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“Rick Perry, Job Poacher”: Southern Grand Larceny With A Very Old Pedigree

Poaching on the labor of others is an ancient and honored Southern tradition, whose antebellum antecedents Texas Governor Rick Perry has recently brought up-to-date with a $1 million advertising campaign to encourage businesses to pack up and come on down to the Lone Star State where the taxes are lower than a worker’s wages.

Called “Texas is calling, your opportunity awaits,” the 30-second TV spots feature business leaders and celebrities like Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith calling Texas the “land of opportunity” and home of “creative renegades.”

On Fox News, Perry boasted, “Texas has the best business climate in the world. Over the last 10 years, 30% of all the new jobs created in America were in Texas.”

Wooing business from other states is all part of “healthy competition,” says Perry. “It’s the 50 laboratories of innovation that are out competing for the jobs to keep America at the front of the race,” the Governor insists.

Yet, when mayors and governors elsewhere talk about “growing” their economy they mean that literally – as in, creating new jobs where none existed before, from the ground up, nurtured by public-private partnerships, public investments in R&D and good schools, and other initiatives that create real value.

In Boston where I work, the South Boston Seaport District is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country right now, says Moody’s Investor Services, thanks in part to steps that Mayor Tom Menino has taken to make the area a magnet for entrepreneurs — an “Innovation District” — where start-up companies with bright ideas but not much cash can get reasonable financing and available space to help their businesses grow.

Just last week, the Boston Herald reported that the Small Business Administration called Menino’s Innovation District a model for other cities to follow who are interested in creating a cutting-edge start-up culture — “a Mecca for people from all over the world to launch out and build the next big company.”

He credited the city’s Innovation District initiative for creating a “community of entrepreneurship and creativity.”

Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel for the federal agency’s Office of Advocacy, said: “This ecosystem of innovation brings together entrepreneurs to share ideas and bring their vision to the marketplace. It presents a successful model and an ideal avenue for the public and private sectors to partner together for economic success,” he said.

In just three years, Boston’s Innovation District initiative has brought more than 4,000 jobs to the waterfront area.

Boston has become a great place to start a business, said Sargeant, who grew up in the city. “If someone wants to start a company or if someone wants to explore what it takes to, there are people that they can talk to and places they can go to network with others.”

Among the biggest benefits of the district, the Herald says, are the start-up incubators and accelerators that offer shared work spaces. “Magic things happen” when entrepreneurs get together and share work space and ideas, said Ben Einstein, founder of Bolt, one of the companies now operating in the district.

There is another economic development model, however, one favored by Governor Perry and governors throughout the South: Don’t make money the old fashioned way by earning it or actually “creating” anything. Let the Yankees do that with their fancy schools and business incubators. Then, when companies are off the ground and up and running, steal them away like cattle-rustlers in cross-border raids by luring owners with promises of lower taxes, fewer environmental regulations and protections against uppity workers who want a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s labor.

That is what Perry really means when he says that 30% of all the “new” jobs “created” in America were in Texas – proof of which is the $1 million Texas is now spending to steal other state’s jobs away from them.

There is political as well as economic method to Governor Perry’s madness since his desperado tactics are never aimed against other Republican governors, but only blue state Democratic ones in target-rich “enemy” territory.

Perry recently traveled to New York and Connecticut on a four-day trip to lure businesses away from those states. The trip comes on the spurred-heels of earlier raids into California and Illinois where Perry showed ads depicting an emergency exit door under the headline:  “Get out while you still can.”

Both Perry’s trips and the ad campaign are being paid for by a group called TexasOne, which is a coalition of corporations and local chambers of commerce.

This sort of Southern grand larceny has a very old pedigree.  A cold and forbidding climate like New England’s grows a population that must be skilled at living by its wits and the “Yankee Ingenuity” that cemented New England’s reputation as home to world-class education, the textile mills of Lawrence and Lowell that gave birth to America’s industrial revolution, and the Yankee traders who invented, then sailed, world-famous clipper ships like the Flying Cloud and Sovereign of the Seas.

A hot and humid climate like the South, rich in natural resources, on the other hand, tends to spawn a class of indolent, parasitic oligarchs whose labor saving inventions consist almost entirely of exploiting the labor of others.

In short, what we have in New England is called “entrepreneurial capitalism,” which means using the state as partner to nurture good ideas and develop them into profitable companies, perhaps whole new industries.

What Governor Perry exports from Texas, on the other hand, is “crony capitalism,” using the power of the state to enrich and reward powerful insiders, not by creating new opportunities but by lowering the rewards workers get from those opportunities that already exist.

And now that the GOP has become a Southern Party, Republicans have inherited the most disreputable features of what author Michael Lind calls this “Southernomics” as well.

It was not always thus.  Between the 1930s and 1970s, so-called “modern Republicans” like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon tried to level the playing field among the states — not through regressive tax and labor policies — but through revenue sharing and other public investments in infrastructure, writes Lind in Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics.

Ironically, then, modern Republicans and New Deal modernists built an infrastructure for the South and West that traditional conservatives inherited and were able to use for their own “illiberal purposes,” says Lind.

It is no coincidence, says Lind, that the two biggest companies to fail during the Bush administration – Enron and WorldCom – were both Southern.

Entrepreneurial or “bourgeois” capitalism is alien to Texas and other Southern states, he says, because “crony capitalism is the only kind familiar to the Southern oligarchs, decedents of planters who could not balance their books and knights who despised mere trade.”

The lesson from these scandals, says Lind, as well as Governor Rick Perry’s politically-motivated raids against Democratic economies, is not that capitalism is unworkable, but that “capitalism only works where there are real capitalists.”


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, July 4, 2013

July 6, 2013 - Posted by | Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , ,

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