Friday, May 11, 2012

Walker kills Milwaukee jobs, makes Barrett the fall guy

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
You’d think you wouldn’t need a Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote in this case. After all, Scott Walker killed jobs in Milwaukee in broad daylight, with eyewitnesses all over the place. He single-handedly idled scores of construction workers, engineers and others when he halted newly initiated work on a planned rail line between Beer Town and the capitol city, handing back to the feds $810 million in stimulus money and the thousands of jobs it promised to stimulate.

Yet, Walker is pointing a finger at a fall guy. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is to blame for the city’s sluggish economy, Walker insists. Demonstrating an uncanny ability to fog minds, the governor may get away with this misdirection.

Amid the bravado with which Walker delivered his victory speech after Tuesday’s recall primary, it was easy to forget a little detail: Under Walker, Wisconsin leads the nation in job loss. Walker kept the focus on Milwaukee, whose unemployment numbers and poverty levels he derided, as if his hands were clean. “We don’t want to be like Milwaukee,” he thundered.

Ouch. The city can’t help but feel like the state’s unwanted stepchild. The March jobless rate for Milwaukee was 10.4%. For Wausau, it was 10.1%. Yet, you can’t imagine the governor sneering, We don’t want to be like Wausau – even were he running against Wausau’s mayor.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
Actually, Walker is deeply implicated in Milwaukee’s plight. Not only did he actively kill jobs, but, for crying our loud, he served as Milwaukee County executive for eight years. True, when he ran for governor in 2010, he disowned responsibility for the city – a pattern he’s now repeating. But that denial raises the issue of what was the point of his being county exec. He boasts submitting budgets with no tax increases and keeping light rail out of the city, but none of these “accomplishments” apparently made the city better off, to judge from his own description of how bad things are in Milwaukee.

Walker helped shape Milwaukee’s plight even before he was county exec. As a state lawmaker, he helped put together Wisconsin Works, which replaced the thoroughly vilified Aid to Families with Dependent Children. To hear Walker and his colleagues talk back then, this new way of aiding needy moms and their kids was supposed to liberate families from poverty. But in noting that Milwaukee has one of the worst poverty rates in the nation, Walker inadvertently indicted W-2 as a failure.

Barrett, the Democrat chosen to face the Republican Walker in the recall election, has helped attract companies to Milwaukee. One such company is Talgo, the Spanish train maker, which set up shop at the old Tower plant at Townsend and 28th Streets. But Walker is chasing that company out of town by quashing its business due to the governor’s distaste for rail.

You’d think this wouldn’t be much of a whodunit. Walker is holding the smoking gun. The corpse is at his feet. The victim’s blood is on his hands. And eyewitnesses saw him shoot. Yet, Walker is brazenly pointing his finger at Barrett.