Back in 2009 Barack Obama liked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as a potential Wisconsin governor. It makes sense: for a president unwilling to do what's necessary to beat down the 8+% unemployment rate, Barrett's record-high Milwaukee unemployment rate certainly looks attractive, if a decimated economy is your thing. Milwaukee's black residents are hardest hit:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the adult black unemployment rate is 15.8% and the black youth unemployment rate is over 40%. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Marc Levine's studies show that in Milwaukee nearly 50% of working-age black males are unemployed.
(Levine's rate may be more accurate -- it's the jobless rate. People who leave the job pool entirely are still unemployed; it's disingenuous to not include those numbers simply because they're either not collecting benefits any longer or not actively seeking work not due to retirement.)
Milwaukee's unemployment is still higher that the state average, and Barrett's city accounts for the bulk of the job losses in March:
Metro Milwaukee accounted for most of the job losses in the state last month, according to estimates released Wednesday by the state Department of Workforce Development.
The four-county metro area lost an estimated 4,400 non-farm jobs in March from February. Of the state's 12 major metro areas, four registered job losses, with the deepest losses in metro Milwaukee, which includes Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties.
The estimated declines in metro Milwaukee nearly equal the total number of jobs lost in the whole state last month - computed at 4,500 in March from February in a separate report released last week.
It's humorous that, when Barrett was busy using the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a prop in his campaign ad, he neglected to include this piece, discussing how Milwaukee lacks any economic plan. "Where's the plan?" they had asked. Mayor Barrett is otherwise engaged:
Instead, we have a Common Council and a mayor who have been spending tens of millions of dollars every year repurposing 100-year-old warehouses into condominiums, replacing perfectly good downtown intersections with cobblestones, planting trees and flowers and now reintroducing a streetcar system.
Sounds awfully similar to Obama and the greens, like Solyndra.
Barrett at this point is avoiding actually running against Walker's record at all costs:
So, let's see. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front-runner, has focused his campaigns on jobs, education, the environment and "making communities safer." One of Mr. Barrett's ads singles out "Walker's War on Women," with nary a mention of collective bargaining. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by union groups, but even her issues list makes only passing reference to collective bargaining.
No wonder. Since Mr. Walker's reforms went into effect, the doom and gloom scenarios have failed to materialize. Property taxes in the state were down 0.4% in 2011, the first decline since 1998. According to Chief Executive magazine, Wisconsin moved up four more places this year to number 20 in an annual CEO survey of the best states to do business, after jumping 17 spots last year.
The Governor's office has estimated that altogether the reforms have saved Badger State taxpayers more than $1 billion, including $65 million in changes in health-care plans, and some $543 million in local savings documented by media reports. According to the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, Mayor Barrett's city of Milwaukee saved $19 million on health-care costs as a direct result of Mr. Walker's reforms. Awkward turtle.
Also what we're seeing on a national level. We hear discussion of dogs and what the wives are wearing, but what about the shrinking job pool?
Wisconsin is the national general election, just at the state level. As is the case with President Obama and Mitt Romney, if Barrett really considered Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch's reforms unsuccessful, he'd be campaigning against them. That he isn't says it all.