Utah Hits What It’s Aiming For

And we *really* want to be pro-business.

Jeff Swift
Feb 26, 2017 · 4 min read

In 2016, Utah was recognized by CNBC as the most business-friendly state in the country. We have won the title of “best state for business” five times since 2010, and we regularly place in the top five. This is excellent news, and all the people who have worked hard to make this happen deserve our thanks.

At the same time, though, there’s another trend developing. In the non-business world, Utah isn’t doing quite as well.

We might be one of the “best run” states in the country, but best run for whom?

For example, Utah regularly ranks as one of the worst states in the country for women: we earned an F for Work & Family, an F for Political Participation, a D in Employment/Earnings, a C- in Poverty & Opportunity, a C- in Reproductive rights, and a B in Health & Well-Being by the Status of Women Project. Utah was also ranked the “Worst State in the Nation for Women” by research group 24/7 Wall Street (a ranking covered by USA Today, ABC4, and Gephart Daily). A separate study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research recommended a number of significant reforms to increase the quality of life for Utah women (see especially page 8).

Utah also ranks as one of the worst states, in a number of metrics, for children. While we have the 5th highest uninsured rate for children in the country at 9.4%, that percentage more than doubles for Hispanic children, according to a report by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. You can read more about this inequality in the Deseret News and from child advocacy group Voices for Utah’s Children.

Utah ranked the second worst place to raise children in 2015, earning an F from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

In 2007, National Center for Health Statistics and Bureau of Census Data showed that Utah’s rate was the most depressed state in the country. Utah ranks 4th worst in the nation for youth suicide rates, jumping from 5th worst compared with the previous year. In fact, the suicide rate “has nearly tripled since 2007.”

The Utah Department of Health’s Violence & Injury Prevention Program reports that “in 2013, suicide surpassed unintentional injuries to become the leading cause of death among youth ages 10–19 in Utah.” This is to say nothing of the struggles facing Utah’s LGBTQ youth population, which make up 20–40% of the homeless youth population and are particularly vulnerable to suicide attempts.

In addition, it’s no secret that Utah’s education system is fairly dismal. The Utah Foundation compared us with similar states and found quite a lot to be desired, we rank 38th and 35th in the nation for education in recent rankings. What’s worse, when compared to states with similar demographics, our rankings slip even more, as described in this editorial in the Deseret News.

What’s more, we have some of the nation’s worst air: the American Lung Association gives Utah an F on air quality, with Salt Lake City ranking as “the 7th most polluted city in the nation for short-term particle pollution.”

We also have a health care system that excludes thousands of Utah families because of how much money they make (and a legislature that refuses to expand Medicaid and accept the federal funds that would cover these families). We might be one of the “best run” states in the country, but best run for whom?

The LDS Dems recently released a report on policies designed first and foremost to benefit families. The report discusses immigration and refugees, health care, air quality, equal pay, LGBT rights, and a number of other issues. I am proud of this report for a simple reason: I dream of a day when Utah’s legislature catches up to the state’s pro-family values.

When progressives bring up legislation like this, one of the first questions we hear is “well, this all sounds great, but who’s going to pay for it?” My answer to that is simple: somehow Utah finds the money to win “best state for business” every year.

Somehow we can afford to pay for corporate tax exemptions, tax breaks, and tax incentives. Somehow we are able to do all kinds of things designed to help maximize profits and worshipfully kiss up to the bottom line.

So when we suggest that paid family leave is important, or when we suggest increasing the quality of our children’s education, these aren’t issues where we “just don’t have the money.”

Our state has the money, we just choose to chase different awards.

I dream of a day when we are at least as dedicated to being the most pro-family state in the nation as we are dedicated to being the most pro-business state in the nation.

Jeff Swift

Written by

PhD in Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media. Democracy junkie. Father of three.

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