the smallest businesses, namely those with fewer than 20 employees,” Deller and Conroy wrote.

At the Capitol, their nuts-and-bolts recommendations didn’t get the time of day from policymakers. Deller, who has been studying Wisconsin’s economy for 23 years, laughed out loud when I asked if lawmakers or the governor’s office had met with him.

Chalk it up to the ruling Republicans pursuit of an entirely different strategy. In a nutshell: Support Wisconsin’s legacy businesses. Cut their taxes. Reduce regulatory oversight. Drive down the cost of labor. Stress job training. Problem is, after five years of road-testing this classic conservative strategy, Wisconsin’s economy is stalled.

People are hurting.

Thirty-one states had a better job-creation record than Wisconsin, according to federal data. Compared to the national rate of 11.2%, Wisconsin’s private-sector jobs increased by only 7.6% in the five-year period. The Kauffman Foundation ranked the Badger State dead last in entrepreneurialism. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis, Wisconsin led the nation in the loss of middle-class households between 2000 and 2013. And poverty in Wisconsin has hit a 30-year high, according to a UW-Madison study.

Deller and Conroy’s policy recommendations for growing the Wisconsin economy (see related story, “Class dismissed”) are hardly radical. But they are decidedly different from the Republican program. What’s striking and perhaps even more worrisome: UW experts like Deller and Conroy aren’t being pulled into the crucial policy deliberations at the Capitol.

Too many decision-makers “have made up their minds and are not open to what the research is telling us,” says Deller.

See the full article here.

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