The Policies That Make a State "Poorer," According to ALEC

A state that asks everyone, including the luckiest few, to pay their fair share during a time of historic inequality. A state with a minimum wage above the federal floor that helps boost consumer spending and power the economy. A state that has been able to avoid economically devastating budget cuts and public sector job losses by seeking responsible budget solutions.

What one word might best describe a state that has adopted policies like the above to rebuild their economy?  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has one in mind: “poor.”

For the fifth edition of their annual Rich States, Poor States report, the increasingly controversial corporate-backed group has once again partnered with notorious supply-side economist Arthur Laffer to rank the 50 states based on their “economic outlook.” To do so, ALEC once again uses a set of criteria intended, the authors write, to “highlight the policies that contribute to economic well-being in the 50 states.”

Yet one look at some of the criteria used to generate this survey reveals that ALEC largely values the “well-being” not of families or state economies, but of the very same corporate interests that fund ALEC.

For instance:

  • Despite study after study showing that increasing the minimum wage provides an economic boost to state economies, ALEC and Laffer rank the state with the highest current minimum wage – Washington, at $9.04 – 50th out of 50 in one policy category comprising the rankings. States with no minimum wage laws at all share the number 1 spot.

  • Analyses of the recovery continue to show state and local government job losses to be an unprecedented drag on the economy. Yet states including Maine, Alabama, and Pennsylvania that saw their legislatures turn in conservative directions in 2010, resulting in public sector jobs being slashed at a rate far outpacing the national average in 2011 (according to a recent report by the Roosevelt Institute), were rewarded by ALEC if those policies succeeded in decreasing the number of public sector jobs per capita.

  • Indiana dropped from number 16 to number 24 in this year’s rankings. But Hoosier one-percenters need not fear. They are set to rebound, the authors predict, noting that Indiana did not “get the benefit of its corporate income tax reduction or right-to-work legislation as of this publication.” Once these newly enacted fiscally irresponsibleanti-worker policies are accounted for, Indiana is expected to “recover from its steep drop” this year – and be deemed “richer” for it by ALEC in 2013’s report.

While national attention has recently focused on ALEC’s non-economic initiatives such as “shoot first” and voter suppression bills, the ideological bent of their yearly state economic rankings should come as little surprise. As the group pursues an announced “refocus” on economic issues under increasing pressure, and as more becomes apparent about the ways in which corporations wield influence in statehouses, the results of ALEC’s annual Rich State, Poor States rankings should not just be taken with a grain of salt by observers – they should be explored to reveal the depths of the misguided and economically destructive priorities they promote.