Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When criticizing his predecessor, Walker ignores global economic recession

Claims that Wisconsin was worse under Doyle exaggerated

Editor's note: the following post uses Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers. I tend to use BLS in every post on jobs I can. Yesterday, I wrote a post using DWD numbers since the BLS site hadn't updated yet. Though the two indicate different numbers for different months, the changes are almost insignificant to warrant edits to yesterday's post. Keep that in mind if you see discrepancies between numbers on today's post and Monday's.

Yesterday I looked at jobs during the first year of Gov. Scott Walker's term, noting that two budgets were active during that time (the tail end of Gov. Jim Doyle's and the first six months of Walker's). Those two budgets produced very different outcomes in terms of jobs in 2011, with the current governor's budget (and other reforms) producing great losses for Wisconsin overall.

It was suggested to me that I should look further back, to compare Doyle's numbers even more with Walker's. After all, as Gov. Walker has pointed out in his latest (misleading) ad, we lost more than 150,000 jobs in the three years before he assumed office. Wouldn't those years be worth looking at, then, to investigate whether or not comparisons can truly be made between the two?

The answer, frankly, is that any comparison between the two would be like comparing apples to oranges -- Doyle was governor during a global economic recession, while Walker has thus far reigned during a time of recovery. Still, it's worth looking into to see just how bad things were then, and how bad they are now.

As usual, when looking at the details of job numbers, I find it's easier to graph it out. Here's the job numbers, looking only at the totals in bar graph form:

It's clear where the recession hit Wisconsin -- and hit it hard -- and where the recovery begins. From December of 2007 (the recognized start of the recession) to June 2009, there are significant drops in job numbers in the state. After June 2009, these drops lessen, and we begin to see a recovery take shape in the form of positive job numbers from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011.

Beginning in the second quarter of 2011, however, jobs again went south.

The graph below illustrates the job changes in terms of which governor was in place (Doyle and Walker):

Aside from what we discussed above, this graph demonstrates a change once governor Walker takes office. But what caused that change is unnoticeable at first glance. Indeed, the first three months of Walker's term shows that there were increases. What caused those increases, and what caused the subsequent decreases in the remaining months of Walker's first year?

The graph above puts it into a bit more perspective. The quarter that follows passage of Act 10 (the removal of collective bargaining rights) sees a dramatic drop, the first quarterly drop since 2009. The next two drops in quarterly job numbers follow Gov. Walker's implementation of his budget, which cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations by billions of dollars.

This isn't to say that the Doyle years were perfect -- I have many criticisms of former Gov. Jim Doyle, and feel he could have governed in a much better way. But the implications that many Walker supporters make of the years Doyle was in charge (and the job losses suffered "under his watch") are baseless, and neglect to remember that it was an economic meltdown, not the actions of Doyle, that caused jobs to diminish so substantially.

What's more, Doyle's job losses came at a time when the rest of the country was experiencing similar losses. His gains, too, came when the country was recovering. But while the country continued to improve when Walker assumed office, Wisconsin suffered.

Compare the graphs above with the famous "bikini graph" detailing the Obama recovery:

Where there's substantial losses during the last year under Walker, the rest of the nation has seen consistent increases, indicating that the problems we have are seen here alone. In fact, Wisconsin led the nation in job losses during Walker's first year, a sad reality that our state needs to address.

The governor and his supporters can dress it up all they want, describing the years that proceeded Walker as worse than what his first year was like. By doing so, Walker hopes to make his job losses seem less severe. But Walker's losses came at a time when the nation was in a recovery; the losses of Doyle came at a time when everyone else was losing jobs, too.

The two are incomparable...though for losing jobs during a time of economic stabilization and positive numbers at the national level, Walker has failed on one of the biggest campaign pledges he made.


  1. And you same people keep blaming Bush 3 1/2 years after Obama took office.