The police vs. its chief

Retired police officer Steve Spingola wrote a letter that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel refused to print:

On the first floor of the City of Milwaukee’s Safety Academy, the names and photographs of over five dozen Milwaukee police officers grace a wall that literally showcases their service. This distinguished honor, however, is one that every Milwaukee police officer seeks to avoid, as the faces on this wall are of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

During my three-decades with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), I have spent a great deal of time — as a homicide detective and as a lieutenant — retracing the final moments of those who no longer walk among us. Certainly, some of these tragic deaths could have been avoided. One particular case that comes to mind is the March 19, 1985, coldblooded murders of Rosario Collura and Leonard Lesnieski — two Milwaukee police officers gunned down on the near north side. On that fateful day, the officers approached Terrance Davis, who they suspected of selling drugs from the porch of a home.  When one of the officers asked if he had anything in his pockets, Davis replied, “Yeah, I’ll show you,” at which time he removed a handgun from a pocket and shot both officers to death. What we will never know is why the officers, instead of asking, did not conduct a pat down of Davis.

Seventeen-years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court held that police officers could conduct a frisk of an individual’s outer most garment if an officer — based on the totality of the circumstances— reasonably believed that a person may be armed. Pat downs have undoubtedly saved the lives of numerous police officers. From experience, few things are as hair-raising as conducting frisk and detecting a concealed weapon on a person.  Yet, 29-years after the deaths of Officers Collura and Lesnieski, the importance of officer safety is being marginalized by the political correctness of Police Chief Edward Flynn.

On October 15, Chief Flynn terminated the employment Officer Christopher Manney, an officer with 13-years of street-level experience, for allegedly conducting a pat down of Dondre Hamilton in violation of MPD policy. After reading the MPD’s allegations and Officer Manney’s response, I sought input from a number of veteran officers.  To a person, we collectively believe Officer Manney’s actions were appropriate. While I typically do not purport to speak for others, I am confident in noting that Chief Flynn’s firing of Officer Manney is being met with widespread condemnation from those who have worn an MPD uniform.

Unfortunately, I believe Chief Flynn’s irresponsible termination of Officer Manney is directly related to his lack of an institutional memory. In 1985, while serving with Officers Collura and Lesnieski at District Five, I have vivid memories of both officers smiling and conversing with their colleagues. During the same period, however, Chief Flynn was an officer in far-away Jersey City.  Thus, the image of Flynn as an east coast carpetbagger is fueling a consensus amongst the rank-and-file that the chief sees those fallen officers on that wall at the Safety Academy as simple strangers from a bygone era. This perception, vis-à-vis his treatment of Officer Manney, is reinforced by the police chief’s de facto memo to the rank-and-file that politics takes precedent over officer safety. No doubt, Chief Flynn is sending a dangerous message that, I believe, may result in more faces appearing on that wall of no return at the Safety Academy.  Will officers — fearful for their careers — be compelled to repeat the disastrous ways of the past by asking a dangerous or unstable person what those “bulges” are in his or her pockets instead of conducting a simple frisk? If only Officers Collura and Lesnieski could speak from the grave.

Spingola calls Manney the first officer in the history of the Milwaukee police to be fired for violating a training memo. Let’s hope that Officer Manney gets the justice from the Milwaukee County court system that the City of Milwaukee — that is, Tom Barrett, the Barrett-selected Police and Fire Commission, and Barrett’s police chief — refuses to give Manney.



After Act 10 and Right to Work

The MacIver Institute brings up the next piece of labor-related legislation that needs to become state law:

Prevailing wage is a backward policy designed to ensure government contract workers are paid wage rates and receive benefits that are “prevailing” in a given industry or region. As it turns out, prevailing wages can be up to 40 percent higher than competitive market wages, meaning taxpayers are hit with an extra cost burden on many government projects.

Federal prevailing wage law has been around since the 1930’s when President Hoover signed the Davis-Bacon Act, mandating that federal contract workers be paid wages and receive benefits “prevailing for the corresponding classes of labors and mechanics.”

Today, 32 states have their own versions of prevailing wage policy. There are 9 states that have had their prevailing wage laws repealed or invalidated in court, and the remaining 8 states have never had them, including neighboring Iowa.

In Wisconsin, prevailing wage applies to all state and local government construction or repair projects performed by private contractors, with certain exceptions. “Single-trade” projects with a total cost of less than $48,000 are exempt from prevailing wage. “Multiple-trade” projects with a total cost of less than $100,000 are also exempt. The state’s Department of Workforce Development is charged with determining prevailing wages for the state and for localities. Local prevailing wages are set at the county level in an attempt to account for regional market differences.

While higher wages and wage growth are key components of a healthy economy, government-mandated higher wages do more harm than good in the long run. Prevailing wage undermines market competition, overestimates true market wages and creates an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

Healthy competition in a market economy helps to keep the cost of goods and services at a reasonable level by incentivizing businesses to offer consumers maximum benefit at an affordable price. This is economics 101. Prevailing wage laws work against the market process by unnecessarily inflating project costs and potentially blocking contractors who may offer to undertake a project for a lower cost.

The Mackinac Center in Michigan identified a real life example of how prevailing wage can substantially distort market activities. Michigan is another state that has a prevailing wage law. In Iron Mountain, MI, a town in the Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border, St. George Glass & Window employs glaziers that are paid about $20 per hour. Prevailing wage laws say that those same glaziers must be paid $43.53 per hour if the project being worked on is a public project. The oddity of this wage inflation is underscored by the fact that Iron Mountain is in a region of Michigan that has a low cost of living and whose median household income is just $44,000. Livingston County near Detroit is the county in Michigan with the highest cost of living and a median income of $72,000. The prevailing wage for glaziers in Livingston County is $47.35. In the end, taxpayers in relatively low income in Iron Mountain are stuck paying prices meant for a richer economy hundreds of miles away.

A pair of studies by the non-partisan Anderson Economic Group (AEG) have looked at the effects of prevailing wage on education construction costs in Michigan and Illinois. The studies conservatively estimated that wages were inflated by 25 percent in Michigan and by 11 percent in Illinois. AEG also found that benefit levels in Illinois were inflated by 61 percent under prevailing wage for education construction.

Based on AEG’s methodology, we can estimate potential savings for public projects in Wisconsin if prevailing wage is repealed. To do this, we apply a conservative inflationary effect on wages at 20 percent. We also assume that labor costs are about 1/3 of total project costs for a given public project, which is similar to AEG’s analysis of labor costs as a proportion of total project costs.

The School District of Elmbrook is planning $9.8 million in capital improvements from 2015 to 2017. According to the school district’s website, projects include roof repairs, new parking lots and HVAC improvement’s among others. Under the assumption that labor is 1/3 of the total cost and inflated wages because of prevailing wage are 20 percent over a competitive market price, the school district could save over $654,500 if there was no prevailing wage law. That is money that could go to the classrooms or back to taxpayers in Elmbrook.

To take another example, voters in the Waunakee Community School District recently approved $44.8 million in debt authority for the construction of one new school and renovations to two others. Applying the same methodology above, eliminating the prevailing wage could save nearly $3 million for these projects.

Wisconsin’s state government could also benefit from cost savings if prevailing wage is repealed. Consider the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hill Farms office building replacement project. Hill Farms is the DOT’s primary administrative facility and in 2013 a $196.6 million replacement building was approved for construction. Assuming that the construction costs are subject to prevailing wage, savings for this project could be around $13.1 million if prevailing wage is repealed.

AEG’s studies concluded that prevailing wage laws cost Michigan $224 million every year in just education construction and $158 million a year in Illinois for the same type of projects.

Education construction is only one kind of public project subject to prevailing wage in these states, meaning that actual costs could be two, three, or four times the amounts from AEG’s study. That is a lot of money that could instead go into the classroom, or to other state needs, or that could stay in family pockets but is demanded to be paid out because of prevailing wage.

Prevailing wage laws in Wisconsin also affect all sorts of public works projects from highways to school construction to building repairs. Wisconsin is already a high tax state, even after income tax reductions and property tax relief over the last few years. Taxpayers should not be subjected to artificial cost increases required by prevailing wage.

Economic growth (remember that?)

Tom Hefty, whom I met in my business magazine days, was one of the authors of Be Bold Wisconsin, one of the many reports that came out during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign saying the state needed to improve its business climate.

(That word “many” says all you need to know about the reign of error of Gov. James Doyle.)

Hefty revisits the state’s economy:

In 2010, the Be Bold Wisconsin report set a goal of making Wisconsin a top 10 state for starting or expanding a business. That seemed like a distant goal for a state that regularly had ranked in the bottom half of the class — sometimes in the bottom handful of states.

Two of the best new grades came in independent reports, one done by the Gallup organization and the other done by Paychex|IHS. Wisconsin is moving toward the head of the class.

In January, Gallup published its list of “10 Best (and Worst) States to Find a Job,” using its survey data from 2014. It surveyed 4,297 workers in Wisconsin.

The survey question was simple: “Based on what you know or have seen, would you say that, in general, your company or employer is hiring new people and expanding the size of its workforce, not changing the size of its workforce (or), letting people go and reducing the size of its workforce?”

The Badger State ranked fourth best in the country for finding a job, after North Dakota, Texas and Nebraska. Good company.

The Paychex|IHS Small Business Jobs Index also brought good news. Wisconsin again ranked fourth best, after Indiana, Texas and Washington. The small business data is particularly good news because Wisconsin has long ranked near the bottom in other indices of entrepreneurial activity.

In the March 2015 Manpower report released this week, Wisconsin had the third brightest job outlook in the nation, lagging only Idaho and North Dakota.

Other data pointed in the same positive direction. The year-end 2014 MoneyTree venture capital report produced by the National Venture Capital Association and PriceWaterhouseCooper showed the number of Wisconsin companies receiving venture capital at the “best level in two decades.”

The small business and venture capital grades are a result of a number of policy changes and program expansions. Wisconsin expanded tax credits for venture and angel investments. There are new venture capital programs. Even the neighboring states are noticing. A December report by national consultant Battelle for the State of Iowa notes: “Iowa should consider revamping (venture capital) along the lines of Wisconsin’s successful program.”

Economic statistics are frequently complex, confusing and sometimes contradictory. Partisans cherry-pick statistics to make their points. University of Wisconsin economists are most frequently negative about their home state. One UW-Milwaukee professor last month criticized Wisconsin as “surfing on the national recovery” — a difficult task in the cold Wisconsin winter.

Economists frequently are criticized for being indecisive, saying “on the one hand and on the other hand.” UW apparently has solved that problem by hiring only one-handed economists: left-handed.

There are three sets of jobs statistics — the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics employer report of job counts; the Current Population Survey, which generates the unemployment rate; and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages report. There are seasonally adjusted numbers and raw statistics. To complicate matters, federal agencies issue revised jobs numbers each month and after the end of each year.

One of the best ways to look at the state business climate is to look at the simple statistical rankings over a long period of time.

The national economy does set the environment for local economies. But there are major differences in state performance. Some reflect natural resources, historic industry mix, demographic changes and that important intangible — business climate. State policy does make a difference.

In 2009, John Torinus and I looked at Wisconsin’s economic record during the Doyle administration. “Wisconsin Flunks its Economics Test” was the conclusion. The state’s ranking for job growth was 32nd, hitting a low of 46th in 2006. By 2008, the state ranked 47th in five-year personal income growth.

At the end of 2013, we again looked at the report card. “A Passing Grade” was the conclusion. Wisconsin had improved in every national ranking of business climate, but work remained to be done.

The preliminary full-year jobs data for 2014 shows another step forward. The ranking for monthly job growth moved up 16 spots — to 19th from 35th in 2011. The latest quarterly growth rankings showed similar improvement.

Although the trends are positive, challenges remain for Wisconsin. The aging of the workforce and historic brain drain of college graduates are long-term problems. Nearly 10,000 college graduates leave the state every year, reflecting, in part, a mismatch between UW programs and workforce needs.

Wisconsin is moving toward the head of the class. What seemed like an improbable goal of becoming a top 10 state is already true on some measures. It is within reach on others.

Notice that all these comparisons are made against other states. Barack Obama sycophants who claim that Wisconsin’s economic improvement is because of his policies, not Walker’s, ignore this fact. The UW economists’ naysaying is probably directly the result of Act 10 and their having to pay for their Rolls–Royce benefits partially themselves, instead of the sweetheart deal they got before. In the opinion of those who count — businesses — Wisconsin seems to be getting better.


The clown prince in the clueless kingdom

Christian Schneider observes how well liberal Madison serves its black residents:

Last November, when a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. refused to charge police officer Darren Wilson with the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was ready with a statement. “Here in Madison let us use this moment to reflect and redouble our efforts to create the best community for all Madisonians,” Soglin said. “The time is now to ensure equity in education, employment and housing.”

On Monday of this week, Soglin stood, megaphone in hand, trying to explain to a group of 1,500 largely black protesters why one of his police officers had shot Tony Robinson, an unarmed black teenager. Soglin, a progressive standard-bearer first elected Madison mayor in 1973, pathetically tried to pass the buck to Republicans in state government for cutting state school aids. He was frequently shouted down by protesters yelling, “Murder!”

It was a rare time when a progressive mayor had to face the very type of racial animus he has spent a career fomenting. White liberals often think they have a monopoly on race relations in America, frequently using racial issues to drive wedges in the electorate and bolster their own standing.

Yet by almost any measure, decades of pure, uncut progressivism have done nothing to mend the racial divide in a liberal playground like Madison. It’s good that Soglin thinks the time is “now” to ensure equity in education, employment and housing, because his track record on all the above has been miserable for 42 years.

Nary a conservative exists on the city council or school board, and yet according to one study, African-Americans are eight times as likely as whites to be arrested in Dane County. As I noted last week, 10% of black children in Madison public schools are proficient in reading. In 2011, the unemployment rate in Dane County was 25.2% for blacks compared with just 4.8% for whites, leading one magazine to ask whether Madison was the “most racist city in America.”

And yet by listening to progressives, one would think Republicans are the only party wrangling with a race problem. It is why U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, can charge with a straight face that her home state is the “Selma of the North” because Republicans favor a photo ID requirement to vote — a policy favored by strong majorities of blacks. Of course, Moore’s hyperbolics are merely an attempt to absolve herself of culpability — she was first elected to the state Legislature in 1989, and has yet to pass any successful “let’s make Milwaukee not the Selma of the North” legislation. It’s not like Milwaukee has been governed by Newt Gingrich for the past 50 years, It has been liberals who have overseen the city’s decay.

And yet when Republicans such as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan try to make inroads to improve the plight of inner city residents, they are quickly swatted down with charges of racism. Earlier this year, when Republicans proposed a slate of reforms to rejuvenate depressed areas of Milwaukee, they were accused of “pimping” the city’s residents.

But in Madison, Soglin remains the clown prince of cluelessness. In a column written shortly after Ferguson, Soglin blamed the city’s racial troubles, in part, on ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and laid the city’s devastating income gap at the feet of stores such as Amazon and E-Bay. Former police chief Noble Wray, himself African-American, showed a firmer grasp of the situation when he told blogger David Blaska, “We do have a strong migrating population from Chicago that really does impact this city from a crime standpoint.”

But in Madison, solutions don’t count, only liberal posturing. It is why the school superintendent attended the protest while hundreds of middle and high school students walked out of class on Monday, and then sent buses to pick up the students downtown after the march. Statistically, only 10% of the black students skipping school on Monday can read proficiently, but evidently it was more important for them to protest the shooting of a felon who allegedly attacked a police officer called to prevent Robinson from strangling someone. No Justice…no Math!

That’s not to say that progressives are any more culpable for racial unrest — but we should stop this charade that lays racial divisions at the feet of conservatives. If there were a magic progressive program to hold down violence and keep young black men from being shot at the hands of police, Milwaukee and Madison would have tried it by now. Instead, it remains an intractable problem — for everyone.

Madison schools have the biggest achievement gap between white students and minority students in the state. Milwaukee’s social pathologies are well known, and Madison’s have been revealing themselves since drive-by shootings started in front of my high school a few years after I left Madison for good. Madison hasn’t had a non-liberal mayor (though some have been more liberal than others) since Soglin first took office in 1973. The only remotely less-than-liberal Milwaukee mayor was John Norquist, who was smart enough to realize that Milwaukee students needed better alternatives than the disaster that is Milwaukee Public Schools.

It seems rather racist to suggest that blacks care less about crime than whites. We have not heard the skin color of the victims of Tony Robinson’s armed robbery, nor of the person he was alleged to have battered. But blacks are much more often the victims of crimes committed by blacks than whites are.


The right to work (to sound like a complete idiot) bill

Gov. Scott Walker is scheduled to sign the Legislature’s union-shop-ban bill into law today.

The Senate passed the bill first, followed by the Assembly following 24 hours of debate that included these brilliant insights as chronicled by my Facebook friends in rough chronological order:

  • Rep. Cory Mason (D–Racine) said “We already saw that there is bipartisan opposition to this bill that came out of the Senate.” That would be Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R–Stevens Point), who voted against knowing full well that it would pass anyway, similar to former Sens. Mike Ellis and Dale Schultz. Mason’s comment is technically correct but meaningless.
  • Rep. Chris Danou (D–Milwaukee) said “I know that very few of you have a good sense of history, but you need to look into the history of ‘right to work’ laws.” To which someone commented that Danou should research the history of labor unions and organized crime. (Followed by a comment that Jimmy Hoffa was unavailable for comment.) Danou also touted Madison’s economic growth (the result of having both state government and UW–Madison in Madison and nothing the city has done) as the proof that progressive policies work, failing to mention Rayovac’s moving from Madison to Middleton, Gander Mountain building in De Forest and not Madison, and, most famously, Epic Systems’ huge campus in Verona, not Madison. Or, for that matter, Madison’s unaffordable housing.
  • Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D–Milwaukee) joked that the Minnesota Vikings would love to see the Green Bay Packers jailed for union activities. Brostoff should have found out whether members of the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans or Arizona Cardinals have been similarly jailed for their NFL Players Association activities in right-to-work states. (Short answer: No.)
  • Rep. Jill Billings (D–La Crosse) cherry-picked statistics and then claimed she wasn’t cherry-picking statistics.
  • Rep. Dana Wachs (D–Eau Claire) referred to the 1970s Green Bay Packers (which is only useful when talking about gross incompetence, of which Wisconsin Democrats have demonstrated a lot) and dyslexia.
  • Rep. Melissa Sargent (D–Madison) said “I wish that you had the courage to not steal from the wallets of hard-working Wisconsinites,” failing to see the irony in opposing a bill that ends stealing from the wallets of hard-working Wisconsinites by banning mandatory union membership. (To which I replied that some legislators steal from hard-working Wisconsinites every time they get paid.) Sargent also said “I hope that you won’t sleep better tomorrow.”
  • Rep. Gary Hebl (D–Sun Prairie) said “Don’t listen to where the money comes from,” perhaps referring to the $575,000 unions gave Senate Democrats to vote against the bill and the $115,000 unions gave Assembly Democrats to vote against the bill.
  • Rep. Chris Taylor (D–Madison) made obligatory complaints about the American Legislative Exchange Council, because fiscal responsibility is contrary to Wisconsin values, or something. Taylor also said “We are here because of a political stunt of this governor,” which is false; Republican legislative leaders brought up the bill despite Walker’s statements not favoring the Legislature’s considering the bill.
  • Rep. Mandela Barnes (D–Milwaukee) depicted Moses and Aaron as labor organizers and the plagues brought on by “bad workplace conditions.” I’m guessing Barnes’ cherry-picking of the Bible ends when a discussion of, say, abortion rights comes up.

Then again, maybe these Democrats are just representing their constituents. Scott Reeder of the Illinois Policy Institute came to Madison to visit the Capitol and observed:

I’ve covered the Illinois Statehouse for 15 years and before that the Nevada Legislature. I’ve never witnessed anything under a dome quite like what I saw in Madison this past week.

My only thought after observing the shenanigans — they sure aren’t doing themselves any favors.

After all, it’s kind of hard to have a serious public policy conversation with someone clad only in long johns.

As I was standing in line to enter the Senate gallery, the fellow behind me explained that Scott Walker engages in mind control and a group called “ALEC” had people locked up for being delusional.

The woman in front of me in line explained to me that Walker, a Baptist preacher’s son, couldn’t be a Christian because of his opposition to some of organized labor’s positions and Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

I asked the woman if she loved Scott Walker. There was a long pause and then she sputtered, “just a little bit.” …

One could argue that the folks demonstrating in Madison these past four years are among the people most responsible for Walker’s rise to national political prominence.

The rascals on the left alienated themselves from the majority of voters. After all, a hero needs a villain.

David had Goliath. Batman had Joker. Hamilton had Burr.

And Scott Walker? Well, he has the unions.

As union demonstrations spiraled out of control, rank-and-file voters found themselves identifying more with Walker.

They couldn’t bring themselves to support what they saw as an increasingly radical labor movement.

During the last four years, Walker has won three races for governor, including a recall election that was pushed by the unions.

I asked the fellow in long underwear why Walker keeps winning, and his answer was telling — “I have no idea.”

Maybe he ought to look in the mirror.



Great Moments in Journalism, Walker Derangement Syndrome Dept.

Last week, the New York Times had to retract the main point of a column it published that blamed Gov. Scott Walker for something that took place before he was elected governor.

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan twice, there they go again. Politico reports:

The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor’s budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state’s universities.

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Daily Beast retracted thusly:

The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. This story should be considered retracted.


Jezebel added:

“We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.”

As Rich Galen points out, “Right Facts + Wrong Context = Bad Reporting.”

The Jezebel “reporter” initially was something less than apologetic …

… until, perhaps, an adult talked to her, because this then followed:


The history of Right to Work

Mike Nichols of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute was a union member when he was a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter:

In an effort to determine whether Wisconsin should consider right-to-work legislation, WPRI decided last fall to undertake two different lines of research: a poll of public opinion and an analysis of potential economic impacts.

We released the 2015 WPRI Poll of Public Opinion in January, and it included numerous questions regarding right-to-work. The survey of 600 Wisconsinites determined that approximately twice as many citizens of this state would vote in favor of right-to-work legislation as would vote against it (62% to 32%). Over three-quarters of respondents (77%), meanwhile, said they think no American should be required to join any private organization, such as a labor union, against his or her will.

In addition, a plurality of the 600 respondents, said they believe a right-to-work law will be economically beneficial for the state. Four in 10 (40%) said such laws will “improve economic growth in Wisconsin,” 29% said they believe the laws “will not affect economic growth” and 27% said such laws will “reduce economic growth.”

Our second line of inquiry – the paper in front of you titled “The Economic Impact of a Right-to-work Law on Wisconsin” – concludes that what a plurality of state residents intuitively believes is backed up by statistical analysis. Right-to-work laws are economically beneficial.

WPRI commissioned this paper by one of America’s foremost experts on right-to-work, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder, months ago. Dr. Vedder and his colleagues, Joe Hartge and Christopher Denhart, happened to be finishing it up just when legislative leaders decided to bring a right-to-work bill to the floor this week. While they did not see the bill prior to conducting this analysis, right-to-work is a straightforward concept that varies little from state to state. As a result, we believe this paper – by comparing economic growth in states that have had right-to-work to those that have not and calculating the potential impact in Wisconsin – provides the best, most nuanced, most objective and most accurate analysis that has been done in the Badger State.

The essential finding is clear:

Over the last 30 years, states with right-to-work (RTW) legislation have experienced greater per capita personal income growth than other states. And that positive correlation between right-to-work and higher incomes remains true even after controlling for other important variables (such as tax rates in various states) that might have had a simultaneous impact.

The statistical results suggest that, in fact, the presence of a RTW law added about six percentage points to the growth rate of RTW states from 1983 to 2013. With such a law, Wisconsin’s per capita personal income growth of 53% over those years would have been, instead, about 59%. Wisconsin would have gone from having economic growth below the national average over those three decades to having slightly above average growth – enough above average that it would have erased the current per capita income deficit between Wisconsin and the nation as a whole.

We think this is extremely significant because, as the report points out, Wisconsin truly has fallen behind economically in recent decades.

In 1950, well over $22 of every $1,000 in personal income generated in the United States was earned by Wisconsin residents. That figure has steadily fallen to only $17.55 in 2013 – a decline of well over 20%. Most of this reflects relatively slow population growth. But income growth for residents over the 1950-2013 period was below the national average. In 1950, per capita income was 1.63% below the national average; in 2013, the income deficit was more than double that.

Wisconsin’s per capita personal income received from all sources in 2013 was $43,244, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis – $1,521 less than the national average of $44,765.

The regression analysis suggests that had Wisconsin adopted a RTW law in 1983, per capita income would have been $1,683 higher in 2013 than it actually was – and would have brought the state slightly over the national per capita personal income average.

There are some caveats that apply to all such analysis. Although the results are strong, the authors – as all good economists would – urge some caution in using the precise estimation. Comparing states with right-to-work to those without is a complex undertaking. Some possible determinants of economic growth are very difficult or impossible to measure, such as the extent of statewide environmental regulations, and there may be a significant “omitted variable bias” in this simple regression model. At the same time, it is unlikely the inclusion of other variables would materially alter the estimations with respect to RTW.

In addition, it is important to note that this is an analysis of the past – the 1980s through 2013. Labor unions today have a smaller presence than they used to, so the effects of a RTW law might reasonably be expected to have a somewhat smaller impact in the future – especially in Wisconsin where Act 10 is already having an economic impact.

That said, it is a fact that Wisconsin has fallen behind. As this study indicates, Wisconsin’s role in the national economy has shrunk with the passage of time. The analysis suggests that passage of a RTW law likely would slow and possibly reverse this trend. Right-to-work laws in sum are economically beneficial and would help Wisconsin catch up to other states with which it competes economically.

As importantly, we at WPRI see this as a fundamental issue of individual freedom – and it is clear that Wisconsinites of all political persuasions agree. A majority of self-identified Republicans, independents and Democrats say they would vote in favor of right-to-work legislation.