Federal spending: Wisconsin needs more
I examined the state’s dreadful record in securing federal dollars in pieces written for Milwaukee Magazine and Isthmus, my old paper in Madison.
Here is the start of the Milwaukee Magazine column:
Too Pure for Pork
Our politicians do a wretched job of attracting federal spending to Wisconsin. Why do we let them get away with it? by Marc Eisen
Here’s a story that tells you something about politics in Wisconsin: In January, Madison utility executive Gary Wolter was named the head of Gov. Jim Doyle’s stimulus office to work on securing federal funding. Within 24 hours, he was dubbed Wisconsin’s “pork czar” in repeated blog postings.
As Charlie Sykes pointed out, what could be weirder than fierce partisan antagonists like Democrat and liberal Ed Garvey and conservative blogger Deb Jordahl both sniffing their noses at Wolter’s appointment? Then again, even the whiff of “pork” gets proper Wisconsinites red-faced and indignant.
Take Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. His initial response to federal stimulus funding made it sound as if the dollars were secretly dosed with smallpox, like those horse blankets the Army supposedly gave Indians in the 19th century. He’d have none of it! (Not, at least, until the County Board said otherwise.)
There’s something deep in the Wisconsin character, a Badger thriftiness and sense of political rectitude, that seems to recoil at the notion that politicians should bring home the bacon. No one understood that better than the puritan Bill Proxmire, whose long senatorial run was marked by his temperance crusade against government waste. Ever since then, Democrats and Republicans alike (take a bow, Jim Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan, Russ Feingold, John Norquist, et al.) have anointed themselves with magical oils to protect the state from the corrupting influence of federal dollars.
They’ve been wildly successful. And that’s a problem. Wisconsin, as you no doubt know from first-hand experience, is mired in an economic slump. In per capita income and new jobs created, we badly trail some of our neighboring states. Ditto for economic growth. Meanwhile, we pay way more in federal taxes than is returned to us via federal jobs, research grants, aid to state and local government, and other programs.
Here is the start of the much-longer Isthmus story:
State of chumps
Wisconsin has only itself to blame for losing out on its fair share of federal aid
Marc Eisen on Friday 10/09/2009Todd Berry blames it on our genes. The president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance suggests the state’s chronic indifference to federal help is buried deep within our political DNA.
The Yankees who first settled Wisconsin, he says, “were suspicious of large, autocratic central government.” The Germans and Scandinavians who followed weren’t much different: They were “independent, hardworking, self-reliant…and suspicious again of a distant central government.”
I think the late Sen. Bill Proxmire — not genetics — is mostly to blame. But however you apportion responsibility, the legacy is the same: Wisconsin does wretchedly as a recipient of federal spending.
There are lots of bad measures to point out, but the key one is this: We rank 48th among the 50 states in federal aid, saved from last place only by Nevada and Utah.
This dreadful performance has a real-life impact on Wisconsin’s economic well-being. It means fewer jobs, poorer public services and a heavier state and local tax burden.
Federal spending in Wisconsin came to $7,132 per person in fiscal 2008, according to federal data newly analyzed by the Northeast-Midwest Institute. The national average was $8,904 per person — a $1,772 difference.
Do the math. Wisconsin’s population numbered about 5.6 million in 2008. Multiply each person by that shortfall and you come to $9.9 billion. That’s how much more money would have sloshed around the state economy if we had just hit the average for federal spending in fiscal 2008. Perish the thought we should score high, like Alaskans and Virginians.
Tags: Bill Proxmire, Charles Gonzalez, Economic development, Gary Wolter, Jim Doyle, Jim Sensenbrenner, Joel Skornicka, John Norquist, Les Aspin, Lon Sprecher, Northeast-Midwest Institute, Paul Ryan, Russ Feingold, Scott Walker, Todd BerryYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.