Bad Use of Incentives
An editorial in the Joplin Globe titled "Good Use of Incentives" praises the proposed Missouri Quality Jobs Act:
Without the additional funding, local leaders say, Missouri can’t run with the big dogs namely other states that offer more incentives to employers. Meanwhile, folks looking to make a decent wage are looking or moving elsewhere. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, of the 77,760 jobs in the Joplin metropolitan area, more than 50,000 of them paid less than $10 an hour in 2005.
The editorial portrays economic growth as an auction in which states bid for a few companies that pay well. The lucky residents of those states then benefit from higher wages.
The real economy doesn’t work that way. Any company can afford to pay its employees well if they’re productive enough. But first, employees need to invest in their own education and skills, and their employers need to train them.
A tax incentive program requiring companies to pay high wages is at best a temporary fix. The jobs will probably go to the most productive Missouri residents, who already earn high wages. And most businesses that come to Missouri for a special tax break will leave as soon as some other state offers a better deal.
A better idea is a tax cut that treats all businesses equally, which would give existing companies the chance to spend more on job training or to hire new employees. It would also make life a little bit easier for imaginative entrepreneurs who are dreaming of creating some well-paying jobs from scratch.