Running an Ohio-based think tank helps me see how economies really work. From here, I can sometimes clarify when faulty economics is being used to hurt communities. In truth, helping people helps the economy. Here’s how:

1. Raising taxes gives us resources to transform society. Tax cuts for the rich concentrate wealth, increase racial inequity and can hurt job growth. Ohio legislators have been slashing taxes since 2005, but America added nearly four times as large a share of jobs since then. Ohio now has $6 billion less each year for things such as schools, transit or college. That increases class sizes, cuts bus routes and puts students in debt from the get-go.

2. Raising wages is good for the economy. If a cashier gets a raise, she can get her car fixed or buy healthier groceries, helping the mechanic and the farmer. States that recently increased minimum wages had stronger wage and job growth. This especially helps women and people of color, who face lower wages even with similar resumes.

3. Regulation creates jobs — ask anyone who produces catalytic converters. Ask the 4,500 workers from Lordstown who’ve lost jobs since 2016 because customers instead buy gas guzzlers. Cheap gas is killing the planet. It also killed the Chevy Cruze.

4. Deregulation can destroy wealth. During the last recession, lenders wiped out $6 trillion in housing wealth, stripping 10 million Americans, particularly black Ohioans, of their greatest financial asset. Many Ohio neighborhoods are still recovering.

5. Economists recognize ‘negative externalities’ — economic by-products that hurt others. But lobbyists often pretend they don’t exist. Toxic algae blooms spawned by fertilizer and super-charged by hotter summers rendered Toledo’s water supply temporarily unusable in 2014. We’re already hearing that this will be a bad year for Lake Erie. Economists — and you — should be outraged.

6. Other pollution also imposes external costs we should build into prices. Removing lead from gasoline is a 20th century triumph. It slashed lead poisoning, raised school achievement and reduced violence, saving billions. But one in four Cleveland kindergartners have dangerous lead levels because of under-maintained homes. If the incalculable human costs don’t haunt you, consider the economics.

7. Labor standards create jobs. Today, you can earn just $24,000 a year and still not see overtime pay. So big box stores can make low-paid managers work 55-hour weeks, instead of paying extra or hiring an assistant. Stronger standards would lead to higher pay or, maybe better, free up time for current workers and jobs for aspiring ones.

8. Public investments help workplaces thrive. Kids in quality childcare do better in school and life, and their parents’ employers get more reliable workers. Cincinnatians recognized that when they voted to expand preschool in 2016. But statewide, Ohio makes it harder to qualify for childcare help than all but two other states (hello, Indiana and Michigan!). Again, if the human benefits don’t sway you, do it for the economy.

9. Race-to-the-bottom giveaways (think Amazon) ignore how job creation happens. Most jobs arrive when existing employers grow, residents launch businesses, or communities hire teachers or transit drivers. That takes a strong public sector, not one that cedes resources to every firm pitting communities against each other.

10. Finally, criminal justice reform could be an economic windfall. In Ohio, we spend $1.8 billion a year to lock up nearly 50,000 people, disproportionately black people, many for just violating probation or using drugs. Employers often say they can’t find workers, but once-incarcerated adults are barred from many jobs. Fixing this would generate massive dividends for individuals and employers.

People-driven, job-enhancing, planet-saving policies are good — and good for the economy. Moneyed interests sometimes promote ignoring pollution, paying poverty wages and neglecting the public sector. Looking at our economy from the roots shows how silly this is. Listen to working people, struggling families and climate activists in places like Akron, not to corporate lobbyists roaming Washington fundraisers.

 

Hanauer is the executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, an economic policy research institute based in Cleveland.