It’s pretty clear that there is now, and has been for many years, one prevailing narrative in the United States about how to grow the American economy. It says that what is needed is simply less taxation, less regulation, less government and less unionization. A number of people, including Governor Patrick and me, find this narrative troubling for at least two reasons. One, we don’t think that it is true. Two, it almost inevitably pits the success of the US economy as a whole against the success of working class and middle class families.
This prevailing narrative has become so successfully ingrained into people’s thinking that someone can not only make an unfounded assertion like this:
“For all the talk about the so-called 99% vs 1%, one of the largest reasons the disparities exist is due to government regulation of private capital markets. “
but they feel comfortable in doing so without even bothering to offer to provide a shred of supporting argument or evidence when they do. But it’s important to keep in mind that despite the casualness or even sloppiness that current purveyors of the prevailing narrative routinely demonstrate (like simply repeating that lower tax rates raise more revenue, which is clearly false), in fact the prevailing narrative got where it is today based on a tremendous amount of serious time and effort over many years, if not decades, including through the creation of the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks.
A lesson to be learned from this experience is that we probably need to go beyond criticizing the prevailing narrative, and pointing out its many flaws, by developing with the same patience and effort a new, alternative narrative of what will make the American economy successful in a competitive global marketplace in the 21st century.
Governor Patrick and I and others in the Patrick-Murray Administration have been working to develop such a strategy for Massachusetts over the last five years and we think that what has been working for Massachusetts has relevance for the US as a whole. Our economic development strategy centers on making long-term investments in education, innovation and infrastructure. In education, that means maintaining our place as the national leader in K-12 education, even in a down economy, while addressing the continuing achievement gap between students in different communities. In innovation, it means providing support to our growing world-class clusters in the life sciences, clean energy and technology. In infrastructure, it means both fixing our deteriorating roads and bridges, but also extending reliable broadband internet service to every city and town in the state.
We have some credibility in telling this story because our Massachusetts economy has performed better than the rest of the country over the last five years (we didn’t fall as hard in the downtown and we have been recovering stronger and faster since), and we are especially outperforming many of the states that are true believers in the prevailing narrative.
But we are interested in what you are seeing and hearing. Have we begun to gain some traction with an economic development strategy based on education, innovation and infrastructure, or is this the first you are hearing of it? Are there others around the state or the country who are creating an alternative narrative in a powerful way? Let us know.