The main issue that every candidate from president to town council should be talking about this elections season – but isn’t – is jobs.
Every public opinion poll cites jobs and the economy as the number one issue. Voters want to know what type of policies candidates are going to support that will get our country’s stubbornly high unemployment numbers down.
We’re sitting on 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. Never mind the number of underemployed Americans or those so discouraged they’ve quit looking. These are numbers that have been too high for too long.
There is a way out of these doldrums, though, and it’s not exactly a state secret. Arizona has been named a top-10 state for business by CEO Magazine. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity has us ranked number 1. And Arizona ranks number 2 for expected job growth. If you’re a candidate looking for a jobs plan, look to Arizona.
First, don’t raise taxes on income and capital as we limp out of this economic downturn. A major element of the so-called fiscal cliff facing our country is whether we’re going to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire. We should not.
Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature over the past two years demonstrated they understand this well. Outside of fixing the state’s budget woes, more effort was placed on job creation than any other issue.
They made our state more fertile for job growth by lessening the tax burden on job creators and capital in Arizona. Together they’ve reduced the corporate income tax rate, lowered the tax on business machinery and equipment, instituted the state’s first cut in taxes on investment income and fixed our tax code to make the state more attractive for businesses selling goods and services outside our borders. They had a detailed plan and they executed.
Next, throw up a big stop sign on new regulations. Uncertainty is a jobs killer. Businesses aren’t going to expand if they’re constantly looking over their shoulder for the next new government rule or regulation. Arizona has gotten it right in this department. Gov. Brewer bolstered her pro-business bona fides when earlier this summer she extended the regulatory moratorium that she put in place as her first official action when she took office. The Obama administration has taken the opposite tack, pursuing an aggressive regulatory agenda at the EPA, NLRB and other agencies unlike anything this country has ever seen.
The feds should pass their own regulatory reform package. One bill, the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Jobs Creation Act, seeks to slow the growth of regulations until the nation’s unemployment rate falls below 6 percent. The bill passed the U.S. House in July, but now it’s stuck in the Senate.
The path should also be cleared for America to take advantage of our robust energy sources. We have been given a gift in the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has unleashed an oil and gas production boom in our country. This energy boom has occurred despite the Administration’s efforts to over-regulate this area, block the Keystone Pipeline, push back deepwater drilling and use every means available to block new coal production and shutter older facilities.
Every member of Congress should be required to make a fact-finding trip to North Dakota, where the energy boom has led to a strong housing market and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Energy is so critical to our economic recovery that it could be the lynchpin that would allow us to actually get serious about entitlement reform.
We should also be more aggressive in the area of trade. Some progress has been made here (finally) with the implementation of new trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. We should be wary of candidates in both parties who have a tendency to make noise about going down the road of protectionism.
Finally, say no to automatic spending cuts, especially in defense. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says, if the budgetary axe known as sequestration falls on defense spending, “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”
This is lunacy. We are on the cusp of creating a man-made recession, with defense firms around the country preparing their workforces for potentially devastating layoffs. Arizona was far more surgical in its approach to closing its deficit than anything coming out of Washington.
While sequestration is largely out of our hands here on a state level, the Arizona Commerce Authority and Gov. Brewer should be applauded for positioning the state in as good a position as possible for the state to be named an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site and for their advocacy, along with that of many others, in Luke Air Force Base being named an F-35 training site. Defense jobs are desirable ones, and state leaders deserve credit while Congress and the president play a dangerous game of chicken. We’re fortunate that Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl are working to diligently to stave off sequestration.
In a presidential campaign that has seen more debate devoted to a candidate’s tax returns than how we’re going to get the American jobs machine moving again, these job-creation ideas might seem a little on the wonky side. Here’s hoping that in this final sprint to Election Day we at least give some hope to the millions of Americans out of work and to the job creators who have been stymied by a dysfunctional Washington.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.