SB1070: Symbol of Arizona's Failed Economy and Right-Wing Politics
If other state leaders, even conservative ones from border states like Texas, are not rushing to copy SB1070, it's because whatever their partisan politics, they don't share the peculiar brand of pathological right-wing politics and the hollow economy that has left Arizona such a political and economic basket case.
Click for larger image online.
Other states have grappled with a range of programs to reform their economies and budgets during the current economic crisis. That Arizona's claim to fame in this crisis is immigrant bashing in the form of SB1070 is symbolic of years, even decades of failed political and economic policies. That Arizona politics has promoted low-wage jobs that have left state residents with falling individual incomes relative to the rest of the nation and conditions for the state's children that rank at the bottom of the nation. Since the current economic recession began in December 2007, Arizona has lost 265,000 jobs, or 9.9 percent of the state's employment. And with little else to offer the unemployed, scapegoating immigrants has become a substitute in Arizona for having a real solution to solving the economic needs of its residents.
Individual Incomes Fall Behind the Nation: For decades, Arizona's average wages and income have been falling behind other states. A University of Arizona business school study from 2005 noted that "over the long term, the real income of the average Arizonan has lagged behind the rest of the nation... Arizona slipped from 94 percent of the U.S. level in 1970 to 86 percent in 2003." While the bubble economy in the state of the mid-decade gave a slight bump to individual incomes in the state, per capita income fell 4 percent from 2008 to 2009 after having been stagnant for the previous two years, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported. Arizona was tied for fourth place with Idaho in having the highest drop in personal incomes per capita. Nationally, the decline last year was 2.6 percent.
An Economy Built on a Construction Bubble: The Urban Land Institute has referred to Phoenix as the "poster child" for the housing downturn and bad mortgages. The average price paid for office space in the Phoenix metro area tumbled more than 50 percent one year in 2009. Back in 2006, when growth peaked, about 30 percent of the Phoenix area's economic output was tied to real estate and construction; subtract that bubble economic engine and even the nominal job growth in the state during the last decade collapsed into unemployment and foreclosures.
Part of the problem is that state leaders encouraged a low-wage, bubble-based economic strategy that added a mirage of job and population growth during the last decade, but left the state with poor fundamentals for long-term growth when the financial bubble collapsed nationally. Highlighting the weak economic underpinnings of the state economy, the Arizona Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area ranked near the bottom, 192nd of 200 metro areas, for growth in high-tech gross domestic product from 2003 through 2008, according to the Milken Institute.
Fiscal Solutions More Irresponsible Than Any in Nation: Arizona's fiscal crisis is considered one of the worstin the country by the Pew Center on the States. Since 1992, the state has approved 42 tax cuts to its three major revenue sources -- personal and corporate income, and sales -- and eliminated statewide property taxes that accrued to the general fund-- and despite promises of right-wing economic nirvana, the results have been low personal income growth and a generally low-level of resources for human needs.
Arizona has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, 18.9 percent of the state lacks health insurance and 276,500 Arizona children do not have coverage. In the most recent Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual"Kids Count" report, Arizona ranked 40th in the nation in child well-being, one of the worst in the nation for its teen birth rate (46th), high-school dropout rate (46th) and percentage of children not attending school and not working (44th).
But what truly distinguishes Arizona is its right-wing, inhumane and short-sighted approaches to addressing its current fiscal problems:
- State leaders passed a law to abolish the state's KidCare program providing children's health care to 40,000 kids, the only state in the country to take such a step, and only reversed themselves when they discovered they would forfeit billions in federal dollars if they did so.
- Wide-ranging cuts in programs across the state, from eliminating full-day kindergarten to cutting state employee salaries to removing 10,000 families from TANF cash assistance.
- Two-thirds of Arizona state parks will be closed.
And this has been combined with a whole range of other right-wing and just plain kooky laws promoted by the Arizona's legislature.
SB1070 Will Make Arizona's Economic Problems Worse: Passing SB1070 will simply deepen the state's economic crisis. As the National Employment Law Project points out, smaller-scale anti-immigrant ordinances have cost individual localities millions of dollars. And other studies estimate SB1070 will further decimate Arizona's economy by driving immigrant families, undocumented and legal residents alike, from the state, further depressing demands for goods and already vacant housing tracts.
The Arizona Republic detailed, "More than 100,000 undocumented immigrants have left Arizona in the past two years because of the bad economy and earlier enforcement crackdowns. Now, a new wave of Latinos is preparing to leave."
"So, rather than massive deportations, we are basically going to encourage them to leave on their own," said State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who is also a criminal-justice professor at Scottsdale Community College. But even he admits that the law will likely drive legal residents and their families out of the state.
The Texas-based Perryman Group found if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other local leaders anticipate a drop in new business creation in the state because of the new hostile environment. Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski observed: "We're the laughing stock of the country because of these crazy laws."
From the Progressive States Network.