October 29, 2015
and left enjoy running down the “Obama recovery.”
side has its reasons for bellyaching over weak job creation, stagnant
compensation growth, and unimpressive business formation. Conservatives seek to
tie Hillary Clinton to the manifest failures of Obamanomics. Liberals, ignoring
the community-organizer-in-chief’s contribution to lean times, seize the chance
to push for universal preschool, greater subsidies to college students, and
more job-training programs.
beneath the surface of a disappointing rebound from a horrifically destructive
recession, the news isn’t all bad.
in where you look. With smart policies on taxes, welfare, education, energy,
and the environment, states can partially compensate for the White House’s
unwavering campaign against capitalism.
a given -- it barely needs to be mentioned. Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and
the Carolinas are also widely known for economic health and population gains.
So let’s head to the Midwest, and visit a state that’s easy to miss: Indiana.
In early 2010, Hoosiers endured a particularly harsh downturn, with
unemployment hitting 10.9 percent. Since then, joblessness has been more than
halved, and it’s now lower than the rate for the nation. (In Elkhart, Fort
Wayne, Lafayette, Columbus, and Evansville, the unemployment rate is at or
below 3.8 percent.) A budget surplus has been achieved, and Governor Mike Pence
some of the extra dough to cover the $250 million owed to the federal
government for an unemployment-benefits bailout.
refusal to embrace tax hikes has undoubtedly played a role in its economic
reversal. But passage of a right-to-work (RTW) law has probably had the biggest
impact. Since its enactment in March 2012, 154,400 jobs have been created.
Indiana’s gotten back all the positions it lost in the Great Recession, and
attained a new peak -- a claim not every state can make. The
economic-development press has taken notice. Area Development put the Hoosier State at #6 on it 2015 “Top States
for Doing Business,” and Site Selection
ranked it #8 in the publication’s “Top Competitive States” this year.
another unheralded star. Those of us lucky enough to have driven through the
scenic and friendly Beehive State lately know that business is booming.
Unemployment is at or below 3.7 percent in Provo, St. George, Ogden, Logan, and
Salt Lake City. Utah has added well over 200,000 jobs since employment bottomed
out in 2010, and like Indiana, more of its citizens are working now than ever.
limited government is the public-policy default position. So it came as no
surprise when Forbes’s new analysis
of the “Best States
for Business” named the state, which passed a RTW law long ago, as #1. Utah
ranked in the single digits in the magazine’s examination of costs, labor,
regulatory environment, current economic climate, and growth prospects. (It
faltered a bit in the quality-of-life metric, at #21.)
states that were hammered in the recession, but continue to struggle, are
poised for comebacks. Not long ago, Arizona was decimated by high foreclosures
and killer unemployment. But Forbes
reports that the state “has emerged from the wreckage to be one of the brighter
spots in a slumbering U.S. economy thanks in part to renewed migration.” Firms
“are finding their way to Arizona as a more affordable option to West Coast
locales like the Bay Area and Seattle. The state offers a diversified economy
with a skilled workforce.”
northwest, Nevada has plenty of potential. For decades, it was the
fastest-growing state. At the deepest of the abyss, its economy was worse than
Arizona’s. But the salad days could soon return. Reno’s manufacturing rebound
has been impressive, and to the east of the city, the country’s
largest industrial park is finding tenants. No income tax, no corporate
tax, and RTW status mean that the Silver State will always be on the radar of
companies, entrepreneurs, workers, and retirees.
is cursed with above-average unemployment and a lingering reputation for
backwardness. But it remains a haven for foreign direct investment. Automakers
based abroad love the Heart of Dixie, and Airbus opened its “first production
site in America” earlier this year. Domestic companies are attracted, too.
Google is setting up a data center. Polaris is building a factory. And GE Aviation
just announced a $200 million investment to create the first U.S. factory for a
cutting-edge ceramic fiber.
Obama’s healthcare “reform,” tax hikes, “environmental”
regulations, and crusade
for pricier energy have hamstrung a recovery that’s capable of more. But
despite it all, there are places where prosperity is starting to take hold.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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