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Posted: October 13, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Old guys, old ideas in race for governor

When I look at the race for governor in the closing weeks of the campaign, the things that I don’t see include energy, enthusiasm or bold new ideas for revitalizing Georgia.

What I see are two irritated old men grumping at each other.

Georgia is stagnating after eight years of indifferent leadership from a do-nothing governor. Our money is gone, infrastructure is crumbling, and schools could use an extensive overhaul. We are in need of a governor who might shake up the system with some fresh thinking and innovative ideas.

Instead, we are given a choice between two political retreads who are old, tired and overweight (and as someone who is old, tired, and overweight himself, I’m fully qualified to make that observation).

Georgia’s two-party political era really started in 1966 when Republicans nominated Bo Callaway to run against Lester Maddox for governor. This election marks the first time since then that both major party candidates have been above the age of 60.

Nathan Deal is 68 years old. Roy Barnes is the young man in this race at 62. If Deal wins the general election on Nov. 2, he will be the oldest person elected governor of Georgia since Lamartine G. Hardman won the office at the age of 71 in 1927.

It’s been a campaign of old codgers, a politics of prune juice.

One example of the tired, worn-out thinking that characterizes this campaign is in the area of economic development and jobs. With Georgia still struggling to escape from the worst recession since the 1930s, the issue that has weighed most heavily on voters is how to generate jobs.

What has been the response of Deal and Barnes? Tax breaks. When you strip away the spin, Barnes and Deal are proposing to solve our economic crisis with more tax breaks to businesses.

Deal says we should cut the state’s corporate income tax rate by one-third, reducing it from the current 6 percent to 4 percent.

"By reducing Georgia’s corporate income tax rate to 4 percent, this much needed relief will trigger job growth, greater productivity and encourage investment here at home," Deal said.

Barnes wants to provide a $300 million jobs tax credit for employers who increase their total payroll by adding new jobs or increasing the hours or salary of current employees.

"There is nothing wrong with an incentive that is time-limited and directly affecting the creation of jobs," Barnes told reporters when he rolled out his economic development platform.

Is that the best idea that either candidate can come up with? Really?

If there’s one thing we should have learned over the past two decades, it’s that tax cuts do not result in the creation of new jobs. There’s no question that tax cuts lower the amount of taxes an individual pays. But the data just does not show that they generate more employment.

Bill Clinton signed a major tax increase early in his first term as president. George W. Bush signed the largest tax cuts in U.S. history in 2001 and 2003. Which president had the best record for job creation during his administration?

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Labor Department, there were 23.1 million jobs created during Clinton’s eight years as president. There were 3.0 million jobs created during Bush’s eight years as president.

Here in Georgia, the Legislature has passed and the governor has signed dozens of tax breaks and exemptions for businesses over the past five years. When lawmakers adopted each of these tax cuts, they claimed the measure would generate more jobs.

Georgia’s unemployment rate currently hovers around the 10 percent mark. The state’s jobless rate has exceeded the national unemployment rate for 35 consecutive months — a period that includes most of the last year of the Bush administration. Where are all the jobs those tax cuts were supposedly going to create?

In the face of this data that tax cuts don’t result in the creation of jobs, our candidates for governor propose to create new jobs by implementing even more tax cuts.

Great idea, guys.

 

Tom Crawford is the editor of Capitol Impact’s Georgia Report. He can be reached at tcrawford@capitolimpact.net.

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