Wednesday, May 18, 2011 By Aaron Brown
The TAL and Planet Money team interviews people like Govs. Jay Nixon of Missouri and Scott Walker of Wisconsin talking about how they create jobs in their states. Some of the their signature proposals remind me of programs I've heard about here on the Iron Range or in Minnesota (JOB-Z? Is that done yet?)
Conservatives will enjoy the general sense that corporate tax cuts and rebates have a positive effect on job creation. Liberals will enjoy the parallel reality that other factors like supply and demand, the livability of a state and education are of equal or greater importance. The reality is that a growing, educated society creates its own jobs -- first through the private sector and then through the public sector by the way of needed services and amenities.
At one point in the first act TAL posits the notion that all public officials have to choose between the policies that might cause near term job creation and the policies that would foster long term job creation. Both sometimes negatively impact the other, meaning the choice often ends up being weighted one way or the other. I'd argue that we've made a lot of hay out of short term solutions lately and by the time we face the long term consequences the short term options will all be bad.
My favorite section of the broadcast is the third segment featuring This American Life Senior Producer Julie Snyder and Planet Money correspondent Adam Davidson. The pair attend a meeting of the International Economic Developers Council in San Diego to find out how well local governments are creating jobs in their areas.
Snyder and Davidson equate the experience to being in a singles bar, with each city trying to claim that the recession didn't hit them very hard, that everything is great in their town, and that they don't need more jobs but they'd be glad to take some off your hands. (Afterward, they list the unemployment rates in some of the cities, many of which were well above the national average). One session at the conference instructed economic developers on how to manage expectations in their town so they could keep their own jobs.
As a former reporter and man-about-town I have cause to interact with economic development types all the time. The sad, reptilian confidence -- OK, bullshit -- they can exude at times is a unique commodity in itself. If only somehow there was some way to produce clean energy off that supply! (Or IS there?)
Lessons for the Iron Range in northern Minnesota? I think they are in this broadcast, but only as clues. One can imagine the advice being to stick to our mining, natural resource and tourism base and expand around the edges. But so much of our public policy here seems dedicated to pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the attraction for each (possibly temporary) job. Even our mining is now heavily subsidized or otherwise supported by government spending. I find possibility in balancing our approach, adding new technology, bolstering education and creating the kind of place that creates its own jobs from within.
As I've said before, and before, and before, "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" is not a policy. It is a prayer.
This American Life is probably the best podcast and public radio program in the nation. I subscribe and listen for free each week on my iPod. I recommend you do the same.