In the last week both Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Senator Ron Johnson have offered their opinions on the Motor City's recent bankruptcy. And why won't they? Walker bent over backwards to take cheap shots at neighboring Illinois during his first year or so in office, a habit that he has quietly abandoned as our neighbors to the south have continually walloped our economic asses under Walker's watch. No doubt Walker needs another very low bar with which to measure himself.
But next to Detroit, everywhere looks good. The city is such a basket-case, so rife with so many problems that it's an ideal disaster from which to cherry-pick lessons. Take Johnson's USA Today piece, for example. The Senator spends nearly 800 words -- 798 to be precise -- arguing against bailing out out Motown ... and yet none of those words are either "car," "auto," "automobile," "motor," or even "industry." Some derivation of the word "tax", however, does appear eight times. It's as if the city had never suffered the collapse of the very source of its wealth. This is typical Johnson: it's always government's fault. The decline of the American auto industry, however, had very little to do with government regulation or intervention and everything to do with -- long story short here -- competition from abroad, producing cars that American consumers didn't want and the globalization of the world economy. In other words, the kind of textbook capitalism that Johnson frequently fetishes.
Then there's Walker speaking at a National Governors Association meeting in Milwaukee today:
In the wake of Detroit's bankruptcy filing, Walker said the city would not be in such dire straits if it were located in the state of Wisconsin instead of Michigan.
"If Detroit were in Wisconsin, Detroit wouldn't be declaring bankruptcy right now," he said. "If (Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emmanuel had Chicago in Wisconsin, he would be able to do the sorts of school reforms he's trying to do to make the schools work better."
Walker's comments struck some as revisionist history."Revisionist" is probably the kindest word one could use to describe that comment.
Listen, Walker is running for President and pretty much every word out of his mouth for the next four years is going to be self-laudatory hyperbole, so it's important to take everything -- and I mean, everything -- with a grain of salt. Taking a whack at such low-hanging fruit in such brazenly political manner is, actually, one of talents that may earn Walker the GOP presidential nomination. Republicans seem to enjoy few things more than chest-beating and empty gestures these days and Walker's clearly going to provide them such by the shovelful.