Governor Scott Walker, R-Wis., should be the next Republican standard-bearer. The Badger State’s 46-year-old chief executive possesses priceless assets:
- A stalwart commitment to fiscal conservatism and limited government. Walker warmly invokes his state constitution’s Frugality Clause: “It is through frugality and moderation in government that we will see freedom and prosperity for our people.” Walker’s book, "Unintimidated," (with Marc Thiessen) approvingly cites Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Milton Friedman.
- A wealth of management experience, something still in dangerously short supply in the Oval Office. Since January 2011, Walker has supervised 11 agencies and 17 departments. His 69,263 employees (down from 70,673 as he arrived) serve 5.7 million Wisconsinites. In 2004, Walker won a four-year term as Milwaukee County Executive with 57 percent of the vote, and was re-elected with 59 percent. He reduced the county’s debt by one-tenth and its headcount by one-fifth.
- Walker has combined his conservative principles, leadership skills, and organizational prowess into an enviable record of free-market accomplishments.
Walker led an epic struggle to reform collective bargaining and end automatic deduction of union dues from state employees’ paychecks. These modernizations have reduced labor costs and boosted flexibility from Madison to city halls across Wisconsin. With union membership now voluntary, thousands are staying away. AFSCME Council 48 has plunged from 9,043 members in 2011 to 3,498 today — down 61.3 percent.
Walker signed a $504 million tax cut on March 24. His tax relief totals $2 billion.
He also has restructured Medicaid, expanded school choice, signed voter ID legislation, and required childless Food Stamp recipients to enroll in job training. “We’re not making it harder to get government assistance,” Walker said. “We’re making it easier to get a job.”
In 2010, Chief Executive magazine ranked Wisconsin America’s 41st most business-friendly state. It now is No. 17. (New Jersey, by contrast, has rocketed from No. 47 to No. 46.) A 2009 Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce survey found that only 4 percent of employers believed that the Badger State was on the right track. Last December, that vote of confidence rose to 95 percent.
Walker inherited a $3.6 billion state deficit. His fiscal restraint, pro-market posture, and consequent economic expansion all helped turn this into a $911 million state surplus today. Walker found just $1.7 million in Wisconsin’s rainy-day fund in 2011. It’s now $279 million.
Wisconsin’s unemployment is 6.1 percent — below 6.7 across America and much lower than the 7.4 percent rate that greeted Walker’s arrival. PolitiFact Wisconsin counts 101, 572 new jobs on Walker’s watch. He must hustle to keep his promise to help create 250,000 jobs in his first term. Still, Walker is far ahead of Jim Doyle, his Democrat predecessor, under whom 134,000 jobs vanished.
- If re-elected in November, Walker will have secured three statewide victories in a liberal stronghold. He became governor with 52.25 percent of the vote in November 2010 and won a June 2012 recall election with 53.1 percent. Walker is the only U.S. governor to survive a recall.
- Walker has displayed tungsten-like toughness in the face of brutal adversity. As "Unintimidated" explains in riveting detail, Walker accomplished many of his reforms — especially reigning in the government-worker unions’ special privileges — while enduring chillingly specific death threats against him and his family (“Maybe one of your sons getting killed would hurt,” read one anonymous note.
“I already follow them when they went to school in Wauwatosa, so it won’t be too hard to find them in Mad. Town . . . Lots of choices for me.”). Bullet casings suddenly appeared around the state capitol building during that rancorous debate. Open-minded, tolerant liberals disrupted his appearance at a Special Olympics event and even urinated on his office door. Walker kept calm and carried on.
Principle, achievement, guts, and a mild manner. What’s not to like about this Eagle Scout? Some critics complain that Scott Walker lacks charisma.
Well, Mr. Charisma inhabits the White House right now. How’s that working out for us?
Deroy Murdock is a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Read more reports from Deroy Murdock — Click Here Now.
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