It was two years ago this week when Wisconsin was thrown into turmoil over Governor Walker's proposals to create new jobs and revive the state's economy.
Two years later, Wisconsin's job growth is anemic by most standards, and the state is far off the pace to create the quarter million new jobs the governor promised in his first four years.
The Center for Media and Democracy is out with a two-year progress report on the economy in Scott Walker's Wisconsin, and Deputy Director Mary Bottari joins us now.
Mary Bottari: Good morning!
Terry Bell: Perhaps most striking about this, Wisconsin turns out to be number 42 out of 50 states in the country in job creation. only a little more than 35,000 jobs have been created out of a goal of a quarter million in 4 years.
MB: That's true! I mean, there's a lot of different ways of counting this jobs deficit. The Milwaukee Journal puts it at 212,000 jobs the governor has yet to create, so it was very curious this weekend that he announced a big program, with a big number: $100 million he's going to spend to "ante up" on jobs, as the Milwaukee Journal said.
TB: This was going to be an administration that was going to create a lot of jobs and really revive the state's economy. What, in your estimation, has happened?
MB: Well, to create jobs, you need to invest. We have a shortage of demand in our society, since the collapse of the housing bubble. So most governments, and governments around the world are trying ot invest in their economy and stimulate growth. What Governor Walker did instead was, he did huge cutbacks in all sorts of key programs, and now he's announcing a little bit more investment in some of them, for instance, he's giving $15 million to the technical college system and others folks, to try and create jobs. But he cut $300 million from the University system and the technical college system, so his numbers just don't add up.
TB: Do you see some of these new initiatives as a bit of a backpedaling from what he introduced two years ago?
MB: I think just the headline that he's going to spend $100 million on jobs is a way of trying to say, 'I'm doing something!', and yet it's the opposite of what he actually did do. He cut all sorts of programs, some of the steepest cuts that we've ever seen, so it is a little bit of a backpedaling, and it's not enough money. It's throwing some seed money at various programs, and it's not going to do anything.
TB: In all fairness, it's only been two years. Can we judge a governor's performance in that short a time? President Obama has needed at least four years to turn around the nation's economy.
MB: In all fairness, it's true. The governor is not the only person, or not even perhaps the greatest force in stimulating the economy. However, other states, other neighboring states, are doing a lot better than ours. So these numbers are shocking and anomalous for the state of Wisconsin. It usually would come back in a recession fairly quickly, and that's not happening now. And it's not happening because of the governor's austerity policies.
TB: Marry Bottari, thanks for being with us.
Mary Bottari is Deputy Director of the Center for Media and Democracy.
We've extended an invitation for the governor's office to respond to the center's report. We are still awaiting their reply.