“A Fast Infusion Of Jobs”
One thing has stuck out to me recently in a couple articles I’ve read. One article is a couple years old and the other appeared just this past weekend and I think they both make logical mistakes. They both talk about getting Rhode Islanders back to work, yet both are also in fields that I wonder how many new hires are being plucked from the unemployment lines and how many are being taken either from other companies or moved from one project to another.
During the past week, in trying to figure out all this 38 Studios stuff, Ted Nesi sent me an article he wrote in 2010 when the deal was first being done. One part that stuck out to me was this:
Robert Stolzman, a lawyer for the EDC, said last week. “We wanted a fast infusion of jobs in Rhode Island.” The number of unemployed Rhode Islanders was 67,500 in August and the jobless rate was 11.8 percent, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training said Friday.
However, these aren’t the type that someone routinely can pick up after filling out a simple application:
Each of those jobs must pay at least $67,500 a year plus benefits under state law.
That’s no small salary here in RI, even for a game developer. I have to believe that in order to really qualify for that kind of salary, we’re dealing with some fairly well-qualified individuals. One thing that I’d like to see in 38 Studios’ hiring data (but I’m 99.9% certain will never see the light of day) is how many of their hires were plucked from the Rhode Island unemployment lines. Isn’t Mr. Stolzman at least implying the point of the EDC’s deal with 38 Studios is to hire unemployed Rhode Islanders? When you have tens of thousands of people out of work, hiring up to about 300 people isn’t going to put much of a dent in the unemployment numbers, but if you aren’t pulling people off the unemployment lines, it sure isn’t going to help those numbers either. How many of the new hires were pulled away from other local companies or even people who relocated from other parts of the country? Wouldn’t that be good information to have to see that the intent of this deal with the state was being followed?
Then this weekend in another Op Ed to the Providence Journal, David Cicilline wrote:
In addition, the House Republican budget calls for deep cuts in highway funding, reducing transportation spending by at least 25 percent over 10 years. It slashes much-needed infrastructure investments that would put thousands of Rhode Islanders back to work.
I have no doubt that there are unemployed construction workers. Some of my neighbors are in the construction industry, I hear their stories all the time. However, if there was more funding given to highway projects, what are the odds that it would be given to the unemployed? Or would it be given to one of the usual, big-name construction companies that we always see by the side of the road? Would they be taking people off the unemployment line too or would they simply finish one job and move their people on to the next job? Just like when PolitiFact gave Sheldon Whitehouse a “False” rating for fudging his numbers when it came to putting people back to work, I see much of Cicilline’s rhetoric in the same way. If we started handing out highway contracts, how many people would it pull off the unemployment lines and not just how many people would be employed. In spite of Senator Whitehouse’s math, one guy working a job this week and working a job next week is still just one job.
To me, getting people back to work is and should be the number one issue going forward. When people are working, lots of other problems seem to disappear (a pessimist might say it merely hides the structural issues). Getting people off the actual employment lines should be the top priority for everyone running for and already in office.