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Dumb and dumber

Cutting taxes for the uber wealthy was supposed to spur investments in new enterprises that would yield innovative products and provide high-paying jobs. That was the line Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP fed Wisconsin voters on their way to assuming iron-clad control over every part of state government.

But, it simply hasn’t happened — and why would it have? The United States began experimenting with such trickle-down gimmicks more than three decades ago, launching a period of steady decline for the middle class and widening the chasm between rich and poor to historic proportions. 

Many services provided by government are essential to fostering a healthy business climate — and that’s one of the reasons Walker’s reckless shuffling of money and policy to benefit the uppermost echelon of earners at the expense of government services might have helped land our state near the bottom of the pack.

Walker passed a two-year budget in January that cut taxes by nearly $1 billion, promising that his action would lure businesses to the state. Meanwhile, our western neighbor Minnesota increased taxes by $2 billion dollars this year. Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said the additional revenue would put his state’s fiscal house back in order and make critical investments in education, job creation and infrastructure that would spur economic growth.

Whose formula worked? From March 2012 to March 2013, Wisconsin saw a 1.1 percent increase in private-sector jobs, ranking 34th among the 50 states in job creation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Minnesota — our colder, more geographically remote and tax-raising neighbor — ranked 16th, with 2.1 percent job growth during that period. 

Walker ran for governor on the pledge that taking an ax to taxes would bring 250,000 new jobs to Wisconsin in four years. To meet that goal now, he’d have to discover 10,000 jobs a month for the last 16 months of his term — nearly double the number added during the past 32 months.

Of course, countless factors are at play in job creation, and most of them have nothing to do with the governor. The chief executive of a state has far less to do with how well the state performs economically than, say, a debt crisis in faraway Greece.

But Walker pledged that voting for him would mean job growth, thanks to his plans to slash corporate taxes and regulations. He followed the dictates of Big Business, disseminated through the American Legislative Exchange Council, to the letter. He got everything he asked for from the Assembly.

Still, Wisconsin ranked 11th in private-sector job growth in 2010 and dropped to 38th in 2011, Walker’s first year in office. The ensuing years have seen similar results.

Bad luck? Perhaps it is to a large extent. But Walker bet the barn on it. He was dumb to make a promise that he had such little control over and dumber still to tie its fulfillment to approaches that have already failed.

Now he’s trying to back away from it all, after the damage he’s done in cutting education, demolishing unions, relaxing environmental regulations and putting critical offices in the hands of well-connected cronies.

Believing that Wisconsin would benefit proportionally from the sort of recoveries that inevitably follow recessions, Walker promised himself into a corner. That corner is precisely where his failed political career should end.

We’re for anyone in 2014 but Walker.

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