John Florez: Corporate or public interest, which is it?

By John Florez, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Aug. 16, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"If we can get the economy right, everything else takes care of itself. It's the rising tide that lifts all boats." So said Gov. Gary Herbert, speaking before Park City real estate agents in 2011. It may be the reason his administration seems to put corporate interest above the general public’s interest.

The governor and legislators take pride in touting Utah as the best-managed state in the union, at least when it comes to promoting business development; but it may be at the expense of the general public’s interest. Our elected state leaders have shown little interest in promoting the social and economic health of all Utahns in keeping with our state’s value of compassion, especially for those in need.

Legislators quickly pass laws to give tax-break incentives and require fewer regulations, among other accommodations, for corporations — funding hotels, moving the prison for developers and eagerly accepting federal money for highways. However, for two years the Legislature has refused to support the governor in helping 111,000 Utahns in need of health care because it calls for federal money.

Some lawmakers accuse the poor of “feeding at the public trough”; yet, when corporations receive money, it’s called “incentives.” The poor are put through a means test or work requirements; yet, there are no such demands for corporate CEOs.

Income inequality in Utah has widened between the rich and poor, according to the 2013 Utah Foundation study, “Climbing Toward the American Dream: A Second Analysis of Economic Mobility in Utah.” But who cares?

Furthermore, income mobility for Utahns overall has decreased in recent years. The study found that “the most recent nine-year period saw an 11 percentile point increase in people who were ‘downwardly mobile,’ increasing to 39 percent of the population.” Pam Perlich, research economist at the University of Utah, also noted: “Over time, income inequality has increased both in Utah and the nation.”

A growing economy no longer lifts all boats. The link between rising productivity, growing jobs and higher living standards has de-coupled, according to MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee's book, "Race Against The Machine." The 1950s were the happy times when the economy, productivity, GDP, job growth and living standard were all up. It was a time when a rising tide lifted all boats. Then along came the 2000s, when productivity continued to rise but job growth and the median income started to decline.

The new digital technological revolution forces us to change our way of thinking that a good economy lifts all boats. It is the responsibility of our elected officials to advance policies that promote the general welfare of all Utahns that reflect the common values of our Utah society, rich and poor. It starts with a commitment to our values of compassion and helping those in need while respecting the dignity of every individual.

Leaders who yield to the powerful corporate interest in our society appear content to be good managers in running an efficient state government, often by committees that protect the status quo. In today’s rapidly changing world, we need leaders who are willing to take a risk; simply managing is no longer an option. We need leaders who inspire, offer a vision and are willing to use their political capital for the public interest, not for personal or political gain. Come November, we have a choice.

John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee, as Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and on the Commission on Hispanic Education. Email: jdflorez@comcast.net

1. Nunn24
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 16, 2014

"It may be the reason his administration seems to put corporate interest above the general public's interest."

Thank you for drawing attention to Utah business interests' pro-illegal immigration, immigration law anti-enforcement, pro-cheap labor agenda -- which has lifted only a few businessmen's lavish houseboats and speedboats atop the pleasant, blue waters of Lake Powell, while everyone else's toy bathtub boats have been sinking.

True compassion takes into account the numerous American families in Utah who do suffer financially (unemployment, lower wages, foreclosure) and in every other way as a direct result of Herbert's pro-business, anti-society, illegal-alien sanctuary-state affirmation policy, as well manifest by his ardent defense of Utah's pro-cheap labor, immigration law anti-enforcement bill, 2011 Utah House Bill 116.

2. high school fan
Huntington, UT,
Aug. 16, 2014

The author is mad that it is not his opinion but that of someone else that is being adhered to. The state seems to believe if everybody has a job then things will be well, I share that belief. Does it mean that all will be the same , no it doesn't but it does mean all should have an opportunity.
Mr Florez says just over a hundred thousand out of over three million is without health coverage, which is around three percent. This the same as the states unemployment rate which is considered nearly full employment. The prober with taking federal money is that it eventually goes away and then the state has to fund it.
No system is perfect, but here in Utah we have things pretty good.

3. one old man
Ogden, UT,
Aug. 16, 2014

Mr. Florez usually offers a refreshing breath of fresh air in an otherwise stultifying atmosphere in Utah.

Thank you, Sir, for pointing out some truths to readers of DN.

I hope at least some will be paying attention.

4. Karen R.
Houston, TX,
Aug. 16, 2014

IMO, the formula for approaching the social and economic health of a given population should be similar to that used by a lot of coaches: Those players with the greatest gifts need the least resources because they already have so much at their disposal. They're likely going to succeed regardless.

What will give them more opportunities to shine, though, is strengthening the rest of the team. So the bulk of the time and resources should go to addressing the weaker participants. The mantra I heard as a kid was, "The team is only as strong as its weakest player."

"Trickle down" actually works against the interests of the rich/powerful over the long-term. As we now see. Plus it's patronizing as all get out. Let's get back to basic engineering: First a sound foundation.

5. Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah,
Aug. 16, 2014

Mr. Florez is wrong on every point. Tax money pays for all "welfare" programs. Tax money comes from working people. Utah has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. When government encourages business to locate in Utah, Utahns are employed. Employed Utahns take care of their own needs, reducing the need for State "welfare". Employed Utahns buy their own insurance, reducing the need for State Medicaid. Employed Utahns pay for everything that the State buys or "gives".

Without employment, there would be no tax revenue. Without tax revenue, there would be no "welfare" programs.

When liberal-minded people start to realize that tax revenues must come before there can be any "welfare" expenditures, they will stop demanding that government turn away businesses. They will start to see who the "goose" is that lays the "golden eggs".

We should understand that principle from common experience. No matter how "caring" we may be, without excess funds, we cannot help others. We need jobs to be "caring", otherwise we are expecting others to "care" for us.