The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

August 13, 2013

Obamacare jobs: A federally funded touchdown for Kentucky

FRANKFORT — With their attentions locked on the ensuing football season, Kentuckians must be forgiven if they don’t become excited enough to perform an end-zone jig in response to Gov. Beshear’s recent press release trumpeting more than 100 federally funded new jobs in the commonwealth.

Xerox Corporation is going to use federal taxpayer dollars to hire more than 100 Kentuckians to operate call centers to assist individuals seeking information on the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

The jobs are the direct result of Beshear signing on to Obamacare’s health exchange last year, and – in keeping with his and Kentucky’s pattern – chasing every federal dollar dangled in front of the Bluegrass State.

Allowing Beshear, or any government body for that matter, to take credit for any job creation here is already more than generous. After all, when’s the last time a politician created a job without first swiping funds for employment from the private sector?

The answer: Never.

Despite Beshear’s touchdown histrionics, this whole fiasco is a governor-sized sack and an example of publicly funded jobs crowding out their private sector counterparts in the commonwealth’s healthcare industry.

In the past year alone, Extendicare Health Services, a giant in the elderly care industry, and Kentucky Spirit, one of the commonwealth’s three Medicaid managed-care providers, took hundreds of good-paying jobs and millions in capital with them when they left our state as a result of its generally disagreeable business climate and dependency on federal funding.

And it was only two years ago that Omnicare, a Fortune 500 company that provides pharmaceutical and healthcare consulting services, left Kentucky for rival turf in neighboring Ohio – a move precipitated by legislation in 2005 that created an extra tax burden on healthcare providers. Five hundred northern Kentucky jobs left with the move, as did hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxable payroll income.

Where was the leadership from Gov. Beshear to help keep this valuable company in the Bluegrass State? He was probably putting extra ink in his pen to sign away yet another piece of Kentucky’s autonomy in exchange for a boondoggle of a federal grant.

Like most politicians, Beshear will crow over his useless lateral passes and the federal handouts he’s procured in an attempt to distract Kentuckians from the private healthcare jobs leaving for greener pastures. But the scoreboard doesn’t lie: 100 jobs – especially federally funded jobs – don’t come close to making up for the hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue and investment that we’ve lost.

And Beshear has absolutely nothing to crow about when it comes to the private sector.

From every angle, Kentucky is a state that’s nearly totally dependent on the federal government.

According to data from the IRS and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, for every dollar Kentuckians fork over to Washington in taxes, the commonwealth gets $1.57 in return. As a result, we accept one-size-fits-all education policies, infrastructure projects, seat-belt laws, retirement packages, farm subsidies and healthcare mandates.

And if you think those federal dollars come with no strings attached, I’ve got some “top-of-the-line” used football gear to sell you.

What could happen if Kentucky’s political leadership made the kind of gutsy plays that now have workers migrating to states like Texas and North Dakota voluntarily for privately funded employment – plays that involve resisting federal payoffs that come our way, denouncing Obama’s health exchanges and Medicaid expansion and pushing for a business-friendly tax structure and right-to-work laws? 

If Beshear read from that playbook, the paltry 100 jobs coming to Kentucky as a result of federal babysitting wouldn’t even be worth an announcement.

It’d be an embarrassment.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

 

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