Opinion: Of Delta, the NRA and the politics of economic development

Last Tuesday, the AJC’s Jim Galloway wrote a piece maintaining that expressions of conservative values by Georgia lawmakers are detrimental to economic development in our state. It was a well-reasoned argument but it missed a much bigger picture of what conservative values really mean in the daily efforts of states to lure corporations here.

Businesses do not look to states like Georgia in spite of their conservatism; they do so – in large part – because of it. Changing who we are in order to become more politically correct to liberal, coastal values would have the eventual effect of driving businesses elsewhere.

Our conservative values have led to low taxes, balanced budgets, AAA bond ratings, high quality of life and our status as a right-to-work state. Corporations expand and relocate here – in many cases – because the business climates in places like New York, Chicago, California and others with left-of-center political realities drive them away.

The Delta/NRA situation is not the perfect example, but it is an example nonetheless. If our political leaders shower specially crafted tax breaks onto companies that simultaneously attack large segments of our population (there are at least 100,000 NRA members in Georgia and many times that number, indeed, the majority of our citizens, support the Second Amendment and exercise their rights under it), they will not be our political leaders for long. These are the pro-business, balanced-budget, bond rating-focused, low tax and right-to-work leaders that create our pro-business culture.

The politicians currently praising Delta’s snub to the NRA are the same ones who would love to raise the airlines’ taxes and bury them under the regulations and scorn that they heap on corporations in general. They would want Delta to pay their “fair share” in adherence to liberal self-righteousness.

Mr. Galloway’s piece argues that the state suffers if it imposes its worldview on its corporate citizens. Perhaps. The reverse is certainly true when we allow those corporate citizens to push lawmakers into decisions that change the culture that created the kind of place the companies chose to come to in the first place. Punishing law-abiding NRA members for the actions of a maniac and inactions of an alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies was gratuitous virtue signaling. It was an insult to many of the taxpayers who have to shoulder the burden of any government largesse to Delta.

The aforementioned examples of New York, California and Illinois may excel at virtue signaling, but the high-tax, high debt, cratering quality of life consequences of their virtuous governance have fueled an exodus of population and business to conservative states like Georgia and Texas.

How would a New York-style large soft drink ban go over in the land of Coca-Cola and sweet tea? Calls for higher taxes and increased spending, which are occasionally championed by our business community, have the potential to remake Georgia into a place people may wish to relocate from rather than to.

No state is perfect, Georgia faces plenty of challenges. We do, however, work hard to keep this a place that is businesses friendly. A grasp of the big picture and the benefits of conservative government is in order by our corporate partners before they attack the constituencies that make this the best place in the country to do business.

Rick Jeffares is a former state senator and current candidate for Lt. Governor. He lives in Henry County.