July 20, 2021

Competition Breeds Freedom – Understanding Rich States & Poor States – with Jonathan Williams [Ep. 81]

Competition Breeds Freedom – Understanding Rich States & Poor States – with Jonathan Williams [Ep. 81]

Have you ever wondered what policies impact whether a state is rich or poor? Have you noticed domestic migration trends of individuals and businesses moving from states like California and New York to states like Florida and Texas? What draws them to uproot lives and livelihoods to relocate? Listen as Jonathan Williams from the America Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), discusses with Linda the recent Rich States, Poor States report to break down the policies that truly help states and individuals to flourish. With detailed, easy to understand information and tips, Jonathan provides a roadmap for promoting opportunity, liberty, and prosperity. Listen today to discover how your state ranks!

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Linda J Hansen: Ideas have consequences and policies have results.  What are the results of policies in your state?  Are you a red state or a blue state?  Are you a rich state or a poor state?  

Today my guest is Jonathan Williams.  He is the Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC, where he works with state policymakers, congressional leaders, and members of the private sector to develop fiscal policy solutions for the states.  Williams founded the ALEC Center for State Fiscal Reform in 2011 and co-authors Rich States, Poor States:  ALEC-Laffer Economic State Competitiveness Index with Reagan economist Dr. Arthur Laffer and Steven Moore.  Prior to joining ALEC, Jonathan served as staff economist at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, authoring numerous tax policy studies.  

His work has appeared in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Financial Times, Toronto Star and Investor’s Business Daily.  He’s a contributor for The Hill and a columnist at Tax Analysts, the leading provider of tax news and analysis for the global community.  Williams also serves on the Advisory Board of the State Financial Officers Foundation and as an adjunct fellow at the Kansas Policy Institute.  He has written for the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In addition, he was a contributing author of In Defense of Capitalism from Northwood University Press.  

Jonathan has spoken to audiences across all fifty states and provided testimony for the U.S. Congress, as well as numerous state legislative bodies.  His work has been featured at the federal level, by the White House, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.  He is a frequent guest on talk radio shows and has appeared on numerous television outlets, including the PBS NewsHour, Fox Business News and Bloomberg News.  He was also the recipient of the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Award in Economics.  And with that I welcome Jonathan Williams.  Thank you for being here.

Jonathan Williams: Well, thank you so much for the invitation, Linda.  It’s great to join you on your show and greetings from the land of make believe out here in Washington D.C., as I always say.

Linda: Yeah, the land of the make believe.  I’ve never really heard it referred to as that, but it’s kind of true.  It’s a different world.  I often think about the policymakers under the dome there that really need to understand what’s happening in all the states and with all the small towns across America and all the families affected by policies in local, state, and national levels.  

I really want to focus in this episode on the Rich States, Poor States Index.  So could you tell us how that began and how people could have access to it and just a little more about that?

Jonathan: Well, sure.  It’s really an incredible story how this came together.  ALEC as an organization has been around now nearly fifty years.  It’s really the nation’s largest nonpartisan membership organization of state legislators who believe in free markets and limited government and federalism across all fifty states.  We’ve been at the forefront of kind of talking through what free market ideal solutions look like from state to state through model policy and just best practices and sharing.  Justice Brandeis who ironically wasn’t much of a friend to probably the free market thought today according to the term the fifty laboratories of democracy.  But that was one of the reasons ALEC was founded to come up with the best practices and help tell the story of why is it that some states are always succeeding and other states are failing.  We’ve seen some real turn around states like your home state of Wisconsin and my home state of Michigan.  

So back in 2007, my first week on the job at ALEC and we had Dr. Arthur Laffer, of course, legendary economist, friend of yours, founder of the Laffer curve—the famous curve in economics that he and the recently departed great American hero Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Chaney put together—and talking about that as economic concept and of course, your friend, Steve Moore.  They

 came to us and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if ALEC, given the position that ALEC has and the influence with state elected officials and the ability to reach across the fifty states, wouldn’t it be great if we came up with a way to compare the states with each other and against each other when it comes to the important economic issues of today?  So that is how the idea of Rich States, Poor States came together.  Art Laffer had been collecting this data for fifty years.  He had put it together in big binders and sent it out to his friends and clients, but we wanted to make it more readily available to all state legislators and people that could influence real positive change across the states.  

We narrowed it down.  We measure states based on fifteen things.  These are things that we know.  (A)  They matter for economic growth based on Dr. Laffer’s research and just common sense and Economic Principles 101 that you’re so well versed in.  But also there are things that state legislators in Madison, in Lansing, in state capitals all across the country directly control.   Because, Linda, there is almost a proliferation of industries out there measuring states now which I think is inherently something of a healthy thing, that people are just always thinking about how they compare versus states across the country.  But we wanted to focus on things that state legislators control, not amorphous things like weather or other things which would be great to warm things up a little bit, but quite honestly, in northern Michigan in the winter.  That is why we see so many people go and they’re snowbirds down in Florida.  But we need to focus on things that state policymakers control.  Things like taxes.  Things like regulation, labor policy.  Things that matter.  Things that drive.  

One of the key factors in the findings in our fourteen years of putting this report together is people continue to vote with their feet.  Taxes don’t redistribute income.  They redistribute people across states.  That’s one of the key lessons from my good friend, Rich Retter, professor at Ohio University. Those are just things that cannot be denied—Economics 101.  Why is it California is hemorrhaging people, hemorrhaging jobs?   Why is it New York is?  Why is it Texas and Florida continue to do well?  We explore all those things in much more detail in the report that comes out every year.  You can go to richstatespoorstates.org if you don’t need the hard copy.  It’s a great dynamic website where we have all fourteen editions of the data loaded in to see how your state compares this year but also how it’s either gained or lost in competitiveness over the fourteen years that we have been putting this together.     

Linda: That’s amazing.  I really recommend people go to that.  You said richstatespoorstates.org, correct?

Jonathan: That’s right.

Linda: That is the cumulative data for all of the years that you have been doing this.  I think I have all or almost all of the hardcover copies and I refer to them frequently.  It’s great.  I recently just did a podcast episode called “Don’t Mess With Texas: Protecting the Policies that Bring Freedom and Prosperity.”  We talked about this.  We talked about the migration of people based on tax policy.  People are fleeing these high tax, high regulation states and going to place like Texas or Florida or South Dakota.  It’s an amazing domestic migration that’s been happening especially in 2020 and 2021.  Can you address what are the policies that draw people to these states like Texas and Florida?  Tell us what makes them so successful.

Jonathan: Well, you mentioned a couple of the big ones there.  All taxes matter for economic growth.  We know that when you take a dollar out of the private sector and put it into the government sector, you are going to have a loss.  But not all taxes are created equally.  One of the first things that we’ve learned from our research and then this isn’t just us.  This is OECD that follows this across the world and other groups that have documented the same phenomenon which is based on, back to Economics 101, is taxes on capital, dollar for dollar, the most damaging form of taxes that you can raise revenue for state or local or any level of government for that matter.  So at the state level primarily business and personal income taxes are some of the biggest inhibitors to economic growth because as the states that we’ve mentioned just before, big states are really easy for a quick comparison, but it goes much deeper than this obviously.  California [has] the highest personal income tax state in America at the state level, 13.3%.   Of course, there are some so-called progressives in Sacramento that would like to see that go much, much higher.  But then New York also, some of the highest taxes in the country.  Texas and Florida, the other two large states, of course by population, both have zero personal income tax.  

One of the factors we’ve always found just incredibly important is the personal income tax because people forget and Bernie Sanders his whole line about, “Millionaires and billionaires need to pay more.”  People forget though on the individual side almost all small businesses pay their taxes in the individual income tax—the sub-chapter S companies, the LLC’s, LLP’s, things like that as a pass through.  People totally forget about that.  Where are the new net jobs being created across the country?  And this has been true for a long period of time.  It is small businesses and startups and so many of those that pay on the individual side of the codes.  So it’s not just for individual wage earners, but it is for job creators and small businesses and entrepreneurs.  That’s why I think you see the growth effects as being so large between the nine states without personal income taxes.  

People kind of get it with Florida and Texas being high profile examples, but you mentioned South Dakota.  We also, it’s kind of an outlier here, but Washington state is still a state without personal income tax even though they have a big government policy in many other areas.  There are nine states across the country.  Dr. Laffer’s home state now of Tennessee where he lives in Nashville, another booming state.  We think that is a big reason why.  We look at the nine states without personal income taxes every year in the book and compare them with nine states that have the highest personal income taxes.  Each and every year and this goes back fifty years of data with Art Laffer’s work, there is a huge growth premium associated with being a no personal income tax state especially when it comes to this net domestic migration effect as people continue to vote with their feet.  

It’s a really important phenomenon.  It’s now gotten really big national news because at least once out of every ten years, Linda, people here in Washington pay attention to this phenomenon because guess who draws the congressional lines that are coming up now.  The U.S. census now, of course, is delayed.  We’re giving the detailed information out to state legislatures right now.   But in the fall almost every state will come back in a special session and use that new data on this migration to redraw state legislative dot lines, but then of course, members of Congress.  

One of the pieces that I’ll make sure that I give you a link to put up on your side as well, but I wrote recently is to analyzing the last ten years of data when it comes to the U.S. census results and which states are going to be gaining congressional seats and which states are going to be losing.  The big winner is Texas, gaining two new U.S. House members.  So it’s not just the economic growth; it’s actually new political clout for Texas as well.  Florida is going to gain a new seat.  New York loses another seat for, I believe they are down, New York is down something like 20 or 25 U.S. House districts since the census of 1940.  I recently talked to former speaker, Newt Gingrich on his podcast.  He’s an historian as you know.  We’re kind of going back and looking at these long-term trends, just an incredible out-migration effect from some of those high-tax states.  

I’ll leave you with this one last case study on this effect and that is California.  You have to go back to 1850 to statehood in California.  California has never lost a U.S. congressional seat since statehood in 1850, except they will in 2020 because of this net domestic migration effect.  They’re still seeing in-migration from overseas. Their birth rates are still over death rates.  But the thing that has changed dramatically over this last decade is this out-migration of small businesses, of large businesses for all that matters, and then also individuals following the jobs and opportunity.  California will be down one U.S. House district because of this effect.

Linda: This is amazing.  As our mutual friend, Dr. Art Laffer, often says, “If you tax something more, you get less of it; if you tax something less, you get more of it.”  It’s not rocket science, but it is really evident in these states and their economies.  It’s fascinating to me how, you mentioned California, that nothing has changed until more recently in terms of their House seats.  That’s really significant, I believe.  That really shows that people are truly unhappy with the policies there and the migration to these other states.  But we want to make sure that listeners understand; if people take their mindsets that voted in the policies in California and they just take them to another state, that will not be helpful.  You can’t go and vote for the very same things in your new state that you voted for in your old state.  We need to educate people to help them understand why is it more economically profitable for them to live in Florida or Texas or Tennessee?  Why?  Your book, all your research, everything that you provide through ALEC is really, really helpful.  That’s of course what I try to do with Prosperity 101 as well.

Jonathan: It’s so important to educate on the good Economics 101.  “It’s not rocket surgery,” as Art Laffer likes to say.  This is kind of key things, but as people that are so busy with their lives, taking their kids to soccer practice and staying afloat during very difficult time right now, over the last couple of years especially, that they don’t live this life that we do that we think about policy and we wake up and think about how we make ourselves more economically prosperous as states.  I think it’s up to normally people like us and business owners and chambers of commerce across the country to say, “Why is it you have a job in Texas and you were on an unemployment line in Michigan or in New York and why is it your business moved from New Jersey to Florida like so many have or from California to Texas?  Connecting the dots on what good economics is all about is key.  

But your point on California, and the mainstream media has largely ignored this even although I think it is the big story from the census of 2020, is California losing that seat.  And folks, it’s not because California doesn’t have good weather anymore.  Nobody leaves California and goes to Texas for better weather.  They have Silicon Valley.  They have Hollywood. They have the great mountains.  They have Lake Tahoe.  They have skiing. They have great beaches.  [With] all of the great things that California has, that state should be bursting at the seams with people and businesses trying to get into the state.  It could be the world’s 5th or 6th largest economy.  Look at the sheer amount of customers and demand that is there in California.  The fact that the left has completely and utterly dismantled that formerly great state economy is just a travesty, I think, one that has to be highlighted time and time again.

Linda: Exactly.  I notice on the state rankings for your current book, Rich States, Poor States, Utah is number one.  Can you tell us why Utah was number one?

Jonathan: Well, I’m glad you asked.  That is an incredible success story.  If California is the failure story, Utah is an incredible success story because, not only, Linda, are they number one in our fourteenth edition, but they have been number one for each and every one of the editions since we kicked off this book in 2007 with our first breaking. There are a few reasons why.  I think, normally, and we have some great ALEC members in Utah.  Senate President Stuart Adams is our 2021 ALEC National Chairman and he takes this very seriously and he is looking ahead.  I think this and previous leaders in Utah have always thought a little bit ahead and that’s what’s kept them ahead.  They’ve had some really good long-term strategic thinking about, “All right, here’s where we’re at, but how do we stay there?  We need to anticipate.”  You know Florida has been moving up dramatically in the rankings with Governor DeSantis and some of the free-market legislators there.  Other states are always kind of nipping at the heels of Utah, but Utah has always been able to stay one step ahead.  They’ve done some innovative things when it comes to free-market policies that I think has really gone unnoticed unfortunately by many states.  It’s been up to people like you and me to kind of tell this story and how states can emulate Utah and really see some of this success.  Because when you look at the actual percentage change of who is the fastest growing state in American over the last decade, it was Utah with more than 20% growth over this last decade.  So it’s not just theory; it is actually rubber hitting the road and people continuing to look for these opportunities that Utah provides.  

Utah is a state that has gotten, in a way, it’s an interesting way to phrase it, but Utah is a state that doesn’t get anything tremendously wrong, first of all.  So in the years of putting together the rankings, I don’t think they’ve ranked below 25th in any one of the fifteen categories anytime that I can remember.  So they have always been in the top half in almost everything and then a few things they’ve really excelled on.  In recent years, they created a flat tax and reduced the rate to below 5%.  Clearly not as low as other states, or certainly states that avoid income tax, so there’s probably some additional work to be done there.  

But a couple of areas really do stand out.  One is, and we could probably have a whole show on this, we actually released a new report a couple of weeks ago on the massive challenge that state financial budgets and financial situations face when it comes to unfounded pension liabilities across the country for government workers out there.  Utah, about a decade ago with the help of a lot of our ALEC friends, really transitioned to more of the defined contribution approach, the 401K-type system that so many workers in the private sector as used to do and a great flexible approach for young workers coming into the work force.  That has saved Utah a tremendous amount of financial stress and has really helped keep their economic outlook competitive.  

But another couple of things is Utah has always looked around the curve when it comes to what happens if and when the federal government reduces aid to the states?  It’s certainly not going to happen right now in the era of the Biden bucks and the bailout from the feds of the states.  I think that’s horrible policy.  That’s probably another topic for probably a full discussion.  But Utah has really looked to say, “What would we do if and when the federal government in the era of now 30 trillion of national debt decides that we need to send less to the states or we need to cut off state aid?”  So when you look at the bond rating agencies as they analyze states for credit reports, Utah has been able to keep a triple A bond rating.  One of the reasons why is they’ve come up with this contingency plan to say, “What would we do as a state if and when the federal government reduces support?”   The great kind of innovative thinking, just another example of.  

And let me leave you with this one.  I think this is one that needs to be talked about in states all across the country because if you go out to an audience and you ask people to raise their hands on the most hated tax that they pay, there’s a couple that usually come to the forefront.  Gasoline taxes people hate; they hate the price of gas and what it’s done, certainly in this administration in recent months.  They hate the death tax because it’s a morally unfair tax out of states and families when they’re taking care of their families with the loss of a loved one.  But the other one they always hate is property taxes.  When you look at the polling, it’s always 70 or 80% of people hate property taxes.  Utah I think has the best approach that I’ve seen to how to address high property taxes and they call it the Truth in Taxation Law.  It’s been on the books since 1985.  It’s now ALEC model policy.  We saw it actually pass in Kansas and Nebraska this year.  So we’ve seen a trend of states picking up on this because they’ve been able to stop this proliferation of high spending by cities and counties and local units of government by really adding some transparency to the system and say, “If you want to raise people’s property taxes, be honest about it.  Take real recorded votes by the local units of government.  Stop blaming the state officials for your problem of local overspending and local property taxes.”  Those are just a few of the examples of why I think Utah’s always stayed at number one.  Given the leadership of the people I’ve talked to in Utah, I think they’re going to be very well positioned for many years to come.

Linda: That’s great.  One of my podcast episodes was with Connor Boyack.  He heads up Libertas Institute there.  I learned a lot from him about what actually Utah is doing as well.  It’s great.  You mentioned the fifteen measures that you use to rank these states.  Can you tell us just briefly?  I know our time is running short, but tell us what those fifteen measures are?

Jonathan: Yes.  So starting with, a good chunk of them are tax-policy related.  So we look at the personal income tax rate.  We talked about how important that is.  The business income tax rate.   How progressive the tax system is?  That is, how much more you get penalized if you are more successful and earn more?  That’s something that’s key.  One of the key factors, like I just mentioned with Utah, is them getting down to a flat tax.  Arizona, by the way, in recent, about a week and a half ago, passed a flat tax and reduced the rate tremendously.  I think one of the big victories of 2021 for taxpayers is just happening in Arizona on that topic.  Property taxes as we just discussed.  Sales taxes and then remaining tax burden which in everything outside of those major categories.  And then the death tax and then what has the state done recently?  So we look at over the last two legislative sessions, has that state raised taxes or lowered taxes?  So in a way, they’re telegraphing which direction they are going on tax policy with that variable.  Then we look at thinks like the level of state debt and the pension issue like we talked about, a huge issue.  

Because at the end of the day, Linda, at the state level some are better than others, but almost all states, 49 out of 50 have a state balanced budget amendment.  D.C this is just fairytale thinking.  The states actually need to try to balance spending and taxing.  It reminds me of one of my favorite economists, Thomas Sowell, just a national treasure out of the Hoover Institute at Stanford, said this.  He sums it up perfectly why taxing and spending is really the same discussion at the state level.  The first law of economics is that we have scarcity of resources and people have economic thinking to economize on scarce resources.  But the first law of politics is to ignore the first law of economics.  It’s so important though, because this is how states get into trouble and how they have this “need” to raise taxes.  They get out of whack on the spending side of the ledger.  We look at debt.  We look at spending categories.  Then we look at a few non-tax categories such as how friendly the tort liability system, the judicial system, is for the state?  Is it business friendly?  It is anti-business, anti-employer?  We look at state minimum wage laws which that’s a topic for a full conversation.  It’s a variable that the politics of that are so divorced from the economics of it, but it is something that really does matter.  Then we look at worker’s compensation cost, tax expenditure limits.  

A huge factor which is a binary choice, a yes or no variable for states, is are you a right-to-work state or are you a forced-union state?  One of the biggest things we’ve seen across of course the upper Midwest Great Lakes in my home state of Michigan, I never thought in my lifetime I would see Michigan become a right-to-work state.  It was the birthplace of the UAW.  Of course, Wisconsin, you could say the same thing.  I never thought until Scott Walker that we had a prayer at Wisconsin being a right-to-work state. But this idea of competition between states was so important that when Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence and the free-market folks in Indiana got it done, it became essential then for the rest of the upper Midwestern states to consider it, because we just kept losing employers.  We had a lost economic decade under Jennifer Granholm in Michigan, high taxes, non-right-to-work.  Michigan was on a single state recession.  Then you had Governor Rick Snyder and a new batch of free-market legislators in 2010 come into power at the same time as, of course, Scott Walker and the free-market group came into Wisconsin.  They said, “What is the definition of economic insanity.  It’s doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”  We needed to change things in Michigan and that’s how Michigan became a right-to-work state.  It was this competition in the Great Lakes region.  Such an important variable because as we talk to employers out there across the country, they say that unless you are a right-to-work state, for some of them, you will not even be part of the discussion in order to get new manufacturing or a new business facility.  So it really is a yes or no variable.

Linda: Well, that is great.  Thank you for sharing all those.  That just solidifies for me my passion to help employers understand how to educate employees about these issues.  I know you and I were talking before we were recording of how so many employers now, especially after Covid and kind of in this cancel culture, they are a little bit hesitant or maybe even just down right afraid to even speak about anything related to policy.  They don’t want to get picketed.  They don’t want to get cancelled.  They don’t want to get boycotted.  But however we can see that these policies really do matter.  They matter to job security.  They matter to the safety and security in states, the prosperity of the state, the local communities.  It totally matters.  I think sometimes they don’t need to be afraid.  They can be bold.  

When I think of how Goya Foods got boycotted.   All the conservatives that understood the situation, they went and did a buycott.  I think, wasn’t it Goya Foods then actually named AOC as their employee of the month or the year (Laughing) because she brought in so many sales for them.  (Laughing)  But see this is what it takes though.  It takes all of us paying attention and supporting the policies or the businesses that truly will help advance these economically sound principles and the freedom to thrive and flourish and gain prosperity.  If we lose that in America, we lose it for the world.  America is the last best hope for freedom in the world.  

We also because of our capitalist system can create wealth.  Wealth is used to donate for hospitals, for orphanages, for sending Samaritan’s Purse people overseas to help in disasters.  These are things that America offers that not every country can.  If American falls, no one is coming to our aid.  No one is going to be dropping food to us.  No one is going to be sending the soldiers to help us with peace keeping missions or anything like that.  We need to keep our economy sound.  We need to keep our economy thriving.  For the sake of our families and future generations, we need to do that.

Jonathan: Great points.  A couple of things on that is I think this idea of connection between prosperity, better policy and actually charitable giving like you mentioned.  We’ve seen a direct link.  We’ve done some great work on this across the states.  The states that have the best free market outlook and less tax burdens actually have more charitable giving and charitable giving is growing more.  No surprise.  When you lose a billionaire from New Jersey going to Texas, or going to Florida, let’s say.  It’s not just that they take their current income.  They take their current and future income and all their charitable contributions in many cases.  They’re supporting the girls and boys club in Dallas versus the boys and girls club in Trenton or their synagogue or their church in their new home state versus their old home state.  Such an important point that I think gets ignored unfortunately as part of this debate far too much.  

But let me address real briefly one of the other things that you mentioned there which is this essential competition between states.  Because when states are forced to compete with each other, freedom wins, better policy wins, and at the end of the day taxpayers win.  Without that competition, this is why I think our founders were so wise to set up at the time it was the thirteen laboratories of democracy, but now it’s the fifty laboratories of democracy and they thought it was essential to have essentially this free-trade zone.  That’s why they have things like interstate commerce clause and other things in the U.S. Constitution to stop states or local governments from putting up barriers to trade or barriers to commerce.  They wanted colonies and now states to compete with each other because they understood this essential competition breeds freedom and breeds better policy overall.  

Let me just say, I think the most dangerous thing happening in Washington right now and not even to get into specifics so much, but if you had to draw a common thread around so many of these big, bad federal ideas, it is putting a federal stamp and getting away from state autonomy whether it’s trying to stop states from cutting taxes with federal bailout funds or whether it’s trying to federalize labor policy by disallowing state right-to-work laws or even federalizing election policy and not allowing states to run their own elections.  That is the common thread right now and that is the progressive effort because they realize that they can take the majority of decision making into the central government in Washington D.C. and away from the fifty states.  That’s something that’s good for big government and good for progressives.  I think that we stand with angels here, Linda, that we believe in freedom.  We believe states competing with each other because essentially we believe in taxpayers.

Linda: Absolutely.  Freedom wins.  We really pray for our nation that these policies of freedom will be the ones that win.  I love to see the emergence of so many new patriots standing up—people going to their school board meetings, people going to their city council meetings, people deciding to be precinct county chairmen or volunteering at the local level.  We really need to take it back at the local level and let it bubble up.  This is really all about grassroots.  I think hopefully, hopefully the Covid crisis and everything that’s happened since Joe Biden became President, too.  People are waking up and seeing right playing out every single day, new reasons why our founding documents provided such a pathway for prosperity for our nation and our citizens and a great example for the world. We need to protect it.  

I’m really thankful that you’re there and ALEC is there doing what they do.  I’m thankful for all the leaders there and all the research.  You guys do incredible research.   This is not the only document you produce obviously with ALEC.   There are several different task force related to different areas and industries.  So I really recommend people going to the website and finding out more information.  Could you give the website and how they might contact you?

Jonathan: Absolutely, yes.  In addition to the richstatespoorstates.org site, we have the full alec.org site which includes all of our different, we have eleven different task forces we call them.  Then we have our centers of excellence with a lot of the original research that we do on these fifty state comparisons and other pieces that we go into deep dive on various issues.  Everything from the essential principles of free speech and federalism where we have centers to task forces on everything from energy, I know you’ve spoken at some our meetings, Linda, and then across the board, any issue that you could face at the state level that’s an economic issue, ALEC has something for you.  So it’s a great resource for everyone across the board who wants to learn more about how their state compares and learn more about these essential state policy issues.  Of course you can always reach me at jwilliams@alec.org.  We’re always happy to help and get our materials and resources out to anyone who’s interested.  That’s why ALEC was founded nearly fifty years ago to provide this nonpartisan trusted resource along the lines of these principles that we’ve talked about though out the course of this conversation—of free markets and limited government and federalism.

Linda: Well, thank you so much for sharing that.  I just want to encourage all the listeners.  Just because you hear the word policy doesn’t mean that it’s going to make your head swim.  They do help simplify things so that the average nonpolitical policy-maker person can understand and this is what is so important.  I do believe that when people have the right information, they will make the right decision.  People just need to be educated on these things.  They need to be able to connect the dots.  I’m really grateful for your work at ALEC.  I encourage all employers.  What would you tell, just in a closing statement here, what are some things you would recommend to employers as they try to help educate their employees about how much policy issues affect job security?

Jonathan: Well, it’s essential and I would first say, “Be not afraid.”  That is the first thing.  We need to have the voice of the businesses and employers, that free-market voice in as part of this bag.  If there’s anything the left and the progressive movement wants to shut you out and keep your voice from being heard so they can have the entire playing field to themselves.  Of course, they have the liberal media and others with big bullhorn microphones getting their message out every single day in the mainstream media.  What is missing in so many of these cases is helping to connect the dots for your employees, for concerned citizens across the country, that why is it that you’re able to grow and create new jobs and give wage increases and bonuses and extra benefits because you have better policy and lower tax burdens in some states versus others.  And why was it that you had to shut up shop and lay people off in states that were not hospitable whether it’s minimum wage policy or forced unionism or high taxes.  Help people connect these dots from the policy making kind of approach.  That is a scary word sometimes for people and economic policy.  But what does it mean for their everyday lives and what is it that drives prosperity and job creation?  Business voices are so trusted and so needed as part of this debate.  I fear that if we don’t have engaged businesses and we’re not talking partisan here.  We’re talking good economics.  If you’re not a part of this discussion, I’m afraid that things could go very wrong in many cases.  It’s an essential voice.  Don’t be afraid.  That is the approach of the other side, Saul Alinsky tactics of trying to marginalize opponents and keep your voice out of the debate.  We need your voice now more than ever to be a part of this national discussion.

Linda: Absolutely.  Again, if you want to reach out to Jonathan, you can reach him at alec.org and you will find him there.  Jonathan, thank you.  I hope to have you back again.  There are so many things that we could discuss and I just really appreciate your work and thank you for your time.

Jonathan: Well, thanks so much for having me.  It’s been a pleasure and there are many more good conversations ahead.

Linda: Absolutely.  Thank you.