“Once you put capital money to work, jobs are created.”
These are not the words of President Joe Biden, announcing his administration’s infrastructure plan in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Nor were they the words of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, standing on a train platform to announce expanded service, or of any of the administration’s economists charged with touting the virtues of the $2.25 trillion spending plan.
It was Michael Morris, then-CEO of Ohio utility American Electric Power, who uttered them on an investor call a decade ago. AEP was fighting an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce mercury and other pollutants from power plants, citing the expense of creating jobs to install new scrubbers on smokestacks or build cleaner plants. Morris, taking his fiduciary responsibility to the utility’s investors seriously, argued these new roles would come at a cost to AEP and were, thus, bad. What he did not question, and correctly so, was whether more investments would indeed create more jobs.