Anxious to put some distance between his own candidacy and those of his fellow passengers riding the GOP Clown Car, former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been trumpeting his record as the Greatest Job Creator in the history of Sunshine State. In his first campaign television ad, wearing blue shirtsleeves, open at the neck sans tie like a “good ol’ boy,” he is standing in what appears to be some type of machine shop. Surrounded by actors portraying the epitome of the blue color workin’ man, Bush proclaims:
We have an important choice to make about the direction of our country…If you want more D.C. politicians or more self-promoters, you’ve got options. I’m offering something different: leadership, ideas and a proven conservative record. Florida led the nation in job creation…I’ve delivered.
Bush is planning to spend over half a million dollars running the ad in the key primary state of New Hampshire between now and the end of September.
The problem: it is at best, distortion of his record. At worst, it is a bald-faced lie.
First of all, let’s get real. Whether in the White House or the governor’s mansion, no executive has the power to single-handedly “create jobs.” He or she may influence legislation affecting economic policies and tax codes. Such policies may provide incentives for companies to locate in a particular location or expand operations, thus creating a demand for labor. However, that is only a small part of the equation. Employment in a given state is dependent on numerous factors, including national and global economic conditions over which state-level policymakers have no control.
That said, let’s be fair: during Jeb Bush’s eight year tenure in office, Florida did in fact appear to be experiencing robust job growth. However, a 2007 article appearing in The Washington Post gave the other side of the story:
While Florida led the nation in job creation, much of that was in low-paid service industry jobs that left many Floridians without health insurance and scrambling for affordable housing amid a real estate boom that helped fuel business-friendly tax breaks.
That article also pointed out that under Jeb Bush, Florida’s state budget went up over 50%. So much for being a “fiscal conservative.” It is also worth noting that as governor, Jeb Bush kicked hundreds of state workers to the curb by outsourcing their jobs to private companies. In any event, less than two months after Bush left office, Florida jobs started disappearing in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis and the collapse of Florida’s real estate market. By 2012, almost 1 million (mostly low-wage) Floridians were out of work.
Furthermore, statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor indicate that Florida did not actually lead the nation in job creation under Jeb Bush. That honor went to the State of Nevada (Florida came in at Number 5).
As always, the proverbial devil is in the details – and while raw statistics may indicate one thing, the actual numbers behind them usually tell a different story. Those underlying stories, like legends and tall tales, may have a grain of truth to them. Nonetheless, such accounts are frequently twisted, manipulated, exaggerated and embellished upon by politicians like Jeb Bush in order to sanitize an otherwise tarnished public record.