Wisconsin Economic Forecast Luncheon

Yesterday I attended the Wisconsin Economic Forecast Luncheon. I was invited by a financial institution that I work with, who had a table reserved. The purpose of the meeting was to network, and to hear speakers talk about the forecast for the future as far as business goes. I would guess that there were about 500 people there representing all types of business across Wisconsin. There were lawyers, bankers, construction company owners, and many other business represented. Also attending were mayors of some cities, and many state representatives and senators.

There were two speakers. The first was Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. I had no idea that he would be there, but he was. He opened up the luncheon with a 45 minute speech.

Doyle is a rather poor public speaker. I remembered this because many years ago I attended the “State of the State” address at the capitol here in Madison and it was brutal. Yesterday was about the same. He stuttered a lot and there were a lot of uhs, ehs, erms, and other filler. It is very annoying. Maybe others don’t find this distracting, but it bothers me.

After you filter out all of the nonsense, Doyle’s talk boiled down to two main points.

  • In fighting Wisconsin’s massive deficit, he will not cut education. This is not surprising, seeing Doyle’s wife is a teacher, and he has always been a slave to the teachers unions.
  • Doyle plans on helping the state by trying his best to get in line for Obama’s infrastructure money. He mentioned his pipe dream of a Midwest fast train system. This idea has been thrown around for at least 20 years and it pretty nuts if you ask me. Doyle mentioned he would love to see a Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison to the Twin Cities train, with a spur to Green Bay. That is fine and dandy, but nobody I know (and I mean NOBODY) commutes TO these places FROM these places to get to work. I actually knew one guy who drove from Madison to the Western suburbs of Milwaukee for work, but I can’t imagine that a high speed rail is going to all of a sudden open the spigot for people who live in Madison to work in Milwaukee. Or vice-versa.

That’s it, unfortunately. Everything else Doyle said was fluff or gimmick, typical politician speak.

Next up was Dr. Charles Evans, CEO of the Fed in Chicago. I was really looking forward to his remarks.

Boy was I disappointed. Dr. Evans basically gave a short 30 minute talk in which he described things that happened over the last quarter of last year, such as the meltdowns of Lehman, Bear, AIG and others, and what the Fed did. He also talked a bit about policy right now (he is on the board of the FOMC). I didn’t learn a thing. In fact, I would guess that anybody that follows financial news even on a casual basis didn’t learn anything. I understand that Evans needs to keep his cards close to the vest on some things, but for a man of this stature to give a speech and not even get to some meat is a bit puzzling to me. Honestly, if you read Bloomberg or Yahoo Financial or the WSJ on a semi-daily basis you knew this speech inside and out. I was very disappointed. There was a short Q and A after the speech, and Evans tap danced quite a bit, almost as if he was acting like a politician. Maybe his position is more political than I realized.

I was glad I went, if not for the speakers, for the conversation at the tables with other business people. That was worth going. The speakers were not.

To sum it up in a few words, this was an afternoon wasted. And I had to walk a block in the blistering -15 cold to boot.

Cross posted at LITGM.

8 thoughts on “Wisconsin Economic Forecast Luncheon”

  1. “This idea has been thrown around for at least 20 years and it pretty nuts if you ask me.”

    I agree. I also keep hearing calls for a commuter rail system in Milwaukee, although there are not nearly enough commuters to make it economically feasible. A great way to waste other people’s money. Such schemes seem like religious fetishes waved by modern-day cargo cultists: If we build just one more fake airstrip then peace and prosperity will magically arrive.

  2. We have been hearing a lot of politicos wanting light rail here in Madison for several years now…talk about a boondoggle. There are only 210k people in the city for goodness sake.

    As for Milwaukee, that downtown area is so tiny compared to a Chicago. So much of the work seems to be spread out to the outlying communities – where would you start with rail with that? Do you expect someone to take a train and then walk a mile in the -15 weather to get to their jobsite? It isn’t like there is a skyscraper with 5k people working in it in downtown Waukesha or Brookfield. Insane stuff to be sure.

  3. Speaking of mass-transit fantasies, did you ever see this? Sometime back in the 1980’s there was an issue of the Whole Earth Catalog magazine (or whatever they were calling it at the time) which featured a painting of happy commuters boarding a pedal-powered train.

  4. Speaking of pedals: yesterday, while seating in a cafe in midtown Manhattan and watching fascinating live rescue on wall TV, I heard a woman at the next table sighing: “From now on, I only travel by bike…”

  5. And I had to walk a block in the blistering -15 cold to boot.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Since when does temperature come in negative numbers? Ya’ll got some funny ways up north.

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