Why Utah should celebrate being 51st

Construction_BlueprintWhen you read the term “economic security,” what do you think of? The likelihood that you’ll be able to find and keep good employment that will provide for your family? If so, then Utah is a great state to live. We’re tied for the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.7 percent. Many macroeconomists state that “full employment” or “natural unemployment” is around 3 percent, so in effect we live in a state that has almost no actual unemployment. That’s pretty impressive economic security.

Or, when you hear the term “economic security,” do you think of how much the state is willing to do for you? This would be such things as unemployment insurance, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Medicaid eligibility. If that is what economic security means to you, then Utah is the last place you’d want to live, according to a new report by a group called WOW (Wider Opportunities for Women). The Beehive State ranks dead last with a grade of D-plus for “economic security,” 51st when compared with all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Tip of the hat to Utah Policy for drawing attention to the report.

Where would you rather live? In a state tied for fifth lowest unemployment rate, rated tops as the best state for future livability and ranked first by Forbes as “The Best State for Business and Careers” three years running? Or in a state with individuals and families so needy that your state leads the country in providing various forms of economic welfare?

And by the way, it’s no coincidence that Utah ranks so poorly in the latter and so well in the former. Free market incentives always work more effectively than government redistribution of wealth. The irony is that big-government advocates are so often hurting those they are trying to help in the name of compassion. We do need a safety net – misfortune can happen to any of us – but the most compassionate thing we can do is create an economic environment that actually leads to meaningful and dignified employment, because that will always lead to a higher quality of life than any other alternative.

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