SLU and Mizzou Economists Weigh in on Aerotropolis Jobs Estimates
Saint Louis University professor Dr. Jack Strauss and University of Missouri-Columbia professor Dr. Joe Haslag (also Show-Me’s chief economist) have at least two things in common. First, they both are economists, and second, they are very skeptical of Aerotropolis.
Dr. Strauss appears as part of a KMOV report on the status of the “China Hub” proposal in the Missouri Legislature’s Special Session, calling Aerotropolis a “pie in the sky” project. That segment is below:
Meanwhile, Dr. Haslag has written an article for the Columbia Business Times expressing similar concerns on the jobs front, saying that “the models used by DED [to estimate tax credit project success and job creation] have been discredited” predominantly because they fail to incorporate the cost of the government taking money from the private sector to fund the project. Dr. Haslag also tells a brief but useful story about the problem of trying to “count” jobs. (Emphasis mine)
There is a legend about employment and government projects involving Dr. Milton Friedman. During a visit to India, an official was taking Friedman on a tour of a public works project. New machinery was being used, and the official touted the number of jobs that were created by the project. Friedman responded by saying that if you wanted to count new jobs, the project leaders should have provided the workers with spoons instead of state-of-the-art construction equipment. If it is jobs we want, there are lots of silly ways to get those jobs created. A nobler goal is to find a set of rules that promotes opportunity for all, not just gifts graciously handed to a select few.
Our skepticism of the wide array of Aerotropolis job estimates has been well-documented. Dr. Strauss’s and Dr. Haslag’s analyses of the project again confirm the questionable nature of proponents’ jobs assessments.