Politifact recently looked into Scott Walker's claim that he bought a sweater at Kohl's for the unbelievable price of one dollar. Of course, Politifact took their usual literal and myopic approach and said that it is possible that Walker only paid a dollar for the sweater on that day, using the logic that even though Walker likely over-paid on previous merchandise to rack up "Kohl's Cash," he could have spent only a dollar for this purchase by subsidizing it with his apparent large stash of "Kohl's Cash." (This is the same logic children use when they get a plastic whistle for "free" at Chuck E. Cheeses after "winning" tickets by playing games that only cost $20.)
Of course, Politifact was overlooking the central point of Walker's sweater story: That Kohl's has adopted a high-volume, low-profit model that enables it to offer prices far below its competitors and it works so well that Walker has based his "less is more" Walkernomics tax policy on it. (Walker is taking quite a few liberties with his “sweater-on-sale story”: Anyone who has shopped at Kohl's knows that almost everything is always on "sale" and that the "sale price" is what you would expect to pay at another store.)
Plus, the whole "cutting taxes is like cutting prices of a sweater because people will buy more things and end up paying more in taxes" is just silly. Corporate profits are higher now than any time in our nation's history, and Walker's biggest benefactor, Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks, and about half of Wisconsin's twenty-five largest corporations recently were found not to have paid any taxes in a recent audit of their filings. How can Walker possibly expect to get more tax revenue when so many of the wealthy and their corporations are paying the same tax rate as Bluto's grade point average?
The truth is that Kohl's makes most of its money by selling cheap, imported goods, and by paying workers very little. In fact, the sweater in question was made in China and sold by a cashier who makes on average less than her counterparts at Wal-Mart. And the company is using those profits to hire a team of lawyers and accountants to pay taxes at a fraction of the fees its small-business counterparts pay. WITI's Mike Lowe recently researched Kohl's three most recent tax years and guess how much the company was paying? Zero point zero.
In a modern day America where almost everyone––including many Republicans––acknowledges the high cost of a Wal-Mart / Kohl's economy that puts millions of Americans out of work by selling cheap crap from China, there's 'ol Scott Walker bragging about the cheap made-in-China sweater he bought from a cashier on food stamps.
It gets better. Walker is the governor of a state that has arguably been more devastated by the Wal-Mart / Kohl's economy than any other state. A recent Pew study found that since the United States finalized a free trade deal with China in 2000, Wisconsin has suffered the largest drop in its middle class numbers of any state in the country. Why? It lost hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs to outsourcing.
In fact, here's some gallows humor for you: Kohl's was recently headline news in Wisconsin for being the recipient of millions in taxpayer handouts from the state's job-creation agency, but instead of using the money to create jobs, they actually were outsourcing jobs overseas.
The outsourcing crises is also a big reason why Wisconsin is ranked 40th in job growth and is facing yet another massive budget deficit: When everyone is just barely scraping by, or not working at all, newsflash––it stagnates economic growth. Less income means less tax revenue, which means budget deficits.
Walker's answer to this problem has been to paper over it and instead blame teachers, snow plow drivers, and other public workers as "the haves" that were collectively acting as the ticks on the dog's neck that is our economy. At the same time he was driving the few remaining people in Wisconsin that were still in the middle class, he slashed taxes in such a way that it mostly benefited the uber-wealthy.
Mix this all together and you have Walker's elevator pitch for Walkernomics and why he should be president, all explained with perfect Walkerlogic, in total Walkerclarity, in his story about the "great deal" one-dollar sweater he found at Kohls.
Jud Lounsbury is a political reporter based in Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, Lounsbury served as a press secretary for several politicians and organizations, including Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, and Al Gore's Iowa campaign.
Image credit: Politifact