Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker has had a wildly successful first term by any reasonable measure made by any reasonable man or woman, but that just makes his defeated political opponents and their allies in MSM all the angrier. He was my guest on today’s show, and while we went over the details of Wisconsin’s great turnaround during his tenure and because of his policies –detailed in the new edition of his book Unintimidated— we also spoke about the complicity of Manhattan-Beltway media elites in trying to assist his political opponents.
You can help Scott Walker win –again– via his website www.ScottWalker.com.
The interview audio:
The interview transcript:
HH: The Wisconsin week on the Hugh Hewitt Show continues. Joined now by the governor of that wonderful state, Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Governor, I’ve had on Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson this week. It’s like Badger week.
SW: It is a Cheesehead revolution. Yeah, a bunch of my good friends. Ron and I came in together four years ago, he in the United States Senator, obviously, and me as Governor. And Paul Ryan and I grew up down the way about 50 miles to the west of me, and Reince Priebus was about 20 miles to the east. So there must have been something in the water back then.
HH: I know. And Minnesota must have an inferiority complex, because you’ve got four of the key GOP leaders in the country, and Minnesota’s like a wasteland of GOP talent at this point, although Mike McFadden might turn that around. They’ve got a great governor candidate as well. But let’s turn to your race, Governor Walker. I just finished rereading Unintimidated, along with your new Epilogue. You stand for reelection in like 90 days. I don’t know how anyone can make an argument that what you did isn’t working, but what are the Democrats throwing at you?
SW: Oh, they’ve thrown everything and the kitchen sink. Unlike probably any governor in the country, probably any governor in recent memory, they’ve been attacking us since, well, February of 2011, both on TV, they’ve shipped people in, they’ve brought people around. They’ve tried to throw anything and everything at us. And you’re right, we’ve got a great record. We went from the beginning of 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.2%. Last month, it was down to 5.8%. We took a $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit and turned it into a surplus, gave that surplus back to the taxpayers, so $2 billion dollars in tax cuts, cut property taxes. This December, they’ll be lower than they were four years ago. So we’ve got a tremendous story to tell, but this, as you know, is a tough state. Even with Paul Ryan on the ticket, we didn’t carry it two years ago. In fact, the last time a Republican has carried the state for president was literally 30 years ago when Paul and I were in high school in 1984. So it’s a tough, tough state to win in. We’re going to win, but it’s going to be close.
HH: Now I want to talk about the race, but I also want to talk about, before we go to the politics of it, the actual policies that work. The President just gave a press conference an hour ago in which he was touting the job numbers. And I was wondering to myself as I listened to him, I wonder how much of that job growth has occurred in red state governors like yours and John Kasich and Rick Snyder, and Texas with Rick Perry, because California has not got your kind of unemployment rate. Would that we did. We don’t. I think he’s taking credit for a recovery that basically Republican governors have given him.
SW: Well, there’s a big difference. You’re right. Two years ago, I remember before I went to speak at the national convention, we looked at that point, and back then, in 2012, the difference between Republican-led states and Democrat-led states was about 1% lower unemployment. So that is pretty much consistent almost every month since then. Some people said well, but you’ve got Texas and the Dakotas in there. Yeah, but you’ve got Wisconsin and Florida and Michigan and Ohio, states that were in the tank four years ago. And my goodness, in Florida, Rick Scott has dropped almost five points off of that unemployment rate, and the guy who wants to take his job is the guy who screwed it up in the first place, Charlie Crist. I think there is a clear difference between blue states and red states. In my case, Illinois is a night and day difference. There, the latest numbers show we’re third in the Midwest behind Indiana and Michigan. Illinois is dead last, and they’ve actually lost jobs, year over year through July. And it’s just a stark contrast between policies of raising taxes and spending versus those of us who believe that the taxpayers’ money belongs in the taxpayers’ hands.
HH: Last question before our first break, Governor Walker is my guest, his new book, Unintimidated, is out there. Governor, what’s your campaign website, by the way?
SW: www.scottwalker.com., www.scottwalker.com out there, a great way for people to sign up and give us grassroots support.
HH: www.scottwalker.com. You have a line in the Epilogue which still stuns me. Wisconsin has the only state pension system that is fully funded. Now I’m sure you know California’s is like hundreds of billions of unfunded liabilities out there. Are you really fully funded?
SW: Yeah, we’re at 99.8%. So we’re statistically as close as any state in the country to being 100%, a stark contrast not only to California, but again to my neighbors in the south. In Illinois, they’re only half-funded much like not just the state, but many communities and municipalities in California, a big mess across the country. In fact, that’s the untold story, $17, almost $18 trillion dollars in debt. The bigger issue is that you look at unfunded liabilities at the state and the local level, it is far greater than that, and we’ve got to wake up to that, because our kids and our grandkids are going to inherit it sooner than we think.
HH: Now I am mystified how you did that, and after the break, we’ll come back and talk about it. But on that alone, the people of Wisconsin ought to return you to office, because you’re leaving, at the end of another four years, you’ll be leaving a balance sheet there that’s fair to future voters.
SW: Well, that’s exactly right. Our rainy day fund is 165 times bigger than we took office. We cut taxes $2 billion dollars. We put it right back in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers, lowered property, lowered income, lowered employer taxes, because we know long term, people are just better off if the money’s not in the capital, not in the government, but back in the hands of consumers and employers who put it to work.
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HH: Nevertheless, I want to talk to him about education. Yesterday, Bobby Jindal was my guest, Governor Walker, and he filed suit against Common Core. In the Epilogue to Unintimidated, you write that since you took over, ACT scores continue to be above the national average, and high school graduation rates are up. And so whatever you’re doing in Wisconsin is working. What do you think about Common Core?
SW: I think in Wisconsin, like in Louisiana and everywhere else, that we should have a set of standards that are set by people at the local and state level, not by people from Washington, New York or anywhere else out there. We’ve been fighting it for some time. I hope this and my state out, can actually get a few more allies in the state senate who will take up our measure to do just that, but we think those standards should be set by parents and educators and community members and others right here in Wisconsin, not by folks on a panel or some other group outside of our state.
HH: All right, now given your history of relations with public employee unions, especially the teachers, will they work with you on that, because Common Core started out as a good idea. It’s just gone off the rails. Arne Duncan took it over, and the feds are conditioning money on it. It’s become, it’s metastasized. Will they ever work with you, because you beat them like a drum?
SW: Well, I think unfortunately, well, it’s two different facts. It’s not just on this, but on other issues. We’ve seen for good, decent, hard-working teachers in our state, so many of them have started to recognize that our reforms actually were good for them. They were good for education. The districts that used our reforms have actually seen it, in many cases, allowed them to hire more teacher, or to pay teachers more. But they were able to distinguish between those that are good and those that aren’t so good. The old system was based on seniority and tenure. This one is based on merit. It allows them to pay based on performance. It’s a tremendous opportunity going forward. And I think, you know, the rest of society’s success is based on merit, based on performance. And those that are good start to recognize that. Most teachers got in for all the right reasons. And somewhere along the line, that vision, that goal, that aspiration was hijacked by the unions. This puts that power, that inspiration back into them, whether they were just hired or they were hired 20 years ago.
HH: And across the board, the numbers on what’s happened to union membership are pretty startling to union political dues. And you can correct me. You’ll know what’s happened. But now that they can’t coerce people into giving them money, their coffers are emptying out, aren’t they?
SW: Well, that’s really what, I mean, in the end, why did they send 100,000 people into our state? Some of them were from Wisconsin, but many others were from Illinois, Chicago initially, and then flown in from Washington, New York, California and Nevada, you name it. Why? Because the union leaders not only in my state, but nationally, knew that the biggest thing they feared was that we would give right to work, we would give the ability for public sector employees to choose whether they wanted to be in the union or not. If you’re a teacher in Milwaukee, one of our biggest school districts in the country, and urban school district, if you can choose now not to be in the union, and you can talk right to our principal, well, that’s a big threat to the unions, because they don’t have to pay $1,400 dollars a year for their union dues. And that’s money before they could just grab without asking.
HH :And so has the number of percentage of teachers participating in the union political program dropped as a result of the option that’s been given?
SW: It is. Union memberships going down across the board. Teachers union, in fact, it’s gone down so much, the two largest teacher unions in the state have had to collapse, as did the biggest public employees union at the city, county and state level, is actually looking to sell their building. A number of the affiliates in areas like Milwaukee have completely backed out, and a number of the unions themselves, members, I should say themselves, have voted to decertify. So it’s been a tremendously positive impact not only for the taxpayers, who saw not just at the state level, but at the local government level, the school district, the county, the city, those levels have benefitted with the budgets. But they’ve also seen that it’s good for the workers. Good workers will be rewarded under this system.
HH: What’s amazing, though, it makes it a vendetta in Wisconsin. I’ve tried to explain to everyone I’m interested in many races. And by the way, thank you for endorsing Doug Ducey early. I think you gave him a critical lift and got him the nomination. He’s a reform governor, will be a great governor to join you in the governors association. But they’ve got a vendetta against you, Scott Walker. You’ve said the emperor has no clothes, and the unions don’t have any voluntary members, or at least not anywhere near what they say they do. Are they going to, is that what’s motivating the revenge campaign here?
SW: Oh, there’s no doubt the union two weeks ago started the first wave of attack ads nationally. The AFL-CIO and their public sector allies have transferred $300 million dollars from money they normally historically spend on Congressional races into five states – Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and we’re number one on the list. Why? For exactly the reasons you mentioned, Hugh. They understand this is their Waterloo. This is their line in the sand. If they can take me out, they will send a chill, a fear factor, if you will, to elected officials anywhere in this country, be it at the state, the local, or even the Washington level. And they don’t want that to happen, which is precisely why as conservatives, common sense conservatives, we’ve got to win this election.
HH: Does everyone in Wisconsin know this? I mean, it’s been, the one thing I worry about is that the political battle has been so extended there, I never make war analogies lightly, because there’s real war, and you know that, because you command the National Guard.
HH: And you’ve sent a lot of people off, and I’m sure you’ve welcomed home some wounded warriors, and you’ve had to grieve with some families who’ve lost Wisconsin people in the war. So I don’t make those analogies lightly. But this has been going on, this political battle, for son long, are people weary of it?
SW: Yeah, there’s a certain amount of fatigue, plus the other fear I have is complacency, complacency of voters who are common sense, center-right voters in this state, as well as supporters from across the country, because people say, I hear it all the time, you won the recall by a bigger margin than you did the first election. Yeah, that’s true, but I believe that a certain portion of that margin of victory wasn’t just people who supported our, philosophically supported our beliefs. They were people who fundamentally believe that a recall was wrong. They were just good, decent Midwesterners who thought it wasn’t fair to have a recall over a disagreement, and the jury for them is still out as to whether or not they’d vote for us in this election. We’re not writing them off, but we can’t assume it. So when people tell me you’re fine because of the recall. I remind them a lot of those votes cast aren’t automatic this year. Combine that with literally tens of millions of dollars of attacks, and go all the way back to the spring of 2011, and you can see why we’ve got a tough race here.
HH: I absolutely can, and in fact, I remind everyone that’s the reason that they’ve got to go over to www.scottwalker.com, www.scottwalker.com, and whether you can contribute to the reelection campaign of Governor Walker or sign up to be a virtual precinct captain, or someway involve yourself, absolutely do that. Governor, I want to finish by asking you about one of the lowest tricks in American political history, and we only have three minutes, and it was this star chamber attempt to prosecute you, and the media’s handling of this. Did that do you damage? Do you think the lawyers who were involved ought to be ethically disciplined? And where does it stand now?
SW: Yeah, I think there’s no doubt about it. Well, you can see it’s part of a national trend. They went after Rick Perry. They went back, a while back, Chris Christie. You see a lot of these groups that literally go out and try and dig things out. Obviously, this most recent one against Rick is just laughable in terms of how outrageous it is. But they’ve done the same sorts of things for us. I mean, they, in fact, the federal judge who shut this down, there have been two different judges, a state judge and a federal judge who both dismissed the allegation. You wouldn’t know that from most, not only in my state, but many of the national media outlets treat these things like new, and they get leaked out by different sources in the court system, or in these offices. But they treat them like they’re somehow new news, and ignore the fact that you’ve had two judges, a state judge and a federal judge, shut them down. And the federal judge in particular said something I thought was very poignant. He said, he chastised some of these prosecutors saying that they were trying to win in the court of public opinion what they failed to win in the court of law. That should send a chill down the back of anyone, I don’t care whether you’re conservative or liberal or anywhere in between. If people can take information, take it to the court system, have an independent judiciary say this is not valid, this needs to be dismissed, the facts aren’t on your side, and then have people still leave bits and pieces of it based upon their own agenda. That’s a society that I think should be very concerning to folks. I do think it has an impact at least for a handful of the independent voters, and it’s one more example of what they’re trying to throw at us, which is precisely why we need so much grassroots support.
HH: Last question, Governor, you may be unintimidated, and you are, as your book says, Unintimidated. But when you look at the national news media as they’ve covered this vendetta against you, and completely gotten the story wrong again, whether it’s CNN or the New York Times, or the Washington Post, are they doing it intentionally? Are they trying to defeat you? Or are they just stupid about the law? What do you think?
SW: Well, sometimes, it’s hard to tell in between is it bias or is it incompetence, or is it just being lazy. In many of these cases, it may be all of the above.
HH: Is there anyone in particular that has been the most egregious offender in reporting this story?
SW: Oh, I think the trend across the board for a while there, the Post, the Times and others, would just right out on this. And the mistake that they make is I think what normally, you know, talk radio and the internet’s a great outlet out there, but for a lot of the so-called mainstream media, particularly the newspapers, they are so afraid that they are dying, that they jump to put things up on the internet before they’ve confirmed things or have a good analysis of them, and that’s exactly what happened. They rely on some information that came out locally, and next thing you know, it was up like wildfire when the facts clearly showed that the headline should have been here is proof of the evidence that failed in court. Instead, they treated it like it was a new deal. And you know, where do you go back to get your reputation back after someone’s put up a big time error and waited a week to correct it?
HH: Famous Ray Donovan quote. Scott Walker, Governor, good luck in the run up to the election, and come back early and often between now and November. www.scottwalker.com, America. Go and help the Governor out.
End of interview.