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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

Economics, Environment, Local Issues, Politics

In the 2010 campaign for Governor, Scott Walker made a foolish promise. Now, folks with more than two working brain cells know to take campaign promises with a grain of salt. However, by promising to create 250,000 new jobs, Walker gave the opposition, stinging from their rejection by the voters in the 2010 elections, a club with which to beat him about the head and shoulders. I think Walker depended on an overwhelming Republican legislature that would permit him to make massive changes in the Wisconsin business landscape, thus attracting new industry. He underestimated the resolve and pure anger of the opposition he would face from the Democrats.

He succeeded in acquiring some degree of oversight of state agencies by directive, but this was not nearly enough to change the perceived and actual negative business climate in this state. There is a tradition, from heaven knows where, for environmental activism, excessive taxation both personal and business, and bureaucratic regulation here that consistently places Wisconsin near the bottom of "business-friendly" ratings. Even though the environment has improved a bit under Walker, although he failed to repeal combined reporting that nailed Harley-Davidson for over $20 million in new taxes (he "tweaked" it to add some loopholes), everything is perception, even in the business world. Wisconsin has a reputation for high taxes, still largely earned, that discourages new business from moving or expanding here and makes it difficult to induce key employees from out of state to relocate to a rust belt "tax hell."

We are blessed in Wisconsin with a plethora of environmental organizations, from the Sierra Club to Clean Air/Water Wisconsin and a long list of others, who traditionally fight business expansion and industry-enhancing infrastructure changes like power transmission lines. Instead we build wind farms the mandated funding of which has pushed and continues to drive our electric rates from among the lowest in the nation to well above average. Just how many jobs do windmills built largely in Germany create? I'll wager a lot fewer than Tower Automotive, Allis-Chalmers, (most of) Briggs and Stratton and other industrial corporations that are now gone.

The latest example of enviromentalist-fueled anti-industry activism is the loss of the Gogobic-Taconite iron mine in northern Wisconsin due to near-universal opposition from environmental organizations, aided and abetted by pure Democrat political venom plus one RINO whose motivation eludes me, unless it's an obsession with his enhanced status thanks to vindictive recall elections that elevated him into a majority of one. Regardless, this is an example of politics at its stupidest, exceptional even for Wisconsin.

All Gogobic wanted, other than an absence of punitive tax-fees, was a clear end date for bureaucratic wrangling, a set date for a yea or nay to its proposal for an open-pit iron mine. At present, hearings and litigation, coupled with DNR sluggishness, can hold up a proposed mine indefinitely, an eventuality Gogobic was unwilling to accept. They couldn't get it by a 17-16 Senate vote, thanks to the newly-inflated Republican Senator Shultz. Of course, don't forget the 100% opposition by the Democratic minority. I can't believe that not one Democrat senator was philosophically sympathetic to this large job-creating enterprise in an economically depressed region of Wisconsin. No, what they were philosophically obsessed with was denying Governor Walker anything resembling a political victory. Thus went thousands of new jobs and tax revenue sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Even the DNR was comfortable with the Republican-proposed bill and its environmental protections.

So, to all those pundits and others wondering why there's a jobs crisis in Wisconsin, notwithstanding our lower-than average unemployment figure, you need look no further than Wisconsin politics as usual coupled with an obsession for environmentalist extremism and the resulting industry-stifling regulation. This combination is toxic to industrial development, both perceptually and in actuality. I wouldn't want to start a business here either. In fact, I have heard that many small businesses are leaving our fine state, or planning to. Even Wisconsin icon Harley is making bye-bye noises.

Walker hasn't a prayer of making the 250,000, but it won't be for lack of trying. The cards are stacked.

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