TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

November 29, 2013

Does Plan B exist for Kentucky’s declining economy?

CORBIN — Frustrated by intense opposition experienced by his ideological soul mate in the White House, Gov. Steve Beshear claims in a New York Times op-ed that Obamacare — the biggest expansion of government power and control in decades — is good for Kentuckians’ health and their pocketbooks.

Beshear supports his assertion by citing what was “concluded” in a recent study about the federal health care reform’s impact on the Bluegrass State.

However, he conveniently fails to point out that those conclusions were released in a report by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which admits in the executive summary that it “hired” Pricewaterhouse Coopers and “contracted” with the Urban Studies Institute, which “conclude” that Obamacare will “inject $15.6 billion in Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs (and) have an $802.4 million positive budget impact.”

How serious should we take a study contracted by the state bureaucracy and performed with government-hired hands — especially when those hired hands know that this is the governor’s pet project?

Can you really see this cabinet releasing an economically rigorous report that suggests, as the independent and widely respected Heritage Foundation did — that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion alone would cost the Bluegrass State $846 million during the next decade — especially if doing so would tick off their boss?

Neither do I.

Is it not bothersome that Beshear tries to put all of Kentucky’s proverbial economic eggs into a basket with gaping holes?  

First, it was expanded gambling that was going to save the commonwealth’s economy. Now, it’s getting multitudes on the government health-care dole.

To anyone who disagrees with him and questions the law’s constitutionality or even its workability, Beshear offered this civilized, classy response in his New York Times missive: “Get over it.”

That might be a tad easier were it not for the latest release on Kentucky’s unemployment picture for October from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, which reveals a state workforce in decline:

The unemployment rate was 8.4 percent – up not only from the previous month but also higher than the October 2012 jobless rate. (And unlike unemployment numbers released during the last presidential election, there’s little concern that these figures were tampered with – especially considering Kentucky’s rate is more than a full percentage point higher than the national one.)

The civilian labor force decreased by nearly 10,000 individuals from September.

Around 2,100 manufacturing jobs were lost in October and more than 3,000 during the past year.  

The mining and logging sector has lost 900 jobs in the past year

The information sector lost 1,700 positions during the past year.

The building sector has lost nearly 2,000 jobs just throughout the past year alone.

Some good news: There were fewer government jobs than a month — and a year — ago.

State economist Manoj Shanker says there has been a “sharp drop in the labor force” and notes that “Kentucky’s labor market has struggled since late spring.

And keep in mind that this analysis doesn’t even include Kentuckians who have “gotten over” searching for employment and no longer look for a job.

Compare Beshear’s plan with what, say, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who led a rip-roaring economic revival in his state in recent years, might offer.

It defies the imagination to envision Daniels offering something like this in the Wall Street Journal: “Our big economic plan is … a federal government takeover of the Hoosier State’s health-care system. And if you don’t like it, get over it.”

Imagine it.

Beshear’s Plan A is more gambling and more government. Concerned, unemployed and otherwise struggling Kentuckians might like to know about a Plan B to address our current economic decline — something that actually would shepherd the commonwealth through it.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

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