Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Downward Wisconsin

We  used to make things here in Wisconsin.

  We made  machine tools in Milwaukee, cars in  Kenosha and ships in  Sheboygan. We mined iron in the north  and lead in the south. We made cheese, we made brats, we made beer,  and we even made napkins to clean up what we spilled. And we made  money. The original war on poverty was a private, mercenary  affair.

  Men like Harnishfeger, Allis, Chalmers,  Kohler, Kearney , Trecker, Modine, Case,  Mead, Falk, Allen, Bradley, Cutler, Hammer, Bucyrus, Harley,  Davidson, Pabst, and Miller lifted millions up from subsistence  living to middle class comfort.

  They did it - not  “Fighting Bob” La Follette or any of the politicians who came along  later to take the credit and rake a piece of the action through the  steepest progressive scheme in the nation. Those old geezers with  the beards cured poverty by putting people to work.

   Generations of Wisconsinites learned trades and mastered them in the  factories, breweries, mills, foundries, and shipyards those  capitalists built with their hands. Thousands of small businesses  supplied these industrial giants, and tens of thousands of  proprietors and professionals provided all of the services that all  those other families needed to live well.

  The wealth  got spread around plenty.

  The profits generated by  our great industrialists funded charities, the arts, education,  libraries, museums, parks, and community development associations.  Taxes on their profits, property, and payrolls built our schools,  roads, bridges, and the safety net that  Wisconsin’s progressives are still  taking credit for, as if the money came from their council  meetings.

  The offering plates in churches of every  denomination were filled with money left over from company paychecks  that were made possible because a few bold young men risked it all  and got rich. Don’t thank God for them; thank them that you learned  about God.

  Their wealth pales in comparison to the  wealth they created for millions and millions of other  Wisconsin families.

  Those with an  appreciation for the immeasurable contributions of Wisconsin ’s  industrial icons of 1910 will find the list of Wisconsin’s top ten  employers of 2010 appalling: Walmart, University of  Wisconsin–Madison, Milwaukee Public Schools, U.S. Postal Service,  Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Menards, Marshfield Clinic,  Aurora Health Care, City of Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Department of  Veterans Affairs.

  This is what a century of liberal  progressivism will get you. Wisconsin is  the birthplace of the progressive movement, the home of the  Socialist Party, the first state to allow public sector unions, the  cradle of environmental activism, a liberal fortress walled off  against common sense for decades.

  Their motto,  Forward Wisconsin, should be changed to Downward Wisconsin if truth  in advertising applies to slogans.

  There is no  shortage of activists, advocates, and agitators in this  State.

  If government were the answer to our  problems, we would have no problems. The very same people – or  people just like them – who picketed, struck, sued, taxed, and  regulated our great companies out of this state are now complaining  about the unemployment and poverty that they have brought upon  themselves.

  They got rid of those old rich white  guys listed above and replaced them with…nothing.

   Wisconsin ranks 47th in the rate of new business  formation. We are one of the worst states for native college  graduate exodus; our brightest and most ambitions graduates leave to  seek their fortunes elsewhere. Why shouldn’t they? Our tax rates are  among the worst in the nation and our business climate, perpetually  in the bottom of the rankings, has only recently moved up thanks to  a Governor who faced a recall for his trouble.

  In  1970, the new environmental movement joined unions and socialists in  a coordinated effort to demonize industry.

  When I  was in college, the ranting against “polluting profiteers” was like  white noise – always there. They won, and here is the price of their  victory: in 1970, manufacturers paid 18.2% of  Wisconsin’s property taxes – the major  source of school funding - and in 2010 those who remained paid 3.7%.  So who is it that caused the funding crisis in our schools and the  skyrocketing tax rates on our homes?

  It is the same  ignoramuses who are sitting on bridges, pooping on things, and  passing around recall petitions. The unemployed 26-year old in the  hemp hat looking for sympathy might look instead for some  inspiration from Jerome I. Case, who started his agricultural  equipment business at the age of 21, miraculously without an iPhone  4s.

  In the last decade alone we have lost 150,000  manufacturing  jobs in this state – over 25%. And it’s not just jobs  that have been lost; the companies that provided them are gone.  Those jobs are not coming back, no matter how long we extend  unemployment  benefits pretending they are.

  The  450,000 people who still work in manufacturing in  Wisconsin are damn good at it, but we  are now outnumbered by people who work for government. A significant  number of the latter are tasked with taxing, regulating, and  generally harassing the former. While it is true that many  manufacturers chased low-wage opportunities on their own, many more  were driven out of the state by the increasing cost of doing  business here.

  It is a myth that unions improve  wages. If you consider only the 1,000 jobs in a closed shop, you  might think an average union wage is, say, $30/hr. But if you add in  the zero wages of the 10,000 jobs lost in companies chased out by  union harassment, the average of all 11,000 union workers is reduced  to $2.72/hr.

  Do you know the average wage of union  iron miners in this state?  Zero.

  And the left is  fighting hard to keep it that way in Northern  Wisconsin - looking out for the working man, they call  it.

  It is also a myth that free trade causes job  losses.

  Over the past three years,  U.S. manufacturers sold $70 billion more  goods to our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners than we bought from  them. Conversely, we suffered a $1.3 trillion trade deficit with  countries where no FTA’s exist.

  I doubt that kids  are going to learn that in our government-union monopoly schools –  it doesn’t fit the narrative.

  No one wants to see  another person suffer in poverty, and liberty is the best economic  policy there is. The great industrialists of  Wisconsin took less than a generation to  lift millions up to a life of dignity, pride, prosperity and good  will. When enterprise was free and government was limited, we all  prospered.

  Those great men of industry were not  anointed at birth to be rich; they rose from nothing to great wealth  through their own hard work and the value they added to their  employees and their customers through choice, competition, and  voluntary exchange.

  That is the only sure path to  real prosperity; the debt economy is a temporary  illusion.

  Look again at the list of our famous  industrialists and the list of our current employers. Who would you  wish your child or grandchild to grow up to be? Who do you think  will do more good on this earth – Jerome I. Case and his tractors,  or the Coordinator of Supplier Diversity at Milwaukee Public  Schools? If you chose MPS, then apply now – that job is open, and it  pays up to $72,000 plus benefits and early  retirement.

  Go in peace and save the world. Me, I'm  going elsewhere with the tractor guy.

  Tim  Nerenz, Ph.D.

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