Martha note: I got up this morning all set to blog about the invasive nature of blue catfish, but you know those big ugly fish, sadly, aren't going anywhere, so I'm going to file away my thoughts on them for another day.
This is Labor Day, after all, a national holiday created in 1894 to honor American workers. And Tom Graham (who I think does nothing but troll the Commonwealth's news sources), sent me a link to the following at 6:40 this morning with the following note: An interesting editorial – especially since the Free Lance-Star is usually so very conservative.
Virginia, it seems, while a great state for business, is not such a great state for workers.
We're No. 6? 11? 26?
September 6, 2010 12:36 amACCORDING TO research and
rankings by various respected business-information sources, Virginia is a darn good place to do business. Why, praise for the state's business climate almost reaches the level of litany.
The Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States rankings recently put Virginia at No. 1--for the second year in a row. Forbes magazine has listed Virginia as No. 1 in its annual Best States for Business survey for four years straight. CNBC's annual rankings have placed the Old Dominion first in two of the last four years, and second in the other two.
Virginia's political leaders always grab the megaphone to broadcast these reports. After all, this is what they covet and what reflects the success of their efforts. Certainly, it's better that a state be at the top of such lists than the bottom.
Yet such accolades are not synonymous with a high quality of life. During the era of European colonialism, Africa and Asia were "certified business locations," as they say, but the native Bantus and Malays gained little affluence from this imperial exploitation.
Laurels for business-friendliness may be won because states are lax about environmental and other regulations that serve the common good. To lure businesses, states may "give away the store" with tax abatements and other incentives that defer many of the public benefits that businesses have customarily produced (before corporate taxes kick in, a business may move to "friendlier" climes). Even a business's employment dividend may be scant if it's merely headquartered in State A while its workers toil in Country Z.
Indeed, on this Labor Day, it's curious that while praise is bestowed for being a great state for business, no one ever hears about accolades for being a great state for workers. That's odd, inasmuch as many more of us work than own, or even heavily invest in, a business.
Just a few Virginia-relevant factoids regarding work:
In 2007 (the last year for which data are available), Virginia ranked sixth in median family income.
In 2007, Virginia ranked 11th in per-capita disposable income.
In 2007, Virginia ranked 41st in the percentage of the population below the poverty line (that is, its percentage of "poor" people is smaller than those of 40 other states).
In 2003, the last year the census reported this finding, Virginia ranked 12th in the average weekly unemployment benefits it paid.
The Work Environment Index--a measurement of "job opportunities, job quality, and workplace fairness" by
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst--ranks Virginia a mediocre 26th, suggesting perhaps that Virginia is better at netting jobs than at netting good jobs and that workers enjoy relatively little power vis-à-vis management (factors that would help explain businesses' affection for the state).
Virginia is a great state for business. For workers, the record is mixed--reasonably good, but not pennant-winning. Wouldn't it be great if Virginia were No. 1 for both business and workers?
Some would argue that's an inherent contradiction. Maybe proving otherwise could be the next goal our crowing political class sets for itself.
Copyright 2010 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.