Good Jobs First: 25 Years of Making “Good Trouble”

November 7, 2023


Repeat after me:

Tax breaks do not create jobs.

Tax breaks do not create jobs.

Tax breaks do not create jobs.

We’re up against the bipartisan corporate dogma which says the opposite. It’s why I founded Good Jobs First. And for 25 years now (!), we’ve made a whole lot of progress.

Please join me and our staff and board this month in celebrating our collective gains!

Our economic development lessons of today were learned the hard way — when The Deindustrialization of America was a best-selling book and I spent a decade helping workers and communities blow the whistle on runaway shops that were abusing tax breaks.

Tax breaks and other public subsidies, given to companies in the name of “economic development” without safeguards or community benefit agreements, too often fail to create jobs or regional prosperity.

Decades later, thanks to all of our disclosure victories, we have a much more systemic understanding of how excessive tax breaks undermine public education, shortchange small business, and undermine the public assets that truly drive equitable development.

Our work is rooted in democracy: When working families know what their elected officials and their employers are doing, money — in the form of economic development programs and employment practices — gets distributed more fairly. Period.

That’s why we’ve crusaded for robust disclosure and then created Subsidy Tracker and Violation Tracker and Tax Break Tracker with the resulting data.

And that’s why we use Plain English in our tookits, studies and FAQs. It’s all about grassroots empowerment against those who would hide public records and then be condescending to the public about them.

We help everyone on a purely “ecumenical” basis: grassroots groups who need help decoding acronyms and lingo, overcoming institutional secrecy and inertia, and building on best practices from other groups; public officials who want to do the right thing and need outside supportive messengers; journalists who need research tips, interpretive help, and context.

The “tax breaks create jobs” dogma has to be constantly defrocked from multiple angles. We do that every day.

Think development dollars favor already-wealthy areas? We have issued more studies proving that than anyone.

Think big businesses hog the money? We proved that definitively.

Think banks are central to our economy’s problems? Our Violation Tracker makes it clear they are head and shoulders the biggest regulatory scofflaws.

Think private, for-profit prisons are a moral hazard at best? We found three-fourths of them get development subsidies.

There’s a reason Amazon was bracing for our response to their HQ2 announcement: we were their most outspoken auction critic.

Take a look at the video we created to explain, as simply as we could, what we do every day. Or scroll through our timeline, which compiles 25 of our greatest hits. I hope you’ll take a look and feel inspired.

Perhaps you’ll be motivated to donate.

Our foes may be some of the greediest people in the world, but we don’t think for a second they rule our future. We rule our future, and with your support, we can build an economy that works for us all.

Happy Birthday, Good Jobs First!

Greg LeRoy,
Good Jobs First Executive Director and Founder