Occupy Language -A GreenWatch Special Section
The Job Creators
-by Jay Burney
It seems that the elimination of a sophisticated consumer class is profitable. Today, the worker no longer counts. Wall Street schemes and corporate entitlements that come from fleecing the public by endless wars and secret bailouts are the wealth creators.
It would be nice if we could return to a time when public investments in good job creation were more fundamental to a successful economy. As the world teeters on financial collapse created by speculators and their mouthpieces represented by governments and most elected officials, it would seem that a return to a time when wealth and quality of life for the masses will count. But we will not get there without a fight and that starts with critical thinking. it seems that this is a struggle that the 1% don’t want you to engage in. And up until recently, many of us have not. Instead we acquiesce to the messaging of the 1% streamed constantly into our minds by the wholly owned by the 1% mainstream media. They do not want us to think, or act, or find a sustainable future that works for everyone.
Unfortunately in this era of privatization, public investments in jobs must first pass the test of maximum profitability for the “job creators.” The privatization of government services more often than not includes more costs to the taxpayer, smaller wages and benefits for the jobholder, and a profit margin that distinguishes government and private sector business models.
The big lie that we often fall for is the false equivalency of running government like business. Running a business is not like running a government. Government does not have to profit, it only has to break even to be efficient. Breaking even, without the privatization costs, can also result in tax reductions. When we think of eliminating waste and inefficiency in government why don’t we target the waste of taxpayer dollars that goes toward maximizing profits for the private sector? These entitlements dollars contribute to a decline in job and income opportunities and a decline in the consumer class. We pay more, get less, and dance blindly to the fallacious tune of the value added of privatized services. These privatization and profit strategies have contributed to the increasing costs of military spending, health services, education, and virtually every service that government contributes to protecting society. After more than a decade of these investments, American jobs have declined in numbers, and in the real values of wages, and benefits.
Accountability also takes a huge hit with privatization. Once former government services are privatized it is much more difficult to access financial and other records that were once covered by things like the Freedom of Information Act and the Freedom on Information Law. We are certainly hearing about corporate abuses from lost money in Iraq to the secret and hidden transactions involving the Wall Street and Bank bailouts, but we are not hearing enough. Even Julian Assange and his Wiki leaks are not shining enough light on where trillions of American taxpayer money has disappeared to in the last few years.
When the Bush tax cuts first took effect in 2003, the unemployment rate was 6.2%. Now the unemployment rate is over 9%. Americans lost 8 million jobs in 2008-09 despite the continuation of those tax loopholes for the very rich. Many of the new jobs are minimum wage and lack benefits and protections of, say, uninionized or government workers.
Fading Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry, Governor of Texas touts his job creation statistics in Texas claiming about 1/3 of the jobs created in America since 2008 were in Texas. He espouses a conservative and highly deceptive cut taxes to the wealthy “job creators” political invention to pander to the nattering nabobs.
But according to an article in the US News Weekly, all of the net job creation in Texas were government sector jobs, which have totaled about 115,000 while the private sector had a net loss of 40,000 jobs. In addition immigration to Texas from Mexico has boosted consumerism, which has led to more local jobs. However many of those jobs have been in the health care sector, notoriously low paying jobs and fully 10% of all hourly Texan jobs pay minimum wage or less. This is above the national average. And lets not forget, under Perry Texas has a $27 billion deficit last year.
Perry’s Texas dream is to create an army of minimum wage earners, which will allow wealthy corporations to get more wealthy. Is this really a vision of prosperity or will it lead America to becoming a third world nation?
Perry is the tip of the spear that represents the oligarchy’s attack on the American Dream.
“Job creator” is another phrase cooked up by Frank Luntz, the republican opinion maker. He urges pundits to shy away from fuzzy terms such as “entrepreneurs” and instead go for the soul searing gut-stirring phrase that explodes at the center of our reptilian brain. You know what a job is, and you will be instinctively attracted to supporting the job creator. Even if the creator is a myth.
Almost exclusively “job creator” schemes focus on taxpayer subsidies to developers and companies that demand substantial economic incentives.
The altercations often played out in a compliant and uncritical media can inspire hand wringing passions of all levels of media. The performances and sweaty ministrations are attention getters (audience builders), and often serve the profit takers, which fund the media makers.
Sadly and more often than not, they are misleading, disingenuous, and are served up uncritically on a talking points agenda that avoids any deep thinking or context. Such is the condition of the intellectual integrity of the mainstream and local media today. Most reporters and editors do not have an agenda that involves critical analysis.
Lack of accountability takes hits in more than just the privatization schemes. As we downsize our elected representation Lobbyists that pay for government decisions find it easier and more cost effective to buy influence. It is a lot easier to corrupt one elected official than ten. And I bet you think that smaller governments save you money? Lobbyists and corrupted officials simply do not want daylight the jacking of public money.
The devil is always in the details. Scrutiny and critical analysis are the keys to accountability and that is supposed to count when it comes to public spending. Tools like the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) are supposed to help decision makers and the public analyze the real costs and values of public investments and private sector development. And yet in the past decade lawmakers have detoothed SEQRA to the point that it is almost useless for these purposes.
Take, for example, last years Verizon proposal to build what they intimated would be the “world’s largest data center” at Somerset in Niagara County. Cheerleaders for this project including NYS Senator Maziarz, the Niagara County IDA, local politicians, and the local media that yelled loudly that 200 “well-paying” jobs would be created and that the overall economic development impact in our region would be transformational. This kind of language counts. Most of the local media hyperventilated with the story. Critical analysis was beyond the means and intent of the nightly news. A perfect scenario for picking the publics pockets. “Just do it” was the overwhelming cry from editorial pages, letters, pundits and online commenters, often anonymous.
A slightly more sobering and analytical account was presented in an article in November 2010, by the now former News reporter James Heaney. It did not get much attention. He explained that “in return taxpayers would provide Verizon sales and property tax rebates totaling $518 million. Additional discounted power would bring Verizon $96 million over 15 years. Heaney concluded, “The price tag for each job is $3.1 million.” Language counts. That is a lot of money.
Heaney's detailed article provided an analysis of the lasting economic impacts and just how the public money would flow into the private coffers of Verizon, an international conglomerate ranked 16 in the Fortune 500 with annual revenue of $106.6 billion in 2010. Among other things Heaney’s investigation concluded that “data centers are not regarded as significant economic engines” and “are at the lower end of the spectrum” for economic development. Hmmm. Unless you caught Heaney’s article, I bet you never heard that.
What Heaney may not have known, and which was reported by Verizon to the Niagara County IDA as early as September is that the project would only result in 30 jobs by the end of the second year and that no other jobs may be created beyond this pilot phase. This was not the figure that the media or the cheerleaders used. There was not a reduction in the ask for public investment. That means that the cost per job was actually closer to $20 million per job.
Here are a few other things that you might not know.
Senator Masiarz, an aggressive advocate of the project, pushed a fast tracking of a rezoning of the property that Verizon wanted. Without the fast tracking, Verizon threatened publically to abandon the project. The Senator continuously used the 200 jobs chacterization despite his probable knowledge of the 30 jobs reality.
Fast tracking means avoiding public scrutiny of important details through SEQRA. SEQRA mandates that a community, including public decision makers, fully evaluate the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project on certain rezoning requests. SEQRA allows time to develop and analyze information including an analysis of claims made by the party seeking to develop the project. In this case, as is the case often in major developments, the public input process was sped up and a “negative-declaration” was issued. A “neg-dek” states that there is no significant environmental, economic, or social consequence and no further scrutiny is required. This makes it seem like there is no harm possible from the development. Language counts.
However, there were some important public issues to consider. The 160 acres property in question is owned by AES, which also owns the adjacent 675-megawatt coal-fired generating plant as well as 163 other coal facilities worldwide. Did we mention that data centers such as the proposed Verizon center are huge consumers of electricity? Are there renewable energy/carbon footprint considerations to evaluate?
The property was originally zoned as “agricultural”. It was changed to “industrial”. In addition it was state/county certified farmland, which is supposed to give it additional protection against non-agricultural purposes. This is important in a world of vanishing cropland.
Are there additional infrastructure costs such as roadway, sewer, and other services that would have to be borne by the taxpayer? How would the zoning change and the development effect the property prices and use of adjacent land?
Do you think that there is a justifiable reason to scrutinize the carbon footprint and social and economic consequences of this project? Is there any potential harm to the taxpayer or residents? The neg-dek says no.
The project was fast-tracked. Within weeks the Somerset Town Board approved the zoning changes. NYPA approved the gift of power. The next day, Verizon announced that it had decided to phase the development and in for the time being it was going to reduce the size of the project. This would eliminate two of the three gigantic buildings that it had proposed. Verizon said that it would wait years to determine the viability of additional development.
Maziarz as it turns out has a long-term relationship with AES, the owner of the Property that Verizon sought, and Verizon. According to reported election records between March of 2008 and September of 2010, the Committee to Elect Masiarz State Senate received contributions totaling $26,500 from the two personcorporations.