[I was invited to speak as a panelist at Americans For Prosperity "It's Working" Town Hall today in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Here is my closing speech]
Some of you may have read a piece I wrote recently, entitled “Downward Wisconsin”. It begins like this:
“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 the napkins to clean up the beer we spilled. And we made money.”
That essay was a celebration of the working men and women in Wisconsin and our great industrial entrepreneurs – those old geezers with beards whose family name was their guarantee to the world that the products made here were the best in the world.
I wasn’t a very good student in college, but I do remember this: there are only three ways to create wealth in this world – make it, mine it, or grow it. We used to do all three of those things here in Wisconsin.
Reality check: here are our top 10 employers in Wisconsin today:
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.
That is where a century of progressivism will get you. That and a $3.6 billion structural deficit.
In 2010, a survey of Wisconsin employers showed that only 10% thought we were headed in the right direction. We came into 2011 year ranked 44th in business climate, and 47th in new business formation. We are one of the 10 worst states in retention of our college graduates.
In just one year, Wisconsin has moved up to 24th in business climate, the largest single year jump ever recorded. 94% of employers now believe we are headed in the right direction.
What changed? Gee - I don’t recall.
A state budget that could not be balanced for a decade was balanced.
Taxes on businesses and business owners were reduced after a decade of increases.
A hostile regulatory posture was shifted back into neutral.
We quit throwing money at our failing government schools and finally tackled the root cause of our problems in education – Act 10 is working.
And so is Wisconsin. Our manufacturing companies are coming back strong. Wisconsin employers currently have 32,000 unfilled positions – jobs available but no one qualified or willing to take them. We are doing our job.
You may have read about the Wisconsin company that just signed a 5-year deal to build Chinese products here. Man bites dog.
That is our company; those are our factories and our employees; I’m just the guy who did the deal.
Do you know what Governor Walker and the State of Wisconsin did to help us get that deal done? Nothing. Perfect. Thank you, Scott Walker.
In fact, there was no government participation on either side. It took only two days to work out the details – amazing what you can get done without lawyers and bureaucrats helping.
We are not alone. There are thousands of terrific companies in Wisconsin. Those of us who still build things in Wisconsin are damn good at it. We don’t need government subsidies to succeed; we just need government to get out of our way. Get off our back; fix a bridge; go lay by your dish.
Why do 9 out of 10 employers think Wisconsin is headed on the right track? Because government IS getting out of our way. Wisconsin is open for business.
And yet, there are those in this state that don’t want Wisconsin to be open for business; they want to go right back to the way it was. At least I think that is what they want – I don’t speak drum.
Imagine what a chilling effect that would have upon the people who will make decisions about where to build their next factory, or open their next store or restaurant, or relocate their headquarters.
You can’t be for jobs and against the corporations that create them.
You can’t be for prosperity and against the things that make us prosper.
You can’t be for liberty and surrender yours to the state.
You can’t be for the working man and against his Right To Work.
There are tens of thousands of protesters and occupiers who have spent the last year insisting that theirs are the only voices who speak for the working man.
I have a message for them: I’m a working man. You don’t speak for me.
And there are 2,350,000 more of us who DON’T work for the government, and this is our state too.
It’s working, and we all need to get working to keep it that way.
[Note: when I accept invitations to speak, the opinions expressed are my own, not of my employer. Our company does not take positions on candidates or political parties.]