When Tom Corbett was running for governor in 2010, he argued that the business community was suffering because Pennsylvania's workers were too lazy to wean themselves from the unemployment benefits being extended by those nasty Democrats in Washington.
"I've literally had construction companies tell me, 'I can't get people to come back to work until … unemployment runs out,'" he declared in a July 9, 2010, radio interview. "The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment, people are going to just sit there."
It turned out that the "construction companies" were phantoms. A campaign spokesman said Corbett had been told that by a plumber, but could not name him.
Meanwhile, Corbett said the way to promote jobs in Pennsylvania was to help the business community with weaker regulation and lower taxes, promising "to create an economic environment that will allow business to grow." He was especially lavish in the promises he made to the robber barons of the Texas gas-drilling industry, and they responded by filling his campaign coffers with millions of dollars.
It worked, because Corbett defeated his Democratic foe, the lackluster Dan Onorato.
There was déjà vu on Monday, when Corbett, facing re-election next year, again used a radio interview to blame Pennsylvania's poor job picture on workers, this time saying too many of them are druggies.
"There are many employers that say, you know, we're looking for people but we can't find anybody that has passed the drug test," Corbett proclaimed on the Radio PA "Ask the Governor" program.
Again, he did not identify the employers who told him that, and his campaign people refused to cite any specific sources, saying his claims of rampant drug test failures were based on "anecdotal information."
That segment of the program began with a question about Pennsylvania's ranking when it comes to the job growth he promised in 2010, noting that since Corbett took office in 2011, the state has dropped from seventh in the nation to 49th. "Do you dispute those numbers?" he was asked.
"What I dispute is the use of statistics," Corbett replied.
Who could blame him? Raw statistics do not paint a very pretty picture of Corbett's economic performance.
The numbers do not even support his claim about phantom employers with drug-crazed job applicants. One report said only 1.8 percent of workers in federally regulated industries failed drug tests.
As for his promise to create an "economic environment that will allow business to grow," there instead is only one state with worse job growth numbers than Pennsylvania — Wyoming. (I guess there are too many lazy or drug-addled cowboys out there.)
Among large states, the best job growth was in Texas, which had an increase of 322,600 jobs from March 2012 to March 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over that same period, says the BLS, Pennsylvania lost a total of 1,800 jobs.
So it seems Corbett was right about creating jobs by boosting business interests, although the main beneficiaries may have been the Texas gas drilling robber barons. Also, the Texas job situation is surely helped by the fact that the state is full of people who'd never think of taking drugs, exemplified by Texas icon Willie Nelson and the many wade-the-Rio-Grand immigrants.
Corbett's claim that Pennsylvania's job growth problems are caused by drug test failures was ridiculed across the nation, from MSNBC talker Chris Matthews to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Philadelphia Democrat who is running for his job and who said she'll focus her campaign on "his own failed leadership on the economy."
The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, however, is still in Corbett's camp, and I'm sure his campaign will once again be backed by the robber barons of Texas, where there has been job growth galore.
It would be unfair to attribute all that economic bliss in Texas to Corbett, but nobody can say he didn't help.
The robber barons gave him more than $2 million in "campaign contributions" in return for his actions to make Pennsylvania the only gas-producing state in America that does not impose a severance tax on the gas extracted from thousands of new gas wells. (Even Texas has such a tax.)
Corbett also made sure his oddly named Department of Environmental Protection turned a blind eye to gas drillers as they rampaged through Pennsylvania with wells that use millions of gallons of intensely toxic solutions to force subterranean rock formations to release gas, contaminating drinking water resources in the process.
The gas boom promised by Corbett, alas, did not do much to produce jobs for Pennsylvanians. (I can picture Corbett's new campaign slogan: "I did better than Wyoming when it comes to jobs." Or maybe: "I helped create 322,600 new jobs and it's not my fault if they're all in Texas.")
Maybe Corbett can say that phantom executives at the C.F. Martin & Co. in Nazareth, makers of the world's most famous guitar (played so skillfully by Willie Nelson when he's not zonked) told him they literally cannot hire anybody because potential workers spend all their time sitting around singing "Kumbaya."
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.