We knew it was coming. The negative TV ads have begun - and we're not even done with the recall primaries yet.
Spending some of the millions he's been collecting from out of state, Gov. Scott Walker decided to take on two of his possible Democratic challengers at once, rather than waiting to see who wins the May 8 election.
One new ad accuses Kathleen Falk of tripling the unemployment rate in Dane County when she was county executive. (Unemployment, always low in Dane County, bounced around during her 14 years between 1.7% and 5.2% - always lower than the rest of the state.) In another ad, Walker claims that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has presided over the worst job creation rate in the country. (An old story: Milwaukee has suffered from industrial decline and terrible unemployment for black men, following the destruction of the once-thriving blue-collar middle class.)
It's beyond absurd for the governor to knock local officials for failing to create jobs. Governors have far more power in this area than either mayors or county execs. And Wisconsin has lost jobs in both the public and private sectors on Walker's watch - unless you count the booming business in recall buttons, signs and stickers.
As we all know, Walker came into office promising to create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin. After one year of his governorship, from January 2011 to January 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Wisconsin came in dead last in the whole nation for job creation - a historic low for our state. We managed to lose jobs while the rest of the nation was gaining them.
And by the way, Walker himself was county executive in Milwaukee at the same time as Kathleen Falk. Guess which county created more jobs? Falk's. By a landslide. As her campaign pointed out in its response to Walker's ad, Dane County added 30,000 jobs on Falk's watch. Walker presided over job losses every year as county executive in Milwaukee.
But the real outrage is that Walker has made the jobs of local officials like Falk and Barrett impossible. All over the state, local governments have been faced with the task of maintaining basic services in a miserable state budget environment.
Milwaukee is a particularly egregious case in point. Many of the cuts Walker aimed at the city are going to hurt employment, punishing the city's blue-collar and African American workers, who have suffered the most already from industrial decline.
One of the first things Walker did as governor was to eliminate the apprenticeship program for African Americans in Milwaukee who wanted to get into a trade. Then he turns around and runs an ad blaming Barrett for being mayor of a city with the worst black unemployment rate in the country.
Walker also made the biggest cut in state aid to Milwaukee in history.
And just when Milwaukee thought that Talgo was going to create 500 jobs in the inner city to make train cars for the high-speed rail line originally envisioned by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, Walker killed the plan, turning away $810 million in federal money that was already allocated. Other states (which, unlike Wisconsin, have seen a net jobs gain in the last year) took that money instead.
Walker's historic 30% statewide cut for Wisconsin's vocational and technical programs further destroyed opportunities for training the next generation of skilled workers. There are now huge waiting lists for programs like the one that trains people in Milwaukee to become master electricians.
Then there is the Republicans' favorite issue: taxes. In his ads, Walker slams Barrett and Falk for raising local taxes.
This, too is unfair. Walker also presided over tax increases in Milwaukee County. The property tax levy went up by about $40 million while he was county exec.
As governor, he rejected a Democratic amendment to his millions in corporate tax breaks, which will add more than $117 million to the state budget deficit; the amendment would have required corporations to show that they actually created a job in Wisconsin in order to get the tax cut.
County executives and mayors are left dealing with the fallout from Walker's massive cuts in revenue at the same time the state mandates that they still provide services - pick up the garbage, remove the snow, and preside over referenda to try to keep funding the public schools. For the governor to blame local officials for these problems is like a cook making a terrible meal and blaming it on the wait staff.
By the time we saw these ads, Wisconsinites were already fed up.
Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive.