Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Survey of CEOs doesn't tell the whole story

Corporate leaders predict improvement, but do their opinions reflect realities for the rest of us in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) released a survey this weekend that showed business-owners in the organization think things are going in the right direction in Wisconsin.

That shouldn’t be surprising -- WMC is one of the largest contributors to the Republican Party in the state, and has donated millions of dollars to electing Scott Walker and other like-minded conservatives to office.

While some in the media have hyped up the WMC’s “findings,” the results of the survey couldn’t be more predictable. Why would WMC members say anything different? They support Walker and his “reforms” because they benefit from it personally.

But do survey results reflect what’s actually happening in Wisconsin?

The blunt answer: No.

Take, for example, what WMC members say about economic growth and jobs over the next year (PDF). While 53 percent of CEOs expect good to moderate growth in the next six months for the state, the same numbers are reportedly having trouble hiring new employees, and don't expect to do so next year. Their excuse? More than three-in-four say it’s because the state lacks qualified candidates.

But a recent study by the UW LaFollette School of Public Affairs demonstrates that the “skills gap” claim made by the CEOs is nothing but pure fiction. In fact, Wisconsin has enough skilled workers to qualify for jobs all the way to the year 2020!

Yet, for all the pessimism on the jobs outlook, a staggering 94 percent of WMC members say that Wisconsin is headed in the right direction.

Again, however, the views of the CEOs don’t match what economic studies are telling us. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve recently ranked Wisconsin’s economy as contracting over the next six months, predicting that we will fall to become the second worst state in the country economically speaking.

While critics contend that the Philadelphia Fed study is merely a forecast, they disregard the fact that such sour predictions are already happening in Wisconsin: we’ve already dropped to a ranking 44th in the nation in terms of job growth, and our state actually saw a “mini recession” over the first three months of 2013, in addition to the stagnant growth we’ve seen previously under this current governor.

The bottom line: surveys don’t always produce a real, trustworthy analysis of what’s going on. While CEOs are probably salivating over the corporate tax breaks and personal income increases they’re likely to see over the next few years, that “optimism” is hardly a marker of what’s really happening in the state.

What’s this survey really showing us? That CEOs are tickled pink over the huge gains they’re getting at the expense of you, the average Wisconsin taxpayer.

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