To read the McDonnell administration’s press releases on job creation, one could easily assuming that it was through the Governor’s efforts and those of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (who seems to have become quite enamored of his title as “chief jobs creation officer”) that Virginia businesses created around 72,000 new jobs in the last six months. This isn’t new – politicians at just about every level of government are eager to claim credit for matters over which they have neither influence nor control.

But the McDonnell administration takes things a step further than most (the Obama administration excepted) as seen in its “Virginia at Work” report, which proudly notes that state and local economic development bureaucrats have sealed “110 deals [that] will produce 7,154 jobs and $1 billion in capital investment.”

They don’t attach a dollar figure to how much these efforts cost taxpayers in the report, but here are few to consider:

Now the administration says all this up-front spending will generate huge returns. Really, it will. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program claims a nearly 600 percent return per employee for each grant it hands out. But the way it calculates such returns are rather murky. There can be little doubt that when the jobs are actually created, and real people hold them, that wages and benefits are paid. Taxes are generated. Homes, groceries and Wiis are purchased. Everybody wins. Right?
Only if you pay attention to what is seen…and ignore your Bastiat.

But paying attention to the lessons of long-dead French economists  about trade-offs and lost opportunities just isn’t good politics. You can’t issue a press release, let alone have a ribbon cutting, if you let folks spend their own money however they wish.

And if you happen to be a politician with eyes on higher office – like Bolling and possibly McDonnell -- the seen is all that matters.