‘Stung by Trump’s Trade Wars, Wisconsin’s Milk Farmers Face Extinction’

After years of the ignorant scheming of tax incremental financing, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, capital catalyst grants, the Trump tax bill, and now Trump’s trade war, Alan Rappeport reports Stung by Trump’s Trade Wars, Wisconsin’s Milk Farmers Face Extinction (“The flagship industry in a pivotal swing state faces an economic crisis”): KENDALL, Wis. —…

Really, Really Urgent CDA Announcement!

Shortly after booting my computer this April 1st morning, I found staring back at me the following Really Really Urgent Message from the “Whitewater Community Development Authority.”  Perhaps it has something to do with a recent excuse-making press release story at the Gazette.   News Release: April 1, 2019 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (this means now!)  Really…

Private Businesses Craving Public Money

A private group may invite whom it wishes, but the guests invited tell much about the organization doing the inviting. Long years ago, straining even the finest recollection, private businesses relied on their own efforts for success (or so one has heard).  Look about now, even in small and struggling places, and one finds well-fed…

The Recent Cold

It’s been unseasonably cold in southeastern Wisconsin this week, and in Whitewater that presents a challenge for the disproportionately large number of impoverished residents (some of whom occasionally lack utilities, even at the most unfavorable times). The three large public institutions in the city – municipal government, school district, and public university – have collectively dozens…

The Fight Against Gravity

The Trump Administration wants to bolster industries that are market failures, with coal as an example.  Catherine Rampell writes of that effort in The Trump administration learns that fighting gravity is hard: The Trump administration is learning that, as new data show that the industries it has worked hardest to prop up — through bailouts, tariffs…

Nationally and Locally: The Big-Government Conservatives Are Economy-Wreckers

Catherine Rampell, writing about the national GOP, accurately describes their economic policy under Trump in The GOP has become the Soviet party.  This has been a building national problem for years, but a building local problem for about as long: a clique of slogan-rich but insight-poor local conservatives have wrecked economies like Whitewater’s economy with a steady diet of…

Political and Apolitical Means of Local Accomplishment

One test of an institution’s vitality is how eager people are to become members, and how interested a community is to learn who’s become a member. Strong institutions or organizations attract attention. When the institution is a city or county government, one looks to see who’s eager to run for office, and how many people…

Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade

Over the last ten years, while Wisconsin and America recovered from the Great Recession, in Whitewater poverty among families with children actually increased. The Great Recession – deep and painful for many, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. Afterward, most parts of America saw recovery, sometimes slow, sometimes rapid, but recovery by either definition.  That’s why for…

In Whitewater and Elsewhere, Employment’s Only Part of the Story

 In times of high unemployment, of course it makes sense to get people back to work. Jobs, jobs, jobs isn’t a bad mantra when people don’t have work.  (Work isn’t simply about an income, but a place in society.)  Today is not, however, the Great Depression. Listen to ‘development professionals’ go on about job-creation at…

Walworth County’s Working Poor

In Whitewater and throughout Walworth County, huge numbers of residents are “asset limited, income constrained [yet] employed” (ALICE®). A report from the United Way of Wisconsin, entitled ALICE® ASSET LIMITED, INCOME CONSTRAINED, EMPLOYED WISCONSIN, reveals the truth about many in our community. Walworth County measures slightly worse than the already-disappointing state average. The talk of…

The Two Questions that Haunt Old Whitewater

Two questions haunt Old Whitewater (where Old Whitewater is a state of mind rather than an age or a particular person): What does it mean to be a college town? and What is meaningful community development? (There are other serious questions, but one can be sure – at the least – that these two have Whitewater…

Coerced Beauty Isn’t Beautiful


For a thousand years, some men in China insisted that a woman wasn’t beautiful, desirable, and worthy unless her feet had been bound into an unnatural and distorted form.

Rather than allow women to develop normally, these men insisted that their own imposed desires were superior to the natural feminine form.  The price of this imposition was a woman crippled and dependent for life.

If it should be true – and it is – that big-ticket projects in Whitewater have failed the fundamental test of community development (improvement of widespread personal and household economic well-being), then what shall one say of a generation’s efforts in that regard?

If it should be true – and it is – that unfettered demand heavily favors rental housing over single-family units in Whitewater, then what shall one say of a generation’s obsession with promoting a less favored arrangement over a more popular one?

It’s fair to say that some in Whitewater have supported these efforts in the belief that such programs might somehow make life better here. Such support, running contrary to the free, voluntary consumer demand in the whole area, might have been well-meaning, but was no less misguided.

For others, however, there must have been – and must be – some awareness, either partial or complete, that their efforts could – and can – neither meaningfully improve individual well-being nor change appreciably the overall housing stock of the city.

Empty programs attract notice that diverts attention from actual needs, and send resources in the wrong direction.

Community development in Whitewater, as it has been publicly advanced for the last few decades, looks nothing like the development of personal and household economic well-being.  Time and again, public resources have been directed at the bidding of a private business lobby.  Indeed, Whitewater’s Community Development Authority looks as much like a private 501(c)(6) business league as anything else.

Perhaps some in this city can’t imagine otherwise, in the way that years ago some men in China couldn’t imagine beauty unbound.

When the Whitewater CDA’s executive director rattles off an alphabet soup of public agencies to meddle in the marketplace, he’s parroting the sham capitalism so popular among fast-talking officials statewide.  State &  crony capitalism have the same relationship to free-market capitalism as pig Latin has to genuine Latin: they share some of the same letters, but mean very different things.

For a fraction of the public funds wasted on sketchy tech ideas and out-of-town businesses wandering nomadically for a handout, our city might have developed directed programs for the poor, and for in-town enterprises.

If it’s ‘community-minded’ to spread economic myths and reinforce empty boosterism, then to be community-minded has an unworthy meaning.

There is, of course, community happily to be found now in Whitewater, but it rests in private undertakings, apart from those who have directed public institutions to narrow and futile ends.

PreviouslyTwo Truths of Whitewater’s Economy.

Two Truths of Whitewater’s Economy

  There are two truths of Whitewater’s economy, each fundamental and each a refutation to the last generation’s myth-making. For today, it’s enough to list the two fundamental truths.   Large Public Projects Haven’t Overcome Weak Household-Income Levels in Whitewater. This is true both in aggregate, and for age brackets (children, adults 35-64) not representative…