Abby Scher on the race to elect Maine's next Governor
If you want a preview of the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan plan for America, take a look at Wisconsin.
Governor Scott Walker, who faces a recall election June 5, has pushed through just about every item in the GOP playbook.
Huge tax breaks for corporations--the so-called "job creators"? Check.
Deep cuts to health care, education, unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other programs that help the poor and struggling middle class? Check.
Rolling back environmental protections and gutting regulations on polluting industry? Check.
Waging war on labor unions, taking away public employees' collective bargaining rights? Check.
Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood? Check.
Rolling back equal pay protections for women? Check.
So where does this blueprint leave us?
Wisconsin is now dead last in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for job loss.
Between January 2011 and January 2012, while 44 states and the nation as a whole were adding jobs, Wisconsin was one of only six states to lose jobs--and Wisconsin's job loss was the worst among that handful of losers.
In its latest jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Wisconsin shed 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and March 2012. Wisconsin was the only state with a statistically significant percentage change in employment to report a net loss, the report stated.
The jury is in. The GOP's trickle-down policies have failed in Wisconsin.
Walker came into office promising to add 250,000 new jobs in the state during his first term in office. Instead, month after month, Wisconsin has suffered job losses, finally drifting to the very bottom.
Worse, Walker's policies have set the state up for an even bleaker future.
One of the first things Walker did as governor was to eliminate the apprenticeship program for African Americans in Milwaukee who wanted to get into a trade.
His 30 percent cuts to the state's vocational and technical colleges have created long waiting lists for training programs in the skilled trades--for the kinds of jobs that attract employers and lead to stable, well-paid employment.
Just when Milwaukee thought that the Talgo corporation was going to create 500 new jobs in the inner city to make train cars for the high-speed rail line originally envisioned by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, Walker killed the plan, turning away $810 million in federal money that was already allocated. Other states, including neighboring Illinois, took that money instead.
Walker's historic $1.8 billion in cuts to the state's top-tier public school system aims, ironically, aims directly at one of the biggest assets the state advertisers to employers.
The web site for Forward Wisconsin, the nonprofit corporation established to market Wisconsin to companies that might want to locate here, promotes the state's high-quality public schools and highly trained teachers as Wisconsin's number-one selling point.
The targets of Walker's austerity budget-- infrastructure, education, and job training--are the very areas of public investment that support a strong economy and a well-paid workforce.
Steven Deller, a professor of applied economics at the University of Wisconsin, who studied the ripple effects of Walker's budget as well as the attack on public employees' collective bargaining rights, projected that the plans would mean job losses for years into the future.
Perhaps most telling is the contrast between Wisconsin and Illinois, its nearest neighbor to the south, which passed the biggest business and personal income tax increases in the nation in January.
In a speech on April 17 in Springfield, Walker chided the tax-and-spend liberalism of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, saying that, by taxing corporations, the state was going to lose jobs. “When you raise taxes on businesses, that wealth and opportunity and those jobs more often than not go somewhere else.”
But the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index shows just the opposite. Trickle-down economics have hurt Wisconsin, while Illinois is doing significantly better.
Illinois ranked third in the Bloomberg index. Wisconsin came in forty-second. (The index includes measures of personal income, tax revenue and employment.)
And while Illinois gained 32,000 jobs over the last year ending in February, Wisconsin lost 16,900 jobs.
Walker now claims that as soon as the recall election is over on June 5, businesses will finally start creating jobs.
"I think the big thing that people are waiting for is to have the certainty in knowing this positive outlook for job creators is going to continue," he told NewsMax. "And that's why I think after June 5 and after these primaries are done and the lieutenant governor and these senators prevail, I think it means there'll be a clear message to job creators -- the small business owners in the state -- that now's the time to add jobs."
That's like Mitt Romney saying the way out of the recession is a return to the George W. Bush economic policies that got us here in the first place.
There's only one explanation: The Republicans must think voters are stupid.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "An Interview with Tom Barrett."
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter