Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry was a guest on Fox’s Glenn Beck Show yesterday and the two began with a response to my story on Perry’s record of using hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize job creation. Beck asked first whether government can create jobs, and Perry said it can’t, it can only create an environment where jobs are created. Beck then cited my assertion that Perry is a “master at the theater of job poaching” and Perry responded that interstate competition was envisaged by the founding fathers in the 10th amendment to the Constitution, which reserves to the states and the people powers not enumerated to the federal government. Beck asserted that the criticism of Perry will become that he is just hurting other states through his job raids.
The question with job poaching is not so much whether it is zero sum, or less than zero sum, though that is an issue for national policy and I do discuss it. The more important question, which Beck and Perry didn’t address, is whether job poaching is in fact good policy at the state level. My article is primarily about the costs of chasing jobs in other states using taxpayer-funded government subsidies.
Perry says his biggest job poaching fund has spent $435.3 million and created over 58,179 jobs. Another fund has been aimed at long-term job growth through investment in emerging technologies and has created few or no jobs at a cost of $196.2 million. There is plenty of evidence provided in the piece that the use of these taxpayer funds to lure businesses across state lines to Texas has created the problems that conservatives frequently cite in such massive, multi-million dollar government programs: waste, inefficiency and opportunity for corruption.
In that sense, the most interesting thing about the Beck interview is the rhetorical shift Perry tries to pull off. For years he has claimed he’s creating jobs in Texas through his job poaching funds–I quote him saying so. Now he is attempting to argue that in fact he has not been creating jobs, he’s been creating an environment to create jobs. That will be a difficult argument to make since he personally established and ran funds that distributed $631.5 million in taxpayer-funded “job creating” subsidies.