by Judy Ferro

When pollsters ask people which party they believe is best in certain subjects, Democrats score high on education and low on economy.

                That’s baffled me since Democratic administrations result in lower deficits and more growth in private sector jobs growth than Republican ones.   

                I think I’ve figured out why though. When Democrats address the economy, they don’t talk about taxes and tax credits, but about entire business environment—education, health, infrastructure, stability, etc.    

                Consider these statements from candidate websites.

                “Idaho’s economy needs workers who are well-trained, and who aren’t burdened by crushing student loan debt. Idaho’s workers need the quality jobs that come from being highly trained,” James Piotrowski, candidate for U.S. Representative from Idaho’s First District.

                “But profitability does not come from pinching pennies and limiting benefits. Profitability is driven by productivity. Workers are more productive when they aren’t discouraged by poverty, when they are valued and respected, and when they believe that tomorrow can and will be better,” Jerry Sturgill, candidate for U.S. Senate.

Both Piotrowski and Sturgill see workers’ education and well-being as central to the health of Idaho’s business community. It’s not a surprising view for Piotrowsk, a lawyer who actively defends workers’ rights. Sturgill, however, was head of Stoel Rives’ Idaho corporate practice and has worked with Idaho businesses, large and small.

Similarly, the 2016 Democratic platform also emphasizes workers.

“We support job creation though Idaho’s traditional economic drivers, including sustainable agriculture, mining, timber and manufacturing while expanding industries such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism.” The plank (number 2) goes on to support modern telecommunications, public infrastructure, and fair banking, lending, and investment practices. Still, job creation is the first priority.

Plank 7, focuses entirely on support for workers and business people. It calls for equal pay for women, a higher minimum wage, and the end of “right-to-work.”

Voters in Republican states are especially conditioned to think of tax cuts and tax incentives as the backbone of economic policy. Unfortunately, cuts have set up a competition among states. Even though Idaho business taxes are among the lowest in the nation, many Republicans push for more cuts every year.

Ironically, these cuts have not been found to improve the economy overall. In fact, they make it less likely states can provide the services businesses need for their operations and recruitment.

Think how different it would be if states competed in the things that really do make a difference—education aligned with business needs, strong infrastructure, and vibrant communities. Instead of racing one another to the bottom, we could all be reaching for the top.

I can sense Republicans out there wailing that these things cost and will drive up taxes. The truth is, these things cost and will create profits and tax revenue.

It’s called investing. If companies lack the vision and courage to pay up front for worker training, equipment, and plant facilities, businesses don’t grow. Similarly, states create thriving economies by investing in education, infrastructure, and community development.

Idaho still hasn’t recovered from cutting education by over 20% to fund tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Investment in higher education, essential in driving innovation and advancing skills, still hasn’t recovered. Ironically, small Idaho businesses ended up paying both higher Federal unemployment taxes and local school taxes.

If you look at states with average wages at or below Idaho’s, you’ll see many citizens smugly proud of their Republican governors and legislators holding the line on spending—while relying on Federal subsidies paid for by those in Democratic states.

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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