Gov. Rick Scott is in trouble. With his favorability rating in the tank and his re-election campaign just around the corner, Scott has promised to spend $100 million of special-interest money to convince Floridians he isn’t who they think he is.
The problem is Scott has done very little as governor to crow about. So lacking real victories, he’s tethered his re-election to an array of gimmicks intended to give himself credit for a supposed rebounding economy.
Scott’s favorite gimmick is letting the media know he is sending letters to businesses in other states urging them to move to Florida.
I guess this shows Floridians he is trying to bring new jobs here. Of course, no business is moving here because of a publicity stunt, which is why not even the governor’s office can identify a single company headed to Florida because of Scott’s trolling.
He and his minions also resorted to sending out tweets and e-mails to anyone without a spam filter in which Scott gives himself credit for America’s rebounding economy. And as you might expect, they also send tweets blaming potential 2014 opponents, former Gov. Charlie Crist and former CFO Alex Sink, for the recession that preceded the rebound.
How ironic. Scott seeks to blame Crist and Sink for a national recession created by the policies of President George W. Bush, who Scott supported, and he wants to take credit for an economic recovery jump-started and buoyed by the policies of President Obama, who Scott adamantly opposed.
Floridians know better. They know the last recession was global in scope and crippled Florida because our economy was so dependent upon housing and construction.
If Scott is going to blame Crist and Sink for that recession, he better be prepared to also blame the speaker of the Florida House at the time, Marco Rubio, and the majority whip of the Legislature, who Scott chose as his lieutenant governor.
Scott’s attempt to take credit for a jobs rebound is, likewise, silly.
That’s because while our unemployment rate has decreased, Florida’s job numbers always follow the national economy and even the global economy because so much of our tourism is indexed to the consumer confidence of our nearly 100 million annual visitors. When folks in Oklahoma or Berlin feel like they have money to spend on vacation, lines at Disney and Universal swell.
So who gets the credit? Are banks lending more because of Rick Scott’s campaign tweets or because the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy has kept interest rates low? Did his gimmicks stabilize the toxic mortgage crisis or was it the $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities provided by the federal government?
Is Rick Scott actually taking credit for the stock market roaring back and the stability in the national housing market?
Frankly, all this credit-grubbing distracts from addressing some severe truths about Florida’s economic challenges.
The state’s own economists attribute a good portion of Florida’s declining jobless numbers to many Floridians giving up and permanently leaving the work force. These are people who need training not false claims that everything is great.
Further, Scott’s self-congratulatory claims of success simply don’t comport with the harsh facts that for the last decade, Floridians’ salaries have shrunk substantially while the cost of living has increased.
This is what a governor needs to focus on: Floridians are making less and too many are working part-time when they would rather have full-time jobs.
In his rush to take credit for things he had nothing to do with, Rick Scott has ignored the two things governors can actually do to generate more and better jobs: make available to citizens the education and training that helps attract high wage industries, and promote investment in infrastructure projects that bring new capital and jobs to the state.
Unfortunately, in these two areas Scott has been abysmal. He sought the largest reduction in public education funding by any governor in Florida history, permitted tuition increases, and actually rejected billions in high-speed rail money – a common sense deal that would have created thousands of new jobs.
So for now, Scott is left hoping that Floridians are impressed with his gimmicks and tweets rather than engaging in a constructive conversation about Florida’s actual economic challenges.