Destroying the Rick Scott Paradigm

Rick Scott’s 2010 victory in the Florida Gubernatorial race ushered in by Tea-Party euphoria over his and fellow Tea-party favorite Marco Rubio’s radical conservative agenda has pushed Florida back into the realm of the far right not seen since Jeb Bush. Ironically, Rick Scott has positioned himself to be even more conservative than the former President’s brother.

What then is the Scott agenda? Well this, even nearing Mr. Scott’s second year in office is still muddy water. On top of that, Rick Scott, the former insurance fraudster, has a duel agenda. One of these he presents to the public through platitudes and double-speak remaining purposely unclear but using motivating and inciting words like “tax-cuts,” “Obamacare,” “bailout,” which motivates the Tea-party and other anti-tax advocates. However, there is a second pro-capital agenda. This was outlined in a speech delivered in 2010 at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando to the Florida Council of 100, the “who’s who” of Florida capitalist elite.

The 7-7-7 Agenda

In this speech, Scott explained what he envisions as Florida’s “bright future”. The transcript can be found here. Most telling is when Scott makes the wild assertion that, “Those of us whose business careers have taught us to accept austerity as the price for dramatic turnarounds need to reassure Floridians that better days are coming.” If anyone is able to figure out what exactly is being stated here, I would love to hear it.

Also telling in Scott’s speech is the overtly hostile attitude towards politics in general. Citing his glorious business experience (for which his company was found liable for massive Medicare fraud) he makes clear the end-all of his ideology. “We understand that ignoring the bottom line is fatal. And we know that all the promises of politicians are fantasy unless private businesses create the jobs that ultimately pay to keep those promises.”

In his defense, then-candidate Scott did outline what measurable goals he would like to attain. These include being number one in job creation (which is yet unachieved), number one in economic growth (which is yet unachieved), number one in public safety (which is yet unachieved), and number one in education (which is yet unachieved). On top of these failures the economic figures show there are serious structural issues remaining in Florida’s working class such as comparable low pay, no benefits, and little to no nest egg savings.

Rick Scott proposed a 7 step plan to create 700,000 jobs in 7 years, called his 7-7-7 plan. The first step is to implement “accountability budgeting.” This is a term Scott has created himself, and is without exactness. Basically, it would attempt to measure the effectiveness of each dollar through some sort of mystical goal setting and mechanism that could measure it. However, the rubric by which a program or dollar can be viewed as “well spent” is something akin to attempting to create a measurement of happiness and set a goal to increase the overall units of happiness. As one might expect, this could hardly become a science. Sometimes the money spent by governments are intangible and not easily measured. This is a serious issue for Scott, as he consistently urges the government to operate like a business.

Along with this, Scott would allow state spending to increase only when the private sector grows. This ignores or dismisses the long standing evidence that, especially in times of low private growth, state and federal spending can facilitate private sector growth (a mainstay of Keynesian economics). Scott dismisses this without evidence and in ideological terms only. (see below for more)

Anti-Worker, Anti-Poor

Going along with fellow Tea-Party republicans anti-worker, anti-poor agenda, Scott instituted two measures last legislative session which were promised in the campaign. First, a massive change the state pension system by increasing employee contributions and attempts to limit collective bargaining. The facts are that collective bargaining and state-pension plans are rights and agreements forged between the state and its workers over years of incredible struggle and shows Scott’s willingness to strip rights of workers; one can only imagine what is policy towards restricting the rights of the most wealthy elite would be. It is also folly to ask state-workers to contribute more to pensions when the economy is in desperate need to demand spending. Taking more from workers (which is a tax increase on state employees) does the opposite.

Second on the anti-worker agenda is drug testing welfare recipients in order to ensure “we aren’t inadvertently subsidizing addictions.” This is simply a border-line racist and xenophobic law. The ideology behind and justification for this is based on a fallacy. As Ronald Reagan famously suggested and Rick Scott religiously adheres to, those on welfare are wholly dependent on the system, and are so due to failures of their own including laziness, drug dependency and other Social-Darwinist indicators. Ironically it is the giant companies, whose profits are nearly inconceivable, which lead to unemployment, lower wages, and the need for workers to utilize government assistance. On top of this, a pilot testing program in Florida was shut down in 2001 after it showed no significant difference in drug use among aid recipients. Scott is silent on this.

Facts to Contend With

The way to growth for Rick Scott is simple: cut taxes. For Scott, and other right-wing politicians, taxes are the greatest burden on economic growth. However, history does not bore this out. According to Scott, “The opportunity cost of a business tax is a higher unemployment rate.” This is completely unsubstantiated and is expressed by all conservatives as gospel. In the 1950’s the highest income tax rate in the United States history topping off at 91% for the highest income earners and was similar for business. According to the CBO, in 1950, government spending as a percentage of GDP was around 15.6 percent, and this before the institution of Medicare and Medicaid. At the same time, growth in GDP was nearly consistently over 10-15%.

Conversely, in 1985, during the tenure of Ronald Reagan, government spending as a percentage of GDP was 22.9 percent. At the same time, the income tax rate for the most wealthy, was 50% and decreasing, where it is now at 35%. Revenue from income taxes has, despite conservative claims to the contrary, remained nearly stagnant, if not slightly lower by 2011. From 1980-2010 economic growth has not even reached 10% and is generally stagnant at 5% or less. The resulting decrease in revenue forced the federal government to borrow more, resulting in an incredible increase in the national debt for which we now are the inheritors of.

All of Rick Scott’s assumptions regarding the economy and politics are misleading, misrepresented, or flat out wrong. His social agenda is similarly based on false assumptions, unjustified and unproven religious and conservative social engineering projects. Since all of these assumption are incorrect, we should not be surprised to see that Scott’s ambitious agenda has so far, been a failure. Instead of leading to massive job creation, Florida has added a mere 76,800 jobs since January. However,  as Becky Bowers of the St. Petersburg times states, “we’ve destroyed 100,000 jobs under our new governor.

Comparing Scott and Obama

So far, Scott has failed on everything because he could not possibly succeed. And the job situation stands at a loss of 23,000. With this trend, we can expect 322,000 less jobs by the end of Gov. Scott’s 7-7-7 program. Although Scott claimed that the President Obama’s stimulus plan has not created any jobs, the CBO shows this to be yet another lie. In the first quarter of calendar year 2011 alone it raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product by between 1.1 percent and 3.1 percent, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.6 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points, increased the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 3.3 million, and increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 1.6 million to 4.6 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise. See the CBO Blog Post here.

Let’s compare records. Rick Scott stands at -23,000 and Barack Obama at +1.2 million. Seems the right bet is on the Obama horse. The Rick Scott bet will surely lead to lost money, or worse, a lost job.

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