So Many Job Creators in England!

The semi-snarky question being asked by CBS’ Rebecca Kalplan is whether Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can manage to pull off an “economic development” trip to London without a fool of himself the way Chris Christie did last week, Bobby Jindal did last month, and Mitt Romney did in 2012. Instead of wondering if Walker will suddenly start babbling about vaccinations or “no-go” zones or something like that, however, I’d suggest media look a little more carefully at the idea that governors really need to go overseas to chase smokestacks or bend the forelock to foreign “job-creators.”

Even if you buy the craven, reactionary concept of “economic development” as revolving around public concessions to private “investors,” made in competition with other jurisdictions offering similarly whorish benefits, does Scott Walker really need to go personally to London to seal the deal? Of course not. Treating individual facility-relocation decisions, whether it’s an office complex moving from Michigan to Texas or a plant moving from England to Wisconsin, as synonymous with “economic development” is laughable, ignoring as it does the vast array of decisions made by employers already on site, not to mention broader trends that reflect broader public policies, not discrete “deals.”

But hey, such less dramatic but more important factors do not often enable the governor to make “investment announcements” and preside over “ground-breakings” and “ribbon-cuttings,” not to mention the justification of foreign travel. Scott Walker ought to be scorned for playing us all for fools by suggesting this kind of junket is a legitimate exercise of his office.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.