Lost among the Democrats' efforts to ram health care reform down the throats of the American people, is the just released state unemployment numbers for January. The bottom line is that they are not good. In addition to the statewide unemployment rate jumping to 8.7%, the local numbers are absolutely abysmal.
Beloit is yet again the city with the worst unemployment, topping out at a near-depression level 18.3%, a nearly 2% jump from December. Janesville, a city decimated by the loss of GM, is doing slightly better, but is still the sixth worst at 13.1%. What's really disturbing though, is that these numbers are unchanged or worse than a year ago. I know that it will take time to recover and that employment is a lagging indicator, but at what point do we start to do something?
I don't mean pass another "jobs" bill or ramp up spending or indefinitely extend unemployment benefits. What I'm talking about is serious reform of the state's budget and tax code. In New Jersey, Gov. Christie is making headlines for essentially freezing the state's budget and calling on mayors to do the same. I don't expect any type of leadership like that from Gov. Doyle or the legislature. Apparently they're far more concerned with curbing payday loans, passing a jobs-killing "energy" bill and building a not-so-high-speed train from Milwaukee to the Dane County Airport - because you know that if you're going to Madison the airport is the place to be.
I know that I've said a lot of this before and I know that many people are far more interested in the health care showdown, but this is getting ridiculous. Is anyone in state government going to do anything? Scott Walker and Mark Neumann can talk all they want about creating jobs next year, but that's the earliest they can do anything. The Democrats have proven that they really don't care or don't know what to do about this. They seem content to defer to Washington to "save" the economy. Still, there are 61 Republicans in the legislature and even though they are in the minority they can still force a debate. They need to be either introducing bills or speaking to every media outlet that will listen about jobs, taxes and the budget.
Gov. Doyle is a lame duck and probably couldn't care less about really addressing the economic needs of the state, but we could at least make a last stand. I know that even if we could pass economic and tax reform it would get vetoed in a heart beat, but what worries me is that Republicans need a plan for when they do get the legislature back - and it looks like they will in November. We need to be prepared to lead from day one and get Wisconsin back on track.
The health care bill will hopefully die this weekend. When it does and we move on to other issues, I hope we go right back to what is hurting each and every one of us right now. We are in fact still feeling the recession, how long do we have to wait for anyone in Madison to notice?