The unemployment rate for Kansas is at a 20-year low. That’s the good news.
The country overall has seen a remarkable economic expansion, dating back nearly a decade. Unemployment across the nation is at historic lows, and wages for workers are rising, however sluggishly. At least in Kansas, we have more job openings in certain fields than we have workers to fill them.
Unfortunately, both the nation and Kansas are less than fortified for the inevitable coming recession. That’s the bad news.
This isn’t naysaying anyone’s accomplishments, by the way. Brave action was taken to forestall the worst effects of the Great Recession, and businesses have worked overtime to grow. And economic expansion is certainly preferable to the alternative. But no expansion can last forever. No one loves them, but recessions are a normal and natural part of the economic cycle.
Few of them turn into depressions or even earn the moniker “Great.”
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump‘s determination to juice the economy led to an ill-advised, corporate-leaning tax bill in 2017. The costs of that bill have exploded the national deficit, leaving our country less wiggle room for the investments that might be needed to soften the toll of a recession. We should be saving and being fiscally prudent when times are good. That’s basic fiscal advice that carries over from individuals to the government.
In Kansas, the government’s books were righted by ending Sam Brownback‘s tax “experiment,” but years of neglect mean that the need for investments is urgent, demanding spending across the board. As on the national level, that could give our state budget less elasticity to deal with eventual recession demands.
Furthermore, a few years ago, Brownback and the Kansas Legislature passed a raft of limitations on safety net programs called the HOPE Act. That policy might have seemed appealing in a time of economic growth, but when Kansans are suffering, extra state restrictions could well harm those in need of help.
We should welcome the news of record low unemployment. We should celebrate that more people than ever are participating in the workforce and contributing to our states economy. Kansas should celebrate.
But we should also take this moment to seriously think about how we prepare for the next downturn. It’s just common sense, as we look toward the future.