Last year, there was a lot of talk here about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. This corporate-backed “research” group produces model legislation for the states and recruits and promotes legislators who are likely to introduce it. It’s a pretty slick outfit, well-funded, with lots of opportunities for travel, and lots of opportunities to make member legislators feel good about carrying the water of large corporations.
Soon-to-be-ex-Representative Jon Brien from Woonsocket was on the board of directors, and it turned out that quite a number of state representatives and senators were members – one out of every five. ALEC’s policy agenda is pretty much the standard-issue corporate pabulum: lower taxes, cut spending so we can all live in a capitalist paradise. That sort of thing. If you’re reading here, you probably know the drill.
So imagine my delight when some smart researcher in Iowa realized that ALEC has been around long enough to have a track record. And if there’s a track record, you can measure it and see how good it is. So how do they do?
Not so great, it turns out. In fact, ALEC issues a ranking of how well states conform to its vision of all that is great and good, and it turns out that the states who do best in ALEC’s rankings have seen lower economic growth, more poverty, and lower state revenues over the years 2007-2011.
So the lesson is clear: ALEC’s advice is pretty much the opposite of good advice. Following their suggestions for economic growth seems to be an ideal way to lower median family income, lose jobs, and increase the poverty rate.
In other words, the policies that make up the Economic Outlook Ranking are not a recipe for growth and prosperity. If anything, they are quite the opposite: They are a recipe for economic inequality, low wages, and stagnant incomes that at the same time deprive state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the underpinnings of long term economic growth
Lots of the figures from the report are here.
So where does Rhode Island fall on the ALEC scale? According to the “Rich State, Poor State” report, we’re 43d in ALEC’s rankings. So how do we make our economy better? Probably not by trying to move up in their ranking. ALEC’s advice is bad advice.