by Steve Smith
There’s been a lot of attention lately on California’s turnaround. As it turns out, that nonsense about all our jobs moving to Texas was a just Texas-sized whopper. Last year California created about 500,000 jobs to lead the nation in job growth, outpacing the conservative darling Texas.
Basically, the corporate narrative about California has gone up in smoke. In the last several years, California has done a litany of things that the corporate crowd claims kill jobs. We raised the minimum wage. We raised taxes on the rich with Prop 30 to better fund schools and public safety. We guaranteed paid sick days for all workers. We eliminated the wasteful enterprise zone tax credits for big businesses that cost the state nearly $1 billion per year. We got rid of another tax giveaway to business with Prop 39 and instead funneled those funds into clean energy projects that create good jobs. We strengthened regulations that protect workers and the environment. The list goes on and on.
So imagine my surprise when I read Joel Fox’s blog on Fox & Hounds claiming that the Chamber of Commerce was actually responsible for the job growth in California. Oh, ok. Sure. That makes total sense, Joel. The Chamber constantly derides California as the most anti-business state in the country and now wants to claim credit for our success? That makes about as much sense as that idiotic scheme you participated in during the 2012 election to help the Koch Brothers and their rich, out-of-state friends funnel millions into California to help pass the anti-worker Prop 32 and defeat Prop 30. But, I digress.
Hidden at the bottom of Fox’s inane blog is the one line we should all pay attention to in the context of this argument.
The Chamber’s goal is to keep business costs low to improve the economy statewide.
By lowering “business costs” he means eliminating protections for workers and the environment, shrinking wages for workers, while cutting taxes on CEOs and the wealthiest among us. California has roundly rejected this shortsighted notion, unlike, say, Kansas, which is seeing the disastrous effects of implementing the big business plan.
California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, has shown the real path forward. You can create jobs AND protect workers and the environment. You can put more money in the pockets of those at the bottom while creating shared prosperity that benefits the economy as a whole. You can make the rich pay their fair share to fund our schools, public safety and other important services without hurting job growth. You can protect immigrant workers against exploitation and strengthen the ability for all workers to stand together in unions without hurting competitiveness. In fact, when you do those things, jobs DO grow. Wages DO grow. The economy gets stronger. And most importantly, lives change for the better.
Still, too many workers are struggling today. Now isn’t the time to go backward on workers’ rights. Instead, it’s time to step on the pedal so we raise standards for all workers to combat growing inequality. The last few years we’ve put to rest the narrative that says doing good things for workers and the environment kills jobs.
So let’s not waste time and let’s continue doing more of what we know works. More investment in California’s working people makes California a better place to live and raise a family. More support for workers and their families lowers poverty while creating an economy that works for everyone. And we do this not with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate CEO funders, we do it in spite of them.