That’s the question Scott Walker needs to answer. According to the Republican Party’s talking points, the state’s economic woes will be solved by lower taxes and deregulation. If the free market is unleashed in Wisconsin, economic opportunity will flood over the state’s borders from all around the country and world. Moreover, the state’s existing businesses will not be tempted to move to Oklahoma or wherever else socialism is not an imminent threat (theocracy is not considered a danger to the market).
But that’s just not going to work. Adam Smith is not president, and even if he were, he wouldn’t be able to abolish 200 years of political and economic tradition that makes a pure free market nothing more than a theory introduced in Econ 101. A governor who wants to brings jobs to Wisconsin has to work within the framework of the current economic and political system.
That’s what Scott Walker was doing when he accepted and invested millions of dollars from the stimulus plan in Milwaukee County. That’s NOT what he was doing when he initially opposed the plan. That’s not what he is doing when his administration neglects federal economic development programs which would allow Milwaukee County to get tax-free bonds.
This right wing dogma isn’t going to get Wisconsin anywhere if it means our leaders are going to simply ignore the money and programs that all other states are taking advantage of. What Wisconsin needs is long-term development. While that could theoretically come via either end of the political spectrum, the right’s pretensions of long-term vision amounts to nothing more than small tax cuts. The policies the Republicans make the most noise about are minor initiatives –– a small decrease in the gas tax, a small decrease in personal income taxes. None of these policies offer the type of long-term development that major federal grants with targeted goals could bring.
The high-speed rail is a perfect example of a policy that could make Wisconsin truly unique and stimulate real economic growth. People have been rightfully skeptical of its implementation, and if the state half-asses the effort it will become a fiscal sinkhole. But hooking up Madison to Milwaukee and Chicago is only the first step to a necessary infrastructure phenomenon in this country. The trains will get faster –– just like they are in the rest of the western world. We need patience and we need the federal dollars.