Don’t blame the messenger, even for the good news

    Last week, I wrote a blog about how Wisconsin’s economy has begun to rebound from the Great Recession.

    I noted all of the economic indicators showing as much, and I documented how dozens of Wisconsin companies in recent months have been adding jobs, dating back to Mercury Marine’s decision to expand here, rather than move to Oklahoma.

    What I did not share was the fact that Michael Knetter, Ph.D., a former presidential economist and the dean of the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, agreed with my prognosis that a rebound has begun.

    I also did not share that a panel of CEOs surveyed by Julia Taylor at the Greater Milwaukee Committee (GMC) also agreed that 2010 will be a year of recovery, to one degree or another.

    We’ll share Knetter’s predictions and the GMC forecasts, along with outlooks from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and many others at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast on Friday, Jan. 22, and in our special report that will accompany the event.

    In my blog last week, I intentionally left out any of the political implications or ramifications of an economic recovery in 2010. That was by design. I wanted to stick to the facts at hand, and not pollute the analysis with any political interjections.

    Nice try. Someone at Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann’s campaign posted a link to my blog on Facebook, with the introductory phrase as follows: "From BizTimes Media: ‘Wisconsin’s economic recovery has begun.’ Have you seen recovery in your business? Are you more optimistic for 2010?”

    Given that serving of red meat, Neumann’s Facebook followers jumped in with a barrage of verbal assaults (verbatim):

    • “Bullsh_t many jobs lost will not come back ever. spending because of christmas helped like tax returns help when they hit the mail boxes. what new companies opened? what new jobs are there replacing old ones? if so get my home back!”
    • “I was downsized 11 months ago. Have been applying at different places since then and still no luck.”
    • “You cannot take revenue from the private sector and give it to the gov for redistribution and expect positive results. Moreover, Americans and our companies are addicted to cheap credit.”
    • “You would have a hard time convincing me and my customers that the recession is over and recovery is coming. Government pays lip service to creating mfg. jobs when it continuously throws up road blocks with more regulations, higher taxes, etc.”
    • “None of the stimulus money goes into small businesses….just the leftist groups like ACORN and NAMBLA!”
    • “(Wisconsin Gov. Jim) Doyle will be gone soon. Hopefully we will get a governor who cares about our state, right Mark?”
    • “I saw the headline of this article when it came over my email! I just laughed – do these people think we are stupid? And just because they say it – we believe it?? It is truly pathetic!”

    Then some enlightened genius called me a “dum ass” (his spelling) and another name that won’t be repeated here.


    Nice folks.

    That’s OK. I have developed very thick skin over the years. And of course, I realize that followers of a candidate in one party are not going to welcome the message that an economic recovery has begun under the watch of a governor and a president in the other party (which is not to say that the governor and the president in the other party should be given credit for that recovery).

    Still, the abrasive responses of Neumann’s followers reflect the toxic political dialogue (on all sides) this country is engaged in right now.

    Anyway, I’m sticking to my prognosis that an economic recovery has begun, regardless of the political consequences. And if those Neumann followers think they know more than Dr. Knetter and the GMC’s CEOs of Milwaukee’s largest corporations, well, there isn’t much I can say to convince them.

    Maybe they would find it more credible to hear the same message from a different messenger … How about Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” who declared last week, “This darned economy is not only about to boom. I think it’s booming right now.”

    Cramer backed up his assessment with positive news reported by Ford Motor Company and Boeing. The stocks of both companies recently posted new 52-week highs (as did the local BizTimes Stock Index, by the way). Ford reported a 42-percent increase in December vehicle sales, and Cramer said consumer spending is on the rise.

    He said the economy will recover soon and “shock to the upside.”

    Thanks for guarding my back, Cramer!


    Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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