04 February 2011

Night Falls on Hoboken

I would like to send a message to the nation's governors. Please stop with the whole "let's lure businesses from Illinois" trip. I just can't keep up. Latest on the bandwagon is Chris Christie, 55th Earl of New Jersey. On one hand, I don't mind this one as much. Jersey is clearly a part of a different region, so it stings a lot less than when Wisconsin or Indiana gets in on it. But on the other, Christie has already proven himself to possess tunnel vision (pardon the pun) regarding New Jersey's place in a broader mid-Atlantic region. And let's face it, New Jersey without New York City & Philadelphia across the rivers is just...Delaware.

Christie is in Chicago today to play up New Jersey's recent income tax cuts, because taxes are always bad. As I've written, tax rates aren't everything. I doubt the governor's presentation mentions that New Jersey has the highest fifth-highest median home prices in the nation, and that the state has some of the highest property taxes in the country. He also probably won't mention that New Jersey receives significantly more federal aid per capita than Illinois does. These are inconvenient facts when one is trying to portray one's fiefdom as a tax haven.

Rather than attempting to poach jobs from fellow Americans, states like New Jersey should be making investments in new businesses, incubating entrepreneurship in economically depressed places like Camden and Newark. Investment is key not just for businesses, but for the modern infrastructure that this country (and New Jersey) is sorely in need of. New Jersey on it's own is nothing. Without adequate transportation links within the New York and Philadelphia metros that drive the state's economy, it would die. All of this might require (gasp) temporarily raising taxes. Putting things off for the next occupant of the office is the way of American political life, and it is killing the country's economic future. Americans will always complain about taxes being too high, until they actually start seeing a return. Voters in Scandinavia don't seem so preoccupied with this issue, even though their tax rates make the United States look like a libertarian's wet dream. This is because they know exactly where those taxes go. They pay for first-rate infrastructure and health care and for their children to attend college, not to subsidize corporate interests and fund despotic regimes and endless wars. Meanwhile, China is investing in infrastructure and planning on a regional scale that will ensure their continued ascent. We'd better get used to looking up.

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