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Inside Politics: State of the State 2021: The Good, the Bad and the Dog Whistles
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Inside Politics

Inside Politics: State of the State 2021: The Good, the Bad and the Dog Whistles

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As a former Republican and capitalist, I’ve not been shy in sharing my disdain for Idaho Governor Brad Little. I really want to get behind him, but he always seems to come up short when it matters the most. He’s the running back who can’t convert a 3rd-and-one in the fourth quarter. On the whole, Little’s 2021 State of the State was no different. His bursts of progress and optimism were overshadowed by proclamations of hollow “accomplishments,” no solid plan to extend prosperity to more Idahoans and the occasional dog whistle. The best part of the speech was the fact that it was only 30 minutes.

The Good: Infrastructure

If we are to bring capitalism back to Idaho – a word Little did not say once – we have to improve our infrastructure. If you are a farmer in the Magic Valley, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Senator Michelle Stennett and Representative Sally Toone have been pounding the table for years to improve sub-standard roads and bridges so farmers and dairy owners can get their products to market. As a farmer and rancher herself, Rep. Toone knows the state of Magic Valley infrastructure all too well. Little proposes $126 million in state and local infrastructure projects. This is well short of what Idaho needs, but it’s a start. Agriculture and the Food Service industry make up a huge chunk of Idaho’s annual GDP. Magic Valley leaders need to fight hard to grab as many of those dollars as possible.

The Good: Tax Cuts or Tax Giveaways?

Little will pursue $295 million in one-time tax cuts and $160 million in permanent cuts. When you’re in a Recession, tax cuts for lower and middle-class citizens are a decent idea because those folks tend to spend their money out of necessity. Their dollars make their way back into the economy and spur growth. However, if Little’s plan is to ship millions of your dollars to out-of-state corporations and give rich Idahoans more money to plow into the stock market, it’s a net-negative for our state. The anti-Capitalism tax giveaway from a couple years ago strengthened companies and people from states outside of Idaho while hurting people like you who go to work every day.

The Bad: Education

The life-blood of Capitalism is investing in the education of Idahoans. Without people who have the skills to compete, you don’t have competition. Without competition, you don’t have Capitalism. Without Capitalism you have a Poor State like Idaho. Not only did Little fail to use the word “capitalism” in his speech, he spent a mere two minutes talking about his future plans for increasing educational opportunities for Idahoans – and it was 23 minutes into a 30-minute speech. While Little believes our children are leaving the state because of traffic (seriously, he said that), the reason they’re leaving is because of lack of opportunity in the Gem State. I think it’s time Brad Little was stripped of his self-proclaimed moniker as Idaho’s “Education Governor.” He’s not even talking the talk at this point.

The Bad: No Vaccine Distribution Plan

Little spent the bulk of his speech talking about the challenges Idaho faces from the Pandemic which was spot on. As of this writing, Idaho has the 11th highest Covid-19 infection rate per 100,000. Little lauded the efforts of healthcare workers, teachers and parents. However, he spent exactly zero seconds talking about Idaho’s plan to distribute the vaccine. This is a critical omission. You can have the greatest vaccine in the world, but if you can’t distribute it, then who cares? The Federal Government’s fumbling of the vaccine distribution thus far has been widely reported. They’ve made it clear that state and local governments will be responsible for getting shots into Americans’ arms. The fact that Little spent no time outlining a plan to efficiently distribute the vaccine in the months ahead was as dispiriting as it was incompetent.

The Dog Whistle: “Defund the Police”

Some Idaho Progressives may take umbrage with the fact that Little chastised the “Defund the Police” slogan and announced increased funding for law enforcement training. Enough with whatever outrage you may feel. That may be the stupidest “progressive” slogan in recent memory. While I don’t know a single Idaho Democrat who supports that effort, local and state Democratic candidates got tarred with it all over the state. Little is not a skilled orator, but this was a lay-up and he took it.

The Dog Whistle: “Climate Fires”

Little took a few seconds to deride the “activists” that are trying to rebrand “wildfires” as “climate fires.”

Fine.

Once again, he missed a clear pro-Capitalism opportunity to announce that Idaho is open to clean energy jobs. Our state is flush with sun, water and wind. With a robust education agenda, Idaho could become a leader in high-paying clean energy jobs and entrepreneurship. It’s no secret why red states like Texas, Arizona and Florida are cashing in on the future. Instead, our anti-Capitalist governor decided to turn the topic into a criticism of “activists” that may score some political points, but keeps our state poor.

Given the times we are living through, Brad Little had a shot to show he is not just some face on the wall at the Idaho State Capitol. Instead, he outlined a “plan” for Idaho that keeps us in the far-right lane doing 60mph. Drive safely Idaho, and remind your kids to stay out of traffic.

Jeremy J. Gugino is a Democratic communications volunteer.

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