Economic inequality is not an issue only for those who suffer. When paychecks only cover the basics of survival, our neighbors can’t support their local businesses, and those businesses in turn can’t grow the way they should. In addition to being unfair and immoral, this disparity is bad for all of us.
Recent business closings like those at Electrolux, Sears, and Herbergers have directly affected many of us: maybe we lost a job, maybe a friend lost a job, or maybe we have lost business because others are suffering. But this isn’t a trend in isolation: as we have faced these challenges, the poverty rate in the St. Cloud area has doubled, and 26% of our community now lives below the poverty line despite St. Cloud’s low unemployment rate. We need a new economy, one that is forward-looking and prepares for the future rather than simply reacts to change.
We need to develop a business climate that builds on our strengths. We need jobs that supply a paycheck, but we also need jobs that allow people to improve their standard of living, jobs that create hope for promotion and social mobility. Quality of life is as important as quantity of profit. We can’t have one without the other. To accomplish this, we must build and maintain good roads, bridges, and transit to help grow jobs and a sense of community, incentivize entrepreneurship, and provide broadband to all of us. We need jobs that grow the middle class and allow our children to find opportunity here.