Low wages, low taxes, small government. How can you lose?
Well, ask Georgia. It’s another state to add to the miraculous Kansas implosion under Sam Brownback to challenge chamber of commerce-style economic orthodoxy.
Georgia, home of such corporate big names as Coca-Cola, UPS and Home Depot, is vying with Mississippi for the country’s highest unemployment rate, The Atlantic notes.
This may seem surprising, since Georgia was named the best state to do business in both 2014 and 2013 by Site Selection magazine, largely because of its workforce-training program and low tax rates. Nathan Deal, the state’s GOP governor, handily won re-election in November against Jimmy Carter’s grandson by speaking about Georgia as a job magnet.
But those who follow the state’s economy say the state’s troubling economic figures are directly related to Georgia’s attempts to paint itself as a good state for corporations.
“This is what a state looks like when you have a hands-off, laissez-faire approach to the economy,” said Michael Wald, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics economist in Atlanta. “Georgia is basically a low-wage, low-tax, low-service state, that’s the approach they’ve been taking for a very long time.”
Georgia has cut unemployment benefits and cut spending on schools. It has made it tougher for students heading to technical colleges to get financial aid through the lottery scholarship (this is already on the Arkansas legislative agenda this year). Sales taxes have been cut and tax benefits extended to agricultural interests. Industry is getting a utility tax break, just like the one being expanded in Arkansas this year.
“It’s a misconception that these so-called, business-friendly policies are closely related to stronger economic growth,” said Wesley Tharpe, an analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “A state’s economy depends on an educated workforce, transportation infrastructure, public safety, reliable street cleaning and snow removal.”