Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hucksterism, WEDC-Style

Jim Villa, president and chief executive officer of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin (CARW), opined, WEDC the Right Model for Job Creation and Economic Development.

[How much weight should we give the insight of Mr. Vella? I don't remember the CARW mentioning anything about the housing bubble that cost our economy $8 trillion (and this is supposedly in their area of expertise). Thus, his prognostications and policy prescriptions should be taken with a heavy dose of salt.]

If you've been paying attention, you know that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WECD) is a disaster.

Villa opens with the ludicrous claim, "Wisconsin's economy has already made significant progress." Implying that since Scott Walker turned the Commerce Department into the quasi-private WEDC, Wisconsin's economy has been humming along. Yet Lisa Kaiser recently reported, "The new data showed that Wisconsin’s private sector added just 24,305 new jobs between March 2012 and March 2013, growing 1.1%, well below the 2% national job growth during that period."

Despite this reality, Villa declares, "CARW believes that the WEDC model is the right direction for growing Wisconsin's economy and job creation." If we're following this logic, pissing into the wind is also a fantastic idea.

Mr. Villa continues on explaining why the Commerce Department needed changes. They were "unable to focus." They needed to separate economic development programs from regulatory programs. The WEDC would "better serve the needs of the private sector job creators in a more accountable, efficient and effective manner."

As we've seen, WEDC has served the private sector with untraceable corporate welfare. Although, accountable and efficient are not the adjectives I'd use to describe such malfeasance. In fact, the WEDC has been anything but accountable and efficient.

Plus, doesn't it make sense that an agency monitor it's programs (including implementation and regulation)? Doesn't separating these activities into different entities create needless bureaucracy and inefficiencies?

Villa then trots out the 'just like Indiana' right-wing mantra. It's supposedly well-known that Indiana is a booming economy. [Tumbleweeds roll past]

As I wrote, back in December 2010,
Indiana is the 16th most populous state, it ranks 37th in per capita income. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 8.5%, it's 10.1% in Indiana... If we look at median household income, Indiana ranks 32nd and Wisconsin 21st. GDP change between 2006-2008 was -0.6 in Indiana (ranking 41st), -1.5 in and +0.7 in Wisconsin (ranking 27th). Indiana is primarily performing worse, yet we should follow their lead?
Indiana is instituting more crack-pot right-wing policies, but that hasn't translated to an economic paradise like the proponents claim.

Villa then admits, "There have been challenges during the transition." But he continues on, using WEDC numbers, to claim large investment and job creation due to WEDC. Yet, the Wisconsin Legislative Bureau found,
Government agencies have incomplete data on the impact of economic development programs they administer. 
In the 2007-'11 period, state agencies administered 196 economic development programs, according to the report. But state auditors said it was difficult to determine how many jobs actually had resulted from the programs.
Villa thinks WEDC will lead to "business expansion within the state." Yes, by having this untraceable slush fund, Walker and his right-wing cronies can provide corporate welfare without the public's knowledge. Ah, the not-so-free-market strategy of poaching. Using the untraceable WEDC funds to bribe businesses away from other states.

Mr. Villa closes stating, "Tremendous strides have been made since the formation of WEDC." Wisconsin improved two spots (from 42nd to 40th) in the latest Tax Foundation rankings. Tremendous!

This cabal of right-wing hucksters sure does stick together. Each using their platform to support and echo talking-points. We just need to make sure and take the time to burrow through these weeds and see their claims for what they really are - self-serving bullshit.

For Further Reading:
Rewarding Failure: The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
WEDC Not Good Model For Deploying Scarce Resources

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