Fact-Check: Is Scott Walker right about Madison’s crime rates and jobs?

Photo: Henryk Sadura/Getty Images

Scott Walker just can’t help himself.

There is little doubt over whether the Republican governor of Wisconsin is a master communicator or not. In many ways, he’s just like the current president: he’s able to create sound bytes and Twitter posts that appeal to his base. But much like President Donald Trump, Walker’s comments usually come without putting much fact or relevance behind them.

He did as much earlier this week, attacking Madison Mayor Paul Soglin for a picture that was taken of him with former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Walker didn’t include the facts in his tweet, however, neglecting to explain that Soglin was meeting with Castro as part of a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On Thursday, Walker did it again — this time, attacking Madison’s record of job creation and crime, which is an attempt to undermine Soglin once more. And just like the Castro tweet, Walker made context-less observations about the state’s capital city.

Let’s take a closer look at these tweets. First, Walker went after jobs being created in Madison, tweeting out that “companies are leaving under @paulsoglin’s failed big government leadership.”

Walker is referring to the closing of the Oscar Mayer hot dog plant in Madison. But he’s forgetting a little bit of his own history: it was Walker’s administration that failed to do anything about keeping those jobs in Madison. In fact, at the time Walker seemed a little distracted, attempting to run for president and ignoring the plight of workers in Madison.

Walker even found someone else to blame back in 2015 when the closure was announced: Warren Buffett, because his company invested in Kraft Heinz, which owned the Oscar Mayer plant.

As for jobs in Madison, well, we’re doing just fine (full disclosure: I live near Madison).

Dane County (where Madison is located) had a jobs growth rate of 1.6 percent — a rate that was 23 percent faster than the state’s rate during the same time period, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that detailed jobs growth from June 2016 to June 2017.

Dane County even outperformed the entire state in June 2011, when Walker’s first state budget was implemented.

From 2011 to 2017, the state’s jobs numbers increased by more than 8.5 percent. In Dane County, however, the jobs numbers increased at a rate of nearly 15.4 percent. In other words, for every five jobs that have been created in the state of Wisconsin since 2011, Madison has created nine.

Put in another way: from June 2011 (Walker’s first budget) to June 2017, Wisconsin created 197,784 private sector jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If Wisconsin had created jobs at the same pace that Madison and Dane County had created them, the state would have created 357,138 — or just shy of 160,000 more jobs than what Walker can take credit for.

Next, Walker went after crime in Madison and claimed “crime is up on @paulsoglin’s watch.”

That tweet is an outright lie, and ignores a huge fact that Walker won’t dare point out: crime is up in Wisconsin overall.

The most recent crime statistics from the FBI come from the year 2016, so it’s admittedly not the most up-to-date. Nevertheless, it’s still a good way to look at the trends from 2011 to the most recent report.

From the time Walker took over the governorship in 2011, and for the remainder of his tenure until the end of 2016, crime went up across the state — and not just in the city centers. The total statewide violent crime rate went up by 29.1 percent. In nonmetropolitan counties, violent crime went up by an even higher rate of 38.2 percent.

In Madison, from 2011 to 2016 the opposite holds true. Violent crime actually went down during that time, dropping by a rate of about 5 percent.

It’s not a huge drop, but it runs counter to what Walker’s claims were in his tweet on Thursday. Crime is not going “up” under Soglin’s watch — just the opposite. Crime is DOWN under Soglin, and UP across the rest of the state.

Walker is wrong to characterize Soglin’s leadership the way he did. He was wrong to do so earlier in the week, too, but fortunately Soglin had a great response to Walker’s criticism over him meeting Castro.

In an interview shortly after Walker’s Castro tweet, Soglin said Walker can’t claim a moral high ground; the governor has also met with some pretty deplorable people when it comes to human rights, like when he went on a trade mission to China in 2013. 

“I believe my record in regards to Cuba is far better than Scott Walker’s record on China,” Soglin said, noting his support to end Chinese rule of Tibet.

He may not become the eventual nominee for the Democrats in Wisconsin’s 2018 gubernatorial race. But one thing that Paul Soglin is good at is putting Scott Walker in his place.