134,000 > (–47,413)

The Wisconsin Reporter reports:

If next month’s gubernatorial election really is all about jobs, then the latest employment figures — released less than three weeks before election day — allow Gov. Scott Walker to answer the criticisms of his opponent and the left at large with a definitive statement: I got your jobs right here.

Wisconsin’s private sector added 8,400 jobs last month, according to data from the state Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the latest data suggest Wisconsin’s economy appears to have added 134,000 jobs since December 2010, the message Republicans drove home again Thursday is the employment figures are a hell of a lot better than the jobs hemorrhaging under Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle. Burke, as Walker’s campaign is quick to point out, served as Doyle’s secretary of commerce for nearly three years. …

Walker’s campaign pointed to the workforce development data, underscoring September’s strengths:

  • Last month marked the biggest gains in private sector jobs since September 2003.
  • September’s 8,400 private sector jobs are the second biggest upswing since 1994.
    • Key for manufacturing-rich Wisconsin, manufacturers added about 10,000 jobs between September 2013 and last month.
    • Year over year, the private sector added 37,000 jobs.
  • The 134,000 jobs created since December 2010 are more than the total number of jobs Wisconsin businesses added during the Doyle administration.

That’s an understatement. During Doyle’s two terms in office, Wisconsin’s private sector shed a total of 47,413 jobs. In the Democrat’s first four years, the Badger State economy added 86,530 jobs, more than 23,000 less than the job gains during Walker’s first term, through September. Of course, Doyle’s second term included one of the worst recessions in modern history, which didn’t help his total jobs count. The state’s economy lost 133,000 jobs during Doyle’s final term. …

Taken with other economic gauges, the latest jobs report offers some signs of at least steady growth ahead. September’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in August and 6.6 percent in September 2013. The rate is the lowest it has been since October 2008.

According to DWD, initial weekly unemployment insurance claims for the first 40 weeks of 2014 dropped to the lowest point since 2000, and the annual average weekly claims are at their lowest levels since 2000.

State revenue collections were also $55.3 million higher than projections for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Revenue. …

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate was one of the few partisans on the left to even mention the latest jobs data. Well, sort of.

The only reference Tate made of September’s numbers was in ridiculing the measurement behind them.

“There is only one set of jobs data that matters, the quarterly numbers, and those jobs figures show Wisconsin ranked dead last in the Midwest under Scott Walker,” Tate said, not telling the truth.

The Democrats last-in-the-Midwest talking point, repeated ad nauseum by Burke, has recently been debunked.

That 134,000 is slightly more than half of Walker’s 250,000-jobs pledge. On the other hand, 134,000 is nearly three times more than 47,416 … or would be if 47,416 was a positive number. But 47,416 is a negative number. I suppose Democrats could claim that since Walker took office the state has gained a net of less than 90,000 jobs (134,000 minus 47,416), but that would require Democrats to admit what a disaster Doyle was. And who was Doyle’s secretary of commerce?

However, this election is not about jobs. Mary Burke’s complete platform is expressed in four words: “I’m not Scott Walker.”


Oregon’s present, Wisconsin’s future

Jim Geraghty observes Oregon, a “progressive” state run by Democrats since forever, with Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber favored for reelection over Republican Dennis Richardson despite scandals involving Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes:

Greetings from Portland, Oregon — the state with the most egregiously failing Obamacare exchange in the country, now set to reelect the governor whose administration oversaw that disaster and wasted all that money. …

Richardson probably has to try to make the most of the stories surrounding Hayes, as it’s undoubtedly the biggest news to come out of the Oregon governor’s mansion in years. But the more salacious aspects probably generate some sympathy for Governor Kitzhaber; his fiancée hid a criminal past from him.

But it seems like relatively small potatoes compared to a state exchange site that never worked properly, never enrolled a single citizen online (everything had to be done with pen-and-paper), and cost, oh, $305 million.

And the bad news for Oregon’s attempt at health insurance just keeps piling up.

A Klamath Falls woman who applied for health coverage through Cover Oregon says the insurance exchange mailed her the personal information of other applicants.

Ann Migliaccio told The Associated Press that she received documents last week containing the names and birth dates of two applicants from Hillsboro. She says the documents did not include Social Security numbers.

This is the 18th low-level security breach in the past six months, Cover Oregon officials said. They say the information inadvertently shared in these breaches included addresses, names, dates of birth and internal Cover Oregon IDs, but no Social Security numbers.

And piling up:

More than 12,000 people who purchased policies through Cover Oregon could owe money at tax time because of errors in tax credits issued by the health exchange.

The figure is updated from an estimate of about 800 people that exchange officials shared with the Legislature last month, only to realize they’d got it wrong.

A more recent internal staff estimate released under Oregon Public Records Law found errors in 12,772 policies, or 38 percent of those who received tax credits.

Portland intrigues me. If you are one of those despairing conservatives who thinks that the United States of America is caught in an inescapable whirlpool of progressive-driven decline, our future is probably going to look something like Portland.

And at first glance — or at least a visit, the progressive utopia of Portland has its upsides. The ludicrously restrictive zoning laws kept farmland close to the city, so there’s always plenty of locally-grown food, produce, and so on for the run-amok foodie culture. There’s plenty of green space and parks. (Our old friend Mark Hemingway wrote one of the definitive takedowns of modern Portland.)

But the upshot of Oregon’s failed insurance exchange, and the seeming lack of any lasting public outrage, is the confirmation that a key element of modern progressivism is never, ever, ever getting upset about government spending if it’s done with the right intentions.

What’s revealing is how “progressive” does not necessarily mean “follows politics or news coverage of government at any level.” There’s a lot of “set it and forget it” Leftism going around. Because you would figure that any self-designated True Believer in the Power of Government to Improve People’s Lives would be breathing fire over something like this. Because all Cover Oregon’s debacle did was make a lot of money for Oracle, and whoever got the contract for those silly singing television commercials. Think about it — big, incompetent government, paying a fortune to a big, incompetent or insufficiently-competent corporate contractor, and most of the lefties in Oregon yawn or just shake their head in mild disapproval.

The formula here — a governing class, cozy with certain big, corporate contractors, coupled with a tuned-out electorate that reflexively elects and reelects the proper names from the progressive class — turns representative government into a giant con. The funny thing is that the stereotypical leftist from, say, the 1960s was extremely suspicious of the government, but that suspicion focused upon the military, the “military-industrial complex”, the intelligence agencies, the police . . . the spiritual and ideological children of those 1960s liberals walk around with enormous faith that the government knows what it is doing and it can be trusted with ever-more amounts of tax money.

Isn’t there any suspicion left over for state health and human services and insurance administrators? Any anger to spare for governors remaining oblivious at best to serious problems within their administration?

Some of these folks can summon skepticism about childhood vaccines, but not the Obamacare insurance mandate.

This is why you should vote for no Democrat Nov. 4. Democrats obviously don’t believe in competent government. The Doyle administration, and before that the Tony Earl administration (which ran Wisconsin so well that Wisconsin was the last state in the U.S. to recover from the early 1980s recession) is proof.


Burke the taxer

The Republican Party put this on Facebook yesterday:

This is technically incorrect. No secretary-level appointee in state government raises or lowers taxes. You haven’t heard her say she opposed James Doyle’s tax increases, however, have you?

What exactly is Burke’s position on taxes? Apparently it depends on when you ask her:

The Wisconsin Daily Independent writes:

The GOP is claiming that Mary Burke is attempting to have it both ways on taxes, and it maybe catching up to her. Yesterday, in a attempt to come across as reasonable on taxes, Burke told reporters, “I’m not going to increase taxes on anyone.” 5 hours later Burke showed that she really does plan to increase taxes by saying that she wants electric cars to contribute to the transportation fund. This would be a new tax. Mary Burke’s only stated idea for balancing the $680 million transportation shortfall is to charge people who drive electric cars. This idea directly conflicts with a position she took earlier in the same day.

Mary Burke’s flip-flop last evening came while she spoke on a Telephone Town Hall with the United Food and Commercial Workers of Wisconsin.

This is amusing to me, because I’m guessing most electric car owners probably vote Democrat. That would be like her advocating a tax on bicycles or snowboards.

There is no reason to raise taxes in this state. Period. If you want to have a discussion about reallocating the tax mix, increasing some taxes while decreasing others to reduce the overall net tax take, that’s one thing. But Burke isn’t doing that.

Notice as well what she criticized and what she didn’t criticize when she met with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board Wednesday:

Burke, who served as Doyle’s commerce secretary for more than two years, criticized Doyle for dipping into the state’s transportation fund to pay for schools. She also lamented several large increases in tuition at University of Wisconsin campuses during Doyle’s time as governor.

“There are certainly things we didn’t see eye to eye on,” Burke said Wednesday during a wide-ranging discussion with editors and reporters of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

None of which she can name beyond those two, one of which is obviously politically unpopular.

Correction/addendum: Does the Journal Sentinel not listen to the transcripts of their own interviews? Wisconsin Public Radio did:

“There’s things that I disagree with,” she said. “We look now at the raiding of the transportation fund, and at this point now you have a shortfall in that.  You saw large increases in tuition, which were 5 percent increases in tuition. That’s not how we bring down the cost of higher education.  So there’s certainly things that we didn’t see eye to eye on.”

Burke also said she did not agree with Doyle’s decision to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Wisconsinites — a noteworthy statement, given that Burke has campaigned against Walker for offering tax breaks to the rich.

OK, so that’s three things, or so she says, not two. But given her previously noted flip-flop, is her statement credible?

Burke vs. business, and vs. decorum

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has a few questions for supposed business person Mary Burke:

1.) You have repeatedly said that you will take good job creation ideas from any source, whether they are from a Democrat, Republican or someone else. Can you name a single Republican economic initiative you support and one Democratic economic initiative you oppose?

2.) Act 10 has already saved Wisconsin taxpayers at least $3 billion. If you restore collective bargaining privileges to government employees, how will you replace the lost savings in a manner that holds taxpayers harmless from tax hikes going forward?

3.) What is the role of state government in creating jobs?

4.) Why do you oppose the Manufacturers and Agricultural Production Tax credit, which makes Wisconsin’s two largest business sectors more competitive by encouraging investment in Wisconsin instead of other states?

5.) You are on record of saying that you don’t believe Wisconsin’s tax burden is too high. What taxes would you raise?

6.) You are on record opposing an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. If a permit is issued, the mine would create as many as 2,000 high-paying, middle-class jobs in an economically challenged part of the state. What is your specific plan to replace the 2,000 mining and construction jobs in northern Wisconsin with jobs that would also pay an average of $60,000 per year?

I didn’t watch the debate between Burke and Scott Walker Friday night. (Seriously, Wisconsin broadcasters, if you want people to watch debates, think about not scheduling them on high school football Friday nights.) I gather that Burke answered none of those questions, or at least none of them satisfactorily.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity wonders if Burke is correctly representing her own positions:

First, she tried to downplay the Wisconsin recovery by comparing us to other Midwestern States she claims are doing better economically. Two of the states she refers to are Indiana and Michigan. Both states recently passed Right-to-Work legislation and attribute much of their economic recovery to those important changes in law.

Second, she minimizes the benefit of the Walker tax cuts by claiming that it’s “only” $11 per month.  I don’t know about you, but any time the government lets me keep more of my money, there is no such thing as “only.”

And what about so many Wisconsinites struggling to make ends meet as a result of mismanagement of the economy by a Doyle-Burke administration and Washington, DC? Seems to me that extra $11 per month would go a long way toward diapers, groceries and clothes for Badger state families.

Is she just claiming that the tax cuts should have been bigger?  If so, she’s trying to marginalize Governor Walker’s effort to let hard working families keep more of their money. And if so, she should immediately come out in support of massive, across the board cuts in spending and taxes.

In scrambling to gain traction and legitimacy, Mary Burke is making the conservative case for moving Wisconsin forward.

Burke has another problem, identified by James Wigderson:

In her closing statement in Friday night’s debate with Governor Scott Walker, Mary Burke stole a page from the Barack Obama campaign plan in 2008 and promised “a new tone” in politics. “I am also going to set a different tone.”

After taking another swipe at Walker, she added, “I am not only going to change the tone; I’m going to change the system. There is no way that big money and special interests should have a greater voice than you do.”

The atmosphere is unlikely to get better if Burke is elected.  It’s not as if Burke is going to walk into the Capitol and the “Capitol singers” will suddenly dissipate instead of continuing their harassment of Republican legislators. Segway Boy Jeremy Ryan will not suddenly become a decent human being.

But if Friday night’s debate performance by Burke is any indication, her election as governor would only make the “tone” of Wisconsin politics worse.

Twice in the debate, Burke referred to a donation by Gogebic Taconite to a private organization as a campaign donation. Burke even claimed that the donation influenced the governor’s decision to support changing mining regulations to make possible an iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

This, of course, is a lie. The money was not donated to a campaign but to another organization supportive of policies that would make Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine possible, the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But Burke stated that the donation caused Walker to support the mine even though he has publicly stated he did not even know about the donation.

Such a baseless attack on Walker’s character is typical of the Obama strategy of claiming to try to change the tone of politics but is really taking politics to a lower level.

Burke took the demagoguery further when she said that a majority of Wisconsinites would support making such a donation illegal. Is Burke endorsing the repeal of the First Amendment right to free speech? In Burke’s Wisconsin, will the excesses of the John Doe investigation, the pre-dawn raids, the gag orders and the attacks on reputations, receive the official support of the governor’s office?

We shouldn’t be surprised that Burke’s campaign would take this turn. The Democratic Party in Madison that constructed her campaign is steeped in Walker-derangement syndrome. Former spokesman Graeme Zielinski  is only a consultant now to Democratic politicians like Chris Abele but the other end of the leash, Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate, is still there. One of her campaign aides, Paula Zellner, was ticketed after a picket at a home in Racine where a fundraiser was held when, according to the police report, Zellner intimidated elderly attendees.

So when the chairman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz used a domestic violence metaphor, that Walker was showing women the back of his hand, of course Burke could not bring herself to condemn Schultz.

How ironic, but how telling, that the only kind words Burke could find Friday night about Walker – after an embarrassing pause – was to praise his work on domestic violence. That her handlers didn’t prepare her for such a common question is an indication of the sulphuric air the Democrats are breathing in their constant demonization of Walker. They couldn’t think of anything nice to insert into the script they wrote for Burke.

If Burke is elected governor, the left will feel that all of their ugly protests, smears and threats were worth it because it helped drive a Republican governor from office. The only new tone, judging from Friday night’s debate, will be Burke endorsing the ugliness from the office of the governor.

T-minus four weeks minus one day

The gubernatorial election is four weeks from yesterday.

It’s obvious what voters are voting for if they vote for Scott Walker. It’s also obvious what voters are voting for if they vote for Mary Burke — the not-Scott Walker.

And that’s about all you can say about Burke, the Club for Growth claims:

Among the more effective weapons available to any shifty office-seeker is the widespread perception that the political arts are steeped in arcane knowledge incomprehensible to voters.  Conversely, a shifty office-seeker’s nightmare is widespread realization that he (or she) is really playing a fairly simple game. We resist believing the latter: If we’re going to be fleeced, we naturally hope it will be by someone who knows more than we do.
But sometimes the only choice is to face facts and admit the office-seeker is plying a dreary and pedestrian trade, and perhaps not even proficiently. There’s no other explanation for the incredible lifespan—now nearing three weeks—of the Mary Burke plagiarism scandal.

We like our initial interpretation better all the time. The serial plagiarism is revealing far beyond Burke’s willingness to lift economic development ideas; it suggests we are at risk of being governed by a nonentity.

Appearing Sunday on Madison television, she struggled to identify a single component of her jobs plan that was a certifiable Burke original, then picked one that promptly tuned out to have been plagiarized.

And recall, she immediately fired the consultant responsible for the plan when the plagiarism story broke, but retains the plan and produced a defiant television ad saying so. If she received a contribution from someone who later turned out to be a bank robber, would she keep the money?

We argued a week ago that Burke seems strangely indifferent to the realities of her campaign, begging the question whether she’s really interested in governing. Come the debates, someone should ask whether she actually wants to be governor.

It would be interesting to hear if they ever reach the follow-up question: “Why?”

“Why” is obvious — she’s not Scott Walker.

But what would happen in Wisconsin if Burke were elected?

There is no way Republicans will not retain the state Assembly after the Nov. 4 election. It looks decreasingly likely that Democrats will even be able to take the state Senate, in which Republicans have a 17-15 majority, with one vacancy.

The word that comes to mind, of course, is “gridlock.” Mike Nichols examines the potential Gov. Burke:

The elephant in the room is the elephants in the room — the big room with the white columns, stuffed eagle and oak desks that is known as the Assembly Chamber.

There are 60 Republicans in the Assembly and only 39 Democrats. Robin Vos, the Republican Assembly speaker, thinks Republicans, if anything, might actually pick up a few seats this November. And even if they don’t, they will retain an enormous majority.

The GOP also currently controls the Senate, though by a much slimmer 17-15 margin with one vacancy — the southeastern Wisconsin seat Neal Kedzie resigned in June to take over the Motor Carrier’s Association. Democrats will not pick up Kedzie’s solidly Republican seat, and they on are track to lose the redistricted seat currently held by Democratic State Sen. John Lehman, the one-time Racine teacher who could end up as Burke’s lieutenant governor. That means Democrats will need to pick up a total of three other seats to take over the 33-seat chamber.

It’s not altogether impossible. Democrats hope to capture seats held by outgoing Sens. Mike Ellis, Dale Schultz and Joe Leibham. But it’s extremely unlikely, and even if Burke does win and Democrats prevail in the senate, the fact is she will still have to deal with a very conservative Assembly.Mary Burke’s hopes won’t rest with allies in the Legislature. They will, at least initially, rest with her veto pen. …

“I think we are unique in the scope of the governor’s authority,” says Fred Wade, a Madison attorney who has long criticized the way Wisconsin governors can use the partial-veto to “create legislation that the Legislature did not approve.”

Like other governors, Wisconsin’s chief executive has the ability to veto legislation in toto. But he — or she — also has the ability to partially veto appropriations.

Governors dating to Pat Lucey in the 1970s have used and abused this so-called “partial veto.” Jim Doyle, for instance, transferred more than $400 million from the transportation fund to schools by almost comically crossing out words and stitching together parts of different sentences.

That’s no longer possible. Voters altered the state constitution and eliminated the so-called “Vanna White” and “Frankenstein” vetoes that once allowed governors to delete letters in words or crudely stitch together parts of different sentences. But, Wade says, governors can still cross words, digits, whole sentences and commas out of appropriations bills in ways that can entirely defy legislators’ intent.

“For Mary Burke the temptation will be to do what Jim Doyle did,” says Wade. “Because he was stymied in the legislature, he used the power extensively to write legislation the Legislature did not approve but that reflected his priorities.”

Republican legislators could limit Burke’s ability to do the same by excluding purely policy matters from the budget bill. And, Vos points out, governors are not able to “veto an appropriation higher.” But, he concedes, Burke, if so inclined, would be able to stop Republicans “from cutting taxes or cutting waste.”

In the end, it would be virtually impossible to fireproof the budget bill to prevent the new governor from creatively tweaking it to suit her agenda. But chances are that any conflicts with Republicans in the budget would be over the power of the purse. …

Burke has made it clear that she would try to repeal provisions of Act 10 that “crippled the political power of public-sector unions.” She has called Act 10’s implementation of annual union elections and ban on automatic dues collections “nothing more than heavy-handed attempts to punish labor unions” and has said she would work to repeal those provisions.

Vos says he can’t see how she would accomplish that without control of the Legislature.
“I believe that she does not have the ability to do very much on Act 10,” he says.

Retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen essentially agrees, telling Wisconsin Interest it is “highly unlikely” she could roll back Act 10.

Joe Zepecki, communications director for the Burke campaign, says, “There is no silver-bullet strategy” on the issue.

“It’s bringing people together and getting that done.” She would, he says, “turn down the volume a little in terms of the political back-and-forth.”

Overall, Cullen thinks Burke would “govern somewhere near the middle.” Vos, for his part, says that if she wins, “she gets to reshape state government in a way that is much more liberal.” …

What’s clear is that while Burke would have virtually no ability to push major policy initiatives without the acquiescence of Republican legislators, she could also stand in the way of Vos and fellow Republicans pursuing their own conservative agenda.

Zepecki says Burke has no doubt that she can work with people like Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Should she win, there will certainly be much talk of bipartisanship.

In the end, though, there wouldn’t just be a struggle for power between two political parties. There would be a broader struggle between branches of government. There are conservatives who feel too much power has already migrated from the legislative to the executive branch — and there will be an attempt to reclaim some ground.
“We will end up having a Republican legislature that will pass all kinds of bills that Mary Burke will veto,” predicts Vos. He suggests it will become much harder to reform entitlements, for instance, or keep a lid on taxes and spending and regulation.

Cullen lacks credibility on being “somewhere near the middle” given his role in the Fleeing Fourteen. Nothing Zepecki says should be believed, period.

Gridlock is the most optimistic view of Burke as governor. At no point has Burke ever during this campaign uttered one word about her own party’s faults — that they totally screwed up state finances in the late 2000s, for instance. Burke has demonstrated zero ability to translate her supposed business experience to legislation and policy. When you advocate the loss of 120,000 jobs, your credibility on the economy will rightly be in question.

You can certainly kiss tax cuts goodbye. Burke is apparently claiming that the Walker tax cuts were only $11 per month. How arrogant to claim that state government can spend your $132 better than you can, or, for a family of four, your $528. But hey, when you take two years off work and your daddy gets you a job in the family business, maybe money’s not a big deal for you.

How to alienate your sympathizers

A lot can happen in four weeks, but as of today this doesn’t look to be a good election for Wisconsin Democrats.

The top of the ticket, gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, has had a floundering campaign since the revelations that her campaign is based on a grab bag of other people’s ideas. Their attorney general candidate, Susan Happ, has a major ethics problem. The Sixth Congressional District appears to be the only place where they might have a chance of flipping the seat, but even if that happens Mark Harris will be in the wrong party in the dictatorship of the majority that is the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democrats have high hopes of flipping the state Senate to Democratic control. But state Democratic leadership has managed to alienate a lot of Democrats in one of those most flippable districts, the 17th, by recruiting a candidate to run instead of the original Democrat who ran.

Perhaps Senate Democratic leadership wasn’t counting on the frowned-upon candidate’s wife, Rita Wittwer, to start writing letters to newspapers in the Senate district:

This guy certainly had all the experience that a Senate candidate for a very rural district should possess. He had a P.O. box and rented a room in the district for a little over three years. He was mentored by and worked a bit over a year for a U.S. senator who barely remembers him. He was a law clerk of questionable merit for a Republican judge. He has a law degree but has never practiced law. Aside from his university years, he lived his life in urban Waukesha, graduating from a private high school. …

This was the beginning of the disenfranchisement of the voters in the 17th Senate District. In and of itself, a primary is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the Senate Democratic leader didn’t like leaving anything to chance — or, should I say, to the voters. He decided that he should endorse his chosen one and at the Democratic convention purposely failed to mention Ernie as the other candidate. That didn’t exactly go over well with our supporters and they made their feelings known to “his leadership.” Not that their views mattered. They were completely ignored. …

Losing an election is unbelievably painful. Losing an election because of political manipulation is even worse. To add insult to injury, we found out a few days ago that the list of supporters that we fought so hard to get was given to the chosen one without our permission. How special is that? Because our website was created under the Senate Demmocratic umbrella and because we loaded the names of anyone with an email address into our website for ease in communicating, the Senate Democratic hierarchy believes that they own our names and have the right to use them as they see fit.

Meanwhile, Burke probably needs to replace her campaign’s press people after this embarrassment, reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Telling reporters they can’t interview people at a political rally is like trying to take away Ted Nugent’s guns. You might get your wango tangoed.

At least three journalists ran into this restriction while covering Michelle Obama’s appearance in Milwaukee on [Sept. 29] on behalf of Mary Burke, Democratic candidate for governor.

But the White House, if I may refer to the first lady’s communications director that way, says it was a mistake that won’t be repeated.

“It is not our policy. This was an open press event. If anyone either from the Burke campaign or from our team obstructed a reporter from speaking with folks who were there, that was an error,” I was told Thursday by Maria Cristina “MC” Gonzalez Noguera.

There was no security reason for it, and really no reason at all.

“This is a case of an overzealous staff person,” she said.

That excessive zeal infected other Burke and White House staffers at the rally, held at the Wisconsin Center. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Meg Kissinger, who was in the corral of media workers at the back of the hall, was stopped twice as she talked to people over the dividing ropes while waiting for the speeches to begin.

“I thought it was a joke. I started laughing,” she said. Then she spread the word on Twitter and said this on Facebook: “To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”

I immediately clicked the like button. Her post went crazy on the Internet and was trending all over the place. The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists jumped in to condemn the curbed press access and cited other times at both Democratic and Republican events when the media were limited on where and whom they could interview.

Fans of press freedom, and, yes, there are some left, praised Kissinger for exposing such a ridiculous rule and then interviewing anyone she darn well pleased. Opponents of Burke seized the opportunity to say, see, she would make a lousy governor who will keep all the people’s quotes for herself.

The partisan attacks worry Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki. He called the Journal Sentinel newsroom and tried to have the mention of press restrictions deleted from the online news article. Editors refused. Zepecki then complained bitterly in emails to Kissinger and said it wasn’t news, nor was her inclusion in the article that people at the rally who needed to sit down were having trouble finding chairs.

Zepecki later told me no other reporters mentioned any of this in their news accounts. That just proves Kissinger is the only one who got it right. We can’t have politicians or their staffs dictating how news is covered, because you know they’d love to.

Afternoon First Amendment violation update: Speaking of “We can’t have politicians or their staffs dictating how news is covered,” Wisconsin Reporter reports on itself:

Wisconsin Reporter was barred from covering a campaign rally Tuesday in Madison for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and featuring first lady Michelle Obama.

Melissa Baldauff, communications director for the state Democratic Party, informed Wisconsin Reporter on Monday it wasn’t allowed to attend the event at the Overture Center because the online publication isn’t a legitimate news source.

This marks the second time in about a week the Burke camp has dictated press coverage of a campaign fundraiser in Wisconsin headlined by the first lady. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Meg Kissinger reported White House and Burke staff tried to block reporters from talking to crowd members Sept. 29 in Milwaukee.

Free press advocates denounced the decision.

Carol O’Leary, president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association board of directors, called the handling of Wisconsin Reporter’s request an assault on free press and criticized Obama and the Burke campaign for trying to control information released to the public.

“They are picking who they want to cover their stories … It’s not transparency,” O’Leary said.

The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which expressed disappointment with Burke and Obama for trying to prevent reporters from speaking to the audience in Milwaukee, supports wide media access to campaign functions.

“It seems to me that Wisconsin Reporter ought to be able to attend the event and report on it,” said Mark Pitsch, president of the local Society of Professional Journalists, a national journalism group.

Baldauff, who agreed to speak to Wisconsin Reporter on Monday outside the offices of the Democratic Party and Burke for Wisconsin, initially attributed the denial to a lack of space — even though a request for media credentials was submitted Saturday, shortly after the Burke campaign sent a news release outlining the logistics.

But that answer changed when Baldauff, who repeatedly declined to explain the process for selecting which media outlets can participate, was told Wisconsin Reporter would be doing a story on press being turned away from the political fundraiser.

“Well, you’re not the press though, so, thanks,” Baldauff said as she left the hallway and closed an office door.

Someone should tell Burke that should she get elected, she’s not going to be able to pick and choose which media talks to her.


Act 10, part 2

Waukesha’s city administrator and an urban planner say that public employee collective bargaining reforms — the controversial Act 10 of 2011 — need to go further:

In its Sept. 17 editorial about Gov. Scott Walker’s second term agenda, the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board said, “Act 10 was a mistake” (“Gov. Scott Walker’s second term? Same as the first,” Our View). Act 10 virtually ended collective bargaining for many, but not all, state and local public employees.

It was not a mistake and should be followed up with Act 10.2 and Act 10.3. One would address the expensive early retirement feature included in the Wisconsin pension plan for all state and local public employees, and the other would bring in police and fire personnel, left out in Act 10. Police and fire together amount to about 60% of most local budgets, leaving only 40% covered by Act 10.

Wisconsin was the first state in the Union to allow public employees to bargain collectively, and, by the 1970s, unionization was showing its worst feature. That feature was, and will always remain, that unions cannot resist the temptation to try to control both sides of the bargaining table. They do this by being politically active in electing union-sympathetic public officials and in de-electing taxpayer sympathizers. The state teachers union was the first to consistently apply this power both in local and state elections and was very effective at both levels.

Wisconsin, having first created public collective bargaining, rightfully should be the first state to remove it. Indiana was slightly earlier, but the Indiana public at referendum put it back in place. That action, and the current race for Wisconsin governor, shows just how much unions are fighting to regain this power.

Early public employee unions recognized that public employee strikes did not sit well with the public. In exchange for removing the right to strike, unions were given arbitration, a power that likely gained more for unions than striking. The problem with arbitration is it becomes an averaging of the surrounding lowest and highest wages.

As the wealthier tax bases raise their wages and benefits, over time the lower tax base communities rise to the previous average of the higher base. If they both can rise faster than inflation, which they have done by a ratio of 2.5-3 to 1, in only a few successive contract periods the lower tax base pay equals the former high base levels.

Where bargaining has been especially deleterious for taxpayers is unions began focusing on fringe benefits, which are hidden from public view and often hidden from employees themselves and under-appreciated by them. It is now common for public employees to receive benefits that cost 50% of their total pay, whereas the private-sector ratio is around 25%. This “fringes strategy” has paid excess dividends to public workers in two costly areas: health insurance and pensions.

In health insurance, public employees were shielded from the huge run-up in health premiums because they were able to bargain 100% employer pickup of the cost. Such premiums between 1978 and the 2008 economic slump rose 600%, or double the 300% rise in general inflation.

For teachers, they achieved an extra bonus from their employer-paid health insurance. The local unions bargained, and won in 60% of Wisconsin school districts, that the no-bid contract for health insurance go to the insurance company owned by the state teachers union.

That insurance can be called “cadillac coverage.” Not only did it have five-way coverage — doctor, hospital, drugs, vision and dental — each was top of the line. For example, in private-sector dental insurance, when it existed, $1,000 per year was the typical limit per patient in the family. A few companies offered $1,200, and a very few $1,500. Some teachers’ coverage: $2,000 per patient per year.

Similarly in patient-paid deductibles, zero was a common ratio for teachers. When private-sector family premiums were reaching $18,000 per family a year, the teachers’ company was $22,000 to $25,000. School districts are learning they can retain this high coverage, but by bidding can lower the cost greatly, in some cases so far by over 50%.

In pensions, most private-sector employers contribute up to 3% of wages into the company 401(k) plan, and under 401(k) rules, employees may add another 3%, a total of 6% between them. But because the early retirement feature of the Wisconsin plan is so costly, the plan specifies total contributions as high as 16% a year.

In bargaining, there have been efforts to have the school district pay the entire 16%. Under the “Rule of 85,” a Wisconsin public employee may retire as early as age 55, provided he or she has worked 30 years under the plan. Until age 65, when federal Medicare begins, collective bargaining has won employer-paid health insurance covering that gap for early retirees. Often, it even continues after age 65 for a lifetime, thereby exempting retirees from paying their share of Medicare. Wisconsin’s early retirement is out of step with the times, considering longer lives and Social Security raising its age to 66, then to 67. …

The final, and some public administrators say, the worst aspect of collective bargaining, was how the labor agreement came to supersede some civil service rules and other rightful employer prerogatives. An example is how bargaining contracts typically dictate layoffs be only by least seniority, so the last in is the first out. School districts before Act 10 sometimes were laying off their most promising young teachers because of their recent hiring. Under Act 10, for the first time in four decades, public bodies again are creating their own handbook of work rules and benefits, which are correcting these past union-imposed arbitrary situations.

That last paragraph is all the evidence you need of why Act 10 had to become law, controversial and divisive though it was. The employees do not get to decide who works and who gets laid off. That is properly the role of management, whether or not the employees like the managers.

Gov. Gaylord Nelson’s signing of the law allowing government employees to unionize might be the single worst piece of legislation signed into law in Wisconsin in the 20th century. You’ll notice that neither Walker nor any other Republican has mentioned overturning that law, though it should be overturned.

You may remember claims by Da Union during Recallarama that the teacher unions were willing to bargain bigger employee contributions for their benefits. That was a statement that lacked any credibility for two reasons. First, given that there are 427 school districts in this state, no state union official can speak for every school district union head, let alone a majority of the members of all 427 teacher unions. Contract negotiations also take place behind closed doors, meaning Da Union could say one thing in public and do the opposite in private.

Act 10 is one step, and only one step, to giving taxpayers the power over the government we’re paying for instead of politicians and government employees, whose salaries and benefits are paid for by us taxpayers.




Still taxed enough already

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute puts specificity into a Scott Walker campaign promise to cut taxes further in WPRI’s new report:

Creatures of habit and tradition, Wisconsinites are bound to a tax system that reflects our past and ignores our future.

Wisconsin has become more competitive on the tax front than it once was. The passage of Act 145 in March brought the total amount of tax reductions in the last few years to nearly $2 billion — not an inconsequential sum. And yet, the state still imposes a larger tax burden on its citizens and businesses than most other places.

Economists from Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy have determined through economic modeling that we would benefit long-term from further tax cuts. And yet, they’ve found, Wisconsin doesn’t just suffer from high taxes. It suffers from the wrong tax mix.

While our sales taxes are lower than those in two-thirds of other states, our income and property tax burdens remain significantly higher — an economically detrimental combination. There is a clear need for Wisconsin to step back on firm ground and consider a new tax mix that lowers more harmful income and property taxes and broadens the sales tax base.

WPRI’s report begins with this fact …

Compared with the rest of the country, taxes in Wisconsin are high. Approximately 11.6% of personal income typically goes to pay an array of taxes — a higher percentage than in at least two-thirds of other states. Decreasing that percentage would make Wisconsin more prosperous in specific, tangible ways.

… and then proposes:

Reducing the individual income tax rate by 10% and reducing the corporate rate to the same level as the new highest individual rate of 6.885% would, for instance, be one way to cut the tax burden by more than $900 million and, by 2018, create 11,300 new private-sector jobs, more than $300 million in new investment and more than $1.1 billion in new, real disposable income.

Tax cuts, at the same time, are not the only way to improve long-term economic prosperity in Wisconsin.

Legislators could help spur similar economic growth and lose almost no government tax revenue by simply changing the tax mix, that is, by reducing income and property taxes and making up for them by broadening the sales tax base.

This would not entail increasing the sales tax rate. In fact, Wisconsin could cut the individual income tax by $730 million, cut the property tax by more than $1.1 billion, broaden the sales tax base to include some (but not all) areas that are currently exempt and still cut the sales tax rate from 5% to 4.475%. By just changing the mix — “swapping” one tax for another — the state would gain 10,580 private-sector jobs, realize an increase of $948 million in investment, and see an increase of $892 million in real, disposable income.

Expanding the tax base while lowering the tax rate is preferable to simply raising the current sales tax rate, and there are a variety of ways to structure such a broad-based consumption tax. Various routes deserve further study, as does the issue of how Wisconsin can make sure its tax system fairly treats individuals across the entire economic spectrum.

Some Wisconsin tax history is helpful here. The most unpopular tax has always been the property tax. The income tax was created in 1912 in part for property tax relief. The sales tax was created in 1962, and raised in 1969 and 1983, in part for property tax relief. You’ll notice that complaints about high property taxes (which are based on fact) have not ceased.

Notice I said “in part.” The other part is the reaction to Wisconsin’s long-standing envy of success. The history was reported by WPRI in 2003:

In reading Wisconsin’s history, what emerges is the Badger State’s rare combination of ethnic, religious, and political traditions. Mix Yankee founders and northern European immigrants; combine Protestant reformers and a strong Roman Catholic presence; add the labor activism of the industrial era to agrarian roots; douse liberally with the “Social Gospel,” the Wisconsin Idea, and Progressive-era legislation … and you have Wisconsin’s unusual brand of politics and government.

Just how unusual is suggested by Daniel Elazar, a leading student of states and federalism, who argues that the 50 states are pure or hybrid versions of three political cultures:

Individualistic: This culture “emphasizes the centrality of private concerns,” placing “a premium on limiting community intervention.” The individualistic culture originated in such mid-Atlantic, non Puritan states as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland; it spread west to become dominant in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri; and later it spread to such states as Nevada, Wyoming and Alaska.

Traditionalistic: This is a political culture that “accepts government as an actor with a positive role in the community,” but seeks to “limit that role to securing the continued maintenance of the existing social order.” Not surprisingly, the traditionalistic strain of American politics is a major factor in all of the border and southern states, extending west to Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Moralistic: The “moralistic” culture considers government “a positive instrument with a responsibility to promote the general welfare.” This culture is predominant in 17 states that stretch from New England through the upper Midwest to the Pacific coast — what several observers of American history and politics have called “Greater New England.” Even more significantly, this moralistic approach is virtually the only political culture found in nine states: Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and, not surprisingly, Wisconsin.

The states in this last group, Elazar notes, were “settled initially by the Puritans of New England and their Yankee descendants … [who] came to these shores intending to establish the best possible earthly version of the holy commonwealth. Their religious outlook was imbued with a high level of political concern.” Most significantly for states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, “they were joined by Scandinavians and other northern Europeans who, stemming from a related tradition (particularly in its religious orientation), reinforced the basic patterns of Yankee political culture, sealing them into the political systems of those states.”

I argued early in this blog that the “moralistic” approach blended the worst features of the political cultures of states older than Wisconsin. Add to that the protosocialist cultures of the countries whose emigrants came to Wisconsin (Germany and the Scandinavian countries), who in trying to escape the old country forgot to leave behind the bad features of their former countries, and you get a state whose citizens don’t value success and envies people with more money than they have, and then act surprised when we are chronically behind the rest of the country in businesses, business incorporations, personal wealth and personal income growth.

Given that unfortunate cultural history, the report includes these fighting words:

Ongoing changes to tax law and collections are being implemented in Wisconsin as well as other states. Wisconsin’s overall ranking may have improved slightly in recent months as a result. But Wisconsin does not appear to have fallen more than a handful of places and is still in the top third. Combined with recently enacted cuts, the largest tax reductions modeled for WPRI would bring Wisconsin closer to, though still slightly higher than, the average for all U.S. states.

Wisconsin has not conducted a comprehensive tax-impact study for more than a decade. But outside analyses indicate that the system remains progressive overall. And it will continue to be so even with recent changes under Act 145. In other words, low earners pay less in Wisconsin than their counterparts in most other states. High earners pay more. According to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Analysis, Wisconsin’s income tax was the 10th most progressive in 2010. A 2009 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showed Wisconsin’s total state-local tax system to be ninth most progressive by its measure (ratio of tax burden of the bottom 20% to the top 1%). Although those data are relatively old, recent tax law changes may have made the system even more progressive.

One of the questions this state must address is whether the relative progressivity of its tax system, which is advantageous in the near-term to some individuals at the lower end of the economic spectrum but is the product of tax choices that harm Wisconsin’s long-term potential and productivity, can be retained in a way more aligned with the realities and opportunities of the modern economy.

The report includes four possible tax reform packages, each of which is funded by a broader sales tax. The most radical is probably replacing the state income tax by increasing the sales tax to 9.5 percent. (Insert obligatory demagoguery from Democrats here.) The fourth package, which would cut income and property taxes, also includes a broader, though actually lower than now, sales tax.

Of course, politics interferes with what might be the best possible tax cut plan. You may recall when the aforementioned AB 145 was being created in the Legislature, newspaper polls indicated that voters preferred property tax cuts to income tax cuts. So AB 145’s property tax cut was four times the size of AB 145’s income tax cut, whether or not property tax cuts are more effective than income tax cuts to improve economic prosperity.

Quite obviously, the only way anything remotely close to this will happen is if the correct candidates win Nov. 4. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it will certainly not happen if the wrong candidates win Nov. 4.


The Department of (Insufficient) Commerce

Mary Burke has been touting her business experience (which seems, as you know, rather amorphous) and her experience as Gov. James Doyle’s secretary of commerce.

It turns out that Doyle apparently didn’t care for Burke’s work, while Burke apparently didn’t care for the agency she ran. Media Trackers reports:

An email between then-Gov. Jim Doyle and his chief of staff, Susan Goodwin, show Doyle was looking to replace Mary Burke as commerce secretary a full month before Burke announced she would leave the job. The chain of events that followed Burke’s resignation leaves questions about whether Burke was ready to leave the position of her own accord.

Burke, who is the Democratic challenger to Gov. Scott Walker (R) this fall, served as Wisconsin’s commerce secretary between 2005 and November 2007. Burke announced her resignation from the post on October 12th, 2007. But an email between Doyle and Goodwin on September 12th, 2007, shows Doyle and Goodwin were already in the process of looking to replace Burke.

Burke and Doyle were both on a trade mission to China and Japan at the time of Doyle-Goodwin exchange. Records show Burke racking up thousands of dollars in expenses on the taxpayer paid trip just a month before her resignation – including 1st class flights that Media Trackers previously reported on.

While it may not seem unusual that Doyle and Goodwin were looking for a replacement for Burke, assuming they were aware she planned to depart, the chain of events following Burke’s resignation indicate Doyle may had been caught off guard.

According to news reports at the time, Doyle did not have a replacement in place when Burke announced her resignation and he did not name a replacement until a month later, leaving the position vacant for several weeks.

The answer to why Doyle may have been looking to replace Burke may be found in an October 20, 2007 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. According to the article:

Shortly before announcing her resignation as Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce, Mary Burke issued a harsh criticism of her agency…The Commerce Department, which ought to be among the state’s most influential economic players, has sat on the sidelines while other states vie to recruit new businesses, she said…”We are not out there selling the state and attracting the companies,” Burke said late last month, echoing private-sector criticism.

The article goes on to note criticisms of Burke’s agency by those in the business community.

Burke’s criticism of her own department in September, as well as concerns raised in the business community about the ability of her agency to do its job, may indicate a rift between Doyle and his commerce secretary, giving credence to the likelihood that Doyle may have been looking to push Burke out before her resignation.

Another indication of the unplanned nature of Burke’s resignation is that as the sister of the president of Trek Bicycle, and a former Trek executive herself, one would assume Burke could have easily worked her way back into her family’s company. But a report from Right Wisconsin indicates that instead, Burke – who was 48 years old at the time of her resignation – has not worked since abruptly leaving her position as Commerce Secretary.

Doyle may have been the only person who cared for the Department of Commerce during his administration. Readers of my previous blog may recall the harsh criticisms of the DOC by not just Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, but his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett.

Go back to the aforementioned Journal Sentinel story:

“We haven’t been there when we need to be,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, hopes Doyle names someone with a track record of industrial attraction “in other states or someone who’s done it in this state. …

Other states vastly outspend Wisconsin, Burke and others conceded.

The nonprofit Forward Wisconsin agency, which does marketing but not industrial attraction, has a budget of $600,000, with half that amount supplied by the state and the rest from non-taxpayer donors. In his current budget proposal, Doyle wants to add $590,000 for business attraction. …

By contrast, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development proposes spending more than $500,000 next year to market rural economic initiatives alone, a spokeswoman said. And the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has one full-time staffer who routinely shuttles to Europe and another who travels regularly to Japan, both spending much of their time luring businesses to that hard-hit state, a spokesman said.

“You ought to call the folks in Texas – their capacities and funds are at least five times greater,” said Mike Shore, a spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Burke directed the agency for 2 1/2 years. Her predecessor, Cory Nettles, left after about two years.

“Both did well with the resources they had, but they have probably one of the weakest tool sets of any state commerce secretary in the country when it comes to incentives, tax breaks, flexible training dollars,” Sheehy said.

In the 2006 governor’s race, Doyle’s Republican opponent, Mark Green, criticized Doyle for economic passivity.

Doyle administration officials respond that the state has focused on growing its own businesses. His aides talk about “economic gardening” – tending to the soil with tax incentives and taxpayer aid to see what sort of operations spring up without importing industry.

“There is a real opportunity here for the state to put its best face forward for national attraction on key industries,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to focus on business attraction, you need to be charismatic, do the business of the state, get the governor to the table when you need him.”

This is another example that elections have consequences. Had voters correctly chosen Green instead of Doyle in 2006, Green would have not continued Doyle’s approach, whatever that was.

The view from outside

Eliana Johnson provides an outside-Wisconsin view of the governor’s race:

The daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke, the woman gunning for Scott Walker’s job, is the scion of a prominent Wisconsin family who’s had the wealth to flit from one career to another.

In an election being litigated primarily on economic issues, Mary Burke has touted her business experience. But it’s the sort of business experience only an heiress could afford: a couple of years spent toiling at a failed start-up company and two stints working for her father. Between her two tours at Trek, Burke spent a couple of years “as a snowboard bum in Colorado.” (That’d be from the Harvard Business School alumni bulletin, not her campaign website.) At Trek, she ran the company’s European division, and has said she increased international sales by a whopping $47 million, but the company denied PolitiFact’s request to verify the number.

The private sector, it turns out, wasn’t really for her. “While I have the business background, I really — how should I say this? — I prefer the work in the public sector,” Burke told Politico in an interview.

By her mid 40s, she’d left to become a philanthropist and told Democratic governor Jim Doyle’s political team when it expressed interest in bringing her aboard — she was eventually appointed to run the state’s Department of Commerce — that she wasn’t sure she wanted to “reenter the full-time work force.” The only elected position Burke has ever held is a seat on the Madison school board. Now, she wants to become governor.

Burke has cited her Harvard MBA and her business savvy as evidence that she has the know-how to revitalize Wisconsin’s economy. So it says something about her candidacy that large portions of her jobs plan — and of several other plans she has released, on subjects such as entrepreneurship, small-business development, and public-private partnerships, where one might expect her to bring her experience to bear — were lifted word for word from those of several other (mostly failed) gubernatorial candidates.

Burke blamed a Harvard-educated consultant for the incident, and he was promptly fired, but she stood by her borrowed plans, telling reporters that Wisconsin need not “reinvent the wheel.” Burke is offering Wisconsin voters public policy recycled by a political consultant — policy rejected by voters in Virginia and Indiana, to boot.

But the race is tight, and Burke’s latest flirtation with a serious career has given her a real shot to unseat one of the GOP’s top presidential contenders. The most recent Marquette University poll has her tied with Walker, 46 all. How did that happen?

That the race is so close is a testament both to Wisconsin’s political polarization and to the fact that, though it has at times looked purple, it remains a blue state. Walker, like his colleagues Sam Brownback, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, and Susana Martínez, among others, was elected in the GOP wave of 2010. Democratic majorities in the Wisconsin state assembly and the state senate were wiped out that year, too, but 2010 proved to be a political outlier. …

Walker rose to national prominence when he succeeded in getting legislation passed to curb the collective-bargaining rights of the state’s public-sector unions, and he caught the attention of top-dollar Republican donors when he beat back a union-led effort to recall his election. As throngs of left-wing protesters rushed the state capitol, he looked like the adult in the room, and he won the recall election by a greater margin than he was elected with in 2010. …

In an election that has centered on the performance of the state’s economy, Walker’s record has been scrutinized. There are things to boast about: Since Walker took office in January of 2011, unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent from 7.6 percent. It’s half a percentage point below the national average.

But one of the central promises Walker made on the campaign trail in 2010, to usher in the creation of 250,000 private-sector jobs, has come back to haunt him. Even though the state has seen the creation of more than 100,000 jobs on his watch, the unmet campaign promise looms over him, and Burke is leveraging it in her ads. One Wisconsin Republican likened it to the “read my lips” moment that sealed George H. W. Bush’s fate in the 1992 presidential election.

It’s not just victory that matters for Walker, but the margin of victory. In modern times, all of the governors who have gone on to win the nomination of a major party have not been reelected narrowly but have galloped to victory. “Obviously, he’d like to win by more than five points,” Republican strategist O’Connell says. …

Top Republicans are also quick to point out that Walker has qualities that can compensate for his failure to waltz to victory in November. Though he is the top target of unions this cycle, Walker, who doesn’t have a college degree, has tremendous potential appeal to blue-collar voters, who largely supported him in 2010. That’s a group that Republicans, with Mitt Romney as their standard bearer, struggled mightily with in 2012, and it will undoubtedly become a focus in 2016. The son of a Baptist preacher, Walker is also popular among religious conservatives. And he’s one of the few potential GOP nominees with a foot in both the establishment and tea-party camps.

Walker also likes to say this is his third race in four years and, if he wins in November, his primary selling point may be his proven ability to repeatedly win drag-out fights in a left-leaning state.

And what do non-Wisconsin readers think?

  • Ah, the idle rich. Reminds me of the Kennedy’s in many respects. Politics is a toy.
  • When the author contacted the Trek company to confirm her quoted international sales number, they refused. In my eyes, if Daddy could back up her claims then he would be very boastful about her accomplishments. The unions will vote against Walker as opposed to voting for a qualified candidate. What’s a little plagiarism among friends.
  • Was she instrumental in raising international sales at her father’s company? The company’s not saying. Nor will they talk about whether or not she was involved in the outsourcing of production by the company to foreign locations, displacing WI workers. As to her time in the state commerce dept., the record is what the record is as stated by the author. If there were some fantastic program or project that she created while there, I have no doubt it would be blared out to voters by her campaign – but there is none.
  • Real business background – Entrepreneur – as in successful startup, not going to work for Daddy.
  • I have met her on several occasions. Years ago, in a context having nothing to do with politics. She is an entitled airhead whose position at Trek was a sinecure with neither responsibilities nor regular hours.
  • What is wrong with Wisconsin? Scott Walker should be ahead by 20 points just for his record of breaking the hold that public employee unions had on the state. Instead the polls show that an accomplished governor is in a close race with a dilettante socialite with no real ideas other than those she purloined from other losers like herself.
  • Two lib cesspools, Milwaukee and Madison, war with an otherwise small town, rural state. Most people in Wisconsin appreciate the constitution and the value of our dwindling lib oppressed freedoms. Burke does not earn any votes based on her record or intellect. Sadly, half our population is composed of idiots who choose socialism over the benefits of freedom.
  • It’s pretty clear that she has very little experience at anything and she was chosen by the Ds as a female candidate that they can build an image around who will do their bidding after election, as she is likely to show as much interest in governing as she’s shown for everything else in her life. Government of the union, for the union and by the union will return to WI with a vengeance.
  • It’s a safe bet that if she does win the governorship, her first task will be to reward the unions by returning to the rule that if you wanted to work for govt you had to be a member of the union. Expect Wisconsin to resume its descent into irrelevancy that was interrupted by Walker.
  • Mary Burke has nothing to offer. She’s just another useless power grabber — one who can’t run her own life too well, but who has a million ideas how we should run ours and wants government power to jam them down our throats. She has been assisted by a Democrat prosecutor who keeps totally bogus charges against Walker plodding through the courts — the Democrats’ favorite ploy (see also Perry, Delay, Hutchinson in Texas). I’m sick of rich little morons who have theirs and seem to think government’s main job should be killing opportunities for the rest of us, not to mention taxing us to death. No creative thinking here, only two ideas: more regulation, more taxes. When Walker won the recall, I had hoped Wisconsin might shake off its liberal fascist tendencies. Come November, we’ll see how strong the totalitarian temptation still is.
  • Wisconsin is neither blue nor red. Having recently escaped the cess pool that is Illinois to become a cheeze head, I am struck by the upside-downedness of Wisconsin. The people who ought to be conservative voters in every respect seem to be Democrats. Those who would be liberals under normal circumstances have connected the dots between socialism and the poverty it engenders. Unemployed former union members have an almost universal distrust of Big Labor and a healthy scorn for Blue Sky collectivist promises. They’d rather work full time for minimum wages than be unemployed on a picket line. Meanwhile, farmers and big business here seem to be nuttier than Greenpeace. Any good that Walker has accomplished will be quickly undone with a Burke victory. It’s 50-50. Perhaps the difference will be the recent transplants from my former state who will certainly not be pulling the lever for the bicycle babe. One can only hope.