The WEDC is a state and national story that has local implications.
Some of the toughest political battles are intra-party ones: Republicans or Democrats fighting against fellow party members for their respective primary nominations. For rival Republicans, Gov. Walker’s creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will offer a legitimate and compelling line of attack against his candidacy. (The former Wisconsin Department of Commerce was no great shakes; the WEDC is worse. )
Republicans like Gov. Walker, but there’s more than one national GOP candidate who is well-liked within the party. In fact, they’ve a large field of candidates who, regardless of relative standing in the polls, are well-regarded among the party faithful. That’s Gov. Walker’s self-created problem with the WEDC: it’s a bad idea that other Republicans will legitimately use as a point against his candidacy.
Peter Suderman (himself a libertarian, not a Republican) makes the argument that, if necessary, others will make along the way to the GOP national convention next year:
Walker’s jobs agency is better understood as a model of what not to do. The persistent struggles of his perpetually mismanaged, publicly funded business development facilitator highlight just how inept government-designed agencies can be at spending taxpayer money to create jobs, and the perils of a politically driven, get-something-done approach to economic growth. And, in combination with his flawed arguments for the stadium deal, they offer a stark reminder of the sort of dismal results that can occur when politically connected corporate interests team up with politicians under the banner of happy economic boosterism: Businesses benefit, and so do politicians—but only at taxpayers’ expense. Despite Walker’s campaign-trail claims to be a champion for the little guy, what he’s inadvertently shown in Wisconsin is how the special interests win.
The WEDC is also a local story, as so many political officials, moribund print publications, and the self-described ‘Greater Whitewater Committee,’ a 501(c)(6) business lobby entwined with the CDA, erroneously believe that WEDC-like projects and spending will uplift the community and advance the reputations of those involved.
It’s hard to believe that these few local men could have been so ignorant and foolish, but they have been. They’ve committed to a selfish and sham policy that has not the slightest chance of genuine local gains. This banana-republic economics has nothing behind it.
Gov. Walker is far more capable that any local official in the city; our town squires have no chance whatever of achieving what he has (and indeed, could) not.
The full measure of cheerleading from Whitewater’s reflexive flacks, and their dutiful friends in the press or online, is useless to rehabilitate, let alone justify, years of economic error.
On neither Left nor Right, from among the many fine American economists designated Nobel laureates, for example, there’s not one – not one – who would defend the white-collar cronyism of the Whitewater CDA, Tech Park Board, city manager, or like-minded print & online publications.
By contrast, the most insightful thinkers (among them, Hayek, Friedman, Coase, Buchanan, Krugman, Stiglitz) – of whatever ideological position – would be united in rejecting anything like these local efforts.
A critic of cronyism has centuries of learning in support of his or her criticism; a defender, however crafty or insatiable in self-promotion, has not a single, worthy argument on which to rely.
That’s why efforts in support of these development schemes are destined only to rust, rot, and ruin.
The case against this cronyism, by contrast, is incomparably stronger and imperishable.