“Canceling Music Midtown will cost Georgia’s economy $50 million,” said Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “It’s shameful, but not surprising, that the governor cares more about protecting dangerous people carrying guns in public than saving jobs and keeping business in Georgia.”
On the question itself, Abrams is correct. It is an outrage that Georgia’s draconian gun laws, imposed by the state during decades of Republican rule, prevent local governments from protecting their people from gun violence and thus make it difficult to organize large public events in large public spaces that are the cornerstone. From any city.
However, I think Abrams fundamentally misframed the issue. She believes in it as an economic development issue, the same framework Republican leaders try to apply to every issue. It’s much more important than that. In fact, lamenting the cancellation of festivals such as Music Midtown by citing a largely false measure of its economic impact actually lowers the stakes.
Music Midtown and similar events have a human value in their own right, a value that should not and cannot be validated by a dollar amount. Tens of thousands of people gather in the summer sun to listen to music and enjoy each other’s company – it makes people happy, it feeds our human need for communal activity. It is life itself.
So we certainly have the right to take action, together, to protect ourselves from the curse of gun violence that prevents such events from happening. And if our government prevents us from taking such measures – measures as obvious and common sense as banning firearms from festival grounds – then we have the right, if not the obligation, to change that government. It’s a question of freedom, a question of happiness, a question of quality of life, and somewhere further down that list, it’s an economic question.
It’s also worth pointing out that the GOP’s insistence on casting everything as an economic issue hasn’t worked for Georgia, even on its own narrow economic terms. Over the past two decades, heads of state have embarked on the unique and oft-repeated mission to make us “the best state in which to do business”, by adjusting every public policy, from taxation to protecting environment, education and health care. around this goal.
Where has this got us?
20 years ago, Georgia had risen to 25th placee in the country in terms of personal income per capita, according to data from the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis. This increase in personal income and therefore our standard of living was quite an achievement for a southern state that had long lacked an industrial base and sufficient capital investment, but what has happened since?
Now, two decades later, Georgia ranks 37e.
Over those same two decades, personal income per capita more than doubled nationwide, rising 109%, the BEA tells us. In Georgia, it grew by 83.5%, well below the national average and also below the revenue growth of neighboring states such as Florida (97.2%), South Carolina (98.9 %), Tennessee (95%) and even Alabama (89.5%).
In other words, we haven’t kept pace with the rest of the country. Individual Georgians, especially those who live and work in high-growth areas, might not feel this impact, but many others do, and it shows up elsewhere in the data as well.
As a country, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country, and of the 50 states that make up the United States, Georgia ranks 2n/a in maternal mortality rates. He ranks 14e in infant mortality rates. These are women dying needlessly, infants dying needlessly, in part because our heads of state do not believe it is a wise economic decision to try to save them.
Overall, according to census data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Georgia and Oklahoma have the second highest rate of uninsured in the nation at 14.5%, behind Texas at 17.5%. . (The national average was 8.6%.)
The reasons for this high rate of uninsured people are also obvious. As a CDC study noted in February, “Adults aged 18 to 64 living in non-Medicaid expansion states (20.7%) were twice as likely to be uninsured compared to those living in Medicaid expansion states (10.3%).”
Even with billions of dollars in surplus funds, Georgia’s current leaders don’t think it’s a good investment to expand Medicaid at minimal relative cost to the state to provide health insurance to another 500,000 Georgians. most of whom are workers in low-income jobs. It offers billions to corporations, but not to its own citizens in need. These problems are a direct consequence of government decisions, government choices and government priorities.
If the States are the laboratories of democracy, the Georgian experience is far from being a success. We need a change of direction.