Do you realize the implications of living in a state where the governor acts as if he’s satisfied with having the highest poverty rate in the nation; the only state in which, during the greatest economic boom in American history, year over year jobs were actually lost?
Politicians and the media are always focused on a basic economic metric, the job growth number, as the main measure of economic success. To some extent this is valid, because a positive number of jobs created does indicate a growing economy and likewise a negative or neutral number indicates an economy in trouble. Unfortunately Louisiana falls into that latter category, but for reasons of his own, through four uneventful years Governor Edwards has never attempted to improve job growth in our state. Instead his focus has entirely been on liberal, populist policies that are generally counterproductive to a growing economy.
But to the average citizen of Louisiana, basic job growth numbers in and of themselves can be too simplistic. When their economic well-being is concerned, to the people there are other complex issues at play. For instance, Governor Edwards brags that Louisiana’s unemployment number is lower than during the Great Recession. The problem with political claims such as this is that they are taken out of the context of their statistical basis. Though this claim is a literal fact, a main cause of the lower rate is that the number of people seeking work in Louisiana has simply declined. Many of our best and brightest citizens have left our state looking for better opportunity elsewhere; others have decided that to work for low wages doesn’t suit them, so they just drop out of the workforce and accept the governor’s generous social benefits. One must look deeply behind all economic statistics to understand not only their basis, but also what else they tell us.
Critical to one’s well being, there are other issues aligned with basic job creation numbers. Perhaps most obvious to the citizens is their future potential for increases in wages from their jobs. Just as important is the security of having that job. Both of these are positive only when the economy is growing. By its actions or lack of actions this Administration, focused as it is on that liberal populism, doesn’t demonstrate any concern that taxpayers might have the chance to receive an increase in pay or that they may face growing risk of losing their job. To the citizens of Louisiana, good people who only want a positive future for themselves and their children, income and security are paramount.
Let’s face it, due to the booming Trump economy almost everyone in Louisiana who wants a job, has a job. Despite that, the problem in so many cases is that the earning potential of these jobs is far below what it would be in other states. Simple supply and demand dictates that if there are not growing companies to create competition between employers for workers, then wages remain low and for new hires probably shrink. Sound familiar? It should, it is Louisiana’s reality. Compared to other states the potential for growth in Louisiana companies is weak and that pesky law of supply and demand keeps wages low. And in our state no one should be surprised that low wage growth is a major driving factor of the number of working poor that make up much of our high poverty statistics.
Note that I wrote of “growing companies.” To illustrate the significance of those words, there has been a construction boom of industrial plants brought on by Governor Jindal’s business recruitment efforts. That expansion has resulted in an increasing shortage of skilled construction workers, which in turn has prompted a competition amongst contractors for those ever scarcer workers. That competition has been the driver of higher wages and benefits, exactly what would be expected. Clearly only growing companies can start the chain of events that leads to more prosperity for workers.
Unfortunately over the last four years all we have seen from our governor are policies that diminish growth and so the Jindal-inspired industrial construction sector is the only one that was growing sufficiently to drive the wage metric, growth which didn’t last forever. Over the past year Louisiana lost more than 12,000 construction jobs as Jindal’s large construction projects were completed and subsequent economic development efforts tailed off to nothing.
Worse, few if any other business sectors in Louisiana are expanding and therefore by default wage growth should generally be expected to be moderate to stagnant, perhaps growing only in response to inflation. Further starting salaries should not be expected to be competitive with other states, further exasperating our “brain drain.” Prosperity dies when business doesn’t grow. But the governor’s response …. silence!
Another problem causing impact on wages is the nature of jobs generated in our weak economy. As the world has changed Louisiana has not. We have not attracted much high wage, high employment manufacturing to speak of. We have benefited from the Jindal boom in primary industrial manufacturing, but those industries are generally high capital expenditure (mainly construction jobs that are time limited), low employment (plant operations and maintenance). We are being hurt by the 21st century technological explosion as jobs are displaced by technology. In our major cities, we have not seen a reversal in the decades-long decline of corporate jobs, resulting in growing dependency on low-wage hospitality jobs. We have not taken advantage of our abundant resources, relying instead on their export. All of these inconvenient truths can be directly traced to a lack of vision and to actions taken or not taken by a governor more interested in growing the welfare state, rather than in creating jobs that would wean folks from welfare.
The final issue aligned with the job growth metric is job security. As noted above incomes are directly linked to supply and demand, so that when demand is low, wages stay low. The reverse is true for job security. If labor demand remains low because business growth is stagnant or as in Louisiana, in regression, then job insecurity is high, making it imperative for people to be concerned about their livelihood. Businesses react to declining income by cutting costs and in almost all cases the majority of their cost is labor cost. So in our state where economic growth is anemic, business incomes are depressed and in order to survive, business looks to job reductions to cut costs. Worse yet, as longer-tenured workers usually earn a lot more than less experienced workers, employers tend to reduce costs first by eliminating the highest-paid jobs. So our older workers get hit hardest. Job security becomes critical when businesses within a state have no room to grow because state policies make the state unattractive to business.
We know that John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana is the worst-performing economy in the nation. We know that the lack of a growing economy means declining wages and job insecurity. So what does that all say to the millions of working Louisianans? After all their governor just ignores these issues, even as he assures them that all is well and insists that he should be re-elected.
It says the obvious; under a renewed Edwards’ regime personal wage growth will be under pressure and likely will remain stagnant. It says that as business growth remains flat, individuals must become increasingly concerned about job security. The impacts of a sluggish or declining economy are very real and altogether ugly.
If you don’t chose to believe me about the impact that our governor has had on our economy, just look at what happened to the people of South Louisiana. Despite the anguished outcry from the people, he ignored their well-being in order to repay the campaign support that he had received from his trial lawyers friends. Now, even as the United States enjoys the greatest energy boom in its history, our governor’s shocking actions have resulted in massive job losses, business failures, and out-migration of workers. Deeds matter and the governor’s deeds that were contrary to economic growth resulted in great harm and lost opportunity for tens of thousands of people.
Our governor’s failure to either understand, or worse to ignore, the realities of our modern capitalist society impacts you and your family. The re-election of John Bel Edwards may well mean that you and your family will see you prosperity sapped away, just as the people of Lafayette and Houma, two of the three worst-performing local economies in America with respect to job growth, have suffered that fate.
History is prologue and no matter what campaign rhetoric he may express, Governor Edwards’ history is anti-growth and has resulted and will result in lower wages and higher job insecurity for the people he asks to vote for