If You Can’t Move the Goalposts, Reposition the Football
Column in Forbes Critiques New Approach for Measuring Wisconsin Jobs
Governor Walker has said innumerable times that his goal is the addition of 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin during his first 4 years in office. Yet, based on the commonly used measure of employment, Wisconsin experienced the highest job losses in the nation over the last 12 months (March 2011 through March 2012).
At this point there’s no way the Governor can scale back his job creation goal. But instead of moving the goalposts, the Walker Administration has announced that they are embarking on a plan the Governor’s chief economist calls “challenging the spot of the ball.” That’s football jargon for a coach’s decision to throw a challenge flag and ask the referee to review whether the ball was positioned correctly after a play. There’s a significant twist, however, because the Governor’s strategy is to use new rules for assessing where to spot the ball – or more specifically, for deciding how many jobs the state has gained or lost. (For more on “challenging the spot,” see the DOR video of a recent presentation by state economist John Koskinen.)
A commentary in Forbes by Rick Ungar critiques the game plan of changing the rules for assessing the state’s job creation progress, or lack thereof. It’s interesting reading.
We’re still studying the recommended rule revisions for measuring progress and reviewing the data that the Walker Administration says should be used in lieu of the traditional measures. We’ll comment on the issue late this week or early next week after we’ve more carefully considered their arguments, as well as the April data to be released by the Department of Labor on Friday.
Ultimately, it will be the voting public that decides whether the state has made sufficient progress toward achieving the goals the Governor laid out and whether it makes sense now to redefine the rules for assessing that progress. Fortunately for the Governor, the public probably won’t require the “indisputable” evidence that is needed to change a football referee’s decision; however, I suspect many people will be very skeptical of making a new judgment based on a different set of rules than is used for measuring the job creation progress in 49 other states. It’s one thing to ask an impartial referee to re-spot the ball, and another thing for each team to bring its own set of measuring chains to the game.