Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Unemployed in Arizona: State suffers largest job losses

The US economy has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the past year. Businesses of all sizes have closed their doors. In Tucson, signs of the recession are everywhere; empty auto dealership lots, vacant storefronts, and going-out-of-business signs abound.

One of the most telling signs of Arizona's weak economy is reflected in the job loss statistics. According to statistics released by the Economic Policy Institute, Arizona has lost the highest proportion of jobs in the US. Other states have lost more jobs, but their losses constitute a smaller percentage of their state's total economy.

As reported in the East Valley Tribune, Arizona has lost 9.9% of its jobs or 265,000. Most of the job loss has been in construction, which is down by 45%. These figures clearly reflect Arizona's dependence upon boom and bust cycles in the housing industry.

The statistics also reflect shortsightedness on the part of Arizona's political leaders--especially in state government. Rather than invest in education, job creation, and home-grown industries-- like solar power-- during boom times, the Republican-controlled state legislature offers tax cuts to businesses. In bust times, what do they do? They cut education (making Arizona less competitive in the long term). Cut social services. Cut financial support to cities. And cut anything else they can think of in order to avoid raising revenue. The thought of increasing revenue by relinquishing previous tax cuts is not even on their radar.

Last week, a Phoenix legislator was interviewed by John C. Scott, a Tucson radio talk show host. When asked about the state's financial crisis, including the job losses. His only suggestion was to offer further tax cuts to business--particularly homebuilders and developers to incentivize them to build more homes, which will create some construction jobs-- at least temporarily. (Scott should have asked who was going to buy these houses with so many Arizonans out of work.)

The myopia in the state legislature is frightening. The Republican ideologues continue to cling to Reaganomics. The trickle down theory-- giving tax cuts to the wealthy and thus incentivizing them to invest and create jobs-- has proven to be a failed economic policy. George Bush the First was right when he called it "voodoo economics." When will the Arizona legislature wake up?

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