The argument in favor of having the Pratt & Whitney project here always begins (and ends) with the jobs. First of all, let’s be clear about the job schedule proposed by P&W in the $27 million tax incentive agreement given to them by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.
P&W laid out — for illustrative purposes only (no guarantees) — a 10-year plan that would add a few hundred jobs each year, up to  jobs, the median of which would be $55,000/year. Pretty good for our tourist economy, but still not great. And not necessarily to be filled by locals. And one of the big reasons P&W is moving here from Connecticut is because the jobs here will not be union jobs.
I am angry about the lack of jobs in this country also. And the desperation that this puts people into. What I see is that this precarity is intentional on the part of the ruling class and corporations because it means they can keep wages low — except where they use the lure of good jobs to ensure a welcome reception for their destructive industries. The end result is the greater and greater wealth inequality that we see now as the 1% lords it over all the rest of us. The game is rigged to exploit us, and the promise of jobs for a few is the currency to get communities to comply.
But, unsurprisingly, “defense” contractors lie. In truth, they don’t offer a great deal at all, especially if you realize, for example, that the $27 million could actually have created many more jobs if the incentives were given to the local economy in areas of education, health, clean energy or just given to people for personal consumption. Research from Brown University’s Cost of War project confirms this. And also not such a great deal if you factor in the costs to our community that P&W conveniently externalizes — the inevitable pollution to our river, the traffic snarls and, of course, the loss of trees and habitat in the private domain of Biltmore Farms.
But what if the starting place were not the promised jobs, but the climate emergency that we are facing right now, which is headed toward our own extinction. Would the measly number of jobs — in the ravenous fossil-fuel-consuming aeronautics industry — warrant contributing to our own demise? And what if the starting place were with the suffering, death and threat we pose to humanity, including ourselves, with our endless wars (for oil) and arms dealing around the world? Are these jobs worth the trade-off for the lives of so many others? And what if the starting place were about the ravages that our ultracapitalist system wreaks upon us as a normal way of operating? Would we be so eager to gobble up jobs offered by Raytheon, the second-largest war profiteer in the world?
I realize all too well that I may be tilting at windmills, that this is a done deal, and there is no way to stop it. And that I will continue to be considered anti-jobs and childishly naive. But the question for me is whether I just watch this all going down and shrug that it’s just the way of the terrible world we live in, or whether I will take a public stance against it and act in the hope for a better world, for now and for all of our children and grandchildren. I choose the latter. I want a sustainable, just and peaceful world for them.
— Ken Jones
Editor’s note: Buncombe County’s resolution authorizing economic development incentives to be paid to Pratt & Whitney calls for the creation of up to 550 jobs at $55,000; up to 100 jobs at $75,000; and up to 150 jobs at $112,000.