No Manufacturers Needed
By Deb Jordahl
We don’t need no stinkin’ manufacturers in Wisconsin, and we’re getting pretty good at making them disappear.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), of the 66,300 jobs lost in Wisconsin last year, 26,500 came from the manufacturing sector. That’s nearly 40 percent of all jobs lost, even though manufacturing represents only 20 percent of the workforce. Since 2000, Wisconsin has lost 121,000 of these family-supporting jobs with an average wage of $46,000 a year. That’s like taking all the people in Appleton and La Crosse and stripping away their jobs, their benefits and their futures.
But don’t worry. We’ve got hospitals, utilities, road builders, public schools, the University of Wisconsin System, and plenty of other public employers. All provide good paying jobs, and most include generous health care benefits and lucrative pension plans. In Milwaukee County, once known for its large manufacturing base, government employees can actually retire as millionaires. State legislators, judges and other Wisconsin officials can cash in their un-used sick leave to pay for healthcare when they retire, and if you work at the Department of Corrections, you can turn sick leave into overtime and double your annual salary. From 2005- 2007, 49 corrections workers raked in more than $100,000 each in overtime.
I doubt those poor saps assembling engines for Harley Davidson can say that. So who cares about the 1100 jobs Harley just eliminated, or the thousands of jobs lost when the GM plant in Janesville shut down? It was embarrassing to have all those gas guzzling SUV’s manufactured in our environmentally enlightened state. We need the kind of jobs only government can create.
And since we don’t need manufacturers, we certainly don’t need Wisconsin Manufacturer’s and Commerce (WMC). WMC, whose members include 4000 of the state’s largest employers, has been in the business of promoting a healthy business environment since 1911. Given that Wisconsin is the second-most manufacturing intensive economy in the United States, providing roughly 500,000 jobs that pay 25% above the average Wisconsin income, this was once thought to be a noble and important mission.
But WMC has become a pariah as Madison liberals joined forces with Governor Jim Doyle and the affiliate members of WMC whose livelihoods depend on public contracts, or whose industries are heavily regulated by government agencies. The evil cabal has forced WMC to capitulate on such bedrock principles as lower taxes and reduced government regulation in order to placate affiliate members. During the 2007-2009 budget debate, WMC reversed its position on Governor’s Doyle’s proposed Hospital Tax. Doyle claimed the new tax would allow the state to collect more tax money from the federal government to reimburse hospitals for Medicaid costs, thus lowering costs for consumers. The scheme only improves the bottom line for a subset of Wisconsin hospitals, and only until the federal government runs out of funds or gets wise to the Ponzi scheme.
But it was WMC’s successful opposition to the 7 cent per gallon tax increase, ethanol mandates, carbon emission taxes, and a $15 billion government- run health care plan that drove its legislative opponents stark raving mad. Adding to their collective ire was the fact that voters elected a conservative Attorney General and two conservative Justices to the state Supreme Court, after WMC exercised its right to educate the public about their choices. In two of the three elections, liberal group’s spending kept pace with or exceeded WMC’s, yet from the well-orchestrated outcry, from the professional ankle-biters to the University of Wisconsin’s former Chancellor, you’d have thought WMC shot their poor helpless candidate in the head at close range while he was asleep.
As state government embarks on a new era, with an estimated budget deficit of $5.4 billion and Democrats in complete control, expect to hear more from some new, kinder, gentler business groups with names like Competitive Wisconsin, Partnership for Wisconsin, Wisconsin Growth Coalition, and the Wisconsin Way. These better business partners will work to grow the number of taxpayer-funded jobs by increasing funding for K-12 and higher education, roads, rail systems, ethanol subsidies, and tons of corporate welfare in the form of training grants for labor unions, tax credits, and money to market the state so smart young people will want to move here.
They will promote bold plans to modernize our tax system, and to make sure everyone is paying their fair share, while investing in the green technology and guaranteeing quality healthcare for every person in Wisconsin.
What these organizations won’t do is promote a healthier business climate by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens facing our largest employers. Nor will they advocate medical or product liability reform to keep the state from becoming a haven for trial lawyers. And despite all their rhetoric about an educated workforce, they will not press politicians to reform the dismally failing Milwaukee Public School system, or promote education alternatives for low income families.
Why will these groups ignore so many issues that are vital to a healthy business and tax climate in Wisconsin? Because meeting their own very special short term interests means working against the best interests of the state.
When the last manufacturer leaves Wisconsin, perhaps these new groups will merge to form the Wisconsin and Commerce Association, dedicated to networking and forging consensus among those who make their living at the taxpayer’s expense.
-February 12, 2009