Bob Graham Thinks Florida Has Lost Its Way

To talk about respected, legendary Florida politicians is to talk about Bob Graham. The former Governor and Senator was one of the few politicians to manage sustained cross-party popularity and still looms large over the state as an occasional source of wisdom. Yesterday, the retired moderate Democrat turned to the editorial pages of The St. Petersburg Times, and while the man is too considered to put it this bluntly, he basically paints a picture of a Florida on the verge of ruin.

Graham tries to remain above party politics and doesn't call out any politicians by name, but it's clear that he doesn't like the current direction of Florida under a Tea Party-influenced Governor and one of the most lopsidedly Republican legislatures in state History.

Graham claims today's leadership is ignoring "Florida's core values" and decries cuts to Everglades restoration and education.

Graham clearly thinks that tax cuts for the wealthy and deep cuts to services are to blame. With Florida's growth engine cooled off, Graham thinks Florida needs to make investments to lure the technology industry.

"Get serious about attracting the technology industries which are shaping and will shape the world's future," writes Graham. "This will require a dual strategy: a renewed commitment to the protection of our competitive edge -- Florida's environment -- and building a world-class preschool through graduate school education system. The states which have benefited most by technology industries -- such as North Carolina and Virginia -- have done so not by selling themselves as the cheapest places to do business but rather as states that have built the infrastructure and the educational institutions which will most help businesses achieve sustained profitability."

Graham also points to cold hard facts to paint the strategy of constant tax cuts as failures. Since Jeb Bush's initial round of tax cuts, which mainly helped the top 5 percent of earners, the average salary for Floridians has fallen, as well as the overall number of jobs created.

The increase in jobs from 2000 to 2010, after the economic development stimulating tax cuts began taking effect, was 606,798. This increase was substantially less in the two decades prior to the tax cuts: 1980-1990: 1,998,833; 1990-2000: 1,530,936.

Those statistics describe the quantity of jobs created before and after the tax cuts. In terms of take-home pay, what was the quality of those jobs? Florida first achieved a long-sought goal of exceeding the national average of per capita income in 1983 when Floridians earned 100.3 percent of the national average. State workers reached a peak in per capita income in 1987 at 101.7. By 2010 that relationship reversed and Floridians earned only 96.8 percent of the national average.

After 12 years of tax cuts, there is no evidence in these numbers that the cuts have achieved their purpose of accelerating quality jobs.

It's not a pretty picture painted by a man who knows Florida better than most. While many painted the results of the federal midterm election on the Democrat's supposed failure to turn around the economic downturn, it's a wonder that state Republicans have continued to get themselves elected even though the past 12 years they've been in control have seen Florida's economy slide into uncharted depths.

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