Friday, May 11, 2018

Politicians have to own their economic policies

A good politician (well, a bad one in my eyes) is someone skilled at being a snake oil salesmen. He or she will maintain their control by successfully selling constituents on ideas that are absolutely disjointed from reality. For a perfect example, look at the shameful grandstanding taken by Democrats last week in regard to the Dresser-Rand closing.

First, let’s set the table for those unfamiliar with what’s happening with D-R. The Dresser-Rand factory is in the village of Wellsville in Allegany County.  The village’s well-being is tied to the successes of the factory and its long -- and impactful -- history. It has been in operation for more than 100 years, starting off as the Moose Steam Turbine Company. Dresser bought them in 1985 then, a year later, Ingersoll-Rand bought Dresser. In 2015, Siemens purchased the company.

This past February, Siemens made the shocking announcement that they are closing the Wellsville facility by 2020 and moving the operations to North Carolina and other domestic plants. This will not only devastate the 250 families working there, but also the entire Wellsville community which has benefited from the incredible economic domino effect, taxes, and charity.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Congressman Tom Reed as well as local elected officials have undertaken a bipartisan effort to communicate and work with Siemen’s managers in an order to stave off the closure. They have been professional in their behavior, outreach and efforts.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for other politicians from Schumer’s side of the aisle.

Early last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an aggressive letter to the head of Dresser-Rand, indicating closing the Wellsville plant was “reckless”. It was a “look at what I’m doing for you” statement (albeit a meaningless one) to the citizens of the village, when it really should have been a “look at what I did to you” moment (more on that in a bit).

Days later, Congressman Brian Higgins (who doesn’t have Wellsville in his district) and his associate Nancy Pelosi staged a press conference in Washington with the machinists union affected by the closure. They used it to rail against President Donald Trump’s tax cut package, calling it a corporate scam that’s not keeping jobs in America.

That is where they’re dead wrong. The closure of the Wellsville plant is not a federal issue -- it’s a state issue. The jobs are not disappearing nor are they going overseas. They are moving to other states, places where it is far more attractive to do business thanks to lower taxes, fewer regulations, and cheaper energy costs. You know, places where you can actually make money.

I’ve seen it firsthand. I run a factory in New York and I know how difficult it is. Readers of this column and anyone who’s been on a plant tour know that my company throws away three-quarters of a million dollars every year just for the privilege of doing business in the Empire State. That value is based on higher costs, controlled by government, that our competitors from other states don’t pay.

The biggest portion of my competitive disadvantage is the high price of electricity, so it’s no wonder that Dresser-Rand cited that as one of the primary reasons for the move. As they put it:  “Siemens has been making structural adjustments to manufacturing…to offset…price erosion caused by broad energy market changes.”

So, the blame should not be put on Trump. It should be put on Cuomo. He has taken a tanking upstate economy and made it worse for existing and start-up businesses by introducing, among other things, expensive green energy mandates, higher minimum wages, paid leave, countless fees and taxes, higher health insurance costs and new worker scheduling rules while growing an entitlement system that doesn’t value work (for example, last September there were 1,000 job openings in Orleans County…and 1,000 county residents collecting unemployment). All of this only adds to and does not reduce the burden placed on businesses. 

Cuomo shouldn’t be writing letters accusing corporations of “reckless” actions. Instead, he should look at the reckless actions he has taken that have driven away entrepreneurs, jobs, and residents. Similarly, Higgins and Pelosi should not divert the focus away from the real issue, that a Democratic governor’s economic policies have added uncertainty to a state’s already-uncertain climate.

I guess the moral to the story is this: Always look at what a state or federal politician is trying to sell you or rail against with a discerning eye – Republicans or, in this case, Democrats will all bend the truth or make a narrative that fits their quest for control.

It’s too bad that the losers – or those being used -- in such situations always end up being hardworking souls like those in Wellsville who face the hard reality of what bad public policy has wrought.

From the 14 May 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

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