The Center on Wisconsin Strategy has released its 2008 State of Working Wisconsin report and in surprise to very few, the George W. Bush economy continues to batter the state. In what appears to be a consistent theme throughout the Bush economy, the report finds that although productivity is up that many workers are simply not enjoying the benefit. Actually with each year, working folks have struggled more and more in the last eight years.
More specifically the report found that Wisconsin has lost some 24,000 jobs since June 2007, 13,000 of which are manufacturing jobs. Wisconsin has a median wage that has fallen in recent years, and has a four-person family income that has fallen nearly $6,000 since 2000, three times the national drop. The report also found that although we have a relatively high health insurance coverage rate, it has been in a steady decline in recent years. One of the key reasons that we are seeing such a drastic decline is because too many employers are shifting away from providing health care for their employees. Unfortunately this is something that Senator John McCain’s health care plan would actually encourage. The rate of employees getting their insurance through their employer has fallen from 73 percent in 1979 to 58 percent in 2006. This change has had a very disproportionate and troubling effect on poverty-wage workers.
The State of Working Wisconsin also reinforces other studies which verify Wisconsin’s problem with extreme inequality and racial disparities. The poverty gap between whites and blacks in Milwaukee was the highest disparity reached by any of the nation’s top 100 metro areas. In 2006, as a state, Wisconsin was second only to Minnesota in it’s white/black poverty gap. Wisconsin’s extreme disparities also carry over from poverty to education and incarceration. White students in Wisconsin are twice as likely to graduate from high school, which stands as the nation’s fourth highest racial graduation disparity. Only four states generate a higher racial disparity in incarceration than Wisconsin.
Although the 2008 State of Working Wisconsin report found many items of serious concern, it also found a set of strengths that it promotes as a solid foundation for progress. Wisconsin’s women have posted the sixth highest rate of women’s work. Wisconsin has fewer total high school drop outs than most states and is among the nation’s top five in having a workforce with AA degrees. In addition, although it has been slipping, Wisconsin’s manufacturing base continues to provide good jobs for more than 15 percent of the workforce.
The report makes several suggestions for righting our troubling economic course. Some of the suggestions are as follows:
Boost family income by cutting energy and transportation costs.
Build Wisconsin’s green future.
Build the skills, training and education of Wisconsin Workers.
Raise and strengthen the wage floor.
Put job quality at the center of state economic development.
Promote better work/life balance by securing paid sick days for workers.
Continue expanding Wisconsin health insurance coverage.