You might have seen media coverage of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in New Jersey the other day. He talked to reporters in the hot sun on the steps of Citigroup building in Jersey City about the need to invest in schools, cities and people – not throw tax breaks at financial institutions which are just hoarding capital in this lousy economy.
I was struck standing there with him not just by how important it was to have someone of Jackson’s stature here in New Jersey delivering a message about help for working people, but how great it was that he was delivering the Better Choices budget coalition message.
You see, sometimes, the work we do at NJPP that matters most is behind the scenes – work we get the opportunity to do because years of credible research and strategic messaging have put us in a position to influence events.
This week is a great example.
Before Reverend Jackson went before the media I briefed him at the request of our coalition partners on a paper analyst Sarah Stecker and I wrote that identified $1 billion in tax subsidies that the state has awarded to corporations the past 16 months. That work is at the core of the Better Choices push for investment in services that lift up all New Jerseyans rather than providing tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy.
Jackson is an icon of the civil rights era and one of the strongest voices fighting poverty in America. He was in New Jersey for a series of labor rallies, as well as news conference on behalf of Better Choices to talk about the surge in corporate taxpayer subsidies here in New Jersey. At our table in the Westin Newport, I outlined our research that showed 70 major corporations have been awarded a total of more than $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies on the promise to create jobs.
Citigroup is a prime example. The bank received $87 million in subsidies since 2004. The expectation was that the financial giant would justify the subsidy by hiring 3,750 people. (Citi is still 1,000 jobs shy, by its own count). The latest Citigroup subsidy was approved in March – $12.3 million to bring 400 jobs from New York State to Jersey City. Three weeks after it was awarded the subsidy, Citigroup announced it was laying off nearly 300 workers at one of its New Jersey sites. Not a very good deal for New Jersey taxpayers, as it turned out.
Jackson, over a bowl of Raisin Bran, grinned and turned the analysis into a newsworthy sound-bite: “They got the money, we didn’t get the jobs. … We should be investing in people, not corporations.”
I was delighted to play my small role in Jackson’s visit to New Jersey. And even if I can’t resist the temptation to do a little name-dropping, more importantly I hope sharing this anecdote helps illustrate to you the important work we do here at New Jersey Policy Perspective.
More to come…
Deborah Howlett, President