This just in from the SC Policy Council:
Policy Council: Economic Development ‘Machine’ Costs Taxpayers More Than $300 Million a Year with No Discernible Result
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 – Today the South Carolina Policy Council released a report revealing that the state appropriates well over $300 million a year in the name of “economic development.” In a single year, 2009, state lawmakers appropriated $311 million on various economic development agencies, programs, and initiatives.
∙ In one year, the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism received over $23 million for tourism marketing – taxpayer dollars given to market one favored industry.
∙ The Department of Commerce maintains a “deal closing fund” ranging from $7 million to $25 million annually. The fund uses taxpayer dollars to entice private companies to expand or relocate.
∙ About half of the state’s spending on economic development consists of “workforce training”: that is, training workers for the benefit of private companies instead of allowing those companies to pay for their own worker training.
Despite spending vast and ever-increasing amounts on economic development, South Carolina is where it has been for more than a generation: ranked near the bottom of the nation in employment (6th worst) and median income (8th worst), and poverty (9th worst).
“We spend $311 million a year to ‘create jobs.’ Yet there’s no proof that money is creating long term private sector job growth,” says SCPC President Ashley Landess. “Taxpayers are spending nnmore and more on high-paid government jobs, but those exist primarily to promote government, not genuine private-sector growth. If this economic development machine is delivering clearly measurable benefits to all taxpayers, then politicians need to prove it. Otherwise, they have an obligation to dismantle the failing system and give the money back to the real job-creators: South Carolina business-owners, workers and consumers.”
A couple of points:
- I think it would be good if the state entities concerned with economic development, starting with the Commerce Department, would respond to this, and demonstrate how they do earn their keep (and if they don’t, they should do some ‘splainin’). But will they? The Commerce Department, after all, reports to Nikki Haley, who got into office by kowtowing to the “government is always bad” point of view that the Policy Council espouses. Tough position to be in, really: The one thing Nikki likes to brag about the most is bringing jobs to the state, yet she is allied to those who hold the view that that is the job of the private sector, not government. (Now, let’s all have a moment of silence over the terrible situation that poor Nikki finds herself in.)
- If you were starting a gummint from scratch in SC — an evil thing to do, in the Policy Council’s eyes, but let’s just suppose you don’t have a conscience and are moved to engage in such wickedness — what would be the single most critical need you would identify as you looked out upon our state? Would it not be economic development?
The Policy Council is sincere. They honestly do believe that our state, with its inadequate public infrastructure, would thrive economically in a Hobbesian state of nature. They actually do believe that if the taxpayers who are here already would simply have all their tax money returned to them, they would inevitably spend all that money in ways that would most benefit the state’s economy. I do believe they believe that — as unlikely as it seems that anyone would.