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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 6, 2012

Dem recall candidate Tom Barrett says GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker "caused" top job losses in U.S.

Even if Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had never promised that 250,000 private-sector jobs would be created during his first term in office, critics would have castigated him once the state’s monthly jobs losses began to mount.

A direct attack was launched April 26, 2012, by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic frontrunner in the gubernatorial recall election, who said in a tweet:

"Governor Walker has caused Wisconsin to lose more jobs than any other state in the country."

Let’s address the two parts of the claim separately.

Wisconsin lost most jobs

Barrett’s tweet linked to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article published the same day, making it clear the period he was referring to in his tweet. In the article, Barrett cited a federal report that showed Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012 - the most in the country. That included 17,800 government jobs and 6,100 private-sector jobs.

So Wisconsin did lose more jobs than any other state during the period Barrett cited.

(For those of you keeping score on Walker’s private-sector jobs promise, they are up 5,900 during Walker’s tenure, according to the latest installment in our Walk-O-Meter.)

Now to the second part of Barrett’s claim.

Walker ‘caused’ job loss

Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak made four points in arguing that Walker caused Wisconsin’s job losses:

Economist prediction: A Wisconsin State Journal article published the same day as Barrett’s tweet noted that University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Steven Deller, in March 2011, predicted that spending cuts in Walker’s budget proposals would result in the loss of nearly 22,000 jobs in one to two years.

But as Deller himself has noted, some economists believe that job losses are caused by tax increases, which Walker would have needed to balance the budget had he not relied on spending cuts. So one prediction does not make it a settled issue.

Walker’s jobs bills: Walzak said Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature approved pieces of legislation that were touted as jobs bills, but the job losses indicate those policies failed.

Here, too, there is no proof that the measures caused the job losses; indeed, it could be argued by Republicans that if not for the bills, the job losses in the period cited might have been worse.

Walker claims credit: Walzak said Walker has touted his policies in response to good news - such as when jobs increased in a month or when the unemployment rate dropped - so he should be blamed for job losses.

That’s a fair point, from the politics point of view. But just as the credit is not entirely due to an incumbent executive, neither is the blame.

Indeed, in a May 2012 news article that Walzak himself sent us, Barrett said he agreed that presidents and governors get too much credit and blame for job creation, saying, "obviously, there are many, many factors."

Lack of focus: Walzak said Walker’s focus has strayed from job creation to issues such as curbing collective bargaining for public employees.

But that does not address how Walker has "caused" the loss of jobs over the past year.

In that vein, we rated as Half True two similar, if less blunt, claims made in TV ads by the Republican Governors Association, which blamed Barrett’s policies for driving up unemployment in Milwaukee and blamed policies of Kathleen Falk, the other leading Democrat in the recall election, for doing the same in Dane County while she was the county executive.

As we stated in those items, a chief executive such as a governor has influence over jobs, but so do a host of other factors, such as national trends, that are beyond a governor’s control. The national recession has certainly had a wide impact. Indeed, in 2008 and 2009, amid and immediately after the recession - while Democrat Jim Doyle was Wisconsin’s governor - the state lost 164,000 jobs, although it added 12,000 in 2010.

Our rating

Barrett said Walker "has caused Wisconsin to lose more jobs than any other state in the country." He is accurate on the job losses but overstates Walker’s role in causing them.

We rate Barrett’s statement Half True. 

Featured Fact-check

(You can comment on this item on the Journal Sentine's web page.)

Our Sources, Tom Barrett tweet, April 26, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Barrett says job numbers will define recall election," April 26, 2012

Interview and email interview, Barrett campaign spokesman Phil Walzak, May 3, 2012

Interview and email interview, Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews, May 3, 2012

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, March 2012 jobs report, April 25, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker and Barrett duel over job trends in Wisconsin, and Milwaukee," May 1, 2012

Associated Press, "Bureau of Labor Statistics says Wisconsin lost more jobs in past year than any other state," April 25, 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The politics of Wisconsin’s sluggish job growth," March 15, 2012

Wisconsin State Journal, "Professor with the crystal ball," April 26, 2012

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker killed 15,000 jobs, Democratic state lawmaker says," Oct. 24, 2011

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Republican Governors Association says Mayor Tom Barrett’s policies drove up unemployment 27 percent in MIlwaukee," April 11, 2012

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Republican Governors Association says unemployment tripled because of Kathleen Falk’s tax policies," April 12, 2012

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Digging into the claims in new Walker ad," March 9, 2012

Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, "Barrett asks for Manitowoc voters’ support," May 3, 2012

University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Community Economic Development, Steven Deller article, October 2002                      

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Dem recall candidate Tom Barrett says GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker "caused" top job losses in U.S.

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