How can you write an article on the discrepancy between median incomes in Madsion and Milwaukee and fail to ask the most obvious question? To what extent is the increasing advantage enjoyed by Madison an artifact of the subsidies it receives from the rest of the state? In other words, to what extent is the difference the result of government employment?
The Journal Sentinel's front page story exploring the huge - and growing - difference in median incomes between Milwaukee and Madison dances around that issue. It acknowledges that Madison is a govenment town, but does not suggest that - or even ask whether - taking money from the rest of the state and spending it within the confines of Dane County in and of itself makes Madison a prosperous place. It may be that the unexamined assumption made in the article, i.e., that the presence of the UW's Madison campus, has fueled all manner of high technology start-ups in Dane County, but you wouldn't know it from reading this piece nor would you have the faintest notion as to how much of Madison's advantage is traced to this private activity as proposed to the public elephant that takes up much of Dane County. We do know, from a prior piece, that the proportion of Madison's workforce drawing a public paycheck is a bit over twice as high as in Milwaukee. We also know that private companies in the Hotline 1000, Forbes 500 or IndustryWorld 500, are disproportionately likely to be located in Milwaukee as opposed to Madison. While these lists might miss bold new start-ups, it is another hint that the public trough may be the source of Madison's prosperity.
That the difference between Madison and Milwaukee has apparently increased could be a result of the "information" economy or it could have something to do with the growth of state government and its relative immunity from the competitive pressures. I don't know the answers, but, at least, I know that these are fairly obvious questions.