Economic recovery is a snap: just ask ALEC

There’s a magic formula for economic prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council is all too happy to share it.

All you have to do is elect a boatload of Republican legislators who’ll play ball with a Republican governor.

OK, ALEC didn’t exactly put it that way. But that big box store for free-market and small-government thinking — offered helpfully under the guise of “model legislation” — implied it clearly enough.

Clearly enough that I don’t mind putting the words in ALEC’s mouth, much in the way that ALEC puts words in the mouths of legislators.

ALEC has released its fifth annual report titled “Rich States, Poor States,” its forecast of the states’ economic outlook. One of its co-authors is Arthur B. Laffer, the former Reagan era economic adviser best known for developing the “Laffer Curve,” which holds that cutting taxes can actually result in increased revenue.

You know where this research effort is headed.

If you want good news, it’s this: According to the ALEC-Laffer braintrust, Idaho’s economic outlook is ranked No. 6 in the nation.

Idaho earns that lofty ranking based on 15 metrics, many that would make any predictable small-government wish list: a right-to-work law; a low minimum wage matching Uncle Sam’s; a relatively small number of government employees per capita; low debt service. Idaho might have graded higher, had the report reflected the corporate and high-end personal income tax cuts passed by the 2012 Legislature.

But according to the ALEC-Laffer scorecard for building a state economy, there is no correlation between education and job creation. None. It doesn’t matter which metric you choose. If you don’t think per-pupil spending or state higher education budgets are good yardsticks of educational quality, fine. If you think state-funded pre-kindergarten is a gross usurpation of the family, fine. Pick something else. High-school and college graduation rates. Growth of charter schools. In-state college tuition. University research grants. You’ll find nothing.

Nothing that even suggests that funding and setting policy for public education is probably the most important function of any state government. Or that education is a strong consideration for businesses looking to expand or relocate.

In other words, Idaho ranked No. 6 in a junk study that doesn’t reflect the nuanced reality of governing. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider how the Idaho Legislature closed its business for 2012. Its compromise to set the 2012-13 budget included nearly $36 million in tax relief, but $35 million in restored teacher pay. Idaho lawmakers tried to strike a balance that the ALEC-Laffer study fails to contemplate.

Looking at the ALEC-Laffer rankings, some patterns are impossible to overlook.

Among the top 10 states, eight have GOP governors. Republicans control the House in all 10 states and hold the Senate in eight states.

Looking at the bottom 10, seven have Democratic governors, and Democrats control the Senate in seven states and the House in seven states. The outlier is Maine, a Republican state that ranked No. 47 in the study.

These findings aren’t surprising nor nefarious. If ALEC is going to grade states based on criteria such as tax burden and the minimum wage, it only holds that Republican statehouses will fare better than Democratic statehouses.

My problem with the ALEC study is in its labeling. If this were called a scorecard on tax rates or even “the cost of doing business,” I wouldn’t have any heartburn. But this study suggests that the lone true path to prosperity comes by lowballing the cost of state government. That’s political spin, pure and simple. And it helps explain why ALEC, despite its claims of nonpartisanship, is viewed with such suspicion.

Not only are the ALEC rankings spurious, they arew unreliable. Consistently conservative Idaho has ranked in ALEC’s Top 10 three of the four previous years. If we’re so poised for economic recovery, wouldn’t we be doing better?

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We're #35!

It all depends on who you think "Idaho" is. If you're looking for an exploitable workforce, and a gullible legislature, we rank high. If you're a citizen, hoping to improve your economic well-being... well, the state ranks 35th in per capita income, good luck with that.

Thanks for your commentary, and the link to the ALEC source, Kevin.


Per capita cost of living?

I see your point here, KR.......

if we would just pour more money at this issue, our school districts and economy would climb right up there along side those of Detroit and Wash DC. To whom do I make out my check?

doing better?

Who is not doing better?

Better than what?

KR, it's Friday. Tonight take your wife out to dinner. A nice place where your tab will be at least $50. Show up at 6:00 and see if you get a table or at least take a look to see how many are "not doing better".

Try not to get heartburn.

Hey we are #6!!!!
That's as good as the Broncos.


is a radical right-wing think tank that is backed by people like the John Bircher industrialist Koch bothers.

The Laffer curve has also been debunked as more supply-side hogwash.

Thanks for pointing it out.

Although some people may not care, the attempt by the rich and powerful to subvert government "of the people, by the people and for the people", should be exposed to the light of day.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart


there is no correlation between education and job creation.


KR, you are trying to make a contrary statement here---

Do YOU have any evidence that there is a direct correlation between SPENDING on education and job creation?

Read the post, pimp2

I didn't say, "there is no correlation between education and job creation." I said, by looking at the criteria, that this is what the ALEC-Laffer study says.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

and so

How about this, "do you think there is a correlation between education funding and job creation?"

read pimp's post again, KR

By inserting your interpretation of what the Alec-Laffer study means, you seem to be disagreeing with your assumption of what it means. Why else would you have inserted that conclusion? Pimp2 asked if you have any evidence for refuting that claim with which you apparently disagree. Do you?

There is plenty of research that suggests education is a path to jobs, the better one's education, the greater the likelihood of landing a good paying job. Of course, that all depends on one's field of study, and a person's GPA might figure into the employee selection process also to say nothing about the overall health of the economy. Not all college degrees are equal. This still leaves unanswered the question of who creates the jobs that will be offered to high school and college graduates? Might it be some self-educated entrepreneurial genius such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or a Jack Simplot? There does not appear to be any direct correlation between degree holders and job creators as clearly something other than or in addition to an education must exist for a person to become a job creator.

Re education, state governments play an important role in providing an educated work force for both the private and public sectors of the economy, but its first priority has to be providing the kind of business climate that encourages private sector growth if businesses are to utilize our educated citizens. Otherwise we're just encouraging outward migration of the citizens we spent tax dollars educating as they will move to states that have a better business climate and job market. I think the 2012 legislature approached the right balance, but the tax cuts appear to be too skimpy to have a major impact on economic development - right direction, wrong formula.


I'm glad that someone else sees it the same way I do.


If you want to benefit our economy the most, which would you choose- education or tax cuts for the rich? I'll take education every time. We've had major tax cuts for the rich since George W (10 years plus) and there's no prosperity in sight for the middle class in Idaho. Hey Republican's in our legislature and congress, where are the jobs? You plan has not worked.

tried and tried

So then WHY did the Democrat controlled Congress and president NOT immediately elminate those tax cuts?

Let's rewind---
"in a recession tax increases are not good".
THAT is what YOUR president's administration said.

Congress had two years to do it. They created a flawed health care bill instead. Did they eliminate the rich tax cuts? No. Why not? Maybe they thought the tax cuts are good

As silly as it sounds

The Senate did not have the votes because of stupid rules in place. All a Republican had to do was hold up a bill. Not enough votes to change it. It only got harder when 2010 apathy voters voted in extreme people.

stupid rules

Okay Alice... in Wonderland.

Listen to the messages from Dems and Rep. NO ONE is advocating increasing taxes during a recession. NO ONE.

Why do you suppose that is?

If it's true in a recession why do dems think it's not true in a stable or up economy?


sure thing, that's why your Idaho legislature gave a 35 million dollar tax cut to the richest Idahoans. Did you feel the positive jolt in Idaho's economy? BTW we will all benefit from the health care reform.

ALEC Exodus Update

Yesterday, the candy company Mars, Inc. and the Arizona Public Service Company (Arizona’s largest electric utility) became the latest in a group of high-profile companies to part ways with the ALEC. They join Kraft, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Intuit, and the Gates Foundation.

ALEC describes itself as “a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues.” Although mostly conservative lawmaker members pay a fee to join, ALEC is 99% funded ($7 million/yr) by corporations.

Its critics call it a way for big corporations to impose their will through state law—laws that have included easing taxes and regulations on big companies while restricting the rights of immigrants, workers, minorities, and cutting education funding.

ALEC is a travesty to common sense

When ALEC finally was exposed as having a hold over so many legislators around the country, many laws had been enacted to help special interests. Usually having to do with Corporations and their rights. Hence The Right to Work laws which have passed all over the place. What did workers get out of it? Lower pay and loss of benefits. Who won? The greedy Corporations. NRA pushed through the stand your ground law. This was a stupid law. It took away the thought of getting away from a bad situation and seeing threats everywhere and some have then acted on with insane reactions. One doesn't even have to try to negotiate out of a situation. How many people who carry guns see real threats or are the majority just perceived threats, depending on your biases?

ALEC would like to privatize everything from education, postal service, prisons, etc. to for profit entities. Are these better? Not even close. What the average citizen does not realize is that ALEX lies to make their agenda look better. Reality for the average citizen rights are not on their radar. This needs to be eliminated from our legislators for our sake. ALEC doesn't represent "Freedom", it represents "Greed."

Don't forget Apollo Alliance

And then there is the Apollo Alliance (aka the Bluegreen Alliance) which claims to be "a coalition of labor, business, environmental, and community leaders working to catalyze a clean energy revolution that will put millions of Americans to work in a new generation of high-quality, green-collar jobs. Inspired by the Apollo space program, we promote investments in energy efficiency, clean power, mass transit, next-generation vehicles, and emerging technology, as well as in education and training. Working together, we will reduce carbon emissions and oil imports, spur domestic job growth, and position America to thrive in the 21st century economy."

Harry Reid thanked Apollo for helping write the Stimulus bill which brought us such waste in government spending as Solyndra and Abound Solar Manufacturing among other green energy failures of the past year, all of them funded by our tax dollars.

ALEC's agenda is social

ALEC's agenda is social engineering...plain and simple. ALEC is being exposed for what it is....ultra-right wing conservatives attempting to advance social initatives that benefit a chosen few in society but do not benefit the common good. Boycott is one of the remaining ways Americans can show their disapproval...corporations pay attention when people reject their goods or services.