Do you want a job or bigger government?
The numbers are staggering. More than 252,000 Washingtonians are out of work. Just last month, more than 75,300 people filed for unemployment. At the same time, Washington is struggling with a record budget deficit of $8.3 billion.
As workers and families barely hang on, both the state and federal government are taking a disturbing direction with their economic stimulus packages. Although both create short-term government jobs which will benefit some, we will all end up paying for these very expensive plans.
The $787 billion federal stimulus package is one of the biggest government spending programs since World War II. Even before it was signed into law, the federal government was headed for a record budget deficit of nearly $1.2 trillion. The new federal package substantially increases that deficit. The centerpiece of the package creates government jobs mostly through public works projects, such as building new roads, bridges and infrastructure.
What happens to those jobs once the projects are completed? We are back to the same problems and the same economic environment, but now we have just saddled generations with decades of new debt.
Gov. Gregoire has proposed her own $1.2 billion economic stimulus package, entitled “Washington Jobs Now,” which also emphasizes the creation of more government jobs through public works construction and transportation projects. That may be fine for those who work in construction, but what about the thousands of people in Washington who have lost their jobs at Microsoft, Boeing, Weyerhaeuser and non-construction companies?
The Legislature hasn’t helped matters any this session. It’s now considering more taxes and heavy-handed regulations against employers, which could be the final nail in the coffin for many. The Legislature is also focusing its efforts on extending unemployment benefits to those who now find themselves out of work because of these heavy-handed policies. While that will help our unemployed, we are not taking steps to get people back to work. That’s no way to get our state’s economy back on track!
In 2003, Washington faced a similar situation, although not the magnitude of today. Our state was facing a record budget deficit at that time, and Boeing, which is one of the largest employers in Washington, was considering a move to a more business friendly state. It had already relocated its headquarters to Chicago, and was considering where to build its next generation of jets.
The Legislature recognized the importance of retaining aerospace jobs. We provided an economic stimulus package that not only kept Boeing in Washington, but attracted related industry and new private sector jobs to our state.
By incentivizing private industry, we helped the state to pull out of its deficit and enjoy budget surpluses for several years. That’s an important lesson we should remember as the Legislature tries to close this latest budget gap.
It’s time to ask ourselves, what kind of economic stimulus do we want — one that will help the private sector retain and create new jobs? Or bigger government that provides short-term fixes with long-term financial consequences?
The direction we take now will determine how soon Washington experiences true economic recovery and stability.