It's the go-to slogan for political campaigns. "We're open for business," the elected class trumpets. But, more often than not, it's a scam that funnels more cash into the pockets of the rich.
The elected elite roll out tax-free zones, taxpayer-funded infrastructure upgrades and piles of cash. Hell, in a lot of cases, government even trains the workers for the multinational looking to relocate.
Since the 2007 recession, "jobs" has been the maxim for campaigns ranging from presidential to city council.
But a review of some of the boldest, pro-business initiatives shows less-than-stellar results.
In April, IBM sacked half of its workforce -- 700 employees -- at two Iowa plants in Dubuque and Columbia. The state shelled out $50 million in 2009 to lure the tech giant. Dubuque and Columbia blew another $84 million on tax breaks and other incentives, reported Bloomberg News. At the time, taxpayers were promised that the cash was required to birth a "tech incubator." It hasn't panned out.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Start-up New York campaign is inescapable for anyone with cable. He's devoted $50 million since 2013 just on the national advertising onslaught. Tens of millions more have been showered on individual regions, in a purely Cuomoesque competitive process, for private investment. He's rehabbed outdated rail corridors, primarily used only for scenic rides, for example. Cuomo promised 10,000 jobs a year. The result? The program brought in just 100 jobs in 2014, says the New York Times.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has all but bankrupted his state with hand-outs and tax breaks to the American aristocracy.
These should be cautionary tales for the likes of Gov. Bruce Rauner and Marion Mayor Bob Butler. "Business friendly" is a lovely little mantra at chamber dinners. But, more often than not, they're little more than gifts for the wealthy, funded by the rank-and-file taxpayer. Rauner's "Turn Around Agenda" is, in its infancy, about weakening the union hold on Illinois government and, ultimately, reducing wages throughout the state. He doesn't say it that way, but that's the message.
Unions have indeed priced themselves -- and the state -- out of the market, particularly in the public sector. Further imbalancing the relationship between employer and employee, however, is only phase one. The massive tax breaks for new businesses come next. It's a tired script. The most low-tax, low-regulation states also happen to be some of the poorest.
Layoffs already happen regularly within large, profitable companies. Employees are left with almost no recourse. Perhaps the board wants to bring back dividends for shareholders. Perhaps the executives get a bonus if they hit a certain profit target. Perhaps the quality of the product is second to what's reported to Wall Street.
Good people are shown the door. Far away executives and shareholder reap the rewards. The local economy takes the hit. Another victory for the noble class, who are especially gifted at funding re-election campaigns.
Butler's "fast-tracked" permitting is particularly problematic. That's how storage tanks rupture and drinking water gets contaminated. It's a slogan that sees green space consumed by sprawl. His is an approach, if taken to its ultimate goal, that puts the public at risk.
Jobs, we get it. Regulation can, and does, go too far. But there's a difference between working with businesses and being owned by them.
It must feel good when a politician stands at a podium and announces that his tax break scheme is bringing a new business to town. But, with stunning regularity, it goes bad, fairly quickly. And, as with any pyramid scheme, everyone else gets screwed.