|A recent report from the Economic Mobility Project, initiated by the Pew Charitable trust, indicates that France, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Denmark enjoy higher levels of upward mobility than we do. Many people from the US who visit these and other countries observe a lot more enterprise and economic success than the mainstream news narrative here would have them to believe.
A discussion on the radio this morning between John Krol and Charlie Deitz on Krol's radio program, Good Morning Pittsfield touched on high school drop out rates that are on the increase.
As a candidate this year I often spoke about my experience on the management team of Marriott International. Bill Marriott Sr., who founded the company, directed his team to manage with this bit of wisdom: "Take care of your employees and they will take care of the business." In my mind, this mantra translates very well to the arena of public policy-making, as I discussed in a blog published in March.
The public infrastructure that supports individual private enterprise is much more than roads, bridges, and broadband. The most important infrastructure we have is our human infrastructure, in whose health and education are investments from which we all benefit. These investments must be made not only to ensure that people are healthy and educated, but that they are free - solvent - to be enterprising.
This is why a public investment is needed. Current debt burdens that we impose on individuals and small businesses in their pursuit of health and education crush enterprise. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the nations that foster better upward mobility than we do are ones whose citizens do not become bankrupt or insolvent when they suffer illness or become educated.
During the business canvassing that I did during my campaign I spoke to small business owners, asking them what their biggest issue was. Nearly unanimously the answer was health care costs. Most business owners understood that their peers in countries whose health insurance plans are part of public infrastructure (as it is in all the countries that are more upwardly mobile than we are) do not carry such unfair burdens. Indeed, I know of no small business owner in any country who would relocate to Massachusetts on the basis of the health care system.
The students to whom I spoke at a rally at Berkshire Community College, sponsored by PHENOM, understood this idea readily when the concept was applied to the college debt that they incur. Mr. Deitz, on this morning's radio program, also alluded to the real problems of education debt. "Most students who decide not to pursue higher education are making a rational cost-benefit choice," he stated.
Our population would be more enterprising and would create more local businesses and jobs of the future if we redefined 'economic development' to include a priority investment into the health, education, and solvency of our young people. Downtown Pittsfield would have more than the few well-connected favor-seeking entrepreneurs than it has now.
I made the argument on the radio at the candidate debate (Oct 27) that if we insisted that the students who took advantage of a strong public education subsidy remained in the commonwealth, then the presence of these enterprising, educated, healthy and solvent young people would be the environment where business executives from outside would trip over themselves to come to Massachusetts.
The solutions to our infrastructure problems are in the hands of the legislature, which controls taxing and budgeting of public revenues. The decisions to make these investments are made in Beacon Hill. Our policies are stuck within two paradigms that have been tried and are not working. Change will occur when new legislators adopt these new budget priorities and a broader view of public infrastructure.