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Low Incomes Don’t Cause Low Growth, Impediments Do | Lloyd Brown

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Low Incomes Don’t Cause Low Growth, Impediments Do | Lloyd Brown

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Low Incomes Don’t Cause Low Growth, Impediments Do
Monday, March 05, 2012 — Lloyd Brown

An article in the Tampa Tribune last week tied what it said was a lack of economic growth to an alleged lack of infrastructure and low income levels in the area.

While it is a welcome sight to see an appreciation of economic growth in the media, the connections seem a bit tenuous.

First is the matter of low incomes. While the article places Tampa low in comparison to other Florida cities, one doesn’t have to Google much to find other data showing per capita income in Hillsborough County to be in the upper quartile of Florida counties. Hillsboroughcounty.org contends, with supporting charts, that Hillsborough County personal income growth generally matches the state and the average for seven urban counties over time.

Another chart does show Hillsborough per capita income slightly lower relative to the state and nation, although it gained from 1969 to 2000, when it actually matched the rest of the state.

Per capita income in Duval and Hillsborough counties was almost the same from 2000 to 2004.

I don’t know about a lack of infrastructure, but every time I visit Tampa construction projects seem to be everywhere, including the never-ending widening of Bruce B. Downs through New Tampa.

Rail was cited as a particular deficiency.

I don’t get the fascination with 19th century transportation that liberals have. Mass transit, especially via rail, just makes them quiver.

They quivered so much a few years ago that they built a people-mover in Tampa. When no one would ride it, they tore it down.

Jacksonville is still stuck with one, wasting several million dollars a year.

What makes rail and other mass transit worthwhile – so worthwhile that the private sector usually will supply it – is density.

It is very successful in Hong Kong, for example, where there are 250,000 persons per square mile. Hillsborough has about 1,000 people per square mile. It may be a bit early for bullet trains from Ballast Point to Lutz.

There is always a way to get infrastructure. Convince the people who are going to pay for it that they need it. Tampa has tried this and failed. Jacksonville politicians must be slicker because they convinced voters to spend $2.5 billion a few years ago by bundling projects that would appeal to various interest groups and promising peace and prosperity forever, more or less.

To find the impediments to economic growth, the media might look at itself, environmental wackos, tax-happy politicians and the legions of regulators. Where there are less of those factors, there usually is more economic growth.

I’m not knocking Tampa, but this could be an example of politicians wanting to “invest” other people’s money in infrastructure, claiming benefits that may or may not materialize in order to justify their grandiose schemes. That happens throughout Florida.

New and improved infrastructure can aid economic growth, but when it involves higher taxes or huge amounts, the people who supply the wherewithal would do themselves a favor to carefully inspect the claims -- especially when they involve rail projects.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

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