As appearing in the Springfield News-Leader on October 23, 2013:
If “stealing jobs” were as bad as — and essentially no different than — stealing cars or stealing horses, Texas Gov. Rick Perry might expect to wind up at the end of a rope — the traditional fate in cowboy movies for horse thieves and cattle rustlers in the Lone Star State.
While that is not about to happen, the Texas governor has clearly been having a fun time infuriating some of his fellow governors in going to their states to pitch CEOs on the idea of relocating their businesses to Texas — one of only nine states (the others being Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming) with no state income tax on personal income. In venturing into California, Illinois, New York and several other high-spending, high-tax blue states, Perry has made a lot of speeches and spent some $2 million in TV ads singing the virtues of “limited government, low taxes and a fair legal system.”
Perry also made two visits to Missouri — in August and again in late September. In the earlier trip, he took Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to task for promising to veto the first tax cut in Missouri’s income tax in many years. As it turned out, even with heavy majorities in both houses of the Missouri legislature, Republicans were unable to override Nixon’s veto.
“Vetoing a tax cut is the same thing as raising your taxes,” Perry said in the commercials aired in several Missouri cities. “But there is a state where businesses flourish and jobs are created — Texas.”
That brought out the usual charges of “stealing jobs” in the two big-city, liberal dailies — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star.
But if someone is guilty of “stealing” a job, someone else must own the job. But who?
How about no one? As Harry Stonecipher, the outspoken former CEO of Boeing, liked to say, “Only the customer can guarantee your job.”
In a competitive marketplace, no one really owns a job — not the jobholder, not the company providing the job and certainly not the governor of any state. Companies naturally gravitate to — and create employment within — the jurisdictions that provide the lowest costs of production, and taxes are an important part of the cost of production.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as “stealing” a job. Like it or not, the states are in competition with one another in trying to attract and retain businesses focused on creating the greatest value for their customers, shareholders and employees. One of the keys to doing that is keeping the “tax price” in your location below that of competing jurisdictions.
Missouri should be focused on lowering the tax burden for all businesses. The best way to promote growth (and compete for jobs) is to get rid of all income taxes on business. Let the people who have earned the money put it back to work in their own businesses.
Andrew B. Wilson is a resident fellow and senior writer at the Show-Me Institute, which promotes market solutions for Missouri public policy.