Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday became the tenth official candidate to jump into the Republicans’ 2016 free-for-all. And it seems likelier than not that he’ll be joined in short order by as many as five more governors, among others, crowding into a field already too unwieldy to fit on a single debate stage. As Perry relaunched this week — attempting to shake off his disastrous 2012 bid and elbow back into contention — he salted a red-meat speech about projecting military strength abroad and limiting government at home with some populist lines. “The American people see a rigged game, where insiders get rich, and the middle class pays the tab,” he told a crowd gathered at an airport hangar in suburban Dallas. “There is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan… Capitalism is not corporatism. It is not a guarantee of reward without the risk.”
It’s more modish than usual these days for White House aspirants to tilt against the power structure they’re seeking to lead. And for governors, the opportunity to highlight their distance from the Washington morass by playing up their independence is especially hard to resist. But Perry and the rest — a group that includes John Kasich (Ohio), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Chris Christie (New Jersey) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — face a credibility challenge. Over three terms as Texas’ chief executive, for example, Perry presided over his own brand of corporate welfare, doling out more than $6.5 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies to keep or lure big employers. We crunched data from Good Jobs First, a left-leaning group that compiles information on state economic development efforts, and found that among the governors likely to make the race, Perry was outdone only by Jindal in spending public dollars toward job growth. As Good Jobs First executive direct Greg LeRoy notes, the data comes with an asterisk, since the states abide by varying standards of transparency.
But everybody on the list paid dearly for ribbon cuttings. None can claim to have hewed to a free-market approach. And for several, the practice has spawned controversy at home. Kasich has caught heat for privatizing the state’s jobs agency and then pushing through legislation to close its books to the state’s auditor. Up in Wisconsin last month, an audit of one of Walker’s two economic development arms found financial controls so lacking, he had to abandon plans to merge them. Christie’s administration has disproportionately directed funding deals to campaign donors. Jindal has doubled tax giveaways in development packages while the state suffers a debilitating budget crunch. And Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund dished hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to outfits that never formally applied for them, a state auditor found — part of an economic development strategy the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page called out as his “crony capitalism problem.” It adds up to a glass-house hitch that should humble governors thinking of leaning on a corporatist critique of their Washington rivals.
• The jobs report brings good news, finally, for worker pay
The economy added an encouraging 280,000 jobs last month, Friday’s employment report revealed. Even more significantly, wage growth is showing signs of finally getting unstuck. It is now approaching the 3% rise typical of past recoveries — a development that with any luck will soon be reflected in the higher consumer spending that will sustain a virtuous cycle of economic expansion. Fortune
• George Soros is bankrolling the legal challenge to voting rights restrictions
The billionaire liberal donor has been slow to get directly behind Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. But he’s committing as much as $5 million behind the candidate’s push to challenge Republican efforts to roll back voting rights laws across the map. New York Times
• Ben Carson’s nascent presidential campaign appears to be imploding
The Tea Party phenom is already hemorrhaging staff — four senior advisors have quit — and his political network is in disarray barely a month after he announced his White House bid. Nobody expected the surgeon turned speaking circuit star to go the distance. But such an early collapse is a surprise. Washington Post
Around the Water Cooler
• The corporate lobby may be dusting itself off but challenges remain
We aren’t cosigning the Wall Street Journal’s bullishness here on behalf of the Big Business agenda in Washington, but the paper sees two major wins as imminent for the beleaguered corporate lobby — on the trade promotion authority that President Obama needs to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Nevertheless, they concede, the populist energy that’s presented such stiff challenges to both initiatives isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Wall Street Journal
• Meet Hillary Clinton’s wunderkind campaign manager
As a 28-year-old, Robby Mook was the metric-obsessed organizer who helped Hillary Clinton carry the vote in the Nevada caucuses over Barack Obama. Now, the odds-on Democratic nominee has entrusted him with her entire campaign. The 35-year-old hopes a simple mantra — “Set Goals, Experiment and Learn, Celebrate and Appreciate” — can help deliver the White House. BuzzFeed