Government Shouldn’t Pick Winners & Losers
I’ll stand with Raúl.
A version of this op-ed by Raúl Labrador appeared in the Idaho Post-Register on January 20, 2018.
In 2012, President Obama gave a now-infamous speech in which the candidate for re-election proclaimed, “if you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” His comments were an affront to hardworking Americans who really did build something—they did it on their own—often despite government intervention.
That is the story of our country. American entrepreneurship and our free economy have been the envy of the world because of the bounty it produces. The free market has helped millions of people around the world to escape poverty, including me. This breakthrough in human flourishing can only happen when people are allowed to create, compete and innovate.
Thus, I was confounded when the Post Register attacked me for my proposal to treat all Idahoans fairly and prevent the government from picking winners and losers in the economic ladder. This newspaper contends that, without government, the people of eastern Idaho wouldn’t make things happen. That’s the mentality of many Democrats and sadly, my two Republican gubernatorial opponents. Lt. Gov. Brad Little has spent his political career embracing, defending and advocating for more corporate welfare. Meanwhile, Tommy Ahlquist has done more than push for it—he’s been a big beneficiary of it, to the tune of nearly $70 million in urban renewal and federal funds in his private business.
But if this paper were really honest about what’s happening in Idaho, cronyism and corporate welfare deserves a large part of the blame for the state losing ground in key economic areas. Idaho ranks 44th in per capita income, 49th in average wages per job, and dropped from 9th to 15th between 2006 and 2016 in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s economic competitiveness index. All of this while Boise politicians proudly pass the next round of special tax incentives to supposedly “strengthen Idaho’s economy.” Idaho is clearly trending in the wrong direction.
So I have a question: if the economic policies advocated by this paper and my opponents are so wonderful for the state, why do we keep underperforming in these key economic indicators and why are our children leaving the state looking for better jobs and more pay?
You can, as this paper did, point to the success of specific projects that have benefitted from urban renewal and corporate welfare. In fact, that is the very nature of picking winners and losers - there will be some winners. But while you rejoice in a smattering of business developments here and there, the side effect is an overall tax policy that causes the rest of the residents of Idaho—the majority of Idahoans who don’t get a special tax break or subsidy—to live with the highest income taxes in the intermountain region. They are the losers.
That’s why my economic plan calls for a moratorium on creating new urban renewal districts, which have been used as a slush fund for private developers to get rich off the backs of taxpayers. It’s why I have called for free market tax policies that treat Idaho companies equitably and end tax giveaways that create an uneven playing field for Idaho businesses. I believe that these kinds of reforms will benefit all businesses, large and small, big or new, and will help people in all communities whether urban or rural.
The Post Register contends my vision for a free economy that treats everyone with fairness “goes painfully against the grain in our thriving region and our flourishing city.” On the contrary. We did build it. Our people—the visionaries, the entrepreneurs, the innovators that make our state hum—continue to build it. They don’t need special favors or deals, government handouts or special breaks. All they ask for is low taxes, a level playing field and a fair shot, and that’s what they’ll get from me as governor.