Democratic View: Policies for the future

Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much. They especially don’t agree on economic policies and what will be necessary to grow the economy. The GOP view at the national, state and local levels is pretty much limited to cutting taxes and gutting regulations. Do these things, they say, and economic growth and prosperity will follow.

This has been tried before and has failed spectacularly. The hard right took over in Kansas, implementing massive tax cuts in the hopes of stimulating economic growth. The results were a disaster. Similar things happened in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Michigan. Now the GOP wants to do the same thing nationally and will try to do the same thing here if they get power. We don’t want to see Connecticut turn into Kansas.

At the national level the GOP says budget-busting tax cuts “will pay for themselves” with future economic growth. Contrary to GOP mythology, Reagan’s tax cuts did not increase revenues, but shrank them and created unprecedented deficits, as did George W. Bush’s 16 years later.

Rather than debunking zombie economic policies, our time would be better spent at both the state and national levels determining our sources of competitive advantage and disadvantage. The answers will determine which industries (and the skills and careers that go with them) will thrive. Among our competitive advantages are an educated and skilled workforce, and easy access to capital. Before the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — our biggest disadvantage was our employment-based health insurance system. For many people, myself included, the biggest barrier to starting a business was the difficulty of getting health insurance.

The ACA allows entrepreneurs and those who wish to work for themselves to get health insurance for their families. The GOP is intent on turning a competitive advantage back into a disadvantage, and if the House GOP health care bill becomes law, the entrepreneurial benefits of the ACA will be squandered.

What are Ridgefield’s competitive advantages? Among the most important is that it is a great place to live, very safe and with good schools and comparatively low taxes. Businesses tend to locate and grow in areas where people in general, and executives in particular, want to live.  Aspects of life in Ridgefield that could be improved include spotty electrical power and cell phone service, and barely adequate and un-competitive Internet service. Improving these services will make Ridgefield more attractive now and in the future.

How can we build upon our advantages to capture the jobs and industries of the future? The highest value-added jobs will be those with strong research, development or analytical components. While we think of R&D in the context of the hard sciences, skilled workers who can think analytically and creatively will be vital in almost all endeavors. In business, for example, management, operations, marketing, and finance all require solid analytical skills — the ability to gather information, sort what is relevant, and derive useful insights. Prioritizing this in schools will lead to a better future than gutting school spending to pay for tax cuts.

The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column.