Kentucky's economy held back by decades of Democratic rule

October 14, 2003

OK, Ben Chandler, let's talk about the state's economy.

The Democratic candidate for governor has made much of the fact that Kentucky has lost manufacturing jobs over the past few years. That fact we wouldn't argue with nor would we seek to gloss over the hardship that factory closings have caused many families in Boyle and surrounding counties.

We would, however, argue that a cyclical downturn in the U.S. economy (which, by the way, is showing strong signs of rebounding) is not reason to put Chandler in the governor's office.

On the other hand, the 30-year decline in the earnings of Kentuckians compared with nearby states is certainly good reason to elect Chandler's Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher.


There's not much a Kentucky governor can do about a national (even international) downturn of the kind that the U.S. economy has struggled with for the past several years (it should be noted that the stock market crash began during the Clinton administration). But a long-term decline in the incomes of Kentuckians relative to other states is a different story.

Here's what's happened over the past 30 years of Democratic rule in Frankfort. In 1974, Kentucky's median family income was 95 percent of North Carolina's, 98 percent of Tennessee's and 86 percent of Indiana's. Today, Kentucky's median family income is 89 percent of North Carolina's, 93 percent of Tennessee's and 82 percent of Indiana's.

Furthermore, the Kentucky economy didn't do nearly as well as nearby states during the economic expansion of the 1990s. In the '90s, Kentucky family income grew only 41 percent while North Carolina's grew by 44 percent, Indiana's by 56 percent and Tennessee's by 60 percent.

These are facts about the state's economy that Chandler can't blame on Ernie Fletcher or President George W. Bush. To the contrary, Chandler's party has been in power in Frankfort during the entire three decades since 1974, and Chandler, himself, has held statewide office for the past eight years. He has to take some responsibility for this debacle.

And that's not all. Not only have Kentuckians' incomes grown less than residents of nearby states, they are paying more taxes. For example, Kentuckians pay 81/2 percent of their per capita income in taxes compared with Tennesseeans who pay only about 6 percent.

There's absolutely no reason to think that Chandler can do any better at improving the lot of Kentuckians than the six Democratic governors who have served since 1974, each of whom went into office making grand promises.

The problem is systemic. The problem is a Democratic Party and a string of Democratic governors who have resisted the kind of house-cleaning and change in attitude that Kentucky must have if its people are going to compete in a global economy.|10/6/03***

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