from January 2016, Economics
We are gearing up for another election year in Klamath County. One of the new phrases you may hear by those running for public office (whether it be city council or county commissioner) is “Economic Development”. Economic Development is such a positive sounding term. When someone running for office says it most think, “This is a wonderful person who wants to help our economy.” However, if you think a little more, you have to ask yourself, “What do they really mean?”
To be frank, Economic Development is another leftist term — or at least one that has been cooped by the central planners. When someone running for office (or in office) refers to “Economic Development” what they mean is that they want to use tax payer dollars to lure a particular industry or business to Klamath. More often than not that industry or business will personally or politically benefit the public official in some fashion (a form of crony capitalism). The other problem with this approach is that there is no way a few government officials can possibly know of all the options and all the opportunities in the county in which to make the best decision. So by definition, the best they can do is make a decision that is less than the best. Often times government directed Economic Development is simply a waste of tax payer dollars, because there is no penalty for risks taken — it is not their money and they’ll get another stash of tax dollars next year — and without risk, decision making becomes very skewed or warped.
The answer to this dilema is to bring in “economic experts”. In Klamath’s case these experts wear the name KCEDA (Klamath County Economic Development Association). This private organization raises money by extracting tax dollars directly from the city, the county and through grants offered by state and federal agencies. For instance in 2016 Klamath County will give KCEDA around $200,000. For what purpose? Economic Development. And what is that? Anything KCEDA needs it to be. Since KCEDA are not elected officials they can spend the money virtually anyway they want. What’s more KCEDA is not directly held accountable by tax payers for their results (or more often the lack of results). In essence, our tax dollars pay people to run around trying to recruit new business to our area. When one does come (whether through the efforts of KCEDA or not) KCEDA will run in front of the cameras to take as much credit as possible.