Wednesday, May 18, 2016

GOP lawmaker uses questionable survey to tout alleged "Wisconsin Comeback"

CEO Magazine's survey doesn't provide objective data on "best" states to do business in

Several Republican politicians in Wisconsin believe that the state’s economy is recovering. Scott Walker has made the claim on several occasions, and a recent press release from Republican Rep. Keith Ripp states with confidence that “the Wisconsin Comeback is real.”

Except, it isn’t -- I posted recently that the governor’s assessments of the Wisconsin Comeback are flawed at best, and purposely exaggerated at worst.

Ripp’s commentary is similarly flawed. Unlike Walker, however, who relied heavily on unverified jobs numbers to make his “Wisconsin Comeback” claim, Ripp uses the state’s improved standing in CEO Magazine’s annual “Best And Worst States for Business” rankings (PDF) as a metric for why we’re doing better.

“We've improved 30 places in this survey's rankings since 2010,” Ripp said.

That’s GREAT! But there’s a problem with using that survey: the rankings aren’t based on anything more than 500 CEOs attitudes on how they feel about certain states.
CEOs are asked to provide their selections for the 4 best states for doing business and the 4 worst states for doing business. We assign points to each state each time they are cited as a top 4 state...
While asking industry heads to complete a survey may provide some insight to economic trends, there’s no data that provides objective proof that Wisconsin has done any better, or is faring better than the rest of the nation, based on those assessments. A CEO with a grudge against one state, for example, can rate that state poorly for no other reason than their attitudes on who is currently governor.

In other words the survey can be wrong -- and has been in the past. In 2014 the survey placed Wisconsin at the 14th best place to do business in, an improvement of 27 places since 2010 to that time. Yet Wisconsin’s GDP growth from 2010 to 2013 was 27th place in the nation.

Indeed, it’s hard to fathom how we can be considered 11th best in the nation today using objective measures. We saw more than 10,000 layoffs in the state last year alone (this year isn’t looking good either). Our state is failing to produce startups at the rate it should (we’re last in the nation), and companies simply don’t want to move here, despite the governor’s assurances they would when he first entered office. And businesses aren’t hiring at the pace they are across the country: Wisconsin ranks 40th out of 50 in terms of job creation in the U.S. since Walker became governor, according to the most recent verified numbers.

Ripp does deserve kudos for pointing out that our state’s crumbling infrastructure needs attention. “We have a looming transportation crisis that must not be ignored,” he writes (though it’s entirely possible that he and other Republicans may use that crisis as a precursor to introduce road tolls on Wisconsin highways).

But Republican lawmakers, be they the governor or anyone else, need to stop using CEO Magazine’s rankings as a testament of our alleged success. The rankings they cite are not objective data, and cannot be used as a reliable measure of whether Wisconsin is doing better under their watch. Most measures, in fact, say otherwise.


  1. CEO's love Republican Governors who weaken pollution laws and cancel constitutional "living wage" requirements. Not good for us at all.

  2. The CEOs sure aren't demonstrating their love by opening businesses in the state, are they? Guess their opinions aren't worth much after all.

  3. Ripp deserves no kuos for anything. He is the Chair of the Transportation Committee, and the crisis that we confront is one of his making. He needs to go. Vote him out in November.