July 18, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Government officials should be honest about job growth

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Americans are accustomed to politicians embellishing their records, but some of the false claims about job growth are downright shameful.

President Biden is trying to take credit for jobs that were lost during the COVID years and later returned.  The White House issued a statement on his behalf following the June 2023 jobs report, saying 13.2 million jobs were created since he took office.  Biden also claimed, “That’s more jobs added in two and a half years than any president has ever created in a four-year term.”

Both statements deserve four Pinocchios.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, immediately before the onset of COVID in December 2019, there were 151.8 million nonfarm jobs in the nation; preliminary results from August 2023 show 156.4 million.  That’s an increase of 4.6 million.  BLS data also shows that 5.9 million nonfarm jobs were added in the first two and a half years of Biden’s predecessor.

C’mon, man; we can do math.

A similar situation is playing out here in Kansas.

Governor Laura Kelly recently announced that more than 60,000 jobs have been created and retained since she took office.  Of course, the only documentation to support that claim comes from companies that benefitted or stand to benefit from one or more state subsidy programs.

The process probably works something like this:

‘How many jobs did you create or retain because of the incentives my administration provides?’

‘Use these numbers.’

‘Thanks!  My policies work really well!’

‘You’re welcome.  Please send more.’

And they will keep sending more, even though a large body of research shows that subsidies don’t work.

We shouldn’t necessarily blame the companies that collect tax subsidies; they have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and owners.  The problem lies with elected officials who ignore economics in pursuit of re-election, and both parties do it.

Lt. Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland, who is being groomed to run when Kelly terms out, had predictable comments in the announcement.

“Time and time again, the Kelly Administration has kept its promise of creating the best state in the nation to live, work and invest.  Keeping our kids and families in Kansas has always been the priority, and the momentum leading up to this milestone achievement shows that Governor Kelly’s approach is right on track.”

But the data tell a remarkably different story.

BLS data shows Kansas lost 2,700 private-sector jobs in the first seven months of 2023 while each neighboring state added jobs.  Census data shows Kansas has a net loss of more than 25,000 residents from domestic migration since Kelly took office in 2019.

And despite being poorly ranked on tax competitiveness in multiple national comparisons, Governor Kelly has vetoed every effort to reduce income tax.

Reducing the tax burden on everyone, not just the politically connected companies that receive subsidies is the honest way for politicians to create an environment that encourages job growth.  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the states with no income tax enjoyed a 57% jump in private-sector employment between 1998 and 2021, compared to just 25% for the other states.  The ten states with the lowest state and local tax burden (Tax Foundation) enjoy a similar advantage over the ten states with the highest burdens.

Let people and businesses keep more of their hard-earned money, and they will create economic activity and jobs.


A version of this column appeared in RealClear Policy


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