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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…

The Walker Cabinet Officers’ Open Letter

Four cabinet secretaries of the Walker Administration have come forward to criticize the governor, and three of them have co-written an open letter against Walker’s relentless emphasis on political gain over sound policies. One of the signatories of the letter is Paul Jadin, who was Walker’s first Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation leader. It says all…

Majority of Walworth County’s Renters are Rent-Burdened

A new study, Paying the Rent, from the Wisconsin Policy Forum finds that a majority of Walworth County’s renters are rent-burdened, placing the county in the top five most distressed in the state by that measurement. (There are, of course, 72 counties in Wisconsin, so Walworth County is among the weakest of a very large…

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…

“Later This Year”

One reads that Foxconn [is] planning to buy land for innovation centers later this year. Read a bit closer, however, and one learns that ‘later this year’ is about as undependable as ‘the check is in the mail’ or ‘I gave at the office’: A question regarding innovation centers was one of many from Democratic Assembly Minority Leader…

Foxconn Deal Melts Away

Rick Romell and Molly Beck report Foxconn now declines to say it plans to build type of factory named in state, local contracts: But in a shift from its stance of two months ago, the company on Wednesday did not offer assurances that it still plans to build the type of liquid crystal display panel plant…

Trump, Ryan, and Walker Want to Seize Wisconsin Homes to Build Foxconn Plant

A video on how Trump, Ryan, and Walker are abusing eminent domain law and seek to destroy the homes of Wisconsinites to build the Foxconn plant is well worth watching. The short video was removed from YouTube over a bogus copyright claim, but it’s back online. (In the time since the video was first published,…

The Next Guest Speaker

Last winter, the Greater Whitewater Committee, a local 501(c)(6) business league, invited Matt Moroney (a longtime Walker operative) to speak to residents on Foxconn’s many supposed benefits. The Daily Union‘s longtime stenographer correspondent dutifully and uncritically reported on Moroney’s remarks.  See A Sham News Story on Foxconn. Over the years, key leaders of this business league have served…

Redefining Reality

Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and candidate for governor, has a new video about a political effort to redefine reality. The video is about Scott Walker, but it might as easily have been about any number of local politicians in Whitewater or other small Wisconsin towns, with tax breaks for out-of-towners and cronies…

Foxconn’s (Overwhelmingly) Low-Paying Jobs

Residents of Whitewater (or at least the ones attracted to corporate welfare) had a chance this winter to hear a state operative extol the benefits of billions in public money for Foxconn.  The local 501(c)(6) business league, the Greater Whitewater Committee, brought in a guest speaker to tout the project.  See A Sham News Story on…

The Mercantilist

Veronique de Rugy contends that one should take Trump at his word on trade.  It’s doubtful that anyone should take Trump’s word for anything, but that’s too literal a reading of her claim.  She’s right that, in effect, Trump truly opposes free trade no matter what he says: As we embark on a trade war, let’s…

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…