Richard Tisei, the Republican nominee for Congress in the 6th District of Massachusetts, recently unveiled a six-point jobs plan to spur economic development in Northeast Mass. While politicians always like to exaggerate their potential influence over local economies, Tisei’s plan is disappointing for its lack of creativity and its failure to take into account some of the greatest assets of Essex County and its surrounding communities.
That’s not to say that every element of Tisei’s plan is without merit. His emphasis on the need to better link economic development with workforce development is long overdue and greater flexibility for local economic development agencies to direct workforce dollars will better enable regions to create human capital that is responsive to industry need.
Unfortunately, that’s where Tisei’s good ideas end and the parade of protectionism and tax giveaways begins. From ginning up reasons to maintain defense spending that ballooned to over $700 billion in 2011 (more than the next 11 highest spending nations, combined—see chart) and targeting tax breaks at specific industries rather than at investment writ large, to the traditional GOP talking points of slashing corporate taxes (despite the fact that many corporations pay next to nothing in income tax) and environmental/financial regulations designed to maintain stability in the markets, Tisei’s plan does little to lay the groundwork for private sector growth.
A true jobs agenda for the 6th District takes advantage of Northeast Massachusetts’ historic strengths while also being aware of the trends of the 21st century global economy.
It means (1) building on the success of the Route 128 job corridor by providing federal support for the creation of sustainable, walkable communities that attract creative class workers.
It means (2) laying the foundation for growth (and spurring construction jobs in the process) by investing heavily in improved infrastructure—both modern energy grids and public transit, such as the long-proposed Blue Line extension to Central Square, Lynn.
It means (3) supporting mixed-use projects along the waterfront, like those ongoing in Haverhill, Gloucester, and communities throughout Essex County, which promise to create an “active” street life by leveraging our “working waterfront” and recognizing the importance of tourism to Essex County’s economy.
It means (4) making work pay by boosting the income of the 6th District’s poor and working class residents through an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
It means (5) looking ahead to the industries of tomorrow, especially renewable energy, rather than subsidizing the slow death of industries that have fled the U.S. as globalization has taken root. Instead, Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget—which stands as a midterm priority list for the GOP—slashes civilian research and development by $92 billion from the current baseline over the next decade.
Cities and towns throughout Northeast Mass. have historically relied on clean energy. For over 150 years, Lawrence has embraced hydroelectric power—from the Great Stone Dam in 1848 to the launch of a hydroelectric plant powering 7000 homes a year, in 1981. In Beverly, Salem, and Marblehead, windmills were grinding corn and bark as early as the 17th and 18th centuries.
With an immense coastline, a regulatory environment supportive of renewables, and countless students committed to investing their futures in the field, the 6th District is the perfect laboratory for the transformative energy technology of tomorrow. Our institutions of higher learning—from Gordon College in Wenham and Endicott College in Beverly to Salem State University in Salem, Northshore CC campuses throughout the region, and Merrimack College in North Andover—must be nodes of innovation.
Lastly, (6) with home prices increasingly out-of-reach in many towns in the District and long-term trend lines for Millennials showing a shifting preference for renting/apartment living, the federal government must reassess current tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy (such as the mortgage interest deduction) and boost tax credits for investment in smaller, more environmentally-efficient homes that permit greater density near transit hubs in places like Salem and Newburyport.
That’s a true 6-point plan for economic growth in the 6th District—one that puts private sector innovation at the core, not through tax giveaways and weakened regulation, but by boosting the human and physical infrastructure needed for long-term, sustainable development that can support middle class jobs.