WATERS: Warmer economic climates heat up competition for jobs

Jim Waters head

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s recent stop in Kentucky to try and convince businesses to move south to the Sunshine State was met with predictable derision from the political establishment.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer used Scott’s visit to remind people of the Florida governor’s baggage from his past tenure as CEO of the Columbia HCA hospital chain, which purchased Humana’s “Galen” hospitals in the early 1990s.

Scott in 1995 moved the company’s headquarters and its 1,000 jobs from Louisville to Nashville, citing Kentucky’s high taxes. He was forced to resign in 1997 in the midst of a $1.7 billion settlement related to Medicaid fraud.

“And now, this guy is coming to Kentucky and saying, ‘Trust me?’” Fischer said. “I don’t think so.”

But Scott isn’t preaching “trust me.”

He’s in competitive mode, promoting the Sunshine State’s warm business climate – including lower taxes, less regulation and the freedom to say “no” to paying union dues without losing your job.

1st Choice Aerospace owner Chris Yeazel on the left, Florida Governor Rick Scott on the right.

1st Choice Aerospace owner Chris Yeazel on the left, Florida Governor Rick Scott on the right.

“You don’t have to worry about your taxes going up because the credit rating is not one of the worst in the country,” Scott said, rightly noting that’s “what’s happened in Kentucky.”

Scott’s not the only one who’s touting Florida.

“Friendlier tax codes make it a little easier for us to do business there,” said Chris Yeazel, owner of 1st Choice Aerospace, which has decided to expand in Scott’s state rather than at its Hebron location.

The decision by the company, which repairs interior items on commercial aircraft, means 40 new jobs and a $7 million investment will go to the Sunshine State instead of Kentucky.

It’s fair game for Scott’s critics to question his integrity.

Credibility matters.

However, Scott isn’t the only governor to come and contrast his state’s attractiveness with Kentucky’s slower economic growth.

Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to Murray last year and said he didn’t “worry about” Kentucky.

“I can promise you: I get up every morning and I’m nervous about what (Gov.) Bobby Jindal’s doing in Louisiana, and I know for a fact that Rick Scott’s over there in Florida looking at his tax code, his regulatory code; he’s trying to pass major tort reform in Florida today. It makes me nervous,” Perry said. “You think (Tennessee) Gov. Bill Haslam’s not sitting down there, kind of looking up here going ‘which of these businesses am I going to come get this time’ because he’s a right-to-work state, he doesn’t have a personal income tax.”

Neither is 1st Choice Aerospace the first company to invest in another state while citing uncompetitive policies.

Chegg, Inc., a California-based textbook rental company, announced earlier this year it was closing its Shepherdsville-based fulfillment center.

Rob Chestnut, Chegg’s general counsel, told Louisville Business First: “Kentucky’s business climate has had us very unhappy for quite some time.”

The story’s headline read: “Where will Chegg Inc. move its inventory? Anywhere but Kentucky.”

Some recent data also casts serious doubt on Kentucky’s competitiveness.

A new Truth in Accounting report indicates that our commonwealth has the nation’s fourth-highest taxpayer burden.

Frankfort owes $53 billion in bills, has $13 billion in assets, which leaves $40 billion in debt and results in a $32,600 burden for each taxpayer – up from $23,800 in 2009.

Compare that with Florida’s taxpayer burden of $1,100 or neighboring Indiana’s $700 load.

Each Tennessee taxpayer would actually receive a $1,300 surplus if the Volunteer State’s $2.4 billion surplus were divided among them.

Such economic strength is attractive to companies looking to expand.

They don’t want to arrive in a state only to be forced to bail out a public-pension system through higher taxes.

Will Fischer and his fellow politicians urge Kentucky’s business owners: “Don’t leave; trust us to fix these problems”?

How many will respond: “I don’t think so”?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

WATERS: Tear down Kentucky’s occupational licensing walls

Jim Waters head

A White House report on oppressive occupational licensing requirements reads more like it came from a Rand Paul administration than the current President’s coal-hating crew.

“There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across state lines,” the report states. “Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.”

Then again, sometimes they do.

For example, Kentucky’s licensing requirements for auctioneers previously were the third-most stringent among states – requiring two full years of experience to become a principal auctioneer, compared to the national average of three months.

However, the state’s Board of Auctioneers in Elizabethtown wants to double the number of Kentuckians – currently more than 2,000 – interested in the profession.

“The more, the merrier,” Ken Hill the board’s executive director said. “We don’t have enough now; we’d like to bring in some new blood.”

Hill convinced the board to reduce some entry costs and the experience requirement to a single year.

Barriers remain, including more than a week of required intensive classroom training which cannot be accessed online and is only available at two locations at costs exceeding $1,000.

Still, Hill is moving toward a common-sense licensing approach that he believes achieves “a balancing act” by protecting consumers from fraudulent auctioneer-actors and “fly-by-nighters” without insulating current auctioneers from more competition.

But there’s much about occupational licensing policies that remains unbalanced.

For instance, burdens placed by arbitrary regulations on military families were a primary motivating factor in the White House’s unusually relevant and frank report.

First Lady Michelle Obama in all of her school-lunch-changing glory has recognized that onerous licensing schemes affect the ability of service members and their spouses to find employment.

Military spouses are 10 times more likely to have moved across state lines in the past year than their civilian counterparts and “have a difficult time obtaining a new license each time they move,” the report said.

Eliminating arduous requirements for military spouses – 35 percent of whom work in professions requiring state credentials – would have a disproportionately positive impact on Kentucky, which ranks ninth-highest among states in the number of active duty military personnel stationed within our borders.

The report also notes that states can better serve returning veterans by using their excellent military training to bypass licensing policies that place “heavy burdens” on their ability to become civilian paramedics, truck drivers, nurses or welders.

How might removing barriers that still remain to heavily licensed professions open doors for Kentucky’s 27,000 military retirees?

The legislature, which has demonstrated an openness to helping military families, could do even more by recognizing that 60 percent of veterans responding to a 2012 survey indicated they had trouble translating their military skills into what Kentucky’s licensing boards consider sufficient – and significant – job experience.

The fact that only 15 of the 102 low- and moderate-income occupations looked at in an analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Justice are credentialed in 40 states or more indicates job-licensing schemes are more about cabals of incumbents seeking to keep competitors out rather than any meaningful public protection.

“These regulations don’t exist because citizens are storming the gates of the legislature begging for fences to keep out those wanting to break into the field,” said the Institute for Justice’s Dick Carpenter, who advised the White House on its recent report.

Kentucky compared to all of its neighboring states has, by far, the largest percentage of its workforce licensed, indicating there’s plenty of work that Obama’s Democrats and Paul’s Republicans could do in Frankfort to remove yet another barrier to entering and flourishing in the commonwealth’s fields of labor.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Obama’s Economic Policies Have Hurt America – Expect More of the Same

not-hiringThe Obama economy has been far from great during his presidency. It hasn’t even been average and his administration continues to tout his economic plan as this big job creator. We were supposed to see 5% unemployment and major growth thanks to his $800 billion stimulus from his first term. Wait, the shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel-ready after-all had to have been George W Bush’s fault. Or something like that.

President Obama and his liberal policies have taken a poor situation and made it worse, much worse. He arrived at a fire with a hose full of gasoline and expected something very different than what has occurred. His policies have hurt our economy. Those who have been hurt the most are the Millenials.

Generation Opportunity, a national non-partisan organization advocating economic opportunity for young people through less government and more freedom released their Millennial Jobs Report for July 2013 and it isn’t positive.

genyjobsThe data is non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) and is specific to 18-29 year olds:

  • The effective (U6) unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds, which adjusts for labor force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, is 16.1 percent (NSA).
  • The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.8 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.
  • The (U3) unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 11.6 percent (NSA). The (U3) unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African-Americans is 20.9 percent (NSA); the (U3) unemployment rate for 18-29 year old Hispanics is 12.4 percent (NSA); and the (U3) unemployment rate for 18–29 year old women is 10.8 percent (NSA).

President Obama’s policies and EPA regulations are killing jobs. Companies are not hiring as they normally would because of the government’s foot being placed on their necks. Businesses are laying off workers because of Obamacare. This is not politics or sending a personal attack message towards the President. This is simply how business and an economy works. Sadly, this President has no idea how an economy works.

obama2The Obama Administration continues to act as if the economy is improving. They look at the new national unemployment rate for July, which is supposedly 7.4% and say that things are looking up and more people are starting to go back to work. This is simply not true. They are using a rate that doesn’t measure our true unemployment numbers. They never mention how many people drop out of the workforce and have given up because they can’t find work. You can’t drop the unemployment rate from 7.6% to 7.4% when the economy is barely creating enough jobs to keep up with population growth. People gave up searching for a job. That is why the unemployment numbers decreased. These numbers fail to tell the big picture and the reality of our situation. The reality is that America is worse off under President Obama and his policies have done nothing except turn full-time workers into part-timers. We have seen 953,000 jobs created in 2013 thus far and 77% of those have been part-time. This is unacceptable.

Where is the recovery Mr. President? We simply don’t see it.

The labor force participation rate, which measures the number of working age Americans (16-64) actively working or looking for work is the lowest it’s been in more than 30 years. For the month of July it measured at 63.4%. Nearly half of all Americans are not paying income taxes. For the first time in history, there are more Americans collecting welfare (101 million, or about a third of the country) than there are adults working full-time in the private sector (97 million, or less than half of adults). This is completely astounding, but welcome to Obama’s America. Change? You got it. Hope? Too many have lost it.

The people who have been hurt the most under Obama are young people, Hispanics, Black Americans, and single moms. Sadly, these are who he promised he would help the most. At least the campaigning Obama promised this. A much different guy from the one trying to play President.

Mr. President: Stop spending so much of our money, start reducing the enormous amounts of burden you place on businesses, and take some lessons from the actions of another President, Ronald Reagan. He created more jobs in one month than you have all year, but then again sir, you are no Ronald Reagan.

President Obama has not learned from his mistakes from his first term. He is going around campaigning and advocating for the same failed policies. He will not wake-up and realize that big government economic policies are a complete failure. His ignorance will once again, unfortunately lead to many American’s experiencing very tough times. What is sad is that the media will continue cheer-leading for him because they must prove to everyone how right they were in helping to get him elected…again. This only hurts America. Barack Obama has hurt America.

Obama Doubles Down on Failed Policies

obamaPresident Obama has been trying to push all of the scandals his administration has been part of under the rug lately and focus on the economy. The one he blamed on President George W Bush his first term and now the one he blames on distractions and phony scandals. Yeah, that one. Our economy has definitely seen much better days.

The President has been out giving speeches about the economy and talking about his so-called solutions, but there is a big problem with the words coming out of his government-loving mouth. He is advocating for the same failed economic policies from his first term. He is doubling down on failure and choosing not to learn from history.

If he were to look at President Ronald Reagan’s record on how to fix an economy, perhaps he would be able to persuade more in the House and Senate to accept his policies. Instead, he wants to be the big man on campus who makes everything equal for all and poverty a way of life for all Americans.


Ronald Reagan inherited an economy back in 1981 much worse than President Obama did in 2009, but he got to work with common sense solutions. Reagan faced a 10.8% unemployment rate early on in his first term while Obama dealt with a 10% rate at its highest. There was a major difference with their policies though. Reagan greatly reduced taxes and regulatory burdens, decreased non-defense discretionary spending, and decreased inflation by printing less money. Obama increased government spending, increased taxes, nationalized industries, added an enormous amount of regulations, and interfered with the markets where businesses could not expand or hire new employees.

President Obama talks about jobs and says we have work to do on improving the economy, but it’s his policies that have harmed this country. He comes from the government/academic class rather than the entrepreneurial class and has a much more static view of the world. He is lacking in the comprehension skills area of how to create jobs and wealth. The government does not create wealth, it absorbs it. The government does not create jobs, but they certainly can help eliminate them. It’s as if he has been out of the country for the last five years with his remarks on how the economy is doing. He has nobody to blame for how the economy is doing but himself and his failed policies. The main problem is that he is choosing to ignore facts, evidence, and history on how to improve an economy as he touts more of the same on his current campaign travels or economic travels rather.

The President continues to preach about how he is for the poor and middle-class, but the ones who are and will suffer the most from his policies are those who have the least. Reagan knew that economic growth creates opportunities for everyone including those who have the least. Obama cannot grasp this fact. He continues to live in a Utopian world where everyone earns the same, no crime exists, the government does everything for everyone, and we all sit around our camp-fires singing Kumbaya taking care of our beautiful pink unicorns provided to us by the evil, wealthy 1%.

Obama cares about the poor so much that he made millions more throughout his Presidency. He has to learn that taking the foot of government off the backs of those who create economic growth is the only way to improve lives for everyone. We need less Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi policies, and more Ronald Reagan policies. Reagan’s policies led to a recovery that created 3 million jobs in his first year. In his first year of “recovery” Obama’s policies created a net loss of 201,000 jobs. In the second year of recovery Reagan’s policies created another 4.1 million jobs, Obama only 1.4 million.  In years three Reagan created 9.7 million jobs and Obama 3 million.

reagan-obamaPresident Obama needs to take a step back and look at Ronald Reagan’s economic record to see what real success looks like. He continues to ignore history and his record while he panders to his base with promises of equal opportunity and that we’ll find an ocean of tomorrows. He is providing nothing new and zero solutions while blaming Republicans for not going along with his failed policies. These policies have helped contribute to 48 million Americans on food stamps or 15% of the population and 22 million un/underemployed. He needs to focus on reducing the burden on those who actually create the jobs and stop touting more of the same failed policies.

America needs jobs. We need growth. We need leadership and we need to get back on a principled path, but we certainly don’t need more government spending. President Obama should seriously look at his economic agenda and ask himself if it will help him not to become the worst President in American history. Time will certainly tell, but in the meantime, millions of Americans continue to suffer under his leadership.

Fracking- EPA proves safe

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          The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has drastically reduced it’s previous estimates of much heat-trapping gas leaks actually occur during natural gas production and delivery.  This announcement has certainly sparked debate with liberals and environmentalists who have always maintained this method of extracting natural gas to be dangerous as it previously boosted their “global warming” argument.

          Methane is the main component of natural gas, but it’s just one of many greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere.  This is exactly why more oil and gas companies are becoming more optimistic about the future of fracking and ensuring the production and delivery of such gases be done as safely as possible.  The new EPA data shows there are existing technologies that can be deployed to drastically reduce methane leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery.

          The scope of the EPA‘s recent revision was vast.  In a mid-April report on greenhouse emissions, the EPA now shows much tighter air pollution control through it’s instituted policies.  From 1990 through 2010, EPA studies showed an average annual decrease of 41.6 million metric tons of methane emissions, or more than 850 million metric tons overall during that span.  That number reflects about a 20% higher reduction than previous estimates suggested from independent studies.

          These EPA revisions came on the heels of a recent industry boom that has seen natural gas production grow by nearly 40% since 1990.  The industry has flourished in recent years due to the expansion of drilling in previously untapped areas by the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  Fracking is a process which injects sand, water and chemicals deep into the surface to break apart rock and free the gas agents trapped inside.

          Since power plants that burn natural gas emit only about half the amount of greenhouse gases of those that burn coal, most say that the gas drilling boom has only boosted the United States to become the only major industrialized country to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions.  The new EPA figures show natural gas operations continue to be the leading source of methane emissions in the U.S. at about 145 million metric tons in 2011.  The next largest source was enteric fermentation, which is a fancy scientific term for belches and farts of livestock.  Yes, you heard that right, in 2011 if you took all the livestock in the U.S.  and added up all their belches and farts, that contributed 137 million metric tons of methane emissions in just that one year.  If these emissions are the real concern, then why are we not seeing an all out assault on cattle or hog farms?  Why aren’t these same groups demanding we all become vegetarians to reduce emissions?  I’ll tell you why, because it doesn’t fit into their political agenda and they also want to eat meat! The fact is, the EPA estimates that all the sources of methane emissions combined still only account for about 9% of greenhouse gases.  So, for all you Global Warming Conspiracy Theorists,  stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

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Medicaid Battle in Ohio


          The argument in Ohio over the availability of health care coverage to more low-income residents rages on.  This debate has been fuming with Ohio’s residents for some time as many of the states citizens live at or slightly above the poverty line.  However, Medicaid expansion still remains on unstable ground in Ohio at this time.  Those who would benefit the most from widening this taxpayer-funded health insurance program are single adults with no children.  That’s just one obvious flaw if Medicaid‘s true objective is to provide quality health care to those who really need it.

          Most supporters of this expansion will tell you that, too many people without health insurance have to rely on free clinics and Emergency Rooms for their ailments.  Well, isn’t that what those resources are there for?  Why should a taxpayer have to pick up the check for another’s quality health care while also paying their own premiums?  That is Socialism to the core.

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          Expanding Medicaid is the backbone of Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, i.e. Obama Care, but the very idea is being met with heavy resistance in the Ohio legislature to put it lightly.  The state estimated an additional 366,000 Ohio residents would be eligible for coverage by expanding Medicaid beginning in 2014, while the program already provides health care for 20% of the entire state.

          On the plus side, Ohio law-makers want to propose their own Medicaid plan that would not include adding more individuals to the state’s Medicaid rolls.  One of these likely proposals involves using federal dollars to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.  Privatizing insurance may not be popular with liberals or the mass media, but it is the most effective and efficient method to care for patients while at the same time creating competition, growth and revenue.  As we all know, our economy could sure use that shot in the arm!  From what we know now, the only thing that’s certain at this point, is that Medicaid expansion in Ohio will not be in the two-year budget discussion.

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Wake The Hell Up America!

Did you hear the new jobs numbers? Woot woot! Obama rocks! The unemployment rate fell again to 7.6%! He must be doing something right and those evil Republicans just can’t stand it. I mean, President Obama’s policies have to be working, right? I keep seeing the rate fall, which has to be a good thing. The media tells me that it’s good, so it must be. Wrong!!! According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 88,000 jobs were created in March, which is well below the 200,000 needed to improve the employment picture. These numbers may not mean anything to the uninformed or those who choose to take what MSNBC reports as gospel, but wake the hell up America!

            Each month the jobs numbers are released and the unemployment rate is shared. The major problem with this is that most Americans have no idea what this actually means. Sure, they look at the rate and think that if it decreases the economy must be improving. Guess what? It sucks! Roughly 630,000 Americans gave up looking for jobs, leaving 11.7 million Americans waiting in unemployment lines. More people are simply giving up looking for work. We now have a labor-force participation rate that has fallen to the lowest point since May 1979. This is the reason the unemployment rate is decreasing! The economy is not magically improving because President Obama tells you it is. Jobs are not being created in the pace in which he says either. America, wake the hell up!

            The unemployment rate is calculated by Americans who have actively looked for jobs during the last four weeks. The unemployment rate would actually be 11 percent if the 11.7 million Americans who gave up looking since January 2009 were recognized as unemployed. They are not counted in this rate. As I mentioned before, we have the lowest labor-force participation rate since 1979, which was the horrendous Jimmy Carter economy. This means that more people are not working, but the Obama administration wants you to believe different. It’s not rocket science y’all. Look at the numbers. Look at all the numbers. You are being misled or outright lied to. The President’s policies are not working. Period. Americans are just giving up. They have already lost the change previously promised, but sadly now the hope is lost for many fed up citizens. America, wake the hell up!

            There are many factors involved for why more jobs are not being created and the picture can be quite complicated. The frustrating part about it all is many Americans believe none of this falls on the shoulders of President Obama. Why? The media informs them that the President is doing all he can. They only report certain numbers or cover them only to show positive light on a very poor situation. The policies of the Obama administration are failing America. Many employers are not hiring because of these policies. The blame should not be put on these employers, but on the President himself. Across the board tax increases and concerns with the costs associated with the implementation of Obamacare are just some of the factors for fewer jobs. The point here is that the economy is not improving. Do not just take the unemployment rate and assume we are back to greatness. I say again America, wake the hell up!