Who better to build jets than the jobless?

01/14/2010

One can’t help but be stupefied by what at times passes for due diligence among our state’s legislative leaders.

Consider the much-ballyhooed deal that brought aerospace giant Boeing to South Carolina late last year.

As my employer the S.C. Policy Council has pointed out over the past couple months, while the General Assembly has been crowing the supposed arrival of 3,800 new jobs connected with Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner assembly line in North Charleston, there are no assurances that those jobs will even go to South Carolinians.

Still, we as a state a ponying up at least $400 million in incentives, maybe more.

On top of that, some in the legislature would have you believe that Boeing will come in and sweep thousands and thousands of unemployed South Carolinians off the state’s jobless roles to help build the company’s state-of-the-art aircraft.

“(Sen. Paul) Campbell said the way he figures it, the state would earn an approximate 15-percent return in five years on a $500 million incentive package,” he told The Nerve, the Policy Council’s investigative reporting Web site. “He estimated the project likely would create an estimated 2,200 spin-off jobs in addition to the 3,800 promised plant jobs.

“That would result in annual unemployment cost savings of $90 million, assuming all 6,000 workers were state residents and unemployed beforehand, he explained.”

Does anyone think that Boeing is going to hire 3,800 unemployed South Carolinians to build cutting-edge aircraft? Or that suppliers will hire an additional 2,200 jobless state residents? Is this really what passes for cogent economic analysis among our state’s elected leaders?

If you buy into that load of foolishness, here’s a couple things to consider:

First, Boeing already employs a sizeable number of outside contractors at its current Lowcountry operation - about 50 percent of its workforce, according to The Nerve.

“According to the workers who spoke with The Nerve, the Boeing payroll is roughly a 50-50 split between Charleston-area residents and out-of-state contractors.

“The say the contractors come from all over the country: Florida, Texas, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, California.

“Others are foreign nationals, mostly from Spanish-speaking countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico.”

And given that job development tax credits will likely be part of the Boeing incentives package, you can rest assured that South Carolina tax dollars will be going to incentivize Boeing’s hiring of out-of-state workers. 

Second, Boeing isn’t going to be hiring the unemployed to build 787 Dreamliners. If it does hire South Carolinians, many will be lured away from other Palmetto State companies. That means those businesses will have to go through the added expense of finding and training new workers.

Good luck convincing legislators, though, that giving away the farm to a multi-billion public company so they can bring in a large number of out-of-state workers isn’t a sound proposition. 

Despite the large, long-term costs, the Boeing incentives package is a “hell of a good deal” for taxpayers, according to Campbell. That, despite the fact that Campbell admitted he’d never even seen the analysis done by the state Board of Economic Advisors.

Why let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

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One Response to “Who better to build jets than the jobless?”

  1. Question Says:

    Our legislators’ refusal to acknowledge or read any economic studies on the Boeing deal is alarming and really scares me due to what might happen down the road.

    But won’t the 50% of workers you lament pay rent, buy property to stay long-term, buy boats, eat hamburgers at McDonald’s, pay baby-sitters?

    You present the story as though they will be driving back to Spain every night, taking their paychecks with them.

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