By John David Dyche
April was a cruel month for Kentucky jobs. Fruit of the Loom, indirectly owned by Obama-backer Warren Buffett, announced it was closing its Jamestown plant and laying off 600 people. Then Toyota announced it was closing its Erlanger facility and moving about 1,000 jobs to Texas.
Republican Damon Thayer, the state Senate majority floor leader, said that the Toyota announcement "underscores Kentucky's need to change the way it competes with pro-growth states like these in the categories of both job growth and job retention." Republican Jeff Hoover, the House minority floor leader, said, "We have to change the business climate in this state to retain and create new jobs."
The comrades who run what remains of the Courier-Journal editorial page could not tolerate such blasphemies. They decreed that Republicans should stop "blaming Democrats for a poor business environment" and "help look for solutions." As the late, great Paul Lynde used to say, "Oh, that's rich!"
No institution in the state is as responsible for entrenching the outdated, unimaginative, and unsuccessful economic policies of the Democrats who have dominated Kentucky government since the Civil War as is the Courier-Journal. And no institution in the state has done as much to block Republican reforms that would make Kentucky more competitive and prosperous than has the Courier-Journal.
This column has previously called the state's Democratic governor "Status Quo" Steve Beshear, but the pre-April status quo now looks like the good old days. What's worse, in the recently completed General Assembly session Beshear and his Democratic cronies who control the state House of Representatives blocked several Republican initiatives that would have made Kentucky a better place to do business.
The GOP proposed a right to work law like Texas (not to mention Indiana and Tennessee) has, but Democrats beholden as always to labor unions blocked it. Republicans wanted to let persistently low-achieving schools become charter schools as Texas (not to mention Indiana and Tennessee) allows, but Democrats prefer continued failure to upsetting the teacher unions that bankroll and work their campaigns.
Democrats also stonewalled modest Republican efforts toward tort reform like Texas (not to mention Indiana and Tennessee) has passed. Whereas Texas (like Tennessee) has no individual income tax, Beshear after six years in office belatedly offered a timid tax reform plan, but House Democrats did not even take it up.
Under Republican governance Texas has had better job growth than the rest of the nation since 2000. The Lone Star State created almost a third of all net new American jobs since 2003. And a recent study shows that most of its new jobs have been in the top half of the wage scale, i.e., good, well-paying jobs.
Democrats definitely do not want anything like that happening here! Instead, the top priorities on their dependency agenda in Frankfort are raising the minimum wage, which will kill still more jobs, and expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, although the state could neither manage nor afford that program as it was.
A recent post on the Bluegrass Conservative website reminded Kentuckians that Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, warned about our state's economic vulnerability when he visited here in March. According to Perry, "A Republican majority in the House would allow the commonwealth to catch up in job creation with states like Texas and Tennessee."
During his Kentucky visit Perry also touted the benefits of having no personal income tax. Sure enough, Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota's North American operations, said that was one reason his company decided to put its new headquarters in Texas.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March in Texas was 5.5 percent. In Kentucky it was 7.9 percent, which is better than only four other states and behind even Mississippi. If this state keeps doing the same Democratic things there is no basis for expecting different results.
Not all Kentucky Democrats are so resistant to pro-growth reform. Louisville mayor Greg Fischer is dramatically changing the city's economic development efforts by ending a $1 million a year relationship with Greater Louisville, Inc., the metro chamber of commerce. Fischer is bringing business attraction efforts in-house. It will be interesting to see if his efforts succeed, but at least he is trying something different to bring more jobs to the state's largest city.
Meanwhile, the national economy still stagnates under Democratic leadership. Economic growth for the first quarter of 2014 was an anemic one-tenth of a percent, business spending on equipment dropped 5.5 percent, and exports declined 7.6 percent. The Obama administration can blame bad weather, but bad Democratic policies are to blame for what may be the lousiest recovery ever from a recession.