News Bite

Slotkin ad mistakes job announcements for jobs, subsidies for growth

Opposing subsidies is not the same as opposing jobs

Two things can be true at once: A person can oppose subsidies for one of Michigan's largest and richest corporations while wishing that company well in its business endeavors.

Yet in the twisted world of politics, opposing a subsidy is equated to opposing jobs, as a general proposition. An ad for Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, published this week on YouTube, makes this mistake. Slotkin is running against State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte.

Barrett has been clear in his position that corporate subsidies do not work. Barrett wrote in a July op-ed for The Detroit News:

"In December of last year, the governor signed a more than $824 million “incentive” for General Motors to invest in new plants in Lake Orion and Delta Township, the heart of my district. The cost to taxpayers is estimated to be $166,000 per job created.

I was one of 10 bipartisan votes against these “incentives” and over my career, I’ve voted against them more than 99% of the time."

Barrett sees an issue of fairness in the subsidies, wherein small businesses pay taxes to the state, then the state writes checks to a small group of large companies. He sees that as picking winners and losers.

Slotkin approved the message of the 32-second ad, but left the storytelling to an autoworker, Jeffrey Kosloski.

Kosloski explains that he comes from a long line of autoworkers, a tradition he's continued for the last 15 years. 

"It's hard work, but it's good work, and it helps people like me stay in Michigan to support our families," Kosloski said. 

Things get fuzzy when Kosloski ventures into economic development.

"5,000 new jobs, supported by the new GM deal, are on the way," Kosloski said. 

In reality, it's 4,000 jobs, and those jobs have only been announced, not created. It took $1 billion in Michigan taxpayer money to make it so. 

Job announcements are not jobs.

As Charlie LeDuff wrote in The Detroit News

"For its part, GM was awarded $1 billion in cash and subsidies this year by the state in exchange for an investment of $7 billion and the creation of 4,000 jobs. But read the fine print. It really only requires a $3 billion investment and 3,200 jobs. And those jobs need only last six months."

Michigan needs to get in the habit of reading the fine print. That goes for both its people and its politicians.

As we learned with the $100 million subsidy for Ford Motor Company to create 3,030 EV jobs, our lawmakers will hand over large amounts of money without asking a single question, which is what the Senate Appropriations Committee did before voting yes.

The vote took place in June. Two months later, Ford announced it was firing 3,000 salaried and contract workers. Michigan taxpayer money was used to trade white collar jobs for blue collar jobs. Whoops.

The people and the politicians of Michigan should be skeptical of big corporate subsidies and the inflated job claims that accompany them.

Job announcements aren't jobs. Subsidies aren't the only path to create jobs, or even a fair one.

We can forgive Jeffrey Kosloski for not digging into the weeds. What is Congresswoman Slotkin's excuse?

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.