Friday, May 15, 2009

Anatomy of an Ohio Brain Drain Boondoggle

Over the past year, I've admonished Ohio for its senseless policies to stop the brain drain from the state. Less cynically, I've postulated that politicians are merely pandering to their constituency. I know from experience that locals are genuinely despondent over the exodus of graduates from the region. However, sometimes the motives of politicians aren't so noble, even when claiming to fight brain drain:

I'll have to do some digging to find out how the Louisiana program is progressing and if it is stopping brain drain. Regardless, how does Buehrer know how much of the $2 million would go to people who would reside in Ohio without the funding? I'd bet even those Ohio high school graduates who went to college outside of the state and are eligible for the money would demonstrate the same dynamic of self-selection.

Which Ohio-based corporate realtor thought up this scheme? Try some labor market incentives next time.

I wrote the above passage in reference to an article covering the anti-brain drain policy introduced by Ohio state Steve Buehrer, R-Delta. Buehrer's idea is to offer Ohio college graduates a subsidy for the purchase of a first home (in Ohio, of course). My pot shot at the realtor lobby was meant as a joke. But now I'm thinking that there might be more than a kernel of truth to it.

The revelation comes from the comments about my Cleveland foreclosure post. Turns out that National City lobbied the Ohio state government to squash local ordinances designed to regulate predatory lending. The trail of trecherory includes a list of organizational donations to politicians and parties statewide. Ranked #2 is the Ohio Association of Realtors. If I was an Ohio journalist, then I'd be looking into the connections between the realtor lobby and Steve Buehrer. That would at least explain the ridiculous brain drain policy legislation. Not surprisingly, the bill passed the state Senate unamiously. Essentially, the deal is nothing more than a $2 million economic stimulus for Ohio realtors.


Stephen Gross said...

Whenever public policy takes the form of financial incentives, someone stands to gain. In this case, Ohio faces the problem of brain drain. How can they keep those clever graduates in town?

Hmmm... maybe they would stay in Ohio if houses were cheaper. Just maybe... So that means the state govt would pony up some cash to help them buy houses. Hmmm... who would benefit? Perhaps: anyone in the real estate industry! No wonder the real estate lobby has weighed in on the issue. Notice, too, how the debate shifts to focus on how *much* of a housing subsidy is appropriate, rather than what *policy* could stem the tide of brain drain.

Clever lobbyists!

One question to ask them: What proof is there that housing costs are a factor in out-migration? Last time I checked, Ohio has pretty cheap housing relative to the rest of the country.

Jim Russell said...

The biggest problem with the proposal is that Ohio has no way of knowing who is taking advantage of the money. A clear majority of college graduates already remain in Ohio. Those who would stay any way are eligible for the financial assistance to purchase a home.

Thinking about the legislation from a purely financial standpoint, it reads like another form of predatory lending. (i.e. Foisting mortgages on a demographic not financially ready to handle it)

Stephen Gross said...

"Thinking about the legislation from a purely financial standpoint, it reads like another form of predatory lending. (i.e. Foisting mortgages on a demographic not financially ready to handle it".

Predatory lending--an Ohio tradition!