Foreign direct investment as a Democratic election strategy

Only moments after the Associated Press declared Karen Handel had defeated Jon Ossoff in the 6th District of Georgia, the Democratic soul-searching commenced. The Ossoff campaign spent a staggering amount of money in an attempt to pry the suburban district from gerrymandered GOP hands—nearly $24 million. So why couldn’t the Democratic Party pull off a win in a highly educated suburb that is increasingly diverse? Well, there were lots of reasons.

In the immediate aftermath, some on the left blamed the Democratic Party for silencing the progressive wing of the party, which, since the Sanders campaign, has been particularly vocal. Others lay the loss at the feet of Nancy Pelosi. I live in that district, and friends and neighbors cited Ossoff’s alleged ties to Pelosi, the fact that he had little experience, and he didn’t even live in the district as their primary concerns—basically, that the 6th District was “not for sale.” While it is true Ossoff was unwillingly tied to Pelosi, an unpopular figure outside of California, Handel was equally tied to Trump and his sub-forty percent approval rating in spite of her best efforts to distance herself during the campaign.

In the end it came down to messaging. Ossoff is a prime example of why the Democrats will continue to lose in the South and Midwest unless and until they craft a new and fresh economic platform. The social issues that drive progressive democrats to the polls on the West Coast and in the Northeast don’t have the same pull in the rest of the country. Democrats need to refocus the party on jobs and economic growth.

Meanwhile, the GOP is teetering between old-school conservatism that embraces free market principals, and the new Trump-era economics that advocates for higher trade barriers and a slow-down of foreign influence in American economics. This uncertainty on the right leaves a glimmer of hope for the Democratic party to regain the narrative of working on behalf of the middle class. To flip Congress and regain the White House, they need a stronger economic vision. Some Democrats in Congress are echoing the need for a bolder platform of change and run-of-the-mill economic development rhetoric. A friend and former colleague of mine, Congressman Ro Khanna of California, expressed his concern: “We need a bolder economic platform, our party needs to be for good jobs and better wages, [and] we have to have some bold economic ideas that are going to convince people that we get it.” Furthermore, Congressman Tim Ryan, in the wake of the GA-6 special election, has urged Democrats to make forging a clear economic agenda an urgent priority.

It is well known that progressives love the idea of a global community. They embrace international agreements like the recently abandoned Paris agreement and stand by the benefits of the EU and UN, yet rarely openly support free trade and FDI. The Democratic Party needs to frame the “global community” narrative in economic terms. An easy way to accomplish the pivot? Embrace foreign direct investment. Explain to voters the benefits of free trade, capital investments, and export-based industry. According to the Brookings Institute, foreign-owned US affiliates directly employ some 5.6 million workers in the US economy. Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average worker employed by a foreign-owned firm earned more than $77,000 per year in compensation compared to just $60,000 for the average US worker. And if that isn’t enough, foreign firms spend well over double the private-sector average on benefits per worker.  Even better, a significant portion of FDI investment goes into manufacturing, often in the Midwest and South, areas of Democratic weakness. In 2012, 48 percent of all FDI dollars destined for the US flowed into manufacturing.

Knowledge of FDI and its benefits is severely lacking, as is the economic platform of the Democratic Party. To make the acceptance of a global economic market platform even more intriguing, often foreign firms looking to set up manufacturing facilities in the United States are in need of skilled labor. The type of worker they desire does not need a four-year degree but does need some level of formal training. The manufacturing industry, ready and willing to employ middle-class workers, is actually facing a labor shortage. The number of open manufacturing jobs has been rising since 2009 and peaked in 2016, hitting a 15-year high. Access to higher education has been a Democratic mainstay for nearly a generation. An adjustment to supporting vocational and technical education to fill manufacturing jobs brought to the states through FDI would make their platform more relatable and tangible to the average American. Not every citizen of the United States wants or needs to attend a four-year university to be economically stable.

The acceptance of foreign direct investment into the Democratic platform has the ability to ground their economic agenda in real-life working-class concerns. In one fell swoop, the Democratic Party can reimagine their economic, international, and education policy platforms in a way that promotes their dedication to the global family, ensures increased spending on higher education, creates jobs, raises wages, and actually gives them something to run on that isn’t Trump’s failures. Without a clear and directed economic platform, the Democratic Party will continue to fail. To that end, embracing foreign direct investment should be a primary Democratic strategy for domestic victories in key districts.

Sine Die in Georgia: all the bills that passed (and those that didn’t)

The Georgia General Assembly adjourned for the year in the early morning hours of Friday, sending to Governor Nathan Deal a major slate of bills, including a failing schools turnaround program, a pilot program for highly autonomous vehicles, a children’s hearing aid insurance mandate, and tax credits for music production firms, musical artists, and yacht owners.

Passed

The following bills passed both chambers of the General Assembly in its final week and will be reviewed by the Governor for signature or veto. The governor has 40 days from sine die to make his decisions.

Education

The legislature green-lighted the governor’s second attempt to revive the state’s chronically failing schools (HB 338), empowering a special statewide “chief turnaround officer” to address problem districts. At the discretion of the new school CTO, the staff of failing schools could be replaced or control of the district could be ceded to “successful” districts or nonprofit charter schools.

The General Assembly passed an additional pair of bills, one adopting charter schools recommendations from the Governor’s Education Reform Commission last year (HB 430), and another creating a $5 million annual tax credit for an “innovation” grant program (HB 237) that prioritizes schools on the target list for turnaround by the governor’s CTO.

Transportation

A bill to clear regulatory hurdles for the operation of highly autonomous vehicles on certain public roads in Georgia unanimously passed the Senate. The bill (SB 219) gave the green light to driverless cars providing they register with the state and satisfy certain insurance thresholds.

Taxes

A slate of tax credit programs was adopted in the final week of session, including rebates for royalties paid to music artists (HB 196), credits for music production companies (HB 155) and breaks for yacht owners who make repairs in the state (HB 125). The General Assembly also adjusted the manner in which ad valorem tax on leased vehicles is assessed and collected (HB 340).

Immigration

The legislature moved to ban any funding for the state’s colleges and universities that pointedly flout federal immigration laws or declare themselves a sanctuary campus for undocumented students (HB 37).

Separately, lawmakers moved to create a Georgia Bureau of Investigation-maintained website publically indexing all undocumented immigrants who are released from federal prison in Georgia (HB 452/SB 1). The bill also strengthens the state’s anti-terrorism laws.

Health

Georgia’s private insurance providers will be required to cover the cost of hearing aids for the state’s children under a new Senate mandate. The devices are already covered by Medicaid and were added in 2015 to the State Health Benefit Plan, which covers some 650,000 state employees.

Lawmakers also passed a bill (HB 249) requiring medical providers to check the state drug registry before issuing a prescription for opioids in an attempt to prevent “doctor shopping” by addicts and curb the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.

Energy and environment

Lawmakers passed an update to the state’s oil and natural gas regulations to expand the permitting process of hydraulic fracturing (HB 205).

Public safety

Legislation providing for the licensed carry of firearms on certain publicly owned properties and portions of public post-secondary educational institutions passed, despite the reservations of Governor Deal (HB 280). The bill is a near-facsimile of legislation that was vetoed last year by the Governor.

Under legislation that unanimously passed both houses (SB 141), carnival operations must now submit to safety and engineering inspections.

Did not pass

The following newsworthy bills are among those that failed to receive final passage in this year’s General Assembly session but are eligible for consideration in 2018.

Education

  • HB 51 would have provided additional due process rights for students accused of sexual assault on college campuses and universities.
  • HB 217 would have increased to $100 million from $57 million the annual pool of available tax credits for private school scholarships.
    Transportation
  • HB 160/SB 6 would have created a Georgia Commission on Transit Governance.

Taxes

  • HB 61 would have required online retailers to collect sales taxes like brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • HB 329 would have reduced the state income tax to a flat 5.4%.
    Child welfare
  • HB 159, which would have been a major update to Georgia’s adoption law, was tabled by the Senate in the final minutes of the session amid efforts to add RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act)-like language.

Fun and games

  • HB 118 would have provided for the authorization and regulation of fantasy sports operations within the state.

Georgia legislature hurtles towards Crossover Day

The General Assembly will enter one of the session’s most turbulent weeks Monday as it hurtles towards Crossover Day on March 3rd. Crossover day marks the final opportunity for all legislation—except the budget—to advance from one chamber to the next, and will trigger a marathon of activity in the state capitol up to the close of Friday’s business.

Deal’s State of the State: ‘accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative’

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal conveyed an optimistic message Wednesday when delivering his annual State of the State address, quoting famous Georgia songwriter Johnny Mercer when encouraging lawmakers and fellow citizens to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

Deal, entering his final two years in office, used the theme to emphasize growing economic factors and encouraging trends in the state from the past few years, including higher current revenue projections to fund the upcoming fiscal year $25 billion budget with his priorities–cyber-security, education and public safety.

Highlights from the Governor’s budget proposal include:

  • $55 million for a 20 percent salary increase for law enforcement officers;
  • $160 million for a two percent salary increase for teachers; and
  • $50 million for a cyber-security training center, as well as funding increases for Department of Family and Children Services caseworkers, behavior health services for young children, and autism treatment for minors.

Governor Deal also used the opportunity to focus attention on the opioid abuse crisis and the ever-increasing problem of chronically failing public schools in Georgia.  He intends to move forward in collaboration with the General Assembly on solutions for each of those high profile issues this year, and in doing so certainly hopes to eliminate a couple of negatives.

Trump’s Obamacare squad

Georgia Congressman Tom Price, the author of one of the most thorough Republican proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the transition announced Tuesday morning.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, will assume his new role already with a blueprint to supplant the controversial health care law: his own “Empowering Patients First Act,” which provides for age-based tax credits, sets a limit on tax exclusion of employer-sponsored coverage, and creates individual and small employer membership association and association health plans to allow for interstate insurance markets.

As Vox writes, Price is “the HHS secretary you’d pick if you were serious about dismantling” the ACA.

At the same time, the transition announced that Trump had chosen Seema Verma, a health policy consultant who designed Indiana’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion program under President-elect Mike Pence, to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Through her firm SVC Inc., Verma has advised a slate of other GOP governors in conservative workarounds to Medicaid expansion, including employment requirements and health savings accounts.

We’ve examined previously in this space the procedural and political hurdles to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but Tuesday’s nominations mark the clearest indication yet of the president-elect’s enduring commitment to undo his predecessor’s signal achievement.

After religious liberty flap, ACC moves games from NC to GA

The ACC announced Tuesday it would relocate to Georgia a trio of collegiate championship games from North Carolina, whose Republican governor signed into law earlier this year a contentious religious liberty measure similar to one vetoed by his GOP counterpart here in the Peach State.

The games’ reassignment–two in Atlanta and a third in Rome–seemingly validates the decision by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to veto House Bill 757, which suffered an avalanche of criticism from big business and gay rights groups nationwide.

In a press conference announcing the April veto, Deal said he believed the legislation “could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination” of the sort that would drive business–and tourism–from the state.

The ACC announcement follows a similar decision in September by the NCAA, which withdrew seven championships from North Carolina in protest over the state’s religious liberty bill.

Georgia governor issues 17 vetoes

Republican Governor Nathan Deal vetoed 17 measures approved by the state legislature, in some cases breaking with his own party, such as over a controversial guns-on-campus bill and new drone regulations. Dentons Georgia Government Affairs team offers its analysis of the vetoed bills.

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