Wendy's Economic Plan
This morning the news has Jim Nussle attacking Chet Culver for a lack of an economic plan. I was looking for Jim Nussle's plan on the internet last week, and all I could find was reference to 5 points - I couldn't find the actual 5 points, so I don't know if Nussle's plan is any good, or if it is vaporware. Anyway, it seems like it is time to respond with my own plan.
Sustainable Economy – Wendy’s Economic Plan
As manufacturing dwindles, there have been several ideas on how to create a more robust job market in Iowa. Some of these plans amount to corporate welfare, giving away large concessions to big corporations with the promise that they will in turn provide jobs for local workers. Often the large corporation takes the money or concessions, and then defaults on its promises.
Meanwhile, the downsized worker, who may have planned to spend his or her life in a manufacturing job, has no choice but to seek other employment. More and more, there aren’t any corporate jobs, and they end up going in to business for themselves. The biggest employer in the US may be Wal*Mart, but the second biggest employer is eBay. We can no longer rely on the big corporations, who are abandoning many of us, overworking and underpaying those they keep on. In order to help the largest number of Iowans for each dollar spent in assistance, the state should be looking to help the small entrepreneur.
1. Help the small operations
Many times the assistance that we could give the little guys is in the form of relief from expensive and restrictive regulations. From my own experience, I used to buy fresh apple cider every autumn from the orchard on the edge of town. But a few years back, the state decided that cider had to be pasteurized, and the orchards could not afford the necessary equipment, so they stopped selling fresh cider. Cider was shipped in from Kentucky and other states. It’s a real shame. The fresh cider was better, and the money stayed in the state.
Another example is free-range chicken, some of the tastiest meat you can buy, and you can buy it if you are willing to pay two or three times as much as for factory chicken. Why is the price so high? Not because the chickens are so expensive to feed, but because the butchering has to be done according to regulations, and the regulations require expensive facilities with features that have nothing to do with the quality of the meat. The cynics among us believe that this is a deliberate attempt of big business to prevent competition. I don’t know if it is deliberate or not, but it does close off one more opportunity for a person to make a living by doing something worthwhile and rewarding.
With a minimum amount of investment, we could either modify the laws so that it is not so expensive to meet the regulations, or we could support co-operative efforts to provide the required facilities to the small growers so that they can meet the regulations without facing bankruptcy. Helping the local entrepreneur helps the local economy, keeping the money circulating in the area rather than shipping it out of state to some large corporation headquartered in Bermuda.
While the small chicken farmer faces high costs for butchering and dressing their product, in the big chicken factories, USDA inspectors are inspecting 1000 chickens an hour, spending less than 3 seconds per bird. I just don’t think they can do the job properly at that rate. We should have at least 4 inspectors doing that job, 250 chickens per hour is still a lot, that’s less than 15 seconds per bird. Similarly, he hog confinement manure management systems are woefully under-regulated, with the DNR short-handed. The consequence of that is 450 manure spills in the last 10 years, tens of thousands of fish killed, beaches closed, drinking water polluted. We could put people to work doing a valuable service to out state, preventing pollution of our water.
That's just two examples of public works programs that would put people to work providing a worthwhile service to the state.
3. Wise Growth
Unrestricted growth is the ideology of a cancer cell. The wiser path is to look for sustainability, to focus not just on creating jobs, but over the long-term, will this be best for Iowa? We have learned this lesson with regards to soil erosion, and we have turned that problem around to a large degree. We need to be ever vigilant that we don’t put ourselves into a similar situation with our other resources. Hypothetically speaking, if a new business were to set up shop and proceed to drain the aquifer, other businesses that rely on plentiful water would suffer. And there are many businesses that rely on a steady supply of water. Let us not be so desperate for jobs that we make the mistake of allowing an environmental or economic disaster in the name of growth or job creation.
4. Raise the Minimum Wage
I’m not opposed to people making money – to the contrary, I’m all for people making money. That’s why I support raising the minimum wage to a living wage. In order for the economy to thrive, people need to spend money. And in order to spend money, they need money to spend. When people don't even make enough to meet their needs, they are less likely to buy whatever you are selling. If you want customers, you want them to have the cash to spend, without the cash they can't be customers.